There is wanting the spirit of resistance to apparently trivial violations of right. The man who would fight for his country will not fight a despotic neighbor, but will tamely acquiesce in wrong for the sake of peace and neighborly harmony. This spirit of complacent acquiescence in wrongs inevitably breeds wrong-doers to take advantage of it. Where there is a low regard for the strictly equitable, equity is sure to be violated. There are always natures that will encroach if not resisted, because the roots of aggression run deep in the soil of selfishness. Boys of strong wills that are petted and pampered, or left unrestrained at home, become bullies in the streets and tyrants in their social relations. "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God," of course, but that means the foreign tyrant, not the one next door, or in the school-board, or church, or in the car, or restaurant—to resist him might make unpleasant disturbance. Habitual submission to inflicted wrongs, however small, is simply moral cowardice, and there is no disguising the fact that it is a very large element of the American character. Mr. Spencer has diagnosed our condition in this respect from a very few symptoms, but the illustrations of wrong tolerated from timidity and dread of what people will say, if small aggressions are seriously resisted, are all too plentiful. An excellent example of it occurred recently, which it is worth while to note.
Bicycles upon the sidewalks, as everybody knows, are not particularly conducive to the comfort of pedestrians. Even the small machines impelled by children, though hardly dangerous, are often annoying. But large bicycles, ridden rapidly by strong boys on the sidewalk, are sources of constant solicitude to those who are walking, are dangerous, often result in accidents, and are simply nuisances that should not be tolerated. In most English villages, as we are informed, bicycles are not allowed on the sidewalks; and the hand-books issued by English manufacturers of bicycles caution their customers that it is a forbidden practice, while in many places bells have to be attached to the bicycles even when ridden in the streets. To what degree this practice is general here in country towns we do not know, but there has recently been an experience in this matter in the village of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which is quite American in its way.
In the first place, Stockbridge is a charming town among the Berkshire hills, much resorted to as a summer residence by city people. Moreover, the people that go there and the people that live there are eminently cultivated and refined; wealth abounds, and it is not a place where poor people are much harbored. In education, intelligence, and all the moral qualities which are said to accompany mental cultivation, Stockbridge is an American village of a superior sort. It will be long, very long before American villages generally come up to the Stockbridge standard of culture and good breeding.
Nevertheless, all grades of bicycles were allowed upon the Stockbridge sidewalks, and the vexation and danger attending the practice were such, that last July one of the summer residents presented a petition, signed by eighteen prominent residents, to the board of selectmen, praying that the use of bicycles on the sidewalks be prohibited. Immediately after a remonstrance signed by thirty residents was got up and handed to the selectmen. Understanding that the main objection to the original petition was that it did not discriminate between large and small bicycles, the gentlemen who drew the first document prepared a second draft, asking only that large bicycles should be excluded from the sidewalks of the village, and this was signed by one hundred and sixty-eight residents.