Online Library of Liberty

A collection of scholarly works about individual liberty and free markets. A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.

Advanced Search

Viscount Bryce reflects on how modern nation states which achieved their own freedom through struggle are not sympathetic to the similar struggles of other repressed peoples (1901)

Viscont James Bryce in an essay on "Obedience" which appeared in 1901 notes that countries which have already achieved their national freedom no longer respect the struggles of others to maintain theirs:

Peoples which have achieved their own national freedom show no more disposition than did the tyrants of old time to respect the struggles of other peoples to maintain theirs. The sympathy which Germans and Frenchmen used to feel for the oppressed races of the East has disappeared. France has ceased to care about the Cretans or the Poles. England, whose heart went out forty years ago to all who strove for freedom and independence, feels no compunction in blotting out two little republics whose citizens have fought with a valour and constancy never surpassed. The United States ignore the principles of their Declaration of Independence when they proceed to subjugate by force the Philippine Islanders. The modern ideal is no longer liberty, but military strength and commercial development.

There is less love of liberty—so our pessimist pursues—than there used to be, perhaps less value set upon the right of a man to express unpopular opinions. There is less sympathy in each country for the struggles which are maintained for freedom in other countries. National antagonisms are as strong as ever they were, and nations seem quite as willing as in the old days of tyranny to forgo domestic progress for the sake of strengthening their militant force against their rivals. There is less faith in, less regard for, that which used to be called the principle of nationality. Peoples which have achieved their own national freedom show no more disposition than did the tyrants of old time to respect the struggles of other peoples to maintain theirs. The sympathy which Germans and Frenchmen used to feel for the oppressed races of the East has disappeared. France has ceased to care about the Cretans or the Poles. England, whose heart went out forty years ago to all who strove for freedom and independence, feels no compunction in blotting out two little republics whose citizens have fought with a valour and constancy never surpassed. The United States ignore the principles of their Declaration of Independence when they proceed to subjugate by force the Philippine Islanders. The modern ideal is no longer liberty, but military strength and commercial development.

About this Quotation:

Viscount Bryce, an acute observer of American and European affairs, notes that nations like the U.S., Germany, and France, which achieved their national independence via war or revolution, are much less sympathetic in 1901 to the plight of other oppressed peoples who also wish to achieve national freedom and independence, often from European or American domination. The specific case he cites is the United States and its actions in the Philippines between 1898-1901 and wonders how this squares with the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

More Quotations