Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). History as Literature. 1913.III
The World Movement
After the downfall of Rome and the breaking in sunder of the Roman Empire, the first real crystallization of the forces that were working for a new uplift of civilization in western Europe was round the Karling house, and, above all, round the great Emperor, Karl the Great, the seat of whose empire was at Aachen. Under the Karlings the Arab and the Moor were driven back beyond the Pyrenees; the last of the old heathen Germans were forced into Christianity, and the Avars, wild horsemen from the Asian steppes, who had long held tented dominion in middle Europe, were utterly destroyed. With the break-up of the Karling empire came chaos once more, and a fresh inrush of savagery: Vikings from the frozen north, and new hordes of outlandish riders from Asia. It was the early emperors of Germany proper who quelled these barbarians; in their time Dane and Norseman and Magyar became Christians, and most of the Slav peoples as well, so that Europe began to take on a shape which we can recognize to-day. Since then the centuries have rolled by, with strange alternations of fortune, now well-nigh barren, and again great with German achievement in arms and in government, in science and the arts. The centre of power shifted hither and thither within German lands; the great house of Hohenzollern rose, the house which has at last seen Germany spring into a commanding position in the very forefront among the nations of mankind.
To this ancient land, with its glorious past and splendid present, to this land of many memories and of eager hopes, I come from a young nation, which is by blood akin to, and yet different from, each of the great nations of middle and western Europe; which has inherited or acquired much from each, but is changing and developing every inheritance and acquisition into something new and strange. The German strain in our blood is large, for almost from the beginning there has been a large German element among the successive waves of newcomers whose children’s children have been and are being fused into the American nation; and I myself trace my origin to that branch of the Low Dutch stock which raised Holland out of the North Sea. Moreover, we have taken from you, not only much of the blood that runs through our veins, but much of the thought that shapes our minds. For generations American scholars have flocked to your universities, and, thanks to the wise foresight of his Imperial Majesty the present Emperor, the intimate and friendly connection between the two countries is now in every way closer than it has ever been before.
Germany is pre-eminently a country in which the world movement of to-day in all of its multitudinous aspects is plainly visible. The life of this university covers the period during which that movement has spread until it is felt throughout every continent, while its velocity has been constantly accelerating, so that the face of the world has changed, and is now changing, as never before. It is therefore fit and appropriate here to speak on this subject.
When, in the slow procession of the ages, man was developed on this planet, the change worked by his appearance was at first slight. Further ages passed while he groped and struggled by infinitesimal degrees upward through the lower grades of savagery; for the general law is that life which is advanced and complex, whatever its nature, changes more quickly than simpler and less advanced forms. The life of savages changes and advances with extreme slowness, and groups of savages influence one another but little. The first rudimentary beginnings of that complex life of communities which we call civilization marked a period when man had already long been by far the most important creature on the planet. The history of the living world had become, in fact, the history of man, and therefore something totally different in kind as well as in degree from what it had been before. There are interesting analogies between what has gone on in the development of life generally and what has gone on in the development of human society. [These I have discussed in the preceding chapter.] But the differences are profound, and go to the root of things.
Throughout their early stages the movements of civilization—for, properly speaking, there was no one movement—were very slow, were local in space, and were partial in the sense that each developed along but few lines. Of the numberless years that covered these early stages we have no record. They were the years that saw such extraordinary discoveries and inventions as fire, and the wheel, and the bow, and the domestication of animals. So local were these inventions that at the present day there yet linger savage tribes, still fixed in the half-bestial life of an infinitely remote past, who know none of them except fire—and the discovery and use of fire may have marked, not the beginning of civilization, but the beginning of the savagery which separated man from brute.
Even after civilization and culture had achieved a relatively high position, they were still purely local, and from this fact subject to violent shocks. Modern research has shown the existence in prehistoric or, at least, protohistoric times of many peoples who, in given localities, achieved a high and peculiar culture, a culture that was later so completely destroyed that it is difficult to say what, if any, traces it left on the subsequent cultures out of which we have developed our own, while it is also difficult to say exactly how much any one of these cultures influenced any other. In many cases, as where invaders with weapons of bronze or iron conquered the neolithic peoples, the higher civilization completely destroyed the lower civilization, or barbarism, with which it came in contact. In other cases, while superiority in culture gave its possessors at the beginning a marked military and governmental superiority over the neighboring peoples, yet sooner or later there accompanied it a certain softness or enervating quality which left the cultured folk at the mercy of the stark and greedy neighboring tribes, in whose savage souls cupidity gradually overcame terror and awe. Then the people that had been struggling upward would be engulfed, and the levelling waves of barbarism wash over them. But we are not yet in position to speak definitely on these matters. It is only the researches of recent years that have enabled us so much as to guess at the course of events in prehistoric Greece; while as yet we can hardly even hazard a guess as to how, for instance, the Hallstadt culture rose and fell, or as to the history and fate of the builders of those strange ruins of which Stonehenge is the type.
The first civilizations which left behind them clear records rose in that hoary historic past which geologically is part of the immediate present—and which is but a span’s length from the present, even when compared only with the length of time that man has lived on this planet. These first civilizations were those which rose in Mesopotamia and the Nile valley some six or eight thousand years ago. As far as we can see, they were well-nigh independent centres of cultural development, and our knowledge is not such at present as to enable us to connect either with the early cultural movements, in southwestern Europe on the one hand, or in India on the other, or with that Chinese civilization which has been so profoundly affected by Indian influences.
Compared with the civilizations with which we are best acquainted, the striking features in the Mesopotamian and Nilotic civilizations were the length of time they endured and their comparative changelessness. The kings, priests, and peoples who dwelt by the Nile or Euphrates are found thinking much the same thoughts, doing much the same deeds, leaving at least very similar records, while time passes in tens of centuries. Of course there was change; of course there were action and reaction in influence between them and their neighbors; and the movement of change, of development, material, mental, spiritual, was much faster than anything that had occurred during the eons of mere savagery. But in contradistinction to modern times the movement was very slow indeed; and, moreover, in each case it was strongly localized, while the field of endeavor was narrow. There were certain conquests by man over nature; there were certain conquests in the domain of pure intellect; there were certain extensions which spread the area of civilized mankind. But it would be hard to speak of it as a “world movement” at all, for by far the greater part of the habitable globe was not only unknown, but its existence unguessed at, so far as peoples with any civilization whatsoever were concerned.
With the downfall of these ancient civilizations there sprang into prominence those peoples with whom our own cultural history may be said to begin. Those ideas and influences in our lives which we can consciously trace back at all are in the great majority of instances to be traced to the Jew, the Greek, or the Roman; and the ordinary man, when he speaks of the nations of antiquity, has in mind specifically these three peoples—although, judged even by the history of which we have record, theirs is a very modern antiquity indeed.
The case of the Jew was quite exceptional. His was a small nation, of little more consequence than the sister nations of Moab and Damascus, until all three, and the other petty states of the country, fell under the yoke of the alien. Then he survived, while all his fellows died. In the spiritual domain he contributed a religion which has been the most potent of all factors in its effect on the subsequent history of mankind; but none of his other contributions compare with the legacies left us by the Greek and the Roman.
The Greco-Roman world saw a civilization far more brilliant, far more varied and intense, than any that had gone before it, and one that affected a far larger share of the world’s surface. For the first time there began to be something which at least foreshadowed a “world movement” in the sense that it affected a considerable portion of the world’s surface and that it represented what was incomparably the most important of all that was happening in world history at the time. In breadth and depth the field of intellectual interest had greatly broadened at the same time that the physical area affected by the civilization had similarly extended. Instead of a civilization affecting only one river valley or one nook of the Mediterranean, there was a civilization which directly or indirectly influenced mankind from the Desert of Sahara to the Baltic, from the Atlantic Ocean to the westernmost mountain chains that spring from the Himalayas. Throughout most of this region there began to work certain influences which, though with widely varying intensity, did nevertheless tend to affect a large portion of mankind. In many of the forms of science, in almost all the forms of art, there was great activity. In addition to great soldiers there were great administrators and statesmen whose concern was with the fundamental questions of social and civil life. Nothing like the width and variety of intellectual achievement and understanding had ever before been known; and for the first time we come across great intellectual leaders, great philosophers and writers, whose works are a part of all that is highest in modern thought, whose writings are as alive to-day as when they were first issued; and there were others of even more daring and original temper, a philosopher like Democritus, a poet like Lucretius, whose minds leaped ahead through the centuries and saw what none of their contemporaries saw, but who were so hampered by their surroundings that it was physically impossible for them to leave to the later world much concrete addition to knowledge. The civilization was one of comparatively rapid change, viewed by the standard of Babylon and Memphis. There was incessant movement; and, moreover, the whole system went down with a crash to seeming destruction after a period short compared with that covered by the reigns of a score of Egyptian dynasties, or with the time that elapsed between a Babylonian defeat by Elam and a war sixteen centuries later which fully avenged it.
