Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/731

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Does any one think this instance so far out of the ordinary track of error, as to have no instruction for us? To see the contrary he has but to look at the caricatures of Frenchmen that were common a generation ago, or to remember the popular statement then current respecting the relative strengths of French and English. Such reminders will convince him that the reflex self-esteem we call patriotism, has had, among ourselves, perverting effects sufficiently striking. And even now there are kindred opinions which the facts, when examined, do not bear out: instance the opinion respecting personal beauty. That the bias thus causing misjudgments in cases where it is checked by direct perception, causes greater misjudgments where direct perception cannot check it, needs no proof. How great are the mistakes it generates, all histories of international struggles show us, both by the contradictory estimates the two sides form of their respective leaders and by the contradictory estimates the two sides form of their deeds. Take an example:

"Of the character in which Wallace first became formidable, the accounts in literature are distractingly conflicting. With the chroniclers of his own country, who write after the War of Independence, he is raised to the highest pinnacle of magnanimity and heroism. To the English contemporary chroniclers he is a pestilent ruffian; a disturber of the peace of society; an outrager of all laws and social duties; finally, a robber—the head of one of many bands of robbers and marauders then infesting Scotland."[1]

That, along with such opposite distortions of belief about conspicuous persons, there go opposite distortions of belief about the conduct of the peoples they belong to, the accounts of every war demonstrate. Like the one-sidedness shown within our own society by the remembrance among Protestants of Roman Catholic cruelties only, and the remembrance among Roman Catholics of Protestant cruelties only, is the one-sidedness shown in the traditions preserved by each nation concerning the barbarities of nations it has fought with. As in old times the Normans, savage themselves, were shocked at the vindictiveness of the English when driven to bay; so in recent times the French have enlarged on the atrocities committed by Spanish guerrillas, and the Russians on the atrocities the Circassians perpetrated. In this conflict between the views of those who commit savage acts, and the views of those on whom they are committed, we clearly perceive the bias of patriotism where both sides are aliens; but we fail to perceive it where we are ourselves concerned as actors. Every one old enough remembers the reprobation vented here when the French in Algiers dealt so cruelly with Arabs who refused to submit—lighting fires at the mouths of caves in which they had taken refuge; but we do not see a like barbarity in deeds of our own in India, such as the executing a group of rebel sepoys by fusillade, and then setting fire to the heap of them because they were not

  1. Burton's "History of Scotland," vol. ii., pp. 281, 282.