a1 University of Connecticut
On November 16, 1918, a little more than two weeks after an armistice officially ended World War I, an editorial in the Idaho Statesman offered advice about the future of the world economy. Lifting the title of its editorial directly from Benjamin Disraeli's Sybil, or The Two Nations, the Statesman argued only the political philosophy espoused by that novel and its author could show the world a way forward. Quoting from the novel's final paragraph, the newspaper declares: “‘To be indifferent and to be young can no longer be synonymous.’ Those words were true when Disraeli penned them just 73 years ago, but they apply with striking force to the problems of today and to the problems which will be certain to develop in the years just ahead” (“Trustees of Posterity” 4). The newspaper wasn't only advocating political involvement by the nation's youth, nor was Disraeli. Sybil proposes a particular kind of economic and political order, a union between a “just” aristocracy, led by the young and ambitious, and the laboring classes. It proposes that great statesmen take up the mantle of responsibility just as Thomas Carlyle, in Disraeli's day, advocated great captains of industry take up that mantle (Houghton 328). The newspaper's argument implies this seventy-year-old British novel will be critical to America's political future. But this vision of responsibility belongs in the nineteenth century – it is rooted in the conflict between republicanism and aristocratic oligarchy – and the timing of the Statesman article at first seems wildly inappropriate. As the First World War ended, the Statesman expected the world would face the kind of threats Americans had perceived before the war. The editorial warns that “mobocracy” still “holds nearly half of the area of Europe and much of northern Asia in its bloody and irresponsible grip.” If there is any doubt about who is behind this “mobocracy,” the newspaper clears that matter up, answering: “Bolshevists, Socialists and all of the disciples of unrest who may be roughly grouped as ‘The Reds’” (“Trustees of Posterity” 4). And when the Statesmen warns about “Reds,” it can easily expect its readers to remember that, only seventeen years earlier, President McKinley had been shot by just such a “Red”: Leon Czolgosz, an alleged anarchist and the child of Polish immigrants.
(Online publication May 18 2011)