Franklin Henry Giddings.

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

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carried the practical knowledge of China and the religion
and philosophy of India, together w^ith many artistic ideas
that had travelled across the Asiatic continent from Egypt



THE IDEALS OF NATIONS 327

and Chaldea. There they underwent a development finer
and more varied than they had attained in either India or
Persia. Above all other peoples of Asia, the Japanese ac-
quired the delicacy of artistic feeling and the freedom of
artistic expression which we are prone to ascribe only to the
most gifted of Western communities. It was in artistic crea-
tion chiefly, but also in religious feeling to some extent, that
the Japanese worked out their own national form of that
highest ideal of human life which combines rationality with
sincerity, and enjoys perfect liberty of expression. But in
Japan the concrete realization of this type was the sensitive
man, who could directly and accurately perceive beauty and
truth ; and the necessary liberty of such a character consisted
not so much in moral emancipation or in civil privilege as in
freedom from all prejudice and distorting passion.

Thus, in the earliest history of civilization, and in the evo-
lution of the population of Asia regarded as a whole, the
entire cycle of human ideals was created and traversed. It
is only in the contemplation of Asia as a whole, however, that
we discover the complete expression of all four of the great
and fundamental ideals. Especially is it true that only in
the career of two or three different Asiatic peoples do we
find anything approaching a complete expression of the ideal
of conscientious rationality — an expression which takes not
only ethical but also artistic forms. In one particular, how-
ever, the Asiatic cycle falls short of completion. Nowhere
on that continent or in its neighbouring islands do we find
the fourth ideal taking shape in conceptions of perfect citi-
zenship or of the highest type of statesmanship. These were
reserved for the people of the West.

If now we turn to the history of the West, we shall find
its most remarkable characteristic to be that successive West-
ern peoples have each completed the cycle of national ideals^
and have then developed them in complex combinations.

First among these were the Greeks, men of the same blood
and speech and early experiences as those Aryans who crossed
Iran, and made their way down the valleys of India to the



328 DBMOCEACY AND EMPIRE

shores of the Indian Ocean. Even more highly gifted with
imagination than the Eastern Aryans, more richly endowed
with the critical quality of reason, though not so profoundly
contemplative, and more versatile in artistic expression, the
Greeks already, at the beginning of written history, had
passed through the periods of creative conquest and rude
splendour, and were entering upon those disciplinary expe-
riences which disclose the loftier ideals. What may have
been before the Mycenaean age we very imperfectly know,
but the ruins of Mycense and of Argos themselves yield
abounding proofs that, within their walls at least, military
power had early created a superb and profuse luxury. With
the decline of their supremacy, the Grecian colonizing of the
JEgean Islands and of the Asian shore, if not then first begun,
was vigorously continued. Into this new and harder life of
an emigrant population entered those renunciations, those
sacrifices of familiar and cherished pleasures, and those hard-
ships which made men serious, dutiful, frugal, and self-
restrained. A thousand evidences of these disciplines, and
of the emergence — by reason of them — of a more austere
ideal, we find scattered throughout the Homeric epics, where
also are reflected the earlier ideals of power and splendour.
Not only this, but also the rise of a new and nobler civiliza-
tion we see clearly revealed. Enterprise and toil are rewarded
with bountiful fruits of the earth and the favour of heaven.
Brave and dutiful men become also wide-visioned, contem-
plative, and critical. The heroes of the "Iliad" and the
" Odyssey " are more than men of strength and physical cour-
age ; they are men of wonderful intellectual resource and of
strategic insight, and yet withal of tender and abounding
pity. In the court of Olympian Jove and in the councils of
men the ancient ideals of a ceremonial justice are undergoing
a profound modification. They are widening into concep-
tions of moral liberty and of a socially ordered freedom.

