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CHAPTER 1 - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, Democracy and Liberty, vol. 1 
Democracy and Liberty, edited and with an Introduction by William Murchison, 2 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981). Vol. 1.
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The most remarkable political characteristic of the latter part of the nineteenth century has unquestionably been the complete displacement of the centre of power in free governments, and the accompanying changes in the prevailing theories about the principles on which representative government should be based. It has extended over a great part of the civilised world, and, although it has had all the effects of a profound and far-reaching revolution, it has, in some of the most conspicuous instances, been effected without any act of violence or any change in the external framework of government. I have attempted in another work to describe at length the guiding principles on which the English parliamentary government of the eighteenth century was mainly based, and which found their best expression and defence in the writings of Burke. It was then almost universally held that the right of voting was not a natural right, but a right conferred by legislation on grounds of expediency, or, in other words, for the benefit of the State. As the House of Commons had been, since the Revolution of 1688, the most powerful element of the Constitution, nothing in the Constitution was deemed more important than the efficiency of the machine, and measures of parliamentary reform were considered good or bad exactly in proportion as they conduced to this end. The objects to be attained were very various, and they were best attained by a great variety and diversity of representation. It was necessary to bring together a body of men of sufficient intelligence and knowledge to exercise wisely their great power in the State. It was necessary to represent, and to represent in their due proportions, the various forms and tendencies of political opinion existing in the nation. It was necessary to represent with the same completeness and proportion the various and often conflicting class interests, so that the wants of each class might be attended to and the grievances of each class might be heard and redressed. It was also in the highest degree necessary that the property of the country should be specially and strongly represented. Parliament was essentially a machine for taxing, and it was therefore right that those who paid taxes should have a decisive voice, and that those who chiefly paid should chiefly control. The indissoluble connection between taxation and representation was the very mainspring of English conceptions of freedom. That no man should be taxed except by his own consent was the principle which was at the root of the American Revolution. It was the chief source of all extensions of representative government, and it was also the true defence of the property qualifications and voting privileges which concentrated the chief power in the hands of the classes who were the largest taxpayers. No danger in representative government was deemed greater than that it should degenerate into a system of veiled confiscation—one class voting the taxes which another class was compelled to pay.
It was also a fundamental principle of the old system of representation that the chief political power should be with the owners of land. The doctrine that the men to whom the land belonged were the men who ought to govern it was held, not only by a great body of English Tories, but also by Benjamin Franklin and by a large section of the American colonists. It was urged that the freeholders had a fixed, permanent, inalienable interest in the country, widely different from the migratory and often transient interests of trade and commerce; that their fortunes were much more indissolubly blended with the fortunes of the State: that they represented in the highest degree that healthy continuity of habit and policy which is most essential to the well-being of nations. As Burke, however, observed, the introduction of the borough representation showed that the English Legislature was not intended to be solely a legislature of freeholders. The commercial and trading interests had also their place in it, and after the Revolution that place became exceedingly great. It was strengthened by the small and venal boroughs, which were largely in the hands of men who had acquired great fortunes in commerce or trade. The policy of the Revolution Government was, on the whole, more decidedly directed by commercial views than by any others, and it was undoubtedly the small boroughs which, during the first half of the eighteenth century, mainly kept the Hanoverian family on the throne.
Aristocratic influence in the Constitution was always very great, though it was never absolute. The House of Commons after the Revolution was a stronger body than the House of Lords. The most powerful ministers of the eighteenth century were commoners. Great popular movements in the country never failed to influence the Legislature, though they acted less promptly and less decisively than in later periods. On the other hand, a considerable proportion of the members of the House of Commons were returned by members of the House of Lords, and nearly every great family had at least one representative in the Commons. The aristocracy formed a connecting link between the smaller country gentry and the trading and industrial interests. Like the latter, but unlike the former, they were usually supporters of the system of government established by the Revolution, of the Whig interest, and of the Hanoverian dynasty. They possessed in many cases great fortunes in money; they had wider interests and more cosmopolitan tastes than the ordinary country gentlemen; and they shared with the commercial classes the ascendency in the boroughs. A few of them had risen from those classes, or were connected with them by marriage; while, on the other hand, they were the chief landowners, the natural leaders of the landowning classes.
It was contended that this system secured the harmony between the two branches of the Legislature, and that aristocratic ascendency brought with it many other advantages. The possession of land, more than any other form of property, is connected with the performance of public duties, and the great landowner was constantly exercising in his own district governing and administrative functions that were peculiarly fitted to give him the kind of knowledge and capacity that is most needed for a legislator. Men of this class may have many faults, but they are at least not likely in the management of public affairs to prove either reckless and irresponsible adventurers or dishonest trustees. To say this may not appear to be saying very much; but a country which has succeeded in having its public affairs habitually managed with integrity, and with a due sense of responsibility, will have escaped evils that have wrecked the prosperity of many nations. It was urged, above all, that the place which the aristocracy exercised in the Legislature had at least the advantage of reflecting the true facts and conditions of English life. In each county a great resident noble is commonly the most important man. He influences most largely the lives and happiness of the inhabitants, takes the leading part in local movements, exercises by general consent a kind of superintendence and precedence among his neighbours. It was therefore perfectly in accordance with the principles of representative government that his class should exercise a somewhat corresponding influence in the Legislature.
In order to attain these various ends the House of Commons was elected in a manner which showed the most complete absence of uniformity and symmetry. There were great differences both in the size of the constituencies and in the nature of the qualifications. In many places members were returned by a single man or by a small group of often venal freemen. In other constituencies there was a strong popular element, and in some places the scot-and-lot franchise approached nearly to universal suffrage. The difference of the political power vested in an individual voter in different parts of the country was enormously great, and even the House of Commons was only very partially a representative body. ‘About one half of the House of Commons,’ wrote Paley, ‘obtain their seats in that Assembly by the election of the people; the other half, by purchase or by nomination of single proprietors of great estates.’1
The large share in the representative body which was granted to the two latter classes of members was defended by many arguments. It was said, with truth, that the small boroughs had introduced, and usually at an early age, into Parliament by far the greater number of the men of extraordinary ability who have adorned it, and also many useful and experienced men, not quite in the first rank, who from narrow circumstances, or from the turn of their own characters, or from some unpopular religious belief, or from the fact that they had spent much of their lives in obscure or remote fields of public duty, would never have been acceptable candidates in a popular constituency. To ministries they were of the utmost value. They gave a busy minister a secure and independent seat free from all local demands and complications, enabled him to devote his undivided energies to the administration of the country, and made it easy for him to bring into Parliament any colleague or valuable supporter who had failed at an election, and was perhaps under a cloud of transient unpopularity. In the eyes, too, of the best thinkers of the eighteenth century it was of the utmost importance that members of Parliament should not sink into simple delegates. On the broad lines and principles of their policy it was understood that they should reflect the sentiments of their constituents; but the whole system of parliamentary government, in the opinion of Burke and most other eighteenth-century statesmen, would degenerate if members were expected to abdicate their independent judgments, to submit to external dictation about the details of measures, to accept the position of mere puppets pulled by demagogues or associations outside the House. The presence in Parliament of a large body of men who did not owe their position to popular favour secured an independent element in the House of Commons, and affected the tone of the whole assembly. The borough system, also, concentrating power in a few hands, greatly strengthened ministries. It gave them a steady, calculable force, which in many circumstances, but especially in their foreign policy, was often of inestimable value. Fluctuations of power were less frequent, less violent, less capricious than they afterwards became. Ministers could count more confidently on persistent parliamentary support in lines of policy of which the rewards were only to be looked for in a distant future; amid the chequered fortunes and the ever-changing aspects of a great struggle.
This system of representation was supported and consolidated by a tone of political feeling which has so completely passed away that it is somewhat difficult to realise the power which it once possessed—I mean that strong indisposition to organic change, as distinguished from administrative reform, which the best statesmen of all parties continually inculcated. They were usually ready to meet practical evils as they arose, but they continually deprecated any attempt to tamper with the legislative machine itself, except under the most imperious necessity. They believed that the system of the Constitution had grown up insensibly in accordance with the wants of the nation; that it was a highly complex and delicate machine, fulfilling many different purposes and acting in many obscure and far-reaching ways, and that a disposition to pull it to pieces in the interests of some theory or speculation would inevitably lead to the destruction of parliamentary government. A great part of its virtue lay in the traditionary reverence that surrounded it, in the unwritten rules and restrictions that regulated its action. There was no definite written constitution that could be appealed to, but in no other form of government did tacit understandings, traditional observances, illogical but serviceable compromises, bear so great a part.
It was claimed for this form of government that, with all its defects and anomalies, it had unquestionably worked well. I may again quote the words of Paley. ‘Before we seek to obtain anything more,’ he writes, ‘consider duly what we already have. We have a House of Commons composed of 548 members, in which number are found the most considerable landholders and merchants of the Kingdom; the heads of the army, the navy, and the law; the occupiers of great offices in the State; together with many private individuals eminent by their knowledge, eloquence, and activity. If the Country be not safe in such hands, in whom may it confide its interests? If such a number of such men be liable to the influence of corrupt motives, what assembly of men will be secure from the same danger? Does any new scheme of representation promise to collect together more wisdom or to produce firmer integrity?’2
The English Constitution of the eighteenth century might also be tested in other ways. It is incontestable that under it England had enjoyed for a long space of time much prosperity, a far larger measure of steady freedom, and a far more equitable system of taxation than any of the great States of the Continent. Under this form of government she passed successfully through the dangerous internal crisis of a long-disputed succession; she encountered successfully foreign dangers of the first magnitude, from the time of Louis XIV. to the time of Napoleon; and although her history was by no means unchequered by faults and disasters, it was under this system of government that she built up her vast Indian Empire and largely extended and organised her colonial dominions.
The other great type of free government existing in the world was the American Republic, and it is curious to observe how closely the aims and standards of the men who framed the memorable Constitution of 1787 and 1788 corresponded with those of the English statesmen of the eighteenth century. It is true that the framework adopted was very different. In the true spirit of Burke, the American statesmen clearly saw how useless it would be to reproduce all English institutions in a country where they had no historical or traditional basis. The United States did not contain the materials for founding a constitutional monarchy or a powerful aristocracy, and a great part of the traditional habits and observances that restrained and regulated English parliamentary government could not possibly operate in a new country with the same force. It was necessary to adopt other means, but the ends that were aimed at were much the same. To divide and restrict power; to secure property; to check the appetite for organic change; to guard individual liberty against the tyranny of the multitude, as well as against the tyranny of an individual or a class; to infuse into American political life a spirit of continuity and of sober and moderate freedom, were the ends which the great American statesmen set before them, and which they in a large measure attained. They gave an elected president during his short period of office an amount of power which was, on the whole, not less than that of George III. They invested their Senate with powers considerably beyond those of the House of Lords. They restricted by a clearly defined and written Constitution the powers of the representative body, placing, among other things, the security of property, the sanctity of contract, and the chief forms of personal and religious liberty beyond the powers of a mere parliamentary majority to infringe. They established a Supreme Court with the right of interpreting authoritatively the Constitution and declaring Acts of Congress which exceeded their powers to be null and void; they checked, or endeavoured to check, the violent oscillations of popular suffrage by introducing largely into the Constitution the principle of double election; and they made such large majorities necessary for the enactment of any organic change that these changes became impossible, except where there was an overwhelming consensus of public opinion in their favour.
In dealing with the suffrage they acted in the same spirit. Chief Justice Story has treated this subject in a book which is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable ever written on the science of politics. He argues that ‘the right of voting, like many other rights, is one which, whether it has a fixed foundation in natural law or not, has always been treated in the practice of nations as a strictly civil right, derived from and regulated by each society according to its own circumstances and interests.’ On the ground of natural right it would be impossible to exclude females from voting, or to justify the arbitrary and varying enactments by which different countries have defined the age at which males attain their majorities. ‘If any society is entrusted with authority to settle the matter of the age or sex of voters, according to its own views of its policy, or convenience, or justice, who shall say that it has not equal authority, for like reasons, to settle any other matters regarding the rights, qualifications, and duties of voters?’ The truth is that ‘there can be no certain rule’ on these subjects ‘for all ages and for all nations.’ The right of suffrage will vary almost infinitely, according to the special circumstances and characteristics of a nation.3
The American Legislature acted on this principle. In the colonial period ‘no uniform rules in regard to the right of suffrage existed. In some of the Colonies … freeholders alone were voters; in others, a very near approach was made to universal suffrage among the males of competent age; and in others, again, a middle principle was adopted, which made taxation and voting dependent upon each other, or annexed to it the qualification of holding some personal estate, or the privilege of being a freeman or the eldest son of a freeholder of the town or corporation.’ When the Revolution separated the Colonies from the mother country the same diversity was suffered to continue. ‘In some of the States the right of suffrage depends upon a certain length of residence and payment of taxes; in others, upon mere citizenship and residence; in others, upon the possession of a freehold or some estate of a particular value, or upon the payment of taxes, or performance of some public duty, such as service in the militia or on the highways. In no two of these State constitutions will it be found that the qualifications of the voters are settled upon the same uniform basis.' A proposal to establish a uniform system of voting on a common principle was brought before the Convention which framed the Constitution of 1787–88, but after full discussion it was resolved to leave the existing diversities untouched, and to confide to each State the power of regulating as it pleased the system of suffrage. All that the Convention established was, that the electors for the House of Representatives should, in each State, have the qualifications requisite for the electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature. As a matter of fact, for many years property qualifications were required in most States for electors, and a diversity in the system of election prevailed which was little, if at all, less than in England. In several of the State legislatures, though not in the Federal Legislature, a property qualification was required in representatives and in the Federal Legislature representatives, and direct taxes were apportioned by the same ratio.4
If we now pass from the two great English-speaking communities to France, we find ourselves in a different region of thought, over which Rousseau exercised the strongest influence. It is not necessary for me here to enter into a general examination of the political theories of Rousseau, or of the many inconsistencies they present. The part of his teaching which had most influence, and with which we are now specially concerned, is that relating to the suffrage. He held that absolute political equality was the essential condition of political freedom, and that no diversities of power, or representations of classes or interests should be suffered to exist in the Constitution. Every man should have a vote, and a vote of the same value; a representative should be nothing more than a delegate under the absolute control of the constituency; and no law can have any binding force which has not been directly sanctioned by the whole community. His whole system rested on the idea of natural and inalienable rights.
These views did not at once pass into French legislation. The States-General which met in 1789 had been elected by orders, the nobles and the ecclesiastics voting separately and directly for their own representatives. For the third estate the system of double election was adopted, the electors being themselves elected by a very wide constituency, consisting of men of twenty-five who had a settled abode and who paid direct taxes. In the Constitution of 1791 the system of double election was maintained; the right of voting for the primary assemblies was restricted to ‘active citizens’ who, among other things, paid direct contributions to at least the value of three days' labour; while the men whom they elected, and who in their turn elected the representatives, were required to possess a considerable property qualification. It varied, according to the size of the constituencies and the nature of the property, from a revenue of the value of 500 days' to a revenue of the value of 100 days' labour. In 1792, however, the Legislative Assembly very nearly established manhood suffrage, though it was qualified by the system of double election. The connection of voting with property and taxation was abolished. All Frenchmen of twenty-one who had resided for a year in the department, and who were not in domestic service, might vote in the primary assemblies, and no other qualification was required, either for the elected electors or for the deputies, except that they should have attained the age of twenty-five. It was under this system that the Convention—the most bloody and tyrannical assembly of which history has any record—was elected. The Constitution of June 1793 completed the work of democratic equality. The Convention decreed that ‘all Citizens have an equal right to concur in the enactment of the law and in the nominations of their delegates or agents’; that ‘the Sovereign people is the universality of French citizens,’ and that ‘they should nominate directly their deputies.' Population was made the sole basis of national representation. All citizens of twenty-one years who had resided for six months in the electoral district were made voters, and every 40,000 voters were entitled to return one member. This Constitution itself was submitted to and ratified by direct universal suffrage.
The year when this Constitution was enacted was one of the most tragical in French history. It was the year when the ancient monarchy was overthrown; when the King and Queen were brought to the scaffold; when the flower of the French nation were mown down by the guillotine or scattered as ruined exiles over Europe; when the war with England began which raged, with one short intermission, for more than twenty years.
The Constitution of 1793 never came into force. It was adjourned till after the war, and long before the war had terminated France had passed into wholly different conditions. The downfall of the Jacobins in 1794 soon led to a restriction of the suffrage and a revival of the old system of double election, and in the strong reaction against the horrors of the Revolution France moved on by steady stages to the absolute despotism of Napoleon. The system of direct election of members of Parliament was not established in France till 1817, and universal suffrage, as it had been designated by the Convention in 1793, did not revive until 1848. But the theory that each change in the Constitution should be ratified by a direct popular vote showed more vitality, and successive Governments soon learned how easily a plebiscite vote could be secured and directed by a strong executive, and how useful it might become to screen or to justify usurpation. The Constitution of 1795, which founded the power of the Directors; the Constitution of 1799, which placed the executive power in the hands of three Consuls elected for ten years; the Constitution of 1802, which made Buonaparte Consul for life, and again remodelled the electoral system; the Empire, which was established in 1804, and the additional Act of the Constitution promulgated by Napoleon in 1815, were all submitted to a direct popular vote.5
A great displacement of political power was effected by the French Revolution of 1830 and by the English Reform Bill of 1832. Tocqueville, in a recently published book, has shown very clearly how the true significance of the French Revolution of 1830 was the complete ascendency of the middle, or, as the French say, bourgeois class. In that class all political powers, franchises, and prerogatives for the next eighteen years were concentrated; their good and evil qualities pervaded and governed the whole field of French politics; and, by a happy coincidence, the King in mind and character was in perfect harmony with the representatives of the people.6 Constitutional government was carried out during these years faithfully, and in some respects even brilliantly, but it was tainted by much corruption, and it rested on an electorate of much less than a quarter of a million.
In England, a similar though not quite so decisive influence was established by the Reform Bill of 1832. Many causes contributed to this measure, but two predominated over all others, one of them being industrial and geographical, and the other political. The great manufacturing inventions of the eighteenth century had called into being vast masses of unrepresented opinion in the provincial towns, transferred the weight of population from the southern to the northern half of the island, and, partly by depleting old centres of power, and partly by creating new ones, added enormously to the inequalities and anomalies of English representation. On the other hand, the great wave of Toryism that overspread England after the French Revolution produced a greatly increased disinclination among the governing classes to all change, and especially to all measures of parliamentary reform. The Royal prerogative of summoning new centres of population to send members to Westminster had long since become wholly obsolete. Pitt, with much prescience, had attempted in 1783 and 1785 to meet the growing inequalities of representation and provide for a gradual diminution of the nomination boroughs; but his scheme was defeated, and he himself abandoned the policy of reform.
There can be little doubt that for many years after the horrors of the French Revolution the anti-reform party represented with perfect fidelity the true sentiments of the English people, and no kind of blame should be attached to the ministers who resisted parliamentary reform during the continuance of the war. After that period, however, home politics were for some years unskilfully conducted, and the reform party grew steadily in strength. The reaction which the French Reign of Terror had produced had spent its force. The many forms of misery and discontent produced by the sudden fall of prices, by the enormous weight of the war taxation, by the growth of the factory system, and by the vast and painful transformation of industry it involved, had all their influence on political opinion. Lord John Russell, dissociating parliamentary reform from radical schemes of universal suffrage, electoral districts, and vote by ballot, repeatedly brought forward the wise policy of disfranchising small boroughs which were found guilty of gross corruption, and transferring their seats to the great unrepresented towns, beginning with Leeds, Birmingham, and Manchester. Such a policy, if it had been adopted in time, and steadily pursued, might have long averted a great and comprehensive change; but it was obstinately resisted. Many mistakes, and perhaps still more the establishment of peace, had dimmed the reputation which the Tory party had justly gained by their conduct of the war. On the other hand, the no less just discredit which had fallen upon the Whig party on account of the profoundly unpatriotic conduct of a large section of its members in the early years of the war had passed away. Most of its new leaders were men who had no part in these errors, who were untainted by French sympathies and revolutionary doctrines, who reflected the national feelings quite as truly as their opponents.
The triumph of Catholic Emancipation greatly accelerated the change. The Catholic question had been for many years that on which public opinion was mainly concentrated; and experience shows that the strength of public opinion which is needed to carry a great organic change in England can never be simultaneously evoked on two totally different questions. Some very acute judges, indeed, who cared nothing for Catholic Emancipation in itself, steadily resisted it because they saw that, once it was carried, the undivided enthusiasm of the country would flow into the channel of reform.7
After the settlement of the Catholic question the Whig party, having no longer the anti-Popery prejudice to contend with, acquired all the popularity its democratic tendencies would naturally give it, and obtained the undivided support of the Protestant Dissenters. A great Whig cause had triumphed, and it had triumphed by the Act of a Tory ministry. The struggle had demonstrated clearly the coercive power which might be exercised over Parliament by organised popular agitation. The Tory party was defeated, divided, discredited, and discouraged, and a new class of Irish reformers were introduced into Parliament. The cry for reform grew louder and louder, and the triumph of the cause in France greatly assisted it.
