Viscount James Bryce Bryce.

The American commonwealth, Volume 2 online

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* Except of course in respect of the land grants made by Congress to the
States for University and agricultural education. Latterly, moreover, the Agri-
cultural Department at Washington has rendered valuable help to Agricultural
State Colleges.

' The Carnegie Foundation Report for 1909 observes, " There are in this
country more medical schools than in all Europe, and these schools have turned
upon the public a far larger number of physicians than are needed, the majority
ill trained and educated, the imperative need being now not more medical schools
but fewer and better ones," p. 91.

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They have brought instruction within the reach of every boy
and girl of every class. They receive a larger proportion of the
youthful population than do any similar institutions in any
other country. They are resorted to hardly less by those who
mean to tread the paths of commerce or industry than by those
who prepare themselves for a learned profession. They have
turned a University course from being the luxury which it has
been in the Old World into being almost a necessary of life.
And they have so expanded their educational scheme as to
provide (in the larger institutions) instruction in almost every
subject in which men and women are likely to ask for it.

So far then as Quantity goes, whether quantity and variety
of attendance or quantity and variety of instruction, nearly
all that the needs of the time and the country demand has been

Quahty is of course another, matter. In education, improve-
ments in quality do not always keep pace with increase in quan-
tity, and often follow with sadly lagging steps. Nevertheless,
they do generally tend to follow. No doubt the first and easier
thing for an ambitious institution is to devote itself to material
improvements, to enlarge its buildings and its library, its scien-
tific apparatus, even its gymnasium.^ When money is spent
on these things the result can be seen, and even the least in-
structed visitors are impressed. To secure more able, more
learned, more inspiring teachers, and by their help to improve
the instruction given and the standard of attainment which a
degree represents is a slower and more difficult task. Yet
here, too, the natural tendency is upward, and the emulation
of these numerous and aspiring bodies helps that tendency.
When one University has made evident its excellence by the
work of its teachers and by the kind of men it turns out, others
feel they must try to reach its level by similar methods.

The things which the most judicious friends of the Universi-
ties (including many of their Presidents) hold to be now most
needed, would appear to be the following : —

(1) The development in each region of the country — by
which I mean in each populous State or in each group of less
populous States — of at least one University which may serve as

1 One University is reported to have recently mortgaged its campus for
$400,000 to erect what is called a Stadium, while paying its full profeason an
average yearly salary of $1800 only.

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a model to the others in that section, setting before them in
a tangible form the organs of activity and the excellences of
arrangement and method which a first-rate place of education,
learning, and research ought to possess. In some parts of the
country there are several Universities so much ahead of others
that they are already being taken as patterns. In other parts
none such yet exist.

(2) As a means to the above end, there is required a higher
scale of salaries for the teaching staff. This is no doubt needed
in European countries also, but in those countries the attractions
which other careers have for a man of energy are seldom so
great as in the United States, and the cost of living is neither so
high nor rising so rapidly.

(3) It is felt that there ought to be a stronger pulse of intellec-
tual Ufe among the undergraduates in the ** College '* or Academic
department. They are not generally idle or Ustless, but rather,
like most young Americans, alert and active in temperament.
Their conduct is usually good ; in no country are vices
less conmion among students. But those who are keenly
interested either in their particular studies or in the "things of
the mind'* in general are comparatively few in number. Ath-
letic competitions and social pleasures claim the larger part of
their thoughts, and the University does not seem to be giving
them that taste for intellectual enjoyment which ought to be
acquired early if it is to be acquired at all.

(4) The conception of a general liberal education, the ideal
of such an education as something which it is the function of a
University to give in order to prepare men for Ufe as a whole,
over and above the preparation required for any particular walk
of life, is described as being in some institutions insuflSciently
valued and imperfectly reahzed. Those whose views I am set-
ting forth admit that professional and other special schools
can give, and often do give, an effective training of the men-
tal powers in the course of the special instruction they impart.
What they miss is that largeness of view and philosophic habit
of thought which the study of such subjects as literature, phi-
losophy, and history is fitted to implant when these subjects are
taught in a broad and stimulating way. In short, the pressure
of the practical subjects and of the practical spirit in handling
these subjects, is deemed to be unduly strong.

