Page images
PDF
EPUB

nificant fact that the youngest of the great American universities, the Johns Hopkins, founded in 1876, took for its motto, “Veritas vos liberabit.” Another equally significant fact is this : The Johns Hopkins University assumed a non-partisan attitude in natural science. Its biological laboratory was instituted solely for the search of truth, regardless of consequences. Darwinian and anti-Darwinian doctrines, as such, could not be considered. Some good people were prejudiced against the University at the start on this account, and looked with much trepidation upon its teachings ; but in ten years this has for a large part disappeared, and no college has warmer, more devoted friends among the clergy. This means faith in truth and a conscious recognition of the fact that one truth cannot clash with another. One other illustration of this all-important point must follow, if the reader will pardon a personal allusion. When the writer's name was brought forward for the position of teacher of political economy in the Johns Hopkins University five years ago, the authorities of the institution, true to their motto, asked no questions about his opinions in regard to free trade and protection or anything else, although these were then as unknown as he himself. There was simply an endeavor to ascertain his qualifications for the position. This is an experience which is probably almost unique.

People are learning, both in political economy and natural science, that truth alone can make them free; that truth alone has in it the power of life; that truth—not error—is able to conserve the good, and that to fear it is unworthy of an enlightened people.

There has been the same remarkable progress in the development of an economic literature in America, which has been noted elsewhere. To confine ourselves to the past few months, such works may be mentioned as James on “The Relation of the Modern Municipality to the Gas Supply;" Shaw on “Co-operation in a Western City”-two remarkable publications of the American Economic Association-Hudson on “ Railways and the Republic;" Hadley on “Railroad Transportation," and Laughlin on “Bimetallism in the United States.” These are all based on investi. gations in the rich field of American economic life. We have also bold endeavors to reconstruct fundamental principles in economics, like Patten's “Premises of Political Economy," and J. B. Clark's “ Philosophy of Wealth.” All these are works of international importance.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

One year ago there was no economic periodical in the United States. To-day there are three, and all evidently rest on a permanent basis. They are the bi-monthly monographs of the American Economic Association, published in Baltimore; the Political Science Quarterly of Columbia College, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics, published under the auspices of Harvard University.

A change in the conception of political economy must not fail to be noticed in this place. Its scope has become enlarged, and it is not quite the same thing which it was once. It has become a distinctively ethical science, and necessarily includes purpose within its province. It is clearly recognized that the will of man is a chief factor in economic life, and that, within certain limits, we can have just such a social system as we choose—always, be it observed, however, within certain limits. Accordingly, ideals for the individual, for the State, for society, for the church, are placed before men, and they are urged to strive for them in every practicable way. It is on this account, also, that the new political economy lays so much stress on ethical education, for it is seen that errors as often proceed from the heart as from the head.

It must not be supposed that the new political economy has gained exclusive sway even in the colleges and universities of the United States—much less outside of them. Still it is making its way rapidly ; it is accepted by the teachers in most of our colleges, and it is beginning to permeate the thought of our time, as may be seen in the utterances of press and pulpit.

The economists of the older school cannot, either, be denied their use. They are not mere drags on the car of progress, but with their criticism, sharp and ungracious though it sometimes be, they render the advance surer.

In conclusion, however, it is undeniable that the prime need of the hour is increased light in economics, a further development of the new political economy, and the qualities indispensable in the men who would carry on the work already so auspiciously begun are these : a good heart, a strong intellect, and dauntless courage.

RICHARD T. ELY.

OUR KING IN DRESS COAT.

The late John Stuart Mill remarked in my hearing that he did not wonder that there should be serious faults in the Constitution of the United States, but he did wonder that, among a people so generally educated as the Americans, there had been developed no school of critics and reformers of the Constitution. In explanation I could only exclaim “Great is Diana of the Ephesians !” The investment in the Constitution was large enough to evolve a generation of believers that it came down from heaven. Since the overthrow of slavery the silver image has shown some signs of turning to clay. When, in 1872, I wrote my little book on “ Republican Superstitions," for use in the French Convention, then engaged in framing a Constitution, I could not discover any American work of the kind indicated by Mr. Mill; but since then several able criticisms of our organic law have appeared, such as Lockwood's “ Abolition of the Presidency,” and Stickney's “ Democratic Government." Emerson remarked, as a phenomenon, that there are times when the American eagle bears a curious resemblance to a peacock. It is not unlikely that this Centenary of our Constitution will witness such transformation. But, after the gorgeous tail has been sufficiently spread, it is to be hoped that the eagle eye will scan with more clearness than hitherto the century of our constitutional history. The time is ripe as the occasion is picturesque. There is no question of serious interest in the national politics, and nothing could so fitly supersede the petty disputes at the Capitol, over office holders and Mormons, as a thorough inquest of the Nation into its organic system, as illustrated by its hundred experimental years.

In that century one fact is salient : its history is a series of presidential biographies. Its foreign wars have been the work of presidents; its Civil War was caused by the election of a presi

[ocr errors]

dent. There is no political crime which has not been committed by some president, and always with impunity. It is also observ. able that the presidency has been steadily developed into an office different from any contemplated by those who framed the Constitution. Only two members of that convention-Franklin and Randolph-appear to have clearly foreseen the perilous possibilities of “the one man power." At that time it appeared to the vast majority that government without individual headship was impossible ; and the depth of the root of that belief may be measured by its having survived the fearful cost of its fruit. It is a characteristic of every superstition that it is never judged by its fruits ; its root must be searched and truth planted beside it.

The phenomenon of an American potentate, stronger and less responsible than any other monarch in the world, has often been remarked but not explained. The Germans call him “the King in dress coat ;" the French, “the Parvenu King;” but the President has an antiquity stretching far back of hereditary monarchs, and beneath his dress coat conceals the paint of the primitive warrior. In war, supremacy of an individual will was essential; the wisdom that comes of a multitude of counselors becomes unwisdom when safety depends on the instant action of all as one man. While war was the normal condition of mankind there was no hereditary chieftainship; their biggest, or cunningest, or bravest man was chosen by each tribe, under penalty of extermination. When the first age of peace began, this chieftain, invested with power to be used against alien tribes, could use it to choose and enthrone his successor ; as this successor was generally his own son, there grew up the immemorial custom which is transcendent law. But as with peace, arts and interests are developed, and society becomes complex, the chief can no longer administer to these needs alone ; he remains to represent force, that in which his throne was established, but he would be overthrown if this force could not be transformed from a purely militant to an adequately industrial arm. To this end the chief summons counselors and ministers. These relieve him of responsibility and secure his dynasty, but it is at the cost of personal power. For this loss the family which reigns without governing is compensated by the social lustre of nominal headship. But peace is liable to be broken, and it is then generally found that the hereditary chieftainship cannot resume its original function of leading in war. The luxury of palaces is not favorable to the breeding of warriors. If, at such juncture, when the laws and usages of peaceful society are suspended, and the community relapses temporarily into the martial condition, a warrior should arise able to lead his tribe to victory, the hereditary dynasty is liable to be overthrown. In the joy of safety and victory the warrior is hailed as a saviour ; religious traditions and instructions declare him the chosen instrument of the war god, or god of battles ; popular imagination invests him with supernatural glories which eclipse that of routine royalty. The man thus able to break the line of royal succession is recognizable through history; he is called demigod, hero, scourge of God, dictator, man of destiny, father of his country; he is Emperor by the grace of God; the Holy Ghost in form of a dove is seen hovering near his head, and is the emblem on his sceptre. By immediate divine commission he overrules the traditional “divine right” of kings; he can conquer or dissolve parliaments. Such, to recall

. words of the most salient example, Napoleon I., are “powerful mortals chosen by destiny, at certain given moments of history, to hold the place of a people, and towards whom when they appear each turns with the cry, ‘Behold the Man!” These men represent imperialism as distinguished from royalty. It is from the Mahomets, Cæsars, Cromwells, Napoleons, that the imperial line is formed. It is based in revolution and dependent on military glory. When the revolution is through ballots, instead of bayonets, and the chieftain is the most skillful political strategist, the Emperor is called a President.

Mais, que diable allait-il faire dans cette galère? How came it that an assembly of Americans should fall out of the line of the historic development of their race, and, having dethroned King George, set up in his place a power which no George ever dreamed of exercising? Bagehot thinks our presidental office due to a mistake. “Living across the Atlantic, and misled by accepted doctrines, the acute framers of the Federal Constitution, even after the keenest attention, did not perceive the Prime Minister to be the principal executive of the British Constitution, and the sovereign a cog in the mechanism." This is true, no doubt, but it hardly explains the fact that we find ourselves to-day, as Mr. Lockwood says, “under a form of government abandoned in England nearly two hundred years ago.” In truth, there sailed

« PreviousContinue »