Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

devotion to a cause. Perhaps something could be said about the term "crank," which is usually flung at every such person at the start, whether his motive be selfish or whether it be of an ideal character. There should be a warning raised against applying a term like this indiscriminately, because of the possible injustice of such a course. We must show that improvement in the character of the state would never come at all unless some men took the lead and submitted to contempt and ridicule.

If, however, a citizen really is willing to make sacrifices in order to improve the condition of the country to which he belongs, what or whom will he be serving? "Why, the state or country itself," you reply.

Yes, but that is indefinite. I mean, what persons? "Oh, all the citizens," you answer, "every man, woman or child living in that country. If he does anything to advance the welfare of the state, then he has done them all a service."

True, but any other persons? Anything more? "How could it apply to anybody else?" you ask me; "surely it would be of no special service to the citizens who were no longer alive."

Yes, I remind you, but what about the generations to come? What about the citizens a hundred years hence? Would they have any reason to be grateful, because of the good work done at the present time for the welfare of the state? "Oh, yes, indeed!"

You would assume, then, that in doing anything to advance the welfare of one's country or to improve its character, one would be actually rendering a service not only to those now living, but to all future generations, to every man, woman or child who will be living in such a country in all ages to come? "Yes, they would all have reason to be grateful to us."

But if this work has to be done and to be done all the while, because of evil conditions in the coun

try to which one belongs, what steps would have to be taken in order to bring about the improvement? What is it that we have suggested would be the starting point of it all? "Agitation, or calling attention to the evils, making people aware that bad conditions actually exist."

Yes, and this implies what? "It means arousing something, working on something.” Is it merely that we want to have people think about it? "No," you reply, "we must get at their feelings or senti

[merged small][ocr errors]

What is it that must be aroused? Public what-? "Public sentiment?" True, that must be the starting point in all improvements in the welfare of one's country.

Then, in the second place, what is the public sentiment aroused for? What must it do? "Why, it must get at the causes of the evil conditions; if the laws are bad, it must try to have new and better laws passed."

You are right; that would be the next important step, perhaps. But would that be all? If they get good laws passed and have public sentiment well aroused about it, could people then retire and assume that all would be well? "No, there are the officers who must execute the laws."

In the third place, you think, do you, that the effort has to be made in getting the right kind of officers chosen or in having bad officers put out? But if that were done, would it end the matter?

"What else could be done?" you ask me. Suppose that when those officers set about trying to enforce the laws, it may cause you or somebody else inconvenience, or bring criticism upon them, and people begin to find fault with them, is there anything that a true citizen could do?

"Surely, one could uphold the officers in doing

their duty." Yes, and that is a very important point. It makes a fifth step in this story of reform work in improving the character of one's country.

And when all this has been done, could one stop one's efforts once for all? "No, not quite." And why not? "As to that, reform work may not last long; the improvement may be only temporary."

It means, does it, that for those who are true citizens, it is one constant effort all their lives to try to improve the welfare of the state to which they belong. But what if they do try it? Suppose a great many citizens are in earnest in regard to the matter, will the improvement come rapidly, do you assume? "Not as rapidly as one could desire," you admit.

And why not? Could it not come as quickly as it might come with an individual person who had determined to improve or reform himself? "Oh no! the state is something larger than the individual; it takes time and a great deal more time."

Then improvement or reform in the state must come slowly and the people who make an effort in that direction must have a great deal of patience, you think, do you? Yes, surely you are right, and it is because people do not appreciate this fact that so few are ready to take hold and work. They become disappointed over the results and often stop just when real work is being accomplished.

But there is one point on this subject we have not yet touched upon. It has all been rather vague so far. We talk about improving the country, having good laws passed or choosing good officers. Does this mean the laws for the whole nation, passed by a Congress or a Parliament? Is it only with the national legislation or the national officers we are concerned, in this effort for reformation?

"No, it applies to every situation where the state

comes in." Do you mean to suggest, for instance, that if the police force in one of our large towns or cities did not do its duty, we should have to go to work to improve conditions there? This would be a rather trifling feature in the life of the state.

[ocr errors]

"Oh, yes," you assert, "but it would be very important, nevertheless. The policeman is an officer of the government in one sense, just as much as a member of Congress or a member of Parliament.' Where else, then, must we work for improvement. besides on national legislation or for national officers? "Why, in town or cities; in the management of public schools or school boards; in the measures passed by City Councils; in the choice of officers for a town or city, as well as for the whole state."

You assume, do you, that if one is to try to improve the moral character of his country, the work must begin pretty near home? This is a fact which is often overlooked, and many persons will try to stir up public sentiment about evil conditions in the character of the whole nation, about corruption in national politics, and yet be very indifferent to the starting point of it all in the local politics right around them.

It looks, then, does it, as if improving the character of a nation would imply beginning an improvement in the political conditions of our own towns or cities?

What is it after all, then, that every citizen must be all his life, if he is a true citizen in his duty toward the state or country to which he belongs? I am thinking of a big word beginning with capital R. Suppose we write it down letter for letter and look at it: R-e-f-o-r-m-e-r. There it stands. We will not speak out the word, but only repeat it quietly to ourselves.

We have said that the man who will not apply this to himself is not a true citizen and that he is not doing his full duty as a citizen.

Points of the Lesson.

I. That states do not improve or grow better just of themselves.

II. That states or governments, like people, will tend to grow worse unless there is a constant effort to make them improve.

III. That improvement in the character of a state or government first usually comes from the efforts of a few individuals, and that a reform first starts as a sense of shame over the condition of one's country.

IV. That the next step has to be an agitation on the part of the few who feel this sense of shame, in working up public sentiment for a reform.

V. That states improve so slowly because many citizens would rather put up with a bad government than trouble themselves to try to improve it.

VI. That the few who begin the work of reform must expect to be unpopular and not to meet at first with sympathy or approval.

VII. That improvement or reform in the character of states needs to begin right at home in the community of city where the citizen resides.

VIII. That those who work for the improvement of their country are serving future generations as well as those who are alive to-day.

Duties.

I. Every citizen ought to work for the improvement of his country.

II. Every citizen ought to try to encourage others to work for the improvement of their country.

Poem.

"Let it idly droop or sway

To the wind's light will;
Furl its stars, or float in day;
Flutter, or be still:

It has held its colors bright,
Through the war smoke dun;

Spotless emblem of the right,
Whence success was won.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »