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The American Population


Sec. 1

The social conditions and social future of America constitute a system
of problems quite distinct and separate from the social problems of any
other part of the world. The nearest approach to parallel conditions,
and that on a far smaller and narrower scale, is found in the British
colonies and in the newly settled parts of Siberia. For while in nearly
every other part of the world the population of to-day is more or less
completely descended from the prehistoric population of the same region,
and has developed its social order in a slow growth extending over many
centuries, the American population is essentially a transplanted
population, a still fluid and imperfect fusion of great fragments torn
at this point or that from the gradually evolved societies of Europe.
The European social systems grow and flower upon their roots, in soil
which has made them and to which they are adapted. The American social
accumulation is a various collection of cuttings thrust into a new soil
and respiring a new air, so different that the question is still open to
doubt, and indeed there are those who do doubt, how far these cuttings
are actually striking root and living and growing, whether indeed they
are destined to more than a temporary life in the new hemisphere. I
propose to discuss and weigh certain arguments for and against the
belief that these ninety million people who constitute the United
States of America are destined to develop into a great distinctive
nation with a character and culture of its own.

Humanly speaking, the United States of America (and the same is true of
Canada and all the more prosperous, populous and progressive regions of
South America) is a vast sea of newly arrived and unstably rooted
people. Of the seventy-six million inhabitants recorded by the 1900
census, ten and a half million were born and brought up in one or other
of the European social systems, and the parents of another twenty-six
millions were foreigners. Another nine million are of African negro
descent. Fourteen million of the sixty-five million native-born are
living not in the state of their birth, but in other states to which
they have migrated. Of the thirty and a half million whites whose
parents on both sides were native Americans, a high proportion probably
had one if not more grand-parents foreign-born. Nearly five and a half
million out of thirty-three and a half million whites in 1870 were
foreign-born, and another five and a quarter million the children of
foreign-born parents. The children of the latter five and a quarter
million count, of course, in the 1900 census as native-born of native
parents. Immigration varies enormously with the activity of business,
but in 1906 it rose for the first time above a million.

These figures may be difficult to grasp. The facts may be seen in a more
concrete form by the visitor to Ellis Island, the receiving station for
the immigrants into New York Harbour. One goes to this place by tugs
from the United States barge office in Battery Park, and in order to see
the thing properly one needs a letter of introduction to the
commissioner in charge. Then one is taken through vast barracks littered
with people of every European race, every type of low-class European
costume, and every degree of dirtiness, to a central hall in which the
gist of the examining goes on. The floor of this hall is divided up into
a sort of maze of winding passages between lattice work, and along these
passages, day after day, incessantly, the immigrants go, wild-eyed
Gipsies, Armenians, Greeks, Italians, Ruthenians, Cossacks, German
peasants, Scandinavians, a few Irish still, impoverished English,
occasional Dutch; they halt for a moment at little desks to exhibit
papers, at other little desks to show their money and prove they are not
paupers, to have their eyes scanned by this doctor and their general
bearing by that. Their thumb-marks are taken, their names and heights
and weights and so forth are recorded for the card index; and so,
slowly, they pass along towards America, and at last reach a little
wicket, the gate of the New World. Through this metal wicket drips the
immigration stream--all day long, every two or three seconds, an
immigrant with a valise or a bundle, passes the little desk and goes on
past the well-managed money-changing place, past the carefully organised
separating ways that go to this railway or that, past the guiding,
protecting officials--into a new world. The great majority are young men
and young women between seventeen and thirty, good, youthful, hopeful
peasant stock. They stand in a long string, waiting to go through that
wicket, with bundles, with little tin boxes, with cheap portmanteaus
with odd packages, in pairs, in families, alone, women with children,
men with strings of dependents, young couples. All day that string of
human beads waits there, jerks forward, waits again; all day and every
day, constantly replenished, constantly dropping the end beads through
the wicket, till the units mount to hundreds and the hundreds to
thousands.... In such a prosperous year as 1906 more immigrants passed
through that wicket into America than children were born in the whole of
France.

This figure of a perpetual stream of new stranger citizens will serve to
mark the primary distinction between the American social problem and
that of any European or Asiatic community.

The vast bulk of the population of the United States has, in fact, only
got there from Europe in the course of the last hundred years, and
mainly since the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne of Great
Britain. That is the first fact that the student of the American social
future must realise. Only an extremely small proportion of its blood
goes back now to those who fought for freedom in the days of George
Washington. The American community is not an expanded colonial society
that has become autonomous. It is a great and deepening pool of
population accumulating upon the area these predecessors freed, and
since fed copiously by affluents from every European community. Fresh
ingredients are still being added in enormous quantity, in quantity so
great as to materially change the racial quality in a score of years. It
is particularly noteworthy that each accession of new blood seems to
sterilise its predecessors. Had there been no immigration at all into
the United States, but had the rate of increase that prevailed in
1810-20 prevailed to 1900, the population, which would then have been a
purely native American one, would have amounted to a hundred
million--that is to say, to approximately nine million in excess of the
present total population. The new waves are for a time amazingly fecund,
and then comes a rapid fall in the birth-rate. The proportion of
colonial and early republican blood in the population is, therefore,
probably far smaller even than the figures I have quoted would suggest.

These accesses of new population have come in a series of waves, very
much as if successive reservoirs of surplus population in the Old World
had been tapped, drained and exhausted. First came the Irish and
Germans, then Central Europeans of various types, then Poland and
Western Russia began to pour out their teeming peoples, and more
particularly their Jews, Bohemia, the Slavonic states, Italy and Hungary
followed and the latest arrivals include great numbers of Levantines,
Armenians and other peoples from Asia Minor and the Balkan Peninsula.
The Hungarian immigrants have still a birth-rate of forty-six per
thousand, the highest birth-rate in the world.

A considerable proportion of the Mediterranean arrivals, it has to be
noted, and more especially the Italians, do not come to settle. They
work for a season or a few years, and then return to Italy. The rest
come to stay.

A vast proportion of these accessions to the American population since
1840 has, with the exception of the East European Jews, consisted of
peasantry, mainly or totally illiterate, accustomed to a low standard of
life and heavy bodily toil. For most of them the transfer to a new
country meant severance from the religious communion in which they had
been bred and from the servilities or subordinations to which they were
accustomed They brought little or no positive social tradition to the
synthesis to which they brought their blood and muscle.

The earlier German, English and Scandinavian incomers were drawn from a
somewhat higher social level, and were much more closely akin in habits
and faith to the earlier founders of the Republic.

Our inquiry is this: What social structure is this pool of mixed
humanity developing or likely to develop?


Sec. 2

If we compare any European nation with the American, we perceive at once
certain broad differences. The former, in comparison with the latter, is
evolved and organised; the latter, in comparison with the former, is
aggregated and chaotic. In nearly every European country there is a
social system often quite elaborately classed and defined; each class
with a sense of function, with an idea of what is due to it and what is
expected of it. Nearly everywhere you find a governing class,
aristocratic in spirit, sometimes no doubt highly modified by recent
economic and industrial changes, with more or less of the tradition of a
feudal nobility, then a definite great mercantile class, then a large
self-respecting middle class of professional men, minor merchants, and
so forth, then a new industrial class of employees in the manufacturing
and urban districts, and a peasant population rooted to the land. There
are, of course, many local modifications of this form: in France the
nobility is mostly expropriated; in England, since the days of John
Bull, the peasant has lost his common rights and his holding, and become
an "agricultural labourer" to a newer class of more extensive farmer.
But these are differences in detail; the fact of the organisation, and
the still more important fact of the traditional feeling of
organisation, remain true of all these older communities.

And in nearly every European country, though it may be somewhat
despoiled here and shorn of exclusive predominance there, or represented
by a dislocated "reformed" member, is the Church, custodian of a great
moral tradition, closely associated with the national universities and
the organisation of national thought. The typical European town has its
castle or great house, its cathedral or church, its middle-class and
lower-class quarters. Five miles off one can see that the American town
is on an entirely different plan. In his remarkable "American Scene,"
Mr. Henry James calls attention to the fact that the Church as one sees
it and feels it universally in Europe is altogether absent, and he adds
a comment as suggestive as it is vague. Speaking of the appearance of
the Churches, so far as they do appear amidst American urban scenery, he
says:

"Looking for the most part no more established or
seated than a stopped omnibus, they are reduced to the
inveterate bourgeois level (that of private, accommodated
pretensions merely), and fatally despoiled of the fine old
ecclesiastical arrogance, ... The field of American life is
as bare of the Church as a billiard-table of a centre-piece; a
truth that the myriad little structures 'attended' on Sundays
and on the 'off' evenings of their 'sociables' proclaim as
with the audible sound of the roaring of a million mice....

"And however one indicates one's impression of the
clearance, the clearance itself, in its completeness, with the
innumerable odd connected circumstances that bring it
home, represents, in the history of manners and morals, a
deviation in the mere measurement of which hereafter may
well reside a certain critical thrill. I say hereafter because
it is a question of one of those many measurements that
would as yet, in the United States, be premature. Of all
the solemn conclusions one feels as 'barred,' the list is quite
headed in the States, I think, by this particular abeyance
of judgment. When an ancient treasure of precious vessels,
overscored with glowing gems and wrought artistically into
wondrous shapes, has, by a prodigious process, been converted
through a vast community into the small change,
the simple circulating medium of dollars and 'nickels,' we
can only say that the consequent permeation will be of
values of a new order. Of _what_ order we must wait to
see."

America has no Church. Neither has it a peasantry nor an aristocracy,
and until well on in the Victorian epoch it had no disproportionately
rich people.

In America, except in the regions where the negro abounds, there is no
lower stratum. There is no "soil people" to this community at all; your
bottom-most man is a mobile freeman who can read, and who has ideas
above digging and pigs and poultry-keeping, except incidentally for his
own ends. No one owns to subordination As a consequence, any position
which involves the acknowledgment of an innate inferiority is difficult
to fill; there is, from the European point of view, an extraordinary
dearth of servants, and this endures in spite of a great peasant
immigration. The servile tradition will not root here now; it dies
forthwith. An enormous importation of European serfs and peasants goes
on, but as they touch this soil their backs begin to stiffen with a new
assertion.

And at the other end of the scale, also, one misses an element. There
is no territorial aristocracy, no aristocracy at all, no throne, no
legitimate and acknowledged representative of that upper social
structure of leisure, power and State responsibility which in the old
European theory of Society was supposed to give significance to the
whole. The American community, one cannot too clearly insist, does not
correspond to an entire European community at all, but only to the
middle masses of it, to the trading and manufacturing class between the
dimensions of the magnate and the clerk and skilled artisan. It is the
central part of the European organism without either the dreaming head
or the subjugated feet. Even the highly feudal slave-holding "county
family" traditions of Virginia and the South pass now out of memory. So
that in a very real sense the past of the American nation is in Europe,
and the settled order of the past is left behind there. This community
was, as it were, taken off its roots, clipped of its branches, and
brought hither. It began neither serf nor lord, but burgher and farmer;
it followed the normal development of the middle class under Progress
everywhere and became capitalistic. The huge later immigration has
converged upon the great industrial centres and added merely a vast
non-servile element of employees to the scheme.

America has been and still very largely is a one-class country. It is a
great sea of human beings detached from their traditions of origin. The
social difference from Europe appears everywhere, and nowhere more
strikingly than in the railway carriages. In England the compartments in
these are either "first class," originally designed for the aristocracy,
or "second class," for the middle class, or "third class," for the
populace. In America there is only one class, one universal simple
democratic car. In the Southern States, however, a proportion of these
simple democratic cars are inscribed with the word "White," whereby nine
million people are excluded. But to this original even-handed treatment
there was speedily added a more sumptuous type of car, the parlour car,
accessible to extra dollars; and then came special types of train, all
made up of parlour cars and observation cars and the like. In England
nearly every train remains still first, second and third, or first and
third. And now, quite outdistancing the differentiation of England,
America produces private cars and private trains, such as Europe
reserves only for crowned heads.

The evidence of the American railways, then, suggests very strongly what
a hundred other signs confirm, that the huge classless sea of American
population is not destined to remain classless, is already developing
separations and distinctions and structures of its own. And monstrous
architectural portents in Boston and Salt Lake City encourage one to
suppose that even that churchless aspect, which so stirred the
speculative element in Mr. Henry James, is only the opening formless
phase of a community destined to produce not only classes but
intellectual and moral forms of the most remarkable kind.


Sec. 3

It is well to note how these ninety millions of people whose social
future we are discussing are distributed. This huge development of human
appliances and resources is here going on in a community that is still,
for all the dense crowds of New York, the teeming congestion of East
Side, extraordinarily scattered. America, one recalls, is still an
unoccupied country across which the latest developments of civilisation
are rushing. We are dealing here with a continuous area of land which
is, leaving Alaska out of account altogether, equal to Great Britain,
France, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Italy, Belgium,
Japan, Holland, Spain and Portugal, Sweden and Norway, Turkey in Europe,
Egypt and the whole Empire of India, and the population spread out over
this vast space is still less than the joint population of the first two
countries named and not a quarter that of India.

Moreover, it is not spread at all evenly. Much of it is in undistributed
clots. It is not upon the soil; barely half of it is in holdings and
homes and authentic communities. It is a population of an extremely
modern type. Urban concentration has already gone far with it; fifteen
millions of it are crowded into and about twenty great cities, another
eighteen millions make up five hundred towns. Between these centres of
population run railways indeed, telegraph wires, telephone connections,
tracks of various sorts, but to the European eye these are mere
scratchings on a virgin surface. An empty wilderness manifests itself
through this thin network of human conveniences, appears in the meshes
even at the railroad side.

Essentially, America is still an unsettled land, with only a few
incidental good roads in favoured places, with no universal police, with
no wayside inns where a civilised man may rest, with still only the
crudest of rural postal deliveries, with long stretches of swamp and
forest and desert by the track side, still unassailed by industry. This
much one sees clearly enough eastward of Chicago. Westward it becomes
more and more the fact. In Idaho, at last, comes the untouched and
perhaps invincible desert, plain and continuous through the long hours
of travel. Huge areas do not contain one human being to the square mile,
still vaster portions fall short of two....

It is upon Pennsylvania and New York State and the belt of great towns
that stretches out past Chicago to Milwaukee and Madison that the nation
centres and seems destined to centre. One needs but examine a tinted
population map to realise that. The other concentrations are provincial
and subordinate; they have the same relation to the main axis that
Glasgow or Cardiff have to London in the British scheme.


Sec. 4

When I speak of this vast multitude, these ninety millions of the United
States of America as being for the most part peasants de-peasant-ised
and common people cut off from their own social traditions, I do not
intend to convey that the American community is as a whole
traditionless. There is in America a very distinctive tradition indeed,
which animates the entire nation, gives a unique idiom to its press and
all its public utterances, and is manifestly the starting point from
which the adjustments of the future must be made.

The mere sight of the stars and stripes serves to recall it; "Yankee" in
the mouth of a European gives something of its quality. One thinks at
once of a careless abandonment of any pretension, of tireless energy
and daring enterprise, of immense self-reliance, of a disrespect for the
past so complete that a mummy is in itself a comical object, and the
blowing out of an ill-guarded sacred flame, a delightful jest. One
thinks of the enterprise of the sky-scraper and the humour of "A Yankee
at the Court of King Arthur," and of "Innocents Abroad." Its dominant
notes are democracy, freedom, and confidence. It is religious-spirited
without superstition consciously Christian in the vein of a nearly
Unitarian Christianity, fervent but broadened, broadened as a halfpenny
is broadened by being run over by an express train, substantially the
same, that is to say, but with a marked loss of outline and detail. It
is a tradition of romantic concession to good and inoffensive women and
a high development of that personal morality which puts sexual
continence and alcoholic temperance before any public virtue. It is
equally a tradition of sporadic emotional public-spiritedness, entirely
of the quality of gallantry, of handsome and surprising gifts to the
people, disinterested occupation of office and the like. It is
emotionally patriotic, hypotheticating fighting and dying for one's
country as a supreme good while inculcating also that working and living
for oneself is quite within the sphere of virtuous action. It adores the
flag but suspects the State. One sees more national flags and fewer
national servants in America than in any country in the world. Its
conception of manners is one of free plain-spoken men revering women and
shielding them from most of the realities of life, scornful of
aristocracies and monarchies, while asserting simply, directly, boldly
and frequently an equal claim to consideration with all other men. If
there is any traditional national costume, it is shirt-sleeves. And it
cherishes the rights of property above any other right whatsoever.

Such are the details that come clustering into one's mind in response to
the phrase, the American tradition.

From the War of Independence onward until our own times that tradition,
that very definite ideal, has kept pretty steadily the same. It is the
image of a man and not the image of a State. Its living spirit has been
the spirit of freedom at any cost, unconditional and irresponsible. It
is the spirit of men who have thrown off a yoke, who are jealously
resolved to be unhampered masters of their "own," to whom nothing else
is of anything but secondary importance. That was the spirit of the
English small gentry and mercantile class, the comfortable property
owners, the Parliamentarians, in Stuart times. Indeed even earlier, it
is very largely the spirit of More's "Utopia." It was that spirit sent
Oliver Cromwell himself packing for America, though a heedless and
ill-advised and unforeseeing King would not let him go. It was the
spirit that made taxation for public purposes the supreme wrong and
provoked each country, first the mother country and then in its turn the
daughter country, to armed rebellion. It has been the spirit of the
British Whig and the British Nonconformist almost up to the present day.
In the Reform Club of London, framed and glazed over against Magna
Charta, is the American Declaration of Independence, kindred trophies
they are of the same essentially English spirit of stubborn
insubordination. But the American side of it has gone on unchecked by
the complementary aspect of the English character which British Toryism
expresses.

