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The Complete Essays of C. D. Warner by Charles Dudley Warner

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with sameness of effect, in the newspapers, some of the most widely
circulated of which are a composite of the police gazette and the comic
almanac. A great deal of the reading done is mere contagion, one form or
another of communicated grippe, and it is consoling and even surprising
to know that if you escape the run of it for a season, you have lost
nothing appreciable. Some people, it has been often said, make it a rule
never to read a book until it is from one to five years old, By this
simple device they escape the necessity of reading most of them, but this
is only a part of their gain. Considering the fact that the world is
full of books of the highest value for cultivation, entertainment, and
information, which the utmost leisure we can spare from other pressing
avocations does not suffice to give us knowledge of, it does seem to be
little less than a moral and intellectual sin to flounder about blindly
in the flood of new publications. I am speaking, of course, of the
general mass of readers, and not of the specialists who must follow their
subjects with ceaseless inquisition. But for most of us who belong to
the still comparatively few who, really read books, the main object of
life is not to keep up with the printing-press, any more than it is the
main object of sensible people to follow all the extremes and whims of
fashion in dress. When a fashion in literature has passed, we are
surprised that it should ever have seemed worth the trouble of studying
or imitating. When the special craze has passed, we notice another
thing, and that is that the author, not being of the first rank or of the
second, has generally contributed to the world all that he has to give in
one book, and our time has been wasted on his other books; and also that
in a special kind of writing in a given period--let us say, for example,
the historico-romantic--we perceive that it all has a common character,
is constructed on the same lines of adventure and with a prevailing type
of hero and heroine, according to the pattern set by the first one or two
stories of the sort which became popular, and we see its more or less
mechanical construction, and how easily it degenerates into commercial
book-making. Now while some of this writing has an individual flavor
that makes it entertaining and profitable in this way, we may be excused
from attempting to follow it all merely because it happens to be talked
about for the moment, and generally talked about in a very
undiscriminating manner. We need not in any company be ashamed if we
have not read it all, especially if we are ashamed that, considering the
time at our disposal, we have not made the acquaintance of the great and
small masterpieces of literature. It is said that the fashion of this
world passeth away, and so does the mere fashion in literature, the
fashion that does not follow the eternal law of beauty and symmetry, and
contribute to the intellectual and spiritual part of man. Otherwise it
is only a waiting in a material existence, like the lovers, in the words
of the Arabian story-teller, "till there came to them the Destroyer of
Delights and the Sunderer of Companies, he who layeth waste the palaces
and peopleth the tombs."

Without special anxiety, then, to keep pace with all the ephemeral in
literature, lest we should miss for the moment something that is
permanent, we can rest content in the vast accumulation of the tried and
genuine that the ages have given us. Anything that really belongs to
literature today we shall certainly find awaiting us tomorrow.

The better part of the life of man is in and by the imagination. This is
not generally believed, because it is not generally believed that the
chief end of man is the accumulation of intellectual and spiritual
material. Hence it is that what is called a practical education is set
above the mere enlargement and enrichment of the mind; and the possession
of the material is valued, and the intellectual life is undervalued. But
it should be remembered that the best preparation for a practical and
useful life is in the high development of the powers of the mind, and
that, commonly, by a culture that is not considered practical. The
notable fact about the group of great parliamentary orators in the days
of George III is the exhibition of their intellectual resources in the
entire world of letters, the classics, and ancient and modern history.
Yet all of them owed their development to a strictly classical training
in the schools. And most of them had not only the gift of the
imagination necessary to great eloquence, but also were so mentally
disciplined by the classics that they handled the practical questions
upon which they legislated with clearness and precision. The great
masters of finance were the classically trained orators William Pitt and
Charles James Fox.

In fine, to return to our knowledge of the short life of fashions that
are for the moment striking, why should we waste precious time in chasing
meteoric appearances, when we can be warmed and invigorated in the
sunshine of the great literatures?


By Charles Dudley Warner

Our theme for the hour is the American Newspaper. It is a subject in
which everybody is interested, and about which it is not polite to say
that anybody is not well informed; for, although there are scattered
through the land many persons, I am sorry to say, unable to pay for a
newspaper, I have never yet heard of anybody unable to edit one.

The topic has many points of view, and invites various study and comment.
In our limited time we must select one only. We have heard a great deal
about the power, the opportunity, the duty, the "mission," of the press.
The time has come for a more philosophical treatment of it, for an
inquiry into its relations to our complex civilization, for some ethical
account of it as one of the developments of our day, and for some
discussion of the effect it is producing, and likely to produce, on the
education of the people. Has the time come, or is it near at hand, when
we can point to a person who is alert, superficial, ready and shallow,
self-confident and half-informed, and say, "There is a product of the
American newspaper"? The newspaper is not a willful creation, nor an
isolated phenomenon, but the legitimate outcome of our age, as much as
our system of popular education. And I trust that some competent
observer will make, perhaps for this association, a philosophical study
of it. My task here is a much humbler one. I have thought that it may
not be unprofitable to treat the newspaper from a practical and even
somewhat mechanical point of view.

The newspaper is a private enterprise. Its object is to make money for
its owner. Whatever motive may be given out for starting a newspaper,
expectation of profit by it is the real one, whether the newspaper is
religious, political, scientific, or literary. The exceptional cases of
newspapers devoted to ideas or "causes" without regard to profit are so
few as not to affect the rule. Commonly, the cause, the sect, the party,
the trade, the delusion, the idea, gets its newspaper, its organ, its
advocate, only when some individual thinks he can see a pecuniary return
in establishing it.

This motive is not lower than that which leads people into any other
occupation or profession. To make a living, and to have a career, is the
original incentive in all cases. Even in purely philanthropical
enterprises the driving-wheel that keeps them in motion for any length of
time is the salary paid the working members. So powerful is this
incentive that sometimes the wheel will continue to turn round when there
is no grist to grind. It sometimes happens that the friction of the
philanthropic machinery is so great that but very little power is
transmitted to the object for which the machinery was made. I knew a
devoted agent of the American Colonization Society, who, for several
years, collected in Connecticut just enough, for the cause, to buy his
clothes, and pay his board at a good hotel.

It is scarcely necessary to say, except to prevent a possible
misapprehension, that the editor who has no high ideals, no intention of
benefiting his fellow-men by his newspaper, and uses it unscrupulously as
a means of money-making only, sinks to the level of the physician and the
lawyer who have no higher conception of their callings than that they
offer opportunities for getting money by appeals to credulity, and by
assisting in evasions of the law.

If the excellence of a newspaper is not always measured by its
profitableness, it is generally true that, if it does not pay its owner,
it is valueless to the public. Not all newspapers which make money are
good, for some succeed by catering to the lowest tastes of respectable
people, and to the prejudice, ignorance, and passion of the lowest class;
but, as a rule, the successful journal pecuniarily is the best journal.
The reasons for this are on the surface. The impecunious newspaper
cannot give its readers promptly the news, nor able discussion of the
news, and, still worse, it cannot be independent. The political journal
that relies for support upon drippings of party favor or patronage, the
general newspaper that finds it necessary to existence to manipulate
stock reports, the religious weekly that draws precarious support from
puffing doubtful enterprises, the literary paper that depends upon the
approval of publishers, are poor affairs, and, in the long run or short
run, come to grief. Some newspapers do succeed by sensationalism, as
some preachers do; by a kind of quackery, as some doctors do; by trimming
and shifting to any momentary popular prejudice, as some politicians do;
by becoming the paid advocate of a personal ambition or a corporate
enterprise, as some lawyers do: but the newspaper only becomes a real
power when it is able, on the basis of pecuniary independence, to free
itself from all such entanglements. An editor who stands with hat in
hand has the respect accorded to any other beggar.

The recognition of the fact that the newspaper is a private and purely
business enterprise will help to define the mutual relations of the
editor and the public. His claim upon the public is exactly that of any
manufacturer or dealer. It is that of the man who makes cloth, or the
grocer who opens a shop--neither has a right to complain if the public
does not buy of him. If the buyer does not like a cloth half shoddy, or
coffee half-chicory, he will go elsewhere. If the subscriber does not
like one newspaper, he takes another, or none. The appeal for newspaper
support on the ground that such a journal ought to be sustained by an
enlightened community, or on any other ground than that it is a good
article that people want,--or would want if they knew its value,--is
purely childish in this age of the world. If any person wants to start a
periodical devoted to decorated teapots, with the noble view of inducing
the people to live up to his idea of a teapot, very good; but he has no
right to complain if he fails.

On the other hand, the public has no rights in the newspaper except what
it pays for; even the "old subscriber" has none, except to drop the paper
if it ceases to please him. The notion that the subscriber has a right
to interfere in the conduct of the paper, or the reader to direct its
opinions, is based on a misconception of what the newspaper is. The
claim of the public to have its communications printed in the paper is
equally baseless. Whether they shall be printed or not rests in the
discretion of the editor, having reference to his own private interest,
and to his apprehension of the public good. Nor is he bound to give any
reason for his refusal. It is purely in his discretion whether he will
admit a reply to any thing that has appeared in his columns. No one has
a right to demand it. Courtesy and policy may grant it; but the right to
it does not exist. If any one is injured, he may seek his remedy at law;
and I should like to see the law of libel such and so administered that
any person injured by a libel in the newspaper, as well as by slander out
of it, could be sure of prompt redress. While the subscribes acquires no
right to dictate to the newspaper, we can imagine an extreme case when he
should have his money back which had been paid in advance, if the
newspaper totally changed its character. If he had contracted with a
dealer to supply him with hard coal during the winter, he might have a
remedy if the dealer delivered only charcoal in the coldest weather; and
so if he paid for a Roman Catholic journal which suddenly became an organ
of the spiritists.

The advertiser acquires no more rights in the newspaper than the
subscriber. He is entitled to use the space for which he pays by the
insertion of such material as is approved by the editor. He gains no
interest in any other part of the paper, and has no more claim to any
space in the editorial columns, than any other one of the public. To
give him such space would be unbusiness-like, and the extension of a
preference which would be unjust to the rest of the public. Nothing more
quickly destroys the character of a journal, begets distrust of it, and
so reduces its value, than the well-founded suspicion that its editorial
columns are the property of advertisers. Even a religious journal will,
after a while, be injured by this.

Yet it must be confessed that here is one of the greatest difficulties of
modern journalism. The newspaper must be cheap. It is, considering the
immense cost to produce it, the cheapest product ever offered to man.
Most newspapers cost more than they sell for; they could not live by
subscriptions; for any profits, they certainly depend upon
advertisements. The advertisements depend upon the circulation; the
circulation is likely to dwindle if too much space is occupied by
advertisements, or if it is evident that the paper belongs to its favored
advertisers. The counting-room desires to conciliate the advertisers;
the editor looks to making a paper satisfactory to his readers. Between
this see-saw of the necessary subscriber and the necessary advertiser, a
good many newspapers go down. This difficulty would be measurably
removed by the admission of the truth that the newspaper is a strictly
business enterprise, depending for success upon a 'quid pro quo' between
all parties connected with it, and upon integrity in its management.

