The Growth Of Democracy -- By: Walter E. C. Wright
BSac 63:249 (Jan 1906) p. 118
The Growth Of Democracy
Genuine democracy is of slow growth. The mushroom variety that springs up in a night perishes as suddenly, and gives place to the absolutism of a Venetian aristocracy or a Napoleonic autocrat. When a people angered by long oppression and smarting with personal sufferings rise up to demand their rights without giving any attention to their duties, it is a manifestation of spurious democracy. Oppression by the multitude soon becomes more intolerable and destructive than oppression by an autocrat, and a swift reaction follows. True democracy is possible only when there is quite as much thought about the rights of others as about one’s own, when duties are made more prominent than rights. True democracy, in its recognition of men not according to their adventitious conditions but for themselves, is simply a realization of the golden rule. “The democracy of Christianity “is not merely a sounding phrase: it expresses the central relation of the teaching of Jesus to the perfected social order.
The cry for liberty may indicate only a wish to be free from responsibility, a desire to exchange orderly regard to one’s obligations for unrestrained license. Clamor about equality may be as full of iniquity as the promise of the old farmer to arbitrate impartially between two neighbors because he “hated them both alike.” Liberty and equality of such sort will never lead to fraternity. Because so-called democratic move-
BSac 63:249 (Jan 1906) p. 119
ments have too often been lacking in the Christian element of love, they have disappointed the hopes of men, and have failed to regenerate the world.
It is a mistaken pessimism that infers from such disappointments that democracy is an iridescent dream;. History has not been an aimless repetition of despotism following anarchy. Though sweeping back and forth with many a curve, like a meandering river, history shows a constant movement toward the ocean of universal brotherhood.
It is easy to make an appalling catalogue of wrongs and oppressions that still survive in the parts of the world that are grouped under the name Christendom. How tardy has been the recognition of the rights of the people in Russia! Whether this late recognition means much or little, we are not yet sure. There are other parts of the continent where political liberty is far from complete. Where the political freedom is largest, there may still be great inequality of social treatment. There may also be industrial conditions that make the lot of thousands little better than bondage. Every exclusion of men from a share of life’s opportunities, every taking of unjust gain, is a sin against the spirit of brotherhood. Whether it be exploit...
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