Before we begin . . .
This passage was written in 1911, but is no less true today.
The problems of a democracy are ever changing to meet the developing needs and the unfolding ideals of the people. Our problem in America at the opening of the twentieth century is no longer that of George Washington’s day,–to establish the forms and powers of a republican government; nor that of Andrew Jackson’s day,–to admit to a full share in that government the sturdy manhood of the nation; nor that of Abraham Lincoln’s day,–to save the life of the Union while cutting from it the cancer of slavery; nor that of William McKinley’s day,–to introduce the United States among the nations which are to control the destinies of the undeveloped races of the world. Today we are rich, united, powerful. But the very material prosperity which is our boast menaces the life of our democracy. The power of money threatens to choke the power of law. The spirit of gain is sacrificing to its insatiable greed the spirit of brotherhood and the very life of the toilers of the land–even the joyous years of tender childhood. Unless we are to sink into ignoble slavery or fall a prey to horrid revolution, the manhood of the nation must rise in its moral strength to restore our democratic institutions to the real control of the people, to assert the superiority of men over machines, and the value of a brotherhood of social cooperation and mutual goodwill above the highest statistics of commercial gain. Our noble mission is still to realize the promise of the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, that “government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
David Saville Muzzey