Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Public Opinion Baths 3

Lincoln’s rationale for what he called ‘Public Opinion  Baths:’ ‘I feel – though the tax on my time is heave – that no hours of my day are better employed than those which thus bring me again within the direct contact and atmosphere of the average  of our whole people. Men moving only in an official circle are apt to become merely official – not to say arbitrary – in their ideas, and are apter and apter with each passing day to forget that they only hold power in a representative capacity.
‘Now this is all wrong. I go into these receptions of all who claim to have business with me, and every applicant for audience has to take his turn, as if waiting to be shaved in the barber’s shop. Many of the matters brought to my notice are utterly frivolous, but others are of more or less importance, and all serve to renew in me a cleaner and more vivid image of that great popular assemblage out of which I sprang, and to which at the end of a few short years I must return. I tell you that I call these receptions my “public opinion baths;” for have but little time to read the papers, and gather public opinion that way; and though they may not be pleasant in all their particulars, the effect as a whole, is renovating and invigorating to my perceptions of responsibility and duty.’

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