Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

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human foresight and tragic compromise; then a young republic,
lacking the instinct of unity, but virile, unlovely, raw, wayward,
in its confident young strength. Some confused decades of sad,
earnest effort to pluck out an evil growth planted in its life by
the hard necessities of compromise by the fathers, but which
needs must blossom into the flower of civil war before it could be
plucked out and thrown to the void. Then young manhood,
nursing its youth, whole and indivisible, proven by trial of fire
and dark days, opening its eye upon a new world of steam and
force, and seizing greedily and selfishly every coign of vantage;
and today the most venerable republic, the richest of nations,
the champion and exemplar of world democracy.

No nation, I venture to assert, was ever born grounded on
so definite and fixed a principle and with so conscious a purpose.
Such a wealth of hope for humanity never before gathered about
a mere political experiment, and such a mass of pure idealism
never before suffused itself into the framework of a state. How
can such a nation so begun, so advanced, so beset, be so guided,
that all of its citizens shall indeed become free men, entering
continually into the possession of intellectual, material, and
moral benefits? How can a people devoted to individualism and
freedom retain that individualism which guarantees freedom and
yet engraft upon their social order that genius for cooperation
which alone insures power and progress? These are the final
interrogatories of democracy as a sane vision glimpses it, robbed
of its earlier illusions. The fathers of this republic did not under-
stand the present mould of democracy. The very word was
obnoxious to them. Their ideal was a state the citizens of which
chose their leaders and then trusted them. They did not fore-
see the socialized state. They did not envisage a minute and
paternal organization of society which may be achieved alike by
Prussian absolutism or mere socialism, which is chronologically,
if not logically, the child of democracy. The fear that tugged at
their hearts was the fear of tyranny, the dread of kings, the
denial of self -direction, which prevented a man from speaking
his opinion or going his way as he willed. Their democracy was
a working government which should give effect to the will of the


people and at the same time provide sufficient safeguard for
individual liberty. The emphasis of the time was everywhere
upon the rights of the individual rather more than upon the
duties of the citizen. When their theories, as Mr. Hadley points
out, seemed likely to secure this result, the fathers published
them boldly; when they seemed likely to interfere, they ignored
them. The creed, then, which had a religious sanction in an age
of moral imagination to men of superb human enthusiasm like
Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams, was the belief that
democracy, considered as individual freedom, was the final form
of human society. It is idle to deny that a century of trial has
somewhat dulled the halo about this ancient concept of democ-
racy, but in my judgment only to men of little faith. It is quite
true that our democracy of today is not what Rousseau thought
it would be, nor Lord Byron, nor Shelley, nor Karl Marx. But
as we meditate about it and conclude that it has not realized all
of its hopes, we ought to try to settle first what it has done and
then place that to its credit. Here are some things that I think
democracy has done, or helped to do. It has abated sectarian
fury. Sectarian fury is ridiculous in this age; it was not always
so. It has abolished slavery. It has protected and enlarged
manhood suffrage, and has gone far toward womanhood suf-
frage. It has mitigated much social injustice. It has devel-
oped a touching and almost sublime faith in the power of
education, illustrating it by expending six hundred million dollars
a year in the most daring thing that democracy has ever tried
to do: namely, to fit for citizenship every human being born
within its borders. It has increased kindness and gentleness, and
thus diminished the fury of partisanship. It has preserved the
form of the Union through the storm of a civil war, and yet has
had power to touch with healing unity and forgiveness its pas-
sions and tragedies. It has conquered and civilized a vast con-
tinent. It has developed great agencies of culture and has some-
how made itself a symbol of individual prosperity. It has
developed a common consciousness and a volunteer statesman-
ship among its free citizens as manifested more strikingly than
elsewhere in the world in great educational, religious, scientific


and philanthropic societies, which profoundly influence and
mould society. Out of what other state could have issued as a
volunteer movement so efficient an agency as the Commission
for the Relief of Belgium or the Rockefeller Sanitary Com-
mission? It has permitted and fostered the growth of a public
press of gigantic power reflecting the crudities and impulses of a
vast and varied population, but charged with a fierce idealism
and staunch patriotism that have almost given it a place among
the coordinate branches of our organized government. It has
stimulated inventive genius and business enterprise to a point
never before reached in human annals. It has brought to Ameri-
can-mindedness millions of men of all races, creeds, and ideals.
I do not, therefore, think that democracy as it has evolved
among us has failed. What autocracy on earth has done as much?
It has justified itself of the sufferings and sacrifices and the
dreams of the men who established it in this new land. But it
has also without doubt, by the very trust that it places in men,
developed new shapes of temptations and wrong-doing. Democ-
racy, like a man's character, is never clear out of danger. The
moral life of men, said Froude, is like the flight of a bird in the
air; he is sustained only by effort, and when he ceases to exert
himself he falls. And the same, it seems to me, is impressively
true of institutional and governmental life.

Patriotism which is hard to define and new with every age
and public spirit which is hard to define and new with every
age must constantly redefine themselves. Patriotism meant
manhood's rights when Washington took it to his heart. It
somehow spelled culture, refinement and distinction of mind
when Emerson in his Phi Beta Kappa address besought the
sluggish intellect of his country to look up from under its iron
lids. It signified national ideals and theories of government to
the soldiers of Lee and to the soldiers of Grant. It meant indus-
trial greatness and a splendid desire to annex nature to man's
uses when the great business leaders of this generation and of
the last generation built up their great businesses and tied the
Union together hi a unity of steel and steam more completely
than all the wars could do, and did it with a patriotism and a


statesmanship and an imagination that no man can deny. The
honest businessman needs somebody to praise him. He has
done a great service in this country, and when he is steady and
honest there is no greater force hi all our life. A decade ago
patriotism in America meant a reaction from an unsocial and
selfish individualism to restraint and consideration for the general
welfare, expressing itself in a cry for moderation and fairness and
justice and sympathy hi the use of power and wealth as the
states of spirit and mind that alone can safeguard republican
ideals. The emphasis, as I have said, was formerly on the rights
of man; it is getting to be placed, as Mazzini preached, upon the
duties of man. If in our youth and feverish strength there had
grown up a spirit of avarice and a desire for quick wealth, and
a theory of life in lesser minds that estimated money as every-
thing and was willing to do anything for money, that very fact
served to define the patriotic duty and mood of the national
mind. This reawakened patriotism of the common good had the
advantage of appeal to a sound public conscience, and of being
supported by a valid public opinion. The part that vulgar cun-
ning has played in creating great fortunes has been made known
to this democracy and they are coming to know the genuine
from the spurious, and some who were once looked at with ad-
miration and approval as great ones, are not now seen in that

This very growth in discernment gave us power to see in a
nobler and truer light, for the people of America, the names of
those upright souls hi business and in politics and there are
many noble men hi business and politics who have held true
hi a heady time and who have kept clean and kept human their
public sympathies and their republican ideals and by so doing
have kept sweet then* country's fame. Democracy simply had
met and outfaced one of the million moral crises that are likely
to assail free government, and I believe that it is cleaner today
in ruling passion, in motive, and in practice than it has been in
fifty years.

It is now clear to all minds that the movement of our business
operations in this republic, unregulated and proceeding along


individualistic lines, had come perilously near to developing a
scheme of monopoly and a union of our political machinery with
the forces of private gain that might easily have transformed our
democracy into some ugly form of tyranny and injustice. We
have halted this tendency somewhat tardily, but resolutely, and
the nerves of the Nation were somewhat shaken by the very
thought of what might have been, very much as a man gazes
with gratitude and yet with fear upon a hidden precipice over
which his pathway led. We had been saying over and over to
ourselves with fierce determination that this nation should
remain democratic, and should not become plutocratic or auto-
cratic or socialistic; and we should find the way to guarantee
this. All about us were heard the voices of those who thought
they saw the way and who were beckoning men to follow, but
new dangers faced us, however, even as we left the ancient high-
way and attempted to cut new paths, for in endeavoring to make
it possible for democracy, as we understood it, and a vast
industrialism, as we had developed it, to live together justly
under the same political roof, we had plainly come to a point
where there was danger of our government developing into a
system of state socialism in conflict with our deepest tradi-
tions and convictions. The leadership of the future, therefore,
would have a triple problem to protect the people against
privilege, to raise the levels of democratic living, and to pre-
serve for the people the ancient guarantees and inestimable
advantages of representative government and individual

You will observe that I have thus far spoken as a citizen
preoccupied with the thoughts of that ancient world which
ended on August i, 1914, and I have not permitted myself to
align and examine in full the perils and weaknesses of democratic
society as they had manifested themselves under conditions of
peace and apparent prosperity. These weaknesses had already
begun, under the strain of ordinary industrial life, to reveal
themselves under five general aspects, each aspect being in
essence a sort of revulsion or excess of feeling from what were
considered definite political virtues:


1. A contempt of obedience as a virtue too closely allied to


2. A disregard of discipline as smacking too much of docility.

3. An impatience with trained technical skill as seeming to
affirm that one man is not so good as another.

4. A failure to understand the value of the common man as
a moral and political asset and an inability to coordinate educa-
tion to daily life as a means of forwarding national ends and

5. A crass individualism which exalted self and its rights
above society and the solemn social obligation to cooperate for
the common good.

The theory of democracy which alone among great human
movements had known no setback for a century of time, was
fast becoming self-critical and disposed to self-analysis, and
especially in America these fundamental weaknesses were being
assailed in practical forms. The liberal or progressive movement
in our politics was striking at the theory of crass individualism,
and after the unbalanced fashion of social reform was moving
toward pure democracy of state socialism in the interest of com-
munal welfare. Our old, original, intense American individualism,
shamed by its ill-governed cities and lack of concern for popular
welfare, had passed forever. Socialism, considered as a paternal
form of government, exercising strict regulation over men's lives
and destroying individual energy and initiative, was still feared
and resisted; but the social goal of democracy was becoming
even by the most conservative, to be considered the advance-
ment and improvement of society by a protection of life and
health, by a reformation of educational methods and by a large
amount of governmental control of fundamentals for the com-
mon good. A multitude of laws, ranging from laws governing
milk for babies, to public parks and free dispensaries and vast
corporations, attested the vigor of this new attitude. And
strange to say this new spirit was not wholly self -begotten.
Plutocracy, with its common sense, its economies and hatred of
waste, its organization and its energy, had taught us much.
We, too, had caught a spirit from what we used to call effete


Europe. Australia taught us how to vote; Belgium, Germany,
and England that there was a democracy adapted to city and
factory as well as to the farm and countryside.

The forces of education were pleading the cause of team work
in modern life, scientifically directed, not by amateurs and
demagogues, but by experts and scientists, whether in city
government or public hygiene or scientific land culture, while
seriousness and self-restraint were everywhere the themes of
public teachers, pleading for order and organization as an ideal
of public welfare, nearly as vital as liberty and self-direction.
And then, without warning, fell out this great upheaval of the
world, so vast, so fundamental, despite its sordid and stupid
beginnings, that the dullest among us must dimly realize that
a new epoch has registered itself in human affairs. War is a
great pitiless flame. It sweeps its fiery torch along the ways of
men, destroying but renovating, killing but quickening, and
even amid its horrors of corruption and death leaving white
ashes cleanly and fertile. War is also a ghastly mirror in which
actualities and ideals and tendencies reflect themselves in awful
vividness. Who caused this war, who will be aggrandized by
tLis war its triumphs and humiliations are important and
moving, but not vital questions. The fundamental question is
what effect will its reactions have upon that movement of the
human spirit called democracy, begun so simply, advanced so
steadfastly, yesterday acclaimed as the highest development of
human polity, but today already being sneered at and snarled
at by a host of enemies. Will war, the harshest of human facts,
destroy, weaken, modify, or strengthen essential democracy?
It is my conviction that the Allies in this struggle are fighting
for democracy at least for the brand of democracy with which
my spirit is familiar and which my soul has learned to love.
Once more in the great human story, the choice is being made
between contrasting civilizations, between ideals and institu-
tions, between liberty and the lesser life. Every drop of my
blood leaps to sympathy with those peoples who, heedless of
inexorable efficiency, dream a mightier dream of an order directed
by justice, invigorated by freedom, instinct with the higher hap-


piness of individual liberty, self-directed to reason and coo'pera-
tion. "For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life if freedom
fail?" The very weaknesses of democratic government under
the crucial test of war appeal to me. The tutelage of democracy
breeds love of justice, the methods of persuasion and debate,
and a conception of life which makes it sweet to live and in a
way destroys the temperament for war, until horror and wrong
and reversion to type create anew the savage impulse. Whatever
way victory falls, democracy is destined to stand its trial, and to
be submitted to a merciless cross-examination by the mind and
spirit of man. It may and will yield up some of its aspirations;
it will seize and adapt some of the weapons of its foes; it may
relinquish some of its ancient theories and methods; it will shed
some of its hampering weaknesses; but it will still remain democ-
racy, and it is the king, the autocrat, and the mechanical state
which will suffer in the end rather than the common man who,
in sublime loyalty to race and flag, is now reddening the soul of
Europe with his blood, or the great principle which has fascinated
every generous thinking soul since freedom became the heritage
of man.

The Germans are a mighty race, fecund in physical force and
organizing genius. Like the French of 1789, they are now more
possessed with a group of passionate creative impulses than any
other nation. This grandiose idealism, for such it is, seems to me
reactionary, but it is held with a sort of thrilling devotion and
executed with undoubted genius. Nineteen hundred and fourteen
is for the Prussians a sort of Prussian Elizabethan age, in which
vast dreams and ideas glow in the hearts and minds of Teutonic
Raleighs, Drakes, and Grenvilles, ready to die for them. The
ideal of organization, the thought of a great whole uniting its
members for effective work in building a powerful state, and the
welding of a monstrous federal union of nations akin in interest
and civilizations possess the Germanic mind. For the German
the individual exists for the state, and his concept of the state
is far more beautiful and spiritual than we Americans generally
imagine. The state is to be the resultant of the best thought
and efforts of all its units. They have a glorious concept of com-


munal welfare, but to them parliamentarism is frankly a disease
and suffrage a menace. To them, and I am quoting a notable
German scholar, "democracy is a thing, infirm of purpose,
jealous, timid, changeable, unthorough, without foresight,
blundering along in an age of lucidity guided by confused in-
stincts." On the whole Germany is probably better governed in
external forms than the United States or England. The material
conditions of her people are better, her cities cleaner, her econo-
mies finer, her social life better administered, and her power to
achieve amazing results under the fiercest of tests nearly marvel-
ous. The world cannot and probably will not reject as vile all
this German scholarship, concentration, and scientific power.
The world may either slavishly imitate Germany, or wisely
modify or set up a contrary system overtopping the German
ideal in definite accomplishment, according to the inclination of
the scales of victory. The fatality of the German nation is
that it does not behold the world as it is. It beholds its ideals
and is logic-driven to their achievement. It has gone from the
sand waste of Brandenburg to world-power by force and the
will to do, and by force and will it seeks its will and hacks its
way through. It is enslaved by the majesty of plan and pre-
cision the power of concert. Napoleon, "that ablest of historic
men," as Lord Acton called him, tried all this once and failed.
But here it all is again, with its weapons of flame and force.
Germany, apparently, does not understand the fair doctrine of
live and let live. Pride sustains its soul, and ambition directs its
energy. In spite of all these concrete achievements Germany
does not seem to me a progressive nation, but rather a Giant of
Reaction a sort of mixture, as someone has called it, of Ancient
Sparta and Modern Science. And it is well to hold in mind that
this mass-efficiency is brought to pass by subjecting even in the
minutest particulars the individual to the supreme authority of
the state. This subjection is scientific, well-meant, but very

The flaw of democracy is that it does understand and sym-
pathize with the soul of man, but is so sympathetic with his
yearning for free self-government and self-direction, so opposed


to force as a moulding agent, so jealous of initiative, that it
has not yet found the binding thread of social organization by
which self-government and good government become one and
the same thing. Let us confess that "Les mceurs de la liberte' 1
cannot be the manners of absolutism. Debate, political agitation,
bold, popular expression, are not the methods of smooth precision
and relentless order. Napoleon revealed to the world the demo-
cratic passion and passed off the stage. Perhaps it is the destiny
of the Prussian to teach us administration and order and to
put us in the way of finding and achieving it without sacrificing
our liberties, and then he, too, will pass.

To work out a free democratic, socialized life, wherein the
individual is not lost in a metaphysical super-state, nor sunk hi
inaction and selfishness, by inducing desire for such life, by
applying trained intelligence to its achievement, and by sub-
jecting ourselves to the tests and disciplines that will bring it to
pass that is the task of American democracy and indeed of a
fuller, deeper world-wide democracy. The center of gravity of
the autocratic state is in the state itself, and in such ideals as
self-anointed leaders suggest. The effect of the democracy has
been to shift the center of gravity too much to the individual
self and his immediate welfare.

There must be a golden mean somewhere and we must find
it. When the great readjustment dawns, when the gaping
wounds of war have healed, all the world will be seeking this
golden mean. The social democrat of Germany, who is silent
now in his splendid National devotion, will be seeking it; the
Russian peasant, inarticulate, mystic, reflective; the Frenchman
with his clear brain and forward-looking soul; the Englishman
wrapped in his great tradition. Perhaps hi our untouched and
undreamed vigor, we shall become the champions of the great

; There would be fitness in such a result. Here continental
democracy was born; here it has grown great upon an incom-
parable soil and with enormous waste. Let us prepare for our
colossal moral and practical responsibilities hi the world life,
therefore, not alone by preparing commonsense establishments


of force on land and sea, until such time as human reason shall
deem them not needed, but by the greater preparedness of self-
restraint, self-analysis, and self-discipline. Let us not surrender
our age-long dream of good, just self-government to any mechan-
ical ideal of quickly obtaining material results erected into a
crude dogma of efficiency. Democracy must know how to get
material results economically and quickly. Democracy must
and can be organized to that end, and this organization will un-
doubtedly involve certain surrenders, certain social and political
self-abnegations in the interests of collectivism. But I hold the
faith that all this can be done yet, retaining in the family of
freedom that shining jewel of individual liberty which has
glowed in our life since the beginning. The great democratic
nations America, England, France, Switzerland have before
them, therefore, the problem of retaining their standards of
individual liberty, and yet contriving juster and finer adminis-
trative organs. Certainly the people that have built this Union
can learn how to coordinate the activities of its people and obtain
results as definite as those obtained under systems of mere

Since my college days I have been hearing about and admir-
ing the German genius for research, for adaptation of scientific
truth and for organization. Now the whole world stands half
astonished and half envious of their creed of efficiency. In so far
as this creed is opposed to slipshodness and waste, it is altogether
good, but the question arises, Is the ability to get things done
well deadly to liberty, or is it consistent with personal liberty?

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonNational ideals and problems; essays for college English → online text (page 31 of 39)