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Volume VII. Number 8.
PHILADELPHIA, OCTOBER, 1916.
$2.00 a year. 20 cents a copy.
Teaching War and Peace in American History
BY PROFESSOR ANDREW C. MCLAUGHLIN, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO.
Some one has said that we talk peace but we teach war. If this assertion is true, we need to change our method of speech or examine somewhat more critically the subjects on which we lay stress in our teaching. A few years ago there was an effort on the part of some high-minded, disinterested persons to induce teachers of history and writers of texts to inculcate the doctrines of peace; authoritative textbooks were to be prepared with such a purpose continually in mind. There is very little evidence that either text writers or history teachers have reacted very readily and favorably to this suggestion. The reasons for this are, I suppose, evident enough. His tory is not written or taught for the purpose of inculcating any particular moral or immoral lesson— an assertion that needs to be repeated a good many times, for there appears to be an impression in the minds of laymen, who do not belong to our special craft, that the chief purpose of historical study is to garner a few well-phrased precepts and store them away for possible use in an emergency, forgetting that careful, accurate, truthful examination of historical facts and evidences is a virtue in itself, not a precept whereby virtue may be obtained. Doubtless it is because the historical teachers and writers have been more or less thoroughly convinced of the doctrine which I have just stated and are more or less fully conscious of the nature and obligation of their tasks, that they have not more readily taken up the suggestion that historical teaching be made subordinate to the task of inculcating the principles of peace and good-will to man.
It may be pointed out, however, that the nature of historical study in certain other respects prevents us from making use of our position and materials in any such way as has been suggested. The task of the historical writer and teacher is to present the facts of the past as they occur, to arrange them in some form of chronological order, showing how one stage of existence grew out of another-in other words, to trace the actual current of human life. The very highest literary skill, and probably the highest pedagogical skill also, would be shown by an absolutely perfect organization of facts and incidents to V show developments and to tell the story of human experience with perfect accuracy. Beyond all question this is the ideal of the historical art. The historical artist as well as the scientific historian will necessarily shrink from leaving the beaten path, which his art and science have pointed out to him, in order to distribute judgments and to indulge in
praise or condemnation of conduct or a course of action. If the facts could be arranged with such perfect knowledge and with such infinite skill that they would themselves tell the whole story vividly and with absolute faithfulness, the comments and the ruminations of the writer or the teacher would seem, on the whole, worse than useless-that would be actual pieces of impertinence. As long as we cling purely to the historical task, not striving to be philosophers or moralists or advocates, our task must be to present the long story of human life as it actually was and the succession of events as they really took place to make the past live over again, if we can say it is really dead, in order that teachers and students may see it and feel it.
While all this is true, it cannot be denied, I think, that the average text-book takes up a good deal of its space in discussing war; and probably a good deal of time in the classroom is consumed with outlining campaigns and studying battle-fields. This is much less true of the present day than it was even ten or twenty years ago, but I am not at all sure that our teaching is not still defective and disproportionate. For this there are doubtless many reasons, and one of them is that the older histories, on which texts were built, were in general largely taken up with military affairs. The old-fashioned history looked upon the life of a nation as a succession of controversies with its enemies, and there was no proper realization of the fact, that civilization was going on, that men were living as well as dying, and that the stream of human energy was carrying mankind onward and perhaps forward. Books on almost any subject are likely to break away only very gradually from the older method of treatment and from the older table of contents. One book is likely to be made to a considerable extent on the basis of its predecessors even when there is no plagiarism, in the usual sense of the word. Writers are inclined to write what has been written before, and teachers are almost sure to teach what they have been taught. The consequence is that despite the widening of human and indeed even of scholarly interest in social affairs-in spite of the new stress in our thinking and in our writing on social developments and industrial movements there is still a tendency to follow in some degree the lines of presentation that were followed a generation ago.
There are, however, more reasons than this for the inclusion of war stories and for placing what may be undue emphasis upon the ordinary political causes
and results of armed conflict. Such matters as these are, on the whole, more easily treated and understood than are the plodding steps of mere ordinary toiling humanity along the road of progress. And in addition to all this the ordinary writer and the ordinary boy and girl in the schoolroom are sure to take interest in what appears to be unusual or heroic and surrounded with the glamour of adventure. most persons the daring and clever campaigns of Napoleon, or the charge up Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga, or Pickett's famous assault at Gettysburg contain elements of interest that we do not find in the invention of the sewing machine or statistics as to the number of boots and shoes that are made in Massachusetts.
