"The man in the arena"
- Speech by Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne, Paris, France
April 23, 1910
"Strange and impressive associations rise in the mind of a man from the New World who speaks before this august body in this ancient institution of learning. Before his eyes pass the shadows of mighty kings and war-like nobles, of great masters of law and theology; through the shining dust of the dead centuries he sees crowded figures that tell of the power and learning and splendor of times gone by; and he sees also the innumerable host of humble students to whom clerkship meant emancipation, to whom it was well-nigh the only outlet from the dark thralldom of the Middle Ages.
"This was the most famous university of medieval Europe at a time when no one dreamed that there was a New World to discover. Its services to the cause of human knowledge already stretched far back into the remote past at a time when my forefathers, three centuries ago, were among the sparse bands of traders, ploughmen, wood-choppers, and fisherfolk who, in hard struggle with the iron unfriendliness of the Indian-haunted land, were laying the foundations of what has now become the giant Republic of the West. To conquer a continent, to tame the shaggy roughness of wild nature, means grim warfare; and the generations engaged in it cannot keep, still less add to, the stores of garnered wisdom which where once theirs, and which are still in the hands of their brethren who dwell in the old land. To conquer the wilderness means to wrest victory from the same hostile forces with which Mankind struggled on the immemorial infancy of our race. The primeval conditions must be met by the primeval qualities which are incompatible with the retention of much that has been painfully acquired by humanity as through the ages it has striven upward toward civilization. In conditions so primitive there can be but a primitive culture. At first only the rudest school can be established, for no others would meet the needs of the hard-driven, sinewy folk who thrust forward the frontier in the teeth of savage men and savage nature; and many years elapse before any of these schools can develop into seats of higher learning and broader culture.
"The pioneer days pass; the stump-dotted clearings expand into vast stretches of fertile farm land; the stockaded clusters of log cabins change into towns; the hunters of game, the fellers of trees, the rude frontier traders and tillers of the soil, the men who wander all their lives long through the wilderness as the heralds and harbingers of an oncoming civilization, themselves vanish before the civilization for which they have prepared the way. The children of their successors and supplanters, and then their children and their children and children's children, change and develop with extraordinary rapidity. The conditions accentuate vices and virtues, energy and ruthlessness, all the good qualities and all the defects of an intense individualism, self-reliant, self-centered, far more conscious of its rights than of its duties, and blind to its own shortcomings. To the hard materialism of the frontier days succeeds the hard materialism of industrialism even more intense and absorbing than that of the older nations; although these themselves have likewise already entered on the age of a complex and predominantly industrial civilization.
"As the country grows, its people, who have won success in so many lines, turn back to try to recover the possessions of the mind and the spirit, which perforce their fathers threw aside in order better to wage the first rough battles for the continent their children inherit. The leaders of thought and of action grope their way forward to a new life, realizing, sometimes dimly, sometimes clear-sightedly, that the life of material gain, whether for a nation or an individual, is of value only as a foundation, only as there is added to it the uplift that comes from devotion to loftier ideals. The new life thus sought can in part be developed afresh from what is roundabout in the New World; but it can develop in full only by freely drawing upon the treasure-houses of the Old World, upon the treasures stored in the ancient abodes of wisdom and learning, such as this is where I speak to-day. It is a mistake for any nation to merely copy another; but it is even a greater mistake, it is a proof of weakness in any nation, not to be anxious to learn from one another and willing and able to adapt that learning to the new national conditions and make it fruitful and productive therein. It is for us of the New World to sit at the feet of Gamaliel of the Old; then, if we have the right stuff in us, we can show that Paul in his turn can become a teacher as well as a scholar.
"Today I shall speak to you on the subject of individual citizenship, the one subject of vital importance to you, my hearers, and to me and my countrymen, because you and we a great citizens of great Democratic Republics. A Democratic Republic such as ours - an effort to realize its full sense government by, of, and for the people - represents the most gigantic of all possible social experiments, the one fraught with great responsibilities alike for good and evil. The success of Republics like yours and like ours means the glory, and our failure of despair, of Mankind; and for you and for us the question of the quality of the individual citizen is supreme. Under other forms of government, under the rule of one man or very few men, the quality of the leaders is all-important. If, under such governments, the quality of the rulers is high enough, then the nations for generations lead a brilliant career, and add substantially to the sum of world achievement, no matter how low the quality of average citizen; because the average citizen is an almost negligible quantity in working out the final results of that type of national greatness. But with you and us the case is different. With you here, and with us in my own home, in the long run, success or failure will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man, the average women, does his or her duty, first in the ordinary, every day affairs of life, and next in those great occasional cries which call for heroic virtues. The average citizen must be a good citizen if our Republics are to succeed. The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher.
"It is well if a large proportion of the leaders in any Republic, in any Democracy, are, as a matter of course, drawn from the classes represented in this audience today; but only provided that those classes possess the gifts of sympathy with plain people and of devotion to great ideals. You and those like you have received special advantages; you have all of you had the opportunity for mental training; many of you have had leisure; most of you have had a chance for enjoyment of life far greater than comes to the majority of your fellows. To you and your kind much has been given, and from you much should be expected. Yet there are certain failings against which it is especially incumbent that both men of trained and cultivated intellect, and men of inherited wealth and position should especially guard themselves, because to these failings they are especially liable; and if yielded to, their - your - chances of useful service are at an end. Let the man of learning, the man of lettered leisure, beware of that queer and cheap temptation to pose to himself and to others as a cynic, as the man who has outgrown emotions and beliefs, the man to whom good and evil are as one. The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities - all these are marks, not as the possessor would feign to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The role is easy; there is none easier, save only the role of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who `but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier.'
"France has taught many lessons to other nations: Surely one of the most important lessons is the lesson her whole history teaches, that a high artistic and literary development is compatible with notable leadership in arms and statecraft. The brilliant gallantry of the French soldier has for many centuries been proverbial; and during these same centuries at every court in Europe the `freemasons of fashion' have treated the French tongue as their common speech; while every artist and man of letters, and every man of science able to appreciate that marvelous instrument of precision, French prose, had turned toward France for aid and inspiration. How long the leadership in arms and letters has lasted is curiously illustrated by the fact that the earliest masterpiece in a modern tongue is the splendid French epic which tells of Roland's doom and the vengeance of Charlemange when the lords of the Frankish hosts where stricken at Roncesvalles. Let those who have, keep, let those who have not, strive to attain, a high standard of cultivation and scholarship. Yet let us remember that these stand second to certain other things. There is need of a sound body, and even more of a sound mind. But above mind and above body stands character - the sum of those qualities which we mean when we speak of a man's force and courage, of his good faith and sense of honor. I believe in exercise for the body, always provided that we keep in mind that physical development is a means and not an end. I believe, of course, in giving to all the people a good education. But the education must contain much besides book learning in order to be really good. We must ever remember that no keenness and subtleness of intellect, no polish, no cleverness, in any way make up for the lack of the great solid qualities. Self-restraint, self-mastery, common sense, the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet of acting in conjunction with others, courage and resolution - these are the qualities which mark a masterful people. Without them no people can control itself, or save itself from being controlled from the outside. I speak to brilliant assemblage; I speak in a great university which represents the flower of the highest intellectual development; I pay all homage to intellect and to elaborate and specialized training of the intellect; and yet I know I shall have the assent of all of you present when I add that more important still are the commonplace, every-day qualities and virtues.
"Such ordinary, every-day qualities include the will and the power to work, to fight at need, and to have plenty of healthy children. The need that the average man shall work is so obvious as hardly to warrant insistence. There are a few people in every country so born that they can lead lives of leisure. These fill a useful function if they make it evident that leisure does not mean idleness; for some of the most valuable work needed by civilization is essentially non-remunerative in its character, and of course the people who do this work should in large part be drawn from those to whom remuneration is an object of indifference. But the average man must earn his own livelihood. He should be trained to do so, and he should be trained to feel that he occupies a contemptible position if he does not do so; that he is not an object of envy if he is idle, at whichever end of the social scale he stands, but an object of contempt, an object of derision. In the next place, the good man should be both a strong and a brave man; that is, he should be able to fight, he should be able to serve his country as a soldier, if the need arises. There are well-meaning philosophers who declaim against the unrighteousness of war. They are right only if they lay all their emphasis upon the unrighteousness. War is a dreadful thing, and unjust war is a crime against humanity. But it is such a crime because it is unjust, not because it is a war. The choice must ever be in favor of righteousness, and this is whether the alternative be peace or whether the alternative be war. The question must not be merely, Is there to be peace or war? The question must be, Is it right to prevail? Are the great laws of righteousness once more to be fulfilled? And the answer from a strong and virile people must be `Yes,' whatever the cost. Every honorable effort should always be made to avoid war, just as every honorable effort should always be made by the individual in private life to keep out of a brawl, to keep out of trouble; but no self-respecting individual, no self-respecting nation, can or ought to submit to wrong.
"Finally, even more important than ability to work, even more important than ability to fight at need, is it to remember that chief of blessings for any nations is that it shall leave its seed to inherit the land. It was the crown of blessings in Biblical times and it is the crown of blessings now. The greatest of all curses is in the curse of sterility, and the severest of all condemnations should be that visited upon willful sterility. The first essential in any civilization is that the man and women shall be father and mother of healthy children, so that the race shall increase and not decrease. If that is not so, if through no fault of the society there is failure to increase, it is a great misfortune. If the failure is due to the deliberate and willful fault, then it is not merely a misfortune, it is one of those crimes of ease and self-indulgence, of shrinking from pain and effort and risk, which in the long run nature punishes more heavily than any other. If we of the great Republics, if we, the free people who claim to have emancipated ourselves form the thralldom of wrong and error, bring down on our heads the curse that comes upon the willfully barren, then it will be an idle waste of breath to prattle of our achievements, to boast of all that we have done. No refinement of life, no delicacy of taste, no material progress, no sordid heaping up riches, no sensuous development of art and literature, can in any way compensate for the loss of the great fundamental virtues; and of these great fundamental virtues the greatest is the race's power to perpetuate the race. Character must show itself in the man's performance both of the duty he owes himself and of the duty he owes the state. The man's foremost duty is owed to himself and his family; and he can do this duty only by earning money, by providing what is essential to material well-being; it is only after this has been done that he can hope to build a higher superstructure on the solid material foundation; it is only after this has been done that he can help in his movements for the general well-being. He must pull his own weight first, and only after this can his surplus strength be of use to the general public. It is not good to excite that bitter laughter which expresses contempt; and contempt is what we feel for the being whose enthusiasm to benefit Mankind is such that he is a burden to those nearest him; who wishes to do great things for humanity in the abstract, but who cannot keep his wife in comfort or educate his children.
"Nevertheless, while laying all stress on this point, while not merely acknowledging but insisting upon the fact that there must be a basis of material well-being for the individual as for the nation, let us with equal emphasis insist that this material well-being represents nothing but the foundation, and that the foundation, though indispensable, is worthless unless upon it is raised the superstructure of a higher life. That is why I decline to recognize the mere multimillionaire, the man of mere wealth, as an asset of value to any country; and especially as not an asset to my own country. If he has earned or uses his wealth in a way that makes him a real benefit, of real use - and such is often the case - why, then he does become an asset of real worth? But it is the way in which it has been earned or used, and not the mere fact of wealth, that entitles him to the credit. There is need in business, as in most other forms of human activity, of the great guiding intelligences. Their places cannot be supplied by any number of lesser intelligences. It is a good thing that they should have ample recognition, ample reward. But we must not transfer our admiration to the reward instead of to the deed rewarded; and if what should be the reward exists without the service having been rendered, then admiration will only come from those who are mean of soul. The truth is that, after a certain measure of tangible material success or reward has been achieved, the question of increasing it becomes of constantly less importance compared to the other things that can be done in life. It is a bad thing for a nation to raise and to admire a false standard of success; and there can be no falser standard than that set by the deification of material well being in and for itself. But the man who, having far surpassed the limits of providing for the wants; both of the body and mind, of himself and of those depending upon him, then piles up a great fortune, for the acquisition or retention of which he returns no corresponding benefit to the nation as a whole, should himself be made to feel that, so far from being desirable, he is an unworthy citizen of the community: That he is to be neither admired nor envied; that his right-thinking fellow countrymen put him low in the scale of citizenship, and leave him to be consoled by the admiration of those whose level of purpose is even lower than his own.
"My position as regards the moneyed interests can be put in a few words. In every civilized society property rights must be carefully safeguarded; ordinarily, and in the great majority of cases, human rights and property rights are fundamentally and in the long run identical; but when it clearly appears that there is a real conflict between them, human rights must have the upper hand, for property belongs to man and not man to property. In fact, it is essential to good citizenship clearly to understand that there are certain qualities which we in a Democracy are prone to admire in and of themselves, which ought by rights to be judged admirable or the reverse solely from the standpoint of the use made of them. Foremost among these I should include two very distinct gifts - the gift of moneymaking and the gift of oratory. Moneymaking, the money touch I have spoken of above. It is a quality which in a moderate degree is essential. It may be useful when developed to a very great degree, but only if accompanied and controlled by other qualities; and without such control the possessor tends to develop into one of the least attractive types produced by a modern industrial Democracy. So it is with the orator. It is highly desirable that a leader of opinion in Democracy should be able to state his views clearly and convincingly. But all that the oratory can do of value to the community is enable the man thus to explain himself; if it enables the orator to put false values on things, it merely makes him power for mischief. Some excellent public servants have not that gift at all, and must merely rely on their deeds to speak for them; and unless oratory does represent genuine conviction based on good common sense and able to be translated into efficient performance, then the better the oratory the greater the damage to the public it deceives. Indeed, it is a sign of marked political weakness in any commonwealth if the people tend to be carried away by mere oratory, if they tend to value words in and for themselves, as divorced from the deeds for which they are supposed to stand. The phrase-maker, the phrase-monger, the ready talker, however great his power, whose speech does not make for courage, sobriety, and right understanding, is simply a noxious element in the body politic, and it speaks ill for the public if he has influence over them. To admire the gift of oratory without regard to the moral quality behind the gift is to do wrong to the republic.
"Of course all that I say of the orator applies with even greater force to the orator's latter-day and more influential brother, the journalist. The power of the journalist is great, but he is entitled neither to respect nor admiration because of that power unless it is used aright. He can do, and often does, great good. He can do, and he often does, infinite mischief. All journalists, all writers, for the very reason that they appreciate the vast possibilities of their profession, should bear testimony against those who deeply discredit it. Offenses against taste and morals, which are bad enough in a private citizen, are infinitely worse if made into instruments for debauching the community through a newspaper. Mendacity, slander, sensationalism, inanity, vapid triviality, all are potent factors for the debauchery of the public mind and conscience. The excuse advanced for vicious writing, that the public demands it and that demand must be supplied, can no more be admitted than if it were advanced by purveyors of food who sell poisonous adulterations. In short, the good citizen in a Republic must realize that he ought to possess two sets of qualities, and that neither avails without the other. He must have those qualities which make for efficiency; and that he also must have those qualities which direct the efficiency into channels for the public good. He is useless if he is inefficient. There is nothing to be done with that type of citizen of whom all that can be said is that he is harmless. Virtue which is dependent upon a sluggish circulation is not impressive. There is little place in active life for the timid good man. The man who is saved by weakness from robust wickedness is likewise rendered immune from robuster virtues. The good citizen in a republic must first of all be able to hold his own. He is no good citizen unless he has the ability which will make him work hard and which at need will make him fight hard. The good citizen is not a good citizen unless he is an efficient citizen.
"But if a man's efficiency is not guided and regulated by a moral sense, then the more efficient he is the worse he is, the more dangerous to the body politic. Courage, intellect, all the masterful qualities, serve but to make a man more evil if they are merely used for that man's own advancement, with brutal indifference to the rights of others. It speaks ill for the community if the community worships these qualities and treats their possessors as heroes regardless of whether the qualities are used rightly or wrongly. It makes no difference as to the precise way in which this sinister efficiency is shown. It makes no difference whether such a man's force and ability betray themselves in a career of moneymaker or politician, soldier or orator, journalist or popular leader. If the man works for evil, then the more successful he is the more he should be despised and condemned by all upright and far-seeing men. To judge a man merely by success is an abhorrent wrong; and if the people at large habitually so judge men, if they grow to condone wickedness because the wicked man triumphs, they show their inability to understand that in the last analysis free institutions rest upon the character of citizenship, and that by such admiration of evil they prove themselves unfit for liberty. The homely virtues of the household, the ordinary workaday virtues which make the woman a good housewife and housemother, which make the man a hard worker, a good husband and father, a good soldier at need, stand at the bottom of character. But of course many others must be added thereto if a state is to be not only free but great. Good citizenship is not good citizenship if only exhibited in the home. There remains the duties of the individual in relation to the state, and these duties are none too easy under the conditions which exist where the effort is made to carry on the free government in a complex industrial civilization. Perhaps the most important thing the ordinary citizen, and, above all, the leader of ordinary citizens, has to remember in political life is that he must not be a sheer doctrinaire. The closest philosopher, the refined and cultured individual who from his library tells how men ought to be governed under ideal conditions, is of no use in actual governmental work; and the one-sided fanatic, and still more the mob leader, and the insincere man who to achieve power promises what by no possibility can be performed, are not merely useless but noxious.
"The citizen must have high ideals, and yet he must be able to achieve them in practical fashion. No permanent good comes from aspirations so lofty that they have grown fantastic and have become impossible and indeed undesirable to realize. The impractical visionary is far less often the guide and precursor than he is the embittered foe of the real reformer, of the man who, with stumblings and shortcoming, yet does in some shape, in practical fashion, give effect to the hopes and desires of those who strive for better things. Woe to the empty phrase-maker, to the empty idealist, who, instead of making ready the ground for the man of action, turns against him when he appears and hampers him when he does work! Moreover, the preacher of ideals must remember how sorry and contemptible is the figure which he will cut, how great the damage that he will do, if he does not himself, in his own life, strive measurably to realize the ideals that he preaches for others. Let him remember also that the worth of the ideal must be largely determined by the success with which it can in practice be realized. We should abhor the so-called `practical' men whose practicality assumes the shape of that peculiar baseness which finds its expression in disbelief in morality and decency, in disregard of high standards of living and conduct. Such a creature is the worst enemy of the body of politic. But only less desirable as a citizen is his nominal opponent and real ally, the man of fantastic vision who makes the impossible better forever the enemy of the possible good.
"We can just as little afford to follow the doctrinaires of an extreme individualism as the doctrinaires of an extreme socialism. Individual initiative, so far from being discouraged, should be stimulated; and yet we should remember that, as society develops and grows more complex, we continually find that things which once it was desirable to leave to individual initiative can, under changed conditions, be performed with better results by common effort. It is quite impossible, and equally undesirable, to draw in theory a hard-and-fast line which shall always divide the two sets of cases. This every one who is not cursed with the pride of the closest philosopher will see, if he will only take the trouble to think about some of our closet phenomena. For instance, when people live on isolated farms or in little hamlets, each house can be left to attend to its own drainage and water-supply; but the mere multiplication of families in a given area produces new problems which, because they differ in size, are found to differ not only in degree, but in kind from the old; and the questions of drainage and water-supply have to be considered from the common standpoint. It is not a matter for abstract dogmatizing to decide when this point is reached; it is a matter to be tested by practical experiment. Much of the discussion about socialism and individualism is entirely pointless, because of the failure to agree on terminology. It is not good to be a slave of names. I am a strong individualist by personal habit, inheritance, and conviction; but it is a mere matter of common sense to recognize that the state, the community, the citizens acting together, can do a number of things better than if they were left to individual action. The individualism which finds its expression in the abuse of physical force is checked very early in the growth of civilization, and we of today should in our turn strive to shackle or destroy that individualism which triumphs by greed and cunning, which exploits the weak by craft instead of ruling them by brutality. We ought to go with any man in the effort to bring about justice and the equality of opportunity, to turn the tool-user more and more into the tool-owner, to shift burdens so that they can be more equitably borne. The deadening effect on any race of the adoption of a logical and extreme socialistic system could not be overstated; it would spell sheer destruction; it would produce grosser wrong and outrage, fouler immortality, than any existing system. But this does not mean that we may not with great advantage adopt certain of the principles professed by some given set of men who happen to call themselves socialists; to be afraid to do so would be to make a mark of weakness on our part.
"But we should not take part in acting a lie any more than in telling a lie. We should not say that men are equal where they are not equal, nor proceed upon the assumption that there is an equality where it does not exist; but we should strive to bring about a measurable equality, at least to the extent of preventing the inequality which is due to force or fraud. Abraham Lincoln, a man of the plain people, blood of their blood, and bone of their bone, who all his life toiled and wrought and suffered for them, at the end died for them, who always strove to represent them, who would never tell an untruth to or for them, spoke of the doctrine of equality with his usual mixture of idealism and sound common sense.
"I think the authors of the Declaration of Independence intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created equal -equal in certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. This they said, and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all - constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and, even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, everywhere.
