A locomotive is moving. Someone asks: "What moves it?" A peasant says th_evil moves it. Another man says the locomotive moves because its wheels g_ound. A third asserts that the cause of its movement lies in the smoke whic_he wind carries away.
The peasant is irrefutable. He has devised a complete explanation. To refut_im someone would have to prove to him that there is no devil, or anothe_easant would have to explain to him that it is not the devil but a German,
who moves the locomotive. Only then, as a result of the contradiction, wil_hey see that they are both wrong. But the man who says that the movement o_he wheels is the cause refutes himself, for having once begun to analyze h_ught to go on and explain further why the wheels go round; and till he ha_eached the ultimate cause of the movement of the locomotive in the pressur_f steam in the boiler, he has no right to stop in his search for the cause.
The man who explains the movement of the locomotive by the smoke that i_arried back has noticed that the wheels do not supply an explanation and ha_aken the first sign that occurs to him and in his turn has offered that as a_xplanation.
The only conception that can explain the movement of the locomotive is that o_ force commensurate with the movement observed.
The only conception that can explain the movement of the peoples is that o_ome force commensurate with the whole movement of the peoples.
Yet to supply this conception various historians take forces of differen_inds, all of which are incommensurate with the movement observed. Some see i_s a force directly inherent in heroes, as the peasant sees the devil in th_ocomotive; others as a force resulting from several other forces, like th_ovement of the wheels; others again as an intellectual influence, like th_moke that is blown away.
So long as histories are written of separate individuals, whether Caesars,
Alexanders, Luthers, or Voltaires, and not the histories of all, absolutel_ll those who take part in an event, it is quite impossible to describe th_ovement of humanity without the conception of a force compelling men t_irect their activity toward a certain end. And the only such conception know_o historians is that of power.
This conception is the one handle by means of which the material of history,
as at present expounded, can be dealt with, and anyone who breaks that handl_ff, as Buckle did, without finding some other method of treating historica_aterial, merely deprives himself of the one possible way of dealing with it.
The necessity of the conception of power as an explanation of historica_vents is best demonstrated by the universal historians and historians o_ulture themselves, for they professedly reject that conception but inevitabl_ave recourse to it at every step.
In dealing with humanity's inquiry, the science of history up to now is lik_oney in circulation—paper money and coin. The biographies and specia_ational histories are like paper money. They can be used and can circulat_nd fulfill their purpose without harm to anyone and even advantageously, a_ong as no one asks what is the security behind them. You need only forget t_sk how the will of heroes produces events, and such histories as Thiers' wil_e interesting and instructive and may perhaps even possess a tinge of poetry.
But just as doubts of the real value of paper money arise either because,
being easy to make, too much of it gets made or because people try to exchang_t for gold, so also doubts concerning the real value of such histories aris_ither because too many of them are written or because in his simplicity o_eart someone inquires: by what force did Napoleon do this?—that is, wants t_xchange the current paper money for the real gold of actual comprehension.
The writers of universal histories and of the history of culture are lik_eople who, recognizing the defects of paper money, decide to substitute fo_t money made of metal that has not the specific gravity of gold. It ma_ndeed make jingling coin, but will do no more than that. Paper money ma_eceive the ignorant, but nobody is deceived by tokens of base metal that hav_o value but merely jingle. As gold is gold only if it is serviceable no_erely for exchange but also for use, so universal historians will be valuabl_nly when they can reply to history's essential question: what is power? Th_niversal historians give contradictory replies to that question, while th_istorians of culture evade it and answer something quite different. And a_ounters of imitation gold can be used only among a group of people who agre_o accept them as gold, or among those who do not know the nature of gold, s_niversal historians and historians of culture, not answering humanity'_ssential question, serve as currency for some purposes of their own, only i_niversities and among the mass of readers who have a taste for what they call