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About Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885 | View Entire Issue (Oct. 15, 1883)
THE HESPERIAN STUDENT.
A CONSERVATIVE OATOIl W01W.
Tho camp-fires of a jo'ronling urmyBomotimcs.causo tho
enemy to halt, ami words that liavo no meaning some
times answer the purposes of argnmont. In tho long con
test botween conservatives and radicals nmiy such words
have been used, but before wo proceed to theso lot us
look at tho nature of conservatism itself.
Mark Twain and his friend Harris arose early on a
certain morning to view ono of tho beautiful sunrises
that arc visible from tho summit of tho Rhegi Kulin.
From their window they could see tho early crimson on
the Alpine heights and as it was quite cold they stayed in
their room, but were too much interested to dress. After
shivering for half an hour it occurred to them that they
were waiting for the sun to rise in the place where it had
act the evening before. They remained in the place
where they had wakened, wrapped themselves in the
garments of night and waited tor a western sunrise. If
an abstract idea could bo represented in a picture I
should say that this was a picture of conservatism. The
conscrvrtivc remains in tho position into which ho was
born, wraps himself in garments of prejudice, and looks
to the west for tho lisingsun of p-ogress. The conser
vative is ono who exalts tho past and despairs of the fu
ture, who thinks that whatever is, is, not perhaps, right,
but at least so good that it is hopeless for us to attempt
to make improvements.
For several thousand years most men were conserva
tives. That is, mankind was engaged in a gigantic effort
to stand still. But ideas must struggle for existence as
well as animate things; and so from (lie beginning there
has been another idea developing, till now the conserva
tive must meet on equal terms his daring enemy tho
radical. Tho radical is quite willing to say "Let tho
dead past bury its dead." Ho believes that many things
that are, arc wrong, but lie has great confidence in tho
future, in the destiny of man and in himself.
As I said before, in this discussion between conserva
tives and radicals that lias lasted for six thousand years
many fallacious arguments have been used and used re
peatedly. I will not pass in review these "veteraus that
have grown gray In the service of tyrany," but will only
notice ono point that has been made against every cluuigo
needed or needless; yet a quibble which no more
ought to stop the course of progress than the old hats in
in the embrasures of the confederate fortifications should
have slopped thc.mnrch of McClellan.
The conservatives are accustomed to brand every
change as unnatural and expect you to infer from that,
that it will be evil. They seem to say: We should live
in accordencc with natural law; every tiling that exists
must exist in a accordencc witli natural law; therefore
existing things should not bo changed. This bcautilul
chain of reasoning proves that wo should not Interfere to
protect homo industries because it is natural for a man
to buy where ho can purchase cheapest; but you will
notice that it proves with equcl conclusiveness that if a
cabbage plant shows an inclination to die when set out
you should not water it let nature take her course.
Tho same rer soiling provcB that tho state should not in
terfere with monopolies because it is natural competition
should be undisturbed: but please remember that if com
petition were as free as nature left it, a big mnu would
Jiavo a perfect right to eat a liule one.
Wo now commonco to sco that all laws aro omlnontly
unnatural, aro tho result of man's meddloaomo proponsl
rlcs, aro tho out growth of his intorforonco with naturoa
"Tho slinplo plan.
That ho Bhould tnko who hns tho powor,
And ho ehoulil kocp who can."
TIiIb rule is one that liokts in a state of society whero
competition is unrestricted. As all laws aro wholly un
natural it seems silly to urgoj against any particular one
tho fact that it is so.
In truth, man is wiser than nature. Nature horsolf is
no fool, but she does many an unskillfull job, upon which
it is man's, privilngo to improve. For Instance she makes
a splendid harbor whero Wow York now stands,
but has no moio senso than to put at its entrance the
reersof Hell Gate, which man is obliged to remove
Nature puts man in a world full of dfllcultlcs and leaves
him to make improvements. It behooves him to act as
would nn energetic woman on moving Into a long neg
lected house. Nature neglects man's wardrobe and ho
dons the fig-loaves; shojprovides raw meat and ho improves
by cooking; she limits his means of communication with
those who are distant either by tlmo or space and ho in
vents an alphebet. To tell tho housewife above referred
to that a thing was in a certain state when sho moved in,
Is simply telling her that it may or that It may not bo
what sho wants, and It Is tho same with man when you
(el! him that a thing is natural.
So when tho conservatives cried that monarchy and
slavery were "natural ' the reply should have boon that
a thousand evils weio natural, that "man Is born unto
evil as the sparks fly upwards." When also, tho conscr
valivcs say that It Is unnatural for woman to vote, tho
reply should bo that it is unnatural for any one to voto,
that all systems of representative government are uuuat
ural that, In short tho force of the word naturally con.
sists entirely of moon-shine and tluvt most of thoso who
use it do not know what they are talking about. It is
more natural to walk than to goon tho cars; more nat
ural to lie than to tell the truth; more natural to let
ships bo wrecked than to build light-houses; more nat
ural to let paupers die than to take care of them ; moro
natural to dress in buck-skin than broadcloth; moro
natural to cat with your fingers than with a fork.
The conservatives as I said at the start aro lazy, and
they uso this word "natural" becauso they are too lazy to
notice that it is not an argument. It is effective because
it has two meanings. Tho teacher of elocution says,
'Now Mr. Blank read naturally." Ho replies "I am
reading as I naturally do. From this we see tiiat iu ono
senso tho word naturally menus that which would take
place without the Interference of man, and in tho other
it means that which is in every way best. But tho mean
ings have been so twisted together that for purposes of
argument it must henccforth.be useless except as a catch
word to deceive tho unwary.
Tho contest between conservatives and radicals can
never cease, it is better that it never should; for as Miss
Willaid says, "it requires the centrifugal and tho cen
tripetal forces both to descrlbo tho perfect curve." But
lot us hope that tho timo will soon come when catch
words shall not be used in the discussions, when laziness
shall form no part of conservatism; when tho advisabil
ity of any change shall bo examined ou the broad grouuds
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