The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others, as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders, serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it.

How to paraphrase this sentence?

  1. What does "in the great sense" mean?
  2. "so necessarily resist it for the most part", does "so" modify "necessarily" or the whole sentence?

1 Answer 1


This is quite old, and in several respects not what you would expect to find in a modern work:

  • "as" here means "for example"

  • "in the great sense" means "intrpreting the word 'reformer' in a broad sense".

  • It is not clear what "and men" means here. I think it must be "and ordinary men".

  • "So" means "therefore". It is a conjunction that applies to the whole clause, not just the following word.

Edit: Clarified further in response to Leon Zero's comments and addition of context.

  • I attached more texts, I think it means men vs "machine". The first question you use "understood", " reformers in the great sense" means "reformers which are understood generally"? If I want to understand it as "reformers with great judgement", can I change "in the great sense" to "in great sense"? And how to explain the second question?
    – Leon Zero
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 0:04
  • I've edited my answer further. It can't mean "men vs machines", because it comes at the end of a list of heroes etc, all of whom are men rather than machines. I'm pretty sure it must mean "ordinary men". "In the great sense" is referring to how we interpret the word "reformers" not to characteristics of those people. And I thought I had answered your second question, but I've clarified.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 10:16

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