Akin to the false notion that the newspaper is a sort of open channel
that the public may use as it chooses, is the conception of it as a
charitable institution. The newspaper, which is the property of a
private person as much as a drug-shop is, is expected to perform for
nothing services which would be asked of no other private person. There
is scarcely a charitable enterprise to which it is not asked to
contribute of its space, which is money, ten times more than other
persons in the community, who are ten times as able as the owner of the
newspaper, contribute. The journal is considered "mean" if it will not
surrender its columns freely to notices and announcements of this sort.
If a manager has a new hen-coop or a new singer he wishes to introduce to
the public, he comes to the newspaper, expecting to have his enterprise
extolled for nothing, and probably never thinks that it would be just as
proper for him to go to one of the regular advertisers in the paper and
ask him to give up his space. Anything, from a church picnic to a brass-
band concert for the benefit of the widow of the triangles, asks the
newspaper to contribute. The party in politics, whose principles the
editor advocates, has no doubt of its rightful claim upon him, not only
upon the editorial columns, but upon the whole newspaper. It asks
without hesitation that the newspaper should take up its valuable space
by printing hundreds and often thousands of dollars' worth of political
announcements in the course of a protracted campaign, when it never would
think of getting its halls, its speakers, and its brass bands, free of
expense. Churches, as well as parties, expect this sort of charity.
I have known rich churches, to whose members it was a convenience to have
their Sunday and other services announced, withdraw the announcements
when the editor declined any longer to contribute a weekly fifty-cents'
worth of space. No private persons contribute so much to charity, in
proportion to ability, as the newspaper. Perhaps it will get credit for
this in the next world: it certainly never does in this.

The chief function of the newspaper is to collect and print the news.
Upon the kind of news that should be gathered and published, we shall
remark farther on. The second function is to elucidate the news, and
comment on it, and show its relations. A third function is to furnish
reading-matter to the general public.

Nothing is so difficult for the manager as to know what news is: the
instinct for it is a sort of sixth sense. To discern out of the mass of
materials collected not only what is most likely to interest the public,
but what phase and aspect of it will attract most attention, and the
relative importance of it; to tell the day before or at midnight what the
world will be talking about in the morning, and what it will want the
fullest details of, and to meet that want in advance,--requires a
peculiar talent. There is always some topic on which the public wants
instant information. It is easy enough when the news is developed, and
everybody is discussing it, for the editor to fall in; but the success of
the news printed depends upon a pre-apprehension of all this. Some
papers, which nevertheless print all the news, are always a day behind,
do not appreciate the popular drift till it has gone to something else,
and err as much by clinging to a subject after it is dead as by not
taking it up before it was fairly born. The public craves eagerly for
only one thing at a time, and soon wearies of that; and it is to the
newspaper's profit to seize the exact point of a debate, the thrilling
moment of an accident, the pith of an important discourse; to throw
itself into it as if life depended on it, and for the hour to flood the
popular curiosity with it as an engine deluges a fire.

Scarcely less important than promptly seizing and printing the news is
the attractive arrangement of it, its effective presentation to the eye.
Two papers may have exactly the same important intelligence, identically
the same despatches: the one will be called bright, attractive, "newsy";
the other, dull and stupid.

We have said nothing yet about that, which, to most people, is the most
important aspect of the newspaper,--the editor's responsibility to the
public for its contents. It is sufficient briefly to say here, that it
is exactly the responsibility of every other person in society,--the full
responsibility of his opportunity. He has voluntarily taken a position
in which he can do a great deal of good or a great deal of evil, and he,
should be held and judged by his opportunity: it is greater than that of
the preacher, the teacher, the congressman, the physician. He occupies
the loftiest pulpit; he is in his teacher's desk seven days in the week;
his voice can be heard farther than that of the most lusty fog-horn
politician; and often, I am sorry to say, his columns outshine the
shelves of the druggist in display of proprietary medicines. Nothing
else ever invented has the public attention as the newspaper has, or is
an influence so constant and universal. It is this large opportunity
that has given the impression that the newspaper is a public rather than
a private enterprise.

It was a nebulous but suggestive remark that the newspaper occupies the
borderland between literature and common sense. Literature it certainly
is not, and in the popular apprehension it seems often too erratic and
variable to be credited with the balance-wheel of sense; but it must have
something of the charm of the one, and the steadiness and sagacity of the
other, or it will fail to please. The model editor, I believe, has yet
to appear. Notwithstanding the traditional reputation of certain editors
in the past, they could not be called great editors by our standards; for
the elements of modern journalism did not exist in their time. The old
newspaper was a broadside of stale news, with a moral essay attached.
Perhaps Benjamin Franklin, with our facilities, would have been very near
the ideal editor. There was nothing he did not wish to know; and no one
excelled him in the ability to communicate what he found out to the
average mind. He came as near as anybody ever did to marrying common
sense to literature: he had it in him to make it sufficient for
journalistic purposes. He was what somebody said Carlyle was, and what
the American editor ought to be,--a vernacular man.

The assertion has been made recently, publicly, and with evidence
adduced, that the American newspaper is the best in the world. It is
like the assertion that the American government is the best in the world;
no doubt it is, for the American people.

Judged by broad standards, it may safely be admitted that the American
newspaper is susceptible of some improvement, and that it has something
to learn from the journals of other nations. We shall be better employed
in correcting its weaknesses than in complacently contemplating its

Let us examine it in its three departments already named,--its news,
editorials, and miscellaneous reading-matter.

In particularity and comprehensiveness of news-collecting, it may be
admitted that the American newspapers for a time led the world. I mean
in the picking-up of local intelligence, and the use of the telegraph to
make it general. And with this arose the odd notion that news is made
important by the mere fact of its rapid transmission over the wire. The
English journals followed, speedily overtook, and some of the wealthier
ones perhaps surpassed, the American in the use of the telegraph, and in
the presentation of some sorts of local news; not of casualties, and
small city and neighborhood events, and social gossip (until very
recently), but certainly in the business of the law courts, and the
crimes and mishaps that come within police and legal supervision. The
leading papers of the German press, though strong in correspondence and
in discussion of affairs, are far less comprehensive in their news than
the American or the English. The French journals, we are accustomed to
say, are not newspapers at all. And this is true as we use the word.
Until recently, nothing has been of importance to the Frenchman except
himself; and what happened outside of France, not directly affecting his
glory, his profit, or his pleasure, did not interest him: hence, one
could nowhere so securely intrench himself against the news of the world
as behind the barricade of the Paris journals. But let us not make a
mistake in this matter. We may have more to learn from the Paris
journals than from any others. If they do not give what we call news--
local news, events, casualties, the happenings of the day,--they do give
ideas, opinions; they do discuss politics, the social drift; they give
the intellectual ferment of Paris; they supply the material that Paris
likes to talk over, the badinage of the boulevard, the wit of the salon,
the sensation of the stage, the new movement in literature and in
politics. This may be important, or it may be trivial: it is commonly
more interesting than much of that which we call news.

Our very facility and enterprise in news-gathering have overwhelmed our
newspapers, and it may be remarked that editorial discrimination has not
kept pace with the facilities. We are overpowered with a mass of
undigested intelligence, collected for the mast part without regard to
value. The force of the newspaper is expended in extending these
facilities, with little regard to discriminating selection. The burden
is already too heavy for the newspaper, and wearisome to the public.

The publication of the news is the most important function of the paper.
How is it gathered? We must confess that it is gathered very much by
chance. A drag-net is thrown out, and whatever comes is taken. An
examination into the process of collecting shows what sort of news we are
likely to get, and that nine-tenths of that printed is collected without
much intelligence exercised in selection. The alliance of the associated
press with the telegraph company is a fruitful source of news of an
inferior quality. Of course, it is for the interest of the telegraph
company to swell the volume to be transmitted. It is impossible for the
associated press to have an agent in every place to which the telegraph
penetrates: therefore the telegraphic operators often act as its
purveyors. It is for their interest to send something; and their
judgment of what is important is not only biased, but is formed by purely
local standards. Our news, therefore, is largely set in motion by
telegraphic operators, by agents trained to regard only the accidental,
the startling, the abnormal, as news; it is picked up by sharp prowlers
about town, whose pay depends upon finding something, who are looking for
something spicy and sensational, or which may be dressed up and
exaggerated to satisfy an appetite for novelty and high flavor, and who
regard casualties as the chief news. Our newspapers every day are loaded
with accidents, casualties, and crimes concerning people of whom we never
heard before and never shall hear again, the reading of which is of no
earthly use to any human being.

What is news? What is it that an intelligent public should care to hear
of and talk about? Run your eye down the columns of your journal. There
was a drunken squabble last night in a New York groggery; there is a
petty but carefully elaborated village scandal about a foolish girl; a
woman accidentally dropped her baby out of a fourth-story window in
Maine; in Connecticut, a wife, by mistake, got into the same railway
train with another woman's husband; a child fell into a well in New
Jersey; there is a column about a peripatetic horse-race, which exhibits,
like a circus, from city to city; a laborer in a remote town in
Pennsylvania had a sunstroke; there is an edifying dying speech of a
murderer, the love-letter of a suicide, the set-to of a couple of
congressmen; and there are columns about a gigantic war of half a dozen
politicians over the appointment of a sugar-gauger. Granted that this
pabulum is desired by the reader, why not save the expense of
transmission by having several columns of it stereotyped, to be
reproduced at proper intervals? With the date changed, it would always,
have its original value, and perfectly satisfy the demand, if a demand
exists, for this sort of news.

This is not, as you see, a description of your journal: it is a
description of only one portion of it. It is a complex and wonderful
creation. Every morning it is a mirror of the world, more or less
distorted and imperfect, but such a mirror as it never had held up to it
before. But consider how much space is taken up with mere trivialities
and vulgarities under the name of news. And this evil is likely to
continue and increase until news-gatherers learn that more important than
the reports of accidents and casualties is the intelligence of opinions
and thoughts, the moral and intellectual movements of modern life. A
horrible assassination in India is instantly telegraphed; but the
progress of such a vast movement as that of the Wahabee revival in Islam,
which may change the destiny of great provinces, never gets itself put
upon the wires. We hear promptly of a landslide in Switzerland, but only
very slowly of a political agitation that is changing the constitution of
the republic. It should be said, however, that the daily newspaper is
not alone responsible for this: it is what the age and the community
where it is published make it. So far as I have observed, the majority
of the readers in America peruses eagerly three columns about a mill
between an English and a naturalized American prize-fighter, but will
only glance at a column report of a debate in the English parliament
which involves a radical change in the whole policy of England; and
devours a page about the Chantilly races, while it ignores a paragraph
concerning the suppression of the Jesuit schools.

Our newspapers are overwhelmed with material that is of no importance.
The obvious remedy for this would be more intelligent direction in the
collection of news, and more careful sifting and supervision of it when
gathered. It becomes every day more apparent to every manager that such
discrimination is more necessary. There is no limit to the various
intelligence and gossip that our complex life offers--no paper is big
enough to contain it; no reader has time enough to read it. And the
journal must cease to be a sort of waste-basket at the end of a telegraph
wire, into which any reporter, telegraph operator, or gossip-monger can
dump whatever he pleases. We must get rid of the superstition that value
is given to an unimportant "item" by sending it a thousand miles over a

Perhaps the most striking feature of the American newspaper, especially
of the country weekly, is its enormous development of local and
neighborhood news. It is of recent date. Horace Greeley used to advise
the country editors to give small space to the general news of the world,
but to cultivate assiduously the home field, to glean every possible
detail of private life in the circuit of the county, and print it. The
advice was shrewd for a metropolitan editor, and it was not without its
profit to the country editor. It was founded on a deep knowledge of
human nature; namely, upon the fact that people read most eagerly that
which they already know, if it is about themselves or their neighbors, if
it is a report of something they have been concerned in, a lecture they
have heard, a fair, or festival, or wedding, or funeral, or barn-raising
they have attended. The result is column after column of short
paragraphs of gossip and trivialities, chips, chips, chips. Mr. Sales is
contemplating erecting a new counter in his store; his rival opposite has
a new sign; Miss Bumps of Gath is visiting her cousin, Miss Smith of
Bozrah; the sheriff has painted his fence; Farmer Brown has lost his cow;
the eminent member from Neopolis has put an ell on one end of his
mansion, and a mortgage on the other.

