Hamilton Wright Mabie.

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AMERICAN IDEALS
CHARACTER^

HAMILTON WRIGHT MABIE



LIBRARY

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
DAVIS



AMERICAN IDEALS
CHARACTER AND LIFE



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

NEW YORK BOSTON CHICAGO DALLAS
ATLANTA SAN FRANCISCO

MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED

LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA
MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.

TORONTO



AMERICAN IDEALS
CHARACTER AND LIFE



BY
HAMILTON WRIGHT MABIE



gorfc
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

1913

All rights reserved



LLBKAKV
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

DAVIS



COPYRIGHT, 1913,
BY THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY COMPANY.

COPYRIGHT, 1918,
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.



Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1913.



NortoootJ

J. 8. Gushing Co. Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



PREFACE

IN the Preface to his illuminating volume
"The Japanese Nation: Its Land and Its
People," Dr. Inazo Nitobe explains concisely
the circumstances which led to its publica
tion: " The idea of sending public men of note
unofficially from this country to Japan and
from Japan to the United States, owes its
inception to Mr. Hamilton Holt of New York
City. When his plan had been developed to
a certain degree of feasibility, the task of car
rying it into effect was accepted by President
Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia Uni
versity, in whose hands the idea took the
more practical, if the less ambitious, form of
an exchange professorship, and he interested
certain typical universities to join in putting
it into effect. After the enterprise was fairly
launched, the responsibility for its continu
ance was passed on to, and made a part of, the
work of the Carnegie Peace Endowment."



PREFACE

It may be added that one form of the work
of this Endowment is an effort, by Exchange
Professorships, or Lectureships, to make the
different peoples better acquainted with one
another, and to lay the foundations of inter
national peace in international knowledge.
Ignorance is the prolific source of race preju
dice and hostility; it creates the conditions
which make race bigots, light-minded public
men, and irresponsible newspapers dangerous
foes to the highest interests of the world.

Dr. Nitobe was happily chosen as the first
Exchange Professor from Japan, and his ad
dresses delivered in six representative uni
versities and before learned and popular
organizations were listened to with great in
terest ; and, published in book form by Messrs.
G. P. Putnam's Sons, present an interpreta
tion of the Japanese people at once deeply
interesting and authoritative.

It was the good fortune of the writer of this
book to be sent to Japan on the same Endow
ment as the first Exchange Professor, or, to be
more accurate, Lecturer, from the United
States, and to receive from government offi-

vi



PREFACE

cials, from the universities, from schools, from
organizations, both public and private, and
from numberless persons in private life, cour
tesies which gave kindness new qualities of
charm and delicate consideration. In the
course of six months' travel and the delivery
of nearly eighty addresses in Japan, Korea,
and Manchuria, there was never an hour of
loneliness. From the day when wireless mes
sages of welcome began to greet the visitors,
three days out, to the day when they followed
the home-coming steamer three days at sea,
there was the unfailing consciousness of being
surrounded by friends.

From the addresses delivered in the Impe
rial Universities of Tokyo and Kyoto, the pri
vately endowed or supported universities of
Waseda and Keio and the Doshisha, in many
schools and before many popular audiences,
the chapters in this book, with a single excep
tion, have been selected and are presented
substantially as they were delivered. The
chapter on " The American in Art," reprinted
by the courtesy of the editor of the Atlantic
Monthly Magazine, is included to give greater

vii



PREFACE

completeness to this outline sketch of Ameri
can society and life. It must not be forgotten
that these addresses were delivered to audi
ences of unusual intellectual alertness and re
markable knowledge of the English language,
but who were largely unfamiliar with Ameri
can history and institutions. No attempt has
been made to do more, on the historical side,
than to sketch with a free hand and in large
outline, the development of the American
people, bringing into view only those events
which have contributed to that development
and disclose and interpret the American spirit.
If this book shall serve as an introductory
sketch of a nation which, like Japan, is often
misrepresented and misunderstood, its purpose
will be accomplished.



