"Equality and Democracy" (A Speech Given at Notre Dame in 1897 by Henry F. Brownson, the son of Orestes Brownson)

“Equality and Democracy: The Equality of Property, Social Condition, and Power Under a Popular Form of Government," given at Notre Dame, 1897.


            European Revolutionists, or, as they choose to say, Liberals, claim that they are only struggling, with varied success, to establish in their respective countries the principles which the American Congress of 1776 proclaimed to the world as the ground on which they justified their declaration of independence, and to make them the basis of the new nations they were founding.

            They maintain that the aim of the statesman should be to make all as equal as possible in their possessions, social condition, power and influence.  The means they propose to this end is democratic government, by which they understand the sovereignty of the people, universal suffrage and eligibility. 

            Well!  We have the sovereignty of the people and practically universal suffrage and eligibility.  Have we found the quality that is spoken of realized, or even that there is with us a tendency towards its realization?

            The negro, who was a slave, is now recognized as a citizen with equal political and civil rights with his former owner and master.  Is he the equal of the white man?  Recognized as such in property, social position, influence and respectability?  Would you readily take a negress as a white woman for your wife, if you were disposed to marry?  No! you would prefer your own color, and you are right.  You would not consent to let your daughter marry a great, shining, bull negro, and she, herself, would recoil in horror from such a fate.  Where, then, outside of the political and social order, is the equality?  Where there cannot be intermarriage, without loss of caste there is no social equality.

            It may, however, be said that we have hitherto seen the negro as a wild savage in Africa or as degraded by slavery, and the time since his emancipation is too short to enable us correctly to estimate his capabilities for the higher civilization; and the civil and political equality we have conferred on him is the first step towards his moral and social equality.  This is to suppose that civil and political equality will, when once recognized and secured, operate naturally and inevitably to secure equality of property, of social position and influence.

            If it were so, and the tendency in this country were to greater equality of wealth, position and influence, we should be able to see some proofs of it by this time.  Our fathers proclaimed that all men are created equal, and made equality the basis of the state.  That all men are created equal is not true in an absolute sense, but only in the sense that they are created equally men, with equal natural rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, unless forfeited by crime.

            We have abolished rights of primogeniture and entails, and by our statutes of distribution provided for the equal division among the heirs of the estate of every one dying intestate, thus preventing the growth of an hereditary aristocracy, and approaching equality.

            Whether this, which weakens the family and makes us a nation of individuals rather than a nation of families, is wise or unwise legislation, I will not now undertake to decide.  I will only say that the ambition of transmitting to heirs a family name inherited from a long line of noble and distinguished ancestors on which one can look back with a just pride, is a powerful incentive to honor and virtue.  In our country, except in rare instances, the family expires when the husband and father dies.  We, as a people, have no ancestors, no family traditions, no homestead that has remained in the same line for generations and around which cluster all the family associations and recollections.

            We have not hereby secured the equality sought, or, if we have secured it on one side, it has been lost on another.  We have substituted the equality created by primogeniture and entail by joint stock companies and corporations, which are far more influential and exert for more power over legislation, political economy, industry and the laboring classes than the most powerful and wealthy families of a nation ever did.  These corporations, whether manufacturing, banking or railway corporations, have all the same interest and can seldom by weakened by rivalries and divisions.  The New York Central Railroad, with its branches and connections, the New York, Lake Erie, and Western Railroad Company, and the Pennsylvania Railroad, with its leased lines, are not only too strong to be controlled by the state or states in which they are respectively located, but are, combined or even singly, too strong even for the general government.  There is no power in Congress to control the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railway Companies.  The King of France was never more powerless against these great feudatories, the Burgundian and the Armagnac chiefs.  These corporations of all sorts and sizes, not the people, are the constituencies of our representatives in Congress and the State Legislatures, and when they do not own them, they have little difficulty in buying up or indirectly controlling a majority. 

            True, the majority of the people can remedy that evil, if they choose.  But the pity is, they do not choose; for either they understand nothing of the matter, or depend in some way on the corporations in their own affairs.  The small minority who see, and deplore the evil are without influence, and set aside as poor devils, or as drunken and insane dreamers, as happened to Senator Sprague of Rhode Island.  The legislative bodies of this country are composed almost exclusively of bank presidents, railway directors, members of joint-stock companies and their factors, the lawyers.  These are the ruling majority.  In a country where there are no great and influential families, constituting virtually, if not recognized as such politically, an aristocracy founded on land and birth, businessmen and business interests will control the legislation and the administration.

              It was at one time thought that competition might do something to weaken the power, at least of the railway companies, and the people clamored for competing lines.  But the introduction of railroads has broken up all the old modes of land travel and carriage, and made them, except where there are competing lines of water carriage, a necessity.  They must be used, and the railway companies, with the exception named, have the monopoly of the whole passenger and freight transportation of the country.  The competition is then narrowed down to two or more competing lines or rival companies.  These, in relation to the people and the government, have one and the same interest, and their mangers are too shrewd to engage for any great length of time in a quarrel between themselves, and will rather unite in fixing a common tariff of prices, as high as possible without seriously lessening the amount of business to be done.

            Besides, and what bears more directly on the point under discussion, in any contest with the government, these corporation interests, to which may be added that of the holders of the bonds of the general government, the several state governments, municipal and other corporations, are identical, and they and the several corporations act as much as a class as ever did the aristocracy in any nation of the Old World, and here the people have as little actual power, while the laboring classes have no pleasanter relations with soulless corporations or money lords than they have in other countries with the aristocracy founded on land and birth.

            I may be permitted to add that, as far as I have observed, the tendency with us is not, outside of the political order, to equality, but the reverse.  With us the Ferris Wheel is continually revolving and each revolution brings up those that were down, and takes down those that were up.  The rich men of yesterday are the poor men of today, and the poor men of today will be the rich men of tomorrow.  As to individuals, property is continually shifting hands, but the steady tendency is to concentrate it and business in the hands of a smaller number.  The small farms, once so common in the earlier-settled states and which the owner himself and his sons cultivated, and from which he supported comfortably his family, have pretty much disappeared.  The small factories in the manufacturing states have been broken by huge corporations, and the small traders must soon disappear.  A great dry-goods dealer who is his own importer, jobber and retailer, grasps in his own hands the trade that would support two thousand families in ease and comfort, and becomes immensely rich.

            No! observation belies the commonly received theory that universal suffrage and eligibility tend to promote equality of property, social condition and influence.  Our experience in this country is the reverse.  They tend, in my judgment, by an irresistible law to inequality.  If they effect anything, it will be by bringing all down to the level of the lowest- a thing not desirable,- but they will not bring about equality of property.

            Go out and consult ten thousand electors taken at random, and ask them what they demand of government, and they will answer, if truly, with not more than one exception: Such laws as will encourage industry and facilitate the acquisition of property.  And how many will be in a condition to avail themselves of such laws when enacted?  Perhaps ten.  Here are ten thousand men voting for measures which will enrich ten of their number at the expense of the rest.

            The reason why only a small number can take advantage of such laws is that all are not equal to start with, and only a small minority have the means, the capital, the credit, the skill or enterprise to turn the facilities such laws create to an account.  Congress passes a law imposing a tax of fifty percent on foreign manufacturers, for the protection of home industry, it is said.  This protective tax raises the price in the home market, and enables the producer to obtain a higher price for his goods that he otherwise could.  But this enhanced price is deducted from the wages of the laborer in the shape of the higher cost of every article he consumes.  The few who can engage in the manufacture or production of the protected articles reap profits, but those profits are simply taken from the rest of the community, and, in the last analysis, from the hard earnings of the laborer.

            This is the way universal suffrage and eligibility introduce and establish equality.  Pure democracy legislates to enrich the few at the expense of the many; and European Liberals are struggling to introduce it in the hope of being, each one for himself, included in the few.  If there are honest and unselfish men amongst them, I can acquit their hearts only as the expense of their heads.

            The agricultural class, it may be, is wealthier and lives better than sixty or eighty years ago; but it is relatively much reduced in numbers.  The farmers, again, are so mixed up with the business classes, and so intimately affected by whatever affects these that any shock felt in the world of trade, commerce, or manufactures, is felt by the whole community.  As the business of the country is principally done on paper capital, which represents debt, not real capital, financial business shocks come periodically, at almost regular intervals.  The bubble bursts, and hundreds and thousands who thought themselves rich, are suddenly reduced to poverty.  In each of these panics, as they are called, there is a portion of the indebtedness extinguished, indeed, but only to the ruin of those who take debt for capital, and to the profit of the real capitalist.  Property shifts hands, but only to be concentrated in fewer hands, and to the striking increase of inequality.

            In nearly all instances, prior to the establishment of our government, governments were, in theory at least, understood to be instituted to govern the people or nation for the common good.  We have discarded that view, and hold that in a democracy the government is the creature of the people and instituted as the agent for executing their will, not as a community, but as an aggregation or collection of individuals.  The idea of common good, or public good, is practically abandoned for Jeremy Bentham’s theory that the aim of government is the greatest good, or as he says, the greatest happiness, of the greatest number.  This dictum of the great utilitarian, who, in spite of Bowring and Stuart Mill, was a great humbug, nearly all our journals adopt and follow without asking what it means.

            Take notice that this dictum substitutes private good, or private interests, though the private good or interests of the largest number possible, for the public or common good, and makes government an agency for the promotion of private good or personal interests, not of that good or interest which is common to all and no one’s in particular, or save in his character as a member of the community. 

            I do not remember that Aristotle brings this tendency to inequality as one of the objections to the ancient democratic republics; and I can conceive that democracy would not always tend to the same result, by the same means.  The people always follow their ruling passion, and the government in a democracy does not control that passion, but becomes its instrument, or agent.  Yet the ruling passion is not always the same, and may and does change with the age or nation.

            With us the ruling passion is the production and acquisition of wealth, or the distinction wealth gives, and will always be so, I think, where there are few or no old families living on their hereditary estates from generation to generation, and eschewing business, commerce or industry as a dishonor.  Here business supplants nobility, and money or its shadow becomes the basis of the new aristocracy, a million times less respectable and more oppressive than the aristocracy of birth or family, which democracy wars against.  Compare a Howard or a Stanley with a Vanderbilt or an Astor, a Conde or a Montmorency with a Gould or a Havemeyer.

            In an age or nation where money, or credit (that is, debt) is king, the ruling passion will be to get rich, and as there is no way to get rich legally, every one will ask of the government laws which give him the means of emptying the pockets of others into his own, or of entering into other men’s labor.

            The people, of course, do not think that the measures the government adopts really have the effect alleged, and I do not pretend that all the acts even of our government are bad or foolish.  Some of them are, no doubt, wise and just; and I will not say any of them are evil in their influence.

            But while it is assumed that government should aim at the establishment of equality of property, influence and social position, we see that land covered over with corporations and joint stock companies created by the government, of all sorts and for all manner of purposes, from making patent churns or washtubs to supplying the nation with a currency;- and I was about to say, tunneling the Atlantic and building a railway to the moon; but I am not sure that companies for either of the latter objects have as yet been incorporated, though it is not so very long since an able engineer submitted a serious proposal for bridging the ocean and constructing a surface railway across it,- each with a thousand millions’ capital, with the power of issuing new stock ad libitum.  The builders of the Plain of Shinar, who undertook to construct a tower whose top should reach to heaven, must, I think, have lived under a democratic, or at least, a parliamentary, government.

            It is an error to attribute the building of the tower to the tyrant nimrod who founded Babylon.  Nimrod began to be mighty upon the earth, a cruel hunter of men, and the beginning of his kingdom was Babylon and the other cities in the Plains of Shinar; but we nowhere read that he built the Tower of babel.  The building of the tower was evidently the work of the people.  “And the earth was of one tongue, and of the same speech, and when they removed from the east they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and dwelt in it, and each one said to his neighbor: Come, let us make brick and bake them with fire.  And they had brick instead of stones, and slime instead of mortar.  And they said: Come, let us make a city and a tower the top whereof may reach to heaven.”  Clearly, the attempt was a popular movement, a project that originated in the brain of the people, though the project proves that they were ripe for a tyrant to usurp despotic authority over them, and henceforth rule them with a rod of iron; and not improbably, Nimrod availed himself of their aspiring folly to make himself their master, as some stout hunter before the Lord, or whose iniquity is known to the Lord, but not suspected by the people, may at no distant day in our own case.

            That these visionary projects are not peculiar to democratic America, but are found as rife in France and England as they are with us, is very likely.  All the nations of Europe have been more or less democratized and fallen under the rule of the business classes.  All adopt the same industrial, mercantile, credit or paper system, only it has freer scope with us and is more fully carried out.  Governments cease to govern, and are governed, or rather used, by those who of all men have most need to be governed, and by the same classes in all modern nations, bankers, brokers, merchants, manufactures, traders, shopkeepers, speculators, adventurers and lawyers,- what in the time of Swift and Addison were called the urban party, in contradistinction from the country party.

            The landed proprietors, the army, the navy and the church, of whom the country party was composed, adhered to their legitimate king; but the urban party, strengthened by recruits from their opponents, was strong enough on Queen Anne’s death to prevent the restoration of the Stuarts, and to bring in the Elector of Hanover and place him on the throne to which he had only a revolutionary title.  The real glory of England vanished with the success of the urban party, merchants, manufacturers, bankers, money-changers, stock-jobbers and attorneys.

            The country was betrayed by Sir Robert Peel, the son of a cotton-spinner, and whose sympathies were always with the class from which he sprang.  Since Peel’s administration, the urban party, under the lead of the great Whig houses, have had everything their own way, except for a few brief intervals, and a sad way it is, as they are beginning to discover.

            It may be difficult to see why the interests of industry, trade, commerce, or so-called business interests, are not as fit to govern a country as landed or sporting interests; why a guild of merchants, of cotton-spinners, tanners, or cordwainers, may not be as wise legislators as bull-headed squires whose principal occupation is fox-hunting, riding hard, drinking hard, eating enormously, transporting poachers and nursing their gout.  A more thick-headed or wrong-headed class of men than the squirarchy of England, whose knowledge is limited to thorough drainage, sub-soiling, and raising cattle and horses, sheep and turnips, and whose minds are simply bundles of prejudices called “English Principles,” or sometimes “Principles becoming an English Gentleman,” it would be hard to find.

            I speak of them as a class, but not of all the individuals of the class.  The intelligence, the activity, the enterprise, the greatness of England are found in her business classes.  It is their industry, their dogged perseverance, their manufacturing skill, and energy, their foresight and daring as merchants, and hardihood as seamen and navigators, that have made her the center of the industry and trade of the world, and given to the estate of her landholders their increased value, and created the principal part of their enormous wealth.

            Yet the extraordinary development of the business classes and of business capital, either in Great Britain or in this country, shows no tendency to produce the equality demanded.  The fact that the city men rival or surpass the nobility based on birth and land does not prove that there is any more equality in wealth, social condition, or influence in the community.  It at most only proves that one sort of inequality has been exchanged for another, and as those of us who are not businessmen think, by no means for the better.

            Under the present reign of what Nocholas of Russia called “the mercantile system,” the interests of all classes of the community, and of nations barbarous, semi-barbarous and civilized, become so intervolved or intertwisted that a disturbance in any interest, or any one nation, produces a shock felt by all.  The price I must pay for a pair of boots is affected by the price of tea at Canton or the state of exchanges between China and England, New York and London.  The business of the country is in great part done by exchange, and a paper capital which represents not real capital, but debt, or as we say euphuistically, credit; and banks and most other corporations are contrivances for using debt as a capital and deriving profit from one’s own indebtedness.

            Hence there are periodically recurring convulsions in the business world, caused, we are told, by panics. There is a philosophy in names, if we look for it.  Now, a panic is a sudden, groundless alarm or fear.  These periodic convulsions, or their causes, are called panics, not because there is a general fear that the debts contracted will not be paid, but rather a fear that there will be a general demand for settlement.

            Take this bank-note.  What does it represent?  Capital?  No such thing.  It is simply evidence that the Undertakers’ Bank of Greentown owes me one thousand dollars, on which it has drawn in the shape of discount interest at the rate of seven percent, per annum, which is so much profit on its debt.

            Suppose the Undertakers’ Bank owes on its notes in circulation and on its deposits $3,000,000, and has in its vaults $100,00 in specie, which is more than the average.  Now, if not any demands payment or refuses payment on other evidences of indebtedness, it is said there is confidence, all goes on swimmingly; the greater the debt the bank can contract, the greater are its profits.  But suppose confidence receives a shock, and all the creditors of the bank rush at once to its counter and demand payment, evidently the bank must break, or, in the euphuism of the day, suspend specie payment,- that is, repudiate its debt.  Suppose not one bank only, but fifteen or sixteen hundred banks are in the condition of the Undertakers’ Bank of Greentown, State of Connecticut, what will be the effect?  A panic certainly, even though the banks have capital and other assets which ought to be more than sufficient to redeem their indebtedness.  These assets are in the shape of bonds, mortgages, promissory notes and evidences of debts owing to it by others.  But the others have their assets or securities in the same shape.  If A pays B, B can pay C; yet D must pay A before A can pay B, and C must pay D before D can pay A, and thus on through all the letters of the alphabet.  The debtor of one is the creditor of another, and relies on his debtor for the ability to pay his creditor.  While confidence lasts, and indebtedness can be used to discharge indebtedness, all goes like clock-work; but let confidence be shaken, that is, real payment be demanded, then follows a crash causing widespread ruin.

            What becomes of the real property in possession of the debtor, and that which is covered by the bonds and mortgages?  Is that not sold to pay the indebtedness?  Unquestionably, but as it cannot be paid for in debt, it can be bought only by the real capitalist, who will pay only a low price for it, and thus the credit system, which is thought to place men without capital on a footing of equality with the capitalist, serves in the end only to enhance the inequality, by enabling the real capitalist to concentrate in his own hands the property created by the industry and labor of others.  The real capital of the country, by each revolution of the business world, rolls into fewer hands, and all the devices to prevent it only help it on.  Whether this is an evil or not, it is not to our present purpose to decide; I only say that the practical tendency of the legislation of the country governed by universal suffrage is always towards greater and greater inequality.

            The increase of population, in which so many take a national pride, has been great, owing to the constant tide of immigration hither from the Old World.  Strike out that and it would be not much more than that of England, Scotland, Ireland and especially Russia in the same time.  In the older states there is a relative, and in some of them, aside from foreign immigration, a positive decrease. 

            As for the wonderful material prosperity, it has been owing in no sense to universal suffrage and eligibility, but to the original wealth of the forests and the sea, and to the vast area of rich, fertile, unoccupied land easily accessible, at a low price.  It would have been difficult for any government to have deprived the people wholly of these advantages, yet ours has done what it could in that direction.  Our prosperity is great- on paper.  Pay off the national debt, the several state debts, the municipal debts, the corporation debts, the debts of individuals, a large part owing to foreigners, and but a trifle of the whole assessed value of the entire wealth of the nation would remain.  The taxes collected in one form or another by the general government, to say nothing of its squandering of the public domain, amount to not less than one-third of the net annual income.  In 1840 we were more heavily taxed than France, and we are more heavily taxed today than any other civilized people on the globe.  Our commerce in American ships has greatly declined; there is hardly a fourth-rate power in Europe that has not a more respectable naval force, and our army is reduced nearly to zero.

            I have long since made up my mind that every form of government has its advantages and disadvantages, and that governments, as has been well said, are like shoes; those are best which fit the feet that are to wear them.  I am loyal to the government of my country, for it is legitimate, and the only government practicable for us, at least at present, though how long it will remain so no one can foresee.  Many thinking men and true patriots believe they see in it already signs of decay, and it is not beyond the range of possibility that its success in subduing the formidable Southern revolt should prove its ruin.  Of all forms of government it is the most cumbrous and the most expensive, and the least favorable to the moral elevation of the people, to individual or personal independence and manliness of character.  The people are governed by party chiefs, demagogues and journals.  However powerful they may be collectively, they are less free and independent individually than any other people I know of. 

            It may be objected to charging the national debt to democracy, that it was incurred in defense of the Union, the existence of the nation.  But, what save the folly and fanaticism of the people brought the Union into danger and threatened the national existence?  There is a right and a wrong way of opposing or getting rid of an admitted evil.  The people of the North, in their folly and fanaticism, took the wrong way, as the great body of the people always do when they are badly directed, or when they follow their own lead.  The North were not wrong in opposing the extension of slavery into new territory, but they combined that opposition with a determination to force the abolition of slavery where under the constitution it had a legal right to exist.  The resistance the North was determined to offer to the extension of slavery was only the first step to an ulterior object, and the South saw, if it was taken, they would no longer have the power to protect themselves, but would be at the mercy of Northern fanaticism. 

            The Northern abolitionists were fanatics, because they would listen to no voice of reason or prudence, and were ready to trample on the constitution and laws in going in obedience to their blind passion to its object.  Though no friend to slavery, I certainly think the maintenance of the constitution and laws of more importance to the country, and a higher obligation for its citizens, than the abolition of slavery, especially as slavery was local, and the affair of the states that allowed it, not of the nation, nor of the states that prohibited it; and we feel today the ruinous contempt for the constitution and laws due to the abolitionists.

            The traveler in Bavaria, Austria, Italy, or Spain, even if without sympathy with the religion or government of the country, cannot fail to be struck with the character of the peasantry.  He may traverse the country in all directions, and everywhere find good roads, comfortable inns, obliging landlords, a hospitable people, and not see robbers or banditti.  The peasantry are cheerful, courteous, polite, never mistaking, as does an American or Englishman of the lower class, impudence for independence.  What is surprising is, not to find anywhere the abject poverty, the squalid misery so common in England in this country.  There is no superfluity but there is rarely to be found an unrelieved want.  The peasantry of Spain are kind, obliging, but neither servile nor mercenary.  They have a high sense of personal dignity and honor, and would resent an insult, if offered by the proudest grandee in the kingdom.  The very beggar asks an alms with the air of a prince of the blood.  No one seems to feel his poverty a humiliation, or that he is any the less a man because he is a peasant and not a nobleman.  He shows no envy or bitterness towards those who in the social hierarchy rank above him.  He has his own sphere of life, his own round of duties, his own circle of relatives and friends, and has no desire to go out of it.  He has his own ideals, tastes, affections, pleasures and enjoyments, and they are as much to him as theirs are to the great.  There is no struggling to rise above their present condition, to effort to get up, to pull down and keep down those that are up.  For them there is no revolution of the social wheel.  They live as their fathers lived, build their houses and cultivate their fields in the same manner; their costume is picturesque, and adapted to the climate, but never changes.  Is the absence of movement, of aspiration of progress owing to the tyranny of the government, to the fact that slavery has entered into their souls, become a second nature and they have come to love their slavery, to kiss the very chains that eat into their flesh, or is it that they are true practical philosophers who have learned to be content with their lot?  Why should the peasant seek change, to place himself on a level with the class above him?  He is as free as the proudest duke in the land.  True, he is not the duke’s equal, but neither is the duke his equal.  He knows and can do a thousand things the duke knows not and cannot do.  He could not marry the duke’s daughter; no more could my gardener marry the daughter of a wealthy banker, a merchant prince or a railway king.  But the Spanish peasant probably has no desire to marry the duke’s daughter, and if he had, could marry her as easily as she could him, and make her as suitable a husband as she would him a wife.  He would much rather marry black-eyed Catalina, whom he has known from her childhood, who has played with him, danced with him and coquetted with him, and made his heart ache more times than he can count.

            The Spanish peasant is not a slave, never has been a slave; he is a free man, and has a free and lofty spirit; rarely even conceived of by the loud-boasting Anglo-Saxon, who boasts loudest of what he has the least.  It is not precisely true that the political rights of the Spanish people are less than ours.  The most absolute monarch is obliged to consult in some measure the views and feelings, the habits, manners and customs of his people, and cannot persist in outraging them without endangering his throne, his dynasty, perhaps his life.  The people have more influence with the government in Spain than they have with us, though the demagogues, I grant, have less, and demagogues are far worse enemies of the people than are the courtiers who surround and mislead the king.  The people with us have no fixed principles, no traditions, no customs, that they are not ready to change tomorrow.  When the demagogue has persuaded them that his policy is desirable, there is nothing to hinder its adoption.  The people have only to will and it is done.  The courtier may get the ear of the king, may persuade him of his policy, but the difficulty is not yet surmounted.  The king has to count with the people, with their traditions, their reverence for the past, their attachment to old ways and usages, and indisposition to change.

            What I here adduce as an objection to American democracy is usually regarded as one of its principal advantages.  That we have no heir-looms to preserve, are bound by no old customs and usages, fettered by no superannuated traditions, and care nothing for what our fathers thought or did in an age of ignorance and superstition; that we are not chained to dead ancestors, but are as free as if we were the first born of our race, free to adopt any change or reform that we think proper,- this is our glory.

            And a poor sort of gory it is.  In cutting ourselves loose from the past, discarding tradition and all attachment to old ways and usages, we cut ourselves loose from all the lessons of the past, throw away all that has come to us as a patrimony from our fathers, loosen society from its old moorings and find ourselves afloat on an untired sea of experiment, with disastrous failure oftener than with even partial success.  The cost of our government is enormous, and every year grows greater and greater, and with increased expenditures of the government comes increased moral and political corruption.  We have by no means seen as yet the ripe fruits of our democracy.  The men who founded our republic were trained under a different system, as were their sons.  They have, till of late, exerted a salutary influence on affairs.  They are now gone, and with them habits and traditions of another and better order.  Our republic is falling under the control and management of a generation trained from birth under democratic influences, and now comes our hour of trial.  Our old men are old without wisdom; our offices are filled with men without scientific training, without experience, or weight of character.  Young men, without principle, empty-headed, but with an oily tongue, or skill in managing the mob, aided by strong-minded women, are the directing force of our government, and the end thereof it is not difficult to foresee.

            We mark our own activity, enterprise and energy, and think there is only listlessness and stagnation in conservative nations.  We are an active, energetic, hard-working people, and are obliged to be so in order to live.  We are all in a hurry, we have no rest, no leisure to cultivate the amenities of society, or to enjoy even the wealth we have accumulated.  The wheel revolves incessantly, as I said before, bringing up those that are down, and throwing down those that are up.  There is nothing stable in our society, unless it be its instability.  The vicissitudes of fortune are raid and terrible.  Our young men rush into business or into the learned professions.  Of those who enter into business, it is calculated that not more than one and a fraction out of a hundred succeed.  The learned professions are overcrowded, and a very small portion of those who enter them can live by them.  Some of the evils we suffer no country is wholly free from; but if the peasantry are stationary in foreign countries, as we pretend, they at least are not subject to the ups and downs of our society, and it is seldom that any of them suffer for the want of the necessaries or even the comforts of their state of life.

            We boast of our equality, that here are no distinctions of classes and ranks.  In this we are mistaken.  We have all the distinctions that exist elsewhere, and in a far more offensive form.  Elsewhere distinction is based on family descent, on education, breeding, manners, and character; with us it is based on wealth, whether coupled with ignorance, vulgarity, dishonesty, meanness, or not.  There is no country in the world, not even England, in which the honest poor man is held more at arm’s length, or receives so little respect as in the united States.  Hence everyone here looks upon poverty as an evil, as a humiliation, and no one is contented to be poor; and hence, too, the universal scramble not only to be rich, but rich suddenly and at once.  Not that Americans are excessively fond of money,- they crave it, indeed, not for its own sake, nor even for the luxuries it enables them to procure, but simply for the social position and consideration it gives.  The law recognizes no distinction of blood, and no one is hopelessly doomed to be always of a lower class; everyone has an opportunity to compete for the highest honors of the state, and social distinctions. It is the universal competition and strife in American society that I complain of.  No one is contented to remain in the state in which he was born, or with the goods he inherits.  Everyone is grasping to rise to what he considers is a higher position than he occupies, and filled with envy towards everyone he regards as above him.  Hence those that are down use all the arts, all the means, fair or foul, within their reach, to pull down those that are above them, and those who are up to keep down those who are trying to rise.  Everywhere one finds strife and contention; nowhere contentment and repose.

            Every distinctly marked class, the highest as the lowest, the richest as the poorest, has its society; and society is as much a necessity with the lowest and poorest as with the highest and richest.  The passions are the same in high and low, in fashionable and unfashionable society; and there are the same rivalries, envies, jealousies, heart-burnings, and struggles in the society below-stairs as in the society above-stairs.  To stand well with one’s class, to be a leader in its fashionable circle, is as much an object of ambition to the son of a tinker as to the son of a millionaire, and to the daughter of a washer-woman as to the daughter of a duchess; and exclusion is as much a mortification in the one case as in the other;- unless in our own country, where the classes, though existing, are not clearly marked, and the ambition is in the lower to get admission into the higher, which has the happy effect of preventing everyone from being contented with his own class, or his natural position, and of making everyone ill-at-ease, or feel that he or she is in a false position.  It is what renders American society the most disagreeable in the world.  No one feels secure; everyone is trying to get higher, and to keep down those that are lower.

            Aristotle commences his Metaphysics with the universal proposition which may have been true in his day: “All men naturally desire knowledge.”  Had he lived at the close of the nineteenth century, he would have said instead: “All men desire wealth”; for wealth, not knowledge, is now the object of universal desire.  The wealthy are run after and courted, envied or praised by all tongues.  The details of a Gould wedding or a Vanderbilt divorce are given at full length in the newspapers as the choicest food for the mass of readers, and columns are filled with the descriptions of the ostentatious display at a Bradley-Martin entertainment.  All want to be rich, but in the meantime enjoy reading about those who already are so.  Our boasted progress has achieved, as one result, the substitution of the love of money for the love of knowledge. 

            Among those who desire wealth some seek it, or think they seek it, from upright motives, or for good purposes; as, for instance, to gain a social position from which they could speak and be listened to with respect, and perhaps take up the cause of the poor, be able to do something to elevate them, and place them on a footing of equality with the rich and the powerful.

            I have heard of barefoot friars, in a habit of coarse  serge, girt with a cord, living on alms, who could make their voice heard in lordly halls, in senates and in courts, whose rebuke made kings and potentates tremble, whose eloquence aroused nations, and on whose breath hung the destinies of states and empires;- but that was in an ignorant and superstitious age when poverty was held to be no disgrace, and voluntary poverty was counted a merit, and the people, high and low, rich and poor, believed the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.

            We have changed all that.  The poor man is unfortunate at least, if not criminal.  Woe unto the poor, and blessed are the rich who have more than heart can wish, and whose eyes stand out with fatness!  Whom the gods love they make rich, and set in high places.  The poor have incurred the wrath of the immortals, and we send them to the workhouse or the treadmill.

            The ways of accumulating wealth are plenty enough, but most of them are too slow and require toil and endurance of hardships worse than are inflicted on a galley-slave, till a man is old and nearly ready to drop into the grave, and then it is too late to engage in a work of benevolence, even if the disposition survived the habits of a lifetime, which is not likely.  There are, indeed, ways of becoming suddenly rich; but they require that one should have no moral principles, no bowels, no conscience.  The best of these methods consist in getting up joint-stock companies for all sorts of industrial purposes from constricting washtubs to laying telephones to Mars, throwing the stock in the market, and selling out as soon as possible at a moderate premium.  These are schemes for transferring money from the pockets of fools to the pockets of knaves.  Four-fifths, if not nine-tenths of the reputed wealth in the United States consists in the certificates of stock of one sort or another with only a fictitious value.

            Yet with this paper wealth the few are able to set the wheels of industry in motion and the many a-toiling and moiling from morning till night, till far into the night, and to pocket the proceeds,- not of the stock, but of the sweat and toil of the workingman.  They become immensely rich, live in luxury, find the world a glorious word, and boast of the marvelous progress of modern civilization,-  that is, progress in compelling the many to work with an intensity they never did before, and to forego all leisure and all the pleasures of life,- such pleasures as in former times were in reach of the poorest,- and not for themselves, but for the owners of mills and mines, the controllers and managers of huge corporations without souls.  Never before was labor so severely taxed by capital as now.

            The peasant, it has been calculated, his landlord less in the shape of tolls, fines, redevances, etc., in the days of feudalism, than the tenant now pays him in the shape of money rent.  The only progress that I see is that the controllers of capital draw a larger profit from labor than ever before. 

            I do not deny that in individual cases some honest and generous-hearted men, starting with moderate means, have grown rich, without injustice to their laborers; nor would I claim that they are bound to pay out to their operatives an aggregate equal to that they have netted them.  Some individuals have been free and even liberal with their operatives, paying them the highest market price for labor, studying their comfort, looking after their interests, purchasing provisions, groceries, dry-goods, boots, shoes, etc., at wholesale, and of the best quality, and selling them at wholesale prices to the operatives, who would otherwise be under the necessity of buying such goods of the retailer.

            But they have operated on real capital, not, as is the too general practice, on fictitious or paper capital, as in joint-stock companies, where not capital, but credit is invested.  In the present system of industry most of those who grow rich do so by selling their credit, and some have grown rich by selling their credit a dozen times over, through the medium of corporations, without ever having invested a single dollar of real capital.

            The corporations which cover the country over are almost too numerous to be counted, but the number of corporators is very small.  Yet a very considerable proportion of them grow wealthy, or at least expend vast sums of money.  What have they given in return?  Nothing.  What has supplied these large sums?  Labor, of course.  How can it be said, then, that these men have acquired their wealth or riches honestly?  It is answered that in return they have stimulated industry, given employment to laborers, increased production, and promoted the circulation of money. 

            They have in no sense promoted the circulation of money, for the pretended money circulated is paper money, is bank paper,- that is, bank credit.  Banks neither produce, nor lend, or circulate, money; they only lend their credit,- that is to say, debt,- which they discount at a high rate.  The key to the arch of our whole industrial system is bank paper, and if banks could not lend their credit, and were obliged to lend real money, or were unable to make their debts pass for money, the whole industrial system would fall with a crash that would bury nearly the whole community in its ruins.  The whole structure rests on the ingenious device of making debt pass for capital, of drawing a profit from what a man owes, not from what is really his own.  Industry is, no doubt, stimulated, but on the principle that you act on when you hire a man to work for you and pay him out of his earnings a certain percentage and pocket the rest.  By his earnings I mean only what remains after the share of capital is deducted, if you furnish the capital.  But in reality our corporators furnish no capital, and the capital they accumulate consists of the profits they have realized on the use of their credit, that is, their indebtedness, as capital.

            The laboring man who becomes rich never becomes so except by availing himself of other resources than simple manual labor.  In almost every country in Europe the lower classes that we look down upon and speak of as oppressed and downtrodden, are as free and independent, each person in his own class, as the great are in their respective classes.  The so-called upper classes have no real advantage over the lower.  The enjoyments differ, but are really no greater in the one than in the other.  The simple pleasures of the peasantry are as really pleasures as those of the nobility.  The peasant has the same joy in loving and being loved that the grandee has, and meets with no greater or more frequent disappointments, and has no deeper or keener sorrows or heart-rending griefs.  To stand well with one’s own class and honor it by a virtuous life is a worthy object of ambition, and the peasant has it, and can gratify it, as well as the noble.  More pure joy may be seen in a peasant’s cottage than in a duke’s palace.

            We pity the peasantry as lacking the advantages of education and the enjoyment of high literary and artistic culture.  Yet they are better educated, and have a higher culture, and more artistic taste and enjoyment than the mass of the people in this country.  They are not, indeed, all taught to write, and only a small minority of our own people are sufficiently educated to derive much pleasure or profit from reading.  The main thing is to educate children in reference to their state in life and their immortal destiny, and those peasantry are so educated.  They are not without artistic culture, and the rich and great have hardly any artistic advantages not open to the poorest peasant.  The churches present them at every turn the finest and grandest specimens of architectural art.  The masterpieces of painting and sculpture are before them every day in the churches, where on every Sunday and festival day they may listen to the noblest flights of oratory, and the sublimest and most touching poetry married to the richest and most soul-subduing music.  Their churches are open every day, and to the low as well as to the high, to the peasant as to the prince.  We call these peasants uneducated because we do not find with them certain appliances which we suppose indispensable to education, and ignorant, because they lack acquaintance with the ephemeral theories constantly put forth and as constantly refuted among ourselves.  But the church is herself a school, the highest the world has ever known, and none are too poor to be admitted to the lectures of her professors, who are the most learned and thoroughly trained men of the nation.

            We may not envy the Spanish peasant, but let us be convinced that the poverty so dreaded as a disgrace in our country may not always be so humiliating in Spain, nor so completely shut one out from all the enjoyments and pleasures of life.  Let us learn to be less exclusive in our views, and come to the conclusion that advantages are more equally distributed among men than we have supposed, and, above all, respect the poor, and while relieving actual suffering, think less of trying to remove poverty.

            Would you not remove poverty, if you could?, someone may ask.  No.  Wherever there is actual distress, it is our duty to relieve it.  But the poor ought to be regarded as more favored than the rich.  A man with habits and tastes generated by wealth, if reduced to poverty, is very miserable; but until rendered discontented by others, the happiest of men are they who obtain their existence by the simple labor of their hands.  The poor that are the most to be commiserated are not the classes always accustomed to work for a living, but those whom Carlyle in his expressive way calls “gigmanity disgigged.”  There is a class, especially in our large cities and towns, whom we rarely think of calling poor, and for whom society makes no provision.  They have been carefully and tenderly nurtured, have belonged to good families, and been trained to move in elevated and refined society; but through various causes, some that might have been foreseen and guarded against, others that no wisdom, prudence or foresight could have prevented, have fallen into poverty bordering on destitution.  They are too honest to steal, too modest or too proud to beg, too sensitive to let their wants be known, and there is no work they can do by which they can obtain a living.  These often suffer positive hunger, and nobody remembers them.  More should be done than is done to relieve them with a considerate regard for their shrinking delicacy, to restore them to the class to which they properly belong, especially when they are widows, or daughters with their education begun but not completed, or left without father or mother to protect and care for them.  More good might be done for the poor of this class than by going among the poorer and more numerous classes sowing discontent, or by devising or supporting impracticable schemes for removing poverty and making all rich and able to flourish “like pigs in clover.”  I have no sympathy with that philanthropy which loves all men in general, but will do nothing for anyone in particular.

            Yet while we should not dream of removing all poverty, society can and ought to make exertions to lessen its distress.  Who has not felt indignant,- nay, his blood boil,- when urging this duty of society, to be told by some hard-hearted wretch who is growing rich on the labor of poor men and women whom he defrauds of their just wages and treats with contempt, “the poor you will always have with you”?  It is Satan quoting Scripture to justify his iniquity.  It is enough to turn one radical against his nature to view the obvious selfishness with which all projects for ameliorating the condition of the poor are opposed by the men in the business world. For lessons in morality and humanity it is idle to go to the merchants, shopkeepers, traders, bankers and stock-jobbers, who all seem to have sold their souls, if they ever had souls, to the Evil One for riches. 

            In this country, in this nineteenth century, when everybody works, works, works, and is an old man at forty-five, and thinks so intently of his business matters that he can take no time to digest his dinner, and dies of congestion of the brain, it will hardly do to maintain that the Neapolitan lazzaroni are the truest philosophers in the world and those who best understand the value of life; they are not beggars or thieves, they are loyal to their king, or were when they had one; religious, ready to die for their faith and to abuse San Gennaio if he delays a moment too long the miracle of the liquefaction; they are temperate, frugal, and having earned a baiocco, they eat their macaroni or a luscious orange and trouble themselves not at all about anything further.  They need only slight clothing, and lodging can be found anywhere under the porches of the houses or churches, in the caves, or in the open air on the ground.  What more do they need?

            If all men were like the lazzarone, the European Liberals would find realized the equality they are in pursuit of.  The industry of the world would come to a standstill, the forests would grow again, the earth would remain uncultivated, no roads would be made, no ships be constructed, no canals opened, no railroads built, and the whole modern civilization so boasted of as the mighty achievements of man, the wonderful victories of mind over matter, would disappear, and men be reduced to live on the spontaneous productions of the earth, or the fruits of a precarious fishing and hunting like the savages.

            Of the two extremes, which is the more desirable?  What comes of this ceaseless activity, this toiling and moiling of the multitude, this hurry and bustle, this vexing every sea with the keels of our ships, this digging into the bowels of the earth, and this hammer of industry which rings on the anvil from morning till night, till far into the night?  What does anyone get out of it more than the veriest lazzarone enjoys?  Let us correct these stock phrases borrowed from the journals.  These marvelous achievements of man, as the ship, the steam engine, the lightning telegraph are no triumphs of mind over matter, as a storm at sea, the explosion of a boiler, a flash of lightning from a cloud might very soon convince one.  In his varied machinery, man simply avails himself of the great forces of nature by adapting his machine to them.  They are neither controlled nor diverted from their course, and they drive on to their destined end heedless of every effort of mind to resist them.  The triumphs of mind over matter are when a man resists the solicitations of the flesh, curbs his temper and maintains his equanimity in the midst of temptations and the fearful vicissitudes of life, and my friend, the lazzarone, achieves greater victories than Watt, Fulton, Stevenson, or Edison. 

            Democracy, which they make consist in universal suffrage, is demanded, not only as an end, but as a means to an end,- that is, demanded as the means of arriving at equality of property, of social position and of personal influence.  We have seen that democracy does not contribute to this end at all.  It simply secures political equality, that is, nothing but itself; and the political progress of a democratic nation consists solely in rendering the democratic principle more complete, and in removing whatever obstacle there may be in inherited habits, customs, manners, ideas, institutions, vested rights or interests, to the direct, immediate or absolute will of the majority.

