« PreviousContinue »
all wild extremes; and may our ultra-conservatives remember that the rule of the Bourbons brought on the Revolution, and may our would-be revolutionaries remember that no Bourbon was ever such a dangerous enemy of the people and of freedom as the professed friend of both, Robespierre. There is no danger of a revolution in this country; but there is grave discontent and unrest, and in order to remove them there is need of all the wisdom and probity and deep-seated faith in and purpose to uplift humanity, we have at our command.
Friends, our task as Americans is to strive for social and industrial justice, achieved through the genuine rule of the people. This is our end, our purpose. The methods for achieving the end are merely expedients, to be finally accepted or rejected according as actual experience shows that they work well or ill. But in our hearts we must have this lofty purpose, and we must strive for it in all earnestness and sincerity, or our work will come to nothing. In order to succeed we need leaders of inspired idealism, leaders to whom are granted great visions, who dream greatly and strive to make their dreams come true; who can kindle the people with the fire from their own burning souls. The leader for the time being, whoever he may be, is but an instrument, to be used until broken and then to be cast aside; and if he is worth his salt he will care no more when he is broken than a soldier cares when he is sent where his life is forfeit in order that the victory may be won. In the long fight for righteousness the watchword for all of us is spend and be spent. It is of little matter whether any one man fails or succeeds; but the cause shall not fail, for it is the cause of mankind.
We, here in America, hold in our hands the hope of the world, the fate of the coming years; and shame and disgrace will be ours if in our eyes the light of high resolve is dimmed, if we trail in the dust the golden hopes of men. If on this new continent we merely build another country of great but unjustly divided material prosperity, we shall have done nothing; and we shall do as little if we merely set the greed of envy against the greed of arrogance, and thereby destroy the material well-being of all of us. To turn this Government either into government by a plutocracy or government by a mob would be to repeat on a larger scale the lamentable failures of the world that is dead. We stand against all tyranny, by the few or by the many. We stand for the rule of the many in the interest of all of us, for the rule of the many in a spirit of courage, of common sense, of high purpose, above all in a spirit of kindly justice towards every man and every woman. We not merely admit, but insist, that there must be self-control on the part of the people, that they must keenly perceive their own duties as well as the rights of others; but we also insist that the people can do nothing unless they not merely have, but exercise to the full, their own rights. The worth of our great experiment depends upon its being in good faith an experiment -- the first that has ever been tried - in true democracy on the scale of a continent, on a scale as vast as that of the mightiest empires of the Old World. Surely this is a noble ideal, an ideal for which it is worth while to strive, an ideal for which at need it is worth while to sacrifice much; for our ideal is the rule of all the people in a spirit of friendliest brotherhood towards each and every one of the people.1
1 Address at Carnegie Hall, New York City, March 30, 1912.
I. CLASS CLEAVAGE
DANGER from religious antipathy is dead, and from sectional antipathy dying; but there are at times very ugly manifestations of antipathy between class and class. It seems a pity to have to use the word “class,” because there are really no classes in our American life in the sense in which the word “class” is used in Europe. Our social and political systems do not admit of them in theory, and in practice they exist only in a very fluid state. In most European countries classes are separated by rigid boundaries, which can be crossed but rarely, and with the utmost difficulty and peril. Here the boundaries cannot properly be said to exist, and are certainly so fluctuating and evasive, so indistinctly marked, that they cannot be appreciated when seen near by. Any American family which lasts a few generations will be apt to have representatives in all the different classes. The great business men, even the great professional men, and especially the great statesmen and sailors and soldiers, are very apt to spring from among the farmers or wage-workers, and their kinsfolk remain near the old home or at the old trade. If ever there existed in the world a community where the identity of interest, of habit, of principle, and of ideals should be felt as a living force, ours is the one.
Speaking generally, it really is felt to a degree quite unknown in other countries of our size. There are, doubtless, portions of Norway and Switzerland where the social and political ideals, and their nearness to realization, are not materially different from those of the most essentially American portions of our own land; but this is not true of any European country of considerable size. It is only in American communities that we see the farmer, the hired man, the lawyer, and the merchant, and possibly even the officer of the army or the navy, all kinsmen, and all accepting their relations as perfectly natural and simple.
This is eminently healthy. This is just as it should be in our republic. It represents the ideal toward which it would be a good thing to approximate everywhere. In the great industrial centers, with their highly complex, highly specialized conditions, it is of course merely an ideal. There are parts even of our oldest States, as, for example, New York, where this ideal is actually realized; there are other parts, particularly the great cities, where the life is so wholly different that the attempt to live up precisely to the country conditions would be artificial and impossible. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the only true solution of our political and social problems lies in cultivating everywhere the spirit of brotherhood, of fellow-feeling and understanding between man and man, and the willingness to treat a man as a man, which are the essential factors in American democracy as we still see it in the country districts.
The chief factor in producing such sympathy is simply association on a plane of equality, and for a common object. Any healthy-minded American is bound to think well of his fellow-Americans if he only gets to know them. Perhaps I may be pardoned for quoting my own experience as an instance in point. Outside of college boys and politicians my first intimate associates were ranchmen, cow-punchers, and game-hunters, and I speedily became convinced that there were no other men in the country who were their equals. Then I was thrown much with farmers, and I made up my mind that it was the farmer upon whom the foundations of the commonwealth really rested — that the farmer was the archetypical good American. Then I saw a good deal of railroad men, and after quite an intimate acquaintance with them I grew to feel that, especially in their higher ranks, they typified the very qualities of courage, self-reliance, self-command, hardihood, capacity for work, power of initiative, and power of obedience, which we like most to associate with the American name. Then I happened to have dealings with certain carpenters' unions, and grew to have a great respect for the carpenter, for the mechanic type. By this time it dawned upon me that they were all pretty good fellows, and that my championship of each set in succession above all other sets had sprung largely from the fact that I was very familiar with the set I championed, and less familiar with the remainder. In other words, I had grown into sympathy with, into understanding of, group after group, with the effect that I invariably found that they and I had common purposes and a common standpoint. We differed among ourselves, or agreed among ourselves, not because we had different occupations or