“For always in thine eyes, O Liberty!
Shines that high light whereby the world is saved;
And though thou slay us, we will trust in thee.”
On Picket Duty.
Henry George has another priestly ally, Rev. Hugh O. Pentecost. In a sermon preached at Newark lately in defence of George, he declared incidentally: “A book is not an Anarchist’s argument.” Will Parson Pentecost have the kindness to inform me why I am publishing the “Proudhon Library”?
The New York “Sun” is publishing some sensational London letters regarding Ruskin, in which it is claimed that he is about to join the Roman Catholic Church. With all his wonderful intellectual power, Ruskin is freaky and contradictory, and nothing that he might do need surprise any one; but, until the “Sun’s” correspondent substantiates his assertion by better evidence than sundry appreciative references to Catholicism in Ruskin’s writings and the Catholic faith of some of his intimate friends, I shall satisfy my desire to disbelieve it.
Joe Cook opened his annual exhibition of his growing idiocy in Tremont Temple, Boston, last Monday. Between his prelude and his lecture it is his custom to answer, ex cathedra, questions that have been submitted to him. On this occasion he had time to answer but one question: “Ought the Chicago Anarchists to be hanged?” His answer was: “May God have mercy on the son’s of the Anarchists, and may the courts not have mercy on their bodies!” This justification of murderous revenge upon earth by the hypocritical pretence of pardon in heaven had been prefaced by the lecturer’s fierce attack upon the modern Andover heresy of “probation after death,” in the light of which the bovine bellower’s appeal for celestial mercy in behalf of the doomed victims of his capitalistic supporters was seen to be a hollow mockery upon his lying lips.
Sneering at the idea that liberty would remedy the coal monopoly, the “Workmen’s Advocate” desires to know if any one ever heard of a “corner in postage stamps.” Why, yes; for years, in the matter of postage stamps, I’ve heard of nothing else. Uncle Sam long ago collared and cornered the privilege of issuing postage stamps, and no one else is allowed to issue any without paying a tax which is virtually prohibitory. Consequently we have to pay this monopolist, Uncle Sam, two cents for carrying our letters, though others, if allowed, would carry them for us for one cent. I expect to see the money order branch of the postal service made a monopoly soon. For here is the American Express Company, one of those awful corporations, furnishing money orders at decidedly less than Uncle Sam’s rates, payable at nearly seven thousand places in the United States, Mexico, and Canada,— payable, too, without any fuss, feathers, or red tape, and yet under conditions equally secure. But this is Anarchistic! Yes, it is Anarchistic.
The Naugatuck “Agitator,” in backing up the “Workmen’s Advocate’s” demand for State railroads on the ground that the State manages the post-office department so well, confidently asks: “Is postage ever higher for short than for long distances?” Certainly it is. It costs me one cent to deliver a copy of Liberty through the post-office at a street and number in Boston, but for about one-sixteenth of a cent I can send a copy through the post-office from Boston to San Francisco and have it delivered there at a street and number. I’ll venture the assertion that no such percentage of discrimination in rates can be found on the schedules or in the contracts of any railroad in this country. Moreover, there is no valid reason for it, while oftentimes, in the transportation of freight, there is excellent reason for charging more proportionately for a short haul than for a long haul. The one-cent rate for the delivery of Liberty in Boston is not much, if any, too high, but the rate of its delivery in other parts of the country is ridiculously low; and it is because books, newspapers, and merchandise are carried at such low rates that the people have to pay two cents instead of one to get their letters carried. The utter disregard of the principle of proportion shown in the postage rates fixed by the State, and its recognition in the freight and passenger rates fixed by the railroads, instead of furnishing an argument against private enterprise, furnish an argument in its favor.
Pen-Pictures of the Prisoners.
Dyer D. Lum kindly permits me to publish the following letter, although it was originally written as a private communication:
My dear Mr. Tucker:
As my brief description of the prisoners seemed to interest you, I will give you a fuller account. I have secured a pass from the sheriff, and occasionally go in out of regular hours, where I can have the privilege of shaking hands through the bars, the visitors being barred by a wire cage through which only one finger can be put.
Let us take them in order as they come, on the first corridor (Murderers' Row).
Cell 36 is occupied by Neebe. He was the “hustler” of the I. W. P. A. He “organized,” called meetings, issued circulars, and did the “heavy work” toward making the meeting a success. Ho was also prominent in organizing trades into unions. To ask him the difference between Trade-Unionism and Anarchy would be a conundrum. I presume you have seen their pictures. Like the rest, he had seen the folly of the ballot, and had no use for it. He was on bail before trial, and not having a knowledge of the future — remained!
Cell 35 is Lingg’s. He is a study. It is said that he is from a “good family” in Germany, but “skipped” from his native country on account of becoming involved in — etc. Rumor says further that “Lingg” is but a name assumed on landing here, and that his family are still in blissful ignorance of his whereabouts. He is a genuine revolutionist; he believes his time has come, and accepts the “logic of events.” His only regret is that the charges against him are not more weighty!
The next cell — 34 — is Engel’s. He is a phlegmatic German. No “nonsense” in his make-up. He played his hand and lost. When I say that he is a revolutionist, I can say they all are. Of course, you recognize that I have more sympathy with them in this respect than yourself. Engel is cool, self-confident, and daring. He has no regrets, and no apologies to make.
Cell 33 is occupied by Spies. He is what the Irish call the “Head Centre” of the movement. Young, ardent, and sincere, he has a host of friends. Several young ladies are in love with him since the arrest, and I enjoy winking at him through the cage between two girls talking to him at once! Spies is the only one who from the first recognized the gravity of the situation. Calmly awaiting arrest in his office and marched to jail, he told his confreres, before the trial began, that they were to “swing.” Always affable, yet always satirical, he listens to words of cheer with a mocking smile and turns the conversation with a joke. If Lingg is an enthusiast, Spies is a philosopher. An old Socialist, he has learned that the ballot is a superstition, and this he believes to be Anarchy! And yet one cannot help liking him, the more one sees him. Calm and defiant, he asks no favor and lives without hope! State Socialist as he is,— but without knowing it,— I shall ever keep his memory green. His cell is carpeted and adorned with flowers from his friends, yet I never saw a symptom of false pride or egotism in him.
Schwab is in cell 32. He is a student, in every sense of the word. He reminds me of Byron’s distich, “as mild manner’d a man,” etc. He has a Greek sentence written on his lampshade, but I am too rusty to write it from memory. His autobiography describes him fully. He wrote,— that is his offence.
Cell 31 contains Fielden, “Red Sam.” I am now correcting his autobiography, and it will be interesting. Poor Sam never saw a bomb in his life. With his warm and generous heart, touched with the misery of the poor, he was always ready to “orate” in their behalf against the inequalities of existing conditions. Of the revolutionary plans he knew nothing, and no man was more greatly surprised at the verdict than he. I heard his speech before Gary, and to me, like the rest, it brought tears to the eyes. His wife has recently borne him a child; whether he has yet seen it I know not; it is doubtful. His father died last August. His speech alone has changed public opinion, and it was not one for effect, but thoroughly honest and sincere. Before the supersedeas I was urging him to begin on his autobiography, but he couldn’t. After it came, he said: “Lum, bring me a bottle of ink!” Poor Sam! I love him and pity him. His wife is one of those home bodies who cling to their husbands, and after his arrest she did not know her way down town on the cars without assistance. Her whole life had been wrapped up in him.
In cell 30 we find Fischer,— my favorite. He is of hewn granite, and his only complaint now is that under the new sheriff the death watch are prohibited from playing cards through the barred door, and consequently he is compelled to abjure penuckle! Fischer and Lingg were the extremists. Fischer is married, and has a child born since his arrest, but believes the “cause” will be better served by his death than by a reprieve. Unlike Engel, he is not phlegmatic, but of a highly nervous temperament; yet his zeal is even-balanced and enduring. He has friends of his own kind.
In cell 29 is my old-time friend and comrade, Parsons. When he returned to deliver himself up, it was to the air of “Lo! the conquering hero comes!” He knew nothing of the situation, and was impelled by his own “innate” sense of justice and the advice of his wife. Immediately he landed in jail, Spies told him, in his own illimitable, dry way, that he had run his neck into a noose! Like Fielden, he has no desire to be a martyr. Both love and are idolized by their respective families, and they cannot think of rending these silken cords, nor conceive how Fischer and Engel can be so indifferent. Parsons came back because honor demanded it,— give him full credit for it. If he believed it was coming to an acquittal, it was his mistake. Yet none are cowards; none would flinch if the fatal moment should come.
Perhaps you can gain some idea from this of the different characters of the eight men. My mission has been partly unavailing, but I am glad I came, and shall try to remain till alter the spring! Then! Yours truly,
Dyer D. Lum
Chicago. December 25, 1886.
An Expectation Realized.
Dear Mr. Tucker:
The announcement contained in your circular, just at hand, to the effect that you have undertaken the formidable task of translating Proudhon’s complete writings, and intend publishing the same in monthly parts suitable for binding, pleases me greatly; and I hasten to send my subscription, together with that of Mr. Weston, to the “Proudhon Library” for one year. Ever since reading your translation of Proudhon’s “What is Property?” several years ago,— which profoundly interested me,— I have been expectantly looking for just such an announcement, and now that it has come I sincerely hope that no obstacles will arise to retard your labor.
Recognizing the magnitude of your venture, and the considerable expense necessarily attached to such an undertaking, I can only hope that all who are interested in the enlightenment of humanity upon subjects which, although little understood, deeply concern its progress toward Liberty and universal happiness will rally to your support.
Geu. B. Prescott, Jr.
Newark, New Jersey, January 8, 1887.
The Science of Society.
By Stephen Pearl Andrews.
The True Constitution of Government
Sovereignty of the Individual as the Final Development of Protei tantism, Democracy, and Socialism.
Continued from No. 92.
There is abundant evidence to the man of reflection that what we have thus performed in imagination is destined to be rapidly accomplished in fact. There is, perhaps, no one consideration which looks more directly to that consummation than the growing unpopularity of politics, in every phase of the subject. In America this fact is probably obvious than anywhere else. The pursuit of politics is almost entirely abandoned to lawyers, and generally it is the career of those who are least successful in that profession. The general repugnance of the masses of mankind for that class of the community, by which they testify an instinctive appreciation of the outrage upon humanity committed by the attempt to reduce the impertinent interference of legislation to a science, and to practice it as a learned profession, is intensified, in the case of the politician, by the element of contempt. In the sham Democracies, wherein majorities govern, the condition of the office-seeker and of the office-holder is alike and peculiarly unfortunate. Defeated, he is consigned unceremoniously, by popular opinion, to the category of the “poor devil.” Successful, he is denounced as a political hack. His position is preeminently precarious. Whatever veneration attaches still to the manufacturers and executors of law among us is mostly traditionary. So much of the popular estimation of the men whose business is governing the fellow-men as is the indigenous growth of our institutions is essentially disrespectful. The politician, in a republic, is a man whose business it is to please everybody, and who, consequently, has no personality of his own, and this, here and now, in a country and age in which distinctive personality is becoming the type and model of society. It is regarded today as a misfortune, in the families of respectable tradespeople, if a son of any promise has an unlucky turn for political preferment. Those who execute the laws are in little better plight than those who make them. Recently, throughout most of the States, when changes have been made in the fundamental law, the tenure of office of judges of all ranks has been reduced to a short period of from two to four years, and the office rendered elective. Such is the fearful descent upon which the dignity of powered wigs is fairly launched in Republican America. Judges, Chancellors and Chief Justices entering the canvass, at short intervals, for returns to the Bench, and shaking hands with greasy citizens as the price of judicial authority. It is said that familiarity breeds contempt, or that no man is great to his valet de chambre. When the inhabitants of a heathen country begin to treat their priests and their wooden divinities with contemptuous familiarity, wise men see that the power of Paganism is broken, and the Medicine-man, the Fetish, or the Juggernaut must soon give place to some more rational conception of the religious idea. At the ratio of depreciation actually progressing, office-holding of all sorts, in these United States, from the president down to the constable, will, in a few years more, be ranked in the public mind as positively disreputable. In the higher condition of society, toward which mankind is unconsciously advancing, men will shun all responsibility for and arbitrary control over the conduct of others as sedulously as during past ages they have sought them as the chief good. Washington declined to be made king, and the whole world has not ceased to make the welkin ring with laudations of the disinterested act. The time will come yet when the declinature, on all hands, of every species of governmental authority over others will not even be deemed a virtue, but simply the plain dictate of enlightened self-interest. The sentiment of the poet will then be recognized as an axiom of philosophy.
Whoever mounts the throne,— King, Priest, or Prophet,—
Man alike shall groan.
Carlyle complains, in the bitterness of his heart, that the true kings and governors of mankind have retired in disgust from the task of governing the world, and betaken themselves to the altogether private business of governing themselves. Whenever the world at large shall become as wise as they, when all men shall be content to govern themselves. Whenever the world at large shall become as wise as they, when all men shall be content to govern themselves merely, then, and not till then, will “The True Constitution of Government” begin to be installed. Carlyle has but discovered the fact that good men are withdrawing from politics, without penetrating the rationale of the phenomenon. He may call upon them in vain till he is hoarse to return to the arena of a contest which has been waged for some six thousand years or so, with continuous defeat, at a time when they are beginning to discover that the whole series of bloody conflicts has been fought with windmills instead of giants, and that what the world wants, in the way of government, is letting alone.
But what then? Have we arrived at the upshot of the whole matter when we have, in imagination, swept all the actual forms of Government out of existence? Is human society, in its mature and normal condition, to be a mere aggregation of men and women, standing upon the unrelieved dead level of universal equality? Is there to be no homage, no rank, no honors, no transcendent influence, no power, in fine, exerted by one man over his fellow-men? Will there be nothing substantially corresponding to, and specifically substituted for, what is now known among men as Human Government?
This is the question to which we are finally conducted by the current of our investigations, and to this question I conceive the answer to be properly affirmative. Had I not believed so, there would have been no propriety in the title, “The True Constitution of Government,” under which I announced this discourse. It might be thought by some a sufficient answer to the question that might be thought by some a sufficient answer to the question that principles, and not men, will then constitute the Government of mankind. So vague a statement, however, does not give complete satisfaction to the inquisitive mind, nor does it meet the interrogatory in all its varying forms. We wish to know what will be the positions, relatively to each other, into which men will be naturally thrown by the operation of that perfect liberty which will result from the prevalence and toleration of universal Individuality. We desire to know this especially, now, with reference to that class of the mutual relations of men which will correspond most exactly to the relations of the governors and the governed.
Negatively, it is certain that in such a state of society as that which we are now contemplating no influence will be tolerated, in the place of Government, which is maintained or exerted by force in any, even the subtlest, forms of involuntary compulsion. But there is still a sense in which men are said to exert power,— a sense in which the wills of the governor and the governed concur, and blend, and harmonize with each other. It is in such a sense as this that the great orator is said to control the minds of his audience, or that some matchless queen of song sways an irresistible influence over the ears of men. When mankind graduate out of the period of brute force, that man will be the greatest hero and conqueror who levies the heaviest tribute of homage by excellence of achievement in any department of human performance. The avenues to distinction will not be then, as now, open only to the few. Each individual will truly govern the minds, and ears, and conduct of others. Those who have the most power to impress themselves upon the community in which they live will govern in larger, and those who have less will govern in smaller spheres. All will be priests and kings, serving at the innumerable altars and sitting upon the thrones of that manifold hierarchy, the foundations of which God himself has laid in the constitution of man. Genius, talent, industry, discovery, the power to please, every development of Individuality, in fine, which meets the approbation of another, will be freely recognized as the divine anointing which constitutes him a sovereign over others,— a sovereign having sovereigns for his subjects,— subjects whose loyalty is proved and known, because they are ever free to transfer their fealty to other lords. With the growing development of Individuality even in this age, new spheres of honorable distinction are continually evolved. The accredited heroes of our times are neither politicians nor warriors. It is the discoverers of great principles, the projectors of beneficent designs, and the executors of magnificent undertakings of all sorts who, even now, command the homage of mankind. While politics are falling into desuetude and contempt, while war, from being the admiration of the world, is rapidly becoming its abhorrence, the artist and the artisan are rising into relative importance and estimation. Even the undistinguished workers, as they have hitherto been, shall hereafter hold seats as Cabinet Ministers in the new hierarchical government, which shall shadow, in those days, with its overspreading magnificence, the dwellings of regenerated humanity. In that stupendous administration, extending from the greatest down to the least things of human discernment, there shall be no lack of functionaries and no limit upon patronage. Of that social state, which opens the avenues of all honorable pursuits to all, upon terms of equity and mutual cooperation, it may be truly said, as was said by the Great Teacher, when speaking of another kingdom,— if indeed it be another,— ”In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” The laudable ambition of all will then be fully gratified. There will be no defeated candidates in the political campaigns of that day. Where the interests of all are identical, even the superiority of another is success, and the glory of another is a personal triumph.
A superficial observer might judge that there was more prosperity and power in a petty principality of Germany than there is in the United States of America, because he sees more pomp and magnificence surrounding the court of a puppet prince, whom men call the ruler of that people. No one but an equally superficial observer will mistake the phantom, called Government, which resides in the Halls and Departments at Washington—the mere ghost of what such a Government once was, in its palmy days of despotism—for a nearer approximation to the true organization of Government than that natural arrangement of society which divides and distributes the functions of governing into ten thousand Departments and Bureaus at the homes, in the workshops, and at the universities of the people.
If that trumpery Government be called such, because it performs important public functions, then have we distinguished private individuals among us who are already preeminently more truly Governors than they. If the concern at Washington is legitimately denominated a Government of the people, because it controls and regulates a Post Office Department, for example, then are the Harndens and Adamses Governors too, for they control and regulate a Package Express Department, which is a greater and more difficult thing. They carry bigger bundles, and carry them farther, and deliver them with more regularity and dispatch. It is stated, upon authority which I presume to be reliable, that Adams & Co.’s Express is the most extensive organization of any sort in the world,— that it is, in fact, absolutely world-wide; and yet it is strictly an individual concern. As an instance of the superiority of administration in the private enterprise of the national combination, I was myself at Washington during the last winter, when the mails were interrupted by the breaking up of a railroad bridge between Baltimore and Philadelphia, and when, for nearly two weeks, the newspapers of the Commercial Metropolis were regularly delayed, one whole day, on their way to the Political metropolis of the country, while the same papers came regularly and promptly through every day by the private expresses. The President, Members of Congress, and Cabinet Ministers, even the Postmaster-General himself was regularly served with the news by the enterprise of a private individual, who performed one of the functions of the Government, in opposition to the Government, and better than the Government, levying tribute upon the very functionary of the Government who was elected, consecrated, and anointed for the performance of that identical function. Who, then, was the true Governor and Cabinet Minister, the Postmaster General, who was daily dispatching messengers to rectify the irregularity, and issuing bulletins to explain and apologize for it, or the Adams Express man, who conquered the difficulty, and served the public, when the so-called Government failed to do it? The fault is that the Government goes by rule, preordained in the form of law, and consequently has no capacity for adapting itself to the Individuality of an unforeseen contingency. It has not the Individual deciding power and promptitude of action which are absolutely necessary for such occasions.
It is the actual performance of the function which is all that there is good in the idea of Government. All that there is besides that is mere restriction, and consequent annoyance and oppression of the public, as when our Government undertook to suppress those private expresses, which serve the public better than it. The point, then, is thus: I affirm that every useful function, or nearly every one which is now performed by Government, and the use of which will remain in the more advanced conditions of mankind, toward which the present tendencies of society converge, can be better performed by the Individual, self-elected and self-authorized, than by any constituted Government whatsoever; and further, since it is the performance of the function, and the influence which the performance of the function exerts over the conduct, and to the advantage of men, which makes the true Governor, it follows, I affirm, that the Adams Express man was, in the case I have mentioned, the true Governor, and that the Postmaster General, and the whole innumerable gang of Legislators and Executors of the law at his back, were the sham Governors, such as the world is getting ready to discharge on perpetual furlough.
It is possible that there may be a few comparatively unimportant interests of mankind which are so essentially combined in their nature that some species of artificial organization will always be necessary for their management. I do not, for example, see how the public highways can be properly laid out and administered by the private individual. Let us resort, then, to science for the solution of this anomaly, for every subject has its science, the true social relations of mankind as well as all others. The inexorable natural law which governs this subject is this: that nature demands everywhere an individual lead. Every combined interest must therefore come ultimately to be governed by an individual mind, to be entrusted, in other words, to a despotism. It is the recognition of this law which is embodied in the political axiom that “power is constantly stealing from the hands of the many into the hands of the few,” It is this scientific principle, lying down in the very nature of things, which constitutes both the rationale of monarchy and its appropriate apology. The lesson of wisdom to be deduced from this principle is not, however, as our political leaders have preached to us, that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,”— a liberty which is not worth possession if it cannot be enjoyed in security, and a vigilance which is only required to be exercised in order to defeat the legitimate operation of the most universal and fundamental law of nature. The true lesson of political wisdom is simply this: that no interests should ever be entrusted to a combination which are too important to be surrendered understandingly and voluntarily to the guidance of a despotism. Government, therefore, in the present sense of the term, can never, from the very essential nature of the case, be compatible with the safety of the liberties of the people, until the sphere of its authority is reduced to the very narrowest dimensions,— never until the mere commission,— a board of overseers of roads and canals, and such other unimportant interests as experience shall prove can not be so readily managed by irresponsible individual action.
It is this latter alone which will then truly merit the imposing title of Government. There is a sense, as I have said, in which that term is fairly applicable to the natural organization of the interrelations of men. If Genin, or Leary, or Knox devises a new fashion for hats, and manufactures hats in the style so devised, and the style pleases you and me, and we buy the hats and wear them, therein is an example, a humble example, perhaps you will think, but still a genuine example, of true Government. The individual hatter is self-elected to his function. I, in giving him the preference over another, express my conviction of his fitness for that function, of his superiority over others. I vote for him. I give him my suffrage. I confirm his election. The abstract statement of the true order of Government, then, is this: it is that Government in which the rulers elect themselves, and are voted for afterward.
The uncouth and unscrupulous despot proclaims that he governs mankind in his own right,— the right of the strongest. The modernized and somewhat civilized despot announces that he governs by divine right; that he is the God-appointed ruler of the people, by virtue of the fact that he finds himself a ruler at all. The more modern Democratic Governor claims to rule by virtue of the will of a majority. The true Governor rules by virtue of all these authorizations combined. He rules in his own right, because he is self-elected, and exercises his function in accordance with his own choice. He rules by authorization of the majority, because it is he who receives the suffrages of the largest number who governs most extensively, and finally, he, of all men, can be appropriately said to rule by divine right. His own judgment of his own fitness for his function, confirmed by the approval of those whom he desires to govern, are the highest possible evidence of the divinity of his claim, of the fact, in other words, that he was created and designed by God himself for the most perfect performance of that particular function.
What, then, society has to do is to remove the obstructions to this universal self-election, by every Individual, of himself, to that function which his own consciousness of his own adaptation prompts him to believe to be his peculiar God-intended office in life. Throw open the polls, make the pulpit, the school-room, the workshop, the manufactory, the shipyard, and the storehouse the universal ballot-boxes of the people. Make every day an election day, and every human being both a candidate and a voter, exercising each day and hour his full and unlimited franchise.
To be continued.
The Political Theology of Mazzini
By Michael Bakouine,
Member of the International Association of Working-People.
Translated from the French by Sarah E. Holmes.
Continued from No. 92.
Mazzini, moreover, has done all that he could to give to his God at least the appearance of humanity. To make him accepted by the reasoning mind and by the nervous sentimentality of this century, he has put on his lips the words, at first unknown, philosophy, science, liberty, and humanity; and he has, at the same time, filed his claws and teeth, trying to give him a spiritual, amiable, and tender air; so that the priests of the good old Catholic religion refuse to recognize their old Jehovah in the portrait which the modern prophet has made of him. And in truth, in attempting to soften the traits of the celestial despot, Mazzini has excessively lessened that gloomy and terrible figure which plunged all the priests into transports and which sowed terror in the superstitious masses.
The God of Mazzini is not the God of implacable vengeance and eternal punishment. Breathing only pardon and love,— the same has always been said of the God of the Christians,— he repudiates hell, admitting at the most only purgatory, which consists, moreover, in the Mazzinian theology, only in a delay, more or less prolonged, of the progressive development of the guilty, individuals” or nations, as the natural consequence of their faults. In general, what distinguishes the God of Mazzini from the Jewish and Christian God is his visible, but always vain, tendency to reconcile himself with human reason and to appear to conform as much to the nature of things as to the principal aspirations of modern society; and, to better reach this end, he even pushes his quite modern condescension to the point of renouncing his liberty!
“You appeal to the inalienable divine liberty,” writes Mazzini in his protest against the last council of Rome;* “We deny it. We are free because we are imperfect [Such is Mazzini’s idea of liberty; it is the sign, the consequence of our imperfection! We understand why he submits it and must always submit it to authority; this last being the manifestation of God, that is to say, of perfection, it is clear that it must rule over our liberty, over our imperfection. This is not more difficult than that, and we can see by this example the very ingenious method which Mazzini makes use of to re-establish, by the aid of modern words, the old divine despotism], because we are called to rise, to merit, consequently to choose between the good and the bad, between sacrifice and egoism.” What Mazzini calls liberty is at bottom only the absurd fiction invented by theologians and metaphysicians,— that is, by the licensed consecrators of all despotism,— and which they call free will. What we call liberty is quite another thing: it is the satanic principle and the natural fact which is called rebellion, the holy, the noble rebellion which, originating in animal life and united to science, this creation of a human world, urged on, moreover, both together, by the struggle for existence, by the necessity, as much individual as social, of developing and living, is the true, the only mother of all emancipations and all human progress. We conceive that our liberty can triumph only on the ruins of all authority. I give back the floor to Mazzini: “Our liberty [free will] is unknown to God, a perfect Being, whose every act is necessarily identical with the true and the just, and who cannot, without ruining all the notions we have of him, violate his own law.” This last argument is magnificent, and gives the measure of Mazzini’s logic. In the same way any pagan priest who would sacrifice human victims on the altar of divinity could as logically cry out: “God loves to feed upon human blood; he could not fail to love it without ruining all the notions which we have of him!”
It is evident, in any case, that the God of Mazzini is a tolerably constitutional God, since, better than all kings thus far known, he observes the charter which he has been pleased to grant to the world and to humanity, at least according to what is told us about it by Mazzini, who, as the last prophet, ought to know better than anybody.
But does this condescension, excessive on the part of a God, reach its object? Absolutely no. And how could he reconcile his existence with that of the world, when his very title of God, and, besides, that of Creator, Legislator, and Educator of the natural and human world, renders him absolutely incompatible with the real development of both! Later, I will demonstrate his incompatibility with reason, of which positive science is the only, the sole theoretically perfect expression. Now, may it not displease M. Aurelio Saffi,** I will continue my practical demonstration, tending to prove that the new God of Mazzini exercises an influence on men quite as pernicious as the old Platonico-Judaico-Christian God, from whom he differs, moreover, only in his dress borrowed from our century, in which Mazzini believed he should be clothed, but not in the reality, which remains the same.
To be just and to show how Mazzini, individually, puts love and noble human sentiments into his religion, I believe I ought to present to the reader, in a translation,— doubtless very imperfect, but faithful,— a fragment, some eloquent, burning pages, of his energetic protest against the council of Rome, containing at the same time the splendid affirmation of his faith: ***
“The world is of God, it cannot be cursed. Life, like God himself from whom it descends, is one and continuous: it cannot be broken into fragments, divided into opposite or radically diverse periods.” The world is not cursed, for the simple reason that there is no one who can curse it, except man, her son, her product, who launches this malediction at it from time to time, in moments of discouragement and despair, and who, so far as he has believed in God, has imagined that this curse, which was born in his own heart, has been pronounced by God himself. As for what Mazzini calls the unity of life, it is founded, in our opinion, on the universality, at least terrestrial, of the laws of organic life in general, and especially of man’s, on the identity of the special traits which properly constitute human nature or physiology: sociability, thought developed up to the power of abstraction, and the intelligent organization of language, three conditions which are found united, in a degree more or less pronounced, in all human tribes, even among cannibals. The first condition, sociability, is found likewise in many other species of animals, but not this capacity of development of thought and of language; united to these last two elements equally natural, but belonging exclusively to man, the natural, primitive, and fatal sociability of men has created successively in history and still continues to create the social unity of the human race,— humanity. For all this, as we see, there is no need of God; and it will be easy to prove later that a real intervention of any God whatever in the developments of human society would have rendered these developments absolutely impossible. The very fiction of divinity, a fiction historically explicable and inevitable, has sufficed to excite men against men and to inundate the earth with human blood. What would it be if, in place of a fiction, we had had a real God!
* “Dal concilio a Dio” by Joseph Mazzini, 1870.
** Hail to M. Aurelio Saffi, heretofore my friend, now my very furious adversary! Hail to Saint John, apostle ot the Italian Messiah. At the very moment in which I send him my compliments, he is doubtless continuing his apocalypse in “La Roma del Popolo” (“Cenni sulle dottrine religiose e morale, politiche e sociali di G. Mazzini,” No. 30, 32, etc.). I used to know him at London, when he was much less orthodox than that. But it appears that since then he has been very much converted, and as often happens to the converted, he is animated today with an atrocious zeal. In his first theological article (No. 30) it has pleased him, in speaking of my first tract, which is adjoined here as preface, to apply to it the rather unparliamentary adjective, famigerato (ill-famed). This insult, falling from the pen of a man as delicate, kind, and polished as my former friend, M. Aurelio Saffi, undeniably is, somewhat astonished me. I admit. But on reflection, I understood that this was not only the natural explosion of the theological passion brought to bay and excited to fury by the impossibility of defending itself, but also — and I esteem this much the more highly — that of his ardent friendship for Mazzini, a friendship carried even to adoration and which feels hurt by my attack, not upon the person of his friend and master, but upon his detestable doctrines,— as far, that is, as the doctrines of a man can be separated from his person. Taking into consideration these two extenuating circumstances, and especially the last, I forgive M. Saffi his entirely gratuitous insult, and I promise him to read, with all the attention which is due him, the continuation of his apostolic-Mazzinian articles. Only, if it is permitted me to address to him a bit of advice, a prayer, let him not be content with putting into them that breadth and that doctorai gravity which, doubtless, the very well a philosopher like him, but which cannot, however, take the place of precision and clearness of thought. Let him not content himself, as his master himself too often does, with always arguing sentiments. Sentiments, metaphysical especially, are very individual, and may vary according to the circumstances and the moral and intelectual habits of each, with time and place. Thought alone can serve as a universal and solid base, in so far as it is itself the faithful expression of the real relations of facts and things; and on this ground useful discussion, if not agreement, is possible between us. Let us bury the dead and, since we are still in life, let us try to be alive; old as we both are already, let us live with the living. Let us speak of living things,— of the real world, of real society, of its needs, of its sufferings, of its aspirations, of its thoughts, and not always of ours; not of those vague shadows. Monsieur Saffi, which phantoms born in the doubtless powerful but past imaginations of Moses, Plato, Jesus Christ, and Mazzini project upon your sensitive imagination. Up to the present time, I admit, nothing that you have written has seemed to me worthy of response, being in reality but a rather colorless paraphrase of the master’s words. Your originality has manifested itself so far only in insult. This is too little. Enchained to the past by your friendships, by your tastes, a stranger to the present and all the more to the future, yon are none the less rich in intelligence and knowledge: and since you have constituted yourself the chivalric defender of a civilization which is irrevocably condemned to die, try at least to bury yourself under its ruins with a little more wit and grace.
