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MISTAKEN SYMPATHY WITH REPUBLICS.
BY THOMAS G. SHEARMAN.
In December, 1895, the people of the United States were stirred to great excitement by a message from the President, declaring in substance that a monarchy threatened to encroach upon the territory of a South American republic, and that our own Government ought to resist such an encroachment upon a sister republic, by every means in its power. Both branches of Congress unanimously approved of this message, and voted to appropriate all the money which the President asked, for the purpose of enabling him to decide whether any such encroachment was in danger of taking place. At about the same time, the Republic of France seized upon the Island of Madagascar, the Queen of which had submitted to every demand made upon her by the French, but was, nevertheless, deposed and imprisoned; and the entire island was annexed to the French Republic as a colony. As a necessary consequence of such annexation (since it is the invariable rule of the French Republic with regard to its colonies) American ships were practically excluded from trading with Madagascar, and American produce was shut out from its ports. Thereupon, Senator Morgan, of Alabama, offered resolutions in the United States Senate, congratulating the Republic of France upon its seizure of Madagascar, upon the sole ground that France was a "sister republic," while Madagascar was a "monarchy."
The Republic of Venezuela, on behalf of which nine-tenths of the American Congress appeared to be eager to go to war, had existed for about seventy years; during which time it had enjoyed about thirty military revolutions; and it was on the verge of another, when the intervention of the United States upon its behalf induced the revolutionists to pause, in the hope that this intervention would bring a flood of American gold, sufficient to
divide between parties; while there was good reason to fear that the result of any revolution in Venezuela, just then, would be to deter the United States from making the fortune of either party. Accordingly, the impending revolution was deferred, until the boundary question was settled by arbitration, when the military leader out of power promptly overthrew the existing Government and took possession himself.
The relations of Venezuela and the United States had previously been of that close and affectionate nature which has existed, time out of mind, between most American republics. The Government of Venczuela had for many years committed gross outrages upon citizens of the United States. After submitting to these outrages for twenty or thirty years, the United States suddenly concluded to demand justice. In one of the breathing spaces between the twenty-first and twenty-second revolutions of that happy country, Venezuela was induced to submit this demand to arbitration. In this arbitration, citizens of the United States who had suffered wrongs from Venezuela managed to avenge themselves on our sister republic, by preparing forged testimony; on the strength of which an award was made, which was soon proved to be a gigantic swindle. The twenty-third revolutionary government of Venezuela protested against this award; and after a long lapse of time, during which the citizens of the United States were almost unanimously indifferent to the fraud committed upon our sister republic, the twenty-fifth revolutionary government prevailed upon our Government to reopen the question and do something like justice.
This little bit of history, which in substance has been repeated more than a hundred times in different forms, suggests an inquiry as to what a "republic” really is, and how much claim upon the sympathies of a free people is established by the mere fact that a government calls itself a republic. The American idea of a republic is of a State, in which all residents have equal civil rights, and all male native born and naturalized residents have equal political rights, subject only to reasonable qualifications of general uniform application. And the one fundamental and indispensable condition of a republican form of government is that all its officers shall be either chosen by the free vote of a majority of citizens, or be appointed by other officers, who have been thus elected.
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Now, there never has been a time in which a majority of socalled republics have answered to this description. With few. exceptions, republics have always been either close oligarchies on military despotisms; in none of which have the great mass of even male adult natives had equal civil rights or any participation in the free election of their governors. Sparta and Athens are examples of the earliest historic republics. Both were oligarchies, in which only one man out of ten or twenty had the slightest share in government. In both, an enormous majority of the descendants of those who had for centuries occupied the land were absolute slaves; while in Athens, there was an intermediate class, much fewer in number than the slaves, but much more numerous than the 20,000 citizens; yet these 20,000 monopolized all the power of government. Rome was a republic, for several centuries. But this republic was governed by a Senate, which consisted of a few hundred self-selected patricians. · A long time elapsed before the mass of the people had the slightest share in government; and all that they ever obtained was the right to elect two tribunes, who exercised a veto power, provided the Senate did not appoint a dictator to cut off their heads; which it had the power to do at any time, under the pretense of public danger. The name and forms of a republic were jealously preserved under Julius Cæsar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Nero and successive despots, for centuries more. Nevertheless, not even the nominally free citizens of Rome had the smallest voice in the government of the republic; while a vast majority of its inhabitants were miserable slaves.
Coming down to more modern days, Venice always called itself a republic. But Venice was governed by a small aristocracy, who delegated all power to the Council of Ten, which in turn committed the power of life and death, in absolute secrecy, to a Council of Three. Switzerland included a number of small republics, in some of which the people had a right to vote. In others, such as Berne, there never was any popular government: all power being strictly kept in the hands of a small aristocracy. Nine-tenths of the citizens of Berne were never allowed to tread upon its sidewalks. And not only did Berne hold in abject servitude the much larger district of Vaud, but even the Forest Cantons held a large and beautiful district of Northern Italy in practical slavery, for two centuries, until it was liberated by the French.
In 1792 France declared itself a republic, amid great rejoicing, not only there, but in America, where our fathers believed that the millennium had almost begun. But, within a few months, the French Republic proved itself to be the closest of oligarchies and the most relentless of tyrannies. More than twothirds of its legislators were driven out by violence; and large numbers of them were sent to the scaffold. A small knot of bloodthirsty wretches concentrated all power in their own hands. They were followed by a Directory of Five, which permitted French citizens to vote for only one-third of the Legislature, and attended closely to the counting, even for those. When the most respectable citizens attempted to resist this decree, Bonaparte swept them away with grapeshot. The tyranny of this oligarchy having become both oppressive and contemptible, Bonaparte swept them away, in their turn, without even using grapeshot, contenting himself with the butts of his soldiers' guns. He then gave to all French citizens the inestimable privilege of universal manhood suffrage, exercised under his own supervision. Naturally, some millions of votes were cast in his favor; while not enough were counted in opposition to equal the frightened crowd which had run away before his soldiers. The new Constitution, thus adopted, provided for a Legislature which was not allowed to propose any measures of its own, but exercised the proud privilege of voting "yes” or “no” upon such measures as should be submitted for its consideration by Bonaparte himself. As it was well understood that, if any considerable number voted "no," they would speedily disappear from view, the negative vote was always small. Even after Napoleon Bonaparte was chosen Emperor, and donned a crown and purple robe, he continued for some time to issue coins, which are still extant, stamped: “La République Française : Napoleon Empereur."
In February, 1818, France again declared itself a Republic, and adopted universal manhood suffrage. In December a vast majority of the nation, by a perfectly free vote, flung themselves into the arms of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, for no other reason than that he was supposed to be the nephew of the great Napoleon, who had led two million Frenchmen to slaughter, and had caused the death of four million other Europeans. The first use which the Republic made of its power was to crush the little Republic of Rome. In December, 1851, a vast majority of the people voted
to make Louis Napoleon their absolute despot for ten years, with a Legislature having no power, except to vote “yes” or “no” upon such measures as he should propose. This form of government lasted under the name of a Republic for one year, when it was merged in the title of Empire. But, in reality, there was more freedom under the Empire than there ever had been under the Republic. In 1870, the Empire was overthrown and a nominal Republic established, which has lasted until this day. But every Frenchman is held in the iron grip of a small knot of generals. No President or Prime Minister ever dared to oppose the dictates of these military tyrants, until within the last year; and even then, Loubet and Waldeck-Rousseau would not have dared to undertake the task of government without the aid of a ferocious military chieftain, who was prepared to meet with blood and steel any attempt at military revolt. Without going into details, it is notorious that the Government of France, during all these thirty years, has been about equally divided between republican forms and military despotism.
At the present time, there are twenty nominal republics in the world, outside of Africa and the tiny mountain district of San Marino. These are France, Switzerland, the United States of America, Hayti, San Domingo, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Chili, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Of these, only Switzerland and the United States are real republics, within any reasonable definition of that word. France is half republic and half military despotism. All the remaining seventeen are either absolute military despotisms or mere oligarchies, in which a small minority of the people monopolize all the powers of government, while the great mass are little, if any, better than slaves. The forms of republican government are undoubtedly maintained in nearly all of them, to the same extent as they were maintained in Rome under Tiberius, or in France, under the Prince President, Louis Napoleon. Legislatures meet and discuss at great length propositions of law, submitted to them by a dictator, at the end of which they vote in the affirmative or fly for their lives. In Chili, Argentina, and possibly one or two more of these republics, there is a larger freedom of discussion, and a greater absence of military dictatorship than in the others. But in Chili, all the land worth having is owned by a few families; and