“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.
Says the “Catholic Review”: “The hunger for government money is increasing. The societies for cultivating that hunger are also increasing. We have the Sons of Veterans, and we shall have the Grandsons of Veterans, with the Uncles and Cousins and the Aunts of Veterans.”
The organ of the New York State Socialists speaks of “Spencer’s latest dime novel,” presumably alluding to “Justice.” This is the kind of criticism that delights the noisy and ignorant agitators, by whom and for whom most State Socialist sheets are published; but what do judicious State Socialists think of it?
The story that comes from Milwaukee in regard to an organized burglars’ trust is a godsend to the editors whose lack of sense causes them to denounce trusts and combinations as conspiracies against labor and equitable commerce. A pickpockets’ syndicate, says one of these, is not more criminal than a combination to corner the wheat market. Perhaps not, in the eyes of those who regard as crimes all those acts which Congress in its infinite stupidity interdicts. But those who comprehend the law of justice will smile at the comparisons and denunciations of this fool newspaper.
I wonder if the people of Massachusetts know that their law-makers made a law this year punishing with imprisonment for life every criminal or pauper who has the syphilis. Such is the astounding fact. To be more specific, the law provides that any inmate of a State penal or charitable institution who, at the expiration of his term of imprisonment, shall be afflicted with syphilis shall not be discharged, but shall be detained in the institution until cured. As syphilis is seldom cured, this means in most cases life imprisonment. Hereafter, in Massachusetts, only the rich and the law-abiding are to be allowed to have the syphilis and liberty too.
“Freiheit” is not disappointed in Mackay’s new book. Ever since the publication of the second edition of “Sturm” it has known that it would be good for nothing. On the appearance of the first edition of “Sturm” it thought Mackay a second Freiligrath. But soon afterwards Mackay was seized with an attack of pessimism, and then, alas! Tucker’s Liberty, the journal read only by a few old women of Boston, fell in his way. That finished him. The second edition of “Sturm” gave ample evidence of the poison that had entered his veins. Hence “Die Anarchisten” is just what “Freiheit” expected. Ah! this poor, puny, beardless, effeminate, mischievous Liberty I To think that such a David should seem, in the eyes of a second Freiligrath, the slayer of a Goliath like “Freiheit”!
The Seattle “Post-Intelligencer” has a very clever man on its editorial staff. His editorials are far above the ordinary literary level of the journalist, are often sensible, and always show a decided inclination to serious consideration of the subjects with which they deal, and to independent and original thought. But occasionally his originality carries him too far. Witness the following original discovery, which he gave to the world unpatented in a recent editorial against woman suffrage: “Nobody who is not an Anarchist in theory, if not in practice, ever pretended that suffrage was a natural right; but from the Anarchist point of view that suffrage is a natural right, you can just as easily argue, as Anarchists do, that ‘property is robbery.’” If this editor had ever investigated Anarchism, of course he would know that most Anarchists do not believe in natural rights at all; that not one of them considers suffrage a natural right; that, on the other hand, they all agree on the central proposition that rule is evil, and on the corollary that it is none the better for being majority rule. Anarchism is as hostile to the ballot as peace is to gunpowder.
Spencer’s use of the word rights to denote the liberties which are corollaries of equal freedom (referred to by Mr. Yarros in another column) is, like any use of any word, comparatively unobjectionable so long as the writer, on the one hand, consistently and persistently adheres to his own definition, and as the reader, on the other, constantly bears the definition in mind. But it seems to me that the meaning generally and, in my view, properly attached to the word rights renders these conditions peculiarly liable to violation in this case. The word right, except in its strictly legal sense, conveys the idea of a high prerogative independent of contract and superior to it. Now, equal freedom being, as I think, a matter of contract, it can only tend to confusion of thought to employ, for the expression of that which follows contract, a word generally employed to express that which, in the minds of many, precedes contract. Liberty accepts the usual definition, and accordingly denies rights. For, in reality, there is nothing superior to contract except might. Therefore there are no rights except mights. That a word is needed to express the liberties which men enjoy under equal freedom I readily admit, and sometimes, yielding to the demands of convenience, I fill the gap with the word rights, as Spencer does. But in laying philosophical foundations, it is important to bear in mind the impropriety of such a use of the word and the reason therefor.
The editor of the “Christian Advocate,” Dr. J. M. Buckley, opposes woman suffrage, not being a believer in the benign effects of woman’s influence on politics. He says: “The majority of the advocates of modern Spiritualism are women. Nine out of ten mediums are women. The same is true concerning Christian Science. In all the false religions of the world women are in the ascendancy.” The same position is taken in Spencer’s “Study of Sociology” and “Justice:” “The comparative impulsiveness of women is a trait which would make increase of their influence an injurious factor in legislation. . . . Women are carried away by the feelings of the moment still more than men are.” Again: “Very few men, and still fewer women, form opinions in which the general and the abstract have a due place. The particular and the concrete are alone operative in their thoughts. Had women votes, this absorption of consciousness in the proximate and personal would be still greater, and the immense mischiefs at present produced would be augmented.” Women, furthermore, worship power under all its forms, and this worship of power, says Spencer, would increase the ability of government to override individual rights in the pursuit of paternalistic measures. Long before Spencer Rousseau directed attention to these feminine traits. Mr. Pentecost, however, sees no sense or point in Dr. Buckley’s remarks. “What of it?” he asks, and adds: — “and if anything, why not add that a majority of Christians, or Protestant Christians, or Methodists are women. Does the doctor mean to raise it as an objection to the systems mentioned that a majority of the believers are women? If so, what does he make out of the fact that so many school teachers are women? or that all our mothers, sweethearts, and wives are?” No, the Christian editor and clergyman probably did not mean to raise it as an objection to the systems mentioned that a majority of the believers are women, nor could he be expected to consider that side of the matter; but rationalists will certainly see in the fact an objection both to the systems and to the women. But many school teachers are women I “Well, what of it?” But our mothers, sweethearts, and wives are women! I must confess that this is a poser. This fact does dispose of the objections of Spencer and Dr. Buckley, to be sure. Mr. Pentecost’s brilliancy is most marvellous.
There is a movement on foot in Washington for the creation of a civil pension list. The plan, which is said to have the endorsement of a majority of the clerks in the departments, is to levy an assessment of one per cent, on the salaries of clerks for the purpose of retiring on three-quarters pay all clerks who have been in the public service thirty years. A bill embodying this proposition, and perhaps a proposition to retire all clerks of a certain age, will be introduced during the next session of Congress. Of course, as the Chicago “Herald” says, there is no doubt that before long the pensions would be paid out of the treasury. The clerks will no doubt pay very cheerfully at first, so as to get the civil pension list fairly established. Once that is done it will not be so very difficult to persuade Congress that it is mean for the government of a billion dollar country to make its humble clerks pay for pensioning themselves. It is pleasant to find most of the influential papers opposed to this scheme. They know and declare that the department clerks are glad to get the positions they hold without new inducements, and that they get much more than their abilities could bring them in other fields. They are not obliged to work for the government if they can obtain better terms from private employers, and the government cannot afford to disregard business principles. Wanamaker, however, favors the project, and the reason he gives is one which ought to disabuse the minds of those who believe our postal service a tremendous success. “We already,” says Wanamaker, “have in effect a civil pension list. That is to say, persons are borne upon the roll of the department who from motives of humanity can neither be removed nor expected to do the work that is required of them, because they are incapacitated by old age. The department is thus put to a considerable disadvantage. It would seem that the only proper way out of the difficulty would be to devise some just and humane system of retirement which the clerks could be prepared to meet as they grew old and could make plans for accordingly, or else to retire clerks who have arrived at a certain age upon the reports of bureau chiefs and to allow one year’s pay upon such retirement. One or the other of these things would greatly alleviate the sufferings of the superannuated clerks, as well as be a great and just economy to the public service.” How would it do for private business firms to keep squads of clerks useless through old age in positions demanding skill, care, and energy?
“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.
E. C. Walker, formerly editor of “Fair Play” and now a regular contributor to the columns of Liberty, is also an authorized agent for Liberty and for all books and pamphlets published by Benj. R. Tucker.
A New Book Given Away With Each Renewal. — Payment of subscriptions and of renewals is required in advance. The names of subscribers not heard from within two weeks after expiration of subscription are removed from the list. But to every subscriber who sends his renewal for one year, accompanied by the cash, so that It reaches the publisher not later than two weeks after it is due, will be sent, postpaid, any book published in the United States that the subscriber may select, provided that its retail price does not exceed 50 cents if published by Benj. R. Tucker, or 25 cents if published by any other publisher. This is a permanent offer, and enables every promptly-paying subscriber to get a new book each year free of cost. But only one book will be given at a time, no matter how low the price of the book selected.
Justice and Anarchism. — I.
After reading and re-reading Mr. Spencer’s “Justice,” I find myself confirmed in the opinion I ventured briefly to express in the preliminary notice of the work, — namely, that whereas the basic principles common to Individualism and Anarchism have been invested with a character strictly scientific and shown to have a philosophical “authority transcending every other,” — to use Mr. Spencer’s own words, — much questionable logic and lame argumentation have been resorted to in the attempt to justify certain qualifications of the ultimate principle laid down and in the applications of the principle to the various activities and interests of social life. This opinion, as well as other considerations, leads me to undertake an elaborate and detailed critical review of the boob, my purpose being to afford a tolerably complete statement of the differences and parallelisms or resemblances subsisting between Spencerian individualism and Anarchism. That such a statement is desirable will be conceded by the student of social problems; the value of the statement will depend, of course, upon the degree of accuracy and precision attained, former articles of mine have contained allusions to Mr. Spencer’s departure from his own early views; but a definite statement has only now been made possible.
In the first chapter Mr. Spencer treats of animal ethics and recalls to the reader’s attention the conclusions reached in his “Data of Ethics” with regard to conduct at large. He holds it clear that by good conduct we mean conduct furthering the interests of the given species, and by bad conduct such as tends to diminish the welfare of the species. Postulating the desirability of the preservation and prosperity of the given species, we see that “there inevitably emerge one most general conclusion and from it three less general conclusions.” The most general conclusion is that, “in order of obligation, the preservation of the species takes precedence of the preservation of the individual.” The species, to be sure, “has no existence save as an aggregate of individuals,” and hence “the welfare of the species is an end to be subserved only as subserving the welfare of individuals”; but since “disappearance of the species involves absolute failure in achieving the end,” whereas disappearance of individuals makes fulfillment simply somewhat more difficult, “the preservation of the individual must be subordinated to the preservation of the species, where the two conflict.” The corollaries resulting from this general conclusion are, first, that among adults there must be conformity to the law that benefits received shall be directly proportionate to merits possessed, — merits being measured by power of self-sustentation, — and second, that during early life, before self-sustentation has become possible, benefits received must be inversely proportionate to merits possessed.
The second chapter describes “sub-human justice.” The principle which secures survival of the fittest, in ethical terms, is that each individual ought to be subject to the effects of its own nature and resulting conduct. This primary law holds of all creatures, and is applicable without qualification to those leading solitary lives, save by that self-subordination needed for the rearing of offspring. On passing to gregarious creatures a new element presents itself. Since gregariousness establishes itself in a species only because it is profitable to it, it follows that such profitable association implies the observance of certain conditions. As each individual has to live and act in presence of others, its conduct must be carried on subject to the restriction that it shall not in any large measure impede the conduct of other individuals. If the interference is great, association becomes unprofitable. The average conduct must not be so aggressive as to cause evils which out-balance the good obtained by coöperation. This law that those actions through which the individual achieves benefits and avoids evils shall be restrained by the need for non interference with the like actions of associated individuals becomes imperative for creatures to which gregariousness is a benefit. (“Obviously,” remarks Mr. Spencer, “this secondary law is simply a specification of that form which the primary law takes under the conditions of gregarious life, since by asserting that in each individual the inter-actions of conduct and consequence must be restricted in the specified way, it tacitly reasserts that these inter actions must be maintained in other individuals, — that is, in all individuals.”) Later in origin and narrower in range is the third law, — “that under conditions such that, by the occasional sacrifices of some members of a species, the species as a whole prospers, there arises a sanction for such sacrifices, and a consequent qualification of the law that each individual shall receive the benefits and evils of its own nature.”