*** “Dal concilio a Dio”
To be continued.
By Georges Sauton.
Translated from the French for Liberty by Sarah E. Holmes.
Continued from No. 92
She, Marian, to possess this sway, when her toilet hardly differed from that of the humblest Irishwomen; when her home, sad and gloomy, with walls bare and cold, was decorated only by armfuls of flowers in their season! She did not even suspect her beauty, no man having ever praised it in her presence.
And a kind of vanity troubled her for an instant. It must be, then, that she was endowed with physical charms really queenly if, in this frame, without any artifices on her part, such a ruling power could be attributed to her.
No: they were mistaken, they exaggerated in order to tempt her to a decision; but the priest, who followed the evolution of thought in the mind of the young girl, at once combatted the doubt which she felt.
“You are incomparably better than the Duchess,” said he; “Lady Ellen, more captivating, more intoxicating, more solvent, has not the delicacy of your features, the purity of your lines, the divine contours of your form from which youth radiates and over which chastity reigns. In the church pictures, the virgins are represented with your face, the angels are not invested with more ingenuous grace than you.”
But although the abbe put no warmth into his enumeration, which was moreover very moderate in regard to her charms, this man’s voice, detailing them, shocked her, bruising the just susceptibilities of her modesty.
A blush spread over her face, and, filled with confusion, feeling the priest’s eyes enwrapping her as a connoisseur, considering the delicacy of her white tapering hands, the supple beauty of her neck, the fineness of her figure, she begged Sir Richmond to stop talking of herself.
At the same time, she reflected that the scrutiny to which the priest was devoting himself, without lust, Richard — it might be unconsciously — had also given himself up to, though without the same platonism, with desires which she did not clearly define, but which, at the same time, in her vague comprehension of them, revolutionized her with an indescribable fright, overwhelmed her with the weight of crushing shame.
From the little which the priest had insinuated, Richard, enticed by the Duchess, seemed to her, in his instinct, in his mechanical intuition, incapable of sentiments absolutely pure, completely detached from all carnal thought, and she reflected that, in the combat to which they were forcibly pushing her against Lady Ellen, in the arms even of this woman, he would dream perhaps of her and desire her instead of his mistress.
Seized with revolt and indignant, sick at heart, and trembling as if eyes had beheld her without a veil, as if the skin of her body had been touched by the caress and the offence of a kiss, throwing a shawl over her shoulders, she reiterated to Sir Richmond her wish that this painful interview, on the subject of which she was already too much weighed down, should now end.
She reproached herself, moreover, now, for having, if only for a few minutes, forgotten the common misery of her Irish brothers to attend to that of Sir Richard Bradwell; and the feeling of pride which had moved her some moments before, caused her cutting remorse as a piece of cowardice and a desertion.
If their hut lacked almost the necessities of life, it was because the little money which Treor and his granddaughter had went in alms to the poor, in relief to the first-comer, in services to their neighbors; if she wore clothes which were old, faded, mended, it was because she clothed poor women and children with the money which would have bought new garments for herself.
In vieing with the Duchess, who doubtless did not receive Richard without passion, without some temporary successes, Marian would sooner or later learn coquetry and desire dresses a little more modern, and a dwelling less devoid of the simplest comforts; and the realization of these wishes, modest as they seemed, could not be effected without detriment to the wretched people whom she assisted.
And she explained herself clearly in this respect, notwithstanding the protestations of the priest who was enraged at the thought of failing in the commission with which he had charged himself, after having, in Sir Richard’s presence, plumed himself, so to speak, on his ability to lead the young girl to repentance.
“So, it matters little to you!” he said to her, comically opening his eyes very wide, “whether you leave in the jaws of the demon a soul whose salvation is in your hands? And you even take no account of my exhortations, which point you to this work as agreeable to God and very probably of his own designing?”
“Exhort Sir Bradwell to struggle against the temptation himself, to no longer stain himself with the execrable sin which you have denounced.”
“He has not the strength.”
“Give it to him by your encouragement.”
“What can my voice do by the side of the siren’s songs?”
“Is it not the voice of God which comes from your mouth?” replied Marian. “He does not know the accent of the voice of the Lord!” said Richmond.
“Pray Heaven to work a miracle which will convince him!”
“The miracle would have been you, if you had consented to play the role which I marked out for you and for which, surely, God has chosen you.”
“It is too perilous, and if I did not lose myself, I should at least be despoiled of the most precious privilege of woman,— the purity of my life.”
“No, for by a general absolution in advance, I would absolve you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost!”
In pronouncing these words unctuously, he executed in the air the gesture with which he dismissed the penitents at the confessional.
But Marian was indignant at this facility of indulgence of which she would not accept the benefit; she was of the opinion that it was better not to take upon herself the sin than to be purified of it by the vain words of the priest.
So that the priest became very angry, and asked her who would cleanse her of the blood of her brothers which Sir Richard would shed, as he had promised.
In vehement spite, Sir Richmond lifted in the air his great, spider-like arms, and his spread fingers starred the ceiling, while on the rough wall moved the fantastic shadow of his long, ill-formed body!
He comprehended nothing of the young girl’s scruples, so exaggerated, so extreme; they denoted evidently a mind as badly balanced as that of Bradwell, and the general derangement, since the commencement of the popular disturbance, had occasioned in him a disorder that had made him sick.
So that, while anathematizing Marian, he inveighed against himself at the same time for having thoughtlessly engaged in this new complication, where he only registered once more the definite proof of his own powerlessness, compromising the little prestige and authority which remained to him.
“Who will cleanse you of the blood?” he began again.
But Treor’s granddaughter was no longer there: she was setting the table in the next room, and a rattling of plates cut off the close of the reproach.
“Marian!” called the priest, excessively vexed and in a very loud voice, determined to reprimand her sharply for this breach of propriety.
Instead of answering, she went out into the yard, and he saw her go towards the cellar with a lantern, and fill some jugs from a cask of water.
Decidedly, his preaching had been pure loss; unfortunately, it was, perhaps, not in the desert. Outside, steps were heard on the ground hardened by the frost; and, in the same way that he had surprised Richard’s quarrel, some one, connected with the castle, strolling about in the darkness as a spy, might have chanced to overhear his charges against the Duchess.
In such a case, he positively saw himself no longer in fine clothes, but wrapped in an icy shroud, by the orders of the vindictive lady; for she surely would never forgive him this furious interference with her criminal love, or his grave insults to her character, and above all her beauty!
He trembled, thinking of his awkwardness in thus placing himself under the hammer at a time when already his attitude toward the Irish exposed him to the danger of being sprawled by them upon the anvil; and since to do what he imagined to be his duty, to obey his conscience, became so perilous in the present emergency, he decided to mix no more in anything, leaving events to take their course, all hideous passions to unchain themselves, massacres to be perpetrated, cataclysms to burst upon the country, and, if need be, the impious to profane the churches and disregard the law of God,— God himself who, on the whole, permitted doubtless all these scandals, all these base acts, all these miseries, all these abominations, for the punishment of the sinners.
Confining himself hereafter to praying, at the foot of the altar, that the celestial wrath might disarm, and begging the Lord to pardon the guilty,— in this way, the priest flattered himself that he would make them forget him and would thus escape the blows of either party; and, taking a last warming at the fire, re-adjusting his hat which had been pushed on one side in the heat of the discussion, he left the house deliberately, and then, going along by the houses, he glided into the shadow in a direction away from the church, that he might not reach home till after the service and sure of not encountering on his way Treor, or any of the United Irishmen.
Marian, returning upon his heels, overwhelmed with this discussion, with all the impressions received, with all the sensations experienced, with the various, violent, conflicting emotions which had pierced her soul, sank down in exhaustion, now that no witness constrained her to dissimulate, and, in the fatigue, in the suffering of her weakened frame, sobs broke forth from her throat.
Believing that the priest was returning, she rose suddenly from the seat on which she had been supporting herself. But it was not he; some one was drumming at the door with an unaccustomed, hesitating hand, like that of a child or an old man, and timidly pushing it open.
“Edith!” exclaimed Marian, drying her eyes, and extending her hands and face to her breathless visitor, before whose suffering her own suddenly vanished.
Arklow’s widow was shivering, although in profuse perspiration and burning with a violent fever, while flames devoured her hollow eyes so deeply sunken in their sockets, and reddened the cheek-bones so frightfully prominent in the thin, wan, almost cadaverous face.
The young girl drew her to the fire, wanted her to sit down, and questioned her with a filial solicitude; but all this interest seemed to trouble her, on the contrary, and she accepted its marks and testimonies with a rudeness which Marian interpreted wrongly, imagining that Edith was aware of Richard’s visit and scandalized by it.
“Oh! do not take away your hands, Edith,” she said, “and look at me; if he has entered here, it was not of my choice.”
The mother of the little soldier trembled, and her fixed eyes opened immoderately in a face of marble paleness and with a mute agitation of the lips which outlined in vacancy words certainly terrible for the poor woman, whose haggard face was full of stupor.
