Copyright
Theodore W. (Theodore Whitefield) Hunt.

Timely topics online

. (page 1 of 16)
Online LibraryTheodore W. (Theodore Whitefield) HuntTimely topics → online text (page 1 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


TIMELY TOPICS

THEODORE W. HUNT



a



K



^



TIMELY TOPICS



TIMELY TOPICS



BY



THEODORE WHITEFIELD HUNT

PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH. EMERITUS
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY



PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS
PRINCETON

LONDON: HUMPHREY MILFORD

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

1921



Copyright, 1921, by
Princeton University Press

Published, 1921
Printed in the United States of America




PREFACE

In these brief papers it is proposed to present a series of
vital discussions on vital topics — topics in part growing out
of the World War, but mainly those of a fundamental
and permanent interest, in the rapidly developing life of the
modern world. To a limited extent educational, they are
mainly topics of civic interest — national and international —
the object being to assume a desirable and tenable position
between radical extremes, and in a sane and sensible manner
to investigate and interpret those pressing and practical
problems which confront the country and the civilized world
at large.

T. W. Hunt.

Princeton, June I, 1921.



TABLE OF CONTENTS
I

PAGE

Democracy and Its Limitations i

The Costly Benefits of War 6

The Return of Peace 1 1

The New Era 16

The New Era in Higher Education 20

The International Mind 26

II

The Call for Civic Leadership 30

The Call for College Men in the Business World 35

The Problems and Responsibilities of Peace 40

Justifiable Compromise 47

Martial Qualities in Civic Life 52

The Value of Meliorism 58

The Mission of the Middle Classes 63

The Growth of Liberalism 70

III

America's Need of Statesmen 77

The American Forum of To-day 83

Constructive Processes 88

National Rights and National Duties 94

Level-Headedness 101

Rational Reform 107

International Leagues 112

vii



viii Table of Contents

IV

PAGE

The Puritan Legacy to America 121

Democracy on Trial 129

National Loyalty 139

Great Historic Movements 147

The Recent Revival of Learning 155

The Emphasis of Principles in Liberal Education 162

The Modern Age of Unrest 168

V

The Academic Point of View 177

Successful Teaching 183

The Office and The Man 189

Eras of Reaction 197

A Needed Revival of Conscience 205

The Maintenance of Standards 216



TIMELY TOPICS



DEMOCRACY AND ITS LIMITATIONS

Thirty years ago, Professor Fiske published a volume
under the title — "The Critical Period in American History."
If, at that date, the conditions were critical what shall be
said of the America of to-day, at the close of the World
War! It is the world as a whole that has arrived at the
most critical era in its history. So momentous have been
the evolutions and revolutions of the last decade that they
are nothing less than dramatic and that on the side of trag-
edy. History has become histrionic.

To examine these pending and confusing issues in a
judicial and dispassionate temper demands the wisdom of
the wisest. The world is at its crisis and the crisis must
be met. Two or three fundamental considerations may be
cited :



THE DEMOCRATIC INSTINCT

The word, democratic, is here used in its etymological and
generally accepted sense, of the rule of the people. Among
the "inalienable rights" with which men as men" are en-
dowed, liberty is an indispensable one and never can be

i



2 Timely Topics

safely surrendered. It is, indeed, more than an endow-
ment. It is an instinct in peoples of all eras and races and
from the dawn of history has insisted upon its presence and
expression. Whatever may be said of the divine right of
kings, the divine right of peoples is a prior one to which
the assumptions of kings must give way as they are now
doing, perforce, the civilized world over. Herein, lies the
origin of what by various names we call, Representative
Government "of and by and for the people," what Maine, in
his suggestive work calls, "Popular Government," what Mr.
Bryce calls, "The Commonwealth," where the ultimate ob-
ject of government is the common weal. At times it is
known as Parliamentary Government. This is what is
meant in English History by the Rise of The People, as
expressed in the thirteenth century in the Magna Charta of
British Rights. It is this ineradicable instinct which from
the days of the ancient empires has protested against abso-
lute monarchy, and which has been the occasional cause of
every Epoch of Reform in church and state. Its voice, if
stifled for a time, will reassert' itself with redoubled vigor
and will eventually be heard above the loudest din of
despotism. It is needless to assert that in the American
Nation this instinct for freedom has had, and will ever have,
fullest expression.

The American "Declaration" is a "Declaration of Inde-
pendence." The avowal that "all men are created equal"
before the law and stand at the outset upon a common plane
of privilege is a fundamental avowal of American political
belief. In this belief may be found the spirit and innermost
character of democracy as exemplified in the Western



Democracy and Its Limitations 3

World, affecting all phases of its life, civic, social, educa-
tional, economic and religious. From the revolutionary
days of 1776 on through the tragic era of the Civil War
(1861-1865) this divine-human instinct has made its pres-
ence known and felt- It is this that Draper in his "Civic
Polity in America" has emphasized, as ex-President Wilson
and Mr. Fiske have done in their varied contributions to
our national history. Indeed it is not too much to say that
the mission of America to the world is to reveal the potency
and primacy of this insatiable craving for civic freedom. It
is the primary justification of her existence as a people. If
she fails here, she fails completely and must at length give
place to other nationalities which can make the mission suc-
cessful.

11

THE LIMITATION OF DEMOCRACY

Here we reach an essential principle in the exposition and
application of Democracy as a method of government, that
it be under the constant dominance of conscience and law.
Montesquieu in his "Esprit des Lois" was one of the first
political authors to state and elucidate this principle. The
Democratic Instinct must be safeguarded by the higher rule
of reason and right. It is in this way only that the world
can be made "safe for democracy" or democracy safe for
the world. There is no more dangerous political theory than
that of unconditioned freedom in the state, — a freedom of
civic polity unhampered by statute and national restriction,
from which arise revolutions inside and outside the state.



4 Timely Topics

This is the theory that has begotten a direful brood of
descendants, such as Populism, and that order of Socialism
by which the Golden Age of the Proletariat is to be ushered
in. Here we are told that the redemption of the world
draweth nigh.

It is this divorce between liberty and law, between a true
and a false democracy that has produced the tragic condi-
tions of the last half decade of European history and which
at this moment threatens the very life of nations. Limited
democracy is the only possible civic order between despotic
rule on the one hand, and rampant anarchy on the other, by
which monarchy is so democratized and democracy so regu-
lated as to secure a safe and sane governmental regime.
What such standard writers as Hallam and Stubbs call, Con-
stitutional Government, is of this stable and conservative
liberty under control. It is just here that we find the best
justification of Limited Monarchy as exemplified in Eng-
land, an order of civic rule that may just as appropriately
be called Limited Democracy, and which as thus interpreted
is regarded by many students of government as the ideal
order for a state. Whether America has or has not worthily
fulfilled this theory is a question of cardinal and present
interest for whose answer the world is waiting.

Mr. Bryce, in his "American Commonwealth," devotes
no little space to this vital question as to what are the "Sup-
posed Faults" and the "True Faults" of Democracy in
America, concluding, however, and as we think, wisely, that
all defects conceded, Representative Government in the
United States is, in the main, a successful political experi-
ment, especially confirmed when we contrast it with the



Democracy and Its Limitations 5

existing governments of Continental Europe. From the
days of the Revolution on through the Civil War and down
to the present this vital principle has been steadily growing,
permeating every phase and function of national life and be-
getting the confident belief that, in due time, existing defects
will be substantially remedied and an order of government
will emerge as nearly ideal as the essential limitations of
human nature will permit. The imperfections cited by Bryce,
such as — rapidly shifting public opinion, the tendency to
level all distinctions, the overbearing demands of majority
rule, — these and similar faults are not beyond correction,
so that a political result is possible more satisfactory than
as yet has been realized among men. In fine, a conservative
liberty and a liberal conservatism will afford the best solution
of governmental polity. The democratic instinct will per-
sist and when safeguarded by wholesome political restraint,
will justify its claims as the best possible order.

Here is seen The World Ideal as from the days of the
Greek and Roman Republics on through the Reformations
and Revolutions of Modern Europe in England and France,
in Italy and Holland and other States, it has sought un-
ceasingly for an adequate expression and will not be denied.
This, after all, is the deeper meaning of the World War
just ended — the titanic and desperate and final struggle be-
tween the rule of despots and the rule of the people, a strug-
gle well worth the stupendous price that has been already
paid to secure it. The great World Commonalty demands
a hearing in the open forum of public opinion, a demand that
will be heard and answered, for it is the voice of God ar-
ticulated in human terms.



6 Timely Topics

The Parliament of Man is now in session as never before
and no motion to adjourn will be entertained until the im-
perative business before the House — the free federation of
the World, is fully and satisfactorily transacted. [The
solemn duty of the hour is to realize this great democratic
ideal. The cry for Freedom, a safely guarded and beneficent
freedom, is in the air ringing clearly out above the sound
of all competing voices. To make "the bounds of freedom
wider yet" is the call; to enfranchise all enslaved peoples;
to rebuke tyranny and anarchy in high places, and thus to
bring in, as speedily as possible, the Kingdom of Man on
earth.

THE COSTLY BENEFITS OF WAR

War in itself is an unmitigated evil — the greatest curse
that could befall a nation. Even when justified on the
ground of national life and in defense of fundamental truth
and justice, its immediate effects are calamitous and viewed
in themselves are fraught with untold disaster and distress.
The actual loss of men, representing the youth and vigor and
promise of the world; the more or less permanent impair-
ment of the soldiery through wounds and diseases incident
to war; the incalculable waste of the raw materials and the
finished products of a nation's activity; the conversion of
the industries of a people to purely destructive ends; the
limitless legacy of loss and sorrow to succeeding genera-
tions; the intensive development of the military temper and
all the baser passions of the race ; the incentive to civic dis-
order and the reign of riot ; the devastation of homes and the
violation of the most cherished ideals of life — these are the



The Costly Benefits of War 7

tragic resultants that follow in the wake of war and cast the
course of civilization backward toward the darkest ages of
history. When such a conflict assumes the proportions of
the world-war just closed, the attendant evils are so appall-
ing as to stagger the imagination and institute the inquiry
as to whether life under such possibilities is worth the price
of blood and treasure that is paid for it, and woe to that
people who take the field with sword in hand, save as they
do so by a manifest mandate from Heaven.

That any results of value can ensue from such a regime
as this would seem to be an impossibility. It is just here,
however, that we note a law of history and, indeed, of Provi-
dence that offers an answer and is in the nature of a justifi-
cation. It is the law of sacrifice and struggle in order that
the highest ends of individual and national life may be se-
cured. When the struggle is in a worthy cause, for the
highest ends, the results are correspondingly valuable, and
even when the cause is an ignoble one, unjustified in its
origin and method, Providence intervenes to make the
wrath of men praise Him. All the greatest reforms in
church and state have been reached through blood and fire.
In the great Reformations of England and Continental Eu-
rope, in such imposing Revolutions as the French and the
American of 1789 and 1776; in the Napoleonic campaigns
and the Civil War of our own land, benefits have accrued
despite the countless cost involved and the general move-
ment of the world has received impetus and progressive
force. Some of these costly benefits may be cited.

1. The Spirit of Patriotism is intensified. National loy-
alty has never been so signally illustrated as in the late war,



8 Timely Topics

the great body of the people recognizing at the outset the
rightful claim of their respective governments to their
whole-hearted allegiance. This supreme devotion to the
nation's interests increased as national peril and need in-
creased, so that ample assurance was thus furnished that the
rank and file of the body politic could be relied upon to meet
all emergencies and ensure the final triumph of the govern-
ment over all its foes. Here and there, it is conceded, were
heard undoubted notes of disaffection and a readiness and
purpose to oppose, as far as possible, the official and military
policies of the government, but such a disloyal temper was
never sufficient to lessen or impair the patriotic spirit of the
people in the main. Indeed, the effect was rather to stimu-
the national devotion and arouse an indignant protest
against the attitude and action of all disaffected agencies.

