How striking is it to compare some of our newspaper editorials of today with those of two years ago in the same papers, and to see how their writers have been dragged, step by step, into line with those whom they formerly opposed! They have not changed their faith; they have deserted it. For them there is the defense of business necessity; but if you will to-day talk to many men who gave you their opinions a few months ago, you will find that they have broken down and given up—surrendered to superior numbers. In our bulletin crowds we have all seen the spirit of the mob, which meets the newcomer indifferent or doubtful, thrills him with the mysterious influence of the men packed around and against him, and sends him away an irresponsible monomaniac.
With such forces at work, it is inevitable that we should act, or be ready to act, quickly. Why not? Reflection takes time. To learn the facts fully and certainly takes time. To feel—how long? To take another man's word—how long? To give way to a thousand other men—how long? We have all seen men cheering our war with Spain only yesterday. To-day Austria seems friendly to the queen regent. We'll whip Austria, too. Tomorrow Germany is impudent to Dewey. We shall be ready by night to whip Germany. If Europe combines against us, how long shall we consider the cost of such a war as that? Write it on the bulletin board—the crowd will be ready before the writing is done.
Near to this is the spirit of fickleness, of inconstancy, which has been frequently manifested. We have not only made up our minds on insufficient evidence, but we have unmade them in a hurry on no evidence at all, showing a startling lack of confidence in our own judgments and of respect for them. Attention might well have been called, in a former paragraph, to the small amount of our real knowledge of the character of Aguinaldo. On what petty and inconsequential evidence have we first called him a great liberator, and now a scheming politician! Men who could hardly read his most remarkable appeal to this country do not hesitate to call him an unprincipled, conceited, ignorant barbarian: what reliable information have they received with reference to his motives? They have found no trouble in changing their opinions. In the past few months we have been mercurial almost beyond mercurial Frenchmen. Think of the revulsion of feeling that followed Hobson across the continent; and, more recently, of our sad lack of self-restraint shown by the vicious and ungrounded attack upon Admiral Dewey, only a few days after he had been the object of the greatest display of hero worship America has ever seen. And how many important changes may we count, if we carry back our comparison to the time before the war?