Democracy's Achievement

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Democracy's Achievement  (1920) 
by Robert Latham Owen
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Ladies and gentlemen, true democracy is a religion. It is not completely monopolized by the members of the Democratic party. Many of its loyal disciples find themselves affiliated with other parties. Democracy truly believes in the rule of the people, in their wisdom, in their common sense, in their common honesty, in their justice, in their patience and steadfastness, in their right and ability to govern themselves. It thinks in terms of the greatest good to the greatest number.

Its greatest patron saint was Thomas Jefferson, who stood for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of opportunity, the education of the people by free schools, and the right of every citizen to vote. On these principles Jeffersonian Democracy took control of the government in 1801, and held it for many decades. When the party organization fell under the control of those who believed in human slavery, it passed from power by a revolt of Jeffersonian Democrats who would not stand for human slavery. They organized a new party and took the name which the followers of Jefferson had employed in 1801, calling themselves Republicans.

When the wise and kind Lincoln on the field of Gettysburg prayed that the government of the people, for the people, and by the people should not perish from the earth, he voiced a spirit of true democracy throughout the world. When the Republican party got control of the government during the Civil War, every selfish interest that wished to use the powers of government for private advantage gradually attached itself to the Republican party, courted its leaders, became busy in its organization, contributed to its election, promoted its nomination, and steadily have been an increasing influence in its management. When in 1912 after many years it became obvious that an invisible government of organized commercial and financial selfishness had gained control of the organization of the Republican party, the people of the United States placed in power the regenerated Democratic party, and magnificently the Democratic party has responded to the trust. It has passed fifty great progressive acts, such as the Federal Reserve Act, the Farm Loan Act, the Good Roads Act, the Agricultural Extension Act, Vocational Instruction. It has organized the Department of Labor, the Federal Trade Commission, the Tariff Commission, and showed itself, by the overwhelming evidence of concrete acts, the one great, liberal, progressive, and truly democratic party of the nation. It organized the country for war, passed the great war measures and won the greatest war in history, and saved the liberties and civilization of the world. It took the country in a period of serious depression in 1913, carried it successfully through the Great World War and after seven years the country is in the condition of the greatest prosperity. Bank resources have increased from twenty-five billion to forty-eight billion. Everybody is busy. Wage is high, trains crowded and hotels overflowing.

Who can have the impudence to question the Americanism of the Democratic party and all these great accomplishments? What is Americanism, if it be not the great policies which the Democratic party have put into execution? When it stamped out sedition at home, whipped the Hun abroad and made America the commercial, financial and the moral leader of all the world, so that all great nations do homage to the United States, and small nations when they bend their heads in prayer, pray God to bless the American people.

But my countrymen, we are face to face with the immediate future. It is not enough to say what we have done. It is of the greatest importance to say what we shall do. The spirit and purposes, the vision and constructive genius which the Democratic party has exhibited in the last six years justifies the faith that this great party can be better relied on than any other party to solve the reconstruction problems following the war.