The Twentieth Century American - Being a Comparative Study of the Peoples of the Two Great - Anglo-Saxon Nations
by H. Perry Robinson
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Transcriber's Notes: Variations in spelling and hyphenation have been left as in the original. Some typographical and punctuation errors have been corrected. A complete list follows the text.

Words surrounded by underscores are in italics in the original. Ellipses match the original. A row of asterisks represents a thought break.

The Twentieth Century American Being A Comparative Study of the Peoples of the Two Great Anglo-Saxon Nations BY H. PERRY ROBINSON AUTHOR OF "MEN BORN EQUAL," "THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A BLACK BEAR," ETC. The Chautauqua Press CHAUTAUQUA, NEW YORK MCMXI




The Knickerbocker Press, New York















There are already many books about America; but the majority of these have been written by Englishmen after so brief an acquaintance with the country that it is doubtful whether they contribute much to English knowledge of the subject.

My reason for adding another volume to the list is the hope of being able to do something to promote a better understanding between the peoples, having as an excuse the fact that I have lived in the United States for nearly twenty years, under conditions which have given rather exceptional opportunities of intimacy with the people of various parts of the country socially, in business, and in politics. Wherever my judgment is wrong it is not from lack of abundant chance to learn the truth.

Except in one instance—very early in the book—I have avoided the use of statistics, in spite of frequent temptation to refer to them to fortify arguments which must without them appear to be merely the expression of an individual opinion.

H. P. R.

February, 1908.





The Avoidance of Entangling Alliances—What the Injunction Meant—What it Cannot Mean To-day—The Interests of the United States, no less than those of England, Demand an Alliance—But Larger Interests than those of the Two Peoples are Involved—American Responsiveness to Ideals—The Greatest Ideal of All, Universal Peace: the Practicability of its Attainment—America's Responsibility—Misconceptions of the British Empire—Germany's Position—American Susceptibilities.



The Anglo-Saxon Family Likeness—How Frenchmen and Germans View it—Englishmen, Americans, and "Foreigners"—An Echo of the War of 1812—An Anglo-American Conflict Unthinkable— American Feeling for England—The Venezuelan Incident—The Pilgrims and Some Secret History—Why Americans still Hate England—Great Britain's Nearness to the United States Geographically—Commercially—Historically—England's Foreign Ill-wishers in America.



Europe's Undervaluation of America's Fighting Power—The Americans as Sailors—The Nation's Greatest Asset—Self-reliance of the People—The Making of a Doctor—And of a Surveyor— Society in the Rough—New York and the Country—An Anglo-Saxon Trait—America's Unpreparedness—American Consuls and Diplomats— A Homogeneous People—The Value of a Common Speech—America more Anglo-Saxon than Britain—Mr. Wells and the Future in America.



America's Bigness—A New Atlantis—The Effect of Expansion on a People—A Family Estranged—Parsnips—An American Woman in England—An Englishman in America—International Caricatures— Shibboleths: dropped H's and a "twang"—Matthew Arnold's Clothes—The Honourable S—— B——.



The Isolation of the United States—American Ignorance of the World—Sensitiveness to Criticism—Exaggeration of their Own Virtues—The Myth of American Chivalrousness—Whence it Originated—The Climatic Myth—International Marriages—English Manners and American—The View of Womanhood in Youth— Co-education of the Sexes—Conjugal Morality—The Artistic Sense in American Women—Two Stenographers—An Incident of Camp-Life—"Molly-be-damned"—A Nice Way of Travelling—How do they do it?—Women in Public Life—The Conditions which Co-operate—The Anglo-Saxon Spirit again.



American Insularity—A Conkling Story—English Humour and American Critics—American Literature and English Critics—The American Novel in England—And American Art—Wanted, an American Exhibition—The Revolution in the American Point of View—"Raining in London"—Domestic and Imported Goods.



The Rhodes Scholarships—"Pullulating Colleges"—Are American Colleges Superior to Oxford or Cambridge?—Other Educational Forces—The Postal Laws—Ten-cent Magazines and Cheap Books— Pigs in Chicago—The Press of England and America Compared— Mixed Society—Educated Women—Generals as Booksellers—And as Farmhands—The Value of War to a People.



The Advantage of Youth—Japanese Eclecticism and American—The Craving for the Best—Cyrano de Bergerac—Verestschagin— Culture by Paroxysms—Mr. Gladstone and the Japanese—Anglo-Saxon Crichtons—Americans as Linguists—England's Past and America's Future—Americanisms in Speech—Why They are Disappearing in America—And Appearing in England—The Press and the Copyright Laws—A Look into the Future.



The "English-American" Vote—The Best People in Politics—What Politics Means in America—Where Corruption Creeps in—The Danger in England—A Presidential Nomination for Sale—Buying Legislation—Could it Occur in England?—A Delectable Alderman— Taxation while you Wait—Perils that England Escapes—The Morality of Congress—Political Corruption of the Irish— Democrat and Republican.



The System of Parties—Interdependence of National and Local Organisations—The Federal Government and Sovereign States— The Boss of Warwickshire—The Unit System—Prime Minister Crooks—Lanark and the Nation—New York and Tammany Hall— America's Superior Opportunities for Wickedness—How England Is Catching up—Campaign Reminiscences—The "Hell-box"—Politics in a Gravel-pit—Mr. Hearst and Mr. Bryan.



Sovereign States and the Federal Government—California and the Senate—The Constitutional Powers of Congress and the President—Government by Interpretation—President Roosevelt as an Inspiration to the People—A New Conception of the Presidential Office—"Teddy" and the "fraid strap"—Mr. Roosevelt and the Corporations—As a Politician—His Imperiousness—The Negro Problem—The Americanism of the South.



Are Americans more Honest than Englishmen?—An American Peerage—Senators and other Aristocrats—Trade and the British Upper Classes—Two Views of a Business Career—America's Wild Oats—The Packing House Scandals—"American Methods" in Business—A Countryman and Some Eggs—A New Dog—The Morals of British Peers—A Contract of Mutual Confidence—Embalmed Beef, Re-mounts, and War Stores—The Yellow Press and Mr. Hearst— American View of the House of Lords.



The Superiority of the Anglo-Saxon—America's Resemblance to Japan—A German View—Can Americans Lie?—Honesty as the Best Policy—Religious Sentiment—Moral and Immoral Railway Managers—A Struggle for Self-preservation—Gentlemen in Business—Peculation among Railway Servants—How the Old Order Changes, Yielding Place to New—The Strain on British Machinery—Americans as Story-Tellers—The Incredibility of the Actual.



The Commercial Power of the United States—British Workmanship— Tin-tacks and Conservatism—A Prophetic Frenchman—Imperialism in Trade—The Anglo-Saxon Spirit—About Chaperons—"Insist upon Thyself"—English and American Banks—Dealing in Futures—Dog Eat Dog—Two Letters—Commercial Octopods—Trusts in America and England—The Standard Oil Company—And Solicitors—Legal Chaperons—The Sanctity of Stamped Paper—Conclusions—Do "Honest" Traders Exist?



American Sport Twenty-five Years Ago—The Power of Golf—A Look Ahead—Britain, Mother of Sports—Buffalo in New York— And Pheasants on Clapham Common—Shooting Foxes and the "Sport" of Wild-fowling—The Amateur in American Sport—At Henley—And at Large—Teutonic Poppycock.



A New Way of Making Friends—The Desirability of an Alliance— For the Sake of Both Peoples—And of all the World—The Family Resemblance—Mutual Misunderstandings—American Conception of the British Character—English Misapprehension of Americans— Foreign Influences in the United States—Why Politicians Hesitate—An Appeal to the People—And to Caesar.



The Twentieth Century American

"If I can say anything to show that my name is really Makepeace, and to increase the source of love between the two countries, then please, God, I will."—W. M. Thackeray, in Letters to an American Family.

"Certainly there is nothing like England, and there never has been anything like England in the world. Her wonderful history, her wonderful literature, her beautiful architecture, the historic and poetic associations which cluster about every street and river and mountain and valley, her vigorous life, the sweetness and beauty of her women, the superb manhood of her men, her Navy, her gracious hospitality, and her lofty pride—although some single race of men may have excelled her in some single particular—make up a combination never equalled in the world."—The late United States Senator Hoar, in An Autobiography of Seventy Years.

"The result of the organisation of the American colonies into a state, and of the bringing together of the diverse communities contained in these colonies, was the creation not merely of a new nation, but of a new temperament. How far this temperament was to arise from a change of climate, and how far from a new political organisation, no one could then foresee, nor is its origin yet fully analysed; but the fact itself is now coming to be more and more recognised. It may be that Nature said at about that time: 'Thus far the English is my best race; but we have had Englishmen enough; now for another turning of the globe, and for a further novelty. We need something with a little more buoyancy than the Englishman; let us lighten the structure, even at some peril in the process. Put in one drop more of nervous fluid and make the American.' With that drop, a new range of promise opened on the human race, and a lighter, finer, more highly organised type of mankind was born."—Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Monthly, 1886.

"The foreign observer in America is at once struck by the fact that the average of intelligence, as that intelligence manifests itself in the spirit of inquiry, in the interest taken in a great variety of things, and in alertness of judgment, is much higher among the masses in the United States than anywhere else. This is certainly not owing to any superiority of the public school system in this country—or, if such superiority exists, not to that alone—but rather to the fact that in the United States the individual is constantly brought into interested contact with a greater variety of things and is admitted to active participation in the exercise of functions which in other countries are left to the care of a superior authority. I have frequently been struck by the remarkable expansion of the horizon effected by a few years of American life, in the minds of immigrants who had come from somewhat benighted regions, and by the mental enterprise and keen discernment with which they took hold of problems to which, in their comparatively torpid condition in their native countries, they had never given thought. It is true that in the large cities with congested population, self-government as an educator does not always bring the most desirable results, partly owing to the circumstance that government, in its various branches, is there further removed from the individual, so that he comes into contact with it and exercises his influence upon it only through various, and sometimes questionable, intermediary agencies which frequently exert a very demoralising influence."—Carl Schurz's Memoirs, II, 79.

"Anglo-Saxon Superiority! Although we do not all acknowledge it, we all have to bear it, and we all dread it; the apprehension, the suspicion, and sometimes the hatred provoked by l'Anglais proclaim the fact loudly enough. We cannot go one step in the world without coming across the Anglo-Saxon. . . . He rules America by Canada and the United States; Africa by Egypt and the Cape; Asia by India and Burmah; Australasia by Australia and New Zealand; Europe and the whole world, by his trade and industries and by his policy."—M. Edmond Demolins in Anglo-Saxon Superiority "A quoi tient la Superiorite des Anglo-Saxons?"

"It may be asking too much, but if statesmanship could kindly arrange it, I confess I should like to see, before I die, a war in which Britain and the United States in a just quarrel might tackle the world. After that we should have no more difficulty about America. For if the Americans never forget an injury, they ever remember a service."—The late G. W. Steevens in The Land of the Dollar.

The Twentieth Century American



The Avoidance of Entangling Alliances—What the Injunction Meant—What it Cannot Mean To-day—The Interests of the United States, no less than those of England, Demand an Alliance—But Larger Interests than those of the Two Peoples are Involved— American Responsiveness to Ideals—The Greatest Ideal of All, Universal Peace: the Practicability of its Attainment— America's Responsibility—Misconceptions of the British Empire—Germany's Position—American Susceptibilities.

The American nation, for all that it is young and lacks reverence, still worships the maxims and rules of conduct laid down by the Fathers of the Republic; and among those rules of conduct, there is none the wisdom of which is more generally accepted by the people than that which enjoins the avoidance of "entangling alliances" with foreign Powers. But not only has the United States changed much in late years, but the world in its political relations and sentiments has changed also and the place of the United States has changed in it. That sacred instrument, the Constitution itself, holds chiefly by virtue of what is new in it. Whatever is unaltered, or is not interpreted in a sense quite other than the framers intended, is to-day comparatively unimportant. It must be so. It would be impossible that any code or constitution drawn up to meet the needs of the original States, in the phase of civilisation and amid the social conditions which then prevailed, could be suited to the national life of a Great Power in the twentieth century. In internal affairs, there is hardly a function of Government, scarcely a relation between the different branches of the Government itself, or between the Government and any of the several States, or between the Government and the people, which is not unlike what the framers of the Constitution intended or what they imagined that it would be.

But it is in external affairs that the nation must find, indeed has found, the old rules most inadequate. The policy of non-association which was desirable, even essential, to the young, weak state, whose only prospect of safety lay in a preservation of that isolation which her geographical position made possible to her, is and must be impracticable in a World-Power. Within the last decade, the United States has stepped out from her solitude to take the place which rightfully belongs to her among the great peoples. By the acquirement of her colonial dependencies, still more by the inevitable exigencies of her commerce, she has chosen (as she had no other choice) to make herself an interested party in the affairs of all parts of the world. All the conditions that made the old policy best for her have vanished.

A child is rightly forbidden by his nurse to make acquaintance with other children in the street; but this child has grown to manhood and gone out into the world to seek—and has found—his fortune. The old policy of isolation has been cast aside, till nothing remains of it but a few old formulae which have no virtue—not even significance—now that all the conditions to which they applied are gone. The United States has been compelled to make alliances (some, as when she co-operated with the other Powers in China, of the most "entangling" kind), and still the old phrase holds its spell on the popular mind.

The injunction was originally intended to prevent the young Republic from being drawn into the wars with which Europe at the time was rent, by taking sides with any one party against any other. It was levelled not against alliances, but against entanglements. It was framed, and wisely framed, to secure to the United States the peace and isolation necessary to her development. The isolation is no longer either possible or desirable, but peace remains both. The nation would in fact be living more closely up to the spirit of the injunction by entering into an alliance which would secure peace and make entanglements impossible, than she is when she leaves herself and the world exposed to the constant menace of war, merely for the sake of seeming to comply with the letter of a maxim which is now meaningless. If Washington were alive to-day, it does not seem to me possible to doubt that he would favour a new English treaty, even though he might have more difficulty in compelling Congress to accept his views than he had once before.

As the case stands, the United States may easily become involved in war with any one of the Great Powers, no matter how pacific or benevolent her intentions may be. There are at least three Powers with which a trivial incident might precipitate a conflict at almost any time; while the possibilities of friction which might develop into open hostilities with some one of the lesser states are almost innumerable. It is beside the question to say that the United States need have no fear of the result: indeed that very fact contributes largely to the danger. It is ever the man who can fight, and knows it, who gets into trouble. Every American who has lived much in the farther West knows that he who would keep clear of difficulties had best not carry a revolver. In its very self-confidence—a self-confidence amply justified by its strength—the American people is, measured by the standards of other nations, an eminently bellicose people—much more bellicose than it supposes.

