A very natural division of mankind is that which contemplates them in two classes—those who think for themselves, and those who have their thinking done by others, dead or living. With the former class, the paramount consideration is— “What is right?” With the latter, the first inquiry is— “What do the majority, or the great, or the pious, or the fashionable think about it? How did our fathers regard it? What will Mrs. Grundy say?” ... And truly, if the life were not more than meant—if its chief ends were wealth, station and luxury—then the smooth and plausible gentlemen who assent to whatever is popular without inquiring or caring whether it is essentially true or false, are the Solomons of their generation. Yet in a world so full as this is of wrong and suffering, of oppression and degradation, there must be radical causes for so many and so vast practical evils. It cannot be that the ideas, beliefs, institutions, usages, prejudices, whereof such gigantic miseries are born—wherewith at least they co-exist— transcend criticism and rightfully refuse scrutiny. It cannot be that the springs are pure whence flow such turbid and poisonous currents. Now the Reformer—the man who thinks for himself and acts as his own judgment and conscience dictate—is very likely to form erroneous opinions. * * * But Time ill confirm and establish his good works and gently amend his mistakes. The detected error dies; the misconceived and rejected truth is but temporarily obscured and soon vindicates its claim to general acceptance and regard. “The world does move,” and its motive power, under God, is the fearless thought and speech of those who dare be in advance of their time—who are sneered at and shunned through their days of struggle and of trial as lunatics, dreamers, impracticables and visionaries—men of crotchets, of vagaries, or of “isms.” These are the masts and sails of the ship, to which Conservatism answers as ballast. The ballast is important—at times indispensable —but it would be of no account if the ship were not bound to go ahead.
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