No college conference this year has attracted as much attention as that which was held in Sever 11 last evening. Hon. Henry Cabot Lodge spoke before a large audience on "Party Allegiance." His speech in brief was as follows: I have no intention of making a party speech; I shall talk about political parties and as little reference as possible will be made to existing parties and the political questions of the day.
It has been the fashion in certain localities, of which this is one, to decry party organizations. All party machinery and party organizations are condemned as inherently bad. My purpose is to consider whether this attitude has any sound justification, either historically or practically, for its existence. As modern political government, conducted through the medium of political parties is peculiarly the work of the English speaking people, I shall not go outside the history of that people in this branch of the discussion.
When William of Orange came to England, he undertook to carry on his administration by having members of both the great political parties in his councils. The result was not satisfactory. Then he called about him the members of the Whig party because, whatever their short-comings, they were at least united on the point of sustaining him in the wars against France. This move proved entirely successful. However it was many years before the full scope and meaning of the system of government by parties were understood in England. Sir Robert Walpole when he became prime minister, gave a great impetus and development to the party system. Practically it was not until the time of the younger Pitt that party government was fully established as a permanent system in England.
In the United States we have inherited the political habits of Great Britain and in reality, we have never known any other form of government. Washington's attitude was like that of William of Orange and he took into his cabinet men who represented different political opinions and sympathies. The result was that party divisions in the United States began in Washington's cabinet and before his first term was finished, he became perfectly satisfied that he could carry on his government successfully only by having men of like political opinions about him. Much as he deplored the perils and excesses of party spirit, under the severe discipline of political opposition, he became himself a strong party man.
For more than a hundred years, the two great branches of the English speaking race have carried on this parliamentary government by means of political parties. It may be said that our history has been made and our great advances have been secured through party organizations. Macaulay said that the experiment of William III, at party government was one of the great achievements of that great man and Mr. John Morley has given large credit to Sir Robert Walpole for the work he did in developing the English party system. These statements come from men who have carefully considered the party system, defects and all, and who believe that it has been on the whole a great benefit to the English people and an essential help to good government. It must be admitted that a system which has achieved so much for mankind cannot be lightly dismissed in deference to anybody's criticism. All great measures have been the work of parties and party government means movement, stability and responsibility. But no one would assert that the party system is perfect. However, nothing has been found which would take the place of it.
There are usually two parties representing the conservative and progressive sides. A man supports a party because he believes that on the whole the principles of that party are right and that its success in the long run is for the best interests of the country. In holding to a party a man accomplishes something. There are two kinds of Independents the true and the professional. The former is influenced a good deal by the personality of the candidates. The latter makes a good deal of noise but is nevertheless frequently a partisan Many true Independents are party men.
Mr. Lodge closed by giving a little advice. I believe, - he said, in holding to a party but if you are an Independent be an honest one. Sometimes a man's highest duty is to separate from his party. Frequently he must subordinate his own wishes and ideas to his party. Whether partisan or Independent try to be just and to see things as they are. Live the life of year time and fight the world's battles.