Page:Instead of a Book, Tucker.djvu/442

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



A principle, if it be sound, represents one of the larger expediencies. To abandon that for the sake of some seeming expediency of the hour is to sacrifice the greater good for the less on no more creditable ground than that the less is nearer. It is better to wait, and to defer the realization of our ideas until we can realize them fully, than to defraud the future by truncating them, if truncate them we must, in order to secure a partial triumph for them in the immediate present. It is better to bear the burden of impracticableness than to stifle conviction and to pare away principle until it becomes mere hollowness and triviality. What is the sense and what is the morality of postponing the wider utility to the narrower? Nothing is so sure to impoverish an epoch, to deprive conduct of nobleness and character of elevation.


[Liberty, January 19, 1889.]

I GREALY admire Hugh O. Pentecost. He is a growing and a fair-minded man. His Twentieth Century, now published weekly in an enlarged form, is doing a useful work. He already accepts Anarchy as an ultimate, and the whole tenor of his writings is leading him on, it seems to me, to a casting-off of his devotion to the single-tax movement and to reforms still more distinctly State Socialistic, and to a direct advocacy of Anarchistic principles and methods. It is because I believe this that I feel like reasoning with him regarding a vital inconsistency in his discourse of January 13 on "Ballots or Bullets?" in which, moreover, the tendency referred to is marked.

After laying it down as a principle that force is never justifiable (and, by the way, I cannot accept so absolute a denial of force as this, though I heartily agree that force is futile in almost all circumstances), he goes on as follows: "If it is not justifiable for the establishment and maintenance of government, neither is it justifiable for the overthrow or modification of government.… The intellectual and moral process of regeneration is slower than force, but it is right; and when the work is thus done, it has the merit of having been done properly and thoroughly." So far, excellent. But mark the next sentence: "The ballot is the people's agency even for correcting its own evils, and it seems to me a social crime to refrain from its use for regenerative purposes until it is absolutely demonstrated that it is a failure as an instrument for freedom."

Now, what is the ballot? It is neither more nor less than a