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An Englishman Looks at the World by H. G. Wells

Part 5 out of 5

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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 Muensterberg
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

"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

"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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"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

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

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

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.


(_New Year, 1909_.)

The Editor of the _New York World_ has asked me to guess the general
trend of events in the next thirty years or so with especial reference
to the outlook for the State and City of New York. I like and rarely
refuse such cheerful invitations to prophesy. I have already made a sort
of forecast (in my "Anticipations") of what may happen if the social and
economic process goes on fairly smoothly for all that time, and shown a
New York relieved from its present congestion by the development of the
means of communication, and growing and spreading in wide and splendid
suburbs towards Boston and Philadelphia. I made that forecast before
ever I passed Sandy Hook, but my recent visit only enhanced my sense of
growth and "go" in things American. Still, we are nowadays all too apt
to think that growth is inevitable and progress in the nature of things;
the Wonderful Century, as Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace called the
nineteenth, has made us perhaps over-confident and forgetful of the
ruins of great cities and confident prides of the past that litter the
world, and here I will write about the other alternative, of the
progressive process "hitting something," and smashing.

There are two chief things in modern life that impress me as dangerous
and incalculable. The first of these is the modern currency and
financial system, and the second is the chance we take of destructive
war. Let me dwell first of all on the mysterious possibilities of the
former, and then point out one or two uneasy developments of the latter.

Now, there is nothing scientific about our currency and finance at all.
It is a thing that has grown up and elaborated itself out of very simple
beginnings in the course of a century or so. Three hundred years ago the
edifice had hardly begun to rise from the ground, most property was
real, most people lived directly on the land, most business was on a
cash basis, oversea trade was a proportionately small affair, labour was
locally fixed. Most of the world was at the level at which much of China
remains to-day--able to get along without even coinage. It was a
rudimentary world from the point of view of the modern financier and
industrial organiser. Well, on that rude, secure basis there has now
been piled the most chancy and insecurely experimental system of
conventions and assumptions about money and credit it is possible to
imagine. There has grown up a vast system of lending and borrowing, a
world-wide extension of joint-stock enterprises that involve at last the
most fantastic relationships. I find myself, for example, owning
(partially, at least) a bank in New Zealand, a railway in Cuba, another
in Canada, several in Brazil, an electric power plant in the City of
Westminster, and so on, and I use these stocks and shares as a sort of
interest-bearing money. If I want money to spend, I sell a railway share
much as one might change a hundred-pound banknote; if I have more cash
than I need immediately I buy a few shares. I perceive that the value of
these shares oscillates, sometimes rather gravely, and that the value of
the alleged money on the cheques I get also oscillates as compared with
the things I want to buy; that, indeed, the whole system (which has only
existed for a couple of centuries or so, and which keeps on getting
higher and giddier) is perpetually swaying and quivering and bending and
sagging; but it is only when such a great crisis occurs as that of 1907
that it enters my mind that possibly there is no limit to these
oscillations, that possibly the whole vast accidental edifice will
presently come smashing down.

Why shouldn't it?

I defy any economist or financial expert to prove that it cannot. That
it hasn't done so in the little time for which it has existed is no
reply at all. It is like arguing that a man cannot die because he has
never been known to do so. Previous men have died, previous
civilisations have collapsed, if not of acute, then of chronic financial

The experience of 1907 indicated very clearly how a collapse might
occur. A panic, like an avalanche, is a thing much easier to start than
stop. Previous panics have been arrested by good luck; this last one in
America, for example, found Europe strong and prosperous and helpful. In
every panic period there is a huge dislocation of business enterprises,
vast multitudes of men are thrown out of employment, there is grave
social and political disorder; but in the end, so far, things have an
air of having recovered. But now, suppose the panic wave a little more
universal--and panic waves tend to be more extensive than they used to
be. Suppose that when securities fall all round, and gold appreciates in
New York, and frightened people begin to sell investments and hoard
gold, the same thing happens in other parts of the world. Increase the
scale of the trouble only two or three times, and would our system
recover? Imagine great masses of men coming out of employment, and angry
and savage, in all our great towns; imagine the railways working with
reduced staffs on reduced salaries or blocked by strikers; imagine
provision dealers stopping consignments to retailers, and retailers
hesitating to give credit. A phase would arrive when the police and
militia keeping order in the streets would find themselves on short
rations and without their weekly pay.

What we moderns, with our little three hundred years or so of security,
do not recognise is that things that go up and down may, given a certain
combination of chances, go down steadily, down and down.