The War of Independence raised that Whig suspicion of and hostility to
government and the freedom of private property and the repudiation of
any but voluntary emotional and supererogatory co-operation in the
national purpose to the level of a religion, and the American
Constitution with but one element of elasticity in the Supreme Court
decisions, established these principles impregnably in the political
structure. It organised disorganisation. Personal freedom, defiance of
authority, and the stars and stripes have always gone together in men's
minds; and subsequent waves of immigration, the Irish fleeing famine,
for which they held the English responsible, and the Eastern European
Jews escaping relentless persecutions, brought a persuasion of immense
public wrongs, as a necessary concomitant of systematic government, to
refresh without changing this defiant thirst for freedom at any cost.

In my book, "The Future in America," I have tried to make an estimate of
the working quality of this American tradition of unconditional freedom
for the adult male citizen. I have shown that from the point of view of
anyone who regards civilisation as an organisation of human
interdependence and believes that the stability of society can be
secured only by a conscious and disciplined co-ordination of effort, it
is a tradition extraordinarily and dangerously deficient in what I have
called a "_sense of the State_." And by a "sense of the State" I mean
not merely a vague and sentimental and showy public-spiritedness--of
that the States have enough and to spare--but a real sustaining
conception of the collective interest embodied in the State as an object
of simple duty and as a determining factor in the life of each
individual. It involves a sense of function and a sense of "place," a
sense of a general responsibility and of a general well-being
overriding the individual's well-being, which are exactly the senses the
American tradition attacks and destroys.

For the better part of a century the American tradition, quite as much
by reason of what it disregards as of what it suggests, has meant a
great release of human energy, a vigorous if rough and untidy
exploitation of the vast resources that the European invention of
railways and telegraphic communication put within reach of the American
people. It has stimulated men to a greater individual activity, perhaps,
than the world has ever seen before. Men have been wasted by
misdirection no doubt, but there has been less waste by inaction and
lassitude than was the case in any previous society. Great bulks of
things and great quantities of things have been produced, huge areas
brought under cultivation, vast cities reared in the wilderness.

But this tradition has failed to produce the beginnings or promise of
any new phase of civilised organisation, the growths have remained
largely invertebrate and chaotic, and, concurrently with its gift of
splendid and monstrous growth, it has also developed portentous
political and economic evils. No doubt the increment of human energy has
been considerable, but it has been much less than appears at first
sight. Much of the human energy that America has displayed in the last
century is not a development of new energy but a diversion. It has been
accompanied by a fall in the birth-rate that even the immigration
torrent has not altogether replaced. Its insistence on the individual,
its disregard of the collective organisation, its treatment of women and
children as each man's private concern, has had its natural outcome.
Men's imaginations have been turned entirely upon individual and
immediate successes and upon concrete triumphs; they have had no regard
or only an ineffectual sentimental regard for the race. Every man was
looking after himself, and there was no one to look after the future.
Had the promise of 1815 been fulfilled, there would now be in the United
States of America one hundred million descendants of the homogeneous and
free-spirited native population of that time. There is not, as a matter
of fact, more than thirty-five million. There is probably, as I have
pointed out, much less. Against the assets of cities, railways, mines
and industrial wealth won, the American tradition has to set the price
of five-and-seventy million native citizens who have never found time to
get born, and whose place is now more or less filled by alien
substitutes. Biologically speaking, this is not a triumph for the
American tradition. It is, however, very clearly an outcome of the
intense individualism of that tradition. Under the sway of that it has
burnt its future in the furnace to keep up steam.

The next and necessary evil consequent upon this exaltation of the
individual and private property over the State, over the race that is
and over public property, has been a contempt for public service. It has
identified public spirit with spasmodic acts of public beneficence. The
American political ideal became a Cincinnatus whom nobody sent for and
who therefore never left his plough. There has ensued a corrupt and
undignified political life, speaking claptrap, dark with violence,
illiterate and void of statesmanship or science, forbidding any healthy
social development through public organisation at home, and every year
that the increasing facilities of communication draw the alien nations
closer, deepening the risks of needless and disastrous wars abroad.

And in the third place it is to be remarked that the American tradition
has defeated its dearest aims of a universal freedom and a practical
equality. The economic process of the last half-century, so far as
America is concerned has completely justified the generalisations of
Marx. There has been a steady concentration of wealth and of the reality
as distinguished from the forms of power in the hands of a small
energetic minority, and a steady approximation of the condition of the
mass of the citizens to that of the so-called proletariat of the
European communities. The tradition of individual freedom and equality
is, in fact, in process of destroying the realities of freedom and
equality out of which it rose. Instead of the six hundred thousand
families of the year 1790, all at about the same level of property and,
excepting the peculiar condition of seven hundred thousand blacks, with
scarcely anyone in the position of a hireling, we have now as the most
striking, though by no means the most important, fact in American social
life a frothy confusion of millionaires' families, just as wasteful,
foolish and vicious as irresponsible human beings with unlimited
resources have always shown themselves to be. And, concurrently with the
appearance of these concentrations of great wealth, we have appearing
also poverty, poverty of a degree that was quite unknown in the United
States for the first century of their career as an independent nation.
In the last few decades slums as frightful as any in Europe have
appeared with terrible rapidity, and there has been a development of the
viler side of industrialism, of sweating and base employment of the most
ominous kind.

In Mr. Robert Hunter's "Poverty" one reads of "not less than eighty
thousand children, most of whom are little girls, at present employed in
the textile mills of this country. In the South there are now six times
as many children at work as there were twenty years ago. Child labour is
increasing yearly in that section of the country. Each year more little
ones are brought in from the fields and hills to live in the degrading
and demoralising atmosphere of the mill towns...."

Children are deliberately imported by the Italians. I gathered from
Commissioner Watchorn at Ellis Island that the proportion of little
nephews and nieces, friends' sons and so forth brought in by them is
peculiarly high, and I heard him try and condemn a doubtful case. It was
a particularly unattractive Italian in charge of a dull-eyed little boy
of no ascertainable relationship....

In the worst days of cotton-milling in England the conditions were
hardly worse than those now existing in the South. Children, the tiniest
and frailest, of five and six years of age, rise in the morning and,
like old men and women, go to the mills to do their day's labour; and,
when they return home, "wearily fling themselves on their beds, too
tired to take off their clothes." Many children work all night--"in the
maddening racket of the machinery, in an atmosphere insanitary and
clouded with humidity and lint."

"It will be long," adds Mr. Hunter in his description, "before I forget
the face of a little boy of six years, with his hands stretched forward
to rearrange a bit of machinery, his pallid face and spare form already
showing the physical effects of labour. This child, six years of age,
was working twelve hours a day."

From Mr. Spargo's "Bitter Cry of the Children" I learn this much of the
joys of certain among the youth of Pennsylvania:

"For ten or eleven hours a day children of ten and eleven stoop over the
chute and pick out the slate and other impurities from the coal as it
moves past them. The air is black with coal dust, and the roar of the
crushers, screens and rushing mill-race of coal is deafening. Sometimes
one of the children falls into the machinery and is terribly mangled, or
slips into the chute and is smothered to death. Many children are killed
in this way. Many others, after a time, contract coal-miners asthma and
consumption, which gradually undermine their health. Breathing
continually day after day the clouds of coal dust, their lungs become
black and choked with small particles of anthracite...."

In Massachusetts, at Fall River, the Hon. J.F. Carey tells how little
naked boys, free Americans, work for Mr. Borden, the New York
millionaire, packing cloth into bleaching vats, in a bath of chemicals
that bleaches their little bodies like the bodies of lepers....

Altogether it would seem that at least one million and a half children
are growing up in the United States of America stunted and practically
uneducated because of unregulated industrialism. These children,
ill-fed, ill-trained mentally benighted, since they are alive and
active, since they are an active and positive and not a negative evil,
are even more ominous in the American outlook than those five and sixty
million of good race and sound upbringing who will now never be born.


Sec. 5

It must be repeated that the American tradition is really the tradition
of one particular ingredient in this great admixture and stirring up of
peoples. This ingredient is the Colonial British, whose seventeenth
century Puritanism and eighteenth century mercantile radicalism and
rationalism manifestly furnished all the stuff out of which the American
tradition is made. It is this stuff planted in virgin soil and inflated
to an immense and buoyant optimism by colossal and unanticipated
material prosperity and success. From that British middle-class
tradition comes the individualist protestant spirit, the keen
self-reliance and personal responsibility, the irresponsible
expenditure, the indiscipline and mystical faith in things being managed
properly if they are only let alone. "State-blindness" is the natural
and almost inevitable quality of a middle-class tradition, a class that
has been forced neither to rule nor obey, which has been concentrated
and successfully concentrated on private gain.

This middle-class British section of the American population was, and is
to this day, the only really articulate ingredient in its mental
composition. And so it has had a monopoly in providing the American
forms of thought. The other sections of peoples that have been annexed
by or have come into this national synthesis are _silent_ so far as any
contribution to the national stock of ideas and ideals is concerned.
There are, for example, those great elements, the Spanish Catholics, the
French Catholic population of Louisiana, the Irish Catholics, the
French-Canadians who are now ousting the sterile New Englander from New
England, the Germans, the Italians the Hungarians. Comparatively they
say nothing. From all the ten million of coloured people come just two
or three platform voices, Booker Washington, Dubois, Mrs. Church
Terrell, mere protests at specific wrongs. The clever, restless Eastern
European Jews, too, have still to find a voice. Professor Münsterberg
has written with a certain bitterness of the inaudibility of the German
element in the American population. They allow themselves, he
remonstrates, to count for nothing. They did not seem to exist, he
points out, even in politics until prohibitionist fury threatened their
beer. Then, indeed, the American German emerged from silence and
obscurity, but only to rescue his mug and retire again with it into
enigmatical silence.

If there is any exception to this predominance of the tradition of the
English-speaking, originally middle-class, English-thinking northerner
in the American mind, it is to be found in the spread of social
democracy outward from the festering tenement houses of Chicago into the
mining and agrarian regions of the middle west. It is a fierce form of
socialist teaching that speaks throughout these regions, far more
closely akin to the revolutionary Socialism of the continent of Europe
than to the constructive and evolutionary Socialism of Great Britain.
Its typical organ is _The Appeal to Reason_, which circulates more than
a quarter of a million copies weekly from Kansas City. It is a Socialism
reeking with class feeling and class hatred and altogether anarchistic
in spirit; a new and highly indigestible contribution to the American
moral and intellectual synthesis. It is remarkable chiefly as the one
shrill exception in a world of plastic acceptance.

Now it is impossible to believe that this vast silence of these
imported and ingested factors that the American nation has taken to
itself is as acquiescent as it seems. No doubt they are largely taking
over the traditional forms of American thought and expression quietly
and without protest, and wearing them; but they will wear them as a man
wears a misfit, shaping and adapting it every day more and more to his
natural form, here straining a seam and there taking in a looseness. A
force of modification must be at work. It must be at work in spite of
the fact that, with the exception of social democracy, it does not
anywhere show as a protest or a fresh beginning or a challenge to the
prevailing forms.

How far it has actually been at work is, perhaps, to be judged best by
an observant stroller, surveying the crowds of a Sunday evening in New
York, or read in the sheets of such a mirror of popular taste as the
Sunday edition of the _New York American_ or the _New York Herald_. In
the former just what I mean by the silent modification of the old
tradition is quite typically shown. Its leading articles are written by
Mr. Arthur Brisbane, the son of one of the Brook Farm Utopians, that
gathering in which Hawthorne and Henry James senior, and Margaret Fuller
participated, and in which the whole brilliant world of Boston's past,
the world of Emerson, Longfellow, Thoreau, was interested. Mr. Brisbane
is a very distinguished man, quite over and above the fact that he is
paid the greatest salary of any journalist in the world. He writes with
a wit and directness that no other living man can rival, and he holds up
constantly what is substantially the American ideal of the past century
to readers who evidently need strengthening in it. It is, of course, the
figure of a man and not of a State; it is a man, clean, clean shaved
and almost obtrusively strong-jawed, honest, muscular, alert, pushful,
chivalrous, self-reliant, non-political except when he breaks into
shrewd and penetrating voting--"you can fool all the people some of the
time," etc.--and independent--independent--in a world which is therefore
certain to give way to him.

His doubts, his questionings, his aspirations, are dealt with by Mr.
Brisbane with a simple direct fatherliness with all the beneficent
persuasiveness of a revivalist preacher. Millions read these leaders and
feel a momentary benefit, en route for the more actual portions of the
paper. He asks: "Why are all men gamblers?" He discusses our Longing for
Immortal Imperfection, and "Did we once live on the moon?" He recommends
the substitution of whisky and soda for neat whisky, drawing an
illustration from the comparative effect of the diluted and of the
undiluted liquid as an eye-wash ("Try whisky on your friend's eyeball!"
is the heading), sleep ("The man who loses sleep will make a failure of
his life, or at least diminish greatly his chances of success"), and the
education of the feminine intelligence ("The cow that kicks her weaned
calf is all heart"). He makes identically the same confident appeal to
the moral motive which was for so long the salvation of the Puritan
individualism from which the American tradition derives. "That hand," he
writes, "which supports the head of the new-born baby, the mother's
hand, supports the civilisation of the world."

But that sort of thing is not saving the old native strain in the
population. It moves people, no doubt, but inadequately. And here is a
passage that is quite the quintessence of Americanism, of all its deep
moral feeling and sentimental untruthfulness. I wonder if any man but
an American or a British nonconformist in a state of rhetorical
excitement ever believed that Shakespeare wrote his plays or Michael
Angelo painted in a mood of humanitarian exaltation, "_for the good of
all men_."

"What _shall_ we strive for? _Money_?

"Get a thousand millions. Your day will come, and
in due course the graveyard rat will gnaw as calmly at
your bump of acquisitiveness as at the mean coat of the
pauper.

"Then shall we strive for _power_?

"The names of the first great kings of the world are
forgotten, and the names of all those whose power we envy
will drift to forgetfulness soon. What does the most powerful
man in the world amount to standing at the brink of
Niagara, with his solar plexus trembling? What is his
power compared with the force of the wind or the energy
of one small wave sweeping along the shore?

"The power which man can build up within himself,
for himself, is nothing. Only the dull reasoning of gratified
egotism can make it seem worth while.

"Then what is worth while? Let us look at some of
the men who have come and gone, and whose lives inspire
us. Take a few at random:

"Columbus, Michael Angelo, Wilberforce, Shakespeare,
Galileo, Fulton, Watt, Hargreaves--these will do.

"Let us ask ourselves this question: 'Was there any
_one thing_ that distinguished _all_ their lives,
that united all these men, active in fields so different?'

"Yes. Every man among them, and every man whose
life history is worth the telling, did something for _the good
of other men_....

"Get money if you can. Get power if you can; Then, if
you want to be more than the ten thousand million unknown
mingled in the dust beneath you, see what good you can
do with your money and your power.

"If you are one of the many millions who have not
and can't get money or power, see what good you can do
without either:

"You can help carry a load for an old man. You can
encourage and help a poor devil trying to reform. You
can set a good example to children. You can stick to the
men with whom you work, fighting honestly for their
welfare.

"Time was when the ablest man would rather kill ten
men than feed a thousand children. That time has gone.
We do not care much about feeding the children, but we
care less about killing the men. To that extent we have
improved already.

"The day will come when we shall prefer helping our
neighbour to robbing him--legally--of a million dollars.

"Do what good you can _now_, while it is unusual,
and have the satisfaction of being a pioneer and an
eccentric."

It is the voice of the American tradition strained to the utmost to make
itself audible to the new world, and cracking into italics and breaking
into capitals with the strain. The rest of that enormous bale of paper
is eloquent of a public void of moral ambitions, lost to any sense of
comprehensive things, deaf to ideas, impervious to generalisations, a
public which has carried the conception of freedom to its logical
extreme of entire individual detachment. These tell-tale columns deal
all with personality and the drama of personal life. They witness to no
interest but the interest in intense individual experiences. The
engagements, the love affairs, the scandals of conspicuous people are
given in pitiless detail in articles adorned with vigorous portraits and
sensational pictorial comments. Even the eavesdroppers who write this
stuff strike the personal note, and their heavily muscular portraits
frown beside the initial letter. Murders and crimes are worked up to the
keenest pitch of realisation, and any new indelicacy in fashionable
costume, any new medical device or cure, any new dance or athleticism,
any new breach in the moral code, any novelty in sea bathing or the
woman's seat on horseback, or the like, is given copious and moving
illustration, stirring headlines, and eloquent reprobation. There is a
coloured supplement of knock-about fun, written chiefly in the quaint
dialect of the New York slums. It is a language from which "th" has
vanished, and it presents a world in which the kicking by a mule of an
endless succession of victims is an inexhaustible joy to young and old.
"Dat ole Maud!" There is a smaller bale dealing with sport. In the
advertisement columns one finds nothing of books, nothing of art; but
great choice of bust developers, hair restorers, nervous tonics,
clothing sales, self-contained flats, and business opportunities....

