RIGHT OR WRONG?
Senator Schurz is credited with the remark that the Government of the United States is drifting towards an irresponsible one-man power. In other words, towards a despotism. On which the Indianapolis Journal, with sententious shallowness, observes: “We are inclined to think one man would find it inconvenient, if not impossible, to hold the people of this country in subjection. Americans were not born to be slaves.” So the Greeks thought, and so the Romans. And yet after having been educated in a religious veneration of freedom for nearly ten years to our one, they all fell into just that sort of slavery to the absolute will of one man with which the American people are now threatened.
Senator Schurz is both statesman and philosopher. He has profoundly studied and largely profited by the lessons of history. He has what not many American politicians have, the faculty of justly estimating the power of our people to resist the same forces that destroyed other republics, and he does not reach the conclusion that, simply because we are called Americans, we have immunity from the dangers that overcame other republics. We boast of our ” superior intelligence ” and the virtue of our free schools. But while these words are in our mouths, sage English and German critics are telling us that the average Athenian of the age of Pericles was as much our intellectual superior as the average American or Englishman is the superior of the subjects of King Cufiee or the late King Theodore. It this be only approximately true, then intellect is not always reliable to save a nation’s liberties. If our free schools ruled the politics of the republic, we should have better reason to boast of their political efficacy. But, unfortunately, they do not.
It is the political rag-tag and mercenary brigade congregated in the great cities and under the dominion of an oligarchy, that too often decides the election of the worst over the best man. The danger is that the oligarchy now ruling in Congress and the departments, by the aid of their mercenaries, will in a few years make the thing we call republican government so intolerable to honest men and the middle classes that they will turn from and abandon it in disgust to some man on horseback with ambition enough to inspire the thought and means at hand to execute it. We hope Senator Schurz is in the wrong, but we fear he is in the right way of interpreting the signs of the times. Certainly, if matters go on for the next ten years as they have gone in the last six or seven, under the double rule of vile and corrupt demagogues and corrupting corporations, whether the result be despotism in the name of one man or an oligarchy, we shall have nothing left of the republic worth preserving save the name.
Sacramento Daily Union 04 September 1874