Imperialism: A Study
By John A. Hobson
This study of modern Imperialism is designed to give more precision to a term which is on everybody’s lips and which is used to denote the most powerful movement in the current politics of the Western world. Though Imperialism has been adopted as a more or less conscious policy by several European States and threatens to break down the political isolation of the United States, Great Britain has travelled so much faster and farther along this road as to furnish in her recent career the most profitable guidance or warning.While an attempt is made to discover and discuss the general principles which underlie imperialist policy, the illustration of that policy is mainly derived from the progress of British Imperialism during the last generation, and proceeds rather by diagnosis than by historical description. [From the Preface]
First Pub. Date
New York: James Pott and Co.
The text of this edition is in the public domain.
- Part I, Chapter I, The Measure of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter II, The Commercial Value of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter III, Imperialism as an Outlet for Population
- Part I, Chapter IV, Economic Parasites of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter V, Imperialism Based on Protection
- Part I, Chapter VI, The Economic Taproot of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter VII, Imperialist Finance
- Part II, Chapter I, The Political Significance of Imperialism
- Part II, Chapter II, The Scientific Defence of Imperialism
- Part II, Chapter III, Moral and Sentimental Factors
- Part II, Chapter IV, Imperialism and the Lower Races
- Part II, Chapter V, Imperialism in Asia
- Part II, Chapter VI, Imperial Federation
- Part II, Chapter VII, The Outcome
The Scientific Defence of Imperialism
Part II, Chapter II
Though it can hardly be denied that the ambitions of individuals or nations have been the chief conscious motives in Imperialism, it is possible to maintain that here, as in other departments of human history, certain larger hidden forces operate towards the progress of humanity. The powerful hold which biological conceptions have obtained over the pioneers in the science of sociology is easily intelligible. It is only natural that the laws of individual and specific progress so clearly discerned in other parts of the animal kingdom should be rigorously applied to man; it is not unnatural that the deflections or reversals of the laws of lower life by certain other laws, which only attain importance in the higher psychical reaches of the genus homo, should be underrated, misinterpreted, or ignored. The biologist who enters human history often finds himself confronted by intellectual antagonists who regard him as an interloper, and seek to raise a barrier between human and animal development. Indeed, from the ranks of the biological profession itself, scientists of such eminence as Huxley and A. R. Wallace have lent themselves to this separatism, distinguishing the ethical or spiritual progress of the human race from the general cosmic process, and endowing men with qualities and with laws of action different in kind from those which obtain in the rest of the animal kingdom. A reaction against the abrupt dogmatism of this position has led many others to an equally abrupt and equally dogmatic assertion of the laws of the lower forms of physical struggle and selection which explain or describe progress in lower animals as sufficient for all purposes of sociology.
Sociologists have shown themselves in some cases eager to accept this view, and apply it to defend the necessity, the utility, and even the righteousness of maintaining to the point of complete subjugation or extermination the physical struggle between races and types of civilisation.
Admitting that the efficiency of a nation or a race requires a suspension of intestine warfare, at any rate
á l’outrance, the crude struggle on the larger plane must, they urge, be maintained. It serves, indeed, two related purposes. A constant struggle with other races or nations is demanded for the maintenance and progress of a race or nation; abate the necessity of the struggle and the vigour of the race flags and perishes. Thus it is to the real interest of a vigorous race to be “kept up to a high pitch of external efficiency by contest, chiefly by way of war with inferior races, and with equal races by the struggle for trade routes and for the sources of raw material and of food supply.” “This,” adds Professor Karl Pearson,” is the natural history view of mankind, and I do not think you can in its main features subvert it.”
Others, taking the wider cosmic standpoint, insist that the progress of humanity itself requires the maintenance of a selective and destructive struggle between races which embody different powers and capacities, different types of civilisation. It is desirable that the earth should be peopled, governed, and developed, as far as possible, by the races which can do this work best,
i.e. by the races of highest “social efficiency”; these races must assert their right by conquering, ousting, subjugating, or extinguishing races of lower social efficiency. The good of the world, the true cause of humanity, demands that this struggle, physical, industrial, political, continue, until an ideal settlement is reached whereby the most socially efficient nations rule the earth in accordance with their several kinds and degrees of social efficiency. This principle is clearly enunciated by M. Edmond Demolins, who describes it as being “as indisputable as the law of gravitation.”
“When one race shows itself superior to another in the various externals of domestic life, it
inevitably in the long run gets the upper hand in public life and establishes its predominance. Whether this predominance is asserted by peaceable means or feats of arms, it is none the less, when the proper time comes, officially established, and afterwards unreservedly acknowledged. I have said that this law is the only thing which accounts for the history of the human race and the revolutions of empires, and that, moreover, it explains and justifies the appropriation by Europeans of territories in Asia, Africa, and Oceania, and the whole of our colonial development.”
The western European nations with their colonies represent the socially efficient nations, in various degrees. Some writers, American and English, such as Professor Giddings and Mr. Kidd, believe that the Teutonic races, and in particular the Anglo-Saxon branches, represent the highest order of efficiency, in which notion they are supported by a little group of Anglophil Frenchmen.
This genuine and confident conviction about “social efficiency” must be taken as the chief moral support of Imperialism.” Human progress requires the maintenance of the race struggle, in which the weakest races shall go under, while the ‘socially efficient’ races survive and flourish: we are the ‘socially efficient’ race.” So runs the imperialist argument.
Now, thus closely stated, the meaning of the term “socially efficient” becomes evident. It is simply the antithesis of “weak,” and is equivalent to “strong in the struggle of life:” Taken at the first blush it suggests admitted moral and intellectual virtues of some broad general kind, and is afterwards taken to imply such qualities. But applied in the present “natural history” sense, it signifies nothing more or less than capacity to beat other races, who, from their failure, are spoken of as “lower.” It is merely a repetition of the phrase “survival of the fittest,” the meaning of which is clear when the question is put, “Fittest to do what?” and the answer follows, “Fittest to survive.”
It is true that “social efficiency” seems to imply much more than mere fighting capacity in war and trade, and, if we were to take into account all qualities which go to make a good society, we should include much more; but from our present “natural history” standpoint it is evident that these must be excluded and only those included which aid directly in the struggle.
Giving, then, the proper value to the terms, it simply comes to this. “In the history of man, as throughout nature, stronger races have continually trampled down, enslaved, and exterminated other races.” The biologist says: “This is so rooted in nature, including human nature, that it must go on.” He adds: “It has been the prime condition and mode of progress in the past, therefore it is desirable it should go on. It must go on, it ought to go on.”
So easily we glide from natural history to ethics, and find in utility a moral sanction for the race struggle. Now, Imperialism is nothing but this natural history doctrine, regarded from the standpoint of one’s own nation. We represent the socially efficient nation, we have conquered and acquired dominion and territory in the past: we must go on, it is our destiny, one which is serviceable to ourselves and to the world, our duty.
Thus, emerging from natural history, the doctrine soon takes on a large complexity of ethical and religious finery, and we are wafted into an elevated atmosphere of “imperial Christianity,” a “mission of civilisation,” in which we are to teach “the arts of good government” and “the dignity of labour.”