            But a man may be mistaken in his means, and yet right in the end he aims at.  Have those who aim at equality, and would have la republique democratique et sociale, ever asked themselves what would be the state of society if they were once to realize their dream of equality?  They think every one would have enough with his own labor for all his wants, and would have no motive to overreach or circumvent another; hence there would be no want, no oppression, but justice and peace would reign universally.  ‘Tis a sweet vision.  But equality in wealth requires that all shall be equally rich or equally poor.  There is not wealth enough in any nation to make all rich.  But this is not the great difficulty.  Riches consist not in the magnitude of one’s possessions, but in the ability his possessions give him to command the labor of others.  It matters not how many thousands or millions of gold I may have in my vaults.  I am as poor as a lazzarone if I can command no labor but that of my own hands.  To make all equally rich is, then, simply to make all equally poor, for no man will sale his labor except for something he has not.  It is precisely the same thing whether you seek to effect equality by making all equally rich or by making them all equally poor.  When you have brought about the equality you aim at, rendered it impossible for capital to command labor, will not all the great achievements of industry, the inventions of genius, of which we boast, be as effectually stopped as if all the world were to become lazzaroni?

            In this ideal society every man would be the owner of land, it is said, and it would not be difficult for him to obtain a comfortable living by the cultivation of the soil with his own hands.  But who would make his axe, his plough, his hoe, his scythe, his sickle and other implements necessary for agricultural purposes?  Is it proposed that every man shall make them for himself, and therefore master all the mechanics necessary for their production?  Is he expected to go further and instruct mowing, reading, threshing machines, of the most approved pattern, which require large capital and the labor of many hands?  Who is to teach his children, to write, print and publish books, create a literature, and carry on scientific experiments and investigations?  No, depend on it, the man would cultivate, and that in the rudest manner, only the smallest patch from which he could raise a few vegetables and a little corn, and soon come to depend like the savage on the spontaneous productions of the earth, obtain part of his living from the chase and the fishery, as we have already seen would follow if all the world should become a lazzaroni.

            This absolute equality is impracticable, and therefore undesirable, for it is always wise not to desire what is impracticable.  Whether mankind would be better or worse off with it, I pretend not to decide.  If we could carry to the savage the true faith, a full knowledge of his religious and moral duty, and induce him to practice the precepts of the Gospel, I do not see wherein he would be worse off as a man whose soul is immortal, than your civilized man, than a Bacon, a Newton, a Gould, or a Vanderbilt.  If this world were our final home, and we were to live here forever, the question were easily settled, or rather, could never be raised.  But as this life is only initial and is to be completed only in another world, and in the spiritual order, the best state is undoubtedly that which offers the fewest obstacles to the fulfillment of the eternal purpose of our existence.  Which that is, I undertake not to decide.  But we know very well that the more men are engrossed with this world, the less do they think of another, and the less preparation for it do they make.

            However that may be, most persons would be disposed to place the civilized man above the savage, even with the qualification I have made as to religion, but still think a nearer approach to equality than has hitherto obtained in the world is desirable, and not only defend democracy as a means to arrive at social equality, but also insist on defending it for its own sake.  They think simple political equality, if it goes no further, has many advantages.  It is something for one to feel that one is not doomed to a certain condition of life by the simple accident of birth.  They say that a man feels himself more of a man when he knows himself eligible to any, even the highest, office in the state, and strives to render himself worthy of the suffrages of his fellow-citizens.

            Judging from what we see in our own country, he might be ambitious to get their suffrages, but he would hardly strive to render himself worthy of them; for they are, except by accident, usually given to the least deserving.  To be worthy of an office is usually an insuperable objection to one’s being elected to it.

            It is thought to be a great thing that birth here keeps no one down, and the poorest and humblest-born boy may aspire even to the President’s chair; and to the glory of the state that it opens all careers to all its citizens, and gives to each a fair chance for honors and dignities.  A man born in the lower ranks of society, who was without friends or connections to give him a start, who as a young man was a common laborer, a flat-boatman on the Mississippi, a rail-splitter, has been elected by the American people to the high office of President of the United States, where he wielded a power greater than that of any contemporary king or kaiser, and after his assassination was eulogized by the first orators, ablest statesmen and noblest minds of Europe as well as of America.

            Some may say the people paid dearly enough for their folly.  Yet Mr. Lincoln was, perhaps, a fair representative of the average American, and had more native ability or the raw material of mind than he received credit for, but he was hardly less ill made up within than he was without.  He had some humor, and much cunning, was a shrewd and skillful political manipulator, but knew little of history, had no literary or scientific culture, and had not a single element of a statesman.  He stood on a low level, had little weight or force of character, no lofty patriotic or moral aims, lacked,- if not a certain kindness of feeling indicating weakness rather than strength,- nobility of soul and heroic aspirations.  He loved power, and exercised it despotically, without any nice sense of justice, and against the feeble rather than against the strong, the subordinates rather than the chiefs.  He was obstinate yet infirm of purpose, and vacillating in conduct.  He had little discernment or appreciation of character, and gave his confidence to men who little deserved it.  In the beginning of his administration he showed equal want of foresight and of energy.  He had no policy in the crisis in which the nation them was, and waited for events to guide him, instead of going before and controlling them.  He was decided neither on peace nor war, and dilly-dallied till he well-nigh exhausted the patience of the nation.

            I do not forget that he was placed in a difficult position; that he wished for peace, shrank from the horrors of civil war; that he hoped that by forbearance to push matters to extremity a reaction at the South might be effected and the civil war avoided; and that he could hardly count on his own party, which at best was only a minority of the people, and the principal leaders of which were opposed to coercion.  The position was difficult for such a man, surrounded as he was by timid counsellors, mere politicians and disappointed aspirants for the Presidency; but would not have been difficult at all to a man of decision and nerve, quick to comprehend the situation and prompt to act.  He should have comprehended, as he was told at the time by loyal men at the North and secessionists at the South, that the day of negotiation, for conciliation, for a peaceful settlement, except on the basis of separation, was past, and that it was idle to hope for a retraction at the South.  There was no alternative but to submit peaceably to separation or fight.  He sought to gain time, instead of seizing time by the forelock and striking a stunning blow before the Confederates were prepared to attack or to resist.  But never during the war did he comprehend the value of time or of the morale either of the people or of the army.  He could only “keep pegging away,” and never taking or apparently seeking to take any advantage of the enemy.

            He was urged in August, 1862, to give orders to his generals commanding departments in the South to proclaim, each in his own department, the emancipation of the slaves.  He ridiculed the idea, said it would do no good, would only lose him fifty thousand bayonets, and weaken instead of strengthening the Union cause.  He was told in reply that it would do no good, but not so much good as it would have done if he had given the orders nearly a year and a half sooner, when the nation was startled by the fall of Sumter, and before there was time for the anti-war party to reorganize and oppose him at the North.  A bold stroke like that at that time, showing that he was born to lead, not simply to follow, that he had the resolution and the energy that command success, would have electrified the nation, forestalled opposition, carried the people with him, and ended the war within a year, instead of suffering it to drag its slow strength along for over four years, at the waste of untold treasure and the useless sacrifice of the flower of the nation.

            In short, he was a commonplace man, and wholly unfit for his position in a time of civil war.  Born to follow, not to lead, he never appreciated the magic of a word; never understood that the power to disarm apposition is to make no account of it, or that the people in mass are wild beasts and that he who can look them in the eye without quailing is sure, especially in time of crisis, to fascinate or disarm them.  They were born to be led, and when they hear the master’s voice they recognize it, his soul enters into them, possesses them; they follow him to the death, and are absolutely invincible.

            Such a man Mr. Lincoln never was, and never could be.  He never appreciated the heroic in human nature, and never supposed it possible to secure the people, but by low trickery, political arts and chicanery, and appeals to their basest and more sordid passions.  His proclamation abolishing slavery entitles him to no honor, and he deserves no credit for issuing it, because he delayed it as long as he could and till it was fairly forced from him.  He did it, not because he wished to abolish slavery or felt it necessary as a war measure, but as he himself assured a friend, to prevent the threatened intervention of France and England in our domestic quarrel.  As a war measure, he rendered it as inefficient as possible by leaving the slaves he proclaimed free surrounded by a cordon of slave territory through which they were obliged to pass to become practically free, and by exhorting negroes to remain, notwithstanding their emancipation, with their masters and work for them as usual, when the only motive for emancipating them at all, as a war measure, was to derange and break up the industry of the Confederate States.  Then he did not abolish slavery; he at most simply emancipated the slaves in certain states and parts of the states.  This was of a piece with his whole conduct of the war.

            He could never adopt a clear or decided policy.  He would never take the ground that the states after secession were either out of the Union as states, or states in the Union, but treated them both as out and as in, and never was able to justify, on any ground he assumed, the war he was carrying on.  If they remained states in the Union they were integral elements of the national sovereignty, and could not be coerced, and he had no right to organize state governments within their territory.  If they were no longer states in the Union, he should never have conceded them the right of representation in Congress.  His want of decision, his ignorance of law, country attorney as he was, and his contempt of logic embarrassed the whole work of reconstruction, and took five years to effect what could just as well have been done in six weeks, and which after all was done in contempt of the constitution and laws, as also of all sound policy, substituting meanness for magnanimity.  What could have saved the nation has ruined it.

            But Booth’s pistol shot has sealed the reputation of him whose incompetency caused the evil, and consecrated his memory in the hearts of his countrymen.  Yet no good reason can be seen for holding the election of a rail-splitter anything to the credit either of the American people or of their power of government.  It will take centuries to restore, if it ever restored, our political constitution to its original soundness, not because slavery is abolished and the freedmen are invested with the right of suffrage and eligibility, but owing to the way in which it was done and the principles and opinions appealed to in doing it.  The popular mind has been corrupted, false and dangerous principles have been adopted, popular opinion has been placed above law, and party above the country.  There is no basis for government possible under the doctrines which have become current and acted upon.  Not only have the rights of the states been trampled on, obliterated, in fact, and the republic centralized, but the will of the people for the time being is made supreme, which means in practice, the majority for the time, owned and controlled by the business interests and corporations of the country, may govern as they please.  Yet this is not the point I wanted to discuss.  I wished to show that universal suffrage and eligibility raise to power very unfit men.

            Universal suffrage and eligibility exclude women.  To include them would only aggravate the evil.  Women act from sentiment, not reason, and it is their sentiment of humanity, which they in the abolition movement placed above the law, above the constitution, and which was directed by no infallible guide, and principally caused the evil.  I have a horror of philanthropists and reformers who act from sentiment, not authority; for however good may be the end they propose, they are sure to trample down more good by the way than they can effect by gaining their object.  But my opinion to universal suffrage and eligibility is, that in opening the door to every citizen to any office to which he can get elected or appointed, you induce everyone to aspire to some office and to struggle for it.  No man is too high or too low, too rich or too poor, to aspire to the Presidency.  Only one in four years can obtain it.  Now I think the happiness secured to the successful rail-splitter is not sufficient to overbalance the loss and misery caused by their defeat to his competitors.  There are, take the country through, at least ten aspirants to every single office to be filled.  The misery, the loss, sometimes the utter ruin of the nine defeated aspirants must be set down in the account against the happiness of the one who succeeds.  So far as the happiness of the people is concerned, the balance, then, is heavily against the doctrine.

            The animation and enjoyment of the race I count for no more than I do the excitement and the intense despair of the gambler.  The hope to win buoys him up, but that poorly compensates the agony of the misery which follows his loss.  But this is not all, nor my chief objection.  The chase is exciting, I grant, but the anxiety to win becomes so great and so absorbing that few men’s virtue can withstand it, and at length the determination to succeed at any rate and by any possible means is taken, and general corruption in elections, in all elective bodies, follows.  We see it in our own country, and men who are elected to Congress, to the state assemblies or municipal corporations by dishonest means, by trickery, chicanery, or political intrigue and manipulation, bargain or bribery, direct or indirect, will not prove incorruptible in the exercise of their trusts.  Hence nothing exceeds the political corruption which pervades our whole community, and which grows more year by year.  Offices become venal.  The President rewards his supporters with party spoils from the highest offices down to the lowest, and politics is as much a trade as making shoes or selling dry goods.  Members of Congress, whose salary will hardly meet their daily expenses, after a few years have contrived to grow rich, and some of them very rich.  All is fair in politics, it is said, and hardly a man amongst us thinks that conscience has any business to be heard in political matters.  We separate politics alike from religion and morality, forget the country, and admit no law in politics but success.

            Legislation cannot arrest this corruption.  Legislation has done all it can do, but men can never be legislated into honesty or virtue.  The laws are stringent enough now, but law can never be enforced in a popular government against popular sentiment, or popular passion.

            The evil will not cure itself.  Men will not learn from experience that it is for the interest of all and each to arrest and roll back the tide of corruption.  The only experience from which a man profits is his own, and, except in rare cases, that comes too late, only after the mischief is done.  Besides, interest, in this sense, is worthy of little reliance.  True, most men have an eye to their interest, but in most cases it is their immediate interest, and what they regard of immediate interest is determined by their individual tastes, affections and passions.  There is no interest that seems so great, so pressing, to the candidate for an office as his election or appointment.  You can never safely infer what people will do from what it is evidently their interest in the long run, or upon the whole, to do.

            Not that it is the inevitable tendency of democracy to produce political corruption.  The character of the people is of more consequence than the form of the government.  When the people, like the Americans, have the temper of parvenus, and an inordinate desire to be rich,- not, indeed, that they love wealth as an end, but for the sake of the distinction it gives,- the inevitable tendency is to produce in the whole community a ruinous competition and universal scramble for office, which is as incompatible with public virtue as it is with a peaceable life and the quiet enjoyment of the goods within their reach.  In our country there is no repose; even in religion our people are seeking less to practice the precepts of the Gospel than to find out some new faith, or to invent some new way of saving our souls, some patent machine that will carry us to heaven without unloading us of our sins.  We are all in a hurry and allow ourselves no leisure to think, to meditate.

            To conclude what I fear has been a tedious discourse, I will only say that my purpose is to persuade you that political institutions can never suffice to produce a heaven upon earth, for man’s well-being both here and hereafter has been by a loving Providence placed within easy reach; and if he longs for genuine freedom, brotherhood and equality, the Gospels of the Evangelists and Epistles of St. Paul tell him distinctly where and how he is to secure them.  In a popular government he will look in vain for any more intelligence or virtue in the average of the people by whom it is constituted, and only by raising the standard of popular intelligence and virtue can a reform in government be effected.  To this every individual of you can contribute his mite, and the reform wished for will be the result of such individual mites, or it will not come at all.  THE END