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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/621

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HYPOCRISY AS A SOCIAL ELEVATOR.

models for imitation. While this is arrant hypocrisy, it is probably wise public policy, and, after all, but justice to those illustrious men. Their morals were undoubtedly superior to the rule in their day. The good they did lives after them, while the evil is buried with their bones. Much, too, of the evil seemed good to them. As Froude well says, "All history is anachronism, for we constantly see the events of yesterday by the light of today." Nothing is to be gained by parading their weaknesses and vices, while much good is accomplished by presenting them as unblemished ideals—exemplars for present and future generations.

It is the same with our national history. Up to that time there was never a more genuinely patriotic struggle in the history of the world than our Revolution. Yet if the movement for independence had been deprived of all the aid given it by sordid greed, selfish ambition, industrious self-seeking, and partisan rancor, the patriotic impulse would have been far from strong enough to carry on the contest to final victory. But we wisely enrich human nature by placing to its credit all these baser metals transmuted into the pure gold of unselfish patriotism.

The elevation of woman to her present position from the degradation into which she had sunk during the long night of the dark ages was a slow and tedious work. Nothing aided in it so much as the arrant hypocrisy which took the form of mediæval gallantry. It became the fashion to show ostentatious deference to woman, especially if she had birth, youth, and some pretensions to beauty. At first hollow and specious to the last degree—thinly varnishing a bestiality so low that it was scarcely above that of a "bull" seal, who takes possession of all the "cows" that he can force into his rocky harem and defend against the lust of rival "bulls"—the bombast of idolatrous devotion, the shamming of respectful deference, the make-believe admission of superiority in manners, morals, love, and religion constantly came, by mere force of iteration, to approach nearer the reality. Even the coarsest-grained of the gluttonous and swilling boors who formed the body of the "gentle knighthood" became, through the habitual wearing of the mask, more genuinely appreciative of womanhood and more of a gentleman at heart. The women, on the other hand, for the same reason, became more elevated because of the factitious elevation assigned them, better informed as to what was due them, and more strenuous in exacting it.

Sir De Bracy, the "free captain," was quite capable, had he gained the Princess Rowena for his wife, of beating her "with a stick no larger than his thumb," as the old English law permitted, or of subjecting her to other and deeper indignities. But the requirement of ostentatious politeness in public would have oper-