Page images

land may seem about as placid an adventure as adopting a maiden aunt, but I shall not defend my course by citing the specious fling, "In New England the main thing lacking is New England." Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa, and the far Northwest, SO one hears, have communities more "New Englandy" than Massachusetts itself. All her life my grandmother was an intense New-Englander, having been exposed to New England for the first time at the age of eighty-seven. Yet if there are colonists more loyal than the king, his Majesty is not on that account a traitor.

"Gumption," humor, "hoss-sense," and principle, with a saving dash of the Old Nick, still thrive in New England. To these add versatility. She wins base-ball pennants and literary prizes, is more and more a factory, more and more a park, more and more a school. Among her notables, what variety! A Charles W. Eliot and a John L. Sullivan; a Brandeis, a Lodge, a Lawson, a Gelett Burgess. She is all ages; where four New-Englanders meet, four centuries may also meet. For, while there are natives living in the days of Increase Mather, of John Hancock, of Tom Reed, or of Ralph Adams Cram, not a few inhabit the twenty-first century. Anywhere in New England talk enlists contributions from Heaven knows how many different periods. Often they unite in the same person, here a Puritan, there a Bohemian, in spots a Briton, with traces of the scholar, the philistine, and the wag; he is a moral and intellectual condensed vaudeville. I love him.

To an outsider the past speaks loudest. The native, however antiquated temperamentally, regards it but little. When Ponkahassett announces its two-hundredand-fiftieth anniversary, he exclaims, "Where in creation is Ponkahassett?" When a tootle of trumpets from the belfry at "Brimstone Corner" makes pedestrians glance up, they mutter perplexedly, "Is it a hundred years since something?" In New England the historic is a kind of stage scenery, a genial background for living figures. Barring the flies that come. down its immense chimneys, I enjoyed my

century-old house; as a student, I enjoyed idling in Thanatopsis Glen; later on, it was pleasant to stroll past a mansion where Dr. Smith wrote "My Country 't is of Thee" and another where Mrs. Stowe wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin," or to look out on Lowell's "Elmwood" or on the Old South Meeting-house. New England's May baskets, her Christmas waits and Christmas candles, her Hallowe'en witches, her "licensed victuallers," and her "Private Ways, Dangerous," her immemorial proverbs and counting-out rhymes, her family crests, her "shag" cats descended from Persian Tabithas brought home by ancient mariners long dead, her steamboats named for Puritan worthies and characters in Longfellow-fascinating, all that. But I soon ceased to think New England a class in archæology. She is too sizzling a caldron of modern, not to say ultra-modern, American ideas, and some without kindred, date, or country.

A Danish baron (of whom the less told, the better) once remarked to me: "I understand your liking for New England. I, too, prefer to live in another country near my own," yet I withheld the expected "Amen." True, New England is near America. Moreover, Americans. flock there, "city" people stoutly repeating "N' York's the place," plainsmen grumbling because hills "shut them in" and the sea "wiggles and makes them nervous," Southerners out of temper with the one Boston hotel that would lodge the maker of Tuskegee. To them New England seems foreign, whereas of all communities it is the most compendiously American, summing up America's whole past, illustrating its whole present, so that every American impulse leaves somewhere its mark upon New England's mind and character. Never once have I felt like an expatriate. And I notice among scoffers a vague envy of the native. Have they an uncle by marriage whose second cousin thrice removed possessed a great-grandfather who was born in New England? The scandal is not concealed.

Step up, gallants! The national wallflower is past her first youth, I grant you,

[graphic][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

him and bade them name the defect in his picture. They studied it, debated it, applied this test and that, but reached no verdict until finally one of them cried out: "Ah, I have it! It lacks a certain Genesee squaw." In New England, the "certain Genesee squaw" is the chief of many virtues. You value New-Englanders less for what they know than for what they have. forgotten, less for what they say and do than for their frequent mastery of the fine and delicate art of being. In New Eng

land at her best you find an atmosphere of autumnal mellowness and completion deliciously satisfying to the affections, yet teasing the intellect by defying it to arrive at precise definition. It has been my privilege to know New-Englanders of whom the world was not worthy. Still less worthy am I to write their epitaphs.

I have summered the New-Englanders and wintered them; they wear. I have fought with them, and made it up. I have tried Montana-Paris, too-and been willing to return. Nowhere am I freer.

One can spend little or much, dress as he chooses, know whom he will, devour beans or spurn them, dig potatoes, clams, or Greek roots, and be "a man for a' that" among friends somewhat slow to take hold, but incapable of letting go. As warm-hearted as the Montanians, they are as liberal; at moments I have come near saying, "The further East you go, the further West you get." I love the West. I love the South. Accident, not choice, brought me to New England. In her own quaint phrase, I "like here."

[ocr errors]

In Gloucester, where Kipling's 'captains courageous' have turned

Nova Scotian or Portuguese "


By JAMES HARVEY ROBINSON Author of "Mediaeval and Modern Times," "The New History," etc.


F one looks up the word "nationality" in the most recent edition of the “Encyclopædia Britannica," he finds twelve lines about a "somewhat vague term" used in international law. He will also find a little about national anthems, more about national workshops, and most about national debts. Beyond this his curiosity will remain unsatisfied.

