The Promise of American Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 523 pages of information about The Promise of American Life.

It follows, however, that there is no universal and perfect machinery whereby loyal and fruitful national association can be secured.  The nations of Europe originated in local political groups, each of which possessed its own peculiar interests, institutions, and traditions.  Their power of fruitful national association depended more upon loyalty to their particular local political tradition and habits than upon any ideal perfection in their new and experimental machinery for distributing political responsibility and securing popular representation.  A national policy and organization is, consequently, essentially particular; and, what is equally important, its particular character is partly determined by the similarly special character of the policy and organization of the surrounding states.  The historical process in which each of the European nations originated included, as an essential element, the action and reaction of these particular states one upon the other.  Each nation was formed, that is, as part of a political system which included other nations.  As any particular state became more of a nation, its increasing power of effective association forced its neighbors either into submission or into an equally efficient exercise of national resistance.  Little by little it has been discovered that any increase in the loyalty and fertility of a country’s domestic life was contingent upon the attainment of a more definite position in the general European system; and that, on the other hand, any attempt to escape from the limitations imposed upon a particular state by the general system was followed by a diminished efficiency in its machinery of national association.

The full meaning of these general principles can, perhaps, be best explained by the consideration in relation thereto of the existing political condition of the foremost European nations—­Great Britain, France, and Germany.  Each of these special cases will afford an opportunity of exhibiting a new and a significant variation of the relation between the principles of nationality and the principles of democracy; and together they should enable us to reach a fairly complete definition of the extent to which, in contemporary Europe, any fruitful relation can be established between them.  What has already been said sufficiently indicates that the effective realization of a national principle, even in Europe, demands a certain infusion of democracy; but it also indicates that this democratic infusion cannot at any one time be carried very far without impairing the national integrity.  How far, then, in these three decisive cases has the democratic infusion been carried and what are the consequences, the promise, and the dangers of each experiment?

III

NATIONALITY AND DEMOCRACY IN ENGLAND

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