Blogging the Bookshelf

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Conflicting Duties – “Democracy, an American novel” – Henry Adams

July 20th, 2011 · 1 Comment · Democracy, History, Means and Ends, Politics, Power, Quotes, US Politics

“Mrs. Lee,” said he, with harsh emphasis and dogmatic tone, “there are conflicting duties in all the transactions of life, except the simplest. However we may act, do what we may, we must violate some moral obligation. All that can be asked of us is that we should guide ourselves by what we think the highest. At the time this affair occurred, I was a Senator of the United States. I was also a trusted member of a great political party which I looked upon as identical with the nation. In both capacities I owed duties to my constituents, to the government, to the people. I might interpret these duties narrowly or broadly. I might say: Perish the government, perish the Union, perish this people, rather than that I should soil my hands! Or I might say, as I did, and as I would say again: Be my fate what it may, this glorious Union, the last hope of suffering humanity, shall be preserved.

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