Franklin Henry Giddings.

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

. (page 25 of 29)
Online LibraryFranklin Henry GiddingsDemocracy and empire; with studies of their psychological, economic, and moral foundations → online text (page 25 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


their physical peculiarities, so the individualities of nations —
those indefinable qualities that impart a personal interest to

315



316 DEMOCRACY AND EMPIRE

the struggle and fate of empires — are a product of their
ideals rather than of their institutions. An instinctive per-
ception of this truth has sustained the more poetic lovers of
history in rebellion against the too great pretensions of insti-
tutional study. This truth one more and more deeply feels
as he reads through Mr, Henry Osborne Taylor's noble vol-
umes on " Ancient Ideals." They tell anew the story of an-
cient history, but not as a story of wars, of dynasties or of
commerce. It is a story of the inner life, of the spiritual
growth of those far-away folk. Although he does not ignore
the interaction of race with environment, Mr. Taylor makes
little pretence of ethnological learning, and little attempt at
institutional analysis, as he tells us of Egypt and Babylon, of
Persia and Cathay, of Judea, Greece, and Rome. His inter-
pretation is intuitive, poetical, religious ; and when we have
read it through, we are aware that dormant intuitions and the
sort of sympathy that clarifies thought, have been quickened
within ourselves. We feel that we know those mighty
peoples of the olden times as we did not know them before.

Besides the interest which we thus feel in the character-
izing quality of national ideals and in what we may call their
inherent spiritual worthiness, when, in all their varied moral
beauty, they are drawn by a master hand, there is another as-
pect — perhaps without detraction we may say a more scien-
tific aspect — of popular ideals which has its own legitimate
interest for the historian, and especially for the evolutionist.
From an evolutionary point of view some things may be said
about the genesis of ideals and about the order of their suc-
cession, combination, and recapitulation in history, which
would not naturally find place in a less realistic, though
equally serious, interpretation. This still open opportunity
is my excuse for touching a subject that Mr. Taylor has so
worthily made his own.

The ideals of nations, like those of individuals, are derived
from concrete qualities of character. Next to his own self-
preservation, every man is chiefly concerned about the nature
of his companions in the struggle for existence ; nay, he is



THE IDEALS OF NATIONS 317

concerned about his associates precisely because self-preserva-
tion is his supreme interest, since his fate is quite as likely to
be determined by his fellow-beings as by his physical sur-
roundings. To some extent he necessarily associates with
men whom he distrusts and dislikes. As far as possible, how-
ever, he exercises choice in the selection of comrades and co-
workers. He allies himself to those with whom he sympa-
thizes, and gathers round him those whose instincts and
purposes are substantially like his own, in whom he can
repose confidence, and for whom he can feel admiration.
This is relatively an easy task — much easier than would be
the attempt to find associates widely unlike himself ; because
he and most other members of the population to which he be-
longs are descended from a common stock, have inherited like
instincts, have been subjected to like conditions, and thereby
have been moulded to a common type. For the same reason,
at a particular time, some one type of character is generally
preferred. Consequently the prevailing ideal, then and there
cherished, is that of a complete realization of the preferred
character. The subordinate ideals are mental images of the
economic, moral, and social conditions that are conceived to
be necessary as means to the perfection of the ideal character.
To a majority of men, the struggle for existence is still
fraught with difficulty and risk, and often with peril. Most
men, therefore, still have need of force and courage, and most
men profoundly admire these qualities. It is doubtful if the
transition from chronic warfare to a busy industrial civilization
materially diminishes the demand for primitive virtues. Not
only the soldier and the marine, but also the common sailor,
the explorer and the engineer, the ranchman and the miner,
and even the farmer and the mechanic, are compelled by the
daily exigencies of their lives to scorn and cast out the over-
timid co-worker. Consequently it is not among primitive
men only that physical prowess is valued above all other gifts.
In modern populations, also, the average man, who cares little
for the graces of body or mind, is likely to care everything
for the mere power to achieve. The strong and valorous
comrade he admires above all other characters. This univer-



318 DEMOCRACY AND EMPIRE

sal adoration of power is modified or coloured, of course, by
other emotions and by the intellectual processes. It may
even take the form of a supreme admiration for intellectual
or moral power, as distinguished from physical strength, but
in one or another form it is the ruling sentiment, the funda-
mental preference of mankind. The prize fighter, the athlete,
the military hero, the imperturbable leader who can withstand
the assaults of malignity, these are the popular idols.

To mankind generally the chief relaxation in the struggle
for existence is found in social pleasures of the convivial type.
Enough not only to eat; but also to drink, the jovial pleasures
of feast and bout, these rude rewards of dangerous toil are
still dear to the average man. And so, most naturally, when
peril is past and the day's work is done, the average man de-
sires that his companions, like himself, shall enter into the
spirit of good-fellowship. The convivial man becomes a type
of character widely appreciated. Like the valorous, this type
is modified and refined in various ways, but chiefly by pros-
perity and the differentiating effects of increasing wealth.
In prosperous communities the convivial man becomes the
pleasure-loving man in manifold avatars. At his best he is
the gracious man ; and, as such, he often is a popular idol only
less adored than the military hero. As such, he must be a
prosperous man, and gifted. But above all things he must,
with his accomplishments, combine generosity, liberality of
spirit, and the love of enjoyment. By his talents or his wealth
he must contribute in numberless ways to the pleasure of his
fellow-men. Withal, he must be a complaisant man, a re-
specter of the social virtues, but discreetly and often more
than a little blind to the reigning faults and follies of a luxu-
rious age.

Thus two of the generic ideals of character spring directly
from a successful struggle for existence. The valorous man
and the convivial man are nature's primordial products in the
moral realm. But in this realm, as in that of physical life,
nature is wasteful to a degree that appals imagination. That
we may see one life of truly heroic mould, she spawns a mil-
lion stalwart brutes ; and that we may have the truly gracious



THE IDEALS OE NATIONS 319

strain, she permits unnumbered roisterers to waste not only
their substance, but even their inmost souls.

It is by reaction against these wastes that we get the two
remaining types and ideals of character. In some of* those
who have too often seen a jovial intoxication end in sottish-
ness ; who have too often seen luxury pass over into debauch-
ery and wantonness ; who have even seen graciousness become
a wretched deceit that ends in dishonour, a healthy opposition
has been aroused, and they have begun to demand of them-
selves and of their associates the exercise of a decent self-
restraint. Under circumstances of prolonged and general
hardship, when the mere maintenance of life becomes difficult,
this demand is strengthened by experiences of intolerable bur-
dens laid upon the prudent by all extravagant indulgences
on the part of the reckless. Under such circumstances,
the demand is not only for self-restraint, but also for self-
denial. It is then that the austere man, who can firmly put
aside the pleasures of life, and in mere duty give himself to
severe employments, is idealized by thousands of those hum-
ble and patient ones to whom the struggle for existence has
brought neither any great success nor overwhelming disaster,
but only life itself, in exchange for unremitting toil.

The austere man, therefore, is the character-ideal of a sec-
tion of mankind by no means insignificant. Variously known
in history as the Hebraic, the Roman, the Puritan type, he
has often commanded an uncompromising allegiance and
played a leading r81e.

But from the ranks of austere men, inured to hardship,
there continually spring those individuals, numbered in mod-
ern times by tens of thousands, who achieve a real and often
a great success in the universal struggle. To such, mere
existence is no longer the sole reward of effort. Oppor-
tunities open before them for an expansion of life. For them
emotion is attuned and coloured, and the ranges of thought
are widened. They do not cease to be self-restrained, but
they become intellectually fearless. They can no longer
think of self-denial as inherently good, but they can make
sacrifices for worthy ends. Enlightened, yet still sincere.



