Puslapio vaizdai

platform has contained the proposition to pay bounties on silk and sugar. Yet, both in these cases, and, to take another similar one, in that of bounties to ocean ships, we now stand at the parting of two paths, one or the other of which will be chosen for us by the present Congress, not a single member of which has been clearly instructed by his constituents how he should cast their vote. It is evident enough that the correct view of his duty as a representative should induce every member to vote against these bounties, preferring rather to leave something undone than to commit his constituents to a positive policy alien to their conceptions and intentions. Clearly, on a matter of such vital importance as that involved in these bounties, the general instructions of party platforms have not afforded the necessary grounds for forming a sound conclusion as to the will of the electors. Whether or not there shall be a duty on hides is clearly a question left to the discretion of the representatives, and the Republicans have been authorized to decide that question for their constituents. But the votes which will be cast in Congress for or against these proposed bounties will be irresponsible votes under our system of representation. Under a system which permits or requires an appeal to the electors, men of honor and discretion would feel themselves bound to vote negatively on a question of this reach and consequence. With the system of fixed tenure, however, members will now be obliged to decide a question of importance, just as though their decision would be permanent. In other words, representatives have here a much more difficult task thrown upon them of constantly deciding how far their proper range of discretion extends. With suitable attention on the part of the people, there ought to be some entirely new method discovered of solving this question of personal responsibility that should at once secure the advantages of the English system and of

our own.

Mr. Seth Low contributes the third paper on the "Rights of the Citizen," in Scribners, discussing the rights of persons using public conveyances. There is only one right recognized, he tells us, and that is the right of being transported. The obligation of companies to furnish comfortable conveyances is not insisted upon by the public. As a result,

in cities, probably half of the persons making trips in street cars, or in New York on the elevated roads, are obliged to stand. There is more or less dissatisfaction and some grumbling upon the part of the public, but the state of affairs is acquiesced in, probably because the people do not know how to set to work to get better service, or perhaps because they dislike the bother.

Mr. Low, however, does more than to dilate upon the defects of local conveyances and point out how much better such matters are managed abroad; though even this might not be wholly useless. One of the means by which an improvement will be effected, perhaps the only one, is that the public be educated, or that its sentiment be aroused, to demand better service in an intelligent way. Meanwhile, a grave fault in the way of granting franchises can be remedied. It is almost impossible to secure franchises under existing circumstances except by incurring charges which are so great as to change the enterprise from a business undertaking into a speculative movement. Any public body which has valuable franchises to grant is reasonably sure to become corrupt. The case of the Massachusetts Legislature, in its dealings respecting elevated roads for Boston, shows that no more trust can be placed in a State legislature than in a municipal board. The remedy is not to permit any public body to dispose of franchises at will. In some cities the law compels them to be sold at public auction. Mr. Low suggests that the city plan the route and protect the interests of the public by specifications in the contract. Again; the city need not part with the franchise permanently, but might lease it for a term of years, thus reaping the advantage of its increase in value, and making it a source of revenue. This plan has been tried in the case of some of the New York ferries, and has worked well; the public interests have been protected, and the city has received twelve and one half per cent of the gross receipts. It would be useless to try to compute the amount American cities have lost by their reckless and corrupt sales of franchises, but it is evidently very large. Mr. Low thinks that the element of corruption might be eliminated, and perhaps it will be as cities become more civilized, but thorough reform in any branch of American government, national, State, or municipal, seems to be distant.

[ocr errors]

The question of the position of woman in the family, as well of woman in the State, continues to attract attention in the monthly magazines. Mrs. Mona Caird has a paper in the "North American," in which she collects many curious facts relating to the constitution of the family and the marriage customs among uncivilized peoples. The object seems to be to show the "apparently fortuitous nature of human ideas and customs," and to shake the "confidence in the fundamental nature of our own institutions" by showing that totally different institutions have, in other times and places, been regarded as fundamental and eternal, just as confidently as we regard ours. Thus we shall be able to judge more fairly and to see more clearly in which direction lies social progress.


The savage who gave utterance to the sentiment that what was good enough for his father was good enough for him certainly was not in a state of mind favorable to progYet this is approximately the state of mind which prevails and always has prevailed with the great majority of men, and which prevails most of the time at present with the most progressive nations. Contrast this state of mind with that of the Athenian multitude in the time of Demosthenes, who were constantly clamoring for "something newer." And still the Athenians were not then in the line of progress. It is possible to have too great a desire for what is new. As Mr. Bagehot remarks:

"The active voluntary part of a man is very small, and if it were not economized by a sleepy kind of habit, its results would be null. We could not do every day out of our own heads all we have to do. We should accomplish nothing, for all our energies would be frittered away in minor attempts at petty improvement. . . . It is the dull, traditional habit of mankind which guides most men's actions, .... and all this traditional part of human nature is, ex vi termini, most easily impressed and acted on by that which is handed down. Other things being equal, yesterday's institutions are by far the best for to-day; they are the most ready, the most influential, the most easy to get obeyed, the most likely to retain the reverence which they alone inherit, and which every other must win."

