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George Bancroft (1800-1891) The Office of the People (1835)

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Presentation on theme: "George Bancroft (1800-1891) The Office of the People (1835)"— Presentation transcript:

1 George Bancroft ( ) The Office of the People (1835)

2 Background  Father was a distinguished revolutionary soldier  Educated at Phillips Exter Academy, Exeter, Harvard University, Heidelberg, Gottingen, and Berlin.  Entered Harvard at age thirteen, then studied abroad  Was expected to join the ministry, but was unsuccessful  Became a statesmen and historian  Leaned towards romanticism and humanist beliefs  Gained favor with Polk and became Secretary of the Navy  Established the United States Naval Academy  Was assigned the position of Minister to Britain and Prussia  Was a supporter of Jacksonian Democracy  Was prolific writer, including his book History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent George Bancroft The Office of the People (1835)

3 George Bancroft The Office of the People (1835) * Common judgment is the highest authority. If it be true, that the gifts of mind and heart are universally diffused, if the sentiment of truth, justice, love, and beauty exists in every one, then it follows, as a necessary consequence, that the common judgment in taste, politics, and religion is the highest authority on earth, and the nearest possible approach to an infallible decision. * Truth is one. Truth is one. It never contradicts itself: One truth cannot contradict another truth. Hence truth is a bond of union. But error not only contradicts truth, but may contradict itself; so that there may be many errors, and each at variance with the rest. Truth is therefore of necessity an element of harmony; error as necessarily an element of discord. Thus there can be no continuing universal judgment but a right one. Men cannot agree in an absurdity; neither can they agree in a falsehood. * Truth has been passed on by the collective truth of humanity through the ages, and even today, the public is wiser than the wisest critic. ► There is never a school of philosophy, nor a clan in the realm of opinion, but carried along with it some important truth. And therefore every sect that has ever flourished has benefited Humanity; for the errors of a sect pass away and are forgotten; its truths are received into the common inheritance. To know the seminal thought of every prophet and leader of a sect, is to gather all the wisdom of mankind ► For who are the best judges in matters of taste? Do you think the cultivated individual? Undoubtedly not; but the collective mind. The public is wiser than the wisest critic.

4 George Bancroft The Office of the People (1835) * Common judgment is the highest authority. If it be true, that the gifts of mind and heart are universally diffused, if the sentiment of truth, justice, love, and beauty exists in every one, then it follows, as a necessary consequence, that the common judgment in taste, politics, and religion is the highest authority on earth, and the nearest possible approach to an infallible decision. * Truth is one. Truth is one. It never contradicts itself: One truth cannot contradict another truth. Hence truth is a bond of union. But error not only contradicts truth, but may contradict itself; so that there may be many errors, and each at variance with the rest. Truth is therefore of necessity an element of harmony; error as necessarily an element of discord. Thus there can be no continuing universal judgment but a right one. Men cannot agree in an absurdity; neither can they agree in a falsehood. * Truth has been passed on by the collective truth of humanity through the ages, and even today, the public is wiser than the wisest critic. ► There is never a school of philosophy, nor a clan in the realm of opinion, but carried along with it some important truth. And therefore every sect that has ever flourished has benefited Humanity; for the errors of a sect pass away and are forgotten; its truths are received into the common inheritance. ► For who are the best judges in matters of taste? Do you think the cultivated individual? Undoubtedly not; but the collective mind. The public is wiser than the wisest critic.

5 The Office of the People (1835) George Bancroft, The Office of the People (1835) * True genius is inspired by reflecting and satisfying the wisdom of humanity, and not by reflecting or satisfying particular tastes. [Genius] yearns for larger influences; it feeds on wide sympathies; and its perfect display can never exist except in an appeal to the general sentiment for the beautiful…. * The moral intelligence of the community should rule. A government of equal rights must…rest upon the mind; not wealth, not brute force, the sum of the moral intelligence of the community should rule the State. …the common mind [is] the true material for a commonwealth. The world can advance only through the culture of the moral and intellectual powers of the people. The duty of America is to secure the culture and the happiness of the masses by their reliance on themselves. …we have made Humanity our lawgiver and our oracle… The government by the people is in very truth the strongest government in the world. Discarding the implements of terror, it dares to rule by moral force, and has its citadel in the heart…. …the measure of the progress of civilization is the progress of the people. …the opinion which we respect is not the opinion of one or a few, but the sagacity of the many.


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