The Promise of American Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 620 pages of information about The Promise of American Life.
a necessary but hazardous surrender of certain liberties in order that other liberties might be better preserved,—­as a mere compromise between the democratic ideal and the necessary conditions of political cohesion and efficiency.  Its nationalized political organization constitutes the proper structure and veritable life of the American democracy.  No doubt the existing organization is far from being a wholly adequate expression of the demands of the democratic ideal, but it falls equally short of being an adequate expression of the demands of the national ideal.  The less confidence the American people have in a national organization, the less they are willing to surrender themselves to the national spirit, the worse democrats they will be.  The most stubborn impediments which block the American national advance issue from the imperfections in our democracy.  The American people are not prepared for a higher form of democracy, because they are not prepared for a more coherent and intense national life.  When they are prepared to be consistent, constructive, and aspiring democrats, their preparation will necessarily take the form of becoming consistent, constructive, and aspiring nationalists.

The difficulty raised by European political and economic development hangs chiefly on a necessary loyalty to a national tradition and organization which blocks the advance of democracy.  Americans cannot entirely escape this difficulty; but in our country by far the greater obstacle to social amelioration is constituted by a democratic theory and tradition, which blocks the process of national development.  We Americans are confronted by two divergent theories of democracy.  According to one of these theories, the interest of American democracy can be advanced only by an increasing nationalization of the American people in ideas, in institutions, and in spirit.  According to the other of these theories, the most effective way of injuring the interest of democracy is by an increase in national authority and a spread of the national leaven.  Thus Americans, unlike Englishmen, have to choose, not between a specific and efficient national tradition and a vague and perilous democratic ideal—­they have to choose between two democratic ideals, and they have to make this choice chiefly on logical and moral grounds.  An Englishman or a German, no matter how clear his intelligence or fervid his patriotism, cannot find any immediately and entirely satisfactory method of reconciling the national traditions and forms of organization with the demands of an uncompromising democracy.  An American, on the other hand, has it quite within his power to accept a conception of democracy which provides for the substantial integrity of his country, not only as a nation with an exclusively democratic mission, but as a democracy with an essentially national career.



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The Promise of American Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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