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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/655

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POLITICAL FORMS AND FORCES.

average sentiment and opinion over conduct at large. Such facts as that, while public opinion is in favor of dueling, law fails to prevent it, and that sacred injunctions, backed by threats of damnation, are powerless to check the most iniquitous aggressions when the prevailing interests and passions prompt them, alone suffice to show that legal codes and religious creeds, with the agencies enforcing them, are impotent in face of an adverse sentiment. On remembering the eagerness for public applause and the dread of public disgrace which stimulate and restrain men, we can not question that the diffused manifestations of feeling habitually dictate their careers when their immediate necessities have been satisfied. It requires only to contemplate the social code which regulates life down even to the color of an evening necktie, and to note how those who dare not break this code have no hesitation in smuggling, to see that an unwritten law enforced by opinion is more peremptory than a written law not so enforced. And still more on observing that men disregard the just claims of creditors, who for goods given can not get the money, while they are anxious to discharge so-called debts of honor to those who have rendered neither goods nor services, we are shown that the control of prevailing sentiment, unenforced by law and religion, may be more potent than law and religion together when they are backed by sentiment less strongly manifested. Looking at the total activities of men, we are obliged to admit that they are still, as they were at the outset of social life, guided by the aggregate feeling, past and present; and that the political agency, itself a gradually-developed product of such feeling, continues still to be in the main the vehicle for a specialized portion of it, regulating actions of certain kinds.

Partly, of course, I am obliged here to set forth this general truth as an essential element of political theory. My excuse for insisting at some length on what appears to be a trite conclusion must be, that, however far nominally recognized, it is actually recognized to a very small extent. Even in our own country, where non-political agencies spontaneously produced and worked are many and large, and still more in most other countries less characterized by them, there is no due consciousness of the truth that the combined impulses which work through political agencies can, in the absence of such agencies, produce others through which to work. Politicians reason as though state instrumentalities have intrinsic power, which they have not, and as though the feeling which creates them has not intrinsic power, which it has. Evidently their actions must be greatly affected by reversal of these ideas.