Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

Republican clubmen to place Mr. Clarkson in the awkward position of a man compelled to condemn his own occupation. That his sense of the eternal fitness of things overcame the feeling of private wrong is to be reckoned to his credit. We have it now on the authority of an expert 66 practical" politician that politics is not business, and cannot be made business-like without injury: shall we then hesitate longer to abolish the post-office?

A great deal may be said in favor of that conservatism which aims at resisting rapid changes of the political or social systems, however vigorously urged, under the alluring name of "Reform." But there is a pseudo-conservatism abroad which, instead of confining itself to the proper function of Conservatism, threatens instead to drag us backwards. It is at least as much the duty of true conservatism to hold fast whatever good has already been achieved as to check hasty changes. For the present, both here and in Europe, true political conservatism has had its place usurped by the sham; and the result is that we have two parties pulling, indeed, in opposite directions, but no resistance to change whatever. Now one, presently the other humor prevails, and the status quo suffers depredations from both sides.

In England, for instance, the signs of degeneracy are conspicious. No conservative party being left, but only a number of factions, each with a panacea for existing ills, it has happened that one of the prevailing nostrums is a return to practices of a hundred years ago. If any of the spirit of true conservatism were left, it would offer an ever greater resistance to a relapse into ancient and discarded methods than to indulgence in untried experiments. Surely it is more foolish to persist in repeating experiments already amply tried than to indulge in a new one which may, after all, turn out favorably. But the truth is that there is no conservatism left in England, any more than here. The party that goes by that name in England, like the Democratic in this country, seems to have had its faith completely pummelled out of it-a description which makes up in force and accuracy what it lacks in elegance. These parties, in their respective countries, are inspired with timidity as regards their traditions, and with a

more fervent desire to save their own skins than to save anything else, good or bad.

In England, the relapse into childishness is marked by the reappearance of false and futile philanthropy. After an experience of the effects of compulsory charity, which would certainly have left a lasting impression if anything would, England is again indulging in the often-tried, but never-justified, experiment. In various parts of the country, the people are being pauperized by the revival of the system of "outdoor relief," and the extension of the indoor system-if that can be called system which has neither rhyme nor reason in it. According to Mr. Mackay, who has attended to the subject carefully, the tendency in England is decidedly retrograde in this respect. In the language of the Spectator:

Our present Guardians have largely forgotten the crisis and the causes which led to the condemnation of outdoor relief and the Poor Law Act of 1834, and, misled by false and short-sighted notions of humanity and economy, have reverted largely to outdoor relief. The consequence is, that pauperization is incessantly going on, and the attempt to lessen the rates by it is incessantly raising them. It is deplorable to learn that the Unions of Southwell, in Nottinghamshire, and Bingham, which were in 1834 pioneers and examples of the good effect of restricting outdoor relief, have now lapsed into laxity.

The city of London, says the Spectator, "in spite of the hundreds of thousands a year of charities, has made sixty-two paupers to every thousand people." But it were more accurate, as well as more forcible, to adhere to the same form of expression throughout: the city of London has made sixty-two paupers per thousand, by means of its hundreds of thousands a year in charities.

It is bad enough, in all conscience, that we should not be preserved from such harms as these, by a little foresight; how much worse, alas, that retrospect seems equally unable to serve our turn! Scarcely fifty years have elapsed since compulsory charity produced disaster of the gravest kind in England; and yet another crisis is being prepared by precisely the same causes. Thousands of people are still alive who must remember the pauper panic of 1830-34; yet the pauperization has begun anew. Over six per cent of the inhabitants of the City are paupers! but, and mark this well in the much poorer parish of Whitechapel, only sixteen per one thousand are paupers.

-

-

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

If the intention is to convey the information that the Young Democrats, if they were put in control of the Government, would not proceed rashly and ruthlessly to cut down the manufacturer's profit, it would be better to express this determination plainly and simply, and in a form that should do no violence to principles which are merely generalized experience. There should be no aggressive duties - that is a principle of the Democratic party, or else it has no principle. But there are aggressive duties! And the Democratic party may, if it likes, adopt another sound principle: that, when it is put in control, it will take account of things as they are, as well as of things as they should be. The special case with which the Young Democrats will have to deal, if fortune smiles on them, is the tariff. And it is no violation of principle, on the contrary, it is adherence to principle- to generalized experience that the treatment to which the tariff should be subjected must be based on the consideration that the tariff exists. It would be wrong, and therefore injurious, to aggress on the profits of existing manufacturers, as it has been wrong and injurious to aggress on

the profits of others for their advantage. To be sure, the choice is between two evils, aud experience leaves us no doubt as to which should be chosen. Equally, however, experience leaves no doubt that the reduction, and the final abolition, of the aggressive factors of the tariff should be gradual-much more gradual than the introduction of the factors has been. But all this can be expressed in a declaration of principles without sacrificing either brevity, clearness, or force.

It has been interesting, even amusing, to the missionary to see the Hindus, during the last few years, courting theosophy as an ally in the work of opposing and defaming Christianity in India. It has, however, been left to this Hindoo Tract Society to lock hands with atheism in its vulgar and scurrilous diatribes against Christianity. The largest tract which this society has published is purely a reprint of a portion of an American infidel attack on our religion; and the so-called arguments which it presents are almost without exception an echo of Ingersoll's "Mistakes of Moses," and of Bradlaugh's" Mistakes of Jesus." Verily, Herod and Pilate have again become friends.

As a symptom of this high religious fever among the people, we might add the fact that the writings of English and American rationalists, and such anti-Christian scientists as Huxley, are, by native orators and by editors of Hindoo newspapers, ransacked for expressions of the writers' belief that Christianity is either defunct or moribund, and is being deserted by all men of thought and culture in Europe and America. Such expressions, sometimes misunderstood and distorted, are scattered broadcast over the land, accompanied invariably by the reflection "Shall we abandon our blessed, divine Aryan religion in exchange for this foreign religion of the white men, which they themselves are condemning and deserting?" The quantity of this literature found in India to-day is enormous, and the zeal with which it is propagated is phenomenal, and, if properly understood in America, would undoubtedly tend to rouse many sleepy, self-complacent churches. The writer has, during the last six months, seen more of the great missionary controversy published in one anti-Christian secular paper in South India than in all the Christian and

[blocks in formation]

LEGISLATION MADE EASY.

“When, as in the United States, republican institutions, instead of being slowly evolved, are all at once created, there grows up within them an agency of wire-pulling politicians, exercising a real rule, which overrides the nominal rule of the people at large. When, as at home, an extended franchise, very soon re-extended, vastly augments the mass of those, who, having before been controlled, are made controllers, they presently fall under the rule of an organized body that chooses their candidates. and arranges for them a political programme, which they must either accept or be powerless. So that, in the absence of a duly adapted character, liberty given in one direction is lost in another." Herbert Spencer.

-

It would hardly be anticipated that when, as in the United States, one of these forms of control has become greatly weakened, a movement would arise for imposing the other form. When the ills we have, become easy to bear, let us, so these political philosophers exhort, fly to others that we know not of. For what is the inference to be drawn from the complaints so frequently made as to small amount of legislation that is enacted by Congress? Evidently, that it is difficult to get a bill through both branches, and, therefore, that the chance for wire-pulling and log-rolling legislation. is less than it has been in the past. No complaint is made that not enough measures are proposed, but desire is expressed that there shall be some body of authority which shall force the really important bills upon the attention of the House, for it is against the inefficiency of the House that most of the complaints are directed. Very little anxiety is manifested to secure good legislation, only a large amount. Per

haps it is thought that, if only a sufficient amount is enacted, some of it, by the law of probability, must be good; or, perhaps it is thought that, as there can be no bad whiskey, so there can be no bad legislation.

Mr. Hannis Taylor contributes an article to the Atlantic for June on the inefficiency of the national House as a legislative body, advocating the remedy usually suggested, namely, to take a lesson from England, and give members of the Cabinet seats in the two Houses. Mr. Taylor remarks that it is fortunate that the Constitution offers great resistance to those who are continually proposing to amend it in some vital part. "The operator of a Corliss engine, who would shrink from the task of tampering with any of its vital elements, is always striving, by a careful lubrication and adjustment of its parts, to obtain from it the greatest possible amount of work with the least possible amount of friction." A Corliss engine or the United States Constitution is obviously a very complex thing, but a society is a very simple thing, any of whose parts the averge legislator is fully competent to regulate, if only he can get a chance. Humanity is much easier to manage than iron and coal and steam.

Let us see how much the organic structure of the Constitution would be altered by the plan recommended, that of giving the executive power to initiate legislation. It has been regarded as one of the excellences of our Constitution, that it kept distinct the three branches of Government -the legislative, the judiciary, and the executive. It is evident that, if the same men enact, interpret, and administer the laws, the essence of the Government will be, not the laws but the men. The proposition put forth is calculated to unite the first and the last powers, first and the last powers, the legislative

and the executive.

The late Mr. Bagehot, in his work on the "English Constitution," contrasted the two systems of free government, the presidential and the cabinet systems, much to the advantage of the latter. And there

can be little doubt that, if government is to perform the functions which Mr. Bagehot contemplated, the English system is much to be preferred. He observes that the division of the Legislature and the executive weakens both branches; it "weakens the whole aggregate force of government the entire imperial power. The executive is weakened in a very plain way. In England a strong cabinet can obtain the concurrence of the legislature in all acts which facilitate its administration: it is itself, so to say, the legislature." The legislature is rendered inefficient by not having any recognized head. It is impossible, under our system, for the administration to devise and carry out a policy as it could do under the English system. The commercial union sought to be accomplished by the Pan American Congress is a case in point. The difficulties which Lord Salisbury would experience at home in such a case would be very slight compared to those which Mr. Blaine experiences. The latter is wholly unable to force upon. the attention of Congress the measures necessary to carry out his proposed plan.

It doubtless seems a very innocent proposition to give members of the Cabinet seats in Congress, and permit them to introduce and debate measures; but the changes that would be produced in the character of the Government are very great. The President would, in the first place, be obliged to select as members of his Cabinet the real leaders of Congress; otherwise, they would have little influence in that body. But in that case, the Cabinet would be more dependent upon Congress than upon the President, and, keeping in harmony with that body, would have the chief power in the administration. The President would probably sink to the condition of a king, unless he happened to be a man of sufficient force of character to become the leader of Congress himself, and experience shows that this is very unlikely to be the case with a man elected by the people.

[ocr errors]

The members of the Cabinet would hold office during the pleasure of Congress. But it would probably soon be discovered advantageous to permit them to appeal from Congress to the people. The effect on the relative standing of the two Houses would probably be considerable. In parliamen- . tary governments the second chamber generally fails to retain any real power. The General Government now possesses far more power than was contemplated by the makers of the Constitution, and by a union of its branches this power would be greatly increased. The proposition seems to involve a fundamental change in our system of government, to amend the Constitution in one of its most vital points. And for what? In order that national legislation may be easier and more abundant. But unless the character of the legislation can be improved, the proposition to increase its quantity is not very inviting.

INDUSTRIAL CONFLICT.

It is very easy to prove that labor and capital, the laborer and the capitalist, are allies, not enemies; that the co-operation of both is essential to the existence of either; but this does not prevent a very real antagonism between them. The capitalist is continually trying to substitute a machine for the laborer, and the latter is becoming more and more desirous of abolishing the capatalist, but of retaining his capital.

A recent number of the Nation speaks of the Knights of Labor as "an offensive and venemous fly on the chariot wheel of society." There might be some propriety in such language if, as the writer seems to think, the organization had been brought about by the efforts of agitators. But the causes which have led to organizations of workmen are as inevitable and as unconscious as those which have led to the concentration of capital. Both follow in large measure from the invention of machinery.

It is impossible for hand labor to compete with machinery, just as it is impossible for poor machiney to compete with good. But machinery is very costly, represents a large amount of capital, and, in order to be profitable, must be made to turn out a great product. It is found that a large factory has the same advantage over a small one that the small one has over the workshop, and hence displaces it. The larger the product the smaller the profit necessary on each unit of product to make the business a paying one. As a consequence, we have the concentration of manufacturing in the largest establishments, and the gradual extinction of small ones. The same holds good with railroad, telegraph and steamship lines. "Trade after trade is monopolized, not necessarily by large capitalists but by great capitals." There must, of course, be a limit eventually, but it has not been reached yet.

The effect of this movement upon the independence of men without capital is obvious. Formerly, a man who had served an apprenticeship, and was master of a trade, could easily set up in business for himself. Now, on account of the large capital required, this is, in general, impossible. Moreover, a man does not now learn a whole trade. Workers in a factory are taught to perform one operation, and when there is no demand for that kind of work they are helpless, at any rate, they fall into the ranks of unskilled laborers. The gulf between the laborer and the employer is also much greater than formerly. The man who owns and manages a factory requiring a million dollars' capital is of considerable importance in a community, while the man who knows how to tend one machine in that factory is of very little, and the power of the latter, individually; to enforce against the former what he deems his right is as almost nothing. The necessity for combination on the part of workmen, unless they were to be entirely in the power of their employers, is manifest. When one man is dependent upon another for means

to earn his daily bread, he is certainly in the power of the latter very largely. To be sure, the workman always has the option of applying to other employers for work, but that merely transfers his dependence.

By means of combination, however, laborers have been able to place themselves more on an equality with their employers. If we imagine all laborers thoroughly organized on one side, and all employers of labor on the other, then the axioms about the interdependence of labor and capital have an application. This seems to be what many leaders of the labor movement have in view. The president of the Dockers' Union (England) says in the Nineteenth Century:

"Will the combinations of the workers be met by corresponding combinations on the part of employers? I think so. In any case, it is very desirable that they should; the serious changes that must take place will very materially affect the employers, and in their own interests they must combine."

And then he proceeds to point out certain hinderances in the way of combination among employers, the most important being the unwillingness of the largest concerns to combine with smaller competitors which, in the natural course of things, would give way to them, both on account of the necessity for elaborate and costly machinery, which only the wealthiest establishments can provide, and because small concerns are less able than large ones to make the necessary concessions to their employees.

The working classes are not yet organized; in fact, hardly more than a beginning has been made. Only in England and the United States are they free to organize. But it is by no means unlikely that in this case the beginning is the most difficult part of the whole work, and that the beginning having been made, the work will proceed rapidly. One reason for this conclusion is that the concentration of capital, which has rendered organization upon the part of the working classes imperative, has been for the last twenty-five years, and is now, proceeding very rapidly.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »