“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.
“There is no law which can make a man honest when he wants to be a scoundrel,” observes a contemporary. There are, however, innumerable laws which oblige men that want to be honest to act the part of scoundrels, and which, by setting a premium upon rascality, tempt many honest men into criminality.
Swinburne’s versified advocacy of the assassination of the Russian czar in his latest poem in the London “Fortnightly Review” disturbs even the most liberal editors, and the poet is warned that this bold and revolutionary utterance may cost him the office of poet laureate of England. But I suspect that the desire to escape that humiliating and absurd function was one of the most powerful motives that caused the production of the startling poem. At all events, the fact that such a poet as Swinburne dares to say such a thing, and that the “Fortnightly Review” dares to publish it, is one to cheer and gladden the heart of every lover of liberty and hater of tyranny and cowardice.
One of the world’s greatest hearts is gone in the death of John Boyle O’Reilly. He had the stuff in him, too, for one of the world’s greatest heroes. And that is what he would have been if Success and Superstition had not had their fatal grip upon him. He always commanded my. admiration, but I could never thoroughly understand his character and shall not attempt to judge it. The chief lesson of his life to me is the disastrous effect of religion upon one who by nature and training was unable to cast it off and yet was conscious that it terribly impeded him in his efforts to further that cause which every drop of blood in his veins was burning to serve,— the cause of human liberty.
The Boston “Herald” thinks that the sympathy for murderers is worse than wasted. It is the cruelty of the murderers themselves, it says, that reconciles the public to cruel and unusual methods of punishment, and it concludes: “As Victor Hugo put it, if capital punishment is to be done away with, let Messieurs the murderers begin.” I can assure the “Herald” that Victor Hugo never said anything of the kind, and any one who is familiar with his writings must know that such a sentiment would have been deemed atrocious and senseless by the immortal author of “The Last Day of a Condemned.” I was not surprised to observe the “Herald’s” idiotic attitude toward Ibsen and Tolstoi, but I am astonished at this ignorance of Victor Hugo’s thought.
The editor of “Today” intimates that it is not consistent with our belief that order is the daughter of liberty to insist on (what he calls) “getting a full belly” before championing liberty. It is disappointing to find the editor of “Today” so confused and careless in his charges. Liberty has never advocated, but constantly denounced, the attempt to “get a full belly” by compulsory means, even though it was accompanied by the promise of making liberty the next object of pursuit. We desire economic liberty first in order to obtain order or equity in the economic relations (in other words, a full belly for those who work for it), and then we shall seek to bring about order and equity in other relations by and through liberty again. Where is the inconsistency, the infidelity to principle?
Mr. Pentecost characterizes my willingness to sign a million fictitious names to a petition for Mr. Harman’s release, if I thought such a course would be effective, as “Jesuitism, pure and simple.” Well, Jesuitism is but a name. John Most, when his last argument is gone, calls me a bourgeois. Of course, if I am a bourgeois, I ought to be hanged; and, if I am a Jesuit, probably hanging is too good for me. I propose to inquire whether Mr. Pentecost is not a Jesuit too. Has he ever read “Les Miserables”? H so, he remembers the Sister whose lie, told under certain circumstances, Victor Hugo glorifies. Now, I ask Mr. Pentecost whether he approves or disapproves that lie. If he approves it, then he approves “Jesuitism, pure and simple.” H he disapproves it, the absurdity of his view will be manifest to every one but himself.
The San Francisco “Argonaut” reports the following interesting fact: “The French Chamber of Deputies has been investigating charges of bribery made against a newly elected member for Nice. It was shown that sixteen hundred and twenty electors agreed to sell their votes, and received from one to twenty francs each. There ware two hundred and ten who demanded higher prices, and were paid twenty to twenty-five francs each. The deputy was unseated.” The other deputies, however, were not, and the world will persist in extolling the virtue of “free government” for some time yet. But not for a long time. The logic of events is furnishing abundant illustrations and object lessons of the truth of Anarchism, while the conscious revolt against compulsory government and legal monopoly is growing with unprecedented rapidity.
The talk of the newspapers about the universal sentiment against lotteries is sickening in its hypocrisy and falsehood. Do not millions of people patronize the Louisiana lottery? Would not millions of others gladly do so if they had no difficulty in procuring tickets? How long will the few canting puritanical meddlers be permitted to exercise censorial functions over the people; and how long will the newspapers remain the servile tools of religious knaves and lunatics? The people favor lotteries, and they should insist on the abolition of all laws restricting this business. When the people really come to understand that this species of speculation is demoralizing (if they ever do, which is very doubtful, because in certain modified forms the thing is seen to exist even among the most refined and cultivated), there will be no need of legal prohibition to make lotteries unprofitable.
Some reform papers that ought to know better praise and recommend Gen. Trumbull’s (Wheelbarrow’s) pamphlet recently published by the “Open Court.” The most sensible estimate passed upon it is that of the Boston “Transcript,” which says: “The essays range from fair to mildly indifferent. Some of them, of which ‘Live and not Let Live’ is a sample, consist of the merest platitudes. Wheelbarrow’s forte evidently consists in humorous descriptive writing. As a philosopher and reasoner he is manifestly a failure, and it would take choicer English and better spelling than appear in this book to conceal his lack of ideas upon the vital subjects with which be professes to deal. He undertakes the solution of some large problems in ‘Competition in Trades,’ ‘Henry George and Land Taxation,’ and ‘The Right of Eminent Domain,’ but leaves them in as unsettled a condition as he found them.”
E. C. Walker writes in “Fair Play”: “Lum talks glibly of ‘object lessons’ — acts of violence and self-sacrifice — and of ‘events,’ by which euphemism he means the revolution of unreasoning impulse as opposed to the evolution of sober thought. It is unfortunate that he does not give us an ‘object lesson’ that will be so provocative of ‘new impulses’ that their reflex action will enable observers to say, paraphrasing his remark anent the executed Chicago Socialists,— ‘Yet his death was not in vain.’ To pose as a living and subsequently dead ‘object lesson’ is, in all probability, his long talked-after but so far elusive ‘mission.’” Mr. Walker is too generous, and gives Mr. Lum undeserved credit. The truth is that Mr. Lum is himself utterly ignorant of the motives and ends of his antics. He never renders any account to himself of his actions. He is perfectly spontaneous, and would be unable to give any but what the poet calls “a woman’s reason” for his absurd and comical freaks: he does so because he does so, and he says so because he says so.
“The bitterness which still exists between religious dogmatists and agnostics seems to be uncalled for,” says “Today.” There is no bitterness on the part of agnostics, but only contempt and compassion. There may not be any direct evidence in the possession of scientific men against the existence of a God and a hereafter, but the history of man’s progress and the science of logic show that, if these things are accepted, there is no reason why men should refuse to believe that God has a number of male and female associates and that cats and dogs and frogs are to live again after death. It is not necessary to bother ourselves about the theological dogmas and anxiously investigate them all in the light of established scientific truths when we know the origin of theological speculation and know that it must be absurd. “Today” evidently forgets that it is not so much established scientific truths as familiarity with scientific methods and the canons of logical proof that determine the justly scornful rejection of the fables and assumptions of theologians as childish nonsense.
Progress Versus Law.
[From the Poem, “Wendell Phillips.”]
“Fanatic!” the insects hissed, till he taught them to understand
That the highest crime may be written in the highest law of the land.
“Disturber!” and “Dreamer!” the Philistines cried when he reached an ideal creed,
Till they learned that the men who have changed the world, with the world have disagreed;
That the remnant is right, when the masses are led like sheep to the pen;
For the instinct of equity slumbers till roused by instinctive men.
It is not enough to win rights from a king and write them down in a book:
New men, new lights; and the code of the fathers the sons may never brook.
What is liberty now were license then; their freedom our yoke would be,
And each new decade must have new men to determine its liberty.
Mankind is a marching army, with a broadening front the while;
Shall it crowd its bulk on the farm-paths, or clear to the outward file?
Its pioneers are those dreamers who heed neither tongue nor pen
Of the human spiders whose silk is wove from the lives of toiling men.
John Boyle O’Reilly.
Wanamaker’s Latest Crime.
[Boston Globe, August 1.]
“I suppose you are flooded with orders this morning for Tolstoi’s ‘Kreutzer Sonata,’ are you not?” asked a “Qlobe” reporter of Benjamin R. Tucker, the publisher and translator of that book, now made more famous than ever by the decree that has gone forth from John Wanamaker excluding it from the United States mails.