How far the criticisms summarized under the two last heads

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as made by competent American observers are generally appli-
cable; I will not attempt to determine. They are given because
they are made by persons entitled to be heard. This, however,
may be said, that forces and tendencies are discernible all over
the country which cannot but work for raising the level of in-
struction and di£fusing more widely those educational . ideals
which the best representatives of University progress already

Foreign critics often say, and some domestic critics have
echoed the censure, that what is chiefly admired in America is
Bigness, things being measured by their size or by what they
cost. This quantitative estimate finds little place in the Univer-
sities. With very few exceptions, the teaching staff are not
thinking of size, nor of money, except so far as it helps to extend
the usefulness of their institution. All the better men, and not
merely the ablest men, but the good average men, feel that it is
the mission of a University to seek and find and set forth the
real values. It has been well said by one of the most acute and
large-minded of all recent visitors to the United States ^ that
nowhere in the world do University teachers feel more strongly
that the first object of their devotion is Truth. They are of sJl
classes in the country that which is least dazzled by wealth, least
governed by material considerations. No wealth-seeker would,
indeed, choose such a profession. To one who looks back over
the last twenty years, the Universities seem to have grown not
only in their resources and the number of their students, but also
in dignity and influence. They hold a higher place in the eyes
of the Nation. They have almost entirely escaped any delete-
rious contact either with poUtics or with those capitalistic groups
whose power is felt in so many other directions.^ Through the
always widening circle of their alimmi they are more closely in
touch than ever before with all classes in the community. The
European observer can express now with even more conviction
than he could twenty years ago the opinion that they constitute
one of the most powerful and most pervasive forces working for
good in the country.

^ Professor Dr. Lamprecht of Leipzig in his Amerikcma.
* The exceptions to this general statement are so rare as to emphasise the fact
that it is almost universaily true.

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In examining the National government and the State govern-
ments, we have never once had occasion to advert to any eccle-
siastical body or question, because with such matters govern-
ment has in the United States absolutely nothing to do. Of all
the differences between the Old World and the New this is per-
haps the most salient. Half the wars of Europe, half the internal
troubles that have vexed European States, from the Monophysite
controversies in the Roman Empire of the fifth century down to
the Kulturkampf in the German Empire of the nineteenth, have
arisen from theological differences or from the rival claims of
Church and State. This whole vast chapter of debate and strife
has remained virtually unopened in the United States. There
is no EstabUshed Church. All religious bodies are absolutely
equal before the law, and unrecognized by the law, except as
voluntary associations of private citizens.

The Federal Constitution contains the following prohibi-
tions : —

Art. VI. No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to
any office or pubUe trust under the United States.

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establish-
ment of religion or prohibiting the free exeroise thereof.

No attempt has ever been made to alter or infringe upon these
provisions. They affect the National government only, placing
no inhibition on the States, and leaving the whole subject to their
imcontrolled discretion, though subject to the general guaran-
tees against oppression.

Every State constitution contains provisions generally simi-
lar to the above. Most declare that every man may worship
God according to his own conscience, or that the free enjoyment
of all religious sentiments and forms of worslyp. sji^a^^h^jd

763 ' ' ^


sacred ; ^ most also provide that no man shall be compelled to
support or attend any church ; some forbid the creation of an
established church, and many the showing of a preference to any
particular sect ; while many provide that no money shall ever
be drawn from the State treasury, or from the funds of any
municipal body, to be apphed for the benefit of any church or
sectarian institution or denominational school. Thirty-three
constitutions, including those of the six most recently admitted
States, forbid any religious test to be required as a qualifica-
tion for office; some declare that this principle extends to all
civil rights ; some specify that religious behef is not to affect
a man's competence as a witness. But in several States there
still exist qualifications worth noting. Vermont and Delaware
declare that every sect ought to maintain some form of religious
worship, and Vermont adds that it ought to observe the Lord's
Day. Six Southern States exclude from office any one who
denies the existence of a Supreme Being. Besides these six,
Pennsylvania and Tennessee pronounce a man ineligible for
office who does not beUeve in God and in a future state of re-
wards and punishments. Maryland and Arkansas even make
such a person incompetent as a juror or witness.* ReUgious
freedom has been generally thought of in America in the form
of freedom and equality as between different sorts of Christians,
or at any rate different sorts of theists; persons disclaiming
any kind of religion have till recently been extremely few every-
where and practically unknown in the South. The neutrality of
the State cannot therefore be said to be theoretically complete.*
In earlier days the States were very far from being neutral.
Rhode Island indeed, whose earliest settlers were seceders
from Massachusetts, stood from the first for the principle
of complete religious freedom and the detachment of Christian
communities from all secular power or secular control. Roger
Williams, the illustrious founder of this Httle State, was one of
those few to whom this principle was revealed when the great

> Four States provide that this declaration is not to be taken to excuse braachea
of the public peace, many that it shall not excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify
practices inconsistent with the peace and safety of the State, and three that no
person shall disturb others in their religious worship.

* Full details on these points will be found in Mr. Stimson's valuable collec-
tion entitled American Statute Law.

