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COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY NORMAN FOERSTER AND W. W. PIERSON, JR.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The selections in this book are used by permission
The Riverside Press
“BEFORE our war we were to Europe but a huge mob of adventurers and shopkeepers. Leigh Hunt expressed it well enough when he said that he could never think of America without seeing a gigantic counter stretched all along the seaboard.”
It is the Civil War that James Russell Lowell referred to in this passage; it is the Civil War that revealed once more, as the War of Independence had also revealed, the idealism of those remote forbears of ours who came to this continent “not to seek gold, but God.” But after the Civil War, our material prosperity grew apace, until our ideals seemed gradually to become dimmer and, in the view of many observers, both foreign and American, faded away altogether. And now, having acceptedour responsibilities in world affairs, we believe that we shall reveal once again some of the ideals we have cherished in the past and some of the new ideals that the age calls for.
It is the function of this little book to bring together certain essays, addresses, and state papers that express, from the point of view of American statesmen and men of letters, these ideals, past and present. A final chapter of “Foreign Opinion of the United States” regards a few of the same subjects from an interestingly different angle.
One who reads these utterances reflectively will come to the conclusion that they exhibit a marked nobility of will and mind. For that the reader was amply prepared. But at the same time one cannot but confess that these expressions of the ideals that have guided us in the past and are animating our action in the present are somewhat deficient in clarity of purpose. Emerson said that “America is another word for Opportunity," and the phrase has often been repeated — but who inquires, “Opportunity for what?” There is another sentence of Emerson's that is even more leserving of repetition: “It is not free institutions, it is not a republic, it is not a democracy, that is the end, — no, but only the means.” If Emerson is right, what is the end – what, at bottom, has the American tradition as its goal? This question cannot be answered now; but a more intimate knowledge of our professed ideals and policies, our spiritual and political tendencies, will perhaps bring us to an earlier answer than we should otherwise attain.
It need scarcely be said that, in collecting these expressions of our national and international consciousness, the editors have been obliged to omit, from so small a book, many significant utterances. Perhaps it likewise goes without saying that in arranging the selections under certain topics, the editors have sometimes assigned positions arbitrarily. These defects will not be serious so long as the total impression is reasonably near the truth. In the choice of matter to be included, a number of friends have generously assisted, particularly J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Professor of History, and James H. Hanford, Associate Professor of English, both of the University of North Carolina. Professor Hanford not only coöperated with the editors in drawing up the plan of the book, but also read the whole corpus of proof-sheets.
W. W. P., Jr. August, 1917.