The Post-War World
WE MUST PRODUCE GOOD MEN FOR DEMOCRACY
By ERNEST M. HOPKINS, President, Dartmouth College
Delivered at Taft School, February 6, 1942
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 364-369.
I COUNT it a very great privilege to be invited here for this function tonight. I would gladly have come if for no other reason than to renew acquaintance and contact with Mr. Taft. I am appreciative of what Taft has done in rendering service to Dartmouth in the fine men that have come to us from the School. But tonight I am particularly glad to talk, because I am happy to talk to the men of your generation, in regard to the situation that exists at the present time, and the situation that I believe will exist during the major part of the lives that you are to live.
Assuming that the average age of a man going to college is eighteen, and that he graduates from college at twenty-two,—the averages for most of you—, there is over half a century of life available, in all probability, in what we call the post-war world. Churchill was everlastingly right when he said the first responsibility was to survive, and all sorts of things are having to be done in the world at the present time in order that we may survive. There is no use in counting on a post-war world if such a world is not going to exist. So it becomes our responsibility to accept, in schoolsand colleges, and everywhere else, the necessity of existence, of survival.
But war is not going to last forever, at least the military part of it is not. Nevertheless the duration of effects of this war is going to be something which will radically alter the lives of every one of us. It not only will alter our lives during the immediate years after the war, but it will alter the life on this planet throughout your lives and the lives of your children. And whether it is going to be the kind of a life in its influences and in its developments that you want it to be, and is going to be the kind of a life that will give you the most satisfaction in having lived—(and insofar as we know, we do not have but one chance of living), that is going to be dependent on how you utilize these years that are right here now—on your understanding of what are the necessities of a post-war world after a catastrophe such as this is.
Years ago, when Henry Ford was fulminating against woman suffrage in his weekly journal, The Dearborn Independent, he put an item one morning in a box, in the middle of the front page, to this effect that a woman putting a baby to sleep was a hundred times more attractive than a woman putting an audience to sleep. The incomparable Don Marquis came out the following day in The New York Sun with the observation that the woman putting the baby to sleep had an infinitely harder job—unless by chance the audience happened to be teething.
Well, I think that American audiences are teething at the present time. They are teething for various reasons. They are teething because they now recognize that in the past they fumbled great opportunities; they are teething because they recognize that what is going to be the result of this war must depend largely on them; and moreover, they are teething because they are uncertain as to whether the generation coming up at the present time is being given the education to afford it competence and the will to prepare itself for the kind of life it has to live.
All of us have been more or less isolationists. Some of us have been theoretically opposed to isolation, but have accepted the proposition that we were apart from the rest of the world and were free to decide what obligations we would accept. For, we have been blessed as other peoples have not been blessed. We have the Atlantic on one side and the Pacific on the other. We have had all of this protection plus material prosperity and the hope of the beginning of a new age. We were going to have a couple of chickens in every pot, a couple of cars in every garage, and a margin above necessity on all material things.
Some have argued—and have believed—that isolation was possible. But realization is just beginning to come, and the country is beginning to understand as it has never done before, just what this present emergency all means. Things are happening that could not have been imagined a few months ago.
There are great fleets at sea, but what do we know of the ports to which they go? Yet that is one of the vital points. American boys are up in the Arctic regions somewhere, as they are close to the equator, ready to resist German invasion. They are all over the world—individuals followed by groups, and groups to be followed by armies in armadas of ships. And there is one thing perfectly clear: that we must for the peace and organization of the world work hereafter in understanding and cooperation with England for the preservation of principles of freedom. It was England, which started definitions of what freedom was about and whichlit the flames of liberty, even though at times these shone with a flickering light. It was England which kept the lamp of liberty burning century after century. It is England which has been the unceasing guardian of liberty. Between seven and eight hundred years ago she started with the Magna Charta. More than seven centuries!
England has made her great mistakes. She has made the mistakes of imperialism and of class society; she has made all of the mistakes that a country assuming the foremost responsibility in the world would be likely to make. Nevertheless, she has been the guardian of principles which she has transmitted down through the centuries to us, and which we have developed into the thing which we call American democracy.
What then does American democracy mean in influence upon world affairs? It has meant, up to the present time, that we have spent most of our time speaking about our internal life, and so far as world matters go, occupying ourselves with provincial affairs which we thought had to do with ourselves alone without regard to their effect upon the world as a whole.
I remember when I was in college one of the lecturers on political science said that England had the best colonial government in the world because it was always consistent; and that America had the worst, because America had a different idea every year about how colonies should be governed and what should be governmental attitude toward her colonies. England had learned that the thing people wanted to know most of all was that what was done one time would be done the next, that consistency was a jewel so far as government went, and that her recognition of this accounted for England's prestige.
So England has sat at the crossroads; England has governed the world, or dictated how it should be governed; England has collected toll economically, has decided how great crises should be solved. She has held the balance of power in Europe and in the large has exercised this for the good of Europe. This same country, which through centuries has done all of these things, now has spent her life blood and has exhausted her material wealth to defend a world against gangsterism and to hold her part until such time as somebody should get interested enough to do something about it. Now, thanks to the discriminating judgment of the Japs, the United States is unified,—something it probably could never have been so completely except for the Japanese.
At last we are in the war, and we are beginning to understand that we are in the war to protect something that is infinitely valuable to us, though until recently we did not realize it was valuable enough to us to do anything about. But we have not yet realized that with the changed conditions existent in the world, in those remote places on this planet where at the present time we are setting up airplane bases, and are establishing centers of influence, we are going to remain responsible.
Not only that, but the power England has lost and the economic controls she has sacrificed must come into our hands or those of the Axis, and what this world is going to be throughout the time of your lives is going to be determined by one of two nations—either Germany or the United States. And if it is to be the United States, as our loyalty and faith and confidence demand that we believe that it should be, then it is necessary for us to understand how unprepared we are for such responsibilities and how dependent we are on groups like yourselves to make yourselves competent to undertake these.
What are you thinking of doing? What are you getting educated for? Are you thinking simply of your education in terms of going back home and settling in your father's business, or getting good jobs with somebody else Or are you thinking of getting a good job in Wall Street? Or are you thinking in terms of new obligations and of doing something about this thing which is called government and which, as a matter of fact, inevitably is going to be world government when the United States takes over, as it is going to have to take over? Consideration of such questions is the basis of this meeting tonight, that we may begin to think in terms of our relationships to world problems.
Let us think for a few minutes and try to get a background on this situation. I was told in college that the world had changed more since the beginning of the industrial revolution than it had changed in the previous centuries since the birth of Christ. I never for a moment doubted this, but in later years I have realized how emphatically true the statement was. As a matter of fact, in talking with an eminent medical authority the other day he said that the science of medicine had progressed more in the past twenty-five years than it had previously since the beginning of civilization.
"What do you mean by such comparisons?" somebody says. Well, take two or three things. In the town of Union, New Hampshire, there was a settler in the late sixteen hundreds, the forefather of a man I knew intimately and who had the diary of this early settler. The pioneer went into the wilderness, cleared the ground, and built a house and barn. But one morning, years later, after another settler had moved into the brook valley below him, his wife said to him: "What are you doing, getting things ready in the barn?" He replied: "We are going to move North." She asked: "Are we going to leave all of this?" He answered: "Yes, the world hasn't got so damned small that I have to see some other man's smoke every morning." That was five miles down the valley, that smoke.
But this was the individualism of the pioneer, a great spirit for its time, the spirit that drove American settlers across the Appalachians, across the prairies, over the mountains, to the Pacific coast; the spirit that made this country great; but a spirit that has now to adapt itself into modern trends and to translate itself into strength of the intellect as compared with the physical hardness indispensable in olden times.
