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
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.