Untimely Papers (1919)

Randolph Silliman Bourne (1886-1918)  
[Created: 11 June, 2021]
[Updated: June 5, 2023 ]
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Randolph Bourne, Untimely Papers. By Randolph Bourne. Foreword By the Editor James Oppenheim (New York B. W. Huebsch MCMXIX, 1919).http://davidmhart.com/liberty/AmericanLibertarians/Bourne/1919-UntimelyPapers/index.html

Untimely Papers. By Randolph Bourne. Foreword By the Editor James Oppenheim (New York B. W. Huebsch MCMXIX, 1919).

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This book is part of a collection of works by Randolph Silliman Bourne (1886-1918).



Table of Contents






Van Wyck Brooks has said of Randolph Bourne that he was the very type of that proletarian-aristocrat which is coming into being. When Brooks and Waldo Frank and Louis Untermeyer and Paul Rosenfeld and I -- a nucleus at the heart of a group including so many of the "younger generation" -- were joyfully publishing The Seven Arts we inevitably found the phrase "the young world," and by this phrase we characterized nothing local, but a new international life, an interweaving of groups in all countries, the unspoiled forces everywhere who share the same culture and somewhat the same new vision of the world. There was in it the Russian mixture of art and revolution, the one a change in the spirit of man, the other a change in his organized life.

At first Randolph Bourne was separated from us. He had not yet ended his apprenticeship to [5] that "liberal pragmatism" which he effectually destroys in "Twilight of Idols." He was still relying on the intellect as a programme-maker for society. But when America entered the war, his apprenticeship ended. That shock set him free, and it was inevitable then that he should not only join The Seven Arts but actually in himself gather us all together, himself, in America, the very soul of "the young world." No nerve of that world was missing in him : he was as sensitive to art as to philosophy, as politically-minded as he was psychologic, as brave in fighting for the conscientious objector as he was in opposing current American culture. He was a flaming rebel against our crippled life, as if he had taken the cue from the long struggle with his own body. And just as that weak child's body finally slew him before he had fully triumphed, so the great war succeeded in silencing him. When Randolph Bourne died on December 22, 1918, all of us of the "younger generation" felt 'that a great man had died with a great work unfinished.

He had been quite silent for over a year, for The Seven Arts was suspended in September, [6] 1917, its subsidy withdrawn because of our attitude on the war. He was nowhere wanted. It was difficult even for him to get publication for book reviews. Backed only by a few friends, he held a solitary way, with hardly the heart for new enterprise. Nevertheless he began a book, "The State," in which he planned the complete expression of his attitude, both destructive and creative. This was never finished. We have only what amounts to an essay ; but undoubtedly this essay is the most effective and terrible indictment of the institution of the State which the war has yet brought forth. It furnishes a natural climax to The Seven Arts essays; together they make a book, both historic and prophetic.

We have nothing else like this book in America. It is the only living record of the suppressed minority, and is, as so often the case, the prophecy of that minority's final triumph. Everything that Bourne wrote over two years ago has been vindicated by the event. A great chorus takes up now the song of this solitary, and like so many pioneers he has not lived to see his truth made into fact. This book is but the first of several. We shall [7] have, under Van Wyck Brooks's editorship, his volume of cultural essays, his reviews, and a "Life and Letters." When the complete picture of Randolph Bourne emerges he will be seen as the pioneer spirit of his age, a symbol of our future. His place in the American tradition is secure. His life marks the beginning of our "coming-ofage." This book relates to the war and the present crisis of the world. It does a great service for our country. Without it our showing would be weak and impoverished compared with, the Older Nations. We may rejoice that as England had her Bertrand Russell, France her Rolland and Barbusse, Germany her Liebknecht and Nicolai, so America had her Randolph Bourne.






(A Fragment, written in 1918.)

WHEN you come as an inhabitant to this earth, you do not have the pleasure of choosing your dwelling, or your career. You do not even have the privilege like those poor little shivering souls in "The Blue Bird," of sitting about, all aware and wondering, while you are chosen, one by one to take up your toilsome way on earth. You are a helpless victim of your parents' coming together. There is denied you even the satisfaction of knowing that they created you, in their own bungling fashion, after some manner of a work of art, or of what 'they imagined an adequate child should be. On the contrary, you may be merely an accident, unintentioned, a species of catastrophe in the life of your mother, a drain upon the resources that[11] were none too great already. And your parents have not only not conceived you as a work of art, but they are wholly incapable after you are born of bringing you up like a work of art.

The last indignity perhaps is that of being born unconscious, like a drugged girl who wakes up naked in a bed, not knowing how she got there. For by the time you do dimly begin to apprehend your relation to things and an intelligible world begins to clarify out of the buzz and the darting lights and dull sensations, you are lost, a prisoner of your surroundings inextricably tangled up with your mother's soul and all the intimate things around you. Your affections have gotten away from your control and attached themselves to things that you in later life discover you never intended them to touch. You depend for comfort on attitudes of your mother or father or nurse or brothers and sisters, that may be taken away from you, leaving you shivering and forlorn. Your impulses have had no intuition of reality. They have leaped forth blindly and have recoiled against or been satisfied with things of which you did not have the choosing, and which only very [12] partially seem to concern themselves with your desires. For a few years, with infinite tribulation, you have to dodge and butt and back your way through the little world of other people and things that surround you, until you are a little worn down to its shape and are able to predict its reactions.

Everything about you is given, ready, constituted, rigid, set up when you arrive. You always think that some day you are going to catch up to this givenness, that you will dominate instead of falling in line. Fortunate you are if you ever come to dominate! Usually as your world broadens out more and more around you, you merely find a tougher resistance to your desires. Your world at home is simple, personal, appealed to by all sorts of personal manifestations. You can express intense resentment and affect it, or you can express intense joy and affect it. Mother and father have an invincible strength over your feebleness, but your very feebleness is a weapon to break their harsh domination. Their defenses melt against your scream or your chuckle. As you grow older you become [13] stronger to manipulate the world. But just in proportion does the world become stronger to manipulate you. It is no longer susceptible to your scream or your smile. You must use less personal instruments. But that requires subtlety and knowledge. You have still painfully to ferret out the ways of this world, and learn how to use all sorts of unsuspected tools to gain your ends.

For there stands your old world, wary, wily, parrying easily all your childish blows, and beating you down to your knees, so that you must go back and learn your long apprenticeship. By the time you have learned it, and have become master, behold! your life is inextricably knotted into it. As you learned your apprenticeship, you did as the world did, you learned the tricks in order that you might get your revenge on this world and dominate it as it has tantalizingly held you off and subjugated you. But by the time you have learned, are you not yourself firmly established as a part of the world yourself, so that you dominate nothing. Rather are you now a part of that very flaming rampart against which new [14] youth advances. You cannot help being a part of that very rampart without extinguishing your own existence.

So you have never overtaken the given. Actually you have fallen farther and farther behind it. You have not affected the world you live in; you have been molded and shaped by it yourself. Your moral responsibility has been a myth, for you were never really free enough to have any responsibility. While you thought you were making headway, you were really being devoured. And your children are as casually begotten as you were, and born into a world as tight and inelastic as was yours. You have a picture of great things achieved, but Time laughs his ironical laugh and rolls you in the dust.

You would perhaps the more easily become free and strong if you could choose your qualities, or regulate the strength of your impulses. But you cannot even do that. Your ancestors have implanted in you impulses which very seriously inhibit you and impede you in your grappling with the world. There is anger which makes you misinterpret people's attitudes towards you, and [15] makes you resist when you often should accept. There is fear, which makes you misinterpret the unfamiliar and haunts you with its freezing power all through life. There is love, which ties you irrationally and too strongly first to your mother and your father, and then to people who have no real part with you. And there is the swift revulsion into hatred, when the loved one resists or refuses you. These impulses, which are yours just because you are an animal, soon become your masters, and further tie your hands in your response to the bewildering world into which you have come.

We grow up in the home that society has shaped or coerced our parents into accepting, we adopt the customs and language and utensils that have established themselves for our present through a long process of survival and invention and change. We take the education that is given us, and finally the jobs that are handed out to us by society. As adults, we act in the way that society expects us to act; we submit to whatever regulations and coercions society imposes on us. We live almost entirely a social life, that is, a life as a constituted [16] unit in society, rather than a free and personal one. Most people live a life which is little more than a series of quasi-official acts. Their conduct is a network of representations of the various codes and institutions of society. They act in such a way in order that some institutional or moral scripture may be fulfilled, rather than that some deep personal direction of growth should be realized. They may be half aware that they are not arrived at the place towards which their ardors pointed. They may dimly realize that their outward lives are largely a compulsion of social habit, performed, even after so many years, with a slight grudgingness. This divorce between social compulsion and personal desire, however, rarely rises to consciousness. Their conscious life is divided between the mechanical performance of their task, the attainment of their pleasures, and the wholly uncriticized acceptance and promulgation of the opinions and attitudes which society provides them with.

The normal, or the common, relation between society and the individual in any society that we know of is that the individual scarcely exists. [17] Those persons who refuse to act as symbols of society's folk-ways, as counters in the game of society's ordainings, are outlawed, and there exists an elaborate machinery for dealing with such people. Artists, philosophers, geniuses, tramps, criminals, eccentrics, aliens, free-lovers and freethinkers, and persons who challenge the most sacred taboos, are treated with great concern by society, and in the hue and cry after them all, respectable and responsible men unanimously and universally join. Some are merely made uncomfortable, the light of society's countenance being drawn from them; others are deprived of their liberty, placed for years in foul dungeons, or even executed. The heaviest penalties in modern society fall upon those who violate any of the three sacred taboos of property, sex and the State. Religion, which was for so many centuries the most exigent and ubiquitous symbol of society's demand for conformity, has lapsed in these later days and bequeathed most of its virus to the State. Society no longer demands conformity of opinion in religion, even in those countries where nominal adherence is still required.


There is nothing fixed about the objects to which society demands conformity. It is only the quantity that seems to be constant. So much conformity, like the conservation of physical energy in the universe, but the manners in which people shall think alike, or behave, or what objects they shall consider sacred, differ in myriad ways throughout different social groupings and in different eras. Diametrically opposite ideas are held in two social groups with the same vigor and fury; diametrically opposite conduct is considered equally praiseworthy and necessary; two social groups will visit with the same punishment two diametrically opposite actions. To any student of primitive societies or of the history of Western civilization, these facts are commonplaces. But the moral is not a commonplace as yet. Yet it must be evident that most of the customs and attitudes of these societies were almost wholly irrational, that is, they were social habits which persisted solely through inertia and the satisfaction they gave the gregarious impulse. The latter had to be satisfied, so that anything which cost the least in invention or reasoning or effort would [19] do. The customs, therefore, of primitive tribes seem to practically everybody in a modern Western society outlandish and foolish. What evidence is there that our codes and conformities which perform exactly the same role, and are mostly traditional survivals, are any the less outlandish and irrational ? May they not be tainted with the same purposelessness? Is not the inference irresistible that they are? They seem to us to be intelligent and necessary not because we have derived them or invented them for a clearly imagined and desired end, but because they satisfy our need for acting in a herd, just as the primitive savage is satisfied.

The most important fact we can realize about society is that to every one of us that comes into the world it is something given, irreducible. We are as little responsible for it as we are for our own birth. From our point of view it is just as much a non-premeditated, non-created, irrational portion of our environment, as is the weather. Entering it in the closing years of the Nineteenth century, we find it as it exists and as it has developed through 'the centuries of human change. [20] We had nothing whatever to do with its being as it is, and by the time we have reached such years of discretion as dimly to understand the complex of institutions around us, we are implicated in it and compromised by it as to be little able to effect any change in its irresistible bulk. No man who ever lived found himself in a different relation to society from what we find ourselves. We all enter as individuals into an organized herd-whole in which we are as significant as a drop of water in the ocean, and against which we can about as much prevail. Whether we shall act in the interests of ourselves or of society is, therefore, an entirely academic question. For entering as we do a society which is all prepared for us, so toughly grounded and immalleable that even if we came equipped with weapons to assail it and make good some individual preference, we could not in our puny strength achieve anything against it. But we come entirely helpless.






(June, 1917)

To those of us who still retain an irreconcilable animus against war, it has been a bitter experience to see the unanimity with which the American intellectuals have thrown their support to the use of war-technique in the crisis in which America found herself. Socialists, college professors, publicists, new-republicans, practitioners of literature, have vied with each other in confirming with their intellectual faith the collapse of neutrality and the riveting of the war-mind on a hundred million more of the world's people. And the intellectuals are not content with confirming our belligerent gesture. They are now complacently asserting that it was they who effectively willed it, against the hesitation and dim perceptions of the [22] American democratic masses. A war made deliberately by the intellectuals! A calm moral verdict, arrived at after a penetrating study of inexorable facts! Sluggish masses, too remote from the world-conflict to be stirred, too lacking in intellect to perceive their danger! An alert intellectual class, saving the people in spite of themselves, biding their time with Fabian strategy until the nation could be moved into war without serious resistance! An intellectual class, gently guiding a nation through sheer force of ideas into what the other nations entered only through predatory craft or popular hysteria or militarist madness ! A war free from any taint of self-seeking, a war that will secure the triumph of democracy and internationalize the world! This is the picture which the more self-conscious intellectuals have formed of themselves, and which they are slowly impressing upon a population which is being led no man knows whither by an indubitably intellectualized President. And they are right, in that the war certainly did not spring from either the ideals or the prejudices, from the national ambitions or hysterias, of the American people, [23] however acquiescent the masses prove to be, and however clearly the intellectuals prove their putative intuition.

Those intellectuals who have felt themselves totally out of sympathy with this drag toward war will seek some explanation for this joyful leadership. They will want to understand this willingness of the American intellect to open the sluices and flood us with the sewage of the war spirit. We cannot forget the virtuous horror and stupefaction which filled our college professors when they read the famous manifesto of their ninety-three German colleagues in defense of their war. To the American academic mind of 1914 defense of war was inconceivable. From Bernhardi it recoiled as from a blasphemy, little dreaming that two years later would find it creating its own cleanly reasons for imposing military service on the country and for talking of the rough rude currents of health and regeneration that war would send through the American body politic. They would have thought any one mad who talked of shipping American men by the hundreds of thousands conscripts to die on the fields of France. [24] Such a spiritual change seems catastrophic when we shoot our minds back to those days when neutrality was a proud thing. But the intellectual progress has been so gradual that the country retains little sense of the irony. The war sentiment, begun so gradually but so perseveringly by the preparedness advocates who came from the ranks of big business, caught hold of one after, another of the intellectual groups. With the aid of Roosevelt, the murmurs became a monotonous chant, and finally a chorus so mighty that to be out of it was at first to be disreputable and finally almost obscene. And slowly a strident rant was worked up against Germany which compared very creditably with the German fulminations against the greedy power of England. The nerve of the war-feeling centered, of course, in the richer and older classes of the Atlantic seaboard, and was keenest where there were French or English business and particularly social connections. The sentiment then spread over the country as a class-phenomenon, touching everywhere those upperclass elements in each section who identified themselves with this Eastern ruling group. It must [25] never be forgotten that in every community it was the least liberal and least democratic elements among whom the preparedness and later the war sentiment was found. The farmers were apathetic, the small business men and workingmen are still [FN1: June, 1917.] apathetic towards the war. The election was a vote of confidence of these latter classes in a President who would keep the faith of neutrality. The intellectuals, in other words, have identified themselves with the least democratic forces in American life. They have assumed the leadership for war of those very classes whom the American democracy has been immemorially fighting. Only in a world where irony was dead could an intellectual class enter war at the head of such illiberal cohorts in the avowed cause of world-liberalism and world-democracy. No one is left to point out the undemocratic nature of this war-liberalism. In a time of faith, skepticism is the most intolerable of all insults. Our intellectual class might have been occupied, during the last two years of war, in studying and clarifying the ideals and aspirations of the American [26] democracy, in discovering a true Americanism which would not have been merely nebulous but might have federated the different ethnic groups and traditions. They might have spent the time in endeavoring to clear the public mind of the cant of war, to get rid of old mystical notions that clog our thinking. We might have used the time for a great wave of education, for setting our house in spiritual order. We could at least have set the problem before ourselves. If our intellectuals were going to lead the administration, they might conceivably have tried to find some way of securing peace by making neutrality effective. They might have turned their intellectual energy not to the problem of jockeying the nation into war, but to the problem of using our vast neutral power to attain democratic ends for the rest of the world and ourselves without the use of the malevolent technique of war. They might have failed. The point is that they scarcely, tried. The time was spent not in clarification and education, but in a mulling over of nebulous ideals of democracy and liberalism and civilization which had never meant anything fruitful to those [27] ruling classes who now so glibly used them, and in giving free rein to the elementary instinct of self-defense. The whole era has been spiritually wasted. The outstanding feature has been not its Americanism but its intense colonialism. The offense of our intellectuals was not so much that they were colonial for what could we expect of a nation composed of so many national elements? but that it was so one-sidedly and partisanly colonial. The official, reputable expression of the intellectual class has been that of the English colonial. Certain portions of it have been even more loyalist than the King, more British even than Australia. Other colonial attitudes have been vulgar. The colonialism of the other American stocks was denied a hearing from the start. America might have been made a meeting ground for the different national attitudes. An intellectual class, cultural colonists of the different European nations, might have threshed out the issues here as they could not be threshed out in Europe. Instead of this, the English colonials in university and press took command at the start, and we became an intellectual Hungary where [28] thought was subject to an effective process of Magyarization. The reputable opinion of the American intellectuals became more and more either what could be read pleasantly in London, or what was written in an earnest effort to put Englishmen straight on their war-aims and war-technique. This Magyarization of thought produced as a counter-reaction a peculiarly offensive and inept German apologetic, and the two partisans divided the field between them. The great masses, the other ethnic groups, were inarticulate. American public opinion was almost as little prepared for war in 1917 as it was in 1914.

The sterile results of such an intellectual policy are inevitable. During the war the American intellectual class has produced almost nothing in the way of original and illuminating interpretation. Veblen's "Imperial Germany"; Patten's "Culture and War," and addresses; Dewey's "German Philosophy and Politics"; a chapter or two in Weyl's "American Foreign Policies"; is there much else of creative value in the intellectual repercussion of the war ? It is true that the shock of war put the American intellectual to an unusual [29] strain. He had to sit idle and think as spectator not as actor. There was no government to which he could docilely and loyally tender his mind as did the Oxford professors to justify England in her own eyes. The American's training was such as to make the fact of war almost incredible. Both in his reading of history and in his lack of economic perspective he was badly prepared for it. He had to explain to himself something which was too colossal for the modern mind, which outran any language or terms which we had to interpret it in. He had to expand his sympathies to the breaking-point, while pulling the past and present into some sort of interpretative order. The intellectuals in the fighting countries had only to rationalize and justify what their country was already doing. Their task was easy. A neutral, however, had really to search out the truth. Perhaps perspective was too much to ask of any mind. Certainly the older colonials among our college professors let their prejudices at once dictate their thought. They have been comfortable ever since. The war has taught them nothing and will teach them nothing. And they have had the satisfaction, [30] under the rigor of events, of seeing prejudice submerge the intellects of their younger colleagues. And they have lived to see almost their entire class, pacifists and democrats too, join them as apologists for the "gigantic irrelevance" of war. We have had to watch, therefore, in this country the same process which so shocked us abroad, the coalescence of the intellectual classes in support of the military programme. In this country, indeed, the socialist intellectuals did not even have the grace of their German brothers and wait for the declaration of war before they broke for cover. And when they declared for war they showed how thin was the intellectual veneer of their socialism. For they called us in terms that might have emanated from any bourgeois journal to defend democracy and civilization, just as if it was not exactly against those very bourgeois democracies and capitalist civilizations that socialists had been fighting for decades. But so subtle is the spiritual chemistry of the "inside" that all this intellectual cohesion herd-instinct become herd-intellect which seemed abroad so hysterical and so servile, comes to us here in highly rational terms. We go [31] to war to save the world from subjugation ! But the German intellectuals went to war to save their culture from barbarization ! And the French went to war to save their beautiful France ! And the English to save international honor! And Russia, most altruistic and self-sacrificing of all, to save a small State from destruction! Whence is our miraculous intuition of our moral spotlessness? Whence our confidence that history will not unravel huge economic and imperialist forces upon which our rationalizations float like bubbles? The Jew often marvels that his race alone should have been chosen as the true people of the cosmic God. Are not our intellectuals equally fatuous when they tell us that our war of all wars is stainless and thrillingly achieving for good?

An intellectual class that was wholly rational would have called insistently for peace and not for war. For months the crying need has been for a negotiated peace, in order to avoid the ruin of a deadlock. Would not the same amount of resolute statesmanship thrown into intervention have secured a peace that would have been a subjugation for neither side? Was the terrific bargaining [32] power of a great neutral ever really used? Our war followed, as all wars follow, a monstrous failure of diplomacy. Shamefacedness should now be our intellectuals' attitude, because the American play for peace was made so little more than a polite play. The intellectuals have still to explain why, willing as they now are to use force to continue the war to absolute exhaustion, they were not willing to use force to coerce the world to a speedy peace.

Their forward vision is no more convincing than their past rationality. We go to war now to internationalize the world! But surely their League to Enforce Peace is only a palpable apocalyptic myth, like the syndicalists' myth of the "general strike." It 1 is not a rational programme so much as a glowing symbol for the purpose of focusing belief, of setting enthusiasm on fire for international order. As far as it does this it has pragmatic value, but as far as it provides a certain radiant mirage of idealism for this war and for a world-order founded on mutual fear, it is dangerous and obnoxious. Idealism should be kept for what is ideal. It is depressing to think [33] that the prospect of a world so strong that none dare challenge it should be the immediate ideal of the American intellectual. If the League is only a makeshift, a coalition into which we enter to restore order, then it is only a description of existing fact, and the idea should be treated as such. But if it is an actually prospective outcome of the settlement, the keystone of American policy, it is neither realizable nor desirable. For the programme of such a League contains no provision for dynamic national growth or for international economic justice. In a world which requires recognition of economic internationalism far more than of political internationalism, an idea is reactionary which proposes to petrify and federate the nations as political and economic units. Such a scheme for international order is a dubious justification for American policy. And if American policy had been sincere in its belief that our participation would achieve international beatitude, would we not have made our entrance into the war conditional upon a solemn general agreement to respect in the final settlement these principles of international order ? Could we have afforded, if [34] our war was to end War by the establishment of a league of honor, to risk the defeat of our vision and our betrayal in the settlement? Yet we are in the war, and no such solemn agreement was made, nor has it even been suggested.

The case of the intellectuals seems, therefore, only very speciously rational. They could have used their energy to force a just peace or at least to devise other means than war for carrying through American policy. They could have used their intellectual energy to ensure that our participation in the war meant the international order which they wish. Intellect was not so used. It was used to lead an apathetic nation into an irresponsible war, without guarantees from those belligerents whose cause we were saving. The American intellectual, therefore, has been rational neither in his hindsight nor his foresight. To explain him we must look beneath the intellectual reasons to the emotional disposition. It is not so much what they thought as how they felt that explains our intellectual class. Allowing for colonial sympathy, there was still the personal shock in a world-war which outraged all our [35] preconceived notions of the way the world was tending. It reduced to rubbish most of the humanitarian internationalism and democratic nationalism which had been the emotional thread of our intellectuals' life. We had suddenly to make a new orientation. There were mental conflicts. Our latent colonialism strove with our longing for American unity. Our desire for peace strove with our desire for national responsibility in the world. That first lofty and remote and not altogether unsound feeling of our spiritual isolation from the conflict could not last. There was the itch to be in the great experience which the rest of the world was having. Numbers of intelligent people who had never been stirred by the horrors of capitalistic peace at home were shaken out of their slumber by the horrors of war in Belgium. Never having felt responsibility for labor wars and oppressed masses and excluded races at home, they had a large fund of idle emotional capital to invest in the oppressed nationalities and ravaged villages of Europe. Hearts that had felt only ugly contempt for democratic strivings at home beat in tune with the struggle for freedom abroad. All this was [36] natural, but it tended to over-emphasize our responsibility. And it threw our thinking out of gear. The task of making our own country detailedly fit for peace was abandoned in favor of a feverish concern for the management of the war, advice to the fighting governments on all matters, military, social and political, and a gradual working up of the conviction that we were ordained as a nation to lead all erring brothers towards the light of liberty and democracy. The failure of the American intellectual class to erect a creative attitude toward the war can be explained by these sterile mental conflicts which the shock to our ideals sent raging through us.

Mental conflicts end either in a new and higher synthesis or adjustment, or else in a reversion to more primitive ideas which have been outgrown but to which we drop when jolted out of our attained position. The war caused in America a recrudescence of nebulous ideals which a younger generation was fast outgrowing because it had passed the wistful stage and was discovering concrete ways of getting them incarnated in actual institutions. The shock of the war threw us back [37] from this pragmatic work into an emotional bath of these old ideals. There was even a somewhat rarefied revival of our primitive Yankee boastfulness, the reversion of senility to that republican childhood when we expected the whole world to copy our republican institutions. We amusingly ignored the fact that it was just that Imperial German regime, to whom we are to teach the art of self-government, which our own Federal structure, with its executive irresponsible in foreign policy and with its absence of parliamentary control, most resembles. And we are missing the exquisite irony of the unaffected homage paid by the American democratic intellectuals to the last and most detested of Britain's tory premiers as the representative of a "liberal" ally, as well as the irony of the selection of the best hated of America's bourbon "old guard" as the missionary of American democracy to Russia. The intellectual state that could produce such things is one where reversion has taken place to more primitive ways of thinking. Simple syllogisms are substituted for analysis, things are known by their labels, our heart's desire dictates [38] what we shall see. The American intellectual class, having failed to make the higher syntheses, regresses to ideas that can issue in quick, simplified action. Thought becomes any easy rationalization of what is actually going on or what is to happen inevitably to-morrow. It is true that certain groups did rationalize their colonialism and attach the doctrine of the inviolability of British sea-power to the doctrine of a League of Peace. But this agile resolution of the mental conflict did not become a higher synthesis, to be creatively developed. It gradually merged into a justification for our going to war. It petrified into a dogma to be propagated. Criticism flagged and emotional propaganda began. Most of the socialists, the college professors and the practitioners of literature, however, have not even reached this high-water mark of synthesis. Their mental conflicts have been resolved much more simply. War in the interests of democracy! This was almost the sum of their philosophy. The primitive idea to which they regressed became almost insensibly translated into a craving for action. War was seen as the crowning relief of their indecision. [39] At last action, irresponsibility, the end of anxious and torturing attempts to reconcile peace-ideals with the drag of the world towards Hell. An end to the pain of trying to adjust the facts to what they ought to be ! Let us consecrate the facts as ideal! Let us join the greased slide towards war ! The momentum increased. Hesitations, ironies, consciences, considerations, all were drowned in the elemental blare of doing something aggressive, colossal. The new-found Sabbath "peacefulness of being at war" ! The thankfulness with which so many intellectuals. lay down and floated with the current betrays the hesitation and suspense through which they had been. The American university is a brisk and happy place these days. Simple, unquestioning action has superseded the knots of thought. The thinker dances with reality.

With how many of the acceptors of war has it been mostly a dread of intellectual suspense? It is a mistake to suppose that intellectuality necessarily makes for suspended judgments. The intellect craves certitude. It takes effort to keep it supple and pliable. In a time of danger and [40] disaster we jump desperately for some dogma to cling to. The time comes, if we try to hold out, when our nerves are sick with fatigue, and We seize in a great healing wave of release some doctrine that can be immediately translated into action. Neutrality meant suspense, and so it became the object of loathing to frayed nerves. The vital myth of the League of Peace provides a dogma to jump to. With war the world becomes motor again and speculation is brushed aside like cobwebs. The blessed emotion of "self-defense” intervenes too, which focused millions in Europe. A few keep up a critical pose after war is begun, but since they usually advise action which is in one-to-one correspondence with what the mass is already doing, their criticism is little more than a rationalization of the common emotional drive.

The results of war on the intellectual class are already apparent. Their thought becomes little more than a description and justification of what is going on. They turn upon any rash one who continues idly to speculate. Once the war is on, the conviction spreads that individual thought is helpless, that the only way one can count is as a [41] cog in the great wheel. There is no good holding back. We are told to dry our unnoticed and ineffective tears and plunge into the great work. Not only is every one forced into line, but the new certitude becomes idealized. It is a noble realism which opposes itself to futile obstruction and the cowardly refusal to face facts. This realistic boast is so loud and sonorous that one wonders whether realism is always a stern and intelligent grappling with realities. May it not be sometimes a mere surrender to the actual, an abdication of the ideal through a sheer fatigue from intellectual suspense? The pacifist is roundly scolded for refusing to face the facts, and for retiring into his own world of sentimental desire. But is the realist, who refuses to challenge or criticize facts, entitled to any more credit than that which comes from following the line of least resistance? The realist thinks he at least can control events by linking himself to the forces that are moving. Perhaps he can. But if it is a question of controlling war, it is difficult to see how the child on the back of a mad elephant is to be any more effective in stopping the beast than [42] is the child who tries to stop him from the ground. The ex-humanitarian, turned realist, sneers at the snobbish neutrality, colossal conceit, crooked thinking, dazed sensibilities, of those who are still unable to find any balm of consolation for this war. We manufacture consolations here in America while there are probably not a dozen men fighting in Europe who did not long ago give up every reason for their being there except that nobody knew how to get them away.

But the intellectuals whom the crisis has crystallized into an acceptance of war have put themselves into a terrifyingly strategic position. It is only on the craft, in the stream, they say, that one has any chance of controlling the current forces for liberal purposes. If we obstruct, we surrender all power for influence. If we responsibly approve, we then retain our power for guiding. We will be listened to as responsible thinkers, while those who obstructed the coming of war have committed intellectual suicide and shall be cast into outer darkness. Criticism by the ruling powers will only be accepted from those intellectuals who are in sympathy with the general tendency [43] of the war. Well, it is true that they may guide, but if their stream leads to disaster and the frustration of national life, is their guiding any more than a preference whether they shall go over the right-hand or the left-hand side of the precipice? Meanwhile, however, there is comfort on board. Be with us, they call, or be negligible, irrelevant. Dissenters are already excommunicated. Irreconcilable radicals, wringing their hands among the debris, become the most despicable and impotent of men. There seems no choice for the intellectual but to join the mass of acceptance. But again the terrible dilemma arises, either support what is going on, in which case you count for nothing because you are swallowed in the mass and great incalculable forces bear you on; or remain aloof, passively resistant, in which case you count for nothing because you are outside the machinery of reality.

Is there no place left, then, for the intellectual who cannot yet crystallize, who does not dread suspense, and is not yet drugged with fatigue? The American intellectuals, in their preoccupation with reality, seem to have forgotten that the real enemy [44] is War rather than imperial Germany. There is work to be done to prevent this war of ours from passing into popular mythology as a holy crusade. What shall we do with leaders who tell us that we go to war in moral spotlessness, or who make "democracy" synonymous with a republican form of government ? There is work to be done in still shouting that all the revolutionary byproducts will not justify the war, or make war anything else than the most noxious complex of all the evils that afflict men. There must be some to find no consolation whatever, and some to sneer at those who buy the cheap emotion of sacrifice. There must be some irreconcilables left who will not even accept the war with walrus tears. There must be some to call unceasingly for peace, and some to insist that the terms of settlement shall be not only liberal but democratic. There must be some intellectuals who are not willing to use the old discredited counters again and to support a peace which would leave all the old inflammable materials of armament lying about the world. There must still be opposition to any contemplated "liberal" world-order founded on military coalitions. [45] The "irreconcilable" need not be disloyal. He need not even be "impossibilist." His apathy towards war should take the form of a heightened energy and enthusiasm for the education, the art, the interpretation that make for life in the midst of the world of death. The intellectual who retains his animus against war will push out more boldly than ever to make his case solid against it. The old ideals crumble ; new ideals must be forged. His mind will continue to roam widely and ceaselessly. The thing he will fear most is premature crystallization. If the American intellectual class rivets itself to a "liberal" philosophy that perpetuates the old errors, there will then be need for "democrats" whose task will be to divide, confuse, disturb, keep the intellectual waters constantly in motion to prevent any such ice from ever forming.






(July, 1917)

HE is one of those young men who, because his parents happened to mate during a certain ten years of the world's history, has had now to put his name on a wheel of fate, thereby submitting himself to be drawn into a brief sharp course of military training before being shipped across the sea to kill Germans or be killed by them. He dos not like this fate that menaces him, and he dislikes it because he seems to find nothing in the programme marked out for him which touches remotely his aspirations, his impulses, or even his desires. My friend is not a happy young man, but even -the unsatisfactory life he is living seems supplemented at no single point by the life of the drill-ground or the camp or the stinking trench. [47] He visualizes the obscenity of the battlefield and 1 turns away in nausea. He thinks of the weary regimentation of young men, and is filled with > disgust. His mind has turned sour pn war and all that it involves. He is poor material for the military proclamation and the drill-sergeant.

I want to understand this friend of mine, for he seems rather typical of a scattered race of young Americans of to-day. He does not f fall easily into the categories of patriot and coward which the papers are making popular. He feels neither patriotism nor fear, only an apathy toward the war, faintly warmed into a smoldering resentment at the men who have clamped down the warpattern upon him and that vague mass of people and ideas and workaday living around him that he thinks of as his country. Now that resentment has knotted itself into a tortured tangle of what he should do, how he can best be true to his creative self? I should say that his apathy cannot be imputed to cowardly ease. My friend earns about fifteen hundred dollars a year as an architect's assistant, and he lives alone in a little room over a fruitshop. He worked his way through [48] college, and he has never known even a leisurely month. There is nothing Phaeacian about his life. It is scarcely to save his skin for riotous living that he is reluctant about war. Since he left college he has been trying to find his world. He is often seriously depressed and irritated with himself for not having hewed out a more glorious career for himself. His work is just interesting enough to save it from drudgery, and yet not nearly independent and exacting enough to give him a confident professional sense. Outside his work, life is deprived and limited rather than luxurious. He is fond of music and goes to cheap concerts. He likes radical meetings, but never could get in touch with the agitators. His friends are seeking souls just like himself. He likes midnight talks in cafes and studios, but he is not especially amenable to drink. His heart of course is hungry and turbid, but his two or three loveaffairs have not clarified anything for him. He eats three rather poor restaurant meals a /day. When he reads, it is philosophy Nietzsche, James, Bergson or the novels about youth Holland, Nexo, Cannan, Frenssen, Beresford. [49] He has a rather constant mood of futility, though he is in unimpeachable health. There are moments when life seems quite without sense or purpose. He has enough friends, however, to be not quite lonely, and yet they are so various as to leave him always with an ache for some more cohesive, purposeful circle. His contacts with people irritate him without rendering him quite unhopeful. He is always expecting he doesn't know quite what, and always being frustrated of he doesn't quite know what would have pleased him. Perhaps he never had a moment of real external or internal ease in his life.

Obviously a creature of low vitality, with neither the broad vision to be stirred by the President's war message, nor the red blood to itch for the dummy bayonet-charge. Yet somehow he does not seem exactly weak, and there is a consistency about his attitude which intrigues me. Since he left college eight years ago, he has been through most of the intellectual and emotional fads of the day. He has always cursed himself for being so superficial and unrooted, and he has tried to write a little of the thoughts that stirred [50] him. What he got down on paper was, of course, the usual large vague feeling of a new time that all of us feel. With the outbreak of the Great War, most of his socialist and pacifist theories were knocked flat. The world turned out to be an entirely different place from what he had thought it. Progress and uplift seemed to be indefinitely suspended, though it was a long time before he realized how much he had been corroded by the impact of news and the endless discussions he heard. I think he gradually worked himself into a truly neutral indifference. The reputable people and the comfortable classes who were having all the conventional emotions rather disgusted him. The neurotic fury about self-defense seemed to come from types and classes that he instinctively detested. He was not scared, and somehow he could not get enthusiastic about defending himself with "preparedness" unless he were badly scared. Things got worse. All that he valued seemed frozen until the horrible mess came to a close. He had gone to an unusually intelligent American college, and he had gotten a feeling for a humane civilization that had not left [51] him. The war, it is true, bit away piece by piece every ideal that made this feeling seem plausible. Most of the big men intellectuals whom he thought he respected had had so much of their idealism hacked away and got their nerves so frayed that they became at last, in their panic, willing and even eager to adopt the war-technique in aid of their government's notions of the way to impose democracy on the world.

My poor young friend can best be understood as too naïve and too young to effect this metamorphosis. Older men might mix a marvelous intellectual brew of personal anger, fear, a sense of "dishonor," fervor for a League of Peace, and set going a machinery that crushed everything intelligent, humane and civilized. My friend was less flexible. War simply did not mix with anything that he had learned to feel was desirable. Something in his mind spewed it out whenever it was suggested as a cure for our grievous American neutrality. As I got all this from our talks, he did not seem weak. He merely had no notion of the patriotism that meant the springing of a nation to arms. He read conscientiously The New Republic's [52] feast of eloquent idealism, with its appealing harbingers of a cosmically efficacious and well-bred war. He would often say, This is all perfectly convincing; why, then, are we not all convinced 4 ? He seemed to understand the argument for American participation. We both stood in awe at the superb intellectual structure that was built up. But my friend is one of those unfortunate youths whose heart has to apprehend as well as his intellect, and it was his heart that inexorably balked. So he was in no mood to feel the worth of American participation, in spite of the infinite tact and Fabian strategy of the Executive and his intellectualist backers. He felt apart from it all. He had not the imagination to see a healed world-order built out of the rotten materials of armaments, diplomacy and "liberal" statesmanship. And he wasn't affected by the psychic complex of panic, hatred, rage, classarrogance and patriotic swagger that was creating in newspaper editors and in the "jeunesse doree" around us the authentic elan for war.

My friend is thus somehow in the nation but not of the nation. The war has as yet got no [53] conceivable clutch on his soul. He knows that theoretically he is united with a hundred million in purpose, sentiment and deed for an idealistic war to defend democracy and civilization against predatory autocracy. Yet somehow, in spite of all the excitement, nobody has as yet been able to make this real to him. He is healthy, intelligent, idealistic. The irony is that the demand which his country now makes on him is one to which not one single cell or nerve of idealism or desire responds. The cheap and silly blare of martial life leaves him cold. The easy inflation of their will-to-power which is coming to so many people from their participation in volunteer or government service, or, better still, from their urging others to farm, enlist, invest, retrench, organize, --none of this allures him. His life is uninteresting and unadventurous, but it is not quite dull enough to make this activity or anything he knows about war seem a release into lustier expression. He has ideals but he cannot see their realization through a desperate struggle to the uttermost. He doubts the "saving" of an America which can only be achieved through world-suicide. He wants [54] democracy, but he does not want the kind of democracy we will get by this war enough to pay the suicidal cost of getting it in the way we set about it.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, sweet and becoming is it to die for one's country. This is the young man who is suddenly asked to die for his country. My friend was much concerned about registration. He felt coercive forces closing in upon him. He did not want to register for the purposes of being liable to conscription. It would be doing something positive when he felt only apathy. Furthermore, if he was to resist, was it not better to take a stand now than to wait to be drafted? On the other hand, was it not too much of a concession to rebel at a formality? He did not really wish to be a martyr. Going to prison for a year for merely refusing to register ' was rather a grotesque and futile gesture. He did not see himself as a hero, shedding inspiration by his example to his fellows. He did not care what others did. His objection to prison was not so much fear perhaps as contempt for a silly sacrifice. He could not keep up his pose of complete aliency [55] from the war-enterprise, now that registration was upon him. Better submit stoically, he thought, to the physical pressure, mentally reserving his sense of spiritual aliency from the enterprise into which he was being remorselessly molded. Yet my friend is no arrant prig. He does not pretend to be a "world-patriot," or a servant of some higher law than his country's. Nor does he feel blatantly patriotic. With his groping philosophy of life, patriotism has merely died as a concept of significance for him. Iris to him merely the emotion that fills the herd when it imagines itself engaged in massed defense or massed attack. Having no such images, he has no feeling of patriotism: He still feels himself inextricably a part of this blundering, wistful, crass civilization we call America. All he asks is not to be identified with it for warlike ends. He does not feel pro-German. He tells me there is not a drop of any but British blood in his veins. He does not love the Kaiser. He is quite willing to believe that it is the German government and not the German people whom he is asked to fight, although it may be the latter whom he is obliged to kill. But [56] he cannot forget that it is the American govern' ment rather than the American people who got up the animus to fight the German government. He does not forget that the American government,having through tragic failure slipped into the war-technique, is now trying to manipulate him into that war-technique. And my friend's idea of patria does not include the duty of warlike animus, even when the government decides such animus is necessary to carry out its theories of democracy and the future organization of the world. There are ways in which my friend would probably be willing to die for his country. If his death now meant the restoration of those ravaged lands and the bringing back of the dead, that would be a cause to die for. But he knows that the dead cannot be brought back or the brotherly currents restored. The work of madness will not be undone. Only a desperate war will be prolonged. Everything seems to him so mad that there is nothing left worth dying for. Pro patria mori, to my friend, means something different from lying gaunt as a conscript on a foreign battlefield, fallen in the last desperate fling of an interminable world-war.


Does this mean that if he is drafted he will refuse to serve? I do not know. It will not be any plea of "conscientious objection" that keeps him back. That phrase to him has already an archaic flavor which implies a ruling norm, a stiff familiar whom he must obey in the matter. It implies that one would be delighted to work up one's blood-lust for the business, except that this unaccountable conscience, like a godly grandmother, absolutely forbids. In the case of my friend, it will not be any objective "conscience." It will be something that is woven into his whole modern philosophic feel for life. This is what paralyzes him against taking one step toward the war-machine. If he were merely afraid of death, he would seek some alternative service. But he does not. He remains passive and apathetic, waiting for the knife to fall. There is a growing cynicism in him about the brisk and inept "bustle of war-organization. His attitude suggests that if he is worked into war-service, he will have to be corerced every step of the way.

Yet he may not even rebel. He may go silently [58] into the ranks in a mood of cold contempt. His horror of useless sacrifice may make even the bludgeoning of himself seem futile. He may go in the mood of so many young men in the other countries, without enthusiasm, without idealism, without hope and without belief, victims of a tragically blind force behind them. No other government, however, has had to face from the very start quite this appalling skepticism of youth. My friend is significant because all the shafts of panic, patriotism and national honor have been discharged at him without avail. All the seductions of "liberal" idealism leave him cold. He is to be susceptible to nothing but the use of crude, rough, indefeasible violence. Nothing could be more awkward for a "democratic" President than to be faced with this cold, staring skepticism of youth, in the prosecution of his war. The attitude of my ffiend suggests that there is a personal and social idealism in America which is out of reach of the most skillful and ardent appeals of the older order, an idealism that cannot be hurt by the taunts of cowardice and slacking or kindled by [59] the slogans of capitalistic democracy. This is the cardinal fact of our war the non-mobilization of the younger intelligentsia.

What will they do to my friend? If the war goes on they will need him. Pressure will change skepticism into bitterness. That bitterness will well and grow. If the country submissively pours month after month its wealth of life and resources into the work of annihilation, that bitterness will spread out like a stain over the younger American generation. If the enterprise goes on endlessly, the work, so blithely undertaken for the defense of democracy, will have crushed out the only genuinely precious thing in a nation, the hope and ardent idealism of its youth.






(August, 1917)

IN the absorbing business of organizing American participation in the war, public opinion seems to be forgetting the logic of that participation. It was for the purpose of realizing certain definite international ideals that the American democracyconsented to be led into war. The meeting of aggression seemed to provide the immediate pretext, but the sincere intellectual support of the war came from minds that hoped ardently for an international order that would prevent a recurrence of world-war. Our action they saw as efficacious toward that end. It was almost wholly upon this ground that they justified it and themselves. The strategy which they suggested was [61] very carefully worked out to make our participation count heavily toward the realization of their ideals. Their justification and their strategy alike were inseparably bound up with those ideals. It was implicit in their position that any alteration in the ideals would affect the strategy and would cast suspicion upon their justification. Similarly any alteration in the strategy would make this liberal body of opinion suspicious of the devotion of the Government to those ideals, and would tend to deprive the American democracy of any confident morale it might have had in entering the war. The American case hung upon the continued perfect working partnership of ideals, strategy and morale.

