Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams

Part 9 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download The Education of Henry Adams pdf
File size: 1.1 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

in which the new step of Karl Pearson marked only a consistent
progress; but German thought had affected system, unity, and
abstract truth, to a point that fretted the most patient
foreigner, and to Germany the voyager in strange seas of thought
alone might resort with confident hope of renewing his youth.
Turning his back on Karl Pearson and England, he plunged into
Germany, and had scarcely crossed the Rhine when he fell into
libraries of new works bearing the names of Ostwald, Ernst Mach,
Ernst Haeckel, and others less familiar, among whom Haeckel was
easiest to approach, not only because of being the oldest and
clearest and steadiest spokesman of nineteenth-century mechanical
convictions, but also because in 1902 he had published a vehement
renewal of his faith. The volume contained only one paragraph
that concerned a historian; it was that in which Haeckel sank his
voice almost to a religious whisper in avowing with evident
effort, that the "proper essence of substance appeared to him
more and more marvellous and enigmatic as he penetrated further
into the knowledge of its attributes -- matter and energy -- and
as he learned to know their innumerable phenomena and their
evolution." Since Haeckel seemed to have begun the voyage into
multiplicity that Pearson had forbidden to Englishmen, he should
have been a safe pilot to the point, at least, of a "proper
essence of substance" in its attributes of matter and energy: but
Ernst Mach seemed to go yet one step further, for he rejected
matter altogether, and admitted but two processes in nature --
change of place and interconversion of forms. Matter was Motion
-- Motion was Matter -- the thing moved.

A student of history had no need to understand these scientific
ideas of very great men; he sought only the relation with the
ideas of their grandfathers, and their common direction towards
the ideas of their grandsons. He had long ago reached, with
Hegel, the limits of contradiction; and Ernst Mach scarcely added
a shade of variety to the identity of opposites; but both of them
seemed to be in agreement with Karl Pearson on the facts of the
supersensual universe which could be known only as unknowable.

With a deep sigh of relief, the traveller turned back to
France. There he felt safe. No Frenchman except Rabelais and
Montaigne had ever taught anarchy other than as path to order.
Chaos would be unity in Paris even if child of the guillotine. To
make this assurance mathematically sure, the highest scientific
authority in France was a great mathematician, M. Poincare of the
Institut, who published in 1902 a small volume called "La Science
et l'Hypothese," which purported to be relatively readable.
Trusting to its external appearance, the traveller timidly bought
it, and greedily devoured it, without understanding a single
consecutive page, but catching here and there a period that
startled him to the depths of his ignorance, for they seemed to
show that M. Poincare was troubled by the same historical
landmarks which guided or deluded Adams himself: "[In science] we
are led," said M. Poincare, " to act as though a simple law, when
other things were equal, must be more probable than a complicated
law. Half a century ago one frankly confessed it, and proclaimed
that nature loves simplicity. She has since given us too often
the lie. To-day this tendency is no longer avowed, and only as
much of it is preserved as is indispensable so that science shall
not become impossible."

Here at last was a fixed point beyond the chance of confusion
with self-suggestion. History and mathematics agreed. Had M.
Poincare shown anarchistic tastes, his evidence would have
weighed less heavily; but he seemed to be the only authority in
science who felt what a historian felt so strongly -- the need of
unity in a universe. "Considering everything we have made some
approach towards unity. We have not gone as fast as we hoped
fifty years ago; we have not always taken the intended road; but
definitely we have gained much ground." This was the most clear
and convincing evidence of progress yet offered to the navigator
of ignorance; but suddenly he fell on another view which seemed
to him quite irreconcilable with the first: "Doubtless if our
means of investigation should become more and more penetrating,
we should discover the simple under the complex; then the complex
under the simple; then anew the simple under the complex; and so
on without ever being able to foresee the last term."

A mathematical paradise of endless displacement promised
eternal bliss to the mathematician, but turned the historian
green with horror. Made miserable by the thought that he knew no
mathematics, he burned to ask whether M. Poincare knew any
history, since he began by begging the historical question
altogether, and assuming that the past showed alternating phases
of simple and complex -- the precise point that Adams, after
fifty years of effort, found himself forced to surrender; and
then going on to assume alternating phases for the future which,
for the weary Titan of Unity, differed in nothing essential from
the kinetic theory of a perfect gas.

Since monkeys first began to chatter in trees, neither man nor
beast had ever denied or doubted Multiplicity, Diversity,
Complexity, Anarchy, Chaos. Always and everywhere the Complex had
been true and the Contradiction had been certain. Thought started
by it. Mathematics itself began by counting one -- two -- three;
then imagining their continuity, which M. Poincare was still
exhausting his wits to explain or defend; and this was his
explanation: "In short, the mind has the faculty of creating
symbols, and it is thus that it has constructed mathematical
continuity which is only a particular system of symbols." With
the same light touch, more destructive in its artistic measure
than the heaviest-handed brutality of Englishmen or Germans, he
went on to upset relative truth itself: "How should I answer the
question whether Euclidian Geometry is true? It has no sense! . .
. Euclidian Geometry is, and will remain, the most convenient."

Chaos was a primary fact even in Paris -- especially in Paris
-- as it was in the Book of Genesis; but every thinking being in
Paris or out of it had exhausted thought in the effort to prove
Unity, Continuity, Purpose, Order, Law, Truth, the Universe, God,
after having begun by taking it for granted, and discovering, to
their profound dismay, that some minds denied it. The direction
of mind, as a single force of nature, had been constant since
history began. Its own unity had created a universe the essence
of which was abstract Truth; the Absolute; God! To Thomas
Aquinas, the universe was still a person; to Spinoza, a
substance; to Kant, Truth was the essence of the "I"; an innate
conviction; a categorical imperative; to Poincare, it was a
convenience; and to Karl Pearson, a medium of exchange.

The historian never stopped repeating to himself that he knew
nothing about it; that he was a mere instrument of measure, a
barometer, pedometer, radiometer; and that his whole share in the
matter was restricted to the measurement of thought-motion as
marked by the accepted thinkers. He took their facts for granted.
He knew no more than a firefly about rays -- or about race -- or
sex -- or ennui -- or a bar of music -- or a pang of love -- or a
grain of musk -- or of phosphorus -- or conscience -- or duty --
or the force of Euclidian geometry -- or non-Euclidian -- or heat
-- or light -- or osmosis -- or electrolysis -- or the magnet --
or ether -- or vis inertiae -- or gravitation -- or cohesion --
or elasticity -- or surface tension -- or capillary attraction --
or Brownian motion -- or of some scores, or thousands, or
millions of chemical attractions, repulsions or indifferences
which were busy within and without him; or, in brief, of Force
itself, which, he was credibly informed, bore some dozen
definitions in the textbooks, mostly contradictory, and all, as
he was assured, beyond his intelligence; but summed up in the
dictum of the last and highest science, that Motion seems to be
Matter and Matter seems to be Motion, yet "we are probably
incapable of discovering" what either is. History had no need to
ask what either might be; all it needed to know was the admission
of ignorance; the mere fact of multiplicity baffling science.
Even as to the fact, science disputed, but radium happened to
radiate something that seemed to explode the scientific magazine,
bringing thought, for the time, to a standstill; though, in the
line of thought-movement in history, radium was merely the next
position, familiar and inexplicable since Zeno and his arrow:
continuous from the beginning of time, and discontinuous at each
successive point. History set it down on the record -- pricked
its position on the chart -- and waited to be led, or misled,
once more.

The historian must not try to know what is truth, if he values
his honesty; for, if he cares for his truths, he is certain to
falsify his facts. The laws of history only repeat the lines of
force or thought. Yet though his will be iron, he cannot help now
and then resuming his humanity or simianity in face of a fear.
The motion of thought had the same value as the motion of a
cannon-ball seen approaching the observer on a direct line
through the air. One could watch its curve for five thousand
years. Its first violent acceleration in historical times had
ended in the catastrophe of 310. The next swerve of direction
occurred towards 1500. Galileo and Bacon gave a still newer curve
to it, which altered its values; but all these changes had never
altered the continuity. Only in 1900, the continuity snapped.

Vaguely conscious of the cataclysm, the world sometimes dated
it from 1893, by the Roentgen rays, or from 1898, by the Curie's
radium; but in 1904, Arthur Balfour announced on the part of
British science that the human race without exception had lived
and died in a world of illusion until the last year of the
century. The date was convenient, and convenience was truth.

The child born in 1900 would, then, be born into a new world
which would not be a unity but a multiple. Adams tried to imagine
it, and an education that would fit it. He found himself in a
land where no one had ever penetrated before; where order was an
accidental relation obnoxious to nature; artificial compulsion
imposed on motion; against which every free energy of the
universe revolted; and which, being merely occasional, resolved
itself back into anarchy at last. He could not deny that the law
of the new multiverse explained much that had been most obscure,
especially the persistently fiendish treatment of man by man; the
perpetual effort of society to establish law, and the perpetual
revolt of society against the law it had established; the
perpetual building up of authority by force, and the perpetual
appeal to force to overthrow it; the perpetual symbolism of a
higher law, and the perpetual relapse to a lower one; the
perpetual victory of the principles of freedom, and their
perpetual conversion into principles of power; but the staggering
problem was the outlook ahead into the despotism of artificial
order which nature abhorred. The physicists had a phrase for it,
unintelligible to the vulgar: "All that we win is a battle --
lost in advance -- with the irreversible phenomena in the
background of nature."

All that a historian won was a vehement wish to escape. He saw
his education complete; and was sorry he ever began it. As a
matter of taste, he greatly preferred his eighteenth-century
education when God was a father and nature a mother, and all was
for the best in a scientific universe. He repudiated all share in
the world as it was to be, and yet he could not detect the point
where his responsibility began or ended.

As history unveiled itself in the new order, man's mind had
behaved like a young pearl oyster, secreting its universe to suit
its conditions until it had built up a shell of nacre that
embodied all its notions of the perfect. Man knew it was true
because he made it, and he loved it for the same reason. He
sacrificed millions of lives to acquire his unity, but he
achieved it, and justly thought it a work of art. The woman
especially did great things, creating her deities on a higher
level than the male, and, in the end, compelling the man to
accept the Virgin as guardian of the man's God. The man's part in
his Universe was secondary, but the woman was at home there, and
sacrificed herself without limit to make it habitable, when man
permitted it, as sometimes happened for brief intervals of war
and famine; but she could not provide protection against forces
of nature. She did not think of her universe as a raft to which
the limpets stuck for life in the surge of a supersensual chaos;
she conceived herself and her family as the centre and flower of
an ordered universe which she knew to be unity because she had
made it after the image of her own fecundity; and this creation
of hers was surrounded by beauties and perfections which she knew
to be real because she herself had imagined them.

