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Introduction to "The Principles of the Republican Party"
By Dan Wichlan
"The Principles of the Republican Party" was written by London in October 1898 as a submission in an essay contest sponsored by the Oakland 5th Ward Republican Club. This was not the first time that London entered such a contest, of course, and it is reminiscent of his "Story of a Typhoon Off the Coast of Japan" that he wrote in November 1893 and submitted to the San Francisco Call. The "Typhoon" essay won the first prize of $25.00 while his "Republican" essay won a second prize of $10.00 (worth more than $200.00 today). This is fitting since "Typhoon" is a much better piece of writing. London's writing was always better when it was based on his own experiences rather than a third party account or a purchased story plot or an ideology to which he did not subscribe, as is the case with this essay. The long, compound sentences and heavy use of punctuation make the essay a difficult read.
London also submitted two poems or songs ("Republican Battle-Hymn" and "Republican Rallying Song") in this same competition for which he won another $10.00 prize; these poems/songs will be published for the first time in a later installment of this series. Letters written by London to Mable Appelgarth on November 27, 1898 and December 31, 1898 indicate that he was not paid his prize money, at least not at that point in time.
"The Principles of the Republican Party" was quite a stretch for the "boy socialist" as London had come to be known in Oakland. He had written several socialist articles and letters-to-the-editor and had even been arrested for publicly speaking on Socialism without a permit. Even though the Republican Party of London's day bore little resemblance to today's Republican Party in that it was much more pro labor, it was very much part of the political establishment of the day. This essay is little more than a propaganda piece in which London "lays it on rather thickly". The struggling writer obviously undertook it for a chance at the prize money. He does, however, demonstrate an impressive understanding of international economics in writing the piece.
In the essay, London does try to balance his "staunch" support of the Republican Party with concern for the working man. A "hint" of socialism even creeps in at one point — "But while it (the Republican Party) recognizes the fitness of this fair contest between men and men, it is also cognizant of the grave responsibilities, the great power for good or evil, when immense combinations of capital lie in the hands of and are exercised by corporations. With these, it believes a constant surveillance, coupled with legislative restrictions when they may happen to encroach upon the rights or threaten the welfare of the people, is necessary."
Another passage, written by the pre-"Revolution" London which is of particular interest is: "The Republican Party has one great negative principle. It is a bitter opposition to that class of doctrinaires who are inimical to the welfare of the commonwealth; who sneer at it holiest memories, defy its laws, and assault its courts; who wave the red flag of destruction at the whole social, industrial and political organism; and who see naught that is good, save in such policies and measures as may be of disintegrative and revolutionary aspect".
My source document for this essay is a typewritten manuscript with hand-written corrections that probably represents a next-to-final draft of London's contest submission. This document is part of the Special Collections at the University of Southern California.
The Principles of the Republican Party
By Jack London
Among the various parties which have graced the political arena of the United States, the Republican Party stands uniquely alone, for its unswerving adherence to principles, alike remarkable for their integrity and justice. Above all, has it been pre-eminently practicable. It has neither dragged behind the Nation's chariot of progress nor dashed ahead with the madness of the enthusiast and brought disaster and ruin upon it; but has rather faced and remedied immediate questions and cleared the obstacles from its path instead of creating new ones. Out of this policy of practicability have its principle been constructed, their conception and birth being aided by the cool logic, the deep acumen, the incisive grasp of the foremost statesmen of the land. Working formulas, not beautiful nor idealistic formulas, have been the aim of the Republican Party; and practicability and applicability have justified the result.
Foremost among its principles, is that of Protection. In a new country, the natural tendency is toward the exportation of raw materials and rude manufactured products, and the importation of the finer, finished manufactures. Permitted an unrestricted trade with foreign nations, it can never be aught but a handmaiden to the higher civilizations. Let it exert itself as strenuously as it may, the Law of Competition will hold it down. Let it endeavor to create home factories, and the older long-established nations will flood its markets with goods selling at less than the bare cost of the home article. It may have even better natural resources for the manufacture of many articles, but its infantile attempts to establish them, are crushed by powerful competitors. It is only by the imposition of protective tariffs, that its infant industries may gain a footing and lift it from a lower, grosser civilization. And once firmly established, these industries are not only ready but do enter the world's markets and successfully compete for the world's trade.
What are the results of such protection? In the first place a home market is created, which gradually extends itself to the foreign markets. The advantages of a home market to agriculture are almost inestimable. Not only is the farmer benefited by the creation of a demand for his products, but the miner, the lumberman and the freighter. Their products, when necessary, being also protected by the law which gives rise to their demand. Its good results are far reaching, permeating every cluster of workers in the social organism. Not only is the demand for labor stimulated in every branch of industry, but the high wage is maintained. The value of property is enhanced; nor are the merchants, business men, and that great class engaged in the professions and arts, forgotten in the general prosperity. This principle has been tried, and the great amount of good wrought by it, demonstrates that it is one of the working formulas of the Republican Party.
While the political application of Protection to tariff measures has become stereotyped, the Republican Party maintains other principles which are also protective. Having given the laborer employment through tariff legislation, it is its desire to protect him in that employment, and in the pursuit of happiness made possible by that employment. Having shielded him from the degrading competition with the pauper labor of the Orient and other Occidental countries, its purposes the prevention of that competition being brought directly to his own door and fireside. Hence, it is its intention to vigorously enforce the immigration laws after having suitably amended them. While its homestead laws have made possible and protected him in free homes. It is also prepared to curb the evils of convict labor by State and Federal restrictive measures. With Adam Smith, the Republican Party contends that the real wealth of a nation is not to be found in the banks and strongboxes, but it is in the prosperity of the people at large; in the amount and values of the homes, goods and chattels possessed by the laboring classes; in the sum total of their material comforts and enjoyments.
It recognizes the futility of instituting a bimetallic system of currency, when the whole world is in opposition, and considers that such an act would be inimical to the welfare of the country. Today, because of a system of finance in harmony with those of the world, the American silver dollar is worth a dollar and will buy a dollar's worth of goods in any market. But suppose that the United States were to open its mints to the unlimited coinage of silver. At that instant would the silver of all nations flood in upon us, and our gold take wings and fly away. The resulting hard times, poverty and misery is amply illustrated by a short survey of any "silver" country, such as Mexico for example.
We are too prone to underestimate the inter-dependence of nations; but the real students of human affairs realize it, and the Republican Party's attitude on the money question is not a hasty opinion, but one gained through deep inquiry and study by those fully qualified to do so. But it is ready for the coinage of silver as soon as the great powers can be persuaded to unite in an international money conference with that end in view. As it is, however, in the face of the pseudo-economists and the pseudo-financiers, the Republican Party, ramified with its impregnable bulwark of logic and fact; with the approval of the world's greatest thinkers and economists; and in accordance with the significant attitude of the other great nations; still maintains it opposition to the free and unlimited coinage of silver by this nation alone.
Another sterling Republican principle is that of gratitude. Its recognition of the veterans, by land and sea, of the Mexican and Civil Wars, has ever been fair and generous. Among the commonalty, their claim for preference in Municipal, State and Federal employment is first; nor are they forgotten, though for a time the Nation pledges its gratitude to those brave defenders of its flag in the Hispano-American War.
As it was said of the Father of Our Country, so can it be said of our country: "First in war and first in peace". But the Republican Party does believe in the United States remaining supine and dreaming that it is all-puissant and invincible. Our awakening has taught us that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty", and that we must be prepared in ways and means, if we would keep step in the foremost rank of the tramping nations. The Republican Party realizes this and advocates the increase of the American navy to such proportions as will compel the fitting recognition of our ships, our citizens and our flag, the whole world over; and insure the Nation's safety, no matter what difficulties may arise or dangers menace.
It contends that the course of events should and must necessarily mould a great and successful nation's progress; that the policies of our fathers were never formulated for all time; and that they themselves recognized it, and made requisite allowance for constitutional amendation. Thus, it holds to the policy of retaining much conquered territory as is now demanded, and the extension to it of not only American trade, but American freedom of commercial intercourse, American revenue duties and American laws.
Impartiality in the construction and execution of the law is another Republican principle. It believes in the non-recognition of privileges and the recognition of equal rights to all, whether merchant or wage-earner, banker or clerk. It holds that the laborer is worthy of his hire, and that such as may be frugal, diligent and enterprising should reap the profit of their toil, nor be mulcted of the same by legislation in favor of the indigent and shiftless. What it desires is a healthy industrial, business and intellectual individualism, a free and open competition in which the best is always bound to come to the surface. But while it recognizes the fitness of this fair contest between men and men, it is also cognizant of the grave responsibilities, the great power for good or evil, when immense combinations of capital lie in the hands of and are exercised by corporations. With these, it believes a constant surveillance, coupled with legislative restrictions when they may happen to encroach upon the rights or threaten the welfare of the people, is necessary. Thus does the Republican Party favor Inter-State Commerce Laws and the enforcement of the collection of the Central and Western Pacific railroad indebtedness to the Government.
Aware that the affairs of a people must be for the better or worse according to the lights of its electors, and that the babe of today is the citizen of tomorrow; it has ever been a cherished principle to protect the interests, foster the growth, and increase the efficiency of the common schools. One great factor in this, and one which the Republican Party has ever endeavored to further, is that, above all, state printing should be maintained. This reduces the cost of school books to a minimum, the cost of education to the parents; and increases the attendance of schools and the dissemination of knowledge. Supervised by competent educational authorities, it gives better quality at less expense than could be obtained from any book firm, and saves the profits of the same to the commonwealth. Nor is the higher education forgotten, as witness the long-continued support of the University, which stands at a par with the best educational institutions of the world.
Purity in the general and primary elections is another aim of the Republican Party. It holds that pure and honest legislators cannot spring from filth and trickery, and in subservience to this view, discountenances the unfair conduction of general elections, and favors the extension, by law, of the "Australian ballot" to the primary election of all political parties.
As regards municipal government, it is its constant endeavor to unite purity and thoroughness with economy of administration. It believes that the true aim should be for that kind of legislation which shall be fair and efficient and at the same time be as light a burden to the citizen as possible. Hence, it desires the ownership of public utilities by the municipality, so that the profits (often extortionate) hitherto benefiting corporate wealth, may accrue to the people.
The Republican Party maintains a host of minor yet important principles, among which may be noted the further binding, both for war and peace, of the East and West by the construction of the Nicaragua Canal; the abolition of sectional prejudice throughout the land; the preservation of the forests; the building of good roads; the prevention of food adulteration; the improvement of the country's harbors, coasts and rivers; the fostering of the industries of the country, small and great; the helping of the farmer by irrigating systems, and by arousing interest in agriculture, horticulture and stock breeding, through substantial encouragement of State and District fairs; the helping of the miner by the establishment of a national department of mines and mining, and the preservation of the mineral lands to him; and the helping of the laborer by the "maintenance of fair wages under just conditions".
The Republican Party has one great negative principle. It is a bitter opposition to that class of doctrinaires who are inimical to the welfare of the commonwealth; who sneer at it holiest memories, defy its laws, and assault its courts; who wave the red flag of destruction at the whole social, industrial and political organism; and who see naught that is good, save in such policies and measures as may be of disintegrative and revolutionary aspect. In the seething millions of our great population, there is always a spirit of unrest, a longing for excitement and action. It is germane to the American nature and the one great factor in the raising of the United States to her lofty pinnacle among the nations of the earth. But like all good qualities, it is liable to prostitution, and under the pernicious influence of unscrupulous demagogues, it may be led astray and bring crushing disaster upon the country. It is this anarchistic spirit that the Republican Party opposes. It has no tolerance for the advocates of the same, for the vicious rule of the demagogues, who would sap the foundations of the Government and make of it a common stews for the lawless and degraded, for the refuse of the world.
Those, then, are the principles of the Republican Party; the principles which appear upon its platform, which are discussed in public assemblages, and which tend toward the welfare of the people; but underlying these is a steady undercurrent of organic principles, which are matters wholly of the conscience and of the individual, but which are none the less potent for the public good. The Republican Party appreciates the inherent difficulty of continually living up to the mandates of the conscience and the demand of pure ideals, and would inculcate among its followers, honesty of purpose; a strict adherence to the commands of duty; and the holding of the national welfare closest to the heart. It would ask a rigid enforcement, by spirit and precept, by word and deed, of the dictates of each and every citizen's conscience, and a due observance and regulation of the laws of the land. It would desire a just conception of the relations co-existent between individuals and between the individual and the state. It would desire a fraternal regard between all citizens, and a patriotic endeavor to enhance the standing and the honor of the United States. It would desire a deep and thorough study of the cogent questions of the present — the wonderful Present, so pregnant with the secret of futurity.
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