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public opinion in essential questions of politics and society. This difficulty depends not only upon the size of the territory concerned, but also upon the extent to which there is present vital differences in respect to race, cultural habit, or economic conditions. Kansas is almost entirely an agricultural state in which there are not many very poor or very
rich people, no large cities, and few foreign-born citizens. It is therefore much easier for the people of Kansas to agree in respect to most questions of politics than it is for the people of New York State to agree in respect to similar questions. For example, there is a consolidated public opinion in Kansas, and has been for a long time, on the subject of prohibition; there is no such consolidated public opinion on this subject in the state of New York, where there is so little uniformity in respect to the racial origins of the people and in the economic conditions under which they live.
It is obvious, therefore, that the larger a country is, and the more deep-seated the differences are between section and section, or between the different groups and classes, the more difficult it will be to have a consolidated public opinion on most questions of importance. Now the United States is a very large country, with well-marked geographical areas differing in climate, soil, economic con
ditions, and in the characteristics of the people. The Alleghany and the Rocky Mountain ranges divide the country into the East and the Middle West and the Far West; climate and historical memories combine to differentiate the North from the South. The people of the United States are of cosmopolitan origin. For a century a constant stream of foreign immigrants has been pouring into the country, and to-day about one-third of the people are, at least on one side, of foreign-born parentage. To-day it is very difficult to say what is a "typical” American name or a "typical” American face. One is reminded of the story of the corporal who at first had difficulty in calling the roll of his company, on account of the
great number of strange Polish and Italian names; but at last he came to the name of O'Shaughnessey, and was heard to mutter under his breath, “Thank God for one of those good old American names."
Almost any name is now a good American name. But besides its geographical and racial diversity, America is rapidly becoming an industrialized country, wealth is being rapidly concentrated in the hands of the few, and as a result there is developing, in certain sections especially, a marked divergence of interests and ideas between the capitalist and the laboring classes. In America, therefore, the problem of reconciling sectional differences, of Americanizing the mass of foreign immigrants, of composing the different interests of labor and capital in a word, the problem of creating a consolidated public opinion is a difficult one.'
If, under these conditions, the American system of democratic government works fairly well, it is partly due to the fact that the federal system, with its elaborate scheme of checks and balances, is well suited to a large country with a great diversity of conditions. The federal system is complicated, and it works slowly, but it has this supreme merit, that it does not confer too much authority in any one government, that it allows a great deal of leeway for political experimentation in restricted areas in conformity with the crystallization of public opinion in those areas. The federal system does not require the people of the whole United States to form a consolidated public opinion on every important social or political question, but only upon those questions in respect to which it is essential that the nation should act as a unit. This is only a way of saying that the federal system allows a great deal of liberty in local government—it allows the people of a state, or the people of a city or county,a good deal of liberty todoas they please.
It is said that on one occasion the French Minister of Public Instruction, taking out his
watch, told his English visitor that at that moment all the children of France of a certain age would normally be studying the same subject out of the same text-book. This could happen only in a country in which a great majority of the people were pretty well agreed as to what children of a certain age ought to be doing at a given hour of the day. No such agreement exists in the United States. Every one is agreed that education is a good thing, that there ought to be more of it, and that it ought to be better than it is. But there is the greatest diversity of opinion, which seems to fluctuate from day to day, as to what kind of education is best; and it would therefore be thought intolerable that the United States government should regulate these matters in a uniform way for the whole country. This is a matter for the state of the locality to determine. If the people of Iowa feel very strongly that a knowledge of Greek is useless in a farming community, the state of Iowa has only to abolish the teaching of Greek from the schools of Iowa. If the people of Gary, which is a highly industrialized city, wish to try a radical experiment in industrial education, why should they not do so? It may turn out well, in which case other cities can adopt it; or it may turn out ill, in which case other cities may profit by the example, while Gary itself can at any time return to normal ways. And so it is in respect to a hundred questions of government and politics; in respect to woman's suffrage, prohibition,' the regulation of corporations, divorce, city government, municipal ownership of street railways, water-works, and other public utilities—in respect to all such matters particular states and local communities are constantly engaged in political and social experimentation, are constantly solving their own problems according to the pressure of local or regional public opinion.
Where there is so much leeway for the states and localities to manage their own affairs, it is only in matters in respect to which the whole nation has to act as a unit that the people have to form a national opinion; and this is a good thing, for it takes the nation a long time to make up its mind. It took the nation a long time to make up its mind in respect to the Great War. Many people got impatient with the government because it did not declare war sooner. But the government, in a country where public opinion is the ruling power, could not possibly take such a momentous step until the people were ready for it, until a fairly consolidated public opinion had been formed; and under all the circumstances, the wonder is, not that the nation 1 This is no longer true of Prohibition.