Friday, March 21, 2008

Only Tyrants ...

I'm looking at some old books and their mention of political knowledge. Here's a great quote from Lectures on History and General Policy by Joseph Priestly, published in 1791:
Only tyrants, and the friends of arbitrary power, have ever taken umbrage at a turn for political knowledge, and political discourse, among even the lowest of the people.

This is defense of what people should know at at time when the "low" were considered incapable of playing a role. "Political knowledge, it will be said, is useful only to politicians and ministers of state," Priestly writes, then takes apart the argument.

Not all the old stuff is so thoughtful. Here's a favorite from Sketches of the History of Man by H.H. Kames in 1774:
The progress of political knowledge has unfolded many bad effects of a great city, more weighty than any urged in the proclamations. The first I shall mention is, that people born and bred in a great city are commonly weak and effeminate.

Gotta love these old guys.

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