H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

Anticipations of the reaction of mechanical and scientific progress upon human life and thought online

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Blumenthal and Moltke grew to greatness, in
which German} 7 grew to greatness, is not steadily
fading in the heat and blaze of the imperial sun-
shine. Discipline and education have carried
Germany far; they are essential things, but an
equally essential need for the coming time is a
free play for men of initiative and imagination.
Is Germany to her utmost possibility making
capable men? That, after all, is the vital question,
and not whether her policy is wise or foolish, or



her commercial development inflated or sound. Or
is Germanx?- doing no more than cash the promises
of those earlier days?

After all, I do not see that she is in a greatly
stronger position than was France in the early
sixties, and, indeed, in many respects her present
predominance is curiously analagous to that of
the French empire in those years. Death at any
time may end the career of the present ruler of
Germany there is no certain insurance of one
single life. This withdrawal would leave Ger-
many organized entirely with reference to a court,
and there is no trustworthy guarantee that the
succeeding royal personality may not be some-
thing infinite^ more vain and aggressive, or
something weakly self-indulgent or unpatriotic
and morally indifferent. Much has been done
in the past of Germany, the infinitely less exact-
ing past, by means of the tutor, the chamberlain,
the chancellor, the wide-seeing power beyond the
throne, who very unselfishly intrigues his monarch
in the way that he should go. But that sort of
thing is remarkably like writing a letter by means
of a pen held in lazy tongs instead of the hand.
A very easily imagined series of accidents may
place the destinies of Germany in such lazy tongs
again. When that occasion comes, will the new
class of capable men on which we have convinced
ourselves in these Anticipations the future de-
pends will it be ready for its enlarged responsi-



bilities, or will the flower of its possible members be
in prison for l&se maje.st, or naturalized English-
men or naturalized Americans or troublesome
privates under officers of indisputably aristocratic
birth, or well-broken laborers, won "back to the
land," under the auspices of an agrarian league?

In another way the intensely monarchical and
aristocratic organization of the German empire
will stand in the way of the political synthesis of
greater Germany. Indispensable factors in that
synthesis will be Holland and Switzerland little,
advantageously situated peoples, saturated with
ideas of personal freedom. One can imagine a
German Swiss, at any rate, merging himself in a
great Pan-Germanic republican state, but to bow
the knee to the luridl3 T decorated God of his im-
perial Majest3 r 's fathers will be an altogether
more difficult exploit for a self-respecting man.

Moreover, before Germany can unify to the east
she must fight the Russian, and to unify to the
west she must fight the French and perhaps the
English, and she may have to fight a combination
of these powers. I think the military strength of
France is enormously underrated. Upon this
matter M. Bloch should be read. Indisputably
the French were beaten in 1870, indisputably they
have fallen behind in their long struggle to main-
tain themselves equal with the English on the
sea, but neither of these things efface the future
of the French. The disasters of 1870 were prob-



ably of the utmost benefit to the altogether too
sanguine French imagination. They cleared the
French mind of the delusion that personal im-
perialism is the way to do the desirable thing, a
delusion many Germans (and, it would seem, a few
queer Englishmen and still queerer Americans)
entertain. The French have done much to dem-
onstrate the possibility of a stable military re-
public. They have disposed of crown and court,
and held themselves in order for thirty good years ;
they have dissociated their national life from any
form of religious profession; they have contrived
a freedom of thought and writing that, in spite of
much conceit to the contrary, is quite impossible
among the English - speaking peoples. I find no
reason to doubt the implication of M. Bloch that
on land to-day the French are relatively far stronger
than they were in 1870, that the evolution of mili-
tary expedients has been all in favor of the French
character and intelligence, and that even a single-
handed war between France and Germany to-day
might have a very different issue from that former
struggle. In such a conflict it will be Germany,
and not France, that will have pawned her strength
to the English-speaking peoples on the high seas.
And France will not fight alone. She will fight
for Switzerland or Luxembourg, or the mouth
of the Rhine. She will fight with the gravity of
remembered humiliations; with the whole awakened
Slav race at the back of her antagonist, and very



probably with the support of the English-speaking

It must be pointed out how strong seems the
tendency of the German empire to repeat the his-
tory of Holland upon a larger scale While the
Dutch poured out all their strength upon the seas,
in a conflict with the English that at the utmost
could give them only trade, they let the possibilities
of a great Low German synthesis pass utterly out
of being. (In those days Low Germany stretched
to Arras and Douay. ) They positively dragged the
English into the number of their enemies. And
to-day the Germans invade the sea with a threat
and intention that will certainly create a counter-
vailing American navy, fundamentally modify the
policy of Great Britain, such as it is, and very
possibly go far to effect the synthesis of the Eng-
lish-speaking peoples.

