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war, pestilence, and famine.” That boy is probably now in Tripoli, “paying with his person;" that is what I mean by the political idea dipped in the dyer's vat of life. “Theories,” said Phillips, "are pleasing things, and seem to get rid of all difficulties so very easily. One must begin to abstract principles and study them. But wisdom consists in perceiving when human nature and this perverse world necessitate making exceptions to abstract truths. Any boy can see an abstract principle. Only threescore years and ten can discern precisely when and where it is well, necessary, and right to make an exception to it. That faculty is wisdom, all the rest is playing with counters. And this explains how the influx into politics of a shoal of college-boys, slenderly furnished with Greek and Latin" — they are still more
. slenderly furnished now — "but steeped in marvelous and delightful ignorance of life and public affairs, is filling the country with free-trade din."
The depositary of this life-wisdom, in state affairs, is the masses. Municipal government in America was, in Phillips's judgment, a failure; but I cannot think he would have welcomed government by commission as a remedy, or have ever assented to the increasing tendency toward government by experts, which is observable among us. There is government business which should be conducted by competent officials; but government is not a business. It is amazing how government tends to localize itself in a class, which, temporarily dominant in the community under special circumstances, mistakes its interest and judgment for that of the whole body, and desires to be recognized as the trustee of the others; government by soldiers, by lawyers, a business-man's government, a banker's government
what not? All are but instances of a part trying to swallow the whole. It is natural to mistake one's own point of view for the center, hard to believe in the possibility of the antipodes where men walk, quite naturally, with their heads upside down. I remember an English officer at Taormina, a man of cultivation, explaining to me with great cogency and sincerity the advantage of settling human disputes by war instead of by courts; it was the better way. It is a good point in a king, considered as the head of a government, that he is neither a lawyer, nor a business-man, nor a banker, nor even an independent voter. I have no quarrel with independent voting; but when a party of independent voters assumes to be the brain and conscience of the state, and thinks to control it by possessing itself of the balance of power, like a clique in a Continental parliament, and especially if it does this in the name of education or of any superiority residing in it, as if it were that remnant in whom was the safety of Israel, it is an insolent challenge to popular government and breathes the spirit of the most bigoted autocracy. No. Least of all does it belong to the scholar to distrust the people; least of all to him whose stake in the country is not property, nor any personal holdings nor gain, but rather his share of human hope for the betterment of man's lot among all nations and in distant ages; least of all to him, the dreamer, to forget where and when and by whom the blows of the incessant Revolution, which is the rise of humanity, have been struck. “All revolutions,” said Phillips, "come from below.” Had he not seen it? Had he not been thrust out of the world's society, and found all that was organized and respectable in the state against him? the more bitter the more
high it stood? He had with his own lips successively consigned to damnation the Church, the Constitution, and the Union because they were doing devil's work, “When I was absorbed into this great movement,” he said, "I remember well that it found me a very proud man; proud of the religious, proud of the civil, institutions of the country. Thirty years have not brought back the young pride nor renewed the young trust. I go out with no faith whatever in institutions." And the lesson he had learned in his own person, history repeated to him from her page. Always against the mighty, the proud, the comfortable, the human mass had surged up under the pressure of its wants and instincts in the growth of time. Power, in the end, was theirs: against noble or priest, against learning or wealth, power at last rested with them. "Keep it,” said Phillips; "you can never part with too little, you can never retain too much.” Jealousy of power, "eternal vigilance,” is the first safeguard of a free state. The people parts with power only to find an oppressor in its holder. Tyranny is the first instinct of power. It is an old maxim of state that power corrupts the hand that wields it. "No man is good enough,” said Lincoln, "to rule any other man.” Jealousy of power is of the essence of the American spirit, and drawn from its historic birth; it may slumber long, but it slumbers light; and to-day the land is full of its mutterings.
How has it fared with the causes Phillips committed to the angry sea of public discussion and the stormy decision of the popular tribunal? He fought in them all; he responded to every appeal, at home, abroad. After the victory over the arch foe, slavery, others might sigh, like the good Edmund Quincy, with a feeling of glad
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relief, “No more picnics, Wendell;" but his hand in that grim conflict had so closed round the sword-hilt of speech that it could not loose its grip. He fought on, and his post was always ahead. There are those who thought him foolish, headstrong, erratic, fanatic, wrong; but when was he ever thought otherwise by his opponents, or by the indifferent — men still unenlightened by the event. I make no apologies for him. Examine the record. You can follow the trail of triumphant popular causes by the echoes of that silver voice. Woman-suffrage, labor, temperance — these have made giant strides since he was laid to rest. Ireland has home-rule at her door; Russia has the Duma. Capital punishment, indeed, still survives, but there has been great advance in the general attitude toward, and treatment of, the criminal and delinquent classes though there has been occasionally a barbaric return to the whipping-post, and today we hear again on all sides the bloodhound cry for the speedy trial and quick death of the murderer. The initiative, the referendum, and the recall, there can be no doubt, would have had Phillips's hearty coöperation and support; they are but the precipitation of his thought. The recall of the judges would not have dismayed him; he had recalled a judge. The recall of judges is Massachusetts doctrine as old as the state. It is effected by the will of the governor, acting on a simple address of the legislature by a majority vote without other ground than the people's desire. Edward G. Loring was thus recalled, on the initiative of Phillips and others, for the reason that, although acting in a legal and official manner as federal commissioner under the Fugitive Slave Act, a "slave-hunter," as they called him, was unfit to be a Massachusetts
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judge. He foretold, as did also Lowell in the Birmingham speech, the present conflict with incorporated wealth. “The great question of the future,” he said, "is money against legislation. My friends, you and I shall be in our graves long before that battle is ended; and unless our children have more patience and courage than saved this country from slavery, republican institutions will go down before moneyed corporations. The corporations of America mean to govern; and unless some power more radical than ordinary politics is found, will govern inevitably. The only hope of any effectual grapple with the danger lies in rousing the masses whose interests lie permanently in the opposite direction.” Take up the record where you will, if you deny merit to Phillips in his latter-day instincts and pleadings, you must deny wisdom to the actual movement of the last thirty years and the plain current of American democratic development at the present day.
If there has been recession anywhere, it is in the matter which lay nearest to Phillips's heart — negro rights, race-equality, and in general in the attitude of the public mind toward the principle of an integral humanity, one and same in all men, which is found in the Declaration. The change of view, which I think no one can doubt, is not peculiar to us, but is world-wide, and is consequent on the spread of European dominion over the so-called backward peoples of Asia and Africa. The sins of a nation lie close to its virtues. The strength of our age is commerce, resting on industry. It is a thing of vast beneficence, and loads with blessings those nations whom it benefits; but like all strength it has its temptations. Our temptation is to exploit the backward nations, and possess ourselves of their lands. If
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