Under all these influences a movement of public opinion in favour of parliamentary reform was created which had probably never been equalled in England for its spontaneity and force. The country seemed for a time on the verge of revolution; but the measure was at last carried. To many contemporaries the destruction of the nomination boroughs and of the controlling power of the aristocracy over the House of Commons seemed destined to ruin the parliamentary system of England. But the men who chiefly presided over this great change were genuine patriots, profoundly imbued with the best political philosophy of the English school, and as far as possible from sympathy with the French apostles of liberty. It is curious to notice how deeply rooted the English sentiment of the necessity to well-ordered and enduring freedom of disparities of political power has been, even at the time when parliamentary government was in its infancy. No one expressed this feeling better than Shakespeare, in the noble words which he places in the mouth of Ulysses:
Though the Reform Bill undoubtedly changed the centre of political power in England, it left the leading characteristics of the old system undestroyed. The constituencies were still very different in size and population. The suffrage in different parts of the kingdom was very variously arranged. All the old powers and influences were retained, though their proportionate weight was changed. The House of Lords still remained an important element in the Constitution. The landed interest was still powerful in the county constituencies. Property was specially and strongly represented, and the Reform Bill brought great masses of hitherto unrepresented property, as well as great centres of population, into the circle of the Constitution. The middle class, which now became the most powerful in the political system, was one which could be excellently trusted with a controlling power. Aristotle long since observed, that it is to this section of the community that the chief power in government may be most wisely and most profitably given. It is not the class most susceptible to new ideas or most prone to great enterprises, but it is distinguished beyond all others for its political independence, its caution, its solid practical intelligence, its steady industry, its high moral average. It also, perhaps, feels more promptly and more acutely than any other class the effects of misgovernment, whether that misgovernment takes the form of reckless adventure and extravagant expenditure, or whether, in the not less dangerous form of revolutionary legislation, it disturbs settled industries, drives capital to other lands, and impairs the national credit, on which the whole commercial system must ultimately rest.
In England, however, this middle class, though it became after 1832 the most powerful, had not the same absolute empire as in France. The active administration of affairs was chiefly in the hands of the upper and most cultivated class. The chief controlling power lay with the great middle classes, and followed mainly the bent of their wishes and tendencies. At the same time, the suffrage was so arranged that it was, in some degree at least, within the reach of the skilled artisans—a great and intelligent class, who should have a distinct place and interest in every well-ordered government.
It does not appear to me that the world has ever seen a better Constitution than England enjoyed between the Reform Bill of 1832 and the Reform Bill of 1867. Very few parliamentary governments have included more talent, or represented more faithfully the various interests and opinions of a great nation, or maintained under many trying circumstances a higher level of political purity and patriotism. The constituencies at this time coincided very substantially with the area of public opinion. Every one who will look facts honestly in the face can convince himself that the public opinion of a nation is something quite different from the votes that can be extracted from all the individuals who compose it. There are multitudes in every nation who contribute nothing to its public opinion; who never give a serious thought to public affairs, who have no spontaneous wish to take any part in them; who, if they are induced to do so, will act under the complete direction of individuals or organisations of another class. The landlord, the clergyman or Dissenting minister or priest, the local agitator, or the public-house keeper, will direct their votes, and in a pure democracy the art of winning and accumulating these votes will become one of the chief parts of practical politics.
Different motives will be employed to attain it. Sometimes the voter will be directly bribed or directly intimidated. He will vote for money or for drink, or in order to win the favour or avert the displeasure of some one who is more powerful than himself. The tenant will think of his landlord, the debtor of his creditor, the shopkeeper of his customer. A poor, struggling man called on to vote upon a question about which he cares nothing, and knows nothing, is surely not to be greatly blamed if he is governed by such considerations. A still larger number of votes will be won by persistent appeals to class cupidities. The demagogue will try to persuade the voter that by following a certain line of policy every member of his class will obtain some advantage. He will encourage all his utopias. He will hold out hopes that by breaking contracts, or shifting taxation and the power of taxing, or enlarging the paternal functions of government, something of the property of one class may be transferred to another. He will also appeal persistently, and often successfully, to class jealousies and antipathies. All the divisions which naturally grow out of class lines and the relations between employer and employed will be studiously inflamed. Envy, covetousness, prejudice, will become great forces in political propagandism. Every real grievance will be aggravated. Every redressed grievance will be revived; every imaginary grievance will be encouraged. If the poorest, most numerous, and most ignorant class can be persuaded to hate the smaller class, and to vote solely for the purpose of injuring them, the party manager will have achieved his end. To set the many against the few becomes the chief object of the electioneering agent. As education advances newspapers arise which are intended solely for this purpose, and they are often almost the only reading of great numbers of voters.
As far as the most ignorant class have opinions of their own, they will be of the vaguest and most childlike nature. When personal ascendencies are broken down, party colours will often survive, and they form one of the few elements of real stability. A man will vote blue or vote yellow as his father did before him, without much considering what principles may be connected with these colours. A few strong biases of class or creed will often display a great vitality. Large numbers, also, will naturally vote on what is called ‘the turn-about system.’ These people, they will say, have had their turn; it is now the turn of the others. This ebb and flow, which is distinct from all vicissitudes of opinion, and entirely irrespective of the good or bad policy of the Government, has become of late years a conspicuous and important element in most constituencies, and contributes powerfully to the decision of elections. In times of distress the flux or reflux to the tide is greatly strengthened. A bad harvest, or some other disaster over which the Government can have no more influence than over the march of the planets, will produce a discontent that will often govern dubious votes, and may perhaps turn the scale in a nearly balanced election. In all general elections a large number of seats are lost and won by very small majorities, and influences such as I have described may decide the issue.
The men who vote through such motives are often most useful members of the community. They are sober, honest, industrious labourers; excellent fathers and husbands; capable of becoming, if need be, admirable soldiers. They are also often men who, within the narrow circle of their own ideas, surroundings, and immediate interests, exhibit no small shrewdness of judgment; but they are as ignorant as children of the great questions of foreign, or Indian, or Irish, or colonial policy, of the complicated and far-reaching consequences of the constitutional changes, or the great questions relating to commercial or financial policy, on which a general election frequently turns. If they are asked to vote on these issues, all that can be safely predicted is that their decision will not represent either settled conviction or real knowledge.
There is another and very different class, who are chiefly found in the towns. They are the kind of men who may be seen loitering listlessly around the doors of every ginshop—men who, through drunkenness, or idleness, or dishonesty, have failed in the race of life; who either never possessed or have wholly lost the taste for honest continuous work; who hang loosely on the verge of the criminal classes, and from whom the criminal classes are chiefly recruited. These men are not real labourers, but their presence constitutes one of the chief difficulties and dangers of all labour questions, and in every period of revolution and anarchy they are galvanised into a sudden activity. With a very low suffrage they become an important element in many constituencies. Without knowledge and without character, their instinct will be to use the power which is given them for predatory and anarchic purposes. To break up society, to obtain a new deal in the goods of life, will naturally be their object.
Men of these two classes no doubt formed parts of the old constituencies, but they formed so small a part that they did not seriously derange the constitutional machine or influence the methods of candidates. When they are very numerous they will naturally alter the whole action of politicians, and they may seriously impair the representative character of Parliament, by submerging or swamping the varieties of genuine opinion by great uniform masses of ignorant and influenced voters. That symptoms of this kind have appeared and increased in English politics since the Reform Bill of 1867 is, I believe, the growing conviction of serious observers. The old healthy forces of English life no doubt still act, and on great occasions they will probably do so with irresistible power; but in normal times they act more feebly and more uncertainly, and are more liable to be overborne by capricious impulses and unreasoning fluctuations. The evil of evils in our present politics is that the constituencies can no longer be fully trusted, and that their power is so nearly absolute that they have an almost complete control over the well-being of the Empire.
One of the great divisions of politics in our day is coming to be whether, at the last resort, the world should be governed by its ignorance or by its intelligence. According to the one party, the preponderating power should be with education and property. According to the other, the ultimate source of power, the supreme right of appeal and of control, belongs legitimately to the majority of the nation told by the head—or, in other words, to the poorest, the most ignorant, the most incapable, who are necessarily the most numerous.
It is a theory which assuredly reverses all the past experiences of mankind. In every field of human enterprise, in all the competitions of life, by the inexorable law of Nature, superiority lies with the few, and not with the many, and success can only be attained by placing the guiding and controlling power mainly in their hands. That the interests of all classes should be represented in the Legislature; that numbers as well as intelligence should have some voice in politics, is very true; but unless the government of mankind be essentially different from every other form of human enterprise, it must inevitably deteriorate if it is placed under the direct control of the most unintelligent classes. No one can doubt that England has of late years advanced with gigantic strides in this direction. Yet, surely nothing in ancient alchemy was more irrational than the notion that increased ignorance in the elective body will be converted into increased capacity for good government in the representative body; that the best way to improve the world and secure rational progress is to place government more and more under the control of the least enlightened classes. The day will come when it will appear one of the strangest facts in the history of human folly that such a theory was regarded as liberal and progressive. In the words of Sir Henry Maine, ‘Let any competently instructed person turn over in his mind the great epochs of scientific invention and social change during the last two centuries, and consider what would have occurred if universal suffrage had been established at any one of them. Universal suffrage, which to-day excludes free trade from the United States, would certainly have prohibited the spinning-jenny and the power-loom. It would certainly have forbidden the threshing-machine. It would have prevented the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar; and it would have restored the Stuarts. It would have proscribed the Roman Catholics, with the mob which burned Lord Mansfield's house and library in 1780; and it would have proscribed the Dissenters, with the mob which burned Dr. Priestley's house and library in 1791.'9
It is curious and melancholy to observe how Rousseau's doctrine of the omnipotence of numbers and the supreme virtue of political equality is displacing in England all the old maxims on which English liberty once rested. I have spoken of the great inequalities in the qualifications for the suffrage that existed in the United Kingdom. They secured a healthy diversity of character in the representatives, and they followed with rough but general fidelity the different degrees of political advancement. There was one suffrage for the towns, and another for the country—one suffrage for England, and another for Ireland. All these diversities have now been swept away. The case of Ireland is especially significant. Ireland was greatly over-represented in the Imperial Parliament, and by universal acknowledgment the Irish representatives formed the diseased spot in the parliamentary body, the disaffected and obstructive element most hostile to its healthy action. It was also absolutely certain that a lowering of the Irish suffrage would aggravate the evil, and introduce into Parliament a larger body of men who were completely alienated from the interests of the Empire, and utterly indifferent to the dignity of Parliament and the maintenance of the Constitution. No one who knew Ireland doubted that it would throw a still larger amount of power into the hands of a poor, ignorant, and disaffected peasantry, completely under the influence of priests and agitators; that it would weaken, and in many districts virtually disfranchise, loyalty, property, and intelligence; that it would deepen the division of classes; that it would enormously increase the difficulty of establishing any form of moderate and honest self-government. Nothing, indeed, is more certain than that the elements of good government must be sought for in Ireland in a higher electoral plane than in England. The men who introduced and carried the degradation of the Irish suffrage were perfectly aware of what they were doing. They acted with their eyes open; they justified themselves, in the true spirit of the Contrat Social, on the plea that they would not allow a political inequality to continue, and they probably believed that they were playing a good card in the party game.
A very similar illustration may be found in the language now commonly held in the Radical party about university representation. According to any sane theory of representative government, no form of representation can be more manifestly wise. I may here once more go to Ireland for an illustration. Nothing in the Irish representation is so manifestly wanting as a more adequate representation of loyalty and intelligence in three provinces. Loyal and well-educated men are to be found there in abundance; in nearly every form of industry, enterprise, and philanthropy, they take the foremost place; but they have no corresponding weight in the political representation, as they are usually swamped by an ignorant and influenced peasantry. Owing to the purely agricultural character of the greater part of Ireland, and the steady decadence of most of its county towns, the Irish boroughs are for the most part singularly small and insignificant. Among these boroughs a leading place must be assigned to the one university constituency. This great University has for many generations educated the flower of the intelligence of Ireland. It has sent into the Imperial Parliament a greater number of representatives of conspicuous ability than any other Irish constituency. It comprises more than 4,300 electors, and is, therefore, even in point of numbers, much more considerable than many Irish boroughs; and its voters consist of highly educated men, scattered over the whole surface of the country, taking a leading part in many professions and industries, and coming in close contact with an altogether unusual variety of interests, classes, and opinions. If the object of representation be to reflect faithfully in its variety and due proportion the opinions, the interests, and the intelligence of the community, what constituency could be more essentially and more usefully representative? Yet we are now told that, in computing the relative strength of parties in Ireland, the University representation must be subtracted, as ‘it does not represent the nation.’ This dignity, it appears, belongs more truly to the illiterates—more than one in five professedly unable even to read the names upon the ballot-papers10 —who, in some remote western district, or in some decaying county town, are driven like sheep to the polling-booth by agitators or priests!
Surely it is impossible to exaggerate the fatuity of these attacks upon university representation; and the men who make them have rarely the excuse of honest ignorance. With many the true motive is simply a desire to extinguish constituencies which return members opposed to their politics, and at the same time, by depreciating the great centres of intelligence, to flatter the more ignorant voters. It is a truth which should never be forgotten, that in the field of politics the spirit of servility and sycophancy no longer shows itself in the adulation of kings and nobles. Faithful to its old instinct of grovelling at the feet of power, it now carries its homage to another shrine. The men who, in former ages, would have sought by Byzantine flattery to win power through the favour of an emperor or a prince, will now be found declaiming on platforms about the iniquity of privilege, extolling the matchless wisdom and nobility of the masses, systematically trying to excite their passions or their jealousies, and to win them by bribes and flatteries to their side. Many of those who are doing their best to reduce the influence of education and intelligence in English politics are highly cultivated men, who owe to university education all that they are, though they are now imitating—usually with awkward and overstrained effort—the rant of the vulgar demagogue. They have taken their line in public life, and some of them have attained their ends. I do not think that the respect of honest men will form any large part of their reward.
It is curious how often in modern England extreme enthusiasm for education is combined with an utter disregard for the opinions of the more educated classes. The movement against the influence of property is at least as strong as against the influence of education. One of the forms that it now chiefly takes is the outcry against plural voting. It is denounced as an abuse and an injustice that some great landlord who has property in several counties, or in several towns, should possess a vote for each constituency in which he possesses property. To me, at least, it appears that such an arrangement is most natural, expedient, and just. In each of these localities the voter has considerable material interests; in each of them he pays taxes; in each of them he discharges public duties; in each of them he probably exercises local influence as a landlord or an employer of labour. He takes part in each constituency in local charities, in local movements, in local business, and represents in each a clearly recognised, and often very considerable force. Can there be anything more reasonable than that he should have in each constituency a voice in the political representation? Can there be anything more irrational than to maintain that, in all these constituencies except one, he should be denied that minute fraction of political power which is accorded to the poorest day-labourer in his employment? Mill and some other advocates of universal suffrage have maintained that while every one should have a vote, plural voting should be largely extended, giving special privileges to special qualifications. It would be difficult to enact, and probably still more difficult to maintain, such privileges under a democratic ascendency; but plural voting connected with property is rooted by long-established custom in the habits of the country, and though its influence is not very great, it does something to make the Legislature a true picture and reflection of the forces in the country, and to qualify the despotism of simple numbers.
We may take another illustration of a different kind. Let the reader place himself in imagination at the Guildhall or at St. Paul's, and consider for a moment all that is included within a square mile taken from these centres. Probably no other spot on the globe comprises so many of the forms and elements of power. Think of all the wealth, all the varieties of knowledge, all the kinds of influence and activity that are concentrated in that narrow space. In the most distant quarters of the Empire men of enterprise and initiative turn to the city of London for assistance; each fluctuation of its prosperity is felt to the furthest confines of the civilised world. There is scarcely a Government that does not owe something to it, and its agencies radiate far beyond civilisation, among savage tribes and through unreclaimed deserts. It is the great heart of the Empire, beating in close, constant, active correspondence with all its parts. And yet, according to the democratic theory, a square mile of the City should have exactly the same weight in the political system as a square mile of Stepney or of Shadwell. Can any one suppose that a theory of representation so palpably and grotesquely at variance with the reality of things has any real prospect of enduring?
The complete submission of all taxation to the will of a mere numerical majority is an end which we have not yet fully attained, but towards which we are manifestly travelling. Every few years something is done in this direction, either by lowering the suffrage, or by abolishing ex-officio guardians of the poor, or by extinguishing plural voting, or by suppressing or weakening property qualifications. The inevitable result is to give one class the power of voting taxes which another class almost exclusively pay, and the chief taxpayers, being completely swamped, are for all practical purposes completely disfranchised. As I have already noticed, it would be difficult to conceive a more flagrant abandonment of that principle about the connection between taxation and voting which in former generations was looked on as the most fundamental principle of British freedom. It is curious to find men who are steadily labouring for this end declaiming on the iniquity of the aristocracy of the eighteenth century in attempting to tax America without her consent. Democracy pushed to its full consequences places the whole property of the country in the hands of the poorest classes, giving them unlimited power of helping themselves. At the same time, under its influence the effect of distant considerations on political action is steadily diminishing. Very naturally, every restraint of economy under such a system is weakened, and the sphere of Government activity and expense is rapidly increased. But evils much graver than mere extravagance and inequitable taxation are impending in a country which has no very extraordinary natural resources, and which owes its almost unique economical position mainly to its great accumulation of movable wealth, and to the national credit which secure wealth alone can give.
It is a saying of the great German historian, Sybel, that ‘the realisation of universal suffrage in its consequences has always been the beginning of the end of all parliamentarism.’ I believe that a large majority of the most serious and dispassionate observers of the political world are coming steadily to the same conclusion. Parliamentary government which is mainly directed by the educated and propertied classes is an essentially different thing from parliamentary government resting on a purely democratic basis. In all the instances in which this form of government has been conspicuously successful, the representative body was returned on a restricted suffrage. This is manifestly true of the British Parliaments of the past. The Italian Parliaments which displayed such eminent wisdom and forbearance after the war of 1859 and after the death of Cavour; the Austrian Parliaments which carried the singularly wise and moderate legislation that has transformed Austria from a reactionary despotism into one of the best-governed countries in Europe; the Belgian Parliaments which, in spite of furious religious animosities, established among a French-speaking population constitutional government which endured without organic change for sixty years, and which their more brilliant neighbours have wholly failed to rival; the Dutch Parliaments, which represent a country where self-government has long been as perfectly attained as in any portion of the globe—were all elected on a very high suffrage. All these nations have during the last years either entered upon the experiment of democracy or are now trembling on the verge. The result is already very apparent. In Italy, where the experiment has been longest tried, it has already led to a great and manifest deterioration in public life. In Belgium, its first effect was to break up the Parliament into groups, and to shatter the power of the Moderate Liberals.
In several countries pure democracy has been connected with extreme instability of government, with rapidly increasing taxation and debt, with broken credit, with perpetual military insurrections, with constantly recurring alternations of anarchy and despotism. In Mexico, it has been computed that in the thirty-two years between 1821 and 1853 no less than forty-eight different forms of government succeeded each other.11 In Spain, democracy in its most exaggerated form has been repeatedly adopted. There was an extremely democratic constitution established in 1812, overthrown in 1814, re-established in 1820, again destroyed in 1823. After a long succession of insurrections and constitutional vicissitudes, which it is unnecessary to recount, universal suffrage was established by the Republican revolution of 1868 It prevailed, in spite of several revolutions of power, till 1877, and during this time the credit of the country was irretrievably ruined by the immense increase of the debt. In 1877 a high property electoral qualification was established. In 1887 it was somewhat modified. In 1890 universal suffrage, chiefly qualified by a two years' residence, was re-established.12 In many cases where universal suffrage exists it has been rendered nugatory by the success with which the governing power has been able to manage and to drill it. There are said to have been instances where a regiment of soldiers has been marched to the poll for the purpose of securing the majority for the Government candidate. The system has probably been least dangerous in countries like Germany and the United States, where the powers of the representative body are greatly limited, or in new and distant countries, inhabited by thinly scattered, prosperous, and self-reliant colonists, and where there are no old institutions to be destroyed. Yet, even in these cases the abuses and dangers that flow from it are very apparent.
France, which more than any other country claims the paternity of this form of government, deserves our special attention. In one important respect she seemed peculiarly fitted for it, for the great division of landed property secured a strong conservative basis, and erected the most formidable of all barriers against socialistic innovations. She was also, on account of her almost stationary population, much less exposed than other European nations to that pressure of population on means of subsistence which is one of the chief causes of political disturbances. At the Revolution of 1848 she passed at a single bound from an electorate of about 225,00013 voters to universal manhood suffrage. For a few months the new electors turned with an overwhelming enthusiasm to Lamartine. At a time when France was peculiarly rich in great men he was pre-eminently the wonderful man of his age, possessing nearly all the qualities that are most fitted to dazzle great masses of men, though, unfortunately, not those which are most needed for the wise guidance of affairs. As a poet, he was by universal consent among the very greatest France had ever produced, and few men in all French literature have wielded the noble instrument of French prose with such consummate genius and skill. His ‘History of the Girondins,’ untrue, inaccurate, and misleading as it is, had, probably, a greater influence on immediate politics than any other historical work that has ever been written, and the passionate enthusiasm it aroused contributed very largely to the Revolution. He combined, too, as no one has done before or since, the most splendid literary gifts in poetry and prose with the power of enthralling assemblies by his spoken words, swaying and restraining the passions of vast multitudes of excited men. In a great crisis he proved brave, honest, humane, and well-meaning, and he could judge large social questions with wisdom and moderation; but he had neither the true strength nor practical talent that are needed in the government of men, and he was apt to be led astray by a childlike and unrestrained vanity.
His popularity was for a time so great that ten departments and more than two millions of voters simultaneously elected him to the National Assembly, without any solicitation on his part. But his star soon faded: socialistic attacks on property began to dominate at Paris, and under the terror of these attacks the great mass of voters began to turn towards a saviour of society. The election, by an enormous majority, of Louis Napoleon as President in December, 1848, clearly foreshadowed the future, and the extremely menacing character which the Paris elections assumed led to the law of 1850, which considerably restricted the suffrage. It made three years' residence in the constituency necessary for an elector, and it provided precise and stringent rules by which that resident must be ascertained. In spite of a furious opposition from the Radical party, this law was carried by 433 to 240, and it is said to have disfranchised more than three millions of voters, or about a third part of the electorate.14
Universal suffrage had lasted just two years; but in the conflict which ensued between the Legislative Assembly and the President, the latter clearly saw that it would be his best weapon. By a stroke of true political sagacity he sent down, in November 1851, a powerfully written presidential message, calling upon the Assembly to repeal the law of 1850, and to restore their franchise to the three million voters. The Chamber received the message with some consternation, and after an agitated debate it resolved by a majority of seven to maintain the existing law. Less than a month later came the Coup d'Etat of December 2, when the chief statesmen and generals of France were arrested in their beds and carried in the dark winter morning to prison; when the Chamber was peremptorily dissolved; when its members, on their refusal to obey, were led between files of soldiers to the barracks, and thence conducted to prison; when all resistance was crushed by military force, martial law, and wholesale deportations. One of the first acts of Louis Napoleon was to announce in the proclamation that dissolved the Chamber that the electoral law of 1850 was annulled and universal suffrage re-established. Two days after the Coup d'Etat it was sanctioned by a plebiscite of the army, and within three weeks of the same event, when the greater part of France was still under severe martial law, the act of the President was ratified by universal suffrage. Nearly eight millions of electors are said to have voted for him.
From the Coup d'Etat of December 2 universal suffrage was duly installed in France. Another plebiscite, which took place in November 1852, made the Prince-President Emperor; while a fourth, only a few weeks before the outbreak of the disastrous war of 1870, once more sanctioned by overwhelming majorities the imperial rule. During the whole of this reign the Legislative Assemblies were elected by universal suffrage, yet during the greater part of it the government was an almost absolute despotism. Universal suffrage was drilled and disciplined into the most obedient of servants. Every official, from the highest to the lowest, was turned into an electioneering agent. The limits of constituencies were arbitrarily enlarged, modified, or contracted to secure the success of the Government candidate. All the powers of administration were systematically and openly employed in directing votes. Each constituency was taught that its prospect of obtaining roads, or bridges, or harbours, or other local advantages depended on its support of the Government, and that if the official candidate succeeded he would have the power of distributing among his supporters innumerable small Government places, privileges and honours. The powers of the Legislative Assembly were extremely limited. They came to little more than a right of sanctioning laws submitted to it by the Government, and voting taxes under great restrictions. Until 1860 its debates were not even fully reported, and for several years the Opposition consisted of five men.
In 1867 and 1868 the whole system was suddenly changed. The Emperor called one of the members of the old Opposition to power, and made a bold attempt, by large and liberal measures, to transform the character of the Empire. The right of interpellation was conceded to the Chamber. Liberty of the press, in almost the widest measure, and a large measure of liberty of meeting, were accorded, and the fierce political life which had been for some seventeen years suppressed burst out with a volcanic fury. Those who knew France in the last days of the Empire will, I think, agree with me that there has never been a more violent, a more dangerous, or more revolutionary press than then prevailed. The hope that active politicians would let bygones be bygones, and accept the compromise of a liberal empire, soon waned. Furious attacks on the main pillars of society attained an enormous popularity, and the very foundations of the Empire were persistently assailed. It was at this period that the works of M. Ténot on the Coup d'Etat exercised their great influence. The demonstrations at the tomb of Baudin, who had been shot on a barricade in December 1851, displayed the same spirit; and the defiant eloquence of Gambetta in defending those who were accused of riot in connection with these demonstrations first brought that tribune into public notice. The Emperor, not unnaturally, refused to abandon the whole system of official guidance at the election of the Chamber which met in 1869, and universal suffrage again returned a great majority in his favour. But the entire Parisian representation was won by the Opposition, and a great portion of it by its most violent and irreconcilable wing, while in the whole Chamber not much less than a third of the members and a great preponderance of the parliamentary talent were in opposition to the Government.
Most good observers felt that a state of things had been called into existence which could not possibly last. The Emperor, in opening the Chamber, while deploring the growth of subversive and anarchical passions, declared his determination to persevere in the path he had chosen, and, although he refused to abandon his action over the constituencies, and expressly reserved to himself the right of always appealing to his people independently of his ministers, he greatly enlarged the powers of the Assembly. In conjunction with himself it now obtained the right of initiating laws; it obtained the fullest powers of amending them, and the ministers became responsible to it. The Constitution was denounced by the Radical party as a worthless mockery, but it was sanctioned by the Plebiscite of 1870. There were about 7,350,000 votes in favour of the Government, and rather more than 1,500,000 votes against it.
There can be little doubt that the subversive passions that had been aroused and the grave internal dangers that had arisen bore a great part in impelling the Government into the disastrous Franco-German War. There can be as little doubt that the same causes vastly aggravated the calamity, for it was the fear of revolution that prevented the Emperor from falling back on Paris after the first defeat. When the news of Sedan arrived, and the people of Paris learnt that the Emperor and his whole army were prisoners in the hands of the Prussians, the Republic party saw that their hour had arrived. Instead of rallying around the Empress, they at once, on their own authority, destroyed the Government which universal suffrage had so frequently and so recently ratified, and drove the Regent into exile. Few things in French history are more mournfully significant than that the streets of Paris were illuminated the night after the disaster of Sedan was known. In the eyes of the party which now ruled, the triumph of the Republic more than compensated for the most terrible calamity that had ever befallen their country. One of the principal streets in Paris still bears the name of the Fourth of September, the day when this revolution was accomplished. It is, apparently, still regarded by some Frenchmen as a day of which they may be proud.
It deprived France of a settled Government at the moment when such a Government was most imperiously needed, and one of its most certain results was the useless prolongation of a hopeless war. There is little doubt that if the Empire had survived Sedan peace would have speedily been made, and, although Strasburg was irrevocably lost, Metz would have been saved; the war indemnity would have been far less; the vast expenditure of life and property and human suffering that marked the later months of the war would have been prevented, and France might have escaped the most hideous, shameful, and wicked of all insurrections—the Communist rising against a French Government under the eyes of a victorious invading army.
Happily, in this dark crisis of her fate France found a really great man, who in intellectual stature seemed to tower like a giant among his contemporaries; and it is a curiously significant fact that he was one of the few surviving statesmen who had been formed in the parliamentary conflicts under Louis Philippe, before the millennium of universal suffrage had dawned upon the land.
It is, perhaps, somewhat rash to discuss the Government which ensued, under which France still subsists. In the rapidly changing kaleidoscope of French politics it may soon take a new form, and something may easily occur which will give it a compexion somewhat different from my present judgment. Still, twenty-three years have elapsed since 1870 and the time at which I am writing, and this space is long enough to furnish us with some general conclusions. The French Republic is, not only in form, but in reality, a Government of universal suffrage, acting with very little control. Its democratic character is chiefly qualified by the position of the Senate, which has some special elements of strength, that will be considered in another chapter. The position of the President was for some time not very clearly determined. As interpreted by Thiers it carried with it great governing powers. Thiers was, indeed, essentially his own prime minister; he insisted upon the Chamber carrying out his policy; he corresponded directly with foreign ambassadors; he held the threads of foreign policy so exclusively in his own hands that the whole question of the evacuation of the territory was entirely managed by him, without reference to his ministers, and it is said that no documents relating to it were found in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.15 His ascendency, however, was mainly due to his great personality and reputation, and after his resignation, and especially after the constitutional laws of 1875, the French President assumed a position very little different from that of a constitutional monarch. Unlike the American President, unlike the French Emperor, the President does not owe his position to the direct and independent action of universal suffrage. He is elected by the Senate and Chamber of Deputies voting together. All his acts have to be countersigned by a minister. His ministers fall before a vote of the Assembly, and he cannot even dissolve the Chamber of Deputies without the assent of the Senate. The Government is, therefore, wholly without that strong executive which is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the great American republic.
Whatever else may be said of this Government, it has certainly not proved a brilliant one. Few French governments have produced or attracted so little eminent talent, or have been, for the most part, carried on by men who, apart from their official positions, are so little known, have so little weight in their country, and have hitherto appealed so feebly to the imaginations of the world. As it seems to me, one of the characteristic features of our time is the absence of any political ideal capable of exciting strong enthusiasm. Political restlessness and political innovation are abundantly displayed, but there is nothing resembling the fervid devotion and the boundless hopes which the advent of democracy excited at the close of the eighteenth century. Democracy has completely triumphed in two forms—the American and the French—and we see it fully working before us. Men may like it or dislike it, but only rare and very peculiarly moulded minds can find in the Government of either republic a subject for real enthusiasm. The French Revolution, in its earlier days, excited such an enthusiasm nearly to the point of madness, and in 1830 and 1848 French politics exercised an almost irresistible attraction over surrounding countries. It has been one of the achievements of the present Republic to destroy this fanaticism. With our closer insight into American and French democracy, forms of government seem to have lost their magnetic power. The ideals and utopias that float before the popular imagination are of another kind. They point rather to great social and industrial changes, to redistributions of wealth, to a dissolution of the present fabric of society.
I do not know that this is altogether an evil. There is a constant tendency in the human mind to expect too much from Governments, and brilliancy in these spheres is often sought by violent constitutional innovations or military adventure. At the same time, when the Government of a country fails to excite enthusiasm, or even interest, there is apt to be some decline of patriotism, and there is much danger that the craving for excitement, which is so deeply implanted in human nature, and certainly abundantly present in French nature, may some day burst out in very dangerous forms. It has often been said that one of the causes of the popularity of military adventure in great despotisms is the absence of any interest in ordinary public life. In the light of the present condition of France, it is exceedingly curious to read the speeches of Lamartine, Crémieux, and the other men who played the chief part in the Revolution of 1848. The charge which they brought against the Government of Louis Philippe was much less that it was guilty of any positive fault, than that it failed to give France the brilliancy and the prominence in Europe which were her due. She appeared, they contended, like a dowdy, ill-dressed figure in the concert of nations. Yet, who can doubt that at that period the amount of brilliant talent in French public life was incomparably greater than at present?
The characteristic function, however, of government is business, and a Government that administers affairs with steady wisdom, tolerance, and uprightness may well be pardoned if it does not appeal to the more poetic side of human nature. I suspect, however, that most impartial judges will greatly doubt whether modern French democracy fulfills these requirements. One of its most conspicuous features has been its extreme, its astonishing ministerial instability. Between 1870 and the closing days of 1893, when I write these lines, France has had no less than thirty-two ministries. It may well be doubted whether a form of government which leads to such instability can be destined to endure, and whether it is compatible with that continuity of policy which is one of the most essential elements of national greatness. One of the causes that make the power of Russia in the world so formidable is the steady persistence of its foreign policy. Designs that may be traced to Peter the Great have been steadily pursued, and in the whole period from 1816 to 1895 only three ministers—Nesselrode, Gortschakoff, and Giers—have directed the foreign policy of the Empire. The great lines of French foreign policy were pursued with different degrees of energy and success, but with undeviating persistence, by Henry IV., by Richelieu and Mazarin, by Louis XIV., and by Cardinal Fleury. It is probable that in France, as in most democracies, the permanent service includes men greatly above the average which universal suffrage has brought to the front, and it is in this service that the old administrative traditions are preserved and the chief elements of good government are to be found. A good permanent service has often saved a country when its nominal rulers are utterly untrustworthy. But, excellent as the service has been, and, I believe, in many of its branches still is, in France, it is scarcely possible that it should not have been profoundly affected by constant fluctuations among its chiefs. Partly by a desire to weed out all officials who were not in accordance with the strictest Republican doctrine, and partly by the imperious desire felt by succeeding ministries to provide for their followers, a system of change has grown up in French official life much like that which has done so much to degrade American politics.16 It is not, it is true, carried to the same extreme, but it has introduced much instability into spheres where steady continuity is of the highest importance.
It produces not only the evil of inexperience, but also the still greater evil of a lowered tone. No careful student of French politics can fail to have been struck with the many instances, since the establishment of the Republic, in which diplomatists and other officials have violated the cardinal article of professional honour by publishing to the world secrets they had learned in confidential Government posts. There can be no surer or more ominous sign of deterioration in official life; and it is not difficult to detect its causes. Much has been due to the frequency of revolutions, the functionaries of one dynasty regarding themselves as relieved from all obligation to secrecy when a new form of government was established. Much is also due to the character of the Republic. A prominent French politician who was for four years prefect of police published, almost immediately after he left office, two volumes of ‘recollections,’ full of anecdotes which would be considered in England scandalous violations of official confidence. The following significant lines are his own defence. ‘After having found that all means were good for overthrowing the preceding régimes, the men who are now in power, in order to consolidate their own authority, claim to appropriate all the traditions of the monarchies they have destroyed. Under a monarchy, the functionary who returns to private life retains obligations of gratitude and fidelity towards the dynasty of which he was and will remain the subject. But in the system of our institutions, what permanent element is there in the name of which such obligations can be imposed on me? Do I owe anything to the existing Cabinet? Is it not composed of my adversaries? Does it not run counter to all the ideas that are dear to me? Does it not obstruct the path to the hopes of a better future? Does it not impose on my country a policy which I detest?’17
We may judge French democracy by other tests. Has it raised France to a higher plane of liberty than in the past? The latitude of speaking and writing and dramatic representation is, no doubt, extremely great, but few modern French Governments, in their religious policy and in their educational policy, have made more determined efforts to force upon great masses of the population a system of education they detested, or to deprive them of the religious consolation they most dearly prized. It is very doubtful whether the religious policy of Jules Ferry and the educational policy of Paul Bert were approved of by the majority of Frenchmen. They are, probably, among the many instances in which a resolute and well-organised minority have forced their policy on a majority who were for the most part languid, divided, or unorganised. If the opinions of women as well as of men be taken into account, as they surely should be in questions of religion and education, there can be little doubt that the Government policy was that of a not very considerable minority. The essential characteristic of true liberty is, that under its shelter many different types of life and character, and opinion and belief can develop unmolested and unobstructed. Can it be said that the French Republic represents this liberty in a higher degree than other Governments? It has been called a Government of the working-classes, but has it in this respect any extraordinary claim to our respect? On nearly all working-class questions, it will be found that France has been preceded on the path of progress by British legislation. At the present day, the hours of work of the French labourer are in general much longer than those of the Englishman; and I believe the English workmen, who have of late years so carefully examined continental legislations, have very generally concluded that they have nothing to envy in the industrial habits or legislation of the Republic.
Has it, at least, managed with peculiar wisdom the resources of France? The history of French finances in the nineteenth century is a very curious one, and a brief retrospect will not, I think, be irrelevant to my present purpose, for it throws much real and instructive light on the tendencies of democracies. We may start from the year 1814, when the great French war was concluded. There was then an extraordinary contrast between the financial condition of Great Britain and that of her conquered adversary. Great Britain seemed almost crushed by her enormous debt, while the debt of France was quite inconsiderable. Partly by unsparing levies on conquered nations, and partly by his own extremely skillful management of French resources, Napoleon had made his great wars almost self-supporting. Putting aside the debts of conquered or annexed countries, the whole debt of France created between 1800 and 1814 amounted only to an annual payment in interest of seven millions of francs, to a nominal capital of 140 millions, or less than six millions of pounds.18
The Hundred Days, the war indemnity exacted after Waterloo by the Allies for their expense in the war, the cost of the army of occupation, the large sums which were voted in compensation to the plundered ‘émigrés,’19 and the years of impaired and depreciated credit that followed the Restoration, added largely to the debt; but in the opinion of the best contemporary authority on French finance, the Government of the Restoration, in this branch of administration, was one of the most skilful, honourable, and economical France has ever known. The credit of the country was never so high as in 1830, and although the debt was increased, it was still very trifling in comparison with the resources of France. When Louis XVIII. came to the throne it involved an annual payment in interest of rather more than sixty-three millions of francs. In 1830 this payment had risen to 164 1/2 millions. Rather more than four million pounds had thus been added to the annual debt-charge.20
The reign of Louis Philippe was conducted on much the same lines; and although the debt continued to grow, it grew at a far slower rate than the revenue of the country. In the eighteen years of his reign Louis Philippe added about twelve and a half millions of francs, or 500,000l., to the annual debt-charge. When his Government fell, in 1848, the French debt was the second in Europe; but it was still only a fourth part of that of Great Britain, and if the French monarchy had been as stable as that of England, there can be little doubt that French credit would have attained the English level.21
Then came the democratic Republic of 1848. It lasted for three years, and in those three years France increased her debt more than in the twenty-five years between 1823 and 1848. In 1852, when the Empire began, the debt-charge was about 231 millions of francs. The French debt was now a little less than a third of that of England.22
During many years of the Second Empire the wealth of France increased perhaps more rapidly than in any other period of her history. Much of this prosperity was, no doubt, due to the astonishing impulse then given to all forms of production by Californian and Australian gold, but much also was due to the sagacious energy with which the Government assisted material development. The railway system, which had been very insufficiently developed under Louis Philippe, was now brought to great perfection. A policy of judicious free trade immensely stimulated industry, and nearly every kind of enterprise was assisted by the Government. Vast sums were expended, and usually with singular intelligence, on public works. The Constitution of 1852 reserved to the Emperor the right of authorising such works by simple decree, and also the right of transferring the credits voted for one department to another. But it was the policy of the Emperor through his whole reign to secure the popularity of his government by keeping the taxes low and unaltered, and meeting the growing expenditure by constant loans. Almost the whole cost of the Crimean War, the Italian War, and the Mexican expedition, and also an immense part of the habitual expenditure of the Government in times of peace, were raised in this way. The extravagance of this system was in part concealed by the complexity of French financial administration, under which several distinct budgets were usually put forward in a year, and also by the device of a very large floating debt. One of the most important steps taken under the Empire was the introduction of a new system of raising loans. Instead of appealing to a few great capitalists, the Emperor threw open the loans by direct subscription to the whole nation, dividing them in such small portions that nearly all classes could afford to subscribe. There is much difference of opinion about the economical advantages of this plan, but there can be no doubt of its extreme popularity. The small Government bonds were eagerly taken up, and loans became as popular as taxes were unpopular. There can also be no doubt that, by interesting an immense portion of the people in the security of the national debt, the new system greatly improved the national credit and strengthened the conservative element in France. It was computed that in 1830 there were at the utmost not more than 125,000 persons in France holding portions of the national debt. In 1869 the number had probably risen to between 700,000 and 800,000, and in 1881 it is believed to have been more than 4,000,000. Either in this way or as owners of land the great majority of the heads of families in France had a direct interest in the prosperity of the State.23
The system of government under the Second Empire, and especially in its first ten or twelve years, deserves more careful and impartial examination than it is likely to receive from the generation which witnessed the catastrophes of the Franco-German War. It was a government with no real constitutional freedom, no liberty of the press, no liberty of public meeting. It sheltered or produced great corruption, and repressed with arbitrary and tyrannical violence political opponents. It was detested by the educated classes, by the minority of the population who seriously cared for political freedom, and, in spite of the enormous sums that were expended in public works in Paris, it never succeeded in winning the affections of the Parisian workmen. On the other hand, the theory of paternal government exercised in a thoroughly democratic spirit had probably never before been carried out with equal energy and intelligence. The Emperor continually looked for his support to the great inarticulate masses of his people. To promote their immediate material well-being was the first object of his policy. No preceding Government had done so much to stimulate industry in all its forms, to develop latent resources, and to provide constant and remunerative employment. For many years he succeeded in an eminent degree,24 and there is very little doubt that the last plebiscite which sanctioned his rule reflected the real feelings of the numerical majority of Frenchmen. If 100,000 more French soldiers had been present on the field of Wörth, and if the French commander had happened to be a man of genius, it is very possible that the Empire might have existed to the present day.
M. Leroy-Beaulieu calculates that in the beginning of 1870—the year of the war—the interest of the consolidated debt was about 129 millions of francs, or about 5,160,000 pounds sterling more than it had been in 1852, when the Emperor ascended the throne. The whole debt-charge was 360 millions of francs. It represented a nominal capital of rather less than twelve milliards of francs, or 480 millions of pounds; and there was in addition a floating debt, which at the beginning of 1870 had been recently reduced to somewhat less than thirty-two millions of pounds.25
But the Empire bequeathed to the Republic which followed it an appalling legacy. France was compelled to pay Germany an indemnity of 200 millions of pounds, and her own war expenses were only a very few millions below that sum. Nearly the whole of these colossal sums were raised by loans between 1870 and 1874, and added to the permanent capital of the debt.
The French debt had now greatly outstripped the English one. In the early years of the Republic, and especially during the ascendency of M. Thiers, French finances appear to have been managed with economy and skill. But in 1878 a new system of prodigality began which far exceeded that of the Second Empire, and which appears to have continued to the present time. A few plain figures will place the situation before the reader. The nominal value of the debt of France according to the Budget of 1892 was about thirty-two milliards of francs, or 1,280 millions of pounds. The annual debt-charge was about 1,000,250,000 francs, or fifty million pounds—about double the present interest of the debt of Great Britain; and in the twelve years of perfect peace from 1881 to 1892 France increased her debt by more than five milliards of francs, or 200 millions of pounds—a sum equal to the whole war indemnity which she had been obliged to pay to Germany after the war of 1870.26 And this debt is irrespective of the large and rapidly growing debts of the communes and municipalities.
