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Comparison between the methods prevailing in science and in politics began as early as the presidential campaign of 1872. Already there was a distinctly recognized scientific world which was demanding recognition in colleges and universities. The terms scientific spirit and scientific method were becoming clearly defined. The men who were at the time responsible for the conduct of public affairs were in a better position to appreciate the change involved than any after generation can be. To those abreast with the times, Darwin's Origin of Species came as a great revelation. They themselves actually experienced the transition from dogmatism and authority to experiment and demonstration. For the first time in history men had planted their feet firmly upon the solid earth; and they refused to be moved. Scientific devotees became informally pledged to each other to use their utmost endeavor to know all that man may know in the realm of nature, regardless of any moral, religious or extraneous influence of any sort. In this limited field they made truth, or actuality, their single goal. All liars, all blunderers, and all who had a disposition to believe a false report, disappeared from the ranks of the promoters of science.
In practical politics the vital thing is not what men really are, but what they think they are. This simple truth, so often overlooked, is actually of tremendous import. It gives the key to many a riddle otherwise insoluble.
The European war is a striking case in point. That war is very generally regarded as being one of “race.” The idea certainly lends to the struggle much of its bitterness and uncompromising fury. And yet, from the genuine racial standpoint, it is nothing of the kind. Ethnologists have proved conclusively that, apart from certain palaeolithic survivals and a few historically recent Asiatic intruders, Europe is inhabited by only three stocks: (1) the blond, long-headed “Nordic” race, (2) the brown, round-headed “Alpine” race, (3) the brunet, long-headed “Mediterranean” race. These races are so dispersed and intermingled that every European nation is built on atleast two of these stocks, while most are compounded of all three. Strictly speaking, therefore, the present European war is not a race-war at all, but a domestic struggle between closely knit blood-relatives.
There is criticism of the conduct of foreign policy and the methods of diplomacy. Some of it is definite, some nebulous. It is either in very general terms, or else directed at isolated and specific diplomatic decisions. The feeling of dissatisfaction is widespread, and it is apparently safe to conclude that where there is a great deal of smoke there must be some fire. A people, like a physician's patient, may be certain there is something wrong without knowing what or where it is; or they may be misinformed, or badly informed.
It has been very popular in some quarters to make the diplomat the scapegoat of the European war, to characterize him simply as an intriguer pulling wires neither wisely nor too well. Especially is it urged that the diplomat as a trustee of the people's welfare has been recreant to his trust, and that things can be righted by the simple process of having legislative bodies take diplomatic decisions. The suggested remedy is apparently attractive to parliamentarians, some sociologists and those living in states where parliamentary action on treaties is required.
In the United States, the department of the navy is the constituted organ of the government for administering the navy. Its sole reason for existence is the possibility of war. The most important office in the navy department, after that of the secretary of the navy, is the office of naval operations. All the other offices in the navy are merely accessory to that one particular office the function of which is the preparation of the navy for war.
The method of naval administration now in force in the United States is the outcome of a gradual development. When the Constitution went into effect in 1789, it contained several references to the navy. Congress was given power to “provide and maintain a navy.” The President was made the “commander-in-chief of the navy” and there was a clause which forbade the States from owning ships of war in time of peace. When, during Washington's administration, the executive departments were organized, there was no navy, and there was no pressing need for one. Congress, therefore, vested the control of the navy in the secretary of war. The frigate Constitution and her sister ships were thus built under the direction of the war department. But the imminent hostilities with France in 1798 revealed the need of a separate executive department for the proper administration of our sea force, and, on April 30, 1798, the bill creating the navy department became a law.
The strange divergence between what city dwellers know and what they do collectively, must bewilder even the student of politics. Common sense and public conduct still seem rather distant acquaintances. That haughty baron, municipal practice, even now often fails to recognize municipal science when they meet. Great public works continue to be located and constructed, costly and inconvenient systems of collection and distribution persist, almost as if city planning related to the moon. We know that smoke is both unnecessary and wasteful, but it continues to darken our days and corrode our lungs. We shut our eyes to fetid slums, bad housing, and over-crowding, but lavish millions on new hospitals, asylums, and prisons in which to store their obvious product. Axioms of administration, universally accepted, are applied everywhere except to cities. There the citizen generously permits partisan considerations to determine rewards and punishment for the municipal personnel, at the same time grumbling bitterly about inefficiency. Indeed the sacrifice of cities in general to the national parties is still the rule rather than the exception, in spite of all the preaching and the shouting. A thousand strange futilities and follies continue to irritate and puzzle us, a multitude of unnecessary evils to reduce our enjoyment of life.