INTRODUCTORY LECTURE TO COURSES IN POLITICAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCE
INTRODUCTORY LECTURE TO COURSES IN POLITICAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCE
Three things are necessary for a student who is to acquire intelligently a new branch of knowledge under a teacher. First, an idea of the importance of the subject; second, an idea of the method of the teacher; and third, some notion of the outlook, that is to say, of the thing to be acquired. I propose in this lecture to give a program of the year's work in this department, as well in the graduate as in the undergraduate schools, and my aim is to supply as well as I can the three requisites mentioned.
There is a necessity for such a lecture in this department, which does not exist in any other. Almost everyone has some idea of the range, meaning, purpose and method of the sciences which are taught in a university, but I doubt very much if there is any but the most vague notion in the popular mind of what is meant by political science, in either its narrower or its wider significance. It is not generally understood what it aims at, how it teaches, what its methods are, nor what guarantee there is for its results. Let us try first to arrive at a conception of these points.
You are aware that the civilization of mankind has proceeded by stages and that its course has been one of development and progress. This progress has been from the simple towards the complex. Institutions have been multiplied, functions in the body social have been divided and subdivided, interests have increased in number and have been more and more interlaced with each other, classes and professions have arisen which were formerly unknown. We can no longer divide society exhaustively into upper, lower, and middle classes. In this country, at least, such a division would have no meaning. Government has passed through successive forms and stages, which we generally regard as successive improvements, until now government is a complex machine, with numerous departments, diverse organs, complex functions, and above all an abstraction called law which determines the method of operation of all the parts. A nation is no longer a horde of individuals following the command of one man. It is a vast organism. Its members are endowed with free will to determine their own acts in accordance with their own wishes. They undertake independent enterprises of wide scope; they select their own combinations into which they enter; they form their own opinions of what is wise and right and true. They find in all this that they are inextricably entangled with each other. Society is solidified and bound together by these numerous bonds, and we find that it is of the utmost importance to us that our neighbors, as well as ourselves, be wise and prudent, for we see that their folly or wisdom reacts upon us as ours upon them. We can no longer appeal to some supreme ruler to make others do what they ought to do in the interest of all. We must get together and by common consent agree upon what we will do, what concessions we will make to the common interest, what efforts we will contribute to the general welfare. We can no longer get the social body regulated by instructing a prince or a few ministers; we must mold public opinion — this new power until recently unknown as a social force, but now seen to be the great engine which controls the whole. So too we find that the government, however free may be its form, inherits traditions and bears names of authority. Power of control must be lodged somewhere, at least as a reserve for those cases in which malice, evil, and passion raise their heads. But those who are clothed with this power undergo an inevitable temptation to abuse it. They have an opportunity to exert upon the social body a power not justly theirs as individuals. They may use this influence selfishly for themselves or their favorites. For the more completely we popularize a government, the more we trust it; we put our interests of all kinds at its mercy. Hence it occurs that the government, either ignorantly from want of knowledge to use the great powers it possesses for the general good, or with corrupt motive, inflicts harm upon the citizen. It is, therefore, necessary for us to agree what powers we will give to the officers of government, and what restrictions we will put upon them. Our determinations in regard to these things — what we will do and allow to be done, or what we will not do or not allow to be done by each other; what things the government shall do or shall not do on our behalf — constitute the body of our laws. Still again: when the mass of the population governs, an important question arises as to how its will is to reach an expression. An opportunity offers itself for manipulating this body in order to make it do what a few desire that it shall do. Every such body is subject to manipulation and any clique, party, or corporation which has a definite object which it pursues steadily and energetically, is able to lead the mass of uninstructed or indifferent citizens.
This is especially the case with regard to party government — and no other kind of government is possible, so far as we can yet see, in a republic. The party tends to become a unit inside of the nation. It acquires vested interests, traditions, history, glory, all of which give it momentum. It is able to carry measures under the party name irrespective of their wisdom. It is able to cover up and conceal wrongs under the mantle of past achievements. Its watchwords and its slang acquire infallible authority. When a party has reached this stage, it is a valuable piece of property. It is like an army trained and disciplined to obey orders without asking questions or making objections. Then the question is, who is to command; and a man or a clique who holds the authority over it can do with it what he chooses. It is a machine all finished and oiled to work smoothly and it obeys as well one hand on the lever as another.
Hence arise a mass of questions as to the means to be used for securing a true, spontaneous, and original expression of public opinion; and the answers to these questions are not always laws, though they may require that authority, but they are political usages applying to the constitution of party committees, the authority of caucuses, the rules of the primary meeting, the binding force of party nomination, and also the forms of legislative procedure.
You see then that in our modern society changes of immense scope have been made in the fundamental principles of the social order. All traditions of government and society have been called in question and put on trial. New interests, new institutions, new faiths, new conceptions of life have arisen within two or three centuries. Industry and commerce have changed their form, education has been revolutionized, the press has come into being. Now the question arises as to what regulations we shall adopt for the constitution of the social body under this new state of things. The traditions and usages of past ages are broken, or at least discredited. New conditions require new institutions and we turn away from tradition and prescription to re-examine the data from which we may learn what principles of the social order are true, that is, conform to human nature and to the conditions of human society. This inquiry embraces political economy, or the science of wealth, as well as comparative politics, jurisprudence, international law, the theory of the state, the theory of government, and the history of all these. This is political science in its widest sense and this I propose to make the subject of my lectures to the graduates during the present term. I call it the Encyclopædia of Political Science, borrowing the name the Germans have given to it. It treats of the divisions and subdivisions of the science and of their relation to each other, serving to map out the whole field, giving a brief description of each part, and preparing the way for further intelligent study of details. I desire now to show what the immediate, practical, and specific importance of political science is for us Americans of to-day, assuming the existing constitution as permanent and not subject to question.
Here I meet with an embarrassment which oppresses every teacher in the same situation. On the one hand is my obligation to truth which compels me to speak fully and boldly in regard to our national affairs at the present moment, and on the other hand is my duty as an instructor of the young men of the country to train them to respect the institutions and the government of their native land. I should be glad to do justice to the latter duty. I consider it a sad thing that the favorite subjects for college exercises should be the corruption and misbehavior of the public men of the country. I dislike to hear the government of the country referred to in terms of commonplace contempt by young men who, by reason of youth, ought to be ultra-patriotic, if anything, and yet I cannot rebuke it because I know how much ground there is for it. I dislike to hear politicians sneered at and the career of politics tossed aside as if it were the career of a swindler, for I hold politics — or, if we must abandon the degraded word, statesmanship — to be the grandest calling open to men; and yet, if a young friend of mine goes into politics I feel mis givings for his future, not lest he may not get rich, for that is probable enough, but lest he may lose the manliness and honor of a gentleman and may acquire the character of an intriguer and a gambler. But my duty to scientific truth is here paramount to all others and the degraded state of American politics and public life is the evil with which I have to deal. I can no more avoid describing it than a physician lecturing on pathology could desist from the description of a loathsome disease. I desire only that I may not be ranked amongst those dilettante politicians and essayists who sneer at everything American as a means of showing their elevated culture, nor with those flaccid cosmopolitans who boast of being superior to narrow claims of nationality and who certainly do their duty by no nation.
The American Constitution, at the time at which it was formed, embodied the most advanced doctrines of political science which had then been developed. The courage with which the men of that day grasped these advanced principles and embodied them in their new scheme of government excites admiration and astonishment. During the first years of our national life the few limitations on popular sovereignty which the Federal party had retained were overthrown. Since that time we have added nothing to the world's knowledge or experience of political science. It has, on the contrary, been demonstrated in our history that representative government is, as yet, by no means perfect, but that much yet remains to be done to elaborate a system of such government which shall be efficient and shall be guarded against evils — evils which, though different in form, axe as grievous as those which are incidental to other forms of government. We have seen the departments of the government degenerate, the judiciary forfeit the respect of the people, the legislature fall under the manipulations of the lobby, the executive transgress the bounds of its authority to interfere in local affairs, the machinery of parties get into the hands of a set of men without character, who make a living which they could earn in no other way by low political intrigues. We have come to regard the touch of politics as carrying contagion to religion, to education, to every interest which it touches, and yet, under our system of government and society I beg you to notice that we cannot separate politics from one or all of these things. Our politics are our public life. Our society is and must be and ought to be nothing but our politics. We have brought state, government, polities, down into every man's keeping. We have developed a civilization in which no man and no interest stands alone, and our political life is in and pervades all our national life to bring either health or decay. It must touch everything. Those things which we try to keep aloof from it are languishing on account of their separation from the real vital pulse of the nation. Our religion is dying out because it is divorced from the living interests of the nation. Our educational institutions are far short of what they ought to be because they cannot be entrusted to the care of the state, and, on the other hand, our educated men miss their share, their due influence on the public life of the nation. They are regarded almost like foreign intruders on that field. What then? Ought we to commit these institutions to the state as it is? We dare not and cannot. The fate of the churches which have made this alliance and the shameful history of the agricultural college land-grants forbids it. We must, however, understand that the regeneration of our political system is on that account only the more imperative and that we must seek its regeneration by returning to first principles and applying them with scientific rigor. I propose to give a course of lectures on the political and financial history of the United States, in which I shall try to set forth the mistakes of which we now see the fruits.
I hasten on, however, to speak in a similar brief manner of the department which now more especially demands our attention — political economy. This branch of political science has at present the most vital importance for the American people. I measure its importance not by the stir which it is now making in party politics, for that is slight enough. A languor and apathy have settled upon the people. This is a remarkable phenomenon, but I suppose that it may be a nervous reaction after the period of war and reconstruction, similar to that which overcomes an individual after a great nervous excitement. A movement has indeed originated in the West from which something may eventually come, though as yet I see in it no signs of that sober desire to investigate causes which must precede any successful attempt at cure, nor any of those plans and methods of action which alone lead to correct and beneficial results. But it is the duty of this chair to measure national needs by a knowledge of the national status, not by public sensations, and I affirm that the questions on which our national future to-day depends are questions of political economy, questions of labor and capital, of finance and taxation. The fruits of the Civil War did not cease when the armies disbanded. It left us with financial and industrial legacies whose fruits, as every student of political economy and social science knows, are slow in ripening; and they contain seeds of future and still more disastrous crops. No man can estimate these long following results. No man can tell what social, moral, and political transformations they may produce. There is no field of activity which now calls so urgently for the activity of honest and conscientious men as the enlightenment of the American public on the nature and inevitable results of the financial and industrial errors to which they are committed. I do not indeed expect that this continent is to become a wilderness again. I would not exaggerate. I know that a people can and will drag on a slow existence under the most unfavorable social, political, and industrial circumstances, and I know that the resources of this continent are such that we may waste and squander recklessly without feeling those bitter consequences whose healing function it is, in the moral order, to warn and convince us of mistakes. But the duty of the economist is not simply to learn how to avoid waste of what has been won but to learn the laws by which there may be no falling short of the utmost that might be attained; and the duty of the social scientist is to teach that moral and social deterioration follows inevitably upon economical mistakes, whether, looking to our general ratio of physical comfort, it may be said that we can afford to waste or cannot. This continent has never been used economically for production in the sense above described. It has always fallen far short of the development of which it has been capable under the circumstances of any given time, if it had been used according to the best economic knowledge of that time. Perhaps this is true now more than ever.
