The principle of the social ideal holds, further, in the relations between the officers of any particular State and its citizens. The time is gone by when any king or emperor can lay claim to the unrequited service of his subject. In equity the claim never did exist, though it has existed often enough in fact. Nay, the sting is half taken out of monarchy and the reproach almost from despotism itself, when the aim of the monarch and the despot comes to be to use his power for securing and defending the rights of the citizens as against one another or against any external power.1 One may be freer under a monarch than under the rule of a class. It is not the name or form of government, but whether the interests of all its citizens are made supreme, that is of highest moment in any State. What are the holders of public office in our own land ? Are they there for service, or are they there for personal profit ? Are they seeking their own ends merely, or are they respecting and securing the ends of the general welfare ? I will not answer the question. And, in truth, I am not so much concerned for a particular answer as to bring out the meaning of the principle of which I am treating; and I ask, Is not the very notion of it faint and uncertain in the public mind ? Is it not almost forgotten that men in entering the public service do so for public service ? Is it not deemed natural, that once in the public employ they should reward them-t selves for their laborious exertions in getting there, — yes, and their friends also, their faithful friends, who helped them in the struggle ? What matters it that in accordance with our democratic principles we have rotation of office, if the effect is only, when a change of parties or of " bosses " comes, to introduce a new set of selfish men to office, and thus to distribute the corruption and make it wider and more general in the community ? It is said that we want " business principles " in our civil service; and in the sense in which the reformers use this phrase I entirely agree with them, — in the sense of fitness, and of fitness determined by no personal or partisan preferences on the part of those who appoint. But in another sense of the word " business," the very root and foundation of the evil in the matter is the forgetting the essential distinction between politics and business. Business ! we all know what that means : it is for profit, and not for any one or every one, but for ourselves. The business impulse is to make that profit as great as possible: and with this idea and aim in politics what other result could we expect than just that of which we hear now general complaint ? I maintain on the other hand that public life is not business; that it is a stage higher than business; that a dignity attaches to it that cannot attach to any undertakings on our own account; that it virtually means giving up private aims, and adopting public ones; that it means living in the State and for the State; that the pecuniary return which one receives is not reward or profit or gain, but salary, given not so much for, as to support one in service. It is the idea of the " salaried service of the State " that needs to be introduced ; and if our office-holders do not have it, and our Congress has so imperfectly grasped it, it is because the community has not got it, — because well-nigh everything, forsooth, being with us a matter of business, religion itself sometimes being no better, we do not distinctly see why politics should be the sole exception.
1 This may be said to have been the significance of the Absolute Monarchy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as contrasted with the old Feudal monarchy.
Moreover, if the principle of the social ideal has this application to the State, it has also another. The social ideal commands that the stronger members of society respect the weaker. The state of nature is the reverse of this, and only as political communities are formed is protection vouchsafed to the weak, and a curb placed on the self-assertive passions of the strong. What is the meaning of our courts of justice, but to see that what many a man would like to do he shall not do, or if he has done it, that he be punished ? What would the civil rights of any of us to-day amount to, if there were no government to guarantee them? In fact any civilized government at the present day is a partial realization of the social ideal, and all such governments have an increasing part to play in furthering it. For where shall the limit be set of government interference in behalf of the weak as against the strong ? Does government exist solely to protect life and property ? But suppose the life of many is barely worth the having, why may not government interfere to make it better worth the having ? Why do we have public education, why do we have interference with the order of industrial life, and the prevention of the employment of children under a certain age, or of women save under certain conditions ? Men can live without education; and children and women can live, while they live, though they go to work before they are ten years of age and work more than ten or twelve hours a day. The State evidently recognizes by these its provisions that it is not merely to protect life, but to make life tolerable. Why may it not aim to make it more than tolerable ? Why may it not strive to give opportunity at least for every life to become a positive blessing, both to itself and to others ? And as for property, why may not the State aim, not merely at protecting it as it stands, however it may have been won, but, without arbitrarily disposing of it, at so legislating that property may be more generally distributed ? Is the State doing its duty when by the character of its legislation, by its granting of privileges, it tends to assist the process of the accumulation of property in the hands of a few, and to widen the gap between the different classes in the community ? I have no scheme to propose ; I am simply asking for the limits of the application of a principle. And I do not believe that there are any limits to be set, as the philosophers say, a priori; the limits are simply in what the State can accomplish; and this depends in turn upon what those think and want who compose the State. A revolution of public sentiment, or an awakening of the public thought, might lead to the enlargement of the sphere of the State's action, so that it should do for the less favored portions of the community what now it does not dream of doing. It is not any particular duty, but the idea and mission of the State, that I now urge; I urge that it stands for justice, for the common good; that when men act defiantly of the common good, they are to be brought to submission before it; that its goal is indeed no other than the goal of religion, — a perfect social state, — and that it differs from religion only in the element of force which it uses ; that a genuine religion and a genuine and far-seeing politics would go hand in hand. The social ideal is the goal of all our institutions. There ought to be no merely secular politics. The statesman too should be a priest, and while toiling, planning here among the intricacies and difficulties and disorders of public life, should have his eye on the heavens, and be guided and sanctified by the principle that makes heaven and earth one.