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Democracy and Efficiency
by Woodrow Wilson
It is no longer possible to mistake the reaction against democracy. The nineteenth century was above all others a century of democracy; and yet the world is no more convinced of the benefits of democracy as a form of government at its end than it was at its beginning. The history of closeted Switzerland has not been accepted as proving the stability of democratic institutions; the history of the United States has not been accepted as establishing their tendency to make governments just and liberal and pure. Their eccentric influence in France, their disastrous and revolutionary operation in South America, their power to intoxicate and their powerlessness to reform,—except where the states which use them have had in their training and environment what Switzerland or the colonies and commonwealths sprung from England have had, to strengthen and steady them,—have generally been deemed to offset every triumph or success they can boast. When we praise democracy, we are still put to our proofs; when we excuse its errors, we are understood to have admitted its failure.
There need be in this, however, no serious discouragement for us, whose democratic institutions have in all large things succeeded. It means nothing more than that the world is at last ready to accept the moral long ago drawn for it by de Tocqueville. He predicted the stability of the government of the United States, not because of its intrinsic excellence, but because of its suitability to the particular social, economic, and political conditions of the people and the country for whose use and administration it had been framed; because of the deliberation and sober sagacity with which it had been devised and set up; because it could reckon upon a sufficient "variety of information and excellence of discretion" on the part of the people who were to live under it to insure its intelligent operation; because he observed a certain uniformity of civilization to obtain throughout the country, and saw its affairs steadied by their fortunate separation from European politics; because he found a sober, religious habit of thought among our people, and a clear sense of right. Democracy was with us, he perceived, already a thing of principle and custom and nature, and our institutions admirably expressed our training and experience. No other people could expect to succeed by the same means, unless those means equally suited their character and stage of development. Democracy, like every other form of government, depended for its success upon qualities and conditions which it did not itself create, but only obeyed.
Many excellent suggestions, valid and applicable everywhere, we have given the world, with regard to the spirit in which government should be conducted. No doubt class privilege has been forever discredited because of our example. We have taught the world the principle of the general welfare as the object and end of government, rather than the prosperity of any class or section of the nation, or the preferment of any private or petty interest. We have made the law appear to all men an instrument wherewith to secure equality of rights and a protection which shall be without respect of persons. There can be no misgivings about the currency or the permanency of the principles of right which we have exalted. But we have not equally commended the forms or the organization of the government under which we live.
A federal union of diverse commonwealths we have indeed made to seem both practicable and efficient as a means of organizing government on a great scale, while preserving at the same time the utmost possible latitude and independence in local self-government. Germany, Canada, Australia, Switzerland herself, have built and strengthened their constitutions in large part upon our model. It would be hard to exaggerate the shock which has been given to old theories, or the impetus which has been given to hopeful experiment, in the field of political action, by our conspicuous successes as constitution-makers and reformers. But those successes have not been unlimited. We have not escaped the laws of error that government is heir to. It is said that riots and disorders are more frequent amongst us than in any other country of the same degree of civilization; justice is not always done in our courts; our institutions do not prevent, they do not seem even to moderate, contests between capital and labor; our laws of property are no more equitable, our laws of marriage no more moralizing, than those of undemocratic nations, our contemporaries; our cities are perhaps worse governed than any in Europe outside the Turkish Empire and Spain ; crime defies or evades the law amongst us as amongst other peoples, less favored in matters of freedom and privilege; we have no monopoly either of happiness or of enlightened social order. As we grow older, we grow also perplexed and awkward in the doing of justice and in, the perfecting and safeguarding of liberty. It is character and good principle, after all, which are to save us, if we are to escape disaster.
