THIS is not a stiff and learned work, written by a professor for professors, but a human book, written in humanity's behalf by a man, for men and women.
I shall not fret you with strange and stilted language, nor weary you with tedious and irksome science, nor gall you with far-fetched theories, nor waste your time in any vain word-twisting nor splitting of hairs.
A plain-dealing man, speaking frankly and simply to honest and plain-dealing readers, I shall trust to common sense and common knowledge and common English to make my meaning clear.
I have been warned that it is easier to write a book on such a theme as this than to get people to read it when written. But I am hopeful, and my hope springs from the living interest and deep significance of the subject.
For in defending the Bottom Dog I do not deal with hard science only; but with the dearest faiths, the oldest wrongs, and the most awful relationships of the great human family, for whose good I strive, and to whose judgment I appeal.
Knowing, as I do, how the hard-working and hard-playing public shun laborious thinking and serious writing, and how they hate to have their ease disturbed or their prejudices handled rudely, I still make bold to undertake this task, because of the vital nature of the problems I shall probe.
The case for the Bottom Dog should touch the public heart to the quick, for it affects the truth of our religions, the justice of our laws, and the destinies of our children and our children's; children.
Much golden eloquence has been squandered in praise of the successful and the good; much stern condemnation has been vented upon the wicked. I venture now to plead for those of our poor brothers and sisters who are accursed of Christ and rejected.
Hitherto all the love, all the honours, all the applause of this? world, and all the rewards of heaven, have been lavished on the fortunate and the strong; and the portion of the unfriended Bottom Dog, in his adversity and weakness, has been curses, blows, chains, the gallows, and everlasting damnation.
I shall plead, then, for those who are loathed and tortured and branded as the sinful and unclean; for those who have hated us and wronged us, and have been wronged and hated by us. I shall defend them for right's sake, for pity's sake, and for the benefit of society and the race. For these also are of our flesh, these also have erred and gone astray, these also are victims of an inscrutable and relentless Fate.
If it concerns us that the religions of the world are childish dreams, or nightmares; if it concerns us that penal laws and moral codes are survivals of barbarism and fear; if it concerns us that our most cherished and venerable ideas of our relations to God and to each other are illogical and savage, then the case for the Bottom Dog concerns us nearly.
If it moves us to learn that disease may be prevented, that ruin may be averted, that broken hearts and broken lives may be made whole; if it inspires us to hear how beauty may be conjured out of loathliness and glory out of shame; how waste may be turned to wealth and death to life, and despair to happiness, then the case for the Bottom Dog is a case to be well and truly tried.
If man's flesh and woman's flesh are merchandise or carrion; if the defiled and trampled souls of innocent children are no more to us than are the trodden blossoms under the feet of swine; if love lies to us and pity is a cheat; if whips and chains and contumely and the gibbet are meet for our sisters and our brothers and if dishonourable ease and beggarly pride and the flatteries of fools are worthy of ourselves, then we have the Yellow Press and the painted altar and the Parliamentary speeches and a selfish heaven and a hell where the worm never dies; and everything is for the best in, this best of all possible worlds.
But because I believe "men needs must love the highest when they see it," because I believe that the universal heart is sweet and sound, because I believe there are many who honour truth and seek happiness and peace for all, I do not fear to plead for the Bottom Dog, nor to ask a patient hearing.
Rightly or wrongly, happily or unhappily, but with all the sincerity of my soul, I shall here deny the justice and reason of every kind of blame and praise, of punishment and reward—human or divine.
Divine law—the law made by priests, and attributed to God—consists of a code of rewards and punishments' for acts called good or bad. Human law—the law made by Kings and Parliaments—consists of a code of punishments for acts called criminal and unlawful.
I claim that men should not be classified as good and bad, but as fortunate and unfortunate; that they should be pitied, and not blamed; helped instead of being punished.
I claim that since we do not hold a man worthy of praise for being born beautiful, nor of blame for being born ugly, neither should we hold him worthy of praise for being born virtuous, nor of blame for being born vicious.
I base this claim upon the self-evident and undeniable fact that man has no part in the creation of his own nature.
I shall be told this means that no man is answerable for his own acts.
That is exactly what it does mean.
But, it will be urged, every man has a free will to act as he chooses; and to deny that is to imperil all law and order, all morality and discipline.
I deny both these inferences, and I ask the reader to hear my case patiently, and to judge it on its merits.
Let us first test the justice of our laws, divine and human: the question of their usefulness we will deal with later.
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