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The Professional Reformer
by [?]

This is preeminently the era of the reformer, and there are few things, great or small, upon which he has not tried his Archimedean lever with more or less effect.

Progress should ever be the shibboleth of man, but progress and improvement are not always synonyms. When a man becomes possessed of an idea that differs materially from the ideas of mankind in general; when he takes issue with the emulative wisdom of a world he knows not how many ages old, simple modesty would suggest that, before arrogating to himself superior discernment, he inquire diligently whether he is really a philosopher or a fool. When a man takes issue with the world the chances are as one to infinity that he is wrong. Since man’s appearance upon the earth a great many sages have graced it, and the present generation is “heir of all the ages.” Its judgment is grounded upon the net result of thousands of years of careful study and costly experiment, and it is much safer to trust to it than to new- born theories.

Occasionally a man appears who can add to the general stock of wisdom; but such men are seldom conscious of the fact that they are wiser than the world they live in,–seldom consider that they have a special call to embark in a “radical reform” crusade. They know that society is an organism, not a machine, and that it cannot be violently transformed, any more than a man can be changed into a demigod, or a monkey into a mastodon. They realize that the “old order changeth, yielding place to new”; but they also realize that the change must be slow in order to be healthy. Nearly every change that the world has witnessed has been slowly, almost imperceptibly wrought. Even all governments that have stood the test of time were the work of time. The present government of England has been built up almost imperceptibly, and the Constitution of the United States is but a differentiation of Magna Charta, not a new and violent birth. It is much safer to change the old order of human thought and action by evolutionary than by revolutionary methods.

. . .

It has been the custom of society for many ages to make woman the custodian of her own virtue; but in this age of reformers it has been discovered that this is a grievous mistake. According to the new school of morals, woman is not competent to distinguish between right and wrong, and even wives of mature years are sometimes “led astray” by “fell destroyers,” whom the “injured husband” feels in duty bound to chase around the world, if need be, with a Gatling gun. Instances where “designing villains” have “invaded the sanctity of the home” are multiplying, and while the world is not ready to forgive the erring woman it is daily asked to anathematize her paramour and stand between her husband and the penitentiary should his marksmanship prove successful. In other words, the world is asked to regard every man that a woman may chance to meet as her guardian angel,–to place her honor in his keeping instead of her own; to crucify him should he not prove as indifferent as Adonis, as chaste as Joseph. Truly this is very complimentary to man, but quite the reverse to woman. It would substitute male for female virtue and place the sanctity of the home at the mercy of strangers. Unquestionably all men should be pure; but they are not. In fact the pure man is the exception and not the rule. Every man who takes unto himself a wife must know this. He knows that he places his honor in the keeping of the woman, not in the keeping of his fellow men. He knows that she can live as pure as Diana if she elects to do so; that if she does not so choose she will have no difficulty in finding companions in crime. He does know–as does the world–that no man will attempt to “lead her astray” so long as her deportment is such as becomes a true wife; that no “wolf in sheep’s clothing” will ever find his way into the fold without her assistance.