THE AMERICAN SENTINEL aims to be true to its name, and to call attention to the dangers threatening our country. And though the chief danger, and that in which all other dangers culminate, lies in National Reform, yet it is both interesting and profitable to take other views of the political horizon than that which lies directly in the line of vision toward National Reform. The following we think is worthy the serious consideration of every thoughtful person.
In 1857 Lord Macaulay writing of the American Republic used these words:—
“The day will come when, in the State of New York, a multitude of people, not one of whom has had more than half a breakfast, or expects to have more than half a dinner, will choose a Legislature. Is it possible to doubt what sort of a Legislature will be chosen? On one side is a statesman preaching patience, respect for vested rights, strict observance of public faith; on the other is a demagogue, canting about the tyranny of capitalists and usurers, and asking why anybody should be permitted to drink champagne and to ride in carriages, while thousands of honest folks are in want of necessaries. Which of the two candidates is likely to be preferred by the workingman who hears his children crying more bread? I seriously apprehend that you will, in some such seasons of adversity as have described, do things which will prevent prosperity from returning. Either some Cesar or Napoleon will seize the reins of government with a strong hand, or your Republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the twentieth century as the Roman Empire was in the fifth, with this difference, that the Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country and by your own institutions.”
With that please read the following editorial note from the Argonaut (S. F.), of November 6, 1886.—
“Mr. Henry George has not carried New York, and has not become its mayor, but this is what has been done: An impecunious adventurer, who has no property, pays no taxes, has no residence or citizenship anywhere—so far as we know—takes his grip-sack in his hand and moves to the great American metropolis, and, gathering around him all there is of poverty, ignorance, discontent, and crime, proclaims himself a candidate for mayor; without party, or press, or money, he organizes discontent, and, becoming its leader, he marshals a band of men who have little to lose and much to gain, and marches them to the ballot-box to obtain control of the government of a city containing more than a million of people and more than a thousand millions of aggregated wealth. That he does not succeed may be a matter of congratulation; that he came within a few thousand votes of his successful opponent, seems to us an incident of great significance, that carried with it the suggestion of danger. In saying this it is not necessary to deny to Mr. Henry George great ability thorough integrity of purpose. We may not call him crank or impracticable theorist; but the danger lies in the fact that the class of discontents is so numerous, and that it can be brought together for a political purpose, and become subordinate to party discipline, and wielded for political use. When one reflects in this direction, he can but question whether the unlimited exercise of the elective franchise ought not to be taken from an alien immigrating class, in order that the ranks of this dangerous and restless element may be prevented from further enlargement.”
Then in connection with these two extracts the following from an editorial in the November Century is interesting and strongly suggestive. Under the heading of “The Congressional Balance-sheet” is given a striking illustration of the incapability, if not the failure, of Congress as a legislative body. The editor says:—
“The reader may perhaps desire an explanation of this failure of our national Legislative. Let him then go to Washington while the two Houses are in session. Let him sit in the gallery of the Senate, provided an ‘executive session’ does not turn him out; let him scan the faces of the Senators, reflect upon their previous records, and consider how many of them came to occupy their present positions.
“Let him then go and sit for a time in the gallery of the House of Representatives, and watch that national bear-garden. Let him enjoy the usual scene—one purple-faced Representative sawing the air in the progress of what is technically called an ‘oration;’ a dozen or more highly-amused colleagues surrounding him; the rest of the members talking at the top of their voices, clapping their hands for pages, writing, reading, telling funny stories and laughing uproariously at them, making social calls from desk to desk, doing anything and everything except the business for which they are paid.
“Let him try to estimate the rapidity with which a plain business man, finding his clerks engaged in such a scene during business hours, would make a ‘clean sweep’ of them. He will no longer ask an explanation of the congressional balance-sheet. What better result could be expected from two Houses, each in its own way controlled by influences antagonistic to intelligent legislation? Congress is no longer a legislative body. Its degeneration is now admitted. It consists now of a plutocracy at one end, and a mobocracy at the other. The two chronic perils of a democracy have a firm grip on the Congress of the United States.
“Here is no question of comparative guilt or responsibility. Each House is as bad in its way as the other. Nor is there any partisan question involved. The course of Congress has for years been downhill. Able and sincere men are still to be found in both Houses, yet each successive Congress is, on the whole, worse than its predecessors; not because Democrats or Republicans control it, but because it is two years further on the road…
“The Congress of the United States has become the most incapable legislative body of the constitutional world. So far as the Senate is concerned, its case is hopeless; the only remedy is outside of it, in the regeneration of the constituencies which elect the Senators. The case of the House is somewhat different; its failure may be redeemed by reform within itself.”
But the prospect of a cure by this prescription is as hopeless as is the case for which it is given. “The only remedy for the Senate” is said to be in the regeneration of the constituencies which elect the Senators. But the constituencies are as corrupt as is the Senate. Else how is it that the Senate is so bad? The House it is said “may be redeemed by reform within itself.” It might be it is true. But will it be? Is there hope of reform from such a source? To think so is like expecting a man to lift himself by the straps of his boots. In the last resort therefore we see only that the whole case, as the editor says of that of the Senate, is hopeless.
In view of these things stated by the Argonaut and the Century, Lord Macaulay’s words are remarkable. And when we view the destructive violence of the participants in the almost perpetual strikes, their secret and sometimes open sympathy with Anarchists, and their always open advocacy of Socialism, which can only end in anarchy, it appears as though the American “Huns and Vandals” mentioned by Macaulay are almost ready to burst upon the nation. And though Macaulay places the time of plunder in “the twentieth centuy;” and though there remain but thirteen years before the twentieth century comes; yet we very much doubt whether the nineteenth century instead of the twentieth will not see this time of ruin so clearly pictured by this justly eminent writer and thinker. For when the Hun and the Vandal came upon Rome there was no Cesar, and the time of the American Huns and Vandals seems too near to hope for a Cesar here.
Yet there is one more step that may be taken before ruin is reached. That is, let the whole body—representatives and constituencies—become permeated with the vileness of an apostate church; let religious hypocrisy be added to political chicanery and legislative incompetency, then will be reached the condition in which Rome stood at the time to which Macaulay refers, and having reached it, a dreadful fall awaits this nation, as surely as red-handed ruin fell upon Rome. And that there may not be a single color lacking in the lurid picture, National Reform presents itself, and in it the embodiment of the last element of corruption needed to fill up the cup of iniquity, as Rome’s was filled when ruin overtook her. History does repeat itself. And if any just lesson may be drawn from history, it seems that this one must be that ruin stands at the doors of our nation to-day; and the National Reform party has its hand upon the latch ready to open and let her in.
A. T. J.