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First Impression 
Chicago, September, 1923 

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Jesus and Good-will. Shailer Mathews, 
The University of Chicago. 

The Golden Rule Among Nations. 

Andrew C. McLaughlin, The University of 

The author of this pamphlet, Professor 
Andreiv C. McLaughlin, is one of the leading 
historians of the present day, the head of the 
Department of History in the University of 
Chicago since 1908, formerly Director of His¬ 
torical Research in the Carnegie Institute of 
Washington, D. C., and the author of many 
works in American History, and especially 
upon the Constitution. 

The Institute urges the cooperation of 
Christian people, educators, political and 
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The Golden Rule Ai 



; TT7f^ 

18 JUN1343 


Andrew c. McLaughlin b ^ 

Nearly everyone, I suppose, accepts 
v in a general and theoretical way the 
principle of the golden rule. It is, how- 

- ^ ever, very often put to one side 

with the remark that it will not 
^ “work.” The answer to this remark is 
that it has never been given a proper 

- opportunity to work, and indeed, on 
»the other hand, to the extent that it is 

embodied in ordinary personal ethics 
v •• and in international affairs, to that 
extent are personal ethics and inter¬ 
national affairs sane and wholesome. 
One reason, as it seems to a layman, 
O ^r the non-acceptance of certain fund¬ 
amental religious principles, one reason 
/ 'why they are not more widely lived up 
^^to, is that they are looked upon as 
‘something extraneous, superimposed, 
--Xhanded down from above, and that 
thev therefore lack a certain degree of 
'^reafity and of actuality. As a matter 
. t)f fact, the apprehension of fundamen- 
/ - tal religious principles is the story of 
’’the development of civilization. A 
(^principle develops and takes its hold 

upon the thoughts and acts of men be¬ 
cause of its essential validity. 

This assertion does not mean that 
the precepts of moral conduct were not 
begotten before men existed at all; it 
does mean that in the course of time 
those precepts have gained actual 
working force and reality, as the pro¬ 
duct of human experience. Every one 
of the principles of morality has for its 
support the long history of mankind in 
the conscious andunconscious endeavor 
to learn the art of living. Codes of 
morality, it is true, do vary from age 
to age; but the fundamentals have be¬ 
hind them centuries of human trial and 
effort. The essentials of morality have 
been woven into the fabric of human 
thought and conscience by the strug¬ 
gle of men upward from primitive life. 
Vary these assertions or modify them 
as you will, if you accept them even in 
part they will invalidate a notion that 
morality and religion are distinct from 
ordinary living, and that precepts of 
morality may be sound in theory but 
quite inappropriate for the common 
tasks of the every day world. They 
can not be both theoretically or ab¬ 
stractly defensible, and practically un¬ 
workable. They have been worked 
out; the very recognition of their ab¬ 
stract validity is a product of life’s his- 


tory. That is just as true as to say 
that the laws of physics or chemistry 
were not created by man, but he has 
by experiment discovered them and 
he knows they are real because they 
work, and because disregard of them 
may bring disaster. The recognition 
and application of moral principles form 
the basis of civilization , much more tru¬ 
ly of course than the apprehension of 
the laws of the physical universe. 

In dealing with the golden rule, 
therefore, we are not dealing with some 
duty superimposed on men, tending to 
interfere with ordinary wholesome pro¬ 
cesses of life, but with part of the system 
of civilization , which has been begotten by 
centuries of actual living. Science, it is 
sometimes said and justly said, is in 
danger of out-growing morality, put¬ 
ting in the hands of man tremendous 
physical powers while he has not the 
moral vigor to manage them rightly. 
The past generations have given atten¬ 
tion to the nature of the physical uni¬ 
verse and have discovereditslaws; with¬ 
in thelast hundred years greater changes 
have taken place, because of the ap¬ 
plication of science to industry, than 
had occurred in the course of many 
previous centuries. Under these con¬ 
ditions there has come a new and press¬ 
ing need for the study of man and of 

human relationships; and first of all a 
need of sweeping aside the kind of 
thinking which would make a moral 
principle nothing but an abstraction, a 
denatured precept, true but unworka¬ 
ble—as if one should say that a law in 
electrical science is true, though in 
practice nature does not work that 
way. If men are now thinking scien¬ 
tifically , they must learn to think also 
?norally and historically. They must 
realize that mankind has lived on this 
planet some thousands upon thousands 
of years, and that in the course of aeons 
he has wrought out processes of spirit¬ 
ual living, and has come to know some¬ 
thing of his own place in nature and to 
embody if only imperfectly, in his daily 
life and social intercourse some of the 
principles we call moral. 

We talk blithely, almost flippantly, 
in these days about civilization; and 
though the word is flung about with 
unseemly ease, it is well we should 
know that there is such a thing, and 
should know that it is beset with spe¬ 
cial dangers and special responsibili¬ 
ties. When we contemplate the won¬ 
ders of science or stand perplexed be¬ 
fore the stupendous problems of mod¬ 
ern life, many of which have been be¬ 
gotten by science, it is well to remem¬ 
ber that civilization is not a synonym 


for bodily ease or speedy transporta¬ 
tion. Civilization will thrive, under 
these new helpful or perhaps burden¬ 
ing conditions, to the extent that it 
succeeds in living up to the precepts of 
morality and in begetting new and wider 
application of age old principles. Mor¬ 
ality is integrating, up-building; im¬ 
morality is disintegrating, destructive. 
The question is therefore how far shall 
we be successful in applying to the 
new world, to life and opportunities for 
life created bv science, the fundamen- 
tal principles of integrating and up¬ 
building morality. 

We commonly find at least the out¬ 
ward acknowledgment of certain ele¬ 
mentary moral principles and of the 
need of them in everyday life. But 
that these moral principles should 
openly and actively govern the rela¬ 
tions of nations, is not so often said; 
probably it is not very widely accepted 
as a principle. The difficulty seems to 
be this: There is not as yet full appre¬ 
ciation of the extent to which nations 
have been brought into contact by 
modern communication and transpor¬ 
tation; that these contacts make possi¬ 
ble all kinds of misunderstandings; 
that the world is near constituting an 
industrial or economic unit, or, to put 
it the other way, that the industrial 


and economic system is of world-wide 
dimensions; that no nation any more 
than an individual man can live the 
modern life in isolation. By this is 
meant not only that it may be unwise 
to try but also that it is a practical im¬ 
possibility to live the lives of a century 
or so ago; that in many respects* 
the nations, though still possessed of 
political independence and separate¬ 
ness, are really intermingled with oth¬ 
ers; in short, that not only are there 
ways in which one nation comes into 
relationship or communication with 
others, but in many particulars there 
is an actual interlacing and a commun¬ 
ity of thought and interest and activi¬ 
ty. Such a system, with all its terrify¬ 
ing perplexity and all its possible catas- 
trophies, must have—is it necessary to 
say ?—simply must have a body of inter¬ 
national morality to sustain it, a code of 
general political or state morality as 
the hand-maiden of a developed and de¬ 
veloping commercial morality. With¬ 
out it there must be chaos. 

These rapid developments forcing 
upon our attention, the fact that 
the world is in some respects a 
unit, are similar to those that came 
rather suddenly upon us in America 
only a few decades ago when we dis¬ 
covered the integrity or wholeness of 


cur national economic life and found 
we were all members of an actual com¬ 
munity, each dependent on his fellow 
for some of the necessities of life. We 
demanded then, and we succeeded in 
getting in considerable degree, a fuller 
recognition of public duty and respon¬ 
sibility in the conduct of industry. A 
well-known publicist in those days pub¬ 
lished an able article called “New Vari¬ 
eties of Sin”; but in fact the sin was of 
the old variety, although the expan¬ 
sion of modern living made some vari¬ 
eties a thousand times more danger¬ 
ous. The need was for wider applica¬ 
tion of the old morality. 

Among the principles entering into 
the very heart of civilization is the 
principle, or the fact, that physicalforce 
is not the only force , and that the strong 
are under obligations to care for and 
protect the weak; there is a recogni¬ 
tion of duty to others. All of us at 
least dimly recognize that a world of 
pure personal selfishness would be a 
world of savagery, an impossible place 
to live in. But, accepting this truth in 
ordinary daily intercourse between 
man and man, we have as yet not seen 
fit to adopt it frankly in international 
affairs. And yet it seems to be perfect¬ 
ly plain that the same moral principles 
must govern in national and interna- 


tional life, the same principles that we 
realize in personal relationships. They 
lie, as we have said, at the very heart 
of civilization. In a large degree, 
though not universally, international 
affairs have been based on unalloyed 
selfishness, backed by force; or, if there 
was any deviation from the plain and 
narrow rule of self-protection and self- 
aggrandizament, such deviation has 
been looked upon askance, as evidence 
of an unsound mind. Strangely, in as 
much as nations are men, duty rather 
than right has entered slightly or in¬ 
effectively the realm of international 
laws and codes of diplomatic conduct. 
If this be exaggeration, let it go as that. 
No wonder then that some persons not 
intending to pose as moralists, now de¬ 
clare that international law must be re¬ 
made on the basis of duty , the duty of 
our nation to another. It is necessary, 
they say to start with duty, not with 

