|If you would be freer than all that has been before, come listen to me ...|
I swear I begin to see the meaning of these things ...
I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores individuals,
The American compact is altogether with individuals,
The only government is that which makes minute of individuals,
The whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly to one single individual -- namely to You ...
I am for those that have never been master'd,
For men and women whose tempers have never been master'd,
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can never master.
I am for those who walk abreast with the whole earth,
Who inaugurate one to inaugurate all.
I will not be outfaced by irrational things,
I will penetrate what it is in them that is sarcastic upon me,
I will make cities and civilizations defer to me,
This is what I have learnt from America -- it is the amount, and it I teach again.
-- Whitman, By Blue Ontario's Shore.
One can not repeat it too often: There is nothing so fertile in marvels as the art of being free. -- De Tocqueville.
We have too petty a notion of freedom. We are bound to, since freedom is so great and growing. And yet our understanding of it need not be so petty.
We talk as if freedom of trade were simply a problem for the legislator and economist, a matter of freeing trade from this or that tariff or other legal or theoretical barrier. We talk as if neither the steamship that freed man from the accident of wind and the accident of calm, nor the express train that freed the producers of perishable foods from the tyranny of time and northern tables from the monotony of winter, had done anything to free trade. We forget the air-driven drill and the dynamite that enables us, when a mountain bars our road, to take a short cut through it. We forget a host of things that free us from the limitations of tongue and ear and eye, and let seller and buyer find each other swiftly anywhere on earth. Yet trade can lose its statutory freedom and be encumbered by politicians and economic experts with all sorts of man-made barriers, and still grow greater because other men have been freeing it from more stifling natural barriers.
As it is with trade, so it is with everything. The story of the freedom of man, of the freeing of man by man, is the whole story of man. It is the story of the invention of language, of the freeing of man's tongue to tell his thoughts to his neighbor and of the freeing of his ear to understand his neighbor's thoughts, of the freeing of his thoughts from space and time and the tricks of memory and death by the invention of writing. It is the story of the freeing of his tongue, ear, eye, mind by the invention of grammar, and still more by the invention of paper, and still more by the invention of printing, and still more by the discovery of America and of electricity and rubber, and by such political inventions as the freedom of the press and democracy and Union and such mechanical inventions as the steam engine and the locomotive and the high speed newspaper press, and the telegraph, photograph, phonograph, and the telephone, airplane, moving picture, wireless, talking picture and television.
This is not even a meagre outline of the freeing of man (insofar as he is free) in respect of his mind and thoughts and tongue and ear and eye. There is no word in this about the freeing of the eye to peer into the worlds of microbes and of stars, nor the freeing of the ear to the harmonies of music, nor the freeing of the mind from error thanks to logic and from terror thanks to the accumulated experience of generations, nor the freeing of the mind to think honestly about anything regardless of the taboos of society or the self-interest of the body. And when we have outlined this vast field we have only begun.
We have still to tell of the freeing of the power in the arm of man from the time he extended it with a club or rock on through to where he extends it with a bullet or electric button, the freeing of his lungs until he can cross the ocean in a submarine, the freeing of his skin from cold and heat, of his stomach from famine, of his body and mind from disease, -- and when we have told all this our tale of the freeing of man by man remains a fragment. It is a tale that can never be told. This is not only because of its vast range and the intricate inter-relation of every detail to the others and to the whole. It can never be told because in the telling it is growing; somewhere, wittingly, unwittingly, some of the two billion of men and women are at work freeing man, adding to a glorious tale new glories that men will not be free enough to recognize or use, perhaps, for a hundred years to come.
It is a myriad-sided, never-ending task and tale and joy, the freeing of man by man; and it is the myriad-sided, neverending variety among individual men and women, the rich resources given mankind by the fact that no two individuals are precisely the same, that each forms a distinct combination of character, talent, knowledge, skill, tastes, curiosity, heredity, environment and physical, moral and mental strength, -- it is this that allows the task to be advanced and the tale to be faintly imagined and the joy enjoyed. It is because the democratic principle of the equality and rights of man allows mankind to free all this power it has in men, and to let men enjoy themselves freeing mankind still more, that it is the most fertile and powerful political, economic, social, and philosophical principle that men have ever discovered.
The power in this principle lies in its guarantee by society to the individual of the right to do freely that which most interests him, and its guarantee to all other men of their right to judge freely his work.
Government of gasoline and electricity by the people does not consist in every man being able to build an automobile or dynamo, any more than the government of microbes by men consists in every one of us having a thorough medical and scientific knowledge. Hardly more does government of the people by the people consist in every man interesting himself deeply in political problems and trying to work them out himself.
We govern the power in gasoline, first, by insuring any man who is interested in the problem of governing that power the freedom to tackle it as hard as he pleases, and, secondly, by remaining free to pass judgment broadly on his solutions.
One of these engineer-minded men has it clear in his mind that gasoline can be so governed as to run a wagon, but he can not make it clear to the rest of us who are not so engineer-minded. And so to make it clear he makes us the first automobile. When we see it running we then see clearly that he was right. But it still is not at all clear to most of us that his automobile is safer than a horse, or cheaper, simpler. better. The more engineer-minded men, however, see that all this is true, too; in a widening circle they become interested in the problem of man governing gasoline. They fight out among themselves the technical questions, and when and as long as they all agree, we readily follow them. No buyer demands solid tires on a pleasure car, now when all engineers favor pneumatic ones.
But when these men of technical sense disagree they come to us, the men of common sense, and ask us not to solve their problems, but to pass judgment on their different solutions. And through purchase we accord our highest prize in the long run to the engineer who has solved the problem most clearly -- for that means he has solved it in a way that those of us who are least mechanically endowed can understand is the best solution.