As, from the evolution point of view, human life is regarded as a further development of sub-human life, it follows that human justice is a further development of sub-human justice. In humanity, the qualification of universal, simple, primitive justice by partial or complete sacrifice of individuals made in defence of the species assumes large proportions, since the sacrifice of individuals is demanded, not only by the need for defence against enemies of other kinds, but by the need for defence against enemies of the same kind. It is doubtless true, Mr. Spencer admits, that destruction of a human group does not imply destruction of the species; still, self-subordination in the interest of the group must be regarded as an obligation to the extent to which the maintenance of the species is subserved by the maintenance of each of its groups. No justification whatever can be found for the sacrifice of individuals in offensive wars, since at our stage of civilization offensive wars hinder human development. Of course the qualification of justice implied by the needs of defensive war must disappear when a peaceful state is reached. In other words, the qualification is not recognized by absolute political ethics, which deals with the conduct of men fully adapted to industrial and social life.
“When the circumstances of a species makes certain relations between conduct and consequences habitual, the appropriately-linked feelings may come to characterize the species.” This truth leads us to expect to find, among the social sentiments of men, the sentiment of justice. Unless the faculties of all kinds have free play, the requirement that each shall receive the benefits and the evils of his own nature and conduct cannot be fulfilled; and unless there exists a sentiment which prompts maintenance of the sphere for this free play, the sphere will be trenched upon and free play impeded. Hence, seeing that in proportion as the restraints on actions by which life is maintained are extreme the resistances to them are great, we regard the egoistic sentiment of justice as a subjective attribute answering to the objective requirement constituting justice. As to the altruistic sentiment of justice, which makes social life possible, it comes into existence by the aid of a sentiment which may be called pro altruistic, and which temporarily supplies its place. The dread of retaliation, the dread of social dislike, the dread of legal punishment, and the dread of divine vengeance, united in various proportions, form a body of feeling which checks the primitive tendency to pursue the objects of desire without regard to the interests of fellow-men. This sentiment makes co-operation possible and permits the development of the altruistic sentiment of justice, which is fostered by sympathy. The altruistic sentiment of justice can arise only after the egoistic sentiment of justice has arisen, and is very slow in assuming a high form, because it is complex, and because it implies a stretch of imagination not possible for low intelligences. Only the higher varieties of men are capable of conceiving the ways in which good or bad institutions will eventually affect their spheres of action; and only among these is there excited that sympathetic sentiment of justice which prompts defence of political interests of fellow men.
Though the sentiment of justice and the idea of justice are intimately connected, they may be clearly distinguished. One may have the sentiment in full measure while his idea of justice remains vague. “The ways in which men trespass on one another become more numerous in their kinds, and more involved, as society grows more complex; and they must be experienced in their many forms, generation after generation, before analysis can make clear the essential distinction between legitimate acts and illegitimate acts. The idea emerges and becomes definite in the course of the experiences that action may be carried up to a certain limit without causing resentment from others, but if carried beyond that limit produces resentment. . . . It is a long time before the general nature of the limit common to all cases can be conceived.” The human idea of justice contains two elements. On the one hand, there is the positive element implied by each man’s recognition of his claim to unimpeded activities: this element suggests inequality, since men differ in their powers and consequently must expect to find differences in the results of their activities. On the other hand, there is the negative element implied by the recognition of limits necessitated by the presence of others: this element involves the conception of equality, since the limits are on the average the same for all. But there is no incongruity between these two conditions. The inequality concerns the results achieved by action within the implied limits; the equality concerns the limits and the opportunities for the exercise of powers and faculties. The formula which unites the two elements and gives precise expression to the fact or necessity of limiting the liberty of each by the like liberty of all is, — “Every man is free to do that which he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.”
This formula has the highest warrant imaginable, and an authority transcending every other. Under one aspect it is an immediate dictum of the human consciousness after it has been subject to the discipline of prolonged social life; under another aspect it is a belief deducible from the conditions to be fulfilled, firstly for the maintenance of life at large, and secondly for the maintenance of social life. Induction agrees with deduction, since along with the growth of peaceful coöperation there has been an increasing conformity to the law of equal liberty under both its positive and negative aspects, and there has gone on simultaneously an increase of emotional regard for it and intellectual apprehension of it. History furnishes à posteriori supports of the belief, while à priori supports are furnished by biology and psychology.
I have now given a brief but accurate and fair summary of the propositions and statements of the first seven chapters of “Justice,” which chapters cannot be too highly spoken of for their clearness, lucidity, profundity, and strength. There is less satisfaction in studying Mr. Spencer’s application of this first principle of equal liberty, in observing his method of tracing its corollaries and drawing deductions applicable to special classes of cases. Anarchists will dissent from many of Mr. Spencer’s conclusions, and regard home of his alleged applications of the first principle as singular and sad misapplications. But the fact should not be overlooked that erroneous and fallacious deductions from given principles do not invalidate the principles at all. Our logic and understanding of the facts of a given case may lead us to conclusions entirely different from those of another reasoner notwithstanding identity of our points of view and essential agreement on fundamental principles. So Anarchists may disclaim certain Spencerian applications of equal liberty without questioning the truth and importance of his abstract principles. What Mr. Spencer’s deductions are, and what exceptions are to be taken to them, will appear from succeeding articles. I will conclude this article by two further references to Mr. Spencer’s admirable exposition of the first principle.
Guarding against an exceedingly common (even among scientific men and learned critics), though very stupid, misapprehension, Mr. Spencer says: “There are acts of aggression which the formula is presumably intended to exclude, which apparently it does not exclude. It may be said that, if A strikes B, then, so long as B is not debarred from striking A in return, no greater freedom is claimed by the one than by the other.” But such an interpretation mistakes the essential meaning of the formula, and “implies greater deductions from the lives of each and all than the associated state necessarily entails.” Equal liberty does not countenance a superfluous interference with another’s life on the ground that an equal interference may balance it. “Instead of justifying aggression and counter-aggression, the intention is to fix a bound which may not be exceeded on either side.”
To meet the objections and misapprehensions of another class of critics, Mr. Spencer carefully defines the word “rights.” Have men any rights? What are the rights of man? “Whoever admits,” explains Mr. Spencer, “that each man must have a certain restricted freedom, asserts that it is right he should have this restricted freedom. If it be shown to follow, now in this case and now in that, that he is free to act up to a certain limit but not beyond it, then the implied admission is that it is right he should have the particular freedom so defined. And hence the several particular freedoms deducible may fitly be called, as they commonly are called, his rights.” Rights, then, are simply corollaries from the law of equal freedom. V. Y.
Resistance to Law.
Extremes meet. The fanatics and intolerant bigots who, in defiance of law, summarily judge and execute those whom they regard as wrong doers, — the masked and armed ruffians whose devotion to a puritanical standard of “virtue” prompts them to dispense with regular methods and processes of ascertaining the facts and enforcing justice, — meet on the common ground of disregard of and resistance to “law and order” with those refined and intelligent lovers of equal liberty and fairness who find it necessary to oppose such legal claims as conflict with justice and attack such lawful institutions as violate the requirements of equity. It is unfortunate that so many well-meaning writers fail to distinguish between these two classes of opponents law has to contend with. The mobs and lynching bands are often pointed to as illustrations and exemplifications of Anarchistic tactics, while, on the other hand, conservatives of the unreasoning species denounce such organizations as the London Citizens’ Defence League in terms usually applied to lynchers and fanatics. No greater wrong could be done to a righteous movement, no greater blunder committed. Behind the superficial community of method there are differences so wide and important that no excuse for overlooking them can be accepted. The radical antagonists respect government less than the average citizen because they love equity and freedom more; they trample upon legality in the name of justice which they seek to establish for the good of all men. The impatient mobs who dispense with processes of law are actuated by the narrowest and most discreditable sentiments; of justice they have no comprehension and no appreciation. A little reflection shows that what the “white caps” and other crusaders of that class seek to abolish are those safeguards, guarantees, and prudential measures which civilization constrains governments to adopt for the benefit of the individual citizen. They are dissatisfied with the law because it is not severe and summary enough, because it does not indulge their passion for virtue, to the extent of crushing without mercy any individual bold enough to exhibit independence. And not only do they draw no distinction between crime and vice, between vice and merely unconventional behavior, but they regard suspicion as ample ground for punishment. They are not fit for the conditions they live in; the law is too liberal and civilized to meet with their approval; and their rule is infinitely worse than the rule of the legal authorities. Such antagonists of law as Lysander Spooner and the Citizens’ Defence League, on the other hand, fight legality because they are superior to it and because they deem the individual entitled to a larger measure of freedom than the law accords. They attack the abuses and vices of the law in the name of a higher conception of equity; and this makes them intelligent supporters of the law where it is on the side of civilization, and intelligent opponents of it where it is on the side of reaction and barbarism. Intelligent opposition to law on the ground of justice implies recognition of the.elements of the law that are consonant with the requirements of justice. Blind reverence for law is not commendable, and doubtless there is too much of it in this country. But it is a serious question whether on the whole blind reverence is not preferable to such unintelligent disregard of it as is shown by the intolerant bigots who organize white cap and similar conspiracies.
In a recent issue of the “Philadelphia Press,” the subject of lynch law was editorially discussed and the following views expressed:
Be it for good or ill, to our national credit or disgrace, it may as well be accepted as a fact that lynch law is a settled American institution, — a sort of amendment to the Constitution, the tacit terms of which provide for the immediate capital punishment of those whom public opinion has without formal trial adjudged guilty of the crimes against them charged.
We can no longer plead the youth of the country in defence of this arraignment, the one oftenest made against American democracy. . . . Nor is it probable that we can set up a gradual diminution of the practice. An English journal recently ventured the statement that there were twice as many illegal as legal hangings annually in the United States. No one reading the daily papers is prepared offhand to dispute this. A leading New York paper frankly accepted its truth, and made it a text for several paragraphs of amusing cynicism on the great American “Court of Abattoir.”
The trouble may be, perhaps is, that we of the East and North are too apt to pass over the lapses into barbarism of the South and West, unless those lapses touch our pockets or come home to us in the shape of political arguments. . . . However this is, the fact seems to be that after 115 years of independence lynch law is still an institution in many States. As long as it is, all the recent clatter about the abolition of capital punishment is mere moonshine, — a proposition to transfer to masked mobs all tho powers and duties of the hangman, which masked mobs so often now assume.
Lynch law is certainly a disgrace to this country, since it proves that the people are not ripe for such civilized institutions as trial by jury and its corollaries. This is no argument in favor of despotic institutions; but it is an argument in favor of education in the principles of justice and in favor of maintaining agencies competent to carry the principles of equal liberty into practice. The rights of the individual must be protected against governments and mobs as well as against less powerful aggressors. It is a mistake to attribute to Anarchists sympathy for the objects or methods of lynch-law advocates. Mob aggression is no more justifiable than government aggression. The difference is that, while every civilized man hates the former and is ready to suppress it, few as yet are aware of the criminality of governments. For this, the sentiment of justice is not sufficient; a clear conception of the law of justice is needful. V. Y.
The Shameless Blackwell Rebuked.
Richard Burton, the translator of the “Arabian Nights” and one of England’s famous scholars, spent the last fourteen years of his life in translating another Oriental work, and died just after finishing it. His widow, Lady Burton, evidently a pious prude, took it upon herself to decide the work to be immoral, and burned the manuscript. The bigot Blackwell, who edits the “Woman’s Journal,” applauded this infamous act enthusiastically. His endorsement of the villainy has called out an admirable protest from one of his readers, — a woman, I am pleased to say. Her name is Ellen Battelle Dietrick, of Wianno, Cape Cod, Mass. I congratulate her with all my heart upon her brave and sensible words, which I here reprint from the “Woman’s Journal.”
The recent action of Lady Burton, in burning the manuscript which her husband confided to her for publication, involves a point in morals which is worthy of thoughtful discussion.
According to her own representation, her husband was “the most pure, the most refined and modest man that ever lived,” and during fourteen years this good man has devoted himself to collecting materials preparatory for his magnum opus, the work which was to make his fame as a scientific scholar. Lady Burton is careful to tell us that this labor was undertaken “as a doctor may dissect a body, showing its source, its origin, its good, and its proper uses, as designed by Providence and nature.” The day before his death he talked with her about his work, telling her that he was in communication with several men in England about its forthcoming publication. The manuscript was not given to her with liberty to use it as she pleased. Her husband told her that he was negotiating for its sale, and said: “The proceeds are to be Bet apart for an annuity for you;” to which she merely responded, “I hope not; I hope you will live to spend it like the other,” letting no hint fall of her determination to have nothing to do with it. If she had once frankly warned him that there was even a slight doubt as to her fulfilment of his wishes, it is highly probable that he would have entrusted that child of his brain to some one else, and after its sale Lady Burton would have acted quite within her own individual right in refusing to accept the proceeds if she bad so decided.
Her husband died suddenly, apparently in complete unsuspicion that his wife could be guilty of such a betrayal of trust as to destroy that into which he had woven so much care, toil, and thought, — a vital part of himself. He died in the happy anticipation, not only of providing for her, — that was only one part of the consideration which actuated him, and not the greatest part, — but in anticipation of a valuable contribution made to the world of science.
Now it is plain that we cannot pronounce upon the nature of that destroyed manuscript. On one side we have the judgment of “the most pure, most refined, modest, and guileless man that ever lived,” that it was worth fourteen years’ diligent toil to bring it into publication. On the other hand, the judgment of one woman, who, from her own statement of the case, is seen to be tremendously unscientific and silly, that it ought not to be published. She actually intimates that she believed God would let her husband’s soul “be left out in cold and darkness till the end of time, till all those sins which may (!) have been committed on account of reading those writings, had been expiated” — unless she came to the rescue and committed the sin of betrayal of trust!
* * *
Strong men and women on this planet are only made by tasting the knowledge of evil as well as good. When one woman sets herself up as judge of what other equally intelligent adults may or may not read, she assumes a responsibility altogether oat of proportion to any human capacity. Personally, I dislike very much to come across either a boy or a girl in their teens, poring, with glowing imagination and crude experience, over the pages of Solomon’s love song. The Jews strictly prohibited any man under thirty years of age reading this passion-stimulating and sensually-imaged poem, and it is fair to suppose no woman was allowed to read it at all. The Catholic Church, from similar motives, tried to withhold the Old Testament from the masses; but Protestantism boasted of its achievement in circulating far and wide, with utmost indiscrimination, that ancient library of stories, many of which it would assuredly be better for no unprepared mind to encounter. Yet imagine what a loss would have resulted to the world if some Jewish Lady Burton had accidentally found the opportunity, and taken upon herself the responsibility of burning that one manuscript of the Old Testament which was the sole existing copy in 460 B. C.!
Burning books, killing writers, silencing teachers, suppressing newspapers, imprisoning too outspoken would-be reformers, interfering with the circulation of knowledge, — all these are the established, and utterly useless, methods of ignorance and despotism. If the world is any better today, it is not because any temptations have been swept off the earth, for temptations inevitably multiply with the growth of every complex civilization. Even to try to suppress temptation is like wasting one’s life in chopping off the heads of a hydra. What improvement society may manifest, therefore, is clearly due to the fact that we are learning how to so educate children that temptation to indulge in any form of impurity or vice will lose its power. As character grows strong, temptations grow weak. A trained will, a cultivated brain, and a busy, happy life, form barriers against which low viciousness dashes its trashy attractions in vain. Increasing millions of good men and women, growing up unharmed in this world full of evil, stand as living proof that knowledge is not synonymous with guilt, nor ignorance with innocence.
This being the case, I maintain that Lady Burton acted on a false principle, and a principle exceedingly dangerous to the liberty of society. The wrong action in her case was further aggravated by the special consideration that she usurped an authority she was not entitled to, and thus indelibly affixed a slur upon her husband’s judgment.
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.