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friends, and no man had more friends, it carried him nearly to extremes. I often thought that he of all men would be willing to die for his friends. Friendship has its burdens as well as its joys, and he took upon himself all its burdens as easily and as heartily as he shared its joys.”
A DISCRIMINATING estimate of Mark Hanna's public career must account, first of all, for the apparent disproportion between what he achieved and what he proposed or was equipped to achieve. He had no more training for public life than hundreds of other business men who dabbled in politics. His own will, strong as it was, and his abilities, exceptional as they were, account for only a certain portion of his success. To be sure, he willed and contrived the nomination of McKinley, just as he willed and contrived many other deeds which were of decisive importance in his career. But he did not plan his own political self-aggrandizement. Dominant as was his instinct for leadership, he never sought to concentrate in his own hands the various strings of his personal power. Throughout his career his effective influence gathered momentum from forces independent of its original source and of his own conscious purposes. Like a tropical bamboo, it derived much of its new growth from shoots which were rooted in fresh soil. Both he and his friends were amazed at his own triumphal progress; and they may well have been amazed, because his career was without precedent and is not likely to have any imitators.
Inasmuch as Mark Hanna was not a usurper and his career was not a tour de force, only one explanation will account for his peculiar success. He must have embodied in his own life and purposes some vital American social and economic tradition, which gave his personality, individual as it was, something more than an individual meaning and impulse; and he must have embodied this tradition all the more effectively because he was not more than half conscious of it. Mark Hanna could not represent anything unless he himself was what he represented. In truth, Mr. Hanna did embody the most vital social and economic tradition in American history — the tradition, that is, of the pioneer. He was an incarnation of the spirit and methods of the men who seized and cleared the public domain, developed its natural resources, started and organized an industrial and commercial system and determined most of our political and social habits and forms. All the salient characteristics of the pioneer are writ clear and large in Mr. Hanna's disposition and achievements. Indeed, they are, I believe, writ larger and clearer therein than in any other one accessible book. If Mark Hanna had not lived and tried and succeeded, something might have been permanently lacking in our understanding of the spirit and methods of the pioneer. The foregoing assertions may well strike the average reader as doubtful. How can a man whose successful business career began after the Civil War and who did not become prominent in politics until 1896 — how can the life of such a man embody with particular success the spirit and methods of the men who conquered the American wilderness? During the culminating period of his life pioneering in its primitive sense had practically ceased. The wilderness had disappeared. The United States had become more like a European country than like the United States of 1830. The gulf which had been created between the America of 1830 and the America of 1900 would be fairly well measured by the gulf between the manner of life of the lean, hardy frontiersman and that of the affluent Cleveland merchant. The difficulty is obvious, but it is not conclusive. The men who originate an economic and social impulse and start it off on a career of conquest do not bestow upon it a complete expression. They exhibit its fresh vigor, and they overcome the most serious obstacles in its path; but their expression of it is necessarily crude and partial. The completer revelation must wait on history and experience. Generations must pass before a national social and economic movement develops fully its own latent tendencies and capabilities. The primitive pioneers imposed their social, political and economic ideas upon the country, but by the time their ideas had become part of the national tradition, the conditions in which they originated had changed. After the Civil War the pioneer system had to meet the shock of new economic and social forces. Under the stimulus of these new opportunities and new responsibilities it became in certain respects a new system. The vitality of the movement was depleted by the effort to adapt itself to more complicated social and economic surroundings, but this effort and its results proved to be peculiarly illuminating. Its strength and its weakness became more clearly distinguishable and more fully revealed than ever before, and the hand-writing of its history became far more legible. Inasmuch as only within the past fifteen years has the pioneer been granted his proper place in American economic and social development, it is not unnatural that during the same years there flourished and died the most complete single embodiment of pioneer purposes and methods. The primary economic task of the pioneer was that of appropriating and developing the land and natural resources of a continent, — a task which combined and confused individual and social profits. The combination and confusion was reflected in the human nature of the period. The early pioneer was an aggressive, energetic, hopeful, grasping individual. He worked and fought primarily for his own advantage, but his individualism did not prevent him from being the maker of a society. In an economic environment which provided opportunities for all, men could fight for themselves without cherishing ill-will or incurring it. As a matter of fact, the pioneer overflowed with good-will and good-fellowship. He and his neighbors were all striving for the same port. Their contests were merely a good-natured race for the quickest voyage and the biggest market. From the beginning they recognized and acted on the theory that the individual and social profits were indistinguishable. They conceived it to be the business of their government, as the agent of social betterment, to assist them in attaining their personal ends. The public interest, which government was supposed to promote, was conceived chiefly as a collection of individual interests; and the way to promote it was to stimulate individual economic activity. Hence the passion for “public improvements” which possessed the pioneer states and their frequent inability, in making those improvements,
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to distinguish between the really private and the really public