Practical Agitation

Practical Agitation

by John Jay Chapman
     
 

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The despair of reform is lack of co-operation among reformers. Men who follow politics as a profession and apply it to the ordinary principles of self-seeking business hare comparatively little difficulty about getting together; for this is an era of great business combinations. But reform lacks the motive force that makes men go directly to the accomplishment of

Overview

The despair of reform is lack of co-operation among reformers. Men who follow politics as a profession and apply it to the ordinary principles of self-seeking business hare comparatively little difficulty about getting together; for this is an era of great business combinations. But reform lacks the motive force that makes men go directly to the accomplishment of their ends. However paradoxical it may seem, selfish interests-so presumably individualistic-drive men into co-operation. For the attainment of certain generally esteemed ends, such as great wealth and political "success,' co-operation and organization become more and more necessary. How is altruism, with its lack of cohesive power, to meet the forces of selfishness? The practical answer given by many civic reformers is, "By imitating the tactics of the enemy." There is a notion current among reformers that they do not lose their character and, therefore, their reason for existence, by "fighting the devil with his own weapons." It is against this notion that Mr. Chapman's book is a protest. His main idea is, in his own words, "that we can always do more for mankind by following the good in a straight line than by making concessions to evil."

It is plain that if the ends of altruism are the same as those of selfishness, success may in both cases require the use of the same methods. But our author asserts in new and stirring phrase that the end of all reform is to do away with evil practices and that the one means of attaining this end is by the infusion of virtue into private character. It is therefore useless to pursue reform by compromising in the slightest degree with corruption. By so doing, men who were virtuous, having become knaves may get office, but the banner of reform is dragged in the mud, and the sum of virtue in the world is diminished. The only practical agitation is that of the man who sets up a true standard and does not budge an inch from it for the sake of support. There is no policy so futile as that of attempting to buoy up reform movements with influential names. "Influence" is a load that no reform movement can carry. "The party offers a gift to every adherent. You must offer him nothing but labor. That is your protection against traitors."

Mr. Chapman believes intensely in independent political movements, and the men who took a leading part in the Citizens' Union of 1897 would do well to read his book. He has no respect for the idea that an independent vote is thrown away, any more than a virtuous deed in private life ever comes to naught. But reform means fighting. It is impossible to isolate politics and keep the fight out of business and social relations. "The identity between public and private life reveals itself the instant a man adopts the plan of indiscriminate truth-telling." "The first discovery that we make is that the worst enemy of good government is not our ignorant foreign voter, but our educated domestic railroad president, our prominent business man, our leading lawyer. If there is any truth in the optimistic belief that our standards are now going up, we shall soon see proofs of it in our homes. We shall not note our increase of virtue so much by seeing more crooks in Sing-Sing, as by seeing fewer of them in the drawing-room. You can acquire more knowledge of American politics by attacking, in open talk, a political lawyer of social standing, than you can in a year's study." "People who love soft methods and hate iniquity forget this,- that reform exists in taking a bone from a dog." "If you are not strong enough to face the issue in private life, do not dream that you can do anything for public affairs. This, of course, means fight, not to-morrow, but now."....

-Municipal Affairs [1900]

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781290345590
Publisher:
HardPress Publishing
Publication date:
01/10/2012
Pages:
178
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.38(d)

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