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even when they are successfully resisted, which they generally are not, by motions of an entirely different character from those which otherwise would control the same elections. Men obtain responsible positions for the sole consideration that they will distribute offices in a certain way. But suppose the majority offers a successful resistance to these energetic minorities? The result is only one removed in evil. For even then the men who have been elected to responsible positions have been so elected solely for one consideration; other equally or more important consideratious have been necessarily neglected in order to accomplish the discomfiture of the office-seekers. So that, when elections have resulted most fortunately under the circumstances, the men so placed in responsible positions have, very likely, no other qualification whatever, than that they will try to appoint efficient subordinates instead of handing the offices over to the "machine" politicians. If society were in a state of ideal stability, in which all questions of policy, all questions of law, all questions of fundamental importance to the function of government, had long ago and forever been settled to the satisfaction of every one, this result would do well enough. But this is not the state of society, our politics are not in stable equilibrium, questions of policy, questions of law, questions of fundamental importance to the function of government remain more truly, multiply. The men who get elected to responsible positions when the test of fitness applied to them was simply how they would use the appointing power, can be no other than they constantly are, even when at their best, men of mediocre intelligence and with no capacity for becoming in any sense political leaders. So the pursuit of spoils, even when it does not succeed, even when it does not corrupt, produces a deterioration in the whole political system.
Since it is perfectly obvious that the spoils system, as it actually prevails among us, is the offspring of the post-office, it is
evident that this institution, whether called socialistic or not by word-mongers, has not been without injury of a serious character. What is the evidence that the Government post-office is a relatively good thing? Several considerations have been suggested to show that it is not a good thing, and now I return to original point, cheapness. This is a consideration which, from its comparative simplicity, combined with the fact that it is the one which almost wholly absorbs the attention of the great American people, is most readily understood and appreciated. I have suggested that, though the money-cost of the Government's carrying the mail should only equal one one thousandth of the cost of the same service by private enterprise, the Government undertaking would still be a thousand times. more costly, in fact. But the measure of the cost in this case is too different from that commonly employed to meet with much consideration. Let us return, therefore, to money-cost. When a heavy weight is placed upon a weak beam, the beam breaks; but when a too heavy weight is placed upon a weak understanding, there is no strain at all; the weak mind simply remains impassive to the argument, and lets it merely fall to the ground. But, in connection with the telegraph system, some ignorant persons have been calling out for Government control, on the ground of cheapness, and have actually succeeded in persuading many that the Government could or would do this work cheaper than it is done at present; the implication being all the while that the same holds of the post-office. Now, so far as the post-office is concerned, a direct comparison between the costs of Government and of private management is impossible, for the reason that the post-office has not been operated by private concerns on any large scale. There is the well-known case of Wells, Fargo & Co., who used to carry mail to the Pacific coast cheaper than the Government did - and one of whose letterboxes I remember seeing in San Francisco bearing the offer to carry letters at four
cents, two of which were for the Government stamps. Then there is the further fact, that the principal part of the mail system is, in this country, already worked by private concerns — namely, the transportation by rail or by water. But these comparisons, although really to the point, are not so suggestive as the case of the telegraph. In England, the telegraph is operated by the Government. In the last number of the Forum, Mr. Bronson Keeler, appealing for the Government to take control of the telegraph, made the statement that in England the rates for telegraph messages were but little more than half the rates of the Western Union, the supposed inference being that this difference was due to governmental management. This calls for several remarks.
In the first place, the telegraph is operated at a loss in England, all statements to the contrary notwithstanding. The fact is that the report of the postmaster-general for 1887, 1888 shows that the telegraph department never did earn the full interest on its three-per-cent bonds, and that since the reduction of the rate in 1884 it has earned no part of this interest. Moreover, although the other government departments were charged with full rates for their service, the revenue of the telegraph department had fallen short of the expense of operation $800,000 in the preceding five years. The interest on the bonds, therefore, and $160,000 a year have been collected, partly from non-users of the telegraph, and partly from users of the telegraph, but not in the proportion in ' which they were served. If a private concern ran short this way, the cost would fall on the owners, and, in this kind of business, they would generally be the rich. When the government runs short, however, part of the expense is shifted on to people who get no direct benefit from the telegraph and who can ill afford the expense.
In the second place, the English rates are not nearly a half lower than the rates of the American company. I have seen it
stated on trustworthy authority that the old English rate for twenty words was one fifth lower than the American rate for ten words for like distances. But in the American rate the address and signature are not reckoned in the ten words, and this almost makes up the difference in the number of words. A moderate allowance for the address and signature is ten words. The English rate was reduced in 1885 to sixpence for twelve words, and a half-penny for each additional word, or ten pence for twenty words (ten words for the message and ten for the address). This makes the English rate perhaps a fourth less than that of the American company, a company paying its bond interest and its dividends, which is a very different thing from being one half the American rate.
In the third place, I say without hesitation, a just comparison shows a balance in favor of the American company, so far as management is concerned. "The items of maintenance, supplies, operation, and delivery comprise more than four fifths of the cost of the service" (Norvin Green). Now let us compare these items in the telegraph service of the two countries, without going into the question of relative rates of wages at all.
The telegraph service of England is performed by means of 30,255 miles of line, 178,962 miles of wire, and 6,810 offices, over an area of 129,000 square miles. This system transmitted, in 1887, 1888, 53,403,429 messages.
The telegraph service of this country, on the other hand, is performed by means of 171,375 miles of line, 616,248 miles of wire, and 17,241 offices, throughout an area very much more sparsely settled than that of England, and hence costing more to maintain the lines over, yet twenty-five times greater. This system transmitted only 51,463,955 messages.
So that, with five and a half times as many miles of line, three and a half times as many miles of wire, and nearly three times as many offices, to maintain for the
transmission of 2,000,000, fewer messages, the American company performed its service for short-distance messages at a rate only a fourth or a third reater than the English. As to long-distance messages, the comparison must be extended to the whole of Europe in order to get a parallel case, which then becomes vastly more favorable to the American company. Forty cents carries the ten-word message from New York, Philadelphia, Washington, or Baltimore, to Chicago, or to St. Louis a distance of one thousand miles. Nowhere in Europe (except from Paris to Algiers) can the same message be sent for less than twice the American charge; while for long distances, like those from Chicago or St. Louis to the Pacific coast, the same message in Euprope for the same distance would cost four times the American charge of seventy-five cents.
GREATER OR LESS.
Dr. Wayland, of Philadelphia, gives somewhere an account of his meeting a little boy at a mission school and asking him how long he had to work in the mill each day. The boy replied, "Ten and a half hours." Dr. Wayland comments on the fact that many strong men do not work so long as that, and then asks, "Do you call it a free country in which such things exist?" Unfortunately, he does not tell us what his conception of a free country is, but it is evidently different from the conceptions that have been most generally held.
An individual man is regarded as free when no one hinders him from doing as he likes. I suppose there is a difference between being able to do what one likes and being free to do what one likes; the former might require infinite power, but a weak man may be just as free as one much stronger. The essential idea of freedom seems to be the absence of any restraint upon his actions. It might be supposed that, by analogy, a free nation should be one free to do as it liked without any restraint by other nations. This seems to have been the idea of the Greeks; with them, a free state was one which managed its own affairs and did not pay tribute to any other state. The modern ideal is not a state conceived as an indivisible whole, but more regard is paid to the units. That is a free country of which the citizens are free; and as the government has hitherto been the chief agency by which the activities of citizens have been restrained, the conclusion has been reached (not very logically) that a country would be free if all its adult males, excluding paupers, idiots, convicts, and the insane, had a direct voice in the government. Rousseau, more than any other man, is probably responsible for this rather curious anomaly of political thought. He asserted that the interest of any member of a state could not conflict with the general interest, and that it was the will of each citizen to follow the general will; the latter was implied by his remaining a citizen. The question would, of course, arise how to find this general will, in following which each citizen would be following his own will. Evidently, in the case of any proposed law, each man should be asked his opinion whether the law is in accordance with the general will; the opinion of the majority is right, and the minority are simply mistaken. So, if the law passes, the latter no less than the former are exercising their liberty in conforming to it.
But Dr. Wayland's idea of a free country seems to agree neither with the Greek nor with the modern conception. Perhaps he
used the word in an etymological sense. According to Mr. Skeat, free is derived from a root pri, to love, rejoice. Perhaps the implication intended was that that could not be a loving or rejoicing country in which there are cases of boys working ten and a half hours a day, and men not working half so long. The idea of equality was not so prominent in the American Revolution as in the French. To be sure, this country started with the declaration that "All men are created equal"; but so Hobbes begins one of his works with the assertion that " All men among themselves are by nature equal; the inequality we now discern hath its spring from the civil law"; and this country at present displays almost as great inequality between its citizens as that between the absolute sovereign whom Hobbes advocated and one of his subjects. Now, however, possibly in consequence of the great inequality which exists, a movement towards equality seems to be springing up. Societies for promoting the "brotherhood of humanity" are forming, and equality is one of the watchwords of labor combinations.
No doubt, as Dr. Wayland observes, the founders of this country would be greatly struck at the frequency of large fortunes among us, men to whom half a million seemed almost fabulous wealth could not fail to be impressed at seeing fortunes of ten times that amount by no means uncommon. Still, whether that would be to them the most impressive feature of our progress may be left a question. It may be noted that the inequality here is chiefly an inequality of wealth, and of the advantages which spring from the possession of wealth. In separating from England, our ancestors left behind most of the traditions of a feudal past, which still retained much force in the parent country. They did not dream of creating a titled and privileged class in their new society. But they were English in blood, and Englishmen have always had a great love for inequality.