Mr. Tucker was sitting at his desk at 45 Milk street, room 7, looking as happy as though he had just drawn the capital prize in the Louisiana lottery.
“Indeed, I am,” he answered. “My first knowledge of this ridiculous proceeding was obtained from the papers at the breakfast table this morning.
“On my way to my office I called at the office of Postmaster Corse, and there was informed that no instructions had been received by him to exclude the ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ from the mails. I thought it very singular that, if any instructions at all had been sent out, the Boston office should have been neglected, inasmuch as the book is most largely mailed from this city, where it is published.
“However, there seems to be no doubt of the correctness of the report, for the New York ‘Evening Post’ has questioned the New York postmaster and received the following reply:
“Sir — In reply to your question whether Tolstoi’s ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ has been excluded from the mails, I beg leave to say that it has. Very respectfully,
“C. Van Cott, Postmaster.
“John L. Gayler, Assistant Postmaster.
“July 30, 1890.
“Well, I left Postmaster Corse’s office, and on arriving at my own office I found that the book dealers had been in advance of me, and had sent in their orders for a large supply of the book, after reading the news in the morning papers.
“My first step was to visit my printer and order a new edition printed, that I might be ready to meet the new demand that is sure to arise. This makes the 10th edition and the 26th thousand of this book, although it has been published only two months and a half.
“The order of exclusion from the mails, even if the authorities are able to enforce it (which I doubt), will not cripple me to any extent worth mentioning. Fully 80 per cent, of the books have been sent by express up to this time, and it will be no very serious burden to carry the remaining 20 per cent, in the same manner in future.”
“What, in your opinion, Mr. Tucker, is the meaning of this action of the postal authorities?” asked the reporter.
“Oh! it is simply another, and this time a very audacious, step on the part of the vice-suppression cranks in the direction of destroying the freedom of the press.
“Ever since the Harrison administration came into power, the new appointments in the postal department and the department of justice have been made with a view to active and rigorous enforcement of the odious Comstock law. Wanamaker is the tool of these bigots, and he takes it upon himself to act as our literary censor.
“Fancy this ignorant Philadelphia haberdasher sitting in judgment upon the greatest literary geniuses now living in the world.
“Here is a book written in sober language and from the standpoint of the most puritanical morality, without a nasty word or the slightest salacious suggestion, a book which the Boston ‘Transcript’ characterizes as ‘probably one of the most moral books ever written,’ and just because it vigorously expresses an honest man’s hostility to the evils of the prevailing marriage system, the prudes who think they have been entrusted with a special mission to regulate the morals of mankind presume to say that it shall not circulate.
“I can assure these people of one thing, they will never suppress this book without a bitter fight, and in this fight I believe I shall have the aid and sympathy of every broadminded literary man in the world.
“Objectionable as the Comstock law is, I do not believe that it can be made to cover the ‘Kreutzer Sonata,’ and I believe that the official who shall try to make it cover it by his own arbitrary act will lay himself liable to a suit for heavy damages.
“It is possible, too, that Wanamaker is moved in this matter by motives of private revenge, as he was unable to buy the ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ of me, for sale in his Philadelphia store, at terms low enough to suit him.
“Before I published the ‘Kreutzer Sonata,’ I sent out a circular to the book trade offering a special discount to dealers who should place advance orders. One of these circulars I sent to John Wanamaker. At first I did not hear from him. But after the book appeared and was selling rapidly, he wrote to me, pretending that he had mislaid the circular and had been thereby prevented from placing an advance order, but now giving me a large order for the work at the special discount named. I replied that, unfortunately, it was too late, and that I could allow him only the regular discount.
“It now appears that the book which John Wanamaker, merchant, was willing to sell if he could only buy it cheap enough, is adjudged by John Wanamaker, postmaster-general, unfit for circulation in the mails.”
Postmaster Corse was asked by a “Globe” reporter if any orders had been received at the Boston post-office in regard to excluding from the mails Tolstoi’s “Kreutzer Sonata,” and answered that no such orders had been received here. In fact all he knew about it was from his secretary’s calling his attention to a Washington despatch.
Such an order would require the services of the inspectors to enforce it, he added, as tons of such matter are handled every day, and the clerks could not stop to examine it all, though, if they should happen to know that the book was offered for mailing, they would of course refuse to receive it.
Something Like a Sermon.
[Buffalo Express Editorial.]
The text this morning, brethren, will be found in the 13th verse of the xxxth chapter of The Proverbs, King James version of the Bible, revised edition:
There is a generation, Oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up.
The “Express” knows no reason why it shouldn’t take a hand at Scriptural exposition, once in a while, if it wants to. The professional pulpit hasn’t got a mortgage on the gospel.
The party who made the remark which is printed above had a handy knack of writing paragraphs which fit no end of cases. Time doesn’t wear them out. The lofty-eyed generation is always with us. Just now it is rolling up its official Post-office Department optics in horror at the “indecency” of Tolstoi’s “Kreutzer Sonata.”
In excluding this little book from the United States mails the officials of the Post-office Department have not only done a foolish thing, but have made conspicuous their own inability to read “The Kreutzer Sonata” aright.
Let us have a plain word at this much-hinted-at book. It is one of the most moral books ever written. It is supra-moral. The indecency of its morality is akin to the indecency of the Mosaic instructions to the Israelites in the wilderness. If “The Kreutzer Sonata” is unfit for transmission through the mails, the Bible (every form of it) is unfit for transmission, for family use. The assertion needs no proof. Read the two books and see for yourselves.
Yes, brethren, the Amateur Parson advises you to read “The Kreutzer Sonata.” It has not hitherto been a hard book to obtain. At least one good American edition has been published. We don’t mind giving it an indirect advertisement. We don’t care whether the book sells or not, but we can’t keep silent when official prudery, dunce-like obliquity of sense, is asserted in censorship of what the American public may read.
“The Kreutzer Sonata” is the story of a man whose idea of marital relations is predominantly bestial. There are millions of such men. He had been a rake for years before he took a wife. His married life continues on the same degraded scale, which, since he is “faithful” to her (in the accepted use of that word), passes with the outside world as a proper relation, as a moral life. Jealousy and murder result from a domestic association which has no basis on any save the lowest form of affection. The spiritual relation is obscured by sensuality.
We have called this book moral. Well, where is its moral? Primarily, Tolstoi makes a thrust At the world which condones impurity in unmarried men, and shuts its mouth, if not its eyes, to marital unfaithfulness. Secondarily, it Is a plea for higher ideals in the married relation.
At about this point we fall out with Tolstoi. The author, like his murderous hero, goes to an extreme which suggests insanity. To purify the marital relation, he appears to argue absolute marital continence.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
If we accept the logic of Tolstoi, let men and women beget no more children. No longer heed the mandate, “Be fruitful, multiply.” The new promulgator sees no hope for humanity in this over-replenishing of the earth. The new mandate is, Be barren.
Stuff and nonsense, dear brethren! That were the suicide of the race. As individual suicide is the most cowardly of acts, so is this wholesale annihilation utterly craven in conception. It is a poor philosopher who cannot build a more hopeful theory. We half suspect Tolstoi of masquerading, of an insincere expression of extreme views. Perhaps he is posing as an ultra-reformer, as an extremist, in the idea that only by going to extremes himself can he draw others into the moderate reform for which modern society undeniably offers a field. We cannot judge, however, by subtly-concealed motives. We take his words as they stand.
We have one quarrel, therefore, with Tolstoi,— not on the decency of his book, but on the outcome of his reasonings. We have another quarrel with the undiscriminating ignorance of postal functionaries which does not see that this book not only does not advocate immorality, but actually insists on the most rigid morality (if the Tolstoi course of conduct may be called morality) the world ever heard of. Neither is there indecency in the language. It approaches plainness here and there; but plain language is not indecency. Revelation is not grossness. There is nothing inherently vicious in bareness. Sin came into Eden and brought with it the impulse of concealment. The fig-leaf is the emblem of concealment and the confession of sin. If you want to make a marble Venus or Eve indecent clothe her in pantalettes and a corset. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward is horrified beyond measure (in the August “Forum”) at “The Décolleté in Modern Life,” arguing in effect, that iniquity goes with a dress-waist cut low in front and Y-shaped behind. We are absolutely shocked to learn that sin. Ward sees anything in that to shock her.
