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smiths, carpenters and ploughmen, by so great and continual toil, that without it no commonwealth were able to continue and endure one year, should yet get so hard and poor a living, and live so wretched and miserable a life, that the state and condition of the laboring beasts may seem much better and wealthier."
Again, about the time of our own Revolution, men in At the Europe also were thinking of a better day. Edmund close of Burke, who was our friend, had as a young man written
century a powerful indictment of what he called artificial society in contrast with natural society. He claimed that the laws, although designed to protect the poor and the weak had really come to give the advantage to the rich because it had become so expensive a matter to carry on a suit. He claimed that those who labor most enjoy the fewest things and those who labor not at all have the greatest number of enjoyments. He held up a picture of two hundred thousand men in Great Britain employed in mines with poor food, wretched health, laboring at constant drudgery, and asked if this were not more shocking than slavery. Robert Burns, a farmer born in a cottage and growing up with the poor, had both a feeling for the common man and a genius to appeal to all men. The rank, he said, is but the guinea's stamp, “ The man's the gowd (gold) for a' that.”
But it was when the great Revolution broke out in France that the men of letters were kindled to a general expression of the passion for liberty which this aroused in Western Europe. Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron, all expressed various aspects of this great movement. With one it was a feeling of brotherhood, with another the sympathy with the small nation struggling for political freedom, with a third it was a desire to be free
from the oppression of law. All helped to strengthen the foundations of freedom and democracy and to point toward the day which we still await
“When man to man, the warld o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that."
THE NEW MEANING OF LIFE BROUGHT IN BY
HE struggle for liberty was waged by men some-
to get something for all. But out of it came a great idea about life, namely the idea that every man should be both free and law-abiding.
The great task of law and government had been to Free and control men and make them conform to certain rules. responSome of these rules were no doubt made in the interest sible of the king, and were oppressive; but most of them were made to preserve order, and to protect men in their rights. When the king and the state took the place of the old tribal customs, the lawyers taught that laws of society came from the king. But gradually, as men gained the right to make their own laws, they began to feel a new reason for obedience. They felt that they were not so much obeying some one set over them as obeying themselves. And this made a new responsibility too. For if men made their own laws it was their duty to make good ones. They could not blame others for what was their own fault.
It can readily be seen that something like this goes on with each one of us as we grow up. At first we obey the words and customs of our elders, just as men do in tribal life. Then we find various rules for conduct which seem to have been set up by some one in authority. We must not meddle with others' prop
erty, or the police and courts will interfere; we must obey certain rules of the school; we must keep our promises even if it is very inconvenient to do so; we must work when we'd rather not.
But as we grow older we are more and more left to decide matters for ourselves. We have to reason things out and see why we cannot interfere with others' rights, and why we must not always do as we prefer. When we control ourselves by reason, instead of following the first impulse, when we remember that we are part of society and so must think of others as well as ourselves, then we are “responsible.” That is, we respond to the demands of others; we respond to what is reasonable or “right.” We do not try to evade or dodge or squirm out of an unpleasant task, or out of our obligations to others; we stand up to them squarely. And we do it not because any one else is making us do it. We do it because somehow we recognize and feel that we ought to.
Now just so far as we do this of our own accord we are free. We are not compelled by any one; we direct ourselves, just as free men make their own laws. Here then is one great idea about life which has come out of the long struggle first to establish order, then to secure liberty.
And the second is that if freedom and responsibility are really just another name for acting conscientiously, then all men ought to be free and responsible. All men ought to have a chance to live a noble life. To help the cause of freedom, then, is not merely to gain a benefit for myself, it is part of the real business of living
The state began by setting up a king, and making sharp class lines between gentle and simple; it gave us
the idea of the gentleman. The towns taught the dignity of labor and the service of honest trade. The long struggle for liberty, gave men an ideal of life as free and responsible-free, “ I am the captain of my soul”; responsible, for “no one liveth unto himself ”; we are members one of another. Such liberty and responsibility are two of the great factors in democracy.