1910s, The Progressives, Past and Present (1910)
Kontext: To my mind the failure resolutely to follow progressive policies is the negation of democracy as well of progress, and spells disaster. But for this very reason I feel concern when progressives act with heedless violence, or go so far and so fast as to invite reaction. The experience of John Brown illustrates the evil of the revolutionary short-cut to ultimate good ends. The liberty of the slave was desirable, but it was not to be brought about by a slave insurrection. The better distribution of property is desirable, but it is not to be brought about by the anarchic form of Socialism which would destroy all private capital and tend to destroy all private wealth. It represents not progress, but retrogression, to propose to destroy capital because the power of unrestrained capital is abused. John Brown rendered a great service to the cause of liberty in the earlier Kansas days; but his notion that the evils of slavery could be cured by a slave insurrection was a delusion analogous to the delusions of those who expect to cure the evils of plutocracy by arousing the baser passions of workingmen against the rich in an endeavor at violent industrial revolution. And, on the other hand, the brutal and shortsighted greed of those who proﬁt by what is wrong in the present system, and the attitude of those who oppose all effort to do away with this wrong, serve in their turn as incitements to such revolution; just as the insolence of the ultra pro-slavery men ﬁnally precipitated the violent destruction of slavery.