This civilization flourished with brilliant splendor. Then it fell. In its northern seats it was overwhelmed by a wave of barbarism from among those half-savage peoples from whom you and I, my hearers, trace our descent. In the south and east it was destroyed later, but far more thoroughly, by invaders of an utterly different type. Both conquests were of great importance; but it was the northern conquest which in its ultimate effects was of by far the greatest importance.
With the advent of the Dark Ages the movement of course ceased, and it did not begin anew for many centuries; while a thousand years passed before it was once more in full swing, so far as European civilization, so far as the world civilization of to-day, is concerned. During all those centuries the civilized world, in our acceptation of the term, was occupied, as its chief task, in slowly climbing back to the position from which it had fallen after the age of the Antonines. Of course a general statement like this must be accepted with qualifications. There is no hard-and-fast line between one age or period and another, and in no age is either progress or retrogression universal in all things. There were many points in which the Middle Ages, because of the simple fact that they were Christian, surpassed the brilliant pagan civilization of the past; and there are some points in which the civilization that succeeded them has sunk below the level of the ages which saw such mighty masterpieces of poetry, of architecture—especially cathedral architecture—and of serene spiritual and forceful lay leadership. But they were centuries of violence, rapine, and cruel injustice; and truth was so little heeded that the noble and daring spirits who sought it, especially in its scientific form, did so in deadly peril of the fagot and the halter.
During this period there were several very important extra-European movements, one or two of which deeply affected Europe. Islam arose, and conquered far and wide, uniting fundamentally different races into a brotherhood of feeling which Christianity has never been able to rival, and at the time of the Crusades profoundly influencing European culture. It produced a civilization of its own, brilliant and here and there useful, but hopelessly limited when compared with the civilization of which we ourselves are the heirs. The great cultured peoples of southeastern and eastern Asia continued their checkered development totally unaffected by, and without knowledge of, any European influence.
Throughout the whole period there came against Europe, out of the unknown wastes of central Asia, an endless succession of strange and terrible conqueror races whose mission was mere destruction—Hun and Avar, Mongol, Tartar, and Turk. These fierce and squalid tribes of warrior horsemen flailed mankind with red scourges, wasted and destroyed, and then vanished from the ground they had overrun. But in no way worth noting did they count in the advance of mankind.
At last, a little over four hundred years ago, the movement toward a world civilization took up its interrupted march. The beginning of the modern movement may roughly be taken as synchronizing with the discovery of printing, and with that series of bold sea ventures which culminated in the discovery of America; and, after these two epochal feats had begun to produce their full effects in material and intellectual life, it became inevitable that civilization should thereafter differ not only in degree but even in kind from all that had gone before. Immediately after the voyages of Columbus and Vasco da Gama there began a tremendous religious ferment; the awakening of intellect went hand in hand with the moral uprising; the great names of Copernicus, Bruno, Kepler, and Galileo show that the mind of man was breaking the fetters that had cramped it; and for the first time experimentation was used as a check upon observation and theorization. Since then, century by century, the changes have increased in rapidity and complexity, and have attained their maximum in both respects during the century just past. Instead of being directed by one or two dominant peoples, as was the case with all similar movements of the past, the new movement was shared by many different nations. From every standpoint it has been of infinitely greater moment than anything hitherto seen. Not in one but in many different peoples there has been extraordinary growth in wealth, in population, in power of organization, and in mastery over mechanical activity and natural resources. All of this has been accompanied and signalized by an immense outburst of energy and restless initiative. The result is as varied as it is striking.
In the first place, representatives of this civilization, by their conquest of space, were enabled to spread into all the practically vacant continents, while at the same time, by their triumphs in organization and mechanical invention, they acquired an unheard-of military superiority as compared with their former rivals. To these two facts is primarily due the further fact that for the first time there is really something that approaches a world civilization, a world movement. The spread of the European peoples since the days of Ferdinand the Catholic and Ivan the Terrible has been across every sea and over every continent. In places the conquests have been ethnic; that is, there has been a new wandering of the peoples, and new commonwealths have sprung up in which the people are entirely or mainly of European blood. This is what happened in the temperate and subtropical regions of the Western Hemisphere, in Australia, in portions of northern Asia and southern Africa. In other places the conquest has been purely political, the Europeans representing for the most part merely a small caste of soldiers and administrators, as in most of tropical Asia and Africa, and in much of tropical America. Finally, here and there instances occur where there has been no conquest at all, but where an alien people is profoundly and radically changed by the mere impact of Western civilization. The most extraordinary instance of this, of course, is Japan; for Japan’s growth and change during the last half-century has been in many ways the most striking phenomenon of all history. Intensely proud of her past history, intensely loyal to certain of her past traditions, she has yet with a single effort wrenched herself free from all hampering ancient ties, and with a bound has taken her place among the leading civilized nations of mankind.
There are, of course, many grades between these different types of influence, but the net outcome of what has occurred during the last four centuries is that civilization of the European type now exercises a more or less profound effect over practically the entire world. There are nooks and corners to which it has not yet penetrated; but there is at present no large space of territory in which the general movement of civilized activity does not make itself more or less felt. This represents something wholly different from what has ever hitherto been seen. In the greatest days of Roman dominion the influence of Rome was felt over only a relatively small portion of the world’s surface. Over much the larger part of the world the process of change and development was absolutely unaffected by anything that occurred in the Roman Empire; and those communities the play of whose influence was felt in action and reaction, and in interaction, among themselves, were grouped immediately around the Mediterranean. Now, however, the whole world is bound together as never before; the bonds are sometimes those of hatred rather than love, but they are bonds nevertheless.
Frowning or hopeful, every man of leadership in any line of thought or effort must now look beyond the limits of his own country. The student of sociology may live in Berlin or Saint Petersburg, Rome or London, or he may live in Melbourne or San Francisco or Buenos Ayres; but in whatever city he lives, he must pay heed to the studies of men who live in each of the other cities. When in America we study labor problems and attempt to deal with subjects such as life-insurance for wage-workers, we turn to see what you do here in Germany, and we also turn to see what the far-off commonwealth of New Zealand is doing. When a great German scientist is warring against the most dreaded enemies of mankind, creatures of infinitesimal size which the microscope reveals in his blood, he may spend his holidays of study in central Africa or in eastern Asia; and he must know what is accomplished in the laboratories of Tokio, just as he must know the details of that practical application of science which has changed the Isthmus of Panama from a death-trap into what is almost a health resort. Every progressive in China is striving to introduce Western methods of education and administration, and hundreds of European and American books are now translated into Chinese. The influence of European governmental principles is strikingly illustrated by the fact that admiration for them has broken down the iron barriers of Moslem conservatism, so that their introduction has become a burning question in Turkey and Persia; while the very unrest, the impatience of European or American control, in India, Egypt, or the Philippines, takes the form of demanding that the government be assimilated more closely to what it is in England or the United States. The deeds and works of any great statesman, the preachings of any great ethical, social, or political teacher, now find echoes in both hemispheres and in every continent. From a new discovery in science to a new method of combating or applying socialism, there is no movement of note which can take place in any part of the globe without powerfully affecting masses of people in Europe, America, and Australia, in Asia and Africa. For weal or for woe, the peoples of mankind are knit together far closer than ever before.
So much for the geographical side of the expansion of modern civilization. But only a few of the many and intense activities of modern civilization have found their expression on this side. The movement has been just as striking in its conquest over natural forces, in its searching inquiry into and about the soul of things.
The conquest over Nature has included an extraordinary increase in every form of knowledge of the world we live in, and also an extraordinary increase in the power of utilizing the forces of Nature. In both directions the advance has been very great during the past four or five centuries, and in both directions it has gone on with ever-increasing rapidity during the last century. After the great age of Rome had passed, the boundaries of knowledge shrank, and in many cases it was not until well-nigh our own times that her domain was once again pushed beyond the ancient landmarks. About the year 150 A. D., Ptolemy, the geographer, published his map of central Africa and the sources of the Nile, and this map was more accurate than any which we had as late as 1850 A. D. More was known of physical science, and more of the truth about the physical world was guessed at, in the days of Pliny, than was known or guessed until the modern movement began. The case was the same as regards military science. At the close of the Middle Ages the weapons were what they had always been—sword, shield, bow, spear; and any improvement in them was more than offset by the loss in knowledge of military organization, in the science of war, and in military leadership since the days of Hannibal and Cæsar. A hundred years ago, when this university was founded, the methods of transportation did not differ in the essentials from what they had been among the highly civilized nations of antiquity. Travellers and merchandise went by land in wheeled vehicles or on beasts of burden, and by sea in boats propelled by sails or by oars; and news was conveyed as it always had been conveyed. What improvements there had been had been in degree only and not in kind; and in some respects there had been retrogression rather than advance. There were many parts of Europe where the roads were certainly worse than the old Roman post-roads; and the Mediterranean Sea, for instance, was by no means as well policed as in the days of Trajan. Now steam and electricity have worked a complete revolution; and the resulting immensely increased ease of communication has in its turn completely changed all the physical questions of human life. A voyage from Egypt to England was nearly as serious an affair in the eighteenth century as in the second; and the news communications between the two lands were not materially improved. A graduate of your university to-day can go to mid-Asia or mid-Africa with far less consciousness of performing a feat of note than would have been the case a hundred years ago with a student who visited Sicily and Andalusia. Moreover, the invention and use of machinery run by steam or electricity have worked a revolution in industry as great as the revolution in transportation; so that here again the difference between ancient and modern civilization is one not merely of degree but of kind. In many vital respects the huge modern city differs more from all preceding cities than any of these differed one from the other; and the giant factory town is of and by itself one of the most formidable problems of modern life.
Steam and electricity have given the race dominion over land and water such as it never had before; and now the conquest of the air is directly impending. As books preserve thought through time, so the telegraph and the telephone transmit it through the space they annihilate, and therefore minds are swayed one by another without regard to the limitations of space and time which formerly forced each community to work in comparative isolation. It is the same with the body as with the brain. The machinery of the factory and the farm enormously multiplies bodily skill and vigor. Countless trained intelligences are at work to teach us how to avoid or counteract the effects of waste. Of course some of the agents in the modern scientific development of natural resources deal with resources of such a kind that their development means their destruction, so that exploitation on a grand scale means an intense rapidity of development purchased at the cost of a speedy exhaustion. The enormous and constantly increasing output of coal and iron necessarily means the approach of the day when our children’s children, or their children’s children, shall dwell in an ironless age—and, later on, in an age without coal—and will have to try to invent or develop new sources for the production of heat and use of energy. But as regards many another natural resource, scientific civilization teaches us how to preserve it through use. The best use of field and forest will leave them decade by decade, century by century, more fruitful; and we have barely begun to use the indestructible power that comes from harnessed water. The conquests of surgery, of medicine, the conquests in the entire field of hygiene and sanitation, have been literally marvellous; the advances in the past century or two have been over more ground than was covered during the entire previous history of the human race.
The advances in the realm of pure intellect have been of equal note, and they have been both intensive and extensive. Great virgin fields of learning and wisdom have been discovered by the few, and at the same time knowledge has spread among the many to a degree never dreamed of before. Old men among us have seen in their own generation the rise of the first rational science of the evolution of life. The astronomer and the chemist, the psychologist and the historian, and all their brethren in many different fields of wide endeavor, work with a training and knowledge and method which are in effect instruments of precision, differentiating their labors from the labors of their predecessors as the rifle is differentiated from the bow.
The play of new forces is as evident in the moral and spiritual world as in the world of the mind and the body. Forces for good and forces for evil are everywhere evident, each acting with a hundred- or a thousandfold the intensity with which it acted in former ages. Over the whole earth the swing of the pendulum grows more and more rapid, the mainspring coils and spreads at a rate constantly quickening, the whole world movement is of constantly accelerating velocity.
In this movement there are signs of much that bodes ill. The machinery is so highly geared, the tension and strain are so great, the effort and the output have alike so increased, that there is cause to dread the ruin that would come from any great accident, from any breakdown, and also the ruin that may come from the mere wearing out of the machine itself. The only previous civilization with which our modern civilization can be in any way compared is that period of Greco-Roman civilization extending, say, from the Athens of Themistocles to the Rome of Marcus Aurelius. Many of the forces and tendencies which were then at work are at work now. Knowledge, luxury, and refinement, wide material conquests, territorial administration on a vast scale, an increase in the mastery of mechanical appliances and in applied science—all these mark our civilization as they marked the wonderful civilization that flourished in the Mediterranean lands twenty centuries ago; and they preceded the downfall of the older civilization. Yet the differences are many, and some of them are quite as striking as the similarities. The single fact that the old civilization was based upon slavery shows the chasm that separates the two. Let me point out one further and very significant difference in the development of the two civilizations, a difference so obvious that it is astonishing that it has not been dwelt upon by men of letters.
One of the prime dangers of civilization has always been its tendency to cause the loss of virile fighting virtues, of the fighting edge. When men get too comfortable and lead too luxurious lives, there is always danger lest the softness eat like an acid into their manliness of fibre. The barbarian, because of the very conditions of his life, is forced to keep and develop certain hardy qualities which the man of civilization tends to lose, whether he be clerk, factory hand, merchant, or even a certain type of farmer. Now, I will not assert that in modern civilized society these tendencies have been wholly overcome; but there has been a much more successful effort to overcome them than was the case in the early civilizations. This is curiously shown by the military history of the Greco-Roman period as compared with the history of the last four or five centuries here in Europe and among nations of European descent. In the Grecian and Roman military history the change was steadily from a citizen army to an army of mercenaries. In the days of the early greatness of Athens, Thebes, and Sparta, in the days when the Roman republic conquered what world it knew, the armies were filled with citizen soldiers. But gradually the citizens refused to serve in the armies, or became unable to render good service. The Greek states described by Polybius, with but few exceptions, hired others to do their fighting for them. The Romans of the days of Augustus had utterly ceased to furnish any cavalry, and were rapidly ceasing to furnish any infantry, to the legions and cohorts. When the civilization came to an end, there were no longer citizens in the ranks of the soldiers. The change from the citizen army to the army of mercenaries had been completed.
Now the exact reverse has been the case with us in modern times. A few centuries ago the mercenary soldier was the principal figure in most armies, and in great numbers of cases the mercenary soldier was an alien. In the wars of religion in France, in the Thirty Years’ War in Germany, in the wars that immediately thereafter marked the beginning of the break-up of the great Polish kingdom, the regiments and brigades of foreign soldiers formed a striking and leading feature in every army. Too often the men of the country in which the fighting took place played merely the ignoble part of victims, the burghers and peasants appearing in but limited numbers in the mercenary armies by which they were plundered. Gradually this has all changed, until now practically every army is a citizen army, and the mercenary has almost disappeared, while the army exists on a vaster scale than ever before in history. This is so among the military monarchies of Europe. In our own Civil War of the United States the same thing occurred, peaceful people as we are. At that time more than two generations had passed since the war of independence. During the whole of that period the people had been engaged in no life-and-death struggle; and yet, when the Civil War broke out, and after some costly and bitter lessons at the beginning, the fighting spirit of the people was shown to better advantage than ever before. The war was peculiarly a war for a principle, a war waged by each side for an ideal, and while faults and shortcomings were plentiful among the combatants, there was comparatively little sordidness of motive or conduct. In such a giant struggle, where across the warp of so many interests is shot the woof of so many purposes, dark strands and bright, strands sombre and brilliant, are always intertwined; inevitably there was corruption here and there in the Civil War; but all the leaders on both sides and the great majority of the enormous masses of fighting men wholly disregarded, and were wholly uninfluenced by, pecuniary considerations. There were, of course, foreigners who came over to serve as soldiers of fortune for money or for love of adventure; but the foreign-born citizens served in much the same proportion, and from the same motives, as the native-born. Taken as a whole, it was, even more than the Revolutionary War, a true citizens’ fight, and the armies of Grant and Lee were as emphatically citizen armies as the Athenian, Theban, or Spartan armies in the great age of Greece, or as a Roman army in the days of the republic.
Another striking contrast in the course of modern civilization as compared with the later stages of the Greco-Roman or classic civilization is to be found in the relations of wealth and politics. In classic times, as the civilization advanced toward its zenith, politics became a recognized means of accumulating great wealth. Cæsar was again and again on the verge of bankruptcy; he spent an enormous fortune; and he recouped himself by the money which he made out of his political-military career. Augustus established imperial Rome on firm foundations by the use he made of the huge fortune he had acquired by plunder. What a contrast is offered by the careers of Washington and Lincoln! There were a few exceptions in ancient days; but the immense majority of the Greeks and the Romans, as their civilizations culminated, accepted money-making on a large scale as one of the incidents of a successful public career. Now all of this is in sharp contrast to what has happened within the last two or three centuries. During this time there has been a steady growth away from the theory that money-making is permissible in an honorable public career. In this respect the standard has been constantly elevated, and things which statesmen had no hesitation in doing three centuries or two centuries ago, and which did not seriously hurt a public career even a century ago, are now utterly impossible. Wealthy men still exercise a large, and sometimes an improper, influence in politics, but it is apt to be an indirect influence; and in the advanced states the mere suspicion that the wealth of public men is obtained or added to as an incident of their public careers will bar them from public life. Speaking generally, wealth may very greatly influence modern political life, but it is not acquired in political life. The colonial administrators, German or American, French or English, of this generation lead careers which, as compared with the careers of other men of like ability, show too little rather than too much regard for money-making; and literally a world scandal would be caused by conduct which a Roman proconsul would have regarded as moderate, and which would not have been especially uncommon even in the administration of England a century and a half ago. On the whole, the great statesmen of the last few generations have been either men of moderate means or, if men of wealth, men whose wealth was diminished rather than increased by their public services.
I have dwelt on these points merely because it is well to emphasize in the most emphatic fashion the fact that in many respects there is a complete lack of analogy between the civilization of to-day and the only other civilization in any way comparable to it, that of the ancient Greco-Roman lands. There are, of course, many points in which the analogy is close, and in some of these points the resemblances are as ominous as they are striking. But most striking of all is the fact that in point of physical extent, of wide diversity of interest, and of extreme velocity of movement, the present civilization can be compared to nothing that has ever gone before. It is now literally a world movement, and the movement is growing ever more rapid and is ever reaching into new fields. Any considerable influence exerted at one point is certain to be felt with greater or less effect at almost every other point. Every path of activity open to the human intellect is followed with an eagerness and success never hitherto dreamed of. We have established complete liberty of conscience, and, in consequence, a complete liberty for mental activity. All free and daring souls have before them a well-nigh limitless opening for endeavor of any kind.
Hitherto every civilization that has arisen has been able to develop only a comparatively few activities; that is, its field of endeavor has been limited in kind as well as in locality. There have, of course, been great movements, but they were of practically only one form of activity; and, although usually this set in motion other kinds of activities, such was not always the case. The great religious movements have been the pre-eminent examples of this type. But they are not the only ones. Such peoples as the Mongols and the Phœnicians, at almost opposite poles of cultivation, have represented movements in which one element, military or commercial, so overshadowed all other elements that the movement died out chiefly because it was one-sided. The extraordinary outburst of activity among the Mongols of the thirteenth century was almost purely a military movement, without even any great administrative side; and it was therefore well-nigh purely a movement of destruction. The individual prowess and hardihood of the Mongols, and the perfection of their military organization rendered their armies incomparably superior to those of any European, or any other Asiatic, power of that day. They conquered from the Yellow Sea to the Persian Gulf and the Adriatic; they seized the imperial throne of China; they slew the Caliph in Bagdad; they founded dynasties in India. The fanaticism of Christianity and the fanaticism of Mohammedanism were alike powerless against them. The valor of the bravest fighting men in Europe was impotent to check them. They trampled Russia into bloody mire beneath the hoofs of their horses; they drew red furrows of destruction across Poland and Hungary; they overthrew with ease any force from western Europe that dared encounter them. Yet they had no root of permanence; their work was mere evil while it lasted, and it did not last long; and when they vanished they left hardly a trace behind them. So the extraordinary Phœnician civilization was almost purely a mercantile, a business civilization, and though it left an impress on the life that came after, this impress was faint indeed compared to that left, for instance, by the Greeks with their many-sided development. Yet the Greek civilization itself fell because this many-sided development became too exclusively one of intellect, at the expense of character, at the expense of the fundamental qualities which fit men to govern both themselves and others. When the Greek lost the sterner virtues, when his soldiers lost the fighting edge, and his statesmen grew corrupt, while the people became a faction-torn and pleasure-loving rabble, then the doom of Greece was at hand, and not all their cultivation, their intellectual brilliancy, their artistic development, their adroitness in speculative science, could save the Hellenic peoples as they bowed before the sword of the iron Roman.
What is the lesson to us to-day? Are we to go the way of the older civilizations? The immense increase in the area of civilized activity to-day, so that it is nearly coterminous with the world’s surface; the immense increase in the multitudinous variety of its activities; the immense increase in the velocity of the world movement—are all these to mean merely that the crash will be all the more complete and terrible when it comes? We can not be certain that the answer will be in the negative; but of this we can be certain, that we shall not go down in ruin unless we deserve and earn our end. There is no necessity for us to fall; we can hew out our destiny for ourselves, if only we have the wit and the courage and the honesty.
Personally, I do not believe that our civilization will fall. I think that on the whole we have grown better and not worse. I think that on the whole the future holds more for us than even the great past has held. But, assuredly, the dreams of golden glory in the future will not come true unless, high of heart and strong of hand, by our own mighty deeds we make them come true. We can not afford to develop any one set of qualities, any one set of activities, at the cost of seeing others, equally necessary, atrophied. Neither the military efficiency of the Mongol, the extraordinary business ability of the Phœnician, nor the subtle and polished intellect of the Greek availed to avert destruction.
We, the men of to-day and of the future, need many qualities if we are to do our work well. We need, first of all and most important of all, the qualities which stand at the base of individual, of family life, the fundamental and essential qualities—the homely, every-day, all-important virtues. If the average man will not work, if he has not in him the will and the power to be a good husband and father; if the average woman is not a good housewife, a good mother of many healthy children, then the state will topple, will go down, no matter what may be its brilliance of artistic development or material achievement. But these homely qualities are not enough. There must, in addition, be that power of organization, that power of working in common for a common end, which the German people have shown in such signal fashion during the last half-century. Moreover, the things of the spirit are even more important than the things of the body. We can well do without the hard intolerance and arid intellectual barrenness of what was worst in the theological systems of the past, but there has never been greater need of a high and fine religious spirit than at the present time. So, while we can laugh good-humoredly at some of the pretensions of modern philosophy in its various branches, it would be worse than folly on our part to ignore our need of intellectual leadership. Your own great Frederick once said that if he wished to punish a province he would leave it to be governed by philosophers; the sneer had in it an element of justice; and yet no one better than the great Frederick knew the value of philosophers, the value of men of science, men of letters, men of art. It would be a bad thing indeed to accept Tolstoi as a guide in social and moral matters; but it would also be a bad thing not to have Tolstoi, not to profit by the lofty side of his teachings. There are plenty of scientific men whose hard arrogance, whose cynical materialism, whose dogmatic intolerance, put them on a level with the bigoted mediæval ecclesiasticism which they denounce. Yet our debt to scientific men is incalculable, and our civilization of to-day would have reft from it all that which most highly distinguishes it if the work of the great masters of science during the past four centuries were now undone or forgotten. Never has philanthropy, humanitarianism, seen such development as now; and though we must all beware of the folly, and the viciousness no worse than folly, which marks the believer in the perfectibility of man when his heart runs away with his head, or when vanity usurps the place of conscience, yet we must remember also that it is only by working along the lines laid down by the philanthropists, by the lovers of mankind, that we can be sure of lifting our civilization to a higher and more permanent plane of well-being than was ever attained by any preceding civilization. Unjust war is to be abhorred; but woe to the nation that does not make ready to hold its own in time of need against all who would harm it! And woe thrice over to the nation in which the average man loses the fighting edge, loses the power to serve as a soldier if the day of need should arise!
It is no impossible dream to build up a civilization in which morality, ethical development, and a true feeling of brotherhood shall all alike be divorced from false sentimentality, and from the rancorous and evil passions which, curiously enough, so often accompany professions of sentimental attachment to the rights of man; in which a high material development in the things of the body shall be achieved without subordination of the things of the soul; in which there shall be a genuine desire for peace and justice without loss of those virile qualities without which no love of peace or justice shall avail any race; in which the fullest development of scientific research, the great distinguishing feature of our present civilization, shall yet not imply a belief that intellect can ever take the place of character—for, from the standpoint of the nation as of the individual, it is character that is the one vital possession.
Finally, this world movement of civilization, this movement which is now felt throbbing in every corner of the globe, should bind the nations of the world together while yet leaving unimpaired that love of country in the individual citizen which in the present stage of the world’s progress is essential to the world’s well-being. You, my hearers, and I who speak to you, belong to different nations. Under modern conditions the books we read, the news sent by telegraph to our newspapers, the strangers we meet, half of the things we hear and do each day, all tend to bring us into touch with other peoples. Each people can do justice to itself only if it does justice to others; but each people can do its part in the world movement for all only if it first does its duty within its own household. The good citizen must be a good citizen of his own country first before he can with advantage be a citizen of the world at large. I wish you well. I believe in you and your future. I admire and wonder at the extraordinary greatness and variety of your achievements in so many and such widely different fields; and my admiration and regard are all the greater, and not the less, because I am so profound a believer in the institutions and the people of my own land.