“That general Illumination should precede Revolution, is a truth as obvious, as that the Vessel should be cleansed before we fill it with a pure Liquor. But the mode of diffusing it is not discoverable with equal facility. We certainly should never attempt to make Proselytes by appeals to the selfish feelings – and consequently, should plead for the Oppressed, not to them. The Author of an essay on political justice considers private Societies as the sphere of real utility – that (each one illuminating those immediately beneath him,) Truth by a gradual descent may at last reach the lowest order. But this is rather plausible than just or practicable. Society as at present constituted does no resemble a chain that ascends in a continuity of Links. – There are three ranks possessing intercourse with each other: these are well comprised in the superscription of a Perfumer’s advertisement which I lately saw – “the Nobility, Gentry, and People of the Dress.” But alas! between the Parlour and the Kitchen, the Tap and the Coffee-room – there is a gulph [sic] that may not be passed. He would appear to me to have adopted the best as well as the most benevolent mode of diffusing Truth, who uniting the zeal of the Methodist with the views of the Philosopher, should be personally among the Poor, and teach them their Duties in order that he may render them susceptible of their Rights.”
Coleridge: Introductory Address to his 1795 Lecture series.
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