Loyalty Once More
I AM writing this article on the first anniversary of the death of Josiah Royce—‘the philosopher of loyalty.’ He was my teacher and a personal friend deeply beloved. For many years we saw each other only at rare intervals, but whenever we met, we seemed to take up our friendship from the point we had reached on the last occasion. Towards the end of his life, in 1913, we were together for two months, in Oxford. Day by day we talked of ‘ loyalty ’ and of the ‘ great community ’; or, rather, he talked, for my part was mainly that of the listener. But I said enough to show that I agreed with him, not perhaps in the form he gave to his arguments, but in the aim to which his thought was directed and in the motive which inspired him. He knew that essentially we were of one heart in the matter, and almost the last thing he said to me was a kind of charge. ‘Since you believe in loyalty,’ he said, ‘push it, make it known, give it currency.’ I answered that I would, and this article, written on the anniversary of his death, is part of the fulfillment of my promise.
Loyalty, as I understand it, is not merely a philosophical conception, but a spirit, a temper, and a power. It is the secret of human fellowship and gives driving force to human ideals. You may see it at work in families and in groups of friends, where, without written law and almost without conscious design, men and women coöperate in a strenuous, fruitful, happy life, trusting each other and cheerfully making good each other’s defects.
Loyalty has no ‘definite programme,’ and yet it is the mother of all the programmes that lead to good results. When it is absent, ideals are barren; they degenerate into themes for eloquence, they become literary properties, they are the stock-in-trade of talking men, they provoke wordy quarrels and end in phrasemongery and cant. Only when loyalty is present can we say that good ideas rule the world, or indeed that they have any chance of ruling it. The wisest scheme that was ever devised for insuring or enforcing an improvement in human affairs would founder inevitably unless the parties to it were loyal. A single traitor might wreck it or convert it to his own ends. All progress rests on the willing consent of loyal hearts.
There is vastly more loyalty in the world than there was when Royce laid down his pen. During the last three years, and during the last year especially, the stars in their courses have been fighting for his doctrine. They are the ‘great allies’ of truth. There are moments when events come over to the side of the prophet, when history takes up his cause, and then it is, and not till then, that his ideas begin their march to victory. What cannot be effected by a generation, or a century, of propaganda, may be effected in a few years by a turn of events. The stir that propaganda makes, the war of argument to which it gives rise, is, alas, no measure of its success, and many great ideas have produced literatures but have not changed the minds of men.
Power is needed to give effect to the simplest and most obvious of moral truths; and this power, which mere argument can never generate (though we think it can), may arise quite suddenly from conjunction in the world’s affairs or from great deeds nobly done. This has actually happened to the idea in which Royce summed up the teaching of a lifetime. Loyalty has acquired an immense accession of powder as a working force in human life. It has been born in millions of hearts which never before had felt the inspiration of a great cause, and it has deepened its roots in hearts that were loyal already. It has expanded to a new scale and won a new loftiness. At this moment the growth of loyalty is the most promising thing in the world. It contains the seeds of a thousand spontaneous reformations. We have more to hope from it than from any one, or all, of the schemes, plans, and programmes for the ‘reconstruction of society’ which have poured from the study and the press during the last three years. Without loyalty not one of them will succeed. With loyalty many of them are superfluous. But no one whose eyes are open to what is going on will despair. Loyalty is growing, and nothing could give us a fairer promise of a general resurrection in the better tendencies of human life.
Two leagues of nations, each on a greater scale than any of which history bears record, have come into existence. It is true they have been formed for the purpose of fighting one another—a seemingly sinister fact. And yet I can recall one or two instances of lifelong friendship that had their origin in precisely that manner! But let us leave that aside for the moment. Looking at the two groups in turn, we see in each of them a breaking-down of the walls of division between nation and nation. Each of them represents an association of mankind, far from complete, it is true, yet closer in texture and wider in compass than the boldest dreamer would have thought possible ten years ago. Viewed on its human side, is it not an astonishing and portentous thing that Americans, British, Russians, French, Italians, Japanese, to be counted in their total by hundreds of millions, should find themselves associated in a common purpose, and learning through that purpose to understand, to respect, to trust, and, if I may venture the word, to love one another?
Great as the political significance of this fact undoubtedly is, its psychological importance is vastly greater. As a contribution to the growth of sympathy, of the broadmindedness which teaches men to take a generous view of each other’s merits, to respect each other’s rights, and to make allowance for each other’s idiosyncracies, who can doubt that we have, in this alone, a real advance in the education of the human race? And of course the same thing has been happening on the other side. Whichever group we consider, we see within it the breaking down of misunderstandings and suspicions, and therewith an immense growth in the capacity of men for acting together, for bearing great burdens in common, for combining effort on a unitary aim; all of which, translated into human terms, means the growth of loyalty and mutual trust in the coöperating elements. Beginning in the widest circles of national or international life, the change is slowly working its way inward to private character and giving to every man among us a new consciousness of his part as a citizen of the world, as a member of ‘the great community.’ It is changes like these that give power to moral ideas, power such as propaganda can never create.
But here we are confronted with the sinister fact to which I have alluded, that the two groups, however each may be united in itself, are arrayed against one another in the fiercest of opposition. I am glad to embrace the difficulty at this point, for though it takes us from the sure ground of history on to the dangerous ground of prediction or guesswork, no question could be better fitted to give us an insight into what loyalty is and into the manner of its working.
I confess that I have little faith in any kind of verbal or literary propaganda for reconciling the belligerent groups. I doubt if it were possible even for the voice of an angel to preach their enmity into friendship. Nothing that we can say will bring this thing to pass. But I have a great and assured faith in the working out of certain psychological tendencies which are deeply rooted in the excellent part of human nature; and I think we can count with certainty on these tendencies being greatly helped by the march of events. Oppositions, when pushed to the extremest point, develop the principles of their own reconciliation. This is what has actually happened under our eyes.
It is as certain as anything can be in this world, that great revulsions of feeling will take place in both camps on the conclusion of the war. There are tolerant men in both — at least we may assume that there are; but I greatly doubt if the most tolerant man on either side would find in his present feeling toward the enemy a true index of what his state of mind will be a few years hence. It is, however, among the intolerant, among those who have been blinded by hatred, — and we know pretty well where these are to be found, — that the revulsion will be most strongly marked.
As to the length of time that these changes may take, much will depend on the precise form in which the war comes to an end — that last act of the drama on which the curtain has yet to rise. We can conceive an ending for the war which would lead to a greater embitterment of human relations than any we have witnessed heretofore. The war has settled down into a definite contest between good and evil; and if evil were suffered to triumph, it is impossible to paint the moral depression that would fall upon the civilized world, or the sinister passions that would haunt mankind during the coming years. In that event ‘ the hope of the great community’ would be set back for generations.
None of us can say that this is impossible; though I think it in the last degree unlikely. But even if the worst were to come to the worst, the war has already produced conditions which sooner or later would turn the victory of evil into its defeat. At the present moment, no form of military triumph is possible to Germany which would enable her to fulfill any of the evil dreams with which she entered upon the conflict. Her victory would leave her faced with problems which she could not solve, and before which she would inevitably fall.
When the war is over the civilized world will have upon its shoulders an economic burden which, when we seek to express it in figures, may well appal the stoutest heart. Exhausted credit, depleted resources, reduced man-power, shortage of food-supplies, will be universal. Great communities have been scattered and disorganized, cities have been devastated, fertile regions turned into deserts, ships sent to the bottom of the sea. Millions of homes have lost their breadwinners and are mourning their dead. In this condition the world will find itself faced with the burden of economic tasks so enormous that centuries will hardly suffice to liquidate them. The robbers who set out to sack the world’s treasure-house will find that the treasures have sadly diminished.
Viewing the burden in its purely economic aspect, there is one condition and one condition only on which it can be borne by the communities to whose lot it has fallen. It can be borne if, and only if, they unite in bearing it. The nations of the civilized world will have to make their choice, and to make it quickly, between peace, friendship, coöperation on the one hand, and economic ruin on the other. Nothing short of an immense effort, continued through many years, and to which every one of the belligerents must be a coöperant party, will suffice to avert the disaster which now threatens mankind. If we imagine that effort made, made on a world-wide scale and in a spirit of loyal union by all the parties concerned to make it, the result would be an enormous accession of economic power, and we can well believe that in its presence the difficulty would be overcome. If we imagine the contrary conditions, each nation fighting for its own hand economically, or the world divided into two groups, in which the present military war is prolonged into an economic war, with the attendant wastage and destructiveness, our hopes of recovery must be correspondingly diminished and the extreme case must vanish altogether.
There is a disposition in many quarters to treat the economic problem on a national basis, or, at least, on a group basis. But I am convinced that a strict consideration of its nature will reveal it as a world-problem which can only be solved internationally. The United States possesses peculiar advantages which may seem to give exemption from the extreme form of the peril, but it may well be doubted if these, great as they are, would make America a real exception to the rest of the world. So far as the other belligerents are concerned, the case is quite clear. They will be confronted with economic conditions which they cannot meet without each other’s aid. They must choose, as I have said, between coöperation and ruin. The task is so great that nothing short of a combined international effort can accomplish it. ‘Goodwill or downfall’ must be the motto of them all.
And not only must loyal coöperation be the law among the nations in their totality. It must be equally the law among the various groups, classes, parties, and individuals in each of the nations concerned. In the immensely difficult conditions that await us after the war we shall find a new application for the lesson we have learned during the war — the lesson of working and enduring together, the weak not shrinking from their share, the strong willingly accepting more than falls to them on a counting of heads. Sacrifice and effort will be demanded all round, and that on a scale yet greater than that to which the war has accustomed us.
