Page images
PDF
EPUB

life on doing some other work than ours. Let us make the experiment."

The plan, then, here proposed has as its main features the responsibility of the chief executive, the abolition of the term system, and the abolition of large election districts.

It is proposed, also, to abolish this term system for the men who now fill our public offices, and to have them continue to hold their places so long as they are faithful.

The reasons in favor of this particular last proposition are as follows:

It is only justice to the men who are now in our public employment to keep them there until they fail us. We have put them in those places-that is, we have adopted their appointments by the election machine. Although it may be said that they took office on an understanding that they might be required to leave it at the end of a certain fixed term, yet it is the fairer course toward them to allow them to remain in our service until there is some failure on their part for which they should be discharged. By entering our service they have, at least for a time, incapacitated themselves for other occupations.

They are the best body of men with whom to begin an attempt to reform the administration of our public affairs. Many of them are very able men. They have, indeed, been selected on false tests and trained in a false school. But they have won their places in a struggle where it has required ability to win. These men now in office have now ow had a longer experience in their official duties than any equal number of men whom we could select. And they will be ready to serve us well, if we will only allow them to do so.

But the chief reason in favor of putting these very men, the present President of the United States, the present governors of States, the present mayors of cities, with their present subordinates, on a new tenure, on the common-sense human tenure, instead of the tenure by solar time, is that thereby we can secure the coöperation of the men who now hold the control of the election organizations in favor of the reform of our government. Some of these men are Republicans, some are Democrats-together they control the two organizations. They will be very glad to support any scheme which will secure to them the holding of their present places. It is matter of great doubt whether any plan of reform can be carried in the face of the combined opposition of the leaders of the great election organiza

|

tions. Thus far, their opposition has been combined, and it has been successful. As things are now, regulations for the reform of the civil service will not be honestly carried out, even if they should be formally adopted. The leaders on both sides are opposed to it. They will continue to give us platforms without performance as long as the present system of government remains. The reason is that, under our present system, they are always under the " pressure that has been mentioned. They will give us good appointments as soon as we make it for their interest to do so, and not before. As soon as we give them the power of appointing and removing their subordinates, and give them the chance of keeping their places and of making a reputation for themselves by efficient service, they will make good appointments. For, otherwise, they will destroy their own reputations. At least, that is the way human nature works outside of public office.'

[ocr errors]

The reasons, then, for beginning the abolition of the term system now, with the men whom we now have in public places, are, that such a measure would be simple justice to the men themselves; they would be the best men with whom we could begin a reform of our public service; and thereby we could secure their coöperation in making the reform. This would be "reform within the machine." This would be reform within both machines at the same time.

The system of term elections never was anything but a reactionary system—a reaction against the system of irresponsible hereditary power. The evils of the irresponsible hereditary system are two: It selects men on the wrong principle, selecting them by the accident of birth, instead of for fitness; it provides no means of removing the sovereign for inefficiency or misconduct, no lawful method of enforcing his responsibility. The way to meet those two evils is to meet them directly and simply —that is, to have the people elect their chief magistrate, and to provide the means of enforcing his responsibility by removal in case he uses his power wrongly.

But, in nearly all attempts thus far made to avoid the evils of an irresponsible hereditary chief magistracy, it has been the leading feature to substitute, for the irresponsible life tenure, tenure by term election. There is also that other weird, fantastic device called constitutional royalty, which consists in surrounding the chief ruler with twenty heads of executive depart

ments, and removing all those heads of departments whenever they fail on a vote in the legislature. All these systems, if we are to grace them with a name so ill-deserved, are merely different forms of government by election machine. It is hard to say which form is the most pernicious. But the experience of the last hundred years has clearly demonstrated that they are all constructed on false principles, and that they are not equal to the needs of the age. They served the purposes of their day. They were temporary revolutionary, or evolutionary, make-shifts. But this American people has outgrown them all. Their day for us is gone.

