The Despotism of Party
“The majority in each party should again control its action, and the minority should frankly obey.”
A great variety of recent events have combined to obscure the old and correct notion of a political party, and to substitute for it something radically different and vastly more dangerous. There has been for several years a visible tendency, both in the habits of speech and in the acts of legislation, to regard parties as actual corporations, susceptible of legal definition, endowed for certain purposes with what lawyers call a juridical personality; not indeed exactly capable of sueing and being sued, but stopping only just short of that, and in many other respects entitled to claim the same protection from the laws, and to enforce the same obedience from the minority to the majority, as is enforced in the case of all legally organized joint-stock companies. A slight variation from this theory is the one which prefers to compare a party to a church, and to exact of every person who at any time acts with it a rigid subscription to certain articles of faith. But the difference between these two theories is less than at first appears; for since the ecclesiastical view of party adopts also the modern spirit of religious liberality, political creeds are generally made broad or vague enough to offer an asylum to nearly every class of believers. It is therefore chiefly in enforcing support of nominations, or obedience to duly constituted party authorities, that the iron rigor of the new system becomes most obnoxious.
There are many objections to this system, and they will appear in the course of the present article. As a preliminary text, it may be said at the outset that it places parties above the state, or at least above the community; and, in doing this, renders them also less efficient for the fulfillment of their true mission.
The definition of party by the lexicographers is of very little benefit to the discussion. With slight variation of language, they agree substantially in defining a party as a part or portion of a community, less than the whole, united in the support of some principle or in the pursuit of some end common to all the members. This is true, though not exclusively so, of political parties. In order to find the authoritative definition of a political party, it is necessary to search the declarations of eminent men who have been party leaders.
Edmund Burke is perhaps the man who has announced in his writings and illustrated in his life the most correct notions of the nature of party and of party obligations. It could less fairly be said of him than of many of his contemporaries that he gave up to party what was meant for mankind. But it is also not true that he utterly ignored the advantage, and within certain limits the sanctity, of party ties, and was a mere freebooter in the field of politics. “Party,” he says, in the Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents, which Mr. John Morley calls the pamphlet where he exhibited for the first time, on a conspicuous scale, the strongest qualities of his understanding, — “party is a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavors the national interest upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed. For my part, I find it impossible to conceive that any one believes in his own polities, or thinks them of any weight, who refuses to adopt the means of having them reduced to practice. … Therefore every honorable connection will avow it is their first purpose to pursue every just method to put the men who hold their opinions into such a condition as may enable them to carry their common plans into execution with all the power and authority of the state.” The agreement on certain principles or policies thus precedes the formation of the party which is to apply them in legislation. Nothing could have been more repulsive to Burke’s political philosophy than the theory that a party is above its own doctrines, or even needs no doctrines; or that, being already organized, it can lay in a stock of principles, as a merchant does his wares The further assumption that a man can be enrolled in a party as in a regiment, and be forced to obey without question all the orders issued by its established authorities, is one which he would have been quite unable even to comprehend.
Daniel Webster is another statesman who, like Burke, adhered, through the best years of his life, to the party with which he began his career. What is called his final apostasy was, indeed, in a merely partisan aspect, less offensive than that of Burke; for he simply foresaw the disruption of the Whig party, owing to the differences of opinion among the members in regard to the question of slavery, and prepared to follow one section rather than the other. It cannot, therefore, be said that he deserted the Whig party, for at the time there practically was no Whig party. Yet no man in the long list of American statesmen has left on record stronger protests against the dangers of excessive party spirit. In the Declaration of Whig Principles and Purposes, drafted by Mr. Webster, and put forth in 1840, it is affirmed that “party spirit, … when it gains such an ascendency in men’s minds as leads them to substitute party for country, to seek no ends but party ends, no approbation but party approbation, and to fear no reproach or contumely so that there be no party dissatisfaction, not only alloys the true enjoyment of our institutions, but weakens, every day, the foundations on which they stand.” Again, in a speech before a Whig convention at Valley Forge, in 1844, Mr. Webster said, “When party spirit carries men so far that they will not inquire into men and measures that are placed before them for their sanction and support, but will only inquire to what party the men belong, or what party recommends the measures, that is a state of things which is dangerous to the stability of a free government.” These declarations are significant, not less on account of the man who made them, than of the occasions on which they were made. They were not ingenious sophisms, by which a traitor to a party sought to excuse his treachery, but were statements of the just limitations of party authority, made by a recognized party leader before conventions of a party; and one of them was even embodied in the party’s address to the country.
If now the great Whig leader could safely announce such doctrines before members of his own organization, and even cause their adoption by a representative meeting of the party, it follows, of course, that he would permit himself at least equal freedom on occasions of a less formal character, and in mere academical discourses. It will be found that this was the case. In the Eulogy of Washington Mr. Webster refers with approval to the grave admonitions of the Farewell Address, and mentions the danger that through the excess of party spirit “the government itself may become nothing but organized party.”
Nothing but organized party! These words, which were apparently thrown out only as a patriotic warning against the evils of excessive partisanship, have been transformed by the course of events almost into an inspired prophecy. The danger that organized party will, in authority at least, arid in that public deference, which is so large an influence in political affairs, eventually supersede organized government has been steadily increasing for many years, and has now assumed proportions at which the thoughtful citizen may well be appalled.
The need of parties, as human nature is now constituted, and as political affairs are conducted in every free government, is conceded by nearly all writers and observers. By none is the admission made more frankly than by the two illustrious statesmen whom I have just quoted. It is also evident that some form of organization is essential to every party; and that, other things being equal, the party which has the best organization has also the best chances of success. But there are many methods of effecting this object, and the method adopted in a particular case, though it may be from one point of view singularly calculated to insure success, is not necessarily evidence that success is deserved. The very perfection of the organization may, on the contrary, show that the triumph of the party has been placed before the triumph of the principles, which it represents, or that a want of confidence in those principles, or the absence of any principles whatever, has made the party dependent for victory upon the rigor and vigilance of its discipline, and upon the skill with which it can hold together the voters who on other occasions have given it their support.
Party organization has taken many forms in the course of ages, and still has different forms in existing states. In England, the country which has the longest and most brilliant record of government by parties, this organization has always been and still is extremely loose. It is true that strenuous efforts are now making to repair this supposed defect. Mr. Chamberlain is an ardent advocate of the introduction of the American caucus system into English politics; and from the opposite side Lord Randolph Churchill is trying to knit the conservatives into a close corporation, which he or some other leader shall control by the mere force of numbers. But these efforts have not as yet met with resplendent success. Any sympathetic American would counsel against them, and the end at which they aim is opposed to all the instincts and traditions of English political life. To Englishmen a party stands simply for a policy or a set of measures supported by a cabinet and a majority of the House of Commons, or by another group of leaders and a minority of the House of Commons opposed to that policy or to those measures. It is indeed the voters who make the majority or the minority, the government or the opposition. But after a general election has been held the scene of party divisions is transferred to Parliament; and while her majesty’s opposition has clearly defined constitutional duties, like those of her majesty’s government, it is as responsible members of Parliament, and not as representatives of a party.
The usage on the Continent is somewhat different, and is a species of compromise between the English and the American systems. In France and Germany the term party is rarely extended to the voters at the polls. It means a group of representatives within the legislature, who are united with nearly the firmness and formality of a club. To be a member of such a party, it is not enough that a deputy act with it usually, or even always; he must solemnly announce his adhesion, and inscribe himself, as the French say, on the roll. The attitude of such groups toward pending measures is determined by formal conferences, which are strictly legislative caucuses, arid the decision of the majority is enforced with a degree of stringency unknown even in America. These groups make their own platforms, issue addresses to the voters, point with pride to their achievements, and arraign the records of their opponents. They are a conspicuous part of the parliamentary machine, and are regularly announced in the official manuals. But outside the legislative halls they have hardly any recognized existence. A dissolution puts an end to them; and when, after a general election, a new Parliament meets, and the members again crystallize into groups, different combinations, and perhaps even strange names, may appear.
It is evident now that neither of these systems, neither the English nor the Continental, at all resembles our own exquisitely organized machine. To our professional politicians they must look crude, clumsy, inefficient; worthy only of a people still in the infancy of self-government, and fatally defective in their neglect of the people. Yet an almost equal looseness of organization characterized American parties in what were at least not the worst days of the republic. In the time of Adams and Hamilton and Jefferson, a party meant the supporters of a distinct set of principles, formulated, represented, and advocated by a few statesmen, who for the most part were in public office, and were instinctively accepted as leaders; while it was only by gradual steps, by a really striking process of evolution, that we reached the system under which the great parties now conduct their affairs. The mechanical perfection of that system must be admitted. The parts are adjusted with the greatest nicety, and work, from the primary up to the national convention, with a precision, an ease, a docility, which would fill the soul of Archimedes with admiration. As a piece of political mechanism it is unsurpassed. But it is also unsurpassed as a device for stifling discuss ion, for fostering intrigue, for depressing talent and elevating mediocrity, for crushing all spontaneity out of political life, and reducing what ought to be the vigorous, healthy, buoyant action of a free people to a base procession of mathematical factors.
From such laborious efforts to perfect the mere mechanical organization of party must result, as a natural consequence, a grossly exaggerated view of the sacredness of party itself. The party becomes a species of imperium in imperio. Its forms, its agents, its organs, are closely patterned after those of the state; it exercises the three great functions of government; it has its hierarchy of officials, acting within the circumscriptions, and ranging through all the grades which obtain in our political system. These officials feel the responsibility of their positions, which they compare to places of trust in civil administration. The struggles for place within the party are scarcely less keen than the struggles of political life; the same arts of intrigue and persuasion are used; the same acquiescence in the result of a contest is always expected, and rarely withheld. Thus the force of imagination alone, excited by the constant spectacle of this vast machine, completely equipped and manned and always in movement, leads people to regard it as a permanent institution, having a corporate existence in the state, and therefore entitled to be treated as an end in itself, and not as means to the attainment of an end.
It is not, however, by the imagination alone that this illusion is maintained. This of itself would make the error dangerous; but it has, besides that, led to the announcement of certain audacious propositions, and even to measures of actual legislation, which grossly confuse the distinction between a political party and a political commonwealth, and disclose a fatal tendency toward the very evil against which Mr. Webster so solemnly warned his countrymen.
The most obnoxious of the new doctrines which are thrusting themselves upon public recognition concerns what may be called the discipline of a party, the seat of authority within it, and the duty of members toward it. The doctrine flows easily from the fiction which compares a party to a state. In a state with democratic institutions the majority rules; and the minority must obey the officers whom it chooses, and respect the laws which it enacts. Any other system is absurd in thought, and would lead to chaos. But this principle of democratic fairness is capable of a wide application. It is recognized in the most varied concerns of human society; wherever, in fact, a body of men meet to deliberate upon common interests, and to express their views in some authoritative and binding form. Everywhere the majority prevails, and the minority acquiesces. This, it is said, should also be the case with a party. In the management of its affairs, in the attitude which it is to take toward pending public measures, in the choice of its leaders, the decision of the majority should be final, and the minority should accept it with perfect loyalty and good faith.
Yet this proposition, which presents at first sight a cogency almost axiomatic, will be found on examination to be not only fallacious, but even absolutely irreconcilable with the true notion of party. A party is a body of men united in support of a political principle, or set of principles, in which they all believe. This is an accepted definition, which no one will contest. It follows, then, that a body of men, in which a majority forces upon a minority adhesion to, or at least a formal acquiescence in, doctrines or policies opposed to its convictions, may be indeed legitimate and useful within its sphere, but is not a party. Nor is it necessary to my point that the definition above given be taken in a rigid and inflexible sense. It may be freely conceded that when a party is united upon some one great political principle, or some general view of governmental policy, much freedom of opinion upon minor points of political belief may be allowed, without robbing the association of the main quality which determines its character. But the character is lost as soon as this liberality becomes an utter indifference to any political convictions; or, on the other hand, when, on any division of opinion, an attempt is made to coerce the minority by the majority. An illustration of this truth is offered in the history of the Whig party. So long as the party was contending mainly for protection it could properly tolerate among its members different views on the question of slavery. But when this question became the leading issue, it was impossible for the majority to force its views upon the minority, or for the party to keep up its formal organization by ignoring the real problem of the hour. The Whig party met, therefore, a natural death, because the elements which composed it bad become so inharmonious that it ceased to be a party.
The case is scarcely less strong in regard to the choice of candidates and leaders. Many persons will indeed say, though without sufficient reflection, that, while the principles of a party ought to be shared by all the members of the party, the selection of the men to represent and advocate them ought to be left to the majority. But this theory overlooks the fact that men stand for principles, and that each member of a party must exercise his own judgment, if not in regard to the success with which a proposed leader is likely to support them, at least in regard to the sincerity with which he holds them. A party may indeed be formed about and be held together by the name of some great leader, instead of by a measure. Some organizations of this kind have been among the most powerful in history. But would it not be absurd to insist that the question of leadership should be submitted each year to the vote of the members, and that the minority should accept any new leader whom the majority might choose, even one of opinions radically opposed to those of the man who originally gave the party its name and character? Could the party, after such a revolution, be said still to preserve its identity?
But the sacred principle of universal suffrage is brought in to close the argument. It is asked, in a tone which suggests that there can be only a single answer, whether every member of a party has not a right to a voice in the selection of candidates, and whether, if so, the choice of the majority ought not to prevail. Is any other system compatible with popular government?
This has undeniably a very plausible and convincing look. Yet the interests of truth, of sound political thought, and of correct political methods require that it be met with an emphatic denial. The theory is as false as it is deceptive, and as mischievous as it is false. It could never even be entertained if the true conception of party were kept in view. There is no such thing as the right of the people to participate in the nomination of candidates. Under our present system they may of course exercise such a participation; but it is not a right, adds nothing whatever to the validity of the nomination, and affects in no respect the political duty of a single citizen. The right of universal suffrage begins only at the polls, and refers to the choice between, not the choice of, candidates. Indeed, to make it begin at the stage of nominations may in practice actually impair its exercise at the polls. If the nomination of a candidate by the popular suffrage of a party has the binding validity which is claimed for it, a member 6f the minority, who, because he concedes this validity, or has a mistaken sense of honor, or fears some kind of persecution or proscription, supports against his conscientious convictions a candidate thus nominated, is really not a voter at the polls. He is rather under a most degrading species of coercion. Thus, in order to force the principle of universal suffrage into a sphere where it does not belong, politicians strike a deadly blow at its freedom and purity in the realm where it ought to reign supreme and be preserved immaculate.
There is, also, something disingenuous in the form which is commonly given to the argument for the democratic basis of party government. It is asked whether every man has not a right to a voice in behalf of the candidate whom he wishes to support. One answer to this is that the laws give him such a right at the polls, and protect him in the exercise of it. But a better answer is that the question does not correctly describe the right for which the advocates of the present system really contend. What they demand is, not that each member of a party shall be heard in behalf of the candidate whom he wishes to support, but that he shall, in certain contingencies, be permitted to name a candidate whom somebody else shall be obliged to support. This, stripped of all disguise, is what the proposition means, and it would not be easy to imagine anything more iniquitous.
