Harper's Weekly Editorials on Carl Schurz/The Parties
|←Liberty and the War||Harper's Weekly Editorials on Carl Schurz
|From Harper's Weekly, December 10, 1870, p. 786.|
THOSE who speculate upon the formation of a new party, or gravely propose it, seem to suppose that a great party is organized as a corporation is chartered. But that does not seem to us to be the way in which a party arises. In our own history party divisions began during the administration of Washington, and the Federal and the National Republican parties continued until the former disappeared, leaving, in the Monroe era of good feeling, no immediate successor. The next great party division was that of the Whigs and the Democrats. It turned philosophically upon the question of the functions of government, and practically upon the just and constitutional policy in regard to internal improvements, a national bank, tariffs, etc. The Whigs contended for a liberal, fostering, protecting, and developing government. The Democrats declared that it was by the enterprise of the people, and not by the action of the government, that the ends sought were to be obtained. But gradually the increase of slavery, and the development by machinery of the products of slave labor, made slavery the controlling element in politics. The intensity of the moral agitation of the subject, with the fanaticism of the slave interest, which used the government for its own purposes, and absolutely dominated the Democratic party, with which it allied itself, and, upon the other hand, the economic sagacity which perceived the material impolicy of slavery, all concentrated political interest upon the subject.
The Democratic party made an abject alliance with slavery. Its policy proceeded entirely from the slave leaders, and their purpose was made evident — had it been doubted — by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The Whig party, unwilling to take any position upon the one absorbing and paramount question of the time, was virtually annihilated in 1852, and the new party division of Republicans and Democrats appeared, which still continues. But does it seem to any one who speaks of a new party that the organization which to-day controls the Administration, and holds a great majority of the States, and which at the intermediate election, when every Administration party is weakest, has carried forty or fifty majority in Congress, is in the condition of the Federal party or the Whig party when they were superseded? The war of 1812 finally destroyed the Federal party, and the slavery question, which was supreme, and which it evaded, destroyed the Whig party in 1852. What issue is there to-day so overshadowing and absorbing that it will probably and properly overthrow the Republican party? If the Republican revenue reformers, as we have said, should desert in a body to the Democratic party, they might do a great deal of mischief. But they will not do it. That reform is an important question; but in the first place it is not paramount to all others, and in the second, if it were, it is by no means evident that the reform is more practicable under Democratic ascendency.
There will be no new party until there is a general feeling that the policy which is essential for the national welfare is more probable with a Democratic than a Republican Administration. And that feeling does not exist. Those who hope for a reform of the civil service, for revenue reform, for a wise foreign policy, for maintenance of the settlements of the Union, for honest and economical administration, and for reform of electoral corruption, do not expect them from the Democratic party. But they do expect them from the Republican party, and they expect them because they are harmonious with the principles, the spirit, and the composition of that party. Some Republicans will, of course, leave the party. Mr. Gratz Brown, of Missouri, who has been a faithful Republican hitherto, designs, if we read his late serenade speech correctly, to act with the Democratic party hereafter. But Senator Schurz, his coadjutor in the late election, has expressed no such intention. Mr. Brown sees that he has brought the Democratic party into power in his State, and he naturally wishes to make the best of the situation. But Mr. Schurz declines to believe that there are not great national issues upon which he must be a Republican. There are many revenue reformers in New England also, and a strong party for the civil service reform, but they act within and not without the Republican lines.
The Chicago Tribune, therefore, seems to us mistaken in supposing that there can be, “a reconstruction and reorganization of parties” — in other words, a new party; and when it speaks, among others, of Mr. Garrison, Mr. Beecher, Mr. Schurz, and Mr. Sumner as favoring such an attempt, we are very sure that it is mistaken. Mr. Schurz and Mr. Sumner, at least, have distinctly denied sympathy with any effort to destroy the Republican party. Upon some questions they differ with the President, but they do not allow their disapproval of certain executive measures to paralyze their fidelity to the party. The proposal for a new organization, under the circumstances, is, therefore, a declaration in favor of Democratic ascendency. That party is certainly very unlikely to commit hari-kari if it should see its opponent engaged in that operation. Indeed, it is already inviting the Chicago Tribune and Mr. Schurz to walk into its parlor. It announces that revenue reformers belong with the Democracy, not that Democratic revenue reformers will secede and join a new organization. And when the Chicago Tribune speaks of revenue reform and civil service reform as objects equally desirable, it would be interesting to know how lively a hope it has of reform of the civil service from the Democracy.
In the present situation of the country when the Republican party is neither disbanding nor likely to disband, the Republican who asks whether a new party is not desirable, merely asks whether it is desirable that the Democratic party should be successful. If, indeed, the party had gone to pieces, like the Federal in 1812 and the Whig in 1852, he might wisely ask whether he should vote with the Democrats or try for a new organization. He will not forget that the country was so ready for the Republican party that, in 1856, it polled 1,200,000 out of less than 3,000,000 votes cast, and elected its President in 1860. Is there any corresponding situation now? The career and character and leadership and necessities of the Democratic party are known of all men. Who believes that great and salutary reforms of political corruption and official systems are to proceed from it? Who supposes that greater order, progress, and economy would follow the destruction of the Republican party?
|This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).|