The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, November 11, 1910, Page 5, Image 5

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    NOVEMBER H, Ittf
The Commoner.
The President of them Portuguese Republic
Theophilo Braga, Poet, Sckolar, Philosopher
Written for Tho Independent (New York)
fcy Hayward Keniston, A. M., lately Instructor
tn Romance Languages in Harvard University.
For the first time in eight centuries of national
history, a republican flag floats over Portugal,
and the spirit which swept Franco in the eigh
teenth century has found another tardy expres
sion in a sister nation of the Latin race.- Tho
first evidence of tho power of democratic ideas
had appeared as long ago as 1820 in tho revolt
against tho British regency, when tho discontent
culminated in the charter of 1826. By this
charter provision was made for a general as
sembly, consisting of two chambers, tho Camara'
dos Pares and tho Camara dos Deputados. Ex
ecutive power was lodged in the king, but his
power of veto was merely suspensive. Under
this constitutional monarchy the nineteenth
century was a stormy one for Portugal. When
rival claimants for tho throno ceased to rend
her civic welfare, the warring elements of the
varied political parties, each seeking its own
aggrandizement, defeated the ends of adminis
tration and justice. With every position of
public service, down to that of the humblest
street cleaner, a government appointment, in
which the incumbent felt his duty discharged
with the collection of his salary, "graft" was
rife. A recent writer has- remarked: "It is not
saying too much to assert that Portugal's present
troubles are duo to a surfeit of politics rather
than to a paucity of actual resources." By tho
end of the century conditions had become almost
desperate; the national debt was heavy; credit
Impaired abroad and a general decline in in
dustry apparent at home. Tho administrative
dictatorship of Premier Franco, in 1907, mado
necessary by tho obstructive policy of the dis
senting paTties in refusing to pass the budget,
ended in the lamentable assassination of Carlos
I. and of the crown prince in February, 1908.
Manuel's advisers forced the dismissal of Franco
and an election was called. But unrest was still
evident, and 1909 saw four successive ministries.
Something was wrong somewhere; manifestly
the constitution was not providing a satisfactory
form of government.
These years of decline In material prosperity
had, however, seen a' remarkable revival of let
ters. Two types in particular had been culti
vated with unusual success poetry and history.
At Coimbra, the university town, a new school
of poets, reacting against the ultra-romanticists,
had striven to restore poetry to a1 rational found
ation. There, too, began the investigations of
Portuguese history along the scientific and phil
osophical principles of Vico. But these men
were not mere speculators and dreamers. The
men of letters and the men of affairs have never
represented distinct types in the Iberian penin
sula', and the Inevitable consequence of their
doctrines was an active participation in the
affairs of the state. Their acquaintance with
the thought of France made them intolerant of
institutions in any form. We are not surprised
that they allied themselves with the republican
element. Among a people as generally illiterate
as,, the Portuguese their mental achievements
were held in such esteem that their advancement
in politics was assured. Little by little they
have attempted to disseminate their philosoph
ical theories of republicanism and of liberty,
often misguided in their methods, it is true,
but inspired with a high ideal of national unity
and of individual freedom. It is fitting that
JPortugal should have chosen as her pilot across
the trying sea of constitutional reform the man
who, by hia works and by his teaching, has
been the most important factor in making pos
sible a peaceful transition from the ancient
regime to a new order.
Theophilo Braga Is the son of a former artil
lery officer who, on the termination of the con
flict between Dom Miguel and Dom Pedro, in
1834, entered the teaching profession in his
native town, Ponta Delgada, on the island of
San Miguel, in the Azores. There Theophilo
was born on February 24, 1843, tho youngest
of several children. His mother died when
he was three years old and the stepmother who
came into his home in the following year filled
with bitterness tho formative period of his life.
His early training at the Lyceu, where his father
was professor, was supplemented by his own
reading in the printing shop where he worked
in spare hours. At the age of sixteen he pub
lished a little collection of sentimental verse,
called "Folhas Vordes" ("Green Leaves"). On
the point of taking ship for Amorica in tho fol
lowing year to escape his domestic unhapplness,
ho was persuaded by his father to go to Coimbra
to enter tho course In law. In April, 1801, ho
was on his way to tho continent a moody youth
with infinite mental curiosity and boundless con
fidence in himself.
Tho atmosphero of tho univorslty, which ho
afterwaTds described as a "lazaretto cloistered
from modern ideas," seemed to him then a para
dise of freedom, and ho plunged into tho now
world of study with enthusiasm. Although
forced to eke out his meager allowance by va
rious activities, such as translating Chateau
brian, ho found time even amid his legal studies
to continuo his poetry, and in 1864 surprisod
his comrades by tho publication of a long epic
poem, the "Vlsao dos Tempos" ("Vision of tho
Ages"). This poem, manifestly suggested by
Hugo's "Legendo des Siecles," in its threo parts
pictures tho development of mankind through
tho cycles of fatality, of struggle and of liberty;
its various lyric and narrative episodes form an
epic of humanity. Its success was immediate.
Young Portugal acclaimed a new high priest
in this islander with his far-reaching outlook.
But meanwhile tho law had not been neglected,
and in 1868 he was admitted to tho doctorate.
For threo years ho lived an uncertain life, writ
ing verse, publishing his collections of early
Portuguese popular song, trying In vain for an
appointment at Porto and at Coimbra.
In 1872 ho presented himself as a candidate
for the chair of modern languages in tho Curso
Superior de Lettras, in Lisbon, and in public
competition defeated Pinhelro Chagas, his chief
rival for tho appointment. With his activity
as a teacher of Portuguese literature begins a
vast history of that literature, which in its
thirty-two volumes already published leaves
hardly a phase of the development of tho art
of letters untouched. His Interest has dwelt
chiefly on those works and periods which seemed
best to illustrate tho unfolding of the national
genius; his purpose has been to demonstrate tho
identity of a Portuguese renaissance
The necessity of filling a temporary vacancy
in tho chair of universal history at tho Curso
a few years later led Senhor Braga to a now
field of investigation, the results of which are
embodiedMn his "Hlstoria Universal." Even moro
important for his mental development was his
study of philosophy, also begun in connection
with a course in the Curso. In Augusto Comto
ho found an interpretation of the universe and
of man well suited to his temperament and ho
soon became tho leading representative of
positivism in Portugal, expounding his Ideas In
the "General Outlines of Positivistlc Philosophy"
and in a "System of Sociology." Incident to his
wider grasp of human problems came a series
of investigations in Portuguese ethnology and
folk-lore. Braga now set before himself the
task of realizing tho threefold activity of tho
human spirit the poetic, the scientific, tho phil
osophic. Surveying his work as a wholo, ho
proceeded to balance its various parts. To his
"Vision of the Ages" he added another volume;
the mental activity of Portugal was treated in
a "History of tho University of Coimbra;" phil
osophy in its relation to politics was tho theme
of his "Positivistlc Solutions of Portuguese
Not the least of the tenets of his religion Is
the need of action and ho entered zealously into
public life. As editor of O Positivismo, as re
publican deputy and leader in the Cortes, as
moving spirit of the tercentenary of Camoens,
he wa3 tireless in his efforts to spread his teach
ings, not merely as abstract doctrines and here
he differs from the rationalistic philosophers of
the eighteenth century in France but as a
practical solution of the problems which con
front his people.
Senhor Braga's activity has been incredible.
In the forty years during which he has taught
In Lisbon, he has written more than a hundred
books, covering almost every phase of Portu
guese life and thought; he has maintained rela
tions with the principal thinkers of Europe;
he has been a leading- spirit of the republican
movement of Portugal In such a crowded ca
reer, it is not to be wondered that his produc
tions are not impeccable; the casual reader finds
them full of inaccuracies, of inconsistencies, of
hasty generalizations from insufficient data. But
ho has performed a service which cannot b
over-estimated. To him must bo asHignod tho
chief credit for awakening Portugal to a con
sciousness of her national entity in history and
in art, and for pointing out hor intimate re
lations with Franco and the other countries df
Europe He has conio to stand for tho boat
that thoro is in tho Portuguese genius.
Such is tho tnnn who has been named as tho
head of tho provisional government. And his
associates are men cast in tho same mold.
Affonso da Costa, minister of Justice, long a
professor of law in tho university, a lawyer of
wldo reputation, is regarded as one of tho ablest
spcakors and kconcst thinkers In his profession,
Bernardino Machado and Antonio d'Almoida aro
literary men who havo cast In their lot with
tho progressive movement of constitutional re
form. Thcso men aro nolthor ngltators nor
demagogues, but intelligent thinkers, men who
aro convinced that tho existing conditions under
tho monarchy wcro impossible. Too much em
phasis cannot bo laid upon tho philosophic
naturo of tho revolution. Not tho king, nor
tho dynasty is tho object of thoir attack, but
an outworn principle of hereditary right to
govern, of tho exlstenco of a class of privilege.
Tho movement which they head Is not tho pro
test of a downtrodden layer of society, demand
ing economic and industrial relief, but tho ln
ovltablo progress of tho individual toward social
equality with his fellows.
Tho task which lies beforo thcso loadors is
not an easy ono. Whother their thoorotical
plans will prove adapted to tho peculiar needs
of thoir position Is a question. Tho possibilities
of tho Portuguese race are greater than over;
In Brazil and in Africa aro wide opportunities
for industrial development and for trade; at
homo aro prospects of Increased activity in min
ing and in manufactures. Thoro Is little doubt
that tho possibility of a Pan-Iberian alllanco Is
remote. Theophilo Braga Is a federalist, but
ho Is a Portuguese federalist and he has spent
tho greater part of his lifo in indicating hmc
tho Portuguese nation has grown up In her t
ditions and in hor own characteristic expression.
Wo may believe that he will seek now a way
whereby she may work out her own salvation.
That scones of violence will attend the establish
ment of tho new government may bo cxpoctcd;
six man wore killed and moro than fifty wound
ed in the riots at tho last general election in
Lisbon. Tho spirit of mob rule will appear in
any time of disturbance even in tho most cool
headed countries. But that any measures of
lawlessness or violation of personal rights or
property will bo tolerated or connived at by tho
authorities is out of the question. Theophilo
Braga and his associates aro men to appreciate
tho seriousness and responsibility of their high
calling; we may look to them to restore to their
fatherland the prestige she once enjoyed when
Portuguese ships were pioneers on every sea.
President Mellen of tho Boston and Maino
railroad, says in a recent speech: "Wo shall
not interfere with tho election of members of
tho legislature or other public officers. Wo
shall do away with tho lobby, in tho sense in
which that term Is commonly used. Wo must,
however, employ tho ablest talent wo can secure
to present to tho legislature our views upon
pending legislation affecting our company."
Good! Let tho roads recognize tho right of
tho people to rule. Let them present their side
openly and honestly and then trust tho people
to do them justice.
On the 8th of October, 1776, John Adams
wroto to his wife from Philadelphia: "Tho
spirit of venality you mention Is tho most dread
ful and alarming enemy America has to oppose,
It is as rapacious and insatiable as the grave.
This predominant avarice will ruin America, if
Bhe is ever ruined. , If God Almighty does not
Interfere by His grace to control this universal
idolatry to the mammon of unrighteousness, wo
shall bo given up to the chastisement of His
judgment. I am aBhamed of the ago' I live in."
The American Homestead, a monthly
farm Journal of national scope, will bo
sent to all Commoner subscribers, with
out additional cost, who renew their sub
scriptions during the month of Novem
ber If this notice Is mentioned when
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