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work. The night after his lecture, the well-known
journalist, Mr. Dana, in the same hall, repudiated
his doctrine, and declared that the facts of America
and Europe contradicted his theory ; that in Eng-
land and France there was little or no political
progress, that in democratic institutions and the
principle of equality were the salvation of the
human race ; while material triumphs by man
over nature contained the condition of progress,
a work independent of poets and essayists like
Mr. Arnold. There can be no doubt that Mr.
Dana truly interprets the feeling of his countrymen,
who are satisfied with themselves and do not care
to be improved or instructed by any teacher, how-
ever illustrious. Mr. Matthew Arnold, piloted by
Mr. D'Oyley Carte, and inaudibly lecturing to
New York society, too painfully recalls Samson
grinding corn for the Philistines in Gaza.

If the future of America were of little importance
to humanity, the inquiry as to whether its in-
herited or acquired sweetness and light satisfied
the severe demands of Mr. Matthew Arnold would
have no more interest than the disputes of mediaeval


casuistry. But the destiny of this great country
and this brave and energetic race is of supreme
importance to the world, and especially to
England. Before children now born shall have
grown grey there will be but three Great Powers
in the civilised world : the Greater Britain, Russia,
and the United States. France, Germany, and
Austria may still be prosperous and maintain
vast standing armies as to-day ; but to the Anglo-
Saxon and the Slav races will have fallen
the dominion of the world. We have thus a
direct interest in ascertaining the direction in
which American civilisation tends, and the force
and sweep of the currents which reach our shores
from the western side of the Atlantic. Of what
temper is this strange creation, whose origin was
indeed due to England, but over whose growth
she has had no control ? Is it a monster, like that
wrought by Frankenstein, eager to confuse and
destroy; or is it but a new avatar of the Goddess of
Liberty, who has softly lit, dove-like, with white
shining wings, on the western shore ? The more
urgent of these questions will best be answered
when we later consider the tendency of the political
institutions of the United States. Here I would
only touch on those lighter subjects, culture,
literature, and art, which are suggested by Mr.


Matthew Arnold's visit to America, and which
have an influence only second to political institu-
tions on the mental and moral growth of a people.
Culture is essentially aristocratic in the highest and
unconventional sense of the term, and flourishes
best among a class whose inherited wealth
and leisure permit them to find their interest in
intellectual pursuits rather than in money-making,
which is the most absorbing as it is the most
demoralising of occupations. Art is, in a great
measure, dependent on patronage ; and, if the art
is to be worthy, the patronage must not be of the
uneducated multitude, but of the instructed and
cultivated, who are everywhere few in number
but who will be found most rarely in democracies.
The Bonanza king of San Francisco, who is re-
ported to have successfully sued a railway company
for having delivered to him a cast of the Venus
of the Louvre without the arms, which he insisted
should have accompanied the goddess, may, under
instructed direction, stock museums with foreign
works of art, but cannot aid the development of
native talent. The political bias of republics to
equality; the popular dislike of inherited rank and
wealth ; the redistribution of acquired property,
all react unfavourably on culture, and discourage
the growth of the leisured and refined class in


whose existence is the best hope for the creation
and the appreciation of works of art It cannot
be denied that there have been times and places
in which there seemed to exist a phenomena!
love of art among the people generally, as in
Athens and Florence, which were republics in
name though aristocratic in spirit ; but although
the popular taste was refined in these cities, yet
the community affected was small, and had been
educated to a high sense of beauty by the
enlightened munificence of wealthy or noble
families. The natural capacity of European races
for artistic representation of beauty differs, not
only in degree, but in kind ; and it is not likely
that Anglo-Saxons will ever, in music, painting,
or sculpture, reach the standard of Greece or
Italy, though they have no superiors in literary
achievement. It might have been supposed that
the free air of a republic would be favourable to
every class of intellectual effort ; and that its
citizens would easily surpass those countries
where knowledge is held in chains, or where
authority, fashion, and prescription restrict on
every side the movements of genius. But this
assumption would not be supported by history,
which shows that in England and France, the
most active intellectual periods, richest in works


of the highest imagination and power, were those
when despotism was the rule of government, and
reverence to authority was most conspicuous in
the people. The truth seems to be, although
the question is deserving of more attention than
has yet been paid to it, that the atmosphere of
a republic is unfavourable to art. The lamp of
artistic truth burns with a feeble flame ; and
mediocrity is allowed to take the highest place.
The general level is so unbroken that it is
difficult for Genius to find any elevation from which
to take its flight. The absence of height to train
the mental eye, injures the sense of proportion, and
permits an exaggerated estimate of artistic
excellence. If a careful and impartial review of
the intellectual productions of the United States
since their foundation, or during the last hundred
years, be made, it will be found that, in no de-
partment of art, has any work, drama, novel, poem,
painting, or musical composition been produced
which could justly be placed in the first class. In
science, America has been more distinguished, as
might have been expected from a practical people
devoted to industrial pursuits. But the absolute
dearth of all work of the highest artistic value is
most striking. In literature, there are many names
justly held in honour and some authors whose


works have won a wide reputation ; essayists and
historians as Irving, Emerson, Bancroft, Prescott,
and Motley : poets like Bryant, Longfellow,
Whittier, and Lowell : and novelists like Cooper,
Holmes, Hawthorne, and Howells. Yet, although
some of these writers have attained that mastery
over style which Matthew Arnold seems to con-
sider the chief sign of literary power, placing men
like Addison, La Bruyere, Cicero, and Voltaire, in
the front rank of letters, no American has,
so far, shown himself possessed of constructive or
imaginative power in any high degree. The
stormy history of the young Republic, and the
natural beauties of a new Continent have inspired no
national poem ; nor indeed any poetry which can be
ranked as of the highest order. Twenty years ago,
in England, the poetry best known and most
delighted in, after Tennyson, by the majority of
readers was that of Longfellow, and its popularity
was well deserved, for its simple charm, and pure,
lofty spirit appeal directly to the heart. But when
compared with his English contemporaries
Tennyson and Browning, it is at once seen
within what narrow limits the genius of Longfellow
is confined. In dramatic work, which is the
highest and most imaginative expression of
literary genius, America has done nothing whatever ;


though it must not be forgotten that England,
during the present century, has been almost as
barren of high dramatic ability. Even in the
dramatic representations of the stage, American
artists appear ordinarily devoid of that imaginative
power which enables the actor to so seize and em-
body the very life and individuality of a character
as to touch spectators with that swift and sudden
sympathy which makes of the dramatic art the very
mirror of nature. Booth, and to a less degree,
Jefferson, may be held to possess something of
this power, but it is altogether absent from the work
of most American actors, as might be seen this
season in London, where Mary Anderson and
Lawrence Barrett have drawn large houses : one, as
a pretty and picturesque woman, the other as an
accomplished and well-trained artist, without pos-
sessing the power of stirring the faintest emotion
in the spectators or conveying any impression
of reality in their several parts. That this defect
is less inherent in the actor than due to the
unsympathetic and uncongenial atmosphere in
which he has been trained, seems likely when it is
remembered that the majority of American actors
are English or Irish by origin, and indeed the
American stage is as rich in brogue as if it were
recruited direct from Cork. The low ebb of the
dramatic art in America is the more striking from


the wide and deep love for the theatre among the
people. In no country are there more numerous,
better arranged or more handsome theatres, or
more enthusiastic and quick-witted audiences.
Every point is at once appreciated by the house ;
and dramatic criticism is often both learned and

