Saturday, July 16, 2005

Civility and Its Discontents

The abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison was rather unimpressed by the "genteel tradition":

"I will be harsh as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his write from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; -- but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present." (From The Liberator, January 1, 1831; cited in Richard Hofstader, Great Issues in American History, 1958).


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