IT is a striking tribute — and perhaps the most striking when the most reluctant — to the influence and authority of physical science, that the followers of other sciences (moral, not physical) are so often compelled, or at least inclined, to borrow its terms, its methods, and even its established principles. This adaptation commonly begins, indeed, in the way of metaphor and analogy. The natural sympathy of men in the pursuit of truth leads the publicist, for example, and the geologist to compare professional methods and results. The publicist is struck with the superiority of induction, and the convenience of language soon teaches him to distinguish the strata of social development; to dissect the anatomy of the state ; to analyze political substance ; to observe, collect, differentiate, and generalize the various phenomena in the history of government. This practice enriches the vocabulary of political science, and is offensive only to the sterner friends of abstract speculation. But it is a vastly graver matter formally and consciously to apply in moral inquiries the rules, the treatment, the logical implements, all the technical machinery, of sciences which have tangible materials and experimental resources constantly at command. And in the next step the very summit of impiety seems to be reached. The political philosopher is no longer content merely to draw on physical science for metaphors, or even to use in his own way its peculiar methods, but boldly adopts the very substance of its results, and explains the sacred mystery of social progress by laws which may first have been used to fix the status of the polyp or the cray-fish.
It is true that this practice has not been confined to any age. There is a distinct revelation of dependence on the method, if not on the results, of the concrete sciences in Aristotle’s famous postulate, that man is “ by nature ” a political being. The uncompromising realism of Macchiavelli would not dishonor a disciple of Comte. And during the past two hundred years, especially, there is scarcely a single great discovery, or even a single great hypothesis, which, if at all available, has not been at once appropriated by the publicists and applied to their own uses. The circulation of the blood suggests the theory of a similar process in society, comparative anatomy reveals its structure, the geologic periods explain its stages, and the climax was for the time reached when Frederick the Great, whose logic as well as his poetry was that of a king, declared that a state, like an animal or vegetable organism, had its stages of birth, youth, maturity, decay, and death. Yet striking as are these early illustrations, it is above all in recent times, and under the influence of its brilliant achievements in our own days, that physical science has most strongly impressed its methods and principles on social and political investigation. Mr. Freeman can write a treatise on comparative politics, and the term excites no protest. Sir Henry Maine conducts researches in comparative jurisprudence, and even the bigots are silenced by the copiousness and value of his results. The explanation of kings and states by the law of natural selection, which Mr. Bagehot undertook, is hardly treated as paradoxical. The ground being thus prepared — unconsciously during the last century — consciously and purposely during this, for a close assimilation between the physical and the moral sciences, it is natural that men should now take up even the contested doctrine of evolution, and apply it to the progress of society in general, to the formation of particular states, and to the development of single institutions.
Now, if it be the part of political science merely to adapt to its own use laws or principles which have been fully established in other fields of research, it would of course be premature for it to accept as an explanation of its own phenomena a doctrine like that of evolution, which is still rejected by a considerable body of naturalists. But may not political science refuse to acknowledge such a state of subordination ? May it not assert its own dignity, and choose its own method of investigation ? And even though that method be also the favorite one of the natural philosopher, may not the publicist employ it in his own way, subject to the limitations of his own material, and even discover laws contrary to, or in anticipation of, the laws of the physical universe? If these questions be answered in the affirmative, it follows that the establishment of a law of social and political evolution may precede the general acceptance of the same law by students of the animal or vegetable world.
At present, however, such a law is only a hypothesis, — a hypothesis supported, indeed, by many striking facts, and yet apparently antagonized by others not less striking. A sweeping glance over the course of the world’s history does certainly reveal a reasonably uniform progress from a simpler to a more complex civilization. This may also be regarded in one sense as a progress from lower to higher forms ; and if the general movement be established, temporary or local interruptions confirm rather than shake the rule. But flattering as is this hypothesis of progressive social perfection to human nature, it is still only a hypothesis, and far enough from having for laymen the authority of a law. The theologians alone have positive information on the subject.
If evolution be taken to mean simply the production of new species from a common parent or genus, and without implying the idea of improvement, the history of many political institutions seems to furnish hints of its presence and its action. Let us take, as an example, the institution of parliaments. The primitive parent assembly of the Greeks was probably a body not unlike the council of Agamemnon’s chieftains in the Iliad ; and from this were evolved in time the Spartan Gerousia, the Athenian Ecclesia, and other legislatures as species, each resembling the original type in some of its principles, yet having others peculiar to itself. Out of the early Teutonic assemblies were produced, in the same way, the Parliament of England, the States-General of France, the Diet of Germany, the Congress of the United States.
Yet it may be questioned whether even this illustration supports the doctrine of evolution, and in regard to other institutions the case is still more doubtful. Take, for example, the jury system. The principle of popular participation in trials for crime has striven for recognition, though not always successfully, in many countries and many ages. But from at least one people, the Germans, and through one line, the English, it may be traced along a fairly regular course down to the present day. Montesquieu calls attention to another case, when, speaking of the division of powers in the English government, he exclaims, “ Ce beau système est sorti des bois ! ” that is, the forests of Germany. But in all such instances it depends upon the point of view, or the method of analysis, whether the student detects the production of new species from a common genus, or original creation by a conscious author.
Even this is not, however, the only difficulty. Evolution means the production of higher, not simply of new, forms; and the term organic growth implies in social science the idea of improvement. But this kind of progress is evidently far more difficult to discern in operation. It is easy enough to trace the American Congress back historically to the Witenagemot, to derive the American jury from the Teutonic popular courts, to connect the American city with the municipality of feudal Europe, or of Rome, or even of Greece. The organic relation, or at least the historical affinity, in these and many other cases is clear. But it is a widely different thing to assert that what is evidently political development or evolution must also be upward progress. This might lead to the conclusion that parliamentary institutions have risen to Cameron and Mahone ; that the Saxon courts have been refined into the Uniontown jury ; and that the art of municipal government has culminated in the city of New York.
The truth is that there are two leading classes of political phenomena, the one merely productive, the other progressive, which may in time, and by the aid of large generalizations, be made to harmonize with the doctrine of evolution, but which ought at present to be carefully distinguished from the manifestations ordinarily cited in its support. The first class includes the appearance, in different countries and different ages, of institutions or tendencies similar in character, but without organic connection. The other class includes visible movements, but movements in circles, or otherwise than forward and upward. Both classes may be illustrated by cogent American examples, but it is to the latter that the reader’s attention is now specially invoked.
Among the phenomena which have appeared in all ages and all countries, with a certain natural bond of sympathy, and yet without a clearly ascertainable order of progress, one of the earliest and latest, one of the most universal and most instructive, is that tendency or aspiration variously termed agrarian, socialistic, or communistic. The movement appears under different forms and different influences. It may be provoked by the just complaints of an oppressed class, by the inevitable inequality of fortunes, or by a base jealousy of superior moral and intellectual worth. To these and other grievances, real or feigned, correspond as many different forms of redress, or rather schemes for redress. One man demands the humiliation of the rich or the great, and the artificial exaltation of the poor and the ignorant ; another, the constant interference of the state for the benefit of general or individual prosperity ; a third, the equalization of wealth by discriminating measures; a fourth,perhaps, the abolition of private property, and the substitution for it of corporate ownership by society. But widely as these schemes differ in degree, they may all be reduced to one general type, or at least traced back to one pervading and peremptory instinct of human nature in all races and all ages. It is the instinctive demand that organized society shall serve to improve the fortunes of individuals, and incidentally that those who are least fortunate shall receive the greatest service. Between the two extreme attitudes held toward this demand, — that of absolute compliance, and that of absolute refusal — range the actual policies of all political communities.
For the extremes are open to occupation only by theories ; no state can in practice fully accept and carry out either the one or the other. Prussia neglects many charges, or, in other words, leaves to private effort much that a rigid application of the prevailing political philosophy would require it to undertake; while England conducts by governmental action a variety of interests which the utilitarians reserve to the individual citizen. The real issue is therefore one of degree or tendency. Shall the sphere of the state’s activity be broad or narrow; shall it maintain toward social interests an attitude of passive, impartial indifference, or of positive encouragement; shall the presumption in every doubtful case be in favor of calling in the state, or of trusting individual effort? Such are the forms in which the issue may be stated, as well by the publicist as by the legislator. And it is rather by the extent to which precept and practice incline toward the one view or the other, than by the complete adoption of either of two mutually exclusive systems, that political schools are to be classified. This gives us on the one hand the utilitarian, limited, or non-interference theory of the state, and on the other the paternal or socialistic theory.