On the face of it nothing is so vapid and profitless as column after
column of this reading. These "items" have very little interest, except
to those who already know the facts; but those concerned like to see them
in print, and take the newspaper on that account. This sort of inanity
takes the place of reading-matter that might be of benefit, and its
effect must be to belittle and contract the mind. But this is not the
most serious objection to the publication of these worthless details.
It cultivates self-consciousness in the community, and love of notoriety;
it develops vanity and self-importance, and elevates the trivial in life
above the essential.

And this brings me to speak of the mania in this age, and especially in
America, for notoriety in social life as well as in politics. The
newspapers are the vehicle of it, sometimes the occasion, but not the
cause. The newspaper may have fostered--it has not created--this hunger
for publicity. Almost everybody talks about the violation of decency and
the sanctity of private life by the newspaper in the publication of
personalities and the gossip of society; and the very people who make
these strictures are often those who regard the paper as without
enterprise and dull, if it does not report in detail their weddings,
their balls and parties, the distinguished persons present, the dress of
the ladies, the sumptuousness of the entertainment, if it does not
celebrate their church services and festivities, their social meetings,
their new house, their distinguished arrivals at this or that watering-
place. I believe every newspaper manager will bear me out in saying that
there is a constant pressure on him to print much more of such private
matter than his judgment and taste permit or approve, and that the gossip
which is brought to his notice, with the hope that he will violate the
sensitiveness of social life by printing it, is far away larger in amount
than all that he publishes.

To return for a moment to the subject of general news. The
characteristic of our modern civilization is sensitiveness, or, as the
doctors say, nervousness. Perhaps the philanthropist would term it
sympathy. No doubt an exciting cause of it is the adaptation of
electricity to the transmission of facts and ideas. The telegraph, we
say, has put us in sympathy with all the world. And we reckon this
enlargement of nerve contact somehow a gain. Our bared nerves are played
upon by a thousand wires. Nature, no doubt, has a method of hardening or
deadening them to these shocks; but nevertheless, every person who reads
is a focus for the excitements, the ills, the troubles, of all the world.
In addition to his local pleasures and annoyances, he is in a manner
compelled to be a sharer in the universal uneasiness. It might be worth
while to inquire what effect this exciting accumulation of the news of
the world upon an individual or a community has upon happiness and upon
character. Is the New England man any better able to bear or deal with
his extraordinary climate by the daily knowledge of the weather all over
the globe? Is a man happier, or improved in character, by the woful tale
of a world's distress and apprehension that greets him every morning at
breakfast? Knowledge, we know, increases sorrow; but I suppose the
offset to that is, that strength only comes through suffering. But this
is a digression.

Not second in importance to any department of the journal is the
reporting; that is, the special reporting as distinguished from the more
general news-gathering. I mean the reports of proceedings in Congress,
in conventions, assemblies, and conferences, public conversations,
lectures, sermons, investigations, law trials, and occurrences of all
sorts that rise into general importance. These reports are the basis of
our knowledge and opinions. If they are false or exaggerated, we are
ignorant of what is taking place, and misled. It is of infinitely more
importance that they should be absolutely trustworthy than that the
editorial comments should be sound and wise. If the reports on affairs
can be depended on, the public can form its own opinion, and act
intelligently. And; if the public has a right to demand anything of a
newspaper, it is that its reports of what occurs shall be faithfully
accurate, unprejudiced, and colorless. They ought not, to be editorials,
or the vehicles of personal opinion and feeling. The interpretation of,
the facts they give should be left to the editor and the public. There
should be a sharp line drawn between the report and the editorial.

I am inclined to think that the reporting department is the weakest in
the American newspaper, and that there is just ground for the admitted
public distrust of it. Too often, if a person would know what has taken
place in a given case, he must read the reports in half a dozen journals,
then strike a general average of probabilities, allowing for the personal
equation, and then--suspend his judgment. Of course, there is much
excellent reporting, and there are many able men engaged in it who
reflect the highest honor upon their occupation. And the press of no
other country shows more occasional brilliant feats in reporting than
ours: these are on occasions when the newspapers make special efforts.
Take the last two national party conventions. The fullness, the
accuracy, the vividness, with which their proceedings were reported in
the leading journals, were marvelous triumphs of knowledge, skill, and
expense. The conventions were so photographed by hundreds of pens, that
the public outside saw them almost as distinctly as the crowd in
attendance. This result was attained because the editors determined that
it should be, sent able men to report, and demanded the best work. But
take an opposite and a daily illustration of reporting, that of the
debates and proceedings in Congress. I do not refer to the specials of
various journals which are good, bad, or indifferent, as the case may be,
and commonly colored by partisan considerations, but the regular synopsis
sent to the country at large. Now, for some years it has been
inadequate, frequently unintelligible, often grossly misleading, failing
wholly to give the real spirit and meaning of the most important
discussions; and it is as dry as chips besides. To be both stupid and
inaccurate is the unpardonable sin in journalism. Contrast these reports
with the lively and faithful pictures of the French Assembly which are
served to the Paris papers.

Before speaking of the reasons for the public distrust in reports, it is
proper to put in one qualification. The public itself, and not the
newspapers, is the great factory of baseless rumors and untruths.
Although the newspaper unavoidably gives currency to some of these, it is
the great corrector of popular rumors. Concerning any event, a hundred
different versions and conflicting accounts are instantly set afloat.
These would run on, and become settled but unfounded beliefs, as private
whispered scandals do run, if the newspaper did not intervene. It is the
business of the newspaper, on every occurrence of moment, to chase down
the rumors, and to find out the facts and print them, and set the public
mind at rest. The newspaper publishes them under a sense of
responsibility for its statements. It is not by any means always
correct; but I know that it is the aim of most newspapers to discharge
this important public function faithfully. When this country had few
newspapers it was ten times more the prey of false reports and delusions
than it is now.

Reporting requires as high ability as editorial writing; perhaps of a
different kind, though in the history of American journalism the best
reporters have often become the best editors. Talent of this kind must
be adequately paid; and it happens that in America the reporting field is
so vast that few journals can afford to make the reporting department
correspond in ability to the editorial, and I doubt if the importance of
doing so is yet fully realized. An intelligent and representative
synopsis of a lecture or other public performance is rare. The ability
to grasp a speaker's meaning, or to follow a long discourse, and
reproduce either in spirit, and fairly, in a short space, is not common.
When the public which has been present reads the inaccurate report, it
loses confidence in the newspaper.

Its confidence is again undermined when it learns that an "interview"
which it has read with interest was manufactured; that the report of the
movements and sayings of a distinguished stranger was a pure piece of
ingenious invention; that a thrilling adventure alongshore, or in a
balloon, or in a horse-car, was what is called a sensational article,
concocted by some brilliant genius, and spun out by the yard according to
his necessities. These reports are entertaining, and often more readable
than anything else in the newspaper; and, if they were put into a
department with an appropriate heading, the public would be less
suspicious that all the news in the journal was colored and heightened by
a lively imagination.

Intelligent and honest reporting of whatever interests the public is the
sound basis of all journalism. And yet so careless have editors been of
all this that a reporter has been sent to attend the sessions of a
philological convention who had not the least linguistic knowledge,
having always been employed on marine disasters. Another reporter, who
was assigned to inform the public of the results of a difficult
archeological investigation, frankly confessed his inability to
understand what was going on; for his ordinary business, he said, was
cattle. A story is told of a metropolitan journal, which illustrates
another difficulty the public has in keeping up its confidence in
newspaper infallibility. It may not be true for history, but answers for
an illustration. The annual November meteors were expected on a certain
night. The journal prepared an elaborate article, several columns in
length, on meteoric displays in general, and on the display of that night
in particular, giving in detail the appearance of the heavens from the
metropolitan roofs in various parts of the city, the shooting of the
meteors amid the blazing constellations, the size and times of flight of
the fiery bodies; in short, a most vivid and scientific account of the
lofty fireworks. Unfortunately the night was cloudy. The article was in
type and ready; but the clouds would not break. The last moment for
going to press arrived: there was a probability that the clouds would
lift before daylight and the manager took the risk. The article that
appeared was very interesting; but its scientific value was impaired by
the fact that the heavens were obscured the whole night, and the meteors,
if any arrived, were invisible. The reasonable excuse of the editor
would be that he could not control the elements.

If the reporting department needs strengthening and reduction to order in
the American journal, we may also query whether the department of
correspondence sustains the boast that the American, newspaper is the
best in the world. We have a good deal of excellent correspondence, both
foreign and domestic; and our "specials" have won distinction, at least
for liveliness and enterprise. I cannot dwell upon this feature; but I
suggest a comparison with the correspondence of some of the German, and
with that especially of the London journals, from the various capitals of
Europe, and from the occasional seats of war. How surpassing able much
of it is!

How full of information, of philosophic observation, of accurate
knowledge! It appears to be written by men of trained intellect and of
experience,--educated men of the world, who, by reason of their position
and character, have access to the highest sources of information.

The editorials of our journals seem to me better than formerly, improved
in tone, in courtesy, in self-respect,--though you may not have to go far
or search long for the provincial note and the easy grace of the
frontier,--and they are better written. This is because the newspaper
has become more profitable, and is able to pay for talent, and has
attracted to it educated young men. There is a sort of editorial
ability, of facility, of force, that can only be acquired by practice and
in the newspaper office: no school can ever teach it; but the young
editor who has a broad basis of general education, of information in
history, political economy, the classics, and polite literature, has an
immense advantage over the man who has merely practical experience. For
the editorial, if it is to hold its place, must be more and more the
product of information, culture, and reflection, as well as of sagacity
and alertness. Ignorance of foreign affairs, and of economic science,
the American people have in times past winked at; but they will not
always wink at it.

It is the belief of some shrewd observers that editorials, the long
editorials, are not much read, except by editors themselves. A cynic
says that, if you have a secret you are very anxious to keep from the
female portion of the population, the safest place to put it is in an
editorial. It seems to me that editorials are not conned as attentively
as they once were; and I am sure they have not so much influence as
formerly. People are not so easily or so visibly led; that is to say,
the editorial influence is not so dogmatic and direct. The editor does
not expect to form public opinion so much by arguments and appeals as by
the news he presents and his manner of presenting it, by the iteration of
an idea until it becomes familiar, by the reading-matter selected, and by
the quotations of opinions as news, and not professedly to influence the
reader. And this influence is all the more potent because it is
indirect, and not perceived-by the reader.

There is an editorial tradition--it might almost be termed a
superstition--which I think will have to be abandoned. It is that a
certain space in the journal must be filled with editorial, and that some
of the editorials must be long, without any reference to the news or the
necessity of comment on it, or the capacity of the editor at the moment
to fill the space with original matter that is readable. There is the
sacred space, and it must be filled. The London journals are perfect
types of this custom. The result is often a wearisome page of words and
rhetoric. It may be good rhetoric; but life is too short for so much of
it. The necessity of filling this space causes the writer, instead of
stating his idea in the shortest compass in which it can be made
perspicuous and telling, to beat it out thin, and make it cover as much
ground as possible. This, also, is vanity. In the economy of room,
which our journals will more and more be compelled to cultivate, I
venture to say that this tradition will be set aside. I think that we
may fairly claim a superiority in our journals over the English dailies
in our habit of making brief, pointed editorial paragraphs. They are the
life of the editorial page. A cultivation of these until they are as
finished and pregnant as the paragraphs of "The London Spectator" and
"The New-York Nation," the printing of long editorials only when the
elucidation of a subject demands length, and the use of the space thus
saved for more interesting reading, is probably the line of our editorial

To continue the comparison of our journals as a class, with the English
as a class, ours are more lively, also more flippant, and less restrained
by a sense of responsibility or by the laws of libel. We furnish, now
and again, as good editorial writing for its purpose; but it commonly
lacks the dignity, the thoroughness, the wide sweep and knowledge, that
characterizes the best English discussion of political and social topics.

