The Review of a Century; or,
The Fruit of Five Thousand Years
October 22, 1876 — The Boston Theatre, Boston MA
A hundred years ago, in an upper room in Philadelphia, five men were gathered — men of noble bearing, of brilliant intellects, of undoubted character. Their faces wore a look of stern determination, as if the theme of their consideration was of matters of grave import; was of matters destined to be the beginning of the most important era that had ever dawned upon the earth. A century and eighty years before, a single ship-load of men, women and children, had landed on this virgin soil at Jamestown in Virginia; and a few years later, another one at Plymouth-Rock in Massachusetts. To these, additions had been made until the thirteen States then numbered fully three million souls, upon whom “the king” had imposed onerous taxation, and over whom he had placed obnoxious rulers. The tea had been destroyed in Boston harbour, and the people were wrought up to the intensest pitch by their oppressions. They had come from their native lands to escape from tyranny, and were not disposed to brook it here. In this wild, free land, they had become pregnant of liberty, and were even then struggling in the throes of travail. These five men had met to find a way in which the delivery might be safely made, so that both the mother and the child should live to bless the world.
THE EARLY FATHERS.
Washington, Adams, Franklin, Rush, Paine — every one of them immortal names — struggled with the task with which God had entrusted them. They felt the great responsibility, and their faces, as they looked into each other’s eyes, spoke their anxiety. Each knew that every other as well as self had something in his heart that he dared not utter. They looked inquiringly again and again for some yielding in some face. But they hesitated all. And well they might; for it was not the fate of three million people merely that was in their hands, but the future destinies of the world. One of these men had said but little; but the set features of his face showed a stern resolve; showed that he was waiting for the proper time in which to speak. He knew that it would fall to him to break the way; to say the words which each one felt but dared not speak; and speak at last he did; and they were the words of mighty import that came forth from him; words that were to deliver the people who had come to their full time — a birth that should herald a new race of people to the world; and they came forth from him as if all his powers were concentrated in the effort; as if that effort were the last struggle of the mother to bring forth her child; and the “four” caught up the child and became god-father to it, and they bore it to the people. The people recognised it as their own; took it to their hearts, and at once adopted it. Its name was —Revolution — Independence; and the words rang up and down the wave-washed shores, and fired the people with their inspiration — revolution as the means, independence as the end.
One hundred years have come and gone since that eventful day, great with the future’s destinies. Its hundredth anniversary has passed, and forty million people have commemorated the work of those five men, of those three million people: — commemorated it by reaffirming the truths that then were uttered for the first time in the new world; commemorated them by brilliant flights of oratory, by firing cannons and profuse displays of “stars and stripes” harmoniously blended with the flags of almost every other nation of the globe, whose sons and daughters were participating in the glory of the day; with feasting, fireworks; with general rejoicing everywhere. As if with a universal assent, these swarming millions re-echoed with a will the words that that stern man had uttered on that never-to-be-forgotten day a hundred years ago.
OUR COMMERCIAL GREATNESS.
But those three million people have expanded into forty-four million; and the thirteen States to thirty-eight, besides ten territories and one district. The country now, excepting the stretch from the west shore of Lake Superior, and from the south-west point of Texas westward to the ocean, has available for commercial purposes, a continuous water-front of not less than fifteen thousand miles, equal to that of the whole of Europe. It is five thousand miles from east to west, and four thousand from north to south. It contains vast ranges of mountains, the longest river in the world, and the most fertile plains. Its climate is so varied and extensive that it produces almost everything that is grown anywhere in the world — the fruits of the tropics as well as of the latitudes north and south; and it will be the granary from which the world must ultimately draw its bread. It has all the different forms of mineral wealth — gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, besides coal, oil and salt. No other country on the globe can begin to compare with it in the variety of its products; it combines the utility of them all. It is as if all others had contributed their choicest seeds, as they have their peoples, to fill up the variety with which this should be blessed. In whatever sense it may be regarded, it is the great country of the world. No other can for a moment enter into comparison with it save in some single sense — while this combines the greatnesses of them all. Blessed with such a country — with a land such as God promised to His chosen people — “a land flowing with milk and honey,” how ought the people to have returned their gratitude to Him Who gave it? Or rather, how have they done so?
Having already entered upon a second century, there can be no more appropriate a time in which to see what use there has been made of the “ten talents” with which the Great Husbandman has entrusted us; to see how we have shown our love for Him by that which we have given to our brethren; to see whether from His bounteous gifts to all, a part has stolen the inheritance from others, and when His servants have been sent whether they have been beaten away empty; whether some, having an abundance, have “shut up their bowels of compassion” though seeing their brothers had need; whether they have “fought the good fight,” whether they have “kept the faith” and whether they are entitled to the crown which St. Paul bespoke for them that love God.
WHAT ARE OUR CENTENNIAL FRUITS?
In other words, what is the condition politically, industrially, socially, religiously? Is it such as will make us rejoice in its review? Are our centennial fruits such as He would pronounce good, so that we may rest upon the seventh day from all our labours?
In the first place, what have we done politically? It is to government that people largely owe their prosperity or adversity — a good government meaning continuous prosperity; a bad one continuous adversity, or else alternate seasons of each, in which the latter consume the fruits of the former; in which the people see-saw, up and down each decade; in which, like the Israelites, the people journey in the wilderness “forty years” in search of the promised land, to which God would bring them suddenly, if they would keep all His commandments, and neither worship nor sacrifice to the “Golden Calf.”
The last estimates are, that there are forty-four million people now in the United States. It is by no means, however, to be inferred that these are all citizens who constitute the “sovereignty;” from whom the Government has its source, and upon whom it sheds its benignant rays. For, although the constitution declares that “all persons born or naturalised in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens;” and although there are unreversed decisions of the Supreme Court, which declare that every person in the country “constitutes a part of the political sovereignty,” and that every such person is entitled to every right, civil and political, enjoyed by anyone in the State, —notwithstanding all this authority and law upon the subject, only a minority of the 44,000,000 are really citizens. For, in the Dred Scott decision, the law of citizenship was declared to be this: “To be a citizen is to have the actual possession and enjoyment, or the perfect right to the acquisition and enjoyment, of an entire equality of privileges, civil and political.” Dred Scott did not possess or enjoy these rights; therefore the court held that he was not a citizen. As this is the law of citizenship now, we must conclude that only those are citizens who have “the actual possession and enjoyment, or the perfect right of acquisition and enjoyment, of an entire equality of privileges, civil and political,” the Constitution to the contrary notwithstanding. The Constitution in the hands of “the few” is a mere toy with the plain language of which they play, making it to mean anything or nothing as it suits them now and then. Later we shall see that this was what it was intended to be; that it was a fraud, a cheat, from the beginning, into which neither the letter nor spirit of the Declaration of Independence ever entered.
WHO ARE CITIZENS?
But who are citizens? Why, those who possess and enjoy, or who have the right to acquire and enjoy, an equality of political and civil privileges. Only certain classes of men possess these rights. These certain classes having possessed themselves of the machinery of the Government, tread upon the Constitution and spit upon the declarations of the Supreme Court. They have stolen the birthright of the “many,” and, putting their thumbs to their noses, say “Help yourselves if you can.” The despoiled people are not able to help themselves now, but let these usurpers be warned that the judgments of God are upon this nation, and that He will come to help those who cannot help themselves against such tyranny; come to deliver His people out of the hands of the “Egyptians,” who have imposed tasks upon them grievous to be borne; come to send them some “Moses,” who shall cause “Pharaoh” to let the people go, and who shall bring down from “Sinai’s Mount” a new and better code of laws.
But who are not citizens, who neither possess or enjoy, nor have the right to acquire or enjoy, an equality of privileges, civil and political? There are three classes of these people: Indians, Chinese, and women, and these constitute by a million more than one-half of all the people. The political lords have selected nice company for the women to keep politically, and yet they put on such monstrous airs if they are told that in this matter they show no respect for their mothers, wives and daughters. Here is a subject for some Raphael, who should have reduced it to canvas and exhibited it at the Centennial, in honour of the mothers and daughters of the land. Upon the one hand there should have been grouped the women of the country, flanked upon the right and left by Indians and Chinese, and the subject named — Political Slaves; while upon the other the citizens should have been grouped, and labelled Political Sovereigns.
THE PRINCIPLES OF OUR GOVERNMENT.
The principles under the inspiration of which this government had its birth, are set forth in the Declaration of Independence. They were when realized by the people, when incorporated into the organic law, to give them independence; and they were thought to be of so much importance that the people fought a long and bloody war to acquire a right to their possession and enjoyment. Who can think of Bunker Hill, of Brandy-wine, of Princeton, of Valley Forge, of Yorktown, think of those long eight years of alternate hope and despair, and not feel that the price paid for independence was too great to have it limited to a mere minority of the people, when it was purchased for the whole; was too great a price to pay for principles that were to be restricted to fewer than half of the descendants of those who paid it. Our fathers would have never fought for the liberty to have a King or an aristocratic ruler of their own. They endured the hardships and privations of that war for independence for themselves and their posterity. Nothing less than this was the inspiration of those years of suffering, nothing less than this could have given them inspiration to gain their independence.
But this was scarcely more than won, before those from whom this inspiration came were doomed to see their work robbed of half its value. At the convention that met to frame a government, there were men whose minds were too narrow to grasp the significance of the truths which had been the inspiration of the people; and which had sustained them through the war. They were men bred and born in English customs. They were not willing to make a complete departure from the established legal forms of the mother country, and make the Declaration, the inspiration of the Constitution, as it had been of the revolution. That inspiration came from these truths, and they were declared to be self-evident, “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” No trace of any single one of these truths is to be found in the Constitution as then adopted; nor in any of the Amendments that have since been added, save in Sec. I., Art. XIV., which the self-constituted citizens have rendered nugatory.
OUR COPYING OF ENGLAND.
Our constitution and laws have nothing specifically American about them. They are copies from the English, modified in some particulars, which have been the inducement “to gather the spoils while we may.” The President is an English king under another name, selected by the “caucus,” the worst element in politics, and elected by the people, because, under the vicious methods that are in vogue they have no way to vote save for one of the two at whom ten thousand papers vie with each other in throwing mud during the campaign. Many who have come to know how Presidents are made have abandoned the polls in disgust. The Senate is a badly abridged edition of the House of Lords, while the House of Representatives is the same of the House of Commons. In the law of primogeniture only do our laws differ materially from those of England, this good feature having been borrowed from another source. Nor have we any political literature save the Declaration of Independence which has a distinct national character about it that is purely American, and it is this that we celebrate year after year; it is this and this only that calls out the patriotism of the people.
As far as the Constitution is concerned it is Dead Sea fruit. It is an old and musty English sermon to which we have prefixed a new and vital text, the text and sermon having no common ground or meaning. The condition of the people and the country could scarcely have been worse had we had Kings and Parliaments, instead of Presidents and Congresses. A tree, let it be called by whatever name, is known by the fruit it bears. If we are to judge the political tree in this country in this way, shall we not be forced to say that we have gathered thorns from grapes and thistles from figs? In purity in the administration of justice, our Government can stand no comparison with that of England. Money here is king, and judge and jury also. Then must there not be something radically wrong somewhere, and what can this be, except the engrafting of a new political idea into an old political system? This is what is the matter, and cringe as we may, there can never be a change greatly for the better until the institutions of the country are remodelled by the inspiration of that which led to their establishment.
OUR LACK OF GREAT STATESMEN.
Had there been any really great men among our statesmen they would have discovered the cause of the alternate “ups and downs” in the prosperity of the country, and, at least, have attempted some remedy. But we may look in vain through the whole list of those who have, one after another, prominently occupied public attention, for a great mind in the sense of instituting reforms in government; in replacing vicious by beneficent legislation. Washington, who will always be deservedly revered, was in no sense a great man save in goodness. As a general or statesman he has been excelled by dozens since his time, not one of whom has left anything behind him that will make his name immortal. To be immortal in history requires that there shall be some basis for it living in the Government, or in the industrial habits of the people, or in their religious faiths or rites. Buddha in India, Confucius in China, Zoroaster in Persia, Mahomet among Mahomedans, and Jesus amongst Christians, have immortality. But the religious element, per se, never would have civilized the world. Indeed the nations most under the influence of religious sentiments have done the least to spread civilization into unknown countries. It is the warlike and intellectual, in contradistinction to the religious and æsthetic, nations to whom we owe the almost world-wide enlightenment of the present, while the latter have remained shut up within themselves, and are nothing but what their religion makes them. The contrast between Egypt and India or China is, in this respect, most striking. Egypt, becoming great at home, pushed out into the surrounding world. With its immense armies under Sesostris and its no less potent power emanating from the wise men who made the Alexandrian library a possibility, it left its impress so fixed upon the world that, even to this day, there are many things in the habits and customs of the nations, especially in their literature and philosophies, that are Egyptian. It was an Egyptian colony which laid the foundation in Greece at Athens for the splendid civilization that was there developed; for the glory, the military renown and the arts and sciences that afterwards made Greece at once the admiration and wonder of the world.
GREAT MINDS THE FOUNTAIN OF ALL GOOD.
The Egyptians were also a maritime people who made voyages for discovery. It was under the instructions of one of its kings — Nechos — that some skilful Phœnician sailors first sailed round the coast of Africa. Six hundred years B.C. an attempt was also made to do what the French engineer Lesseps has since done — to cut a canal across the Isthmus of Suez. I mention these facts to show how all the really great things that have done the world most good have had their origin in some one great mind, who still lives in the immortality of his creations, having impressed himself inexpungibly upon the descent of the race and on civilization; and by this showing to call attention to the further fact that the number of the great who live in the present is extremely small, and finally to show that this country has not produced even one such mind outside the purely intellectual plane. The names of Fulton and Field will live until steam, as a motor power, shall be superseded by some more potent agent, and until the telegraphic wires shall be no longer required to transmit the thoughts of one to another at the antipodes of the earth; but in government the list is blank.
Our basis must, however, be made still broader. Greece was founded upon principles brought from Egypt; but in that small country a new era was born. Egyptian achievements were the culmination of an era of civilization of which Greece was fruit, and became the seed for the next. Not only did Greece dim the splendour of Egyptian warfare, but she also surpassed her in intellectual attainment. The names of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Archimedes, Xenophon, will live in philosophy as long as there is a literature; while Marathon, Thermopylæ, Salamis, Platea and Mycale will stand for ever unapproachable in military and naval glory, conclusive evidence of the power of order and organization over mere numbers and brute force.
THE POWER OF ELOQUENCE.
There was, however, another power behind this one of order which made it invulnerable, irresistible. Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, testified of this power in these words: “The eloquence of Demosthenes did me more harm than all the armies and fleets of the Athenians. His harangues are like machines of war, and batteries raised at a long distance, by which all my projects and enterprises are ruined. Had I been present and heard that vehement orator declaim, I should have been the first to conclude that it was necessary to declare war against me. Nor could I reach him with gold, for in this respect, by which I had gained so many cities, I found him invulnerable.” Antipater also said of the same power: “I value not the galleys nor armies of the Athenians. Demosthenes alone I fear. Without him the Athenians are no better than the meanest Greeks. It is he who rouses them from their lethargy and puts arms into their hands almost against their wills. Incessantly representing the battles of Marathon and Salamis, he transforms them into new men. Nothing escapes his penetrating eye, nor his consummate prudence. He foresees all our designs; he countermines all our projects and disconcerts us in everything. Did the Athenians confide in him and follow his advice we should be irredeemably undone.”
‘Tis true that this was in the days of the declining Grecian glory; but it is none the less true that it was the same power in others previously that lifted a whole people to sublime achievements and into grand and noble character. It was here, also, that patriotism had birth; here that men devoted their lives to their country for the country’s sake rather than for private gain or glory. In this respect the character of Grecian generals and statesmen has never been approached by any other nation. It was this character that gave the Greeks as a nation, and to the world as an example, the first code of laws; gave a Constitution as a conservatory of the people’s rights, and made a Lycurgus possible, the principles of whose Spartan code are only now beginning to be appreciated. It is to this code that we must look as the prime source of political economy, and it has been the inspiration of all the modifications of laws ever made in the interests of the people. In this respect, Lycurgus will be known in the future ages as the Spartan law-giver of the world.
LESSONS FROM ROMAN HISTORY.
Roman history is a second edition of Grecian, enlarged in its sphere of operations, and in its influence over the world. Rome, however, would never have been possible, had Greece not first been a fact. But Rome was vitiated in the character of her public men, as compared with those of Greece, in about the same ratio that she was greater in other respects. Greece was the admiration of the world, but Rome was its astonishment. All that she was, sank with her as she went down into the dark ages. The best of what made Greece, still lives in the people of the world. Greece was the garden of modern civilization and will remain its inspiration until three elements of character — the religious, the intellectual and the social —shall join their powers to construct the future government of the world.
Charlemagne was the basis of the first great national character that evolved after the dark ages, and Otho the Great laid the foundation for the present dominance of Bismarck and Von Moltke in Central Europe. Cromwell, more than any other, is the inspiration of English character, modified by its respect for the political rights of women by the influence of Queen Elizabeth, under whom England reached the acme of its power and glory. But in French history is to be found the most distinct evidence of a communication to a whole people of the character of a single individual that there is to be found anywhere. The French character, both as a nation and as an individual, may be summed up in one word — Bonaparte. With the advent of this giant mind came a crisis over all modern Europe. Under his influence not only did the national character of the French people change, but the individual character also underwent many modifications. Nor was this confined to France, for this man’s genius was felt in every capital in the world. He conquered the nations and compelled them to change their laws, while to France he gave an entire new code, to which, more than to anything else, France owes her position among nations. It was the result of these laws that gave to France the capacity to rise from the disaster inflicted upon her by Prussia. Her immense loans came in small sums from the peasantry, and when paid will remain in France, which will not suffer the double impoverishment that most nations suffer from a public debt. The possibility of this was due to the far-reaching statesmanship of Napoleon Bonaparte, when he changed the laws regarding the inheritance of property, taking the estate from the deceased and dividing it equally among all the children — the greatest innovation that had ever been made upon the old feudal system, and together with other reforms, fixing France in a position to become more prosperous internally than any other European nation. Bonaparte also broke down the barriers that divided the nations and races of Europe, and opened up the way for closer commercial and literary relations, and performed, during the twenty years that he was in France, a greater service for the advancement of civilization than was ever performed by any other person who ever lived. In a sense, and in a good sense, too, it may be said that he dictated to the world, because the changes that he instituted and compelled have produced a modifying influence over the whole world. Taken as a whole, Bonaparte was the greatest man who ever lived. Certainly he equalled the greatest generals, and his campaigns, with those of Hannibal and Scipio-Africanus, will be the textbooks for military students as long as the art of war remains a study; while as a statesman he stands at the head of the greatest. He was Lycurgus, Alexander, Hannibal, Talleyrand, Bismarck combined. He represented, if he did not excel, the greatest of all ages, save Confucius and Jesus, save Demosthenes and Cicero. He never taught morality, per se, but he believed that a well-governed and industrially-thrifty people would necessarily be also moral, and he never made a speech except to point out the enemy to his soldiers. The treachery of a single man — Grouchy — who permitted Blucher to hurl the Prussian army unopposed upon his wearied troops after they had defeated Wellington at Waterloo, changed the whole future destiny of Europe, and prevented Bonaparte from becoming the beneficent law-giver of the world as he had been of France. For behind all his ambition in which only he is known to the world, and, therefore, not known at all, he had an unalterably fixed purpose to raise the common people of Europe to their proper position; but this he could do only by first conquering the rulers who stood in his way.
LYCURGUS AND BONAPARTE.
It is, therefore, to Lycurgus and to Bonaparte, more than to any others, to whom we must look as the master-minds in government; as those who instituted sweeping changes in the political institutions of the world, and in this sense they are the greatest of all the great who live in profane history. Many slight reforms have been effected; but they alone conceived and reduced to a system the changes that revolutionized and replaced the old beneficently to the people.
Bonaparte himself recognized that his greatness consisted in this, for, when he asked his friends to which of his achievements he would owe his life in history, and they replied, naming some campaign or battle, he corrected them and said; “I shall go down in history with my Code Napoleon in my hands.” So it was not Marengo, not Wagram, not Austerlitz, not Dresden, not any nor all his great victories to which he looked as his best achievement; but it was the code of laws by which he made France the happiest country in Europe. It is not to be wondered at that his name lives in the hearts of the French and moves them as no other name ever moved a people.
Great as Bismarck may be, he is not great in the true sense of greatness, for he is building up a power that the next fifty years will have to overthrow. True greatness works in the direction of and not against progress, and its works live. Compared with him, Disraeli may after all, should his intentions toward India have a humanitarian tendency, turn out to be the greater man.
In this view of greatness, to whom shall we look among our statesmen for any of its evidences? Beyond the legislation that the abolition of slavery forced upon us, the homestead act and one recently introduced by Gen. Banks, enlarging its scope in the interests of the settler, and some concessions to the people, like the eight hour law, we may search the legislation of the country through in vain for any evidence of humanitarian tendencies in our legislators. On the contrary, the inspiration of the privileged classes, the power and use of wealth will be found everywhere; ‘tis true that we have a Republican Government in name and form, but it is also true that money rules, that it elects the officers and controls the legislation. The people who are outside of the privileged classes, outside of the offices and the press, are powerless to help themselves. The machinery of the government is in the hands of those who want things to continue as they are, while the few in power who are devoted to the public welfare, beat the air in vain attempts to strike either the causes of, or the remedy for existing evils.
NEED OF A NEW CODE OF LAWS.
But they may be summed up in a few words. The causes lie in the fruitless attempt to run a Republican Government upon an aristocratic code of laws, and the remedy is to remodel the code by the principles of the declaration, which should be made the inspiration of every provision, as well as the key to its construction. I might enumerate the special evils that have grown out of the error made in the Constitution — the vicious legislation for which this error laid the foundation — that the rule of the majority is not a Republican idea; that “the majority” is another name for the despot; that minorities are entitled to, and can be represented; I might show that the United States is, after all, nothing but a confederation of equal and antagonistic powers, and not a Federal Union; that Washington is more a place in which representatives from the several States assemble to quarrel over the spoils of office and to lay the ropes for the succession, than it is the capital of a free and mighty people; that there is such a contrariety of laws in the several States upon any given subject, that it puzzles a Philadelphia lawyer to tell whether a given act is a crime, a misdemeanour, or whether actionable at all in the different States; if people be married in one State, whether they are so legally in any other, or if divorced the same. I might show that taxation is unequal and oppressive, and the revenue unjust; and if there were need of it, which there is not, that official patronage is a polite name for public plunder, and that the public service is a vast system of organized corruption. Had the original error not been made, had the fountain been kept pure, none of these baneful things could have been engrafted into the system. But they have now obtained a root so deep that they can never be exterminated save by uprooting the system. They are the Canada thistles in the fertile meadow, that spread themselves until they absorb the whole vitality of the soil and thrust out the useful harvest. These thistles have spread and seeded in the government until they have thrust out every honest servant of the people, and until one who has any care for his reputation cannot afford to meddle with the government.
MUST WE HAVE A REVOLUTION?
How can such a state of things be remedied save by a revolution? The people may listen to the “outs” who pretend to tell them that it may; but should they come to the “ins” they would follow in the footsteps of their predecessors. The machine is running down hill too fast to be now stopped; the tide of power has set too strongly toward corruption to be reversed; the political body is too thoroughly impregnated with the poison to make its purging possible by any change of medicine. The disease is incurable because it is in the system more than in the individual men who run it. It has had its youth, its manhood, and is now in its old and decaying age. No power can save it; and those who think they can, who think that they can patch it up with tonics for a time, are only preparing for a worse ruin when the crash shall come.
But the people would not care so much about the government; they would be willing to let the politicians run it as they please, and enjoy its spoils as they have for a century; they would even endure, as they have, uncomplainingly, any extortion that their earnings would permit without reducing them to the starvation point; but when in addition to the absorption of all their earnings to pay the debts of official extravagance and vicious legislation it is threatened to foreclose the mortgages on the industries and sell them out, and thus take away their means of livelihood, they have a right, indeed it is their duty, to object, and they are beginning to do it in real earnest.
A WORD TO NON-PRODUCERS.
I do not say this in the interest of the workmen, but speak in appeal to the non-productive classes, those who live without labour, to show them that through their servants, the Congress and the administrators of the laws, they are repeating the folly of the Southern slave-holders, who could not have found a more effectual way to rid themselves of slavery than that which they adopted. Looking upon it now, it seems that they could not have been satisfied with the progress of abolitionism in the North, under the lead of Garrison, Phillips and Douglass, and therefore they stirred up the war at home to precipitate the end, and succeeded admirably. The heartiness with which the Southern members of the St. Louis Convention recently accepted “the results” is evidence that this is a proper view to take of it. It is only a wonder that, going so far as they did, they did not fall into the arms of the Cincinnati Convention and thank its party for the services rendered them. But this aside. Had they been content to keep the power they had, they might have retained their slaves for years to come; but they wanted more! more! more! Nothing less than the whole country as slave territory would satisfy their morbidness upon the subject. Perhaps they did not know what they were doing; but they must have been blind indeed if there were not among them one sagacious mind who understood it.
But when, through promises from northern doughfaces, they had brought on the war, then those who had been gradually getting rich, quietly extending their mortgages, through railroad and other speculative schemes and exorbitant rates of interest, saw an opportunity to extend, at a single effort, their grasp over the whole property of the country, and reduce the masses to servitude for all time to come, as they are reduced in England. The classes to whom I speak knew that the government would have to have money; and that it would have to come to them to get it; and they also knew that the longer the war continued the more money would be required. So, while the copper-headed bankers of the North gave the rebels all the encouragement they dared, their English brethren furnished them with arms and ammunition, and thus the war was prolonged and made a costly one. The plan was well conceived and nicely executed; the productive classes were saddled with a debt of $3,000,000,000, for which the government received little more than half that sum.
SOME TELLING FIGURES.
But they who were engaged in this scheme over-reached themselves as the South had done before them. They over-estimated the vitality and endurance of the industries, already carrying a debt of $4,000,000,000 in railroad, State, county and municipal bonds, besides paying interest on individual loans to a still larger amount. They could not bear the added burden. With gold at par with which the interest was paid on this enormous debt before the war, they managed to get along; but when the war had raised the price of gold and had added $3,000,000,000 to the debt, it was more than they could stand. On this $11,000,000,000 debt, with the interest on some parts of it at 8, 9, 10 and even 12 and 15 per cent. per annum, and allowing for the large discounts that were frequently extorted, and adding to this the premiums paid for gold and including the dividends on stocks, the industries of the country were, and still are, taxed $1,300,000,000 every year to pay interest! Think of it, you who take this interest! Think of the toiling millions who, beneath the broiling sun, or in the murky mines, or dismal shops, or in the frozen forests, give up their lives to toil! Think of it! Taxed $1,300,000,000 annually for interest, part of which goes to enrich European bankers, and the remainder to those who, in luxurious ease, idle their lives away at home. Think of it, I repeat again, and then wonder, if you can, that industry is prostrate beneath the heel of capital! Say, if you can, whether the wonder is not rather, that there is a wheel in motion in the country, or that there is a plough moving in the soil.
The total products amount to but $5,000,000,000 annually. Out of this, there is first to come the subsistence of the 44,000,000 population. On an average it cannot be said that it costs less than $100 a year per capita to support this mass. Some people spend more than that for cigars in a single month, and others double for wines and other liquors, to say nothing about establishments costing thousands upon thousands to maintain; and yet there are so many who live upon less than $100 a year, that the average cost of subsistence may be placed at that sum. This would consume $4,400,000,000 of the $5,000,000,000 products, and leave but $600,000,000 with which to pay the $1,300,000,000 interest. Hence it is plainly to be seen that the productive interests of the country are running into debt to the capitalists at the rate of $700,000,000 every year; that their mortgages on the property of the country are increasing yearly by that amount. This is a frightful showing, but it is a true one; it is one that the labouring classes are beginning to understand; it is one that you who are oppressing them should also understand, for, by ignoring it, you are challenging swift destruction. The only question is, how long can these things go on, with the wealth of the country increasing at the rate of two and a half per cent. per annum; it is a simple thing to calculate how long it will require for money, increasing at the rate of 6, 8, 10, and even 15 and 20 per cent. per annum, to consume the wealth.
THE ROOT OF THE TROUBLE.
We come now in logical order to the grand and fundamental error that has been made which lies at the back of all political fallacies, and to which are to be primarily attributed all industrial and financial ills from which we suffer, both as a nation and as individuals, since, let the Government be as good as it may, with this error lying between it and the industries, it were impossible that evil should not come upon the people. Hence, let the Government and the public service be as bad as they may; let the people suffer from bad legislation as much as they have; the fault is, after all, more to be charged against the system than against the individuals who, for the time, are its administrators. No matter how skilful the engineer may be, nor how watchful the fireman; if the engine itself be faulty in construction, it will explode; or if the engine be perfect in itself, but connected with other machinery that is not fitted to run at the same speed as the engine, then the machinery will fly in pieces. The same is true of the relations between the Government — the political organisations of the people — and the wealth producers — the industrial organisation of the people, as we shall see, for the Government is a machine constructed after the highest known principles of political mechanism, while intimately connected with it is the industrial organisation, running upon the very lowest — the rudimental — industrial mechanism. Consequently, when the political machinery runs at a high rate of speed, requiring an extra amount of fuel and water, the industrial machinery, in its efforts to supply this demand, and urged on by its connection to keep pace with the rapid motion, flies in pieces; becomes prostrated and useless, as we see it everywhere in the country now, when to keep the political machinery running at the present high rate of speed, it has to draw upon its accumulated stock of fuel, as it is doing now to the amount of $700,000,000 annually.
If we go back and examine the evolution of government and industry, all this will be made clear; so clear that all may understand it. Certain fixed laws direct and regulate the growth of everything, and they are the same for all departments in the universe. The statement of the laws by which the sidereal and solar systems have evolved, will also describe those which the earth has obeyed, and are the laws of all material, governmental, industrial, intellectual, social, moral and religious change. This law as applied to government and industry may be stated in philosophic terms, thus: The progress of government and industry is a continuous establishment of physical relations within the community, in conformity with physical relations arising within the environment, during which the government, industry and the environment pass from a state of incoherent homogeneity to a state of coherent heterogeneity; and, during which, the constitutional units of the government and industry become ever more distinctly individualized.
If we examine the growth of industry and government, and the relations that exist between them now, in this country, we shall discover how far they have advanced from incoherent homogeneity toward coherent heterogeneity. Looking through the dim vistas of the past into the pre-historic time, we find a time when there were no aggregations of individuals larger than the family; that the family was the only government and the only organization for industry; that its head ruled with arbitrary sway, having no one to whom he was accountable, each family having to depend wholly upon itself for subsistence. The people then were in the same state politically and industrially, and this was the homogeneous or original state. Afterwards we find that, for protection or for conquest, two or more families combined in a political sense and formed tribes, having an absolute head, but remaining in the rudimentary state industrially; next, tribes came together and built cities, and cities then coalesced and constituted nations (the rulers of which still using arbitrary power), until single rulers aspired to the dominion of the world; and in a sense succeeded. But all this time, industrially, the people remained in the original state. There had been no coalescing for the purpose of subsistence as there had been for government. While politically the people had evolved through several stages of progression, industrially they were still in the rudimentary state.
Having arrived at the culmination of growth in the line of absolute power, one man having controlled the destinies of the world (thus typifying the future yet to be when the world shall be united under a humanitarian, in place of a despotic government; under the rule of all instead of that of one), a new departure was set up in the direction of this future condition, and the power to which one man aspired began to redistribute itself in limited and constitutional monarchies, down through kings and queens, nobility and republics, to the people generally, in this country advancing so far as to be divided practically among nearly one-half of the people, and theoretically among the whole. Evolution on this line will go on till every person in the world shall form a part of the government. Then the great human family will be a possibility.
But up to the present time, what have the people done industrially? Almost nothing, save to subsist themselves on the rudimental plane! Nothing, save to make a few experiments at coalescing. There are a few illustrations of the first step in progress in this respect, which correspond to the coming together of families politically. But there are no industrial cities, to say nothing about nations. There were Brook Farm, New Harmony, and several other attempts at industrial tribes, and there are Oneida and a dozen lesser attempts still in existence, besides numerous cooperative movements. There are the railroad, the telegraph, insurance companies, banks and other corporations, all evidences that a real departure is about to be made in industrial organization; that is, that the people are preparing to depart from the homogeneous state industrially. The grange movement is the most positive evidence of the moving of the people generally in this direction, in which to protect themselves against the rapacity of merchants and railroads, they combine to purchase from first hands and realize a saving of from twenty to fifty per cent. This is an illustration of coalescing for protection. Most of the other illustrations, such as railroads, banks, etc., are for aggressive purposes; are means by which the people, while being seemingly accommodated, are really being robbed. Nevertheless, they are all evidences of progress in the industrial sense, those for aggression in the end compelling others for protection. That there are so many forms of coalescings for aggressive purposes, is conclusive evidence that the time is near when the people will be driven into organizing themselves into industrial communities, cities and nations, and eventually into one nation for the whole world. The first departure having been made, nothing can prevent industry from passing through the same stages of progress through which government has passed, and eventually becoming “at one” with government.
Has the evolution of government proved a blessing to the people? Are we, as a people, in a better condition politically? Are we nearer the ultimate condition than they were of ancient time, when the family was the highest form of government? If we are, then we should be equally improved, industrially, if we were upon the same plane in this respect. There are no contradictions in natural growth. Like degrees of evolution bring equal good in all; the same to government, to industry, to intellect, to morals, to religion. But this development does not mean for the rich what it is inferred by them to mean, unless, indeed, they attempt to resist its progress, which if they do, the same fate will overtake them that came upon those who attempted to stay the tide of political growth. It means for them just what the development of government meant for those who held and exercised its power. The political relations of the monarch and nobility are repeated in the industrial relations of the capitalists and working men. The “levelling” politically has not been down but up. Instead of the rulers having been degraded into serfdom, the serfs have been elevated to the plane of rulers in this country. In the place of one man ruling over others, all men rule themselves, at least in theory. In this transformation no one has been deprived of anything that of right belonged to him; but the masses have received their natural rights from those who held them from them by the right of might. When the industries shall rise to the stage of growth which the government occupies, a like “levelling up” will take place; a like relinquishment of industrial power will be made in favour of the toiling masses. None who are independent now will be made dependent then; but the dependent will rise to independence. Hence the alarm of the rich is wholly without foundation. Such a move does not mean the slightest harm for them; it means equal good for all. It does not mean the taking away of any comfort or luxury from anybody; but the extension of every comfort and luxury that any have to all — to those who suffer, be it from hunger, from nakedness, from want of shelter, or other cause.
OUR NATIONAL DEBT.
If this analysis be applied to the present situation we shall see what is the matter with the industries. When the South rebelled, the North was compelled to resist, or else permit the national unity to be destroyed. Let it be borne in mind what stress was put upon the necessity of preserving the oneness of the people politically. To do this an army was required. When volunteers ceased to offer in sufficient numbers to keep the army to its necessary strength, the government, acting upon the right of a representative of a politically united people, resorted to drafting to determine which of the members of this unity should go into the army and jeopardize their lives for its preservation. This was in perfect harmony with the principles of government upon which this order rests, and was fully endorsed by the people. But what did the government do to subsist these men, and to provide the munitions of war? Did it proceed the same way that it did to secure the men? Not at all! It borrowed the money from the bankers of New York, Hamburg and London, and agreed to pay them a rate of interest double that demanded of any other first class nation, parting with its bonds to them at “60.” In other words, it borrowed $1,800,000,000, at 10 per cent., and gave $1,200,000,000 in bonds as bonus for making the loan.
Now this was the error that was committed, for, although the people were industrially upon a lower order of development than they were politically, nevertheless, since necessity knows no law save that of its own conditions, the government should have proceeded as if we were upon the same plane in both respects. When it called for volunteers to raise an army, and the ranks of industry responded liberally, it should at the same time have also called for volunteer assistance from the ranks of wealth, to subsist that army; and as it resorted to drafting to maintain the necessary number of fighting men when volunteering failed to do it, so should it have resorted to drafting the means with which to pay their expenses when volunteer assistance should have failed to do it. Had the people been one industrially as they were politically; had the industrial organization of the people been upon the same plane as their political organization, this would have been done naturally, and there would have been no bonded debt incurred.
What does this show? This clearly; that, while the government can command the lives of the working men and put them in jeopardy, even sacrifice them without stint to maintain itself, it has no power over the property of the rich to compel them to assist in that maintenance. Had it been so that the government could not have borrowed any money, it would have fallen from this disparity between the political and industrial development. Is not this clear? And if it is, does it not show a very great and grave defect in the wisdom of our institutions?
But what has been the effect of this error in this instance? The present prostration of industry, necessarily: and it has come about in this way: The armies were made up from the ranks of industry; the “rank and file” were so many men taken away from producing, and, therefore, from adding to the accumulated wealth; but the maintenance of the army was borrowed at an exorbitant rate of interest from the accumulated wealth, which was wholly in the hands of those who never fired a shot in defence of the country, nor added a dollar to its aggregate wealth by labour. While the war continued, the men who were left in the ranks of industry were called upon to pay this interest; and when it was over, those who had survived the war and returned to productive toil were included with them. And it is expected that the industrial classes will continue to pay this interest until the bonds mature, and then the bonds themselves, as I shall show you that they do hereafter; or what is more to the point, for the $1,800,000,000 that the government borrowed from the money-lenders it would compel the people to return them as bonus, interest and principal, the enormous sum of $5,000,000,000.
Hence by this error, made possible by the false relations of government and industry, the government has not only compelled industry to furnish the men to fight its battles, win its victories, and maintain its integrity, but it also compels it to pay all the expenses of the war, besides to continue adding to the wealth of the rich. The gentlemen in whose interests it was principally fought, who have sat quietly at home in luxury, and drawn the life-blood from the poor, now go out of all the effects of the war with their fortunes trebled by having merely loaned the government the money it needed to maintain itself in the struggle.
This is a true picture, moderately drawn, of the real facts. While I do not desire to stir up the wrongs that industry has suffered in this matter, and drive the weary toilers to seek redress, it is nevertheless time, when thousands of families are suffering the pangs of hunger as a consequence of this wrong, to lay it open before the people who have been its cause and who have profited by it; it is time that the government should be shown the errors that it has committed and be told that the people are coming to an understanding of them; time that the bond-holders should know that the people are aware of the tenure by which they hold these mortgages on the industries. Let the one protest as it may and the other plead innocence under the revelations as they will, I intend to do everything in my power to rouse them to a sense of the danger in which they stand from the still sleeping masses, who, when they shall come to a full realization of the impositions that have been practised upon them, will not hesitate at any means of redress; especially will they not hesitate when the modern Shylocks, having relentlessly demanded not only the last “pound of flesh” but their very life’s blood also, demand likewise the payment of the bonds! The people already begin to learn that the government has no sympathy for their sufferings, and that it declares that it has no power to alleviate them, which they will think is strange enough since it had the power to bring these evils upon them.
WHAT LABOUR WILL SAY.
Under these conditions they will soon come to argue like this: — Was it not enough to demand of industry that it should fight the battles for the government? Was it not enough that the working-classes should lay down their lives by thousands upon a hundred fields of battle? Was it not enough that mothers and wives should give their sons and husbands to fill the soldier’s grave that the wealth of the country might remain inviolate? Was it not enough that we did all this without now being forced to give our toil year after year to return these rich, who did nothing, these loans? Is it too much to ask of wealth that it pay the expenses of the war? Should we not rather demand, in tones of thunder if lesser ones are insufficient to rouse its holders to a sense of their duty, that it shall bear its part of the burden? We have looked on quietly and seen the sufferings to which this people are reduced by the rapacity of the usurers, until we can no longer hold our peace; and if it be in our power, we intend that wealth and not industry shall yet be made to pay what it should have been made to pay at first; that it shall return to the government the bonds which the toiling masses have redeemed by the rivers of blood that they have shed, and that the government shall return the $2,000,000,000 of interest that it has already filched from industry for interest on this most unjust debt. In other words, since we gave the lives that it was necessary to sacrifice to conquer the rebellion from our ranks, we intend that the rich shall give from what they had when the rebellion broke out, to pay all the expenses of the war, and we will never rest until this be done.
These, I say, are the arguments to which the suffering labourers will resort if you permit them to is driven to desperation by hunger from want of employment. If the rich were wise, they would forestall all opportunity for such arguments to be used, by coming forward voluntarily to do them justice. If what I have suggested will be their arguments, is true, as you know that it is, then wealth should pay the expenses of the war without any further delay, because it is a gross injustice, not to say an unwarrantable imposition on good nature, to make the men who did the fighting also pay this debt, while those for whom it was mostly fought have done nothing but to speculate out of it. Perhaps you have never looked at it in this light; but if you have not, then I pray you look at it so now, before your attention shall be called to it in an unpleasant way; for, unless relief come soon to those who are suffering the pangs of hunger, by reason of your blindness, there will be an imperious demand made of you.
THE SILVER QUESTION.
As if they were not yet satisfied with the oppressions already in operation, some of those whom you have sent to Washington to conduct your business, and who have got you into all this difficulty, think that silver is not good enough money in which to pay interest, because it is not now worth proportionally quite so much as gold. Where has the wisdom and prudence of this people fled? Have they no care for what may come upon their families, that they sit by and see indignity after indignity piled mountain-high upon the people? The lives, the labour, the all of the poor may be taken for the public good; but your bonds, your money, your usury must not be touched. They are considered to be of more consequence than life and toil and everything else that the poor have got to be taken! — your revenue must be sacred, and the Shylocks must take their “pound of flesh” from the daily labourer, let it cost whatever blood it may in the cutting of it; and no wise Portia comes to stay the hand already dripping with the life of the toilers, for is not the interest wrenched from their toil, their life! Look at the poor of the country; millions of them without work and their families either starving or else on the verge of starvation. Let me read you extracts from two articles from the New York Sun of the 20th of July, so that you may see that I am not overdrawing the picture: “Starvation in New York. The sufferings among the poor are fearful. The sufferers are chiefly widows and young children, who, for lack of nourishment, are unable to withstand the intense heat. Instances of actual starvation are mentioned. A widow and her young daughter and son, who are unable to find work, had been for some time living on $2 a week. In a garret, without any other furniture than an old dry goods box for a table and a broken chair, live a widow and her five young children. In a closet are a mattress and a blanket, which at night make a bed for the whole family. An aged woman, who was once in affluent circumstances, was some time ago found nearly dead with hunger; it was only by careful nursing that she was saved. A young man, whose family were gradually starving, was driven to despair and intent on suicide. The child of another died, and not only was the father unable to bury it, but he was unable to provide food for the living.” These are only a few of the cases that come under the observation of a single church relief society. What shall we say of the great city? The other was entitled “Widespread Destitution in Brooklyn. At the meeting of the King’s County Charity Commissioners yesterday, Mr. Bogan said that there was almost as much destitution in the city now as at midwinter. The families of unemployed men who up to this time have never asked for a cent of charity, were daily besieging his office. The system of outdoor relief had been abandoned, and there was no way to provide for the needy except out of his private purse. The heads of families were forced into idleness by the hard times, and, having exhausted all their means were face to face with starvation.” Is not this a fearful picture of those who have helped to make the wealth with which the storehouses of the country are loaded? African slavery was a blessing compared with the condition of thousands of the poor. Let its evils have been as great as we know that they were, the negroes never suffered for food; the women and children never died of starvation; never suffered from cold or went naked. Oh, that some master mind, some master spirit, might be sent of God to show you the way out of this desolation and the necessity of deliverance. But I fear you will not be wise enough to avoid the penalty for neglecting to keep your industrial institutions on the same plane with your political organization, which is the only possible remedy for the present evils. The people must be made as much one industrially as they are politically. Then there would be harmony and consequent peace and prosperity.
IS CASTE A NECESSITY?
But to this the common objection is raised, that it is impossible to make industrial interests common, on account of the necessary differences in labour: that there must be caste in industry. This was the reply that the king made to the people who wanted a political republic; of course it will be the reply that the privileged classes will make to those who want an industrial republic. You know how fallacious the objection has been politically. The king deprived of his crown has not been compelled to sleep with the scavenger. It will prove equally as fallacious industrially. The money and railroad kings will not have to live with the men who do the rough work of the industrial public, unless they choose to do so, any more than they do now. The foundation stones of a house always remain at the bottom, covered up in the dirt; nevertheless, they are even more important to the safety of the house than any upper part. So it will be in the industrial structure when it shall be erected. There will always be Vanderbilts, Stewarts, Fields and Fultons — the agents of the people industrially, as there are now presidents, governors and mayors —agents of the people politically. And do you not see how perfectly this corresponds to the teachings of Jesus when He said: “Let him who would be greatest among you be the servant of all,” and with this falls the objection of the aristocrat to the industrial republic, as utterly untenable.
The real inspiration of this objection, however, springs from quite another source. Those who make it know that with the coming of industrial organisation, the power which money has to increase will fall, and make it impossible for anybody to live without labour. Money has no rightful power to increase. Its origin and sphere distinctly forbid the power, as can be clearly shown. The theory that money is wealth is false. It came to be accepted from the fact that valuable things have been used as money.
Wealth is the product of labour; is anything that labour produces or gathers. But the functions of money are representative wholly. Money takes the place of wealth for the time — stands for it. Here is the fallacy of a specie basis for money: specie is wealth, and can be made a basis for the issue of money, but the error consists in making a distinction against other kinds of wealth which would be equally as good. Anything that has value may properly be made a basis for the issue of a currency.
If we trace the origin of money, all this will be made plain. At the basis of all questions relating to wealth and money, lie the elements — the land, the water, the air — and these are the free gifts of God to man. None have the right to dispossess others of their natural inheritance in these elements. The right to life carries along with it the right to the use of so much of each of these elements as is necessary to support it. No one has a natural right to more than this. Hence, men have no more right to seize upon the land and deprive others of its use, or part with it to others for a consideration, than they have to bottle the air for the same purpose. There can be no ownership of the elements; no ownership of the land any more than of the air or water. Pretended ownership is another name for a usurpation. But the elements, unused, are valueless. Labour applied to them yields results, and these are valuable, consequently wealth; the net results after subsisting the people are the accumulated wealth of the world, and there is no other wealth.
MONEY THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL.
If every person were to produce all the different things he needs or wants, there would be no use for money, and the people would escape the curses that follow in its trail, but experience taught labourers that it was an economy for each to labour in some special way, and to exchange his surplus products for those of others labouring in different ways. Besides, the different climates produce different commodities, of each of which all other climates require a share. Out of these facts came agencies for effecting exchanges — money, the merchant and commerce. In their origin and normal functions they are the agents, the servants of labour; but when from exchanging the products of labour they grew into speculating in these products, then they assumed abnormal functions, and became the masters of labour. It must be seen, therefore, that the only legitimate method by which wealth can increase, is by adding to itself the net results of labour; indeed that is the only way in which it can increase. It must also be clear that these results belong in toto to their producers, since, if nothing were exchanged save equivalents, these results could never pass from the hands of their producers. But by permitting the representatives of wealth — money — to have the power to increase, the makers of money have been able to filch all the net earnings from labour, and as a result of this, most of the accumulated wealth of the world is in the hands of the makers of money instead of in those of the makers of wealth. This may be legal, but can never be made just. Had the labourers been let alone they would have continued to produce and exchange their commodities among themselves without any trouble, and they could have always maintained themselves comfortably. But the “middlemen” — their agents — conceived, constructed and thrust upon them a vicious system of money, by which they are forced to pay tribute on everything that passes from, or is received by them, which tribute amounts to the total net products of all the industries.
THE PRIVATE BANKING SYSTEM.
The system of private or corporate banking is an example in point. Why do individuals want a gold basis upon which to issue currency? To get the privilege to levy interest on many times as much currency as they have capital invested. A bank with an actual capital of $100,000 in gold could issue $300,000 in currency, all which it could loan out together with nearly all the deposits that it could secure, which, in some instances, have been known to amount to ten times the capital. Why should not a class of men, if the people are blind enough to let them do it, speculate upon the credulity of the public through the idea that they are rendering a public service? Why should they not desire to “bank,” when by banking they can receive interest on $1,000,000, when otherwise they could collect it upon $100,000 only? The same idea is the inspiration of national banking, and of those who oppose a national currency. The banks bought, say $100,000 of United States bonds from the Government for $60,000. These bonds they deposited with the treasurer, and the people were required to pay $6000 a year interest on them, while the banks received from the Government $100,000 in national bank currency with which they were set afloat. These notes were loaned to the people, who again paid an interest on the same capital of $6000, or 20 per cent. per annum — $12,000 on $60,000; and yet the bank men have made the people think that they are offering them great accommodations. “Oh,” says the National Bank legislator, “we must get rid of these abominable, depreciated, irredeemable greenbacks, and make room for more national banknotes.” Do you know for what that legislation is bidding? He wants, if he has not already got it, —from some national bank man in his district, or else he has an interest in some bank. What is the security of national bank notes? United States bonds deposited in the Treasury. What is the security of the bonds? The public faith of the United States. What is the security of the greenbacks? The public faith of the United States. What difference in this respect, then, is there between national bank notes and greenbacks? None. Then as a currency there is this difference between the bank notes and greenbacks: If greenbacks were to take the place of the bank notes, the bank men would not get 20 per cent. interest on their capital, and the privilege of receiving and loaning the deposits of the people.
But look at it in another light. Suppose the security of the national bank notes were their own capital instead of the bonds, who would not prefer to trust the faith of the United States, rather than that of any individual in these times of Credit Mobilers, Tweed and whiskey rings? Then, again, why should individuals furnish the circulating medium of the people, when the people can furnish it themselves and save the expense? $1,000,000,000 is as small an amount of currency of all kinds as will transact the business of the country properly. Why should not the $60,000,000, which the people would have to pay the banks for interest on this, be paid to the Government for greenbacks? And more! Why should not all the interest that is now paid to individuals and banks for private loans, be paid to the Government? It is estimated that the average amount of private loans for the whole country is not less than $5,000,000,000 upon which, at even 6 per cent. interest, the people are taxed $300,000,000. Is there any valid reason why the Government should not loan this money and receive this interest? Yes, for if it did, the rich could not live in luxurious idleness, while the poor are obliged to labour twice the natural time to subsist the world.
WHY DO THE PEOPLE PAY INTEREST?
Or still again: why should the people pay any interest at all on loans from themselves? Why should not their agent — the Government — when amply secured, freely loan the people all the money that they want for use? Suppose that the farmers and the manufacturers did not have to pay interest on the money that they are compelled to have to produce their crops and goods? Don’t you see that they could compete successfully with the people of any country in the world, in the production of anything? Institute free money and there would be no necessity for a tariff for protection to keep out the cheaper goods of other nations. But on the contrary, this country would shortly be supplying other nations with the very things with which they are now supplying us and thereby crippling our manufactures and productions. Besides, all the people would be constantly employed, prices would be low, every comfort and even luxury abundant and in the reach of all, and thrift would replace stagnation everywhere. Plenty of money, plenty of work and plenty of everything that the ingenuity and strength of man can make, are the most favourable conditions for the masses; while just the reverse is true for the privileged classes. But why, since the former class outnumbers the latter, as five to one, do not the former have all things their own way in this country where the majority rule? Ask the masses this, and they can make no reply. But it is because the superior intelligence and tact of the minority enable them to concoct schemes by which, without seeming to do so, they reduce the majority to actual, though mostly unconscious servitude; making them pay, first, all the interest on the public and private debts; next, all the expenses of the national, state, county and municipal governments; and next, obtain their own support and the increase of their wealth from them. Do you think that I overstate this? I think I can make it so clear that you cannot doubt it; and if I do, will you not think differently of the toiling masses than you have thought of them heretofore? At the beginning of any year take the amount of real wealth in the hands of the non-producers. During the year the governments continue, the taxes are gathered and the expenses are paid: your debts, your expenses and all; the producers have continued to labour as usual, and at the end of the year find themselves just where they were at its beginning; but the property of the wealthy classes has increased about three per cent. for the whole country. And while the latter class has become fewer in numbers and richer individually, the former has increased in numbers and become poorer individually. Now these are the facts, and with them before them who will pretend to say that the class who have not produced anything have added to the aggregate wealth? Whence has come this increase of wealth? From the wealth producers, from the labouring classes and from no other source. Industry being the sole source of wealth, it could have come from no other source. Hence let the non-producer get his increase by whatever strategy, it comes in some channel directly from the producer. This may be done by interest, by speculation, by sharp trades, by profits; but let it be by which it may, the producer has to pay the bill. In other words, every addition that is made to the wealth of non-producers is so made at the expense of the producers, the former having so much more than they had which they did not produce, and the latter having so much less than they did produce. This is self-evident, and all the sophistical argumentation that can ever be made cannot make it otherwise. The minority may attempt to explain it away; to show that this and that are so and so; but here are the facts staring them in the face, and they will no more down than would Banquo’s ghost for the guilty Thane. There they stand, an everlasting condemnation of the rule of the minority and the servitude of the majority. Nothing can be clearer; nothing truer. And is it not a shame that it is true?
A PLEA FOR JUSTICE.
You must not mistake me. I would not take a single comfort; nay, not a single luxury from those who have the most. I would not deprive anybody of anything they have or want; but I would so distribute the proceeds of labour that those who produce the comforts and luxuries should have their share of them; that they should have everything that the most favoured now enjoy. In this land of fruitfulness and plenty, if all the labour there is were constantly employed every man’s home might be a palace, and want and sorrow be banished from the country. Am I asking too much for those who have endured long years of toil and suffering to bring this beautiful country to its present condition? Am I asking what you are not willing that they shall have? Am I asking anything more than justice? If you grant them less than justice God Almighty will come some day, visit you and set the matter right, as he visited the South and liberated the downtrodden blacks. So if you do not heed my warning, remember that there is One whom you cannot ignore.
But there is still another way by which the industries are taxed in favour of the non-producers. The railroads, which ought to be, and which, managed properly, would be, a great advantage to the industries, are now at once their blessing and their curse. There are now 75,000 miles of railways in the country, built at a cost of $4,658,208,630: their earnings are $404,000,000 annually. But here is where the people are hoodwinked. This sum does not begin to represent the actual amount paid by the people for fare and freights. Almost the whole of the freighting is done by “lines” — the Red Line, the Blue Line, the White Star Line, and a hundred others, all which have special contracts with the railroads to carry freights at just a living rate, while the lines charge the people all that they can stand to pay, the difference in these two sums going into the pockets of the owners of the lines. And who are they? The owners, managers and officers of the railroads who resort to this to blind the people’s eyes about the profits of railroading, which they could not otherwise conceal, because they are obliged to make annual exhibits. But the lines carry off the profits, while the operating expenses of the roads, their interests and dividends are left for the exhibits. If the companies made 20, 30 or 50 per cent. dividends, the people would not stand it: but the managers play upon them with their lines and blind their eyes while they pocket the profits.
THE RAILROAD SYSTEM.
Then again, there is the system by which the railroads are built, which is little less than a gigantic swindle. Shrewd persons discover places where railroads may be built. They obtain charters and the rights of way, and get the towns along the lines either to issue or endorse bonds and give them stock in the roads for this. They sell the bonds to themselves at tremendous discounts and build the roads, themselves taking the contracts at extravagant prices, and when done begin to operate them. Of course the earnings are not sufficient to pay the operating expenses and the interest, to say nothing about dividends to the stockholders. They were never intended to be. So after a few defalcations of the interest on the bonds, they come in and foreclose under the mortgages and sell out the stockholders and buy in the roads and thus come into their possession built free of cost to themselves. Can such processes be rightly called anything less than swindles? They may be called by some other name, but they still have the odour of a swindle about them. And yet our best men engage in such schemes and call them honourable. To speak vulgarly, this is one of Uncle Sammy Tilden’s best holds. Is it any wonder that there is so much knavery and trickery among the common classes upon a small scale, when they have such examples set them by the upper classes on gigantic scales? or is it any wonder that the public morals are at so low an ebb? So, examine where we may into the schemes for the accommodation of the public, we find them to be vampires sucking its life.
How long do the railroad men imagine that the people will endure their exactions? Should they not know that their scheming will have to come to an end soon? Then why do they not act the part of wise men, and anticipate its coming in time to save themselves? If they do not, the people will sooner or later take the roads from them. It may be said that there is no constitutional or legal way in which this can be done, and they may rest upon this as secure protection. But I would recall the words of Charles Sumner, “Anything that is for the public good is constitutional,” and warn them not to rely upon so slim protection. This was the argument of King George and of slavery; but it failed them both, as it will fail every wrong that relies upon it. The people and the public welfare always triumph in the end; and the longer the triumph is delayed, the more fearful is the recompense for those who stand in its way.
THE FEAR OF COMMUNISM.
But it may be objected that all this tends towards communism. Only bigots and the unthinking are frightened by a name or a shadow from an examination into anything. Perhaps at first it will create surprise when I tell you that the only really good institutions that we have are purely communistic. The public highways are a perfect illustration of communism. They are constructed and maintained at the public expense for the public benefit. All grades of people meet upon them on an equality, and yet no one either loses his identity in the mass or is deprived of any of his private rights, or of any of his personalities. But the principles upon which the industries are conducted and that govern their relations to wealth, the poor man who owns no property, would have no right to use the highways. The same is true of the public schools. The children of the rich, who, it is falsely pretended, pay the taxes to support the schools, and the children of the poor there meet upon an equality. The schools are not a public necessity, they are only a public good. Who will pretend to say that they are not an improvement on the old system, of every family conducting its own education, or of a few families combining to do so? Everybody recognises the public advantage of a communal basis for the education of all the children; recognises that the public good demands that the community shall not only provide school privileges, but shall insist on every child having the benefit of them, not for the good of the child so much, as for the community’s own good. Now this is communism. Why are you not frightened at the communistic tendencies of the public schools? Because, without thinking them to be communistic, you have adopted them and found them to be good.
Next is the post-office — a still better illustration in an industrial sense. Here the Government conducts the business of the people. If the system were maintained wholly instead of partially from the public treasury, it would be purely communistic. Is there anyone who is prepared to say that the postal system is not an improvement on the transmission of letters by private enterprise? And yet nobody is affrighted at the communistic character of the modern post-office. Suppose that this system were extended to the transportation of everything that is interchanged among the people, have we not a right to assume that the same beneficent results that have followed the development of the public mails would also follow there? We have not only the right to assume, but we have the reason to know that it would, and that the railroad question and railroad wars would be for ever settled by such an advance towards communism, and an immense stride be made towards the organization of the industries as a whole; and this is what we have done industrially.
THE ELEMENTS OF OUR POPULATION.
It is an instructive lesson to analyse the population of the country, to resolve it into the several classes. First, from the 44,000,000, there are to be taken the classes that count for nothing — the Indians, the Chinese, and the women, for though they are permitted to live in the country, they form no part of the sovereignty. “They are,” as Justice Carter asserted when endeavouring to prove that women are not entitled to the ballot, “citizens in whom citizenship is dormant.” In round numbers these classes are 23,000,000. Of the remaining 21,000,000, 11,000,000 are adults, who are the sovereignty, and who conduct the Government. Of these 3,000,000 are farmers; 2,000,000 are manufacturers, mechanics, miners, and lumbermen; 1,000,000 are unskilled labourers; 1,000,000 are merchants of all kinds, including dispensers of leaf and liquid damnation; 1,000,000 are gentlemen of ease who live by their wits — their sharpness and shrewdness — bond-holders, money-lenders, landlords, gamblers, confidence men, etc., etc.; 500,000 are clerks; 250,000 are permanent invalids; 200,000, criminals; 100,000, paupers; 100,000, insane; 100,000, weakminded; 100,000, professional teachers; 100,000, employes of the national Government; 100,000, of the State, county and municipal Governments; 90,000, physicians; 60,000, ministers; 50,000, lawyers, and 50,000, editors and professional writers and actors. A large part of the property of the farmers is mortgaged to the money-lenders, and the same is true of the manufacturers, while the liabilities of the merchants exceed their assets. So, really, the 5th class — the gentlemen of ease — either own or else hold mortgages on the whole property of the country. It is said that the curse of England is that 3-4ths of its property is owned by forty families. How much less is true of this country? Can such a state of injustice as this continue? And if it cannot, what shall take its place? It is time that those who hold the wealth, should, for their own sake, be asking this question seriously, unless they would incur the risk of having it answered for them, as the same was answered in France in ‘93. Public injustice, unless remedied peaceably, always has terminated in revolution; and it will continue so to terminate as long as it is not remedied in a wiser way by those who have the power to do it.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
If it were to be asked what should be done at once to remedy the present exigencies of suffering labour, I will answer what I would do had I the power. I would first abolish legal interest and make it a crime as the Bible does to take usury in any form. I would stop the payment of interest of the public debt and use the money to set the unemployed and starving labourers at work on internal improvements, and should be justified by the people for doing so; because it would be right to prevent widespread suffering and revolution at the expense of such a step; I would build the Pacific railroads north and south for the people and not give them to individuals, as was the case with those already built; I would construct immense workshops in every State in which the skilled labour of both sexes might be utilised when otherwise unemployed, because every day that any labourer is idle is a loss to the prospective wealth of the country; which fact is the condemnation of the policy of throwing men out of employment whenever business is depressed. Every labourer thus made idle adds to the general distress, because from being a producer he becomes a consumer; I would abolish pauperism and crime by giving everybody a chance to work at his chosen occupation; but if he preferred to starve rather than to work I would let him starve; I would purge the country of rascals by removing the inducements to rascality; I would make it impossible for a dishonourable person to live in a community, by placing everybody upon his honour, and in this way abolish jails and penitentiaries, criminals and courts and lawyers; I would remove the protection of the law from debts, and leave them to stand or fall upon the honour or want of it in the contracting parties, the result of which would be that a failure to pay once would discredit one for all future time, and compel honesty as a necessity for existence, making it to the interests of the people to be honourable in all things; and this, in turn, would abolish all civil courts and lawyers with all their attachés and expenses. I would restore to the public the gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, coal, oil and salt lands and mines and work them for its benefit, and I would send everybody who should be found tampering with the public funds to the Dry Tortugus for life. Yes; had I the power, I would make both compulsory and voluntary idleness impossible, and wipe out the stain of millions starving idle in a land of plenty, capable of sustaining a thousand million people; and hush the wail of suffering that floats upon the winds from every section of this God-favoured land, but now reeling under the effects of vicious legislation; I would snatch the people from being pushed headlong into revolution, and restore to them the equal use of God’s free gifts to all His children.
A LAW-GIVER NEEDED.
This country having fallen into the errors to which I have referred; into the hands of mediocre and incompetent legislators, without even a single statesman among them all; into the times of small minds and smaller measures that do not look beyond the day in which they are proposed; into industrial, financial and commercial ruin, with one half the wealth-producing power starving in idleness and no one seeming even to think what the end of this must be; having fallen into all these ills, this country needs that a giant mind shall spring into its councils, or else among its legislators, a captain which shall be able to grasp the helm of the ship of state now floundering hopelessly in the trough of the industrial sea, and put her before the wind again; a mind that shall have the wisdom and the courage to show the puerility of those who occupy the posts of honour, and, by the mere force of will, lift them into the right path; show them that beneath the surface of that which they seem to think is peaceable enough, there is a raging, seething volcano ready at the slightest occasion to burst forth and overwhelm everything in its path; a master mind which shall compel Congress by active measures to guide its powers rather than by inaction to provoke an eruption. This country needs that God shall send a law-giver; one who shall understand what has led to the present situation; what the exigencies of the people demand, and who shall have the ability to propose and the power to enforce the needed remedies — a Lycurgus to give a new code of laws that shall be the incarnation of the principles of the Declaration of Independence, which alone of all principles have any influence to mould the people, and from which they draw the characteristics which distinguish them from the other nations of the earth; and a Bonaparte to sweep out of the way the accumulating débris of years of vicious legislation and in its place inaugurate that code; needs a Lycurgus with his code of laws; a Bonaparte with his genius to command, and, combined with these, the vehement power of a Demosthenes to rouse the people to a sense of the danger in which they stand and, whether they will or not, lead them through a peaceable, rather than permit them to plunge into a bloody, revolution. Let this be done, no matter in what form this power may come, and a change of greater magnitude for good to this people than that proposed by Lycurgus for the Spartans, or that instituted in France by Bonaparte, will be inaugurated here.
But what has been done socially? Much of which I have not the time to speak, but this, as to what I would have for the social condition: —
WORDS TO WOMEN.
If the evils of industry were removed a great many social ills would cease. For instance, if women were independent, industrial members of the community, they would never be forced into distasteful, ill-assorted or convenient marriages, which are the most fruitful of all the sources of vice and crime in children, and consequently in the community. But beyond the industrial and dependent relations of the sexes there are many purely social ills that as much as those of industry require a remedy. Marriage is regarded as a too frivolous matter; is rushed into and out of in a haste that shows utter ignorance or else a total disregard for its responsibilities, and as if it were an institution specially designed for the benefit of the selfish wishes and passions of the sexes. But to look at marriage in this light is to not see it at all in that of the public good, or ultimately, in that of individual happiness. Marriages that are based upon selfishness or passion can never result in anything save misery to all concerned. Men and women who cannot look above these interests, who do not recognize that these interests should be secondary; who, after finding that their personal feelings would lead them to marry, cannot coolly ask themselves, are we prepared to become God’s architects to create His images, and be governed by the truthful reply, are not fit to marry. Many have the idea that I am opposed to marriage, but nothing could be further from the truth. I am opposed to improper marriages only; to marriages that bring unhappiness to the married, and misery to their fruits; and such as do this, had I the power, I would prohibit. I would guard the door by which this state is entered with all the vigilance with which the young mother watches her first-born darling babe; I would have no one enter its precincts save on bended knee and with prayerful heart, as if approaching the throne of God; as if to enter there were to more than in any other way to give one’s self to the service of God. So strictly would I guard it that none who should once enter could ever wish to retrace their steps. I would make divorces an unknown thing by abolishing imprudent and ill-assorted marriages. I would make the stigma so great that woman should find it impossible to confront the world in a marriage for a home, for position, or for any reason save love alone; and I would have her who should sell her person to be degraded in marriage, as culpable, as guilty, as impure at heart, as she is held to be who sells it otherwise. I would put every influence of the community against impure relations and selfish purposes, in whatever form they might exist, and encourage honour, purity, virtue and chastity. I would take away from marriage the idea that it legally conveys the control of the person of the wife to the husband, and I would make her as much its guardian against improper use as she is supposed to be in maidenhood. It should be her own, sacredly, never to be desecrated by an unwelcome touch. I would make enforced commerce as much a crime in marriage as it is now out of it, and unwilling child-bearing a double crime. As the architects of humanity, I would hold mothers responsible for the character and perfection of their works; make them realize that they can make their children what they ought to be, every one of them God’s image in equality. I would have them come to know that their bodies are the temples of God, and that within their inner sanctuaries, within “the holy of holies” God performs his most marvellous creations; that it is there that God Himself dwells, there that He will make Himself manifest to man, and that every act that He does not inspire is sacrilege, is worship of the Evil One, while every other, is an offering of sweet incense to the Heavenly Father. I would have man so honour woman that an impure or improper thought, or a self desire other than a wish to bless her, could never enter in his heart, would have him hold her to be the holy temple to which God has appointed him to be High Priest, as elaborately set forth by St. Paul in Hebrews, as the Garden of Eden into which the Lord God put him, “to dress it and to keep it,” forbidding him to eat of the fruit of the tree that stands in the midst of the garden; would have him awake to the consciousness that, by not so regarding her, he is repeating the sin of Adam, and by not compelling him to so regard her, she is repeating the sin of Eve; and that by these sins they are thrust out of the garden, and prevented from eating of the fruit of the tree of life and living forever; more than this, I would enlarge the sphere of parental responsibility so that they should be held accountable for the instruction of their children in all of the mysteries of sex, so that none could go into marriage in ignorance of the laws and uses of the reproductive functions. I would rob the subject of the mawkish sentimentality in which it is submerged, and make it a common and proper matter for earnest consideration and complete understanding. Indeed, I would make it a crime to enter marriage in ignorance of any of its possible duties and responsibilities; and twice a crime to bear improper children, for they who, to satisfy their own propensities, bring children into the world marked with the brand of Cain or Judas, are the worst kind of criminals. I would frown upon prostitution in every form; and make promiscuousness an abomination in the sight of man as it is in the sight of God; and I would drive out of the race the morbid passions that are consuming it. I would stop marrying until it should be no longer done in ignorance; and child-bearing until it could be done intelligently, so that every child might be a son or else a daughter of the living God. And I would have every woman remember the injunction of St. Paul, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husband as it is fit in the Lord,” but in no other way; and men, “Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter against them.” And if there be any other things let St. Paul also speak for me of them. “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Source: “A Lecture by Victoria Claflin Woodhull (Mrs. John Biddulph Martin) in The Boston Theatre, Boston, U.S.A., October 22nd, 1876, Before 3,000 People, The Review of a Century; or, The Fruit of Five Thousand Years,” (London: Women’s Co-operative Printing Union) 1893, pp. 3-47.
Also: Boston Times, October 22, 1876.