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been doing for the last three years, all serious moral and domestic questions will somehow settle themselves.
Sueh a delusion is equally childish and cowardly, and it is only necessary to glance at such questions to discover that instead of settling themselves they are daily growing in gravity, and how unwise it is, instead of facing them, to be actually running away from them. It is certainly in no spirit of criticism, and with no feeling of censoriousness, that I thus call your attention to the corroding influence of war and commercialism upon moral courage, but simply because a recrudescence of moral courage in dealing with these problems closely concerns the present peace and the future welfare of our beloved country.
As one example, take our attitude toward the corrupt use of money in our elections and in our representative bodies. Even the dullest intelligence must see that if we continue to destroy, as for some time past we have been destroying, the belief of the majority of our fellow citizens that elections are honestly conducted and laws are honestly made, we are destroying the best possible basis for the security of private property; for there can be no reverence for law where laws and law makers are bought with money, and I fear we are rapidly destroying the possibility of such reverence in the minds of the masses of our countrymen.
We ought never to forget that in democratic governments the black flag of corruption is very likely to be followed by the red flag of anarchy. Yet we close our eyes in sheer cowardice to this evil and the danger it is creating, and we gravely pretend to each other that it does not exist, while we all well know that it does exist. Representatives of vast accumulations of property, guardians of great trusts, individuals profiting by the opportunity offered here for suddenly acquiring
colossal fortunes, and even those of us who have no fortunes, have not hesitated to give whatever money is needed to be applied to the purchase of the electorate and, when necessary, of the representative bodies elected by them.
Our municipal governments have long been a by-word of hissing and of shame, and they have been so because we decided we could make money by corrupting them. We have given freely to assist in electing persons known to be ready at the first opportunity to betray the sacred trust of the committed to their keeping, in order to put the spoils of such betrayal in our own pockets. Many State legislatures have become equally objects of contempt and derision for the same
Then these corrupting influences have not hesitated to advance a step farther and lay their hand upon members of both branches of the national legislature until at last, so callous have we become upon the subject, that, if the case I am about to imagine occurred, I venture to assert that no earnest protest would be made by men of our class against its consummation.
Suppose an ambitious man, desiring to obtain the only success now deemed important in American life, should set himself to the work of making a large sum of money, and, having in any one of the ways now open to such efforts, succeeded beyond his hopes, he looked around to see what other distinction was open to him wherein he could use a portion of his gains so as bring to himself the most gratification; and that he should deside that he would give himself most pleasure by debauching the electorate of a State and thereby securing for himself a seat in the Senate of the United States.
Suppose, also, that he had so far imbibed the present American spirit as to feel quite sure that there was no need
for secrecy in these operations, but that they were rather a subject of legitimate pride ; and that in the course of time he had so far succeeded that only a minority of citizens and legislators of his own party stood between him and the realization of his desire, but that the members of that minority proved to be incorruptible, either by the baser temptation of money or in the more plausible form of public office, and that, continuing bravely to stand for the purity of American politics and the honor of their native State, they succeeded in defeating the success of such debauchery, would their conduct be received with the applause it deserved ?
If not, I venture to say that it is very poor politics for the party of capital thus openly and cynically to notify the party of labor that no respect is due to law or to the makers of law; that it is wholly a question of money and not at all a question of morals; that the right to make laws is now as legitimate a subject of bargain and sale as that of any merchandise, and that therefore nobody ought to pay any respect to law except where it happens to comport with his pecuniary advantage to do so.
I may be needlessly concerned about the matter, but I confess, in spite of my ardent Americanism and my confidence in the law-abiding spirit of my countrymen, I am disturbed when I see what I regard as one of the best protections of the future thus openly undermined and destroyed, while the moral cowardice of those of us who do not ourselves corrupt anybody prevents our uttering a word of protest against it.
Upon the ground of expediency alone, regarding it only as an element in our commercial expansion, in our growth of trade, in our increase of wealth, in the prosperity of our stock exchanges—even from this standpoint it is assuredly
great practical folly to destroy the ethical ideal of law, as we are striving so earnestly to do.
There is another very grave problem which we are also refusing to consider, and by which refusal the ethical ideal of law is also being destroyed. It is the problem presented by our negro population, now approaching ten millions of souls. We gave them the suffrage, and we have allowed some of them to be killed for possessing it. We appointed some of them to office, and have stood meekly by when they were shot for having our commission in their hands. They are being burnt before our eyes without even a pretence of trial. We are allowing State after State openly, even contemptuously, to nulify a solemn amendment of the constitution enacted for their protection, to secure which we poured out our treasure without limit and shed the blood of our sons like water.
All of us, whether in public office or in private station, now concur in trying to ignore the existence of any such problem at our doors, while, laughing like the Roman augurs in each other's faces, we indulge in self-congratulations about the blessings we are carrying to another ten millions of dark-skinned races in far-distant lands.
I fully appreciate the difficulty in finding the best solution of this awful problem, but I do insist that our evasion of it is utterly unworthy of American manhood. It is not fair to the men and women of the South to leave them to settle it as they please, so long as we have duties connected with it; and it is useless to suppose that a problem involving ten millions of people is being solved by a few industrial schools fitting an inconsiderable fraction of the youth of both sexes for occupations most of which they will not be allowed to follow, and thereby unfitting them for the only occupations
in which they will be at liberty to earn their bread; and it is equally useless for us to pretend that by making contributions to such institutions we have done our whole duty in meeting the test this problem presents of our courage alike as citizens and as men.
We ought in the North as in the South to face our responsibilities toward these descendants of a people we brought here against their will and solely for our own profit, and we ought seriously to discuss and determine, in Congress and out of it, what is the best possible relation to be established between them and us; and then we ought to have the courage to give that relation the sanction of law and to see that such law is respected and obeyed.
Such treatment of this problem would be a far greater security for our future peace than many new regiments and many new ships of war. At present the condition of the whole subject is lawlessness, and such a condition is disgraceful to us all and is fraught with the serious dangers which lawlessness always brings in its train-as the exact opposite of the ethical ideal of law.
Indeed, the ethical ideal of the legislator and the citizen, as men zealous to know their public duty and brave enough to do it, is also rapidly being destroyed by our failing even to attempt to deal seriously and adequately with many other problems now imperatively demanding our attention. Among these problems are the reform of our present shameless and corrupt pension legislation, costing us over $150,000,000 a year, although a quarter of a century ago it was demonstrated by the tables of mortality that.$35,000,000 was the maximum sum which could properly be expended for legitimate pensions; the reform of much other equally shameless and corrupt legislation, of which a fair specimen is that