Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885, May 02, 1890, Page 5, Image 5

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    TMK II KS PERI AN.
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THE ORATIONS.
CONSERVATISM AND RADICAL
ISM IN SOCIETY.
Geo. O. Furouson, Wesleyan University, Lincoln, Neb.
In the study of the progress of society from the begin
ning to the present, two forces ever meet us conservatism
and radicalism each contending for mastery. Wc are in
turn shocked, grieved, and alarmed as we pass through the
diversified events of their conflict. As we follow them
through history wc come to three distinct periods stamped
with their encrgy.the barbarian, the pagan, and the Christain.
The historian might particularize this classification still furth
er, but the record would read the same. In the first period
man was little more than an animal, governed by his instincts
and passions. There was an occasional flash of reason's
light, but it was like the passing of the moon from one cloud
to another in the midnight storm. Science had not as yet lit
her torch and begun her flaming march of investigation and
discovery. The mechanical arts had not yet subdued to their
service the proud achievments of scientific research. Litera
ture was smothered in ignorance and superstition. The high
est ambition of these dwellers in darkness was to possess suf
ficient physical power to vanquish every assailant on the field
of blood. They hurled the javelin in war, they roamed the
held and forest for their food, and dwelt beneath the thatched
roofs of their rude huts for shelter. They clung tenaciously
to the traditions and customs of their ancestors, and were
suspicious of every innovation in their established manner of
living. 1 hey were conservative through Fear or displeasing
the gods, who were supposed to be the custodians of their
peace and prosperity. Had a philosopher appeared in their
midst, possessing a knowledge of the fdrces in nature, their
infinite combinations and varied utility, his radical notions
would have cost him his life. The ownership of property was
ettled by force of clubs and spears, and the law of the sur
vival of the strongest governed their social intercourse. Wife
hood and motherhood were debased to the lowest servitude,
and the family life was coarse and selfish. Still, there was
some progress toward the light. They watched the stars,
they observed the seasons, they noted the changes going on
about them, and deduced a meagre system of natural laws.
They felt the upward yearnings of the soul; they saw, every
where, the operation of a supreme power; they were by intu
ition religious beings, and thus they came to have a faint
kuowledge of their relation to the spiritual and the divine.
Yet all was chaos and, confusion. The knowledge they pos
sessed was purely sensuous. Ignorance was on the throne
and reason had not begun her contest for the crown. In the
transition, as we pass to the next period, the light of progress
in society shone out with an incandescent glow. Conserva
tism, no longer in the ascendancy, withdrew to the caves and
desert places. Radicalism had obtained the field, and with
lavish hand was sowing the seed of a new life. Philosophy,
science, law, and art sprang out of the soil on the shore of
the jgean sea, with a depth of root and vigor of growth that
furnished scions to every garden of thought in the world of
letters for all time. The influence of these living, growing
forces spread everywhere; and civilization received an impe
tus upward and onward it had not felt before. The people
lived better, worked easier, and advanced to architectural
elegance and comfort in the construction of their homes. The
Greek mind possessed nothing to itself but thought. Thought
in philosophy, represented by Socrates; thought in science
created by Aristotle; thought in law constructed by Solon;
thought in art, carved out by Phidias; and now these new en
ergies of civilization were hurled in every direction. The
world at last began its advance toward ideal perfection.
Teachers of the new order of truths were at the court of
Koine, the school of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem,
arousing the people to a study of themselves and the laws
that bound them to their environment. Said Mendimus, the
pedantic courtier, to his master, the emperor: "If I shall go
on studying this Greek writing, I may become an oracle, or
even one of the gods some day." So potent a factor had
Greek thought ana life become with men of learning in that
piecocious age. The religion of this period alone escaped
the ravages of the radical spirit. It rested on an elaborate
system of mythology, and was so interwoven with all that
was lovely in nature, and all tW wos poetic in imagination,
as to exercise n most powerful influence upon the character
of the people. The idea of God that seemed to flash across
the pagan mind was an ecstatic vision of divine energy, a
world soul, which, rushing through all created things, as
the wind across the lyre, thrilled them into divinest harmony.
