Page images

and the nations which shall have sprung from their loins, England standing as the archetype and best exemplar of all such mighty nations. But the peoples that do not expand leave, and can leave, nothing behind them.

It is only the warlike power of a civilized people that can give peace to the world. The Arab wrecked the civilization of the Mediterranean coasts, the Turk wrecked the civilization of southeastern Europe, and the Tartar desolated from China to Russia and to Persia, setting back the progress of the world for centuries, solely because the civilized nations opposed to them had lost the great fighting qualities, and, in becoming overpeaceful, had lost the power of keeping peace with a strong hand. Their passing away marked the beginning of a period of chaotic barbarian warfare. Those whose memories are not so short as to have forgotten the defeat of the Greeks by the Turks, of the Italians by the Abyssinians, and the feeble campaigns waged by Spain against feeble Morocco, must realize that at the present moment the Mediterranean coasts would be overrun either by the Turks or by the Soudan Mahdists if these warlike barbarians had only to fear those southern European powers which have lost the fighting edge. Such a barbarian conquest would mean endless war; and the fact that nowadays the reverse takes place, and that the barbarians recede or are conquered, with the attendant fact that peace follows their retrogression or conquest, is due solely to the power of the mighty civilized races which have not lost the fighting instinct, and which by their expansion are gradually bringing peace into the red wastes where the barbarian peoples of the world hold sway.



ONE of Miss Mary E. Wilkins's delightful heroines remarks, in speaking of certain would-be leaders of social reform in her village: "I don't know that I think they are so much above us as too far to one side. Sometimes it is longitude and sometimes it is latitude that separates people." This is true, and the philosophy it teaches applies quite as much to those who would reform the politics of a large city, or, for that matter, of the whole country, as to those who would reform the society of a hamlet.

There is always danger of being misunderstood when one writes about such a subject as this, because there are on each side unhealthy extremists who like to take half of any statement and twist it into an argument in favor of themselves or against their opponents. No single sentence or two is sufficient to explain a man's full meaning, any more than in a sentence or two it would be possible to treat the question of the necessity for, and the limitations of, proper party loyalty, with the thoroughness and justice shown, for instance, by Mr. Lecky in his recent queerly named volume, "The Map of Life." All men in whose character there is not an element of hardened baseness must admit the need in our public life of those qualities which we somewhat vaguely group together when we speak of "reform," and all men of sound mind must also admit the need of efficiency. There are, of course, men of such low moral type, or of such ingrained cynicism, that they do not believe in the possibility of making anything better, or do not care to see things better. There are also men who are slightly disordered mentally, or who are cursed with a moral twist which makes them champion reforms less from a desire to do good to others than as a kind of tribute to their own righteousness, for the sake of emphasizing their own superiority. From neither of these classes can we get any real help in the unending struggle for righteousness. There remains the great body of the people, including the entire body of those through whom the salvation of the people must ultimately be worked out. All these men combine or seek to combine in varying degrees the quality of striving after the ideal, that is, the quality which makes men reformers, and the quality of so striving through practical methods—the quality which makes men efficient. Both qualities are absolutely essential. The absence of either makes the presence of the other worthless or worse.

If there is one tendency of the day which more than any other is unhealthy and undesirable, it is the tendency to deify mere "smartness," unaccompanied by a sense of moral accountability. We shall never make our Republic what it should be until as a people we thoroughly understand and put in practice the doctrine that success is abhorrent if attained by the sacrifice of the fundamental principles of morality. The successful man, whether in business or in politics, who has risen by conscienceless swindling of his neighbors, by deceit and chicanery, by unscrupulous boldness and unscrupulous cunning, stands toward society as a dangerous wild beast. The mean and cringing admiration which such a career commands among those who think crookedly or not at all makes this kind of success perhaps the most dangerous of all the influences that threaten our national life. Our standard of public and private conduct will never be raised to the proper level until we make the scoundrel who succeeds feel the weight of a hostile public opinion even more strongly than the scoundrel who fails.

On the other hand, mere beating the air, mere visionary adherence to a nebulous and possibly highly undesirable ideal, is utterly worthless. The cloistered virtue which timidly shrinks from all con

« PreviousContinue »