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 Post subject: Lowell On Political Independence - 3
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 8:39 am 
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Thursday July 12, 2007
POLITICAL ESSAYS
Lowell On Political Independence - 3
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In James Russell Lowell's book "Political Essays" published
in 1888 there's an essay "The Place Of The Independent In
Politics" beginning at page 295.
`
This essay began life as "An address delivered before the
Reform Club of New York, at Steinway Hall, April 13, 1888."
`
Here's an excerpt running from page 306 to page 310:
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It is time for lovers of their country to consider
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how much of the success of our experiment in democracy has
been due to such favorable conditions as never before con-
curred [came together] to make such an attempt plausible;
`
whether those conditions have changed and are still changing
for the worse;
`
how far we have been accessories in this degeneration, if
such there be,
`
and how far it is in our power, with the means furnished by
the very instruments of destruction, to stay its advance and
to repair its ravages.
`
`
Till within a few years of our civil war, everything conduced
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to our measuring the success of our institutions by the evi-
dence of our outward prosperity,
`
and to our seeing the future in rose-colori [rosy colors]
`
The hues of our dawn had scarcely faded from the sky.
`
Men were still living who had seen the face and heard the
voice of the most august personage in our history [Washing-
ton], and of others scarce less august than he.
`
The traditions of our founders were fresh.
`
Our growth in wealth and power was without precedent.
`
We had been so fortunate that we had come to look upon our
luck as
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partly due to our own merits
`
and partly to our form of government.
`
When we met together it was to felicitate [congratulate]
each other on our superiority to the rest of mankind.
`
Our ears caught from behind the horizon the muffled thun-
ders of war, only to be lulled as with the murmurs of the
surf on a far-off shore.
`
We heard of revolutions, but for us Fortune forgot to turn
her wheel.
`
This was what may be called the Fourth of July period of
our history.
`
Among the peoples of the earth we were the little Jack Horner.
We had put in our thumb and pulled out a plum,
`
and the rest of mankind thought that we were never tired of
saying, "What a good boy am I!"
`
`
Here is a picture of our growth, drawn by a friendly yet im-
partial hand:
`
"Nothing in the history of mankind is like their progress.
For my part, I never cast an eye on their flourishing com-
merce and their cultivated and commodious life but they seem
to me
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rather ancient nations grown to perfection through a long
series of fortunate events and a train of successful industry
accumulating wealth in many centuries
`
than the colonies of yesterday.
...
`
Your children do not grow faster from infancy to manhood
than they spread from families to communities, and from
villages to nations."
`
But for a certain splendor of style these words seem to be of
yesterday, so pertinent are they still.
`
They were uttered in the British Parliament more than a year
before the battle of Lexington, by Edmund Burke.
`
There is no exaggeration in them. They are a simple statement
of fact.
`
Burke, with his usual perspicacity [clearsightedness], saw and
stated one and [also] a chief cause of this unprecedented phe-
nomenon.
`
He tells us that the colonies had made this marvellous growth
because, "through a wise and salutary neglect [by the Crown],
a generous nature has been suffered [allowed] to take her own
way to perfection."
`
But by that " wise and salutary neglect" he meant
`
freedom from the petty and short-sighted meddlesomeness of a
paternal government;
`
he meant being left to follow untrammelled the instincts of
our genius under the guidance of our energy.
`
The same causes have gone on ever since working the same
marvels.
`
Those marvels have been due in part to our political system.
`
But there were other circumstances tending to stimulate per-
sonal energy and enterprise,
`
especially land to be had for the taking,
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and free trade over a larger share of the earth's surface
peopled by thriving and intelligent communities than had ever
been enjoyed elsewhere.
`
I think, however, that there was one factor more potent than
any other, or than all others together.
`
Before we broke away from the mother country politically, a
century and a half of that " wise neglect" of which Burke
spoke had thoroughly made over again and Americanized all the
descendants of the earlier settlers,
`
and these formed the great bulk of the population.
`
The same process was rapidly going on in the more recent im-
migrants.
`
So thorough had this process been that many, perhaps most, of
the refugees who, during or after the Revolutionary War, went
to England, or home, as they fondly called it, found them-
selves out of place and unhappy there [in England].
`
The home they missed was that humane equality, not of condi-
tion or station, but of being [independence] and opportunity,
which by some benign influence of the place had overcome them
here, like a summer cloud, without their special wonder.
`
Yet they felt the comfort of it as of an air wholesome to
breathe.
`
I more than suspect that it was the absence of this inesti-
mable [supreme] property of the moral atmosphere that
`
made them aliens in every other land,
`
and convinced them that an American can no more find another
country than a second mother.
`
This equality had not then been proclaimed as a right;
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it had been incorporated in no constitution,
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but was there by the necessity of the case —-a gift of the sky
and of the forest,
...
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and whose singular good-fortune it has been that no dispari-
ties except those of nature's making [color] have ever been
known there [in America].
`
Except in the cities of the seaboard, where the habits of the
Old World had to some extent been kept alive by intercourse
and importation,
`
the defecation of the body politic and the body social of all
purely artificial and arbitrary distinctions had been going on
silently and surely among the masses of the people for genera-
tions.
`
This was true (in a more limited sense) even of communities
where slavery existed, for as that was based on complexion,
every white, no matter what his condition, belonged to the
privileged class, just as in Hungary every Magyar was a noble.
`
This was the American novelty, no bantling [newborn] of theory,
no fruit of forethought, no trophy of insurgent violence, but
a pure evolution from the nature of man in a perfectly free
medium.
`
The essential triumph was achieved in this tacit recognition
of a certain privilege and adequacy in mere manhood,
`
and democracy may be said to have succeeded before it was ac-
cepted as doctrine or embodied as a political fact.
`
Our ancestors sought a new country.
`
What they found was a new condition of mind.
`
It is more than questionable whether the same conditions in
as favorable combination of time and place will ever occur
again,
`
whether equality, so wholesome when a social evolution, as I
have described it, may not become harmful as a sudden gift
in the form of dogma....
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A
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Lowell's book is online at:
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http://books.google.com/books?id=nbCKGM ... x4uqUG7MhU
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To get to desired page AND to be able to highlight text--
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At homepage, click "View plain text" in righthand frame.
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When plain-text webpage comes up: in lefthand frame, scroll
down to page desired.
`
The page you're at is indicated in page box at top of scroll-
bar.
`
Be patient: loading pages takes a moment or so.
`
B
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Plain-text pages 306 - 310 are correctly marked.
`
C
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Note Lowell's questioning whether equality "may not become
harmful as a sudden gift in the form of dogma."
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That fits The Superpower's sudden imposition, by way of in-
vasion and occupation, of democracy-as-dogma to a T.
`
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