But the state invites us every day to lean upon it. I seem to hear the wheedling and alluring whisper, "Sound you may be; we bid you be a cripple. Do you see? Be blind. Do you hear? Be deaf. Do you walk? Be not so venturesome. Here is a crutch for one arm; when you get accustomed to it, you will soon want another---the sooner the better." The strongest man if encouraged may soon accustom himself to the methods of an invalid; he may train himself to totter, or to be fed with a spoon.
The ancient sculptors represent Hercules leaning on his club; our modern Hercules would have his club elongated and duplicated and resting under his arms. The lesson of our . . . teaching was "level up": the cry of modern civilization is "level down": "let the government have a finger in every pie," probing, propping, disturbing. Every day the area for initiative is being narrowed, every day the standing ground for self-reliance is being undermined; every day the public infringes---with the best intentions, no doubt---on the individual; the nation is being taken into custody by the state.
Perhaps this current cannot now be stemmed; agitation or protest may be alike unavailing. The world rolls on. It may be part of its destiny, a necessary phase in its long evolution, a stage in its blind, toilsome progress to an invisible goal. I neither affirm nor deny; all in the long run is doubtless for the best.... I plead for our historical character, for the maintenance of those sterling national qualities which have meant so much to [us] in the past. I should like, at least, to think that in one powerful city in the world he must do for himself. I should like to think that there was here being taught [that] empire rests on the character of the nation that aspires to it; and that the British Empire, greater than the Roman, requires at least Roman character to maintain it; that if the Empire, a glorious but weighty burden, is to be worthily sustained, it must be by husbanding our resources, and equipping our people both in character and attainment for their task. It was not by leaning on state support that Drake or Raleigh or Hastings succeeded, but by relying on themselves in despite of their government. It was self-reliance that built the Empire; it is by self-reliance, and all that that implies, that it must be welded and continued.
From: E. P. Cheyney, Readings in English History, (Boston: Ginn & Co., 1922), pp. 774-775.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.
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© Paul Halsall, November 1998