There is a record, or there is said to be a record, of a trip which Caesar made from Rome, to the vicinity of what is now Paris, in 54 B. C. About 1800 Napoleon made the same trip from Paris to Rome and they took identically the same time, at a speed of about three miles an hour, the speed that a horse could go. You can go on indefinitely along that line. Peary took five months to get word back to us in regard to his discovery of the North Pole; Byrd later by modern invention radioed back to the United States, and his account was received the instant he arrived over the Pole.
I was saying tonight to Mr. Taft that I was talking with a man in Washington a couple of weeks ago, in regard to a matter that we couldn't close that day. "Well," said the man, "I will be back in ten days, but first I have to go to London!"
That is the kind of a world we live in. Then there is the story of Charles Dickens coming to Boston. It tells of his amazement at the small boats that pulled out from the shore as the ship neared Boston Harbor. He was mistaken in thinking that they were coming out to meet him and surprised to learn that they carried reporters coming outto get first copies of European newspapers, which they were to take back to their respective offices, where, in turn, the news was to be spread after weeks of elapsed time to the whole of America.
You can take any field that you want to. Take medicine, I am not a physician. You know the facts in regard to that as well as I do. I had occasion to be in a hospital for a time a few months ago. One day the doctor came in to see me and he said, "Do you know what a wonderful thing this sulfanilamide is?" I said, "No." "Well," he replied, "every day you have been in this hospital we have saved a life that a year ago we would have lost." This he said was literally true.
We have made scientific advancement beyond what could have been imagined. Everything that has to do with scientific development in the world of today is immeasurable compared with anything that has happened in the past.
But, meanwhile, we have progressed little in perfecting a science of government or of learning about or doing anything about world affairs!
When President Wilson, at the end of the World War, stated, in his depth of despondency at the rejection by the American Congress of the terms he had made for participation in the League of Nations, that if those promises were repudiated, the heart of humanity would be broken, a United States Senator flippantly said that if the promises were kept the financial back of the United States would be broken.
Well, in comparison, according to present day expenditures, our back wouldn't even have been bent, and we lost out on perhaps the greatest opportunity ever offered to any people to have a part in saving a world. Now, the opportunity is inevitably to be made to us again. But the temper of the people hasn't changed, unless it has in the last few weeks. In 1932 Mr. Stimson protested about the Japanese going into Manchukuo and said that if that thing was allowed to pass, it opened the door to aggression everywhere. The English Government at that time, however, held that it was not practicable for it to do anything about it. Nor would his own government support Mr. Stimson. All of which makes a record of at least one man's perspicacity. And what happened after that? Well, you know the story. The following October the Japanese, in full force, went into China.
Italy looked on, and decided it was easy going for anybody that wanted something, and wanting something, they planned to go into Ethiopia. In January 1936 I came across the bay from Sicily; the whole harbor was ablaze with light, and filled with troop ships with men marching aboard. Passengers were supposed to stay in the sleepers, but we had a friendly conductor who let us out. And next day in Rome I read Mussolini's denial that the Italians had any troops on transports or that he was making any moves towards war.
Italy went into Ethiopia due to the fact that the League of Nations was too weak, was in fact entirely powerless to make her sanctions effective. This in turn went back to the refusal of the United States to go into the League of Nations. Thus Italy was well on her way to war and nobody did anything but talk about it.
An Austrian paperhanger, who watched the whole thing, and figured that he could take exception to the conscience of the world, decided that nothing should be allowed to restrict him in any way and determined that the time had come to go into Austria or anywhere else that he might wish to go. He was building up a following and he realizedthat if he could for the time make good the self-respect and pride of Germany by a demonstration of force, then he would be on his way to what he wanted to do—become the gangster boss of the world, though I don't suppose that was the way he phrased it to himself.
