Many hard things have been said of Patriotism.6 Dr. Johnson's definition is well known, and more recently it has been styled the sublimest form of Selfishness. These, however, are not definitions but rather criticisms of certain phases of Patriotism, which is closely allied to Family Affection and, like that sentiment, originates in the helplessness and the egotism of the Individual.
The weak infant clings to his mother for sustenance, comfort and protection, and the tender care which is bestowed upon him while his body and his mind are developing fosters the notion of the subjective importance of the human unit. Human nature is so constituted that the Individual is disposed to over-estimate his own consequence and to regard his own surroundings as superior to the surroundings of all other persons, and therefore more worthy of recognition, encouragement, and admiration. As the Child grows in years this sentiment is gradually and unconsciously modified, but it is never wholly eradicated. The inward emotion aroused in his heart by parental solicitude becomes partially altruistic and outward and is transmuted into Gratitude and Love.
The Child emerges into Youth and thence into Manhood, and the area of his immediate environment is enlarged. He needs further succour and assistance, and the Family Community to which he belongs and which nurtured and watched over his early years can no longer supply his requirements. He is in want of new fellowships and must strengthen himself by joining various bodies and associations. With these he incorporates himself more or less and his friendly attitude towards them for his own good is a development of the primitive Family Affection. In the case of a class, a social, or professional community the sentiment is termed Esprit de Corps;7 in view of recognized civil institutions by which he perceives that he benefits, it is Loyalty; while with respect to the Fatherland it is Patriotism, which denotes the adherence of the helpless individual Ego to the Supreme Community. Patriotism, like Family Affection, is a growth and culture of the idea of Self. It is the expression of the Individual's thanks for the support, countenance, protection, and other moral and material advantages claimed by him from the Supreme Community, to which in return he readily attorns with respect and admiration. He is, however, patriotic because with unconscious egotism he regards his Country as part of himself rather than himself as part of his Country. Even the act of a man who sacrifices his life for the good of his country may not be wholly unselfish, for some natures are so constituted that they can discount the future and be gratified by the prospective award of posthumous honour. There can, however, be no doubt that Patriotism, though possibly of not very noble origin, is a sentiment beneficial both to the community and the individual, and is therefore worthy of encouragement. Happily, those cold heights of philosophy on which every man is loved as a brother and every nationality held in equal honour and esteem are unattainable by human nature; for without the stimulus of Patriotism National Life would be impracticable.8 It's chief defect is that like most of the emotions it is sometimes hasty and unreasoning.
Such, it is believed, is briefly the history of Patriotism, and the theory is supported by the fact that the British soldier is not patriotic by nature. It is not his fault. The class from which he is usually drawn has unhappily less reason for respecting and admiring the Supreme Community than any other class, for it participates fully in the distresses and meagerly in the successes and good fortune of the Nation, from which, though not actually unpatriotic, it stands sullenly aloof. It can hardly be denied that the power and prosperity of Great Britain have favourably affected the position of the upper and middle classes to a greater degree than they have ameliorated the condition of the lower classes, and it is therefore not surprising that the latter seem to take little or no pride in their nationality, and sometimes even act perversely in opposition to its interests.
The private soldier has never been taught to think about his country. The education which he may have received at the Board School is not calculated to arouse in him a feeling of national pride which is non-existent in his home life. The display of the National Flag, which flutters over so many distant lands, is discouraged in the primary schools of Great Britain as tending to "flag-worship." In the United States, on the other hand, the Stars and Stripes are hoisted in every school yard. No systematic effort is made to interest the children of the operative classes in Greater Britain. India and the Colonies are facts in geography troublesome to learn and easy to forget. The history of the British Empire is sterilized before it is imparted to them. They are not taught to realize that the happiness and prosperity of a large proportion of the inhabitants of the world are dependent upon the moods of the population of a small group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, and that in the ballot-boxes of Great Britain are cast the fortunes of many millions of their fellow-creatures.
Foreigners have remarked that the minstrelsy of Great Britain is singularly devoid of patriotic songs. The British soldier has no "Star-Spangled Banner" or "Wacht am Rhein" to sing on the line of march or in the bivouac, but only the last comic or sentimental ditty which he may have heard at the Garrison Music Hall before embarking on active service. The National Anthem is not a patriotic song but a prayer for Divine Protection for the Sovereign, to which have been appended some inappropriate stanzas now rarely heard; while "Rule, Britannia!" might have been composed for the gasconading swashbuckler of an extravaganza.
It would therefore be surprising if the recruit joined the Army with a highly pitched conception of the work he has undertaken. Destitution; or trouble about a woman, or with his own people, or with the police; or the mysterious magnetism of an adventurous life rather than the desire to serve his country, has induced him to enlist. An existing or prospective War always keeps the recruiting sergeant busy, but the object of a War is a matter of indifference to the recruit. Most of our wars have been waged for political reasons which he cannot understand. Apart from the difficulties of language and of unaccustomed environments, he would as readily serve in any other Army in which the pay was as liberal and the restraint of discipline not more irksome. How is it, then, that lacking the stimulus of Patriotism through no fault of his own and being, in fact, a mercenary, he becomes an excellent soldier; perhaps, next to the Turk, the best in Europe?
The answer seems to be that he soon acquires a high sense of Duty. Duty may be defined as the necessity to do something for one's own or for the general good which is not naturally pleasurable or agreeable or instinctively desired. In the trite proverb it is contrasted with and takes precedence of Pleasure. As a motive for action it stands on a higher plane than Patriotism.
