Charles Frederick Holder.

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he mixed on equal terms with the
high Persian aristocracy who lived in
patriarchal state on their well-culti-
vated lands. Now all is changed.
The Shah, he proclaims, has ruined
the nobles and crushed their authority.
The present Vizier is of the dregs of
the people, respecting no one and
being respected by none, and robbing
openly for the Shah and himself.
Law there is none, and the cry of the
people is for justice and permission to
live untortured and unrobbed. The
excess to which tyranny is carried is
marked by the action of a Persian
gentleman who, maddened with the
misery of the times, forced his way
into the presence of the Shah and
committed suicide before his eyes.

Speaking of his companions who,
to the number of three hundred, were
made prisoners at the time of
his own arrest, he informs us that at
the time of writing, they were lan-
guishing in dungeons from which
they were taken at intervals to be
bastinadoed, their feet being beaten to
a jelly. Others had their ears cut off,
their eyes taken out, their noses slit
and their joints wrenched, without
trial, accusation or hearing, but simply
on account of their being desciples of
the reformer.

The system of revenue raising is



thus described : ' ' Behold what ^
takes place : a man is desirous
of obtaining the governorship of
a certain province, say Khorasan
or Aidarbjau. His first step is
to lay at the feet of the Shah his
pishkash (offering), the amount
of which varies, according to the
post sought for, from thirty to
one hundred thousand tomans —
a toman equals, roughly speak-
ing, seven shillings — nearly
$1.75. He then has to guaran-
tee the raising of a sum repre-
senting the annual revenue of the par-
ticular province exceeding that of the
previous year, i. e., the amount for
which the late governor was respon-
sible ; at this stage, and if he is not
out-bidden, or the Shah does not de-
mand more, the applicant for power
succeeds in obtaining the curt consent
of the Shah expressed in the word,
"Bali,*' all right. * * The aspirant to
office has next to conciliate the minis-
ters whose approval can only be
brought by more sums of ready cash,
or pishkash. Having at last succeeded
in receiving his appointment he be-
comes suddenly transformed into an
irresponsible tyrant and oppressor.
It is his turn now to receive pishkash
from the underlings who seek places
in his train, and in the case of a gov-
ernor of a province, his retinue
generally amounts to 300. He has
his chamberlains, his secretaries, his

pipe-bearers, his body-servants, his
military servants, his executioners,
his master of the horse, grooms, cooks
and the rest. From the chamberlain
down to the stable boy each in turn
has to make his offering to the newly
appointed governor, who of course ap-
points the highest leader. Every-


thing being thus pleasantly settled,
thev proceed to their destination, and
the province then becomes a scene of
sub-robbery and spoliation, the heavy
hand being only lifted when nothing
more can be discovered to steal. No
governor, nor any single person in his
employ ever receives a farthing of
salary or wages."

This systematic system of extor-
tion exists in every branch of the
government. Promotion in the army
is regulated by the same plan. Pay
is uncertain and irregular. If a
private soldier gets a couple of months'
pay during the year he considers
himself lucky. The only way he has
of living is by robbing the people.
No wonder is it that Persia is retro-
grading and diminishing annually in
population by wholesale emigration ;
that her fertile lands are ruined and
neglected. " Poor and mean, squalid,
timid, secret and panic-stricken is the
small remnant of Persians who remain.
Is it the fault of Persia, land of the
sun, land of the date, the pomegranate,
the barley and the wheat ; Persia
with her coal mines and none to work
them ; her wealth of iron and none to
smelt it ; of copper, of turquoise ; her
wells of virgin petroleum ; her arable
land, so fertile that one has but to
scratch the soil and harvest after har-
vest springs up as fast as one can
reap ; and her so-called deserts which
need but the restoration of her irriga-
tion works ? ' '

Deserted villages and wrecked ham-
lets mark the places where thriving



and happy communities once existed.
During the last few years, thousands
of Persians have abandoned their
native laud and sought lowly occupa-
tions in foreign countries, and the
Sheikh considered that the number of
emigrants that had fled from Persia
at the time he was writing about
exceeded one -fifth of the total popu-

Persia has arrived at a crisis in her
existence. She is on the eve of a rev-
olutionary movement that may change
the apparent direction of her destiny.
Whether she will be able to maintain
her independence as a nation, with the
covetous eyes of aggressive Russia and
land-grabbing England fixed upon
her, the near future will doubtless



FROM the earliest period of which
we have any knowledge, men
have indulged in philosophizing
on the subject of government. The
effort has been to discover a system
that would produce the highest degree
of public happiness. Plato, Aristo-
tle, and others gave their thoughts
to devising such a system, and Sir
Thomas Moore, in his "Utopia,"
developed one, as he thought, of
the most perfect character. Theoret-
ical government is one thing, but
practical government is quite another.
Theory, however, is necessarily ante-
cedent to experiment. In this field
evolution has in reality been con-
stantly taking place, though at times
there have been appearances of retro-
gression. History demonstrates that
in government there can be no stand-
still ; that there must be advancement
or retrogression, in accordance with a

law of nature. There are elements
which prevent carrying theory into
perfect practice. No machinery is
more subject to accidents, and unseen
and fluctuating influences than that of
government. When a people possess
the necessary degree of intelligence
and virtue, it is not difficult to render
theory and practice completely har-
monious. Philosophers have been the
fathers of the ideal popular govern-
ments, and their conceptions have pre-
ceded every attempt to overturn mon-
archy and found popular institution.
The French revolution of a century
ago was brought about more by writ-
ings of philosophers, encyclopedists
and litterateurs than by the abuses of
the French Monarchy, though for two
centuries there had been no States
General, and the government had been
a practical absolution. No French-
man did .more to develop new and



better ideas of government in the
minds of his countrymen than Mon-
tesquieu. Up to that time there never
had been a Republican government of
a high order, according to the Ameri-
can idea, but there had been sufficient
experience to disclose what a republic
might become when a high order of gen-
eral intelligence and virtue prevailed.
When Montesquieu wrote, he had not
the example of the American Republic
before him, but only the light that
ancient, and a few small spasmodic re-
publics in modern times supplied him.
The experiences of republics had,
however, demonstrated the correctness
of the principle I have stated, that in
government there is inevitably ad-
vancement or retrogression, and it has
been further demonstrated in subse-
quent history. It is certain that gov-
ernments become bad through vicious
activity, The first French Republic
failed from the latter cause, and the
same lias been true of many Other

governments, but a greater number of
nations have decayed through inertia.

People have often lost their liberties
and their manhood through continued
supineness. The perpetuity of a re-
public depends upon avoidance of both

extremes. The time will never come
when there cannot be change for the
better. The founders of our govern-
ment thought they had devised a per-
fect system, but within about eighty
years from the time the Constitution
was adopted, it was amended in fifteen
important particulars, and many other
amendments have been suggested and
urged by intelligent people. The
American mind is active, and it is not
improbable that changes may be pro-
posed that would, if adopted, prove
impracticable or vicious, but we are
less liable to injury from change that
is not reform, than from evil practices
that grow up through general indiffer-
ence and inattention.

Corruption is the bane of republics.
The friends of popular government
throughout the world have been more
alarmed about the effect of the Panama
scandal upon the fortunes of the pres-

ent French Republic, than about the
plots of legitimists, imperialists, and
Boulangists to overturn it. The
French people have, for tw T enty years,
been able to withstand the efforts of
these enemies, but the question has
been anxiously put: can the govern-
ment survive the demoralization and
disgust that will ensue from the dis-
closure of the corruption of numerous
high Republican officials ?

Montesquieu held that a despotic
monarchy is not so bad as a corrupt
republic. This opinion does not rest
upon theory merely ; it is sustained by
the world's experience in every age of
which we have authentic history. Cor-
ruption is the worst form of oppression,
for it is not only impoverishing to a
people but it leads to general demoral-
ization and criminality, to the subver-
sion of all authority and to anarchism.
Despotism may crush, but corruption
debases the spirits of a people. If long
tolerated, corruption of officials and
leaders will extend to and involve the
body of the people, and there is no relief
from its malign influences, except in
revolution and bloodshed. Monarchy
has succeeded republics because the lat-
ter have become corrupt, and the former
has been accepted as the lesser evil.

The same author thought that ex-
penses in a republic should be less than
under any other form of government,
and for the reason that the people who
pay the taxes can control expenditures
if they will. A corrupt government
is never economical ; it is an impossi-
bility that it should be so. An honest
government may, in certain respects,
indulge in profuse expenditures, but
this tendency is easily checked. The
burdens which bear most heavily upon
any people, as a rule, are those which
are imposed through corruption. It
is not alone that people may have
freedom of action that makes popular
institutions desirable ; but also that
life and property shall be protected,
and the public interests promoted at
the least cost consistent with efficiency.

Montesquieu again says that " the
tyranny of a prince does not bring him



nearer to ruin than indifference to the
public good brings a republic." The
government of a monarchy or aristoc-
racy reflects the character of the king
or ruling class, but that of a republic
is the mirror which reflects the char-
acter of a people. A popular govern-
ment is precisely what the people make
it, and no such government will be
good, to which the people are indiffer-
ent. It cannot be said that any people
are capable of successful self-govern-
ment, until they have been tried.
Americans believe they have the best
government on earth, and they are
correct in this belief; but if they are so
satisfied with it.that they see no need for
reform or improvement, there is danger.
Because we have a better government
than other nations, it does not prove
that it is as good as it might be made.
In a republic, officials recognize
their responsibility to the people, while
their conduct in office is indicative of
what they believe the people will tol-
erate, or what the people demand of
them. This may be taken as a gen-
eral rule, though there are exceptions,
for it has occurred that men have been
chosen to office who have disregarded
the wishes and interests of their Con-
stituents. The same thing will occur in
future, but the frequency of such
instances depends upon what the
people exact, and the punishment they
inflict for dereliction. One thing is
certain, that a rascal will neglect duty,
and become corrupt, if he believes the
public will not thereby be seriously
offended. As has been said, the char-
acter of a government reflects the
character of the people for intelligence
and virtue, and where corruption pre-
vails for any length of time there must
be some defect in the people — there
must be a lack of intelligence or virtue,
or an indifference to the public welfare,
which of itself indicates a want of
virtue. In Spanish American coun-
tries there are governments popular in
form, but they are defective, more
especially in manner of execution.
There is lawlessness, profligacy and cor-
ruption because the governments have

no regard for the people, and,
on the other hand the people have
no respect for the officials. There are
repeated revolutions in those countries
without being productive of improve-
ment. Unstable conditions there are
but reflexes of the popular character.
The few only are intelligent, and the
corruption of officials has demoralized
the masses.

In this country there is greater in-
telligence, and the people are more
generally virtuous than in any other.
Thus far there has been general pro-
gress in regard to institutions of gov-
ernment. The nation has at all times
been full of reforms ; there is a con-
stant clamor for reform, and measures
are often urged which are impracticable
or without value. While we have men
of extreme views, those that are erratic,
still there is a conservation in the
masses that preserves the country from
engaging in extravagant movements.
There is not the radicalism that would
overturn all because a part is bad. Ac-
tion has generally been so discriminat-
ing as to remove the evil and build upon
that which is good. The American
people move no faster than is required
to gain the light that assures to them
a tolerably safe footing. As they the-
orize and reason carefully and accur-
ately they seldom resort to experiment
to test the virtues of measures, and
consequently it is not often necessary
to retrace steps that have been taken.
With all their intelligence and vir-
tue, there is a defect that has been
productive of every evil in government
from which the country has suffered,
and that is the proneness to be inatten-
tive to public affairs, to public duty.
There always will be persons who seek
to promote private interests at the
expense of the public, and Constitu-
tions and laws, will be framed for that
purpose ; there are treasury vampires
who seek to live on public expenditures,
and corporations or individuals who
want special privileges. Every success
they have met with in the past has been
through inattention on the part of the
masses, and those officials who have

4 8


disregarded or sacrificed the public
welfare have relied on the inattention
of the people. ' ' When the wicked
rule, the people mourn." But there
need be no occasion for popular mourn-
ing in this country except from the
consequences of sins of omission on
the part of the people themselves.

The greatest present grievance is
the burden of taxation. It is greater
in some localities than in others, and
where the burden is least, the people
have been most attentive to public
affairs, and where it is greatest, they
have been most neglectful. Where
the most expensive governments are
found, investigation will show alarm-
ing corruption. It is enigmatical that
men will neglect public matters when
their own personal interests are in-
volved. The man most unlettered
cannot but be aware that there are those
who devote themselves to making gain
at the public expense. Extraordinary
expenses grow out of the very machin-
ery of government. This is the case
in California. The system is complex
and cumbrous, and needs simplification.
Corruption in the State, county and
municipal governments may be exag-
gerated, but if it prevails to the extent
that is charged, it cannot be more
depletory of the public treasures than
the official superfluity, or the compli-
cated machinery of government that
exists. The people have themselves to
blame for all the unnecessary burdens
they bear, whether imposed by corrupt
practices or an expensive system.

Montesquieu wrote a half a century
before our system of government had
been founded, and upon the theory
that a republican form of government
would be as direct and simple as that
of monarchy . Upon this theory he was
correct in his idea that in a republic,
government should be less expensive
than in monarchy. Leaving out the
expenditures to maintain a great stand-
ing army, our government is the most
expensive in the world, because it is
most extensive in all its phases. We
have the national, the State, the county,
the municipal, and in some of the

States, the township government, and
which act in different spheres and to an
extent independently of each other.
The idea is that concentration is a
danger, and to avoid it there must be
checks and balances ; otherwise
despotism will follow. To carry out
this American theory, it is necessary
that the system should be complex,
that officials should be numerous,
and taxation comparatively oner-
ous. With all these loads upon
them, it is the more essential that
the people should be watchful of
the conduct of officials, that expendi-
tures may be kept within due bounds,
and especially that corruption should
be made odious. Unnecessary expendi-
tures must be avoided in every prac-
ticable way, not alone to lighten
burdens, but because extravagance
begets corruption.

To curtail the public expenses is but
to simplify and improve the machinery
of government. Public officials should
be amply compensated for their ser-
vices, and appropriations for public
improvements, for education and char-
ities should not be niggardly ; but not
a cent should be appropriated for which
the public do not get an equivalent in
benefits. If the people will but give
the same intelligent attention to public
as they do to their private business,
the government will speedily become
as perfect as human judgment can make
it. If they are neglectful they may
expect that the ruin which is often
visited upon a despotic prince will fall
upon the Republic.

The early philosophers reasoned
upon the theory that a self-governing
people would not be dishonest, and
would not permit dishonesty in matters
of government. They knew that men
are often guilty of practices that do
not square with morals in dealing with
each other, but that they would act
perfidiously against their own individ-
ual interests, they seem not to have

It was known by the later philoso-
phers that the Roman people were
hoodwinked and debauched by aspir-



ants to consular, tribunitial, and other
important offices through the exhibi-
tion of games, gladiatorial shows, and
the distribution of largesses, but gen-
eral intelligence of a high order did
not then prevail. If they could have
conceived a people like those of this
country, where there are schools and
churches in which the principles of
morality and responsibility to a single
and perfect Deity are taught, they
would have supposed that inattention
to public affairs and the prevalence of
official profligacy and corruption could
not exist.

Montesquieu knew there had been
vile practices and corruption in repub-
lics, but he could not have imagined
how free and independent citizens
could become so debased as to buy or
sell votes, or commit any other act
that would prevent a fair expression of
the popular will. Traffic in votes and
all frauds in elections are the legitimate
out-growths of official corruption. No
honest man will pay money for an
office simply for the honor it confers,
for an office thus acquired is not an

honor. Whoever does it thinks he
can make the office profitable through
some illegitimate practice, and to get
his money back, he must do that
which is robbery of the public. The
men who sell their votes and are paid
to stuff ballot-boxes and falsify returns,
conjure up a sort of defense for them-
selves on the ground that the benefici-
aries in the end will receive a quid pro
quo for the money they expend.

If an end can be put to official cor-
ruption, profligacy and irregularity,
criminal and all improper election
methods will cease at once. Whether
this consummation shall be realized in
a free government depends upon the
action of the people themselves. To
bring it about they need but give un-
remitting attention to their public
duties. Failure in this on their part
has produced the debasement and
overthrow of every republic that has
disappeared from the map of the
world. Inattention and indifference
to public affairs are the dangers to
which all popular governments are
most exposed.



A moment the wild swallows, like a flight
Of withered gust-caught leaves, serenely high,
Toss in the wind-wrack up the muttering sky.
The leaves hang still. Above the weird twilight
The hurrying centers of the storm unite,
And spreading with vast trunk and rolling fringe,
Each wheeled upon its own tremendous hinge,
Tower darkening on ; and now from heaven's height,
With the long roar of elm trees swept and swayed,
And pelted waters, on the vanished plain
Plunges the blast. Behind the wild white flash
That splits abroad the pealing thunder-crash —
Over bleared fields and gardens disarrayed,
Column on column comes the drenching rain.




T has of late become
pretty generally
known among culti-
vated readers in this
country, that modern
Spain produces novels
and poetry ; and the
names of Valera, Val-
des, Galdos, Bazan, Alarcon and Zor-
rilla are found not only in our maga-
zines, but in college circulars and on
the lips of lettered professors. Yet
it is seldom or never that we know
'hese writers other than as the in-
tangible apparitions that offer them-
selves between the lines of a general
article or review, on Spain or Spanish
society. As men of flesh and blood,
possessing definite literary aims and
purposes, and as artists reflecting
an interesting national life and its
types of character, Spanish authors
to-day highly merit our attention, not
only in their poetry and in their criti-
cism, but still more in their novels.

Spanish poetry, indeed, though still
read and enjoyed by its enthusi-
astic votaries is decidedly on the
wane. Zorrilla, who is to the Spanish
the national poet that Tennyson or
Whittier has been to English-speak-
ing peoples, charms both by his
fervent loyalty and by his sincerity in
higher sentiment; but his best poems
were written some years ago. Most
Americans, however, can find fresh-
ness and attractiveness in the poet who
thus follows in Irving's footsteps:

" Alhambra, royal palace, glory of
the Moor! Flower most precious of
his chaplet ! Shame of those who now
abandon you! Habitation worthy of
kings, to-day without masters! Sul-
tana without slaves or servants! Why
is it men depart from you ? Why do
they leave you alone ?"

Zorrilla has also been exquisite in

throwing new charms over the conven-
tional subjects treated in love verses.
It is to be regretted a little that the
grace of his lines cannot be trans-
lated. One form of minor verse —
the Abanico, or Fan-sonnet, as it may
perhaps be called — has been developed
by him with considerable ingenuity
and variety; in this poetry he fre-
quently expresses the genuine, if
somewhat exaggerated, Spanish feel-
ing of the former days.

^Adios ! when life and breath fail
me, I will desire of the wind the
life of your fan;" and again, "To
me, poor or rich, suffices the air of
your fan."

The novel now flourishes in Spain
as it never has flourished since Cer-
vantes unveiled his genius alike for
beautiful romance, or for delicate
humor, in the delicious tales and the
immortal dis-
asters of "Don
Among con-
Spanish nov-
elists, though
some have en-
ed their crea-
tive vitality,
others are
about at their
zenith. Fur-
thermore, a

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 7 of 120)