MR. WHITE'S LECTURE.
Review of Political Progress and Suggestions for Further Evolution.
It is certain that in this century the theory of an evolutionary method of some sort in this universe has taken fast hold upon thinking men. Especially is this the case as to the life of man as man upon our planet. While a quiet evolution is easily seen in laws and political institutions, a more violent process is no less evident. So far the progress of man has been, far more than we could have wished, by catastrophies.
Take the way by which these colonies were separated from England. One of two ways of progress was possible, either by right reason or by revolution. The revolutionary method prevailed. The result was the immediate loss of much Anglo-Saxon blood. Again, Turgot's efforts to bring about a gradual development of political liberty in France were of no avail against the ultra-conservatives and the Revolution followed. Even in the case of our Civil War, Henry Clay and other statesmen saw it was inevitable that slavery and freedom must conflict many years before the crisis came and they sought to avoid it. But revolution sits North and South opposed them and war followed.
The question then arises, is this the necessary law of human progress? Many things go to show that it is not. Not only better results, but better methods may be gradually evolved by the law of evolution itself. The whole question is one of price. The development of the race is to go on. The question is what price shall we pay for it?
Let us not glorify revolutions. The results are evil Let us glorify the evolution of a strong moral sense in individuals and nations. Our aim will then be a steady, healthful evolution, for the unfolding of a better future. First should be placed the evolution of the individual man. It is the duty of every one to develop his own powers truly and fully. Until there is a preponderating mass of righteous men we cannot hope for high standards of government. The first quality needed is will power. It makes the difference between the strong man and the weak.
The material evolution of the country at large follows. A nation like this must expend a large part of its labor in developing the material basis of its civilization. But is it not better to labor for progress by evolution than to risk progress by catastrophe? In American business today far too large a part is played by catastrophe.
Take the field of politics. It would seem that the evolutionary method would be aided by the study of legislation within our universities. Here in our country is a tremendous field to cover. Men should be taught to think, speak and write upon pressing questions. Take for example the laws dealing with crime. Crime is not a misfortune. A criminal is a criminal. We need criminal laws of more common sense. A healthy, manly desire to exterminate crime must be developed. I trust we shall have the standard bye and bye that the best thing a man can do is not to defend criminals, but convict them. The ideas of public office must be raised. The highest fidelity is not the fidelity to the party of party members or leaders.
Our cities need attention. They are the rotten spots in the body politic. Under our present system, revolution, not evolution, as the only remedy. We need to develop two ideas; first, that the city officers are not political officers, and second, that as the city is a business institution, there should be a board of control made up of citizens. This board should be above the aldermen and without its consent no franchises should be granted.
International questions should progress by evolution, as should our interior affairs. Our colleges must educate more and more men who shall deal with political questions. Our citizens have no adequate idea of the doings of our legislatures. Newspaper reports are poor. A comparison of any report with the Congressional Record will prove the truth of this statement.
In preparing the way for evolution there are some things to be avoided and considered. Avoid urging changes foreign to our habits, customs and thought. It will do harm. Recognize the value of the cultivation of righteousness and morality. Strive to secure progress toward a better and nobler future by processes evolutionary rather than revolutionary, by appeals to reason rather than to prejudice. Be true to yourself, your University and your country.
The Union will entertain Mr. White at breakfast at the Colonial Club this morning at 9. President Eliot, Col. T. W. Higginson and Professor Baker will be present and will speak.