Clement M. Hammond, “Then and Now” (1884)




Boston, August 23, 2084.

My dear Louise:

I most sincerely trust that these arguments of Mr. De Demain will not cause you to distrust even, to say nothing of hate, governments. We women, above all should use our utmost endeavor to defend the State from the attacks of its enemies. How carefully it looks after all our interests, asking in return nothing, or, at least, nothing more than taxes! Of course we ought to have the right to vote, but it is not the fault of the State that we do not. No, no! Governments were given to man by God. Man must not abolish them. If he does, as he has here, I am sure there is a terrible punishment in store for him.

What if Anarchy has proved a blessing to the many? Is it the many that this is for? Did not God anoint kings and watch over and care for a people that he called “his people”? Were not all other peoples prey for “his people”? Were not the armies of his people made strong with afflatus that they might overcome the other peoples of the earth? Should it not be so today? Should not the people of wealth, superior intelligence, and education be God’s chosen, and should they not conquer and rule the earth? Happiness is not for the many, but for the favored few. It is a divine gift to superior beings. Must we share it with the common herd? Must we be regarded as simply shareholders with all others in the world? No, no! Anarchy is a conception of man: the State is a conception of God. What if man’s scheme does appear better for man than God’s? Are we to trust it? No, no!

These arguments against Anarchy are all-powerful: it is not god-given; it makes happiness a privilege of all; it does not allow a small, and consequently select and educated, minority to set up a standard of right by which all must gauge their moral yardsticks.

Louise,—in strict confidence,—I am convinced that Anarchy is better, far better, for the majority than the government of the State, but power, wealth, and privileges are lost through it to the few. We, so long as we are of the few, must oppose it; we, so long as we are of the few, and consequently of the strong, can oppose it. We can say to the many: “You have the right to become one of the few, if you can;” and so they praise us for being just. We have hoodwinked the people for so many generations that—but it is no use. Anarchy is today a fact. In spite of all you and I may do, our children’s children will know from experience the true meaning of Anarchy.

Mr. De Demain is still very kind and patient toward me, and really seems to enjoy giving me little lectures on individual government and its results. By the way, I think I forgot to write you before that he is a fine-looking young man of about thirty-five. He is a teacher in Harvard College.

“Are you still interested in the subject of crime and its prevention and punishment under Anarchy?” asked he, when he called just after I sent you my last letter. I, of course, was only too glad to have him continue the subject, which he did as follows:

“With governments were wiped out directly one-half the crimes in the calendar. The State always regarded it a most serious crime to compete with it in any branch of business which it monopolized, and it monopolized, or granted as a monopoly, the most important of all business ventures, money-issuing. As you know, without having your attention called to the fact by me, States named in laws hundreds of things—for instance, Sabbath-breaking, refusal to pay taxes for the privilege of voting, peddling without a license, etc., etc.—as crimes, which were crimes simply because the State said they should be so considered.”

“But,” said I, “vox populi, vox dei.”

“The voice of the people,” replied he, “does not mean the voice of the majority even of the people, much less a minority, which always, even with the most liberal suffrage, decided such questions. The voice of the people that are willing to abide by that voice—not that are compelled to—is the voice of god, in fact is god—the only god we acknowledge.

“Anarchy was as a seed. How the first germ was produced we cannot tell. It grew, and produced a hundredfold. The plant became indigenous to every climate, so strong, so healthy, so hardy was it. As it was found impossible to root it out, many for a time took it for a weed. But as it flourished, mankind began to taste its fruit and seek its shelter. When the few saw its blessings, they cultivated it, and it throve so under care that it soon shaded every highway of life, and its fruit was the food of all. Its growth was more wonderful than that of the mustard seed of the Bible parable, and instead of being, like the grown mustard seed, simply shelter to the birds of the air, it was a shelter to all mankind.

“In order for you to clearly understand how Anarchy superseded governments, it will be necessary for you to read the history of the past century, the twentieth. I trust that you will do so during your stay with us. You had the founders of Anarchistic liberty about you in the world from which you came. You called some cranks, some idle theorists, some assassins. They put their shoulders to the wheel of the wagon of the world, and tried to push it out of the deep and muddy ruts in which it was slowly lumbering along. It carried a pretty heavy load. In it, comfortably seated, were statesmen, politicians, bankers, stock gamblers, priests, poets, novelists, college professors, school teachers, editors, and literary men of all classes. They did not care to get out and make the road any better. They jeered at the Anarchists, and in every possible way hindered their work. But the worst part of the load was the great middle class of humanity, who kept climbing on and tumbling off; now struggling inharmoniously to drag the wagon with the hope of soon being able to ride, now riding with the constant fear that at any moment they might be obliged to get out and help to keep the thing from going out of sight altogether in the mud. They never thought that a better road-bed would improve matters. The sturdy toilers at the wheels appealed to the reason of the strong, comfortably seated inside, and the weak ones struggling outside, but the brain is a hard thing to move. It is the stomach that must be touched. This the Anarchists saw at last, and a scheme was devised whereby the muddy road was dried and made hard, and the wagon rolled on, carrying comfortably all humanity. What this scheme was history will tell you.

“Anarchy, like the religion of Jesus Christ, took hold slowly at first on the people’s minds. To those who were liberal enough to take even a superficial view of it it appeared a beautiful theory, but utterly impracticable. It was a noble, pure conception—too noble and pure for ordinary humanity. To those who would not even look at its surface, but who persisted in looking over it at an imaginary figure in the background, it was something worse than a crime. It was absurd. It meant chaos. It was the distorted conception of dangerous maniacs. Thinking men—that is, men who were commonly in the habit of thinking on other subjects—occasionally picked up stray bits of Anarchistic literature, and from a hasty glance at them formed their conception of the thing itself. They simply went far enough to discover that Anarchy meant abolition of majority rule, and they were so imbued with the idea that society, composed of good and bad men, could not exist, except as a mass of warring people, without such rule, that they set it down as impossible. These were the men who kept on fighting religious superstition after religious superstition was dead. They delighted in creating imaginary dragons and other terrible monsters, and then sallying forth with lance in hand and riding at them full tilt. Their most pleasant pastime was in stuffing the skin of a dead belief with straw and then kicking the straw out of the skin all over the country. They became so engrossed in this seed-bag fox hunting that the real, live fox was stealing and eating their poultry under their very noses. To them the Anarchists were good, able, well-meaning men, but very deluded, very cranky. They had pity for them, pity that so much brain should go to waste when it might be demoted to devising new means whereby old-time and long-since-dead monsters might be revivified and then slain.

“Visionary men, so the Anarchists were called by the liberal; bad men they were called by the bigoted: but they were the least visionary of all men and not one-tenth part so bad as those who called them bad. Their labor was to improve the conditions under which humanity labored, knowing that by this means humanity would be improved. Those who opposed them said: ‘Let us improve humanity, and then the conditions under which humanity lives will improve.’ Which was the more visionary scheme? How was humanity to be improved? The liberals said by education; the bigots said by religion. Could anything have been more visionary? At the rate education was improving humanity two centuries ago, several more centuries would yet have to elapse before it would have secured much better conditions, and several cycles would have still to elapse if religion were relied upon.”

Mr. De Demain had called to invite me to accompany him to a concert, not of music, but of color and motion. It is a new idea in amusements, and I shall tell you about it in some future letter.


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About Shawn P. Wilbur 2132 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.