the great book of American history on the page bearing
the record of the year 1898 some one will have to note:
"In this year the States were infected with the
Bacillus Imperialis." There is a controversy as
to the deadliness of that germ. Many claim that it is
wholly beneficial to the body politic, while others
hold it in abhorrence as a pestiferous curse. But whichever
side one may take in the latest American revolution,
the revolution in thought and principles, whether we
hold with the conservative followers of traditional
democracy and national self-culture, or with the dazzled
emulators of military nations who would embark their
country on a perilous career of aggrandisement, one
thing is certain; as an executive machine the American
form of government is a lamentable failure. That it
should be cumbrous and rigid is bad enough in times
of peace, when its corruption and incompetence are less
in evidence. In times of need its imperviousness to
public sentiment and the stings of national conscience
becomes awfully manifest.
of your conduct of the Cuban war, your pestilent transports,
your fever-haunted camps. It was disgraceful enough
that your troops should suffer in the stages of preparation;
that they should be perishing now by fever and famine
simply through the stupidity of your paid officials
is a shame to you forever.
you are, my friends, with all your boasted freedom and
independence, sitting helplessly by, while your sons
and brothers are murdered by your precious government
of knaves and nincompoops. How long, you American people,
do you think a British Minister could retain his control
of power while ship after ship of dying soldiers came
into Liverpool from a foreign war, while battalion after
battalion was dumped in a malarial swamp sick, wounded,
fever-stricken, to sleep on the naked earth, to feed
on ship's biscuit and drink its own drainage?
Because England is governed by the English people. And
when these things are actually occurring to-day in your
country, how long will you stand it? You will stand
it just as long as your President chooses to stand by
his imbecile secretary.
Because the United States is not governed by the American
people. You think you govern yourselves, but you see
you do not. In a crisis you are powerless. You have
resigned your freedom to your chosen officers for a
term of years. Your Constitution is an inferior one.
It pretends to safeguard your liberties; in reality
it commits you without redress to the greed of the partizan
and the bungling of the demagogue.
are not honester or more capable than Americans; but
English statesmen are honester and more capable than
American politicians. Why, again? Because the English
form of government secures the service of the best men
for the state, while the American form makes ampler
opportunity for the charlatan and the trickster. You
will notice that in England the strongest men always
come to the front, while in America it is the mediocre
men who oftenest attain the highest posts of office.
In Congress there have been numerous instances of disappointed
worth- men who were acknowledged to be easily the leading
statesmen of their day, and who still were never entrusted
with the chief power. In Parliament, if a man were so
evidently and naturally the leader of his times, he
would become Premier as a matter of course. Power would
be entrusted to him, because the English have nothing
to fear. Their servants can be dismissed at a moment's
notice. It is the servant who fears. Whereas you Americans
have given your public servants such unrestricted power
you are afraid of them. And yet, as it is, you are robbed
and befooled at every turn.
and efficiency are good things; they are particularly
good qualities in public servants. Any thinking man
could see that the English secure these traits in their
ministers, while the American people seldom does. But
it takes a series of hideous tragedies, like the return
of your transports from Cuba, to drive that sad truth
home to your mind.
what can you do in such a crisis? Nothing. You are horrified
for a moment at the cruel spectacle, but even if your
wrath would keep hot for a week you are powerless. The
power is not with you; it is with your irresponsible
Executive and his Cabinet. Your bosses are in the saddle
and they will ride whither they choose. They have got
a "good job," as you call it, and they won't
relinquish it for a few hundred dead silly soldiers
who went blindly off to conquer new fields for their
greedy masters, under the impulse of that old delusion
called patriotism. My friends, your real foes are not
in Cuba or Porto Rico or on the other side of the earth;
they are in Washington and Tammany Hall and every political
convention you hold. You are bought and sold by your
unscrupulous politicians, like the tame good-natured
sheep you are.
now your head has been turned by a new dream of empire.
You wish to forsake the ways of your fathers and go
into competition with the "effete monarchies"
of Europe. Well, the market is open. But there is one
thing I should like you to remember: if you are going
into the empire business, you had better secure some
kind of government which shall be your servant and not
your master. You may be excused for allowing your harmless
vanity to be inflated by conquest, but those who have
had a thorough respect and love for your sterling character
and principles will look with stern sorrow on your disgrace
in the hour of victory. It is no mark of a free people
to abandon its soldiers to the mercy of a set of thieving,
incompetent officials. The world has heard a lot of
cant about Spanish misgovernment and cruelty in the
West Indies. It would puzzle Spain to match the mismanagement
of your War Department. Your maudlin sentimentalism
is outraged at Turkish atrocities in Armenia. But your
own flesh and blood comes home to die on your doorstep,
sacrificed to the unholy greed of your contemptible
officemongers. What ever puny glory there may have been
in your victory over Spain is drenched in the infamy
of your bungling commissariat.
to me. The first time you see your flag with its honorable
stripes lolling in the wind, look at it well. Its stars
are sullied, its stripes are stained. All the winds
of heaven can never blow it clean of the mould of those
Cuban transports and the germs of those miserable camps.
Go to Washington and ask your grocery-store government
what is the matter with "Old Glory." Perhaps
you had better get a new flag.
the first time you have a silver half dollar in your
hand, look at it well. Whose image and superscription
are there? What comely features are these? Liberty.
Well, your Liberty is a courtesan. You have sold her
to the bosses. Your Res Publica is a public thing.
And the superscription, "In God we trust."
Well, my friends, I can tell you one thing. God won't
save you from the politicians. You will have to save
yourselves. Perhaps you had better get a new emblem
for your coinage. A typical boss's head would be appropriate-the
familiar features of your President's manager, or one
of the leaders of Greater New York's municipal factions.
These ornaments of the rogues' gallery are your true
lords and masters. The least you can do is to preserve
their image on your noble coins. Then in time the different
denominations of your currency would come to be known
by the memorable names they bore. Theatre seats might
sell for three "hannas" each; while good cigars
would cost a "croker" apiece.