spicuous, that the common citizen, educate him as you like, will habitually occupy himself with his personal affairs, and hold it not worth his while to fight against each abuse as soon as it appears. Not lack of information, but lack of certain moral sentiments, is the root of the evil.
You mean that people have not a sufficient sense of public duty?
Well, that is one way of putting it; but there is a more specific way. Probably it will surprise you if I say that the American has not, I think, a sufficiently quick sense of his own claims, and at the same time, as a necessary consequence, not a sufficiently quick sense of the claims of others—for the two traits are organically related. I observe that you tolerate various small interferences and dictations which Englishmen are prone to resist. I am told that the English are remarked on for their tendency to grumble in such cases; and I have no doubt it is true.
Do you think it worth while for people to make themselves disagreeable by resenting every trifling aggression? We Americans think it involves too much loss of time and temper, and doesn't pay.
Exactly. That is what I mean by character. It is this easy-going readiness to permit small trespasses because it would be troublesome or profitless or unpopular to oppose, which leads to the habit of acquiescence in wrong, and the decay of free institutions. Free institutions can be maintained only by citizens each of whom is instant to oppose every illegitimate act, every assumption of supremacy, every official excess of power, however trivial it may seem. As Hamlet says, there is such a thing as greatly to find quarrel in a straw, where that straw implies a principle. If, as you say of the American, he pauses to consider whether he can afford the time and trouble—"whether it will pay"—corruption is sure to creep in. All these lapses from higher to lower forms begin in trifling ways; and it is only by incessant watchfulness that they can be prevented. As one of your early statesmen said, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." But it is far less against foreign aggressions upon national liberty, that this vigilance is required, than against the insidious growth of domestic interferences with personal liberty. In some private administrations which I have been concerned with, I have often insisted, much to the disgust of officials, that instead of assuming, as people usually do, that things are going right until it is proved that they are going wrong, the proper course is to assume that they are going wrong until it is proved that they are going right. You will find, continually, that private corporations, such as joint-stock banking companies, come to grief from not acting upon this principle. And what holds of these small and simple private administrations, holds still more of the great and complex public administrations. People are taught, and, I suppose, believe, that "the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked"; and yet, strangely enough, believing this, they place implicit trust in those they appoint to this or that function. I do not think so ill of human nature; but, on the other hand, I do not think so well of human nature as to believe it will do without being watched.
You hinted that while Americans do not assert their own individualities sufficiently in small matters, they, reciprocally, do not sufficiently respect the individualities of others.
Did I? Here, then, comes another of the inconveniences of interviewing. I should have kept this opinion to myself if you had asked me no questions; and now I must either say what I do not think, which I can not, or I must refuse to answer, which perhaps will be taken to mean more than I intend, or I must specify, at the risk of giving offense. As the least evil I suppose I must do the last. The trait I refer to comes out in various ways, small and great. It is shown by the disrespectful manner in which individuals are dealt with in your journals—the placarding of public men in sensational headings, the dragging of private people and their affairs into print. There seems to be a notion that the public have a right to intrude on private life as far as they like; and this I take to be a kind of moral trespassing. It is true that during the last few years we have been discredited in London by certain weekly papers which do the like (except in the typographical display); but in our daily press, metropolitan and pro-