Imatges de pÓgina
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measures,' only that they always had the men, in that by their very method measures made men.

If character cannot, generally speaking, be said to make history, nor can it be said that history makes character. Character is one of the constants of human nature, and independent of any geographical or historical incident. There is no doubt that in point of character no new discoveries have been made these 7000 years. It is the abiding force of man. In 5000 B.C., we have ample reason to assume, men were prompted, guided or precipitated by their ethical force, just as they are to-day. In the world of character there is no Columbus discovering new worlds. It is the oldest of man's assets. An hour's contemplation of some of the busts or rilievos of ancient Egypt will be sufficient to convince anyone that then, as now, character was the propelling force and mainstay of man; the force that shapes and colours his desires, his hopes, his fears.

It is thus quite impossible to assume that history made character. But too frequently the trend of history might have been thoroughly altered had a certain number of people, or one towering personality, possessed sufficient power of character to do or undo certain things. He who could have persuaded the Greeks of the fourth century B.C.

unite honestly and sincerely for purposes of defence would have prevented the rise of the Roman Empire. However, such men were not forthcoming. And as history but too frequently does not produce the character it needs, so it also produces such characters when they are untimely. Are we then not entitled to infer that history is neither the cause nor the effect of character alone ?

The truth seems to be that the relation of character to history is infinitely more complex than people generally think. It is a technical relation. It is a relation wound up with other correlations that represent the lever work of history, and, unless we first clearly grasp the great levers of history in general, we are but too likely to misunderstand the proper relation of character to history. It is well known that Buckle ascribed the progress of man to his intellect, and not to his moral or ethical forces. This statement of Buckle's is not untrue, provided we accept his idea of progress, which meant to imply a belief in a constant betterment of our human capital, both ethically and intellectually. Buckle, and innumerable adherents of the idea of progress, contend that there is a distinct process of increasing humanisation, owing to which we are becoming more and more civilised—-.e. more humane, less cruel, less superstitious, less unjust, as well as more wise and knowing. If this idea of progress were truly right, then character might, as Buckle put it, very well be left out of consideration in the study of history. For, in that case, progress as the dominating feature of history would manifestly be dependent on intellect and on the spread of ideas infinitely more

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than on ethical forces. Buckle rightly concluded that, since progress is a variable quantity, it cannot possibly be made the function of a constant quantity such as character evidently is.

However, the idea of progress, above outlined, is, to say the least, exceedingly dubious. That we at present possess more knowledge than was possessed by, say, the people of the sixteenth century, there can be no doubt. This does not, however, prove in the least that our intellectual powers, as such, have been made substantially greater or stronger than were those of the Greeks. We know more of mathematics than they did ; on the other hand, we are unable to vie with them in sculpture, architecture, or philosophy. If we now consider the other side of

progress, the ethical betterment,' no man really cognisant of the realities of modern life can seriously maintain that we are either less cruel, less superstitious, or more just than were our forbears. Our system of putting people in prison for terms of from one to twenty years, and even for life, is one of the most unmitigatedly fiendish forms of torture that has ever disgraced human history. It is entirely modern; it was unknown to the ancients, to the Middle Ages, and to the sixteenth century. It came with the absolutism of the seventeenth century. People are, of course, so accustomed to its being applied to criminals that nobody seems to be conscious of its revolting cruelty and absurdity. It is this, our incapacity of viewing our own times in their proper historic perspective, that renders us both ignorant of and callous to cruelty which we so readily reproach other ages with. The old Adam is still among us. Our heart, this the main wheel of history, is still the same that it was thousands of years ago.

If, then, we should gauge the importance and influence of character on history, or vice versa, from the standpoint of so-called ' progress,' we run the risk of misunderstanding both history and character. If, on the other hand, we first lay down what was called above the great levers of history, we might very well be enabled to see what relation character really has to history.

As a result of the writer's lifelong study of history, the following forces appear to be of the greatest influence in the making of history. Admitting that some factors are of a

constant or static nature, while others are more variable or dynamic, we may group the constant factors under the following headings : first, geo-political causes ; secondly, economic causes; thirdly, social causes ; fourthly, ideals national and international, as causes of historic movements. The variable factors all come under the one heading of personality. These are the five great factors of all history. It is impossible here to give a more detailed statement of each of these five factors grouped into two large classes which, as the abscissae and ordinatae of the curves of history, comprise both the constant and the variable causes of events. It is sufficient to point out that in regard to geo-political,

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causes.

économic, social, and 'ideal'causes, we deal with facts almost entirely independent of the will, character, or intellect of individual man. The geo-political leverage of England (or rather Great Britain), once Great Britain was made a political island by the union with Scotland (1707), is a vast fact that could not be, and was not, made by any character or intellect of any one single man, or a definite number of individuals. To be a political island proper, a country must first be a physical island. In the case of Great Britain this insular character of the country is the result of a great geological revolution many thousand years ago; and therefore even in very sober language we must admit that half of English history was made by the geological history of England.

The other factors in the group of constant causes of history are in many ways almost as constant as are geographical and geo-political

Whether there are or no unchanging economic laws, it is certain that the economic condition of a given nation is infinitely more a gift of circumstances than a result of foresight and energy. A peasant in North Hungary is incomparably more industrious and more instructed about the phenomena of nature than most workmen in England. Yet he makes but a very small income. The utmost frugality and industry are scarcely sufficient to give to the lower classes of South Italy and Sicily a tolerably agreeable existence. The influence of individual insight, industry and patience can do but very little for a betterment of the economic circumstances of a nation.

