The Impending Revolution
February 1, 1872 — Music Hall, Boston MA
February 20, 1872 — Academy of Music, New York City
Standing upon the apex of the nineteenth century, we look backward through the historic era, and in the distant, dim past catch sight of the feeble outreachings of the roots of humanity, which during thousands of years have evolved into the magnificent civilization by which we are surrounded. Mighty nations have risen and fallen; empires have gathered and wasted; races and peoples have evolved and decayed; but the mystic ebb and flow of the Gigantic Spirit concealed within the universe has continued upon its course, ever increasing in strength and in variety of sequence.
It is true that the results which have flown from this progressive course have very materially changed. Early in its history every achievement was considered great or small, as its conquests by military prowess were great or small. But who in this era would think of placing a Sesostris, or a Semiramis, or even an Alexander, or Cæsar, in comparison as conquerors, with the steamship, the locomotive engine, the electric telegraph, and last and greatest, collecting the efforts of all men, and spreading them world-wide — the printing-press. Where kings and emperors once used the sword to hew their way into the centers of barbarism, the people now make use of their subtle powers of intellect to pierce the heart of ignorance. The conquerors of the present, armed with these keen weapons, are so intertwining the material interests of humanity that, where exclusion was once the rule among nations, intercommunication has made it the exception. Every year some new tie bas been added to those which already bound the nations together, until even the continents clasp hands across the oceans, and salute each other in fraternal unity, and the islands stand anxiously waiting for their deliverance.
The grand results of all these magnificent changes have accrued to the benefit of nations as such. All the revolutions of the past have resulted in the building of empires and the dethroning of kings. The grandeur of the Roman Empire consisted in its power, centered in and expressed by its rulers. The glory of France under the great Napoleon was the result of his capacity to use the people. We have no histories making nations famous by the greatness of their peoples. Centralization of power at the head of the government has been the source of all national honor. Under this system grades and castes of people have built themselves, the stronger upon the weaker, and the people as individuals have never appeared upon the surface.
Government has gone through various and important evolutions and changes. First we learn of it as residing in the head of the family, there being no other organization. Next, families aggregated into tribes, with an acknowledged head. Again, tribes united into nations, occupying specified limits, and having an absolute ruler. Then began a double process, which is even now unfinished ¾ the consolidation of nations into races, and the redistribution of power to the people. That which was once absolute in the head of the family, the tribe and the nation, is now shared by the head with the most powerful among the people. These two processes will continue until both are complete ¾ until all nations are merged into races, and all races into one government; and until the power is completely and equally returned to all the people, who will no longer be denominated as belonging to this or that country or government, but as citizens of the world¾as members of a common humanity.
“God loves from whole to part. But human soul must from individual to the whole.”
It is at once one of the most interesting as well as instructive of studies, to trace the march which civilization has described. Beginning in Asia, it traversed westward by and through the rise and decay of the Assyrian, Egyptian, Persian, Grecian and Roman Empires, each one of which built successively upon the ruins of the preceding, and all culminating in the downfall of the last, whose civilization was disseminated to impregnate that portion of the world then unknown. Modern Europe rose, and when at its height of power, civilization still undeviatingly marching westward, crossed the stormy Atlantic, and implanted itself in the virgin soil of America.
Here, however, an entirely new process was begun. Representatives from all nations, races and tongues here do congregate. Not only do the nations of Europe and Africa pour their restless sons and daughters westward, but the nations of Asia, setting at defiance the previous law of empire, send their children against its tide to meet it and to coalesce. To those who can view humanity as one, this is a fact of great significance, since it proves America to be the center to which the nations naturally tend. But this is only a part of its significance. The more prophetic portion is, that here a new race is being developed, into which will be gathered all the distinctive characteristics of all the various races. Each race is the distinct representative of some special and predominant characteristic, being weak in all others. The new race will combine all these different qualities in one grand character, and shall ultimately gather in all people of all races. Observe the merging of the black and white races. The white does not descend to the black, but the black gradually approaches the white. And this is the prophecy of what shall be:
“For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along,
Round the earth’s electric circle, the swift flash of right and wrong;
Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity’s vast frame,
Through its ocean-sundered fibres, feels the gush of joy or shame:
In the gain or loss of one race, all the rest have equal claim.”
As in this country the future race of the world is being developed, so also will the foundation of the future government be developed, which shall become universal. It was no mere child’s play or idle fancy of the old prophets, whose prophecies of a Christ who should rule the world, come trooping down the corridors of time, and from all eras converge upon this. Neither were the Jews entirely at fault when they looked for a Messiah who should reign over the world in temporal as well as in spiritual things, since it is beginning to be comprehended that a reign of justice in temporal things can only follow from the baptism of them by spirituality. And it is the approach of these heretofore widely-separated principles which is to produce the impending revolution. And that revolution will be the final and the ultimate contest between justice and authority, in which the latter will be crushed, never again to raise its despotic head among and to divide the members of a common humanity.
St. Paul said: “Faith, Hope and Charity. These three, but the greatest of these is charity.” Beautiful as this triplet may appear to be to the casualist, it cannot bear the test of analysis. It will be replaced in the vocabulary of the future by the more perfect one — Knowledge, Wisdom and Justice. These three, but the greatest of these is Justice. Charity, with its long cloak of justice escaped, has long enough covered a multitude of sins. Justice will in the future demand perfect compensation in all things, whether material, mental or spiritual.
Heretofore justice has only been considered as having relation to matters covered by enacted law, and its demands have been considered as satisfied when the law has had its full course. With Freedom and Equality it has been a mere abstract term with but little significance. There has never been such a thing as freedom for the people. It has always been concession by the government. There has never been an equality for the people. It has always been the stronger, in some sense, preying upon the weaker; and the people have never had justice. When there is authority, whether it be of law, of custom, or of individuals, neither of these can exist except in name. Neither do these principles apply to the people in their collective capacity, but when the people’s time shall come they will belong to every individual separately. Equality will exist in freedom and be regulated by justice.
But what does freedom mean? “As free as the winds” is a common expression. But if we stop to inquire what that freedom is, we find that air in motion is under the most complete subjection to different temperatures in different localities, and that these differences arise from conditions entirely independent of the air simply as such. That is to say, the air of itself never changes its temperature. Therefore the freedom of the wind is the freedom to obey commands imposed by conditions to which it is by nature related. So also is water always free to seek its own level. But neither the air or the water of one locality obeys the commands which come from the conditions surrounding another locality. That is to say, that while air and water as a whole are subject to general laws, when individualized, each separate body must be subject to its peculiar relations, and to the law of its conditions. Water in one locality may be pure — hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen; while in others it may contain various additional elements, as sodium, calcium or ammonium, and yet each is free. Air in one locality may be twenty degrees above, and in another twenty degrees below, zero; and yet each is free in its own sphere.
Now, individual freedom in its true sense means just the same thing for the people that freedom for the air and water means to them. It means freedom to obey the natural condition of the individual, modified only by the various external forces which are brought to bear upon, and which induce action in, the individual. What that action will be, must be determined solely by the individual and the operating causes, and in no two cases can they be precisely alike; since no two human beings are precisely alike. Now, is it not plain that freedom means that individuals having the right to it, are subject only to the laws of their own being, and to the relations they sustain to the laws of other things by which they are surrounded?
If, then, freedom mean anything, it means that no individual is subject to any rule or law to be arbitrarily imposed by other individuals. But several individuals may agree among themselves to be governed by certain rules, since that is their freedom to do so. And here is the primal foundation and the only authoritative source of government. No individual can be said to be free and be held accountable to a law to which he or she did not consent.
In the light of that analysis, have the people of this country got freedom? But should it be objected that such freedom would be liable to abuse, we reply that that is impossible. Since the moment one individual abuses his or her freedom, that moment he or she is encroaching upon the freedom of some one else who is equally entitled to the same right. And the law of the association must protect against such encroachment. And, so far as restraint is concerned, this is the province — the sole province — of law, to protect the rights of individual freedom.
But what is equality, which must be maintained in freedom? A good illustration of what equality among the people means, may be drawn from the equality among the children of a family in the case of an equal division of the property of the deceased father. If the property is divided among them according to their respective merits, that would not be equality.
Now, equality for the people means the equality of the family, extended to all families. It means that no personal merit or demerit can interfere between individuals, so that one may, by arbitration or laws, be placed unequally with another. It means that every individual is entitled to all the natural wealth that he or she requires to minister to the various wants of the body, and to an equal share of all accumulated, artificial wealth — which will appear self-evident when we shall have analyzed wealth. It also means that every person is entitled to equal opportunity for intellectual acquirements, recreation and rest, since the first is necessary to make the performance of the individual’s share of duty possible; while the second and third are the natural requirements of the body, independent of the individuality of the person, and which was not self-created but inherited.
Under this analysis have we any such thing as equality in this country? And yet it should be the duty of government, since it is a fundamental portion of its theory, to maintain equality among the people; otherwise the word is but a mere catch, without the slightest signification in fact.
What, then, should be the sphere of justice in maintaining equality in freedom? Clearly to maintain equal conditions among free individuals. But this will appear the more evident as we proceed. The impending revolution, then, will be the strife for the mastery between the authority, despotism, inequalities and injustices of the present, and freedom, equality and justice in their broad and perfect sense, based on the proposition that humanity is one, having a common origin, common interests and purposes, and inheriting a common destiny, which is the complete statement of the religion of Jesus Christ, unadulterated by his professed followers.
But docs the impending revolution imply a peaceful change or a bloody struggle?
No person who will take the trouble to carefully observe the conditions of the various departments of society can fail to discern the terrible earthquakes just ready to burst out upon every side, and which are only now restrained by the thick incrustations with which customs, prejudices and authorities have incased humanity. Indeed, the whole surface of humanity is surging like the billows of the stormy ocean, and it only escapes general and destructive rupture because its composition, like the consciences of its constituent members, is so elastic. But, anon, the restrained furies will overcome the temper of their fastenings, and, rending them asunder, will sweep over the people, submerging them or cleansing them of their gathered debris, as they shall have located themselves, with regard to its coming.
All the struggles of humanity in the centuries which have come and gone have been for freedom — for freedom to think and for freedom to act, as against authority and despotic law, without regard to what should come of that thought and action. But we are now entering upon a struggle for something quite different from this. Having obtained freedom from the despotism of rulers and governments, the rule and despotism of individuals began to usurp the places made vacant by them. Where once the king or the emperor reigned, capital, reinforced by the power of public opinion and religious authorities, now sits and forges chains with which to fetter and bind the people. Where, by divine right, men once demanded the results of the labors of their people, the privileged few, by the means of an ingenious system, facetiously called popular laws, now make the same demand, and with equally decisive results. The demand is answered by the return of the entire proceeds of each year’s surplus productions into their coffers. And this is no more true of the pauper laborers of Europe and the slave laborers of Asia than it is of the free labor of America. Six hundred millions people constantly toil all their lives long, while about ten millions sit quietly by gathering and luxuriating in their results.
Simple freedom, then, is not enough. It has not accomplished the redemption of the people. It has only relieved them from one form of slavery to leave them at the mercy of another still more insidious in its character, because more plausible; since, if penury and want exist, accompanied by suffering and privation, under the rule of a monarch, he may justly be held responsible. But when it exists under the reign of freedom, there is no responsibility anywhere, unless it may be said to be in the people themselves, which is equivalent to saying responsibility without application.
To illustrate this distinction without a difference, take the island of Cuba, with its half million inhabitants, and suppose it to be ruled by an absolute monarch, who administers his commands through the usual attachés of the court and the noblemen of the island. Virtually owning the people, he commands them to labor, taking from them all their products, and merely feeding, clothing and sheltering them. In this case it would be the non-laborers who, without any circumlocution, directly obtain all the produced wealth, they simply expending their time and talent in its securing, while the lives of the people who produce it would be simply maintained.
Now advance one step toward popular government — to a constitutional monarchy. In this the same results to the producing people will be maintained, while the noblemen will share the wealth among themselves, allotting a certain share to the monarch.
Coming down to a representative government, of which personal liberty is the basis, the despotism of laws enacted in the interest of privileged classes are substituted for the personal despotism of monarchs and nobles. What the absolute monarch possesses himself of by the right of might, the privileged class in the popular government possess themselves of by the right of law, everything legal being held to be just.
Now is not that precisely the case in this country? Do not all the results of labor accrue io the privileged few? and are not the producing classes just as much enslaved to them as the subjects of an absolute monarch are to him?
With this mortification, however. In the last instance, they suffer from conditions over which they have no control; whilst in the former case the conditions by which they are enslaved are of their own formation. And I say, I would rather be the unwilling subject of an absolute monarch than the willing slave of my own ignorance, of which advantage is taken by those who spend their time in endeavoring to prove to me that I am free and in singing the glories of my condition, to hoodwink my reason and to blind my perception.
And I further say, that that system of government by which it is possible for a class of people to practice upon my credulity, and, under false pretenses, first entice me to acquiesce in laws by which immense corporations and monopolies are established, and then to induce me to submit to their extortions because they exist according to law, pursuing none but lawful means, is an infernal despotism, compared to which the Russian Czar is a thousand times to be preferred.
This may at first seem a sweeping indictment of our form of government, but I say it is just. Suppose we take our railroad system, now amounting to fifty-five thousand miles. At an average cost of eighty thousand dollars per mile for construction and equipment, its total cost would be four billions four hundred millions dollars. To pay the shareholders an eight per cent. dividend for doing nothing, the industries of the country would have to be taxed three hundred and fifty millions dollars over and above the cost of maintenance and operation. Did this enormous drain from the products of the people stop here, the fertility of the country, made use of by the ingenuity of the people, might possibly keep pace with the demand. But it does not stop there. The net earning of the railroads enables their directors to make larger dividends than eight per cent. Do their managers relinquish this increase in favor of the people? Never a bit of it. But they increase their stock either by selling new shares, or by making stock or scrip dividends, and to neither process has there been found any legal bar or cure.
Now, what may the result of such a system be? Why, this. If the stock of all these railroads be increased in the same proportion that some of them have already been increased, it may be raised to a thousand billions of dollars, and the people, instead of being compelled to pay three hundred and fifty millions dollars to provide an eight per cent. dividend on their cost, will have to submit to the extortion of eight hundred million dollars annually to satisfy the demands of these legal despots for an eight per cent. dividend upon stock, a large part of which represent absolutely nothing but the people’s stolen money.
A person who would double the size of another’s note simply because the profits of his business would permit the payment of twelve per cent. interest, so that instead of paying twelve per cent. upon one hundred dollars, which would be an illegal charge, it would be six per cent. upon two hundred dollars, would be deemed and adjudged guilty of forgery. But these railroad magnates sit in their palatial offices and raise their notes at pleasure, and they are considered public benefactors. It is a crime for a single person to steal a dollar, but a corporation may steal a million dollars, and be canonized as saints.
Oh, the stupid blindness of this people! Swindled every day before their very eyes, and yet they don’t seem to know that there is anything wrong, simply because no law has been violated. In their eyes everything that is lawful is right, and this has become the curse of the nation. But the opposite — that everything which is right is lawful — don’t follow as a part of their philosophy.
