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The Theme Outlined: "Greuseľs Historical Perspective"


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HIS book, bearing the title “Common Man in
Antiquity,” is one of a series of five de

detailing the rise and progress of the Masses, otherwise history of the “Common Man," from Babylon to the Bastile. The survey aims to set forth the debased condition of the masses in various periods from remote times, but more important still, emphasis is placed on all manner of collateral forces-social, political, religious, intellectualthat in cumulative progression have furthered the forward march of the Common Man. This first volume tells of Ancient peoples around the Mediterranean; in succession, separate books sum up the cause of Common Man in the Roman Republic, Roman Empire, Middle Ages and Modern Era; cumulating in the trial of the Democratic experiment on an immense scale in France and in America.

The shelves of libraries are freighted with innumerable books on the dignity, high estate and proud life of kings, prelates, philosophers, military and political leaders. But so far as the present writer knows “Origins of Democracy or History of Common Man," in five volumes, is the only study of its kind dealing in a broad analytical as well as synthetic way with a huge accumulation of detached facts documented against a very long background of certified individual authorities, ancient and modern. Though the series is cumulative in interest, yet each book is written as a unit, complete in itself.

Reasons why a sustained historical work on this most interesting as well as dramatic subject—the rise of the masses—has thus far been neglected, is a matter of individual conjecture. Has not the historical pamphleteer of Democracy, much welcomed by Americans, gained a vogue by over-emphasizing mere isolated and more or less inconsequential "facts," rather than concerning himself with cause and effect, in a wide historical evolutionary way! You cannot see the forests on account of the leaves.

It is, however, just as easy to think in centuries as it is to think in hours. Therefore, if this series of books helps to bring into view those larger and heretofore unsuspected sources of Democratic perspective that properly belong to the centuries, a gain will be made. History of the masses is a seamless web, a stream flowing on and on, a story that never ends; and while the narrative may be interrupted when or where you will, in this series at least we offer a tapestry on whose many-hued surface appear innumerable figures of slaves, prison pens, vagabonds, kings, priests, thieves, shipwrecks, wars, famines, pestilence, villeins, craftsmen, adventurers, tyrants, guild-masters, pirates, saints, sinners, down the ages—influencing for good or evil the life and destiny of the Common Man. We find the Common Man in the pit. We see him crucified, again and again. We meet him under all manner of horrifying conditions, brutalized by man's selfishness, bound to the wheel, starving in dungeons, or heading a forlorn hope in a hunger-strike against his masters. We behold the Common Man, down the ages, dying a thousand deaths, but his reincarnated spirit remains to take up a new fight for freedom. Also, over and over again, we find him rising above his class and then in turn becoming on his part an oppressor of the poor and lowly, the newly risen autocrat, recently recruited from the servile class, now repeating conditions that formerly had made his heart sick. It is the old, old story. But concealed behind this moving procession of human misery, wretchedness, starvation and death, nevertheless we find broken glimpses of the larger life symbolic of the hope to be, the true Democratic impulse, otherwise a desire for natural justice, man for man.

And thus the strange and puzzling tale unfolds down the long black record of centuries. In the end, the Common Man must win his cause; little by little, in each century he does win; and in these books we show you not only why but how.

If you have read as far as this, it may dawn on you that this series, “Origins of Democracy,” might well serve as an introductory to the history of the United States. For, while Americans have been taught that in our favored land was reared a temple dedicated to freedom and equality for the Common Man, yet it must not be overlooked that the founding fathers were but continuing and applying stored-up experiences inherited from older peoples, tendencies toward Democracy that had come down the centuries. Although you may not know it, our American national foundation contains many a blood-spattered rough-hewn stone, quarried hundreds of years gone by, by the hands of slaves, in Egypt, Italy, France and England. These stones, brought across the sea, found a place in the foundation that supports our proudest modern belfries—where to-day ring the bells of liberty.

As a counterpoise, take England's Democratic evolution. Her path led across broken roads and over many a bloody battlefield dedicated to equality and liberty. Over there, the Democratic ideal has been a matter of century-long, very slow evolution, England started without a pattern and grew up from nothing into the greatest political and social fact since the disappearance of the Roman Empire. To understand the evolution of Democracy, then, we should find out how much we inherited from a hundred and one, nay a thousand and one, contributory sources, out of the forgotten past.

In an imperfect way this book is a condensed account of outstanding phases of “knowledge” in various eras; but the direct application centers around the cause of the Forgotten Man, not in any customary political sense but in the larger elements of fellowship, freedom and popular education-otherwise evolution of Democracy.

We concede that the steps toward evolution of Democracy that are here presented in a direct, rapid manner came about in a tortuous and fragmental way. Also, it is well to remember that, despite conventional belief to the contrary, "dramatic unity" does not exist outside the pages of historians of genius—to which role we lay no claim.

To make history "interesting” the common practice is to hand over the crystallized result of a thousand lives to one chosen leader. The present writer, endeavoring to avoid this false condition, does not measure episodes by days or years, but on the contrary has sought dramatic interest in an examination of the social transformations wrought largely through sufferings of the human mind. In the conflict of man against man or man against Nature, the gruelling struggle has necessarily disclosed various evolutionary stages through which human ideals of progress have passed as a continuous process throughout long periods of time. We aim to think of evolution of Democracy in centuries, rather than in petty units of men's brief individual careers. Or, borrowing a phrase from Keary (Dawn of Hist., p. 3), we begin our researches by an examination of those arts and faculties that, “within recorded time have conspired to bring about Civilization as a continuous process. More especially our inquiry has to do with the century-long, exceedingly slow, liberation of the masses through growth of knowledge and the spread of the idea of moral responsibility of man and nation. Nor has the present writer any socialistic or economic propaganda to set forth.

Our simple purpose, then, is to present the social condition of the masses in various countries, ancient and modern, then to dwell on elemental factors such as crude science, commerce, voyage, discovery, political forms, that directly or indirectly have forwarded the cause of the masses; otherwise, the evolution of Democracy on a broad-bottom foundation. Therefore, we need not, as each turn of the story unfolds, stop to remind the reader that the strides we summarize are by no means continuous, or, for that matter, have we not told the last word. Throughout early periods of man's history are immense stretches of time of which there is no record, outside the pages of geological and allied sciences; but with these highly technical phases of man's life and progress we do not deal in this book. Also, the very word “pre-historic” involves in one sense a confession of theory and supposition. We learn of a time when this earth was covered with a deep blanket of ice and discover in ancient val

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