So involved, I do not see that the existing Ger-
manic synthesis is likely to prevail in the close
economic unity, the urban region that will arise
in Western Europe. I imagine that the German
empire that is, the organized expression of
German aggression to-day will be either shattered
or weakened to the pitch of great compromises by
a series of wars by land and sea ; it will be forced
to develop the autonomy of its rational middle
class in the struggles that will render these com-
promises possible, and it will be finally not im-
perial German ideas, but central European ideas




possibly more akin to Swiss conceptions, a civilized
republicanism finding its clearest expression in
the French language, that will be established upon
a bi-lingual basis throughout Western Europe,
and increasingly predominant over the whole
European mainland and the Mediterranean basin,
as the twentieth century closes. The splendid
dream of a Federal Europe, which opened the
nineteenth century for France, may perhaps,
after all, come to something like realization at
the opening of the twenty-first. But just how
long these things take, just how easily or violently
they are brought about, depends, after all, entirely
upon the rise in general intelligence in Europe.
An ignorant, a merely trained or a merely cultured
people, will not understand these coalescences,
will fondle old animosities and stage hatreds,
and for such a people there must needs be disaster,
forcible conformities, and war. Europe will have
her Ir elands as well as her Scotlands, her Irelands
of unforgettable wrongs, kicking, squalling, bawl-
ing most desolatingly, for nothing that any one
can understand. There will be great scope for
the share-holding dilettanti, great opportunities
for literary quacks, in "national" movements,
language leagues, picturesque plotting, and the
invention of such "national" costumes as the
world has never seen. The cry of the little nations
will go up to heaven, asserting the inalienable
right of all little nations to sit down firmly in the



middle of the high-road, in the midst of the thick
ening traffic, and with all their- dear little toys
about them, play and play just as they used to
play -before the road had come.

And while the great states of the continent of
Europe are hammering down their obstructions of
language and national tradition or raising the
educational level above them until a working
unity is possible, and while the reconstruction of
Eastern Asia whether that be under Russian,
Japanese, English, or native Chinese direction
struggles towards attainment, will there also be a
great synthesis of the English-speaking peoples
going on? I am inclined to believe that there
will be such a synthesis, and that the head and
centre of the new unity will be the great urban
region that is developing between Chicago and the
Atlantic and which will lie mainly, but not entirely,
south of the St. Lawrence. Inevitably, I think,
that region must become the intellectual, political,
and industrial centre of any permanent unifica-
tion of the English-speaking states. There will,
I believe, develop about that centre a great federa-
tion of white English-speaking peoples, a federa-
tion having America north of Mexico as its central
mass (a federation that may conceivably include
Scandinavia), and its federal government will sus-
tain a common fleet, and protect or dominate or
actually administer most or all of the non-white
states of the present British empire, and in ad-



clition much of the South and Middle Pacific, the
East and West Indies, the rest of America, and
the larger part of black Africa. Quite apart from
the dominated races, such an English-speaking
state should have by the century-end a practically
homogeneous citizenship of at least a hundred
million sound-bodied and educated and capable
men. It should be the first of the three powers
of the world, and it should face the organizing
syntheses of Europe and Eastern Asia with an
intelligent sympathy. By the year 2000, all its
common citizens should certainly be in touch
with the thought of Continental Europe through
the medium of French; its English language
should be already rooting firmly through all the
world beyond its confines, and its statesmanship
should be preparing openly and surely, and
discussing calmly with the public mind of the
European, and probably of the yellow state, the
possible coalescences and conventions, the oblit-
eration of custom-houses, the homologization of
laws and coinage and measures, and the mitiga-
tion of monopolies and special claims, by which
the final peace of the world may be assured for-
ever. Such a synthesis, at any rate, of the peoples
now using the English tongue, I regard not only
as a possible, but as a probable, thing. The
positive obstacles to its achievement, great though
they are, are yet trivial in comparison with the
obstructions to that lesser European svnthesis



we have ventured to forecast. The greater ob-
stacle is negative, it lies in the want of stimulus,
in the lax prosperity of most of the constituent
states of such a union. But such a stimulus,
the renascence of Eastern Asia, or a great German
fleet upon the ocean, may presently supply.

Now all these three great coalescences, this shriv-
elling up and vanishing of boundary lines, will be
the outward and visible accompaniment of that
inward and social reorganization which it is the
main object of these Anticipations to display.
I have sought to show that in peace and war alike
a process has been and is at work, a process with
all the inevitableness and all the patience of a
natural force, whereby the great swollen, shapeless,
hypertrophied social mass of to-day must give birth
at last to a naturally and informally organized,
educated class, an unprecedented sort of people,
a new republic dominating the world. It will
be none of our ostensible governments that will
effect this great clearing up; it will be the mass
of power and intelligence altogether outside the
official state systems of to-day that will make this
great clearance a new social Hercules that will
strangle the serpents of war and national ani-
mosity in his cradle.

