Слике страница
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER XIII

THE FUTURE

The destiny of America lies written in the lines oi poets, in the characters of self-sacrificing soldiers, in the conceptions of ambitions of her greater statesmen, lies written in the teachings of her school. rooms, in all those ideals of service of humanity and of liberty for the individual, which are to be found written in the very school-books of the boys and girls whom we send to be taught to be Americans. The destiny of America is an ideal destiny. America has no reason for being, unless her destiny and duty be ideal. It is her incumbent privilege to declare and stand for the rights of men. Nothing else is worth fighting for. Nothing else is worth sacrificing for.–At Chicago, January 31, 1916.

To make a chapter under this heading anything but brief and tentative would be to court disaster. The prophet's is at all times a thankless rôle, and at a moment like the present, when external events over which America can have no control may suddenly involve her in war, or betray her President into some fundamental error of judgment that would shatter in a week the high reputation he has built up through four laborious years, any attempt at confident prediction would be a double folly. Nevertheless there are discernible in American political life certain drifts and tendencies of which it is well to take account, even though there can be no certainty that expectations legitimately founded on them will ever be realized.

States Ofe him lany,

First, as to Mr. Wilson himself. It is not to be supposed that the deep-rooted sentiment against a third Presidential term will be relaxed in his favour when his second quadrennium has been served. March 1921, therefore, will find him at the age of sixty-four, and, if present indications are any guide, with many years of vigour and activity still before him, an ex-President of the United States. Americans admit frankly that their ex-Presidents are an embarrassment. A man who has exercised more autocratic powers than a constitutional monarch ever wields over a population now approaching a hundred millions cannot quietly disappear when he leaves the White House. It is not consistent with his dignity to fight a contested election for the Senate. As a member of the Cabinet he would tend to limit the President's freedom of action. He may be prepared and qualified to assume the rôle of Elder Statesman, like Jefferson in his retirement at Monticello ; but there is always an equal prospect that he will become, like Mr. Roosevelt, a permanent thorn in the side of successors of whichever party.

Mr. Wilson is not likely to emulate the Progressive leader's achievements as critic and pamphleteer. It is more likely that he will follow Mr. Taft's sensible and honourable example and go back to the academic work to which he worthily devoted his abilities down to 1910. But there is one alternative on which an English writer may be permitted to dwell with an emphasis dictated by hope. There is no living

American who could fill with greater distinction or success the office of Ambassador to Great Britain, and none whose appointment would be read as a greater honour to the country to which he was accredited. Nor would it be beneath the dignity even of an ex-President of the United States to come to London, not as a mere diplomatic plenipotentiary, but as Ambassador to a people as well as to a chancellery, as the architect of a spiritual entente, charged with interpreting America to England and England to America as they have been interpreted in the past by James Russell Lowell on the one side and James Bryce on the other. The world may be a different place in four years' time, and it may well appear that the highest task to which a statesman can bend his energies in the third decade of the twentieth century will be the promotion and consolidation of Anglo-American friendship.

But before that question need be seriously considered Mr. Wilson has four years of power in prospect. His personal position has been materially strengthened by his re-election. He is still technically a minority President, for when all five candidates' votes in 1916 are taken into account Mr. Wilson polled a few hundred thousand less than the combined totals of his opponents. But for practical purposes all that need be considered are the Democratic, Republican, and Progressive candidates in 1912 and the Democratic and Republican in 1916. And in relation to the Republican-Progressives President Wilson, after four years of unprecedented

industry and unexampled anxiety, during which his domestic and internal policies challenged criticism at every point and from every quarter, converted a minority of 1,300,000 votes into a majority of 560,000. That vindication of his administration, coupled with the fact that he is no longer living under the shadow of an impending election, has sensibly increased the President's freedom of action. On the other hand, his hold on Congress is less secure, for while in the Sixty-fifth Congress the Senate still has a Democratic majority of 12 (as against 16 in the Sixty-fourth) the parties in the House are so evenly divided that a handful of Independents is likely to hold the balance.

Even if America continues to avoid entanglement in the war it is probable that there will be some slackening of the legislative pace. Almost all the more important measures foreshadowed in the Democratic programme of 1912 have been converted into laws, and concentration on administration is now more needed than a high legislative output. A number of new administrative instruments—a Federal Reserve Board, a Federal Trade Board, a Federal Farm Loan Board, a Tariff Commission, a Shipping Commission-have been set to work, and existing agencies, like the Inter-State Commerce Commission, are having new powers conferred upon them. Acts have already been passed providing for naval construction and Army development for some years ahead. What is needed now is that the working of these agencies and schemes should

American who could fill with greater distinction or success the office of Ambassador to Great Britain, and none whose appointment would be read as a greater honour to the country to which he was accredited. Nor would it be beneath the dignity even of an ex-President of the United States to come to London, not as a mere diplomatic plenipotentiary, but as Ambassador to a people as well as to a chancellery, as the architect of a spiritual entente, charged with interpreting America to England and England to America as they have been interpreted in the past by James Russell Lowell on the one side and James Bryce on the other. The world may be a different place in four years' time, and it may well appear that the highest task to which a statesman can bend his energies in the third decade of the twentieth century will be the promotion and consolidation of Anglo-American friendship.

But before that question need be seriously considered Mr. Wilson has four years of power in prospect. His personal position has been materially strengthened by his re-election. He is still technically a minority President, for when all five candidates' votes in 1916 are taken into account Mr. Wilson polled a few hundred thousand less than the combined totals of his opponents. But for practical purposes all that need be considered are the Democratic, Republican, and Progressive candidates in 1912 and the Democratic and Republican in 1916. And in relation to the Republican-Progressives President Wilson, after four years of unprecedented

« ПретходнаНастави »