Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/717

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

policy. The vindication of party by Edmund Burke has become classical, and Professor Smith quotes him as thus defining it: "Party is a body united for promoting by their joint endeavors the national interest upon some particular principle on which all are agreed." 1 But this ideal of a political party is far enough from corresponding to the present reality; and it is an ideal now becoming increasingly impossible of realization. Instead of rallying around principles and carrying them out to victorious application, our parties eliminate them as incumbrances and impediments to success. In popular politics, questions of principle have been found simply "unavailable." Questions of political principle are never raised except to be settled, reduced to practice, and passed by. Conflicts of this kind must be ever coming to an end; but the end of conflict is the death of the parties to it. By the instinct of self-preservation, therefore, political parties will not identify themselves with transient measures the success of which destroys them. Politicians want perpetual power, and, although they talk principles abundantly in their convention-platforms, it is only for effect—they are not to be hampered by them.

But there are other and deeper reasons why questions of principle can not be made the basis of party government, and reasons to which every succeeding year lends additional force. The theory implies that there are, and will always continue to be, great issues of practical moment on which the people will so divide as to perpetuate the party system. But there is by no means an interminable supply of such fundamental questions as will serve the purpose; and as we have seen, under an honest pursuit of the policy, they become fewer and fewer. Professor Smith assures us that in Canada the stock of serious political issues is already exhausted, and that consequently "the two parties there are simply two factions fighting for place with the usual weapons, and poisoning the political character of the people in the process." But, if we have similar results in this country, it is certainly not from lack of paramount questions of public interest not yet settled. The difficulty is, that the community can not be bisected on such questions, as required by practical partisanship. That system demands that the people shall be divided, and remain divided into proximately equal parts that shall be totally opposed to each other, one half denying all that the other half affirms. It is founded upon disagreement, and implies that radical and comprehensive disagreement shall be the normal and permanent thing.

But it is no longer possible to constitute political parties on this basis. The whole tendency of modern ideas is in the opposite direction. The scientific spirit of the age is a force to be here counted on, and it is an agency that leads men to agreement. The increase of knowledge and the progress of intelligence, by settling principles and harmonizing opinions, must more and more disconcert party arrangements. As men learn to think for themselves, and prize truth as the object of honest thought, they will not range themselves on questions of principle in ways to suit party manipulators. No man can study political and social principles in the true scientific spirit without acquiring earnest and conscientious convictions, which will make him more and more revolt against the insincerity and utter hollowness of our partisan politics. There may be scientific men who are also party politicians; but it will generally be found that in such cases their science is far removed from the sphere of political thought.

The scientific spirit is, therefore, in broad and clear antagonism to the partisan spirit in politic-, and, as the law of science is progress, who shall assure us that this is not the agency