' Idaho disfranchises all polygamists or advocates of polyfcaxny ; but Mor-
monism is attacked not so much as a religion as in respect of its social features and

hierarchical character. . ...... .,^

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mass of Christians were still in bondage to the ideas of the
Middle Ages. But the other two States of old New England
began with a sort of Puritan theocracy, and excluded from some
civil rights persons who stood outside the religious conununity.
Congregationalism was the ruling faith, and Roman Catholics,
Quakers, and Baptists were treated with great severity. The
early constitutions of several States recognized what was vir-
tually a State church, requiring each locaUty to provide for and
support the public worship of God. It was not till 1818 that
Connecticut in adopting her new constitution placed all reli-
ious bodies on a level, and left the maintenance of churches to
the voluntary action of the faithful. In Massachusetts a tax
for the support of the CongregationaUst churches was imposed
on aU citizens not belonging to some other incorporated reU-
gious body until 1811, and religious equality was first fully recog-
nized by a constitutional amendment of 1833. In Virginia,
North and South CaroUna, and Maryland, Protestant Episco-
pacy was the established form of reUgion till the Revolution,
when imder the impulse of the democratic spirit, and all the
more heartily because the Anglican clergy were prone to Toryism
(as attachment to the British connection was called), and
because, at least in Virginia, there had been some persecution of
Nonconformists, all religious distinctions were aboUshed and
special ecclesiastical privileges withdrawn. In Pennsylvania
iio church was ever legally estabUshed. In New York, however,
first the Dutch Reformed, and afterwards the AngUcan Church
had in colonial days enjoyed a measure of State favour. What
is remarkable is that in all these cases the disestablishment, if
one may call it by that name, of the privileged church was ac-
complished with no great effort, and left very Uttle rancour
behind. In the South it seemed a natural outcome of the
Revolution. In New England it came more gradually, as the
necessary result of the poUtical development of each common-
wealth The ecclesiastical arrangements of the States were not
inwoven with the pecuniary interests of any wealthy or socially
dominant class ; and it was felt that equality and democratic
doctrine generally were too palpably opposed to the maintenance
of any privileges in religious matters to be defensible in argument.
However, both in Connecticut and Massachusetts there was a
political struggle over the process of disestablishment, and the
CongregationaUst ministers predicted evils from a change which

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they afterwards admitted to have turned out a blessing to their
own churches. No voice has ever since been raised in favour
of reverting — I will not say to a State establishment of religion
— but even to any State endowment or State regulation of
ecclesiastical bodies. It is accepted as an axiom by all Americans
that the civil power ought to be not only neutral and impartial
as between different forms of faith, but ought to leave these
matters entirely on one side, regarding them no more than it
regards the artistic or literary pursuits of the citizens.^ There
seem to be no two opinions on this subject in the United
States. Even the Protestant Episcopal clergy, who are in many
ways disposed to admire and feel with their brethren in England ;
even the Roman Catholic bishops, whose creed justifies the
enforcement of the true faith by the secular arm, assure the
European visitor that if State establishment were offered them
they would decline it, preferring the freedom they enjoy to any
advantages the State could confer. Every religious community
can now organize itself in whatever way it pleases, lay down its
own rules of faith and discipline, create and administer its
own system of judicature, raise and apply its funds at its uncon-
trolled discretion. A church established by the State would not
be able to do all these things, because it would also be controlled
by the State, and it would be exposed to the envy and jealousy
of other sects.

The only controversies that have arisen r^arding State
action in religious matters have turned upon the appropriation
of public funds to charitable institutions managed by some par-
ticular denomination. Such appropriations are expre.ssly pro-
hibited in the constitutions of some States. But it may happen
that the readiest way of promoting some benevolent public
purpose is to make a grant of money to an institution already
at work, and successfully serving that purpose. As this reason
may sometimes be truly given, so it is also sometimes advanced
where the real motive is to purchase the political support of the
denomination to which the institution belongs, or at least of its
clergy. In some States, and particularly in New York, State
or city legislatures have often been charged with giving money

» There was, however, for some time, a movement, led, I think, by some
Baptist and Methodist ministers, for obtaining the insertion of the name of God
in the Federal Constitution. Those who desired this held that the instrument
would be thereby in a manner sanctified, and a distinct national recognition of
theism expressed.