What would you do, dear reader--what should I do--if a slump went on

And that brings me to the second great danger to our modern
civilisation, and that is War. We have over-developed war. While we have
left our peace organisation to the niggling, slow, self-seeking methods
of private enterprise; while we have left the breeding of our peoples to
chance, their minds to the halfpenny press and their wealth to the drug
manufacturer, we have pushed forward the art of war on severely
scientific and Socialist lines; we have put all the collective resources
of the community and an enormous proportion of its intelligence and
invention ungrudgingly into the improvement and manufacture of the
apparatus of destruction. Great Britain, for example, is content with
the railways and fireplaces and types of housing she had fifty years
ago; she still uses telephones and the electric light in the most
tentative spirit; but every ironclad she had five-and-twenty years ago
is old iron now and abandoned. Everything crawls forward but the science
of war; that rushes on. Of what will happen if presently the guns begin
to go off I have no shadow of doubt. Every year has seen the
disproportionate increase until now. Every modern European state is more
or less like a cranky, ill-built steamboat in which some idiot has
mounted and loaded a monstrous gun with no apparatus to damp its recoil.
Whether that gun hits or misses when it is fired, of one thing we may be
absolutely certain--it will send the steamboat to the bottom of the sea.

Modern warfare is an insanity, not a sane business proposition. Its
preparation eats more and more into the resources which should be
furnishing a developing civilisation; its possibilities of destruction
are incalculable. A new epoch has opened with the coming of the
navigable balloon and the flying machine. To begin with, these things
open new gulfs for expenditure; in the end they mean possibilities of
destruction beyond all precedent. Such things as the _Zeppelin_ and the
_Ville de Paris_ are only the first pigmy essays of the aeronaut. It is
clear that to be effective, capable of carrying guns and comparatively
insensitive to perforation by shot and shell, these things will have to
be very much larger and as costly, perhaps, as a first-class cruiser.
Imagine such monsters of the air, and wild financial panic below!

Here, then, are two associated possibilities with which to modify our
expectation of an America advancing steadily on the road to an organised
civilisation, of New York rebuilding herself in marble, spreading like a
garden city over New Jersey and Long Island and New York State, becoming
a new and greater Venice, queen of the earth.

Perhaps, after all, the twentieth century isn't going to be so
prosperous as the nineteenth. Perhaps, instead of going resistlessly
onward, we are going to have a set-back. Perhaps we are going to be put
back to learn over again under simpler conditions some of those
necessary fundamental lessons our race has learnt as yet insufficiently
well--honesty and brotherhood, social collectivism, and the need of some
common peace-preserving council for the whole world.


Our conceptions of what a good citizen should be are all at sixes and
sevens. No two people will be found to agree in every particular of such
an ideal, and the extreme divergences upon what is necessary, what is
permissible, what is unforgivable in him, will span nearly the whole
range of human possibility and conduct. As a consequence, we bring up
our children in a mist of vague intimations, in a confusion of warring
voices, perplexed as to what they must do, uncertain as to what they may
do, doomed to lives of compromise and fluctuating and inoperative
opinion. Ideals and suggestions come and go before their eyes like
figures in a fog. The commonest pattern, perhaps--the commonest pattern
certainly in Sunday schools and edifying books, and on all those places
and occasions when morality is sought as an end--is a clean and
able-bodied person, truthful to the extent that he does not tell lies,
temperate so far as abstinence is concerned, honest without pedantry,
and active in his own affairs, steadfastly law-abiding and respectful to
custom and usage, though aloof from the tumult of politics, brave but
not adventurous, punctual in some form of religious exercise, devoted to
his wife and children, and kind without extravagance to all men.
Everyone feels that this is not enough, everyone feels that something
more is wanted and something different; most people are a little
interested in what that difference can be, and it is a business that
much of what is more than trivial in our art, our literature and our
drama must do to fill in bit by bit and shade by shade the subtle, the
permanent detail of the answer.

It does very greatly help in this question to bear in mind the conflict
of our origins. Every age is an age of transition, of minglings, of the
breaking up of old, narrow cultures, and the breaking down of barriers,
of spiritual and often of actual interbreeding. Not only is the physical
but the moral and intellectual ancestry of everyone more mixed than ever
it was before. We blend in our blood, everyone of us, and we blend in
our ideas and purposes, craftsmen, warriors, savages, peasants, and a
score of races, and an endless multitude of social expedients and rules.
Go back but a hundred generations in the lineage of the most delicate
girl you know, and you will find a dozen murderers. You will find liars
and cheats, lascivious sinners, women who have sold themselves, slaves,
imbeciles, devotees, saints, men of fantastic courage, discreet and
watchful persons, usurers, savages, criminals and kings, and every one
of this miscellany, not simply fathering or mothering on the way to her,
but teaching urgently and with every grade of intensity, views and
habits for which they stand. Something of it all has come to her, albeit
much may seem forgotten. In every human birth, with a new little
variation, a fresh slight novelty of arrangement the old issues rise
again. Our ideas, even more than our blood, flow from multitudinous