If we saw some of these things amid 
the clash and clamor of the world war, 
we seem to have forgotten them. We 
need to recall to our minds the essence 
of German political philosophy and its 
bearings on international affairs. For 
that philosophy taught the majesty of 
force and calmly proclaimed that prin¬ 
ciples of unselfish morality had no 

10 * 

bearings on theState. The State was the 
embodiment of force. The peril of the 
late war lay in this doctrine of Macht- 
politik; in the possibility of victory for 
the philosophy of force. The little 
state, in this code of international mor¬ 
ality, had scarcely a right to be at all; 
for being weak it denied by its very 
existence the first postulate of politics 
that the State is strength. We made 
war against that principle; and unless 
the war and victory result in embody¬ 
ing the opposite principle in the politi¬ 
cal philosophy and political practice of 
the civilized world, the war was large¬ 
ly a failure, because it did not register 
a step forward in civilization; that step 
forward, we had reason to hope, would 
be to adopt in international affairs the 
code of honor and morality, which 
every decent citizen recognizes and 
which lies 'at the basis of such civilized 
and peaceful life as we have in our own 

Until the principles of international 
relationship are changed, until the 
point of view is, at least in theory, that 
of duty and obligation, not privilege 
based on mere power, wars are likely to 
come, and when they do come we must 
of course do our part in defending our 
homes and our firesides; for I am not 
attempting to inculcate the doctrine of 


extreme paificism or of non-resistance. 
Neither do I maintain that the an¬ 
nouncement of fine phrases about peace 
and duty will be perennially effective. 
I only maintain, what would not seem 
to need defense: that the world of the 
present has moved on to such a stage 
that it is imperatively necessary to 
have a law and philosophy of civiliza¬ 
tion, and not try to get on with the law 
and philosophy of the jungle; that the 
next step forward in civilization is the 
open and frank acknowledgment of duty 
in the affairs of the world at large . 

In some respects America is at a dis¬ 
advantage in any attempt to under¬ 
stand the world. Possibly we are pecul¬ 
iarly provincial; whether that be true 
or not, we are or have been economi¬ 
cally nearly independent. At least, 
with abundant resources, we have ap¬ 
proached that state of blessedness 
known to the old fashioned economist 
as the self-sufficing nation. We could 
live if all the doors were closed. But 
what nation wishes to have its doors 
closed? Furthermore there is what I 
may call the golden rule of economics; 
trade is beneficial to purchaser and 
seller; trade between nations is of mu¬ 
tual advantage, the laws of economics 
and the practice of the modern world 
cry out against seclusion; and this only 


means that the economic life, based on 
physical resources, has grown away from 
the old notion that a nation can live 
for itself alone. If war taught nothing 
else than the golden rule of econo¬ 
mics that the prosperity of a nation is 
beneficial to its neighbor, and the pov¬ 
erty of one nation is a misfortune to 
the world— if the war taught only the 
interdependence or unmistakable com¬ 
munity of interest among nations, it 
taught a valuable lesson, The ques¬ 
tion that faces us is, will the lesson be 
properly learned? Respect for the 
prosperity of a neighbor is not vitiating 
and impoverishing sentimentality, but 
stimulating and upbuilding; it is based 
on fact. The Golden Rule , call it a 
selfish golden .rule if you like, will 

<< 7 yy 

work * 

In the development of human ideas 
and principles there comes a time when 
it is necessary to give them institu¬ 
tional expression; to give them ob¬ 
jective form. That is why the church 
came into existence, I imagine. So, if 
we are at all prepared to admit the fact 
of international interdependence and 
the parallel fact that in this very inti¬ 
mate relationship there must be moral 
principles to safeguard civilization,— 
then, I think, we may also see that the 
time has come to give some kind of insti¬ 

tutional expression to this fact and this 

Such words as these sound rather 
foolishly abstract; but I shall be more 
concrete in a moment. Just now I 
wish to emphasize the thought that 
ideas making for human good or ill in 
the course of time, seek formulation 
and find a certain permanent efficacy 
in institutions; in this respect peace 
and fellowship, although they are of 
the spirit, need method of mechanical 
expression. A hundred and forty years 
ago our forefathers believed that men 
could establish a government, and they 
found means for doing so; they saw the 
interdependence of the American 
states, and they formed the American 
union; they had faith in men’s ability 
for self-government and they built con¬ 
stitutions in accord with this faith. 
The time comes when faith must be 

I shall not delve into the deep and 
muddy waters of legal or historical con¬ 
troversy or discuss that much used 
and much abused word “sovereignty” 
about which we hear so much. But as 
I read American history, the notion 
that men can stand aloof and with¬ 
stand the currents of time appears pe¬ 
culiarly fallacious. And sometimes it 
seems as if that aloofness and sense of 


irresponsibility is what sovereignty 
means, as the word is used today. But 
this discussion leads too far afield, and 
I will not pursue it. In the present 
emergency there is no danger to the 
sovereignty and independence of the 
American nation. 

No one can discuss the obligations of 
accepting international duty without 
being accused of the heinous offense of 
internationalism: If he pleads for the 
recognition of moral principles and for 
institutionalizing them in internation¬ 
al law he is said to be guilty of this 
worst of heresies. Now international¬ 
ism in the fullest sense of the word may 
come; it may come in the centuries 
before us so fully that nationalism dis¬ 
appears, and the world becomes a sin¬ 
gle state; and, if that time does come, 
there will be no internationalism be¬ 
cause there will be but one political 
structure. But of course what men 
fear, or say they fear, is a want of na¬ 
tional patriotism. How anyone can 
have looked out on the war just passed, 
looked out through a glass however 
darkly, and seen a failure in national 
patriotism and devotion is beyond my 
comprehension. Never before in the 
world’s history did boys and men fight 
more bravely, suffer more calmly, en¬ 
dure so patiently. The need of the day 


is to know that national dignity is not 
dimmed by consideration for one’s 
neighbor, and that righteousness and 
courtesy and helpfulness do not impugn 
sovereignty or bedraggle a nation’s 
honor. On the whole, as I read history, 
nationalism, with all its sins,—I mean 
that new spirit of nationalism, which 
came in soon after the Reformation— 
has been a means of progress. In its 
wholesome forms it is not endangered 
today, unless it be by those who fear 
we shall in some manner lose our self- 
respect if we do our duty. An indivi¬ 
dual, a family, a church, does not lose 
individuality or strength by being 
neighborly. No man is less a man be¬ 
cause he is a helpful thoughtful friend; 
no nation is hurt in its dignity as a 
nation by practicing neighborliness 
among the nations of the world. How 
unnecessary such statements as this 
appear to be! But the timid and the 
crafty and the bewildered throw dust 
in our eyes by brazenly confusing duty 
and ignominy, and speak as if inter¬ 
national courtesy and active helpful¬ 
ness detracted from the fullness of na¬ 
tional existence. 

In all such discussions as this, we are 
also met with the announcement of our 
obligation to “stand up for America’’. 
With that sentiment every reasonable 


patriot is likely to agree. But what is 
America? Surely we have not come to 
the stage in our national life when 
America is only a geographical expres¬ 
sion of a people whose chief pride is in 
automobiles, steel mills, sky-scrapers, 
and millions of bushels of corn. The 
founders of America, whatever use is 
made of their phrases by modern isola¬ 
tionists, never looked upon America as 
mere land and water. America was to 
them a bold experiment in idealism, a 
great adventure in a new social and po¬ 
litical order. America was an idea , a 
hope , a faith. We can stand up for the 
real America only as we sustain and 
strengthen its principles of life. Those 
principles are essentially moral in their 
nature, for democracy is more than a 
form of government, more than ma¬ 
chinery, more than putting ballots in 
boxes. It is a plan of human relation¬ 
ships, resting primarily on obligations; 
it connotes freedom, but freedom de¬ 
mands responsibility. Democratic gov¬ 
ernment without the spirit of democracy 
would be a sham and a failure , and 
democracy does not mean the right of 
everyone to do as he chooses, but rather 
the duty of accommodating himself to 
the needs of others. We cannot remind 
ourselves of this too often; democracy 
is not individual willfulness or caprice, 


but a relationship or a series of relation¬ 
ships, and its basis is essentially moral. 
Democracy is friendly companionship. 
A man intellectually and spiritually iso¬ 
lated cannot be democratic-minded . Can 
a nation, holding itself aloof from other 
nations, priding itself on its superiority, 
fearing the contamination of the vulgar 
world, be a democratic nation? In 
the democratic state, conclusions are 
reached by discussion; someone indeed 
has declared democracy to be “govern¬ 
ment by discussion”, but of course its 
content is more than that. This dis¬ 
cussion involves tolerance, respect for 
others, a recognition of community in¬ 
terests, that is to say a recognition of 
wholeness or intregity of the political 
and social body. 

Standing up for America then, can 
only mean playing the role of the dem¬ 
ocrat in world affairs, strengthening 
those hopes and that faith which have 
meant America, and, by acting as a 
democratic nation, advocating the ac¬ 
ceptance in the international relation¬ 
ships of those fundamental principles 
without which democracy can be 
nothing more than a complex, and 
perhaps painfully inefficient system of 
government. The call today is plain 
enough: Democracy must be adopted in 
spirit and practice in international af- 


fairs; not that every man and woman 
should vote in diplomatic controver¬ 
sies, but that nations in their relation 
one with another should adopt the moral 
code and moral spirit of democracy , and 
this involves tolerance, friendliness, a 
recognition of common interests, open 
and frank discussion, the reaching of 
conclusions by conference. For, how¬ 
ever much we have failed in America 
to live up to and actualize the morality 
of democracy, no one can question that 
democracy in its perfection involves 
moral qualities. To stand up for 
America means immediate participa¬ 
tion in any and every movement which 
puts conference in the place of war and 
recognizes international duty above 
physical force. That America, a dem¬ 
ocratic nation by profession, should 
think it is democratic when it is not co¬ 
operating, is an amazing contradiction. 
How can it be otherwise than that this 
aloofness has damaged the cause of 
democracy the world over? 

One of the early Americans, in defin¬ 
ing what his country stood for, said it 
stood primarily for “liberty and law”. 
Liberty and law are not mutually con¬ 
tradictory; for in civil society liberty 
can exist only where each person is 
under obligation to respect the rights 
of others; and liberty would exist in com- 


pleteness , if each person should treat oth¬ 
ers as he would be treated himself. At 
all events, liberty is decidedly and em¬ 
phatically a reciprocal affair. Law is 
an effort to adjust and determine obli¬ 
gations; those obligations are never 
really one-sided; they are reciprocating. 
Law says in plain words that in this or 
that respect you have no right to do to 
another what he has no right to do to 
you. Liberty and law are therefore 
not in conflict. Of course in practice 
law may by unwise and unjust, but in 
theory law seeks to give expression to 
social obligations without which there 
can be no libert \ 

Now America is peculiarly the na¬ 
tion oi law. It has its full share of law¬ 
breakers; but its constitutional struc¬ 
ture is legal. The LInited States of 
America, as a body politic, is founded 
on a written document; and that docu¬ 
ment is interpreted and enforced in 
courts as law. Individual states of the 
union, as large as Germany or England, 
come before the court at Washington 
for adjudication of their differences. 
We have covered an area as large as 
the whole continent of Europe by a 
system of law and set up courts for 
continent wide jurisdiction. Why is it 
that America can look askance at an 
attempt to bring courts into operation 


for settlement of international contro¬ 
versies, as if a court of justice were 
some new and dangerous menace? Are 
we in this respect also to deny our own 
ideas in the face of a questioning 
world? When the Constitution of the 
United States was established, there 
were then at least six disputes between 
the American states similar to disputes 
in Europe that have ended in blood¬ 
shed; the Constitution provided for 
judicial determination of controversies 
between states. 

The purpose of this paper is to make 
clear the conviction of the writer in the 
following particulars: 

Moral principles are not something 
extraneous and purely artificial; civiliz¬ 
ation is based on them and its growth is 
marked by the increasing apprehension 
of their nature. 

The modern world is made up of 
nations intimately associated, so inti¬ 
mately that their interests are often 
identical, for the world approaches 
economic integrity. 

The well-worn principles of morality 
must be recognized in international 
relations, and the old notions and 
practices of suspicion and uncooper¬ 
ative selfishness must be abandoned. 
It will not do to $ay that the prin¬ 
ciples “won’t w r ork” when w r e admit 


that social order in a civilized commu¬ 
nity is dependent on them. 

America is under especial obligation 
to cooperate in any endeavor to con¬ 
serve world peace and prosperity by 
conference and by application of prin¬ 
ciples of social morality, because dem¬ 
ocratic society rests upon those prin¬ 
ciples; real liberty and intelligent law 
are not in conflict, but mutually self- 
supporting; America has entered upon 
the great task of ruling an imperial 
domain by law, its whole political 
structure is peculiarly legal and it 
makes use of judicial tribunals for 
settling disputes which in Europe are 
subjects of political and diplomatic 
controversy or even war. From these 
things, it seems to follow that America 
is under obligation to act the part of a 
friendly and cooperating nation, eager 
to settle difficulties by discussion and 
by judicial decision. In such practical 
ways, consonant with self-respect, 
American can help in the stabilization 
of civilization , which needs for its sup¬ 
port the moral principle that one nation 
should treat another as it wishes to be 
treated itself. 



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