To return to our book. It deals, in proper words, with things which children should not know of, as they have been told from time immemorial, “until they are old enough to understand”; no child, however, is likely to be attracted by its pages. Any adult of normal mental balance may read it with profit. It will hit unmarried young men like an arrow, aimed at the heart from a mighty bow. The pulpit may properly preach about it. The story is nothing; amusement-hunters will weary of it. It is a book for the serious-minded. That is why the Amateur Parson has tackled it.
In searching the Scriptures, dear brethren, for the text of this discourse, you will run across the following remark in the twelfth verse of the same chapter:
There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed of their filthiness.
We have a hovering suspicion that that remark hits the same kind of people as our first text. Let this discourse therefore end as it began, with the storied precepts of a very wise man.
Let a collection of common sense be taken up for the benefit of the Post-office Department.
Wanamaker’s “Sonata” Order.
The people of the United States will read with astonishment, to use no harsher terra, the announcement that the Post-office Department has decided to exclude Count Tolstoi’s “Kreutzer Sonata” from the mails. They will not be surprised also to learn that foreign critics are aghast at the Postmaster-General’s decision. The decision will suggest many comments, and from whatever point of view it is considered they will be unfavorable. It is absurd, ridiculous, extra-legal, dangerous, and clearly at variance with the spirit of the Government and the sentiment of the people, and the sooner Postmaster-General Wanamaker rescinds it the better it will be for him and for the Administration.
The decision in this case is clearly illegal. The statutes do not give the Postmaster-General authority to exclude any matter from the mails except “obscene, lewd, and lascivious” books, pamphlets, pictures, papers, and prints of “an indecent character,” articles and things intended for “indecent and immoral uses,” and letters and circulars concerning lotteries. The limits of his action are defined clearly. No ingenuity of conception or distortion of its language can make Count Tolstoi’s book “obscene, lewd, or lascivious.” As one critic says: “It is as far removed from the erotic immoralities of fiction as a physiological text-book is from an obscene picture book.” We may question the premises and deductions of Count Tolstoi in his exposition of the evils of modern marriage, as he regards them. We may deplore his jaundiced view of the marriage system or pronounce it the outcome of a diseased mind, as some have done, but no one in possession of his senses can pronounce the story obscene or doubt the exalted though mistaken purpose of the writer to bring about reform. Count Tolstoi may be a crank, but he is eminently a purist in the highest acceptation of the term. It is only charitable to assume that Brother Wanamaker has not read the “Kreutzer Sonata,” but has been influenced to make this decision upon the complaint of some supersensitive person. But whether he has read it or not, his action is none the less absurd and dangerous. When it is considered farther how many obscene, lewd, and lascivious stories by modern American as well as foreign novelists are allowed the freedom of the mails, and how many obscene, lewd, and lascivious volumes of poems, poems of so-called “passion,” written by young women as well as by men for the encouragement of “passion,” are circulated by the mails without interference, the decision of the Postmaster-General simply becomes incomprehensible and provokes the question whether he has not quit his senses.
From a broader and more comprehensive point of view the action of the Postmaster-General must be condemned severely. If the National Government is to set itself up as the censor of literary morality and the regulator of the books which the people shall be allowed to read in their homes, who is to have the right of censorship? Who is to decide what books are moral and what are immoral, and what are the canons of literary propriety? What books will the censorship rule out next? If the “Kreutzer Sonata” is regarded as obscene and is to be excluded from the mails, will not the heavy hand of Brother Wanamaker come down next upon the Holy Scriptures, the classics, Shakspere, Byron, Walt Whitman, the early English dramatists and novelists, the old poets, Bob Ingersoll, Edgar Saltus, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and thousands of writers compared with parts of whose work the “Kreutzer Sonata” is sublimated parity? He has set a dangerous precedent, and he need not be surprised if he is informed, and that right speedily, by the people of this country that they will not have their reading matter regulated by the Post-office Department. Brother Wanamaker, if he be disposed that way, may advise his Sunday-school class not to read the “Kreutzer Sonata,” but the National Government has not reached that extreme of paternalism which warrants him or any one else connected with the Administration in attempting to regulate the morals of American homes or in deciding what is proper to be read in them. Undoubtedly he is a truly good man from a moral and religious point of view. His orthodoxy may be shocked by Count Tolstoi. He may be offended by the latter’s discussion of the marriage system, but there is no more warrant in his private views than there is in the public laws for the decision he has made. He may exclude the “Kreutz r Sonata” from Mr. Wanamaker’s household, and we are not sure but we should applaud him for doing it, but he has no authority for excluding it from any other home in this country. The sooner he rescinds his silly decision the better. He is exposing the Administration to universal ridicule.
It may not concern the authorities to know that their action will stimulate the sale of the “Kreutzer Sonata” enormously, yet such is undoubtedly the fact. The legitimate sale of the book was about exhausted. It was a nine days’ wonder and almost forgotten. Now its exclusion from the mails and the accompanying noticè to every Postmaster that its circulation is prohibited will cause an immense new demand for it to spring up, and this demand will be met by the booksellers. The express companies will carry the “Kreutzer Sonata” broadcast by the hundred thousand. We would not be surprised if Brother Wanamaker were indirectly the means of causing ten copies of the book to be sold in the United States for every one that would have been sold but for his interdicting order. It is really the most absurd act of the administration.
Cheap John’s Nerve.
The spectacle of John Wanamaker setting up as the censor of the press is something more than ridiculous. If it go unrebuked, it will mark another dangerous encroachment upon the personal liberty of the people.
The book which this Philadelphia haberdasher has taken upon himself to exclude from the mails is the work of a man of world-wide fame, standing at the very pinnacle of literary renown. Critics of high authority have pronounced him not merely the greatest of all living novelists, but the greatest novelist who ever lived. He is a man of eminently religious life; one might almost say fanatically religious. This very book, like all his books, is written with a high moral purpose. In fact, it is in the interest of a morality so sublimated as to appear to most people impractical and prudish. It is true that in handling this subject and illustrating his point — the impurity of much of that which passes for respectable marriage — Tolstoi handles without gloves the events of one such marriage, but he is only honestly stating that of which many men are talking and thinking, not in any erotic way, but with high philosophical purpose. We have already taken occasion to condemn the “Kreutzer Sonata” in severe terms, on the ground that it fails to discriminate properly between false marriages and true ones, and that it here and there falls into a certain brutality of comment on delicate subjects; but there is obviously not a word in it that is written with salacious intent, and his must be a depraved imagination indeed that finds in it, as Wanamaker pretends to do, matter which must be classed as obscene and excluded from the mails. The same ruling would exclude the works of Shakspere and Milton.
But there is a greater question involved than the merits or demerits of Tolstoi and his “Kreutzer Sonata.” Can this republic afford to permit such a precedent tending directly to the establishment of a government censorship over the books and papers that are printed and sold? The laws against obscene literature were surely never meant to apply to the standard works of great authors or to condemn the necessary discussion of the most vital questions of life. Postmaster General Wanamaker has made a burro of himself. He ought to be called upon to resign an office which he makes both harmful and ridiculous.
We think that Postmaster-General Wanamaker has made a mistake in forbidding the passage through the mails of Tolstoi’s latest novel, “The Kreutzer Sonata,” on the ground that it comes under the head of “obscene literature.” We fear that if General Wanamaker has read the book he has not comprehended its significance, and therefore has misunderstood the character of those portions of it which have moved him to put it under the ban. However we may question the wisdom on the part of an author of writing such a story as “The Kreutzer Sonata,” no one can deny that it was inspired by a good motive, and that it contains a moral. It deals with one of the most vital problems of our civilization. In its exposure of the horrors of a marriage which in some respects may be regarded as typical of many of the marriages of today it deals with certain facts of life which society is pleased to ignore. Tolstoi believes that these facts should not be ignored, that in them lies the root from which so much of the rottenness of modern life springs. Therefore in his latest novel he exposes them in all their unsightliness to our gaze. It is a mistake to class such an exposure as this with the erotic pictures which so many writers of the present
time delight in forcing upon the public, and which are properly called obscene. The influence of obscene literature upon its readers is corrupting; the influence of such a book as the “Kreutzer Sonata,” if read in the spirit in which the author intended that it should be read, cannot but be productive of good. We do not mean by this to say that Tolstoi’s work is as elevating as the Bible or the Sunday-school story. It was not written for babes and sucklings. But we do maintain that it presents before thoughtful men and women a terrible social problem which has long been crying out for solution. It may be said that this problem might be presented in some other way; that one in order to obtain a knowledge of evil does not need to peruse a book which reeks with filth. It is doubtful, however, if Tolstoi could have chosen a more effective means of attracting the notice of the world to it than he has done by means of this novel. He has made his picture strong, so that it should command attention. He has succeeded in his purpose. The world is reading his book and is puzzled by it. It has not yet awakened to the problem which it presents before them. But it is interested in it. This is enough. The reform has begun.
