It must be frankly admitted that the liberty philosophers only acted directly upon a small group of minds outside themselves. Popular government was a new plaything in the world, and to an immense number of persons of very various kinds, who were pursuing very various objects, it offered almost irresistible attractions. But the ferment of new ideas works in strange and unexpected ways. While the mass of those who enjoyed playing the great game, as a sort of perpetual boat race or cricket match , and the still greater mass of those who hoped to better their condition in life by employing the huge hundred-handed machine, with its inexhaustible resources, to do services for them, refused to consider what right three men possessed to take over by some voting process the lives of two men and convert them into their own property; still “the divinity that doth hedge” a state was shaken, and the revolutionary forces no longer simply consisted of those who wished to turn us into a condition of all-state, but also of dissidents who believed in the unorganized individual, and without any clear definition even to themselves of their own views, wished to make a clean sweep of the state as it exists today. The liberty philosophers had but slightly affected the rich, and the more or less well-to-do classes, or the mass of the workers, but their word had fallen into patches of revolutionary soil, and the crop was growing strongly and quickly. The revolutionists have their function in this world equally with the rest of us-although it is seldom what they themselves believe it to be—and it was in their case, as in other cases, to force upon the attention of the world a truth, a deeper, wider truth than their own, with which, at all events until the stimuli became slightly painful, our governing friends had very little intention to concern themselves.
Third, even if you believed that you could make men wise and good by depriving them of liberty of action, you have no right to do so. Who has given you a commission to decide what your brother man shall or shall not do? Who has given you charge of his life and his faculties and his happiness as well as of your own? Perhaps you think yourself wiser and better fitted to judge than he is; but so did all those of old days–kings, emperors, and heads of dominant churches–who possessed power, and never scrupled to compress and shape their fellow-men as they themselves thought best, by means of that power. You can see as you read the story of the past, and even as you look on the world at present, what a mess the holders of power made of it, whenever they undertook to judge for others, whenever they undertook to guide and control the lives and faculties of others; and why should you think that you are going to succeed where they failed? On what reasonable ground should you think so? Why should you suppose that you have suddenly in this our generation grown much better and wiser and more unselfish than they were? We have probably all of us the same or nearly the same share of human nature as they had. These rulers, whether of the past or present time, under whose mistakes the world has so terribly suffered, in many cases were not bad men; they were simply “clouded by their own conceit,” blinded by the unquestioned belief that some men may exercise power over other men. They did not see that the individual freedom of each man is the highest law of his existence, and they thought, often honestly enough, that it was in their power to give the mass of men happiness if they could only have the restraining, and molding, and fashioning of them after their own ideas and beliefs. And the worst of it is that still in these democratic days we are all thinking the same thing. We are fast getting rid of emperors and kings and dominant churches, as far as the mere outward form is concerned, but the soul of these men and these institutions is still living and breathing within us. We still want to exercise power, we still want to drive men our own way, and to possess the mind and body of our brothers as well as of our own selves. The only difference is that we do it in the name of a majority instead of in the name of divine right. Radicals and republicans, as we call ourselves, we too often remain Catholics, infallibilists and absolutists in temper.
Cricket versus Republicanism: and other essays David Stove
Born in , butcurrently resident in , Stove (who graduated from in 1985) is the author of three books: Prince ofMusic (a biography of the composer ); TheUnsleeping Eye (a brief history of secret police from thesixteenth century to the twentieth); and A Student's Guide toMusic History, which summarizes the history of classical musicfrom the Middle Ages to the Second World War. He has alsoco-edited, with , Cricket VersusRepublicanism, a posthumously published collection of essaysby his father, the philosopher .