The patriotism with which the American people submitted to the burdens of taxation and paper money, believing them to be necessary parts of the evil of the War, is deserving of the most enthusiastic admiration. It serves only to deepen the sadness with which the economist must declare the conviction that the paper money never was a necessity, never could in the nature of things be a necessity any more than it could be necessary for a physician to poison a patient in order to cure him of fever or for a man to become bankrupt to escape insolvency; and also this other conviction, not a matter of science but of history, that the necessity for taxation has been abused by the creation of a protective tariff which increases the burden which it pretends to carry. These two subjects, money and tariff, will be the subjects of my lectures during the present term. I say money because I intend to treat the subject exhaustively and to bring the paper money into its proper connection. Next term I hope to offer to the graduate students a course on finance and taxation, treating those subjects with more independence of actual circumstances, and according to the principles which science dictates.
Now as to the method which I pursue. I say nothing here of the conflicting schools, the historical and the philosophical, into which political scientists are divided. The philosophical or a priori or speculative method is perfectly legitimate. I was glad to see that Professor Tyndall, a year ago, vindicated the deductive method even for the physical sciences. This method is the prerogative of genius. But the inductive method, though slower and more commonplace, is far more sure and convincing. The only real antagonism of method is between the scientific and the traditional or dogmatic. Here I take sides decidedly. I have no confidence in any results which are not won by scientific method and I leave aside all traditional and dogmatic systems as scarcely worth noticing. I insist upon strictness of definition, correctness of analysis, precision in observing phenomena, deliberation in comparison, correctness of inference, and exhaustiveness in generalization. These are what constitute the scientific method as applied to diverse subjects. I vindicate for this department of study the character of a true science — not of a closed and finished science but of a science true by virtue of the methods by which the truth is discovered. We shall find the data of our study to some extent in history and statistics, for I think that it is here that we must look for the facts upon which a true science of politics and political economy is to be built; but our history and our statistics are, as yet, by no means in the form of perfection which is required by the economist if he is to build his science upon them. We shall not therefore shun the a priori process where we are thrown upon it as our only resource, and in discussing the details of practical politics, many of which are unprecedented, we shall have recourse to considerations of expediency as the true rule which governs such matters.
My course for the present year, then, involves for the seniors the study of political economy, with especial reference in the lectures to paper money and tariff. In our English text-book these things are curtly dismissed as covered, as indeed they are, by a few common sense reflections. As these, however, are living questions amongst us, I must subject them to full investigation. In the second term we shall study the science of government and the theory of the state — political science in its narrower use. In the third term, international law. To the graduates I offer a course this term on the Encyclopaedia of Political Science as the basis of a knowledge of the whole subject. In the second term I shall lecture on finance and taxation, this being really a continuation of the lectures on political economy, and in the third term on the history of politics and finance in the United States. In future years, as the University course develops, I hope to take up other branches of the wide department which has been entrusted to me here and gradually to win for this chair the influence which belongs to it as the chair of political science in the first university of the republic. My aim will be to give to those who visit this university faith in science, in thought, in training as applied to politics. I desire to use the opportunity given me to furnish the country with citizens of sterling worth, and to give to the professions men whose public influence will tell in the cause of liberty, industry, and honesty. I hope that those of you who become lawyers will learn how to legislate far-sightedly for the permanent welfare of a free people, not to follow the clamor of a noisy faction. I hope that those of you who become editors will learn to wield honorably the immense power you will enjoy for the instruction and molding of public opinion. I hope that those of you who become clergymen will teach that no one can be a righteous man in our time and country unless he is also a faithful citizen. I hope also that the career of politics may open in the future in such a way as to tempt the ambition of the best youth of the republic. Republics learn only by experience, but the bitter experience will not be wanting. The men of this generation are not doing their duty by the men of the next. They are putting off hard duties and are shirking responsibilities and are relaxing the political virtue of the country. In one way or another the results will inevitably come. When they come, I am of opinion that the American people will find that it does not pay to be ruled by small men. They will look about in their need for men who know what ought to be done and how to do it. It is my duty here to try to provide that when such a time comes the men may be ready; and to you I say that, whether you are in the ranks of the citizens — where you will need to know how to choose your leaders — or whether you are called to fulfill the responsibilities of office yourselves, the course of study upon which we now enter deserves your most careful application.