“The Failure of Republics” American Sentinel 14, 32, pp. 498, 499.

EUROPEAN writers are expressing and discussing “a decline of belief in the value of the republican form of government.” In this discussion, of course, the United States forms a prominent item. This is altogether a pertinent question.

A republican form of government being “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” is simply self-government. The people govern themselves by themselves for themselves. And as each individual, as far as he personally is concerned, is the people, a republican form of government—self-government—is that in which each individual governs himself by himself—by his own powers of self-restraint exercised upon himself—for himself, for his own best good in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And so long as that is done, a republic anywhere is a success. But, in a republic, just as soon as a single individual fails to govern himself by himself for himself, that republic has begun to fail; and so far as that individual is concerned, a republican form of government is a failure, is of no value.

Just as soon as two individuals fail to govern themselves, the republic is just so much more of a failure. Yet so long as the majority of the people composing a republic, do individually govern themselves, by themselves for themselves, the government will be a success; because they, being the majority, are able to protect themselves from the infringements of those who fail to govern themselves and have to be governed.

But just a moment the majority turns to the other side, the moment the number who fail to govern themselves crosses the line and becomes greater than the number of those who do govern themselves, that moment republican government has failed. And though the name may continue for a time, the thing is gone: the government is no longer a republic. At that point however the failure does not so palpably appear as when the majority—those who fail to govern themselves—has become larger yet larger. But when that majority that fails to govern itself, each by himself, becomes so great that its influence is felt upon all the procedure of the government—then republican government has failed utterly; it is no longer a republic in any true sense: it is a despotism. Not indeed a despotism of one, nor of a few, but of the many. And a despotism of the many, of the majority, is not at all the least of despotisms. Yet, then, it is only a question of time when the despotism of the many will merge in a few, then in a very few, and finally in a despotism of one,—and that is monarchy.

Wherever in a republic there is found a man who fails to govern himself by himself, in that man there is found an open bid for a monarchy. And when that man becomes the majority, a monarchy is certain. It may indeed be an elective monarchy, but it is none the less a monarchy.

Thus it is literally true that in government there are just two things, one or the other of which people must consider—republicanism and monarchy: self-government or government by another; liberty or despotism. What is the republic of France to-day, but the former monarchy under another name?

Now any one who for any number of years has read and thought, knows full well that in the United States the number of those in all phases of society who fail to govern themselves is very great and is rapidly on the increase. Notice the startling increase of crime. Notice the strikes that so frequently occur, and at times almost cover the country, invariably accompanied by violence and often by rioting. Notice the electoral corruption—municipal, State, and national. Notice the procedure of State legislatures, especially in the electing of a United States Senator. See the large number of organizations and combinations in different fields, that are constantly being formed for protection and to beat back that which they know is certainly coming to grind them under. But all these combinations, organizations, and associations, are composed only of men who have failed to and do fail as individuals to govern themselves. And a combination of men who, individually, have failed to govern themselves, for the purpose of governing themselves and others, is just as much of a failure in self-government, is just as much of a failure as to a republic, as in the case of the individuals before forming the combination.

Since it republican form of government is only self-government, and since all these things are universal testimony that the great mass of the people of the United States are failing to govern themselves, it is perfectly plain that this great example of republican government in the world is certainly failing. And when such is the truth that is forced upon the attention of the world, and which the outside world is seriously discussing, what is there left for the world to contemplate other than that which with foreboding is mentioned by the London Spectator:—

“The peoples consider only monarchy and republicanism, and, for the reasons we have indicated, the favor [499] of republicanism declines, with a grave result, we fear, in an increase of political hopelessness, and therefore a decrease of political energy.”

And yet, that can only be that monarchies and even society itself, shall fail and perish in their own corruption. Thus has it ever been with the nations; thus only will it ever be. And the end hastens.

A. T. J.

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