Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

1265, representatives of the towns and of the counties were added to the English council ; and in 1435, representatives of the burghers and of the common people were first called to unite with the Swedish council in the formation of a national assembly. The national assemblies of the two nations thus embraced the same elements, and a common principle of division, carried out in both cases, would have resulted in a common parliamentary organization. But through purely external circumstances the individuality of classes became more marked in Sweden than in England, thus preventing that union of the nobles and the clergy, and of the burghers and the peasants, through which the English parliament early attained its present form.

This comparison is adequate to illustrate the point to be emphasized, namely, that different nations branching from the same stock carry with them into their different circumstances a common political instinct which gives them an impulse toward a common end, and that the resultant of this instinctive impelling force will vary in different nations according to the environment, or according to the different external circumstances, of the nations.

In directing attention to similarity of organization and similarity of political development as the result of an instinctive impulse common to different nations of the same stock, it is not intended thereby to overlook the efficiency of subordinate forces operating to the same end, as, for instance, the force of imitation. But when we have accorded all possible importance to the act of conscious imitation, there still remains the fact that imitation of political institutions takes place mainly between nations belonging to the same race, and only to a very limited extent between nations of different races. The Roman may copy certain institutions from the Greek, the German may copy from the Roman, or any one of the modern nations of the West may copy from any other, but we do not expect to find nations of different races copying from one another. The presupposition of imitation in political matters is a certain inherited propensity, an instinctive adaptation to certain forms of thought and to certain lines of action ; whence it would appear that the influence which imitation exerts in determining political institutions rests on an instinctive faculty. Between nations having no common inheritance, we look in vain for any lasting similarity of institutions, except in cases where members of one nation dominate the governmental affairs of another of a different race. One nation may borrow of another, although the two share in no common inheritance, yet the borrowed institution finds no soil adapted to its normal growth, and it either passes away or becomes unrecoynizably distorted. On the other hand, history has ample record of institutions transplanted from one kindred nation to another that have taken root and developed a strong and natural growth.

No idea has contributed so much to put linguistic science on a firm basis and to insure its future progress as that which explains the existence of features common to the several languages of kindred nations on the ground of inheritance from a common source. The same idea applied to the early literature and mythology of Aryan nations has thrown a flood of light over subjects that before were in darkness and confusion. In like manner the science of politics may embody a similar idea in its foundation ; it may start with the notion that every nation enters upon its career of independent existence with a certain hereditary endowment, an instinct which gives to its political development an impulse toward a pre-determined end; and, moreover, that this instinct is common

only to those nations which belong to a common race. Through its failure to recognize this fact, Herbert Spencer's elaborate system of philosophy grows weak when it reaches the realm of political discussion. He collects his data promiscuously from the most varied sources—from the civilized peoples of the progressive

islands—and on the basis of this information makes his inductions, apparently forgetting that inductions made on the basis of facts gathered from the declining or petrified peoples of Central Africa, Further Asia, or the islands of the Pacific, have no immediate and necessary application to the Aryan nations. The condition of these peoples is not that of the civilized European nations minus some centuries of progress; they belong to another great branch, or to other great branches, of the human family, and have part in another inheritance.

Although two nations may belong to the same race and be endowed with essentially the same political instinct, yet it does not necessarily follow that it operates with the same force in both cases. The uninterrupted continuity of political growth in one nation may have helped to strengthen the instinctive tendency, while in the other this tendency may have been frequently interrupted by recurring revolutions, and consequently weakened. England and France are cases in point. It requires no very profound knowledge of English and French history to perceive that in the determination of their political affairs the forces of intelligence and of instinct have not operated in the same ratio in the two nations. The political conduct of the French nation has been determined by purely intellectual conceptions to a much greater extent than that of the English. It has become almost proverbial that in effecting political changes the French

follow theories, while the English are directed by their common sense, which is simply another way of stating the dominance of intelligence in French politics as contrasted with the dominance of instinct in English politics. The French revolutions of this and the previous century have been a practical outgrowth of French political philosophy, and appear as attempts to carry out certain conceptions of political organization which this philosophy had impressed upon the mind of the nation. In most English revolutions, on the contrary, always excepting the Puritan revolution, the dominant factor has been the conservative force of the nation-political instinct. This superior strength of instinct in the English furnishes ground for an explanation of important facts in the social history of this people, such as: 1. The almost unerring wisdom with which any colony of Anglo-Saxon blood, however unlettered its members, proceeds in the organization of a government ; :2. The wonderful assimilative power in which this people has shown a superiority over all others with which it has come in contact in its course of worldwide colonization.

The political intelligence of our race may vary, but the instinct remains stable. The intelligence is fickle, and turns with every breath of argument; the instinct is beyond the reach of argument, and bears ever steadily towards its predetermined goal.

CHAPTER VIII.

THE POLITICAL HERITAGE OF THE BRITISH COLONIES IN

- AMERICA.

The political development of colonies planted in new countries is through forms analogous to those which have marked the constitutional growth of the parent stock, and illustrates, not merely the influences of imitation, but also the force of an hereditary political sense or instinct. This tendency is clearly manifest in the history of the movement toward national unity in the British colonies of America. As the colonial settlements proceeded from a completed nation, so they manifested an irresistible tendency toward unification in the form of a fully organized nation. The town, or the plantation, or the parish as the successor of the plantation, which became the political unit in the colonies, corresponded to their prototype, the parish, the political unit in England.

In the history of the United States we have a striking example of the rapid growth of a nation up through the rudimentary stages ; and we have here more clearly shown than in other instances of such growth the working of the centralizing and disrupting tendencies which have been, in a greater or less degree, the accompaniments of all natural development throughout the world. With us these opposing tendencies were especially active during the period of seventy-seven years, between 1778, when the Articles of Confederation were framed, and the close of the Civil War in 1865. During that period, especially after 1800, all party strife hinged, more or less, on

« AnteriorContinuar »