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AMERICA FACES THE

FUTURE

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

FEW nations have been as self-conscious in their ideals as ours. Its birth was signalized by an explicit and passionate declaration of the principles that justified its separate existence and were to be its guiding-star. For approximately a century and a half that Declaration has received the wholehearted allegiance of our people and has drawn to our shores millions who saw in it the hope of salvation, the sign of the Promised Land.

This is, as the kaleidoscope of history turns, a long time for so specific a tradition to persist. The insti- . tutions and avowed ideals of Great Britain, of France, of most of the older nations, have undergone profound modification during this period within which our ideals have hardly been challenged. Germany and Italy are new nations, the other American republics are our younger sisters. We have seen within a generation revolutionary changes in national ideals in China, in Japan, and other ancient lands. The dominance of democratic ideals in Russia and the several mid-European nations is of yesterday. So that we, who were once the pioneer republic, are now the oldest, stablest, as well as the most prosperous; and probably the most truly conservative force in the life of the world.

There can be no doubt that this stability, this prosperity, this eminence which we have attained among the nations of the earth, is due in large measure to the spiritual vision of our fathers. Our success has indeed exceeded all expectations; and it is surely not without reason that Americans are proud of their country. But it is a rare event in history for such a vision to remain unclouded under the stress of internal and external strains, and the many temptations to a lower moral code. Not always have the noble sentiments of our Founders guided our national policies or our individual efforts. And in spite of the crusading spirit in which we entered the Great War, to make the whole world safe for such a democratic life as we had here established, there are many signs that a spiritual weariness has followed this patriotic fervor, and that all sorts of acts and attitudes inconsonant with our acknowledged ideals are increasingly prevalent.

M. Guizot once asked the poet Lowell, how long this republic would last; the reply was, “As long as the ideas of the men who founded it.” Certainly business prosperity and victory on the field of battle are no guaranty of any nation's future; the cardinal requisite is that its heart be sound, its moral fibre on a par with its material achievements. It may be said, of course, that other ideals than those which we have followed would lead us to an even greater destiny, and that we should substitute for Americanism the spirit, say, of international Socialism or Communism, or some other exotic theory and hope. Certainly there is much to be said for some of these alien ideals and dreams. But the substitution of such an untried program for the tested traditions that have been our guide would be to forsake a proved good for an uncertainty, a stable policy for a vaguely charted and dangerous course. By all means let these experiments be tried in lands where change is needed ; let us watch with sympathy and lend a helping hand. But for us there can be no hesitation. We know our own hearts, the path is straight before us. Our duty is still to follow the gleam that has led our people so far, and to bring to realization these long-cherished hopes.

Without arguing, then, the relative merits of Americanism as compared with other moral principles that have been adopted elsewhere, or can be conceived, it is for us to define as clearly as possible these ideals to which we, at least, are committed, and to seek to win for them, in this country, a universal and hearty allegiance. To break with them would be to plunge into chaos; we must grow in the line of our past. No party can possibly succeed here if it ignores the psychology and traditions of our people. And on the other hand, no essentially new ideals will be necessary if we are genuinely loyal to the old. If we can make men true Americans there will be no need for them to seek elsewhere for the impulse that will eventually solve our hardest problems. As Stanton Coit once wrote, “Convert men to democracy and you will have no occasion to convert them to socialism.”

It is unhappily true, however, that the word “Americanism” is often used as a cloak for selfish interests and a buffer against progress. As Roosevelt said, “There are plenty of scoundrels always ready to try to belittle reform movements or to bolster up existing iniquities in the name of Americanism.” More recently

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Professor John Dewey has called our attention to this situation: “I find that many who talk the loudest about the need of a supreme and unified Americanism of spirit really mean some special code or tradition to which they happen to be attached. They have some pet tradition which they would impose upon all.” A "League for Americanism" in one of our great States has recently been organized, apparently for the actual purpose of defeating health insurance and other "welfare” bills. An organizer of the League is quoted as saying to one of its paid lecturers, “The Americanism part of it is a joke. . . . You can go ahead and stir up sentiment on Americanism, and other men will follow after you to attend to the freak legislation."

This pseudo-patriotic propaganda is but a camouflage for the self-seeking of various selfish interests. Or it may be the expression of an instinctive hatred of aliens. We have lately seen, for example, foreign musicians of genius and refinement, men whose conduct and manners were irreproachable, humiliated and persecuted by those who call themselves “One hundred per cent Americans.” Surely, as the first commandment to the ancient Jews was, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain," so the first demand upon our honor should be not to use this name of ours that symbolizes the noblest and most unselfish aspirations except as our hearts are genuinely devoted to those ends.

No doubt, much of this reactionary spirit is honestly deemed American by its possessors. Washington and Hamilton were reviled as un-American by the Jeffersonians, Lincoln by the anti-abolitionists, Roosevelt by the stand-patters. Any reformer who seeks to bring about, even by the most legitimate and peaceful means, better political or industrial arrangements is looked at askance by those who think that wisdom came to an end with the passing of their fathers. This complacency, this stubborn inertia, is, on the contrary, the most dangerous foe of the true American spirit, which has always been adventurous, forward-looking, liberative of new energies and a growing hope. We can not advance by breaking with our traditions; but we must forever be applying these great traditions to the new situations that arise, and discovering new meanings in their well-worn words. If Americanism meant the petrifying of our social order in Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century grooves, then, indeed, we should do well to turn to other creeds, or found a new tradition for ourselves.

The fact is, however, that the dreams of our fathers, embodied in their memorable phrases, have never yet been more than half realized. It is for us to carry on the work of actualizing these dreams, of working out into practice what was for them a hope and an ideal. Our history has been a zigzag, bungling experiment in self-government. Democracy is a simple concept, but extraordinarily difficult to live up to. We need continually to renew our faith in it and to attack the dangers which still beset it and threaten to make it little more than a name. We must beware the spirit, then, that would consecrate our mistakes as well as our achievements, or look upon the task that our fathers began as completed. Those fathers of ours had great courage and a clear vision of the road that leads to man's social salvation. But all they could do was to make a start. If we have caught their spirit we shall not sit still, content with their work. On the contrary, as our own poet wrote, "New occasions teach new duties”; it is yet a long task to

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