American Radicals Some Problems and Personalities

By Harvey Goldberg | Go to book overview

12
The Renegade: A Study of Defectors

RUSSELL FRASER


I

IT SEEMS TO ME PATENT that as radicals vary, one from another, so also do renegades, abjurers of the faith. I have tried, then, to tell of the different varieties: the opportunist or cuckoo bird, who knows a good nest when he sees it; the yea-sayer or chameleon, so affable and easy to titillate that he tricks himself out, with neither malice nor compulsion, in whatever dress the present fashion decrees; the overrunner or babbler, a kind of intractable bird dog, who never throws his tongue but where the scent is undoubtedly false, who, with the best will in the world, the stoutest heart, and the reddest cockade, is only to be censured in this, that he doesn't know a hawk from a handsaw, no, not even with a southerly wind. There is, last, the unalloyed, or wholly self-conscious, defector, who figures in this kingdom of the foolish and the damned as Leviathan. But because men are prone, and rightly, to cavil over words, it is requisite first to establish one's terms, to make clear the nature of defection, and the creed a defector forswears.

In 1832, Emerson gave over the ministry, unable to bear any longer the little room it afforded. Certainly, however, no stigma is his for

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