The Decline of the Senate

Weaver, James B., Pp. 34-37, A Call to Action: An Interpretation of the Great Uprising, Its Source and Causes, Iowa Printing Co., Printers, Binders, and Lithographers, 1892

There is not a single great leader in the Senate of to-day, not one who is abreast of the times, or who can be truthfully said to be the exponent of American civilization or the active champion of the reforms made necessary by the growth and changed relations of a century, and which are now struggling for recognition. John P. Jones, of Nevada, is the ripest philosopher, and by all odds the greatest thinker now in the Senate. We doubt, indeed, whether he has ever had an equal, along the line of economic thought, in all the history of that distinguished body. The versatility and scope of his genius make him a matchless teacher and he will forever rank as one of the great men of his day. He is full of forceful, original thought, and expresses himself in proverbs, but he lacks that singleness of purpose which marks the great leader. He has, in his mental armory, sufficient munitions of war to equip a whole legion, but he waits for others to recruit the forces and lead them to battle. There are other Senators who have a clear conception of duty, but this conception never ripens into action. They are stifled by their surroundings and dwarfed by their parties. One and all, they stand dumb and aimless in the presence of the mighty problems of the age. The situation reminds one of the era in the history of our planet mentioned in the book of Genesis, when it is said: "There was not a man to till the ground."

This august body is literally filled with splendid specimens of a by-gone epoch — men whose only mission is to preserve the old order of things — to guard the embalmed corpse of the past from the touch of the profane reformer. They are the lineal descendents of the fellows who skulked in the camp of Israel when Joshua insisted on crossing the Jordan into the promised land. They are as much out of place in this pulsating age of reform as a mastodon or a megatherium would be among a herd of our modern well bred domestic animals. They are fit only to adorn museums and musty cabinets. If their commissions could be recalled today and the question of their return referred to an open vote of their constituents, there is not one in ten who would stand a ghost of a show for re-election. They are not in touch with the people. Their strength lies in their entrenched position — not in their achievements nor the principles which they represent. If dislodged, they would be powerless to make another stand. We, of course, do not include in this criticism the two or three prophets of the new order of things, who have but recently been commissioned to go unto Ninevah, that great city, and to preach unto it the preaching whereunto they have been called. It will be time enough to speak of them when they shall have had opportunity to obey those who sent


Every great movement and struggle of the race develops its own leaders, who are forced to assault fortified positions and fight against great odds. Some positions have to be carried by storm, while others can only be taken by regular approaches which sorely try the endurance and resources of the besieging columns. Such were the characteristics of the great struggle of the 60's. Their storming parties were hurled forward with dash and power, and their sieges were stubborn and successful. To change the figure, the pioneers in the movement doubtless had a clear vision of the land to be ultimately possessed, but they quickly passed away and were succeeded by an inferior order of leaders who felt that they had done their whole duty when they had driven out the wild beasts, cleared away the forest and prepared the ground for the reception of good seed. They then rested upon their laurels and allowed the enemy to sow the field with tares. The seed has grown, the harvest has ripened, and the reapers are under orders to burn the tares.

The moral, intellectual and political leaders during the twenty years immediately following the war, with the single exception of Wendell Phillips, failed to comprehend the problems which confronted them. They stopped with the overthrow of the outward form of slavery. Through the strength and suffering of the great army of the people they succeeded in breaking the chains of chattel slavery and prepared the way for the complete triumph of man over those who lived by the enslavement of labor. All that was necessary was one more forward movement of the column, and the victory would have been complete. But they failed to make it and surrendered to a handful of task masters of another type, whose triumphs in the slave trade have never, in all the ages, been limited by distinctions of race or complexions of skin. This class of slave drivers have never yet been routed or permanently crippled. They have plied their cruel vocation among all the families of men. To overthrow them is the grand work of the new crusade. Confederated labor has proclaimed the new emancipation. Now let the great army of toilers move on the enemy's works and enforce the decree.

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