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.
ideas,” and he was much praised by the anti-Hearst newspapers for this consoling description; but it can hardly be considered as an illustration of Mr. Jerome’s “intellectual veracity.”  If by “liberal ideas” one means economic and political heresies, such as nullification, “squatter” sovereignty, secession, free silver, and occasional projects of repudiation, then, indeed, the Democracy has been a party of “liberal ideas.”  But heresies of this kind are not the expression of liberal thought; they are the result of various phases of local political and economic discontent.  When a group of Democrats become “liberal,” it usually means that they are doing a bad business, or are suffering from a real or supposed injury.  But if by “liberal” we mean, not merely radical and subversive, but progressive national ideas, the application of the adjective to the Democratic party is attended with certain difficulties.  In the course of American history what measure of legislation expressive of a progressive national idea can be attributed to the Democratic party?  At times it has been possessed by certain revolutionary tendencies; at other times it has been steeped in Bourbon conservatism.  At present it is alternating between one and the other, according to the needs and opportunities of the immediate political situation.  It is trying to find room within its hospitable folds for both Alton B. Parker and William J. Bryan, and it has such an appetite for inconsistencies that it may succeed.  But in that event one would expect some symptoms of uneasiness on the part of a Democratic reformer with “Gallic clearness and consistency of mind, with an instinct for consistency, and a hatred of hypocrisy.”

V

WILLIAM R. HEARST AS A REFORMER

The truth is that Mr. William R. Hearst offers his countrymen a fair expression of the kind of “liberal ideas” proper to the creed of democracy.  In respect to patriotism and personal character Mr. Bryan is a better example of the representative Democrat than is Mr. Hearst; but in the tendency and spirit of his agitation for reform Hearst more completely reveals the true nature of Democratic “liberalism.”  When Mr. Lincoln Steffens asserts on the authority of the “man of mystery” himself that one of Hearst’s mysterious actions has been a profound and searching study of Jeffersonian doctrine, I can almost bring myself to believe the assertion.  The radicalism of Hearst is simply an unscrupulous expression of the radical element in the Jeffersonian tradition.  He bases his whole agitation upon the sacred idea of equal rights for all and special privileges for none, and he indignantly disclaims the taint of socialism.  His specific remedial proposals do not differ essentially from those of Mr. Bryan.  His methods of agitation and his popular catch words are an ingenious adaptation of Jefferson to the needs of political “yellow journalism.”  He is always an advocate of the popular fact. 

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