The Ethical Factor In Politics -- By: Francis Little Hayes

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 065:257 (Jan 1908)
Article: The Ethical Factor In Politics
Author: Francis Little Hayes


The Ethical Factor In Politics

Reverend Francis Little Hayes

There is an intimate relationship between politics and commerce. So much political activity has its motive in business considerations that the financial factor seems, on the surface, to be the dominant factor in politics. So obtrusive has been this factor in our own national history that a brilliant United States Senator dared a few years ago to say that the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments had no place in American politics. He was speaking not of theories but of actual conditions as he interpreted them.

Nevertheless a look beneath the surface both of history and of present conditions finds strong ground for the conviction expressed in the following proposition: The ethical factor has been and is now increasingly the most potent one in politics.

It was comparatively early in the history of modern civilization that the tyranny of kings found its only effective buttress in the claim to a “divine right.” The inspiration moving the barons to make the stand at Runnymede that wrested from King John the Great Charter of English liberties sprang less from the consciousness of their might than from the impelling sense that right was on their side. It was John Wycliffe’s proclamation through a translated Bible and an army of Lollards of the doctrine of a common fatherhood and an all-inclusive brotherhood that started the political earthquake

causing British absolutism first to tremble on its throne and later to totter to its fall in the days of Cromwell and Charles the First.

The whole modern ferment making for civil liberty and now beginning to convulse the Eastern nations, as in former generations it has revolutionized the Western, is everywhere traceable to the ethical yeast. It is this ethical yeast, as Benjamin Kidd has shown in his “Social Evolution “and in his later work entitled “Western Civilization,” that has been the chief evolutionary principle in political progress.

It is not infrequently said that the “Compact” drawn up by the Pilgrims in the cabin of the Mayflower has had more far-reaching political effects than any other document penned in modern times. Whether that be an extravagant assertion or not it is plainly demonstrable that “the tap-root of all that is wholesome and permanent in modern democracy “is sunk in the very soil out of which that compact grew. An element of the same spirit that impelled the Pilgrims and the Puritans to break away from the English shores prompted their descendants in “seventy-six” to break away from the British government. It was not so much because taxation without representation was expensive as because it was un...

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