A great part of it was, no doubt, incurred for military purposes. The creation of a magnificent army; the fortification of a country which the loss of Strasburg and Metz had left very vulnerable, and the formation of a vast and costly navy, which was probably intended to intimidate Italy and overbalance the power of England in the Mediterranean, account for much. Much, too, was due to the great energy with which the French Republic has pushed on the work of national education; and the expense of this work was enormously increased by the anti-ecclesiastical spirit which insisted on building fresh schoolhouses where ecclesiastical schools were abundantly supplied, and which refused to make any use of the great voluntary institutions established by the Church. But, in addition to these things, there has been another great source of expense, on which the best French economists dilate with unfeigned alarm. It is the enormous and wasteful expenditure on public works which are, for the most part, unremunerative; which are intended, by giving employment, to conciliate the working-classes, and which are extended to every department, almost to every commune, as a reward for supporting the Government. Much of this kind was done—especially at Paris—under the Second Empire, but the system never acquired the enormous extension and extravagance that it has assumed under the Republic. The name of M. de Freycinet is specially attached to this great development of public works; but, as might be expected, it soon far outgrew the proportions which its author had originally assigned to it, though his first idea was to spend four milliards of francs, or 160 millions of pounds, on railways alone. Very naturally, such a system of artificial employment having been started, it was found impossible to abandon it. Very naturally, every locality desired its share of the beneficence of the Government. Countless millions were squandered, either in purely Government work or in tripling or quadrupling local subventions, or in rendering gratuitous public services which had once paid their expenses, or in multiplying inordinate Government posts. And the result was that, at a time when severe economy was imperiously required, the Republic added to its debt a sum which was little, if at all, less than the expense of the War of 1870.27
We can hardly have a more impressive illustration of the truth that universal suffrage wholly fails to represent the best qualities of a nation. No people in their private capacities are more distinguished than the French for their business talent, for their combination of intelligent industry with great parsimony, for the courage with which in times of difficulty they retrench their expenditure. Yet few Governments have been more lavishly and criminally extravagant than those which have emanated from universal suffrage in France.
The forms of corruption which are practised in a pure democracy are in general far more detrimental to the prosperity of nations than those which existed in other days. Sinecures, and corrupt pensions, and Court favours, and small jobs, and the purchase of seats of Parliament, may all be carried very far without seriously burdening the national revenues. A millionaire may squander with reckless profusion his shillings and his pence, but as long as the main lines of his expenditure are wisely ordered he will find no great difference at the end of the year. There are, it is true, occasional instances in which the extravagance of an individual or of a Court may have ruined a nation. The most amazing modern example has been that of Ismail Pasha, who, in the thirteen years between 1863 and 1876, raised the Egyptian debt from a little over three millions of pounds to eighty-nine millions, and who, mainly through his personal extravagance and reckless gambling, burdened a poor and struggling population of six million souls with an annual payment for interest of not less than seven millions of pounds.28 Such prodigies of colossal selfishness, however, are, happily, rare; and if the world had not come to form a wholly false measure of the enormity of political crimes, both in rulers and subjects, they would lead to something very different from a simple deposition.
Corrupt Governments are not necessarily on the whole extravagant. The great corruption which undoubtedly prevailed in the French Government under Louis Philippe did not prevent that Government from managing French finances with an economy which, in the light of later experience, can only be regarded as admirable. The jobs and sinecures and pensions of the Irish Parliament in the eighteenth century were very notorious; yet Irish statesmen truly said that until the outbreak of the great French war Ireland was one of the least taxed nations, and its Government one of the cheapest Governments in Europe. These kinds of corruption do much to lower the character of Governments and to alienate from them the public spirit and enthusiasm that should support them; but except in very small and poor countries they seldom amount to a serious economical evil. Wars, overgrown armaments, policies that shake credit and plunder large classes, laws that hamper industry, the forms of corruption which bribe constituencies or classes by great public expenditure, by lavish, partial unjust, taxation—these are the things that really ruin the finances of a nation. To most of these evils unqualified democracies are especially liable.
Modern Radicalism is accustomed to dilate much upon the cost to a nation of endowing princes and supporting the pageantry of a Court. If there be a lesson which repeated and very recent experience clearly teaches, it is the utter insignificance of such expenditure, compared with the cost of any revolution which renders the supreme power in a State precarious, lowers the national credit, drives out of a country great masses of capital, dislocates its industry and trade, or gives a false and extravagant ply to its financial policy. Brazil and Spain are poor countries, but the millions that have been lost to them by revolutions due to the selfish ambition of a few unprincipled adventurers would have gone far to pay for all the extravagances of all the Courts in Europe.
France can, no doubt, bear the burden of her enormous debt better than most countries. Her great natural advantages, her vast accumulated wealth, the admirable industrial qualities of her people, the wide distribution among them both of landed property and of portions of the national debt, and the fact that this debt is mainly held within the country, have all contributed to the high credit which she still enjoys. Great as is her present debt, it bears a much smaller proportion to her riches than the English debt did to the revenue of Great Britain at the Peace of 1815, than the debts of Italy and Russia still bear to their national resources. No one can doubt that, if a policy of strict economy and steady peace is pursued in France for the coming half-century, her finances will again become very sound. Some portions of her debt consist of terminable annuities. The good credit which is largely due to the wide diffusion of the debt among Frenchmen renders the policy of conversion at diminished interest possible; and in 1950 the railways of France will become national property. A country which was able in 1894 to convert without difficulty 280,000,000l. of stock bearing 4 1/2 per cent. interest into 3 1/2-percent. stock is certainly in no desperate financial condition, and the cheapness and abundance of money, while it increases the temptation to borrow, diminishes the burden of debts.
But, in spite of all these things, no serious French economist can contemplate without alarm the gigantic strides with which both her debt and her taxation have of late years advanced. Such men well know that few national diseases are more insidious in their march, more difficult to arrest, more disastrous in their ultimate consequences. The immediate stimulus to employment given by a new loan masks its ultimate and permanent effects, and if the interest alone is paid out of taxation, the increase is at first scarcely perceptible. No one can suppose that France is destined for a long period to remain at peace, and there is very little prospect of serious retrenchment in her internal affairs. A policy which would involve greatly diminished expenditure in public works, and, at the same time, considerable increase of taxation, can never be popular with the great uninstructed masses, on whose votes all French Governments now depend. Few Governments would venture to propose it, and least of all feeble, transitory, and precarious Governments, like those which have existed in France since 1870. Such Governments necessarily take short views, and look eagerly for immediate support. All the lines of policy that are most fitted to appeal to the imagination and win the favour of an uninstructed democracy are lines of policy involving increased expenditure, and the whole tendency of European democracy is towards enlarging the functions and burdens of the State. When great sections of the people have come habitually to look to Government for support, it becomes impossible to withdraw, and exceedingly difficult to restrict, that support. Public works which are undertaken through political motives, and which private enterprise would refuse to touch, are scarcely ever remunerative. On the other hand, nothing can be more certain than that the evil of excessive taxation is not merely to be measured by the amount which is directly taken from the taxpayer; its indirect, remote consequences are much more serious than its direct ones. Industries which are too heavily weighted can no longer compete with those of countries where they are more lightly taxed. Industries and capital both emigrate to quarters where they are less burdened and more productive. The credit which a nation enjoys on the Stock Exchange is a deceptive test, for the finance of the market seldom looks beyond the prospect of a few years. A false security grows up, until the nation at last slowly finds that it has entered irretrievably on the path of decadence.
It is scarcely to be expected, under the conditions I have described, that the tone of public life should be very high. The disclosures that followed the Panama scandals, though the most startling, were by no means the only signs that have thrown ominous light on this subject. Scherer, in an admirable work, has described in detail the action of the present system on French political life. Nearly every deputy, he says, enters the Chamber encumbered with many promises to individuals; the main object of his policy is usually to secure his re-election after four years, and the methods by which this may be done are well known. There is the branch line of railroad which must be obtained for the district; there is the fountain that should be erected in the public place; there is, perhaps, even the restoration of the parish church to be effected. But it is not less important that all public offices which carry with them any local influence should be in the hands of his supporters. He therefore at once puts pressure on the Government, which usually purchases his support by giving him the patronage he desires. There is a constant shifting in the smaller local offices. Never, it is said, were there so many dismissals and changes in these offices as during the Republic; and they have been mainly due to the desire of the deputies to make room for their supporters or their children. The idea that a vote is a personal favour, establishing a claim to a personal reward, has rapidly spread. At the same time, any vote in favour of public works, and especially public works in his own constituency; any reorganisation that tends to increase the number of men in Government employment, increases the popularity of the deputy. The socialistic spirit takes different forms in different countries, and this is the form it seems specially adopting in France. The old idea, that the representative Chamber is pre-eminently a check upon extravagance, a jealous guardian of the public purse, seems to have almost vanished in democratic countries, and nowhere more completely than in France. In the words of Léon Say, a great proportion of the deputies are, beyond all things, ‘agents for instigating to expense,’ seeking to secure a livelihood out of the public taxes for the greatest possible number of their electors. The electoral committee, or, as we should say, the local caucus, governs the deputy, who, in his turn, under the system of small parliamentary groups and weak and perpetually fluctuating ministries exercises an exaggerated influence on the Administration.29
We may, in the last place, ask whether democracy has given France a nobler and more generous foreign policy. French writers have often claimed for their country that, more than any other, it has been governed by ‘ideas;’ that it has been the chief torchbearer of civilisation; that French public opinion is pre-eminently capable of rising above the limits of a narrow patriotism in order to support, popularise, and propagate movements of cosmopolitan liberalism. These cosmopolitan sympathies, it must be owned, sometimes fade into Utopia, and lead to a neglect of the duties of a rational patriotism; and not unfrequently they have either disguised, or served, or ended in, designs of very selfish military aggrandisement. Still, no impartial student will deny that France has for a long period represented in an eminent degree the progressive element in European civilisation; that her great influence has usually been thrown into the scale of freedom, enlightenment, and tolerance. Can this noble position be now claimed for her? Can it be denied that a policy of rancour and revenge has, in the later phases of her history, made her strangely false to the nobler instincts of her past? Let the reader follow, in the work of Sir Alfred Milner, the account of the way in which, through very unworthy motives, she has obstructed in Egypt all those reforms which were manifestly necessary to relieve the misery of the Egyptian fellah. Or, let him take a more conspicuous instance, and study that most hideous story of our century—the Russian persecution of the Jews—and then remember that it was on the morrow of this persecution that the French democracy threw itself, in a transport of boundless, unqualified enthusiasm, into the arms of Russia, and declared by all its organs that French and Russian policies were now identified in the world. Few sadder, yet few more significant spectacles have been witnessed in our time than this enthusiastic union, in 1893, of the chief democracy of Europe with its one great persecuting despotism. Could there be a more eloquent lesson on the tendencies of democracy than was furnished by the joyous and almost puerile delight with which France identified herself with the cause of reaction, and resigned to others her old supremacy in European liberalism? What a change since the days when George Sand heralded the triumph of democracy, in 1848, as introducing, by the initiative of France, a new era of progress and enlightenment among mankind; since Michelet described France as the armed sentinel of Europe, guarding its civilisation against the barbarians of the North; since Lamartine, in lines of exquisite beauty, proclaimed the cosmopolitan fraternity which was soon to make patriotism itself an obsolete sentiment, too narrow and too harsh for a regenerated humanity!
The conditions of American democracy are essentially different from those of democracy in France, and the effects of this great experiment in government must be profoundly interesting to every serious political inquirer. I have already referred briefly to its character. It would be impossible in a book like the present, it would be presumptuous on the part of a stranger, and after the great works which, in the present generation, have been written on the subject, to attempt to give a full account of the workings of American democracy, but a few salient facts may be gathered which will throw much light upon my present subject.
One of the chief errors of English political writers of the last generation in dealing with this topic arose from their very superficial knowledge of American institutions, which led them to believe that the American Government was generically of the same kind as the Government of England, the chief difference being that a majority of the people could always carry out their will with more prompt, decisive, unrestrained efficiency. The English public have at last, it may be hoped, learned to perceive that this notion is radically false. In England, a simple majority of Parliament is capable, with the assent of the Crown, of carrying out any constitutional change, however revolutionary; and the House of Commons, in practice, has absorbed to itself all the main power in the Constitution. A chance majority, formed out of many different political fractions, acting through different motives, and with different objects, may change fundamentally the Constitution of the country. The Royal veto has become wholly obsolete. The Royal power under all normal circumstances is exercised at the dictation of a ministry which owes its being to the majority of the House of Commons, and if the Crown can occasionally exercise some independent political influence, it can only be in rare and exceptional circumstances, or in indirect and subordinate ways. The House of Lords has, it is true, greater power, and can still, by a suspensive veto, delay great changes until they are directly sanctioned by the constituencies at an election. But after such sanction it is scarcely possible that such changes should be resisted, however narrow may be the majorities in their favour, however doubtful may be the motives by which these majorities were obtained.
In America the position of the House of Representatives is widely different from that of the House of Commons. It is a body in which the ministers do not sit, and which has no power of making or destroying a ministry. It is confronted by a Senate which does not rest on the democratic basis of mere numbers, but which can exercise a much more real restraining power than the House of Lords. It is confronted also by a President who is himself chosen ultimately by manhood suffrage, but in a different way from the House of Representatives, and who exercises an independent power vastly greater than a modern British sovereign. It is, above all, restricted by a written Constitution under the protection of a great, independent law court, which makes it impossible for it to violate contracts, or to infringe any fundamental liberty of the people, or to carry any constitutional change, except when there is the amplest evidence that it is the clear, settled wish of an overwhelming majority of the people. No amendment of the Federal Constitution can be even proposed except by the vote of two-thirds of both Houses of Congress, or of an application from the legislatures of two-thirds of the several States. No amendment of the Federal Constitution can become law unless it is ratified, in three-quarters of the States, by both Houses in the local legislatures, or by conventions specially summoned for that purpose. As a matter of fact, all amendments of the Federal Constitution have been ratified by the State legislatures; none of them have been submitted to conventions.
Changes in the constitutions of the different States may be effected in different ways, but never by a simple majority of a single legislature. In a few States, it is true, such a majority may propose such an amendment; but it always requires ratification, either by a popular vote, or by a subsequent legislature, or by both. In most States majorities of two-thirds or three-fifths are required for the simple proposal of a constitutional amendment, and in a large number of cases majorities of two-thirds, or three-quarters, or three-fifths, are required for the ratification. There is usually, however, a second method provided for revising or amending a State constitution, by means of a convention which is specially called for this purpose, and which proposes changes that must be subsequently ratified by a popular vote.30
The American Constitution, indeed, was framed by men who had for the most part the strongest sense of the dangers of democracy. The school of American thought which was represented in a great degree by Washington and John Adams, and still more emphatically by Gouverneur Morris and Alexander Hamilton; which inspired the Federalist and was embodied in the Federalist party, was utterly opposed to the schools of Rousseau, of Paine, and even of Jefferson, and it has largely guided American policy to the present hour. It did not prevent America from becoming a democracy, but it framed a form of government under which the power of the democracy was broken and divided, restricted to a much smaller sphere, and attended with far less disastrous results than in most European countries. Hamilton, who was probably the greatest political thinker America has produced, was, in the essentials of his political thought, quite as conservative as Burke, and he never concealed his preference for monarchical institutions. Democratic government, he believed, must end in despotism, and be in the meantime destructive to public morality and to the security of private property.31
To the eminent wisdom of the Constitution of 1787 much of the success of American democracy is due; but much also must be attributed to the singularly favourable circumstances under which this great experiment has been tried. A people sprung mainly from an excellent British stock, and inheriting all the best habits and traditions of British constitutional government, found themselves in possession of a territory almost boundless in its extent and its resources, and free from the most serious dangers that menace European nations. The habits of local government, the spirit of compromise and self-reliance, the strong moral basis which Puritanism never fails to establish, were all there, and during a great portion of American history emigration was attended with so many hardships that few men who did not possess more than average energy and resource sought the American shore. At the same time a vast unpopulated, undeveloped country opened limitless paths of adventure, ambition, and lucrative labour, dispersed many peccant humours, attracted and employed much undisciplined and volcanic energy which, in other countries, would have passed into politics and bred grave troubles in the State. The immense preponderance of industrialism in American life is, indeed, one of its most characteristic features, and its influence on politics has been by no means wholly good. It has contributed, with other causes, to place political life on a lower plane, diverting from it the best energies of the country; but it has also furnished great safety-valves for discontented spirits and unregulated ambitions. The country was so situated that it was almost absolutely self-supporting, and had no foreign danger to fear. It might almost dispense with a foreign policy. It required no considerable army or war navy; and it has been able steadily to devote to the maintenance of an excellent system of national education the sums which, in less happily situated countries, are required for the purposes of self-defence. Although America has experienced many periods of acute commercial crisis and depression, the general level of her well-being has been unusually high. Property has been from the first very widely diffused. Her lower levels in their standard of comfort more nearly resemble the middle than the lowest class in European countries, and the great masses of unemployed pauperism in the large towns, which form one of the most serious political and social dangers of Europe, have been scarcely known in America until the present generation.
The chief steps by which the Government has moved in the direction of democracy may be briefly mentioned. Although the Constitution in most respects realised the anticipations of its founders, their attempt to place the President outside the play of party spirit, and to make him independent of democratic dictation, signally failed. The Constitution provided that each State was to choose a number of presidential electors equal to its representatives in Congress, and that these men should be entrusted with the task of electing the President. In accordance with its general policy on all matters of election, the Constitution left it to the different States to determine the manner of election and the qualifications of these presidential electors; but it enacted that no member of Congress and no holder of a Federal office should be eligible. In this manner it was hoped that the President might be elected by the independent votes of a small body of worthy citizens who were not deeply plunged in party politics. But, as the spirit of party intensified and the great party organisations attained their maturity, this system wholly failed. Presidential electors are still elected, but they are elected under a distinct pledge that they will vote for a particular candidate. At first they were nearly everywhere chosen on party grounds by the State legislatures. Soon this process appeared insufficiently democratic, and they were chosen by direct manhood suffrage, their sole duty being to nominate the candidate who had been selected by the party machine.
In the senatorial elections the principle of double election has proved somewhat more enduring; but here, too, considerable transformations have taken place. The Senate, as is well known, is composed of two senators from each State, chosen for six years by the State legislatures, the largest and the smallest States being in this respect on a par. For a long time the mode of their election varied greatly. ‘In some States they were chosen vivâ voce; in others, by ballots; in some, by a separate vote of each House; in others, by both Houses meeting and voting as one body.’32 By an Act of 1866 the method of election has been made uniform, the senators being nominated by a vivâ voce vote in each House; and if the result is not attained in this manner, by a vote of the two Houses sitting together. Very naturally and properly, these are party elections; but of late years the senators appear to have been rarely what they were intended to be—the independent choice of the State legislatures. ‘The machines,’ or, in other words, the organisations representing the rival factions in each State, not only return absolutely the members of the State legislature, but also designate the rival candidates for the senatorships; and the members of the State legislature are returned under strict pledges to vote for these designated candidates. This servitude is not as absolute or universal as that under which the presidential elections are made, but it has gone very far to bring the election of senators under the direct control of those knots of wirepullers who rule all the fields of American politics, and direct and manage universal suffrage.33 In the early stages of its history, when the States were very few, the Senate was a small body, deliberating in secret, and more like a Privy Council or a Cabinet than an Upper Chamber. After the first five years of its existence this system of secrecy was abandoned; with the multiplication of States the number of senators increased; and the Senate has now the chief characteristics of a legislative Chamber, though it possesses certain additional powers which are not possessed by the corresponding bodies in Europe.
The many restrictions on the suffrage by which the members of the House of Representatives were elected at the time of the Revolution have nearly all passed away, and America has all but reached the point of simple manhood suffrage. Maryland, in the first decade of the nineteenth century, led the way,34 and the example was speedily followed. The management, restriction, and extension of the suffrage being left within the almost complete competence of the several States, form the chief field in which revolutionary change can be easily effected. The Federal Constitution only imposes two restrictions on the competency of the States to deal with this subject. The first is, that the electors for representatives in each State ‘shall have the qualifications required for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature.’ The second, which was an amendment of the Constitution introduced after the Civil War, and carried at a time when the Southern States were still deprived of their normal political power, is that no one may be excluded from the suffrage ‘on account of race, colour, or previous condition of servitude.' The suffrage, it is true, is not absolutely universal. Besides the exclusion of women, children, criminals, insane persons, and unnaturalised immigrants, some easy qualifications of residence and registration are usually required; but property qualifications have almost wholly disappeared. The actual possession of property is no longer required for a voter in any American election, with the exception, it is said, of the municipal elections in a single district of Rhode Island.35 A tax qualification existed in 1880 in six States, but it has since then been abolished in four of them.36 Some States, however, still exclude from the right of voting those who are so illiterate that they are not able to read, and paupers who are actually supported by the State. With these slight and partial exceptions manhood suffrage generally prevails.
As far as I can judge, it seems to have been brought about by much the same means in America as in Europe. It has not been in general the result of any spontaneous demand, or of any real belief that it is likely to improve the Constitution; but it has sprung from a competition for power and popularity between rival factions. An extension of the franchise is, naturally, a popular cry, and each party leader is therefore ready to raise it, and anxious that his rival should not monopolise it. It is a policy, too, which requires no constructive ability, and is so simple that it lies well within the competence of the vulgarest and most ignorant demagogue. A party out of office, and doubtful of its future prospects, naturally wishes to change the character of the electorate, and its leaders calculate that new voters will vote, at all events for the first time, for the party which gave them their vote. We are in England perfectly familiar with such modes of conducting public affairs, and it is probably no exaggeration to say that calculations of this kind have been the chief motives of all our recent degradations of the suffrage. In one important respect the Federal system has tended to strengthen in America the democratic movement. Each State naturally wishes to have as much power as possible in the Confederation, and an amendment of the Constitution which was forced through during the temporary eclipse of the Southern States provides that while, as a general rule, representatives in Congress shall be apportioned among the several States according to their populations, the basis of representation in a State shall be reduced in proportion to the number of such citizens who are excluded from the suffrage, ‘except for participation in rebellion and other crime.’