That the power to do anything constitutes a right and even a duty to do it is perhaps the commonest, the most “natural” of temperamental fallacies. Even Professor Pearson does not avoid it, when, after an able vindication of the necessity of intra-race selection and of race struggle, he speaks of “our right to work the unutilised resources of earth, be they in Africa or in Asia.”
This belief in a “divine right” of force, which teachers like Carlyle, Kingsley, Ruskin did so much to foster, is primarily responsible for the transmutation of a natural history law into a moral enthusiasm.
Elsewhere I have dwelt with so much insistence on the more sordid and calculating motives which direct Imperialism that I am anxious here to do justice to the nobler aspects of the sentiment of Imperialism, interpreted through a naïve rendering of science into a gospel of arduous chivalry. Such a revelation is conveyed in the charming nature and buoyant career of Hubert Hervey, of the British South African Chartered Company, as rendered by his fellow-adventurer, Earl Grey. In his career we have Imperialism at its best in action, and what is better for our purpose, a most ingenuous and instructive attempt to set forth the gist of the imperialist philosophy.—
“Probably every one would agree that an Englishman would be right in considering his way of looking at the world and at life better than that of the Maori or Hottentot, and no one will object in the abstract to England doing her best to impose her better and higher view on those savages. But the same idea will carry you much farther. In so far as an Englishman differs in essentials from a Swede or Belgian, he believes that he represents a more perfectly developed standard of general excellence. Yes, and even those nations nearest to us in mind and sentiment—German and Scandinavian—we regard on the whole as not so excellent as ourselves, comparing their typical characteristics with ours. Were this not so, our energies would be directed to becoming what they are. Without doing this, however, we may well endeavour to pick out their best qualities; and add them to ours, believing that our compound will be superior to the foreign stock.
“It is the mark of an independent nation that it should feel thus. How far such a feeling is, in any particular case, justified, history alone decides. But it is essential that each claimant for the first place should put forward his whole energy to prove his right. This is the moral justification for international strife and for war, and a great change must come over the world and over men’s minds before there can be any question of everlasting universal peace, or the settlement of all international differences by arbitration. More especially must the difficulty caused by the absence of a generally recognised standard of justice be felt in the case of contact between civilised and uncivilised races. Is there any likelihood of the gulf between the white and the black man being bridged within any period of time that we can foresee? Can there be any doubt that the white man must, and will, impose his superior civilisation on the coloured races? The rivalry of the principal European countries in extending their influence over other continents should lead naturally to the evolution of the highest attainable type of government of subject races by the superior qualities of their rulers.”
Here is the undiluted gospel of Imperialism, the fact of physical struggle between white races, the fact of white subjugation of lower races, the necessity based upon these facts, the utility based upon the necessity, and the right or duty upon the utility. As a revelation of the purer spirit of Imperialism it is not to be bettered. The Englishman believes he is a more excellent type than any other man; he believes that he is better able to assimilate any special virtues others may have; he believes that this character gives him a right to rule which no other can possess. Mr. Hervey admits that the patriotic Frenchman, the German, the Russian feels in the same way his sense of superiority and the rights it confers on him; so much the better (and here he is in line with Professor Pearson), for this cross-conviction and these cross-interests intensify the struggle of white races, and ensure the survival and progressive fitness of the fittest.
So long as we regard this Imperialism exclusively from the standpoint of the English, or any other single nation, its full
rationale escapes us. It is essential to the maintenance of the struggle of nations, which is to quicken vigour and select the fittest or most efficient, that each competitor shall be stimulated to put forth his fullest effort by the same feelings regarding the superiority, the destiny, the rights and imperial duties of his country as the English imperialist entertains regarding England. And this is just what we seem to find.
The Englishman is genuinely confident in the superior fitness of England for any work she may essay in the civilisation of the world. This is the supreme principle of the imperialist statesmen, so well expressed in Lord Rosebery’s description of the British Empire as “the greatest secular agency for good the world has ever seen,” and in Mr. Chamberlain’s conviction
*46 that “the Anglo-Saxon race is infallibly destined to be the predominant force in the history and civilisation of the world.” Of the superior competence of Englishmen for all purposes of government, quite irrespective of climatic, racial, or any other conditions, there is no touch, of doubt in the average man. “Why, I suppose you imagine we could undertake to govern France better than Frenchmen can govern her?” I heard put as an ironical poser in a discussion on British capacity. The triumphant retort, “Why, of course I do,” was no rhetorical paradox, but a perfectly genuine expression of the real conviction of most Englishmen.
Now, the French Chauvinist, the German colonialist, the Russian Pan-Slavist, the new American expansionist, entertain the same general conviction, with the same intensity, regarding the capacity, the destiny, the rights of their own nation. These feelings have, perhaps, come more clearly into the forefront of our national consciousness than in the case of any other nation, but events are rapidly educating the same imperial aspirations in all our chief industrial and political competitors.
“In our own day Victor Hugo declares France ‘the saviour of nations,’ and bursts out, ‘Non, France, l’univers a besoin que to vives! Je le redis, la France est un besoin des hommes.’ Villari, echoing the illustrious Gioberti, claims for Italy the primacy among nations. The Kaiser tells his people, ‘Der alte gute Gott has always been on our side.’ M. Podyedonostseff points to the freedom of Russia from the shibboleths of a decadent civilisation, and looks to the young and vigorous Slavonic stock as the residuary legatee of the treasures and conquests of the past. The Americans are not less confident than in the days of Martin Chuzzlewit that it is their mission to ‘run this globe.’ ”
Nor are these barren sentiments; in various parts of the world they are inspiring young soldiers, politicians, and missionaries to a practical direction of the resources of France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United States towards territorial expansion.
We are now in a position to restate and test the scientific basis of Imperialism regarded as a world-policy. The maintenance of a military and industrial struggle for life and wealth among nations is desirable in order to quicken the vigour and social efficiency of the several competitors, and so to furnish a natural process of selection, which shall give an ever larger and intenser control over the government and the economic exploitation of the world into the hands of the nation or nations representing the highest standard of civilisation or social efficiency, and by the elimination or subjugation of the inefficient shall raise the standard of the government of humanity.
This statement withdraws the issue from the purely national, political, and from the distinctively ethical standpoints, referring it back to its scientific basis in the laws or analogies of biology.
Here we can profitably start from a statement of Professor G. Pearson. “History shows me one way, and one way only, in which a high state of civilisation has been produced, namely, the struggle of race with race, and the survival of the physically and mentally fitter race. If men want to know whether the lower races of man can evolve a higher type, I fear the only course is to leave them to fight it out among themselves, and even then the struggle for existence between individual and individual, between tribe and tribe, may not be supported by that physical selection due to a particular element, on which, probably, so much of the Aryans’ success depended.”
Now, assuming that this is a true account of the evolution of civilisation during the past, is it essential that the same methods of selection must dominate the future? or are there any forces which have been coming into play during the later periods of human history that deeply modify, suspend, and even reverse the operations of selective forces that dominate the rest of nature?
In the very work from which I quote, Professor Pearson furnishes a complete answer to his own contention for the necessity of this physical struggle between races.
In the last sentence of the passage given above, he seems to recognise the utility in lower races of the physical struggle for life between “individuals” in the same tribe. But his general position as a “socialist” is very different. In order that a tribe, a nation, or other society may be able to compete successfully with another society, the individual struggle for life within the society itself must be suspended. The competitive vigour, the social efficiency, of the nation requires a saving of the friction of individual competition for life or for the means of life. Now this is in itself a reversal of the generally recognised law of progress throughout the animal world, in which the struggle for food and other livelihood is held to be essential to the progress of the species, and this though every species is engaged in more or less direct competition for food, &c., with other species. Co-operation, social solidarity, is indeed recognised as an adjunct of progress in many of the higher species, but the struggle between individuals for a restricted supply of food or other necessaries is maintained as a leading instrument of progress by rejection of the physically unfit.
Now Professor Pearson justly recognises and boldly admits the danger which attends the humanitarianism that has in large measure suspended the “struggle for life” among individuals, and has incited modern civilised nations to secure for all individuals born in its midst the food, shelter, and other necessaries enabling them to grow to maturity and to propagate their kind.
He sees quite clearly that this mere suspension of the individual struggle for life not only is not essential to the solidarity and efficiency of the nation, but that it impairs those virtues by burdening society with a horde of physical and moral weaklings, who would have been eliminated under earlier forms of the struggle for life. He rightly enforces the doctrine that a nation which is reproduced from its bad stock more than from its better stock is doomed to deterioration of physique and morale. It is as essential to the progress of man as to that of any other animal, as essential in the future as in the past, that reproduction shall be from the better stock and that the worst stock shall be eliminated. Humanitarianism and the sense of social solidarity by no means recognise, or even admit, that this condition should be sacrificed; they merely impose new methods on the process of selection.
Irrational nature selects wastefully and with the maximum of pain and misery, requiring innumerable individuals to be born in order that they may struggle and perish. Rational humanity would economise and humanise the struggle by substituting a rational, social test of parenthood for the destruction of children by starvation, disease, or weakness.
To prevent reproduction from bad stock, however difficult and dangerous it may be, is obviously the first duty of an organised society, acting alike in its own self-defence and for the interests of its individual members. It is not necessary for the safety and progress of society that “unfit” children should die, it is necessary that they should not be born, and ultimately the society which prospers most in the character of its members will be the one which best fulfils this preventive duty.
Yet, when Professor Pearson passes from a society of individuals to the society of nations, which we call humanity, he insists upon retaining the older, cruder, irrational method of securing progress, the primitive struggle for physical existence. Why? If it is profitable and consistent with progress to put down the primitive struggle for life among individuals with one another, the family and tribal feuds which survive even in fairly developed societies, and to enlarge the area of social internal peace until it covers a whole nation, may we not go farther and seek, with hope, to substitute international peace and co-operation, first among the more civilised and more nearly related nations, and finally throughout the complete society of the human race? If progress is helped by substituting rational selection for the struggle for life within small groups, and afterwards within the larger national groups, why may we not extend the same mode of progress to a federation of European States, and finally to a world-federation? I am not now concerned with the grave practical difficulties besetting such an achievement, but with the scientific theory.
Although a certain sort of individual efficiency is sacrificed by repressing private war within a tribe or nation, it is rightly judged that the gain in tribal or national unity and efficiency outweighs that loss. May not a similar biological and rational economy be subserved by substituting government for anarchy among nations? We admit that a nation is strengthened by putting down internecine tribal warfare; what finality attaches to the arbitrary social group we term a “nation” which obliges us to reverse the economy applicable to tribes when we come to deal with nations?
Two objections are raised against this idea of internationalism. One is historical in its nature; it consists in a denial that a society of nations does or can exist at the present time or in any future which concerns us. The physical and psychical relations which exist between nations, it is urged, have no real analogy with those existing between individuals or tribes within a nation. Society is dependent on a certain homogeneity of character, interests, and sympathies of those who form it. In the ancient world this was seldom found of sufficient strength save among close neighbours, and the city-state was the true social type: the actual and positive relations of these city-states with one another were commonly those of war, modified by transitory compacts, which rarely led them into any truly national unity. In such a condition close-welded co-operation of citizens was essential as a condition of civic survival and progress, and a struggle for life between the several city-states was a means of progress in accordance with the biological law. The nation-state stands now where the city-state stood in ancient Greece or mediæval Italy; there remains the same historical and even ethical necessity to retain the struggle between nations now as to retain the inter-civic struggle in earlier times.
Social psychologists attempt to fortify this position by laying emphasis upon the prime psychical condition of a national life. The possible area of a genuine society, a nation, is determined by the extension of a “consciousness of kind,” an “ethical like-mindedness.”
*48 This may be applied as a limiting condition by a “little Englander” or as an expansive principle to justify imperial expansion, according to the quantity and quality of like-mindedness taken as the basis of social unity in a “nation” or an “empire.” The most precise statement of this doctrine in its application as a barrier to ethical and political internationalism is that of Dr. Bosanquet. “The nation-state is the widest organisation which has the common experience necessary to found a common life.”
*49 He carries the finality of the national type of society so far as virtually to repudiate the ethical fact and the utility of the conception of humanity. “According to the current ideas of our civilisation, a great part of the lives which are being lived and have been lived by mankind are not lives worth living, in the sense of embodying qualities for which life seems valuable to us. This being so, it seems to follow that
the object of our ethical idea of humanity is not really mankind as a single community. Putting aside the impossibilities arising from succession in time, we see that no such identical experience can be pre-supposed in all mankind as is necessary to effective membership of a common society and exercise of a general will.”
*50 Though a subtle qualification follows, based on the duty of States to recognise humanity, not as a fact but as a type of life, “and in accordance with it to recognise and deal with the rights of alien individuals and communities,” the real upshot of this line of thought is to emphasise the ethical self-sufficiency of a nation and to deny the validity of any practical standard of the conduct of nations towards one another, at any rate so far as the relations between higher and lower, or Eastern and Western, nations are concerned.
This view is stoutly supported by some sociologists and statesmen from the juridical standpoint. There can, we are told, be no real “rights” of nations because there exists no “sanction,” no recognised tribunal to define and enforce rights. The legal rigour of this position I am not greatly concerned to question. It may here suffice to say that the maintenance under ordinary conditions of treaty relations, international credit and exchange, a common postal, and within narrower limits, a common railway system, not to mention the actual machinery of conventions and conferences for concerted international action, and the whole unwritten law of war and international courtesies, embassies, consulates, and the like—all these things rest upon a basis of recognition of certain reciprocal duties, the neglect or violation of which would be punished by forfeiture of most favoured nations’ treatment in the future, and by the reprobation and the possibly combined intervention of other States.
We have here at least a real beginning of effective international federation, with the rudiments of legal sanction for the establishment and enforcement of rights.
The studied ignoring of those vital facts in the more recent statecraft, and the reversion, alike of legal theorists and high politicians of the Bismarck school, to a nationalism which emphasises the exclusive rather than the inclusive aspect of patriotism and assumes the antagonism of nations as an all-important and a final fact, form the most dangerous and discreditable factor of modern politics. This conduct in politics we have already in part explained in our analysis of the economic driving forces that exhibit certain sectional interests and orders within the nation usurping the national will and enforcing their private advantages, which rest upon international antagonism, to the detriment of the national advantage, which is identical with that of other nations.
This obstinate halt in the evolution of such relations at the limit of political nationality now reached will be recognised as the most difficult of all present political phenomena for the future historian to explain. The community of interests between nations is so great, so multifarious, and so obvious, the waste, pain, and damage of conflicts so gross and palpable, that to those who do not understand the strong sectional control in every modern State it may well appear that some natural barriers of race, boundaries, or colour make any real extension of “society” outside the area of nationality impossible.
