Popular Science Monthly/Volume 49/August 1896/The Proposed Dual Organization of Mankind




AUGUST, 1896.



RODBERTUS turned aside from his studies of taxation in the Roman Empire, which had shown him the Roman city exhausting and consuming the rest of the Roman world, to express the opinion that the history of the last three hundred years is a story of the exploitation of the outlying continents by the old centers of civilization. This was an attempt to describe summarily the significance for the human race of the opening up of new regions by exploration and colonization. The period during which the influences of the new extension of civilized settlements has been at work is so short that it is impossible to define with confidence its ultimate effects on the relation of the parts of the race to each other, and on the fortunes of the race as a whole. Recent events, however, have forced this subject upon our attention, for the "Monroe doctrine," as it has been recently affirmed and construed, would be nothing less than a doctrine and policy which some people are disposed to force upon the new organization of the inhabitants of the globe produced by the discovery and settlement of the outlying continents. If anybody claims to be able now to take control of this most portentous evolution in the life of the human race, and to dictate the course which it is to take, it behooves us all to verify the doctrine and to test the programme of policy proposed.

The era of geographical discovery and adventure passes for an era of glorious achievement by men, yet to what end did they care to know and reach the outlying parts of the earth? One motive which led them was the gain of commerce. The products of the Indies could be obtained in no other way, and the trade for them, was as old as civilization. The other great motive was to obtain new supplies of gold and silver, under an exaggerated and fallacious notion of the desirableness of those forms of wealth. Starting from these motives the movement has run its own course of commerce, colonization, war, missionary enterprise, economic expansion, and social evolution, for three centuries. The discovery, colonization, and exploitation of the outlying continents have been the most important elements in modern history. We Americans live in one of the great commonwealths which have been created by it. We are hard at work occupying and subduing one of these outlying continents, from a local and later but comparatively old center of civilization. In our own history we have been, first, one of the outlying communities which were being exploited, and then ourselves an old civilization exploiting outlying regions.

The process of extension from Europe has gone on with the majesty and necessity of a process of Nature. Nothing in human history can compare with it as an unfolding of the drama of human life on earth under the aspects of growth, reaction, destruction, new development, and higher integration. The record shows that the judgments of statesmen and philosophers about this process from its beginning have been a series of errors, and that the policies by which they have sought to control and direct it have only crippled it and interrupted it by war, revolt, and dissension. At the present time the process is going on under a wrangle of discordant ethical judgments about its nature and the rights of the parties in it. We are rebuked for the wrongs of the aborigines, the vices of civilization, the greed of traders, the mistakes of missionaries, land-grabbing, etc., yet we Americans and others are living to-day in the enjoyment of the fruits of these wrongs perpetrated a few years ago. The fact is, as the history clearly shows, that the extension of the higher civilization over the globe is a natural process in which we are all swept along in spite of our ethical judgments. Those men, civilized or uncivilized, who can not or will not come into the process will be crushed under it. It is as impossible that the present and future exploitation of Africa should not go on as it is that the present inhabitants of Manhattan Island should return to Europe and let the red man come back to his rights again. The scope for reason and conscience in the matter lies in taking warning from the statesmen and philosophers who have been overhasty in the past with their doctrines and policies of how the process must go on.

Looking at the movement of men from Europe to the outlying continents as a phenomenon in the development of private interests and welfare, it appears at once that the man who went out as a fortune-hunter and he who went out as a colonist are on a very different footing. The former might be said to aim at selfishly exploiting the outlying country because he hoped, after a few years, to return to Europe and there enjoy his gains. The same could not be said of the colonist, for he cast in his lot with the new country, hoping there to establish a new home for his descendants and to build up a new commonwealth.

If the same movement is regarded from the standpoint of the duties and interests of European states, it is evident that both the fortune-hunter and the colonist needed, at first, the support and protection of the state from which they went forth. The whole movement of discovery and settlement appears, in this point of view, as a manifestation of growing social power in western Europe, and the nations there are seen to have made, in the first instance, a great expenditure of energy and capital for which they never received any return. The relation was one of parenthood, and therefore one of sacrifice on the part of the mother countries. This relation was, however, obscured by traditions and accepted notions of national aggrandizement and glory, and by notions about commerce which were accepted as axiomatic. These notions drove the great states into policies of conquest, exclusion, monopoly, and war with each other. As a consequence, the whole grand movement came to be regarded by European statesmen from the standpoint of gain to European nations, and they adopted sordid measures for snatching this gain from each other. Those statesmen assumed that Europe was the head of the world, and they allotted the outlying regions among themselves with no regard for the aborigines, and very little regard for the colonists. The body of relations which was established between the Old World and the New, under this theory, constituted the colonial system.

It can not be denied that the colonial system stands in history as an attempt to exploit the outlying continents for the benefit of Europe. Thousands of lives and millions of capital were expended in the effort to perfect the system, and in that struggle to steal each other's colonies which the system caused. The logical outcome was the ambition of each competitor to win universal dominion for itself, and to impose a balance-of-power policy on each of the others. The system had its doctrines too; some old, some new: "He who holds the sea will hold the land"—"Trade follows the flag." The English colonial system was far less oppressive and more enlightened than that of any other nation. It alone was founded on real colonization and aimed to create new commonwealths. It was therefore the one under which the system first broke down, for it contained a fatal inconsistency in itself. It educated the colonists to independence, and it was certain that they would go alone as soon as they were strong enough to do so. if they thought that they were being exploited in the colonial relation. To such extent as this destiny was aimed at or unconsciously brought about, the construction of modern history put forward by Rodbertus fails to be correct.

It has become a common place of history that the revolt of the American colonies was a good thing for the colonies and for England. The question no longer has any other than speculative interest, and perhaps no speculation is more idle than that which deals with the possible consequences of some other course of history than that which actually took place; but, if such speculation ever could be profitable, it would be upon this question: What would have been the consequences to human welfare if the English statesmen of 1775 could have risen to the nineteenth-century doctrine of colonies, and if the whole English-speaking world could have remained united in sympathy and harmony? This question has so much practical value that it may help us to see the advantage there may be in a colonial relation where it still exists, and to see that there is no universal and dogmatic ground for independence which can be urged by a third party.

Independence was brought about on the Western continent; not to any important extent anywhere else. The Spanish-American colonies had grievances against their mother country which fully justified their revolt; still, it appears that they revolted chiefly from contagion and imitation. They have never been able to obtain good standing in the family of nations as independent commonwealths. The Panama Congress of 1824, in its original plan, promised to be a very important incident in the development of the relations of the New World to the Old. It appeared for a time that the Western continent might be organized as a unit in independence of, and possible hostility to, the Eastern continent. The project came to nothing. It was crushed in one of the hardest political collisions in our history, that between the Adams administration and the Jackson opposition. The theory of it, however, remains behind and, under the name of the Monroe doctrine, has remained as a vague and elastic notion. The practical outcome of any attempt to realize that doctrine must be to organize the world into a dual system. Instead of the old notion of a world-unit ruled from Europe as its head, we should have a dual world-system, one half under the hegemony of Europe, the other half under that of the United States. Is this a rational or practicable plan of future development? Is it not fantastic and arbitrary? If the United States pretends to hold aloof from a share in the affairs of the Eastern continent, and to demand that all European states shall abstain from any share in the affairs of the Western continent, is that anything more than a pose and an affectation? Have we not within a year or two been forced to take action in protection of our citizens in China and Armenia? If Africa is opened up to commerce, do we mean to hold aloof from a share in it? Are we not already deeply interested in it so far as it has advanced? We have interests in Madagascar which have already drawn us into the proceedings there, and which promise to involve us still further. We accepted a role in the war between China and Japan which was by no means that of an uninterested stranger. Will any one maintain that we could carry out the policy of abstention in respect to that part of the world?

On the other hand, so long as European nations own colonies in America, how can we rule the Western continent without coming in collision with them? Even if we should dispossess them of those colonies, how would it be possible to rule the Western continent, and to deny them any right to meddle in its affairs, so long as their citizens may visit the same for business or pleasure? The notion that the world can be so divided that we can rule one part and Europe the other, and thus never be brought in collision with each other, is evidently a silly whim. We may talk about "Western civilization" or "American ideas," but these are only grandiloquent phrases. Everybody knows that there is no civilization common to all America and different from that of Europe; there are no ideas common to all America and different from European ideas. There has never been any sympathy between North and South America, and there are only few and comparatively feeble bonds of interest based on commerce or investments. Either North or South America has far stronger bonds to Europe than they both have to each other. As far as the external resemblance of "republics" is concerned, the South American states have hitherto only made republican government ridiculous. The geographical neighborhood, on which stress is often laid, can be seen by a glance at the map to be nonexistent. If it existed it would be of little importance compared with economic distance, which is reckoned by cost, time, and facility of transportation. The Western continents are divided from each other by race, religion, language, real political institutions, manners and customs, and, above all, by tastes and habits. They entertain a strong dislike of each other. The United States could never establish a hegemony over the Western world until after long years of conquest. In their quarrels with European states, it suits the South American states very well that the United States should act the cat's paw for them, but it can not be that their statesmen will be so short-sighted as to accept a protection which would turn into domination without a moment's warning; neither can it be possible that our statesmen will ever seriously commit us to a responsibility for the proceedings of South American states.

We may probe the ideas and projects which are grouped under this attempt at a dual organization of the world as we will, in no direction do we come upon anything but crude notions and inflated rhetoric. Such notions have hitherto proved very costly to the human race. President Cleveland, in his Venezuela message, sought a parallel for the Monroe doctrine in the balance-of-power doctrine. The parallel was unfortunate, if it had been true. The balance-of-power doctrine cost frightful expenditures of life and capital, and what was won by them? Where is the balance of power as it was understood in the eighteenth century, or in Napoleon's time? A real parallel to the Monroe doctrine is furnished by the colonial system. The latter, as above shown, was the doctrine of the unity of the world under the headship of Europe. The former is the doctrine of the dualism of the world, with Europe at the head of one part and the United States at the head of the other. One of these conceptions of the new organization of the human race, which is to grow out of the colonization and settlement of the outlying countries, is as arbitrary as the other, and the new one can never be realized without far greater expenditure of life and property than the other. If history and science have any power over the convictions and actions of men, here is a good opportunity for proof of it, for if anything is proved by ecclesiastical and civil history it would seem to be the frightful cost of phrases and doctrines, and of the whole cohort of phantasms which take the place of facts and relations in determining the actions of men. It is to these that men have always brought the heaviest sacrifices of their happiness, blood, and property. We have had in our own history the doctrines of no entangling alliances. State rights, nullification, manifest destiny, the self-expanding power of the Constitution, the higher law, secession, and as many more as rhetorical politicians have found necessary to save them the trouble of coming down to facts and law. How frightful has been the penalty for the people who have been deluded by some of these! Who knows on what day another of them may, by a turn of events, become politically important and call for its share of sacrifice? It is a wise rule of life for a man of education and sense not to allow his judgment to be taken captive by stereotyped catch-words, mottoes, and doctrines.

We have already a commercial system in which we have undertaken to surround ourselves by a wall of taxes so as to raise the prices of all manufactured products twenty-five to fifty per cent above the same prices in western Europe. That system has been adopted as a policy of prosperity to be produced by specific devices of legislation. We have applied it to the best part of the continent of North America. It is now proposed to restrict immigration so as to close the labor market of the same part of North America, in the belief that wages will thus be raised, and that, if they are, a great advantage will be produced for the wages class. We have also a project before us to inclose all America in a barrier within which an arbitrary circulation of silver money may be secured, all relations with the money of the rest of the world being cut off. That these doctrines and projects all hang together, and are all coherent with the political notion of the dual division of the world, is obvious. The common element is in the narrow and distorted view of what is true and possible and desirable in social and economic affairs.

We have had before us, since the revolt of the English North American colonies, another conception of the organization of human society which is to come out of the extension of civilization to the outlying continents. It is, in fact, now imbedded in international law and in the diplomacy of civilized states. That is why the advocates of the Monroe doctrine have been forced to meet the argument that their doctrine was not in international law by new spinnings of political metaphysics. They have to try to cover the fact that the Monroe doctrine is an attempt by the United States to define the rights of other nations. The modern conception, however, is that the states of the world are all united in a family of nations whose rights and duties toward each other are embodied in a code of international law. All states may be admitted into this family of nations whenever they accept this code, whether they have previously been considered "civilized" or not. The code itself is a product of the reasoning and moral convictions of civilized states, and it grows by precedents and usages, as cases arise for the application of the general principles which have been accepted as sound, because they conduce to peace, harmony, and smooth progress of affairs. The code has undergone its best developments in connection with the spread of enlightenment and the extension of industrialism. This is the only conception of the relation of parts of the human race to each other which is consistent with civilization, and which is worthy of the enlightenment of our age. Any "doctrine" which is not consistent with it will sooner or later be set aside through the suffering of those who adhere to it.

The citizens of Philadelphia have been reminded by Mr. B. E. Fernow, of the Bureau of Forestry, that that city possesses a forestry reserve of thirteen thousand acres in Centre County, Pa. It was given to the city by Dr. Ellas Boudinot, President of the First Continental Congress, as a trust fund for the supply of fuel to poor persons at cost prices. It has been neglected, and much of the timber has been stolen or destroyed; but the work of reforestation was begun in 1888, and has been continued as means have permitted.