Paul Brown, The Radical, I (1834)

When I added Paul Brown’s Twelve Months in New Harmony to the Labyrinth, I promised to follow up with some of Brown’s other work. Here’s a start, the first in a series of thirty-two essays that he wrote under the title The Radical and Advocate of Equality and published in 1834. Subtitled “a series of expostulatory animadversions on the present state of practical politics and morals, with a view to an access of improvement,” the essays cover everything from class theory to education, and include Brown’s opinions on such topics as fashion and plagiarism. It is clear that Brown had not mellowed much in the years after his New Harmony experiences. His introduction includes the following:

I am my own judge in politics, morals, language, logic and grammar; and ask for no particular instructions on these branches. I shall use my own style, syntax and punctuation. I shall use hisself and theirselves in the nominative instead of himself and themselves, and that for several reasons best known to myself.

In part, he just prefered the sound, and he was never shy about asserting his preferences. In part, it’s Brown’s boldness that makes him of interest today.



Source of Oppression; and Means of Reform.

Distempers which affect the constitution and which have arrived at depraving the whole machine, the secerning and absorbent systems being empaired, so that the blood as well as all the fluids of the body have become corrupt and vitiated, require remedies that have a tendency to renovate the fluids, and in a great measure the whole of the organs of the animal frame. In case of local aggregation of morbid humors, skillful physicians have recourse to applications calculated not to favor or support it, but to operate against and to diminish it by exciting proportional activity in the impoverished parts, gradually restoring that equilibrium of heat which characterises health.

It is very much the same in the constitutional disorders of society, affecting the body politic, as in those of the animal system. Extreme cases require extreme applications. Radical disorders call for radical remedies. In such a sort of government as ours, if any are aggrieved, and suffer privation, those of the class or classes aggrieved require in the first place to be fairly represented. And how can they be fairly represented, except by persons from their own classes or conditions, who have had experience of such grievance? ‘They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.’ People are not disposed to change their condition till they are dissatisfied with it. Those who suffer no trouble nor inconvenience in consequence of [8] the existing institutions and arrangements of society, cannot feel the urgency of altering them. The rich cannot fairly represent the poor, if they never have been poor; because they cannot perfectly sympathize with them, having no adequate conception of their troubles from experimental knowledge; neither are they apt to conceive accurately of the sources of those troubles. They are scarcely to be trusted upon their promise to advocate the cause of the poor and oppressed; for they will be wanting in skill and energy to advocate it, if they happen to be sincere. Those who never knew what it was to be hungry without a sure resource to allay their hunger; and those who never knew what it was to be destitute of employment that would yield them a support and, under a necessity of asking others to employ them, to be disappointed rejected. and kept out of work, [or if perchance they ever get it, to be fain to have their kind of work, their number of hours’ work, their diet, or their wages or all these, prescribed and bounded by such as hold the means of that employment and command exclusive resources,] do not so much as know that such things are incident to the conditions of any individuals in this country. If they ever believe such instances, they are more likely to ascribe them to false causes than the true. How can they be fit persons to represent, and be deputies for, such as suffer those misfortunes to the end that the constitution of society may be so modified as to remove their causes?

What is the source of the injustice which certain classes and portions of the people suffer? We must look for it in the laws, the regulations, and the established customs of political society: and here we shall assuredly find it. Who makes these laws and regulations, in such a country as this? You will say, “the representatives of the people.” Who appoints the representatives? The people. Who ad-[9]-ministers these laws? Those whom the people appoint and choose, to be their agents. What is ‘the people,’ that appoints these things? Why, to be sure, it is either the whole of the people, or a majority of the whole people, or the majority of part of them. If it is not a majority of all the people that are twenty-one years of age, it is something they have tacitly agreed and consented to call the majority. It is the majority of something. Or. if it is not mathematically this thing, that, nor the other, it is something for any one to guess at. Let this question rest. They are people that make these appointments. But, what rule of estimate and what criterion do the people adopt in selecting these persons to represent them and to administer their laws? They have hitherto been RICH MEN. Rich men then have made the existing laws and regulations. Are they adverse to the welfare of the poor? Then they favor the interest of the rich: For these have partitioned themselves and set their interest in opposition to the interest of the poor. It is hostile to the manifest interest of the poor that there should be any rich, having powers, opportunities and privileges, superior to the poor. It is subversive of utility and justice. A philanthropist will not remain rich if he happens to be so. He is continually diffusing his possessions, according to his skill in applying them to the improving of the condition of society, and raising the fortunes of the poor. These poor and unfortunate, so far forth as they have become sensible of the source of their suffering, feel themselves OPPRESSED AND UNJUSTLY TREATED BY SOCIETY, that they never have had their DUE SHARE OF WEALTH, and that they have not equal opportunities and powers with others; in short, that they are deprived of their RIGHTS.

What now are the desiderata which we who feel ourselves oppressed and circumscribed in our natural rights are in pursuit of when we make efforts to [10] change for the better the arrangements and regulations of society?

We want an equalization of the property of lands and the main resources of subsistence, so that we can have secured to us equal opportunities of access to a comfortable livelihood, both as it respects employment and other means necessary to preserve health and life. And we want assurance of the same access to all useful knowledge that others have; that no set of men may in future have advantage of superior knowledge to cheat us out of any of our rights.

In order to approximate these as near as possibly the present state of civilization will permit, we require, first, the total repeal and abolition of several oppressive laws and regulations, to give place to other and better ones:—Secondly, certain general laws to be established by which all children in these states shall be educated equally, i. e. shall have precisely the same external means of education, at the public expense. Of these I shall speak more particularly, in their order, in future papers.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2301 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.

1 Comment

  1. One policy change I am working very hard to bring about is mandatory compliance with journalists. My definition of this is anyone who is a recognized public figure MUST agree to a certain level of examination by the press. Anythnig else is tyranny via secrecy.

    My upcoming book on prostitution could not have been researched any other way. A prostitute with a web page is a public figure. I used this argument with a great deal of success in convincing police departments in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and of course the District of Columbia to work with me towards a common objective.

    You will see the results in bits and pieces if not fits and starts in Reason Magazine starting in 2007. The book will be finished in late 2007 and I hope for it to be publishedin 2008.

    I would like to thank the Competitive Enterprise Institute for supporting me. The CEI is a great place!

    All the best for the new year!

    John Berlau

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