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THE LOTOS CLUB OF
THE NEW YORK NEW HAVEN AND HARTFORD
December 13, 1913.
MR. PRESIDENT LAWRENCE AND MEMBERS OF THE LOTOS CLUB:
Gathering around the dinner table and talking over the questions of the day is not a phase of modern life. It is as old as civilization. Much good often comes from these dinners, although they impose, perhaps, a burden upon the speakers and often a greater burden upon the listeners.
I have much sympathy with the tenets and high purposes of the Lotos Club, and of its intellectual atmosphere. I was born in New York City and my father before and after the war was intimately associated with the literary circles of the city, a writer of some books and a contributor to many magazines. I can remember very well the kindly face of Horace Greeley, who came to our house when I was a little boy. I remember meeting George William Curtis, and, in later days, at Cambridge, I knew James Russell Lowell and William Dean Howells, all of whom are held in grateful remembrance by this club. Then, too, in my early days, I heard reminiscences in my family of the Brook Farm of Dana and Ripley and the high-minded souls of that experimental community, and about Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Emerson.
It is difficult for me to express fittingly my appreciation of the compliment you pay in asking me to be your guest. This club has had for its guests Presidents of the United States, princes, distinguished ambassadors and cabinet officers of our own and other countries, renowned literary men and painters, great travelers, scholars and publicists, and its influence for good cannot be estimated.
It has been in my mind for some time to say a word about the responsibility of the American citizen. There is today a burden upon the educated and intelligent man to lift up his voice in favor of the preservation of our institutions. It is a time for candor. We all recall that in Eng
land one hundred years ago the idea prevailed that when there were 100,000,000 people in this country, then would begin the disintegration of the republic, on the theory that the original Anglo-Saxon could not be assimilated with the blood of immigrants coming from other nations. We have reached the 100,000,000 mark, and the census of 1910 states that the population of forty-two cities having more than one hundred thousand population is 18,751,405, or twenty per cent. of the population of the United States; and that two out of every three of the inhabitants of these cities are descendants of foreign-born parents. Since the dawn of the twentieth century more than 10,500,000 immigrants have landed in the United States, and four out of every five immigrants had no trade. These immigrants have swelled the ranks of the workers in industrial centers; in the slums of Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York the foreign-born and their descendants form the following percentages of population: 77, 90, 91, and 95 respectively; and of every 100 aliens in these same cities, 40, 47, 51, and 59 in these respective cities are illiterate. It is estimated that more than 7,000,000 people of Slav, Latin, and Asiatic blood dwell in crowded industrial centers. They come from lands where democracy is unknown and the universal franchise unheard of and government is autocratic, arbitrary, often unjust and inhuman. Do these new citizens understand their responsibility to a government "of the people, for the people, and by the people"?
You will remember that Lord Macauley stated that the test of the government of the United States would come when our national domain was pretty well occupied. This able English statesman and essayist, on May 23, 1857, wrote as follows, about the United States:
"I have long been convinced that institutions purely democratic must, sooner or later, destroy liberty or civilization, or both. In Europe, where the population is dense, the effect of such institutions would be almost in
stantaneous. What happened lately in France is an example. In 1848 a pure democracy was established there. During a short time there was reason to expect a general spoliation, a national bankruptcy, a new partition of the soil, a maximum of prices, a ruinous load of taxation laid on the rich for the purpose of supporting the poor in idleness. Such system would, in 20 years, have made France as poor and barbarous as the France of the Carlovingians. Happily, the danger was averted; and now there is a despotism, a silent tribune, an enslaved press. Liberty is gone, but civilization has been saved. I have not the smallest doubt that if we had a purely democratic government here the effect would be the same. Either the poor would plunder the rich, and civilization would perish; or order and prosperity would be saved by a strong military government, and liberty would perish. You may think that your country enjoys an exemption from these evils. I will frankly own to you that I am of a very different opinion. Your fate I believe to be certain, though it is deferred by a physical cause. As long as you have a boundless extent of fertile and unoccupied land, your laboring population will be far more at ease than the laboring population of the Old World, and, while that is the case, the Jefferson politics may continue to exist without causing any fatal calamity. But the time will come when New England will be as thickly peopled as Old England. Wages will be as low, and will fluctuate as much with you as with us. You will have your Manchesters and Birminghams, and in those Manchesters and Birminghams hundreds of thousands of artisans will assuredly be sometimes out of work. Then your institutions will be fairly brought to the test. Distress everywhere makes the laborer mutinous and discontented, and inclines him to listen with eagerness to agitators who tell him that it is monstrous iniquity that one man should have a million while another cannot get a full meal. It is quite plain that your Government will never be able to restrain a distressed and discontented majority. For with you the majority is the government and has the rich, who are always a minority, absolutely at its mercy. The day will come when in the State of New