That moral is the justification of what we have attempted. It is for this that we love democracy: for the emphasis it puts on character; for its tendency to exalt the purposes of the average man to some high level of endeavor; for its just principle of common assent in matters in which all are concerned; for its ideals of duty and its sense of brotherhood. Its forms and institutions are meant to be subservient to these things. Democracy is merely the most radical form of "constitutional" government. A "constitutional" government is one in which there is a definite understanding as to the sphere and powers of government; one in which individual liberty is defined and guaranteed by specific safeguards, in which the authority and the functions of those who rule are limited and determined by unmistakable custom or explicit fundamental law. It is a government in which these understandings are kept up, alike in the making and in the execution of laws, by frequent conferences between those who govern and those who are governed. This is the purpose of representation: stated conference and a cordial agreement between those who govern and those who are governed. The process of the understanding is discussion,—public and continuous, and conducted by those who stand in the midst of affairs, at the official centre and seat of management, where affairs can be looked into and disposed with full knowledge and authority; those intrusted with government being present in person, the people by deputy.
Representative government has had its long life and excellent development, not in order that common opinion, the opinion of the street, might prevail, but in order that the best opinion, the opinion generated by the best possible methods of general counsel, might rule in affairs; in order that some sober and best opinion might be created, by thoughtful and responsible discussion conducted by men intimately informed concerning the public weal, and officially commissioned to look to its safeguarding and advancement,—by discussion in parliaments, discussion face to face between authoritative critics and responsible ministers of state.
This is the central object to which we have devoted our acknowledged genius for practical politics. During the first half century of our national life we seemed to have succeeded in an extraordinary degree in approaching our ideal, in organizing a nation for counsel and cooperation, and in moving forward with cordial unison and with confident and buoyant step toward the accomplishment of tasks and duties upon which all were agreed. Our later life has disclosed serious flaws, has even seemed ominous of pitiful failure, in some of the things we most prided ourselves upon having managed well: notably, in pure and efficient local government, in the successful organization of great cities, and in well-considered schemes of administration. The boss—a man elected by no votes, preferred by no open process of choice, occupying no office of responsibility—makes himself a veritable tyrant amongst us, and seems to cheat us of self-government; parties appear to hamper the movements of opinion rather than to give them form and means of expression; multitudinous voices of agitation, air infinite play of forces at cross-purpose, confuse us; and there seems to be no common counsel or definite union for action, after all.
We keep heart the while because still sore of our principles and of our ideals: the common weal, a common and cordial understanding in matters of government, secure private rights and yet concerted public action, a strong government and yet liberty also. We know what we have to do; what we have missed and mean to find; what we have lost and mean to recover; whit we still strive after and mean to achieve. Democracy is a principle with us, not a mere form of government. What we have blundered at is its new applications and details, its successful combination with efficiency and purity in governmental action. We tell ourselves that our partial failure in these things has been due to our absorption in the tasks of material growth; that our practical genius has spent itself upon wealth and the organization of industry. But it is to be suspected that there are other elements in the singular fact. We have supposed that there could be one way of efficiency for democratic governments, and another for monarchical. We have declined to provide ourselves with a professional civil service, because we deemed it undemocratic; we have made shift to do without a trained diplomatic and consular service, because we thought the training given by other governments to their foreign agents unnecessary in the case of affairs so simple and unsophisticated as the foreign relations of a democracy in politics and trade,—transactions so frank, so open, so straightforward, interests so free from all touch of chicane or indirection; we have hesitated to put our presidents or governors or mayors into direct and responsible relations of leadership with our legislatures and councils in the making of laws and ordinances, because such a connection between lawmakers and executive officers seemed inconsistent with the theory of checks and balances whose realization in practice we understood Montesquieu to have proved essential to the maintenance of a free government. Our theory, in short, has paid as little heed to efficiency as our practice. It has been a theory of non-professionalism in public affairs; and in many great matters of public action non-professionalism is non-efficiency.
