Most people are the slaves of habit – followers of custom – believers in the wisdom of the past – and were it not for a few brave and splendid souls, “the dust of antique time would lie unswept, and mountainous error be too highly heaped for truth to overpeer.”
Custom is a prison, locked and barred by those who long ago were dust, the keys of which are in the keeping of the dead. Nothing is grander than when a strong, intrepid man breaks chains, levels walls and stares down the many-headed mob like some great cliff that meets and mocks the innumerable billows of the sea.
And there is where the politician and statesman differ. The politician hastens to agree with the majority – insists that their prejudice is patriotism, that their ignorance is wisdom – not because he loves them, but because he loves himself. The statesman, the real reformer, points out the mistakes of the multitude, attacks the prejudices of his countrymen, laughs at their follies, denounces their cruelties, enlightens and enlarges their minds and educates the conscience – not because he loves himself, but because he loves and serves the right and wishes to make his country great and free. With him defeat is but a spur to further effort.