"Just when the patriotism of Americans who disagree with specific policies of the government is being called into question, Hansen's judicious and incisive book arrives to remind us how vigorously leftists of a century ago refused to yield the flag to the White House. The debates involving Theodore Roosevelt, Eugene Debs, William James, Woodrow Wilson, W. E. B. Du Bois, Horace Kallen, and a host of others during the crises of the Spanish-American War and World War One, Hansen shows, remain relevant to today's disputes over what it means to love and defend one's country."
"This beautifully written study provides vivid portraits of major thinkers and activists who pondered the new meaning of nationalism when the United States emerged as a world power a century ago. As Hansen demonstrates, they envisioned a form of patriotism more cosmopolitan than the provincial Americanism of their day, but more robust than the thinned-out universalism of the Enlightenment. By providing a sturdy historical foundation for contemporary arguments offered by thinkers such as Michael Walzer, Amy Gutman, David Hollinger, and Werner Sollars, Hansen establishes himself as a major contributor to debates among political theorists and historians over the meaning and possibility of American patriotism. At a moment when many American intellectuals consider the idea of national loyalty irreparably damaged, he shows why we should think again."
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On September 9, 1918, the Socialist leader Eugene V. Debs appeared in Cleveland Federal Court to answer charges that he had violated the Espionage Act in a speech at Canton, Ohio, the previous June. According to the district attorney, Debs had impugned the U.S. government, derided the federal courts, praised the Russian Bolsheviks, and mocked the idea of a war fought to make the world safe for democracy. Worse, from the district attorney's perspective, was Debs's "sneering attitude towards patriotism and his attempt to make patriotism as we commonly understand it, ridiculous and absurd by his biting sarcasm." Noting that Debs had discharged these remarks "in the open air" and in the presence of "women and young men," and taking into account his "forceful and earnest delivery," the district attorney concluded that Debs was a threat to "the morale of the people."
After three days of testimony the government rested its case, whereupon Debs's counsel, Seymour Stedman, prepared to call his first witness. At Debs's insistence, Stedman informed the court that the defendant would plead his own cause. There was no point refuting the prosecution's report, Debs declared; it was entirely accurate. At issue, rather, was whether his Socialist critique was really un-American, as the prosecutor charged, or the very embodiment of patriotism, as he himself had been arguing for twenty-five years. Resolved that it was not Eugene Debs but American institutions on trial in Cleveland federal court, Debs believed that no one was more qualified to rise to their defense than he.
Debs began his plea to the jury by accepting full responsibility for his acts and utterances, assuring his peers that he harbored no guilt in his conscience. He then responded to the government's charges one by one: he had impugned the U.S. government for thwarting the advance of industrial democracy; he had derided the federal courts for persecuting the defenders of beleaguered workers; he had praised the Russian Bolsheviks for overthrowing the tyranny of the czar; and he had mocked the idea of a war fought to make the world safe for democracy because the people themselves had never yet declared a war. Renouncing the district attorney's patriotism, Debs invoked another model. Patriotism, he argued, meant more than shedding blood and upholding law. As manifested in American history, patriotism meant defending sacred principles and resisting tyranny and oppression, often in defiance of the law. The court of King George III had branded America's Founding Fathers criminals and traitors, Debs reminded the jury. "Isn't it strange," he remarked, "that we Socialists stand almost alone today in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States."
This book poses the problem of U.S. civic identity at the turn of the twentieth century: how does a country founded on liberal principles and composed of diverse cultures secure the solidarity required to safeguard individuality and promote social justice? The problem of American civic identity has received considerable attention of late from scholars and cultural critics concerned about the current state of liberalism and democratic participation. Rampant individualism, economic disparity, and the impression of a government for sale on the open market induce political cynicism and a consequent retreat from public life that transforms citizens into spectators. Local political passivity coincides with the rise of religious fundamentalism and ethnic nationalism around the world, lending this problem urgency. As the United States confronts vexing social and political challenges at home and abroad, more and more Americans may be heard to wonder, in the words of historian David A. Hollinger, "How Wide the Circle of the 'We'?"
Mine is the story of a group of American intellectuals who believed that the solution to the problem of American civic identity lay in rethinking the meaning of liberalism. Between 1890 and 1920, William James, John Dewey, Jane Addams, Eugene V. Debs, W. E. B. Du Bois, Randolph Bourne, Louis Brandeis, and Horace Kallen, among others, repudiated liberalism's association with acquisitive individualism and laissez-faire economics, delineating a model of liberal citizenship whose virtues and commitments amount to what I have labeled "cosmopolitan patriotism." While celebrating individual autonomy and cultural diversity, the cosmopolitan patriots exhorted Americans to embrace a social-democratic ethic that reflected the interconnected and mutually dependent nature of life in the modern world. From their perspectives, Americans could best secure the blessings of liberty and property by ensuring their universal distribution.
The cosmopolitan patriots constituted no discrete political or intellectual community. In independent but overlapping criticism, they attempted to reconcile American nationalism with the liberal principles undergirding the American republic. Far from impinging on individuality, the cosmopolitans asserted, a nation genuinely committed to liberty could marshal the political, economic, and cultural resources required to safeguard individual autonomy from the illiberal outcomes of a corporate-industrial, mass-market society. Cosmopolitan patriotism maintained a critical tension between local, national, and international affiliations. Locally, the cosmopolitan patriots sought to revive the reciprocal face-to-face community relations once assumed to nurture and sustain individual autonomy. Nationally, they challenged Anglo-American cultural assumptions about the meaning of American identity. Just as individuals achieved self-realization in the context of community, so cultural, ethnic, and voluntary communities could realize their potential by contending in the public sphere. Internationally, the cosmopolitan patriots repudiated diplomacy that advanced Western interests at the expense of other nations. Democracy imperiled anywhere jeopardized democracy everywhere; what was good for America was likewise worthy of the world.
The subjects of this study did not refer to themselves as cosmopolitan patriots. By calling them patriots, I mean to accentuate their claim that critical engagement with one's country constitutes the highest form of love. The cosmopolitan patriots rejected the notion ascendant in their day that patriotism entails uncritical loyalty to the government and to the military in wartime. The cosmopolitan patriots were not blind to the magnanimity of soldiers sacrificing their lives on the battlefield; some of them endorsed America's entry into World War I. But all insisted that love of country, like sacrifice itself, could take many forms. At the end of the nineteenth century, the cosmopolitan patriots launched a vigorous critique of American corporate capitalism, sexism, and racism in the name of equal opportunity and equality before the law. Critical vigilance became the keystone of their patriotism. Loving their country, they vowed to extend its privileges and immunities to all Americans regardless of gender, class, ethnicity, or race. Exalting public duty in the interest of private right, they summoned fellow citizens to assist individuals whose political, economic, or social circumstances compromised their pursuit of happiness.
The cosmopolitan patriots were devoted to America's founding principles, but they saw no reason why those principles could not extend over the entire earth. They regarded democracy as a universal impulse, hence they did not construe the U.S. Constitution as the final word on democratic institutions. The cosmopolitans regarded as compatriots individuals of any nation whatsoever who shared their commitment to equal opportunity and equality before the law, just as they denounced individuals, institutions, and governments—at home or abroad—that compromised those fundamental tenets. The cosmopolitan patriots expected American foreign policy to uphold the democratic ideals regulating life inside the republic. In a nation founded on putative universal values, promoting those values universally constituted the ultimate form of self-defense.
By adopting the adjective cosmopolitan to describe a group of patriots, I want to highlight their perspective on social and political affiliations. Liberals of their day are thought to have divided into two camps regarding the role of ethnoracial affiliation in people's lives. Universalists viewed ethnoracial allegiances as parochial and divisive, the source of untold misery the world over; cultural pluralists celebrated ethnoracial allegiances as wholesome and inviolable, the sine qua non of individual and collective agency. The cosmopolitan patriots recognized partial truth in both accounts. They shared universalists' commitment to individual self-realization but insisted that individuals realize themselves in local, national, and global communities. They acknowledged that communities and nations have historically inhibited individuality at home and abroad but argued that this need not be so. A nation genuinely committed to liberal individuality, they maintained, would view affiliation as a product of choice rather than a consequence of stultifying ascription.
