Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

denominational bearing, but yet, we trust, to the moral and spiritual good of the inmates; and whereas, it has been and is now the custom of the overseers to cheerfully grant to any inmate during illness the religious services of any clergyman or friend whom they may desire to call, and freedom to all inmates when well, under proper and wholesome regulations, to attend any religious services outside of the almshouse that said inmates may prefer; it is, therefore, by this board of overseers, considered inexpedient and impolitic as a precedent that any other services or religious training of a more sectarian character be granted to any petitioners, and we do hereby respectfully decline to grant such requests." Here, then, is the documentary evidence of the effect of govermental interference with charity, an effect sprung from perverse intolerance, it is true, but consummated with a tyranny which would be powerless but for the State interference.

It is barely possible that in this case the constitution of the State may be found effective against this particular act of tyranny. I commend this to the consideration of our Catholic friends. Does not this instrument have anything to say about religious liberty, or about State support of churches? If so, what right has a board of overseers to hold any kind of religicus service at the expense of the people? Perhaps the Constitution is silent upon this point, but I suspect that some kind of legal action might lie against a board of overseers who pay a clergyman to hold services of any kind; and if they do not pay any one, some other cause for action might be found with a little diligence. The tendency to set up any kind of religious establishment ought to be resisted to the bitter end. Even if the "regularly ordained clergyman" is not paid by the overseers, still the room in which the services are held by him must be regarded as an expense to the people, and, perhaps, the matter could be got at in this way. Laws and constitutions are of no particular good at best, but when they can be made to protect individual rights, it is just as well to take advantage of them.

No permanent relief can come except from some change either in the power or the willingness of France and Russia to go to war whenever they see a favorable opportunity

or are irritated out of their prudence; and of that change there is no sign. But if the pressure continues, we venture to predict that one of three consequences will happen. Either the Parliaments will grow restless, and insist on considering part of the military expenditure actual war expenditure, and therefore meeting it by war loans; or there will be an enormous development of democratic feeling of the revolutionary kind; or the nations, wearied with their burdens, will force on the great war rather than bear the exhausting preparations any longer. The first partial solution is improbable, because the governments think that, if they borrow in peace time, the treasuries may run dry in war, which would be as dangerous as the magazines running dry; and because the great financiers, who want bonds to rise, will oppose such a reckless course; but of the remaining two, one is nearly inevitable. Many keen observers believe that the third will be the one adopted, they imagining that a harassed people will prefer a short and severe period of danger to a long period of a kind of workhouse life; but that view is probably incorrect. It would be certainly true if the nations were in the old position, and could order out professional armies to fight their enemies, and so bring matters to a head; but that is no longer the case. If a Continental nation now wishes to fight, it must not only go itself. which is a great check-but it knows more or less accurately the kind of horror it is going into. All men have some tincture of soldiership, some interest in warlike ideas, and there is probably not a household between the Baltic and the Adriatic where Count von Moltke's opinion that the next war will be a long one has not made its deep impression. The nations know what three years of campaigning would mean for them, and, unless attacked, they would rather munch crusts till their teeth fail them. No one, so far as we know, can point to one obviously popular cry for war which has arisen anywhere on the Continent since 1871. Even the French have not raised one; and the French are so discontented with their situation, so ready to be angry, for cause or for none, that it is hardly possible, even for diplomatists, in doing business with them, to keep their tempers. It is possible that such a popular cry may arise somewhere, especially in Hungary, where general discontent would threaten the ascend

[ocr errors]

ency of the ruling race as nothing else could; but it is more probable that, while they can, all the nations will wait, even though they have to sleep in armor and on pallets of straw. But in that case we shall see the temper of the populace gradually grow hot, and that current of feeling which has this year produced the universal proclivity towards strikes turn itself also against the governments, which, it will be said, by their mismanagement have allowed the pressure to grow so severe. Those governments, although they are so well obeyed, are not sincerely liked, and any popular movement against them, owing its real origin to the penury of large classes, would take unusually bitter forms.

What the concrete "reform" demanded would be it is difficult to forecast the present formula is, "no more money unless service is shortened"— but that the cry, whatever it is, will be the loudest of our generation we have no doubt whatever. Bread riots are always fierce, and it is bread which these never-ending military expenses are slowly bringing into question. We believe the statesmen of the Continent see this, and that the extraordinary panic which preceded May 1, and which everywhere affected only the class of experienced men who are usually exempt, was mainly due to a restless doubt whether the present state of affairs can be much longer endured. Spectator.

This is what our politicians are preparing us for and preparing for us. Let us have a great navy, and presently a great army, too, so that we may be ready to take our part in the bloody fray when it comes. Without a navy, we are too isolated, too far off here by ourselves, to be meddled with, and so the great war-cloud may burst on our horizon without involving us in the destructive storm. So let us get our Lavy ready-and lay up a thousand million silver dollars in the treasury as a preliminary fund. And then, lest Europe should enjoy the diversion of bread riots alone, let us ineddle with the currency and interfere with rail

ilways, and regulate every part of industrial life we can find, so that, as fast as disorder and disaster are thereby produced, the minds of the people may be prepared, when new leaders may arise to "better the

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The great Dalhousie, he the God of War, Lieutenant-Colonel to the Earl of Marbut not every one observes the less striking but scarcely less amusing absurdities of everyday prose,-newspaper prose, for instance.

The London Times is moved to sagacious reflections by the triumph of Miss Fawcett at the Cambridge Mathemetical Tripos. The writer of the Leader regards this, no doubt properly, as an event so remarkable and so suggestive as to be worthy not only of our attention, but, forsooth, of his own; so he writes a couple of columns on the subject. After recording the fact that, for the first time in the history of these examinations, a woman has achieved the high distinction of Senior Wrangler, a distinction so high that Mr. Francis Galton did not hesitate to rank it as a test of genius (his definition of genius being, of course, liberal), - the Leader writer continues:

"It gives new dignity and encouragement to efforts which have not always secured the sympathy of everybody, and to institutions which have had to struggle in their time against much opposition, ind fference, and disdain. But the award of the position of Senior Wrangler to a woman is not merely the triumph of a social movement, and the academical consummation of a new departure in education. The lady who has distanced all her competitors in the Tripos, and is declared to be placed above the nominal Senior Wrangler, bears the honored name of FAWCETT!" (Exclamation and italics mine.)

And then the writer goes on to tell about the famous blind postmaster-general, who, it appears from this, was not only famous, but of more consequence in the world than a "social movement," or a new departure in education.

PARLIAMENTARY REFORM.

Mr. Mitchell, of Oregon, introduced a resolution in the Senate at the present session looking to a change in the mode of election

of Senators, and this resolution was called up and debated for a while on the 22d of April, but has not been heard of since. It is one of the most sensible resolutions which have been introduced into Congress. There is much to be said against it, but there are facts in its favor, which may outweigh the contrary ones. The fact is, plainly, that the affairs of the federal government have so completely absorbed the attention of the people—so far as their attention is devoted to political affairs at all that the choice of United States Senators has come to exercise a controlling influence in the election of State Legislators. A little more than a year ago, in the first number of Waterman's Journal, I called attention to this fact, and showed how it operated to the detriment both of the federal government and of the State governments. When there is no doubt as to the political party which is in the ascendant in any State, it occasionally happens that the State Legislature is elected on local issues; and often this proceeds to turn out a national Senator of the wrong stripe. The most conspicuous illustration of this kind is that of Mahone and Riddleberger, from Virginia. But when I wrote a year ago, I directed attention to the case of the four new States, North and South Dakota, Washington and Montana, which then stood on the eve of the first election of their State Legislatures. I said that we should witness the stifling of local politics by the overweaning importance of the national politics, in which the new States were about to take part, and that the election, which should be of great local importance to the people, would be perverted from its true purpose. In the case of Montana, we have already seen this prediction completely verified. The effect of national politics has been to deprive this State of its Legislature altogether.

When the proclamation admitting Montana to the Union was issued, the result of the election out there was still in doubt. The State Senators, of whom there were sixteen, had all been elected beyond con

troversy, and it was found that there were eight pledged to vote for Democratic federal Senators, and eight for Republican. So it was evident that the decision would depend upon the so-called Lower House on the joint ballot. In the House, there had been elected to uncontested seats twenty-four Democrats and twenty-five Republicans, and five seats were contested. On the face of the original returns from Silver Bow County, - the place of the contest, - the Democratic Representatives appeared to have been elected, but the complications which arose made it abundantly evident that if the contest was permitted to go into the House the decision would be in favor of the Republican candidates, because a majority of the uncontested seats were held by Republicans. It has become an established fact in American politics that wherever there is the faintest shadow of an excuse, the contested seats will invariably be awarded to the party in the majority. The pretence even of making a judicial decision of these cases has practically been abandoned. In Montana it is quite certain that the decision would have been partisan. The certainty with which one may count on this result has come about from the fact that both parties will, at their convenience, make a firm stand either for or against the observance of formalities, accordingly as one or the other view will serve their turn. And, inasmuch as there is, one may say, without exception, in these contested elections, a show of formality in favor of both parties at different stages of the election, the evidence gets evaded altogether, and the vote becomes entirely partisan. This is fully illustrated in the final award of the Montana senatorships in the United States Senate. The debate on this question in the open Senate lasted for days and days, and the proceedings in committee had previously occupied months. Both sides set up the plea of informality, both sides rested their case upon the informality of the other, both sides were right in their contention, and both sides were absolutely

and irrevocably wrong in their decision. There has been no formal election of Senators from Montana, but two men have been informally seated by the federal Senate. That they have not been elected is evident from what took place in Montana.

When the time came out there for the meeting of the Legislature, the twenty-five Republican members of the House met together in one place, with the five Republican claimants, and the twenty-four Democratic members met in another place, with the five Democratic claimants. The action of both these bodies was informal. When it came to choosing the federal Senators, eight members of the State went over and had a joint ballot with one of the informal Houses, and eight held a joint ballot with the other House. Both assemblies chose Senators; but it is perfectly obvious, and does not admit of a moment's parley, that

neither of the sets of Senators chosen by these assemblies are the lawful and formal Senators of Montana. The equities may be one way or the other, and it is a matter of no general consequence which way the equity lies. The essential fact is that the federal Senate has kept up a prodigious pretence of considering the formalities of the case, and has finally balloted on the partisanship of the case; and this is as true of one side as of the other. In the meanwhile, while the United States Senators have been cracking their brains with formalities, what has happened with the Montana Legislature?

There has been no Montana Legislature, not a single Act, not even the appropriation of a dollar for the support of the wirepullers and politicians, that never-to-be neglected formality has been completed. Bent wholly and solely on turning out federal Senators, the Legislature has persisted in refusing to organize, and the State has been left without any formal government at all. So it may well be said that the pernicious effect of the present mode of electing Senators has reached the extreme. When State government becomes

abolished, the effect on State government

cannot well go further. But what is here made manifest by the very extremity to which the thing has been carried is true in a less degree of every State government in the country. They are all demoralized, and wholesome progress is seriously, perhaps fatally, impeded by the intrusion of national politics into elections which might turn on other and so much more important considerations. The fault is not by any means wholly with the system, still less will it be chmpletely removed by a change of system. The fault is with the intelligence and character of the people who have the working of the system. But there can be no doubt that almost every evil to which American politics is heir is intensified by the mode of electing federal Senators. The grip of the "machine politician" is nowhere so strong as here, and nowhere are his machinations so successful, in no part of politics will his power be so difficult to escape. His power is here most effective, and here most concealed, yet, when brought to light, nowhere so easily justified in words, and made plausible in appearance. The evil is great, and a complete change of Senatorial elections might produce reform. If some other principle of minority representation besides that already embodied in the composition of the Senate could be simultaneously put into practice, the effect would be all the better. Local minorities are somewhat protected in the present Senate; but there are minorities not locally segregated whose rights are equally important. A reform of the Senate which, so far from abandoning the principle of minority representation, should give it a wider application, would become a great safeguard of Democracy. I invite Mr. Mitchell's attention to this aspect of the subject. If the representation of minorities other than those locally segregated, as in the States, cannot be reconciled with the constitution of the Senate, it might be advantageously introduced into the House. If the Senator will attend

[blocks in formation]

Probably no method of money-getting has aroused so much hostility in all times as lending money at interest. There has seemed to be something against nature in making money, which is naturally sterile, reproduce itself. Aristotle held that "it is the function of nature to supply food to all that is born," and so making gain from fiuits and animals is natural and praiseworthy. But the gain connected with barter is to be blamed, for it is not natural, but a robbing of man from man.

"Most reasonably of all, however, is hated the trade of the usurer, because the gain comes from the money itself, and not from the use for which money was devised, for it came into existence for the help of exchange; but interest (which means "breeding," tokos,) increases it more and more, whence interest . . . becomes money bred of money; so that, of the means of making gain, this is by far the most unnatural."

This view of interest persisted all through the Middle Ages. Curiously enough, the view of barter or exchange, that if one party gains by it the other must lose, survives even at the present day in the case of international exchanges, though no man thinks of accusing his grocer, say, of robbing him by charging him more than the wholesale price for a barrel of flour.

The aversion to interest manifested in the Old Testament is familiar. A similar aversion is shown in the Koran. The fathers of the Church, on the whole, looked with disfavor upon interest, and the antipathy of the Church in later times to this method of gain is well known. In uncivilized nations, in general, the taking of interest is regarded as reprehensible. Here the borrower usually contracts the loan from

necessity, and not for the purpose of making gain, and the rate of interest is very high.

With an advance of civilization, the rate of interest usually declines. According to a law of the Visigoths, the maxium rate on loans of money was 12 per cent; on other res fungibiles, 50 per cent. The Jews and the Lombards in France and England took about 20 per cent, from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries. About 1430, the Florentines, in order to lower the high rates which prevailed, invited the Jews to their ci'y, and the latter promised not to charge over 20 per cent.

In Russia, it is stated, with how much accuracy I do not know, that the rate was 40 per cent in the eleventh century. The decline of the rate of interest in England and France may be thus exhibited. In the former, under Henry III., the legal rate was 10 per cent; under James I., 8 per cent; about 1651, 6 per cent. In the latter, from the beginning of the sixteenth to the latter part of the seventeenth centuries, the rate declined from 10 per cent to 5. In ancient Greece the rate was 18 per cent, in Solon's time. Aristotle mentions 12 per cent, which Demosthenes and Eschines call low.

In one respect, the taking of interest remains on the same footing as in early and mediæval times. I refer to the business of pawnbroking. Here the borrowing is effected from urgent necessity, and the debtor is frequently not in a position, from ignorance of arithmetic, to estimate the magnitude of the burden he is undertaking. Under such conditions, the business of loaning is still considered dishonorable by the public, and the result in this case is that, as a rule, only bad men engage in it, as is usual with a business which is necessary and at the same time held to be disreputable. Many laws have recognized this fact, and made provision for it. Thus, formerly Jews were permitted to receive higher interest than Christians. Justinian permitted to "illustrious personages" only

« AnteriorContinuar »