The chief hope for American literature and art
is, that as they outgrow English influences, they
may become more robust and national. No one
would wish to deprive our kinsmen across the
ocean of their common inheritance in the glories of
English literature, which forms the most powerful
of the ties which bind us in amity together. But
the overpowering splendour and richness of that
literature have had an enfeebling and crushing
effect upon American writers. Year by year,
English influence grows visibly less, and this is
a healthy sign. Even the extravagant estimate
placed in America on the work of some con-
temporary native authors, which, judged by our
standards, appears worthy of but small admiration,
shows the growth of an independent national spirit
without which no literature can be excellent or
durable. In other departments of art, where
English influence is necessarily weak, such as
painting and sculpture, Americans are advancing
to an honourable place ; though they do not draw


their inspiration from native air, but from Paris and
Rome. In music, their time has not yet come ;
though, as the best of so-called English music, now
taking a high place in the artistic history of the
century, is Irish in origin, and as there are more
Irishmen in America than in Ireland itself, it may
be hoped that republican surroundings may not
forbid its successful cultivation there.

There can be no more potent means of increas-
ing and deepening popular culture than by the
introduction of art into the common ways of
domestic life ; employing taste and beauty to
dignify the most ordinary articles of furniture,
ornament, and dress. In this direction, free trade
has done much for England, and of late years the
standard of good taste in domestic life has greatly
risen. But, in America, the protective tariff has
prevented the general use of foreign manufactures
with the consequence that most of the work is crude
and inartistic. Whether a love of beauty has, as yet,
taken much possession of the English people may
be doubted ; but improvement is everywhere visible,
and comfort and good taste are becoming, every
year, more common in the homes of the English
artisan. I will conclude this chapter with an
extract from the letter of the American cor-
respondent of the Pittsburg Dispatch, who had been
sent to England to examine into the question of



wages and labour, and which from such a source is
especially interesting. I would particularly com-
mend it to the attention of English working men,
who are disposed to think their own class is more
favourably situated in the States than in England.
It deals with a subject by no means foreign to
"sweetness and light," for wholesome and well-
ordered homes are the soil from which true culture
must spring.

" A walk from Wolverhampton, with its 100,000 inhabitants,
to Birmingham, with its 400,000, is through a succession of
villages, which form an almost continuous town, through a
forest of chimneys which send forth pillars of cloud which
obscure the sun by day, and pillars of fire which outshine
the moon at night. The vast bulk of the smoke is outside of
Birmingham, so that it is less beclouded than one would antici-
pate from its reputation. It is not by any means so enshrouded
as the ' Birmingham of America ; ' but its smoke and soot are
not hemmed in by high hills, but are constantly dispersed by
the breezes from the Channel and the Welsh mountains. Yet
in this field are manufactured not only incomputable quantities
of raw iron and large machinery, but thousands of kinds of
small articles in immense bulk, guns, swords, all kinds of
brass and ormolu articles, jewellery, presses, pins, buttons,
bicycles, needles, fish-hooks, money, not only for the Home
Government, but for a dozen other governments, and innumer-
able other things which one always knew were made some-
where but never knew the place.

" And now, let me say briefly, and once for all, that a carefr.l
inspection of the localities where working people most do
congregate in this wonderful world of manufactures, has proved
to me, as it will prove to any one taking similar pains, that
here, where one expects to find ' pauper labour,' by comparison
with America there is a condition of comfort in habitation,


clothing, and food, which cannot be excelled in any American
manufacturing locality. This may be treason, but if it is, my
protectionist friends are at liberty to make the most of it. I do
not assert that the condition of these workmen is what it ought
to be. I only assert that if it be worse than that of American
workmen, then the difference is concealed with wonderful
success. I am not advancing by any means the opinion that
it is time to apply the theory of free-trade to America, but
merely reiterating what I have often said and always believed,
that the assertion of republican politicians that protection was
in the interest of the working-man was buncombe, for if it
was of any benefit at all the working-man got none of it, but
the capitalist all. If I was not altogether certain of my
premises then, I am now. I will agree to exhibit better houses
for working people, with just as ample food and comfortable
clothing, and as many bank depositors in this Birmingham
district, according to ratio of population, as can be found
in any manufacturing district of America. It would make
the most prejudiced and most loyal Pittsburger ashamed of
his own city, to note here the actual superiority in comfort
and cleanliness of the streets and houses where live the
common working classes. Courts, alleys, and domiciles are
clean, and lack the foul odors which are smelled everywhere
on the back streets and alleys of Pittsburg. I searched in
vain for a plague spot. I asked for the localities where there
were the most poor, and went there ; I propounded all sorts
of impudent questions to the inhabitants ; I penetrated to the
obscurest courts and alleys, making inquiries for imaginary
persons my excuse, and my conclusion was that, so long as
we must have a poor class a class which must struggle hard
for bare necessities it would be well to have them live as
they do here, if possible. Everything, too, speaks of good
government. Hell-holes, such as exist in some parts of
Pittsburg, seem to be unknown here. The gin-mills and tap-
rooms are compelled to close promptly at the hour fixed by
law. To judge from -the police statistics, crime is here reduced
to a minimum.'

H 2



SOME two years ago a political satire was
published in New York under the title of Solid for
Mulhooly^- which did not receive from English
politicians the attention which it undoubtedly
deserved. It was not to be seen on the club tables
in Pall Mall, nor was it in demand at Mudie's, and
is now, I understand, out of print. Nevertheless,
its interest is so great, and the conclusions which
seem naturally to follow its story pierce the soul
and marrow of modern English politics with so
true and acute a rapier-point, that representative
Radicals like Mr. Chamberlain, or disguised
Radicals, as is Lord Randolph Churchill, might
well republish the work for gratuitous distribution
in the still unenlightened and unregenerate con-
stituencies. Solid for Mulhooly purported to be a

1 By Rufus E. Shapley, of Philadelphia.


new and novel satire on the Boss system in
American politics, in which the mysterious
methods of the leaders, the Ring and the Boss,
were laid bare ; and although, for the American
public,- which the chief living exponent of the
science of political corruption asserts to have
greater patience and longer ears than any other
animal in the New World, there could be little
that was novel in the revelations, there is much
which is, fortunately, both new and useful for

It cannot be expected that the arid wilderness of
American politics should ever become a fair and
pleasant garden in which English students may
wander with delight and contentment. The sub-
ject is strange and distasteful, and from most points
of view unprofitable, and Americans themselves
turn from it with disgust. If but few educated
Englishmen could explain the differences in dogma
between the Republican and Democratic parties,
an average American could do little more, seeing
that to the eyes of impartial observers the only
conflict between political parties is as to which
should obtain the larger proportion of the spoils of
victory the fat offices given to unscrupulous
wirepullers ; judgeships, the reward of the prostitu-
tion of justice; and contracts by which the people


pay three dollars for every one which is expended
on its behalf.

There is, however, one light in which American
politics have for Englishmen an engrossing interest,
namely, the effect which democratic principles,
carried to their extreme logical conclusions, have
had upon a race identical in many particulars with
the English from which it has sprung. Has this
effect been such as to encourage us to apply these
principles at home ? Has the result been a nobler
view of the obligations of citizenship ; a more
generous and unselfish use of wealth ; a higher and
purer municipal administration ; a more patriotic,
farsighted, and courageous foreign policy ? And
even should a favourable answer be returned to
these inquiries, there remains for Englishmen the
practical question whether, if undiluted democracy
be suited to the conditions of America, with its
vast homogeneous territory and a population still
scanty proportional to its area, secure from all
foreign attack and self-contained and self-sufficient
in its resources, we could reasonably expect that it
should be equally successful in England. For this
country is the centre and omphalos of a world-wide
empire, confronted in every land and on every sea
with enemies or rivals ; with an overgrown popula-
tion crowded into cities and dependent on others


for their very bread, and already enjoying a system
of government which is not only the envy of less
fortunate peoples, but which has had the force to
make us, and may still possess the inherent virtue
to maintain us, first among the nations of the
earth ?

A novel called Democracy, giving a clever and
amusing sketch of Washington society and the
political intrigues which have their origin and
development in the capital of the United States,
excited considerable interest in England a short
time ago. It was written with much spirit, and its
frankness was so condemnatory of American in-
stitutions that it was first supposed to be written
by an Englishman. But there are no more severe
critics of their political system than the Americans
themselves, and the authorship of Democracy is no
secret at Washington, where I have met more than
one of the persons whose presentment is supposed
to be given in the novel. Another book lately
published A Winter in Washington though of
doubtful taste, and below criticism as a work of
literary art, is fully as outspoken regarding the
low tone of morality which prevails in political
circles. But, Solid for Mulhooly, the work which
I have taken as the text for this article, is of a
different quality. Its style disdains those half-


lights and shadows and reticences which belong
to romance, the conventional glamour which
artistically obscures the naked truth. It carries
the American political system into the dissecting-
room, and pitilessly exposes the hidden seat of its
disease. While Democracy shows the ultimate
result of official corruption in the lobbies and
drawing-rooms of Washington, Solid for MulJwoly
discloses its genesis in the drinking-saloon and the
gutter. Democracy differs from it as a rainbow
differs from the mathematical formulae which
express the laws that determine its shape and
colour. A short sketch of the plot, showing
how a penniless adventurer became Member of
Congress, rich without toil, like the lilies, in-
fluential without character, and famous through
his very infamy, will not be unprofitable.

Michael Mulhooly was born in those conditions
which experience has shown to be eminently
favourable to prominence in American statesman-
ship a mud cabin among the bogs of County
Tyrone, which he shared with his parents, his
ten brothers and sisters, and the pig. Fortune
sent him early to America, where his struggles
and subsequent successes form the subject of the
story. Epitomised as was his history by the
journal of the Reform party, it read thus :


" A bogtrotter by birth ; a waif washed up on our shores ;
a scullion boy in a gin-mill frequented by thieves and
shoulder-hitters ; afterwards a bar-tender in and subsequently
the proprietor of this low groggery ; a repeater l before he
was of age ; a rounder, bruiser, and shoulder-hitter ; then
made an American citizen by fraud after a residence of but two
years ; a leader of a gang of repeaters before the ink on his
fraudulent naturalisation papers was dry ; then a corrupt and
perjured election officer ; then for years a corrupt and perjured
member of the Municipal Legislature, always to be hired or
bought by the highest bidder, and always an uneducated,
vulgar, flashily-dressed, obscene creature of the Ring which
made him what he is, and of which he is a worthy represen-
tative ; such, in brief, is the man who has been forced upon
this party by the most shameless frauds as its candidate for
the American Congress. This is filthy language, but it is the
only way in which to describe the filthy subject to which it
refers, as every man who reads it must admit that it is only
the simple truth.

" Is it possible that the American people are compelled to
scour the gutter, the gin-mill, and the brothel for a candidate
for Congress ? Is it possible that the Ring which has already
plundered the city for so many years, and which has so long
abused our patience with its arbitrary nominations of the
most unworthy people for the most honourable and responsible
offices, will be permitted to crown its infamies by sending to
Congress this creature who represents nothing decent and
nothing fit to be named to decent ears?"

1 Repeating is an amusing game much played at American
elections. The repeater, who, if possible, should be a professional
bully and prizefighter, represents himself to be and votes for some
member of the party opposed to that which employs him. When
the true voter appears at the poll he is assailed as a fraudulent person
who desires to register twice, and is kicked and beaten by the
repeater and his friends. This game causes much innocent


Though all this, with much more that the
indignant journal wrote, was not only true but
notorious, it had no effect upon the foregone
conclusion of the contest. The Boss, who held
in his hand the fifty thousand Irish Catholic

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Online LibraryLepel Henry GriffinThe great republic → online text (page 6 of 11)