Our Arrogant Censors.
The President of the United States and his postmaster have been up to a pretty business. They have been constituted the supervisors of the morals of the people, and lest all ordinary means should prove quite inadequate to serve their capacities for meddling, a vast post-office means of communication between individuals has been placed at their disposal. With an arrogance that would be incredible did it not appear before our very eyes, the President writes to Congress that the time has come to use the post-office for suppressing lotteries. Did the people realize what power for meddling they placed in the hands of their delegated representatives when they gave them control over the post-office? Do they realize now that they are about to be covertly and insidiously tyrannized over by their Congress and President,— that part of their daily lives is about to be placed under the regulation of the Executive department of the Government?
The postmaster, who happens to be a dealer in haberdashery, has been constituted a censor of morals also, and, having regard for the splendid classical acquirements of the past and present incumbents of that office, he has been judiciously selected to supervise literature. A few days ago an order issued from the bureau of censorship of the press that a book of Count Tolstoi should not be received for cheap transmission through the mails. Now, there is no use quibbling about this thing. The notion of Wanamaker as a censor of our reading and morals is a conception to break the immobility of the dullest mind. But here we have it. Of course, it is unconstitutional. Here is an interference with the freedom of the press. To proscribe the transmission of literature at the cheapest possible rates is to exercise a censorship of our reading, or there is no such thing as censorship. But let that pass. Is it not the most monstrous burlesque that the people of this country, when they go to the polls to pass upon questions of pressing and profound importance to their political welfare, should also have to consider that they are voting for men who are to sit in judgment over the esthetic or ethical quality of their literature? The crass stupidity of this performance is beyond comprehension. The whole fault lies with the post-office: out with it!
The American Censorship.
It appears that the censorship is already in operation. As noted in a press despatch, an assistant attorney general is the censor, and one of Tolstoi’s novels gets the free advertising. As the czar of Russia has not succeeded in preventing his subjects from getting the forbidden book, it remains to be seen whether the administrative machinery of the post-office, supplemented by any that President Harrison’s message may induce congress to provide for controlling express companies, will suffice to give the Russian government winning points in the matter. The czar has the advantage of controlling printing offices (or those above ground), also type foundries (known). Still nearly every Russian gets to read what he wants. Prohibition is perhaps the greatest appetizer known. Those who favor it are constantly confronted with the absurd incondesiveness of the present measures. Whisky is made. After that it is sure to be sold. Novels are printed. After that they are sure to be read, if prohibition is to be anything, evidently the United States must control the production of the prohibited article. The Russian government has all that power, and yet the Russian people read manuscript books and import the works of republicans and socialists under false title pages and binding. They also get drunk on fluid contained in cologne water bottles. But our prohibitionists apparently think that they can succeed where Russian officialism fails. The experiment can be tried. It however involves delegating a good deal of arbitrary discretion to somebody. With a clear understanding of the condition American citizens may prepare for a show of hands on a test question. But if decided one way there will be no room for inconsequential complaints about the necessary means of enforcement by prevention, which is the only real prohibition, and there will not long be standing room for men occupying an illogical middle place.
From the Pure All Things are Pure.
[New York Commercial Advertiser.]
The order excluding the “Kreutzer Sonata” from the mails will injure the postmaster general far more than it will help the publisher of the forbidden volume. Were the order in the interest of morality we should heartily support it, but it is sham morality which is offended by Count Tolstoi’s book. We are far from taking the position that “to the pure all things are pure.” But we do hold that from the pure all things are pure, and volumes like Tolstoi’s “Kreutzer Sonata” and Daudet’s “Sappho,” which deal with immorality in the high and serious moral spirit of Hebrew prophets, are no more to be condemned as immoral than the plain-spoken passages of scripture are to be condemned..... It is a curious fact in literary history that the books which have been vigorously and profoundly moral have uniformly been attacked as profoundly immoral, while more conventional books which have been simply saturated with moral sewer gas have been allowed to pass unnoticed. Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” was pronounced too immoral to be ranked as decent literature; George Eliot’s “Adam Bede” was damned by book reviewers as the “vile outpouring of a lewd woman’s mind”; and Mrs. Browning’s “Aurora Leigh” was described as the “hysterical indecencies of an erotic mind.” It is not singular therefore that the “Kreutzer Sonata” should be condemned by the great representative of conventional cant, who stands so near the head of the party of moral ideas, whose chief political idea is child of systematized robbery and the parent of systematized jobbery.
The “Blacking” Policy.
The action of the post-office department in excluding from the mails Tolstoi’s novel, “The Kreutzer Sonata,” is foolish, chiefly because it will create a factitious demand for the book, and it is perhaps unjust as condemning a very serious assertion of sincere beliefs advanced with a wholly moral purpose. These beliefs embody a radical assault on this marriage relation, as the foundation of the entire social organism, but so far from proposing any laxity of sexual morals, so far from Inciting to or apologizing for vice, Tolstoi preaches a bitter and rigid asceticism, the utter crucifixion of the appetites, to the end that the human race may be utterly destroyed. Such a book cannot be condemned with any show of reason if the liberty of speech and of the press is to be maintained, and it does not seem as if the officials can have read the book, but rather as if they had issued the mandate on common rumor, misconstruing the current criticism, justly severe on the revolting character of this strange and savage development of a warped and ruined Intellect. The Russian censor should be left the monopoly of this method of meeting error. It is wholly out of place in our country, however it may accord with a despotism which “blacks” and tears out articles in magazines and newspapers.
Not Filthy, But False.
There is no sense in the shrieks about the “obscenity” of “The Kreutzer Sonata.” Those who call it obscene either have not read the book or do not know the meaning of the adjective. True, Tolstoi deals therein with a theme that modern taste usually banishes from social discourse; but it is a theme of fundamental importance; and in this book it is treated from the standpoint of a moralist, not from that of a pander. There is not a word or a line in it that tends to excite evil passions; yet it is only on the ground of such tendency that any work of literature or art can justly be condemned as “obscene.” The sensuality which a reader of “The Kreutzer Sonata” finds in its pages is not what was put there by the author but what is brought there by the reader.
Yet this latest novel of the great Russian is exceedingly objectionable, though not for any reason that can warrant the post office authorities in placing it on the black list. The objection to “The Kreutzer Sonata” is not that it is filthy, but that it is false.
Neither New nor True.
“Man is ever wiser than men,” is a favorite rhetorical chestnut of D. D. Lum’s. All mobocratic, majorityistic despots agree with him heartily, as a matter of policy. They all affect to think that “man,” i. e. the majority, is very much wiser than “men,” i. e. the minority, or individuals, and hence any epidemic delusion that seizes upon the majority and drowns reason in a sea of blood is “manifest destiny,” — it makes “events,” you know, and these are ever so much more potent and human than “calm reflection” and “well ordered plans of campaign.” As a matter of fact, however, men are wiser than man. This is mathematically demonstrable. It is impossible for the average to be as high or wide as the highest or widest.
“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 Best Way to Help Harman.
I have said in Liberty that I know no way of helping Moses Harman, editor of “Lucifer,” out of prison. I still know none. But there is a way of making his burden lighter, and — what is more important — of foiling his enemies in their real purpose, the suppression of his paper. That way is to keep his paper alive till he is free. In such an effort any Anarchist may well take part, whatever his opinion may be of the paper itself. I certainly hold it in very light esteem. But it is a Liberal paper, and that is enough. The foes of liberty want to suppress it, and if they fail, it will afford them little satisfaction to have imprisoned Moses Harman. Let us then keep “Lucifer” alive. All funds received for that purpose will be acknowledged in this column and forwarded to the office of “Lucifer.”
Benj. R. Tucker. . . . . . . . . $10.00
Jour Orth, Boston . . . . . . . . 1.00
C. Schulenburg, Detroit. . . . . . . 3.00
A. H. Simpson, Boston . . . . . . . 2.00
Mrs. M. B. Groves, Washington, D. C. . . . . 4.00
Robert Reitzel, Detroit . . . . . . . 1.00
A Lesson in Tactics.
The usual batch of “Beauties of Government” is omitted from this issue. Their loveliness would suffer in face of the bewildering beauty of that act of government which has absorbed popular attention for a fortnight past and to which I surrender a large portion of my space. I refer, of course, to the attempt of the postal authorities to suppress Tolstoi’s “Kreutzer Sonata” by excluding it from the mails. The utter failure of this attempt and the torrent of ridicule which it has brought down upon its authors from nearly every influential organ of opinion constitute the severest blow that has been dealt Comstockism since its birth. The attention of those critics of mine who have exercised their feeble wits in sarcastic comment upon my “plan of campaign” is invited to the fact just cited. I could scarcely ask a more striking demonstration of the correctness of the stand taken by Liberty during the more recent phases of the “obscenity” battle.
See the difference. Two men, professedly bent upon vindicating the right to discuss tabooed questions, proceeded to discuss them in language as obnoxious to the general public as it was possible to choose. As a result, the enemies of free speech sent them to prison without the slightest difficulty and without so much as a protest from anybody but their immediate friends and coworkers. So utterly had they placed themselves beyond all hope of sympathy that they are now almost forgotten in their cells. Both have long terms to serve, and they probably will end them as quietly as they have begun them. At any rate, their martyrdom has thus far been suffered in vain. We may admit and admire their bravery, but their judgment was lamentably wreak. Comstockism was not weakened but strengthened by their course.
I, on the other hand, have acted according to my “plan of campaign,” one feature of which is to avoid endangering that partial liberty of speech which I now enjoy and which is my only weapon of warfare upon existing evils. Consequently, when for various reasons I desired to translate and publish “The Kreutzer Sonata,” the first question that I asked myself was: “Will it be possible for the Vice Society to successfully attack this book?” It needed but slight reflection to answer the question in the negative. I saw at once that, if the attack were to be made, public opinion, instead of arraying itself solidly against me, would be almost a unit, and a very noisy unit, in my favor. At the same time I realized that the temptation to the vice-suppressionists would be great, so unsparingly does the book expose the rottenness of the existing marriage institution. “But what of it?” thought I; “if they attack, so much the better; their rout will be complete and ignominious.” And the event has borne me out. The attack has been made, and the popular answer has been tremendous. The entire press of the country, with a dozen insignificant exceptions, and without distinction of politics, has given the postal authorities the severest scoring ever administered to them. What is the result? Nobody has suffered martyrdom, and the idea of press censorship has suddenly become a thing of scorn and ridicule. In short, the result is victory, instead of defeat. To be sure, it is not a very glorious victory; there has been no heroism about it; I have not been very brave, but I flatter myself that I have been sensible.
I trust that this illustration will convince those who failed to understand my recent articles,— among others, Mr. George Macdonald, the editor of “Free-thought,” who, by the way, is getting to be so much of an Anarchist that he actually alludes to me as Comrade Tucker. “When Comrade Tucker,” he says, “rebuked Mr. Moses Harman a short time ago for precipitating an ‘ill-timed and misplaced conflict,’ he probably did not know that he was himself precipitating something.” Mr. Macdonald will take notice that I calculated that, if I was precipitating anything, it was a struggle with victory at the end. It is true that my calculation was out in one particular. The result, instead of a struggle ending in victory, was victory without a struggle. T.
To Hugh O. Pentecost
And to all those readers of the “Twentieth Century” who, encouraged by his persistence in arraigning my private life, waste their time in sending me abusive and scurrilous postal cards, I commend the following passage from the writings of Col. William B. Greene, to whom Anarchists are indebted, not only for his financial teaching, but for his steadfast championship of individual liberty. The passage was written in comment upon something that had been said by E. H. Heywood.
“This doctrine [the criticism-cure] is in every way untenable. A man has a natural right to not let his left hand know what his right hand does. Moreover, both common sense and the Eleventh Article of the Massachusetts Bill of Rights recognize that the individual citizen ought to be guaranteed against wanton assaults upon his private character. The individual citizen of full age, and not convicted of crime, has a right to decide for himself how he will employ his own time. His time is his. But, if Mr. Heywood’s doctrine is true, no man has any control over his own avocations; for the first numskull, or intriguer, or malicious person who comes along may say, for instance, that Peter stole a sheep. Suppose Peter to be a man engaged in investigations of high science. Forthwith, according to the doctrine of the ‘Criticism-cure,’ Peter must give up his scientific investigations, and the tranquillity of mind requisite for successful scientific investigation, in order that he may turn his whole energy to the defence of his private character. Justly-acquired good reputation, if it is to be maintained at such extravagant cost, is not worth having. The ‘Criticism-cure’ may do very well in the Oneida Community; but among right-thinking, self-respecting men and women, who repudiate communism, it assumes the form of a public nuisance, and is the quintessence of supercilious inquisition and tyranny. It puts all the men and women, wherever it is enforced, who amount to something, in the power of every booby and mischief-maker who amounts to nothing. Peter would say, probably,—
“‘My arraignment,— not before any lawfully constituted and sworn court,— not through the action of any sworn public prosecuting-officer,— not in consequence of any finding of a grand jury,— on the charge that I stole a sheep, is an outrage upon my right to live an individual life. If I make answer to the charge, I become a consenting party to the confiscation of my own right. If I put myself on my defence, I become an accomplice in the wrong done me. The attack made upon me is an outrage on my natural liberty. I stand on my right to not be attacked in my private character. I have a right to not defend myself, and I refuse to defend myself’
“Gratuitous criticism, when it invades personal sovereignty, is always a wanton outrage. It is written, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’ The greatest outrage upon individual liberty is the outrage committed by a person who constitutes himself an inquisitor and judge in matters that are none of his business. The right to arraign for trial, and to judge, is the highest prerogative of sovereignty; and the usurpation of this right is a criminal confiscation of the sovereignty of the person tried and judged. The wanton denouncer of private character, the stirrer-up of mischief which would have subsided of itself if left alone, so far from being ‘a public benefactor,’ is an enemy of individual liberty, and a person to be summarily excommunicated from the society of all right-thinking men and women.”
It is not my intention to call for the visitation of so severe a sentence upon the head of Mr. Pentecost, inasmuch as I consider that he did not act wantonly or maliciously, but only with good intent, and in ignorance of the real gravity of his offence,— an ignorance which I hope may be dissipated by careful reflection upon the foregoing citation. If it should not be, it will be because Mr. Pentecost is still something of a preacher, still partially imbedded, as he candidly confesses, “in thirty-five years of religious environment and habit of thought.” T.
“Today,” in its issue of July 24, replies in a rather flippant and desultory manner to the criticisms earnestly made in Liberty upon some of its views. I am disappointed, and suspect that the editor of “Today” is not really disposed to soberly discuss the grounds of his disagreement with the Anarchists. Only this hypothesis can account for the superficiality, weakness, irrelevancy, and triteness of his utterances. I think him capable of a much stronger defence of his weak position, and am sorry that he sees fit to indulge in trivialities. However, perhaps my article on “Spencerian Government and Anarchism” may yet occasion the display of his formidable weapons; and in this hope I proceed to examine a few of his pointless and forceless observations that should otherwise fail to elicit any comment.
