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may be arrested. Since it is evidently
impossible to increase the responsibility of
the Speaker and of the chairmen of the
committees, the only alternative is tO'
reduce their power in some way, or to
transfer it to some other personage from
whom a more perfect responsibility can
be secured.

Many writers have noticed the evils of
the committee system of government, and
most of them have made suggestions for
the improvement of that system in some
way. An examination of these suggested



54



SEMINARY NOTES.



reforms will show the true nature and
extent of the reform needed.

The first suggestion is that the various
financial committees be united, so that
there shall be harmony in budgetary legis-
lation. Under one committee the revenue
and expenditure sides of the budget would
be much more likely to be carefully bal-
anced than under the present system of
several committees on matters of finance.
If this suggestion should be adopted it
Avould probably result in better business
methods in the conduct of the finances,
but it would not in any way affect the
main question of the principal reform
sought for, the question of effective respon-
sibility. It would ensure to the people a
more careful consideration of the relation
between taxation and expenditure, but it
would not ensure to the people anv real
control over either the extent or purpose
of such taxation and expenditure.

A second suggestion is, that the number
of the members of the House of Repre-
sentatives be diminished and that the com-
mittees be chosen entirely from the ranks
of the majority. It is urged in support of
this proposition that by reducing the num-
ber of representatives we increase the
number of voters necessary to elect a rep-
resentative, and so make him a national,
instead of a sectional representative. This
is undoubtedly true, but only to a limited
extent. It might be possible to gain an
improved responsibility in this way, but it
would not be possible to gain an effective
responsibility. The fewer the number of
representatives the greater influence will
any one representative's vote have in
■deciding national policy, and he will be
more inclined to view questions from a
national rather than from a sectional
standpoint. But this does not alter the
measure of his responsibility to his con-
stituents in any degree.

The second part of the suggestion, that
the committees be chosen entirely from
the majority, is intended to make the party
in power responsible for the propositions
of its committees, but it is not at all evi-



dent that it will increase the responsibility
of party beyond that which already exists.
In Congress to-day a majority of the
House have a majority of their own num-
ber on every important committee. The
Democrats are in the majority in the
House, and it was of course the duty of
Speaker Crisp to see that a majority on
each of the important committees were
Democrats. Otherwise the Democrats
would find it difficult to control legisla-
tion. The responsibility of the majority
is as effective under the present system as
it would be if none but the members of
the majority formed the committees. This
suggestion does not meet the requirements
of the case. It does not win for the peo-
ple the measure of responsibility from
government which they demand.

The two suggestions which have been
noted are in themselves improvements
upon the present condition of affairs in the
House of Representatives, and in so far
as they go would be steps in the right
direction, but if their intention is to com-
pletely remedy the existing evil of a lack
of responsibility, they fail in their pur-
pose. They do not appear to recognize
that the real trouble at the basis of the
committee system of government is lack
of responsibility.

A suggestion, which does recognize this
evil, and which attempts to remedy it, is
that the President shall be given the power
to appoint the chairmen and members of
the committees. The argument in favor
of this proposition is as follows: This
power could be given to the President
without any remarkable change in the
committee system of Congress, a system
which, from the immense amount of busi-
ness that it is necessary to transact in each
session, it seems impossible to do without.
It would simply be transferring the power
of appointment of committees from the
Speaker of the House to the President.
It Avould, it is true, greatly increase the
power of the executive over legislation,
but it would not be an apparent change of
the forms of government, and so would



SEAflNA R Y NO TES.



55



not rouse the opposition of the people.
It would cause the erroneous idea of the
voter, that by his ballot for President he
has a direct influence upon legislation, to
be no longer aii erroneous idea but an
actual fact.

