This is a funny business all around. The same men who enthusiastically preach loyal consistency to church and party are always ready and willing and anxious to persuade a Chinaman or an Indian or a Kanaka to desert his church or a fellow-American to desert his party. The man who deserts to them is all that is high and pure and beautiful—apparently; the man who deserts from them is all that is foul and despicable. This is Consistency—with a capital C.
With the daintiest and self-complacentest sarcasm the lifelong loyalist scoffs at the Independent—or as he calls him, with cutting irony, the Mugwump; makes himself too killingly funny for anything in this world about him. But—the Mugwump can stand it, for there is a great history at his back; stretching down the centuries, and he comes of a mighty ancestry. He knows that in the whole history of the race of men no single great and high and beneficent thing was ever done for the souls and bodies, the hearts and the brains of the children of this world, but a Mugwump started it and Mugwumps carried it to victory: And their names are the stateliest in history: Washington, Garrison, Galileo, Luther, Christ. Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world-end never will.
Original preface for “A Connecticut Yankee in king Arthur’s court”
(See Chapter clxxii)
My object has been to group together some of the most odious laws which have had vogue in the Christian countries within the past eight or ten centuries, and illustrate them by the incidents of a story.
There was never a time when America applied the death-penalty to more than fourteen crimes. But England, within the memory of men still living, had in her list of crimes 223 which were punishable by death! And yet from the beginning of our existence down to a time within the memory of babes England has distressed herself piteously over the ungentleness of our Connecticut Blue Laws. Those Blue Laws should have been spared English criticism for two reasons:
1. They were so insipidly mild, by contrast with the bloody and atrocious laws of England of the same period, as to seem characterless and colorless when one brings them into that awful presence.
2. The Blue Laws never had any existence. They were the fancy-work of an English clergyman; they were never a part of any statute-book. And yet they could have been made to serve a useful and merciful purpose; if they had been injected into the English law the dilution would have given to the whole a less lurid aspect; or, to figure the effect in another way, they would have been coca mixed into vitriol.