Franklin Henry Giddings.

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

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movement to have upon the higher education, and, in view of
this movement, what is the great educational work or duty of
the hour? What wiU social democracy do for philosophy,
for the research that promises no material rewards, for intel-
lectual and artistic beauty, for idealism of life? Or ought
we to say that the time for these questions has gone by
already, and that these things can no longer be looked upon
as the chief concern of life ? Has the time come for renuncia-
tion ? Will the educated class now do its true part in society
by subordinating intellect to sympathy? Should it give it-
self unreservedly to the work of popularizing the knowledge
that we now possess ?

I think that we can discern a tendency in our universities,
as elsewhere, to exalt the popular claim. The ethical spirit


is strong among us. Those who believe that pure scholar-
ship is quite as important as missionary zeal are in some
danger of finding themselves disapproved by public opinion,
and left without material support. If they expect to main-
tain themselves against a majority that threatens to become
larger and more insistent, they will have to assert themselves
with spirit.

I know that thinkers whose opinion is entitled to respect
believe that social democracy will exalt intellect and purify
art. They believe that a greater approach toward equality
of material comfort will temper the lust of wealth and turn
the thoughts of men to the limitless satisfactions of beauty
and of truth. They ask how either beauty or truth can
flourish in a world where an extravagance as vulgar as it
is heartless elbows misery at every turn. Writers of the
most exquisite perceptions, like Ruskin and Morris, never
weary of telling us that immortal genius must keep fresh
and pure its sympathy with humble life. Genius, they re-
mind us, is too often born in humble life to permit us to
doubt that, among those whom we often too hastily class as
the ignorant, there are germs of appreciation of all that
is best in the human soul. Fra Lippo Lippi, starving in
the streets of Florence, and watching people's faces to know
who would fling the half-stripped grape bunch he desired,
till " soul and sense of him grow sharp alike," and he could
paint life's flash and then add soul, we may easily conceive
to be a type of the talent that cultivated socialistic writers
would expect social democracy to rescue from oblivion.

It must be admitted that this way of thinking is by no
means strange to the American mind, and that it seems to
have been a natural one to our English ancestors in earlier
centuries. It is well to remember, too, that it has had a
large measure of justification in fact. We ought not to forget
that the Elizabethan era, so magnificent in literature, was one
in which the keenest interest was felt in the extension of
educational opportunity to all who could profit thereby. Dur-
ing Elizabeth's reign no less than one hundred and thirty-eight
grammar schools were founded in England, including Upping-


ham and Cheltenham, Harrow and Rugby, which were open
to sons of yeoman and peasant, if apt in learning, as to the
sons of gentlemen ; that all who were able might be trained
to serve God in church and state. Again, the age of Puritan-
ism, with its Milton to uphold the highest standards of ideal-
ism while he fought magnificently for intellectual freedom,
was the age in which educational advantages were still further
extended to the poor through the founding of charity schools.
It was then, too, that for the first time school privileges were
offered to girls, for until then girls were not expected to serve
God in church and state, and grammar schools were exclu-
sively for boys.

Likewise in the American colonies, the feeling was strong
that if intellectual and religious interests were to be sustained
at all in the new world, education must be general. " To the
end that learning may not be buried in the graves of our
forefathers," was the significant preamble of the great Puritan
ordinance of 1647 which ordered " that every township after
the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty house-
holders shall appoint one to teach all children to read and
write ; and where any town shall increase to the number of
one hundred families they shall set up a grammar school, the
masters thereof being able to instruct youth so far as they
may be fitted for the university."

No one who realizes how vitally all human interests are
bound together can be insensible to the importance of passing
on to the people the results of special study. Not only does
the ethical desire to enable the masses of mankind to share in
the gains of progress require this, but, as I have said, it is
necessary for the security of the student himself. But it
is one thing to stand superior to those whom you wish to
instruct, and to insist that what they receive shall be know-
ledge that is genuine, discipline that is real, cultivation that
bears the stamp of refinement, stimulation that improves the
whole moral tone of life ; it is another thing to be so carried
away by the desire to popularize knowledge that you in-
sensibly pass over to the point of view of those whom you
wish to improve, and, adapting your standards to theirs,


begin to emasculate your teaching, in the hope of making it
thereby more acceptable to the multitude. The men who
founded grammar schools in Elizabethan days, and those who
established the common-school system of New England, had
no thought, we may be sure, of asking the artisan's apprentice
or the labourer's son what sort of things he would like to haye
taught him. They did not submit the question of what know-
ledge is of most worth to a majority vote under universal
suffrage. But to-day popular instruction does undoubtedly
borrow its standards and take its tone from the thinking of the
uninstructed, whose tastes are unformed, and whose critical
faculty has never been called into play. The newspaper is
written avowedly for the men and women who want news
rather than ideas, and sensation rather than information. Our
magazines are clever rather than fine in their quality. True
dramatic art is made to give way to the amusing and the