Great Britain's alliance with Japan has with reasonable certainty, so far as danger of conflict between any two of the Great Powers is concerned, secured the peace of Asia for some time to come. The understanding between Great Britain and France goes some way towards assuring the peace of Europe, of which the imminent rapprochement with Russia (which all thinking Englishmen desire[8:1]) will constitute a further guarantee. But an alliance between Great Britain and the United States would secure the peace of the world. There is but one European Power now which could embark on a war with either Great Britain or the United States with any shadow of justification for hopefulness as to the result; and no combination of Powers could deceive itself into believing that it could make head against the two combined or would dare to disturb the peace between themselves when the two allies bade them be still.

In the days of her youth,—which lasted up to the closing decade of the nineteenth century,—provided that she did not thrust herself needlessly into the quarrels of Europe, her mere geographical position sufficed to secure to America the peace which she required. The Atlantic Ocean, her own mountain chains and wildernesses, these were bulwarks enough. She has, by pressure of her own destiny, been compelled to come out from behind these safeguards to rub shoulders every day with all the world. If she still desires peace, she will be more likely to realise that desire by seeking other shields. Nor must any American reader misunderstand me, for I believe that I estimate the fighting power of the United States more highly than most native-born Americans. She needs no help in playing her part in the world; but no amount of self-confidence, no ability to fight, if once the fight be on, will serve to protect her from having quarrels thrust upon her—not necessarily in wilfulness by any individual antagonist but by mere force of circumstance. Considered from the standpoint of her own expediency, an alliance with Great Britain would give to the United States an absolute guarantee that for as many years as she pleased she would be free to devote all her energies to the development of her own resources and the increase of her commerce.

But there are other considerations far larger than that of her own expediency. This is no question of the selfish interests either of the United States or of Great Britain. There is no people more responsive than the American to high ideals. Englishmen often find it hard to believe that an American is not talking mere fustian when he gives honest expression to his sentiments; but from the foundation of the Republic certain large ideas—Liberty, Freedom of Conscience, Equality—have somehow been made to seem very real things to the American mind. Whether the Englishman does not in his heart prize just as dearly as the American the things which these words signify, is another matter; it is not the Englishman's habit to formulate them even to himself, much less to talk about them to others. Most Englishmen have large sympathy with Captain Gamble who, bewailing the unrest in Canada at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, complained that the Colonials talked too much about "that damned absurd word Liberty."[10:1]

It is rarely that an English political campaign is fought for a principle or for an abstract idea, and equally rarely that in America the watchword on one side or the other is not some such high-sounding phrase as Englishmen rather shrink from using. It is true that behind that phrase may be clustered a cowering crowd of petty individual interests; the fact remains that it is the phrase itself—the large Idea—on which orators and party managers rely to secure their hold on the imaginations of the mass of the people. It does not necessarily imply any superior morality on the part of the Americans; but is an accident of the different conditions prevailing in the two countries.

British politics are infinitely more complex than American, and foreign affairs play a much larger part in public controversies. The people of the United States have been throughout their history able to confine their attention almost wholly to their home affairs, and in those home affairs, the mere vastness of the country, with the diverse and conflicting interests of the various parts, has made it as a rule impossible to frame any appeal to the minds of the voters as a whole except in terms of some abstract idea. An appeal to the self-interests of the people in the aggregate in any matter of domestic policy is almost unformulable, because the interest of each section conflicts with the interest of others; whence it has necessarily followed that the American people has grown accustomed to be led by large phrases—disciplined to follow the flag of an ideal.

Not all the early colonists who emigrated, even to New England, went solely for conscience' sake. Under the cloak of the lofty principle for which the Revolutionary War was fought there were, again, concealed all manner of personal ambitions, sectional jealousies, and partisan intrigues. It was in truth (as more than one American historian has pointed out) a party strife and not a war of peoples. The precipitating cause of the Civil War was not the desire to abolish slavery, but the bitterness aroused by the political considerations of the advantage given to one party or the other by the establishment or non-establishment of slavery in a new territory. The motive which impelled the United States to make war on Spain was not, as most Europeans believe, any desire for an extension of territory, any more than it was, as some Americans would say, a yearning to avenge the blowing up of the Maine; it was the necessity of putting an end to the disturbed state of affairs in Cuba, which was a constant source of annoyance, as well as of trouble and expense, to the United States Government. If a neighbour makes a disturbance before your house and brings his family quarrels to your doorstep, you must after a time ask him to stop; and when, after a sufficient number of askings, he fails to comply with your request, it is justifiable to use force to make him. That was America's justification—the real ground on which she went to war with Spain. But the thing which actually inflamed the mind of the American people was the belief that the Spanish treatment of Cuba was brutal and barbarous. It was an indignation no less fine than that which set England in a blaze in the days of the Bulgarian atrocities. The war may been a war of expediency on the part of the Government; it was a Crusade in the eyes of the people. Thus it may be easy to show that at each crisis in its history there was something besides the nobility of a Cause or the grandeur of a Principle which impelled the American nation on the course which it took, but it has always been love of the Cause or devotion to the Principle which has swayed the masses of the people.

And this people now has it in its power to do an infinitely finer thing than ever it did when it established Liberty of Conscience, or founded a republic on broader foundations than had been laid before, or abolished slavery within its borders, or when it won Cuba's independence of what it believed to be an inhuman tyranny. I believe that it has it in its power to do no less a thing than to abolish war for ever—to give to the peoples of the earth the blessing of Perpetual Peace. The question for it to ask itself is whether it can, with any shadow of justification, refuse to take this step and withhold this boon from humanity.

If it does refuse and wars continue—if, within the coming decade, war should break out, whether actually involving the United States itself or not, more bloody and destructive than any that the world has seen—and if then the facts should be presented to posterity for judgment,—will the American people be held guiltless? It is improbable that the case ever could be so presented, for there is none to put the United States on trial, none to draw an indictment, none to prosecute. The world has not turned to the United States to ask that it be saved; no one has arisen to point at the United States and say, "Thou art the one to do this thing." The historians of another generation will have no depositions before them on which to base a verdict. But if the facts are as stated and the United States knows them to be so, does the lack of common knowledge of them make her responsibility any the less? It remains that the nation has the power to do this, and it alone among nations.

* * * * *

The first idea of most Americans, when a hard and fast alliance with Great Britain is suggested to them, usually formulates itself in the statement that they have no wish to be made into a cat's-paw for pulling England's chestnuts out of the fire. America has no desire to be drawn into England's quarrels. Until less than ten years ago, there was justification for the point of view; for while England seemed to be ever on the brink of war, the United States lived peacefully in her far-off Valley of Avilion. But the map of the world has changed, and while the United States has left her seclusion and come out to play her part in the world-politics, England has been buttressing herself with friendships, until it is at least arguable whether the United States is not the more exposed to danger of the two. But it is no question now of being dragged into other people's quarrels; but of making all quarrelling impossible.

Again, the American will say that the United States needs no allies. She can hold her own; let Great Britain do the same. And again I say that it is no question now of whether either Power can hold its own against the world or not. Great Britain, Americans should understand, has no more fear for herself than has the United States. England "does not seek alliances: she grants them." There is not only no single European Power, but there is no probable combination of European Powers, which England does not in her heart serenely believe herself quite competent to deal with. British pride has grown no less in the last three hundred years:

"Come the four corners of the World in arms And we shall shock them."

Americans should disabuse themselves finally of the idea that if England desires an alliance with the United States it is because she has any fear that she may need help against any other enemy. Englishmen are too well satisfied with themselves for that (with precisely the same kind of self-satisfaction as the United States suffers from), and much too confident that, in whatever may arise, it will be the other fellow who will need help. But if England has no misgiving as to her ability to take care of herself when trouble comes, she is far from being ashamed to say that she would infinitely prefer that trouble should not come, either to her or to another, and she would join—oh, so gladly!—with the United States (as for a partial attainment of the same end she has already joined with France on the one hand and with Japan on the other) to make sure that it should never come. Has the United States any right to refuse to enter into such an alliance—an alliance which would not be entangling, but which would make entanglements impossible?

At Christmas time in 1906, the following suggestion was made in the London correspondence of an American paper[15:1]:

"The new ideals which mankind has set before itself, the infinitely larger enlightenment and education of the masses, the desperate struggle which every civilised people is waging against all forms of social suffering and vice within itself, the mere complexity of modern commerce with its all-absorbing interest—these things all cry aloud for peace. War does not belong to this phase of civilisation. Least of all can it have any appeal to the two peoples in whom the spirit of the Twentieth Century is most manifest. Of all peoples, Great Britain and the United States have most cause to desire peace.

"There should be a Christmas message sent from the White House which should run something like this:


"To your majesty, to her majesty the Queen, and to the people of the British empire, I desire to express the best wishes of myself and of the people of the United States. At the same time, I wish to assure your majesty that you will have both the sympathy and the practical support of the American people in such action as it may seem right to you and to the British people to take in the direction of securing to the nations of the world that peace of which your majesty has always shown yourself so earnest an advocate.


"Some such an answer as this would be returned:


"In acknowledging with gratitude the expression of good wishes to ourselves, to her majesty the Queen, and to the people of the British empire of yourself and the population of the United States, I desire most cordially to reciprocate the sentiments of good will. Even more cordially and gratefully, I acknowledge the assurance of sympathy and support of the great American people in action directed to securing peace to the nations of the world. It will be my immediate care to propose such a course of joint action between us as may secure that blessing to all peoples in the course of the coming year.

"(Signed), EDWARD.

"Does anybody doubt that, if the two nations bent themselves to the task in earnest, universal peace could be so secured to all the peoples of the earth in the course of the coming year? And if it is in truth in their power to do this thing, how can either conceivably convince itself that it is not its duty?

"And what a Christmas the world would have in 1907!"

* * * * *

Does any one doubt it? Does any one doubt that, if the two peoples were in earnest, though the thing might not be brought about in one year, it is far from improbable that it could be achieved in two years or three? Since the paragraphs which I have quoted were published, a year has passed and for a large part of that year the Conference has been in session at The Hague; and of the results of that Conference it is not easy for either an Englishman or an American to speak with patience. Does any one doubt that if the two Governments had set themselves determinedly, from the beginning of the pourparlers, to reach the one definite goal those results might have been very different?

During the last few years, the two Powers, each acting in her own way, have done more to establish peace on earth than has been done by all the other Powers in all time; and I most earnestly believe that it only needs that they should say with one voice that there shall be no more wars and there will be none. Nor am I ignoring the complexities of the situation; but I believe that all the details, the first step once taken, would settle themselves with unexpected facility through the medium of international tribunals. Of course this will be called visionary: but whosoever is tempted so to call it, let him read history in the records of contemporary writers and see how visionary all great forward movements in the progress of the world have seemed until the time came when the thing was to be accomplished. What we are now discussing seems visionary because of its unfamiliarity. It has the formidableness of the unknown. The impossible, once accomplished, looks simple enough in retrospect. The fact is that never before has there been a time when boundaries all over the world have been so nearly established—when there were so few points outstanding likely to embroil any two of the Great Powers in conflict—so few national ambitions struggling for appeasement. It is easy not to realise this unless one studies the field in detail: easy to fail to see how near is the attainment of universal peace.

The Councils of the Powers have in the past been so hampered by the traditions of a tortuous diplomacy, so tossed and perturbed within by the cross-currents of intrigue, that they have shown themselves almost childishly incapable of arriving at clear-cut decisions. Old policies, old formulae, old jealousies, old dynastic influences still hold control of the majority of the chancelleries of Continental Europe, and these things it is that have made questions simple in themselves seem complex and incapable of solution. But there is nothing to be settled involving larger territorial interests or more beset with delicacies than many questions with which the Supreme Court of the United States has had to deal—none so large as to seem formidable to his Majesty's Privy Council or to the House of Lords. And under the guidance of Great Britain and the United States acting in unison, assured in advance of the sympathy of France and Japan and of whatever other Powers would welcome the new order of things, a Hague committee or other international tribunal could be made a businesslike organisation working directly for results,—as directly as the board of directors of any commercial corporation. And it is with those who consider this impracticable that the onus lies of pointing out the direction from which insuperable resistance is to be expected,—from which particular Powers in Europe, in Asia, or in Central or South America.

The ultimate domination of the world by the Anglo-Saxon (let us call him so) seems to be reasonably assured; and no less assured is it that at some time wars will cease. The question for both Englishmen and Americans to ask themselves is whether, recognising the responsibility that already rests upon it, the Anglo-Saxon race dare or can for conscience' sake—or still more, whether one branch of it when the other be willing to push on, dare or can for conscience' sake—hang back and postpone the advent of the Universal Peace, which it is in its power to bring about to-day, no matter what the motives of jealousy, of self-interest, or of self-distrust may be that restrain it.

It has been assumed in all that has been said that the onus of refusal rests solely on the United States; as indeed it does. Great Britain, it will be objected, has asked for no alliance. Nor has she. Great Britain does not put herself in the position of suing for a friendship which may be denied; and is there any doubt that if Great Britain had at any time asked openly for such an alliance she would have been refused? Would she not be bluntly refused to-day? Great men on either side—but never, be it noted, an Englishman except for the purpose of agreeing with an American who has already spoken—have said many times that a formal alliance is not desirable: that things are going well enough as they are and that it is best to wait. Things are never going well enough, so long as they might go better. And these men who say it speak only with an eye to the interests of the two countries, not considering the greater stake of the happiness of the world at large; and even so (I say it with deference) they know in their own minds that if indeed the thing should become suddenly feasible, neither they nor any thinking man, with the good of humanity at heart, would dare to raise a voice against it or would dream of doing other than rejoice. It is only because it has seemed impossible that it has been best to do without it; and it is impossible only because the people of the United States have not yet realised the responsibilities of the new position which they hold in the councils of the world, but are still bound by the prejudices of the days of little things, still slaves—they of all people!—to an old and outworn formula. They have not yet comprehended that within their arm's reach there lies an achievement greater than has ever been given to a nation to accomplish, and that they have but to take one step forward to enter on a destiny greater than anything foreshadowed even in the promise of their own wonderful history.

And when those who would be their coadjutors are willing and waiting and beckoning them on, have they any right to hold back? Is it anything other than moral cowardice if they do?

* * * * *

I wish that each individual American would give one hour's unprejudiced study to the British Empire,—would sit down with a map of the world before him and, summoning to his assistance such knowledge of history as he has and bearing in mind the conditions of his own country, endeavour to arrive at some idea of what it is that Englishmen have done in the world, what are the present circumstances of the Empire, what its aims and ambitions. I do not think that the ordinarily educated and intelligent American knows how ignorant he is of the nation which has played so large a part in the history of his own country and of which he talks so often and with so little restraint. The ignorance of Englishmen of America is another matter which will be referred to in its place. For the present, what is to be desired is that the American should get some elementary grasp of the character of Great Britain and her dependencies as a whole.

In the first place it is worth pointing out that the Empire is as much bigger than the United States as the United States is bigger than the British Isles. I am not now talking of mere geographical dimensions, but of the political schemes of the two nations. Americans commonly speak of theirs as a young country—as the youngest of the Great Powers,—but in every true sense the British Empire is vastly younger. The United States has an established form of government which has been the same for a hundred years and, all good Americans hope, will remain unchanged for centuries to come. The British Empire is still groping inchoate: it is all makeshift and endeavour. It is in about that stage of growth in which the United States found herself when her transcontinental railways were still unbuilt, when she had not yet digested Texas or California, and the greater part of the West remained unsettled and unsurveyed.

