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.
which his life afforded.  Garrison’s impatient temper and unbalanced mind made him the enthusiastic advocate of a few distorted and limited ideas.  The consequence was that Garrison, although apparently an arch-heretic, was in reality the victim of the sterile American convention which makes willful enthusiasm, energy, and good intentions a sufficient substitute for necessary individual and collective training.  Lincoln, on the other hand, was in his whole moral and intellectual make-up a living protest against the aggressive, irresponsible, and merely practical Americanism of his day; while at the same time in the greatness of his love and understanding he never allowed his distinction to divide him from his fellow-countrymen.  His was the unconscious and constructive heresy which looked in the direction of national intellectual independence and national moral union and good faith.

IV

MEANS OF INDIVIDUAL EMANCIPATION

We are now in a position to define more clearly just how the American individual can assert his independence, and how in asserting his independence he can contribute to American national fulfillment.  He cannot make any effective advance towards national fulfillment merely by educating himself and his fellow-countrymen as individuals to a higher intellectual and moral level, because an essential condition of really edifying individual education is the gradual process of collective education by means of collective action and formative collective discipline.  On the other hand, this task of collective education is far from being complete in itself.  It necessarily makes far greater demands upon the individual than does a system of comparative collective irresponsibility.  It implies the selection of peculiarly competent, energetic, and responsible individuals to perform the peculiarly difficult and exacting parts in a socially constructive drama; and it implies, as a necessary condition of such leadership, a progressively higher standard of individual training and achievement, unofficial as well as official, throughout the whole community.  The process of educating men of moral and intellectual stature sufficient for the performance of important constructive work cannot be disentangled from the process of national fulfillment by means of intelligent collective action.  American nationality will never be fulfilled except under the leadership of such men; and the American nation will never obtain the necessary leadership unless it seeks seriously the redemption of its national responsibility.

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