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democracy differs from unsuccessful in being a product of history,-a product of forces not suddenly become operative, but slowly working upon whole peoples for generations together. The level of democracy is the level of every day habit, the level of common national experiences, and lies far below the elevations of ecstasy to which the revolutionist climbs.
While there can be no doubt about the derivation of our government from habit rather than from doctrine, from English experience rather than from European thought; while it is evident that our institutions were originally but products of a long, unbroken, unperverted constitutional history; and certain that we shall preserve our institutions in their integrity and efficiency only so long as we keep true in our practice to the traditions from which our first strength was derived, there is, nevertheless, little doubt that the forces peculiar to the new civilization of our day, and not only these, but also the restless forces of European democratic thought and anarchic turbulence brought to us in such alarming volume by immigration, have deeply affected and may deeply modify the forms and habits of our politics. All vital governments--and by vital govern
ments I mean those which have life in their outlying members as well as life in their heads—all systems in which self-government lives and retains its self-possession, must be governments by neighbors, by peoples not only homogeneous, but characterized within by the existence among their members of a quick sympathy and an easy neighborly knowledge of each other. Not foreseeing steam and electricity or the diffusion of news and knowledge which we have witnessed, our fathers were right in thinking it impossible for the government which they had founded to spread without strain or break over the whole of the continent. Were not California now as near neighbor to the Atlantic States as Massachusetts then was to New York, national selfgovernment on our present scale would assuredly hardly be possible, or conceivable even. Modern science, scarcely less than our pliancy and steadiness in political habit, may be said to have created the United States of to-day.
Upon some aspects of this growth it is very pleasant to dwell, and very profitable. It is significant of a strength which it is inspiring to contemplate. The advantages of bigness accompanied by abounding life are many and invaluable. It is impossible among us to hatch in a corner any plot which will affect more than a corner. With life everywhere throughout the continent, it is impossible to seize illicit power
over the whole people by seizing any central offices. To hold Washington would be as useless to a usurper as to hold Duluth. Self-government cannot be usurped.
A French writer has said that the autocratic ascendency of Andrew Jackson illustrated anew the long-credited tendency of democracies to give themselves over to one hero. The country is older now than it was when Andrew Jackson delighted in his power, and few can believe that it would again approve or applaud childish arrogance and ignorant arbitrariness like his; but even in his case, striking and ominous as it was, it must not be overlooked that he was suffered only to strain the Constitution, not to break it. He held his office by orderly election; he exercised its functions within the letter of the law; he could silence not one word of hostile criticism; and, his second term expired, he passed into private life as harmlessly as did James Monroe. A nation that can quietly reabsorb a vast victorious army is no more safely free and healthy than is a nation that could reabsorb such a President as Andrew Jackson, sending him into seclusion at the Hermitage to live without power, and die almost forgotten.
A huge, stalwart body politic like ours, with quick life in every individual town and county, is apt, too, to have the strength of variety of
judgment. Thoughts which in one quarter kindle enthusiasm may in another meet coolness or arouse antagonism. Events which are fuel to the passions of one section may be but as a passing wind to another section. No single moment of indiscretion, surely, can easily betray the whole country at once. There will be entire populations still cool, self-possessed, unaffected. Generous emotions sometimes sweep whole peoples, but, happily, evil passions, sinister views, base purposes, do not and cannot. Sedition cannot surge through the hearts of a wakeful nation as patriotism can. In such organisms poisons diffuse themselves slowly; only healthful life has unbroken course. The sweep of agitations set afoot for purposes unfamiliar or uncongenial to the customary popular thought is broken by a thousand obstacles. It may be easy to reawaken old enthusiasms, but it must be infinitely hard to create new ones, and impossible to surprise a whole people into unpremeditated action.
It is well to give full weight to these great advantages of our big and strenuous and yet familiar way of conducting affairs; but it is imperative at the same time to make very plain the influences which are pointing toward changes in our politics—changes which threaten loss of organic wholeness and soundness. The union of strength with bigness depends upon the
maintenance of character, and it is just the character of the nation which is being most deeply affected and modified by the enormous immigration which, year after year, pours into the country from Europe. Our own temperate blood, schooled to self-possession and to the measured conduct of self-government, is receiving a constant infusion and yearly experiencing a partial corruption of foreign blood. Our own equable habits have been crossed with the feverish humors of the restless Old World. We are unquestionably facing an ever-increasing difficulty of self-command with ever-deteriorating materials, possibly with degenerating fibre. We have so far succeeded in retaining "Some sense of duty, something of a faith, Some reverence for the laws ourselves have made, Some patient force to change them when we will, Some civic manhood firm against the crowd;"
But we must reckon our power to continue to do so with a people made up of "minds cast in every mould of race,--minds inheriting every basis of environment, warped by the diverse histories of a score of different nations, warmed or chilled, closed or expanded, by almost every climate on the globe.”
What was true of our early circumstances is not true of our present. We are not now simply carrying out under normal conditions the princi