Referring to my asseveration that, as long as “Today” and other individualistic journals of its character will persist in ignoring the pressing economic problems of the present critical industrial period and pretending that the poverty and misery surrounding us are the natural result of the free struggle for supremacy which necessarily causes the fit to rise and the unfit to sink,— as long as they will remain blind and mute with regard to the effect of legal privilege and iniquitous monopoly upon the condition of manly and industrious millions, their exhortations and sermons on the excellence of liberty and dignity can not produce the slightest impression, the editor of “Today” is surprised at our confirmation of his opinion that men, especially workingmen, are slaves by nature, and congratulates us on our own persistent efforts, prompted by desire rather than intellectual anticipation of good results. Now, in the first place, while I would never deny the preponderance of feeling in the impulse controlling our reformatory activity, I do not see the pertinence of the editor’s observation in view of my explicit declaration that such success as we do anticipate depends altogether on the prominence which we constantly accord to the economic side of reform,— to the perpetual insistance upon the measures whose adoption would abolish the greatest part of the social misery. Considering that I charged the editor with neglecting to do that which we never tire of doing, his congratulations are plainly utterly inappropriate. It is as if I were to say to a man that he cannot expect to win a prize in a lottery if he does not do as I do,— that is, procure tickets,— and he should say that he may congratulate us both on the belief that it is possible to draw a prize without having any ticket. Secondly, I deny that I have confirmed the opinion that workingmen are slaves by nature. What I wish to emphasize is the fact that, not only workingmen, but all men, must have bread first and intellectual and moral enjoyments next. Men do not live by bread alone, but, as a general thing, bread is the first necessity, and to a starving man bread is dearer than everything else. When liberty to the workman can only mean liberty to starve, it is an insult to taunt him with his readiness to-sacrifice his dignity by joining a trades-union, and it is an absurd injustice to condemn him for a fundamental characteristic of human nature in general. Why does the editor of “Today” forget the biological fact that the lower personal affections are stronger in man than the noble adâ social affections, and that the affective life is preponderant over the intellectual?
After the congratulations so mal à propos offered, and the expression of surprise à propos of what contains no element of surprise, the editor remarks that he is “at a loss to understand what” the fact that we “are more sanguine of (our) own success than (we) are hopeful of (his)” “has to do with the question, which of us is right.” Why, who said that it has anything to do with the question? What I said was that, if the editor of “Today” and his co-believers wish to succeed, they must endeavor to convince the workingmen that their reforms would tend to ameliorate their conditions of life and labor, and that, if the editor of “Today” does not feel justified in making such a promise, he should either resign himself to the part of one who raises his voice in a wilderness or study Liberty’s economic claims and obtain therein the elements of success which he otherwise lacks. And, to be better understood, I will repeat here my absolute conviction that no man, whether right or wrong, can command attention if he does not respond to the paramount need of the hour,— if he does not offer some solution of our economic problems.
Now we come to a very important question,— the main causes of poverty. The editor of “Today,” citing some ancient aphorisms, once perhaps very profound, now very trite and pointless, tells us that the result of his wrestling with the vast and complex subject has been to decide many points against the Anarchist view of the causes of poverty and to leave many others in the air. He says: “The principal cause of poverty is reckless reproduction; next, voluntary idleness; next, war; next, stupidity; next, vice; and, after a while, it may be that we come to involuntary idleness as a cause of poverty. Now when all the appearances are in favor of taking the causes of poverty in this order, I am not going to take them in any other order without a good deal of evidence. Of course, when a man is already hungry and naked, it is very involuntary with him to remain so; but there is nothing to show that the abolition of government will make men consider future in preference to present gratifications; and until they do prefer future to present gratifications to a greater extent than many do now, there will be poverty.” All this is so antediluvian and nonsensical that I might hold myself excused from stopping to refute it and merely remind the editor of “Today” that, not alone Anarchists or Socialists, but political economists and orthodox writers of all schools have long ceased to deceive themselves and others by these vain and quasi-scientific pretensions. If poverty is a necessary result of vice, then our millionaires ought to be very miserable and poor indeed. Vice is the result of poverty, as well as of ignorance, rather than their cause. The same as to reckless reproduction. It is the result of poverty and despair. No sensible man will pretend that the earth has become insufficient for its inhabitants. War is a cause of poverty, but it is not the cause of the poverty of the workingman who enriches his employer by his labor. Stupidity is a cause of poverty, but it is this stupidity which we are seeking to eliminate. The chief cause of poverty is monopoly, the monopoly of land, the monopoly of money, the monopoly of trade. It is neither vice, nor stupidity, which renders it impossible for thousands of people to find employment in this country. It is usury. The editor of “Today” will have to show that rent (not the economic portion) is natural and just, that interest is natural and just, that profits (not the elements of wages entering into them) cannot be done away with by free competition, before he will get any one to listen to him at this late day. He will have to answer and confute the economic arguments of the Socialists and Anarchists, whose strength has driven many of the political economists into the championship of State regulation of Industry, and which have forever buried the pretentious and complacent explanations of poverty so flattering to the vanity of the idle landlords and usurers. I repeat that the economic arguments revived by “Today” have been exploded and shattered beyond the possibility of repair, and they are beneath notice. We demand a real scientific defence of land monopoly, of banking monopoly, and of all the trade monopolies that are openly impoverishing the toilers and enriching the few who either abstain from all work or engage in work worse than useless. Let us have equal liberty and equal opportunity, and then, let stupidity, vice, reckless reproduction, and war originate all the poverty they may, we shall not complain or protest. We shall join the editor of “Today” in saying that the incapables must perish. But we do not intend to allow him to obscure the issue by ignoring the great cause of poverty and involuntary idleness which can and should be removed at once.
Finally, the editor of “Today” discusses the question of majority rule. Admitting that Anarchy is the ideal social state, he avers that this fact can teach us nothing about the immediate steps to be taken by the Congress of the United States. “It does Dot show that there should be no government now; it shows that there can be no government in the perfect social state.” To this I answer in the editor’s own words, used in a different connection but in reference to precisely the same point which occupies us now, that “one would have thought that men would have tried to make their societies here correspond as nearly as practicable to their ideal, and the way to no government certainly would seem to be through less and less government rather than through more and more.” These words show that the editor of “Today” sees clearly enough that the conception of Anarchy as the ideal political state does teach us a great deal regarding our conduct here and now, since we can only reach our ideal by looking and moving steadily forward and eliminating little by little the governmental elements prevailing in social life. And this is all that the Anarchists ask and desire, as every careful student ought to gather from their writings. Further, admitting that the rule of the majority is not intrinsically just within any sphere, the editor of “Today” nevertheless, leaving Spencer aside, declares that, in the imperfect state in which we exist, the rule of the majority is ethically defensible within all spheres. Here is his argument: “It is immoral for those who have the power to do what they think right to submit to being made to do what others think right.... The question for a majority to determine is whether they will do their way or be made to do some other way. Between making others do what you think is right, and being made to do what others think is right, there can be but one choice. The majority is not an entity to conjure with. A minority, however small, should not submit to being made to do anything it has the power to resist. He should rule who has the power to rule, so long as rule exists. And there is no question whatever that, if the majority does not rule, some minority will..... The issue constantly raised is, which of two ways will you do: permit yourself to be forced to do wrong (i. e., what you think wrong), or force others to do right? And this issue is not ethically indifferent; therefore role of the greater power is not ethically indifferent.” I hardly need point out that this argument proves nothing. If it justifies majority rule, it also vindicates the course of dynamiters and other revolutionary groups that, unwilling to submit to the wrong decisions of the majority, seek to overcome the force of numbers by the “resources of civilization.” Now Liberty has never objected to the dynamiters’ methods on the score of abstract morality, and will not quarrel with “Today’s” apology for majority rule. We have repeatedly stated (pace Spencer) that it is right for the majority to tyrannize over the minority and for society to crush the insubordinate individual, just as it is right for the minority to terrorize the majority and for the individual to defy and make war upon despotic society. Or, more correctly, there is no question of right or wrong here. Each naturally attempts to enforce his own conceptions of right, with war, in which all means are fair, as the inevitable result. But such a war is not conducive to a rational settlement of the difficulties. Such a chaotic condition is insufferable. Men want peace, wise methods of discussion. And it is with a view to terminate this disastrous conflict, to bring about a provisional state of peace for the purpose of enabling the disputants to agree on the terms of a permanent harmonious arrangement that the Anarchists come forward and raise the new issue between government and freedom, invasion and non-invasion. We do not address ourselves exclusively to the majority, but to the plotting revolutionary minorities as well, being convinced that all are equally interested in learning the better way. Whereas men have hitherto believed that the question can only be, for each member of society taken separately, between being a hammer and being an anvil, between forcing others and being forced by others, which view has naturally evolved the compromise of majority government,— a compromise that cannot endure and is daily becoming more and more precarious,— we show the practicability of another and more satisfactory alternative, the possibility of framing the question differently, so as to decide between disastrous attempts at mutual government and coercion on the one hand, and mutual recognition of personal liberty on the other.