The inequality which exists, however,
was not sought or foreseen. It has resulted partly, no doubt, from the interference of government with industrial matters, but largely, also, from natural causes; the chief being ones the covetousness of human nature, the striving for the greater share of goods, and the methods by which the goods have been sought. Rousseau, as quoted by Prof. Huxley, says, "It is precisely because the nature of things continually tends to the destruction of equality that the power of legislation ought always to tend to maintain it."
If this be granted, then it must be admitted that in one respect legislation has almost universally tended in exactly the opposite direction to what it ought; for legislation, as well as the nature of things, has continually made for inequality. The charge is frequently made that even in this government of the people, by the people, and for the people, legislative action is taken hostile to the interests of the people and in the interest of great capitalists and corporations. It may be asserted without fear of contradiction that the function of legislation is certainly not to increase the natural inequality among men; but the charges, if they are true, raise the question, How is legislation to be controlled so as to keep it from this course, except by getting a different people? Surely, no form of government could more fully recognize the sovereignty of the people than ours does, and it is difficult to see how any easier means could be devised for the people to assert their sovereignty. Therefore, if the government is not administered entirely in the interests of the people, the fault is their own. Either they have not sufficient intelligence to see what their interests are, or they have not among them men who will carry on the government so as to secure these interests, or they have not intelligence enough to choose the right delegates. It is very easy to say that legislation should not accentuate natural inequality, just as it is easy to say that an engine should not waste five sixths of the energy liberated from the coal burned; but the diff
culty in either case is to find some means of prevention. To say that legislation ought to tend to maintain equality seems very much like saying that an engine ought to evolve more energy than is let out in the coal burned.
The same superiority which enables certain individuals to amass wealth enables them to manipulate legislatures to their own advantage, or to employ more skilful persons to do it for them. That a legislature chosen by a people from among themselves will be much superior to the people in virtue and intelligence is not to be expected; while experience shows that in the former quality it may be decidedly inferior. The two types of legislators are well known: first, the clever man, who is usually a knave; and second, the honest man, who may usually be safely
"taken for a tool
That knaves do work with, called a fool."
It has been remarked by Mr. Bagehot that the English people do not wish to be ruled by their most clever members, but by sensible men of substantial means, and that, therefore, the standard of intelligence of the House of Commons is not much above the common English average. Here there is less prejudice against cleverness, and if clever men are not elected to our legislatures it is not owing to popular distrust of them. But at any rate, there is generally a" third house," in which there is no lack of cleverness.
The case being as it is, legislatures chosen from the people being liable to pass laws in favor of certain individuals to the prejudice of the rest, the problem is to devise some means of inducing them to enact only such laws as will operate to the equal advantage of all, or, according to some, laws which will tend especially to the advantage of the inferior citizens, and thus place them on an equality with the superior. But until some means of this sort can be discovered, would it not be better to refrain from legislating upon those matters in which, if there is any legislation, it is almost sure to tend
to inequality?—I mean matters connected with the getting of property — except, of course, laws which forbid the exercise of superior faculties in a certain way, the use of superior strength in robbery, of superior shrewdness in cheating, and the like. This would not be enough to counterbalance the natural course of things towards inequality; and many persons are never happy unless they are fighting against nature; but it would have this advantage, that it would not exacerbate the natural tendency.
It is not necessary to contend that inequality is a good thing because it is natural; it may be, as Mr. Gladstone suggested, "the complement of the love of freedom, or its negative pole, or the shadow which the love of freedom casts"; it is at any rate something which cannot easily be done away. A society may be conceived in which the units are equal. Such a society might be progressive, though, in the animal kingdom, progress, or development, has been brought about by individuals arising superior to their fellows, and in consequence of their superiority surviving and leaving offspring, to the exclusion of the inferior. In societies composed as those which actually exist, individuals with superior powers for obtaining what all desire get a larger share than others, and thus arises social inequality. Perhaps this might be prevented by suitable combination on the part of the inferior; but it is not certain that this would be for the advantage of the latter. Still, there is no reason for asserting that in a peaceful society any man should be rich or elevated at the expense of the rest, and if any man or class of men has effected this by means of laws it is the duty of the rest to resist.
And this brings us to the connection between liberty and equality suggested by the sentence quoted at the beginning, in which is implied the not uncommon belief that no country can be free in which great inequality of conditions exists among the citizens. If the inequality is produced by law, it is inconsistent with freedom, because certainly not every man of his own will con