But to ascribe finality to nationalism upon the ground that members of different nations lack “the common experience necessary to found a common life” is a very arbitrary reading of modern history. Taking the most inward meaning of experience, which gives most importance to the racial and traditional characters that mark the divergences of nationality, we are obliged to admit that the fund of experience common to peoples of different nationality is growing with great rapidity under the numerous, swift, and accurate modes of intercommunication which mark the latest phases of civilisation. It is surely true that the dwellers of large towns in all the most advanced European States, an ever-growing proportion of the total population, have, not merely in the externals of their lives, but in the chief formative influences of their reading, their art, science, recreation, a larger community of experience than existed a century ago among the more distant members of any single European nation, whether dwelling in country or in town. Direct intercommunication of persons, goods, and information is so widely extended and so rapidly advancing that this growth of “the common experience necessary to found a common life” beyond the area of nationality is surely the most markworthy feature of the age. Making, then, every due allowance for the subjective factors of national character which temper or transmute the same external phenomena, there surely exists, at any rate among the more conscious and more educated sections of the chief European nations, a degree of true “like-mindedness,” which forms the psychical basis of some rudimentary internationalism in the field of politics. Indeed it is curious and instructive to observe that while some of those most insistent upon “like-mindedness” and “common experience,” as the tests of a true social area, apply them in defence of existing nationalities and in repudiation of attempts to absorb alien nationalities, others, like Professor Giddings, apply them in the advocacy of expansion and Imperialism.
Surely there is a third alternative to the policy of national independence on the one hand, and of the right of conquest by which the more efficient nation absorbs the less efficient nation on the other, the alternative of experimental and progressive federation, which, proceeding on the line of greatest common experience, shall weave formal bonds of political attachment between the most “like-minded” nations, extending them to others as common experience grows wider, until an effective political federation is established, comprising the whole of “the civilised world,”
i.e. all those nations which have attained a considerable fund of that “common experience” comprised under the head of civilisation.
This idea does not conflict with the preservation of what is really essential and valuable in nationalism, nor does it imply a suspension or abolition of any form of struggle by which the true character of a nation may express itself, in industry, in politics, in art or literature.
If it be objected that the requisite amount of “like-mindedness” or “common experience” does not exist even among the nations most subjected to modern assimilative influences, that the forces of racial and national antagonism even there preclude any truly effective union, I can only repeat that this is a matter for experiment and that the experiment has never been tried. Racial and national antagonisms have been so fed, fostered, and inflamed, for the class and personal ends and interests which have controlled politics, that the deeper underlying sympathies and community of different peoples have never been permitted free expression, much less political assertion. The most potent and pervasive forces in the industrial, intellectual, and moral life of most European races, so far as the masses of the peoples are concerned, have so rapidly and closely assimilated during the last century as of necessity to furnish a large common body of thought and feeling, interests and aspirations which furnish a “soul” for internationalism.
The main economic conditions affecting the working life of the masses of the peoples, both in town and country, on the one hand, the matter and methods of education through the school, the church, the press upon the other, show features of similarity so much stronger and more numerous than those of difference as to make it a safe assertion that the “peoples” of Europe are far closer akin in actual interests than their governments, and that this common bond is already so strong as to furnish a solid and stable foundation for political federal institutions, if only the obstruction of class governments could be broken down and the real will of the peoples set in the seat of authority. To take the commonest of concrete instances, it is at least probable that the body of the workers in different countries who fight and pay for wars would refuse to fight and pay in the future if they were allowed to understand the real nature of the issues used to inflame them.
If this view is correct, the mere facts that wars still occur and that national animosities are continually flaring up must not be taken as proof that sufficient common sympathy and experience does not exist between the different nations to render impossible a suspension of physical conflict and the establishment of a political machinery required to maintain peace.
To hold this position it is not necessary to exaggerate the extent of this international community of interests. If any considerable amount of real community exists, it furnishes the spirit which should and might inform a body of political institutions. Here is the significance of the recent Hague Conference, alike in its success and its failure. Its success, the mere fact that it was held and the permanent nucleus of internationalism it created, attests a real and felt identity of interests among different nations in the maintenance of peace; its failure and the open derision expressed by many politicians merely indicate the presence in high places of cliques and classes opposed in their interests and feelings to those of the peoples, and the necessity of dethroning these enemies of the people if the new cause of internationalism is to advance. Secure popular government, in substance and in form, and you secure internationalism: retain class government, and you retain military Imperialism and international conflicts.
In following out the psychical argument against regarding nations as final social areas, I seem to have wandered very far from the biological basis, the alleged necessity of maintaining conflicts between nations for purposes of “natural selection.” In reality I have come round precisely to the point of divergence. Assuming it were possible to enthrone the will of the peoples and so to secure institutions of internationalism with a suspension of war, would the individuality of a nation suffer, would it lose vigour, become less efficient and perish? Is the maintenance of physical conflict essential to the “natural selection” of nations?
Turn to the suspension of the cruder physical struggle which takes place in the evolution of tribal or national solidarity. As such national organisation becomes stronger and more skilful the ravages of intestine strife, starvation, and certain diseases cease to be selective instruments, and the kind of individual fitness which was tested by them is superseded; the vast expenditure of individual energy formerly engaged in protecting life and in securing necessaries of life is reduced to insignificant dimensions; but the struggle for individual life is not abated, it is simply shifted on to higher planes than that of bare animal existence, nourishment, and propagation. Instead of struggling for these simpler vital ends, individuals now struggle with all the extra energy spared from the earlier struggles for other ends of an enlarged and more complex life, for comfort and wealth, for place and personal honour, for skill, knowledge, character, and even higher forms of self-expression, and for services to their fellow-men, with whom they have identified themselves in that expanded individuality we term altruism or public spirit.
Individuality does not suffer but greatly gains by the suppression of the lower struggle; there is more energy, greater scope for its expression, a wider field of close competitors; and higher and more varied forms of fitness are tested and evoked. It is not even true that the struggle ceases to be physical; the strain and the support of the higher forms of struggle, even in the topmost intellectual and moral planes, are largely physical; the health and nervous energy which take part in the struggles of the law or literature or on any intellectual arena are chief requisites if not the supreme determinant of success. In all the higher forms of struggle an elimination of the physically unfit is still maintained, though the criteria of physical unfitness are not quite the same as in the primitive human struggles. How arbitrary are the convenient distinctions between physical, intellectual, and moral qualities and defects is nowise better illustrated than in the elaborate methods which modern complex civilisation evolves for the detection, degradation, and final extinction of bad stock whose “degeneracy” is attested not less by physical than by mental and moral stigmata. The struggle for physical fitness never flags, but the physical forms part of a higher and more complex test of character determined by a higher standard of social utility. The point is this: national government, or State socialism, using the term in its broad sense, as a coercive and educative force, does not, in so far as it is wisely exercised, diminish the individual struggle, repress individual vigour, reduce the arena for its display. It does just the opposite; it quickens and varies the struggle; by equalising certain opportunities it keeps a fairer ring, from which chance or other factors alien to personal fitness are excluded; it admits on more equal terms a larger number of competitors, and so furnishes a better test of fitness and a more reliable selection of the fittest.
Professor Pearson rightly urges that truly enlightened national government will insist on mending the slow painful, and irregular elimination of bad stock which goes on through progressive degeneracy by substituting some rational control of parentage, at least to the extent of preventing through public education, or if necessary by law, the propagation of certain surely recognised unfitnesses.
Does a nation thus firmly planted in rational self-government, with individual competition within its ranks conducted most keenly upon a wide variety of different fields, furnishing the keenest incentive to the education, and display of every kind of personal originality, really require a maintenance of the crude form of physical struggle with other nations in order to maintain its character and progress? If individuality does not disappear with the removal of the cruder struggle for life within the nation, why should the valid force of nationality disappear if a corresponding change takes place in the nature of international conflict?
Biology furnishes no reason for believing that the competition among nations must always remain a crude physical struggle, and that the substitution of “rational” for “natural” selection among individual members of a nation cannot be extended to the selection of nations and of races.
The history of past nations indeed gives an appearance of natural necessity to imperial expansion and to the military policy which is its instrument, and many who deplore this necessity accept it. A recent American writer in a brilliant monograph
*51 argues the perpetual necessity of wars of conquest and of the Imperialism which such wars express, as following from “the law of decreasing returns.” A population on a limited area of land not only tends to grow but actually grows faster than the food supply that is available; improvement in the arts of cultivation does not enable a people to obtain full subsistence for its growing population, hence a natural and necessary pressure for access to new rich land, and conflicts with and victories over neighbours who seek to hold their own, or are even actuated by the same needs of territorial expansion. Hunger is a necessary spur to migration, and where emigrants, planting themselves successfully upon new fertile lands, formerly unoccupied or occupied by people whom they have subjugated, desire to retain the political union with the mother country, an unlimited expansion of national areas ensues. Whether such expansion takes shape in genuine colonisation or in what is here properly distinguished as Imperialism, involving centralised government and forcible control of “inferior races,” matters little to this wide argument. The essence of this policy is the acquisition of an expanding area for food supply. A nation with growing population must either send a constant flow of population into other lands to grow food for themselves, or, failing this, it must produce at home an ever-growing surplus of manufactures which evade the law of decreasing returns and find markets for them, so as to obtain payment in food from foreign lands, which, in their turn, are thus forced more quickly to experience the pinch of the same natural law. As more nations pursue this course they either realise directly the pressure of the law driving them to find new lands for their surplus population, or they find themselves embroiled in an ever fiercer competition with rival manufacturing nations seeking a share in an over-stocked or too slowly expanding market for manufactures. Imperialism lies in both directions, and cannot be avoided. “The cause of war is as permanent as hunger itself, since both spring from the same source, the law of diminishing returns. So long as that persists, war must remain, in the last analysis, a national business undertaking, designed to procure or preserve foreign markets, that is, the means of continued growth and prosperity. ‘Chacun doit grandir ou mourir.’ ”
Now the finality of this alleged necessity has often been subjected to incidental criticism, so far as Great Britain is concerned. Imperialism, it has been shown, is not in fact necessitated in order to obtain by trade an increased food supply which should keep pace with the growth of British population, nor has it chiefly been engaged in forwarding such trade; still less is it engaged in finding land upon which our surplus population may subsist and multiply.
But the validity of the whole argument from natural history is contestable. As man grows in civilisation,
i.e. in the art of applying reason to the adjustment of his relations with his physical and social environment, he obtains a corresponding power to extricate himself from the necessity which dominates the lower animal world. He can avoid the necessity of war and expansion in two ways, by a progressive mitigation of the law of diminishing returns in agriculture and the extractive arts, and by limiting the rate of growth of population. The tendency of rational civilisation is to employ both methods. It may fairly be maintained that reason is educated in individual men, and is applied to further a co-operative policy, chiefly by acts of choice which are directed to avoid the hardships and perils of war and the expansive practices. In animal life, and in man just so far as he resembles other animals, war and extension of territory form the only means of providing for a growth of population which is determined by a mere interaction of sexual instincts and physical conditions of environment. But from very early times this dominion of irrational forces, which finds direct expression in “the law of diminishing returns,” is qualified by two sets of checks. On the one hand, improvements in agriculture and the beginnings of trade increase the quantity of human life which a given piece of land is able to support; on the other, customs relating to marriage and maintenance of children, often of a degraded character, such as exposure or infanticide, are added to the “natural” checks upon increase of population. Both forces represent the crude beginnings of reason” or conscious human policy in its struggle to overcome the play of the non-rational forces of nature. Throughout history, so far as it is known, these rational forces have been so slow and feeble in their application as only to moderate or postpone the operation of “the law of decreasing returns.” But this need not always continue to be the case. There is some ground to believe that both sets of rational checks may in the future be amply adequate to suspend or overcome the limitations of matter so far as the food supply of a nation on a given area is concerned. Progress in agriculture even of the most progressive nations of the past was very slow: modern science, which has achieved such marvels in revolutionising the manufacturing and transport industries, is beginning, more and more to concentrate its power on agriculture in such wise that the pace of progress in this art may be vastly accelerated. When the sciences of agricultural chemistry and botany are adequately reinforced by mechanics, scientific method being duly guided and enriched by garnering the empirical wisdom of great agricultural races whose whole practical genius has been centred for countless ages on minute cultivation, like the Chinese, and when to such improved knowledge of agricultural arts is added a perfection of co-operative labour for those processes where this yields a true economy, the possibilities of intensive cultivation are virtually unlimited. These new conditions of a national policy of agriculture are themselves so important as to make it easily conceivable that a nation keenly set upon utilising them might for a long time to come reverse the operation of “the law of diminishing returns,” extracting from its own proper lands an increasing stock of food to meet its “natural” growth of population without a more than proportionate increase of labour engaged in agriculture. In face of recent experiments in intensive and scientific agriculture and the practical substitution of skilled gardening for unskilled farming, it is impossible to deny that such a triumph of the laws of mind over the laws of matter is probable in the most highly intelligent peoples. There are already manifested throughout Great Britain certain signs of such a set towards agriculture as took place in England during the middle of the eighteenth century, and led then to relatively great improvements in crop growing and stock breeding. If a brief fashion and sportive interest on the part of a small well-to-do class could then produce what is not wrongly described as an “agricultural revolution,” what might not be achieved now by vastly greater numbers, capital, and intelligence directed in a public policy and wielding the accumulated knowledge of modern science? Many causes consciously contribute towards such a brilliant revival of British agriculture. The growing sense of the hygienic and military perils which attend a nation of town dwellers, whose powers of forcible resistance are impaired in just proportion as their dependence upon precarious foreign supplies of food increases, is driving the issue of restoring a people to the land into the forefront of politics. Modern scientific transport, hitherto centripetal in its main economy, now seems to tend more to become centrifugal, while the wider spread of culture does something, and may do much, to cause a moral and æsthetic revolt against the life and work of towns. A careful and drastic system of land reform which should aim at the net economy of individual enterprise and co-operative aid for agriculture is of course in Great Britain a prior condition to all rapid and effective progress. All these conditions are within the power of man, and belong to rational policy; once secured, it is at least probable that private incentives to gain, bringing brain and capital to bear upon the land, might in this or any other industrial country produce so vast an increase of the productiveness of the soil as to destroy completely all speciousness which history attaches to the necessity of expansion for purposes of food supply.
It is not necessary here to discuss the part played respectively by public policy and private initiative in the development of this economy of intensive cultivation. It is sufficient to insist that it furnishes the larger half of a complete answer to the alleged natural necessity of expansion. The other half has reference to a rational control of the growth of population, which must in any sound national economy tend more and more to replace the wasteful and cruel prodigality which nature unchecked by reason here as elsewhere displays. However difficult it may be, rational control of the quantity and quality of population is quite essential to the physical and moral progress of a species which has striven successfully to suspend or stay the cruel and wasteful checks which disease, famine, pestilence, internecine warfare, and early savage usages employed in the struggle for existence. To stay the “natural” checks, and to refuse to substitute “rational” checks, is to promote not merely the unrestricted growth of population, but the survival and multiplication of the physically and morally unfit, the least effective portion of the population, which is able to be born, reared, and to propagate its kind. How far the operation of the great public policy of preventing the propagation of certain definite forms of unfitness can best be left to the free play of individual interest and discretion, illuminated by the growing knowledge of biological science, or how far such private determination must be reinforced by public pressure, is a matter with which we need not here concern ourselves. But there is every reason to believe that both quantitative and qualitative checks upon the “natural” growth of population are already operative in modern civilised communities, that they are already appreciably affecting the general growth of population, and that their operation is likely to continue in the future. With the spread of biological and moral education the methods of moderating the growth of population may be expected to come more truly “rational,” and in particular the increasing economic liberty and enlightenment of women will contribute to the efficacy of this reasonable self-restraint. This second check upon the false necessity assigned to the law of decreasing returns is not unrelated to the first. It is in fact its true complement. Taken by itself the improvement in methods of obtaining food might not suffice to do more than to postpone or hold in check for a period the law of limitation of the food supply obtainable from a national area. But if the same forces of human reason which substitute intensive for extensive cultivation of the soil are at work imposing the same substitution in the cultivation of the species, checking the merely quantitative increase in order to secure a higher quality of individuation, this mutual reinforcement may secure the triumph of rational policy over the untamed forces of natural history.
I have laboured this issue at some length because it is required in order to bring home the distinctively rational character of that choice of national life against which Imperialism sins so fatally. There is no natural necessity for a civilised nation to expand the area of its territory, in order either to increase its production of food and other forms of material wealth, or to find markets for its increased products. Progress, alike for the nation and for the individual, consists in substituting everywhere an intensive or qualitative for an extensive or quantitative economy. The low-skilled farmer is given to spread his capital and labour over a large area of poorly cultivated land, wherever a large quantity of free or cheap land is available; the skilled, competent farmer obtains a larger net return by concentrating his productive power upon a smaller area scientifically cultivated, recognising that the best use of his productive resources imposes a limit to the size of his farm. So with the economy of national resources—the craving and the necessity of expansion are signs of barbarism; as civilisation advances and industrial methods become more highly skilled and better differentiated, the need for expansion of territory is weakened, the progress of the nation concerns itself more and more with the intensive or qualitative development of its national resources. Size of territory can never be eliminated as a condition of progress, but it becomes relatively less important with each step from barbarism to civilisation, and the idea of indefinite expansion as necessary or good is opposed to reason and sane policy. This was recognised by the most profound of ancient thinkers. “There is,” wrote Aristotle,” a certain degree of greatness fit for States as for all other things, living creatures, plants, instruments, for each has its proper virtue and faculty, when neither very little nor yet excessively great.”
*53 That the tendency has ever been to excess is the commonplace of history. The true greatness of nations has been educated by the concentrated skill in the detailed development of limited national resources which the contracted area of the State has developed in them. “It is to the burning vitality of compact, independent nations, the strong heart in the small body, to Judæa and to Athens, to Rome the republic, to the free cities of Italy, Germany, and Flanders, to France, to Holland, and to England the island, that we owe the highest achievements in the things that make life most worth living.”
If imperial expansion were really nothing other than a phase of the natural history of a nation it would be as idle to protest against it as to argue with an earthquake. But the policy of civilised States differs from that of uncivilised States in resting more largely upon deliberate conscious choice, partaking more definitely of the character of conduct. The same growth of collective reason which makes it technically possible for a nation to subsist and prosper by substituting an intensive for an extensive economy of national resources enables it by deliberate exercise of will to resist the will of the older “destiny” by which nations attaining a certain degree of development were led by a debilitating course of Imperialism to final collapse.
Thus met, the biological argument is sometimes turned on to another track.
“If these nations,” it is argued, “are no longer called upon to struggle for food, and check their growth of population while they increase their control over their material supplies, they will become effete for purposes of physical struggle; giving way to an easy and luxurious life, they will be attacked by lower races multiplying freely and maintaining their military vigour, and will succumb in the conflict.” This is the danger indicated by Mr. C. H. Pearson in his interesting book “National Life and Character.”
The whole argument, however, rests on a series of illusions regarding actual facts and tendencies.
It is not true that the sole object and result of the stoppage of individual warfare has been to increase the efficiency of the nation for the physical struggle with other nations. As man has grown from barbarism towards civilisation, the struggle to adapt his material and social environment to purposes of better livelihood and life has continuously tended to replace the physical struggle for the land and food supply of other nations. This is precisely the triumph of intensive over extensive cultivation: it implies a growing disposition to put that energy which formerly went to war into the arts of industry, and a growing success in the achievement. It is the need of peaceful, steady, orderly co-operation for this work, as the alternative to war, and not the needs of war itself, that furnishes the prime motive towards a suspension of internecine struggles, at any rate in most societies. This is a matter of pivotal importance in understanding social evolution. If the sole or main purpose of suspending individual conflict was to strengthen the purely military power of a tribe or nation, and the further evolution of society aimed at this sort of social efficiency, it might well be attended by the decay of individual freedom and initiative, by the sacrifice of individuality to a national life. The fact that this result has not occurred, that in modern civilised nations there exists far more individual freedom, energy, and initiative than in more primitive societies, attests the truth that military efficiency was not the first and sole object of social organisation. In other words, the tendency of growing civilisation on the national scale has been more and more to divert the struggle for life from a struggle with other nations to a struggle with environment, and so to utilise the fruits of reason as to divert a larger and larger proportion of energy to struggles for intellectual, moral, and æsthetic goods rather than for goods which tax the powers of the earth, and which, conforming to the law of diminishing returns, are apt to bring them into conflict with other nations.
As nations advance towards civilisation it becomes less needful for them to contend with one another for land and food to support their increasing numbers, because their increased control of the industrial arts enables them to gain what they want by conquering nature instead of conquering their fellow-men.
This truth does not indeed disclose itself readily with its full brilliancy to the eyes of modern civilised peoples, whose greed for foreign wealth and foreign lands seems as fruitful a source of war as in more primitive times. The illusion that it is necessary and advantageous to fight for new territory and distant markets, while leaving most imperfectly developed the land and markets of their own nation, is slow to be dispelled. Its sources have been already explored; it has been traced to the dominance of class interests in national politics. Democracy alone, if it be attainable, will serve to fasten on the national mind the full economy of substituting the inner struggle with the natural environment for the outer struggle with other nations.
If, as seems possible, the civilised white nations, gradually throwing off the yoke of class governments whose interests make for war and territorial expansion, restrict their increase of population by preventing reproduction from bad stock, while they devote their energies to utilising their natural resources, the motives of international conflict will wane, and the sympathetic motives of commerce and friendly intercourse will maintain permanent peace on a basis of international union.
Such a national economy would not only destroy the chief motives of war, it would profoundly modify the industrial struggle in which governments engage. Democracies chiefly concerned with developing their own markets would not need to spend men and money in fighting for the chance of inferior and less stable foreign markets. Such rivalry as was retained would be the rivalry not of nations but of individual manufacturers and merchants within the nation; the national aspect of industrial warfare, by tariffs and bounties and commercial treaties, would disappear. For the dangers and hostilities of national commercial policies are due, as we have seen, almost entirely to the usurpation of the authority and political resources of the nations by certain commercial and financial interests. Depose these interests, and the deep, true, underlying harmonies of interest between peoples, which the prophets of Free Trade dimly perceived, will manifest themselves, and the necessity of permanent industrial warfare between nations will be recognised as an illusion analogous in nature and origin to the illusion of the biological necessity of war.
The struggle for life is indeed a permanent factor in social progress, selection of the physically fit is a necessity, but as men become more rational they rationalise the struggle, substituting preventive for destructive methods of selection, and raising the standard of fitness from a crudely physical robustness to one which maintains physical endurance as the raw material of higher psychical activities. Thus, while men no longer fight for food, their personal fitness is maintained, the struggle and the fitness are both raised to a higher plane. If this can take place in the struggle of individuals, it can take place in the struggle of nations. The economy of internationalism is the same as that of nationalism. As individuality does not disappear but is raised and quickened by good national government, so nationality does not disappear but is raised and quickened by internationalism.
War and commercial tariffs are the crudest and most wasteful forms of national struggles, testing, the lowest forms of national fitness. Let international government put down wars and establish Free Trade, the truly vital struggles of national expression will begin. As in the case of individuals, so now of nations, the competition will be keener upon the higher levels; nations having ceased to compete with guns and tariffs will compete with feelings and ideas.
Whatever there is of true original power and interest in the Celtic, the Teutonic, the various blends of Latin and Slavonic races can only bear its fruit in times of peace.
So far as nationality or race has any distinct character or value for itself and for the world, that value and character are expressed through work. Hitherto the absorption of so much national energy upon military, and in later times rude industrial occupations, has checked the higher forms of national self-expression; while the permanent hostility of international relations has chilled the higher intercourse and prevented what is really great and characteristic in the national achievements of art, literature, and thought from penetrating other nations, and so by subtle educative processes laying the foundation of true feelings of humanity, based, as such feelings must be, not on vague imaginative sympathy, but upon common experience of life and a common understanding. Peaceful intercourse between nations is thus not merely the condition, but the powerful stimulus of national energy and achievement in the higher arts of life; for the self-appreciation of national pride can never furnish so wholesome an incentive or so sound a criterion of human excellence as the impartial judgment of civilised humanity, no longer warped by baser patriotic prejudices, but testing what is submitted to it by the impartial universal standard of humanity. A few rare individual men of genius in art and literature, a few more in science and in religion, have broken the barriers of nationality and have become fertilising, humanising forces in other nations—such men as Jesus, Buddha, Mahomet, Homer, Shakspere, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Copernicus, Newton, Darwin. A larger number of great men have exercised some real and abiding influence upon the little world of science and letters which in the middle ages had attained an internationalism lost in the rise of militant nationalism and being slowly rediscovered in our own age.
But outside these conquests of personal genius the broad streams of national influence and achievement which might have fertilised the wide plains of the intellectual world have been confined within their narrow national channels. Nationalism as a restrictive and exclusive force, fostering political and industrial enmities and keeping down the competition of nationalities and races to the low level of military strife, has everywhere checked the free intercourse requisite for the higher kinds of competition, the struggle of languages, literatures, scientific theories, religious, political, and social institutions, and all the arts and crafts which are the highest and most important expressions of national as of individual life.
This thought unearths the lowest root fallacy of the crude biological sociology, the assumption that there is one sort of national efficiency and that it is tested by a contest of military or commercial power. The only meaning that can be given to the “social efficiency” of a nation identifies it with the power it displays of adapting itself to its physical environment and of altering that environment to help the adaptation; the attainments in religion, law, politics, intellectual life, industry, &c., are the expressions of this social efficiency. Bearing this in mind, it is evident that for concrete purposes of comparison there are many kinds of social efficiency, and that the notion that civilisation is a single beaten track, upon which every nation must march, and that social efficiency, or extent of civilisation, can be measured by the respective distances the nations have gone, is a mischievous delusion.
The true social efficiency, or civilisation, of a nation only shows itself in its more complex achievements and activities. The biologist who understood his science would recognise that a true test of the efficiency of nations demanded that the conflict of nations should take place not by the more primitive forms of fight and the ruder weapons in which nations are less differentiated, but by the higher forms of fight and the more complex intellectual and moral weapons which express the highest degree of national differentiation. This higher struggle, conducted through reason, is none the less a national struggle for existence, because in it ideas and institutions which are worsted die, and not human organisms. The civilisation of the world can only proceed upon the higher planes on condition that this struggle of national ideals and institutions is waged by a free field of competitors, and this struggle cannot be effectively maintained unless the lower military and industrial struggles cease.
Biology always demands as a condition of progress the competition of individuals, but as reason grows in the nation it closes the ring and imposes laws, not to stop the struggle, but to make it a fairer test of a fuller form of individual fitness. Biology demands as a condition of world-progress that the struggle of nations or races continue; but as the world grows more rational it will in similar fashion rationalise the rules of that ring, imposing a fairer test of forms of national fitness.
The notion of the world as a cock-pit of nations in which round after round shall eliminate feebler fighters and leave in the end one nation, the most efficient, to lord it on the dung-hill, has no scientific validity. Invoked to support the claims of militant nationalism, it begins by ignoring the very nature and purposes of national life, assuming that uniformity of character and environment which are the negation of nationalism.
The belief that with the stoppage of war, could it be achieved, national vigour must decay, is based on a complete failure to recognise that the lower form of struggle is stopped for the express purpose and with the necessary result that the higher struggle shall become possible. With the cessation of war, whatever is really vital and valuable in nationality does not perish; on the contrary, it grows and thrives as it could not do before, when the national spirit out of which it grows was absorbed in baser sorts of struggle.
Internationalism is no more opposed to the true purposes of nationalism than socialism within the nation, rightly guided, is hostile to individualism. The problem and its solution are the same. We socialise in order that we may individuate; we cease fighting with bullets in order to fight with ideas.
All the essentials of the biological struggle for life are retained, the incentive to individual vigour, the intensity of the struggle, the elimination of the unfit and the survival of the fittest.
The struggle has become more rational in mode and purpose and result, and reason is only a higher form of nature.
The shortsightedness of this school of biological sociologists is nowhere more strikingly displayed than by the exclusive attention they pay to the simpler form of struggle, the direct conflict of individuals and species, to the exclusion of the important part played by “crossing” as a means of progress throughout organic life.
The law of the fertility of “crosses” as applied to civilisation or “social efficiency” alike on the physical and psychical plane requires, as a condition of effective operation, internationalism. It is of course true that throughout history the “crossing” of national types has been largely achieved by means of war, conquest, and subjugation. But this, though subserving progress in the long run, has been a most wasteful, indirect, and unsafe method, the selection being determined by no clear view of the future or of any higher purpose of social efficiency. Just in proportion as internationalism promotes free intercourse between nations for higher purposes of peaceful interest, will blending of races by intermarriage be determined on grounds of affinity more fruitful of improved racial efficiency, and new modifications of species more numerous and more novel will compete with one another as factors in the civilisation of the world, raising the character and intensity of the competition and enhancing the pace of human progress.
Nay, we may carry the biological analogy still farther, following the insistence of Professor Pearson regarding the necessity of bringing direct social pressure, of public opinion or of law, to prevent the fatal process of breeding from “bad stock.” If the ordinary processes of physical degeneracy within the nation do not suffice for the elimination of bad stock, but must be supplemented by some direct prohibition of bad parentage, it might be necessary in the interests of humanity that similar measures should be enforced upon the larger scale by the mandates of organised humanity. As lower individuals within a society perish by contact with a civilisation to which they cannot properly assimilate themselves, so “lower races” in some instances disappear by similar contact with higher races whose diseases and physical vices prove too strong for them. A rational stirpiculture in the wider social interest might, however, require a repression of the spread of degenerate or unprogressive races, corresponding to the check which a nation might place upon the propagation from bad individual stock. With the other moral and practical issues involved in such a proposal we need not here concern ourselves; regarded exclusively from a biological standpoint, that course would seem to follow from the application of direct rational rejection of bad stock upon the smaller scale of national life. The importance of this consideration rests upon the fact that this rejection of unsound racial stock implies the existence of an international political organisation which has put down war and has substituted this rational for the cruder national selection and rejection of races.
Whether a nation or a society of nations will ever proceed as far as this, or, going farther, will attempt the fuller art of stirpiculture, encouraging useful “crosses” of families or races, may be matter of grave doubt; but if the maintenance and improvement of the national stock ever warranted such experiments, we are entitled to insist that logic would justify the application of the same rule in the society of nations.
Again, while it is questionable how far the law of the utility of cross-fertilisation is transferable from the world of physical organisms to the psychical realm in its literal bearing, the more general applicability cannot be disputed. That scientific theories, religious, social, and political arts and institutions gain by free, friendly, vital intercourse with other theories, arts, and institutions, undergoing serviceable accretions, excretions, and modifications, is a commonplace of intellectual life. Whether, therefore, we regard the contact of ideas and feelings and the arts they animate as a direct struggle for existence, in which the worse or falser perish and the better and truer survive, or as a friendly intercourse in which each selects and assimilates something from the others, internationalism is as essential to the efficiency of these processes as nationalism itself.
It is only when we realise the true nature of this spread and fertilisation of ideas, arts, and institutions, the riper fruits of the spirit of a nation, that we realise the legitimate as distinguished from the illegitimate expansion, the valid significance of empire. When nations compete to take one another’s lives or land or trade, the dominion which the conqueror establishes has no element of permanence; another turn of the military or commercial tide wipes out the victory and leaves scarce a ripple in the sands. But the influence exerted through acts of peace is more lasting, more penetrating, and more glorious. Shakspere, Byron, Darwin, and Stevenson have done incomparably more for the influence of England in the history of the world than all the statesmen and soldiers who have won victories or annexed new provinces. Macaulay has well said it, “There is an empire exempt from all natural sources of decay—that empire is the imperishable empire of our art and our morals, our literature and our law.” This antagonism between the extensive empire and the intensive empire is not rhetorical, it is grounded upon biological necessities.
The essential conditions of the lower struggle for the life and land and trade of others preclude the higher and more profitable competition of ideas by which the empire of the national mind is extended: it is not merely the economy of energy which determines that the national vigour cannot at the same time engage effectively in both struggles; but, far more important, the very nature of the lower struggle drives each nationality to feed upon itself in insolent, exclusive pride, inhibiting the receptivity of other nations.
Effective internationalism is the only sound basis of competition and rational selection among nations. In the cruder form of the human struggle, accident, or numbers, or some primitive force or cunning, may secure the success of a people whose “social efficiency” is of a low order, impermanent and unproductive, while it stamps out or checks the growth of a people whose latent powers of achievement and capacities of progress are far superior. Only in proportion as racial or national selection is rationally guided and determined does the world gain security against such wastes and such calamities. An international government alone can furnish adequate protection to weak but valuable nationalities, and can check the insolent brutality of powerful aggressors, preserving that equality of opportunities for national self-expression which is as essential to the commonwealth of nations as to the welfare of the several nations.
Only by raising the crude, fragmentary, informal, often insincere beginnings of international government into a stronger, more coherent, and more complex authority can the struggle for life proceed upon the highest arena of competition, selecting the finest forms of social efficiency.
One further objection to the final efficacy of a federation of civilised nations demands consideration. Suppose a federal government of European nations and their colonial offspring to be possible in such wise that internal conflicts were precluded, this peace of Christendom would be constantly imperilled by the “lower races,” black and yellow, who, adopting the arms and military tactics now discarded by the “civilised races,” would overwhelm them in barbarian incursions, even as the ruder European and Asiatic races overwhelmed the Roman Empire. We cannot get the whole world to the level of civilisation which will admit it into the alliance; the Powers outside will be a constant menace, and if the main purpose of federation is to eliminate militarism from the economy of national life, the attainment of this purpose will render effective resistance to such invaders no longer possible. This has been the universal fate of Empires in the past; what talisman could this latest federal Empire possess enabling it to escape? To this objection we may make this preliminary answer. Two factors in the older Empires have primarily contributed to weaken their powers of resistance against outside “barbarians,” and to strengthen and stimulate the zeal of the invaders. There is first the habit of economic parasitism, by which the ruling State has used its provinces, colonies, and dependencies in order to enrich its ruling class and to bribe its lower classes into acquiescence. This bleeding of dependencies, while it enfeebles and atrophies the energy of the imperial people, irritates and eventually rouses to rebellion the more vigorous and less tractable of the subject races; each repression of rebellion rankles in the blood, and gradually a force of gathering discontent is roused which turns against the governing Power.
The second factor, related to the first, consists in that form of “parasitism” known as employment of mercenary forces. This is the most fatal symptom of imperial infatuation, whereby the oppressor at once deprives himself of the habit and instruments of effective self-protection and hands them over to the most capable and energetic of his enemies.
This fatal conjunction of folly and vice has always contributed to bring about the downfall of Empires in the past. Will it prove fatal to a federation of European States?
Obviously it will, if the strength of their combination is used for the same parasitic purposes, and the white races, discarding labour in its more arduous forms, live as a sort of world-aristocracy by the exploitation of “lower races,” while they hand over the policing of the world more and more to members of these same races. These dangers would certainly arise if a federation of European States were simply a variant of the older Empires, using a
pax Europæa for similar purposes and seeking to maintain it by the same methods as those employed under the so-called
pax Romana. The issue is a great one, furnishing, in fact, the supreme test of modern civilisation.
Is it possible for a federation of civilised States to maintain the force required to keep order in the world without abusing her power by political and economic parasitism?
Political Science Quarterly, Dec. 1900.
Science Quarterly, p. 622.
Part II, Chapter III