Page images

out. has been continuous- for three centuries, and partly to the enormous resources which Americans have discovered within their dominion, the dangers which now threaten it are not those which the founders of the Republic anticipated. They were great builders, and a hundred years after they were in their graves a million of men died to protect the Constitution which they had framed; but their foresight was not quite equal to their constructive capacity. The foresight of politicians rarely is. A few among them apprehended danger from the existence of slavery in their midst; but they did not foresee that slavery would produce in the South a civilization radically hostile to the civilization of the North, and they left the Incipient cancer not cut out A good many expected what used in our own country to be called "the ugly rush" of the masses against property, and provided against it in the Constitution itself; but none foresaw the industrial growth of the Union, or the bitterness which, under a regime of nominal equality, comparative poverty is certain to produce. It has produced it, nevertheless, to such an extent that strikes in the Union have frequently been petty civil wars which the State Militia have been unable to control; and no one, of course, foresaw such a development of wealth that many of its owners now rival the old Barons of Europe in audacity, influence, and. we must add, carelessness for any interests wider than their own. So savage have the differences of class become that the next election will be a struggle between the "Haves" and the "Have-nots," and the relation of the Trusts to the future of the Republic will be avowedly or secretly the pivot of the contest. There will be real danger, as the President acknowledges in his deeply significant speech of April 20th, that the Republic, which was to have been governed by a majority of more or less comfortable

freeholders, may pass under the sway either of a plutocracy or a mob. Either result, we need not say, would be fatal to the hopes which philanthropists throughout the world have founded on the growing prosperity and power of the great Republic,—the mightiest selfgoverning community which history records.

Amidst the many darkening clouds which are rolling up on the American horizon there is one definite spot of light. All depends upon the decision of the American people, who are, as the President says, in America the "sovereign" power, and the American people have decided that their real leader is Theodore Roosevelt. This is admitted by the opposite, or Democratic, party as much as by the Republicans who gave Mr. Roosevelt his place,—by those who distrust and detest his personality as much as by those who are devoted to his name. They all agree that if Theodore Roosevelt will stand for a third term resistance will be as impossible, or at all events as useless, as resistance to Abraham Lincoln proved to be at his second election in 1865. So intensely Is this felt that Republicans denounce his threatened retirement as treason to the country, while Democrats believe that at the last moment he will be, as it were, stoned by opinion, and coerced against his own judgment and his own wishes into once more standing for the chair. Study that fact in the light of his record, and you will see that the immense majority of the people, who constitute, as he himself says, the true Sovereign of the States, must be clean of the wish to support either plutocracy or mob-rule,—that the people wish both to be avoided or put down, whatever the effect and whatever the sacrifice. This Is the more remarkable because Mr. Roosevelt affronts and defies two other sections of the voters besides the plutocracy and the mob; namely, those —and they are a multitude—who still consider State Rights more important than national claims, and those—and they also are a multitude—who profit by the most visible disease of America, the prevalence of corruption in the Governments of the great cities. if, as all Americans declare, the heart of the American people goes out to Theodore Roosevelt, the heart of the American people is still pure; and whoever has been corrupted by the over-sudden access of wealth or by the spread of economic fallacies, it is not the American Nation. Mr. Roosevelt has not had occasion to fight pecuniary corruption as openly and strenuously as he has fought the Trusts and mob-rule, but his sentiments on the subject—we may add, his resolutions on the subject—are thoroughly understood. The "bosses" dread and hate him as much as the multi-millionaires do, or the managers of the fighting Trade-Unions.

it is a little difficult either to explain or to understand 'the sudden magnitude which the two economic questions have attained in America. The amazing success of the syndicates of capitalists called Trusts is due no doubt at bottom to Protection, without which their profits would be too uncertain to tempt them into such combinations. That explanation cannot, however, be complete, for the railway magnates are not protected by the tariff, and when Protection was at its zenith in Great Britain there were no syndicates. There must be something else, probably the absence of the temptation which exists in Europe, when great fortunes The Spectator.

have been accumulated to "go out of business," and assume dignified positions among the leisured class. The excessive fierceness of the industrials, again, may be due in part to the alien blood which for a century has been pouring into the States in a stream of increasing volume, and which is now to a great extent Latin and Slavic blood, and in part to the natural action of a Republic in making all its citizens hate the very idea of inequality. it is, however, a curious fact to be carefully remembered that Republicanism, with its corollary, the .right of self-government, though it extinguishes many evils, such as the permanent terror which arises from autocracy and the permanent servility which often accompanies Monarchy, does not extinguish, or even greatly diminish, social dangers of an acute kind. Socialism is much stronger in France, where the Republic is obviously succeeding, than in England, where newspapers still record the comings and goings of Monarchs as if they were the most important of occurrences, and where titles are still sought with almost unintelligible avidity. The probable truth is that, as human beings cannot look forward even for a day with any feeling of certainty, the founders of Constitutions cannot provide against all the evils those Constitutions will produce, or foresee the cross-currents of thought and feeling which will modify the working of institutions. Scotland is probably the most truly democratic country in the world, but there is no country in which the aristocracy hold a loftier or a safer position.

[ocr errors]


A distinctive feature of the twentieth century House of Commons is the disappearance of the orator. Time was, at and since the period of Pitt and Fox, when the House of Commons was a stage from which eminent men delivered elaborate discourses. Within my comparatively brief experience a great change has been wrought in this respect. There are many able men in the present Parliament; there is not a single one who poses as an orator. New times, above all new Rules of. Procedure, make new manners. There really isn't time now for a Member to lay himself out for a two hours' speech, as was a common custom even so recently as a quarter of a century ago. With the House meeting at the prosaic hour of a quarter to three o'clock and abruptly closing debate at eleven, there is no opening for such elaborate performance.

Moreover, habit in respect of debate Is changed. In the good old days 660 Members were content to form an audience enraptured by the eloquence of eight or ten. Now, with special wires feeding local papers, every one feels called upon to deliver a certain quantum of remarks on important Bills or resolutions brought before the House. The average Member has more satisfaction in talking than in listening. This, combined with disposition to regard progress of legislative business as of more importance than flowers of oratory, has completed the change of fashion. In these prosaic days a Member, however eminent, rising with evident intent of delivering a set oration, would first be stared at, then left to discourse to himself, the Speaker, and an admiring family circle In the Ladles' Gallery.

I remember In days that are no more a quite different state of things. In the Seventies, even In the Eighties, there were giants of oratory. Gladstone was the last survival. Even he towards the end of his career was influenced by the newer turn of thought which dominated Parliamentary debate. He could not help being eloquent when deeply moved; but he was more direct in his methods, less voluminous in his speech.

His manner in speech-making was more strongly marked by action than was that of his only rival, John Bright. He emphasized points by smiting the open palm of his left hand with sledgehammer fist. Sometimes he, with gleaming eyes, pointed his forefinger straight at his adversary. In hottest moments he beat the brass-bound Box with clamorous hand that sometimes drowned the point he strove to make. Again, with both hands raised above his head; often with left elbow leaning on the Box, right hand with closed fist shaken at the head of an unoffending country gentleman on the back bench opposite; anon, standing half a step back from the Table, left hand hanging at his side, right uplifted, so that he might with thumb-nail lightly touch the shining crown of his head, he trampled his way through the argument he assailed as an elephant in an hour of aggravation rages through a jungle.

It is no new thing for great orators to indulge in extravagant gestures. Peel had none; Pitt but few, these monotonous and mechanical. But Pitt's father, the great Chatham, knew how to flash his eagle eye, to flaunt his flannels and strike home with his crutch. Brougham once dropped on his knees in the House of Dords, and with outstretched hands implored the Peers not to reject the Reform Bill. Fox was sometimes moved to tears by his own eloquence. Burke on a historic occasion brought a dagger into debate, and at the proper cue flung it on the floor of the House of Commons. Sheridan, when nothing more effective was to be done, knew how to faint. Grattan used to scrape the ground with his knuckles as he bent his body and thanked God he had no peculiarities of gesture. in respect of originality, multiplicity and vehemence of gesture, Gladstone, as in some other things, beat the record of human achievement.

Disraeli lacked two qualities, failing which true eloquence is impossible. He was never quite in earnest, and was not troubled by dominating conviction. Only on the rarest occasions did he affect to be roused to righteous indignation, and then he was rather amusing than impressive. He was endowed with a lively fancy and cultivated the art of coining phrases, generally personal in their bearing. When these were flashed forth he delighted the House. For the rest, at the period i knew him, when he had grown respectable and was weighted with responsibility, he was often dull. There were, indeed, in the course of a session, few things more dreary than a long speech from Dizzy. At short, sharp replies to questions designed to be embarrassing he was effective. When it came to a long speech the lack of stamina was disclosed, and the House listened to something which, if not occasionally incomprehensible', was frequently involved.

When he rose to speak he rested his hand for a moment on the Box, only for a moment, for he invariably endeavored to gain the ear of his audience by making a brilliant point in an opening sentence. The attitude he found most conducive to happy delivery was

to stand balancing himself on heel and toe with hands in his coat-tall pocket. in this pose, with head hung down as if he were mentally debating how best to express a thought just born to him, be slowly uttered the polished and poisoned sentences over which he had spent laborious hours in his study.

Those familiar with his manner knew a full moment beforehand when he was approaching what he regarded as the most effective place for dropping the gem of phrase he made-belleve to have just dug up from an unvislted corner of his mind. They saw him lead up to it. They noted the disappearance of the hand in the direction of the coat-tall pocket, sometimes in search of a pocket-handkerchief brought out and shaken with careless air, most often to extend the coat-tails whilst, with body gently rocked to and fro and an affected hesitancy of speech, the 60/1 mot was flashed forth. Not being a born orator, but a keen observer recognizing the necessity noted by Hamlet in his advice to the players of accompanying voice by action, he performed a series of bodily jerks as remote from the natural gestures of the true orator as the waddling of a duck across a stubble field is from the progress of n swan over the bosom of a lake.

John Bright, perhaps the finest orator known to the House of Commons in the last half of the nineteenth century, was morally and politically the antithesis of Disraeli. Before, in the closing years of a long life, he reached the unexpected haven of community with the Conservative Party on the question of Home Rule, political animosity passed by no ditch through the mire of which it might drag him. But it never accused him of speaking with uncertain sound, of denouncing to-day what yesterday he upheld.

To an orator this atmosphere of acknowledged sincerity and honest conviction is a mighty adjunct of power. To it Bright added airy graces of orntory. He kept himself well in hand throughout his speech, never losing his hold upon his audience. His gestures were of the fewest. Unlike Disraeli's, they were appropriate because natural. A simple wave of the right hand and the point of his sentence was emphasized. Nature gifted him with a fine presence and a voice the like of which has rarely rung through the classic chamber. "Like a bell" was the illustration commonly employed in endeavor to convey an impression of its music. I should say like a peal of bells, for a

The Albany Review.

single one could not produce the varied tones in which Bright suited his voice to his theme.

On the whole, the dominant note was one of pathos. Probably because all his great speeches pleaded for the cause of the oppressed or denounced an accomplished wrong, a tone of melancholy ran through all. For the expression of pathos there were marvellously touching vibrations in his voice, carrying to the listener's heart the tender thoughts that came glowing from the speaker's, clad in simple words as they passed his tongue.

Henry W. Lm-ii.


London, which the late Grant Allen described In a warm moment as "a squalid village," has never yielded any delight to the admirers of the classic in cities. It has sprawled about the banks of the Thames in formless fashion ever since the first bridge thrown across determined the site of our capital. Its appeal has always been to the humanity in us. As a city, as an arrangement of buildings, it cannot even enter into competition, they tell us, with Vienna or with Paris. It is, they declare, put to shame by Brussels, Antwerp, Turin, Milan, Venice, Munich, and Boston (Mass.). Bath and Edinburgh can look down upon it. In modern times the desire to produce a beautiful city did not touch us while it was stirring other communities. As for the splendid remains of mediaeval building that we might have boasted, as Brussels or Nttrnberg boast them now, there was the Great Fire, which, what with burnings down and blowings up, swept most of Gothic London off the map. That calamity may have had the compensating advantage of cleansing the soil of the town of the bacteria of ages, and giving London a fresh sanitary

start, as Sir Walter Besant believed; but It certainly did not help the cause of beauty. The twentieth century however, which seems destined to see the first awakening of our nation to so many things, is already determined to hand on to the twenty-first a London that our fathers would not recognize, a London poor in the quaint, the gloomy, the mysterious, having none of those dark arches leading to unsuspected courts or riverside spaces that moved the young imagination of David Copperfleld, none of those ancient, narrow, and grimy thoroughfares of which the departed Booksellers' Row was the type, none of the old homely squalor: a London rich in broad streets and tall buildings, with cleaner air and many trees and no "associations" to speak of. What will happen when the time comes for the posthumous honoring of the twentieth-century great? ■ It Is impossible to believe that the pleasant and Inexpensive flats In Battersea, overlooking the Park, where A is writing his immortal songs at this moment and B creating the novel of our era, will over gain any grace from antiquity. It is a fine, lofty block of building, quite

« PreviousContinue »