No matter what a person does if it is not actionable under the law; he is an honest man and a good church member. But Heaven defend us from being truthful, natural beings, unless the law says we may ¾ since that is to be an infamous scoundrel.
A Vanderbilt may sit in his office and manipulate stocks, or make dividends, by which, in a few years, he amasses fifty million dollars from the industries of the country, and he is one of the remarkable men of the age. But if a poor, half-starved child were to take a loaf of bread from his cupboard, to prevent starvation, she would be sent first to the Tombs, and thence to Blackwell’s Island.
An Astor may sit in his sumptuous apartments, and watch the property bequeathed him by his father, rise in value from one to fifty millions, and everybody bows before his immense power, and worships his business capacity. But if a tenant of his, whose employer had discharged him because he did not vote the Republican ticket, and thereby fails to pay his month’s rent to Mr. Astor, the law sets him and his family into the street in midwinter; and, whether he dies of cold or starvation, neither Mr. Astor or anybody else stops to ask, since that is nobody’s business but the man’s. This is a free country, you know, and why should I trouble myself about that person, because he happens to be so unfortunate as not to be able to pay Mr. Astor his rent?
Mr. Stewart, by business tact, and the various practices known to trade, succeeds, in twenty years, in obtaining from customers whom he has entrapped into purchasing from him fifty millions dollars, and with his gains he builds costly public beneficiaries, and straightway the world makes him a philanthropist. But a poor devil who should come along with a bolt of cloth, which he had succeeded in smuggling into the country, and which, consequently, he could sell at a lower price than Mr. Stewart, who paid the tariff, and is thereby authorized by law to add that sum to the piece, would be cast into prison.
Now these individuals represent three of the principal methods that the privileged classes have invented by which to monopolize the accumulated wealth of the country. But let us analyze the processes, and sec if it is wholly by their personal efforts that they gain this end.
Nobody pretends that Mr. Stewart ever produced a single dollar of his vast fortune. He accumulated it by dealing in the productions of others, which he first obtained at low rates, and then sold at a sufficient advance over the cost of handling to make in the aggregate a sum amounting to millions.
Now, I want to ask if all this is not arriving at the same result, by another method, at which the slaveholders of the South arrived, by owning negroes? In the case of the latter, the slaveholder reaped all the benefits of the labors of the negroes. In the former case the merchant princes, together with the various other privileged classes, reap the benefit of the labors of all the working-classes of the country. Every year the excess of the produced wealth of the country finds final lodgment in the pockets of these classes, and they grow richer at each succeeding harvest, while the laborers toil their lives away; and when all their strength and vigor have been transformed into wealth, which has been legally transferred to the capitalists, they are heavy with age, and as destitute as when they began their life of servitude. Did ever Southern slave have meaner end than this?
In all seriousness, is there any common justice in such a state of things? Is it right that the millions should toil all their lives long, scarcely having comfortable food and clothes, while the few manage to control all the benefits? People may pretend that it is justice, and good Christians may excuse it upon that ground, but Christ would never have called it by that name. He would even give him that labored but an hour as much as he that had labored all the day, but to him who labored not at all he would take away even that which he hath. And yet we hear loud professions of Christianity ascending from the pulpit throughout the length and breadth of the land. And when I listen, I cannot help exclaiming, “O, ye hypocrites, how can ye hope to escape the damnation of hell?”
Am I asked, How are these things to be amended? I will tell you in the first place, that they must be remedied; and this particular case of dealing in the labor of the people is to be remedied by abolishing huckstering, or the system of middle-men, and substituting therefor a general system of public markets, conducted by the people through their paid agents, as all other public business is performed. In these markets the products of the country should be received, in first hands, direct from the producers, who should realize their entire proceeds. In this manner the immense fortunes realized by middle-men, and the profits made by the half-dozen different hands through which merchandise travels on its way to consumers, would be saved to the producer. A bushel of apples, purchased in the orchard at twenty-five cents, is finally sold to the consumer at a dollar. Now, either the consumer has paid at least a half dollar too much, or the producer has received a half dollar too little, for the apples; since, under a perfect system, the apples would go direct from the orchard to the market, and thence direct to the consumer.
We are forever talking of political economy, but it appears to me that the most vital points ¾ one of which is our system of huckster ¾ is entirely overlooked.
Suppose Mr. Stewart, instead of having labored all these years for his own selfish interests, had labored in the interests of the people? Is it not clear that the half-a-hundred million dollars he has accumulated would have remained with the people who have consumed his goods? Place all other kinds of traffic upon the same proposed basis, and do you not see that the system which makes merchant-princes would be abolished? Neither would it require one-half the people to conduct a general system of markets who are now employed speculating in the results of labor.
In short, every person should either be a producer or a paid agent or officer of consumers and producers, and our entire system of shop-keeping reduced to a magnificent system of immense public markets. In this way there could also be a perfect control exercised over the quality of perishable goods, the want of which is now felt so severely in summer in all large cities, and a thousand unthought of remedies would necessarily suggest themselves as the system should develop.
But let us pass to one of the other branches of this same system. We have in our midst thousands of people of immense wealth who have never even done so much to justify its possession as the merchant-princes have done to justify themselves. I refer to our land monopolists, and to Mr. Astor as their representative. Mr. Astor inherited a large landed estate, which has risen in value to be worth millions of dollars, to which advance Mr. Astor never contributed even a day’s labor. He has done nothing except to watch the rise and gather in the rents, while the whole laboring country has been constantly engaged in promoting that advance. What would Mr. Astor have been without the City of New York? And what would the City of New York have been without the United States? You see, my friends, it will not do to view this matter superficially. We live in too analytic an age to permit these things to go on in the way they have been going. There is too much poverty, too much suffering, too much hard work, too many hours of labor for individuals, too many sleepless nights, too many starving poor, too many hungry children, too many in helpless old age, to permit these villanous abuses to continue sheltered under the name of respectability and public order.
But again, and upon a still worse swindle of the people. A person having money goes out into the public domain and acquires an immense tract of land. Shortly a railroad is projected and built, which runs through that tract. It offers a fine location for a station. A city springs up, and that which cost in some instances as little as a shilling per acre, is divided into town lots, and these are reluctantly parted with at five hundred dollars each.
Again, I wish to inquire, in the name of Justice, to whom does that advance belong? To the person who nominally holds the land? What has he done to entitle him to receive dollars for what he only paid cents? Is there any equality — is there any justice ¾ in such a condition? He profits by the action of others; in fact at the public expense, since in its last analysis it is the common public who are the basis of all advance in the value of property.
Now, I say, that that common public is entitled to all the benefits accruing from common efforts; and it is an infamous wrong that makes it accrue to the benefit of a special few. And a system of society which permits such arbitrary distributions of wealth is a disgrace to Christian civilization, whose Author and his Disciples had all things in common. Let professing Christians who, for a pretense, make long prayers, think of that, and then denounce Communism, if they can; and denounce me as a Revolutionist for advocating it, if they dare.
But, is it asked, how is this to be remedied? I answer, very easily! Since those who possess the accumulated wealth of the country have filched it by legal means from those to whom it justly belongs — the people — it must be returned to them, by legal means if possible, but it must be returned to them in any event. When a person worth millions, dies, instead of leaving it to his children, who have no more title to it than anybody else’s children have, it must revert to the people, who really produced it. Do you say that is injustice to the children? I say, No! And if you ask me how the rich man’s children are going to live after his death, I answer, by the same means as the poor man’s children live. Let it be remembered that we have had simple freedom quite long enough. By setting all our hopes on freedom we have been robbed of our rights. What we want now is more than freedom — we want equality! And by the Heaven above us, earth’s growing children are going to have it! What right have the children of the rich to be born to luxurious idleness, while the children of the poor are born to, all their lives long, further contribute to their ease? Do they not in common belong to God’s human family? If I mistake not, Christ told us so. You will not dispute his authority, I am sure. If, instead of preaching Christ and him crucified quite so much, we should practice his teaching a little more, my word for it, we should all be better Christians.
