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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau


could afford to refuse the extra garments which I offered him, he had
so many intra ones. This ducking was the very thing he needed. Then
I began to pity myself, and I saw that it would be a greater charity to
bestow on me a flannel shirt than a whole slop-shop on him. There
are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking
at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of
time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life
to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve. It is the
pious slave-breeder devoting the proceeds of every tenth slave to buy
a Sundayís liberty for the rest. Some show their kindness to the poor
by employing them in their kitchens. Would they not be kinder if
they employed themselves there? You boast of spending a tenth part
of your income in charity; maybe you should spend the nine tenths
so, and done with it. Society recovers only a tenth part of the
property then. Is this owing to the generosity of him in whose
possession it is found, or to the remissness of the officers of justice?

Philanthropy is almost the only virtue which is sufficiently
appreciated by mankind. Nay, it is greatly overrated; and it is our
selfishness which overrates it. A robust poor man, one sunny day
here in Concord, praised a fellow-townsman to me, because, as he
said, he was kind to the poor; meaning himself. The kind uncles and
aunts of the race are more esteemed than its true spiritual fathers and
mothers. I once heard a reverend lecturer on England, a man of
learning and intelligence, after enumerating her scientific, literary,
and political worthies, Shakespeare, Bacon, Cromwell, Milton,
Newton, and others, speak next of her Christian heroes, whom, as if
his profession required it of him, he elevated to a place far above all
the rest, as the greatest of the great. They were Penn, Howard, and
Mrs. Fry. Every one must feel the falsehood and cant of this. The last
were not Englandís best men and women; only, perhaps, her best
philanthropists.

I would not subtract anything from the praise that is due to
philanthropy, but merely demand justice for all who by their lives
and works are a blessing to mankind. I do not value chiefly a manís
uprightness and benevolence, which are, as it were, his stem and
leaves. Those plants of whose greenness withered we make herb tea
for the sick serve but a humble use, and are most employed by
quacks. I want the flower and fruit of a man; that some fragrance be
wafted over from him to me, and some ripeness flavor our
intercourse. His goodness must not be a partial and transitory act, but
a constant superfluity, which costs him nothing and of which he is
unconscious. This is a charity that hides a multitude of sins. The
philanthropist too often surrounds mankind with the remembrance of
his own castoff griefs as an atmosphere, and calls it sympathy. We
should impart our courage, and not our despair, our health and ease,
and not our disease, and take care that this does not spread by
contagion. From what southern plains comes up the voice of
wailing? Under what latitudes reside the heathen to whom we would
send light? Who is that intemperate and brutal man whom we would
redeem? If anything ail a man, so that he does not perform his
functions, if he have a pain in his bowels even-for that is the seat of
sympathy-he forthwith sets about reformingthe world. Being a
microcosm himself, he discovers-and it is a true discovery, and he is
the man to make it-that the world has been eating green apples; to
his eyes, in fact, the globe itself is a great green apple, which there is
danger awful to think of that the children of men will nibble before it
is ripe; and straightway his drastic philanthropy seeks out the
Esquimau and the Patagonian, and embraces the populous Indian and
Chinese villages; and thus, by a few years of philanthropic activity,
the powers in the meanwhile using him for their own ends, no doubt,
he cures himself of his dyspepsia, the globe acquires a faint blush on
one or both of its cheeks, as if it were beginning to be ripe, and life
loses its crudity and is once more sweet and wholesome to live. I
never dreamed of any enormity greater than I have committed. I
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