The Southern people cannot be justly blamed for their resolute resistance to negro domination. It was too much to expect that former masters should accept political inferiority to a race emancipated from slavery, but not emancipated from deplorable ignorance and debasement, and easily misled by unscrupulous whites. On the other hand, gratitude and prudence demanded, on the part of the North, that the negro should not only be a freeman, but also a citizen; that he should not only be liberated from slavery, but also protected against oppression. The negro, however ignorant, was true to the Union, and attached to the Republican party; the black soldiers had fought in the Union armies, and Abraham Lincoln himself had advised Governor Hahn, of Louisiana, in 1863, that "the very intelligent colored people, and especially those who fought gallantly in our ranks, should be admitted to the franchise," for "they would probably help in some trying time to come to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom."
Andrew Johnson, succeeding to the chair of Lincoln, and with his heart softened toward his native South, would have restored the whites to full control, with the negroes at their mercy. The Congress, however, intervened, and the ex-Confederate States were placed under military law, and only admitted to recognition as States upon conditions which gave the negro equal rights with his white fellow-citizens—and indeed superior rights to many of them, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States excluding from office all persons who, having taken an oath as public officers to support the Constitution afterward joined the Confederacy. For opposing these measures of Congress President Johnson was impeached, and escaped conviction by one vote.
* * *
The Southern whites continued to struggle for white supremacy. The conflict continued throughout Johnson's term as President, and even the severe military measures adopted under power from Congress by General Grant, only suppressed organized violence in its more rampant form. It was impossible to imprison a commonwealth or to place bayonets at every threshold, and while the negro might be upheld in his right of suffrage, Federal protection could not supply him with work and bread. The intellect and the property of the South were on the side of the whites, and the blacks began to find that their choice was between submission or extinction.
In the North, even among Republicans, a feeling grew that the ex-Confederates had suffered enough, while it was impossible for an honest man to have any other sentiment than contempt for the political vultures who had descended on the wasted South. This feeling gave strength to the Liberal Republican movement in 1872, and arrayed Democrats—and not a few of the old anti-slavery leaders—in support of Horace Greeley for President.
The insanity and death of Mr. Greeley cast a gloom over the election for victors as well as vanquished. Mr. Greeley's mind was weakened by domestic affliction, and by the desertion of Tribune readers, and when crushing defeat at the polls gave the coup-de-grace to his political prospects, his once vigorous intellect yielded under the strain. Like a dying gladiator, mortally wounded, but with courage unquenched, he seized once more the editorial blade with which he had dealt so many powerful blows in the past for justice and for truth; but nature was not equal to the task, and the weapon fell from his nerveless grasp. His last words were: "The country is gone; the Tribune is gone, and I am gone." General Grant attended the funeral of his gifted and hapless competitor, and the nation joined in honor and eulogy of the great editor whose heart was always true to humanity, and whose very failings leaned to virtue's side. Fortunately Mr. Greeley's irresponsible utterance was not prophetic either as to the country or the Tribune. Mr. Whitelaw Reid succeeded to the editorial chair, and has ably kept the Tribune in the front rank of American journals.
* * *
Mr. Greeley's last editorial expression pleaded with the victors in behalf of justice and fair dealing for the South. General Grant himself is said to have arrived at the conclusion before the close of his second term, that the Federal troops should be withdrawn from the Southern States, and sagacious Republicans discerned in the growth of Democratic sentiment both North and South a warning that the people were becoming tired of bayonet government ten years after Appomattox. The election of 1876, when the Democrats had a popular majority, and the decision between Rutherford B. Hayes, Republican, and Samuel J. Tilden, Democrat, depended on a single vote, emphasized the popular protest against military rule in time of peace, and when the Electoral Commission gave a verdict in favor of General Hayes, the new President speedily withdrew the National troops from the reconstructed States.
* * *
While the country witnessed deep agitation and difference of opinion regarding reconstruction in the South, there was no difference of public sentiment regarding the vigorous, far-sighted and thoroughly American policy of the government in dealing with foreign powers. One of the first steps of Secretary Seward after the close of the war was to demand in courteous language that the French should evacuate Mexico. Napoleon dared not challenge the United States by answering no. General Philip H. Sheridan was on the Rio Grande with fifty thousand men, anxious to cross over and fight; a million veterans were ready to obey the summons to battle, and Generals Grant and Sherman would willingly have followed in the footsteps of Scott and Taylor. The French troops were withdrawn. Maximilian, deceived as to the strength of his cause with the natives, refused to accompany Bazaine across the ocean, and the month of May, 1867, saw the usurping emperor shut up with a small force in Queretaro, surrounded by an army of forty thousand Mexican avengers.
