« PreviousContinue »
where the issuance of such manifestoes helps to achieve the results. It is a very bad thing to be morally callous, for moral callousness is disease. But inflammation of the conscience may be just as unhealthy so far as the public is concerned; and if a man's conscience is always telling him to do something foolish he will do well to mistrust its workings. The religious man who is most useful is not he whose sole care is to save his own soul, but the man whose religion bids him strive to advance decency and clean living and to make the world a better place for his fellows to live in; and all this is just as true of the ordinary citizen in the performance of the ordinary duties of political life. ...
The last ten years have been years of great achievement for this Nation. During that period we have dealt and are dealing with many different matters of great moment. In all these matters there have been some men in public life and some men in private life whose action has been at every point one of barren criticism or fruitless obstruction. These men have had no part or lot in the great record of achievement and success; the record of good work worthily done. Some of these men have been college graduates; but all of them have been poor servants of the people, useless where they were not harmful. All the credit for the good thus accomplished in the public life of this decade belongs to those who have done affirmative work in such matters as those I have enumerated above, and not to those who, with more or less futility, have sought to hamper and obstruct the work that has thus been done.
In short, you college men, be doers rather than critics of the deeds that others do. Stand stoutly for your
ideals; but keep in mind that they can only be realized, even partially, by practical methods of achievement. Remember always that this Repubħc of ours is a very real democracy, and that you can only win success by showing that you have the right stuff in you. The college man, the men of intellect and training, should take the lead in every fight for civic and social righteousness. He can take that lead only if in a spirit of thoroughgoing democracy he takes his place among his fellows, not standing aloof from them, but mixing with them, sò that he may know, may feel, may sympathize with their hopes, their ambitions, their principles — and even their prejudices — as an American among Americans, as a man among men.
1 Address at the Harvard Union, February 23, 1907.
IL. PRACTICAL POLITICS
I The political associations of the various districts are not organized merely at the approach of election day; on the contrary, they exist throughout the year, and for the greater part of the time are to a great extent merely social clubs. To a large number of the men who belong to them they are the chief social rallying-point. These men congregate in the association building in the evening to smoke, drink beer, and play cards, precisely as the wealthier men gather in the clubs whose purpose is avowedly social and not political — such as the Union, University, and Knickerbocker. Politics thus becomes a pleasure and relaxation as well as a serious pursuit. The. different members of the same club or association become closely allied with one another, and able to act together on occasions with unison and esprit de corps; and they will stand by one of their own number for reasons precisely homologous to those which make a member of one of the upper clubs support a fellow-member if the latter happens to run for office. “He is a gentleman, and shall have my vote," says the swell club man. “He's one of the boys, and I'm for him,” replies the heeler from the district party association. In each case the feeling is social rather than political, but where the club man influences one vote the heeler controls ten. A rich merchant and a small tradesman alike find it merely a bore to attend the meetings of the local political club; it is to them an irksome duty which is shirked whenever possi
ble. But to the small politicians and to the various workers and hangers-on, these meetings have a distinct social attraction, and the attendance is a matter of preference. They are in congenial society and in the place where by choice they spend their evenings, and where they bring their friends and associates; and naturally all the men so brought together gradually blend their social and political ties, and work with an effectiveness impossible to the outside citizens whose social instincts interfere, instead of coinciding with their political duties. If an ordinary citizen wishes to have a game of cards or a talk with some of his companions, he must keep away from the local headquarters of his party; whereas under similar circumstances, the professional politician must go there. The man who is fond of his home naturally prefers to stay there in the evenings, rather than go among the noisy club frequenters, whose pleasure it is to see each other at least weekly, and who spend their evenings discussing neither sport, business, nor scandal, as do other sections of the community, but the equally monotonous subject of ward politics.
The strength of our political organizations arises from their development as social bodies; many of the hardest workers in their ranks are neither office-holders nor yet paid henchmen, but merely members who have gradually learned to identify their fortunes with the party whose hall they have come to regard as the headquarters in which to spend the most agreeable of their leisure moments. Under the American system it is impossible for a man to accomplish anything by himself; he must associate himself with others, and they must throw their weight together. This is just what the social functions
of the political clubs enable their members to do. The great and rich society clubs are composed of men who are not apt to take much interest in politics anyhow, and never act as a body. The great effect produced by a social organization for political purposes is shown by the career of the Union League Club; and equally striking proof can be seen by every man who attends a ward meeting. There is thus, however much to be regretted it may be, a constant tendency towards the concentration of political power in the hands of those men who by taste and education are fitted to enjoy the social side of the various political organizations."
II The terms machine and machine politician are now undoubtedly used ordinarily in a reproachful sense; but it does not at all follow that this sense is always the right one. On the contrary, the machine is often a very powerful instrument for good; and a machine politician really desirous of doing honest work on behalf of the community is fifty times as useful an ally as is the average philanthropic outsider. Indeed, it is of course true, that any political organization (and absolutely no good work can be done in politics without an organization) is a machine; and any man who perfects and uses this organization is himself, to a certain extent, a machine politician. In the rough, however, the feeling against machine politics and politicians is tolerably well justified by the facts, although this statement really reflects most severely upon the educated and honest people who largely
From American Ideals. Copyright, 1897. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London, publishers.