It is impossible to look about us and not see that in popular
education, using the term in a broad sense, there is already
far more zeal than judgment, far more catering to the prefer-
ences of the ignorant than stiff insistence that the ignorant
shall be taught the things that it would be worth their while
to know. And that this subserviency of the high to the low
will increase as the years go by is the great danger that I fear
from the further success of the social-democratic movement.
I cannot see that we are lacking in sincere willingness to carry
light to those who sit in scientific darkness. I do not believe
that the scholarship of to-day is narrow or exclusive. I will
not admit that he who lives the true intellectual life is one
whit less sympathetic with his fellow-men who earn their bread
by manual labour than is the professional reformer who pro-
claims his sympathy from the housetops. On the contrary, I
fear that the greatest danger which threatens the labourer, and
not the labourer only, but our country, is a surrender of the
intellectual career by gifted men and women in the mistaken
conviction that devotion to mere scholarship is a selfish and
exclusive aim, and that they ought to find ways to em-
ploy their powers which will bring them into more immedi-


ate contact with wrongs to be righted, or suffering to be

If, then, you who are about to go out from the college class-
room into the life for which you have been preparing, should
ask me what in my judgment is the chief duty of the educated
class to-day, I should be unable to answer, as so many earnest
teachers for whose opinion I have the most profound respect
are answering, that it is to popularize learning. I should
have to say, rather, that I am sure that the greatest duty of
all is to maintain and to raise the standards of education, and
to insist that studies which can never by any possibility be
popular, or appeal even to any large number of students, but
which have demonstrated their power to enlighten and to
«nnoble those who do pursue them, shall not be given up in
obedience to popular clamour, and merely to make way for
other things that seem to be of more immediate utility. In
the long run we shall not help the cause of public education
by making concessions. I am unable to see what is to be
gained by carrying the forms and the phrases of knowledge to
those who are unwilling or unable to acquire the substance
of knowledge, and to submit themselves to the discipline that
true cultivation implies. Our first business is to be sincere.
If we must have university extension, our first duty is to make
sure that we have universities to extend.

Nothing seems to be easier than for those who ought to
know better to mistake the true purpose of a college educa-
tion. The college does not exist chiefly as a means of afford-
ing mental discipline. Discipline quite as good, perhaps, can
be had, and has often been obtained, outside of college walls.
It is not merely a place in which to acquire the contents of
books. Some of the most brilliant examinations that women
have passed in recent years, as candidates for the baccalaureate
and higher degrees, have been passed by those who have been
obliged to do most of their studying outside of colleges, and
with little help from instructors or lecturers. Nor is the col-
lege primarily an institution for moral and religious training.
This function it divides with the home and the church.

But there is one supreme work which the college has to do,


for which no other instrumentality equally good exists. The
college can enable those who wiU enter sincerely into its
spirit to appreciate the many-sidedness of life, to feel the con-
tinuity of the present and the future with the past, to engage
with enthusiasm in researches that promise to reward us with
discoveries of truth hitherto unknown, and at the same time
to revere the ideals of beauty and to cherish the immortal
thoughts that have come down to us as a heritage of imper-
ishable worth from other lands and other days. The coUege
can enable its studeiits to follow after utility and yet to value
the ideal. It can do this because its spirit is one of liberty
and of inclusion, because it frankly avows the excellence of
sound learning and of true criticism apart from their practical
applications, because without apology it proclaims that —

" If you get simple beauty and naught else,
You get about the best thing God invents."

Because, in short, it says that true education is no mere
analysis of things, but is rather, as Ruskin has so finely said*
" a grand assay of the human soul."

To cherish this spirit and to defend this conception of the
educational end, was never more needful than now. Our
American life lacks balance, proportion, and repose. We are
overwhelmed with cares of our own devising. We are pestered
by ingenious, sometimes half-brilliant, cranks. We are made
unhappy by reformers who are common nuisances and com-
mon scolds. We should demand that college training make
the student above all things large-minded and level-headed.
We should expect it to show the man how to keep alive his
enthusiasm, his devotion to the highest ideal that has flashed
upon his vision, without becoming a zealot or a fanatic ; to
show the woman how to work ardently for every worthy cause
without becoming a suffragist or an anti-su£fragist, a prohibi-
tionist or an anti-prohibitionist, a vivisectionist or an anti-vivi-
sectionist, or any other kind of "ist" or "ologist " or "freak."

Let us then accept it as our duty, and as our privilege,
too, to cherish the idealism of life. Let us stand steadfast
for intellectual liberty and cultivate intellectual courage.


Let US apply our courage in defending those interests that
we know to be of supreme concern, against those who, on the
one hand, would call us impractical, and against those who,
on the other hand, would assail our motives, pronounctog us
unsympathetic or selfish. " My dear young woman," a recent
story-writer makes one of her characters say, "we are not
living in a poetry book bound with gilt edges. We are liv-
ing in a paper-backed volume of prose." This is true ; but
have we not had in this country and in recent years rather
too much insistence on this particular kind of truth ? Have
we not sacrificed rather too exclusively at the altar of the
commonplace ? I believe that it is the duty of the college
and of the college graduate to make life at least more of a
poetry book than it is ; and if that is not possible, I confess
that I do not quite see why we should spend a considerable
part of life in acquiring the college training. But possible it
is, and upon college-trained women especially must rest the
duty of converting the possibility into reality. Mr. Park-
man, in the essay from which I quoted a few moments ago,
pointed out that more and more this work would fall to
women. " It is often and most justly said," he wrote, " that
the intellectual growth of the country bears no proportion to
its material progress. The drift toward pursuits called prac-
tical is so strong that it carries with it nearly all the best
male talent. The rush and whirl of business catches men as
in a maelstrom, and if it sharpens and invigorates soine of
their powers, it dwarfs others and narrows the mental horizon.
Women are iree from these disadvantages. Many of them
have abundant leisure and opportunities of culture better
than the best within the reach of men on this continent forty
years ago. Their sex is itself a power if they use it rightly.
They can, if they will, create and maintain higher standards
of thought and purpose, raise the whole tone of national life,
and give our civilization the fulness that it lacks, for, if they
raise themselves, they will infallibly raise the men with

In this view of the matter I most sincerely concur. To
"raise the whole tone of national life, and give our civiliza-


tion the fulness that it lacks," is, preeminently, the duty
of the hour that rests upon the graduates of colleges for
women, and, if so, then most of all upon you, alumnse of Bryn

And do not think that in thus setting distinctly before
yourselves the duty of upholding intellectual standards and
of striving to increase the beauty and the joy of life, you are
neglecting the cultivation of character. We cannot fix our
attention on beauty and on truth without being changed
within ourselves. We cannot defend them against error and
baseness without being ourselves made pure and strong.

" The gods exact for song,
To become what we slug."





There is an ancient book of political wisdom which awakens
the wonder of those persons who turn its pages for the first
time. More deeply still does it amaze those who study its
chapters with patient care and penetrate its more profound
meanings. So sharply outlined are its pictures of political
situations in a democratic community, so fresh and strong are
its comments upon the political methods of demagogues, so
comprehensive is its grasp of all the known forms of govern-
ment, and so practical is its treatment of those problems that
arise from the attempt to secure the reality of good govern-
ment under any plan of organization, that we find ourselves
doubting if the author is not one of our contemporaries, who
is portraying the actual politics of American commonwealths
in the closing years of the nineteenth Christian century.

This ancient book, I need hardly take the trouble to tell
you, is a political treatise that is briefly and familiarly known
as the " Politics " of Aristotle.

The reason why this ancient treatise appeals to us as so
intensely modern, is found in the circumstance that, in a
measure, stages of social evolution are independent of chro-
nology. As the interests and habits of childhood were much
the same in Thebes or in Athens that they are in Boston or in
Chicago ; so in the lives of nations, the age of tutelage, dur-
ing which the people look to their kings and priests for guid-
ance, has had the same social and political character whether
it has fallen within the period of ancient or within that of
modern history. In like manner, in all that pertains to ambi-
tion and to character, the years of independent manhood were



the same before the conquest of the Western world by
Germanic peoples that they have been since the race of Saxon
blood has overspread the world. Furthermore, the period of
emancipation in the life of nations, when the people throw
off the domination of the so-called higher classes and irre-
trievably commit themselves to the experiment of democracy,
had been realized in history before the French Revolution.
Athens had entered upon this period of democractic experi-
ment when Aristotle wrote; and, in all essential details,
those things which he recorded are true of democratic
government in America to-day.

There is one detail in particular to which on this occasion
I desire to ask your especial attention Not only does Aris-
totle perceive the practical difBculties of democratic politics,
and expressly state his judgment that, if it were possible to
maintain an aristocracy in the true sense of the word, namely,
that of the rule of the virtuous, the wise, the self-sacrificing,
and prudent, it would be folly to contemplate any other form
of government; not only does he regretfully set aside this
preference as of little practical importance because the day
has forever passed in which its realization was possible ; not
only does he grapple with the question. How shall democratic
government, when it has become inevitable, be made as unob-
jectionable as possible ? but, going to the bottom of the psy-
chological conditions that underlie organization and practical
politics of every sort, he addresses himself to the final inquiry,
What sort of education, what kind of training, shall we main-
tain in our democratic communities in order that the errors
of popular judgment, the passion and unreason of mobs, shall
be as narrowly as possible restricted in action ; in order that,
as far as possible, the masses of mankind shall be developed
into self-reliant, self-respecting, calm thinking, and patriotic
citizens who, in spite of the relative imperfections of democ-
racies, shall yet maintain a state of which the end is the per-
fection of the good life ?

I ask your attention to this detail of Aristotle's work be-
cause, while we may still learn much from his analysis of
political forms, from his account of political forces, and from


his criticism of methods and policies, we may perhaps learn
even more from his suggestions of educational means to insure
the improvement of democracies through the discipline of the
mind and the inner transformation of the soul of the" indi-
vidual citizen.

On every hand we see evidence that thoughtful men in our
own democratic-American society have long realized the im-
portance of greater attention to this fundamental condition
of popular sovereignty. In the earliest days of our New
England commonwealths there was a profound conviction that
the public school was of coordinate importance with the free-
men's meeting in maintaining a democratic mode of political
activity. That conviction has spread throughout the nation,
and very few, if any, men whose judgment is worth consider-
ing, would to-day question the soundness of that belief. The
interest to which I more especially refer is that which is now
manifesting itself in attempts to supplement the work of pub-
lic schools by other forms of popular instruction. It is realized
that, because the schools themselves are often imperfect in
organization and in methods, because a majority of their pupils
go out from them into money-earning activities before the
years of childhood are passed, the schools are at best an inade-
quate means of preparing each successive generation for the
duties of American citizenship. We are beginning to perceive
how important have been other means of education, particu-
larly the family, the church, the public meeting, the lyceum,
and the library. In every large city at the present time and,
to some extent, in most of the towns and villages, attempts
are being made to stimulate these educational agencies to
greater activity and to supplement them by courses of defi-
nite popular instruction, through university extension lectures,
through the clubs and classes that are maintained at uni-
versity and other social settlements, and through numerous
other means.

You will agree with me that so deep and widespread an
interest in the relation of education to citizenship, so strong
a conviction that the continuing success of popular govern-
ment depends upon a sound preparatory training of the


citizen, is in itself a phenomenon of significance. Surely we
need not despair of the stability or even of the continuing
improvement of democratic government as long as the people
look at it from this point of view, and show their earnest
determination to build the state upon the foundations of intel-
ligence and moral discipline.

It is important, however, that such efforts should be wisely
directed, and that from time to time we should ask ourselves
what, after all, are the things that are of vital necessity in
popular instruction. Remembering how vast is the inertia of
ignorance, how brief is the time within which we may hope to
impress enduring lessons upon the minds of our fellow-men,
we cannot afford to misdirect our efforts or to squander any
energy that may be available for the discipline and enlighten-
ment of the people. In one sense, all knowledge is of price-
less worth; and any intellectual or moral effort brings
reward. In another sense, however, knowledge and discipline
are valuable in the degree that they ensure the accomplish-
ment of specific results. From the standpoint of democracy,
some knowledge is better than other knowledge. Some in-
struction is vital, while other instruction may be neglected.
Let us then ask what instruction of the people is vitally neces-
sary for the success of our American experiment in popular,
or in democratic, government.

Here again let us turn for a moment to the ancient pages
of our great philosopher. In the Seventh Book of the " Poli-
tics" he says, "A city can be virtuous only when the citi-
zens who have a share in the government are virtuous, and in
our state all the citizens share in the government ; let us then
inquire how a man becomes virtuous." He then continues,
"There are three things which make men good and virtuous:
these are Nature, Habit, Reason," and he reminds us that, to
some extent, nature may be modified by habit and to some ex-
tent by reason. The business of education, then, is so to in-
struct that nature shall be kept vigorous, alert, and brave, while
appetite is subjected to the control of reason. Since nature
is modified by both habit and reason, it is important to inquire
whether the training of early life should be chiefly that of


reason or chiefly that of habit. Aristotle sees that the two
should accord ; and that when in accord, they make the best
of harmonies. He firmly believes that reason is the supreme
thing in the universe ; for he says, " Now in men, reason and
mind are the end toward which nature strives, so that the
birth and moral discipline of the citizens ought to be ordered
with a view to them." He recognizes that reason may make
mistakes and fail in attaining the highest ideal of life. But
he reminds us that habit also may fail in like manner. On
the whole, it is the judgment of Aristotle that the education
of habit should proceed the training in reason. " As the soul
and body are two, we see also that there are two parts of the
soul, the rational and the irrational, and two corresponding
states — reason and appetite. And as the body is prior in
order of generation to the soul, so the irrational is prior

Online LibraryFranklin Henry GiddingsDemocracy and empire; with studies of their psychological, economic, and moral foundations → online text (page 18 of 29)