Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

National ideals and problems; essays for college English online

. (page 29 of 39)
Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonNational ideals and problems; essays for college English → online text (page 29 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

shaken, how instantly she is "in irons," in the expressive phrase
of the sea. She is free only when you have let her fall off again
and have recovered once more her nice adjustment to the forces
she must obey and cannot defy.

Human freedom consists in perfect adjustments of human
interests and human activities and human energies.

Now, the adjustments necessary between individuals, be-
tween individuals and the complex institutions amidst which
they live, and between those institutions and the government,
are infinitely more intricate today than ever before. No doubt
this is a tiresome and roundabout way of saying the thing, yet
perhaps it is worth while to get somewhat clearly in our mind
what makes all the trouble today. Life has become complex;
there are many more elements, more parts, to it than ever before.
And, therefore, it is harder to keep everything adjusted and
harder to find out where the trouble lies when the machine gets
out of order.

You know that one of the interesting things that Mr. Jefferson
said in those early days of simplicity which marked the begin-
nings of our government was that the best government consisted
in as little governing as possible. And there is still a sense in
which that is true. It is still intolerable for the government to
interfere with our individual activities except where it is neces-
sary to interfere with them in order to free them. But I feel
confident that if Jefferson were living in our day he would see


what we see: that the individual is caught in a great confused
nexus of all sorts of complicated circumstances, and that to let
him alone is to leave him helpless as against the obstacles with
which he has to contend; and that, therefore, law in our day
must come to the assistance of the individual. It must come to
his assistance to see that he gets fair play; that is all, but that is
much. Without the watchful interference, the resolute inter-
ference, of the government, there can be no fair play between
individuals and such powerful institutions as the trusts. Free-
dom today is something more than being let alone. The pro-
gram of a government of freedom must in these days be posi-
tive, not negative merely.

Well, then, in this new sense and meaning of it, are we pre-
serving freedom in this land of ours, the hope of all the earth?

Have we, inheritors of this continent and of the ideals to
which the fathers consecrated it have we maintained them,
realizing them, as each generation must, anew? Are we, in the
consciousness that the life of man is pledged to higher levels
here than elsewhere, striving still to bear aloft the standards of
liberty and hope, or, disillusioned and defeated, are we feeling
the disgrace of having had a free field in which to do new things
and of not having done them?

The answer must be, I am sure, that we have been in a fair
way of failure tragic failure. And we stand in danger of utter
failure yet except we fulfil speedily the determination we have
reached, to deal with the new and subtle tyrannies according to
their deserts. Don't deceive yourselves for a moment as to the
power of the great interests which now dominate our develop-
ment. They are so great that it is almost an open question
whether the government of the United States can dominate
them or not. Go one step further, make their organized power
permanent, and it may be too late to turn back. The roads
diverge at the point where we stand. They stretch their vistas
out to regions where they are very far separated from one an-
other; at the end of one is the old tiresome scene of government
tied up with special interests; and at the other shines the liber-
ating light of individual initiative, of individual liberty, of in-
T /


dividual freedom, the light of untrammeled enterprise. I believe
that that light shines out of the heavens itself that God has
created. I believe in human liberty as I believe in the wine of
life. There is no salvation for men in the pitiful condescensions
of industrial masters. Guardians have no place in a land of
freemen. Prosperity guaranteed by trustees has no prospect of
endurance. Monopoly means the atrophy of enterprise. If
monopoly persists, monopoly will always sit at the helm of the
government. I do not expect to see monopoly restrain itself.
If there are men in this country big enough to own the govern-
ment of the United States, they are going to own it; what we
have to determine now is whether we are big enough, whether
we are men enough, whether we are free enough, to take posses-
sion again of the government which is our own. We haven't had
free access to it, our minds have not touched it by way of guid-
ance, in half a generation, and now we are engaged in nothing
less than the recovery of what was made with our own hands,
and acts only by our delegated authority.

I tell you, when you discuss the question of the tariffs and
of the trusts, you are discussing the very lives of yourselves and
your children. I believe that I am preaching the very cause of
some of the gentlemen whom I am opposing when I preach the
cause of free industry in the United States, for I think they are
slowly girding the tree that bears the inestimable fruits of our
life, and that if they are permitted to gird it entirely nature will
take her revenge and the tree will die.

I do not believe that America is securely great because she
has great men in her now. America is great in proportion as
she can make sure of having great men in the next generation.
She is rich in her unborn children; rich, that is to say, if those
unborn children see the sun in a day of opportunity, see the sun
when they are free to exercise their energies as they will. If
they open their eyes in a land where there is no special privilege,
then we shall come into a new era of American greatness and
American liberty; but if they open their eyes in a country where
they must be employees or nothing, if they open their eyes in a
land of merely regulated monopoly, where all the conditions of


industry are determined by small groups of men, then they will
see an America such as the founders of this Republic would
have wept to think of. The only hope is in the release of the
forces which philanthropic trust presidents want to monopolize.
Only the emancipation, the freeing and heartening of the vital
energies of all the people will redeem us. In all that I may have
to do in public affairs in the United States I am going to think
of towns such as I have seen in Indiana, towns of the old Ameri-
can pattern, that own and operate their own industries, hope-
fully and happily. My thought is going to be bent upon the
multiplication of towns of that kind and the prevention of the
concentration of industry in this country in such a fashion and
upon such a scale that towns that own themselves will be im-
possible. You know what the vitality of America consists of.
Its vitality does not lie in New York, nor hi Chicago; it will
not be sapped by anything that happens in St. Louis. The vi-
talicy of America lies in the brains, the energies, the enterprise
of the people throughout the land; hi the efficiency of their fac-
tories and in the richness of the fields that stretch beyond the
borders of the town; hi the wealth which they extract from
nature and originate for themselves through the inventive genius
characteristic of all free American communities.

That is the wealth of America, and if America discourages
the locality, the community, the self-contained town, she will
kill the nation. A nation is as rich as her free communities; she
is not as rich as her capital city or her metropolis. The amount
of money in Wall Street is no indication of the wealth of the
American people. That indication can be found only in the fer-
tility of the American mind and the productivity of American
industry everywhere throughout the United States. If America
were not rich and fertile, there would be no money hi Wall
Street. If Americans were not vital and able to take care of
themselves, the great money exchanges would break down.
The welfare, the very existence of the nation, rests at last upon
the great mass of the people; its prosperity depends at last upon
the spirit in which they go about their work in their several
communities throughout the broad land. In proportion as her


towns and her countrysides are happy and hopeful will America
realize the high ambitions which have marked her in the eyes
of all the world.

The welfare, the happiness, the energy and spirit of the men
and women who do the daily work in our mines and factories,
on our railroads, hi our offices and ports of trade, on our farms
and on the sea, is the underlying necessity of all prosperity.
There can be nothing wholesome unless their life is wholesome;
there can be no contentment unless they are contented; Their
physical welfare affects the soundness of the whole nation. How
would it suit the prosperity of the United States, how would it
suit business, to have a people that went every day sadly or
sullenly to their work? How would the future look to you if
you felt that the aspiration had gone out of most men, the
confidence of success, the hope that they might improve their
condition? Do you not see that just so soon as the old self-
confidence of America, just so soon as her old boasted advantage
of individual liberty and opportunity, is taken away, all the
energy of her people begins to subside, to slacken, to grow loose
and pulpy, without fiber, and men simply cast about to see
that the day does not end disastrously with them?

So we must put heart into the people by taking the heartless-
ness out of politics, business, and industry. We have got to
make politics a thing in which an honest man can take his part
with satisfaction because he knows that his opinion will count
as much as the next man's, and that the boss and the interests
have been dethroned. Business we have got to un trammel,
abolishing tariff favors, and railroad discrimination, and credit
denials, and all forms of unjust handicaps against the little man.
Industry we have got to humanize, not through the trusts
but through the direct action of law guaranteeing protection
against dangers and compensation for injuries, guaranteeing
sanitary conditions, proper hours, the right to organize, and all
the other things which the conscience of the country demands as
the workingman's right. We have got to cheer and inspirit our
people with the sure prospects of social justice and due reward,
with the vision of the open gates of opportunity for all. We


have got to set the energy and the initiative of this great people
absolutely free, so that the future of America will be greater
than the past, so that the pride of America will grow with achieve-
ment, so that America will know as she advances from generation
to generation that each brood of her sons is greater and more en-
lightened than that which preceded it, know that she is fulfilling
the promise that she has made to mankind.

Such is the vision of some of us who now come to assist in
its realization. For we Democrats would not have endured this
long burden of exile if we had not seen a vision. We could have
traded; we could have got into the game; we could have sur-
rendered and made terms; we could have played the role of
patrons to the men who wanted to dominate the interests of the
country and here and there gentlemen who pretended to be of
us did make those arrangements. They couldn't stand privation.
You never can stand it unless you have within you some im-
perishable food upon which to sustain life and courage, the food
of those visions of the spirit where a table is set before us laden
with palatable fruits, the fruits of hope, the fruits of imagination,
those invisible things of the spirit which are the only things upon
which we can sustain ourselves through this weary world with-
out fainting. We have carried in our minds, after you had
thought you had obscured and blurred them, the ideals of those
men who first set their foot upon America, those little bands
who came to make a foothold hi the wilderness, because the
great teeming nations that they had left behind them had for-
gotten what human liberty was, liberty of thought, liberty of
religion, liberty of residence, liberty of action.

Since then- day the meaning of liberty has deepened. But it
has not ceased to be a fundamental demand of the human spirit,
a fundamental necessity for the life of the soul. And the day is
at hand when it shall be realized on this consecrated soil a
New Freedom a Liberty widened and deepened to match the
broadened life of man in modern America, restoring to him in
very truth the control of his government, throwing wide all
gates of lawful enterprise, unfettering his energies, and warming
the generous impulses of his heart a process of release, emanci-


pation, and inspiration, full of a breath of life as sweet and
wholesome as tie airs that filled the sails of the caravels of
Columbus and gave the promise and boast of magnificent
Opportunity in which America dare not fail.



[Winston Churchill (1871 ) was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He

was graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1894, but resigned
from the Navy in order to devote himself to writing. He has produced some
ten novels of distinction, several of them dealing with problems of American
life and politics. He has himself taken an active part in politics hi New
Hampshire, the state in which he is now living.]

It has been the complacent custom of the average man to
despise systems of philosophy, to think of them as harmless
speculations made for arm-chairs and leisure. Every once in a
while the world undergoes a rude awakening from this fallacy,
as when it is shaken by a French Revolution. The unrest of the
masses in the eighteenth century, becoming conscious in the
philosophy of the rights of man, lighted a conflagration that took
a quarter of a century to quench and left a transformed world
behind it. And recently we have had once more a terrifying
proof that philosophies, that cultures, may be dynamic.

Those who had seen and studied the German Empire before
the war beheld the spectacle of a nation which, though not
without internal dissensions and party strife, had achieved a
remarkable degree of efficiency and individual contentment;
a nation in which waste had been largely eliminated, hi which
poverty was less prevalent than in the Anglo-Saxon democracies.
Prosperity was more widely diffused. The industrial problem,
hanging menacingly over England and America like an evil
genie above the smoke, in Germany was apparently far on its
way toward solution. The transformation from a loosely knit,

'From Harper's Monthly Magazine, vol. cxxxii, p. 299 (January, 1916). Reprinted
by permission.


over-populated group of states in which there was much misery
and poverty into a rich, self-confident, and aggressive empire
had taken place within a comparatively few years.

It was not until the war broke out that we of the Anglo-
Saxon democracies began to inquire why and how, only to find
to our amazement that this growth was due to a principle at work
among the German people, a philosophy, a Kultur, a leaven with
which they had become saturated. It is not necessary here to
enter into an analysis of this Kultur, or to attempt to pass judg-
ment upon it; apparently it is a development from an odd com-
bination of the systems of many thinkers; it has been shaped by
the needs and environment of a people and is in harmony with
the temperament of that people. Nor is it needful to inquire to
what extent this national philosophy or culture was intellec-
tually conscious. In the early days of our republic the American
was imbued with a racial tradition whose origin goes back to the
Magna Charta; a tradition laying emphasis on individual initi-
ative and individual freedom. It was in our blood, and it made
the British Colonies and the United States of America. The
average Scotch-Irish settler, the western farmer, did not know
any more of Locke or Adam Smith than the German peasant of
today knows of Fichte and Hegel, Nietzsche, von Treitschke,
or Bernhardi. But this American tradition, because of the
change from a simple agricultural and a complex industrial
society, has gradually become obscured.

It is difference in ideas, in views of life, that arouses suspicions
and antagonisms, that leads to conflict between individuals as
well as nations. The emotions, the longings, and aspirations of
a people are expressed by their thinkers in ideas, and ideas lead
to action. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of the German
culture, the revelation of its existence and nature has sharply
aroused thinking Americans to the realization that it is not for us.
Both our traditions and temperament are opposed to it. We are
beginning to grasp the fact that democracy is at stake what-
ever democracy has come to mean.

The opening of the present war found the Anglo-Saxon
democracies in a state of muddle and chaos. Our houses were


not in order. And that we might have to defend our institutions,
such as they were, never seems to have occurred to us. We had
evolved no system of defense in harmony with the nature of our
government, with our traditions we had no system of defense
worthy of the name. And England, save for her navy, was in
the same plight. Prosperity had made many of us smug and
selfish, ready to reap profits out of other people's misfortunes;
we had mistaken the pursuit of wealth for the pursuit of happi-
ness; we were wasteful, and riddled with political corruption.
The rise of modern industry with its introduction of the machine
had changed the face of our civilization, largely swept away the
democracy we had, created a class of economic dependents;
established, indeed, an economic slavery a slavery no less real
than that in which the master was individualized. And that
equality of opportunity, so prevalent when land and resources
were plentiful, had dwindled amazingly. Serious writers agree
that it is growing increasingly difficult for men to rise from the
ranks of the workers, partly because of increasing class solidarity,
partly because of the great denial necessary to acquire sufficient
funds a denial that reacts on the family. Those who do rise
become recruits of a hostile camp the camp of the employer;
and those who do rise seem to be possessed more markedly than
ever of those characteristics so hostile to democratic ideals
hinted at by the author of the "Spoon River Anthology:"

"Beware of the man who rises to power
From one suspender."

We are in the throes of industrial strife, class strife, the very
condition our forefathers who founded this nation hoped to
obviate. We have a large element of our population burning with
a sense of injustice and dependence feelings that partially die
down only to flare up again; an element for the most part un-
educated in any real sense of the word; an element imbued with
crude and non-American ideas as to how this injustice is to be
righted. Their solution is one of class solidarity and revolution,
and they cannot be blamed for advocating it. We must make
up our minds that we shall not have peace or order until equality


of opportunity tends to become restored and dependence elimi-

We shall have to find and put in practice, if democracy is to
endure, a democratic solution of the industrial problem.

It is curious, but true, that it does not seem to have occurred
to us to examine the traditions of our race to see whether these
might not be developed and made as applicable to the problem
of industrial democracy as they had been to that of political
democracy. Our statesmen, in their despair, attempted to solve
the problem by a tendency to adopt a collectivism borrowed from
Central Europe. Indeed, many of the measures passed in Eng-
land and America during the past dozen years are in principle
alien to the American tradition and temperament. Pensions,
for instance, are not compatible with Anglo-Saxon independence
and respect; nor do we take kindly to laws, however benevo-
lent, that hamper the freedom and development of the individual.
Coercion is repugnant to us.

It has been said that the United States of America is no
longer Anglo-Saxon. But I believe that I am in accord with
experience and modern opinion when I say that environment is
stronger than heredity, and that our immigrants become imbued
with our racial individualism at present largely instructive and
materialistic hi quality. Whether our immigration problem is
at present being handled with wisdom and efficiency is quite
another matter.

Professor Dewey quotes a sentence from Heine declaring that
nations have an instinctive presentiment of what is required to
fulfil their missions, and it is quite true that we in America have
such a presentiment, although we have not translated it into a
conscious creed or culture; with us it is little more than a pre-
sentiment, but the war has served to make us realize, that, if
our democracy is to be preserved, its survival must be justified,
it must be efficient. The first essential to such efficiency is that
our philosophy, our spirit and ideals, should be defined, and
secondly that our citizens from the early years of childhood
should be saturated and animated with these principles and
ideals. In short, we must have a culture of American democracy,


and that culture must be in harmony with the character and
temperament and traditions of the nation.

For this reason it becomes essential to examine our character
and traditions, for nations as well as men must first arrive at a
thorough comprehension of their characters before a scheme of
life can be made to fit them. The "presentiment of destiny" lies
hidden in character. The leopard cannot change his spots:
men and nations cannot change their inherent characteristics,
but they can develop and transform these, direct them from
material toward spiritual ends.

Only a little reflection is required to convince any one that
the Anglo-Saxon, and particularly the American, is an individual-
ist. It is said with much truth that we are lawless by nature,
and we have, indeed, very little respect for laws. We are jealous
of control; we are not and never have been a submissive people,
and we could not live under a benevolent government that would
teach us what is good for us. Our forefathers came over here to
live unto themselves, to exercise their own opinions and work
out their own destinies. However unattractive such individual-
ism may appear, we have to make the best of it, to make virtue
out of necessity. All good people contrary to Sunday-school
traditions are not alike. And if we are going to become good,
we must become good in our own way.

When certain American colonists, impatient with British
interference, rebelled against England, they wrote down in
the Declaration of Independence a creed, a philosophy, that was
quite in keeping with Anglo-Saxon temperament, with Anglo-
Saxon ideals as far back as the Magna Charta. Every man is
entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A govern-
ment was necessary, but they were determined to have as little
government as possible, to give the individual the greatest
amount of liberty consistent with any government at all; they
laid stress on individual initiative and development, on self-

Our forefathers were neither saints nor dreamers. They also
were not averse to the accumulation of wealth, and undoubt-
edly they had an eye to the main chance. But there is one truth


that cannot be too emphatically affirmed, that in human affairs
the material and the spiritual are inextricably mixed together,
though one or the other may be preponderant.

In spite of perhaps because of the fact that the American
creed was a magnificent declaration of faith in man, it was
received with derision and laughter in Europe, regarded as
Utopian. Yet we are pledged to it, both by our temperament
and traditions. We cannot do otherwise. We shall have to work
out our destiny along these lines.

But instead of spiritualizing this creed we have steadily

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonNational ideals and problems; essays for college English → online text (page 29 of 39)