Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/16

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salacious stories, and ignorant comment on current questions and events that appeal to a population as unlettered and base as themselves. Let them study, finally, the appalling indictment of American political life, in a State where the native blood still runs pure in the veins of the majority of the inhabitants, that Mr. John Wanamaker framed in a great speech at the opening of his memorable campaign in Lancaster against the most powerful and most corrupt despotism that can be found outside of Russia or Turkey. "In the fourth century of Rome, in the time of Emperor Theodosius, Hellebichus was master of the forces," he said, endeavoring to describe a condition of affairs that exists in a similar degree in every State in the Union, "and Cæsarius was count of the offices. In the nineteenth century, M. S. Quay is count of the offices, and W. A. Andrews, Prince of Lexow, is master of forces in Pennsylvania, and we have to come through the iron age and the silver age to the worst of all ages—the degraded, evil age of conscienceless, debauched politics.… Profligacy and extravagance and boss rule everywhere oppress the people. By the multiplication of indictments your district attorney has multiplied his fees far beyond the joint salaries of both your judges. The administration of justice before the magistrates has degenerated into organized raids on the county treasury.… Voters are corruptly influenced or forcibly coerced to do the bidding of the bosses, and thus force the fetters of political vassalage on the freemen of the old guard. School directors, supervisors, and magistrates, and the whole machinery of local government, are involved and dominated by this accursed system."

But Mr. Wanamaker might have added that the whole social and industrial life of the country is involved and dominated by the same system. It is a well-established law of social science that the evil effects of a dominant activity are not confined to the persons engaged in it. Like a contagion, they spread to every part of the social organization, and poison the life farthest removed from their origin. Yet the public-school system, so impotent to save us from social and political degradation and still such an object of unbounded pride and adulation, is, as Mr. Wanamaker, all unconscious of the implication of his scathing criticism, points out in so many words, an integral part of the vast and complex machinery that political despotism has seized upon to plunder and enslave the American people. As in the case of every other extension of the duties of government beyond the limits of the preservation of order and the enforcement of justice, it is an aggression upon the rights of the individual, and, as in the case of every other aggression, contributes powerfully to the decay of national character