Certain groups of ideas come to us distinctively associated with certain
marked ways of life. Many, and for a majority of us, it may be, most of
our ancestors were serfs or slaves. And men and women who have had,
generation after generation, to adapt themselves to slavery and the rule
of a master, develop an idea of goodness very different from that of
princes. From our slave ancestry, says Lester Ward, we learnt to work,
and certainly it is from slavery we derive the conception that industry,
even though it be purposeless industry, is a virtue in itself. The good
slave, too, has a morality of restraints; he abstains from the food he
handles and hungers for, and he denies himself pride and initiative of
every sort. He is honest in not taking, but he is unscrupulous about
adequate service. He makes no virtue of frankness, but much of kindly
helpfulness and charity to the weak. He has no sense of duty in planning
or economising. He is polite and soft-spoken, and disposed to irony
rather than denunciation, ready to admire cuteness and condone
deception. Not so the rebel. That tradition is working in us also. It
has been the lot of vast masses of population in every age to be living
in successful or unsuccessful resistance to mastery, to be dreading
oppression or to be just escaped from it. Resentment becomes a virtue
then, and any peace with the oppressor a crime. It is from rebel origins
so many of us get the idea that disrespectfulness is something of a duty
and obstinacy a fine thing. And under the force of this tradition we
idealise the rugged and unmanageable, we find something heroic in rough
clothes and hands, in bad manners, insensitive behaviour, and
unsociableness. And a community of settlers, again, in a rough country,
fighting for a bare existence, makes a virtue of vehemence, of a hasty
rapidity of execution. Hurried and driven men glorify "push" and
impatience, and despise finish and fine discriminations as weak and
demoralising things. These three, the Serf, the Rebel, and the
Squatter, are three out of a thousand types and aspects that have gone
to our making. In the American composition they are dominant. But all
those thousand different standards and traditions are our material, each
with something fine, and each with something evil. They have all
provided the atmosphere of upbringing for men in the past. Out of them
and out of unprecedented occasions, we in this newer age, in which there
are no slaves, in which every man is a citizen, in which the
conveniences of a great and growing civilisation makes the frantic
avidity of the squatter a nuisance, have to set ourselves to frame the
standard of our children's children, to abandon what the slave or the
squatter or the rebel found necessary and that we find unnecessary, to
fit fresh requirements to our new needs. So we have to develop our
figure of the fine man, our desirable citizen in that great and noble
civilised state we who have a "sense of the state" would build out of
the confusions of our world.

To describe that ideal modern citizen now is at best to make a guess and
a suggestion of what must be built in reality by the efforts of a
thousand minds. But he will be a very different creature from that
indifferent, well-behaved business man who passes for a good citizen
to-day. He will be neither under the slave tradition nor a rebel nor a
vehement elemental man. Essentially he will be aristocratic,
aristocratic not in the sense that he has slaves or class inferiors,
because probably he will have nothing of the sort, but aristocratic in
the sense that he will feel the State belongs to him and he to the
State. He will probably be a public servant; at any rate, he will be a
man doing some work in the complicated machinery of the modern community
for a salary and not for speculative gain. Typically, he will be a
professional man. I do not think the ideal modern citizen can be a
person living chiefly by buying for as little as he can give and selling
for as much as he can get; indeed, most of what we idolise to-day as
business enterprise I think he will regard with considerable contempt.
But, then, I am a Socialist, and look forward to the time when the
economic machinery of the community will be a field not for private
enrichment but for public service.

He will be good to his wife and children as he will be good to his
friend, but he will be no partisan for wife and family against the
common welfare. His solicitude will be for the welfare of all the
children of the community; he will have got beyond blind instinct; he
will have the intelligence to understand that almost any child in the
world may have as large a share as his own offspring in the parentage of
his great-great-grandchildren His wife he will treat as his equal; he
will not be "kind" to her, but fair and frank and loving, as one equal
should be with another; he will no more have the impertinence to pet and
pamper her, to keep painful and laborious things out of her knowledge to
"shield" her from the responsibility of political and social work, than
he will to make a Chinese toy of her and bind her feet. He and she will
love that they may enlarge and not limit one another.