The third department of the newspaper is that of miscellaneous reading-
matter. Whether this is the survival of the period when the paper
contained little else except "selections," and other printed matter was
scarce, or whether it is only the beginning of a development that shall
supply the public nearly all its literature, I do not know. Far as our
newspapers have already gone in this direction, I am inclined to think
that in their evolution they must drop this adjunct, and print simply the
news of the day. Some of the leading journals of the world already do

In America I am sure the papers are printing too much miscellaneous
reading. The perusal of this smattering of everything, these scraps of
information and snatches of literature, this infinite variety and medley,
in which no subject is adequately treated, is distracting and
debilitating to the mind. It prevents the reading of anything in full,
and its satisfactory assimilation. It is said that the majority of
Americans read nothing except the paper. If they read that thoroughly,
they have time for nothing else. What is its reader to do when his
journal thrusts upon him every day the amount contained in a fair-sized
duodecimo volume, and on Sundays the amount of two of them? Granted that
this miscellaneous hodge-podge is the cream of current literature, is it
profitable to the reader? Is it a means of anything but superficial
culture and fragmentary information? Besides, it stimulates an unnatural
appetite, a liking for the striking, the brilliant, the sensational only;
for our selections from current literature are, usually the "plums"; and
plums are not a wholesome-diet for anybody. A person accustomed to this
finds it difficult to sit down patiently to the mastery of a book or a
subject, to the study of history, the perusal of extended biography, or
to acquire that intellectual development and strength which comes from
thorough reading and reflection.

The subject has another aspect. Nobody chooses his own reading; and a
whole community perusing substantially the same material tends to a
mental uniformity. The editor has the more than royal power of selecting
the intellectual food of a large public. It is a responsibility
infinitely greater than that of the compiler of schoolbooks, great as
that is. The taste of the editor, or of some assistant who uses the
scissors, is in a manner forced upon thousands of people, who see little
other printed matter than that which he gives them. Suppose his taste
runs to murders and abnormal crimes, and to the sensational in
literature: what will be the moral effect upon a community of reading
this year after year?

If this excess of daily miscellany is deleterious to the public, I doubt
if it will be, in the long run, profitable to the newspaper, which has a
field broad enough in reporting and commenting upon the movement of the
world, without attempting to absorb the whole reading field.

I should like to say a word, if time permitted, upon the form of the
journal, and about advertisements. I look to see advertisements shorter,
printed with less display, and more numerous. In addition to the use now
made of the newspaper by the classes called "advertisers," I expect it to
become the handy medium of the entire public, the means of ready
communication in regard to all wants and exchanges.

Several years ago, the attention of the publishers of American newspapers
was called to the convenient form of certain daily journals in South
Germany, which were made up in small pages, the number of which varied
from day to day, according to the pressure of news or of advertisements.
The suggestion as to form has been adopted bit many of our religious,
literary, and special weeklies, to the great convenience of the readers,
and I doubt not of the publishers also. Nothing is more unwieldy than
our big blanket-sheets: they are awkward to handle, inconvenient to read,
unhandy to bind and preserve. It is difficult to classify matter in
them. In dull seasons they are too large; in times of brisk advertising,
and in the sudden access of important news, they are too small. To
enlarge them for the occasion, resort is had to a troublesome fly-sheet,
or, if they are doubled, there is more space to be filled than is needed.
It seems to me that the inevitable remedy is a newspaper of small pages
or forms, indefinite in number, that can at any hour be increased or
diminished according to necessity, to be folded, stitched, and cut by

We have thus rapidly run over a prolific field, touching only upon some
of the relations of the newspaper to our civilization, and omitting many
of the more important and grave. The truth is that the development of
the modern journal has been so sudden and marvelous that its conductors
find themselves in possession of a machine that they scarcely know how to
manage or direct. The change in the newspaper caused by the telegraph,
the cable, and by a public demand for news created by wars, by
discoveries, and by a new outburst of the spirit of doubt and inquiry, is
enormous. The public mind is confused about it, and alternately
overestimates and underestimates the press, failing to see how integral
and representative a part it is of modern life.

"The power of the press," as something to be feared or admired, is a
favorite theme of dinner-table orators and clergymen. One would think it
was some compactly wielded energy, like that of an organized religious
order, with a possible danger in it to the public welfare.
Discrimination is not made between the power of the printed word--which
is limitless--and the influence that a newspaper, as such, exerts. The
power of the press is in its facility for making public opinions and
events. I should say it is a medium of force rather than force itself.
I confess that I am oftener impressed with the powerlessness of the press
than otherwise, its slight influence in bringing about any reform, or in
inducing the public to do what is for its own good and what it is
disinclined to do. Talk about the power of the press, say, in a
legislature, when once the members are suspicious that somebody is trying
to influence them, and see how the press will retire, with what grace it
can, before an invincible and virtuous lobby. The fear of the
combination of the press for any improper purpose, or long for any proper
purpose, is chimerical. Whomever the newspapers agree with, they do not
agree with each other. The public itself never takes so many conflicting
views of any topic or event as the ingenious rival journals are certain
to discover. It is impossible, in their nature, for them to combine.
I should as soon expect agreement among doctors in their empirical
profession. And there is scarcely ever a cause, or an opinion, or a man,
that does not get somewhere in the press a hearer and a defender. We
will drop the subject with one remark for the benefit of whom it may
concern. With all its faults, I believe the moral tone of the American
newspaper is higher, as a rule, than that of the community in which it is


By Charles Dudley Warner

This is a very interesting age. Within the memory of men not yet come to
middle life the time of the trotting horse has been reduced from two
minutes forty seconds to two minutes eight and a quarter seconds. During
the past fifteen years a universal and wholesome pastime of boys has been
developed into a great national industry, thoroughly organized and almost
altogether relegated to professional hands, no longer the exercise of the
million but a spectacle for the million, and a game which rivals the
Stock Exchange as a means of winning money on the difference of opinion
as to the skill of contending operators.

The newspapers of the country--pretty accurate and sad indicators of the
popular taste--devote more daily columns in a week's time to chronicling
the news about base-ball than to any other topic that interests the
American mind, and the most skillful player, the pitcher, often college
bred, whose entire prowess is devoted to not doing what he seems to be
doing, and who has become the hero of the American girl as the Olympian
wrestler was of the Greek maiden and as the matador is of the Spanish
senorita, receives a larger salary for a few hours' exertion each week
than any college president is paid for a year's intellectual toil. Such
has been the progress in the interest in education during this period
that the larger bulk of the news, and that most looked for, printed about
the colleges and universities, is that relating to the training, the
prospects and achievements of the boat crews and the teams of base-ball
and foot-ball, and the victory of any crew or team is a better means of
attracting students to its college, a better advertisement, than success
in any scholastic contest. A few years ago a tournament was organized in
the North between several colleges for competition in oratory and
scholarship; it had a couple of contests and then died of inanition and
want of public interest.

During the period I am speaking of there has been an enormous advance in
technical education, resulting in the establishment of splendid special
schools, essential to the development of our national resources; a growth
of the popular idea that education should be practical,--that is, such an
education as can be immediately applied to earning a living and acquiring
wealth speedily,--and an increasing extension of the elective system in
colleges,--based almost solely on the notion, having in view, of course,
the practical education, that the inclinations of a young man of eighteen
are a better guide as to what is best for his mental development and
equipment for life than all the experience of his predecessors.

In this period, which you will note is more distinguished by the desire
for the accumulation of money than far the general production of wealth,
the standard of a fortune has shifted from a fair competence to that of
millions of money, so that he is no longer rich who has a hundred
thousand dollars, but he only who possesses property valued at many
millions, and the men most widely known the country through, most talked
about, whose doings and sayings are most chronicled in the journals,
whose example is most attractive and stimulating to the minds of youth,
are not the scholars, the scientists, the men of, letters, not even the
orators and statesmen, but those who, by any means, have amassed enormous
fortunes. We judge the future of a generation by its ideals.

Regarding education from the point of view of its equipment of a man to
make money, and enjoy the luxury which money can command, it must be more
and more practical, that is, it must be adapted not even to the higher
aim of increasing the general wealth of the world, by increasing
production and diminishing waste both of labor and capital, but to the
lower aim of getting personal possession of it; so that a striking social
feature of the period is that one-half--that is hardly an overestimate--
one-half of the activity in America of which we speak with so much
enthusiasm, is not directed to the production of wealth, to increasing
its volume, but to getting the money of other people away from them. In
barbarous ages this object was accomplished by violence; it is now
attained by skill and adroitness. We still punish those who gain
property by violence; those who get it by smartness and cleverness, we
try to imitate, and sometimes we reward them with public office.

It appears, therefore, that speed,-the ability to move rapidly from place
to place,--a disproportionate reward of physical over intellectual
science, an intense desire to be rich, which is strong enough to compel
even education to grind in the mill of the Philistines, and an inordinate
elevation in public consideration of rich men simply because they are
rich, are characteristics of this little point of time on which we stand.
They are not the only characteristics; in a reasonably optimistic view,
the age is distinguished for unexampled achievements, and for
opportunities for the well-being of humanity never before in all history
attainable. But these characteristics are so prominent as to beget the
fear that we are losing the sense of the relative value of things in this

Few persons come to middle life without some conception of these relative
values. It is in the heat and struggle that we fail to appreciate what
in the attainment will be most satisfactory to us. After it is over we
are apt to see that our possessions do not bring the happiness we
expected; or that we have neglected to cultivate the powers and tastes
that can make life enjoyable. We come to know, to use a truism, that a
person's highest satisfaction depends not upon his exterior acquisitions,
but upon what he himself is. There is no escape from this conclusion.
The physical satisfactions are limited and fallacious, the intellectual
and moral satisfactions are unlimited. In the last analysis, a man has
to live with himself, to be his own companion, and in the last resort the
question is, what can he get out of himself. In the end, his life is
worth just what he has become. And I need not say that the mistake
commonly made is as to relative values,--that the things of sense are as
important as the things of the mind. You make that mistake when you
devote your best energies to your possession of material substance, and
neglect the enlargement, the training, the enrichment of the mind. You
make the same mistake in a less degree, when you bend to the popular
ignorance and conceit so far as to direct your college education to
sordid ends. The certain end of yielding to this so-called practical
spirit was expressed by a member of a Northern State legislature who
said, "We don't want colleges, we want workshops." It was expressed in
another way by a representative of the lower house in Washington who
said, "The average ignorance of the country has a right to be represented
here." It is not for me to say whether it is represented there.
Naturally, I say, we ought by the time of middle life to come to a
conception of what sort of things are of most value. By analogy, in the
continual growth of the Republic, we ought to have a perception of what
we have accomplished and acquired, and some clear view of our tendencies.
We take justifiable pride in the glittering figures of our extension of
territory, our numerical growth, in the increase of wealth, and in our
rise to the potential position of almost the first nation in the world.
A more pertinent inquiry is, what sort of people have we become? What
are we intellectually and morally? For after all the man is the thing,
the production of the right sort of men and women is all that gives a
nation value. When I read of the establishment of a great industrial
centre in which twenty thousand people are employed in the increase of
the amount of steel in the world, before I decide whether it would be a
good thing for the Republic to create another industrial city of the same
sort, I want to know what sort of people the twenty thousand are, how
they live, what their morals are, what intellectual life they have, what
their enjoyment of life is, what they talk about and think about, and
what chance they have of getting into any higher life. It does not seem
to me a sufficient gain in this situation that we are immensely
increasing the amount of steel in the world, or that twenty more people
are enabled on account of this to indulge in an unexampled,
unintellectual luxury. We want more steel, no doubt, but haven't we wit
enough to get that and at the same time to increase among the producers
of it the number of men and women whose horizons are extended, who are
companionable, intelligent beings, adding something to the intellectual
and moral force upon which the real progress of the Republic depends?

