The Salvaging of Civilization
The Salvaging of Civilization
By H. G. WELLS
NOTE: This series of articles was originally prepared as lectures to be first delivered in the United States of America and Canada. The writer was unaccustomed to lecturing, and he regarded his American audiences with considerable dread. Accordingly he wrote and rewrote these addresses with exceptional care. It was to have been his first lecturing tour to the States; hitherto he had refused steadily to cross the Atlantic for this purpose; and it was only his conviction that he had something of very considerable moment to say to his friends in America that induced him to face what were for him considerable risks and fatigues. Unhappily, he was unable even to start. A severe attack of congestion of the lungs, about three weeks before the date of his sailing, made the expedition impossible, and it is now very improbable that he will ever talk face to face with an American audience. This illness was a very acute disappointment for him. These lectures he had planned upon very broad lines, and they give very clearly and explicitly his idea of what has to be done if our present civilization is to reconstruct itself and go on and escape from the destructive and degenerative phase into which it seems to have blundered. It is, the reader will see, a broadly complete project of world-wide political and educational propaganda and reconstruction, These lectures are now printed here, with very slight modifications, in the form and phrasing in which he would have liked to have given them to his American hearers. He has, in fact, resorted to The Saturday Evening Post as his lecture theater.
IN THIS opening article I want to tell you of the idea that now shapes and dominates my public life—the idea of a world politically united—of a world securely and permanently at peace. And I want to say what I have to say, so far as regards the main argument of it, as accurately and plainly as possible, without any flourishes.
When I first planned this article I chose as the title The Utopia of a World State. Well, there is something a little too flimsy and unpracticable about that word "Utopia." To most people "Utopia" conveys the idea of a high-toned political and ethical dream—agreeable and edifying, no doubt, but of no practical value whatever. What I have to say is not a bit dreamlike; it is about real dangers and urgent necessities. It is a project and not a Utopia. It may be a vast and impossible project. But if it fails our civilization fails. And so I have called his article, not the Utopia but The Project of a World State.
I will confess that I have written this article several times. There are some things that it is almost impossible to tell without soeming to scream and exaggerate, and yet these things may be in reality the soberest matter of fact.
I want to say that this civilization in which we are living is tumbling flown and, I think, tumbling down very fast; that I think rapid, enormous efforts will be needed to have it; and that I see no such efforts being made at the present time. I do not know if these words convey any concrete ideas to your minds at all. I know that you represent orderly and comfortable homes; that you walk through safe and well-lit streets; that behind you are towns of flourishing shops and businesses, banks and securities, orderly ndustries, a steady food supply.
But in the past year I have been going about Europe. I have had glimpses of a new phase of this civilization of ours—a new phase that would have looked like a fantastic dream if one had told about it ten years ago. I have seen a great city that had two million inhabitants, dying, and dying with incredible rapidity. In 1914 I was in the city of St. Petersburg, and it seemed as safe and orderly a great city as yours. I went thither in comfortable and punctual trains. I stayed in a hotel as well equipped and managed as any American hotel. I went to dine with and visit households of cultivated people. I walked along streets of brilliantly lit and well-furnished shops. It was, in fact, much the same sort of life that you are living here to-day—a part of our (then) worldwide modern civilization.
I revisited these things last summer. I found such a spectacle of decay that I find it almost impossible to convey it to an audience that has never seen the like. Streets with great holes where the drains had fallen in; stretches of roadway from which the wood paving had been torn for firewood; lamp-posts that had been knocked over, lying as they were left without an attempt to set them up again; shops and markets deserted and decayed and ruinous—not closed shops, but abandoned shops, as abandoned-looking as an old boot or an old can by the wayside; the railways falling out of use; a population of half a million where formerly there had been two million; a strangely homeless city, a city of discomforts and anxieties, a city of want and ill-health and death.
Such was Petersburg in 1920. Such, indeed, was all Russia.
I know there are people who have a quick and glib explanation of this vast and awe-inspiring spectacle of a great empire in collapse. They say it is Bolshevism that has caused all this destruction. But I hope to show in this article, among other more important things, that Bolshevism is merely a part of this immense collapse—that the overthrow of a huge civilized organization needs some more comprehensive explanation than that a little man named Lenine was able to get from Geneva to Russia at a particular crisis in Russian history. And particularly it is to be noted that this immense destruction of civilized life has not been confined to Russia. Austria and Hungary present spectacles hardly less desolating than Russia. There is a conspicuous ebb in civilization in Eastern Germany. And even when you come to France and Italy and Ireland there are cities, townships, whole wide regions where you can say, "This has gone back since 1914, and it is still going back in material prosperity, in health, in social order."
In England and Scotland, in Holland and Denmark and Sweden even, it is hard to determine whether things are stagnant or moving forward or moving back they are certainly not going ahead as they were before 1913—1914. The feeling in England is rather like the feeling of a man who is not quite sure whether he has caught a slight chill or whether he is in the opening stage of a serious illness.
Now what I want to do in this article is to theorize about this shadow—this chill and arrest—that seems to have come upon the flourishing and expanding civilization in which all of us were born and reared. I want to put a particular view of what is happening before you, and what it is that we are up against. I want to put before you for your judgment the view that this overstrain and breaking down and stoppage of the great, uprush of civilization that has gone on for the past three centuries is due to the same forces, and is the logical outcome of the same forces, that led to that uprush, to that tremendous expansion of human knowledge and power and life; and that that breaking up is an inevitable thing unless we meet it by a very great effort of a particular kind. Now the gist of my case is this: That the civilization of the past three centuries has produced a great store of scientific knowledge, and that this scientific knowledge has altered the material scale of human affairs and enormously enlarged the physical range of human activities, but that there has been no adequate adjustment of men's political ideas to the new conditions.
This adjustment is a subtle and a difficult task. It is also a greatly neglected task. And upon the possibility of our making this adjustment depends the issue whether the ebb of civilizing energy, the actual smashing and breaking down of modern civilization, which has already gone very far indeed in Russia and which is going on in most of Eastern and Central Europe, extends to the whole civilized world.
Now let me make a very rough and small-scale analysis of what is happening to the world to-day. And let us disregard many very important issues and concentrate upon the chief, most typical issue—the revolution in the facilities of locomotion and communication that has occurred to the world, and the consequences of that revolution. For the international problem to-day is essentially dependent upon the question of transport and communication—all others are subordinate to that. I shall particularly call your attention to certain wide differences between the American case and the Old World case in this matter.
It is not understood clearly enough at the present time how different is the American international problem from the European international problem, and how inevitable it is that America and Europe should approach international problems from a different angle and in a different spirit. Both lines of thought and experience do, I believe, lead at last to the world state, but they get there, I submit, by a different route and in a different manner.
The Age of Rapid Transport
THE idea that the Government of the United States can take its place side by side with the governments of the Old World on terms of equality with those governments in order to organize the peace of the world is, I believe, a mistaken and unworkable idea. I shall argue that the Government of the United States and the community of the United States are things different politically and mentally from those of the states of the Old World, and that the role they are destined to play in the development of a world state of mankind is essentially a distinctive one. And I shall try to show cause for regarding the very noble and splendid project of a world-wide League of Nations that has held the attention of the world for the past three years as one that is at once a little too much for complete American participation, and not sufficient for the urgent needs of Europe. It is not really so practicable and reasonable a proposition as it looked at first.
The idea of a world state, though it looks a far greater and more difficult project, is, in the long run, a sounder and more hopeful proposition.
Now let me make myself as clear as I can be about the central idea upon which the whole of the arguments in this article rest. It is this—forgive me for a repetition—that there has been a complete alteration in the range and power of human activities in the last hundred years. Men can react upon men with a rapidity and at a distance that was inconceivable a hundred years ago. This is particularly the case with locomotion and methods of communication generally. I will not remind you in any detail of facts with which you are familiar; how in the time of Napoleon the most rapid travel possible of the great conqueror himself did not average all over as much as four and a half miles an hour. A hundred and seven miles a day for thirteen days—the pace of his rush from Vilna to Paris after the Moscow disaster—was regarded as a marvel of speed. In those days, too, it was a marvel that by means of semaphores it was possible to transmit a short message from London to Portsmouth in the course of an hour or so.
Since then we have seen a development of telegraphy that has at last made news almost simultaneous about the world, and a steady increase in the rate of travel until, as we worked it out in the Civil Air Transport Committee in London, it is possible, if not at present practicable, to fly from London to Australia, halfway round the earth, in about eight days. I say possible, but not practicable, because at present properly surveyed routes, landing grounds, and adequate supplies of petrol and spare parts do not exist. Given those things, that journey could be done in the time I have given now. This tremendous change in the range of human activities involves changes in the conditions of our political life that we are only beginning to work out to their proper consequences to-day.
It is a curious thing that America, which owes most to this acceleration in locomotion, has felt it least. The United States has taken the railway, the river steamboat, the telegraph, and so on, as though they were a natural part of their growth. They were not. These things happened to come along just in time to save American unity. The United States of to-day was made first by the river steamboat, and then by the railway. Without these things the present United States—this vast continental nation—would have been altogether impossible. The westward flow of population would have been far more sluggish. It might never have crossed the great central plains. It took, you will remember, nearly two hundred years for effective settlement to reach from the coast to the Missouri, much less than halfway across the continent. The first state established beyond the river was the steamboat state of Missouri in 1821. But the rest of the distance to the Pacific was done in a few decades.
If we had the resources of the cinema here it would be interesting to show a map of North America year by year from 1600 onward, with little dots to represent hundreds of people, each dot a hundred, and stars to represent cities of a hundred thousand people.
The Settlement of America
FOR two hundred years you would see that stippling creeping slowly along the coastal districts and navigable water, spreading still more gradually into Indiana, Kentucky, and so forth. Then about 1810 would come a change. Things would get more lively along the river courses. The dots would be multiplying and spreading. That would be the steamboat. The pioneer do would be spreading soon from a number of jumping-off places along the great rivers over Kansas and Nebraska.
Then from about 1830 onward would come the black lines of the railways, and after that the little black dots would not simply creep but run. They would appear not so rapidly it would be almost as though they were beirh put on by some sort of spraying machine. And suddenly here and there there would appear the first stars to indicate the first great cities of a hundred thousand people. First one or two, and then the multitude of cities—each like a knot in the growing net of the railways.
"Warren, You'll Have to Fire That Cook"
This is a familiar story to you. I recall to you now to enforce this point: That the growth of the United States is a process that has no precedent in the world's history; it is a new kind of occurrence. Such a community could not have come into existence before, and if it had it would, without railways, have certainly dropped to pieces long before now. Without railways or telegraph it would be far easier to administer California from Peking than from Washington. But this great population of the United States of America has not only grown outrageously; it has kept uniform. Nay, it has become more uniform. The man of San Francisco is more like the man of New York to-day than the man of Virginia was like the man of New England a century ago. And the process of assimilation goes on unimpeded. The United States is being woven by railway, by telegraph more and more into one vast human unity, speaking, thinking and acting harmoniously with itself. Soon aviation will be helping in the work.
Now this great community of the United States is, I repeat, an altogether new thing in history. There have been great empires before with populations exceeding a hundred millions, but these were associations of divergent peoples; there has never been one single people on this scale before. We want really a new term for this new thing. We call the United States a country, just as we call France or Holland a country. But really the two things are as different as an automobile and a one-horse shay. They are the creations of different periods and different conditions; they are going to work at a different pace and in an entirely different way. If you propose—as I gather some of the League of Nations people propose—to push the peace of the world along on a combination of these two sorts of vehicle, the peace of the world will be subjected to some very considerable strains.
Let me now make a brief comparison between the American and the European situation in relation to these vital matters, locomotion and the general means of communication. I said just now that the United States of America owes most to the revolution in locomotion and has felt it least. Europe, on the other hand, owes least to the revolution in locomotion and has felt it most. The revolution in locomotion found the United States of America a fringe of population on the sea margins of a great rich, virgin, empty country into which it desired to expand and into which it was free to expand. The steamboat and railway seemed to come as a natural part of that expansion. They came as unqualified blessings. But into Western Europe they came as a frightful nuisance.