And when by this process all the land shall have been returned to the people, there will be just as much of it, and it will be equally as productive, and just as much room on it as there is now. But instead of a few people owning the whole of it, and farming it out to all the rest at the best possible prices, the people will possess it themselves in their own right, through just laws, paying for its possession to the government such moderate rates of taxes as shall be necessary to maintain the government.
But I may as well conclude what I have to say regarding railroads, which must also revert back to the people, and be conducted by them for the public benefit, as our common highways are now conducted. Vanderbilt, Scott & Co. are demonstrating it better and better every day that all the railroads of the country can be much more economically and advantageously conducted under one management than under a thousand different managements. They imagine that very soon they will have accomplished a complete consolidation of the entire system, and that by the power of that consolidation they will be able to control the government of this country.
But they will not be the first people who have made slight miscalculations as to ultimate results. Thomas Scott might make a splendid Secretary of the Department of Internal Improvements, for which the new Constitution, which this country is going to adopt, makes provision; but he will never realize his ambition to preside over the railroad system of the country in any other manner.
And I will tell you another benefit that will follow the nationalization of our railroads. You have all heard of the dealing in stocks, of the “bulls” and the “bears,” and the “longs” and the “shorts,” and the “lame ducks” of Wall street. Well, they will all be abolished. There will be no stocks in which to deal. That sort of speculation, by which gigantic swindlers corner a stock and take it in at their own figures, will, to use a vulgar phrase, be “played out.” And if you were to sec their customers, as I have seen them, rushing about Broad street to catch sight of the last per cent. of their margins as they disappear in the hungry maw of the complacent brokers, you would agree with me that it ought to be “played out.”
Under the system which I propose, not only will stock gambling be abolished, but also all other gambling, and the hundreds of thousands of able-bodied people who are now engaged in it, living from the products of others, will be compelled to go to producing themselves.
But, says the objector, take riches away from people and there will be no incentive to accumulate. But, my dear sir, we don’t propose to do anything of the kind, nor to destroy any wealth. There will never be any less wealth than now, but a constant increase upon it. We only propose that the people shall hold it in their own right, instead of its being held in trust for them by a self-appointed few. Instead of having a few millionaires, and millions on the verge of starvation, we propose that all shall possess a comfortable competence ¾ that is, shall possess the results of their own labors.
I can’t see where there is a chance for a lack of motive to come in. It seems to me that everybody will have a better and a more certain chance, as well as a better incentive to accumulate. Will the certainty of accumulation destroy the desire to accumulate? Nobody but the most stupid would attempt to maintain that. It is not great wealth in a few individuals that proves a country prosperous, but great general wealth evenly distributed among the people. That country must be the most prosperous and happy where the people are most generally comfortably and happily circumstanced. And in this country, instead of a hundredth part of the people living in palaces and riding in coaches, while the balance live in huts and travel on foot, every person may live in a palace and ride in a coach. I leave it to you to decide which is the preferable condition and which the more Christian.
And why should the rich object to this? If everybody has enough and to spare, should that be a subject of complaint? What more do people want, except it be for the purpose of tyrannizing over others dependent upon them? But no objections that may be raised will be potent enough to crush out the demand for equality now rising from an oppressed people. This demand the possessors of wealth cannot afford to ignore. It comes from a patiently-enduring people, who have waited already too long for the realization of the beautiful pictures of freedom which have been painted for them to admire; for the realization of the songs which poets have sung to its praise. Let me warn, nay, let me implore them not to be deaf to this demand, since they do not know so well as I know what temper there is behind it. I have tested it, and I know it is one that will not much longer brook the denial of justice.
But there is another monopoly of which I must speak — I mean the monopoly of money itself. We have seen how great a tyranny that is which arises from monopolizing the land. But that occurring from the monopoly of money, is a still more insidious and dangerous form of despotism, since its ramifications are more extensive and minute. It may be exercised by the person possessing a hundred, or by the person possessing a million dollars. But what is the process? A person inherits a half million dollars for which he never expended a single day’s labor. He sits in his office loaning that sum of money say, in sums of one thousand dollars to one thousand different persons, each of whom conducts a little business which yields just enough to support a family and to pay the interest. These people live for forty years in this manner, and die no better off than when they began life. But during that time they have paid all their extra production to the amount of four thousand dollars, each, to the capitalist; and, finally, the business itself is sold out to pay the principal. And thus it turns out that the capitalist obtains everything those thousand persons earned during their whole lives, they leaving nothing to their families. Now, what better is that result than it would have been had these people been slaves? Could their owners have obtained any more from them? I say they would have obtained less; since, had they been slaves in name, as in fact they were, there would have been times during the forty years that they would not have earned interest over cost of their support. Now, look at the capitalist. For one million dollars, and without the straining of a muscle, he receives five million dollars direct, which, reinvested from time to time as it increases, amounts at the end of the forty years to not less than fifteen millions dollars.
But try another example of a somewhat different kind. A person having four grown children, whom he has reared in luxury, and given all the facilities of education, dies, leaving each of them a farm worth twenty-five thousand dollars. These children having never learned the art of farming are incapable of conducting these farms; but they lease them to four different people for a thousand dollars a year each, and live at ease all their lives, therefrom, never so much as lifting their hands to do an hour’s labor. Now, who is it that supports those four people? Is it not clear that it is the people who work the farms? And how did it happen that they had the farms to lease? Simply by an incident for which there was no legitimate general cause, else why do not all children have farms and live without work?
Nor can you, my friends, discover anything approaching equality, or ought that looks like justice in that operation. I tell you nay! It is the most insidious despotism, with a single exception, that is possible among a people. It is a despotism which was condemned in all former times, even by barbarians, and which the Jews were only permitted to enforce upon people of other nations. It is the hideous vampire fastened upon the vitals of our people, sucking ¾ sucking ¾ sucking their very life’s blood, leaving just enough to keep up their vitality, that they may manufacture more. It is the heartless monster that will have the exact pound of flesh, even if there be loss of blood to obtain it, and there is no just judge near to prevent the taking, or to hold him to account if he take it. It paralyzes our industries; shuts the gates in the way that leads to our inexhaustible treasures within the bosom of mother earth; strips the stars and stripes from the masts of merchantmen; compels our immense cotton lands to luxuriate in weeds; robs our spindles of the power to turn them; and lays an embargo upon every productive enterprise. Whoever makes a movement to compel the earth to yield her wealth, or to transform that wealth into useful form, must first obtain the consent of this despot, and pay his demands for a license.
Thirteen millions of laborers in this country produce annually four thousand millions dollars of wealth, every dollar of which over and above the cost of living is paid over to appease the demands of this insatiate monster — this horrid demon, whose name is Interest.
We are told that we cannot manufacture railroad iron in this country as cheap as it can be manufactured in England. Yes! And why? Is it because we have no ore or no coal; or that, which is not as good as England has? No! We have on the surface what in England is hundreds of feet in the bowels of the earth, and coal the same; and both of better quality. But money can be put at interest in this country so as to double itself every four years, and be amply secured. What reason have capitalists to construct iron works, or to have their care, when twenty-five per cent. per year is returned them, without care or risk? And what is true of iron is also true of every other natural production. Is it any wonder that our manufacturers are obliged to demand that the people pay an additional per cent. upon everything they eat, drink or wear, that they may be protected in their various productive enterprises, when such exactions are laid upon them by this more than absolute monarch? No! It would indeed be a wonder if it were not so.
Now, do you suppose our markets would be flooded with British goods if our producing and manufacturing interests had all the money they require without interest? If there are any borrowers at ten per cent. who hear my voice, let them answer. No; it is the tribute that industry is compelled to pay to capital that forces our government to exact ten, twenty, fifty, aye, even a hundred per cent. for the privilege of bringing merchandise into this country.
But they tell us if we go to free trade that our country would be flooded with foreign products, so there would be absolutely no production of manufactured goods in the country. Now that would be true, if we should attempt free trade and leave the monster Interest with his grip upon our vitals. And here is the short-sightedness of Free-Traders. If we want free trade, we must, in the first place, attack, throttle and kill this demon, after which we may manufacture at prices that will not only absolutely forbid the importation of almost everything that is now imported, but which will also enable us to play the same game with Europe that Europe has played so long upon us. Free money in this country would abolish every European throne within ten years. And yet people cannot be made to sec that this country is their support. With free money what need would we have for a protective tariff? Can any Protectionist answer that?
You see, my friends, that it is the people who catch sight of an idea and pursue it to the death, regardless of relative ideas, who make reform so ridiculous. One reform cannot advance alone. All kinds of reform must go on together. Interest and free trade must go hand in hand; interest, if either, a little ahead.
And in this regard I am free to confess that the National Labor Union’s demand for a decrease of interest is the most reasonable single reform now being advocated. We want free trade; but we want free money first, so that not a spindle or forge in this country shall stop at the command of those across the ocean.
But how are we going to get free money? Why, in the very easiest way possible. It is the simplest problem of them all. I am not going into this discussion to prove to you that gold is not money, since everybody ought to know that it has no more the properties of money than cotton, corn and pork have the properties of money. Now, money is that thing which, if every dollar in circulation should be destroyed, there would be no loss of wealth. Gold, cotton, corn and wheat are wealth. Destroy these and there is a loss. But when money is destroyed, there is no more loss than when a promissory note is destroyed. A note is an evidence of debt. It is not wealth, but its representative. So also is money not wealth, but its representative. And if we had a thousand million dollars in circulation today, there would be no more wealth in the country than there now is, and we would have quite as much wealth if there were two thousand millions dollars, since money and wealth are two entirely distinct things.
But they tell us that unless money is made redeemable in gold, it is not of any account, and that, too, in the face of our miserable greenback system, which was so much better even than gold that it saved the nation when, had we stuck to gold, we should have been destroyed. Oh, but it was a depreciated currency, says some one. Yes, it was a depreciated currency, and we should have ample reason to be thankful if when we come to pay our bonds, we have a depreciated currency with which to liquidate them, instead of being obliged, as we shall, to pay a thousand dollars in cotton for what we realized less than five hundred in gold.
It is not the gold only of a country that constitutes its wealth. What should we care if we had not a single ounce of gold, if we had a thousand million bales of cotton, ten thousand millions bushels of corn and wheat, and a billion dollars’ worth of manufactured goods to send to other countries? So you see it is not the gold after all that makes a circulation good, but the sum total of all kinds of wealth. Now, that is what we propose to substitute for gold as the basis for a money issue. And instead of permitting corporations to issue it and remain at liberty to dispose of their property and let the people who hold their circulation whistle for its redemption, we propose that government, which can neither sell our property nor abscond with it, shall issue it for the people and lend it to them at cost; or if you will insist on paying interest for money, why, then, pay it to the government and lessen your taxes that much, instead of paying interest to bankers and supporting government besides.
Now, don’t you think that would be rather a good sort of a money system? I know that every manufacturer in the country would like it. But I can tell you who will not like it; and whom we may be compelled to fight before they will permit us to have it; and these are the money-lenders and money-changers, such as it is related the Head of the Christian Church — one Jesus Christ, of whom we hear a great deal said, but whose teachings and doctrines are wofully perverted — scourged out of the Temple at a place known as Jerusalem.
I have not been guilty of frequenting the temples of the country much of late, but if I am not misinformed upon the subject, and unless they have changed since I did frequent them, if Christ should pass through this land of a Sunday, scourge in hand, he would find plenty of work to do in the same line in which he labored so faithfully among the Jews.
But the National Labor Union say they won’t be so hard upon these money-lenders as we would be. They are willing that they shall be eased down from the vast height to which they have attained. They say they shall have three per cent. interest instead of six, seven, eight and ten, or as much more as they can steal out of the necessities of the case, by the circumstances and discounts. But they shall be limited to three per cent., and in a way that they cannot evade, as they now evade, lawful interest. It is proposed that government shall issue this money, but that it shall be convertible into a three per cent. interest-bearing bond; so that when money shall be so plenty that it will be worth less than three per cent. in business, it can be invested in bonds drawing three per cent.; and the bonds to also be reconvertible into money, so that the moment business shall demand more money than there should be in circulation — which would increase the value of money to more than three per cent. — the bonds would be converted into money again; and when there should be no more bonds to convert, and money still worth more than three per cent., then the Government shall issue more money to restore the equilibrium. In this way money would always be worth just three per cent. No more nor less, and there would always be just enough; or, in other words, money would be measured, as it never has been, and which has been the cause of all our financial troubles. What would you say to a person who should talk to you about measuring your corn in a bushel that had itself never been measured? But you complacently talk of money being a measure of values, and money has never had a measure regulating its own value.
But this consideration is only a stepping-stone to what shall be. Money must be made free from interest. In fact, I do not know but people who have money should pay something to have it securely loaned, the same as you must pay your Safe Deposit Companies for safely keeping bonds, jewels and other valuables. I think people ought to be made to pay for the safe keeping of money upon the same principle. Money under our present system is the only thing which we possess that does not depreciate in value by use. The more money is used, the more it increases; a proof complete of the fallacy and its despotism.
The Government now pay the banks thirty millions dollars per year for the privilege of loaning them about three hundred millions national currency, which the banks reloan to the people at an average of ten per cent. It seems to me that is almost too good a thing to last long. If the Government can afford to do this thing, why can’t they better afford to loan directly to the people for nothing, and save thirty millions dollars annually? Do you think the people would object? Oh, no; but the bankers would. But for all that the cry of “Down with the tyrant” is raised, and it will never cease until interest shall be among the things that were.
I also desire to call attention to the reduction of the Public Debt, and to the means by which this reduction has been accomplished. The Administration hangs almost all of its hopes upon this fact, while if it were thoroughly understood it would prove its condemnation. It has paid three hundred millions of the debt, they say. Who has paid it? we inquire. It fails to answer. We say that that entire payment has be made by the producing classes of the country, while the capitalists have not reduced their cash balances in the least. In other words, the producers have got no more money now than they had before the debt was paid, while the capitalists have had their bonds changed into money. Now, who have paid that three hundred millions dollars? I repeat the laboring people have done it, just as they pay all public debts and all public expenses, besides constantly adding to the wealth of the capitalists themselves. Can such a state of things continue? Again I tell you nay.
This wrong must be remedied by a system of progressive taxation. If persons having a hundred thousand dollars pay one-half per cent. tax, let those having a million pay ten per cent., or two millions twenty-five per cent. Let there be a penalty placed upon monopolizing the common property, and it will soon cease and equality come in its place. Now, the poorest woman who buys the cheapest calico pays a tax to the Government, while the rich appropriate her labor to pay their dues. Truly said Jesus, “The poor ye have with you always.”
Another mode of remedying the existing ills in industry and the distribution of wealth, must be in giving employees an actual interest in the products of their labors, so that ultimately co-operation will be the source of all production, its results being justly distributed among all those who assist in the production. First, pay the employer the same rate of interest for his capital that Government shall charge for loans made to the people; next, the general expenses, including salaries to himself and all employees, the remainder to be equitably divided among all who have an interest in it. Do you not see what a revolution in industrial production such a constitutional provision would effect? And do you not suppose if the workingmen and women of this country understood the justice of it, that they would have it? I intend that they shall have the required information. Already there have been half a million tracts upon these subjects sent broadcast over this land, and the present year shall see double as many more, until every laborer, male and female, shall hold in his or her own hands the method of deliverance from this great oppression.
But there is another consideration, which, more forcibly than any other, shows the suicidal policy which we pursue. If the present rates of interest are continued to be paid upon only the present banking capital and bonds of the country, for twenty-five years to come, the interest, with the principal added, will have absorbed the total present wealth, as well as its perspective increase. And such a consummation as this are the European capitalists now preparing for this country. Europe holds not less than three thousand millions of bonded indebtedness of this country, which is being augmented every month by additional railroad bonds, or some syndicate operation. So do you not see that European capital is gradually, but nevertheless inevitably, absorbing not only all of our annually produced wealth, but also acquiring an increased mortgage every year upon our accumulated wealth? There is no escaping these facts. Figures don’t lie. Mathematics is an absolute science from whose edicts there is no escape. And mathematics inform us that we are year by year mortgaging ourselves to European capitalists, who will ultimately step in and foreclose their mortgages, and possess themselves of our all, just as we foreclose our smaller mortgages, when there is no hope of a further increase from interest.
Besides the monopoly of land, money and public conveniences, there is another kind of monopoly still, which may appear rather strange and new to be thus classed, but it is nevertheless a terrible tyrant. I refer to the monopoly of education. I hold that a just government is in duty bound to see to it that all its children of both sexes have the same and equal opportunities for acquiring education, and that every person of adult age shall have graduated in the highest departments of learning, as well as in the arts, sciences and practical mechanics. Every person should be compelled to acquire a practical knowledge of some productive branch of labor, because the time will come when all people will be obliged to produce at least as much as they consume, or earn what they consume, as the paid agents of producers. What a revolution would that accomplish? If every person in the world was to work at production two hours a day there would be a larger aggregate produced than there is now. Therefore every person must learn the art of production, and thus be equal in resources to any other person, and Government must undertake the compulsory industrial education of all its children.
Thus I could continue analysis upon analysis, until not a stone in the foundations of our social structure would be left unturned, and all would be found unworthy of our civilization ¾ our boasted Christian civilization. I think Christianity has been preached at, long enough. I go for making a practical application of it at the very foundations of society. I believe in recognizing the broad principle of all religion ¾ that we are all children of one great common parent, God, which, since it disproves the propositions of the Church, that at least a large portion of us are the children of the devil, and renders the services of the clergy to save us from that inheritance unnecessary, will abolish our present system of a licensed and paid ministry. Thirty-five thousand ministers are paid twenty-five millions dollars annually for preaching the gospel in cathedrals costing two hundred and fifty millions dollars; and how many of them ever teach any fact other than that Jesus was crucified, just as though that would save us from the sloughs of ignorance in which we are sunk? Which one of them dare tell his congregation the truth, as he, if he be not a blockhead, knows it? I here and now impeach the clergy of the United States as dishonest and hypocritical, since the best of them acknowledge that they do not dare to preach the whole truth, for, if they should, they would have to preach to empty seats ¾ an admission sufficiently damnable to consign them to the contempt of the world and to the hell of which they prate so knowingly, but whose location they have not been able to determine, and to light the torch which shall fire the last one of these palatial mockeries of true religion.
Why, should Christ appear among these godly Christians as he did among the Jews, he would be arrested as a vagrant, or sent to jail for stealing corn; and in Connecticut, perhaps, for Sabbath-breaking, or for telling the maid at the well “all she had ever done,” which is now called fortune-telling, or for healing the sick by laying on of hands, which they denominate charlatanry. Christ and his Disciples and the multitude which he gathered together had all things in common. But every pulpit and every paper in this Christian country launch the thunders of their denunciations when that damnable doctrine is now advanced. Now, Christ was a Communist of the strictest sort, and so am I, and of the most extreme kind. I believe that God is the Father of all humanity and that we are brothers and sisters; and that it is not merely a theoretical or hypothetical nothing but a stern reality, to be reduced to a practical recognition. And they who cannot accept and practice this doctrine of Christ, and who still profess to be his followers, are simply stealing the livery of Christ in which to serve the devil in their own souls.
I do not care to what length Christians may stretch their faces of a Sunday, nor how much they pay to support their ministers; nor do I care how long prayers they may make, nor what sermons preach, when they denounce the fundamental principles of the teachings of Christ, I will turn upon and, in his language, utter their own condemnation: “Inasmuch as ye have not done it unto the least of these, ye have not done it unto” Christ. And they may make all the fuss, call me all the hard names, they please; but they can’t escape the judgment. And I don’t intend they shall have a chance to escape it. I am going to strip the masks of hypocrisy from their faces, and let the world see them as they are. They have had preaching without practice long enough. The people want practice now, and when they get it, they can even afford to do without the preaching.
These privileged classes of the people have an enduring hatred for me, and I am glad they have. I am the friend not only of freedom in all things, and in every form, but also for equality and justice as well. These cannot be inaugurated except through revolution. I am denounced as desiring to precipitate revolution. I acknowledge it. I am for revolution, if to get equality and justice it is required. I only want the people to have what it is their right to have — what the religion of humanity, what Christ, were he the arbiter, would give them. If, in getting that, the people find bayonets opposing them, it will not be their fault if they make their way through them by the aid of bayonets. And these persons who possess the monopolies and who guard them by bayonets, need not comfort themselves with the idea that the people won’t fight for their rights. Did they not spring to arms from every quarter to fight for the negro? And will you say they will not do the same against this other slavery, compared to which the former is as an gentle shower to a raging tempest?
Don’t flatter yourselves, gentlemen despots, that you are going to escape under that assumption. You will have to yield, and it will be best for you to do it gracefully. You are but as one to seven against them. Numbers will win. It will be your own obduracy if they are goaded on to madness. Do not rely upon their ignorance of the true condition. Upon that you have anchored your hopes as long as it is safe. There are too many reform newspapers in circulation. And though the columns of all our great dailies are shut to their truths, still there are channels through which they flow to the people¾aye, even to those who delve in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, seldom seeing the joyous sunshine. And this education shall continue until every person who contributes to the maintenance of another in luxurious idleness shall know how such a result is rendered possible.
Hence, I say, it lies in the hands of those who have maintained this despotism over the common people to yield it up to them and recognize their just relations.
And remember what I say to you to-night: If this that is claimed is not granted — if, beside freedom, equality is not made possible by your giving up this power, by which the laborer is robbed of the results of his labor, before our next centennial birthday, July 4th, 1876, you will have precipitated the most terrible war that the earth has yet known.
For three years before the breaking out of the slavery rebellion I saw and heard with my spiritual senses the marching of armies, the rattle of musketry, and the roar of cannon; and I already hear and see the approach of this more terrible contest. I know it is coming. There is but one way in which it can be averted. There was one way by which the slave war could have been avoided — the abolition of slavery. But the slave oligarchy would not listen to our Garrisons, Sumners, Tiltons and Douglases. They tried the arbitration of war, but they lost their slaves at last. Now, will not these later oligarchies — the land, the railroad, the money aristocracies — learn a lesson from their terrible fate? Will they not listen to the abolitionists — to the Garrisons, the Sumners, the Tiltons and the Douglases — of to-day? Will they try the arbitration of war, which will result as did the last, in the loss of that for which they fight? I would that they should learn wisdom by experience. The slaveholders could have obtained compensation for their negroes. They refused it and lost all. Ponder that lesson well, and do not neglect to give it its true application. You can compromise now, and the same general end be arrived at without the baptism of blood. It shall not be my fault if that baptism comes. Nevertheless, equality and justice are on the march, and they cannot be hindered. They must and will attain their journey’s end. The people shall be delivered.
I have several times referred to the methods by which these things may be accomplished. They are impossible under our present Constitution. It is too restricted, too narrow, to admit even an idea of a common humanity. True, its text is complete, but its framework does not carry out the original design. Even George Washington, himself, was accused of treachery for countenancing so great a departure as was made; and the late war justified the grounds upon which that accusation was founded. The text of the Constitution held these truths to be self-evident, “That all men (and women) are born equal and entitled to certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Constitution should have been erected in harmony with those declarations. It was not. There is no such thing as equality provided for. Life and liberty have not been held inalienable under it; the pursuit of happiness has been outrageously interfered with, and the government has been made to exist without the consent of the governed; and exists to-day against the protests of a large number of its subjects.
Is it to be expected that anything so false as that is to its basic propositions can be made enduring? It is against the constitution of nature itself that it should be so. Nature is always true to itself, and will always vindicate itself. If hedged in and obstructed, it will burst through or find its way around. The needle is not truer to the pole than is Nature to the truth. And Nature is always just. Those propositions were deduced from human rights, regardless of any authority or despotism. Had they been elucidated — had their principles guided the construction of the Constitution itself, all would have been well. What our fathers failed to do is left for this generation to perform; and it must not shirk the duty. It must look the condition squarely in the face, and meet the issue as squarely.
What issues must be met and provided for in order that human rights may be respected and protected? I have already referred to the monopolies that must be abolished. But there are also many other things. I will call attention first to minority representation, which lies at the base of a representative government. The State of Massachusetts has eleven representatives in Congress, and they are all Republicans. Justice would infer that there are no Democrats in the State. But such is not the fact. There are a large body of Democrats. They are not represented. That is the fault of the system of arriving at representation. While it is true that majorities must rule, that is not equal to saying that minorities shall have no voice. But the practice in Massachusetts does say just that. I suspect if it were possible for all the real differences, politically, to be represented, that the Congressmen would stand something as follows: The Democrats would have, say, four out of the eleven, the Republicans, say, three, while the remainder would be divided between the Labor and Temperance Reformers and Woman Suffragists. Indeed, I am not certain if the door were to be opened that there would be any straight Republicans left, since all reformers are, under the present system, compelled to congregate together in this party, so as not to entirely throw away their votes. The Democrats are always Democrats. Like the hard-shell Baptists, you always know where to find them.
They are always on hand to vote early, and often also, if opportunity permit. Admit minority representation, and the Republican party in Massachusetts would be abolished, except that part who carry the loaves and eat the fishes. They are as certain to be found “right there” as the Democrats are. I think the Woman Suffragists cover about one-half the Republican party. But a large body of them are Spiritualists and Temperance men, while as many more are Labor Reformers. But those who are more Labor Reformers than anything else, are perhaps two-sevenths; who are more Woman Suffragists than anything else, are perhaps two-sevenths; who are more Spiritualists than anything else, perhaps two-sevenths; and who are more Temperance men than anything else, one-seventh; therefore, if the delegation were elected by the representation of minorities, it would stand four Democrats, two Spiritualists, two Labor Reformers, two Woman Suffragists, and one Temperance man. But all of these, however, would be again swallowed up whenever a Human Rights party should be evolved, and that will be the party of the near future, in whose all embracing arms the people, long suffering and long waiting, will at last find repose, while the Goddess of Liberty, with her scales of equality, shall find no more of her subjects to whom justice is not measured out. Then will partisan politics have received its death warrant; then will the people become one in heart, one in soul and one in common purpose ¾ the general good. of the general whole. The “greatest good of the greatest number will be supplanted by: “the general welfare, is best maintained when individual interests are best protected.” The new government, then, must be the result of minority representation, and all legislative bodies, and, where possible, all executive officers, be so elected, while the people shall retain the appointing as well as the veto power. Our lawmakers must be made law proposers, who shall construct law to be submitted to the people for their approval, in the same manner as our public conventions appoint committees to draft resolutions, which are afterward adopted or rejected by the convention itself. This will make every person a legislator, having a. direct interest in every law. The people will then no longer elect representatives to make laws by which they must be bound whether they approve or disapprove. The referendum is the desired end. The referendum is what the people require, and it is what the new Constitution must provide. So that in all future time the people themselves will be their own lawmakers¾will be the government.
The people must appoint all their officers, heads of departments and bureaus at regular intervals, and all under assistants, during faithful performance of duty. We want no Civil Service Commissions. Every person who shall be eligible to office under the new government will be competent; and when once familiar with the duties, will not be removed to give room for the friend of some politician belonging to the party in power, since it would be the people in power at all times.
Another matter which must have attention is the sweeping away of that jeu de’esprit, our courts of justice, by making all kinds of contracts stand upon the honor and capacity of the contracting parties. All individual matters must be settled by the individuals themselves without appeal to the public. Our present system of enforced collection of debts costs every year more than is realized, and besides maintains a vast army of lawyers, constables and court officers in unproductive employ. All this is wrong, entailing almost untold exactions upon the producing community, who in the end are made to pay all these things.
Further, our system of oaths and bonds must be abolished. This swearing people to tell the truth, and binding them to perform their duty, presupposes that they will lie and neglect their duty. People are always placed upon the side of force and compulsion — never upon that of personal rectitude and honor. The results are what might be expected. It plunges us into the very things we would avoid. There is a philosophy, too, in all these things; since in freedom only can purity exist. Anything that is not free is not pure. Anything that is accompanied by compulsion is no proof of individual honesty.
The new government must also take immediate steps for the abolition of pauperism and beggary. It is an infamous reproach upon this country that there are hundreds of thousands of people who subsist themselves upon individual charity. I do not care whether this is from choice or necessity. I say it is a burning shame, requiring immediate curative steps. The indigent and helpless classes are just as much a part of our social body as the protected and the rich are, and they are entitled to its recognition. Society must no longer punish and compel suffering and death for its own wrongs. It must evolve such a social system as shall leave no single member of the common body to suffer. When one member of the body suffers, the whole body sympathizes. So, also, when a member of the social body suffers, does the whole body suffer. And yet we have pretended philanthropists and Christians who have never grasped that truth.
Our civilization and our Christianity have been made too much a matter of faith in, and devotion to, the unknowable, divorced from all human relations. We must first recognize and practice the brotherhood of man before we can be made to realize the Paternity of God, since “if we love not our brothers whom we have seen, how can we love God whom we have not seen.” Our religious teaching has been too much of punishment, and too little of love; too much of faith, too little of works; too much of sectarianism, too little of humanitarianism; too much of hell-fire arbitration, too little of inevitable law; and too much of self-righteousness, and too little of innate goodness.
And here I cannot forbear to depart from the strict line of my subject to say a word regarding a doctrine, from the effects of which even this country is but slowly recovering ¾ that of eternal damnation! I say, that a people who really believe in a God who could burn his own children in a lake of literal fire and brimstone, “where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched,” and from which there is no present escape nor future hope, for a single unrepented misdeed, and still profess to honor, love and worship a fiend so infernal as that would make Him, cannot be honest and conscientious, since they must mistake fear for love, and confound sycophancy with worship. It was such a belief that kindled the fires by which the early martyrs perished, by which the Quakers of Massachusetts were burned and the witches hanged, and which invented the terrible Inquisition, with its horrid racks and tortures. These are the legitimate results of such a belief; and if the people of to-day really believed what they profess in their creeds, they would do precisely the same things. And they would be justified, since it would be merciful in them to subject a person to a few moments’ torture, to induce him or her to escape the eternal tortures of Hell, the horrors of which all the ingenuity men can command could not invent a torture one-hundredth part as inhuman; and yet they say our Heavenly Father has prepared this for nineteen-twentieths of humanity.
Thank Heaven, however, the day has come when such libels upon the name of God are rapidly merging into the gray twilight, to soon sink in blank, unfathomable oblivion. Thank Heaven, for its own approach earthward, to strike off the chains of superstition from humanity, and for the first faint glimmering of light shed upon us by its angels’ faces, proving to us that humanity, whether of earth or heaven, is:
“One life for those who live and those who die —
For those whom sight knows and whom memory.”
The Jews would not accept Christ since he came not with temporal power. But Christ will come in the power of the spirit, and shall baptise all humanity. Already His messengers begin to herald the “glad tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people.” Already the music of the approaching harmonies are heard from the hill-tops of spirituality singing the approaching millennium. Already its divine notes have pierced some of the dark places of earth, making glad the hearts of their oppressed children, shedding light and truth and joy into their souls. The prophecies of all ages converge upon this, and for their fulfillment, Christ, with all his holy angels, will come to judge the world, and to erect upon it that government already inaugurated in Heaven and long promised Earth, for
“Decrees are sealed in Heaven’s own chancery,
Proclaiming universal liberty.
Rulers and kings who will not hear the call,
In one dread home shall thunder-stricken fall.
“So moves the growing world with march sublime,
Setting new music to the beats of time.
Old things decay, and new things ceaseless spring,
And God’s own face is seen in everything.”
Therefore it is that there shall soon come a time in which the people will ask for universal liberty, universal equality, and universal justice. Heretofore all branches of reform have been separated each from the other ¾ have been diffusive, working in single and straight lines from a principle outward, utterly regardless of all other movements. Reform has never yet been constructive, but destructive to existing things. Nevertheless, all reform originates primarily from a common cause — the effort of humanity to attain to the full exercise of human right, only attainable through the possession of freedom, equality and justice. Any reform which does not embrace these three principles must necessarily be diffusive, instructive or educational. Each different branch is the squaring of a separate stone, all of which must be brought together and adjusted before even the corner-stone of the perfect and permanent structure can be laid. Republicanism even was not integral in its propositions. It looked simply to personal freedom. Neither equality in its high, or justice in its broad, sense was a portion of its creed. Hence republicanism as represented by the party in power has done its work, and those who prefer to stick to it rather than to come out and rally around a platform perfect in humanitarian principles, will thus show themselves to be more republican than humanitarian.
As a nation we are nearing our first centennial birth-day. A hundred years have come and gone since political freedom was evolved from the womb of civilization. Great as its mission was, great as its results have been, shall the car of progress stop there? Is there nothing more for humanity to accomplish? I tell you there are still mightier and more glorious things to come than human tongue hath spoken or heart conceived. Little did our noble sires imagine what a century would do with what they set in motion. From three to forty millions is a grand, I may almost say a terrible, stride. But with this step we cannot stop. We must open new channels for the expansion of the human soul.
Up to this time we have expanded almost wholly in a material and intellectual sense. There is a grander expansion than either of these. Wealth and knowledge have brought us power, but we lack wisdom. To material prosperity and intellectual acquirements there must be added moral purity, and then we shall get wisdom. Everybody appears to live as though this life were all there is of life, and that to get from it the most physical enjoyment were the grand thing to be attained. Wealth has been made almost the sole aim of living, whereas it should only be regarded as the means to a better end; as the means by which to accumulate an immense capital with which to begin life in the next and higher stage of existence; and he or she lives best on earth who does the most for humanity.
In this view, what are professing Christians ¾ the churches — doing for the general good to-day? What good can come from preaching without practice, since, though people may be able to say, “All of these have I kept from my youth up,” Christ, when he shall come, will reply to them: “Go sell all thou hath and give to the poor, and come and follow me.” What clergyman in this city dare stand in his pulpit Sunday after Sunday and insist upon such practice? or what one dare to insist that his church should have all things in common? or what one dare to eat with publicans and sinners, or say to the woman, “Neither do I condemn thee.” Or which one of the people dare go to her poor, enslaved and suffering sisters and take them to her heart and home? or be the good Samaritan? I tell you, my friends, beware lest those whom you scorn to know be before you with Christ, who knows the heart. It is not what you pretend that shall make you Christian, but what you do, and if you do right, though the world curse you, yet shall you lay up treasures in Heaven thereby. Therefore, I say that the Christianity of to-day is a failure. It is not the following of Christ, nor the practice of his precepts. True religion will not shut itself up in any church away from humanity; it will not stand idly by and see the people suffer from any misery whatever. It is its sphere to cure all ills, whether moral, social or political. There are no distinctions in humanity. Everything to be truly good and grand, whether it be in politics, society or religion, must be truly moral, and to be truly moral is to live the Golden Rule.
Therefore, it is foolish for the Christian to say, “I have nothing to do with politics, as a Christian. It is the bounden duty of every Christian to support that political party which bases itself upon Human Rights; and if there is no such party existing, then to go about to construct one. It is too late in the century for a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States to be a political thief and trickster as a politician, while he issues a call asking that the people inject God into the Constitution. Such consummate hypocrisy is an outrage upon the intelligence of the nineteenth century; and it will meet its just reward.
If they would take the precepts of Christ and build a new Constitution upon them, nobody would object; but to be asked to recognize a God whom these people have themselves fashioned and set up, who hath not even human sense of justice, is quite a different thing, and one to which this people will not submit. I could point out to you why this attempt is made just at this time, but I rather prefer to point out how this and all other attempts to put fetters upon the people must be avoided, and how to break the fetters by which they are already galled.
Permit me to ask what practical good arises from the people’s coming together and merely passing a set of resolutions. You may pass resolutions with whereases and therefores a mile long, and what will be the result unless they are made practical use of. What would you say to a person who should come before you with a resolution setting forth that whereas, thus and thus, are so and so, therefore some new invention ought to be made to meet the conditions. Why you would at once say to him, “Give us the invention; then we shall be able to judge whether your therefore bears any relation to your whereas.” Now precisely in that way should you judge of resolutions for political reform. We have had resolutions long enough. We now need a working model which will secure freedom, equality and justice to the smallest of our brothers and sisters. Anything less than this is no longer worthy to be considered political reform; and that is not only political reform, but it is also the best application possible of the precepts of Jesus Christ, and therefore the best Christianity, the best religion, since to its creed every human being who is not supremely selfish can subscribe.
In conclusion, therefore, let me urge every soul who desires to be truly Christian to no longer separate Christianity from politics, but to make it the base upon which to build the future political structure. Instead of an amendment to the Constitution, which these hypocrites desire, recognizing a God who is simply the Father of themselves, and a Christ of whom they are the self-appointed representatives, give us a new Constitution, recognizing the human rights of the people to govern themselves, of which they cannot be robbed under any pretext whatever, and my word for it, humanity will not be slow to render due homage to their God. Let that Constitution give a place to every branch of reform, while it shall not so much as militate against the rights of a single individual in the whole world ¾ and we are large enough to begin to say the whole world — and to think of and prepare the way for the time when all nations, kindred and tongues shall be united in a universal government, and the Constitution of the United States of the World be the
Around this as a New Departure let all reformers rally, and, with a grand impulse and a generous enthusiasm, join in a common effort for the great political revolution, after the accomplishment of which the nations shall have cause to learn war no more.
Source: A Speech on the Impending Revolution Delivered in Music Hall, Boston, Thursday, Feb. 1, 1872, and the Academy of Music, New York, Feb. 20, 1872, by Victoria C. Woodhull (New York: Woodhull, Claflin & Co., Publishers) 1872, pp. 3-39.