Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

National ideals and problems; essays for college English online

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materialized it, we have mistaken the pursuit of happiness for
the pursuit of wealth; we have failed to grasp the truth that
happiness lies and lies alone in self-realization; that the ac-
quisition of wealth, that the triumph of man over nature, is
merely accessory to happiness.

The creed is deeply religious in its sublime trust in man, its
confidence that he will not pursue false gods forever, that he will
come at length to a realization of the futility of the purely
material, and that he will turn at last voluntarily and make his
contribution to the whole. I should like to emphasize that
word voluntarily, because it is the most significant in democracy.
We are a nation of volunteers; we do not wish to be forced into
serving our government, but to do so of our own free will.
This does not mean that voluntary service is unorganized service.

Our creed infers also that before we can have efficiency in
government we must have self-control in individuals. It differs
from the German culture in that it implies development and
ultimate unity through differentiation, and a belief that that
nation is the richest nation which contains the most highly
developed and richest individuals. National wealth, both mater-
ial and spiritual, grows out of the self-realization of citizens and
their voluntary contributions to the nation.

American democracy, then, as I have said, confesses its
trust in mankind, and if we open our eyes we may see about us
no lack of experiments throughout the republic in which this
trust in humanity is being more or less justified. Many of our
universities and some of our public schools have adopted a


qualified system of self-government, and our faith is such that
we are even applying it, and not without encouragement, to the
prison system. Trust is the despair of politicians.

Democracy must, from its very nature, evolve its own truths
from experience and traditions, and can accept no external
authority. It is an adventure. It is never safe otherwise the
element of faith would be eliminated from it. It grows as the soul
grows, through mistakes and suffering. Nevertheless, there is
in it some guiding principle of progress that is constant, and with
which its citizens should be imbued and inspired. I am speaking
of an American culture, using it in the German sense of Kultur.
To quote Professor Dewey again: Culture, according to Kant,
differs from civilization in this, that civilization is a natural and
largely unconscious or involuntary growth, the by-product of
the needs engendered when people live close together, while
culture is deliberate and conscious, the fruit not of men's natural
motives, but of natural motives transformed by the inner spirit.
Observe the word transformed.

The spirit of democracy, the philosophy of democracy, needs
to be developed and made conscious in order that we may grad-
ually transform our material individualism into a spiritual
individualism. Thus the pursuit of happiness becomes the
struggle for self-realization; thus the riches and the gifts devel-
oped are devoted, voluntarily, to the good of the whole. There
is no coercion, but a spirit. Competition becomes emulation,
such as we see now among scientists, or in that finer element of
the medical profession that bends all its energies for the benefit
of humanity. Trust is the order of the day. Individual initiative
is stimulated rather than paralyzed, and the citizen contributes
to government rather than attempts to compel government to
contribute to him.

All this does not make organization any the less necessary.
It does not mean that the volunteer must not be trained. Quite
the contrary. But it does mean that the volunteer must grow up
conscious of the traditions of his country, instilled with the
spirit of its institutions.

As has been said, it would seem of late years that there has


been a tendency to lose faith in the virtue of the principles of
American democracy to right wrongs, to cure the evils that
modern industrialism has brought in its tram. A marked senti-
ment has arisen, demanding that government be given strong
coercive powers to be exercised on behalf of and for the protec-
tion of the economically dependent. Such legislation is class
legislation it either takes for granted that an economically
dependent class is inevitable, or else that the members of the
dependent order will gradually be emancipated, not as individ-
uals, but as a class. From the point of view of our traditions it is
quite as subversive as legislation in favor of the economically
powerful. Vicious as this undoubtedly is, it has been to a large
extent extra-legal and therefore within the bounds of cure.

That an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure may be
taken as a cardinal motto of our democracy. We are, of course,
face to face at present with a condition and not a theory, and we
have today the anomalous situation of a political quasi-democ-
racy upon which an economic oligarchy has been superimposed
we have an economically dependent class that has only the
choice between masters, as Herbert Croly in his Progressive
Democracy points out; a class whose members as individuals
have no command over the conditions in which they shall work;
and the fact that these conditions are often dictated by labor
unions does not emancipate the individual. In such a case we
are as far from American democracy as ever. Old-age pensions,
minimum-wage laws, workingmen's compensation acts, may, in
the muddle we have got into, be necessary to secure a temporary
measure of justice, but fundamentally they are not American.
Conscription was necessary in our Civil War, but conscription
is not in harmony with Anglo-Saxon democracy. The laws I
have mentioned are poultices and not cures, inasmuch as they
do not go to the root of the evil. These laws confess no ultimate
trust in human nature; they assume that a situation will always
exist wherein the powerful will take advantage over the weak
unless a strong government steps in to restrain them.