No Room for Expansion
The states of Europe, excepting Russia, were already a settled, established and balanced system. They were living in final and conclusive boundaries, with no further possibility of peaceful expansion. Every extension of a European state involved a war; it was possible only through war. And while the limits of the United States have been set by the steamship and the railroad, the limits to the European sovereign states were drawn at a much earlier time. They were drawn by the horse, and particularly the coach horse, traveling along the highroad. If you will examine a series of political maps of Europe for the last two thousand years you will see that there has evidently been a definite limit to the size of sovereign states through all that time, due to the impossibility of keeping them together because of the difficulty of intercommunication if they grew bigger. And this was in spite of the fact that there were two great unifying ideas present in men's minds in Europe throughout that period, namely—the unifying idea of the Roman Empire and the unifying idea of Christendom. Both these ideas tended to make Europe one, but the difficulties of communication defeated that tendency. It is quite interesting to watch the adventures of what is called first the Roman Empire and afterwards the Holy Roman Empire in a series of historical maps. It keeps expanding and then dropping to pieces again. It is like the efforts of someone who is trying to pack up a parcel, which is much too big, in wet blotting paper. The cohesion was inadequate. And so it was that the eighteenth century found Europe still divided up into what I may perhaps call these highroad and coach-horse states, each with a highly developed foreign policy, each with an intense sense of national difference, and each with intense traditional antagonisms.
Then came this revolution in the means of locomotion, which has increased the normal range of human activity at least ten times. The effect of that in America was opportunity; the effect of it in Europe was congestion. It is as if some rather careless worker of miracles had decided suddenly to make giants of a score of ordinary men, and chose the moment for the miracle when they were all with one exception strap-hanging in a street car. The United States was that fortunate exception.
Now this is what modern civilization has come up against, and it is the essential riddle of the modern sphinx, which must be solved if we are to live. All the European boundaries of to-day are impossibly small for modern conditions. And they are sustained by an intensity of ancient tradition and patriotic passion.
Vexations of Travel
The citizens of the United States of America are not without their experience in this matter. The crisis of the national history of the American community, the war between Union and Secession, was essentially a crisis between the great state of the new age and the local feeling of an earlier period. But Union triumphed. Americans live now in a generation that has almost forgotten that there once seemed a possibility that the map of North America might be broken up at last into as many communities as the map of Europe. Except by foreign travel the present generation of Americans can have no idea of the net of vexations and limitations in which Europeans are living at the present time because of their political disunion.
Let me take a small but quite significant set of differences, the inconveniences of travel upon a journey of a little over a thousand miles. They are in themselves petty inconveniences, but they will serve to illustrate the net that is making free civilized life in Europe more and more impossible.
Take first the American case. An American wants to travel from New York to St. Louis. He looks up the next train, packs his bag, gets aboard a sleeper, and turns out at St. Louis next day ready for business.
Take now the European parallel. A European wants to travel from London to Warsaw. Now that is a longer distance by fifty or sixty miles than the distance from New York to St. Louis. Will he pack his bag, get aboard a train, and go there? He will not. He will have to get a passport, and getting a passport involves all sorts of tiresome little errands. One has to go to a photographer, for example, to get photographs to stick on the passport. The good European has then to take his passport to the French representative in London for a French visé, or, if he is going through Belgium, for a Belgian visé. After that he must get a German visé. Then he must go round to the Czecho-Slovak office for a Czecho-Slovak visé. Finally will come the Polish visé.
Each of these indorsements necessitates something vexatious—personal attendance, photography, stamps, rubber stamps, mysterious signatures, and the like, and always the payment of fees. Also they necessitate delays. The other day I had occasion to go to Moscow, and I learned that it takes three weeks to get a visé for Finland and three weeks to get a visé for Esthonia. You see you can't travel about Europe at all without weeks and weeks of preparation. The preparations for a little journey to Russia the other day took three whole days, cost me several pounds in stamps and fees, and five in bribery.
Ultimately, however, the good European is free to start. Arriving at the French frontier in an hour or so, he will be held up for a long customs examination. Also he will need to change some of his money into francs. His English money will be no good in France. The exchange in Europe is always fluctuating, and he will be cheated on the exchange. All European countries, including my own, cheat travelers on the exchange—that is apparently what the exchange is for.
He will then travel for a few hours to the German frontier. There he will be bundled out again. The French will investigate him closely to see that he is not carrying gold or large sums of money out of France. Then he will be handed over to the Germans. He will go through the same business with the customs and the same business with the money. His French money is no further use to him and he must get German. A few more hours and he will arrive on the frontier of Bohemia. Same search for gold. Then customs examination and change of money again. A few hours more and he will be in Poland. Search for gold, customs, fresh money.
As most of these countries are pursuing different railway policies, he will probably have to change trains and rebook his luggage three or four times. The trains may be ingeniously contrived not to connect so as to force him to take some longer route politically favoured by one of the intervening states. He will be lucky if he gets to Warsaw in four days.
Arrived in Warsaw, he will probably need a permit to stay there, and he will certainly need no end of permits to leave.
Now here is a fuss over a fiddling little journey of eleven hundred miles. Is it any wonder that the bookings from London to Warsaw are infinitesimal in comparison with the bookings from New York to St. Louis? But what I have noted here are only the normal inconveniences of the traveller. They are by no means the most serious inconveniences.
The same obstructions that hamper the free movement of a traveller, hamper the movement of foodstuffs and all sorts of merchandise in a much greater degree. Everywhere in Europe trade is being throttled by tariffs and crippled by the St. Vitus' dance of the exchanges. Each of these European sovereign states turns out paper money at its own sweet will. Last summer I went to Prague and exchanged pounds for kroners. They ought to have been 25 to the pound. On Monday they were 180 to the pound; on Friday 169. They jump about between 220 and 150, and everybody is inconvenienced except the bankers and money changers. And this uncertain exchange diverts considerable amounts of money that should be stimulating business enterprise into a barren and mischievous gambling with the circulation.
Between each one of these compressed European countries the movement of food or labour is still more blocked and impeded. And in addition to these nuisances of national tariffs and independent national coinages at every few score miles, Europe is extraordinarily crippled by its want of any central authority to manage the most elementary collective interests—the control of vice, for example; the handling of infectious diseases; the suppression of international criminals.
The Seeds of War
Europe is now confronted by a new problem—the problem of air transport. So far as I can see, air transport is going to be strangled in Europe by international difficulties. One can fly comfortably and safely from London to Paris in two or three hours. But the passport preliminaries will take days beforehand.
The other day I wanted to get quickly to Reval in Esthonia from England and back again. The distance is about the same as from Boston to Minneapolis, and it could be done comfortably in ten to twelve hours' flying. I proposed to the Handley Page Company that they should arrange this for me. They explained that they had no power to fly beyond Amsterdam in Holland; thence it might be possible to get a German plane to Hamburg, and thence again a Danish plane to Copenhagen—leaving about five hundred miles which were too complicated politically to fly. Each stoppage would involve passport and other difficulties. In the end it took me five days to get to Reval and seven days to get back. In Europe, with its present frontiers, flying is not worth having. It can never be worth having—it can never be worked successfully—until it is worked as at least a pan-European affair.
All these are the normal inconveniences of the national divisions of Europe in peace time. By themselves they are strangling all hope of economic recovery. For Europe is not getting on to its feet economically. Only a united effort can effect that. But along each of the ridiculously restricted frontiers into which the European countries are packed, lies also the possibility of war. National independence means the right to declare war. And so each of these packed and strangulated European countries is obliged, by its blessed independence, to maintain as big an army and as big a military equipment as its bankrupt condition—for we are all bankrupt—permits.
Since the end of the Great War, nothing has been done of any real value to ensure any European country against the threat of war, and nothing will be done, and nothing can be done to lift that threat, so long as the idea of national independence overrides all other considerations.
And again, it is a little difficult for a mind accustomed to American conditions, to realize what modern war will mean in Europe.
Not one of these sovereign European states I have named between London and Warsaw is any larger than the one single American state of Texas, and not one has a capital that cannot be effectively bombed by aëroplane raiders from its frontier within five or six hours of a declaration of war. We can fly from London to Paris in two or three hours. And the aerial bombs of to-day, I can assure you, will make the biggest bombs of 1918 seem like little crackers. Over all these European countries broods this immediate threat of a warfare that will strain and torment the nerves of every living man, woman or child in the countries affected. Nothing of the sort can approach the American citizen except after a long warning. The worst war that could happen to any North American country would merely touch its coasts.
Now I have dwelt on these differences between America and Europe because they involve an absolute difference in outlook towards world peace projects, towards leagues of nations, world states and the like, between the American and the European.
The American lives in a political unity on the big modern scale. He can go on comfortably for a hundred years yet before he begins to feel tight in his political skin, and before he begins to feel the threat of immediate warfare close to his domestic life. He believes by experience in peace, but he feels under no passionate urgency to organize it. So far as he himself is concerned, he has got peace organized for a good long time ahead. I doubt if it would make any very serious difference for some time in the ordinary daily life of Kansas City, let us say, if all Europe were reduced to a desert in the next five years.
But on the other hand, the intelligent European is up against the unity of Europe problem night and day. Europe cannot go on. European civilization cannot go on, unless that net of boundaries which strangles her is dissolved away. The difficulties created by language differences, by bitter national traditions, by bad political habits and the like, are no doubt stupendous. But stupendous though they are, they have to be faced. Unless they are overcome, and overcome in a very few years, Europe—entangled in this net of boundaries, and under a perpetual fear of war, will, I am convinced, follow Russia and slide down beyond any hope of recovery into a process of social dissolution as profound and disastrous as that which closed the career of the Western Roman Empire.
The American intelligence and the European intelligence approach this question of a world peace, therefore, from an entirely different angle and in an entirely different spirit. To the American in the blessed ease of his great unbroken territory, it seems a matter simply of making his own ample securities world-wide by treaties of arbitration and such-like simple agreements. And my impression is that he thinks of Europeans as living under precisely similar conditions.
Nothing of that sort will meet the problem of the Old World. The European situation is altogether more intense and tragic than the American. Europe needs not treaties but a profound change in its political ideas and habits. Europe is saturated with narrow patriotism like a body saturated by some evil inherited disease. She is haunted by narrow ambitions and ancient animosities.
It is because of this profound difference of situation and outlook that I am convinced of the impossibility of any common political co-operation to organize a world peace between America and Europe at the present time.
The American type of state and the European type of state are different things, incapable of an effectual alliance; the steam tractor and the ox cannot plough this furrow together. American thought, American individuals, may no doubt play a very great part in the task of reconstruction that lies before Europe, but not the American federal government as a sovereign state among equal states.
The United States constitute a state on a different scale and level from any old world state. Patriotism and the national idea in America is a different thing and a bigger scale thing than the patriotism and national idea in any old world state.
Any League of Nations aiming at stability now, would necessarily be a league seeking to stereotype existing boundaries and existing national ideas. Now these boundaries and these ideas are just what have to be got rid of at any cost. Before Europe can get on to a level and on to equal terms with the United States, the European communities have to go through a process that America went through—under much easier conditions—a century and a half ago. They have to repeat, on a much greater scale and against profounder prejudices, the feat of understanding and readjustment that was accomplished by the American people between 1781 and 1788.
As you will all remember, these States after they had decided upon Independence, framed certain Articles of Confederation; they were articles of confederation between thirteen nations, between the people of Massachusetts, the people of Virginia, the people of Georgia, and so forth—thirteen distinct and separate sovereign peoples. They made a Union so lax and feeble that it could neither keep order at home nor maintain respect abroad. Then they produced another constitution. They swept aside all that talk about the people of Massachusetts, the people of Virginia, and the rest of their thirteen nations. They based their union on a wider idea: the people of the United States.
Now Europe, if it is not to sink down to anarchy, has to do a parallel thing. If Europe is to be saved from ultimate disaster, Europe has to stop thinking in terms of the people of France, the people of England, the people of Germany, the French, the British, the Germans, and so forth. Europe has to think at least of the people of Europe, if not of the civilized people of the world. If we Europeans cannot bring our minds to that, there is no hope for us. Only by thinking of all peoples can any people be saved in Europe. Fresh wars will destroy the social fabric of Europe, and Europe will perish as nations, fighting.