The alchemic process by which the indifferent, unemotional, and sometimes
unintelligent recruit is transmuted into the precious metal of the soldier who wins battles seems to be somewhat as follows: Of his own volition he has taken on a certain job and his dogged pride or obstinacy will not allow him to be beaten by it, however little enthusiasm it may arouse in him and however distasteful it may be to him at first. He offers no "ca' canny" service, but plods on and does his best in his own way. The lack of the enthusiastic temperament does not seriously retard the progress of his military education, and without much ado he becomes a stolid dependable unit of the Army. He is not carried away by success nor unduly depressed by failure. His instincts tell him that they are the accidents of Duty.
It has been noticed that the word Glory and its derivatives9 rarely appear in the accounts of the action of the British Army on service, except in a War Correspondent's letter or telegram. No reference is made in reports, orders or despatches to the so-called "glorious" incidents of a soldier's life in time of war. He is commended for his endurance, his tenacity and his matter-of-fact acceptance of the vicissitudes of war as "part of the day's work." The truest Glory is the conscientious performance of Duty.
If through the incompetence or neglect of his leaders he is called upon to sacrifice himself, he sacrifices himself without a murmur. If he is compelled to keep himself alive on scanty rations of horseflesh and to wet his parched lips with the trickle of a dwindled and tainted spruit, he believes that his officers have done their best for him.
He is ordered to fall in upon the deck of a burning troopship and to stand at attention while Death inspects the ranks. He is besieged in a hill fort on the Indian frontier by a horde of fanatics eager to kill or to mutilate him. He lies wounded on the field of battle from which, after an indecisive engagement, each combatant has retired; and there, scorched by the mid-day sun and starved by the cold of the night, and perhaps also in danger of being burnt alive by a veld fire, he waits without water for the armistice which shall bring up the ambulances. He returns to his own land where he soon finds that he is not of much account. After a great war there may be a period of evanescent patronage; or a deed of Dargai, Rorke's Drift, or Balaklava may have temporarily thrilled the audience into Music Hall enthusiasm; but he is not greatly impressed, and stoically reflects that like the battle, the starvation, and the Field Hospital it is "all in the day's work" and will soon pass away.
There has probably never been a struggle in which the private soldier more fully earned the gratitude of his country than in the South African War. The most unfriendly critics in the foreign staff offices have paid tribute to the excellence of the British soldier: sometimes, however, sneering at him as a mercenary, whom, by a curious perversion of the probabilities, they profess to think unlikely to be as efficient as their own conscripts who are forced into military service; but they never hold him responsible for the ill-success of the war. Throughout their criticisms there lurks a feeling of pained astonishment that the British "mercenary" proves himself to be as good or even a better soldier than the continental conscript, coupled with a comfortable conviction that Discipline is not well maintained in the British Army.
The final cause of Discipline is the efficient use of arms on the field of battle.
Discipline is the result of an irksome educational process by which a man is taught to submit his wishes, his instincts, and, to a great extent, his personal liberty to the control of one who may be his inferior morally, mentally, and physically. It has also been cynically defined as the art of making a man more afraid of his own officers than of the enemy. Its function seems to be the formation of certain military qualities which Patriotism and the Sense of Duty are by themselves believed incapable of creating. It has always been considered an essential part of a soldier's training; but this view, though probably correct, is not confirmed by the South African War, in which an undisciplined force held its own for some years against greatly superior numbers of disciplined men.
The ideal Army, patriotic, full of the sense of Duty, and perfect in discipline, would be invincible; but such an Army has never yet been seen. A deficiency of one or two of these qualities may be made up for by a fuller measure of the others. The history of each war will seem to indicate for a time the proportions in which the qualities should be blended, which is the essential, and whether any one of them can be omitted; but the inferences thus drawn from one war will probably be found misleading in the next war.
The inference to be drawn from the South African War seems to be that the value of those military qualities which are created by Discipline and training has been over-rated, and that a passionate bigoted belief in the justice of a cause is a more potent factor in the making of a soldier. Even if every allowance be made for the strategical advantages possessed by the Boers, of fighting in their own land on interior lines in a sparsely populated country peculiarly adopted for guerilla, it is difficult to account for their success if the tests by which the efficiency of a European army is measured are applied to them. It may be that war has hitherto been regarded too exclusively as a statical and dynamical problem and that the moral element has been overlooked. It certainly was overlooked in South Africa; for the war which Lord Roberts in October, 1900, believed was practically at an end had in fact then run little more than one-third of its course.
In its crudest and least admirable form Patriotism may be expressed in the terms of an equation—
One Englishman=Two Aliens.
Esprit de Corps in the British Army is the predilection of the individual for the unit in which he is serving. It creates a healthy rivalry which, on the whole, makes for efficiency; but its effects are sometimes unfortunate. A distinguished regiment was accused of misbehaviour in one of the battles of the advance on Bloemfontein. The charge was unfounded, but some of its hasty partisans, with the idea of removing the reproach as far as possible from Self and forgetful that the honour of the British Army is not contained in water-tight compartments, endeavoured to transfer the imputation to another regiment in the same brigade.
The citizens of a Republic are usually more patriotic than the subjects of a Monarchy. This may be accounted for by the fact that a Republic is usually a new nation or a nation that has made a fresh start and has not had time to get tired of itself.
Lord Roberts once used the word "glorious."