The government of gasoline by man began with a contraption so simple in its structure that one could see or hear its every organ, but so complicated in its operation that even the genius who contrived it could never be sure of getting home without a horse. Then by the democratic process of freedom mankind developed a machine so amazing that it makes the gasoline not only drive it far faster than a mile a minute but light its way at night, herald its arrival, and stop it shortly, -- a machine so complicated structurally that no one genius could ever have developed it and so simple to run that a child can run it. Gasoline is being governed by the people when any man without engineering knowledge can make it take him where he wants to go with a touch of the finger, a touch of the foot, and a few simple rules.
The thing to note is that the human freedom that government of gasoline by the people brings is achieved, first, by freeing all engineer-minded men to tackle this problem, and second, by keeping the rest of mankind free to pass judgment on their work. This system discourages the engineer from turning to the best engineer as his supreme judge. It forces the best engineer to make himself so clear that a moron can see his solution is the best. It insures him that the greater his technical achievement is, the more he will gain the votes of the simplest laymen.
This is noteworthy because this system is the one through which government by the people for the people has been established, insofar as it is established, over everything they govern, whether it be gasoline, electricity, microbes, animals, music, fire, water, wind, earth or light. It is, too, the system whereby government of the people by the people for the people has been or is being established. This last is the most difficult and the most productive of man's problems in government. It means the government of the most powerful of the elements by the most marvelous and unaccountable among them, the government of man himself by man himself for man himself.
The way to solve this problem of self-government is to follow these free principles, while carefully avoiding an error, tricked out as truth, on which despotism, benevolent or malevolent, is based.
So well hidden is this trap that Plato himself fell victim to it. In his argument for government of all men by the wisest men, Plato seems to base his reasoning on the government of sheep by men. The statesman, he said, is the shepherd of the human flock, and since it would be absurd to reason that the sheep should elect and direct the shepherd, the conclusion seems to follow that the democratic theory is absurd. And so Plato divided his ideal state into three specialized classes, -- rulers, fighters and farmers. He thought out elaborate machinery to make sure that the human shepherds shall never be responsible to the human sheep but only to other shepherds, -- that the philosophers need answer only to the philosophers. And so men less wise and generous defend the principle of government through dictatorship by a single autocrat, or by an hereditary despot, or by some single class of men, whether the propertied or the proletariat the oldest families or the giovinezza, the chosen Aryans or the chosen Jews.
The error in all this is the same. There is a difference between the shepherd and the statesman, a fundamental difference. The shepherd is a man governing, for men, a different animal, the sheep. The statesman is a man governing, for men, these same men.
The fact that in all cases, except that of man himself, the government by man of whatever he seeks to govern, whether sheep or gasoline, is invariably marked by his refusal to obey the governed, does not make this refusal the sine qua non or cause of success; it makes it simply a worse trap for human reason. It is not this negative detail that the shepherd and engineer are not answerable to the sheep and gasoline that is essential, but the positive principle that the shepherds and engineers are answerable to other men, -- in last analysis to all other men, and not simply to shepherds and sheep-owners, or to engineers and owners of oil wells. Under this principle the supreme judges of the specialists are not the best of specialized minds but the commonest of lay minds. It results that the specialists must bring the government of sheep and gasoline by men to that point of perfection where a child can govern them. Thus does this principle lead to success.
The way, then, to solve the great central problem of freedom, -- that of government of the people by the people for the people,-is neither to depend on the bulk of men to work out the solution, nor to make those who are the best political engineers or philosophers, or statesmen or rulers, answerable only to themselves, but to insure man, alone and in society, equally the rights of man. This means allowing any one who is politically-minded to devote himself freely to political problems, while allowing the rest of men, -- the engineer-minded, farmer-minded, artistic-, financial-, economic-, business-, doctor-, research-, artisan-, manual-, and other-minded men, the right of passing judgment freely and frequently on his work.
These men do not want to think out their political problems for themselves any more than the man with a bend for governing men wants to work out for himself the problem of the automobile. The man who delights in making the soil grow two ears of corn where one grew before does not want to stop and fumble with the problem of how to distribute the extra ear, or of how to make his own body cease growing a cancer. The cry for leadership in politics is simply the demand by us all that our political inventors and explorers invent and discover for us as all our other inventors and explorers are doing -- as each of us who is following his natural bent is doing. We are tired of seeing politicians blame our stupidity when we reject their truths, we want them to get down to their business of making their political truths so clear that a child can understand them.
They need not worry then about our verdict. They need only fear that we will vote so overwhelmingly for their truth as either to handicap by our gratitude their further search for truth, or to cause us to overreach their truth and fall again into error. When our vote is expressed by purchase we vote so readily for the man who makes his truth most clear in automobiles, or oil, or steel, or other things, that we load him now with a tremendous fortune liable to give him a diseased idea of his own importance, or dull his children's enterprise. Or we force them to leave the thing he can best do and try to solve a problem for which he may have no aptitude, -- the problem of the distribution of wealth, of making the most of it to bring more freedom to himself and children and everyone by encouraging art, scholarship, medicine, industry, men. When the vote is by applause instead of purchase we give our Lindberghs so much applause that we deprive them of that freedom to live and act as simple folk which allowed them to do their greatest work.
When a Washington's firm grasp of truth liberates us our gratitude is such that, to show our pious respect, we make it heresy to follow his example and meet the problems of our time so boldly as to rebel against the "thus far and no farther" of the past. When a Lincoln makes the equality and rights of man clearer, we are so grateful that we make a myth of a man who was proud of being common; we forget that in so doing we fall into the very fault from which he sought to save us -- that of disprizing or dishonoring members of our own species. What Jesus rebuked the Jews for doing to Abraham, the Christians soon were doing to Jesus, and for the same reason, to show their gratitude.
