Forty years ago, an intelligent Englishman in a private letter described his impressions of the then state of American politics. "When educated men get to talking politics," he wrote, "they have a sort of bitter despair in their minds which is not pleasant to listen to. I dare say the solution is one which was told me the other day. There is nothing in politics now." "In a happy country like this, politics don't affect great questions or the happiness of the nation." "Politics is all dullness relieved by rascality."
For the greater part of the sixty years since the Civil War, Sir Cecil Spring-Rice's description of American politics has held substantially true, though of course more true at some times than others. The twelve-year period through which we have just passed was one of the intervals of which it was distinctly rather more than less true. Since then there has been a change. It is no longer true that politics do not affect great questions or the happiness of the nation.