Now although this country witnessed at an early day the apparent triumph of certain great schemes of policy, such as protection and public improvements, which are clearly socialistic, — I use the term in an inoffensive, philosophical sense, — it is noteworthy that the triumph was won chiefly by the aid of considerations of a practical, economical, and temporary nature. The necessity for a large revenue, the advantage of a diversified industry, the desirability of developing our natural resources, the scarcity of home capital, the expediency of encouraging European immigration, and many other reasons of this sort have been freely adduced. But at the same time the fundamental question of the state’s duties and powers, in other words, the purely political aspect of the subject, was neglected. Nay, the friends of these exceptional departures from the non-interference theory of the state have insisted not the less, as a rule, on the theory itself, while even the exceptions have been obnoxious to a large majority of the most eminent publicists and economists, that is to say the specialists, of America. If any characteristic system of political philosophy has hitherto been generally accepted in this country, whether from instinct or conviction, it is undoubtedly the system of Adam Smith, Bentham, and the Manchester school.
There are, however, reasons for thinking that this state of things will be changed in the near future, and that the new school of political economists in the United States will be widely different from the present. This change, if it actually take place, will be due to the influence of foreign teachers, but of teachers wholly unlike those under whose influence we have lived for a century.
It has been often remarked that our higher education is rapidly becoming Germanized. Fifty years ago it was only the exceptional and favored few — the Ticknors and Motleys — who crossed the ocean to continue their studies under the great masters of German science; but a year or two at Leipsic or Heidelberg is now regarded as indispensable to a man who desires the name of scholar. This is especially true of those who intend themselves to teach. The diploma of a German university is not, of course, an instant and infallible passport to employment in American colleges, but it is a powerful recommendation ; and the tendency seems to be toward a time when it will be almost a required condition. The number of Americans studying in Germany is accordingly now reckoned by hundreds, or even thousands, where it used to be reckoned by dozens. It is within my own knowledge that in at least one year of the past decade the Americans matriculated at the University of Berlin outnumbered every other class of foreigners. And “ foreigners ” included all who were not Prussians, in other words, even nonPrussian Germans. That this state of things is fraught with vast possible consequences for the intellectual future of America is a proposition which seems hardly open to dispute; and the only question is about the nature, whether good or bad, of those consequences.
My own views on this question are not of much importance. Yet it will disarm one class of critics if I admit at the outset that in my opinion the effects of this scholastic pilgrimage will in general be wholesome. The mere experience of different academic methods and a different intellectual atmosphere seems calculated both to broaden and to deepen the mind ; it corresponds in a measure to the “ grand tour,” which used to be considered such an essential part of the education of young English noblemen. The substance, too, of German teaching is always rich, and often useful. But in certain cases, or on certain subjects, it may be the reverse of useful ; and the question presents itself, therefore, to every American student on his way to Germany, whether the particular professor whom he has in view is a recognized authority on his subject, or, in a slightly different form, whether the subject itself is anywhere taught in Germany in a way which it is desirable for him to adopt.
In regard to many departments of study, doubts like these can indeed hardly ever arise. No very strong feeling is likely to be excited among the friends and neighbors and constituents of a young American about the views which he will probably acquire in Germany on the reforms of Servius Tullius, or the formation of the Macedonian phalanx, or the pronunciation of Sanskrit. Here the scientific spirit and the acquired results of its employment are equally good. But there are other branches of inquiry, in which, though the method may be good, the doctrines are at least open to question.
One of these is social science, using the term in its very broadest sense, and making it include not only what the late Professor von Mohl called GesellschaftsWissenschaft, that is, social science in the narrower sense, but also finance, the philosophy of the state, and even law in some of its phases.
The rise of the new school of economists in Germany is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable phenomena of modern times. The school is scarcely twenty years old. Dr. Rodbertus, the founder of it, had to fight his cause for years against the combined opposition of the professors, the governments, the press, and the public. Yet his tentative suggestions have grown into an accepted body of doctrine, which is to-day taught by authority in nearly every German university, is fully adopted by Prince Bismarck, and has in part prevailed even with the imperial Diet.
The Catheder-Socialisten are not unknown, at least by name, even to the casual reader of current literature. They are men who teach socialism from the chairs of the universities. It is not indeed a socialism which uses assassination as an ally, or has any special antipathy to crowned heads: it is peaceful, orderly, and decorous ; it wears academic robes, and writes learned and somewhat tiresome treatises in its own defense. But it is essentially socialistic, and in one sense even revolutionary. It has displaced, or rather grown out of, the so-called “ historical school ” of political economists, as this in its time was a revolt against the school of Adam Smith. The “ historical ” economists charged against the English school that it was too deductive, too speculative, and insisted on too wide an application of conclusions which were in fact only locally true. Their dissent was, however, cautious and qualified, and questioned not so much the results of the English school as the manner of reaching them. Their successors, more courageous or less prudent, reject even the English doctrines. This means that they are, above all things, protectionists.
It follows, accordingly, that the young Americans who now study political economy in Germany are nearly certain to return protectionists ; and protectionists, too, in a sense in which the term has not hitherto been understood in this country. They are scientific protectionists; that is, they believe that protective duties can be defended by something better than the selfish argument of special industries, and have a broad basis of economic truth. The “American system ” is likely, therefore, to have in the future the support of American economic science.
To this extent, the influence of German teachings will be welcome to American manufacturers. But protection is with the Germans only part of a general scheme, or an inference from their main doctrine; and this will not, perhaps, find so ready acceptance in this country. For “ the socialists of the chair ” are not so much economical as political protectionists. They are chiefly significant as the representatives of a certain theory of the state, which has not hitherto found much support in America. This will be better understood after a brief historical recapitulation.
The mercantile system found, when it appeared two centuries ago, a ready reception in Prussia, both on economic and on political grounds. It was singularly adapted to the form of government which grew up at Berlin after the forcible suppression of the Diets. Professor Roscher compares Frederick William I. to Colbert ; and it is certain not only that the king understood the economic meaning of the system, but also that the administration which he organized was admirably fitted to carry it out. Frederick the Great was the victim of the same delusion. In his reign, as in the reign of his father, it was considered to be the duty of the state to take charge of every subject affecting the social and pecuniary interests of the people, and to regulate such subjects by the light of a superior bureaucratic wisdom. It was, in short, paternal government in its most highly developed form. But in the early part of this century it began, owing to three coöperating causes, to decline. The first cause was the circumstance that the successors of Frederick were not fitted, like him and his father, to conduct the system with the patient personal attention and the robust intelligence which its success required of the head of the state. The second influence was the rise of new schools of political economy and of political philosophy, and the general diffusion of sounder views of social science. And in the third place, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, and the complete destruction of the ancient bases of social order in Germany revealed the defects of the edifice itself, and made a reconstruction on new principles not only possible, but even necessary.
The consequence was the agrarian reforms of Stein and Hardenberg, the restoration to the towns of some degree of self-government, the agitation for parliaments, which even the Congress of Vienna had to recognize, and other measures or efforts in the direction of decentralization and popular enfranchisement. King Frederick William III. appointed to the newly created Ministry of Instruction and Public Worship William von Humboldt, the author of a treatise on the limits of the state’s power, which a century earlier would have been burned by the common hangman. In 1818 Prussia adopted a new tariff, which was a wide departure from the previous policy, and in its turn paved the way for the Zollverein, which struck down the commercial barriers between the different German states, and practically accepted the principle of free trade. The course of purely political emancipation was indeed arrested for a time by the malign influence of Metternich, but even this was resumed after 1848. In respect to commercial policy there was no reaction. That the events of 1866 and 1870, leading to the formation, first, of the North German Confederation, and then of the Empire, were expected to favor, and not to check, the work of liberation, and down to a certain point did favor it, is matter of familiar recent history. The doctrines of the Manchester school were held by the great body of the people, taught by the professors, and embodied in the national policy, so far as they concerned freedom of trade. On their political side, too, they were accepted by a large and influential class of liberals. Few Germans held, indeed, the extreme “ non-interference ” theory of government; but the prevailing tone of thought, and even the general policy of legislation, was, until about ten years ago, in favor of unburdening the state of some of its usurped charges ; of enlarging in the towns and counties the sphere of self-government; and of granting to individuals a new degree of initiative in respect to economical and industrial interests.
But about the middle of the past decade the current began to turn. The revolt from the doctrines of the Manchester school, initiated, as has been stated, by a few men, and not at first looked on with favor by governments, gradually acquired both numbers and credit. The professors one by one joined the movement. And finally, when Prince Bismarck threw his powerful weight into the scale, the utilitarians were forced upon the defensive. They had to resist first of all the Prussian scheme for the acquisition of private railways by the state, and they were defeated. They were next called upon to defend in the whole Empire the cause of free trade. This battle, too, they lost, and in an incredibly short space of time protection, which had been discredited for half a century, was fully restored. Then the free city of Hamburg was robbed of its ancient privileges, and forced to accept the common yoke. Some minor socialistic schemes of the chancellor have been, indeed, temporarily frustrated by the Diet, but repeated efforts will doubtless break down the resistance. The policy even attacks the functions of the Diet itself, as is shown both by actual projects and by the generally changed attitude of the government toward parliamentary institutions.
Now, so far as protection is concerned, this movement may seem to many Americans to be in principle a return to wisdom. In fact, not even American protectionists enjoy the imposition of heavy duties on their exported products ; but the recognition of their system of commercial policy by another state undoubtedly gives it a new strength and prestige, and they certainly regard it as an unmixed advantage that their sons, who go abroad to pursue the scientific study of political economy, will in Germany imbibe no heresies on the subject of tariff methods. Is this, however, all that they are likely to learn, and if not, will the rest prove equally commendable to the great body of thoughtful Americans ? This is the same thing as asking whether local self-government, trial by jury, the common law, the personal responsibility of officials, frequent elections, in short, all the priceless conquests of Anglican liberty, all that distinguishes England and America from the continent of Europe, are not as dear to the man who spins cotton into thread, or makes steel rails out of iron ore, as to any free-trade professor of political economy.
To state this question is to answer it; for it can be shown that, as a people, we have cause not for exultation, but for grave anxiety, over the class of students whom the German universities are annually sending back to America. If these pilgrims are faithful disciples of their masters, they do not return merely as protectionists, with their original loyalty to Anglo-American theories of government otherwise unshaken, but as the advocates of a political system which, if adopted and literally carried out, would wholly change the spirit of our institutions, and destroy all that is oldest and noblest in our national life.
Protection, it was said above, is not the main doctrine of the German professors, but only an inference from their general system. It is not an economical, much less a financial, expedient. It is a policy which is derived from a theory of the state’s functions and duties; and this theory is in nearly every other respect radically different from that which prevails in this country. It assumes as postulates the ignorance of the individual and the omniscience of the government. The government, in this view, is therefore bound, not simply to abstain from malicious interference with private enterprises, not simply so to adjust taxation that all interests may receive equitable treatment, but positively to exercise a fatherly care over each and every branch of production, and even to take many of them into its own hands. All organizations of private capital are regarded with suspicion; they are at best tolerated, not encouraged. Large enterprises are to be undertaken by the state; and even the petty details of the retail trade are to be controlled to an extent which would seem intolerable to American citizens.
And this is not the whole, or, perhaps, the worst.
The “ state,” in this system, means the central government, and, besides that, a government removed as far as possible from parliamentary influence and public opinion. The superior wisdom, which in industrial affairs is to take the place of individual sagacity, means, as in the time of Frederick the Great, the wisdom of the bureaucracy. Now it may be freely granted that in Prussia, and even throughout the rest of the Empire, this is generally wisdom of a high order. It is represented by men whose integrity is above suspicion. But the principle of the system is not the less obnoxious, and its tendencies, if introduced in this country, could not be otherwise than deplorable.
This proposition, if the German school has been correctly described, needs no further defense. If Americans are prepared to accept the teachings of Wagner, Held, Schmoller, and others, with all which those teachings imply, — a paternal government, a centralized political authority, a bureaucratic administration, Roman law, and trial by executive judges, — the new school of German publicists will be wholly unobjectionable. But before such a system can be welcome, the American nature must first be radically changed.
There are, indeed, evidences other than that of protection — which it has been shown is not commonly defended on political grounds — that this change has already made some progress. One of these is the growing fashion of looking to legislation, that is, to the state, for relief in cases where individual or at least privately organized collective effort ought to suffice. It is a further evil, too, that the worst legislatures nro invariably the ones which most promptly respond to such demands. The recent act of the State of New York making the canals free, though not indefensible in some of its aspects, was an innovation the more significant since the leading argument of its supporters was distinctly and grossly socialistic. This was the argument that free canals would make low freights, and low freights would give the poor man cheaper bread. For this end the property of the State is henceforth to be taxed. A movement of the same nature, and on a larger scale, is that for a government telegraph ; and if successful, the next scheme will be to have the railways likewise acquired by the separate States, or the Union. Other illustrations might be given, but these show the tendency to which allusion is made. It is significant that such projects can be even proposed ; but that they can be seriously discussed, and some of them actually adopted, shows that the stern jealousy of governmental interference, the disposition rigidly to circumscribe the state’s sphere of action, which once characterized the people of the republic, has lost, though unconsciously, a large part of its force. No alarm or even surprise is now excited by propositions which the founders of the Union would have pronounced fatal to free government. Some other symptoms, though of a more subtle kind, are the multiplication of codes ; the growing use of written procedure, not only in the courts and in civil administration, but even in legislation ; and, generally speaking, the tendency to adopt the dry, formal, pedantic method of the continent, thereby losing the old English qualities of ease, flexibility, and natural strength.
But, as already said, the bearings of schemes like those above mentioned are rarely perceived even by their strongest advocates. They are casual expedients, not steps in the development of a systematic theory of tlie state. Indeed, their authors and friends would be perhaps the first to resent the charge that they were in conflict with the political traditions of America, or likely to prepare the way for the reception of new and subversive doctrines. Yet nothing better facilitates a revolution in a people’s modes or habits of thought than just such a series of practical measures. The time at length arrives when some comprehensive genius, or a school of sympathetic thinkers, calmly codifies these preliminary though unsuspected concessions, and makes them the basis of a firm, complete, and symmetrical structure. It is then found that long familiarity with some of the details in practice makes it comparatively simple for a people to accept the whole system as a conviction of the mind.
Such a school has not hitherto existed in this country. There have of course always been shades of difference between publicists and philosophers in regard to the speculative view taken of the state ; and the division between governmental patronage and private exertion has not always been drawn along the same line. But these differences have been neither great nor constant. They distinguished rather varieties of the same system than different and radically hostile systems. The most zealous and advanced of the former champions of state interference would now probably be called utilitarians by the pupils of the new German school.
It has been the purpose of this paper to describe briefly the tendencies of that school, and to indicate the effects which its patronage by American youth is likely to have on the future of our political thought. The opinion was expressed that much more is acquired in Germany than a mere belief in the economic wisdom of protection. And it may be added, to make the case stronger, that the German system of socialism may be learned without the doctrine of protection on its economic side. For the university socialists assert only the right, or at most the duty, of the state actively to interfere in favor of the industrial interests of society. The exercise of this right or the fulfillment of this duty may, in a given case, lead to a protective tariff; in Germany, at present, it does take that form. But in another case it may lead to free trade. The decision is to be determined by the economic circumstances of the country and the moment; only it is to be positive and active even if in favor of free trade, and not a merely negative attitude of indifference. In other words, free trade is not assumed to be the normal condition of things, and protection the exception. Both alike require the active intervention of government in the performance of its duty to society.
But with or without protection, the body of the German doctrine is full of plausible yet vicious errors, which few reflecting Americans would care to see introduced and become current in their own country. The prevailing idea is that of the ignorance and weakness of the individual, the omniscience and omnipotence of the state. This is not yet, in spite of actual institutions and projected measures, the accepted American view.
Now I am not one of those who are likely to condemn a thing because it is foreign. It may be frankly conceded that in the present temper of German politics, and even of German social and political science, there is much that is admirable and worthy of imitation. The selection of trained men alone for administrative office, the great lesson that individual convenience must often yield to the welfare of society, the conception of the dignity of politics and the majesty of the state, — these are things which we certainly need to learn, and which Germany can both teach and illustrate. But side by side with such fundamental truths stand the most mischievous fallacies, and an enthusiastic student is not always sure to make the proper selection.
It seems to me that in political doctrine, as in so many other intellectual concerns of society, this country is now passing through an important crisis. We are engaged in a struggle between the surviving traditions of our English ancestors and the influence of different ideas acquired by travel and study on the continent. It is by no means certain, however desirable, that victory will rest with those literary, educational, and political instincts which we acquired with our English blood, and long cherished as among our most precious possessions. The tendency now certainly is in a different direction, as has already been discovered by foreign observers. Some of Tocqueville’s acute observations have nearly lost their point. Mr. Frederic Pollock, in an essay recently published by an English periodical, mentions the gradual approach of America toward continental views of law and the state. There is, undoubtedly, among the American people a large conservative element, which, if its attention were once aroused, would show an unconquerable attachment to those principles of society and government common to all the English peoples, under whatever sky they may be found. But at present the current is evidently taking a different course.
It would, however, be a grave mistake to regard this hostile movement as a forward one. Not everything new is reform ; but the socialist revival is not even new. Yet it is also not real conservatism. The true American conservatives, in the present crisis, are the men who not only respect the previous achievements of Anglo-Saxon progress, but also wisely adhere to the same order of progress, with a view to continued benefits in the future; while their enemies, though in one sense radicals, are in another simply the disguised servants of reaction, since they reject both the hopes of the future and the lessons of the past. They bring forward as novelties in scholastic garb the antique errors of remote centuries. The same motives, the same spirit, the same tendency, can be ascribed to the agrarian laws of the Gracchi, the peasant uprisings in the Middle Ages, the public granaries of Frederick the Great, the graduated income-tax of Prussia, the Land League agitation in Ireland, the river and harbor bills in this country. They differ only in the degree in which special circumstances may seem to render a given measure more or less justifiable.
The special consideration is, however, this : these successive measures and manifestations, whether they have an organic connection or only an accidental resemblance, reveal no improvement whatever in quality, no progress in social enlightenment. The records of political government from the earliest dawn of civilization will be searched in vain for a more reckless and brutal measure of class legislation than the Bland silver bill, which an American Congress passed in the year 1878.
It is the same with the pompous syllogisms on which the German professors are trying to build up their socialistic theory of the state. Everything which they have to say was said far better by Plato two thousand years ago. If they had absolute control of legislation, they could not surpass the work of Lycurgus. It is useless for them to try to hide their plagiarism under a cloud of pedantic sophistry ; for the most superficial critic will not fail to see that, instead of originating, they are only borrowing, and even borrowing errors of theory and of policy which have been steadily retreating before the advance of political education.
If the question were asked, What more, perhaps, than anything else distinguishes the modern from the ancient state, and distinguishes it favorably ? the uuhesitating reply from every candid person would be, The greater importance conceded to the individual. We have attained this result through a long course of arduous and painful struggles. The progress has nor, indeed, been uninterrupted, nor its bearings always perceived; but the general, and through large periods of time uniform, tendency has been to disestablish and disarm the state, to reduce government to narrow limits, and to assert the dignity of the individual citizen. And now the question is, Shall this line of progress be abruptly abandoned ? Shall we confess that we have been all this time moving only in a circle; that what we thought was progress in a straight line is only revolution in a fixed orbit; and that society is doomed to return to the very point from which it started ? The academic socialism invites us to begin the backward march, but must its invitation be accepted ?