320 DEMOCRACY AND EMPIRE

they look with tolerant minds upon much which they do not
commend. In such men is born the highest of all ideals of
character, that of the rationally conscientious man. Always
striving to break through narrowing limitations, but casting
aside pretence of every sort, the rationally conscientious man
endeavours in his- conduct to express and to perfect his own
essential nature. Perceiving in himself many unrealized
possibilities, some of larger life and some of moral decay,
he looks frankly at them all, and, resisting those that make
for degeneration, without apology yields to those of growth.
His habit, therefore, is not that of indulgence for its own
sake or of self-denial for its own sake : it is a rational choos-
ing of the larger life. Thus the perfect ideal of rationally
conscientious manhood contains the notion of self-realization,
and, on the objective side, that of meliorism or progress.
The rationally conscientious man believes in the mental and
moral advancement of his race. Exjfloring the wider possi-
bilities of conscious existence, he tries to establish the intel-
lectual habit, to broaden knowledge, to perfect the forms of
beauty in manners and in art, to enlighten the ignorant, to
open new opportunities to those who have enjoyed but little,
to improve the forms of society and of the state, and to per-
form with wisdom the duties of a citizen.

These, then, are the four original ideals of character, cre-
ated directly, or through reaction, by the struggle for exist-
ence. In every population they are simultaneously held, and
nearly every individual admires or believes in more than one
of them ; not, however, with equal intensity. In a majority
of minds the ideal of valour is supreme, but the convivial
man is next best beloved. To a large minority of minds the
ideal of the austere man appeals with constraining power.
The rationally conscientious man remains the ideal of the
relatively few.

These four ideals of character are not only simultaneously
held by different classes in every population, but also they
are successively held by those individuals and classes that
pass through a complete cycle of moral evolution. The ideal
of power is first to take possession of the imagination ; and



THE IDEALS OF NATIONS 321

it is because large numbers of men in their ethical develop-
ment never get further, that this ideal is more prevalent
than any other. The ideal of good fellowship, conviviality,
and graciousness, is held by those who have gone on to a
second stage of moral evolution. The ideal of austere re-
straint is attained by those who have experienced the evils
of excess, or who have seen that indulgence in mere luxury
cannot permanently satisfy, and have healthily reacted upon
intemperate desires. The fourth ideal is held only by those
who, as individuals or as family stocks, have passed through
all earlier stages of experience, and have discovered that
even denial can be carried to excess, until it narrows and
hardens, and have learned that complete satisfaction is found
only in a life to which no permanent bounds can be assigned.

Nations, like individuals, normally move through this cycle
of moral experience. To the ideals of individual character
correspond ideals of national achievement and renown.
These are derived partly from conditions that create the
individual ideal, and partly from the individual ideal itself.
The community that supremely values the valorous man
cares chiefly for national power. The community that pre-
fers the gifted, the successful, the convivial and gracious
man chiefly values material splendour in its civic life. The
community that favours chiefly the austere man insists upon
ceremonial purity, or upon ceremonial righteousness, or de-
votes itself to the establishment of civil justice. While,
finally, the community that cares for the conscientiously
rational life strives to establish liberty, for only under liberty
can there be progress and self-realization. Nations, then,
begin their careers with a supreme interest in mere power.
They pass through the stages of materialism and of cere-
monial righteousness ; and, if they survive, they devote them-
selves at length to the higher achievements of science,
philosophy, and popular education, and to the perfection of
that civic life in which every individual can find opportunity
for the realization of whatever is best in his own nature.

Not all nations, indeed, have moved through these sue-



322 DEMOCRACY AND EMPIRE

cessive stages of the moral cycle at the same rate; not all
have shown equal devotion at successive periods of their
history to each of the four ideals ; not all have completed the
cycle. Nevertheless, in their allegiance to ideals, nations
have often shown significant groupings, and often have
complemented or supplemented one another's moral evolu-
tion. Moreover, a few nations, having completed the moral
cycle, having attained to full and varied life, have combined
the ideals of character and achievement in ethical products
of extraordinary complexity. It is when surveyed in the
light of these facts that the story of world history acquires
its deepest significance and its true dramatic unity.

As in a sonata, different but related musical themes are
successively introduced in a first movement, to be combined
and developed in a second movement, so in universal history
the ideals of nations were successively presented to mankind
by the peoples whose aspirations and achievements made up
the story of ancient history; and they have been combined
and recapitulated, in harmonies of marvellous complexity, in
the history that began with Hellenic civilization on the shores
of the iEgean Sea. The themes of history were introduced
by the peoples of the East. They have been developed,
combined, and recapitulated by the nations of the West.

The ancient empires of Egypt and Babylonia were, above
all else, embodiments of power. They were the first magnif-
icent achievements in civic unity and military strength.
They first among men achieved the task of converting aggre-
gations of barbarian tribes, organized on the basis of kinship,
into mighty civil states organized on the basis of territorial
association. This was in itself the most difficult of tasks;
and its success depended upon the possibility of establishing
and maintaining among elements of population originally
diverse a relatively perfect homogeneity of interests, beliefs,
and habits. This was accomplished by those primitive
policies of civilization which sought to compel all men to
submit to the same military discipline, to worship the same
gods, to wear prescribed costumes, and to order their daily



THE IDEALS OF NATIONS 323

lives by prescribed rules. By these means were created
centralized governments of unprecedented power ; and by
their activity in conquest great wealth was amassed and
material magnificence was made possible. Power, then,
and prosperity were the cherished ideals of that an-
cient world. Beyond these stages of moral development,
individuals no doubt often succeeded in passing; but the
nations of Babylonia and Egypt in their entirety got no
further.

Under what circumstances, then, was any great population
for the first time in human history converted to the higher
ideal of restraint, temperance, and patient performance of daily
duty, with much cheerful acceptance of the necessity of daily
self-denial?

Perhaps the answer may be found in the story of the first
great migration of a civilized people into a distant, unknown
land, where, in contact with an aboriginal barbarian humanity,
it became necessary to lay the foundations of a new civil
life. Already beginning to feel the pressure of population
upon the means of subsistence, the Akkadian builders of
Babylon were presently overwhelmed by Semitic invaders,
and in large numbers were driven forth from the valley of
the Euphrates. Wandering eastward for no one knows how
many years or generations (for the story was long since lost
in the morning mists of history), these bearers of the world's
first knowledge of statecraft and the arts came at last into
that eastern quarter of Asia which borders on the Yellow
Sea. There, mingling with the native population, they
created a new race, a new nation, and a mode of life which
has scarcely changed for four thousand years.

On that long march it must have happened that many men
repined at their fate and could not cheerfully relinquish the
comforts and pleasures of life in the wonderful city from
which they had been driven forth. Such men were only
a burden to themselves and to their comrades ; and doubtless,
with few exceptions, they perished miserably by the way.
Only those men could push on to endure the continuing
hardships, to achieve the new tasks and the new success, who



324 DEMOCRACY AND EMPIRE

could patiently undergo disappointment and loss, who could
resolutely renounce the past, and, with fidelity to one an-
other, take up the new duties of everyday life, where little
was to be enjoyed as the reward of much toil endured. To
such men the only possible ideal of character was that in
which the qualities of patience, persistence, fidelity, devotion
to duty, and a spirit of cheerful acquiescence in whatever lot
awaited them, were the dominant traits. And this ideal they
carried with them into the far-away land; and there, for
unnumbered generations, it has persisted, the dominant note
of life in a vast celestial empire, distinguished above all
other peoples in the world for filial piety, for tireless indus-
try, for patient endurance, for quiet content, in whatever fate
may bestow.

Directly across the path of that first migration of civilized
man, there moved, we know not when, or along what route,
another stream of wandering men — they of the Aryan
tongue. Regarding their origin we need make no assump-
tion. The question as to whether they first dwelt in
Scandinavia, in Germany, in the upland vales of the Cauca-
sus, or on the plains of Pamir, has ceased to be important,
because we now know that before the dawn of history the
Aryan stocks were distributed throughout a zone that ex-
tended from the fjords of Norway in Northwestern Europe,
across Southern Russia and up the valley of the Oxus, to the
slopes of the Hindu Kush. And we know also that some
of them, at a time from which no monumental or written
records remain, moved southward until they came into the
valleys of the Ganges and the Indus.

To these people, too, had come the lesson of endurance,
of temperance, and of denial. To them, however, nature
had given an endowment of imagination, a sensitiveness to
beauty, a love of poetic colouring in which the people who
had moved eastward from Babylonia were wholly lacking.
So, when they halted in the highlands of Persia and Medea,
and endeavoured there to work out the foundations of a civil
life, they clothed their ideal of restraint and duty in forms
of sublime imagery and of lighter fancy, which gave to the



THE IDEALS OF NATIONS 325

ideas themselves an attractiveness that never from that day
failed to impress and fascinate the minds of men. Their
ideal became that of the righteous man and the life fulfilling
righteousness. " With hands stretched out, I pray to* fulfil
all good works, the first law of Mazda. ... As many as
I may I seek to teach to seek the good. Come with good
thought, O Righteousness. Give the gifts which last eter-
nally." So was this third ideal of man in its Iranian form
expressed in ceremonial prayer. Yet further developed in
Judea, it finally attained its loftiest expression in the sublime
ethical poetry of the Hebrew prophets.

In the poetic colouring which the Iranian gave to his ideal
of the self-controlled life, we perceive an element that was
later to find its development in the fourth ideal, an essential
characteristic of which is a sincere appreciation, at once
rational and emotional, of life itself and of its possibilities
when stripped of artificiality. This appreciation finds ex-
pression not only in character, but also objectively in those
free forms of art that break away from ancient conventionali-
ties, in the higher forms of religion, and in types of citizen-
ship that create and maintain liberty. Among the people of
Persia it early found expression in an art that took many
of its models from Babylonia and Egypt, but handled them
with freedom and gave to them a grace and a vitality alto-
gether new. This was true also of much of the literary
product of Iran.

Not, however, until the migrating Aryans had found their
way into India did their faculty for sincere appreciation and
untrammeled expression reach its full attainment. There
the mind of man came in contact with phases of nature more
varied, more beautiful, and more terrible than any that had
hitherto been encountered. There, face to face with dangers
more manifold and dreadful, the soul of man became serious
and contemplative in a new degree. Observing nature in
her most magnificent expression, the imagination was ex-
panded; and, witnessing the struggle for existence in an
intensity which had had no parallel in earlier experience,
the heart was moved to a compassion for suffering and failure



326 DEMOCRACY AND EMPIRE

that had not before been either so deep or so pitiful. From
these experiences there sprang a luxuriant art, largely devel-
oped from Persian models, a noble epic literature, a philoso-
phy as profound as man has yet attained, and a religion of
compassion which perhaps in its universal sympathy and
mercifulness has not been surpassed. Out of all this emerged
the ideal of the rationally perfect man — the man who has
touched life at every point, who has surrendered all illusions,
who has become clear-minded and sincere, and has entered
upon the way of self-realization. This man is contemplative,
— his rationality is speculative rather than scientific, and
herein is its limitation, — but he is also merciful and his pity
has no bounds, for in his disillusionment he has suffered, and
he has perceived that all who attain to self-knowledge must
suffer in like manner. He has perceived the necessity of
liberty ; but he conceives of liberty as a freeing of the soul
from bondage to material conditions. The perfect man,
therefore, is he who has surmounted all moral obstacles and
has conquered all passions ; who, through contemplation and
sincere obedience, has brought himself into complete adjust-
ment to the eternal laws. The perfect community consists
of those who attain such sincerity and emancipation. That
this ideal in its Hindu form was sombre in colouring, that it
made more of resignation than of activity, more of pity than
of struggle, more of religious contemplation than of artistic
creation or of citizenship, was simply a consequence of the
contact of a people not yet perfected in political organizar
tion, not yet master of the higher industrial methods, with an
environment which inevitably, through its abundance, pro-
duced overpopulation, and impressed the imagination with
awe rather than with a sense of scientific interest.

Yet farther to the East, in those islands which skirt the
Yellow Sea, developed a people whose origins are more ob-
scure than are those of any other group that has attained
to a position of high culture. To the islands of Japan were



Online LibraryFranklin Henry GiddingsDemocracy and empire; with studies of their psychological, economic, and moral foundations → online text (page 25 of 29)