Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Mob Thinketh

I'm currently reading eminent historian Eric Foner's Tom Paine and Revolutionary America and I came across this quote from "Gouverneur Morris at a mass meeting in New York in 1774":
the mob begin to think and reason.
What a beautiful backhanded compliment in a way. Opponents of democracy across all historical epochs believed it to be a dreadful state of affairs where the rabble would go rabid and raze civilization. So Morris' insight is quite significant. He -- a member of the colonial elite -- understood that the times were a changing and that the masses of humanity weren't going to be pliant pawns in elite machinations any longer. Better yet, he also understood -- however paternalistically and fearfully -- that the lower sorts were as equal in mind as any aristocrat or merchant. When the idea that all humanity has reason and has a constitution disposed toward liberty is set free, it kindles a conflagration. However conservative he would certainly be by today's standards, Gouverneur Morris fanned those flames along with the other Founding Fathers and the experiment still burns strong as it spreads the world over.