"We are bound in honor to refuse to listen to those men who would make us desist from the effort to do away with the inequality which means injustice; the inequality of right, opportunity, of privilege. We are bound in honor to strive to bring ever nearer the day when, as far is humanly possible, we shall be able to realize the ideal that each man shall have an equal opportunity to show the stuff that is in him by the way in which he renders service. There should, so far as possible, be equal of opportunity to render service; but just so long as there is inequality of service there should and must be inequality of reward. We may be sorry for the general, the painter, the artists, the worker in any profession or of any kind, whose misfortune rather than whose fault it is that he does his work ill. But the reward must go to the man who does his work well; for any other course is to create a new kind of privilege, the privilege of folly and weakness; and special privilege is injustice, whatever form it takes.
"To say that the thriftless, the lazy, the vicious, the incapable, ought to have reward given to those who are far-sighted, capable, and upright, is to say what is not true and cannot be true. Let us try to level up, but let us beware of the evil of leveling down. If a man stumbles, it is a good thing to help him to his feet. Every one of us needs a helping hand now and then. But if a man lies down, it is a waste of time to try and carry him; and it is a very bad thing for every one if we make men feel that the same reward will come to those who shirk their work and those who do it. Let us, then, take into account the actual facts of life, and not be misled into following any proposal for achieving the Millennium, for recreating the golden age, until we have subjected it to hardheaded examination. On the other hand, it is foolish to reject a proposal merely because it is advanced by visionaries. If a given scheme is proposed, look at it on its merits, and, in considering it, disregard formulas. It does not matter in the least who proposes it, or why. If it seems good, try it. If it proves good, accept it; otherwise reject it. There are plenty of good men calling themselves socialists with whom, up to a certain point, it is quite possible to work. If the next step is one which both we and they wish to take, why of course take it, without any regard to the fact that our views as to the tenth step may differ. But, on the other hand, keep clearly in mind that, though it has been worth while to take one step, this does not in the least mean that it may not be highly disadvantageous to take the next. It is just as foolish to refuse all progress because people demanding it desire at some points to go to absurd extremes, as it would be to go to these absurd extremes simply because some of the measures advocated by the extremists were wise.
"The good citizen will demand liberty for himself, and as a matter of pride he will see to it that others receive liberty which he thus claims as his own. Probably the best test of true love of liberty in any country is the way in which minorities are treated in that country. Not only should there be complete liberty in matters of religion and opinion, but complete liberty for each man to lead his life as he desires, provided only that in so he does not wrong his neighbor. Persecution is bad because it is persecution, and without reference to which side happens at the most to be the persecutor and which the persecuted. Class hatred is bad in just the same way, and without regard to the individual who, at a given time, substitutes loyalty to a class for loyalty to a nation, of substitutes hatred of men because they happen to come in a certain social category, for judgment awarded them according to their conduct. Remember always that the same measure of condemnation should be extended to the arrogance which would look down upon or crush any man because he is poor and to envy and hatred which would destroy a man because he is wealthy. The overbearing brutality of the man of wealth or power, and the envious and hateful malice directed against wealth or power, are really at root merely different manifestations of the same quality, merely two sides of the same shield. The man who, if born to wealth and power, exploits and ruins his less fortunate brethren is at heart the same as the greedy and violent demagogue who excites those who have not property to plunder those who have. The gravest wrong upon his country is inflicted by that man, whatever his station, who seeks to make his countrymen divide primarily in the line that separates class from class, occupation from occupation, men of more wealth from men of less wealth, instead of remembering that the only safe standard is that which judges each man on his worth as a man, whether he be rich or whether he be poor, without regard to his profession or to his station in life. Such is the only true Democratic test, the only test that can with propriety be applied in a Republic. There have been many Republics in the past, both in what we call antiquity and in what we call the Middle Ages. They fell, and the prime factor in their fall was the fact that the parties tended to divide along the wealth that separates wealth from poverty. It made no difference which side was successful; it made no difference whether the Republic fell under the rule of and oligarchy or the rule of a mob. In either case, when once loyalty to a class had been substituted for loyalty to the Republic, the end of the Republic was at hand. There is no greater need today than the need to keep ever in mind the fact that the cleavage between right and wrong, between good citizenship and bad citizenship, runs at right angles to, and not parallel with, the lines of cleavage between class and class, between occupation and occupation. Ruin looks us in the face if we judge a man by his position instead of judging him by his conduct in that position.
"In a republic, to be successful we must learn to combine intensity of conviction with a broad tolerance of difference of conviction. Wide differences of opinion in matters of religious, political, and social belief must exist if conscience and intellect alike are not be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth. Bitter internecine hatreds, based on such differences, are signs, not of earnestness of belief, but of that fanaticism which, whether religious or antireligious, Democratic or anti-Democratic, it itself but a manifestation of the gloomy bigotry which has been the chief factor in the downfall of so many, many nations.
"Of one man is especial, beyond any one else, the citizens of a Republic should beware, and that is of the man who appeals to them to support him on the ground that he is hostile to other citizens of the Republic, that he will secure for those who elect him, in one shape or another, profit at the expense of other citizens of the Republic. It makes no difference whether he appeals to class hatred or class interest, to religious or antireligious prejudice. The man who makes such an appeal should always be presumed to make it for the sake of furthering his own interest. The very last thing an intelligent and self-respecting member of a Democratic community should do is to reward any public man because that public man says that he will get the private citizen something to which this private citizen is not entitled, or will gratify some emotion or animosity which this private citizen ought not to possess. Let me illustrate this by one anecdote from my own experience. A number of years ago I was engaged in cattle ranching on the Great Plains of the western United States. There were no fences. The cattle wandered free, the ownership of each one was determined by the brand; the calves were branded with the brand of the cows they followed. If on a round up an animal was passed by, the following year it would appear as an unbranded yearling, and was then called a maverick. By the custom of the country these mavericks were branded with the brand of the man on whose range they were found. One day I was riding the range with a newly hired cowboy, and we came upon a maverick. We roped and threw it; then we built a fire, took out a cinch-ring, heated it in the fire; and then the cowboy started to put on the brand. I said to him, `It's so-and-so's brand,' naming the man on whose range we happened to be. He answered: `That's all right, boss; I know my business.' In another moment I said to him: "`Hold on, you are putting on my brand!' To which he answered: `That's all right; I always put on the boss's brand.' I answered: `Oh, very well. Now you go straight back to the ranch and get whatever is owing to you; I don't need you any longer.' He jumped up and said: `Why, what's the matter? I was putting on your brand.' And I answered: `Yes, my friend, and if you will steal for me then you will steal from me.'
"Now, the same principle which applies in private life applies also in public life. If a public man tries to get your vote by saying that he will do something wrong in your interest, you can be absolutely certain that if ever it becomes worth his while he will do something wrong against your interest. So much for the citizenship to the individual in his relations to his family, to his neighbor, to the state. There remain duties of citizenship which the state, the aggregation of all the individuals, owes in connection with other states, with other nations. Let me say at once that I am no advocate of a foolish cosmopolitanism. I believe that a man must be a good patriot before he can be, and as the only possible way of being, a good citizen of the world. Experience teaches us that the average man who protests that his international feeling swamps his national feeling, that he does not care for his country because he cares so much for Mankind, in actual practice proves himself the foe of Mankind; that the man who says that he does not care to be a citizen of any one country, because he is the citizen of the world, is in fact usually and exceedingly undesirable citizen of whatever corner of the world he happens at the moment to be in. In the dim future all moral needs and moral standards may change; but at present, if a man can view his own country and all others countries from the same level with tepid indifference, it is wise to distrust him, just as it is wise to distrust the man who can take the same dispassionate view of his wife and mother. However broad and deep a man's sympathies, however intense his activities, he need have no fear that they will be cramped by love of his native land.
"Now, this does not mean in the least that a man should not wish to do good outside of his native land. On the contrary, just as I think that the man who loves his family is more apt to be a good neighbor than the man who does not, so I think that the most useful member of the family of nations is normally a strongly patriotic nation. So far from patriotism being inconsistent with a proper regard for the rights of other nations, I hold that the true patriot, who is as jealous of the national honor as a gentleman of his own honor, will be careful to see that the nations neither inflicts nor suffers wrong, just as a gentleman scorns equally to wrong others or to suffer others to wrong him. I do not for one moment admit that a man should act deceitfully as a public servant in his dealing with other nations, any more than he should act deceitfully in his dealings as a private citizen with other private citizens. I do not for one moment admit that a nation should treat other nations in a different spirit from that in which an honorable man would treat other men.
"In practically applying this principle to the two sets of cases there is, of course, a great practical difference to be taken into account. We speak of international law; but international law is something wholly different from private or municipal law, and the capital difference is that there is a sanction for the one and no sanction for the other; that there is an outside force which compels individuals to obey the one, while there is no such outside force to compel obedience as regards to the other. International law will, I believe, as the generations pass, grow stronger and stronger until in some way or other there develops the power to make it respected. But as yet it is only in the first formative period. As yet, as a rule, each nation is of necessity to judge for itself in matters of vital importance between it and its neighbors, and actions must be of necessity, where this is the case, be different from what they are where, as among private citizens, there is an outside force whose action is all-powerful and must be invoked in any crisis of importance. It is the duty of wise statesman, gifted with the power of looking ahead, to try to encourage and build up every movement which will substitute or tend to substitute some other agency for force in the settlement of international disputes. It is the duty of every honest statesman to try to guide the nation so that it shall not wrong any other nation. But as yet the great civilized peoples, if they are to be true to themselves and to the cause of humanity and civilization, must keep in mind that in the last resort they must possess both the will and the power to resent wrong-doings from others. The men who sanely believe in a lofty morality preach righteousness; but they do not preach weakness, whether among private citizens or among nations. We believe that our ideals should be so high, but not so high as to make it impossible measurably to realize them. We sincerely and earnestly believe in peace; but if peace and justice conflict, we scorn the man who would not stand for justice though the whole world came in arms against him.
"And now, my hosts, a word in parting. You and I belong to the only two Republics among the great powers of the world. The ancient friendship between France and the United States has been, on the whole, a sincere and disinterested friendship. A calamity to you would be a sorrow to us. But it would be more than that. In the seething turmoil of the history of humanity certain nations stand out as possessing a peculiar power or charm, some special gift of beauty or wisdom of strength, which puts them among the immortals, which makes them rank forever with the leaders of Mankind. France is one of these nations. For her to sink would be a loss to all the world. There are certain lessons of brilliance and of generous gallantry that she can teach better than any of her sister nations. When the French peasantry sang of Malbrook, it was to tell how the soul of this warrior-foe took flight upward through the laurels he had won. Nearly seven centuries ago, Froisart, writing of the time of dire disaster, said that the realm of France was never so stricken that there were not left men who would valiantly fight for it. You have had a great past. I believe you will have a great future. Long may you carry yourselves proudly as citizens of a nation which bears a leading part in the teaching and uplifting of Mankind."
