Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

from men, I note the changing attitude of men towards me as time transpires. Communion with Nature results in the deification of the ego. Perhaps that is why most of the great religious leaders were shepherds, learning to fancy greatness through solitude. It is comforting to conceive yourself as of surpassing greatness, but such conception does not tend to reconcile you with the humbler appraisal of your friends. It may make of you a poet, as it did of David; but, as the German has it, "der Dichter wandelt einsam durch das Leben." Nature cannot take the place of men and books. All three are necessary to me, but the first two most of all. They act as a check on undue inflation, a check that will help much in one's relations with others.

I have written in brief of men and books and Nature. I have indicated that plenty of the last will not compensate for lack of the other two. I have sought to place men above all. I must admit that it is with regard to them that my troubles are greatest. Why? It is the penalty for being a Harvard man, for being "educated." The accepted oracles of the town shun me, lest I expose their fallacies. They, to whom applies the line "a little learning is a dangerous thing," at my approach, grow cold and silent.

I am suffering the penalty for being thought wise. Why I should be thought so, I cannot say. No one has put me to the test, so far as I know. Why should the mere fact that I am a student at a university, where wise and foolishly credulous, educable and uneducable, equally congregate, make me a scholar of authority? should I feel superior to those in whom native wisdom quite overbalances any possible lack of education? I do not. When a man becomes so learned that he can no longer derive pleasure from the company of the wise untutored, he is indeed in a pitiable state.

Why

The majority of our people are intellectual snobs. The bookkeeper, though his balance sheet be ever so faulty, knows too much to consort with the farm laborer; the librarian finds both impossible. And so it goes in never ending circles, upward and onward, till finally we reach those who acknowledge the existence of no superior, even denying the existence of a God that might outshine them. Poor fools these, poorer even than the despised farmhand, for his opinion at least is sincere, while those of the godless wretch are too self-centered to be even decent.

In the minds of those who have never had the gates of knowledge opened for them, education and aloofness are the same thing. They feel the assumed superiority of the informed man, and are at once repelled. In the magnetic field of life, he is the North pole and they are the South. And he of the North must move southerly before attraction can take place, for while the field is between them attraction is impossible. I have been moving in a southerly direction every summer for several years, but the field is large. Failure has been my portion. I am suffering the penalty of a wisdom greater than I possess, but I am not permitted even to reveal my ignorance.

This will be my last summer in the country. I thought I could overcome my old friends' diffidence, but it is impossible. Hereafter I shall go to places where I am not known, where that terrible accusation of "superior being" will not be tied about my neck. My education has failed to make me loved. It has therefore failed miserably, for it is better by far to be loved than to pose as an unopened encyclopedia. Faust was right.

Durchaus studiert mit heissem Bemühn,

Da steh ich nun, ich armer Tor,
Und bin so klug als wie zuvor!

THE "SECOND NOTE" TO GERMANY AND MR. BRYAN'S RESIGNATION

T

HE Administration's second note to Germany, on questions arising from the destruction of the Lusitania, opens many opportunities for prolonged diplomatic discussion, and there is no reason, at the present writing, for not believing that Germany will avail herself of these obvious openings. For why not? Germany has all along shown an intense desire to win American approval. Her methods have not always been well calculated to secure that end, but her very irritation over what she believes to be a prevailing anti-German sentiment, shows the keenness of her desire to be favorably regarded by the people of the United States.

She would still like to sell some at least of those interned boats. She must realize that President Wilson is still strongly committed to his shippurchase program, and that he can do nothing with Congress on that subject, unless war-zone concessions are made. It is not likely that the United States will refuse to compromise those phases of the question that do not interfere with the success of the Wilson shippurchase plan. For our Mexican negotiations have shown that the President has never been eager to embroil the country in behalf of American citizens who allow their business, or pleasure, to carry them into situations of danger. So long as the discussion continues, the full effect of all that Germany hoped to reap by the destruction of the Lusitania, will be operative. The state of uncertainty will cut ocean travel to England a good 50 per cent. President Wilson will be anxious to bring the discussion to a close before the assembling of Congress. He will wish to bring up his ship-purchase scheme with a clear road. He realizes that there is a

strong pro-German element in Congress, and also that Mr. Bryan is very influential among a certain group there. For these reasons the acute stage of the negotiation is likely to be reached in the late Fall, when the opening sessions of Congress are drawing near, and the President is beginning to feel nervous. Just at present we may look forward, with reasonable certainty, to a prolonged discussion, in polite and even amicable

tones.

When the hour for final settlement arrives, it is not impossible that events, rather than changed ideas, may effect an easy adjustment. But if, on the other hand, in the progress of events, the pinch of the British and French blockade becomes more acute, and there are signs that German submarine retaliation is effective, the situation is likely to become very difficult to handle.

