Monday, June 28, 2010

Emerson, honor, and spoons

If a pickpocket intrude into the society of gentlemen, they exert what moral force they have, and he finds himself un­com­fort­able, and glad to get away.

But if an adventurer go through all the forms, procure himself to be elected to a post of trust, as of senator, or president,—though by the same arts as we detest in the house-thief,—the same gentlemen who agree to discountenance the private rogue, will be forward to show civilities and marks of respect to the public one: and no amount of evidence of his crimes will prevent them giving him ovations, complimentary dinners, opening their own houses to him, and priding themselves on his acquaintance.

We were not deceived by the professions of the private adventurer,—the louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons; but we appeal to the sanctified preamble of the messages and proclamations of the public sinner, as the proof of sincerity.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life VI. Worship