The Promise of American Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 523 pages of information about The Promise of American Life.

The confusion and inconsistency of Mr. Bryan’s own thinking is merely the reflection of the confusion and inconsistency resident in the creed of his party.  It is particularly conspicuous in his case, because he is, as I have intimated, a sincere and within limits a candid thinker; but Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democrats alike have always distrusted and condemned the means whereby alone the underlying purposes of democracy can be fulfilled.  Mr. Bryan is in no respect more genuinely Democratic than in his incoherence.  The remedial policy which he proposes for the ills of the American political body are meaningless, unless sustained by faith in the ability of the national political organization to promote the national welfare.  His needs for the success and integrity of his own policy a conviction which his traditions prevent him from entertaining.  He is possessed by the time-honored Democratic dislike of organization and of the faith in expert skill, in specialized training, and in large personal opportunities and responsibilities which are implied by a trust in organization.  Of course he himself would deny that he was the enemy of anything which made towards human betterment, for it is characteristic of the old-fashioned Democrats verbally to side with the angels, but at the same time to insist on clipping their wings.  His fundamental prejudice against efficient organization and personal independence is plainly betrayed by his opinions in relation to institutional reform—­which are absolutely those of a Democrat of the Middle Period.  He is on record in favor of destroying the independence of the Federal judiciary by making it elective, of diminishing the authority of the President by allowing him only a suspensive veto on legislation, and of converting representative assemblies into a machinery, like that of the old French Parliaments, for merely registering the Sovereign will.  Faith in the people and confidence in popular government means to Mr. Bryan an utter lack of faith in those personal instruments whereby such rule can be endowed with foresight, moderation, and direction.  Confidence in the average man, that is, means to him distrust in the exceptional man, or in any sort of organization which bestows on the exceptional man an opportunity equal to his ability and equipment.  He stands for the sacrifice of the individual to the popular average; and the perpetuation of such a sacrifice would mean ultimate democratic degeneration.

IV

WILLIAM TRAVERS JEROME AS A REFORMER

Mr. William Travers Jerome has not so assured a rank in the hierarchy of reformers as he had a few years ago, but his work and his point of view remain typical and significant.  Unlike Mr. Bryan, he is in temperament and sympathies far from being an old-fashioned Democrat.  He is, as his official expositor, the late Mr. Alfred Hodder, says, “a typical American of the new time.”  No old-fashioned Democrat would have

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