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mains 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. The trouble is that he does not know them. If the banker and the farmer never meet, or meet only in the most perfunctory business way, if the banking is not done by men whom the farmer knows as his friends and associates, a spirit of mistrust is almost sure to spring up. If the merchant or the manufacturer, the lawyer or the clerk, never meets the mechanic or the handicraftsman, save on rare occasions, when the meeting may be of a hostile kind, each side feels that the other is alien and naturally antagonistic. But if any one individual of any group were to be thrown into natural association with another group, the difficulties would be found to disappear so far as he was concerned. Very possibly he would become the ardent champion of the other group.
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 restedthat 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 the same occupation, but because of our ways of looking at life.
It is this capacity for sympathy, for fellow-feeling and mutual understanding, which must lie at the basis of all really successful movements for good government and the betterment of social and civic conditions. There is no patent device for bringing about good government. Still less is there any patent device for remedying social evils and doing away with social inequalities. Wise legislation can help in each case, and crude, vicious, or demagogic legislation can do an infinity of harm. But the betterment must come through the slow workings of the same forces which always have tended for righteousness, and always will.
The prime lesson to be taught is the lesson of treating each man on his worth as a man, and of remembering that while sometimes it is necessary, from both a legislative and social standpoint, to consider men as a class, yet in the long run our safety lies in recognizing the individual's worth or lack of worth as the chief basis of action, and in shaping our whole conduct, and especially our political conduct, accordingly. It is impossible for a democracy to endure if the political lines are drawn to coincide with class lines. The resulting government, whether of the upper or of the lower class, is not a government of the whole people, but a government of part of the people at the expense of the rest. Where the lines of political division are vertical, the men of each occupation and of every social standing separating according to their vocations and principles, the result is healthy and normal. Just so far, however, as the lines are drawn horizontally, the result is unhealthy, and in the long run disastrous, for such a division means that men are pitted against one another in accordance with the blind and selfish interests of the moment. Each is thus placed over against his neighbor in an attitude of greedy class hostility, which becomes the mainspring of his conduct, instead of each basing his political action upon his own convictions as to what is advisable and what inadvisable, and upon his own disinterested sense of devotion to the interests of the whole community as he sees them. Republics have fallen in the past primarily because the parties that controlled them divided along the lines of class, so that inevitably the triumph of one or the other implied the supremacy of a part over the whole. The result might be an oligarchy, or it might be mob rule; it mattered little which, as regards the ultimate effect, for in both cases tyranny and anarchy were sure to alternate. The failure of the Greek and Italian republics was fundamentally due to this cause. Switzerland has flourished because the divisions upon which her political issues have been fought have not been primarily those of mere caste or social class, and America will flourish and will become greater than any empire because, in the long run, in this country, any party which strives to found itself upon sectional or class jealousy and hostility must go down before the good sense of the people.
The only way to provide against the evils of a horizontal cleavage in politics is to encourage the growth of fellow-feeling, of a feeling based on the relations of man to man, and not of class to class. In the country districts this is not very difficult. In the neighborhood where I live, on the Fourth of July the four Protestant ministers and the Catholic priest speak from the same platform, the children of all of us go to the same district school, and the landowner and the hired man take the same views, not merely of politics, but of duck-shooting and of international yacht races. Naturally in such a community there is small chance for class division. There is a slight feeling against the mere summer residents, precisely because there is not much sympathy with them, and because they do not share in our local interests; but otherwise there are enough objects in common to put all much on the same plane of interest in various important particulars, and each man has too much self-respect to feel particularly