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Chapter XI. The State of the State IN TIME the muckrakers constructed a coherent analysis of why government had failed in its basic functions. In fact there is a chronological sequence between McClure's premuckraking concern with intemperance and prostitution, its identification of these problems with misgovernment after 1903, and, finally, its advocacy of such reforms as the city manager and the city commission which supposedly alleviated these conditions. If the muckrakers viewed them­ selves as prophets, they also saw themselves as young sci­ entists accumulating data on lawlessness and searching for the lawsof misanthropy. Governmental institutions were perhaps the muckrakers' earliest concerns. This was explicit in Steffens' articles on municipalities and inherent in Miss Tarbell's writings on Standard Oil.A political theory evolved despite the obstacles of fragmentary, hasty writing and the necessity of retailoring old traditional assumptions and values to the new sci­ ences, sociology and biology. At every step there were the ubiquitous pressures from segments of the public which elaborated upon Roosevelt's challenge, "shall every 'exposer' be our prophet?"1 The existence of a political theory forged by the McClure 's group has generally eluded modern commentators, one of whom sees no "definite doctrinal preconceptions of set pattern of reform" in these progressives. The insistence that MeClure's "sought no change in the actual form of gov­ ernment other than making it more responsive to the will of the electorate" is supported substantially by John Cham­ berlain's Farewell to Reform and Walter Lippmann's Pref­ ace to Politics? More specifically, a biographer of Lincoln 1 American Magazine, LXII (May, 1906), 111; see Louis Filler, Cru­ saders for American Liberalism, 222. 2 Quotations from David Chalmers, "The Social and Political Ideas T H E S T A T E O F T H E S T A T E StefiEens has found that caustic journalist's "cure for cor­ ruption," as developed in a lengthy study of Boston, a "vague, circuitous, and repetitious document which skirted the causes of political depravity."3 Steffens was in the noman 's land before turning to socialism when he sponsored "Boston 1912," but the same impatient criticism has been lodged against the entire movement of reform journalism. In a convincing, if general, way Louis Filler attempts to refute the charges that the muckrakers were negative and ignorant of Bunyan's heavenly city (or that they were ignorant of Howe's American city). "The aim to find con­ structive remedies for corruption was inherent in the muck­ raking articles," he writes, "particularly in those which most bravely and conscientiously sought to analyze entire situa­ tions as a prelude to prescribing for them."4 And although a scattering of other historians have agreed that "every muckraker restlessly considered alternatives to the condi­ tions he was describing," or that "each of the journalists developed his own reform theories," little attention has been paid to the political philosophy whichevolved at McClure's.5 The principal cause of governmental corruption, of the breakdown of orderly legal processes, was, the McClure's stafiE believed, the rise in the United States of a shadow gov­ ernment, a fragment of which existed at every electoral level from the precinct to the highest office in the land. This extra-legal apparatus, ruled by a hierarchy of bosses, was called the "superficial government" by William Allen White, the "real" government by S. S. McClure, and the of the Muckrakers," doctoral dissertation, University of Rochester, •955" '93· In revised form this dissertation has been published as The Social and Political Ideas of the Muckrakers (New York, 1964); these documents will be cited independently. s Irving G. Cheslaw, "An Intellectual Biography of Lincoln Steffens," doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, 1952, 159. * Filler, Crusaders for American Liberalism, 222. zibid., 223; Chalmers, The Social and Political Ideas of the Muck­ rakers (New York, 1964), 109. T H E S T A T E O F T H E S T A T E "invisible" government by StefiEens.6 The strength of the shadow government exceeded by far that of the legal con­ stitutional government. The sum result of machine gov­ ernment was a corruption of the decision-making processes and a perversion of legal, rational order. McClure diagnosed the general ills caused by the machine before a meeting of the Twentieth Century Club in 1904: "Under a weak form of government you have tyranny; under an inefficient form of government you have tyranny; under a corrupt form of government you have tyranny. This...


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