But as physical life is a process of change, so is the life of a society. The units of the latter, like those of the animal organism, are constantly changing, and the new individuals are not exactly like the old, whom they replace; so that, even if a society at one time had a set of institutions perfectly fitted to it,

it does not follow that these institutions would be unchangeable; the environment would change and the individuals would change; whence there would have to be a continual readjustment to new conditions.

But it is safe to assume that the institutions of a society never are perfectly adapted to the conditions. There is thus a possibility that any proposed change is in the right direction, and that the instinctive feeling which prompts resistance to it is wrong. The movement for change almost always originates with certain individuals who are dissatisfied with existing conditions, to whom the conditions cause pain in some of its forms, from mere uneasiness to actual distress. So this movement for a different position of woman in the family, like the movement for a different position of woman in the State, must be largely carried on by women.

We cannot find much to imitate in the customs which Mrs. Caird describes. We know that some animals and birds form permanent unions of one male and one female, while those of most species do not; we also know that among many tribes of men the unions formed are not permanent; but these facts do not help us much in deciding whether among ourselves the marriage tie shall be indissoluble. So Mrs. Caird may be right in her theory that the organization of the family was made originally through the mother, and not through the father; but this theory, supposing it fully established, would not throw much light upon the position which the mother should hold in the family now. It is hardly to be expected that we shall go back to the matriarchal family, even if it can be shown that this is the original type, and though we are living under a "slowly-disintegrating patriarchal system." Not that any facts concerning domestic relations in other places and at other times are useless. Indirectly they may be of value, if only by showing that the type of family of which the man is the head is not fundamental and necessary and eternal.

We have already advanced beyond the opinion of Aristotle, that the householder should "rule both his wife and his children as beings equally free," but most men and a majority of women still hold that, if a case arises in which one must yield to the other, it should be the woman and not the man. Perhaps in the future a more perfect com

promise may be reached between the society in which, on marriage, the husband was received into the wife's family as a sort of slave, and the other, more common type, in which the wife became the slave of her husband. Woman has in the past been treated with a great deal of brutality, and is so treated now in a great many cases; the law might protect her from physical violence much better than it does at present, but the only remedy that will be completely effective is the disappearance of brutality in men's natures. A man naturally brutal cannot live with a being weaker than himself without displaying brutality, even if the grossest manifestations are prevented.


"We must not," said Lord Salisbury the other day, " pay too much attention to the clamors that are raised either for or against Socialism. For what is Socialism?" he asked, in effect. "A Word. Why," said the noble lord, "from some points of view, the mint and the post-office are socialistic institutions!" Think of that! and consider how clearly this shows that Socialism is a word, and nothing more for Lord Salisbury.

[ocr errors]

There are, then, some persons so innately perverse or so absurdly ignorant that they condemn Socialism, even though this involves the condemnation of the mint and the post-office. There are other persons,― witness Lord Salisbury, — naturally so acute, or else so broadly enlightened, that they penetrate straight through the nature of things and discover the underlying words. To such intellects, facts offer no impediments to thought. The nature of things is a superficial crust which must be broken through in order to arrive at the solid foundation of underlying words. The noble lord will not stop to consider the nature of the mint or of the post-office, he will not dwell on the incidental facts: these are superficial; and he brushes them lightly aside in order to ventilate the profound discovery that, from some points of view, these institutions may be described as so

cialistic. Do not attend to people who warn you against Socialism, says his lordship; for Socialism may be a very good thing, as he will proceed to show us. But how? How will he show us that Socialism may be a good thing? with facts? Not at all in a word. The mint and the postoffice are good things? Not at all: they are socialistic. Pray consider: Socialism may be a good thing; why? because the mint and the post-office are good things? No: because they are socialistic!

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

If ever Mr. Labouchère renews his motion to abolish hereditary legislatorship at a more opportune moment, Lord Salisbury need not despair of finding a new field for his talents, for I have discovered just the place for him. Let him come to the United States and edit a great daily newspaper. This is really the sphere of all others in which he is adapted to shine, and he may come without scruple or fear of diminishing the particular brightness of our other stars. His present position is somewhat exciuslve

one of which it has been said that
Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere;
Nor can one England brook a double reign
Of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales.

But with us, under the beneficient influence of such democratic equality even as we already have, he will find a people ready to brook the reign of a thousand Cecils ill luck! Let him come and edit a daily paper for us. At the moment he was addressing a handful of peers in Westminster, the editor of the Boston Herald sent forth the same luminous remarks, in almost identical words, to 132,098 (guaranteed) readSaid this seer of things as they are

ers. not: "There are certain things that a govern

ment can wisely undertake that are socialistic in their character, such, for example, as the post-office business. There are other things of a socialistic character which the Government should not undertake, such for example, as the manufacture of cotton and woollen goods, and, to the extent that a government declines to enter upon enterprises of this kind, it is tending toward the anarchist principle. What modern statesmanship should determine is the line of demarcation to be drawn between these two. So far as productive enterprise is concerned, the rule should be established that a government ought to undertake nothing that could be more cheaply and effectively performed by individual initiative, this to be determined by experiment, as it easily may be in this country, where our town, municipal and State governments all have opportunities of carrying on works on their own account, which, if they result in failure, merely entail a small local loss, while, if the results are satisfactory, are of advantage as examples to other municipal or State governments. The question of how far the State has the right to interfere in regulating the hours or conditions of labor, or the payment to be given for labor, is less easy of settlement. But here again no hard and fast line can be drawn. We cannot establish our State as a system of philosophy would be, but we must work on in the light of experience."