A Modern Ocean State
There are many people who think that there is at least one political system in the old world which, like the United States, is large enough and world wide enough to go on by itself under modern conditions for some considerable time. They think that the British Empire can, as it were, stand out of the rest of the Old World as a self-sufficient system. They think that it can stand out freely as the United States can stand out, and that these two English-speaking powers have merely to agree together to dominate and keep the peace of the world.
Let me give a little attention to this idea. It is I believe a wrong idea, and one that may be very disastrous to our common English-speaking culture if it is too fondly cherished.
There can be no denying that the British Imperial system is a system different in its nature and size from a typical European state, from a state of the horse and road scale, like France, let us say, or Germany. And equally it is with the United States a new growth. The present British Empire is indeed a newer growth than the United States. But while the United States constitute a homogeneous system and grow more homogeneous, the British Empire is heterogeneous and shows little or no assimilative power. And while the United States are all gathered together and are still very remote from any serious antagonist, the British Empire is scattered all over the world, entangled with and stressed against a multitude of possible antagonists.
I have been arguing that the size and manageability of all political states is finally a matter of transport and communications. They grow to a limit strictly determined by these considerations. Beyond that limit they are unstable. Let us now apply these ideas to the British Empire.
I have shown that the great system of the United States is the creation of the river steamboat and the railway. Quite as much so is the present British Empire the creation of the ocean-going steamship—protected by a great navy.
The British Empire is a modern ocean state just as the United States is a modern continental state. The political and economic cohesion of the British Empire rests upon this one thing, upon the steamship remaining the dominant and secure means of world transport in the future. If the British Empire is to remain sovereign and secure and independent of the approval and co-operation of other states, it is necessary that steamship transport (ocean transport) should remain dominant in peace and invulnerable in war.
Well, that brings us face to face with two comparatively new facts that throw a shadow upon both that predominance and upon that invulnerability. One is air transport; the other the submarine. The possibilities of the ocean-going submarine I will not enlarge upon now. They will be familiar to everyone who followed the later phases of the Great War.
It must be clear that sea power is no longer the simple and decisive thing it was before the coming of the submarine. The sea ways can no longer be taken and possessed completely. To no other power, except Japan, is this so grave a consideration as it is to Britain.
And if we turn to the possibilities of air-transport in the future we are forced towards the same conclusion, that the security of the British Empire must rest in the future not on its strength in warfare, but on its keeping the peace within and without its boundaries.
I was a member of the British Civil Air Transport Committee, and we went with care and thoroughness into the possibilities and probabilities of the air. My work on that committee convinced me that in the near future the air may be the chief if not the only highway for long-distance mails, for long-distance passenger traffic, and for the carriage of most valuable and compact commodities. The ocean ways are likely to be only the ways for slow travel and for staple and bulky trade.
And my studies on that committee did much to confirm my opinion that in quite a brief time the chief line of military attack will be neither by sea nor land but through the air. Moreover, it was borne in upon me that the chief air routes of the world will lie over the great plains of the world, that they will cross wide stretches of sea or mountainous country only very reluctantly.
Now think of how the British Empire lies with relation to the great sea and land masses of the world. There has been talk in Great Britain of what people have called "all-red air routes," that is to say, all-British air routes. There are no all-red air routes. You cannot get out of Britain to any other parts of the Empire, unless perhaps it is Canada, without crossing foreign territory. That is a fact that British people have to face and digest, and the sooner they grasp it the better for them. Britain cannot use air ways even to develop her commerce in peace time without the consent and co-operation of a large number of her intervening neighbours. If she embarks single-handed on any considerable war she will find both her air and her sea communications almost completely cut.
And so the British Empire, in spite of its size and its modernity, is not much better off now in the way of standing alone than the other European countries. It is no exception to our generalization that (apart from all other questions) the scale and form of the European states are out of harmony with contemporary and developing transport conditions, and that all these powers are, if only on this account, under one urgent necessity to sink those ideas of complete independence that have hitherto dominated them. It is a life and death necessity. If they cannot obey it they will all be destroyed.
IN MY opening argument I have shown the connection between the present intense political troubles of the world, and more particularly of Europe, and the advance in mechanical knowledge during the past hundred and fifty years. I have shown that without a very drastic readjustment of political ideas and habits there opens before Europe and the world generally a sure prospect of degenerative conflicts; that without such a readjustment our civilization has passed its zenith, and must continue the process of collapse that has been in progress since August, 1914.
Now this readjustment means an immediate conflict with existing patriotisms. We have embarked here upon a discussion in which emotion and passion seem quite unavoidable, the discussion of nationality. At the very outset we bump violently against patriotism as any European understands that word. And it is, I hold, impossible not to bump against European patriotisms. We cannot temporize with patriotism as one finds it in Europe, and get on towards a common human welfare. The two things are flatly opposed. One or other must be sacrificed. The political and social muddle of Europe at the present time is very largely due to the attempt to compromise between patriotism and the common good of Europe.
Do we want to get rid of patriotism altogether? Can we? Frankly, I do not think we want to get rid of patriotism, and I do not think we could, even if we wanted to do so. It seems to be necessary to one's moral life that he should feel himself part of a community, belonging to it, and it belonging to him; and that this community should be a single and lovable reality, inspired by a common idea, with a common fashion and aim.
The Infection of National Egotism
BUT a point I have been trying to bring out throughout all this argument so far is this—that when a European goes to the United States of America he finds a new sort of state, materially bigger and materially less encumbered than any European state. And he also finds an intensely patriotic people whose patriotism isn't really the equivalent of a European patriotism. It is historically and practically a synthesis of European patriotisms. It is numerically bigger. It is geographically ten times as big. That is very important indeed from the point of view of this discussion. And it is synthetic; it is a thing made out of something smaller. People, I believe, talk of 100 per cent Americans. There is no 100 per cent American except the Red Indian. There isn't a white man in the United States from whose blood a large factor of European patriotism hasn't been washed out to make way for his American patriotism.
Upon this fact of American patriotism, as a larger, different thing than European patriotism, I build. The thing can be done. If it can be done in the Europeans and their descendants who have come to America, it can conceivably be done in the Europeans who abide in Europe. And how can we set about doing it?
America, the silent, comprehensive continent of America, did the thing by taking all the various nationalities who have made up her population and obliging them to live together. Unhappily, we cannot take the rest of our European nations now and put them on a great virgin continent to learn a wider political wisdom. There are no more virgin continents. Europe must stay where she is.
Now I am told it sometimes helps scientific men to clear up their ideas about a process by imagining that process reversed, and so getting a view of it from a different direction. Let us, then, for a few moments, instead of talking of the expansion and synthesis of patriotism in Europe, imagine a development of narrow patriotism in America, and consider how that case could be dealt with. Suppose, for instance, there was a serious outbreak of local patriotism in Kentucky. Suppose you found the people of Kentucky starting a flag of their own and objecting to what they would probably call the vague internationalism of the Stars and Stripes. Suppose you found them wanting to set up tariff barriers to the trade of the states round about them. Suppose you found they were preparing to annex considerable parts of the State of Virginia by force in order to secure a proper strategic frontier among the mountains to the east, and that they were also talking darkly of their need for an outlet to the sea of their very own.
What would an American citizen think of such an outbreak? He would probably think that Kentucky had gone mad. But this, which seems such fantastic behavior when we imagine it occurring in Kentucky, is exactly what is happening in Europe in the case of little states that are hardly any larger than Kentucky. They have always been so. They have not gone mad; if this sort of thing is madness, then they were born mad. And they have never been cured. A state of affairs that is regarded in Europe as normal would be regarded in the United States as a grave case of local mental trouble.
And what would the American community probably do in such a case? It would probably begin by inquiring where Kentucky had got these strange ideas. They would look for sources of infection. Somebody must have been preaching there or writing in the newspapers or teaching mischief in the schools. And I suppose the people of the United States would set themselves very earnestly to see that sounder sense was talked and taught to the people of Kentucky about these things.
Now that is precisely what has to be done in the parallel European case. Everywhere in Europe there goes on, in the national schools, in the patriotic churches, in the national presses, in the highly nationalized literatures, a unity-destroying propaganda of patriotism. The schools of all the European countries at the present time, with scarcely an exception, teach the most rancid patriotism; they are centers of an abominable political infection. The children of Europe grow up with an intensity of national egotism that makes them, for all practical international purposes, insane. They are not born with it, but they are infected with it as soon as they can read and write. The British learn nothing but the glories of Britain and the British Empire; the French are, if possible, still more insanely concentrated on France; the Germans are just recovering from the bitter consequences of forty years of intensive nationalist education. And so on. Every country in Europe is its own Sinn Fein, cultivating that ugly and silly obsession of "ourselves alone." "Ourselves alone" is the sure guide to conflict and disaster, to want, misery, violence, degradation and death for our children and our children's children—until our race is dead.
The first task before us in Europe is, at any cost, to release our children from this nationalist obsession, to teach the mass of European people a little truthful history in which each one will see the past and future of his own country in their proper proportions, and a little truthful ethnology in which each country will get over the delusion that its people are a distinct and individual race. The history teaching in the schools of Europe is at the very core of this business.
Why Make Two Bites at a Planet?
BUT that is only, so to speak, the point of application of great complex influences, the influences that mold us ill childhood—the teachings of literature, of the various religious bodies, and the daily reiteration of the press. Before Europe can get on there has to be a colossal turnover of these moral and intellectual forces in the direction of creating an international mind. If that can be effected, then there is hope for Europe and the Old World. If it cannot be effected, then certainly Europe will go down—with its flags nailed to its masts. We are on a sinking ship that only one thing can save. We have to oust these European patriotisms by some greater idea or perish. What is this greater idea to be?
Now I submit that this greater idea had best be the idea of the world state of all mankind. I will admit that so far I have made a case only for teaching the idea of a United States of Europe in Europe. I have concentrated our attention upon that region of maximum congestion and conflict. But as a matter of fact there are no real and effective barriers and boundaries in the Old World between Europe and Asia and The ordinary Russian talks of Europe as one who is outside it. The European political systems flow over and have always overflowed into the greater areas to the east and south. Remember the early empires of Macedonia and Rome. See how the Russian language runs to the Pacific, and how Islam radiates into all three continents. I will not elaborate this case.
When you bear such things in mind I think you will agree with me that if we are to talk of a United States of Europe it is just as easy and practicable to talk of a United States of the Old World. And are we to stop at a United States of the Old World?
No doubt the most evident synthetic forces in America at the present time point towards some sort of pan-American unification. That is the nearest thing. That may come first. But are we to contemplate a sort of dual world—the New World against the Old?
I do not think that would be any very satisfactory stopping place. Why make two bites at a planet? If we work for unity on the large scale we are contemplating we may as well work for world unity.
A World Government Will Arise Out of Not only in distance but in a score of other matters are London and Rome nearer to New York than is Patagonia, and San Francisco is always likely to be more interesting to Japan than Paris or Madrid. I cannot see any reason for supposing that the mechanical drawing together of the peoples of the world into one economic and political unity is likely to cease—unless our civilization ceases. I see no signs that our present facilities for transport and communication are the ultimate possible facilities. Once we break away from current nationalist limitations in our political ideas, there is no reason and no advantage in contemplating any halfway house to a complete human unity.
Now after what I have been saying it is very easy to explain why I would have this idea of human unity put before people's minds in the form of a world state and not of a League of Nations.
Let me first admit the extraordinary educational value of the League of Nations' propaganda and of the attempt that has been made to create a League of Nations. It has brought before the general intelligence of the world the proposition of a world law and a world unity that could not perhaps have been broached in any other way.
But is it a League of Nations that is wanted?
I submit to you that the word "nations" is just the word that should have been avoided—that it admits and tends to stereotype just those conceptions of division and difference that we must at any cost minimize and obliterate if our species is to continue. And the phrase has a thin and legal and litigious flavor. What loyalty and what devotion can we expect this multiple association to command? It has no unity, no personality. It is like asking a man to love the average member of a woman's club instead of loving his wife.
Different Motives and Realize a Different Ideal. It Will be Primarily an Organ for Keeping the Peace
Foundations of a World State
FOR the idea of man, for human unity, for our common blood, for the one order of the world I can imagine men living and dying, but not for a miscellaneous assembly that will not mix—even in its name. It has no central idea, no heart to it, this League-of-Nations formula. It is weak and compromising just where it should be strong—in defining its antagonism to separate national sovereignty. For that is what it aims at if it means business. If it means business, it means at least a superstate overriding the autonomy of existing states; and if it does not mean business, then we have no use for it whatever.
