THE EDUCATION OF PUBLIC OPINION.
Like every man who catches a vision of a great need and undertakes to meet it, Moses had to educate public opinion. Whatever the form of government may be, whether monarchy or democracy, it must ultimately rest upon the will of the people, and the shaping of that will is often a statesman’s task. In a democracy the expression of the people’s will is readily determined at every election, although in many cases, owing to the number of issues, this result is not clearly seen.
In a despotism like Egypt there is no ready expression of a people’s will. However great their sufferings, they must endure until they feel that the evils of revolt are less than the evils of oppression. Then, by means of a revolution, they carry out their will. In what ways did the Exodus resemble, in what ways differ from a revolution? Compare Moses with Washington or Samuel Adams as leader of a revolution. During the last few years in China there has been great dissatisfaction on the part of many millions of the people with the rule of the Manchu dynasty. It was, nevertheless, for many years the people’s will rather to endure the evils of a corrupt government than to take the risk of war. At length, however, after years of propaganda by skilful leaders war appeared to them the lesser evil and their will was carried out by force of arms. The government, in this direct way, was forced to recognize the will of the people and to grant their requests.
A statesman considers not merely his own views regarding the best methods of governing his country or of gaining special ends, but he must carefully consider also what plans can in practice be carried out. In all free governments only those policies can be put into effect that meet the approval of the people; and one of the greatest gifts of a statesman is the ability to ascertain, with few mistakes, how far his proposed policies meet the public will and how he can so put his plans before the people as to convince them of their benefits.
In the later days of the Egyptian bondage the Israelites made frequent complaint of the oppression of the Pharaohs, bemoaning their fate as serfs, but for many years after their sufferings had become severe they had not yet been roused to a determination to throw off the yoke of the oppressor. Even when Moses first attempted to rouse them to make a struggle for freedom, he could not breathe into them his own bold spirit. What measures did Moses take to incite the Israelites to action? What measures did he take to convince Pharaoh of his duty toward the Israelites? Did he present his case truthfully? Was he justified in the measures taken?