national vanity. Along with too little, there goes an insufficient tendency to maintain national claims leading to trespasses by other nations; and there goes an undervaluing of national capacity and institutions, which is discouraging to effort and progress.
The effects of patriotic feeling which here concern us, are those it works on belief rather than those it works on conduct. As disproportionate egoism, by distorting a man's conceptions of self and of others, vitiates his conclusions respecting human nature and human actions; so disproportionate patriotism, by distorting his conceptions of his own society and of other societies, vitiates the conclusions respecting the natures and actions of societies. And from the opposite extremes there result opposite distortions: which, however, are comparatively infrequent and much less detrimental.
Here we come upon one of the many ways in which the corporate conscience proves itself less developed than the individual conscience. For, while excess of egoism is everywhere regarded as a fault, excess of patriotism is nowhere regarded as a fault. A man who recognizes his own errors of conduct and his own deficiencies of faculty, shows a trait of character considered praiseworthy; but to admit that our doings toward other nations have been wrong is reprobated as unpatriotic. Defending the acts of another people with whom we have a difference, seems to most citizens something like treason; and they use offensive comparisons concerning birds and their nests, by way of condemning those who ascribe misconduct to our own people rather than to the people with whom we are at variance. Not only do they exhibit the unchecked sway of this reflex egoism which constitutes patriotism—not only are they unconscious that there is any thing blameworthy in giving the rein to this feeling; but they think the blameworthiness is in those who restrain it, and try to see what may be said on both sides. Judge, then, how seriously the patriotic bias, thus perverting our judgments about international actions, necessarily perverts our judgments about the characters of other societies, and so vitiates sociological conclusions.
We have to guard ourselves against this bias. To this end let us take some examples of the errors attributable to it.
What mistaken estimates of other races may result from overestimation of one's own race, will be most vividly shown by a case in which we are ourselves valued at a very low rate by a race we hold to be far inferior to us. Here is an instance supplied by a tribe of negroes:
- Burton's "Abeokuta," vol. ii., pp. 43, 44.