H. W. M.



SEAL HARBOR, ME.,
August 16, 1913.



vm



CONTENTS

PAGE

I. CLEARING THE WAY .... 1

II. DISCOVERY AND EXPLORATION . . 34

III. POSSESSING THE CONTINENT ... 61

IV. PROVINCIAL AMERICA IN LITERATURE . 91
V. SECTIONAL LITERATURE . . . .128

VI. NATIONAL LITERATURE .... 156

VII. THE AMERICAN IN ART .... 189

VIII. SCHOOL AND COLLEGE .... 214

IX. UNIVERSITY AND RESEARCH WORK . 245

X. THE AMERICAN AND HIS GOVERNMENT . 267

XI. COUNTRY AND PEOPLE 295



IX



AMERICAN IDEALS, CHARACTER
AND LIFE

I
CLEARING THE WAY

FOR many years past Japan has held a
first place in the interest of Americans, and
they have followed its extraordinary and
brilliant career, not only with admiration, but
with an ardent desire to know the historical
sources of a national strength directed with
such intelligence and used with such efficiency.
They were quick to perceive that a people
does not suddenly appear on the stage of
the world in command of such moral and
physical forces unless it has been subjected
to a severe discipline of spirit and mind, and
they have been eager to discover the secret
of modern Japan in the ideals and education
of old Japan. This combination of subtle
artistic instinct and skill with high military



AMERICAN IDEALS

efficiency; in what age-long training of eye,
of imagination, of will, was it made possible ?
This inbred courtesy unimpaired by a swiftly
acquired practical efficiency, this capacity
for suddenly changing tools and weapons and
yet using them with veteran ease and skill
the explanation of this vigor of the fiber
of character and this facile intelligence lies
deep in the history of old Japan; and there
we have searched and fancied we have found
it in the interpretations of a large group of
native and foreign students and observers.
And so there has been born in the hearts of
intelligent Americans an admiration for the
Japanese nation at once historical and pro
phetic ; a deep respect for what has been ac
complished, a keen anticipation of a career
in the near and far future full of dramatic
possibilities of achievement on the higher
planes of civilization. v

We have tried to understand Japan by
gaining access to its fundamental ideas of
life and character : those ideas of which its
activities have been a varied but unified ex
pression. It is my hope to make my own



CLEARING THE WAY

country in some small measure more com
prehensible by definition of its historic ideas,
its inheritance of religious, ethical and political
convictions, the physical conditions under
which it has been compelled to work out its
vital problems and fashion its political in
stitutions ; to bring before you, so far as I
am able, the American behind his political
and business activities. This is no light task
and is not approached in a light spirit. The
long separation of the East and the West has
made it difficult for the men of the East and
the men of the West to understand one
another; but I utterly reject the idea that
they cannot understand one another; that
differences of landscape, climate, religion,
political and social ideal, have been so wrought
into temperament and character that a per
manent barrier has been built between the
East and West. Such a barrier may exist
for a little time in the minds of men of selfish
interest and narrow racial feeling, but it has
never risen in the minds of men of vision East
or West ; and the future belongs not to traders
and race bigots, but to men who, in states-

3



AMERICAN IDEALS

manship and in commerce, recognize that the
world, which has become a neighborhood, is
on the way to become a brotherhood.

The German poet Goethe, one of the most
penetrating thinkers and critics of the West,
declared that the prime quality of the real
critic is sympathy. There is no other ap
proach to a man or a race. Men rarely un
derstand that which they hate, but they
rarely fail to understand that which they love.
There was in the London of the time of Charles
Lamb, that master of the essay of sentiment
and humor, a man who was widely detested
because he was of a peculiarly irritating dull
ness of mind. This man's name came up one
day in conversation, and Lamb was asked if he
did not hate him. "How can I hate a man I
know?" was the illuminating answer of a
writer who knew well the weaknesses of his
fellows because he knew his own frailties.
The French maxim, that to know all would be
to forgive all, may need some qualification ;
but distrust, dislike and hatred are so often
conceived in ignorance and born in blindness
of mind that the truth at the heart of it may

4



CLEARING THE WAY

be safely accepted as a guide to judgment,
and especially to international judgment.
The beginning of wisdom in these matters is
an open mind and the readiness to approach
a nation along its own highways.

No man can understand a foreign people
until he studies them in the light of their own
ideals. France is a closed book to the Eng
lishman or American who does not recognize
at the start that in that country the social
unit is the family, while among the English-
speaking peoples the social unit is the individ
ual. The French and English misunderstood
one another for centuries, because they held
stubbornly to certain preconceptions instead
of approaching one another with open minds ;
and only lately, discarding old-time popular
pre judgments, have they begun to recognize
the great qualities which other peoples have
seen in both nations. A nation of shop
keepers does not produce Tennysons, Darwins,
Gladstones and Gordons ; nor does a frivolous
people given over to amusement, produce
Gambettas, Pasteurs, Brunetieres.

It has been the good fortune of Japan to
5



AMERICAN IDEALS

disarm many foreign critics at the very start
and to lay a spell on many hard-minded but
quick-spoken judges who would otherwise
have been harsh judges of a people they ap
proached with the preconceptions of the West
ern mind ; but even Japan, most courteous of
countries, has not escaped those who suspect
everything that is strange and condemn every
thing they do not understand.

No people, however, have borne a heavier
burden of misunderstanding than the Ameri
cans, and for very obvious reasons : differences
of social structure and habit so radical and
so fundamental that until they are taken into
account the United States is, to the mind
which approaches it from the European or
the Oriental point of view, a vast and baffling
confusion. From the very beginning there
have been men and women who have gone to
the Far West, as there have been those who
have come to the Far East, not to judge, but
to understand ; and Americans are fortunate
in possessing a small group of interpretations
of their social and political life of classic
quality. Between the hasty and ignorant



CLEARING THE WAY

and the open-minded and intelligent ob
servers, the opinions expressed have been of
such diversity that the American has reached
a state of settled indifference toward average
foreign opinion. He is told by one group of
observers that his country is the home of
materialism, that his people are crude, irrev
erent, indifferent to religion, to art, to cul
ture; and he is told by another group that
his is the land of religious enthusiasts; that
he is a dreamer and a sentimentalist; that
his supreme desire is not for money, but for
education.

Intelligent criticism is a far greater evidence
of friendship than indiscriminate praise, and
neither the strong man nor the strong people
should shrink from its occasional sting.
Truth may weaken the weak ; it strengthens
the strong. In this matter of international
understanding, which may turn out to be the
chief business of this century, truth-speaking
is of prime importance. But let it be re
membered that the truth about a man or a
nation is revealed to the sympathetic only ;
to all others there is and can be no revelation

7



AMERICAN IDEALS

of racial spirit and character. "Over the
gateway of the twentieth century," wrote the
noble German thinker and teacher, Fichte,
"shall be written the words: 'this is the
way to virtue, to justice and to peace.'"
And that these great ends may be reached
and this century fulfill this inspiring prophecy,
these other words of a Latin writer ought to
be in the mind of every man who endeavors
to interpret the life of a people: "neither to
laugh nor to cry, but to understand."

During the dark days of the War between
the States the North was astonished and
bitterly disappointed by the attitude of many
of the leaders of opinion in England. Forty
years later in his Life of a great English states
man, Mr. Morley wrote: "Of this immense
conflict Mr. Gladstone, like most leading
statesmen of the time, and, like the majority
of his own countrymen, failed to take the true
measure. The error that lay at the root of
our English misconceptions of the American
struggle is now clear. We applied ordinary
political maxims to what was not merely a
political contest, but a social revolution."

8



CLEARING THE WAY

It is the habit of applying the ordinary po
litical maxims of one country to the civiliza
tion of another country that has made a great
deal of international comment like the game
of blindman's buff played by children ; in
which there is much running to and fro,
much noise and general confusion, ending in
guessing more or less shrewd. A distin
guished German student of American life
describes one of his books as "a study of the
Americans as the best of them are and the
others should wish to be." Approached in
this spirit, the student of a people may under
state the seriousness of the external evils
which afflict every state; he will almost
unerringly discover the sources of its strength,
and, above all, he will feel the throb of its
vitality, which is the heartbeat of a nation.

And this is far and away the most important
fact to learn about a people; for the ulti
mate question never is, "How many diseases
has a nation ? " The ultimate question always
is, "How much vitality has it?" If it has a
great store of vitality, its diseases are only
episodes in its abundant life. It is easy to

9



AMERICAN IDEALS

enumerate the diseases from which a nation
is suffering, for they are largely external, and
this is the chief occupation of the majority
of international observers ; it requires in
sight, intelligence and sympathy to measure
the vitality of a nation, and these qualities
are lacking in the mass of observers, who are
impressionists and whose opinions are colored,
if not formed, by the superficial aspects of the
life around them. There are perhaps half a
dozen men in a generation in any country
whose judgment on another country has
value; there are many who are competent
to report obvious conditions, to describe
customs, to paint with charming skill the
landscape which enfolds a nation's daily life;
but there are only an elect few qualified by
nature as well as by training to uncover the
character that is to say, the significant
ideals, the organized energy, the sustaining
vitality of a foreign people, or to set in
contrast the strength and weakness of two
civilizations. The beginning of wisdom in
this field is, without any surrender of con
victions, to endeavor to understand and to

10



CLEARING THE WAY

postpone judgment to a time of fuller light,
to escape entirely from racial prejudices and
national preconceptions, to see with large
intelligence behind the eyes, and to put
away distrust and antipathy with the armor
and weapons and tools that have been super
seded by finer instruments.

It is easier to understand one's own country
than to understand other countries, but it is
no easy task to interpret a people one may
know intimately to the people of another
country. And this task becomes especially
difficult when a Japanese endeavors to in
terpret his people to Americans or an Ameri
can undertakes to reveal his people to the
Japanese. But Japanese writers have suc
ceeded in rendering this great service to
Americans, and an American need not despair
of conveying to the Japanese a definite if
very inadequate conception of his own
country. It may be that the breadth of
contrast between the historical background
of Japan and the United States gives to each
country a definiteness of outline which would
be lacking if one were attempting to contrast

11



AMERICAN IDEALS

the United States with any European country,
and that the distance which has separated
the paths by which we have come may give
us a deeper and more open-minded interest
in one another. In this hope I venture to
sketch on a large canvas and with a free hand
the spirit of the youngest of the leading
nations to one of the oldest ; a people spread
over a continent to a people concentrated
within island boundaries ; a people organized
around the individual as a unit, though lack
ing neither filial nor national loyalty, to a
people in whom a profound and mystical
conception of the family has bred a spirit of
reverence and obedience, a love of kindred,
of ruler and of country, which have armed the
empire at the very heart; a people drawn
from many countries and fed by many races
to a people unified by ancient community of
religion, of political ideals and of social order
and custom.

If the chief end of civilization is to develop
the genius of every race and to give every
individual an opportunity of making his
contribution to the welfare of the com-



CLEARING THE WAY

munity of races which the world is fast be
coming, then the general movement which
we call evolution will develop eventually,
not uniformity of political and social con
ditions the world over, but the widest and
richest diversities of political and social in
stitutions, of educational method, of the
forms of expression of the religious nature.
And the full and cordial recognition of the
variety and diversity of the aims and skills
and methods of civilization is the measure
of a man's understanding of the modern
world.

To a man bred in another part of the world,
the United States is a country of baffling
confusion ; he cannot understand its solidity
and its apparent fluidity, its deep-rooted
political convictions and its apparent indif
ference to political forms ; its essential con
servatism and the rapid growth of radical
ideas in its atmosphere.

The differences between the political and
social structure of the older countries and of
this new country are manifold, but there are
three or four w r hich must be taken into

13



AMERICAN IDEALS

account at the very start if one is to get at the
real character of the American people.

