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fact a generation ago in his “Social Statics,” has lately repeated the warning. The old saying, “In much wisdom” (that is, learning) "is much grief,” may be true in more senses than one; and its truth may be particularly evident in a democracy where it is left with average people to decide what shall be taught in schools. In a society like our own, the passion for “ getting on” operates with fearful power upon intellectual ambition. Success is the goal toward which all are striving, and we know what success means. No doubt schools and libraries multiply, but these alone do not attest the moral elevation by which the growth of communities is measured. They are certainly to be encouraged, but along with them must go efforts at making a grander type of man; otherwise knowledge may prove a snare. In older countries ancient universities, institutes, the influence of an educated class, the traditions of centuries, guarantee the permanence of “liberal studies”; but here no such safeguards exist; the danger of accommodating to popular taste the standard of mental accomplishment is, consequently, greater with us than it is in England or on the continent of Europe.
Whether or no democratic institutions are favorable to political purity, may be left to the decision of those who will take the trouble to compare the ideal of our state with the condition of things actually existing in Washington, New York, or any center of political activity. The power of "the machine," the prevalence of “ wire-pulling,” the faith in party men and party measures, the confidence in partisan tactics, the strength of the doctrine that to the victor belong the spoils, the difficulty of establishing what seems the common sense principle of Civil Service Reform, the general opinion that ours must always be an administration by parties, and that an administration by parties must from the nature of the case be to a considerable degree venal, do not promise a celestial Utopia either in the near or distant future. Granting that England's anticipation of the principle of merit in the choice of her civil functionaries may be due in a measure to her habit of keeping the appointment of officials in select hands, leaving to Government the task of appointing its servants, while politicians discuss other matters more within their conceded province, one might suppose that such an example, though not literally imitable, would act as an encouragement to the principle rather than as a disapproval of it,- might, at least, animate us to engraft so fine a system upon our democratic institutions and prove that republics can be just. The greatness of the difficulty in the United States ought to nerve Americans to the greater endeavor. Unfortunately, this inference is not often drawn. Politicians who have grown gray in service enthusiastically extol the advantages of the “ spoils system,” which, notwithstanding their eulogium, is practically the opprobrium of democratic politics, threatening more than anything else to drag our institutions through the mire. The few men who toil at efforts to elevate them must take the position of reformers, as if the principle they recommend were an innovation savoring of aristocracy. No sign so clearly indicates a tendency to ignoble greed as this, none so evidently exhibits a base appetite for “the loaves and fishes." In a word, statesmanship of the higher order is, by confession, rare in governments that regard statesmanship as a natural growth. The democratic faith in “the bare man ” is hardly favorable to dignity or excellence of attainment, while the frequent change in official stations is all but fatal to stability of personal character. No doubt the future may repair the injury of the present time; but the evil is actual not prospective, and there is danger that it will become too deeply rooted to be eradicated without revolution. At all events, the situation can be mended now better than it can be half a century hence, and the hope of amendment, if it comes, will not be due to the average construc tion put upon the democratic idea, so much as to the prevalence of reason over instinct - that is, to moral rather than political causes.
"Does democracy promise an elevation of the religious sentiment? That is too large a question to be answered here in a few sentences. One or two specifications must suffice. The writer of these lines attended lately an Episcopal church. It chanced to be Communion Sunday, when the mystery of supernatural grace was to be celebrated for the spiritual benefit of believers. The minister, a “broad Churchman,"— very broad that he passed over the distinctions which are understood to divide the “faithful” from the “faithless,"— gave an invitation that might have been accepted by a Unitarian, a Deist, a Rationalist : an invitation harder to resist than that of an old-fashioned Socinian. This was a concession to the untheological spirit so prevalent in our communities. But was it an evidence of a moral advance as it was, unquestionably, of a sentimental one? Is it. a sign of moral advance that a distinguished “ orthodox” preacher, an American of Americans, a democrat in the grain, applies the epithet “ hideous” to doctrines which he himself calls “fundamental to the whole orthodox theology of the world”. Such a declaration is entirely in accordance with the general democratic sentiment, but certainly it is inconsistent with orthodox profession. The wonder is that it should be so loudly applauded by people of exact thinking, who ought to know the meaning of language. This circumstance alone shows how deeply the democratic sentiment has penetrated into the recesses of the mind and has obliterated the ancient distinctions of creed. The doctrine that one man is as good as another leads to an abrogation of the supernatural belief on which the church rests, and must, sooner or later, disintegrate the unity of faith. This appears from the satisfaction with which hearty democrats welcome the leveling of religious distinctions, the overthrow of ecclesiastical barriers, the abolition of doctrinal tests. In a word, the restoration of moral fiber to the religious sense will scarcely come through an extension of the democratic principle as commonly understood.
Mr. Emerson, in his address on the “Progress of Culture,” read before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, July 18, 1867, enumerates the astonishing gains made by the republican idea within a few years, with the comment: “Now, if any one say we have had enough of these boastful recitals, then I say, happy is the land wherein benefits like these have grown trite and commonplace.” Mr. Emerson, as we know, was a dauntless optimist, and his prophecy was made nearly twenty years ago, soon after the remarkable outbreak of hopefulness which followed the civil war. After the virtual abolition of slavery, everything seemed possible in America. All questions found on easy answer. The energy of the people had not subsided, and might be counted on as adequate to the severest tasks. Candor compels the admission that the enthusiastic prediction has not been fulfilled. Some of the reforms have not been accomplished; others have been achieved in advance of us by aristocratic communities, like that of England, for example; several were wrought out under the sway of selfish motives, “the search for just rules affecting labor," “ the insurance of life and limb,” for instance. “The marked ethical quality of the innovations urged and adopted” which the orator insists on, must
VOL. CXXXVII.— NO. 320.
not be hastily accredited to the democratic idea, whatever may be our opinion of its reality. Similar results attend the progress of civilization in all countries. The reform in regard to women is more advanced in London than in New York, at Cam. bridge than at Harvard. The agitation for the abolition of capital punishment, for the sanitary arrangement of prisons, for the elevation of the working classes, goes on in Europe as energetically as here; in fact, much more so, most of the literature appertaining to those subjects being imported from abroad, through England. Let us admit that there is moral progress; but let us admit, at the same time, that the progress is a result of civilization in the world, not in the Western Hemisphere especially. It may, indeed, be ascribed to the growth of a humanitarian principle, but it is not yet demonstrated that this principle attains its best results under an unrestricted democracy. The modified democracy of Great Britain, under what Mr. M. D. Conway has well called “a crowned republic," may, in the end, prove favorable to ethical interests. It is, at all events, pertinent to ask in what degree moral advance is indebted to the effort necessary to overcome obstacles. Thus far the experience of mankind proves that “easy virtue" is but another name for vice. Moral endeavor usually precedes moral improvement. Reform must not be facile; if it is, the moral element will assuredly be wanting in its composition. The drift of nature is not toward moral perfection, unless we include in nature the regenerating forces which keep it up to its highest level by stimulating the intellectual and spiritual powers. Democracy reckons on the force of unrestrained human nature; but that is force of unrestrained instinct, and force of unrestrained instinct has not hitherto held out promise of moral elevation. Does it appear likely that America will reverse the tradition of all the ages by rendering discipline superfluous? Is there evidence that raw liberty is the one condition needful for “realizing the infinite”? Does observation show that the tendency of our business, society, literature, is heavenward ? Listen to the talk of our parlors; look at the popular books or papers ; consider the degradation of the stage, made a platform for the display of personal attractions ; note the passion for scenic effect, for decoration, for amusement. Such traits do not proclaim, surely, the triumph of soul over sense. Are these the heralds that announce the coming of the Son of Man !
DEMOCRACY AND MORAL PROGRESS.
elegance and refimay even be conceded carriages, hors
It may be conceded that the enormous production of wealth in America, coupled with its general diffusion among all classes of men, is favorable to the prevalence in centers of wealth, all over the country, of the outward attributes of civilization costly pictures, houses, drapery, dresses, carriages, horses, entertainments. It may even be conceded that forms of social elegance and refinement of manners, accompanied by accom. plishments in music, painting, languages, may be found in remote places of the continent where money has accumulated. Wealth enables many to travel in foreign lands. The railroads make communication easy. Visitors come from far-off cities. There must be theaters, opera-houses, lecture halls. The Old World sends its dukes, scholars, writers, artists of every description, to see the country, or to make gain out of its inhabitants; they must be received, attended to, imitated. European ideas, ways, institutions are thus domesticated in our large towns; European fashions take root. This is inevitable. In some respects it works us harm by overlaying our native growth; in other respects it does us good by introducing the results of mature experience. But whether it brings harm or good the product of the contribution should not be attributed to the spread of democratic ideas. Institutions are not responsible for what money has bought; as little can democracy claim what aristocracy has created.
One may go so far as to admit that lovely manners and high conversation are found in many a Western city, without granting the regenerating efficacy of democratic principles. For, where those principles have full sway, such admirable products are least common. Hear what the "Nation," of September 28, 1882, has to say bearing on these points :
"A life of money-getting in the United States is now usually wound up by the construction of a palace, in which a successful dry-goods man, or pork-packer, or operator in stocks drags out the evening of his days in the midst of taste and splendor, for the enjoyment of which he has neither a natural nor acquired capacity.”
If any are unwilling to accept the judgment of the “Nation” on the ground that it is not a fervent advocate of republican ideas, they may be inclined to listen to the Boston “Herald,” a paper against which no such accusation can be made. Says the “Herald”: