Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/468

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nothing to embarrass the scramble for offices. The New York "Sun" lately reminded the Democrats that their business was "to elect a President," not to reform the tariff. Seek first, it says, to "elect a President," and all good things will be added unto you; but grapple with a great question like the tariff, and your opponents will surely get the better of you. Another leading organ observes that, now that the offices are no longer generally available, owing to the passage of the Pendleton civil-service bill, for the reward of political services, there remains nothing for a victorious party but "a damned barren ideality." The strength of the language, which we reproduce with absolute faithfulness, may be taken as a gauge of the disgust which the average politician feels when he sees nothing before him but a chance of doing his duty, without any special reward therefor. The novel, "Democracy," about which so much has been said, does not overstate the case in the least. When Mrs. Lee, in that lively story, tells the senator, who pays her the compliment of consulting as to the best course to take in a certain complication, to do "what is most for the public good," her counsel falls utterly pointless and abortive, simply because "the public good" had nothing whatever to do with the matter in hand. The senator himself could not pretend to tell her at what point the two things came into any kind of relation with each other. The questions involved were questions purely of self-interest, and, whatever course was taken, the country had nothing to gain.

If we turn to England, signs are not wanting that there too the absence of political principles is leading up to a crisis. "The notion," said the London "Times" recently, "that any particular set of men are in possession of principles especially calculated to promote the national well-being, or that any particular trick of government could add appreciably to the sum of happiness, is one which nowadays finds remarkably few advocates. Moreover, there is a pretty general feeling that it is very little use to rely upon principles of any kind. . . . At the present time we are not proceeding upon any principle known to either political party; and it is that fact which explains the hollowness of all political discussion, and the marked incredulity of the intelligent public toward all political professions. The fact is, that our political principles are worn out, and that the conflict which raged around them while they were vital is being mechanically carried on by men whose business it is to fight about something." When remarks like these can be made by the "leading journal," it would certainly seem as if Comte was not far wrong in his prediction that the English system would before long reveal its essential weakness. The question then arises, Can government be permanently carried on under these conditions? As Comte has remarked, the absence of principle in public life reacts upon private life; and certainly, in the latter sphere, the disorder we now witness is not what might have been expected in an age of such general enlightenment. It would seem as if, before long, those