In a community organized on the basis
of equality in political privilege and before
the law, the influence of highly developed
standards of speech and manners is not
supreme; it is left to establish itself by the
long process of popular education. There
are as many men and women of thorough
education and ripeness of mind in the United
States as in any other country, but they are
not organized into a class, and they have
never defined the standards of speech and
manners. Whenever they have attempted
to do this, a jealous democracy, entirely
lacking in reverence for class distinctions,
has overwhelmed them with ridicule. For
superior education, for ability of a high order,
for the finer aspects of character, there is
great respect in the American community;
but for any arrogation of social superiority,
there is swift and contemptuous indignation.
Of the twenty-seven Presidents of the United
States, nineteen have been men of university
training; but three Presidents who have

14



CLEARING THE WAY

lacked this training - - Washington, Lincoln
and Cleveland - - have been statesmen and
patriots whose conspicuous service to the
Commonwealth has evidenced the educational
influence which issues from the institutions
and spirit of the country. Washington and
Lincoln, born at the two extremes of society
so far as social conditions are concerned,
must be classed with Franklin and Emerson,
among the most representative products of
the popular education which is perhaps the
most important function of the American
system. In the election for President re
cently held in the United States there were
three candidates for that high office ; of these
one was a member of the governing body of
Yale University ; another, after graduation
from Princeton University and further study
at the Johns Hopkins University, for ten
years previous to his election as Governor of
his State, had been president of Princeton
University ; while the third is a member of the
Board of Overseers of Harvard University,
the oldest of American institutions of the
higher rank, and is a man of notable intel-

15



AMERICAN IDEALS

lectual achievements and accomplishments.
Two of these gentlemen are historians and
authors of distinction. From the beginning,
public life in the United States has been
crowded with men of university education ;
the respect for education has deepened into a
faith so intense that it has become almost a
superstition, and both public and private
funds flow with a kind of tidal movement to
the support of education and the enrichment
of its institutions.

Nevertheless, the man whose schooling,
like Lincoln's, has been "less than a year"
and who has never crossed the threshold of a
university, has no more consciousness of in
feriority in the presence of the president of
the oldest university than the lawyer has in
the presence of the physician, or the architect
in the presence of the engineer. He recog
nizes cordially that another is better equipped
than he in a special kind of work, but as a
man he has not the slightest sense of in
equality. He knows that the doors of op
portunity are open to him and that he can go
as far as his ability and energy will carry him.

16



CLEARING THE WAY

Americans believe profoundly in the system
which rests the government on the broadest
foundation of suffrage, which makes all men
partners in the national enterprise, which
exacts no special preparation of the man who
takes part in public affairs, but holds the doors
wide, so that a man may start at the bottom
of the social order and go to the top. They
believe in it, not because they think it has
always secured for them the most economical
or efficient government; but because they
believe it the most just and, in the long run,
the safest form of political organization ;
and because they believe it gives the processes
of government a fundamental educational
value which has made the country a vast
school for the education of people of all classes
in that political character of which political
institutions are the vital expression. For
the strength of a people issues from the
political character behind their institutions,
and the institutions are real and vital only in
so far as they express that character. This
is what Hamilton, one of the four or five men
who had most to do with framing the Ameri-
c 17



AMERICAN IDEALS

can Constitution and creating its govern
ment, had in mind when he wrote: "The
truth is that the general genius of a govern
ment is all that can be substantially relied
upon for permanent effects. Particular pro
visions, though not altogether useless, have
far less virtue and efficiency than are com
monly ascribed to them; and the want of
them will never be, with men of sound dis
cernment, a decisive objection to any plan
which exhibits the leading characters of a
good government."

This is not equivalent to saying that all
forms of government have equal value ; it
is equivalent to saying that a self-controlled
and disciplined people will give a good ac
count of themselves in spite of defective
political institutions. The general genius of
a government is the genius of a people or
ganized into institutions and embodied in
laws. The searching discipline which in the


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Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieAmerican ideals, character and life → online text (page 1 of 17)