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“ It is a matter of national shame and regret that our moneyed aristocracy is more idealess and frivolous than was ever any other aristocracy, past or present. Because, in all foreign aristocracies there is a certain percentage of persons who give a good account of themselves in literature, reflective thought, science, and art. But our born moneyed class are minus any intellectual achievements, for which they have such splendid opportunities of leisure, travel, and culture.”
This is a severer verdict than that pronounced by the “Nation," and it comes from a city that is famous in revolutionary history, the home of Theodore Parker, and of Wendell Phillips, and of Charles Sumner, to name no other champions of the people's liberty. The “Herald's ” charge cannot be put by with the assertion that ours is a young country; for “if such things can be done in the green tree, what may be done in the dry”. Nor can it be set aside by saying that the true democratic spirit has not yet gone into operation, for that is the precise point in question, Has it, or has it not? If it has, the description above quoted stands uncorrected. If it has not, the sooner a new quality is introduced into it the better. Neither paper tells the whole story of American society, for neither paper makes allowance for the influence of woman, which is more actively prevailing in the United States than it is anywhere in Europe or England, and is mainly the cause of whatever social refinement there is. Still, we must remember that women are not as yet responsible for the working of democratic institutions, nor is their influence to be counted in any fair estimate of the advantage hoped for from the democratic idea. Theirs is the use of money earned by laborious husbands and fathers; theirs is the leisure; theirs the opportunity and the desire for travel; theirs the love of music, the taste for pictures, the passion for grace and beauty in the house; for richness and elegance of dress; for luxury of effect; but theirs is not, thus far, a direct accountability for the success or failure of the popular system. Whether they will ever share such accountability, or whether their full participation will prove a benefit, remains a matter of mere conjecture. Here, it is enough to say that whatever bloom they add to our democracy is purely feminine, due to their genius, not to the democratic idea. That is in male hands, and has not, hitherto, given conspicuous promise of glory.
But now it is time to present the other side, to look for the signs of hope in republican institutions. On any fair estimate, the emancipation of moral power, without regard to social conditions, may justly be put down as a result of the democratic idea. If the republican principle lets loose the lower passions of human nature, it grants full freedom to the exercise of the higher. It removes obstacles; it pulls down barriers; it throws open the field of conscience. Under it all power is available, whether of man or woman; and moral power is honored in the person of its possessor, however humble or however elevated he may be. Respect is paid to the person, not to the circumstance. In monarchical or despotic communities qualities, to be recognized, must bear the stamp of class dignity, rank, or title. The worthy cause must be taken up by some outwardly accredited authority. Ple. beian virtue, except in very extraordinary cases, is undemonstrative or disallowed. But a republic gives to all an equal chance and stimulates to activity every particle of spiritual vigor. To appreciate the degree in which this is the case, one must have an opportunity of contrasting the moral liberty that is permitted by our forms with the limitation that is placed on intellectual endeavor in countries which are only comparatively free like England. Even there the spell of conventional respectability lies heavily on all but a few choice spirits. Hence the angry, violent, explosive force with which conscience breaks out whenever occasion offers or evils become unbearable. Hence socialism, communism, nihilism, in their different phases, which present the sense of right as destructive or anarchical. As Emerson puts it:
“The opinion of the million was the terror of the world, and it was attempted either to dissipate it by amusing nations, or to pile it over with strata of society - a layer of soldiers; over that a layer of lords, and a king on the top; with clamps and hoops of castles, garrisons, and police. The Fultons and Watts of politics, believing in unity, saw that it was a power; and by satisfying it (as justice satisfies everybody) through a different disposition of society,-grouping it on a level, instead of piling it into a mountain,- they have contrived to make of this terror the most harmless and energetic form of a state."
The truth of this is apparent in the efforts at reform which are conspicuous in America, and which can be traced directly to the democratic principle; in the concern of leading minds for the welfare of the people; in the examples of public spirit; in the consecration of talent to the general good; in the prevalence of “isms,"— a wild, but certain sign of aspiration after unattained excellence. A striking feature of moral reform in America is the participation in it of the best minds, the noblest souls, the
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men and women of choicest nurture and highest social position. Such feel most keenly their responsibility for the system they live under. They are not idlers, not place-hunters, not pleasure seekers, but free givers of time and strength to the cause of popular enlightenment and progress. These, though few, led the assault on slavery. These are champions of civil service equity. These try to get at the heart of socialism and kindred movements which enlist, in the Old World, the ignorant, passionate, thoughtless, who, having none to fight for them, fight for their own side. In America, to be gifted as a reformer is regarded as a privilege even by reformers themselves.