In appropriating cosmopolitanism as a middle ground between universalism and cultural pluralism, I cut against the grain of a historical tradition that has long associated cosmopolitism with what Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. derided as "a rootless self-seeking search for a place where the most enjoyment may be had at the least cost." To Holmes, as to so many critics, cosmopolitans did not recognize the culturally contingent character of their privileged moral and economic position. Cosmopolitans were social parasites, preying upon the work of others. More recently, scholars have dismissed cosmopolitan patriotism as theoretically contradictory. Patriotism's passions are said to be corrosive of individuality and moral universalism, just as individuality and moral universalism are thought to weaken affective bonds.
The cosmopolitan patriots of this study were neither parasitical nor theoretically naive. They recognized that affiliations change with context. The unvarnished claims of either universalism or cultural pluralism are plausible only in a political or moral vacuum. In real life, individuals maintain overlapping, often competing, allegiances—as Eugene Debs discovered when canvassing locally for international socialism, as Jane Addams learned when taking the measure of her "cosmopolitan" neighbors. Most people do not or cannot strive for theoretical coherence in their workaday lives. Rather, individuals maintain dynamic equilibrium between their private and public, local and national, national and international affiliations—precisely the pragmatic response I associate with cosmopolitan patriotism. Which is not to say that sustaining such equilibrium is easy or pretty or perhaps even possible. But such is nevertheless what most individuals attempt to do.
The cosmopolitan patriots recognized the complexity of people's lives. Rather than regarding cosmopolitan patriotism as a means to reconcile universalism with cultural pluralism or liberalism with nationalism, we do better to view cosmopolitan patriotism as a site on which these and other ideologies conflict. Hence, readers seeking harmony will be disappointed by this book. Cosmopolitan patriotism promises not harmony but historical insight into the moral and political dilemmas that confront individuals who love their country and yet refuse to separate the privileges and immunities Americans enjoy from the plight of individuals and communities around the world. As the cosmopolitan patriots observed, acknowledging the equal moral standing of all human beings need not entail renouncing the various private, local, and national institutions in which morally equal individuals find meaning. Recognizing the range of affiliations individuals maintain, the cosmopolitan patriots worked through local, national, and international organizations to promote the political, economic, and cultural integrity essential to individuality.
Besides refining our understanding of cosmopolitanism, this book expands our knowledge of American patriotism, a project initiated by historian Merle Curti half a century ago, but one that has remained largely dormant since the Vietnam War due to the recoil of the American Left from a sentiment seemingly indistinguishable from chauvinism. Lost in the silence has been our awareness that patriotism once sustained a democratic critique of political, economic, and social injustice, a point especially worth preserving as it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish democracy from mass consumption and mass consumption from liberalism. This book also contributes to recent scholarship challenging Progressivism's tarnished image as an elite-driven, corporate-administrative push for social control. Though some Progressives were undeniably elitist, others—among them James, Addams, Debs, and Brandeis—shared John Dewey's conviction that radical, participatory democracy represented the only hope for self-realization in a radically polarized economy.
Emanating from within the discipline of history, this project joins the current discussion among philosophers and political and literary theorists about "globalization." The cosmopolitan patriots occupy a middle ground between contemporary liberal and poststructuralist positions on imperialism, for instance, by applying the discourse of political economy to the problem of cultural integrity. Where liberal scholars view political and economic independence as prerequisites of individual autonomy, poststructuralists deny a necessary causal link between politics, capital, and agency. Privileging culture over capital, poststructuralists have ostensibly restored agency to oppressed individuals and communities, highlighting their critical adjustment to and refashioning of conditions and customs once thought to be the source of their undoing. In an era of globalization, poststructuralists argue, individuals and communities construct evanescent identities from limitless cultural options—in conscious defiance of conventional claims like kin and country, and with no apparent concern for political or economic power.
The poststructuralist account of identity formation is valuable insofar as it highlights the dynamism and contingency inherent in cultural interaction. But scholars who uncouple cultural analysis from political economy risk constraining the freedom of those they seek to empower: first, by underestimating the importance of economic and political independence to individual and collective autonomy; second, by eroding cultural diversity itself. Surely cultures unable to perpetuate themselves scarcely warrant the name. The cosmopolitans illuminate this important, if familiar, debate. Experience among dislocated laborers, immigrants, and African Americans convinced them that culture was no substitute for economic and political justice. With cultural vitality and self-realization as their goals, they summoned Americans to address the economic and political disparity that eroded individual and collective autonomy, and hence the social reciprocity on which culture, like democracy, depends.
The cosmopolitans' recoupling of culture, economics, and politics spawned an attitude of humility toward the non-Western world that contrasts markedly with current enthusiasm for globalization. They welcomed the cultural contact that characterized their era, but they did not lose sight of its cost. They opposed unlimited Western expansion and defended unfamiliar cultures and governments. They ventured abroad—whether physically or figuratively—out of curiosity rather than insecurity or avarice. The more Western the world, the less it interested James and Addams, especially. The cosmopolitans viewed contact as an opportunity for self-reflection rather than self-assertion. Not presuming to save the world, they evinced a certain wonder, awe, and humility in and about the world—which, had it caught on, might have prevented some of the injustice that conventional liberalism spawned and then sought, guilt ridden, to correct.
• • •
Eugene Debs's letters and papers suggest that the meaning of patriotism, like the nature of war, was changing in America at the turn of the twentieth century. In the aftermath of the Pullman strike, as Debs converted to Socialism, he referred to patriotism matter-of-factly as a liberating, revolutionary, and noble sentiment. In the wake of the Spanish-American War, Debs's references to patriotism became comparative, always invoking a good patriotism in opposition to a bad. Patriots had apparently become despots. As the world entered a twenty-year period of seemingly constant battle, Debs's revolutionary patriotism came under siege. He continued to associate patriotism with the defense of liberty and democracy, but other Americans had begun to imbue patriotism with a different set of values.
In March 1895, writing in the Railway Times, Debs recalled the events of the previous July that had led to his arrest for complicity in the Pullman strike. Debs argued that the court injunction precipitating the intervention of federal troops in the strike augured the return of despotism to America. "Only a semblance of liberty remains, when courts and the military put forth their unrestrained power," Debs had warned his readers. The collusion of public officials and railway owners highlighted the need for "a new party to take the reigns of government and bring it back to pristine purity." Just as their forefathers had done before them, Debs urged "all who are animated by the spirit of patriotic devotion to liberty to unify to perpetuate the liberties of the people." Confident that patriotism denoted a devotion to freedom, Debs did not qualify the term as he would come to do, nor did he acknowledge contest over its meaning. Indeed, in a speech that same month, Debs swaddled Pullman strikers in the American flag, as yet unperturbed by the flag "fetishism" he would eventually denounce. The Stars and Stripes "tell of strikes for liberty and independence," Debs remarked in an attempt to legitimate his role at Pullman; the American Revolutionaries themselves had been "strikers and boycotters."
Independence Day 1895 found Debs ruminating about the state of American liberty in a cell in Woodstock, Illinois, prison, as fireworks shook the countryside around him. Why celebrate the nation's birthday, Debs wondered, "when Liberty itself lies cold and stiff and dead, stabbed to death" by a federal injunction? Anxious about the future, Debs gazed back wistfully to liberty's past—to "the dead, who, when living, in the spirit of heroism expanded to the full stature of patriots and dared all things, battles, wounds, imprisonment, confiscation, and death, to secure liberty for themselves and their posterity." A year later, on Labor Day, perceiving the further erosion of freedom, Debs remarked, "again, I ask celebrate what?" Once more he found solace in the "the patriots" of the American Revolution who, "fired by the immortal declaration of Patrick Henry, . . . wrested from the British crown the jewel of Political Independence." If the American worker would only wield his ballot like the patriots of old, Debs observed, Labor Day might become "a second Fourth of July—a day when Americans may repeat the language of the Declaration of Independence." Debs's indictment of corporate America had sharpened, but he retained faith in patriotism based on equal opportunity, equality before the law, and consensual government—patriotism that compelled critical vigilance. Daring all and fearing nothing, the American Revolutionaries had proved their devotion to a cause larger than themselves. A little such patriotism, Debs believed, would go a long way toward beating back the egotism rampant in fin de siècle America.
Two years later, as President McKinley committed American ground troops to the Philippines, Debs began to qualify his references to patriotism. "We [socialists] are not afflicted with the kind of patriotism which makes the slaves of our nation itch to murder the slaves of another nation in the interest of a plutocracy that wields the same lash over them all," Debs announced in the Social Democrat. "It seems not a little singular that thousands are so patriotic (!) in a country in which the only interest they have is six feet in a potter's field." Detecting corporate capitalism's influence in stoking Americans' jingoism, Debs urged American workers not to let "the booming of cannon" silence their agitation. Beneath the uproar waged "the real warfare for humanity." The following year saw Debs's bitterness mounting. Alarmed by America's annexation of the Philippines, Debs declared the American "patriot" to be "the biggest humbug on earth. Under the pretense of loving his country, he struts and swaggers, prates about the 'flag' and the 'glories of war' and makes a spectacle of himself generally." This new "patriotism"—hereafter, he would allude to it in quotation marks—masked the self-interest of a plutocratic elite; emanating from "sumptuous banquet halls," it reflected the interests not of the soldiers who would be expected to surrender their lives, but of investors keen to open distant mines and markets. Debs would side with partisans of liberty against proponents of empire. He was "for the Filipinos," hoping beyond hope that they might "yet repel the invaders and achieve their independence."
The symbolic meaning of the American flag was changing too, according to Debs. Once thought to represent the principles underlying the American republic, the flag had become the emblem of the new patriotism itself. Like the new patriotism, the flag "fetish worship" demanded blind loyalty to state policy. On Independence Day, 1899, Debs scored the hypocrisy and braggadocio of those like Roosevelt, who elevated loyalty to the flag above defense of the nation's democratic institutions. "Thousands of orators all over this broad land will glorify the institutions under which we live," Debs observed. "In pride they will point to Old Glory and declare that it is a flag that waves over a free country." He would abstain from such celebration, having no respect for a flag symbolizing "capitalist class rule and wage slavery."
Debs was not alone in protesting the conformist thrust of the new patriotism. In the spring of 1900, the philosopher William Everett called the attention of the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard College to patriotism's curious transformation from "a generous and laudable emotion" to "a paramount and overwhelming duty to which everything else which men have called duties must give way." Everett called on the "philosophers" before him to defend American principles from vicissitudes of "interest" and "passion." The field of linguistics constituted a crucial arena in this contest. Linguistically, Americans surrendered the enduring meaning of concepts like patriotism to fickle convention, rendering them "worthless when we come to some great public or private crisis." To Everett's mind, the industrial and cultural upheaval confronting his generation constituted one such crisis, and the apotheosizing of patriotism as obedience and soldiering illustrated the rule. Did philosophy have anything to teach patriotism, Everett asked, or could patriotism defy philosophy "as she claims the submission of every other human interest?"
The role of philosophy was to uphold standards of Truth and Right. The new patriotism undermined Truth and Right by valorizing a bankrupt ideal of virtue. Everett regarded virtue as both the sum and standard of citizens' joint enterprise. A virtuous citizenry did not hew to the dictates of corporate capitalist and government elites, but delineated its ideals collectively. It loved Truth and Right, not some flag or physical territory. Land could fall under evil proprietorship, so too a government and even a country: "a whole people may be wrong and deserve, at best, the pity of a real patriot rather than his active love." The point was not that standards of Truth and Right remained unchanged. Rather, the patriot defended a reading of Truth and Right that consisted of the sum total of past, present, and future experience—one that transcended his or her immediate perspective. To Everett, "America" constituted "something more than the single procession which passes across its borders in one generation: it means the land with all its people in all their periods; the ancestors whose exertions made us what we are, and whose memory is precious to us; the posterity to whom we are to transmit what we prize, unstained, as we receive it." Thus the real patriot acted and spoke "not for the present generation alone, but for all that rightly live, every event in whose history is inseparable from every other." What, then, should the patriot do? Anything that would promote his or her country's "perfection," though here too perfection was less something to be attained than a goal for which to strive. "What our country chiefly calls on us for is not mighty exertions and sacrifices," Everett insisted, "but those particular ones, small or great, which shall do her real good, and not harm." Like Debs's patriot, Everett's was a vigilant, engaged citizen quick with both criticism and praise, as ready to act locally as internationally, as concerned about others' liberty as he was about his own.
If it was the philosopher's job to demystify patriotism, it was the publicist's burden to inculcate it. But how should nations promote patriotism, E. L. Godkin asked in the summer of 1906 in the pages of The Nation? Although Godkin professed to be weary of the recent spate of legally mandated school programs designed to instill patriotism in students by rote, he admitted the legitimacy of the problem of loyalty in a nation founded on political commitments and composed of diverse peoples. In place of America's "idiotic flag-fetishism," Godkin offered the counsel of Edmund Burke. From Burke's perspective, loyalty was the stuff not of forced oaths but of like privileges and equal protection. Rising before Parliament in 1755, Burke urged his peers to "let the [American] colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your government." Only then will they "cling and grapple to you, and no force under heaven will be of the power to tear them from their allegiance." After Burke, Godkin believed that reciprocity was the solution to the problem of loyalty: just as the citizen had to earn his or her rights, so the nation had to deserve its citizens' loyalty. Like Dewey, Godkin believed this quid pro quo to be essential in promoting an engaged and loyal citizenry. "The truth," wrote Godkin, "is that love of country, in the high and proper sense, cannot be taught. It is commanded by the country that deserves it. . . . Give men justice, freedom, and equal treatment before the laws, and you do more than all possible schools and schoolmasters to intensify their national love for land and kin. Try to stimulate this by hot-house methods, and you make patriotism artificial and false, an idle name; you stifle the noble kinds of love of country, now exemplified in Russia—the readiness to overthrow duly constituted authorities who betray the public trust."
In the labor strife that marked the era, the "old" and "new" patriotisms locked horns. Just as Debs urged workers to adopt the patriotism of the American revolutionary heroes and "strike for liberty" against corporate capitalism, so the captains of industry bid "loyal" workers to defend the American system against the alien influence of socialist agitators. When, in 1902, Debs's Americanism was impugned by capitalist detractors, he told a Boulder, Colorado, audience that "in the capitalist system" he was indeed "a rebel and not a patriot." But Debs's confident dismissal of "capitalist patriotism" belied a deeper problem. His principal rhetorical strategy for motivating workers to convert to socialism was being appropriated by his adversaries to ensure workers' loyalty to state capitalism—and it seemed to be working. In the summer of 1903, Debs noted the paradoxical effect of the new patriotism on his ideal of manhood. Responding to an announcement that the U.S. Postmaster General planned to commission railroad conductors as employees of the U.S. Postal Service—and thereby invoke the Sherman Act to derail a strike—Debs mourned that "this will make a scab, a patriotic scab, of every railroad man engaged in train service."
Debs viewed the global nationalist conflicts of the early twentieth century as a conspiracy among capitalists throughout the world to thwart the progress of international justice. "The chief significance of national boundaries, and of the so-called patriotisms which the ruling class of each nation is seeking to revive," he wrote in the Independent, "is the power which these give to capitalism to keep the workers of the world from uniting, and to throw them against each other in the struggles of contending capitalist interests for the control of the yet unexploited markets of the world." If Debs's conspiracy theory ignores the extent to which Western consumers—as well as capitalists—benefited from imperialism, it nonetheless highlights the connection between capitalism, imperialism, and the rise of the nation-state. All were implicated in the new patriotism. Writing in Miner's Magazine in 1902, Debs attributed America's aggression in the Philippines to industrial overproduction. Private ownership of the means of production combined with economic disparity to ensure that workers and capitalists consumed only a fraction of the nation's industrial surplus. Hence the need for American soldiers to secure foreign markets; hence, as Croly had implied, it was "patriotic for man to murder man."
No doubt there was an element of self-interest and hypocrisy behind the new patriotic fervor, but surely there was more to it than that. Why were Americans drawn to a brand of nationalism that ostensibly benefited only their "masters"? By depicting the new patriotism as the work of a corrupt minority, Debs robbed American citizens of agency, unwittingly reinforcing corporate America's elitism. By contrast, Jane Addams held the people no less than their leaders responsible for the dysfunctions of society and government. From Addams's perspective, if American citizens embraced "capitalist patriotism," then that patriotism must be meeting an important human need. It followed that the way to vanquish the new patriotism was not to denounce the relatively few capitalists themselves, but to address the underlying circumstances that left Americans in need of patriotic catharsis.
This Addams attempted to do in a series of essays begun around the time of the Spanish-American War and that culminated in the publication of Newer Ideals of Peace in 1907. Like Debs, Godkin, and Everett, Addams professed frustration at the "abstract" and "institutionalized" patriotism taught increasingly in the public schools—so "remote from actual living." Writing in the journal Unity in December 1898, she worried lest this artificial patriotism, together with "our made-up philanthropy," dispossess schoolchildren of their appreciation for "the natural democratic relation." Viewing patriotism as a "great leveler and promoter of right relations," Addams hoped that it could be kept "normal and vital." Toward this end, she suggested that students be held accountable for the condition of their schools and playgrounds—a burden she thought would inculcate in them a more general sense of responsibility "in regard to the public streets and community duties."
Three years later, as her "normal" patriotism receded before the clamor for empire, Addams challenged the members of Chicago's Sunset Club to account for war's remarkable allure. Where Debs viewed America's jingoism as a symptom of materialism, Addams, like James, attributed it to a spiritual crisis emanating from a breakdown in the institutions of self-government. The uproar over expansion provided Americans with a necessary "outlet for their beliefs," Addams observed; it gave them "a consciousness of nationality, the sense of being in the sweep of the world's activities." By contrast, the reform movement tapped none of the citizenry's latent altruism or craving for belonging. Orchestrated from on high, reform movements presuppose that the people are "paralyzed morally and have no share in pushing forward social reforms for themselves."
Addams was tempted to cede patriotism to jingoists, so rabid had it become by the turn of the century. Her ambivalence is captured in a speech titled "Newer Ideals of Peace," from which her later book would get its title. A new peace required "a new type of patriotism," Addams announced, though, with its disregard for national borders, her new ideal was hardly patriotism at all. This she seemed to recognize, imagining "the time when the feeling shall grow perhaps not into international patriotism but a certain sense of duty which shall soak up the old one of national patriotism." Here Addams missed the truth that she would later champion—that patriotism and international fair play were not only compatible, but in America must be indistinguishable; that, however well-meaning, it was fatuous to insist that American citizens were equally beholden to "an Italian living in the United States [and] one living in Italy."
Nations had a role to play in promoting universal justice. The point was not to obliterate nations, she later recognized, but to impress upon national communities that their own rights and privileges could never be secure if they came at the expense of others. Could not American patriotism both "hold up a standard of life for its people" and demand "that [the nation] shall compete on the highest possible planes"? This, Addams believed, is what patriotism had meant to America's Founding Fathers. This was a "wise patriotism" useful at home and abroad, capable of enacting and enforcing laws to resolve the era's social problems, aware "that if the meanest man in the republic is deprived of his rights, then every man in the republic is deprived of his rights." This, Addams insisted, was "the only patriotism by which public-spirited men and women, with a thoroughly aroused conscience, can worthily serve this republic."
Any ambivalence Addams harbored about patriotism vanished with Newer Ideals of Peace. A compilation of essays written over the course of a decade, this book provided the fullest statement of Addams's cosmopolitan patriotism. World peace, Addams believed, depended on the outward extension of cosmopolitanism from urban neighborhoods to municipal, state, and national governments, and ultimately to the institutions of international commerce and law. Addams's cosmopolitan patriotism consisted above all of sympathy, the compassion derived from common political and social activities. By personalizing the public, sympathy eradicated outworn stereotypes and age-old animosities. By contrast, official or state patriotism spawned an indoctrination campaign inimical to the social and cultural institutions of women and cultural minorities and incompatible with democratic principles. Ideally, according to Dewey and Du Bois, the business of the school was to promote reciprocity. Addams lamented not only that educators treated pupils as empty receptacles of nationalist pabulum, but, in the case of immigrant children, tried to banish the cultural traditions that accompanied immigrants to the new world. Such policy alienated pupils, bred resentment, and thwarted the "natural foundation of patriotism"—"genuine sacrifice for the nation's law." The result was a juvenile contest of one-upmanship, as common among adults as among children. Let me tell you about my ancestors, Addams overheard a young boy say to a friend. Let me tell you about mine, the friend replied. "Mine could beat yours out."
Copyright notice: Excerpted from pages xiii-xviii and 149-156 of The Lost Promise of Patriotism: Debating American Identity, 1890-1920 by Jonathan M. Hansen, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2003 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press and of the author.