The Promise of American Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 620 pages of information about The Promise of American Life.

The large corporations and the unions occupy in certain respects a similar relation to the American political system.  Their advocates both believe in associated action for themselves and in competition for their adversaries.  They both demand governmental protection and recognition, but resent the notion of efficient governmental regulation.  They have both reached their existing power, partly because of the weakness of the state governments, to which they are legally subject, and they both are opposed to any interference by the Federal government—­except exclusively on their own behalf.  Yet they both have become so very powerful that they are frequently too strong for the state governments, and in different ways they both traffic for their own benefit with the politicians, who so often control those governments.  Here, of course, the parallelism ends and the divergence begins.  The corporations have apparently the best of the situation because existing institutions are more favorable to the interests of the corporations than to the interests of the unionists; but on the other hand, the unions have the immense advantage of a great and increasing numerical strength.  They are beginning to use the suffrage to promote a class interest, though how far they will travel on this perilous path remains doubtful.  In any event, it is obvious that the development in this country of two such powerful and unscrupulous and well-organized special interests has created a condition which the founders of the Republic never anticipated, and which demands as a counterpoise a more effective body of national opinion, and a more powerful organization of the national interest.



The corporation, the politician, and the union laborer are all illustrations of the organization of men representing fundamental interests for special purposes.  The specialization of American society has not, however, stopped with its specialized organization.  A similar process has been taking place in the different professions, arts, and trades; and of these much the most important is the gradual transformation of the function of the lawyer in the American political system.  He no longer either performs the same office or occupies the same place in the public mind as he did before the Civil War; and the nature and meaning of this change cannot be understood without some preliminary consideration of the important part which American lawyers have played in American political history.

The importance of that part is both considerable and peculiar—­as is the debt of gratitude which the American people owe to American lawyers.  They founded the Republic, and they have always governed it.  Some few generals, and even one colonel, have been elected to the Presidency of the United States; and occasionally business men of one kind or another have prevailed in local politics; but really

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The Promise of American Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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