chapter  10
9 Pages

The End of Life

WithJames R. McGovern

WHEN the votes were finally tabulated in a special town meeting in Brookline in 1873, and it was announced that an overwhelming majority had opposed annexation to Boston, pandemonium broke loose. For nearly five minutes men cheered and waved their hats and shook hands with one another. 1 Other attempts at annexation later on were beaten back with equal enthusiasm. Such exuberance merely pointed up the fears of those who were cheering. Incorporation into Boston as that city’s population became overwhelmingly immigrant, meant for them both the loss of political autonomy and a jeopardizing of such values as individualism, enterprise, taste and morals. But self-government in Brookline, they reasoned was not merely for the preservation of their life style. The future of America’s political traditions depended on their success as well. Was not America’s future dependent upon the example, initiative and self-responsibility of its local units? Alfred D. Chandler, Brookline’s main political strategist, stated his concern pointedly. After reviewing the historical struggles of Anglo-Saxons for individual liberty and noting the phenomenal success of the United States because it employed these principles including responsible self-government, Chandler warned of the “danger” which Brookline and America faced from “the coming of vast numbers of people into America from continental Europe” who were “quite out of harmony with the political traits peculiar to Anglo-Saxon peoples.” 2