LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
AMERICA AND ENGLAND: AN EXCHANGE OF VIEWS.
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] Sm,—Although I do not meet the requirements of your correspondent Lieut.-Col. H. W. Kettlewell, I am tempted to essay a reply to the question posed in his letter in your issue of the 7th ult. concerning "what seems to" him "an irrational aloofness on the part of America" from par- ticipation in European affairs. He desires to be answered by an American believer in this aloofness ; whereas I, an ex-Englishman, am one of the vast and growing minority comprising Churchmen of all faiths, educators of virtually every college in the Republic, lawyers, statesmen, financiers, business men and men of science, to say nothing of prac- tically every organized group of women in the country— who are utterly convinced that the policy of isolation is selfish, irrational, and destined, if persisted in, to be ruinous.
Yet I venture to think I can tell Lieut.-Col. Kettlewell why so many Americans (if not a majority, at least the politicians and journalists who assume to speak for the majority, and who cannot at present be proved not to do so) are of opinion that American participation in European affairs would be disastrous to this country. The reasons, which could only be made clear in a rather long essay, are roughly as follows :-
1. Isolation is the traditional American policy. That is, the ordinary man erroneously believes it to have been his country's policy. George Washington is believed (also erroneously) to have warned his countrymen against "foreign entanglements" or "entangling alliances.' The blind and superstit!ous regard for the semi-mythical creature which in illiterate imaginations is surrogate for the historical Washington prevents the public either from understanding what the real man really said and meant, or from perceiving that counsel good for the infant nation of 1796 is absurdly irrelevant to the circumstances of the world-power of 1923.
2. By and large, and exceptis excipiendis, the politicians of America (from State legislatures to the U.S. Senate) arc enormously less representative of the best mind, education, culture and con- science of their country than those of any European or any other English-speaking nation. Politics is a paid profession (as you have unfortunately begun to make it in England by paying salaries to your Members of Parliament). The characteristic marks of a pohtician are that he knows nothing of politics, history, economics, ethics or world affairs, and never dreams of forming or acting upon an independent judgment of his own, but flops around like a weathervane in response to the pressure of the organized minorities that make a business of terrorizing him. Witness the mass of politicians who voted for that greatest of frauds and insanities the Prohibition Amendment, with flasks in their pockets, and have ever since been daily breaking the idiotic law they enacted.
3. Among such organized minorities those representing the Irish, German and other anti-British groups have hitherto been the most clamant and persistent. The result is that we daily hear politicians and see newspaper writers voicing opinions that they do not privately hold, but utter for vote-getting and circu- lation-raising reasons.
4. The average American farmer knows no more of Europe than he does of the moon, and is unaware of the influence of con- ditions abroad upon the price of his commodities. American foreign policy will never be intelligent—not even intelligently selfish—until this inert mass of dense ignorance shall have been removed. Experience is gradually breaking it down, but the job is a slow one.
5. This country is so large, and its centres of population are so remote from each other, as well as from Europe, that it necessarily takes a very long time to get unity of opinion and purpose on any subject whatever. More especially is this true when a desired change requires the breach of a tradition so solidly held as that regarding isolation. Imagine yourself trying to persuade the British people to give up horse-racing, or cricket, or to disestablish the Church ; then multiply, in your mind, the dimensions of such a task by ten or twenty, and you will have some idea of what confronts enlightened Americans when they go about to urge upon their tradition-ridden fellow citizens the necessity for a radical change in foreign policy.
I ask especial attention to this last point. It is of capital importance, and is the feature in which American life is
most different from that of the smaller and more homogeneous peoples of the Old World. Yet foreigners seldom or never
grasp it :— - O. (a) Americans hitherto have really not needed to think out and apply a large, far-reaching and permanent foreign policy. Therefore the amazing vagaries of the Senate on such matters have not seemed strange or alarming. ($ee. the remarks on the Senate, and on John Hay's great scheme of treaties, in The Education of Henry Adams.) (b) Neither has America ever taken the trouble to tram a corps of men for service as Ambassadors. When we get a first-class Ambassador, say like Page, it is a pure gift of the gods. Consequently Our people, when they see American spokesmen "up against" the trained diplomatists of other lands, have much the same feeling as is aroused by the sight of laymen in contest with lawyers, or greenhorns with professional gamblers.
I must apologize for this intrusion on your space. Let me in conclusion assure Lieut.-Col. Kettlewell that he need have no doubt as to America's ultimate action. It took us two and a-half years to find out that we owed it to ourselves to enter the War. It is taking us even longer to learn that, for selfish as well as unselfish reasons, we ought to be in the League of Nations. Party feeling increases our difficulty in seeing this : the rancorous opponents of Mr. Wilson are constantly vending the falsehood that the vote for Mr. Harding was a vote against joining the League. But even this impudent mis-statement is coming to be seen for what it is. Give us two years more, and you will see us where we ought to be.—! am, Sir, &c.,
IlonAcE J. BRIDGES.
163 W. Washington Street, Chicago, April 18th.