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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Great Republic

By Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919)

[Born in Dunfermline, Scotland, 1835. Came to the United States, 1845. Died in Lenox, Mass., 1919. Triumphant Democracy, or, Fifty Years’ March of the Republic. 1886.]

HERE is the record of one century’s harvest of Democracy:

1. The majority of the English-speaking race under one republican flag, at peace.

2. The nation which is pledged by act of both parties to offer amicable arbitration for the settlement of international disputes.

3. The nation which contains the smallest proportion of illiterates, the largest proportion of those who read and write.

4. The nation which spends least on war, and most upon education; which has the smallest army and navy, in proportion to its population and wealth, of any maritime power in the world.

5. The nation which provides most generously during their lives for every soldier and sailor injured in its cause, and for their widows and orphans.

6. The nation in which the rights of the minority and of property are most secure.

7. The nation whose flag, wherever it floats over sea and land, is the symbol and guarantor of the equality of the citizen.

8. The nation in whose Constitution no man suggests improvement; whose laws as they stand are satisfactory to all citizens.

9. The nation which has the ideal Second Chamber, the most august assembly in the world—the American Senate.

10. The nation whose Supreme Court is the envy of the ex-Prime Minister of the parent land.

11. The nation whose Constitution is “the most perfect piece of work ever struck off at one time by the mind and purpose of man,” according to the present Prime Minister of the parent land.

12. The nation most profoundly conservative of what is good, yet based upon the political equality of the citizen.

13. The wealthiest nation in the world.

14. The nation first in public credit, and in payment of debt.

15. The greatest agricultural nation in the world.

16. The greatest manufacturing nation in the world.

17. The greatest mining nation in the world.

Many of these laurels have hitherto adorned the brow of Britain, but her child has wrested them from her….

But please do not be so presumptuous, my triumphant republican; I do not believe the people of Britain can be beaten in the paths of peaceful triumphs even by their precocious child. Just wait till you measure yourself with them after they are equally well equipped. There are signs that the masses are about to burst their bonds and be free men. The British race, all equal citizens from birth, will be a very different antagonist to the semi-serfs you have so far easily excelled. Look about you and note that transplanted here and enjoying for a few years similar conditions to yours the Briton does not fail to hold his own and keep abreast of you in the race. Nor do his children fail either to come to the front. Assuredly the stuff is in these Island mastiffs. It is only improper training and lack of suitable stimulating nourishment to which their statesmen have subjected them, that renders them feeble. The strain is all right, and the training will soon be all right too.

Much has been written upon the relations existing between Old England and New England. It is with deep gratefulness that I can state that never in my day was the regard, the reverence of the child land for the parent land so warm, so sincere, so heartfelt. This was inevitable whenever the pangs of separation ceased to hurt, and the more recent wounds excited by the unfortunate position taken by the Mother during the slave-holders’ rebellion were duly healed. It was inevitable as soon as the American became acquainted with the past history of the race from which he had sprung, and learned the total sum of that great debt which he owed to his progenitor. It is most gratifying to see that the admiration, the love of the American for Britain is in exact proportion to his knowledge and power. It is not the uncultivated man of the gulch who returns from a visit to the old home filled with pride of ancestry, and duly grateful to the pioneer land which in its bloody march toward civil and religious liberty

  • Through the long gorge to the far light hath won
  • Its path upward and prevailed.”
  • It is the Washington Irvings, the Nathaniel Hawthornes, the Russell Lowells, the Adamses, the Dudley Warners, the Wentworth Higginsons, the Edward Atkinsons—the men of whom we are proudest at home. Thus, in order that the republican may love Britain it is only necessary that he should know her. As this knowledge is yearly becoming more general, affection spreads and deepens.

    So much for the younger land’s share of the question.

    And now, what are we to testify as to the feelings of the older land toward its forward child? My experience in this matter covers twenty years, in few of which I have failed to visit my native land. I had a hard time of it for the first years, and often had occasion to say to myself, and not a few times to intimate to others, that “it was prodigious what these English did not know.” I fought the cause of the Union year after year during the Rebellion. Only a few of the John Bright class among prominent men, ever and ever our stanchest friends, believed, what I often repeated, that “there was not enough of air on the North American continent to float two flags,” and that the Democracy was firm and true. When the end came, and one flag was all the air did float, these doubters declared that the immense armies would never disband and retire to the peaceful avocations of life. How little these ignorant people knew of the men who fought for their country! They were soon surprised upon this point. I had to combat upon subsequent visits the general belief in financial circles that it was absurd to hope that a government of the masses would ever think of paying the national debt. It would be repudiated, of course. The danger passed, like the first. Then followed prophecies that the “greenback dodge” would be sanctioned by the people. That passed too. But well do I remember the difference with which I was received and listened to after these questions had been safely passed and the Republic had emerged from the struggle, a nation about to assume the front rank among those who had disparaged her.

    I fear the governing classes at home never thoroughly respected the Republic, and hence could not respect its citizens, until it had shown not only its ability to overwhelm its own enemy, but to turn round upon France, and with a word drive the monarchical idea out of Mexico. And then it will be remembered that it called to account its own dear parent, who in her official capacity had acted abominably when her own child was in a death struggle with slavery, and asked her to please settle for the injury she had inflicted. This was for a time quite a staggering piece of presumption in the estimation of the haughty old monarchy, but, nevertheless, it was all settled by an act which marks an epoch in the history of the race, and gives to the two divisions of the Anglo-Saxon the proud position of having set the best example of the settlement of “international disputes by peaceful arbitration” which the world has yet seen. From this time forth it became extremely difficult for the privileged classes of Britain to hold up the Republic to the people as a mournful example of the folly of attempting to build up a State without privileged classes. Their hitherto broad charges now necessarily took on the phase of carping criticism.

    America had not civil service; it turned out all its officials at the beginning of every administration. Well, America got civil service, and that subject was at an end. Then the best people did not enter into political life, and American politicians were corrupt; but the explanation of the first part of the charge, which is quite true as a general proposition, is, as I have shown, that where the laws of a country are perfect in the opinion of a people, and all is going on about to their liking, able and earnest men believe they can serve their fellow-men better in more useful fields than politics, which, after all, are but means to an end. “Oh, how dreadful, don’t you know,” said a young would-be swell to a young American lady—“how dreadful, you know, to be governed by people you would not visit, you know.” “Probably,” was the reply, “and how delightful, don’t you know, to be governed by people who wouldn’t visit you.” All of the indictments against the Republic have about disappeared except one, and that will soon go as the cause is understood, for international copyright must soon be settled.