Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). History as Literature. 1913.II
Biological Analogies in History
More than ever before in the world’s history we of to-day seek to penetrate the causes of the mysteries that surround not only mankind but all life, both in the present and the past. We search, we peer, we see things dimly; here and there we get a ray of clear vision, as we look before and after. We study the tremendous procession of the ages, from the immemorial past when in “cramp elf and saurian forms” the creative forces “swathed their too-much power,” down to the yesterday, a few score thousand years distant only, when the history of man became the overwhelming fact in the history of life on this planet; and studying we see strange analogies in the phenomena of life and death, of birth, growth, and change, between those physical groups of animal life which we designate as species, forms, races, and the highly complex and composite entities which rise before our minds when we speak of nations and civilizations.
It is this study which has given science its present-day prominence. In the world of intellect, doubtless, the most marked features in the history of the past century have been the extraordinary advances in scientific knowledge and investigation, and in the position held by the men of science with reference to those engaged in other pursuits. I am not now speaking of applied science; of the science, for instance, which, having revolutionized transportation on the earth and the water, is now on the brink of carrying it into the air; of the science that finds its expression in such extraordinary achievements as the telephone and the telegraph; of the sciences which have so accelerated the velocity of movement in social and industrial conditions—for the changes in the mechanical appliances of ordinary life during the last three generations have been greater than in all the preceding generations since history dawned. I speak of the science which has no more direct bearing upon the affairs of our every-day life than literature or music, painting or sculpture, poetry or history. A hundred years ago the ordinary man of cultivation had to know something of these last subjects; but the probabilities were rather against his having any but the most superficial scientific knowledge. At present all this has changed, thanks to the interest taken in scientific discoveries, the large circulation of scientific books, and the rapidity with which ideas originating among students of the most advanced and abstruse sciences become, at least partially, domiciled in the popular mind.
Another feature of the change, of the growth in the position of science in the eyes of every one, and of the greatly increased respect naturally resulting for scientific methods, has been a certain tendency for scientific students to encroach on other fields. This is particularly true of the field of historical study. Not only have scientific men insisted upon the necessity of considering the history of man, especially in its early stages, in connection with what biology shows to be the history of life, but furthermore there has arisen a demand that history shall itself be treated as a science. Both positions are in their essence right; but as regards each position, the more arrogant among the invaders of the new realm of knowledge take an attitude to which it is not necessary to assent. As regards the latter of the two positions, that which would treat history henceforth merely as one branch of scientific study, we must of course cordially agree that accuracy in recording facts and appreciation of their relative worth and interrelationship are just as necessary in historical study as in any other kind of study. The fact that a book, though interesting, is untrue, of course removes it at once from the category of history, however much it may still deserve to retain a place in the always desirable group of volumes which deal with entertaining fiction. But the converse also holds, at least to the extent of permitting us to insist upon what would seem to be the elementary fact that a book which is written to be read should be readable. This rather obvious truth seems to have been forgotten by some of the more zealous scientific historians, who apparently hold that the worth of a historical book is directly in proportion to the impossibility of reading it, save as a painful duty. Now I am willing that history shall be treated as a branch of science, but only on condition that it also remains a branch of literature; and, furthermore, I believe that as the field of science encroaches on the field of literature there should be a corresponding encroachment of literature upon science; and I hold that one of the great needs, which can only be met by very able men whose culture is broad enough to include literature as well as science, is the need of books for scientific laymen. We need a literature of science which shall be readable. So far from doing away with the school of great historians, the school of Polybius and Tacitus, Gibbon and Macaulay, we need merely that the future writers of history, without losing the qualities which have made these men great, shall also utilize the new facts and new methods which science has put at their disposal. Dryness is not in itself a measure of value. No “scientific” treatise about St. Louis will displace Joinville, for the very reason that Joinville’s place is in both history and literature; no minute study of the Napoleonic wars will teach us more than Marbot—and Marbot is as interesting as Walter Scott. Moreover, certain at least of the branches of science should likewise be treated by masters in the art of presentment, so that the layman interested in science, no less than the layman interested in history, shall have on his shelves classics which can be read. Whether this wish be or be not capable of realization, it assuredly remains true that the great historian of the future must essentially represent the ideal striven after by the great historians of the past. The industrious collector of facts occupies an honorable, but not an exalted, position, and the scientific historian who produces books which are not literature must rest content with the honor, substantial, but not of the highest type, that belongs to him who gathers material which some time some great master shall arise to use.
Yet, while freely conceding all that can be said of the masters of literature, we must insist upon the historian of mankind working in the scientific spirit, and using the treasure-houses of science. He who would fully treat of man must know at least something of biology, of the science that treats of living, breathing things; and especially of that science of evolution which is inseparably connected with the great name of Darwin. Of course, there is no exact parallelism between the birth, growth, and death of species in the animal world, and the birth, growth, and death of societies in the world of man. Yet there is a certain parallelism. There are strange analogies; it may be that there are homologies.
How far the resemblances between the two sets of phenomena are more than accidental, how far biology can be used as an aid in the interpretation of human history, we can not at present say. The historian should never forget, what the highest type of scientific man is always teaching us to remember, that willingness to admit ignorance is a prime factor in developing wisdom out of knowledge. Wisdom is advanced by research which enables us to add to knowledge; and, moreover, the way for wisdom is made ready when men who record facts of vast but unknown import, if asked to explain their full significance, are willing frankly to answer that they do not know. The research which enables us to add to the sum of complete knowledge stands first; but second only stands the research which, while enabling us clearly to pose the problem, also requires us to say that with our present knowledge we can offer no complete solution.
Let me illustrate what I mean by an instance or two taken from one of the most fascinating branches of world-history, the history of the higher forms of life, of mammalian life, on this globe.
Geologists and astronomers are not agreed as to the length of time necessary for the changes that have taken place. At any rate, many hundreds of thousands of years, some millions of years, have passed by since in the eocene, at the beginning of the tertiary period, we find the traces of an abundant, varied, and highly developed mammalian life on the land masses out of which have grown the continents as we see them to-day. The ages swept by, until, with the advent of man substantially in the physical shape in which we now know him, we also find a mammalian fauna not essentially different in kind, though widely differing in distribution, from that of the present day. Throughout this immense period form succeeds form, type succeeds type, in obedience to laws of evolution, of progress and retrogression, of development and death, which we as yet understand only in the most imperfect manner. As knowledge increases our wisdom is often turned into foolishness, and many of the phenomena of evolution which seemed clearly explicable to the learned master of science who founded these lectures, to us nowadays seem far less satisfactorily explained. The scientific men of most note now differ widely in their estimates of the relative parts played in evolution by natural selection, by mutation, by the inheritance of acquired characteristics; and we study their writings with a growing impression that there are forces at work which our blinded eyes wholly fail to apprehend; and where this is the case the part of wisdom is to say that we believe we have such and such partial explanations, but that we are not warranted in saying that we have the whole explanation. In tracing the history of the development of faunal life during this period, the age of mammals, there are some facts which are clearly established, some great and sweeping changes for which we can with certainty ascribe reasons. There are other facts as to which we grope in the dark, and vast changes, vast catastrophes, of which we can give no adequate explanation.
Before illustrating these types, let us settle one or two matters of terminology. In the changes, the development and extinction, of species we must remember that such expressions as “a new species,” or as “a species becoming extinct,” are each commonly and indiscriminately used to express totally different and opposite meanings. Of course the “new” species is not new in the sense that its ancestors appeared later on the globe’s surface than those of any old species tottering to extinction. Phylogenetically, each animal now living must necessarily trace its ancestral descent back through countless generations, through eons of time, to the early stages of the appearance of life on the globe. All that we mean by a “new” species is that from some cause, or set of causes, one of these ancestral stems slowly or suddenly develops into a form unlike any that has preceded it; so that, while in one form of life the ancestral type is continuously repeated and the old species continues to exist, in another form of life there is a deviation from the ancestral type and a new species appears.
Similarly, “extinction of species” is a term which has two entirely different meanings. The type may become extinct by dying out and leaving no descendants. Or it may die out because as the generations go by there is change, slow or swift, until a new form is produced. Thus in one case the line of life comes to an end. In the other case it changes into something different. The huge titanothere, and the small three-toed horse, both existed at what may roughly be called the same period of the world’s history, back in the middle of the mammalian age. Both are extinct in the sense that each has completely disappeared and that nothing like either is to be found in the world to-day. But whereas all the individual titanotheres finally died out, leaving no descendants, a number of the three-toed horses did leave descendants, and these descendants, constantly changing as the ages went by, finally developed into the highly specialized one-toed horses, asses, and zebras of to-day.
The analogy between the facts thus indicated and certain facts in the development of human societies is striking. A further analogy is supplied by a very curious tendency often visible in cases of intense and extreme specialization. When an animal form becomes highly specialized, the type at first, because of its specialization, triumphs over its allied rivals and its enemies, and attains a great development; until in many cases the specialization becomes so extreme that from some cause unknown to us, or at which we merely guess, it disappears. The new species which mark a new era commonly come from the less specialized types, the less distinctive, dominant, and striking types, of the preceding era.
When dealing with the changes, cataclysmic or gradual, which divide one period of paleontological history from another, we can sometimes assign causes, and again we can not even guess at them. In the case of single species, or of faunas of very restricted localities, the explanation is often self-evident. A comparatively slight change in the amount of moisture in the climate, with the attendant change in vegetation, might readily mean the destruction of a group of huge herbivores with a bodily size such that they needed a vast quantity of food, and with teeth so weak or so peculiar that but one or two kinds of plants could furnish this food. Again, we now know that the most deadly foes of the higher forms of life are various lower forms of life, such as insects, or microscopic creatures conveyed into the blood by insects. There are districts in South America where many large animals, wild and domestic, can not live because of the presence either of certain ticks or of certain baleful flies. In Africa there is a terrible genus of poison fly, each species acting as the host of microscopic creatures which are deadly to certain of the higher vertebrates. One of these species, though harmless to man, is fatal to all domestic animals, and this although harmless to the closely related wild kinsfolk of these animals. Another is fatal to man himself, being the cause of the “sleeping-sickness” which in many large districts has killed out the entire population. Of course the development or the extension of the range of any such insects, and any one of many other causes which we see actually at work around us, would readily account for the destruction of some given species or even for the destruction of several species in a limited area of country.
When whole faunal groups die out over large areas, the question is different, and may or may not be susceptible of explanation with the knowledge we actually possess. In the old arctogæal continent, for instance, in what is now Europe, Asia, and North America, the glacial period made a complete, but of course explicable, change in the faunal life of the region. At one time the continent held a rich and varied fauna. Then a period of great cold supervened, and a different fauna succeeded the first. The explanation of the change is obvious.
But in many other cases we can not so much as hazard a guess at why a given change occurred. One of the most striking instances of these inexplicable changes is that afforded by the history of South America toward the close of the tertiary period. For ages South America had been an island by itself, cut off from North America at the very time that the latter was at least occasionally in land communication with Asia. During this time a very peculiar fauna grew up in South America, some of the types resembling nothing now existing, while others are recognizable as ancestral forms of the ant-eaters, sloths, and armadillos of to-day. It was a peculiar and diversified mammalian fauna, of, on the whole, rather small species, and without any representatives of the animals with which man has been most familiar during his career on this earth.
Toward the end of the tertiary period there was an upheaval of land between this old South American island and North America, near what is now the Isthmus of Panama, thereby making a bridge across which the teeming animal life of the northern continent had access to this queer southern continent. There followed an inrush of huge, or swift, or formidable creatures which had attained their development in the fierce competition of the arctogæal realm. Elephants, camels, horses, tapirs, swine, sabre-toothed tigers, big cats, wolves, bears, deer, crowded into South America, warring each against the other incomers and against the old long-existing forms. A riot of life followed. Not only was the character of the South American fauna totally changed by the invasion of these creatures from the north, which soon swarmed over the continent, but it was also changed through the development wrought in the old inhabitants by the severe competition to which they were exposed. Many of the smaller or less capable types died out. Others developed enormous bulk or complete armor protection, and thereby saved themselves from the new beasts. In consequence, South America soon became populated with various new species of mastodons, sabre-toothed tigers, camels, horses, deer, cats, wolves, hooved creatures of strange shapes, and some of them of giant size, all of these being descended from the immigrant types; and side by side with them there grew up large autochthonus ungulates, giant ground-sloths well-nigh as large as elephants, and armored creatures as bulky as an ox but structurally of the armadillo or ant-eater type; and some of these latter not only held their own, but actually in their turn wandered north over the isthmus and invaded North America. A fauna as varied as that of Africa to-day, as abundant in species and individuals, even more noteworthy, because of its huge size or odd type, and because of the terrific prowess of the more formidable flesh-eaters, was thus developed in South America, and flourished for a period which human history would call very long indeed, but which geologically was short.
Then, for no reason that we can assign, destruction fell on this fauna. All the great and terrible creatures died out, the same fate befalling the changed representatives of the old autochthonous fauna and the descendants of the migrants that had come down from the north. Ground-sloth and glyptodon, sabre-tooth, horse and mastodon, and all the associated animals of large size vanished, and South America, though still retaining its connection with North America, once again became a land with a mammalian life small and weak compared to that of North America and the Old World. Its fauna is now marked, for instance, by the presence of medium-sized deer and cats, fox-like wolves, and small camel-like creatures, as well as by the presence of small armadillos, sloths, and ant-eaters. In other words, it includes diminutive representatives of the giants of the preceding era, both of the giants among the older forms of mammalia, and of the giants among the new and intrusive kinds. The change was wide-spread and extraordinary, and with our present means of information it is wholly inexplicable. There was no ice age, and it is hard to imagine any cause which would account for the extinction of so many species of huge or moderate size, while smaller representatives, and here and there medium-sized representatives, of many of them were left.
Now as to all of these phenomena in the evolution of species, there are, if not homologies, at least certain analogies, in the history of human societies, in the history of the rise to prominence, of the development and change, of the temporary dominance, and death or transformation, of the groups of varying kind which form races or nations. Here, as in biology, it is necessary to keep in mind that we use each of the words “birth” and “death,” “youth” and “age,” often very loosely, and sometimes as denoting either one of two totally different conceptions. Of course, in one sense there is no such thing as an “old” or a “young” nation, any more than there is an “old” or “young” family. Phylogenetically, the line of ancestral descent must be of exactly the same length for every existing individual, and for every group of individuals, whether forming a family or a nation. All that can properly be meant by the terms “new” and “young” is that in a given line of descent there has suddenly come a period of rapid change. This change may arise either from a new development or transformation of the old elements, or else from a new grouping of these elements with other and varied elements; so that the words “new” nation or “young” nation may have a real difference of significance in one case from what they have in another.
As in biology, so in human history, a new form may result from the specialization of a long-existing, and hitherto very slowly changing, generalized or non-specialized form; as, for instance, occurs when a barbaric race from a variety of causes suddenly develops a more complex cultivation and civilization. This is what occurred, for instance, in western Europe during the centuries of the Teutonic and, later, the Scandinavian ethnic overflows from the north. All the modern countries of western Europe are descended from the states created by these northern invaders. When first created they would be called “new” or “young” states in the sense that part or all of the people composing them were descended from races that hitherto had not been civilized, and that therefore, for the first time, entered on the career of civilized communities. In the southern part of western Europe the new states thus formed consisted in bulk of the inhabitants already in the land under the Roman Empire; and it was here that the new kingdoms first took shape. Through a reflex action their influence then extended back into the cold forests from which the invaders had come, and Germany and Scandinavia witnessed the rise of communities with essentially the same civilization as their southern neighbors; though in those communities, unlike the southern communities, there was no infusion of new blood, so that the new civilized nations which gradually developed were composed entirely of members of the same races which in the same regions had for ages lived the life of a slowly changing barbarism. The same was true of the Slavs and the Slavonized Finns of eastern Europe, when an infiltration of Scandinavian leaders from the north, and an infiltration of Byzantine culture from the south, joined to produce the changes which have gradually, out of the little Slav communities of the forest and the steppe, formed the mighty Russian Empire of to-day.
Again, the new form may represent merely a splitting off from a long-established, highly developed, and specialized nation. In this case the nation is usually spoken of as a “young,” and is correctly spoken of as a “new,” nation; but the term should always be used with a clear sense of the difference between what is described in such case, and what is described by the same term in speaking of a civilized nation just developed from barbarism. Carthage and Syracuse were new cities compared to Tyre and Corinth; but the Greek or Phœnician race was in every sense of the word as old in the new city as in the old city. So, nowadays, Victoria or Manitoba is a new community compared with England or Scotland; but the ancestral type of civilization and culture is as old in one case as in the other. I of course do not mean for a moment that great changes are not produced by the mere fact that the old civilized race is suddenly placed in surroundings where it has again to go through the work of taming the wilderness, a work finished many centuries before in the original home of the race; I merely mean that the ancestral history is the same in each case. We can rightly use the phrase “a new people,” in speaking of Canadians or Australians, Americans or Africanders. But we use it in an entirely different sense from that in which we use it when speaking of such communities as those founded by the Northmen and their descendants during that period of astonishing growth which saw the descendants of the Norse sea-thieves conquer and transform Normandy, Sicily, and the British Islands; we use it in an entirely different sense from that in which we use it when speaking of the new states that grew up around Warsaw, Kief, Novgorod, and Moscow, as the wild savages of the steppes and the marshy forests struggled haltingly and stumblingly upward to become builders of cities and to form stable governments. The kingdoms of Charlemagne and Alfred were “new,” compared to the empire on the Bosphorus; they were also in every way different; their lines of ancestral descent had nothing in common with that of the polyglot realm which paid tribute to the Cæsars of Byzantium; their social problems and after-time history were totally different. This is not true of those “new” nations which spring direct from old nations. Brazil, the Argentine, the United States, are all “new” nations, compared with the nations of Europe; but, with whatever changes in detail, their civilization is nevertheless of the general European type, as shown in Portugal, Spain, and England. The differences between these “new” American and these “old” European nations are not as great as those which separate the “new” nations one from another, and the “old” nations one from another. There are in each case very real differences between the new and the old nation; differences both for good and for evil; but in each case there is the same ancestral history to reckon with, the same type of civilization, with its attendant benefits and shortcomings; and, after the pioneer stages are passed, the problems to be solved, in spite of superficial differences, are in their essence the same; they are those that confront all civilized peoples, not those that confront only peoples struggling from barbarism into civilization.
So, when we speak of the “death” of a tribe, a nation, or a civilization, the term may be used for either one of two totally different processes, the analogy with what occurs in biological history being complete. Certain tribes of savages—the Tasmanians, for instance, and various little clans of American Indians—have within the last century or two completely died out; all of the individuals have perished, leaving no descendants, and the blood has disappeared. Certain other tribes of Indians have as tribes disappeared or are now disappearing; but their blood remains, being absorbed into the veins of the white intruders, or of the black men introduced by those white intruders; so that in reality they are merely being transformed into something absolutely different from what they were. In the United States, in the new State of Oklahoma, the Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaws, Delawares, and other tribes are in process of absorption into the mass of the white population; when the State was admitted a couple of years ago, one of the two senators, and three of the five representatives in Congress, were partly of Indian blood. In but a few years these Indian tribes will have disappeared as completely as those that have actually died out; but the disappearance will be by absorption and transformation into the mass of the American population.
A like wide diversity in fact may be covered in the statement that a civilization has “died out.” The nationality and culture of the wonderful city-builders of the lower Mesopotamian Plain have completely disappeared, and, though doubtless certain influences dating therefrom are still at work, they are in such changed and hidden form as to be unrecognizable. But the disappearance of the Roman Empire was of no such character. There was complete change, far-reaching transformation, and at one period a violent dislocation; but it would not be correct to speak either of the blood or the culture of Old Rome as extinct. We are not yet in a position to dogmatize as to the permanence or evanescence of the various strains of blood that go to make up every civilized nationality; but it is reasonably certain that the blood of the old Roman still flows through the veins of the modern Italian; and though there has been much intermixture, from many different foreign sources—from foreign conquerors and from foreign slaves—yet it is probable that the Italian type of to-day finds its dominant ancestral type in the ancient Latin. As for the culture, the civilization of Rome, this is even more true. It has suffered a complete transformation, partly by natural growth, partly by absorption of totally alien elements, such as a Semitic religion, and certain Teutonic governmental and social customs; but the process was not one of extinction, but one of growth and transformation, both from within and by the accretion of outside elements. In France and Spain the inheritance of Latin blood is small; but the Roman culture which was forced on those countries has been tenaciously retained by them, throughout all their subsequent ethnical and political changes, as the basis on which their civilizations have been built. Moreover, the permanent spreading of Roman influence was not limited to Europe. It has extended to and over half of that New World which was not even dreamed of during the thousand years of brilliant life between the birth and the death of pagan Rome. This New World was discovered by one Italian, and its mainland first reached and named by another; and in it, over a territory many times the size of Trajan’s empire, the Spanish, French, and Portuguese adventurers founded, beside the Saint Lawrence and the Amazon, along the flanks of the Andes, and in the shadow of the snow-capped volcanoes of Mexico, from the Rio Grande to the Straits of Magellan, communities, now flourishing and growing apace, which in speech and culture, and even as regards one strain in their blood, are the lineal heirs of the ancient Latin civilization. When we speak of the disappearance, the passing away, of ancient Babylon or Nineveh, and of ancient Rome, we are using the same terms to describe totally different phenomena.
The anthropologist and historian of to-day realize much more clearly than their predecessors of a couple of generations back, how artificial most great nationalities are, and how loose is the terminology usually employed to describe them. There is an element of unconscious and rather pathetic humor in the simplicity of half a century ago which spoke of the Aryan and the Teuton with reverential admiration, as if the words denoted, not merely something definite, but something ethnologically sacred; the writers having much the same pride and faith in their own and their fellow countrymen’s purity of descent from these imaginary Aryan or Teutonic ancestors that was felt a few generations earlier by the various noble families who traced their lineage direct to Odin, Æneas, or Noah. Nowadays, of course, all students recognize that there may not be, and often is not, the slightest connection between kinship in blood and kinship in tongue. In America we find three races, white, red, and black, and three tongues, English, French, and Spanish, mingled in such a way that the lines of cleavage of race continually run at right angles to the lines of cleavage of speech; there being communities practically of pure blood of each race found speaking each language. Aryan and Teutonic are terms having very distinct linguistic meanings; but whether they have any such ethnical meanings as were formerly attributed to them is so doubtful, that we can not even be sure whether the ancestors of most of those we call Teutons originally spoke an Aryan tongue at all. The term Celtic, again, is perfectly clear when used linguistically; but when used to describe a race it means almost nothing until we find out which one of several totally different terminologies the writer or speaker is adopting. If, for instance, the term is used to designate the short-headed, medium-sized type common throughout middle Europe, from east to west, it denotes something entirely different from what is meant when the name is applied to the tall, yellow-haired opponents of the Romans and the later Greeks; while, if used to designate any modern nationality, it becomes about as loose and meaningless as the term Anglo-Saxon itself.
Most of the great societies which have developed a high civilization and have played a dominant part in the world have been—and are—artificial; not merely in social structure, but in the sense of including totally different race types. A great nation rarely belongs to any one race, though its citizens generally have one essentially national speech. Yet the curious fact remains that these great artificial societies acquire such unity that in each one all the parts feel a subtle sympathy, and move or cease to move, go forward or go back, all together, in response to some stir or throbbing, very powerful, and yet not to be discerned by our senses. National unity is far more apt than race unity to be a fact to reckon with; until indeed we come to race differences as fundamental as those which divide from one another the half-dozen great ethnic divisions of mankind, when they become so important that differences of nationality, speech, and creed sink into littleness.
An ethnological map of Europe in which the peoples were divided according to their physical and racial characteristics, such as stature, coloration, and shape of head, would bear no resemblance whatever to a map giving the political divisions, the nationalities, of Europe; while, on the contrary, a linguistic map would show a general correspondence between speech and nationality. The northern Frenchman is in blood and physical type more nearly allied to his German-speaking neighbor than to the Frenchman of the Mediterranean seaboard; and the latter, in his turn, is nearer to the Catalan than to the man who dwells beside the Channel or along the tributaries of the Rhine. But in essential characteristics, in the qualities that tell in the make-up of a nationality, all these kinds of Frenchmen feel keenly that they are one, and are different from all outsiders, their differences dwindling into insignificance compared with the extraordinary, artificially produced resemblances which bring them together and wall them off from the outside world. The same is true when we compare the German who dwells where the Alpine springs of the Danube and the Rhine interlace, with the physically different German of the Baltic lands. The same is true of Kentishman, Cornishman, and Yorkshireman in England.
In dealing, not with groups of human beings in simple and primitive relations, but with highly complex, highly specialized, civilized, or semi-civilized societies, there is need of great caution in drawing analogies with what has occurred in the development of the animal world. Yet even in these cases it is curious to see how some of the phenomena in the growth and disappearance of these complex, artificial groups of human beings resemble what has happened in myriads of instances in the history of life on this planet.
Why do great artificial empires, whose citizens are knit by a bond of speech and culture much more than by a bond of blood, show periods of extraordinary growth, and again of sudden or lingering decay? In some cases we can answer readily enough; in other cases we can not as yet even guess what the proper answer should be. If in any such case the centrifugal forces overcome the centripetal, the nation will of course fly to pieces, and the reason for its failure to become a dominant force is patent to every one. The minute that the spirit which finds its healthy development in local self-government, and is the antidote to the dangers of an extreme centralization, develops into mere particularism, into inability to combine effectively for achievement of a common end, then it is hopeless to expect great results. Poland and certain republics of the Western Hemisphere are the standard examples of failure of this kind; and the United States would have ranked with them, and her name would have become a byword of derision, if the forces of union had not triumphed in the Civil War. So, the growth of soft luxury after it has reached a certain point becomes a national danger patent to all. Again, it needs but little of the vision of a seer to foretell what must happen in any community if the average woman ceases to become the mother of a family of healthy children, if the average man loses the will and the power to work up to old age and to fight whenever the need arises. If the homely commonplace virtues die out, if strength of character vanishes in graceful self-indulgence, if the virile qualities atrophy, then the nation has lost what no material prosperity can offset.
But there are plenty of other phenomena wholly or partially inexplicable. It is easy to see why Rome trended downward when great slave-tilled farms spread over what had once been a countryside of peasant proprietors, when greed and luxury and sensuality ate like acids into the fibre of the upper classes, while the mass of the citizens grew to depend not upon their own exertions, but upon the state, for their pleasures and their very livelihood. But this does not explain why the forward movement stopped at different times, so far as different matters were concerned; at one time as regards literature, at another time as regards architecture, at another time as regards city-building. There is nothing mysterious about Rome’s dissolution at the time of the barbarian invasions; apart from the impoverishment and depopulation of the empire, its fall would be quite sufficiently explained by the mere fact that the average citizen had lost the fighting edge—an essential even under a despotism, and therefore far more essential in free, self-governing communities, such as those of the English-speaking peoples of to-day. The mystery is rather that out of the chaos and corruption of Roman society during the last days of the oligarchic republic, there should have sprung an empire able to hold things with reasonable steadiness for three or four centuries. But why, for instance, should the higher kinds of literary productiveness have ceased about the beginning of the second century, whereas the following centuries witnessed a great outbreak of energy in the shape of city-building in the provinces, not only in western Europe, but in Africa? We can not even guess why the springs of one kind of energy dried up, while there was yet no cessation of another kind.
Take another and smaller instance, that of Holland. For a period covering a little more than the seventeenth century, Holland, like some of the Italian city-states at an earlier period, stood on the dangerous heights of greatness, beside nations so vastly her superior in territory and population as to make it inevitable that sooner or later she must fall from the glorious and perilous eminence to which she had been raised by her own indomitable soul. Her fall came; it could not have been indefinitely postponed; but it came far quicker than it needed to come, because of shortcomings on her part to which both Great Britain and the United States would be wise to pay heed. Her government was singularly ineffective, the decentralization being such as often to permit the separatist, the particularist, spirit of the provinces to rob the central authority of all efficiency. This was bad enough. But the fatal weakness was that so common in rich, peace-loving societies, where men hate to think of war as possible, and try to justify their own reluctance to face it either by high-sounding moral platitudes, or else by a philosophy of short-sighted materialism. The Dutch were very wealthy. They grew to believe that they could hire others to do their fighting for them on land; and on sea, where they did their own fighting, and fought very well, they refused in time of peace to make ready fleets so efficient as either to insure them against the peace being broken or else to give them the victory when war came. To be opulent and unarmed is to secure ease in the present at the almost certain cost of disaster in the future.
It is therefore easy to see why Holland lost when she did her position among the powers; but it is far more difficult to explain why at the same time there should have come at least a partial loss of position in the world of art and letters. Some spark of divine fire burnt itself out in the national soul. As the line of great statesmen, of great warriors, by land and sea, came to an end, so the line of the great Dutch painters ended. The loss of pre-eminence in the schools followed the loss of pre-eminence in camp and in council chamber.
In the little republic of Holland, as in the great empire of Rome, it was not death which came, but transformation. Both Holland and Italy teach us that races that fall may rise again. In Holland, as in the Scandinavian kingdoms of Norway and Sweden, there was in a sense no decadence at all. There was nothing analogous to what has befallen so many countries: no lowering of the general standard of well-being, no general loss of vitality, no depopulation. What happened was, first a flowering time, in which the country’s men of action and men of thought gave it a commanding position among the nations of the day; then this period of command passed, and the state revolved in an eddy, aside from the sweep of the mighty current of world life; and yet the people themselves in their internal relations remained substantially unchanged, and in many fields of endeavor have now recovered themselves and play again a leading part.
In Italy, where history is recorded for a far longer time, the course of affairs was different. When the Roman Empire that was really Roman went down in ruin, there followed an interval of centuries when the gloom was almost unrelieved. Every form of luxury and frivolity, of contemptuous repugnance for serious work, of enervating self-indulgence, every form of vice and weakness which we regard as most ominous in the civilization of to-day, had been at work throughout Italy for generations. The nation had lost all patriotism. It had ceased to bring forth fighters or workers, had ceased to bring forth men of mark of any kind; and the remnant of the Italian people cowered in helpless misery among the horse-hoofs of the barbarians, as the wild northern bands rode in to take the land for a prey and the cities for a spoil. It was one of the great cataclysms of history; but in the end it was seen that what came had been in part change and growth. It was not all mere destruction. Not only did Rome leave a vast heritage of language, culture, law, ideas, to all the modern world; but the people of Italy kept the old blood as the chief strain in their veins. In a few centuries came a wonderful new birth for Italy. Then for four or five hundred years there was a growth of many little city-states which, in their energy both in peace and war, in their fierce, fervent life, in the high quality of their men of arts and letters, and in their utter inability to combine so as to preserve order among themselves or to repel outside invasion, can not unfairly be compared with classic Greece. Again Italy fell, and the land was ruled by Spaniard or Frenchman or Austrian; and again, in the nineteenth century, there came for the third time a wonderful new birth.
Contrast this persistence of the old type in its old home, and in certain lands which it had conquered, with its utter disappearance in certain other lands where it was intrusive, but where it at one time seemed as firmly established as in Italy—certainly as in Spain or Gaul. No more curious example of the growth and disappearance of a national type can be found than in the case of the Græco-Roman dominion in Western Asia and North Africa. All told it extended over nearly a thousand years, from the days of Alexander till after the time of Heraclius. Throughout these lands there yet remain the ruins of innumerable cities which tell how firmly rooted that dominion must once have been. The overshadowing and far-reaching importance of what occurred is sufficiently shown by the familiar fact that the New Testament was written in Greek; while to the early Christians, North Africa seemed as much a Latin land as Sicily or the valley of the Po. The intrusive peoples and their culture flourished in the lands for a period twice as long as that which has elapsed since, with the voyage of Columbus, modern history may fairly be said to have begun; and then they withered like dry grass before the flame of the Arab invasion, and their place knew them no more. They overshadowed the ground; they vanished; and the old types reappeared in their old homes, with beside them a new type, the Arab.
Now, as to all these changes we can at least be sure of the main facts. We know that the Hollander remains in Holland, though the greatness of Holland has passed; we know that the Latin blood remains in Italy, whether to a greater or less extent; and that the Latin culture has died out in the African realm it once won, while it has lasted in Spain and France, and thence has extended itself to continents beyond the ocean. We may not know the causes of the facts, save partially; but the facts themselves we do know. But there are other cases in which we are at present ignorant even of the facts; we do not know what the changes really were, still less the hidden causes and meaning of these changes. Much remains to be found out before we can speak with any certainty as to whether some changes mean the actual dying out or the mere transformation of types. It is, for instance, astonishing how little permanent change in the physical make-up of the people seems to have been worked in Europe by the migrations of the races in historic times. A tall, fair-haired, long-skulled race penetrates to some southern country and establishes a commonwealth. The generations pass. There is no violent revolution, no break in continuity of history, nothing in the written records to indicate an epoch-making change at any given moment; and yet after a time we find that the old type has reappeared and that the people of the locality do not substantially differ in physical form from the people of other localities that did not suffer such an invasion. Does this mean that gradually the children of the invaders have dwindled and died out; or, as the blood is mixed with the ancient blood, has there been a change, part reversion and part assimilation, to the ancient type in its old surroundings? Do tint of skin, eyes and hair, shape of skull, and stature change in the new environment, so as to be like those of the older people who dwelt in this environment? Do the intrusive races, without change of blood, tend under the pressure of their new surroundings to change in type so as to resemble the ancient peoples of the land? Or, as the strains mingled, has the new strain dwindled and vanished, from causes as yet obscure? Has the blood of the Lombard practically disappeared from Italy, and of the Visigoth from Spain, or does it still flow in large populations where the old physical type has once more become dominant? Here in England, the long-skulled men of the long barrows, the short-skulled men of the round barrows—have they blended, or has one or the other type actually died out; or are they merged in some older race which they seemingly supplanted, or have they adopted the tongue and civilization of some later race which seemingly destroyed them? We can not say. We do not know which of the widely different stocks now speaking Aryan tongues represents in physical characteristics the ancient Aryan type, nor where the type originated, nor how or why it imposed its language on other types, nor how much or how little mixture of blood accompanied the change of tongue.
The phenomena of national growth and decay, both of those which can and those which can not be explained, have been peculiarly in evidence during the four centuries that have gone by since the discovery of America and the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope. These have been the four centuries of by far the most intense and constantly accelerating rapidity of movement and development that the world has yet seen. The movement has covered all the fields of human activity. It has witnessed an altogether unexampled spread of civilized mankind over the world, as well as an altogether unexampled advance in man’s dominion over nature; and this together with a literary and artistic activity to be matched in but one previous epoch. This period of extension and development has been that of one race, the so-called white race, or, to speak more accurately, the group of peoples living in Europe, who undoubtedly have a certain kinship of blood, who profess the Christian religion, and trace back their culture to Greece and Rome.
The memories of men are short, and it is easy to forget how brief is this period of unquestioned supremacy of the so-called white race. It is but a thing of yesterday. During the thousand years which went before the opening of this era of European supremacy, the attitude of Asia and Africa, of Hun and Mongol, Turk and Tartar, Arab and Moor, had on the whole been that of successful aggression against Europe. More than a century went by after the voyages of Columbus before the mastery in war began to pass from the Asiatic to the European. During that time Europe produced no generals or conquerors able to stand comparison with Selim and Solyman, Baber and Akbar. Then the European advance gathered momentum; until at the present time peoples of European blood hold dominion over all America and Australia and the islands of the sea, over most of Africa, and the major half of Asia. Much of this world conquest is merely political, and such a conquest is always likely in the long run to vanish. But very much of it represents not a merely political, but an ethnic conquest; the intrusive people having either exterminated or driven out the conquered peoples, or else having imposed upon them its tongue, law, culture, and religion, together with a strain of its blood. During this period substantially all of the world achievements worth remembering are to be credited to the people of European descent. The first exception of any consequence is the wonderful rise of Japan within the last generation—a phenomenon unexampled in history; for both in blood and in culture the Japanese line of ancestral descent is as remote as possible from ours; and yet Japan, while hitherto keeping most of what was strongest in her ancient character and traditions, has assimilated with curious completeness most of the characteristics that have given power and leadership to the West.
During this period of intense and feverish activity among the peoples of European stock, first one and then another has taken the lead. The movement began with Spain and Portugal. Their flowering-time was as brief as it was wonderful. The gorgeous pages of their annals are illumined by the figures of warriors, explorers, statesmen, poets, and painters. Then their days of greatness ceased. Many partial explanations can be given, but something remains behind, some hidden force for evil, some hidden source of weakness upon which we can not lay our hands. Yet there are many signs that in the New World, after centuries of arrested growth, the peoples of Spanish and Portuguese stock are entering upon another era of development, and there are other signs that this is true also in the Iberian peninsula itself.
About the time that the first brilliant period of the leadership of the Iberian peoples was drawing to a close, at the other end of Europe, in the land of melancholy steppe and melancholy forest, the Slav turned in his troubled sleep and stretched out his hand to grasp leadership and dominion. Since then almost every nation of Europe has at one time or another sought a place in the movement of expansion; but for the last three centuries the great phenomenon of mankind has been the growth of the English-speaking peoples and their spread over the world’s waste spaces.
Comparison is often made between the empire of Britain and the empire of Rome. When judged relatively to the effect on all modern civilization, the empire of Rome is of course the more important, simply because all the nations of Europe and their offshoots in other continents trace back their culture either to the earlier Rome by the Tiber, or the later Rome by the Bosphorus. The empire of Rome is the most stupendous fact in lay history; no empire later in time can be compared with it. But this is merely another way of saying that the nearer the source the more important becomes any deflection of the stream’s current. Absolutely, comparing the two empires one with the other in point of actual achievement, and disregarding the immensely increased effect on other civilizations which inhered in the older empire because it antedated the younger by a couple of thousand years, there is little to choose between them as regards the wide and abounding interest and importance of their careers.
In the world of antiquity each great empire rose when its predecessor had already crumbled. By the time that Rome loomed large over the horizon of history, there were left for her to contend with only decaying civilizations and raw barbarism. When she conquered Pyrrhus, she strove against the strength of but one of the many fragments into which Alexander’s kingdom had fallen. When she conquered Carthage, she overthrew a foe against whom for two centuries the single Greek city of Syracuse had contended on equal terms; it was not the Sepoy armies of the Carthaginian plutocracy, but the towering genius of the House of Barca, which rendered the struggle forever memorable. It was the distance and the desert, rather than the Parthian horse-bowmen, that set bounds to Rome in the east; and on the north her advance was curbed by the vast reaches of marshy woodland, rather than by the tall barbarians who dwelt therein. During the long generations of her greatness, and until the sword dropped from her withered hand, the Parthian was never a menace of aggression, and the German threatened her but to die.
On the contrary, the great expansion of England has occurred, the great empire of Britain has been achieved, during the centuries that have also seen mighty military nations rise and flourish on the continent of Europe. It is as if Rome, while creating and keeping the empire she won between the days of Scipio and the days of Trajan, had at the same time held her own with the Nineveh of Sargon and Tiglath, the Egypt of Thothmes and Rameses, and the kingdoms of Persia and Macedon in the red flush of their warrior-dawn. The empire of Britain is vaster in space, in population, in wealth, in wide variety of possession, in a history of multiplied and manifold achievement of every kind, than even the glorious empire of Rome. Yet, unlike Rome, Britain has won dominion in every clime, has carried her flag by conquest and settlement to the uttermost ends of the earth, at the very time that haughty and powerful rivals, in their abounding youth or strong maturity, were eager to set bounds to her greatness, and to tear from her what she had won afar. England has peopled continents with her children, has swayed the destinies of teeming myriads of alien race, has ruled ancient monarchies, and wrested from all comers the right to the world’s waste spaces, while at home she has held her own before nations, each of military power comparable to Rome’s at her zenith.
Rome fell by attack from without only because the ills within her own borders had grown incurable. What is true of your country, my hearers, is true of my own; while we should be vigilant against foes from without, yet we need never really fear them so long as we safeguard ourselves against the enemies within our own households; and these enemies are our own passions and follies. Free peoples can escape being mastered by others only by being able to master themselves. We Americans and you people of the British Isles alike need ever to keep in mind that, among the many qualities indispensable to the success of a great democracy, and second only to a high and stern sense of duty, of moral obligation, are self-knowledge and self-mastery. You, my hosts, and I may not agree in all our views; some of you would think me a very radical democrat—as, for the matter of that, I am—and my theory of imperialism would probably suit the anti-imperialists as little as it would suit a certain type of forcible-feeble imperialist. But there are some points on which we must all agree if we think soundly. The precise form of government, democratic or otherwise, is the instrument, the tool, with which we work. It is important to have a good tool. But, even if it is the best possible, it is only a tool. No implement can ever take the place of the guiding intelligence that wields it. A very bad tool will ruin the work of the best craftsman; but a good tool in bad hands is no better. In the last analysis the all-important factor in national greatness is national character.
There are questions which we of the great civilized nations are ever tempted to ask of the future. Is our time of growth drawing to an end? Are we as nations soon to come under the rule of that great law of death which is itself but part of the great law of life? None can tell. Forces that we can see, and other forces that are hidden or that can but dimly be apprehended, are at work all around us, both for good and for evil. The growth in luxury, in love of ease, in taste for vapid and frivolous excitement, is both evident and unhealthy. The most ominous sign is the diminution in the birth-rate, in the rate of natural increase, now to a larger or lesser degree shared by most of the civilized nations of central and western Europe, of America and Australia—a diminution so great that, if it continues for the next century at the rate which has obtained for the last twenty-five years, all the more highly civilized peoples will be stationary or else have begun to go backward in population, while many of them will have already gone very far backward.
There is much that should give us concern for the future. But there is much also which should give us hope. No man is more apt to be mistaken than the prophet of evil. After the French Revolution in 1830 Niebuhr hazarded the guess that all civilization was about to go down with a crash, that we were all about to share the fall of third- and fourth-century Rome—a respectable, but painfully overworked, comparison. The fears once expressed by the followers of Malthus as to the future of the world have proved groundless as regards the civilized portion of the world; it is strange indeed to look back at Carlyle’s prophecies of some seventy years ago, and then think of the teeming life of achievement, the life of conquest of every kind, and of noble effort crowned by success, which has been ours for the two generations since he complained to High Heaven that all the tales had been told and all the songs sung, and that all the deeds really worth doing had been done. I believe with all my heart that a great future remains for us; but whether it does or does not, our duty is not altered. However the battle may go, the soldier worthy of the name will with utmost vigor do his allotted task, and bear himself as valiantly in defeat as in victory. Come what will, we belong to peoples who have not yielded to the craven fear of being great. In the ages that have gone by, the great nations, the nations that have expanded and that have played a mighty part in the world, have in the end grown old and weakened and vanished; but so have the nations whose only thought was to avoid all danger, all effort, who would risk nothing, and who therefore gained nothing. In the end, the same fate may overwhelm all alike; but the memory of the one type perishes with it, while the other leaves its mark deep on the history of all the future of mankind.
A nation that seemingly dies may be born again; and even though in the physical sense it die utterly, it may yet hand down a history of heroic achievement, and for all time to come may profoundly influence the nations that arise in its place by the impress of what it has done. Best of all is it to do our part well, and at the same time to see our blood live young and vital in men and women fit to take up the task as we lay it down; for so shall our seed inherit the earth. But if this, which is best, is denied us, then at least it is ours to remember that if we choose we can be torch-bearers, as our fathers were before us. The torch has been handed on from nation to nation, from civilization to civilization, throughout all recorded time, from the dim years before history dawned down to the blazing splendor of this teeming century of ours. It dropped from the hands of the coward and the sluggard, of the man wrapped in luxury or love of ease, the man whose soul was eaten away by self-indulgence; it has been kept alight only by those who were mighty of heart and cunning of hand. What they worked at, provided it was worth doing at all, was of less matter than how they worked, whether in the realm of the mind or the realm of the body. If their work was good, if what they achieved was of substance, then high success was really theirs.
In the first part of this lecture I drew certain analogies between what has occurred to forms of animal life through the procession of the ages on this planet, and what has occurred and is occurring to the great artificial civilizations which have gradually spread over the world’s surface during the thousands of years that have elapsed since cities of temples and palaces first rose beside the Nile and the Euphrates, and the harbors of Minoan Crete bristled with the masts of the Ægean craft. But of course the parallel is true only in the roughest and most general way. Moreover, even between the civilizations of to-day and the civilizations of ancient times there are differences so profound that we must be cautious in drawing any conclusions for the present based on what has happened in the past. While freely admitting all of our follies and weaknesses of to-day, it is yet mere perversity to refuse to realize the incredible advance that has been made in ethical standards. I do not believe that there is the slightest necessary connection between any weakening of virile force and this advance in the moral standard, this growth of the sense of obligation to one’s neighbor and of reluctance to do that neighbor wrong. We need have scant patience with that silly cynicism which insists that kindliness of character only accompanies weakness of character. On the contrary, just as in private life many of the men of strongest character are the very men of loftiest and most exalted morality, so I believe that in national life, as the ages go by, we shall find that the permanent national types will more and more tend to become those in which, though intellect stands high, character stands higher; in which rugged strength and courage, rugged capacity to resist wrongful aggression by others, will go hand in hand with a lofty scorn of doing wrong to others. This is the type of Timoleon, of Hampden, of Washington, and Lincoln. These were as good men, as disinterested and unselfish men, as ever served a state; and they were also as strong men as ever founded or saved a state. Surely such examples prove that there is nothing Utopian in our effort to combine justice and strength in the same nation. The really high civilizations must themselves supply the antidote to the self-indulgence and love of ease which they tend to produce.
Every modern civilized nation has many and terrible problems to solve within its own borders, problems that arise not merely from juxtaposition of poverty and riches, but especially from the self-consciousness of both poverty and riches. Each nation must deal with these matters in its own fashion, and yet the spirit in which the problem is approached must ever be fundamentally the same. It must be a spirit of broad humanity, of brotherly kindness, of acceptance of responsibility, one for each and each for all, and at the same time a spirit as remote as the poles from every form of weakness and sentimentality. As in war to pardon the coward is to do cruel wrong to the brave man whose life his cowardice jeopardizes, so in civil affairs it is revolting to every principle of justice to give to the lazy, the vicious, or even the feeble or dull-witted a reward which is really the robbery of what braver, wiser, abler men have earned. The only effective way to help any man is to help him to help himself; and the worst lesson to teach him is that he can be permanently helped at the expense of some one else. True liberty shows itself to best advantage in protecting the rights of others, and especially of minorities. Privilege should not be tolerated because it is to the advantage of a minority; nor yet because it is to the advantage of a majority. No doctrinaire theories of vested rights or freedom of contract can stand in the way of our cutting out abuses from the body politic. Just as little can we afford to follow the doctrinaires of an impossible—and incidentally of a highly undesirable—social revolution which, in destroying individual rights—including property rights—and the family, would destroy the two chief agents in the advance of mankind, and the two chief reasons why either the advance or the preservation of mankind is worth while. It is an evil and a dreadful thing to be callous to sorrow and suffering and blind to our duty to do all things possible for the betterment of social conditions. But it is an unspeakably foolish thing to strive for this betterment by means so destructive that they would leave no social conditions to better. In dealing with all these social problems, with the intimate relations of the family, with wealth in private use and business use, with labor, with poverty, the one prime necessity is to remember that, though hardness of heart is a great evil, it is no greater an evil than softness of head.
But in addition to these problems, the most intimate and important of all, and which to a larger or less degree affect all the modern nations somewhat alike, we of the great nations that have expanded, that are now in complicated relations with one another and with alien races, have special problems and special duties of our own. You belong to a nation which possesses the greatest empire upon which the sun has ever shone. I belong to a nation which is trying, on a scale hitherto unexampled, to work out the problems of government for, of, and by the people, while at the same time doing the international duty of a great Power. But there are certain problems which both of us have to solve, and as to which our standards should be the same. The Englishman, the man of the British Isles, in his various homes across the seas, and the American, both at home and abroad, are brought into contact with utterly alien peoples, some with a civilization more ancient than our own, others still in, or having but recently arisen from, the barbarism which our people left behind ages ago. The problems that arise are of well-nigh inconceivable difficulty. They can not be solved by the foolish sentimentality of stay-at-home people, with little patent recipes and those cut-and-dried theories of the political nursery which have such limited applicability amid the crash of elemental forces. Neither can they be solved by the raw brutality of the men who, whether at home or on the rough frontier of civilization, adopt might as the only standard of right in dealing with other men, and treat alien races only as subjects for exploitation.
No hard-and-fast rule can be drawn as applying to all alien races, because they differ from one another far more widely than some of them differ from us. But there are one or two rules which must not be forgotten. In the long run there can be no justification for one race managing or controlling another unless the management and control are exercised in the interest and for the benefit of that other race. This is what our peoples have in the main done, and must continue in the future in even greater degree to do, in India, Egypt, and the Philippines alike. In the next place, as regards every race, everywhere, at home or abroad, we can not afford to deviate from the great rule of righteousness which bids us treat each man on his worth as a man. He must not be sentimentally favored because he belongs to a given race; he must not be given immunity in wrong-doing or permitted to cumber the ground, or given other privileges which would be denied to the vicious and unfit among ourselves. On the other hand, where he acts in a way which would entitle him to respect and reward if he was one of our own stock, he is just as entitled to that respect and reward if he comes of another stock, even though that other stock produces a much smaller proportion of men of his type than does our own. This has nothing to do with social intermingling, with what is called social equality. It has to do merely with the question of doing to each man and each woman that elementary justice which will permit him or her to gain from life the reward which should always accompany thrift, sobriety, self-control, respect for the rights of others, and hard and intelligent work to a given end. To more than such just treatment no man is entitled, and less than such just treatment no man should receive.
The other type of duty is the international duty, the duty owed by one nation to another. I hold that the laws of morality which should govern individuals in their dealings one with the other, are just as binding concerning nations in their dealings one with the other. The application of the moral law must be different in the two cases, because in one case it has, and in the other it has not, the sanction of a civil law with force behind it. The individual can depend for his rights upon the courts, which themselves derive their force from the police power of the state. The nation can depend upon nothing of the kind; and therefore, as things are now, it is the highest duty of the most advanced and freest peoples to keep themselves in such a state of readiness as to forbid to any barbarism or despotism the hope of arresting the progress of the world by striking down the nations that lead in that progress. It would be foolish indeed to pay heed to the unwise persons who desire disarmament to be begun by the very peoples who, of all others, should not be left helpless before any possible foe. But we must reprobate quite as strongly both the leaders and the peoples who practise, or encourage, or condone, aggression and iniquity by the strong at the expense of the weak. We should tolerate lawlessness and wickedness neither by the weak nor by the strong; and both weak and strong we should in return treat with scrupulous fairness. The foreign policy of a great and self-respecting country should be conducted on exactly the same plane of honor, for insistence upon one’s own rights and of respect for the rights of others, that marks the conduct of a brave and honorable man when dealing with his fellows. Permit me to support this statement out of my own experience. For nearly eight years I was the head of a great nation, and charged especially with the conduct of its foreign policy; and during those years I took no action with reference to any other people on the face of the earth that I would not have felt justified in taking as an individual in dealing with other individuals.
I believe that we of the great civilized nations of to-day have a right to feel that long careers of achievement lie before our several countries. To each of us is vouchsafed the honorable privilege of doing his part, however small, in that work. Let us strive hardily for success, even if by so doing we risk failure, spurning the poorer souls of small endeavor, who know neither failure nor success. Let us hope that our own blood shall continue in the land, that our children and children’s children to endless generations shall arise to take our places and play a mighty and dominant part in the world. But whether this be denied or granted by the years we shall not see, let at least the satisfaction be ours that we have carried onward the lighted torch in our own day and generation. If we do this, then, as our eyes close, and we go out into the darkness, and others’ hands grasp the torch, at least we can say that our part has been borne well and valiantly.