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not the habit of self-government, and where the national spirit is more volatile and less sane, each little group grows until it becomes a power for evil, and, taken together, all the little groups give to French political life its curious, and by no means elevating, kaleidoscopic character.
Macaulay's eminently sane and wholesome spirit and his knowledge of practical affairs give him a peculiar value among historians of political thought. In speaking of Scotland at the end of the seventeenth century he writes as follows:
"It is a remarkable circumstance that the same country should have produced in the same age the most wonderful specimens of both extremes of human nature. Even in things indifferent the Scotch Puritan would hear of no compromise; and he was but too ready to consider all who recommended prudence and charity as traitors to the cause of truth. On the other hand, the Scotchmen of that generation who made a figure in Parliament were the most dishonest and unblushing time-servers that the world has ever seen. Perhaps it is natural that the most callous and impudent vice should be found in the near neighborhood of unreasonable and impracticable virtue. Where enthusiasts are ready to destroy or be destroyed for trifles magnified into importance by a squeamish conscience, it is not strange that the very name of conscience should become a
Vol. XII.-C. byword of contempt to cool and shrewd men of business.”
What he says of Scotland in the time of King James and King William is true, word for word, of civic life in New York two centuries later. We see in New York sodden masses of voters manipulated by clever, unscrupulous, and utterly selfish masters of machine politics. Against them we see, it is true, masses of voters who both know how to, and do, strive for righteousness; but we see also very many others in whom the capacity for selfgovernment seems to have atrophied. They have lost the power to do practical work by ceasing to exercise it, by confining themselves to criticism and theorizing, to intemperate abuse and intemperate championship of what they but imperfectly understand. The analogues of the men whom Macaulay condemns exist in numbers in New York, and work evil in our public life for the very reason that Macaulay gives. They do not do practical work, and the extreme folly of their position makes them not infrequently the allies of scoundrels who cynically practice corruption. Too often, indeed, they actually alienate from the cause of decency keen and honest men, who grow to regard all movements for reform with contemptuous dislike because of the folly and vanity of the men who in the name of righteousness preach unwisdom and practice un
charitableness. These men thus do inestimable damage; for the reform spirit, the spirit of striving after high ideals, is the breath of life in our political institutions; and whatever weakens it by just so much lessens the chance of ultimate success under. democratic government.
Discarding the two extremes, the men who deliberately work for evil, and the men who are unwilling or incapable of working for good, there remains the great mass of men who do desire to be efficient, who do desire to make this world a better place to live in, and to do what they can toward achieving cleaner minds and more wholesome bodies. To these, after all, we can only say: Strive manfully for righteousness, and strive so as to make your efforts for good count. You are not to be excused if you fail to try to make things better; and the very phrase “trying to make things better” implies trying in practical fashion. One man's capacity is for one kind of work and another man's capacity for another kind of work. One affects certain methods and another affects entirely different methods. All this is of little concern. What is of really vital importance is that something should be accomplished, and that this something should be worthy of accomplishment. The field is of vast size, and the laborers are always too few. There is not the slightest excuse for one sincere worker looking down upon another because he chooses a different part of the field and different implements. It is inexcusable to refuse to work, to work slackly or perversely, or to mar the work of others.
No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency. He is bound to do all the good possible. Yet he must consider the question of expediency, in order that he may do all the good possible, for otherwise he will do none. As soon as a politician gets to the point of thinking that in order to be "practical” he has got to be base, he has become a noxious member of the body politic. That species of practicability eats into the moral sense of the people like a cancer, and he who practices it can no more be excused than an editor who debauches public decency in order to sell his paper.
We need the worker in the fields of social and civic reform; the man who is keenly interested in some university settlement, some civic club or citizens' association which is striving to elevate the standard of life. We need clean, healthy newspapers, with clean, healthy criticism which shall be fearless and truthful. We need upright politicians, who will take the time and trouble, and who possess the capacity, to manage caucuses, conventions, and public assemblies. We need men who try to be their poorer brothers' keepers to the extent of befriending them and working with them so far as they are willing; men who work in charitable associations, or, what is even better, strive to get into touch with the wage-workers, to understand them, and to champion their cause when it is just. We need the sound and healthy idealist; the theoretic writer, preacher, or teacher; the Emerson or Phillips Brooks, who helps to create the atmosphere of enthusiasm and practical endeavor. In public life we need not only men who are able to work in and through their parties, but also upright, fearless, rational independents, who will deal impartial justice to all men and all parties. We need men who are far-sighted and resolute; men who combine sincerity with sanity. We need scholarly men, too—men who study all the difficult questions of our political life from the standpoint both of practice and of theory; men who thus study trusts, or municipal government, or finance, or taxation, or civil-service reform, as the authors of the “Federalist” studied the problems of federal government.
In closing, let me again dwell upon the point I am seeking to emphasize, so that there shall be no chance of honest misunderstanding of what I say. It is vital that every man who is in politics, as a man ought to be, with a disinterested purpose to serve the public, should strive steadily for reform; that he should have the highest ideals. He must lead, only he must lead in the right direction, and