It is even so with the laws of society. The classification and stratification of people in a given country is totally independent of any individual character and intellect. No one knowing this country can be unaware of the caste-like stratification of English society. The middle-class man or woman is, in social atmosphere, tact, manners, ideas or tendencies totally different from the people who are recognised as belonging to the higher classes. In other countries and at other times of history the higher classes looked down upon the lower. In England the middle class itself looks down upon itself, and is lacking in self-respect and well-poised dignity to an appalling extent. Which individual character or intellect has made that so? Which individual character or intellect will ever unmake it?

To this class of social constants belong also the amusements of a nation, and the several types of their womanhood. It is plain that individual influence has had but very little to say in the formation of national games. The Greeks had their Olympian games ; the Romans did not have such games, but gladiatorial representations. The Austrians dance, or used to; the Germans have their Turnerei ; the English have their cricket, football, or golf ; the Yankees their base-ball; the Canadians their lacrosse; the Spanish their bull. fights, &c., &c. The study of the psychological causes of national games is, it is true, very little advanced ; although nations differ in nothing more than in their amusements, and accordingly amusements ought long ago to have been made the subjects of one of the most efficient researches into the soul of nations. Yet it is certain the national amusements are the products of collective causes, of social forces independent of the will or wisdom of individual men. In the writer's forthcoming General History it is shown, for instance, that the intensity of a given national game is in direct proportion to the degree of habitual laziness of a nation. The lazier the people, the greater the portion of the day during which they remain inactive, the more intense and exciting amusements do they require. The laziness of the Spanish is one of the chief causes of their bull-fights. Has this laziness been brought forth by the influence of any

individual character in Spain? Or take the reverse. The British Sunday is the condemnation of all amusement. This too arose from collective causes on which we need not dwell here. A few years ago a number of Englishmen strenuously worked for the disenchantment of the British Sunday. After innumerable speeches, actions, pamphlets and parliamentary maneuvres they finally succeeded in opening the Museums on Sundays, in having bands play in the parks on Sundays, &c. Has this immense effort on the part of a number of individuals really changed the British Sunday? Is it now considerably nearer to the type of the Continental Sunday ? Fanatics alone will say so. In truth, it is still where it used to be. Individual character or insight cannot alter it. As it came from vast collective causes since the beginning of the seventeenth century, so it can only be changed by similarly collective causes. . As pointed out in another work of the writer, the British Sunday can only disappear with the British Empire. Not before.

The same remark holds good with regard to the last of the factors in the group of historical constants, to the ideals of nations. He would be an absurd cynic who should deny the existence of such ideals in modern white and some yellow nations. They do exist; they wield an immense force, although they are only amongst the things which Bismarck used to call ' imponderables.' They frequently are the bass of the national harmony. They latently, inarticulately guide, stimulate, rouse nations. But can we trace them to the power of an individual character ? Can we in any case point out the individual person or persons who have raised the ideal, like a temple, in the hearts of their nation ? On closer investigation it will invariably be found that such ideals are the work not of this or that mighty character or intellect, but of causes independent of individuals. The ideal of the Greeks was, mostly, a small city-state, self-contained, ntensely differentiated and energised. The ideal of the Romans was, since the second century B.C., a vast empire. The ideal of the first Christians was an absolutely universal, if spiritual, empire. Can we

say that Themistocles created the Athenian, or Scipio the Roman ideal ? It was there before the great Greek and the noble Roman. It comes from subterranean quarters; it is wafted into the minds of people by the atmosphere of their history. It is both intangible and tangible, spiritual and material, human and superhuman.

In the groups of the historic constants we can thus discover no handle by which to grasp the assumed influence of individual character on history. Remains the group of historic variables, or personality. It is evident that this group, consisting, as it does, of individual forces, must lend itself readily to a discussion of the relation of character to history. We shall now proceed to an examination of personality, after having cleared our way by the consideration of the last objection most likely to be raised by the generality of students. This objection is based on the belief in 'race. Most readers will, as a matter of fact, start the study of history with the implicit belief in certain mysterious 'racial' qualities of nations. They will say that, while they are not disinclined to accept the division of historic causes into causes constant and variable, they yet cannot admit that

race' is not one among the constant causes of history. The social institutions, for instance, which are here classed among the constant factors of history are, such readers still contend, largely owing to abiding 'racial' qualities of nations ; and since character is ‘un. doubtedly' one of the features of 'race,' character is necessarily one of the principal components of social institutions, and thus of history.

It is here impossible to give, as the writer has done elsewhere, all the reasons that go to destroy the current notion of race.' There is no 'race' among white men in the sense of permanent, unchanging, and otherwise unaccountable qualities of a given group or class of white men. There are types indeed, but there are no' races.' Peoples, like everything else, are constantly changing, and the English of to-day are no more like the English of the times of Richard the Third than the French are like the Germans. The American ethnologist Ripley, who still clings to the idea of race,' has been compelled to acknowledge that even the Jews, whom nearly everybody considers a triumphant proof of race,' are only a people, but not a race.' And so it is in reality. No one can have travelled extensively without noticing that the apparent fixity of human nature is the least fixed of all things. As travel convinces one of the utter changeableness of human character in space, so history does of the extreme variability of human character in time. It is therefore practically impossible to attribute any one permanent feature in the constant factors of history above enumerated to an alleged collective and innate character of nations or classes of people.

We are accordingly reduced to a consideration of personality as the only historic factor in which character may be taken as a cause

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