"If only we had our old leisure for domestic affairs, we should devise a way of our own to be efficient, consonant with our principles, characteristic of our genius for organization," we have heard men say. "How fatal it may prove to us that our attention has been called off from a task but half done to the tasks of the world, for which we have neither inclination nor proper training nor suitable organization,—from which, until now, we were so happily free! We shall now be forever barred from perfection, our own perfection, at home!" But may it not be that the future will put another face upon the matter, and show us our advantage where least we thought it to lie? May it not be that the way to perfection lies along these new paths of struggle, of discipline, and of achievement? What will the reaction of new duty be? What self-revelations will it afford; what lessons of unified will, of simplified method, of clarified purpose; what disclosures of the fundamental principles of right action, the efficient means of just achievement, if we but keep our ideals and our character?
At any rate, it is clear that we could not have held off. The affairs of the world stand in such a case, the principles for which we have battled the long decades through are now put in such jeopardy amidst the contests of nations, the future of mankind faces so great a peril of reactionary revolution, that our own private business must take its chances along with the greater business of the world at large. We dare not stand neutral. All mankind deem us the representatives of the moderate and sensible discipline which makes free men good citizens, of enlightened systems of law and a temperate justice, of the best experience in the reasonable methods and principles of self-government, of public force made consistent with individual liberty; and we shall not realize these ideals at home, if we suffer them to be hopelessly discredited amongst the peoples who have yet to see liberty and the peaceable days of order and comfortable progress. We should lose heart ourselves, did we suffer the world to lose faith in us as the champions of these things.
There is no masking or concealing the new order of the world. It is not the world of the eighteenth century, nor yet of the nineteenth. A new era has come upon us like a sudden vision of things unprophesied, and for which no polity has been prepared. Here is straightway a new frontage for the nations,—this frontage toward the Orient. Our almost accidental possession of the Philippines has put us in the very presence of the forces which must make the politics of the twentieth century radically unlike the politics of the nineteenth; but we must have taken cognizance of them and dealt with them in any event. They concern us as nearly as they concern any other nation in the world. They concern all nations, for they shall determine the future of the race. Fortunately, they have not disclosed themselves before we were ready. I do not mean that our thought was prepared for them; I do not mean that our domestic affairs were in such shape as to seem fairly well ordered, so that we might in good conscience turn from them as from things finished and complete, and divert our energies to tasks beyond our borders. I mean that this change in the order of the world came, so far as we are concerned, at the natural point in our national development. The matter is worth looking into.
There has been a certain singular unity in our national task, hitherto; and these new duties now thrust upon us will not break that unity. They will perpetuate it, rather, and make it complete, if we keep but our integrity and our old-time purpose true. Until 1890 the United States had always a frontier; looked always to a region beyond, unoccupied, unappropriated, an outlet for its energy, anew place of settlement and of achievement for its people. For nearly three hundred years their growth had followed a single law,—the law of expansion into new territory. Themselves through all their history a frontier, the English colonies in America grew into a nation whose life poured still with strong tide along the old channel. Over the mountains on to the long slopes that descended to the Mississippi, across the great river into the plains, up the plains to the crowning heights of the Rockies, beyond the Rockies to the Pacific, slowly moved the frontier nation. England sought colonies at the ends of the earth to set her energy free and give vent to her enterprise; we, a like people in every impulse of mastery and achievement, had our own vast continent and were satisfied. There was always space and adventure enough and to spare, to satisfy the feet of our young men.
The great process put us to the making of states; kept the wholesome blood of sober and strenuous and systematic work warm within us; perpetuated in us the spirit of initiative and of practical expediency which had made of the colonies vigorous and heady states; created in us that national feeling which finally put sectionalism from the field and altered the very character of the government; gave us the question of the extension of slavery, brought on the Civil War, and decided it by the weight of the West. From coast to coast across the great continent our institutions have spread, until the western sea has witnessed the application upon a great scale of what was begun upon a small scale on the shores of the Atlantic, and the drama has been played almost to its last act,—the drama of institutional construction on the vast scale of a continent. The whole European world, which gave us our materials, has been moralized and liberalized by the striking and stupendous spectacle.
