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N this volume of the present we have the
classics of the future in the field of
Democracy—the imperishable gems which must continue to shed their luster upon age after age. The American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution resulting therefrom have become the greater Magna Charta of the rights and liberties of Man. Government of the people, for the people, and by the people, and the equality of the citizen under the Law, constitute the solid foundation upon which is to rest hereafter the whole structure of human Government.
The history of agitation by the people for enhanced power shows that concessions gained only lead to renewed demands and that no finality is possible until pure democracy is reached. The question of the suffrage, for example, has not yet been settled, even in the old home of our English-speaking race. Step by step, after prolonged agitation, the franchise has been widened, but still " it will
not down.” It never will be at rest while the slightest inequality remains. In the American Union the national franchise, having been settled upon this basis, and adjusting itself automatically each decade, is never heard of; any change would destroy the equality of the citizen, which is equivalent to saying that the reign of justice, once established, would give place to injustice. Any man's privilege must be every man's right before there can be permanent peace. Inequality produces dissatisfaction. Equality brings content.
Since the reign of the people must therefore prevail, and their voice be accepted as if it were indeed the voice of the highest or anarchy ensue, it follows that the most imperative duty of the State is the universal education of the masses. Demos must be trained to the highest possible standard of enlightenment on pain of certain disaster. No money which can be usefully spent for this indispensable end should be denied. Public sentiment should, on the contrary, approve
the doctrine that the more that can be judiciously spent, the better for the country. There is no insurance of nations so cheap as the enlightenment of the people.
Fleets and armies being much more likely to embroil nations with each other than to insure them against attack, there is no insurance against war in warlike preparation. Government even if founded upon justice, which means equal rights and privileges to every citizen, is insecure, for ignorance is incapable of recognizing what is essentially wise and good. Man must be enlightened in order to be able to judge. Hence the fair fabric of Justice raised by Numa, says Plutarch, passed rapidly away because it was not founded upon education. No better reason can be given for the decay of a State. Readers will find in Washington's Inaugural these weighty words:
“Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that this should be enlightened.”
It is gratifying to know that no country, has ever devoted such vast sums, or so successfully insured public education, as the Republic. It may truly be said of the American, as Froude said of the Scotch, education with him is a passion. The initiative, alertness, and fertility of resource which the
American is nowadays credited with displaying, though partly a climatic, is chiefly an educational product.
There is no study more interesting than the steady growth of the sentiment of American nationality — the sway of the United Nation over the Individual State. The first confederation, although a perpetual union, was in many vital respects a rope of sand, for it preserved the practical sovereignty of the consenting states. The present Constitution, which followed later, laid the foundations of one central power, a nation, but, as is usual with all written instruments, the words used have proved of subordinate importance to the interpretations which from time to time have been placed upon them.
Let who will write the laws, he is master who interprets them. The United States Constitution, justly hailed by Mr. Gladstone as "the most wonderful work ever struck off at one time by the brain and purpose of man,” has in no respect shown itself more worthy of such praise than in the elastic quality it has revealed of extending and contracting, and its power of adapting itself to the development of the nation which seems destined to become the most powerful that