Essay Society In America
Our institutions have survived, the perils of boss rule are past, and we may look back upon the system with a kind of awe, and recognize how easily the system might have overthrown our institutions and ushered in a period which history would have recorded as the age of the State Tyrants.
Let us imagine that some State like Pennsylvania, on which the boss system had been so firmly fixed that a boss was able to bequeath his seat in the United States Senate to his son, had shown forth an ambitious man, a ruler who realized that his function was not one of business, but one of government; let us imagine that a President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, some man of great capacity, had undertaken to rule the State. He would, by his position as State boss, have been able gradually to do away with the petty bosses and petty abuses. He would give the State a general cities law, good schools, clean streets, speedy justice;50 every necessary municipal improvement. Gas, water, boulevards would be supplied with an economy positively startling to a generation accustomed to jobs. He would destroy the middlemen as Louis XI. destroyed the nobles, and give to his State, for the first time in the history of the country, good government. A benign tyranny, with every department in the hands of experts, makes the strongest form of government in the world. Every class is satisfied. Pennsylvania would have been famous the world over. Its inhabitants would have been proud of it; foreigners would have written books about it; other States would have imitated it.
Meanwhile the power of self-government would have been lost.
Biennial sessions of the Legislature are already a favorite device for minimizing the evils of Legislatures. But the dictator would have desired to discourage popular assemblies. The whole business world would have backed the boss, in his plan for quinquennial or decennial sessions. Once give way to the laziness, once cater to the inertia and selfishness of the citizen, and he sinks into slumber.
Our feeble and floundering citizens’ movements in New York during the last ten51 years show us how hard it is to recover the power of self-government when once lost; how gradual the gain, even under the most stimulating conditions of misrule. Given thirty years of able administration by a single man, and the boss system would have sunk so deep into the popular mind, the arctic crust of prejudice and incompetence would have frozen so deep, that it might easily take two hundred years for the community to come to life. Recovery could only come through the creeping in of abuses, through the decentralization of the great tyranny. And as each abuse arose, the population would clamor to the dictator and beg him to correct it. After a while a few thinkers would arise who would see that the only way to revive our institutions was by the painstaking education of the people. The stock in trade of these teachers would be the practical abuses, and very often they would be obliged to urge upon the people a course which would make the abuses temporarily more acute.
We have escaped an age of tyrants, because the eyes of the bosses and their masters were fixed on money. They were not ambitious. Government was an annex to trade. To certain people the boss appears52 as a ruler of men. If proof were needed that he is a hired man employed to do the dirty work of others, what better proof could we have than this: No one of all the hundreds of bosses thrown up during the last thirty years has ever lifted himself out of his sphere, or even essayed to rule.
That devotion of the individual to his bank account which created the boss and saved us from the dictator must now be traced back into business.
For the sake of analysis it is convenient now to separate and again not to separate the influences of business proper from the influences of dishonesty, but in real life they are one thing. Dishonesty is a mere result of excessive devotion to money-making. The general and somewhat indefinite body of rules which are considered “honest” change from time to time. I call a thing dishonest when it offends my instinct. The next man may call it honest. The question is settled by society at large. “What can a man do and remain in his club?” That gives the practical standards of a community. The devotion of the individual to his bank account gives the reason why the financier and his agent, the boss, could always find53 councilmen, legislators, judges, lawyers, to be their jackals, or to put the equation with the other end first, it is the reason why the legislators could always combine to blackmail the capitalist: this political corruption is a mere spur and offshoot of our business corruption. We know more about it, because politics cannot be carried on wholly in the dark. Business can. The main facts are known. Companies organize subsidiary companies to which they vote the money of the larger company—cheating their stockholders. The railroad men get up small roads and sell them to the great roads which they control—cheating their stockholders. The purchasing agents of many great enterprises cheat the companies as a matter of course, not by a recognized system of commissions—like French cooks—but by stealth. So in trade, you cannot sell goods to the retailers, unless you corrupt the proper person. It is all politics. All our politics is business and our business is politics.
There is something you want to do, and the “practical man” is the man who knows the ropes, knows who is the proper person to be “seen.” The slang word gives a picture of the times—to “see” a man means to bribe him.
54But let no one think that dishonesty or anything else begins at the top. These big business men were once little business men.
To cut rates, to have a different price for each customer, to substitute one article for another, are the prevailing policies of the seller. To give uncollectible notes, to claim rebates, to make assignments and compromises, to use one shift or another in order to get possession of goods and pay less than the contract price, are the prevailing aims of the buyer.