The system of popular election has extended through nearly all branches of American life. Perhaps its most mischievous application is to the judicial posts. The independence and dignity, it is true, of the Federal judges are protected by an article of the Constitution. They can only be appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate. They hold their office during good behaviour; and they possess salaries which, though small if compared with those of English judges, enable them to support their position. The Supreme Court is one of the most valuable portions of the American Constitution, and although even its decisions have not always escaped the suspicion of party motives, it is, on the whole, probably inferior in ability and character to no other judicial body on the globe. But in the States another system has spread which has both lowered and tainted the administration of justice. As recently as 1830 the judges in the different States owed their appointment to the governors, or to the State legislatures, or to a combination of the two. In 1878, in no less than twenty-four States they were elected by a popular vote.37 When it is added that they only hold their office for a few years, that they are capable of re-election, and that their salaries are extremely small, it will not appear extraordinary that the judicial body in most of these States should be destitute of the moral dignity which attaches in England to all its branches. Deliberate personal corruption, which for generations has been unknown among English judges, has been in some cases proved, and in many cases suspected, in America, and the belief that in large classes of cases judges will act as mere partisans on the bench has extended much further. The prevalence of lynch law, which is so strangely discordant with the high civilisation of American life, is largely due to that distrust of justice in many States which is the direct, manifest, acknowledged consequence of the system of popular election.
No one, indeed, who knows the class of men who are wirepullers in the different American factions will expect their nominees on the bench to be distinguished either for impartiality or integrity. One of the most extraordinary instances of organised crime in modern history is furnished by the Molly Maguires of Pennsylvania, an Irish conspiracy which, with short intervals, maintained a reign of terror between 1863 and 1875 in the anthracite coalfields of that State. The innumerable murders they committed with impunity, and the extraordinary skill and daring of the Irish detective who succeeded in penetrating into their councils and at last bringing them to justice, form a story of most dramatic interest; but one of the most curious facts connected with them is the political influence they appear to have obtained. They controlled township affairs in several districts; they applied to their own purposes large public funds; they had a great influence in the management of counties; they were courted by both political parties; and they only failed by a few hundred votes in placing one of their body on the judicial bench.38 I can here hardly do better than quote the language of Mr. Bryce, who, writing with ample knowledge of the subject, is evidently desirous of minimising as much as possible the importance of the facts which he honestly but reluctantly relates.
‘In a few States,’ he writes, ‘perhaps six or seven in all, suspicion has at one time or another, within the last twenty years, attached to one or more of the superior judges. Sometimes these suspicions may have been ill-founded. But though I know of only one case in which they have been substantiated, there can be little doubt that in several instances improprieties have been committed. The judge may not have taken a bribe, but he has perverted justice at the instance of some person or persons who either gave him a consideration or exercised an undue influence over him. … I have never heard of a State in which more than two or three judges were the object of distrust at the same time. In one State, viz. New York, in 1869-71 there were flagrant scandals, which led to the disappearance of three justices of the superior court who had unquestionably both sold and denied justice. The Tweed ring, when engaged in plundering the city treasury, found it convenient to have in the seat of justice accomplices who might check inquiry into their misdeeds. This the system of popular election for very short terms enabled them to do, and men were accordingly placed on the bench whom one might rather have expected to see in the dock—bar-room loafers, broken-down attorneys, needy adventurers—whose want of character made them absolutely dependent on these patrons. … They did not regard social censure, for they were already excluded from decent society; impeachment had no terrors for them, since the State legislatures, as well as the executive machinery of the city, was in the hands of their masters. … To what precise point of infamy they descended I cannot attempt, among so many discordant stories and rumours, to determine. It is, however, beyond a doubt that they made orders in defiance of the plainest rules of practice; issued in rum-shops injunctions which they had not even read over; appointed notorious vagabonds receivers of valuable property; turned over important cases to a friend of their own stamp, and gave whatever decision he suggested. … A system of client robbery sprang up, by which each judge enriched the knot of disreputable lawyers who surrounded him. He referred cases to them, granted them monstrous allowances in the name of costs, gave them receiverships with a large percentage, and so forth, they in turn either sharing the booty with him, or undertaking to do the same for him when he should have descended to the Bar and they have climbed to the Bench. Nor is there any doubt that criminals who had any claim on their party often managed to elude punishment… for governor, judge, attorney, officials, and police, were all of them party nominees. … In the instance which made much noise in Europe—that of the Erie Railroad suits—there was no need to give bribes. The gang of thieves who had gained control of the line and were ‘watering’ the stock were leagued with the gang of thieves who ruled the city and nominated the judges, and nobody doubts that the monstrous decisions in these suits were obtained by the influence of the Tammany leaders over their judicial minions.’39
Such is the state of things which flourished a few years ago in full exuberance in the capital of the great democracy of the West, and among a people who claim to be in the front rank of civilisation, and to have furnished the supreme pattern of the democracies of the future. Mr. Bryce does all that is in his power to soften the picture. He believes that the corrupt judges are only a small minority in a few States, and that there is no evidence that even the New York judges, in ordinary commercial cases, where no political interest came into play, and where the influence of particular persons was not exerted, decided unjustly or ‘took direct money bribes from one of the parties.’ He also takes a long historical flight over nearly three thousand years for the purpose of collecting parallel enormities. Hesiod complained of kings who received gifts to influence their decisions. Felix expected money for releasing St. Paul. Among the great despotisms of the East judicial corruption has always been common. In a single instance since the Revolution an English chancellor was found to have taken bribes; and in some of the more backward countries of Europe ‘the judges, except, perhaps, those of the highest court, are not assumed by general opinion to be above suspicion.’
Such arguments may be left to stand on their own merits. Of all the many functions which government is expected to discharge, the most important to the happiness of mankind is that of securing equal justice between man and man. No statesmen were more conscious of this truth than the great men who framed the Constitution of the United States; and, under the conditions of their time, they probably provided for it almost as perfectly as human prescience could have done. It would be a grave injustice to the American people to suppose that they were not in general a law-abiding people: they have more than once suppressed disorder in the States with an unflinching energy and a truly merciful promptness of severity which English Administrations might well imitate; and over a great part of the States honest justice is undoubtedly administered. But no one, I think, can follow American history without perceiving how frequently and seriously the democratic principle has undermined this first condition of true freedom and progress. As Mill justly says, the tyranny of the majority is not only shown in tyrannical laws. Sometimes it is shown in an assumed power to dispense with all laws which run counter to the popular opinion of the hour. Sometimes it appears in corrupt, tainted, partial administration of existing laws. Tyranny seldom assumes a more odious form than when judges, juries, and executives are alike the tools of a faction or a mob.
Closely connected with this great abuse has been the system of treating all the smaller posts and offices, both under the Federal and the State governments, as rewards for party services, and changing the occupants with each change of political power. This is the well-known ‘spoils system,’ and it has permeated and corrupted American public life to its very roots. It did not exist in the early days of the Republic. Washington, in the eight years of his presidency, only removed nine officials, and all for definite causes. John Adams made the same number of changes. Jefferson made thirty-nine; and the three Presidents who followed only removed sixteen in the space of twenty years. John Quincy Adams, the last of this line of Presidents, was in this respect scrupulously just. ‘As he was about the last President,’ writes Mr. Goldwin Smith, ‘chosen for merit, not for availability, so he was about the last whose only rule was not party, but the public service. So strictly did he preserve the principle of permanency and purity in the Civil Service, that he refused to dismiss from office a Postmaster-General whom he knew to be intriguing against him.’
The great evil which was impending was largely prepared by an Act of 1820, which limited the term of office of a vast number of subordinate officials to four years, and at the same time made them removable at pleasure. The modern system of making all posts under the Government, however unconnected with politics, rewards for party services was organised, in 1829, by Andrew Jackson. This President may be said to have completed the work of making the American Republic a pure democracy, which Jefferson had begun. His statue stands in front of the White House at Washington as one of the great men of America, and he assuredly deserves to be remembered as the founder of the most stupendous system of political corruption in modern history. It began on a comparatively small scale. About 500 postmasters were at once removed to make room for partisans, and all the more active partisans, including, it is said, fifty or sixty leading newspaper writers, received places, the propagation of Government views through the press having now become, according to Webster, ‘the main administrative duty.’ In a short time the dismissals under this President numbered about 2,000.40
This was the beginning of a system which has spread like a leprosy over all political life, and to which there is, I believe, no adequate parallel in history. It is not easy to obtain exact statistics about the extent to which it has been practised. A very eminent American writer, who is distinguished not only for his high character, but also for his scrupulous accuracy of statement and research, and who has himself taken a prominent part in the work of Civil Service reform, mentions that a few years ago ‘the army of Federal officials was roughly estimated at nearly 125,000, drawing annual salaries amounting to about eighty millions of dollars.’ He notices that in the two years preceding 1887, out of 2,359 post-offices known as presidential, about 2,000 had been changed, and that out of 52,699 lower post-office clerks, about 40,000 had been changed. 100 out of 111 collectors of Customs, all the surveyors of Customs, all the surveyors-general, all the post-office inspectors-in-charge; 11 out of 13 superintendents of mints; 84 out of 85 collectors of internal revenue; 65 out of 70 district attorneys; 8 out of 11 inspectors of steam-vessels; 16 out of 18 pension agents; 190 out of 224 local land officers were changed in the space of two years, and under a President who had come to office as a supporter of Civil Service reform. These are but a few illustrations out of many of the manner in which, in the words of the writer I am citing, ‘office is made the coin in which to pay political debts and gain the services of political condottieri,’ and he estimates that this President had ‘dismissed nearly 100,000 public servants for political ends.41
Another very competent American author, who has written the best short account of American government with which I am acquainted, observes that ‘in the Federal Administration alone there are nearly 90,000 office-holders who have no voice in the administration; but as chiefs of bureaux and clerks are necessary for the transaction of business, and as new territory is opened up, the number is constantly increasing.’ These appointments are systematically filled up, not upon the ground of administrative capacity, but ‘on the basis of nomination, influence, and official favour.’ The practice of constant removals has, since Jackson's time, ‘been followed by all parties in all elections, great and small, national and local.’ A great part of this patronage is in the hands of senators and representatives, who claim as a right the power of advising the President in these appointments; who ‘dictate appointments as if the Federal patronage in their State or district was their private property,’ and who systematically use it to build up political influence and reward political services.
And not only does this system turn into ardent politicians countless officials whose duties should place them as far as possible out of the domain of party politics; not only does it furnish the staff of the great party organisations, and make the desire of obtaining and retaining office the main motive in all party conflicts—it also gives rise to the system of political assessments, ‘made on office-holders of all grades, by a perfectly irresponsible committee, to be expended in furthering the objects of the party.… Although nominally such contributions to the campaign fund are made “voluntarily” by the office-holders, yet their true nature is shown by many circumstances. Thus, in making its application, the committee fixes the amount which each man is to pay. In 1882, 2 per cent. of the annual salary was required, and was levied on all, from the chiefs of bureaux to the lowest labourer in the Government navy yards, and also levied alike on Republicans and Democrats. Moreover, in case the call was not responded to, employés of the committee went among the departments and made personal application to each delinquent. By experience the clerk knows that he must pay or be discharged, a fact which still more strongly brings out the “voluntary” nature of the contribution. … The committee may expend the fund thus collected as it sees fit, and need render an account of such expenditure to no man. Truth compels us to say that it forms a “corruption fund” for influencing elections; and the manner of expending it is as vicious and debauching to the public service as is the manner of collecting it. This matter has also been made the subject of legislation, but without any remedy being afforded.’42
A third very competent American writer on the Constitution reminds us that, owing to the increased debt and taxation growing out of the Civil War, the number of office-holders in the United States quadrupled in the period from 1860 to 1870, and that these appointments are systematically made through mere party motives, and irrespective of the capacity of the claimant. ‘This system,’ he continues,’ not only fills the public offices of the United States with inefficient and corrupt officials in high station, and keeps out of political life the capable men who are disinclined to perform party work as a condition precedent to accession to office, but it also created the same system under those officials as to all their subordinates.… They were to a very large degree, and still are, regularly assessed to pay the political expenses of the campaign. Millions of dollars are thus raised from office-holders in the United States at every recurring Presidential election, or even local election.… Such assessments were paid because they knew that their official existence would be terminated in the event of a change of Administration, under the domination of an adverse party.… The evil of the abominable “spoils” system in the United States is not so much the incompetency of the officers—an American's adaptiveness enables him quickly to learn the routine duties of an office—nor in the waste of public money (because in a community so rich in productive power as that of the United States the amount which peculation can take from it is a burden easy to be borne)—but the main evil is that the spoils system demoralises both parties, and makes contests which should be for principle mainly for plunder.’ Under its influence, this writer adds, the quadrennial presidential elections have become ‘mere scrambles for office.’43
It will be observed that this system is very distinctly a product of democracy. It is called by its supporters the rotation of offices. It is defended on the ground that, by short tenures and constant removals, it opens the ranks of official life to the greatest possible number of the people; and although, in the words of Mr. Bryce, ‘nobody supposes that merit has anything to do with promotion, or believes the pretext alleged for an appointment,’44 its democratic character and its appeal to the self-interest of vast multitudes make it popular. It is also, as Mr. Bryce notices, a main element in that system of ‘machine'-made politics which, in America, so successfully excludes the more respectable class from political life, and throws its whole management into the hands of the professional politicians. I can here only refer my readers to the instructive chapters in which Mr. Bryce has described the working of the ‘machine.’ He has shown how the extreme elaboration and multiplication of committees and organisations for the purpose of accumulating and directing votes, as well as the enormous number of local elections to office which are conducted on party lines, and which all add to or subtract from party strength, turn the politics of a State into a business so absorbing that no one can expect to have much influence in it unless he makes it a main business of his life. At the same time, the vast number of men who hold office, and the still larger number who are aspiring to office, furnish those organisations with innumerable agents, who work for them as men work for their livelihood, while the tribute levied upon officials supplies an ample fund for corruption. ‘The great and growing volume of political work to be done in managing Primaries, conventions, and elections for the city, State and national Government … which the advance of democratic sentiment and the needs of party warfare evolved from 1820 down to about 1850, needed men who should give to it constant and undivided attention. These men the plan of rotation in office provided. Persons who had nothing to gain for themselves would soon have tired of the work.… Those, however, whose bread and butter depend on their party may be trusted to work for their party, to enlist recruits, look after the organisation, play electioneering tricks from which ordinary party spirit might recoil. The class of professional politicians was, therefore, the first crop which the spoils system—the system of using public offices as private plunder—bore.… It is these spoilsmen who have depraved and distorted the mechanism of politics. It is they who pack the primaries and run the conventions, so as to destroy the freedom of popular choice; they who contrive and execute the election frauds which disgrace some States and cities, repeating and ballot-stuffing, obstruction of the polls, and fraudulent countingsin.… The Civil Service is not in America, and cannot under the system of rotation, become a career. Place-hunting is the career; and an office is not a public trust, but a means of requiting party services, and also, under the method of assessments previously described, a source whence party funds may be raised for election purposes.’45 ‘What characterises’ American politicians,’ as compared with the corresponding class in Europe, is that their whole time is more frequently given to political work; that most of them draw an income from politics, and the rest hope to do so.46
One very natural result is, that while there is no country in the world in which great party contests are fought with more energy and tenacity than in America, there is no country in the world in which the motives that inspire them are more purely or more abjectly sordid. Great unselfish causes are, no doubt, advocated by groups of politicians in America, as elsewhere, but these lie usually within the limits of parties, and are not the true causes of party division. In other countries it is not so. Selfish and corrupt motives no doubt abound; but in the contest between Liberals and Conservatives, Unionists and Radicals, in England; in the great dynastic quarrels, or quarrels between monarchy and republicanism, between clericalism and anti-clericalism, between labour and capital, that divide parties on the Continent, there is always some real principle at issue, some powerful element of unselfish enthusiasm. In America this does not appear to be the case. This is partly, no doubt, due to the absence of great questions in a country which has few serious relations with other nations, which has almost wholly disconnected the interests of Churches and religion from national politics, and in which the Constitution opposes insuperable obstacles to organic change. But it is still more due to the enormous preponderance in politics of selfish interests, and of classes who are animated by such interests. I have quoted on this subject the emphatic language of Mr. Sterne. That of Mr. Bryce is very similar. ‘Politics,’ he says, ‘has now become a gainful profession, like advocacy, stock-broking, the dry-goods trade, or the getting up of companies. People go into it to live by it, primarily for the sake of the salaries attached to the places they count on getting; secondarily, in view of the opportunities it affords of making incidental, and sometimes illegitimate, gains.’ ‘Republicans and Democrats have certain war-cries, organisations, interests enlisted in their support. But those interests are in the main the interests of getting or keeping the patronage of the Government. Tenets and policies, points of political doctrine and points of political practice, have all but vanished. They have not been thrown away, but have been stripped away by time and the progress of events fulfilling some policies, blotting out others. All has been lost except office or the hope of it.’47
There is scarcely any subject on which the best men in America are so fully agreed as upon the absolute necessity of putting an end to this spoils system, if American public life is ever to be purified from corruption. Unfortunately, this system appeals to so many interests and such strong passions, and has been so thoroughly incorporated in the normal working of both of the great parties, that the task of combating it is enormously difficult, and few active politicians have entered into it with real earnestness. There have been frequent efforts in this direction. There was an abortive attempt of Calhoun, in 1839, to prevent a large class of government officers from interfering in elections. There were Acts carried in 1853 and 1855 requiring examinations for some departments of the Civil Service at Washington, and another Act was carried in 1871: but they appear to have been little more than a dead-letter.48 Though the subject was frequently before Congress, no really efficacious step was taken till the Act called the Pendleton Act, which was carried in 1883, and which applied to about 15,000 officials out of about 125,000. It introduced into some departments the system of competitive examinations, gave some real fixity of tenure, and attempted, though apparently with little or no success, to check the system of assessment for political purposes.
The system of competitive examinations has since then been in some degree extended. One of the latest writers on American politics says that about 43,800 servants of the Government, out of nearly 180,000 persons employed in all civil capacities by the United States, are now withdrawn from the spoils system, but he doubts much whether democratic opinion is, on the whole, in favour of an abandonment of the system of rotation and political appointment.49 A considerable movement to abolish it has, however, been set on foot, and the reformers, who are known under the name of Mugwumps, are said to have acquired some real influence. In the opinion of Mr. Gilman, the independent element, which is ‘opposed to any increase of the Civil Service of the State or the nation until a great reform has been accomplished, beyond dispute, in the distribution of the multitude of minor offices,’ is, ‘happily, coming to hold more and more the balance of power.’ ‘There is, he adds,’ a powerful and growing tendency to take out of politics the public charities, the free schools, the public libraries, the public parks, and numerous other features of municipal administration.’ To take an office ‘out of politics,’ Mr. Gilman very characteristically explains, means ‘to take it out of corruption into honesty, and to treat it ‘as a public trust for the benefit of the whole people.’50
The growth of the number of minor officials, which is a natural consequence of the spoils system, and also of the prevailing tendency to extend the functions of government, is exciting serious alarm. A recent Civil Service Commission gives the number of ‘employees’ in the postal service of the United States, in 1891, as 112,800; the number of other ‘employees’ as 70,688. There has been, the commission says, ‘a very startling growth in the number of Government employees, compared with the growth of population.… The growth of a service which can be used for political ends is a rapidly increasing menace to republican government.’ Mr. Gilman quotes the statement of Mr. Curtis, that the first object of every reformer should be ‘to restrict still further the executive power as exercised by party.’ In America, that statesman says, ‘the superstition of Divine right has passed from the king to the party,’ and the belief that it can do no wrong ‘has become the practical faith of great multitudes.’ ‘It makes the whole Civil Service a drilled and disciplined army, whose living depends upon carrying elections at any cost for the party which controls it.’51
On the whole, as far as a stranger can judge, there seem to be in this field real signs of improvement, although they may not be very considerable or decisive. It must be remembered that the period immediately following the War was one peculiarly fitted for the growth of corruption. The sudden and enormous increase of debt, the corresponding multiplication of officials, the paralysis of political life in a great part of the country, and the many elements of social, industrial, and political anarchy that still prevailed, all made the task of professional politicians easy and lucrative. One great improvement which has taken place, and which has spread very swiftly over the United States, has been an alteration in the ballot system. In my own opinion, the ballot, in any country where politics rest on a really sound and independent basis, is essentially an evil. Power in politics should never be dissociated from responsibility, and the object of the ballot is to make the elector absolutely irresponsible. It obscures the moral weight of an election, by making it impossible to estimate the real force of opinion, knowledge, and character that is thrown on either side. It saps the spirit of independence and uprightness, and it gives great facilities for deception and fraud, for the play of mercenary, sordid, and malignant motives, and for the great political evil of sacerdotal influence. But the task of a statesman is, usually, to select the best alternative, and, where intimidation or corruption is very rife, the evils produced by secret voting may be less serious than those which it prevents.
In America, the system of ballot secured no real secrecy, and seemed, and indeed probably was, specially intended to throw all electoral power into the hands of ‘the machine.’ The agents of each organisation were suffered to stand at the poll and furnish the elector with ballot-papers inscribed with the names of their party candidates, and watchful eyes followed him till he placed the paper in the ballot-box. He might, it is true, change the name on the paper, but in the immense majority of cases the votes of the electors were dictated by and known to the party agent.52 A powerful movement, however, grew up, chiefly in 1890 and 1891, for changing this system and introducing what is called the Australian ballot. Its principal feature is that the State has taken the manufacture and distribution of ballot-papers out of the hands of the different parties, and secures to the voter absolute secrecy and freedom from interference at the polling-booths. In five years the Australian ballot has been adopted in thirty-five States, and it appears to have done something to diminish the power of the caucus organisation and to check the various fraudulent practices which had been common at elections.53
One great cause of the degradation of American politics has been the extreme facility with which votes have been given to ignorant immigrants, who had no experience in public life and no real interest in the well-being of the country. Most of the more intelligent American observers have agreed that the common schools, and the high level of knowledge and intelligence they secure, have been among the most important conditions of the healthy working of their institutions. For a long period the constituent bodies in America were certainly among the best educated in the world; but since the torrent of ignorant immigrants and negro voters has poured into them they can have no pretensions to this position.
