Benson John Lossing.

Harper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) online

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aristocratic or royalist party were led by
NICHOLAS BAYARD ( q. v.) , a wealthy and
influential citizen, who was warmly sec
onded by ROBERT LIVINGSTON (q. v.).
These two men were chiefly instrumental
in bringing Leisler to the scaffold and
treating his family and friends in a
shameful manner. This conduct was con
tinued until the Earl of Bellomont suc
ceeded Fletcher as governor, when the
* Anti-Leislerians " were reduced to a
minority, and kept quiet for a while.
After the death of Bellomont (March 5,
1701), John Nanfan, his lieutenant, ruled
for a while. Nanfan favored the demo
cratic party. As soon as it was known
that LORD CORNBURY (q. v.}, a thorough
aristocrat and royalist, had been appointed
governor, Bayard and his party heaped
abuse not only upon the dead Bellomont,
but upon Nanfan. The latter saw that
Bayard was on the verge of a pit which
he had digged himself, and he pushed him



into it. Bayard had procured an act, in
1691, aimed at Leisler and his supporters,
providing that any person who should in
any manner endeavor to disturb the gov
ernment of the colony should be deemed
" rebels and traitors unto their majesties,"
and should incur the pains and penalties
of the laws of England for such offence.
Bayard was arrested on a charge of
treason, tried, convicted, and received the
horrid sentence then imposed by the Eng
lish law upon traitors to be hanged, quar
tered, etc. Bayard applied for a reprieve
until his Majesty s pleasure should be
known. It was granted, and in the mean
time Cornbury arrived, when all was re
versed. Bayard was released and rein
stated. The democrats were placed under
the lash of the aristocrats, which Bayard
and Livingston used without mercy by the
hand of the wretched ruler to whom they
offered libations of flattery. The chief-
justice who tried Bayard, and the advocate
who opposed him, were compelled to fly to
England. From that time onward there
was a continuous conflict by the democ
racy of New York with the aristocracy
as represented by the royal governors and
their official parasites. It fought bravely,
and won many victories, the greatest of
which was in a fierce battle for the free
dom of the press, in the case of JOHN
PETER ZENGER (q. v.).



DEMOCRACY

Democracy in the United States, advocacy, the Federalist, and note the

CHARACTER OF.* Prof. Woodrow Wilson perverse tendency of its writers to refer

of Princeton University (Professor of to Greece and Rome for precedents that

Jurisprudence and Politics), the well- Greece and Rome which haunted all our

known author, critic, and lecturer, writes earlier and even some of our more mature

as follows: years. Recall, too, that familiar story of

Daniel Webster which tells of his coming

Everything apprises us of the fact that home exhausted from an interview with
we are not the same nation now that the first President-elect Harrison, whose
we were when the government was form- Secretary of State he was to be. and ex-
ed. Tn looking back to that time, the im- plaining that he had been obliged in the
pression is inevitable that we started with course of the conference, which concerned
sundry wrong ideas about ourselves. We the inaugural address about to be deliver-
deemed ourselves rank democrats, whereas ed, to kill nine Roman consuls whom it
we were in fact only progressive English- had been the intention of the good con-
men. Turn the leaves of that sage man- queror of Tippecanoe publicly to take into
ual of constitutional interpretation and office with him. The truth is that we long

* By courtesy of Messrs. Charles Scribner s agined ourselves related in some un-

Sons. explained way to all ancient republicans.

68



DEMOCRACY IN THE UNITED STATES, CHARACTER OF



Strangely enough, too, we at the same
time accepted the quite incompatible
theory that we were related also to the
French philosophical radicals. We claim-
ed kinship with democrats everywhere
with all democrats. We can now scarcely
realize the atmosphere of such thoughts,
We are no longer wont to refer to the
ancients or to the French for sanction of
what we do. We have had abundant ex-
perience of our own by which to reckon,
" Hardly any fact in history," says Mr.
Bagehot, writing about the middle of the
century, " is so incredible as that forty
and a few years ago England was ruled
by Mr. Perceval. It seems almost the
same as being ruled by the Record news-
paper/ (Mr. Bagehot would now prob-