So, I repeat, whenever England shall have tired of the expense or monotony of listening to Lord Salisbury, he may come over here and buy out a paper with a circulation of 132,000 whose intellectual antecedents will be entirely on a level with his own. And if he reserves only the subscription list for his income, he will still earn as much in a year as he would if he now drew all the ministerial salaries of his present cabinet.

Now, what is the evidence that the Government post-office is a relatively good thing, that its work is more cheaply or

more effectively performed than it would be by private enterprise? As far as cheapness is concerned, the amounts collected by the post-office here or in England suffice to about meet the expenses of operation. This being so, it follows with almost irresistible certainty that the same work would be done cheaper by private enterprise; because the evidence is too notorious to require summation that Government performances in general are extravagant and, wherever the thing has been brought to the test of experiment, more costly than when done for profit by individuals or companies. But when the income of the post-office does not suffice to cover the expenses, we have a case much more injurious to the people. When the income of the post-office fails to equal the expense, as it often does, both here and in England it means that an insufficient amount has been collected from the users of the post-office. It means that senders of the mail which has actually been handled have not been charged enough to pay for the services rendered them. The way the deficiency is met by the governments is out of their general funds, — in other words, by taxation. Of this extra sum collected by taxation, the same people who used the mail, for whom the expense was incurred, pay by far the greater part; but the share the individuals pay is not proportioned to their use of the post-office, — is not proportioned to the use the mail has been to them. And then part of this extra sum is collected from people who did not use the mail at all! To illustrate the first case, some kinds of business require a much larger use of the mail than other kinds; but they are by no means necessarily the ones having the largest capital. A business may engage ten times as much capital as another, and yet send only one tenth as many letters in a year as the other. In most cases the disparity would not be so great perhaps, but it is no doubt as great in some cases. Now in, a general way, directly or indirectly, taxes are collected from the people in the proportion in which

[merged small][ocr errors]

Then there is the yet more extreme case of the man who has not used the mail at all! He will almost certainly be a poor man, but not necessarily an absolutely illiterate man; he may be able to read. Suppose his share in meeting the $5,000,000 deficiency, say, in the post-office, amounts to only one cent; his per-capita share being from ten to fifty cents, accordingly as we consider the whole people or adults alone. One cent will buy him a newspaper - who knows that he has not some day refrained from buying a newspaper because he had only a dime in his pocket instead of having the extra copper besides? Who knows that his little child has not stood hungry and shivering on the winter pavement, and gazed wistfully at the hot bun just tossed temptingly into the baker's show window? Who knows? Who knows, indeed! But this we know, that taxation does get distributed about until even the poorest pays a share; and we know that ragged and hungry children gaze wistfully into baker's windows on winter nights. How about this particular little knawing stomach on this particular winter's night: why is its craving not satisfied just this once? That millionare Jones might send a letter to his lobbyist in Washington telling him to look out for the lumber schedule, or the wool schedule, or the iron schedule, by means of which that very bun is to be taxed out of the hungry child's mouth!

What is the evidence that the Government post-office is a relatively good thing? A few weeks ago, in his now notorious speech, the Assistant Postmaster-General, Mr. Clarkson, said that the United States post-office had 150,000 names on its pay

roll. This is a much larger number than the one we have been accustomed to use (79,000), and the truth probably lies somewhere between. If the smaller number is correct, the names on the roll of the postoffice outnumber the names on all the other rolls of the Federal Government (except the pension roll) more than two to one; if the larger number is right, then the disparity is more than four to one. The placing of the names on this roll is one of the most important elements in American politics. The scramble for these offices is the most disgraceful and corrupting exhibtion going on anywhere within the horizon of politics in the Western world. We have seen a Presidential election turn on an attempt to reform this corrupt practice; and we have seen the corruption go on in spite of an apparent set-back. Nor is it wholly a question of corruption: the chief element is the fact that distribution of spoils has become one of the great functions of the Federal Government, and the effect is disastrous, whether the distribution is corrupt or not. If the offices get filled satisfactorily, -if the duties attaching to them get efficiently discharged, ciently discharged, an equal, if not the greater part of the mischief remains. For, in order to secure an efficient incumbrancy, a great amount of attention and energy must be distracted from the performance of other functions. And when the scramble for office has become so intense as to create the corrupt competition which actually prevails, attention and energy have been distracted from other political functions to such an extent that their discharge is absolutely neglected. The attempt to escape having a class of office-holders has resulted, with us, in the creation of a class of officeseekers, and the power for evil of this class has proved hardly inferior to that of the former. When the distribution of the offices has become the prime consideration, the elections come to be controlled by compact minorities whose energy is proportioned to their pecuniary interest in the result, and, through them, even when they are resisted,


« AnkstesnisTęsti »