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 Post subject: Lowell On Political Independence - 4
PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2007 12:17 pm 
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`
Friday July 13, 2007
POLITICAL ESSAYS
Lowell On Political Independence - 4
`
`
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 310 to page 316:
`
`
The theory of equality was as old, among men of English
blood, as Jack Cade's rebellion [in 1450], but it was not
practically conceived even by the very men who asserted it.
`
Here, on the edge of the forest, where civilized man was
brought face to face again with nature and taught to rely
mainly on himself, mere manhood became a fact of prime im-
portance.
`
That century and a half of apprenticeship in democracy stimu-
lated self-help, while it also necessitated helpfulness for
others and mutual dependence upon them. Not without reason
did "help" take the place of "servant" in our vocabulary.
`
But the conditions of life led to other results that left
less salutary effects behind them.
`
They bred a habit of contentment with what would do, as we
say, rather than an impatience of whatever was not best;
`
a readiness to put up with many evils or inconveniences,
because they could not be helped;
`
and this has, especially in our politics, conduced to the
growth of the greatest weakness in our American character —-
`
the acquiescence in makeshifts and abuses which can and
ought to be helped,
`
and which, with honest resolution, might be helped.
`
Certainly never were the auguries so favorable as when our
republic was founded, a republic sure from inherent causes
to broaden into a more popular form.
`
But while the equality of which I have been speaking existed
`
in the instincts, the habits, and obscurely in the conscious-
ness of all,
`
it was latent and inert.
`
It found little occasion for self-assertion, none for aggres-
sion, and was slow to invent one.
`
A century ago there was still a great respect for authority
in all its manifestations;
`
for the law first of all,
`
for age, for learning, and for experience.
`
The community recognized and followed its natural leaders,
and it was these who framed our Constitution, perhaps the
most remarkable monument of political wisdom known to his-
tory.
`
The convention which framed it was composed of the choicest
material in the community, and was led astray by no theories
of what might be good, but clave closely to what experience
had demonstrated to be good.
`
The late [French statesman Francois] Guizot once asked me
"how long I thought our republic would endure."
`
I replied: "So long as the ideas of the men who founded it
continue dominant,"
`
and he assented [agreed].
`
I will not say that we could not find among us now the con-
stituents of as able an assembly [as the 1787 Constitutional
Convention],
`
but I doubt if there be a single person in this audience [at
the NY Reform Club] who believes that with our present polit-
ical methods we should or could elect them.
`
We have revived the English system of rotten boroughs, under
which the electors indeed return the candidate, but it is a
handful of men, too often one man, that selects the person
to be so returned.
`
If this be so, and I think it is so, it should give us matter
for very serious reflection.

After our Constitution got fairly into working order it real-
ly seemed as if we had invented a machine that would go of
itself,
`
and this begot a faith in our luck which even the civil war
itself but momentarily disturbed.
`
Circumstances continued favorable, and our prosperity went on
increasing. I admire the splendid complacency of my country-
men, and find something exhilirating and inspiring in it.
`
We are a nation which has *struck ile* [oil], but we are also
a nation that is sure the well will never run dry.
`
And this confidence in our luck [together] with the absorb-
tion in material interests, generated by unparalleled
opportunity, has in some respects made us neglectful of our
political duties.
`
I have long thought that the average men of our revolution-
ary period were better grounded in the elementary principles
of government than their descendauts.
`
The town-meeting was then a better training-school than the
caucus and the convention are now, and the smaller the com-
munity the greater the influence of the better mind in it.
`
In looking about me, I am struck with the fact that while we
produce great captains, financial and industrial leaders in
abundance,
`
and political managers in overabundance,
`
there seems to be a pause in the production of leaders in
statesmanship.
`
I am still more struck with the fact that my newspaper often
gives me fuller reports of the speeches of Prince Bismarck
[in Germany] and of Mr. Gladstone [in England] than of any-
thing said in Congress.
...
`
Why are we interested in what these [two] men say? Because
they are important for what they are, as well as for what
they represent.
`
They are Somebodies, and their every word gathers force from
the character and life behind it. They [each] stand for an
idea as well as for a constituency.
`
An adequate amount of small change will give us the equiva-
lent of the largest piece of money, but what aggregate of
little men will amount to a single great one, that most
precious coinage of the mint of nature ?
`
It is not that we have lost the power of bringing forth great
men. They are not the product of institutions, though these
may help or hinder them.
`
I am thankful to have been the contemporary of one [such man]
and [he being] among the greatest,
`
of whom I think it is safe to say that no other country and
no other form of government could have fashioned him,
`
and whom posterity will recognize as the wisest and most
bravely human of modern times.
`
It is a benediction to have lived in the same age and in the
same country with Abraham Lincoln.
`
Had democracy borne only this consummate flower and then per-
ished like the century-plant, it would have discharged its
noblest function.
`
It is the crown of a nation, one might almost say the chief
duty of a nation, to produce great men, for without them its
history is but the annals of ants and bees.
`
Two conditions are essential : the man, and the opportunity.
`
We must wait on Mother Nature for the one, but in America we
ourselves can do much to make or mar the other.
`
We cannot always afford to set our house on fire as we did
for Lincoln, but we are certainly responsible if the door to
distinction be made so narrow and so low as to admit only
petty and crouching men.
`
A democracy makes certain duties incumbent on every citizen
which under other forms of government are limited to a man or
to a class of men.
`
A prudent despot looks after his kingdom as a prudent private
man would look after his estate ; in an aristocratic republic
a delegated body of nobles manages public affairs as a board
of railroad directors would manage the property committed to
their charge;
`
in both cases, self-interest is strong enough to call forth
every latent energy of character and intellect;
`
in both cases the individual is so consciously important a
factor as to insure a sense of personal responsibility.
`
In the ancient democracies a citizen could see and feel the
effect of his own vote.
`
But in a democracy so vast as ours, though the responsibility
be as great..., yet the infinitesimal division of power well-
nigh nullifies the sense of it,
`
and of the responsibility implied in it.
`
It is certainly a great privilege to have a direct share in
the government of one's country, but it is a privilege which
is of advantage to the commonwealth only in proportion as it
is intelligently exercised.
`
Then, indeed, its constant exercise should train the facul-
ties of forethought and judgment better,
`
and should give men a keener sense of their own value than
perhaps anything else can do.
`
But under every form of representative government, parties
become necessary for the marshalling and expression of
opinion,
`
and, when parties are once formed, those questions the dis-
cussion of which would discipline and fortify men's minds
tend more and more to pass out of sight,
`
and the topics that interest their prejudices and passions
to become more absorbing.
`
What will be of immediate advantage to the party is the first
thing considered,
`
what of permanent advantage to their country the last.
`
I refer especially to neither of the great parties which
divide the country. I am treating a question of natural
history [of every form of representative government].
`
Both parties have been equally guilty, both have evaded, as
successfully as they could, the living questions of the day.
`
As the parties have become more evenly balanced, the diffi-
culty of arriving at their opinions has been greater
`
in proportion to the difficulty of devising any profession
of faith meaningless enough not to alarm,
`
if it could not be so interpreted as to conciliate, the
varied and sometimes conflicting interests of the different
sections of the country.
`
If you asked them [the parties], as Captain Standard in Far-
quahar's comedy asks Parley,
`
"Have you any principles?"
`
the answer, like his [Parley's], would have been,
`
"Five hundred."
`
Between the two a conscientious voter feels as the traveller
of fifty years ago felt between the touters of the two rival
hotels in the village where the stage-coach stopped for din-
ner.
`
Each side deafened him with depreciation of the other estab-
lishment till his only conclusion was that each was worse
than the other,
`
and that it mattered little at which of them he paid dearly
for an indigestion.
`
`
`
</b>
`
A
`
Lowell's book is online at:
`
http://books.google.com/books?id=nbCKGM ... x4uqUG7MhU
`
To get to desired page AND to be able to highlight text--
`
At homepage, click "View plain text" in righthand frame.
`
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
`
Page 312 is missing from the text-only version. I supplied
it from the images version.
`
C
`
The traveller's tale adduced by Lowell now fits Wall Street's
One Party to a T.
`
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Last edited by jaspar2002us on Sun Jul 15, 2007 6:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2007 2:45 pm 
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I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. :lol:

Priceless. I must get a copy of this book. The man is a genius that predicted what was apparent, even in his times, about the abuse that power weilds as it morphs into its inevitable oppressive form. It is a sterling example of what has been obviously "Business" as usual in our last 8000 years of "Progress", acting more like disgutful children rather than the mature adult society we should have become. Crawling out of the wilderness into a world of supreme ignorance, doesn't look like progress to me.

Seems our founding ancestors were more well versed in real political knowledge than any modern education system can instill in us. Perhaps because they were a community that openly discussed among themselves the realities of politics and how decisions made for them affect them personally, instead of our modern day concern only for the self and what politics can merely do for them personally.

The place of the independant in politics has been well defined and is well controlled by the followers of both parties as well. Seems the two parties can agree on one thing- they don't need no interlopers or love triangles. They're content with complacent monogamy. And it's all based on mistrust. Neither one will vote for a third one since that would be handing power to the other, and the imbalance of droll politics would be exposed. Next you'd have a modern day George Bush type scenario. Oop's,'scuse me- that already happened. :lol: And it didn't even matter who you voted for either!!! Like Lowell impugned, it was already decided.

Quote:
I will not say that we could not find among us now the con-
stituents of as able an assembly [as the 1787 Constitutional
Convention],
`
but I doubt if there be a single person in this audience [at
the NY Reform Club] who believes that with our present polit-
ical methods we should or could elect them.
`
We have revived the English system of rotten boroughs, under
which the electors indeed return the candidate, but it is a
handful of men, too often one man, that selects the person
to be so returned.
`
If this be so, and I think it is so, it should give us matter
for very serious reflection.


Parts 1-4 of this are all excellent. Have you read the Anti-Federalist papers?

_________________
Completely sane world
madness the only freedom

An ability to see both sides of a question
one of the marks of a mature mind

People don't choose to be dishonest
the choice chooses them

Now I know how Kusinich feels.


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