It is unquestionably possible for an incorruptible man to succeed in business. But his scruples are an embarrassment. Not everybody wants such a man. He insists on reducing every reckoning to pounds sterling, while the rest of the world is figuring in maravedis. He must make up in ability what he lacks in moral obliquity.
He will no doubt find his nook in time. Honesty is the greatest luxury in the world, and the American looks with awe on the man who can afford it, or insists upon having it. It is right that he should pay for it.
The long and short of the matter is that the sudden creation of wealth in the United States has been too much for our people.55 We are personally dishonest. The people of the United States are notably and peculiarly dishonest in financial matters.
The effect of this on government is but one of the forms in which the ruling passion is manifest. “What is there in it for me?” is the state of mind in which our people have been existing. Out of this come the popular philosophy, the social life, the architecture, the letters, the temper of the age; all tinged with the passion.
Let us look at the popular philosophy of the day. An almost ludicrous disbelief that any one can be really disinterested is met at once. Any one who takes an intelligent interest in public affairs becomes a “reformer.” He is liked, if it can be reasonably inferred that he is advancing his own interests. Otherwise he is incomprehensible. He is respected, because it is impossible not to respect him, but he is regarded as a mistaken fellow, a man who interferes with things that are not his business, a meddler.
The unspoken religion of all sensible men inculcates thrift as the first virtue. Business thunders at the young man, “Thou shalt have none other gods but me.” Nor56 is it a weak threat, for business, when it speaks, means business. The young doctor in the small town who advocates reform loses practice for two reasons: first, because it is imagined that he is not a serious man, not a good doctor, if he gives time to things outside his profession; second, because the carriage-maker does not agree with him and regards it as a moral duty to punish him. The newsdealer in the Arcade at Rector Street lost custom because it was discovered that he was a Bryan man. The bankers would not buy papers of him. Since the days of David, the great luxury of the powerful has been to be free from the annoyance of other persons’ opinions. The professional classes in any community are parasites on the moneyed classes; they attend the distribution. They cannot strike the hand that feeds them. In a country where economic laws tend to throw the money into the hands of a certain type of men, the morality of those men is bound to affect society very seriously.
The world-famous “timidity” of Americans in matters of opinion, is the outward and visible sign of a mental preoccupation. Tocqueville thought it was due to their democratic form of government. It is not57 due to democracy, but to commercial conditions. In Tocqueville’s day it arose out of the slavery question, solely because that question affected trade.
In describing the social life of Boston, Josiah Quincy says of George Ticknor’s hospitality: “There seemed to be a cosmopolitan spaciousness about his very vestibule. He received company with great ease, and a simple supper was always served to his evening visitors. Prescott, Everett, Webster, Hillard, and other noted Bostonians well mixed with the pick of such strangers as happened to be in the city, furnished a social entertainment of the first quality. Politics, at least American politics, were never mentioned.”
It was at such “entertainments” as this that the foreign publicists received their impressions as to the extinction of free speech in America. Politics could not be mentioned; but this was not due to our democratic form of government, but to the fact that Beacon Street was trading with South Carolina. “Politics” meant slavery, and Beacon Street could not afford to have values disturbed—not even at a dinner party.
We have seen that our more recent misgovernment58 has not been due to democracy, and we now see that the most striking weakness of our social life is not and never has been due to democracy.
Let us take an example: A party of men meet in a club, and the subject of free trade is launched. Each of these men has been occupied all day in an avocation where silence is golden. Shall he be the one to speak first? Who knows but what some phase of the discussion may touch his pocket? But the matter is deeper. Free speech is a habit. It cannot be expected from such men, because a particular subject is free from danger. Let the subject be dress reform, and the traders will be equally politic.
This pressure of self-interest which prevents a man from speaking his mind comes on top of that familiar moral terrorism of any majority, even a majority of two persons against one, which is one of the ultimate phenomena of human intercourse.
It is difficult to speak out a sentiment that your table companions disapprove of. Even Don Quixote was afraid to confess that it was he who had set the convicts at liberty, because he heard the barber and curate denounce the thing as an outrage.59 Now the weight of this normal social pressure in any particular case will depend on how closely the individuals composing the majority resemble each other. But men, lighted by the same passion, pursuing one object under the similar conditions, of necessity grow alike. By a process of natural selection, the self-seekers of Europe have for sixty years been poured into the hopper of our great mill. The Suabian and the Pole each drops his costume, his language, and his traditions as he goes in. They come out American business men; and in the second generation they resemble each other more closely in ideals, in aims, and in modes of thought than two brothers who had been bred to different trades in Europe.