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to Roman Catholic institutions for the sake of securing the
Catholic vote.^ In these cases, however, the money always
purports to be voted not for a religious but for a philanthropic
or educational purpose. No ecclesiastical body would be strong
enough to obtain any grant to its general funds, or any special
immunity for its ministers. The passion for equality in reli-
gious as well as secular matters is everywhere too strong to be
braved, and nothing excites more general disapprobation than
any attempt by an ecclesiastical organization to interfere in
poUtics. The suspicion that the Roman CathoUc church uses
its power over its members to guide their votes for its purposes
has more than once given rise to strong anti-Catholic or (as
they would be called in Canada) Orange movements, such as
that which at the end of the nineteenth century figured largely
in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois under the name of the
American Protective Association. So the hostiUty to Mormon-
ism was due not merely to the practice of polygamy, but also
to the notion that the hierarchy of the Latter Day Saints con-
stitutes a secret and tyrannical imperium in imperio opposed to
the genius of democratic institutions.

The refusal of the civil power to protect or endow any form
of rehgion is conmionly represented in Europe as equivalent
to a declaration of cojitemptuous indifference on the part of
the State to the spiritual interests of its people. A State recog-
nizing no church is called a godless State ; the disestablishment
of a church is described as an act of national impiety. Nothing
can be farther from the American view, to an explanation of
which it may be well to devote a few lines.

The abstention of the State from interference in matters of
faith and worship may be advocated on two principles, which
may be called the poUtical and the religious. The former sets
out from the principles of liberty and equality. It holds any
attempt at compulsion by the civil power to be an uifringe-
ment on liberty of thought, as well as on liberty of action, which
could be justified only when a practice claiming to be religious
is so obviously anti-social or immoral as to threaten the well-
being of the conmiunity. Religious persecution, even in its

> In 1910 the Roman Catholic schools and charities of New York received
more than $1,500,000 : very few other denominational institutions received
money, but those of some Hebrew, German, French, and similar societies re-
ceived smaller amounts, of which the largest, $235,000, went to Hebrew charities.

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milder forms, such as disqualifying the members of a particular
sect for pubUc office, is, it conceives,' inconsistent with the con-
ception of individual freedom and the respect due to the primor-
dial rights of the citizen which modem thought has embraced-
Even if State action stops short of the imposition of disabilities,
and confines itself to favouring a particular church, whether by
grants of money or by giving special immunities to its clergy,
this is an infringement on equality, putting one man at a disad-
vantage compared with others in respect of matters which are
(according to the view I am stating) not fit subjects for State

The second principle, embodying the more purely religious
view of the question, starts from the conception of the
church as a spiritual body existing for spiritual purposes,
and moving along spiritual paths. It is an assemblage of
men who are united by their devotion to an unseen Being,
their memory of a past divine life, their belief in the possibility
of imitating that life, so far as human frailty allows, their hopes
for an illimitable future. Compulsion of any kind is contrary
to the nature of such a body, which lives by love and reverence,
not by law. It desires no State help, feeling that its strength
comes from above, and that its kingdom is not of this world.
It does not seek for exclusive privileges, conceiving that these
would not only create bitterness between itself and other religious
bodies, but might attract persons who did not really share its
sentiments, while corrupting the simplicity of those who are
already its members. Least of all can it submit to be controlled
by the State, for the State, in such a world as the present, means
persons many or most of whom are alien to its beliefs and cold
to its emotions. The conclusion follows that the church as a
spiritual entity will be happiest and strongest when it is left
absolutely to itself, not patronized by the civil power, not re-
strained by law except when and in so far as it may attempt to
quit its proper sphere and intermeddle in secular affairs.

Of these two views it is the former much more than the latter
that has moved the American mind. The latter would doubtless
be now generally accepted by religious people. But when the
question arose in a practical shape in the earlier da3rs of the
Republic, arguments of the former or political order were found
amply sufficient to settle it, and no practical purpose has since
then compelled men either to examine the spiritual basis of the

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church, or to inquire by the light of history how far State action
has during sixteen centuries helped or marred her usefulness.
There has, however, been another cause at work, I mean the
comparatively limited conception of the State itself which
Americans have formed. The State is not to them, as to Ger-
mans or Frenchmen, and even to some English thinkers, an
ideal moral power, charged with the duty of forming the charac-
ters and guiding the hves of its subjects. It is more like a com-
mercial company, or perhaps a huge municipality created for the
management of certain business in which all who reside within
its bounds are interested, levying contributions and expending
them on this business of common interest, but for the most part
leaving the shareholders or burgesses to themselves. That an
organization of this kind should trouble itself, otherwise than
as matter of police, with the opinions or conduct of its members,
would be as unnatural as for a railway company to inquire how
many of the shareholders were Wesleyans or total abstainers.
Accordingly it never occurs to the average American that there
is any reason why State churches should exist, and he stands
amazed at the warmth of European feeling on the matter.

Just because these questions have been long since disposed
of, and excite no present passion, and perhaps also because

Online LibraryViscount James Bryce BryceThe American commonwealth, Volume 2 → online text (page 78 of 99)