It has been said that the democratic principle, as commonly interpreted and exemplified, takes the moral fiber out of religion; and so, hitherto, it has done. But the natural must come before the spiritual ; the sentimental precedes the intellectual. In the transition from theological dogmatism to intelligent truth, the way lies through aversion to definite opinions. Charity, which covers a multitude of sins, goes in advance of character, which is the fruit of spiritual ideas, and which presupposes thought; so that the present disintegration may prepare the religious mind for some worthier 'statement of doctrine. The broad church may yet serve as an introduction to the true church, which in due time will be established by the free endeavor of spirits at once enlightened and devout, spirits that are more concerned to find what is true than what is comfortable, what will save than what will please. Thus the boundless freedom of our institutions will be made to work compensation for the slip-shod character of much of our speculation.
In fact, one can hardly say enough about the far-reaching tendency of the most cultivated men and women in our communities, whether writers, preachers, journalists, professors, or obscure toilers. A foreign physician of great distinction in his own country was so fascinated by the opportunity afforded in New York that he resolved to establish himself there, though his relatives lived in Germany, and his reputation as a specialist was fixed in Vienna, while here living was expensive and he had every thing to do. What a commentary on the educated Americans who turn their backs on their own country and live abroad because it is cheaper and easier!
All that can be justly claimed for the democratic idea is opportunity, but opportunity includes all promise; a word of
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urgent exhortation must be spoken, therefore, to teachers, preachers, authors, guides of public opinion, on whom the fulfillment of this promise depends. They must work hard if they would counteract the downward tendencies of democratic ideas as vulgarly expounded. Theirs is no holiday task. They are put upon their intelligence and their honor. They seem to be few and far apart in space, but their influence is great, and one bond unites them — the desire to lift democracy from the dust and answer cavilers by facts. Our cause — the cause of a pure democracy or rule of the people - is at stake. Our achievement is in the time to come, not in time past or present. Our victory is yet to win, and it is to be won over those who maintain that the rule of the people in their own behalf is an illusion which experience will rudely dispel. It is for true believers in the republic to prove such a prediction untrue. Where there is no government to prescribe opinion, but only public sentiment, which reflects the controlling mind of the many, the influence of the wisest and best is of the greatest importance. If what has been said is true, the question of the moral import of the democratic system is not a matter of years but of direction, and direction is not the same thing as tendency. Tendency represents unassisted impulse. Direction stands for the utmost that can be achieved by effort. Tendency is the bent of the prevailing will. Direction is the turn of that will to noble ends.
0. B. FROTHINGHAM.
NEEDED REFORMS IN PRISON MANAGEMENT.
REFORMS are needed. The jails of to-day are, with here and there an exception, substantially what Howard in the eighteenth century found jails to be. The fault is largely due to construction. Jails on the “ Pennsylvania Plan," supplying separate confinement for each prisoner, will provide the needed reforms for jails. Prisons of later date, designed not only for detention but punishment as well, have scarcely been improved, though of prison associations and boards there are many, and prison congresses, State, National and International, have been held, with their valuable discussions and issue of reports. Prisons for reformation are still of later origin, but they do not reform in any such general and efficient way as to perceptibly affect the volume of recorded crimes. Given the number of the population to the square mile, with absence of war, pestilence, famine, or monetary revulsions, it is said the annual aggregate of crimes in a district may be as accurately foretold as the death-rate of a people can be calculated by Carlisle's tables. Then, there is abroad a popular demand for reforms; the communistic sentiment of the time calls for them, hoping for pecuniary benefits, and the politician echoes the cry for partisan effect, while the press and the populace repeat it from motives selfish or sentimental as the case may be. Finally, the thoughtful, the philan. thropic and public-spirited, saddened at sight of so much sin and alarmed at the growth of crime, ask for an advance in both the theory and practice of “ crime treatment,” that crimes may be diminished and criminals reclaimed. With so much room for reforms, the general demand cannot properly be put aside; there must be underneath it all a common source of good impulse that needs only to be rightly directed.
The first great need in this matter is a better sentiment, among prison governors and the public, as to the true pur