There is no place where I would choose to speak more plainly of our
national situation today than in the South, and at the University of the
South; in the South, because it is more plainly in a transition state,
and at the University of the South, because it is here and in similar
institutions that the question of the higher or lower plane of life in
the South is to be determined.

To a philosophical observer of the Republic, at the end of the hundred
years, I should say that the important facts are not its industrial
energy, its wealth, or its population, but the stability of the federal
power, and the integrity of the individual States. That is to say, that
stress and trial have welded us into an indestructible nation; and not of
less consequence is the fact that the life of the Union is in the life of
the States. The next most encouraging augury for a great future is the
marvelous diversity among the members of this republican body. If
nothing would be more speedily fatal to our plan of government than
increasing centralization, nothing would be more hopeless in our
development than increasing monotony, the certain end of which is

Speaking as one whose highest pride it is to be a citizen of a great and
invincible Republic to those whose minds kindle with a like patriotism, I
can say that I am glad there are East and North and South, and West,
Middle, Northwest, and Southwest, with as many diversities of climate,
temperament, habits, idiosyncrasies, genius, as these names imply. Thank
Heaven we are not all alike; and so long as we have a common purpose in
the Union, and mutual toleration, respect, and sympathy, the greater will
be our achievement and the nobler our total development, if every section
is true to the evolution of its local traits. The superficial foreign
observer finds sameness in our different States, tiresome family likeness
in our cities, hideous monotony in our villages, and a certain common
atmosphere of life, which increasing facility of communication tends to
increase. This is a view from a railway train. But as soon as you
observe closely, you find in each city a peculiar physiognomy, and a
peculiar spirit remarkable considering the freedom of movement and
intercourse, and you find the organized action of each State sui generis
to a degree surprising considering the general similarity of our laws and
institutions. In each section differences of speech, of habits of
thought, of temperament prevail. Massachusetts is unlike Louisiana,
Florida unlike Tennessee, Georgia is unlike California, Pennsylvania is
unlike Minnesota, and so on, and the unlikeness is not alone or chiefly
in physical features. By the different style of living I can tell when I
cross the line between Connecticut and New York as certainly as when I
cross the line between Vermont and Canada. The Virginian expanded in
Kentucky is not the same man he was at home, and the New England Yankee
let loose in the West takes on proportions that would astonish his
grandfather. Everywhere there is a variety in local sentiment, action,
and development. Sit down in the seats of the State governments and
study the methods of treatment of essentially the common institutions of
government, of charity and discipline, and you will be impressed with the
variety of local spirit and performance in the Union. And this,
diversity is so important, this contribution of diverse elements is so
necessary to the complex strength and prosperity of the whole, that one
must view with alarm all federal interference and tendency to greater

And not less to be dreaded than monotony from the governmental point of
view, is the obliteration of variety in social life and in literary
development. It is not enough for a nation to be great and strong, it
must be interesting, and interesting it cannot be without cultivation of
local variety. Better obtrusive peculiarities than universal sameness.
It is out of variety as well as complexity in American life, and not in
homogeneity and imitation, that we are to expect a civilization
noteworthy in the progress of the human race.

Let us come a little closer to our subject in details. For a hundred
years the South was developed on its own lines, with astonishingly little
exterior bias. This comparative isolation was due partly to the
institution of slavery, partly to devotion to the production of two or
three great staples. While its commercial connection with the North was
intimate and vital, its literary relation with the North was slight.
With few exceptions Northern authors were not read in the South, and the
literary movement of its neighbors, such as it was, from 1820 to 1860,
scarcely affected it. With the exception of Louisiana, which was
absolutely ignorant of American literature and drew its inspiration and
assumed its critical point of view almost wholly from the French, the
South was English, but mainly English of the time of Walter Scott and
George the Third. While Scott was read at the North for his knowledge of
human nature, as he always will be read, the chivalric age which moves in
his pages was taken more seriously at the South, as if it were of
continuing importance in life. In any of its rich private libraries you
find yourself in the age of Pope and Dryden, and the classics were
pursued in the spirit of Oxford and Cambridge in the time of Johnson. It
was little disturbed by the intellectual and ethical agitation of modern
England or of modern New England. During this period, while the South
excelled in the production of statesmen, orators, trained politicians,
great judges, and brilliant lawyers, it produced almost no literature,
that is, no indigenous literature, except a few poems and--a few humorous
character-sketches; its general writing was ornately classic, and its
fiction romantic on the lines of the foreign romances.

From this isolation one thing was developed, and another thing might in
due time be expected. The thing developed was a social life, in the
favored class, which has an almost unique charm, a power of being
agreeable, a sympathetic cordiality, an impulsive warmth, a frankness in
the expression of emotion, and that delightful quality of manner which
puts the world at ease and makes life pleasant. The Southerners are no
more sincere than the Northerners, but they have less reserve, and in the
social traits that charm all who come in contact with them, they have an
element of immense value in the variety of American life.

The thing that might have been expected in due time, and when the call
came--and it is curious to note that the call and cause of any
renaissance are always from the outside--was a literary expression fresh
and indigenous. This expectation, in a brief period since the war, has
been realized by a remarkable performance and is now stimulated by a
remarkable promise. The acclaim with which the Southern literature has
been received is partly due to its novelty, the new life it exhibited,
but more to the recognition in it of a fresh flavor, a literary quality
distinctly original and of permanent importance. This production, the
first fruits of which are so engaging in quality, cannot grow and broaden
into a stable, varied literature without scholarship and hard work, and
without a sympathetic local audience. But the momentary concern is that
it should develop on its own lines and in its own spirit, and not under
the influence of London or Boston or New York. I do not mean by this
that it should continue to attract attention by peculiarities of dialect-
which is only an incidental, temporary phenomenon, that speedily becomes
wearisome, whether "cracker" or negro or Yankee--but by being true to the
essential spirit and temperament of Southern life.

During this period there was at the North, and especially in the East,
great intellectual activity and agitation, and agitation ethical and
moral as well as intellectual. There was awakening, investigation,
questioning, doubt. There was a great deal of froth thrown to the
surface. In the free action of individual thought and expression grew
eccentricities of belief and of practice, and a crop of so-called "isms,"
more or less temporary, unprofitable, and pernicious. Public opinion
attained an astonishing degree of freedom,--I never heard of any
community that was altogether free of its tyranny. At least
extraordinary latitude was permitted in the development of extreme ideas,
new, fantastic, radical, or conservative. For instance, slavery was
attacked and slavery was defended on the same platform, with almost equal
freedom. Indeed, for many years, if there was any exception to the
general toleration it was in the social ostracism of those who held and
expressed extreme opinions in regard to immediate emancipation, and were
stigmatized as abolitionists. There was a general ferment of new ideas,
not always fruitful in the direction taken, but hopeful in view of the
fact that growth and movement are better than stagnation and decay. You
can do something with a ship that has headway; it will drift upon the
rocks if it has not. With much foam and froth, sure to attend agitation,
there was immense vital energy, intense life.

Out of this stir and agitation came the aggressive, conquering spirit
that carried civilization straight across the continent, that built up
cities and States, that developed wealth, and by invention, ingenuity,
and energy performed miracles in the way of the subjugation of nature and
the assimilation of societies. Out of this free agitation sprang a
literary product, great in quantity and to some degree distinguished in
quality, groups of historians, poets, novelists, essayists, biographers,
scientific writers. A conspicuous agency of the period was the lecture
platform, which did something in the spread and popularization of
information, but much more in the stimulation of independent thought and
the awakening of the mind to use its own powers.

Along with this and out of this went on the movement of popular education
and of the high and specialized education. More remarkable than the
achievements of the common schools has been the development of the
colleges, both in the departments of the humanities and of science. If I
were writing of education generally, I might have something to say of the
measurable disappointment of the results of the common schools as at
present conducted, both as to the diffusion of information and as to the
discipline of the mind and the inculcation of ethical principles; which
simply means that they need improvement. But the higher education has
been transformed, and mainly by the application of scientific methods,
and of the philosophic spirit, to the study of history, economics, and
the classics. When we are called to defend the pursuit of metaphysics or
the study of the classics, either as indispensable to the discipline or
to the enlargement of the mind, we are not called on to defend the
methods of a generation ago. The study of Greek is no longer an exercise
in the study of linguistics or the inspection of specimens of an obsolete
literature, but the acquaintance with historic thought, habits, and
polity, with a portion of the continuous history of the human mind, which
has a vital relation to our own life.

However much or little there may be of permanent value in the vast
production of northern literature, judged by continental or even English
standards, the time has came when American scholarship in science, in
language, in occidental or oriental letters, in philosophic and
historical methods, can court comparison with any other. In some
branches of research the peers of our scholars must be sought not in
England but in Germany. So that in one of the best fruits of a period of
intellectual agitation, scholarship, the restless movement has thoroughly
vindicated itself.

I have called your attention to this movement in order to say that it was
neither accidental nor isolated. It was in the historic line, it was fed
and stimulated by all that had gone before, and by all contemporary
activity everywhere. New England, for instance, was alert and
progressive because it kept its doors and windows open. It was
hospitable in its intellectual freedom, both of trial and debate, to new
ideas. It was in touch with the universal movement of humanity and of
human thought and speculation. You lose some quiet by this attitude,
some repose that is pleasant and even desirable perhaps, you entertain
many errors, you may try many useless experiments, but you gain life and
are in the way of better things. New England, whatever else we may say
about it, was in the world. There was no stir of thought, of
investigation, of research, of the recasting of old ideas into new forms
of life, in Germany, in France, in Italy, in England, anywhere, that did
not touch it and to which it did not respond with the sympathy that
common humanity has in the universal progress. It kept this touch not
only in the evolution and expression of thought and emotion which we call
literature (whether original or imitative), but in the application of
philosophic methods to education, in the attempted regeneration of
society and the amelioration of its conditions by schemes of reform and
discipline, relating to the institutions of benevolence and to the
control of the vicious and criminal. With all these efforts go along
always much false sentimentality and pseudo-philanthropy, but little by
little gain is made that could not be made in a state of isolation and

In fact there is one historic stream of human thought, aspiration, and
progress; it is practically continuous, and with all its diversity of
local color and movement it is a unit. If you are in it, you move; if
you are out of it, you are in an eddy. The eddy may have a provincial
current, but it is not in the great stream, and when it has gone round
and round for a century, it is still an eddy, and will not carry you
anywhere in particular. The value of the modern method of teaching and
study is that it teaches the solidarity of human history, the continuance
of human thought, in literature, government, philosophy, the unity of the
divine purpose, and that nothing that has anywhere befallen the human
race is alien to us.

I am not undervaluing the part, the important part, played by
conservatism, the conservatism that holds on to what has been gained if
it is good, that insists on discipline and heed to the plain teaching of
experience, that refuses to go into hysterics of enthusiasm over every
flighty suggestion, or to follow every leader simply because he proposes
something new and strange--I do not mean the conservatism that refuses to
try anything simply because it is new, and prefers to energetic life the
stagnation that inevitably leads to decay. Isolation from the great
historic stream of thought and agitation is stagnation. While this is
true, and always has been true in history, it is also true, in regard to
the beneficent diversity of American life, which is composed of so many
elements and forces, as I have often thought and said, that what has been
called the Southern conservatism in respect to beliefs and certain social
problems, may have a very important part to play in the development of
the life of the Republic.