Suddenly, in August, 1914, this neglected term assumed a terrible significance. Previously the spirit of nationality had been accepted as on the whole a noble thing, although, like other noble things, it appeared to be a nuisance at times; but when all the chief states of Europe rushed at one another's throats in the name of nationality, all thoughtful outsiders began to wonder whether the current favorable estimate of the emotion could be right when it gave rise to such unprecedented woes. Those who had come to regard war as a form of criminal stupidity unworthy of our age could not but question the excuses offered by nationality for perpetuating armed conflicts between civilized peoples. If nationality causes war, they argued, then nationality must be a wicked thing, which should be got rid of altogether, or so far modified as to lose its ugly traits. But, on the other hand, the national spirit is only patriotism in its modern form, and we have been taught from infancy that no sentiment can more safely be encouraged, since none is worthier of man or more pleasing to God, than love of country. All national anthems substantiate this.

There is, however, nothing exceptional in this case of a cherished emotion which produces fearful disasters. Patriotism resembles religion and love in this respect. To the candid historical student the evil workings of religion are, to say the least,

far more conspicuous and far more readily demonstrated than its good results. And as for love, St. Paul's eulogy in I Corinthians, 13, might fairly and squarely be reversed, since we observe in practice. that love is unkind, vaunting itself and seeking its own, provoked on the slightest pretense; that it readily imagines all evil, bears little, and behaves itself most unseemly.

National feeling is obviously only a conspicuous instance of those corporate enthusiasms which are spontaneously generated so soon as one recognizes himself to be a member of a group. Whether one belongs to the French Institute, is a Daughter of the Revolution, a brakeman on the B. & O., a delegate to the Eucharistic Congress, is rooting for Harvard, or ascending his genealogical tree, he finds. his personality agreeably expanding. Paltry, diffident, and discontented "I" becomes proud and confident "We." So precious is this extension and exaltation of our individual life and achievement that it is commonly quite uncritical. We do not ordinarily ask what merit of ours led to our admission to the group, or what we are doing as a member to justify our taking credit to ourselves for what our fellow-members may accomplish. We share honor and dishonor, success and failure, remote as we may be personally from any influence in bringing them about. Man is invincibly social in his make-up, and his craving for group gratifications and loyalties is so urgent that nothing. seems to him more noble in his nature than his corporate joys and sorrows.

The reason that we are invincibly social in our aspirations appears to be a very simple one. By a process extending through hundreds of thousands of years the uncompanionable people have been largely eliminated by what is known in biology as natural selection. While we

know nothing of the social life of our paleolithic ancestors except by inferences from the habits of modern savages, it is safe enough to assume that they lived in groups; for it seems as if otherwise they could not have survived or have developed the beginnings of civilization, since civilization is essentially a product of group existence. For various reasons it is also safe to assume that the groups engaged in sufficiently constant and bloody warfare with one another to forward a process.of selection which would in the long run favor the survival of those groups in which the coöperative spirit happened to be best developed and the extinction of the groups which proved deficient in those. qualities which hold men together in a common enterprise.1

Whatever we think of war, I do not see how we can possibly get away from the fundamental historical fact that we are all descended from a long line of savage ancestors who fought well and liked to fight. Modern nations are sprung from groups which developed those social characteristics of coöperation and loyalty which made for successful attack and defense; for this was as essential to their survival and the propagation of their kind as getting enough to eat. This will seem very disheartening to some readers, but it is only another way of saying that, historically, coöperative pugnacity has played a decisive rôle in making us by nature a kind of animal given to ready and enthusiastic social organization.

Man is then a warring animal, but this does not mean that he is by nature a fighting animal. As Dr. Frederick Woods has recently emphasized, the individual fighting instinct is, from a social point of view, opposed to the gregarious warring instinct. The quarrelsome man who readily resorted to personal violence would be

1 Professor Veblen, "The Instinct of Workmanship, p. 123, urges with force that the old assumption that human tribes have from the first been engaged in chronic warfare cannot be satisfactorily proved, and that the progress of civilization presupposes sufficiently peaceful conditions to generate it. I express myself guardedly on this point, and do not wish to exaggerate the influence of war, which is after all but one aspect of our complex gregarious nature.

promptly recognized as a nuisance. "The natures that have not been willing to adapt themselves to the environment of groups have been weeded out."2 Miscellaneous and informal killing within the group could not be tolerated without reducing the chances of the group's victory in the next conflict with its neighbors. I think that this distinction will bring consolation to many who are conscious of the most pacific attitude toward their fellows. Men are ordinarily peaceful within their group, or at least do not exhibit their individual pugnacity in any deadly form; but let the ancient, inherited group spirit be aroused, and the most highly cultivated men will rush to arms, encouraged by the most highly cultivated women.

Defense of one's group is accordingly a human instinct, not a matter of culture, as are most things we call "human nature." "The instinct is there simply because it is an instinct and therefore like all instincts inherited in the germ-plasm of the race. It matters not whether a man's immediate ancestors did or did not actually take part in warfare."3 Most modern biologists hold out no hope of lessening the strength of the gregarious war instinct, for it would still be there in undiminished force should generations pass without indulging in war. Our attitude should be that of full appreciation of the intimate and original connection between group coöperation, so precious and indispensable to man, and the instinct to defend the group or advance its interests by violence, which is war.


WE did not start out to discuss war, but nationality. But it is the present great war that has forced nationality on our attention, and the reason for this is now apparent. The group spirit shows itself in two directions: within the group it is marked by friendly coöperation and loyalty, by an exaggerated esteem of the group's achievements and delight in re

2 Woods and Baltzley, "Is War Diminishing?" Introduction.

3 Ibid., p. 21.

« PreviousContinue »