We are so ready to admit any man's truth if it is only made clear enough, so grateful to those who make it clear and so cursed with an inferiority complex about our species, that great teachers and liberators who seek to bring men to a truer concept of the equal dignity and rights of man need to guard against our deifying them more or less, or otherwise emotionally clouding over their central truth, -- that Man, as Paine said, is Man's "high and only title, and a higher cannot be given him."
There is no more effective way than this democratic way for each of us to free ourselves from the tyranny of poverty, and disease, and ignorance, and matter, and time. There is no simpler, safer, cheaper way. No elaborate machinery is required: This is simply a question of freeing men so that their nature can most naturally take its own course. Everyone wants to do what gives him joy, and everyone is doing best his share in society when he is doing that which gives him the most joy.
The profit motive? True, it exists, and it is a mistake to rail at it or try to remove it. Whether he measures it in money, power, or whatnot, man will seek profit, and he should, for it is the fuel that moves perhaps the greatest force on earth, individual enterprise. Profit is but the surplus difference between what one puts into a thing and what he gets out of it, and nothing living grows except by getting back all it expends and something more. It is not profit we need weed out but the three evils too much profit. too little profit, and dead loss, -- for each of these dulls or kills individual enterprise. Provide a condition of freedom and security for the individual to develop his natural talent, and let him profit enough materially from his work to live fairly well, and usually he needs little or no further encouragement to bring us the best he has. When he is really bringing us his best, he is not working for money beyond, what he needs to live comfortably and do his work.
The proof is that when he finds some way of further freeing us we cannot keep him silent with bribes or even with comforts. He will do without comfort, spend all his money borrow all he can, slave through day and night, wear himself out, risk his life; he will do anything he needs to do simply to solve a problem he has freely set for himself and force us by our common sense to agree that he is right, -- that we can free ourselves from malaria by killing a certain mosquito, that we can free ourselves from earth and fly. We do not need to encourage with millions in money men who are doing what they can do best; we can not contrive to discourage the men who are doing what they were made to do.
Every revolution, every great human crisis invariably shows that there is far more talent scattered through our species, and in the most unexpected places, than we imagine. There seems to be no limit to the power of individual enterprise, and there is no resource in which we are richer than individual men and women, and none we use less or waste so appallingly.
All manner of means for freeing men are to be found widespread among men. We had no way of divining that the man who could give us paper would be born in China, that an Arab would bring it to us, an Englishwoman would give us a Turk's idea of vaccinating against smallpox, an Italian would give us wireless, a German Jew would find the cure of syphilis with the help of a Japanese, and that Negroes instead of white men would be the first slaves to establish an enduring republic of self-freed slaves. No one could have predicted that a Pole would be the writer who would bring; the salt of the sea best in English to the English, or that a Dutch dry-goods merchant would be the man to make the lens that freed our eyes to discover the microscopic world. We can no more tell today what bargeman on what river will rise to steer our freedom through a dangerous conflict than our great-grandfathers could tell that a lanky Mississippi raftsman would be the man to save the first great union of the free.
We have no way of telling from what family, nation, race or class our future liberators will come, or from what farm, village, city, country, empire. We have no way of knowing that our cook will never change one day into a poet, our miller into a chemist, our farmer into a flier.
Yet there are some things we know, for they have been proved a million times. We know that men will not stay put, that great changes are continually happening in them, that the liberating genius of man is concentrated in no family or place but is scattered generously through the whole species. We know a ray of it was here yesterday, there today. We can divine only that it may be somewhere else tomorrow. We know that not even one beam of it is the monopoly of any man.
We know that out greatest liberators are those who make their liberating truth most clear to all of us. Their greatness is in proportion to the speed with which they can get us voluntarily to absorb and assimilate their truth as fully as they have themselves. The sooner they can free us from the need of their expert services, the more they allow us to build further on the top brick they have laid, until that top brick becomes indistinguishable from all the bricks above and below and around it.
We are beholden the least to those who seek to maintain themselves longest in a position of superiority to us and convert a truth they have found into a permanent source of tribute to themselves. Our true benefactors never seek to impose themselves or their children on us, never seek in any field, political or other, to be answerable to us only once for all time, or to alienate in the slightest those inalienable rights of man that allowed them to do themselves whatever they have done. The mark of the spurious liberator, of the autocrat in every field, is the desire to make oneself more indispensable to mankind. We know that our true liberator frees us more and more from dependence on him and seeks only to enable others to outstrip him, -- he is a man of the great, proud line of Whitman:
I am the teacher of athletes;
He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own proves the width of my own;
He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher.
We know all this, and in our hearts we know, too, that for each of us to gain the most freedom we must all keep all the doors to life forever freely open to every man and woman.
At the heart of our freedom, then, lies the democratic principle of the equality and rights of man, the freedom of the individual to follow his natural bent and to bring his findings to mankind for judgment, and to pass judgment on the findings of his fellows. And at the heart of the rights of man lies the freedom of speech and of the press. Do you still think that freedom of speech and of the press is concerned simply with politics and words? Read then this letter written by the School Board of Lancaster, Ohio, in 1826 and unearthed in 1920 by the Cleveland Press:
You are welcome to use the schoolhouse to debate all proper questions in, but such things as railroads are impossibilities and rank infidelity. There is nothing in the Word of God about them. lf God designed that His intelligent creatures should travel at the frightful speed of 15 miles an hour by steam, He would have clearly foretold it through His holy prophets. It is a device to lead immortal souls down to hell.
The glory of Elizabethan England to me is Peter Wentworth. He was the one who reminded the House of the rumors of what the Queen would do to those who opposed certain bills, and of her messages commanding Parliament not to consider certain measures, and who then spoke out: "I would to God, Mr. Speaker, that these two were buried in hell, I mean rumors and messages." For this the House itself sent him to the Tower. When he came back a year later he spoke again for the right to speak freely in at least the House of Speech, and again he was sent to the Tower.
The glory of Elizabethan England is likewise John Stubbs and his printer, and those who stood with them. John Stubbs wrote a pamphlet protesting against Elizabeth's proposed marriage with Alençon, and for this he and his printer were condemned to have their right hands cut off. The lawyers and judges who protested were put in the Tower, and the right hands of John Stubbs and his printer were cut off at the wrist by a knife driven through with a mallet. With his left hand John Stubbs then waved his hat and cried, "God save the Queen!" And though her Star Chamber might a little while continue to assert the need of limiting "the excessive multitude of printers," her cruelty shocked and his fortitude encouraged people, and their children rose up in one hundred years and made the first king subject to the first Bill of the Rights of Man.
And now their children's children and all of us may go freely to the National Portrait Gallery in London and find one small room on the top floor big enough not only for Elizabeth and the great men of her time (not Wentworth, not Stubbs), but also for Henry VIII and the greater of those whose heads he had cut off. But as we go on down chronologically through the rooms and centuries, and the crude absolutist method of men governing men by cutting off their heads and hands gradually gives way to men governing men by the free speech principles of the Wentworths, and by the free press principles of the Stubbses, and by the other rights of man they led to, the scene changes.
Where there were only a few portraits for each reign, and these, mainly of rulers, generals, priests, the number and the variety of portraits grows more and more, until on the ground floor we find the nineteenth century needing room after room to house the great of England. There the rulers, generals and priests become a minority amid the Shelleys and Jane Austens and Butlers, the Disraelis and Gladstones, the Benthams and Mills, the Stephensons and Faradays and Listers and Huxleys and Darwins.
Such is the great flowering of the genius of man that every people has enjoyed and is enjoying as they have enjoyed and are enjoying equally the rights of man.
In another gallery I looked at Leonardo's works after coming up through the centuries at the Italian Art Exposition in Paris in 1935, and it dawned on me that before his century the best eyes in Italy had been blind to the beauty in the play of light, blind to shadow. I walked back then through the centuries seeking shadow: Cimabue, Giotto, blind to shadow; Uccello discovering perspective but ignoring shadow; then here and there a painting with here and there a shadow, -- the shell in Botticelli's Birth of Venus casting a shadow, but not Venus nor any of the figures nor the trees, no real perception of shadow there. Shadow always everywhere, and everyone blind to it until somehow one man saw shadow clearly, and then everyone thereafter seeing shadow.
Why did we need so long to make the simple, invaluable wheel? Could man ever help but see the circular? Nature is all curves. It would seem that man must have made the wheel long before achieving that miracle of abstract reason, the brick. For men could not see so easily the square, cube, or straight line in Nature. These man created. Yet America knew the square before Columbus came, but not the wheel. Ages before mentioning the wheel, the Bible celebrates in the tale of Babel not only the confusion of tongues but the discovery of how to "make brick" and all it meant to men. To understand what a marvel the common brick is, one needs to read the Bible afresh: Since "this they begin to do ... now nothing will be restrained from them" while "the people is one" and "have all one language," -- not even the achievement of the great ideal that mankind then at once magnificently set out for: The building of "a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven."
The wheel, despite all Nature's hints, also required a miracle of pure reason. To turn the first natural disk into the first wheel one had to see something that was there no more and no less than the straight line. Something invisible, abstract, yet so tangibly there that one needed only to put finger and thumb on it to make all men see -- the axis, and wheels everywhere.
The marvelous thing about us is not simply that it took so many men for one to see the axis. It is perhaps even more marvelous that it took only one to see it and demonstrate it clearly for each of us to see it at once, and for all of us to keep it forever after. It is this marvelous power in our species that democracy harnesses through its equal interest in and equal freedom for every individual.
Underlying alike the brick and the wheel is a greater miracle -- Man's creation of the straight line. How could it have taken us eras to see a truth so simple and precious as the straight line? How many simple things of truth, of beauty, of priceless value, lie today around us all, unseen, awaiting the marvel of sight by some one becoming sight by all?
Surely in such a world we can not fail to keep building on the simple truth of which we have had such proof: That Man's vast future lies in the democratic philosophy that would give every one an equal chance, an equal freedom to tell us all whatever truth he alone has seen or believes that he has seen, an equal obligation to express his truth with that clarity and simplicity that makes us all see it and thereby proves it true, and an equal right to refuse to accept whatever one alone still doubts is true, an equal veto against whatever one alone believes is false.
To understand is what is hard. Once one understands, action is easy. -- Sun Yat Sen.
We learn to understand the new by studying the old. -- Confucius.
We shall now combine our individual power into one great power which is this confederacy and we shall therefore symbolize the union of these powers by each nation contributing one arrow, which we shall tie up together in a bundle which, when it is made and completely bound together, no one can bend or break ... This bundle of arrows signifies that all the lords and all the warriors and all the women of the Confederacy have become united as one person. -- Laws of the Confederacy of the Five Nations, or Iroquois Indians.
Man's freedom began with men uniting. Both love of kin and love of country have served our species as a means of freeing man by uniting men. Blood patriotism built the family into the nomad tribe and allowed man, through the taming of the horse, sheep and cow, to free himself from some of his natural limitations. As he freed himself from subjection to the accidents of the hunt, he settled down and land patriotism rose to free him and his beasts from Winter's hunger and cold and from the accidents to which the hunter and nomad herdsman are prey. It grew through blood barriers, brought tribes together, tied the nomads not only to the land but packed them together and built the City. It grew through centuries of warfare between nomad and husbandman, which (as I learned from George Cram Cook one day in the ruined temple of the Delphic oracle) are compressed in the tale of Cain and Abel.
Cain was the first man known to love his country. Before his time there was no fatherland. There was only father. The nomad patriot abhorred the thought of being bound to the land where he happened to be born. He roamed the earth. Love of a common father and common aversion to the land held together the nomad tribe. Then came Cain.
Cain settled down. "Cain was a tiller of the ground." He brought to the Lord Judge the fruits of the soils as his offering. But Abel remained "a keeper of sheep," and "brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his' offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth." Neither the Judge who in favoring the conservative had promised the innovator, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and ... thou shalt rule over him," nor the tribal bond of blood could prevent the conflict. "Cain rose up against his brother, and slew him ... and builded a city."
The city united more men in a closer compass than the flock or farm, and with it rose great empires, Nineveh, Babylon, spreading through mankind the fruits of the city's work in freeing man from his limitations. So it was that human wisdom grew strong and brave enough in Athens to take "Know thyself" for motto and to begin to think and talk in terms of individual freedom and universal union. It looked upon the slaves tilling the earth and revolted against the dogma that man's freedom must remain bound to the soil. It questioned the love of country on which the city's civilization was based, and asked, as did the philosophers whose horrified countrymen called them Cynics, dogs, "Why should I be proud of belonging to the soil of Attica with the worms and slugs?" And it realized primitively, as Plutarch said of Alexander, "the Cynic ideal on its political side by the foundation of universal empire."
"The Cynics," says Professor Barker, "were descended from Socrates; and the Cynics were cosmopolitans, who found their own reason and knowledge sufficient for their needs, and, craving no guidance or instruction from any city, took the world to be their home." With them, as he points out, "two new ideas are entering the world, both destined to a long history -- the idea that all men are naturally equal, and the idea that they are all by nature brothers in a single human society."
Then came Jesus teaching men to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's, -- to decide each in his own conscience which things are Caesar's and which things are God's, to decide each for himself what he owes to the gods of other men and what he owes to the god within himself.
Jesus went unto the mount of Olives ... saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.
Jesus answered ... Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true ... And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou Ye shall be made free?
Jesus answered them, ... I speak that which I have seen with my Father; and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
They answered ... Abraham is our father.
Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham ... Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day.
Then said the Jews ... Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Then came Mohammed to be hailed too as a liberator, and first by the slaves, and first of all by woman. He came into a society where a man inherited his mother as part of his father's property, wore sackcloth and ashes when a girl-child was born, and buried alive in the sand the sex that brought poverty-ridden men more mouths to feed. Mohammed stood out against that society "in the name of the Compassionate, the Merciful, the most Beneficient, who hath taught the use of the pen." He freed the girl-child from burial alive, and her mother from slavery, and through him tens of millions of women received economic rights that Christendom did not allow until modern times. He freed not only man from the myth that he was made of earth but woman from the myth that she was made of man. Mohammed rationally taught, "He hath created the sexes, male and female, from the diffused germs of life," and he preached a single standard of morality for man and woman.
The truth that Jesus brought to make men free was so misunderstood that his followers soon converted one of the most liberating of doctrines into an authoritarian institution and a dogma that has kept many men and women from striving after and enjoying truer and freer lives by promising them paradise when they die if only they suffer till then the evils of this world. The freedom Mohammed brought was corrupted until Mohammedan came to connote the seclusion of woman, and Islam, which means "to make peace," came to connote Holy War.
Yet the teaching of Jesus with its appeal to the individual and to all mankind, instead of to the rulers of men, or to this or that tribe or nation of men, survived to do great service to human freedom. So, too, with the teachings of Mohammed: They led to the wisdom of many of the Cynic and other Greek philosophers being saved from the Christians and to the printed Bible being made possible by the bringing of paper from China to the West, and to Voltaire pointing to the Turks, when he wrote his Essay on Tolerance, as an example for the world to follow.
Like the means of uniting men that preceded it the modern dogma of nationalism is but an idea of men, no more, no less. It is a combination of the patriotism of blood and patriotism of land, of the ideas of jus sanguinis and jus soli as the lawyers who try to separate them say, -- a confused and confusing mixture of our throwback to the nomad bound to his beasts and to the peasant bound to the Soil.
It is historically a parvenu. It was not known in the time of Jesus nor during the long centuries when what a European believed about God mattered more than his blood or land As for the Moslem world, until the Turkish Republic was established Islam asked the traveler for his religious belief rather than his nationality; it organized men politically in its empires by religions and not by nations. There was so little nationalist patriotism in the great century of discovery that scarce an important explorer sailed under the flag of his birth, and a Portuguese captain, Magellan, angry when refused an increase in pay in Portugal, went over to Charles V of Spain, and, to prove to him that the Spice Islands were not in the zone the Pope had given Portugal, set out on the voyage that proved the world is round.
Nationalism really began to flourish only in the nineteenth century when it did for freedom the great service of uniting the numerous petty states of Italy and Germany into two great peoples. It rose as a means of securing those wider and stronger political organizations which the steam engine and other inventions were making more and more necessary. It rose too as a democratic offshoot, as a lever for supplanting absolute royal sovereignty with popular sovereignty, and alien rule with home rule.
Nationalism reached its crest early in our century when the major nations were united to the point where further application of this principle was bound, because of the multiplicity of small nations in such states as Austria, Russia and Turkey, to begin dividing the world more into small compartments than integrating it on the greater scale that the gasoline engine and electrical and other inventions were making increasingly necessary. Since nationalism united men by making all-important, not Man's need of union, but things separating one group from others, it could not possibly unite into one state the groups it had united as nations, except by the imperialist methods to which the greater nations turned. Its stress on points of difference between nations, once this stress had brought most of their nationals together, could only keep mankind divided and make for greater misunderstandings, quarrels and wars.
Nationalism's main positive, constructive, integrating work being done, all the human force and sentiment and gratitude which its liberating work had gathered behind it could only pour into and operate the negative, destructive, disintegrating principles inherent in it from the start. And so we had the World War of Nations, for the place in the sun of big nations, for the rights of small nations to independence and self-determination, and, as the need of organizing the world to prevent a return of this nationalist inferno grew more imperious, for a league of nations.
This period of transition was marked, as all such periods must be, by both the forces involved, by the one ending and by the one beginning. The constructive, liberating side of nationalism in its death agony served human freedom by creating in the League and International Labor Organization and Court and Bank the first such world institutions to live, and by thus preparing the way for The Union of free men.
It served human freedom in other ways too. It replaced the remaining hereditary autocracies in the West -- Russian, German, Austrian and Turkish -- with more democratic governments. It restored to the human equality and dignity that all men crave such peoples as the Poles and Czechs, whose position became intolerably inferior once the theory of nationalism succeeded religion and dynasty as the basis of politics and the popular criterion of liberty. It gave new life to other peoples such as the Chinese and Turks and made them a better medium for their own westernization than imperialism could possibly have been.
But when all is said, it remains true that in our generation nationalism reached its logical limits, its constructive elements began to wane and its destructive ones to wax, until its spiral definitely turned downward. It is operating less and less to bring men together and more and more to keep men apart. It has turned against both society and the individual, it has changed masters and quit serving the freedom of man to serve the freedom of the state -- as was shown so strikingly when 3,000,000 Sudetens were deprived of their individual freedom and delivered to autocracy in the name of democratic self-determination. Like everything that has outlived its usefulness nationalism has changed from a beneficent into a maleficent force.
The political theories which the tribesman and the countryman and the nationalist represent have the same motive and method. They seek to free men from the tyranny of accident by uniting them, and they try to unite men by subjecting them to the accident of how or where they happened to be born. They make this accident the all-determining tyrant for each individual by circling it with magic or mysticism.
Nationalism was saved for a while from its basic irrationalism by its early connections with democratic rationalism. Its rapid degeneration now may be seen from the way it is galloping back behind Guide Hitler to the nomad's belief in the superiority of the tribal blood and tribal gods. Such priestcraft may still be necessary among the more backward peoples -- and it is for each people to say for itself through its institutions and its leaders how politically backward it is.
But while nationalism was growing, there was also growing up another means of uniting men, democratic Union. It stemmed from Socrates and Jesus rather than from Cain and Abel. It grew out of the Renaissance of that democratic appeal to reason that produced Greek philosophy and made Athens great in the days when Pericles said, "These things are made for men, not men for them." It rose too from the Reformation that sent the individual back from authority to the Word itself, to its doctrine that "the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath," and its insistence on the equality of the soul of man and the importance of the humblest person.
It came up with the English and the American and the French Revolutions to unite men for their Bill of Rights, for the principle that all men are created equal, for the ideals of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. The men it has freed no longer need mysticism to keep them together. They need only Union now to bring them all together to free mankind still more. They have now enough experience behind them and intelligence in them to understand that freedom lies in free men freely uniting, trusting in each other and depending on each other. They are mature enough to understand that the way to man's freedom can not possibly lie in worshiping the accident of birth. They know that freedom for each can lie only in men freeing all the billion possibilities that the billions of men can alone supply for the billion-sided task of freeing man from accident's arbitrary rule. They know that to free man from the accident of death they must begin by freeing his mind from the accident of birth.
Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable. -- Webster.
There never was an independent man, or nation, or empire, and there never will be. To think these possible is foolish. It is worse to believe that one has achieved them, to glory proudly in one's independence or his nation's. It is shameful.
There is no shame in admitting one's dependence on his fellows, and the dependence of one's nation on one's species -- dependence not only on the living but on the billions and billions of men who have brought us painfully up. We need not blush to remember that in the sweat of arms like ours was paved the path on which we stroll, that through a human patience perhaps surpassing ours our enemy the wolf was made our friend the dog, that we owe much to the boldness of Xerxes in defying the gods by throwing the first bridge across the Hellespont, and to the courage of the Spartans at Thermopylae, and to the wisdom that Socrates by his way of dying carried far beyond the grave.
We need not hang out heads in recognizing that minds and hands like ours are somewhere in nearly everything we see, and are protectingly around us wherever we may be, that they discovered the microbes that cling to fingers and made the waxed paper and invented the machines to put it round the food we announce "no human hand has touched." There is no shame in being mindful of our dependence on the men who today are tapping the rubber tree in the tropics, braving the explosive gas of the coal mine, feeding the hungry silkworm, watching the whirring spindles, cleaning the streets and the surgeons' lances, tracking storm to its Arctic lair and fever to its African marsh, guarding the thoroughfare we crowd and the lonely reef that lies in ambush for us.
The shame lies instead in forgetting all we owe our species, exaggerating what little mankind owes to us, combining ingratitude, conceit and usurpation to make a patriotic virtue and profess that we are self-made and independent. The shameful thing is for a man to think that mankind is in his debt when the balance is struck between what mankind has done and is doing every day for him, and what he has done to make his species freer and happier. It is still more shameful to act as if mankind were so much in his debt as to justify his receiving, and his children and his children's children receiving, millions more than other men, or political, social or other title and position whose possession needs no further justification -- no matter how many other benefactions other men confer thereafter on society. The shame is not lessened when such delusions of grandeur are enjoyed by masses of men instead of by individuals, when a whole nation assumes that it has given more than it has received, that there is something naturally superior and peculiarly sacred in it, that it is the Elect of God or the Chosen People that it was meant to be the lord of others. These are the things that are shameful in men, and they are shameful because they are so tawdry and false and unworthy of a species whose name gives us the adjective, manly.
The freedom of man goes hand in hand with the interdependence of men, whether organized or tacit. This is true in every field, it has always been true, and the more our freedom and self-reliance have grown, the more inter-dependent we have become, and the more we have needed union with more men.
It is a common thing to find a man who treats all the rest of us as stupid, as obstacles in his path from which he longs to be free. Each of us has sometimes felt that way about some, or all, of the rest of us. It is natural that each man should always be ready to indict the mass of mankind as stupid. We are all ignorant and awkward and stupid in far more ways than we are skilled and wise. That makes us esteem more our own wisdom where we have it. The fewer the things in which we are wise, the more value we set, of course, on our wisdom, and the more irritating becomes the stupidity of our fellows in the field where we are wise.
But the interesting side of this is the other side of the medal, for it is the positive side. Though a man may be stupid in no matter how many things, he is almost certainly more skilled or wiser than most of us in some few things, or at least in some one thing. "In every god there is something divine," Anatole France remarked, and we can add that in every man there is some of Man. I once had a cook who I thought was a hopeless moron until one day she made an apple pie. It was the one thing she knew how to do, it was her specialty, but she could do it so succulently well that one forgave her a heap of other things.
The man who was no good at piemaking would be a fool not to depend on her for apple pies, and the one who could make pies, but not so well, would be a fool not to depend on her for instruction. This example being typical, we can smile while minorities of different experts nearly 2,000,000,000 strong accuse our (and their) species of a hundred million stupidities. We can be sure our species will survive and each of us will grow richer, wiser, freer, so long as we enjoy this wealth in minorities of experts -- and are not so stupid as to try to be independent of any of them.
Put in other terms, the wildest reactionary is never 100 per cent conservative, and the wildest revolutionary is never 100 per cent rebel. Our Neville Chamberlains are the first to rebel at the cut-and-dried methods of diplomacy, our Lenins are conservative not only in their habit of dress but in a host of other things. Conservatism and radicalism partly result from men differing in the velocity of their adaptability to change, and from this standpoint the most hide-bound among us would appear a flighty revolutionist to his own great-grandfather. Some of course in every generation welcome change in general relatively more than others, but usually we are each conservative about many things and actively rebellious against only a few.
But the result of our division into conservatives and rebels is that we each can depend absolutely on our species never lacking plenty of men either to rebel against every conceivable obstacle to the freedom of man, or to conserve every bit of the freedom won by yesterday's rebels until those of today prove the new bit of freedom that they bring is really worthy of acceptance. This may not conduce to our independence, but can we have a better way than this to free ourselves?
It is not our greatest men who think it beneath them to acknowledge their dependence on others. They teach us not to depend on ourselves alone if we would free what is individual in us, but to study diligently other men who are masters, for, as Sir Joshua Reynolds said, "The more extensive your acquaintance with the works of those who have excelled, the more extensive will be your powers of invention ... and what may appear still more like a paradox, the more original will be your conceptions."
As it is with those lonely venturers, our great men in every field, so it is with those who are pioneers in the narrower sense of the word. If any man can be called independent it is the pioneer who goes out into the wilderness and carves out his home, the man of the type of Mr. Bulow, the Connecticut farmer who took Brillat-Savarin on a turkey hunt in 1794 in the forest near Hartford....
These pioneers of Connecticut were among the first to sacrifice the sovereignty of the state and ratify the Constitution of the United States, Their forebears, the first men to pioneer in Connecticut, Lord Acton notes, "possessed so finished a system of self-government in the towns, that it served as a model for the federal Constitution."
It was precisely in these conditions, when in the American wilderness civilized man was thrown most upon his own resources, that his dependence on his fellows was most driven home to him, and men came to realize that their freedom lay in trusting in each other, in uniting freely on the basis of the equal rights and dignity of each of them. It was in these pioneering conditions that the men of these American colonies, before they constituted their Union, united under state constitutions that form the first written constitutions in history superior to and limiting the government and alterable only by the people themselves.
As the pioneers moved westward for 200 years men had to depend on women to do not only a woman's work but a man's work too, -- to seize the reins and drive the covered wagon while the man stood off the Indians, to take his rifle and defend the children when he fell or was away. Pioneering conditions made so clear the dependence of men and women on each other that there finally began in the Rocky Mountains the liberation of half the human race. There never were men more independent than the cowmen and prospectors and homesteaders of Wyoming in 1868, and they were the first to recognize and extend their dependence on women by giving them the vote.
Our freedom has always been inseparably bound to our faith in our fellows, and the more of them we have trusted, and the more implicitly, blindly, we have depended on each of our fellow-men -- no matter what race, nation, class or sex -- the more we have been rewarded with freedom. Truly of the stuff of dreams is our species made.
Two hundred, one hundred, fifty years ago one finds everywhere in every field far less dependence of men upon each other, and far less freedom. Then perhaps ten or a dozen men entrusted themselves for fifty miles to a stage-coach driver with four or six horses, after making inquiry, and scrutinizing their man Now a thousand men rush into a train and are whisked off sixty miles in an hour. They may do it twice a day through every year or they may cross a continent without ever going up to the locomotive to see what manner of man is there with his hand on the reins of hundreds of horses, with his eye now on his watch and soon searching vigilantly through the mist for the signal lamps.
They may do this all year without it once occurring to them that they are all trusting their lives to a man at the throttle, and to the unknown men who made his watch, and to the man at the throttle of the train hurtling toward them, and to the maker of his watch, and to distant train dispatchers and their watches and clocks, and to the signal men, and to the brakemen, and to the long line of men who made the brakes and the wheels and the cars and the locomotives, and to the men who made and inspected and laid the rails, and to the section hands, and track-walkers, the bridge-builders, the tunnel-makers. We can not enjoy the freedom from the horse's limitations that a train gives without trusting our lives blindly to the good faith of thousands of unknown men.
And they, in turn, have to trust in millions of passengers having faith enough in the railway to use it. The Great Eastern, that forerunner of our Atlantic liners, failed not from lack of room for passengers, -- she was longer than nearly all the ocean greyhounds afloat sixty years later, -- but because she lacked passengers. She failed because ocean travelers in 1857 lacked faith in steamships, in their makers and their crews and in men generally.
The train and the ocean liner are two of many wonders that are possible only through the willingness of men to depend utterly on their fellow-men. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we need but keep our eyes open to see the same phenomenon of freedom for each marl through faith in every man.
It is in every item in our newspaper as it is in every bed in our hospital. Our newspapers, now that they reach to the ends of the earth for men who are interested in and need to know everything on earth, require for their functioning far more confidence all round than ever before, far more faith in unknown men. The statesman, the banker, the businessman who closes his door on the press, who impatiently tries to dodge when the newsmen surround him may not realize, when he suppresses or distorts or falsifies to them the news of what he has been doing, that he is hurting most himself. Yet, however important he may be, he has only a few items of news to give compared to all those he needs to get, and the more he handicaps the newsmen in their work of accurately and quickly reporting the essentials in every field to everyone, the more he contributes to a condition that poisons the air which he himself must breathe.
Our great-grandfathers rarely trusted their lives to men they did not know, our grandfathers did so only sparingly, but we are doing it all the time, many of us nonchalantly many times a day. Yet it is now, and especially among the more trusting peoples, which is to say the freer peoples, that the death rate is far lower and the span of life is growing. We eat and drink almost anywhere on earth without the fear that man once had that strangers might poison him. We pile into elevators and go dizzily down, we dodge through streets crowded with cars more powerful than the monsters of antiquity, we jump into taxicabs without worrying whether the driver may possibly be drunk -- and we never suffer half the qualms that grandfather did.
In his time there were never on the roads nearly so many horse-drawn vehicles as there are now horseless ones. When he was out driving in the buggy he did not need to trust that the men driving the few buggies he met would keep to their side of the road and not run into him and kill him. He could depend on the other man's horse and his own horse not colliding even if both drivers went to sleep, and he could be reasonably sure that an accident would not be fatal.
Paradoxically, the more that men depend upon machines, the more they must depend on men, and on more men. The number of slaves who labored up the Great Pyramid is small compared to the world-scattered, ungeneralled army of free men who now help bring each tourist to see that work of autocrats and slaves.
The doing of a book may seem an independent enterprise, one requiring few hands compared to those needed to bridge the Golden Gate. Yet I would sooner try to count the hair of my head than the men and women who have lent a hand merely on the mechanical side of the writing of this book: The men who felled the trees, who brought them to the paper mill, and mined and smelted its minerals and provided it with chemicals and fuel and grease, who loaned the money to build the mill and provide the machinery for it, who ran the mill and distributed the sheet of paper on which these words are now being written by a typewriter, -- and all the world-scattered men who put that typewriter on this desk among them far away natives who helped bring it bits of rubber and provided its inked ribbon (we must count in, too, the cotton-pickers).
And then there is the host of men behind this desk, this chair, this house, this fountain pen, this ink, and behind the universal postal system that carries this "manuscript," and the machines that set in type every letter in it, and the presses that print that type, -- and the tale is neither finished nor complete as far as it goes.
And when we have finished with the mechanical side there would remain the substance of the book. That seems to be something independent, personal, but the book is studded with allusions to only some of those who have lent me a hand. If I sought merely to list all the men and women, great and obscure, known and unknown to me, whom I thank for encouraging me and helping give this book what substance it has, there would be no space left in it. Even to express my thanks I must depend on Lincoln who solved the problem so well when he wrote in his letter to Conkling and the "unconditional Union men" of 1863:
Thanks to all -- for the great Republic, for the principle it lives by and keeps alive, for man's vast future, -- thanks to all.
I can not even number the individuals, living and dead upon whom I have had to depend, and upon whom I am glad to depend to bring before your eyes these words:
Let us then all keep clearly in our minds and tightly in our hearts that in Union there is freedom, and that each shall be the freer and happier the more we all recognize our dependence on the individual, on each other and on all our species. We are all the losers when one of us is not doing the work that is joy for him. we are all the gainers when he is doing what he loves to do, for he is then doing his share best. The more deliberately and fully and trustingly we unite with each other and depend upon each other for our freedom the more we shall solve the problem of so arranging our society that each lives in it more happily and freely. For freedom is like love, the more of it we give, the more of it we can enjoy, and love is like union, too. True love can not do without union, nor can there be full union without love, nor freedom without either, nor either without freedom.
We have too long forgot that freedom and love were born together, and we have yet to learn that they can not live and grow without each other. As a child sometimes sees deeper than a man, so Man, when he was making words for those ethereal solid things that he has never touched and always reached for, saw into them more deeply than we do and he made his word for love his word for free. We have too long forgot that we began to free with the Gothic frijon and the Sanskrit pri, which means, to love; we have yet to learn that not simply through the Gothic frijonds up from the Sanskrit priyon for beloved but from the very nature of things stem together friend and freedom.
Man has on earth no one but Man to help him, and what a mighty, what a generous, what a kindly and abiding and dependable friend and liberator is Man to Man. Man has already wrought miracles of Man by Man for Man. These are great, and they are but a hint of those that will be done when our Union opens Man's vast future as each Man pledges each:
Thy freedom is my freedom as is my freedom thine.
Contents -- Chapter XII -- Annexes