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able to deal with the problems of the day intelligently, and to pre pare for the future, the aim should be to gain a broad outlook.
In considering current political events in the United States, a tendency to ignore the larger aspects of politics must be recognized. On the one hand is the conservative, deploring the revolutionary change that seems destructive of the best timbers of the old constitution, and on the other the radical, or, as he prefers to be called, the progressive, who regrets the slow process of change and would have revision and amendment speedily alter the old system.
It would be useless perhaps to argue with the party man that his cause is of no great consequence in the final end. As the world goes, he has his necessary place, though perhaps his importance is less than generally supposed, for no leader can go far in advance of public opinion. That fine character in “The Caxtons," the English statesman Trevanion, was unsuccessful because of his poise of character. He was “plagued by his conscience into seeing all sides of a question (for the least question has more than two sides and is hexagonal at least)," and he "was more fitted to discover the origin of ideas than to convince cabinets and nations that two and two make four." The Trevanions do not make political heroes, but their place is not less important than that of the enthusiastic reformer or partisan. And it is not amiss to have an occassional reminder from the historian and the philosopher to avoid the common danger of making over again the same mistakes that have been made by others.
The science of history would accomplish no purpose but to satisfy idle curiosity concerning the past, if its pages afforded no lessons for the future. There is much truth in the saying that there is nothing new except what has been forgotten.
Representative Government Still on Trial These reflections are suggested by a consideration of the situation of representative government in the United States and in other civilized countries. It was not long ago the general opinion of historians and publicists that the representative system was the perfect fruit of centuries of growth and development in the science of government. The evolution of this form from earlier types was supposed to have reached full perfection in the American Constitution, which became a model for the constitutions of the several states of the Union, and even for the constitutions of other progressive and enlightened countries. Derived as it was from the English constitution directly, and from other systems more remotely, it seemed to express in written form the ideals toward which mankind had been advancing, and it seemed to embody in the concrete the best theories, and the loftiest aspirations, and the most perfect consummation of experience. The essential feature of this and all other modern governments in highly civilized states is the delegation of power by the people to their representatives or agents, and this feature in its best form is distinctly a modern invention, an improvement evolved by experiment.
But it is becoming more and more evident that representative government is already undergoing a change, and that we are about to enter upon a new era. In earlier times a representative was vested with wide discretion and could exercise much independence of action. When means of communication were slow, and there were fewer letters and no telegrams, and when the daily press was not pouring out its stream of white printed paper, and when education and precise information of events was not so general, the staiesman was less amenable to immediate influence of his constituents. But this situation is changed, and now a representative is inclined to follow rather than to lead public opinion, and to be tender about trespassing upon the will of those who have sent him as their delegate. Thus representative government has become in this respect more democratic. The responsibility for political action rests, then, more heavily than formerly upon the voters themselves; but they in turn gain the information upon which to predicate their action from the press, rather than from the lecture platform or the political rostrum as earlier generations did. The influence of the newspaper has greatly increased, not so much because of its editorial utterances as because of its method of exploiting the events of the day. This is particularly the case in states in which the initiative and referendum, the direct primary, and the recall, have been adopted.
But it is true now, as it always has been, that representative government must depend for its success upon a citizenship of high order. It presupposes restraint and self-sacrifice. It recognizes the fact that to gain the best result the individual must be willing to forego some of his natural rights. To use an expression of Benjamin Franklin much quoted in the Revolutionary period: “They that can give us essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” On the other hand, a popular majority that acts upon the principle that they should take that have the power, and they should keep who can, makes popular government a dangerous despotism, not less dangerous because the oppression wears the guise of liberty.
The Federal Constitution was deliberately planned, and did not come into existence by accident. Those who drafted it recognized that certain limitations upon the exercise of popular rights should be deemed essential to permanent security. The important principle was established that flexibility was to be surrendered to gain stability.
In some countries limitations upon the right of suffrage, class distinctions, and various customs and usages have heretofore been deemed essential to the successful operation of representative government. Such countries have found it possible to give the utmost freedom to constitutional change, principally because the persons having the right to participate in the elections have represented those elements in the population that were least inclined to radical modifications in the system of laws. Doubtless the recent extension of the right to vote to practically all classes in the countries referred to will have an effect upon the character of legislation hereafter. At any rate, both in the United States and in other countries, in spite of artificial restrictions, constitutions are rapidly changing.
A brief survey of political and social conditions and changes in some of these foreign countries prior to the outbreak of the war may he of interest as tending to show that, while governments are becoming more democratic, the tendency of legislation is toward giving the state greater powers over the individual, and creating for it new duties of a social character.
Social Legislation Prior to the World War. In Italy a new electoral law has recently become operative, establishing what is practically universal suffrage. A large percentage of the population, estimated at some five millions of persons, who are illiterate, have been given a voice in the government, more than doubling the electorate. The experiment will be followed with interest, but in view of the antagonisms that already exist between church and state, between labor and employer, between the common people and the privileged classes, and between the different sections and the different cities, the government is likely to have its difficulties, as in. deed it has had in the past. A part of the country is sterile and the people are very poor, so that the question of sustenance is always a vital one. It is perhaps on this account that some six hundred thou. sand Italians go away from Italy every year, though many of these return with their earnings after months or years. These who return bring new ideas as well as money, and the spread of enlightenment is noticeable from this source. But the shifting of the electoral power to the poorer and unlettered persons has greatly changed the character of representative government in Italy, and this will have a profound effect upon the domestic and foreign policy of the nation.
Syndicalism has taken firm hold, and recent despatches published in the public press indicate that the spirit of dissatisfaction and unrest is about to culminate in a general strike involving practically all trades. But the people are becoming interested in other problems. Already the extension of education, the care of the infirm and sick, the betterment of the condition of the population in the South, the alleviation of financial burdens, the changing of the system of taxation and expenditures of the public revenues, have become vital questions.
In Germany the conservatives have remained in power because of the antiquated electoral system under which the populous and democratic cities are denied their proportionate representation in the Reichstag. The larger party is the Social-Democratic party, but that party
has a comparatively small number of representatives in the Parliaments. It has only six representatives in the Prussian Landtag, as compared with 212 Conservatives, although the Social Democrats outnumber the Conservatives in Prussia more than three to one. In the Empire, the Socialist vote grew more than twenty-five per cent. between 1903 and 1912, and more than one-third of those who voted for members of the Reichstag in 1912 were Socialists. The strength of the Conservatives in that body is largely due to the rotten boroughs and the influence of the official classes over the voters in the rural districts. The dominating characteristic of the government is militarism, which imposes a heavy burden, but in spite of it the commercial advance of the German people has been remarkable. All foreign observers seem to agree that that country is ready for a social revolution which will inevitably result in enlarging popular rights.
That country has already taken advanced steps in social legislation, providing old age, accident and health pensions, workingmen's compensation and insurance, acts governing the unemployed, wages, hours of labor and food supplies. A Chamber of Labor has been created to deal with labor questions.
Turning now to France, let it be noted that the present' cabinet represents the radical element, which has greatly influenced the formation of cabinets of late years. During the last ten years the Socialists and Radicals have gained great strength in Parliament. This is the country that first produced sabotage, closely allied to syndicalism, which here has a greater following than elsewhere. According to those who believe in this method of reforming society, workmen's interests are radically hostile to those of the employer, and every possible means should be invoked to irritate the latter and make his business unprofitable. This view is, of course, not shared by a majority of the
ple in France, and it is hoped that it will never gain a firm foothold, but today social questions are the chief subjects of political concern. With the repeated divisions in Parliament, resulting in reorganizations of the cabinet from time to time, each new combination seeks further tenure by proposals for more radical social legislation. The great railway strike not long since was controlled by the government with the use of the military. In 1910, an old age pension law was adopted, which has several times been amended and extended, the merits of which are not yet fully demonstrated. But without attempting here to go into further particulars, it may be said that, irrespective of the war, a great social and political change has long been impending in France. Perhaps the time is coming when the country will be called upon to make good the decree of the Provisional Government of the French Republic in 1848:
“This government undertakes to guarantee the existence of the workmen by work. It undertakes to guarantee work to every citizen.”
In Great Britain and its colonies grave questions press for answer. The establishment of the principle of home rule for Ireland, with the Ulster troubles taxing the wisest statesmanship, is but preliminary to the reorganization of federal relations with important colonial posses sions such as Australia, Canada, India and New Zealand. Meantime, the status of these countries in the empire is jeopardized by the demand of the British native citizens of India for equal rights on emigrating to other colonies; while in Great Britain itself militant suffrage problems and other serious social and political issues are most insistent. The House of Lords has recently been shorn of much of its power and prestige, and is threatened with total extinction. Land taxes, and income taxes have been deliberately altered to shift the burden of the cost of government to the landed proprietors and for the purpose of accomplishing definite social changes, among which may be reckoned the making of private ownership in land unprofitable, and the loss or impairment of the incomes of certain classes not engaged in active business. Moreover, old age pensions, land tenure reforms, workingmen's insurance, health and accident indemnity, the adoption of minimum wages in certain industrial pursuits, the regulation of the hours of labor and of strikes, the direct dealing between the government and labor ganizations, the combinations between workin men of various trades for general and united action, all these and many more of like interest, are the subjects of recently enacted or pending legislation and public inquiry. The expense of the maintenance of the army and the navy is a heavy burden, and these recent insurance laws, with the Irish Land Acts, have enormously increased the demands upon the public treasury. Nearly a million people now draw old age pensions in Great Britain, about one out of every fifty of the population. The age limit is seventy years, but it is now proposed to change it to sixty-five years, and no doubt it will be but a few years until it is further reduced.
Among the recent enactments in that country is what is known as the National Insurance Bill. This measure on the one hand provides "Unemployment Insurance” for certain enumerated trades, out of an “Unemployment Fund” compulsorily contributed by the workmen of those trades, the state adding an amount equal to one-third of their total contribution, and out of this fund the unemployed in those trades. are entitled to benefits while out of employment, subject to certain restrictions. And on the other hand the same bill provides compulsory insurance for health upon all persons between the ages of sixteen and seventy under contracts of employment, with certain limitations and restrictions, and here also the state contributes to the fund. Another recent act is known as the “Shop Act," limiting the hours of labor to sixty hours per week with one half holiday.
These and other enactments in the interest of labor, however, have apparently had little effect in satisfying certain classes of work