Individuality has, in fact, got home to itself, and, as people say,
taken off its frills. All but one; Mr. Arthur Brisbane's eloquence one
may consider as the last stitch of the old costume--mere decoration.
Excitement remains the residual object in life. The _New York American_
represents a clientele to be counted by the hundred thousand, manifestly
with no other solicitudes, just burning to live and living to burn.


Sec. 6

The modifications of the American tradition that will occur through its
adoption by these silent foreign ingredients in the racial synthesis are
not likely to add to it or elaborate it in any way. They tend merely to
simplify it to bare irresponsible non-moral individualism. It is with
the detail and qualification of a tradition as with the inflexions of a
language; when another people takes it over the refinements disappear.
But there are other forces of modification at work upon the American
tradition of an altogether more hopeful kind. It has entered upon a
constructive phase. Were it not so, then the American social outlook
would, indeed, be hopeless.

The effectual modifying force at work is not the strangeness nor the
temperamental maladjustment of the new elements of population, but the
conscious realisation of the inadequacy of the tradition on the part of
the more intelligent sections of the American population. That blind
national conceit that would hear no criticism and admit no deficiency
has disappeared. In the last decade such a change has come over the
American mind as sometimes comes over a vigorous and wilful child.
Suddenly it seems to have grown up, to have begun to weigh its powers
and consider its possible deficiencies. There was a time when American
confidence and self-satisfaction seemed impregnable; at the slightest
qualm of doubt America took to violent rhetoric as a drunkard resorts to
drink. Now the indictment I have drawn up harshly, bluntly and
unflatteringly in Sec. 4 would receive the endorsement of American after
American. The falling birth-rate of all the best elements in the State,
the cankering effect of political corruption, the crumbling of
independence and equality before the progressive aggregation of
wealth--he has to face them, he cannot deny them. There has arisen a new
literature, the literature of national self-examination, that seems
destined to modify the American tradition profoundly. To me it seems to
involve the hope and possibility of a conscious collective organisation
of social life.

If ever there was an epoch-marking book it was surely Henry Demarest
Lloyd's "Wealth against Commonwealth." It marks an epoch not so much by
what it says as by what it silently abandons. It was published in 1894,
and it stated in the very clearest terms the incompatibility of the
almost limitless freedom of property set up by the constitution, with
the practical freedom and general happiness of the mass of men. It must
be admitted that Lloyd never followed up the implications of this
repudiation. He made his statements in the language of the tradition he
assailed, and foreshadowed the replacement of chaos by order in quite
chaotic and mystical appeals. Here, for instance, is a typical passage
from "Man, the Social Creator".

"Property is now a stumbling-block to the people, just
as government has been. Property will not be abolished,
but, like government, it will be democratised.

"The philosophy of self-interest as the social solution
was a good living and working synthesis in the days when
civilisation was advancing its frontiers twenty miles a day
across the American continent, and every man for himself
was the best social mobilisation possible.

"But to-day it is a belated ghost that has overstayed
the cock-crow. These were frontier morals. But this same,
everyone for himself, becomes most immoral when the
frontier is abolished and the pioneer becomes the fellow-citizen
and these frontier morals are most uneconomic when
labour can be divided and the product multiplied. Most
uneconomic, for they make closure the rule of industry,
leading not to wealth, but to that awful waste of wealth
which is made visible to every eye in our unemployed--not
hands alone, but land, machinery, and, most of all, hearts.
Those who still practise these frontier morals are like
criminals, who, according to the new science of penology,
are simply reappearances of old types. Their acquisitiveness
once divine like Mercury's, is now out of place except
in jail. Because out of place, they are a danger. A sorry
day it is likely to be for those who are found in the way
when the new people rise to rush into each other's arms,
to get together, to stay together and to live together. The
labour movement halts because so many of its rank and
file--and all its leaders--do not see clearly the golden thread
of love on which have been strung together all the past
glories of human association, and which is to serve for
the link of the new Association of Friends who Labour,
whose motto is 'All for All.'"

The establishment of the intricate co-operative commonwealth by a rush
of eighty million flushed and shiny-eyed enthusiasts, in fact, is
Lloyd's proposal. He will not face, and few Americans to this day will
face, the cold need of a great science of social adjustment and a
disciplined and rightly ordered machinery to turn such enthusiasms to
effect. They seem incurably wedded to gush. However, he did express
clearly enough the opening phase of American disillusionment with the
wild go-as-you-please that had been the conception of life in America
through a vehement, wasteful, expanding century. And he was the
precursor of what is now a bulky and extremely influential literature of
national criticism. A number of writers, literary investigators one may
call them, or sociological men of letters, or magazine publicists--they
are a little difficult to place--has taken up the inquiry into the
condition of civic administration, into economic organisation into
national politics and racial interaction, with a frank fearlessness and
an absence of windy eloquence that has been to many Europeans a
surprising revelation of the reserve forces of the American mind.
President Roosevelt, that magnificent reverberator of ideas, that gleam
of wilful humanity, that fantastic first interruption to the succession
of machine-made politicians at the White House, has echoed clearly to
this movement and made it an integral part of the general intellectual
movement of America.

It is to these first intimations of the need of a "sense of the State"
in America that I would particularly direct the reader's attention in
this discussion. They are the beginnings of what is quite conceivably a
great and complex reconstructive effort. I admit they are but
beginnings. They may quite possibly wither and perish presently; they
may much more probably be seized upon by adventurers and converted into
a new cant almost as empty and fruitless as the old. The fact remains
that, through this busy and immensely noisy confusion of nearly a
hundred millions of people, these little voices go intimating more and
more clearly the intention to undertake public affairs in a new spirit
and upon new principles, to strengthen the State and the law against
individual enterprise, to have done with those national superstitions
under which hypocrisy and disloyalty and private plunder have sheltered
and prospered for so long.

Just as far as these reform efforts succeed and develop is the
organisation of the United States of America into a great,
self-conscious, civilised nation, unparalleled in the world's history,
possible; just as far as they fail is failure written over the American
future. The real interest of America for the next century to the student
of civilisation will be the development of these attempts, now in their
infancy, to create and realise out of this racial hotchpotch, this human
chaos, an idea, of the collective commonwealth as the datum of reference
for every individual life.


Sec. 7

I have hinted in the last section that there is a possibility that the
new wave of constructive ideas in American thought may speedily develop
a cant of its own. But even then, a constructive cant is better than a
destructive one. Even the conscious hypocrite has to do something to
justify his pretences, and the mere disappearance from current thought
of the persuasion that organisation is a mistake and discipline
needless, clears the ground of one huge obstacle even if it guarantees
nothing about the consequent building.

But, apart from this, are there more solid and effectual forces behind
this new movement of ideas that makes for organisation in American
medley at the present time?

The speculative writer casting about for such elements lights upon four
sets of possibilities which call for discussion. First, one has to ask:
How far is the American plutocracy likely to be merely a wasteful and
chaotic class, and how far is it likely to become consciously
aristocratic and constructive? Secondly, and in relation to this, what
possibilities of pride and leading are there in the great university
foundations of America? Will they presently begin to tell as a
restraining and directing force upon public thought? Thirdly, will the
growing American Socialist movement, which at present is just as
anarchistic and undisciplined in spirit as everything else in America,
presently perceive the constructive implications of its general
propositions and become statesmanlike and constructive? And, fourthly,
what are the latent possibilities of the American women? Will women as
they become more and more aware of themselves as a class and of the
problem of their sex become a force upon the anarchistic side, a force
favouring race-suicide, or upon the constructive side which plans and
builds and bears the future?

The only possible answer to each one of these questions at present is
guessing and an estimate. But the only way in which a conception of the
American social future may be reached lies through their discussion.

Let us begin by considering what constructive forces may exist in this
new plutocracy which already so largely sways American economic and
political development. The first impression is one of extravagant and
aimless expenditure, of a class irresponsible and wasteful beyond all
precedent. One gets a Zolaesque picture of that aspect in Mr. Upton
Sinclair's "Metropolis," or the fashionable intelligence of the popular
New York Sunday editions, and one finds a good deal of confirmatory
evidence in many incidental aspects of the smart American life of Paris
and the Riviera. The evidence in the notorious Thaw trial, after one has
discounted its theatrical elements, was still a very convincing
demonstration of a rotten and extravagant, because aimless and
functionless, class of rich people. But one has to be careful in this
matter if one is to do justice to the facts. If a thing is made up of
two elements, and one is noisy and glaringly coloured, and the other is
quiet and colourless, the first impression created will be that the
thing is identical with the element that is noisy and glaringly
coloured. One is much less likely to hear of the broad plans and the
quality of the wise, strong and constructive individuals in a class than
of their foolish wives, their spendthrift sons, their mistresses, and
their moments of irritation and folly.

In the making of very rich men there is always a factor of good fortune
and a factor of design and will. One meets rich men at times who seem to
be merely lucky gamblers, who strike one as just the thousandth man in a
myriad of wild plungers, who are, in fact, chance nobodies washed up by
an eddy. Others, again, strike one as exceptionally lucky half-knaves.
But there are others of a growth more deliberate and of an altogether
higher personal quality. One takes such men as Mr. J.D. Rockefeller or
Mr. Pierpont Morgan--the scale of their fortunes makes them public
property--and it is clear that we are dealing with persons on quite a
different level of intellectual power from the British Colonel Norths,
for example, or the South African Joels. In my "Future in America" I
have taken the former largely at Miss Tarbell's estimate, and treated
him as a case of acquisitiveness raised in Baptist surroundings. But I
doubt very much if that exhausts the man as he is to-day. Given a man
brought up to saving and "getting on" as if to a religion, a man very
acquisitive and very patient and restrained, and indubitably with great
organising power, and he grows rich beyond the dreams of avarice. And
having done so, there he is. What is he going to do? Every step he takes
up the ascent to riches gives him new perspectives and new points of
view.

It may have appealed to the young Rockefeller, clerk in a Chicago house,
that to be rich was itself a supreme end; in the first flush of the
discovery that he was immensely rich, he may have thanked Heaven as if
for a supreme good, and spoken to a Sunday school gathering as if he
knew himself for the most favoured of men. But all that happened twenty
years ago or more. One does not keep on in that sort of satisfaction;
one settles down to the new facts. And such men as Mr. Rockefeller and
Mr. Pierpont Morgan do not live in a made and protected world with their
minds trained, tamed and fed and shielded from outside impressions as
royalties do. The thought of the world has washed about them; they have
read and listened to the discussion of themselves for some decades; they
have had sleepless nights of self-examination. To succeed in acquiring
enormous wealth does not solve the problem of life; indeed, it reopens
it in a new form. "What shall I do with myself?" simply recurs again.
You may have decided to devote yourself to getting on, getting wealthy.
Well, you have got it. Now, again, comes the question: "What shall I
do?"

Mr. Pierpont Morgan, I am told, collected works of art. I can
understand that satisfying a rich gentleman of leisure, but not a man
who has felt the sensation of holding great big things in his great big
hands. Saul, going out to seek his father's asses, found a kingdom--and
became very spiritedly a king, and it seems to me that these big
industrial and financial organisers, whatever in their youth they
proposed to do or be, must many of them come to realise that their
organising power is up against no less a thing than a nation's future.
Napoleon, it is curious to remember once wanted to run a lodging-house,
and a man may start to corner oil and end the father of a civilisation.

Now, I am disposed to suspect at times that an inkling of such a
realisation may have come to some of these very rich men. I am inclined
to put it among the possibilities of our time that it may presently
become clearly and definitely the inspiring idea of many of those who
find themselves predominantly rich. I do not see why these active rich
should not develop statesmanship, and I can quite imagine them
developing very considerable statesmanship. Because these men were able
to realise their organising power in the absence of economic
organisation, it does not follow that they will be fanatical for a
continuing looseness and freedom of property. The phase of economic
liberty ends itself, as Marx long ago pointed out. The American business
world becomes more and more a managed world with fewer and fewer wild
possibilities of succeeding. Of all people the big millionaires should
realise this most acutely, and, in fact, there are many signs that they
do. It seems to me that the educational zeal of Mr. Andrew Carnegie and
the university and scientific endowments of Mr. Rockefeller are not
merely showy benefactions; they express a definite feeling of the
present need of constructive organisation in the social scheme. The time
has come to build. There is, I think, good reason for expecting that
statesmanship of the millionaires to become more organised and
scientific and comprehensive in the coming years. It is plausible at
least to maintain that the personal quality of the American plutocracy
has risen in the last three decades, has risen from the quality of a
mere irresponsible wealthy person towards that of a real aristocrat with
a "sense of the State." That one may reckon the first hopeful
possibility in the American outlook.

And intimately connected with this development of an attitude of public
responsibility in the very rich is the decay on the one hand of the
preposterous idea once prevalent in America that politics is an
unsuitable interest for a "gentleman," and on the other of the
democratic jealousy of any but poor politicians. In New York they talk
very much of "gentlemen," and by "gentlemen" they seem to mean rich men
"in society" with a college education. Nowadays, "gentlemen" seem more
and more disposed towards politics, and less and less towards a life of
business or detached refinement. President Roosevelt, for example, was
one of the pioneers in this new development, this restoration of
virility to the gentlemanly ideal. His career marks the appearance of a
new and better type of man in American politics, the close of the rule
of the idealised nobody.

The prophecy has been made at times that the United States might develop
a Caesarism, and certainly the position of president might easily
become that of an imperator. No doubt in the event of an acute failure
of the national system such a catastrophe might occur, but the more
hopeful and probable line of development is one in which a conscious and
powerful, if informal, aristocracy will play a large part. It may,
indeed, never have any of the outward forms of an aristocracy or any
definite public recognition. The Americans are as chary of the coronet
and the known aristocratic titles as the Romans were of the word King.
Octavius, for that reason, never called himself king nor Italy a
kingdom. He was just the Caesar of the Republic, and the Empire had been
established for many years before the Romans fully realised that they
had returned to monarchy.


Sec. 8

The American universities are closely connected in their development
with the appearance and growing class-consciousness of this aristocracy
of wealth. The fathers of the country certainly did postulate a need of
universities, and in every state Congress set aside public lands to
furnish a university with material resources. Every State possesses a
university, though in many instances these institutions are in the last
degree of feebleness. In the days of sincere democracy the starvation of
government and the dislike of all manifest inequalities involved the
starvation of higher education. Moreover, the entirely artificial nature
of the State boundaries, representing no necessary cleavages and
traversed haphazard by the lines of communication, made some of these
State foundations unnecessary and others inadequate to a convergent
demand. From the very beginning, side by side with the State
universities, were the universities founded by benefactors; and with the
evolution of new centres of population, new and extremely generous
plutocratic endowments appeared. The dominant universities of America
to-day, the treasure houses of intellectual prestige, are almost all of
them of plutocratic origin, and even in the State universities, if new
resources are wanted to found new chairs, to supply funds for research
or publication or what not, it is to the more State-conscious wealthy
and not to the State legislature that the appeal is made almost as a
matter of course. The common voter, the small individualist has less
constructive imagination--is more individualistic, that is, than the big
individualist.

This great network of universities that is now spread over the States,
interchanging teachers, literature and ideas, and educating not only the
professions but a growing proportion of business leaders and wealthy
people, must necessarily take an important part in the reconstruction of
the American tradition that is now in progress. It is giving a large and
increasing amount of attention to the subjects that bear most directly
upon the peculiar practical problems of statecraft in America, to
psychology, sociology and political science. It is influencing the press
more and more directly by supplying a rising proportion of journalists
and creating an atmosphere of criticism and suggestion. It is keeping
itself on the one hand in touch with the popular literature of public
criticism in those new and curious organs of public thought, the
ten-cent magazines; and on the other it is making a constantly more
solid basis of common understanding upon which the newer generation of
plutocrats may meet. That older sentimental patriotism must be giving
place under its influence to a more definite and effectual conception of
a collective purpose. It is to the moral and intellectual influence of
sustained scientific study in the universities, and a growing increase
of the college-trained element in the population that we must look if we
are to look anywhere for the new progressive methods, for the
substitution of persistent, planned and calculated social development
for the former conditions of systematic neglect and corruption in public
affairs varied by epileptic seizures of "Reform."


Sec. 9

A third influence that may also contribute very materially to the
reconstruction of the American tradition is the Socialist movement. It
is true that so far American Socialism has very largely taken an
Anarchistic form, has been, in fact, little more than a revolutionary
movement of the wages-earning class against the property owner. It has
already been pointed out that it derives not from contemporary English
Socialism but from the Marxist social democracy of the continent of
Europe, and has not even so much of the constructive spirit as has been
developed by the English Socialists of the Fabian and Labour Party group
or by the newer German evolutionary Socialists. Nevertheless, whenever
Socialism is intelligently met by discussion or whenever it draws near
to practicable realisation, it becomes, by virtue of its inherent
implications, a constructive force, and there is no reason to suppose
that it will not be intelligently met on the whole and in the long run
in America. The alternative to a developing Socialism among the
labouring masses in America is that revolutionary Anarchism from which
it is slowly but definitely marking itself off. In America we have to
remember that we are dealing with a huge population of people who are
for the most part, and more and more evidently destined under the
present system of free industrial competition, to be either very small
traders, small farmers on the verge of debt, or wages-earners for all
their lives. They are going to lead limited lives and worried lives--and
they know it. Nearly everyone can read and discuss now, the process of
concentrating property and the steady fixation of conditions that were
once fluid and adventurous goes on in the daylight visibly to everyone.
And it has to be borne in mind also that these people are so far under
the sway of the American tradition that each thinks himself as good as
any man and as much entitled to the fullness of life. Whatever social
tradition their fathers had, whatever ideas of a place to be filled
humbly and seriously and duties to be done, have been left behind in
Europe. No Church dominates the scenery of this new land, and offers in
authoritative and convincing tones consolations hereafter for lives
obscurely but faithfully lived. Whatever else happens in this national
future, upon one point the patriotic American may feel assured, and that
is of an immense general discontent in the working class and of a
powerful movement in search of a general betterment. The practical forms
and effects of that movement will depend almost entirely upon the
average standard of life among the workers and their general education.
Sweated and ill-organised foreigners, such as one finds in New Jersey
living under conditions of great misery, will be fierce, impatient and
altogether dangerous. They will be acutely exasperated by every picture
of plutocratic luxury in their newspaper, they will readily resort to
destructive violence. The western miner, the western agriculturist,
worried beyond endurance between the money-lender and railway
combinations will be almost equally prone to savage methods of
expression. _The Appeal to Reason_, for example, to which I have made
earlier reference in this chapter, is furious to wreck the present
capitalistic system, but it is far too angry and impatient for that
satisfaction to produce any clear suggestion of what shall replace it.

To call this discontent of the seething underside of the American system
Socialism is a misnomer. Were there no Socialism there would be just as
much of this discontent, just the same insurgent force and desire for
violence, taking some other title and far more destructive methods. This
discontent is a part of the same planless confusion that gives on the
other side the wanton irresponsible extravagances of the smart people of
New York. But Socialism alone, of all the forms of expression adopted by
the losers in the economic struggle, contains constructive possibilities
and leads its adherents towards that ideal of an organised State,
planned and developed, from which these terrible social stresses may be
eliminated, which is also the ideal to which sociology and the thoughts
of every constructive-minded and foreseeing man in any position of life
tend to-day. In the Socialist hypothesis of collective ownership and
administration as the social basis, there is the germ of a "sense of the
State" that may ultimately develop into comprehensive conceptions of
social order, conceptions upon which enlightened millionaires and
unenlightened workers may meet at last in generous and patriotic
co-operation.

The chances of the American future, then, seem to range between two
possibilities just as a more or less constructive Socialism does or does
not get hold of and inspire the working mass of the population. In the
worst event--given an emotional and empty hostility to property as such,
masquerading as Socialism--one has the prospect of a bitter and aimless
class war between the expropriated many and the property-holding few, a
war not of general insurrection but of localised outbreaks, strikes and
brutal suppressions, a war rising to bloody conflicts and sinking to
coarsely corrupt political contests, in which one side may prevail in
one locality and one in another, and which may even develop into a
chronic civil war in the less-settled parts of the country or an
irresistible movement for secession between west and east. That is
assuming the greatest imaginable vehemence and short-sighted selfishness
and the least imaginable intelligence on the part of both workers and
the plutocrat-swayed government. But if the more powerful and educated
sections of the American community realise in time the immense moral
possibilities of the Socialist movement, if they will trouble to
understand its good side instead of emphasising its bad, if they will
keep in touch with it and help in the development of a constructive
content to its propositions, then it seems to me that popular Socialism
may count as a third great factor in the making of the civilised
American State.

In any case, it does not seem to me probable that there can be any
national revolutionary movement or any complete arrest in the
development of an aristocratic phase in American history. The area of
the country is too great and the means of communication between the
workers in different parts inadequate for a concerted rising or even for
effective political action in mass. In the worst event--and it is only
in the worst event that a great insurrectionary movement becomes
probable--the newspapers, magazines, telephones and telegraphs, all the
apparatus of discussion and popular appeal, the railways, arsenals,
guns, flying machines, and all the material of warfare, will be in the
hands of the property owners, and the average of betrayal among the
leaders of a class, not racially homogeneous, embittered, suspicious
united only by their discomforts and not by any constructive intentions,
will necessarily be high. So that, though the intensifying trouble
between labour and capital may mean immense social disorganisation and
lawlessness, though it may even supply the popular support in new
attempts at secession, I do not see in it the possibility and force for
that new start which the revolutionary Socialists anticipate; I see it
merely as one of several forces making, on the whole and particularly in
view of the possible mediatory action of the universities, for
construction and reconciliation.


Sec. 10

What changes are likely to occur in the more intimate social life of the
people of the United States? Two influences are at work that may modify
this profoundly. One is that spread of knowledge and that accompanying
change in moral attitude which is more and more sterilising the once
prolific American home, and the second is the rising standard of
feminine education. There has arisen in this age a new consciousness in
women. They are entering into the collective thought to a degree
unprecedented in the world's history, and with portents at once
disquieting and confused.

In Sec. 5 I enumerated what I called the silent factors in the American
synthesis, the immigrant European aliens, the Catholics, the coloured
blood, and so forth. I would now observe that, in the making of the
American tradition, the women also have been to a large extent, and
quite remarkably, a silent factor. That tradition is not only
fundamentally middle-class and English, but it is also fundamentally
masculine. The citizen is the man. The woman belongs to him. He votes
for her, works for her, does all the severer thinking for her. She is in
the home behind the shop or in the dairy at the farmhouse with her
daughters. She gets the meal while the men talk. The American
imagination and American feeling centre largely upon the family and upon
"mother." American ideals are homely. The social unit is the home, and
it is another and a different set of influences and considerations that
are never thought of at all when the home sentiment is under discussion,
that, indeed, it would be indelicate to mention at such a time, which
are making that social unit the home of one child or of no children at
all.

That ideal of a man-owned, mother-revering home has been the prevalent
American ideal from the landing of the _Mayflower_ right down to the
leader writing of Mr. Arthur Brisbane. And it is clear that a very
considerable section among one's educated women contemporaries do not
mean to stand this ideal any longer. They do not want to be owned and
cherished, and they do not want to be revered. How far they represent
their sex in this matter it is very hard to say. In England in the
professional and most intellectually active classes it is scarcely an
exaggeration to say that _all_ the most able women below five-and-thirty
are workers for the suffrage and the ideal of equal and independent
citizenship, and active critics of the conventions under which women
live to-day. It is at least plausible to suppose that a day is
approaching when the alternatives between celibacy or a life of economic
dependence and physical subordination to a man who has chosen her, and
upon whose kindness her happiness depends, or prostitution, will no
longer be a satisfactory outlook for the great majority of women, and
when, with a newly aroused political consciousness, they will be
prepared to exert themselves as a class to modify this situation. It may
be that this is incorrect, and that in devotion to an accepted male and
his children most women do still and will continue to find their
greatest satisfaction in life. But it is the writer's impression that so
simple and single-hearted a devotion is rare, and that, released from
tradition--and education, reading and discussion do mean release from
tradition--women are as eager for initiative, freedom and experience as
men. In that case they will persist in the present agitation for
political rights, and these secured, go on to demand a very considerable
reconstruction of our present social order.

It is interesting to point the direction in which this desire for
independence will probably take them. They will discover that the
dependence of women at the present time is not so much a law-made as an
economic dependence due to the economic disadvantages their sex imposes
upon them. Maternity and the concomitants of maternity are the
circumstances in their lives, exhausting energy and earning nothing,
that place them at a discount. From the stage when property ceased to be
chiefly the creation of feminine agricultural toil (the so-called
primitive matriarchate) to our present stage, women have had to depend
upon a man's willingness to keep them, in order to realise the organic
purpose of their being. Whether conventionally equal or not, whether
voters or not, that necessity for dependence will still remain under our
system of private property and free independent competition. There is
only one evident way by which women as a class can escape from that
dependence each upon an individual man and from all the practical
inferiority this dependence entails, and that is by so altering their
status as to make maternity and the upbringing of children a charge not
upon the husband of the mother but upon the community. The public
Endowment of Maternity is the only route by which the mass of women can
reach that personal freedom and independent citizenship so many of them
desire.

Now, this idea of the Endowment of Maternity--or as it is frequently
phrased, the Endowment of the Home--is at present put forward by the
modern Socialists as an integral part of their proposals, and it is
interesting to note that there is this convergent possibility which may
bring the feminist movement at last altogether into line with
constructive Socialism. Obviously, before anything in the direction of
family endowment becomes practicable, public bodies and the State
organisation will need to display far more integrity and efficiency
than they do in America at the present time. Still, that is the trend of
things in all contemporary civilised communities, and it is a trend that
will find a powerful reinforcement in men's solicitudes as the
increasing failure of the unsupported private family to produce
offspring adequate to the needs of social development becomes more and
more conspicuous. The impassioned appeals of President Roosevelt have
already brought home the race-suicide of the native-born to every
American intelligence, but mere rhetoric will not in itself suffice to
make people, insecurely employed and struggling to maintain a
comfortable standard of life against great economic pressure, prolific.
Presented as a call to a particularly onerous and quite unpaid social
duty the appeal for unrestricted parentage fails. Husband and wife alike
dread an excessive burthen. Travel, leisure, freedom, comfort, property
and increased ability for business competition are the rewards of
abstinence from parentage, and even the disapproval of President
Roosevelt and the pride of offspring are insufficient counterweights to
these inducements. Large families disappear from the States, and more
and more couples are childless. Those who have children restrict their
number in order to afford those they have some reasonable advantage in
life. This, in the presence of the necessary knowledge, is as
practically inevitable a consequence of individualist competition and
the old American tradition as the appearance of slums and a class of
millionaires.