After several attempts, hoarse sounds came from her mouth, in which confused utterance could he distinguished this agonizing interrogatory:
“Entered here! Who?”
“Ah! I imagined that you knew,” said the young girl.
Then, since she had begun the confidence, she finished it, not having the least reproach to address to herself, and she related the interview with Sir Bradwell. the urgent counsels of the priest, and how the incident had closed, not without much heart-swelling, but nevertheless without her having lost for an instant the recollection of the oath which bound them all.
A contraction of the old woman’s face, so sad, so distressing, again misled Marian, who protested that she should not judge her with severity.
“I have not the right,” said Edith, very gloomily.
“Not the right! Why? Because you are not a relative? I mean the right which we each possess to weigh the acts of those who have sworn conjointly with us. Upon you more than any other it devolves, by right of your martyrdom. You have paid for it with the blood of your husband, with the hard captivity in which your adored son groans.”
“You, more than any one, have the soul of a patriot,” replied the old woman, to turn the conversation from herself; for her worst martyrdom was what she was now enduring.
The odious hour was approaching when Newington, fatal, implacable, would arrive to claim the execution of the infamous bargain which he had imposed and to which she had consented, and all Marian’s words pierced her like so many daggers, like so many insulting blows on the cheeks.
For several weeks she had not lived, if sobeit she were now living; a slow, an intolerable agony had developed, wherein her crime crushed her, wherein the thought of her treason snatched her suddenly from the torpor in which want of food and sleep had kept her for whole days, and it threw her into the street, pursuing her in the midst of bootings, chasing her across the open country, into the depths of woods, where the unfortunate woman, tortured and torn by premature remorse, cowered with *** me; and she lay thus, in the cold and snow, by night, revived only by the awakening of her maternal heart.
Suddenly, with a start, as if she heard again the shots of the squad which filed before her eyes on the evening of her admission to Cumslen-Park, she would get up and run to the castle to inform herself about her Michael, pacing, like a tireless sentinel, up and down the approaches to the buildings, listening in the breeze to hear some sound from her son, breathing her child in the atmosphere, perceiving his pale phantom, tottering under the weight of his chains and the harshness of the jailers.
Then, when she reflected at what price she could liberate him, she would run away at full speed, in a breath, resolved to walk, to run so far, so far, so far, that return for Christmas would be impossible, or that, on the way, people might kill without pity this emaciated and demented creature, looking like death, surely wandering about with some sinister design, bent in advance under the weight of an immense repentance.
Four days ago she had fled, according to her habit, and no one knew in what direction; she had returned in haste, on the road day and night, panting and full of fear lest she might be too late for the appointment with the savage Newington.
And on the threshold hesitation had suddenly resumed possession of her, congealed her on the spot, vacillating under the enormous weight of opprobrium already accepted; and fearful, timid, a whole world of opposing ideas and arguments for and against her step rushing about in her poor empty head, she really wished to sink a hundred feet under ground, as through a trap-door, as in the turf pits into which passers-by sometimes fell.
Then, in a giddiness which, in her brain, mixed up the ideas of good and evil, confounded justice and injustice, thrusting the Irish back into the dim distance in order to leave her only the consciousness of the peril from which she could redeem her son only by introducing some one through this door, mechanically, automatically, gropingly, she pushed in, believing that she heard, behind her, in the darkness, the impatient steps of the man and the murmur of his angry voice.
Meanwhile Marian continued to torture her with her eulogies, which fell on her like so many brands and devoured her flesh like the bite of ulcerated wounds.
“To sacrifice,” said she, “a love which had hardly blossomed, to announce the hope of a happiness of which one has had but a glimpse, what is that by the side of your abnegation? Arklow died for Ireland! Have you ever regretted his sacrifice to the country? It became necessary, for the salvation of our people, that Michael should share the fate of his father; do you think that for you, his fond mother, it would he better for him to live?”
“Hush!” said Edith, gloomily.
To be continued.
“In abolishing rent and interest, the last vestiges of old-time slavery, the Revolution abolishes at one stroke the sword of the executioner, the seal of the magistrate, the club of the policeman, the gunge of the exciseman, the erasing-knife of the department clerk, all those insignia of Politics, which young Liberty grinds beneath her heel.” — Proudhon.
The appearance in the editorial column of articles over other signatures than the editor’s initial indicates that the editor approves their central purpose and general tenor, though he does not hold himself responsible for every phrase or word. But the appearance in other parts of the paper of articles by the same or other writers by no means indicates that he disapproves them in any respect, such disposition of them being governed largely by motives of convenience.
The Bourgeoisie’s Loyal Servants.
From the time that Mr. Herbert Spencer first sounded the note of warning against the “Coining Slavery” and truthfully informed all whom it concerns that the laissez faire doctrine is rapidly losing credit with the majority of the people, who, tired of waiting for the good results which were to be achieved through the boasted freedom of industry, out of sheer despair seek aid and remedies in State regulation and manifest, an unmistakable readiness to place reliance upon the most unreliable and irresponsible upstarts who promise to fix and reform everything to the full satisfaction of those who have “nothing to lose and a world to gain” if they are but given the power and the opportunities to reconstruct society without fear or hindrance, the efforts of the protended champions of individual liberty in behalf of their principles have been incessant and assiduous. Such a solid front against tyranny and despotism has never been witnessed before. The economists, the college professors, the editors of the monthlies, weeklies, and dailies, the ministers, and the prominent men of business and captains of industry have all shown no lack of ardor and ingenuity in their defence of “civilization” and personal liberty as against the approaching dangers of State-extension and State-control.
The simple-minded and superficial observer is likely to be deceived by this spectacle and deluded into a belief that Liberty is out of all danger, and that there is not the slightest apprehension of any reactionery movement in an age which has produced so much enlightened and irrepressible opposition to authorit and needless regulation. But to the intelligent and reflecting people it has long been apparent that that hue and cry against the Coming Slavery is a theatrical performance. There is far more danger to Liberty in these half-hearted friends than in the most authority-ridden and State-crazy Socialists who, in their fanaticism and utter ignorance of social science, trample every principle of mutual existence and cooperation under foot. If there exists any danger and menace to Liberty,— and we are the last to deny it,— they are to be found in this very demonstration in its favor. Had the issue been confined to the State-men on one hand, and the true and bold followers of the logic of Liberty on the other, there could have been no reason to doubt the result. But the traitors and hypocrites in the camp, who, though moving heaven and earth for the principles of Liberty, have really no sincere attachment to it and want just so much of it as is requisite at any given time for the furtherance of their purposes, are making the result more and more doubtful. For the people at large mistake their counterfeit article for the genuine one, and their leaders, if not equally misled, do not take any particular pains to draw any distinctions and make very nice discriminations. We are not in the least surprised to see this reactionary tide on the part of the people, which the deafening chorus of economists, editors, and professors vainly attempts to stem; but there is not the faintest uncertainty in our minds that, if, instead of playing fast and loose with Liberty, these middle-class philosophers had really resolved to follow it wherever it leads, the people would appreciate them, be influenced by them, and regulate their lives and occupations in accordance with the fundamental teachings of their principles. If, instead of being content with funeral orations on the grave of the laissez faire doctrine, indulging in futile, tearful regrets and sighs for the virtues of by-gone days and equally fruitless lamentations over the gloomy forebodings of the future, Herbert Spencer should manfully face the evils which he deplores and combat the spirit of despotism with the potent weapons of Liberty at his command, in its application to the land and money problems, the “Slavery” would never be “coming.” Every trace of the nightmare of State Socialism and Communism will vanish before the dawn of the dazzling light of Liberty, but that particular kind of freedom which the bourgeoisie favors, and which is championed by the bourgeoisie’s loyal servants, will never prove fascinating to the disinherited and oppressed.
Conspicuous among those who pass as the ablest pleaders for freedom is Professor Sumner. State Socialism finds in him a very vigorous and somewhat, bitter opponent. He may be characterized as a middle-class philosopher, a champion of our “industrial civilization,” as he plainly states himself in the article he has recently written in reply to the question he put to himself, “What makes the rich richer and the poor poorer?” The rich, no more, than the poor, can look for encouragement from Professor Sumner. While not positively antagonizing them, he is very indifferent to their fate. But his eye anxiously follows every movement and change in the fortunes of the middle classes, who are to him the be-all and end-all of our new civilization. Absolute equality is as absurd and impossible as it is undesirable. “Competition develops all powers that exist according to their measure and degree,” and, these powers being tar from equal, of course “liberty of development, and equality of result are diametrically opposed to each other.” A vital and healthy condition is one which produces a large and prosperous middle class, with few rich people at one, and few poor people at the other, end of the pole. This normal state of affairs, this equilibrium, will be preserved just so long as the State “does its work properly,” which means, if we understand Professor Sumner rightly, that the State’s proper function in this matter is absolute passiveness. When, therefore, the State “gives license to robbery and spoliation, . . . . it is working to destroy the middle classes.” All Socialistic measures providing for the unfit likewise “maybe always described as tending to make the rich richer; and the poor poorer and to extinguish the intervening class.” Professor Sumner’s opposition to the Socialistic measures is thus satisfactorily explained. But it puzzles us to explain why he is so discreet and non-resistant to those measures which the Galveston “News” aptly characterizes as “communistic in power, but anti-communistic in indulgence,” and why he has not given a clear, definite, and direct answer to the question, What, today, makes the rich richer and the poor poorer? The “Socialistic measures” in favor of the poor have been too few and too insignificant to produce such a strong and increasing force. Professor Sumner is fully alive to the imminent dangers of this anti-social force. As a champion of industrialism and freedom, it behooves him to make a vigorous fight against the “license to robbery and spoliation” which is rapidly destroying our civilization and extinguishing the middle class. Instead of doing this; instead of dealing with the actual causes of the evil and with the forces that do produce disastrous results here and now,— he quixotically combats imaginary foes and measures that may, if ever adopted, work mischief. Instead of fighting existing usurpations, monopolies, and encroachments perpetrated by the minority, under the protection of the State, upon the majority, he holdsforth against the tyranny and injustice of majority rule contemplated by State Socialism. Verily, it is a poor defence of Liberty.