They held the soul to be a portion of Deity Himself. And
as a bubble arises from the boundless and fa' hornless sea,
floating about here and there, merging into other bubbles,
and then floats on to its inevitable destiny an absorption, an
incorporation into the ocean again. So individual souls were
emanations from the great infinite soul; and and as a sunbeam
touches at the same time the sun and the earth, so they
touched at once the source of eternal reason and corporal be
ing. And when at last the soul should throw ofl its earthly
shroud it was to be absorbed into the abysmal depths of in
finite love. Such, then, were some of the most important re
suits of the operation of these two giant forces radicalism
and conservatism upon thought and life, during the infancy
and early growth of the race.
In passing to the Christian period, wc may trace with a
keener analysis the varied achievements and disasters wrought
by their iron hand. Conservatism, peculiarly sensitive to the
influence of antiquity, pursued tin ghost of ancestral habits
and refused to sanction a single law of change. Progress was
interpreted to mean destruction. Every new thought, every
new invention, every new discovery was regarded with the
most baleful suspicion and with fearful forebodings. Deter
mined to be the dictatoroflaw.it insisted that the people
should be subject to a king who ruled by divine right, and
developed the miserable system of feudalism, and clung to it
till every mediaeval nation was deluged with blood. By its
endeavor to control religion it made the church a storehouse
of abuses and citadel of tyranny, so that at her behest a Gali
leo was sent to prison and a Savonarola to the flames. De
siring to contribute something to philosophy, conservatism
busied itself with the most ridiculous and unprofitable ques
tions in metapysics, science, and theology. Occasional',
as in the French revolution, it checked the muddy stream of
error, but far oftener it dammed the crystalline river of trnth
and doomed the world for a longer time to the drought of
gloomy superstition. On the other hand, radicalism, ever
active for the improvement and progress of the race, stood
out opposed to everything that was tainted with antiquity.
Though impetuous and extravagant in all its actions, it saw
the need of reform and invention, and plunged ahead to se
cure them. It faught against authority, despised custom, and
made the end to sanction the means. Over-confident of re
sults, it disregarded the warnings of defeat and rushed head
long into the rapids, whose flood but hastened it on to the
terrible whirlpool below. Like the swift flying shuttle of a
mighty loom, it passed from one extreme to the other, and
seemed never to be satisfied. It fought the blending of
truth, equality, and justice, and would challenge an army,
face any peril yea, would sacrifice life itself merely to satis
fy its caprice concerning ideal right. .
Coming now to our day, we find that these two powerful
elements, look in what ever direction we may, continue to
wage the same relentless warfare. Like the ceaseless heav
ing of the ocean, the fight is now subdued and scarcely dis
cernible, and anon vehement and irrepressible, agitating the
social mass to the very core. Every great reform of the past
has been and every great reform of the present must be car
ried forward to triumphant consummation by either the ag
gression of the one or the opposition of the other of these
elements.
Conservatism sought to perpetuate American slavery.
Radicalism ordered to arms its forces and swept the gigantic
curse out of the nation. The victory cost one million of men
and four billions of money, but it transformed the four mil
lions of serfs into free men; and, to-day,
"There are domes of white blossoms
"Where epread tho white tent.
There are plows in the way
Where the war wagons went,
And there ana songs
Where they fined up Each el's lunent"
Conservatism seeks to build upon a firm foundation a
traffic worse than j eslilence, fire, sword the traffic in strong
drink legalized and licensed by act of congress and legisla
ture. Radicalism in tears and woe and despair pleads pity
ingly for its prohibition, root and branch. Conservatism
would fasten upon the nation all the enormoui evils of unre
stricted immigration, anarchism, the destruction of the Sab-