Even the masculine philosopher admired and loved and celebrated
her triumph, and the greatest of them sang it in the noblest of
his verses: --

"Alma Venus, coeli subter labentia signa
Quae mare navigerum, quae terras frugiferenteis
Concelebras . . . . . . .
Quae quondam rerum naturam sola gubernas,
Nec sine te quidquam dias in luminis oras
Exoritur, neque fit laetum neque amabile quidquam;
Te sociam studeo!"

Neither man nor woman ever wanted to quit this Eden of their
own invention, and could no more have done it of their own accord
than the pearl oyster could quit its shell; but although the
oyster might perhaps assimilate or embalm a grain of sand forced
into its aperture, it could only perish in face of the cyclonic
hurricane or the volcanic upheaval of its bed. Her supersensual
chaos killed her.

Such seemed the theory of history to be imposed by science on
the generation born after 1900. For this theory, Adams felt
himself in no way responsible. Even as historian he had made it
his duty always to speak with respect of everything that had ever
been thought respectable -- except an occasional statesman; but
he had submitted to force all his life, and he meant to accept it
for the future as for the past. All his efforts had been turned
only to the search for its channel. He never invented his facts;
they were furnished him by the only authorities he could find. As
for himself, according to Helmholz, Ernst Mach, and Arthur
Balfour, he was henceforth to be a conscious ball of vibrating
motions, traversed in every direction by infinite lines of
rotation or vibration, rolling at the feet of the Virgin at
Chartres or of M. Poincare in an attic at Paris, a centre of
supersensual chaos. The discovery did not distress him. A
solitary man of sixty-five years or more, alone in a Gothic
cathedral or a Paris apartment, need fret himself little about a
few illusions more or less. He should have learned his lesson
fifty years earlier; the times had long passed when a student
could stop before chaos or order; he had no choice but to march
with his world.

Nevertheless, he could not pretend that his mind felt flattered
by this scientific outlook. Every fabulist has told how the human
mind has always struggled like a frightened bird to escape the
chaos which caged it; how -- appearing suddenly and inexplicably
out of some unknown and unimaginable void; passing half its known
life in the mental chaos of sleep; victim even when awake, to its
own ill-adjustment, to disease, to age, to external suggestion,
to nature's compulsion; doubting its sensations, and, in the last
resort, trusting only to instruments and averages -- after sixty
or seventy years of growing astonishment, the mind wakes to find
itself looking blankly into the void of death. That it should
profess itself pleased by this performance was all that the
highest rules of good breeding could ask; but that it should
actually be satisfied would prove that it existed only as idiocy.

Satisfied, the future generation could scarcely think itself,
for even when the mind existed in a universe of its own creation,
it had never been quite at ease. As far as one ventured to
interpret actual science, the mind had thus far adjusted itself
by an infinite series of infinitely delicate adjustments forced
on it by the infinite motion of an infinite chaos of motion;
dragged at one moment into the unknowable and unthinkable, then
trying to scramble back within its senses and to bar the chaos
out, but always assimilating bits of it, until at last, in 1900,
a new avalanche of unknown forces had fallen on it, which
required new mental powers to control. If this view was correct,
the mind could gain nothing by flight or by fight; it must merge
in its supersensual multiverse, or succumb to it.


VIS NOVA (1903-1904)

PARIS after midsummer is a place where only the industrious poor
remain, unless they can get away; but Adams knew no spot where
history would be better off, and the calm of the Champs Elysees
was so deep that when Mr. de Witte was promoted to a powerless
dignity, no one whispered that the promotion was disgrace, while
one might have supposed, from the silence, that the Viceroy
Alexeieff had reoccupied Manchuria as a fulfilment of
treaty-obligation. For once, the conspiracy of silence became
crime. Never had so modern and so vital a riddle been put before
Western society, but society shut its eyes. Manchuria knew every
step into war; Japan had completed every preparation; Alexeieff
had collected his army and fleet at Port Arthur, mounting his
siege guns and laying in enormous stores, ready for the expected
attack; from Yokohama to Irkutsk, the whole East was under war
conditions; but Europe knew nothing. The banks would allow no
disturbance; the press said not a word, and even the embassies
were silent. Every anarchist in Europe buzzed excitement and
began to collect in groups, but the Hotel Ritz was calm, and the
Grand Dukes who swarmed there professed to know directly from the
Winter Palace that there would be no war.

As usual, Adams felt as ignorant as the best-informed
statesman, and though the sense was familiar, for once he could
see that the ignorance was assumed. After nearly fifty years of
experience, he could not understand how the comedy could be so
well acted. Even as late as November, diplomats were gravely
asking every passer-by for his opinion, and avowed none of their
own except what was directly authorized at St. Petersburg. He
could make nothing of it. He found himself in face of his new
problem -- the workings of Russian inertia -- and he could
conceive no way of forming an opinion how much was real and how
much was comedy had he been in the Winter Palace himself. At
times he doubted whether the Grand Dukes or the Czar knew, but
old diplomatic training forbade him to admit such innocence.

This was the situation at Christmas when he left Paris. On
January 6, 1904, he reached Washington, where the contrast of
atmosphere astonished him, for he had never before seen his
country think as a world-power. No doubt, Japanese diplomacy had
much to do with this alertness, but the immense superiority of
Japanese diplomacy should have been more evident in Europe than
in America, and in any case, could not account for the total
disappearance of Russian diplomacy. A government by inertia
greatly disconcerted study. One was led to suspect that Cassini
never heard from his Government, and that Lamsdorf knew nothing
of his own department; yet no such suspicion could be admitted.
Cassini resorted to transparent blague: "Japan seemed infatuated
even to the point of war! But what can the Japanese do? As usual,
sit on their heels and pray to Buddha!" One of the oldest and
most accomplished diplomatists in the service could never show
his hand so empty as this if he held a card to play; but he never
betrayed stronger resource behind. "If any Japanese succeed in
entering Manchuria, they will never get out of it alive." The
inertia of Cassini, who was naturally the most energetic of
diplomatists, deeply interested a student of race-inertia, whose
mind had lost itself in the attempt to invent scales of force.

The air of official Russia seemed most dramatic in the air of
the White House, by contrast with the outspoken candor of the
President. Reticence had no place there. Every one in America saw
that, whether Russia or Japan were victim, one of the decisive
struggles in American history was pending, and any presence of
secrecy or indifference was absurd. Interest was acute, and
curiosity intense, for no one knew what the Russian Government
meant or wanted, while war had become a question of days. To an
impartial student who gravely doubted whether the Czar himself
acted as a conscious force or an inert weight, the
straight-forward avowals of Roosevelt had singular value as a
standard of measure. By chance it happened that Adams was obliged
to take the place of his brother Brooks at the Diplomatic
Reception immediately after his return home, and the part of
proxy included his supping at the President's table, with
Secretary Root on one side, the President opposite, and Miss
Chamberlain between them. Naturally the President talked and the
guests listened; which seemed, to one who had just escaped from
the European conspiracy of silence, like drawing a free breath
after stifling. Roosevelt, as every one knew, was always an
amusing talker, and had the reputation of being indiscreet beyond
any other man of great importance in the world, except the Kaiser
Wilhelm and Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, the father of his guest at
table; and this evening he spared none. With the usual abuse of
the quos ego, common to vigorous statesmen, he said all that he
thought about Russians and Japanese, as well as about Boers and
British, without restraint, in full hearing of twenty people, to
the entire satisfaction of his listener; and concluded by
declaring that war was imminent; that it ought to be stopped;
that it could be stopped: " I could do it myself; I could stop it
to-morrow!" and he went on to explain his reasons for restraint.

That he was right, and that, within another generation, his
successor would do what he would have liked to do, made no shadow
of doubt in the mind of his hearer, though it would have been
folly when he last supped at the White House in the dynasty of
President Hayes; but the listener cared less for the assertion of
power, than for the vigor of view. The truth was evident enough,
ordinary, even commonplace if one liked, but it was not a truth
of inertia, nor was the method to be mistaken for inert.

Nor could the force of Japan be mistaken for a moment as a
force of inertia, although its aggressive was taken as
methodically -- as mathematically -- as a demonstration of
Euclid, and Adams thought that as against any but Russians it
would have lost its opening. Each day counted as a measure of
relative energy on the historical scale, and the whole story made
a Grammar of new Science quite as instructive as that of Pearson.

The forces thus launched were bound to reach some new
equilibrium which would prove the problem in one sense or
another, and the war had no personal value for Adams except that
it gave Hay his last great triumph. He had carried on his long
contest with Cassini so skillfully that no one knew enough to
understand the diplomatic perfection of his work, which contained
no error; but such success is complete only when it is invisible,
and his victory at last was victory of judgment, not of act. He
could do nothing, and the whole country would have sprung on him
had he tried. Japan and England saved his "open door" and fought
his battle. All that remained for him was to make the peace, and
Adams set his heart on getting the peace quickly in hand, for
Hay's sake as well as for that of Russia. He thought then that it
could be done in one campaign, for he knew that, in a military
sense, the fall of Port Arthur must lead to negotiation, and
every one felt that Hay would inevitably direct it; but the race
was close, and while the war grew every day in proportions, Hay's
strength every day declined.

St. Gaudens came on to model his head, and Sargent painted his
portrait, two steps essential to immortality which he bore with a
certain degree of resignation, but he grumbled when the President
made him go to St. Louis to address some gathering at the
Exposition; and Mrs. Hay bade Adams go with them, for whatever
use he could suppose himself to serve. He professed the religion
of World's Fairs, without which he held education to be a blind
impossibility; and obeyed Mrs. Hay's bidding the more readily
because it united his two educations in one; but theory and
practice were put to equally severe test at St. Louis. Ten years
had passed since he last crossed the Mississippi, and he found
everything new. In this great region from Pittsburgh through Ohio
and Indiana, agriculture had made way for steam; tall chimneys
reeked smoke on every horizon, and dirty suburbs filled with
scrap-iron, scrap-paper and cinders, formed the setting of every
town. Evidently, cleanliness was not to be the birthmark of the
new American, but this matter of discards concerned the measure
of force little, while the chimneys and cinders concerned it so
much that Adams thought the Secretary of State should have rushed
to the platform at every station to ask who were the people; for
the American of the prime seemed to be extinct with the Shawnee
and the buffalo.

The subject grew quickly delicate. History told little about
these millions of Germans and Slavs, or whatever their
race-names, who had overflowed these regions as though the Rhine
and the Danube had turned their floods into the Ohio. John Hay
was as strange to the Mississippi River as though he had not been
bred on its shores, and the city of St. Louis had turned its back
on the noblest work of nature, leaving it bankrupt between its
own banks. The new American showed his parentage proudly; he was
the child of steam and the brother of the dynamo, and already,
within less than thirty years, this mass of mixed humanities,
brought together by steam, was squeezed and welded into approach
to shape; a product of so much mechanical power, and bearing no
distinctive marks but that of its pressure. The new American,
like the new European, was the servant of the powerhouse, as the
European of the twelfth century was the servant of the Church,
and the features would follow the parentage.

The St. Louis Exposition was its first creation in the
twentieth century, and, for that reason, acutely interesting. One
saw here a third-rate town of half-a-million people without
history, education, unity, or art, and with little capital --
without even an element of natural interest except the river
which it studiously ignored -- but doing what London, Paris, or
New York would have shrunk from attempting. This new social
conglomerate, with no tie but its steam-power and not much of
that, threw away thirty or forty million dollars on a pageant as
ephemeral as a stage flat. The world had never witnessed so
marvellous a phantasm by night Arabia's crimson sands had never
returned a glow half so astonishing, as one wandered among long
lines of white palaces, exquisitely lighted by thousands on
thousands of electric candles, soft, rich, shadowy, palpable in
their sensuous depths; all in deep silence, profound solitude,
listening for a voice or a foot-fall or the plash of an oar, as
though the Emir Mirza were displaying the beauties of this City
of Brass, which could show nothing half so beautiful as this
illumination, with its vast, white, monumental solitude, bathed
in the pure light of setting suns. One enjoyed it with iniquitous
rapture, not because of exhibits but rather because of their
want. Here was a paradox like the stellar universe that fitted
one's mental faults. Had there been no exhibits at all, and no
visitors, one would have enjoyed it only the more.

Here education found new forage. That the power was wasted, the
art indiflerent, the economic failure complete, added just so
much to the interest. The chaos of education approached a dream.
One asked one's self whether this extravagance reflected the past
or imaged the future; whether it was a creation of the old
American or a promise of the new one. No prophet could be
believed, but a pilgrim of power, without constituency to
flatter, might allow himself to hope. The prospect from the
Exposition was pleasant; one seemed to see almost an adequate
motive for power; almost a scheme for progress. In another
half-century, the people of the central valleys should have
hundreds of millions to throw away more easily than in 1900 they
could throw away tens; and by that time they might know what they
wanted. Possibly they might even have learned how to reach it.

This was an optimist's hope, shared by few except pilgrims of
World's Fairs, and frankly dropped by the multitude, for, east of
the Mississippi, the St. Louis Exposition met a deliberate
conspiracy of silence, discouraging, beyond measure, to an
optimistic dream of future strength in American expression. The
party got back to Washington on May 24, and before sailing for
Europe, Adams went over, one warm evening, to bid good-bye on the
garden-porch of the White House. He found himself the first
person who urged Mrs. Roosevelt to visit the Exposition for its
beauty, and, as far as he ever knew, the last.

He left St. Louis May 22, 1904, and on Sunday, June 5, found
himself again in the town of Coutances, where the people of
Normandy had built, towards the year 1250, an Exposition which
architects still admired and tourists visited, for it was thought
singularly expressive of force as well as of grace in the Virgin.
On this Sunday, the Norman world was celebrating a pretty
church-feast -- the Fete Dieu -- and the streets were filled with
altars to the Virgin, covered with flowers and foliage; the
pavements strewn with paths of leaves and the spring handiwork of
nature; the cathedral densely thronged at mass. The scene was
graceful. The Virgin did not shut her costly Exposition on
Sunday, or any other day, even to American senators who had shut
the St. Louis Exposition to her -- or for her; and a historical
tramp would gladly have offered a candle, or even a candle-stick
in her honor, if she would have taught him her relation with the
deity of the Senators. The power of the Virgin had been plainly
One, embracing all human activity; while the power of the Senate,
or its deity, seemed -- might one say -- to be more or less
ashamed of man and his work. The matter had no great interest as
far as it concerned the somewhat obscure mental processes of
Senators who could probably have given no clearer idea than
priests of the deity they supposed themselves to honor -- if that
was indeed their purpose; but it interested a student of force,
curious to measure its manifestations. Apparently the Virgin --
or her Son -- had no longer the force to build expositions that
one cared to visit, but had the force to close them. The force
was still real, serious, and, at St. Louis, had been anxiously
measured in actual money-value.

That it was actual and serious in France as in the Senate
Chamber at Washington, proved itself at once by forcing Adams to
buy an automobile, which was a supreme demonstration because this
was the form of force which Adams most abominated. He had set
aside the summer for study of the Virgin, not as a sentiment but
as a motive power, which had left monuments widely scattered and
not easily reached. The automobile alone could unite them in any
reasonable sequence, and although the force of the automobile,
for the purposes of a commercial traveller, seemed to have no
relation whatever to the force that inspired a Gothic cathedral,
the Virgin in the twelfth century would have guided and
controlled both bag-man and architect, as she controlled the
seeker of history. In his mind the problem offered itself as to
Newton; it was a matter of mutual attraction, and he knew it, in
his own case, to be a formula as precise as s = gt^2/2, if he
could but experimentally prove it. Of the attraction he needed no
proof on his own account; the costs of his automobile were more
than sufficient: but as teacher he needed to speak for others
than himself. For him, the Virgin was an adorable mistress, who
led the automobile and its owner where she would, to her
wonderful palaces and chateaux, from Chartres to Rouen, and
thence to Amiens and Laon, and a score of others, kindly
receiving, amusing, charming and dazzling her lover, as though
she were Aphrodite herself, worth all else that man ever dreamed.
He never doubted her force, since he felt it to the last fibre of
his being, and could not more dispute its mastery than he could
dispute the force of gravitation of which he knew nothing but the
formula. He was only too glad to yield himself entirely, not to
her charm or to any sentimentality of religion, but to her mental
and physical energy of creation which had built up these World's
Fairs of thirteenth-century force that turned Chicago and St.
Louis pale.

"Both were faiths and both are gone," said Matthew Arnold of
the Greek and Norse divinities; but the business of a student was
to ask where they had gone. The Virgin had not even altogether
gone; her fading away had been excessively slow. Her adorer had
pursued her too long, too far, and into too many manifestations
of her power, to admit that she had any equivalent either of
quantity or kind, in the actual world, but he could still less
admit her annihilation as energy.

So he went on wooing, happy in the thought that at last he had
found a mistress who could see no difference in the age of her
lovers. Her own age had no time-measure. For years past, incited
by John La Farge, Adams had devoted his summer schooling to the
study of her glass at Chartres and elsewhere, and if the
automobile had one vitesse more useful than another, it was that
of a century a minute; that of passing from one century to
another without break. The centuries dropped like autumn leaves
in one's road, and one was not fined for running over them too
fast. When the thirteenth lost breath, the fourteenth caught on,
and the sixteenth ran close ahead. The hunt for the Virgin's
glass opened rich preserves. Especially the sixteenth century ran
riot in sensuous worship. Then the ocean of religion, which had
flooded France, broke into Shelley's light dissolved in
star-showers thrown, which had left every remote village strewn
with fragments that flashed like jewels, and were tossed into
hidden clefts of peace and forgetfulness. One dared not pass a
parish church in Champagne or Touraine without stopping to look
for its window of fragments, where one's glass discovered the
Christ-child in his manger, nursed by the head of a fragmentary
donkey, with a Cupid playing into its long ears from the
balustrade of a Venetian palace, guarded by a legless Flemish
leibwache, standing on his head with a broken halbert; all
invoked in prayer by remnants of the donors and their children
that might have been drawn by Fouquet or Pinturicchio, in colors
as fresh and living as the day they were burned in, and with
feeling that still consoled the faithful for the paradise they
had paid for and lost. France abounds in sixteenth-century glass.
Paris alone contains acres of it, and the neighborhood within
fifty miles contains scores of churches where the student may
still imagine himself three hundred years old, kneeling before
the Virgin's window in the silent solitude of an empty faith,
crying his culp, beating his breast, confessing his historical
sins, weighed down by the rubbish of sixty-six years' education,
and still desperately hoping to understand.

He understood a little, though not much. The sixteenth century
had a value of its own, as though the ONE had become several, and
Unity had counted more than Three, though the Multiple still
showed modest numbers. The glass had gone back to the Roman
Empire and forward to the American continent; it betrayed
sympathy with Montaigne and Shakespeare; but the Virgin was still
supreme. At Beauvais in the Church of St. Stephen was a superb
tree of Jesse, famous as the work of Engrand le Prince, about
1570 or 1580, in whose branches, among the fourteen ancestors of
the Virgin, three-fourths bore features of the Kings of France,
among them Francis I and Henry II, who were hardly more edifying
than Kings of Israel, and at least unusual as sources of divine
purity. Compared with the still more famous Tree of Jesse at
Chartres, dating from 1150 or thereabouts, must one declare that
Engrand le Prince proved progress? and in what direction?
Complexity, Multiplicity, even a step towards Anarchy, it might
suggest, but what step towards perfection?

One late afternoon, at midsummer, the Virgin's pilgrim was
wandering through the streets of Troyes in close and intimate
conversation with Thibaut of Champagne and his highly intelligent
seneschal, the Sieur de Joinville, when he noticed one or two men
looking at a bit of paper stuck in a window. Approaching, he read
that M. de Plehve had been assassinated at St. Petersburg. The
mad mixture of Russia and the Crusades, of the Hippodrome and the
Renaissance, drove him for refuge into the fascinating Church of
St. Pantaleon near by. Martyrs, murderers, Caesars, saints and
assassins -- half in glass and half in telegram; chaos of time,
place, morals, forces and motive -- gave him vertigo. Had one sat
all one's life on the steps of Ara Coeli for this? Was
assassination forever to be the last word of Progress? No one in
the street had shown a sign of protest; he himself felt none; the
charming Church with its delightful windows, in its exquisite
absence of other tourists, took a keener expression of celestial
peace than could have been given it by any contrast short of
explosive murder; the conservative Christian anarchist had come
to his own, but which was he -- the murderer or the murdered ?

The Virgin herself never looked so winning -- so One -- as in
this scandalous failure of her Grace. To what purpose had she
existed, if, after nineteen hundred years, the world was bloodier
than when she was born? The stupendous failure of Christianity
tortured history. The effort for Unity could not be a partial
success; even alternating Unity resolved itself into meaningless
motion at last. To the tired student, the idea that he must give
it up seemed sheer senility. As long as he could whisper, he
would go on as he had begun, bluntly refusing to meet his creator
with the admission that the creation had taught him nothing
except that the square of the hypothenuse of a right-angled
triangle might for convenience be taken as equal to something
else. Every man with self-respect enough to become effective, if
only as a machine, has had to account to himself for himself
somehow, and to invent a formula of his own for his universe, if
the standard formulas failed. There, whether finished or not,
education stopped. The formula, once made, could be but verified.

The effort must begin at once, for time pressed. The old
formulas had failed, and a new one had to be made, but, after
all, the object was not extravagant or eccentric. One sought no
absolute truth. One sought only a spool on which to wind the
thread of history without breaking it. Among indefinite possible
orbits, one sought the orbit which would best satisfy the
observed movement of the runaway star Groombridge, 1838, commonly
called Henry Adams. As term of a nineteenth-century education,
one sought a common factor for certain definite historical
fractions. Any schoolboy could work out the problem if he were
given the right to state it in his own terms.

Therefore, when the fogs and frosts stopped his slaughter of
the centuries, and shut him up again in his garret, he sat down
as though he were again a boy at school to shape after his own
needs the values of a Dynamic Theory of History.



A DYNAMIC theory, like most theories, begins by begging the
question: it defines Progress as the development and economy of
Forces. Further, it defines force as anything that does, or helps
to do work. Man is a force; so is the sun; so is a mathematical
point, though without dimensions or known existence.

Man commonly begs the question again taking for granted that he
captures the forces. A dynamic theory, assigning attractive force
to opposing bodies in proportion to the law of mass, takes for
granted that the forces of nature capture man. The sum of force
attracts; the feeble atom or molecule called man is attracted; he
suffers education or growth; he is the sum of the forces that
attract him; his body and his thought are alike their product;
the movement of the forces controls the progress of his mind,
since he can know nothing but the motions which impinge on his
senses, whose sum makes education.

For convenience as an image, the theory may liken man to a
spider in its web, watching for chance prey. Forces of nature
dance like flies before the net, and the spider pounces on them
when it can; but it makes many fatal mistakes, though its theory
of force is sound. The spider-mind acquires a faculty of memory,
and, with it, a singular skill of analysis and synthesis, taking
apart and putting together in different relations the meshes of
its trap. Man had in the beginning no power of analysis or
synthesis approaching that of the spider, or even of the
honey-bee; he had acute sensibility to the higher forces. Fire
taught him secrets that no other animal could learn; running
water probably taught him even more, especially in his first
lessons of mechanics; the animals helped to educate him, trusting
themselves into his hands merely for the sake of their food, and
carrying his burdens or supplying his clothing; the grasses and
grains were academies of study. With little or no effort on his
part, all these forces formed his thought, induced his action,
and even shaped his figure.

Long before history began, his education was complete, for the
record could not have been started until he had been taught to
record. The universe that had formed him took shape in his mind
as a reflection of his own unity, containing all forces except
himself. Either separately, or in groups, or as a whole, these
forces never ceased to act on him, enlarging his mind as they
enlarged the surface foliage of a vegetable, and the mind needed
only to respond, as the forests did, to these attractions.
Susceptibility to the highest forces is the highest genius;
selection between them is the highest science; their mass is the
highest educator. Man always made, and still makes, grotesque
blunders in selecting and measuring forces, taken at random from
the heap, but he never made a mistake in the value he set on the
whole, which he symbolized as unity and worshipped as God. To
this day, his attitude towards it has never changed, though
science can no longer give to force a name.

Man's function as a force of nature was to assimilate other
forces as he assimilated food. He called it the love of power. He
felt his own feebleness, and he sought for an ass or a camel, a
bow or a sling, to widen his range of power, as he sough fetish
or a planet in the world beyond. He cared little to know its
immediate use, but he could afford to throw nothing away which he
could conceive to have possible value in this or any other
existence. He waited for the object to teach him its use, or want
of use, and the process was slow. He may have gone on for
hundreds of thousands of years, waiting for Nature to tell him
her secrets; and, to his rivals among the monkeys, Nature has
taught no more than at their start; but certain lines of force
were capable of acting on individual apes, and mechanically
selecting types of race or sources of variation. The individual
that responded or reacted to lines of new force then was possibly
the same individual that reacts on it now, and his conception of
the unity seems never to have changed in spite of the increasing
diversity of forces; but the theory of variation is an affair of
other science than history, and matters nothing to dynamics. The
individual or the race would be educated on the same lines of
illusion, which, according to Arthur Balfour, had not essentially
varied down to the year 1900.

To the highest attractive energy, man gave the name of divine,
and for its control he invented the science called Religion, a
word which meant, and still means, cultivation of occult force
whether in detail or mass. Unable to define Force as a unity, man
symbolized it and pursued it, both in himself, and in the
infinite, as philosophy and theology; the mind is itself the
subtlest of all known forces, and its self-introspection
necessarily created a science which had the singular value of
lifting his education, at the start, to the finest, subtlest, and
broadest training both in analysis and synthesis, so that, if
language is a test, he must have reached his highest powers early
in his history; while the mere motive remained as simple an
appetite for power as the tribal greed which led him to trap an
elephant. Hunger, whether for food or for the infinite, sets in
motion multiplicity and infinity of thought, and the sure hope of
gaining a share of infinite power in eternal life would lift most
minds to effort.

He had reached this completeness five thousand years ago, and
added nothing to his stock of known forces for a very long time.
The mass of nature exercised on him so feeble an attraction that
one can scarcely account for his apparent motion. Only a
historian of very exceptional knowledge would venture to say at
what date between 3000 B.C. and 1000 A.D., the momentum of Europe
was greatest; but such progress as the world made consisted in
economies of energy rather than in its development; it was proved
in mathematics, measured by names like Archimedes, Aristarchus,
Ptolemy, and Euclid; or in Civil Law, measured by a number of
names which Adams had begun life by failing to learn; or in
coinage, which was most beautiful near its beginning, and most
barbarous at its close; or it was shown in roads, or the size of
ships, or harbors; or by the use of metals, instruments, and
writing; all of them economies of force, sometimes more forceful
than the forces they helped; but the roads were still travelled
by the horse, the ass, the camel, or the slave; the ships were
still propelled by sails or oars; the lever, the spring, and the
screw bounded the region of applied mechanics. Even the metals
were old.

Much the same thing could be said of religious or supernatural
forces. Down to the year 300 of the Christian era they were
little changed, and in spite of Plato and the sceptics were more
apparently chaotic than ever. The experience of three thousand
years had educated society to feel the vastness of Nature, and
the infinity of her resources of power, but even this increase of
attraction had not yet caused economies in its methods of

There the Western world stood till the year A.D. 305, when the
Emperor Diocletian abdicated; and there it was that Adams broke
down on the steps of Ara Coeli, his path blocked by the
scandalous failure of civilization at the moment it had achieved
complete success. In the year 305 the empire had solved the
problems of Europe more completely than they have ever been
solved since. The Pax Romana, the Civil Law, and Free Trade
should, in four hundred years, have put Europe far in advance of
the point reached by modern society in the four hundred years
since 1500, when conditions were less simple.

The efforts to explain, or explain away, this scandal had been
incessant, but none suited Adams unless it were the economic
theory of adverse exchanges and exhaustion of minerals; but
nations are not ruined beyond a certain point by adverse
exchanges, and Rome had by no means exhausted her resources. On
the contrary, the empire developed resources and energies quite
astounding. No other four hundred years of history before A.D.
1800 knew anything like it; and although some of these
developments, like the Civil Law, the roads, aqueducts, and
harbors, were rather economies than force, yet in northwestern
Europe alone the empire had developed three energies -- France,
England, and Germany -- competent to master the world. The
trouble seemed rather to be that the empire developed too much
energy, and too fast.

A dynamic law requires that two masses -- nature and man --
must go on, reacting upon each other, without stop, as the sun
and a comet react on each other, and that any appearance of
stoppage is illusive. The theory seems to exact excess, rather
than deficiency, of action and reaction to account for the
dissolution of the Roman Empire, which should, as a problem of
mechanics, have been torn to pieces by acceleration. If the
student means to try the experiment of framing a dynamic law, he
must assign values to the forces of attraction that caused the
trouble; and in this case he has them in plain evidence. With the
relentless logic that stamped Roman thought, the empire, which
had established unity on earth, could not help establishing unity
in heaven. It was induced by its dynamic necessities to economize
the gods.

The Church has never ceased to protest against the charge that
Christianity ruined the empire, and, with its usual force, has
pointed out that its reforms alone saved the State. Any dynamic
theory gladly admits it. All it asks is to find and follow the
force that attracts. The Church points out this force in the
Cross, and history needs only to follow it. The empire loudly
asserted its motive. Good taste forbids saying that Constantine
the Great speculated as audaciously as a modern stock-broker on
values of which he knew at the utmost only the volume; or that he
merged all uncertain forces into a single trust, which he
enormously overcapitalized, and forced on the market; but this is
the substance of what Constantine himself said in his Edict of
Milan in the year 313, which admitted Christianity into the Trust
of State Religions. Regarded as an Act of Congress, it runs: "We
have resolved to grant to Christians as well as all others the
liberty to practice the religion they prefer, in order that
whatever exists of divinity or celestial power may help and favor
us and all who are under our government." The empire pursued
power -- not merely spiritual but physical -- in the sense in
which Constantine issued his army order the year before, at the
battle of the Milvian Bridge: In hoc signo vinces! using the
Cross as a train of artillery, which, to his mind, it was.
Society accepted it in the same character. Eighty years
afterwards, Theodosius marched against his rival Eugene with the
Cross for physical champion; and Eugene raised the image of
Hercules to fight for the pagans; while society on both sides
looked on, as though it were a boxing-match, to decide a final
test of force between the divine powers. The Church was powerless
to raise the ideal. What is now known as religion affected the
mind of old society but little. The laity, the people, the
million, almost to a man, bet on the gods as they bet on a horse.