We have exhausted the possibilities of the system which was founded on distrust. All human private affairs are transacted from day to day on the basis of confidence in men. Public affairs must be transacted on the same basis. They can be so transacted with perfect safety. The large majority of men are, as a matter of simple habit and instinct, faithful to their trusts. It is not from fear or compulsion that the private work of the world is in the main well and honestly done. Men who enter public life do not change their nature. They remain men of honor, if they were so before. Our security for honest public service must always be, in the main, the character of the men whom we put there. If we have our chief rulers chosen by the real voice of the people, we shall be certain of one thing, and that is, we shall have at the head of our public affairs, almost without an exception, honest men. The men in our public service have aids to honest conduct, such as no private individuals can have, from the greater degree of publicity to which they are exposed. That alone, in a country That alone, in a country which has a free press, will keep our public men pure, if we only take time, if we have time to hold men to their official responsibility. But, with these never-ceasing elections, an official is out of office before we can find out who is responsible for the

wrong working of public affairs. Public of cials do not now fear exposure; they think it may not come till after the end of their term; if it comes, they think they can avoid its effects until the next election; and when the next election comes, it will be another grand carnival of banners, and platforms, and glorious old party principles.

Under the system which has been here set forth, we shall trust men with power. At the head of city and State and national affairs there will be a body of men, chosen by the people, whom the people will have to trust. Those men will have the power of voting the people's money, as they see fit. They will have the power of removing the people's chief magistrate, when they see fit.

Trusting men whom the people choose is entirely safe. We trust men now, under the system which we have. We are compelled to do so. We can trust these men more safely, if we leave them free, than we can if we compel them continually to do election work.

But if that be not so, if the people cannot be trusted to choose their own servants wisely, and if the servants whom the people choose cannot be trusted to serve the people truly, then government by the people is a failure-and we must go back to the methods of Constantinople and the dark ages.

The movement of the age is not in that direction. Government by the people has not failed. We have not, indeed, yet found its perfect form. The men of 1787 did not do their work for all time. In these hundred years, something has been learned in political, as well as physical, science. This first experiment in a people's government for a great nation has not been, in every respect, a thorough success, but it has been fruitful in great lessons. Something is still to be done. And it is time for the people to hold their Convention, to take counsel on the situation. We need not yet despair of the Republic.

THE WHEEL AS A SYMBOL IN RELIGION.

AMONG the many strange developments of religion, or superstition, which I have traced in my wanderings in many lands, none appears to me so curious as that singular phase of mechanical devotion commonly called a prayer-wheel, which actually brings machinery to bear in multiplying the reiteration of certain formulas of invocation, or the recitation of sacred writings. It is, I believe, peculiar to those countries in which Buddha holds sway, in which he is worshiped as the Chakravarta Rajah, or King of the Wheel. It is not, however, found in all Buddhist countries, for during eighteen months' residence in Ceylon, where I carefully explored not only the principal temples now in use, but all the most ancient pre-Christian ruins, in the depths of the tropical forests, I failed to find any trace of its use.

[graphic]

It was not till we had traveled to the north of India, and had penetrated far into the mighty mountain-ranges of the Himalayas, approaching the borders of Chinese Tartary, that we observed men twirling little brass cylinders as they climbed the narrow, precipitous tracks by which we wound along those dizzy heights. What these toys were, we could not at first make out, till it was explained to us that the cylinders not only had sacred words embossed on the outside, but that the same mystic sentence was written again and again, perhaps many thousands of times, on strips of cloth or paper, which were wound around a spindle, the end of which formed the handle of the little machine. From the center hangs a small lump of metal, which whirls around and gives the necessary impetus, so that the little prayer-mill twirls with the slightest exertion, and goes on grinding any given number of meritorious acts of homage to Buddha, a tiny bell marking each revolution to remind the worshiper if he is unconsciously turning too fast. Of course, his mind ought to be all the time absorbed in meditation on the infinite perfections of Buddha, but as too much must not be expected from a busy working-man, it suffices if he repeat the sentence aloud at the beginning and end of his devotions, and between whiles continue to twirl slowly. There is one who speaks of prayer as that whereby

"the whole round world is every way Bound by gold chains about the feet of God."

HAND PRAYER-WHEELS-THIBET.

|

But such material links as these gold, brass, or copper cylinders are, indeed, strange ties to bind earth to heaven!