ably say the Standard newspaper.) "He

* ,. J
had the same poorness of thought, the

same petty conservatism, the same dark
and narrow superstition." " The mere fact
of such a premier being endured shows
how deeply the whole national spirit and
interest was absorbed in the contest with
Napoleon, how little we understood the
sort of man who should regulate its con-
duct in the crisis of Europe, as Sydney
Smith said, he safely brought the cu-
rates salaries improvement bill to a hear-
ing ; and it still more shows the horror
of all innovation which the recent events
of French history had impressed on our
wealthy and comfortable classes. They
were afraid of catching revolution, as old
women of catching cold. Sir Archibald
Alison to this day holds that revolution
is an infectious disease, beginning no one
knows how, and going on no one knows
whero. There is but one rule of escape,
explains the great historian: Stay still;
don t move; do what you have been ac-
customed to do: and consult your grand-
mother on everything. "

Almost equally incredible to us is the
ardor of revolution that filled the world in
those first days of our national life the
fact that one of the rulers of the world s
mind in that generation was Rousseau,
the apostle of all that is fanciful, unreal,
and misleading in politics. To be ruled
by him was like taking an account of life
from Mr. Rider Haggard. And yet there
is still much sympathy in this timid world
for the dull people who felt safe in the
hand* of Mr. Perceval, and, happily, much



sympathy also, though little justification,
for such as caught a generous elevation
of spirit from the speculative enthusiasm
of Rousseau.

For us who stand in the dusty matter-
of- fact world of to-day, there is a touch
of pathos in recollections of the ardor for
democratic liberty that filled the air
of Europe and America a century ago
with such quickening influences. We
may sometimes catch ourselves regretting
that the inoculations of experience have
closed our systems against the infections
of hopeful revolution.



in which the meagre, stale, forbidding

ways

2f custom law and statute took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!
when Reaso n seemed the most to assert

her rights,
When mos t intent on making of herself



name !
Not favored spots alone, but the whole

r. ear ^ h ^

The beauty wore of promise, that which
sets

(As at some moment might not be unfelt
Among the bowers of paradise itself)

r Se ab Ve the r Se fu "



Such was the inspiration which not
Wordsworth alone, but Coleridge also,
and many another generous spirit whom
we love, caught in that day of hope.

It is common to say, in explanation of
our regret that the dawn and youth of
democracy s day are past, that our prin-
ciples are cooler now and more circum-
spect, with the coolness and circum-
spection of advanced years. It seems to
some that our enthusiasms have become
tamer and more decorous because our
sinews have hardened ; that as experience
has grown idealism has declined. But to
speak thus is to speak with the old self-
deception as to the character of our
politics. If we are suffering disappoint-
ment, it is the disappointment of an
awakening: we were dreaming. For we
never had any business hearkening to
Rousseau or consorting with Europe in
revolutionary sentiment. The government
which we founded one hundred years ago
was no type of an experiment in ad-
vanced democracy, as we allowed Europe



69



DEMOCRACY IN THE UNITED STATES, CHARACTER OP

and even ourselves to suppose; it was freedom of thought and the diffusion of
simply an adaptation of English consti- enlightenment among the people. Steam
tutional government. If we suffered Eu- and electricity have co-operated with sys-
rope to study our institutions as instances tematic popular education to accomplish
in point touching experimentation in this diffusion. The progress of popular
politics, she was the more deceived. If education and the progress of democracy
we began the first century of our national have been inseparable. The publication
existence under a similar impression our- of their great encyclopaedia by Diderot
selves, there is the greater reason why and his associates in France in the last
we should start out upon a new century century, was the sure sign of the change
of national life with more accurate con- that was setting in. Learning was turn-
ceptions. ing its face away from the studious few
To this end it is important that the towards the curious many. The intellect-
following, among other things, should be ual movement of the modern time was
kept prominently in mind: emerging from the narrow courses of

1. That there are certain influences scholastic thought, and beginning to
astir in this country which make for spread itself abroad over the extended, if
democracy the world over, and that these shallow, levels of the common mind. The
influences owe their origin in part to the serious forces of democracy will be found,
radical thought of the last century; but upon analysis, to reside, not in the dis-
that it was not such forces that made us turbing doctrines of eloquent revolution-
democratic, nor are we responsible for ary writers, not in the turbulent discon-
them. tent of the pauperized and oppressed, so

2. That, so far from owing our gov- much as in the educational forces of the
ernments to these general influences, we last 150 years, which have elevated the
began, not by carrying out any theory, masses in many countries to a plane of
but by simply carrying out a history understanding and of orderly, intelligent
inventing nothing, only establishing a purpose more nearly on a level with the
specialized species of English govern- average man of the classes that have
ment; that we founded, not democracy, hitherto been permitted to govern. The
but constitutional government in America, movements towards democracy which

3. That the government which we thus have mastered all the other political ten-
set up in a perfectly normal manner dencies of our day are not older than the
has nevertheless changed greatly under middle of the last century ; and that is just
our hands, by reason both of growth and the age of the now ascendant movement
of the operation of the general democratic towards systematic popular education,
forces the European, or rather world- Yet organized popular education is only
wide, democratic forces of which I have one of the quickening influences that have
spoken. been producing the general enlighten-

4. That two things, the great size to ment which is everywhere becoming the
which our governmental organisr.i has promise of general liberty. Rather, it is
attained, and, still more, this recent ex- only part of a great whole, vastly larger
posure of its character and purposes to than itself. Schools are but separated
the common democratic forces of the age ^seed-beds, in which the staple thoughts
of steam and electricity, have created now of the steady and stay-at-home people are
problems of organization, which it be- prepared and nursed. Not much of the
hooves us to meet in the old spirit, but world, moreover, goes to school in the
with new measures. school-house. But through the mighty

influences of commerce and the press the
world itself has become a school. The

First, then, for the forces which are air is alive with the multitudinous voices

bringing in democratic temper and method of information. Steady trade-winds of

the world over. It is matter of familiar intercommunication have sprung up which

knowledge what these forces are, but it carry the seeds of education and enlight-

will be profitable to our thought to pass enment, wheresoever planted, to every

them once more in review. They are quarter of the globe. No scrap of new

70



DEMOCRACY IN THE UNITED STATES, CHARACTER OF

thought can escape being borne away without stirring from home, by merely
from its place of birth by these all- spelling out the print that covers every
absorbing currents. No idea can be kept piece of paper about him. If men are
exclusively at home, but is taken up thrown, for any reason, into the swift
by the trader, the reporter, the traveller, and easy currents of travel, they find
the missionary, the explorer, and is given themselves brought daily face to face with
to all the world in the newspapers, the persons native of every clime, with prac-
novel, the memoir, the poem, the treatise, tices suggestive of whole histories, with
till every community may know, not only a thousand things which challenge
itself, but all the world as well, for the curiosity, inevitably provoking inquiries
small price of learning to read and keep- such as enlarge knowledge of life and
ing its ears open. All the world, so shake the mind imperatively loose from
far as its news and its most insistent old preconceptions.

thoughts are concerned, is fast being made These are the forces which have estab-
every man s neighbor. lished the drift towards democracy.

