Some Present Political Problems
|Some Present Political Problems
|An address before the Commonwealth Club of New York City (President, Willam J. Coombs; retiring President, D. Willis James, who presided at the dinner and introduced Mr. Schurz; Vice-Presidents, Matthew Hale of Albany, Theodore Bacon of Rochester, John H. Cowing of Buffalo, Elihu Root and E. Ellery Anderson of New York; Executive Committee, A. C. Bernheim, James W. Pryor, and R. W. G. Welling) on Saturday, January 12, 1889, as reported in The Evening Post on January 14.|
Gentlemen: Permit me, before expressing any opinions upon the present political situation and its problems, to indicate the point of view from which I shall discuss them. There are among the members of this Club citizens who at the late election voted for Mr. Cleveland, and others who voted for Mr. Harrison. I respect their motives in either case, for I have no doubt they were sincere. I am far from denying the usefulness, or, if you please, the necessity, of political parties, inasmuch as they are organizations of citizens united in a common endeavor to establish certain principles of government or to accomplish certain purposes of public utility. I also respect that party spirit which consists in sincere attachment to a cause honestly believed to be good. But I consider in a high degree dangerous to the public interest that party spirit which teaches that it is the principal duty of a party to win in the elections; that whatever may help it to win must be good and whatever may hinder its success must be bad; that party interest is the supreme law, and that one side must be supported and the other opposed to any length and under any circumstances. This party spirit is always fraught with mischief, as everything is that prevents citizens of a democratic community from considering public questions purely in their relation to the public good.
To counteract this tendency, which prevails to a lamentable extent, it seems to me desirable that we should cultivate the habit of judging public questions upon their own merits. We shall then be apt to keep in mind that there are upright, patriotic, and able men in both or in all parties, whose opinions and purposes may deserve to be studied with respect; that a man may differ from us in opinion without moral obliquity; that good measures should be supported and bad ones opposed, from whatever quarter they may come, and that the question whether the country be well served is, after all, much more important than the question what party or what set of men serve it.
This way of thinking has been somewhat cultivated in the Commonwealth Club, and it indicates the point of view from which I shall look at the present political situation. The victors as well as the defeated in the late Presidential election have since had time to recover their balance sufficiently to confront with due calmness of mind the things now demanding their attention. I shall speak of these which are within the circle of subjects, especially engaging the interest of this society.
To begin with, several of our Territories ask to be admitted as States. They certainly should be, if they have a permanent population of the required number fit to perform the duties of American citizens. Saying this, I do, of course, not include the Territories of New Mexico and Utah, the fitness of whose population is more than doubtful. Democrats object that the admission of Dakota, Montana, and Washington would greatly add to the strength of the Republican party in Congress and the Electoral College. Possibly; but what has that to do with the right to admission to those Territories, if there be such right? Moreover, who can predict their political future? But, whatever party may at first profit by it, their admission will have one moral effect of very great value. It will go far to make the result of our Presidential elections independent of the vote of New York. New York will cease to be the “pivotal State.” The bosses of the Democratic “halls” and the “boys” of the Republican organization of this city will no longer be looked up to as the men who can put one party or the other in possession of the National Government as they please. Anything that abolishes the nuisance of such a pivotal State, anything that diminishes the importance and power of the political machines of New York city, may be thankfully received as a help to good government. Let us, therefore, give the new States a hearty welcome.
The Commonwealth Club has the reform of the civil service especially at heart. Whether that reform will be benefited or injured by the result of the late Presidential election is a question on which opinions differ. Some of us have anticipated that the ruling influences under the new Administration will be hostile to the reform; that there will be a clean sweep; that the behests of Congressmen and other influential politicians will govern removals and appointments, and that the spoils system, with all it implies, will be once more in bloom. On the other hand, some of our Republican friends tell us that the Civil-Service Law will be executed with greater fidelity than heretofore, that its operation will be materially extended, and that decided progress towards the abolition of the spoils system will be achieved. Of course, these prophets cannot both be right. But one thing I can predict with absolute assurance: There is not one prophet of evil among us who, if he finds his fears unfounded, will not with the sincerest gladness forego the satisfaction of saying: “I told you so.” There is not one who will not in that case joyfully acknowledge his mistake and join in praising every reformatory act of President Harrison. He will do so not only without any sacrifice of feeling, but with cordial alacrity.
Being sincerely desirous that President Harrison should win this moral triumph over his opponents, you will, I doubt not, wish with equal sincerity that he should have profited from certain experiences which no attentive and candid observer will question. They can be summed up in a few sentences:
A President is usually strongest for reformatory work at the beginning of his Administration.
He will be constantly hampered in his reformatory purposes if he surrounds himself with men hostile or indifferent to the reform, unless he thoroughly disciplines them. [Applause.]
He will secure a faithful observance of the reform laws only if he intrusts the offices in which they are to be enforced to men in sympathy with their spirit, or if he promptly and severely punishes every violation or evasion of them.
He will not have officers in sympathy with the reform laws if he permits their appointment to be controlled by the recommendation of politicians who want the use of the patronage to grind their own axes.
Every concession to the spoilsmen made to pacify them will be followed by demands for greater concessions. These things are as clearly established by experience as by the plain teachings of common sense. They seem, however, to be easily forgotten; but as soon as they are failure begins.
The late campaign has been a strikingly educational one with regard to civil-service reform, as well as in other respects. Republican speakers have done valuable service in mercilessly criticising the shortcomings of President Cleveland's Administration, for they cannot have failed to convince many of their Republican hearers who were never convinced before that the removal for mere partisan reasons of a good officer before the expiration of his term is an extremely wicked thing. It must also have become quite clear to the Democrats by renewed experience that the possession of the offices is not an element of strength in a contested election, and the Republicans may profit by the example of their opponents. And the multitudes now scrambling for positions, from Cabinet places down to tide-waiterships, furnishes an object lesson which can hardly be lost upon the American people. It certainly is not lost upon some sorely beset statesmen in Congress, who in the anguish of their souls already cry out: “Oh, this is intolerable.” Who knows but the President-elect himself, patient as he is, may in his innermost heart pray the Lord to deliver him.
But whatever the immediate effect of this may be, the duty of the civil-service reformers remains plain. They are accustomed to struggle against adverse circumstances. Their cause has often been pronounced dead, and always turned up alive. They have already won important successes with the great mass of the politicians against them. They will have to do in the future what they have done in the past — keep their aim steadily before their eyes; be just and fearless in their criticism as well as in their praise; defend sturdily what has been won; work patiently for small advances when they cannot go forward in great strides; appeal unremittingly to the good sense, the democratic instincts, and the patriotism of the American people.
Whatever obstacles and adverse influences there may be in its path, civil-service reform is bound in the end to triumph. I speak of this with great confidence. The time is fast approaching when every good citizen, however indifferent to-day, will acknowledge its necessity. The machinery of the Government grows as the country grows. But the sphere of Governmental action is constantly growing too. Not that you wish that sphere to extend or always approve of its spreading, but nobody can close his eyes to the fact that expansion goes on and on, not seldom aided by the very men who in point of principle or theory condemn it. But the larger the Government grows in its functions, its power, and its responsibilities the more appalling will become the idea that its organs, its offices, would remain the mere spoil of party victory and the instruments of party warfare. Before long every patriotic citizen will find himself forced to the conclusion that the question involved is not whether things are to be a little better or a little worse, but whether civil-service reform is not absolutely indispensable to save the very possibility of good government. Civil-service reform will triumph, because it must if republican government is to remain practicable.
The Commonwealth Club has taken a very active interest in ballot reform. Now, we have to recognize the fact that the evils against which that reform is directed have of late assumed a portentous shape. Here I have incidentally to mention the tariff question — but only incidentally — and I may say I think that our protective system has been carried to a dangerous extreme; that duties should be, without precipitancy, but essentially, reduced to lighten the burdens of the people and to ease our economic conditions; and that the development of our industries should be facilitated, especially by putting raw materials on the free list. I am not a doctrinaire or an extremist with regard to that subject. I do not even consider the tariff policy the most important of our economic problems as to ulterior consequences. If, for instance, I had the power to choose for the country between an immediate reduction of tariff duties on one hand, and the introduction of an effective forestry policy on the other, I would unhesitatingly say: Let the people be burdened a little longer by the protected interests and the Trusts, for the people can at a future day change the system and retrieve their losses, rather than let the destruction of our forests go on at the present rate, for that destruction will bring on a train of disaster from which the country may never recover.
Still, I certainly do not fail to recognize the tariff question as a highly important one, and believe that, while other things should not be forgotten, every effort should be made to clear up the popular mind concerning it by intelligent discussion. But as to the ultimate result of that discussion I feel no anxiety at all. The protectionists, indeed, deprecate that discussion on the ground that it would “disturb business.” But such a discussion cannot be stopped as long as the difference of interests and opinions exists. If the opponents of the tariff should grow weary of it, the protectionists themselves would start it anew, for they are not yet satisfied with the tariff as it is. I was astonished when I heard a prominent statesman say that the protective system achieved a great triumph, a decisive victory, in the late Presidential election, and that the tariff policy of the Government was now finally and irrevocably settled. Was it really a great and decisive victory of the protective system? Was it not rather a bare escape from defeat and a significant demonstration of its weakness? My Republican friends will bear with me when in the friendliest possible spirit, I ask them calmly to examine what has happened.
President Cleveland, when he brought out his tariff message last winter, did a thing which the ordinary sagacity of the politicians looking to immediate party success would have called, and probably did call, an egregious blunder. He started an educational campaign on a question involving very large material interests only eleven months before a national election. He made that question the principal issue between the contending parties. In doing so he defied and provoked to the utmost exertion the greatest organized financial power this country has ever known. In carrying on that campaign his party, too, labored under very grave disadvantages. In several localities it had done things which were far from commending it to popular approval and support. Some of its local candidates were a drag to its general interest, taking care of themselves at its expense. Moreover, it had scarcely the courage to stand up to its own platform, and its managers committed the remarkable mistake of putting forward Southern men, however able and fair they may have been, as the principal champions of tariff reform, thus making that reform appear before the people of the North, especially of the Northwest, as a Southern policy, and stirring to new life old sectional prejudices. As to President Cleveland himself, however good his Administration was in many respects, some of his acts had made him enemies, others had cooled the zeal of former friends. His pension vetoes, for instance, however just, had excited the Grand Army and the claim-agents against him, the latter to especial fury. His civil-service policy had soured the spoilsmen, without, on the other hand, satisfying and attracting the reformers. His “Independent” allies of 1884 partly opposed him, partly remained silent, partly gave him a half-hearted support, and those who supported him with vigor did so singly, without organization. And opposed to him was a Republican candidate of unquestionably high personal character, and behind that candidate a party far superior to the Democrats in means and energy, as well as in the skill of campaigning. Is it surprising that, laboring under such disadvantages, Mr. Cleveland was defeated? No; it is rather surprising that he was not buried under a majority mountain high. It is truly amazing that he came so near winning the victory — so near, indeed, that a change of only 8,000 votes in the State of New York would have given him the election.
I have endeavored to study the causes of that result to the best of my opportunities, and I am very much inclined to think that the tariff-reform issue was not Mr. Cleveland's weak point, but really his strength. We observe the very significant fact that Mr. Cleveland made his gains mostly in cities, in industrial centres, where the tariff question came nearest home to the voters, where it was most apt to crowd out all side issues, and where, through the easy exchange of opinions, the educational process usually goes on quickest. Mr. Cleveland lost mostly in the agricultural districts, where old opinions are most stubbornly clung to; where old prejudices are easily aroused, and where the educational process is always slowest. If, in spite of all the disadvantages and the mismanagement I have mentioned, the inherent strength of the tariff-reform cause, as the short discussions of one campaign presented it to the popular mind, came so near defeating the tremendous array of interest and energy on the other side, what would have happened had President Cleveland brought out his tariff message a year or two sooner, so that the educational movement started by it would have had time to penetrate the rural districts as it has penetrated some of the industrial centres? And what will happen if the discussion goes on, and especially if the protective policy continues to develop its character as a breeder of monopolies? And this it will certainly do if the Republican party in power permits it, for the protected interests are insatiable; they will never be satisfied until not only all foreign competition is cut off, but until it is made easy to them to neutralize all home competition, too, by combination.
On another occasion I expressed the apprehension that, unless a sensible reduction of the tariff were enacted soon, there would be great danger of a violent and sweeping reaction against the protective system, possibly bringing on a crisis fraught with much temporary disaster, as sudden changes of economic policy frequently are; and such a reaction would be rendered all the more probable by the further development of Trusts and other monopolistic combinations, which a people like the American would certainly not long endure. I am strengthened in that opinion by what I see going on now. Unless tariff reform comes during President Harrison's Administration, the sweeping reaction is, I think, very likely, if not certain, to come at the close of it.
If our Republican friends are wise, they will give this matter some very serious thought. They should ask themselves calmly whether the high-protection policy will not really become the weak point of the Republican party, and whether it will be a prudent party policy permanently to identify the party with excessive duties, Trusts, and monopolies, so as to involve its fortunes in the surely coming downfall of that cause. They should not indulge in the delusion that the protected interests will themselves try to avert a violent reaction by being moderate in their demands. That is not the nature of those interests. They will prefer to make hay while the sun shines. They will think only of the greatest possible profit for the time being, and let the devil take the hindmost, no matter how many hindmosts there may be. They will not trouble themselves about what finally may become of the Republican party. They will ride the Republican party to death, if it permits itself to be ridden. [Applause.]
It is my firm conviction that the Republican party can save its future only by taking the reform of the tariff in the way of essential reduction into its own hands. I am sure it will not do that upon my advice, and I fear it will not do it upon the advice of anybody else. But the time may not be far when its prudent men will acknowledge that by doing so and by thus forestalling a sweeping reaction it would have rendered a very great service not only to the country, but also to itself. About what the ultimate verdict of the people on the tariff question may be I feel no anxiety. But I see great reason to fear that the struggle about the tariff, the longer it lasts and the hotter it becomes, will continue to develop to a most alarming potency all the corrupt tendencies existing in our political life. And here I touch a subject of far greater importance than the tariff itself.
It is currently asserted that during the last Presidential campaign much larger sums of money have been raised for electioneering purposes than on any former occasion, and that much of that money has been used in downright bribery of voters — that, in fact, there has been in this election far more corruption of the grossest kind, systematically planned and organized, than this country has ever known. I am well aware from my long political experience that such charges, when brought by the defeated party after a hot contest, have to be taken with a grain of allowance. They have usually been much exaggerated, and in some cases entirely groundless. And I candidly assure you nothing would delight me more than to see the charges now current as conclusively disproved as such accusations can be disproved. Indeed, I feel as if I had in one respect a greater personal interest at stake in this matter than most of you.
The question has frequently been asked how far adopted citizens of this Republic can be patriotic. I will here only say that there are many of them to whom everything that tarnishes the good name of their adopted country is peculiarly painful — perhaps more painful even than to the native. The reason is not far to seek. The adopted citizen has to account for his attachment to a country not his native land upon a ground other than filial feeling, and it is his highest satisfaction and pride to be able to say that the country of his chosen allegiance is, in every sense and in the highest degree, entitled to the esteem and love of mankind. He will stand up for the honor of that country as he will for his own, at all times and everywhere, especially against the outside world, and nothing touches in him a more sensitive point than to see the lustre of that honor diminished in the eyes of the world by accusations which he cannot refute.
It is a very hard thing for a good American to acknowledge the fact that the reputation of our Republic as to the matter of honesty in its political life is not good. But so it is. This is not a matter to be lightly brushed aside. No nation, be it ever so rich and powerful, can afford to be indifferent to its good name. Least of all should that nation be indifferent which has prided itself so much upon setting an example to the world of what free institutions can accomplish not only in the development of material prosperity, but also in the moral elevation of the people. And I know the American people are not and never will be indifferent to their good name. [Applause.]
It is true, public opinion abroad concerning us is too largely influenced by sensational stories, and the foreign press not seldom presents all the charges hurled by one party against another in this country as established facts. But the foreign press is also open to our side when such charges can be denied. Thus, when I was in Germany last summer, a prominent Berlin paper published an article in which our elections were represented as mere affairs of money, the longest purse always winning the day, and the American people as not being merely indifferent about the wholesale bribery going on among them, but as rather admiring and applauding the smartness of the politicians who knew how to carry elections by outdoing their opponents in the use of corrupt means. I thought I could not permit such aspersions of the American character to go unchallenged within my hearing, and published a letter in reply, in which I said that bribery in elections, while, indeed, not unknown in this country, had been confined to a very small number of localities; that the number of votes influenced by money was, in proportion to the voting population, infinitesimal; that, as clearly proved by the Presidential election of 1884, the longest purse did by no means “always win”; that our election campaigns, far from being mere money affairs, were largely carried on by men profoundly believing in the cause they advocated; that their efforts gave the campaigns not seldom a highly valuable educational character; that an overwhelming majority of the American people, far from applauding or from being indifferent to corrupt practices, were heartily ashamed of them and loudly condemned them; that a vigorous public opinion had sprung up, indignantly demanding the prosecution and punishment of the scoundrels engaged in such practices; that some of them had already been sent to the penitentiary, and that strong movements were on foot to reform existing abuses and to do full justice to the moral dignity of the American people.
All this and more I said. Was it true? I was conscientiously convinced that I could truthfully say so then. Let us ask ourselves whether all of it can be truthfully said by the defenders of American character to-day after what has happened during and since the last Presidential election. However anxiously we may seek for an answer to this question, we cannot close our eyes to the fact that this time the charges of wholesale bribery and corruption are made not merely by one party against another, that they are supported by what appears to be strong prima-facie evidence, and that they are believed to be true, if not universally, at least by a very large portion of the American people. Now, the things charged and very generally believed are either true or not. If they are not true, then every American who can do or say anything to disprove them owes it to his country as a duty of honor to come forward and let the world hear what he has to say. We cannot dispose of this case by falling back upon the principle that the burden of proof is upon the accuser, and that the charges are not entitled to credit until they are established by legal evidence. This is not a trial at law. Nor is it an impeachment of the validity of the election, for the result of the election is finally settled, and surely no sane person in this broad land thinks of disturbing or even questioning it. Nor does anybody think that any wrong was done with the knowledge of either candidate for the Presidency. The fact we have to deal with is that the world quite generally does already believe these things, and people will only be confirmed in this belief, if those who know fail to do something effective to show the notorious circumstances upon which this belief is founded to have been harmless. If they were harmless, then the honor of the country demands that they should be shown to have been so. If there ever was an object lesson bringing home to the American people the importance and desirability of legislation compelling political campaign committees or managers to preserve and exhibit their accounts and vouchers, here it is. Imagine, if there were such an exhibition of the accounts of expenditures of all parties now, proving everything to have been fair and honest, how it would rejoice the hearts of all who love their country!
But if there be nothing forthcoming to shake the widespread belief in the charges of systemtic bribery and corruption, if the American people have to accept the odium of the situation, then it will be well for them to ask themselves what that situations really means. We have, indeed, had sporadic bribery before, on a small scale; we have had here and there ballot-box stuffing; we have had colonizing of voters; we have had fraudulent returns and forged poll reports; we have had intimidation of negroes by whites, and of working people by employers; we have had a great variety of tricks, some of a very unscrupulous and disreputable kind, resorted to by politicians to make their party win. All these things we have had before, and they were bad enough, reprehensible enough, and dangerous enough, but they were mostly of a local nature, and undertaken with a view to mere party advantage. But if the charges now made and believed are true, we have, in appearance at least, something far more grave.
When I expressed my fear that the struggle about the tariff, the longer it went on, would continue to develop to peculiar potency the corrupt tendencies existing in our political life, I did not mean to insinuate that the resort to corrupt means had been or would be confined to one party — namely, the party of protection. On the contrary, there have been at the last election, as is reported, in the interior of this State and elsewhere, purchases of votes substantially at auction, one party outbidding the other, and the longest purse getting the “floater.” If there has been any bribery at all it is likely to have been on both sides, and that explains the fact that the active politicians on both sides are so remarkably meek when searching investigations of corrupt practices are demanded. Such things have been known before. But the present case has its peculiar feature. If the managers of the protection campaign fail to correct the popular belief as to the briberies in the last election, they must not be surprised if the case now before us presents itself to the popular mind in this light:
Great industrial interests are built up, fostered, and benefited by national legislation. They grow into a vast financial power. They are banded together for common efforts to maintain and extend the advantages they enjoy through the national laws. They are called upon by the managers of a political party to contribute large sums of money, a part of the profits so received to be used in the election, avowedly in order that those advantages may be continued and increased. They make contributions unprecedentedly large. A considerable part of the money contributed by them is used in purchasing votes for the purpose of carrying the election and of then controlling the Government for their benefit. And when the Government is so controlled that financial power will enjoy greater advantage
f enabling it to purchase still more votes in the future.
Now, every feature of this presentment — the fostering of the industrial interest by legislation, the growth of the financial power, the banding together, the call for contributions, the contributing of unprecedented sums — all this is universally known and admitted to be true; it is a matter of record — all except the systematic purchase of votes. And this is very generally believed to be true. If this be true, too, if there has been systematic bribery of voters by a formidable money power which is nursed by the State, and which bribes voters in order to be nursed still more, and will be the more able to bribe the more it is nursed, then you will all admit, be you Republicans or Democrats, protectionists or free-traders, that the mere economic question of free trade or protection dwindles down to nothing compared to this question touching not only the honor but the very vitality of the republic. [Applause.] We may survive extortion by monoplies or a breakdown of our manufactures, as predicted by one party and by the other; we can endure Republican or Democratic party rule; but the existence and continuance of such a state of things would bring a disgrace and dangers upon us of which so far we have had no experience and perhaps no conception.
You may say that that part of this presentment which is not proved by the record may not be as black as painted. Perhaps it may not. I shall be one of the happiest men in the land if it is made to appear better. But whether that dark shadow be cleared up or not, every patriotic American should look that which is known to have happened, and the possibilities thus presented, squarely in the face. The American people will then feel that their pride of rectitude and their patriotism will have to go into action in full force in order to vindicate their honor, whatever may have occurred or may still occur, and to take care of their future. And I am confident they can and they will take care of it.
I have heard pessimists say that our politics are hopelessly rotten, and that nothing can be more ridiculous than an effort to reform them. This is mere dyspeptic talk. Time was when in England constituencies were openly bought, and when Ministers, figuratively if not bodily, walked through the House of Commons, their hands full of bank bills, which they distributed among the members for their votes. Bribery was regarded as little else than a mere ordinary business transaction. The evil seemed incurable, and yet to-day elections in England are as clean of corruption as any in the world. What has been possible in England cannot be impossible here.
Indeed, I think we have arrived at the turning-point. It is a most healthy sign of the times that prominent public men of both parties, Governors of States and others, have already given voice to the alarm caused by the serious character of the mischief, and with unusual urgency recommend remedial legislation. The symptoms multiply that the popular
sconscience is restless and exacting, and will compel politicians to obey it. The demand for ballot reform on the model of the Australian system, which some years ago was almost entirely confined to the class of men derisively called “theorists” or “professional reformers,” seems now to be in everybody's mouth, and before long, I trust, it will be adopted by a majority of the States. But while a ballot reform providing for the official printing and distribution of the tickets at the public expense and securing the secrecy of the b oallot would be a great step in the right direction, it would by no means prevent bribery altogether, especially not under circumstances such as we are now called upon to contemplate.
It would indeed be a blessing of inestimable value if some one of the bribers could now be successfully prosecuted for his crime and sent to the penitentiary. Such an act of justice would do the country honor. It would not only strike terror into the hearts of those who have been bold and base enough to put the bribe-money into the hand of the purchasable voter, but it would pointedly remind of their complicity in acts that are crimes the persons of property and high social character whom Judge Gresham so aptly described as the “men of prominence and respectability who raise these large sums of money, knowing the use that they will be put to — men who deal openly in corruption one day and go to church the next.” But whether such a prosecution and conviction can be had or not, certainly no effort should be spared to find a method in which our laws against bribery can be so strengthened that they may effectually reach both principals and accessories. And, secondly, some way should be found, as it has been found elsewhere, to bring the use of money in election campaigns under the control of law, and to compel campaign committees and managers to keep regular accounts and to verify and exhibit them. [Applause.] I know such things are more difficult of accomplishment here, where the candidates to be voted for are many, and under different jurisdictions, than in other countries, with their less complicated systems. But a careful study of the subject will, I have no doubt, discover practical ways to attain the object. Nothing is more desirable than that this work should be pushed forward without the intervention of any party spirit. In fact, no party can remain behind in this work without justifying suspicion. As there are corrupt men in all parties, so there are men of integrity and high patriotic purpose in all of them, who will be eager to punish and suppress corrupt practices, not only among their opponents, but also among their friends. It is an object which simply appeals to the best impulses of every good citizen, whatever his party creed. And as the Commonwealth Club has rendered very good service in promoting the cause of ballot reform, so it may again deserve well in furthering legislation of equal, or perhaps still greater, importance in the same direction.
There will be other subjects of fruitful discussion suggested by the circumstances surrounding us — such as they importance of holding a constitutional convention in this State, and connected with a variety of topics touching the constitutional relations between the State and municipal Governments; desirable limitations of the powers of the Legislature in various directions; the granting and withdrawing of franchises by the State, and the like. Thus opportunities for making itself useful will not be wanting to the Commonwealth Club, and I doubt not it will be heard again.
It is true, after the late Presidential election some ardent party men on both sides pleased themselves in loudly proclaiming that the day of independent political thought was over, and that, from this time on, no man taking an interest in politics would listen to what the Independents might have to say. This sort of talk will disturb no one. That the politicians who indulge in it will not willingly listen to what the Independents have to say, I readily admit. They have never done so. But other people have, and other people will. They will listen so long as that which the Independents have to say is inspired by a patriotic purpose and appeals to reason. Be sure that your cause is good; serve it with candor, intelligence, and earnestness, and you will always have your influence upon public opinion. [Applause long continued.]
|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).|