Well, then, along came Spain, excepting that Spain did not come along. Spain had no particular desire for revolution. However, the Latin nations had always been susceptible to revolutionary tendencies, there had been revolutions in France, and Germany decided that Spain would be an auspicious place to try out new theories in regard to warfare. In reply to this, Russia said, "Me too." Both, therefore, went in and made a private practice ground of Spain.
Again the United States said, "This is none of our business; this is only a foreign, a European quarrel. France with her leftist tendencies in government and England with her Tory inclinations accepted common ground in regard to this affair and said that it was no war for either of them to get mixed up in. Again it was proved that perhaps the greatest of all fallacies periodically thrust on presumably intelligent people is the fallacy that one can escape war by refusing to fight.
Many of you are old enough to have heard it repeated again and again that war never settles anything. On the contrary, war always settles something and generally it settles that which it started out to settle. This war we are in at the present time will settle something—whether the Nazi dictatorship or the principles of democracy will dominate the world of our time.
This whole question of peace and war is particularly susceptible to fallacy and paradox. We have, for instance, been told continuously that propaganda is iniquitous and false, while on the other hand, none of us has had any disposition to dispute the contention that peace is desirable. Some difficulties have imposed, however, when realization has been had that the most heavily propagandized thesis of recent years has been for peace. Which end of that dilemma was one going to take? Nobody pointed out very effectively, though some tried to do so, that in the expanding dynamics of despotism in a changing world a continuing and expanding war was always imperative. Consequently, for those who really wanted peace, there was no alternative except to go to war.
The real fact is that the whole theory of isolation has made for war and the withholding of the United States from participation in world affairs and from making its influence for peace operative has allowed the world to get into the situation in which it finds itself at the present time. Practically the only hope for peace in days to come is that we as the most powerful people upon the face of the earth shall demonstrate our capacity to exert force sufficiently so that we shall assume leadership in world affairs. England isn't going to be capable of exerting as much in the way of influence and power as she has in the past but she still retains enough of her prestige and enough of her economic resources so that the United States and England in combination would be unconquerable. For the first time in history, likewise, it would appear that England would be willing to yield leadership to the United States under agreements by which the two should make themselves responsible for the peace of the world.
There are those who have argued in the past that the United States was entirely self-sufficient and that she could produce everything needful for her domestic economy. I might say in passing that I spent some months in Washington undertaking to find out where there were enoughraw materials even for a defense program, and they were not existent excepting in one or two cases. The theory of self-sufficiency becomes an absurdity the minute that any serious consideration is given to the facts. For instance, we produce plenty of iron ore presumably for our own needs but in order that iron ore shall be worked into steel, manganese is necessary, the principal supply of which comes from Russia. We have a particular facility for the manufacture of machine tools but in order that machine tools shall be of maximum effectiveness, tungsten is necessary, a large proportion of which comes out over the Burma Road from China. So one could illustrate indefinitely. The affairs of the world are intertwined beyond any possible untangling them, and as time goes on, this will be more and more true.
Shifting to an entirely different field, you very likely have read of the work which has been carried through to such a brilliant accomplishment in Brazil in eliminating the particularly deadly form of malaria which came from the jungles of Africa, transmitted by the gambiae mosquito. Until recently, however, there has never been any hazard in regard to this matter, for the effective life of the mosquito was barely more than forty-eight hours. When, however, the speed of airplanes was stepped up, it was perfectly possible for one of these gambiae to be brought across from Africa to Brazil and to infect the natives of Brazil within the span of the few hours of the mosquito's life.
Wherever we turn, we find the transformation that has been made in life by the shortening of distances and the constricting of areas by the speed of modern transportation. Now the time has arrived where one's knowledge is limited and his understanding is restricted who lacks information in regard to the economies, the social customs, and the political organizations of all of the different peoples of the earth. We not only have to know where peoples live and how they live but we have to understand likewise their aspirations and their racial characteristics. For America henceforth, if she is to assume the responsibilities which once before she repudiated, must furnish the advisers, the diplomats, the economists, and the financial resources of the world.
Incidentally, may I say likewise that for these critics of liberal education who argue that vocational and technical training are the only indispensable subjects for study today, some advantage might have accrued to the world if people, for instance, had knowledge of their Tacitus, who centuries ago said of the Germans: "The German mind cannot brook repose. . . . To cultivate the earth and await the regular produce of the seasons is not the maxim of the German. . . . In a word, to earn by the sweat of your brow what you may gain by the price of your blood is, in the opinion of a German, a sluggish principle, unworthy of a soldier."
On the other hand, in view of Hitler's reiterated expressions of admiration for Frederick the Great, it might be illuminating to consider Macaulay's characterization of this patron saint of the Fuehrer: "The evils produced by his wickedness were felt in lands where the name of Prussia was unknown; and in order that he might rob a neighbor whom he had promised to defend, black men fought on the Coast of Coromandel, and red men scalped each other by the Great Lakes of North America."
It is well for us to think from time to time of just what it is that makes the distinction between barbarism and civilization. It is, of course, an understanding of the significance of law and an acceptance of the principle of law. John Locke covers this matter comprehensively in his essay
Of Civil Government". He talks a lot about man in the state of nature, calling attention to the fact that man in this state is equal to anybody and subject to nobody. He then raises the question why should man give up this independence of action and submit himself to what a group of men say be should do, for that is what man does when he first accepts the principle of civil law. Locke goes on to amplify his argument by saying that although men are independent and are free to hold themselves to be as good as anybody else, nevertheless convictions of these men may destroy the independence of any individual, and that it is when recognition of this fact becomes existent that men seek an organization which we call government. Man in the state of nature lacks three things necessary for civilization and three things that man early in his social development comes to recognize as necessary. In the beginning, he lacks any standard of what practises and procedures should be established for the common good; he lacks in the second place any appointed officer to say when these practises or prescribed procedures have been violated; he lacks in the third place any enforcing agency to substantiate and support decisions of recognized agents. In recognition of the need for these things, men are driven together to take sanctuary under established laws.
lt is one of the surprising facts of history that time and again peoples have reached a level of material prosperity and have attained standards of culture which would seem to have enabled them to go on into a civilization finer and richer than anything which the world has ever known, only to be so overcome by the self-indulgence and softening process of these conditions as to fall subject to barbarians who fell upon them. There is a peculiar effect of material welfare that makes men high above the subsistence level far more unwilling to give up a portion of that which they have than is true of people who are but little above this level. So it has been through all history, and the people who can discover a way to counteract the effects of this law will have discovered the way to carry civilization on to levels undreamed of previously.
Benjamin Franklin thought that we had arrived so far in our progress toward civilization that we could regulate war and reduce the waging of war to a set of rules. He called attention to the fact that in the beginning, war was extirpation of the foe; then later that instead of murdering all of those who are vanquished, they were taken prisoners and subjected to slavery; then later that under an international code, there was an exchange of prisoners; and finally that a distinction was made between the appropriation of public and of private property. Franklin suggested that there should be an international congress of nations who should agree that during wars there should be no interference with agriculturists because they raised the food upon which the people lived; that the same should apply to fishermen; that exponents of art and culture shouldn't be interfered with; and that other protections should be afforded.
One does not need to say much upon this subject beyond calling attention to the modern theory of total war as exemplified by the Axis. If one is to meet the Axis on equal terms, it is necessary to accept the principle of the machine-gunning of life-boats, of the bombing of hospitals, of unprovoked attack or unarmed vessels and upon unarmed cities, and of the creation of an atmosphere as well as the fact of terror. Whether the extermination of a people, as is the intention in regard to Poland, or the quieting of an individual, as in the case of Pastor Niemoller, the principle is the same. Fear is to be developed by every conceivablemethod and terror is to walk abroad. Atrocities, knowledge of which in times past it has been the effort to suppress, are now to be played up and even exaggerated. Movie films are to be made, and when the horrors of actual operations are not sufficiently defined, scenes are to be invented in order that fear and terror shall be made the more contagious and the more widespread.
The net result is that we are now facing a war in which our victory must be won against millions of people in racial groups—whole generations who have been brought up with the theory and the practise that everything which we consider good is bad and everything that we consider as evil is to be held as good. There is no authority to be recognized excepting the authority of the state and any competing authority, whether of the home, the educational institution, the race, or the religion, is to be ruthlessly suppressed.
What then to us actually constitutes goodness? Janet Flanner has said that it takes a great many very good people to make a democracy, while it takes only one man to make a dictatorship. Who, then, is democracy's "good man"?
Everybody has his own idea in regard to goodness, but sooner or later, the question has to be answered, "Good for what?"
A few years ago I was fishing in the northern Maine woods. There was a neighboring height called Bald Mountain from which the view was said to be particularly impressive and some of us felt that we would like to go up there some morning and see it. One day the guide suggested that we should get up and climb the mountain before sunrise the following day, which we did. In the course of the climb the guide repeated over and over, "This is a good day," and it was a good day, so far as seeing the view from the top of the mountain. Visibility was at its maximum and we could see hills and streams and lakes miles away. In the middle of the day we came down and went to the headwaters of a stream where we had been told it was particularly good fishing and where we found a beautiful lake but from which we secured no fish. The next morning, we got up and there was a drizzle; a mist was on the lake and the guide repeatedly said the same thing that he had said the day before, "This is a good morning." The fact of course was that one morning was good for viewing an extended landscape while the other was good for fishing. The two mornings were entirely unlike, and if our program had been reversed, no one would have felt that either morning had been good.
The German says that the good man is the man who reverts towards barbarism and adopts all of the principles of a life which we call evil. The German says that the man is a weakling who believes in righteousness and civilization. To him the good man is the man who possesses himself of qualities of force and violence and deceit for overcoming men not as strong as he. The good man is the man who laughs at the idea that there is any such thing as truth and who contends that the argument which justifies those things which you want to do is good, as compared with any of the restraints of truth.
On the other hand, the interpretation of goodness in a democracy, as among ourselves, is the goodness of the civilized man, blessed with some of the refinements of culture and eager for knowledge of the truth. The good man is the man who wants to know what things are really so and is willing to modify his own convictions and to conform his own actions to the demands of reality as against falsehood, when the distinctions between these are made plain.
The youth of America, such men as you are, who are given the blessings of educational opportunity, as offered in
a school like Taft, have a particular responsibility in this matter. In no country in the world has it ever been held before that what we call higher education is a privilege which should be made available to every one who wants it. Someone has said that the door of democracy lies in the corrupting theory of privileges without obligations. To you, in common with American youth in general, privileges are offered such as have never been offered anywhere in the world to generations of youth before. To your generation opportunities for governmental service will be available greater in magnitude and importance with anything which any previous generation has known. You are going to be citizens in a world where the impact of the ideas of other peoples upon us and of our ideas upon other peoples will be of inestimable importance to the development of civilization. Are you ready to face the responsibilities which aregoing to be yours? Do you want to preserve for yourselves and for your children and children's children the privileges which have been yours, of dreaming your own dreams, thinking your own thoughts, and living your own lives? I do not believe there is a man among you who does not.
In Maxwell Anderson's play "Valley Forge", he has General Howe's emissary, Mary, look at Washington after she has seen the destruction of his camp and has sensed the situation which must have created deep discouragement in his own mind. Very humbly then she says, "There are some men who lift the age they inhabit—till all men walk on higher ground in that lifetime."
There must be many such if we are to save this world of ours. This must become an objective of all our schools and colleges—to produce good men for democracy. (This I am sure is the objective of Taft.)