These loyal servants of the bourgeoisie are, of course, not to be expected to rise higher than their source, and, in defending liberty, they are defending only the liberty which happens to be desired by their sovereign but the issue will eventually be reduced to its simple and definitive form. The ranks will he closed up, the lines sharply drawn, and all those who have a double game will either choose between the two camps or else be destroyed between two fires.
A Ridiculous Claim,
Some three years ago John Most’s “Freiheit,” which then had nothing but sneers for Proudhon, declared that he was not an Anarchist, that he belonged to the past, and that his followers had dwindled to the number of about two hundred in the entire world. Since the announcement of the publication of Proudhon’s works in English, “Freiheit” has discovered that he was not only an Anarchist, but an Anarchistic Communist; that his works are an arsenal of overwhelming arguments for use in the cause of the Revolution; that the Communism which he combatted was simply Icarian utopias, and not at all the modern theory of the common ownership of goods; that he was a Communist because a foe of private property; and that his disciples should seek to comprehend him and supplement him. I give this in substance rather than attempt a translation of the “Freiheit’s” idiomatic German, but have tried to avoid misrepresentation.
The claim put forward today that Proudhon was a Communist, of the Anarchistic or any other variety, is as ridiculous as the claim of three years ago that he was not an Anarchist was false. He was always a vigorous and almost vindictive opponent of Communism of all varieties. If “Freiheit” does not believe it, I hope that, in fulfilling its promise to print extracts from the monthly parts as they appear, it will give its readers the whole of the chapter on Communism contained in the second volume of the “Economical Contradictions.” There it will be seen that he singled out Cabet and his Icaria for attack as logically representative of all the other Communistic schools, whose formulas, he claimed, were all reducible to Cabet’s: “My science is fraternity.”
It is perfectly true that, the need of comprehending Proudhon is great, but nowhere is it more obvious than in the office of the “Freiheit,” as is shown by its echo of the capitalistic commonplace that Proudhon was an enemy of property and therefore a Communist. No person of average honesty and intelligence could make such a remark after reading his works. He looked upon Communism as an antithetical caricature of property, and upon both as equally unrighteous and absurd. The property which he criticised and condemned was not the principle of individual possession, of which he was among the staunchest of advocates, but the aggregate of capitalistic privileges granted and sustained by the State. He defined this aggregate as the institution of property, and rejected it with horror; but in it he found one element which he declared “necessary, immutable, and absolute,”— namely, “individual and transmissible possession; susceptible of exchange, but not of alienation; founded on labor, and not on fictitious occupancy, or idle caprice.” Than this there can be no more admirable and concise summary of the anti-Communistic position.
I might proceed to fill columns with extracts of similar tenor, but for the present I will content, myself with the following, from the declaration which prefaces the constitution of the banking association of P. J. Proudhon & Co.:
I make oath before God and before men, upon the Gospel and upon the Constitution, that I have never held or profession any other principles of social reform than those set forth in the accompanying articles of association, and that I ask nothing more, nothing less than the free and peaceful application of these principles and their logical, legal, and legitimate consequences.
I declare that, in my innermost thought, these principles, with the consequences which flow from them, are the whole of Socialism, and that outside of them there is nought but utopia and chimera.
I protest that, in making a criticism of property, or rather of the sum total of institutions of which property is the pivot, it was never my intention to attack either individual rights recognized by laws previously enacted, or to contest the legitimacy of acquired possessions, or to provoke an arbitrary distribution of goods, or to place any obstacle in the way of the free and regular acquisition of property by sale and exchange, or even to prohibit or suppress, by sovereign decree, rent of land and interest on capital.
I think that all these manifestations of human activity should be left free and optional to all; I admit no modifications, restrictions, and suppressions of them, save those which result naturally and necessarily from the universalization of the principle of reciprocity and the law of synthesis which I propose.
When the Anarchistic Communists shall adopt this creed, they may then claim Proudhon as one of them, and I will join them too. At present it is the very creed that they most hate. But I am bound to say, in conclusion, that “Freiheit’s” notice of the “Proudhon Library” was unexpectedly hospitable, in view of the attack which was compelled to make a year ago, and which I do not retract, upon certain mad acts of folly I perpetrated by persons of the “Freiheit” school.
Still in the Procrustean Bed.
Continuing his controversy with me regarding the logic of the principle of liberty, Mr. Pinney of the Winsted “Press” says:
There is no analogy between prohibition and the tariff; the tariff prohibits no man from indulging his desire to trade where he pleases. It is simply a tax. It is slightly analogous to a license tax for the privilege of selling liquor in a given territory, but prohibition, in theory if not in practice, is an entirely different matter.
This is a distinction without a difference. The so-called prohibitory liquor law prohibits no man, even theoretically, from indulging his desire to sell liquor; it simply subjects the man so indulging to fine and imprisonment. The tax imposed by the tariff law and the fine imposed by the prohibitory law share alike the nature of a penalty, and are equally invasive of liberty. Mr. Pinney’s argument, though of no real validity in any case, would present at least a show of reason in the mouth of a “revenue reformer”; but, coming from one who scorns the idea of raising revenue by the tariff and who has declared explicitly that he desires the tariff to be so effectively prohibitory that it shall yield no revenue at all, it lacks even the appearance of logic.
Equally lame is Mr. Pinney’s apology for a compulsory money system.
As for the exclusive government currency which we advocate, and which Mr. Tucker tortures into prohibition of individual property scrip, there is just as much analogy as there is between prohibition and the exclusive law making, treaty making, war declaring, or any other powers delegated to government because government better than the individual can be entrusted with and make use of these powers.
Just as much, I agree; and in this I can see a good reason why Mr. Pinney, who started out with the proposition that “there is nothing any better than liberty and nothing any worse than despotism,” should oppose law making, treaty making, war declaring, etc., but none whatever why he should favor an exclusive government currency. How much “torture” it requires to extract the idea of “prohibition of individual property scrip” from the idea of an “exclusive government currency” our readers will need no help in deciding, unless the word “exclusive” has acquired some new meaning as unknown to them as it is to me.
But Mr. Pinney’s brilliant ideas are not exhausted yet. He continues:
Government prohibits the taking of private property for public uses without just compensation. Therefore, if we fit Mr. Tucker’s Procrustean bed, we cannot sustain this form of prohibition and consistently oppose prohibition of liquor drinking! This is consistency run mad, ‘analogy’ reduced to an absurdity. We are astonished that Mr. Tucker can be guilty of it.
So am I. Or rather, I should be astonished if I had been guilty of it. But I haven’t. To say nothing of the fact that the governmental prohibition here spoken of is a prohibition laid by government upon itself, and that such prohibitions can never be displeasing to an Anarchist, it is clear that the taking of private property from persons who have violated the rights of nobody is invasion, and to the prohibition of invasion no friend of liberty has any objection. Mr. Pinney has already resorted to the plea of invasion as an excuse for his advocacy of a tariff, and it would be a good defence if he could establish it. But I have pointed out to him that the pretence that the foreign merchant who sells goods to American citizens or the individual who offers his I O U are invaders is as flimsy as the prohibitionist’s pretence that the rumseller and the drunkard are invaders. Neither invasion nor evasion will relieve Mr. Pinney of his dilemma. If he has no more effective weapons, what he dubs “Boston analogy” is in no danger from his assaults.
An Apology and an Explanation.
[John Swinton’s Paper.]
Friend Tucker speaks thus through his organ***:
John Swinton lately gave expression to a profound “Thought” in his paper to this effect: With the present means and methods of production, and the marvelous progress in mechanical science, how happy and contented our life would be under the sun, if a plan for perfect and rational organization of Industry were devised! It appears, then, that happiness is within our reach,— only a plan is lacking; and the “Thought” that we are so near and yet so far from it naturally makes my sympathetic friend despondent and melancholy. How much sadder he would become if he comprehended the truth that not even a “plan” is needed for our salvation! All that we need is industrial freedom, and the only thing that stands between men and the Ideal is artificial restraint and the curse of lawmaking. Paraphrasing, then, Mr. Swinton’s words, I say: With the present means and methods of production and exchange, how easily and beautifully everything would settle itself to our full satisfaction if but the shackles would be taken off and free play granted to the existing industrial forces!
Our despondent friend, Tucker, is a humorist somewhat sardonic, and a wit rather grumpy at times. No matter. But as he is the champion of exactitude, we wish he had copied the exact language of our “Thought,” which was printed as far agone as the 14th of last November. Here it is:
A Thought. — With the present power of the machinery of the world to furnish things of use and beauty for the service of mankind, what superabundant, supplies for every conceivable earthly want might be enjoyed by the whole human race, under a logical system of production and distribution!
Now it seems to us that Mr. Tucker is like the serpent that swallowed its own tail when gorged with the carcass of an ox. It seems to us that if our sympathetic yet melancholy Boston friend’s “industrial freedom” and “free play” are really “all that we need” for the “Ideal,” they would give us just that very “logical system” of the “Thought” which harasses his capacity of deglutition.
[Mr. Swinton’s words should have been quoted exactly. In commenting adversely upon them while failing to so quote them or to accurately summarize them. Liberty was guilty of injustice to Mr. Swinton, for which I now tender him frank and contrite apology. All possible amends are now made by reprinting Liberty’s paragraph, Mr. Swinton’s actual words, and his later well-founded complaint. By way of explanation, however, and in justice to myself, it should be added that my paragraph was written after the original clipping from “John Swinton’s Paper” had been lost, and that the attempt to reproduce it substantially was an honest one. Unfortunately I went outside of Mr. Swinton’s statement of the moment, and unwittingly allowed my interpretation of it to be colored by knowledge derived from acquaintance with the man and familiarity with his writings. This is why I said in the last issue of Liberty that the injustice thus done was more formal than real. For I am convinced that, if Mr. Swinton had elaborated his “Thought,” he would have gone on to show that, in his mind, “a logical system of production and distribution” involves an artificial reconstruction of productive and distributive agencies and instruments, and would have denied or ignored the real truth that the existing social machinery is most admirably fitted to satisfy the needs of mankind if not obstructed in its natural action by artificial and arbitrary restraints. — Editor Liberty.]
Reports come to me independently and simultaneously from Newark and Chicago of the intended formation of classes for the study of Proudhon’s thought. It is an excellent idea. If there were some one in every city, familiar with the French language and understanding Proudhon, to take the initiative in such a design, Anarchism’s adherents would rapidly multiply, and the new recruits, thus furnished with the best of equipments, could be depended upon for valuable service until the day of triumph.
The men who stone today St. Stephen’s paster are legitimate successors of those, who, in bygone days stoned the Saint himself.
Idle Landlords to Support an Idle World.
To the Editor of Liberty:
Mr. Henry George, Jr., has a little plan of his own, by which he hopes to achieve fame and popularity for himself, and at the same time hasten the putting into practice of his father’s schemes for taxing humanity into happiness. It is nothing less than establishing “free” transportation in cities. This is how the thing is to work. He estimates that the actual cost of carrying a passenger on the street railroads of New York is about one cent. Although he does not give the calculation by which he arrived at this figure, I am willing to assume that he is right. He then gives us the usual arguments for State (in this ease, municipal) ownership, and comes to his little plan. He argues, as the running expenses are so low, the administrative would be relatively so high that it would cost the city one cent to collect two. Therefore he proposes that the city should run the roads without toll, and raise the money necessary for doing so by a tax on the increased value of land resulting from the free roads.
A very enticing scheme, truly! We can ride all day, and the landlords must pay. No wonder the tired people of New York bless the name of this new St. George, who does not kill the dragon of landlordism, but tames it and makes it the burden-hearer of the proletariat. What a glorious prospect opens before me as I dream of this wonderful plan! I seem to see Mr. George as mayor of New York distributing free food and clothing to the multitude, the expenses being met by a tax levied upon the increased value of property due to the influx of the hungry crowds from the surrounding country. But, alas! I awake, and the vision fades.
The mere herding of men together is not in itself productive of wealth, but it enables those who monopolize natural forces to extort a greater share of the products of the laborers using them. Mr. George likes to describe landlords as robbers who take all that is left. With this light let us reexamine the free railroad plan. The passenger now pays five cents fare. When he is relieved from doing so by the city, the landlord will collect from him the five cents in addition to his old rent. The tax, however, the roads being so economically run, will be but one cent, making a net gain of four cents for the landlord. This is assuming the population of the city to remain as at present, but young Mr. George assures us that free travel would cause a vast influx to the city (a desirable result, doubtless), and so cause a still greater increase in land values. If we could only accept the Georges’ arguments, we should be compelled to believe them the chiefs of a landlord conspiracy. It is of no use asking what is to become of the displaced conductors and clerks, for the Georges are free traders when wage-workers are concerned, and trust in the law of supply and demand.
The methods of calculation indicated in young Mr. George’s article are not such, however, as to give us faith that New York city will ever run its street railroads at a cost of one cent per passenger. Here is a sample of his reasoning. He cites some contractor who professes to be able to duplicate the present railroads of New York for one-third of their capitalized value, and then, with the faith of a dweller in a city in which “boodle” aldermen are unknown, he assumes that, were the municipality to build the roads, they would cost it but the smaller amount. And this was written not far from the new court-house! Again, he seems to assume that getting rid of the conductors and of the clerks who keep account of the receipts would practically wipe out the administrative expenses. If the young gentleman had taken the trouble to examine the accounts of any of the city’s charitable institutions, he would have found that the administrative expenses are always a very serious item in public undertakings. Something even more to the point comes to me as I write. The expenses for superintendence in the engineering department of the Indian government, as given by Spencer, are forty-eight per cent. of the whole; the corresponding expenses of the Indian rail roads are but eight per cent.
One of the chief faults young Mr. George has to find with the present street-railroad system in New York is that there is not enough of it. This is due, he tells us, chiefly to legislative hindrances in the way of new companies’ being formed. But, instead of seeking, like the free trader he professes to be, to remove these hindrances, and leaving to the law of supply and demand, which is good enough for settling wages, the regulation of when and where new roads should he built, he proposes to turn the whole control over to the virtuous city government. And why should not every street from the Battery to Yonkers have its line? Jake Sharp need not despair. When the People’s United Labor party comes into power, his opportunities as a builder of street railroads will far execed the chances he had as an owner in the past. And once in, the party need never fear being ousted, for the “big pipes” are as nothing compared with the railroads.
John F. Kelly.
The Unconscious Evolution of Mutual Banking.
“The most arrant denier,” says George Eliot, “must admit that a man often furthers larger ends than he is conscious of and that, while he is transacting his own affairs with the narrow pertinacity of a respectable ant, he subserves an economy larger than any purpose of his own. Society is happily not dependent for the growth of fellowship on the small minority already endowed with comprehensive sympathy.” In those moments of despair which come to almost every one engaged in a serious movement, of our objects ever really being accomplished, when those on whose “conscious sympathy” we had calculated proved incapable or dishonest, when the Seymours lapse into Communism, the Walkers and Lloyds into each individual’s saving himself, the Deekmeyers into politics, the Tak Kaks into the denial of all truth and justice, it is that one turns with most relief to the fact that the great march of human progress has been in the main unconscious: that it has been hindered or promoted to a very slight degree only by the conscious action of individuals; that as has been the past, so will very probably be the future course; that great economic causes are producing changes in the conditions of society which are neither seen nor recognized by those whose power is being undermined nor by the people whose ultimate emancipation they assure. As Buckle has pointed out, when free trade became a necessity to the English people, it was accepted readily, although those most interested in the acceptance had little or no knowledge of its principles. In the same way is it today; the necessities of trade are destroying the royalty of gold, and the death-knell of gold’s power is being sounded, not by the workingmen, not by any of the so-called reform parties, but by the business men, the bankers, the stock-brokers, the much-reviled and much-contemned bourgeoisie. Jay Gould and his associates, in the mere pursuit of their self-interests, are doing more to break up the vicious system which they represent than Henry George, the whole army of the Knights of Labor, the Communistic Anarchists, the “scientific Socialists,” and all the venders of patent pills of brotherly love, organization, etc., warranted to cure all the evils with which humanity is afflicted.
When I say that Jay Gould and his associates are doing more to promote the social revolution than all the so-called reformers in the world, I do not wish to convey the idea ordinarily conveyed by this statement,— that their practices are so corrupt as to invite resistance,— but that they have laid the foundation and are perfecting that system of exchange without the intervention of metallic money whose final development will serve more than any other single measure to secure freedom and equality, after which reformers of all shades have for ages striven in vain. From the reformers as a whole I think we have little to expect, as their ignorance of what constitutes a just society is only equalled by their ignorance of what are the causes of the evils with which the society of today is afflicted. We hear of all sorts of schemes for the organization of labor, for cooperation for productive purposes: we hear of cooperative farms and cooperative factories and cooperative homes, as if cooperation in production had not existed since the very beginning of civilization, since the division of labor first arose; what we are now in need of is not cooperation in production,— for that we have already, and could not dispense with if we would,— but equity distribution, and this can only be secured by the destruction of the monopoly which gold now enjoys, or rather apparently enjoys, for its royalty is being every day more and more undermined by the defenders of gold themselves.
That gold should have played the part it did in primitive societies, where all possession was fraught with risk, where the exchangers effected were “few and far between,” is not at all strange, as it was then the only commodity whose value was generally recognized: but in these days of rapid and universal exchange, when the ratio of products is so easy to determine, that it should be considered by any sane being as necessary to the mechanism of exchange is only to be explained by the force of habit, by the tendency manifested by ideas, as by organs, to outlast their period of usefulness. That, the inequality in exchange lies at the root of all social distress, that by it alone is explained the commercial crises, the marching of “progress and poverty” side by side, a short examination will, I think, enable us to see. As Proudhon long ago showed, the laborer, not receiving the equivalent of his product, in wages, is unable to buy back his own product in the market: he, however, goes on producing, the products accumulate, as all the other laborers are in the same condition as he, the market becomes glutted, the demand for labor less, part of the laborers are thrown out of employment, part have their wages reduced, and consequently all are less able than before to purchase, the glut becomes greater and greater, the misery more and more profound, failure of smaller capitalists takes place, the prices of all commodities fall, the commodities get slowly consumed, and the great wheel of production again starts, only to end in a longer or shorter time, as before, in crushing out the lives ot those who tend it. It may be contended that this theory of the cause of commercial crises is at fault, because, in a state of slavery, the slaves did not receive the full product of their labor, and yet no cry of overproduction ever arose. This objection will be found to have no real weight when we come to consider the difference between capitalistic and servile production. In slavery times, when each group, consisting of the owner and his slaves, produced nearly all the luxuries and necessaries consumed by itself, the exchange between different groups was comparatively very slight. If the slaves were defrauded of a certain part of the fruits of their labor, the masters expected to make no further profit than that derived in this manner, and consequently the slaves were employed at producing only a sufficient amount of the necessaries to provide for the sustenance of the group, the rest of their time being devoted to the production of luxuries to be consumed by the master, and hence work was always steady; and, though periods of famine might arise, there were none of those periods of depression with which we are now so familiar. Under the capitalistic system things are entirely different: the capitalist is not content to live in comparative luxury on the fruits of his workmen’s labor, but always aims to still further increase his profit by selling these products at a premium; hence a great part of the time of the laborers is not devoted as it was in slavery times to the production of luxuries to be consumed only by the masters, and the products intended for the laborers’ consumption cannot be consumed by them, as they have been defrauded of the means of purchasing them. This system of robbery defeats itself. All the opinions of the “scientific socialists” to the contrary, the rich man who consumes in luxury the fruits of his robbery is, under present conditions, a greater benefactor of the working classes than he who invests his capital in the production of the necessaries of life, as he turns away part of the labor which would otherwise be employed in the production of useful articles to the production of luxuries, and thereby lessens the liability to a glut in the market, the consequent lessened demand for labor, and hard times. As Spencer says, there is always a germ of truth in any widely accepted belief, and the populace have not been deceived in their idea that spendthrifts are “good for trade.” The people perish for lack of the necessaries of life by the very excess of those necessaries which they produce.
Where, as has been shown, the fault is so evidently in exchange, it is but waste of time to attempt to remedy any thing else than exchange, and thus wasting their time is the great bulk of those who are endeavoring to reconstruct society without knowing where the evils of the present construction lie. The real reconstruction of the system of exchange, and consequently the real reconstruction of society, is being made by the capitalists themselves, all unconsciously however, as a study of “Money and the Mechanism of Exchange,” by Stanley Jevons, will enable us to see. In the first place he shows us that the supply of gold is totally inadequate to carry on the exchanges in the English market alone, and that various devices are made to represent that which does not exist:
Mr. R. H. Palgrave, in his important “Notes on Banking,” published both in the “Statistical Journal” for March, 1873, and as a separate book, has given the results of an inquiry into this subject, and states the amount of coin and Bank of England notes held by the bankers of the United Kingdom as not exceeding four or five per cent. of the liabilities, or from one twenty-fifth to one twentieth part. Mr. T. B. Moxon of Stockport and Manchester has subsequently made an elaborate inquiry into the same point, and finds that the cash reserve does not exceed about seven per cent. of the deposits and notes payable on demand, he remarks that even of this reserve a large proportion is absolutely indispensable for the daily transactions of the bankers’ business, and could not be parted with. Thus the whole fabric of our vast commerce is found to depend upon the improbability that the merchants and other customers of the bank will ever want simultaneously and suddenly so much as one-twentieth part of the gold money which they have a right to receive on demand at any moment during banking hours.
I quote thus largely from the authorities merely to show what a secure basis for the currency the gold basis is,— that its security lies mainly in the minds of the people.
The study of the methods by which this small supply of gold which is supposed to enter into all exchanges is eked out to cover them is exceedingly interesting. With the vast system of exchange, developed especially in London and New York, known as the Check and Clearing System, through which, by means of checks representing products sold, transactions (amounting daily to the value of millions of pounds) between merchant and merchant, between bank and bank, between country and country, are carried on without the intervention of a cent of metallic money, most of the readers of Liberty are probably already familiar.
Almost all large exchanges are now effected by a complicated and perfected system of barter. In the London Clearing House transactions to the amount of at least six billion pounds in the year are thus effected, without the use of any cash at all, and, as I have before explained, this amount gives no adequate idea of the exchanges arranged by checks, because so many transactions are really cleared in provincial banks, between branches, agents, and correspondents of the same bank, or between banks having the same London agent.
In addition to the Check and Clearing System, which in itself needs but slight modifications to become the mutual bank, as it already secures the exchange of products against products, there has arisen in England another institution, known as the Check Bank, by means of which possessors of small sums may, by depositing these with a bank, be provided with a check-book which can only be made out to the value of the sum deposited. These cheeks have been found to be very convenient in the payment of small bills, and in all those transactions which are too small to enter into the Check and Clearing system. Many of them circulate for over a year before being presented for payment. Nobody declines to accept, as they are secured by all the banks of the kingdom.
A peculiar feature of the Check Bank is that it entirely refrains from using or even holding the money deposited. All money received for check-books is left in the hands of the bankers through whom they are issued, or transferred to other bankers as may be needed for meeting the checks presented. The interest paid by these bankers will be the source of profit, and, as the money thus lies in the care of the most wealthy and reputable firms in the kingdom, it could not be lost in any appreciable quantity except by the break-down of the whole banking system of the country. It would hardly be true to say that these cheeks correspond to notes issued on deposit of government funds, because each bank can use at its own discretion the portion of the funds of the Check Bank in its possession. Nevertheless, the portion in the hands of any one bank will usually be a very small fraction of the whole, and there is, moreover, a guarantee of consols in the background. The system of issue is more closely analogous to that of a documentary reserve than any other.
This Check Bank is at fault in that it takes as security as yet only metallic money or bank of England notes, and we have already seen what a small proportion of these exists as security in the vaults of the banks. From the taking of gold, which does not exist, as security, to the taking of other property, which does exist, as security, is but a step; from the taking of government bonds to the taking of reliable bills of exchange, as security, is also but a step; and that both, in the necessities of trade, will be taken in the not very distant future, I think there is but little room to doubt.
The free monetary system, with its destruction of interest and profit, looms up before us! The exchange of product against product is inaugurated! The social revolution accomplishes itself!
Let not any one so misunderstand me as to think that I underestimate the value of conscious evolution. The more who see clearly the way in which thing ought to go, the more quickly will the change be effected, and the more thorough will it be when effected. I cannot do better than end as I began, with George Eliot:
Shall we say, “Let the ages try the spirits, and see what they are worth”? Why, we are the beginning of the ages, which can only be just by virtue of just judgments in separate human breasts,— separate, yet combined. Even steam-engines could not have got made without that condition, but must have stayed in the mind of James Watt.
Gertrude B. Kelly.
Henry George’s Land Tax.
My Dear Sir,— I rejoice exceedingly in the appearance of the “Standard,” and in the sentiments expressed in your salutatory. I therefore feel that what I am about to write will receive due consideration from your mind and pen.
On page 4 of the “Standard,” A. Barlow, Sioux City, Iowa, asks two questions. You will, perhaps, pardon me if I venture to state a few objections to your answers.
You hold, as a political economist, that there are two values, one caused by the application of work to land, the other by the aggregation of numbers. You also maintain that wealth is the product of land and labor, and that the material universe with all its forces is not wealth. Hence by your definitions value and wealth are interchangeable terms when both are the product of land and labor. Can you conceive of any other wealth and value not produced by work applied to the material universe? I deny its existence. Do you say: “Behold the land values!” My eyes do not see them. They are absolutely blind to any value or wealth not produced by land and labor. You may pack a million men together, standing on their feet as close as sardines in a box, and all may be hidding in competition for the land on which they stand, and not one particle of wealth or value do I see resulting from their competitive endeavor. The value or wealth still remains zero. Hence you have nothing but zero to tax for the benefit of the State. If, however, you tax Mr. Barlow and his tenants the assumed land value of his 3,374 acres, I clearly see you take from them on amount of wealth for which you give them no equivalent whatever. This, I declare, is robbery to the amount of the tax. I deny, as a self-evident proposition, that any wealth or value does or can exist except that which is produced by work applied to the material universe. Hence your value caused by the simple aggregation of numbers is purely fictitious. From your standpoint, however, it is the price of land monopoly. But if you take from Mr. Barlow and his tenants $33,000 or more, in the form of a land value tax, I do not hesitate to say it is a flagitious robbery, because you give them no equivalent for it, not even so much as a red cent. Moreover, what moral right have you to tax Mr. Barlow the rental value, or the market value, of his land and appropriate it by the State, when Mr. Barlow may not want the service of the State for which the tax is levied, assuming that the service equals the tax? If you do this against his will, you violate liberty, and are guilty of usurpation.
Mr. Barlow’s second question is more perplexing than the first. For he wants you to “demonstrate by example how a landlord is to lose his grip on the land by all land being taxed to its full value.” You say: “The land value tax will open up for use, free of rent or tax, great bodies of land everywhere, on which men can make a comfortable living.” How can this be in densely populated countries like Ireland, England, Scotland, France, and the Netherlands? For, by your own theory, the “land value tax” is a constant and varying quantity which some one will have to pay, be he a landlord or not. He who owns a house, and occupies the land on which it stands, cannot escape this everlasting tax. How, the, canthe farmer escape it in these countries, where the land value tax is a constantly increasing quantity? And how can Mr. Barlow’s landless tenants escape it by moving away to adjacent lands? They would be terribly handicapped by this land tax the first year, and every succeeding year. And the tax of every succeeding year would become more burdensome than any tax of the preceeding years. And since the industrial power of the same farmer, agricultural machinery being the same, could not increase, how could he pay the constantly increasing rental value of his farm, other things being equal?
An enterprising carpenter saves five hundred dollars, which he invests in a lot on the border of a city. He gives a mortgage on his lot to a money-lender for a loan of five hundred dollars, which he uses to buy lumber to erect a modest home for himself and family. At the end of the year the tax-gatherer calls for the land value of his lot, and the money-lender for the amount and the interest due according to contract. The carpenter can pay the money-lender, but he cannot pay the tax-gatherer. Between these two robbers by increase, which is the more morally cilpable, the State or the money-lender? Robbers, I say, for neither gives anything in return for what he receives. At any rate, if the State returns anything to the carpenter, it may be such service as he can readily dispense with, and would rather do without than have. But the land value tax, somehow or other, must be paid. Hence the violation liberty and the audacious robbery. ’Tis needles to multiply examples. For it is clear to me that throughout the entire realm of economic activities, the fictitious land values which you would tax must ultimately be paid out of the productive toil of the millions, and that the “grip” of the landlords is not one jot loosened by levying a tax equal to all the land values.
It seems to me that your remedy is illogically deduced from your premises. If the monopoly of land be the real cause of rent, and the so-called increase of land values, then the logical remedy would be a repeal of the laws which sustain “vested rights” (vested wrongs) in the monopoly of the soil. Take away the protective power of the State and the defenders of vested rights would no longer have the power to enforce their unrighteous claims.
I submit these timely thoughts for your careful consideration.
[The foregoing was sent to the “Standard” immedeately after the appearance of the first number, but has not yet been printed in that paper. — Editor Liberty]
Don’t keep Liberty to yourself, share it with others!
Leonard E. Read: Accent On The Right: To Frederic Bastiat (1801–1850), who sought for truth rather than outcome and never witnessed the fruits his labor bore. Obedience to conscience was his first rule; we witness the results.
Leonard E. Read: Anything That’s Peaceful: Many favor peace but not many favor the things that make for peace. — Thomas à Kempis
Leonard E. Read: Awake for Freedom’s Sake: Finally, share with others. Forget about “reforming” them! The more we share, the more we learn. This is in the interest of self and freedom!
Leonard E. Read: Castles in the Air: If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; there is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. — Henry David Thoreau
Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State: Political philosophy is dominated by a myth, the myth of the necessity of the state. The state is considered necessary for the provision of many things, but primarily for peace and security. In this provocative book, Gerard Casey argues that social order can be spontaneously generated, that such spontaneous order is the norm in human society and that deviations from the ordered norms can be dealt with without recourse to the coercive power of the state.
Major Conservative and Libertarian Thinkers: Murray Rothbard: Murray Rothbard (1926–1995) was an economist, historian, philosopher, and legal theoretician. His work was unified by a passionate and resolute commitment to a libertarianism that may be characterized as ‘anarcho-capitalism’ and which implied a belief that even the legal system may be provided privately without the need for a coercive collective authority. Hence, anarcho-capitalists envisage a society where the traditional role of government is wholly subsumed by private, profit-making enterprises and all social relationships are ultimately founded upon consent.