Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 1.djvu/49
IS OUR REPUBLIC A FAILURE?
commonplace of aristocracy. We must allow, then, for this difference of publicity and for this difference of emphasis. The first English slave trader, John Hawkins, was rewarded with knighthood by Queen Elizabeth. The last slave trader of Saxon race was not knighted. He was hanged in New York harbor. There is a difference in the point of view.
Again, we must remember that after all the most serious issue is not governmental. It is social. The real question is not—Is republican government a failure? It is this—Is modern civilization a failure? The same flagrant corruption has been seen under monarchical forms. The second empire in France was rotten to the core. It was not a lack of French valor which caused France to go down before the German artillery at Sedan. It was the swindling contractors, the fraudulent officials, the imbecile administration. Was the empire a failure? Yes—but only as falseness permeated official France.
Could public life be worse than it was in England under the Georges! Bribery reigned supreme in parliament. Boroughs were known to advertise in the public prints that they would sell their seats in the House of Commons to the highest bidder. The union with Ireland was carried through in 1800 by processes which would put our most cynical lobbyists to the blush. Sinecures in church and state, pensions and peerages for infamous services, were as thick as blackberries.
And the tyranny of banded capitalists, on the one hand, and of banded toilers, on the other, is as strenuous in monarchical Europe as in democratic America.
I repeat—the prime question is social. And it is gravely menacing throughout all the civilized nations. The truth is that democracy merely strips away disguises and puts us face to face with the facts. Monarchy and aristocracy are an evasion of the issue—they temporize. It is idle for men to try to avoid personal responsibility. The crucial question of the ages is simply this: Can men govern themselves? The affirmative is civilization—the negative is barbarism. The whole trend of modern life—the sweep of modern progress—is