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or in hands so carefully drilled and instructed in their employment — never were the preparations for war
on land and sea comparable, in scale and efficiency, to those of the present day.
At no time has science been so potently enlisted as to-day, nor the treasure and credit of nations and the products of toil and labor poured out in such lavish and unlimited supply to strengthen and assist the art of war and destruction; nor the search light of investigation and experience thrown with such developing and informing power, irradiating the present, and the immediate future, with wisdom drawn from the carefully-weighed history of human contentions in the past. The influence of sea power upon military operations on land was never so convincingly demonstrated, and the relations and connections of all regions of the terra-aqueous globe so well defined and practically comprehended, and by the practical annihilation of time and distance brought into such close relations of inter-dependence.
Contemplating all these terrific forces, there is no thoughtful man who is not anxiously questioning his heart, what does all this preparation portend? What is to be the result to the civilization and progress of the human race of the conflict of such forces, and the changes it may at any moment create?
But this disposition to an exaggerated and ever-increasing militarism is necessarily accompanied by grievous pecuniary burdens; the weight of taxation is growing fearfully, and as men are withdrawn from productive industries and remunerative pursuits, the great engine of the State, the sovereign power of taxation, is put in motion everywhere and in every shape to gather revenues to support the vast expenditures.
In his “ Making of England” Green has told how mountain ranges, great rivers, valleys, and the varied distribution of hill and plain, tended to throw smaller tribes together into peoples and nations, and to form from their union a corporate organization which widened and elevated the sphere of human life and human action. These physical agencies have exercised great influence and brought about vast modifications; but what are we to
say of the force of the scientific discoveries of our own day, which have leveled or pierced mountain ranges, bridged rivers,
seas and oceans, converted the ocean into a whispering tube into which mankind pour their messages, inviting freedom of exchange, the quick announcing of needs, the universal conduit of limitless demand and supply from every soil and every climate, instructing mankind in their capacities for mutual service, and making their intercourse more and more inter-dependent, useful and beneficent to each other? For reciprocal amity between nations is the consequence of just and liberal commerce: an interchange that promotes the wealth and happiness of all.
For lo, the fall of ocean's wall
Space mocked and time outrun,
Is as the thought of one.
Shall all her people be;
Are clasped beneath the sea.
Association gives strength and promises the means of resistance to power. The inventions of the day furnish the machinery of communication and concentration of human effort and will in a degree never before possible. And property is massed in its own defense, and is capitalized and incorporated in powerful associations. At the same time education has roused the masses: the schoolmaster has indeed been abroad, legislation has responded to his voice, and the organized unions of the laboring classes far exceed in numbers the armies equipped and supported in unproductive readiness for employment, by the productive industry of the nation at large.
The forces of productive industry were never so great, and the burdens upon their products were never so heavy. Combination and consolidation to resist injustice, and competition for success, have gradually arrayed capital and labor in opposite camps, in which the power of each is separately and too often adversely organized, and serious conflicts have occurred, and conflicts more serious are impending, which threaten disaster to that tranquillity and good order of the State which are essential not only for its progress, but for the maintenance of the civilization to which the world has attained.
Such conflicts, so deplorable and disastrous, are wholly the results of misunderstanding; for it is clear and indubitable that the interests of capital and labor are united by a common fate; they are co-partners, not adversaries, and there should be no obscuration of this important truth. The legislation or the party management that proceeds upon the false idea that the interests of capital and labor are divisible and antagonistic, should alike be condemned, for the prosperity of each is bound up with the other, and the principles of personal liberty are equally necessary for the welfare of both.
In this threatened conflict and confusion of the forces of society, and seeking the origin of that free government which is essential for happiness and progress, and how it shall be perpetuated, I ask, What is its germ? What is the seed from which human liberty springs, and which must never be overlooked, but renewed, replanted, and protected as the generations of men pass away and their successors fill their places ?
When I contemplate the autocratic power which is exercised in some countries to-day, and behold the organized and associated powers of wealth and numbers welded in such an overwhelming phalanx in others, I ask, Where is the safety and personal freedom of the individual? How is it to be guarded and secured? For the freedom of its individual members is the essential basis of the freedom of the State. The movement of the day, sometimes open, sometimes concealed in the robes of philanthropy and paternalism, but more often discernible in policies purely selfish, is towards State Socialism, as an opposing force to Autocracy. But either is Despotism, and fatal to that individual freedom of man's mind and soul which is the instrumentality by which the world, under the very laws of its origin and progress, has been raised from brutality and barbarism to its present standard of civilization.
These problems of society rise on every side, and the peace and order of the world are seriously menaced.
The centripetal forces seem to move almost irresistibly towards consolidation and centralization, and in the presence of such exaggerated militarism, with its stupendous powers, with the vast plutocratic combinations of incorporated wealth and capital
so closely in alliance; with the wide-spread national and international popular organizations of labor, with their solidified, massed, numerical force, one asks, with just alarm, what is to become of the individual — the free man, the essential unit of a society that hopes to retain the principle of growth and progress; of adaptation to those advances and improvements which demand the open mind, the complete liberty of human faculties, first for their discovery, and after that for their reception and assimilation? Is there not cause to fear lest between the upper and the nether millstones of the twin despotisms, military absolutism, and socialistic tyranny, the freedom of the individual may be ground to death?
What can prevent this but insistence upon a distribution of the powers of government into independent departments, and a careful restriction of those powers to public uses only?
Frame society as you will, it is by personal characteristics and individual qualities that its affairs in the end must be decided. The wise resort to arbitration by contending nations, raises the subject of dispute out of the disorder and clamor of an unwieldy body of inflamed and conflicting minds -- in which selfishness is usually discernible — into the comparative serenity and disinterestedness of selected intelligence, usually of one, and never of more than a very limited number of arbitrators.
In human affairs the power of ultimate decision irresistibly contracts as it graduates to its apex, and there is no escape from this law of social and political dynamics, and the growth of intelligence and means of information and communication seem only to increase its operation.
As an illustration of this, a few years ago I served as a member of a commission, composed of fifteen men, to whom was — and, as I think, wisely and creditably - remitted the virtual decision of a contested popular election, which had been held under circumstances of unusual excitement in a nation of upwards of 60,000,000 inhabitants, under a suffrage system which includes, practically, the entire male population over the age of 21 years. And the final decision of that commission was carried by the vote of a single member; so that the numerical pyramid of power rose from an electoral base of more than five
million votes to the narrow apex of a single vote, by which the control of the entire executive branch of the government of a free and strong nation, with its immense and manifold powers, was committed to the hands of one of the presidential candidates, for the term fixed by the constitution.
Let me emphasize what I can only call the hinge of this great question, which, I fear, in the conflict of more noisy forces, may be overshadowed.
By the recognition of the individual as the essential unit of society, the voluntary principle becomes the basis of governmental action. Abandon the man and disregard his moral naturesilence the voice of his conscience, as it alternately pleads and threatens, and substitute the rule of overpowering numbers, and that mysterious and undefined entity “ Collectivism” in which wisdom is supposed to be gathered, or the single will of an autocrat - and the principle of consolidated and coercive power will necessarily be substituted.
Not without serious self-questioning have I assumed to address you upon a subject so profound — before the aspects of which I reverently pause -- but I cannot free myself from a sense of daty to speak straightforwardly and from my heart as in the service of perfect freedom, as a citizen of a Christian country, to men holding in this land the same belief, and upon a topic in which the highest duties or citizenship of both countries have their roots. I must not be misunderstood nor supposed to harbor
any intention to pass beyond the province of secular discussion, or the just and natural scope of the subject selected, which is the duty and necessity of guarding personal freedom and individual liberty as the very seed and germ of human progress against the encroachments of consolidated power, and its suppression or overthrow by despotism in any of its shapes, whether -
Vultus instantis tyranni, or
Civium ardor prava jubentium.
Autocracy, Plutocracy, Oligarchy, Socialism, or Mob-rule, each and all are equally fatal to well-ordered government, of which