Copyright
Lepel Henry Griffin.

The great republic online

. (page 1 of 11)
Online LibraryLepel Henry GriffinThe great republic → online text (page 1 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE LIBRARY

OF
THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA
LOS ANGELES




THE GREAT REPUBLIC



THE



GREAT REPUBLIC



BY

SIR LEPEL HENRY GRIFFIN, K.C.S.I.



" The Commonwealth of Athens is become a forest of beasts."

TIMON OF ATHENS.

" O Liberte" ! que de crimes on commet en ton nom."

JEANNE-MARIE ROLAND.



SECOND EDITION.



LONDON: CHAPMAN AND HALL,

LIMITED.

1884.



LONDON :

K. CLAY, SONS, AND TAYLOR,

BREAD STREET HILL, E.G.



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

A FEW days ago Mr. James Russell Lowell,
poet and diplomatist, was pleasantly discoursing
on the charms of Democracy to an English
audience. The slippery road to the abyss, over
which " Nulla vestigia retrorsum " is engraved, was
strewn with the graceful flowers of rhetoric, and
if all the statements of the official representative of
Democracy were correct, the English people might
wisely cease a hopeless struggle with the inevitable
and march joyfully into Mr. Lowell's promised
land. But no one knows better than the American
Minister that his syllogisms were fallacious, his
axioms paradoxical, and his conclusions contra-
dicted not only by the past history of Republi-
canism, but by the contemporary spectacle of the



1179525



vi PREFACE.

Presidential election, the scandals of which would
make Democracy herself blush, if that brazen
hussy had any modesty remaining.

Of all the products of Republicanism sent by
America to England, Mr. Lowell is at once the
most agreeable and the most strange. Like a
pearl in an oyster, we regard him with gratified
surprise. His culture, modesty, and gentle
breeding impart a delicate yet piquant charm to
his democratic optimism, and pleasantly flavour
his bad logic. But he is not the normal and
typical American politician. If he were so,
Englishmen might look on Democracy with more
favourable eyes. But Mr. Lowell is a poet whose
songs have justly won him such popular repute
that the Government of the States were compelled
to honour themselves by offering him a dignified
exile. He would be as bewildered in the back
slums of American politics as a country maiden in
St. Giles. Although a violet may have sprung
from a manure heap, we do not forget that the
normal growth is coarse grass, the rank dock, and
the stinging nettle.



PREFACE. vii

The etiquette of American diplomacy is not
to be measured by the Old World standard of
propriety. The republican simplicity which
pretends to see in a court dress a badge of
servitude, will possibly find nothing astonishing
in the American Minister to a Monarchical Govern-
ment lecturing the subjects of the Queen on the
advantages of Democracy. What would be the
American comment were the British Minister at
Washington to lecture the citizens of New York
on the divine right of kings ? With what pleasure
does Mr. Lowell think the Russian Government
would regard the British Ambassador addressing
the merchants of Moscow on the priceless blessing
of representative institutions ?

But Englishmen who prefer the rule of logic to
that of the mob will forgive Mr. Lowell for the
impropriety of his speech in consideration of the
service he has thereby rendered to the cause of
freedom. It is with a secret joy that they will
note the public demonstration of how poor and
paltry a thing is this same Democracy, since so
accomplished an advocate as Mr. Lowell can



viii PREFACE.

only weave for it so poor and sophistical an
apology.

In paraphrasing Napoleon's definition of the
French Revolution, as "/a carriere ouverte aux
talents" Mr. Lowell called " Democracy that form
of society, no matter what its political classi-
fication, in which every man had his chance and
knew it. If a man can climb from a coal pit
to the highest position for which he is fitted, he
can well afford to be indifferent to the form of
Government under which he lives." This may
be true of the fortunate collier, but appears less
admirable to those who deny the divine right
of colliers to rule ; and who, looking to the past
history of France and the United States, would
be disposed to define Democracy as that form of
Government in which a man can climb from a
coal pit to the highest position for which he
is most unfit. There can, however, be little doubt
that Mr. Lowell, with perhaps unconscious
sarcasm, has rightly indicated a cpal mine as the
most appropriate school for an American
politician. Thence emerging, secure in his



PREFACE. ix

livery of grime, he might defy the abuse and
garbage which are thrown at every prominent
candidate for popular favour, and which blacken
and stain the fairest reputation.

While Mr. Lowell was delivering his panegyric
on Democracy, the following extract will show
how a Republican journal speaks of the favoured
Republican candidate for the Presidentship, the
nominee of the party to which Mr. Lowell
himself belongs.

" If Elaine be elected, the Republican party is
stained beyond all cleansing. It will have put
its neck under the yoke of corruption, it will
have made alliance with dishonesty. It will have
sold its birthright of honour for fat offices and
the profits of a venally lax administration of
Government. It will be no longer a political
party, it will be no more than an organisation
for public plunder.

"All know the record of his indecent prostitu-
tion of the powers of office : all have seen the
hideous infamy to which he has resorted in his
attempt to crush the honest man whom honest



x PREFACE.

men hope to make President next November.
Shamelessly he has violated the sanctity of a
man's private life, shamelessly he has perverted
his party press to the lowest purposes of scandal-
mongering. Pitilessly he has dragged a woman's
shame before the public. He has not hesitated
to use weapons which would disgrace the foulest
cause. He has not hesitated to begin a warfare
which has filled the public prints with columns
of unparalleled indecency."

If journals favourable to the Republican party
use language such as this, it may be imagined
with what rancour and venom the papers of the
Opposition assail the Republican candidate. An
attentive study of the humours of the present
election in the States will abundantly confirm
all that has been written in this book regarding
the condition of American politics. It is useless
to assert that these scandals are but superficial
blemishes which will gradually disappear as
public morality becomes more austere. The
contention is not supported by experience ;
while the fact remains that men of honour and



PREFACE. xi

delicacy decline to enter the unsavoury stream
of American political life for the same reason
that they would object to bathe in the Thames
below London Bridge. The whole political
system being corrupt, Mr. Lowell's collier survives
as the fittest, for the reason that he is the worst.
In the present edition of The Great Republic,
I have omitted certain correspondence with Mr.
Grant White, and some expressions regarding
one of his books which seemed to impart a
personal flavour to criticism which is intended
to be altogether general and friendly to America.
I have also omitted a passage relating to Mr.
George Washington Childs of Philadelphia, as
I am informed by a friend in that city that
statements which I quoted from a local guide
book are incorrect, and I am unwilling to wound
the feelings of a gentleman who is a warm
friend of England, and to whose courtesy and
kindness many Englishmen are under deep

obligations.

LEPEL GRIFFIN.

October ibth, 1884.



PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

SOME portions of this little book have already
appeared in the Fortnightly Review, and are here
reproduced with the consent and, indeed, at the
suggestion of the editor. My criticisms of various
American characteristics attracted much attention
in the United States, and a mass of hostile com-
ment in the shape of verses and newspaper
articles. I would, then, at the threshold of this
book, hasten to assure Americans that it is written
in no unfriendly spirit to them. If what I have
said be distasteful to them, I am sorry for it,
for I have had no intention to wound. I am
writing for Englishmen and especially for English
Liberals, and wish to point out for their avoidance
those of the political methods of America which



PREFACE. xiii

strike me as thoroughly bad and corrupt. It is
necessary that Englishmen should understand, at
the present time, the demoralisation which may fall
upon a country which is so unwise as to surrender
political power into the hands of the uneducated
masses, and if, in pressing home this lesson, I
have been compelled to speak somewhat roughly
and frankly, the fault is less mine than that of
the institutions I criticise.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I.

PAGE

INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM I



CHAPTER II.
THE BIG THINGS OF AMERICA IS

CHAPTER III.

SCENERY AND CITIES 31

CHAPTER IV.

LIBERTY 4 1

CHAPTER V.

EQUALITY . ' 67



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER VI.

PAGE

SWEETNESS AND LIGHT 86



CHAPTER VII.

THE HARVEST OF DEMOCRACY IOO

CHAPTER VIII.
THE FOREIGN ELEMENT 126

CHAPTER IX.
JUSTICE 139

CHAPTER X.

THE COST OF DEMOCRACY 159

CHAPTER XI.

FOREIGN POLICY 173



THE GREAT REPUBLIC.

CHAPTER I.

INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM.

WHETHER the discovery of America by
Columbus has been of advantage or loss to the
so-called civilised peoples of the Old World would
form an interesting thesis for discussion. When we
remember the gentle and refined races of Mexico
and Peru trampled beneath the gross feet of Pizarro,
Cortes, and the Inquisition ; or regard the savage pic-
turesqueness of the Indian tribes that wandered over
the North American continent, cruel, brutal, and
happy, uninjured by and uninjuring Western culture,
we cannot but look with some doubt and hesitation
at America of to-day, the apotheosis of Philistinism,
the perplexity and despair of statesmen, the Mecca
to which turns every religious or social charlatan

D



2 THE GREAT REPUBLIC.

where the only god worshipped is Mammon, and
the highest education is the share list ; where
political life, which should be the breath of the
nostrils of every freeman, is shunned by an honest
man as the plague; where, to enrich jobbers and
monopolists and contractors, a nation has eman-
cipated its slaves and enslaved its freemen ; where
the people is gorged and drunk with materialism,
and where wealth has become a curse instead of
a blessing.

America is the country of disillusion and dis-
appointment, in politics, literature, culture, and art ;
in its scenery, its cities, and its people. With some
experience of every country in the civilised world,
I can think of none except Russia in which I would
not prefer to reside, in which life would not be
more worth living, less sordid and mean and
unlovely.

In order that this opinion may not appear harsh,
exaggerated, and unfriendly, it is necessary to say
a few words on the subject of international criticism.
There appears to exist an idea that the friendliness
and indeed the amalgamation, social and political,
of the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race
are so to be desired, that all mutual criticism of
politics or manners should be uniformly favourable,
even though the praise be undeserved. I will leave



INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM. 3

others to discuss whether there can be more in un-
candid criticism than loss of self-respect ; and only
inquire whether, if we are unable to say pleasant
things of America, it be not better to remain alto-
gether silent. I believe silence to be both harmful
and useless. In the first place, America is not an
inert mass, devoid of attractive power. It is, to
the last degree, energetic, dynamic, and aggressive,
while its attractive force is so felt within the orbit
of England that a large and increasing number of
politicians and publicists are looking to America
for the dawn of a new social and political millen-
nium, and are recommending American remedies
for all our national disorders. Each year the de-
mocratic tide rises higher and our institutions
become more Americanised ; while some English
statesmen are admittedly careless how high the
tide may rise, and what existing institutions it
may sweep away. It is as well that Englishmen
should understand what is the dream of
advanced New York Republicans as represented
by the World:

" Ca ira I Efrttsas les infames ! !

" The storm of revolution is looming and lowering over
Europe which will crush out and obliterate for ever the hydra-
headed monarchies and nobilities of the Old World. In
Russia the Nihilist is astir. In France the Communist is the
coming man. In Germany the Social Democrat will soon

B 2



4 THE GREAT REPUBLIC.

rise again in his millions as in the days of Ferdinand Lassalle.
In Italy the Internationalist is frequently heard from. In
Spain the marks of the Black Hand have been visible on
many an occasion. In Ireland the Fenian and Avenger
terrorise, and in England the Land League is growing. All
cry aloud for the blue blood of the monarch and the aristocrat.
They wish to see it pouring again on the scaffold. Will it be
by the guillotine that cut off the head of Louis XVI. ? Or
by the headsman's axe that decapitated Charles I. ? Or by
the dynamite that searched out the vitals of Alexander the
Second ? Or will it be by the hangman's noose around the
neck of the next British monarch ?

" No one can tell but that the coming English sans-culottes,
the descendants of Wamba the Fool and Gurth the Swine-
herd, will discover the necessary method and relentlessly em-
ploy it. They will make the nobles who fatten and luxuriate
in the castles and abbeys and on the lands stolen from the Saxon,
sacrilegiously robbed from the Catholic Church and kept from
the peasantry of the villages and the labourer of the towns
wish they had never been born. They will be the executioners
of the fate so justly merited by the aristocratic criminals of
the past and the present. The cry that theirs is blue blood
and that they are the privileged caste will not avail the men
and women of rank when the English Republic is born. They
will have to expiate their tyrannies, their murders, their lusts,
and their crimes in accordance with the law given on Sinai
amid the thunders of heaven : ' The sins of the fathers shall
be visited upon the children even unto the third and fourth
generations.'" 1

Even if such ravings as these are dismissed as
unworthy of notice, it is not the less certain that
the most amiable and intelligent Americans are

1 It is necessary to note that the New York World is edited by a
German.



INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM. 5

looking forward to a near future in which the
Republican lion, having digested the aristocratic
lamb, shall lie down in dignified repose with no one
to question his claim to be the first of created
beings in a renewed world, the secret of which he
pretends to be equality applied to all except
himself. For an illustration of this, it is sufficient
to refer to one of the latest and most pleasing
American books, entitled, An American Four-in-
Hand in Britain, by Mr. Andrew Carnegie, which
describes, with great vivacity, how a party of
simple and impressionable Republicans chartered
a coach at Brighton and were driven, to their
immense satisfaction, through England and Scot-
land. Throughout this book, which is by a
friendly hand, and treats British weaknesses
with kindly compassion, runs the strong stream
of belief in the triumph of Republicanism in
England, and its regeneration " under the purify-
ing influences of equality," which Mr. Carnegie
declares is the panacea of all disorders, even
a constitutional monarchy. If he would only
visit Boss Kelly, surrounded by the gang of
Irish thieves who rule and rob New York, and
explain to them that he was in every sense their
equal, I cannot but think that, during his
hurried exit from the presence of the municipal



6 THE GREAT REPUBLIC.

gods, he would modify his somewhat simple
political beliefs. 1

If, then, there be those, like myself, who believe
that no greater curse could befall England than for
her to borrow political methods, dogmas and in-
stitutions from America, there seems every reason
why such should explain the grounds, good or bad,
for their belief, with which American travel may
have furnished them. The good in American
institutions is of English origin and descent ; what
is bad is indigenous, and this she now desires to
teach us. But Britannia, who, since her daughter
has become independent and carried her affections
elsewhere, has escaped the dreary role of chaperone,
may surely refuse invitations to see Columbia dance,
in fancy dress, to the tune of Yankee Doodle, and
may plead her age and figure when asked to learn
the new step. There are doubtless in English
politics and society many evils and anomalies
privileges which cannot be defended, wrongs and
injustice and misery which must be redressed and
relieved ; but, nevertheless, the English constitu-
tion, with its ordered and balanced society from
the throne to the cottage, is the symbol and

1 Mr. Andrew Carnegie, though he plumes his republican
feathers with so much complacency, is, in reality, a Scotchman
who still remains a subject of the Queen.



INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM. 7

expression of liberty in the world. Republican
institutions have had a trial for a hundred years,
and, so far as outsiders can judge, their failure is
complete. France under a Republic has become a
by-word in Europe for weakness and truculcnce
abroad, and financial imbecility and corruption at
home ; while America, which boasts of equality
and freedom, does not understand that, with the
single exception of Russia, there is no country
where private right and public interests are more
systematically outraged than in the United States.
The ideal aristocracy, or government of the best,
has in America been degraded into an actual gov-
ernment of the worst, in which the educated, the
cultured, the honest, and even the wealthy, weigh
as nothing in the balance against the scum of
Europe which the Atlantic has washed up on
the shores of the New World.

International social criticism, which rests on a
basis altogether different from political, is very apt,
between England and America, to be prejudiced
and unjust. Both races are strangely provincial
for people who travel so much, and create
grievances out of mere differences in habits and
manners, while they are so near of kin as to
be acutely sensible of departures from their own
standard of taste or morals. English travellers are



8 THE GREAT REPUBLIC.

apt to expect too much ; and men who travel
uncomplainingly in Spain, where night is chiefly
distinguished from day by its change of annoyance,
or in Bulgaria, where the only procurable bath is
a stable bucket, complain bitterly at not finding
in the rude hostelries of the Western States of
America the conveniences and the cuisine of
Bignon or the Bristol. But, apart from unreason-
able claims, which, throughout life, make up so
large a part of our unhappiness, there exists a
fruitful source of irritation to Englishmen travel-
ling in America in the depreciatory attitude to all
things English that is taken by the vast majority
of Americans. It is a new and doubtless a whole-
some experience for Englishmen, for on the con-
tinent of Europe, however much we may be
disliked, we are regarded with a hostile respect and
consideration which are flattering to the national
vanity. Our habits and prejudices are indulged
and consulted. The splendid hotels of the Rhine,
of Switzerland and Italy were built for English
travellers and in deference to English tastes and
requirements, although of late years our American
cousins have shared with us the venal attention of
Continental landlords. But in America all this is
changed. English tourists are few in number, and
are lost in the vast society of travelling Americans.



INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM. 9

Their habits, when they differ from those of the
natives, are considered antiquated or objectionable ;
and every American usage or institution is held
up to admiration, not only as good in itself, but
as better than anything to be found in " the
old country." The stranger would be far more
disposed to accord an ungrudging admiration to
the many improvements and conveniences which
America has introduced into common life, if it
were not demanded so peremptorily with regard to
numerous matters on which there may be a reason-
able difference of opinion, or on which impartial
observers would give the preference to English
methods. But whether it be hotels or railway cars,
horses or carriage-building, banks or beautiful
women, oysters or engineering, the ordinary
American loudly asserts his superiority over
England, and treats an Englishman as an imbecile
creature to whom he was deigning to expound
the elementary principles of social and political
life. Mr. Washington Adams in England,
a novel by Mr. R. G. White, amusingly re-
viewed last October in the Saturday Review,
is as good an illustration as could be found
of this type of American critic who might
have been thought, from the internal evidence
of his book, to have never crossed the ocean,



io THE GREAT REPUBLIC.

discussing English life and manners. It is some
consolation to find that Mr. White does not
reserve his thunders for his English cousins
alone, and that to the September number of
The North American Review he has contributed
an article on " Class Distinctions in the United
States," which, for fierce and contemptuous abuse
of the mushroom millionaires whose evil example
is demoralising American society, exceeds any-
thing which a partially-informed Englishman could
fairly or with propriety write. I do not, however,
desire, by criticising American society further than
it influences political and national life, to lay
myself open to charges of bad taste or super-
ficiality ; and my friends in New York, Washington,
Philadelphia, and the West, whose kindness and
hospitality will always be remembered, would,
I am sure, be included by Mr. Matthew Arnold
in " the remnant " upon which he was inaudibly
eloquent in his first New York lecture the salt
which is to purify American society, the examples
of sweetness and light which are to illumine and
beautify the degenerate western world. But
whether writers like Mr. White misunderstand
and misrepresent English society, or whether we
are as black as we are painted, British equanimity
will probably remain unshaken. In either case



INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM. u

it is certain that the English are not popular in
the United States, although there is a far more
friendly feeling between the two nations than
existed some years ago. This is most evident
in the eastern towns, such as Boston and New
York, where the imitation of English manners
and amusements has become for the time the
fashion. Horse-racing has grown to large pro-
portions, fox-hunting, lawn-tennis, and cricket, are
making slow progress, and the New York dude
might almost compare, for fatuous imbecility, with
the London masher. So far and low have English
fashions penetrated, that Mr. Stokes, the affable
proprietor of the Hoffman House, keeps no waiters
in his employ who will not consent to shave their
moustaches and cut their whiskers a I'Anglaise.
But in the Central and Western States, with the
exception of Colorado, which is being largely
developed by English settlers and capital, there
is little love for England or English ways, and
criticism is almost uniformly unfriendly. As an
example of this may be mentioned the savage
abuse of Western journals, among which raged
an epidemic of discourtesy directed against some
members of Mr. Villard's North Pacific party for
a misapprehension, amply apologised for, which in
England, and affecting American guests, would



12 THE GREAT REPUBLIC.

have remained unnoticed. Americans will often
say that the sentiment of the country cannot fairly
be ascertained from newspapers ; but in a country
where the press has attained an unprecedented
development, and where newspapers are, to all
appearance, the only literature of the vast majority,
a foreigner must assume that they represent, with
some exactness, the popular opinion. There is
no reason why the English should be popular
in America. They are almost the most disagree-
able race extant, and are often unendurable to
each other ; nor is there any part of Europe,
except perhaps Hungary, where they are not more
disliked than in the United States. The opinion
expressed by the most original of living American


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryLepel Henry GriffinThe great republic → online text (page 1 of 11)