In 1798, when revolutionary elements were very rife in Europe, and when their introduction into the United States excited serious alarm, a Naturalisation Act was carried increasing the necessary term of residence from five to fourteen years; but this Act was only in force for four years. The Know-nothing party, which played a considerable part in American politics in 1854 and the two following years, endeavoured to revive the policy of 1798. It grew up at the time when the evil effects of the great immigration that followed the Irish famine had become apparent, and it was assisted by a fierce anti-Popery fanaticism, which had been much strengthened by the hostility the Catholic clergy had begun to show to the common schools, and by the attempt of some of them to exclude Biblereading from those schools. It was guilty of not a little lawless violence, and although it succeeded, in 1855, in carrying nine of the States elections, and in 1856 nominated presidential candidates, it soon perished, chiefly through its divisions on the slavery question, and through the transcendent importance that question was beginning to take in American politics. It is said that Washington, in some moment of great danger, gave the order, ‘Put none but Americans on guard to-night,’ and these words were taken by the Know-nothings as their watchword. Their fundamental object was the exclusion of foreigners and Catholics from all national, State, county, and municipal offices, and a change in the naturalisation laws providing that no immigrant should become a citizen till after a residence of twenty-one, or, at the very least, of fifteen years.54
Few persons would now defend the proposal to introduce a religious disqualification into the American Constitution; but if the Know-nothings had succeeded in lengthening the period of residence required for naturalisation, they might have given a different character to American political life and incalculably raised its moral tone. Their best defence is to be found in the enormous scandals in the government of New York that immediately followed their defeat. To one class especially, a change in the laws of naturalisation would have been a priceless blessing. It is difficult to say how different the Irish element in America might have been if the poor, ignorant, helpless, famine-stricken peasantry who poured by tens of thousands into New York had been encouraged to pass at once into honest industry, scattered on farms over the face of the country, and kept for fifteen or twenty years out of the corrupting influence of American politics. But the shrewd party managers soon perceived that these poor men were among the best counters in their game. The immediate prospect of much higher wages than they had been accustomed to kept an immense proportion of them in the great city where they landed. They had no one to guide them. They were hardly more fitted than children to make their way under new conditions in a strange land, and almost their only genuine political feeling was hatred of England. Like the Germans, they showed from the first a marked tendency to congregate in great towns. It was computed in 1890, that a third part of the Irish in America were still to be found in the ten largest towns; that, taking the population of those towns together, one out of every thirteen persons was Irish, and that in New York, out of a population of a little more than 1,200,000, 198,000 were Irish.55 Five years were required for naturalisation by the Federal law, but some State laws gave a vote after a shorter residence, and the Federal law was easily and constantly violated. Immense numbers, who were absolutely ignorant of all American public questions, and absolutely indifferent to public interests, were speedily drilled in the party organisation. They soon learned their lesson. They acquired a rare aptitude in running the machine, in turning the balance of doubtful elections, in voting together in disciplined masses, in using political power for private gain. There are few sadder histories than the influence of the Irish race on American politics, and the influence of American politics on the Irish race.
The enfranchisement of the negroes added a new and enormous mass of voters, who were utterly and childishly incompetent, and it applied mainly to that portion of the United States which had escaped the contamination of the immigrant vote. For some time after the war the influence of property and intelligence in the South was completely broken, and the negro vote was ostensibly supreme. The consequence was what might have been expected. A host of vagrant political adventurers from the North, known in America as carpet-baggers, poured into the Southern provinces, and, in conjunction with the refuse of the mean whites, they undertook the direction of the negro votes. Then followed, under the protection of the Northern bayonets, a grotesque parody of government, a hideous orgie of anarchy, violence, unrestrained corruption, undisguised, ostentatious, insulting robbery, such as the world had scarcely ever seen. The State debts were profusely piled up. Legislation was openly put up for sale. The ‘Bosses’ were in all their glory, and they were abundantly rewarded, while the crushed, ruined, plundered whites combined in secret societies for their defence, and retaliated on their oppressors by innumerable acts of savage vengeance.56 At length the Northern troops were withdrawn, and the whole scene changed. The carpet-baggers had had their day, and they returned laden with Southern booty to their own States. Partly by violence, partly by fraud, but largely also through the force of old habits of obedience and command, the planters in a short time regained their ascendency. Sometimes, it is said, they did not even count the negro votes. Generally they succeeded in dictating them, and by systematic manipulation or intimidation they restored the South to quiet and some degree of prosperity. A more curious picture of the effects of democratic equality among a population who were entirely unfitted for it had never been presented. The North, it is true, introduced all the apparatus of State education for the benefit of the negroes; but if there had ever been any desire for such things, it soon died away. Mr. Bryce, writing about twenty-three years after the termination of the Civil War, says: ‘Roughly speaking, 75 per cent. of the adult coloured voters are unable to write, and most of the rest unaccustomed to read newspapers.’57
The system I have described has proved even more pernicious in municipal government than in State politics or in Federal politics. Innumerable elections of obscure men to obscure places very naturally failed to excite general interest, and they almost inevitably fell into the hands of a small ring of professional politicians. The corruption of New York, which has been the most notorious, is often attributed almost exclusively to the Irish vote; but as early as the first quarter of the nineteenth century, when Irish influence was quite imperceptible, the State and City of New York were in the hands of a clique called ‘the Albany Regency,’ which appears to have exhibited on a small scale most of the features of the later rings. ‘A strong phalanx of officers, from the governor and the senators down to the justices of peace in the most remote part of the State,’ we are told, governed New York for the sole benefit of a small knot of corrupt politicians. ‘The judiciaries’ were ‘shambles for the bargain and sale of offices.’ The justices of the peace were all the creatures of the party, and were almost invariably corrupt.58 Between 1842 and 1846, when the great Irish immigration had not yet begun, an evil of another kind was prevailing in New York. It was the custom to allow the inmates of public almshouses to leave the institutions on the days of election and cast their votes; and an American writer assures us that at this time ‘the almshouses formed an important factor in the politics of the State of New York, for the paupers were sent out to vote by the party in power, and were threatened with a loss of support unless they voted as directed; and the number was such as to turn the scale in the districts in which they voted.’59 It was abuses of this kind that led to one of the greatest modern improvements in American politics—the exclusion in several States of absolute paupers from the franchise.
It is true, however, that the corruption never attained anything approaching the magnitude which it reached between 1863 and 1871, when all the powers of the State and town of New York had passed into the hands of the Tammany Ring. At this time four-ninths of the population were of foreign birth. A vast proportion consisted of recent immigrants, and the Irish Catholic vote seems to have ‘gone solid’ in favour of the ring. The majority of the State legislature, the mayor, the governor, several of the judges, almost all the municipal authorities who were empowered to order, appropriate, supervise and control expenditure, were its creatures, and I suppose no other capital city in the civilised globe has ever, in time of peace, witnessed such a system of wholesale, organised, continuous plunder. It was computed that 65 per cent. of the sums that were ostensibly expended in public works represented fraudulent additions. Between 1860 and 1871 the debt of New York quintupled, and during the last two and a half years of the government of the ring it increased at the rate of more than five and a half millions of pounds a year.60 A distinguished American writer, who is also a distinguished diplomatist and well acquainted with the conditions of European capitals, has drawn the following instructive parallel. ‘The city of Berlin, in size and rapidity of growth, may be compared to New York. It contains twelve hundred thousand inhabitants, and its population has tripled within the last thirty years.… While Berlin has a municipal life at the same time dignified and economical, with streets well paved and clean, with a most costly system of drainage, with noble public buildings, with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness better guarded by far than in our own metropolis, the whole government is carried on by its citizens for but a trifle more than the interest of the public debt of the city of New York.’
‘I wish,’ says the same writer, ‘to deliberately state a fact easy of verification—the fact that whereas, as a rule, in other civilised countries municipal Governments have been steadily improving until they have been made generally honest and serviceable, our own, as a rule, are the worst in the world, and they are steadily growing worse every day.’61
The case of New York was an extreme one, but was, indeed, very far from being unique. ‘The government of the cities,’ says Mr. Bryce, ‘is the one conspicuous failure of the United States.… The faults of the State Governments are insignificant compared with the extravagance, corruption, and mismanagement which mark the administration of most of the great cities. For these evils are not confined to one or two cities.… There is not a city with a population of 200,000 where the poison-germs have not sprung into vigorous life, and in some of the smaller ones, down to 70,000, it needs no microscope to note the results of their growth. Even in cities of the third rank similar phenomena may occasionally be discerned; though there, as some one has said, the jet-black of New York or San Francisco dies away into a harmless grey.’62 It should be added, that there is no country in the world in which this question is more important than in the United States, for there is no country in which town life during the present century has increased so enormously and so rapidly. The proportion of the population who live in towns of over 8,000 inhabitants is said to have risen in that period from 4 to more than 23 per cent.63
Mr. Bryce has enumerated from good American sources the chief forms which this municipal robbery assumes. There are sales of monopolies in the use of public thoroughfares; systematic jobbing of contracts; enormous abuses in patronage; enormous over-charges for necessary public works. Cities have been compelled to buy lands for parks and places because the owners wished to sell them; to grade, pave, and sewer streets without inhabitants in order to award corrupt contracts for the works; to purchase worthless properties at extravagant prices; to abolish one office and create another with the same duties, or to vary the functions of offices for the sole purpose of redistributing official emoluments; to make or keep the salary of an office unduly high in order that its tenant may pay largely to the party funds; to lengthen the term of office in order to secure the tenure of corrupt or incompetent men. When increasing taxation begins to arouse resistance, loans are launched under false pretences, and often with the assistance of falsified accounts. In all the chief towns municipal debts have risen to colossal dimensions and increased with portentous rapidity. ‘Within the twenty years from 1860 to 1880,’ says an American writer, ‘the debts of the cities of the Union rose from about $100,000,000 to $682,000,000. From 1860 to 1875 the increase of debt in eleven cities was 270.9 per cent., increase of taxation 362.2 per cent.; whereas the increase in taxable valuation was but 156.9 per cent., and increase in population but 70 per cent.’64 The New York Commissioners of 1876 probably understated the case when they declared that more than half of all the present city debts in the United States are the direct results of intentional and corrupt misrule.65
No candid man can wonder at it. It is the plain, inevitable consequence of the application of the methods of extreme democracy to municipal government. In America, as in England, municipal elections fail to attract the same interest and attention as great political ones, and when all the smaller offices are filled by popular election, and when those elections are continually recurring, it is impossible for busy men to master their details or form any judgment on the many obscure candidates who appear before them. Property qualifications are deemed too aristocratic for a democratic people. The good old clause, that might once have been found in many charters, providing that no one should vote upon any proposition to raise a tax or to appropriate its proceeds unless he was himself liable to be assessed for such tax, has disappeared. ‘It is deemed undemocratic; practical men say there is no use in submitting it to a popular vote.’66 The elections are by manhood suffrage. Only a small proportion of the electors have any appreciable interest in moderate taxation and economical administration, and a proportion of votes, which is usually quite sufficient to hold the balance of power, is in the hands of recent and most ignorant immigrants. Is it possible to conceive conditions more fitted to subserve the purposes of cunning and dishonest men, whose object is personal gain, whose method is the organisation of the vicious and ignorant elements of the community into combinations that can turn elections, levy taxes, and appoint administrators?
The rings are so skilfully constructed that they can nearly always exclude from office a citizen who is known to be hostile; though ‘a good, easy man, who will not fight, and will make a reputable figure-head, may be an excellent investment.’67 Sometimes, no doubt, the bosses quarrel among themselves, and the cause of honest government may gain something by the dispute. But in general, as long as government is not absolutely intolerable, the more industrious and respectable classes keep aloof from the nauseous atmosphere of municipal politics, and decline the long, difficult, doubtful task of entering into conflict with the dominant rings. ‘The affairs of the city,’ says Mr. White, ‘are virtually handed over to a few men who make politics, so called, a business. The very germ of the difficulty was touched once, in my presence, by a leading man of business in our great metropolis, who said: “We have thought this thing over, and we find that it pays better to neglect our city affairs than to attend to them; that we can make more money in the time required for the full discharge of our political duties than the politicans can steal from us on account of our not discharging them.” ‘68
The evil has, however, undoubtedly, in many cases become intolerable, and the carnival of plunder that culminated in New York in 1871 gave a shock to public opinion and began a series of amendments which appear to have produced some real improvement. ‘The problem,’ says Mr. Sterne, ‘is becoming a very serious one how, with the growth of a pauper element, property rights in cities can be protected from confiscation at the hands of the non-producing classes. That the suffrage is a spear as well as a shield is a fact which many writers on suffrage leave out of sight; that it not only protects the holder of the vote from aggression, but also enables him to aggress upon the rights of others by means of the taxing power, is a fact to which more and more weight must be given as population increases and the suffrage is extended.’69 Some good has been done by more severe laws against corruption at elections; though, in spite of these laws, the perjury and personation and wholesale corruption of a New York election appear far to exceed anything that can be found in the most corrupt capital in Europe.70 A great reform, however, has been made by the extension of the term of office of the New York judges in the higher courts to fourteen years, and by a measure granting them independent salaries. The general impunity of the great organisers of corruption was broken in 1894, when one of the chief bosses in America, a man of vast wealth and enormous influence in American politics, was at last brought to justice and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.71
The most successful steps, however, taken in the direction of reform have been those limiting the power of corrupt bodies. One of the most valuable and most distinctive features of the American Constitution is the power of electing conventions independent of the State legislatures for the purpose of effecting amendments in the State constitutions. Being specially elected for a single definite purpose, and for a very short time, and having none of the patronage and administrative powers that are vested in the Legislature, these conventions, though the creatures of universal suffrage, have in a great degree escaped the influence of the machine, and represent the normal and genuine wishes of the community. They have no power of enacting amendments, but they have the power of proposing them and submitting them to a direct popular vote. By these means a number of amendments have, during the last few years, been introduced into the State constitutions. In New York, and in several other States, since 1874 the State legislatures are only permitted to legislate for municipal affairs by a general law, and are deprived of the much-abused right of making special laws in favour of particular individuals or corporations; but it is said that these restrictions are easily and constantly evaded.72 Restrictions have been imposed in many States upon forms of corruption that had been widely practised, in the guise of distributions of public funds in aid of charities connected with religious establishments, and of exemptions from taxation granted to charitable institutions. In a few States some provision has been made to secure a representation of minorities,73 and in many States limitations—which, however, have been often successfully evaded—have been imposed on the power of borrowing and the power of taxing.74 The theory of American statesmen seems to be, that the persons elected on a democratic system are always likely to prove dishonest, but that it is possible by constitutional laws to restrict their dishonesty to safe limits. There has been a strong tendency of late years to multiply and elaborate in minute detail constitutional restrictions, and the policy has also been widely adopted of making the sessions of State legislatures biennial instead of annual, in order to limit their powers of mischief.
The following interesting passage from one of the chief living historians of America well represents the new spirit. ‘It has become the fashion to set limits on the power of the governors, of the legislatures, of the courts; to command them to do this, to forbid them to do that, till a modern State constitution is more like a code of laws than an instrument of representative government. A distrust of the servants and representatives of the people is everywhere manifest. A long and bitter experience has convinced the people that legislators will roll up the State debt unless positively forbidden to go beyond a certain figure; that they will suffer railroads to parallel each other, corporations to consolidate, common carriers to discriminate, city councils to sell valuable franchises to street-car companies and telephone companies, unless the State constitution expressly declares that such things shall not be. So far has this system of prohibition been carried, that many legislatures are not allowed to enact any private or special legislation; are not allowed to relieve individuals or corporations from obligations to the State; are not allowed to pass a Bill in which any member is interested, or to loan the credit of the State, or to consider money Bills in the last hours of the session.’75 In Washington, a still stronger measure has been adopted, and the whole municipal government is placed in the hands of a commission appointed directly by the Congress.
At the same time, another very different, and perhaps more efficacious, method has been adopted of checking municipal corruption, and Laveleye has justly regarded it as extremely significant of the future tendencies of democracy. There are two facts, as yet very imperfectly recognised in Europe, which American experience has amply established. The first is that, in the words of an American writer, ‘there can be no question that one of the most prolific sources of official corruption and incompetence lies in the multiplication of elective offices.’76 The second is, that this multiplication, instead of strengthening, materially diminishes popular control, for it confuses issues, divides and obscures responsibility, weakens the moral effect of each election, bewilders the ordinary elector, who knows little or nothing of the merits of the different candidates, and inevitably ends by throwing the chief power into the hands of a small knot of wirepullers. The system has, accordingly, grown up in America of investing the mayors of the towns with an almost autocratic authority, and making them responsible for the good government of the city. These mayors are themselves elected by popular suffrage for periods ranging from one to five years; they are liable to impeachment if they abuse their functions; the State legislature retains the right of giving or withholding supplies, and it can override, though only by a two-thirds majority, the veto of the mayor. But, in spite of these restrictions, the power vested in this functionary, according to recent constitutional amendments, is enormously great, far greater than in European cities. With very slight restrictions, the mayor appoints and can remove all the heads of all the city departments. He exercises a right of veto and supervision over all their proceedings. He is responsible for the working of every part of municipal administration. He keeps the peace, calls out the Militia, enforces the law, and, in a word, determines in all its main lines the character of the city government. This system began in Brooklyn in 1882. It was extended, apparently with excellent results, to New York in 1884; and the same highly concentrated responsibility is spreading rapidly through other States.77 It is curious to observe the strength which this tendency is assuming in a country which beyond all others was identified with the opposite system; and it is regarded by some excellent political writers in America as the one real corrective of the vices of democracy. In the words of one of the most recent of these writers, ‘the tendency is visibly strengthening in the United States to concentrate administrative powers in the hands of one man, and to hold him responsible for its wise and honest use. Diffusion of responsibility through a crowd of legislators has proved to be a deceptive method of securing the public welfare.’78
It seems to me probable that this system will ultimately, and after many costly and disastrous experiments, spread widely wherever unqualified democracy prevails. In the election of a very conspicuous person, who is invested with very great prerogatives, public interest is fully aroused, and a wave of opinion arises which in some degree overflows the lines of strict caucus politics. The increasing power of organisations is a conspicuous fact in all countries that are gliding down the democratic slope. It is abundantly seen in England, where candidates for Parliament are now more and more exclusively nominated by party organisations; and in the United States the power of such bodies is far greater than in England. But while in obscure and comparatively insignificant appointments the managers of the machine can usually do much what they please, they are obliged in the more important elections to take average non-political opinion into account. The best candidates are not found to be men of great eminence or ability, for these always excite animosities and divisions; but it is equally important that they should not be men labouring under gross moral imputations. The system of double election also, though it has been greatly weakened, probably still exercises some influence in diminishing corruption. It is like the process of successive inoculations, by which physiologists are able to attenuate the virus of a disease. On the whole, corruption in the United States is certainly less prominent in the higher than in the lower spheres of government, though even in the former it appears to me to be far greater than in most European countries—certainly far greater than in Great Britain.
I can, however, hardly do better than give a summary of the conclusions of Mr. Bryce. They appear to me the more impressive because, in the somewhat curious chapter which he has devoted to American corruption, it is his evident desire to minimise, as far as he honestly can, both its gravity and its significance. No President, he says, has ever been seriously charged with pecuniary corruption, and there is no known instance, since the presidency which immediately preceded the Civil War, of a Cabinet minister receiving a direct money bribe as the price of an executive act or an appointment; but several leading ministers of recent Administrations have been suspected of complicity in railroad jobs, and even in frauds upon the revenue. In the Legislature, both the senators and the members of the House of Representatives labour under ‘abundant suspicions,’ ‘abundant accusations,’ but few of these ‘have been, or could have been, sifted to the bottom.’ ‘The opportunities for private gain are large, the chances of detection small.’ All that can be safely said is, that personal dishonesty in the exercise of legislative powers, of a kind quite distinct from the political profligacy with which we are in our own country abundantly familiar, prevails largely and unquestionably in America. It is especially prominent in what we should call private Bills affecting the interests of railroads or of other wealthy corporations, and in Bills altering the tariff of imports, on which a vast range of manufacturing interests largely depend. ‘The doors of Congress are besieged by a whole army of commercial and railroad men and their agents, to whom, since they have come to form a sort of profession, the name of Lobbyists is given. Many Congressmen are personally interested, and lobby for themselves among their colleagues from the vantage-ground of their official positions.’
The object of the lobbyist is to ‘offer considerations for help in passing a Bill which is desired, or stopping a Bill which is feared.’ There are several different methods. There is ‘log-rolling,’ when members interested in different private Bills come to an agreement that each will support the Bill of the others on condition of himself receiving the same assistance. There is the ‘strike,’ which means that ‘a member brings in a Bill directed against some railroad or other great corporation merely in order to levy blackmail upon it.… An eminent railroad president told me that for some years a certain senator regularly practised this trick.’ ‘It is universally admitted that the Capitol and the hotels of Washington are a nest of such intrigues and machinations while Congress is sitting.’ The principal method, however, of succeeding seems to be simple bribery, though ‘no one can tell how many of the members are tainted/Sometimes the money does not go to the member of Congress, but to the boss who controls him. Sometimes a Lobbyist receives money to bribe an honest member, but, finding he is going to vote in the way desired, keeps it in his own pocket. Often members are bribed to support a railway by a transfer of portions of its stocks. Free passes were so largely given with the same object to legislators that an Act was passed in 1887 to forbid them. Mr. Bryce mentions a governor who used to obtain loans of money from the railway which traversed his territory under the promise that he would use his constitutional powers in its favour; and members of Congress were accustomed to buy, or try to buy, land belonging to a railway company at less than the market price, in consideration of the services they could render to the line in the House. It was clearly shown that, in one case within the last twenty years, a large portion of a sum of $4,818,000, which was expended by a single railway, was used for the purpose ‘of influencing legislation.’ The letters of the director who managed the case of this railway have been published, and show that he found members of both Houses fully amenable to corruption. ‘I think,’ writes this gentleman in 1878, ‘in all the world's history, never before was such a wild set of demagogues honoured by the name of Congress.’
