|Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:|
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
|By Horace Greeley (18111872)|
[Hints Toward Reforms. 1850.]
I PLEAD not for eccentricity, for roughness of mannerI am no stranger to the bland amenities and suavities of life. I acknowledge a fitness to time, and duty, and circumstance, in dress and in incidents of even lighter moment. I accept the common sense of mankind as the arbiter between what is real and natural and what is assumed and fantastic. The banker, the capitalist, the merchant, who should ape the dress of the carman, the hod-carrier, would be justly the ridicule of every healthy mind, and of none more than the carman himself. No man enjoys more keenly the stage-shown absurdities of the footman bedecked with his masters delegated authority, the valet personating the prince, than do footmen and valets. This is but the error condemned in another shapethe pendulum at the other extremity of its range. I would have no man do this or refrain from that in contradiction from the world, any more than in consistency with it. Nay, more: I admit and counsel acquiescence with the ordinary, the prescribed, the established, in all matters essentially indifferent or trifling. I loathe perversenessit is at war with harmony and the supreme good. Convince me that the Quaker remains stubbornly covered in the presence of his equals, his seniors, from mere mulishness or whim, and I abandon him to your rebukes; I will second them with my own. But let me realize that that rude non-compliance stands to him for a vital factthat it symbolizes to him a great principle, to wit, the stern uprising of a true manhood against servility and fawning adulation, and I will defend him to the last gaspI will do him such reverence as befits a manly self-respect, for his stout fidelity to a conviction.