« PreviousContinue »
humbly, in the footsteps of those who worked for and secured practical results in the days of Washington, and again in the days of Lincoln, who denounces them as time-servers and compromisers, is, of course, an ally of corruption. But, after all, he can generally be disregarded, whereas the real and dangerous foe is the corrupt politician, whom we cannot afford to disregard. When one of these professional impracticables denounces the attitude of decent men as "a hodge-podge of the ideal and the practicable," he is amusingly unaware that he is writing his own condemnation, showing his own inability to do good work or to appreciate good work. The Constitutional Convention over which Washington presided, and which made us a nation, represented precisely and exactly this "hodgepodge," and was frantically denounced in its day by the men of the impracticable type. Lincoln's career throughout the Civil War was such a "hodgepodge," and was in its turn denounced in exactly the same way. Lincoln disregarded the jibes of these men, who did their puny best to hurt the great cause for which he battled; and they never, by their pin-pricks, succeeded in diverting him from the real foe. The fanatical antislavery people wished to hurry him into unwise, extreme, and premature action, and denounced him as compromising with the forces of evil, as being a practical politician—which he was, if practicality is held to include wisdom and high purpose. He did not permit himself to be affected by their position. He did not yield to what they advised when it was impracticable, nor did he permit himself to become prejudiced against so much of what they championed as was right and practicable. His ideal was just as high as theirs. He did not lower it. He did not lose his temper at their conduct, or cease to strive for the abolition of slavery and the restoration of the Union; and whereas their conduct foreboded disaster to both causes, his efforts secured the success of both. So, in our turn, we of to-day are bound to try to tread in the footsteps of those great Americans who in the past have held high ideal and have striven mightily through practical methods to realize that ideal. There must be many compromises; but we cannot compromise with dishonesty, with sin. We must not be misled at any time by the cheap assertion that people get only what they want; that the editor of a degraded newspaper is to be excused because the public want the degradation; that the city officials who inaugurate a "wide-open" policy are to be excused because a portion of the public likes vice; that the men who jeer at philanthropy are to be excused because among philanthropists there are hypocrites, and among unfortunates there are vicious and unworthy people. To pander to depravity inevitably means to increase the depravity. It is a dreadful thing that public sentiment should condone misconduct in a public man; but this is no excuse for the public man, if by his conduct he still further degrades public sentiment. There can be no meddling with the laws of righteousness, of decency, of morality. We are in honor bound to put into practice what we preach; to remember that we are not to be excused if we do not; and that in the last resort no material prosperity, no business acumen, no intellectual development of any kind, can atone in the life of a nation for the lack of the fundamental qualities of courage, honesty, and common sense.
FELLOW-FEELING AS A POLITICAL FACTOR
PUBLISHED IN THE "CENTURY," JANUARY, 1900
FELLOW-FEELING, sympathy in the broadest sense, is the most important factor in producing a healthy political and social life. Neither our national nor our local civil life can be what it should be unless it is marked by the fellow-feeling, the mutual kindness, the mutual respect, the sense of common duties and common interests, which arise when men take the trouble to understand one another, and to associate together for a common object. A very large share of the rancor of political and social strife arises either from sheer misunderstanding by one section, or by one class, of another, or else from the fact that the two sections, or two classes, are so cut off from each other that neither appreciates the other's passions, prejudices, and, indeed, point of view, while they are both entirely ignorant of their community of feeling as regards the essentials of manhood and humanity.
This is one reason why the public school is so admirable an institution. To it more than to any other among the many causes which, in our American life, tell for religious toleration is due the impossibility of persecution of a particular creed. When in their earliest and most impressionable years Protestants, Catholics, and Jews go to the same schools, learn the same lessons, play the same games, and are forced, in the rough-and-ready democracy of boy life, to take each at his true worth, it is impossible later to make the disciples of one creed persecute those of another. From the evils of religious persecution America is safe.
From the evils of sectional hostility we are, at any rate, far safer than we were. The war with Spain was the most absolutely righteous foreign war in which any nation has engaged during the nineteenth century, and not the least of its many good features was the unity it brought about between the sons of the men who wore the blue and of those who wore the gray. This necessarily meant the dying out of the old antipathy. Of course embers smoulder here and there; but the country at large is growing more and more to take pride in the valor, the self-devotion, the loyalty to an ideal, displayed alike by the soldiers of both sides in the Civil War. We are all united now. We are all glad that the Union was restored, and are one in our loyalty to it; and hand in hand with this general recognition of the all-importance of preserving the Union has