Carlyle unquestionably touched one of When all sources of information are
the obvious truths concerning modern accessible to all men alike, when the
democracy when he declared it to be the world s thought and the world s news are
result of printing. In the newspaper scattered broadcast where the poorest
press a whole population is made critic may find them, the non-democratic forms
of all human affairs ; democracy is " virtu- of government must find life a desperate
ally extant," and " democracy virtually venture. Exclusive privilege needs pri-
extant will insist on becoming palpably vacy, but cannot have it. King^nip of
extant." Looked at in the large, the the elder patterns needs sanctity, but can
newspaper press is a type of democracy, find it nowhere obtainable in a world of
bringing all men without distinction un- news items and satisfied curiosity. The
der comment made by any man without many will no longer receive submissively
distinction; every topic is reduced to a the thought of a ruling few, but insist
common standard of news; everything upon having opinions of their own. The
is noted and argued about by everybody, reaches of public opinion have been in-
Nothing could give surer promise of finitely extended; the number of voices
popular power than the activity and that must be heeded in legislation and
alertness of thought which are made in executive policy has been infinitely
through such agencies to accompany the multiplied. Modern influences have in-
training of the public schools. The ac- clined every man to clear his throat for
tivity may often be misdirected or un- a word in the world s debates. They have
wholesome, may sometimes be only fever- popularized everything they have touched,
ish and mischievous, a grievous product In the newspapers, it is true, there is
of narrow information and hasty con- very little concert between the writers;
elusion; but it is none the less a stirring little but piecemeal opinion is created by
and potent activity. It at least marks their comment and argument; there is
the initial stages of effective thought. It no common voice amid their counsellings.
makes men conscious of the existence and But the aggregate voice thunders with
interest of affairs lying outside the dull tremendous volume; and that aggregate
round of their own daily lives. It gives voice is " public opinion." Popular edu-
them nations, instead of neighborhoods, cation and cheap printing and travel
to look upon and think about. They vastly thicken the ranks of thinkers every-
catch glimpses of the international con- where that their influence is felt, and by
nections of their trades, of the universal rousing the multitude to take knowledge
application of law, of the endless variety of the affairs of government prepare the
of life, of diversities of race, of a world time when the multitude will, so far as
teeming with men like themselves, and possible, take charge of the affairs of
yet full of strange customs, puzzled by government the time when, to repeat
dim omens, stained by crime, ringing with Carlyle s phrase, democracy will become
voices familiar and unfamiliar. palpably extant.

And all this a man can nowadays get But, mighty as such forces are, demo-

71



DEMOCRACY IN THE UNITED STATES, CHARACTER OF

cratic as they are, no one can fail to per- ment of the men to whom we owe the
ceive that they are inadequate to produce establishment of our institutions in the
of themselves such a government as ours. United States, we are at once made aware
There is little in them of constructive that there is no communion between their
eflicacy. They could not of themselves democracy and the radical thought and
build any government at all. They are restless spirit called by that name in
critical, analytical, questioning, quizzing Europe. There is almost nothing in corn-
forces; not architectural, not powers that mon between popular outbreaks such as
devise and build. The influences of pop- took place in France at her great Revolu-
ular education, of the press, of travel, tion and the establishment of a government
of commerce, of the innumerable agen- like our own. Our memories of the year
cies which nowadays send knowledge and 1789 are as far as possible removed from
thought in quick pulsations through every the memories which Europe retains of
part and member of society, do not neces- that pregnant year. We manifested 100
sarily mould men for effective endeavor, years ago what Europe lost, namely, self-
They may only confuse and paralyze the command, self-possession. Democracy in
mind with their myriad stinging lashes of Europe, outside of closeted Switzerland,
excitement. They may only strengthen has acted always in rebellion, as a de-
the impression that " the world s a stage," structive force: it can scarcely be said
and that no one need do more than sit to have had, even yet, any period of
and look on through his ready glass, the organic development. It has built such
newspaper. They overwhelm one with im- temporary governments as it has had op
pressions, but do they give stalwartness portunity to erect on the old foundations
to his manhood? Do they make his hand and out of the discredited materials of
any steadier on the plough, or his pur- centralized rule, elevating the people s
pose any clearer with reference to the representatives for a season to the throne,
duties of the moment? They stream light but securing almost as little as ever of
about him, it may be, but do they clear that every-day local self-government which
his vision ? Is he better able to see be- lies so near to the heart of liberty. Democ-
cause they give him countless things to racy in America, on the other hand, and
look at? Is he better able to judge be- in the English colonies has had, almost
cause they fill him with a delusive sense from the first, a truly organic growth,
of knowing everything? Activity of mind There was nothing revolutionary in its
is not necessarily strength of mind. It movements; it had not to overthrow other
may manifest itself in mere dumb show; polities; it had only to organize itself,
it may run into jigs as well as into stren- It had not to create, but only to expand,
uous work at noble tasks. A man s farm self-government. It did not need to
does not yield its fruits the more abun- spread propaganda: it needed nothing but
dantly in their season because he reads to methodize its ways of living,
the world s news in the papers. A mer- In brief, we were doing nothing essen-
chant s shipments do not multiply because tially new a century ago. Our strength
he studies history. Banking is none the and our facility alike inhered in our tra-
less hazardous to the banker s capital and ditions; those traditions made our char-
taxing to his powers because the best acter and shaped our institutions. Lib-
writing of the best essayists is to be crty is not something that can be created
bought cheap. by a document; neither is it something
jj which, when created, can be laid away in
a document, a completed work. It is an

Very different were the forces behind organic principle a principle of life, re-
us. Nothing establishes the republican newing and being renewed. Democratic
state save trained capacity for self-gov- institutions are never done; they are like
ernment, practical aptitude for public af- living tissue, always a-making. It is a
fairs, habitual soberness and temperate- strenuous thing, this of living the life of
ness of united action. When we look a free people; and our success in it de-
back to the moderate sagacity and stead- pends upon training, not upon clever
fast, welf-contained habit in self-govern- invention.

72



DEMOCRACY IN THE UNITED STATES, CHARACTER OF

Our democracy, plainly, was not a body through long heredity. It is poison to the
of doctrine; it was a stage of develop- infant, but tonic to the man. Monarchies
ment. Our democratic state was not a may be made, but democracies must grow,
piece of developed theory, but a piece of It is a deeply significant fact, therefore,
developed habit. It was not created by again and again to be called to mind, that
mere aspirations or by new faith; it was only in the United Stales, in a few other
built up by slow custom. Its process was governments begotten of the English race,
experience, its basis old wont, its meaning and in Switzerland, where old Teutonic
national organic oneness and effective life, habit has had the same persistency as in
It came, like manhood, as the fruit of England, have examples yet been furnish-
youth. An immature people could not have ed of successful democracy of the modern
had it, and the maturity to which it type. England herself is close upon
was vouchsafed was the maturity of free- democracy. Her backwardness in entering
dom and self-control. Such government upon its full practice is no less instruc
ts ours is a form of conduct, and its only tive as to the conditions prerequisite to
stable foundation is character. A par- democracy than is the forwardness of her
ticular form of government may no more offspring. She sent out to all her colonies
be adopted than a particular type of which escaped the luckless beginning of
character may be adopted: both institu- being made penal settlements, compara-
tions and character must be developed tively small, homogeneous populations of
by conscious effort and through trans- pioneers, with strong instincts of self-
mitted aptitudes. government, and with no social materials

Governments such as ours are founded out of which to build government other-
upon discussion, and government by dis- wise than democratically. She, herself,
cussion comes as late in political as scien- meanwhile, retained masses of population
tific thought in intellectual development, never habituated to participation in gov-
It is a habit of state life created by long- ernment, untaught in political principle
established circumstance, and is possible either by the teachers of the hustings or of
for a nation only in the adult age of its the school-house. She has had to approach
political life. The people who success- democracy, therefore, by slow and cau-
fully maintain such a government must tious extensions of the franchise to those
have gone through a period of political prepared for it; while her better colonies,
training which shall have prepared them born into democracy, have had to receive
by gradual steps of acquired privilege all comers within their pale. She has
for assuming the entire control of their been paring down exclusive privileges and
affairs. Long and slowly widening ex- levelling classes; the colonies have from
perience in local self-direction must have the first been asylums of civil equality,
prepared them for national self-direction. They have assimilated new while she has
They must have acquired adult self-re- prepared old populations,
liance, self-knowledge, and self-control, Erroneous as it is to represent govern-
adult soberness and deliberateness of ment as only a commonplace sort of busi-
judgment, adult sagacity in self-govern- ness, little elevated in method above mer-
ment, adult vigilance of thought and chandising, and to be regulated by count-



Online LibraryBenson John LossingHarper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) → online text (page 11 of 76)