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- The Emancipation of Massachusetts - 20/65 -


prevailed, or as the march of applied science has made one or another route of transportation cheaper or more defensible.

Thus Babylon was conquered and robbed by Rome, and Rome, after a long heyday of prosperity, yielded to Constantinople, while Constantinople lost her supremacy to Venice, Genoa, and North Italy, following the sack of Constantinople by the Venetians in 1202 A.D. The Fairs of Champaign in France, and the cities of the Rhine and Antwerp were the glory of the Middle Ages, but these great markets faded when the discovery of the long sea voyage to India threw the route by the Red Sea and Cairo into eccentricity, and caused Spain and Portugal to bloom. Spain's prosperity did not, however, last long. England used war during the sixteenth century as an economic weapon, pretty easily conquering. And since the opening of the Industrial Revolution, at least, London, with the exception of the few years when England suffered from the American revolt of 1776, has assumed steadily more the aspect of the great international centre of exchanges, until with Waterloo her supremacy remained unchallenged. It was this brilliant achievement of London, won chiefly by arms, which more than any other cause impelled Germany to try her fortunes by war rather than by the methods of peace.

Nor was the German calculation of chances unreasonable or unwarranted. For upwards of two centuries Germany had found war the most profitable of all her economic ventures; especially had she found the French war of 1870 a most lucrative speculation. And she felt unbounded confidence that she could win as easy a triumph with her army, over the French, in the twentieth as in the nineteenth century. But, could she penetrate to Paris and at the same time occupy the littoral of the Channel and Antwerp, she was persuaded that she could do to the commerce of England what England had once done to the commerce of Spain, and that Hamburg and Berlin would supplant London. And this calculation might have proved sound had it not been for her oversight in ignoring one essential factor in the problem. Ever since North America was colonized by the English, that portion of the continent which is now comprised by the Republic of the United States, had formed a part of the British economic system, even when the two fragments of that system were competing in war, as has occurred more than once. And as America has waxed great and rich these relations have grown closer, until of recent years it has become hard to determine whether the centre of gravity of this vast capitalistic mass lay to the east or to the west of the Atlantic. One fact, however, from before the outset of this war had been manifest, and that was that the currents of movement flowed with more power from America to England than from America to Germany. And this had from before the outbreak of hostilities affected the relations of the parties. Should Germany prevail in her contest with England, the result would certainly be to draw the centre of exchanges to the eastward, and thereby to throw the United States, more or less, into eccentricity; but were England to prevail the United States would tend to become the centre toward which all else would gravitate. Hence, perfectly automatically, from a time as long ago as the Spanish War, the balance, as indicated by the weight of the United States, hung unevenly as between Germany and England, Germany manifesting something approaching to repulsion toward the attraction of the United States while Great Britain manifested favor. And from subsequent evidence, this phenomenon would seem to have been thus early developed, because the economic centre of gravity of our modern civilization had already traversed the Atlantic, and by so doing had decided the fortunes of Germany in advance, in the greater struggle about to come. Consider attentively what has happened. In April, 1917, when the United States entered the conflict, Germany, though it had suffered severely in loss of men, was by no means exhausted. On the contrary, many months subsequently she began her final offensive, which she pushed so vigorously that she penetrated to within some sixty miles of Paris. But there, at Château Thierry, on the Marne, she first felt the weight of the economic shift. She suddenly encountered a division of American troops advancing to oppose her. Otherwise the road to Paris lay apparently open. The American troops were raw levies whom the Germans pretended to despise. And yet, almost without making a serious effort at prolonged attack, the Germans began their retreat, which only ended with their collapse and the fall of the empire.

A similar phenomenon occurred once before in German history, and it is not an uncommon incident in human experience when nature has already made, or is on the brink of making, a change in the seat of the economic centre of the world. In the same way, when Constantine won the battle of the Milvian Bridge, with his men fighting under the standard of the Labarum, it was subsequently found that the economic capital of civilization had silently migrated from the Tiber to the Bosphorus, where Constantine seated himself at Constantinople, which was destined to be the new capital of the world for about eight hundred years. So in 1792, when the Prussians and the French refugees together invaded France, they never doubted for an instant that they should easily disperse the mob, as they were pleased to call it, of Kellermann's "vagabonds, cobblers, and tailors." Nevertheless the Germans recoiled on the slope of Valmy from before the republican army, almost without striking a blow, nor could they be brought again to the attack, although the French royalists implored to be allowed to storm the hill alone, provided they could be assured of support. Then the retreat of the Duke of Brunswick began, and this retreat was the prelude to the Napoleonic empire, to Austerlitz, to Jena, to the dismemberment and to the reorganization of Prussia and to the evolution of modern Germany: in short, to the conversion of the remnants of mediæval civilization into the capitalistic, industrial, competitive society which we have known. And all this because of the accelerated movement caused by science.

If it be, indeed, a fact that the victory of Château Thierry and the subsequent retreat of the German army together with the collapse of the German Empire indicate, as there is abundant reason to suppose that they may, a shift in the world's social equilibrium, equivalent to the shift in Europe presaged by Valmy, or to that which substituted Constantinople for Rome and which was marked by the Milvian Bridge, it follows that we must prepare ourselves for changes possibly greater than our world has seen since it marched to Jerusalem under Godfrey de Bouillon. And the tendency of those changes is not so very difficult, perhaps, roughly to estimate, always premising that they are hardly compatible with undue optimism. Supposing, for example, we consider, in certain of their simpler aspects, some of the relations of Great Britain toward ourselves, since Great Britain is not only our most important friend, assuming that she remain a friend, but our most formidable competitor, should competition strain our friendship. Also Great Britain has the social system nearest akin to our own, and most likely to be influenced by the same so-called democratic tendencies. For upwards of a hundred years Great Britain has been, and she still is, absolutely dependent on her maritime supremacy for life. It was on that issue she fought the Napoleonic wars, and when she prevailed at Trafalgar and Waterloo she assumed economic supremacy, but only on the condition that she should always be ready and willing to defend it, for it is only on that condition that economic supremacy can be maintained. War is the most potent engine of economic competition. Constantinople and Antwerp survived and flourished on the same identical conditions long before the day of London. She must keep her avenues of communication with all the world open, and guard them against possible attack. So long as America competed actively with England on the sea, even for her own trade, her relations with Great Britain were troubled. The irritation of the colonies with the restrictions which England put upon their commerce materially contributed to foment the revolution, as abundantly appears in the famous case of John Hancock's sloop Liberty, which was seized for smuggling. So in the War of 1812, England could not endure the United States as a competitor in her contest with France. She must be an ally, or, in other words, she must function as a component part of the British economic system, or she must be crushed. The crisis came with the attack of the Leopard on the Chesapeake in 1807, after which the possibility of maintaining peace, under such a pressure, appeared, in its true light, as a phantasm. After the war, with more or less constant friction, the same conditions continued until the outbreak of the Rebellion, and then Great Britain manifested her true animus as a competitor. She waged an unacknowledged campaign against the commerce of the United States, building, equipping, arming, manning, and succoring a navy for the South, which operated none the less effectively because its action was officially repudiated. And in this secret warfare England prevailed, since when the legislation of the United States has made American competition with England on the sea impossible. Wherefore we have had peace with England. We have supplied Great Britain with food and raw materials, abandoning to England the carrying trade and an undisputed naval supremacy. Consequently Great Britain feels secure and responds to the full force of that economic attraction which makes America naturally, a component part of the British economic system. But let American pretensions once again revive to the point of causing her to attempt seriously to develop her sea power as of yore, and the same friction would also revive which could hardly, were it pushed to its legitimate end, eventuate otherwise than in the ultimate form of all economic competition.

If such a supposition seems now to be fanciful, it is only necessary to reflect a moment on the rapidity with which national relations vary under competition, to be assured that it is real. As Washington said, the only force which binds one nation to another is interest. The rise of Germany, which first created jealousy in England, began with the attack on Denmark in 1864. Then Russia was the power which the British most feared and with whom they were on the worst of terms. About that period nothing would have seemed more improbable than that these relations would be reversed, and that Russia and England would jointly, within a generation, wage fierce war on Germany. We are very close to England now, but we may be certain that, were we to press, as Germany pressed, on British maritime and industrial supremacy, we should be hated too. It is vain to disguise the fact that British fortunes in the past have hinged on American competition, and that the wisest and most sagacious Englishmen have been those who have been most alive to the fact. Richard Cobden, for example, was one of the most liberal as he was one of the most eminent of British economists and statesmen of the middle of the nineteenth century. He was a democrat by birth and education, and a Quaker by religion. In 1835, just before he entered public life, Cobden visited the United States and thus recorded his impressions on his return:

"America is once more the theatre upon which nations are contending for mastery; it is not, however, a struggle for conquest, in which the victor will acquire territorial dominion--the fight is for commercial supremacy, and will be won by the cheapest.... It is from the silent and peaceful rivalry of American commerce, the growth of its manufactures, its rapid progress in internal improvements, ... it is from these, and not from the barbarous policy or the impoverishing armaments of Russia, that the grandeur of our commercial and national prosperity is endangered." [Footnote: John Morley, _The Life of Richard Cobden_, 107, 108.]

It is not, however, any part of my contention that nature should push her love of competition so far as necessarily to involve us in war with Great Britain, at least at present, for nature has various and most unlooked-for ways of arriving at her ends, since men never can determine, certainly in advance, what avenue will, to them, prove the least resistant. They very often make an error, as did the Germans, which they can only correct by enduring disaster, defeat, and infinite suffering. Nature might very well, for example, prefer that consolidation should advance yet another step before a reaction toward chaos should begin.

This last war has, apparently, been won by a fusion of two economic systems which together hold and administer a preponderating mass of fluid capital, and which have partially pooled their resources to prevail. They appear almost as would a gigantic lizard which, having been severed in an ancient conflict, was now making a violent but only half-conscious effort to cause the head and body to unite with the tail, so that the two might function once more as a single organism, governed by a single will. Under our present form of capitalistic life there would seem to be no reason why this fluid capital should not fuse and by its energy furnish the motor which should govern the world. Rome, for centuries, was governed by an emperor, who represented the landed class of Italy, under the forms of a


The Emancipation of Massachusetts - 20/65

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