The President, by the appointment of
members of committees whose ideas upon
financial legislation, or upon any other
legislation, agreed with his own ideas,
would become the one person upon whom
the responsibilit)- for such measures would
rest. And it is fitting that it should be
so, for the President is the only person of
importance in our form of government,
for whom all voters ha^'e the privilege of
casting their ballots. The President is the
only person from whom it is possible to
obtain an eltective responsibility, and
reform must therefore place power in the
hands of the President, unless the people
are prepared to change completely the
form of government.

Such is the argument in fa^•or of per-
mitting the President to appoint the com-
mittees of Congress. The suggestion is
interesting, in that it is the only one so far
which clearly recognizes that the principal
fault in our form of goverment is a lack of
responsibility, and which attempts to rem-
edy that fault. But the suggestion does
not seem to be practicable, for it does not
take into consideration the possibility of
the election of a President whose political
views do not coincide with those of a ma-
jority in the House. Our system of elec-
tions would render this possibility an
exceedingly dangerous one. The electoral
vote of a state for President is determined
by a count of all the votes cast in the
state, while the election of a representative
to Congress is determined by the vote cast
in a certain district of that state. In this
way it might easily happen, in fact has
frequently happened, that the President
would be of a different political faith from
a majority of the House, and in such a
condition of affairs the President could
not possibly appoint committees, the views
of whose chairmen agreed with his own.



and who would still possess the confidence
of the House. No committee, unless sup-
ported by a majority in the House, could
hope to do efficient work, and such a
committee would soon realize that it was
dependent upon the majority of the House,
whose votes were necessary in order to
carry out its propositions, rather thaa
upon the President, whose power to influ-
ence proposed legislation was limited to
the privilege of suggestion.

On the other hand, if the President rec-
ognized the impossibility of appointing
committees not in harmony with the ma-
jority, and should lay aside his own plans
for legislation and appoint the committees
from among the members of the opposi-
tion, he would thereby make of no effect
the result of the presidential election.
That election was supposed by the voters
to have decided the policy of the govern-
ment, but such action on the part of the
President would be a casting of a responsi-
bilit}- upon the House, which it is impos-
sible to demand from that body because
of the form of the government, and the
presidential election would be of no more
actual importance than it is at the present
time. The suggestion would be practica-
ble only when the President and the
House were in harmony. At any other
time it could only result in continual dis-
putes between the executive and Congress.

Of the suggested reforms which have
been noted, the first and second are lim-
ited in their action and cannot truly be
called reforms, for they do not accomplish
the end sought for. They may, perhaps,
be valuable improvements upon the exist-
ing forms, but they do not provide that
union between responsibility and power
which is demanded in this instance. The
third suggestion does attempt to do this,
but fails because of the different methods
of electing President and representatives.
It is an attempt to transfer power from
Congress to the President, and such a step
would in itself be a complete change from
the natural constitutional development of
the United States. There can be no doubt



56



SEMINARY NOTES.



of the fact that Congress has become the
supreme power in our government, and
the logical tendency of reform would be
to 'make that body responsible which has
the actual power, and not to place power
where there is but a nominal responsibil-
ity. But how can this responsibility be
■secured from Congress, or rather, from
the House of Representatives?

The attempt has been made in this arti-
cle to state, perhaps rather too forciblv,



the arguments against the committee sys-
tem of Congress in the control of financial
matters. Criticism has also been made
of proposed reforms of the system. In a
later number of the Notes an article will
appear upon what seems to be a steadily
advancing tendency upon the part of the
House of Representatives toward greater
responsibility, and a suggestion of still
another change by which really effective
responsibility could be secured.

E. D. Ad.\iMS.



IS OUR CIVILIZATION CHRISTIAN ?



(Pp„per read before the Historical Seminary, Dee. 3. 18iJ2.)

W" PRESUME most of you have seen (you will lind the account in Luke's Gos- '

c4) the story of the tramp wdio appealed pel, 14:12-14): "When thou makest a

to somebody with the statement, "Say, dinner or a supper call not thy friends nor

Mister, won't you please give me a drink, thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen nor thy

I'm so hungry I don't know where I'm rich neighbors lest they also bid thee

going to sleep to-night I" again and a recompense be made thee.

It was very much like the small boy But when thou makest a feast call the
who went -nto a grocery store and said, poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.
''Say, Mr. Storekeeper, won't you let me And thou shalt be blessed: for they can-
have half an empty barrel full of flour to not recompense thee; for thou shalt be
make a hen coop for my dog?" recompensed at the resurrection of the

There seems to be no doubt that there just."
is a great clamor in these days for very Now let us apply this to the every day
many things, but the expression of that life of civilized society. How many fam-
want is so confused that it very often lacks ilies in Lawrence during the vear of our
the stamp of sincerity and actual need. Lord 1892 have made a dinner or a feast
It is with a truly sincere and almost anx- in their comfortable homes and invited
ious attempt to place some needs of our in the poor, the maimed, the lame or the
■civilization in a clear and simple light, blind? How many families do you sup-
that the present paper has been prepared. pose have made one such dinner to the
The title of the paper is bigger than its persons described in Topeka? Take up
contents; but it has been the writer's hope any Sunday Capital through the year and
that after debate might expand the entire you will read in the society columns how
subject far beyond the limits of this par- Mrs. Jones entertained her friends, the
ticular presentation. Mrs. Robinson, Smith, Thompkins, etc.,

Is our civilization Christian? I propose etc., etc. And in the next number of the

to make answer by bringing our civiliza- Sunday pajier it will be Mrs. Robinson



tion to the test, by seeing how far it can
stand the test demanded by Christ him-
self. We will consider three tests: — {a) So-
cial. {/>) 'Political. {c) Religious.



who has invited Mrs. Jones, Smith,
Thompkins, etc., etc. ^Vhy, we all know
that if Mrs. Jones should get up a good
big dinner and invite in. sav the inmates



I. The Social Test. Christ was once of Ingleside, or the children of the
invited out to dinner at the house of a Orphan's Home, it would create a society
civilized man and while there, He said sensation, the event would be so entirely



SEMINARY NOTES.



57



unheard of. And if Mrs. Jones should
make a practice of doing such things, say
half a dozen times a year, her name would
soon disappear from the roll of society
people, Avho believe in inviting only those
people to dinner who are able to return
the compliment. But let us come out of
the awful circle of society and see how it
is in the homes of civilized people who do
not call themselves society people. Look
into the home of almost any church mem-
ber in America. You will find pleasant
social gatherings between relatives and
friends. Scores of times during the year
relatives and friends have feasted together.
Members of the same church have invited
their congenial acquaintances to dine with
them and the compliment has been
returned, and over the coffee and dessert
the church work has been discussed and
nobody has been harmed by wine drinking
or gambling. Yet if you were to try to
find a Christian home where the poor
neighbor, or the unfortunate, or the one
who could not make a feast has been
invited into the home, I believe you Avould
have to search a long time before you
could find such a home. The fact is,
society almost universally, and the Chris-
tian home with a few exceptions, closes
its doors pretty carefully to all but its own
kind of people. I am trying to make this
point: Civilization in this country has
been quite generous in providing homes
for the poor, the maimed, the halt, and
the blind. But it has said in unmistakable
terms to these outcasts, "You must not
expect to come into our homes; you are
too poor, and dirty, and repulsive, don't
you know?" I do not know of a civilized
home in America where the unfortunate
are made welcome in the manner that
Christ described and plainly meant. I
have heard of such homes but I never
saw one. And I am very sure I know of
hundreds of civilized homes where the
social life is a continual interchange of
civilities based upon a similarity in posi-
tions of wealth or family between the par-
ties that entertain one another.



I am aware that the common answer
made to this failure to obey Christ's com-
mand is that the conditions have changed
between His civilization and ours and that
the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the
blind would not accept the invitation to
dine at our houses if we gave it. But in
reply to the first objection it is enough to
say that however much the conditions of
society have changed since Christ's time,
there has been no change in human nature
and no change in the eternal relations
which exist between man and man. And
in reply to the second objection it is
enough to say that if the poor, the maimed,
the lame, and the blind would not accept
our invitation or would feel embarrassed
and out of place if they did; still that does
not make obsolete the command of Christ,
and in any case we might seriously con-
sider whether or not the gap between so-
called classes of society has not been
formed by the very persons who have
homes refusing to share the comfort and
plenty of them with those persons who
have none.

x-^nd this statement of Christ means
more than simply a command to feed
some hungry people once in a while. I
believe it means making the civilized home
the center of humanizing and civilizing
efforts. More and more the homes of the
rich and educated are becoming the places
of interchange between people of means
and education. It is the same selfish, ex-
clusive idea which in many churches has
planted mission schools at a distance.
The wealthy, aristocratic congregation
goes to its own elegant edifice to worship
and takes up a collection to help run a
mission school. It is quite willing to do
that. It doesn't have to come in contact
with the disagreeable sights and smells of
poverty and distress. So the home in
America is quite willing to entertain its
own kind intellectually or physically, but
to throw its doors open to the needs of
humanity is a different thing. Is it any
wonder, when once in a rare while some
refined home ventures to invite into it^



58



SEMINARY NOTES.



comfortable circle the poor and lame,
there is awkwardness and lack of congenial
feeling, and suspicion of patronage, and a
giving up of such practical Christianity in
disgust at its results? And yet it seems
very plain that Christ taught the necessity
on the part of civilization, of personal
individual contact with all sorts and con-
ditions of men. It is not enough that we
establish Refuges, and Homes, and Asy-
lums, and Retreats, for the poor, the
maimed, the lame, the blind. Into our
own homes we must invite them and soci-
ety will be called to account for the terri-
ble waste of time and means spent in
entertaining in order to be entertained.
It may be civilization, but it is not Chris-
tianity.

I think I may be allowed at this point
to mention another thing which seems to
me to mark our civilization as not simply
nonchristian but unchristian. And that
is, the vast quantity of time, money and
energy given to pleasures compared with
the time, money and energy given to
humanity. I am not one of those who,
with Puritanical sourness of visage and
rasping harshness of voice, declaim against
innocent amusements and harmless recrea-
tions. I have never preached against card
playing, or dancing, or theaters, as sinful
in themselves. But civilized society, as
it is commonly understood, has found its
greatest energies spent in four directions:
Entertaining those who will give again,
playing cards, dancing, and attending the
play. These four forms of amusement,
recreation or pleasure, are the forms most
frequently found in our. civilization. And
more time, money and energy are given
to these four things tVian to any other one
or even two. Now, as the world is at
present, I do seriously believe all this ex-
penditure of time in civilized life is Avaste-
ful and, in some instances, wicked. This
is an age that calls for heroes, and lo! the
dancing master arises. This is a century
that cries aloud through a suffering human-
ity, and society organizes its card parties.
These things are not wrong in themselves.



No more is playing the fiddle, as has been
said. But it is sheer cruelty to play it
while Rome is burning. And the amuse-
ments of a race belong very largely to its
childhood. A civilized man ought to drop
his playthings when the call shall come to
him to pick up his weapons.

I don't know how many voung men I
am hitting now, but I do want to utter my
most tremendous protest against the use-
less amusements of society drawing rooms
all over the world- My blood boils and
my cheek burns with shame when I reflect
that in my own city every week the people
who live in the finest houses, and dine
most luxuriously, and belong to what is
called the best society, spend in costly
card parties and dinners and dances,
enough money to maintain for a year a
home for street waifs, and just such an
organization cannot get from the civilized
community enough money in six months
to provide for the actual starving needs of
nearly fifty homeless boys and girls who
drift into and through Topeka every win-
ter month. These figures were given me
by the chief -of police, who has in public
again and again called attention to the
need of just such an institution as was
started. And yet the superintendent of
that institution told me a month ago that
he feared the work would have to be aban-
doned, owing to the inability to get thirty
dollars a month to pay all the running
expenses. While more than ,8300 a month
is spent by the good people of Topeka in
entertaining the very people who, of all
others, don't need to be entertained, be-
cause they have plenty to eat at home. I
don't want to have you think that I have
come to Lawrence to say all this for fear
of my own folks. I have said the same
things at home and I do not see as it has
revolutionized society, either. There is
an average of one new society club a week
organized in Topeka all the year around,
and the object of every one of these clubs
is to do just what Christ told his disciples
not to do — spend time and money enter-
taining those who will return the entertain-



SEMINARY NOTES.



59



ment in kind. I therefore indict civilized
society as not only non-christian but un-
christian. For the same conditions pre-
vail all over civilized America and Europe
as prevail here.

Much more might be said, if we had
time, concerning the aspect of the home"
life in civilization. That' it is far from
Christian in many ways we may seriously
question. There is scarcely a civilized
home in Topeka, consisting of father,
mother, and grown up boys and girls,
where you can find the family all together
one night in a week. In order to keep a
group of boys and girls at home, some-
thing extraordinary must be done in the
way of entertainment. The common
homely pleasures of home will not do
at all. I would venture the assertion,
although I have no absolute statistics to
back it up, that j^ou may pick out a hun-
dred civilized homes in any part of Tope-
ka you may choose, and then select any
night in the week you wish, and call at all
those homes and you will not find a whole
family together, all the members of it, in
live homes out of the hundred. Society
has absorbed the homes, more's the pity!
And it is not Chrisi^ian in its adherence to
the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is non-
christian in its expenditure of time, money
and energy.

IL Let us .look at the Political Test.
Christ spoke very plainly and unmistaka-
bly on the political question. The one
great aim of human government is the
righteousness, prosperity, peace and hap-
piness of all the people. Granted that
that is a fair purpose for a government to
have for existing, Christ spoke directly to
the point. He said: "Seek ye first the
kingdom of God and His righteousness
and all these things shall be added unto
you."

Let us look at the facts in the case as
they actually are in this country: Will
any man dare say that our civilization
politically has been trying to obey, even
in a slight degree, the command of Christ?
I take the ground (I always have taken it)



that Christ was the greatest statesman the
world ever saw. He looked farther into
the causes of poverty, crime, discontent,
anarchy and inequality than any politician
that ever lived. And He laid it down as
an eternal principle in government that if
people would seek God first, righteous-
ness first, all the other things, the material,
money, cash, property, and power, would
inevitably follow. But our civilization
has turned this principle upside down. In
the recent campaign the one great thing
hoisted into prominence was the tariff, a
question of commercial expediency. And
men's votes were sought for and their pas-
sions or prejudices aroused by arguments
or eloquence directed to the pocket book.
The prosperity of the country from a
money point of view was the one great
subject that engrossed men. Hardly a
word was said during the whole campaign
about the need of righteousness as the first
thing. As one thoughtful man said after
listening for three hours to brilliant politi-
cal speeches in Faneuil Hall, Boston,
"Not a word was dropped by a single
speaker which recognized the existence of
a soul in this Republic." In the letters of
acceptance written by the candidates of
the largest parties for the position of Head
Executive of this nation, not one syllable
was breathed to indicate that the first duty
of this country was to seek the kingdom
of God. The entire contents of those let-
ters, with the exception of a few para-
graphs, discussed a question of commer-
cial expediency and defended a particular
policy on the ground that moneyed pros-
perity would be the result if that policy
were followed out. Not one word that
recognized the greatest thing in the world
for a nation, not one hint that Jesus
Christ's command ought to be obeyed
first. This may be political wisdom but I
contend it is not Christian. For if Christ
were President of the United States He
would put individual righteousness before
the tariff in the order of importance. He



Online LibraryKansas. UniversitySeminary notes published by the Seminary of historical and political science → online text (page 43 of 62)