Everything depends on the response. If by one means or another capital and labor can be brought to an accommodation, if classes can be induced to sink their jealousies and suspicions, and if we can all make up our minds to pull together, then we shall assuredly pull through and pull through triumphantly. We shall then look back on this war as having taught us the lesson that brought us at last to our senses; and good will come out of evil. But if the old misunderstandings still flourish, if our industrial life is to repeat the old process of wasting its best energies on internal strife, I see nothing but confusion and defeat in store for industrial civilization. In all these matters we have come to the parting of the ways. We must either change our temper and our methods, or we must perish.
Now, mere propaganda will never induce us to undertake so vast a reformation. Words such as I am writing now, even if they possessed a thousandfold the little force they have, would never induce us to do it. But that which words and propaganda cannot effect is often, as I have said, forced upon mankind by the march of events. It is these things that will compel us to make our choice. And for my part I cannot doubt that the choice will be rightly made — not all at once, of course, not without sharp reminders additional to those we already have, but in the long run and inevitably, and perhaps sooner than present indications seem to warrant.
The capacity for acting together which the war has revealed in each group of belligerent nations is so remarkable that we may well expect that it will develop still further and achieve the last result of a world-wide coöperation. I anticipate that the next development of the coöperative spirit will take this form. Under pressure of mighty and, let us hope, beneficent, forces which act from beyond our control, it will start as a movement toward the unity of nations, toward closer relations in the family of mankind as a whole. Beginning thus as a worldmovement and working from the circumference inwards, it will profoundly modify the ethos and internal structure of each individual state. The spirit of coöperation — vastly more important than the letter — will thus be letloose; it will be introduced into the general atmosphere of human life, and slowly but surely the attitude of classes, parties, and individuals to one another will fall into harmony with its promptings.
There is another consideration which goes far to confirm these hopes. Let us remember once more the human character of our problem. Like theology, progress is ultimately an affair of the heart. It is not to be measured by the social theories in circulation, by what is being currently thought or said about society, or by the actual laws that are in existence or under contemplation in consequence of these theories. Its true measure is the degree of good fellowship, of mutual trust and respect, which exists between nation and nation, between man and man. We advance just in so far as we learn to take pleasure in each other’s existence; which is almost as much as to say that progress should be measured, not by the laws that we make, but by the laws that we can do without. The truly progressive society is not that which makes good laws to prevent bad men hurting their neighbors; it is the society in which such laws are less needed with the lapse of time; in which men behave themselves decently to one another, not because the police compel them so to do, but because they have no idea of doing anything else—the very keynote of ‘loyalty.’
Such, I take it, is the true ideal of democracy. It is an ideal of good-will.
It is the fellowship of faithful souls; where common sense, good temper and kind feeling do the work of law. Its ultimate roots are in the human heart.
Can we foresee any progress on these lines as likely to issue from the present state of the world? I think we can. True, the signs of the moment are adverse; at least, many of them are. Hate rides the wind. But we need to look deeper. It is precisely when we think of the part that hate is now playing in the relations of mankind, that we have the best ground for predicting strong revulsions of feeling in the near future.
The economic burden is by no means the only fact from which we may draw the hint of a coming fellowship. In the course of the war ten million men have been slain, the population of a flourishing state, and Mr. Gerard has told us that if their bodies were placed in a double row they would reach from New York to San Francisco. Surely we may predict that, when this and all that it implies is contemplated in the calmer times that are to come, those ten million dead will become a sacred possession common to all the belligerents. Shall we not say hereafter that every one of the ten million was a partner with every other in performing a great act of ’atonement’ for the human race? Royce at least would have said so, and I think we may take it that he was a true prophet.
The American people can hardly be strangers to this thought. Has not their own history made them familiar with it? I know not what remnants of bitterness may still survive, but is there not a point of view from which the patriotic American, as he looks back on the Civil War, loses all sense of distinction between the men who fell for the cause that triumphed and the men who fell for the cause that failed? Are they not all America’s dead? Is not their faithfuless a common heritage? May not the North say to the South and the South to the North, ‘Thy dead are mine, and my dead are thine. They bore the chastisement of our common peace and even by their stripes we are healed.’
I do not despair of living to see the day when, in the capital of each belligerent country, and in its great cities, monuments will be erected to the mighty host of the fallen, on which no distinction will be drawn between friend and foe. Round them will be gathered the men and women of all nations. ’We suffered together, we bore the same sorrows, we made the same sacrifice, we paid the same price.’ From some such simple confession, now impossible perhaps, but by no means impossible in the great revulsion of feeling that is sure to follow, the ’hope of the great community ’ wall be brought one stage nearer to its realization.
On these grounds I cannot but believe, in spite of the surrounding darkness, that the stars in their courses are fighting for the ideas which Royce left with us. Such a monument as I have described in the last paragraph would be also, I conceive, the most fitting monument of my friend; and where could it stand so well as on American soil ? We all know what Royce thought of the war, of the cause at stake, and of his country’s destiny, now so splendidly fulfilled. We all know where, beyond the issues of the war, his heart was fixed. His memory would be honored by a monument which should thus embody his deepest thought. Is it inconceivable that we who were his friends or disciples may one day combine in erecting some tablet or piece of stone, on which he who taught us to believe in the great community and the millions who died to make it real may be commemorated together?