Teddy Roosevelt's "The man in the arena" speech may be the most complete description of the American character ever made. It was given in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, the height of European immigration to the United States, and just prior to World War I. It summarized Roosevelt's Presidency, in which he ushered the U.S. into a position as a modern world power. It came on the heels of a century of European revolution, American transcontinentalism, Reconstruction and Manifest Destiny. There is little ground that T.R. fails to cover.
The speech is remarkably prescient in its combination of approach and warning against socialism (Communism), despotism and totalitarianism. It contains fabulous religious philosophy, explanations of capitalism, nationalism, patriotism, internationalism and militarism, all expressed in high minded, moral terms. It provides a thorough plank of modern Republican (conservative) thought, and warns us to beware of people like the Clintons, described in detail by Roosevelt 83 years prior to their ascent to power. It is just as foretelling in its description of the media, and of course provides its greatest service in putting words to a philosophy that can be summed up as, "Criticize, but in so doing, offer solutions."
The speech describes individualism and civic duty. It is important to understand that in 1910, Freud was very influential. Roosevelt's combination of rugged self-expression in combination with Platonic notions of goodness mixed with the "warrior spirit" stand in stark contrast to the modern negativity of Freud.
Roosevelt also demonstrates admirable diplomatic deft in the "arena" speech. Knowing that socialists in Europe, not to mention American Democrats would hear him, he espoused notions found in the Founding Fathers aspirations for a two-party system of "checks and balances." T.R. plainly states that good ideas should be listened to, instead of holding a rigid line against the "egalitarianism" of pre-Soviet Russia.
Spoken by an American to an intellectual audience of elite French graduates, the speech incorporated the essence of education, which is to learn from the past. T.R. brilliantly demonstrated that the runaway success of America, so apparent at that time, was the result of overcoming the mistakes of the centuries.
Like so many great speeches, it is best regarded for what was ignored in it. Considering the events of the next 35 years, much of the world did not adhere to Roosevelt's creed.
The Old West
The business of America, it has been said, is business. Business suffers during wars, although there are exceptions to this rule. There is and always has been a military industrial complex that goes hand in hand with war. Dwight Eisenhower warned against it when he left office in 1961. The Leftists of the 1960s, emboldened by America’s difficulties in Southeast Asia, attempted to demonize American corporations who supplied war material to the military. This led to a re-birth of socialist thinking that identified big business, especially oil companies, as being exploiters of the poor.
The economy did quite well during Vietnam, due in no small part to the need to supply the war and prepare for the threats imposed by Communist monoliths in China and the Soviet Union. But economies do their best work during peacetime, particularly during periods following wars. America’s Roaring '20s followed the Great War, and we made unprecedented financial progress in the years after World War II.
The United States prospered after the revolution, but made amazing strides once the War Between the States was concluded. The Industrial Revolution had begun. War, for all of its horrors (or more precisely military necessity), creates advances in creative production. The space race, for instance, was responsible for many modern conveniences, just a few of which include cable television, cell phones, microwave ovens, and computers.
But the industrial North that supplied the Federal Army quickly turned its attention to the business of re-building America. This effort ran into problems early on in the South, because the Reconstruction was a rocky, 12-year experience. Some honest Southern farmers proposed agricultural projects that would have expanded acreage, employing thousands of former slaves, providing badly needed foodstuffs to a starving populace, giving the region a psychological shot in the arm. This would have provided a desperate stimulus to the area. Unfortunately, Northern banks simply refused to loan money to Southern business. Carpetbaggers who lacked the expertise or the “landscape” were the only ones allowed to do business. They provided no good service to the South.
Eventually Southern farmers were able to borrow money based on a scheme called crop mortgage. Sharecroppers emerged, and while they were not able to become independent, they did survive. Prejudice against the South gradually gave way to the obvious fact that they had the best soil and climate for agriculture. Yields were needed everywhere. As the South regained a toehold on the manufacture of its staple, cotton, they were able to work their way out of their war and post-war debts. New machinery was bought and made manufacturing much easier and more profitable. However, there is a terrible irony in this. The need for slavery would have dwindled greatly had these manufacturing tools come along without the war, and the war had been fought over slavery. The devil works like that.
As mentioned, the end of slavery had the war not been fought is pure conjecture. I have posited the notion that only major social events like the World Wars might have forced slavery to an end. This is based on social tradition and Southern stubbornness. This scenario may be revised based on the new advances in farming technology, embodied by the cotton mills that came about in the late 1870s. Cotton mills in New England eventually closed shop and moved to the South, the land of King Cotton.
Tobacco manufacturing rose in the South, as did iron and coal. More importantly, with the rise of business, a new class replaced the old one. The old aristocrats, educated only in the arts of fine wines, hunting, riding, and other non-essentials of life, were replaced by entrepreneurs and men of training and production. Politically, the South was virtually 100 percent Democrat, because Lincoln had been a Republican. They remained that way until the 1970s.
In the West, there had been a Gold Rush in 1849. California was a loyal contributor to the Union, but its distance from the battlefields was so great that it was not terribly affected. After the war, as the Indian battles were fought and more and more land became available for settlement, another migration of ex-soldiers and adventurers came West to mine for gold, silver, copper, lead, coal, iron and quicksilver. Every kind of thief, murderer, desperado, lady, prostitute, child, lawyer, Christian, Indian, Chinaman, Spaniard, Negro, gambler, sharper, coyote, poet, preacher, jack rabbit and soldier inhabited the small towns of the West. The new big city of the Barbary Coast extravaganza was San Francisco.
Easterners called it the Wild West. The great writer Mark Twain came out to emblazon his words across the landscape, memorializing forever the mystique of this new land. Lawlessness threatened to make life in the settlements all but impossible, but the American spirit also required order. Honest men were found and recruited to take jobs as sheriffs. They hired vigilantes to do battle with gunslingers, claim jumpers and all form of desperados. These men were often judge, jury and hangman all in the field, and they won the West.
When lawlessness was defeated, a new brand of horseman emerged; often ex-soldiers who knew how to ride and fend for themselves on the prairie. They were cowboys. This rugged breed was a type never seen before in any country. In many ways, the cowboy represents America more than any other symbol. The reality is, of course, not the same as the legend, but legends like this are based on more than a little bit if truth.
Cowboys tended to be honest, hardworking, rugged, and individualistic. They were athletic, folksy heroes, not burdened by the racial baggage of the Negro issue that permeated society east of the Mississippi River. Women fell for them, and children idolized them. Stories of cowboys were told in Europe and throughout the world, creating a positive image of America that was beyond the value of money.
Cowboys helped to develop the West, and engaged in cattle drives that were the foundation of our beef and leather industry. Improved refrigeration turned ranching into one of our most successful businesses. Cowboys may have shed themselves of the divisive slavery issue, but their legacy is not perfect. They fought the Indians and created the infamous phrase, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Hollywood made many “cowboys and Indians” movies, depicting courageous white men defending women and children from savage tribes. When children played “cowboys and Indians,” the kids always wanted to be the cowboys, not the Indians.
These are based on stereotypes. It is instructive to point out a few things. One is that stereotypes are almost always based on some truth, the amount of which differs from case to case. The other is that the winners write history. In every way – ethnic, religious, political, and national – I am a member of the “winning” class. My account of history can be read and understood that it comes to you through such a lens. Fair enough. I recognize this. I make the best effort I can to write a truthful account of history based on my research. I have a strong point of view, an agenda, if you will, and freely admit that. But I also know that a depiction of white settlers as genocidal murderers is fictitious.
The whites did do things that were morally questionable. The buffalo had supplied the Indians with much of their food, clothing, skins for teepees and string for their bows. In the early 1870s, millions roamed the plains. In 1869, the Kansas Railroad had to wait eight hours while a steady stream of buffalo poured across their tracks. In 20 years, the whites killed most of them.
This was one of the most heart-breaking aspects of Indian conquest. The American government faced difficult choices. They knew that settlement was inevitable, conflict with Indian tribes unavoidable, and they wanted to do the right thing. Something had to give. As with all events in which technologically advanced people meet backward peoples, the backward people lost. But the government did not just leave the Indians to their own devices. In 1887, the Dawes Act provided for dividing up the land by members of the tribes held in common, into individual farms. This made it easier for Indians to obtain ownership of their land. Any Indian who wished was given 160 acres for free, which they could sell if they so chose. Indians were given American citizenship. Many profited. White farmers were happy that they were no longer subject to scalping parties.
Government welfare increased to the Indians every year. Indian population has steadily gone up from what it was when they were fighting against the Army. Much of the land they were re-settled on, however, was not prosperous soil. Disease and alcohol became major problems, which can be related to a lack of pride. This was the result of their heritage as braves coming to an end. The government financed Indian schools. Many Indians were not motivated to learn the new tenets of education.
The legacy of Indians is a mixed one, as it is with African-Americans. The question remains, in both cases, whether they would have been better off left untouched. An African-American in 2003 probably does not engage in such philosophizing. This does not change the fact that had their ancestors never been brought here on slave ships, they may not be alive today. Their ancestors likely would have died of starvation, famine, disease, genocide, tribal warfare, or cruelty at the hands of a despotic African dictator/warlord in Africa. Had those ancestors not died that way, and they survived to live in modern day Africa, they very likely would be living under an unjust regime. They probably would be mired in poverty, and if given the chance to come to America would jump at the chance. Instead, they are already imbued with full U.S. citizenship. This may be a simplistic view and considered outrageously politically incorrect. It does not change the basic premise of truth that lies at the heart of the theory.
The same applies to Native Americans. If the whites had simply left them alone, huge numbers would have died of diseases and in inter-tribal wars. They had been fighting amongst themselves for centuries. Had the whites never interfered with them, they would be excoriated for neglecting the Indians by not providing all them modern amenities. Had the whites never come to the West, there would be an enormous clamor to bring roads, hospitals, medicine and a better way to the natives.
Sometimes, you cannot win. You just stay the course as best you can.
Farming, finally, ended the Wild West period. The creation of barbed wire made it possible to fence in grazing lands and prevent cattle from trampling crops. Stagecoach, pony express mail carriers and telegraph invention made communication between the East and the West common. Railroads, however, truly bridged the great divide. For some time, railroad travel was still subject to robbers and Indian raiders. Eventually travel between the coasts was no longer a military-style incursion into “enemy territory,” but rather an adventure that even families could engage in.
