Civic Reform -- By: Z. Swift Holbrook
BSac 55:217 (Jan 1898) p. 128
The American people are a nation of reformers. This republic was founded by men who sought to purify the Church of England, its clergy, its members, its forms of worship, and its ordinances. This task involved the reformation of such subjects as Henry VIII., Edward VI., Bloody Mary, and Queen Elizabeth. Of course they failed. So they fled to Holland for liberty, and then came to the desolate shores of a new world. The mightiest force that landed on Plymouth Rock was the spirit of reform. This spirit formed the Massachusetts Colony; for the Pilgrims joined the Puritans, and the Plymouth Colony was augmented by some of the ablest minds and choicest spirits from England, France, and Holland. Moved by a longing for freedom; with lofty ideas of the rights of the individual; with notions of democracy that have since shaped the governments of the world; with fundamental conceptions of the duties and functions of the state,—these reformers from every land hastened to these shores that they might find room for the expression of their high ideals without opposition of church or state. No sooner had they landed than they began to reform the Indian, and this they accomplished with distinguished success by planting him in the ground. The Quakers tried their hand at reform on the Massachusetts Colony, but soon discovered that the genu-
BSac 55:217 (Jan 1898) p. 129
ine reformer does not care to be molested himself while he is busy working out his own ideals. So these “disturbers of the peace,” as they were esteemed, fled to Rhode Island. Their descendants have since tried their hand at reform on President Andrews of Brown University; but, like their ancestors, have discovered that an advocate of currency reform is not himself ambitious to be reformed by methods that stifle personal liberty.
Then the Massachusetts Colony reformed a cargo of tea that landed in Boston Harbor, and this they planted, not in the ground like the Indian, but in the sea. This was revenue reform. Encouraged by this success, they next tried their hand on George III., and planted a few of his personal friends as a simple demonstration of what they could do. He decided to remain at home for his health, and just here began the great constructive period in our history as a nation. It may be asserted as a general proposition needing no proof, but simply suggestion, that the lofty ideas of civil and religious liberty, the American spirit of optimism, our institutions, our notions of democracy, are all the fruitage of a passion for reform that filled the minds and hearts of the noble men who founded this republic. This age of invention is indebted to this love for improvement and desire for perf...
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