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is not difficult to be virtuous in a cloistered and negative way.
Neither is it difficult to succeed, after a fashion, in active life, if one is content to disregard the considerations which bind honorable and upright
But it is by no means easy to combine honesty and efficiency; and yet it is absolutely necessary, in order to do any work really worth doing. It is not hard, while sitting in one's study, to devise admirable plans for the betterment of politics and of social conditions; but in practice it too often proves very hard to make any such plan work at all, no matter how imperfectly. Yet the effort must continually be made, under penalty of constant retrogression in our political life.
No one quality or one virtue is enough to ensure success; vigor, honesty, common-sense, —all are needed. The practical man is merely rendered more noxious by his practical ability if he employs it wrongly, whether from ignorance or from lack of morality; while the doctrinaire, the man of theories, whether written or spoken, is useless if he can not also act.
These essays are written on behalf of the many men who do take an actual part in trying practically to bring about the conditions for which we somewhat vaguely hope; on behalf of the under-officers in that army which, with much stumbling, halting, and slipping, many mistakes and shortcomings, and many painful failures, does, nevertheless, through weary strife, accomplish something toward raising the standard of public life.
We feel that the doer is better than the critic and that the man who strives stands far above the man who stands aloof, whether he thus stands aloof because of pessimism or because of sheer weakness. To borrow a simile from the football field, we believe that men must play fair, but that there must be no shirking, and that success can only come to the player who “hits the line hard."
THEODORE ROOSEVELT SAGAMORE HILL, October, 1897
AMERICAN IDEALS *
N his noteworthy book on "National Life and
Character," Mr. Pearson says: "The countrymen of Chatham and Wellington, of Washington and Lincoln, in short the citizens of every historic state, are richer by great deeds that have formed the national character, by winged words that have passed into current speech, by the examples of lives and labors consecrated to the service of the commonwealth." In other words, every great nation owes to the men whose lives have formed part of its greatness not merely the material effect of what they did, not merely the laws they placed upon the statute books or the victories they won over armed foes, but also the immense but indefinable moral influence produced by their deeds and words themselves upon the national character. It would be difficult to exaggerate the material effects of the careers of Washington and of Lincoln upon the United States. Without Washington we should probably never have won our independence of the British crown, and we should almost certainly have failed to become a great nation, remaining instead a cluster of jangling lit* The Forum, February, 1895.