Two companies, the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific, built transcontinental railroads. The Central Pacific joined San Francisco with the Great Salt Lake. The U.P. ran from San Francisco across the Platte Valley to Omaha, Nebraska. Thousands of Chinese coolies were brought in to work the railroads. The story of the Chinese, like that of other minorities in this country, is instructive and worth shedding some truth to.
Not long ago I saw a documentary on the early Chinese. It was a typical depiction of how the Chinese were hated, exploited, discriminated against, and attacked by racist whites in the U.S. It was made to sound like life here for them was similar to a Russian Jew forced into starvation on a collectivist farm by the Stalinist gruppe. This went on for an hour or so. Then the documentary switched over to descriptions of what the Chinese went through to get here. For years and years, as generations became new generations, Chinese men, women and children spent their entire life savings; begging, borrowing, stealing, and placing themselves in indentured servitude, to keep coming to the U.S. They hid in cargo ships. They endured starvation, disease and terrible hardships that cannot be imagined by modern people, all to come to the U.S.
Res ipsa loquiter (“the thing speaks for itself”).
Two important things must be noted in studying the American West. First, it was a movement unlike any other in history. Second, it represented achievement unparalleled by man.
The Old West was populated by settlers much the way the former Mexican territories had been populated by frontiersmen, invited by the Mexican government to help protect their villages from savage Indian marauders stealing their harvests. Virtually all major expansion, with a few exceptions (such as Jewish Exodus), had been the result of government fiat. Empires would send armies to do battle with indigenous defenders. Once the wars were won, expansionism was safe to proceed.
The U.S. government did indeed encourage settlement of the West. The Lewis and Clark Expedition was sponsored by Washington. But the settlement was different in that ordinary citizens, not the Army, started it. It was only after enough citizens populated the West, and began to out-number the Indians and Mexicans, that the military was sent in to protect their interests.
Furthermore, "how the West was won" represents monumental achievement. No other country on the face of the planet was capable of achieving what the U.S. did, in so short a time. Thomas Jefferson predicted that Americanizing the West would take well over a century. It took less than half of one.
The building of the transcontinental railroad over the Rocky Mountains was mind blowing in its scope. It was the result of technology, will and hard labor never seen before, with the possible exception of the Pyramids. Like much of the West, Chinese immigrants built it in large part. When the job was done, they were dismissed and given little credit. The Chinese are the forgotten workers of the West. They had come to pan for gold after it was discovered in California. They were shoved to the least-productive sites. By dint of sheer hard work they created a living. They eventually made up generations of Chinese-American culture that is part of the rich cultural diversity of California. Today, their ancestors are among the most successful students and professionals in the country.
The Industrial Revolution
As the country grew, big business grew. America became a land of enterprise. The simple fact is that we became very good at it. The freedoms and opportunities of the United States created great wealth and entrepreneurial spirit. The nation was rich in natural resources and trade flowed in and out of our borders. Governments at the national, state and local levels encouraged business without heavy interference or taxation. Tariffs protected us from foreign competition. Americans were hard workers, and our population was chock-full of skilled, educated people and eager laborers. American invention was an eye-popping success. Technological progress eclipsed accomplishments in other parts of the world. Our leaders were smart visionaries.
The steel industry emerged as the biggest in the country. Steel was used to build railroads, skyscrapers and machinery. It was cheap and plentiful. Prior to the Civil War, cast iron was used, but it broke easily. It was actually an Englishman, Henry Bessemer, who created an inexpensive way to refine and harden steel. It was Andrew Carnegie, a Scotch immigrant, who organized the industry. Growing up and working on the Pennsylvania Railroad, Carnegie saved several thousand dollars by the time he was 24, and he saw the future. He joined up as a partner with Bessemer. In the Panic of 1873, when business came to a near-standstill, Carnegie made his move. With thousands of men out of work and willing to work for cheap wages, he opened a steel mill in Pittsburgh, made contracts with the railroads, and spread his mills throughout the nation.
Oil was discovered in northwestern Pennsylvania, which farmers used to skim and grease their wagon wheels. Some saw future value in it, and began to refine it. Oil was also created from coal. While the Civil War was still raging, prospectors flocked to Pennsylvania to drill for oil almost in as many numbers as they had traveled to California for the Gold Rush. John D. Rockefeller invested in refineries. He formed Standard Oil in Ohio. He had made a fortune selling groceries to the Union Army. As he drilled and refined for oil, it became a hot commodity. To buy Standard Oil stock early without selling it meant automatic millionaire status. Rockefeller was a hard-nosed businessman and he cornered the market. When the automobile became popular, oil became more than just big business. It became a bonanza with enormous social and political implications.
Meatpacking became a huge industry. Westinghouse invented the airbrake, allowing trains to stop without the help of brakemen. Signals were developed which allowed train engineers to know if the track ahead was unclear. Legal arrangements were made to ensure the safety of business, in the form of corporations, shareholding, partnerships and trusts. Eventually, trusts grew into monopolies. Standard Oil managed, through a monopolistic trust, to control 90 percent of the oil business in the U.S.
In 1890, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act, which attempted to eliminate trusts. It went too far and business lawyers found ways around it. Holding companies were created out of the antitrust situation. Rising from this period was J.P. Morgan, who revised the banking and manufacturing industries. Morgan went into business with Carnegie, and with Carnegie’s retirement Morgan built United States Steel into the world’s first billion-dollar corporation. By 1900, the U.S. was the richest nation on Earth. It had taken 124 years.
As stock trading increased, various unfair practices emerged. Problems with the stock market occurred. “Watering down” a stock or selling with insider information became common practice. The oil and railroad business joined together to create lower costs for themselves. But the benefits of big business far outweighed the few public affronts. By and large, the complaints were those who had not been able to succeed in competition with those who worked harder, came up with better ideas, and acted on their discoveries faster. If one wished to work hard and had the right stuff, they might not necessarily become a major captain of industry, but they could succeed beyond the wildest dreams of businessmen throughout history. The dream became known as the American Dream.
Rockefeller and others created jobs and wealth. This in turn created medical research, education, religious institutions, halls of academe, charities and philanthropy on a scale never before imagined. In 1946, Rockefeller’s son simply wrote a check for $8.5 million so the United Nations would have a headquarters building in New York City. Stock ownership became a staple of average American portfolios. In its own way it has provided as much freedom to people as the Constitution or other liberties.
Socialists would have you believe that Carnegie, Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, so-called “robber barons” like Leland Stanford, Jr., and others had monopolized wealth in America at the expense of the “little guy,” who was simply exploited by them. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The rise of big business gave rise to millions of small businesses, all working side-by-side with their larger contemporaries, in a beautiful system that combined competition with cooperation. The American capitalist system functioned to near perfection. The rising tide lifts all boats.
Despite the wealth of the huge corporations, Rockefeller, Carnegie and Vanderbilt accounted for a mere two percent of American product. This puts the lie to claims, on-going today and just as much a lie now as they were then, that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
By 1919, when big business reached its zenith, there were 175,000 manufacturing plants, mostly small. They turned out $5 billion worth of product. By 1930, there were 1,550,000 retail trade stores, 1,300,000 of which were independent. These were not famous companies, headline makers, or movers and shakers. They were just ordinary Americans taking care of their families, making their communities better, and passing on a legacy for the future. Every one of them, by their daily existence and success, places the words liar on every picture ever published of Karl Marx.
This is not to say that every worker was rich. A fireman working for Commodore Vanderbilt, whose fortune was worth $104,000,000, made $41 a month. He had to pay his bills out of that. But if he worked hard and improved himself, he could make himself relatively indispensable. Instead of just being a hired hand performing the same dull task every day without desire to improve and move up the ladder, he had a chance to get into management and become most profitable. There were cutbacks, layoffs and other unfortunate setbacks, but the working man always had a place in the system. The working man with a desire to be more than that had a chance to become an important part of the system.
That being said, wage earners before 1900 made much lesser by comparison with wage earners today. Health care, unemployment and retirement needs were often not met. So many people poured into America in pursuit of opportunity that workers were easy to find. Many employers were not concerned with their personal needs. The workers began to demand the opportunity to bargain collectively, which is an interesting concept.
In the Bible, it is said of Caen and Abel that “I am not my brother’s keeper.” Jesus said we are all brothers and sisters, with a responsibility for each other. The question is, does this responsibility extend to employers and their employees. Christ was not making reference to workers’ compensation, health care, and unemployment benefits. What everybody owes everybody is to treat each other with respect, to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
If a company can afford to provide benefits that create some security for their workers; and they can do so while still maintaining a healthy bottom line; and if the benefits they provide are, in the long run, going to make better, happier workers who in turn make the company better…then they should extend those benefits and securities. Today, most companies of decent size and repute provide benefits because they have found that it is of value to the company to do so. They have discovered that it does make for happier workers. The PR value within the community is often worth the costs involved. But as unions developed and tensions grew between workers and employers, many of the “victories” won by employees were in fact coerced or extorted from on companies.
The concept behind labor movements is more a social theory than an economic one. It is one that opened a hornet’s nest of problems. Like affirmative action, an idea with some good precepts that in practice became unfair and quickly spun out of control, the worker-employer relationship is one that, when manipulated beyond a simple work-for-pay idea, spun out of control. A man is worth what he produces, in an open market. That day’s work is what he is worth for that day. It does not, and should not guarantee, payment for the next day if on the next day he is unable, for any reason, to produce the work or similar results.
If a man suffers a non-work related injured and cannot work, the employer is not and must not be responsible for paying him. If the injury does occur on the job, the employer bears a certain responsibility. It must be restrained within the parameters of what the worker did, his value, production, and legitimate relationship to what his future value and earnings would have been. The responsibility of the injury to the employer must be judged fairly, based upon degrees of criminality, duty of care, or accident.
In “The Grapes of Wrath”, which I thoroughly acknowledge to be one of the most well-written novels of all time, the blatantly socialist author John Steinbeck paints a grim picture of Okie migrant farm workers who are exploited by California farm bosses. Because there were more Okies than were needed to work the jobs, the employers were able to pay them less and less. If an Okie did not wish to work for what was offered, another Okie was. Steinbeck depicts this as crass unfairness and exploitation. The picture deserves to be looked at from an angle other than Steinbeck’s.
The farm owner makes a profit, and Steinbeck takes exception to the fact that he makes this profit while the worker only makes a day wage. This does not take into account that the owner paid money for the farm, takes a financial risk in operating it, and takes on all the economic and legal responsibilities therein. Steinbeck also does not acknowledge that the owner ascended to this position, most likely, because he became educated, acquired skills, rose up through the ranks, separated himself by excellence, or any of the other ways that men of desire and hard work achieve success and freedom. Steinbeck would have you believe that all such men got to where they were because their fathers owned the farm (which, if this is the case, they probably acquired through hard work), or they are somebody’s brother-in-law, or some other form of nepotism. Steinbeck seemed to be the kind of man who, if somebody else had written his books, would not admit that the books sold well and created wealth and fame because they were simply better than other books competing for space in bookstores. Rather it was because a rich man's son who knew the right publishers wrote them.
Steinbeck also makes little reference to the low skills of the Okies. They have no education, no real skills, and little background for much of the work they find in California. They dragged their families out West, placing their women and children in jeopardy. Steinbeck would place responsibility for the welfare of sick children and pregnant girls on the owners of farms who employ unskilled people to do jobs of limited duration. He also seems to find no understanding of basic business principles. The Okies had to leave their farms because they could not pay their debts to banks. The land was theirs, but they did not make much of the land. In order to survive they had to take loans from the banks. When they do not pay the loans back, Steinbeck just wants the banks to forgive all the debts, somehow not acknowledging the chaos that would cause if banks did this regularly. He never states the truth that there was never any law, rule or mandate that said those Okies had to take those loans.
The book creates sympathy for the families. A person would be heartless and unfeeling if he reads this work and does not feel sympathy. A thinking man would read Steinbeck and endeavor to create a system that addresses the problems described. But the key to understanding Steinbeck’s work in context is to realize that at the heart of the book is guilt. Guilt is, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, a good thing. Guilt is what makes us do the right thing, to repent our sins, to moderate our behavior, and to right our wrongs. We feel guilt because we have been taught the difference between right and wrong. When we find ourselves on the wrong side of the moral equation, whether it is treating our mothers poorly or stealing, guilt plays upon our conscience.
But guilt imposed upon us by others is much trickier, and needs to be judged in context. Steinbeck takes advantage of a relatively narrow set of circumstances. His great literary skills give us a one-way guilt trip without balance. Guilt and moral indignation are powerful because they are emotional, and place the recipient on the defensive. Most recipients of the guilt trip simply do not possess the skills, intellect and reasoning capabilities to accurately address the imposed emotional guilt, as I, for one, endeavor to do herein.
Anti-war protestors have taken a cue from the Steinbeck model, by lavishing outrage over civilian casualties, children killed by bombs, and hospitals filled with the victims of the American military. These depictions cause guilt and conscientious objection to any person with compassion. The anti-war crowd will have you think that if you are for war, you therefore are a warmonger, a person who enjoys violence, and has a contemptible lack of compassion for whatever victim class they adopt.
What these emotions are meant to evoke is a question, followed by a realization, that if you disagree with them you do not possess as much humanity as they do. If you enjoy seeing civilians, or anybody, getting killed wholesale, then you do lack humanity. But people have one real truth that is theirs, and that is what is in their hearts. The man who wanted to bring freedom to the people of Iraq, but knew there would be “collateral damage,” does not lack humanity if he made the calculation that a few deaths are better than Saddam Hussein torturing and killing hundreds of thousands over generations.
V.I. Lenin defended killing as a political statement; killing for effect; killing to educate; killing to re-make through terror a mindset that will accept a new order that is destined. He meant to kill in order to eliminate political enemies, because those enemies provided something worse than armies of opposition: An idea. Lenin knew an idea was the most dangerous opponent. He saw himself as a social artist, or a chef, and the new order of Communism he oversaw was, to him, an "omelet."
Of course, there is still just a common understanding of Lenin that goes beyond all the metaphors and attempts at understanding him, and that is that the bastard was a bad guy. Period.
Now, getting back to emotion, guilt, and the union movement, which became associated with socialism and Communism or, “Reds" in America, the question of responsibility lies at the heart of what the employer owes the worker. The worker, in my view, needs to understand that what earns him his keep, what makes him worth more than what the boss wants to pay, is to make himself better than average, to rise above his circumstance. If possible, to become indispensable to the employer. Easy? No. Success never is.
The main point of this discussion is to point out that the way guilt and emotion is used by the Left to propagate unjust policies in the name of justice. The identification and exposition of their lies is not an easy investigation. The devil makes it that way.
The fact is that the majority of businesses in America treated their workers fairly. A few were on the wrong side of the moral equation. In 1915, the United States Commission of Industrial Relations determined that a number of employers were “totally unconcerned with regard to the working and living conditions of their men.” There actually had been about 150 labor unions prior to the Civil War. Membership numbered 25,000. When they tried to strike, the public strongly disapproved. An 1842 case, Massachusetts Commonwealth vs. Hunt, ruled that strikes were legal. Locomotive engineers, shoemakers and machinists joined national unions after the war. A single national union was proposed in 1866, with draconian measures that tried to put blanket rules on all businesses. This movement faded away. The Knights of Labor claimed 800,000 members by 1886, but they too went too far, trying to take over entire businesses and industries and newspapers. In fact they did succeed in doing that. Then the very rules they advocated proved to be too costly for their business enterprises, so they went bankrupt.
Samuel Gompers emerged on the scene and formed the American Federation of Labor. Gompers engaged in direct talks between management and union leaders, and kept his goals narrowly focused. His organization became the AFL-CIO, and is the model for the modern union system. After World War I, state laws passed laws to try and protect workers.
Bloody strikes occurred between 1880 and 1900. Employers hired replacement workers, and strikers began the practice of picketing establishments. Two big strikes were the railroad strikes of 1877 and 1886. In both cases the public sided with the strikers, because they disliked the railroad barons and blamed Wall Street for wage cuts. Pulman workers went on strike in 1894, and riots occurred. Eugene Debs led the railroad workers. He tried to avoid violence but the union workers were predisposed to it. Debs found himself in jail President Grover Cleveland had to send Federal troops to Cleveland to break up the violent, radical unionists. Debs served a six-month jail sentence. When he came out he showed the true colors of both himself and the unions by advocating Marxism, which he did in six Presidential campaigns – all rejected by America. Debs’ Marxist inculcation of the American union movement ultimately proved a cancer on society and the otherwise-legitimate value of unions. Men like Debs were not out to create safer, better conditions for workers that would operate within the engine of U.S. commerce. They were out to bring the country down because they did not like people making a great success of themselves in the free market system. This was an affront to their anarchist viewpoints.
As business developed and the Industrial Revolution plunged inexorably forward, cities grew. Farmers dreamed of making enough to move to the city. Immigrants teemed into the cities. Between 1860 and 1900, New York City tripled in size and Chicago expanded by 1,500 percent. In 1790, only three out of every 600 Americans lived in cities. By the 1950s, 65 percent of the U.S. were city dwellers. Factories, businesses, transportation and communication facilities all centered in cities. The best schools and newspapers were in cities. Great churches and libraries were found in cities. People journeyed to cities to see the opera, the theater, museums, for amusement and to get an education.
With cities came corruption. The Democrat Party quickly became the embodiment of corruption. Fast-growing populations needed new public works, paving, sewers, streetcars, lighting, and water supplies. Millions of dollars worth of contracts to provide goods and services were on the line. With the death of Lincoln, the Republicans lost their spiritual and political leader. Power went to the Democrats, who controlled the cities by making promises to the poor and disenfranchised that they could not keep. Their constituents were gullible and easily fooled.
After Lincoln’s assassination, in the period following the war, public morality was low and the Democrats prospered as a result of it. When scandals rocked the Grant Administration, the Democrats played upon the emotions of the voters by painting themselves as saviors. They took over the major city governments, which in the post-war era became very powerful. Letting contracts for public works open up created graft. The bidder could get the contract only by agreeing to split his profit with the ward bosses, who worked for Democrat political machines.
New York was the worst. The Democrat party there was ruled out of Tammany Hall by a group of plunderers known as the Tweed Ring. They were led by William M. “Boss” Tweed, a former prizefighter and saloonkeeper. He won election to a city council that became known as the “40 thieves,” Democrats all. In 1868, he elected a Governor who gave him free hand in all of the cities’ affairs. The courts, all run by Tweed-appointed Democrats, looked the other way. Tweed and the Democrats stole millions.
When New York City got its new courthouse, the architects planned a building that would cost $250,000. The Tweed Democrats ran up the bill to $12 million. The city paid $460,000 for lumber that was worth $48,000. One plasterer charged almost $3 million for nine months’ work, the skim going to greedy Democrats. Thermometers cost $7,500, and through such fraud Tweed’s Democrats wasted enormous sums of taxpayer money, therefore creating higher taxation of the populace. They pocketed the balance, and therefore set the city in debt by over 80 million 1870s dollars. Tweed blatantly registered ignorant Irish peasants to the Democrat party as soon as they got off the boats, which they did by the millions because of the potato famine. This is similar to the Clinton Administration, who signed up as Democrats millions of illegal aliens who were given “amnesty” by him, ostensibly in return for their votes. In the 2000 Presidential election, these people “voted” for the Democrat, Al Gore. Since few could read or write, much less read or write in the English language, many of their ballots in Florida, where a lot of them resided, were invalidated. George Bush’s victory exposed this fraud and proved to a triumph of irony. History repeated itself.
The list of reasons why nobody should vote for Democrats because the Republicans are not just the better choice, but the only real choice, would fill hundreds of pages. Many of those reasons are found in this book. However, the facts outlined in the short paragraph preceding this one, and the fact that these events created a Democrat tradition that is prevalent today, is reason enough to give credence to the premise that the Democrat party should cease to exist.
American voters have been known to accept a great deal of public abuse. They view it as a tradeoff for the freedom of living here. But they do get angry, as was the case with Tweed when the cartoonist Thomas Nast began depicting him as robbing the city. Tweed offered Nast $1 million if he would stop drawing the cartoons. Nast refused it.
“I don’t care about your newspaper articles; the people who vote for me can’t read,” Tweed said of his Democrat constituency, “but they can’t help seeing them damn pictures.”
Nast’s identification and exposure of Democrat lies helped break up Tammany Hall. Tweed was arrested and fled to Spain. A Spanish official who had seen the cartoons recognized him. He was sent back to America, where he died in prison, disgraced and defeated. Democrats in other cities had crooked organizations that were very powerful. Most of their constituencies were too ignorant to fight them.
Immigration increased after the Civil War. Europeans, tired of the upheaval, turmoil and lawlessness of socialistic revolutions, saw America as the land of opportunity. Steamship and railroad service made passage possible, even affordable. Labor laws were created which allowed immigrants to contract to work the cost of their transportation off. Between 1860 and 1900, 14 million immigrants entered the United States. In the following 30 years, an addition 18 million came here. Before 1890, most new arrivals were from northern and Western Europe; the British Isles, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. The customs of western and northern Europe were similar to ours.
After 1890, new nationalities came from southern and Eastern Europe. Slavs, Poles, Serbs, Russians, Italians and Jews escaped the pogroms, the czar and anti-Semitism. The northern and Western Europeans had tended to find settlement in the country. The new, persecuted classed settled in the cities, and became easy prey to Democrats who exploited their “victim” classification. These people worked in mines and factories, which tended to be dangerous work. Many settled in Pennsylvania, where they dug coal and made steel. The Red unionists used them to foment anarchy and socialism.
Despite efforts by socialists, anarchists, Reds and unionists, immigrants came to love America. They overcome economic hardships and prejudice, and took advantage of the limitless opportunities available in this great nation – opportunities that simply put the lie to the socialists, anarchists, Reds and unionists. They rose like the phoenix bird above their situations to make better lives for their families. Victor Herbert of Ireland, Sigmund Romberg of Hungary, and Rudolph Friml of Bohemia became great musicians. Well-known conductors from Germany, Russia, Italy and Holland brought their culture to our shores. The great operatic tenor, Enrico Caruso, arrived from Italy. The world famous violinist Fritz Kreisler came from Austria. The sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens came from Ireland. Great scientists like the sea animal authority Louis Agassiz, engineers like Charles Steinmetz, and atomic scientist Albert Einstein found their way to our shores. The German émigré Carl Schurz became Secretary of the Interior. William S. Knudsen of Denmark became president of General Motors.
With the immigrants came a new societal problem, slums in the inner cities. The Democrats became the party of the slums. In big cities, immigrants living in poverty saw nice houses, rich folks in their fineries, and examples of American wealth. Class envy became the best weapon of the Democrats. As immigrants rose above their circumstances, they saw the Democrat ploys exposed for what they were. Success stories that make up the American tradition were not of great value to the Democrat political cause.
Health problems spread rapidly in the slums and the cities, but science saved the day. America offered the best and freest place for scientists to study and learn. Quickly, their work was shown to be of great value to pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, which were able to combine good medicine with profitability. In the Old Country, many top scientists worked only within the narrow prism of the government. Their labor benefited only the aristocratic class. In the U.S., scientists were financially rewarded for their work, and the fruits of their labor benefited all. Therefore, consequently, and as a result thereof, typhoid, small pox, cholera, yellow fever and other epidemics were brought to control by the American medical community, which had already established itself as the best in the world.
Millions of immigrants who never would have learned how to read or write received excellent public educations in American schools. As wages increased and life got better, parents no longer were forced to put their children to work. This freed them to get educations. In 1878, there were less than 10 million pupils in public schools. By 1898, there were 15 million. In that year, 200,000 students attended colleges. By 1950, enrollment was over 2 million, and there were nearly 30 million pupils in public and private high schools, taught by over a million teachers. Coeducation also became common, with women and girls learning right along with their male counterparts.
In 1880, there were 971 newspapers in the U.S. In 2000, there were 2,226. William Randolph Hearst was a millionaire Californian whose father had made a fortune in mining and railroads. When kicked out of Harvard for creating mischief, his father made him the editor-publisher of the newspaper I would eventually write for, the San Francisco Examiner. Hearst was a huge success. Then he came to the East in 1895, developing a national media empire that spread from San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta to New York and Boston. In 1898, Hearst created a drumbeat of fever for war with Spain.
In 1892, the Associate Press was created. They were able to collect news that could be printed in papers all over the world that contracted for their services, receiving the stories by wire. The A.P. helped create accuracy in reporting because they had to feed disparate newspapers and readerships. Magazines spread throughout the country as people hungered for information beyond their local territories. Literature made enormous strides. Henry George’s “Progress and Poverty” addressed and analyzed poverty and sells well to this day. “How the Other Half Lives” by Jacob Riis gave vivid descriptions of life in the slums. From across the sea, Charles Dickens had enormous influence. “Bleak House”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, “Great Expectations” and “A Christmas Carol” were great works of adventure and fancy. They also addressed serious social concerns and the rift between the haves and have-nots.
Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, wrote “The Gilded Age”, dealing with business and corruption in politics. The title remains the lasting and memorable description of the last part of the 19th Century. Twain’s great mark on the world came in the form of “Life on the Mississippi”, “Huckleberry Finn” and “Tom Sawyer”. Twain shed important sympathy on the plight of slaves, but did it in a non-threatening way by writing stories of great adventure that captured the folksy side of Americana. Due to Political Correctness, millions of children have not read his great works because he occasionally wrote the word nigger, which was in common usage in his time. In the context of his books, it was never uttered in a mean or spiteful manner.
Bret Harte wrote beautiful novels about the West, and Edward Eggleston described Midwestern life. William Dean Howells wrote novels about Boston and edited the Atlantic Monthly.
George W. Cable became a great voice in the post-war South. Joel Chandler Harris penned tales of Negro life for children, in the process doing the beautiful work of teaching young innocents how not to hate. His stories included the character Uncle Remus and Bre’r Rabbit. “Ben Hur” by General Lew Wallace put a new face on Jews, who were seen as swarthy, mysterious and ungallant. In Wallace’s tale, a heroic, athletic Jew, Ben Hur, wins a fierce chariot race in Rome during early Christian times. William Sidney Porter wrote the short story "O. Henry”.
American architecture became a symbol of the country’s power, growth, and audacity. Enormous skyscrapers, bridges, houses, monuments, and the like dotted the landscape like giants. Any potential foe who visited the United States and saw these unbelievable accomplishments, if he were reasonable, concluded that to attempt to defeat the U.S. in a military endeavor would be an exercise in folly. A country that could accomplish such engineering marvels could accomplish anything. This attitude was totally prevalent by the mid-1880s. It completely dissuaded any ambitions that may have emanated from the idea that, just possibly, the War Between the States had weakened us beyond the ability to defend ourselves.
The huge immigration from Europe helped to provide great culture to Americans, who spent money indulging in the arts, and created imagery with a unique American stamp. This included the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and perhaps the most incredible symbol of all, Mount Rushmore. It is worth pointing out that Cher, a beautiful woman and talented singer-actress who has been an outspoken critic of Republicans over the years, thought for many years that Mount Rushmore was a natural phenomenon. Res ipsa loquiter.
Musically, American bandleaders like John Phillip Souza created songs with patriotic American gusto. Broadway became a place where American writers, actors, and musicians thrilled audiences with original works. Sports became a popular American obsession, with baseball establishing itself early on as the National Pastime. The first professional team opened for business in Cincinnati in 1869, followed by the National League in 1876, the American League in 1901, and the first World Series in 1903. College football became a huge success before the turn of the century. Boxing, popularized by the Ruffians of Europe, came to our shores with them, and was dominated in the early years by the Irish. It was too many slum-dwellers a way out of dire lives. Sports, as much as any other activity, had the effect of Americanizing immigrants and healing the wounds between the North and the South.
Jews, in particular, found sports to be the avenue to Americanization. Because they did not worship Christ, they were set apart by the predominantly Catholic Irish, Italian, and Slavic immigrants, and the predominantly Protestant English-Americans. But by understanding and loving baseball, Jews found common ground, heroes to worship, and teams (particularly the Brooklyn Dodgers) to root for. Identification with baseball teams became one of the single greatest American unifiers. In World Wars I and II spies were weeded out by questions such as, “Okay, wise guy, who won the last World Series?” or “Whose the manager of the New York Giants?” A German in 1944 might have guessed the New York Yankees had won the Series, because they won so many of them, but the answer that season was the St. Louis Cardinals. To say the manager of the Giants in 1918 was not John McGraw meant a quick trip to a prisoner of war camp. An explanation that one was an American but not a baseball fan was an oxymoron.
William Jennings Bryan
Politically, no major stars emerged in the years immediately after Lincoln’s assassination. In the late part of the century, two did. One was a Democrat, the other a Republican. At the 1896 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the party found itself in disarray, torn apart by the Pullman strike of two years prior. Delegates from the West and South hated Grover Cleveland, who had advocated maintenance of the gold standard. The common people viewed this as treachery. Cleveland had a long record of honest public service, which was of no value to the Democrats. They attacked the Supreme Court because they had resisted a Federal income tax, and threatened to reorganize the courts with activist judges who could push an agenda that they were unable to accomplish Democratically.
With no hope of winning the ’96 Presidential election, the Democrats were dull and lifeless when a young lawyer from Nebraska named William Jennings Bryan appeared at the podium and said:
“I come to speak you in defense of a cause as holy as the cause of liberty – the cause of humanity…We are fighting for the defense of our families, and posterity… There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well to do prosperous their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will finds its way up and through every class that rests upon it...They tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard; we reply that the great cities rest upon our broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country…Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify Mankind upon a cross of gold.”
When Bryan finished, the delegates went wild. The next day he was chosen as his party’s nominee. The speech became known as the “Cross of Gold” speech, and made Bryan a famous figure in American politics. The speech may look dated when reading it dispassionately, but Bryan had a magnetic personality and fiery speaking style. He was a devoutly religious man of the evangelical Christian variety; a real old school, snake-handling, speak-in-tongues tent revivalist who stirred an audience the way a great preacher can have a congregation in the spirit. To Bryan, politics and Christianity were one and the same. Everything was one in the same with Christianity to him. He was totally honest and a highly impressive individual, which was a distinct change for the corruption-plagued Democrat party.
Bryan had planned his appearance carefully, writing the delegates ahead of time and tailoring his letters to each one’s individual political tendencies. He traveled throughout the Mississippi Valley, speaking for free silver in the manner of Lincoln speaking for abolition. His pre-convention strategy was based on Lincoln’s success.
The Populists waited until the old parties made their nominations, then saw that Bryan’s speech and work in the “smoke-filled rooms” had undermined any cause but his. The Populists then nominated Bryan. He now had the full strength of the party. The Populists ended as a party, but their principles were inculcated into the Democrat platform. Today, both the Republicans and the Democrats endorse many Populist planks from the 19th Century. Many of their initiatives are current law.
Bryan took his cause to the people during the general election campaign, visiting 29 states and traveling 13,000 miles. In 14 weeks, Bryan made 600 speeches. He had no money for speechwriters or newspaper publicity. His whirlwind evangelical politics scared the hell out of the Republicans. But East Coast newspapers hated him. The New York Tribune called him a “wretched, rattle-pated boy, posing in vapid vanity and mouthing resounding rottenness.” A Brooklyn minister told his congregation that Bryan’s platform was “made in hell.”
The Republicans beat Bryan by spending the enormous sums of $3,500,000. The East Coast population centers went for them, 271 electoral votes for William McKinley to 176 for Bryan. Considering that Bryan was all-but-unknown prior to the Democrat Convention, his performance ranks as one of the most remarkable in political history. He did not disappear from the scene, emerging time and time again as a front-runner, contender, dark horse and Trojan horse, but he never won the brass ring. In the 1920s, Bryan’s public career came to an ignominious end of sorts when he was called upon by the state of Tennessee to prosecute a case against a teacher who taught evolution in a public school. Tennessee was just the kind of snake-handling, speak-in-tongues Christian state that loved the fiery Bryan, at least in the rural areas where the trial was held.
The case came to be known as the “Scopes Monkey Trial." The teacher, a man named Scopes, had taught that man had evolved from monkeys, instead of teaching the simplistic version of Adam and Eve. Clarence Darrow defended him. He made mincemeat of Bryan, who was made to look like a part of the 16th Century, not the 20th. Darrow’s performance earned him longtime recognition as one of America’s greatest trial lawyers. However, students of political science and the persuasive art of speechmaking have made Bryan a case study for over 100 years.
President Theodore Roosevelt
Republican McKinley was the President, but he was not the first big political star since Abe Lincoln. Another Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, was. Roosevelt is a giant in world history. His face is emblazoned upon Mount Rushmore, his visage one of the most distinctive in the world. He is the symbol of America’s emergence from not only the richest country in the world to that of a major world power. He placed America in a position to become the single most influential country on Earth. He did not do this by accident. T.R. is also a tremendous figure in Republican politics, a man who to this day is the favorite pol and leader of many an elected official, business leader and military man.
Born in 1858 in New York City, he descended from a line of bluebloods that had been in New York for six generations prior to his birth. His mother had Southern roots. His father had accumulated a considerable fortune. Teddy was afforded a first class education from private tutors, but he suffered from ill health, which had a big effect on him when he grew into manhood. He tested himself against the elements of nature and war. After graduating from Harvard, taking some law, and traveling through Europe, Roosevelt became religious about physical fitness. This ended his days as a sickly youth. He married young but his first wife died in 1884, leaving one child, Alice Lee, who would someday marry Nicholas Longworth. In 1886 he re-married. Five children were produced out of this union.
Roosevelt took to writing, publishing his college thesis on the naval war of 1812, and a four-volume set on the American West. In 1881 he was elected to the New York State Assembly. He immediately made enemies that garnered him major attention. He was a Republican in a city dominated by the corrupt Democrat machine of Tammany Hall tradition. Exposing their corruption was obvious to him. Because he was already wealthy, Roosevelt disdained the bribes that lesser lights took. In his three sessions in the legislature, Roosevelt was a friend of good government. His independent spirit and moderate reform presence at the 1884 Republican National Convention made him equal parts powerful and disdained. This was in his own party. The Democrats despised him because he identified and exposed their lies.
At the convention, Roosevelt set himself against Grover Cleveland and came out on the short end. He decided to take an appraisal of himself. He retired and moved to North Dakota, where he lived as a rancher and hunter. Roosevelt lived amongst the roughnecks and cowboys, earning their grudging respect with his willingness to work hard and take on all the tasks of this hard life. Many of the cowboys he met in his two years in the badlands became lifelong friends.
In 1886, his “wilderness years” behind him, he returned to New York and lost a bid for Mayor. He returned to writing, and in 1889 President Benjamin Harrison appointed him Civil Service Commissioner. In 1895 he was named police commissioner of New York during a period of active reform. Roosevelt recognized that a growing underworld of organized crime existed in the city. He aggressively went after it. This made him a big name again. Roosevelt was one of the Republican voices that were able to mute Bryan’s 1896 rhetoric. After actively campaigning for the successful McKinley Presidency, he was appointed to Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
Roosevelt became a national figure when he led the Rough Riders to victory at San Juan Hill, during the Spanish-American War of 1898. This war embodied the new prominence of the American nation in world affairs. The U.S. had proven to be a major political influence with its “experiment” in Democracy during and after the revolution. They had developed into a major economic power by virtue of Westward expansion, followed by the Industrial Revolution. They had shown a “new way” by fighting to overcome the burden of slavery. The only thing left was to demonstrate that the country deserved a place among the major powers of the world; not just as a moral, political and economic force, but as a military power, too.
The Virginius Affair and Spain’s corrupt exploitation of Cuba and Puerto Rico resulted in world opinion going against Spain, in favor a Cuban independence movement. Grover Cleveland had managed to avoid going to war over the issue, but only with considerable effort. However, numerous American volunteers arrived in Cuba to fight for the nascent independence movement there. Cuba orchestrated a major insurrection in 1895, and the situation became extremely heated. Spain protested to the American government for our “failure” to prevent the shipment of arms and ammunition from our shores to Cuba by insurgent juntas. The Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers began a steady drumbeat of war talk, with stirring stories of General Weyler’s reconcentrado camps in Cuba, the de Lome letter, and then the sinking of the Maine on February 15, 1898. On May 1, an American fleet in Manila Bay, Philippines, under Commodore George Dewey, destroyed a Spanish fleet. On July 3, Admiral W.T. Simpson destroyed Cervera’s fleet at Santiago. Santiago surrendered his men to General W.E.R. Shafter on July 17. Forces under General Nelson Miles occupied Puerto Rico. Fighting eventually ceased on August 13, with America the clear victor. Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines all became independent U.S. protectorates.
Roosevelt had argued strenuously that we should go to war with Spain. He used his official position to prepare the Navy for the conflict. He was audacious, exceeding his authority, but he helped to create a strong fighting force. Once war was declared, Roosevelt did an extraordinary thing. He resigned his government position and, with his friend Leonard Wood, organized a cavalry composed mainly of cowboys and college athletes. This colorful group quickly became known as the Rough Riders. Roosevelt, who had no previous military experience, was made commanding colonel of the regiment.
To try and imagine how unusual this was, imagine that somebody like Donald Evans, George W. Bush’s Commerce Secretary, went out and recruited a bunch of football players from Texas, the University of Southern California, and a few others schools; then mixed them up with a bunch of professional rodeo riders; thrown in some scoundrels and outlaws for good measure; formed a tank unit and went to Iraq, where they stormed one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces against heavy Republican Guard resistance; overcame the resistance, and captured a key stronghold in Baghdad that led to a quick termination of the 2003 war.
Roosevelt showed absolutely no fear amid a hail of bullets. He led his men to a stirring victory. The newspapers glorified him, and he was suddenly an enormous political hero. Roosevelt returned from Cuba and was immediately drafted and thrust into the New York gubernatorial race, which he won easily. He returned to his reformist ways, but Roosevelt quickly alienated Thomas Platt, the state Republican leader, who thought the young commander could be controlled. Platt wanted to regain the power that Roosevelt refused to cede to him in the state. Platt then proposed that T.R. be put on McKinley’s ticket as the Vice-Presidential candidate in 1900.
The McKinley-Roosevelt candidacy was victorious, but Roosevelt was immediately frustrated by his lack of power. That changed on September 14, 1901, when McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo, New York. Roosevelt had possibly enjoyed more luck and better timing than any politician in history. He was only 42 years old. He had served a few months in the military, yet during that time he was a colonel, a commander and one of the most famous, colorful war heroes in American history. His electoral career had consisted of a few terms in the New York Assembly and some plumb appointments. He was Governor for a short while until he was "kicked upstairs" and made Vice-President for a few months. Now he was President.
Roosevelt was forceful, vigorous and intelligent. He carried on the anti-corruption campaign that had marked his New York experience, when he had helped to clean up the city that had been made dirty by Boss Tweed’s Democrat machine. Roosevelt created a respect for good, clean government that has marked the American political scene ever since. The United States has known its share of scandals, but for a country of its size and power has maintained a reputation for honesty unmatched in any country in the world. Roosevelt, the Republican from a wealthy family, nevertheless vigorously went after powerful corporations who were attempting to form an oligarchy of sorts. Roosevelt used his “bully pulpit” to preach a moral tone. His honesty backed up his words.
Roosevelt, who had lived out in the Wild West and developed a love for the land, became the first of the great environmental Presidents. He created beautiful national parks and preserves that are still enjoyed by millions today. But it is in foreign affairs where Roosevelt made his greatest mark. To strengthen the new protectorates won as a result of the Spanish-American War, he strengthened his military and made use of them. Roosevelt began construction of the Panama Canal. He exercised enormous influence on Latin America. This caused latent unrest, but those countries all paid their bills instead of being allowed to drift into debt.
Roosevelt inserted himself into the diplomatic resolution of the 1905 Russo-Japanese War, and used American military power to resolve conflict in Morocco. He sent a fleet around the world in 1907 and told them to, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” He also entered the U.S. into disputes in China, throughout Asia, and entered the discussion in an increasingly divided Europe.
Having won election on his own in 1904, Roosevelt imposed a personal term limit upon himself by choosing not to run again in 1908. The U.S. had expanded its territories, its power, its military threat, and its diplomatic clout. Any country with major designs, from territorial to world domination, knew now that if the United States opposed them, they would most likely not achieve their goals. The Germans drafted a plan to begin the Great War in 1905. Roosevelt’s Presidency and aggressive policies no doubt led them to believe that it was not the right time. Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, Republican William Howard Taft, was elected in 1908. His policies were Rooseveltian enough to keep the Germans from implementing their plans.
In 1910, Roosevelt was drafted to settle a dispute within the Republican party. The result was a strain in relations with his protégé, Taft. Roosevelt argued for a more nationalistic policy. His re-insertion into public life invigorated his supporters, who began a draft of Roosevelt for the 1912 Presidential campaign. He was defeated for the nomination at the convention, and then made the biggest mistake of his career. Roosevelt had made his point in opposing Taft. He should have settled back, knowing that he had enough support to influence Taft’s policies. He had lost fair and square to the sitting President, but he became belligerent and formed the Bull Moose ticket, to run as an independent against Taft in November.
This created a disastrous split in the Republican vote, giving the White House to a Democrat pacifist named Woodrow Wilson. The Germans finally figured an American who would not stand up to them was in office. They prosecuted their invasion of Belgium and France in 1914. Had Roosevelt not broken up the Taft Administration, it is possible that World War I could have been avoided. This is not to say the war was his fault, or that his legacy is reduced a great deal, but there is no doubt that he came to a strange and, possibly premature, political end.
Roosevelt publicly advocated intervention with Mexico when Pancho Villa was raiding border towns. After Germany’s invasion, he strongly supported U.S. entrance into the war. He attempted to form up another division of volunteers which he hoped to lead, a la the Rough Riders, in Europe after Wilson entered the war. The President, not wanting to re-create Roosevelt’s star, refused the request.
Roosevelt and his policies had expanded American foreign prestige. The U.S. took control of the Philippines, and ended the Boxer Rebellion in China. He had “set the table” for the United States to take on any challenge. Indeed, our greatest challenges lay ahead.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism