December 3, 1896
WE have before mentioned the fact that, on both sides, in the late political campaign, there was frequent mention made of the French Revolution. Each side charged the other with showing alarming characteristics of that notable period of history.
Last week in these columns we pointed out the most dangerous of all these characteristics that could possibly appear—the danger of an established religion professing to be Christianity. And though this greatest danger must, and will, be kept before the people, as it is the great and leading issue; yet there are others only less important, and that contribute to the success of this greatest of all, which must be point out, and which must be avoided by all who would escape the vortex toward which these things are certainly tending.
Only less remarkable than the national atheism that was developed in the French Revolution, was the development of a one-man power. As Napoleon was “returning from Notre Dame, after the ceremonies which had marked the conclusion of the Concordat,” he exclaimed, “Now the French Revolution is finished.” Napoleon could see plainly enough that he was the logical result of at least one series of events. And the situation that found its logical result in a Napoleon in France a hundred years ago, has to-day, in the United States, its counterpart in more than one of itsphases.
This is evident from the fact that it was apparent to both sides, and was much emphasized in the discussions by the leaders, in the late campaign. Nor was this seen only by men in this country. It was seen and pointedly commented on by French thinkers also. Just before the National Conventions were held, the Paris Figaro, remarking upon the issues that were prominent in the campaign, said:—
“Are the Americans in quest of a Napoleon? Are they moving in the direction of a dictatorship, the precursor of demagogic or military despotism? In the case of a people which hitherto has made it a point of honor to renovate, and not to follow, history’s general laws, this would certainly be an unexpected yet possible evolution.”
Certainly if any are qualified to discern such symptoms, the French are the ones. To those thinkers the issues involved in the French Revolution are as familiar as are those of the American Revolution to American thinkers. And when these men, being to-day upon the very spot and among the memorials of the French Revolution, can look across the ocean and at such a distance see that which causes them with interest to ask, “Are the American in quest of a Napoleon? Are they moving in the direction of a dictatorship, the precursor of demagogic or military despotism?” surely it is time for the people of this country to ask themselves whether they had not better begin seriously to consider the situation.
Nor is it symptoms that suggest the French Revolution alone, that this writer sees here: he sees also that which is suggestive of the course of the republic of ancient Rome. Upon this he remarks that “if America like to indulge in the luxury of passing in a century and a half at most through all the stages to be found in the history of Rome, that is her affair;” and notes “the Cesarian tendencies which have shown themselves too often in the United States during the last thirty years.”
Thus it is apparent that, from the examples of France and Rome, the one thing that strikes the attention of this writer, in studying the conditions in the United States, is the development of a one-man power. Thinkers, both writers and speakers, at home here, have called attention to the same thing. Indeed, it is strange that there should be anybody who thinks so little as not to be able to see it.
Looked at on strictly the civil side, the one great question at issue in France and Rome, at these crises in their history, was the question of “Capital and Labor,” precisely as now in strictly the civil aspect this is the one great q uestion in the United States. In France one hundred years ago, there were vast aggregations of capital, the power which it gave being used only to crush out all competition and all idea of competition, and the wealth itself being used only to satisfy the extravagant and inventive genius of idle luxury; precisely as in the United States to-day.
On the other hand, and against the  aggregations of capital, were vast aggregations of labor, bent on gaining power by which there should be assured a more equable distribution of the good things of life that were monopolized by the few; precisely as there is in the United States to-day.
This condition of things produced in Rome a one-man power—Cesar. The like condition produced in France a one-man power—Napoleon. And now in the United States, the condition like to both that have gone before, as certainly as it shall be continued, can produce nothing less here than it produced in both instances before.
Indeed the elements at work to-day on both sides of this question, are themselves systematically developing a one-man power, and as systematically training men into ready submission to such power.
In the great business “Trusts” that are formed, men who individually have built up a successful business, deliberately surrender into the hands of the “Trust” their whole business and all their interests in that business, and shut down or start up only as the management of the “Trust” directs. However much the actual owner of the business may desire to go on with it, he cannot do so unless the manager of the “Trust” orders it. Thus it is in many of the leading businesses all over the land. And thus thousands of men all over the land have sold themselves, and are still selling themselves, to a one-man power; and are systematically training themselves into subjection to a one-man power. Only let the day come when a combination of these “Trust” interests shall have one of their number at the head of the government, and the country will find itself too, sold to a one-man power.
On the other hand, there are the great federations and Confederations of Labor, formed to oppose the “tyranny” of the federations and Confederations of Capital; but which themselves are only so many “Trusts” of another sort. Workingmen of every trade and occupation band themselves together and deliberately surrender into the hands of the president and the walking delegate the whole of their individuality. Their managers may sit in their offices in New York, Cleveland, Chicago, or wherever they may be, and send by telegraph a single word; and whether it be at midday or midnight, throughout half the country men will drop their tools and walk away from their work. Individually they may have no sort of grievance; their own personal choice would be to continue work; but the word has come from one man, the chief, whom personally they may not know, and may never even have seen; and though they may not know why, yet the word has come and they quit work and walk away to spend days, or weeks, or months, in absolute idleness, and they and their families in want. How would it be possible more plainly to show the insidious growth of a one-man power? Thus multitudes of people all over the land have sold themselves, and are still selling themselves, to the dictates of a one-man power; and are systematically training themselves into unquestioning subjection to a one-man power.
And have there not been sufficient illustrations of this to awaken the country to the imminent danger of it? In 1894 one man sat in Chicago and so suspended traffic and transportation over all the country from Lake Erie to the Pacific, that governors of “sovereign States” considered it necessary obsequiously to solicit that they be permitted by this one man, a private individual, in Chicago, to journey on official business within their own States. Only let the day come when one of these chiefs, or one representing the same interests, shall be placed at the head of the government; is there room for doubt that the nation would find itself under a one-man power?
The religious elements of the country are also, both by doctrine and by practice, being systematically trained into the same thing. They are continually trained in the pernicious theory that they must control the government. They are continually trained in the despotic doctrine that governments do not derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; but from “the will of God,” with themselves as the divinely-appointed expositors of that “will.” And in the practice of this pernicious theory, and this despotic doctrine, in the endeavor to take possession of the government, they are systematically training themselves into ready and unquestioning subjection to a one-man power. Only let the day come when one of these managers, or one devoted to their interests, shall be placed at the head of the government, and the country will find itself under the domination of a one-man power.
Take then the element of the aggregations of Capital, and the element of the aggregations of Labor against the aggregations of Capital, and the element of the aggregation of religious but earthly power—these three elements embrace the vast majority of the people of the United States. And when, as is the undeniable fact, these three elements are systematically training into blind submission to a one-man power, themselves and all whom they can influence, how long can it possibly be before the nation shall certainly fall under the domination of a one-man power?
This is not to say that these three elements will united to bring the country under a one-man power. It is only to call attention to the open prospect, that whichever of the three shall win, in the struggle for possession of the national power, the country must certainly fall under the domination of a one-man power.
We have not space this week to discuss this question in other important bearings. Besides, what has been said is enough to contemplate for a week. It will not do to pass this off with a “pooh-pooh.” The situation may indeed be not exactly pleasant for you to contemplate, but there is no denying that this is a fair presentation of the situation as it really is before this country. And the situation as it is, calls just now for serious thinking. To pass it off without this serious thinking, is only surely to hasten the coming of such a condition of things as will compel serious thinking. It will be better to give the subject the serious thought that it demands, before it be too late.
Neither is there space now fully to point out the only safe course to take both for yourself and for the country. We can here cite but one admonition that the Lord gives to all for this time: “The Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary.” Isaiah 8:11-13.