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Just at this time the visit of Dr. and Mrs. Mills created a little excitement in certain circles. Their lectures on Christian science, both public and private, were wonderfully well attended, and I missed few of them. I have all my life endeavoured to keep an open mind on these questions, and have been prepared to accept new ideas and new modes of thought. But, although I found much that was charming in the lectures that swayed the minds of so many of my friends, I found little to convince me that Christian scientists were right and the rest of the world wrong in their interpretation of the meaning of life. So far as the cultivation of will power, as it is called, is concerned, I have no quarrel with those who maintain that a power of self-control is the basis of human happiness. So far as the will can be trained to obey only those instincts that tend to the growth and maintenance of self-respect--to prevent the subordination of our better feelings to the overpowering effects of passion, greed, or injustice--it must help to the development of one of the primary necessities of a sane existence. When, however, the same agency is brought to bear on the treatment of diseases in any shape or form I find my faith wavering. Though there may be more things in earth and heaven than are dreamed of in my philosophy, I was not prepared to follow the teachings set before us by the interpreters of this belief, whose visit had made an interesting break in the lives of many people. Truth I find everywhere expressed, goodness in all things; but I neither look for nor expect perfection in any one thing the world has ever produced. "Tell me where God is," a somewhat, cynical sceptic asked of a child. "Tell me where He is not," replied the child; and the same thing applies to goodness. Do not tell me where goodness is, but point out to, me, if you can, where it is not. It is for each one to find out for himself where the right path lies, and to follow it with all his strength of mind and of purpose. Pippa's song, "God's in His heaven-all's right with the world," does not mean that the time has come for us to lay down our arms in the battle of right against wrong. No! no; it is an inspiration for us to gird our loins afresh, to "right the wrongs that need resistance;" for, God being in His heaven, and the world itself being right, makes it so much easier to correct mistakes that are due to human agencies and shortcomings only.
I found time to spend a pleasant week at Victor Harbour with my friends, Mr. and Mrs. John Wyles. I remember one day being asked whether I was not sorry I never married. "No," I replied, "for, although I often envy my friends the happiness they find in their children, I have never envied them their husbands." I think we must have been in a frivolous mood; for a lady visitor, who was present, capped my remark with the statement that she was quite sure Miss Spence was thankful that when she died she would not be described as the "relic" of any man. It was the same lady who on another occasion, when one of the juvenile members of the party asked whether poets had to pay for poetical licence, wittily replied, "No, my dear, but their readers do!" Although so much of my time has been spent in public work, I have by no means neglected or despised the social side of life. Visits to my friends have always been delightful to me, and I have felt as much interested in the domestic virtues of my many acquaintances as I have been an admirer of their grasp of literature, politics, or any branch of the arts or sciences in which they have been interested. This seaside visit had been a welcome break in a year that had brought me a new occupation as a member of the Destitute Board, had given me the experience of a political campaign, had witnessed the framing of the Constitution for the Commonwealth 'neath the Southern Cross, and had seen effective voting advance from the academic stage into the realm of practical politics. During the year Mrs. Young and I addressed together 26 meetings on this subject. One of the most interesting was at the Blind School, North Adelaide. The keenness with which this audience gripped every detail of the explanation showed us how splendidly they had risen above their affliction. I was reminded of Helen Keller, the American girl, who at the age of 21 months had lost sight and hearing, and whom I had met in Chicago during my American visit, just before she took her degree at Harvard University.
To all peacelovers the years from 1898 to 1901 were shadowed by the South African war. The din of battle was in our ears only to a less degree than in those of our kinsmen in the mother country. War has always been abhorrent to me, and there was the additional objection to my mind in the case of the South African war in that it was altogether unjustified. Froude's chapters on South Africa had impressed me on the publication of his book "Oceana," after his visit here in the seventies. His indictment of England for her treatment of the Boers from the earliest days of her occupation of Cape Colony was too powerful to be ignored. I felt it to be impossible that so great a historian as Froude should make such grave charges on insufficient evidence. The annexation of 1877, so bitterly condemned by him, followed by the treaty of peace of 1881, with its famous "suzerainty" clause, was, I think, but a stepping stone to the war which was said to have embittered the last years of the life of Queen Victoria. The one voice raised in protest against the annexation of 1877 in the British House of Commons was that of Mr. Leonard (now Lord) Courtney. Not afraid to stand alone, though all the world were against him, the war at the close of the century found Leonard Courtney again taking his stand against the majority of his countrymen, and this time it cost him his Parliamentary seat. I have often felt proud that the leadership of proportional representation in England should have fallen into the hands of so morally courageous a man as Leonard Courtney has invariably proved himself to be.
We are apt to pride ourselves on the advance we have made in our civilization; but our self-glorification received a rude shock at the feelings of intolerance and race hatred that the war brought forth. Freedom of speech became the monopoly of those who supported the war, and the person who dared to express an opinion which differed from that of the majority needed a great deal more than the ordinary allowance of moral courage. Unfortunately the intolerance so characteristic of that period is a feature, to a greater or lesser extent, of every Parliamentary election in the Commonwealth. The clause in the Federal Electoral Act which makes disturbance of a political meeting a penal offence is a curious reflection on a so-called democratic community. But, though its justification can scarcely be denied even by the partisans of the noisier elements in a political crowd, its existence must be deplored by every right-minded and truehearted citizen. In Miss Rose Scott I found a sympathizer on this question of the war; and one of the best speeches I ever heard her make was on Peace and Arbitration. "Mafeking Day" was celebrated while we were in Sydney, and I remember how we three--Miss Scott, Mrs. Young, and I--remained indoors the whole day, at the charming home of our hostess, on Point Piper road. The black band of death and desolation was too apparent for us to feel that we could face the almost ribald excesses of that day. I felt the war far less keenly than did my two friends; but it was bad even for me. No one called, and the only companions of our chosen solitude were the books we all loved so much, and
The secret sympathy,
I had hoped that the Women's National Council, a branch of which was formed in Adelaide a few years later, would have made a great deal of the question of peace and arbitration, just as other branches have done all over the world; and when the Peace Society was inaugurated a short time ago I was glad to be able to express my sympathy with the movement by becoming a member. As I was returning from a lecturing tour in the south during this time, an old Scotch farm-wife came into the carriage where I had been knitting in solitude. She was a woman of strong feelings, and was bitterly opposed to the war. We chatted on the subject for a time, getting along famously, until she discovered that I was Miss Spence. "But you are a Unitarian!" she protested in a shocked tone. I admitted the fact. "Oh, Miss Spence," she went on, "how can you be so wicked as to deny the divinity of Christ?" I explained to her what Unitarianism was, but she held dubiously aloof for a time. Then we talked of other things. She told me of many family affairs, and when she left me at the station she said, "All, well, Miss Spence, I've learned something this morning, and that is that a Unitarian can be just as good and honest as other folk."
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An Autobiography -by- Catherine Helen SpenceBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.