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The Signs of the Times, vol. 13

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    March 10, 1887

    “What Shall the End Be?” The Signs of the Times 13, 10, pp. 152, 153.

    IN several numbers of the SIGNS immediately preceding this we have called attention to the failure of justice, and the sympathy with crime and criminals, which now characterizes the proceedings at law, and pervades society everywhere. In view of these things, we have asked how long can these thing continue before the earth shall be filled with violence? If these things furnished the only source whence an increase of violence were justly to be feared, this of itself would be a most important question. But when, in whatever direction we may look, there are only tendencies of a like nature to be seen, then the question becomes one which must be, and is indeed, of the most absorbing interest to all thinking people.SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.1

    Notwithstanding the national organization of the Knights of Labor for the purpose, as stated, of preventing strikes, there were more than 3,000 strikes in the United States in the year 1886, all of them accompanied with violence to a greater or less degree. In some instances the violence was so great that it would be difficult to tell how much greater it could be short of open war or complete anarchy. All this in 1886, and here we are only two months on the way in 1887, and how stands the record? Is the prospect for this year any brighter in this direction than it was for 1886 at the same time, or in fact at any time in that year? To say nothing of others of less note, Boston, New York, and Paterson, New Jersey, lead off with strikes in quick succession, and of such magnitude as to easily surpass any, except, perhaps, the very largest of the year 1886, and that year surpassed all others. Now let any person soberly ask himself the question, How long can this thing continue before outbreaking violence shall be the rule, and law and order be set at defiance? How long? And when there is added to this the fact that the so-called labor organizations are falling more and more under the direct and active domination of Socialistic principles, and Socialistic agitations, whose sole purpose is the utter breaking down of the present order of civil society, the question of how long is so much the more emphasized.SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.2

    In 1857 Lord Macaulay, writing of the American Republic, used these words:—SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.3

    “The day will come when in the State of New York, a multitude of people, not one of whom has had more than half a breakfast, or expects to have more than half a dinner, will choose a Legislature. Is it possible to doubt what sort of a Legislature will be chosen? On one side is a statesman preaching patience, respect for vested rights, strict observance of public faith; on the other is a demagogue, canting about the tyranny of capitalists and usurers, and asking why anybody should be permitted to drink champagne and to ride in carriages, while thousands of honest folks are in want of necessaries. Which of the two candidates is likely to be preferred by the workingman who hears his children crying for more bread? I seriously apprehend that you will, in some such seasons of adversity as I have described, do things which will prevent prosperity from returning. Either some Cesar or Napoleon will seize the reins of Government with a strong hand, or your Republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the twentieth century as the Roman Empire was in the fifth, with this difference, that the Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country and by your own institutions.’SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.4

    With that please read the following editorial note from the Argonaut (S.F.), of November 6, 1886:—SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.5

    “Mr. Henry George has not carried New York, and has not become its mayor, but this is what has been done: An impecunious adventurer, who has no property, pays no taxes, has no residence or citizenship anywhere—so far as we know—takes his gripsack in his hand and moves to the great American metropolis, and, gathering around him all there is of poverty, ignorance, discontent, and crime, proclaims himself a candidate for mayor; without party, or press, or money, he organizes discontent, and, becoming its leader, he marshals a band of men who have little to lose and much to gain, and marches them to the ballot-box to obtain control of the government of a city containing more than a million of people and more than a thousand millions of aggregated wealth. That he does not succeed may be a matter of congratulation; that he came within a few thousand votes of his successful opponent, seems to us an incident of great significance, that carries with it the suggestion of danger. In saying this, it is not necessary to deny to Mr. Henry George great ability and thorough integrity of purpose. We may not call him crank or impracticable theorist, but the danger lies in the fact that the class of discontents is so numerous, and that it can be brought together for a political purpose, and become subordinate to party discipline, and wielded for political use. When one reflects in this direction, he can but question whether the unlimited exercise of the elective franchise ought not to be taken from an alien immigrating class, in order that the ranks of this dangerous and restless element may be prevented from further enlargement.”SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.6

    Then in connection with these two extracts the following from an editorial in the November Century is interesting and strongly suggestive. Under the heading of “The Congressional Balance-sheet” is given a striking illustration of the incapability, if not the failure, of Congress as a legislative body. The editor says:—SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.7

    “The reader may perhaps desire an explanation of this failure of our national Legislative. Let him then go to Washington while the two Houses are in session. Let him sit in the gallery of the Senate, provided an ‘executive session’ does not turn him out; let him scan the faces of the Senators, reflect upon their previous records, and consider how many of them came to occupy their present positions.SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.8

    “Let him then go and sit for a time in the gallery of the House of Representatives, and watch that national bear-garden. Let him enjoy the usual scene—one purple-faced Representative sawing the air in the progress of what is technically called an ‘oration;’ a dozen or more highly-amused colleagues surrounding him; the rest of the members talking at the tope of their voices, clapping their hands for pages, writing, reading, telling funny stories and laughing uproariously at them, making social calls from desk to desk, doing anything and everything except the business for which they are paid.SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.9

    “Let him try to estimate the rapidity with which a plain business man, finding is clerks engaged in such a scene during business hours, would make a ‘clean sweep’ of them. He will no longer ask an explanation of the congressional balance-sheet. What better result could be expected from the two Houses, each in its own way controlled by influences antagonistic to intelligent legislation? Congress is no longer a legislative body. Its degeneration is now admitted. It consists now of a plutocracy at one end, and a mobocracy at the other. The two chronic perils of a democracy have a firm grip on the Congress of the United States.SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.10

    “Here is no question of comparative guilt or responsibility. Each House is as bad in its way as the other. Nor is there any partisan question involved. The course of Congress has for years been downhill. Able and sincere men are still to be found in both Houses, yet each successive Congress is, on the whole, worse than its predecessors; not because Democrats or Republicans control it, but because it is two years further on the road...SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.11

    “The Congress of the United States has become the most incapable legislative body of the constitutional world. So far as the Senate is concerned, its case is hopeless; the only remedy is outside of it, in the regeneration of the constituencies which elect the Senators. The case of the House is somewhat different; its failure may be redeemed by reform within itself.”SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.12

    But the prospect of a cure by this prescription is as hopeless as is the case for which it is given. “The only remedy for the Senate” is said to be in the regeneration of the constituencies which elect the Senators. But the constituencies are as corrupt as is the Senate. Else how is it that the Senate is so bad? The House it is said “may be redeemed by reform within itself.” It might be it is true. But will it be? Is there hope of reform from such a source? To think so is like expecting a man to lift therefore we see only that the whole case, as the editor says of that of the Senate is hopeless.SITI March 10, 1887, page 152.13

    In view of these things stated by the Argonaut and the Century, Lord Macaulay’s words are remarkable. And when we view the destructive violence of the participants in the almost perpetual strikes, their secret and sometimes open sympathy with Anarchists, and their always open advocacy of Socialism, which can only end in anarchy, it appears as though the American “Huns and Vandals” mentioned by Macaulay are almost ready to burst upon the nation. And though Macaulay places the time of plunder in “the twentieth century;” and though there remain less than thirteen years before the twentieth century comes; yet we very much doubt whether the nineteenth century instead of the twentieth will not see this time of ruin so clearly pictured by this justly eminent writer and thinker. For when the Hung and the Vandal came upon Rome there was no Cesar, and the time of the American Huns and Vandals seems too near to hope for a Cesar here.SITI March 10, 1887, page 153.1

    Yet there is no one more step that may be taken before ruin is reached. That is, let the whole body—representatives and constituencies—become permeated with the vileness of an apostate church; let religious hypocrisy be added to political chicanery and legislative incompetency; then will be reached the condition in which Rome stood at the time to which Macaulay refers, and having reached it, a dreadful fall awaits this nation, as surely as red-handed ruin fell upon Rome. And that there may not be a single color lacking in the lurid picture, National Reform presents itself, and in it’s the embodiment of the last element of corruption needed to fill up the cup of iniquity, as Rome’s was filled when ruin overtook her. History does repeat itself. And if any just lesson may be drawn from history, it seems that this one must be that ruin stands at the doors of our nation to-day; and the National Reform party has its hand upon the latch ready to open the door and let her in.SITI March 10, 1887, page 153.2

    This in our own land. But turn to Europe and what is the condition there. The spirit of discontent and violence among the laboring classes is as rife there as it is here. And as for Socialism and Anarchism, Europe is the land of its nativity, and it is from there that these destructive theories have come to our country. But there, in addition to all this, every one of the leading nations is preparing for war on the most gigantic scale. Each one of these strong nations is placing itself upon the strongest possible war footing. Each one so bitterly jealous of the others, and so almost desperately angry, that the safety of each can only lie in the manifestation of such strength for war as to make success extremely doubtful upon the part of the attacking power. But how long can such a condition of affairs continue. When the strongest possible preparation for war is the only assurance of peace that a government can give, then what is the value of such an assurance of peace? And again the question comes, How long can such a state of things continue? In the very nature of things there is a limit beyond which such a fearful tension cannot be sustained. There is bound to be a break, and when the dreadful train is once started, what shall be the result? The first result must be war—the most dreadful the world has ever known. And then, of that, what can the end be?SITI March 10, 1887, page 153.3

    Now in view of all these things in every place and on every hand, how far does the prospect favor the so-much-preached millennium? In all these things where is there any promise of a time of universal peace, and perfect safety? Well, the promise of it is just as far from the fact as the preaching of it is from the truth of the Bible. That the expectation of such a time on this earth, is utterly foreign to the truth of the Bible, we shall show next week.SITI March 10, 1887, page 153.4