Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Context please

Wall Street Journal editorial page --

Notable & Quotable

On the need for eternal vigilance to protect liberty, from the Times of London, Aug. 11, 1846:

The greatest tyranny has the smallest beginnings. From precedents overlooked, from remonstrances despised, from grievances treated with ridicule, from powerless men oppressed with impunity, and overbearing men tolerated with complaisance, springs the tyrannical usage which generations of wise and good men may hereafter perceive and lament and resist in vain.

At present, common minds no more see a crushing tyranny in a trivial unfairness or a ludicrous indignity, than the eye uninformed by reason can discern the oak in the acorn, or the utter desolation of winter in the first autumnal fall. Hence the necessity of denouncing with unwearied and even troublesome perseverance a single act of oppression. Let it alone, and it stands on record. The country has allowed it, and when it is at last provoked to a late indignation it finds itself gagged with the record of its own ill compliance.

It's stirring stuff. But it could be about anything; one suspects it's circulating on right-wing e-mail lists in an anti-Obama usage. But it's a bit sloppy of them to spring the quote without a subject. So a little detective work through the Times archive (which unfortunately charges for access) indicates that the subject was one of several Poor Law relief scandals, springing in particular from the desire of the government to make welfare as painful as possible and to run care for the mentally ill on a for-profit basis.

The Times was apparently against. But aren't they things that the Journal editorial page would favour?

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