Some Policemen and a Moral

I’m a fan of G. K. Chesterton. Not just his books, but his essays, his poetry, (to some extent) his philosophy and politics, and the way he lived his life. Of all his great works (The Man Who Was Thursday being high on the list) the best, I think, is a short essay he wrote and published in Tremendous Trifles in 1909 called Some Policemen and a Moral. Thanks to the wonder that is things going out of copyright and the Herculean efforts of Project Gutenberg I can republish it here for you to enjoy, and I have done so because you need to read it. It’s very short, so it won’t take you long. In amongst Chesterton’s characteristic, and glorious, baroque verbosity and fanciful images (there lies within a tree which “may reflect with a dark pride that it was wounded by a gentleman connected with the Liberal press“), lieth also a message (as the title may have made obvious). I imagine that most of the readers of this site will agree with the sentiments expressed therein. A snippet here, which is like movie trailers in that it shows you the best bits before you start and so the rest may seem a pale filler between that already seen:

I was certainly accused of something which was either an offence or was not. I was let off because I proved I was a guest at a big house. The inference seems painfully clear; either it is not a proof of infamy to throw a knife about in a lonely wood, or else it is a proof of innocence to know a rich man. Suppose a very poor person, poorer even than a journalist, a navvy or unskilled labourer, tramping in search of work, often changing his lodgings, often, perhaps, failing in his rent. Suppose he had been intoxicated with the green gaiety of the ancient wood. Suppose he had thrown knives at trees and could give no description of a dwelling-place except that he had been fired out of the last. As I walked home through a cloudy and purple twilight I wondered how he would have got on.

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