Consciously and deliberately the ideal citizen will seek beauty in
himself and in his way of living. He will be temperate rather than
harshly abstinent, and he will keep himself fit and in training as an
elementary duty. He will not be a fat or emaciated person. Fat, panting
men, and thin, enfeebled ones cannot possibly be considered good
citizens any more than dirty or verminous people. He will be just as
fine and seemly in his person as he can be, not from vanity and
self-assertion but to be pleasing and agreeable to his fellows. The ugly
dress and ugly bearing of the "good man" of to-day will be as
incomprehensible to him as the filth of a palaeolithic savage is to us.
He will not speak of his "frame," and hang clothes like sacks over it;
he will know and feel that he and the people about him have wonderful,
delightful and beautiful bodies.

And--I speak of the ideal common citizen--he will be a student and a
philosopher. To understand will be one of his necessary duties. His
mind, like his body, will be fit and well clothed. He will not be too
busy to read and think, though he may be too busy to rush about to get
ignorantly and blatantly rich. It follows that, since he will have a
mind exercised finely and flexible and alert, he will not be a secretive
man. Secretiveness and secret planning are vulgarity; men and women need
to be educated, and he will be educated out of these vices. He will be
intensely truthful, not simply in the vulgar sense of not misstating
facts when pressed, but truthful in the manner of the scientific man or
the artist, and as scornful of concealment as they; truthful, that is to
say, as the expression of a ruling desire to have things made plain and
clear, because that so they are most beautiful and life is at its

And all that I have written of him is equally true and applies word for
word, with only such changes of gender as are needed, to the woman
citizen also.


The present time is harvest home for the prophets. The happy speculator
in future sits on the piled-up wain, singing "I told you so," with the
submarine and the flying machine and the Marconigram and the North Pole
successfully achieved. In the tumult of realisations it perhaps escapes
attention that the prophetic output of new hopes is by no means keeping
pace with the crop of consummations. The present trend of scientific
development is not nearly so obvious as it was a score of years ago; its
promises lack the elementary breadth of that simpler time. Once you have
flown, you have flown. Once you have steamed about under water, you have
steamed about under water. There seem no more big things of that kind
available--so that I almost regret the precipitance of Commander Peary
and Captain Amundsen. No one expects to go beyond that atmosphere for
some centuries at least; all the elements are now invaded. Conceivably
man may presently contrive some sort of earthworm apparatus, so that he
could go through the rocks prospecting very much as an earthworm goes
through the soil, excavating in front and dumping behind, but, to put it
moderately, there are considerable difficulties. And I doubt the
imaginative effect. On the whole, I think material science has got
samples now of all its crops at this level, and that what lies before it
in the coming years is chiefly to work them out in detail and realise
them on the larger scale. No doubt science will still yield all sorts
of big surprising effects, but nothing, I think, to equal the dramatic
novelty, the demonstration of man having got to something altogether new
and strange, of Montgolfier, or the Wright Brothers, of Columbus, or the
Polar conquest. There remains, of course, the tapping of atomic energy,
but I give two hundred years yet before that....

So far, then, as mechanical science goes I am inclined to think the
coming period will be, from the point of view of the common man, almost
without sensational interest. There will be an immense amount of
enrichment and filling-in, but of the sort that does not get prominently
into the daily papers. At every point there will be economies and
simplifications of method, discoveries of new artificial substances with
new capabilities, and of new methods of utilising power. There will be a
progressive change in the apparatus and quality of human life--the sort
of alteration of the percentages that causes no intellectual shock.
Electric heating, for example, will become practicable in our houses,
and then cheaper, and at last so cheap and good that nobody will burn
coal any more. Little electric contrivances will dispense with menial
service in more and more directions. The builder will introduce new,
more convenient, healthier and prettier substances, and the young
architect will become increasingly the intelligent student of novelty.
The steam engine, the coal yard, and the tail chimney, and indeed all
chimneys, will vanish quietly from our urban landscape. The speeding up
and cheapening of travel, and the increase in its swiftness and comfort
will go on steadily--widening experience. A more systematic and
understanding social science will be estimating the probable growth and
movement of population, and planning town and country on lines that
would seem to-day almost inconceivably wise and generous. All this means
a quiet broadening and aeration and beautifying of life. Utopian
requirements, so far as the material side of things goes, will be
executed and delivered with at last the utmost promptness....

It is in quite other directions that the scientific achievements to
astonish our children will probably be achieved. Progress never appears
to be uniform in human affairs. There are intricate correlations between
department and department. One field must mark time until another can
come up to it with results sufficiently arranged and conclusions
sufficiently simplified for application Medicine waits on organic
chemistry, geology on mineralogy, and both on the chemistry of high
pressures and temperature. And subtle variations in method and the
prevailing mental temperament of the type of writer engaged, produce
remarkable differences in the quality and quantity of the stated result.
Moreover, there are in the history of every scientific province periods
of seed-time, when there is great activity without immediate apparent
fruition, and periods, as, for example, the last two decades of
electrical application, of prolific realisation. It is highly probable
that the physiologist and the organic chemist are working towards
co-operations that may make the physician's sphere the new scientific

At present dietary and regimen are the happy hunting ground of the quack
and that sort of volunteer specialist, half-expert, half-impostor, who
flourishes in the absence of worked out and definite knowledge. The
general mass of the medical profession, equipped with a little
experience and a muddled training, and preposterously impeded by the
private adventure conditions under which it lives, goes about pretending
to the possession of precise knowledge which simply does not exist in
the world. Medical research is under-endowed and stupidly endowed, not
for systematic scientific inquiry so much as for the unscientific
seeking of remedies for specific evils--for cancer, consumption, and the
like. Yet masked, misrepresented limited and hampered, the work of
establishing a sound science of vital processes in health and disease is
probably going on now, similar to the clarification of physics and
chemistry that went on in the later part of the eighteenth and the early
years of the nineteenth centuries. It is not unreasonable to suppose
that medicine may presently arrive at far-reaching generalised
convictions, and proceed to take over this great hinterland of human
interests which legitimately belongs to it.

But medicine is not the only field to which we may reasonably look for a
sudden development of wonders. Compared with the sciences of matter,
psychology and social science have as yet given the world remarkably
little cause for amazement. Not only is our medicine feeble and
fragmentary, but our educational science is the poorest miscellany of
aphorisms and dodges. Indeed, directly one goes beyond the range of
measurement and weighing and classification, one finds a sort of
unprogressive floundering going on, which throws the strongest doubts
upon the practical applicability of the current logical and metaphysical
conceptions in those fields. We have emerged only partially from the age
of the schoolmen In these directions we have not emerged at all. It is
quite possible that in university lecture rooms and forbidding volumes
of metaphysical discussion a new emancipation of the human intellect and
will is even now going on. Presently men may be attacking the problems
of the self-control of human life and of human destiny in new phrases
and an altogether novel spirit.

Guesses at the undiscovered must necessarily be vague, but my
anticipations fall into two groups, and first I am disposed to expect a
great systematic increment in individual human power. We probably have
no suspicion as yet of what may be done with the human body and mind by
way of enhancing its effectiveness I remember talking to the late Sir
Michael Foster upon the possibilities of modern surgery, and how he
confessed that he did not dare for his reputation's sake tell ordinary
people the things he believed would some day become matter-of-fact
operations. In that respect I think he spoke for very many of his
colleagues. It is already possible to remove almost any portion of the
human body, including, if needful, large sections of the brain; it is
possible to graft living flesh on living flesh, make new connections,
mould, displace, and rearrange. It is also not impossible to provoke
local hypertrophy, and not only by knife and physical treatment but by
the subtler methods of hypnotism, profound changes can be wrought in the
essential structure of a human being. If only our knowledge of function
and value were at all adequate, we could correct and develop ourselves
in the most extraordinary way. Our knowledge is not adequate, but it may
not always remain inadequate.

We have already had some very astonishing suggestions in this direction
from Doctor Metchnikoff. He regards the human stomach and large
intestine as not only vestigial and superfluous in the human economy,
but as positively dangerous on account of the harbour they afford for
those bacteria that accelerate the decay of age. He proposes that these
viscera should be removed. To a layman like myself this is an altogether
astounding and horrifying idea, but Doctor Metchnikoff is a man of the
very greatest scientific reputation, and it does not give him any qualm
of horror or absurdity to advance it. I am quite sure that if a
gentleman called upon me "done up" in the way I am dimly suggesting,
with most of the contents of his abdomen excavated, his lungs and heart
probably enlarged and improved, parts of his brain removed to eliminate
harmful tendencies and make room for the expansion of the remainder, his
mind and sensibilities increased, and his liability to fatigue and the
need of sleep abolished, I should conceal with the utmost difficulty my
inexpressible disgust and terror. But, then, if M. Bleriot, with his
flying machine, ear-flaps and goggles, had soared down in the year 54
B.C., let us say, upon my woad-adorned ancestors--every family man in
Britain was my ancestor in those days--at Dover, they would have had
entirely similar emotions. And at present I am not discussing what is
beautiful in humanity, but what is possible--and what, being possible,
is likely to be attempted.

It does not follow that because men will some day have this enormous
power over themselves, physically and mentally, that they will
necessarily make themselves horrible--even by our present standards
quite a lot of us would be all the slenderer and more active and
graceful for "Metchnikoffing"--nor does surgery exhaust the available
methods. We are still in the barbaric age, so far as our use of food and
drugs is concerned. We stuff all sorts of substances into our
unfortunate interiors and blunder upon the most various consequences.
Few people of three score and ten but have spent in the aggregate the
best part of a year in a state of indigestion, stupid, angry or painful
indigestion as the case may be. No one would be so careless and ignorant
about the fuel he burnt in his motor-car as most of us are about the
fuel we burn in our bodies. And there are all sort of stimulating and
exhilarating things, digesting things, fatigue-suppressing things,
exercise economising things, we dare not use because we are afraid of
our ignorance of their precise working. There seems no reason to suppose
that human life, properly understood and controlled, could not be a
constant succession of delightful and for the most part active bodily
and mental phases. It is sheer ignorance and bad management that keep
the majority of people in that disagreeable system of states which we
indicate by saying we are "a bit off colour" or a little "out of
training." It may seem madly Utopian now to suggest that practically
everyone in the community might be clean, beautiful, incessantly active,
"fit," and long-lived, with the marks of all the surgery they have
undergone quite healed and hidden, but not more madly Utopian than it
would have seemed to King Alfred the Great if one had said that
practically everyone in this country, down to the very swineherds,
should be able to read and write.

Metchnikoff has speculated upon the possibility of delaying old age, and
I do not see why his method should not be applied to the diurnal need of
sleep. No vital process seems to be absolutely fated in itself; it is a
thing conditioned and capable of modification. If Metchnikoff is
right--and to a certain extent he must be right--the decay of age is due
to changing organic processes that may be checked and delayed and
modified by suitable food and regimen. He holds out hope of a new phase
in the human cycle, after the phase of struggle and passion, a phase of
serene intellectual activity, old age with all its experience and none
of its infirmities. Still more are fatigue and the need for repose
dependent upon chemical changes in the body. It would seem we are unable
to maintain exertion, partly through the exhaustion of our tissues, but
far more by the loading of our blood with fatigue products--a
recuperative interlude must ensue. But there is no reason to suppose
that the usual food of to-day is the most rapidly assimilable nurture
possible, that a rapidly digestible or injectable substance is not
conceivable that would vastly accelerate repair, nor that the
elimination and neutralisation of fatigue products might not also be
enormously hastened. There is no inherent impossibility in the idea not
only of various glands being induced to function in a modified manner,
but even in the insertion upon the circulation of interceptors and
artificial glandular structures. No doubt that may strike even an
adventurous surgeon as chimerical, but consider what people, even
authoritative people, were saying of flying and electric traction twenty
years ago. At present a man probably does not get more than three or
four hours of maximum mental and physical efficiency in the day. Few men
can keep at their best in either physical or intellectual work for so
long as that. The rest of the time goes in feeding, digesting, sleeping,
sitting about, relaxation of various kinds. It is quite possible that
science may set itself presently to extend systematically that
proportion of efficient time. The area of maximum efficiency may invade
the periods now demanded by digestion, sleep, exercise, so that at last
nearly the whole of a man's twenty-four hours will be concentrated on
his primary interests instead of dispersed among these secondary
necessary matters.

Please understand I do not consider this concentration of activity and
these vast "artificialisations" of the human body as attractive or
desirable things. At the first proposal much of this tampering with the
natural stuff of life will strike anyone, I think, as ugly and horrible,
just as seeing a little child, green-white and still under an
anaesthetic, gripped my heart much more dreadfully than the sight of the
same child actively bawling with pain. But the business of this paper is
to discuss things that may happen, and not to evolve dreams of
loveliness. Perhaps things of this kind will be manageable without
dreadfulness. Perhaps man will come to such wisdom that neither the
knife nor the drugs nor any of the powers which science thrusts into his
hand will slay the beauty of life for him. Suppose we assume that he is
not such a fool as to let that happen, and that ultimately he will
emerge triumphant with all these powers utilised and controlled.

It is not only that an amplifying science may give mankind happier
bodies and far more active and eventful lives, but that psychology and
educational and social science, reinforcing literature and working
through literature and art, may dare to establish serenities in his
soul. For surely no one who has lived, no one who has watched sin and
crime and punishment, but must have come to realise the enormous amount
of misbehaviour that is mere ignorance and want of mental scope. For my
own part I have never believed in the devil. And it may be a greater
undertaking but no more impossible to make ways to goodwill and a good
heart in men than it is to tunnel mountains and dyke back the sea. The
way that led from the darkness of the cave to the electric light is the
way that will lead to light in the souls of men, that is to say, the way
of free and fearless thinking, free and fearless experiment, organised
exchange of thoughts and results, and patience and persistence and a
sort of intellectual civility.

And with the development of philosophical and scientific method that
will go on with this great increase in man's control over himself,
another issue that is now a mere pious aspiration above abysses of
ignorance and difficulty, will come to be a manageable matter. It has
been the perpetual wonder of philosophers from Plato onward that men
have bred their dogs and horses and left any man or woman, however vile,
free to bear offspring in the next generation of men. Still that goes
on. Beautiful and wonderful people die childless and bury their treasure
in the grave, and we rest content with a system of matrimony that seems
designed to perpetuate mediocrity. A day will come when men will be in
possession of knowledge and opportunity that will enable them to master
this position, and then certainly will it be assured that every
generation shall be born better than was the one before it. And with
that the history of humanity will enter upon a new phase, a phase which
will be to our lives as daylight is to the dreaming of a child as yet


Alone among all the living things this globe has borne, man reckons with
destiny. All other living things obey the forces that created them; and
when the mood of the power changes, submit themselves passively to
extinction Man only looks upon those forces in the face, anticipates the
exhaustion of Nature's kindliness, seeks weapons to defend himself. Last
of the children of Saturn, he escapes their general doom. He
dispossesses his begetter of all possibility of replacement, and grasps
the sceptre of the world. Before man the great and prevalent creatures
followed one another processionally to extinction; the early monsters of
the ancient seas, the clumsy amphibians struggling breathless to the
land, the reptiles, the theriomorpha and the dinosaurs, the bat-winged
reptiles of the Mesozoic forests, the colossal grotesque first mammals,
the giant sloths, the mastodons and mammoths; it is as if some idle
dreamer moulded them and broke them and cast them aside, until at last
comes man and seizes the creative wrist that would wipe him out of being

There is nothing else in all the world that so turns against the powers
that have made it, unless it be man's follower fire. But fire is
witless; a little stream, a changing breeze can stop it. Man
circumvents. If fire were human it would build boats across the rivers
and outmanoeuvre the wind. It would lie in wait in sheltered places,
smouldering, husbanding its fuel until the grass was yellow and the
forests sere. But fire is a mere creature of man's; our world before his
coming knew nothing of it in any of its habitable places, never saw it
except in the lightning flash or remotely on some volcanic coronet. Man
brought it into the commerce of life, a shining, resentful slave, to
hound off the startled beasts from his sleeping-place and serve him like
a dog.

Suppose that some enduring intelligence watched through the ages the
successions of life upon this planet, marked the spreading first of this
species and then that, the conflicts, the adaptations, the
predominances, the dyings away, and conceive how it would have witnessed
this strange dramatic emergence of a rare great ape to manhood. To such
a mind the creature would have seemed at first no more than one of
several varieties of clambering frugivorous mammals, a little
distinguished by a disposition to help his clumsy walking with a stake
and reinforce his fist with a stone. The foreground of the picture would
have been filled by the rhinoceros and mammoth, the great herds of
ruminants, the sabre-toothed lion and the big bears. Then presently the
observer would have noted a peculiar increasing handiness about the
obscurer type, an unwonted intelligence growing behind its eyes. He
would have perceived a disposition in this creature no beast had shown
before, a disposition to make itself independent of the conditions of
climate and the chances of the seasons. Did shelter fail among the trees
and rocks, this curious new thing-began to make itself harbours of its
own; was food irregular, it multiplied food. It began to spread out from
its original circumstances, fitting itself to novel needs, leaving the
forests, invading the plains, following the watercourses upward and
downward, presently carrying the smoke of its fires like a banner of
conquest into wintry desolations and the high places of the earth.

The first onset of man must have been comparatively slow, the first
advances needed long ages. By small degrees it gathered pace. The stride
from the scattered savagery of the earlier stone period to the first
cities, historically a vast interval, would have seemed to that still
watcher, measuring by the standards of astronomy and the rise and
decline of races and genera and orders, a, step almost abrupt. It took,
perhaps, a thousand generations or so to make it. In that interval man
passed from an animal-like obedience to the climate and the weather and
his own instincts, from living in small family parties of a score or so
over restricted areas of indulgent country, to permanent settlements, to
the life of tribal and national communities and the beginnings of
cities. He had spread in that fragment of time over great areas of the
earth's surface, and now he was adapting himself to the Arctic circle on
the one hand and to the life of the tropics on the other; he had
invented the plough and the ship, and subjugated most of the domestic
animals; he was beginning to think of the origin of the world and the
mysteries of being. Writing had added its enduring records to oral
tradition, and he was already making roads. Another five or six hundred
generations at most bring him to ourselves. We sweep into the field of
that looker-on, the momentary incarnations of this sempiternal being,
Man. And after us there comes--

A curtain falls.

The time in which we, whose minds meet here in this writing, were born
and live and die, would be to that imagined observer a mere instant's
phase in the swarming liberation of our kind from ancient imperatives.
It would seem to him a phase of unprecedented swift change and expansion
and achievement. In this last handful of years, electricity has ceased
to be a curious toy, and now carries half mankind upon their daily
journeys, it lights our cities till they outshine the moon and stars,
and reduces to our service a score of hitherto unsuspected metals; we
clamber to the pole of our globe, scale every mountain, soar into the
air, learn how to overcome the malaria that barred our white races from
the tropics, and how to draw the sting from a hundred such agents of
death. Our old cities are being rebuilt in towering marble; great new
cities rise to vie with them. Never, it would seem, has man been so
various and busy and persistent, and there is no intimation of any check
to the expansion of his energies.

And all this continually accelerated advance has come through the
quickening and increase of man's intelligence and its reinforcement
through speech and writing. All this has come in spite of fierce
instincts that make him the most combatant and destructive of animals,
and in spite of the revenge Nature has attempted time after time for his
rebellion against her routines, in the form of strange diseases and
nearly universal pestilences. All this has come as a necessary
consequence of the first obscure gleaming of deliberate thought and
reason through the veil of his animal being. To begin with, he did not
know what he was doing. He sought his more immediate satisfaction and
safety and security. He still apprehends imperfectly the change that
comes upon him. The illusion of separation that makes animal life, that
is to say, passionate competing and breeding and dying, possible, the
blinkers Nature has put upon us that we may clash against and sharpen
one another, still darken our eyes. We live not life as yet, but in
millions of separated lives, still unaware except in rare moods of
illumination that we are more than those fellow beasts of ours who drop
off from the tree of life and perish alone. It is only in the last three
or four thousand years, and through weak and tentative methods of
expression, through clumsy cosmogonies and theologies, and with
incalculable confusion and discoloration, that the human mind has felt
its way towards its undying being in the race. Man still goes to war
against himself, prepares fleets and armies and fortresses, like a
sleep-walker who wounds himself, like some infatuated barbarian who
hacks his own limbs with a knife.

But he awakens. The nightmares of empire and racial conflict and war,
the grotesques of trade jealousy and tariffs, the primordial dream-stuff
of lewdness and jealousy and cruelty, pale before the daylight which
filters between his eyelids. In a little while we individuals will know
ourselves surely for corpuscles in his being, for thoughts that come
together out of strange wanderings into the coherence of a waking mind.
A few score generations ago all living things were in our ancestry. A
few score generations ahead, and all mankind will be in sober fact
descendants from our blood. In physical as in mental fact we separate
persons, with all our difference and individuality, are but fragments,
set apart for a little while in order that we may return to the general
life again with fresh experiences and fresh acquirements, as bees
return with pollen and nourishment to the fellowship of the hive.

And this Man, this wonderful child of old earth, who is ourselves in the
measure of our hearts and minds, does but begin his adventure now.
Through all time henceforth he does but begin his adventure. This planet
and its subjugation is but the dawn of his existence. In a little while
he will reach out to the other planets, and take that greater fire, the
sun, into his service. He will bring his solvent intelligence to bear
upon the riddles of his individual interaction, transmute jealousy and
every passion, control his own increase, select and breed for his
embodiment a continually finer and stronger and wiser race. What none of
us can think or will, save in a disconnected partiality, he will think
and will collectively. Already some of us feel our merger with that
greater life. There come moments when the thing shines out upon our
thoughts. Sometimes in the dark sleepless solitudes of night, one ceases
to be so-and-so, one ceases to bear a proper name, forgets one's
quarrels and vanities, forgives and understands one's enemies and
oneself, as one forgives and understands the quarrels of little
children, knowing oneself indeed to be a being greater than one's
personal accidents, knowing oneself for Man on his planet, flying
swiftly to unmeasured destinies through the starry stillnesses of space.

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