Thursday, October 16, 2008

Character Counts

A popular textbook written in 1812 was used in public education for many years. It was a favorite of Abraham Lincoln’s and this is what it taught about character:

“Public character is no evidence of true greatness, for a public character is often an artificial character.” In other words, if you want to know what a man is really like, you should watch him when he thinks no one is looking.

The textbook used a real life example to illustrate. The man was a Brigadier General in the Continental Army and a patriot leader in the American Revolution. He was a war hero of the battle of Saratoga, the battle that turned the war. His public credentials were quite impressive.

But he also had a private life. It was his responsibility to dispatch food and supplies to the troops at Valley Forge but he sold wagonloads of their provisions on the black market while Washington’s men were freezing, starving and dying. Later, Benedict Arnold sold out West Point to the British for money. He was tried and convicted of treason.

His private life was a better indicator of his true character than his public life. The textbook continued with this statement. “It is in the private life that we are to look for the man. Private life is always real life; that’s where a man is always sure to act himself.”

In the late 1800’s Robert Ingersol espoused that leaders should be elected for their public competence and their private lives should be disregarded.

Does it really matter whom a candidate associates with or what questionable moral and political principles he has articulated in the past or how he has been enriched at public expense? It is frightening how so many people today are willing to overlook a person’s private life in the political or public arena. If Benedict Arnold were alive today, he might be very electable.

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” Proverbs 29:2.

1 comment:

Stan McCullars said...

If Benedict Arnold were alive today, he might be very electable.

If America could vote for a baby butcher it could support a Benedict Arnold.