An Inquiry Into The Nature Of Peace And The Terms Of Its Perpetuation
by Thorstein Veblen
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse







New York B.W. HUEBSCH 1919

All rights reserved


Published April, 1917: Reprinted August, 1917.

New edition published by B.W. HUEBSCH. January, 1919.


It is now some 122 years since Kant wrote the essay, Zum ewigen Frieden. Many things have happened since then, although the Peace to which he looked forward with a doubtful hope has not been among them. But many things have happened which the great critical philosopher, and no less critical spectator of human events, would have seen with interest. To Kant the quest of an enduring peace presented itself as an intrinsic human duty, rather than as a promising enterprise. Yet through all his analysis of its premises and of the terms on which it may be realised there runs a tenacious persuasion that, in the end, the regime of peace at large will be installed. Not as a deliberate achievement of human wisdom, so much as a work of Nature the Designer of things—Natura daedala rerum.

To any attentive reader of Kant's memorable essay it will be apparent that the title of the following inquiry—On the nature of peace and the terms of its perpetuation—is a descriptive translation of the caption under which he wrote. That such should be the case will not, it is hoped, be accounted either an unseemly presumption or an undue inclination to work under a borrowed light. The aim and compass of any disinterested inquiry in these premises is still the same as it was in Kant's time; such, indeed, as he in great part made it,—viz., a systematic knowledge of things as they are. Nor is the light of Kant's leading to be dispensed with as touches the ways and means of systematic knowledge, wherever the human realities are in question.

Meantime, many things have also changed since the date of Kant's essay. Among other changes are those that affect the direction of inquiry and the terms of systematic formulation. Natura daedala rerum is no longer allowed to go on her own recognizances, without divulging the ways and means of her workmanship. And it is such a line of extension that is here attempted, into a field of inquiry which in Kant's time still lay over the horizon of the future.

The quest of perpetual peace at large is no less a paramount and intrinsic human duty today than it was, nor is it at all certain that its final accomplishment is nearer. But the question of its pursuit and of the conditions to be met in seeking this goal lies in a different shape today; and it is this question that concerns the inquiry which is here undertaken,—What are the terms on which peace at large may hopefully be installed and maintained? What, if anything, is there in the present situation that visibly makes for a realisation of these necessary terms within the calculable future? And what are the consequences presumably due to follow in the nearer future from the installation of such a peace at large? And the answer to these questions is here sought not in terms of what ought dutifully to be done toward the desired consummation, but rather in terms of those known factors of human behaviour that can be shown by analysis of experience to control the conduct of nations in conjunctures of this kind.

February 1917




The inquiry is not concerned with the intrinsic merits of peace or war, 2.

—But with the nature, causes and consequences of the preconceptions favoring peace or war, 3.

—A breach of the peace is an act of the government, or State, 3.

—Patriotism is indispensable to furtherance of warlike enterprise, 4.

—All the peoples of Christendom are sufficiently patriotic, 6.

—Peace established by the State, an armistice—the State is an instrumentality for making peace, not for perpetuating it, 7.

—The governmental establishments and their powers in all the Christian nations are derived from the feudal establishments of the Middle Ages, 9.

—Still retain the right of coercively controlling the actions of their citizens, 11.

—Contrast of Icelandic Commonwealth, 12.

—The statecraft of the past half century has been one of competitive preparedness, 14.

—Prussianised Germany has forced the pace in this competitive preparedness, 20.

—An avowedly predatory enterprise no longer meets with approval, 21.

—When a warlike enterprise has been entered upon, it will have the support of popular sentiment even if it is an aggressive war, 22.

—The moral indignation of both parties to the quarrel is to be taken for granted, 23.

—The spiritual forces of any Christian nation may be mobilised for war by either of two pleas: (1) The preservation or furtherance of the community's material interests, real or fancied, and (2) vindication of the National Honour; as perhaps also perpetuation of the national "Culture," 23.



The nature of Patriotism, 31.

—Is a spirit of Emulation, 33.

—Must seem moral, if only to a biased populace, 33.

—The common man is sufficiently patriotic but is hampered with a sense of right and honest dealing, 38.

—Patriotism is at cross purposes with modern life, 38.

—Is an hereditary trait? 41.

—Variety of racial stocks in Europe, 43.

—Patriotism a ubiquitous trait, 43.

—Patriotism disserviceable, yet men hold to it, 46.

—Cultural evolution of Europeans, 48.

—Growth of a sense of group solidarity, 49.

—Material interests of group falling into abeyance as class divisions have grown up, until prestige remains virtually the sole community interest, 51.

—Based upon warlike prowess, physical magnitude and pecuniary traffic of country, 54.

—Interests of the master class are at cross purposes with the fortunes of the common man, 57.

—Value of superiors is a "prestige value," 57.

—The material benefits which this ruling class contribute are: defense against aggression, and promotion of the community's material gain, 60.

—The common defense is a remedy for evils due to the patriotic spirit, 61.

—The common defense the usual blind behind which events are put in train for eventual hostilities, 62.

—All the nations of warring Europe convinced that they are fighting a defensive war, 62.

—Which usually takes the form of a defense of the National Honour, 63.

—Material welfare is of interest to the Dynastic statesman only as it conduces to political success, 64.

—The policy of national economic self-sufficiency, 67.

—The chief material use of patriotism is its use to a limited number of persons in their quest of private gain, 67.

—And has the effect of dividing the nations on lines of rivalry, 76.



The patriotic spirit of modern peoples is the abiding source of contention among nations, 77.

—Hence any calculus of the Chances of Peace will be a reckoning of forces which may be counted on to keep a patriotic nation in an unstable equilibrium of peace, 78.

—The question of peace and war at large is a question of peace and war among the Powers, which are of two contrasted kinds: those which may safely be counted on spontaneously to take the offensive and those which will fight on provocation, 79.

—War not a question of equity but of opportunity, 81.

—The Imperial designs of Germany and Japan as the prospective cause of war, 82.

—Peace can be maintained in two ways: submission to their dominion, or elimination of these two Powers; No middle course open, 84.

—Frame of mind of states; men and popular sentiment in a Dynastic State, 84.

—Information, persuasion and reflection will not subdue national animosities and jealousies; Peoples of Europe are racially homogeneous along lines of climatic latitude, 88.

—But loyalty is a matter of habituation, 89.

—Derivation and current state of German nationalism, 94.

—Contrasted with the animus of the citizens of a commonwealth, 103;—A neutral peace-compact may be practicable in the absence of Germany and Japan, but it has no chance in their presence, 106.

—The national life of Germany: the Intellectuals, 108.

—Summary of chapter, 116.



Submission to the Imperial Power one of the conditions precedent to a peaceful settlement, 118.

—Character of the projected tutelage, 118.

—Life under the Pax Germanica contrasted with the Ottoman and Russian rule, 124.

—China and biological and cultural success, 130.

—Difficulty of non-resistant subjection is of a psychological order, 131.

—Patriotism of the bellicose kind is of the nature of habit, 134.

—And men may divest themselves of it, 140.

—A decay of the bellicose national spirit must be of the negative order, the disuse of the discipline out of which it has arisen, 142.

—Submission to Imperial authorities necessitates abeyance of national pride among the other peoples, 144.

—Pecuniary merits of the projected Imperial dominion, 145.

—Pecuniary class distinctions in the commonwealths and the pecuniary burden on the common man, 150.

—Material conditions of life for the common man under the modern rule of big business, 156.

—The competitive regime, "what the traffic will bear," and the life and labor of the common man, 158.

—Industrial sabotage by businessmen, 165.

—Contrasted with the Imperial usufruct and its material advantages to the common man, 174.



Personal liberty, not creature comforts, the ulterior springs of action of the common man of the democratic nations, 178.

—No change of spiritual state to be looked for in the life-time of the oncoming generation, 185.

—The Dynastic spirit among the peoples of the Empire will, under the discipline of modern economic conditions, fall into decay, 187.

—Contrast of class divisions in Germany and England, 192.

—National establishments are dependent for their continuance upon preparation for hostilities, 196.

—The time required for the people of the Dynastic States to unlearn their preconceptions will be longer than the interval required for a new onset, 197.

—There can be no neutral course between peace by unconditional surrender and submission or peace by the elimination of Imperial Germany and Japan, 202.

—Peace by submission not practicable for the modern nations, 203.

—Neutralisation of citizenship, 205.

—Spontaneous move in that direction not to be looked for, 213.

—Its chances of success, 219.

—The course of events in America, 221.



A league of neutrals, its outline, 233.

—Need of security from aggression of Imperial Germany, 234.

—Inclusion of the Imperial States in the league, 237.

—Necessity of elimination of Imperial military clique, 239.

—Necessity of intermeddling in internal affairs of Germany even if not acceptable to the German people, 240.

—Probability of pacific nations taking measures to insure peace, 244-298.

—The British gentleman and his control of the English government, 244.

—The shifting of control out of the hands of the gentleman into those of the underbred common man, 251.

—The war situation and its probable effect on popular habits of thought in England, 252.

—The course of such events and their bearing on the chances of a workable pacific league, 255.

—Conditions precedent to a successful pacific league of neutrals, 258.

—Colonial possessions, 259.

—Neutralisation of trade relations, 263.

—Futility of economic boycott, 266.

—The terms of settlement, 269.

—The effect of the war and the chances of the British people being able to meet the exigencies of peace, 273.

—Summary of the terms of settlement, 280.

—Constitutional monarchies and the British gentlemanly government, 281.

—The American national establishment, a government by businessmen, and its economic policy, 292.

—America and the league, 294.



The different conceptions of peace, 299.

—Psychological effects of the war, 303.

—The handicraft system and the machine industry, and their psychological effect on political preconceptions, 306.

—The machine technology and the decay of patriotic loyalty, 310.

—Summary, 313.

—Ownership and the right of contract, 315.

—Standardised under handicraft system, 319.

—Ownership and the machine industry. 320.

—Business control and sabotage, 322.

—Governments of pacific nations controlled by privileged classes, 326.

—Effect of peace on the economic situation, 328.

—Economic aspects of a regime of peace, especially as related to the development of classes, 330.

—The analogy of the Victorian Peace, 344.

—The case of the American Farmer, 348.

—The leisure class, 350.

—The rising standard of living, 354.

—Culture, 355.

—The eventual cleavage of classes, those who own and those who do not, 360.

—Conditioned by peace at large, 366.

—Necessary conditions of a lasting peace, 367.





To many thoughtful men ripe in worldly wisdom it is known of a verity that war belongs indefeasibly in the Order of Nature. Contention, with manslaughter, is indispensable in human intercourse, at the same time that it conduces to the increase and diffusion of the manly virtues. So likewise, the unspoiled youth of the race, in the period of adolescence and aspiring manhood, also commonly share this gift of insight and back it with a generous commendation of all the martial qualities; and women of nubile age and no undue maturity gladly meet them half way.

On the other hand, the mothers of the people are commonly unable to see the use of it all. It seems a waste of dear-bought human life, with a large sum of nothing to show for it. So also many men of an elderly turn, prematurely or otherwise, are ready to lend their countenance to the like disparaging appraisal; it may be that the spirit of prowess in them runs at too low a tension, or they may have outlived the more vivid appreciation of the spiritual values involved. There are many, also, with a turn for exhortation, who find employment for their best faculties in attesting the well-known atrocities and futility of war.

Indeed, not infrequently such advocates of peace will devote their otherwise idle powers to this work of exhortation without stipend or subsidy. And they uniformly make good their contention that the currently accepted conception of the nature of war—General Sherman's formula—is substantially correct. All the while it is to be admitted that all this axiomatic exhortation has no visible effect on the course of events or on the popular temper touching warlike enterprise. Indeed, no equal volume of speech can be more incontrovertible or less convincing than the utterances of the peace advocates, whether subsidised or not. "War is Bloodier than Peace." This would doubtless be conceded without argument, but also without prejudice. Hitherto the pacifists' quest of a basis for enduring peace, it must be admitted, has brought home nothing tangible—with the qualification, of course, that the subsidised pacifists have come in for the subsidy. So that, after searching the recesses of their imagination, able-bodied pacifists whose loquacity has never been at fault hitherto have been brought to ask: "What Shall We Say?"

* * * * *

Under these circumstances it will not be out of place to inquire into the nature of this peace about which swings this wide orbit of opinion and argument. At the most, such an inquiry can be no more gratuitous and no more nugatory than the controversies that provoke it. The intrinsic merits of peace at large, as against those of warlike enterprise, it should be said, do not here come in question. That question lies in the domain of preconceived opinion, so that for the purposes of this inquiry it will have no significance except as a matter to be inquired into; the main point of the inquiry being the nature, causes and consequences of such a preconception favoring peace, and the circumstances that make for a contrary preconception in favor of war.

By and large, any breach of the peace in modern times is an official act and can be taken only on initiative of the governmental establishment, the State. The national authorities may, of course, be driven to take such a step by pressure of warlike popular sentiment. Such, e.g., is presumed to have been the case in the United States' attack on Spain during the McKinley administration; but the more that comes to light of the intimate history of that episode, the more evident does it become that the popular war sentiment to which the administration yielded had been somewhat sedulously "mobilised" with a view to such yielding and such a breach. So also in the case of the Boer war, the move was made under sanction of a popular war spirit, which, again, did not come to a head without shrewd surveillance and direction. And so again in the current European war, in the case, e.g., of Germany, where the initiative was taken, the State plainly had the full support of popular sentiment, and may even be said to have precipitated the war in response to this urgent popular aspiration; and here again it is a matter of notoriety that the popular sentiment had long been sedulously nursed and "mobilised" to that effect, so that the populace was assiduously kept in spiritual readiness for such an event. The like is less evident as regards the United Kingdom, and perhaps also as regards the other Allies.

And such appears to have been the common run of the facts as regards all the greater wars of the last one hundred years,—what may be called the "public" wars of this modern era, as contrasted with the "private" or administrative wars which have been carried on in a corner by one and another of the Great Powers against hapless barbarians, from time to time, in the course of administrative routine.

It is also evident from the run of the facts as exemplified in these modern wars that while any breach of the peace takes place only on the initiative and at the discretion of the government, or State,[1] it is always requisite in furtherance of such warlike enterprise to cherish and eventually to mobilise popular sentiment in support of any warlike move. Due fomentation of a warlike animus is indispensable to the procuring and maintenance of a suitable equipment with which eventually to break the peace, as well as to ensure a diligent prosecution of such enterprise when once it has been undertaken. Such a spirit of militant patriotism as may serviceably be mobilised in support of warlike enterprise has accordingly been a condition precedent to any people's entry into the modern Concert of Nations. This Concert of Nations is a Concert of Powers, and it is only as a Power that any nation plays its part in the concert, all the while that "power" here means eventual warlike force.

[Footnote 1: A modern nation constitutes a State only in respect of or with ulterior bearing on the question of International peace or war.]

Such a people as the Chinese, e.g., not pervaded with an adequate patriotic spirit, comes into the Concert of Nations not as a Power but as a bone of contention. Not that the Chinese fall short in any of the qualities that conduce to efficiency and welfare in time of peace, but they appear, in effect, to lack that certain "solidarity of prowess" by virtue of which they should choose to be (collectively) formidable rather than (individually) fortunate and upright; and the modern civilised nations are not in a position, nor in a frame of mind, to tolerate a neighbor whose only claim on their consideration falls under the category of peace on earth and good-will among men. China appears hitherto not to have been a serviceable people for warlike ends, except in so far as the resources of that country have been taken over and converted to warlike uses by some alien power working to its own ends. Such have been the several alien dynasties that have seized upon that country from time to time and have achieved dominion by usufruct of its unwarlike forces. Such has been the nature of the Manchu empire of the recent past, and such is the evident purpose of the prospective Japanese usufruct of the same country and its populace. Meantime the Chinese people appear to be incorrigibly peaceable, being scarcely willing to fight in any concerted fashion even when driven into a corner by unprovoked aggression, as in the present juncture. Such a people is very exceptional. Among civilised nations there are, broadly speaking, none of that temper, with the sole exception of the Chinese,—if the Chinese are properly to be spoken of as a nation.

Modern warfare makes such large and direct use of the industrial arts, and depends for its successful prosecution so largely on a voluminous and unremitting supply of civilian services and wrought goods, that any inoffensive and industrious people, such as the Chinese, could doubtless now be turned to good account by any warlike power that might have the disposal of their working forces. To make their industrial efficiency count in this way toward warlike enterprise and imperial dominion, the usufruct of any such inoffensive and unpatriotic populace would have to fall into the hands of an alien governmental establishment. And no alien government resting on the support of a home population trained in the habits of democracy or given over to ideals of common honesty in national concerns could hopefully undertake the enterprise. This work of empire-building out of unwarlike materials could apparently be carried out only by some alien power hampered by no reserve of scruple, and backed by a servile populace of its own, imbued with an impeccable loyalty to its masters and with a suitably bellicose temper, as, e.g., Imperial Japan or Imperial Germany.

However, for the commonplace national enterprise the common run will do very well. Any populace imbued with a reasonable measure of patriotism will serve as ways and means to warlike enterprise under competent management, even if it is not habitually prone to a bellicose temper. Rightly managed, ordinary patriotic sentiment may readily be mobilised for warlike adventure by any reasonably adroit and single-minded body of statesmen,—of which there is abundant illustration. All the peoples of Christendom are possessed of a sufficiently alert sense of nationality, and by tradition and current usage all the national governments of Christendom are warlike establishments, at least in the defensive sense; and the distinction between the defensive and the offensive in international intrigue is a technical matter that offers no great difficulty. None of these nations is of such an incorrigibly peaceable temper that they can be counted on to keep the peace consistently in the ordinary course of events.

Peace established by the State, or resting in the discretion of the State, is necessarily of the nature of an armistice, in effect terminable at will and on short notice. It is maintained only on conditions, stipulated by express convention or established by custom, and there is always the reservation, tacit or explicit, that recourse will be had to arms in case the "national interests" or the punctilios of international etiquette are traversed by the act or defection of any rival government or its subjects. The more nationally-minded the government or its subject populace, the readier the response to the call of any such opportunity for an unfolding of prowess. The most peaceable governmental policy of which Christendom has experience is a policy of "watchful waiting," with a jealous eye to the emergence of any occasion for national resentment; and the most irretrievably shameful dereliction of duty on the part of any civilised government would be its eventual insensibility to the appeal of a "just war." Under any governmental auspices, as the modern world knows governments, the keeping of the peace comes at its best under the precept, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." But the case for peace is more precarious than the wording of the aphorism would indicate, in as much as in practical fact the "big stick" is an obstacle to soft speech. Evidently, in the light of recent history, if the peace is to be kept it will have to come about irrespective of governmental management,—in spite of the State rather than by its good offices. At the best, the State, or the government, is an instrumentality for making peace, not for perpetuating it.

* * * * *

Anyone who is interested in the nature and derivation of governmental institutions and establishments in Europe, in any but the formal respect, should be able to satisfy his curiosity by looking over the shoulders of the professed students of Political Science. Quite properly and profitably that branch of scholarship is occupied with the authentic pedigree of these institutions, and with the documentary instruments in the case; since Political Science is, after all, a branch of theoretical jurisprudence and is concerned about a formally competent analysis of the recorded legal powers. The material circumstances from which these institutions once took their beginning, and the exigencies which have governed the rate and direction of their later growth and mutation, as well as the de facto bearing of the institutional scheme on the material welfare or the cultural fortunes of the given community,—while all these matters of fact may be germane to the speculations of Political Theory, they are not intrinsic to its premises, to the logical sequence of its inquiry, or to its theoretical findings. The like is also true, of course, as regards that system of habits of thought, that current frame of mind, in which any given institutional scheme necessarily is grounded, and without the continued support of which any given scheme of governmental institutions or policy would become nugatory and so would pass into the province of legal fiction. All these are not idle matters in the purview of the student of Political Science, but they remain after all substantially extraneous to the structure of political theory; and in so far as matters of this class are to be brought into the case at all, the specialists in the field can not fairly be expected to contribute anything beyond an occasional obiter dictum. There can be no discourteous presumption, therefore, in accepting the general theorems of current political theory without prejudice, and looking past the received theoretical formulations for a view of the substantial grounds on which the governmental establishments have grown into shape, and the circumstances, material and spiritual, that surround their continued working and effect.

By lineal descent the governmental establishments and the powers with which they are vested, in all the Christian nations, are derived from the feudal establishments of the Middle Ages; which, in turn, are of a predatory origin and of an irresponsible character.[2] In nearly all instances, but more particularly among the nations that are accounted characteristically modern, the existing establishments have been greatly altered from the mediaeval pattern, by concessive adaptation to later exigencies or by a more or less revolutionary innovation. The degree of their modernity is (conventionally) measured, roughly, by the degree in which they have departed from the mediaeval pattern. Wherever the unavoidable concessions have been shrewdly made with a view to conserving the autonomy and irresponsibility of the governmental establishment, or the "State," and where the state of national sentiment has been led to favor this work of conservation, as, e.g., in the case of Austria, Spain or Prussia, there the modern outcome has been what may be called a Dynastic State. Where, on the other hand, the run of national sentiment has departed notably from the ancient holding ground of loyal abnegation, and has enforced a measure of revolutionary innovation, as in the case of France or of the English-speaking peoples, there the modern outcome has been an (ostensibly) democratic commonwealth of ungraded citizens. But the contrast so indicated is a contrast of divergent variants rather than of opposites. These two type-forms may be taken as the extreme and inclusive limits of variation among the governmental establishments with which the modern world is furnished.[3]

[Footnote 2: The partial and dubious exception of the Scandinavian countries or of Switzerland need raise no question on this head.]

[Footnote 3: Cf., e.g., Eduard Meyer, England: its political organisation and development. ch. ii.]

The effectual difference between these two theoretically contrasted types of governmental establishments is doubtless grave enough, and for many purposes it is consequential, but it is after all not of such a nature as need greatly detain the argument at this point. The two differ less, in effect, in that range of their functioning which comes in question here than in their bearing on the community's fortunes apart from questions of war and peace. In all cases there stand over in this bearing certain primary characteristics of the ancient regime, which all these modern establishments have in common, though not all in an equal degree of preservation and effectiveness. They are, e.g., all vested with certain attributes of "sovereignty." In all cases the citizen still proves on closer attention to be in some measure a "subject" of the State, in that he is invariably conceived to owe a "duty" to the constituted authorities in one respect and another. All civilised governments take cognizance of Treason, Sedition, and the like; and all good citizens are not only content but profoundly insistent on the clear duty of the citizen on this head. The bias of loyalty is not a matter on which argument is tolerated. By virtue of this bias of loyalty, or "civic duty"—which still has much of the color of feudal allegiance—the governmental establishment is within its rights in coercively controlling and directing the actions of the citizen, or subject, in those respects that so lie within his duty; as also in authoritatively turning his abilities to account for the purposes that so lie within the governmental discretion, as, e.g., the Common Defense.

These rights and powers still remain to the governmental establishment even at the widest democratic departure from that ancient pattern of masterful tutelage and usufruct that marked the old-fashioned patrimonial State,—and that still marks the better preserved ones among its modern derivatives. And so intrinsic to these governmental establishments are these discretionary powers, and by so unfailing a popular bias are they still accounted a matter of course and of axiomatic necessity, that they have invariably been retained also among the attributes of those democratic governments that trace their origin to a revolutionary break with the old order.

To many, all this will seem a pedantic taking note of commonplaces,—as if it were worth while remarking that the existing governments are vested with the indispensable attributes of government. Yet history records an instance at variance with this axiomatic rule, a rule which is held to be an unavoidable deliverance of common sense. And it is by no means an altogether unique instance. It may serve to show that these characteristic and unimpeachable powers that invest all current governmental establishments are, after all, to be rated as the marks of a particular species of governments, and not characteristics of the genus of governmental establishments at large. These powers answer to an acquired bias, not to an underlying trait of human nature; a matter of habit, not of heredity.

Such an historical instance is the so-called Republic, or Commonwealth, of Iceland—tenth to thirteenth centuries. Its case is looked on by students of history as a spectacular anomaly, because it admitted none of these primary powers of government in its constituted authorities. And yet, for contrast with these matter-of-course preconceptions of these students of history, it is well to note that in the deliberations of those ancients who installed the Republic for the management of their joint concerns, any inclusion of such powers in its competency appears never to have been contemplated, not even to the extent of its being rejected. This singularity—as it would be rated by modern statesmen and students—was in no degree a new departure in state-making on the part of the founders of the Republic. They had no knowledge of such powers, duties and accountabilities, except as unwholesome features of a novel and alien scheme of irresponsible oppression that was sought to be imposed on them by Harald Fairhair, and which they incontinently made it their chief and immediate business to evade. They also set up no joint or collective establishment with powers for the Common Defense, nor does it appear that such a notion had occurred to them.

In the history of its installation there is no hint that the men who set up this Icelandic Commonwealth had any sense of the need, or even of the feasibility, of such a coercive government as would be involved in concerted preparation for the common defense. Subjection to personal rule, or to official rule in any degree of attenuation, was not comprised in their traditional experience of citizenship; and it was necessarily out of the elements comprised in this traditional experience that the new structure would have to be built up. The new commonwealth was necessarily erected on the premises afforded by the received scheme of use and wont; and this received scheme had come down out of pre-feudal conditions, without having passed under the discipline of that regime of coercion which the feudal system had imposed on the rest of Europe, and so had established as an "immemorial usage" and a "second nature" among the populations of Christendom. The resulting character of the Icelandic Commonwealth is sufficiently striking when contrasted with the case of the English commonwealth of the seventeenth century, or the later French and American republics. These, all and several, came out of a protracted experience in feudalistic state-making and State policy; and the common defense—frequently on the offensive—with its necessary coercive machinery and its submissive loyalty, consequently would take the central place in the resulting civic structure.

To close the tale of the Icelandic commonwealth it may be added that their republic of insubordinate citizens presently fell into default, systematic misuse, under the disorders brought on by an accumulation of wealth, and that it died of legal fiction and constitutional formalities after some experience at the hands of able and ambitious statesmen in contact with an alien government drawn on the coercive plan. The clay vessel failed to make good among the iron pots, and so proved its unfitness to survive in the world of Christian nations,—very much as the Chinese are today at the mercy of the defensive rapacity of the Powers.

And the mercy that we gave them Was to sink them in the sea, Down on the coast of High Barbarie.

No doubt, it will be accepted as an axiomatic certainty that the establishment of a commonwealth after the fashion of the Icelandic Republic, without coercive authority or provision for the common defense, and without a sense of subordination or collective responsibility among its citizens, would be out of all question under existing circumstances of politics and international trade. Nor would such a commonwealth be workable on the scale and at the pace imposed by modern industrial and commercial conditions, even apart from international jealousy and ambitions, provided the sacred rights of ownership were to be maintained in something like their current shape. And yet something of a drift of popular sentiment, and indeed something of deliberate endeavour, setting in the direction of such a harmless and helpless national organisation is always visible in Western Europe, throughout modern times; particularly through the eighteenth and the early half of the nineteenth centuries; and more particularly among the English-speaking peoples and, with a difference, among the French. The Dutch and the Scandinavian countries answer more doubtfully to the same characterisation.

The movement in question is known to history as the Liberal, Rationalistic, Humanitarian, or Individualistic departure. Its ideal, when formulated, is spoken of as the System of Natural Rights; and its goal in the way of a national establishment has been well characterised by its critics as the Police State, or the Night-Watchman State. The gains made in this direction, or perhaps better the inroads of this animus in national ideals, are plainly to be set down as a shift in the direction of peace and amity; but it is also plain that the shift of ground so initiated by this strain of sentiment has never reached a conclusion and never has taken effect in anything like an effectual working arrangement. Its practical consequences have been of the nature of abatement and defection in the pursuit of national ambitions and dynastic enterprise, rather than a creative work of installing any institutional furniture suitable to its own ends. It has in effect gone no farther than what would be called an incipient correction of abuses. The highest rise, as well as the decline, of this movement lie within the nineteenth century.

In point of time, the decay of this amiable conceit of laissez-faire in national policy coincides with the period of great advance in the technology of transport and communication in the nineteenth century. Perhaps, on a larger outlook, it should rather be said that the run of national ambitions and animosities had, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, suffered a degree of decay through the diffusion of this sentimental predilection for Natural Liberty, and that this decline of the manlier aspirations was then arrested and corrected by help of these improvements in the technological situation; which enabled a closer and more coercive control to be exercised over larger areas, and at the same time enabled a more massive aggregate of warlike force to strike more effectively at a greater distance. This whole episode of the rise and decline of laissez-faire in modern history is perhaps best to be conceived as a transient weakening of nationalism, by neglect; rather than anything like the growth of a new and more humane ideal of national intercourse. Such would be the appraisal to be had at the hands of those who speak for a strenuous national life and for the arbitrament of sportsmanlike contention in human affairs. And the latterday growth of more militant aspirations, together with the more settled and sedulous attention to a development of control and of formidable armaments, such as followed on through the latter half of the nineteenth century, would then be rated as a resumption of those older aims and ideals that had been falling somewhat into abeyance in the slack-water days of Liberalism.

There is much to be said for this latter view; and, indeed, much has been said for it, particularly by the spokesmen of imperialist politics. This bias of Natural Liberty has been associated in history with the English-speaking peoples, more intimately and more extensively than with any other. Not that this amiable conceit is in any peculiar degree a race characteristic of this group of peoples; nor even that the history of its rise and decline runs wholly within the linguistic frontiers indicated by this characterisation. The French and the Dutch have borne their share, and at an earlier day Italian sentiment and speculation lent its impulsion to the same genial drift of faith and aspiration. But, by historical accident, its center of gravity and of diffusion has lain with the English-speaking communities during the period when this bias made history and left its impress on the institutional scheme of the Western civilisation. By grace of what may, for the present purpose, be called historical accident, it happens that the interval of history during which the bias of Natural Liberty made visible headway was also a period during which these English-speaking peoples, among whom its effects are chiefly visible, were relatively secure from international disturbance, by force of inaccessibility. Little strain was put upon their sense of national solidarity or national prowess; so little, indeed, that there was some danger of their patriotic animosity falling into decay by disuse; and then they were also busy with other things. Peaceable intercourse, it is true, was relatively easy, active and far-reaching—eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—as compared with what had been the case before that time; but warlike intercourse on such a scale as would constitute a substantial menace to any large nation was nearly out of the question, so far as regards the English-speaking peoples. The available means of aggression, as touches the case of these particular communities, were visibly and consciously inadequate as compared with the means of defense. The means of internal or intra-national control or coercion were also less well provided by the state of the arts current at that time than the means of peaceable intercourse. These means of transport and communication were, at that stage of their development, less well suited for the purposes of far-reaching warlike strategy and the exercise of surveillance and coercion over large spaces than for the purposes of peaceable traffic.

But the continued improvement in the means of communication during the nineteenth century presently upset that situation, and so presently began to neutralise the geographical quarantine which had hedged about these communities that were inclined to let well enough alone. The increasing speed and accuracy of movement in shipping, due to the successful introduction of steam, as well as the concomitant increasing size of the units of equipment, all runs to this effect and presently sets at naught the peace barriers of sea and weather. So also the development of railways and their increasing availability for strategic uses, together with the far-reaching coordination of movement made possible by their means and by the telegraph; all of which is further facilitated by the increasing mass and density of population. Improvements in the technology of arms and armament worked to the like effect, of setting the peace of any community on an increasingly precarious footing, through the advantage which this new technology gave to a ready equipment and a rapid mobilisation. The new state of the industrial arts serviceable for warlike enterprise put an increasingly heavy premium on readiness for offense or defense, but more particularly it all worked increasingly to the advantage of the offensive. It put the Fabian strategy out of date, and led to the doctrine of a defensive offense.

Gradually it came true, with the continued advance in those industrial arts that lend themselves to strategic uses, and it came also to be realised, that no corner of the earth was any longer secure by mere favor of distance and natural difficulty, from eventual aggression at the hands of any provident and adventurous assailant,—even by help of a modicum of defensive precaution. The fear of aggression then came definitively to take the place of international good-will and became the chief motive in public policy, so fast and so far as the state of the industrial arts continued to incline the balance of advantage to the side of the aggressor. All of which served greatly to strengthen the hands of those statesmen who, by interest or temperament, were inclined to imperialistic enterprise. Since that period all armament has conventionally been accounted defensive, and all statesmen have professed that the common defense is their chief concern. Professedly all armament has been designed to keep the peace; so much of a shadow of the peaceable bias there still stands over.

Throughout this latest phase of modern civilisation the avowed fear of aggression has served as apology, possibly as provocation in fact, to national armaments; and throughout the same period any analysis of the situation will finally run the chain of fear back to Prussia as the putative or actual, center of disturbance and apprehension. No doubt, Prussian armament has taken the lead and forced the pace among the nations of Christendom; but the Prussian policy, too, has been diligently covered with the same decorous plea of needful provision for the common defense and an unremitting solicitude for international peace,—to which has been added the canny afterthought of the "defensive offense."

It is characteristic of this era of armed peace that in all these extensive preparations for breaking the peace any formal avowal of other than a defensive purpose has at all times been avoided as an insufferable breach of diplomatic decorum. It is likewise characteristic of the same era that armaments have unremittingly been increased, beyond anything previously known; and that all men have known all the while that the inevitable outcome of this avowedly defensive armament must eventually be war on an unprecedented scale and of unexampled ferocity. It would be neither charitable nor otherwise to the point to call attention to the reflection which this state of the case throws on the collective sagacity or the good faith of the statesmen who have had the management of affairs. It is not practicable to imagine how such an outcome as the present could have been brought about by any degree of stupidity or incapacity alone, nor is it easier to find evidence that the utmost sagacity of the statecraft engaged has had the slightest mitigating effect on the evil consummation to which the whole case has been brought. It has long been a commonplace among observers of public events that these professedly defensive warlike preparations have in effect been preparations for breaking the peace; against which, at least ostensibly, a remedy had been sought in the preparation of still heavier armaments, with full realisation that more armament would unfailingly entail a more unsparing and more disastrous war,—which sums up the statecraft of the past half century.

Prussia, and afterwards Prussianised Germany, has come in for the distinction of taking the lead and forcing the pace in this competitive preparation—or "preparedness"—for war in time of peace. That such has been the case appears in good part to be something of a fortuitous circumstance. The season of enterprising force and fraud to which that country owes its induction into the concert of nations is an episode of recent history; so recent, indeed, that the German nation has not yet had time to live it down and let it be forgotten; and the Imperial State is consequently burdened with an irritably uneasy sense of odium and an established reputation for unduly bad faith. From which it has followed, among other things, that the statesmen of the Empire have lived in the expectation of having their unforgotten derelictions brought home, and so have, on the one hand, found themselves unable to credit any pacific intentions professed by the neighboring Powers, while on the other hand they have been unable to gain credence for their own voluble professions of peace and amity. So it has come about that, by a fortuitous conjuncture of scarcely relevant circumstances, Prussia and the Empire have been thrown into the lead in the race of "preparedness" and have been led assiduously to hasten a breach which they could ill afford. It is, to say the least, extremely doubtful if the event would have been substantially different in the absence of that special provocation to competitive preparedness that has been injected into the situation by this German attitude; but the rate of approach to a warlike climax has doubtless been hastened by the anticipatory policy of preparedness which the Prussian dynasty has seen itself constrained to pursue. Eventually, the peculiar circumstances of its case—embarrassment at home and distaste and discredit abroad—have induced the Imperial State to take the line of a defensive offense, to take war by the forelock and retaliate on presumptive enemies for prospective grievances. But in any case, the progressive improvement in transport and communication, as well as in the special technology of warfare, backed by greatly enhanced facilities for indoctrinating the populace with militant nationalism,—these ways and means, working under the hand of patriotic statesmen must in course of the past century have brought the peace of Europe to so precarious a footing as would have provoked a material increase in the equipment for national defense; which would unavoidably have led to competitive armament and an enhanced international distrust and animosity, eventually culminating in hostilities.

* * * * *

It may well be that the plea of defensive preparation advanced by the statesmen, Prussian and others, in apology for competitive armaments is a diplomatic subterfuge,—there are indications that such has commonly been the case; but even if it commonly is visibly disingenuous, the need of making such a plea to cover more sinister designs is itself an evidence that an avowedly predatory enterprise no longer meets with the requisite popular approval. Even if an exception to this rule be admitted in the recent attitude of the German people, it is to be recalled that the exception was allowed to stand only transiently, and that presently the avowal of a predatory design in this case was urgently disclaimed in the face of adversity. Even those who speak most fluently for the necessity of war, and for its merits as a needed discipline in the manly virtues, are constrained by the prevailing sentiment to deprecate its necessity.

Yet it is equally evident that when once a warlike enterprise has been entered upon so far as to commit the nation to hostilities, it will have the cordial support of popular sentiment even if it is patently an aggressive war. Indeed, it is quite a safe generalisation that when hostilities have once been got fairly under way by the interested statesmen, the patriotic sentiment of the nation may confidently be counted on to back the enterprise irrespective of the merits of the quarrel. But even if the national sentiment is in this way to be counted in as an incidental matter of course, it is also to be kept in mind in this connection that any quarrel so entered upon by any nation will forthwith come to have the moral approval of the community. Dissenters will of course be found, sporadically, who do not readily fall in with the prevailing animus; but as a general proposition it will still hold true that any such quarrel forthwith becomes a just quarrel in the eyes of those who have so been committed to it.

A corollary following from this general theorem may be worth noting in the same connection. Any politician who succeeds in embroiling his country in a war, however nefarious, becomes a popular hero and is reputed a wise and righteous statesman, at least for the time being. Illustrative instances need perhaps not, and indeed can not gracefully, be named; most popular heroes and reputed statesmen belong in this class.

Another corollary, which bears more immediately on the question in hand, follows also from the same general proposition: Since the ethical values involved in any given international contest are substantially of the nature of afterthought or accessory, they may safely be left on one side in any endeavour to understand or account for any given outbreak of hostilities. The moral indignation of both parties to the quarrel is to be taken for granted, as being the statesman's chief and necessary ways and means of bringing any warlike enterprise to a head and floating it to a creditable finish. It is a precipitate of the partisan animosity that inspires both parties and holds them to their duty of self-sacrifice and devastation, and at its best it will chiefly serve as a cloak of self-righteousness to extenuate any exceptionally profligate excursions in the conduct of hostilities.

Any warlike enterprise that is hopefully to be entered on must have the moral sanction of the community, or of an effective majority in the community. It consequently becomes the first concern of the warlike statesman to put this moral force in train for the adventure on which he is bent. And there are two main lines of motivation by which the spiritual forces of any Christian nation may so be mobilised for warlike adventure: (1) The preservation or furtherance of the community's material interests, real or fancied, and (2) vindication of the national honour. To these should perhaps be added as a third, the advancement and perpetuation of the nation's "Culture;" that is to say, of its habitual scheme of use and wont. It is a nice question whether, in practical effect, the aspiration to perpetuate the national Culture is consistently to be distinguished from the vindication of the national honour. There is perhaps the distinction to be made that "the perpetuation of the national Culture" lends a readier countenance to gratuitous aggression and affords a broader cover for incidental atrocities, since the enemies of the national Culture will necessarily be conceived as an inferior and obstructive people, falling beneath the rules of commonplace decorum.

Those material interests for which modern nations are in the habit of taking to arms are commonly of a fanciful character, in that they commonly have none but an imaginary net value to the community at large. Such are, e.g., the national trade or the increase of the national territory. These and the like may serve the warlike or dynastic ambitions of the nation's masters; they may also further the interests of office-holders, and more particularly of certain business houses or businessmen who stand to gain some small advantage by help of the powers in control; but it all signifies nothing more to the common man than an increased bill of governmental expense and a probable increase in the cost of living.

That a nation's trade should be carried in vessels owned by its citizens or registered in its ports will doubtless have some sentimental value to the common run of its citizens, as is shown by the fact that disingenuous politicians always find it worth their while to appeal to this chauvinistic predilection. But it patently is all a completely idle question, in point of material advantage, to anyone but the owners of the vessels; and to these owners it is also of no material consequence under what flag their investments sail, except so far as the government in question may afford them some preferential opportunity for gain,—always at the cost of their fellow citizens. The like is equally true as regards the domicile and the national allegiance of the businessmen who buy and sell the country's imports and exports. The common man plainly has no slightest material interest in the nationality or the place of residence of those who conduct this traffic; though all the facts go to say that in some puzzle-headed way the common man commonly persuades himself that it does make some occult sort of difference to him; so that he is commonly willing to pay something substantial toward subsidising businessmen of his own nationality, in the way of a protective tariff and the like.

The only material advantage to be derived from such a preferential trade policy arises in the case of international hostilities, in which case the home-owned vessels and merchants may on occasion count toward military readiness; although even in that connection their value is contingent and doubtful. But in this way they may contribute in their degree to a readiness to break off peaceable relations with other countries. It is only for warlike purposes, that is to say for the dynastic ambitions of warlike statesmen, that these preferential contrivances in economic policy have any substantial value; and even in that connection their expediency is always doubtful. They are a source of national jealousy, and they may on occasion become a help to military strategy when this national jealousy eventuates in hostilities.

The run of the facts touching this matter of national trade policy is something as follows: At the instance of businessmen who stand to gain by it, and with the cordial support of popular sentiment, the constituted authorities sedulously further the increase of shipping and commerce under protection of the national power. At the same time they spend substance and diplomatic energy in an endeavor to extend the international market facilities open to the country's businessmen, with a view always to a preferential advantage in favor of these businessmen, also with the sentimental support of the common man and at his cost. To safeguard these commercial interests, as well as property-holdings of the nation's citizens in foreign parts, the nation maintains naval, military, consular and diplomatic establishments, at the common expense. The total gains derivable from these commercial and investment interests abroad, under favorable circumstances, will never by any chance equal the cost of the governmental apparatus installed to further and safeguard them. These gains, such as they are, go to the investors and businessmen engaged in these enterprises; while the costs incident to the adventure are borne almost wholly by the common man, who gets no gain from it all. Commonly, as in the case of a protective tariff or a preferential navigation law, the cost to the common man is altogether out of proportion to the gain which accrues to the businessmen for whose benefit he carries the burden. The only other class, besides the preferentially favored businessmen, who derive any material benefit from this arrangement is that of the office-holders who take care of this governmental traffic and draw something in the way of salaries and perquisites; and whose cost is defrayed by the common man, who remains an outsider in all but the payment of the bills. The common man is proud and glad to bear this burden for the benefit of his wealthier neighbors, and he does so with the singular conviction that in some occult manner he profits by it. All this is incredible, but it is everyday fact.

In case it should happen that these business interests of the nation's businessmen interested in trade or investments abroad are jeopardised by a disturbance of any kind in these foreign parts in which these business interests lie, then it immediately becomes the urgent concern of the national authorities to use all means at hand for maintaining the gainful traffic of these businessmen undiminished, and the common man pays the cost. Should such an untoward situation go to such sinister lengths as to involve actual loss to these business interests or otherwise give rise to a tangible grievance, it becomes an affair of the national honour; whereupon no sense of proportion as between the material gains at stake and the cost of remedy or retaliation need longer be observed, since the national honour is beyond price. The motivation in the case shifts from the ground of material interest to the spiritual ground of the moral sentiments.

In this connection "honour" is of course to be taken in the euphemistic sense which the term has under the code duello governing "affairs of honour." It carries no connotation of honesty, veracity, equity, liberality, or unselfishness. This national honour is of the nature of an intangible or immaterial asset, of course; it is a matter of prestige, a sportsmanlike conception; but that fact must not be taken to mean that it is of any the less substantial effect for purposes of a casus belli than the material assets of the community. Quite the contrary: "Who steals my purse, steals trash," etc. In point of fact, it will commonly happen that any material grievance must first be converted into terms of this spiritual capital, before it is effectually turned to account as a stimulus to warlike enterprise.

Even among a people with so single an eye to the main chance as the American community it will be found true, on experiment or on review of the historical evidence, that an offense against the national honour commands a profounder and more unreserved resentment than any infraction of the rights of person or property simply. This has latterly been well shown in connection with the manoeuvres of the several European belligerents, designed to bend American neutrality to the service of one side or the other. Both parties have aimed to intimidate and cajole; but while the one party has taken recourse to effrontery and has made much and ostentatious use of threats and acts of violence against person and property, the other has constantly observed a deferential attitude toward American national self-esteem, even while engaged on a persistent infraction of American commercial rights. The first named line of diplomacy has convicted itself of miscarriage and has lost the strategic advantage, as against the none too adroit finesse of the other side. The statesmen of this European war power were so ill advised as to enter on a course of tentatively cumulative intimidation, by threats and experimentally graduated crimes against the property and persons of American citizens, with a view to coerce American cupidity and yet to avoid carrying these manoeuvres of terrorism far enough to arouse an unmanageable sense of outrage. The experiment has served to show that the breaking point in popular indignation will be reached before the terrorism has gone far enough to raise a serious question of pecuniary caution.

This national honour, which so is rated a necessary of life, is an immaterial substance in a peculiarly high-wrought degree, being not only not physically tangible but also not even capable of adequate statement in pecuniary terms,—as would be the case with ordinary immaterial assets. It is true, where the point of grievance out of which a question of the national honour arises is a pecuniary discrepancy, the national honour can not be satisfied without a pecuniary accounting; but it needs no argument to convince all right-minded persons that even at such a juncture the national honour that has been compromised is indefinitely and indefinably more than what can be made to appear on an accountant's page. It is a highly valued asset, or at least a valued possession, but it is of a metaphysical, not of a physical nature, and it is not known to serve any material or otherwise useful end apart from affording a practicable grievance consequent upon its infraction.

This national honour is subject to injury in divers ways, and so may yield a fruitful grievance even apart from offences against the person or property of the nation's businessmen; as, e.g., through neglect or disregard of the conventional punctilios governing diplomatic intercourse, or by disrespect or contumelious speech touching the Flag, or the persons of national officials, particularly of such officials as have only a decorative use, or the costumes worn by such officials, or, again, by failure to observe the ritual prescribed for parading the national honour on stated occasions. When duly violated the national honour may duly be made whole again by similarly immaterial instrumentalities; as, e.g., by recital of an appropriate formula of words, by formal consumption of a stated quantity of ammunition in the way of a salute, by "dipping" an ensign, and the like,—procedure which can, of course, have none but a magical efficacy. The national honour, in short, moves in the realm of magic, and touches the frontiers of religion.

Throughout this range of duties incumbent on the national defense, it will be noted, the offenses or discrepancies to be guarded against or corrected by recourse to arms have much of a ceremonial character. Whatever may be the material accidents that surround any given concrete grievance that comes up for appraisal and redress, in bringing the case into the arena for trial by combat it is the spiritual value of the offense that is played up and made the decisive ground of action, particularly in so far as appeal is made to the sensibilities of the common man, who will have to bear the cost of the adventure. And in such a case it will commonly happen that the common man is unable, without advice, to see that any given hostile act embodies a sacrilegious infraction of the national honour. He will at any such conjuncture scarcely rise to the pitch of moral indignation necessary to float a warlike reprisal, until the expert keepers of the Code come in to expound and certify the nature of the transgression. But when once the lesion to the national honour has been ascertained, appraised and duly exhibited by those persons whose place in the national economy it is to look after all that sort of thing, the common man will be found nowise behindhand about resenting the evil usage of which he so, by force of interpretation, has been a victim.



Patriotism may be defined as a sense of partisan solidarity in respect of prestige. What the expert psychologists, and perhaps the experts in Political Science, might find it necessary to say in the course of an exhaustive analysis and definition of this human faculty would presumably be something more precise and more extensive. There is no inclination here to forestall definition, but only to identify and describe the concept that loosely underlies the colloquial use of this term, so far as seems necessary to an inquiry into the part played by the patriotic animus in the life of modern peoples, particularly as it bears on questions of war and peace.

On any attempt to divest this concept of all extraneous or adventitious elements it will be found that such a sense of an undivided joint interest in a collective body of prestige will always remain as an irreducible minimum. This is the substantial core about which many and divers subsidiary interests cluster, but without which these other clustering interests and aspirations will not, jointly or severally, make up a working palladium of the patriotic spirit.

It is true, seen in some other light or rated in some other bearing or connection, one and another of these other interests, ideals, aspirations, beatitudes, may well be adjudged nobler, wiser, possibly more urgent than the national prestige; but in the forum of patriotism all these other necessaries of human life—the glory of God and the good of man—rise by comparison only to the rank of subsidiaries, auxiliaries, amenities. He is an indifferent patriot who will let "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" cloud the issue and get in the way of the main business in hand.

There once were, we are told, many hardy and enterprising spirits banded together along the Spanish Main for such like ends, just as there are in our day an even greater number of no less single-minded spirits bent on their own "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness," according to their light, in the money-markets of the modern world; but for all their admirable qualities and splendid achievements, their passionate quest of these amenities has not entitled these Gentlemen Adventurers to claim rank as patriots. The poet says:

"Strike for your altars and your fires! Strike for the green graves of your sires! God and your native land!"

But, again, a temperate scrutiny of the list of desiderata so enumerated in the poet's flight, will quickly bring out the fact that any or all of them might drop out of the situation without prejudice to the plain call of patriotic duty. In the last resort, when the patriotic spirit falls back on its naked self alone, it is not reflection on the merits of these good and beautiful things in Nature that gives him his cue and enforces the ultimate sacrifice. Indeed it is something infinitely more futile and infinitely more urgent,—provided only that the man is imbued with the due modicum of patriotic devotion; as, indeed, men commonly are. It is not faith, hope or charity that abide as the irreducible minimum of virtue in the patriot's scheme of things; particularly not that charity that has once been highly spoken of as being the greatest of these. It may be that, viewed in the light of reason, as Doctor Katzenberger would say, patriotic devotion is the most futile thing in the world; but, for good or ill, the light of reason has nothing to do with the case,—no more than "The flowers that bloom in the spring."

The patriotic spirit is a spirit of emulation, evidently, at the same time that it is emulation shot through with a sense of solidarity. It belongs under the general caption of sportsmanship, rather than of workmanship. Now, any enterprise in sportsmanship is bent on an invidious success, which must involve as its major purpose the defeat and humiliation of some competitor, whatever else may be comprised in its aim. Its aim is a differential gain, as against a rival; and the emulative spirit that comes under the head of patriotism commonly, if not invariably, seeks this differential advantage by injury of the rival rather than by an increase of home-bred well-being.

Indeed, well-being is altogether out of the perspective, except as underpinning for an edifice of national prestige. It is, at least, a safe generalisation that the patriotic sentiment never has been known to rise to the consummate pitch of enthusiastic abandon except when bent on some work of concerted malevolence. Patriotism is of a contentious complexion, and finds its full expression in no other outlet than warlike enterprise; its highest and final appeal is for the death, damage, discomfort and destruction of the party of the second part.

It is not that the spirit of patriotism will tolerate no other sentiments bearing on matters of public interest, but only that it will tolerate none that traverse the call of the national prestige. Like other men, the patriot may be moved by many and divers other considerations, besides that of the national prestige; and these other considerations may be of the most genial and reasonable kind, or they may also be as foolish and mischievous as any comprised in the range of human infirmities. He may be a humanitarian given over to the kindliest solicitude for the common good, or a religious devotee hedged about in all his motions by the ever present fear of God, or taken up with artistic, scholarly or scientific pursuits; or, again, he may be a spendthrift devotee of profane dissipation, whether in the slums or on the higher levels of gentility, or he may be engaged on a rapacious quest of gain, as a businessman within the law or as a criminal without its benefit, or he may spend his best endeavors in advancing the interests of his class at the cost of the nation at large. All that is understood as a matter of course and is beside the point. In so far as he is a complete patriot these other interests will fall away from him when the one clear call of patriotic duty comes to enlist him in the cause of the national prestige. There is, indeed, nothing to hinder a bad citizen being a good patriot; nor does it follow that a good citizen—in other respects—may not be a very indifferent patriot.

Many and various other preferences and considerations may coincide with the promptings of the patriotic spirit, and so may come in to coalesce with and fortify its driving force; and it is usual for patriotic men to seek support for their patriotic impulses in some reasoned purpose of this extraneous kind that is believed to be served by following the call of the national prestige,—it may be a presumptive increase and diffusion of culture at large, or the spread and enhancement of a presumptively estimable religious faith, or a prospective liberation of mankind from servitude to obnoxious masters and outworn institutions; or, again, it may be the increase of peace and material well-being among men, within the national frontiers or impartially throughout the civilised world. There are, substantially, none of the desirable things in this world that are not so counted on by some considerable body of patriots to be accomplished by the success of their own particular patriotic aspirations. What they will not come to an understanding about is the particular national ascendency with which the attainment of these admirable ends is conceived to be bound up.

The ideals, needs and aims that so are brought into the patriotic argument to lend a color of rationality to the patriotic aspiration in any given case will of course be such ideals, needs and aims as are currently accepted and felt to be authentic and self-legitimating among the people in whose eyes the given patriotic enterprise is to find favor. So one finds that, e.g., among the followers of Islam, devout and resolute, the patriotic statesman (that is to say the politician who designs to make use of the popular patriotic fervor) will in the last resort appeal to the claims and injunctions of the faith. In a similar way the Prussian statesman bent on dynastic enterprise will conjure in the name of the dynasty and of culture and efficiency; or, if worse comes to worst, an outbreak will be decently covered with a plea of mortal peril and self-defense. Among English-speaking peoples much is to be gained by showing that the path of patriotic glory is at the same time the way of equal-handed justice under the rule of free institutions; at the same time, in a fully commercialised community, such as the English-speaking commonly are, material benefits in the way of trade will go far to sketch in a background of decency for any enterprise that looks to the enhancement of the national prestige.

But any promise of gain, whether in the nation's material or immaterial assets, will not of itself carry full conviction to the commonplace modern citizen; or even to such modern citizens as are best endowed with a national spirit. By and large, and overlooking that appreciable contingent of morally defective citizens that is to be counted on in any hybrid population, it will hold true that no contemplated enterprise or line of policy will fully commend itself to the popular sense of merit and expediency until it is given a moral turn, so as to bring it to square with the dictates of right and honest dealing. On no terms short of this will it effectually coalesce with the patriotic aspiration. To give the fullest practical effect to the patriotic fervor that animates any modern nation, and so turn it to use in the most effective way, it is necessary to show that the demands of equity are involved in the case. Any cursory survey of modern historical events bearing on this point, among the civilised peoples, will bring out the fact that no concerted and sustained movement of the national spirit can be had without enlisting the community's moral convictions. The common man must be persuaded that right is on his side. "Thrice is he armed who knows his quarrel just." The grounds of this conviction may often be tawdry enough, but the conviction is a necessary factor in the case.

The requisite moral sanction may be had on various grounds, and, on the whole, it is not an extremely difficult matter to arrange. In the simplest and not infrequent case it may turn on a question of equity in respect of trade or investment as between the citizens or subjects of the several rival nations; the Chinese "Open Door" affords as sordid an example as may be desired. Or it may be only an envious demand for a share in the world's material resources—"A Place in the Sun," as a picturesque phrase describes it; or "The Freedom of the Seas," as another equally vague and equally invidious demand for international equity phrases it. These demands are put forward with a color of demanding something in the way of equitable opportunity for the commonplace peaceable citizen; but quite plainly they have none but a fanciful bearing on the fortunes of the common man in time of peace, and they have a meaning to the nation only as a fighting unit; apart from their prestige value, these things are worth fighting for only as prospective means of fighting. The like appeal to the moral sensibilities may, again, be made in the way of a call to self-defense, under the rule of Live and let live; or it may also rest on the more tenuous obligation to safeguard the national integrity of a weaker neighbor, under a broader interpretation of the same equitable rule of Live and let live. But in one way or another it is necessary to set up the conviction that the promptings of patriotic ambition have the sanction of moral necessity.

It is not that the line of national policy or patriotic enterprise so entered upon with the support of popular sentiment need be right and equitable as seen in dispassionate perspective from the outside, but only that it should be capable of being made to seem right and equitable to the biased populace whose moral convictions are requisite to its prosecution; which is quite another matter. Nor is it that any such patriotic enterprise is, in fact, entered on simply or mainly on these moral grounds that so are alleged in its justification, but only that some such colorable ground of justification or extenuation is necessary to be alleged, and to be credited by popular belief.

It is not that the common man is not sufficiently patriotic, but only that he is a patriot hampered with a plodding and uneasy sense of right and honest dealing, and that one must make up one's account with this moral bias in looking to any sustained and concerted action that draws on the sentiment of the common man for its carrying on. But the moral sense in the case may be somewhat easily satisfied with a modicum of equity, in case the patriotic bias of the people is well pronounced, or in case it is reenforced with a sufficient appeal to self-interest. In those cases where the national fervor rises to an excited pitch, even very attenuated considerations of right and justice, such as would under ordinary conditions doubtfully bear scrutiny as extenuating circumstances, may come to serve as moral authentication for any extravagant course of action to which the craving for national prestige may incite. The higher the pitch of patriotic fervor, the more tenuous and more thread-bare may be the requisite moral sanction. By cumulative excitation some very remarkable results have latterly been attained along this line.

* * * * *

Patriotism is evidently a spirit of particularism, of aliency and animosity between contrasted groups of persons; it lives on invidious comparison, and works out in mutual hindrance and jealousy between nations. It commonly goes the length of hindering intercourse and obstructing traffic that would patently serve the material and cultural well-being of both nationalities; and not infrequently, indeed normally, it eventuates in competitive damage to both.

All this holds true in the world of modern civilisation, at the same time that the modern civilised scheme of life is, notoriously, of a cosmopolitan character, both in its cultural requirements and in its economic structure. Modern culture is drawn on too large a scale, is of too complex and multiform a character, requires the cooperation of too many and various lines of inquiry, experience and insight, to admit of its being confined within national frontiers, except at the cost of insufferable crippling and retardation. The science and scholarship that is the peculiar pride of civilised Christendom is not only international, but rather it is homogeneously cosmopolitan; so that in this bearing there are, in effect, no national frontiers; with the exception, of course, that in a season of patriotic intoxication, such as the current war has induced, even the scholars and scientists will be temporarily overset by their patriotic fervour. Indeed, with the best efforts of obscurantism and national jealousy to the contrary, it remains patently true that modern culture is the culture of Christendom at large, not the culture of one and another nation in severalty within the confines of Christendom. It is only as and in so far as they partake in and contribute to the general run of Western civilisation at large that the people of any one of these nations of Christendom can claim standing as a cultured nation; and even any distinctive variation from this general run of civilised life, such as may give a "local colour" of ideals, tastes and conventions, will, in point of cultural value, have to be rated as an idle detail, a species of lost motion, that serves no better purpose than a transient estrangement.

So also, the modern state of the industrial arts is of a like cosmopolitan character, in point of scale, specialisation, and the necessary use of diversified resources, of climate and raw materials. None of the countries of Europe, e.g., is competent to carry on its industry by modern technological methods without constantly drawing on resources outside of its national boundaries. Isolation in this industrial respect, exclusion from the world market, would mean intolerable loss of efficiency, more pronounced the more fully the given country has taken over this modern state of the industrial arts. Exclusion from the general body of outlying resources would seriously cripple any one or all of them, and effectually deprive them of the usufruct of this technology; and partial exclusion, by prohibitive or protective tariffs and the like, unavoidably results in a partial lowering of the efficiency of each, and therefore a reduction of the current well-being among them all together.

Into this cultural and technological system of the modern world the patriotic spirit fits like dust in the eyes and sand in the bearings. Its net contribution to the outcome is obscuration, distrust, and retardation at every point where it touches the fortunes of modern mankind. Yet it is forever present in the counsels of the statesmen and in the affections of the common man, and it never ceases to command the regard of all men as the prime attribute of manhood and the final test of the desirable citizen. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that no other consideration is allowed in abatement of the claims of patriotic loyalty, and that such loyalty will be allowed to cover any multitude of sins. When the ancient philosopher described Man as a "political animal," this, in effect, was what he affirmed; and today the ancient maxim is as good as new. The patriotic spirit is at cross purposes with modern life, but in any test case it is found that the claims of life yield before those of patriotism; and any voice that dissents from this order of things is as a voice crying in the wilderness.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse