Human Nature in Politics eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 256 pages of information about Human Nature in Politics.

’I have seen the sea lashed into fury and tossed into spray, and its grandeur moves the soul of the dullest man.  But I remember that it is not the billows, but the calm level of the sea from which all heights and depths are measured....  Not here, in this brilliant circle where fifteen thousand men and women are gathered, is the destiny of the Republic to be decreed for the next four years ... but by four millions of Republican firesides, where the thoughtful voters, with wives and children about them, with the calm thoughts inspired by love of home and country, with the history of the past, the hopes of the future, and knowledge of the great men who have adorned and blessed our nation in days gone by.  There God prepares the verdict that shall determine the wisdom of our work to-night.’[23]

[23] Life of J.A.  Garfield, by R. H. Conwell, p. 328.

But the divine oracle, whether in America or in England, turns out, too often, only to be a tired householder, reading the headlines and personal paragraphs of his party newspaper, and half-consciously forming mental habits of mean suspicion or national arrogance.  Sometimes, indeed, during an election, one feels that it is, after all, in big meetings, where big thoughts can be given with all their emotional force, that the deeper things of politics have the best chance of recognition.

The voter as he reads his newspaper may adopt by suggestion, and make habitual by repetition, not only political opinions but whole trains of political argument; and he does not necessarily feel the need of comparing them with other trains of argument already in his mind.  A lawyer or a doctor will on quite general principles argue for the most extreme trade-unionism in his own profession, while he thoroughly agrees with a denunciation of trade-unionism addressed to him as a railway shareholder or ratepayer.  The same audience can sometimes be led by way of ‘parental rights’ to cheer for denominational religious instruction, and by way of ‘religious freedom’ to hoot it.  The most skilled political observer that I know, speaking of an organised newspaper attack, said, ’As far as I can make out every argument used in attack and in defence has its separate and independent effect.  They hardly ever meet, even if they are brought to bear upon the same mind.’  From the purely tactical point of view there is therefore much to be said for Lord Lyndhurst’s maxim, ’Never defend yourself before a popular assemblage, except with and by retorting the attack; the hearers, in the pleasure which the assault gives them, will forget the previous charge.’[24]

[24] Morley’s Life of Gladstone, vol. i. p. 122.



But man is fortunately not wholly dependent in his political thinking upon those forms of inference by immediate association which come so easily to him, and which he shares with the higher brutes.  The whole progress of human civilisation beyond its earliest stages has been made possible by the invention of methods of thought which enable us to interpret and forecast the working of nature more successfully than we could if we merely followed the line of least resistance in the use of our minds.

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Human Nature in Politics from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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