April 10, 1890
THE views of government held by Senator Blair, and expressed in the measures originated by him in the United States Senate, are directly antagonistic to the American theory. And that his measures should receive the support that they have received in Congress, and in conventions of organizations, shows that there is a willingness to depart widely from that theory of government which has made this the best Government on the earth, and which is the theory of government which alone is true. The theory of the Government of the United States is self-government. The theory of the Blair legislation is absolutism. In the Government of the United States the people are expected to govern themselves; in the Blair legislation it is assumed that the people are incapable of governing themselves, and must therefore be governed.
Lincoln’s immortal declaration expresses the American idea of government, “A Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” That is, the people compose the Government. It is a Government in which the people act. In this Government the people govern themselves. They do this by their own authority, by their own will, by their own power of government exerted upon themselves by themselves; and they do it for themselves, for their own good. In other words, each one of the people is expected to govern himself by his own self-imposed power of restraint, and he does it for himself, for his own best interests. Such a Government is bound to be the best. So long as a majority of the people shall strictly conform to this idea, so long this Government will be the best. If any of these individuals casts aside or loses his power of governing himself by himself, then, for the public good, he must be governed. If an individual cannot be governed by himself, he must be governed from without himself; and in such a case only is it expected or provided that governmental authority shall be exerted. There is no place for it otherwise. If it should ever be that a majority of the people should cast aside or lose their power of governing themselves by themselves, then a form of government would, in the nature of things, shape itself by which these would be governed by a mere assertion of governmental authority. But such a Government would be a despotism modified, or absolute, according to circumstances. Such a form of Government would be directly opposite to that of the Government of the United States; and such Government never will rightly obtain here until the majority of the people lose the power to govern themselves by themselves, and for themselves. And whenever people with ideas of absolutism, whether in the United States Senate or in organizations of whatever name, undertake to put into laws their absolutist views to be asserted upon the people, then it is for the people patriotically to assert the just ideas of government, and everlastingly relegate such absolutist propositions to the “paradise of fools,” where they certainly belong.
Our whole machinery of government is framed upon this idea, from the precinct or town, through the county and the State, to the national Government. Now from the precinct to the Nation, the idea of each successive form of authority is that it should only be exerted where no other could avail. Beginning with the individual: if every individual would strictly  govern himself by himself, there would be no need to assert the authority even of the precinct to govern. But all men do not do that; and therefore what the individual does not or cannot do, which can be done by the authority of the precinct, is done by it. If it can not be done by the precinct authority, it is done by the county government. And when things arise that cannot be settled by county authority, the State authority is asserted, and must be. And when anything arises that cannot be settled by the State Government, then the authority of the national Government is employed. Thus the forms of the national Government are employed only about those things which cannot be performed by any other. The forms of the State Government are employed only with those things which cannot be performed by any other within the bounds of the State; the forms of the county only with those things which cannot be performed by any other; within the limits of the county, and the forms of the precinct or the town only with those things which cannot be performed by any other means within its limits. All things which can be done by the individual is left for him to do; and it is only when the individual fails, that any power or authority beyond him can act or is expected to act. This is the American theory of government. The power and the form of government springing from the individual, the Government thus deriving its just powers “from consent of the governed.”
Now the theory of the Blair legislation is directly the opposite of this—that the national Government is all-pervading, all-absorbing, and absolute; sweeping away all subordinate forms of government; destroying individuality, and absorbing even the individual himself.
Senator Hale, in his speeeh against the Blair Educational bill, March 7, 1890, has so well described the Blair idea of government and the purpose which is proposed in the Blair Educational amendment, that we allow him to state it in his own words. We quote from the record:—
Now, Mr. President, upon the general proposition that the common schools are better left to the States and to the localities, the Senator from New Hampshire and I are at odds; and his view, not only as to what the Constitution carries, but as to what is wise and practicable for the general Government to do, in many things that come nigh to the every-day life of the people, is not my view.
The Senator is well able to make his views clearly seen and known; and I read now an extract from the speech which he made here when he launched his bill in 1882, as showing the conception that he then had of the wide extent to which the general Government should interfere in the work of establishing common schools. What the Senator said further shows his understanding of the reach of the general powers of the Federal Government under our fundamental law.
Here is what the Senator said:—
The Nation is a whole. As such it must act; as such it is to be saved or lost. In this battle for its life the whole line must be maintained or advanced. Reinforcements must be sent to the weakest parts. Because they are the weakest is the reason that help is wanted. If they were strong no reinforcements would be needed. Nor does it change the duty and necessity, even if there be forces, unless they fight. They must still be aroused to duty, for the work must be done. The evil is the same whether the battle be lost for one cause or for another; but in this struggle I believe there is as great danger to the future of the country from the northern cities as from the southern States.
Mr. President, we may look far and wide, and search long and deep, before we will find in the record of any debate that has taken place in Congress for a hundred years, a clearer and stronger and more sweeping statement of the doctrine of those who believe that in the general Government lies the power to do all things; and that whenever and wherever a trouble arises, or a wrong is found, or a grievance appears, or an unsatisfactory condition exists, then it is not only within the Constitution, but both wise and practicable, for the general Government to assume control and to find the remedy.
It is a remarkable and eloquent statement which the Senator from New Hampshire made, and covers all the ground. Senators will perceive that he is not here advocating the somewhat occult but undoubted power which lies in our Government, as it must lie in any well-ordered government, the power of “self-preservation,” the power which exists ex necessitate rei. He has talked a great deal about this in the debate which has arisen here during this session, and he has wisely left his larger view, which he maintained in 1882, in the background; but his bill is the same, his purpose is the same, and if the measure shall ever be enacted into law it carries with it all the vast, stately, majestic programme which he has marked out as the field for the work of the general Government. He has struck out in one “fell swoop” all the various functions which the States and the municipalities have hitherto exercised upon the subjects which cover the everyday life of the people. He says:—
The Nation is a whole. As such it must act; as such it is to be saved or lost. In this battle for its life the whole line must be maintained and advanced. Reinforcements must be sent to the weakest parts. Because they are the weakest is the reason that help is needed. If they were strong no reinforcements would be needed.
But the Senator goes further. If he finds State and local apathy upon its domestic concerns, he would have the general Government become the agitator and stimulator of life and exertion, and would have all these, which I believe should come from the localities, furnished from the central power. He says:—
Nor does it change the duty and necessity, even if there be forces, unless they fight. They must still be aroused to duty, for the work must be done.
Moreover, Mr. President, as applied to this subject of education, the advocates of the bill, as represented by the Senator from New Hampshire, show that their purposes and intent were for the general Government to assume the sustenance and supply for the common-school system, both North and South. Upon this all-embracing plan, which filled the mind and aroused the imagination of the Senator from New Hampshire, he goes on to say:—
The evil is the same, whether the battle be lost for one cause or for another; but in this struggle I believe there is as great danger to the future of the country from the northern cities as from the southern States,
Mr. Blair rose.
Mr. Hale: I wish the Senator would wait. I shall be through in a few minutes.
Mr. Blair: If the Senator is undertaking to state somewhat of my position, the does not state it fully.
Mr. Hale: I read from the Record.
Mr. Blair: But the Senator does not read all that there is in the Record.
Mr. Hale: No; I have not the time; and I am too old a man. (Laughter.)
Mr. Blair: If the Senator would read all the Record, he would know more about this bill, and he would know more about what I have stated in relation to it, too.
Mr. Hale: I say again, Mr. President, that upon such a vast illimitable scheme of the powers and duties of the general Government connected with the practical question of their exercise, the Senator and I are at odds. His view is neither that which needs to be taken to-day, by reason of the circumstances and conditions that apply and exist in different parts of the United States, now was it the view of the fathers.
Many of those things which appertain to the comfort, the happiness, the welfare of the millions of people in the United States, who make up the best of its population, can be better attended to and managed at home than here; and because of this, as much as because it was not intended that the Federal Government should aggress upon the States, thus the fathers left it.
I say again, Mr. President, the Senator from New Hampshire has not failed to make himself understood. I have no difficulty in seeing the picture which the Senator has before his mind. I have to take no pains in discerning the outcome of a rule or policy that illustrates such a picture. Whether the Senator at once seizes for the general Government exclusive supply and control of the common schools, or whether he makes his approach gradual and by devious steps, the result is the same.
When the Federal Government takes upon itself a portion of the work of maintaining the common school system of the country, that moment local and State interest begin to decline; that moment another set of feelings and desires and expectations relating to education takes possession of the minds of the people—the desire to secure more, the desire to be free from home burdens,—and out of this comes the death of the local and neighborhood feeling which has given vitality to our common schools. The humble but useful fabric reared by the Iocal and State interests is torn down, and in its stead is built up a vast, imposing structure, reared and maintained by the general Government.
Under such a doctrine as this, whether applied to common schools or to other various subjects which are better left to the localities, but one result will follow—the line of local interest and State interest, the line of local power and State power, recedes and fades, an uncertain shifting shore that disappears before the restless aggrandizing sea of Federal interference.
Let these principles be made more of, and spread everywhere and sacredly held by all the people, that a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” may not perish from the earth.
A. T. J.