We are doubtless influenced, too, by knowing that human nature, and especially boy human nature, is naturally combative, and the most timid youth loves to read tales of bravery and prowess. So true is that that one of the wisest leaders of the peace movement, Jane Addams, has, I believe, declared that peace itself must be won by combat, meaning by this that we must always struggle and toil and endure obloquy and self-sacrifice if we would obtain what we desire that men cannot be roused to obtain anything except by effort, by what I venture to call peaceful combativeness. This is beyond peradventure good psychology and the plainest teaching of ordinary common-sense. Nothing in this world that amounts to much was obtained through mere passivity and timid acquiescence. If Jane Addams and those who think with her can induce all of us to take up the arms of the spirit, to enter with enthusiasm on a conflict with the evils of the world, and even to combat war valiantly, then there is hope that the contest may be won and war itself be banished by fighting it.
There is certainly no hope of establishing the ideals of good-will and neighborly appreciativeness by teaching anything that looks like mere effeminacy. But we can perhaps teach the heroism of daily life and help to bring forward into prominence the lives of men and women who have shown courage in facing the tasks with which modern civilization has confronted us. It is quite possible, for example, to point to the heroic conduct of the men who struggled with the mosquitoes that bore the deadly germs of malaria and yellow fever in the days when Cuba was renovated; for there is no tale of achievement on the battlefield so illustrative of high resolve, of fortitude and courage as the story of the men who, with single-minded devotion to the well-being of humanity, took up the task of scientific investigation, and, in constant peril of their own lives, solved the problem of disease and ridded the world of an inveterate enemy.
And yet no one can tell, with any approach to truth, the actual history of men without devoting a good deal of time to the consideration of war. Wars have been the products of social and industrial and, perhaps chiefly, of psychological conditions, and they
have produced marked effects; the effects are of more importance than wars themselves. These actual results can be understood nevertheless only by an understanding of the actual conflict. It would be foolish to try to know the story of Rome without a consideration of war. It would be impossible to omit the great struggles of European history which have established or broken down nations or resulted in a new social or political order. One can scarce get a knowledge of the French Revolution, even in its deepest spiritual significance, without tracing the military career of Napoleon. Many a battle has actually been the turning point in history, and the truth is, whether we like it or not, that the progress of civilization has been complicated and confused by almost constant struggle.
All of these things may excuse what may seem to be an over-emphasis upon military affairs in our text-books and in our ordinary class-room instruction, but probably the events of the last year have opened our eyes to some aspects of human history to which they have been closed before; we are now readier than we were a short time ago to question whether we have not done more than we ought, more than the actual facts would justify, in glorifying war and passing over the actual conquests of peace. Though guided by our scientific instincts, we may justly refuse to write a text-book or teach a lesson in order that some particular moral precept may be gathered, a due consideration for real historical verity will compel us to seek a new adjustment, a new organization, a new appreciation of actual historical facts. All history has dwelt too much on the glories of mere conflict and not enough upon its horrors. Insufficient attention has been paid to the demoralization resulting from war, the distress, the poverty, the social degradation and the tremendous economic disorganization. Above all, probably, too little attention has been paid to the psychological effect of militarism from the days when the man at arms swaggered about among the underlings of the work-a-day world down to the present time when the Emperor of Germany is said to have declared that the greatest man in his empire is one who has invented a horrible engine of death. I am not now, therefore, pleading for the omission of war in order that we may give more space to industrial achievements or activities in the ordinary sense of the words. I am not pleading for so-called industrial or economic history as those subjects are commonly treated. I am simply saying that wars themselves are studied in too much isolation, with too little regard to their demoralizing or their destructive qualities, and with too little appreciation of their social and psychological impression. One of the most gifted of American historians has ventured the assertion that it took Germany over 200 years to recover from the Thirty Years War, and yet I think you will find our histories dealing chiefly with the diplomatic and purely military events and results of that horrible conflict. It would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to
present with any fullness the effects of the wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era, and yet I venture to say that in a consideration of those effects we have commonly omitted the results of the terrible waste of life and the awful human sacrifice which France suffered under the guidance of an ambitious and selfish monarch. Here we are dealing, of course, with conditions which cannot easily be portrayed, but we are at least entitled to question whether France has ever recovered from those twentyfive years of almost continuous bloodshed.
It is, I imagine, entirely proper for the historian to consider every war as inevitable; and this is so for the simple reason that everything which happens in history is inevitable. We cannot primarily deal with what would have happened if something else which did not happen had happened, though such reflections are not entirely useless or uninstructive. But we can point out with due regard for historical accuracy that wars have come because of men's weakness, cupidity or depravity, and not because of their magnanimity or moral strength. We can with difficulty find any war which might not have been avoided, had men lived on a higher moral plane, had they been intelligently capable of seeing the real situation, estimating correctly their own interests and appreciating properly the rights of their neighbors.
Wars, it is often said, were inevitable, the race is to the swift, and progress belongs to the strong, and there always will be war because there always has been war. I challenge the right of any one to read history along those lines. That kind of conclusion with regard to any course of human activity, whether military or peaceful, is not within the field of historical research or instruction. If you hear an orator exclaim, "The whole course of history proves,' I warn you, you must be on your guard. For what does the whole course of history prove except that what happened did happen? It does, I maintain, prove one thing: it proves that human life is in constant flux and that nothing lasts. Institutions, modes of action and conduct, which seemed as solidly fixed as the everlasting hills, have disappeared and the places thereof know them no more. Even Rome fell; even feudalism disappeared; even slavery is no more. If one insists, then, in asserting that "the whole course of history proves," let him rest content with the assurance that one thing which it does prove is that change is inevitable and the mere fact that something has been, if we be guided by historical precedent, is evidence that it will not be. Above all other persons, therefore, you, as teachers of history, must not be deluded by the pompous assertion that because men have fought, they will fight. The whole philosophy of your subject prompts you to deny all such generalizations.
The problem of teaching American history is complicated by what may be the need of inculcating Americanism or of building up of national spirit. We here enter upon a difficult and distracting subject. Are we under obligations to teach patriotism?
Must we develop the spirit of American nationalism? We cannot deny a certain amount of obligation. The public schools are filled with boys and girls, the sons and daughters of immigrants from foreign lands, who do not know American traditions, and who must necessarily be in part at least ignorant of the course and nature of American life. Indeed, boys and girls from homes of native parents sometimes seem to be quite as much in the dark. We can hardly go on and live our lives in this land and do the duties that flock upon us in great multitude without having some consciousness of the nature of our task and the quality of our citizenship. America used to have, and perhaps it has still, a certain sense of self and a certain appreciation of its place in the world-some notion of its ideals and some conception of the burdens which it ought to bear. America did, and possibly still does, realize that it has a mission, and we have cherished certain ideals which we have believed were of value to mankind. We are probably right in presenting those ideals and in attempting to actualize that definition of a nation which was given by the great Italian patriot, Mazzini, who declared that a nation is a body of people united in a common duty toward the world. We cannot very well surrender our ideals of culture and of progress without undergoing social disorganization and probably political demoralization. There must be some lofty purpose holding men to the path of duty and enabling them to struggle whole-heartedly together toward what appears to be the light. We are called upon, however, to challenge our ideals, to inspect them, to be open-minded, and, by all means, not to be too sure that our course has been righteous and that we have nothing left to learn. We need often to repeat to ourselves the old saying, "Hinter dem Gebirge sind auch Leute." There are other people in the world besides ourselves, and they, too, have experiences and qualities from which we can extract
It is necessary for us to connect our history with the world's history and realize that we cannot build up and protect a peculiar and selfish brand of cultural achievement. The early Americans actually believed that they were a light unto the nations, and were helping to solve the pressing problems of human kind. I suppose, therefore, in the biggest and best possible way we are called upon to teach patriotism by leading our pupils to appreciate ideals; and we can do so with easy minds, if we are ready to believe that the development of our own culture and the establishment of high political and social welfare will react favorably on the world, provided we are not ourselves too selfish and antagonistic.
If we accept all this as appropriate to our task, and believe that we must teach patriotism, we must stand in daily fear of the development of narrowminded nationalism; for the menace of the world today is the presence of nationalistic spirit, strengthened and deepened by commercialism, each nation striving to get the advantage of the others in the
field of trade and diplomacy. International rivalry has reached a stage of enmity, and there appears at times to be nothing ahead of us but hostility and attack, even if we are not carried forward into actual armed conflict. Until this sentiment disappears, one can see little hope for humanity. Until we realize our interdependence and are capable of evaluating generously the characters and aspirations of other people beside ourselves, we may be sure that narrowminded selfishness, egotism and greed will bring their natural reward. History writing and history teaching has at this very moment a terrible burden to bear, for it has been common to represent the story of a nation's life as if its rulers had been wise and generous and the governments of other nations mean and cowardly, as if the peculiar development of its own life was the only thing of consequence, the one fact in which the Divine Ruler of the universe has had a special interest.
To teach our own history properly, we should know what none of us does know with sufficient fullness and detail. We should know what we have learned from other nations and what the people coming from other lands have contributed to our own character. To know all this with fullness is, of course, impossible. But we of all nations can recognize our debts to others. If we have been built chiefly on British foundations, we can still seek to measure and weigh what we have gained from the Irish, the Germans, and the men of the Latin lands. If we would not rest in a spirit of self-gratulation we must at once appreciate the cosmopolitan character of our civilization and our need of recognizing what others have done for us. Most of us reject the very thought of "hyphenation," but the real amalgamation of many peoples into one- -and one buoyed up with an idealism that is actually to count in the world-must be appreciative of the qualities and the real spiritual tendences of the masses of men who are making us and have made us what we are.
Though we think, and I imagine think justly, that we are and have been a peace-loving nation, American history is studded with wars and they cannot be omitted from our course of instruction. Possibly these conflicts are more intimately interwoven with our historical development than is the case with other nations; for they have not been mere dynastic struggles growing out of the petty ambitions of monarchs; they have, in considerable measure, grown out geographic, social and industrial situations. Wars with the Indians, the whole cruel, bitter contest for mastery, cannot be omitted from any comprehensive story of American life nor can we omit from consideration the wars that were brought about by the process of expansion-the French and Indian War, the Mexican War, and the Spanish War-for the big job of the American people has been to conquer the continent, and we have been carried forward to conquests even beyond our shores. Whether this whole process has been one of sweetness and light or not, these wars have come and have had their tremendous effect; American history could hardly be appreciated in its
essentials without a careful study of the causes and results of these conflicts.
In some ways, of course, the American Revolution and the Civil War occupy more time and attention than any of the others; and these wars can not be passed by without full consideration. I am not at all sure, however, that either of these conflicts is properly t presented. I am not at all sure that even in our college classes we succeed in making our students know how the Civil War came on; how it stirred the nation to its depths or how momentous were the issues in volved. Many of the innermost meanings of America are associated with this great struggle-union and co operation over a vast territory; the freedom of the black and his right to eat the bread which his own labor produced; respect for the fundamental rights of the human being, be his color white or black; demo cratic control of democratic institutions; the hope and the assurance that a free nation should not perish from the earth-such great things as these can not be passed by even though they are intimately entangled with wart and bloodshed. But certainly no teacher of American history should pass over the Civil War without seeking to have his students know that its horrors were f the product of long injustice, and that the fate of what we believe to be right and true in human con duct and human relations hung in the balance.
Two wars we have had with England; and until a very recent time, quite within our own recollection, England has been looked upon at least theoretically as our Erbfeind, as our hereditary enemy. It would be difficult to over-emphasize the folly and stupidity of such conceptions. For their continuance we may blame no one in particular and neither of the two nations especially. Each nation has been to blame and it is sometimes difficult to ascertain on which the burden rests the more heavily. Without any desire to build up pro-Anglican sentiment, but in deference to historical accuracy and to the living truth, with a desire only to know ourselves, we ought to study anew and open-mindedly the Revolution and the whole series of contributions which England has made to us. It was England that established our colonial governments with their opportunities for political activity and for the development of free institutions. It was England in the colonial days who, with remarkable liberality or, if you will, with carelessness, allowed the people almost without interference to work out their own destiny and to take advantage of an open continent. If in any partisan spirit we are inclined to criticise such dictatorial airs as the home government assumed and such ignorance as the administrators at Westminster often evinced, let us realize how liberal and open-handed England really was and how near she came to a sense of justice and propriety in the administration of her colonies. And when the war itself came on, let us not forget there were men in England who knew what America stood for and who were able to take a generous and comprehensive view of the whole situation-Burke, Fox and Chatham were Englishmen as well as were John Adams and George Washington.
No one can properly comprehend the American Revolution, if he looks upon it as only a struggle for ndependence from Britain; for after all what does independence amount to unless it resulted in establishng institutions and principles which have some real Worth? And yet, in spite of this self-evident fact, live commonly treat the Revolution as if it were only cutting of the apron strings tying us to a selfish and nconsiderate parent. We must consider how the fundamental ideals of American life and political order were embodied in the American struggle and by doing to we shall come to greater sympathy for England and to greater acknowledgment of what she has done for the world; for the ideas which we stood for were of English origin, and the American Revolution was, in nore ways than one, one of the real glories of English istory. No other colonies but English colonies, ourished on the precepts and fed on the principles of English liberty could have drafted the bills and declarations of rights or drawn up the Declaration of Independence. A careful student of the document is often amazed to discover how little which was novel, America had to contribute, and how completely the olonists were using the theories which England herself had developed and in part made true. The great locuments of the American Revolution go back for their origin to Milton and Sidney and Locke, and to he soldiers that gathered around the camp-fires of Cromwell and his Ironsides. By 1765 a new nation had grown up on this side of the water prepared to teach England the fullest significance of her own history and the natural outcome of her own efforts.
Some one has justly said that, had England been as democratic in 1775 as she was a few decades later, the Revolution would have been impossible. This is simply putting in hypothetical form the fact that in England and America the contest was essentially over the recognition of certain fundamental rights, and that the England of 140 years ago, having fallen behind the colonies in working out principles of political liberty, was densely incapable of realizing what the colonies had become and what she herself must be; and she was so, because her government and her whole social order were dominated by an aristocracy which would not see the facts. We can know and appreciate ourselves better and have greater sympathy with her if we are once aware that the American Revolution was a crisis in the development of English liberty, and that, little by little as the decades went by, the principles of that revolution, strengthened by actual achievement in self-government here, helped England to rejuvenate herself, to popularize her government, to grant justice and bestow power upon the masses of her people and to take her place among the nations of the world as a leader in liberal thought. If we understand these things at all aright, we can begin to see our own history as a part of England's history even after we had acquired independence; and we can measure with some degree of accuracy the folly of American bluff and bluster and England's unspeakable stupidity and the gross failure at times to know The sharp and. foolish criticisms of
us as we were.
American life in which English newspapers and periodicals allowed themselves to indulge could not obscure the fact that the masses of the English people, looking forward to a time when they would be freed from the burdens of aristocratic privilege, valued the success of America in the creation and the operation of democratic institutions.
Even the Civil War was not wholly our own. meant much to England and the rest of the world'; for the very sight of strife in the midst of a great nation which had committed itself to the doctrines of popular government encouraged aristocracy and filled freedom-loving people with foreboding. And so the aristocrat and the holder of government position was ready to believe that the American ship of state had foundered and that democracy was a wreck, while the workmen of Lancashire and the operatives in the cotton mills, who depended on the supply of Southern cotton for their daily sustenance, were willing to starve rather than give their voice for interference in our contest and the success of the Southern cause. Certainly then American history can not be studied right if we set up America over against England, one nation in its entirety the inveterate enemy of the other. John Bright and Richard Cobden and the Lancashire operatives were as much of us as if they had not been separated by three thousand miles of water. The real enemies were privilege on the one hand and human liberty and equality on the other. And as we developed over here solid capacity to endure trouble and master principles of government, there was actual spiritual and psychological contact with the great masses of English people who were blindly and often ignorantly working up and on toward the great things which we were trying to make true. Nothing could distort American history more and do more to destroy it than to treat it as if our life had been detached and isolated—as if our real selves, our actual sentiment, our essential spirit were not absorbed and made part of the life, hope and spirit of Europe.
In teaching wars in American history we can therefore cease to boast of our having done by brute force what in a wiser world would have been done without it. We can remember that mere victory counts for little or nothing, unless something worth while was involved in success. We can remind ourselves, as is so palpably true of the Revolution and the Civil War, that in the great world of realties the eternal enmity is not between men but between the ideas or the principles which guide them, and that, if principles are the same and human duties the same, conflict is the most abject of follies. We can say to ourselves, 'America won its independence. Well, what of it? The North won the Civil War. Well, what of it?' Wars, if they have real meaning, must create new opportunity and make new duty. American success at Yorktown made imperative the demand to be more than independent, to go on and to actualize ideas and dreams of popular government. When Lee gave up his sword at Appomattox, the North was called upon to see that a united country should in reality experience, as Lincoln hoped, a new birth of freedom; we