Franklin Henry Giddings.

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

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the mystical and the romantic, it is unacceptable to those who
give more attention to finite, concrete realities of the here
and now, than to the infinite possibilities of an unknown to-
morrow. This is at least a part of the reason why equality
is so strongly emphasized in the highest ideals of France,
while England supremely values liberty.


Thoroughly Protestant and practical, Engladd cares for the
concrete achievements of the present. Men, as she regards
them, may or may not be equal in l^eir metaphysical being or
in their potentialities : for practical purposes of everyday busi-
ness and everyday politics they are unequal in an extreme
degree ; and it is practical common-sense to let the best of
them achieve their best without too many hampering restric-
tions. France is still to a great degree Catholic in sentiment,
if not in confession, and is still mystical in feeling, if not in
profession. To her it matters little that individual liberty is
imperfect, as long as men who feel a strong sense of social soli-
darity may meet on the same plane and cherish the same
visions. Thus a touch of enthusiasm (some observers would
say of fanaticism) is added to the Frenchman's thought of
equality. On the whole, however, French equality is ob-
jective. The Frenchman does not insist that men are equal
in talents or in virtue. What he chiefly demands is exter-
nal equality — of conditions, of opportunity, of benefits from
society, from education, and cultural institutions, — in shorty
equality of treatment. Consequently, his thought is largely
centred upon the functions of government and its provision
for each and all of its subjects.

Do we find that anywhere these two ideals — of liberty and
equality — are synthetically combined ? Is combination the
significance, perhaps, of the American spirit of fraternity, of
the American passion for comprehensiveness? England has
produced the individualized man, and France the socialized
man ; is America at last creating the inclusive, the universal-
ized man? Surely such is not an altogether fanciful belief.
At least it is no exaggeration to say that the inclusive char-
acter, and an equity in which liberty and equality are recon-
ciled, are our ideals. The American, like the Englishman, is
to a great extent practical, hard-headed, Protestant. He
keenly realizes the opportunities of the concrete present.
He understands the meaning of all finite limitations; he
knows that, within any given field of practical activity, men
are widely unequal in their relation to a definite end to be at-
tained. But America is not wholly an offspring of English


race and thought. America is also Celtic, Gallic, and Teu-
tonic; it is Catholic as well as Protestant; and different-
modes of race thought and feeling, different religious views
and sentiments, have here become strangely united. If»more
than the Frenchman the American is practical, he more than
the Englishman is sentimental. His assertion of liberty is less
uncompromising than the Englishman's, and his interest in
equality is more subjective and less practical than the French-
man's. Notwithstanding their alleged materialism, Americans
are really less concerned about external conditions, and are
more intent upon the subjective attitude of each man toward
his neighbour, than are any people of Europe. The American
likes to be estimated, not in terms of his station in life, which
may be more or less an accidental matter, and not in terms of
the opportunities that he has enjoyed, but in terms of his per-
sonal worth. He likes to know that his neighbour thinks him
intrinsically as good as anybody. Within limits of reason he
is willing to admit that other men are as good as himself.
Thus, if sometimes in the business of the week he is too will-
ing to sacrifice the economic equality of his fellow-men to his
own worldly success, he nevertheless, in hours of relaxation
and contemplation, cherishes a belief in the unlimited poten-
tialities of even the meanest of human creatures, and is willing^
to do much to prove that, in a large measure, the potential-
ities of the common humanity can be realized under favouring
opportunities. To a degree perhaps never before seen in
history, the American who, through liberty and present
acceptance of the practical point of view, has achieved a
worldly success, stands ready in the spirit of fraternity to
reach out a helping hand to the brother who has not yet
succeeded, and to aid him in every possible way to attain the
objects of his desire.

The creation of ideals is one of the highest activities of
the human mind. Into his ideal enters man's estimate of
the past and his forecast of the future ; his scientific analysis,
and his poetic feeling; his soberest judgment, and his reli-
gious aspiration. Yet in the growth of the most spiritual


ideal, as in that of the humblest material organism, we have
a perfect illustration of the laws of evolution. The ideal, no
less than any phenomenon of physical life, is a product of
ceaseless transformations of energy, of continual re-groupings
of things, of an endless struggle for existence. In its origin
a simple mental picture of a character that is adapted to the
dominant conditions of life, the ideal is slowly transformed,
by both integration and differentiation, until it becomes too
complex for any perfect portrayal. This continuity of its
evolution is the spiritual thread of history ; it is the succes-
sion and combination of historic themes. The Egyptian and
the Chaldean created the ideals of valorous and pleasure-
loving men; China, Persia, and Judea, of self-denying and
austere men; India, of the rationally conscientious man, —
who in Hindustan is contemplative and compassionate; in
Japan, sensitive ; in Greece, appreciative of every form of truth
and beauty ; in Rome, constructive ; and in the farther and later
West, scientific, — in England individualized, in France
socialized, in America, where West again becomes East, uni-
versalized. Egypt and Babylonia created the national ideals
of power and splendour ; Iran and Judea of ceremonial right-
eousness. Greece created the ideal of citizenship ; Rome the
ideal of justice. England has created the ideal of civil lib-
erty ; France the ideal of social equality. America is slowly
but surely creating the ideal of a broad and perfect equity,
in which liberty and equality shall for all time be reconciled
and combined.





A CONFOKMING of life to the letter of the Christian gos-
pels has been demanded by many sincere and by some brill-
iant minds in every century of the Christian era. It is
probably the name of Count Leo Tolstoi, however, that
will henceforth be associated with the doctrine that true
Christian living involves the surrender of earthly posses-
sions and perfect obedience of the command to resist not
evil. His analysis of the spiritual content of Christ's teach-
ing, his illustration of it from his individual experience, and
his application of it to the world of modern industry and
politics — so radically at variance with the creed of non-
aggression — gives to his work a depth and completeness
never found in any previous attempts of this nature ; and
it is therefore not surprising that every day adds to the
number of disciples who, if they are not yet prepared to
put teachings into practice, are nevertheless inwardly con-
vinced that they are truth and ought to be applied in life.

It is a curious phenomenon, — this growth of conviction
among intelligent people that the world would be better off
if it accepted literally the gospel of non-resistance, while yet
each civilized nation is strengthening its military resources
and its armaments, and is intently watching every move of
its rivals, all of whom are hoping to secure as large territo-
rial acquisitions as possible in the final partition of the unde-
veloped regions of the earth. It is a phenomenon that raises
again the question, as old as human curiosity, whether there
is an inherent contradiction in the moral nature of man. Is
he forever doomed to follow one course of action, which com-
mon-sense tells him is expedient or practicable, while always
believing that it is wrong in principle — that he ought to set



his face against it, and with self -surrender strive for the real-
ization of ideals to which nature seems to have put the very-
laws of life in opposition. The problem may be even more
concretely stated. Is it accident, or is it a sardonic joke of
fate, that the two chief intellectual movements of the nine-
teenth century should be almost perfectly symbolized in the
names of Darwin and Tolstoi ; one standing for the doctrine
that all progress has come from a remorseless struggle for
existence, in which thousands of millions of sentient crea-
tures have miserably perished, in order that tens of millions
may be somewhat intelligent and moderately happy; the
other standing for an immediate and unquestioning return
to the teaching that the strong should bear the burdens of
the weak, and that the best of mankind should practically
cease to struggle for their existence at all, and should con-
cern themselves only with the rescue of such as are in danger
of being submerged.

The answer that I shall make to this question in the pres-
ent paper may seem to be as paradoxical as the situation
that has been described ; but this ought not to bar its seri-
ous consideration. Since the days of Heraclitus, the phi-
losopher has known that mutation itself is a paradox, and
that any interpretation of the ways of progressive life must
largely consist of paradoxes. I therefore make no apology
for submitting the proposition that the struggle for existence
itself tends to bring about a human brotherhood in which
the non-resistance of evil would be a successful working
rule, and that, as a fact of history, this realization will
come with the practical success of that other paradoxical
organization already described in this volume, namely, the
democratic empire.

In the introduction to an English translation of the works
of Friedrich Nietzsche, Professor Alexander TLUe reminds us
that even among the evolutionists there is a contradiction
of views. It is ne&,rly as radical, indeed, as the broader con-
tradiction between Darwin and Tolstoi. Huxley's famous
Romanes lecture was the first frank confession of a moral
difficulty into which the evolutionists had drifted. In sub-


stance, Huxley's admission was, that in tlie process of natural
selection there is no place for the virtues of compassion and
generosity, or for the ideals of peace and human brother-
hood. The struggle for existence is one in which physical
strength, shrewdness, cunning, treachery, cruelty, have all
had place, and presumably must continue to be important
factors. Speaking for himself, Huxley was prepared to sac-
rifice the further results that might be won in a struggle
for existence, and to accept a certain deterioration of the
race, if need be, for the sake of saving those sympathies
and ideals that are most widely opposed to egoistic self-
assertion. " Let us understand once for all," he says, " that
the ethical progress of society depends not on imitating the
cosmic process, still less in running away from it, but in
combating it." He admits that this is "an audacious pro-
posal"; but he thinks that man's ends are higher than the
ends of nature, and hopes "that such an enterprise may
meet with a certain measure of success."

There are, of course, many evolutionists who deny that
there is such a fundamental contradiction between the pro-
cess of natural selection and the process of moral effort based
on ideas of sympathy and justice. They urge that the higher
and greater struggles have taken place, not between individuals,
but between groups, and that natural selection among races
and nations has accomplished more for man, even in reference
to his physical well-being and his power to perpetuate a sturdy
race, than a purely individual struggle could have done. For
group cohesion, toleration, sympathy, a certain degree of will-
ingness to forgive, compassion, and helpfulness, have been nec-
essary. These virtues, it is contended, are as much a product
of natural selection as are force and cunning.

Recently, this argument has seriously been threatened by
the later biology, with its theories of the non-transmission of
acquired characteristics, and its corollary of panmixia, or the
doctrine that when, within a group, the struggle for existence
practically ceases among individuals, and those elements which
such a struggle would eliminate are combined in an indis-
criminate mixture by intermarriage with elements that would


normally survive, the result is a progressive deterioration of
the race, which then, even in the most favourable circum-
stances, hardly maintains itself above mediocrity.

This notion, elaborated by severe scientific methods at the
hands of statistical investigators like Sir Francis Galton, has
been seized upon by the students of pathological nervous phe-
nomena and by the more sturdy-minded critics of modern
literature and art, as affording the true explanation of vy^hat,
in the slang of the day, we call decadence. In panmixia,
— itself a product of sympathy, philanthropy, and moral re-
straints in general — we are supposed to have the cause of
nervous exhaustion, hysteria, and increasing insanity, and of
innumerable manifestations in music, fiction, and plastic art,
of an unhealthy emotionalism, begotten of neurotic and erotic

In the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche we have the attempt
to reduce all this to a philosophical theory, and to present its
logical implications. Nietzsche assumes that Darwinism, in
its most radical form of Weismannism, is the only true
account of man's place in nature, the only true presentation
of man's own nature and possible destiny. To ignore it is
only to be an ostrich, hiding your head in the sand; to
combat it, as Huxley advises, is only to kick against the
pricks with an imbecile uselessness that Paul never dreamed
of. You may attempt, if you like, to make men " good " in
that sense which includes compassion and disinterestedness ;
but all you will get for your pains is a race of dyspeptics,
ansemics, and neurotics, whose pathway to everlasting dark-
ness will be not less broad and straight, but only less grew-
some than the swift extinction which falls to the unfit when
natural selection is unimpeded. Therefore, according to
Nietzsche's philosophy, men of sense should set their faces
sternly against everything that smacks of softness, forgive-
ness, and conventional morality. Above all, they should con-
demn and combat the traditional Christianity and all romantic
ideals of equality. " Equality to the equal, inequality to the
unequal, — that," he says, "would be the true teaching of
justice." That which men should strive for is physiological


power, perfect physiological naturalness. Whatever is more
than these cometh of evil. Might really does make right ;
and power, will, ability, the biological perfection of the race,
— these are the only sure marks of excellence. *

Here we have the complete and radical contradiction of
that radical, literal type of Christianity which Tolsto'i rep-
resents. Tolsto'i and Nietzsche, these are the opposite poles
of nineteenth-century thought. That Nietzsche lives in a
lunatic asylum, to which the authorities have consigned him,
and that Tolstoi, in the belief of some of his readers, dwells
in a lunatic asylum of his own devising, should not com-
plicate the issue for our minds. Each man has been sane
enough, or sane long enough, to give unmistakable expres-
sion, to a perfectly definite, comprehensible thought.

The criticism of these contradictory notions may best
begin with the reflection that, if the present characteristics
and activities of mankind are themselves products of evolu-
tion and continuing manifestations of its process, the pro-
cess itself does not tend toward the severely simple form of
the struggle for existence of which Nietzsche approves ; and
it is as yet very far from ending in that absolute panmixia
which might result from the perfect application of Tolstoi's
view to the everyday lives of civilized men. To a great
extent the mass of mankind is still engaged .in combat, ag-
gression, conquest, and remorseless competition. It has not
gotten rid of all its cruel instincts or suppressed the passion of
vengeance. Yet it tempers its brutality with sympathy ; it
offsets selfishness with generosity; and it supplements its
outbursts of anger with mercy and forgiveness. As a mere
fact of observation, then, it is clear that neither the phi-
losophy of Nietzsche nor that of Tolstoi is a true picture of
reality. And if we are really evolutionists in our faith, this
fact should go far to satisfy us that neither of these phi-
losophies is a satisfactory statement of truth.

Turning, then, to a more explicit scientific criticism, let us
ask whether the conclusions of Nietzsche are really contained
in his premises, and then ask whether the teaching of Tolstoi,
though iu no way corresponding to present reality, may after


all be a true account of the goal toward which human evolu-
tion is tending.

The real premise from which the conclusions of Nietzsche
are drawn is the fact that an actual struggle for existence does
doom to nervous disorder, to mental and moral abnormity, and
to ultimate extinction, those family stocks that are persist-
ently weak or unsound in a purely physiological sense. Be-
yond any doubt, physiological power, physiological vigour, is
the only enduring basis of human excellence. Any contrary
doctrine is a form of the self-destructive philosophy that exist-
ence itself is an evil.

The error, then, of Nietzsche and of his disciples is not
in their assumption of this major premise. We shall find
that it consists in a totally inadequate conception of the myr-
iad forms in which physiological power may manifest itself,
through that process of differentiation which is an essential
phase of all true evolution. This is really equivalent to say-
ing — as will clearly appear in the sequel — that the maxim
that might makes right, in this abstract form in which we com-
monly hear it quoted, is neither true nor untrue, but only
meaningless. It is equivalent to saying that might makes
right or makes wrong, according to the form of the might.
Might differentiated, physiological power manifesting itself
through unnumbered different channels duly coordinated —
this might makes right and is right. Might crude, undifferenti-
ated, contending against might differentiated and organized,,
makes for wrong and is wrong.

Let us get further into the meaning of these rather enig-
matical phrases. What is the measure of physiological power?
Accurately speaking, it is the amount of energy absorbed,
stored up, transformed, and given forth by an organism. In
the last analysis, all scientific measurements are given in terms
of energy, and no others are possible. Accepting, then, this
measure, shall we find that a strong, healthy savage, capable
of slaying any foe who might be pitted against him in a brutal
duel, is necessarily a man of greater physiological power
than an intelligent business or professional man in a civilized
community ? Without quite saying so, Nietzsche leaves his


readers in no doubt whatever that he uncritically assumes the
savage to be physiologically the stronger man. Actual tests,.
however, by refined scientific methods might possibly,^or even
probably, demonstrate that the civilized man is an organism
drawing from its environment and giving forth in work vastly
more energy than the savage. To take a simple illustration,
the explorer would have to search long and far to find a sav-
age who, day after day, for ten hours a day and six days in the
week, could strike the number of blows on an anvil regularly
struck by an ordinary blacksmith in an American country vil-
lage. To take a more complex illustration, not one savage
in ten thousand is capable of storing up and giving forth the
amount of mere physical energy — absolutely irrespective of
any skill in the performance — that is expended night after
night by an average violin player in a good modern orchestra.
Or once more, it is doubtful if anywhere on the surface of the
earth the savage could be found whose power to absorb and
give forth energy in the slightest degree approaches that of
the business manager of a great modern railway system, whose
vitality is expended in the thermal, electric, and chemical
changes of brain activity.

Thus when we come to look into the matter in a strictly
scientific way, we find absolutely no basis for the assump-
tion that, in point of mere physiological power, the animals
and savages whose struggle for existence is carried on en-
tirely by crude modes of self-assertion and combat, are
superior to men whose struggle for existence is a vastly
more complicated process, and includes — auxiliary or antag-
onistic elements, as you please — the factors of compassion
and cooperation. Writers like Nietzsche have made the
assumption only because they have failed to see that when
energy is distributed through innumerable channels instead
of being concentrated in one or two — when, in short, differ-
entiation of the organism and its activities has taken place, —
the phenomenon is none the less one of the redistribution
of matter and motion; and that quite possibly the energy
which is being discharged through a million channels, al-
though nearly imperceptible to the untrained observer, is


enormously greater in amount than that which is being
crudely and abruptly discharged in one or two primitive

The only other form in which the problem could be put by
disciples of Nietzsche would be an assertion that, after aU,
the performance of the individual is not the important
thing ; that the physiological vitality essential to the race is
that which takes the form of a transmission of unimpaired
and increasing vigour to posterity. This proposition might
be admitted without in any degree helping the case of those
who assail the kindly virtues, as tending to undermine physi-
cal power in the long run. For, obviously, if it be true that
civilized man to-day does, on the whole, expend in various
ways far more energy than his savage j)rototype expended,
it follows that the modes of evolutionary progress which
have produced civilization — and with it compassion, the desire
for equality, and all the other ideal feelings — have not really
impaired the power of the race to perpetuate its physiologi-
cal vigour in posterity. In short, without any violation of
scientific method, the whole problem may summarily be dis-
posed of by reminding the reader that if a civilized nation is
actually able to conquer and subdue an uncivilized nation
of equal numbers, the civilized nation has greater physiologi-
cal vigour, and represents the better line of heredity.

Therefore what we actually get out of the Darwinian phi-
losophy, when it is worked out to the radical conclusion that
physiological vigour is the basis, and for all time must con-
tinue to be the test, of policies, expediencies, moralities, and
idealisms, is simply this : while we are justified in assuming
that no course of conduct can be ethically right if it ends
in physical deterioration, and that therefore might, after all,
is the basis of right ; and while, as Nietzsche says, the will to
live, the will to be powerful, is the radical form of all right
feeling and right thinking ; we are bound by every consid-
eration of scientific accuracy to apply this test only after
making sure that we have taken stock of all the possible
modes of power, have observed all the possible channels
through which energy may be transformed by the organism.


So doing, we shall always have the principle of differentia-
tion as a minor test of the relative values of differing em-
bodiments of power. The differentiated, organized form is the
right one, unless there is clear proof that differentiation dimin-
ishes power in quantity. In brief, our complete test is this :

Online LibraryFranklin Henry GiddingsDemocracy and empire; with studies of their psychological, economic, and moral foundations → online text (page 27 of 29)