Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/467

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451
THE KEARNEY AGITATION IN CALIFORNIA.

York and flaunted their spoils in all men's eyes. The man who now talks about wading through blood and hanging people to lamp-posts is but the vender of a nostrum who dresses as a wild Indian to attract attention; but when blind fear and unreasoning resentment sway the Government, and give to whoever can arouse them the prizes of place and power, the day when blood will flow and cities burn may not be so far off. There has never yet been any clanger of mob violence in San Francisco; and yet, watching what has been going on there, it has seemed to me that I could see how jealousy and fear and hatred and revenge might mount through a series of actions and reactions to the point where reason is utterly trodden under foot; that I can understand better than before how faction piled the streets of Jerusalem with corpses, while Titus thundered at her gates; how the colors of circus-charioteers divided Constantinople into two hostile camps; how the reappearance of French liberty ushered in Red Terror and White Terror. It is true that we have the public school and the daily paper; that any child can tell you the distance of the sun, and how this system once rolled a mass of incandescent vapor. But, "scratch a Russian and you have a Tartar." Look at your civilized man when fired by that strange magnetic impulse which passion arouses in crowds, and you may read in his eyes the blind fury of the Malay running amuck. You will understand how handkerchiefs hemmed with the sewing machine might be dipped in blood, and hearts carried on pikes through streets lit with gas!

Aristocracies, hierarchies, established orders, hereditary castes, and strong religious beliefs that have become conservative, they are like the trees and the fences that check the violence of the blast that over a dead level rushes in headlong fury—like the ballast in a ship that resists the sudden lurch. But these we have cast off or are casting: off. Government with us grows in weight and importance; but this is not a conservative force when its increasing powers and emoluments are to be grasped by whoever can best organize corruption or rouse passion. We have great and increasing accumulations of wealth; capital is becoming organized in greater and greater masses, and the railroad company dwarfs the State. But these are not forces of stability. Perhaps these great combinations are forced into politics in self-defense. But, however they get there, their effect is but to demoralize and corrupt—to reward and to bring to political leadership the unscrupulous. And these great corporations themselves are but the prize and prey of adventurers, the fattening-places of unscrupulous rings.

Given universal suffrage; a vague, blind, bitter feeling of discontent on the one side and of insecurity on the other; unscrupulous politicians who may ride into power by exciting hopes and fears; class jealousies and class antipathies; great moneyed interests working through all parties with utter selfishness; a general disgust with political methods and feeling of practical political impotence, producing