Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

society. They were the product of these democratic conditions. Freedom to rise was the very condition of their existence. Whether they will be followed by successors who will adopt the exploitation of the masses, and who will be capaable of retaining under efficient control these vast resources, is one of the questions which we shall have to face.

This, at least, is clear: American democracy is fundamentally the outcome of the experiences of the American people in dealing with the West. Western democracy through the whole of its earlier period tended to the production of a society of which the most distinctive fact was the freedom of the individual to rise under conditions of social mobility, and whose ambition was the liberty and wellbeing of the masses. This conception has vitalized all American democracy, and has brought it into sharp contrasts with the democracies of history, and with those modern efforts of Europe to create an artificial democratic order by legislation. The problem of the United States is not to create democracy, but to conserve democratic institutions and ideals. In the later period of its development, Western democracy has been gaining experience in the problem of social control. It has steadily enlarged the sphere of its action and the instruments for its perpetuation. By its system of public schools, from the grades to the graduate work of the great universities, the West has created a larger single body of intelligent plain people than can be found elsewhere in the world. Its educational forces are more democratic than those of the East, and counting the common schools and colleges together, the Middle West alone has twice as many students as New England and the Middle States combined. Its political tendencies, whether we consider Democracy, Populism, or Republicanism, are distinctly in the direction of greater social control and the conservation of the old democratic ideals. To these ideals the West as a whole adheres

а

with even a passionate determination. If, in working out its mastery of the resources of the interior, it has produced a type of industrial leader so powerful as to be the wonder of the world, nevertheless, it is still to be determined whether these men constitute a menace to democratic institutions, or the most efficient factor for adjusting democratic control to the new conditions.

Whatever shall be the outcome of the rush of this huge industrial modern United States to its place among the nations of the earth, the formation of its Western democracy will always remain one of the wonderful chapters in the history of the human race. Into this vast shaggy continent of ours poured the first feeble tide of European settlement. European men, institutions, and ideas were lodged in the American wilderness, and this great American West took them to her bosom, taught them a new way of looking upon the destiny of the common man, trained them in adaptation to the conditions of the New World, to the creation of new institutions to meet new needs, and ever as society on her eastern border grew to resemble the Old World in its social forms and its industry, ever, as it began to lose faith in the ideals of democracy, she opened new provinces, and dowered new democracies in her most distant domains with her material treasures and with the ennobling influence that the fierce love of freedom, the strength that came from hewing out a home, making a school and a church, and creating a higher future for his family, furnished to the pioneer. She gave to the world such types as the farmer Thomas Jefferson, with his Declaration of Independence, his statute for religious toleration, and his purchase of Louisiana. She gave us Andrew Jackson, that fierce Tennessee spirit who broke down the traditions of conservative rule, swept away the privacies and privileges of officialdom, and, like a Gothic leader, opened the temple of the Nation to the populace.

а

She gave us Abraham Lincoln, whose gaunt frontier form and gnarled, massive hand told of the conflict with the forest, whose grasp of the axe-handle of the pioneer was no firmer than his grasp of the helm of the ship of State as it breasted the seas of civil war. She gave us the tragedy of the pioneer farmer as he marched daringly on to the conquest of the arid lands, and met his first defeat by forces too strong to be dealt with under the old conditions. She has furnished to this new democracy her stores of mineral wealth, that dwarf those of the Old World, and her provinces that in themselves are vaster and more productive than most of the nations of Europe. Out of her bounty has come a Nation whose industrial competition alarms the Old World, and the masters of whose resources wield wealth and power vaster than the wealth and power of kings. Best of all, the West gave, not only to the American, but to the unhappy and oppressed of all lands, a vision of hope, and assurance that the world held a place where were to be found high faith in man and the will and power to furnish him the opportunity to grow to the full measure of his own capacity. Great and powerful as are the new sons of her loins, the Republic is greater than they. The paths of the pioneer have widened into broad highways. The forest clearing has expanded into affluent Commonwealths. Let us see to it that the ideals of the pioneer in his log cabin shall enlarge into the spiritual life of a democracy where civic power shall dominate and utilize individual achievement for the common good.

THE PRESENT CRISIS 1

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL

WHEN a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth's

aching breast Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to

west, And the slave, where'er he cowers, feels the soul within him

climb To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of

Time.

Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantane

ous throe, When the travail of the Ages wrings earth's systems to and

fro; At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start, Nation wildly looks at nation, standing with mute lips apart, And glad Truth's yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the

Future's heart.

So the Evil's triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill,
Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill,
And the slave, where'er he cowers, feels his sympathies with

God
In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the

sod, Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod.

1 Written in December, 1844.

For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along, Round the earth's electric circle, the swift flash of right or

wrong; Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity's vast

frame Through its ocean-sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or

shame; In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim.

[ocr errors]

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil

side; Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the

bloom or blight, Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the

right, And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that

light.

Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt

stand, Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against

our land? Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet 't is Truth alone is

strong, And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all

wrong.

Backward look across the ages and the beacon-moments

see, That, like peaks of some sunk continent, jut through

Oblivion's sea; Not an ear in court or market for the low foreboding cry,

« PředchozíPokračovat »