The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, November 11, 1910, Page 5, Image 5
NOVEMBER H, Ittf 5 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 Politics." 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. A WISE DECISION 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. "'TWAS EVER THUS" 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." 000 0 0 0 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 writing. 0 0 0 0 0 0$ - 'A I 4 i t V .'$.