No other modern nation has been schooled as we have been in big undertakings and the mastery of novel difficulties. We have become confirmed in energy, in resourcefulness, in practical proficiency, in self-confidence. We have become confirmed, also, so far as our character is concerned, in the habit of acting under an odd mixture of selfish and altruistic motives. Having ourselves a population fit to be free, making good its freedom in every sort of unhampered enterprise, determining its own destiny unguided and unbidden, moving as it pleased within wide boundaries, using institutions, not dominated by them, we have sympathized with freedom everywhere; have deemed it niggardly to deny an equal degree of freedom to any race or community that desired it; have pressed handsome principles of equity in international dealings; have rejoiced to believe that our principles might some day make every government a servant, not a master, of its people. Ease and prosperity have made us wish the whole world to be as happy and well to do as ourselves; and we have supposed that institutions and principles like our own were the simple prescription for making them so. And yet, when issues of our own interest arose, we have not been unselfish. We have shown ourselves kin to all the world, when it cam to pushing an advantage. Our action against Spain in the Floridas, and against Mexico on the coasts of the Pacific; our attitude toward first the Spaniards, and then the French, with regard to the control of the Mississippi; the unpitying force with which we thrust the Indians to the wall wherever they stood in our way, have suited our professions of peacefulness and justice and liberality no better than the aggressions of other nations that were strong and not to be gainsaid. Even Mr. Jefferson, philanthropist and champion of peaceable and modest government though he was, exemplified this double temper of the people he ruled. "Peace is our passion," he had declared; but the passion abated when he saw the mouth of the Mississippi about to pass into the hands of France. Though he had loved France and hated England, he did not hesitate then what language to hold. "There is on the globe," he wrote to Mr. Livingston at Paris, "one single spot the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. The day that France takes possession of New Orleans seals the union of two nations, who, in conjunction, can maintain exclusive possession of the sea. From that moment we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation." Our interests must march forward, altruists though we are; other nations must see to it that they stand off, and do not seek to stay us.
It is only just now, however, that we have awakened to our real relationship to the rest of mankind. Absorbed in our own development, we had fallen into a singular ignorance of the rest of the world. The isolation in which we lived was quite without parallel in modern history. Our only near neighbor of any consequence was like ourselves in every essential particular. The life of Canada has been unlike ours only in matters which have turned out in the long run to be matters of detail; only because she has bad direct political connection with the mother country, and because she has had to work out the problem of forming a real union of life and sentiment between alien strains of French and English blood in her population. The contrast grows less and less between the two sides of the friendly border. And so we have looked upon nothing but our own ways of living, and have been formed in isolation. This has made us—not provincial, exactly: upon so big and various a continent there could not be the single pattern of thought and manners and purpose to be found cloistered in a secluded province. But if provincial be not the proper word, it suggests the actual fact. We have, like provincials, too habitually confined our view to the range of our own experiences. We have acquired a false self-confidence, a false self-sufficiency, because we have heeded no successes or failures but our own.
There could be no better illustration of this than the constant reargument, de novo, of the money question among us, and the easy currency to be obtained, at every juncture of financial crisis, for the most childish errors with regard to the well-known laws of value and exchange. No nation not isolated like ourselves in thought and experience could possibly think itself able to establish a value of its own for gold and silver, by legislation which paid no regard either to the commercial operations or to the laws of coinage and exchange which obtained outside its own borders. That a great political party should be able to win men of undoubted cultivation and practical sense to the support of a platform which embodied palpable and thrice-proven errors in such matters, and that, too, at a great election following close upon protracted, earnest, frank, and universal discussion, and should poll but little less than half the votes of the nation, is startling proof enough that we have learned to think, for the most part, only in terms of our own separate life and independent action, and have come to think ourselves a divided portion of mankind, masters and makers of our own laws of trade.
We have been equally deceived in matters in which we might more reasonably have deemed ourselves accredited experts. Misled by our own splendid initial advantage in the matter of self-government, we have suffered ourselves to misunderstand self-government itself, when the question was whether it could be put into practice amidst conditions totally unlike those with which, and with which alone, we have been familiar. The people of the United States have never known anything but self-government since the colonies were founded. They have forgotten the discipline which preceded the founding of the colonies, the long drill in order and in obedience to law, the long subjection to kings and to parliaments which were not in fact of the people's choosing. They have forgotten how many generations were once in tutelage in order that the generations which discovered and settled the coasts of America might be mature and free. No thoughtful student of history or observer of affairs needs to be told the necessary conditions precedent to self-government: the slow growth of the sense of law; the equally slow growth of the sense of community and of fellowship in every general interest; the habit of organization, the habit of discipline and obedience to those intrusted with authority, the self-restraint of give and take; the allegiance to ideals, the consciousness of mutual obligation; the patience and intelligence which are content with a slow and universal growth. These things have all been present in abundant measure in our own national life; but we have not deemed them singular, and have assumed that they were within reach of all others as well, and at as little cost of conscious effort.
Our own form of self-government is, in fact, by no means the one necessary and inevitable form. England is the oldest home of self-government in the modern world; our own principles and practices of self-government were derived from her; she has served as the model and inspiring example of self-government for every country in Europe throughout a century of democratic reform. And yet England did not have what we should call local self-government until 1888, outside her boroughs. Until 1888, influential country gentlemen, appointed justices of the peace by the crown upon the nomination of the Lord Chancellor, were the governing officers of her counties. Practically every important matter of local administration was in their hands, and yet the people of the counties had absolutely no voice in their selection. Things had stood so for more than four hundred years. Professor Rudolph Gneist, the great German student of English institutions, in expounding English ideas of self-government as he found them exemplified in the actual organization of local administration, declared that the word government was quite as emphatic in the compound as the word self. The people of the counties were not self-directed in affairs they were governed by crown officials. The policy of the crown was indeed moderated and guided in all things by the influence of a representative parliament; the justices received no salaries were men resident in the counties for which they were commissioned, identified with them in life and interest, landlords and neighbors among the men whose public affairs they administered. They had nothing to gain by oppression, much to gain by the real advancement of prosperity and good feeling within their jurisdictions: they were in a very excellent and substantial sense representative men. But they were not elected representatives; their rule was not democratic either in form or in principle. Such was the local self-government of England during some of the most notable and honorable periods of her history.
Our own, meanwhile, though conceived in the same atmosphere and spirit, had been set up upon a very different pattern, suitable to a different order of society. The appointment of officials was discredited amongst us; election everywhere took its place. We made no hierarchy of officials. We made laws,—laws for the selectmen, laws for the sheriff, laws for the county commissioners, laws for the district attorney, laws for each official from bailiff to governor,—and bade the courts see to their enforcement; but we did not subordinate one officer to another. No man was commanded from the capital, as if he were a servant of officials rather than of the people. Authority was put into commission and distributed piecemeal; nowhere gathered or organized into a single commanding force. Oversight and concentration were omitted from the system. Federal administration, it is true, we constituted upon a different principle,—the principle of appointment and of responsibility to the President; but we did not, when that new departure was made, expect the patronage of the President to be large, or look to see the body of federal officials play any very important or intimate part in our life as a people. The rule was to be, as before, the dispersion of authority. We printed the SELF large and the government small in almost every administrative arrangement we made; and that is still our attitude and preference.
We have found that even among ourselves such arrangements are not universally convenient or serviceable. They give us untrained officials, and an expert civil service is almost unknown amongst us. They give us petty officials, petty men of no ambition, without hope or fitness for advancement. They give us so many elective offices that even the most conscientious voters have neither the time nor the opportunity to inform themselves with regard to every candidate on their ballots, and must vote for a great many men of whom they know nothing. They give us, consequently, the local machine and the local boss; and where population crowds, interests compete, work moves strenuously and at haste, life is many-sided and without unity, and voters of every blood and environment and social derivation mix and stare at one another at the same voting places, government miscarries, is confused, irresponsible, unintelligent, wasteful. Methods of electoral choice and administrative organization, which served us admirably well while the nation was homogeneous and rural, serve us oftentimes ill enough now that the nation is heterogeneous and crowded into cities.
