Franklin Henry Giddings.

Democracy and empire; with studies of their psychological, economic, and moral foundations online

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that democracy has contended for in its alliance with secular-
ism. Its real concern has been to throttle a hostile power.
This has been sufficiently proved by the excessively illiberal
dealing of French democracy with the Roman Catholic Church,
especially in educational matters. Another and much more
interesting demonstration, however, has not escaped Mr.
Lecky's survey. This is found in the history of American
legislation against the Mormon Church and its institution of
polygamy. Mr. Lecky leaves his readers in no doubt that,
while he is no apologist for either Mormonism or polygamy,
he is unable to reconcile certain radical features of the Ed-
munds Act with the principles of the Federal Constitution.
In the second place, the Roman Catholic Church has
undoubtedly a much deeper sympathy with democracy and
with certain forms of socialism than it can possibly have with
a scheme of law and government which frankly accepts the
principles of private judgment and individual responsibility
in affairs of conduct, and the policy of unrestricted competi-
tion in industry. The membership of the Roman Church
corresponds far more closely to the wage-earning masses
than to the business and professional classes. No intelligent


observer can have followed the recent developments of Roman
Catholic policy without discovering that the church is pre-
paring to give up its struggle against the forms of civil gov-
ernment and to exercise its authority henceforward tlirough
them. It has no intention of surrendering the smallest frac-
tion of authority as such, but it expects more and more to
express authority through a spiritual ascendency in the mind
of the voter. Instinctively or rationally the Holy See has
discovered the true relation of the state behind the constitu-
tion to the state within the constitution. Could there be for
its purposes a better instrument than a democracy which is
disposed to rule absolutely, substituting for the authority of
a monarch by divine right, not liberty and individual respon-
sibility, but the authority of a majority by divine right ?

To prove that democracy tends to give the balance of power
in society to the emotional rather than to the intellectual ele-
ments of the population, it would only be necessary to show
that universal suffrage is in fact the actual rule, as distin-
guished from the more or less mechanical voting, of the
many. It is the exceptional man whose conduct is con-
trolled by reason. Hardly less exceptional is the man whose
opinions are moulded by reason. The crowd, the mass, is
swayed mainly by example and by feeling. Mr. Lecky is
not dependent, however, upon this line of proof. Proof of
another kind is ready to his hand, and he does not fail
to make the most of it. The democratic movement has not
stopped at universal suffrage among men. It aims to extend
the legislative franchise to women also. Already it has half
accomplished its purpose. English women enjoy the munici-
pal suffrage, and they believe that the Parliamentary fran-
chise is within their grasp. In the United States women of
Colorado and Wyoming vote for state officers, for congress-
men, and for presidential electors. In New Zealand and in
South Australia women vote in all matters on a perfect
equality with men. Mr. Lecky's treatment of this question
is eminently calm and judicial. Most of the alarmist argu-
ments against the political activity of women he sets aside as
puerile ; but there is one which he finds to be of unmistaka-


He force. He calls attention to the passionate interest which
women have of late been taking in various " humane " cru-
sades, including anti-vivisection, and then says : —

" There have been ages in which insensibility to suffering
was the prevailing vice of public opinion. In our own there
is, perhaps, more to be feared from wild gusts of unreasoning,
uncalculating, hysterical emotion. 'Les races,' as Buffon
said, ' se f^minisent.' A due sense of the proportion of
things, an habitual regard to the ultimate and distant conse-
quences of political measures, a sound, sober, and unexag-
gerated judgment are elements which already are lamentably
wanting in political life, and female influence would certainly
not tend to increase them.

" Nor is it likely that it would be in the direction of liberty.
With women, even more than men, there is a strong disposi-
tion to overrate the curative powers of legislation, to attempt
to mould the lives of men in all their details by meddlesome
or restraining laws ; and an increase of female influence could
hardly fail to increase that habit of excessive legislation which
is one of the great evils of the time."

Such are some of the consequences of democracy as a form
of the state which are now to be observed in America and in
Europe. They are not yet as tragic as were the consequences
of democracy in Paris one hundred years ago ; not yet as gro-
tesque as were the consequences of democracy in Athens in
the days of Cleon the Tanner. Nevertheless, in their essen-
tial quality they are not different. They are undoubtedly
restrictive of liberty ; they reveal a spirit of absolutism ;
they are stamped with dishonesty and with folly.

But are these the final consequences? Do we yet see the
end of the democratic movement ? Do we know its destiny,
or can we, at least, be sure that we have discovered its per-
sistent tendencies ?

