"A Defense of American Parties"

Mr. William Garrott Brown '91, the Deputy Keeper of the University Archives, has an article in the Atlantic Monthly for November, entitled "A Defense of American Parties." Mr. Brown's article is ably written, and its appearance during the present political campaign is timely.

Mr. Brown begins by estimating that one American in five votes for a person, that one in ten votes for a platform, and that the great mass of Americans vote for parties. He then goes on to insist that, contrary to de Tocqueville and Mr. Bryce, actual parties with definite underlying principles do exist. His opinion is contained in the following extract: "Further, I maintain that a fair-minded examination of the present aspect of our two great parties leads to the conclusion that they still represent with reasonable consistency, the two great sets of interests, and the two great types of character, which in modern self-governing communities have usually lain at the basis of party system. One, I believe, has stood and still stands in the main for an effective government, the other for a free government. One seeks an equalization of welfare and opportunity; the other bulwarks the historical rights of property. One is responsive to the changeful voice of the popular will; the other follows the intelligent guidance of successful men of affairs. One is the party of ideas and ideals, the party of liberty; the other is the party of practical achievement, the party of authority and order. Aspiration and Utopianism against purpose and opportunism, genius and eccentricity against common sense and self-interest, the universal and the visionary against the practical and the questionable, the kingdom of the air against the kingdom of the earth,--such I conceive to be the perpetual antagonism of parties; and the great lines of battle, now straight and clear, now twisted by lesser conflicts or obscured by temporary distortions of the surface of society, do yet run unceasing if not unbroken, through the whole course of our history."

With the purpose of exhibiting clearly the permanent and essential characteristics of both the great parties he reviews the life of the Republican party through the periods of the territorial issue, secession, reconstruction, and subsidence to sectionalism, down to the present, "when two swift changes of issues apparently revolutionized our whole political system." He maintains, however, that in spite of the recent violent outbreak of discontent and in spite of the commotion caused by the Spanish war, neither party has been deprived of its essential characteristics. Both theories contain truth and both are essential. The Democratic ideas should control when political issues are on tendencies and theories of government; the Republican, when there are times of foreign danger and necessity for practical and strong legislation. In thus summing up the composition and policies of the two parties, he says in his closing paragraph, "A citizen . . . will support the strong government party when he must, the free government party when he dares. . . . For there be two Jinn, two slaves of the lamp, that serve the Republic. One, the nimbler and the more intelligent, is best employed in the care of its material interests, its bodily welfare. The other, a turbulent, huge, and mighty demon, guards with ferocious jealousy the two-fold liberty which is its soul.