ASPIRATIONS AND FOUNDATIONS
I think I see, as it were above the hill-tops of time, the glimmerings of the dawn of a better and a nobler day for the country and the people that I love so well.—John bright.
The suggestion has been made to me that in these days of rapid development, when proposals, so bewildering in their extent, for change and for reconstruction are being made, it would be useful to present in popular form and in the compass of a small volume some general statement of the character of the varied problems which have arisen and of the principles which should guide in their solution. Possibly it seemed that a long and varied life engaged in law, politics, and education, which also had touched to some slight extent on the actual work of certain departments of Government, and had offered opportunities for travel in European countries and in the East, might furnish some qualifications for such a task. It is not one that can be undertaken without a sense of inadequate knowledge, and still more inadequate power of expression; but such a challenge cannot be refused, provided that whoever accepts it believes that he has some things to say which ought to be said, some lines of thought which ought to be indicated, something to urge, the truth of which he is thoroughly convinced of. Without such conviction prevenient, “we doubt not” that books on serious subjects, even if clever, and public speech either from platform or pulpit, “do verily have the nature of sin,” and the more eloquent they are the worse the offence; with it, the very incompleteness and imperfection in the mode of presentation may even stimulate others to more thought, and to make up deficiencies all the better for themselves.
In attempting such a task, it must be recognised that during the last three years the attention of so many minds has been devoted to problems of “reconstruction” after the War, so much has been written and said about them, so many suggestions made and schemes propounded, so many commissions of inquiry appointed and reports prepared, that an attempt at full treatment of the questions involved would require a cyclopaedia rather than a small volume. No one person would be able ever to read half of the valuable material already collected bearing on these problems. To deal effectively with them all would demand several lifetimes of preliminary special training. The difficulty is increased by the fact that every week brings something new or some change in the situation. Some new fact comes to light, some book or article is published, some speech made, some report issued, or even some Act passed, which calls for consideration, and it may be for comment.