To frame a partial answer to these questions we must re-
member that democracy has only now begun to develop its
positive programme. Democracy originates in resistance to
oppression. It is the child of liberty. Historically it is al-
ways after the property-accumulating middle classes succeed


in establishing the institutions of civil liberty that they extend
political privileges to the wage-earning multitude. They do'
so partly because they realize that their own political rights
were forcibly wrested from monarchy and nobility, and they
fear that they themselves may be forced in turn to surrender
if they do not make voluntary concessions ; partly because
they have a strong belief that the blessings of liberty are so-
obvious that men who have once enjoyed will not curtail
them ; but chiefly because the division of the electorate into
parties has created a powerful inducement to extend the suf-
frage as a means of increasing the voting strength of the
party that happens to be in power. Thus liberty has led
inevitably to universal suffrage. But it has done so only
because the masses have suffered from wrongs and neglects
that have called for remedy, and because the ruling classes
have desired to carry out policies that could be accomplished
only through the political aid of the masses. The student of
political science will never understand democracy until he
sees clearly that its origin is not due to the formulation of
any positive programme by the masses themselves.

The institution of universal suffrage is, therefore, only the
first of two historical stages, the second of which we can but
conjecturally forecast. The masses have had political power
conferred upon them by their political superiors. They have
associated it with the rectification of wrongs from which they
have hitherto suffered. Their political conceptions, therefore,
have been almost wholly negative. How to use political power
positively to further their economic and moral well-being, is
a problem to which they have only very recently begun to
give earnest attention. That they are beginning to reflect
upon it is made evident wherever there is a serious interest in
the public school system, or in questions of public morals and
of public health.

It is therefore too soon to say that democracy must con-
tinue to be the rule of ignorance. That it may so continue,
is not to be denied. But there are two possibilities of better
things, to each of which attention must now briefly be given.
It is possible, first, that the masses, in attempting to formulate


a positive programme for the use of their power in further-
ance of their own well-being, will speedily learn the great
lesson which the middle classes learned some hundreds
of years ago. That lesson is, that the only way in which
political power can be made to further the well-being of a com-
munity or of a class is through the establishment and the main-
tenance of civil liberty. Experience has over and over again
demonstrated — it will infallibly continue to demonstrate —
that a high degree of material prosperity can be attained only
through freedom of enterprise and of organization, and that
the highest type of personality can be developed only through
intellectual liberty and individual responsibility. The middle-
class civilization that Mr. Lecky so ardently admires has been
developed because the middle classes perceived that liberty
was the one means through which they could utilize their
power in the creation of wealth, art, science, and moral order.
In the development of the internal policy of the great labour
organizations there are signs that the wage earners are learn-
ing the truth, that whether or not liberty is, as Proudhon
said " not the daughter but the mother of order," she is at any
rate the mother of progress. If this truth becomes a popular
conviction, the democracy of the twentieth and twenty-first
centuries will be very different from that of the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries.

The second possibility is that the voting masses will follow
a rational guidance. Whatever the form of the state that is
organized in the constitution, the state behind the constitution
can never be absolutely democratic. This is the explanation
of phenomena that have puzzled the theorists and the his-
torians for many centuries. It is conceivable, though not
probable, that the industrial organization of society, like the
political electorate, may become altogether democratic. Coop-
erative associations may displace the entrepreneur. It is pos-
sible that all the minor forms of association also may become
wholly democratic. But never, by any possibility, can
democracy establish itself within the cultural organization.
Differences of mental ability and of moral power will always
exist among men ; and by a law -that is as absolute in the


realm of mind as the law of gravitation is in the physical
world, inferior men will continue to defer to their superiors,
to believe dicta instead of thinking propositions, and to imi-
tate examples instead of originating them. This is why the
democracy that has rebelled against the traditional modes
or forms of authority, and has become distrustful of the
leadership of cultivated men, invariably evolves that most
preposterous and contemptible of potentates, the "boss."
Leadership of some kind men must and will have.

The destinies of political democracy will, therefore, be de-
termined ultimately by the character of the aristocracy that j
rules the state behind the constitution. The ignorant masses ;
of Mr. Lecky's formula will not rule through their ignorance.
They will rule through their deference to great humbugs,
great scoundrels, great priests, or great men. At present
they rule through their deference to the great humbugs and
the great scoundrels, and so lend support to Mr. Lecky's belief
that democracy is the rule of ignorance, and afford apparent
justification of Mr. Carlyle's definition of the people as a cer-
tain number of millions, mostly fools. If it could be shown
that the " boss " is a creation of political democracy, the out-
look would indeed be dark. But there are many reasons for
believing that popular thought on this question inverts the
order of cause and effect. The " boss " is probably not the
product of democracy. The misdeeds and follies of democ-
racy are probably due to the independent existence of the
*' boss." The " boss " flourishes and reigns because men have
for the time being lost their faith in the true aristocracy of
intellect and conscience. Only to the faint-hearted and to
the short-sighted should there be any need to say that a de-
termined effort to restore that faith is to be the most moment-
ous sociological phenomenon of the next fifty years. The
initiative may be taken by the Eoman Catholic Church.
Accepting democracy as the inevitable form of the state
within the constitution, the Roman Catholic Church fully
and deliberately intends to make itself again what once it
was — the ruling aristocracy of the state behind the con-
stitution. If this purpose becomes more and more obvious,


the forces of Protestantism will again be roused to intense
activity. The principles of liberty and of individual respon-
sibility will again be opposed to the principle of authority
and will again fascinate the minds of rationalistic men.

In all probability, therefore, the destiny of democracy is to
be controlled either by religious authority or by a much more
earnest and thoughtful type of Protestant liberalism than that
which prevails to-day. In a struggle between these forces
men of all ranks and conditions, the rich and the poor, the
learned and the unlearned, will give their allegiance to worthy
leaders. The " boss " with his deeds of ignorance and of evil
will sink into oblivion. It should be needless to add that such
a struggle, if it comes, will be a contest of ideas. The church
that seeks to rule through democracy is of necessity an en-
lightened church, controlled by men of pure and lofty aims,
to whom the imbecilities of A. P. A.-ism are an idle wind that
they regard not. For those, however, who understand the
true significance of such a struggle, there should be no diffi-
culty in forming an opinion upon the wisdom of further ex-
tending democracy within the constitution by including women
within the electorate. If we believe that salvation lies in au-
thority, let us by all means give the ballot to that half of the
population which instinctively associates all hard-headedness
with spiritual untowardness. But if we value freedom of con-
tract and of organization, the right of private judgment and
individual responsibility, let us not advocate woman suffrage
until we are convinced that through education and a broad-
ened experience of the world women in general have sub-
ordinated emotion to judgment, and that good women in
particular have emancipated themselves from the evil belief
of moral and political absolutism — that the end justifies the





A USEFUL tradition decrees that Commencement Day ad-
dresses shall deal with the relations of education to life.
On other occasions we may discuss educational measures, or
methods, or the conflicting claims of subjects, from a pro-
fessorial or scholastic point of view. In our classrooms we
may present knowledge in its own name and right, recogniz-
ing that its claim is sufficient, and for the time being supreme,
if it appeals to the pure intelligence alone. But when our
students have completed the tasks and sustained the tests
that we have appointed for them ; when we see them about
to enter upon that long and difficult graduate course in which
" elective " studies bear a painfully small proportion to those
that are " required," in which " cuts " can never be made up,
and " conditions " can never be passed off ; when we are '
reminded how far the swiftly passing years have borne our-
selves beyond the scenes, the standards, and perhaps beyond
the ambitions even, of our college days, into which we look
back now as into some half-strange other world, — then for
the moment we see all the work of education in its due pro-
portions and relations ; we feel the vital flow of those strong
spiritual currents that move forever from ideals to affairs,
from affairs to ideals, refreshing and strengthening the intel-
lectual life, while they broaden also, and deepen, its practical

It is well that we do thus return so often to this outlook
upon the broader view, and that we experience from time to
time the access of a deeper inspiration. They are needful for
the college and useful to the community. They keep educa-



tional methods in toucli with the world, and the world in
sympathy with educational aims.

But the point of contact between education and life moves
somewhat from year to year. The demands that intellectual
interests may rightly make upon the public, are not the same
at all times. The public duty of the cultivated man or woman
assumes one or another phase with changing conditions of
politics, business, and morality. In those fateful years when
the struggle for human liberty and national integrity was at its
height, the supreme obligation of every man whose sympathies
had been broadened by liberal study was to contribute of his
sincerest thought to the enlightenment of the public mind.
There is no need to tell how nobly that obligation was fulfilled;
how from Harvard and from Yale, and from every smaller
college in the land, went forth an influence which demon-
strated that in America now, as in the Puritan England of
John Milton's day, "the finest scholarship is but a single
grace of the man." At a later time, when a reunited nation
began to bend all its energies to the development of its ma-
terial resources, and to demand that instruction should break
away from a too slavish adherence to the traditional curricu-
lum of Latin, Greek, and mathematics, it became the duty of
educated men to examine that demand upon its merits, and to
make the provision for scientific and technical training which
seemed to be required by our expanding life. The result we
enjoy in a multitude of well-equipped scientific schools, and
in a reconstruction of college courses which has left but little
for the boldest innovator to desire more. Somewhat later
still, and largely in consequence of the progress of scientific
thought, the educational world has been agitated over the
question of liberty of teaching. It has been the duty of men
who have learned the difference between a belief that is
founded on evidence and one that is founded on a complete
absence of evidence of any kind, to insist that the difference
between the two shall be so far explained that rational human
beings can choose between them. The insistence has not
been always a pleasure; it has called for courage and for
self-sacrifice ; for one does not easily maintain serene his faith


in the ultimate supremacy of truth when the moral insurance
agents of society agree to regard truth-seeking as an extra-
hazardous occupation. There are cheerful optimists among
us who are confident that this struggle for the liberty of
teaching is practically ended now, and that we have little
to fear henceforth from any quarter. The world has grown
very tolerant, they tell us ; the arms are stacked and the ban-
ners furled. I wish that I could share their conviction ; but
as I look over the past and see that the great tragedy of
human history has been an uncomplaining going down into
the darkness of men whose one hunger and cry has been for
more light, I am unable to believe that the last act of this
tragedy has yet been played. I am sure that the men and
women who discover new truth in the coming years, and en-
deavour to give it freely to mankind, will still need all their
courage and all their faith : —

" The age in which they live
Will not forgive

The splendour of the everlasting light
That makes their foreheads bright,
Nor the sublime forerunning of their time."

But, at whatever cost, the scholar who keeps in touch with
life will be faithful to all of these duties. We need entertain
no doubt of his patriotism, or of his open-minded hospitality
to new studies that are of genuine value, or of his loyalty to
truth. But just because these obligations have been most
scrupulously fulfilled in the past, educated men and women
are confronted at the present moment with questions of prac-
tical duty that are immeasurably more difficult than any that
they have had to deal with hitherto. It is to these that I
will now for a very few moments ask your attention.

"The nineteenth century will be the riddle of history,"
wrote our most gifted historian, Francis Parkman, fifteen
years ago. The subject under discussion was the further
extension of the suffrage. Parkman profoundly distrusted
all radical types of democracy. Few men have seen so clearly
or understood so sympathetically as he did the conditions and
the influences that must combine for the production of national


character, and no man has believed more thoroughly in Mat-
thew Arnold's doctrine that salvation must come from the
remnant that has not bowed before the idols of the Philistines.
He thought that the nineteenth century would be the riddle
of history, because in its universal activity every current of
reaction seems to have mingled with the currents of progress
in a mad swirl of universal restlessness. The most violent
and dangerous of these contradictions he pithily described as
that of denouncing medisevalism while borrowing its rusty
tools to build a new order of things.

Never did words more perfectly characterize any human
interest than these words characterize the movement that i&
called Social Democracy, or Socialism. Socialism is literally,
in general and in particular, a denouncing of medisevalism
and a borrowing of its rusty tools to build a new order of
things. It is an attempt to emancipate everybody by shac-
kling every individual arm. But its inherent absurdity no
more prevents its popularity than the absurdity of trying to
make a man believe what he did not believe prevented the
popularity of the Inquisition. Social Democracy, it may as
well be understood, is no longer a project, a plan, an " ism,"
merely. It is a fact. It is already established, and we have
to adapt ourselves to it as best we can. By this I mean that
its chief demand has been conceded, and that its chief method
has been accepted. The method is that of compelling every-
body to meddle with everything that is none of his business,
and of forbidding him, under any circumstances, to mind his
own business. The demand is that the state, the church, and
the university shall more and more shape their activities with
reference to the supposed interests of the poor and the igno-
rant, and that, in doing this, they shall be governed by the
advice of the poor and the ignorant themselves. One could
make no greater mistake than to suppose that the true social
democrat would be satisfied if land and capital and the man-
agement of industry were made over to the government.
The socialist desires these transfers only on condition that
the proletariat shall be the government. To what extent the
forms of industry and the state are to be modified by social-


istic legislation no one can predict, but the substance has been
greatly affected already. At least one-half of the members,
of Congress never think of asking what are the characteris-
tics of a sound monetary and banking system ; they ask what,
sort of money and what kind of banks the Knights of Labor
and the Farmers' Alliance are demanding. Not a winter goes
by in which our various state legislatures do not enact num-
bers of distinctly socialistic statutes. The London County
Council is socialistic through and through, and the British
House of Commons but little less so. Nor is it only the prole-
tarian voter and the temporizing politician who are contribu-
ting to these results. The younger clergymen in this country,
as in England, in ceasing to be theologians have gone over
in large numbers to socialism. The literary class also, to a con-
siderable extent, is socialistic in a sentimental, superficial way.

In stating these facts, I am not preparing you for the ques-
tion whether educated men and women ought to bestir them-
selves to resist a movement which has made such headway,
or whether they ought to take part in it and endeavour in some
measure to guide it. This is not the place to discuss the fal-
lacies of the socialistic programme or to dwell on the dangers
that it threatens. I wish to ask you to begin to think upon
the question which I am sure will soon force itself upon your
attention : What effect may we expect the social-democratic

Online LibraryFranklin Henry GiddingsDemocracy and empire; with studies of their psychological, economic, and moral foundations → online text (page 17 of 29)