The Atlantic Believes

In a world where anything can happen — and usually does — there is a personal satisfaction in holding on to something which is steadfast. The Atlantic has weathered the Civil War, Black Friday, and the Panic of 1893; it followed the country’s expansion under Cleveland, T. R., and Taft; it rose to national circulation during the First World War, and in the Long Armistice which followed it avoided the overgrowth of the twenties and the skids of the Depression. This December the Atlantic begins its 85th year of continuous publication. It is exhilarating and it is also sobering to set the course at such a time.

The magazine must live up to two responsibilities. It must constantly inquire into the state of the nation. That is the more sobering charge. Secondly, it must keep alight those individual expressions — the biography, essay, poem (never was good poetry more needed), and narrative — which, taken together, reaffirm our belief in the individual, and especially the American individual.

The editor believes that now is the time to take off your hat and tell your right name. He believes wholeheartedly in the kind of democracy we have had here — with seasonal modifications — for one hundred and fifty-two years. He believes that our system is inseparable from our character — and that it works! He believes that American cooperation can do more for the community of nations than Nazi domination. He believes that until Hitler goes to his St. Helena we shall have no peace.

Editing calls for optimism. But not blind optimism. Today there is one fundamental question which must be answered. Are we a united people capable of decisive action? Our self-confidence is growing as we see our defense plants double, then quadruple their capacity. It is good to feel our strength. But what keeps us going, what buoys us up, is not the hope of having the greatest air fleet or a two-ocean navy: what buoys us up is the hope that when the war is won we shall be a united people, and that in our unity we shall not backslide, as in 1919, but shall help to shape a world in which men of good will can live at peace.

The heritage of 85 years means this to the ninth editor: it means that at this turning point in history the Atlantic must contend for the Union and plan for the future which lies ahead for our children.