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Leaderless Mobs by H. C. Bradsby

1891

Office-holding politicians who have heretofore led the people, are leading them now, until we, the hapless voters, find ourselves confronted with the following so-called issues, or rather absurdities:—

Protection with reciprocity—Republicanism.

Free trade with incidental protection—Democracy.

The Democratic ex-President and the Republican President are in perfect agreement on the question of remonetizing silver and many sub-leaders and able party newspapers on both sides are in accord with these two successors of Washington, and the sub-lieutenants pass the word around, “Do not discuss the silver question, it is an immaterial issue.”

These are the anomalous conditions of American politics stated in all seriousness as they appear to a layman.

A professional politician, even the man who hopes for future office, understands that real issues are things to be avoided, because he would rather placate than antagonize, and he needs friends and supporters, both in the nominating convention and at the polls; and he is in his best form when he can campaign without a real issue and help select his adversaries “in buckram and Kendall green” to have it out with, on the stump. He knows that a plump, simple issue would reach the average voter’s comprehension, and compel him to a simple “yes” or “no” that might blast his hopes, destroy this happy equilibrium of voting parties, and the trade of politics might actually go out of fashion. Pricked by his fears of all real issues, he becomes a genius in inventing handy apparent ones that are usually glittering nothings—impalpable shadows about which he can talk so learnedly by the life-time, and say nothing and mean nothing. So rapidly has this expert developed in our land of politics that one man shouts, “I am for tweedle-dum” and the other answers defiantly back, “I am for tweedle-dee,” and the “campaign of education” is on, the jockeys mounted, the race begins, and as the cloud of dust rises, “the greasy caps” fill the air. “Spotted Free Trade” is ridden by the “Old Flag”; “Revenue Only” by the “Screaming Eagle,” and the excited voter stakes his future hopes on “Flag” or “Eagle,” most probably as did his father before him.

It seems this is the wretched outcome of the hundred years of American education in politics—making of every man not only a sovereign, but a possible candidate for President. What is it all but a roaring farce? If we could forget that this is real government coupled with all the pains and penalties which are the heritage of ignorance, and not mere child’s play, then even serious intelligence might smile though commiserating the follies of grown men. Have we finally reached the condition tending toward national political dementia, or is there no meaning whatever attached any longer to the name of statesman?

Let us look a little further into the absurdities over which American statesmen are so vehemently wrangling. Our government assumes the old time function of all governments to make and regulate the currency or money for the transaction of business—a mere convenience for the measure of values in buying and selling—in another way a thing performing functions similar to the yard-stick in measuring, and the great statesmen are wrangling over the problem of what particular material that convenience shall be made. And our nation, through Congress and the President, is ever tinkering, changing, altering, and reversing regulations concerning this “value measurer”—this convenient representative of property, and the basis of all commerce, gold, silver, copper, nickel, and paper to-day, and on this basis contracts and multitudinous transactions are based; then apparently that confusion and ruin may follow, an act of Congress may be passed to-morrow changing the whole thing by demonetizing one or remonetizing the other; and the government finally opens a junk-shop, and is engaged actively in the “second-hand” trade, or is in sharp competition with the rag-picker. And our great political educators fall to wrangling about a proposition, that could be paralleled only by some phenomenal crank beating up recruits for a new party upon a platform that all yard-sticks must be made of hickory wood, and he shall be deemed a counterfeiter who dares to use any other, and the length of the yard-stick must be flexible so that “a yard shall always contain a yard’s worth of cloth.” The children open a play store, and there the legal tender for all goods is pins, where the size of the pin or the exact composition it is made of are never considered. There is, to my mind, no question but the children should teach our great statesmen some of the fundamentals of common sense. These are specimens of the economic problems evolved from our hundred years of voting experiment—the ripened fruit of self-government. Books and papers are filled with discussions of whether both gold and silver should be legal tender for debts or only gold. And the rank sophistries that mark the flood-tide of a campaign discussion either of this or the problem of taxation are surely to be considered among the curiosities of our civilization. Just why men should range themselves on respective party lines on these questions and shut their eyes to evils that are eating their way to the heart of government and that unchecked must end in common ruin, passes comprehension.

The organization of a powerful party machinery with the authority to discipline recalcitrant or discordant members is a natural outgrowth of our universal voting. The active politicians and place hunters will control the machine, and when office, and place are made glittering prizes, then comes the inevitable scramble, the selfishness, trampling the weak by the strong, corruption, chicanery, the unspeakable crimes, and finally the Pandora’s box is opened, and the swarming evils darken the heavens. Inferior men with greatest cunning and least scruples soon push their way to the front; all sight of good government is eventually lost, the Washingtons and Jeffersons in time disappear with a constantly increasing ratio from public life, and the end is the great Leaderless Mob and bloody chaos. Even at best our politicians and party publications sing in unison, all struggling to the same end, victory at the polls and the elimination, as far as possible, of real issues. Their quadrennial platforms are ever coming nearer and nearer together—not omitting a plank expressing “profound sympathy” with the poor, persecuted people of some part of the Old World. A large majority of the Democracy are openly in favor of free trade and free silver, while the average “favorite son” is only in favor of “reform” in tariff, and hence you can find men in favor of a prohibitory tariff calling themselves Democrats; while many of the lay members of the Republican party are the earnest advocates of free trade and free silver. If our statesmen do not use words to conceal ideas, then there is no question but that the rank and file, those caring nothing about the offices personally, are in advance of their leaders and party publications. Unfortunately the average voter studies the science of politics—good government,—only when thumb-screwed by bad legislation. When happy and revelling in plenty, this cunning thrift of politicians is good enough “statesmanship” for pretty much all of us; then we can really admire the brightness of the great “Magnetic” when he says, “Boys, I am a model high tarriffite, and in favor of reciprocity;” even the vitriolic ravings of the iridescent—sparkling phrases without ideas, torchlight jeremaids about the poor Southern negro, are all brilliant statesmanship; so long as the waters are smooth and prosperous, plenty is coming to everybody. But when the pinch of misgovernment comes in the form of the gaunt wolf then the people rise up, and without a “statesman” to lead, without a newspaper to educate, but with a holy wrath, crush out these official puppets. For at least sixteen years the unbiased intelligence of the Democratic party (not politicians) has been urging party leaders to take the bold stand for free trade. During the same time the Republican voters have urged their leaders to declare for “protection for protection’s sake.”

In 1888 the Republican Convention boldly challenged Democrats to the open issue of protection absolute versus free trade. The best voters on the other side were eager to pick up this gauge of battle, but their leaders, covert protectionists, and makeshift office seekers, bade them nay, and a Democratic “stump speech” in that campaign was a curiosity. Part first would demonstrate the infamy of all “protection” taxes; part second would demonstrate that the orator was in favor of “protection” to a certain degree. Thus handicapped, the Democratic office seekers fought out the long campaign and lost as they deserved. Happily for the country, because that victory convinced every Republican in the land, except the man of Maine, that the people wanted prohibitory tariffs, all foreign commerce destroyed, and that they honestly believed there was such a thing as “home markets” to be regulated by statute. And the “three Bow Street tailors in Congress” proceeded in all sincerity to carry out what they, in their simplicity, judged to be the instruction given by the people at the polls. The “great secretary” alone of the “smart” men of the land, understood the people in the ‘88 election better; he, it seems, well understood that “protection” carried to prohibition was the yawning grave of any party responsible for it without providing some loop-hole of escape in the burial ceremony, and this unequalled politician in the nick of time startled the country with the cry of “Reciprocity”—spotted free trade. His messmates turned upon him with objurgations deep, yet he had saved them from themselves, by the bold dash of a “plumed knight.” Had he been in the Kansas senator’s place, Kansas would have been again cajoled and humbugged into silence, and possibly have given an increase on its 82,000 Republican majority.

Mr. Blaine was constantly defeated in his ambition to be President. General Harrison was successful and fills the place that ex-officio makes him leader. He is nominally the party captain, while in truth there is more real power in one hand of his armor bearer than there is in the loins of the Executive. Now the author of the bill increasing taxes thinks he is on the road to the White House by campaigning Ohio on the beauties of protection—with reciprocity or “free trade in spots” left out entirely,—Blaine’s happiest invention and the only thing that will save “the Napoleon” if saved at all, from crushing defeat this Fall in his own State. The Democrats have put up against him Governor Campbell with the plankless platform of the “McKinley bill,” and an internal discussion on the silver question. Thus the two parties of that great State are marshalling in battle array their lines under banners that might be labelled “Tweedle-dum” and “Tweedle-dee.” The last Democratic President was a product of the long successes of the Republican party and its mistakes, chief among which was the covert act demonetizing silver in 1873. It brought its train of wrong and disaster to our nation; while the people were unconscious of the cause, yet they could feel the pangs, and results ripened in 1884 in the election of the Buffalo mayor. As President and as ex-President he is the natural party leader, but he has endorsed the monstrous act of 1873 in regard to silver, the very mistake that chiefly made him President, and now should that bar forever the door of the White House to his re-entry therein, the result would not be one of the seven wonders of the world.

These happenings, so fresh and patent, remind one of the sworn testimony of an eminent general of the late war before the Senatorial Committee in describing the battle of Gettysburg: “After the lines are formed and fighting commences all is confusion and hap-hazard.” Apparently there is no science in statesmanship, and our politics are but a ruthless trampling on the simple maxims of political economy. These were the forces that secretly working through the patient years of misrule and folly caused to bloom and fruit in a night, this stalwart tribe of rural statesmen who so remorselessly struck down the Republican party in its State of largest majority, and so disfigured the fortunes of the master polytechnic orator. A hayseed sprouted and grown in a night like unto Jack’s beanstalk, and without leaders—all concert action mere incidents, the people marched to the polls in Kansas and amazed the world and themselves. The leaderless mobs met other leaderless mobs—that proved to be mere skeletons of organizations led and composed chiefly of wrangling, quarrelling, purposeless, and nearly idealess politicians. The leaderless mob was in profound earnest while the “statesmen” as usual were merely masquerading, with no other weapons of defence against attacks save that of Samson’s when he fought the Philistines—all jaw.

Politicians discuss with amazing brilliancy their beautiful issue of a little higher tariffs or a little lower tariffs, while the people bluntly talk of protection to the full, or absolute free trade. Politicians really enjoy having made gold the only money, and then talk learnedly about the government buying so much metal monthly and coining it, so that silver will be both money and not money, while the people talk about free silver or gold only.

These are the conditions existing on the only two national questions now under consideration. To a layman’s mind neither of them should have ever been made a national question at all. And men called “great statesmen” who have pushed aside all real economic questions worthy of consideration among civilized men, and forced these figments forward, are neither statesmen nor safe politicians. Look at them! Their discussion of tariffs is whether we must have higher or lower taxes per se. Their contentions on the money question are simply the vicious acts of Congress that are the same as if we should pass laws every two years changing the length of our yard-sticks. These are the great issues breeding our wonderful race of “great statesmen”—the mountain labored and the little mouse came forth.

There are vital questions that should, especially in our experimental voting government, be ever present to all our people for investigation and permanent settlement, to wit:—

How to turn back this stream of paternalism in government—the monster criminal, the murderer of the dead nations and civilizations, the river of woe flowing forever round the world.

How to make the best of governments by ever-lowering taxes?

How to perfect a “civil service” by burdening officials, lessening fees and salaries, abolishing patronage, and sealing salaries below the pay of similar private employ?

How to better education and thereby check this stream of “learned ignorance”?

How to reach the consummation of the best government because the least governed?

How to reform our judiciary until justice between men shall be nearly instantaneous and the next cheapest thing to air and water?

How to save the weak (the majority) from the strong and selfish?

How to be the freest and therefore the best people that have ever lived?

How to prevent crime and suffering by removing causes?

How to destroy this struggle for government employ, this passion to be a public parasite and live off of others’ toil?

How to make and regulate nearly all government institutions upon the principle of our postal system—self-supporting by the voluntary tax from those who use its powers or its offices?

How to eradicate all this flunkeyism that makes idols of office-holders—mere fetiches producing a species of the lowest order of hero-worship—a nation of snobs who can meanly admire mean things?

How to call out statesmen and abolish demagogues?

How to understand that real statesmen repeal and never enact?

How to prevent governments from inflicting upon the innocents unspeakable wrongs, under the monstrous plea that the few must suffer for the good of the many?

These and similar questions that are as deep as life itself, and that should come even to our little children in their romps and plays, the same as they learn to avoid the pit, or to fear a vicious dog, are the vital problems of mankind. These are questions essential to the preservation of life, and touching the progress of civilization; the natural economic problems that real statesmen should set before the people. Intelligent study and voting upon these and similar questions would give us real statesmen for present demagogues.

The average American is always more than satisfied with his perfect surroundings so long as he can point out his advantages over the wretched victims of paternalism in Europe. This is both a low and ignorant self-laudation. Of course, wretched though you may be, you are incomparably better off than the miserables of cruel Russia, because our national government could not possibly be as outrageous as is of necessity that of the Czar. It has taken many centuries to evolve such a monster cuttle-fish as the Russian government that has fastened its tentacles upon its millions of people, and is slowly crushing out their lives. This is but government paternalism full and ripe. Who shall say that if paternalism in this country goes on as it is to-day, growing and strengthening, the time is not coming when we no longer can boast over the people of the God-forsaken land? Mankind is much the same to-day and forever; so is government paternalism; once a foothold gained, it can only be washed out in blood. The Russians have been giving over their souls and their lives to their national fetich which has accepted their patriotic and contrite offerings, and is now leisurely devouring them. The ancient migrating barbarian when he camped at night, got his supper by cutting it out of the hams of the ox that had all day borne him and his load on the weary journey—he had to have his supper, and just so it is with Russian government. Just so it will be in any government when it is impossible longer for the Leaderless Mob to spring into existence and into power.

Therefore, rural statesmen, all hail! Grant it that one of your political measures is rank imbecility, your acts in exposing the essential knavery of our phenomenal humbugs are beautiful and full of goodness and wisdom. And your worst, in the face of all jibes, is so incomparably superior to those of the “great statesmen” that they may be esteemed actually respectable. When the two parties had become Leaderless Mobs, because even their fictions or absurd issues had reached a common point, then arose the people in the might of their Leaderless Mob, and turned the river into the Augean stables. Who is it anyhow of the “magnetic” tribe that may cast the first stone at the “haystack”? They simply broke party shackles and struck boldly for justice,—blindly it may be—as well it should be, because they could not well hit amiss. In this scramble and hurly-burly where is the “statesman” who can point to any similar act of his own in behalf of his fellow-man? Their most arrant follies at least are not mean compared to the “issues” as made up by our “great statesmen” of a little higher tax, or a little lower tax, or a frequent change in the money standard of the country.

It is time for intelligent men to tire of all this burlesque of politics and this solemn joke of calling it “great statesmanship,” that is breeding these ungainly toadies—squat and warty. A country is great only as her political institutions are good and wise—not merely when it is strong in numbers, large in acres, and swarming with politicians and parasites that are worshipped as great and good statesmen. That is not the kind of greatness of country that I hanker for very seriously. I would wish a better education for our children than we have had—one that would cure them of this disease of ignorance in politics, worship of demagogy and admiration of that cheap and nasty politics that is our national disease, and that is making on our body politic abhorrent warts and angry sores. The mistaken fanatics who are striving to put “God in the Constitution” are not to blame; they are the offspring of this growing paternalism, this fetich worship, this public education by these relays of “great statesmen.”