The summit and crowning achievement of the American party system is, of course, the national convention. The party being regarded as a body politic, the convention becomes an official legislature, with officers, rules of order, and powers of coercion exactly like those of Congress itself. It is pronounced, even by the most strenuous champions of its dignity, to be a deliberative body. Yet it has nearly lost this characteristic. It is always largely composed of men whose opinions are mortgaged, or who are merely the clerical bearers of instructed votes, or who, if unpledged and uninstructed, can still be influenced by no arguments more cogent than numbers and combinations. Many of the conventions in recent years have been perfectly useless formalities. The result could have been ascertained and made known by telegraph, without any meeting of the delegates. From this fact the friends of independent politics might indeed derive a legitimate though selfish and narrow advantage, since a convention which excludes deliberation, and is controlled by mere brute force, unreflecting, intolerant, despotic, almost challenges a revolt, while men of strong though modest convictions would be more reluctant to reject the decision of a perfectly free and frank conference, conducted in a spirit of liberality and forbearance.
But the caucus ought to be considered from a higher standpoint, namely, from that of its effect as an educating agent upon American youth. Is this elaborate machinery of caucuses and conventions the one which is to produce in the future a high type of statesmen for the service of the republic? Is it fitted to broaden the faculties; to liberalize the judgment; to stimulate independence, courage, manliness, fidelity to principle; and to make an unswerving devotion to elevated, noble, chivalrous methods in political life the aspiration of all our youth? I should be appalled by the audacity of an affirmative answer to these questions. Yet, lest one may be offered, I present in advance a single consideration, which seems to me conclusive against not only the claim for despotic power made for our conventions, but also, and more especially, against anything that may be said in behalf of the lawfulness or propriety of the position which they hold in our political system. The consideration is this: that it is distinctly unwise to familiarize young men with the idea of service in a series of elective bodies from which debate and deliberation are practically excluded. All gatherings of a free people ought to permit an exchange of views; a canvass of questions or candidates; an opportunity, in short, for those who have strong convictions to present them in the best possible light, and an equal opportunity for those who come undecided to hear the arguments on all sides, and to act after mature reflection. This is of the very essence of republican institutions. Anglo-Saxon self-government has been called government by town meeting, or government by debate; yet a demand is made for recognizing as a part of that system—and a very important part—a scheme of party administration which is peculiarly calculated to make debate and consultation impossible. Can anybody suppose that such a scheme will train a class of men fitted to conduct in the future the affairs of this great commonwealth?
From the idea of party as a legal corporation to the expression of the idea in laws and institutions the step is easy and natural. Yet a step precisely like that, an innovation so hostile to all correct notions of political society and fraught with such vast possibilities for evil, was needed to show how powerful a hold the error under discussion had taken upon the imaginations of men.
The measures to which I refer may be arranged in two groups: the one consisting of those which recognize party in the adjustment of certain administrative organs; the other, of those which seek to regulate the action of certain functions within the parties themselves. The first class is illustrated by various executive boards or commissions, the members of which are divided in some ratio between the two parties; as the police commission of New York city, where they are shared equally, or the federal civil service commission, where the ratio is two to one. This last provision, it may be added, has been slavishly copied in the similar act of the State of New York, and in all bills on the same subject which have been presented or prepared in other States. The best example of the other class of measures is the New York act to regulate primary elections. Both classes are open to one general objection, but each has also evils peculiar to itself. Let us consider these classes in their order.
Of all devices for taking parties formally into the machinery of administration it is first to be said that they involve a logical absurdity. Their object is, of course, to secure non-partisanship in the conduct of certain charges; and yet it is the very provision for dividing the places in a board between men of different political views which makes the board partisan. It necessarily does that in form, and often in substance. Each member is appointed, not because he is independent, but because he is a partisan; and each sits in the board as the representative of a party, the interests of which, if they are in question, he is practically authorized, and very often disposed, to prefer to those of good government. At the same time the seat of responsibility is obscured, and misconduct made difficult to punish.
There is, however, a further objection to all schemes of this kind. They introduce as a legal distinction a term, party, which, if taken in its true sense, and the only one permitting it any usefulness, cannot be reduced to exact precision; or party must take a different sense, a stricter form, and lose all its wholesome and beneficent flexibility, in order that a vicious condition may be satisfied. The tests which the laws may require the appointing power to apply to candidates for office are of two kinds: they are tests of fact, and tests of opinion. Tests of fact are such as are judicially ascertainable, as, for instance, a candidate’s height, or age, or color, or nationality. Tests of opinion, again, are those which are applied by the judgment, as a candidate’s character or fitness. But it is evident that when a law says that of certain places to be filled only half shall go to members of the same political party, it imposes a test or qualification which can be ranged in neither of the two classes that I have given. Can a court determine, except by an extra-judicial process, to what party a certain person belongs, or what constitutes legal membership in a party, or even what a party is in law? The test seems, therefore, to be one of opinion and interpretation, and worth no more than a clause providing that an appointee must be a person of good moral character, or of ability, or a patriot. Yet this is not the case. The spirit and purpose of such provisions permit no other conclusion than that they are to be regarded as imperative tests of fact, as actual restrictions upon the discretion of the executive, as surrounding his freedom of choice in certain directions with concrete and tangible harriers. But the logical or metaphysical difficulties called into being by this vicious policy are after all not the gravest evil. These will be dismissed as purely speculative. The real objection is that, as the policy was suggested by a false conception of party, it was sure to lead to further measures, required as a natural development of the conception and the policy. If a person is to be appointed to an office because he is a member of a certain party, exactly as if it were because he is a citizen of a certain State, it is obviously necessary that means be found for giving parties a more clearly defined corporate existence, and their rolls of membership a species of legal authority.
A beginning in this direction has now been made in the class of measures which was illustrated by the New York statute for protecting the primaries. That act, it is well known, was intended to secure a fair expression of party opinion at the caucuses by giving the presiding officers powers analogous to those of inspectors of election, and by imposing stringent penalties upon false swearing, repeating, and other offenses against the purity of the ballot. The measure had the support of many independent and thinking men, — men who would be the first to revolt against the tyranny of the caucus. It was in fact carried as a triumph of the reformers over the politicians. Yet it seems not the less open to several strong objections.
The first of these is that the remedy is wholly inadequate to the evil. All reforms should of course aim at the original sources of the disease, and a purification of our nominating system ought therefore plainly to start with the primaries. But what is a primary? The thing is as difficult to define as the original element in matter. Like matter, indeed, the frame of our party organization is infinitely divisible, and no investigator can ever be sure that he has reached the ultimate atoms. If the primary be fortified against corruption, corruption will organize a pre-primary or an ante-primary, and thus elude the most dexterous attempt to fetter its activity. These doubts, which more than one person felt at the time the act was passed, have been singularly justified by results. The act was aimed, by those who most earnestly supported it, at one peculiarly obnoxious leader in New York city politics. But he issued triumphant, as usual, from the very first trial of strength under the new system.
Since, then, the plan has apparently failed, it deserves to be condemned for that, if for no other reason. But it deserves, perhaps, even more severe condemnation because it started from false principles, and gave encouragement to an evil tendency already portentously strong.
The advice is often addressed to young men and good citizens, who deplore the vices of our present political methods, to attend the party caucuses. It is made a reproach to them that they neglect this important duty; and when they complain of bad nominations, or platforms which are but as sounding brass, the retort is that they might have secured good candidates, and platforms with some meaning, if they had not left the primaries to demagogues and blatherskites. This line of reasoning I have never been able to comprehend. I have never seen any sufficient reason for a political system in which, except at the polls, the voice of demagogues and blatherskites has equal weight with that of honest men who can think and reason, who have convictions, and who are unselfishly devoted to the interests of the republic. It seems to me, on the contrary, that what is needed is not greater servility to, but greater independence of, the caucus and the convention. This may be a false position; but to anybody who holds it, all attempts to invest primary meetings with a legal character must appear to be steps in the wrong direction. For they surround with the majesty of the law an institution whose chief function is to coerce the action of voters at the polls. Now there is but one kind of force to which the voter’s independence is properly subject. His own conscience ought to compel him to prefer good candidates to bad, and wholesome principles to pernicious; and since this is largely a matter of individual judgment, obedience to such a law is, like obedience to any proper law, the largest freedom. The legalized caucus is, however, a real abridgment of that freedom. It practically pledges the participant to exercise his freedom of judgment at a stage antecedent to the election, and to abide by an unknown result. if the caucus or the convention be regarded in its true light, as a mere conference of men who hold similar views of public policy, there is perhaps not much danger to the freedom of the ballot. But this theory has long since ceased to be generally held, and the New York statute seemed destined to give it a final blow. It enticed into the caucus many who had previously been conspicuous rather by their absence, but who affected to see in the safeguards which the law provided an opportunity to rescue the institution from the control of the corrupt and the vicious; yet at the same time this increased the number of good citizens who surrendered their freedom of judgment in advance of the election. For if the primary could control the actions of men even under the old loose and irregular methods, what must be its authority when the legislature has endowed it with sanctions carrying a vastly greater degree of legal, and accordingly of moral, force? The act abridges the sacred right of bolting, and without bolting there can be no healthy political life.
Let us inquire for a moment to what, if pushed to its logical consequences, the politicians’ view of party would lead. It is known that they abhor independents, and often express the patriotic opinion that every citizen should join a party. The majority in each party should again control its action, and the minority should frankly obey. A careful organization, with executive agents and representative assemblies, would furnish the machinery for making the system effective. This seems to be a fair statement of the politicians’ ideal. Now what would be the result if this ideal were realized? The result would be to collect the voters of the country into two or three great parties, held together by inflexible rules of discipline and fealty, and each forbidden in effect to allow desertion or to receive deserters. As no changes of allegiance could take place, the relative strength of parties would be changed from year to year only by the death of existing members, and the enrollment of new ones from young men just reaching their majority and from newly naturalized immigrants. But even this element of uncertainty can be somewhat reduced. The annual death-rate would probably bear the same ratio to the total membership in all the parties. Again, young men generally follow in the political footsteps of their fathers; and as the birth-rate in the various parties would be also approximately equal, the balance of power would be little affected from this cause. We are confined, therefore, to the immigrants; they would hold the key to the situation. If now it be assumed that the Irish would in general go to one party, and the Germans to the other, the issue would really lie between these two classes, which compose the great body of our foreign population. The problem of immigration would assume a ne and startling interest. One party would find a potent ally in Irish famines, which encourage emigration from the Emerald Isle. The other would have a keen sympathy with the high taxes and the military system of Germany, which drive so many excellent men from the fatherland. The battles of American politics would be fought out by immigration agents and runners for the rival steamship lines, all liberally supplied with money from the campaign funds of the parties, and perhaps also with platforms, to be posted in the leading seaports and distributed by colporteurs iii the interior.
This would be politics reduced to a practical science. But while this noble ideal may never be realized, the progress already made toward its acceptance in thought and in legislation has caused a distinct loss of vitality to our political affairs. The next phases of development are hidden with the mysteries of the future. But it may safely be said that any event which shakes the doctrine of indefeasible allegiance to party, any revolt which emphasizes the citizen’s right of individual judgment, even though it may involve the downfall of a party whose annals are resplendent with great deeds, is an inestimable gain to the cause of good government. It is even a gain to the cause of government by party. For if the evil tendency of recent years should be arrested, and the earlier, truer conceptions resume their place, the result would be, not that we should have no parties, but that we should have better ones. We should have parties inspired by principles and led by statesmen. These parties would also be organized; but the organizations would be elastic, liberal, forbearing, and would aim to conciliate the wiser and better class of citizens. Politics would then mean the art of government, not the art of primaries; and an electoral canvass would be an honest struggle between clearly defined and sharply antagonized opinions or policies f6r the suffrages of the people.
This is also, unhappily, only an ideal. But the future of the republic is involved in the choice between it and that other ideal, against which this paper has attempted to utter an earnest warning.