In the eyes of all but the most skeptical radicals, American entrance into the war seemed to be marked by a singularly perfect union of these three factors. The President's address to Congress on April 2, supported by the December Peace note and the principles of the famous Senate address, gave the Government and American "liberalism" an apparently unimpeachable case. A nation which had resisted for so long a time the [62] undertow of war, which had remained passive before so many provocations and incitements, needed the clearest assurance of unselfish purpose to carry it through the inevitable chaos and disillusionment of adopting a war-technique. That moment seemed to give this assurance. But it needed not only a clear, but a steady and unwavering assurance. It had to see day by day, in each move of war-policy which the Administration made, an unmistakable step toward the realization of the ideals for which the American people had consented to come into the war. American hesitation was overcome only by an apparently persuasive demonstration that priceless values of civilization were at stake. The American people could only be prevented from relapsing into their first hesitation, and so demoralizing the conduct of the war, by the sustained conviction that the Administration and the Allied governments were fighting single-mindedly for the conservation of those values. It is therefore pertinent to ask how this conviction has been sustained and how accurately American strategy has been held to the justifying of our participation in the war. It is pertinent to [63] ask whether the prevailing apathy may not be due to the progressive weakening of the assurance that our war is being in any way decisive in the securing of the values for which we are presumably fighting.

It will not be forgotten that the original logic of American participation hung primarily upon the menace of Germany's renewed submarine campaign. The case for America's entrance became presumably irresistible only when the safety of the British Commonwealth and of the Allies and neutrals who use the Atlantic highway was at stake. American liberal opinion had long ago decided that the logic of our moral neutrality had passed. American isolation was discredited as it became increasingly evident how urgent was our duty to participate in the covenant of nations which it was hoped would come out of the settlement. We were bound to contribute our resources and our good-will to this enterprise. Our position made it certain that however we acted we 'should be the deciding factor. But up to February first, 1917, it was still an arguable question in the minds of "liberals" whether we could best make that contribution through throwing in our lot [64] with the more pacific nations or by continuing a neutrality benevolent toward their better cause. For this benevolent neutrality, however strained, was still endurable, particularly when supplemented by the hope of mediation contained in the "peace without victory" maneuvers and the principles of the Senate speech.

This attempt to bring about a negotiated peace, while the United States was still nominally neutral, but able to bring its colossal resources against the side which refused to declare its terms, marked the highwater level of American strategy.

For a negotiated peace, achieved before either side had reached exhaustion and the moral disaster was not irremediable, would have been the most hopeful possible basis for the covenant of nations. And the United States, as the effective agent in such a negotiated peace and as the most powerful neutral, might have assumed undisputed leadership in such a covenant.

The strategy of "peace without victory" failed because of the refusal of Germany to state her terms. The war went on from sheer lack of a common basis upon which to work out a settlement. [65] American strategy then involved the persistent pressure of mediation. The submarine menace, however, suddenly forced the issue. The safety of the seas, the whole Allied cause, seemed suddenly in deadly peril. In the emergency benevolent neutrality collapsed. Liberal opinion could find no other answer to the aggression than war. In the light of the sequel those radicals who advocated a policy of "armed neutrality" seem now to have a better case. For American action obtained momentum from the imminence of the peril. The need was for the immediate guarantee of food and ships to the menaced nations and for the destruction of the attacking submarines. "Armed neutrality" suggested a way of dealing promptly and effectively with the situation. The providing of loans, food, ships, convoys, could ostensibly have taken place without a declaration of war, and without developing the country's morale or creating a vast military establishment. It was generally believed that time was the decisive factor. The decision for war has therefore meant an inevitable and perhaps fatal course of delay. It was obvious that with our well-known [66] unpreparedness of administrative technique, the lack of coordination in industry, and the unreadiness of the people and Congress for coercion, war meant the practical postponement of action for months. In such an emergency that threatened us, our only chance to serve was in concentrating our powers. Until the disorganization inherent in a pacific democracy was remedied, our only hope of effective aid would come from focusing the country's energies on a ship and food programme, supplemented by a naval programme devised realistically to the direct business at hand. The war could be most promptly ended by convincing the German government that the submarine had no chance of prevailing against the endless American succor which was beginning to raise the siege and clear the seas.

The decision, however, was for war, and for a "thorough" war. This meant the immediate throwing upon the national machinery of far more activity than it could handle. It meant attaching to a food and ship programme a military programme, a loan programme, a censorship programme. All these latter have involved a vast [67] amount of advertising, of agitation, of discussion, and dissension. The country's energies and attention have been drained away from the simple exigencies of the situation and from the technique of countering \he submarine menace and ending the war. Five months have passed since the beginning of unrestricted submarine warfare. We have done nothing to overcome the submarine. The food and ship programmes are still unconsolidated. The absorption of Congress and the country in the loan and the conscript army and the censorship has meant just so much less absorption in thfe vital k apd urgent technique to provide which we entered the war. The country has been put to work at a vast number of activities which are consonant to the abstract condition of war, but which may have little relation to the particular situation in which this country found itself and to the particular strategy required. The immediate task was to prevent German victory in order to restore the outlines of our strategy toward a negotiated peace. War has been impotent in that immediate task. Paradoxically, therefore, our very participation 'was a means of weakening our [68] strategy. We have not overcome the submarine or freed the Atlantic world. Our entrance has apparently made not a dent in the morale of the German people. The effect of our entrance, it was anticipated by liberals, would be the shortening of the war. Our entrance has rather tended to prolong it. Liberals were mistaken about the immediate collapse of the British Commonwealth. It continued to endure the submarine challenge without our material aid. We find ourselves, therefore, saddled with a war-technique which has compromised rather than furthered our strategy.

This war-technique compromises the outlines of American strategy because instead of making for a negotiated peace it has had the entirely unexpected result of encouraging those forces in the Allied countries who desire la victoire integrate, the "knockout blow." In the President's warmessage the country was assured that the principles of the negotiated peace remained quite unimpaired,. The strategy that underlay this, it will be remembered, was to appeal to the Teutonic peoples over the heads of their rulers with terms so liberal that the peoples^ would force their [69] governments to make peace. The strategy of the American government was, while prosecuting the war, to announce its war-aims and to persuade the Allies to announce their war-aims in such terms as would split the peoples of the Central Powers from their governments, thus bringing more democratic regimes that would provide a fruitful basis for a covenant of nations. We entered the war with no grievances of our own. It was our peculiar role to continue the initiative for peace, both by unmistakably showing our own purpose for a just peace based on some kind of international organization and by wielding a steady pressure on the Entente governments to ratify our programme. If we lost this initiative for peace, or if we were unable or unwilling to press the Entente toward an unmistakable liberalism, our strategy broke down and our justification for entering the war became seriously impaired. For we could then be charged with merely aiding the Entente's ambiguous scheme of European reorganization.

The success of this strategy of peace depended on a stern disavowal of the illiberal programmes [70] of groups within the Allied countries and a sympathetic attitude toward the most democratic programmes of groups within the enemy Powers. Anything which weakened either this disavowal or tjiis sympathy would imperil our American case. As potential allies in this strategy the American government had within the enemies' gates the followers of Scheidemann who said at the last sitting of the Reichstag: "If the Entente Powers should renounce all claims for annexation and indemnity and if the Central Powers should insist on continuing the war, a revolution will certainly result in Germany." It is not inconceivable that the American government and the German socialists had at the back of their minds the same kind of a just peace. The fact that the German socialists were not opposing the German government did not mean that any peace move in which the former were interested was necessarily a sinister Hohenzollern intrigue. The bitterest enemies of Hollweg were not the radicals but the Pan-Germans themselves. It is they who were said to be circulating manifestoes through the army threatening revolution unless their programme of wholesale [71] annexations is carried out. Whatever liberal reservoir of power there is in Germany, therefore, remains in the socialist ranks. If there is any chance of liberal headway against the sinister PanGerman campaign it is through this nucleus of liberal power. American strategy, if it has to find a liberal leverage in Germany, will have to choose the socialist group as against the Pan-Germans. It is not absolutely necessary to assume that the support of the Chancellor by the socialist majority is permanent. It is unplausible that the Scheidemann group cooperates with the Government for peace merely to consolidate the Junker and military class in power after the war. It is quite conceivable that the socialist majority desires peace in order to have a safe basis for a liberal overturn. Revolution, impossible while the Fatherland is in danger, becomes a practicable issue as soon as war is ended. A policy of aiding the Government in its pressure toward peace, in order to be in a tactical position to control the Government when the war-peril was ended, would be an extremely astute piece of statesmanship. There is no evidence that the German socialists are incapable [72] of such far-sighted strategy. Certainly the "German peace" of a Scheidemann is bound to be entirely different from the "German peace" of a Hindenburg. This difference is one of the decisive factors of the American strategy. To ignore it is to run the risk of postponing and perhaps obstructing the settlement of the war.

It is these considerations that make the refusal of passports to the American socialists seem a serious weakening of the American strategy. A conference of responsible socialists from the different countries might have clarified the question how far a Russian peace or a Scheidemann peace differed from the structure of a Wilson peace. By denying American participation in the conference, the Administration apparently renounced the opportunity to make contact with liberal leverage in Germany. It refused to take that aggressive step in cleaving German opinion which was demanded by its own strategy. It tended to discourage liberal opinion in Germany and particularly it discouraged the Russian democracy which was enthusiastic for a socialist conference.

This incident was symptomatic of the lessened [73] adjustment which the Administration has shown toward the changing situation. It was the hope of the American liberals who advocated American entrance into the war that this country would not lose thereby its initiative for peace. They believed that our entrance would make our mediating power actually stronger. That hope has been disappointed through the unexpected radicalism of the new Russian government. The initiative for peace was bound to lie with the people that most wanted peace and was willing to make the most peremptory demands upon the Allied governments that they state the war-aims that would bring it. This tactic was an integral part of the original American strategy. The American liberals trusted the President to use American participation as an instrument in liberalizing the war-aims of all the Allied governments. In the event, however, it has not been America that has wanted peace sufficiently to be peremptory about it. It has been Russia. The initiative for peace has passed from President Wilson into the hands of the Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies. It is the latter who have brought the pressure to [74] declare democratic war-aims. It is their dissatisfaction with the original Allied statement that has brought these new, if scarcely more satisfactory, declarations. In this discussion between the Governments regarding the restatement of war-aims, it was not upon Russia's side that this country found itself. The President's note to Russia had all the tone of a rebuke. It sounded like the reaction of a Government which supposedly itself the leader in the campaign for a just peace found itself uncomfortably challenged to state its own sincerity. The key to our American strategy has been surrendered to Russia. The plain fact is that the President has lost that position of leader which a Russian candor would have retained for him.

What is more serious is that the note to Russia implied not only his loss of the initiative for a negotiated peace but even the desire for it. The day has come when we must conquer or submit. This has a very strange ring coming from a President who in his very war-message still insisted that he had not altered in any way the principles of his "peace without victory" note. The note to Russia [75] did not attempt to explain how "peace without victory" was to be reconciled with "conquer or submit," nor has any such explanation been forthcoming. The implication is that the entire strategy of the negotiated peace has passed out of American hands into those of Russia, and that this country is committed to the new strategy of the "knockout blow." If this is true, then we have the virtual collapse of the strategy, and with it the justification, of our entrance into the war.

Whether American strategy has changed or not, the effect upon opinion in the Allied countries seems to be as if it had. Each pronouncement of America's war-aims is received with disconcerting unanimity in England, France and Italy as ratifying their own aspirations and policies. Any hint that Allied policies disagree with ours is received with marked disfavor by our own loyal press. When we entered the war, the Allied aims stood as stated in their reply to the President's December note. This reply was then interpreted by American liberals as a diplomatic programme of maximum demands. They have therefore called repeatedly upon the President to secure from the [76] Allied governments a resolution of the ambiguities and a revision of the more extreme terms, in order that we might make common cause with them toward a just peace. In this campaign the American liberals have put themselves squarely on the side of the new Russia, which has also clamored for a clear and liberal statement of what the war is being fought for. Unfortunately the Administration has been unable or unwilling to secure from the Allies any such resolution or revision. The Russian pressure has elicited certain statements, which, however, proved little more satisfactory to the Russian radicals than the original statement. Our own war-aims have been stated in terms as ambiguous and unsatisfactory as those of the Allies. Illiberal opinion in the other countries has not been slow in seizing upon President Wilson's pronouncements as confirming all that their hearts could wish. Most significant has been the satis> faction of Italian imperialistic opinion, the most predatory and illiberal force in any Allied country. The President has done nothing to disabuse Italian minds of their belief. He has made no disavowal of the Allied reactionary ratification. The [77] sharp divergence of interpretation between the Allied governments and the Russian radicals persists. In lieu of any clear statement to the contrary, opinion in the Allied countries has good ground for believing that the American government will back up whatever of their original programme can be carried through. Particularly is this true after the President's chiding of Russia. The animus behind the enthusiasm for Pershing in France is the conviction that American force will be the decisive factor in the winning back of Alsace-Lorraine. It . is no mere sentimental pleasure at American alliance. It is an immense stiffening of the determination to hold out to the uttermost, to the "peace with victory" of which Ribot speaks. Deluded France carries on the war to complete exhaustion on the strength of the American millions who are supposedly rushing to save her. The immediate effect of American participation in England and Italy as well has been an intense will to hold out not for the "peace without victory" but pour la victoire integrale, for the conquest so crushing that Germany will never be feared again.

Now the crux of American strategy was the [78] liberalization of Allied policy in order that that peace might be obtained which was a hopeful basis for a League of Nations. American participation has evidently not gone one inch toward liberalizing the Allies. We are further from the negotiated peace than we were in December, though the only change in the military and political situation is the Russian revolution which immensely increased the plausibility of that peace. As Allied hope of victory grows, the covenant of nations fades into the background. And it is Allied hope of victory that our participation has inflamed and augmented.

The President's Flag Day address marks without a doubt the collapse of American strategy. That address, coupled with the hints of "effective readjustments" in the note to Russia, implies that America is ready to pour out endless blood and treasure, not to the end of a negotiated peace, but to the utter crushing of the Central Powers, to their dismemberment and political annihilation. The war is pictured in that address as a struggle to the death against the military empire of MittelEuropa. The American role changes from that of [79] mediator in the interest of international organization to that of formidable support to the breaking of this menace to the peace and liberty of Europe. It will be remembered that American liberals interpreted our entrance into the war as primarily defensive, an enterprise to prevent Germany's threatened victory on the sea. We came in, not to secure an Allied "peace with victory," but to prevent a German "peace with victory," and so restore the situation favorable to a negotiated peace. The strategy of the negotiated peace depended largely on the belief that a military decision was either impossible or was not worth the colossal sacrifice it demanded. But it is only as the result of a sweeping military decision that any assured destruction of Mittel-Europa could come. In basing his case on Mittel-Europa, therefore, the President has clearly swung from a strategy of "peace without victory" to a strategy of "war to exhaustion for the sake of a military decision." He implies that a country which came only after hesitation to the defense of the seas and the Atlantic world will contentedly pour out its indefinite blood and treasure for the sake of spoiling [80] the coalition of Mittel-Europa and of making readjustments in the map of Europe effective against German influence on the Continent. Such an implication means the "end of American isolation" with a vengeance. No one can be blamed who sees in the Flag Day Address the almost unlimited countersigning of Allied designs and territorial schemes.

The change of American strategy to a will for a military decision would explain the creation of the vast American army which in the original policy was required only "as a reserve and a precaution." It explains our close cooperation with the Allied governments following the visits of the Missions. An American army of millions would undoubtedly be a decisive factor in the remaking of the map of Europe and the permanent garrisoning of strategic points bearing upon Germany. But this change of strategy does not explain itself. The continental military and political situation has not altered in any way which justines so fundamental an alteration in American strategy. American liberals justified our entrance into the war as a response to a sudden exigency. [81] But the menace of Mittel-Europa has existed ever since the entrance of Bulgaria in 1915. If it now challenges us and justifies our change of strategy, it challenged us and justified our assault a full two years ago. American shudders at its bogey are doubly curious because it is probably less of a menace now than it has ever been. President Wilson ignores the effect of a democratic Russia on the success of such a military coalition. Such heterogeneous states could be held together only through the pressure of a strong external fear. But the passing of predatory Russia removes that fear. Furthermore, Bulgaria, the most democratic of the Balkan States, would always be an uncertain partner in such a coalition. Bagdad has long been in British hands. There are strong democratic and federalistic forces at work in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The materials seem less ready than ever for the creation of any such predatory and subjugated Empire as the Flag Day Address describes. Whatever the outcome of the war, there is likely to result an economic union which could bring needed civilization to neglected and primitive lands. But such a union would be a [82] blessing to Europe rather than a curse. It was such a union that England was on the point of granting to Germany when the war broke out. The Balkans and Asia Minor need German science, German organization, German industrial development. We can hardly be fighting to prevent such German influence in these lands. The irony of the President's words lies in the fact that the hopes of Mittel-Europa as a military coalition seem to grow dimmer rather than brighter. He must know that this "enslavement" of the peoples of which he speaks can only be destroyed by the peoples themselves and not at the imposition of a military conqueror. The will to resist this Prussian enslavement seems to have been generated in Austro-Hungary. The President's perspective is belated. If our fighting to crush this amazing plot is justified now, it was more than justified as soon as Rumania was defeated. The President convicts himself of criminal negligence in not urging us into the war at that time. If our role was to aid in conquest, we could not have begun our work too soon.

The new strategy is announced by the President [83] in no uncertain terms "The day has come when we must conquer or submit." But the strategy of conquest implies the necessity of means for consolidating the conquest. If the world is to be made safe for democracy, democracy must to a certain extent be imposed on the world. There is little point in conquering unless you carry through the purposes for which you have conquered. The earlier American strategy sought to bring democracy to^Germany by appealing directly to the democratic forces in Germany itself. We relied on a self-motivated regeneration on the part of our enemy. We believed that democracy could be imposed only from within. If the German people cannot effect their own political reorganization, nobody can do it for them. They would continue to prefer the native Hohenzollerns to the most liberal government imposed by their conquering enemies. A Germany forced to be democratic under the tutelage of a watchful and victorious Entente would indeed be a constant menace to the peace of Europe. Just so far then as our changed American strategy contributes toward a conquest over Germany, it will work against our desire to [84] see that country spontaneously democratized. There is reason for hope that democracy will not have to be forced on Germany.From the present submission of the German people to the war-regime nothing can be deduced as to their subserviency after the war. Prodigious slaughter will effect profound social changes. There may be going on a progressive selection in favor of democratic elements. The Russian army was transformed into a democratic instrument by the wiping-out in battle of the upper-class officers. Men of democratic and revolutionary sympathies took their places. A similar process may happen in the German army. The end of the war may leave the German "army of the people" a genuine popular army intent upon securing control of the civil government. Furthermore, the continuance of Pan-German predatory imperialism depends on a younger generation of Junkers to replace the veterans now in control. The most daring of those aristocrats will almost certainly have, been destroyed in battle. The mortality in upper-class leadership will certainly have proved far larger than the mortality in lower-class leadership. [85] The maturing of these tendencies is the hope of German democracy. A speedy ending of the war, before the country is exhausted and the popular morale destroyed, is likely best to mature these tendencies. In this light it is almost immaterial what terms are made. Winning or losing, Germany cannot replace her younger generation of the ruling class. And without a ruling class to continue the imperial tradition, democracy could scarcely be delayed. An enfeebled ruling class could neither hold a vast world military Empire together nor resist the revolutionary elements at home. The prolongation of the war delays democracy in Germany by convincing the German people that they are fighting for their very existence and thereby forcing them to cling even more desperately to their military leaders. In announcing an American strategy of "conquer or submit," the President virtually urges the German people to prolong the war. And not only are the German people, at the apparent price of their existence, tacitly urged to continue the fight to the uttermost, but the Allied governments are tacitly urged to wield the "knockout blow." All those [86] reactionary elements in England, France and Italy, whose spirits drooped at the President's original bid for a negotiated peace, now take heart again at this apparent countersigning of their most extreme programmes.

American liberals who urged the nation to war are therefore suffering the humiliation of seeing their liberal strategy for peace transformed into a strategy for prolonged war. This government was to announce such war-aims as should persuade the peoples of the Central Powers to make an irrei sistible demand for a democratic peace. Our initiative with the Allied governments was to make this peace the basis of an international covenant, "the creation of a community of limited independencies," of which Norman Angell speaks. Those Americans who opposed our entrance into the war believed that this object could best be worked for by a strategy of continued neutrality and the constant pressure of mediation. They believed that war would defeat the strategy for a liberal peace. The liberal intellectuals who supported the President felt that only by active participation on an independent basis could their purposes be [87] achieved. The event has signally betrayed them. We have not ended the submarine menace. We have lost all power for mediation. We have not even retained the democratic leadership among the Allied nations. We have surrendered the initiative for peace. We have involved ourselves in a moral obligation to send large armies to Europe to secure a military decision for the Allies. We have prolonged the war. We have encouraged the reactionary elements in every Allied country to hold out for extreme demands. We have discouraged the German democratic forces. Our strategy has gradually become indistinguishable from that of the Allies. With the arrival of the British Mission our "independent basis" became a polite fiction. The President's Flag Day Address merely registers the collapse of American strategy. All this the realistic pacifists foresaw when they held out so bitterly and unaccountably against our entering the war. The liberals felt a nai've faith in the sagacity of the President to make their strategy prevail. They looked to him single-handedly to liberalize the liberal nations. They trusted him to use a war-technique which should consist of [88] an olive-branch in one hand and a sword in the other. They have had to see their strategy collapse under the very weight of that war-technique. Guarding neutrality, we might have counted toward a speedy and democratic peace. In the war, we are a rudderless nation, to be exploited as the Allies wish, politically and materially, and towed, to their aggrandizement, in any direction which they may desire.






(September, 1917)


TIME brings a better adjustment to the war. There had been so many times when, to those who had energetically resisted its coming, it seemed the last intolerable outrage. In one's wilder moments one expected revolt against the impressment of unwilling men and the suppression of unorthodox opinion. One conceived the war as "breaking down through a kind of intellectual sabotage diffused through the country. But as one talks to people outside the cities and away from ruling currents of opinion, one finds the prevailing apathy shot everywhere with acquiescence. The war is a bad business, which somehow got fastened on us. They don't want to go, but they've got to go. One decides that nothing [90] generally obstructive is going to happen and that it would make little difference if it did. The kind of war which we are conducting is an enterprise which the American government does not have to carry on with the hearty cooperation of the American people but only with their acquiescence. And that acquiescence seems sufficient to float an indefinitely protracted war for vague or even largely uncomprehended and unaccepted purposes. Our resources in men and materials are vast enough to organize the war-technique without enlisting more than a fraction of the people's conscious energy. Many men will not like being sucked into the actual fighting organism, but as the war goes on they will be sucked in as individuals and they will yield. There is likely to be no element in the . country with the effective will to help them resist. They are not likely to resist of themselves concertedly. They will be licked grudgingly into military shape, and their lack of enthusiasm will in no way unfit them for use in the hecatombs necessary for the military decision upon which Allied political wisdom still apparently insists. It is unlikely that enough men will be taken from the [91] potentially revolting classes seriously to embitter their spirit. Losses in the well-to-do classes will be sustained by a sense of duty and of reputable sacrifice. From the point of view of the worker, it will make little difference whether his work contributes to annihilation overseas or to construction at home. Temporarily, his condition is better if it contributes to the former. We of the middle classes will be progressively poorer than we should otherwise have been. Our lives will be slowly drained by clumsily levied taxes and the robberies of imperfectly controlled private enterprises. 'But this will not cause us to revolt. There are nbt likely to be enough hungry stomachs to make a revolution. The materials seem generally absent from the country, and as long as a government: wants to use the war-technique in its realization of great ideas, it can count serenely on the human resources of the country, regardless of popular mandate or understanding.


If human resources are fairly malleable into the war-technique, our material resources will prove [92] to be even more so, quite regardless of the individual patriotism of their owners or workers. It is almost purely a problem of diversion. Facs tories and mines and farms will continue to turn \ out the same products and at an intensified rate, but the government will be working to use their activity and concentrate it as contributory to the war. The process which the piping times of benevolent neutrality began will be pursued to its extreme end. All this will be successful, however, precisely as it is made a matter of centralized governmental organization and not of individual offerings of goodwill and enterprise. It will be coercion from above that will do the trick rather than patriotism from below. Democratic contentment may be shed over the land for a time through the appeal to individual thoughtfulness in saving and in relinquishing profits. But all that is really needed is the cooperation with government of the men who direct the large financial and industrial enterprises. If their interest is enlisted in diverting the mechanism of production into war-channels, it makes not the least difference whether you or I want our activity to count in aid[93] of the war. Whatever we do will contribute toward its successful organization, and toward the riveting of a semi-military State-socialism oh the , country. As long as the effective managers, the "big men" in the staple industries remained loyal, nobody need care what the millions of little human cogs who had to earn their living felt or thought. This is why the technical organization for this American war goes on so much more rapidly than any corresponding popular sentiment for its aims and purposes. Our war is teaching us that patriotism is really a superfluous quality in war. The government of a modern organized plutocracy does not have to ask whether the people want to fight or understand what they are fighting for, but only whether they will tolerate fighting. America does not cooperate with the President's designs. She rather feebly acquiesces. But that feeble acquiescence is the all-important factor. We are learning that war doesn't need enthusiasm, doesn't need conviction, doesn't need hope, to sustain it. Once maneuvered, it takes care of itself, provided only that our industrial rulers see that if the end of the war will leave American capital in [94] a strategic position for world-enterprise. The-.American people might be much more indifferentto the war even than they are and yet the results would not be materially different. A majority ofthem might even be feebly or at least unconcertedly hostile to the war, and yet it would go gaily ' on. That is why a popular referendum seems so supremely irrelevant to people who are willing to use war as an instrument in the working-out of national policy. And that is why this war, with apathy rampant, is probably going to act just as if every person in the country were filled with patriotic ardor, and furnished with a completely assimilated map of the League to Enforce Peace. If it doesn't, the cause will not be the lack of popular ardor, but the clumsiness of the government officials in organizing the technique of the war. Our country in war, given efficiency at the top, can do very well without our patriotism. The nonpatriotic man need feel no pangs of conscience about not helping the war. Patriotism fades into the merest trivial sentimentality when it becomes, as so obviously in a situation like this, so pragmatically impotent. As long as one has to earn one's [95] living or buy tax-ridden goods, one is making one's contribution to war in a thousand indirect ways. The war, since it does not need it, cannot fairly demand also the sacrifice of one's spiritual integrity.


The "liberals" who claim a realistic and pragmatic attitude in politics have disappointed us in setting up and then clinging wistfully to the belief that our war could get itself justified for an idealistic flavor, or at least for a world-renovating social purpose, that they had more or less denied to the other belligerents. If these realists had had time in the hurry and scuffle of events to turn their philosophy on themselves, they might have seen how thinly disguised a rationalization this was of their emotional undertow. They wanted a League of Nations. They had an unanalyzable feeling that this was a war in which we had to be, and be in it we would. What more natural than to join the two ideas and conceive our war as the decisive factor in the attainment of the desired end ! This gave them a good conscience for willing American participation, although as good men [96] they must have loathed war and everything connected with it. The realist cannot deny facts. Moreover, he must not only acknowledge them but he must use them. Good or bad, they must be turned by his intelligence to some constructive end. Working along with the materials which events give him, he must get where and what he can, and bring something brighter and better out of the chaos.

Now war is such an indefeasible and unescapable Real that the good realist must accept it rather comprehensively. To keep out of it is pure quietism, an acute moral failure to adjust. At the same time, there is an inexorability about war. It is a little unbridled for the realist's rather nice sense of purposive social control. And nothing is so disagreeable to the pragmatic mind as any kind of an absolute. The realistic pragmatist could not recognize war as inexorable though to the common mind it would seem as near an absolute, coercive social situation as it is possible to fall into. For the inexorable abolishes choices,^and it is the essence of the realist's creed to have, in every situation, alternatives before him. He gets out of [97] his scrape in this way : Let the inexorable roll in upon me, since it must. But then, keeping firm my sense of control, I will somehow tame it and turn it to my own creative purposes. Thus realism is justified of her children, and the "liberal" is saved from the limbo of the wailing and irreconcilable pacifists who could not make so easy an adjustment.

Thus the "liberals" who made our war their own preserved their pragmatism. But events have shown how fearfully they imperilled their intuition and how untameable an inexorable really is. For those of us who knew a real inexorable when we saw one, and had learned from watching war what follows the loosing of a war-technique, foresaw how quickly aims and purposes would be forgotten, and how flimsy would be any liberal control of events. It is only we now who can appreciate The New Republic the organ of applied pragmatic realism when it complains that the League of Peace (which we entered the war to guarantee) is more remote than it was eight months ago; or that our State Department has no diplomatic policy (though it was to realize the [98] high aims of the President's speeches that the intellectuals willed American participation) ; or that we are subordinating the political management of the war to real or supposed military advantages, (though militarism in the liberal mind had no justification except as a tool for advanced social ends). If after all the idealism and creative intelligence that were shed upon America's taking up of arms, our State Department has no policy, we are like brave passengers who have set out for the Isles of the Blest only to find that the first mate has gone insane and jumped overboard, the rudder has come loose and dropped to the bottom of the sea, and the captain and pilot are lying dead drunk under the wheel. The stokers and engineers, however, are still merrily forcing the speed up to twenty knots an hour and the passengers are presumably getting the pleasure of the ride.


The penalty the realist pays for accepting war is to see disappear one by one the justifications for accepting it. He must either become a genuine Realpolitiker and brazen it through, or else he [99] must feel sorry for his intuition and regretful that he willed the war. But so easy is forgetting and so slow the change of events 'that he is more likely to ignore the collapse of his case. If he finds that his government is relinquishing the crucial moves of that strategy for which he was willing to use the technique of war, he is likely to move easily to the ground that it will all come out in the end the same anyway. He soon becomes satisfied with tacitly ratifying whatever happens, or at least straining to find the grain of unplausible hope that may be latent in the situation.

But what then is there really to choose between the realist who accepts evil in order to manipulate it to a great end, but who somehow unaccountably finds events turn sour on him. and the Utopian pacifist who cannot stomach the evil and will have none of it? Both are helpless, both are coerced. The Utopian, however, knows that he is ineffective and that he is coerced, while the realist, evading disillusionment, moves in a twilight zone of half-hearted criticism, and hopings for the best, where he does not become a tacit fatalist. The latter would be the manlier position, but then [100] where would be his realistic philosophy of intelligence and choice? Professor Dewey has become impatient at the merely good and merely conscientious objectors to war who do not attach their conscience and intelligence to forces moving in another direction. But in wartime there are literally no valid forces moving in another direction. War determines its own end victory, and government crushes out automatically all forces that deflect, or threaten to deflect, energy from the path of organization to that end. All governments will act in this way, the most democratic as well as the most autocratic. It is only "liberal" naivete that is shocked at arbitrary coercion and suppression. Willing war means willing all the evils that are organically bound up with it. A good many people still seem to believe in a peculiar kind of democratic and antiseptic war. The pacifists opposed the war because they knew this was an illusion, and because of the myriad hurts they knew war would do the promise of democracy at home. For once the babes and sucklings seem to have been wiser than the children of light.



If it is true that the war will go on anyway whether it is popular or not or whether its purposes are clear, and if it is true that in wartime constructive realism is an illusion, then the aloof man, the man who will not obstruct the war but who cannot spiritually accept it, has a clear case for himself. Our war presents no more extraordinary phenomenon than the number of the more creative minds of the younger generation who are still irreconcilable toward the great national enterprise which the government has undertaken. The country is still dotted with young men and women, in full possession of their minds, faculties and virtue, who feel themselves profoundly alien to the work which is going on around them. They must not be confused with the disloyal or the pro-German. They have no grudge against the country, but their patriotism has broken down in the emergency. They want to see the carnage stopped and Europe decently constructed again. They want a democratic peace. If the swift crushing of Germany will bring that peace, they want to see Germany crushed. If the embargo on neutrals will [102] prove the decisive coup, they are willing to see the neutrals taken ruthlessly by the throat. But they do not really believe that peace will come by any of these .means, or by any use of our wartechnique whatever. They are genuine pragmatists and they fear any kind of an absolute, even when bearing gifts. They know that the longer a war lasts the harder it is to make peace. They know that the peace of exhaustion is a dastardly peace, leav-s ing enfeebled the morale of the defeated, and leaving invincible for years all the most greedy and soulless elements in the conquerors. They feel that the greatest obstacle to peace now is the lack of the powerful mediating neutral which we might have been. They see that war has lost for us both the mediation and the leadership, and is blackening us ever deeper with the responsibility for having prolonged the dreadful tangle. They are skeptical not only of the technique of war, but also of its professed aims. The President's idealism stops just short of the pitch that would arouse their own. There is a middle-aged and belated taint about the best ideals which publicist liberalism has been able to express. The appeals to propagate [103] political democracy leave these people cold in a world which has become so disillusioned of democracy in the face of universal economic servitude. Their ideals outshoot the government's. To them the real arena lies in the international class-struggle, rather than in the competition of artificial national units. They are watching to see what the Russian socialists are going to do for the world, not what the timorous capitalistic American democracy may be planning. They can feel no enthusiasm for a League of Nations, which should solidify the old units and continue in disguise the old theories of international relations. Indispensable, perhaps? But not inspiring; not something to' give one's spiritual allegiance to. And yet the best advice that American wisdom can offer to those who are out of sympathy with the war is to turn one's influence toward securing that our war contribute toward this end. But why would not this League turn out to be little more than a welloiled machine for the use of that enlightened imperialism toward which liberal American finance is already whetting its tongue 1 ? And what is enlightened imperialism as an international ideal as [104] against the anarchistic communism of the nations which the new Russia suggests in renouncing imperialist intentions?


Skeptical of the means and skeptical of the aims, this element of .the younger generation stands outside the war, and looks upon the conscript army and all the other war-activities as troublesome interruptions on its 'thought and idealism, interruptions which do not touch anywhere a fiber of its soul. Some have been much more disturbed than others, because of the determined challenge of both patriots and realists to break in with the warobsession which has filled for them their sky. Patriots and realists can both be answered. They must not be allowed to shake one's inflexible determination not to be spiritually implicated in the war. It is foolish to hope. Since the 30th of July, 1914, nothing has happened in the arena of war-policy and wartechnique except for the complete and unmitigated worst. We are tired of continued disillusionment, and of the betrayal of generous anticipations. It is saner not to waste [105] energy in hope within the system of war-enterprise. One may accept dispassionately whatever changes for good may happen from the war, but one will not allow one's imagination to connect them organically with war. It is better to itsist cheap consolations, and remain skeptical about any of the good things so confidently promised us either through victory or the social reorganization demanded by the war-technique. One keeps healthy in wartime not by a series of religious and political consolations that something good is coming out of it all, but by a vigorous assertion of values in which war has no part. Our skepticism can be made a shelter behind which is built up a wider consciousness of the personal and social and artistic ideals which American civilization needs to lead the good life. We can be skeptical constructively, if, thrown back on our inner resources from the world of war which is taken as the overmastering reality, we search much more actively to clarify our attitudes and express a richer significance in the American scene. We do not feel the war to be very real, and we sense a singular air of falsity about the emotions of the upper-classes [106] toward everything connected with war. This ostentatious shame, this groveling before illusory Allied heroisms and nobilities, has shocked us. Minor novelists and minor poets and minor publicists are still coming back from driving ambulances in France to write books that nag us into an appreciation of the "real meaning." No one can object to the generous emotions of service in a great cause or to the horror and pity at colossal devastation and agony. But too many of these prophets are men who have lived rather briskly' among the cruelties and thinnesses of American civilization and have shown no obvious horror and pity at the exploitations and the arid quality of the life lived here around us. Their moral sense had been deeply stirred by what they saw in France and Belgium, but it was a moral sense relatively unpracticed by deep concern and reflection over the inadequacies of American democracy. Few of them had used their vision to create literature impelling us toward a more radiant American future. And that is why, in spite of their vivid stirrings, they seem so unconvincing. Their idealism is too new and bright to affect us, for it comes from men [107] who never cared very particularly about great creative American ideas. So these writers come to us less like ardent youth, pouring its energy into the great causes, than like youthful mouthpieces of their strident and belligerent elders. They did not convert us, but rather drove us farther back into the Tightness of American isolation.


There was something incredibly mean and plebeian about that abasement into which the warpartisans tried to throw us all. When we were urged to squander our emotion on a bedeviled Europe, our intuition told us how much all rich and generous emotions were needed at home to leaven American civilization. If we refused to export them it was because we wanted to see them at work here. It is true that great reaches of American prosperous life were not using generous emotions for any purpose whatever. But the real antithesis was not between being concerned about luxurious automobiles and being concerned about the saving of France. America's "benevolent neutrality" had been saving the Allies for three [108] years through the ordinary channels of industry and trade. We could afford to export material goods and credit far more than we could afford to export emotional capital. The real antithesis was between interest in expensively exploiting American material life and interest in creatively enhancing American personal and artistic life. The fat and earthy American could be blamed not for not palpitating more richly about France, but for not palpitating more richly about America and her spiritual drouths. The war will leave the country spiritually impoverished, because of the draining away of sentiment into the channels of war. Creative and constructive enterprises will suffer not only through the appalling waste of financial capital in the work of annihilation, but also in the loss of emotional capital in the conviction that war overshadows all other realities. This is the poison of war that disturbs even creative minds. Writers tell us that, after contact with the war, literature seems an idle pastime, if not an offense, in a world of great deeds. Perhaps literature that can be paled by war will not be missed. We may feel vastly relieved at our salvation from so many [109] feeble novels and graceful verses that khaki-clad authors might have given us. But this noblysounding sense of the futility of art in a world of war may easily infect conscientious minds. And it is against this infection that we must fight.


The conservation of American promise is the present task for this generation of malcontents and aloof men and women. If America has lost its . political isolation, it is all the more obligated to retain its spiritual integrity. This does not mean < any smug retreat from the world, with a belief that the truth is in us and can only be contaminated by contact. It means that the promise of American life is not yet achieved, perhaps not even seen, and that, until it is, there is nothing for us but stern and intensive cultivation of our garden. Our insulation will not be against any great creative ideas or forms that Europe brings. It will be a turning within in order that we may have something to give without. The old American ideas which are still expected to bring life to the world seem stale and archaic. It is grotesque to try to [110] carry democracy to Russia. It is absurd to try to contribute to the world's store of great moving ideas until we have a culture to give. It is absurd for us to think of ourselves as blessing the world with anything unless we hold it much more self-consciously and significantly than we hold anything now. Mere negative freedom will not do as a twentieth-century principle. American ideas must be dynamic or we are presumptuous in offering them to the world.


The war -- or American promise: one must , choose. One cannot be interested in both. For the effect of the war will be to impoverish American promise. It cannot advance it, however liberals may choose to identify American promise with a league of nations to enforce peace. Americans who desire to cultivate the promises of American life need not lift a finger to obstruct the war, but they cannot conscientiously accept it. However intimately a part of their country they may feel in its creative enterprises toward a better life,, they cannot feel themselves a part of it in its [11] futile and self-mutilating enterprise of war. We can be apathetic with a good conscience, for we have other values and ideals for America. Our country will not suffer for our lack of patriotism as long as it has that of our industrial masters. Meanwhile, those who have turned their thinking into war-channels have abdicated their leadership for this younger generation. They have put themselves in a limbo of interests that are not the concerns which worry us about American life and make us feverish and discontented.

Let us compel the war to break in on us, if it must, not go hospitably to meet it. Let us force it perceptibly to batter in our spiritual walls. This attitude need not be a fatuous hiding in the sand, denying realities. When we are broken in on, we can yield to the inexorable. Those who are conscripted will have been broken in on. If they do not want to be martyrs, they will have to be victims. They are entitled to whatever alleviations are possible in an inexorable world. But the others can certainly resist the attitude that blackens the whole conscious sky with war. They can. resist the poison which makes art and all the [112] desires for more impassioned living seem idle and even shameful. For many of us, resentment against the war has meant a vivider consciousness of what we are seeking in American life.

This search has been threatened by two classes who have wanted to deflect idealism to the war, the patriots and the realists. The patriots have challenged us by identifying apathy with disloyalty. The reply is that war-technique in this situation is a matter of national mechanics rather than national ardor. The realists have challenged us by insisting that the war is an instrument in the working-out of beneficent national policy. Our skepticism points out to them how soon their "mastery" becomes "drift," tangled in the fatal drive toward victory as its own end, how soon they become mere agents and expositors" of forces as they are. Patriots and realists disposed of, we can pursue creative skepticism with honesty, and at least a hope that in the recoil from war we may find the treasures we are looking for.






(October, 1917)


WHERE are the seeds of American promise? Man cannot live by politics alone, and it is small cheer that our best intellects are caught in the political current and see only the hope that America will find her soul in the remaking of the world. If William James were alive would he be accepting the war-situation so easily and complacently ? Would he be chiding the over-stimulated intelligence of peace-loving idealists, and excommunicating from the ranks of liberal progress the pitiful remnant of those who struggle "above the battle'? I like to think that his gallant spirit would have called for a war to be gallantly played, with insistent care for democratic values at home, and [114] unequivocal alliance with democratic elements abroad for a peace that should promise more than a mere union of benevolent imperialisms. I think of James now because the recent articles of John Dewey's on the war suggest a slackening in his thought for our guidance and stir, and -the inadequacy of his pragmatism as a philosophy of life in this emergency. Whether James would have given us just that note of spiritual adventure which would make the national enterprise seem creative for an American future, this we can never know. But surely that philosophy of Dewey's which we had been following so uncritically for so long, breaks down almost noisily when it is used to grind out interpretation for the present crisis. These articles on "Conscience and Compulsion," 'The Future of Pacifism," "What America Will Fight For," "Conscription of Thought," which The New Republic has been printing, seem to me to be a little off-color. A philosopher who senses so little the sinister forces of war, who is so much more concerned over the excesses of the pacifists than over the excesses of military policy, who can feel only amusement at [115] the idea that any one should try to conscript thought, who assumes that the war-technique can be used without trailing along with it the mob-fanaticisms, the injustices and hatreds, that are organically bound up with it, is speaking to another element of the younger intelligentsia than that to which I belong. Evidently the attitudes which war calls out are fiercer and more incalculable than Professor E)ewey is accustomed to take into his hopeful and intelligent imagination, and the pragmatist mind, in trying to adjust itself to them, gives the air of grappling, like the pioneer who challenges the arid plains, with a power too big for it. It is not an arena of creative intelligence our country's mind is now, but of mob-psychology. The soldiers who tried to lynch Max Eastman showed that current patriotism is not a product of the will to remake the world. The luxuriant releases of explosive hatred for which peace apparently gives far too little scope cannot be wooed by sweet reasonableness, nor can they be the raw material for the creation of rare liberal political structures. All that can be done is to try to keep your country out of situations where such [116] expressive releases occur. If you have willed the situation, however, or accepted it as inevitable, it is fatuous to protest against the gay debauch of hatred and fear and swagger that must mount and mount, until the heady and virulent poison of war shall have created its own anti-toxin of ruin and disillusionment. To talk as if war were anything else than such a poison is to show that your philosophy has never been confronted with the pathless and the inexorable, and that, only dimly feeling the change, it goes ahead acting as if it had not got out of its depth. Only a lack of practice with a world of human nature so rawnerved, irrational, uncreative, as an America at . war was bound to show itself to be, can account for the singular unsatisfactoriness of these later utterances of Dewey. He did have one moment of hesitation just before the war began, when the war and its external purposes and unifying power seemed the small thing beside that internal adventure which should find our American promise. But that perspective has now disappeared, and one finds Dewey now untainted by skepticism as to our being about a business to which all our idealism [117] should rally. That failure to get guaranties that this country's effort would obligate the Allies to a democratic world-order Dewey blames on the defection of 'the pacifists, and then somehow manages to get himself into a "we" who "romantically," as he says, forewent this crucial link of our strategy. Does this easy identification of himself with undemocratically controlled foreign policy mean that a country is democratic when it accepts what its government does, or that war has a narcotic effect on the pragmatic mind"? For Dewey somehow retains his sense of being in the controlling class, and ignores those anxious questions of democrats who have been his disciples but are now resenters of the war.

