Front Page Titles (by Subject) EPILOGUE TO THIS AND THE TWO LAST PRECEDING CHAPTERS - The American Commonwealth, vol. 2
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EPILOGUE TO THIS AND THE TWO LAST PRECEDING CHAPTERS - Viscount James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, vol. 2 
The American Commonwealth, with an Introduction by Gary L. McDowell (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995). Vol. 2.
Part of: The American Commonwealth, 2 vols.
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EPILOGUE TO THIS AND THE TWO LAST PRECEDING CHAPTERS
The illustrations given in these three chapters of perversions of popular government carry their moral with them, and only a few parting comments are needed.
Neither of the two great political parties has had in respect of the events narrated a better record than its rival. If the Tammany Ring sheds little lustre upon the Democrats of New York, the Gas Ring of Philadelphia is no more creditable to the Republicans of Pennsylvania.
Both in New York and in Philadelphia there was nothing truly political in the character and career of the rings. Tammany had been for thirty years a selfish combination of men who had purely personal ends to serve; and Tweed in particular was a mere vulgar robber. So the Gas Ring strove and throve, and its successors have striven and thriven, solely to secure patronage and gain to their respective members. True indeed it is that neither in New York nor in Philadelphia could the rings have won their way to power without the connivance of chiefs among the national parties, who needed the help of the vote the rings controlled; true also that that vote would never have become so large had not many citizens looked on the rings as the “regular” organizations, and heirs of the local party traditions. But neither ring had ever any distinctive principles or proposals; neither ever appealed to the people on behalf of a doctine or a scheme calculated to benefit the masses. Lucre, with office as a means to lucre, was their only aim, the party for the sake of the party their only watchword.
What, then, are the salient features of these two cases, and what the lessons they enforce? They are these. The power of an organization in a multitude; the facility with which the administrative machinery of government may be made the instrument of private gain; the disposition of the average respectable citizen to submit to bad government rather than take the trouble of overthrowing it. These are not wholly new phenomena, but they are hardly such as would have been looked for in the United States; and not one of them was feared when Tocqueville wrote.
Very different, and far less discreditable to those concerned, was the case of California. The movement which gave birth to the new constitution was a legitimate political movement. It was crude in its aims, and tainted with demagogism in its methods. But it was evoked by real evils; and it sought, however ignorantly, the public good. Kearney had no sordid personal ends to serve, and gained for himself nothing more solid than notoriety. His agitation was essentially the same as that which has appeared in the Western states under the forms of Grangerism, the Farmers’ Alliance, and Populism, an effort to apply political remedies to evils, real or supposed, which are mainly economic rather than political, and only a part of which legislation can remove. Similar movements must from time to time be expected; all that can be hoped is to keep them within constitutional lines, and prevent them from damaging the credit and retarding the prosperity of the states they affect. Nothing is more natural than that those who suffer from hard times and see that a few men grow rich while the vast majority remain poor should confound the mischiefs which arise from state or city maladministration and from the undue power which the laws have permitted corporations to acquire with other hardships due to the constitution of human nature and the conditions of the world we live in, and should, possessing the whole power of the state, strike out wildly at all three at once. In a country so little restrained by ancient traditions or deference to the educated class as is Western America, a country where the aptitude for politics is so much in advance of economic wisdom, it is less surprising that these storms should sometimes darken the sky than that they should uproot so little in their course.