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of the Day,
OR HISTORIC AND ECONOMIC REVIEWS OF
Doctrines of Free-Trade and Protection; Tariff Legislation; The Silver
Political Revolution of 1892;
Industrial and Commercial Panic of '93 '94;
The Pullman Boycott and Railroad Strike;
The Wilson Tariff Bill,
Together with a National Portrait Gallery of Labor Leaders
and Statesmen of all Parties.
By James P. Boyd, A. M.,
Author of Lives of Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Blaine,
THERE never was a time in the history of this great Republic when agitation extended further and covered so many vital questions. It seems to be an era of mental unrest, in which every subject is made to pass the ordeal of fresh inquiry, and much that was old and settled is either repudiated entirely or dragged into the arena of debate to be overhauled and modernized.
Some deprecate such an era and such a tendency, especially in a Republic whose youth permits a freedom that may be taken advantage of by its dangerous elements, and whose laws are so framed as to provide the fewest number of counter-checks to agitation. But there is really no cause for alarm. Indeed, we are optimistic enough to believe that agitation, even in the many peculiar forms it has for the present assumed, is a source of safety rather than danger. Under any system of government there must come periods of dissatisfaction and unrest, else there could be no progress. Ebullition is a way nature has of purifying and reconstructing herself. Man is but nature, in the respect that when the forces which drive him into a social or political state, and operate to keep him there, have begun to chafe, disappoint or tire, there should be an attempt at re-adjustment, either of the force to the man, or the man to the force.
And in no field can this take place so swiftly and effect
ively as in a Republic. The very freedom allowed to inquiry, to agitation, or even to that license of dispute which is too often inseparable from folly, frenzy or something worse, is in itself a safeguard, for the waters that are carried away by free flow, or are allowed to spread out into harmless shallows, are not the dangerous waters, but those which are pent up behind barriers subject to sudden breakage by wind-gusts or to secret undermining by sullen depths. The cause that finds a nest in a single brain, or a spot for incubation in a society, may prove to be no cause at all once it is at large and fair game for the arrows of outer inquiry. There is nothing risked by the assertion that a far greater number of incipient revolutions die by simple contact with larger ideas than by the strong arm of the law.
This, however, is saying but little other than that the American people as a community, and by virtue of their intelligence and patriotism, are to be trusted to solve their own problems, no matter how intricate or curiously presented. This is in strict accord with the spirit of our institutions, and, as a rule, the people have not shirked their responsibility. They have entered campaigns with zeal, have spoken with fire, have read with industry, have voted as they willed, have accepted verdicts cheerfully where they were emphatic.
Equally, the people have been prompt to correct their own misjudgment. They are doing it now. The present era of ferment is in one sense a confession of error, in another sense a getting ready to do what seems to lead to betterment of conditions. It is a campaign between. campaigns-a perpetual inquiry, a constant agitation, a continuous mooting of the theories of government, of social problems, of industrial questions, of commercial principles, and even of moral regulations. Say not that
the people are indiscreet in thus agitating what concerns them most. They have been driven to it, perhaps by their own folly, perhaps by unsuspicious acquiescence, perhaps by deliberate imposition. Say not that even the manner of agitation is wrong. It is only such as it can be, confused where aims are not clear, assertive where convictions are strong, tyrannical where organization is complete, grotesque where assumption is wild, incendiary only when absurdity leaps its narrow boundaries.
It is not the object of this work to settle any one question of the day for any one mind. That would be a hopeless task. But since the people have taken so largely to themselves the discussion and solution of that which concerns their home, family, labor, food, raiment, education, money, personal rights, economy, and morals, the author of the work has thought that he could help those of reading habit or inquiring turn by a reasonably full and fair presentation of the many questions that enter into the agitations and comprise the issues of the times.
He enters on his work all the more heartily because of a supreme confidence in the scholars now to be found in the American schools of practical life. These scholars are the toiling, thinking million, anxious and able to grasp what concerns them, and to lift themselves to higher estate. It is no argument against all that a few are unwise. It is no discouragement to a writer or teacher that some refuse to learn. The fact cannot be gainsaid that the spirit of inquiry is abroad as it never was before. The era of unrest is fully upon us. The meaning of it all is that more than has hitherto been given is demanded; that less shall be taken for granted than heretofore.
No problem of the hour, no issue of the day, is entirely independent of every other. Many of them spring from