But our concern at present is with a more subtile danger—that of a further lapse from strict neutrality on the part of American sentiment. That there has been such a lapse it is unhappily impossible to deny, and in that lies our only serious danger of war. War arises from the passions, rarely indeed from the reason of men. Our country today does not desire war. It is thoroughly opposed to the idea of the participation of the United States in the war. That attitude is our present safety. If the slow alteration of sympathies observable in the past few months continues, and we become more and more partisan in our attitude, there is the gravest danger of our becoming embroiled. Any phase or temporary difficulty of the diplomatic discussion may in that case become a signal for an upflaming of the war spirit, that the administration may be unable to quell.

For this reason we deprecate that portion of the President's note which places the contention of the United States on the broad ground of humanity. Not but that this is a proper ground, in itself considered, but the case, as a question of international law, is quite strong enough, and the suggestion of an offense against humanity cannot but be irritating to German sentiment, while it adds to the flames of American hostility to German war methods. We fear that before the question is entirely settled, that phase of the contention of the United States may cause quite unnecessary difficulty.

It is true that in no part of the "note" was the President more fully supported by public opinion in the United States, but it is not so clear that this sentiment does perfect justice to Germany, or that our information is entirely unbiased. Least of all have we ground for supposing that there was intentional inhumanity in the sinking of the Lusitania. It may very well be that the German Admiralty, and the officers of the attacking submarines believe that the passengers would be saved, from so great a ship, when they have, in most cases, been saved from much smaller ones that have been attacked in the same manner. I do not seek to defend the sinking of the Lusitania. I do think that we have a sufficient case on recognized principles of international law, without adding an irritating accusation.

As to the general subject of the alleged inhumanity of German soldiers, we must bear in mind that German governmental methods, as applied to their own people, might seem to us inhumane, and to them eminently humane. It is the German way for the Government to compel, by the most ruthless severity, the doing of those things which the Government thinks the people ought to do for their own good. That is, in their eyes, humanity. In other words, the intention of such conduct is humane. This attitude, so difficult for us to understand,

has well nigh obliterated poverty from the German empire. The same method, applied even more ruthlessly, and with military brusqueness, is, without doubt, responsible for most of the stories of German brutality. The cases of actual barbarism may well and safely be regarded as individual acts, and exceptional.

I state these things in this connection, because I believe that it is quite possible that the Lusitania incident may be closed, without conflict and without prejudice to American neutrality, if our people do not become imbued with too partisan an attitude.

But little comment is necessary as to Mr. Bryan's resignation. It is superfluous to doubt his sincerity. It seems to be one of the those cases where an action falls short of the heroic by just that narrow margin which makes it ridiculous. On the other hand, it is not impossible that the progress of events will confer upon it that very heroism which it seems to have missed by its insufficient reason. Mr. Bryan's talk seems likely to add to the unenviable weakness of his position.

The press of the country has been very steady under the excitement. There has been some overshooting of the mark, and but little of that calmness and high seriousness which might be desired in so grave a matter. Mr. Bryan has been spoken of more insultingly than the case calls for. His action has not strengthened any disposition of Germany to resist us. It has had no effect whatever. The Germans do not understand it. Mr. Bryan has been lending a willing ear to the ultrapeace men of the country. They have had him on the 'phone continually. He has been their man in the administration. He has been too much under their influence. His action appears now quixotic, but that seems to be the worst that can be justly said about it. With the intemperate and insulting tone of many papers, I have no sympathy. I do not believe that they are any more patriotic than those who

are less anxious to make a parade of their patriotism. It is even not impossible that Mr. Bryan's act, foolish and quixotic as it seems to be, has set the nation to thinking, put the administration more on its mettle to avoid war, and accomplished thus indirectly some good, by which its sincerity will have in some measure atoned for its folly.

Let us not forsake our neutral attitude. Let us not be unjust to a great people who are making heroic sacrifices, and fighting with the utmost devotion for what they seem to believe is right. Neutrality is not only righteous, it is to our interest. For who shall say but that we may have to fight much harder, and with sterner weapons than diplomacy, for that freedom of the seas which the warzone seems to threaten, if it so be that

one side or the other shall gain a pronounced victory in this war. The best interests of the United States call for a balance of power in Europe. Under the long maintenance of a balance of power we have flourished and been at peace with the world. It is not so clear that we will flourish so freely, or remain at peace so generally, if that balance of power is broken.

Needless to say the situation rises far above all issues of partisan politics. The President should have our earnest sympathy and the guidance of our truest thought, our "support," as it is called. But in supporting him, may we not emphasize, that while loyal in any eventuality, our preference is for peace and for the strict maintenance of that neutrality which he has thus far consistently upheld.

[ocr errors]

THAT TWO-BILLION-DOLLAR CONGRESS

HOSE who would do business with Uncle Sam must expect rather shabby treatment; least of all must they take offence when they find themselves under surveillance as suspicious characters. Our amiable government that squanders its billions with easy prodigality, practices more petty, cheese-paring methods than any other great financial institution in the world. By unbroken tradition, its daily routine is organized on the happy assumption that everyone is a thief. Government settles a ten dollar account by ponderous machineries, whereby the public is supposed to be automatically protected from fraud, and whereby to a certainty the cost of the transaction. is doubled and trebled. But he who desires a Million Dollars from the same source, is at once welcomed behind the counter, where the till is always open.

Our people, accustomed in their private affairs to broader and sounder

ways of doing business, have come to look upon this governmental ponderosity and extravagance, with increasing irritation. During President Taft's administration a thoughtful beginning had been made of a complete revolution of the method of making up Government estimates and appropriations. A Senate Committee, of which Senator Jonathan Bourne, Jr., was chairman, and Senators Aldrich, Carter, Root and Hughes were members, drafted a bill creating a governmental business methods commission. In an able article in the "Outlook" of October 9th, 1909, Senator Bourne began a campaign of education that the country might understand the necessity and nature of such a change as was desired. This article is still very live matter, and should have a wide reading. At the beginning of the present administration, therefore, the time was ripe for reform. The country was led to believe that such reforms

1

would be instantly inaugurated. No shortcoming of the administration is more disappointing to its friends than the failure to keep this pledge, a failure that it is very difficult not to lay at the door of the President and his Cabinet. They had the power. Their pledge was explicit. The time was ripe. How many toiling farmers and anxious men of business, how many struggling heads of families, read with eager hope and deep approval the strong pronouncement of the Democratic platform on this subject. "WE DENOUNCE THE PROFLIGATE WASTE OF THE MONEY WRUNG FROM THE PEOPLE BY OPPRESSIVE TAXATION THROUGH THE LAVISH APPROPRIATIONS OF RECENT REPUBLICAN CONGRESSES, WHICH HAVE KEPT TAXES HIGH, AND REDUCED THE PURCHASING POWER OF THE PEOPLE'S TOIL. WE DEMAND A RETURN TO THAT SIMPLICITY AND ECONOMY WHICH BEFITS A DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT, AND A REDUCTION IN THE NUMBER OF USELESS OFFICERS, THE SAL

ARIES OF WHICH DRAIN THE SUBSTANCE OF THE PEOPLE."

The administration's legislative program called upon the business of the country to make many privations in the interest of a Democratic fiscal regime and "reform" laws. These privations rendered only the more insistent the demand for governmental economy. Then came the European war. Private citizens realized that searching scrutiny of their expense accounts and radical retrenchments were necessary to avert financial disaster. Government revenues were disappointing and the administration was forced to impose new taxes. In such a situation, extravagance, indifferent and wilful, on the part of the Government, seemed unthinkable. The expectation of radical reform was universal, and that expectation was one of the sources of the strength of

the administration with its friends and with the people.

Congress dragged out an interminable session. The hour of adjournment drew near. The country, although many had begun to observe with nervous suspicion the steady decline of the Treasury reserve, was wholly unprepared for the revelations of the long-delayed appropriation bills. But the true state of affairs no longer could be withheld. The Secretary of the Treasury submitted, for the Departments estimates of unprecedented magnitude. The figures rolled up into such appalling totals that it soon became evident that a new record for wild extravagance was being registered. There was a quick scurrying to cover, an effort to mitigate the truth, to conceal it, to do a little paring here and there-to forget. Absolutely essential items were omitted from important department estimates. The lame expedient of continuation bills was adopted to bridge the gap until the next session of Congress. The Treasury reserve was found to be below the danger mark. An inevitable deficiency loomed large and threatening in the immediate future. Like a prodigal, his portion spent, Congress melted silently away. The session was ended! The greatest financial debauch ever indulged in by our national government was over-all but the aftermath.

The appropriation bills were left in such an uncertain condition and handled in such an unbusinesslike manner that it is difficult to estimate the full total of this monumental wastefulness. Congressman Fitzgerald is authority for the figures which we shall quote. So far as we have seen, no one has undertaken to contradict them. They seem to be well within the truth. In accordance with these figures, the total appropriations of this first Democratic Congress have been about $2,231,000,000,-not So far from the total cost of the four years of the civil war. There is no use in trying to imagine a Billion Dol

« AnteriorContinuar »