It may seem a much greater undertaking to attack nationality and nationalism instead of patching up a compromise with these things, but along the line of independent nationality lies no hope of unity and peace and continuing progress for mankind. We cannot suffer these old concentrations of loyalty because we want that very loyalty which now concentrates upon them to cement and sustain the peace of all the world. Just as in the past provincial patriotisms have given place to national patriotisms, so now we need to oust these still too narrow devotions by a new unity and a new reigning idea—the idea of one state and one flag in all the earth.
The idea of the world state stands to the idea of the League of Nations much as the idea of the one God of earth and heaven stands to a divine committee composed of Woden and Baal and Jupiter and Amun Ra and Mumbo Jumbo and all the other national and tribal gods. There is no compromise possible in the one matter, as in the other. There is no way round. The task before mankind is to substitute the one idea of an overriding world commonweal for the multitudinous ideas of little commonweals that prevail everywhere to-day. We have already glanced at the near and current consequences of our failure to bring about that substitution.
Now this is an immense proposal. Is it a preposterous one? Let us not shirk the tremendous scale upon which the foundations of a world state of all mankind must be laid. But remember, however great that task before us may seem, however near it may come to the impossible, nevertheless, in the establishment of one world rule and one world law lies the only hope of escape from an increasing tangle of wars, from social overstrain, and at last a social dissolution so complete as to end forever the tale of mankind as we understand mankind.
Personally, I am appalled by the destruction already done in the world in the past seven years. I doubt if any untraveled American can realize how much of Europe is already broken up. I do not think many people realize how swiftly Europe is still sinking, how urgent it is to get European affairs put back upon a basis of the common good if civilization is to be saved.
And now as to the immensity of this project of substituting loyalty to a world commonweal for loyalty to a single egotistical belligerent nation. It is a project to invade hundreds to millions of minds, to attack certain ideas established in those minds, and either to efface those ideas altogether or to supplement and correct them profoundly by this new idea of a human commonweal. We have to get not only into the at present intensely patriotic minds of Frenchmen, Germans, English, Irish and Japanese, but into the remote and difficult minds of Arabs and Indians and into the minds of the countless millions of China. Is there any precedent to justify us in hoping that such a change in world ideas is possible?
I think there is. I would suggest that the general tendency of thought about these things to-day is altogether too skeptical of what teaching and propaganda can do in these matters. In the past there have been very great changes in human thought. I need scarcely remind you of the spread of Christianity in Western Europe. In a few centuries the whole of Western Europe was changed from the wild confusion of warring tribes that succeeded the breakdown of the Roman Empire, into the unity of Christendom, into a community with such an idea of unity that it could be roused from end to end by the common idea of the Crusades.
Still more remarkable was the swift transformation in less than a century of all the nations and peoples to the south and east of the Mediterranean, from Spain to Central Asia, into the unity of Islam, a unity which has lasted to this day. In both these cases, what I may call the mental turnover was immense.
I think if you will consider the spread of these very complex and difficult religions, and compare the means at the disposal of their promoters with the means at the disposal of intelligent people to-day, you will find many reasons for believing that a recasting of people's ideas into the framework of a universal state by no means an impossible project.
Those great teachings of the past were spread largely by word of mouth. Their teachers had to travel slowly and dangerously. People were gathered together to hear with great difficulty, except in a few crowded towns. Books could be used only sparingly. Few people could read, fewer still could translate, and manuscripts were copied with extreme slowness upon parchment. There was no printing, no paper, no post. And except for a very few people there were no schools. Both Christendom and Islam had to create their common schools in order to preserve even a minimum of their doctrine intact from generation to generation. All this was done in the teeth of much bitter opposition and persecution.
Now to-day we have means of putting ideas and arguments swiftly and effectively before people all over the world at the same time, such as no one could have dreamed of a hundred years ago. We have not only books and papers, but in the cinema we have a means of rapid, vivid presentation still hardly used. We have schools nearly everywhere. And here, in the need for an overruling world state, and the idea of world service replacing combative patriotism, we have an urgent, a commanding human need. We have an invincible case for this world state and an unanswerable objection to the nationalisms and patriotisms that would oppose it.
Is it not almost inevitable that some of us should get together and begin a propaganda upon modern lines of this organized world peace, without which our race must perish?
The world perishes for the want of a common political idea. It is still quite possible to give the world this common political idea, the idea of a federal world state. We cannot help but set about doing it.
So I put it to you that the most important work before men and women to-day is the preaching and teaching, the elaboration, and then, at last, the realization of this project of the world state. We have to create a vision of it, to make it seem first a possibility and then an approaching reality. This is a work that demands the work and thought of thousands of minds. We have to spread the idea of a federal world state, as an approaching reality, throughout the world. We can do this nowadays through a hundred various channels. We can do it through the press, through all sorts of literary expression, in our schools, colleges and universities, through political mouthpieces, by special organizations, and last, but not least, through the teaching of the churches. For remember that all the great religions of the world are in theory universalist; they may tolerate the divisions of men but they cannot sanction them. We propose no religious revolution, but at most a religious revival. We can spread ideas and suggestions now with a hundred times the utmost rapidity of a century ago.
Heir to All the Empires
THIS movement need not at once intervene in politics. It is a prospective movement, and its special concern will be with young and still-growing minds. But as it spreads it will inevitably change politics. The nations, states and kingdoms of to-day, which fight and scheme against each other as though they had to go on lighting and scheming forever, will become more and more openly and manifestly merely guardian governments—governments playing a waiting part in the world while the world state comes of age. For this world state, for which the world is waiting, must necessarily be a fusion of all governments and heir to all the empires.
So far I have been occupied by establishing a case for the world state. It has been, I fear, rather an abstract discussion. I have kept closely to the bare, hard logic of the present human situation.
But now let me attempt very briefly, in the barest, outline, some concrete realization of what a world state would mean. Let us try to conceive for ourselves the form a world state would take. I do not care to leave this discussion with nothing to it but a phrase which is really hardly more than a negative phrase until we put some body to it. As it stands, "world state" means simply a politically undivided world. Let us try to carry that over to the idea of a unified organized state throughout, the world.
Let us try to imagine what a world government, would be like. I find that when one speaks of a world state people think at once of some exist ing government, and magnify it to world proportions. They ask, for example, "Where will the world congress meet, and how will you elect your world president? Won't your world president," they say, "be rather a tremendous personage? How are we to choose him? Or will there be a world king?"
These are very natural questions at the first onset. But are they sound questions? May they not be a little affected by false analogies? The governing of the whole of the world may turn out to be not a magnified version of governing a part of the world, but a different sort of job altogether. These analogies that people draw so readily from national states may not really work in a world state.
And first with regard to this question of a king or president. Let us ask whether it is probable that the world state will have any single personal head at all.
Is the world state likely to be a monarchy—either an elective, short-term, limited monarchy such as is the United States, or an inherited limited monarchy like the British Empire?
Many people will say you must have a head of the state. But must you? Is not this idea a legacy from the days when states were small communities needing a leader in war and diplomacy?
In the world state we must remember there will be no war—and no diplomacy as such.
I would even question whether in such a great modern state as the United States of America the idea and the functions of the President may not be made too important. Indeed, I believe that question has been asked by many people in the States lately, and has been answered in the affirmative.
The Headship of the World State
The broad lines of the United States Constitution were drawn in a period of almost universal monarchy. American affairs were overshadowed by the personality of George Washington, and, as you know, monarchist ideas were so rife that there was a project during the years of doubt and division that followed the War of Independence for importing a German king, a Prussian prince, in imitation of the British Monarchy. But if the United States were beginning again to-day on its present scale, would it put so much power and importance upon a single individual as it put upon George Washington and his successors in the White House? I doubt it very much.
There may be a limit, I suggest, to the size and complexity of a community that can be directed by a single personal head. Perhaps that limit may have been passed by both the United States and by the British Empire at the present time. It may be possible for one person to be leader, and to have an effect of directing personality in a community of millions or even of tens of millions. But is it possible for one small, short-lived individual to get over and affect and make any sort of contact with hundreds of millions in thousands of towns and cities?
Recently we have watched with admiration and sympathy the heroic efforts of the Prince of Wales to shake hands with and get his smile well home into the hearts of the entire population of the British Empire, of which he is destined to become the "golden link." After tremendous exertions a very large amount of the ground still remains to be covered.
I will confess I cannot see any single individual human head in my vision of the world state.
The linking reality of the world state is much more likely to be not an individual but an idea—such an idea as that of a human commonweal under the God of all mankind.
If at any time, for any purpose, some one individual had to step out and act for the world state as a whole, then I suppose the senior judges of the supreme court, or the speaker of the council, or the head of the associated scientific societies, or some such person, could step out and do what had to be done.
But if there is to be no single head person, there must be at least some sort of assembly or council. That seems to be necessary. But will it be a gathering at all like Congress or the British Parliament, with a government side and an opposition ruled by party traditions and party ideas?
There again I think we may be too easily misled by existing but temporary conditions. I do not think it is necessary to assume that the council of the world state will be an assembly of party politicians. I believe it will be possible to have it a real gathering of representatives, a fair sample of the thought and will of mankind at large, and to avoid a party development by a more scientific method of voting than the barbaric devices used for electing representatives to Congress or the British Parliament, devices that play directly into the hands of the party organizer, who trades upon the defects of political method.
Will this council be directly elected? That, I think, may be found to be essential. And upon a very broad franchise. Because, firstly, it is before all things essential that every adult in the world should feel a direct and personal contact between himself and the world state, and that he is an assenting and participating citizen of the world; and, secondly, because if your council is appointed by any intermediate body all sorts of local and national considerations, essential in the business of the subordinate body, will get in the way of a simple and direct regard for the world commonweal.
And as to this council: Will it have great debates and wonderful scenes and crises and so forth—the sort of thing that looks well in a large historic painting? There again we may be easily misled by analogy. One consideration that bars the way to anything of that sort is that its members will have no common language which they will be all able to speak with the facility necessary for eloquence. Eloquence is far more adapted to the conditions of a Red Indian powwow than to the ordering of large and complicated affairs. The world council may be a very taciturn assembly. It may even meet infrequently. Its members may communicate their views largely by notes which may have to be very clear and explicit—because they will have to stand translation—and short to escape neglect.
And what will be the chief organs and organizations and works and methods with which this council of the world state will be concerned?
There will be a supreme court, determining not international law, but world law.
There will be a growing code of world law.
There will be a world currency.
There will be a ministry of posts, transport and communications generally.
There will be a ministry of trade in staple products and for the conservation and development of the natural resources of the earth.
There will be a ministry of social and labor conditions.
There will be a ministry of world health.
There will be a ministry—the most important ministry of all—watching and supplementing national educational work and taking up the care and stimulation of backward communities.
Factors That Make for Simplicity
And instead of a war office and naval and military departments, there will be a peace ministry, studying the belligerent possibilities of every new invention, watching for armed disturbances everywhere, and having complete control of every armed force that remains in the world. All these world ministries will be working in coöperation with local authorities, who will apply worldwide general principles to local conditions.
These items probably comprehend everything that the government of a world state would have to do. Much of its activity would be merely the coördination and adjustment of activities already very thoroughly discussed and prepared for it by local and national discussions. I think it will be a mistake for us to assume that the work of a world government will be vaster and more complex than that of such governments as those of the United States or the British Empire. In many respects it will have an enormously simplified task. There will be no foreign enemy, no foreign competition, no tariffs, so far as it is concerned, or tariff wars. It will be keeping order; it will not be carrying on a contest. There will be no necessity for secrecy; it will not be necessary to have a cabinet plotting and planning behind closed doors; there will be no general policy except a steady attention to the common welfare. Even the primary origin of a world council must necessarily be different from that of any national government. Every existing government owes its beginnings to force, and is in its fundamental nature militant. It is an offensive-defensive organ. This fact saturates our legal and social tradition more than one realizes at first. There is, about civil law everywhere, a faint flavor of a relaxed state of siege. But a world government will arise out of different motives and realize a different ideal. It will be primarily an organ for keeping the peace.
And now perhaps we may look at this project of a world state mirrored in the circumstances of the life of one individual citizen. Let us consider very briefly the life of an ordinary young man living in a world state, and consider how it would differ from a commonplace life to-day.