Says the editor of “Today” in conclusion: “If ever the issue is raised, whether we shall permit others to do their way, or force them to do our way, the time will not be far distant when your political ideal will be attained. To that end we may join hands.” Why, this is indeed a surprising turn, a most amazing rightabout-face! Then what is heaquarrelling and grumbling about? We have raised that issue, and we ask him to join us and help us to spread the light and get more and more people to realize that Anarchy is the ideal and that we must endeavor to attain it by at once proceeding to gradually eradicate the governmental obstacles, beginning with the industrial sphere. However, we need not object to one’s murmuring, I’ll never consent, if he really does consent. All’s well that ends well. V. Y.
“Today’s” Excellent Fooling.
“Today’s” rejoinder to my criticism of its article on interest is chiefly remarkable as an exhibition of dust-throwing. In the art of kicking up a dust the editor is an expert. Whenever he is asked an embarrassing question, he begins to show his skill in this direction. He reminds one of the clown at the circus when “stumped” by the ring-master to turn a double somersault over the elephant’s back. He prances and dances, jabbers and gyrates, quotes Latin forwards and Greek backwards, declaims in the style of Dr. Johnson to the fishwife, sings algebraical formulæ to the music of the band, makes faces, makes puns, and makes an excellent fool of himself; and when at the end of all this enormous activity he slyly slips between the elephant’s legs instead of leaping over his back, the hilarious crowd, if it does not forget his failure to perform the prescribed feat, at least good-humorèdly forgives it. But I am not so good-natured. I admit that, as a clown, I find the editor interesting; but his performance, appropriate enough in a Barnum circus ring, is out of place in the economic arena. So I propose to ignore his three pages of antics and note only his ten-line slip between the elephant’s legs, or, laying metaphor aside, his evasion of my question.
I had challenged him to point out any lending of capital in a typical banking transaction which I had described. He responds by asking me to define capital. This is the slip, the evasion, the postponement of the difficulty. He knows that, if he car. draw me off into a discussion of the nature of capital, there will be an admirable opportunity for more clownishness, since there is no point in political economy that lends itself more completely to the sophist’s art than this. But I am not to be turned aside. I stick to my question. In regard to the notion of capital the editor of “Today” will find me, so far as the immediate question at issue is connected with it, the most pliable man in the world. I will take the definition, if he likes, that was given in the previous article in “Today.” There it was said that money was one thing and capital another; that capital consists of the agencies of production, while money is only a means for the transfer of these; that what men really want is not money but capital; that it is for the use of capital that interest is paid; and that this interest, this price for the use of capital, lowers, generally speaking, as capital becomes plentier, and probably cannot disappear unless abundance of capital shall reach the extreme of common property. Now I have shown (at least I shall so claim until my question is answered) that in the most ordinary form of transaction involving interest,— namely, the discounting of notes,— there is absolutely no lending of capital in the sense in which capital was used in “Today’s” first article, and the consequence, of course, is that that defence of interest which regards it as payment for the use of capital straightway falls to the ground. But if the editor of “Today” does not like the view of capital that was given in the article criticised, be may take some other; I am perfectly willing. He may make a definition of his own. Whatever it may be, I, for the time being and for the purposes of this argument, shall say “Amen” to it. And after that, I shall again press the question whether, in the transaction which I described, there was any lending of anything whatever. And if he shall then answer, as a paragraph in his latest article indicates: “Yes, the bank lent its notes to the farmer,” I shall show conclusively that the bank did nothing of the kind. If I successfully maintain this contention, then it will be demonstrated that the interest paid in the transaction specified was not paid for the use of anything whatever, but was a tax levied by monopoly and nothing else.
Meantime it is comforting to reflect that my labor has not been entirely in vain. As a consequence of my criticism of “Today’s” article on interest, the editor has disowned it (though it appeared unsigned and in editorial type), characterized it as “trivial” (heaven knows it had the air of gravity!), and squarely contradicted its chief doctrinal assertion. This assertion was that “the amount of currency can have no effect upon the abundance of capital.” It is contradicted in these terms; “Evidently money is a necessary element in the existing industrial plexus, and increase of capital is dependent upon the supply of a sufficient amount of money.” After this, I have hopes. T.
Rev. Henry Frank, who has criticised Anarchism in his paper as unjust and inequitable, writes a letter to Mr. Pentecost on the subject in which he modifies his view considerably. He admits he “can conceive society being slowly educated up to such an ethical state as to make something like Anarchism possible in a far, far away period of the future,” and he is willing to admit also the full and fortunate value of Anarchism as an educative, agitative factor of the world of thought. He finds no fault with Anarchism, and all his sympathies are with individualistic democracy. But he cannot see the element of practicability in Anarchism; he “cannot see how it proves its just claimancy today as a practicable and immediate solution of the world’s social, political, and economic problems.” In the first place, the confession which he makes in the same letter regarding his non-acquaintance with political and economic subjects might fully account for his inability to see how Anarchism proves its claim as a practicable solution of modern social problems, the proofs offered being mostly of an economic and sociological nature. It is plain that in order to “see” how Anarchism proves its claims, he must study economics and politics, and that without such study it is improper for him to express any opinion. But before I urge him to engage in the neglected studies, it is important to know what he means by an “immediate” solution of the world’s social, political, and economic problems. I suspect that he wants something which neither Anarchists nor any other reasonable reformers can supply, something which could be accomplished only by a God,— by one skilled in the business of suddenly making great things out of nothing. Real progress is slow, Mr. Frank, as you will doubtless perceive when you free your mind from the baneful influence of “metaphysics and theology,” and devote yourself to the cultivation of natural and social science. It is your theological standpoint that befogs your mind and renders a scientific grasp of social problems utterly impossible for you.
Herbert Vivian, editor of the “Whirlwind,” in expressing his appreciation of some friendly words about his paper uttered by the “Royalist,” says he hears with regret that the editor of that periodical considers Jacobite views incompatible with Individualism. And he proceeds thus to enlighten him: “The cause of his error is, I perceive, the not uncommon blunder of confusing Individualism with Anarchism. Last week I touched upon the very real distinction that exists between the two creeds, but the matter will have to be threshed out very carefully before long. The distinction is roughly as follows: — Anarchists contend that all government is useless and dangerous; Individualists consider it a most emphatic necessity, not for the dragooning of men’s lives, but for the protection of their individual liberty and property. I agree with the ‘Royalist’ in supporting monarchy and In interpreting it to mean government by a king, but not in his contention that it is incompatible with democracy or government by the people. As I stated in my prospectus, I wish to ‘uphold the rights and liberties of Monarchy and the Multitude against the unbridled usurpations of an unscrupulous oligarchy.’ That is my conception of individualism. It is also my conception of Jacobitism.” I must now ask the “Whirlwind” to explain how it reconciles its support of “government by a king” with the principle of voluntary taxation, which was also espoused in the prospectus. Will those who do not agree with the “Whirlwind’s” definition of individualism (and they are many) and who object to being governed by a king be allowed to organize another form of “government” to protect their liberty and property, or will they be forced by the king to “voluntarily” tax themselves to pay him for his services? The “Whirlwind” is mistaken with regard to the Anarchistic position. We also want defence for liberty and property, but we want freedom to choose the methods of defence as well as the agents.
Professor J. Rodes Buchanan writes in the August “Arena” on “The Coming Cataclysm of America and Europe.” He predicts endless social and natural calamities for the earth and the poor inhabitants thereof. Earthquakes, cyclones, floods, epidemics, wars, revolutions, and horrors of all kinds are in store for us. And all this is to occur within a comparatively brief space of time. Professor Buchanan goes the length of mentioning the exact time and place of the fulfilment of his predictions, which he claims are strictly scientific and which he makes, not without hesitation and reluctance, in the interest of truth. Now, I do not belong to the guild of “the ingenious gentlemen who write to entertain the public, and who manufacture fictions designed to catch the unwary, or devote themselves to sensationalism or to pseudophilosophies concocted of imagination.” But I unhesitatingly join them in declaring Professor Buchanan one of the biggest humbugs of the age, in spite of all the mysterious realms he has studied and the sciences he has “esoterically cultivated.” When a man tells us that “Victoria may not survive 1890; but it is possible her vitality will carry her into 1891”; that the “gentlemanly Wales will have a short reign,” and that “ten years after his mother’s death will probably end his life”; that “Pope Leo and Czar Alexander will not be in existence two years from now”; that “less than three years Will end the official career and personal existence of the two who stand at the head of the administration of the Republican party”; and that “the president will be the last of the two to take his departure,” — the man who gravely writes thus in a serious review must either be a hopeless crank or a monumental humbug.
Gen. Trumbull, who usually scoffs at the claims of the Anarchists (which he never properly examined and upon which he is hardly competent to pass judgment), writes as follows in the “Open Court”: “The recent strike of the London policemen has drawn forth a variety of opinions as to the causes and the consequences of it, and at last we have the sentiment of the burglar interest as to the effect of the strike on that particular branch of industry. Paradoxical as it may seem, the burglar sentiment was very strong in condemnation of the strike, because during the time of its continuance burglary was extra-hazardous and unprofitable. It so happened that, the nominal protection of the police having been withdrawn, the citizens fell back on the right of self-protection, and this proved so bewildering to the burglars in its methods, and so efficient in its action, that they emphatically denounced the strike as altogether unnecessary and unjustifiable on the part of the police. As soon as the strike was declared ‘off’ and the policemen had returned to duty, a very gratifying revival was observed in the burglar trade. Some people outside of London are applying the moral of all this, and the opinion is gaining ground that there are some cities even in America where a strike of the police would be of great assistance to honesty, liberty, and law.” Gen. Trumbull should have given his definition of “law,” for the statement that the absence of police would be a blessing to law must seem paradoxical to many people. I presume he means by “law” common sense and reason.
Some of those who opposed my view of the tendency of such a course as Harman’s or Heywood’s now point to the exclusion from the mails of “The Kreutzer Sonata” as an alleged practical refutation of my position and confirmation of theirs. One or two have gone so far as to cry gleefully, “I told you so!” Now, one must be very illogical indeed to see in Wanamaker’s latest a demonstration of the advantage of reckless defiance of our censors. On the contrary, should Wanamaker succeed in suppressing such a work as Tolstoi’s, it will only sustain my contention that his previous triumphs have made it easier for him to attack comparatively inoffensive publications. Nothing is more natural than that, having gained general approval in his suppression of Heywood, he should venture to make war upon other unpopular editors and publishers, knowing very well, that the public, once enlisted, will rather let ten innocent men be convicted than allow one guilty to escape. That has been my argument from the first, but my critics seem to have very carelessly read my articles and to have very imperfectly understood me. However, the outlook is not so gloomy as they imagine. The press and the public are, with very few exceptions, vigorously putting their foot upon Wanamaker’s censorship, and they thus justify my belief that we are perfectly safe from serious interference if we are sensible enough to express our ideas in tolerably decent language.
Anarchism and Its Literature.
[An Anarchistic Individualist in The Free Life.]
Although all who seek a diminution of government control and greater freedom of individual initiative are to some degree Anarchists, there are comparatively but few who carry their Anarchism to a logical conclusion and seek to get rid of the State altogether. But amongst those who call themselves Anarchists there are great varieties of opinion, as must necessarily be the case amongst men who aim at the ideal liberty. And because a man desires to act freely, it does not follow that he is capable of acting wisely. So, although the bottom principles of Anarchism are sound, it does not follow that all Anarchists are the perfection of economic wisdom in regard to practical detail. However, it may be said that Benjamin R. Tucker’s paper, “Liberty” published in Boston, is about the most consistent and lively of Anarchistic periodicals. It is simply an advocate of thoroughgoing Individualism, in favor of free land, free credit, free labor, and free marriage. Its criticism of governments and of various coercive institutions and schools of thought are often very acute, and its editor maintains his position with success.
In England there is a small monthly paper entitled “Freedom,” the journal of Communist Anarchism, or Anarchist Communism, whatever either title may mean. Its contents are hardly more lucid than its title, for Communism, it need hardly be said, means the annihilation of exchange,— that is to say, anybody will have the “right” to satisfy his needs at other people’s expense under a Communistic régime, so that there would be every scope given to knaves to live at the expense of fools, were society to generally adopt such a mode of existence. Those who are acquainted with social history are probably aware that Communistic experiments have been made over and over again for the last 2,000 years, that they have always required the strictest government to maintain them, and that they have at last collapsed, because such government proved intolerable. The “horrid selfishness” of man has triumphed and left the sentimental Communists to whine over their broken hopes.
It may be added, however, that the fundamental belief of the supporters of “Freedom” is that private property requires government to maintain it. Of course it does, and so also does common property, and this latter requires it more than the former. Both forms of property, as Proudhon saw, involve government stepping in to say what shall belong to whom, and consequently both forms of property involve a certain amount of “theft.”
It may be added that “Freedom” further belles its title as an Anarchist paper by telling its readers that every man “ought” to regard his fellow-men as his equals. With most people “ought” stands for “nothing”; but with the average Anarchist it stands for considerably less.
On the Continent there are several Communist Anarchist papers: “La Révolte” and “L’Attaque” in France; and “La Revolucion Social” and “El Productor” in Spain. They are all revolutionary, that is to say, they expect a general breakdown of social institutions one of these days (date not yet fixed), after which people will take to living on entirely different principles from those which guide them today. How the new society is to establish itself on its new basis without government to punish those who object to it is, indeed, difficult to say.
However, there are germs of truth in every movement, and even the Communist Anarchists may do something to destroy men’s superstitious reverence for law and government.
The Law’s “Protection.”
[“Student,” in the Boston Transcript.]
The period of a prisoner’s detention in jail being in most cases a limited one, the subject again mingles in society, a free man, but with a blot on his scutcheon. Theoretically he has all the rights and privileges of citizenship, but practically he falls far short of it.
A citizen may only be arrested upon being actually detected in an overt act against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth, or upon “reasonable suspicion” of such. In the latter case he may demand to see the warrant of the arresting officer, without which the arrest is illegal.
There are, however, men of bad character, ex-convicts, and others of that kidney, whom the majority of detectives will arrest at sight, with no warrant, with no specific suspicion, but merely on general principle, and to see what they have in their pockets.
Cases have been known where these off-hand arrests developed Interesting results, burglar tools, stolen jewelry, etc., being sometimes found, and so the detectives argue that the end justifies the means. But in the large majority of cases nothing is found on the arrested man, and instances have been known where the arrest and detention worked serious hurt to the victims, who lost good positions by it.
Suppose a man of previous bad character, being desirous of saving his soul alive, should turn away from the wickedness that he had aforetime committed and was “making for righteousness” for all he was worth. Walking down Washington street quietly about his own business, he meets a detective who runs him in. In such a case what redress has he? Simply none at all, and the officers know it and take frequent advantage of it.
It is easily seen how such an occurrence might embitter a man against society and make him think there was no use trying to be “square”; and our own opinion is that in the day of Judgment it will be more tolerable for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah than for the man who gives another cause to feel this way.
There is a criminal penalty for illegal arrests, but it is never enforced, the bad character of the Injured man preventing his getting any satisfaction in this direction. If, however, the detectives were required to give bonds, a civil suit for damages could be instituted with some chance of success, and those gentlemen would be careful bow they arrested anyone for fun. But where is the man with backbone enough to move in such a matter? He will have the finger of scorn pointed at him as the friend of the “criminal class,” a rather indefinite term in these days of scampish fiscal and corporate operations. If he be a politician, he will arouse the hatred of the police and hare all their “influence” to contend with, and so affairs will probably remain in statu quo.
The Nationalist Assumption.
It is a pity some leaders of the people, waking up suddenly and somewhat late in the day to a sense of the people’s wrongs, should jump into false conclusions, and make a bad matter worse. The assumption of Nationalists that a government, if it did all things, could do no wrong is a singular one. It is not the record of history. The contrary is true, that the more things are left to the people the better they are done. “The United States should work the mines of the country,” say people who shudder over mining disasters and horrors. The Spanish Government does work the mines of Spain. In the Almaden quicksilver mines, which yield enormous revenues, the Government pays its workmen twenty cents a day, and the strongest men can work in the place only two days a week. “But Spain is a monarchical country, and this is a government by the people.” It is intended to be, by the Constitution the forefathers laid for us. It would be government of slaves and dummies if the Nationalistic programme were carried out. There is no danger that it will be, but since the evils against which Nationalists proclaim are very real and present, it is a pity to waste time upon impossible remedies.
An Awful Fuss.
See what an awful fuss you’ve raised,
We’re shocked, astounded, and amazed,
You’ve almost made old Tyner swear,
And lifted Wanamaker’s hair
You’ve made him blush as if he wore
Blush as he never blushed before,
The very fesithers on his wings
At thought of such immoral things
As are your works. You’d better hide,
And in the mountain tops abide,
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.