I shall not be misunderstood here, where the claims of the higher life
are insisted on and the necessity of pure, accurate scholarship is
recognized, in saying that this expectation in regard to the South
depends upon the cultivation and diffusion of the highest scholarship in
all its historic consciousness and critical precision. This sort of
scholarship, of widely apprehending intellectual activity, keeping step
with modern ideas so far as they are historically grounded, is of the
first importance. Everywhere indeed, in our industrial age,--in a
society inclined to materialism, scholarship, pure and simple scholarship
for its own sake, no less in Ohio than in Tennessee, is the thing to be
insisted on. If I may refer to an institution, which used to be midway
between the North and the South, and which I may speak of without
suspicion of bias, an institution where the studies of metaphysics, the
philosophy of history, the classics and pure science are as much insisted
on as the study of applied sciences, the College of New Jersey at
Princeton, the question in regard to a candidate for a professorship or
instructorship, is not whether he was born North or South, whether he
served in one army or another or in neither, whether he is a Democrat or
a Republican or a Mugwump, what religious denomination he belongs to, but
is he a scholar and has he a high character? There is no provincialism
in scholarship.

We are not now considering the matter of the agreeableness of one society
or another, whether life is on the whole pleasanter in certain conditions
at the North or at the South, whether there is not a charm sometimes in
isolation and even in provincialism. It is a fair question to ask, what
effect upon individual lives and character is produced by an industrial
and commercial spirit, and by one less restless and more domestic. But
the South is now face to face with certain problems which relate her,
inevitably, to the moving forces of the world. One of these is the
development of her natural resources and the change and diversity of her
industries. On the industrial side there is pressing need of
institutions of technology, of schools of applied science, for the
diffusion of technical information and skill in regard to mining and
manufacturing, and also to agriculture, so that worn-out lands may be
reclaimed and good lands be kept up to the highest point of production.
Neither mines, forests, quarries, water-ways, nor textile fabrics can be
handled to best advantage without scientific knowledge and skilled labor.
The South is everywhere demanding these aids to her industrial
development. But just in the proportion that she gets them, and because
she has them, will be the need of higher education. The only safety
against the influence of a rolling mill is a college, the only safety
against the practical and materializing tendency of an industrial school
is the increased study of whatever contributes to the higher and non-
sordid life of the mind. The South would make a poor exchange for her
former condition in any amount of industrial success without a
corresponding development of the highest intellectual life.

But, besides the industrial problem, there is the race problem. It is
the most serious in the conditions under which it is presented that ever
in all history confronted a free people. Whichever way you regard it, it
is the nearest insoluble. Under the Constitution it is wisely left to
the action of the individual States. The heavy responsibility is with
them. In the nature of things it is a matter of the deepest concern to
the whole Republic, for the prosperity of every part is vital to the
prosperity of the whole. In working it out you are entitled, from the
outside, to the most impartial attempt to understand its real nature, to
the utmost patience with the facts of human nature, to the most profound
and most helpful sympathy. It is monstrous to me that the situation
should be made on either side a political occasion for private ambition
or for party ends.

I would speak of this subject with the utmost frankness if I knew what to
say. It is not much of a confession to say that I do not. The more I
study it the less I know, and those among you who give it the most
anxious thought are the most perplexed, the subject has so many
conflicting aspects. In the first place there is the evolution of an
undeveloped race. Every race has a right to fair play in the world and
to make the most of its capacities, and to the help of the more favored
in the attempt. If the suggestion recently made of a wholesale migration
to Mexico were carried out, the South would be relieved in many ways,
though the labor problem would be a serious one for a long time, but the
"elevation" would be lost sight of or relegated to a foreign missionary
enterprise; and as for results to the colored people themselves, there is
the example of Hayti. If another suggestion, that of abandoning certain
States to this race, were carried out, there is the example of Hayti
again, and, besides, an anomaly introduced into the Republic foreign to
its traditions, spirit, aspirations, and process of assimilation, alien
to the entire historic movement of the Aryan races, and infinitely more
dangerous to the idea of the Republic than if solid Ireland were dumped
down in the Mississippi valley as an independent State.

On the other hand, there rests upon you the responsibility of maintaining
a civilization--the civilization of America, not of Hayti or of Guatemala
which we have so hardly won. It is neither to be expected nor desired
that you should be ruled by an undeveloped race, ignorant of law,
letters, history, politics, political economy. There is no right
anywhere in numbers or unintelligence to rule intelligence. It is a
travesty of civilization. No Northern State that I know of would submit
to be ruled by an undeveloped race. And human nature is exactly in the
South what it is in the North. That is one impregnable fact, to be taken
as the basis of all our calculations; the whites of the South will not,
cannot, be dominated, as matters now stand, by the colored race.

But, then, there is the suffrage, the universal, unqualified suffrage.
And here is the dilemma. Suffrage once given, cannot be suppressed or
denied, perverted by chicane or bribery without incalculable damage to
the whole political body. Irregular methods once indulged in for one
purpose, and towards one class, so sap the moral sense that they come to
be used for all purposes. The danger is ultimately as great to those who
suppress or pervert as it is to the suppressed and corrupted. It is the
demoralization of all sound political action and life. I know whereof I
speak. In the North, bribery in elections and intimidation are fatal to
public morality. The legislature elected by bribery is a bribable body.

I believe that the fathers were right in making government depend upon
the consent of the governed. I believe there has been as yet discovered
no other basis of government so safe, so stable as popular suffrage, but
the fathers never contemplated a suffrage without intelligence. It is a
contradiction of terms. A proletariat without any political rights in a
republic is no more dangerous than an unintelligent mob which can be used
in elections by demagogues. Universal suffrage is not a universal
panacea; it may be the best device attainable, but it is certain of abuse
without safeguards. One of the absolutely necessary safeguards is an
educational qualification. No one ought anywhere to exercise it who
cannot read and write, and if I had my way, no one should cast a ballot
who had not a fair conception of the effect of it, shown by a higher test
of intelligence than the mere fact of ability to scrawl his name and to
spell out a line or two in the Constitution. This much the State for its
own protection is bound to require, for suffrage is an expediency, not a
right belonging to universal humanity regardless of intelligence or of

The charge is, with regard to this universal suffrage, that you take the
fruits of increased representation produced by it, and then deny it to a
portion of the voters whose action was expected to produce a different
political result. I cannot but regard it as a blunder in statesmanship
to give suffrage without an educational qualification, and to deem it
possible to put ignorance over intelligence. You are not, responsible
for the situation, but you are none the less in an illogical position
before the law. Now, would you not gain more in a rectification of your
position than you would lose in other ways, by making suffrage depend
upon an educational qualification? I do not mean gain party-wise, but in
political morals and general prosperity. Time would certainly be gained
by this, and it is possible in this shifting world, in the growth of
industries and the flow of populations, that before the question of
supremacy was again upon you, foreign and industrial immigration would
restore the race balance.

We come now to education. The colored race being here, I assume that its
education, with the probabilities this involves of its elevation, is a
duty as well as a necessity. I speak both of the inherent justice there
is in giving every human being the chance of bettering his condition and
increasing his happiness that lies in education--unless our whole theory
of modern life is wrong--and also of the political and social danger
there is in a degraded class numerically strong. Granted integral
membership in a body politic, education is a necessity. I am aware of
the danger of half education, of that smattering of knowledge which only
breeds conceit, adroitness, and a consciousness of physical power,
without due responsibility and moral restraint. Education makes a race
more powerful both for evil and for good. I see the danger that many
apprehend. And the outlook, with any amount of education, would be
hopeless, not only as regards the negro and those in neighborhood
relations with him, if education should not bring with it thrift, sense
of responsibility as a citizen, and virtue. What the negro race under
the most favorable conditions is capable of remains to be shown; history
does not help us much to determine thus far. It has always been a long
pull for any race to rise out of primitive conditions; but I am sure for
its own sake, and for the sake of the republic where it dwells, every
thoughtful person must desire the most speedy intellectual and moral
development possible of the African race. And I mean as a race.

Some distinguished English writers have suggested, with approval, that
the solution of the race problem in this country is fusion, and I have
even heard discouraged Southerners accept it as a possibility. The
result of their observation of the amalgamation of races and colors in
Egypt, in Syria, and Mexico, must be very different from mine. When
races of different color mingle there is almost invariably loss of
physical stamina, and the lower moral qualities of each are developed in
the combination. No race that regards its own future would desire it.
The absorption theory as applied to America is, it seems to me,

But to return to education. It should always be fitted to the stage of
development. It should always mean discipline, the training of the
powers and capacities. The early pioneers who planted civilization on
the Watauga, the Holston, the Kentucky, the Cumberland, had not much
broad learning--they would not have been worse if they had had more but
they had courage, they were trained in self-reliance, virile common
sense, and good judgment, they had inherited the instinct and capacity of
self-government, they were religious, with all their coarseness they had
the fundamental elements of nobility, the domestic virtues, and the
public spirit needed in the foundation of states. Their education in all
the manly arts and crafts of the backwoodsman fitted them very well for
the work they had to do. I should say that the education of the colored
race in America should be fundamental. I have not much confidence in an
ornamental top-dressing of philosophy, theology, and classic learning
upon the foundation of an unformed and unstable mental and moral
condition. Somehow, character must be built up, and character depends
upon industry, upon thrift, upon morals, upon correct ethical
perceptions. To have control of one's powers, to have skill in labor, so
that work in any occupation shall be intelligent, to have self-respect,
which commonly comes from trained capacity, to know how to live, to have
a clean, orderly house, to be grounded in honesty and the domestic
virtues,--these are the essentials of progress. I suppose that the
education to produce these must be an elemental and practical one, one
that fits for the duties of life and not for some imaginary sphere above

To put it in a word, and not denying that there must be schools for
teaching the teachers, with the understanding that the teachers should be
able to teach what the mass most needs to know--what the race needs for
its own good today, are industrial and manual training schools, with the
varied and practical discipline and arts of life which they impart.

What then? What of the 'modus vivendi' of the two races occupying the
same soil? As I said before, I do not know. Providence works slowly.
Time and patience only solve such enigmas. The impossible is not
expected of man, only that he shall do today the duty nearest to him.
It is easy, you say, for an outsider to preach waiting, patience,
forbearance, sympathy, helpfulness. Well, these are the important
lessons we get out of history. We struggle, and fume, and fret, and
accomplish little in our brief hour, but somehow the world gets on.
Fortunately for us, we cannot do today the work of tomorrow. All the
gospel in the world can be boiled down into a single precept. Do right
now. I have observed that the boy who starts in the morning with a
determination to behave himself till bedtime, usually gets through the
day without a thrashing.

But of one thing I am sure. In the rush of industries, in the race
problem, it is more and more incumbent upon such institutions as the
University of the South to maintain the highest standard of pure
scholarship, to increase the number of men and women devoted to the
intellectual life. Long ago, in the middle of the seventeenth century,
John Ward of Stratford-on-Avon, clergyman and physician, wrote in his
diary: "The wealth of a nation depends upon its populousness, and its
populousness depends upon the liberty of conscience that is granted to
it, for this calls in strangers and promotes trading." Great is the
attraction of a benign climate and of a fruitful soil, but a greater
attraction is an intelligent people, that values the best things in life,
a society hospitable, companionable, instinct with intellectual life,
awake to the great ideas that make life interesting.

As I travel through the South and become acquainted with its magnificent
resources and opportunities, and know better and love more the admirable
qualities of its people, I cannot but muse in a fond prophecy upon the
brilliant part it is to play in the diversified life and the great future
of the American Republic. But, North and South, we have a hard fight
with materializing tendencies. God bless the University of the South!


By Charles Dudley Warner

This December evening, the imagination, by a law of contrast, recalls
another December night two hundred and seventy years ago. The circle of
darkness is drawn about a little group of Pilgrims who have come ashore
on a sandy and inhospitable coast. On one side is a vexed and wintry
sea, three thousand miles of tossing waves and tempest, beyond which lie
the home, the hedgerows and cottages, the church towers, the libraries
and universities, the habits and associations of an old civilization, the
strongest and dearest ties that can entwine around a human heart,
abandoned now definitely and forever by these wanderers; on the other
side a wintry forest of unknown extent, without highways, the lair of
wild beasts, impenetrable except by trails known only to the savages,
whose sudden appearance and disappearance adds mystery and terror to the
impression the imagination has conjured up of the wilderness.