If the American will look to the north, he will see Canada in approximately the phase in her material progress which the United States had reached in, let us say, 1880 to 1885. Australia and New Zealand are somewhat further behind; South Africa further still. Behind that again are the various scattered portions of the Over-Sea Dominions in divers states of political pupilhood. In some there are not even yet the foundations on which a Constitutional or commercial structure can be built. And while each unit has to be led or encouraged along the path of individual development, beyond all is the great vision which every imperially-thinking Englishman sets before himself—the vision of a Federation of all the parts—a Federation not unlike that which the United States has enjoyed for over a hundred years (save that Englishmen hope that there will always be a monarchy at the centre) but which, as has been said, is almost incomparably larger in conception than was the Union of the States and requires correspondingly greater labour in its accomplishment.

If the American will now consider the conditions of the growth of his own country, he will recognise that the only thing which made that growth possible was the fact that the people was undistracted by foreign complications. The one great need of the nation was Peace. It was to attain this that the policy of non-entanglement was formulated. Without it, the people could not have devoted its energies with a single mind to the gigantic task of its own development.

But the task before the British Empire is more gigantic; the need of peace more urgent. It is more urgent, not merely in proportion to the additional magnitude and complexity of the task to be done, but is thrice multiplied by the conditions of the modern world. The British Empire must needs achieve its industrial consolidation in the teeth of a commercial competition a thousand times fiercer than anything which America knew in her young days. The United States grew to greatness in a secluded nursery. Great Britain must bring up her children in the streets and on the high seas, under the eyes and exposed to the seductions of the peoples of all the world.

The American is a reasoning being. A much larger portion of the American people is habituated to reason for itself—to think independently—to form and to abide by its individual judgment—than of any other people in the world. No political fact is more familiar to the American people than the immense advantage which it derived, during the period of its internal development, from its enjoyment of external peace. Will not the American people, then, reasoning from analogy, believe that, under more compelling conditions, England also earnestly desires external peace?

I can almost hear the retort leaping to the lips of the American reader who holds the traditional view of the British Empire. "It is all very well for you to talk of peace now!" I hear him say. "Now that the world is pretty well divided up and you have grabbed the greater part of it. You haven't talked much of peace in the past." And here we are confronted at once with the fundamental misconception of the British Empire and the British character which has worked deplorable harm in the American national sentiment towards England.

First, it is worth remarking that with the exception of the Crimean War (which even the most prejudiced American will not regard as a war of aggression or as a thing for which England should be blamed) Great Britain has not been engaged in hostilities with any European Power since the days of Napoleon. Nor can it be contended that England's share in the Napoleonic wars was of England's seeking. Since then, if she has avoided hostilities it has not been for lack of opportunity. The people which, with Britain's intricate complexity of interests, amid all the turmoils and jealousies of Europe, has kept the peace for a century can scarcely have been seeking war.

And again the American will say: "That's all right; I am not talking of Europe. You've been fighting all over the world all the time. There has never been a year when you have not been licking some little tin-pot king and freezing on to his possessions."

Americans are rather proud—justly proud—of the way in which their power has spread from within the narrow limits of the original thirteen States till it has dominated half a continent. It has, indeed, been a splendid piece of work. But what the American is loth to acknowledge is that that growth was as truly a colonising movement—a process of imperial expansion—as has been the growth of the British Empire. Of late years, American historical writers have been preaching this fact; but the American people has not grasped it. Moreover there were tin-pot kings already ruling America. Sioux, Nez Perce, or Cree—Zulu, Ashanti, or Burmese: the names do not matter. And when the expansive energy of the American people reached the oceans, it could no more stop than it could stop at the Mississippi. Hawaii, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico were as inevitable as Louisiana and Texas. And the acquisition of the two last-named was precisely as imperial a process as the acquisition of the others. It is only the leap over-seas that, quite illogically, gives the latter, to American eyes, a different seeming. It matters not whether you vault a boundary pillar on the plain, a river, a mountain barrier, or seven thousand miles of sea-water. The process is the same. Nor in any of the cases was the forward movement other than commendable and inevitable. It was the necessary manifestation of the unrestrainable centrifugal impulse of the Anglo-Saxon.

The impulse which sent the first English colonists to North America sent them also to Australia, to India and the uttermost parts of the earth. The same impulse drove the American colonists westward, northward, southward, in whatever direction they met no restraining force equal to their own expansive energy. It drove them to the Pacific, to the Rio Grande, to the Sault Ste. Marie; and it has driven them over oceans into the Arctic Circle, to the shores of Asia, down the Caribbean. And as it drove them it drove also those Englishmen who were left at home and they too spread on all lines of least resistance. But no American (I have never met one, though I must have talked on the subject to hundreds) will agree that the dispersal of the Englishmen left at home was as legitimate, as necessary, and every whit as peaceful as the dispersal of those Englishmen who went first and made their new home in America.

With the acquisition of over-sea dominions of their own, many Americans are coming to comprehend something of the powerlessness of a great people in the grip of its destiny. They are also beginning to understand that the ruling and civilising of savage and alien peoples is not either all comfort or all profit. If Americans were given the option to-day to take more Philippines, would they take them? Great Britain has been familiar with her Philippines for half a century and more. Does America suppose that she also did not learn her lesson? Will not Americans understand with what utter reluctance she has been compelled again and again to take more? Some day Americans will come to believe that England no more desired to annex Burmah than the United States deliberately planned to take the Philippines; that Englishmen were as content to leave the Transvaal and the Orange Free State alone as ever Americans were to be without Hawaii or Puerto Rico. Egypt was forced upon Great Britain precisely as Cuba is being foisted on America to-day—and every Englishman hopes that the United States will be able to do as much for the Cubans as Great Britain has done for the Egyptians.

Great Britain would always vastly prefer—has always vastly preferred—to keep a friendly independent state upon her borders rather than be compelled to take over the burden of administration. The former involves less labour and more profit; it retains moreover a barrier between the British boundaries and those of any potentially hostile Power upon the other side. England has shown this in India itself and in Afghanistan. She tried to show it in South Africa. She has shown it in Thibet. More conclusively than anywhere perhaps she has shown it in the Federated Malay States—of which probably but few Americans know even the name, but where more, it may be, than anywhere are Englishmen working out their ambition—

"To make the world a better place Where'er the English go."

It might happen that, under a weak and incompetent successor to President Diaz, Mexico would relapse into the conditions of half a century ago and the situation along the border be rendered intolerable to Americans. Sooner or later the United States would be compelled to protest and, protests being unheeded, to interfere. The incompetence of the Mexican Government continuing, America would be obliged to establish a protectorate, if not over the whole country, at least over that portion the orderly behaviour of which was necessary to her own peace. Thereafter annexation might follow. Now, at no stage of this process would Englishmen, looking on, accuse the United States of greediness, of bullying, or of deliberately planning to gratify an earth-hunger. They, from experience, understand. But when the same thing occurs on the British frontiers in Asia or South Africa, Americans make no effort to understand. "England is up to the same old game," they say. "One more morsel down the lion's throat."

I am well aware of the depth of the prejudice against which I am arguing. The majority of Americans are so accustomed to consider their own expansion across the continent, and beyond, as one of the finest episodes in the march of human progress (as it is) and the growth of the British Empire as a mere succession of wanton and brutal outrages on helpless and benighted peoples, that the immediate impulse of the vast majority of American readers will be to treat a comparison between the two with ridicule. Minnesota Massacres and the Indian Mutiny—Cetewayo and Sitting Bull—Aguinaldo and the Mahdi—Egypt and Cuba; the time will come when Americans will understand. It is a pity that prejudice should blind them now.

And if the American reader will refer to the map, which presumably lies open before him, he might consider in what part of the world it is that England is now bent on a policy of aggression—where it is that collision with any Power threatens. In Asia? England's course in regard to Afghanistan and Thibet surely shows that she is content with her present boundaries, while her alliance with Japan and the rapprochement with Russia at which she aims should be evidences enough of her desire for peace! In Africa? Where is it that spheres of influence are not delimited? That there will be disturbances, ferments, which will have to be suppressed at one time and another at various points within the British sphere is likely—as likely as it was that similar disturbances would occur in the United States so long as any considerable number of Indians went loose unblanketed,—but what room is left for anything approaching serious war? With the problem of the mixture of races and the necessity of building up the structure of a state, does not England before all things need peace both in the south and north? In America? In Australia? With whom? That perils may arise at almost any point—in mid-ocean even, far away from any land—of course we recognise; but Americans can hardly fail to see, with the map before them, that England cannot seek them, but must earnestly desire to avoid them as she has avoided them with any European Power for this last century. To borrow a happy phrase, Great Britain is in truth a "Saturated Power." She has been compelled to shoulder burdens which she would feign have avoided, to assume obligations which were not of her creating and which she fulfils with reluctance. And she can assume no more, or, if she must, will do it only with the utmost unwillingness. What she needs is peace.

And now one must go as delicately as is compatible with making one's meaning clear.

* * * * *

There is one Power in Europe whose ambitions are a menace to the peace of the world—one only. I do not think that Americans as a rule understand this, but it is true and there can be no harm in saying so, for neither in her press nor in the mouths of her statesmen are those ambitions denied by that Power herself. Indeed they are insisted on to the taxpayer as the reason why she needs so powerful an army and a fleet. It is not suggested that Germany's ambitions are other than legitimate and inevitable: it would be difficult for either Englishman or American to say that with grace. I am not arguing against Germany; I am arguing for Peace.

Germany says frankly enough that she is cooped up within boundaries which are intolerable—that she is an "imprisoned Power." She argues, still with perfect frankness, that it was a mere accident that, to her misfortune, she came into being as a great Power too late to be able to get her proper share of the earth's surface, wherein her people might expand and put forth their surplus energy. The time when there was earth's surface to choose was already gone. But that fact has in no way lessened the need of expansion or destroyed the energy. She must burst her prison walls, she says. It would have been better could she have flowed out quietly into unoccupied land—as the United States has done and as Great Britain has done—but that being impossible, she must flow where she can. And ringed around her are other Powers, great or small, which bar her way. Therefore she needs the army and the fleet. It is logical and it is candid.

It is evident that the Franco-Russian Alliance makes the bursting of her banks difficult in what might seem to be the most natural direction. The Anglo-French entente and the Anglo-Japanese Alliance—perhaps even more Germany's own partnership in the Triple Alliance with Italy and Austria—also constitute obstacles which at least necessitate something more of an army and more of a fleet than might otherwise have been sufficient for her purpose. But those barriers are not in the long run going to avert the fulfilment of—or at least the endeavour to fulfil—that purpose.

There is only one instrumentality, humanly speaking,—one Power,—which can ultimately prevent Germany from using that army and that fleet for the ends for which they are being created; and that instrumentality happens to be the United States. It is difficult to see how Germany can make any break for freedom without coming in conflict not only with one of the Great Powers but with a combination of two or more. It is improbable that she will attempt the enterprise without at least the benevolent neutrality of the United States. Assurances of positive sympathy would probably go a long way towards encouraging her to the hazard. But if the United States should range herself definitely on the side of peace the venture would become preposterous.

I am not arguing against Germany; I am arguing for Peace. Least of all am I arguing for an American alliance for England in the event of Germany's dash for liberty taking an untoward direction. England needs no help. What does need help is Peace—the Peace of Europe—the Peace of the World.

There is no talk now of stifling Germany's ambitions: of standing in the way of her legitimate aspirations. It may be that under other conditions, under a different form of government, or even under another individual ruler, those aspirations and ambitions would not appear to the German people so vital as they do now. They certainly do not appear so to an outsider; and the German people is far from being of one mind on the subject. But assuming the majority of Germans to know their own business best, and granting it to be essential that the people should have some larger sphere, under their own flag, in which to attain to their proper growth, if they were compelled to drop war as the means for obtaining that larger sphere out of their calculations, it would not mean that those ambitions and aspirations would have to go unsatisfied. Violence is not the only means of obtaining what one wants.

There was a time when, as between individuals, if one man desired a thing which his neighbour possessed he went with a club and took it; but civilised society has abandoned physical force as a medium for the exchange of commodities and has substituted barter. If physical force were once discountenanced among nations, any nation which needed a thing badly enough could always get it. Everybody who had facilities for sale would be glad to sell, if the price was sufficiently high. It is not unlikely that, in an age of compulsory peace, Germany would be able to acquire all that she desires at a less price than the expenditure of blood and treasure which would be necessary in a war. It would almost certainly cost her less than the price of war added to the capitalised annual burden of the up-keep of her army and navy.[32:1]

But the real cost of war does not fall upon the individual nation. And for the last time let me say that I am not arguing against Germany: I am arguing for Peace. It has been necessary to discuss Germany's position because she is at the moment the only factor in the situation which makes for war. All other Powers are satisfied, or could be satisfied, with their present boundaries. Outside of the German Empire, the whole civilised world earnestly desires peace. It may be that Great Britain, acting in concert with France, Russia, and Japan, will in the near future be able to take a longer step towards securing that peace for the world than seems at present credible. But England's natural coadjutor is the United States. The United States has but to take one step and the thing is done. It is a role which ought to appeal to the American people. It is certainly one for the assumption of which all posterity would bless the name of America.

* * * * *

Critics will, of course, ridicule this offhand dismissing in a few sentences of the largest of world problems. Each one of several propositions which I have advanced breaks rudely ground where angels might fear to tread; each one ought to be put forth cautiously with much preamble and historical introduction, to be circuitously argued through several hundred pages; but that cannot be done here because those propositions are not the main topic of this book. At the same time they must be stated, however baldly, because they represent the basis on which my plea for any immediate Anglo-American co-operation in the cause of peace must rest.

I am also fully conscious of the hostility which almost everything that I say will provoke from one or another section of the American people, but I am not addressing the irreconcilables of any foreign element of the population of the United States. I am talking to the reasoning, intelligent mass of the two peoples as a whole. The subject of an Anglo-American alliance is one of which it is the fashion to hush up any attempt at the discussion in public. It must be spoken of in whispers. It is better—so the argument runs—to let American good-will to England grow of itself; an effort to hasten it will but hurt American susceptibilities.

In the first place this idea rests largely on an exaggerated estimate of the power of the Irish politician, a power which happily is coming every day to be more nearly a thing of the past,—"tending," as Carlyle says, "visibly not to be." In the second place, I believe that I understand American susceptibilities; and they will not be hurt by any one who shows that he does understand. What the American resents bitterly is the arrogant and superficial criticism of the foreigner who sums up the characteristics and destiny of the nation after a few weeks of observation. Moreover, Americans do not as a rule like whispering or the attempt to come at things by by-paths—in which they much resemble the English. When they want a thing they commonly ask for it—distinctly. When they think a thing ought to be done they prefer to say so—unequivocally. They have not much love for the circuitousnesses of diplomacy; and if England desires American co-operation in what is a great and noble cause she had much better ask for it—bluntly.

