The people gave their voice, and the danger that hung upon our borders went by like a cloud.... The Statesman declares his mind before the event, and submits himself to be tested by those who have believed in him.... The adventurer is silent when he ought to have spoken. -- Demosthenes.
To get The Union the first thing those who want it should do is to say so, and unite for it. The way not to get it is to think: "This idea of The Union is all right, and I'm for it, and though there are lots of difficulties no doubt they can be overcome some way, but you'll never get most people to believe in it, they're too prejudiced and unreasonable for it to have a chance, and so what's the use of my doing anything about it?" Individuals who take this condescending view of their fellows condemn themselves and form the main obstacle to their own desires. No one can express the individual's will but himself, and so long as individuals do not at least express their will for The Union it remains unknown, isolated, lost. So long as most men wait for the majority to make known their will for The Union that majority can not possibly be formed.
The Union has this great advantage: Its supporters do not need to wait on diplomats to get it. They need only turn to themselves and their neighbors, -- but they must do that. The first necessity then is that Unionists wherever they are should make known their will for The Union and organize their neighborhood, and state and nation, and keep on uniting for The Union, and coordinating their work in all the democracies, until they form the majority needed to get The Union.
Democracy, however, allows policy to be promoted by men individually as well as collectively. Its true source of power is the free individual, and collective action is only one of the ways open to him. Each individual has an interest in The Union, and democracy has freed individuals to advance that common interest by each putting behind it his own peculiar power. Some individuals have a gift for organizing men, others for organizing thoughts; one can express things in writing, another is excellent in impromptu public debate; there are men with special talent in every field, -- trade, production, finance, defense, communications, research, popularization. For the establishment of The Union there is a need and a place for the special talent and special experience of every individual.
The essential is that each individual, without waiting for any one else, begin devoting some of his individual talent to The Union. Let those with a gift for organizing remember that the right of free assembly, which allows them to do the thing they best can do, was established only by union of democrats; let them begin using their gift for the safeguarding and extension of that right by organizing their neighbors for The Union.
There was a time when men with the gift of writing or speaking went to the stake so that other men with such gifts might freely use them. To preserve these rights today those with the gift of writing or speaking need only lend to The Union some of their gift. Each needs but lend a bit of the thing he is richest in and can best afford to lend. If each who profits from the rights of Man gives now his mite as he sees best for the cause that made possible these Rights, he will soon have world Union, and its greater rights for men.
We can get The Union still more quickly by working not only through our individual selves and through our organizations, but simultaneously through our governments. There is much complaint among us that autocracy allows men to act more swiftly than democracy. Autocracy, however, does not allow a people to do more swiftly what they will; it allows one man to do his will swiftly with the power of millions whom he keeps from even knowing what their will is. Democracy allows no individual the autocrat's speed and power of personal action, but it does allow the majority of men to form their common will and execute it swiftly. Democracy's speed of action is in direct ratio to the common sense of its citizens.
Though we usually form and express our will by votes on election day, we can form and express it any day in letters to the press, and more directly in messages to the representatives we have already elected. We can be certain that as soon as we make known to them our majority will for The Union we shall have our existing organized power -- our governments -- acting forthwith for The Union. Democracy is not simply government that bears always on the individual, it consists just as much in the individual bearing always on the government.
The democracy that permits a book such as this one to be freely written by any simple citizen and freely read by any individual, makes the speed with which the common will can be formed depend only on the book's truth and clarity, and the need for action. Men will not reject truth that they see clearly, -- certainly not when need is opening their eyes. Democracy makes the speed with which the common will is then expressed and executed depend only on the majority of individuals using a microscopic fraction of their energy and money. It provides the citizen with a cheap and simple means -- even less bothersome than the vote -- of bringing his will to bear at once on his government.
He need only write, telegraph, telephone his Representative, Senator, Deputy, Member of Parliament, Premier, President.
The raindrop on the window seems powerless, but the crudest mill-wheel moves if only enough raindrops take the same canal. It is easier for the democrat to move his government to make The Union than for the raindrop to spin a turbine. Surely democracy which lets the individual do so much so easily is worth the effort that it requires from any man to save it and extend it.
The more advanced democracy is, the less effort it requires of each citizen, but the greater the responsibility on each to do that little promptly. How great a responsibility for man's vast future we each now bear, we may see by first looking backward.
"Ours is not the first modern world -- there was Rome." Of all I heard Dean Carlyle say at Oxford this I remember. There was Rome (it came to me long after) and had the men of Rome held the ground that Man had won then for Man where might not we be now? Had Rome not fallen, would Man have needed 2,000 years to step from Aristotle on to Descartes, and seven generations more to step from Descartes on to Darwin?
Had the men of Rome only held this ground -- but Rome fell, and when Rome fell, then fell not only civilized man but all the barbarians whom they were civilizing, and American Redskins of whose existence they were not aware. When Rome fell, truly you and I and all of us fell down, for then fell down our species. It has not reached today the point it could long since have passed had Rome not fallen.
Fifty generations have lived and toiled and died since Rome fell, and slowly, coral-like, man has raised another and a far better Rome. It is the freest and the most extensive and the most marvelous and the most delicate civilization our species yet has known. Beside it Rome seems as barbarous as the world Rome ended seemed to Rome, and as unfree as our civilization should seem to our children.
With the fruits of past labor, with the slavery fruits of war, Rome bridged streams with massive stone. With the fruits of future labor, with the fruits of plants unplanted, we have flung strong spans of steel across great harbors. In the first Rome men knew how to make one hundred do the work of one hundred. Our Rome has been made possible because, with our greater freedom, we have found how to make one hundred do the work of one thousand by credit -- which is to say by faith in our future, by faith in Man.
Thus Man has freed the power in his arm until a child's finger on a button in London can start gigantic machines in Australia. Man has given his legs the seven-league boots he dreamed of in his fairy-tale age. He has come to throw his voice across oceans of which the first Rome never dreamed. to attune his ear to voices coming at once from the same room and from the antipodes, to sharpen his eye until he has discovered and had to name worlds of tiny animals and enormous stars that Adam never saw. Man has freed himself not only to enter the heavens alive, but to fly upside down as the birds themselves can not fly.
Thus have men built up a civilization that seems too solid now to fall. And it is at once the strongest and the most fragile civilization that Man has ever made, the one in which the individual is most independent and dependent. We have not placed our world on the shoulders of an Atlas; we have pyramided our world on credit -- on faith, on dependence on our neighbors (and we have for neighbors men not only next door but next continent), on dependence on ourselves, on dependence on Man and freedom for Man. Democracy is based on faith in free and equal Man, faith in Man's vast future.
For ten years now this confidence, this credit, this faith upon which our Rome is built has been crumbling away. Who can guarantee us that this crumbling can go on and our world remain? And if it fall? If it falls, then we can prophesy with certainty. If our democratic civilization falls, then will fall not only Germany, or France, or Russia, but Europe, not only Europe but America, Asia, Africa. The fat and the famished, the advanced and the retarded, the capitalists and the communists, the haves and the have-nots, the unionists and the nationalists, -- they will all go down together into new dark ages, they and their children's children, for how many generations?
Our Rome need not fall. To live and grow to greater marvels it needs but the faith that made it, the faith in Man. Man's worst weakness is that he is always underestimating Man. He has never seen too large, he has always seen too small, too small. He has never had too much faith in what Man could do; he has always had too little.
Since time began, the western world lay there across the sea, but even when Columbus came he saw himself as the discoverer not of a new world but of a new route. The kettle steamed through thousands of years of human slavery; then came Watt -- and which would amaze him most today: The automobile, or the Negro owning one? Once a man believed that Man could make a ship go without sails against a river. Other men called his ship Fulton's Folly. But he kept faith in Man, in one man, -- himself, -- and Fulton's Folly went paddling up the Hudson. Fulton saw far for his time, but doubtless he himself would have called it folly to believe the oil he used to cure a cold in the head could ever drive gigantic ships across the Atlantic in a hundred hours.
The fathers of the American Republic, the leaders of the French Revolution, the authors of the Bill of Rights, the political liberators of men everywhere had faith in Man -- but they had no idea of all the forces they were freeing. They had no idea of all the rapid growth in civilization, all the transformation of the world, all the victories of men over autocracy and Nature that would come from freeing those then called la canaille. Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton, all voiced despair of the American Union even after its establishment, but they are not remembered for their doubts. They are known for what faith they showed in Man.
Man has still to find the limit of what he can do if only he has faith in himself. And yet each generation has seen wonders done by men who believed in Man. Man's greatest achievements have been the work of some obscure mall or handful of men with faith in themselves, helping mankind against mankind's stubborn opposition. These inventors, discoverers, artists, statesmen, poets, -- each of our benefactors has always had to overcome not only Nature but his own species. And always these lone men with faith have worked this wonder As Andrew Jackson said, one man with courage makes a majority.
We have seen a village unknown through all the ancient Roman era become in a century Mecca to a world greater than Rome ever ruled, because one man lived there then with faith in himself. We know what marvels one single simple individual with faith in Man can work -- one Mohammed, one Joan of Arc, one Gutenberg, one Paine, Pasteur, Edison. What we do not know is what marvels could be done if the fifteen elected leaders of the 300,000,000 free men and women once worked together with the faith of one Columbus. We know that, working together, -- which means depending on each other, -- the Wright brothers did one of the many things that Man had always dreamed and failed of doing. But the Wright brothers were two simple citizens; they were not fifteen leaders in whom millions of men already trusted.
As I stand aloof and watch [Walt Whitman wrote] there is something profoundly moving in great masses of men following the leadership of men who do not believe in man.
Yet the leaders who have believed in Man and have appealed not to his lowest but to his highest instincts have always in the end been not only followed but alone remembered by all mankind. There is nowhere a monument to those who burned Bruno at the stake; there is in Rome a monument raised, in 1889, which says:
To Bruno, the century he foresaw, here where he burned.
As is the dust are all those of our species who said that Man could never bring the lightning down against his other natural foes. Green still is the name of Franklin. Who were those twenty-seven men who, preferring the freedom of New York to the freedom of New Yorkers, came so near to preventing the American Union? It is their opponent, Alexander Hamilton, whose name still evokes eloquence in Europe as in America.
The difficulties that now seem so certain to keep us apart. -- will men remember them a generation hence more than they now remember those that seemed to make the Union of Americans impossible in 1787? Will our own children be the first to honor those who kept Man divided against himself at war with himself and a prey to ignorance, disease, premature death?
If we are to save our own world, we need The Union, and we need it now. If we are to save ourselves none of us can dodge or divide his individual responsibility, or delay. But the individual on whom the most responsibility must lie in each democracy is the one who has asked and received from his fellow citizens the post of guardian of their liberties. Among these few, the most responsibility must lie upon the one freely chosen and freely trusted by the most men and women.
For the condition of the whole human species to change immensely for the better, the American President need only invite the fourteen other leaders of democracy to join him in declaring the undeniable: That their common supreme unit of government is the individual free man, that their common supreme end of government is the freedom of individual man, and that their common means to their common end is the union of free men as equals; that Democracy and Union are one and the same; that the responsibility facing 300,000,000 free men today is the one that faced 30,000,000 in 1861 and 3,000,000 in 1787 -- the responsibility of choosing for themselves and their children whether to slip backward with the misery-making absolutist principle of the sovereignty of nations or to continue forward with the richest political principle men have ever found, the principle of free union through the equal sovereignty of man. The American President need only ask the others to join him in making this Declaration of the Dependence of free men on themselves and on each other, and in convoking then our Union's constituent assembly.
If he fears that even now men will call his move premature and will not see in time what nationalism means he can recall Isaiah: "A people ... which remain among the graves and ... which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou.... These are a smoke in my nose. ... Ye shall all bow down to the slaughter ... ye shall be hungry ... ye shall be ashamed ... and leave your name for a curse.... He who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth ... For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth."
If he fears that men will call him mad, he can reply with Lafayette: "If it be a wild scheme, I had rather be mad that way than to be thought wise on the other track."
He can ask as Lincoln asked on the eve of war: "Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you can not fight always; and, when after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you."
He can turn then to Washington's Farewell Address, and repeat: "These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope that a proper organization of the respective subdivisions will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment."
The President has his responsibility, but we each have ours, too. He must depend on us, as we on him.
There is no need, and there can be no excuse, for democracy and its great civilization to crash from failure to act in time. There is no need whatever for millions more to bow down to slaughter, hunger, shame. We can escape these. we can leave our name for a blessing. We can hasten man's vast future. There is need only that you, too, stand up for The Union now.
cause is ripe:
One's self I sing, a simple separate person,
Contents -- Chapter X -- Chapter XIII