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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/615

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POLITICS AS A FORM OF CIVIL WAR.

Politics tends to bring to the front the same kind of men that other social disorders do. A study of political leaders in the democratic societies of the world discloses portraits that differ only in degree from those that hang in the galleries of history in Italy in the fifteenth century, in Germany during the Thirty Years' War, and in France at the height of the French Revolution. Although the men they represent may not be as barbarous as Galeazzo or Wallenstein or Robespierre, they are just as unscrupulous and despicable. Like their prototypes, some of them are of high birth; others are of humble origin; still others belong to the criminal class. They do not, of course, capture cities and towns and hold them for ransom, or threaten to burn fields of wheat and corn unless bribed to desist; still they practice methods of spoliation not less efficient. By blackmailing corporations and wealthy individuals, they obtain sums of money that would have filled with bitter envy the leaders of the famous or rather infamous "companies of adventurers." With the booty thus obtained they gather about them numerous and powerful bands of followers. In every district where their supremacy is acknowledged they have their lieutenants and sublieutenants that obey as implicitly as the subordinates in an army. Thus equipped like any of the great brigands of history, they carry caucuses ana conventions, shape the party policy, and control the legislation proposed and enacted.

To be sure, the economic devastation of politics is not as conspicuous as that of war. It does not take the tragic form of burning houses, trampled fields of grain, tumbling walls of cities, and vast unproductive consumption by great bodies of armed men. Yet it is none the less real. Not infrequently it is hardly less extensive when measured in dollars and cents. Seldom does an election occur, certainly not a heated congressional or presidential election, that the complaint of serious interference with business is not universal. So great has the evil become that, long before the meeting of the national conventions in 1896, a concerted movement on the part of the industrial interests of the country was started to secure an abbreviation of the period given up to political turmoil. Even more serious is the economic disturbance due to legislatures. As no one knows what stupendous piece of folly they may commit at any moment, there is constant apprehension. "The country," said the Philadelphia Ledger, a year ago, referring to the disturbance provoked by the Teller repudiation resolution in the Senate and the violent Cuban debate in the House, "has got Congress on its hands, and, after their respective fashions, Senate and House are putting enormous weight of disturbing doubts and fears upon it. . . . To a greater or less degree a meeting of Congress has been during recent years anticipated