Saturday, March 26, 2016

Maintaining Good Cheer

As the national conversation grows increasingly contentious, I thought it might be worth noting this passage from the conclusion of Calvin Coolidge's address when he accepted the presidency of the Massachusetts state senate:
We need a broader, firmer, deeper faith in the people; A faith that men desire to do right, that the Commonwealth is founded upon a righteousness which will endure, a reconstructed faith that the final approval of the people is given not to demagogues, slavishly pandering to their selfishness, merchandising with the clamor of the hour, but to statesmen, ministering to their welfare, representing their deep, silent, abiding convictions.
Statutes must appeal to more than material welfare. Wages won’t satisfy, be they never so large. Nor houses; nor lands; nor coupons, though they fall thick as the leaves of autumn.
Man has a spiritual nature. Touch it, and it must respond as the magnet responds to the pole. To that, not to selfishness, let the laws of the Commonwealth appeal. Recognize the immortal worth and dignity of man. Let the laws of Massachusetts proclaim to her humblest citizen, performing the most menial task, the recognition of his manhood, the recognition that all men are peers, the humblest with the most exalted, the recognition that all work is glorified. Such is the path to equality before the law. Such is the foundation of liberty under the law. Such is the sublime revelation of man’s relation to man, Democracy!
Coolidge's remarks here stress the importance of a republic recognizing the dignity of all.  Moreover, he offers here a politics of conviction.  Coolidge argues that politics cannot just be about material welfare; it also involves questions of principle.  Especially in troubled times, it's very much worth keeping an eye on those principles.

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