« PreviousContinue »
THE future of the English-speaking peoples is a subject which at this present moment seems of more than ordinary importance, because there are signs of very serious dangers which threaten that future, of possibilities which may most disastrously affect the fortunes of the Anglo-Saxon race. What it is that is now in the possession of that race either to administer wisely or to throw away; what a magnificent heritage it has obtained either to develop or to ruin ; what power and empire and authority and greatness unequalled in the history of mankind it may achieve or may destroy; what it actually has and holds in the present: these are the things to which I propose to direct the attention of my readers.
The ancestors of the Anglo-Saxon race came from a cold, sterile, and ungenial tract of country in the midst of which now stands the very noble city of Hamburg. They came over in hordes ; they settled down on the English coasts; whole districts of their native land were deserted; they came in tribes and in families ; wherever they sat down they brought with them, as part of themselves, not to be changed, their laws and their customs and their language. These survived, and remain to this day in essentials the language, the laws, the customs, of their country. Observe, then, the first obvious facts about VOL. CLXIII.—NO. 479. 9
Copyright, 1896, by LLOYD BRYCE, All rights reserved,
this people. In their own homes they become restless; they cannot remain quiet in their own settlements; they are impelled to change. They cross the water, carrying with them their language, their religion, their institutions. It is now acknowledged by all writers that they did not exterminate the Britons, who continued after the struggle was over to live among their conquerors. But the Saxons absorbed them: the conquerors took nothing from the Britons, whose religion (they were Christians), whose manners (they were highly civilized), whose laws (they were Roman), the Saxons trampled under foot. Not a vestige remains of the ancient British civilization. The masterfal Anglo-Saxon would keep his own laws, his own customs, his own religion. When the Danes came the same thing happened. A few years after the struggle we find that the Danes are absorbed; everything iš again English. When the Normans came the same thing is observed ; after a few years everything is once more English. All that the Normans imposed was the Feudal system, out of which the English have been gradually struggling for eight hundred years. The point which I wish the reader to remember is that, wherever he goes, the Anglo-Saxon carries with him a great load of personal property-laws, religion, manners, customs, and languagewhich he will not exchange or part with. Wherever he goes he is not absorbed-he absorbs. He continues to do this in the present day just as of old he absorbed, one after the other, Briton, Dane, and Norman. In England we are still perpetually absorbing this stream of foreign immigration which never ceasesGerman, Norwegian, French, Italian. The United States of America in the same way cover ground which has been Spanish, French, Dutch, and Swedish.
What trace can you find of the Spanish occupation ?-an ancient town. What trace do you find of the Dutch ?-a few houses here and there which remind one of Amsterdam. Anglo-Saxon America is constantly engaged in absorbing. Immigrants by thousands pour every year upon the American shores from all quarters of the globe. They land : they scatter over the country: in a few years, like those who are American born, they bear the stamp of the English law and speak the English language.
We are, then, as we always have been, a masterful race ; we are a stiff-necked, unyielding race; a tenacious race; we are a race which cannot change its own mind-as regards laws and
mavners—for the mind of any other race; we are a people which if it settles down anywhere, means to go on living as before and to make other people live in the same way.
These are very marked and very important qualities. Had any one observed these qualities when the Saxon ships first wintered on the Isle of Thanet, he might have prophesied a great and solid future for this people ; but no prophet at any time, I am convinced, would ever have prophesied a future so great, bo solid, so glorious, as the race has achieved ; while as to what lies before it, although the possibilities are so clear that a child could read them, we have been somehow afraid of speaking out.
In the next place observe another racial mark. The AngloSaxons have always, like their ancestors, been a restless people. To sit down in the same place cultivating the soil for generation after generation hąs always been impossible for them. From time to time they want change ; they are always wanting change. During a thousand years and more they found that change in continual
When one reads in history page after page of war-warwar-battle-victory-defeat--the slaughter of thousands, the towns given over to pillage, the burning farms, the starving children ; when, as one reads the very letters grow blood-red, and the very sunshine grows blood red; and the very floor grows red with the blood of the killed and wounded, one must remember that the things which seem so terrible to us were not in the least terrible to them. They were only part of life. The people carried on war between themselves without ceasing; the King of Northumbria fought the King of Mercia ; the King of Wessex carried war into the realm of the King of Kent; it was not because the Mercians hated the Northumbrians-it was because of the instinct for change; because the restlessness of the people made war necessary.
I maintain, therefore, that restlessness is as much a mark of the Anglo-Saxon as masterfulness and obstinacy. I think that the rebellions, the risings, the civil wars of English history were due more to restlessness in the blood than to loyalty to this cause or that. What was Wat Tyler's rebellion but an instinctive restless upheaval of the people ? They listened to leaders who formulated grievances, and held out hopes of wonderful things ; they rose all together seized by the strange contagion which sometimes
runs among people like wildfire; they rejoiced, those rude and ignorant peasants, in freedom from labor and the prospect of fighting and of plunder. It was a brief but glorious holiday that they enjoyed. Those who escaped and got safely home had much to think about and much to tell. But their restlessness was subdued for the time. It seems to us, considering history, most wonderful that so many men were always ready to flock after this or that standard. How could they be persuaded to riek their lives ? Because they were restless; the village life was monotonous; the daily labor was wearisome. So, when the chance came, they seized a pike and marched with the column of shouting rustics—not in loyalty to the Red Rose or the White, but because they wanted a change. There was another way in which they showed their restless
One cannot, unfortunately, be always fighting ; there must be intervals, sometimes long intervals, of peace. What, then, was the poor man to do when his eyes turned with yearning beyond the blue hills, and when his cottage and his fields became loathsome to him ; when, in short, the old restlessness got into his veins and he could no longer contain himself ? He could go on pilgrimage. That was the safety valve. When the restless fit grew so strong that it could not be repressed, the man begged a license of the bishop and with staff in hand set off on his pilgrimage. The roads were black with the multitudes of those who trudged or rode on pilgrimage to our Lady of Walsingham or St. Thomas of Canterbury. We must remember the dulness of the country life, where nothing happened but the change of seasons. We must remember, also, the animation and business of the highway along which the pilgrims walked ; the night spent in some monastic house, the gay and animated conversation of the company, the feasting and the music and the singing-what an exchange was that from the lonely cottage and the quiet farm !
The Anglo-Saxon race is thus, essentially and above all, a restless race.
What has this restlessness done for the race in modern times? Look at America ; look at India ; look.at South Africa; look at Australia; look at New Zealand. They are monuments—I hope lasting monuments—to the Anglo-Saxon restlessness. Consider the history of the sixteenth century when that restlessness sent out ships by the hundred for the exploration of the American coast, and the capture of the Spanish ships; consider that of the next century when the American Colonies were founded ; consider that of the last century when, with the help of the Colonists, the English turned out the French from America ; and when, without any help, they turned them out of India. Consider the growth of English trade; the despatch of ships to every port in the world ; the increase of English wealth by leaps and bounds even at a time when England was carrying on a death struggle in Continental war. What do all these things mean? Enterprise ? Courage ? Tenacity? Yes; all these things; and, what is more, the racial restlessness which cannot remain still or contented.
Every year there are carried away from the shores of Great Britain so many hundred thousand of our young men. They are the restless class : most of them have proved themselves totally unable to accept the conditions of modern life; they hate the desk; they hate books ; they cannot pass examinations. For these young men, who in other respects are often the very flower of the flock, there are places where they can live without books. Formerly there were openings for them in the United States, in Australia, in New Zealand. Those openings seem to be closed ; the stream of emigration turns in other directions. There is now, for instance, South Africa. Now, just exactly what England was formerly to the Angle or the Jute in the German court, so is such a new country as South Africa to his descendant of the present day—the land of enterprise, the land of wealth, the land of fighting, the land of possibilities. There are other places. British Columbia is not yet filled up; Canada, Western Australia, Tasmania, could support a tenfold present population. That is not, however, the question. I want to point out the continuity of history. Things repeat themselves because we are the descendants of our ancestors. The Frisian came over and settled in England fifteen hundred years ago; he made the place his own; he imposed his laws, his customs, his religion, and told the Britons to become absorbed or to disappear. It is discovered that our young brother does just exactly the same thing. He is in America; he is in Australia ; he must move on ; he must make for himself a new nest; he must fight for it if necessary. And when he has settled, he must rule ; he will tolerate no master.
Now let us consider at the close of the nineteenth century what part of the world belongs to our race. We have the whole of North