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

The mutual loyalty and responsibility, consequently, embodied and inculcated in a national school, depends for its efficient expression upon the amount of insight and intelligence which it involves.  The process of national education means, not only a discipline of the popular will, but training in ability to draw inferences from the national experience, so that the national consciousness will gradually acquire an edifying state of mind towards its present and its future problems.  Those problems are always closely allied to the problems which have been more or less completely solved during the national history; and the body of practical lessons which can be inferred from that history is the best possible preparation for present and future emergencies.  Such history requires close and exact reading.  The national experience is always strangely mixed.  Even the successes of our own past, such as the Federal organization, contain much dubious matter, demanding the most scrupulous disentanglement.  Even the worst enemies of our national integrity, such as the Southern planters, offer in some respects an edifying political example to a disinterested democracy.  Nations do not have to make serious mistakes in order to learn valuable lessons.  Every national action, no matter how trivial, which is scrutinized with candor, may contribute to the stock of national intellectual discipline—­the result of which should be to form a constantly more coherent whole out of the several elements in the national composition—­out of the social and economic conditions, the stock of national opinions, and the essential national ideal.  And it is this essential national ideal which makes it undesirable for the national consciousness to dwell too much on the past or to depend too much upon the lessons of experience alone.  The great experience given to a democratic nation must be just an incorrigible but patient attempt to realize its democratic ideal—­an attempt which must mold history as well as hang upon its lessons.  The function of the patriotic political intelligence in relation to the fulfillment of the national Promise must be to devise means for its redemption—­means which have their relations to the past, their suitability to the occasion, and their contribution towards a step in advance.  The work in both critical, experienced, and purposeful.  Mistakes will be made, and their effects either corrected or turned to good account.  Successes will be achieved, and their effects must be coolly appraised and carefully discriminated.  The task will never be entirely achieved, but the tedious and laborious advance will for every generation be a triumphant affirmation of the nationalized democratic ideal as the one really adequate political and social principle.

CHAPTER X

I

A NATIONAL FOREIGN POLICY

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