This darkness is symbolic. It stands for a vaster obscurity. This is an
encampment on the edge of a continent, the proportions of which are
unknown, the form of which is only conjectured. Behind this screen of
forest are there hills, great streams, with broad valleys, ranges of
mountains perhaps, vast plains, lakes, other wildernesses of illimitable
extent? The adventurers on the James hoped they could follow the stream
to highlands that looked off upon the South Sea, a new route to India and
the Spice Islands. This unknown continent is attacked, it is true, in
more than one place. The Dutch are at the mouth of the Hudson; there is
a London company on the James; the Spaniards have been long in Florida,
and have carried religion and civilization into the deserts of New
Mexico. Nevertheless, the continent, vaster and more varied than was
guessed, is practically undiscovered, untrodden. How inadequate to the
subjection of any considerable portion of it seems this little band of
ill-equipped adventurers, who cannot without peril of life stray a league
from the bay where the "Mayflower" lies.

It is not to be supposed that the Pilgrims had an adequate conception of
the continent, or of the magnitude of their mission on it, or of the
nation to come of which they were laying the foundations. They did the
duty that lay nearest to them; and the duty done today, perhaps without
prescience of its consequences, becomes a permanent stone in the edifice
of the future. They sought a home in a fresh wilderness, where they
might be undisturbed by superior human authority; they had no
doctrinarian notions of equality, nor of the inequality which is the only
possible condition of liberty; the idea of toleration was not born in
their age; they did not project a republic; they established a theocracy,
a church which assumed all the functions of a state, recognizing one
Supreme Power, whose will in human conduct they were to interpret.
Already, however, in the first moment, with a true instinct of self-
government, they drew together in the cabin of the "Mayflower" in an
association--to carry out the divine will in society. But, behold how
speedily their ideas expanded beyond the Jewish conception, necessarily
expanded with opportunity and the practical self-dependence of colonies
cut off from the aid of tradition, and brought face to face with the
problems of communities left to themselves. Only a few years later, on
the banks of the Connecticut, Thomas Hooker, the first American Democrat,
proclaimed that "the foundation of authority is laid in the free consent
of the people," that "the choice of public magistrates belongs unto the
people, by God's own allowance," that it is the right of the people not
only to choose but to limit the power of their rulers, and he exhorted,
"as God has given us liberty to take it." There, at that moment, in
Hartford, American democracy was born; and in the republican union of the
three towns of the Connecticut colony, Hartford, Windsor, and
Wethersfield, was the germ of the American federal system, which was
adopted into the federal constitution and known at the time as the
"Connecticut Compromise."

It were not worth while for me to come a thousand miles to say this, or
to draw over again for the hundredth time the character of the New
England Pilgrim, nor to sketch his achievement on this continent. But it
is pertinent to recall his spirit, his attitude toward life, and to
inquire what he would probably do in the circumstances in which we find

It is another December night, before the dawn of a new year. And this
night still symbolizes the future. You have subdued a continent, and it
stands in the daylight radiant with a material splendor of which the
Pilgrims never dreamed. Yet a continent as dark, as unknown, exists.
It is yourselves, your future, your national life. The other continent
was made, you had only to discover it, to uncover it. This you must make

We have finished the outline sketch of a magnificent nation. The
territory is ample; it includes every variety of climate, in the changing
seasons, every variety of physical conformation, every kind of production
suited to the wants, almost everything desired in the imagination, of
man. It comes nearer than any empire in history to being self-
sufficient, physically independent of the rest of the globe. That is to
say, if it were shut off from the rest of the world, it has in itself the
material for great comfort and civilization. And it has the elements of
motion, of agitation, of life, because the vast territory is filling up
with a rapidity unexampled in history. I am not saying that isolated it
could attain the highest civilization, or that if it did touch a high one
it could long hold it in a living growth, cut off from the rest of the
world. I do not believe it. For no state, however large, is sufficient
unto itself. No state is really alive in the highest sense whose
receptivity is not equal to its power to contribute to the world with
which its destiny is bound up. It is only at its best when it is a part
of the vital current of movement, of sympathy, of hope, of enthusiasm of
the world at large. There is no doctrine so belittling, so withering to
our national life, as that which conceives our destiny to be a life of
exclusion of the affairs and interests of the whole globe, hemmed in to
the selfish development of our material wealth and strength, surrounded
by a Chinese wall built of strata of prejudice on the outside and of
ignorance on the inside. Fortunately it is a conception impossible to be

There is something captivating to the imagination in being a citizen of a
great nation, one powerful enough to command respect everywhere, and so
just as not to excite fear anywhere. This proud feeling of citizenship
is a substantial part of a man's enjoyment of life; and there is a
certain compensation for hardships, for privations, for self-sacrifice,
in the glory of one's own country. It is not a delusion that one can
afford to die for it. But what in the last analysis is the object of a
government? What is the essential thing, without which even the glory of
a nation passes into shame, and the vastness of empire becomes a mockery?
I will not say that it is the well-being of every individual, because the
term well-being--the 'bien etre' of the philosophers of the eighteenth
century--has mainly a materialistic interpretation, and may be attained
by a compromise of the higher life to comfort, and even of patriotism to
selfish enjoyment.

That is the best government in which the people, and all the people, get
the most out of life; for the object of being in this world is not
primarily to build up a government, a monarchy, an aristocracy, a
democracy, or a republic, or to make a nation, but to live the best sort
of life that can be lived.

We think that our form of government is the one best calculated to attain
this end. It is of all others yet tried in this world the one least felt
by the people, least felt as an interference in the affairs of private
life, in opinion, in conscience, in our freedom to attain position, to
make money, to move from place to place, and to follow any career that is
open to our ability. In order to maintain this freedom of action, this
non-interference, we are bound to resist centralization of power; for a
central power in a republic, grasped and administered by bosses, is no
more tolerable than central power in a despotism, grasped and
administered by a hereditary aristocrat. Let us not be deceived by
names. Government by the consent of the people is the best government,
but it is not government by the people when it is in the hands of
political bosses, who juggle with the theory of majority rule. What
republics have most to fear is the rule of the boss, who is a tyrant
without responsibility. He makes the nominations, he dickers and trades
for the elections, and at the end he divides the spoils. The operation
is more uncertain than a horse race, which is not decided by the speed of
the horses, but by the state of the wagers and the manipulation of the
jockeys. We strike directly at his power for mischief when we organize
the entire civil service of the nation and of the States on capacity,
integrity, experience, and not on political power.

And if we look further, considering the danger of concentration of power
in irresponsible hands, we see a new cause for alarm in undue federal
mastery and interference. This we can only resist by the constant
assertion of the rights, the power, the dignity of the individual State,
all that it has not surrendered in the fundamental constitution of the
Republic. This means the full weight of the State, as a State, as a
political unit, in the election of President; and the full weight of the
State, as a State, as a political unit, without regard to its population,
in the senate of the United States. The senate, as it stands, as it was
meant to be in the Constitution, is the strongest safeguard which the
fundamental law established against centralization, against the tyranny
of mere majorities, against the destruction of liberty, in such a
diversity of climates and conditions as we have in our vast continent.
It is not a mere check upon hasty legislation; like some second chambers
in Europe, it is the representative of powers whose preservation in their
dignity is essential to the preservation of the form of our government

We pursue the same distribution of power and responsibility when we pass
to the States. The federal government is not to interfere in what the
State can do and ought to do for itself; the State is not to meddle with
what the county can best do for itself; nor the county in the affairs
best administered by the town and the municipality. And so we come to
the individual citizen. He cannot delegate his responsibility. The
government even of the smallest community must be, at least is, run by
parties and by party machinery. But if he wants good government, he must
pay as careful attention to the machinery,--call it caucus, primary,
convention, town-meeting,--as he does to the machinery of his own
business. If he hands it over to bosses, who make politics a trade for
their own livelihood, he will find himself in the condition of
stockholders of a bank whose directors are mere dummies, when some day
the cashier packs the assets and goes on a foreign journey for his
health. When the citizen simply does his duty in the place where he
stands, the boss will be eliminated, in the nation, in the State, in the
town, and we shall have, what by courtesy we say we have now, a
government by the people. Then all the way down from the capital to the
city ward, we shall have vital popular government, free action,
discussion, agitation, life. What an anomaly it is, that a free people,
reputed shrewd and intelligent, should intrust their most vital
interests, the making of their laws, the laying of their taxes, the
spending of their money, even their education and the management of their
public institutions, into the keeping of political bosses, whom they
would not trust to manage the least of their business affairs, nor to
arbitrate on what is called a trial of speed at an agricultural fair.

But a good government, the best government, is only an opportunity.
However vast the country may become in wealth and population, it cannot
rise in quality above the average of the majority of its citizens; and
its goodness will be tested in history by its value to the average man,
not by its bigness, not by its power, but by its adaptability to the
people governed, so as to develop the best that is in them. It is
incidental and imperative that the country should be an agreeable one to
live in; but it must be more than that, it must be favorable to the
growth of the higher life. The Puritan community of Massachusetts Bay,
whose spirit we may happily contrast with that of the Pilgrims whose
anniversary we celebrate, must have been as disagreeable to live in as
any that history records; not only were the physical conditions of life
hard, but its inquisitorial intolerance overmatched that which it escaped
in England. It was a theocratic despotism, untempered by recreation or
amusement, and repressive not only of freedom of expression but of
freedom of thought. But it had an unconquerable will, a mighty sense of
duty, a faith in God, which not only established its grip upon the
continent but carried its influence from one ocean to the other. It did
not conquer by its bigotry, by its intolerance, its cruel persecuting
spirit, but by its higher mental and spiritual stamina. These lower and
baser qualities of the age of the Puritans leave a stain upon a great
achievement; it took Massachusetts almost two centuries to cast them off
and come into a wholesome freedom, but the vital energy and the
recognition of the essential verities inhuman life carried all the
institutions of the Puritans that were life-giving over the continent.

Here in the West you are near the centre of a vast empire, you feel its
mighty pulse, the throb and heartbeat of its immense and growing
strength. Some of you have seen this great civilization actually grow on
the vacant prairies, in the unoccupied wilderness, on the sandy shores of
the inland seas. You have seen the trails of the Indian and the deer
replaced by highways of steel, and upon the spots where the first
immigrants corralled their wagons, and the voyagers dragged their canoes
upon the reedy shore, you have seen arise great cities, centres of
industry, of commerce, of art, attaining in a generation the proportions
and the world-wide fame of cities that were already famous before the
discovery of America.

Naturally the country is proud of this achievement. Naturally we magnify
our material prosperity. But in this age of science and invention this
development may be said to be inevitable, and besides it is the necessary
outlet of the energy of a free people. There must be growth of cities,
extension of railways, improvement of agriculture, development of
manufactures, amassing of wealth, concentration of capital, beautifying
of homes, splendid public buildings, private palaces, luxury, display.
Without reservoirs of wealth there would be no great universities,
schools of science, museums, galleries of art, libraries, solid
institutions of charity, and perhaps not the wide diffusion of culture
which is the avowed aim of modern civilization.