In those final days of his life and reign the hapless Austrian prince exhibited a courage and nobility of character which showed that the blood of Maria Theresa was not degenerate in his veins. He faced death with more than reckless daring; he shared in all the privations of his faithful adherents, and he was preparing to cut his way out through the host of besiegers, at the head of his men, when treachery betrayed him to the enemy.
Miguel Lopez was the Benedict Arnold of Queretaro; personal immunity and two thousand gold ounces the price. Lopez held the key of Queretaro—the convent of La Cruz. Maximilian had been his generous patron and friend, and had appointed him chief of the imperial guard. Lopez discerned the approaching downfall of his sovereign, and resolved to save himself by delivering up that sovereign to the enemy. On the night of May 14, the Liberal troops were admitted to La Cruz, and Queretaro was at the mercy of the besiegers.
Maximilian made a last stand on the "Hill of the Bells." Successful resistance was impossible. The bullet he prayed for did not come, and the emperor and his officers were prisoners. In vain the Princess Salm-Salm, representing one of the proudest families of Europe, bent her knees before the Indian President of Mexico, and pleaded for the life of Maximilian. "I am grieved, madam," said Juarez, "to see you thus on your knees before me; but if all the kings and queens of Europe were in your place, I could not spare that life. It is not I who take it. It is the people and the law, and if I should not do their will, the people would take it, and mine also."
"Boys, aim well—aim at my heart"—was Maximilian's request to his executioners. "Oh man!" was his last cry as he fell, the victim of his own ambition, and of Louis Napoleon's perfidy. The volley which pierced his breast was the knell of the Bonaparte dynasty. Gravelotte was but little more than three years from Queretaro.
* * *
The acquisition of Russian America for the sum of $7,200,000 was a splendid stroke of statesmanship, and secured to the United States the control of the North Pacific coast of the continent, besides adding about 581,107 square miles to the territory of the Republic. Alaska has immense resources, and is already looking forward to a proud and prosperous future as the north star in the flag of our Union.
* * *
When the British Government proposed, in 1871, a joint commission to settle the Canadian fisheries dispute, Secretary of State Hamilton Fish replied that the settlement of the claims for depredations by Anglo-Confederate cruisers would be "essential to the restoration of cordial and amicable relations between the two governments." In the following February five high commissioners from each country met in Washington, and a treaty was agreed upon providing for arbitration upon the issues between the American Republic and Great Britain. These issues included the "Alabama Claims"—so-called because the Alabama was the most notorious and destructive of the Anglo-Confederate sea rovers—the question of the Northwest boundary, and the Canadian fisheries.
The Tribunal of Arbitration upon the "Alabama Claims" met at Geneva, Switzerland, December 15, 1871. Charles Francis Adams, American Minister to England during the war, was member of the Tribunal for the United States, and Lord Chief Justice Cockburn acted for Great Britain. Baron Itajuba, Brazilian Minister to France; Count Sclopis, an Italian statesman, and M. Jaques Staempfii, of Switzerland, were the other members of the illustrious and memorable court. Caleb Cushing, William M. Evarts and Morrison R. Waite, counsel for the United States, presented an indictment against England which should have made British statesmen shrink from the evidence of their unsuccessful conspiracy against the life of a friendly State. The course of Great Britain during the war was reviewed in language not less forcible and convincing because it was calm, dignified and restrained. A fortress of facts was presented impregnable to British reply, and highly creditable to the forethought and skill with which the American State Department had gathered the material for its case from the very beginning of the war. So strong and unanswerable was the proof against the Alabama that the British arbitrator voted in favor of the United States on the issue of British responsibility for that vessel.
The Tribunal awarded $15,500,000 in gold for the vessels and cargoes destroyed by the Alabama, with her tender; the Florida, with her three tenders, and the Shenandoah, or Sea King, during a part of her piratical career. England promptly paid the award, and learned for the third time in her history that the rights and interests of the American people were not to be trampled on with impunity. The United States, in fulfilment of an award made by a commission appointed under the Treaty of Washington paid $2,000,000 for damages incurred by British subjects during the war for the Union, the claims presented to the commission having amounted to $96,000,000. The differences between the United States and Great Britain on account of the rebellion were thus happily removed without the shedding of a drop of blood, and the two great nations of English origin gave to mankind an admirable example of peaceful arbitration as a substitute for the ordeal of battle.
* * *
The question of the Northwest boundary was also settled to the satisfaction of the United States, by the German emperor, William I., to whom it was referred as arbitrator. The treaty of 1846 left in doubt whether the boundary line included the island of San Juan and its group within American or British territory. American and British garrisons occupied the disputed island of San Juan. When the Emperor William decided in favor of the United States the British troops were withdrawn.
Less advantageous to the United States was the attempt made to settle the long dispute over the fisheries. The Treaty of Washington provided that American fishermen should be freely admitted to the Canadian fisheries, and that Canadians should be permitted to fish on the American coast as far south as the thirty-ninth parallel, and that there should be free trade in fish-oil and salt water fish, these provisions to be abrogated on two years' notice. Through a most unfortunate blunder on the part of our government a commission was constituted virtually British in its character, which awarded to Great Britain the sum of $5,500,000 for imaginary American benefits to be derived from reciprocity. This money was paid without any real equivalent.
The reciprocity arrangement was abrogated, under notice from our government, in 1885, and the old contention was renewed. As a result of Canadian outrage and intolerance a bill was passed by the American Congress, March 3, 1887, providing that the President, on being satisfied that American fishing masters or crews were treated in Canadian ports any less favorably than masters or crews of trading vessels belonging to the most favored nations could "in his discretion by proclamation to that effect deny vessels, their masters and crews, of the British dominions of North America, any entrance into the waters, ports or places of or within the United States." Eventually the Canadians assumed a more reasonable attitude, and American fishermen, on their part, learned to be independent of Canada, and to value the exclusive possession of their own markets more than Canadian fishing privileges.
* * *
Spain invited a conflict with the United States by the summary execution, in November, 1873, of 110 persons, including a number of American citizens, captured on the American steamship Virginius, while on their way to assist the Cuban patriots. President Grant acted with firmness and deliberation, refusing to be carried away by the popular demand for war, but resolute in his demand for redress on the part of Spain. The Spanish government surrendered the survivors and the Virginius, and made reparation satisfactory to the United States. When the American schooner Competitor was captured recently, on an errand to the Cuban insurgents, the Spaniards did not dare to repeat the tragedy of the Virginius.
* * *
The American Indians made their last hostile stand against white aggression June 25, 1876, when the Sioux, led by Sitting Bull, destroyed General Custer and three hundred cavalry under his command. The troops fought bravely, but the Indians were nerved to desperation by the presence of their women and children. Sitting Bull took refuge with his followers in British territory, but surrendered to United States authority in 1880, under promise of amnesty. He was treacherously killed in 1890, on suspicion of being concerned in fomenting trouble with the whites. The policy of the National Government toward the Indians has of late years been humane and liberal.
* * *
The extinction of imperialism in Brazil in 1889 effaced monarchy from the American continent, save as represented in the territories still subject to European States. Dom Pedro II., one of the most amiable and liberal of nineteenth century rulers, was driven into exile, and without an armed encounter, or the firing of a gun in anger, the empire of Brazil became the United States of Brazil. Unlike other emperors and kings who have been compelled to give up their American dominions, Dom Pedro's parting message to the land he had wisely governed was one of amity and peace. As the shores of his loved Brazil disappeared before his moistening eyes he released a dove to bear back his last adieu of loyal and fervent goodwill. He died in exile, his end doubtless hastened by pathetic longing to see once more the native land forever barred to him.
The path toward freedom in Brazil had not been strewn with flowers. Brazil had its martyrs as well as its heroes. It is a remarkable fact that nearly every revolution in France had its echo in Brazil, and undoubtedly French as well as American example had much to do with the deposition of Pedro II. It is a mistake to argue, as some European writers have argued, that the change from a monarchy to a republic in Brazil was nothing more than a successful military revolt. It was the culmination of more than a century of agitation in behalf of republican principles; it was the pure flame of a sacred hearth-fire, which had never been extinguished from the day when it caught the first feeble glow from the dying breath of Filipe dos Santos.
The Brazilians have given an admirable example to other South American republics in the separation of State from Church. While providing for the maintenance of ecclesiastics now dependent on the State for support, the Brazilian Constitution decrees not only entire liberty of worship, but absolute equality of all before the law, without regard to their religious creed. The absence of this equality is the chief blot on some South American States.
* * *
The resolute course of President Harrison in exacting indemnity and apology from Chile for insult to the American uniform and the murder and wounding of American sailors, tended greatly to promote the influence and prestige of the United States in South America, and the Spanish-American republics are learning to esteem the United States, instead of England, as the leading power of the New World. Brazil is grateful for American countenance and friendship in the defence of that youngest and greatest of South American republics against rebellion plotted in Europe in the interest of the Braganzas, while Venezuela depends upon the United States with justifiable confidence for the vindication of the Monroe Doctrine, and the restoration of territory seized and occupied by the British without any title save that of superior force. Cuba, in her heroic battle for freedom, is upheld by American public sentiment and the substantial sympathy of the American people, and Nicaragua is virtually under American protection. The American eagle, from its seat in the North, overshadows with guardian pinions the American continent.
* * *
In the case of Hawaii the American Republic seems likely to depart from its traditional policy of acquiring no territory beyond American bounds. The Hawaiian Islands were won from barbarism by the efforts and sacrifices of American missionaries and their descendants. A republic has been established there, and intelligent Hawaiians look hopefully forward to a common future with the United States. There is hardly a doubt that this hope will be fulfilled, and that the Eden of Southern seas will become an outpost of American civilization. With the two great English speaking nations of America and Australia confronting each other across the Pacific, that ocean is certain to be in the twentieth century the theatre of grand events, perhaps of future Actiums and Trafalgars. In Hawaii we will have a Malta worthy of such a mighty arena, and the flames of Kilauea will be a beacon fire of American liberty to the teeming millions of Asia.
* * *
The Behring Sea negotiations have from the first been discreditable to diplomacy at Washington. The attempt to prove that the fur-seals are domestic animals, and the property of the United States when a hundred miles out in the Pacific Ocean was a humiliating reflection on the intelligence of both parties to the dispute, and showed abject and degrading subserviency to the corporation controlling the seal monopoly. Added to this was the disgrace of forgery, detected, unfortunately, not at Washington, but in London, and indicating that, while Washington officials were doubtless innocent of complicity in the crime, the forger knew, or thought he knew, what was wanted. The end is that this country has to pay about $400,000 to England, while the seals are abandoned to destruction, which at least will have the happy effect of removing them as a cause of international controversy.
* * *
The assassination of President Garfield, July 2, 1881, by a disappointed seeker for office made that President the martyr of civil service reform, and gave an irresistible impulse to the movement to alleviate the evils of what is known as the "spoils system." Notwithstanding the opposition of politicians and newspapers representing the vicious and ignorant element, civil service reform has made marvelous progress, and the principle is now recognized not only in appointments to the vast majority of non-elective offices under the National Government, but also in the civil service of States and municipalities.
* * *
An unfortunate consequence of the vast growth of individual and corporate wealth, after the war, was the widening of the division line between capital and labor. The depression consequent upon the collapse of inflated values in 1873 compelled employers to reduce expenses, and made harder the lot of labor, while the workingman who saw his wages reduced was not always willing to make intelligent allowance for the circumstances which made the reduction necessary. The spirit of discontent reached the point of eruption in 1877, when railway employees throughout a large part of the Union abandoned their work, and indulged in riot and disorder. The struggle raged most fiercely in the city of Pittsburg, which was subjected for some days to the reign of a mob, and to perils seldom surpassed save in the tragic scenes of old-world barricades and revolution. The County of Allegheny had to settle for damages to the amount of $2,772,349.53, of which $1,600,000 went to the Pennsylvania Railroad. Chicago, Baltimore and Reading were also the scenes of severe and sanguinary conflict between rioters and the militia. It was estimated that about 100,000 workers were engaged in the strike in various parts of the country.
Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois and other States have witnessed serious labor troubles since 1877, and the regular army of the United States was employed by order of President Cleveland to put down unlawful interference with interstate commerce in 1894; but the general tendency of workingmen is to obtain redress for real or imaginary grievances in a law-abiding manner by securing the election of officials favorable to their interests. This is the only method of redress that can be tolerated in a republic.
* * *
The great fires of Chicago in 1871, and of Boston in 1872, the Charleston earthquake of 1886 and the Johnstown flood of 1889, were among the most memorable of the destructive visitations which have served signally to illustrate the energy, the generosity, and the recuperative power of the American people. Chicago, with $200,000,000 of property swept away by the flames, laid amid the ashes the foundations of that new Chicago which is the inland metropolis of the continent, brimming with the spirit of American progress, and the blood in every vein bounding with American energy. Boston plucked profit from disaster by establishing her claim as the modern Athens in architecture as well as literature, and Charleston learned, amid her ruins, that northern sympathy was not bounded by Mason and Dixon's line. The South taught a similar lesson in return when the cry from flood-stricken Johnstown touched every merciful heart.
The American Republic the Most Powerful of Nations—Military and Naval Strength—Railways and Waterways—Industry and Art—Manufactures—The New South—Foreign and Domestic Commerce—An Age of Invention—Americans a Nation of Readers—The Clergy—Pulpit and Press—Religion and Higher Education—The Currency Question—Leading Candidates for the Presidency —A Sectional Contest Deplorable—What Shall the Harvest Be?
Thirty-two years ago the very existence of the American Republic was in the balance. Today it is the most powerful of nations, with forty-five stars, representing that number of States, on its flag, and unequalled in population, wealth or resources by any other civilized land. The men of America are not herded away from industry to drill in camps and garrison, and wait for a war that may never come. They continue to be producers, but should the need arise they would be found as good soldiers as any in the world, and for fighting on American soil better than the best of Europe. The American navy is already formidable, and becoming more formidable every year, and the spirit of the men who fought under Bainbridge, Decatur, Hull and Perry survives in their descendants. However great the improvements in naval machines the men on the ship will always be of more importance than the armament. The American Republic has the men, and is fast acquiring the armament.
The people were never so closely united as now. Every new railway is a muscle of iron knitting together the joints of the Union, and no other nation has a railway service equal to that of America. Railways span the continent from New York to the Golden Gate. The traveler retires to rest in the North and wakes up in the sunny South. And still he can journey on in his own country, under the American flag, day after day, if he wishes, toward the setting sun, unvexed by custom house, and free from the inquisition which attends the stranger in Europe, as he flits from one petty State to another. The great national policy of encouraging the extension of railway and water communication is grandly vindicated in the America of to-day. When the Nicaragua Canal shall have been completed the American people will have a new waterway joining the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the Republic, as important to the commerce of the Union as the Erie Canal was fifty years ago.
To describe the progress of the United States in the industries and arts would be a work requiring many volumes, including the census reports of 1890, and catalogues of the Centennial and Chicago Fairs. The Republic is not only the greatest of agricultural nations, but also leads Great Britain in manufactures. In the quality of our textile fabrics we are outstripping Europe, and the statement that cloth is imported is a temptation now only to ignorant purchasers. In the more refined arts America is also gaining upon the older world, and it is absurd to see Americans purchasing silverware, for instance, abroad when they can get a much finer article at home. The low wages and keen competition of Europe have a degrading effect not only upon the workingman, but also in some degree upon his product, whereas here the artist and the artisan are encouraged by fair compensation and comfortable surroundings to do their best. The principle upon which American employers act—to give good pay for good work—is the secret of American success; it is the reason why even the semi-barbarians are learning that American goods are made to wear, while those of Europe are often made only to sell.
Manufactures are flourishing in the South as well as the North, and it is wonderful to relate that, while the hum of busy factories can be heard in nearly every city, town and village of the former Confederacy, the cotton crop—which the Southern people in 1860 believed it impossible to produce without slave labor—has already reached with free labor about double the figures of 1860.
It is true that we do not have a large share of the foreign carrying trade, but it is also true that our merchant marine, including the vessels engaged in foreign and domestic trade and river and lake navigation, is second only to that of Great Britain. The domestic commerce of the United States, a free trade extending from Florida to Sitka, from Eastport to San Diego, is vastly greater than the foreign commerce of Great Britain.
The age has been one of marvelous inventions in steam, in electricity, in the machinery which has made nearly every mechanic and operative an engineer, which is driving the horse from the streets and the farms, and which enables one factory hand to produce as much as three produced a generation ago.
Submarine cables keep America in close touch with Europe, and even the gossip of Paris and London is known the same day in our cities. Everybody reads, and whereas the American of a generation ago took one newspaper, his son to-day probably takes two or three, besides weekly and monthly publications. Notwithstanding all that is said about ignorant foreign immigration it is certain that the growth of newspaper circulation in the past two decades has exceeded the growth of population. Americans are a reading people, and it is for every head of a family to see that his children have the right kind of reading.
* * *
The clergy are not now the political monitors of the community, as when, at the time of the Revolution, the election sermon preached in Boston, and printed in pamphlet form, was spelled by the light of the pine-knot in the cabin on the Berkshire plantation, inspiring the rustic breast with holy zeal to deliver the Israel of the New World from the yoke of the English Sennacherib. The newspaper has taken the place of the pulpit as a political beacon and guide, and, as every denomination and congregation includes members of both the prominent national parties, it would be impossible for a clergyman to indulge in even a distant partisan allusion without offending some one of his hearers. The clergyman is free, like any other citizen, to indicate his preferences and express his opinions in regard to public affairs, but the judicious pastor is not prone to use that freedom indiscreetly.
Although the preachers are no longer political leaders, there is, in the opinion of the writer, based upon what he has heard and read of the past, and observed of the present, a larger proportion of learned, talented, and eloquent men among the pastors who minister in the churches to-day, than in any generation gone by. The clergy are still pre-eminently the molders of education. The presidents and professors of leading universities are usually prominent in some evangelical sect, and this is probably owing to the fact that every seminary of higher knowledge is under the control of a branch of the Christian Church, whose influence is predominant in the faculty, and which regards the college as a filial institution, with traditions intertwined with its own. However skeptical or indifferent students may be to religion, they cannot fail to imbibe at least an esteem for the doctrines of the Saviour from the teachers who impart to them secular lessons. The impressions thus received by the plastic mind of youth are not likely to be ever wholly effaced. The man or the divinity we venerate at nineteen we instinctively bow to at forty.
* * *
The progress of the past thirty years has no doubt been due in an eminent degree to a sound and uniform currency. In the coming national election it will be decided whether that currency is to remain as it is—at the world's highest standard—or whether the mints of the United States are to be opened freely to the coinage of silver. Major William McKinley, one of the bravest soldiers of the Union army, and a statesman of recognized integrity and ability, is the candidate of the existing standard; the Hon. William J. Bryan, a brilliant young orator, is the candidate of free silver. The contest now opening is likely to be one of the most exciting the country has ever witnessed. Nothing could be more deplorable than for that contest to assume a sectional aspect, with West arrayed against East and East against West.
Come weal, come woe, this should and will remain a united country. The American nation is one people, and will remain one people. The destiny of one section is the destiny of all. North, East, West and South are traveling along a common highway toward a common future. Be that future one of prosperity or of calamity, all will share in it. Whatever the seed sown, whether of good or evil, all will reap the harvest, and it remains for all, therefore, to consider, as citizens of a common country, what shall the harvest be?
The American People.
No Classes Here—All Are Workers—Enormous Growth of Cities—Immigration —Civic Misgovernment—The Farming Population—Individuality and Self-reliance—Isolation Even in the Grave—The West—The South—The Negro—Little Reason to Fear for Our Country—American Reverence for Established Institutions.
In the Old World meaning of the term there are no classes of society here. There is no condition of life, however low, from which a man may not aspire and rise to the highest honors and the most enviable distinction, provided that he has the requisite natural endowments, favorable opportunities, and the ability and foresight to grasp them. The materials of which our American population is composed are various in origin and diverse in their ideas, their creeds, and their aims, but nevertheless full of vital force and energy, and with a less percentage of human weeds and refuse than any other nation on the globe. Nearly everybody is at work, from the manufacturer worth millions, to the tramp who earns his breakfast in the charity wood-yard. It is disreputable for any one in vigorous health and years, and even when of ample fortune, to be without employment, and for this reason rich young men frequently go through the form of admission to the bar, or of medical graduation, in order that it may not be said that they are unoccupied. The sons of wealth who ignore the industrious example of their sires are still too few in proportion to the multitude, and held in too general contempt, to more than irritate the social surface. The aristocracy of America is an aristocracy of workingmen—workingmen whose possessions are valued by the hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars, but still men who work.
* * *
Great cities exert an influence on public affairs unknown half a century ago. The enormous growth of municipalities may be judged from the fact that the net municipal expenses of New York City, exclusive of the city's share of the State debt, interest on the city's bonds, and money acquired for the payment of some of the bonds at maturity, amount to $33,000,000 annually. On schools alone New York spends this year $5,900,000; Chicago, $5,500,000, and Brooklyn, $2,500,000. This is the most hope-inspiring item in municipal budgets. It may mean the salvation of the country.
* * *
The urban population is largely composed of the element known as "foreign." The sixteen millions of immigrants who have come to the United States since 1820, have made a deep impress on the Republic. Immigrants and the descendants of immigrants have been of the greatest value in developing American resources and building up American States, and the large majority of citizens of recent alien origin are sincerely attached to American institutions. In the cities, however, and especially in New York and Chicago, may be found a class of foreigners who unfortunately herd together in certain districts, and remain almost as alien to the American language and to American institutions as when they first landed on our shores. Even these, however, are not irredeemable, and in the course of a generation or two their more obnoxious traits will probably disappear. Freedom of worship and the public school have a curative and humanizing influence which not even the leprosy bred of centuries of European despotism and oppression can resist. I am not of those who view with apprehension or aversion the race of Christ, of David and of the Maccabees, of Disraeli and of Gambetta. There is no better class of citizens than the better class of Jews, and it would be a dishonorable day for our Republic should its gates ever be closed to the victims of religious intolerance, whatsoever their race or belief.
* * *
The great cities witness almost unceasing strife between what may be called the political-criminal element on the one side, and patriotism and intelligence on the other side. Knaves, using bigotry, ignorance and intimidation as their weapons, manage to control municipal affairs, except when expelled from office for periods more or less brief by some sudden spasm of public virtue and indignation, like the revolt in the city of New York against the Tweed Ring a quarter of a century ago, and the reform victory in that city two years ago.
The overthrow of Tweed, and the great uprising of 1894 in New York, and of more recent date in Chicago, prove that the American people, once fully aroused, can crush, as with the hammer of Thor, any combination of public plunderers, however powerful. But why should these tremendous efforts be necessary? Why should not the latent energy which makes them possible be exerted in steady and uniform resistance to the restless enemies of pure and popular government?
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The farming population, although largely overshadowed by manufacturing and commercial interests, is still the anchor of the Republic. In many of the States the rural vote is predominant, although in the nation as a whole it is gradually losing ground, owing to the growth of the cities, the removal of restrictions on the suffrage, and the partial adjustment of representation to numbers. The most striking features in the character of the native farmer are individuality and self-reliance. These qualities have been inherited from ancestors who were compelled by circumstances to depend upon their own industry for a living, and their own vigilance and courage for defence, when the treacherous Indian lurked in swamps and woods, and the father attended Sunday worship with a weapon by his side. The founders of these States were men who thought for themselves, or they would not have been exiles for the sake of conscience. Their situation made them still more indifferent to the opinions and concerns of the world from which they were divided, while they stood aloof even from each other, except when common danger drove them to unite for mutual protection. Their offspring grew up amid stern and secluded surroundings, and the thoughts and habits of the parent became the second nature of the child. I have often imagined that in the firm, wary, and reserved expression on the Yankee farmer's face was photographed the struggle of his progenitors two centuries ago. This wariness and reserve does not, as a rule, amount to churlishness. The American, like the English cultivator, has felt the ameliorating influences of modern civilization, and while he retains his strong individuality, his intelligence prompts him to benefit by the opportunities denied to his forefathers.
The dwelling of the American farmer is usually lacking in those tasteful accessories which add such a charm to the cottage homes of England and France. Beyond the belt of suburban villas one seldom sees a carefully tended flower-garden, or an attractive vine. The yard, like the field, is open to the cattle, and, if there is a plot fenced in, it is devoted, not to roses and violets, but to onions or peas. The effect is dreary and uninviting, even though the enclosure may be clean, and the milk-cans scoured to brilliancy. Again we see in this disregard for the beautiful the effect of isolation upon the native character, the result of hard grubbing for the bare needs of existence. The primitive settlers needed every foot of the land which they laboriously subdued, for some productive use; they had neither time nor soil to spare for the culture of the beautiful; and their descendants have inherited the ancestral disposition to utilize everything, and the ancestral want of taste for the merely charming in nature. Yet there are gratifying exceptions to the general rule, and sometimes a housewife may be met who takes pride and pleasure in her flower-beds. No doubt it was such a wife that the lonesome old farmer was speaking of one evening, in a group by a roadside tavern, as the writer passed along. "My wife loved flowers," he mournfully said, as his weary eyes seemed to look back into the past, "and I must go and plant some upon her grave."
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The spirit of independence and isolation extends in many of the old American families even to the tomb. An interesting monograph might be written on the private graveyards in some parts of the East. Among the shade-trees surrounding a house on the busy street, in the orchard behind the farmer's barn, and again in the depth of the wood, a few rude, unchiseled headstones, perhaps nearly hidden by tangled brush, reveal the spot where sleep the forefathers of the plantation. I came across such a burying-ground not long ago. It was far from the traveled highway, far from the haunts of living men, among trees and grapevines, and blueberry bushes. The depression in the soil indicated that the perishable remains had long ago crumbled to dust, while a large hole burrowed in the earth showed where a woodchuck made its home among the bones of the forgotten dead. With reverent hand I cleared the leaves from about the primitive monuments, and sought for some word or letter that might tell who they were that lay beneath the silver birches, in the silent New England forest. But the stones, erect as when set by sorrowing friends perhaps two hundred years ago, bore neither trace nor mark. There were graves enough for a household, and likely a household was there. It maybe a father who had fled from Old England to seek in the wilderness a place where he might worship God according to the dictates of his heart; a Pilgrim wife and mother, whose gentle love mellowed and softened the harshness of frontier life, and sons and daughters, cut off before the growth of commerce tempted the survivors to the town, or the reports of new and fertile territories induced them to abandon the rugged but not ungrateful paternal fields. With gentle step, so not to disturb the sacred stillness of the scene, I turned from the lonely graves, and I thought as I walked, that these simple tombs in the bosom of nature well befitted those who had dared the dangers of wild New England for freedom from the empty forms of a mitred religion.
History can be read in secluded resting-places of the departed. With the accretion of wealth to the living more care was expended upon the dead, and enduring slabs of slate, with appropriate engravings, took the place of the uncouth fragments of rock. With added riches the taste for display in headstones, as well as in social life, increased, and imported marble was occasionally used to designate the tombs of prosperous descendants of the early and impoverished settlers. Not infrequently all three—the unlettered stone of the first hundred years, the slate of the latter half of the last century, and the polished and costly marble now so common in the great public cemeteries—may be seen in one small burying-ground, bearing mute testimony to the struggles and progress of the occupants.
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It is a fact which bears striking testimony to the masterful qualities of the native American character that in the Western States, notwithstanding a vast foreign immigration, the dominant element is of the old colonial stock. The fortunes of the West are guided by emigrants and the descendants of emigrants from New England, the Middle and the border States, and while adopted citizens, nearly all of a desirable class, are in a majority in many parts of the West, most of the western men and women also, of national fame, can trace an American pedigree for several generations. There are notable exceptions to this rule, but they only illustrate the rule. This condition is due not to any inferiority on the part of the immigrant population to the average of European nationalities—for, barring Russia and some southern countries we receive the cream of European manhood—but to American heredity, to the inheritance of those endowments which qualify for leadership in a nation of freemen. The western American is more aggressive and progressive than his eastern cousin. Just as the New Englander retains many of the expressions and some of the ways which have become obsolete in Old England, so the native settler of Kansas, of Iowa, of Nebraska, and even of the nearer States of Ohio and Illinois, is more like the New Englander of half a century ago than those who have remained on the ancestral soil. He has the old Puritan love of learning, and from the humble colleges in which his more ambitious children are educated go forth the Joshuas and the Davids of our American Israel. The total yearly expenses of one of those western colleges would hardly equal the salary of the chief of a great university, but presidents of the United States are graduated there.
The western farmer reads and thinks, and perhaps in that clear western air, as he ploughs the sod of the prairie, and reaps the harvest on his rude domain, he sees farther into the future than his brother of the East. Right or wrong in his political views, he is at any rate honest in them, and if his convictions seem to partake sometimes of the fervor of the crusader, it should not be forgotten that the spirit of Ossawattomie Brown yet lives in the land which he saved for freedom; it should not be forgotten that nearly every western homestead has its grave in the battlefields of the war which made us one people forever. Making due allowance for that good-natured raillery which is one of the spices of existence, it may be truthfully said that anyone who laughs in earnest at the West calls attention merely to his own shallow conceit. Intelligent people in the East are studying, not ridiculing the West.
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The recuperative energy displayed by the Southern people has been even more wonderful and admirable than that exhibited by France after the German conquest. France was not denuded, as the South was denuded of all that represents wealth save a fertile soil and the resolution to rise from the ashes of the past. And the South has risen. I passed through North Carolina and Virginia just before the close of the war. Recently I visited the same States, and South Carolina and Georgia for the first time since the war. What a transformation! But for the genial climate the busy factories would have recalled New England, while a keen business air had taken the place of that old-time lassitude which in ante-bellum days seemed inseparable from the institution of slavery. The Southern people have all the acuteness of the Yankee, with a genuine bonhomie which brightens the most ordinary incidents of life. New conditions have called into play valuable qualities which were torpid until touched by the wand of necessity. The old families no longer regard honorable toil with aversion or disdain; on the contrary they are workers, and work is the passport to respectable recognition. The Southern whites are getting along very well with the colored people, and look on them as not only useful, but indispensable to the South. "If the negroes emigrate," said a prominent business man of Augusta, Ga., to the writer, "I want to emigrate too." And this is the prevailing sentiment. The negroes, also, are proving themselves worthy of freedom, although it is not to be expected that the effects of three centuries of slavery could be eradicated in three decades of liberty. In looking out for business rivalry New England would do well to gaze less intently across the Atlantic and more toward the Yadkin and the Savannah.
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There is little reason to fear for our country. The Union has endured the severest trials, only to come forth stronger than ever from every ordeal. Grave questions are presenting themselves for solution, but who can doubt that the American people have the brain and the vigor to solve them? Anarchists make no impression here. Notwithstanding the appeals of alien agitators, Americans remain true to the traditions of the Republic. It is in this deeply implanted reverence for established institutions that the hope for the future of America rests. Before it the pestilential vapor of anarchy, borne across the Atlantic from the squirming and steaming masses of Europe, disappears like a plague before a purifying flame, and, whatever may be the outcome of the struggle, in its various forms, now going on between the upper and lower orders in the mother continent, in the United States the foundations of society are likely to remain firm and unsapped.