Democracy is contributive; it does not receive favors from
its government, but confers them. And the tendency to throw

the onus of support on government is not to create a self-reliant
people, nor a self-respecting, resourceful, and inventive people.
Labor tends to become routine; there is no pride in it. Unless
labor is emancipated from its condition of dependence, unless
we restore dignity and pride in work, and begin to reestablish
that comparative equality of opportunity that once existed
when this country had wide, empty lands and unclaimed re-
sources, our republic will go on the rocks. Of this we may be
sure. It cannot continue to exist half slave and half free. Unless
our citizens without distinction of class are awakened to the
danger and instilled with the spirit of our traditions, we shall
have a class revolution, and that means collectivism with all
its leveling influences. Collectivism does not tend to produce
the rich individual, because initiative is destroyed. Class
solidarity in a class struggle against injustice has indeed its
ennobling influence, but it is a very different thing from what
Americans understand as patriotism. Moreover, the character-
istics of this class struggle in its earlier stages is that of the barter
of one kind of property for another and so long as labor is
regarded as property it can never have any true dignity or dis-
tinction. The struggle, in spite of the heights in sacrifice often
attained to by working men and women on strike, in spite of
their physical and moral sufferings, is founded fundamentally on
material issues. The great mass of working people are at present
uneducated in any true sense, and therefore their ambitions,
once gained, are apt to be satisfied with purely material comforts.
A proof of this may be found in the fact that in times of pros-
perity, when work is plentiful and wages high, the labor agitator
generally preaches to deaf ears unless the employees can be con-
vinced that the employer is taking too large a share of the profits.

What, then, is the American solution? It depends absolutely
upon the elimination of the class spirit from our body politic.

Let us examine once more the theory of our state. We find
in it certain fundamental principles in harmony with our
national and racial character, and our general conclusion is,
therefore, that we shall achieve no progress by breaking with
traditions, but on the other hand these traditions must be


developed to cope with new conditions that arise and confront us,
conditions for which no man or set of men are to blame. One of
these new conditions is this, that instead of a sparsely settled
land fabulously rich in resources, with plenty of room for all
who might come, we have today a population of a hundred million
and the resources largely taken up and exploited. The day of the
pioneer is past; the day of the administrator is at hand; hus-
bandry and efficiency must take the place of waste. In former
times, when lands and resources were plentiful, a large equality
of opportunity existed, and equality of opportunity is the very
foundation stone of American individualism. Indeed, it may be
said that the state did guarantee this equality hi not seizing the
lands and resources for herself, but in throwing them open to
her citizens.

A logical development, therefore, of the American doctrine,
if indeed it be a development rather than application to new
conditions, is that the state should guarantee equality of oppor-
tunity in a modern industrial commonwealth. And this guarantee
of a fair start may be said to be the one positive function hi the
theory of the American state. All other adjustments, the right-
ing of injustices and wrongs, must be left to the workings of the
American democratic spirit in the citizens themselves, must
depend upon the extent to which the body politic is saturated
with this spirit. It is in truth what may be called a big order.
But there is no other way out for us.

It is a fact of profound significance that American demo-
cracy from its very beginning instinctively laid stress on uni-
versal education, and foreign travelers who came a hundred
years ago to study our curious institutions were struck by
the extent to which cultivation had permeated our citizenship.
A self-governing people must be intelligent. And be it noted
what was largely meant by education was the adequate prepara-
tion of the young for intelligent participation in the life and
affairs of the nation as it then existed.

An almost incredible change has taken place since then.
Our simple republic has become a complex commonwealth. And
we must bear in mind that the final justification for the existence


of this commonwealth must be that of creating material wealth
for spiritual ends. An industrial commonwealth does not imply
mere utilitarianism; the analogy of the bee and the hive does not
hold. Life is not without its graces; existence is a rounded thing.
Literature and art are not alone for the privileged, but are made
more and more democratic, are part and parcel of the education
of all, while religion is inherent in government itself, in harmony
with it the contributive spirit of the whole.

A new system of education based on psychology, on scientific
principles, an education for life in a modern industrial democracy,
is being put into practice in various parts of the United States,
and is destined ultimately to supplant the old system. Educa-
tion in its very nature is selective, but what may be called the
new education is not that which we know as vocational, which is
class education. It does not undertake to educate the workman
for a workman. It is based on the American theory that every
citizen, whatever his future calling may be, must be made familiar
with the development of industry, with the development of
government, of art and literature and religion, from the earliest
times up to the present. This is not so difficult as it seems. It
is an education in the principles of growth, in the social develop-
ment of humanity. It is analogous to the physical and individual
development of humanity from the egg. It is an education in
truth, in science, and in straight thinking.

Industrially the modern steel-mill is an evolution from the
village blacksmith's shop and foundry, just as a modern textile-
mill is an evolution from the home spinning-wheel and loom on
the farm. These industries have been taken out of the home,
the blacksmith-shop and the foundry are no longer familiar
village spectacles. What was a part of the education of the
individual outside of the school has now, perforce, become a
part of the general educational task.

The new education is based on the sound principle of the
direct application of thought to action, of passing from the
concrete to the abstract rather than from the abstract to the
concrete. The uses of knowledge are held up as incentives to its
acquirement. The child learns to read because he loves stories;


he learns arithmetic and weights and measures because he wishes
to build a house; while the practice of a measure of self-govern-
ment in school leads to a grasp of its value in democracy.

Presently the future citizen discovers what he can do best,
to select the particular service in life for which nature has
fitted him. It may not be an important service, he may
not be equipped by nature for a leader. But he has had his
opportunity. The state has given it to him. The opportunity
does not necessarily cease when his early education has been
finished, since some individuals develop late. But under such a
system no citizen is able to say that he has not had a chance
to develop what is in him, and thus the element of discontent is
removed at its source. He is, so far as the state can make him
such, a rounded individual; he has learned to use his hands and
his head, and to appreciate the finer things in life.

It is quite true that men will not work except for a prize;
the personal possession of property is essential, but if the prize
has not a spiritual aspect it is dross. In so far as work itself is
the prize, in so far as the achieved gift is a contribution, and a
voluntary contribution, to humanity it is worthy of individual

Education founded on these principles instills patriotism in-
stead of class feeling, and strikes at the very root of the tendency
toward class solidarity and class strife. And it implies, further-
more, a truer conception of democracy than that held in Jack-
son's day a democracy of leadership combined with responsi-
bility. The choice inolividuals are developed with the least
possible resentment.

Guaranteed education is therefore a fundamental principle
in American democracy, but before leaving the subject, it is well,
in addition to dwelling upon the significance of experiments such
as the Gary schools, to call attention to another experiment, that
of education in detail, which is being tried along traditional
American lines at Schenectady and Cincinnati and other places
in this country. Here, at Union College and the University of
Cincinnati, education is directly connected with industry, the
theoretical knowledge acquired in the college or university


immediately applied by the students in the great manufacturing
establishments whose properties lie adjacent. Thus students who
prove their ability are actually in the industry and in line for
rapid advancement. They are familiar with its theory as well
as with its processes.

Lastly, students learn in the schools and universities to value
the principles of American democracy to such an extent that they
are willing to defend them, to fight if necessary for the right of
self-development that is the American heritage. Even as the
industrial army of the future must be recruited from educated
citizens rather than from raw and ignorant masses, so must the
military forces of the republic. It is a question whether militarism
ever was or ever will be an American trait; but those who fear it,
who are apprehensive that a large army will create a dangerous,
high-handed ruling caste, need have no dread of such a caste if
our army is organized in harmony with democratic principles.

The American democratic state, then, has but the one positive
function, that of guaranteeing to each of its citizens a fair start
since the protection of rights is merely negative. The emphasis
is laid on the spirit, the trust is put in the spirit, not in the law.
Enlightened self-interest is the old and much-ridiculed phrase; an
illuminating phrase, nevertheless; individual initiative and the
satisfaction of individual achievement remain; the self-interest
remains also, but transformed by enlightenment and made con-
tributory to the interests of the whole. Here is precisely the
paradox of Christianity: "He that findeth his life shall lose it,
and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it."

It is no wonder, indeed, that such a political creed as our fore-
fathers composed seemed to Europe impractical and Utopian.
Thus analyzed, it must seem to many Utopian today. That our
Anglo-Saxon theory of democracy is no short cut to the millen-
nium is quite evident, and if democracy is to have any approach
to perfection, that comparative perfection must be one of growth,
not of achievement. A satisfaction in development rather than
in achievement seems to be the principle of life.

Congress and state legislatures may pass coercive laws in
the hope of securing a crude justice, but it has been well said that


there never was a law that a coach and four couldn't be driven
through. We Americans are skilful coach-drivers, and coach-
driving through laws as obstacles has been the pastime and
delight of many corporation lawyers. Public opinion must pre-
cede laws and not follow them. The truth may as well be faced
that our salvation depends absolutely on what is called public
opinion, and public opinion is only another name for the demo-
cratic spirit or culture with which our electorate must be satu-

For those who have eyes to see, however, there are signs in
various quarters of the growth of this spirit, and these may be
taken as concrete illustrations of its workings. There is a senti-
ment, for instance, in favor of what we call "prohibition"
an example of the extreme that is apt to precede moderation.
The moderate term, of course, is temperance, for temperance
implies self-control. Wave after wave of "prohibition" has swept
over the country, leaving some states to use the vivid expres-
sion high and dry. Whatever of value there is hi this sentiment
is the result of a conviction dawning on our people that alcoholic
beverages are what modern economics aptly call tilth, in contra-
distinction to wealth. The educated citizen of a democracy must
become familiar with the deteriorating effects of alcohol, its
influence on hand and brain and the consequent loss in individual
service, as well as the degeneracy and insanity that follow its
excessive use. A people who have been deprived of alcohol by a
benevolent government will undoubtedly be a saner and healthier
people, but they will neither be as intelligent nor as efficient nor
as developed as that people which ultimately arrives at the know-
ledge as to why alcohol is harmful and paralyzing to efficiency,
and which voluntarily deprives itself of it. Here is the principle
of democracy hi a nutshell. A public opinion is gradually created
by an educative process, and laws follow it as a matter of course.
On the other hand, "prohibition" that has not an educated
public opinion behind it is a laughing-stock, as the experience of
some of our states hi New England and elsewhere has proved.

There is a new spirit in the universities, a healthier and
sounder public opinion than existed at the end of the nineteenth


century; a new interest in and knowledge of government and
enthusiasm for democracy, with a desire to share its tasks and
responsibilities. The response to the call of the training-camps
at Plattsburg and elsewhere is an encouraging indication of it.

Peculiarly significant, however, is the birth of this new spirit
among employers of labor an indication that emulation may
replace competition. There is no need to be cynical on this score,
to insist that the men who control great corporations and com-
binations of capital have been frightened out of many practices
in which they hitherto have indulged. There can be no question
that the public attitude toward these practices has changed,
and it would be stupid and un-American to maintain that this
opinion has not permeated the element that employs labor,
and made them more American also. This emulative spirit, this
indication of the dawning of enlightened self-interest, this will-
ingness to put a shoulder to the wheel, is at present more
marked among employers of the large corporations. But it
will spread, and is spreading. Even as we have today in the
medical profession an association, an emulative body of medical
opinion purifying that profession of quackery and fraud and
strictly commercial practice, even as we have among the
lawyers bar associations, so we shall have among business
men and employers a growing element that sets its face against
practices hitherto indulged in, making these practices more and
more difficult of accomplishment by the remnant. When
employers of their own initiative take steps to insure the safety
and health of their employees, and at their own risk make experi-
ments that tend toward the ultimate establishment of industrial
democracy, toward giving the working man a share and interest
in the industry, labor must respond. Little by little individual
animosities are broken down and class animosity is weakened.
It makes no difference if these experiments with a view to indus-
trial democracy do not meet the demands of extremists; it makes
no difference whether motives are mixed if the good be predomi-
nant. If the spirit is there, we may trust to its working. Our
watchwords must be patience and faith, faith that our great
problem of industrial democracy will one day be solved by the


same principle of equality of opportunity, by the same trust in
man that solved for us the problem of political democracy.

A nation saturated with the conviction that all should have an
equal chance, imbued with this volunteer, emulative spirit
instilled by education and growing out of experience, cannot
ultimately go wrong. Let us therefore make our individual con-
tributions, and be assured that it is better to give than to receive.


[Edwin Anderson Alderman (1861 ) was born in Wilmington, North

Carolina. He was educated at the University of North Carolina, and was
for several years a teacher in the public schools of North Carolina. He has
been successively professor of pedagogy at the University of North Caro-
lina, president of the University of North Carolina, president of Tulane
University, and, since 1904, president of the University of Virginia. He has
been strongly interested in political and social questions, and his addresses,
delivered with the accomplishments of a finished orator, have been brilliant
discussions of many important questions. The selection here given was
originally an address before the North Carolina Literary and Historical
Society in 1915.]

The United States of America is one of the oldest govern-
ments on earth. England and Russia alone, among the nations
of Europe, equal it in age, and even England has undergone
such radical changes in the past century, as compared with the
United States, as to constitute us, with our unchanged govern-
ment since 1789, the most stable of modern nations. Our near-
ness to the perspective and our absorption in our own life have
blinded us to the inspiring National panorama, as it has unfolded
itself before the world. First, a group of rustic communities,
making common cause in behalf of ancient guarantees of English
freedom; then suspicious colonies, unused to the ways of democ-
racies, striving after some bond amid the clash of jealous inter-
ests; then a wonderful paper- writing, compact of high sense and

iFrom Proceedings of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Society, 1915,
Reprinted by permission.

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonNational ideals and problems; essays for college English → online text (page 30 of 39)