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“Whence then is the courage . . .”

November 11, 2009

Whence then is the courage of the English vulgar?  It proceeds, in my opinion, from that dissolution of dependance which obliges every man to regard his own character.  While every man is fed by his own hands, he has no need of any servile arts:  he may always have wages for his labour; and is no less necessary to his employer, than his employer is to him.  While he looks for no protection from others, he is naturally roused to be his own protector; and having nothing to abate his esteem of himself, he consequently aspires to the esteem of others.  Thus every man that crowds our streets is a man of honour, disdainful of obligation, impatient of reproach, and desirous of extending his reputation among those of his own rank; and as courage is in most frequent use, the fame of courage is most eagerly pursued.  From this neglect of subordination I do not deny that some inconveniences may from time to time proceed:  the power of the law does not always sufficiently supply the want of reverence, or maintain the proper distinction between different ranks: but good and evil will grow up in this world together; and they who complain, in peace, of the insolence of the populace, must remember, that their insolence in peace is bravery in war.

The Idler.  By the Author of the Rambler.  In two volumes.  Vol. II.  The third edition.  With additional essays, 1767.  From Google Books.  Original images here and here.

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