What I come to is a sense of suddenly being left in the lurch, of suddenly finding that a philosophy upon which I had relied to carry us through no longer works. I find the contrast between the idea that creative intelligence has free functioning in wartime, and the facts of the inexorable situation, too glaring. The contrast between what liberals ought to be doing and saying if democratic values are to be conserved, and what the real forces [118] are imposing upon them, strikes too sternly on my intellectual senses. I should prefer some philosophy of War as the grim and terrible cleanser to this optimism-haunted mood that continues unweariedly to suggest that all can yet be made to work for good in a mad and half-destroyed world. I wonder if James, in the face of such disaster, would not have abandoned his "moral equivalent of war" for an "immoral equivalent" which, in swift and periodic saturnalia, would have acted as vaccination aginst the sure pestilence of war.


Dewey's philosophy is inspiring enough for a society at peace, prosperous and with a fund of progressive good-will. It is a philosophy of hope, of clear-sighted comprehension of materials and means. Where institutions are at all malleable, it is the only clew for improvement. It is scientific method applied to "uplift." But this careful adaptation of means to desired ends, this experimental working out of control over brute forces and dead matter in the interests of communal life, depends on a store of rationality, and is [119] effectiye only where there is strong desire for progress. It is precisely the school, the institution to which Dewey's philosophy was first applied, that is of all our institutions the most malleable. And it is the will to educate that has seemed, in these days, among all our social attitudes the most rationally motivated. It was education, and almost education alone, that seemed susceptible to the steady pressure of an "instrumental" philosophy. Intelligence really seemed about to come into conscious control of an institution, and that one the most potent in molding the attitudes needed for a civilized society and the aptitudes needed for the happiness of the individual. For both our revolutionary conceptions of what education means, and for the intellectual strategy of its approach, this country is immeasurably indebted to the influence of Professor Dewey's philosophy. With these ideas sincerely felt, a rational nation would have chosen education as its 9 national enterprise. Into this it would have thrown its energy though the heavens fell and the earth rocked around it. But the nation did not use its isolation from the conflict to educate itself. [120] It fretted for three years and then let war, not education, be chosen, at the almost unanimous behest of our intellectual class, from motives alien to our cultural needs, and for political ends alien to the happiness of the individual. But nations, of course, are not rational entities, and they act within their most irrational rights when they accept war as the most important thing the nation can do in the face of metaphysical menaces of imperial prestige. What concerns us here is the relative ease with which the pragmatist intellectuals,' with Professor Dewey at the head, have moved out their philosophy, bag and baggage, from education to war. So abrupt a change in the direction of" the national enterprise, one would have expected to cause more emotion, to demand more apologetics. His optimism may have told Professor Dewey that war would not materially demoralize our growth would, perhaps, after all, be but an incident in the nation's life but it is not easy to see how, as we skate toward the bankruptcy of war-billions, there will be resources available for educational enterprise that does not contribute directly to the war-technique. Neither is any [121] passion for growth, for creative mastery, going to flourish among the host of militaristic values and new tastes for power that are springing up like poisonous mushrooms on every hand.

How could the pragmatist mind accept war without more violent protest, without a greater wrench? Either Professor Dewey and his friends felt that the forces were too strong for them, that the war had to be, and it was better to take it up intelligently than to drift blindly in; or else they really expected a gallant war, conducted with jealous regard for democratic values at home and a captivating vision of international democracy as the end of all the toil and pain. If their motive was the first, they would seem to have reduced the scope of possible control of events to the vanishing point. If the war is too strong for you to prevent, how is it going to be weak enough for you to control and mold to your liberal purposes'? And if their motive was to shape the war firmly for good, they seem to have seriously miscalculated the fierce urgencies of it. Are they to be content, as the materialization of their hopes, with a doubtful League of Nations and the suppression of the [122] I. W. W.? Yet the numbing power of the war-situation seems to have kept them from realizing what has happened to their philosophy. The betrayal of their first hopes has certainly not discouraged them. But neither has it roused them to a more energetic expression of the forces through which they intend to realize them. I search Professor Dewey's articles in vain for clews as to the specific working-out of our democratic desires, either nationally or internationally, either in the present or in the reconstruction after the war. No programme is suggested, nor is there fueling for present vague popular movements and revolts. Rather are the latter chided, for their own vagueness and impracticalities. Similarly, with the other prophets of instrumentalism who accompany Dewey into the war, democracy remains an unanalyzed term, useful as a call to battle, but not an intellectual tool, turning up fresh sod for the changing future. Is it the political democracy of a plutocratic America that we are fighting for, or is it the social democracy of the new Russia? Which do our rulers really fear more, the menace of Imperial Germany, or the liberating influence [123] of a socialist Russia. In the application of their philosophy to politics, our pragmatists are sliding over this crucial question of ends. Dewey says our ends must be intelligently international rather than chauvinistic. But this gets us little distance along our way.

In this difficult time the light that has been in liberals and radicals has become darkness. If radicals spend their time holding conventions to attest their loyalty and stamp out the "enemies within," they do not spend it in breaking intellectual paths, or giving us shining ideas to which we can attach our faith and conscience. The spiritual apathy from which the more naive of us suffer, and which the others are so busy fighting, arises largely from sheer default of a clear vision that would melt it away. Let the motley crew of ex-socialists, and labor radicals, and liberals and pragmatist philosophers, who have united for the prosecution of the war, present a coherent and convincing democratic programme, and they will no longer be confronted with the skepticism of the conscientious and the impossibilist. But when the emphasis is on technical organization, rather [124] than organization of ideas, on strategy rather than desires, one begins to suspect that no programme is presented because they have none to present. This burrowing into war-technique hides the void where a democratic philosophy should be. Our intellectuals consort with war-boards in order to keep their minds off the question what the slow masses of the people are really desiring, or towardwhat the best hope of the country really drives. Similarly the blaze of patriotism on the part of the radicals serves the purpose of concealing the feebleness of their intellectual light.

Is the answer that clear formulation of democratic ends must be postponed until victory in the war is attained? But to make this answer is to' surrender the entire case. For the support of the war by radicals, realists, pragmatists, is due -- or so they say -- to the fact that the war is not dnly saving the cause of democracy, but is immensely accelerating its progress. Well, what are those gains? How are they to be conserved? What do they lead to? How can we further them? Into what large idea of society do they group? To ignore these questions, and think only of the [125] war-technique and its accompanying devotions, is to undermine the foundations of these people's own faith.

A policy of "win the war first" must be, for the radical, a policy of intellectual suicide. Their . support of the war throws upon them the responsibility of showing inch by inch the democratic gains, and of laying out a charter of specific hopes. Otherwise they confess that they are impotent and th,at the war is submerging their expectations, or that they are not genuinely imaginative and offer little promise for future leadership.


It may seem unfair to group Professor Dewey with Mr. Spargo and Mr. Gompers, Mr. A. M. Simons, and the Vigilantes. I do so only because in their acceptance of the war, they are all living out that popular American "instrumental" philosophy which Professor Dewey has formulated in such convincing and fascinating terms. On an infinitely more intelligent plane, he is yet one with them in his confidence that the war is motivated by democratic ends and is being made to serve [126] them. A high mood of confidence and self-righteousness moves them all, a keen sense of control over events that makes them eligible to discipleship under Professor Dewey's philosophy. They are all hostile to impossibilism, to apathy, to any attitude that is not a cheerful and brisk setting to work to use the emergency to consolidate the gains of democracy. Not, Is it being used"? but, Let us make a flutter about using it! This unanimity of mood puts the resenter of war out of the arena. But he can still seek to explain why this philosophy which has no place for the inexorable should have adjusted itself so easily to the inexorable of war, and why, although a philosophy of the creative intelligence in using means toward ends, it should show itself so singularly impoverished in its present supply of democratic values.

What is the matter with the philosophy? One has a sense of having come to a sudden, short stop at the end of an intellectual era. In the crisis, this philosophy of intelligent control just does not measure up to our needs. What is the root of this inadequacy that is felt so keenly by our [127] restless minds? Van Wyck Brooks has pointed out searchingly the lack of poetic vision in our pragmatist "awakeners." Is there something in these realistic attitudes that works actually against poetic vision, against concern for the quality of life as above machinery of life? Apparently there is. The war has revealed a younger intelligentsia, trained up in the pragmatic dispensation, immensely ready for the executive ordering of events, pitifully unprepared for the intellectual interpretation of the idealistic focusing of ends. The young men in Belgium, the officers' training corps, the young men being sucked into the councils at Washington and into war-organization everywhere, have among them a definite element, upon whom Dewey, as veteran philosopher, might well bestow a papal blessing. They have absorbed the secret of scientific method as applied to political administration. They are liberal, en. lightened, aware. They are touched with creative intelligence toward the solution of political and industrial problems. They are a wholly new force in American life, the product of the swing in the colleges from a training that emphasized [128] classical studies to one that emphasized political and economic values. Practically all this element, one would say, is lined up in service of the war-technique. There seems to have been a peculiar congeniality between the war and these men. It is as if the war and they had been waiting for each other. One wonders what scope they would have had for their intelligence without it. Probably most of them would have gone into industry and devoted themselves to sane reorganization schemes. What is significant is that it is the technical side of the war that appeals to them, not the interpretative or political side. The formulation of values and ideals, the production of articulate and suggestive thinking, had not, in their education, kept pace, to any extent whatever, with their technical aptitude. The result is that the field of intellectual formulation is very poorly manned by this younger intelligentsia. While they organize the war, formulation of opinion is left largely in the hands of professional patriots, sensational editors, archaic radicals. The intellectual work of this younger intelligentsia is done by the sedition-hunting Vigilantes, and by the [129] saving remnant of older liberals. It is true, Dewey calls for a more attentive formulation of war-purposes and ideas, but he calls largely to deaf ears. His disciples have learned all too literally the instrumental attitude toward life, and, being immensely intelligent and energetic, they are making themselves efficient instruments of the wartechnique, accepting with little question the ends as announced from above. That those ends are largely negative does not concern them, because they have never learned not to subordinate idea to technique. Their education has not given them a coherent system of large ideas, or a feeling for democratic goals. They have, in short, no clear philosophy of life except that of intelligent service, the admirable adaptation of means to ends. They are vague as to what kind of a society they .want, or what kind of society America needs, but they are equipped with all the administrative attitudes and talents necessary to attain it.

To those of us who have taken Dewey's philosophy almost as our American religion, it never occurred that values could be subordinated to technique. We were instrumentalists, but we had [130] our private Utopias so clearly before our minds that the means fell always, into its place as contributory. And Dewey, of course, always meant his philosophy, when taken as a philosophy of life, to start with values. But there was always that unhappy ambiguity in his doctrine as to just how values were created, and it became easier and easier to assume that just any growth was justified and almost any activity valuable so long as if. achieved ends. The American, in living out this philosophy, has habitually confused results with product, and been content with getting somewhere without asking too closely whether it was the desirable place to get. It is now becoming plain that unless you start with the vividest kind of poetic vision, your instrumentalism is likely to land you just where it has landed this younger intelligentsia which is so happily and busily engaged in the national enterprise of war. You must have your vision and you must have your technique. The practical effect of Dewey's philosophy has evidently been to develop the sense of the latter at the expense of the former. Though he himself would develop them together, [131] even in him there seems to be a flagging of values, under the influence of war. The New Republic honorably clamors for the Allies to subordinate military strategy to political ends, technique to democratic values. But war always undermines values. It is the outstanding lesson of the whole war that statesmen cannot be trusted to get this perspective right, that their only motto is, first to win and then grab what they can. The struggle against this statesmanlike animus must be a losing one as long as we have not very clear and very determined and very revolutionary democratic ideas and programmes to challenge them with. The trouble with our situation is not only that values have been generally ignored in favor of technique, but that those who have struggled to keep values foremost, have been too bloodless and too nearsighted in their vision. The defect of any philosophy of "adaptation" or "adjustment," even when it means adjustment to changing, living experience, is that there is no provision for thought or experience getting beyond itself. If your ideal is to be adjustment to your situation, in radiant cooperation with reality, then your success is likely [132] to be just that and no more. You never transcend, anything. You grow, but your spirit never jumps out of your skin to go on wild adventures. If your policy as a publicist reformer is to t'ake what you can get, you are likely to find that you get something less than you should be willing to take. Italy in the settlement is said to be demanding one hundred in order to get twenty, and this Machiavellian principle might well be adopted by the radical. Vision must constantly outshoot technique, opportunist efforts usually achieve less even than what seemed obviously possible. An impos'sibilist elan that appeals to desire will often carry further. A philosophy of adjustment will not even make for adjustment. If you try merely to "meet" situations as they come, you will not even meet them. Instead you will only pile up behind you deficits and arrears that will some day bankrupt you.

We are in the war because an American Government practiced a philosophy of adjustment, and an instrumentalism for minor ends, instead of cjeating new values and setting at once a large standard to which the nations might repair. An [133] intellectual attitude of mere adjustment, of mere use of the creative intelligence to make your progress, must end in caution, regression, and a virtual failure to effect even that change which you so clearsightedly and desirously see. This is the root of our dissatisfaction with much of the current political and social realism that is preached to us. It has everything good and wise except the obstreperous vision that would drive and draw all men into it.


The working-out of this American philosophy in our intellectual life then has meant an exaggerated emphasis on the mechanics of life at the expense of the quality of living. We suffer from a real shortage of spiritual values. A philosophy that worked when we were trying to get that material foundation for American life in which more impassioned living could flourish no longer works when we are faced with inexorable disaster and the hysterias of the mob. The note of complacency which we detect in the current expressions of this philosophy has a bad taste. The congruous note for the situation would seem, to be, on the [134] contrary, that of robust desperation, a desperation that shall rage and struggle until new values come out of the travail, and we see some glimmering of our democratic way. In the creation of these new values, we may expect the old philosophy, the old radicalism, to be helpless. It has found a perfectly definite level, and there is no reason to think that it will not remain there. Its flowering appears in the technical organization of the war by an earnest group of young liberals, who direct their course by an opportunist programme of Statesocialism at home and a league of benevolently imperialistic nations abroad. At their best they can give us a government by prudent, enlightened college men instead of by politicians. At their best, they can abolish war by making everybody a partner in the booty of exploitation. That is all, and it is technically admirable. Only there is nothing in the outlook that touches in any way the happiness of the individual, the vivifying of the personality, the comprehension of social forces, the flair of art, in other words, the quality of life. Our intellectuals have failed us as valuecreators, even as value-emphasizers. The allure [135] of the martial in war has passed only to be succeeded by the allure of the technical. The allure of fresh and true ideas, of free speculation, of artistic vigor, of cultural styles, of intelligence suffused by feeling, and feeling given fiber and outline by intelligence, has not come, and can hardly come, we see now, while our reigning philosophy is an instrumental one.

Whence can come this allure? Only from those who are thorough malcontents. Irritation at things as they are, disgust at the continual frustrations and aridities of American life, deep dissatisfaction with self and with the groups that give themselves forth as hopeful, out of such moods there might be hammered new values. The malcontents would be men and women who could not stomach the war, or the reactionary idealism that has followed in its train. They are quite through with the professional critics and classicists who have let cultural values die through their own personal ineptitude. Yet these malcontents have no intention of being cultural vandals, only to slay. They are not barbarians, but seek the vital and the sincere everywhere. All they [136] want is a new orientation of the spirit that shall be modern, an orientation to accompany that technical orientation which is fast coming, and which the war accelerates. They will be harsh and often bad-tempered, and they will feel that the break-up of things is no time for mellowness. They will have a taste for spiritual adventure, and for sinister imaginative excursions. It will not be Puritanism so much as complacency that they will fight. A tang, a bitterness, an intellectual fiber, a verve, they will look for in literature, and their most virulent enemies will be those unaccountable radicals who are still morally servile, and are now trying to suppress all free speculation in the interests of nationalism. Something more mocking, more irreverent, they will constantly want. They will take institutions very lightly, indeed will never fail to be surprised at the seriousness with which good radicals take the stated offices and systems. Their own contempt will be scarcely veiled, and they will be glad if they can tease, provoke, irritate thought on any subject. These malcontents will be more or less of the American tribe of talent who used either to go immediately to [137] Europe, or starved submissively at home. But these people will neither go to Europe, nor starve submissively. They are too much entangled emotionally in the possibilities of American life to leave it, and they have no desire whatever to starve. So they are likely to go ahead beating their heads at the wall until they are either bloody or light appears. They will give offense to their elders who cannot see what all the concern 'is about, and they will hurt the more middle-aged sense of adventure upon which the better integrated minds of the younger generation will have compromised. Optimism is often compensatory, and the optimistic mood in American thought may mean merely that American life is too terrible to face. A more skeptical, malicious, desperate, ironical mood may actually be the sign of more vivid and more stirring life fermenting in America to-day. It may be a sign of hope. That thirst for more of the intellectual "war and laughter" that we find Nietzsche calling us to may bring us satisfactions that optimism-haunted philosophies could never bring. Malcontentedness may be the beginning of promise. That is [138] why I evoked the spirit of William James, with its gay passion for ideas, and its freedom of speculation, when I felt the slightly pedestrian gait into which the war had brought pragmatism. It is the creative desire more than the creative intelligence that we shall need if we are ever to fly.






(Winter, 1918)

GOVERNMENT is synonymous with neither State nor Nation. It is the machinery by which the nation, organized as a State, carries out its State functions. Government is a framework of the administration of laws, and the carrying out of the public force. Government is the idea of the State put into practical operation in the hands of definite, concrete, fallible men. It is the visible sign of the invisible grace. It is the word made flesh. And it has necessarily the limitations inherent in all practicality. Government is the only form in which we can envisage the State, but it is by no means identical with it. That the State is a mystical conception is something that [140] must never be forgotten. Its glamor and its significance linger behind the framework of Government and direct its activities. Wartime brings the ideal of the State out into very clear relief, and reveals attitudes and tendencies that were hidden. In times of peace the sense of the State flags in a republic that is not militarized. For war is essentially the health of the State. The ideal of the State is that within its territory its power and influence should be universal. As the Church is the medium for the spiritual salvation of men, so the State is thought of as the medium for his political salvation. Its idealism is a rich blood flowing to all the members of the body politic. And it is precisely in war that the urgency for union seems greatest, and the necessity for universality seems most unquestioned. The State is the organization of the herd to act offensively or defensively against another herd similarly organized. The more terrifying the occasion for defense, the closer will become the organization and the more coercive the influence upon each member of the herd. War sends the current of purpose and activity flowing [141] down to the lowest level of the herd, and to its most remote branches. All the activities of society are linked together as fast as possible to this central purpose of making a military offensive or a military defense, and the State becomes what in peace times it has vainly struggled to become the inexorable arbiter and determinant of men's businesses and attitudes and opinions. The slack is taken up, the cross-currents fade out, and the nation moves lumberingly and slowly, but with ever accelerated speed and integration, towards the great end, towards that "peacefulness of being at war," of which L. P. Jacks has so unforgetably spoken.

The classes which are able to play an active and not merely a passive role in the organization for war get a tremendous liberation of activity and energy. Individuals are jolted out of their old routine, many of them are given new positions of responsibility, new techniques must be learnt. Wearing home ties are broken and women who would have remained attached with infantile bonds are liberated for service overseas. A vast sense of rejuvenescence pervades the significant [142] classes, a sense of new importance in the world. Old national ideals are taken out, re-adapted to the purpose and used as universal touchstones, or molds into which all thought is poured. Every individual citizen who in peacetimes had no function to perform by which he could imagine himself an expression or living fragment of the State becomes an active amateur agent of the Government in reporting spies and disloyalists, in raising Government funds, or in propagating such measures as are considered necessary by officialdom. Minority opinion, which in times of peace, was only irritating and could not be dealt with by law unless it was conjoined with actual crime, becomes, with the outbreak of war, a case for outlawry. Criticism of the State, objections to war, luke-warm opinions concerning the necessity or the beauty of conscription, are made subject to ferocious penalties, far exceeding in severity those affixed to actual pragmatic crimes. Public opinion, as expressed in the newspapers, and the pulpits and the schools, becomes one solid block. "Loyalty," or rather war orthodoxy, becomes the sole test for all professions, techniques, occupations. [143] Particularly is this true in the sphere of the intellectual life. There the smallest taint is held to spread over the whole soul, so that a professor of physics is ipso facto disqualified to teach physics or to hold honorable place in a university the republic of learning if he is at all unsound on the war. Even mere association with persons thus tainted is considered to disqualify a teacher. Anything pertaining to the enemy becomes taboo. His books are suppressed wherever possible, his language is forbidden. His artistic products are considered to convey in the subtlest spiritual way taints of vast poison to the soul that permits itself to enjoy them. So enemy music is suppressed, and energetic measures of opprobrium taken against those whose artistic consciences are not ready to perform such an act of self-sacrifice. The rage for loyal conformity works impartially, and often in diametric opposition to other orthodoxies and traditional conformities, or even ideals. The triumphant orthodoxy of the State is shown at its apex perhaps when Christian preachers lose their pulpits, for taking more or less, literal terms the Sermon on [144] the Mount, and Christian zealots are sent to prison for twenty years for distributing tracts which argue that war is unscriptural.

War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties, the minorities are either intimidated into silence, or brought slowly around by a subtle process of persuasion which may seem to them really to be converting them. Of course the ideal of perfect loyalty, perfect uniformity is never really attained. The classes upon whom the amateur work of coercion falls are unwearied in their zeal, but often their agitation instead of converting, merely serves to stiffen their resistance. Minorities are rendered sullen, and some intellectual opinion bitter and satirical. But in general, the nation in war-time attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not [145] possibly be produced through any other agency than war. Other values such as artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed, and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State, are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them.

War -- or at least modern war waged by a democratic republic against a powerful enemy seems to achieve for a nation almost all that the most inflamed political idealist could desire. Citizens are no longer indifferent to their Government, but each cell of the body politic is brimming with life and activity. We are at last on the way to full realization of that collective community in which each individual somehow contains the virtue of the whole. In a nation at war, every citizen identifies himself with the whole, and feels immensely strengthened in that identification. The purpose and desire of the collective community live in each person who throws himself whole-heartedly into the cause of war. [146] The impeding distinction between society and the individual is almost blotted out. At war, the individual becomes almost identical with his society. He achieves a superb self-assurance, an intuition of the Rightness of all his ideas and emotions, so that in the suppression of opponents or heretics he is invincibly strong; he feels behind him all the power of the collective community. The individual as social being in war seems to have achieved almost his apotheosis. Not for any religious impulse could the American nation have been expected to show such devotion en masse, such sacrifice and labor. Certainly not for any secular good, such as universal education or the subjugation of nature, would it have poured forth its treasure and its life, or would it have permitted such stern coercive measures to be taken against it, such as conscripting its money and its men. But for the sake of a war of offensive self-defense, undertaken to support a difficult cause to the slogan of "democracy," it would reach the highest level ever known of collective effort.