No doubt the Church did all it could to purify the process, but
society was almost wholly pagan in its point of view, and was
drawn to the Cross because, in its system of physics, the Cross
had absorbed all the old occult or fetish-power. The symbol
represented the sum of nature - the Energy of modern science -
and society believed it to be as real as X-rays; perhaps it was!
The emperors used it like gunpowder in politics; the physicians
used it like rays in medicine; the dying clung to it as the
quintessence of force, to protect them from the forces of evil on
their road to the next life.

Throughout these four centuries the empire knew that religion
disturbed economy, for even the cost of heathen incense affected
the exchanges; but no one could afford to buy or construct a
costly and complicated machine when he could hire an occult force
at trifling expense. Fetish-power was cheap and satisfactory,
down to a certain point. Turgot and Auguste Comte long ago fixed
this stage of economy as a necessary phase of social education,
and historians seem now to accept it as the only gain yet made
towards scientific history. Great numbers of educated people --
perhaps a majority -- cling to the method still, and practice it
more or less strictly; but, until quite recently, no other was
known. The only occult power at man's disposal was fetish.
Against it, no mechanical force could compete except within
narrow limits.

Outside of occult or fetish-power, the Roman world was
incredibly poor. It knew but one productive energy resembling a
modern machine -- the slave. No artificial force of serious value
was applied to production or transportation, and when society
developed itself so rapidly in political and social lines, it had
no other means of keeping its economy on the same level than to
extend its slave-system and its fetish-system to the utmost.

The result might have been stated in a mathematical formula as
early as the time of Archimedes, six hundred years before Rome
fell. The economic needs of a violently centralizing society
forced the empire to enlarge its slave-system until the
slave-system consumed itself and the empire too, leaving society
no resource but further enlargement of its religious system in
order to compensate for the losses and horrors of the failure.
For a vicious circle, its mathematical completeness approached
perfection. The dynamic law of attraction and reaction needed
only a Newton to fix it in algebraic form.

At last, in 410, Alaric sacked Rome, and the slave-ridden,
agricultural, uncommercial Western Empire -- the poorer and less
Christianized half -- went to pieces. Society, though terribly
shocked by the horrors of Alaric's storm, felt still more deeply
the disappointment in its new power, the Cross, which had failed
to protect its Church. The outcry against the Cross became so
loud among Christians that its literary champion, Bishop
Augustine of Hippo -- a town between Algiers and Tunis -- was led
to write a famous treatise in defence of the Cross, familiar
still to every scholar, in which he defended feebly the
mechanical value of the symbol -- arguing only that pagan symbols
equally failed -- but insisted on its spiritual value in the
Civitas Dei which had taken the place of the Civitas Romae in
human interest. "Granted that we have lost all we had! Have we
lost faith? Have we lost piety? Have we lost the wealth of the
inner man who is rich before God? These are the wealth of
Christians!" The Civitas Dei, in its turn, became the sum of
attraction for the Western world, though it also showed the same
weakness in mechanics that had wrecked the Civitas Romae. St.
Augustine and his people perished at Hippo towards 430, leaving
society in appearance dull to new attraction.

Yet the attraction remained constant. The delight of
experimenting on occult force of every kind is such as to absorb
all the free thought of the human race. The gods did their work;
history has no quarrel with them; they led, educated, enlarged
the mind; taught knowledge; betrayed ignorance; stimulated
effort. So little is known about the mind -- whether social,
racial, sexual or heritable; whether material or spiritual;
whether animal, vegetable or mineral -- that history is inclined
to avoid it altogether; but nothing forbids one to admit, for
convenience, that it may assimilate food like the body, storing
new force and growing, like a forest, with the storage. The brain
has not yet revealed its mysterious mechanism of gray matter.
Never has Nature offered it so violent a stimulant as when she
opened to it the possibility of sharing infinite power in eternal
life, and it might well need a thousand years of prolonged and
intense experiment to prove the value of the motive. During these
so-called Middle Ages, the Western mind reacted in many forms, on
many sides, expressing its motives in modes, such as Romanesque
and Gothic architecture, glass windows and mosaic walls,
sculpture and poetry, war and love, which still affect some
people as the noblest work of man, so that, even to-day, great
masses of idle and ignorant tourists travel from far countries to
look at Ravenna and San Marco, Palermo and Pisa, Assisi, Cordova,
Chartres, with vague notions about the force that created them,
but with a certain surprise that a social mind of such singular
energy and unity should still lurk in their shadows.

The tourist more rarely visits Constantinople or studies the
architecture of Sancta Sofia, but when he does, he is distinctly
conscious of forces not quite the same. Justinian has not the
simplicity of Charlemagne. The Eastern Empire showed an activity
and variety of forces that classical Europe had never possessed.
The navy of Nicephoras Phocas in the tenth century would have
annihilated in half an hour any navy that Carthage or Athens or
Rome ever set afloat. The dynamic scheme began by asserting
rather recklessly that between the Pyramids (B.C. 3000), and the
Cross (A.D. 300), no new force affected Western progress, and
antiquarians may easily dispute the fact; but in any case the
motive influence, old or new, which raised both Pyramids and
Cross was the same attraction of power in a future life that
raised the dome of Sancta Sofia and the Cathedral at Amiens,
however much it was altered, enlarged, or removed to distance in
space. Therefore, no single event has more puzzled historians
than the sudden, unexplained appearance of at least two new
natural forces of the highest educational value in mechanics, for
the first time within record of history. Literally, these two
forces seemed to drop from the sky at the precise moment when the
Cross on one side and the Crescent on the other, proclaimed the
complete triumph of the Civitas Dei. Had the Manichean doctrine
of Good and Evil as rival deities been orthodox, it would alone
have accounted for this simultaneous victory of hostile powers.

Of the compass, as a step towards demonstration of the dynamic
law, one may confidently say that it proved, better than any
other force, the widening scope of the mind, since it widened
immensely the range of contact between nature and thought. The
compass educated. This must prove itself as needing no proof.

Of Greek fire and gunpowder, the same thing cannot certainly be
said, for they have the air of accidents due to the attraction of
religious motives. They belong to the spiritual world; or to the
doubtful ground of Magic which lay between Good and Evil. They
were chemical forces, mostly explosives, which acted and still
act as the most violent educators ever known to man, but they
were justly feared as diabolic, and whatever insolence man may
have risked towards the milder teachers of his infancy, he was an
abject pupil towards explosives. The Sieur de Joinville left a
record of the energy with which the relatively harmless Greek
fire educated and enlarged the French mind in a single night in
the year 1249, when the crusaders were trying to advance on
Cairo. The good king St. Louis and all his staff dropped on their
knees at every fiery flame that flew by, praying -- "God have
pity on us!" and never had man more reason to call on his gods
than they, for the battle of religion between Christian and
Saracen was trifling compared with that of education between
gunpowder and the Cross.

The fiction that society educated itself, or aimed at a
conscious purpose, was upset by the compass and gunpowder which
dragged and drove Europe at will through frightful bogs of
learning. At first, the apparent lag for want of volume in the
new energies lasted one or two centuries, which closed the great
epochs of emotion by the Gothic cathedrals and scholastic
theology. The moment had Greek beauty and more than Greek unity,
but it was brief; and for another century or two, Western society
seemed to float in space without apparent motion. Yet the
attractive mass of nature's energy continued to attract, and
education became more rapid than ever before. Society began to
resist, but the individual showed greater and greater insistence,
without realizing what he was doing. When the Crescent drove the
Cross in ignominy from Constantinople in 1453, Gutenberg and Fust
were printing their first Bible at Mainz under the impression
that they were helping the Cross. When Columbus discovered the
West Indies in 1492, the Church looked on it as a victory of the
Cross. When Luther and Calvin upset Europe half a century later,
they were trying, like St. Augustine, to substitute the Civitas
Dei for the Civitas Romae. When the Puritans set out for New
England in 1620, they too were looking to found a Civitas Dei in
State Street; and when Bunyan made his Pilgrimage in 1678, he
repeated St. Jerome. Even when, after centuries of license, the
Church reformed its discipline, and, to prove it, burned Giordano
Bruno in 1600, besides condemning Galileo in 1630 -- as science
goes on repeating to us every day -- it condemned anarchists, not
atheists. None of the astronomers were irreligious men; all of
them made a point of magnifying God through his works; a form of
science which did their religion no credit. Neither Galileo nor
Kepler, neither Spinoza nor Descartes, neither Leibnitz nor
Newton, any more than Constantine the Great -- if so much --
doubted Unity. The utmost range of their heresies reached only
its personality.

This persistence of thought-inertia is the leading idea of
modern history. Except as reflected in himself, man has no reason
for assuming unity in the universe, or an ultimate substance, or
a prime-motor. The a priori insistence on this unity ended by
fatiguing the more active -- or reactive -- minds; and Lord Bacon
tried to stop it. He urged society to lay aside the idea of
evolving the universe from a thought, and to try evolving thought
from the universe. The mind should observe and register forces --
take them apart and put them together -- without assuming unity
at all. "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." "The
imagination must be given not wings but weights." As Galileo
reversed the action of earth and sun, Bacon reversed the relation
of thought to force. The mind was thenceforth to follow the
movement of matter, and unity must be left to shift for itself.

The revolution in attitude seemed voluntary, but in fact was as
mechanical as the fall of a feather. Man created nothing. After
1500, the speed of progress so rapidly surpassed man's gait as to
alarm every one, as though it were the acceleration of a falling
body which the dynamic theory takes it to be. Lord Bacon was as
much astonished by it as the Church was, and with reason.
Suddenly society felt itself dragged into situations altogether
new and anarchic -- situations which it could not affect, but
which painfully affected it. Instinct taught it that the universe
in its thought must be in danger when its reflection lost itself
in space. The danger was all the greater because men of science
covered it with "larger synthesis," and poets called the undevout
astronomer mad. Society knew better. Yet the telescope held it
rigidly standing on its head; the microscope revealed a universe
that defied the senses; gunpowder killed whole races that lagged
behind; the compass coerced the most imbruted mariner to act on
the impossible idea that the earth was round; the press drenched
Europe with anarchism. Europe saw itself, violently resisting,
wrenched into false positions, drawn along new lines as a fish
that is caught on a hook; but unable to understand by what force
it was controlled. The resistance was often bloody, sometimes
humorous, always constant. Its contortions in the eighteenth
century are best studied in the wit of Voltaire, but all history
and all philosophy from Montaigne and Pascal to Schopenhauer and
Nietzsche deal with nothing else; and still, throughout it all,
the Baconian law held good; thought did not evolve nature, but
nature evolved thought. Not one considerable man of science dared
face the stream of thought; and the whole number of those who
acted, like Franklin, as electric conductors of the new forces
from nature to man, down to the year 1800, did not exceed a few
score, confined to a few towns in western Europe. Asia refused to
be touched by the stream, and America, except for Franklin, stood

Very slowly the accretion of these new forces, chemical and
mechanical, grew in volume until they acquired sufficient mass to
take the place of the old religious science, substituting their
attraction for the attractions of the Civitas Dei, but the
process remained the same. Nature, not mind, did the work that
the sun does on the planets. Man depended more and more
absolutely on forces other than his own, and on instruments which
superseded his senses. Bacon foretold it: "Neither the naked hand
nor the understanding, left to itself, can effect much. It is by
instruments and helps that the work is done." Once done, the mind
resumed its illusion, and society forgot its impotence; but no
one better than Bacon knew its tricks, and for his true followers
science always meant self-restraint, obedience, sensitiveness to
impulse from without. "Non fingendum aut excogitandum sed
inveniendum quid Natura faciat aut ferat."

The success of this method staggers belief, and even to-day can
be treated by history only as a miracle of growth, like the
sports of nature. Evidently a new variety of mind had appeared.
Certain men merely held out their hands -- like Newton, watched
an apple; like Franklin, flew a kite; like Watt, played with a
tea-kettle -- and great forces of nature stuck to them as though
she were playing ball. Governments did almost nothing but resist.
Even gunpowder and ordnance, the great weapon of government,
showed little development between 1400 and 1800. Society was
hostile or indifferent, as Priestley and Jenner, and even Fulton,
with reason complained in the most advanced societies in the
world, while its resistance became acute wherever the Church held
control; until all mankind seemed to draw itself out in a long
series of groups, dragged on by an attractive power in advance,
which even the leaders obeyed without understanding, as the
planets obeyed gravity, or the trees obeyed heat and light.

The influx of new force was nearly spontaneous. The reaction of
mind on the mass of nature seemed not greater than that of a
comet on the sun; and had the spontaneous influx of force stopped
in Europe, society must have stood still, or gone backward, as in
Asia or Africa. Then only economies of process would have counted
as new force, and society would have been better pleased; for the
idea that new force must be in itself a good is only an animal or
vegetable instinct. As Nature developed her hidden energies, they
tended to become destructive. Thought itself became tortured,
suffering reluctantly, impatiently, painfully, the coercion of
new method. Easy thought had always been movement of inertia, and
mostly mere sentiment; but even the processes of mathematics
measured feebly the needs of force.

The stupendous acceleration after 1800 ended in 1900 with the
appearance of the new class of supersensual forces, before which
the man of science stood at first as bewildered and helpless as,
in the fourth century, a priest of Isis before the Cross of

This, then, or something like this, would be a dynamic formula
of history. Any schoolboy knows enough to object at once that it
is the oldest and most universal of all theories. Church and
State, theology and philosophy, have always preached it,
differing only in the allotment of energy between nature and man.
Whether the attractive energy has been called God or Nature, the
mechanism has been always the same, and history is not obliged to
decide whether the Ultimate tends to a purpose or not, or whether
ultimate energy is one or many. Every one admits that the will is
a free force, habitually decided by motives. No one denies that
motives exist adequate to decide the will; even though it may not
always be conscious of them. Science has proved that forces,
sensible and occult, physical and metaphysical, simple and
complex, surround, traverse, vibrate, rotate, repel, attract,
without stop; that man's senses are conscious of few, and only in
a partial degree; but that, from the beginning of organic
existence, his consciousness has been induced, expanded, trained
in the lines of his sensitiveness; and that the rise of his
faculties from a lower power to a higher, or from a narrower to a
wider field, may be due to the function of assimilating and
storing outside force or forces. There is nothing unscientific in
the idea that, beyond the lines of force felt by the senses, the
universe may be -- as it has always been -- either a
supersensuous chaos or a divine unity, which irresistibly
attracts, and is either life or death to penetrate. Thus far,
religion, philosophy, and science seem to go hand in hand. The
schools begin their vital battle only there. In the earlier
stages of progress, the forces to be assimilated were simple and
easy to absorb, but, as the mind of man enlarged its range, it
enlarged the field of complexity, and must continue to do so,
even into chaos, until the reservoirs of sensuous or
supersensuous energies are exhausted, or cease to affect him, or
until he succumbs to their excess.

For past history, this way of grouping its sequences may answer
for a chart of relations, although any serious student would need
to invent another, to compare or correct its errors; but past
history is only a value of relation to the future, and this value
is wholly one of convenience, which can be tested only by
experiment. Any law of movement must include, to make it a
convenience, some mechanical formula of acceleration.



IMAGES are not arguments, rarely even lead to proof, but the
mind craves them, and, of late more than ever, the keenest
experimenters find twenty images better than one, especially if
contradictory; since the human mind has already learned to deal
in contradictions.

The image needed here is that of a new centre, or
preponderating mass, artificially introduced on earth in the
midst of a system of attractive forces that previously made their
own equilibrium, and constantly induced to accelerate its motion
till it shall establish a new equilibrium. A dynamic theory would
begin by assuming that all history, terrestrial or cosmic,
mechanical or intellectual, would be reducible to this formula if
we knew the facts.

For convenience, the most familiar image should come first; and
this is probably that of the comet, or meteoric streams, like the
Leonids and Perseids; a complex of minute mechanical agencies,
reacting within and without, and guided by the sum of forces
attracting or deflecting it. Nothing forbids one to assume that
the man-meteorite might grow, as an acorn does, absorbing light,
heat, electricity -- or thought; for, in recent times, such
transference of energy has become a familiar idea; but the
simplest figure, at first, is that of a perfect comet -- say that
of 1843 -- which drops from space, in a straight line, at the
regular acceleration of speed, directly into the sun, and after
wheeling sharply about it, in heat that ought to dissipate any
known substance, turns back unharmed, in defiance of law, by the
path on which it came. The mind, by analogy, may figure as such a
comet, the better because it also defies law.

Motion is the ultimate object of science, and measures of
motion are many; but with thought as with matter, the true
measure is mass in its astronomic sense -- the sum or difference
of attractive forces. Science has quite enough trouble in
measuring its material motions without volunteering help to the
historian, but the historian needs not much help to measure some
kinds of social movement; and especially in the nineteenth
century, society by common accord agreed in measuring its
progress by the coal-output. The ratio of increase in the volume
of coal-power may serve as dynamometer.

The coal-output of the world, speaking roughly, doubled every
ten years between 1840 and 1900, in the form of utilized power,
for the ton of coal yielded three or four times as much power in
1900 as in 1840. Rapid as this rate of acceleration in volume
seems, it may be tested in a thousand ways without greatly
reducing it. Perhaps the ocean steamer is nearest unity and
easiest to measure, for any one might hire, in 1905, for a small
sum of money, the use of 30,000 steam-horse-power to cross the
ocean, and by halving this figure every ten years, he got back to
234 horse-power for 1835, which was accuracy enough for his
purposes. In truth, his chief trouble came not from the ratio in
volume of heat, but from the intensity, since he could get no
basis for a ratio there. All ages of history have known high
intensities, like the iron-furnace, the burning-glass, the
blow-pipe; but no society has ever used high intensities on any
large scale till now, nor can a mere bystander decide what range
of temperature is now in common use. Loosely guessing that
science controls habitually the whole range from absolute zero to
3000 degrees Centigrade, one might assume, for convenience, that
the ten-year ratio for volume could be used temporarily for
intensity; and still there remained a ratio to be guessed for
other forces than heat. Since 1800 scores of new forces had been
discovered; old forces had been raised to higher powers, as could
be measured in the navy-gun; great regions of chemistry had been
opened up, and connected with other regions of physics. Within
ten years a new universe of force had been revealed in radiation.
Complexity had extended itself on immense horizons, and
arithmetical ratios were useless for any attempt at accuracy. The
force evolved seemed more like explosion than gravitation, and
followed closely the curve of steam; but, at all events, the
ten-year ratio seemed carefully conservative. Unless the
calculator was prepared to be instantly overwhelmed by physical
force and mental complexity, he must stop there.

Thus, taking the year 1900 as the starting point for carrying
back the series, nothing was easier than to assume a ten-year
period of retardation as far back as 1820, but beyond that point
the statistician failed, and only the mathematician could help.
Laplace would have found it child's-play to fix a ratio of
progression in mathematical science between Descartes, Leibnitz,
Newton, and himself. Watt could have given in pounds the increase
of power between Newcomen's engines and his own. Volta and
Benjamin Franklin would have stated their progress as absolute
creation of power. Dalton could have measured minutely his
advance on Boerhaave. Napoleon I must have had a distinct notion
of his own numerical relation to Louis XIV. No one in 1789
doubted the progress of force, least of all those who were to
lose their heads by it.

Pending agreement between these authorities, theory may assume
what it likes -- say a fifty, or even a five-and-twenty-year
period of reduplication for the eighteenth century, for the
period matters little until the acceleration itself is admitted.
The subject is even more amusing in the seventeenth than in the
eighteenth century, because Galileo and Kepler, Descartes,
Huygens, and Isaac Newton took vast pains to fix the laws of
acceleration for moving bodies, while Lord Bacon and William
Harvey were content with showing experimentally the fact of
acceleration in knowledge; but from their combined results a
historian might be tempted to maintain a similar rate of movement
back to 1600, subject to correction from the historians of

The mathematicians might carry their calculations back as far
as the fourteenth century when algebra seems to have become for
the first time the standard measure of mechanical progress in
western Europe; for not only Copernicus and Tycho Brahe, but even
artists like Leonardo, Michael Angelo, and Albert Durer worked by
mathematical processes, and their testimony would probably give
results more exact than that of Montaigne or Shakespeare; but, to
save trouble, one might tentatively carry back the same ratio of
acceleration, or retardation, to the year 1400, with the help of
Columbus and Gutenberg, so taking a uniform rate during the whole
four centuries (1400-1800), and leaving to statisticians the task
of correcting it.

Or better, one might, for convenience, use the formula of
squares to serve for a law of mind. Any other formula would do as
well, either of chemical explosion, or electrolysis, or vegetable
growth, or of expansion or contraction in innumerable forms; but
this happens to be simple and convenient. Its force increases in
the direct ratio of its squares. As the human meteoroid
approached the sun or centre of attractive force, the attraction
of one century squared itself to give the measure of attraction
in the next.

Behind the year 1400, the process certainly went on, but the
progress became so slight as to be hardly measurable. What was
gained in the east or elsewhere, cannot be known; but forces,
called loosely Greek fire and gunpowder, came into use in the
west in the thirteenth century, as well as instruments like the
compass, the blow-pipe, clocks and spectacles, and materials like
paper; Arabic notation and algebra were introduced, while
metaphysics and theology acted as violent stimulants to mind. An
architect might detect a sequence between the Church of St.
Peter's at Rome, the Amiens Cathedral, the Duomo at Pisa, San
Marco at Venice, Sancta Sofia at Constantinople and the churches
at Ravenna. All the historian dares affirm is that a sequence is
manifestly there, and he has a right to carry back his ratio, to
represent the fact, without assuming its numerical correctness.
On the human mind as a moving body, the break in acceleration in
the Middle Ages is only apparent; the attraction worked through
shifting forms of force, as the sun works by light or heat,
electricity, gravitation, or what not, on different organs with
different sensibilities, but with invariable law.

The science of prehistoric man has no value except to prove
that the law went back into indefinite antiquity. A stone
arrowhead is as convincing as a steam-engine. The values were as
clear a hundred thousand years ago as now, and extended equally
over the whole world. The motion at last became infinitely
slight, but cannot be proved to have stopped. The motion of
Newton's comet at aphelion may be equally slight. To
evolutionists may be left the processes of evolution; to
historians the single interest is the law of reaction between
force and force -- between mind and nature -- the law of

The great division of history into phases by Turgot and Comte
first affirmed this law in its outlines by asserting the unity of
progress, for a mere phase interrupts no growth, and nature shows
innumerable such phases. The development of coal-power in the
nineteenth century furnished the first means of assigning closer
values to the elements; and the appearance of supersensual forces
towards 1900 made this calculation a pressing necessity; since
the next step became infinitely serious.

A law of acceleration, definite and constant as any law of
mechanics, cannot be supposed to relax its energy to suit the
convenience of man. No one is likely to suggest a theory that
man's convenience had been consulted by Nature at any time, or
that Nature has consulted the convenience of any of her
creations, except perhaps the Terebratula. In every age man has
bitterly and justly complained that Nature hurried and hustled
him, for inertia almost invariably has ended in tragedy.
Resistance is its law, and resistance to superior mass is futile
and fatal.

Fifty years ago, science took for granted that the rate of
acceleration could not last. The world forgets quickly, but even
today the habit remains of founding statistics on the faith that
consumption will continue nearly stationary. Two generations,
with John Stuart Mill, talked of this stationary period, which
was to follow the explosion of new power. All the men who were
elderly in the forties died in this faith, and other men grew old
nursing the same conviction, and happy in it; while science, for
fifty years, permitted, or encouraged, society to think that
force would prove to be limited in supply. This mental inertia of
science lasted through the eighties before showing signs of
breaking up; and nothing short of radium fairly wakened men to
the fact, long since evident, that force was inexhaustible. Even
then the scientific authorities vehemently resisted.

Nothing so revolutionary had happened since the year 300.
Thought had more than once been upset, but never caught and
whirled about in the vortex of infinite forces. Power leaped from
every atom, and enough of it to supply the stellar universe
showed itself running to waste at every pore of matter. Man could
no longer hold it off. Forces grasped his wrists and flung him
about as though he had hold of a live wire or a runaway
automobile; which was very nearly the exact truth for the
purposes of an elderly and timid single gentleman in Paris, who
never drove down the Champs Elysees without expecting an
accident, and commonly witnessing one; or found himself in the
neighborhood of an official without calculating the chances of a
bomb. So long as the rates of progress held good, these bombs
would double in force and number every ten years.

Impossibilities no longer stood in the way. One's life had
fattened on impossibilities. Before the boy was six years old, he
had seen four impossibilities made actual -- the ocean-steamer,
the railway, the electric telegraph, and the Daguerreotype; nor
could he ever learn which of the four had most hurried others to
come. He had seen the coal-output of the United States grow from
nothing to three hundred million tons or more. What was far more
serious, he had seen the number of minds, engaged in pursuing
force -- the truest measure of its attraction -- increase from a
few scores or hundreds, in 1838, to many thousands in 1905,
trained to sharpness never before reached, and armed with
instruments amounting to new senses of indefinite power and
accuracy, while they chased force into hiding-places where Nature
herself had never known it to be, making analyses that
contradicted being, and syntheses that endangered the elements.
No one could say that the social mind now failed to respond to
new force, even when the new force annoyed it horribly. Every day
Nature violently revolted, causing so-called accidents with
enormous destruction of property and life, while plainly laughing
at man, who helplessly groaned and shrieked and shuddered, but
never for a single instant could stop. The railways alone
approached the carnage of war; automobiles and fire-arms ravaged
society, until an earthquake became almost a nervous relaxation.
An immense volume of force had detached itself from the unknown
universe of energy, while still vaster reservoirs, supposed to be
infinite, steadily revealed themselves, attracting mankind with
more compulsive course than all the Pontic Seas or Gods or Gold
that ever existed, and feeling still less of retiring ebb.

In 1850, science would have smiled at such a romance as this,
but, in 1900, as far as history could learn, few men of science
thought it a laughing matter. If a perplexed but laborious
follower could venture to guess their drift, it seemed in their
minds a toss-up between anarchy and order. Unless they should be
more honest with themselves in the future than ever they were in
the past, they would be more astonished than their followers when
they reached the end. If Karl Pearson's notions of the universe
were sound, men like Galileo, Descartes, Leibnitz, and Newton
should have stopped the progress of science before 1700,
supposing them to have been honest in the religious convictions
they expressed. In 1900 they were plainly forced back; on faith
in a unity unproved and an order they had themselves disproved.
They had reduced their universe to a series of relations to
themselves. They had reduced themselves to motion in a universe
of motions, with an acceleration, in their own case of
vertiginous violence. With the correctness of their science,
history had no right to meddle, since their science now lay in a
plane where scarcely one or two hundred minds in the world could
follow its mathematical processes; but bombs educate vigorously,
and even wireless telegraphy or airships might require the
reconstruction of society. If any analogy whatever existed
between the human mind, on one side, and the laws of motion, on
the other, the mind had already entered a field of attraction so
violent that it must immediately pass beyond, into new
equilibrium, like the Comet of Newton, to suffer dissipation
altogether, like meteoroids in the earth's atmosphere. If it
behaved like an explosive, it must rapidly recover equilibrium;
if it behaved like a vegetable, it must reach its limits of
growth; and even if it acted like the earlier creations of energy
-- the saurians and sharks -- it must have nearly reached the
limits of its expansion. If science were to go on doubling or
quadrupling its complexities every ten years, even mathematics
would soon succumb. An average mind had succumbed already in
1850; it could no longer understand the problem in 1900.

Fortunately, a student of history had no responsibility for the
problem; he took it as science gave it, and waited only to be
taught. With science or with society, he had no quarrel and
claimed no share of authority. He had never been able to acquire
knowledge, still less to impart it; and if he had, at times, felt
serious differences with the American of the nineteenth century,
he felt none with the American of the twentieth. For this new
creation, born since 1900, a historian asked no longer to be
teacher or even friend; he asked only to be a pupil, and promised
to be docile, for once, even though trodden under foot; for he
could see that the new American -- the child of incalculable
coal-power, chemical power, electric power, and radiating energy,
as well as of new forces yet undetermined -- must be a sort of
God compared with any former creation of nature. At the rate of
progress since 1800, every American who lived into the year 2000
would know how to control unlimited power. He would think in
complexities unimaginable to an earlier mind. He would deal with
problems altogether beyond the range of earlier society. To him
the nineteenth century would stand on the same plane with the
fourth -- equally childlike -- and he would only wonder how both
of them, knowing so little, and so weak in force, should have
done so much. Perhaps even he might go back, in 1964, to sit with
Gibbon on the steps of Ara Coeli.

Meanwhile he was getting education. With that, a teacher who
had failed to educate even the generation of 1870, dared not
interfere. The new forces would educate. History saw few lessons
in the past that would be useful in the future; but one, at
least, it did see. The attempt of the American of 1800 to educate
the American of 1900 had not often been surpassed for folly; and
since 1800 the forces and their complications had increased a
thousand times or more. The attempt of the American of 1900 to
educate the American of 2000, must be even blinder than that of
the Congressman of 1800, except so far as he had learned his
ignorance. During a million or two of years, every generation in
turn had toiled with endless agony to attain and apply power, all
the while betraying the deepest alarm and horror at the power
they created. The teacher of 1900, if foolhardy, might stimulate;
if foolish, might resist; if intelligent, might balance, as wise
and foolish have often tried to do from the beginning; but the
forces would continue to educate, and the mind would continue to
react. All the teacher could hope was to teach it reaction.

Even there his difficulty was extreme. The most elementary
books of science betrayed the inadequacy of old implements of
thought. Chapter after chapter closed with phrases such as one
never met in older literature: "The cause of this phenomenon is
not understood"; "science no longer ventures to explain causes";
"the first step towards a causal explanation still remains to be
taken"; "opinions are very much divided"; "in spite of the
contradictions involved"; "science gets on only by adopting
different theories, sometimes contradictory." Evidently the new
American would need to think in contradictions, and instead of
Kant's famous four antinomies, the new universe would know no law
that could not be proved by its anti-law.

To educate -- one's self to begin with -- had been the effort
of one's life for sixty years; and the difficulties of education
had gone on doubling with the coal-output, until the prospect of
waiting another ten years, in order to face a seventh doubling of
complexities, allured one's imagination but slightly. The law of
acceleration was definite, and did not require ten years more
study except to show whether it held good. No scheme could be
suggested to the new American, and no fault needed to be found,
or complaint made; but the next great influx of new forces seemed
near at hand, and its style of education promised to be violently
coercive. The movement from unity into multiplicity, between 1200
and 1900, was unbroken in sequence, and rapid in acceleration.
Prolonged one generation longer, it would require a new social
mind. As though thought were common salt in indefinite solution
it must enter a new phase subject to new laws. Thus far, since
five or ten thousand years, the mind had successfully reacted,
and nothing yet proved that it would fail to react -- but it
would need to jump.


NUNC AGE (1905)

NEARLY forty years had passed since the ex-private secretary
landed at New York with the ex-Ministers Adams and Motley, when
they saw American society as a long caravan stretching out
towards the plains. As he came up the bay again, November 5,
1904, an older man than either his father or Motley in 1868, he
found the approach more striking than ever -- wonderful -- unlike
anything man had ever seen -- and like nothing he had ever much
cared to see. The outline of the city became frantic in its
effort to explain something that defied meaning. Power seemed to
have outgrown its servitude and to have asserted its freedom. The
cylinder had exploded, and thrown great masses of stone and steam
against the sky. The city had the air and movement of hysteria,
and the citizens were crying, in every accent of anger and alarm,
that the new forces must at any cost be brought under control.
Prosperity never before imagined, power never yet wielded by man,
speed never reached by anything but a meteor, had made the world
irritable, nervous, querulous, unreasonable and afraid. All New
York was demanding new men, and all the new forces, condensed
into corporations, were demanding a new type of man -- a man with
ten times the endurance, energy, will and mind of the old type --
for whom they were ready to pay millions at sight. As one jolted
over the pavements or read the last week's newspapers, the new
man seemed close at hand, for the old one had plainly reached the
end of his strength, and his failure had become catastrophic.
Every one saw it, and every municipal election shrieked chaos. A
traveller in the highways of history looked out of the club
window on the turmoil of Fifth Avenue, and felt himself in Rome,
under Diocletian, witnessing the anarchy, conscious of the
compulsion, eager for the solution, but unable to conceive whence
the next impulse was to come or how it was to act. The
two-thousand-years failure of Christianity roared upward from
Broadway, and no Constantine the Great was in sight.

Having nothing else to do, the traveller went on to Washington
to wait the end. There Roosevelt was training Constantines and
battling Trusts. With the Battle of Trusts, a student of
mechanics felt entire sympathy, not merely as a matter of
politics or society, but also as a measure of motion. The Trusts
and Corporations stood for the larger part of the new power that
had been created since 1840, and were obnoxious because of their
vigorous and unscrupulous energy. They were revolutionary,
troubling all the old conventions and values, as the screws of
ocean steamers must trouble a school of herring. They tore
society to pieces and trampled it under foot. As one of their
earliest victims, a citizen of Quincy, born in 1838, had learned
submission and silence, for he knew that, under the laws of
mechanics, any change, within the range of the forces, must make
his situation only worse; but he was beyond measure curious to
see whether the conflict of forces would produce the new man,
since no other energies seemed left on earth to breed. The new
man could be only a child born of contact between the new and the
old energies.

Both had been familiar since childhood, as the story has shown,
and neither had warped the umpire's judgment by its favors. If
ever judge had reason to be impartial, it was he. The sole object
of his interest and sympathy was the new man, and the longer one
watched, the less could be seen of him. Of the forces behind the
Trusts, one could see something; they owned a complete
organization, with schools, training, wealth and purpose; but of
the forces behind Roosevelt one knew little; their cohesion was
slight; their training irregular; their objects vague. The public
had no idea what practical system it could aim at, or what sort
of men could manage it. The single problem before it was not so
much to control the Trusts as to create the society that could
manage the Trusts. The new American must be either the child of
the new forces or a chance sport of nature. The attraction of
mechanical power had already wrenched the American mind into a
crab-like process which Roosevelt was making heroic efforts to
restore to even action, and he had every right to active support
and sympathy from all the world, especially from the Trusts
themselves so far as they were human; but the doubt persisted
whether the force that educated was really man or nature -- mind
or motion. The mechanical theory, mostly accepted by science,
seemed to require that the law of mass should rule. In that case,
progress would continue as before.

In that, or any other case, a nineteenth-century education was
as useless or misleading as an eighteenth-century education had
been to the child of 1838; but Adams had a better reason for
holding his tongue. For his dynamic theory of history he cared no
more than for the kinetic theory of gas; but, if it were an
approach to measurement of motion, it would verify or disprove
itself within thirty years. At the calculated acceleration, the
head of the meteor-stream must very soon pass perihelion.
Therefore, dispute was idle, discussion was futile, and silence,
next to good-temper, was the mark of sense. If the acceleration,
measured by the development and economy of forces, were to
continue at its rate since 1800, the mathematician of 1950 should
be able to plot the past and future orbit of the human race as
accurately as that of the November meteoroids.

Naturally such an attitude annoyed the players in the game, as
the attitude of the umpire is apt to infuriate the spectators.
Above all, it was profoundly unmoral, and tended to discourage
effort. On the other hand, it tended to encourage foresight and
to economize waste of mind. If it was not itself education, it
pointed out the economies necessary for the education of the new
American. There, the duty stopped.

There, too, life stopped. Nature has educated herself to a
singular sympathy for death. On the antarctic glacier, nearly
five thousand feet above sea-level, Captain Scott found carcasses
of seals, where the animals had laboriously flopped up, to die in
peace. "Unless we had actually found these remains, it would have
been past believing that a dying seal could have transported
itself over fifty miles of rough, steep, glacier-surface," but
"the seal seems often to crawl to the shore or the ice to die,
probably from its instinctive dread of its marine enemies." In
India, Purun Dass, at the end of statesmanship, sought solitude,
and died in sanctity among the deer and monkeys, rather than
remain with man. Even in America, the Indian Summer of life
should be a little sunny and a little sad, like the season, and
infinite in wealth and depth of tone -- but never hustled. For
that reason, one's own passive obscurity seemed sometimes nearer
nature than John Hay's exposure. To the normal animal the
instinct of sport is innate, and historians themselves were not
exempt from the passion of baiting their bears; but in its turn
even the seal dislikes to be worried to death in age by creatures
that have not the strength or the teeth to kill him outright.

On reaching Washington, November 14, 1904, Adams saw at a
glance that Hay must have rest. Already Mrs. Hay had bade him
prepare to help in taking her husband to Europe as soon as the
Session should be over, and although Hay protested that the idea
could not even be discussed, his strength failed so rapidly that
he could not effectually discuss it, and ended by yielding
without struggle. He would equally have resigned office and
retired, like Purun Dass, had not the President and the press
protested; but he often debated the subject, and his friends
could throw no light on it. Adams himself, who had set his heart
on seeing Hay close his career by making peace in the East, could
only urge that vanity for vanity, the crown of peacemaker was
worth the cross of martyrdom; but the cross was full in sight,
while the crown was still uncertain. Adams found his formula for
Russian inertia exasperatingly correct. He thought that Russia
should have negotiated instantly on the fall of Port Arthur,
January 1, 1905; he found that she had not the energy, but meant
to wait till her navy should be destroyed. The delay measured
precisely the time that Hay had to spare.

The close of the Session on March 4 left him barely the
strength to crawl on board ship, March 18, and before his steamer
had reached half her course, he had revived, almost as gay as
when he first lighted on the Markoe house in I Street forty-four
years earlier. The clouds that gather round the setting sun do
not always take a sober coloring from eyes that have kept watch
on mortality; or, at least, the sobriety is sometimes scarcely
sad. One walks with one's friends squarely up to the portal of
life, and bids good-bye with a smile. One has done it so often!
Hay could scarcely pace the deck; he nourished no illusions; he
was convinced that he should never return to his work, and he
talked lightly of the death sentence that he might any day
expect, but he threw off the coloring of office and mortality
together, and the malaria of power left its only trace in the
sense of tasks incomplete.

One could honestly help him there. Laughing frankly at his
dozen treaties hung up in the Senate Committee-room like lambs in
a butcher's shop, one could still remind him of what was solidly
completed. In his eight years of office he had solved nearly
every old problem of American statesmanship, and had left little
or nothing to annoy his successor. He had brought the great
Atlantic powers into a working system, and even Russia seemed
about to be dragged into a combine of intelligent equilibrium
based on an intelligent allotment of activities. For the first
time in fifteen hundred years a true Roman pax was in sight, and
would, if it succeeded, owe its virtues to him. Except for making
peace in Manchuria, he could do no more; and if the worst should
happen, setting continent against continent in arms -- the only
apparent alternative to his scheme -- he need not repine at
missing the catastrophe.

This rosy view served to soothe disgusts which every parting
statesman feels, and commonly with reason. One had no need to get
out one's notebook in order to jot down the exact figures on
either side. Why add up the elements of resistance and anarchy?
The Kaiser supplied him with these figures, just as the Cretic
approached Morocco. Every one was doing it, and seemed in a panic
about it. The chaos waited only for his landing.

Arrived at Genoa, the party hid itself for a fortnight at
Nervi, and he gained strength rapidly as long as he made no
effort and heard no call for action. Then they all went on to
Nanheim without relapse. There, after a few days, Adams left him
for the regular treatment, and came up to Paris. The medical
reports promised well, and Hay's letters were as humorous and
light-handed as ever. To the last he wrote cheerfully of his
progress, and amusingly with his usual light scepticism, of his
various doctors; but when the treatment ended, three weeks later,
and he came on to Paris, he showed, at the first glance, that he
had lost strength, and the return to affairs and interviews wore
him rapidly out. He was conscious of it, and in his last talk
before starting for London and Liverpool he took the end of his
activity for granted. "You must hold out for the peace
negotiations," was the remonstrance. "I've not time!" he replied.
"You'll need little time!" was the rejoinder. Each was correct.

There it ended! Shakespeare himself could use no more than the
commonplace to express what is incapable of expression. "The rest
is silence!" The few familiar words, among the simplest in the
language, conveying an idea trite beyond rivalry, served
Shakespeare, and, as yet, no one has said more. A few weeks
afterwards, one warm evening in early July, as Adams was
strolling down to dine under the trees at Armenonville, he
learned that Hay was dead. He expected it; on Hay's account, he
was even satisfied to have his friend die, as we would all die if
we could, in full fame, at home and abroad, universally
regretted, and wielding his power to the last. One had seen
scores of emperors and heroes fade into cheap obscurity even when
alive; and now, at least, one had not that to fear for one's
friend. It was not even the suddenness of the shock, or the sense
of void, that threw Adams into the depths of Hamlet's
Shakespearean silence in the full flare of Paris frivolity in its
favorite haunt where worldly vanity reached its most futile
climax in human history; it was only the quiet summons to follow
-- the assent to dismissal. It was time to go. The three friends
had begun life together; and the last of the three had no motive
-- no attraction -- to carry it on after the others had gone.
Education had ended for all three, and only beyond some remoter
horizon could its values be fixed or renewed. Perhaps some day --
say 1938, their centenary -- they might be allowed to return
together for a holiday, to see the mistakes of their own lives
made clear in the light of the mistakes of their successors; and
perhaps then, for the first time since man began his education
among the carnivores, they would find a world that sensitive and
timid natures could regard without a shudder.


Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest