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PAGE 3

The Pilgrim, And The American Of Today–1892
by [?]

We think that our form of government is the one best calculated to attain this end. It is of all others yet tried in this world the one least felt by the people, least felt as an interference in the affairs of private life, in opinion, in conscience, in our freedom to attain position, to make money, to move from place to place, and to follow any career that is open to our ability. In order to maintain this freedom of action, this non-interference, we are bound to resist centralization of power; for a central power in a republic, grasped and administered by bosses, is no more tolerable than central power in a despotism, grasped and administered by a hereditary aristocrat. Let us not be deceived by names. Government by the consent of the people is the best government, but it is not government by the people when it is in the hands of political bosses, who juggle with the theory of majority rule. What republics have most to fear is the rule of the boss, who is a tyrant without responsibility. He makes the nominations, he dickers and trades for the elections, and at the end he divides the spoils. The operation is more uncertain than a horse race, which is not decided by the speed of the horses, but by the state of the wagers and the manipulation of the jockeys. We strike directly at his power for mischief when we organize the entire civil service of the nation and of the States on capacity, integrity, experience, and not on political power.

And if we look further, considering the danger of concentration of power in irresponsible hands, we see a new cause for alarm in undue federal mastery and interference. This we can only resist by the constant assertion of the rights, the power, the dignity of the individual State, all that it has not surrendered in the fundamental constitution of the Republic. This means the full weight of the State, as a State, as a political unit, in the election of President; and the full weight of the State, as a State, as a political unit, without regard to its population, in the senate of the United States. The senate, as it stands, as it was meant to be in the Constitution, is the strongest safeguard which the fundamental law established against centralization, against the tyranny of mere majorities, against the destruction of liberty, in such a diversity of climates and conditions as we have in our vast continent. It is not a mere check upon hasty legislation; like some second chambers in Europe, it is the representative of powers whose preservation in their dignity is essential to the preservation of the form of our government itself.

We pursue the same distribution of power and responsibility when we pass to the States. The federal government is not to interfere in what the State can do and ought to do for itself; the State is not to meddle with what the county can best do for itself; nor the county in the affairs best administered by the town and the municipality. And so we come to the individual citizen. He cannot delegate his responsibility. The government even of the smallest community must be, at least is, run by parties and by party machinery. But if he wants good government, he must pay as careful attention to the machinery,–call it caucus, primary, convention, town-meeting,–as he does to the machinery of his own business. If he hands it over to bosses, who make politics a trade for their own livelihood, he will find himself in the condition of stockholders of a bank whose directors are mere dummies, when some day the cashier packs the assets and goes on a foreign journey for his health. When the citizen simply does his duty in the place where he stands, the boss will be eliminated, in the nation, in the State, in the town, and we shall have, what by courtesy we say we have now, a government by the people. Then all the way down from the capital to the city ward, we shall have vital popular government, free action, discussion, agitation, life. What an anomaly it is, that a free people, reputed shrewd and intelligent, should intrust their most vital interests, the making of their laws, the laying of their taxes, the spending of their money, even their education and the management of their public institutions, into the keeping of political bosses, whom they would not trust to manage the least of their business affairs, nor to arbitrate on what is called a trial of speed at an agricultural fair.