Now the more one descends from the open up-
lands of wide generalization to the parallel jungle
of particulars, the more dangerous does the road
of prophesying become, yet nevertheless there



may be some possibility of speculating how, in
the case of the English-speaking synthesis at
least, this effective new republic may begin
visibly to shape itself out and appear. It will
appear first, I believe, as a conscious organization
of intelligent and quite possibly in some cases
wealthy men, as a movement having distinct
social and political aims, confessedly ignoring
most of the existing apparatus of political control,
or using it only as an incidental implement in the
attainment of these aims. It will be very loosely
organized in its earlier stages, a mere movement
of a number of people in a certain direction, who
will presently discover with a sort of surprise the
common object towards which they are all moving.
Already there are some interesting aspects of
public activity that, diverse though their aims
may seem, do nevertheless serve to show the pos-
sible line of development of this new republic
in the coming time. For example, as a sort of
preliminary sigh before the stirring of a larger
movement, there are various Anglo-American
movements and leagues to be noted. Associa-
tions for entertaining travelling samples of the
American leisure class in guaranteed English
country houses, for bringing them into momentary
physical contact with real titled persons at lunches
and dinners, and for having them collectively lect-
ured by respectable English authors and divines,
are no doubt trivial things enough; but a snob



sometimes shows how the wind blows better than
a serious man. The empire may -catch the Amer-
ican as the soldier caught the Tartar. There
is something very much more spacious than such
things as this, latent in both the British and the
American mind, and observable, for instance,
in the altered tone of the presses of both countries
since the Venezuela message arid the Spanish-
American War. Certain projects of a much ampler
sort have already been put forward. An interest-
ing proposal of an interchangeable citizenship,
so that with a change of domicile an Englishman
should have the chance of becoming a citizen of the
United States, and an American a British citizen or
a voter in an autonomous British colony, for ex-
ample, has been made. Such schemes will, no
doubt, become frequent, and will afford much
scope for discussion in both countries during the
next decade or so.* The American constitution
and the British crown and constitution have to
be modified or shelved at some stage in this
synthesis, and for certain types of intelligence
there could be no more attractive problem. Cer-
tain curious changes in the colonial point of view
will occur as these discussions open out. The
United States of America are rapidly taking, or

* I foresee great scope for the ingenious persons who write
so abundantly to the London evening papers upon etymological
points, issues in heraldry, and the correct Union Jack, in the
very pleasing topic of a possible Anglo-American flag (for use
at first only on unofficial occasions).



have already taken, the ascendency in the iron
and steel and electrical industries out of the hands
of the British; they are developing a far ampler
and more thorough system of higher scientific
education than the British, and the spirit of ef-
ficiency percolating from their more efficient busi-
nesses is probably higher in their public services.
These things render the transfer of the present
mercantile and naval ascendency of Great Britain
to the United States during the next two or three
decades a very probable thing, and when this is
accomplished the problem how far colonial loyalty
is the fruit of royal visits and sporadic knight-
hoods, and how far it has relation to the existence
of a predominant fleet, will be near its solution.
An interesting point about such discussions as
this, in which, indeed, in all probability the nascent
consciousness of the new republic will emerge,
will be the solution this larger synthesis will offer
to certain miserable difficulties of the present time.
Government by the elect of the first families of
Great Britain has in the last hundred years made
Ireland and South Africa two open sores of ir-
reconcilable wrong. These two English-speaking
communities will never rest and never emerge from
wretchedness under the vacillating vote-catching
incapacity of British imperialism and it is im-
possible that the British power, having embittered
them, should ever dare to set them free. But
within such an ampler synthesis as the new re-



public will seek, these states could emerge to an
equal fellowship that would take all the bitterness
from their unforgettable past.

Another type of public activity which fore-
shadows an aspect under which the new republic
will emerge is to be found in the unofficial or-
ganizations that have come into existence in Great
Britain to watch and criticise various public de-
partments. There is, for example, the navy
league, a body of intelligent and active persons
with a distinctly expert qualification which has
intervened very effectively in naval control during
the last few years. There is also at present a vast
amount of disorganized but quite intelligent dis-
content with the tawdry futilities of army reform
that occupy the War Office. It becomes apparent
that there is no hope of a fully efficient and well-
equipped official army under parliamentary govern-
ment, and with that realization there will naturally
appear a disposition to seek some way to military
efficiency, as far as is legally possible, outside
War Office control. Already recruiting is falling
off; it will probably fall off more and more as the
patriotic emotions evoked by the Boer war fade
away, and no trivial addition to pay or privilege
will restore it. Elementary education has at last
raised the intelligence of the British lower classes
to a point when the prospect of fighting in distant
lands under unsuitably educated British officers
of means and gentility with a defective War Office

288 '


equipment and inferior weapons has lost much
of its romamtic glamour. But an unofficial body
that set itself to the establishment of a school of
military science, to the sane organization and
criticism of military experiments in tactics and
equipment, and to the raising for experimental
purposes of volunteer companies and battalions,
would find no lack of men. . . . What an un-
official syndicate of capable persons of the new
sort may do in these matters has been shown in
the case of the turbinia, the germ of an absolute
revolution in naval construction.

Such attempts at unofficial soldiering would be
entirely in the spirit in which I believe the new
republic will emerge, but it is in another line of
activity that the growing new consciousness will
presently be much more distinctly apparent. It is
increasingly evident that to organize and control
public education is beyond the power of a demo-
cratic government. The meanly equipped and
pretentiously conducted private schools of Great
Britain, staffed with ignorant and incapable young
men, exist, on the other hand, to witness that public
education is no matter to be left to merely com-
mercial enterprise working upon parental ignorance
and social prejudice. The necessary condition to
the effective development of the new republic is
a universally accessible, spacious, and varied edu-
cational system working in an atmosphere of ef-
ficient criticism and general intellectual activity.
9 289


Schools alone are of no avail, universities are
merely dens of the higher cramming, unless the
school-masters and school-mistresses and lecturers
are in touch with and under the light of an abun-
dant, contemporary, and fully adult intellectuality.
At present, in Great Britain at least, the head-
masters intrusted with the education of the bulk
of the influential men of the next decades are con-
spicuously second-rate men, forced and etiolated
creatures, scholarship boys manured with an-
notated editions, and brought up under and pro-
tected from all current illumination by the kale-
pot of the Thirty-nine Articles. Many of them
are less capable teachers and even less intelligent
men than many board school teachers. There is,
however, urgent need of an absolutely new type
of school a school that shall be, at least, so skil-
fully conducted as to supply the necessary train-
ing in mathematics, dialectics, languages, and
drawing, and the necessary knowledge of science,
without either consuming all the leisure of the
boy or destroying his individuality, as it is de-
stroyed by the ignorant and pretentious blunderers
of to-day; and there is an equally manifest need
of a new type of university, something other than a
happy fastness for those precociously brilliant
creatures creatures whose brilliance is too often
the hectic indication of a constitutional unsound-
ness of mind who can "get in" before the port-
cullis of the nineteenth birthday falls. These



new educational elements may either grow slowly
through the steady and painful pressure of re-
morseless facts, or, as the effort to evoke the new
republic becomes more conscious and deliberate,
they may be rapidly brought into being by the
conscious endeavors of capable men. Assuredly
they will never be developed by the wisdom of the
governments of the gray. It may be pointed out
that in an individual and disorganized way a
growing sense of such needs is already displayed.
Such great business managers as Mr. Andrew
Carnegie, for example, and many other of the
wealthy efficients of the United States of America,
are displaying a strong disinclination to found
families of f unctionless share-holders, and a strong
disposition to contribute, by means of colleges,
libraries, and splendid foundations, to the future
of the whole English-speaking world. Of course,
Mr. Carnegie is not an educational specialist, and
his good intentions will be largely exploited by the
energetic mediocrities who control our educational
affairs. But it is the intention that concerns us
now, and not the precise method or effect. Indis-
putably these rich Americans are at a fundamental-
ly important work in these endowments, and as in-
disputably many of their successors I do not mean
the heirs to their private wealth, but the men of the
same type who will play their rdle in the coming
years will carry on this spacious work with a wider
prospect and a clearer common understanding.



The establishment of modern and efficient schools
is alone not sufficient for the intellectual needs of
the coming time. The school and university are
merely the preparation for the life of mental activity
in which the citizen of the coming state will live.
The three years of university and a lifetime of
garrulous stagnation which constitutes the mind's
history of many a public school-master, for ex-
ample, and most of the clergy to-day, will be im-
possible under the new needs. The old-fashioned
university, secure in its omniscience, merely taught;
the university of the coming time will, as its larger
function, criticise and learn. It will be organized
for research for the criticism, that is, of thought
and nature. And a subtler and a greater task
before those who will presently swear allegiance
to the new republic is to aid and stimulate that
process of sound adult mental activity which is
the cardinal element in human life. After all, in
spite of the pretentious impostors who trade upon
the claim, literature contemporary literature is
the breath of civilized life ; and those who sincerely
think and write, the salt of the social body. To
mumble over the past, to live on the classics, how-
ever splendid, is senility. The new republic,
therefore, will sustain its authors. In the past
the author lived within the limits of his patron's
susceptibility, and led the world, so far as he did
lead it, from that cage. In the present he lives
within the limits of a particularly distressful and



ill-managed market. He must please and interest
the public before he may reason with it, and even
to reach the public ear involves other assiduities

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Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsAnticipations of the reaction of mechanical and scientific progress upon human life and thought → online text (page 17 of 21)