Thus it is evident that before Attic history began the
Greeks as a race had already conceived the noblest ideals.
The rationally conscientious man, more critical and objective
than the contemplative man of India, and retaining more of



THE IDEALS OF NATIONS 329

the fire of primitive courage, — this already was the ideal
personality ; and liberty, breaking through many restraints of
venerable custom, was already conceived as a possible ideal
for the ordering of social affairs. The cycle of moral experi-
ence had been traversed, but the energy of the race was not
diminished : it was still at the tension of youth. And thus
it came about that with the rise of Attica began an absolutely
new development in human history.

In Attica the ideals of manhood and of national renown
were for the first time combined, recapitulated, and blended
in an intricate moral pattern. In the matchless funeral ora-
tion by Pericles, as Thucydides reports it, we read that the
valour of the Athenian soldier had never been surpassed in the
annals of war ; that no citizen soldiery had ever surrendered
for their state so many opportunities and pleasures, so many
perfect joys of life ; that wives and mothers and aged men
had never more uncomplainingly borne burdens of sorrow, or
taken up with more patient submission to civic duty the tasks
intended for stronger hands, — and, while we read, we fur-
ther discover that, added to all these ideal excellencies of
character, the Athenian intellect was rational and ciystal-
clear. The oration is thus an epitome of experiences and re-
flections never before so combined ; for the age of Pericles
was the first in which the human mind so nearly attained
complete self-realization. It was then, and from that time
on, that every ideal found perfect expression in character, in
literature, philosophy, art, and political experiment. It is not
necessary here to dwell on the perfection of the art, the
unequalled beauty of the literature, or the clear, critical
quality of the philosophy. That which for our present pur-
poses is of chief importance is to observe that all the ideals
themselves are clarified and exalted by comparison and com-
bination. The heroic man, as now conceived, must display,
not only bravery, but also fortitude, and must endure, not only
physical suffering like the soldiers of Xenophon's army, but
also the tragic assaults of fate, with Promethean nobility.
Festivity must be beautiful and pleasure joyous. Self-
restraint must be more than temperance: it must include a



330 DEMOCRACY AND EMPIRE

moderation of zeal and even of worldly ambition. And,
above all, tbe rational life must find expression less in con-
templation than in political activity. In Plato's thought, so
marvellously worked out in the pages of the " Eepublic," of
the state as the perfect expression of man's rational and moral
nature ; in the demonstration, so convincingly made by Aris-
totle in the " Politics," that the state exists for the good life,
and that only in the state does man achieve the perfection
of his rational personality, we have a form of the fourth ideal
to which no Eastern people ever attained.

To many readers it will seem a questionable assertion, if
we say that Rome likewise completed the cycle of moral evo-
lution, and then, combining the ideals in a complex civiliza-
tion, so developed the higher ones as to strengthen their
influence over the human mind for all coming time. We are
so accustomed to think of Rome as the unsurpassed embodi-
ment of power and magnificence, that we have some difficulty
in thinking of her also as a guardian of the ideals of austerity
and justice, of reason, conscience, and liberty. Rome the con-
queror, the mistress of the world, the seat of unrivalled
splendour, of unbridled indulgence, — these are pictures that
we know ; but when did Rome become the teacher of self-
denial, and when the promulgator of highest wisdom? When
did she subordinate pride or pleasure to her own conception
of justice, and when did she conceive of liberty?

It will not be denied that very early in her history Rome
rose above the rude ideal of power cherished by her tribal
kings, and above the rude ideal of splendour which found
varied expression under the Etruscan supremacy. Through-
out the earlier years of the republic life was strenuous. It
called for sacrifice and restraint not less than for courage, and
it soon became dominated by an ideal of austerity, perhaps
quite as severe as has been elsewhere seen. Already we
have observed that the name " Roman," no less than the word
"Puritan," is historically associated with the austere character.
It was not only in character, however, that this ideal found
expression in early Roman days. Still more important was
its objective expression in Roman law. As in the farther



THE IDEALS OF NATIONS 331

East objective expression of the ideal of restraint had taken
the form of ceremonial righteousness, and as in Greece it had
begun to take the form of civic order, so in Rome for the first
time it became a true civil law, formulating rules of justice
that could be made of universal application. In the later
days of the republic the ideals of rational personality also,
and of disinterested citizenship as its objective medium,
which had found expression in Greece, were entertained
by the best Roman minds, as the writings of Cicero prove.

Nevertheless, we have fallen into the belief that these were
not controlling ideals among the Roman people, because both
austerity and a sincerely rational life were apparently over-
whelmed by the materialism of the empire. We assume that,
after attaining for a brief period to a higher moral life, Rome,
at the death of Julius Csesar, fell back to a lower level, and
from that hour declined in spiritual worth as she grew in
military strength and amassed material wealth.

Yet it is certain that this belief and this assumption are er-
roneous. In reality it was in the very age of Augustus, when
the ideal of splendour and enjoyment had apparently en-
thralled all classes, that a reaction against excess and a
devotion to the highest interests of the spiritual life had
already begun. I do not here refer to the revival of literature
in that age, which in itself was a sufficient proof that
rational thought and artistic expression were at least not
extinct. Far more significant was the return to austerity
among the common people, which found a definite if strange
expression in the rapid growth of ascetic sects that had
sprung up in many parts of the empire, and preached a doc-
trine of self-denial, — sects of which the Essenes in Palestine
were a type, and John the Baptist a warning voice. These
sects prepared the soil for that new religion of renunciation
of the world, that faith in the infinite value of spiritual life
as compared with all earthly happiness, which spread from
Nazareth throughout the Western world.

To show that, from this reaction against the excesses of
material splendour, the Roman people went on to develop
anew the fourth and highest ideal of life, it would be suffi-



332 DEMOCKACY AND EMPIRE

cient to recall the steady encroachments of the Christian
faith, both in the imperial city and in the provinces, until the
emperors as well as the common people embraced the new
religion, and at least nominally accepted its conceptions
of human personality. It is not necessary, however, to de-
pend upon this line of proof. There was another and not
less interesting mode in which the progress of thought carried
the better sort of Roman minds beyond all lower ideals of
human achievement to the conception of a perfect rationality,
and of its embodiment in civil institutions, as the goal of
both national and individual endeavour.

This was nothing less than the intense, the often self-
denying devotion, of the ablest men in the legal and adminis-
trative service of the empix-e to the perfection of the Roman
law, to the formulation of the Roman rules of administration,
and to the transmission of this superb body of human wisdom
to those Northern races, which all far-seeing men knew must
overrun the Roman dominions and establish a new national
life upon the ruins of Roman greatness. It is a pity that we
have not more definite personal biographies of the men who
devoted their lives to this vast work. But we are unable to
doubt that they were many, or that they performed their
task with a sincere disinterestedness of purpose possible only
to those who look into the future, and know that they are
working for the perfection of men not yet aware of the bless-
ings to be handed down to them as a legacy of civilization.
On no other hypothesis can we account for the marvellous
fact that the noblest product of legal intelligence and admin-
istrative experience which the modern world has inherited
from the past was preserved so nearly unimpaired through-
out those terrible centuries when Vandal barbarians were
levelling in ruins the material monuments of Rome's im-
perial greatness. This priceless heritage we owe to thousands
of obscure men, whose very names have perished from his-
tory, — men who believed that Rome's enduring contribution
to the advancement of mankind was not her material monu-
ments, but her rules of justice, of equity, and of civil order,
and who saw that in the preservation of these Rome could



THE IDEALS OF NATIONS 333

perpetuate her spirit throughout all coming ages. Surely to
a people that produced such men, we cannot deny apprecia-
tion of the highest of ideals.

On the ruins of the Soman Empire slowly grew the nations
of modern Europe. Created out of similar racial elements
and developing side by side, they have had histories in many
respects closely parallel; and the evolution of their moral
characteristics has been more nearly the same than was ever
true of contemporaneous peoples in the Eastern world. In
each nation the early devotion to the ideal of power was
conspicuous in every form of expression. The heroic epic
and the legend of the age of migration faithfully reflect the
barbaric strength, the social anarchy, the ruthless brutality,
of that period of national creation. After feudalism and the
growth of the mediaeval towns, when kingly power was con-
solidated in France, England, and Spain, the chief desire
everywhere was to establish the new national life on secure
foundations and to make its government feared throughout
the world. Then came the period of the rapid evolution of
prosperity and of material well-being. The geographical
discoveries of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the rapid
Colonization of distant lands, brought vast wealth to all the
enterprising nations, and new desires and ideals. The splen-
dour of Spain in the age of Charles V. and of Philip II., of
France in the reigns of Louis XIII. and of Louis XIV., — the
France of Richelieu and of Mazarin, — the splendour of Eng-
land in the reign of Elizabeth, — these were products of the
new prosperity and of national devotion to ideals of pleasure
no less than of power.

The reaction came with the awakening of the common
mind and of the thoughtful leaders of religious movements
to the corruption that had survived through the upheavals of
the Reformation, and still bound men to materialism of life,
notwithstanding the awakening of their higher natures by
the Renaissance and the ecclesiastical revolution.. The
Puritan movement in England was its most complete ex-
pression ; but elsewhere also, — in France, in Germany, and in



:334 DEMOCRACY AND EMPIRE

the Netherlands, not to mention the republic of Geneva — the
same reaction toward austerity of thought and morals was
visible. This movement was by far the most complete
development of the third ideal of individual character and
national achievement which had thus far been attained in
history. In the Eastern world, this ideal never passed beyond
fragmentary expression. It was never perfectly developed,
though it undoubtedly was reached in Greece and in Rome.
But in western Europe it marked a distinct epoch of history,
and gave its name to a mode of life, a philosophy, and an
interpretation of religion, which will continue to influence
mankind for generations.

For western Europe also was reserved a final development
of the ideal of an expanding rational life. India did not get
beyond the notion of wisdom, attained through renunciation ;
Athens developed the idea of a symmetrically rounded life,
•of rational knowledge and political activity, but did not con-
ceive of an indefinite improvement for all mankind; Rome
took up a self-denying educational work for future genera-
tions, but rather to conserve the past than to create new pos-
.sibilities. Only in the West, and in very modem times, has the
■ fourth ideal of nations become a conception of progress, —
the thought of an ever continuing emancipation and enlight-
-enment of the whole human race.

There are, therefore, certain specific facts in the external
history, and in the development of the content of the liberal
ideal in its modern form, which are deserving of special
notice.

An increasing emphasis has been placed on liberty. The
ideal now stands for a complete emancipation from every
form of useless bondage, both in civil and in moral law. It
affirms that only in perfect freedom can the human spirit
attain the complete realization of its potential life. It does
not, however, deny the necessity of order and proportion.
Our notion of liberty is not anarchy, civil or moral. To
•every restraint and limitation we apply the test of utility.
Restraints that are needful for peace, for order, or for safety,
are not only to be tolerated, but are carefully to be cherished.



THE IDEALS OF NATIONS 335

But restraints that can give no utilitarian account of them-
selves should as fast as possible be swept away. We all know
that this particular phase of the ideal of perfection in its modern
expression is a product of the great Revolution, which brought
the human mind face to face with fundamental problems.

Again, the modern content of this highest ideal of nations
includes that idea which, in literature and art, is known as
Romanticism. To the Eastern sage, perfection of life was
conceivable in terms of absolute renunciation of everything
unessential or adventitious ; to the Greek it was conceivable
in terms of a perfect proportion and coordination of parts.
Undoubtedly, the highest expression of the Greek form of
the ultimate human ideal is found in Plato's "Republic."
The life in which eveiy passion is subordinated to reason,
in which all activities are in equilibrium ; the state in which
there is a perfect division of labour, an exact adaption of
every man to his civic function, — such is the perfected
whole, in both public and private existencfe. This ideal,
like that of the East, contemplates the actual attainment of
a perfection beyond which no further progress can be made.
Sharply marking off the modern ideal from all ideals of the
past is its recognition of limitless possibilities, of the infinite
distance of absolute perfection ; its recognition of a bound-
less opportunity for further endeavour ; its subordination of
all form and rule in life and in art to content, of the means
of expression to that which must be expressed.

A third characteristic of the highest ideal in its modern
form is its content of ardent and generous feeling. It desires
the widest opportunity and the highest attainment, not merely
for the few, but equally for all classes and all races. It is
vital with philanthropic interest and missionary earnestness.
It is thoroughly democratic, and includes an unbounded faith
in the future of the people.

These elements are found in the highest modern ideal, as
it is cherished in many Western nations. Nevertheless, in
each nation they are combined in unique ways, so that in each
some particular phase is so emphasized that we may easily
distinguish the ideal of each.



336 DEMOCRACY ATiTD EMPIRE

Such national differences are due to conditions which, in
different countries, have brought about different develop-
ments of liberty and progress, and have produced also differ-
ent types of the rationally conscientious man.

In England earlier than on the Continent the emancipation
of the serf created a peculiarly independent type of the indi-
vidual. As has been shown elsewhere in this volume, the
destruction of the economic equality of villain tenants on
the manor was quickly followed by the rise of the vigorous
and enterprising to competence, or even to prosperity, and by
the sinking of the incompetent to the level of wage earners.
The industrial opportunities, the mechanical inventions, and
the commercial activity that combined to make the social
transformation possible, were fostered by the firm establish-
ment and rapid growth of Protestantism in religion. In
England, therefore, the rational man soon became the highly
individualized man ; while the broadening of economic oppor-
tunity and the supremacy of Protestantism conspired with
national character and traditions to insure the firm estab-
lishment of political and civil liberty. And so it has come
about that in the England of to-day the highly individualized
character and individual liberty to act are supremely valued.
Every man must be permitted to follow out his own initiative
to the extent of his powers, and to make his own career.
The truth that government is only a means to an end is not
often forgotten, and even the lesser forms of social coopera-
tion are more or less jealously regarded if they seem in any
degree to diminish self-reliance or to curtail individual oppor-
tunity.

Across the Channel conditions united as inevitably to create
a strong sense of social solidarity, a highly socialized type of
personal character, and a zealous devotion to the idea of
equality rather than to that of individual or civil liberty, in
the English sense of the term. Industrial emancipation was
long delayed. Protestantism was stamped out by persecu-
tion, and with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes the men
and women whose self-reliance or individualistic tendencies
were too pronounced sought safety in expatriation. Feudal



THE IDEALS OF NATIONS 337

abuses and the sort of absolutism that goes with hereditary-
kingship were overthrown with the Revolution, but absolut-
ism of another kind was not ; and a centralized administration
continued to strangle local independence. Meanwhile, among
the common people an approximate equality of conditions was
established by the levelling provisions of the revolutionary
and Napoleonic codes-
Blending with a love of economic equality, thus created in
France, was a shadowy notion of the subjective equality of men,
which found literary incarnation in the philosophy of Rous-
seau. It seems to have sprung from a conjugation of three
distinct ideas. Two of these were theological, or perhaps
even religious, in character. The notion that all men are
divinely created souls, whose intellectual faculties are only
a penumbra, carried with it the implication that, in their
inmost being as souls, all men in the sight of God their
Creator are equal. Again, according to theological views,
all men have sinned, and can be reclaimed from sin only by
an act of divine grace. This notion also by implication con-
tains the assumption that men essentially are equal. The
third component notion in the idea of equality may have
been derived from theology indirectly, but its immediate
source is Romanticism. If every man has possibilities of
improvement to which no limits can be assigned — or, to put
the proposition a little more strongly, if the inequalities
among men are due to circumstances, to limiting finite con-
ditions, and if any man with proper instruction, favourable
conditions, and unlimited time can make infinite progress in
knowledge and well-doing — then, obviously, men are essen-
tially equal, since infinite quantities of the same category can-
not be unequal. Thus the conception of subjective equality is
mystical rather than practical. Held as an article of faith by



Online LibraryFranklin Henry GiddingsDemocracy and empire; with studies of their psychological, economic, and moral foundations → online text (page 26 of 29)