But this in its kind is an old story. It is an experiment that has been
repeated over and over. History is the record of the rise of splendid
civilizations, many of which have flowered into the most glorious
products of learning and of art, and have left monuments of the proudest
material achievements. Except in the rapidity with which steam and
electricity have enabled us to move to our object, and in the discoveries
of science which enable us to relieve suffering and prolong human life,
there is nothing new in our experiment. We are pursuing substantially
the old ends of material success and display. And the ends are not
different because we have more people in a nation, or bigger cities with
taller buildings, or more miles of railway, or grow more corn and cotton,
or make more plows and threshing-machines, or have a greater variety of
products than any nation ever had before. I fancy that a pleased visitor
from another planet the other day at Chicago, who was shown an assembly
much larger than ever before met under one roof, might have been
interested to know that it was also the wisest, the most cultivated, the
most weighty in character of any assembly ever gathered under one roof.
Our experiment on this continent was intended to be something more than
the creation of a nation on the old pattern, that should become big and
strong, and rich and luxurious, divided into classes of the very wealthy
and the very poor, of the enlightened and the illiterate. It was
intended to be a nation in which the welfare of the people is the supreme
object, and whatever its show among nations it fails if it does not
become this. This welfare is an individual matter, and it means many
things. It includes in the first place physical comfort for every person
willing and deserving to be physically comfortable, decent lodging, good
food, sufficient clothing. It means, in the second place, that this
shall be an agreeable country to live in, by reason of its impartial
laws, social amenities, and a fair chance to enjoy the gifts of nature
and Providence. And it means, again, the opportunity to develop talents,
aptitudes for cultivation and enjoyment, in short, freedom to make the
most possible out of our lives. This is what Jefferson meant by the
"pursuit of happiness"; it was what the Constitution meant by the
"general welfare," and what it tried to secure in States, safe-guarded
enough to secure independence in the play of local ambition and home
rule, and in a federal republic strong enough to protect the whole from
foreign interference. We are in no vain chase of an equality which would
eliminate all individual initiative, and check all progress, by ignoring
differences of capacity and strength, and rating muscles equal to brains.
But we are in pursuit of equal laws, and a fairer chance of leading happy
lives than humanity in general ever had yet. And this fairer chance
would not, for instance, permit any man to become a millionaire by so
manipulating railways that the subscribing towns and private stockholders
should lose their investments; nor would it assume that any Gentile or
Jew has the right to grow rich by the chance of compelling poor women to
make shirts for six cents apiece. The public opinion which sustains
these deeds is as un-American, and as guilty as their doers. While
abuses like these exist, tolerated by the majority that not only make
public opinion, but make the laws, this is not a government for the
people, any more than a government of bosses is a government by the

The Pilgrims of Plymouth could see no way of shaping their lives in
accordance with the higher law except by separating themselves from the
world. We have their problem, how to make the most of our lives, but the
conditions have changed. Ours is an age of scientific aggression, fierce
competition, and the widest toleration. The horizon of humanity is
enlarged. To live the life now is to be no more isolated or separate,
but to throw ourselves into the great movement of thought, and feeling,
and achievement. Therefore we are altruists in charity, missionaries of
humanity, patriots at home. Therefore we have a justifiable pride in the
growth, the wealth, the power of the nation, the state, the city. But
the stream cannot rise above its source. The nation is what the majority
of its citizens are. It is to be judged by the condition of its humblest
members. We shall gain nothing over other experiments in government,
although we have money enough to buy peace from the rest of the world, or
arms enough to conquer it, although we rear upon our material prosperity
a structure of scientific achievement, of art, of literature
unparalleled, if the common people are not sharers in this great
prosperity, and are not fuller of hope and of the enjoyment of life than
common people ever were before.

And we are all common people when it comes to that. Whatever the
greatness of the nation, whatever the accumulation of wealth, the worth
of the world to us is exactly the worth of our individual lives. The
magnificent opportunity in this Republic is that we may make the most
possible out of our lives, and it will continue only as we adhere to the
original conception of the Republic. Politics without virtue, money-
making without conscience, may result in great splendor, but as such an
experiment is not new, its end can be predicted. An agreeable home for a
vast, and a free, and a happy people is quite another thing. It expects
thrift, it expects prosperity, but its foundations are in the moral and
spiritual life.

Therefore I say that we are still to make the continent we have
discovered and occupied, and that the scope and quality of our national
life are still to be determined. If they are determined not by the
narrow tenets of the Pilgrims, but by their high sense of duty, and of
the value of the human soul, it will be a nation that will call the world
up to a higher plane of action than it ever attained before, and it will
bring in a new era of humanity. If they are determined by the vulgar
successes of a mere material civilization, it is an experiment not worth
making. It would have been better to have left the Indians in
possession, to see if they could not have evolved out of their barbarism
some new line of action.

The Pilgrims were poor, and they built their huts on a shore which gave
such niggardly returns for labor that the utmost thrift was required to
secure the necessaries of life. Out of this struggle with nature and
savage life was no doubt evolved the hardihood, the endurance, that
builds states and wins the favors of fortune. But poverty is not
commonly a nurse of virtue, long continued, it is a degeneration. It is
almost as difficult for the very poor man to be virtuous as for the very
rich man; and very good and very rich at the same time, says Socrates, a
man cannot be. It is a great people that can withstand great prosperity.
The condition of comfort without extremes is that which makes a happy
life. I know a village of old-fashioned houses and broad elm-shaded
streets in New England, indeed more than one, where no one is
inordinately rich, and no one is very poor, where paupers are so scarce
that it is difficult to find beneficiaries for the small traditionary
contribution for the church poor; where the homes are centres of
intelligence, of interest in books, in the news of the world, in the
church, in the school, in politics; whence go young men and women to the
colleges, teachers to the illiterate parts of the land, missionaries to
the city slums. Multiply such villages all over the country, and we have
one of the chief requisites for an ideal republic.

This has been the longing of humanity. Poets have sung of it; prophets
have had visions of it; statesmen have striven for it; patriots have died
for it. There must be somewhere, some time, a fruitage of so much
suffering, so much sacrifice, a land of equal laws and equal
opportunities, a government of all the people for the benefit of all the
people; where the conditions of living will be so adjusted that every one
can make the most out of his life, neither waste it in hopeless slavery
nor in selfish tyranny, where poverty and crime will not be hereditary
generation after generation, where great fortunes will not be for vulgar
ostentation, but for the service of humanity and the glory of the State,
where the privileges of freemen will be so valued that no one will be
mean enough to sell his vote nor corrupt enough to attempt to buy a vote,
where the truth will at last be recognized, that the society is not
prosperous when half its members are lucky, and half are miserable, and
that that nation can only be truly great that takes its orders from the
Great Teacher of Humanity.

And, lo! at last here is a great continent, virgin, fertile, a land of
sun and shower and bloom, discovered, organized into a great nation, with
a government flexible in a distributed home rule, stiff as steel in a
central power, already rich, already powerful. It is a land of promise.
The materials are all here. Will you repeat the old experiment of a
material success and a moral and spiritual failure? Or will you make it
what humanity has passionately longed for? Only good individual lives
can do that.


By Charles Dudley Warner

The Declaration of Independence opens with the statement of a great and
fruitful political truth. But if it had said:--"We hold these truths to
be self-evident: that all men are created unequal; that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," it would also have stated
the truth; and if it had added, "All men are born in society with certain
duties which cannot be disregarded without danger to the social state,"
it would have laid down a necessary corollary to the first declaration.
No doubt those who signed the document understood that the second clause
limited the first, and that men are created equal only in respect to
certain rights. But the first part of the clause has been taken alone as
the statement of a self-evident truth, and the attempt to make this
unlimited phrase a reality has caused a great deal of misery. In
connection with the neglect of the idea that the recognition of certain
duties is as important as the recognition of rights in the political and
social state--that is, in connection with the doctrine of laissez faire--
this popular notion of equality is one of the most disastrous forces in
modern society.

Doubtless men might have been created equal to each other in every
respect, with the same mental capacity, the same physical ability, with
like inheritances of good or bad qualities, and born into exactly similar
conditions, and not dependent on each other. But men never were so
created and born, so far as we have any record of them, and by analogy we
have no reason to suppose that they ever will be. Inequality is the most
striking fact in life. Absolute equality might be better, but so far as
we can see, the law of the universe is infinite diversity in unity; and
variety in condition is the essential of what we call progress--it is, in
fact, life. The great doctrine of the Christian era--the brotherhood of
man and the duty of the strong to the weak--is in sharp contrast with
this doctrinarian notion of equality. The Christian religion never
proposed to remove the inequalities of life or its suffering, but by the
incoming of charity and contentment and a high mind to give individual
men a power to be superior to their conditions.

It cannot, however, be denied that the spirit of Christianity has
ameliorated the condition of civilized peoples, cooperating in this with
beneficent inventions. Never were the mass of the people so well fed, so
well clad, so well housed, as today in the United States. Their ordinary
daily comforts and privileges were the luxuries of a former age, often
indeed unknown and unattainable to the most fortunate and privileged
classes. Nowhere else is it or was it so easy for a man to change his
condition, to satisfy his wants, nowhere else has he or had he such
advantages of education, such facilities of travel, such an opportunity
to find an environment to suit himself. As a rule the mass of mankind
have been spot where they were born. A mighty change has taken place in
regard to liberty, freedom of personal action, the possibility of coming
into contact with varied life and an enlarged participation in the
bounties of nature and the inventions of genius. The whole world is in
motion, and at liberty to be so. Everywhere that civilization has gone
there is an immense improvement in material conditions during the last
one hundred years.

And yet men were never so discontented, nor did they ever find so many
ways of expressing their discontent. In view of the general amelioration
of the conditions of life this seems unreasonable and illogical, but it
may seem less so when we reflect that human nature is unchanged, and that
which has to be satisfied in this world is the mind. And there are some
exceptions to this general material prosperity, in its result to the
working classes. Manufacturing England is an exception. There is
nothing so pitiful, so hopeless in the record of man, not in the Middle
Ages, not in rural France just before the Revolution, as the physical and
mental condition of the operators in the great manufacturing cities and
in the vast reeking slums of London. The political economists have made
England the world's great workshop, on the theory that wealth is the
greatest good in life, and that with the golden streams flowing into
England from a tributary world, wages would rise, food be cheap,
employment constant. The horrible result to humanity is one of the
exceptions to the general uplift of the race, not paralleled as yet by
anything in this country, but to be taken note of as a possible outcome
of any material civilization, and fit to set us thinking whether we have
not got on a wrong track. Mr. Froude, fresh from a sight of the misery
of industrial England, and borne straight on toward Australia over a vast
ocean, through calm and storm, by a great steamer,--horses of fire yoked
to a sea-chariot,--exclaims: "What, after all, have these wonderful
achievements done to elevate human nature? Human nature remains as it
was. Science grows, but morality is stationary, and art is vulgarized.
Not here lie the 'things necessary to salvation,' not the things which
can give to human life grace, or beauty, or dignity."

In the United States, with its open opportunities, abundant land, where
the condition of the laboring class is better actually and in possibility
than it ever was in history, and where there is little poverty except
that which is inevitably the accompaniment of human weakness and crime,
the prevailing discontent seems groundless. But of course an agitation
so widespread, so much in earnest, so capable of evoking sacrifice, even
to the verge of starvation and the risk of life, must have some reason in
human nature. Even an illusion--and men are as ready to die for an
illusion as for a reality--cannot exist without a cause.

Now, content does not depend so much upon a man's actual as his relative
condition. Often it is not so much what I need, as what others have that
disturbs me. I should be content to walk from Boston to New York, and be
a fortnight on the way, if everybody else was obliged to walk who made
that journey. It becomes a hardship when my neighbor is whisked over the
route in six hours and I have to walk. It would still be a hardship if
he attained the ability to go in an hour, when I was only able to
accomplish the distance in six hours. While there has been a tremendous
uplift all along the line of material conditions, and the laboring man
who is sober and industrious has comforts and privileges in his daily
life which the rich man who was sober and industrious did not enjoy a
hundred years ago, the relative position of the rich man and the poor man
has not greatly changed. It is true, especially in the United States,
that the poor have become rich and the rich poor, but inequality of
condition is about as marked as it was before the invention of labor-
saving machinery, and though workingmen are better off in many ways, the

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