The uniformity of occupation, the uniformity of law, the absence of institutions, like the church, the army, family pride, in fact, the uniformity of the present and the sudden evaporation of all the past, have ground the men to a standard.
America turns out only one kind of man. Listen to the conversation of any two men in a street car. They are talking about the price of something—building material, advertising, bonds, cigars.
We have, then, two distinct kinds of pressure,60 each at its maximum, both due to commerce: the pressure of fear that any unpopular sentiment a man utters will show in his bank account; the pressure of a unified majority who are alike in their opinions, have no private opinions, nor patience with the private opinions of others. Of these two pressures, the latter is by far the more important.
It cannot be denied that the catchwords of democracy have been used to intensify this tyranny. If the individual must submit when outvoted in politics, he ought to submit when outvoted in ethics, in opinion, or in sentiment. Private opinion is a thing to be stamped out, like private law. A prejudice is aroused by the very fact that a man thinks for himself; he is dangerous; he is anarchistic.
But this misapplication of a dogma is not the cause but the cloak of oppression. It is like the theory of the divine right of Kings—a thing invoked by conservatism to keep itself in control, a shibboleth muttered by men whose cause will not bear argument.
We must never expect to find in a dogma the explanation of the system which it props up. That explanation must be sought for61 in history. The dogma records but does not explain a supremacy. Therefore, when we hear some one appeal to democratic principle for a justification in suppressing the individual, we have to reflect how firmly must this custom be established, upon what a strong basis of interest must it rest, that it has power so to pervert the ideas of democracy. A distrust of the individual running into something like hatred may be seen reflected in the press of the United States. The main point is that Americans have by business training been growing more alike every day, and have seized upon any and every authority to aid them in disciplining a recusant.
We have then a social life in which caution and formalism prevail, and can see why it is that the gathering at the club was a dull affair.
We must now add one dreadful fact: Many of these men at the club are dishonest. The banker has come from a Directors’ meeting of a large corporation, where he has voted to buy ten thousand shares of railroad stock which he and his associates bought on foreclosure at seventeen three weeks before, but which now stands at thirty, because the quotations62 have been rigged. The attorney for the corporation is here talking to Professor Scuddamore about the new citizens’ movement, which the attorney has joined, for he is a great reformer, and lives in horror of the wickedness of the times. Beyond him sits an important man, whose corporation has just given a large sum to a political organization. Next to him is a Judge, who is a Republican, but fond of a chat with political opponents. With them is the editor of a reform paper, whose financial articles are of much importance to the town. A very eminent lawyer is in conversation with him. This lawyer has just received a large fee from the city for work which would not have brought him more than one-fifth of the amount if done for a private client. He is, by the way, a law partner of the latest tribune of the people, a man of stainless reputation. Here is also another type of honor, the middle-aged practitioner of good family, who has one of the best heads in town. He knows what all these other men are, and how they make their money; yet he dines at their houses, and gets business from them. On his left is a man much talked of ten years ago, a rare man to be seen here. He was ambitious, and became the hope of reform.63 But, unfortunately, he also had a talent for business. He became rich and cynical, and you see that he is looking about, as if in search of another disappointed man to talk to. There also is a great doctor, visiting physician of three hospitals, one of which is in receipt of city funds, and he knows the practice of packing the hospitals before inspection day in order to increase the appropriation. The man who endowed the hospital sits beyond. All these wires end in this club-room. Now start your topic—jest about free silver, make a merry sally on Mayor Jones. Start the question: “Why is not the last reform commissioner of the gas works not in jail?” and see what a jovial crew you are set down with.
You will find as to any new topic, that each one requires time to adjust his cravat to it. You are in a company of men who are so anxious to be reasonable, to be “just,” that it will require them till judgment day to make up their minds on any point. Nor is it easy to say how any one of them ought to behave. Is it dishonest to draw dividends from a corporation which you believe to be corruptly managed; to wink at bribery done in the interest of widows and of orphans? Must you cut a client because he64 owns a judge? What proof have you of any of these things? Do you demand of any one of these men that he shall offend or denounce the rest, and, short of that, what course should he take?
The point here made is not an ethical one as to how any one of these men ought to adjust himself to the corruption about him, but the sociological point—that a civilization based upon a commerce which is in all its parts corruptly managed will present a social life which is unintelligent and mediocre, made up of people afraid of each other, whose ideas are shopworn, whose manners are self-conscious.
The ill-concealed dependence of these men on each other is not resentful. They are the most good-natured men in the world. But they are unenlightened. Without free speech free thought can hardly exist. Without free speech you cannot gather the fruits of the mind’s spontaneous workings. When a man talks with absolute sincerity and freedom he goes on a voyage of discovery. The whole company has shares in the enterprise. He may strike out some idea which explains the sphinx. The moral consequences of circumspect and affable reticence are even worse than the intellectual ones. “Live and let65 live,” says our genial prudence. Well enough, but mark the event. No one ever lost his social standing merely because of his offences, but because of the talk about them. As free speech goes out the rascals come in.
Speech is a great part of social life, but not the whole of it. Dress, bearing, expression, betray a man, customs show character, all these various utterances mingle and merge into the general tone which is the voice of a national temperament; private motive is lost in it.
This tone penetrates and envelops everything in America. It is impossible to condemn it altogether. This desire to please, which has so much of the shopman’s smile in it, graduates at one end of the scale into a general kindliness, into public benefactions, hospitals, and college foundations; at the other end it is seen melting into a desire to efface one’s self rather than give offence, to hide rather than be noticed.
In Europe, the men in the pit at the theatre stand up between the acts, face the house, and examine the audience at leisure. The American dares not do this. He cannot stand the isolation, nor the publicity. The American in a horse car can give his66 seat to a lady, but dares not raise his voice while the conductor tramps over his toes. It violates every instinct of his commercial body to thrust his private concerns into prominence. The American addresses his equal, whom he knows familiarly, as Mr. Jones, giving him the title with as much subserviency as the Englishman pays to an unknown Earl.
Mere financial dishonesty is of very little importance in the history of civilization. Who cares whether Cæsar stole or Cæsar Borgia cheated? Their intellects stayed clear. The real evil that follows in the wake of a commercial dishonesty so general as ours is the intellectual dishonesty it generates. One need not mind stealing, but one must cry out at people whose minds are so befuddled that they do not know theft when they see it. Robert Walpole bought votes. He deceived others, but he did not deceive himself.
We have seen that the retailer in the small town could not afford to think clearly upon the political situation. But this was a mere instance, a sample of his mental attitude. He dare not face any question. He must shuffle, qualify, and defer. Here at last we have the great characteristic which67 covers our continent like a climate—intellectual dishonesty. This state of mind does not merely prevent a man having positive opinions. The American is incapable of taking a real interest in anything. The lack of passion in the American—noticeable in his books and in himself—comes from the same habitual mental distraction; for passion is concentration. Hence also the flippancy, superficiality, and easy humor for which we are noted. Nothing except the dollar is believed to be worthy the attention of a serious man. People are even ashamed of their tastes. Until recently, we thought it effeminate for a man to play on the piano. When a man takes a living interest in anything, we call him a “crank.” There is an element of self-sacrifice in any honest intellectual work which we detect at once and score with contumely.
It was not solely commercial interest that made the biographers of Lincoln so thrifty to extend and veneer their book. It was that they themselves did not, could not, take an interest in the truth about him. The second-rate quality of all our letters and verse is due to the same cause. The intellectual integrity is undermined. The literary man is concerned for what “will68 go,” like the reformer who is half politician. The attention of every one in the United States is on some one else’s opinion, not on truth.
The matter resolves itself at last into Pilate’s question: What is truth? We do not know, and shall never know. But it seems to involve a certain focussing and concentration of the attention that brings all the life within us into harmony. When this happens to us, we discover that truth is the only thing we had ever really cared about in the world. The thing seems to be the same thing, no matter which avenue we reach it by. At whatever point we are touched, we respond. A quartet, a cathedral, a sonnet, an exhibition of juggling, anything well done—we are at the mercy of it. But as the whole of us responds to it, so it takes a whole man to do it. Whatever cracks men up and obliterates parts of them, makes them powerless to give out this vibration. This is about all we know of individualism and the integrity of the individual. The sum of all the philosophies in the history of the world can be packed back into it. All the tyrannies and abuses in the world are only bad because they injure this integrity. We desire truth. It is the only thing we desire.69 To have it, we must develop the individual. And there are practical ways and means of doing this. We see that all our abuses are only odious because they injure some individual man’s spirit. We can trace the corruption of politics into business, and find private selfishness at the bottom of it. We can see this spread out into a network of invisible influence, in the form of intellectual dishonesty blighting the minds of our people. We can look still closer and see just why and how the temperament of the private man is expressed.
We study this first in social life; for social life is the source and fountain of all things. The touchstone for any civilization is what one man says to another man in the street. Everything else that happens there bears a traceable relation to the tone of his voice. The press reflects it, the pulpit echoes it, the literature reproduces it, the architecture embodies it.
The rays of force which start in material prosperity pass through the focus of social life, and extend out into literature, art, architecture, religion, philosophy. All these things are but the sparks thrown off the gestures and gaits, the records of the social life of some civilization. That is the reason70 why it has been useful to pause over a club-house and study its inmates. The ball-room, the dinner-table, would have been equally instructive. The deference to reigning convention is the same everywhere. The instinct of self-concealment, the policy of classing like with like, leads to the herding of the young with the young only, the sporting with the sporting only, the rich with the rich only, which is the bane of our society. The suffocation is mitigated here and there by the influence of ambitious and educated women. They are doing their best to stem the tide which they can neither control nor understand. The stratification of our society, and its crystallization into social groups, is little short of miraculous, considering the lightning changes of scene. The nouveaux riches of one decade are the old noblesse of the next decade, and yet any particular set, at any particular time, has its exclusions, its code of hats and coats and small talk, which are more rigid than those of London.
The only place in the country where society is not dull is Washington, because in Washington politics have always forced the social elements to mix; because in Washington, some embers of the old ante-bellum society survived; because the place has no71 commerce, and because the foreign diplomats have been a constant factor, educating the Americans in social matters. But Washington is not the centre of American civilization. The controlling force in American life is not in its politics, but in commerce. New York is the head and heart of the United States. Chicago is America. And the elements of this life must be sought, as always, in the small towns. Find the social factors which are common to New York, to Poughkeepsie, and to Newport, and you have the keynote to the country. We began with a city club. But it would have made no difference what gathering we entered—a drawing-room at Newport, a labor union in Fifteenth Street—we should have found the same phenomena,—formalism, suppression of the individual, intellectual dishonesty.
The dandy at Newport who conscientiously follows his leaders and observes the cab rule, the glove ordinance, and the mystery of the oyster fork, is governed by the same law, is fettered by the same force, as the labor man who fears to tell his fellows that he approves of Waring’s clean streets. Each is a half-man, each is afraid of his fellows, and for the same reason. Each is commercial, keeps his place by conciliatory methods, and will72 be punished for contumacy by the loss of his job. Neither of them has an independent opinion upon any subject.
The charge brought against our millionaire society is that it is vulgar. The houses are palaces, the taste is for the most part excellent, the people are in every sense but the commercial sense more virtuous than the rich of any other nation. Wealth is poured out in avalanches.
Why is all this display not magnificent? The millionaire society is not vulgar, but it is insignificant. The reason is, that you cannot have splendor without personal and intellectual independence, and this does not exist in America. The conversation on the Commodore’s steam yacht is tedious. The talk at the weekly meeting of the amalgamated glaziers is insipid, and impresses you with the selfishness of mankind.
Now what is at the bottom of this identity? We are passing through the great age of distribution. It is not confined to America. It qualifies European history. All the different kinds of Socialism are mere proofs of it. Every one either wants to get something himself, or, if he is a philosopher, wants to show other people how to get it. Even Henry George thought that man lives73 by bread alone; at least, he thought that if you only give every one lots of bread, that is all you need provide for; the rest will follow. In America we are leading the world in the intensity with which this phase of progress goes on, because in America there is nothing else to occupy men’s minds. Let us return to our social focus and its relation to the arts.
The world has groped for three thousand years to find the connection between morality and the fine arts. It may be that we stand here on the borderland of discovery. We can at least see that they are not likely to arise in an era of subserviency and intellectual fog.
The fine arts are departments of science, and the attitude of mind of the artist toward his work, or of the public toward his product, is that of an interest in truth for its own sake. It is the attitude of the scientific man toward his problems. The scientists do not waver or cringe. They are the great bullies of this era. They draw their power from their work. They seek, they proclaim, they monopolize truth. There is in them the note of greatness, not because of their discoveries, but because of their pursuit.
Commercial or sexual crime or violence,74 that does not unman the artist, ought not to extinguish art, and it never has done so. Anything that has made him time-serving or truthless ought to show in his work, and it always has done so.
Any system of morality or conjunction of circumstances that tends to make men tell the truth as they see it will tend to produce what the world will call art. If the statement be accurate, the world will call it beautiful. Put it as you will, art is self-assertion and beauty is accuracy. Out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh.
Anybody can see that fiction depends upon social conditions; for it is nothing but a description of them.
Take his clubs and his routs away from Thackeray, his hunting away from White-Melville, his peasantry away from Scott, his street life away from Dickens, and where would their books be? Vigorous and picturesque individuality must precede good fiction. The great American novel, except as the outcome of a vigorous social life, is the dream of an idiot. You must have an age of ebullition, where the spontaneous life about the novelist forces itself into his books, before you can have good fiction. Architecture depends so plainly upon social75 life, that we have only to look at our country houses from Colonial times down, to read the hearts of the inmates. And so with the other fine arts and decorations, they are mere languages.
It is thought that our modern life is more complex than that of the eighteenth century, because the machinery by which it is carried on is expanded. Transportation, newspapers, corporations, oceans of books and magazines, foreign cables, have changed the forms by which power is transmitted. But the manifestations of humanity in government, in social life, and in the arts proceed upon the same principles as ever. Everything depends as completely on personal intercourse as it did in Athens. The real struggle comes between two men across a table, my force against your force. The devices which political philosophy has always approved, are those which protect the spirit of the individual, and enable it to grow strong. The struggles for English liberty have been struggles over taxation. The rights of the sovereign to seize a man’s property, or imprison his body without form of law, were abolished. This comparative financial independence of the English subject has been valued as the basis of spiritual76 independence. It has no other claim to be thought important. Yet while we have been praising our bills of rights and bulwarks of liberty, commerce in the United States has been bringing power after power, battalion after battalion, to bear upon the integrity of spirit of the individual man. Here is a situation which no legislation can meet. Civil liberty has been submerged in the boss system. But this is a mere symptom. It is valuable only because it brings strikingly into view the intellectual bondage it denotes. It is valuable only because it gives us a fighting ground, an educational arena in which the fight for intellectual liberty may be begun.
It is unnecessary to go over the steps of the argument backward, and to show how our citizen movements are a mere sign that the individual is becoming more unselfish. How, partly through the settling of commerce into more stable conditions, partly through revulsion in the heart of man against so much wickedness, a reign of better things is coming. The Christian Endeavorers, the University Settlements, the innumerable leagues and propaganda which bring no dogmas, but which stand for faith—speak for multitudes, affect every one. Their influence77 can already be traced into business, into social life, and out again into every department of our existence. The revolution is going forward on a great scale, and the demonstration is about to be worked out throughout the continent as if it were a blackboard.
The man who has subscribed $1,000 to the reform campaign, the man who has worked for the cause, and the man who has voted the ticket, have met. This personal meeting, this social focus, exists and is indestructible. These people who have been kept apart by the old political conditions, by the boss system, and the capitalist; these men whom every element of selfishness and corruption fought with the instinct of self-preservation to keep separate, have come together. The downfall of the old social system, and the redistribution of every force in the community, is inevitable. In the first place, every individual in the community has talked about the movement with an intensity proportionate to his power of good. Our form of government throws the moral idea with terrible force, as a practical issue, into the life of each man. “Thou art the man.” The extreme simplicity of our social fabric78 makes it impossible for any one to get behind his institution, his class, his prejudice. There is no one who cannot be shown up. We are as defenceless before virtue as we were before selfishness. Our politics can be worked as effectively by one passion as by the other—but we are only just beginning to find this out.
Free speech and the grouping, classing, and mingling of men according to intellect, and not according to income, have begun already. They are not more the outcome than they are the cause of these citizens’ movements. They are the same elemental thing. The love of truth is the same passion as the veneration for the individual. It is impossible to really want reform and to remain socially exclusive or socially deferential. And so, a social life is beginning to emerge in New York, based on the noblest and the most natural passion that can stir in the heart of man The results in the field of practical politics, will be that “society”—at least such of our drawing-rooms and dinner tables as any one, whether foreigner or native, knows or cares anything about—will resume the political importance which such places have always held in civilized times, and of which nothing but extraordinary79 and transient conditions have deprived them. Let any one who doubts this, compare the club talk and dinner table talk of to-day, with the talk of ten years ago. It would be childish to guess the positive results on the arts, theatres, novels, verse which will follow; but you can no more keep the spirit of freedom out of these things than you can keep it out of personal manners. These are changing daily. The decorums and codes of behavior, the old self-consciousness and self-distrust are dropping off. Steadily the flood of life advances, inspiring all things.