2. The Spirit of Sacrifice is intensified. This has been
so unprecedented as to excite the admiration of the civilized
world, — sacrifice of life and health and home and native
land, of exacting business interests and all that pertains to
social well being. Whatever the hardships of military life,
on the march and in the trenches, behind the lines and at the
front, these were willingly endured for the country's good.
Nor was this spirit of sacrifice confined to the soldiery who
actually participated in the camp life and the conflict of
battle, but equally fully exhibited on the part of those who
voluntarily surrendered to the nation those whom they most
dearly loved and on whom in numberless instances they were
dependent for sustenance and fellowship and service. We
speak of the supreme sacrifice, as the sacrifice of life, and
yet this side that final offering on the altar of country, there



The Costly Benefits of War 9

were untold instances of an order of sacrifice well nigh as
crucial, and alike expressive of an absolute surrender of self
for a noble cause and a high ideal.

3. The spirit of Generosity and Service has been ex-
pressed on a scale so conspicuous and colossal as to make
quite insignificant all previous records along this line, un-
stinted and unceasing contribution to all the multiform ob-
jects incident to such a gigantic struggle — the calls for aid
being as insistent and urgent as the world-wide character
of the war itself. Never has philanthropy assumed such
spacious proportions and been applied to such divers in-
terests. The superb ministries of the Red Cross organiza-
tion on the field and in the wards of the hospital ; the efforts
to afford such instruction for the wounded as to enable them
to resume, in part at least, the ordinary and essential voca-
tions of life; the offering of time and means and per-
sonal effort for the restoration of desolated homes; the
various activities of a strictly moral and religious nature
whereby the army and navy might be maintained at their
highest efficiency, and the numberless ways in which a help-
ing hand might be given to relieve distress and inspire new
hope and cheer, all this has marked an order of genuine
philanthropy which is without parallel and which has done
much to divest war of its terrors and horrors and evince
the possibility of educing good out of evil.

4. The Spirit of Unity in sentiment and service has
been one of the rarest benefits of the war — by the influence
of which the masses and the classes have met on common
ground as never before, by which all unnatural distinctions
in the civil and social order have been obliterated or lessened



io Timely Topics

and what may be called the democratization of the world
has ensued. The high and low, the cultured and the illit-
erate, the pauper and the prince, the priest and the parish-
ioner, have struggled and suffered together. All conven-
tional distinctions — civic and ecclesiastical, have disap-
peared, as all classes and orders have been mobilized for
united service. Never again, it would seem, can the old
regime of exclusiveness be effective, but as all men are
created equal before the law and have been widely separated
by agencies purely artificial and unjust, this original equal-
ity must reassert itself with vastly increased efficiency and
the blessings and benefits of civilized life be equally open to
all sorts and conditions of men. This levelling process in
the line of catholicity and unification of interest is in itself
well worth the price of blood and treasure already paid and
is full of promise for the future of the world.

5. A further secondary result of war, applicable to that
just ended, is the Cementing of Friendship between France
and America as, also, between America and England. Such
a confirmation of Anglo-American and Franco-American
unity, it is urged, would be a factor second to no other in
securing general international comity and maintaining gen-
eral international peace, especially as to America and Eng-
land. Such a confirmation of friendship would be singu-
larly significant and fraught with untold blessing.

Such are some of the Costly Benefits of War, despite the
essential curse of war itself, confirmed by all history and
gradually evolved by the mysterious and gracious processes
of that Providence that rules and overrules the destinies of
men.



The Return of Peace 1 1

What the nations have now left them as a legacy is — The
Priceless Blessings of Peace — The Golden Age of Fruition,
for which all antecedent history and all national struggle
have been a preparation and to the rational enjoyment and
fullest utilization of which the nations of the world are
solemnly summoned. How best to enjoy and utilize these
blessings is the practical problem of the hour, so as to fall
in line with the primary purpose of Providence regarding
them and so as to ensure the greatest benefit to the civilized
world at large, — a problem for every separate nation and
every separate citizen, if so be the errors and evils of the
past may be eliminated and the course of the world clearly
determined toward an ever higher order of life and service.

THE RETURN OF PEACE

"The Day" so long and patiently awaited has at length
dawned, irrradiating a darkened world, not "The Day" of
conflict as some anticipated and welcomed it, nor even
"The Day" of Victory for the mere sake of victory over a
nation's foes, but a day of disarmament and demobiliza-
tion, a day of deliverance from the ravages and bitterness
of war and the reinstatement of the pursuits and privileges
of peace, when a people may once again come into its own
and the normal processes of life be resumed.

i. One of the greatest blessings of the Return of Peace
is Peace itself, the sheer sense of relief from the devastation
and desolations of strife, the mere enjoyment of repose
after the harassing disquietude and anxieties of war when



12 Timely Topics

the baser elements of human nature are relegated to the
background and all the gentler expressions of life reassert
themselves. There is a sense of untold satisfaction in the
restoration of order and quiet procedure when life can be
viewed and enjoyed in its essential realities and recom-
penses. The experience is like to that of a storm-tossed
mariner reaching at length a harbor of safety, or that of a
worn out traveler enjoying refreshing rest after a long and
dangerous journey, or that of a stricken sufferer reaching
the period of convalescence and complete recovery. It is
here that the distinction between the individual and the
national is practically eliminated when an entire people in
their collective capacity passes from a state of distressing
unrest and alarm to the actual realization of rest.

So distinctive and deep-seated has been this sense of
relief, as the late titanic struggle closed, that one could
almost hear the note of joy on the part of the nations thus
enfranchised. It is a blessing whose value cannot be ex-
pressed in language, too deeply imbedded in the recesses of
a people's heart to be reducible to words, a radical restitu-
tion of national life — a real renaissance of the national
spirit and the national hope, imparting a new lease of cor-
porate life, infusing new energy into all the functions of
national activity and opening up such an outlook for na-
tional endeavor and enterprise as to stimulate every dormant
capability and set the nation far ahead on the open highway
of national progress.

2. A more positive and objective result of Peace is the
awakening of what might be called the Constructive spirit



The Return of Peace 1 3

of a people, a making over again of a nation's structure and
character, a building, as if anew, of the very foundations of
a nation's life and in a manner more durable than ever.

War is essentially destructive in its governing purpose,
and the methods by which it is conducted. From first to last,
its primary aim is the demolition of all that stands in the
way of its advance. We speak, and rightly, of the waste of
war. This is its ideal, to uproot all existing agencies and
mark its track by an indiscriminate ruin. Whatever its
ultimate ends may be in the defense of national life and
interests and the realization of political, social or economic
ends, its immediate aim is desolation and that only.

Hence, the first and foremost call of the hour after peace
is secured is that of Restoration and Reconstruction, a vig-
orous process of Reformation, partly by way of recovering
that which has been lost and partly by way of instituting
a new and better order. Construction must be carried on
concordant with reconstruction. Indeed the more positive
process of building anew from the ground up must be em-
phasized over any form of merely reparative work. For-
mation must co-operate with and surpass mere reforma-
tion, and the nation at large and the world at large be thus
advanced to ever higher levels of endeavor and achieve-
ment. It is one of the most significant and beneficent
anomalies of life and strictly within the divine order of
the world that when the destructive processes of man or
nature have had their dire way and done their worst and
at length cease, the restorative and constructive processes
at once assert themselves with redoubled vigor and with
an intensity often in proportion to the destruction that has
been wrought.



14 Timely Topics

Were it not for this benign law of Providence and his-
tory, whereby these remedial agencies begin to act close
upon the wake of devastation,, the world would soon revert
to chaos. How graciously and potently in the day of con-
valescence the healing agencies of the body begin to act, so
as to repair the waste of disease, reinvigorate the depleted
system and awaken hope and joy in the sufferer's heart.
Even so graciously and potently do a nation's restorative
powers assert themselves when the struggle ceases and all
the factors and forces of the national life are quickened into
fuller function. Herein lie the responsibilties that the
dawn of peace brings with it — that any people so delivered
shall at once appreciate the meaning of its deliverance, take


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryTheodore W. (Theodore Whitefield) HuntTimely topics → online text (page 1 of 16)