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Reform and Politics, Part 2, from Volume VII, The Works of Whittier: the Conflict with Slavery, Politics and Reform, the Inner Life and Criticism   By: (1807-1892)

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This eBook was produced by David Widger [widger@cecomet.net]

REFORM AND POLITICS

BY

JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

CONTENTS:

UTOPIAN SCHEMES AND POLITICAL THEORISTS PECULIAR INSTITUTIONS OF MASSACHUSETTS LORD ASHLEY AND THE THIEVES WOMAN SUFFRAGE ITALIAN UNITY INDIAN CIVILIZATION READING FOR THE BLIND THE INDIAN QUESTION THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OUR DUMB RELATIONS INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION SUFFRAGE FOR WOMEN

REFORM AND POLITICS

UTOPIAN SCHEMES AND POLITICAL THEORISTS.

THERE is a large class of men, not in Europe alone, but in this country also, whose constitutional conservatism inclines them to regard any organic change in the government of a state or the social condition of its people with suspicion and distrust. They admit, perhaps, the evils of the old state of things; but they hold them to be inevitable, the alloy necessarily mingled with all which pertains to fallible humanity. Themselves generally enjoying whatever of good belongs to the political or social system in which their lot is cast, they are disposed to look with philosophic indifference upon the evil which only afflicts their neighbors. They wonder why people are not contented with their allotments; they see no reason for change; they ask for quiet and peace in their day; being quite well satisfied with that social condition which an old poet has quaintly described:

"The citizens like pounded pikes; The lesser feed the great; The rich for food seek stomachs, And the poor for stomachs meat."

This class of our fellow citizens have an especial dislike of theorists, reformers, uneasy spirits, speculators upon the possibilities of the world's future, constitution builders, and believers in progress. They are satisfied; the world at least goes well enough with them; they sit as comfortable in it as Lafontaine's rat in the cheese; and why should those who would turn it upside down come hither also? Why not let well enough alone? Why tinker creeds, constitutions, and laws, and disturb the good old fashioned order of things in church and state? The idea of making the world better and happier is to them an absurdity. He who entertains it is a dreamer and a visionary, destitute of common sense and practical wisdom. His project, whatever it may be, is at once pronounced to be impracticable folly, or, as they are pleased to term it, Utopian.

The romance of Sir Thomas More, which has long afforded to the conservatives of church and state a term of contempt applicable to all reformatory schemes and innovations, is one of a series of fabulous writings, in which the authors, living in evil times and unable to actualize their plans for the well being of society, have resorted to fiction as a safe means of conveying forbidden truths to the popular mind. Plato's "Timaeus," the first of the series, was written after the death of Socrates and the enslavement of the author's country. In this are described the institutions of the Island of Atlantis, the writer's ideal of a perfect commonwealth. Xenophon, in his "Cyropaedia," has also depicted an imaginary political society by overlaying with fiction historical traditions. At a later period we have the "New Atlantis" of Lord Bacon, and that dream of the "City of the Sun" with which Campanella solaced himself in his long imprisonment.

The "Utopia" of More is perhaps the best of its class. It is the work of a profound thinker, the suggestive speculations and theories of one who could

"Forerun his age and race, and let His feet millenniums hence be set In midst of knowledge dreamed not yet."

Much of what he wrote as fiction is now fact, a part of the frame work of European governments, and the political truths of his imaginary state are now practically recognized in our own democratic system... Continue reading book >>




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