But these are only little wheels, for the use of individuals who may be able to afford such luxuries. The devotions of the whole village-nay, the whole district-have to be provided for, and therefore prayer-mills must be prepared on a very large scale, to represent the worship of the whole people. Such an one we saw in the Lama temple at Rarung, where, beneath the shadow of the eternal snows, the village (resembling a cluster of Swiss châlets) stands perched on a crag overhanging the river Sutledge. We pitched our tiny white tents beneath the dark shade of grand deodaras (sacred cedars), and soon made friends with the old bonze (priest), who welcomed us cordially, and doubtless looked at us as curiously as we did at him-we being the first foreign women, with the exception of the wife of the Moravian missionary, who had found the way so far by this route.

Poor as was the little temple at Rarung, there was much gaudy drapery hung on every side, but it was neither clean nor fragrant. My companions beat a hasty retreat, but I stood my ground long enough to secure a sketch of what was to me an object of extreme interest, namely, a colossal prayer-wheel, resembling a very large barrel-organ, and turned by a great iron crank, which worked like a handle. It was a great cylinder, about twelve feet high and six or eight in diameter, painted in circular bands of gold and bright color, and on every band was inscribed the one oft-recurring Buddhist ascription, which usurps the place of all prayer-the ascrip

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

tion of praise to the "Jewel on the Lotus." The cylinder was said to contain the same sentence written many thousand times, and as it slowly revolved on its axis, a most musical bell marked each revolution, and the worshiper was held to have laid up much treasure of heavenly praise.

As each man entered, he made a lowly obeisance to the head Lama, who laid his hand on the bowed head and pronounced words of blessing. Then the would-be worshiper sat on the ground before the great wheel, and turned the crank for his own benefit and that of all dear to him. Should many arrive simultaneously, the priest himself worked the machine, that all might share alike in this unspeakable benefit. It seemed really very hard work, yet we had no sooner arrived at Rarung than all our coolies, weary as they must have been with carrying us and our baggage over the steep mountain-tracks, repaired to the temple, where we found them grinding as diligently as if in very truth their hearts' desire was at stake. There was no prayer-wheel in the village where they lived, so they were making the most of their opportunities.

These wheels are believed to have been in use among the Buddhists for at least fourteen centuries, and originated in the idea of its being an act of merit to be continually reciting portions of the writings of Buddha. For the benefit of the unlearned, it came to be accounted sufficient to turn over the rolled manuscripts containing the precious precepts. This simple substitute was found to save so much trouble that the custom rapidly spread, and the action was further simplified by the invention of wheels, known as tchu-chor-great egg-shaped barrels full of prayers, with a cord attached to the base of the barrel, which, on being pulled, set the cylinder twirling. These

are set up in all public places in Thibet, so that the poor, who cannot afford little pocket-wheels of devotion, may not lose their chance of thus heaping up merit. They stand at the doors of the principal dwelling-houses, so that every man entering may give them a spin for the good of the house; while in the monasteries there are many rows of small cylinders, so arranged that the priest, or any passer-by, can set them all twirling at once by just drawing his hand along as he passes. Sometimes the cylinders are so placed as to be turned by wind or water power. The former are provided with wings on the windmill principle, while the latter (see page 737) are placed over streams, so that the running water shall turn them ceaselessly for the good of the village. A wooden bar passed through the cylinder is fastened to a horizontal wheel, having the cogs turned diagonally to the water, just as in the curious little corn-mills still in use in remote corners of Scotland. These wheels rotate with the action of the water and so turn the cylinder, which must invariably stand upright. Several of these are placed abreast across the stream, and a rough wooden shed is built over them to represent a temple.

At the Lama temple at Darjeeling, the wind is made use of in offering ceaseless prayers for the dead. Long, narrow flags inscribed with the same sacred formula are fastened to tall poles, from twenty to forty feet high, the flags not exceeding four feet in width. As these flutter in the breeze, they are supposed to be offering ceaseless adoration on behalf of the dead whose names they bear. Within the temple stands a large wheel, similar to those of the Northern Himalayas, and the priests carry similar small hand-wheels.

Wherever we find these wheels, they are invariably placed so as to turn from right

|

to left, following the course of the sunthat is to say, the right-hand must always be next to the pivot around which the object turns; to invert this order would not only involve ill-luck, but amount to a positive sin. This dread will be readily understood by any one who is versed in old Scottish lore, and remembers how the turn widdershins (that is to say, in a course contrary to that of the sun, or, as the Latins called it, sinistrorum, that is, with the left-hand toward the center) was only made when invoking a curse on some particular object or person, and so fully believed in, that malignant evil-doers were supposed invariably to begin their diabolic work by making so many turns from right to left instead of from left to right.

equivalent to Amen. This "sixteen-syllabled charm," as they call it, is the sovereign balm of every conceivable ill. Some Buddhists vary this magic sentence. The Fo-ists in China pin their faith to the words Aum-mi-to-fuh, which is also a title of Buddha, and which every devout Fo-ist desires to repeat at least three hundred thousand times in the course of his life. To this end, many of their priests shut themselves up in the temples for months together, with no other occupation than that of repeating these words over and over again, day and night. As the laity go about their daily business, the same words are forever on their lips. The devout and the aged carry strings of beads, whereon they instinctively count their reiterations of the spell, and while they speak to you or to one another, on all manner of secular subjects, between each sentence comes a low murmur, Aum-mi-to-fuh! Then, as they pass away down the street, you see their lips moving and you know that they are still whispering the unvarying ascription of praise to Buddha, Aum-mi-to-fuh! Aum-mi-to-fuh!

This title Aum or Om is not peculiar to the worshipers of Buddha. The Brahmins also esteem it so holy that they will not utter it aloud, while the Yains, laying the hand upon the mouth, whisper it in deepest reverence. We are told that the same word was used by the ancient Celts_to_express the holy and mystic name of God. It is somewhat singular that these two races, so widely separated by time and by distance, should not only have adored the Almighty under the same name, but also have symbolized their worship of Him by the use of figures representing the revolving sun, generally under the image of a wheel. And this is probably the key to the wheels and various ceremonies still in use by the Buddhists, and points to some remote age when these dead customs were all instinct with life, and were to the worshipers merely symbols of some grand reality, well known to them all. Hence, the intensely strong feeling in favor of always following the course of the sun-of which (under the term deisul) we find so many traces still lingering in all lands-even, as I have just stated, in our own Scottish Highlands, and which in India and Thibet forces itself on our notice at every turn. In Scotland, it was till quite recently the custom to walk three times sunwise around people, cattle, houses, chapels, to insure good luck to them or to the walker, and at ancient Highland funerals it

There was much delay before I succeeded in purchasing two of these, at a price which must have supplied the owners with new ones for every member of the family. One of these was procured for me by Mr. Pagell, the Moravian missionary at Poo, a wild, desolate station far in the interior, where he and his wife have for many years devoted their lives to the almost vain attempt to Christianize their neighbors, their labors being attended with the usual discouragement, and resulting in a very small handful of converts. Mr. Pagell told me that the mill he had procured for me contained a strip of paper, on which was written a short but very comprehensive prayer in Thibetan-a prayer for the six classes of living creatures, namely, the souls in heaven, the evil spirits in the air, man, animals, souls in purgatory, and souls in hell.

But, as a general rule, all worship begins, continues, and ends with one unvarying sentence, Aum Mani Padmi Hoong. These words are raised in embossed letters outside the cylinder, besides being written perhaps thousands of times on the strips of paper inside. They are engraved all over sacred places, on the face of the rocks, on the walls of the temples; in one great monastery in Ladakh the wall is literally covered with these words of sacred mystic import, ascribing perpetual adoration to Buddha as the jewel on the lotus, in reference to his lotus throne that is to say, the pattern symbolical of the lotus or water-lily with which his throne is always adorned.

The literal meaning of the sentence is as follows: Aum or Om, equivalent to the Hebrew JAH, the holiest and most glorious title of the Almighty; Mani, the Jewel, one of Buddha's titles; Padmi, the Lotus; Hoong,

« PreviousContinue »