For these secular goods, connected with the enhancement of life, the education of man and the [147] use of the intelligence to realize reason and beauty in the nation's communal living, are alien to our traditional ideal of the State. The State is intimately connected with war, for it is the organization of the collective community when it acts in a political manner, and to act in a political manner towards a rival group has meant, throughout all history -- war.

There is nothing invidious in the use of the term, "herd," in connection with the State. It is merely an attempt to reduce closer to first principles the nature of this institution in the shadow of which we all live, move and have our being. Ethnologists are generally agreed that human society made its first appearance as the human pack and not as a collection of individuals or of couples. The herd is in fact the original unit, and only as it was differentiated did personal individuality develop. All the most primitive surviving tribes of men are shown to live in a very complex but very rigid social organization where opportunity for individuation is scarcely given. These tribes remain strictly organized herds, and the difference [148] between them and the modern State is one of degree of sophistication and variety of organization, and not of kind.

Psychologists recognize the gregarious impulse as one of the strongest primitive pulls which keeps together the herds of the different species of higher animals. Mankind is no exception. Our pugnacious evolutionary history has prevented the impulse from ever dying out. This gregarious impulse is the tendency to imitate, to conform, to coalesce together, and is most powerful when the herd believes itself threatened with attack. Animals crowd together for protection, and men become most conscious of their collectivity at the threat of war. Consciousness of collectivity brings confidence and a feeling of massed strength, which in turn arouses pugnacity and the battle is on. In civilized man, the gregarious impulse acts not only to produce concerted action for defense, but also to produce identity of opinion. Since thought is a form of behavior, the gregarious impulse floods up into its realms and demands that sense of uniform thought which wartime produces [149] so successfully. And it is in this flooding of the conscious life of society that gregariousness works its havoc.

For just as in modern societies the sex-instinct is enormously over-supplied for the requirements of human propagation, so the gregarious impulse is enormously over-supplied for the work of protection which it is called upon to perform. It would be quite enough if we were gregarious enough to enjoy the companionship of others, to be able to cooperate with them, and to feel a slight malaise at solitude. Unfortunately, however, this impulse is not content with these reasonable and healthful demands, but insists that like-mindedness shall prevail everywhere, in all departments of life. So that all human progress, all novelty, and non-conformity, must be carried against the resistance of this tyrannical herd-instinct which drives the individual into obedience and conformity with the majority. Even in the most modern and enlightened societies this impulse shows little sign of abating. As it is driven by inexorable economic demand out of the sphere of utility, it seems to fasten itself ever more fiercely [150] in the realm of feeling and opinion, so that conformity comes to be a thing aggressively desired and demanded.

The gregarious impulse keeps its hold all the more virulently because when the group is in motion or is taking any positive action, this feeling of being with and supported by the collective herd very greatly feeds that will to power, the nourishment of which the individual organism so constantly demands. You feel powerful by conforming, and you feel forlorn and helpless if you are out of the crowd. While even if you do not get any access of power by thinking and feeling just as everybody else in your group does, you get at least the warm feeling of obedience, the soothing irresponsibility of protection.

Joining as it does to these very vigorous tendencies of the individual the pleasure in power and the pleasure in obedience this gregarious impulse becomes irresistible in society. War stimulates it to the highest possible degree, sending the influences of its mysterious herd-current with its inflations of power and obedience to the farthest reaches of the society, to every individual [151] and little group that can possibly be affected. And it is these impulses which the State the organization of the entire herd, the entire collectivity is founded on and makes use of. There is, of course, in the feeling towards the State a large element of pure filial mysticism. The sense of insecurity, the desire for protection, sends one's desire back to the father and mother, with whom is associated the earliest feelings of protection. It is not for nothing that one's State is still thought of as Father or Motherland, that one's relation towards it is conceived in terms of family affection. The war has shown that nowhere under the shock of danger have these primitive childlike attitudes failed to assert themselves again, as much in this country as anywhere. If we have not the intense Father-sense of the German who worships his Vaterland, at least in Uncle Sam we have a symbol of protecting, kindly authority, and in the many Mother-posters of the Red Cross, we see how easily in the more tender functions of war service, the ruling organization is conceived in family terms. A people at war have become in the most literal sense obedient, [152] respectful, trustful children again, full of that naive faith in the all-wisdom and all-power of the adult who takes care of them, imposes his mild but necessary rule upon them and in whom they lose their responsibility and anxieties. In this recrudescence of the child, there is great comfort, and a certain influx of power. On most people the strain of being an independent adult weighs heavily, and upon none more than those members of the significant classes who have had bequeathed to them or have assumed the responsibilities of governing. The State provides the convenientest of symbols under which these classes can retain all the actual pragmatic satisfaction of governing, but can rid themselves of the psychic burden of adulthood. They continue to direct industry and government and all the institutions of society pretty much as before, but in their own conscious eyes and in the eyes of the general public, they are turned from their selfish and predatory ways, and have become loyal servants of society, or something greater than they-- the State. The man who moves from the direction of a large business in New York to a post in the war management [153] industrial service in Washington does not apparently alter very much his power or his administrative technique. But psychically, what a transfiguration has occurred! His is now not only the power but the glory ! And his sense of satisfaction is directly proportional not to the genuine amount of personal sacrifice that may be involved in the change but to the extent to which he retains his industrial prerogatives and sense of command.

From members of this class a certain insuperable indignation arises if the change from private enterprise to State service involves any real loss of power and personal privilege. If there is to be pragmatic sacrifice, let it be, they feel, on the field of honor, in the traditionally acclaimed deaths by battle, in that detour to suicide, as Nietzsche calls war. The State in wartime supplies satisfaction for this very real craving, but its chief value is the opportunity it gives for this regression to infantile attitudes. In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and [154] you insist vehemently that everybody else shall think, speak and act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock, the quasi-personal symbol of the strength of the herd, and the leader and determinant of your definite action and ideas.

The members of the working-classes, that portion at least which does not identify itself with the significant classes and seek to imitate it and rise to it, are notoriously less affected by the symbolism of the State, or, in other words, are less patriotic than the significant classes. For theirs is neither the power nor the glory. The State in wartime does not offer them the opportunity to regress, for, never having acquired social adulthood, they cannot lose it. If they have been drilled and regimented, as by the industrial regime of the last century, they go out docilely enough to do battle for their State, but they are almost entirely without that filial sense and even without that herd-intellect sense which operates so powerfully among their "betters." They live habitually in an industrial serfdom, by which [155] though nominally free, they are in practice as a class bound to a system of machine-production the implements of which they do not own, and in the distribution of whose product they have not the slightest voice, except what they can occasionally exert by a veiled intimidation which draws slightly more of the product in their direction. From such serfdom, military conscription is not so great a change. But into the military enterprise they go, not with those hurrahs of the significant classes whose instincts war so powerfully feeds, but with the same apathy with which they enter and continue in the industrial enterprise.

From this point of view, war can be called almost an upper-class sport. The novel interests and excitements it provides, the inflations of power, the satisfaction it gives to those very tenacious human impulses -- gregariousness and parent-regression -- endow it with all the qualities of a luxurious collective game which is felt intensely just in proportion to the sense of significant rule the person has in the class-division of his society. A country at war -- particularly our [156] own country at war -- does not act as a purely homogeneous herd. The significant classes have all the herd-feeling in all its primitive intensity, but there are barriers, or at least differentials of intensity, so that this feeling does not flow freely without impediment throughout the entire nation. A modern country represents a long historical and social process of disaggregation of the herd. The nation at peace is not a group, it is a network of myriads of groups representing the cooperation and similar feeling of men on all sorts of planes and in all sorts of human interests and enterprises. In every modern industrial country, there are parallel planes of economic classes with divergent attitudes and institutions and interests bourgeois and proletariat, with their many subdivisions according to power and function, and even their interweaving, such as those more highly skilled workers who habitually identify themselves with the owning and the significant classes and strive to raise themselves to the bourgeois level, imitating their cultural standards and manners. Then there are religious groups with a certain definite, though weakening sense of kinship, and there are [157] the powerful ethnic groups which behave almost as cultural colonies in the New World, clinging tenaciously to language and historical tradition, though their herdishness is usually founded on cultural rather than State symbols. There are even certain vague sectional groupings. All these small sects, political parties, classes, levels, interests, may act as foci for herd-feelings. They intersect and interweave, and the same person may be a member of several different groups lying at different planes. Different occasions will set off his herd-feeling in one direction or another. In a religious crisis he will be intensely conscious of the necessity that his sect (or sub-herd) may prevail; in a political campaign, that his party shall triumph.

To the spread of herd-feeling, therefore, all these smaller herds offer resistance. To the spread of that herd-feeling which arises from the threat of war, and which would normally involve the entire nation, the only groups which make serious resistance are those, of course, which continue to identify themselves with the other nation from which they or their parents have come. In [158] times of peace they are for all practical purposes citizens of their new country. They keep alive their ethnic traditions more as a luxury than anything. Indeed these traditions tend rapidly to die out except where they connect with some still unresolved nationalistic cause abroad, with some struggle for freedom, or some irredentism. If they are consciously opposed by a too invidious policy of Americanism, they tend to be strengthened. And in time of war, these ethnic elements which have any traditional connection with the enemy, even though most of the individuals may have little real sympathy with the enemy's cause, are naturally lukewarm to the herd-feeling of the nation which goes back to State traditions in which they have no share. But to the natives imbued with State-feeling, any such resistance or apathy is intolerable. This herd-feeling, this newly awakened consciousness of the State, demands universality. The leaders of the significant classes, who feel most intensely this State-compulsion, demand a one hundred per cent. Americanism, among one hundred per cent, of the population. The State is a jealous God and will [159] brook no rivals. Its sovereignty must pervade every one, and all feeling must be run into the stereotyped forms of romantic patriotic militarism which is the traditional expression of the State herd-feeling.

Thus arises conflict within the State. War becomes almost a sport between the hunters and the hunted. The pursuit of enemies within outweighs in psychic attractiveness the assault on the enemy without. The whole terrific force of the State is brought to bear against the heretics. The nation boils with a slow insistent fever. A white terrorism is carried on by the Government against pacifists, Socialists, enemy aliens, and a milder unofficial persecution against all persons or movements that can be imagined as connected with the enemy. War, which should be the health of the State, unifies all the bourgeois elements and the common people, and outlaws the rest. The revolutionary proletariat shows more resistance to this unification, is, as we have seen, psychically out of the current. Its vanguard, as the I. W. W., is remorselessly pursued, in spite of the proof that it is a symptom, not a cause, and its prosecution [160] increases the disaffection of labor and intensifies the friction instead of lessening it.

But the emotions that play around the defense of the State do not take into consideration the pragmatic results. A nation at war, led by its significant classes, is engaged in liberating certain of its impulses which have had all too little exercise in the past. It is getting certain satisfactions and the actual conduct of the war or the condition of the country are really incidental to the enjoyment of new forms of virtue and power and aggressiveness. If it could be shown conclusively that the persecution of slightly disaffected elements actually increased enormously the difficulties of production and the organization of the war technique, it would be found that public policy would scarcely change. The significant classes must have their pleasure in hunting down and chastizing everything that they feel instinctively to be not imbued with, the current State-enthusiasm, though the State itself be actually impeded in its efforts to carry out those objects for which they are passionately contending. The best proof of this is that with a pursuit of plotters [161] that has continued with ceaseless vigilance ever since the beginning of the war in Europe, the concrete crimes unearthed and punished have been fewer than those prosecutions for the mere crime of opinion or the expression of sentiments critical of the State or the national policy. The punishment for opinion has been far more ferocious and unintermittent than the punishment of pragmatic crime. Unimpeachable Anglo-Saxon Americans who were freer of pacifist or socialist utterance than the State-obsessed ruling public opinion, received heavier penalties and even greater opprobrium, in many instances, than the definitely hostile German plotter. A public opinion which, almost without protest, accepts as just, adequate, beautiful, deserved and in fitting harmony with ideals of liberty and freedom of speech, a sentence of twenty years in prison for mere utterances, no matter what they may be, shows itself to be suffering from a kind of social derangement of values, a sort of social neurosis, that deserves analysis and comprehension.

On our entrance into the war, there were many persons who predicted exactly this derangement [162] of values, who feared lest democracy suffer more at home from an America at war than could be gained for democracy abroad. That fear has been amply justified. The question whether the American nation would act like an enlightened democracy going to war for the sake of high ideals, or like a State-obsessed herd, has been decisively answered. The record is written and cannot be erased. History will decide whether the terrorization of opinion, and the regimentation of life was justified under the most idealistic of democratic administrations. It will see that when the American nation had ostensibly a chance to conduct a gallant war, with scrupulous regard to the safety of democratic values at home, it chose rather to adopt all the most obnoxious and coercive techniques of the enemy and of the other countries at war, and to rival in intimidation and ferocity of punishment the worst governmental systems of the age. For its former unconsciousness and disrespect of the State ideal, the nation apparently paid the penalty in a violent swing to the other extreme. It acted so exactly like a herd in its irrational coercion of minorities that there is no [163] artificiality in interpreting the progress of the war in terms of the herd psychology. It unwittingly brought out into the strongest relief the true characteristics of the State and its intimate alliance with war. It provided for the enemies of war and the critics of the State the most telling arguments possible. The new passion for the State ideal unwittingly set in motion and encouraged forces that threaten very materially to reform the State. It has shown those who are really determined to end war that the problem is not the mere simple one of finishing a war that will end war.

For war is a complicated way in which a nation acts, and it acts so out of a spiritual compulsion which pushes it on, perhaps against all its interests, all its real desires, and all its real sense of values. It is States that make wars and not nations, and the very thought and almost necessity of war is bound up with the ideal of the State. Not for centuries have nations made war; in fact the only historical example of nations making war is the great barbarian invasions into southern Europe, the invasions of Russia from the East, and [164] perhaps the sweep of Islam through Northern Africa into Europe after Mohammed's death. And the motivations for such wars were either the restless expansion of migratory tribes or the flame of religious fanaticism. Perhaps these great movements could scarcely be called wars at all, for war implies an organized people drilled and led; in fact, necessitates the State. Ever since Europe has had any such organization, such huge conflicts between nations -- nations, that is, as cultural groups -- have been unthinkable. It is preposterous to assume that for centuries in Europe there would have been any possibility of a people en masse, (with their own leaders, and not with the leaders of their duly constituted State), rising up and overflowing their borders in a war raid upon a neighboring people. The wars of the Revolutionary armies of France were clearly in defense of an imperiled freedom, and, moreover, they were clearly directed not against other peoples, but against the autocratic governments that were combining to crush the Revolution. There is no instance in history of a genuinely national war. There are instances of national defenses, [165] among primitive civilizations such as the Balkan peoples, against intolerable invasion by neighboring despots or oppression. But war, as such, cannot occur except in a system of competing States, which have relations with each other through the channels of diplomacy.

War is a function of this system of States, and could not occur except in such a system. Nations organized for internal administration, nations organized as a federation of free communities, nations organized in any way except that of a political centralization of a dynasty, or the reformed descendant of a dynasty, could not possibly make war upon each other. They would not only have no motive for conflict, but they would be unable to muster the concentrated force to make war effective. There might be all sorts of amateur marauding, there might be guerilla expeditions of group against group, but there could not be that terrible war en masse of the national State, that exploitation of the nation in the interests of the State, that abuse of the national life and resource in the frenzied mutual suicide, which is modern war.


It cannot be too firmly realized that war is a function of States and not of nations, indeed that it is the chief function of States. War is a very artificial thing. It is not the naive spontaneous outburst of herd pugnacity ; it is no more primary than is formal religion. War cannot exist without a military establishment, and a military establishment cannot exist without a State organization. War has an immemorial tradition and heredity only because the State has a long tradition and heredity. But they are inseparably and functionally joined. We cannot crusade against war without crusading implicitly against the State. And we cannot expect, or take measures to ensure, that this war is a war to end war, unless at the same time we take measures to end the State in its traditional form. The State is not the nation, and the State can be modified and even abolished in its present form, without harming the nation. On the contrary, with the passing of the dominance of the State, the genuine life-enhancing forces of the nation will be liberated. If the State's chief function is war, then the State must suck out of the nation a large part of its energy for its purely [167] sterile purposes of defense and aggression. It devotes to waste or to actual destruction as much as it can of the vitality of the nation. No one will deny that war is a vast complex of life-destroying and life-crippling forces. If the State's chief function is war, then it is chiefly concerned with coordinating and developing the powers and techniques which make for destruction. And this means not only the actual and potential destruction of the enemy, but of the nation at home as well. For the very existence of a State in a system of States means that the nation lies always under a risk of war and invasion, and the calling away of energy into military pursuits means a crippling of the productive and life-enhancing processes of the national life.

All this organizing of death-dealing energy and technique is not a natural but a very sophisticated process. Particularly in modern nations, but also all through the course of modern European history, it could never exist without the State. For it meets the demands of no other institution, it follows the desires of no religious, industrial, political group. If the demand for military organization [168] and a military establishment seems to come not from the officers of the State but from the public, it is only that it comes from the State-obsessed portion of the public, those groups which feel most keenly the State ideal. And in this country we have had evidence all too indubitable how powerless the pacifically minded officers of State may be in the face of a State-obsession of the significant classes. If a powerful section ,of the significant classes feels more intensely the attitudes of the State, then they will most infallibly mold the Government in time to their wishes, bring it back to act as the embodiment of the State which it pretends to be. In every country we have seen groups that were more loyal than the king more patriotic than the Government the Ulsterites in Great Britain, the Junkers in Prussia, l’Action Franchise in France, our patrioteers in America. These groups exist to keep the steering wheel of the State straight, and they prevent the nation from ever veering very far from the State ideal.

Militarism expresses the desires and satisfies the major impulse only of this class. The other classes, left to themselves, have too many necessities [169] and interests and ambitions, to concern themselves with so expensive and destructive a game. But the State-obsessed group is either able to get control of the machinery of the State or to intimidate those in control, so that it is able through use of the collective force to regiment the other grudging and reluctant classes into a military programme. State idealism percolates down through the strata of society; capturing groups and individuals just in proportion to the prestige of this dominant class. So that we have the herd actually strung along between two extremes, the militaristic patriots at one end, who are scarcely distinguishable in attitude and animus from the most reactionary Bourbons of an Empire, and unskilled labor groups, which entirely lack the State sense. But the State acts as a whole, and the class that controls governmental machinery can swing the effective action of the herd as a whole. The herd is not actually a whole, emotionally. But by an ingenious mixture of cajolery, agitation, intimidation, the herd is licked into shape, into an effective mechanical unity, if not into a spiritual [170] whole. Men are told simultaneously that they will enter the military establishment of their own volition, as their splendid sacrifice for their country's welfare, and that if they do not enter they will be hunted down and punished with the most horrid penalties; and under a most indescribable confusion of democratic pride and personal fear they submit to the destruction of their livelihood if not their lives, in a way that would formerly have seemed to them so obnoxious as to be incredible.

In this great herd-machinery, dissent is like sand in the bearings. The State ideal is primarily a sort of blind animal push towards military unity. Any interference with that unity turns the whole vast impulse towards crushing it. Dissent is speedily outlawed, and the Government, backed by the significant classes and those who in every locality, however small, identify themselves with them, proceeds against the outlaws, regardless of their value to the other institutions of the nation, or to the effect their persecution may have on public opinion. The herd becomes divided into [171] the hunters and the hunted, and war-enterprise becomes not only a technical game but a sport as well.

It must never be forgotten that nations do not declare war on each other, nor in the strictest sense is it nations that fight each other. Much has been said to the effect that modern wars are wars of whole peoples and not of dynasties. Because the entire nation is regimented and the whole resources of the country are levied on for war, this does not mean that it is the country qua country which is fighting. It is the country organized as a State that is fighting, and only as a State would it possibly fight. So, literally, it is States which make war on each other and not peoples. Governments are the agents of States, and it is Governments which declare war on each other, acting truest to form in the interests of the great State ideal they represent. There is no case known in modern times of the people being consulted in the initiation of a war. The present demand for democratic control of foreign policy indicates how completely, even in the most democratic of modern nations, foreign policy has been the secret private [172] possession of the executive branch of the Government.

However representative of the people Parliaments and Congresses may be in all that concerns the internal administration of a country's political affairs, in international relations it has never been possible to maintain that the popular body acted except as a wholly mechanical ratifier of the Executive's will. The formality by which Parliaments and Congresses declare war is the merest technicality. Before such a declaration can take place, the country will have been brought to the very brink of war by the foreign policy of the Executive. A long series of steps on the downward path, each one more fatally committing the unsuspecting country to a warlike course of action will have been taken without either the people or its representatives being consulted or expressing its feeling. When the declaration of war is finally demanded by the Executive, the Parliament or Congress could not refuse it without reversing the course of history, without repudiating what has been representing itself in the eyes of the other States as the symbol and interpreter [173] of the nation's will and animus. To repudiate an Executive at that time would be to publish to the entire world the evidence that the country had been grossly deceived by its own Government, that the country with an almost criminal carelessness had allowed its Government to commit it to gigantic national enterprises in which it had no heart. In such a crisis, even a Parliament which in the most democratic States represents the common man and not the significant classes who most strongly cherish the State ideal, will cheerfully sustain the foreign policy which it understands even less than it would care for if it understood, and will vote almost unanimously for an incalculable war, in which the nation may be brought well nigh to ruin. That is why the referendum which was advocated by some people as a test of American sentiment in entering the war was considered even by thoughtful democrats to be something subtly improper. The die had been cast. Popular whim could only derange and bungle monstrously the majestic march of State policy in its new crusade for the peace of the world. The irresistible State ideal got hold of the bowels of men. Whereas [174] up to this time, it had been irreproachable to be neutral in word and deed, for the foreign policy of the State had so decided it, henceforth it became the most arrant crime to remain neutral. The Middle West, which had been soddenly pacifistic in our days of neutrality, became in a few months just as soddenly bellicose, and in its zeal for witch-burnings and its scent for enemies within gave precedence to no section of the country. The herd-mind followed faithfully the State-mind and, the agitation for a referendum being soon forgotten, the country fell into the universal conclusion that, since its Congress had formally declared the war, the nation itself had in the most solemn and universal way devised and brought on the entire affair. Oppression of minorities became justified on the plea that the latter were perversely resisting the rationally constructed and solemnly declared will of a majority of the nation. The herd-coalescence of opinion which became inevitable the moment the State had set flowing the war-attitudes became interpreted as a pre-war popular decision, and disinclination to bow to the herd was treated as a monstrously anti-social act. So that [175] the State, which had vigorously resisted the idea of a referendum and clung tenaciously and, of course, with entire success to its autocratic and absolute control of foreign policy, had the pleasure of seeing the country, within a few months, given over to the retrospective impression that a genuine referendum had taken place. When once a country has lapped up these State attitudes, its memory fades; it conceives itself not as merely accepting, but of having itself willed the whole policy and technique of war. The significant classes with their trailing satellites, identify themselves with the State, so that what the State, through the agency of the Government, has willed, this majority conceives itself to have willed.

All of which goes to show that the State represents all the autocratic, arbitrary, coercive, belligerent forces within a social group, it is a sort of complexus of everything most distasteful to the modern free creative spirit, the feeling for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. War is the health of the State. Only when the State is at war does the modern society function with that unity of sentiment, simple uncritical patriotic [176] devotion, cooperation of services, which have always been the ideal of the State lover. With the ravages of democratic ideas, however, the modern republic cannot go to war under the old conceptions of autocracy and death-dealing belligerency. If a successful animus for war requires a renaissance of State ideals, they can only come back under democratic forms, under this retrospective conviction of democratic control of foreign policy, democratic desire for war, and particularly of this identification of the democracy with the State. How unregenerate the ancient State may be, however, is indicated by the laws against sedition, and by the Government's unreformed attitude on foreign policy. One of the first demands of the more far-seeing democrats in the democracies of the Alliance was that secret diplomacy must go. The war was seen to have been made possible by a web of secret agreements between States, alliances that were made by Governments without the shadow of popular support or even popular knowledge, and vague, half-understood commitments that scarcely reached the stage of a treaty or agreement, but which proved binding [177] in the event. Certainly, said these democratic thinkers, war can scarcely be avoided unless this poisonous underground system of secret diplomacy is destroyed, this system by which a nation's power, wealth and manhood may be signed away like a blank check to an allied nation to be cashed in at some future crisis. Agreements which are to affect the lives of whole peoples must be made between peoples and not by Governments, or at least by their representatives in the full glare of publicity and criticism.

Such a demand for "democratic control of foreign policy" seemed axiomatic. Even if the country had been swung into war by steps taken secretly and announced to the public only after they had been consummated, it was felt that that attitude of the American State towards foreign policy was only a relic of the bad old days and must be superseded in the new order. The American President himself, the liberal hope of the world, had demanded, in the eyes of the world, open diplomacy, agreements freely and openly arrived at. Did this mean a genuine transference of power in this most crucial of State functions [178] from Government to people? Not at all. When the question recently came to a challenge in Congress, and the implications of open discussion were somewhat specifically discussed, and the desirabilities frankly commended, the President let his disapproval be known in no uncertain way. No one ever accused Mr. Wilson of not being a State idealist, and whenever democratic aspirations swung ideals too far out of the State orbit, he could be counted on to react vigorously. Here was a clear case of conflict between democratic idealism and the very crux of the concept of the State. However unthinkingly he might have been led on to encourage open diplomacy in his liberalizing programme, when its implication was made vivid to him, he betrayed how mere a tool the idea had been in his mind to accentuate America's redeeming role. Not in any sense as a serious pragmatic technique had he thought of a genuinely open diplomacy. And how could he? For the last stronghold of State power is foreign policy. It is in foreign policy that the State acts most concentratedly as the organized herd, acts with fullest sense of aggressive power, acts with [179] freest arbitrariness. In foreign policy, the State is most itself. States, with reference to each other, may be said to be in a continual state of latent war. The "armed truce," a phrase so familiar before 1914, was an accurate description of the normal relation of States when they are not at war. Indeed, it is not too much to say that the normal relation of States is war. Diplomacy is a disguised war, in which States seek to gain by barter and intrigue, by the cleverness of wits, the objectives which they would have to gain more clumsily by means of war. Diplomacy is used while the States are recuperating from conflicts in which they have exhausted themselves. It is the wheedling and the bargaining of the worn-out bullies as they rise from the ground and slowly restore their strength to begin fighting again. If diplomacy had been a moral equivalent for war, a higher stage in human progress, an inestimable means of making words prevail instead of blows, militarism would have broken down and given place to it. But since it is a mere temporary substitute, a mere appearance of war's energy under another form, a surrogate effect is almost exactly [180] proportioned to the armed force behind it. When it fails, the recourse is immediate to the military technique whose thinly veiled arm it has been. A diplomacy that was the agency of popular democratic forces in their non-State manifestations would be no diplomacy at all. It would be no better than the Railway or Education Commissions that are sent from one country to another with rational constructive purpose. The State, acting as a diplomatic-military ideal, is eternally at war. Just as it must act arbitrarily and autocratically in time of war, it must act in time of peace in this particular role where it acts as a unit. Unified control is necessarily autocratic control. Democratic control of foreign policy is therefore a contradiction in terms. Open discussion destroys swiftness and certainty of action. The giant State is paralyzed. Mr. Wilson retains his full ideal of the State at the same time that he desires to eliminate war. He wishes to make the world safe for democracy as well as safe for diplomacy. When the two are in conflict, his clear political insight, his idealism of the State, tells him that it is the naïver democratic values [181] that must be sacrificed. The world must primarily be made safe for diplomacy. The State must not be diminished.

What is the State essentially ? The more closely we examine it, the more mystical and personal it becomes. On the Nation we can put our hand as a definite social group, with attitudes and qualities exact enough to mean something. On the Government we can put our hand as a certain organization of ruling functions, the machinery of law-making and law-enforcing. The Administration is a recognizable group of political functionaries, temporarily in charge of the government. But the State stands as an idea behind them all, eternal, sanctified, and from it Government and Administration conceive themselves to have the breath of life. Even the nation, especially in times of war or at least, its significant classes considers that it derives its authority, and its purpose from the idea of the State. Nation and State are scarcely differentiated, and the concrete, practical, apparent facts are sunk in the symbol. We reverence not our country but the flag. We may criticize ever so severely our country, but we are [182] disrespectful to the flag at our peril. It is the flag and the uniform that make men's heart beat high and fill them with noble emotions, not the thought of and pious hopes for America as a free and enlightened nation.

It cannot be said that the object of emotion is the same, because the flag is the symbol of the nation, so that in reverencing the American flag we are reverencing the nation. For the flag is not a symbol of the country as a cultural group, following certain ideals of life, but solely a symbol of the political State, inseparable from its prestige and expansion. The flag is most intimately connected with military achievement, military memory. It represents the country not in its intensive life, but in its far-flung challenge to the world. The flag is primarily the banner of war; it is allied with patriotic anthem and holiday. It recalls old martial memories. A nation's patriotic history is solely the history of its wars, that is, of the State in its health and glorious functioning. So in responding to the appeal of the flag, we are responding to the appeal of the State, to the symbol of the herd organized as an offensive [183] and defensive body, conscious of its prowess and its mystical herd-strength.

Even those authorities in the present Administration, to whom has been granted autocratic control over opinion, feel, though they are scarcely able to philosophize over, this distinction. It has been authoritatively declared that the horrid penalties against seditious opinion must not be construed as inhibiting legitimate, that is, partisan criticism of the Administration. A distinction is made between the Administration and the Government. It is quite accurately suggested by this attitude that the Administration is a temporary band of partisan politicians in charge of the machinery of Government, carrying out the mystical policies of State. The manner in which they operate this machinery may be freely discussed and objected to by their political opponents. The Governmental machinery may also be legitimately altered, in case of necessity. What may not be discussed or criticized is the mystical policy itself or the motives of the State in inaugurating such a policy. The President, it is true, has made certain partisan distinctions [184] between candidates for office on the ground of support or non-support of the Administration, but what he meant was really support or non-support of the State policy as faithfully carried out by the Administration. Certain of the Administration measures were devised directly to increase the health of the State, such as the Conscription and the Espionage laws. Others were concerned merely with the machinery. To oppose the first was to oppose the State and was therefore not tolerable. To oppose the second was to oppose fallible human judgment, and was therefore, though to be deprecated, not to be wholly interpreted as political suicide.

The distinction between Government and State, however, has not been so carefully observed. In time of war it is natural that Government as the seat of authority should be confused with the State or the mystic source of authority. You cannot very well injure a mystical idea which is the State, but you can very well interfere with the processes of Government. So that the two become identified in the public mind, and any contempt for or opposition to the workings of the [185] machinery of Government is considered equivalent to contempt for the sacred State. The State, it is felt, is being injured in its faithful surrogate, and public emotion rallies passionately to defend it. It even makes any criticism of the form of Government a crime.

The inextricable union of militarism and the State is beautifully shown by those laws which emphasize interference with the Army and Navy as the most culpable of seditious crimes. Pragmatically, a case of capitalistic sabotage, or a strike in war industry would seem to be far more dangerous to the successful prosecution of the war than the isolated and ineffectual efforts of an individual to prevent recruiting. But in the tradition of the State ideal, such industrial interference with national policy is not identified as a crime against the State. It may be grumbled against; it may be seen quite rationally as an impediment of the utmost gravity. But it is not felt in those obscure seats of the herd-mind which dictate the identity of crime and fix their proportional punishments. Army and Navy, however, are the very arms of the State; in them flows its most precious [186] life-blood. To paralyze them is to touch the very State itself. And the majesty of the State is so sacred that even to attempt such a paralysis is a crime equal to a successful stroke. The will is deemed sufficient. Even though the individual in his effort to impede recruiting should utterly and lamentably fail, he shall be in no wise spared. Let the wrath of the State descend upon him for his impiety! Even if he does not try any overt action, but merely utters sentiments that may incidentally in the most indirect way cause some one to refrain from enlisting, he is guilty. The guardians of the State do not ask whether any pragmatic effect flowed out of this evil will or desire. It is enough that the will is present. Fifteen or twenty years in prison is not deemed too much for such sacrilege.

Such attitudes and such laws, which affront every principle of human reason, are no accident, nor are they the result of hysteria caused by the war. They are considered just, proper, beautiful by all the classes which have the State ideal, and they express only an extreme of health and vigor in the reaction of the State to its non-friends.


Such attitudes are inevitable as arising from the devotees of the State. For the State is a personal as well as a mystical symbol, and it can only be understood by tracing its historical origin. The modern State is not the national and intelligent product of modern men desiring to live harmoniously together with security of life, property and opinion. It is not an organization which has been devised as pragmatic means to a desired social end. All the idealism with which we have been instructed to endow the State is the fruit of our retrospective imaginations. What it does for us in the way of security and benefit of life, it does incidentally as a by-product and development of its original functions, and not because at any time men or classes in the full possession of their insight and intelligence have desired that it be so. It is very important that we should occasionally lift the incorrigible veil of that ex post facto idealism by which we throw a glamor of rationalization over what is, and pretend in the ecstasies of social conceit that we have personally invented and set up for the glory of God and man the hoary institutions which we see around us. Things are what [188] they are, and come down to us with all their thick encrustations of error and malevolence. Political philosophy can delight us with fantasy and convince us who need illusion to live that the actual is a fair and approximate copy full of failings, of course, but approximately sound and sincere of that ideal society which we can imagine ourselves as creating. From this it is a step to the tacit assumption that we have somehow had a hand in its creation and are responsible for its maintenance and sanctity.

Nothing is more obvious, however, than that every one of us comes into society as into something in whose creation we had not the slightest hand. We have not even the advantage of consciousness before we take up our careers on earth. By the time we find ourselves here we are caught in a network of customs and attitudes, the major directions of our desires and interests have been stamped on our minds, and by the time we have emerged from tutelage and reached the years of discretion when we might conceivably throw our influence to the reshaping of social institutions, most of us have been so molded into the society [189] and class we live in that we are scarcely aware of any distinction between ourselves as judging, desiring individuals and our social environment. We have been kneaded so successfully that we approve of what our society approves, desire what our society desires, and add to the group our own passional inertia against change, against the effort of reason, and the adventure of beauty.

Every one of us, without exception, is born into a society that is given, just as the fauna and flora of our environment are given. Society and its institutions are, to the individual who enters it, as much naturalistic phenomena as is the weather itself. There is therefore, no natural sanctity in the State any more than there is in the weather. We may bow down before it, just as our ancestors bowed before the sun and moon, but it is only because something in us unregenerate finds satisfaction in such an attitude, not because there is anything inherently reverential in the institution worshipped. Once the State has begun to function, and a large class finds its interest and its expression of power in maintaining the State, this ruling class may compel obedience from any [190] uninterested minority. The State thus becomes an instrument by which the power of the whole herd is wielded for the benefit of a class. The rulers soon learn to capitalize the reverence which the State produces in the majority, and turn it into a general resistance towards a lessening of their privileges. The sanctity of the State becomes identified with the sanctity of the ruling class and the latter are permitted to remain in power under the impression that in obeying and serving them, we are obeying and serving society, the nation, the great collectivity of all of us.

An analysis of the State would take us back to the beginnings of society, to the complex of religious and personal and herd-impulses which has found expression in so many forms. What we are interested in is the American State as it behaves and as Americans behave towards it in this twentieth century, and to understand that, we have to go no further back than the early English monarchy of which our American republic is the direct descendant. How straight and true is that line of descent almost nobody realizes. Those persons who believe in the sharpest distinction [191] between democracy and monarchy can scarcely appreciate how a political institution may go through so many transformations and yet remain the same. Yet a swift glance must show us that in all the evolution of the English monarchy, with all its broadenings and its revolutions, and even with its jump across the sea into a colony which became an independent nation and then a powerful State, the same State functions and attitudes have been preserved essentially unchanged. The changes have been changes of form and not of inner spirit, and the boasted extension of democracy has been not a process by which the State was essentially altered to meet the shifting of classes, the extension of knowledge, the needs of social organization, but a mere elastic expansion by which the old spirit of the State easily absorbed the new and adjusted itself successfully to its exigencies. Never once has it been seriously shaken. Only once or twice has it been seriously challenged, and each time it has speedily recovered its equilibrium and proceeded with all its attitudes and faiths reenforced by the disturbance.

The modern democratic State, in this light, is [192]therefore no bright and rational creation of a new day, the political form under which great peoples are to live healthfully and freely in a modern world, but the last decrepit scion of an ancient and hoary stock, which has become so exhausted that it scarcely recognizes its own ancestor, does, in fact repudiate him while it clings tenaciously to the archaic and irrelevant spirit that made that ancestor powerful, and resists the new bottles for the new wine that its health as a modern society so desperately needs. So sweeping a conclusion might have been doubted concerning the American State had it not been for the war, which has provided a long and beautiful series of examples of the tenacity of the State ideal and its hold on the significant classes of the American nation. War is the health of the State, and it is during war that one best understands the nature of that institution. If the American democracy during wartime has acted with an almost incredible trueness to form, if it has resurrected with an almost joyful fury the somnolent State, we can only conclude that that tradition from the past has been unbroken, and that the American republic is the [193] direct descendant of the early English State.

And what was the nature of this early English State? It was first of all a mediaeval absolute monarchy, arising out of the feudal chaos, which had represented the first effort at order after the turbulent assimilation of the invading barbarians by the Christianizing Roman civilization. The feudal lord evolved out of the invading warrior who had seized or been granted land and held it, souls and usufruct thereof, as fief to some higher lord whom he aided in war. His own serfs and vassals were exchanging faithful service for the protection which the warrior with his organized band could give them. Where one invading chieftain retained his power over his lesser lieutenants, a petty kingdom would arise, as in England, and a restless and ambitious king might extend his power over his neighbors and consolidate the petty kingdoms only to fall before the armed power of an invader like William the Conqueror, who would bring the whole realm under his heel. The modern State begins when a prince secures almost undisputed sway over fairly homogeneous territory and people and strives to [194] fortify his power and maintain the order that will conduce to the safety and influence of his heirs. The State in its inception is pure and undiluted monarchy; it is armed power, culminating in a single head, bent on one primary object, the reducing to subjection, to unconditional and unqualified loyalty of all the people of a certain territory. This is the primary striving of the State, and it is a striving that the State never loses, through all its myriad transformations.

When this subjugation was once acquired, the modern State had begun. In the King, the subjects found their protection and their sense of unity. From his side, he was a redoubtable, ambitious, and stiff-necked warrior, getting the supreme mastery which he craved. But from theirs, he was a symbol of the herd, the visible emblem of that security which they needed and for which they drew gregariously together. Serfs and villains, whose safety under their petty lords had been rudely shattered in the constant conflicts for supremacy, now drew a new breath under the supremacy, that wiped out all this local anarchy. King and people agreed in the thirst for order, and [195] order became the first healing function of the State. But in the maintenance of order, the King needed officers of justice; the old crude group-rules for dispensing justice had to be codified, a system of formal law worked out. The King needed ministers, who would carry out his will, extensions of his own power, as a machine extends the power of a man's hand. So the State grew as a gradual differentiation of the King's absolute power, founded on the devotion of his subjects and his control of a military band, swift and sure to smite. Gratitude for protection and fear of the strong arm sufficed to produce the loyalty of the country to the State.

The history of the State, then, is the effort to maintain these personal prerogatives of power, the effort to convert more and more into stable law the rules of order, the conditions of public vengeance, the distinction between classes, the possession of privilege. It was an effort to convert what was at first arbitrary usurpation, a perfectly apparent use of unjustified force, into the taken for granted and the divinely established. The State moves inevitably along the line from military dictatorship [196] to the divine right of Kings. What had to be at first rawly imposed becomes through social habit to seem the necessary, the inevitable. The modern unquestioning acceptance of the State comes out of long and turbulent centuries when the State was challenged and had to fight its way to prevail. The King's establishment of personal power which was the early State had to contend with the impudence of hostile barons, who saw too clearly the adventitious origin of the monarchy and felt no reason why they should not themselves reign. Feuds between the King and his relatives, quarrels over inheritance, quarrels over the devolution of property, threatened constantly the existence of the new monarchial State. The King's will to power necessitated for its absolute satisfaction universality of political control in his dominions, just as the Roman Church claimed universality of spiritual control over the whole world. And just as rival popes were the inevitable product of such a pretension of sovereignty, rival kings and princes contended for that dazzling jewel of undisputed power.

Not until the Tudor regime was there in England [197] an irresponsible absolute personal monarchy on the lines of the early State ideal, governing a fairly well-organized and prosperous nation. The Stuarts were not only too weak-minded to inherit this fruition of William the Conqueror's labors, but they made the fatal mistake of bringing out to public view and philosophy the idea of Divine Right implicit in the State, and this at a time when a new class of country gentry and burghers were attaining wealth and self-consciousness backed by the zeal of a theocratic and individualistic religion. Cromwell might certainly, if he had continued in power, revised the ideal of the State, perhaps utterly transformed it, destroying the concepts of personal power, and universal sovereignty, and substituting a sort of Government of Presbyterian Soviets under the tutelage of a celestial Czar. But the Restoration brought back the old State under a peculiarly frivolous form. The Revolution was the merest change of monarchs at the behest of a Protestant majority which insisted on guarantees against religious relapse. The intrinsic nature of the monarchy as the symbol of the State was not in the least [198] altered. In place of the inept monarch who could not lead the State in person or concentrate in himself the royal prerogatives, a coterie of courtiers managed the State. But their direction was consistently in the interest of the monarch and of the traditional ideal, so that the current of the English State was not broken.

The boasted English Parliament of lords and commoners possessed at no time any vitality which weakened or threatened to weaken the State ideal. Its original purpose was merely to facilitate the raising of the King's revenues. The nobles responded better when they seemed to be giving their consent. Their share in actual government was subjective, but the existence of Parliament served to appease any restiveness at the autocracy of the King. The significant classes could scarcely rebel when they had the privilege of giving consent to the King's measures. There was always outlet for the rebellious spirit of a powerful lord in private revolt against the King. The only Parliament that seriously tried to govern outside of and against the King's will precipitated a civil war that ended with the effectual submission of [199] Parliament in a more careless and corrupt autocracy than had yet been known. By the time of George III Parliament was moribund, utterly unrepresentative either of the new bourgeois classes or of peasants and laborers, a mere frivolous parody of a legislature, despised both by King and people. The King was most effectively the State and his ministers the Government, which was run in terms of his personal whim, by men whose only interest was personal intrigue. Government had been for long what it has never ceased to be a series of berths and emoluments in Army, Navy and the different departments of State, for the representatives of the privileged classes.

The State of George III was an example of the most archaic ideal of the English State, the pure, personal monarchy. The great mass of the people had fallen into the age-long tradition of loyalty to the crown. The classes that might have been restive for political power were placated by a show of representative government and the lucrative supply of offices. Discontent showed itself only in those few enlightened elements which could not refrain from irony at the sheer irrationality [200] of a State managed on the old heroic lines for so grotesque a sovereign and by so grotesque a succession of courtier-ministers. Such discontent could by no means muster sufficient force for a revolution, but the Revolution which was due came in America where even the very obviously shadowy pigment of Parliamentary representation was denied the colonists. All that was vital in the political thought of England supported the American colonists in their resistance to the obnoxious government of George III.

The American Revolution began with certain latent hopes that it might turn into a genuine break with the State ideal. The Declaration of Independence announced doctrines that were utterly incompatible not only with the century-old conception of the Divine Right of Kings, but also with the Divine Right of the State. If all governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed, and if a people is entitled, at any time that it becomes oppressive, to overthrow it and institute one more nearly conformable to their interests and ideals, the old idea of the sovereignty of the State is destroyed. The State is reduced to [201] the homely work of an instrument for carrying out popular policies. If revolution is justifiable a State may be even criminal sometimes in resisting its own extinction. The sovereignty of the people is no mere phrase. It is a direct challenge to the historic tradition of the State. For it implies that the ultimate sanctity resides not in the State at all or in its agent, the government, but in the nation, that is, in the country viewed as a cultural group and not specifically as a king-dominated herd. The State then becomes a mere instrument, the servant of this popular will, or of the constructive needs of the cultural group. The Revolution had in it, therefore, the makings of a very daring modern experiment -- the founding of a free nation which should use the State to effect its vast purposes of subduing a continent just as the colonists' armies had used arms to detach their society from the irresponsible rule of an overseas king and his frivolous ministers. The history of the State might have ended in 1776 as far as the American colonies were concerned, and the modern nation which is still striving to materialize itself have been born.


For awhile it seemed almost as if the State was dead. But men who are freed rarely know what to do with their liberty. In each colony the fatal seed of the State had been sown; it could not disappear. Rival prestiges and interests began to make themselves felt. Fear of foreign States, economic distress, discord between classes, the inevitable physical exhaustion and prostration of idealism which follows a protracted war -- all combined to put the responsible classes of the new States into the mood for a regression to the State ideal. Ostensibly there is no reason why the mere lack of a centralized State should have destroyed the possibility of progress in the new liberated America, provided the inter-state jealousy and rivalry could have been destroyed. But there were no leaders for this anti-State nationalism. The sentiments of the Declaration remained mere sentiments. No constructive political scheme was built on them. The State ideal, on the other hand, had ambitious leaders of the financial classes, who saw in the excessive decentralization of the Confederation too much opportunity for the control of society by the democratic lower-class [203] elements. They were menaced by imperialistic powers without and by democracy within. Through their fear of the former they tended to exaggerate the impossibility of the latter. There was no inclination to make the new State a school where democratic experiments could be worked out as they should be. They were unwilling to give reconstruction the term that might have been necessary to build up this truly democratic nationalism. Six years is a short time to reconstruct an agricultural country devastated by a six years' war. The popular elements in the new States had time only to show their turbulence; they were given no time to grow. The ambitious leaders of 'the financial classes got a convention called to discuss the controversies and maladjustments of the States, which were making them clamor for a revision of the Articles of Confederation, and then, by one of the most successful coups d'etat in history, turned their assembly into the manufacture of a new government on the strongest lines of the old State ideal.

This new constitution, manufactured in secret session by the leaders of the propertied and ruling [204] classes, was then submitted to an approval of the electors which only by the most expert manipulation was obtained, but which was sufficient to override the indignant undercurrent of protest from those popular elements who saw the fruits of the Revolution slipping away from them. Universal suffrage would have killed it forever. Had the liberated colonies had the advantage of the French experience before them, the promulgation of the Constitution would undoubtedly have been followed by a new revolution, as very nearly happened later against Washington and the Federalists. But the ironical ineptitude of Fate put the machinery of the new Federalist constitutional government in operation just at the moment that the French Revolution began, and by the time those great waves of Jacobin feeling reached North America, the new Federalist State was firmly enough on its course to weather the gale and the turmoil.

The new State was therefore not the happy political symbol of a united people, who in order to form a more perfect union, etc., but the imposition of a State on a loose and growing nationalism, [205] which was in a condition of unstable equilibrium and needed perhaps only to be fertilized from abroad to develop a genuine political experiment in democracy. The preamble to the Constitution, as was soon shown in the hostile popular vote and later in the revolt against the Federalists, was a pious, hope rather than actuality, a blessedness to be realized when by the force of government pressure, the creation of idealism, and mere social habit, the population should be welded and kneaded into a State. That this is what has actually happened, is seen in the fact that the somewhat shockingly undemocratic origins of the American State have been almost completely glossed over and the unveiling is bitterly resented, by none so bitterly as the significant classes who have been most industrious in cultivating patriotic myth and legend. American history, as far as it has entered into the general popular emotion, runs along this line: The Colonies are freed by the Revolution from a tyrannous King and become free and independent States; there follow six years of impotent peace, during which the Colonies quarrel among themselves and reveal the [206] hopeless weakness of the principle under which they are working together; in desperation the people then create a new instrument, and launch a free and democratic republic, which was and remains especially since it withstood the shock of civil war the most perfect form of democratic government known to man, perfectly adequate to be promulgated as an example in the twentieth century to all people, and to be spread by propaganda, and, if necessary, the sword, in all unregenerately Imperial regions. Modern historians reveal the avowedly undemocratic personnel and opinions of the Convention. They show that the members not only had an unconscious economic interest but a frank political interest in founding a State which should protect the propertied classes against the hostility of the people. They show how, from one point of view, the new government became almost a mechanism for overcoming the repudiation of debts, for putting back into their place a farmer and small trader class whom the unsettled times of reconstruction had threatened to liberate, for reestablishing on the securest basis of the sanctity of property and the State, their [207] class-supremacy menaced by a democracy that had drunk too deeply at the fount of Revolution. But all this makes little impression on the other legend of the popular mind, because it disturbs the sense of the sanctity of the State and it is this rock to which the herd-wish must cling.

Every little school boy is trained to recite the weaknesses and inefficiencies of the Articles of Confederation. It is taken as axiomatic that under them the new nation was falling into anarchy and was only saved by the wisdom and energy of s the Convention. These hapless articles have had to bear the infamy cast upon the untried by the radiantly successful. The nation had to be strong to repel invasion, strong to pay to the last loved copper penny the debts of the propertied and the provident ones, strong to keep the unpropertied and improvident from ever using the government to ensure their own prosperity at the expense of moneyed capital. Under the Articles the new States were obviously trying to reconstruct themselves in an alarming tenderness for the common man impoverished by the war. No one suggests that the anxiety of the leaders of the heretofore [208] unquestioned ruling classes desired the revision of the Articles and labored so weightily over a new instrument not because the nation was failing under the Articles but because it was succeeding only too well. Without intervention from the leaders, reconstruction threatened in time to turn the new nation into an agrarian and proletarian democracy. It is impossible to predict what would have been worked out in time, whether the democratic idealism implicit in the Declaration of Independence would have materialized into a form of society very much modified from the ancient State. All we know is that at a time when the current of political progress was in the direction of agrarian and proletarian democracy, a force hostile to it gripped the nation and imposed upon it a powerful form against which it was never to succeed in doing more than blindly struggle. The liberating virus of the Revolution was definitely expunged, and henceforth if it worked at all it had to work against the State, in opposition to the armed and respectable power of the nation.

The propertied classes, seated firmly in the saddle by their Constitutional coup d'etat, have, of [209] course, never lost their ascendancy. The particular group of Federalists who had engineered the new machinery and enjoyed the privilege of setting it in motion, were turned out in a dozen years by the "Jeffersonian democracy" whom their manner had so deeply offended. But the Jeffersonian democracy never meant in practice any more than the substitution of the rule of the country gentleman for the rule of the town capitalist. The true hostility between their interests was small as compared with the hostility of both towards the common man. When both were swept away by the irruption of the Western democracy under Andrew Jackson and the rule of the common man appeared for awhile in its least desirable forms, it was comparatively easy for the two propertied classes to form a tacit coalition against them. The new West achieved an extension of suffrage and a jovial sense of having come politically into its own, but the rule of the ancient classes was not seriously challenged. Their squabbles over the tariff, were family affairs, for the tariff could not materially affect the common man of either East or West. The Eastern and Northern capitalists [210] soon saw the advantage of supporting Southern country gentleman slave-power as against the free-soil pioneer. Bad generalship on the part of this coalition allowed a Western free-soil minority President to slip into office and brought on the Civil War, which smashed the slave power and left Northern capital in undisputed possession of a field against which the pioneer could make only sporadic and ineffective revolts.

From the Civil War to the death of Mark Hanna, the propertied capitalist industrial classes ran a triumphal career in possession of the State. At various times, as in 1896, the country had to be saved for them from disillusioned, rebellious hordes of small farmers and traders and democratic idealists, who had in the overflow of prosperity been squeezed down into the small end of the horn. But except for these occasional menaces, business, that is to say, aggressive expansionist capitalism, had nearly forty years in which to direct the American republic as a private preserve, or laboratory, experimenting, developing, wasting, subjugating, to its heart's content, in the midst of a vast somnolence of complacency such as has [211] never been seen and contrasts strangely with the spiritual dissent and constructive revolutionary thought which went on at the same time in England and the Continent.

That era ended in 1904 like the crack of doom, which woke a whole people into a modern day which they had far overslept, and for which they had no guiding principles or philosophy to conduct them about. They suddenly became acutely and painfully aware of the evils of the society in which they had slumbered and they snatched at one after the other idea, programme, movement, ideal, to uplift them out of the slough in which they had slept. The glory of those shining figures captains of industry went out in a sulphuric gloom. The head of the State, who made up in dogmatism what he lacked in philosophy, increased the confusion by reviving the Ten Commandments for political purposes, and belaboring the wicked with them. The American world tossed in a state of doubt, of reawakened social conscience, of pragmatic effort for the salvation of society. The ruling classes annoyed, bewildered, harassed pretended with much bemoaning that they were losing [212] their grip on the State. Their inspired prophets uttered solemn warnings against political novelty and the abandonment of the tried and tested fruits of experience.

These classes actually had little to fear. A political system which had been founded in the interests of property by their own spiritual and economic ancestors, which had become ingrained in the country's life through a function of 120 years, which was buttressed by a legal system which went back without a break to the early English monarchy was not likely to crumble before the anger of a few muck-rakers, the disillusionment of a few radical sociologists, or the assaults of proletarian minorities. Those who bided their time through the Taft interregnum, which merely continued the Presidency until there could be found a statesman to fill it, were rewarded by the appearance of the exigency of a war, in which business organization was imperatively needed. They were thus able to make a neat and almost noiseless coalition with the Government. The mass of the worried middle-classes, riddled by the campaign against American failings, which at times extended almost to a [213] skepticism of the American State itself, were only too glad to sink back to a glorification of the State ideal, to feel about them in war, the old protecting arms, to return to the old primitive robust sense of the omnipotence of the State, its matchless virtue, honor and beauty, driving away all the foul old doubts and dismays.

That the same class which imposed its constitution on the nascent proletarian and agrarian democracy has maintained itself to this day indicates how slight was the real effect of the Revolution. When that political change was consolidated in the new government, it was found that there had been a mere transfer of ruling-class power across the seas, or rather that a ruling commercial class in the colonies had been able to remove through a war fought largely by the masses a vexatious over-lordship of the irresponsible coterie of ministers that surrounded George III. The colonies merely exchanged a system run in the interest of the overseas trade of English wealth for a system run in the interest of New England and Philadelphia merchanthood, and later of Southern slavocracy. The daring innovation of getting rid of [214] a king and setting up a kingless State did not apparently impress the hard headed farmers., and small traders with as much force as it has their patriotic defenders. The animus of the Convention was so obviously monarchical that any executive they devised could be only a very thinly disguised king. The compromise by which the presidency was created proved but to be the means by which very nearly the whole mass of traditional royal prerogatives was brought over and lodged in the new State.

The President is an elected king, but the fact that he is elected has proved to be of far less significance in the course of political evolution than the fact that he is pragmatically a king. It was the intention of the founders of the Constitution that he be elected by a small body of notables, representing the ruling propertied classes, who could check him up every four years in a new election. This was no innovation. Kings have often been selected in this way in European history, and the Roman Emperor was regularly chosen by election. That the American President's term was limited merely shows the confidence which the founders [215] felt in the buttressing force of their instrument. His election would never pass out of the hands of the notables, and so the office would be guaranteed to be held by a faithful representative of upperclass demands. What he was most obviously to represent was the interests of that body which elected him, and not the mass of the people who were still disfranchised. For the new State started with no Quixotic belief in universal suffrage. The property qualifications which were in effect in every colony were continued. Government was frankly a function of those who held a concrete interest in the public weal, in the shape of visible property. The responsibility for the security of property rights could safely lie only with those who had something to secure. The "stake" in the commonwealth which those who held office must possess was obviously larger.

One of the larger errors of political insight which the sage founders of the Constitution committed was to assume that the enfranchised watchdogs of property and the public order would remain a homogeneous class. Washington, acting strictly as the mouthpiece of the unified State [216] ideal, deprecated the growth of parties and of factions which horridly keep the State in turbulence or threaten to rend it asunder. But the monarchical and repressive policies of Washington's own friends promptly generated an opposition democratic party representing the landed interests of the ruling classes, and the party system was fastened on the country. By the time the electorate had succeeded in reducing the electoral college to a mere recorder of the popular vote, or in other words, had broadened the class of notables to the whole property-holding electorate, the parties were firmly established to carry on the selective and refining and securing work of the electoral college. The party leadership then became, and has remained ever since, the nucleus of notables who determine the presidency. The electorate having won an apparently democratic victory in the destruction of the notables, finds itself reduced to the role of mere ratification or selection between two or three candidates, in whose choice they have only a nominal share. The electoral college which stood between even the propertied electorate and the executive with the prerogatives of a [217] king, gave place to a body which was just as genuinely a bar to democratic expression, and far less responsible for its acts. The nucleus of party councils which became, after the reduction of the Electoral College, the real choosers of the Presidents, were unofficial, quasi-anonymous, utterly unchecked by the populace whose rulers they chose. More or less self-chosen, or chosen by local groups whom they dominated, they provided a far more secure guarantee that the State should remain in the hands of the ruling classes than the old electoral college. The party councils could be loosely organized entirely outside of the governmental organization, without oversight by the State or check from the electorate. They could be composed of the leaders of the propertied classes themselves or their lieutenants, who could retain their power indefinitely, or at least until they were unseated by rivals within the same charmed domain. They were at least entirely safe from attack by the officially constituted electorate, who, as the party system became more and more firmly established, found they could vote only on the slates set up for them by unknown [218] councils behind an imposing and all-powerful "Party."

As soon as this system was organized into a hierarchy extending from national down to state and county politics, it became perfectly safe to broaden the electorate. The clamors of the unpropertied or the less propertied to share in the selection of their democratic republican government could be graciously acceded to without endangering in the least the supremacy of those classes which the founders had meant to be supreme. The minority were now even more effectually protected from the majority than under the old system, however indirect the election might be. The electorate was now reduced to a ratifier of slates, and as a ratifier of slates, or a chooser between two slates, both of which were pledged to upper-class domination, the electorate could have the freest, most universal suffrage, for any mass-desire for political change, any determined will to shift the class-balance, would be obliged to register itself through the party machinery. It could make no frontal attack on the Government. And the party machinery was directly devised to absorb and [219] neutralize this popular shock, handing out to the disgruntled electorate a disguised stone when it asked for political bread, and effectually smashing any third party which ever avariciously tried to reach government except through the regular two-party system.

The party system succeeded, of course, beyond the wildest dreams of its creators. It relegated the founders of the Constitution to the role of doctrinaire theorists, political amateurs. Just because it grew up slowly to meet the needs of ambitious politicians and was not imposed by ruling-class fiat, as was the Constitution, did it have a chance to become assimilated, worked into the political intelligence and instinct of the people, and be adopted gladly and universally as a genuine political form, expressive both of popular need and ruling-class demand. It satisfied the popular demand for democracy. The enormous sense of victory which followed the sweeping away of property qualifications of suffrage, the tangible evidence that now every citizen was participating in public affairs, and that the entire manhood democracy was now self-governing, created a mood [220] of political complacency that lasted uninterruptedly into the twentieth century. The party system was thus the means of removing political grievance from the greater part of the populace, and of giving to the ruling classes the hidden but genuine permanence of control which the Constitution had tried openly to give them. It supplemented and repaired the ineptitudes of the Constitution. It became the unofficial but real government, the instrument which used the Constitution as its instrument.

Only in two cases did the party system seem to lose its grip, was it thrown off its base by the inception of a new party from without in the elections of Jackson and of Lincoln. Jackson came in as the representative of a new democratic West which had no tradition of suffrage qualifications, and Lincoln as a minority candidate in a time of factional and sectional strife. But the discomfiture of the party politicians was short. The party system proved perfectly capable of assimilating both of these new movements. Jackson's insurrection was soon captured by the old machinery and fed the slavocracy, and Lincoln's party [22l] became the property of the new bonanza capitalism. Neither Jackson or Lincoln made the slightest deflection in the triumphal march of the party-system. In practically no other contests has the electorate had for all practical purposes a choice except between two candidates, identical as far as their political role would be as representatives of the significant classes in the State. Campaigns such as Bryan's, where one of the parties is captured by an element which seeks a real transference of power from the significant to the less significant classes, split the party, and sporadic third party attacks merely throw the scale one way or the other between the big parties, or, if threatening enough, produce a virtual coalition against them.

To most of the Americans of the classes which consider themselves significant the war brought a sense of the sanctity of the State, which, if they had had time to think about it, would have seemed a sudden and surprising alteration in their habits of thought. In times of peace, we usually ignore the State in favor of partisan political controversies, or personal struggles for office, or the [222] pursuit of party policies. It is the Government rather than the State with which the politically minded are concerned. The State is reduced to a shadowy emblem which comes to consciousness only on occasions of patriotic holiday.

Government is obviously composed of common and unsanctified men, and is thus a legitimate object of criticism and even contempt. If your own party is in power, things may be assumed to be moving safely enough; but if the opposition is in, then clearly all safety and honor have fled the State. Yet you do not put it to yourself in quite that way. What you think is only that there are rascals to be turned out of a very practical machinery of offices and functions which you take for granted. When we say that Americans are lawless, we usually mean that they are less conscious than other peoples of the august majesty of the institution of the State as it stands behind the objective government of men and laws which we see. In a republic the men who hold office are indistinguishable from the mass. Very few of them possess the slightest personal dignity with which they could endow their political role; even [223] if they ever thought of such a thing. And they have no class distinction to give them glamor. In a Republic the Government is obeyed grumblingly, because it has no bedazzlements or sanctities to gild it. If you are a good old-fashioned democrat, you rejoice at this fact, you glory in the plainness of a system where every citizen has become a king. If you are more sophisticated you bemoan the passing of dignity and honor from affairs of State. But in practice, the democrat does not in the least treat his elected citizen with the respect due to a king, nor does the sophisticated citizen pay tribute to the dignity even when he finds it. The republican state has almost no trappings to appeal to the common man's emotions. What it has are of military origin, and in an unmilitary era such as we have passed through since the Civil War, even military trappings have been scarcely seen. In such an era the sense of the State almost fades out of the consciousness of men.

With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again. The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation [224] of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war. For the benefit of proud and haughty citizens, it is fortified with a list of the intolerable insults which have been hurled towards us by the other nations ; for the benefit of the liberal and beneficent, it has a convincing set of moral purposes which our going to war will achieve; for the ambitious and aggressive classes, it can gently whisper of a bigger role in the destiny of the world. The result is that, even in those countries where the business of declaring war is theoretically in the hands of representatives of the people, no legislature has ever been known to decline the request of an Executive, which has conducted all foreign affairs in utter privacy and irresponsibility, that it order the nation into battle. Good democrats are wont to feel the crucial difference between a State in which the popular Parliament or Congress declares war, and the State in which an absolute monarch or ruling class declares war. But, put to the stern pragmatic test, [225] the difference is not striking. In the freeest of republics as well as in the most tyrannical of Empires, all foreign policy, the diplomatic negotiations which produce or forestall war, are equally the private property of the Executive part of the Government, and are equally exposed to no check whatever from popular bodies, or the people voting as a mass themselves.

The moment war is declared, however, the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government's disapprobation. The citizen throws off his contempt and indifference to Government, identifies himself with its purposes, revives all his military memories and symbols, and the State once more walks, an august presence, through the imaginations of men. Patriotism [226] becomes the dominant feeling, and produces immediately that intense and hopeless confusion between the relations which the individual bears and should bear towards the society of which he is a part.

The patriot loses all sense of the distinction between State, nation and government. In our quieter moments, the Nation or Country forms the basic idea of society. We think vaguely of a loose population spreading over a certain geographical portion of the earth's surface, speaking a common language, and living in a homogeneous civilization. Our idea of Country concerns itself with the non-political aspects of a people, its ways of living, its personal traits, its literature and art, its characteristic attitudes towards life. We are Americans because we live in a certain bounded territory, because our ancestors have carried on a great enterprise of pioneering and colonization, because we live in certain kinds of communities which have a certain look and express their aspirations in certain ways. We can see that our civilization is different from contiguous civilizations like the Indian and Mexican. The institutions of our country form a certain network which affects [227] us vitally and intrigues our thoughts in a way that these other civilizations do not. We are a part of country, for better or for worse. We have arrived in it through the operation of physiological laws, and not in any way through our own choice. By the time we have reached what are called years of discretion, its influences have molded our habits, our values, our ways of thinking, so that however aware we may become, we never really lose the stamp of our civilization, or could be mistaken for the child of any other country. Our feeling for our fellow-countrymen is one of similarity or of mere acquaintance. We may be intensely proud of and congenial to our particular network of civilization, or we may detest most of its qualities and rage at its defects. This does not alter the fact that we are inextricably bound up in it. The Country, as an inescapable group into which we are born, and which makes us its particular kind of a citizen of the world, seems to be a fundamental fact of our consciousness, an irreducible minimum of social feeling.

Now this feeling for country is essentially noncompetitive ; we think of our own people merely as [228] living on the earth's surface along with other groups, pleasant or objectionable as they may be, but fundamentally as sharing the earth with them. In our simple conception of country there is no more feeling of rivalry with other peoples than there is in our feeling for our family. Our interest turns within rather than without, is intensive and not belligerent. We grow up and our imaginations gradually stake out the world we live in, they need no greater conscious satisfaction for their gregarious impulses than this sense of a great mass of people to whom we are more or less attuned, and in whose institutions we are functioning. The feeling for country would be an uninflatable maximum were it not for the ideas of State and Government which are associated with it. Country is a concept of peace, of tolerance, of living and letting live. But State is essentially a concept of power, of competition; it signifies a group in its aggressive aspects. And we have the misfortune of being born not only into a country but into a State, and as we grow up we learn to mingle the two feelings into a hopeless confusion.

The State is the country acting as a political [229] unit, it is the group acting as a repository of force, determiner of law, arbiter of justice. International politics is a "power politics" because it is a relation of States and that is what States infallibly and calamitously are, huge aggregations of human and industrial force that may be hurled against each other in war. When a country acts as a whole in relation to another country, or in imposing laws on its own inhabitants, or in coercing or punishing individuals or minorities, it is acting as a State. The history of America as a country is quite different from that of America as a State. In one case it is the drama of the pioneering conquest of the land, of the growth of wealth and the ways in which it was used, of the enterprise of education, and the carrying out of spiritual ideals, of the struggle of economic classes. But as a State, its history is that of playing a part in the world, making war, obstructing international trade, preventing itself from being split to pieces, punishing those citizens whom society agrees are offensive, and collecting money to pay for all. . . .