It is, of course, inevitable that only a small proportion of transactions of this kind should be disclosed. These cases are merely samples, probably representing many others. A great additional amount of direct corruption is connected with the enormous distribution of patronage in the hands of members of Congress. There are about 120,000 Federal Civil Service places, and an important part of each member's business is to distribute such places among his constituents. It is easy to imagine how such patronage would be administered by such men as have been described.
Mr. Bryce, however, is of opinion that there is much prevalent exaggeration about American corruption, and that Europeans are very unduly shocked by it. This is partly the fault of Americans, who have ‘an airy way of talking about their own country,’ and love ‘broad effects.’ It is partly, also, due to the malevolence of European travellers, ‘who, generally belonging to the wealthier class, are generally reactionary in politics,’ and therefore not favourable to democratic government. Englishmen, he thinks, are very unphilosophical. They have ‘a useful knack of forgetting their own shortcomings when contemplating those of their neighbours.’ ‘Derelictions of duty which a man thinks trivial in the form with which custom has made him familiar in his own country, where, perhaps, they are matter for merriment, shock him when they appear in a different form in another country. They get mixed up in his mind with venality, and are cited to prove that the country is corrupt and its politicians profligate.’ In the proceedings of Congress, Mr. Bryce says, ‘it does not seem, from what one hears on the spot, that money is often given, or, I should rather say, it seems that the men to whom it is given are few in number. But considerations of some kind pretty often pass.’ In other words, not actual money, but the value of money, and jobs by which money can be got, are usually employed.
Senators are often charged with ‘buying themselves into the Senate,’ but Mr. Bryce does not think that they often give direct bribes to the members of the State legislature to vote for them. They only make large contributions to the party election fund, out of which the election expenses of the majority are defrayed.79 Bribery exists in Congress, but is confined to a few members, say 5 per cent. of the whole number. … The taking of other considerations than money, such as a share in a lucrative contract, or a railway pass, or a “good thing” to be secured for a friend, prevails among legislators to a somewhat larger extent.… One may roughly conjecture that from 15 to 20 per cent. of the members of Congress, or of an average State legislature, would allow themselves to be influenced by inducements of this kind.… Jobbery of various kinds, i.e. the misuse of a public position for the benefit of individuals, is pretty frequent. It is often disguised as a desire to render some service to the party; and the same excuse is sometimes found for a misappropriation of public money. Patronage is usually dispensed with a view of party considerations or to win personal support. But this remark is equally true of England and France, the chief difference being that, owing to the short terms and frequent removals, the quantity of patronage is relatively greater in the United States.’
On the whole, Mr. Bryce concludes, if ‘we leave ideals out of sight, and try America by an actual standard, we shall find that while the legislative bodies fall below the level of purity maintained in England and Germany, probably also in France and Italy, her Federal and State Administration, in spite of the evils flowing from an uncertain tenure, is not, in point of integrity, at this moment sensibly inferior to the Administrations of European countries.’80
This judgment certainly does not err on the side of severity. If in England a great admirer of our parliamentary institutions, while boasting that no Prime Minister had been seriously charged with pecuniary corruption, and that no Cabinet Minister had been known for the last forty years to have taken money as a bribe, was obliged to add that several Cabinet Ministers of both parties in the State were suspected of complicity in railroad jobs and frauds on the revenue; that the whole of that vast department of legislation which affects the interest of corporations and manufacturers was systematically managed, or at least influenced, by corruption; that about 5 per cent. of the members of both Houses of Parliament were accustomed to take direct money bribes; that one in every five or six members was pretty certainly open to corrupt jobs, while suspicion of dishonesty of some kind attached to a much larger number, we should scarcely, I think, consider our parliamentary government a success.
Many of the causes of the vices of American government are inherent in democracy, but there are two aggravating causes which I have not mentioned. The rule that the person elected to either House of Congress must be a resident in the State for which he sits abridges greatly the choice of able and efficient men, and much strengthens the power of the local machine; while the large salaries attached to the position of senator or representative make it—even apart from its many indirect advantages—an object of keen ambition to the professional politician. Members of each House have a salary of 1,000l. a year, besides some small allowance for travelling and other expenses. In 1873, the two Houses passed an Act increasing many official salaries and adding a third to their own salaries, and, by a curiously characteristic provision, the congressional salaries, and these alone, were made retroactive. The appropriation, however, by Congress of nearly 40,000l. to itself excited so much indignation that it was repealed in the next Congress.81
The members of the House of Representatives sit only for two years, which probably adds something to the desire for speedy gain. At the same time, it appears certain that the Federal Government is less deeply tainted with corruption than a large proportion of the State legislatures, far less deeply than the Governments of nearly all the more important towns.
There is one thing which is worse than corruption. It is acquiescence in corruption. No feature of American life strikes a stranger so powerfully as the extraordinary indifference, partly cynicism and partly good nature, with which notorious frauds and notorious corruption in the sphere of politics are viewed by American public opinion. There is nothing, I think, altogether like this to be found in any other great country. It is something wholly different from the political torpor which is common in half-developed nations and corrupt despotisms, and it is curiously unlike the state of feeling which exists in the French Republic. Flagrant instances of corruption have been disclosed in France since 1870, but French public opinion never fails promptly to resent and to punish them. In America, notorious profligacy in public life and in the administration of public funds seems to excite little more than a disdainful smile. It is treated as very natural—as the normal result of the existing form of government.
I imagine that most persons who formed their opinions, as historians are apt to do, mainly by the examples of the past would judge very unfavourably the prospects of country where there was so much corruption and so much toleration of corruption in public life. The words of Jugurtha might well rise to their lips: ‘Urbem venalem, et mature perituram si emptorem invenerit!’ They would be inclined to conclude that, if the United States escaped great perils from without, this was mainly due to its extraordinarily advantageous position, and that internally it presented in a very marked degree the signs of moral dissolution which portend the decadence of nations. I believe, however, that the best judges, who are well acquainted with America, would concur in believing that such a judgment would be fallacious. America illustrates even more clearly than France the truth which I have already laid down, and which will again and again reappear in these volumes—that pure democracy is one of the least representative of governments. In hardly any other country does the best life and energy of the nation flow so habitually apart from politics. Hardly any other nation would be more grossly misjudged if it were mainly judged by its politicians and its political life.82 It seems a strange paradox that a nation which stands in the very foremost rank in almost all the elements of a great industrial civilisation, which teems with energy, intelligence and resource, and which exhibits in many most important fields a level of moral excellence that very few European countries have attained, should permit itself to be governed, and represented among the nations, in the manner I have described. How strange it is, as an Italian statesman once said, that a century which has produced the telegraph and the telephone, and has shown in ten thousand forms such amazing powers of adaptation and invention, should have discovered no more successful methods of governing mankind! The fact, however, is as I have presented it, and there are few more curious inquiries than its causes.
The foregoing pages will, I think, have at least shown the chief sources from which the corruption has sprung. To quote once more the words of Mr. Bryce: ‘Every feature of the machine is the result of patent causes. The elective offices are so numerous that ordinary citizens cannot watch them, and cease to care who gets them; the conventions come so often that busy men cannot serve in them; the minor offices are so unattractive that able men do not stand for them. The primary lists are so contrived that only a fraction of the party get on them, and of this fraction many are too lazy, or too busy, or too careless to attend. The mass of the voters are ignorant; knowing nothing about the personal merits of the candidates, they are ready to follow their leaders like sheep. Even the better class, however they may grumble, are swayed by the inveterate habit of party loyalty, and prefer a bad candidate of their own party to a (probably no better) candidate of the other party. It is less trouble to put up with impure officials, costly city governments, a jobbing State legislature, an inferior sort of Congressman, than to sacrifice one's own business in the effort to set things right. Thus the machine works on, and grinds out places, power, and the opportunities of illicit gain to those who manage it.’83
These things, however, would not be acquiesced in if it were not that an admirable written Constitution, enforced by a powerful and vigilant Supreme Court, had restricted to small limits the possibilities of misgovernment. All the rights that men value the most are placed beyond the reach of a tyrannical majority. Congress is debarred by the Constitution from making any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech and of the press, or the right of assembly, or the right of petition. No person can be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. All the main articles of what British statesmen would regard as necessary liberties are guaranteed, and property is so fenced round by constitutional provisions that confiscatory legislation becomes almost impossible. No private property can be taken for public use without just compensation, and the Federal Constitution contains an invaluable provision forbidding any State to pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts. The danger of partial or highly graduated taxation voted by the many and falling on the few has been, in a great measure, guarded against by the clauses in the Constitution providing that representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the States according to their population; that no capitation or other direct tax shall be laid unless in proportion to the census, and that all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform through the United States. The judgment of the Supreme Court condemning the income-tax in 1894 brought into clear relief the full force and meaning of these provisions. Neither Congress nor the State legislatures can pass any Bill of attainder or any ex post facto law punishing acts which were not punishable when they were committed.
At the same time, the number and magnitude of the majorities that are required to effect any organic change in the Federal Constitution are so great that such changes become almost impossible. They have, in fact, never, since the earliest days of the Constitution, been effected on any important subject, except during the wholly abnormal period that immediately followed the Civil War, when the political independence of the Southern States was for a time destroyed. The concurrence of majorities in two-thirds, and afterwards in three-fourths, of the States which is required for such an organic change becomes more and more difficult to obtain as the States multiply, with increasing population. Other guarantees of good government—very notably, it is to be feared, the character of the Senate—have been enfeebled by time and corruption and the increasing power of the machine; but this one, at least, almost automatically strengthens.
In the State constitutions the same system of checks prevails. All men, in the language of several of the constitutions, have ‘natural, essential, inalienable rights,’ and among them that of ‘enjoying and defending their lives and liberties, and acquiring, possessing and protecting property.’ The Constitution of Alabama expresses admirably the best spirit of American statesmanship when it states that ‘the sole and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty and property, and when the Government assumes other functions, it is unsurpation and oppression.’ Politicians may job and cheat and maladminister, but they can only do so within narrow limits, and if the evils become too great, conventions are called, which impose restrictions on the State legislatures. These bodies are forbidden to borrow or to tax beyond certain limits, or to touch a long list of specified subjects, or to sit for more than once in two years or for more than a defined number of days.84 If they contrive—as they undoubtedly do—to heap up a great deal of corrupt expenditure within these limits, the more respectable class consider that the country is very rich, and can afford it, and that it is better to allow this corruption to go on than to give up private business to prevent it. A curious kind of optimism also prevails largely in America. It is believed that, provided the most important things are secured, it is better to allow every one to vote and organise as he pleases; that there will ultimately be a survival of the fittest; that in course of time, and after prolonged and costly experiences, the turbid element of corruption will clarify, and its worst constituents sink like sediment to the bottom.
Another consideration, which has hardly, I think, been sufficiently recognised among the guiding influences of American politics, is the complete separation of Church and State. American writers, probably with good reason, consider this one of the great successes of their government. In spite of the Episcopal Church establishment that once existed in Virginia, and the intensely theocratic character which New England Governments for a long time presented, the idea of the connection of Church and State did not strike root in America, and public opinion, within as well as without the Churches, seems cordially to approve of the separation. But one consequence has been to diminish greatly the interest in national politics. Every one who knows England knows how large a proportion of the best men who are interested in politics are mainly interested in their ecclesiastical aspects, in questions directly or indirectly connected with Establishment or Disestablishment. All this class of questions is in America removed from the sphere of politics.
That public opinion can be powerfully aroused there in a worthy cause no one will question. Nowhere in the present century has it acquired a greater volume and momentum than in the War of Secession. The self-sacrifice, the unanimity, the tenacity of purpose, the indomitable courage displayed on each side by the vast citizen armies in that long and terrible struggle, form one of the most splendid pages in nineteenth-century history. I can well recollect how Laurence Oliphant, who had excellent means of judging both wars, was accustomed to say that no fighting in the Franco-German War was comparable to the tenacity with which in America every village, almost every house, was defended or assailed; and the appalling sacrifice of life during the struggle goes far to justify this judgment. Nor were the nobler qualities of the American people less clearly manifested by the sequel of the war. The manner in which those gigantic armies melted away into the civil population, casting aside, without apparent effort, all military tastes and habits, and throwing themselves into the vast fields of industry that were opened by the peace, forms one of the most striking spectacles in history; and the noble humanity shown to the vanquished enemy is a not less decisive proof of the high moral level of American opinion. It was especially admirable in the very trying moments that followed the assassination of Lincoln, and it forms a memorable contrast to the extreme vindictiveness displayed by their forefathers, in the days of the Revolution, towards their loyalist fellow-countrymen. America rose at this time to a new place and dignity in the concert of nations. Europe had long seen in her little more than an amorphous, ill-cemented industrial population. It now learned to recognise the true characteristics of a great nation. There was exaggeration, but there was also no little truth, in the words of Lowell:
Jobbing and corruption and fraud flourished, indeed, abundantly during the war, but the lines of national greatness and genuine patriotism were far more conspicuous. In times of peace, no nation has ever been more distinguished than America for the generosity shown by her citizens in supporting public institutions and public causes.
Her treatment of her gigantic debt was also a great surprise to Europe. It was a common prediction among shrewd judges that the peace would speedily be followed by national bankruptcy, and that a democratic nation would never endure the burden of a national debt which was at that time by far the largest in the world. Hardly any one appears to have foreseen that this democracy would surpass all the monarchies in history in its unparalleled persevering and successful efforts to pay off its debt. It is true that its motives in doing so were far from being purely patriotic and disinterested. The payment of the debt was indissolubly connected with the adoption of a system of severe Protection. Manufacturers by such Protection made colossal fortunes. The working class in America seem to have very generally adopted the opinion that a protective system, by raising the price of the articles they make and excluding similar articles made in other countries, has an effect, in raising wages and increasing employment, which is very beneficial to their interests. Multitudes of Americans in the Northern States had purchased national bonds at a time when they were greatly depreciated, and they gained enormously by being paid off at par. At the time when the policy of paying off the debt was adopted, the section of the country where these bonds were exclusively held, where Protection was always most popular, and where manufactures chiefly existed, had acquired, through the war, a complete ascendency. These things do much to explain the course that was adopted, but it was a course which involved sacrifices that few nations could have endured, and it was carried out with an energy and perseverance that no nation could have surpassed.
The general legislation in America also ranks very high. Many of the worst abuses of British law either never existed there, or were redressed at a much earlier period than in England. Her penal code, her educational laws, her laws about the sale and transfer of landed property, were for a long period far better than those of Great Britain; and the fact that no religious disqualifications were recognised saved her from struggles that have largely occupied many generations of English reformers. I do not think that, in modern times, legislation has been better or the spirit of Reform more active in the republic than in the monarchy, but I believe the best observers on both sides of the Atlantic recognise the two systems as substantially on the same plane of excellence, though each country may learn many things from the other. The American type of legislator is eminently shrewd, business-like, and free from prejudice, and he is quite prepared to make good laws, as long as they do not affect injuriously his personal and party interests. Public opinion insists on this, and it makes, as we have seen, occasional spasmodic efforts to diminish the great corruption of American political life.
America, during the last three quarters of the nineteenth century, has changed greatly. It is very different from the country which Dickens and Mrs. Trollope described, and even the great work of Tocqueville occasionally wears an aspect of some unreality. The population of the United States has quadrupled since Tocqueville visited it, and it is not surprising that many conditions should have been changed and some predictions falsified. Tocqueville believed much more in the permanence of republican institutions in America than in the permanence of the Union. He predicted very confidently that the power of the Federal Government would steadily decline and the power of the separate States increase; that any serious resistance of the States to the Federal Union must certainly succeed; that the Union would only endure as long as all the States continued to wish to form part of it.85 The War of the Secession showed that he was mistaken, and it produced for some years a strong tendency in the direction of centralisation.
In many respects, however, he judged with singular accuracy both the dangers and the tendencies of American political life. He deplored the custom, which had already begun in his time, of making the judges elective. He predicted that the habit of treating representatives as mere delegates bound by imperative instructions would destroy the essence of representative government. He dwelt with much perspicuity on the dangers in a pure democracy of the multiplication of great towns; on the gradual displacement of power which would follow the rise of new territories eclipsing or superseding the old States; on the moral and political effects of slavery, and of the increase of the negro race; on the deep and menacing line of division which the combined influence of slavery and climate, and the resulting difference of character and habits were drawing between the Northern and the Southern States. He imagined, indeed, that slavery would make it the special interest of the latter to cling to the Union, as they had every reason to fear the consequences if they were left alone with their negroes; but he doubted whether this bond of interest would prove ultimately as strong as the antagonism of sentiment. The system of party in America he never seems to have clearly understood, and he altogether failed to foresee the enormous power and the corrupting influence of ‘the Machine.’
The America he described was, in some respects, very unlike that of our own day. He speaks of a despotism of opinion which prevented all free expression of independent, eccentric, or heretical ideas; of American dislike to general ideas and theoretical discoveries; of a jealousy of wealth which compelled rich men, like the Jews of the Middle Ages, to abstain from all the ostentation of luxury. These things are wholly changed. America is no longer a country without pauperism and without great wealth. It contains some of the largest fortunes in the world. American wealth is certainly by no means averse to ostentation, and is rather peculiarly apt to take forms that are dangerous and injurious to the community. We are accustomed to hear, in some quarters, the enormous landed properties possessed by a few English landlords described as a great evil; but as long as those who wish to buy land, or to take land on a long lease, have no difficulty in doing so, it is not easy to see what real interest is seriously injured. The power the great landlord possesses may, no doubt, be abused; but great abuse is neither easy nor common, while the benefits resulting to the nation from the existence of this class are very real and evident. But, of all forms that great wealth can take, I know of none that gives greater opportunities or temptations of abuse than that of the railway king, who controls for his own selfish purposes the chief lines of communication in the country. In no other country has this class of men been so prominent as in America, and in no other has their power been more hideously abused. Nowhere else have there been such scandalous examples of colossal, ostentatious fortunes built up by reckless gambling, by the acquisition of gigantic monopolies, by a deadly and unscrupulous competition bringing ruin into countless homes, by a systematic subordination of public to private interests, by enormous political and municipal corruption. If such men as Lincoln, and Emerson, and Lowell have, in our generation, represented with supreme perfection the distinctive beauty of the American type, such a career as that of Jay Gould has, in its own way, been not less truly characteristic.
Integrity in the management of great companies and corporations is certainly not, in these latter days, a characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon race on either side of the Atlantic, but I believe it is even less so in America than in England. The contrast between the management of railways in England and in the United States is extremely significant. America is now one of the richest countries in the world, and its people have certainly no superiors in business talent. Yet it has been stated on excellent authority that, in the fifteen years between 1875 and 1890, the aggregate foreclosure sales on the railways of the United States comprised 50,525 miles, with $2,865,000,000 of combined stocks and bonds, or an average of $191,000,000 per annum. In 1890, twenty-nine companies were subject to foreclosure sales.86 A great railway authority, speaking in the beginning of 1894, said: ‘There is no less than one-fourth of the American railways in extent of mileage and capital now under the control of the courts of law, and during the year 1893 alone seventy-four railway companies including a mileage of 30,000 miles and a capital of 360 millions sterling, passed into the hands of receivers.87 Making the fullest allowance for trade depressions and vicissitudes, and for currency troubles, what an amount of gigantic and deliberate dishonesty, as well as unscrupulous gambling, does such a state of things represent! The system of monopolising articles of the first necessity, under the name of Trusts, in order to force up their price, which is one of the most mischievous forms that modern industry has assumed, has been especially American, and the origin of some of the greatest American fortunes.
These evils are certainly not unconnected with political conditions. In a country where there is no rank, and where political eminence gives little or no dignity, the thirst for wealth acquires a maddening power. Corrupt political organisations come in constant contact with great railway and industrial corporations, and each can do much to assist and to demoralise the other. Even independently of these mutual services, there is an analogy between the two things. To run a company is very like running the machine, and the low standard which public opinion admits in the one is, not unnaturally, extended to the other.
Slavery has passed away in America, and with it one great blot and danger has disappeared; but the negro race, with its doubtful future, remains. The character of the constituencies has been profoundly lowered by the negro voters, and the extraordinary prevalence and ferocity of lynch law seems to show that the old habits of violence which slavery did so much to foster are by no means extinct. A great improvement, however, has incontestably taken place in the character of American foreign policy since the close of the war. The many violent and unscrupulous acts that once marked that policy were nearly all distinctly traceable to the ascendency of Southern statesmen. Something was due to the character of the men, for the conditions of slave labour produce a type which is much more military and adventurous than pacific and industrial. But the main cause was the imperious necessity imposed on these States of acquiring new slave territories, in order to counteract the increasing preponderance which increasing population was giving to the Northern States, and thus secure their share of power in the Union. This was the origin of the annexation of Texas; of the conquest of New Mexico and California; of the filibustering expedition of General Lopez against Cuba in 1851; of the unscrupulous attempts to force a quarrel upon Spain in 1854, in order to find a pretext for seizing Cuba; of the shameless Ostend manifesto, in which American ministers declared their determination to acquire Cuba by force if they could not do so by purchase; of the countenance that was given to the filibustering expedition of William Walker to Nicaragua in 1857; of the renewed attempts to acquire Cuba in 1858 and 1859. Since the question of secession has been settled this spirit of aggression seems to have wholly passed out of American foreign policy. There have been occasions when American statesmen, in order to win the favour of some class of voters, have shown a disregard of the courtesies tesies and decorum of international dealings which no European country would have displayed, but in the great lines of her foreign policy, America has of late years been in general eminently honourable and unaggressive. It is no small thing that this vast section of the human race, so rich in the promise of the future, has wholly escaped the militarism that is corroding the greatest Powers of Europe, and that its gigantic energies have been steadily directed in the paths of peace.
The feature of American civilisation which has most struck European observers has been its extremely one-sided character. It is a supremely great industrial civilisation, generating to the highest degree the qualities, capacities and inventions that are needed for industrial life, and bringing in its train widely diffused comfort, education and self-respect; but there are certain sides in which it still ranks much below the civilisations of Europe. Tocqueville and his generation were much struck with this. Tocqueville said that America had hitherto produced only a very small number of remarkable writers, that she had produced no great historians, and no poets, and that there were third-rate towns in Europe which published in a year more works of literature than all the twenty-four States of America.88 Mill, writing in 1840, speaks of ‘the marked absence in America of original efforts in literature, philosophy, and the fine arts;’89 while Carlyle, a few years later, very roughly declared that America had still her battle to fight; that though the quantity of her cotton, dollars, industry and resources was almost unspeakable, she had as yet produced no great thought, or noble thing that one could worship or loyally admire; that her chief feat in history had been to beget, ‘with a rapidity beyond recorded example, eighteen millions of the greatest bores ever seen in this world before.’90
This last judgment is certainly more remarkable for its vigour than for its judicial impartiality. Since Carlyle wrote America has produced some admirable literature; it has produced several considerable historians, some graceful and justly popular poets, some excellent critics, novelists and moralists, and a vein of humour which is perhaps more distinctively American than any other element in its literature. It has, especially, produced some of the most beautiful literary lives in the whole history of letters—lives true, simple, laborious and affectionate, singularly free from the jealousies and extravagances that deface so many pages of literary biography, absolutely free from that taint of impurity which has passed so deeply into the contemporary literatures of Europe. But, when all this is said, we cannot but ask whether the America of the nineteenth century has produced much in the fields of thought, or literature, or art that is really great; anything comparable to what Germany or France has produced during the same period; anything comparable to what might have been expected from a rich, highly educated, and pacific nation, which now numbers more than sixty millions of souls, and is placed, in some respects, in more favourable circumstances than any other nation in the world. A curious passage in an essay on Channing which Renan wrote some forty years ago describes the impression which American civilisation at that time left on the mind of one of the most brilliant of Frenchmen. ‘If it were necessary,’ he says, ‘that Italy with her past, or America with her future, should be blotted out of existence, which would leave the greater void in the heart of humanity? What has all America produced that can compare with a ray of that infinite glory that adorns an Italian town, even of the second or third order—Florence, Pisa, Sienna, Perugia? Before New York and Boston reach in the scale of human greatness a rank that is comparable to these towns, how many steps have they still to make!’91
There is, no doubt, exaggeration in such language; there are forms of very genuine human greatness that it fails to recognise. But it is impossible not to feel that, on the intellectual and æsthetic side, America has not yet fulfilled her part, and that an unduly large proportion of her greatest achievements belong to a time when she had not a tithe of her present population and wealth. Washington and Franklin and Hamilton, the Constitution of 1787, the Federalist and the Commentaries of Judge Story, have not been eclipsed.
Many causes have been assigned for this intellectual sterility, continuing long after America had taken her place among the great nations of the world. Tocqueville believed that there was no country with less intellectual independence and less real liberty of discussion than America, or in which the expression of unpopular opinion was more bitterly resented; and he said that there were no great American writers because ‘literary genius cannot exist without liberty of thought, and there is no liberty of thought in America.’92 Mill, expanding another passage from Tocqueville, described America as, ‘intellectually speaking, a province of England—a province in which the great occupation of the inhabitants is making money, because for that they have peculiar facilities, and are, therefore, like the people of Manchester or Birmingham, for the most part contented to receive the higher branches of knowledge ready-made from the capital.93 Maine attributed much to the long refusal of the Congress to grant an international copyright. The want of such copyright effectually crushed American authorship in the Home market by the competition of the unpaid and appropriated works of British authors, and ‘condemned the whole American community to a literary servitude unparalleled in the history of thought.’94
In all this there is much truth; but it must, I think, be added that modern democracy is not favourable to the higher forms of intellectual life. Democracy levels down quite as much as it levels up. The belief in the equality of man, the total absence of the spirit of reverence, the apotheosis of the average judgment, the fever and the haste, the advertising and sensational spirit which American life so abundantly generates, and which the American press so vividly reflects, are all little favourable to the production of great works of beauty or of thought, of long meditation, of sober taste, of serious, uninterrupted study. Such works have been produced in America, but in small numbers and under adverse conditions. The habit, too, which has so long existed in America, and which is rapidly growing in England, of treating the private lives of eminent men as if they were public property; of forcing their opinions on all subjects into constant publicity by newspaper interviews; of multiplying demands upon their time for public functions for which they have no special aptitude, adds greatly to the evil. Among the advantages which England derives from her aristocracy, not the least is the service it renders to literature by providing a class of men who are admirably fitted for presidential and other public functions, which in another society would have been largely thrown on men of letters. No one can fail to observe how large a proportion of the Americans who have shown distinguished talent in literature and art have sought in European life a more congenial atmosphere than they could find at home.
In spite of all retarding influences, America will, no doubt, one day occupy a far higher position than at present in the intellectual guidance of the world. It is probable that the concession of international copyright, placing American authors on the same footing with foreign ones, will hasten that day, and there are clear signs that a school of very serious scholarship and very excellent writing is arising among them. Many of the peccant humours of the body politic will, no doubt, be ultimately dispersed. The crudest, most ignorant, most disorderly elements of European life have been poured into America as into a great alembic, and are being gradually transformed into a new type. The enormously corrupting influences which New York and some other immigration centres have exercised on American politics must diminish when they cease to be what Americans call ‘pivot states,’ holding the balance between rival parties, and when the centre of power moves onward towards the west. A people supremely endowed with energy and intelligence, and among whom moral and religious influences are very strong, can scarcely fail sooner or later to mould their destinies to high and honourable ends.
Optimism certainly reigns more widely in America than in Europe, and Americans are the best judges of their own institutions and future. Serious clouds seem to hang on their horizon. The decay, in some parts of America, of family life through the excessive facility of divorce; the alarming prevalence of financial dishonesty on a large scale; the strange and ominous increase of ordinary crime, which contrasts remarkably with its steady diminution in Great Britain95 the profligacy that still reigns in political and municipal life, and the indifference with which that profligacy is contemplated, afford much ground for melancholy thought. It is contrary to all past experience that political corruption should be a mere excrescence in a nation, affecting either slightly or not at all the deeper springs of national morals. As the country fills up, as national expenses increase, as the problems of government become more difficult and delicate, the necessity of placing the Administration in all its branches in trustworthy and honest hands must be more felt, and the future of America seems to me very largely to depend upon the success with which her reformers can attain this end. Something considerable, as we have seen, has been already done; yet some of the worst instances of corrupt rings have been posterior to the downfall of the Tammany rule at New York, which was supposed to mark the beginning of a new era. The evidence which was brought before the Senate of New York in 1894, disclosing the enormous and systematic corruption of the police force of that great city, is in itself sufficient to show how little this hope has been fulfilled.96
The policy of Protection in America, which has been carried to such a high point since the war, is no new thing. It existed, though with some fluctuations, through a great part of earlier American history;97 the high duties imposed during the war were amply justified by the necessity of obtaining money for its support, and their continuance for some years after the peace was probably justified by the transcendent importance of reducing rapidly an unparalleled debt. With the ideas that are now floating through the world, nothing could be more dangerous than for a pure democracy, in times of difficulty or poverty, to find itself burdened with an enormous debt taxation for the fulfilment of ancient contracts. The statesmen who followed the war have at least secured America from this danger. But the immense increase of Protection, which began with the Woollen Act of 1867 and the Copper Act of 1869, and which culminated in the McKinley tariff, was largely due to other motives. If the best American authorities may be trusted, it includes as much purely class legislation, intended to support class interests and carried by corrupt means, as can be found in the most effete monarchy of Europe.
The wonderful surplus which for many years existed in consequence of the high protective duties astonished Europe, but not more so than the manner in which it was expended. I suppose there is no page in the financial history of the world more extraordinary than the history of the American pension list. At the close of the war pensions were, very properly, given to soldiers who were disabled in the course of it, and to wives of soldiers who had been married during the war, and who were left widows. It was naturally supposed that in America, as elsewhere, the war pensions would diminish as time rolled on and as the actors in the struggle passed away. For some years there seemed every prospect that this would have been the case; and there can be no doubt that it would have been so if the Protectionist interest had not found it necessary to maintain and expend an enormous surplus. The result of that necessity is, that in a long period of unbroken peace a war pension list has been created in the United States which far exceeds in magnitude any other that is known in history. Fifty-seven years after the war of 1812 pensions were voted to its surviving soldiers and to their widows; thirty-nine years after the Mexican War a similar measure was taken in favour of the survivors of that war. The list was made to include men who had been disabled long after the war, and by causes totally unconnected with it, and widows who had not been married, who in many cases had not been born when the last shot was fired. Personation, and other frauds almost grotesque in their cynicism and enormity, became notoriously common, and were practised with the most absolute impunity. Multitudes of young women formed real or pretended connections with old men for the purpose of qualifying for a pension. It appears from official documents that, in 1892, there were on the pension list 165 persons pensioned as survivors of the war in 1812, and there were no less than 6,657 women who were pensioned as widows of the soldiers in that war. The pension list trebled between 1880 and 1884. In 1893, it was stated that half a million of dollars a day were distributed on account of a war which had terminated nearly thirty years before. In 1893 there were 960,000 names on the pension list, and 165 millions of dollars, or thirty-three million pounds, was appropriated by Congress to the pension service.
It is not surprising that such an administration of public money should have produced a great financial revulsion, and that the period of enormous surpluses should have been followed by a period of almost equally enormous deficits. No other country, indeed, could have borne such an expenditure, and certainly public opinion in no other country would have tolerated it.98
It would be perhaps a paradox to say that the government of a country which is so great, so prosperous, and so pacific as the United States has not been a success; but, on the whole, American democracy appears to me to carry with it at least as much of warning as of encouragement, especially when we remember the singularly favourable circumstances under which the experiment has been tried, and the impossibility of reproducing those conditions at home. There is one point, however, on which all the best observers in America, whether they admire or dislike democracy, seem agreed. It is, that it is absolutely essential to its safe working that there should be a written constitution, securing property and contract, placing serious obstacles in the way of organic changes, restricting the power of majorities, and preventing outbursts of mere temporary discontent and mere casual coalitions from overthrowing the main pillars of the State. In America, such safeguards are largely and skilfully provided, and to this fact America mainly owes her stability. Unfortunately, in England the men who are doing most to plunge the country into democracy are also the bitter enemies of all these safeguards, by which alone a democratic government can be permanently maintained.
Moral Philosophy, ii. 218.
Moral Philosophy, ii. 220–21.
Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, ii. 55–58.
Story, ii. 59–66, 95, 96, 106.
See Jules Clère, Hist. du Suffrage Universel, 12–30, 33; Laferrière, Constitutions de la France depuis 1789.
Souvenirs de Tocqueville, pp. 5–7.
Lord Russell used to relate that this was the reason which Lord Lonsdale in private always gave for his opposition to Catholic Emancipation. He said that he did not care about this measure, but he knew that, if it were carried, it would be impossible to resist the cry for reform.
Troilus and Cressida, act i. scene 3. So Milton—
Milton puts these lines in the mouth of Satan, but in his treatise on Reformation in England he expresses very similar sentiments in his own person. ‘There is no civil government that hath been known—no, not the Spartan nor the Roman … more divinely and harmoniously tuned, more equally balanced as it were by the hand and scale of Justice, than is the Commonwealth of England, when, under a firm and untutored monarch, the noblest, worthiest, and most prudent men, with full approbation and suffrage of the people, have in their power the supreme and final determination of highest affairs’ (Book II.). On the political opinions of English poets, see the interesting preface to Sir Henry Taylor's ‘Critical Essays’ (Works, v. xi–xix).
Maine's Popular Government, pp. 35-36.
Return showing the Number of Persons who voted as Illiterates at the General Election of 1892 (Feb. 1893).
See Burke'sLife of Juarez, p. 3.
Dareste,Constitutions Modernes, i. 617, 619, 626.
Clère, Hist. du Suffrage Universel, p. 59.
Clère, pp. 92-96.
Chaudordy, La France en 1889, p. 191.
Speaking of the Civil Service in France, M. Leroy-Beaulieu says: ‘Plus la société approche du régime démocratique pur, plus cette instabilité s'accentue. … La France sur ce point se fait américaine. Pour ne citer qu'un petit fait qui est singulièrement significatif, en 1887 à l'enterrement d'un haut fonctionnaire du ministère des finances, l'un de ses collégues, bien connu d'ailleurs, prenait la parole en qualité de doyen, disait-il, des directeurs généraux du ministère. Ce doyen avait quarante-cinq ou quarante-six ans, si non moins. Que de révocations ou de mises prématurées à la retraite n'avait-il pas fallu pour amener ce décanat précoce!’ (L'Etat et ses Fonctions, pp. 65-66.) See, too, Scherer, La Démocratie et la France, pp. 26-32.
Andrieux, Souvenirs d'un Préfet de Police, ii. 53-54.
Leroy-Beaulieu, La Science des Finances (ed. 1892), ii. 556.
Rather more than twenty-five millions of francs. Ibid. p. 495.
Ibid. pp. 556-63.
Leroy-Beaulieu, La Science des Finances, ii. 563-64.
Ibid. p. 564.
Leroy-Beaulieu, La Science des Finances, ii. 564-70.
Full particulars about the industrial and financial history of the first ten years of the Empire will be found in a very able book, published in 1862, called Ten Years of Imperialism in France, by ‘A Flâneur.’ The writer had evidently access to the best sources of information.
Leroy-Beaulieu, La Science des Finances, ii. 570; Chaudordy, La France en 1889, pp. 52-53.
Leroy-Beaulieu, La Science des Finances, ii. 578-81; see, too, Martin's Statesman's Year-Book, 1893 (France).
See on this subject, Scherer, La Démocratie et la France, pp. 29-33; Leroy-Beaulieu, L'Etat et ses Fonctions, pp. 137-74; Leroy-Beaulieu, La Science des Finances, ii. 277-78; Chaudordy, La France en 1889, pp. 54-62.
Milner's Egypt, p. 216.
Scherer, La Démocratie et la France, pp. 22-38.
A detailed account of the methods of changing the State constitutions will be found in a Report on the Majorities required in Foreign Legislatures for changes in the constitution, presented to the House of Lords, April 1893.
Van Buren, Political Parties in the United States, pp. 80, 83.
Ford's American Citizen's Manual, i. 13-14.
See Bryce's American Commonwealth, i. 131-32.
Tocqueville, Démocratic en Amérique, i. 91.
Hart's Practical Essays on American Government, 1893, p. 28. There are still, however, some cases in which a property qualification is required from an office-holder.
Ford's American Citizen's Manual, i. 136.
See that very curious book, Dewees's The Molly Maguires (Philadelphia, 1877), pp. 33, 92-93, 109, 221-29, 296.
Bryce's American Commonwealth, iii. 394-99.
Goldwin Smith, The United States, pp. 192-203; Ford's American Citizen's Manual, i. 138-40.
See a remarkable essay on Mr. Cleveland and Civil Service Reform, by Henry C. Lea. Reprinted from the Independent, October 18, 1888.
Ford's American Citizen's Manual, i. 130-41. Mr. Lea writes: ‘It is in vain that the Pendleton Act prohibits the levying of assessments on office-holders, when circulars from democratic committees are as thick as leaves in Vallombrosa, when the raffle for the Widow McGuiness's pig proved so productive in the New York Custom House, when an office is ostentatiously opened in Washington, and every clerk is personally notified that it is ready to receive contributions’ (Mr. Cleveland and Civil Service Reform, p. 4).
Sterne's United States Constitution and History, pp. 227-31.
American Commonwealth, ii. 488.
Bryce, ii. 485-89.
Bryce, ii. 345, 392.
Ford, i. 141-42; Bryce, ii. 490.
Hart's Essays on American Governments, pp. 82, 83, 91–96.
Gilman's Socialism and the American Spirit (1893), p. 178.
Ibid. pp. 310-11.
See Bryce, ii. pp. 492-95. There were some varieties, however, in the system in the different States (Ford, American Citizen's Manual, i. 103-8).
Gilman's Socialism and the American Spirit, pp. 169-70; Political Science Quarterly (New York), 1891, p. 386.
Much information on the Know-nothing movement will be found in the second volume of Mr. Rhodes's History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850, and in an article by Mr. McMaster in the Forum, July 1894.
Hart's Essays on American Government, pp. 192, 204.
See Bryce, ii. 520-21; Goldwin Smith, p. 300. M. Molinari, in his very interesting Lettres sur les Etats-Unis et le Canada, has collected a number of facts illustrating the extraordinary reign of terror and plunder that existed in the South while the carpet-baggers were in power (see pp. 185-97, 270-72).
Bryce, ii. 92–93.
See an address of the well-known statesman, W. H. Seward, October 5, 1824: Seward's Works (New York, 1853), iii. 334-37. The first political work of Mr. Seward was to resist the Albany Ring.
Ford's American Citizen's Manual, i. 88–89.
See Mr. Goodnow's chapter on the Tweed Ring in New York City in Mr. Bryce's third volume. See especially pp. 179, 190, 195.
The Message of the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth, by Andrew Dickson White (Newhaven, 1883), pp. 14–15; see also an instructive article, by the same writer, on ‘The Government of American Cities’ (Forum, December 1890).
Bryce, ii. 281.
See an essay on American cities in Hart's Essays on American Government, pp. 162–205; and an article by Mr. Springer, on ‘City Growth and Party Politics,’ Forum, December 1890.
Sterne's United States, p. 267; see also Bryce, ii. 280.
Bryce, ii. 278-87, 469-74, 521.
Ibid. ii. 291.
Bryce, ii. 469.
White's Message of the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth, pp. 15–16.
Sterne, p. 271.
See a striking account of the way in which New York elections are still conducted, by Mr. Goff, in the North American Review, 1894, pp. 203-10.
A curious letter on the career of this personage, called ‘The Downfall of a Political Boss in the United States,’ will be found in the Times, March 2, 1894.
Sterne, pp. 258-59.
Ford, i. 113-15.
See, on this subject, Bryce, ii. 293-94. One favourite form of restriction has been that the debt of a country, city, borough, township, or school district shall never exceed 7 per cent. of the assessed value of the taxable property. In order to evade this the assessed value of property has almost everywhere been largely increased.
See an article, by Mr. McMaster, in the Forum, December 1893, p. 470.
Ford, i. 129.
Bryce, ii. 264-65, 292, 304-5, iii. 196; Laveleye, Le Gouvernement dans la Démocratie, i. 97–109.
Gilman, Socialism and the American Spirit, p. 82.
I may here quote the words of Mr. White, whose authority on such a question is at least equal to that of Mr. Bryce:—'I am not at all disposed to accept the prevalent cant about corruption; but suppose that any one had told us in our college days, as we pondered the speeches of Webster, and Calhoun, and Clay, and Sumner, and Seward, and Everett, that great commonwealths would arise in which United States’ senatorships would be virtually put up to the highest bidder term after term, until such a mode of securing a position in our highest council would be looked upon as natural and normal!’ (Message of the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth, p. 14).
Bryce, ii. 509-25.
Bryce, i. 259-61.
The following remarks of Mr. Gilman appear to me well worthy of attention:—'Only one who has lived for some time in the United States, and has had considerable experience of the actual workings of American political institutions, will sufficiently realise the force of the curious contrast between “the people” and “the politicians.” It is purely in imagination or theory that the politicians are faithful representatives of the people. The busy, “driving” American citizen is apt to feel that he has no time to watch the people who make a profession of running the political machine. His own private business, with which Government as a rule has little to do, tends to absorb his thoughts. He even prefers too often to be heavily taxed in direct consequence of political corruption, rather than to take the time from his private affairs which would be needed to overthrow the machine and keep it in permanent exile’ (The American Spirit of Socialism, pp. 178-79). I may add the judgment of one of the most serious and impartial of American historians:—'It is certain that in no Teutonic nation of our day is the difference so marked between the public and private standards of morality as in the United States. The one is lower than it was in 1860; the other, inconsistent as it may seem, is higher’ (Rhodes's History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850, iii. 113).
Bryce, ii. 449.
See, e.g., the long and curious list of the limitations imposed on the Pennsylvanian Legislature in Ford (i. 32–35).
Démocratie en Amérique, ii. 351-55, 383-85. He suggests, however, in one place that a war, or a great internal crisis, might possibly arrest this tendency (p. 398).
North American Review, 1891, p. 84; see, too, Professor Ely's Socialism, pp. 270-71.
Speech of Sir Henry Tyler at a meeting of the Grand Trunk Railway Company, April 30, 1894, p. 4.
Démocratie en Amérique, ii. 233.
Dissertations, ii. 42.
Latter-Day Pamphlets: ‘The Present Time.’
Etudes d'Histoire Religieuse.
Démocratie en Amérique, ii. 149, 152.
Dissertations, ii. 43; compare Tocqueville, ii. 58. I do not think Mill's illustration a happy one. Most English books, no doubt, are published in London, but the intellectual life that produces them comes from all parts of the kingdom, and in a very large degree from the great provincial towns.
Maine's Popular Government, p. 247.
See on this subject a remarkable article, by Mr. Lea, in the Forum, August 1894.
Many particulars about this will be found in the Forum, August 1894.
On the early history of American Protection, see Taussig's Tariff History of the United States (New York, 1888).
A great deal of information about the American pensions will be found in the Forum, May and June, 1893, and in the North American Review, April and May, 1893; see, too, the Times, January 29, 1894. It appears, however, that in the year ending June 30, 1894, the expenditure on the pension list had sunk to 27,960,892l. (Times, October 30, 1894).