These facts go to the very root of the American problem. I have already
pointed out that, in spite of a colossal immigration, the population of
the United States was at the end of the nineteenth century over twenty
millions short of what it should have been through its own native
increase had the birth-rate of the opening of the century been
maintained. For a hundred years America has been "fed" by Europe. That
feeding process will not go on indefinitely. The immigration came in
waves as if reservoir after reservoir was tapped and exhausted. Nowadays
England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Scandinavia send hardly any more;
they have no more to send. Germany and Switzerland send only a few. The
South European and Austrian supply is not as abundant as it was. There
may come a time when Europe and Western Asia will have no more surplus
population to send, when even Eastern Asia will have passed into a less
fecund phase, and when America will have to look to its own natural
increase for the continued development of its resources.

If the present isolated family of private competition is still the
social unit, it seems improbable that there will be any greater natural
increase than there is in France.

Will the growing idea of a closer social organisation have developed by
that time to the possibility of some collective effort in this matter?
Or will that only come about after the population of the world has
passed through a phase of absolute recession? The peculiar constitution
of the United States gives a remarkable freedom of experiment in these
matters to each individual state, and local developments do not need to
wait upon a national change of opinion; but, on the other hand, the
superficial impression of an English visitor is that any such profound
interference with domestic autonomy runs counter to all that Americans
seem to hold dear at the present time. These are, however, new ideas and
new considerations that have still to be brought adequately before the
national consciousness, and it is quite impossible to calculate how a
population living under changing conditions and with a rising standard
of education and a developing feminine consciousness may not think and
feel and behave in a generation's time. At present for all political and
collective action America is a democracy of untutored individualist men
who will neither tolerate such interference between themselves and the
women they choose to marry as the Endowment of Motherhood implies, nor
view the "kids" who will at times occur even in the best-regulated
families as anything but rather embarrassing, rather amusing by-products
of the individual affections.

I find in the London _New Age_ for August 15th, 1908, a description by
Mr. Jerome K. Jerome of "John Smith," the average British voter. John
Smith might serve in some respects for the common man of all the modern
civilisations. Among other things that John Smith thinks and wants, he
wants:

"a little house and garden in the country all to himself.
His idea is somewhere near half an acre of ground. He
would like a piano in the best room; it has always been his
dream to have a piano. The youngest girl, he is convinced,
is musical. As a man who has knocked about the world
and has thought, he quite appreciates the argument that
by co-operation the material side of life can be greatly
improved. He quite sees that by combining a dozen families
together in one large house better practical results can be
obtained. It is as easy to direct the cooking for a hundred
as for half a dozen. There would be less waste of food, of
coals, of lighting. To put aside one piano for one girl is
absurd. He sees all this, but it does not alter one little
bit his passionate craving for that small house and garden
all to himself. He is built that way. He is typical of a
good many other men and women built on the same pattern.
What are you going to do with them? Change them--their
instincts, their very nature, rooted in the centuries?
Or, as an alternative, vary Socialism to fit John Smith?
Which is likely to prove the shorter operation?"

That, however, is by the way. Here is the point at issue:

"He has heard that Socialism proposes to acknowledge
woman's service to the State by paying her a weekly wage
according to the number of children that she bears and
rears. I don't propose to repeat his objections to the idea;
they could hardly be called objections. There is an ugly
look comes into his eyes; something quite undefinable,
prehistoric, almost dangerous, looks out of them.... In
talking to him on this subject you do not seem to be
talking to a man. It is as if you had come face to face
with something behind civilisation, behind humanity, something
deeper down still among the dim beginnings of
creation...."

Now, no doubt Mr. Jerome is writing with emphasis here. But there is
sufficient truth in the passage for it to stand here as a rough symbol
of another factor in this question. John Smithism, that manly and
individualist element in the citizen, stands over against and resists
all the forces of organisation that would subjugate it to a collective
purpose. It is careless of coming national cessation and depopulation,
careless of the insurgent spirit beneath the acquiescences of Mrs.
Smith, careless of its own inevitable defeat in the economic struggle,
careless because it can understand none of these things; it is
obstinately muddle-headed, asserting what it conceives to be itself
against the universe and all other John Smiths whatsoever. It is a
factor with all other factors. The creative, acquisitive, aggressive
spirit of those bigger John Smiths who succeed as against the myriads of
John Smiths who fail, the wider horizons and more efficient methods of
the educated man, the awakening class-consciousness of women, the
inevitable futility of John Smithism, the sturdy independence that makes
John Smith resent even disciplined co-operation with Tom Brown to
achieve a common end, his essential incapacity, indeed, for collective
action; all these things are against the ultimate triumph, and make for
the ultimate civilisation even of John Smith.


Sec. 11

It may be doubted if the increasing collective organisation of society
to which the United States of America, in common with all the rest of
the world, seem to be tending will be to any very large extent a
national organisation. The constitution is an immense and complicated
barrier to effectual centralisation. There are many reasons for
supposing the national government will always remain a little
ineffectual and detached from the full flow of American life, and this
notwithstanding the very great powers with which the President is
endowed.

One of these reasons is certainly the peculiar accident that has placed
the seat of government upon the Potomac. To the thoughtful visitor to
the United States this hiding away of the central government in a minute
district remote from all the great centres of thought, population and
business activity becomes more remarkable more perplexing, more
suggestive of an incurable weakness in the national government as he
grasps more firmly the peculiarities of the American situation.

I do not see how the central government of that great American nation of
which I dream can possibly be at Washington, and I do not see how the
present central government can possibly be transferred to any other
centre. But to go to Washington, to see and talk to Washington, is to
receive an extraordinary impression of the utter isolation and
hopelessness of Washington. The National Government has an air of being
marooned there. Or as though it had crept into a corner to do something
in the dark. One goes from the abounding movement and vitality of the
northern cities to this sunny and enervating place through the
negligently cultivated country of Virginia, and one discovers the
slovenly, unfinished promise of a city, broad avenues lined by negro
shanties and patches of cultivation, great public buildings and an
immense post office, a lifeless museum, an inert university, a splendid
desert library, a street of souvenir shops, a certain industry of
"seeing Washington," an idiotic colossal obelisk. It seems an ideal nest
for the tariff manipulator, a festering corner of delegates and agents
and secondary people. In the White House, in the time of President
Roosevelt, the present writer found a transitory glow of intellectual
activity, the spittoons and glass screens that once made it like a
London gin palace had been removed, and the former orgies of handshaking
reduced to a minimum. It was, one felt, an accidental phase. The
assassination of McKinley was an interruption of the normal Washington
process. To this place, out of the way of everywhere, come the senators
and congressmen, mostly leaving their families behind them in their
states of origin, and hither, too, are drawn a multitude of journalists
and political agents and clerks, a crowd of underbred, mediocre men. For
most of them there is neither social nor intellectual life. The thought
of America is far away, centred now in New York; the business and
economic development centres upon New York; apart from the President, it
is in New York that one meets the people who matter, and the New York
atmosphere that grows and develops ideas and purposes. New York is the
natural capital of the United States, and would need to be the capital
of any highly organised national system. Government from the district of
Columbia is in itself the repudiation of any highly organised national
system.

But government from this ineffectual, inert place is only the most
striking outcome of that inflexible constitution the wrangling delegates
of 1787-8 did at last produce out of a conflict of State jealousies.
They did their best to render centralisation or any coalescence of
States impossible and private property impregnable, and so far their
work has proved extraordinarily effective. Only a great access of
intellectual and moral vigour in the nation can ever set it aside. And
while the more and more sterile millions of the United States grapple
with the legal and traditional difficulties that promise at last to
arrest their development altogether, the rest of the world will be
moving on to new phases. An awakened Asia will be reorganising its
social and political conceptions in the light of modern knowledge and
modern ideas, and South America will be working out its destinies,
perhaps in the form of a powerful confederation of states. All Europe
will be schooling its John Smiths to finer discipline and broader ideas.
It is quite possible that the American John Smiths may have little to
brag about in the way of national predominance by A.D. 2000. It is quite
possible that the United States may be sitting meekly at the feet of at
present unanticipated teachers.


H.G. Wells