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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
How to Be an Influential Politician
By Walter Bagehot (1826–1877)
 
From ‘Bolingbroke’

IT is very natural that brilliant and vehement men should depreciate Harley; for he had nothing which they possess, but had everything which they commonly do not possess. He was by nature a moderate man. In that age they called such a man a “trimmer,” but they called him ill: such a man does not consciously shift or purposely trim his course,—he firmly believes that he is substantially consistent. “I do not wish in this House,” he would say in our age, “to be a party to any extreme course. Mr. Gladstone brings forward a great many things which I cannot understand; I assure you he does. There is more in that bill of his about tobacco than he thinks; I am confident there is. Money is a serious thing, a very serious thing. And I am sorry to say Mr. Disraeli commits the party very much: he avows sentiments which are injudicious; I cannot go along with him, nor can Sir John. He was not taught the catechism; I know he was not. There is a want in him of sound and sober religion,—and Sir John agrees with me,—which would keep him from distressing the clergy, who are very important. Great orators are very well; but as I said, how is the revenue? And the point is, not be led away, and to be moderate, and not to go to an extreme. As soon as it seems very clear, then I begin to doubt. I have been many years in Parliament, and that is my experience.” We may laugh at such speeches, but there have been plenty of them in every English Parliament. A great English divine has been described as always leaving out the principle upon which his arguments rested; even if it was stated to him, he regarded it as far-fetched and extravagant. Any politician who has this temper of mind will always have many followers; and he may be nearly sure that all great measures will be passed more nearly as he wishes them to be passed than as great orators wish. Nine-tenths of mankind are more afraid of violence than of anything else; and inconsistent moderation is always popular, because of all qualities it is most opposite to violence,—most likely to preserve the present safe existence.  1
 
 
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