Personally I wish that forty million Englishmen would stand up and shout the request all at once.


[8:1] Since this was written, the Anglo-Russian agreement has been arrived at.

[10:1] Justin H. Smith, Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony, Putnams, 1907.

[15:1] The Bellman, Minneapolis, Dec. 22, 1906.

[32:1] A point which there is no space to dwell upon here but which I would commend to the more leisurely consideration of readers—especially American readers—is that under a regime of physical force there can in fact be hardly any transfer of commodities at all. What a man has, he holds, whether his need of it be greater than another's, or whether he needs it not at all. There is no inducement to part with it and pride compels him to hold; so that only the strongest can come by the possession of anything that he desires. If the dollar were substituted for the club in the dealings of nations, the transfer of commodities would forthwith become simplified, and such incidents as the purchase of Alaska and the cession of Heligoland, instead of standing as isolated examples of international accommodation, would become customary. To take an example which will bring the matter home at once, many imperialist Englishmen on visiting the West Indies have become convinced that certain of England's possessions in those regions could with advantage to all parties be transferred to the United States. But so long as the military idea reigns—so long as an island must be regarded primarily as an outpost, a possible naval base, a strategic point—so long will the obstacles to such a transfer remain. As soon as war was put outside the range of possibilities, commercial principles would begin to operate and those territories, however much or little they might be worth, would be acquired by the United States. The same thing would happen in all parts of the world. Possessions, instead of being held by those who could hold them, would tend to pass to those who needed them or to whom they logically belonged by geographical relation, and neither Germany's legitimate aspirations nor those of any other country would need to go unsatisfied.



The Anglo-Saxon Family Likeness—How Frenchmen and Germans View it—Englishmen, Americans, and "Foreigners"—An Echo of the War of 1812—An Anglo-American Conflict Unthinkable— American Feeling for England—The Venezuelan Incident—The Pilgrims and Some Secret History—Why Americans still Hate England—Great Britain's Nearness to the United States Geographically—Commercially—Historically—England's Foreign Ill-wishers in America.

The one thing chiefly needed to make both Englishmen and Americans desire an alliance is that they should come to know each other better. They would then be astonished to find not only how much they liked each other, but how closely each was already in sympathy with the other's ways of life and thought and how inconsiderable were the differences between them. Some one (I thought it was Mr. Freeman, but I cannot find the passage in his writings) has said that it would be a good way of judging an Englishman's knowledge of the world to notice whether, on first visiting America, he was most struck by the differences between the two peoples or by their resemblances. When an intelligent American has travelled for any time on the Continent of Europe, in contact with peoples who are truly "foreign" to him, he feels on arriving in London almost as if he were at home again. The more an Englishman moves among other peoples, the more he is impressed, on reaching the United States, with his kinship to those among whom he finds himself. Nor is it in either case wholly, or even chiefly, a matter of a common speech.

"Jonathan," says Max O'Rell, "is but John Bull expanded—John Bull with plenty of elbow room." And the same thing is said again and again in different phraseology by various Continental writers. It is said most impressively by those who do not put it into words at all, as by Professor Muensterberg[36:1] who is apparently not familiar with England, but shows no lack of willingness to dislike her. There is therefore no intentional comparison between the two peoples, but the writer's point of view has absorbing interest to an Englishman who knows both countries. More than once he remarks with admiration or astonishment on traits of the American character or institutions in the United States which the Englishman would necessarily take for granted, because they are precisely the same as those to which he has been accustomed at home. Writing for a German public, the Professor draws morals from American life which delight an English reader by their naive and elementary superfluousness. In all unconsciousness, Professor Muensterberg has written a most valuable essay on the essential kinship of the British and American peoples as contrasted with his own.

Two brothers will commonly be aware only of the differences between them—the unlikeness of their features, the dissimilarities in their tastes or capabilities,—yet the world at large may have difficulty in distinguishing them apart. While they are conscious only of their individual differences, to the neighbours all else disappears in the family resemblance. So it is that Max O'Rell sees how like the American is to the Englishman more clearly than Mark Twain: Professor Muensterberg has involuntarily traced the features of the one in the lineaments of the other with a surer hand than Matthew Arnold or Mr. Bryce.

When, in his remarkable book, M. Demolins uses the term Anglo-Saxon, he speaks indifferently at one time of Englishmen and at another of Americans. The peoples are to him one and indistinguishable. Their greatness is a common greatness based on qualities which are the inheritance of their Anglo-Saxon origin. Chief among these qualities, the foundation-stone of their greatness, is the devotion to what we will follow him in calling the "Particularistic" form of society,—a society, that is, in which the individual predominates over the community, and not the community over the individual; a society which aims at "establishing each child in its full independence." This is, a Frenchman sees, eminently characteristic of the English and the Americans, in contrast with other peoples, with those which hold a republican form of government no less than those which live under an autocracy. And it is peculiarly Saxon in its origin,—not derived from the Celt or Norman or Dane. These latter belonged (as do the peoples sprung from, or allied to, them to-day) to that class of people which places the community above the individual, which looks instinctively to the State or the government for initiative. The Saxons alone (a people of earnest individual workers, agriculturalists and craftsmen) relied always on the initiative and impulse of the individual—what M. Demolins calls "the law of intense personal labour"—and it was by virtue of this quality that they eventually won social supremacy over the other races in Britain. It is by virtue of the same quality that the Americans have been enabled to subdue their continent and build up the fabric of the United States. It is this quality, says the French writer almost brutally, which makes the German and Latin races to-day stand to L'Anglais in about the same relation as the Oriental and the Redskin stand to the European. And when M. Demolins speaks of L'Anglais, he means the American as much as the "Englishman of Britain." It is a convenient term and, so essentially one are they in his eyes, there is no need to distinguish between the peoples. Mr. William Archer's remark is worth quoting, that "It is amazing how unessential has been the change produced in the Anglo-Saxon type and temperament [in America] by the influences of climate or the admixtures of foreign blood."[38:1]

When individual Englishmen and Americans are thrown together in strange parts of the world, they seldom fail to foregather as members of one race. There may be four traders living isolated in some remote port; but though the Russian may speak English with less "accent" than the American and though the German may have lived for some years in New York, it is not to the society of the German or the Russian that the American or the Englishman instinctively turns for companionship. The two former have but the common terms of speech; the Englishman and the American use also common terms of thought and feeling.

The people who know this best are the officers and men of the British and American navies, who are accustomed to find themselves thrown with the sailors of all nations in all sorts of waters; and wherever they are thus thrown together, the men who sail under the Stars and Stripes and those who fly the Union Jack are friends. I have talked with a good many British sailors (not officers) and it is good to hear the tone of respect in which they speak of the American navy, as compared with certain others.

The opportunities for similar companionship among the men of the armies of the two nations are fewer, but when the allied forces entered China the comradeship which arose between the American and British troops, to the exclusion of all others, is notorious. Every night after mess, British officers sought the American lines and vice versa. The Americans have the credit of having invented that rigorous development of martial law, by which, as soon as British officers came within their lines, sentries were posted with orders not to let them pass out again unless accompanied by an American officer. Thus the guests could not escape from hospitality till such hour as their hosts pleased.

Some ten years ago military representatives of various nations were present by invitation at certain manoeuvres of the Indian army, and one night, when an official entertainment was impending, the United States officers were guests at the mess of a British regiment. Dinner being over, the colonel pushed his chair back and, turning to the American on his right, said in all innocence:

"Well, come along! It's time to go and help to receive these d——d foreigners."

An incident less obviously a propos, but which seems to me to strike very truly the common chord of kinship of character between the races, was told me by a well-known American painter of naval and military subjects. He was the guest of the Forty-fourth (Essex) at, I think, Gibraltar, when in the course of dinner the British officer on his right broke a silence with the casual remark:

"I wonder whether we shall ever have another smack at you fellows."

The American was not unnaturally surprised.

"Why? Do you want it?" he asked.

"No; we should hate to fight you of course, but then, you know, the Forty-fourth was at New Orleans."

It appealed to the American—not merely the pride in the regiment that still smarted under the blow of ninety years ago, but still more the feeling towards himself, as an American, that prompted the Englishman to speak in terms which he knew that he would never have dreamed of using under similar circumstances to the representative of any "foreign" nation. The Englishman had no fear that the American would misunderstand. It appealed to the latter so much that after his return to the United States, being called upon to speak at some entertainment or function at West Point, when, besides the cadets, there were many officers of the United States Army in the room, he told the story. Instantly, as he finished, a simultaneous cry from several places in the hall called for "Three cheers for the Forty-fourth!" There was no Englishman in the company, but, as he told me the story, never had he heard so instantaneous, so crashing a response to any call, as then when the whole room leaped to its feet and cheered the old enemies who had not forgotten.[41:1]

It is not my wish here to discuss even the possibility of war between Great Britain and the United States. The thing is too horrible to be considered as even the remotest of contingencies—the "Unpardonable War," indeed, as Mr. James Barnes has called it. None the less, there is always greater danger of such a war than any Englishman imagines or than many Americans would like to confess. However true it may be that it takes two to make a quarrel, it is none the less true that if one party be bent upon quarrelling it is always possible for him to go to lengths of irritation and insult which must ultimately provoke the most peaceful and reluctant of antagonists. However pacific and reluctant to fight Great Britain might be at the outset, she is not conspicuously lacking in national pride or in sensitiveness to encroachments on the national honour.

Mr. Freeman makes the shrewd remark that "the American feels a greater distinction between himself and the Englishman of Britain than the Englishman of Britain feels between himself and the American," which remains entirely true to-day, in spite of the seemingly paradoxical fact that the American knows more of English history and English politics than the Englishman knows of the politics and history of the United States. This by no means implies that the American knows more of the English character than the Englishman knows of his. On the contrary, the Americans have seen infinitely less of the world than Englishmen, and however many of the bare facts of English history and English politics they may know, they are strangely ignorant of the atmosphere to which those facts belong, and have never learned how much more foreign to them other foreign nations are. The individual American will take the individual Englishman into his friendship—will even accept him as a sort of a relative—but as a political entity Great Britain is almost as much a foreign nation as any.

The casual Englishman visiting the United States for but a short time will probably not discover this fact. He only knows that he is cordially received himself—even more cordially, he feels, than he deserves—and most probably those persons, especially the ladies, whom he meets will assure him that they are "devoted" to England. He may not have time to discover that that devotion is not universal. Only after a while, in all probability, will the fact as stated by Mr. Freeman dawn upon him, and he will somehow be aware that with all the charming hospitality that he receives he is in some way treated as more of a foreigner than he is conscious of being. It is necessary that he should have some extended residence in the country—unless his visit happens to coincide with such an incident as the Venezuelan controversy or the outbreak of the Boer War—before things group themselves in at all their right perspective before his eyes. The intensity of the feeling displayed at the time of the Venezuelan incident came as a shock to Englishmen at home; but those who had lived for any length of time in America (west of New York) were not surprised. It is probable that the greater number of the American people at that time wished for war, and believed that it was nothing but cowardice on the part of Great Britain—her constitutional dislike of fighting anybody of her own size, as a number of the papers pleasantly phrased it—that prevented their wish from being gratified.

The concluding paragraphs of ex-President Cleveland's treatise on this subject are illuminating. In 1895, as I have said, a majority of the American people unquestionably wished to fight; but that numerical majority included perhaps a minority of the native-born Americans, a small minority certainly of the richer or more well-to-do among them, and an almost infinitesimal proportion of the best educated of the native-born. This is what Mr. Cleveland says:

"Those among us who most loudly reprehended and bewailed our vigorous assertion of the Monroe Doctrine were the timid ones who feared personal financial loss, or those engaged in speculation and stock-gambling, in buying much beyond their ability to pay, and generally in living by their wits [sic]. The patriotism of such people traverses exclusively the pocket nerve. . . . But these things are as nothing when weighed against the sublime patriotism and devotion to their nation's honour exhibited by the great mass of our countrymen—the plain people of the land. . . . Not for a moment did their Government know the lack of their strong and stalwart support. . . . It [the incident] has given us a better place in the respect and consideration of the people of all nations, and especially of Great Britain; it has again confirmed our confidence in the overwhelming prevalence among our citizens of disinterested devotion to our nation's honour; and last, but by no means least, it has taught us where to look in the ranks of our countrymen for the best patriotism."[44:1]

Mr. Cleveland, now that he is no longer in active politics, holds, as he deserves, a secure place in the affections of the American people. But at the time when this treatise was published, he was a not impossible nominee of the Democratic party for another term as President; and the "plain people of the land" have a surprising number of votes. Mr. Cleveland knows his own people and knows that with a large portion of them war with England would in 1895 have been popular. It is significant also that he still thought it worth while to insist upon this fact at the time when this treatise was given to the world in a volume; and that was as late as 1904, very shortly before the Democratic party selected its nominee for the Presidential contest of that year. It is possible that if Mr. Cleveland had been that nominee instead of Justice Parker, one of the leading features of his campaign would have been a vigorous insistence on the Monroe Doctrine, as interpreted by himself, with especial reference to Great Britain.

Englishmen are inclined (so far as they think about the matter at all) to flatter themselves that the ill-feeling which blazed so suddenly into flame twelve years ago was more or less effectually quenched by Great Britain's assistance to the United States at the time of the Spanish War. Those Englishmen who watched the course of opinion in America at the time of the Boer War must have had some misgivings. It is evident that so good a judge as Mr. Cleveland believed, as late as 1904, that hostility to Great Britain was still a policy which would commend itself to the "plain people of the land."

It is true that the war fever in 1895 was stronger in the West than in the Eastern States. A traveller crossing the United States at that time would have found the idea of hostilities with England being treated as something of a joke in cultivated circles in New York, but among the people in general to the West of Buffalo and Pittsburg it was terrible earnest. A curious point, moreover, which I think I have never seen stated in England, is that many good men in the Democratic Party at that time stood by President Cleveland, though sincerely friendly to Great Britain; the truth being that they did not believe that war with England was seriously to be apprehended, while another Power was at the moment seeking to obtain a foothold in South America, for whose benefit a "vigorous assertion of the Monroe Doctrine" was much to be desired. The thunders of the famous message indeed were, in the minds of many excellent Americans in the East, directed not against Great Britain but against Germany.

None the less it should be noted that it was in the hope of influencing the voters in a local election in New York that Mr. Hearst, as recently as in November, 1907, thought it worth while to appeal to the "traditional hatred" of Great Britain. However little else Mr. Hearst may have to commend him, he cannot be said to be out of touch with the sentiments of the more ignorant masses of the people of New York. That he failed did not signify that he was mistaken as to the extent or intensity of the prejudice to which he appealed, but only that the cry was raised too late and too obviously as an electioneering trick in a campaign which was already lost.

In spite of what happened during the Spanish War, in spite of every effort that England has made to convince America of her friendliness, in spite of the improvement which has taken place in the feelings of (what, without offence, I venture to call) the upper classes in America towards Great Britain, the fact still remains that, with a large portion of the people, war with England would be popular.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse