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They master us and force us into the arena,
N 1864, in a Washington hospital, a least zealous or devoted. Their culture
soldier, a Swede. The man had a tedious even the humblest things for that part of time before him, with doubtful result, the republic that they thought to be right. but he took everything patiently, with a Before the Civil War Theodore Koerner quiet strength of heart. He was a grad- had been to the American student the uate of the University of Lund, and thank- type of all that was finest in the patriotful to get good reading in almost any scholar, but after 1861 the United States language, but he preferred the English, had recent great examples of her own; as he meant to make this country his and there was always, from the earlier home. “Why did you come to America day, the inspiring story of Nathan Hale. and enlist?” “I heard that there was Has it always been thus ? Will it ala war over here. I meant to come here ways be thus ? These are vital questions, to live, and I wanted to pay for my citi- and the answer to the first of them is No. zenship at the gate."
Not only have individuals of the cultivated To this tale of an immigrant may well class in various countries been wanting be joined a bit from the service of an in willingness or ability to serve the state American native. He was a recent grad- in its need, but there have been cases, uate of Yale, a brilliant scholar, and the marked cases, where the whole cultivated captain of a battery in the same great class of a country has lacked both the war. It was the lot of the present writer power and the spirit to meet that counnot only to furnish the Swede with good try's needs. reading, but to see a letter written by the Some years ago* there appeared in the American-born, a letter written in the London Spectator an article under the shadow of his guns, upon difficult points title “Three Rotten Cultures”: it passed of Sanskrit grammar: in battle, not long in rapid review the three preëminent after, this scholar-patriot fell.
cases of failure that have been known Both these incidents could surely be thus far. We may begin with these. duplicated from the Confederate side. The word "culture,” it should be first The armies of both sides were recruited said, is here used in a special sense. We from all classes of society, and among are all familiar with the idea of the culture these classes the scholars were not the *March 18th, 1899.
of the individual man: many of us are manner that would enable them, nor in working at it in ourselves and in others. a spirit that would prompt them, to do But not all of us have broadened our that saving work. They studied reguthought to the idea of “a culture," as larly from generation to generation in the representing the state of an educated Universities scattered over the empire, class, the educated class of a nation or a and in mature life, in the seclusion of race, through a period, through a great their provincial estates, they . . . kept period, perhaps through an age. Yet,
Yet, up their reading.” In intellectual atof course, there is such a thing, and “a tainment they were, perhaps, farther culture” is the phrase to express it. above the people than any other class
We distinguish between a culture and in Europe has ever been. Yet this “cula civilization or a social system. We say tivated class, though it must have been that there is dry-rot in any civilization exceedingly numerous, produced nothor social system that permits slavery or ing, originated nothing, and enlarged polygamy to exist; but these matters no single field of knowledge.” They apply to a people as a whole. “A cul- wrote poetry without fire, and letters that ture” refers to the condition, the char- had no suggestion of interest in the great acter, the quality, the attitude, of the issues of life. They became dilettante educated part.
grammarians, mere critics of form; they We are all familiar with the idea that developed no real intellectual ability, no the culture of an individual may be wrong. strength of thought, no earnestness of Its scope, its fronting, its ideals, may be character, no spiritual power; when the so far defective, one-sided, groveling, times grew more and more terrible, and proud, selfish, that the man is not sym- the world was distraught for those who metrically, not worthily, not valuably, should save it, these educated, cultivated, not truly, a cultivated man. Have we refined gentlemen, who should have been ever broadened our thought to the fact the immediate and trusted leaders, had that a culture,” even in the larger sense, nothing to offer for the common good; the culture of a period, of a race, in its they and their schools perished in the educated class, may also be wrong? The common destruction; and the gloom, the whole basis, or fronting, or material, or despair, of the Dark Ages shut down upon method, or trend, or aim, of that educated the world. The Dark Ages were, thereclass, in its culture, may be so mistaken fore, the result of a culture that somehow or selfish or corrupt that essentially the had gone wrong. * culture as a whole,—the work spent upon that class through a period or an age, The second of the helpless cultures and the life lived by them, comes to has been brought before our thought naught, or worse.
especially during the last ten years, and To return to the "three rotten cul- it has not yet passed off the immediate tures": The first of those that were given stage. In China the literati have been so opprobious a name is that of the noble educated just as highly as were the priviand wealthy of Rome and the Roman leged classes of dying Rome. They have empire some fifteen hundred years ago. fed upon a few national classics, and It is a mistake to think that in the deca- nothing else; they have studied these dence of that empire these classes were minutely, and have regarded the power uncultivated, and that the Western em- of quoting them as a chief distinction pire fell because there were none suffi- separating them from the vulgar, whom ciently educated to hold it up. The they despise. Their culture, unintellinobles and the wealthy class were edu- gible though it is to us, has refined them cated quite sufficiently for national salva
*See Samuel Dill's Roman Society in the Last tion, ut they were not educated in a
Century of the Western Empire.
to a very high degree, so that they can be tion of entering the service of the state. easily recognized by their amenity of Of late there has been arising in that land speech and bearing; but there the benefit a new scholarship, trained in Germany or of their culture ends. It refines their the United States or, especially, in Japan, tastes and their manners, but it does not a scholarship based upon Occidental discipline their powers, nor widen their ideas; it is fast supplanting the old culscope, nor change their characters; it ture; it is kindling a new spirit of patriotdoes not make them contribute anything ism, and one of its first and most pregnant valuable to personal or national life. To results is the punishment of American science they are indifferent; in art they insults by the boycotting of American are mere imitators; in politics they are goods! Such a result is not pleasant to selfish and corrupt. They were worth the American “jingo,” but the lesson is absolutely nothing or less than nothing one that even he who runs may read. when the Japanese burst into China a Just think of the opportunity now openfew years ago; they furnished no leaders ing before the Empress of China to set to guide the Chinese race and the Chinese four hundred millions of people far forgovernment when the fleets of the great ward in the path of a new national life! powers of Europe were hovering, like birds of prey, along the Chinese coast; The third of the condemned cultures in the titantic struggle between Japan is also one of our own day, but its deficiand Russia, China only lay inertly, the encies have not, as with the others, been helpless prize for the victor. If those blazoned to the world. Great Britain, fleets had been on any other coast and having taken upon herself the administhe partition of the country among the tration of India, has established a system powers were about to be attempted, if on of schools for the natives, those schools land and sea the greatest battles in the reaching their highest stage in the great history of the world were being fought Universities of Bombay and Bengal. for the domination of that country, the Thousands of Mahrattas and Bengalis, schools of the country would be looked who are naturally among the most intelto at once and of course as places where ligent of mankind, go up through the national saviors might be found. The whole educational system. But it is very scholars of Japan have always, and nota- generally held that, although they get the bly in the recent war, been found on the form of culture, they do not get its spirit, firing-line. But no one has at any time its substance. For instance, they learn seen that, or looked for it, in China. The the masterpieces of English literature: old-style scholars of China seem never to that is, they learn them as the Roman have thought of doing anything with nobles of the decadence learned the their culture, except to climb up the scale Latin classics; they learn the words, but of rank and pay. It is agreed by all catch hardly a particle of their spirit. outside observers that, just as in the later Like the scholar of the Roman decadence, Roman day, the first hope, the only hope, like the Chinese scholar, they are indiffor China has lain in destroying the as- ferent to science and the constructive cendancy, or, by external pressure or arts; they know for the sake of knowing influence, radically changing the char- or for the sake of getting on. For the acter, of her cultivated class. It is hard purposes of large and beneficent adminto imagine that as true of Great Britain, istration of public affairs, for high service or Germany, or the United States. of their people, they are, as a rule, of no
It may yet be proved that the most account at all: “They seem to have in momentous event in the history of China politics no sort of efficiency whatever.” is the abrogation of the requirement of They do not, for the purposes of citizenan examination in the classics as a condi- ship, compare with the much fewer graduates of the missionary schools. Suicide was thinking some of the thoughts that is fearfully prevalent among them. are inevitably suggested by the decay in
Le Bon's Civilizations of India and his the cultures of the Roman, the Chinese, The Crowd are terrible arraignments of and the Hindu. Amidst that culture he what The Spectator calls a “rotten cul- placed his marvelous works, the sources ture.” For example, in the latter work of healthy and healthful culture to multi(p. 85) he says of India: "In the case
of India: “In the case of tudes since his day,—his saints, his Maall the Baboos, whether provided with donnas, his Moses, his David: it is a employment or not, the first effect of their familiar quotation from Emerson: instruction has been to lower their stand
“The band that rounded Peter's dome ard of morality.”
And groined the aisles of Christian Rome It is the distinct judgment of many
Wrought in a sad sincerity.” intelligent observers that “education in But the Medicean culture in itself was India, as hitherto pursued” under the selfish to the core. Said Ruskin of one patronage or direction of the state, “is of Browning's poems: “I know of no of no more value than the education of other piece of modern English ... in the nobles in the later Roman period, or which there is so much told . . . of the of Chinese mandarins now, and [that], Renaissance spirit, ... its worldliness, inlike theirs, it will ultimately fall, [and] consistency, pride, hypocrisy, ignorance probably with a crash.”
of self.” And yet this Renaissance spirit
and work were all that in those days, It is hard to see how any one can re- especially in Florence and Rome, had view such great ranges of fact without any standing as culture at all. being startled out of many crude and And what shall be said of the condition hasty notions that before had passed with of France in recent times? She has long him for beliefs. We had thought that a been the headquarters of culture in cerschool was a school, that the object of a tain lines, yet in connection with the Dreyschool was to communicate knowledge fus case it was at the risk of life or fortune and to discipline powers, and that by that any one suggested the importance going to school we attained these ends of inquiring whether the man was guilty and so were fitted for life. But here are or not. The case is now a little old, but three great scholastic systems, all that an its lesson continues: how much did the age or a nation has in education, and educated classes do at that time to call they are found to be thoroughly wrong, France to her obvious duty ? Taine says with impotence or mischief as their prin- that France with each succeeding gencipal result.
eration is falling more and more into line Yet these are not the only cases of the with China.” kind, nor are they, except by size, the Le Bon (The Crowd, p. 87) quotes from most impressive. If other examples are Taine as to the failure of the French edusmaller, they may, by the special interest cational system: “Sturdy common-sense of their place or their time, appeal even and nerve and will-power our schools do more powerfully to our minds.
not furnish to the young Frenchmen." It is one of the rewards of a deeper To which Le Bon adds: “It is in the study of Bible-times that one discovers schoolroom that socialists and anarchists how the dry-rot of formalism and hypoc- are found nowadays, and that the way risy had eaten into the Pharisaic culture, being paved for the approaching period with ruin as the outcome.
of decadence of the Latin peoples.” Michelangelo moved in the midst of Paul Bourget, in Outre Mer, says that the the great Medicean culture, and moved French system of education produces in a silence that seems to us impossible merely narrow-minded bourgeois, lacking to understand unless it means that he in initiative and will-power, or anarchists,
"the civilized man degenerating into have self-government, educational
to go the way of the great three, or of the in their judgments.
three that are less ? It should be said in passing that it is held by many that, just as a new day has In America we have had a certain unity dawned for China with her great educa- in our educational work, so that what we tional change, so a new day has come for are so eagerly making out must seem to educated France, and, therefore, for all those outside, and will surely seem to France, with the passing away of clerical future times, as completely one as any of domination over the schools. In this those three or those six of which we have connection one may well read Zola's been speaking. Ours is the American Truth.
culture: the future will know it as such.
The question may well be pondered with The “three rotten cultures” were, or great seriousness: will our culture be are, not even nominally of the Christian added to the list of those that could not faith. The first was in the inheritance be kept from decay, from becoming inefof the pagan religion of Rome, but count- ficient for the great, sometimes the desed that religion a false, an exploded, su- perate, needs of the state? Will some perstition, and yet had nothing to put in editor of the twenty-fifth or the thirtieth its place: hence Gibbon could truthfully century, perhaps that New Zealander say that the various religions were to the whom Macaulay represented as possibly Roman multitude equally true, to the yet to moralize over the ruins of London, philosophers (and all the educated class) —will he write of “Four rotten cultures,” equally false, and to the magistrates the later Roman, the Chinese, the Angloequally useful. The second is intensely Indian, the American,-each in its turn religious, after its kind, but it is in the and in its time collapsing, the American teaching of Confucius, that rises no higher last ? than ancestor-worship and has no power It is easy for us to say “No,” and to to change either the heart or the life. take it as a matter of course; but what is The third is made up chiefly of Brahmins, the ground of our faith? It would be with not even the measure of spiritual well for us to keep out of easy presumplife that is shown among the Indian Budd- tions; it is important for us to remember hists. The Pharisaic culture set itself the perils of that national conceit to which virulently against Christ and destroyed we are so prone. The Roman would him. The Medicean was essentially have maintained the excellence of his pagan, not to say heathen, having cast culture, and with a peculiarly Roman, off all but the name of the Christian faith. an almost American, pride. The Chinese The French-one wishes to seem sym- mandarin would smile the simple smile pathetic with the effort of that people to of his race and pity our ignorance of those
*See an article by William Barry in The National books that contain all the wisdom that is Review for March, 1899.
of any account. The young Bengali