NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY
The War of Reconstruction contributed heavily
to making the federal government disjointed,
lurching every which way,
unable to lend guidance to the Nation.
No doubt the loss of the country's most skilled politicians,
made something of a mockery of Washington, and
the Southerners who turned up upon the resumption
of Southern representation hardly improved the ambiance
of the Capital and the business transacted there.
Without more than a by-your-leave from the federal government,
American enterprise and a massive number of immigrant men and
women turned the nation into a world-leading producer of material
and goods. The population kept rolling over: immigrants and migrants
ensured a majority of new faces in most communities
of the country every several years.
This period of national democratic industrialization
can be stretched from the Civil War to the First World War arbitrarily,
or be contained in a smaller time capsule of 1870 to 1900, say,
a mere Jeffersonian political generation. We must employ the word
democracy because of the broadness of the suffrage,
the host of myths of democracy floating about,
an increasing unionization of workers,
protest movements against anti-democratic forces,
a heightening of many forms of crowd behavior,
a rugged extreme individualism, let pass in
every sphere of life as self-expression,
innumerable unrestrained efforts,
many successful, at building business enterprises of all kinds,
disgusting social and welfare conditions.
What a democracy!
Yet no wise man ever said that democracies act saintly.
Misbehave is what the United States did in this period,
and on a grand scale.
In a race for the worst society in Christendom,
the USA would be right up there with the winners.
All that can be said is that in this nation of
many million bodies there were many beautiful souls.
We ought to name some of the good,
being careful not to distort history by
exaggerating their number.
If you could only locate more of them!
For they would be mostly out of sight, and out of mind.
As for the others, the elites, they were painfully apparent and crass.
Histories have glossed them with hollywood myth.
And the behavior of many elements of the population was
deliberately, or, if not purposive, then cravenly,
I have explained the situation in the South,
a third of the nation, during these years.
In the following pages the North will bear the
brunt of the equation.
Much will be said here about immigrants, the international migrants.
That they came to America did not make them better sorts.
That they were abused also does not make them better.
Like most of the abused of the world,
they could hardly wait to imitate their tyrants.
But, they were the muscles and guts of the
expanding industrial society - men, women, and children.
They were a godsend (the word is blasphemous) to the rascals
building the world's greatest agro-industrial monster.
Indeed, the basic reason why huge numbers of immigrants
were let to enter the United States,
in this period as well as always before, was that there were
present, lips drooling in anticipation of their arrival, a
numerous and varied class of exploiters, ranging from
the farmer wanting a helpless farmhand,
to the Schenectady hausfrau wanting a house-drudge,
to the railroader seeking gangs of powerless laborers,
to the tycoons demanding countless factory hands,
to the cities calling for street-sweepers and sewer-layers.
The process ended up by the turn of the century with the
creation of the world's most productive nation
(minding that "productive" has always wrongly meant
gross, not net, value, and that environmental destruction
was dismissed in the calculation, and
so, too, other human and material costs.)
The new beast was urban industrial America,
a nation composed mainly of city people,
ruled by fools and scoundrels.
One and all, ruler and ruled,
expected as their reward that a bucolic dream would materialize.
A large majority expected "Progress" -
palpable personal benefits in their own lifetimes and
therefore infinite improvements for the nation.