He will have been born in some one of the united states of the world—in New York, or California, or Ontario, or New Zealand, or Portugal, or France, or Bengal, or Shansi; but wherever his lot may fall the first history he will learn will be the wonderful history of mankind, from its nearly animal beginnings a few score thousand years ago, with no tools but implements of chipped stone and hacked wood, up to the power and knowledge of our own time. His education will trace for him the beginnings of speech or writing, of cultivation and settlement.
He will learn of the peoples and nations of the past, and how each one has brought its peculiar gifts and its distinctive contribution to the accumulating inheritance of our race.
He will know, perhaps, less of wars, battles, conquests, massacres, kings, and the like unpleasant invasions of human dignity and welfare, and he will know more of explorers, discoverers and stout, outspoken men than our contemporary citizen.
While he is still a little boy he will have all the great outlines of the human adventure brought home to his mind by all sorts of vivid methods of presentation, such as the poor, poverty-stricken schools of our own time cannot dream of employing.
Citizens of the World by Education
And on this broad foundation he will build up his knowledge of his own particular state and nation and people, learning not tales of ancient grievances and triumphs and revenges, but what his particular race and countryside have given, and what they give, and may be expected to give to the common welfare of the world. On such foundations his social consciousness will be built.
He will learn an outline of all that mankind knows and of the fascinating realms of half knowledge in which man is still struggling to know. His curiosity and his imagination will be roused and developed.
He will probably be educated continuously at least until he is eighteen or nineteen, and perhaps until he is two or three and twenty. For a world that wastes none of its resources upon armaments or soldiering, and which produces whatever it wants in the regions best adapted to that production, and delivers them to the consumer by the directest route, will be rich enough not only to spare the first quarter of everybody's life for education entirely, but to keep on with some education throughout one's entire lifetime.
Of course the school to which our young citizen of the world will go will be very different from the rough-and-tumble schools of to-day, understaffed, with underpaid assistants, and bare walls. It will have benefited by some of the intelligence and wealth we lavish to-day on range finders and submarines.
Even a village school will be in a beautiful little building, costing as much, perhaps, even as a big naval gun or a bombing aëroplane costs to-day. I know this will sound like shocking extravagance to many contemporary hearers, but in the world state the standards will be different.
I don't know whether any of us really grasp what we are saying when we talk of greater educational efficiency in the future. That means, if it means anything, teaching more with much less trouble. It will mean, for instance, that most people will have three or four languages properly learned; that they will think about things mathematical with quickness and clearness that puzzle us; that about all sorts of things their minds will move in daylight where ours move in a haze of ignorance or in an emotional fog.
This clear-headed, broad-thinking young citizen of the world state will not be given up after his educational years to a life of toil; there will be very little toil left in the world. Mankind will have machines and power enough to do most of the toil for it. Why, between 1914 and 1918 we blew away enough energy and destroyed enough machinery and turned enough good gray matter into stinking filth to release hundreds of millions of toilers from toil forever!
Our young citizen will choose some sort of interesting work—perhaps creative work. And he will be free to travel about the whole world without a passport or visa, without a change of money; everywhere will be his country; he will find people everywhere who will be endlessly different, but none suspicious or hostile. Everywhere he will find beautiful and distinctive cities, freely expressive of the spirit of the land in which they have arisen. Strange and yet friendly cities.
The world will be a far healthier place than it is now—for mankind as a whole will still carry on organized wars—no longer wars of men against men, but of men against malarias and diseases and infections. Probably he will never know what a cold is, or a headache. He will be able to go through the great forests of the tropics without shivering with fever and without saturating himself with preventive drugs. He will go freely among great mountains, he will fly to the poles of the earth if he chooses, and dive into the cold, now hidden deep places of the sea.
But it is very difficult to fill in the picture of his adult life so that it will seem real to our experience. It is hard to conceive and still more difficult to convey. We live in this congested, bickering, elbowing, shoving world, and it has soaked into our natures and made us a part of itself. Hardly any of us know what it is to be properly educated, and hardly any what it is to be in constant general good health.
To talk of what the world may be to most of us is like talking of baths and leisure and happy things to some poor hopeless, gin-soaked drudge in a slum. The creature is so devitalized; the dirt is so ingrained, so much a second nature, that a bath really isn't attractive. Clean and beautiful clothes sound like a mockery or priggishness. To talk of spacious and beautiful places only arouses a violent desire in the poor thing to get away somewhere and hide. In squalor and misery, quarreling and fighting make a sort of nervous relief. To multitudes of slum-bred people the prospect of no more fighting is a disagreeable prospect, a dull outlook.
Well, all this world of ours may seem a slum to the people of a happier age. They will feel about our world just as we feel about the ninth or tenth century, when we read of its brigands and its insecurities, its pestilences, its miserable housing, its abstinence from ablutions.
But our young citizen will not have been inured to our base world. He will have little of our ingrained dirt in his mind and heart. He will love. He will love beautifully, as most of us once hoped to do in our more romantic moments. He will have ambitions—for the world state will give great scope to ambition. He will work skilfully and brilliantly; or he will administer public services, or he will be an able teacher; or a mental or physical physician; or he will be an interpretative or creative artist; he may be a writer or a scientific investigator; he may be a statesman in his state or even a world statesman. If he is a statesman he may be going up perhaps to the federal world congress. In the year 2020 there will still be politics, but it will be great politics.
Instead of the world's affairs being managed in a score of foreign offices, all scheming meanly and cunningly against one another, all planning to thwart and injure one another, they will be managed under the direction of an educated and organized common intelligence intent only upon the common good.
Dear! Dear! Dear! Does it sound like rubbish to you? I suppose it does. You think I am talking of a dreamland, of an unattainable Utopia? Perhaps I am! This dear, jolly old world of dirt, war, bankruptcy, murder and malice, thwarted lives, wasted lives, tormented lives, general ill-health and a social decadence that spreads and deepens towards a universal smash—how can we hope to turn it back from its course? How priggish and impracticable! How impertinent! How preposterous! I seem to hear a distant hooting.
Sometimes it seems to me that the barriers that separate man and man are nearly insurmountable and invincible—that we who talk of a world state now are only the pioneers of a vast uphill struggle in the minds and hearts of men that may need to be waged for centuries—that may fail in the end.
Sometimes again, in other moods, it seems to me that these barriers and nationalities and separations are so illogical, so much a matter of tradition, so plainly mischievous and cruel, that at any time we may find the common sense of our race dissolving them away.
Who can see into that darkest of all mysteries, the hearts and wills of mankind? It may be that it is well for us not to know of the many generations who will have to sustain this conflict.
Yes, that is one mood, and there is the other. Perhaps we fear too much. Even before our lives run out we may feel the dawn of a greater age perceptible among the black shadows and artificial glares of these unhappy years.
The Bible of Civilization: I
The man who propounded this idea was a certain great Bohemian, Komensky, who is perhaps better known in our Western world by his Latinized name, Comenius. He professed himself the pupil of Bacon. He was the friend of Milton. He traveled from one European country to another with his political and educational ideas. For a time he thought of coming to America. It is a great pity that he never came. And his idea—the particular idea of his we are going to discuss—was the idea of a common book—a book of history, science and wisdom—which should form the basis and framework for the thoughts and imaginations of every citizen in the world.
In many ways the thinkers and writers of the early seventeenth century are, I think, more akin to us and more sympathetic with the world of to-day than any intervening group of literary figures. They strike us as having a longer vision than the men of the eighteenth century and as being bolder and—how shall I put it?—more desperate in their thinking than the nineteenth-century minds. And this closer affinity to our own time arises, I should think, directly and naturally out of the closer resemblance of their circumstances. Between 1640 and 1650, just as in our present age, the world was tremendously unsettled and distressed. A century and'more of expansion and prosperity had given place to a phase of conflict, exhaustion and entire political unsettlement. Britain was involved in the bitter political conflict that culminated in the execution of King Charles I. Ireland was a land of massacre and countermassacre. The Thirty Years' War in Central Europe was in its closing, most dreadful stages of famine and plunder. In France the crown and the nobles were struggling desperately for ascendancy in the War of the Fronde. The Turk threatened Vienna. Nowhere in Western Europe did there remain any secure and settled political arrangements. Everywhere there was disorder, everywhere it seemed that anything might happen; and it is just those disordered and indeterminate times that are most fruitful of bold religious and social and political and educational speculations and initiatives.
Is the Old Idea Practicable?
THIS was the period that produced the Quakers and a number of the most vigorous developments of Puritanism, in which the foundations of modern republicanism were laid, and in which the project of a world League of Nations—or rather of a world state—received wide attention. And the student of Comenius will find in him an active and sensitive mind responding with a most interesting similarity to our own responses to the similar conditions of his time. He had been distressed and dismayed—as most of us have been distressed and dismayed—by a rapid development of violence, by a great release of cruelty and suffering in human affairs. He felt none of the security that was felt in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries of the certainty of progress. He realized, as we do, that the outlook for humanity is a very dark and uncertain one unless human effort is stimulated and organized. He traced the evils of his time to human discords and divisions, to our political divisions and the mutual misconceptions due to our diversity of languages and leading ideas.
In all that, he might be writing and thinking in 1920. And his proposed remedies find an echo in a number of our contemporary movements. He wanted to bring all nations to form one single state. He wanted to have a universal language as the common medium of instruction and discussion, and he wanted to create a common book of necessary knowledge, a sort of common basis of wisdom, for all educated men in the world.
Now this last is the idea I would like to develop here. I would like to discuss whether our education—which nowadays in our modern states reaches everyone—whether our education can include and ought to include such a book of necessary knowledge and wisdom; and—having attempted to answer that inquiry in the affirmative—shall then attempt a sketch of such a book.
But to begin with, perhaps I may meet an objection that is likely to arise. I have called this hypothetical book of ours the Bible of Civilization, and it may be that someone will say, "Yes, but you have a sufficient book of that sort already; you have the Bible itself, and that is all you need." Well, I am taking the Bible as my model. I am taking it because twice in history—first as the Old Testament and then again as the Old and New Testament together—it has formed a culture, and unified and kept together through many generations great masses of people. It has been the basis of the Jewish and Christian civilizations alike. And even in the New World the state of Connecticut did, I believe, in its earliest beginnings, take the Bible as its only law. Throughout the most vital phases of Hebrew history, throughout the most living years of Christian development, the Bible changed and grew. Then its growth ceased and its text became fixed. But the world went on growing and discovering new needs and new necessities.
LET me deal first with its redundancy. So far as redundancy goes, a great deal of the Book of Leviticus, for example, seems not vitally necessary for the ordinary citizen of to-day; there are long, explicit directions for temple worship and sacrificial procedure. There is, again, so far as the latter-day citizen is concerned, an excess of information about the minor kings of Israel and Judaea. And there is more light than most of us feel we require nowadays upon the foreign policies of Assyria and Egypt. It stirs our pulses feebly nowadays; it helps us only very indirectly to learn that Attai begat Nathan and Nathan begat Zabad, or that Obed begat Jehu and Jehu begat Azariah, and so on, for verse after verse.
And there are a great multitude of modern problems—problems that enter intimately into the moral life of all of us, with which the Bible does not deal—the establishment of American independence, for example, and the age-long feud of Russia and Poland that has gone on with varying fortunes for four centuries. That is much more important to our modern world than the ancient conflict of Assyria and Egypt which plays so large a part in the old Bible record. And there are all sorts of moral problems arising out of modern conditions on which the Bible sheds little or no direct light—the duties of a citizen at an election, or the duties of a shareholder to the labor employed by his company, for example. For these things we need at least a supplement, if we are still to keep our community upon one general basis of understanding, upon one unifying standard of thought and behavior.
We are all so brought up upon the Bible, we are all so used to it, long before we begin to think hard about it, that all sorts of things that are really very striking about it, the facts that the history of Judæa and Israel is told twice over and that the Gospel narrative is repeated four times over, for example, do not seem at all odd to us.
And still more remarkable, it seems to me, is it that the Bible breaks off. One could understand very well if the Bible broke off with the foundation of Christianity. Now this event has happened, it might say, nothing else matters. It is the culmination. But the Bible does not do that. It goes on to a fairly detailed account of the beginnings and early politics of the Christian Church. It gives the opening literature of theological exposition. And then, with that strange book, the Revelation of St. John the Divine, it comes to an end. As I say, it leaves off. It leaves off in the middle of Roman imperial and social conflicts. But the world has gone on and goes on—elaborating its problems, encountering fresh problems—until now there is a gulf of upwards of eighteen hundred years between us and the concluding expression of the thought of that ancient time.
I make these observations in no spirit of detraction. If anything, these peculiarities of the Bible add to the wonder of its influence over the lives and minds of men. It is the book that has held together the fabric of Western civilization. It has been the handbook of life to countless millions of men and women. The civilization we possess could not have come into existence and could not have been sustained without it. It has explained the world to the mass of our people, and it has given them moral standards and a form into which their consciences could work. But does it do that to-day? Frankly, I do not think it does. I think that during the last century the Bible has lost much of its former hold. It no longer grips the community. And I think it has lost hold because of those sundering eighteen centuries, to which every fresh year adds itself, because of profound changes in the methods and mechanisms of life and because of the vast extension of our ideas by the development of science in the last century or so.
Our Need of a Cohesive Force
IT HAS lost hold, but nothing has arisen to take its place. That is the gravest aspect of this matter. It was the cement with which our Western communities were built and by which they were held together. And the weathering of these centuries and the acids of these later years have eaten into its social and personal influence. It is no longer a sufficient cement. And—this is the essence of what I am driving at—our modern communities are no longer cemented; they lack organized solidarity, they are not prepared to stand shocks and strains, they have become dangerously loose mentally and morally. That, I believe, is the clew to a great proportion of the present social and political troubles of the world. We need to get back to a cement. We want a Bible. We want a Bible so badly that we cannot afford to put the old Bible on a pinnacle out of daily use. We want it readapted for use. If it is true that the old Bible falls short in its history and does not apply closely to many modern problems, then we need a revised and enlarged Bible in our schools and homes to restore a common ground of ideas and interpretations if our civilization is to hold together.
Now let us see what the Bible gave a man in the days when it could really grip and hold and contain him; and let us ask if it is impossible to restore and reconstruct a Bible for the needs of these great and dangerous days in which we are living. Can we recement our increasingly unstable civilization? I will not ask now whether there is still time left for us to do anything of the sort.
The first thing the Bible gave a man was a cosmogony. It gave him an account of the world in which he found himself, and of his place in it. And then it went on to a general history of mankind. It did not tell him that history as a string of facts and dates, but as a moving and interesting story into which he himself finally came, a story of promises made and destinies to be fulfilled. It gave him a dramatic relationship to the schemes of things. It linked him to all mankind with a conception of relationships and duties. It gave him a place in the world and put a meaning into his life. It explained him to himself and to other people, and it explained other people to him. In other words, out of the individual it made a citizen with a code of duties and expectations.
Now I take it that both from the point of view of individual happiness and from the point of view of the general welfare, this development of the citizenship of a man, this placing of a man in his own world, is of primary importance. It is the necessary basis of all right education; it is the fundamental purpose of the school, and I do not believe an individual can be happy or a community be prosperous without it. The Bible and the religions based on it gave that idea of a place in the world to the people it taught. But do we provide that idea of a place in the world for our people to-day? I suggest that we do not. We do not give them a clear vision of the universe in which they live, and we do not give them a history that invests their lives with meaning and dignity.
The cosmogony of the Bible has lost grip and conviction upon men's minds, and the ever-widening gulf of years makes its history and its political teaching more and more remote and unhelpful amidst the great needs of to-day. Nothing has been done to fill up these widening gaps. We have so great a respect for the letter of the Bible that we ignore its spirit and its proper use. We do not rewrite and retell Genesis in the light and language of modern knowledge, and we do not revise and bring its history up to date and so apply it to the problems of our own time. So we have allowed the Bible to become antiquated and remote, venerable and unhelpful.
There has been a great extension of what we call education in the past hundred years, but I while we have spread education widely there has been a sort of shrinkage and enfeeblement of its aims. Education in the past set out to make a Christian and a citizen and afterwards a gentleman out of the crude, vulgar, self-seeking individual. Does education even pretend to do as much to-day? It does nothing of the sort. Our young people are taught to read and write. They are taught bookkeeping and languages that are likely to be useful to them. They are given a certain measure of technical education, and they are taught to shove. Our test of a college education is: Does it make a successful business man?
The Degradation of Education
WELL, this, I take it, is the absolute degradation of education. It is a modern error that education exists for the individual. Education exists for the community and the race; it exists to subdue the individual for the good of the world and his own ultimate happiness.
But we have been letting the essentials of education slip back into a secondary place in our pursuit of mere equipment, and we see the results to-day throughout all the modern states of the world in a loss of cohesion, discipline and coöperation. Men will not coöperate except to raise prices on the consumer or wages on the employer, and everyone scrambles fora front place and a good time. And they do so, partly no doubt by virtue of an ineradicable factor in them known as original sin, but also very largely because the vision of life that was built up in their minds at school and in their homes was fragmentary and uninspiring; it had no commanding appeal for their imaginations and no imperatives for their lives.
So I put it that for the opening books of our Bible of Civilization, our Bible translated into terms of modern knowledge, and as the basis of all our culture, we shall follow the old Bible precedent exactly. We shall tell to every citizen of our community, as plainly, simply and beautifully as we can, the New Story of Genesis, the tremendous spectacle of the universe that science has opened to us, the flaming beginnings of our world, the vast ages of its making and the astounding unfolding, age after age, of life. We shall tell of the changing climates of this spinning globe, and the coming and going of great floras and faunas, mighty races of living things, until out of the vast, slow process our own kind emerged. And we shall tell the story of our race. How through hundreds of thousands of years it won power over Nature, hunted, and presently sowed and reaped. How it learned the secrets of the metals, mastered the riddle of the seasons and took to the seas. That story of our common inheritance and of our slow upward struggle has to be taught throughout our entire community, in the city slums and in the out-of-the-way farmsteads most of all. By teaching it we restore again to our people the lost basis of a community, a common idea of their place in space and time.
Then, still following the Bible precedent, we must tell a universal history of man. And though on the surface it may seem to be a very different history from the Bible story, in substance it will really be very much the same history, only robbed of ancient trappings and symbols and made real and fresh again for our present ideas. It will still be a story of conditional promises, the promises of human possibility, a record of sins and blunders and lost opportunities, of men who walked not in the ways of righteousness, of stiff-necked generations and of merciful renewals of hope. It will still point our lives to a common future which will be the reward and judgment of our present lives.
You may say that no such book exists—which is perfectly true—and that no such book could be written. But there I think you underrate the capacity of our English-speaking people. It would be quite possible to get together a committee that would give us the compact and clear cosmogony of history that is needed. Some of the greatest, most inspiring books and documents in the world have been produced by committees. Magna Charta, the Declaration of Independence, the English translation of the Bible, and the Prayer Book of the English Church are all the productions of committees, and they are all fine and inspiring compilations. For the last three years I have been experimenting with this particular task, and, with the help of six other people, I have sketched out and published an outline of our world's origins and history to show the sort of thing I mean. That outline is, of course, a mass of faults and minor inaccuracies, but it does demonstrate the possibility of doing what is required. And its reception both in America and in England has shown how ready, how greedy many people are, on account of themselves and on account of their children, for an ordered general account of the existing knowledge of our place in space and time. For want of anything better they have taken my outline very eagerly. Far more eagerly would they have taken a finer, sounder and more authoritative work.
In England this outline was almost the first experiment of the kind that has been made—the only other I know of in England was a very compact General History of the World, by Mr. Oscar Browning, published in 1913. But there are several educationists in America who have been at work on the same task. In this matter of a more generalized history teaching, the New World is decidedly leading the Old. The particular problems of a population of mixed origins have forced it upon teachers in the United States.
My friend—I am very happy to be able to call him my friend—Professor Breasted, in conjunction with that very able teacher, Professor Robinson, has produced two books, Ancient Times and Medieval and Modern Times, which together make a very complete history of civilized man. They do not, however, give a history of life before man, nor very much of human prehistory.
Another admirable American summary of history is Dr. Hutton Webster's Ancient History together with his Medieval and Modern History. This again is very sparing of the story of primitive man.
The Outlook for Humanity is a Very Dark and Uncertain One Unless Human Effort is Stimulated and Organized
A Standard History for World-Wide Use
BUT the work of these gentlemen confirms my own experience that it is quite possible to tell in a comprehensible and inspiring outline the whole history of life and mankind in the compass of a couple of manageable volumes. Neither Browning nor Breasted and Robinson nor Hutton Webster nor my own effort is very much longer than twice the length of Dickens' novel of Bleak House. So there you have it. There is the thing shown to be possible. If it is possible for us isolated workers to do as much, then why should not the thing be done in a big and authoritative manner? Why should we not have a great educational conference of teachers, scientific men and historians from all the civilized peoples of the world, and why should they not draft out a standard world history for general use in the world's schools? Why should that draft not be revised by scores of specialists? Discussed and rediscussed? Polished and finished, and made the opening part of a new Bible of Civilization, a new basis for a world culture?
At intervals it would need to be revised, and it could be revised and brought up to date in the same manner.
Now such a book, and such a book alone, would put the people of the world upon an absolutely new footing with regard to social and international affairs. They would be told a history coming right up to the daily newspapers. They would see themselves and the news of to-day as part of one great development. It would give their lives significance and dignity. It would give the events of the current day significance and dignity. It would lift their imaginations up to a new level. I say lift, but I mean restore, their imaginations to a former level. Because if you look back into the lives of the Pilgrim Fathers, let us say, or into those of the great soldiers and statesmen of Cromwellian England, you will find that these men had a sense of personal significance, a sense of destiny such as no one in politics or literature seems to possess to-day.
They were still in touch with the old Bible. To-day if life seems adventurous and fragmentary and generally aimless it is largely because of this one thing. We have lost touch with history. We have ceased to see human affairs as one great epic unfolding. And only by the universal teaching of universal history can that epic quality be restored.
You see, then, the first part of my project for a Bible of Civilization, a rewriting of Genesis and Exodus and Judges and Chronicles in terms of world history. It would be a quite possible thing to do.
Is it worth doing?
And let me add here that when we do get our new Genesis and our new historical books they will have a great number of illustrations as a living and necessary part of them. For nowadays we can not only have a canonical text but canonical maps and illustrations. The old Hebrew Bible was merely the written word. Indeed, it was not even that, for it was written without vowels. That was not a merit, nor a precedent for us; it was an unavoidable limitation in those days; but under modern conditions there is no reason whatever why we should confine our Bible to words when a drawing or a map can better express the thing we wish to convey. It is one of the great advantages of the modern book over the ancient book that because of printing it can use pictures as well as words. When books had to be reproduced by copyists the use of pictures was impossible. They would have varied with each copying until they became hopelessly distorted.
A Standard Guide to Health
But the cosmological and historical part of the old Bible was merely the opening, the groundwork upon which the rest was built. Let us now consider what else the Bible gave a man and a community, and what would be the modern form of the things it gave.
The next thing in order that the Bible gave a man and the community to which he belonged was the law—rules of life; rules of health; prescriptions, often very detailed and intimate, of permissible and unpermissible conduct.
This also the modern citizen needs and should have; he and she need a book of personal wisdom.
First as to health. One of the first duties of a citizen is to keep himself in mental and bodily health in order to be fit for the rest of his duties. Now the real Bible, our model, is extremely explicit upon what constitutes cleanness or uncleanness, upon ablutions, upon what a man or woman may eat and what may not be eaten, upon a number of such points. It was for its times and circumstances a directory of healthful practice. Well, I do not see why the Bible of a modern civilization should not contain a book of similarly clear injunction and warnings—why we should not tell every one of our people what is to be known about self-care.
And closely connected with the care of one's mental and bodily health is sexual morality, upon which again Deuteronomy and Leviticus are most explicit—leaving very little to the imagination. I am all for imitating the wholesome frankness of the ancient Book. Where there are no dark corners there is very little fermentation, there is very little foulness or infection. But in nearly every detail and in method and manner, the Bible of our civilization needs to be fuller and different from its prototype upon these matters. The real Bible dealt with an Oriental population living under much cruder conditions than our own, engaged mainly in agriculture, and with a far less various dietary than ours.
They had fermented, but not distilled, liquors; they had no preserved or refrigerated foods; they married at adolescence; many grave diseases that prevail to-day were unknown to them, and their sanitary problems were entirely different. Generally our new Leviticus will have to be much fuller. It must deal with exercise—which came naturally to those Hebrew shepherds. It must deal with the preservation of energy under conditions of enervation of which the prophets knew nothing. On the other hand our new Leviticus can afford to give much less attention to leprosy—which almost dominates the health instructions of the ancient lawgiver.
I do not know anything very much about the movements in America that aim at the improvement of the public health and at the removal of public ignorance upon vital things. In Britain we have a number of powerful organizations active in disseminating knowledge to counteract the spread of this or that infectious or contagious disease.
The war has made us in Europe much more outspoken and more fearless in dealing with lurking, hideous evils. We believe much more than we did in the curative value of light and knowledge. And we have a very considerable literature of books on—what shall I call it?—on sex wisdom, which aim to prevent some of that great volume of misery, deprivation and nervous disease due to the prevailing ignorance and secrecy in these matters. For in these matters great multitudes of modern people still live in an ignorance that would have been inconceivable to an ancient Hebrew. Now I believe that it would be possible to compile a modern Leviticus and Deuteronomy to tell our whole modern community decently and plainly—just as plainly as the old Hebrew Bible instructed its Hebrew population—what is to be known and what has to be done and what has not to be done in these intimate matters.
But health and sex do not exhaust the problems of conduct.
There are also the problems of property and trade and labor.
Upon these the Bible did not hesitate to be explicit. For example, it insisted meticulously upon the right of labor to glean, and upon the seller's giving a full measure brimming over, and it prohibited usury. But here again the Bible rules and regulations were framed for a community and for an economic system altogether cruder, more limited and less complicated than our own. Much of the Old Testament, we have to remember, was already in existence before the free use of coined metal. The vast credit system of our days, joint-stock enterprise and the like were beyond the imagination of that time. So, too, was any anticipation of modern industrialism. And accordingly we live to-day in a world in which neither property nor employment has ever been properly moralized. The bulk of our present social and economic troubles is due very largely to that.
In no matter is this muddled civilization of ours more hopelessly at sixes and sevens than in this matter of the rights and duties of property. Manifestly property is a trust for the community, varying in its responsibilities with the nature of the property. The property one has in one's toothbrush is different from the property one has in ten thousand acres of land; the property one has in a photograph of a friend is different from the property one has in some irreplaceable masterpiece of portraiture. The former one may destroy with a good conscience, but not the latter. At least, so it seems to me.
But opinions vary enormously on these matters because we have never really worked them out. On the one hand, in this matter of property, we have the extreme individualist who declares that a man has an unlimited right to do what he likes with his own—so that a man who owns a coal mine may just burn it out to please himself or spite the world, or raise the price of coal generally—and, on the other hand, we have the extreme communist, who denies all property, and in practice—so far as I can understand his practice—goes on the principle that everything belongs to somebody else or that one is entitled to exercise proprietary rights over everything that does not belong to oneself. I confess that communistic practice is a little difficult to formulate. Between these extremists you can find every variety of idea about what one may do and about what one may not do, with money and credit and property generally.
Is it an offense to gamble? Is it an offense to speculate? Is it an offense to hold fertile fields and not cultivate them? Is it an offense to hold fertile fields and undercultivate them? Is it an offense to use your invested money merely to live pleasantly without working? Is it an offense to spend your money on yourself and refuse your wife more than bare necessities? Is it an offense to spend exorbitant sums that might otherwise go in reproductive investments, to gratify the whims and vanities of your wife? You will find different people answering any of these questions with yes or no. But it cannot be both yes and no. There must be a definable right or wrong upon all these issues.
Almost all the labor trouble in the world springs directly from our lack of an effective detailed moral code about property. The freedom that is claimed for all sorts of property and exercised by all sorts of property to waste or withhold is the clew to that savage resentment which flares out nowadays in every great labor conflict. Labor is a rebel because property is a libertine.
Now this untilled field of conduct, this moral wilderness of the rights and duties and limitations of property, the books of the law in a modern Bible could clear up in the most lucid and satisfying way. I want to get those parts of Deuteronomy and Leviticus written again, more urgently than any other part of the modern Bible. I want to see it at work in the schools and in the law courts.
I admit that it would be a most difficult book to write, and that we should raise controversial storms over every verse. But what an excellent thing to have it out, once for all, with some of these rankling problems! What an excellent thing if we could get together a choice group of representative men—strictly rationed as to paper—and get them to set down clearly and exactly just what classes of property they recognized and what limitations the community was entitled to impose upon each sort.
Every country in the world does impose limitations. In Italy you may not export an ancient work of art, although it is your own. In England you may not maltreat your own dog or cat. In the United States, I am told, you may not use your dollars to buy alcohol. Why should we not make all this classification of property, and the restraints upon each class of property, systematic and world-wide? If we could so moralize the use of property, if we could arrive at a clear idea of just what use an owner could make of his machinery or a financier could make of his credit, would there be much left of the incessant labor conflicts of the present time? For if you will look into it you will find there is hardly ever a labor conflict into which some unsettled question of principle, some unsettled question of the permissible use of property, does not enter as the final and essential dispute.
The Bible of Civilization: II
IN THE preceding sections we have discussed Genesis and the historical books generally as they would appear in a modernized Bible, and we have dealt with the law. But these are only the foundations and openings of the Bible as we know it. We come now to the Psalms and Proverbs, the Song of Songs, the Book of Job—and the Prophets. What are the modern equivalents of these books?
Well, what were they?
They were the entire Hebrew literature down to about the time of Ezra; they include sacred songs, love songs, a dramatic dialogue, a sort of novel in the books of Ruth and Esther, and so forth. What would be our equivalent of this part of the Bible to-day? What would be the equivalent for the Bible of a world civilization?
I suppose that it would be the whole world literature.
That, I admit, is a rather tremendous proposition. Are we to contemplate the prospect of a modern Bible in twenty or thirty thousand volumes? Such a vast Bible would defeat its own end.
We want a Bible that everyone will know; which will be grasped by the mind of everyone. That is essential to our idea of a Bible as a social cement.
Fortunately, our model Bible, as we have it to-day, gives us a lead in this matter. Its contents are classified. We have first of all the canonical books, which are treated as the vitally important books; they are the books, to quote the phrase used in the English Prayer Book, which are "necessary to salvation." And then we have a collection of other books, the Apocrypha, the books set aside, books often admirable and beautiful, but not essential, good to be read for "example of life and instruction of manners," yet books that everyone need not read and know. Let us take this lead, and let us ask whether we can—with the whole accumulated literature of the world as our material—select a bookful or so of matter, of such exceptional value that it would be well for all mankind to read it and know it. This will be our equivalent for the canonical books. I will return to that in a moment.
And outside this canonical book or books, shall we leave all the rest of literature in a limitless Apocrypha? I am doubtful about that. I would suggest that we make a second intermediate class between the canonical books, that everyone in our civilization ought to read, and the outer Apocrypha, that you may read or not, as you choose. This intermediate class I would call the great books of the world. It would not be a part of our Bible, but it would come next to our Bible. It would not be what one must read, but only what it is desirable the people should read.
Making Up the Canonical Books
NOW this canonical literature we are discussing is to be the third vital part of our modern Bible. I conceive of it as something that would go into the hands of every man and woman in that coming great civilization which is the dream of our race. Together with the book of world history and the book of law and righteousness and wisdom that I have sketched out to you, and another book of which I shall have something to say later, this canonical literature will constitute the intellectual and moral cement of the world society, that intellectual and moral cement for the want of which our world falls into political and social confusion and disaster to-day. Upon such a basis, upon a common body of ideas, a common moral teaching and the world-wide assimilation of the same emotional and æsthetic material, it may still be possible to build up humanity into one coöperative, various and understanding community.
Now if we bear this idea of a cementing function firmly in mind we shall have a criterion by which to judge what shall be omitted from and what shall be included in the books of literature in this modern Bible of ours. We shall begin, of course, by levying toll upon the Old and New Testaments. I do not think I need justify that step. I suppose that there will be no doubt of the inclusion of many of the Psalms—but I question if we should include them all—and of a number of splendid passages from the Prophets. Should we include the Song of Songs? I am inclined to think that the compilers of a new Bible would hesitate at that. Should we include the Book of Job? That, I think, would be a very difficult question indeed for our compilers. The Book of Job is a very wonderful and beautiful discussion of the profound problem of evil in the world. It is a tremendous exercise to read and understand, but is it universally necessary? I am disposed to think that the Book of Job, possibly with the wonderful illustrations of Blake, would not make a part of our canon, but would rank among our great books. It is a part of a very large literature of discussion, of which I shall have more to say in a moment. So, too, I question if we should make the story of Ruth, or the story of Esther fundamental teaching for our world civilization. Daniel, again, I imagine relegated to the Apocrypha. But this I will return to later.
The Place of Shakspere
THE story of the Gospels would, of course, be incorporated in our historical book, but in addition, as part of our first canon, each of the four Gospels—with the possible omission of the genealogies—would have a place for the sake of their matchless directness, simplicity and beauty. They give a picture, they convey an atmosphere of supreme value to us all, incommunicable in any other form or language. Again, there is a great wealth of material in the Epistles. It is, for example, inconceivable that such a passage as that of Saint Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians—"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal," the whole of that wonderful chapter—should ever pass out of the common heritage of mankind.
So much from the ancient Bible for our modern Bible, all its inspiration and beauty and fire. And now what else?
Speaking in English to an English-speaking audience one name comes close upon the Bible—Shakspere. What are we going to do about Shakspere? If you were to waylay almost any Englishman or American and put this project of a modern Bible before him, and then begin your list of ingredients with the Bible and the whole of Shakspere, he would almost certainly say, "Yes, yes."
But would he be right?
On reflection he might, perhaps, recede and say, "Not the whole of Shakspere, but—well—Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Midsummer Night's Dream." But even these, are they "generally necessary to salvation"? We run our minds through the treasures of Shakspere as we might run our fingers through the contents of a box of very precious and beautiful jewels before equipping a youth for battle.
No; these things are for ornament and joy. I doubt if we could have a single play, a single scene of Shakspere's in our canon.
He goes altogether into the great books—all of him; he joins the aristocracy of the Apocrypha. And, I believe, nearly all the great plays of the world would have to join him there—Euripides and Sophocles, Schiller and Ibsen. Perhaps some speeches and such-like passages might be quoted in the canon, but that is all.
Our canon, remember, is to be the essential cementing stuff of our community, and nothing more. If once we admit merely beautiful and delightful things, then I see an overwhelming inrush of jewels and flowers. If we admit Midsummer Night's Dream, then I must insist that we also admit such lovely nonsense as:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
Our canon, I am afraid, cannot take in such things, and with the plays we must banish also all the novels—the greater books of such writers as Cervantes, Defoe, Dickens, Fielding, Tolstoy, Hardy, Hamsun, that great succession of writers. They are all good for "example of life and instruction of manners," and to the Apocrypha they must go. And so it is that since I would banish Romeo and Juliet I would also banish the Song of Songs; and, since I must put away Vanity Fair and the Shabby Genteel Story, I would also put away Esther and Ruth. And I find myself most reluctant to exclude not only novels written in English but one or two great sweeping books by non-English writers. It seems to me that Tolstoy's War and Peace and Hamsun's Growth of the Soil are books on an almost Biblical scale; that they deal with life so greatly as to come nearest to the idea of a universally inspiring and illuminating literature, which underlies the idea of our canon. If we put any whole novels into the canon I would plead for these. But I will not plead now even for these. I do not think any novels at all can go into our modern Bible as whole works. The possibility of long passages going in is, of course, quite a different matter.
Is It Too Much to Suggest That We Should Make Some Organized Attempt to Gather Up
Selections From the Philosophers
AND passing now from great plays and great novels and romances, we come to the still more difficult problem of great philosophical and critical works. Take Gulliver's Travels, an intense, dark, stirring criticism of life and social order, and the Dialogues of Plato, full of light and inspiration. In these latter we might quarry for beautiful passages for our canon, but I do not think we could take them in as wholes, and if we do not take them in as complete books, then I think that great Semitic parallel to these Greek dialogues, the Book of Job, must stand not in our canon but in the great book section of our Apocrypha.
And next we have to consider all the great epics in the world. There, again, I am for exclusion. This Bible we are considering must be universally available. If it is too bulky for universal use it loses its primary function of a moral cement. We cannot include Iliad, Norse saga, Æneid or Paradise Lost in our canon. Let them swell the great sack of our Apocrypha, and let the children read them if they will.
When one glances in this fashion over the accumulated literary resources of mankind it becomes plain that our canonical books of literature in this modern Bible of ours can be little more than an anthology or a group of anthologies. Perhaps they might be gathered under separate heads, as the Book of Freedom, the Book of Justice, the Book of Charity. And now, having done nothing as yet but reject, let me begin to accept. Let me quote a few samples of the kind of thing that would best serve the purpose of our Bible and that should certainly be included.
Place for Lincoln, Henley and Milton
HERE are words that every American knows by heart already—I would like every man in the world to know them by heart and to repeat them. It is Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and I will not spare you a word of it:
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
And here is something that might perhaps make another short chapter in the same Book of Freedom, but it deals with Freedom of a different sort:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
That, as you know, was Henley's, and as I turned up his volume of poems to copy out that poem I came again on these familiar lines:
The ways of Death are soothing and serene,
And all the words of Death are grave and sweet,
From camp and church, the fireside and the street,
She beckons forth—and strife and song have been.
A simmer's night descending cool and green
And dark on daytime's dust and stress and heat,
The ways of Death are soothing and serene,
And all the words of Death are grave and sweet.
There seems something in that also which I could spare only very reluctantly from a new Bible in the world. Yet I tender those lines very doubtfully. For I am not a very cultivated and well-read person, and note the things that have struck upon my mind, but I quite understand that there must be many things of the same sort, but better, that I have never encountered, or that I have not heard or read under circumstances that were favorable to their proper appreciation. I would rather say about what I am quoting in this section, not positively "this thing," but merely "this sort of thing."
Books Often Good to be Read for "Example of Life and Instruction of Manners"
And in the vein of "this sort of thing" let me quote you—again for the Book of Freedom—a passage from Milton, defending the ancient English tradition of free speech and free decision, and praising London and England. This London and England of which he boasts have broadened out, as the idea of Jerusalem has broadened out, to world-wide comprehensions. Let no false modesty blind us to our great tradition; you and I are still thinking in Milton's city; we continue, however unworthily, the great inheritance of the world-wide responsibility and service of his Englishmen. Here is my passage:
Now once again by all concurrence of signs, and by the general instinct of holy and devout men, as they daily and solemnly express their thoughts, God is decreeing to begin some new and great period in His Church, even to the reforming of reformation itself; what does He then but reveal Himself to His Servants, and, as His manner is, first to His Englishmen? I say, as His manner is, first to us, though we mark not the method of His counsels, and are unworthy. Behold now this vast city, a city of refuge, the mansion-house of liberty, encompassed and surrounded with His protection; the shop of war hath not there more anvils and hammers working, to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleaguered truth, than there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new notions and ideas wherewith to present, as with their homage and their fealty, the approaching reformation; others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement.
What could a man require more from a nation so pliant and so prone to seek after knowledge? What wants there to such a towardly and pregnant soil, but wise and faithful laborers, to make a knowing people, a nation of prophets, of sages, and of worthies? We reckon more than five months yet to harvest; there need not be five weeks, had we but eyes to lift up—the fields are white already. Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making. Under these fantastic terrors of sect and schism, we wrong the earnest and zealous thirst after knowledge and understanding, which God hath stirred up in this city. What some lament of, we rather should rejoice at, should rather praise this pious forwardness among men, to reassume the ill-deputed care of their religion into their own hands again. A little generous prudence, a little forbearance of one another, and some grain of charity might win all these diligencies to join and unite into one general and brotherly search after truth; could we but forego this prelatical tradition of crowding free consciences and Christian liberties into canons and precepts of men. I doubt not, if some great and worthy stranger should come among us, wise to discern the mold and temper of a people, and how to govern it, observing the high hopes and aims, the diligent alacrity of our extended thoughts and reasonings in the pursuance of truth and freedom, but that he would cry out as Pyrrhus did, admiring the Roman docility and courage: "If such were my Epirots, I would not despair the greatest design that could be attempted to make a church or kingdom happy."
Yet these are the men cried out against for schismatics and sectaries, as if, while the temple of the Lord was building, some cutting, some squaring the marble, others hewing the cedars, there should be a sort of irrational men, who could not consider there must be many schisms and many dissections made in the quarry and in the timber ere the house of God can be built. And when every stone is laid artfully together, it cannot be united into a continuity, it can but be contiguous in this world; neither can every piece of the building be of one form; nay, rather the perfection consists in this, that out of many moderate varieties and brotherly dissimilitudes that are not vastly disproportional arises the goodly and the graceful symmetry that commends the whole pile and structure.
But I will not go on turning over the pages of books and reciting prose and poetry to you. I cannot even begin to remind you of the immense treasure of noble and ennobling prose and verse that this world has accumulated in the past three thousand years. Not one soul in ten thousand that is born into this world even tastes from that store. For most of mankind now that treasure is as if it had never been. Is it too much to suggest that we should make some organized attempt to gather up the quintessence of literature now and make it accessible to the masses of our race? Why should we not with a certain breadth and dignity set about compiling the Poetic Books, the Books of Inspiration for a renewed Bible, for a Bible of Civilization? It seems to me that such a book made universally accessible, made a basis of teaching everywhere, could set the key of the whole world's thought.
the Quintessence of Literature Now and Make it Accessible to the Masses of Our Race?
Why Not a Book of Forecasts?
THERE remains one other element if we are to complete that parallelism of the old Bible and the new. The Christian Bible ends with a forecast, the book of Revelation; the Hebrew Bible ended also with forecasts, the Prophets. To that the old Bible owed much of its magic power over men's imaginations and the inspiration it gave them. It was not a dead record, not an accumulation of things finished and of songs sung. It pointed steadily and plainly to the days to come as the end and explanation of all that went before. So, too, our modern Bible, if it is to hold and rule the imaginations of men, must close, I think, with a Book of Forecasts.
We want to make our world think more than it does about the consequences of the lives it leads and the political deeds that it does and that it permits to be done. We want to turn the human imagination round again towards the future which our lives create. We want a collection and digest of forecasts and warnings to complete this modern Bible of ours. Now here I think you will say—and I admit with perfect reason—that I am floating away from any reasonable possibility at all. How can we have forecasts and prophecies of things that are happening now? Well, I will make a clean breast of it, and admit that I am asking for something that may be impossible. Nevertheless, it is something that is very necessary if men are to remain indeed intelligent, cooperating communities. In the past you will find where there have been orderly and successful communities the men in them had an idea of a destiny, of some object, something that would amount to a criterion and judgment upon their collective conduct. Well, I believe that we have to get back to something of that sort.
We have statesmen and politicians who profess to guide our destinies. Whither are they guiding our destinies?
Surely they have some idea. The great American statesmen and the great European statesmen are making to-morrow. What is the to-morrow they are making?
Prophets and Forecasters
They must have some idea of it. Otherwise they must be impostors. I am loath to believe them impostors, mere adventurers who have blundered into positions of power and honor with no idea of what they are doing to the world. But if they have an idea of what they are doing to the world, they foresee and intend a future. That, I take it, is sound reasoning and the inference is plain.
They ought to write down their ideas of this future before us. It would be helpful to all of us. It might be a very helpful exercise for them. It is, I think, reasonable for Americans to ask the great political personages of America, the President, and so forth, for example, whether they think the United States will stand alone in twenty-five years' time as they stand alone now. Or whether they think that there will be a greater United States—of all America—or of all the world. They must know their own will about that. And it is equally reasonable to ask the great political personages of the British Empire: What will Ireland be in twenty-five years' time? What will India be? There must be a plan, an intended thing. Otherwise these men have no intentions; otherwise they must be, in two words, dangerous fools. The sooner we substitute a type of man with a sufficient foresight and capable of articulate speech in the matter, the better for our race.
And again, every statesman and every politician throughout the world says that the relations of industrial enterprise to the labor it employs are unsatisfactory. Yes. But how are those relations going to develop? How do they mean them to develop?
Are we just drifting into an unknown darkness in all these matters, with blind leaders of our blindness? Or cannot a lot of these things be figured out by able and intelligent people? I put it to you that they can. That it is a reasonable and proper thing to ask our statesmen and politicians: What is going to happen to the world? What sort of better social order are you making for? What sort of world order are you creating? Let them open their minds to us; let them put upon permanent record the significance of all their intrigues and maneuvers. Then as they go on we can check their capacity and good faith. We can establish a control at last that will rule presidents and kings.
Now the answer to these questions for statesmen is what I mean by a Book of Forecasts. Such a book, I believe, is urgently needed to help our civilization. It is a book we ought all to possess and read. I know you will say that such a Book of Forecasts will be at first a preposterously insufficient book—that every year will show it up and make it more absurd. I quite agree. The first Book of Forecasts will be a poor thing. Miserably poor. So poor that people will presently clamor to have it thoroughly revised.
The revised Book of Forecasts will not be quite so bad. It will have been tested against realities. It will form the basis of a vast amount of criticism and discussion.
When again it comes to be revised it will be much nearer possible realities.
I put it to you that the psychology, the mentality, of a community that has a Book of Forecasts in hand and under watchful revision will be altogether steadier and stronger and clearer than that of a community which lives as we do to-day, mere adventurers, without foresight, in a world of catastrophes and accidents and unexpected things. We shall be living again in a plan. Our lives will be shaped to certain defined ends. We shall fall into place in a great scheme of activities. We shall recover again some or all of the steadfastness and dignity of the old religious life.
Let me, with this Book of Forecasts, round off my fantasy. I would picture to you this modern Bible, perhaps two or three times as bulky as the old Bible, and consisting first of:
The Historical Books, with maps and the like;
The Books of Conduct and Wisdom;
The Anthologies of Poetry and Literature; and, finally, the Book of Forecasts.
I would picture this Bible to you as most carefully done and printed, and made accessible to all, the basis of education in every school, the common platform of all discussion, just as in the past the old Bible used to be. I would ask you to imagine it translated into every language, a common material of understanding throughout all the world.
And, furthermore, I imagine something else about this—I imagine all of it periodically revised. The Historical Books would need to be revised and brought up to date; there would be new lights on wisdom and conduct, there would be fresh additions to the anthologies, and there would be forecasts that would have to be struck out because they were realized or because they were shown to be hopeless or undesirable, and fresh forecasts would be added to replace them.
It would be a Bible moving forward and changing, and gaining with human experience and human destiny.
Well, that is my dream of a Bible of civilization. Have I in any way carried my vision out to you, of this little row of four or five volumes in every house, in every life throughout the world, holding the lives and ideas and imaginations of men together in a net of common familiar phrases and common established hopes?
What it Would Cost
And is this a mere fantastic talk, or is this a thing that could be done and that ought to be done?
I do not know how it will appear to you, but to me it seems that this book I have been talking about—the Bible of to-day's civilization—is not simply a conceivable possibility; it is a great and urgent need. Our education is, I think, pointless without it—a shell without a core. Our social life is aimless without it; we are a crowd without a common understanding. Only by means of some such unifying instrument, I believe, can we hope to lift human life out of its present dangerous drift towards confusion and disaster.
It is, I think, therefore, an urgently desirable undertaking.
It is also a very practicable one. The creation of such a Bible, its printing and its translation, and a propaganda that would carry it into the homes and schools of most of the world, could, I think, all be achieved by a few hundred resolute and capable people at a cost of thirty to forty million dollars.
That is a less sum than that the United States, in a time when they have no enemy to fear in all the world, are prepared to spend upon the building of what is for them an entirely superfluous and extravagant toy—a great navy.
You may, you probably will, differ very widely upon much that I have here put before you. Let me ask you not to let any of the details of my sketching set you against the fundamental idea—that old creative idea of the Bohemian educationist who was the pupil of Bacon and the friend of Milton, the idea of Komensky—the idea of creating and using a common book, a book of knowledge and wisdom, as the necessary foundation for any enduring human unanimity.