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Problems and Leaders
A—± * * of 1896 _
AN IMPARTIAL PRESENTATION OF LIVING
The Campaign Outlook—President Making—Status of Parties
Portraits And Biographies
Lives of the Candidates for
JAMES P. BOYD* A, M.
Author of " Men and Issues of '92," "Vital Questions," Etc.
The national will finds expression for the twenty-eighth time in the presidential election of 1896. The last event is no less momentous than the first, or any intermediate one. Considered as a spectacle it is the most imposing of all, for everything that enters into it is on a stupendous scale. An empire of forty-five states, breasting the two great oceans of the globe, chooses by common consent its executive guardian for four years. Thirteen million voters meet in national tribunal to determine their quadrennial policy. Never before has earth yielded areas of such magnitude to popular government. History nowhere records the voluntary, peaceful judgment of so many freemen, spoken at an agreed upon time, and, as it were, with a single breath.
I But the recurrence of a national election in this great republic is far other than a mere spectacle. It is preeminently suggestive of the inner meaning of popular empire, and eloquently expressive of the underlying forces that make empire possible and permanent. It is the opened mouth of sovereignty, whose voice is heard on hilltop and in valley, by river and lake, and whose speech is, for the time, the irresistible edict.
And what a meaning the word sovereignty has in a republic like ours, as compared with other forms of empire 1 It was never a part of any feudal government to recognize sovereignty as in the people. Yet it is doubtful if there was ever a time in the history of any nation when the people did not feel that sovereignty was in themselves. Many learned writers who recognize organic sovereignty as in the people, call it sovereignty only when it takes the tangible shape of government or law. But in the United States sovereignty is the undoubted birthright of the individual. He gives it majesty and moving, visible effect when he unites it with the same right in others, acting along the same plane of thought and desire. As it takes many soldiers to make an army, so individual sovereignty assumes imposing and effective force when it bubbles forth from a set of men, a society, a community, a people, a nation, and embodies an aggregate or joint will, the election providing the opportunity for, and the ballot being the medium of, expression. In the individual it may be as a still small voice in a wilderness of men, but joined with other voices, in the same key of affirmation or protest, it becomes as Jove's voice thundering a verdict from Olympian heights. It is then that it speaks into existence legislators, laws, governors, presidents, policies, constitutions, states, empires. And, in hours of great public grievance, incendiary thought or violent partisan outburst, it may mean defiance of all law, official dethronement, smashing of constitutions, upheaval of states, crashing of empires.
So then the inner, vital, inspiring force of republican empire which makes so omnipotently for weal, if rightly directed, may make equally for woe, if wrongly directed. The responsibility of proper direction is at the source of the force—in the individual voter. In the lower forms of government, individual instinct, that is, nature's education, is a sufficient directive energy. In higher forms o£