It is of the utmost importance that we should see the unmistakable truth of this matter and act upon it with all candor. It is not a question of the excellence of self-government: it is a question of the method of self-government, and of choosing which word of the compound we shall emphasize in any given case. It is a matter of separating the essentials from the non-essentials, the principle of self-government from its accidental forms. Democracy is unquestionably the most wholesome and livable kind of government the world has yet tried. It supplies as no other system could the frank and universal criticism, the free play of individual thought, the open conduct of public affairs, the spirit and pride of community and of cooperation, which make governments just and public-spirited. But the question of efficiency is the same for it as for any other kind of polity; and if only it have the principle of representation at the centre of its arrangements, where counsel is held and policy determined and law made, it can afford to put into its administrative organization any kind of businesslike power or official authority and any kind of discipline as if of a profession that it may think most likely to serve it. This we shall see, and this we shall do.
It is the more imperative that we should ee and do it promptly, because it is our present and immediate task to extend self-government to Porto Rico and the Philippines, if they be fit to receive it,—so soon as they can be made fit. If there is to be preparation, we must know of what kind it should be, and how it ought to be conducted. Although we have forgot our own preparatory discipline in that kind, these new tasks will undoubtedly teach us that some discipline—it may be prolonged and tedious—mast precede self-government and prepare the way for it; that one kind of self-government is suitable for one sort of community, one stage of development, another for another; that there is no universal form or method either of preparation or of practice in the matter; that character and the moralizing effect of law are conditions precedent, obscure and difficult, but absolutely indispensable. An examination of our own affairs will teach us these things; an examination of the affairs of the peoples we have undertaken to govern will confirm us in the understanding of them.
We shall see now more clearly than ever before that we lack in our domestic arrangements, above all things else, concentration, both in political leadership and in administrative organization; for the lack will be painfully emphasized, and will embarrass us sadly in the career we have now set out upon. Authority has been as much dispersed and distributed in the making of law and the choice of policy, under the forms we have used hitherto, as it has been in administrative action. We have been governed in all things by mass meetings. Committees of Congress, as various in their make-up as the body itself, sometimes guided by the real leaders of party, oftener guided by men whom the country at large neither knew nor looked to for leadership, have determined our national policy, piece by piece, and the pieces have seldom been woven together into any single or consistent pattern of statesmanship. There has been no leadership except the private leadership of party managers, no integration of the public business except such as was effected by the compromises and votes of methods will serve very awkwardly, if at all, for action in international affairs or in the government of distant dependencies. In such matters leadership must be single, open, responsible, and of the whole. Leadership and expert organization have become imperative, and our practical sense, never daunted hitherto, must be applied to the task of developing them at once and with a will.
We did not of deliberate choice undertake these new tasks which shall transform us. All the world knows the surprising circumstances which thrust them upon us. Sooner or later, nevertheless, they would have become inevitable. If they had not come upon us in this way, they would have come in another. They came upon us, as it was, though unexpected, with a strange opportuneness, as if part of a great preconceived plan for changing the world. Every man now knows that the world is to be changed,—changed according to an ordering of Providence hardly so much as foreshadowed until it came; except, it may be, to a few Europeans who were burrowing and plotting and dreaming in the mysterious East. The whole world had already become a single vicinage; each part had become neighbor to all the rest. No nation could live any longer to itself, the tasks and the duties of neighborhood being what they were. Whether we had, had a material foothold there or not, it would have been the duty of the United States to play a part, and a leading part at that, in the opening and transformation of the East. We might not have seen our duty, had the Philippines not fallen to us by the willful fortune of war; but it would have been our duty, nevertheless, to play the part we now see ourselves obliged to play. The East is to be opened and transformed, whether we will or no; the standards of the West are to be imposed upon it; nations and peoples which have stood still the centuries through are to be quickened, and made part of the universal world of commerce and of ideas which has so steadily been a-making by the advance of European power from age to age. It is our peculiar duty, as it is also England's, to moderate the process in the interests of liberty: to impart to the peoples thus driven out upon the road of change, so far as we have opportunity or can make it, our own principles of self-help; teach them order and self-control in the midst of change; impart to them, if it be possible by contact and sympathy and example, the drill and habit of law and obedience which we long ago got out of the strenuous processes of English history; secure for them, when we may, the free intercourse and the natural development which shall make them at least equal members of the family of nations. In China, of course, our part will be indirect, but in the Philippines it will be direct; and there in particular must the moral of our polity be set up and vindicated.
This we shall do, not by giving them out of hand our codes of political morality or our methods of political action, the generous gifts of complete individual liberty or the full-fangled institutions of American self-government,—a purple garment for their nakedness,—for these things are not blessings, but a curse, to undeveloped peoples, still in the childhood of their political growth; but by giving them, in the spirit of service, a government and rule which shall moralize them by being itself moral, elevate and steady them by being itself pure and steadfast, inducting them into the rudiments of justice and freedom. In other words, it is the aid of our character they need, and not the premature aid of our institutions. Our institutions must come after the ground of character and habit has been made ready for them; as effect, not cause, in the order of political growth. It is thus that we shall ourselves recognize the fact, at last patent to all the world, that the service of democracy has been the development of ideals rather than the origination of practical methods of administration of universal validity, or any absolute qualification of the ultimate conceptions of sovereignty and the indispensable disciplinary operation of law. We must aid their character and elevate their ideals, and then see what these will bring forth, generating after their kind. As the panacea for oppressive taxation lies in honesty and economy rather than in this, that, or the other method of collection, in reasonable assessment rather than in a particular machinery of administration, so the remedy for oppressive government in general is, not a constitution, but justice and enlightenment. One set of guarantees will be effective under one set of circumstances, another under another.
The best guarantee of good government we can give the Filipinos is, that we shall be sensitive to the opinion of the world; that we shall be sensitive in what we do to our own standards, so often boasted of and proclaimed, and shall wish above all things else to live up to the character we have established, the standards we have professed. When they accept the compulsions of that character and accept those standards, they will be entitled to partnership with us, and shall have it. They shall, meanwhile, teach us, as we shall teach them. We shall teach them order as a condition precedent to liberty, self-control as a condition precedent to self-government; they shall teach us the true assessment of institutions,—that their only invaluable content is motive and character. We shall no doubt learn that democracy and efficiency go together by no novel rule. Democracy is not so much a form of government as a set of principles. Other forms of government may be equally efficient; many forms of government are more efficient,—know better ways of integrating and purifying administration than we have yet learned, more successful methods of imparting drill and order to restless and undeveloped peoples than we are likely to hit upon of ourselves, a more telling way of getting and a more effectual way of keeping leadership in a world of competitive policies, doubtful concerts, and international rivalries. We must learn what we can, and yet scrupulously square everything that we do with the high principles we brought into the world: that justice may be done, to the lowly no less than to the great; that government may serve its people, not make itself their master,—may in its service heed both the wishes and the needs of those who obey it; that authority may be for leadership, not for aggrandizement; that the people may be the state.
The reactions which such experiments in the universal validity of principle and method are likely to bring about in respect of our own domestic institutions cannot be calculated or forecast. Old principles applied in a new field may show old applications to have been clumsy and ill considered. We may ourselves get responsible leadership instead of government by mass meeting; a trained and thoroughly organized administrative service instead of administration by men privately nominated and blindly elected; a new notion of terms of office and of standards of policy. If we but keep our ideals clear, our principles steadfast, we need not fear the change.
Volume 87, No. 521, pp. 289–299
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