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whose father he truly was. That document--one of the most precious in American history or American literatureshould be a veritable guide-book for the American patriot. And then, nearly three-quarters of a century later, when the epoch-making civil struggle was nearing its end, the great heart of Abraham Lincoln poured itself out in words whose simple, compelling eloquence have rarely been equalled, when he for the second time, ascended the steps of the Capitol to take the oath of office as President of the United States. He, too, from another point of view, but in no less practical ways and with no less generous purpose, prest home upon his countrymen the principles to which their loyalty was due.
The American patriot will inform himself upon those two great documents. He will like to read them, to quote them, to think upon them, to turn to them and to their principles, to seek their instruction in determining his own position in regard to the thousand and one practical questions of the moment, which are simply the old questions of human ambition, human greed and human folly, dressing themselves up in new forms, and joining the never-ending procession of progress toward human excellence, that goes to make up human history.
The Farewell Address of Washington, and the Second Inaugural of Lincoln, are for the American a corner-stone upon which to build a sure and abiding structure of true patriotism.
Our country is unique, not as we so often think and say because of its size, not because of its population, not because of its wealth, not because of its variety of products and climates, not because of its temperaments and racial elements-tho they all enter into its greatness, and will form subjects for the future historian to analyze and interpret-but it is unique in that we have managed for now more than a century and a quarter, to build into permanence principles of government and of life which had been the ideal of dreamers for more than a thousand years. Very few of those dreamers ever supposed that in the 19th and 20th centuries there would arise on this earth a great nation, built upon those principles, dedicated to them and successfully exemplifying their operation and practise over this amazing extent of territory. No one would have supposed this to be possible.
We need not stop to dwell upon our short-comings; we need not stop to analyze and to explain our feelings of difficulty and of doubt or to make lists of the things we should like to do, but have not done. All that is known and admitted by us, by our friends and by our critics; but at a moment like this, when the whole world appears to be in a state of flux, when all old standards seem to be thrown to the winds, it is worth while to dwell upon the permanent and progressive forward movement in American life, and to take account and make measure of its achievements and its triumphs.
This country is, in a peculiar sense, the keeper of the conscience of democracy. There may be nations--we know there are nations of the first rank-not committed as we are to the democratic principle. We need find no fault with them for preferring, temporarily at least, some other form of social and political organization; but we must bear in mind that we are the keepers of the democratic conscience of the world. We are the keepers of the open door of opportunity in democracy, and we are the keepers of the great principle of federation as a means of securing domestic freedom and national unity, and of permitting liberty under law in ways with which we have now been familiar for nearly a century and a half.
The greatest problem of men in all history has been the question how to secure both government and liberty. How to preserve order without suppression of the individual, how to promote the common good without depriving the individual of initiative, how to weld men into a mass, into a new and higher order, without destroying personal identity that problem in its most serious sense is ours.
The true American patriot will never permit himself to lose sight of the fact that the line between government and liberty is the line upon which he must keep his eye, and the line toward which he must hew, let the chips fall where they will.
If all individual initiative be transferred to the realm of government, we have no opportunity for that individual life which has been the glory of our modern world. If we transfer all the fundamental elements of a well-ordered government over to the realm of liberty, we have national dissolution and political death. The American patriot, keeping his heart open and his mind free from prejudice, seeking friendships everywhere in this world and enmities nowhere, keeping his eye fixt on this line between government and liberty, will ask himself how, as one of the keepers of the democratic conscience, can he act in a given crisis, in the presence of a given problem, before a given issuehow can he act, my friends, so as to protect the aim and the ideals of the American Republic?
He is a poor American who is without a passionate love of home; who does not feel a peculiar drawing at the heart and a choking of the voice when his mind goes back in after years to the home where his first associations were made, where his father and mother lived, where his childhood friends and associates, his school teachers and schoolmates dwelt, where he got his first outlook on life and began to stretch his wings and try to fly. No temporary abiding place, no working-place or office or house can ever be substituted for the home in the heart of the true patriot. Just so the patriot's feeling for his fatherland or motherland is the feeling he has for the nation to which he belongs, the ideal to which he owes allegiance, the language he speaks, the literature he loves and the law that determines the patriot's relation to all of these—his intelligence, reflections and emotions--the relation of the individual to his larger home.
It is out of the home that the nation is built. It is out of the home's purposes and ideals that the nation gains aim and substance, and it is in the home that the controlling moral and intellectual principles that shape government and organization take form and gain their truest significance. There is no subject fuller of meaning than this age-old subject of a man's relation to his fathers. Now that we have learned in these modern days to cast it into the form of this patriotism which I am trying briefly to describe, now that we have learned to see it in the moral and intellectual and religious relation, we can look forward to the day when we shall learn to see in it no place for enmity, national or international. We may justly hope to look out upon that future day, when the patriots of every nation will find their greatest satisfaction in cooperating and combining toward the perfection of the great humanitarian ideal thruout the world.
We dare not close our eyes in pessimism because today we hear the thunder of guns and the cries of the wounded and the dying. Terrible as that is, terrible as the reason for it is, I beg you to believe that it is only an episode---a dismal, tragic episode, but an episode--in the forward march of an idea and a purpose which no armaments can permanently check. This is not a purposeless world. This is not a ball, plunging thru space, with no orbit, subject to no law of control, existing as part of no system, serving no purpose. The physicist tells us that if we disturb in the very slightest degree any physical element in the universe, we affect its remotest circumference. What of the human elements? What of the importance and the balance which they have, the ideas, the feelings and the acts of will which are the embodiments of ideas, that are carried forward into the making of institutions? Those are the great things in history. We see them spring into life and enter one nation after another.
There is a place for the Oriental; there is a place for the Occidental; there is a place for the European; there is a place for the American; just as there is a place in the great stout strand that binds the ship to the boat that tows it, for every one of the little threads that wound together make it what it is. Take that great strand apart and a child could snap each thread. Wind them tight together so that every one supports the other, and it would take a superman to tear that rope apart.
This problem of institution building-whether by the people of one nation or by the peoples of all nations of the world together-is the one that will be supremely important when the curtain falls upon the tragedy that now moves its slow course to the pain and distress and grief of every patriot in every land.
NICHOLAS MURRAY BUTLER COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY