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Liberalism and History


(The Crimson invites all men in the University to submit signed communications of timely interest. It assumes no responsibility, however, for sentiments expressed under this head and reserves the right to exclude any whose publication would be palpably inappropriate.)

To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

A recent communication to the CRIMSON contained a rather idealistic description of Liberalism which seems to be out of accord with the historic role of "true liberalism."

In the history of ideas, the men who fight in the foreground have never been liberals. Christ was no liberal. "Ye generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" His illiberal attitude was unflinching. "Think not that I am come to send peace upon the earth: I came not to bring peace, but a sword." Did ever liberal speak such fighting words? After but three years of revolutionary preaching he fell before the vengeance of the law-and-orderites of the day, as no liberal ever fell.

Socrates was no liberal. He opposed a city; refused to conciliate; and died an irreconcilable, who obeyed his own daemonia but not that of the sovereign people. The real liberal of ancient times was the great Apostle, who took pure Christianity and mixed it with the dirt of slavery and a corrupt social order and made a going thing of it.

Were the Monarchomachs, or the independents, or roger Williams, considered "liberals" or "radicals?" Yet who does not believe in religious freedom now? Was Thomas Jefferson considered in his day as a liberal or as a radical? Yet political democracy is now a universally accepted principle of government. Was William Lloyd Garrison considered a liberal or something else in his day? But slavery is now long since abolished. Were the Social-Democrats of Russia considered liberals or something else in the days of '05? But who broke the back of Czardom?

What were the liberals doing all this time? They were looking on while Stephen was slain. They were counselling Socrates to back down. They were reluctantly counselling religious toleration only when it was expedient. They were holding tight to the cherished institution of the property qualification for suffrage. They were trying merely t curb the institution of slavery, until a man rose up and said "A house divided against itself cannot stand." They were issuing the ridiculous Viborg Manifesto and trying to work though a emasculated Douma. They were saying in March, 1917, "this revolution cannot last fifteen days." They are saying now, "We will concede this, we will grant that: but the institution of private property, or of a sovereign state, or of centralized government, must not be touched." They cheek with the blighting hand of Expediency the clear-cut stroke of Justice. They may be Statesmen, but they can never be thinkers. They may follow: but they never lead. They may pride themselves that though they are not trial breakers they are road-makers; but their greatest fault is that they are usually frightened off the straight and narrow path into tortuous and crooked detours or endless halts, but the growling of the big pussies in the tall timber.  HAROLD M. FLEMING '20.

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