National Geographic : 1965 May
APPLETON'SJOURNAL, NEW-YORKHISTORICALSOCIETY "The masses of our people are better fed, clothed, and housed than their fathers were.... Not all of our people are happy and prosper ous.... But on the whole the opportunities... to the individual to secure the comforts of life are better than are found elsewhere." In part, Harrison was answering Grover Cleveland, who uttered stern warnings in his message to Congress of December, 1888: "Our survival for one hundred years is not sufficient to assure us that we no longer have dangers to fear in the maintenance, with all its promised blessings, of a government founded upon the freedom of the people.... Upon more careful inspection we find the wealth and luxury of our cities mingled with poverty and.... discontent with agricultural pursuits.... Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people's masters." In Harrison's optimism and Cleveland's pessimism are reflected the two faces of the age. Yet both men, like every President from Lincoln through McKinley, believed the Nation basically must solve its problems through a free working of economic laws. In theory, Presidents seemed to have little responsibility for the economy. Nevertheless, Lincoln had brought to the Federal administration such dynamism that it fought and won a great war for survival. Nor did Lincoln hold so firm a view of the limitations of government. In 1854 he wrote: "The legitimate object of government is to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they can not, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves." From the 1870's into the 1890's, numerous dissatisfied people re peatedly sought Federal aid to help lift their economic burdens. They obtained considerable legislation-to increase money supply, regu late railroads, and dissolve monopolies. But not until the 20th cen tury, with Theodore Roosevelt, were they to obtain a President who 662 would wield in their behalf the positive strength of a Lincoln.