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The Shadow On The Dial
by [?]

What one may think perfect one may not always think desirable. By “perfect” one may mean merely complete, and the word was so used in my reference to Socialism. I am not myself an advocate of “perfect Socialism,” but as to Government ownership of railways, there is doubtless a good deal to be said on both sides. One argument in its favor appears decisive; under a system subject to popular control the law of gravitation would be shorn of its preeminence as a means of removing personal property from the baggage car, and so far as it is applicable to that work might even be repealed.


When M. Casimir-Perier resigned the French Presidency there were those who regarded the act as weak, cowardly, undutiful and otherwise censurable. It seems to me the act, not of a feeble man, but of a strong one–not that of a coward, but that of a gentleman. Indeed, I hardly know where to look in history for an act more entirely gratifying to my sense of “the fitness of things” than this dignified notification to mankind that in consenting to serve one’s country one does not relinquish the right to decent treatment–to immunity from factious opposition and abuse–to at least as much civil consideration as is due from the Church to the Devil.

M. Casimir-Perier did not seek the Presidency of the French Republic; it was thrust upon him against his protestations by an apparently almost unanimous mandate of the French people in an emergency which it was thought that he was the best man to meet. That he met it with modesty and courage was testified without dissent. That he afterward did anything to forfeit the confidence and respect that he then inspired is not true, and nobody believes it true. Yet in his letter of resignation he said, and said truly:

“For the last six months a campaign of slander and insult has been going on against the army, magistrates. Parliament and hierarchical Chief of State, and this license to disseminate social hatred continues to be called ‘the liberty of thought.'”

And with a dignity to which it seems strange that any one could be insensible, he added:

“The respect and ambition which I entertain for my country will not allow me to acknowledge that the servants of the country, and he who represents it in the presence of foreign nations, may be insulted every day.”

These are noble words. Have we any warrant for demanding or expecting that men of clean life and character will devote themselves to the good of ingrates who pay, and ingrates who permit them to pay, in flung mud? It is hardly credible that among even those persons most infatuated by contemplation of their own merit as pointed out by their thrifty sycophants “the liberty of thought” has been carried to that extreme. The right of the State to demand the sacrifice of the citizen’s life is a doctrine as old as the patriotism that concedes it, but the right to require him to forego his good name–that is something new under the sun. From nothing but the dunghill of modern democracy could so noxious a plant have sprung.

“Perhaps in laying down my functions,” said M. Casimir-Perier, “I shall have marked out a path of duty to those who are solicitous for the dignity, power and good name of France in the world.”

We may be permitted to hope that the lesson is wider than France and more lasting than the French Republic. It is time that not only France but all other countries with “popular institutions” should learn that if they wish to command the services of men of honor they must accord them honorable treatment; the rule now is for the party to which they belong to give them a half-hearted support while suffering all other parties to slander and insult them. The action of the President of the French Republic in these disgusting circumstances is exceptional and unusual only in respect of his courage in expressly resenting his wrong. Everywhere the unreasonable complaint is heard that good men will not “go into politics;” everywhere the ignorant and malignant masses and their no less malignant and hardly less ignorant leaders and spokesmen, having sown the wind of reasonless obstruction and partisan vilification, are reaping the whirlwind of misrule. So far as concerns the public service, gentlemen are mostly on a strike against introduction of the mud-machine. This high-minded political workman, Casimir-Perier, never showed to so noble advantage as in gathering up his tools and walking out.