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will demand every ounce of strength that is in us and will leave
us little breath for words of self-gratulation. A brigand armed



414 NATIONAL IDEALS AND PROBLEMS

with the panoply of wealth and science is holding the world at
bay. We shall find him mortal, we shall overpower him, and rid
the world of his menace; but we shall know that we did not do
it alone, that against him we should have been all but powerless
alone, and the lesson will be a good one for our self-esteem.
Learning from the British and Gallic veterans, as we must, we
shall come to esteem them as we would esteem ourselves. And
our foe will so tax our powers before we overcome him, will so
rudely shake any over-confidence we may have felt, that in the
victory we shall probably feel thanksgiving without vainglory.
What veteran victor over Prussia will want to come back and
teach his children any form of goosestep? There may have been
a little of that when we declared war, not much, for we had
learned a great deal in three years, but there will probably be
less when it is over. There was some of it in and after our clash
with Spain, because that was more like an excursion than a war.
But the heroes that return from Belgium will be soberer, and
despite the acclamations with which we shall receive them, they
will find us soberer. Let it be hoped that our modesty and our
valor may be equal.

That we may win a great deal more than has been suggested
here, or than can be comprehended by one mind considering so
large a question, need hardly be intimated. To mention one
material benefit, not of the kind, however, that was waived in
our first sentences, we may learn enough about economy, per-
sonal and national, to add greatly to our well-being. At the
least we may hope never again to hear what some of us used to
feel a sort of pride in that one could feed Paris with the food
that New York wastes. At the most we may expect that the
education hi saving which will come to people of all classes in our
spendthrift nation through the Liberty Loans will endure to our
benefit long after the war and possibly within a generation offset
the huge cost of the struggle.

We may gain hi physical manhood, despite heavy losses, by
inuring millions of men to work and air. Until one sees a regi-
ment of raw recruits, and remembers that they are chosen men,
one scarcely realizes how far physical training has been the affair



AFTER THE CONFLICT 415

of the minority in colleges and gymnasiums. For ourselves and
from our Allies we may learn a good deal about organization. If
we have thought well of ourselves in this respect hitherto, we were
usually considering private organizations rather than govern-
mental. Foreigners have often marveled how we could operate
a trust so well and a city or state so badly, and many of us have
marveled, also. With the Government assuming a large share
in the greatest war, in which the control of railroads and of 1
other enterprises is a detail, we shall be more stupid than we
should like to believe if we do not reach a higher mark in cor-
porate management.

For many further benefits we may reasonably hope, and
doubtless others have occurred to the reader. It may be better
for us not to make our prophecies over-specific. Certainly general
gain may be predicted a good deal more confidently than this or
that particular reform. But if the specific prophecy is the more
precarious, it is perhaps also the less important. To say that
gain in general, over and above the attainment of our prime and
unalterable purpose hi the war, may come to us out of all our
tribulation and despite all our losses, to state this for our comfort
somewhat expressly in reply to a vague opinion still persisting
despite of history, that no nation ever goes to war for any reason
with results other than damaging, has been the main purpose of
this article. And not for our comfort merely, but rather that we
may form and foster some idea of what good may come to us,
in the belief that its coming and its permanence may be more
probable if we receptively anticipate it for the land we love.



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