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About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (Oct. 18, 1901)
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Commercial Value of Ideas In Politics.
Hearst's Chicago American prints the follow
ing oxtract from an oration delivered by ex-Attor-noy
General Wayne MacVeach before the Harvard
chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa society. If Mr,
MacVeagh were no known to bo a republican,
one would suspect him of being not only a
democrat, but what the republicans call a dema
gogue and a disturber of the peace. He says:
While wo must, of course, always insist upon
the one vital distinction between truo and false
American patriotism, recognizing only as true that
which possesses the ethical spirit, and rejecting
as false that which does not possess it, we must
also recognizo that such a subject can be properly
dicussed only with that liberal and catholic feel
ing which makes the amplest allowances for differ
ence of opinion.
There is no reason why we should not cheer
fully admit that the controlling consideration 'in
the immediate present is that of money.
Assuming, therefore, that we must deal with
conditions as they cxint, I have thought it might
be useful to call the attention of our men of busi
ness to the commercial value of ethical ideals
in American politics.
If it is possible to satisfy them that the cher
ishing of such ideals may be of pecuniary advant
age may be, in truth, treated as a commercial
asset they may appreciate the wisdom of ceasing
their efforts to destroy them, and may be persuaded
to help in the good work of -maintaining them and
of extending their beneficent influence.
It is difficult to understand why the free gov
ernment under which we are privileged to live
especially needs the influence of ethical ideals in
the conduct of life, or why wo may possibly incur
danger if we are without the protecting and con
servative influence of such Ideals.
Under whatever disguises, called by whatever
names, inheriting or seizing whatever partisan or
ganizations, the alignment of the two great politi
cal divisions of American voters, who will sooner
cr later struggle against each other for the pos
session of the government, will inevitably be upon
the basis of the contented and the discontented.
The party of the contented will be ranged un
der one banner, and the party of the dis
contented will be ranged under the other,
arid " that alignment will steadily develop
increasing sharpness of division until the
party of the discontented, being the majority,
has obtained the control of the government, to
which, under our system, they are entitled; and
then they will be sure to remodel the present
system for the distribution of wealth, unless we
have previously done so, upon bases wiser and
more equitable than those now existing.
The one party will be, under whatever name,
the party of capital; and the other party will be,
under whatever name, the party of labor.
My purpose, therefore, is to point out, without
the slightest bitterness, to the members of the
contented class, the commercial value of ethical
ideals as the safest source of the political aspira
tions of the majority of our people, and the most
conservative influence in our national life, and also
to .point cut to them the grave dangers from a
bviness standpoint, in these days of possible con
flict between capital and labor, of continuing to
substitute money for morajs as the permanent
and controlling force in American politics.
The first ethical ideals which it seems to me It
would be wise for us, even from the point of view
of the stock exchanges, to guard most zealously
just now, is the ideal condition of society with
which the late President McKinley closed his con
gratulations upon the opening of the exposition at
Buffalothat of peace on earth and good will to
If fighting and killing aro to be encouraged, if
those who indulge in them are to be especially hon
ored, and if oppression of the weak is to be cher
ished, it will -bo difficult to prevent the class of the
discontented from familiarizing themselves too
thoroughly With fighting and killing, and from
learning to cherish in their hearts a desire to op
press their weaker but more wealthy fellow-citizens.
It is quite possible there may also bo great
commercial value for us at the present time in the
ethical ideal that all men are born equal and
equally entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit ofr
I am well aware that Jt is supposed exigencies
nov exist which require us to abandon the doctrine
of equality we inherited.
We are told that the exigencies of modern
business and modern trade require a wholly dif
ferent ideal to bo sot before the now century; that
our personal duty is to conquer any weaker peo
ple whoso territory we covet, and to Bubject them
to such government as in our opinion will best
promote our profit and their welfare.
There is still another ethical ideal which may
soon prove to be of very great commercial value in
American politics the ideal of the citizen, wheth
er in or out of office, exhibiting moral courage in
dealing with important public questions.
It is perhaps inevitable, but it is none the less
to bo regretted, that a distinct lowering of moral
standards should follow a state of war, inducing
us to cherish the delusion that if we talk loudly
enough and boast foolishly enough of our physical
prowess by sea and land, and give our time and
thought only to warlike actions and preparations,
as we have- been doing for'the last three years, all
serious moral and domestic questions will some
how settle themselves.
Such a delusion is equally childish and coward
ly, and it is only necessary to glance at such ques
tions to discover that instead of settling them
selves they aro daily growing in gravity.
As one example, take our attitude toward the
corrupt use of money in our elections and in our
representative bodies. Even the dullest intelli
gence must see that if we continue to destroy, as
for some time past we have been destroying, tho
belief of the majority of our fellow-citizens that
elections are honestly conducted and laws are
honestly mode, we are destroying the best possiblo
basis for the security of private property; for
there can be no reverence for law where laws
and law-makers are bought with money, and I
fear we are rapidly destroying the possibility of
such reverence in the minds of tho masses of our
Upon the ground of expediency aloneregarcl
ing it only as an element in our commercial ex
pansion, in ourgrowth of trade, in our increase of
wealth, in tho prosperity of our stock exchanges
even from this standpoint, it is assuredly great
practical folly to destroy the ethical ideal of law,
as we are striving so earnestly to do.
There is another very grave problem t which
wo are also refusing to consider, and by which re
fusal the ethical Ideal of law Is also being fa
I.t is the problem presented by our negro pop-
ulation, now approaching ten millions of souls.
All of us, whether in public office or in private
station, now concur in trying to ignore the exist
once of any such problem at our doors, while wo
indulge in self-congratulations about the blessings
we are carrying to another ten millions of dark
skinned races in far-distant lands.
At present the condition of tho whole subject
is lawlessness, and such a condition is disgraceful
to us all and is fraught with the serious dangers
which lawlessnes always brings in its train as tho
exact opposite of the ethical ideal of law.
Indeed, the ethical ideal, of the legislator and
the citizen, as men zealous to know their public
duty and brave enough to do it, is also rapidly be
ing destroyed by our failing to even attempt to
deal seriously and adequately with many other
problems now imperatively demanding our at
tention. It certainly would tend to make private prop
erty far more secure in America if the less for
tunate majority of our population saw us of tho
more fortunate minority giving courage and time
and thought to efforts to solve these problems and
others like them, and thereby to. lessen soihe of
the evils which in many cases bear so heavily and
so unjustly upon the poor.
Indeed, the influence of ethical ideals upon
American democracy ought to be considered of
value if only because the cultivation of such
ideals will inevitably tend to make more really
patriotic all classes of our countrymen, for such
ideals lift us all a" jve the unsatisfied standards
of public duty .with which we are vainly trying to
Lieutenant Louis Hamilton, of the Fourteenth
United States infantry, commanded the special,
guard of honor at the Buffalo city hall and on,
the train which carried the remains of President
McKinley to Washington. He is tho great-grandson
of Alexander Hamilton.
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a he above cartoop, reproduced by courtesy of the St. Paul (Minn;)' Globe, appeared in
that paper recently as an illustration of tho truth of a Commoner editorial to tho effect that
abuse does not injure the man or party made tho subject of the attack.