Page images
PDF
EPUB

tempting to trace the development of nationalism as we now know it.

So long as states were composed of subjects rather than of citizens, the modern emotions of nationality could scarcely develop. Nationality, in our meaning of the term, is a concomitant of another mystical entity, democracy. The French Revolution began, it is true, in a period of philosophic cosmopolitanism,-since that was the tradition of the philosophes, -and the French armies undertook to liberate other peoples from their tyrants in the name of the rights of man, not of nations. But Napoleon, in a somewhat incidental and left-handed fashion, did so much to promote the progress of both democratic institutions and of nationality in western Europe that he may, in a sense, be regarded as the putative father of them both. His plebiscites were empty things in practice, but they loudly acknowledged the rights of peoples to decide on vital matters. He was a friend of constitutions so long as he himself made them. Then his attempt to seat brother Joseph on the Spanish throne produced a really national revolt, and led to the Spanish constitution of 1812 and all its later revivals and imitations. In Italy he stirred a desire for national unity and the expulsion of the foreigner which had been dormant since the days of Machiavelli's hopeless appeal. He is the founder of modern Germany. He succeeded in a task which had baffled German emperors from the days of Otto the Great; for in 1803 he so far consolidated her disrupted territories that the remaining states, enlarged and strengthened, could in time form a strong union and become a great international power. His restrictions on the size of the Prussian army after his victory at Jena suggested to Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Boyne a subterfuge which made Prussia the military schoolmaster of Europe, and is now costing millions of lives offered up in the cause of nationality.

from his philosophic speculations to celebrate the glories of Deutschthum. In the fourth and fifth of his never-to-be-forgotten addresses delivered after the battle of Jena, Fichte deals with the salient differences between the Germans and the other peoples of western Europe. That portion of the Germans who have remained in their original dwelling-place possess, he contends, an autochthonous strength and potentiality which assures them a natural supremacy. As an Urvolk they have an Ursprache which can trace its unbroken history back to the first uttered syllable. The German speech alone has from the beginning been a spontaneous outpouring of natural power; in comparison with it all other western European languages are mere corrupt makeshifts. They are dead things compared with the ever-living German, with its roots deep in the original soil from which it sprang. Zwischen Leben und Todt findet gar keine Vergleichung statt. Since language makes the man rather than man the language, the studious German can master the other languages of Europe so that he understands them better than those who have spoken them. from childhood; he can comprehend the foreigner better than the foreigner understands himself. But the foreigner can hope to understand a German only by most painfully acquiring his language, and no alien will succeed in adequately translating German in its deeper meanings.

This original language, with its fundamental adaptation to express fully all thoughts and aspirations, is the firm bond which holds the Germans together and gives the nation a profound unity and understanding. They alone have the true earnestness and purpose that are essential to realizing a system of national education which will result in the highest morality (reine Sittlichkeit). Unlike other nations, its leaders impart all their discoveries to the people at large instead of using their superior ability to exploit the Not only was Prussia modernized by people as a blind instrument for the prothe abolition of serfdom and the old motion of their own selfish ends. Thanks class system, but the first golden-mouthed. to their language and all that it implies, spokesman of nationality was summoned the Germans can look forward to vistas of

future progress, whereas other peoples can do no more than cast their eyes back to golden ages which can never recur for them.

The claims which Fichte makes for inherent German superiority were carried somewhat further in some directions by Hegel in his celebrated "Philosophy of History," based upon a series of lectures first delivered at Berlin during the winter semester of 1822-23. He describes the migrations of the world spirit which found its first incarnation among the ancient Persians, then sought its completer realization among the Greeks and Romans, and finally settled permanently, so to speak, among the Germans. To them, Hegel says in his characteristic manner, it assigned the rôle not merely of possessing the idea of freedom, "but of producing it in free and spontaneous developments from their subjective self-consciousness." "The German spirit," he claims, "is the spirit of the new world. Its aim is the realization of absolute truth as the unlimited self-determination of freedom." The Germans possess, moreover, a peculiar national and seemingly untranslatable quality, Gemüth. This the philosopher luminously defines as that "undeveloped, indeterminate totality of spirit in reference to the will, in which satisfaction of soul is attained in a corresponding general and indeterminate way." I infer that he is speaking of something nice and that the tribal instincts of his audience glowed with complacency in the assurance of its possession. A Frenchman has pointed out. a German trait which Hegel does not mention, but upon which he always relied; namely, that in Germany the patience of the reader is always expected to outrun the obscurity of the writer. Like Fichte, Hegel assigned to the Germans a peculiar power of leavening the whole lump in which any of their race happened to be placed.

It is impossible here to give further illustrations of the manner in which German confidence in German destiny and Kultur have been fostered. I suspect that no other nation equals the Germans in the

Gründlichkeit and Planmässigkeit with which the spirit of nationality has been cultivated and wrought into education by intellectual leaders.

In France a less turbid, but perhaps equally wide and deep, stream of national self-assurance could be traced if there were time. It would be hard to outdo Nisard's statement that in his effort to portray the French spirit he finds himself. almost depicting reason itself. Honor and glory, wit and clarity- these are always conspicuous among the characteristics. which French writers discover in a preeminent degree among their fellow-countrymen.

But it is not my intention to call the roll of European peoples, big and little, who either have achieved political independence, like the English, Spanish, Italians, and Russians; or who, like the Poles, Bohemians, Croatians, and the discontented among the Irish, aspire to do so in the name of nationality. The histories of the various national spirits might of course be written. They would serve to amuse and sadden the philosophic reader. I venture to forecast that the theories of national peculiarities would be found to be conflicting and mutually exclusive, that they would be based upon many a historical mistake and distortion, upon insolent suppressions and arrogant exaggerations. They would possess exactly the same value as does a blind and ardent lover's description of his mistress. Singing the praises of one's tribe is the natural pastime of a boastful savage. "When Caribs were asked whence they came, they answered: 'We alone are people!' The meaning of the name Kiowa [an Indian tribe now settled in Oklahoma] is 'real or principal people.' The Lapps call themselves 'men' or 'human beings.' . . . The Tunguses call themselves 'men.' As a rule it is found that nature people call themselves

Others are something else-perhaps not defined-but not real men." 1 The word Deutsch, according to Grimm, had this meaning originally, and it is amusing to note a certain complacency in 1Sumner, "Folkways," 1911, p. 14.

German writers who point this out. The Franks, from whose name the French derive theirs, appear to have thought they were "the free.”

IV

WE have all been shocked by the readiness with which even intellectual persons, especially German professors, lapsed, under the stress of war, into the frame of mind of a Carib or Laplander. But this and other recent occurrences only prove that we have expected too much. Our ancient tribal instinct evidently retains its blind and unreasoning characteristics despite the fact that we are able nowadays, by means of newspapers, periodicals, railroads, and telegraphs, to spread it over vast areas, such as are comprised in modern states like Germany, France, Russia, and the United States.

When, by taking thought, exceptional persons come to realize the facts which we have been recalling and succeed in transcending the Carib point of view, their task is that of convincing their fellow countrymen that all men are really men. Here they meet the great obstacle of difference in language, which cuts peoples off from one another. Then the diplomatic relations of modern states are inherited from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when the diplomats were agents of monarchs, scheming for territorial gains. Moreover, to most of our fellow-men, patriotism is a word that still falls most sweetly on the ear. It may seem a criminal abomination in other tribes, but is a most precious thing as we contemplate it in our own. Many seemingly thoughtful people resent even an analysis of it into primitive pugnacity and gregariousness reinforced by "baby. love" of one's earliest environment and associations, together with that agreeable sense of exaltation which, as has been pointed out, the group spirit engenders. Many educated persons are temperamentally indisposed to analyze cherished convictions and sanctified emotions. There are, nevertheless, certain considerations that may serve to cheer those who are cast down by the primitive

workings of the tribal spirit as they exhibit themselves in the present European conflict.

V

THE chief quarrel with patriotism is its innate tendency to precipitate war with other groups upon the most trivial pretenses. It is, in short, touchy and ugly in its most constant and characteristic manifestation. So long as war was accepted by every one as man's noblest preoccupation, this would naturally be no objection to patriotism. War might even be degraded to the status of a necessary evil without leading to any criticism of patriotism, but if warfare is to be viewed as a wholly gratuitous abomination, the way will be opened for a recognition of the common nature and interests of humanity which it is the chief business of patriotism to forget or obscure. Both the Stoics and the Christians accepted in principle the brotherhood of man, but so far as I know this doctrine never checked a war, secular or religious; and it is only in modern times that two or three Christian sects, bitterly persecuted and maligned by the majority of Christians, have stood out. against war on principle, the Anabaptists, the gentle Socinians, and, above all, the Quakers.

I

When, in 1726, Voltaire visited Eng-. land, he was charmed with the simple religious beliefs of the Quakers and especially with their denunciation of war. His "Letters on the English," published immediately upon his return to France, introduced his readers to the Society of Friends and their pacifist doctrines. am inclined to think that anti-militarism as a distinct and growing sentiment may be said to date from this time. So it has not yet had two centuries in which to develop plans and devices for countervailing man's inbred bellicosity. The French philosophes of the eighteenth century often prided themselves on being citizens of the world. They lauded the institutions of the English, Persians, Chinese, or Fiji Islanders as superior to those of their native land. Their influence af

[ocr errors]

fected other European peoples. Voltaire was invited to sojourn at the court of Berlin, and it must fill modern German patriots with chagrin to recollect that the works of their greatest ruler are written entirely in French. Catharine of Russia showed the same eagerness to avail herself of French thought as did Frederick the Great.

The development of the national spirit in the early part of the nineteenth century served to eclipse for a time the rather theoretical cosmopolitan tendencies of the eighteenth. But the progress of mechanical invention was rapidly furnishing new and substantial arguments against tribal isolation by binding the whole world together with railroads, steamship lines, and telegraphs. This in turn produced an unprecedented amount of intercommunication and interdependence and a vast network of commercial and financial relations, embracing all countries, civilized and uncivilized. This is admirably illustrated by a recent writer who has compiled lists of international congresses, conferences, and associations. These have been organized to consider matters which were regarded as of international importance, such as slavery, money, postal service, copyright, opium trade, fur seals, standard of time, bull-fighting, Gregorian chants, and maps of the world. Unofficial conferences have been held by those interested in the grain trade, hats, shoes, printing, glass-blowing, Alpine gardens, indecent pictures, rhinolaryngology, and protection against hail. "Intellectuals," abstinent priests, short-hand writers, feminists, anti-vivisectionists, theosophists, and pigeon fanciers have found their needs of mutual solace and support transcending the borders of their particular states. Such congresses and conferences occurred rarely before 1870. Their ever-increasing

frequency since the opening of the present century is probably the most striking index of the strengthening sense of international solidarity.1

The first peace conference was held in 1899. The Hague Tribunal, organized in the same year, included representatives of forty-one states. Here we have a direct attack on the problem of reducing the chances of war. It is noteworthy that the Hague Conference did not have the nerve to make questions of national honor matters subject to arbitration. Yet it is just this particular kind of excuse for war which should be most carefully considered before mobilization.

It is not the purpose of this article to offer suggestions as to means for controlling and sublimating the ancient instinct of patriotism. I am inclined, however, to think that any one who really acknowledged and believed in the bottom of his heart all the things which I have been recalling would scarcely be swept off his feet by a wave of national emotion. If that be true, then much can be accomplished through education. Of course the native tendency cannot be eliminated, but rival corporate enthusiasms can be established to compete with the old, crude tribal solidarity. If there were a general realization of the cooperative nature of civilization and of the incalculable debt of each generation to all preceding generations back to the very beginnings of human culture, it would serve to chasten our national conceit. To the modern historical student, somewhat familiar with man's long past and aware of the possibilities of the next five hundred thousand years, national arrogance appears well nigh as farcical as the pomposity of an individual

man.

1 Faries, "The Rise of Internationalism," 1915, Appendix.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »