John Fiske, Manifest Destiny



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Now a century hence, with a population of six hundred millions in the United States, and a hundred and fifty millions in Australia and New Zealand, to say nothing of the increase of power in other parts of the English-speaking world, the relative weights will be very different from what they were in 1788. The population of Europe will not increase in anything like the same proportion, and a very considerable part of the increase will be transferred by emigration to the English-speaking world outside of Europe. By the end of the twentieth century such nations as France and Germany can only claim such a relative position in the political world as Holland and Switzerland now occupy. Their greatness in thought and scholarship, in industrial and aesthetic art, will doubtless continue unabated. But their political weights will severally have come to be insignificant; and as we now look back, with historic curiosity, to the days when Holland was navally and commercially the rival of England, so people will then need to be reminded that there was actually once a time when little France was the most powerful nation on the earth. It will then become as desirable for the states of Europe to enter into a federal union as it was for the states of North America a century ago.
It is only by thus adopting the lesson of federalism that Europe can do away with the chances of useless warfare which remain so long as its different states own no allegiance to any common authority. War, as we have seen, is with barbarous races both a necessity and a favourite occupation. As long as civilization comes into contact with barbarism, it remains a too frequent necessity. But as between civilized and Christian nations it is a wretched absurdity. One sympathizes keenly with wars such as that which Russia has lately concluded, for setting free a kindred race endowed with capacity for progress, and for humbling the worthless barbarian who during four centuries has wrought such incalculable damage to the European world. But a sanguinary struggle for the Rhine frontier, between two civilized Christian nations who have each enough work to do in ithe world without engaging in such a strife as this, will, I am sure, be by and by condemned by the general opinion of mankind. Such questions will have to be settled by discussion in some sort of federal council or parliament, if Europe would keep pace with America in the advance towards universal law and order. All will admit that such a state of things is a great desideratum: let us see if it is really quite so utopian as it may seem at the first glance. No doubt the lord who dwelt in Haddon Hall in the fifteenth century would have thought it very absurd if you had told him that within four hundred years it would not be necessary for country gentlemen to live in great stone dungeons with little cross-barred windows and loopholes from which to shoot at people going by. Yet to-day a country gentleman in some parts of Massachusetts may sleep securely without locking his front-door. We have not yet done away with robbery and murder, but we have at least made private warfare illegal; we have arrayed public opinion against it to such an extent that the police-court usually makes short shrift for the misguided man who tries to wreak vengeance on his enemy. Is it too much to hope that by and by we may similarly put public warfare under the ban? I think not. Already in America, as we have seen, it has become customary to deal with questions between states just as we would deal with questions between individuals. This we have seen to be the real purport of American federalism. To have established such a system ovrer one great continent is to have made a very good beginning towards establishing it over the world. To establish such a system in Europe will no doubt be difficult, for here we have to deal with an immense complication of prejudices, intensified by linguistic and ethnological differences. Nevertheless the pacific pressure exerted upon Europe by America is becoming so great that it will doubtless before long overcome all these obstacles. I refer to the industrial competition between the old and the new worlds, which has become so conspicuous within the last ten years. Agriculturally Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kansas are already formidable competitors with England, France, and Germany; but this is but the beginning. It is but the first spray from the tremendous wave of economic competition that is gathering in the Mississippi valley. By and by, when our shameful tariff--falsely called "protective"--shall have been done away with, and our manufacturers shall produce superior articles at less cost of raw material, we shall begin to compete with European countries in all the markets of the world; and the competition in manufactures will become as keen as it is now beginning to be in agriculture. This time will not be long in coming, for our tariff-system has already begun to be discussed, and in the light of our present knowledge discussion means its doom. Born of crass ignorance and self-defeating greed, it cannot bear the light. When this curse to American labour--scarcely less blighting than the; curse of negro slavery--shall have been once removed, the economic pressure exerted upon Europe by the United States will soon become very great indeed. It will not be long before this economic pressure will make it simply impossible for the states of Europe to keep up such military armaments as they are now maintaining. The disparity between the United States, with a standing army of only twenty-five thousand men withdrawn from industrial pursuits, and the states of Europe, with their standing armies amounting to four millions of men, is something that cannot possibly be kept up. The economic competition will become so keen that European armies will have to be disbanded, the swords will have to be turned into ploughshares, and _thus_ the victory of the industrial over the military type of civilization will at last become complete. But to disband the great armies of Europe will necessarily involve the forcing of the great states of Europe into some sort of federal relation, in which Congresses--already held on rare occasions--will become more frequent, in which the principles of international law will acquire a more definite sanction, and in which the combined physical power of all the states will constitute (as it now does in America) a permanent threat against any state that dares to wish for selfish reasons to break the peace. In some such way as this, I believe, the industrial development of the English race outside of Europe will by and by enforce federalism upon Europe. As regards the serious difficulties that grow out of prejudices attendant upon differences in language, race, and creed, a most valuable lesson is furnished us by the history of Switzerland. I am inclined to think that the greatest contribution which Switzerland has made to the general progress of civilization has been to show us how such obstacles can be surmounted, even on a small scale. To surmount them on a great scale will soon become the political problem of Europe; and it is America which has set the example and indicated the method.
Thus we may foresee in general outline how, through the gradual concentration of the preponderance of physical power into the hands of the most pacific communities, the wretched business of warfare must finally become obsolete all over the globe. The element of distance is now fast becoming eliminated from political problems, and the history of human progress politically will continue in the future to be what it has been in the past,--the history of the successive union of groups of men into larger and more complex aggregates. As this process goes on, it may after many more ages of political experience become apparent that there is really no reason, in the nature of things, why the whole of mankind should not constitute politically one huge federation,--each little group managing its local affairs in entire independence, but relegating all questions of international interest to the decision of one central tribunal supported by the public opinion of the entire human race. I believe that the time will come when such a state of things will exist upon the earth, when it will be possible (with our friends of the Paris dinner-party) to speak of the UNITED STATES as stretching from pole to pole,--or, with Tennyson, to celebrate the "parliament of man and the federation of the world." Indeed, only when such a state of things has begun to be realized, can Civilization, as sharply demarcated from Barbarism, be said to have fairly begun. Only then can the world be said to have become truly Christian. Many ages of toil and doubt and perplexity will no doubt pass by before such a desideratum is reached. Meanwhile it is pleasant to feel that the dispassionate contemplation of great masses of historical facts goes far towards confirming our faith in this ultimate triumph of good over evil. Our survey began with pictures of horrid slaughter and desolation: it ends with the picture of a world covered with cheerful homesteads, blessed with a sabbath of perpetual peace.


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