Works by Paul Brown:
- Disquisition on Faith (1822)
- Inquiry Concerning the Nature, End and Practicability of a course of Philosophical Education (1822)
- Gray Light [serial] (1825–1827)
- The Substance of a Lecture delivered at New-Harmony, on Sunday, May 26th. 1826
- Twelve Months in New Harmony (1827)
- Lecture, Concerning Marriage (1830)
- “A Dialogue on Commonwealths” (pre-1834)
- The Radical and Advocate of Equality (1834)
- March of Aristocracy (unpublished manuscrip., 1830s)
- The Woodcutter or a Glimpse of the 19th Century at the West (unpublished manuscript, 1839)
- Paul Brown in the “Boston Investigator” (1832–1847)
“In the year 1825, it will be remembered that much was written on the subject of socialism and social reform, and that among the writers and advocates of such a reformation was Robert Owen, father of the late Robert Dale Owen, and who will ever be remembered as a humanitarian of the most noble type, unbounded benevolence, and stainless purity of character and reputation, of New Lanack, Scotland. Paul Brown, one of the clearest writers and thinkers on that subject; Josiah Warren, a man somewhat Utopian in his ideas, but, nevertheless, upright and honest in his convictions, and many others, were prominent in their efforts to awaken the public mind to consideration of the subject. Paul Brown and Josiah Warren being in the West and visitors at the Kendal Community, were known to the writer. Men and women of liberal and enlarged views, and who might well be classed among the most advanced thinkers, gave the subject attention, and the result was, that, in the summer of 1826, many of the residents of Perry and Tuscarawas Townships and also from Portage County, after various meetings and discussions of the subject, determined to organize a community based generally upon the views of Robert Owen; the name adopted by the association was the Kendal Community. The name given it by the, public was the “Owenites.” They purchased of the estate of Thomas Botch, 2,113 acres of land in the neighborhood of Kendal and Masisillon, together with some town lots, improved and unimproved, in Kendal, for $20,000.”—History of Stark County, p. 387.
For the New-Harmony Gazette.
GRAY LIGHT.—NO. I.
The inception and first instance of any mode, when not immediately perceived, is not an object of intuition or demonstrative knowledge. Such as that of the commencing of a customary way of subsisting, among the individuals of a race of animals with whatever degree of intelligence endued, must be abstracted to the most general sense, before it can be an object of assurance. To go to particulars, as of time, words, &c., is to carry the subject into the province of fiction. If we take into our purport the ideas of the names or shapes of persons,—the place where and the time when, i. e. the number of revolutions of the earth since, such a circumstance took place, as the herding together of several individuals of the human species, or the consociating of two individuals of that species, we cannot make the proposition an object of assurance, by the scale of a dialectic process. True logic excludes sophistry. It detects it. It condemns it. That a man and a woman have existed in time past in a state of society, is a conclusive inference from what we at present have knowledge of. But whether that man and woman had existed always ever since matter existed, or, having generated from other individuals, the same species has existed in the same forms ever since matter exists, we can never have certainty; though perhaps we can have assurance that they have not; inasmuch as organic combinations of particles of substance have been discovered to be in a progressive state of refining alteration, and seeming advancement towards perfection.
Some reckon that there existing now such beings as mankind, ad they not having power to create or produce particles or masses of matter de novo, proves demonstratively that they had a beginning; that there was a time when they began to exist. The very ideas in this proposition, are extremely obscure. It cannot be made altogether clear, for the beginning of a substance is scarcely comprehensible. It is only a new combination, of things already existing, that we conceive of, under the predicament of producing, causing to exist, or commencing to be. But I say, these fact do not prove the thing demonstratively; although they may carry us as far as assurance.—These and some other considerations, may, in regard to the commencing of the species, possibly carry our evidence up as far as a rational ground of assurance, and no farther. Nevertheless; that at this or that particular spot on earth at such a particular number of years past, A, and B, or individuals of some given names, commenced the human family, and were the first individuals of that species that ever existed, or the first that ever lived together, is evidently a sort of proposition which cannot be proven to so high a degree of faith as assurance. It is an object of a lower degree of faith as assurance. It is an object of a lower degree of faith. The evidence cannot be carried so high as the proper graduated ground of full assurance. I speak with reference to the standing state of things. I do not say it is impossible for a proposition of such nature to be an object of knowledge. There is, perhaps, nothing so repugnant in the thing as to warrant that conclusion. But, in the present state of human science, the present predicament of our capacities of intellect, the state of the world at large, one generation passing away and another coming, one nation falling, and another rising into its place, all records and vestiges of the past either accidentally coming to ruin or continually decaying,—I say such a proposition cannot be an object of knowledge, neither can it be an object of assurance. But take away the particulars and let it be a general proposition, take it in a large sense, as merely there was a beginning of the formation of society, and it may be an object of assurance. But I don’t see that we can any nearer demonstrate the beginning of society than the end of it; that it had a beginning, than that it will have an end.
The very earliest simplest state of society, and that which must have had place first, before any other, is that of a single family. But this concerns the state or condition of society; not society itself. There might be fifty different families beginning at the same moment. Indeed we com originally into society, and not into solitude. Some people seem to think that man in a state of nature, is solitary; that society is the product of deliberate compact; and that before any society was formed by an act of agreement on the parts of individuals voluntarily uniting themselves together, that those individuals lived detached and in a state of solitude, without the knowledge of any affinity or connection. If these same people were to be questioned concerning the original of these individuals, and asked how they came into existence, I fancy they would be a little puzzled to give an answer that should exclude the idea of the common and known mode of traduction, inasmuch as it does not appear to have been recorded that more than one man was made of mud; withal, as it is difficult to conceive of a human creature being formed, with power of propagation, of a mass of brute earth; because it is contrary to our experience and observation.
In the ordinary course of things, man is born into a state of society. This agrees with our constant observation and experience. He is in a state of society the moment he comes into the world. But how does he come into the world!—not like a vegetable; surely he does not spring up like a mushroom or an apple-tree: he comes forth like other animals. A society is a collection of individuals. No, a society may be small or great. The idea of a collection does not essentially include the idea of a definite or limited number. Therefore, a society may be small or great. If a thousand individuals are a society, three individuals are a society. One is comparatively a large society, and the other is a small society. And if three persons constitute a society, then two persons will constitute a society. The number must be more than one; and any number above that, is sufficient to make a society. Such is the original meaning of the word society; hence the significancy of those phrases in which the word imports no more than the assembly of two persons, as when, for example, one affirms he has no satisfaction in the society of some particular person he mentions:—or that he has more pleasure in such an individual’s society than in any other.
According to the present course of things, there is no effect without a cause. So no one is born without having, or having had, parents. Every one that lives, must have had a father and mother. The child that is born, and its mother, are three persons that constitute a society. If the father is dead, unknown, or living at a distance from the mother, when the child is born, then the child and the mother are two persons which constitute a society. If the mother dies at the moment the child sees the light, then the child and the person who nurses it, make the society. If they are in a situation detached from all others when the child is born an the mother dies, and it never sees any other human creature nor has any nurse, it is plain that individual is solitary while it lives. And this is the only case, in the present state of things, in which a person enters the world solitary.
GRAY LIGHT.—NO. II.
We have seen that we have no certitude on the particulars of the first emergence of human society. The existence of such society being a fact; it appears, moreover, by history, to have been successively modified, with some diversity, on different parts of the earth.
Let us assume, then, there are three stages of human society, to which it has successively arrived, and in which different portions of mankind have continued for a considerable time, and given them a noted permanency; and that these three distinguished stages, according to their succession, are what may be called
1st. The savage state;
2d. The barbarian state;
3d. The civil state.
Not but that there are several degrees of advancement intervening between these permanent stages, discriminated by progressive accessions of skill and art. But, as I shall have occasion frequently to recur to these, with some use, I shall divide the advance of society by these periods. Not that because the stages of society are progressive, mankind have come successively though them from the time of society’s first beginning, and all living now rest in the civilized state; but in different places also are barbarians, and in other parts civilized, though they are far from being perfectly so. Perhaps there have been savage societies ever since the first formation of human society; but there cannot have been barbarian or civil societies so long, because in both the one and the other of these is implied some degree of advancement, and the state of improvement on the first experiment of this mode.
I. The first of these is the savage state; so called, though the first advance towards the cultivation of talents, is the herbivorous state, or that wherein men live upon such fruits, roots, barks, and herbs, as by chance fall in their way and which they can gather with little effort, and have not a habit of killing living creatures. In this, no collection of mankind appears by existing history, ever to have continued any very considerable length of time. This perhaps is the first character in which the social man appears; an evidently is the same in some respects as that which will take place when men shall become perfect. But this state of innocency not continuing so as to be very noticeable in any collection of human beings, is not distinguished from the savage state which therefore passes from the first stage of human society; because men, according to all the history we have, generally runs directly into this and stop in no other for any length of time immediately after they first associate together.
Savage signifies wild and uncultivated; it also signifies unfeeling. In this which is called the savage state, mankind follows hunting, i. e. they depend mostly for their sustenance, on what inferior animals they can destroy. They eat the flesh of animals, and wear their skins for covering. Both men and women have most of their employ about the obtaining and preparation of these things, though they make some use of vegetables that grow wild. They attain to a skill in the medical properties of herbs. They range the wide exuberant forests, and search for creatures that will afford them nourishment. They kill them with pointed arrows made with stone, or else take them by subtlety in snares and traps. They mostly hold what they get in common among the members of their family. The inhabitants of some parts of the earth have advanced to a higher degree of refinement; and in other parts they still remain in the savage state. People in this state are called savages, as if they were uncultivated; but they are somewhat cultivated, at least practiced in different exercises of mind; they are not what they were when they first began to associate together; for the first society that ever was formed, was a single family, similar to a pair of birds and nest of young. But they are called so as much on another account which is their being cruel, sanguinary, and unfeeling, in regard to other living creatures, inasmuch as they habitually kill them for sustenance (as bears and tigers kill the weaker species,) and make it their main occupation.—But they are not more so than a great part of the men in the civil or civilized state; a part of these make a trade of killing, and kill enough to sustain all the rest; and the rest are not so overstocked with sensuous feeling but they can aid those that kill; and drive their beasts to the slaughter. So that the civilized world are, still, as much savages in respect to the want of feeling towards the brute creation, as those who bear that name.
Under hunting I also include fishing. Those who live near the sea shore or near lakes and rivers, lay plans to take fishes, and these feed upon fishes as constantly as those who live in the interior of the forest do upon quadrupeds. But,
II. Man by gradual perfection in the knowledge of nature, through several successive degrees of improvement in his condition, interrupted often with illusions and distemperatures that lead him astray, arrives at another stage of society which is called the barbarian state. This is the second great period in the advance of society.
Men come at the conclusion that it is practicable to tame animals, and feeding them, to keep them within call: which was a desideratum that had obvious advantages, in the want of which they were subjected to intolerable labor always, yet uncertain of success. They made trial; and the experiment proved their conclusion true. When they got a habit of feeding and tending animals which were tamed, upon plots of natural meadow or prairie clear of wood, or having cleared away some of the thickness of the forest by the help of fire and their stone hatchets before they had yet learned the nature of iron, they were in what is called the barbarian state. This is principally distinguished by the tending and feeding of tame animals, and living upon their milk and flesh. Here men gradually refined methods to the extent of what it admits;—but it is some time before they begin to till the ground. Men continue, in some instances, for a considerable time in this state. They many attain to in my important discoveries in nature, though it is usual when they get acquainted with metals and minerals that they begin to till ground. They either live in hordes and families and consider all their wealth common to the members, or they begin to partition things and peculiarize them to the individuals who hold them, so that one has his horse, another his cow, another his sheep, &c, &c. But this hardly comes about while they are simple shepherds and herdsmen. It requires a perversion and a rash change of manners. But this does not take place as a general characteristic, till they advance into another stage of society. Many of the Tartars still live in this state; but these Tartars are of a roving character, ranging wherever they can find forage.
III. The third of these stages is when men have found the use of iron, and till the ground in addition to tending animals, and raise out of the earth profuse forage in a convenient compass, for all the flocks and herds; when they make themselves comfortable habitations; and when they proceed to cultivate all the arts:—as in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, the United States, &c. in modern times; and among the Romans, the Grecians, and the Egyptians, in times past. There are various degrees of refinement in these that are called civilized nations. The several degrees of advancement the arts and sciences have attained, have come up gradually, in process of successive ages. The benefits resulting secondarily from the appropriations of these arts and sciences, are participated by the body of the people; yet but a very diminutive proportion of the people understands them; especially the sublime arts and the liberal sciences. But these nations are not yet civilized. As nations, they fall far short of perfect civilization: Though a few individuals in each, have been civilized; yet the structure of their inured institutions has ever been such as to block up the course of improvement as it respects the whole; and it has been circumscribed to the few that have had a love of study and of truth, concurring with a sufficient magnanimity to despise inferior advantages. The mass of the people of Britain, rests at a very low point of civilization. Her Sidneys, her Lockes, her Bacons, her Godwins, and others, have been civilized; but the mass of the people is very far behind this point. Of France, the Bayles, the Montesquieus, the Corneilles, the Condorcets, the Mirabeaus, the Voltaires, and the Bolneys, we may allow were civilized men. But this does not make that France was a civilized and happy country. The great mass of the commonalty was far from being perfectly civilized.
Tyranny and priestcraft have always kept the populace back from progressing in their civilization; and what has caused these, is the very structure of society itself, on the corrupt fatal principles of exclusive property.
A multitude of learned and ingenious men in Greece and Rome, were civilized men; but the bulk of the people of those countries had none of their refinement. All the arts and sciences are cultivated; yet there are but few masters. Only a small proportion of a nation, is master of these arts and sciences. The masters are those who have been capable of inventing the several successive improvements that have been superinduced, from time to time, and brought those arts and sciences to the degree of advancement they have arrived at in the most cultivated nation. Still it is an extreme diminutive part of the people, that has ever been addicted to intense thinking. If society had been rationally constituted, the people would have had equal opportunities to improve themselves; and their progress had been nearly uniform. Men had made regular progress in civilization, if they had set out upon right principles at first. What have interrupted and constricted civilization, are our corrupt institutions, and the customs and habits which they generate. Wherefore although civilization has regularly progressed in some few individuals in successive ages, who, by being early attached to meditation and impressed with a love of truth, have been prone to investigation; the great crowd of mankind are, in this respect, yet in their infancy.—Nevertheless, these few individuals have brought about comparatively great effects, in modifying the condition of their respective nations and eventually of the world, by way of those improvements in the arts and sciences to which their achievements gave rise; though it was very rare, that, during their lives, their labors were either respected or rewarded.
So much for society in general. We will next enquire after the source when that which is called evil, has come into the societies of our species; and embittered the stream of human existence.
GRAY LIGHT.—NO. III.
The question of the origin of evil is one which has exercised the sagacity and invention of a multitude of philosophers during several ages; and so difficult and knotty a one it has prove to be, that many who have pursued different tracks of research to arrive at an ultimatum, have come to no satisfactory conclusion, but have been driven into a perpetual circle wherein after recurring from effect to cause, and rebounding from cause to effect, they have not been able to fix an overbalance of probability to a proposition making assignment of the beginning. Hence the discourses of some visionaries are without end, resting sometimes in one point of the circle and sometimes in another, and but temporarily in any.
The origin of evil has been said to be a subject immerged in so deep obscurity that men have in vain sought for it in the range of their natural ideas, but are fain to refer it to some point beyond the boundaries of nature itself. As often as this has been their resort, absurd enigmatical theories have been fabricated, in which the thoughts of men being fettered, were entangled in endless doubt; and improvement was stationary. But evident it is that many of those who have set out to explore this object, have overlooked it; and taken their aim at too great a distance. For vain is it to grasp at whatever is beyond the bourne of our comprehension; and to attempt to solve any question by such reference, is no solution of it at all; the question still remains unanswered.
Speaking of evil, general evil has commonly been meant, including both moral, and physical or sensitive. But I am apt to think, nothing of it properly called evil, but that which we call moral evil. For I do not consider what falls our in the course of nature; such as sensitive pain, death, &c. if rightly understood, and if known as what they would be without any connection with moral evil, and in the case no moral evil were in the world, to be evils. These necessary physical effects of physical causes established by the natural constitution of the great system of substances, in which we and all organized fabrics are inseparably intervolved, and of which we make a part, I don’t see that we can with strict propriety call evils, in themselves, unless we can invent, or conceive how a new system of Nature can be framed; and this we cannot, because we ourselves, with out capacity of comprehension and our thoughts, are a constituent of this present existing system. Besides, it is moral evil that makes these things appear evil. Take any moral evil, and they would scarcely be reckoned with.
But of moral evil I think it possible to find out the root: i. e. not mathematically,—but to a satisfactory assurance.
In particular instances of the same kind of operation and tendency, and production of like effects by like causes, we can attain to knowledge by experiment and observation; and this is of that sort of truths that is proved in a similar way with what naturalists use, in chemistry, medicine, and meteorology. They make use of facts; and reason by analogy. They take instances of a sort or kind, and from particulars infer general or universal propositions.
If we can find out any thing which we can suppose to be the origin of moral evil, if we can prove by existing facts presently experienced, that the same sort or kind, as a cause, does in particular instances invariably produce the same sort or kind of effect, we can make it appear rationally evident that that thing was the origin and first beginning of moral evil.
The origin of moral evil, then, appears to me to have been the distinction of property so as to peculiarize it and strongly associate it with personality; and the institution of what are called rights of exclusive possession of what was not wanted by the possessor, and was wanted by others. This all bangs together; and one part of it necessarily was in consequence of the other. This I call the origin of moral evil, in this sense, viz. it was the beginning of moral evil, and that which gave rise to all the higher degrees of moral evil which have since been experienced by mankind.
This is the beginning—but why should this beginning have taken place?—This is the root:—but what does this root generate from? What do the fibres of this root spring out of? Wherever is a root, must be or must have been, some principle from which it first germinate. There must be a seed.—This utmost primordium, is ignorance. It is man’s ignorance of causes and effects, and of the peculiar remote tendencies of things and actions. In short, his ignorance of nature. Here we need go no further. We need not ask why what is, is? We need not ask why man is man? Why a stone is a stone, or why air is air?—Here, where we come to the great land marks of our conception, if we begin talking in this way we talk like geese, and without end. For man is a progressive being. Not finished at the first moment, of his existence; but capable of learning something. Capable of getting knowledge; therefore not perfect in knowledge at first; else, he could not learn. Man is such a being as we find exists; and this is the meaning of the word man. We can perceive nothing more than exists; and we can signify nothing by words but what we perceive or have some ideas of. Man is not finished at first; but it is to learn knowledge to make him perfect. Therefore he is capable of ignorance. Before he gets knowledge, we must be ignorant of some things he is capable of knowing. He must be blind and hindered from knowledge, and remain ignorant for a long time.—It is ignorance of nature that makes him go astray from rectitude. His actions would not be at variance with the chain of causes that leads to his happiness, if he were not ignorant that such and such things would invariable and inevitably have such and such remote effects. Ignorance, then, is the original, the remote cause, beyond which we cannot trace any thing productive; and the institution of exclusive rights, which takes place in consequence of this ignorance, is the generative root of moral evil.
Wherever is a root, is room for a root to grow; and a reason why the root should be in that place. This root is man’s progressive nature; his incipient imperfection; the possibility of his being deluded and deficient of knowledge concerning the powers of nature;—and the reason is, his actually being ignorant.
But this active generative principle in which begins all moral evil, such as we are at present acquainted with, I conceive to be that partitioning and peculiarizing of property, whereby has been brought about the institution of those factitious rights of exclusive possession, which have demoralized the human race.
Now to the law and to the testimony.—The root of moral evil being assumed, that which is next required to be done, is to exhibit some specimens of its productions, which in their turn, as causes, propagate their kind, and eventually generate a diversity of misery.
GRAY LIGHT—No. IV.
If a piece of land lie in common, and numerous persons without exception make use of it and feed their cattle there, and some authority divides it among a select few who are to hold it exclusively and therefore shut out all others, it produces envy, hatred, a sense of oppression, &c. If a court divides an estate unequally, and takes from one and gives to another, it produces hatred, ill will; produces envy in those deprived or excluded. If a court decides a cause against one for defect of some punctilio or form, or wrests testimony and takes him in a wrong sense, and gives the preference to the other party through favor, affection, deference to his superior wealth, or a desire to distinguish him with peculiar advantages by way of possession; it produces chagrin, ill will, malice, envy, distrust, &c. &c. If a parent have a horse which he suffers his children to make use of in common whenever any one wants it, so they give way to one another and use it equally, it belonging to all; and he gives that horse to one favorite child to be his exclusive property, to have the sole control and disposal of it, with right to exclude all others; it produces displacency, anger, hatred, envy, murmuring,—it tends to ingratitude, and to sullenness, in the other children. All these things lead to purposes of revenge, and various disorders. If a man gets rich, and is successful in his pursuits generally, he has a still greater desire of wealth, he is avaricious; he desires and craves the more for having obtained abundance;—it produces avarice and hardheartedness. If a man gets to be extremely rich, and he sees he is respected and revered by others, that they are in awe of him, that they submit to him; it produces pride in him, and a domineering spirit. He tyrannizes; he becomes haughty and supercilious. All trading, and the possibility of getting gain by bartering and dealing of any kind, produces a desire of taking advantage of other individuals to get gain, produces a habit of watching for opportunities to get the best bargains, to frustrate and exclude others for the sake of getting the ascendant power and exclusive possession of things desired; produces overreaching, fraud, swindling, lying, forging, &c. All trade is a kind of gambling. Every one wishes to get the best end of a bargain. If one gets it, another loses. It tends to suppress sympathy. Those who thoughts are hackneyed in such speculations, have little feeling for others. Those who spend their lives in trading, as buying and selling, or gaming and horse racing, have little sympathy for their fellow-creatures. The education of children having a certain price set upon the tuition of each individual, to be paid to a preceptor, and people that have children being desirous, for the love of money, to get together as much money as possible, to get together as much money as possible, and therefore grudging every farthing they have to pay for instruction of children, and of course becoming weary and wishing to put a stop to the expense, produces lying, produces the most bitter calumnies and abusive reproaches of teachers, in order that a school may be stopped and the teacher hear the blaming of it. For they are still too proud and have too great a sense of propriety not to scorn the name of withdrawing their children and stopping a school without a cause, or without any better cause than a desire to retrench their expenses; wherefore they asperse others, to vindicate themselves. Hence teachers are condemned upon the mere testimony of children, their schools being always shunned by grown persons, especially parents. And here come most gross misrepresentations, which are honored as facts. One man having a superabundance of desirable things, and another being poor, produces stealing and robbing. For it directly elicits things and customarily valuable as objects to every one to endeavor to attain, makes people excessively covet them, insomuch as to lessen their regard for justice and good conscience, and induces them to trample upon all things else to reach them. Hence, one man exclusively having abundance, produces murder. One is tempted to kill another to get possession of his wealth. (Women, setting so great a value on money that they are willing to submit to the most abject servilities, to obtain it, produces fornication, adultery, and all manner of illicit combinations of the sexes.) People that have stores of merchandize (being fondly attached to money) selling spirituous drink to their drunken neighbors till these die by its effect, produces that mode of self-murder that is effected by poison, from “the worm of the still,” and often brings whole families to absolute mendicity. Some people being so excessively enomoured of money that they are willing to exact, and it being so necessary to others that they are willing to give, 12 or more per cent. interest for the loan of it a year, produces usury.
All these effects are mortal evils; and these causes are well known to produce these effects.
If things of this kind always produce moral evil; it is evident that something of the same kind first caused it.
If these things, which are but a continuation and modifications of that original exemplar of obliquity whereby exclusive rights came into use and had place in the affairs of men, invariably have that tendency to produce moral evil, it seems rationally conclusive that that very thing was original of it, and the cause wherefrom it took its beginning. Moreover, it is plain that none of these things would be, if there had been no such thing as exclusive property, but all were in common stock; for they all rest on this principle, that property is peculiarized and exclusively pertains to individuals. They are self-evidently the direct effluence of such an existence.
Now, such things undeniably do exist, and it is self-evident that either they always did exist, or there was a time when they began to exist. On either supposition we may consider them homogeneous to the source of moral evil.
Therefore, the origin of moral evil, is the circumstance of such a mode as exclusive property having place in the customs of men in a state of society.—This is the efficient cause that gives entrance to moral evil. The reason why this cause existed, is the ignorance of men.
We have assurance that there was a time when these abuses, with respect to a society of men, had a beginning. Things are always somewhere in a gradual, however irregular, progress of alteration from the rude hunting stage of society, up to what we call civility, and where the arts and sciences are cultivated. Printing had a beginning; mathematical-instrument making had a beginning; card playing had a beginning; and it is likely there was a time when a collection of men began to tame and feed animals, and to clear and till land; and a time when they began to make partition of land and stock, and consider them matter of peculiar exclusive inheritance of individuals on certain conditions. Whether it was so with several collections of men on different parts of the earth’s surface at the same time, or with only one, makes no difference.
If men getting into this way of exclusive property, is the cause of moral evil, it is the same thing and no less true, whether it was done by a hundred societies at once, or by one only; and it is of no consequence to this argument, to determine whether there were twenty different collections of human beings at the same moment of time beginning to burn down trees and herbage at different places on the earth’s surface, feeding animals, and awarding degrees of accumulation of products to those of voluntary exploits of bodily power, or to a capricious hereditament, and peculiarizing them on such grounds, or only one such society existed at a time in the world.
 Hence one man exclusively having abundance produces robbery, and the resistance made by the possessor, or the desire of avoiding, by concealment, punishment for the violation of the law, produces murder.—Ed.
GRAY LIGHT—No. V.
Any irregularity of the passions is moral evil. According to movements of the passions, the outward actions are shaped. All excess of passion is moral evil. Any of the passions being in excess or attached to an improper object, is moral evil, because the passions, generally, have more or less of voluntary motion in them. Any thing undue, irregular, excessive, of this kind, immediately causes pain. Also these things constitute a predisposition to evil actions. Consecutive to our emotions, we act. There are what we call bad passions; on account of them tending directly to something violent and against social happiness as well as against tranquility of mind; meaning thereby morally bad, as depending somehow on will. Such are envy, anger, hatred; and their compounds, ambition, pride, jealousy; as well as that peculiar mode of anger called malice. Some passions that do not appear to be bad in their original complexion, become bad by being in excess, or obliquely attached. Exclusive inheritance evidently produced excessive passions, in the first place. From these excessive passions naturally followed particular vices: i. e. vicious practices and habits,—several vices distinguished by names. From private evils arise public ones. Men being disposed to illude or overbear, to gain ascendancy, one individual upon another, there arose calamities that, in progress, afflicted whole nations. For individuals come to lead multitudes by the ear and eye, and make them tamely instrumental to their designs of power superior, and domination. It produces excessive and inordinate passion, and necessarily, in course, it produces vicious habits; as deceitfulness, imposture, swindling, stealing, lying, forging, &c. &c. &c. &c.
Which chicanery has for its design the leading of a multitude or a whole nation by the delusions of one individual scheme, it becomes a public calamity. It disorders society. Any distemperature of passions therefore, is moral evil. Distemperature of passion is produced by such a circumstance as exclusive possession. Envy, malice, and rage appear to be what were produced by inequality of property in the instance of Cain, and terminated in murder, supposed to be the first murder ever committed. A disposition to illude and circumduct others, comes from an evil distemperament of passions. The circumduction of other individuals, is an expedient to some desired object; and it generates from lust of something that can be obtained by illuding and deceiving one’s fellow-creatures; as reverence, wealth, controlling power, and influence, &c. And the possibility of this, originated from inequality of possessions, with the present pretended right of exclusion; otherwise there had been no such thing as obtaining pre-eminence by deceiving one’s fellow-creatures. There had been no idea of such pre-eminence, and no desire of it. One could not illude or deceive his neighbors respecting any thing involving the idea of his own merit. For such things would not be expected nor much valued, as one individual doing special offices of friendship or generosity for another, except in special need.—For whatever one would have to do, would be fore the whole; and not peculiarly for one. Therein would lie his merit; his diligence, his carefulness, his industry, his punctuality, in the public service, would measure his merit. And this would be open, in daylight, and seen by every one; so there would be no room for any coloring of it; and flattery would not be praiseworthy, and would not be considered worthy of any note. But deception is an expedient of various purposes towards the security of any disallowable object. It may be a recourse to effect murder. Any thing that can be brought about by illuding others, may be the object had in view, on such an occasion. Though the thing that first brought murder into vogue, was the institution of exclusive property, which infused a sense of inequality and founded an access to pre-eminence and domination which otherwise were not known. Men would do any thing for wealth and power. They would even murder their own species. So perverted was the heart of man!—So fascinating was the aspect of those base idols.
So then the first temptation to deceiving, was the getting of gain and whatever other contingents were involved with the possibility of getting gain.
Certainly Cain and Abel were permitted to hold possessions separately and peculiarly. For in process of time, “Cain brought of the fruits of the field; and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock; for an offering unto the Lord.” So it was his flock. Cain was a tiller of the ground, and Abel was a keeper of sheep. Now Cain might have been a tiller of ground and Abel a keeper of sheep, and yet the flock and the ground have been one common estate, no more one’s than another’s. But it seems the notion of peculiar property had got in vogue: His and her’s, mine and yours, had come into fashion. Adam had consented to this. Surely there had been some consenting to this odd mode, else it would not exist. This was the origin of iniquity. This consenting might be done without malignity in itself; it might be inadvertent; it might be what follows a freak of over fondness to a child,—the most venial of all excesses; thence might Adam have indulged Abel and Cain with the gratification of a romantic whim they had in them to have something in exclusive possession. Of course they were delighted with it at the moment. All these things had a natural cause; as every thing else has: But they were irregular movements considered in respect to the perfection of the human constitution and well being of the species. They were disorderly, in this species. They tended to extra-regular productions; and proved a diseased and disturbed state of this particular system. They tended directly to all the distempers and sickliness of the whole frame of the moral world. Such a mode of human society is as unnatural as a huge wen upon a living tree, measuring twice the diameter of the body of the tree. Both are natural in one sense; i. e. they have natural causes; they come within the bounds of nature, but in another sense, i. e. when we got to define species of constitutions, and keep order among the relations that pertain to these permanent parts of nature; they are unnatural—they are anomalous—there is an interfering of lines—there is confusion—as when distinct races mix; the product is such as is called a mongrel; something of neither species; but with confessed defects. The direct course was to mar and extinguish. They plainly indicate a distempered, diseased state of the particular systems in which they appear, in respect to their wants, adaptations, and established relations to other departments of nature. They are out of order. It as anomalous, it was strained, for one to hold possessions to his name, which depended not on his invention, to the exclusion of another. Whether the names of the family were Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, is indifferent; as also where they lived, and how many years ago. There must have been a time when men entered upon the barbarian state. A time when men entered upon the barbarian state. A time when they began to keep cattle, and a time when they began to till ground. The tilling of ground was an additional improvement; for they still continued to keep cattle, though they made it not their whole occupation.—This was the time when they should have begun to refine upon common stock. The moment when they began to till ground was the time when they should have begun to refine upon common stock—when they should have permanently established common inclusive inheritance, and made it pleasant and habitual. At this point, they blundered into a deviation from rectitude. The notion of exclusive possession being admitted, tolerated, adopted, and the thing being accustomed; I say, in effect it was instituted.—Exclusive rights became instituted. It was rashly accepted as a fundamental principle of all just government, that whatever an individual by his own labor should get together, however much, he should have right to hold exclusively. This was repressing sympathy, and putting out of sight the principle of sympathy, ad putting out of sight the principle of sociality. It was wrong. It was unjust. Mankind should co-operate, as beavers. They should estimate the excellency of character by qualities of mind and habits of thinking and acting; not by fortuitous and precarious pre-eminences.
GRAY LIGHT—No. VI.
As it was possible for one man to set himself above another, by getting more wealth and power, without being held in reprobation and avercion for it, (for necessarily there had been consent to it, and men were made capable of respecting persons for such adventitious preeminence,) they aptly inclined to seek and to invent expedients to accomplish such an object. Of course, individuals hit upon deluding their fellow-creatures. Hence, theological Polity. Here all the craft of mystical and occult sciences had its birth. Astrologers and priests started up. The invention seems to have been extremely ready, and to have taken effect very early. Even in Adam’s time, Cain and Abel seem to have had a persuasion of the duty of sacrifices to a superior being. Each went, in process of time, with his offering, out of his own stores; one with the fruits of the ground and the other with lambs and kids.
Now it is evident that in consenting to the partition and distinction of possession, the way was paved for an inveterate respect of wealth, for it implied a willingness that one should possess more than another, which might aptly enough be; and of necessary consequence, that such transcendency was not and would not be an object of abhorrence. Here was the root of that pernicious association, reverence of wealth. Moreover, those who sought to ascend upon their fellow-mortals by such means as superior accumulations, would naturally incline to associate blandishments with their excess of possessions, that should establish and rivet this association and we find they did so. They blandished the aspect of their wealth and power so that beholders should admire it. Here then, is the nucleus of the corrupt education of the world. Here is the radix of depravity in moral education, whereby the human heart has become incapable of admiring and reverencing wealth and power in individuals; and principles of moral estimation utterly perverted; and the world filled with confusion. Thus a man was honored for being richer than others, and exclusively holding possessions more than the quota of his natural requisitions. Still, the recourse of mystical influence and theological polity was had, before a resort to a factitious representation of wealth.
As wealth was agreeable and pleasing to the selfish mind; as it was desirable and even honorable; it become eligible to find out some way of measuring it exactly, so as to interchange adequate ideas of its extent and degrees, so that one might truly apprehend at an time what quantity of wealth another had, how much more he had than others, how much honor he was worthy of, or what purposes he could execute.—For the honor and utility of it were considered to be proportionate to the quantity. Now there gradations of quantity must have something permanent to represent them; else, there were no abiding standard. Some material medium must be brought in, that, in a small compass, should represent this wealth, or show the quantity of it. This was representative property.—A certain quantity of this matter, whether it was stone, tin, pewter, gold, silver, copper, leather, parchment, paper, iron, or wood, was to represent a certain quantity of the matters of real possession that constituted this wealth. But it did not represent the wealth itself, so much as the right to possess it. It was thought a representative of the right of possession. It must be instead of wealth. It was imputed as wealth, where was not a jot of wealth beside:—And a man having fifty thousand pieces of this representative matter, would be called rich, though he had not an inch of land on earth, nor any thing else but what he had about his carcass. He would be said to be worthy to possess ten thousand acres of land and a thousand cattle. These, perchance, would be given him for them. The sign was accepted for the reality. The image of wealth was sought instead of wealth. All things of real worth in possession, were exchanged for it. This was called money. It became, of direct course, established in use. It answered all the purposes of subsistence, in every individual. It would procure any thing and every thing else visible. Men naturally then of course came to set a value on it; they became attached to it; they came to love it; they came to worship it. This was the love of money. This was said to be the root of all evil. It is one root; it is the fourth root. It is the finishing radiation of the germ of moral depravity. The institution of exclusive property is the first root; the veneration of wealth is the second root;—the invention of money is the third root, and the love and adoration of that money is the fourth, the last, and finishing root, of all the moral evil that has afflicted the human race. This is the generation of moral evil. How these ramify into all the particular excesses of passion, all the different vices, and all the various crimes, that have unfolded themselves on the theatre of human life since the beginning of society, will be made appear in the sequel.
Men finding that to illude, over-reach, and over-impress their fellow-beings, was an expedient well calculated to get gain and ascendant power; what manner of deception was likely to be their first recourse? I am apt to conclude it was that kind of awful insinuation which is apt to inspire with fear, wonder, astonishment; an to flatter with fantastical excess of hope in regard to things unknown and imaginary,—which lead up their [….] wherein they aimed at making others believe there existed some person they could not see, who having will and passions like themselves, superintended and ordered all things, gave particular precepts to them, and uncontrollably, though capriciously, disciplined them. Not but that they might run into some other vice as soon as other sorts of excess took place before they were under way in the long circuitous march of projects of artifice. But this is the first recourse men went into for the accumulating of gain by way of influencing the minds of their fellow-creatures. Here they depended upon the imbecility of the minds of their fellow-beings. The powers of delusion and over-persuasion were their enginery; the ground on which they had to operate, was the imbecility of their fellows; and their end was self-aggrandizement. They sought wealth and influence. They sought money. The juggler and the fortune-teller sought to get money from the people by deceiving them. They obtained it. The priest and the astrologer sought wealth and dominion—sought money—sought to obtain tribute and donations, and expected with assurance to be reverenced and humbly served in all things commodious by such as were persuaded they were of a superior rank of beings with more than human talents, but commanding occult divine aid.—Such they would be thought by mortal men. They succeeded.
Thus, from peculiar property, men advanced another step, to representative property; i. e. from that which is absolute and real, they advanced to a representative; which is called money. Money being established in use, men came of course to love money, because it served all purposes of subsistence. These things followed one another in a train of causation. The first root is exclusive rights of possession.
To say the love of money is the main root of moral evil, is not correct: because if there had been no money, there could have been no love of money:—and if there had been no such thing as peculiar and exclusive property, there had been no occasion to invent money. Men first instituted exclusive property, next, they came to have a deference and veneration of this property, proportional to certain pre-eminent accumulations which they called wealth, because those who held it, had power to do them good and hurt with it. As this was made to pass for wealth, men, being able to purchase all transferable things with it, came of necessary consequence to set a value on it, and came to love it. But the main root of all, was the institution of exclusive property.
GRAY LIGHT—No. VII
The first evil under the predicament of public calamity, that issued from the root of human depravity, is that which may be called theological polity. The science of theology teaches a peculiar way of governing mankind, and a peculiar way of deceiving them in order to govern them, which has an irresistible and tenacious effect because it is applied with signal force to some strong passions that prevail in man. The reasons why the theologians succeeded so well in subjecting mankind to their influence, and controlling them into a subservience to their views, were, first that they addressed their arts to the passions and affections. Those they principally acted upon, were fear, hope, and a love of praise. If they ever made use of logic, it was rather speciously, to induce a persuasion that they built on reason and therefore were unanswerable: while yet their arguing was far from being conclusive; though nothing was easier than to give it the appearance of force. Secondly, their process of modifying the mind, was begun in infancy. This they at an early period found was necessary for making sure the foundations of their establishments. The first style of speaking the young were to be taught was to be imbued with theological words. They were to be taught formal prayers. The name of some theological character was to be awfully mentioned, and with punctilious solemnity, while they should be advancing into youth. In short, they depended much upon riveting some fantastical associations very early in their minds.
Various were the arts, of which priests made use, to carry on their government. One of the first steps they took, was to establish the persuasion that one or more intelligent beings existed, invisible to us, with intelligence, will, and passions, and, separate from matter governed all things. Their first resort was to propagate this doctrine and get it in a way of attracting general auscultation, while they should lay a plan to have its principles so infused and inculcated into the infant mind in the common education that they should not fail to take root in it, and the doctrine become reputable with succeeding generations. This they well knew was wanted for a foundation upon which their other plans should rest.
It is evident that theologians actually intended to impose on the understandings of men, statements that had not their archetypes in nature. It is hardly possible to entertain the belief that some of their statements, considering them as cultivated rational men, understanding the sciences extant, could have any other motive than to illude men and educate them as that they should be easily governed, in their own way. With what manner of views and feelings could a rational man seriously tell one or more of his fellow-beings whom he knew were ignorant, that there was a living Being who sent the thunder and lightning, that he had will and wisdom, that he thundered when he was offended, that his name was Jupiter, or Jove, &c. unless it was intently to delude, and, taking advantage of the vacant state of their minds, radicate a principle important in establishing a particular system of government? Or what in the name of common sense, can we suppose a sane man to have been contemplating, when he should have solemnly declared to numbers of his neighbors, that the great Lord and Maker of all things came down upon a cloud, in the shape of a man, and talked to him in his own language, and delivered him some prescripts to engrave upon stone, but to deceive, and lead away the energy of their minds so that they should not learn true science? It indicates intentional illusion.
It is evident that they sought personal aggrandizement, and that they aimed to be thought greater, of a superior rank to their fellow-beings, as having more ability and knowledge. They had for an object to make themselves appear great and knowing, in the view of their fellow-mortals. But how could they desire to be thought transcendant in knowledge and ability unless they were to be respected and obeyed on this account, to have power to command others to sere their favorite purposes, to live easy, even to live at the expense of the others’ labor,—in short, to possess exclusively more than was possessed by others? But if there had been no such thing known as possessing superfluities individually to the exclusion of others, and thereby having influence and dominion over them; moreover, if to be distinguished from others in point of possession and power, was not to be admired, but detested and dreaded; what inducement could any one have to pursue such an object? Such an object would have no attractions; therefore no man nor set of men would pursue such an object, nor seek any expedient to attain it.—Now, if all things had remained in common inheritance, and men, living like brethren, had never valued any peculiar pre-eminence in matter of possession, it is plain there had existed no such object of pursuit. Consequently, this evil has arisen out of the institution of peculiar and exclusive property.
One of the first of the methods the theologians made application of, in their discipline, was sacrifice. One of the first manoeuvers they had recourse to, seems to have been what was called sacrifice. This was adopted very early. It appears to have been in vogue in Cain and Abel’s time. Directly after exclusive rights had their birth, the theologians had their plans in train for catching the pre-eminence wealth. Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock, and Cain brought of the fruits of the ground for a sacrifice. It came to pass that the Lord had respect unto Abel’s offering, ad not unto Cain’s. What contrivance there was for a sign by which to announce the distinction, is not known; but it shows such a mode had come into countenance as the respecting of a man for what he possessed. For Cain considered Abel honored and regarded more than himself, on account of what he (Abel) had brought and offered being acceptable in the preference. He brought of the firstlings of his flock. Cain brought of the fruits of the ground; for he “was a tiller of the ground.” Both brought such things as they had; and no other. Now it is plain, if the offerings had both been common stock, and no more Cain’s than Abel’s, and Cain had been as much the owner of the flock as Abel, and Abel as much the owner of the fruits of the ground as Cain, that Cain would have conceived himself as much respected and honored by the acceptableness of what Abel brought, as Abel was, and Abel would have conceived himself as much disrespected and dishonored by the unacceptableness of what Cain brought, as Cain was, so far forth as it was on account of things offered that either the one or the other was honored or dishonored. And it appears very clear that what was offered is the purported ground of imputation of good or ill to the persons offering it, and of consequent disgrace or favor to either. If such had been the case, Cain would have had no envy against Abel, consequently no malice, and, of course, would not have murdered his brother.
What was the immediate end contemplated by the theologians in the institute of sacrifices and oblations in early ties, is not so clear. But it is evident that it had in view to blind the minds of the people; but seems also to have been particularly chosen for such an expedient, in order to procure with ease a plenty of flesh, and oil; and be respected with an awful reverence besides.
GRAY LIGHT—No. VIII
The instituting of solemn rites to be performed by a class of men, plainly was done to get gain, by being well paid for their attendance, out of the earnings of those whose souls’ benefit such things were pretended to be acted. History gives us their proceedings on the banks of the Nile, the Ganges, the Burampooter, in China, in Turkey, in Italy, and various other parts of the earth. Their object has ever been either to get wealth or reverence from the world;–nay, both wealth and reverence: to which end a necessary resort has been to circumscribe intellectual light. So that the different parts of the great system of theological polity, have conspired to obviate mankind’s proficiency in science. If we take a look into the Science of Theology, in all its parts, various editions, modifications, particular designs, and adaptations, as it appears in different countries, we shall irresistibly come to the conclusion that the main scope of it is to station the energy of the human mind and to check the progress of general improvement, that a numerous class of men may live at ease, who depend on the imperfections of the rest of the race.
The visions of creatures in the shapes of human bodies, or other animals, sailing through the heavens upon clouds, are confessedly imaginative, and, like our dreams, never seriously reported as realities;–upon a little reflection every one admits them to be the work of fancy; but when they are promulgated with the pomp of scholastic etiquette, under the authority of monarchs as declared matters of fact, and have such artificial connections given them as are calculated to bias on the side of a persuasion of their verity and importance, they indicate intention to keep men in the dark, and to make them accept phantoms for realities. Such things come in the fancies of men; but when they are formally set forth on parchment, in books, or otherwise, in an affecting way, as having been experienced in reality of things, it is all done with design to allude, to circumduct, to make something unreal pass for reality. Like might be remarked of the appearance of such things with wings art their shoulders, delivering messages to men, and making their exit by ascent into the atmosphere, as well as of ghosts, and of apparitions in general.
If we carefully consider the consequences that have followed from their instituting of this polity, we shall find it to be fitly ranked the first public calamity that has arisen out of the root of depravity, both with a regard to the time of its exhibiting its effects, and to the magnitude of the mischiefs it has brought into the world. For if we consider all the enormous wars, massacres, assassinations, imprisonments, tortures, and every fashion in which the depravity of the human heart can display itself, that have confessedly come out of this very source, we shall find there is none of the great desolations wanting in its hideous train. It is public, for it does hurt to the whole world publicly. It is the first public evil that ever was felt; and, if we take into account all that is imputable to it, it it’s the greatest curse that ever fell upon the human race. For is has tyrannized on the mind. This is its distinguishing character, to make the object of its tyranny the mind, and prevent that improvement of the intellectual and moral talents of human nature, which is in the order of our greatest good.
When the theologians had stationed their authorities and organized a plan of government over any collection of mankind, it was called Hierarchy, in distinction from other sorts of government where priests have not the control. But this same Hierarchy has had its share in tincturing and modifying the most tolerable monarchy that ever the world experienced, and every other sort of government we have yet been blessed with. It has given a tincture some way or other to every one of them. Every code of human laws, every frame of government, to this day, carries some mark and sure indication of the influence of hierarchy. I consider aristocracy an immediate branch of it. All the others issue secondarily from the same stock. Who will show me a frame of government or code of laws made for any state, province, kingdom, or confederation, in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America, that has not, some where or other, some theological ideas in it! So it is plain enough the theologians have laid a deep plan to give name and perpetuity o their dogmas.
Under this head I comprehend the craft of the soothsayers, the magicians, the conjurers, and the fortune-tellers, so far as they were of public detriment; all these coming out of the very same original excitement, which is no other than the disposition to illude and lead away for the sake of gain, which produced all priestcraft.
Now if there had been no such thing known as peculiar property, and of course no man had been valued or respected for having and holding any thing in his private possession, but only for his serving the whole community, all the property known being public and common, how could priests have a desire to get wealth and pre-eminence? And if no such thing was possible as getting gain and pre-eminence, why should they take methods to attain them? Conclusively, exclusive rights existed, and this was the cause of the mischief. This gave grounds for it, it gave opportunity of it, it offered temptation to it. Therefore I must consider that train of public calamities that proceed out of such manner of craft as comes under the predicament of theological polity, are a direct legitimate emanation from the main root of all moral evil.
Under this rank of evils come all holy wars, i. e. wears which proceed from religious motives, or are set out with a view to establish and make popular, any particular creed, ser of ceremonies, and discipline; holy spiritual, inquisitorial courts of judicature, such as in Spain and Italy; schisms, massacres and routs of the saints; martyrdoms, and persecutions of every description. Here, then, are all the miseries of war: all the privations, pains, wrongs, abuses, and corruptions, in respect of individuals, that are attendant on a state of war from whatever principle issuing.
Moreover; turning aside from these which immediately operate upon whole nations and have so terrific an appearance, there is a set of minor effects, that yet leave permanent traces upon character. Their incessant and extensive preaching, writing, and insinuation, prevailing over all other public intelligence in circulations, and the literature of the theologians take place of all other literature, ahs a depressive tendency upon the intellect of the great mass of the people, and gradually fixes on them a peculiar character. For one generation after another, is entirely led off from the study of nature and the application of the reasoning power to the discussion of problematical questions, till they utterly lose sight of true philosophy. They observe a perfect silence on some certain subjects, feeling their examination is interdicted. They tamely and obsequiously follow the prescriptive customs of formal modes, and are sciolous of all things but the arts of livelihood.
The leaders have also particular contrivances proportioned to the nature of the government in the country where they are, from the most despotic to the most moderated and refined ones, to preserve and extend their influence. Even in the most peaceable pars of the earth, they have their missionary projects, for the carrying on of which they amass immense funds by way of solicited contributions, donations, and otherwise: Thereafter, the most adventurous, ambitious, roving, lively geniuses among their young men, take voyages to distant islands and continents, to see the novelties of the world, to preach their doctrine where it will sound entirely new, and modify the natives in conformity to their large designs of government. They have variously instituted society for the collection of their funds. They have societies of women periodically assembling to contribute their mite towards this imposing purpose. They have societies of young men, with similar views. They have also their bible societies and tract societies, that bibles and tracts may be profusely delivered at a cheap rate. Perchance, through their large and deep-laid plains to produce work cheap, they get a sort of monopoly by underselling all other literature. They have their sunday schools, to shape ht education of the poor; their bible questions, to employ the studies of yond females; and periodical assemblies for recitations. Thy have their night meetings and their conferences. They have likewise their camp-meetings, which are public shows, where thousands of licentious people throng around merely on errands of amusement and dissipation. These demoralize society/ there are frequently what are called ‘awakenings, or revivals of religion;’ sometimes accruing adventitiously in consequence of some strong workings on the imagination of the young by ingenious preachings or insinuation; and sometimes slily set on foot by a subtle combination of the craft. The agitations occasioned by these, plunging some weak minds into atrabilariousness and desperation, bring on disease that shortens life.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. IX
Now leave we the Theologians or Hierarchs, and their near kin the Gypsies and Conjurers, and come down among the nobles—the Lord’s keepers of the earth’s treasures, the great, the rich, the gay, the paragons of the gigantic puppets that are to represent the glories of wealth. Aristocracy is the order of the day when these evils come about. That I am now going to speak of.
When men have lived some time under the immediate tuition of the priests they are prepared for an aristocratical government. They are prepared to be governed by a company of rich showy persons; the richest and most impudent men they have among them. As these have the influence by the instrumentality of wealth, and can agree among themselves they make themselves sovereigns over the people. This second rank of public evils, then, comprises those which indicate a reverence of wealth prevailing in the common people at large, and awe of those who possess it. This proves an abject state of intellect.—Such, the theologians have assiduously labored to produce. The theologians are very willing that the people should worship wealth as one of their Gods; since they know it will induce them to labor so hard to get rich as to neglect the cultivation of their minds. They care no how much they stuff the body, if the mind is starved. If people had so much of an attachment to riches as to drudge day and night to get them, it was a good omen to the theologians, because it would necessarily keep their minds in just such a stationary attitude as would adapt them to the saddle of delusion, upon with they might ride them to the heights of papal dominion and glory. Thus, especially after the machinery of trade had got thoroughly into motion. For the theologians themselves were generally rich, or, (more familiarly speaking) might still be the objects of reverence on that account. Yet they took care that wealth should not be popularly spoken of in public, as any thing more than a minor Deity. There was something else, to which the people should allude, behind the curtain, as the object of their exterior worship, and this was the only thing it was popular to speak of as the great supreme Deity, although in their heart, it were allowable to have them consider wealth as a still greater and more lovely Being, so that it be fashionable strictly to speak with higher reverence of the other and act all the ceremonies that are expressive of such reverence in public.
The kind of calamity I am going to expatiate on now, depends more immediately upon a reverence of wealth than on any theological object. The conductors of the great theological machine, extended their effects very much by connecting, in their works, a foreign and distinct power, apparently of an opposite motion, and of aspect adverse to the ostensible design of their system; still involved within its forces, and subjugated to primary impulse governing to the general direction. The children of the world might worship wealth, and all manner of show and splendor. When mankind have been trained up, or have trained themselves up, two or three hundred years, to drudge and slave for wealth as their greatest good, and neglect all study and research that might improve their mental capacity, they are just fit to cringe and bow to nobles. These will use as effectual arts to keep down the energy of their minds, to keep them ignorant of true morality, logic, and metaphysics; and finally dupe them into some extreme delusive and degrading notions of the distinctions, offices and dependences of mankind, as priests would do.
Here the people are loaded with excise duties, exorbitant taxes, servile ceremonies, and a thousand things to prove them to be submissive slaves, an to support the pomp and luxury of their tyrants. In the early ages, this sort of government was imposed on nations by stratagem and delusion; such being their imbecility, no violence was necessary. Here also is engendered the principle of banking. It rests on this corrupt base, that the wealthy are worth of more respect than the poor. What availeth it, O man, that thou art capable of wisdom and virtue?—What importeth it to thee that thou art capable of the elevated delights of contemplation, study, abstraction, and the knowledge of nature, so long as thou makest property a peculiar thing, and fallest down upon thy knees and worshippest the shadow of its accumulations? Thou makest thyself a servant unto tribute, for the love and heartfelt adoration thou bearest to riches! Poor sciolous dreamer! Dost thou imagine that thou gainest honor by possessing thyself of huge heaps of glistening pelf? Art thou really more worthy of esteem than a good conscience and a capacious mind that can entertain itself in deep solitude with it s profuse treasured lore drawn from the book of nature, can make thee? Thou prostitutest thyself to mean trifling pursuits! Thou dost moil continually in the modifying of gross matter! If thou makest thyself richer than thy neighbor, dost thou think thou hast the unquestioned preeminence over him? And is this the preeminence thou wouldst choose, rather than that of qualities of mine?
GRAY LIGHT.—No. X
We have heretofore adumbrated a small part of the miseries of aristocracy. Let us pursue this subject still farther.
Indeed, in this point of human society, that pernicious association, of respect and veneration with wealth, is consecrated, and riveted by all the solemn sanctions of popular influence. Various distinctions of ranks are instituted, and wide partitions of different classes of persons made permanent, even perpetual. This association is instilled under the insinuative influences of theological polity; and next, abundant use is made of it under aristocracy. A confirmed persuasion is gradually brought about, that persons excessively rich, are entitled to the homage of the poor. It is imagine to be an institute of Nature!
Here all the arts by which one man, without rational conviction, yet making use of his consent, over-persuades the mind and modifies the course of another, are developed. Monopolies are established; extortionate prices are fixed on certain articles of important use in common life; simple trades are fenc’d up with forbidding licenses engrossed by the rich; human flesh is bought and sold; the somber children of Africa become slaves, all over the trading world; half-starved, half-naked wretches cultivate the fields and provide the bread that sustains nations, and the luxury that loads the tables of a band of idle, groveling, gormandizing tyrants.
Now, this degrading infatuating association of ideas, takes its beginning from the establishment of peculiar property. if no peculiar property had been adopted or countenanced, and no exclusive rights had been instituted, then surely one man could not have been particularly respected venerated and obeyed, for possessing exclusively much greater wealth than others. If the object did not exist, then the emotion would not exist. Therefore, if exclusive property had not been instituted, no such association of ideas would have contaminated the human mind, as the association of wealth and dignity and sentiments of respect, awe, admiration, &c. Wealth would not have existed; therefore wealth would not have been an object of such emotions, nor a subject to which was attached such an idea as dignity. Therefore this corruption comes from the fountain. The reason why wealth has that instrumentality to awe people and make them submissive and obsequious to the requirements of aristocratical usurpers, is this very association of ideas, i. e. because people respect wealth. For individuals can subject multitudes to their terms, and overpersuade them, by reason of those multitudes being in awe of the wealth which these individuals shew themselves to be possessed of. One generation after another is contaminated because their eduation is corrupt. But it is easy to corrupt education, and keep it in a correct channel, when the people are slaves. They are slaves by reason of their imbecility and ignorance. They have this imbecility, dullness, and insipience, for their sordidness and cupidity: They have been sordid and earthward; they have loved wealth, they have pursued gain. They were of old corrupted by the craft of Theologians and such like sharpers, that constricted their intellectual capacities, and industriously precluded the means of improvement, and disabled them from enlightening their minds, for a long succession of generations. But why should those persons desire to preoccupy themselves with deluding and depraving mankind? Because they could gain wealth and power by it. Why did the people suffer themselves to be blindfolded and set a***? They were slothful, averse to thinking; ay, they were sordid, they sought gain, they loved the preeminences of possessions; such were possible. They were already corrupted by the idea of peculiar possession: The adoption of exclusive inheritance was the fatal event, that finally perverted every thing, and that turned the moral world upside down. Who knows but it was from the brain of some theocratical craftsman, that this institute took its birth? It has its natural adequate cause. Man must be a fool before he can be wise. According to the eternal course of causes, he must experience the evil effects of error, before he can have that certainty of what is his true interest and wherein his real and greatest happiness consists, that will give him efficient inducements to put himself in the direct and certain way to it. He must have the ‘lamp of his errors’ to conduct him into the right path. He must have something to excite him to the study of nature. When he faithfully studies nature, he is brought in view of his real rights, his real interest, his real happiness.
Why should a nation of men ever submit to a few, rich, pageant, idlers, to be ruled, directed, and have their conduct prescribed to them by the dictates of their precarious and self-devoted wills, when it is well understood that their interest is separate from, and opposed to, that of the people? Why should these few have an inclination to govern, and domineer over, a nation of men? Why should there be any rich? Why should one man possess 10,000 acres of land, while thousands possess none? Why should those who never labored nor knew how to labor, but were bred in the most effeminate manner from their infancy, and are too lazy to meditate or to reason, be rich in land, stock, and every sort of commodity, by hereditary descent, or by the bequest of progenitors who themselves never acquired it by labor; and yet be thought superior, and fit to govern others who possess nothing? Alas, the human heart is corrupted; and the estimation of things totally perverted, and wrested from its true principles, by setting a value on peculiar possession and external preeminence in individuals. Certain visible matter of possession is attached to a person and confusedly intervolved with it, so as to be miscalculated for it in the estimate, and the person made an incidental and subordinate dependent; not being reckoned as any thing, till the pelf is appraised.—In short, the crasis of society is radically disordered and deranged, in consequence of the fashion that individuals should possess wealth in exclusion of one another.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XI.
The third branch of public calamity coming out of exclusive rights, is monarchy and its attendants.
Monarchy is thought by some to be a less evil than aristocracy; and by others, a greater. It is safer to be under one tyrant than twenty, say some, there being more chance of life and ease: while others contend there is less chance, by reason that every one of a company, having a voice, takes a pride in showing his power by opposing the others, and therefore out of their own pride and jealousy, they have such checks upon one-another that they force a matter to be deliberatively agitated and argued before it has its issue: Whereas a single despot may in a fit of anger, doom your head to be taken off in a minute, and have his decree executed;—and there is an end of all arbitration.
Without offering to determine this controversy, which ever evil is the least of these two, it is unquestionably admitted on all hands that Monarchy is a distinct thing from Aristocracy, though it arises from the same root, and several peculiar evils and troubles are dragged along with it that are somewhat different from those experienced under aristocracy.—Whether it be preferable, or, more tolerable or less so, it has this connection with aristocracy: it comes either directly or indirectly from the same root; and is sometimes formed out of it. For the whole clan of chiefs aspiring individually and severally at a predominancy, split into two parties upon the question whether one shall reign, or another one, or the whole; and having bred a civil war, the sticklers and favorites of a particular person prevail by chance, having the most influence in getting aid of the populace; whereupon by dint of force, they put him upon a throne, with single sovereignty over the whole nation. Thus they change a government from aristocracy to monarchy. But when there is a monarch reigning, he is not likely to be changed for another but by the contention of different nations who interfere.
This great branch of evil consists of things which do not necessarily flow immediately from theological ideas; but rests mainly upon something different, in its proximate lineage; though kings have a knack of deceiving the people, as well as priests, that they may have foundations to their thrones: but they do not depend altogether on the same sort of doctrine.—They have not the same ways of threatening and punishing: They draw not all their arguments from spiritual legends. Yet kings are sometimes made by priests ; and all their authority grows out of the priesthood: and I allow this sort of government is an effluence of hierarchy; nevertheless they have another set of names of dignities to awe the multitude, superadded to those which pertain to the theological cabinet, to which yet the highest authorities continually yield a degree of deference. Priests and Hierarchs have much to do with kings, either by commanding, overawing, persuading, flattering or inveigling them, directly or indirectly;—but they have another set of names;—they have Knights, Barons, Earls, Dukes, Marquises, Squires, Lords, Mandarins, &c. distinct from the priesthood.
Men get tricks of bowing, cringing, and kneeling, to an individual man. Not only the worship of wealth teaches this; but theology teaches it too.—Theology exhibits the Idea of one great Monarch governing all things; and it also teaches, by way of inference, the idea of one great man governing a whole nation: though perhaps in some instances the former idea was originally deduced from the latter.
Therefore Monarchy is a nestling of theology. Theocracy and monarchy were originally one and the same idea. The inferior evils of the state of society under monarchy, are usually very much like those under aristocracy, in general; though it is incident to some peculiar ones. The capricious distribution of favours, and stations of influence and service, is perhaps more fortuitous here than in the case of aristocracy. For where is only one will to determine, it is liable to be ruled by something more slight than where are several that have a check against one another; when a proposed measure must of necessity obtain some degree of discussion; and there is evidently less chance of a will prevailing by reason, or being governed by reason in its concludent act, where there is but one will, than where there are several wills with equal privileges of receiving and communicating influence. Every one acquainted with history knows how precarious the happiness and even existence of different people have been under monarchy, in several countries both in ancient and modern times. It is well-understood, the common people are completely slaves in both cases. They are slaves, as well under aristocracy as monarchy. They are liable at any moment to be dragged into wars in foreign countries, and compelled to fight any nation with which their masters are capriciously exasperated; whether it be for the title to an island, a farm, a province, a continent, or to make them submit to pay tribute in the form of duties, imposts, or taxes of whatever kind; or take possession of their land altogether, and colonize them as perpetual tributaries. It is but to look into history, to be acquainted with the advantages and disadvantages, the blessings and curses of monarchy: every age of history has examples of the last in plenty. Perhaps I ought to except an interval between Adam’s time and Samuel’s time; but this sort of history is very obscure, and we are not sure how time is measured in it. Then it seems men were either governed by priests, or judges, or military men. Aaron was a sort of priest. Moses played several parts. At sometimes he appeared to act in the capacity of a priest, at others he seemed a prophet, at others a legislator, and sometimes a general. Joshua was a general. But we don’t, find in that piece of history, any king till the time of Samuel, when Saul was made king. Yes; men are liable to be ordered away to fight and kill their fellow-creatures without having any quarrel or ill-will against them, and without having any interest in the issue; and press-gangs are allowed here as well as under aristocracy, that take them by subtlety, and force them into armies either of the sea or land.
This and all its miseries, came from the invention of exclusive rights, as well as aristocracy. If it generated from aristocracy, then, if aristocracy was caused by that invention, it is plain if there had been no such thing as exclusive rights, there had not been any such thing as monarchy. But if no such thing had ever been thought of as exclusive rights and property, what inducement could any one feel, to incline him to set himself over a whole nation of men, and have the care of governing them and commanding them? And what could incline a nation of men to set up one man over themselves, to rule and drive them whithersoever he pleased? There would exist no temptations to either of these things. If no such thing existed as peculiar exclusive property, there would be no monarchy; and if no monarchy, then none of these evils peculiar to monarchy. There were no such thing as a king, an emperor, or any other sort of despot known on the face of the globe, if mankind had true and thorough knowledge of nature: If men were as enlightened as a diligent application of their thinking faculties to the study of Nature, would make them, there had not been a crowned head ever known: a crowned head had been as unreal a being as a hippogriff. When men live in conformity to the laws of nature, they govern themselves. No one possesses anything but the supply of his wants. This is as sure as the strength of the community or nation to produce it.—Every one exercises himself in labor, ultroneously, sufficient for his health, and freely eats, and makes use of the common products of the labor of the whole, so far as to satisfy his real wants. If there is any surplus, it belongs to all. No such thing as an exclusive title to superfluity exists, or comes within their speculations. All are equal. None plans out the movements of the rest. They govern themselves. They follow reason. What need of a king? How could one desire to be a king? There would be no prerogative for a king. There would be nothing to incite one to desire such preeminence.
Every one necessarily has for his own aim, to make himself happy. Man necessarily desires happiness. To be happy, is to enjoy his own approbation, and the good will and assistance of the beings with whom he lives. To attain that end, is to make use of the means and causes that necessarily produce it. A knowledge of his own nature and of the relative properties of things, puts these means in his power. Meditation and experience give him this knowledge. But he is hampered, he is hoodwinked, he is deluded, and sees things through a false medium; his thoughts are wholly set awry; his heart is perverted; he will not understand; he comes not at the knowledge of things; he is bewildered and infatuated with chimeras; all his views are superficial; he is too indolent, he is too slothful, to think deeply; therefore has he bowed himself and become a slave, over the whole earth. $
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XI.
Men get in the way of limiting the power of an absolute monarch; and by representatives chosen by the people, empowered to legislate, forming a check to the monarch, who can come but half way in applying his power to the making of the laws; he choosing for himself those who-compose one half of the legislative body, who (in England) are called Lords. This is called mixed or limited monarchy, being a sort of government in which they mix democracy with monarchy. This seems to indicate progress in civilization. It being a sign, when people arrive at a vote to half govern themselves, or have half of those who make their laws chosen by themselves, and can manifest that unanimity in it that it takes half the power from the king, or, more properly, forces him to yield half of his power to that of the people, that they are something more enlightened than when they supinely crouch to whatever is imposed on them. The government of Great Britain is of this sort; and besides this I don’t know that there is any other at present in the world.
Sometimes they mix aristocracy with monarchy and democracy. In this of Britain is a large share of aristocracy; but this is on the part of the king, and goes under his name.
This mongrel sort of government, although the people have the appearance of doing half the business of governing themselves, or at least choosing, in part, the engines and agents whereby that governing is carried on; the prevailing weight of influence is at last usually on the part of the despotism. In England, the people’s power is merely nominal, being altogether overruled, in reality, by the aristocratical and monarchical powers.
The people of Spain planned out such a kind of government; but never got it into full operation. But theirs had little or no show of aristocracy; but mainly consisted of democracy and monarchy; but the king was to be but little more than an executive chief ministering to the general assembly, to put in force the constitution and Jaws-of the people. But this savored too strongly of rational liberty, for the crowned heads of Europe: It announced such a degree of intellectual light to have got above their horizon, as threw them under serious apprehensions of its spreading so far as to expose the foundations of their establishments, and eventually endanger their repose: and thereupon they gathered themselves together to concert methods to smother it, and put an effectual stop to its diffusion. They concluded upon setting, first and foremost, the war dogs of France upon the Spaniards, to put an end to the advocates of this levelling scheme, and stop there in their career.—Many other packs of hounds were to be held in momentary requisition, to back them. They succeeded by Louis’s dogs, though not without loss of blood.
In such a government as Britain has, I am apt to think there are more of the aristocratical ranks of power below the chief, than in the most absolute despotism: as Earls, Barons, Dukes, Lords; Marquises, Knights, &c., which seem to be more in number than are found under any absolute monarch.
But whether any mitigation of the evils adherent to unreasonable and corrupt institutions, is found, in passing through these successive modifications of them, that mankind have exhibited in different times and countries, in regulating their subsistence and intercourse, it is evident these evils all virtually emanate from the primordial of all corrupt institutions, that of exclusive rights of inheritance ; and that there little to choose between them, so long as the poisonous principle itself still remains in high repute, and its contaminating communications are kept up through the moral world; it being esteemed a maxim logically established, in the most enlightened nations, and put down in their constitutions and laws, that a man has the sovereign exclusive right to what he earns or gets by his own strength or cunning, and what is given to him, be it little or much.
Still it must be allowed there are degrees of violence and cruelty, and that at certain times individuals may make choice of an abode under one government in preference to another, and can live somewhat less exposed to oppression and enjoy a greater degree of this limited sort of political liberty in one country than in another; notwithstanding it is all bounded and measured by the proportions of peculiar property-rights, in a sheer counterview to equity. The whole civilized world is corrupted with it. It is this so uniform corrupt institution in all parts of the world, that is still found at the bottom of everything that diversifies governments, that makes a man disgusted with his own species, whithersoever he turns himself.
There is but little advantage to be gotten by the change, on the whole matter, from a simple government to a mixed one. That which is evil will have a tendency to prevail over the good, if it has any force to operate; and where the two: principles are nearly equal, their continual struggle for the ascendant, must have a painful-effect upon the people that are under the operation of this sort of government, and make it scarcely preferable to unadulterated despotism. Where aristocracy and monarchy are both mixed, or rather confused, with democracy, the heterogeneous assemblage does-not fail to produce unpleasant exacerbations, and threaten the existence of civil liberty; they evidently having a double chance to predominate; and the people having a knowledge of this liberty, being thereby more sensible to the encroachments of usurpation, consequently suffer more in some respects than when they are downright slaves. Moreover, this sort of mixture, where these two different ranks of tyranny have a share of energy, and yet have to exert their ingenuity to preserve it, tends to bring on a refinement of the arts of oppression and deprivation. They refine and extend the arts of war, public robbery, delusion, plunder, rapine,—and every species of intrigue and villainy that can subserve the enslaving of the human race. Witness the proceedings of the British in India, in America, at Copenhagen, and in every part of the world where they have had any thing to do. Observe the effects of their policy at home. One of their writers remarks, that “poverty, and irresistible necessity to labor every day, dictates submission to the rich. This irresistible necessity; this long established and all pervading aristocracy of insolent wealth and rapacity, over merit in poverty, has made slaves, beggars, and dependents of one half of the people of England, by grinding the multitudes subordinately engaged in its astonishing manufactories and extensive commerce; between them as between two millstones.
For whether the aristocracies consist of the proud knee-distorting master cutters of Sheffield ; of the proud child-starving master silk-throwers of Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Congleton, &c.; or the more proud and potent first-rate merchants of the City of London; their moral and physical effects on the human character, in producing slavery, poverty, and degradation on the one hand,—and tyranny, opulence, and brutality, on the other, are precisely the same.”
“It has been observed,” says Dr. Blatchley, “that the majority of clerks in the City of London, are obliged, from sheer oppression, to be bachelors.” And according to Colquhoun, “about twenty thousand miserable individuals, of various classes and characters, rise every morning in that city, without knowing how or by what means they are to be supported during the day, or where they can repose themselves the succeeding night.” $.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XIII.
There is another thing, which is what is called a REPUBLIC, of which history gives us a few examples in ancient times, as well as modern: which is evil in no other sense than a specious and tantalizing pretension to pure and free democracy; [For indeed it usually has most or all of the inferior evils of aristocracy, and, for any thing distinct, is scarce else but a deceptious names] and there is no pure democracy except where property is common:—But in all these free republics, so called, property is peculiar, and ultimately measures every thing else. For wealth will carry a man into office, even in these. A man’s wealth may be of that extent that it will supply many deficiencies in mental and moral qualifications, even in the estimate of the voters: not to mention that it has its ingratiating overpersuading influence as powerful as under other sorts of government. The old venerable association of wealth and honor, still remains firm on its root. In ancient days was the republic of Greece; and afterwards that of Rome. But neither of these was free. Since that, has been the republic of Switzerland; and, of late, that of the United States. But these were never free republics, although they have borne the name. These were delusively styled free democratic republics. Not one of them ever was such. Even in Athens was aristocracy; coin Rome. In the Congress of the United States it operates powerfully: the principles of aristocracy operated in the formation of their constitution itself. As long as republics do not modify education so as to exclude this pernicious association from the infant mind, they will ever have a tendency to revert into despotisms of some form or other;—and first of all into rank aristocracies. I say these are delusively called democracies; for they have in their very core the principle of demoralizing and confusing the intelligent world. They cherish exclusive property. If they build on this, how can what they build be right? If the foundation be corrupt, the superstructure must be frail, must be illusive, unstable, and vacillating. If the foundation be bad, how can the compacture be good? There can be no pure democracy except where property is common, universal, and equal, to the wants and necessities of every member of the community. Not but that some want more than others: The wants and necessities of some, may at times require more materials to supply them than others: but property is not considered of any note or worth at all in any other respect than that of its appropriation to those wants. In such a state, there are not ten thousand factitious wants that generate from irregularity and delusion, and repression of the best developments of intellectual character;—but all follow reason. In the present state, innumerable of the wants existent, are spurious and factitious: they are made by man: they adhere not to our organization.
Will any one doubt that wealth is revered in republics? In proportion as wealth is revered, poverty is contemned; and vice versa. In republics exist seeds of aristocratical governments: For the whole root of these, is this association of the idea of dignity with the idea of wealth: or more clearly the association of the moral ideas of great and good, with the idea of wealth. The fact is, success and good fortune are tokens that propitiate respect and benediction. The ideas of good and great are linked with that of rich, in the common mind. Such is the plight the minds of the commonalty are in, not excepting the poor, and even in what are called republics, that they actually have this corrupt principle in them.—But whence did it come? From the education of infants. It comes from the modification of the mind in infancy. Thus from generation to generation, mankind are corrupted. But why are they not opposed to it? answer—Exclusive property has been introduced, and it remains consecrated in maxims and laws. Unless they be inclined to explode this, they cannot be inclined to educate their children differently from what they use when they admit and cherish this confusing principle; neither will it be in their power to effectually accomplish it. It is the indispensable foundation of all aristocracy. It is nursed, it is matured, in the reign of theological polity, and gives rise to alt aristocratical institutions.—There is no aristocratical measure that ever was proposed or took effect, but what was an effluence of this crooked uncouth association of ideas, and was predicated on this sentiment, that “those who possess wealth are worthy of higher esteem than those who do not, and the proportions of property are to govern the scale of estimation as applied to men.—Whether it be the chartering of a bank, the investing of any company of men with the advantages of a monopoly, or the endowing of any man ay collection of men with immunities of prerogatives of any kind superior to others around them, without merit, or without its rendering a service to the whole community, every such thing proceeds from: this principle. It contaminates republics as well as all other governments. As long as the living source of it, from which it was engendered, is consecrated in all their laws, it still infects every institution with degeneracy. If there had been no such things as riches and poverty, there could have been no reverence of one nor contempt of the other. If no peculiar property, then no such affection as love of peculiar property: The invention and institution of this thing, naturally and necessarily led to these effects. When representative property became established as the medium through which all things possessed were to be known and measured, and by which every desirable thing that is transferable could be obtained, and without it, could not be obtained, the natural and necessary consequence was, that all people loved representative property : It would procure what would keep them from starving; it would procure them any pleasure, and the diminution of any pain. They loved it as a representative of the real materials of purposes. From this they naturally and necessarily came to respect those who possessed it, and those who possessed what it represented. But there was a degree of veneration attached to superior accumulations of gain, prior to the invention of representative property. This led the way to that invention. So long as wealth, or what indicates it, is an object exciting awe, veneration, respect, or reverence for the person possessing such wealth or bearing such indication, men are not free. No free democratic republic has place under such circumstances. Look at the proceedings of this republic! Have not these states been chartering banking companies these many years? And notwithstanding many companies failed and went with impunity under their charters, while thousands of honest men lost their money without remedy, did they not, and do they not to this day, still continue to license banking companies in the same manner without making them responsible for any thing personally’ when their capitals should be exhausted? And what can this proceed from but a spirit of aristocracy, which, being energetic in those individuals in our legislative councils, who having a hand in making the laws as well as, a peculiar interest in such establishments, prevail there by majority of numbers, carries such measures into effect in spite of the remonstrances of such as suffered by them? But how came this same sort of people to be continually elected, in such proportions, to represent the people, unless the majority of the common people themselves who elected them, possessed a tincture of the same spirit? Nay, the mass of the people has a reverence for wealth and power! Even if they are poor, they choose the wealthy for rulers. $
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XIV.
The custom of jobbing labor, is, in itself, a notorious specimen of the operations of this genius of aristocracy. And the entrusting of companies with work to be farmed to others, is instituting several successive monopolies, proportionate to the wealth and good fortune of the different companies or individuals through whose hands the service devolves.—A very wealthy man must have twenty dollars a day for sitting in his chair, useless; while he that labors from morning till night, must content himself with three fourths of a dollar. Thus the committing of public works of utility to personal views of pecuniary emolument, is seen to have a pernicious tendency, and to disgrace the name of a republic. It brings into high vogue a habit of cheating. The works are farmed out from one party to another, each of which has a view to gain. Hence, from the beginning, there is a seeking and endeavoring to overreach and take advantage of others’ deficiencies of knowledge and forecast. The corporate board who are invested with the estate, desire to get the work done as cheap as possible, so as to leave some nett profits to themselves, as the avails shall come to be collected; and one man or company of men farming it to another, those who in fact execute the drudgery and “bear the beat and burden of the day,” in effect get no profit at all, but a bare livelihood, by the hardest efforts too; while that speculating gentry who have employed only their thoughts in farming the work to others, themselves being independent of coarser labor, get abundant profits. For if the company bas liberty to farm the execution of the work for a certain sum to another company, and the latter farms it still to an undertaker or undertakers who, being independent of coarse labor, farther let it out to others at a lower price; every party retaining profits, which become less and less as it devolves to those who bestow the most care and exertion; and these last hire out the labor itself in tasks or pieces at a certain rate per. yard, foot, mile, &c. ; the issue is not only an increased habit of cheating and taking advantages of others for the sake of gain, recommended and made fashionable among the common people; but also an extortionate reduction of the price of labor, with a train of other bad consequences. It leads to poverty, in the individuals who do such labor, and in their families; since more than what they gain by such labor, over and above their necessary sustenance and clothing, is immediately laid out for stimulant drink, to excite extraordinary efforts and gratify a growing appetite;—it wears out their constitutions and shortens their life; it causes the advantages of labor to be monopolized by the strong; it puts labor within the control of such whose strength and bodily activity exceed the common measure: Thus a few men of extraordinary ability get all the labor into their management; when it is reduced to an established estimate, without regard to diligence, assiduity, punctuality, or sobriety, but only to quantity of effect. In short, this unsocial, aristocratical, detestable habit of jobbing all sorts of labor and estimating the services of all laborers by the quantity of effect they produce, at reduced and unequitable rates, has extended from turnpike-making and. canal-making, down to the ploughing, reaping, and fence-making of the husbandman, and caused all labor to be engrossed by a few eager venturous worldlings, or a few men of extraordinary powers of body, who by pouring down large quantities of spirituous stimulus and using violent efforts (which course eventually breaks down their constitutions and diminishes their days) produce wonderful effects; while the poor man of moderate abilities, who yet is willing to labor from sunrising to sunsetting, is, in spite of all his diligence, his industry, and his integrity, utterly excluded from the possibility of getting a livelihood by corporeal labor in the service of those who possess the lands and materials of employment. And hence so many persons seeking for day-labor, who cannot get it.
Now it is the predominance of persons having an aristocratic genius, by a majority of numbers in our legislative councils, that efficiently causes such measures to be adopted and to take effect. And is it not natural to expect rich men to approve of a subjection of the poor to the rich? They are indeed very apt to approve of this; and to adopt measures that are favorable to the perpetuation of their own distinction and superiority. If this be fact, it follows that as long as one man is allowed to be richer than another in the society, representation cannot be perfectly equitable till the number of poor men in the legislature have at least the same proportion to the number of poor men. out of it, as the number of rich men in the legislature have to the number of rich men out of it.
Another evidence of the operation of this spirit in! our councils, is the manner m which the public lands are stipulated to he sold. The establishing of such a} disposal of the unimpropriated domains of the republic as is now in use, must have been derived from aristocrats. The principles of such a class of men must have been the origin from which arose this establishment. If the poor were fairly represented, there is no doubt but people would at any time have the opportunity to purchase a smaller quantity of land than a hundred-dollar lot; even whatever they could pay for less than that quantity; or else certain quantities of land would be freely given to a certain class of poor, on condition of their improving it. But how can the poor be fairly represented, when all give honor and preeminence to wealth? So prescriptive, so inveterate, so universally prevalent, is that association of ideas which attaches respect to wealth! He that is so rich as to have money enough in his pocket to purchase sixty acres of land, is more respected than one who is able only to purchase four! And in order that the rich one may be accommodated, and such ones suited in every respect who crave sixty acres, and will not be contented with thirty, the man who has but five dollars must be altogether excluded from the inheritance of any soil at all, and from the privilege of cultivating any part of the earth on which he was born to live, because, forsooth, there is a possibility that he should sometime incline to make use of a right to cut a road through the rich man’s farm the peculiar situation rendering such a thing requisite for a worldly man and a man of traffic!
Alas! what avails the contempt of wealth, the love of retirement and contemplation, attachment to rural order and the tillage of the ground, and an aversion to the elusive and duplicious humor of the trading crew, when an individual, deputed by the sovereign authority to sell the national domains in certain stipulated apportionments, such as 80 acres in a lot, and also the fractions that are made by the intersection of rivers and the sectional line, and there is no chance for the poor but that of purchasing the smallest of these fractions, can say he has a discretionary power to exercise about he sales of such lands, and refuse to sell in any other way than cannot possibly interfere with the convenience of the wealthy. $.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XV.
That spirit of aristocracy which, prevailing among the people of these states, has availed in the national legislature to bring about such an arrangement that causes the public lands to be monopolized by the rich, utterly cuts off the retreat of those poor individuals who fleeing from the excessive and extortionate trading and trafficking of the Atlantic districts, would fain get their livelihood by tilling a small piece of land in the peaceful regions of the west. For unless one is so fortunate as to have a hundred dollars in his pocket, he is not sure of being able to secure an inch of ground, any more than he was when he left the eastern shore. For the United States will not sell less than 80 acres, unless by chance there be a smaller piece, called a fraction, made by the meanders of some navigable stream;—and here he is subject to the arbitrary dictation of the land-officer, whether he will sell any such pieces as the other is able to buy, at all, or not; according to their situation with respect to larger fractions: and the private land-holders will seldom sell less, of wild land, than fifty acres.
The poor adventurer, on the Atlantic shore, being told that land is to be sold here for one dollar and a quarter per acre, puts his little estate on his shoulders and sets forward to this region with full hope of obtaining a little patrimony that he can call his own, whereon he can busy himself independently of the caprice of the wealthy, “The reason why he quits his native ground, is perhaps because he cannot purchase an acre of land there, which very probably could not be gotten for less than eighty dollars: For perchance even a garden would content him. With scrupulous care and some privation, on his way, he reserves seventeen dollars wherewith to purchase land. He walks 800 miles. He stops at the land office; and inquires for land. He is told what? He is told 80 acres are the smallest quantity that can be sold; the price of which, is one hundred dollars. He finds, then, there is no land for him. He that has a hundred dollars, is a rich man: and he that can produce no more than fifteen, may be fashionably called a poor man. The rich then only are entitled to land: the poor can have none at all; but must still be a slave to the rich;—must work for such as please to employ him, for such wages as they please to give him, and diet as they please to diet him, whether he live or die.—I say, he is robbed by society. Society has robbed him of his birthright. Nature gives every man land to cultivate. The society itself into which he is born, by adopting and adhering to the corrupt tyrannical institution of exclusive property, is the robber that has robbed him of that which was his birthright, and has cast his lot in the rank of mendicity!—Wherefore has he been at all this trouble? If he had a hundred dollars, he could have possessed himself of land at home. Without that sum, he can have none here. How is he improved in his condition by this huge jaunt?
The western states, themselves, have contributed their share of this aristocratical influence.
In Athens and Rome aristocracy was abundant. It was that, that extinguished their last spark of political freedom. It was that, which disorganized those societies; and put an end to them. The stubborn living root of it, is that to which we have continually referred all other abuses; and which has existed several thousand years. And it can never be eradicated till property shall be made common. There is no permanent groundwork of a free democratic republic, but common property. There, mankind can be united; and none will have occasion to pray for war that sales may be made for some kinds of products, or the price raised upon others. On any other ground, they are always vacillating; always verging to despotism or anarchy. If trade is patronized as an incitement to industry and cause of general improvement, every one’s hands are set against another, as at a gaming table. Every one is wishing ill to another: and while each is praying for his own welfare, he is praying against that of his neighbor. Labor is engrossed by the strong and dexterous; and men are estimated, not by what they voluntarily act, but by what fortuitously happens to them. Good fortune is synonymous with merit. Every thing is inverted. All possession is uneven and fortuitous. Each is scrabbling to shave off the head of the other. And he that can shirk along in this disorderly state of things and have the good fortune to have ‘an estate,’ is called a man of wisdom and worth: he is said to swim while others sink.
If a man has no land to cultivate, how is he to get employ?—Beg it of the wealthy. If this last gives him the privilege of a day’s work, it is thought a favor. What he is to have for this day’s-work, is another thing to beg. This same wealthy man fixes the price on the work. If any products are wanted by the poor man, the wealthy man surely sets the price on his own goods, even though the poor man does not upon his own work. If the poor calls for his pay, and the gentleman is not in, it is so contrived that he shall call four or five times more before he gets it, so that he may get a habit of petitioning his superiors, and that the money may seem so good when it comes, that he may incline to seek the same benefactor again for like favors.
A person who is assiduous at labor when he has it (though not extraordinarily strong) and diligent and punctual, faithfully regarding the interest of him for whose benefit the labor is done, being idle, inquires for a few days labor in the field. He is told, ‘work is not hired in that way; it goes by jobbing:’ and ‘he must do so much per day else he will not be entitled to a day’s wages; for so much is called a day’s work.’ Some plough by the acre; others by the rood; others by the furrow at a higher or lower price according to the length of the field.—Like is said of hoeing and harvesting. He finds that even flax-pulling is estimated at so much for the product of a peck of seed, and the like proportions. He proceeds on his journey, and looks into a machine-shop, expecting a week’s or month’s employ. The machinist tells him no work is done in his shop but by the piece: and, on exploring the prices of the different pieces of work and the cost of boarding, he finds that although he has been accustomed to work diligently and do his work well, yet, at the prevailing rates, to do his utmost he could not earn so much as his sustenance. So that here he is again baffled, and barred out of, the means of living.
The same man travels into Pennsylvania; and, falling in with an engineer who had undertaken a canal, offers his service to: him for eleven dollars per month. The offer is accepted. The man agrees to employ him at that price and provide him his board. He presents himself at a very early hour on the day stipulated; when, this gentleman goes and stakes him out his rod of ground, and says, ‘the price is ten cents per yard—if you earn eleven dollars per month, I will give it you.’ The honest man, though justly chagrined at this base prevarication, resolves to try the fortune of the day;—and after performing an extreme wearing day’s labor, ruining about a half dollar’s value of clothing, and laboring the next morning till late breakfast time, his gentleman, after measuring the ground that he had dug, politely informs him that, since he had eaten three meals, the work scarce paid the expense, and therefore nothing was due him for labor; but rather the reverse. Notwithstanding, sooner than it should be the occasion of any ‘hard thoughts,’ he would make him a present of eighteen cents!
Our adventurer afterwards contracts with some farmers distant in the country in an adjoining state, to conduct a school. The committee appointed for such purpose, agree to pay him a sum of money for his attendance during a time specified; to make necessary repairs on the building; to visit and inspect the school, &c. The term goes half out; the man attends faithfully; no one makes repairs; the house is not attracting nor pleasant to students; no one visits the school. Some dogged, ill-bred, scandalous young profligates in the school, make complaint to their parents, misrepresenting the teacher,—say he neglects his duty, attends to other business, &c. The committee, forthwith upon hearing the report of these disaffected children, without asking the teacher any questions, without “judge or jury” (as the saying is:) by force expel him from the house, and tell him ‘they will pay him (some certain price) “for the time he has labored,” and no more,—“the rest he may get by the hardest.”’ $.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XVI.
One great and unfailing source of misery adherent to the present constitution of human society, is the juggle of jurisprudence. The applying of public enactments to the modification of peculiar property, is immediately fatal to the peace of society. Wherever the compulsory arm of civil authority is lifted in the partitioning or diversification of peculiar property, is an end to friendship. It extinguishes complacency and love; and breaks asunder the bands of affiance. The perpetual attendant of litigation, is anxiety: and it is seldom unaccompanied with malice in one or both of the parties contendant. It drags into its train every malign wish, every antisocial feeling, every vindictive stratagem. It racks the soul with a tumultuation of bad passions. It rends apart the strongest ties of natural affection and .of the reciprocity of neighborhoods. It sets one man’s hands and heart against those of another; it harrows up the bosom of domestic serenity; it mutinies families; it sets the father against the son, the daughter against the mother, the sister against the brother, the husband against the wife, and vice versa; it turns the relish of life into gall; and is fraught with the mischief of invariably instilling the principles of all manner of malversation. Can that be good which gives rise to so much evil? Is that cause good, from which so many bad effects follow? Can there be anything good in the ground out of which so much mischief and misery grow? Now, the root of all this is the institution of exclusive rights of possession. If no partitioning and peculiarizing, of property had taken place, then no laws for regulating property. If no such thing existed as peculiar property, no occasion would have arisen for laws and knacks to guard it or modify it. This, therefore, is an adherent of the present existing constitution of human society. This is adjunct to the primogenial institute of peculiarizing the possession of the elements. This enters into the general frame of our institutes. All germinate from the disastrous fatality that formed the first precedent of partitioning the materials of sustenance and attaching them to accidental peculiarities of the modes of human power. What has a lawyer to study, to gain his livelihood and maintain his standing by engaging indiscriminately in every cause that comes to hand, which will afford him pay? What, but a system of chicanery? He has to study sophistry; and every art of deceiving.
Every form of malignity, every malignant purpose, every malignant deed, is sanctioned under the cloak of law!
One man sues another for the price of a valued article he delivered him by contract. He is a poor man; he sues because he is urged to it by necessity. He is without a home, and 500 miles distant from the place of his destination. The debtor having previously refused to perform his engagement, and left the other no other resource but the law to secure his just right, now out of ill will resolves to cheat him out of the debt if practicable. He suffers execution to issue against him. Well, he can get favor of the constable, who is a townsman: the constable will incline to favor him, even to the disadvantage of a stranger; because he is one of those from whose suffrages he holds his office, from year to year. The law allows him, in the first place, twenty days within which to return the execution. He may make a return of the execution unsatisfied at the close of this term, and immediately take out a new execution which will be valid twenty days more. This execution he may suffer to die (as the saying is) or become null on his hands, by making default of the return, and lay himself liable to pay the debt: for which, process being instituted against him and execution issued, he has 20 days in which to make payment, by proper management securing the favor of the constable who serves the process on him. Perhaps from the beginning he has collusively evaded his duty, and given warning to the debtor to secure his property, so that he could riot make a levy; the debtor, all along, privately paying him the cost when desired. Thus sixty days will be taken up in collecting a small debt, allowing the debtor has abundant means wherewith to pay it. The poor plaintiff cannot wait; his expenses would be four times as much as the debt. He may as well trust the magistrate to send him his money when collected, and retire. But stop a minute! The debtor inveigles a neighbor who has bought an article of the same man, to bring a prosecution against him for an amount equal to his debt, on a pretext of fraud in the sale of that article. The same constable is employed, and charged with a capias for that purpose. The action is brought before a prejudiced, disaffected magistrate, who is in debt to the same man who is prosecuted, and bears him ill will because he will not exonerate him from payment. It is of course expected that he will render judgment against the man with impunity, whether it be directly in the face of evidence and law or not, because nothing can ever be substantiated against him, so long as he can plead ignorance, and that he acted according to the best of his knowledge.
Now, there is no ground of action, (as the: saying is); there is no fraud; but fraud must be made appear by means of fraud, that is, by chicanery, and possibly, if necessary, by perjury at the end of it, to help it out. An article of the same kind, which is really damaged or defective, is to be borrowed of another person, and exhibited as the identical article bought; whereupon it is to be pleaded that the article was not such as was represented and agreed upon. The trial is postponed from time to time, so that the issue may come as near as possible to that of the other man’s execution. The whole neighborhood is in collusion against the stranger; he is brought up by a capias before this crooked outlawed magistrate; he is compelled to give bail for his appearance at trial, upon his having need of a postponement to prepare his defence.
The stranger must go away. He is ill of the confinement; besides, his affairs call him to a distance. If he stays, he assuredly must lose more than his demand. To stay to defend his cause, can save no more than the amount of that demand. He must leave an agent to defend him. The cause is most likely to go against him, and the debt to be lost, besides more than its equivalent in the expense he has already been at, by the time he has tarried.
Ultimately, no cause is found against him; but the collected money (if any), being to be sent by the mail to a great distance, never reaches him: so that, at all events, he is under an invincible necessity of losing the debt, without remedy, for no other reason, forsooth, than that an ill-disposed individual has taken a fancy to cheat him out of it, because in the first instance he loved money too well not to choose rather to keep it in his own hands than to pay it to another, to fulfil a promise or render an equivalent for a benefit received. Such is the protection which the laws extend to the poor, even in a republic.
One man promises to board and lodge another in his house a year. He afterwards finds it inconvenient to go through with the performance of his word, because he fancies it encroaches upon his estate; and that he does not gain ‘profits’ by it. He breaks his word; and has impunity. Thus when one who is wealthy has made a promise to a poor man, if after he has begun to perform it he finds that it takes away a little more of his property than he expected it would when he made the promise, without ceremony he violates his promise, and does it with impunity: for, if the poor man recurs to the law, the rich prevails in spite of equity, by chicanery and intrigue. He can employ false witnesses; he can employ sophisters, to wrest and twist the law from its original purport.
In short, all the troubles that human society knows, are to be traced to its corrupt system of property. All manner of crimes flow from it. It has lighted up wars on all parts of the globe, through all ages of history. It has been the perpetual source of murders, robberies, thefts, perjuries, frauds, conflagrations, seditions, slanders, and self-destruction. The host, though apparently social, and his table pleasant, yet builds all this accommodation, all this illusory enjoyment of society, upon the expectation of two or three dollars per week, to be paid him by his guest at the end of a certain number of days or months. The time comes round. The poor guest is disappointed, and cannot get hold of the money. Then farewell home, hospitality and friendship!. All is animosity and chagrin. Has any a piece of land? he is jealously eyeing his neighbor’s cattle and fences: depending on his neighbor to make his fences sufficient to keep them within his own limits—expecting him to pay for the damage they do, if they trespass. This neighbor is expecting so much money of him for the use of a horse or a plough. Disappointment makes them unhappy. Thus there is a perpetual reciprocation of hostilities, over the whole scene of civil life, flowing out of this barbarous notion of exclusive property.
Alas! when will man become civilized? will he be a savage forever? How long shall his sight remain mantled with an impermeable film of delusion, and his heart mailed in the steel of selfishness, be every where in an attitude of hostility in each individual against other? When will he open his eyes to the light of nature? When will he see that the natural basis of order and equity in his proper station in the universe as a social being, is COMMON INCLUSIVE INHERITANCE OF THE USES OF THINGS? When will he see that his true interest is to demolish, from its uttermost base, that old barbarian institution of exclusive rights and possessions, that from time immemorial has filled the earth with wickedness and with misery? S.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XVII.
There are certain particular customs which are not readily imputable to the common source of evil hitherto described: and which nevertheless may be logically traced to it. There are some laws giving origin to crimes which otherwise had not their names nor turpitude. These laws obviously oppose the moral law of nature.
Sometimes laws give rise to customs; and sometimes customs bring forth laws. In other instances, customs of themselves become more forcible than laws, and are more regarded. When an action which the law enjoins, has not been frequent, and becomes afterwards frequent, conformity to the law becomes customary. But when any custom has got in high vogue, and many people are strongly attached to it, it produces a law whereby the people are indulged in it on certain conditions. Thus it becomes an established law. This is the case in the distilling and selling of spirits from grain and fruits. People being fondly accustomed to it, the law says, in effect, “you may sell as much as you please, provided you pay a small annual tribute for license,–to make a revenues to defray the expenses of government.” In saying which, it sanctifies the custom, and makes it honorable. [The same thing is said, also, of selling imported liquors.] Therefore they manufacture their bread corn into poison; and drink thereof till they die.
Laws granting licenses to billiard tables and other means of gambling, are of the same stamp. They make vice allowable; they give it a sanction of public protection, for the sake of getting money to pay the officers of government. Some states have legalized horse-racing, and disburdened it from fines and license, under the idea that it would be useful by stimulating the people to raise good horses!! In other places they have framed states against it, whose very stricture is an implicit permission, and tantamount to a license; by requiring such evidence as can never be obtained; whereby it can always get impunity. Such laws as these last, one would think, are more disgraceful to a country than those which commend and legalize it; because while they make the government an accomplice in the vices of the people, they convey the idea that it is forced to be so, contrary to inclination, through weakness.
Laws imposing needless ceremonies, and supernumerary fees to be paid for them having in view to put money into the hands of a privileged class of men for some trifling attendance that is altogether dispensable, or to embarrass and exclude a certain class of people from the benefits of the laws, and circumscribe them to those of a particular conditions; even if they go no farther than to pay a formal compliment to wealth and popularity, are of this predicament. The law of marriage, as in some countries, is one of these. Their law concerning divorce, is also unjust, and produces much suffering. The law making the marriage compact binding till death unconditionally, has brought much misery into domestic life. Reason should be the constant tutor and conductor of each party; and the contract should never be any thing more than a conscientious agreement between two persons to live together during their existence or as long as they shall be mutually pleased with their society, and therefore, as long as they can be satisfied with such a condition. Such a union as this, established upon a private contract which has nothing to solemnize it but the unequivocal unreserved acquiescence of each of the parties, would be more durable than one which is fortified by the restraints of law, in which they are bound and holden to live together at all events, and labor for each other, whether any circumstance may have rendered one odious to the other, or have made traveling to a distance by sea or land, necessary to preserve the life of either, or not. Restraint is unpleasant to all those who know what liberty is. When people have had a taste of liberty, they dread restraint. They are uneasy under a yoke. The idea of being bound by law, and fixed in the situation without regard to their variable feelings, makes them discontented in it, and desirous to change: This commonly take the lead in one of the parties; not so frequently affecting both at once. This very thing, the idea of authoritative constraint, is what makes them uneasy, and puts them upon measure to separate themselves; the difficulty or unpleasantness of which, often drives them into habitual contention. Moreover, under a rational disposition of circumstance, as in an enlightened well-digested commonwealth, nothing could prevail to render one odious to the other;–it would be natural and necessary for them to be, reciprocally, faithful and constant. Look at the dove, and some other species of animals! But those were never corrupted by human institutions.
Then again the laws regulating divorce, are generally very oppressive. In many places they cannot obtain a divorce for real abuse, and violation of contract—but for a certain number of years’ absence;–and not for that neither; but for the mere precarious circumstance, of one party not hearing from the other during a certain number of years. So then if a husband makes a beast of himself by excessive drinking, rendering his society altogether odious, and his house as unpleasant as a den of swine, ever so many years, the wife has not tile to a divorcement for all this;–but if, being ever so temperate, he absents himself, and, happening to be out of sight a particular number of years, it so falls out that she gets no communication from him nor information about him during that term,–whether he be detained by captivity, by sickness, by bad weather at sea, by being unexpectedly employed in some important enterprize whereby he may raise the condition of his family, or by whatever other cause, the law, upon her request, gives her a divorce. Such a law is, upon the face of it, unreasonable.
There is a custom, which though not established by law, is even more punctiliously observed than most other formal duties that are instituted in laws; and that is the fashion of following a particular set of movements in disposing of the remain of those who die. Besides many futile and trifling observances, there are some things in this proceeding, that are really extravagant and injurious. Neighborhoods are disturbed, and the thoughts of people drawn off from every thing serious, and rallied into the drudgery of futile hackneyed ceremonies. Neighbors must be called in, to ‘lay out’ and dress the body, as if for a show.—It is no more than prudent, in most cases, especially in those of sudden and easy deaths, to leave the face of the dead uncovered and in contact with the circulating air, and indeed no part of the body constricted or encumbered with much clothing, for twenty four hours after the signs of life have disappeared. But directly after the breath and pulsation have departed from the body, they set forth to rig it out with dress, as if or an assembly, wrap a white sheet around it in a particular form, and cover the face with folded cloth completely shutting out the pure air. Rational people are very well satisfied with wearing clothing while they lie; and make no calculation of wearing wit when they shall be dead. As they can have no desire of such a thing, inasmuch as it can have no use, they make no preparations of this kind. This is a concern that remains for those that survive: and by their graceless mummery of dressing the dead, to show children and idle starers how much they can make them look like the living, immense quantities of valuable clothing are daily put into the earth with the bodies of those who die, which at the same moment thousands of living poor are suffering the want of necessary apparel, which, by reason of the present unequal tyrannical distribution of things, they cannot possibly obtain the mean to procure! This obviously is a wasteful, extravagant, and therefore a pernicious custom.
Next, a certain number of persons must be selected for bearers to escort the body to the place of burial, even if a vehicle waits wherein it is to be drawn by horses: also a conductor, or master of ceremonies, must be appointed, to see that every movement is adjusted in a customary train; and nothing mistimed or misplaced.
The relatives, upon one’s decease, immediately run into a speculation of dress and ceremony. They purchase cloths and stuffs of a particular color and texture; and their whole time and thoughts are devoted to the preparation of their garments and other equipments, that they may be in perfect conformity to the prevailing mode used on such occasions.
Such things come from the institution of exclusive property: for they evidently arise from a veneration of wealth, and a fondness for the possession of the things of this world. The pattern is set by the wealthy, to make a display of wealth because they are proud of it, and to make a strange usual stir, as if to prove that the course of nature is disturbed by the death of one of their kindred. The poor imitate them. But why would the poor ape the rich unless they bore respect to wealth? Here, then, we trace the traduction of this evil. If no individual wealth existed, nor came into our speculations, it could not be an object of admiration, in ourselves or others; neither could those who (now) possess it, be though worth of imitation on its account. $
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XVIII.
The usages which some societies have in their maintenance of poor that are to be supported at the public expense, are full of compliments to wealth, and prove in what a contemptuous view poverty it held. There is no uniform provision for the support of the poor in these states though united and called a republic: But the different states have different laws for such purpose. Every state makes its own law.—These laws generally put great confidence in such as they call overseers; whose appointment they institute: They fix no penalty to the default of what they make their duty. In some states they set up their poor at vendue, and strike them off to the lowest bidder (instead of the highest;) which is a perversion of the established rules of all publish auctions. They are sometimes set up singly, one after another, like so many lots of merchandize. He who will keep them the cheapest, takes them. If he keeps them cheap, he will keep them poor. Very likely he also calculates upon wringing from their frail hands that labor which shall yield a part or the whole of his indemnity. For he aims at profits. He that underbids at this auction, does it for the sake of money:—and his object is, that this money shall be matter of gain.
How cruel, how unworthy the name and character of civilized people, to treat in this manner the forlorn victims of adversity, whose hearts are broken, whose constitutions are broken, who have been rent from the great mass of society by the hard hand of adverse fortune, contemptuously distinguished from the rest of the world, and made marks of scorn to their once intimate neighbors! They require nourishing and cordial aliments; they require rest and leisure; they require consolation; they require, they deserve, from the hand of the public, every thing that is propitious to the preservation of their health—Nevertheless, in some places, where they go so far as to build alms-houses and hospitals, and make a display of substantial and roomy provision of lodgement for their poor; there is some reason to believe, that, when these are past labor and no individual is interested in prolonging their existence, measures are taken to conduct them out of the world as soon as possibly it can be done in an easy way without exciting any suspicion of design: it seeming little else when those comforts and conveniences are withheld from the sick, which, without being dangerous to the weak, healthy persons continually demand as indispensable to the preserving of their usual health.
In a certain county in P**********, where is a very large alms-house and hospital, whose exterior has the evidence of a very munificent design, I observed about three hundred persons, the most of whom being collected together at twilight, thronged a large eating room with a brick or stone floor, and without fire, in the depth of winter; where they sat down in rotation in a confined and crowded condition, on benches by narrow tables, with uniform, small measured messes of provision placed before them. In their sitting room or hall above stairs, the whole allowance of fire was contained in an ordinary box stove, and their seats were long narrow benches without backs. These were not permitted to be drawn near the stove; but must remain at some distance, close to the walls. All those who were in health, were required to labor every hour in the day except the eating hours. In the hospital, in a close small room aloft, were four sick men. They appeared to be in a consumption. They had four beds. Their bedding was thin, and very deficient. Their heads appeared to rest lower than their feet. For seats, they had short board benches or stools without backs. Their fire-place was a close cast iron box stove, which threw out a disagreeable unhealthy vapor and a heavy heat. Neither candles nor lamps were allowed them; but if any had occasion for a temporary light, they obtained it from little torches of split pine to be held in the hand; which when lighted, diffused a pitchy smoke in the room. Tables they had not. Their diet consisted of a piece of tough compact rye bread very thinly overspread with butter, and a small tin measure of rye coffee, tempered with sugar and milk!! These were delivered into their hands without spoon, plate, knife, fork, or napkin. Very like will be found the lot of the poor in most of the populous counties in these states, where alms-houses or poor-houses are erected; and often no better where they are maintained separately at private houses.
By an apt synchronism of ideas, they reckon that a poor-house, inhabited by poor people, should of course have poor lodging, poor clothing, poor furniture, poor victuals, poor drink, poor medicines, poor books, and a poor character. As if one who is sick, lame, destitute, or from any cause deprived of, or excluded from, the power or means to help himself, ought not to live so well as an upstart sap-headed bublying fop, with a suit that costs three hundred dollars wrapped round his lazy limbs, and a gold watch in his pocket, who never having performed a day’s labor in his life, possesses an estate of half a million from his predecessors!
By their corrupt system of estimate, it is made a crime, and a disgrace, for one to say he is in want and has not means of living. By this contemptuous perversion they encourage villainy. They hereby give incitement to unlawful recourses. By attaching contempt to the idea of an application to the public for relief, they encourage not only begging, but fraud, swindling, illusory promises, robbery, housebreaking, and all such fortuitous emprises of indiscriminate depredations on individuals, for sustenance. Ultimately, then, they become the abettors of the violation of their laws. The people, and the rulers and law makers of the people, become abettors of the violation of their laws.
It will be said, without doubt, that some of these who come to the public charge, squandered their estates for spirituous drink, and by drunkenness brought themselves to poverty. What then?—Some are not all: and if indeed these are to be punished by starvation or suffocation, the innocent ought not to suffer promiscuously with the guilty. But in the next place, how comes it about that spirituous liquor is allowed to be used in the country? Why are spirits imported into our country? Why are they distilled here from grain and fruit? Is it not practicable for a republic to prevent the general use of spirituous liquor? Is that republic free, which is not able to prevent the importation and sale of a poisonous fluid?—Are the people free, if the majority. of them is opposed to such prevention? No. They are slaves to vice—they are slaves to their passions—slaves to an appetite for excessive drinking of a deleterious liquid. Are they free, if being disposed to suppress this extravagant usage, their rulers, whom they have chosen, will not enact such laws as they wish? They are slaves during the reign of such rulers. But are the rulers free, if being well-disposed in this respect, they dare not lay prohibitory duties on spirits lest they should be mobbed by the people? No. Both rulers and people are slaves. S.
GRAY LIGHT.— No. XIX.
A custom of gambling is in high vogue among the people of these states; as well as in others of those nations called civilized. Influential persons set examples of gambling, to the lower ranks of the people. Those who are venerated for their wealth, for their influence which is consequent on this, and perhaps for their generosity, are frequently staking valuable horses and hundreds of money on the issue of a horse race or an election. Thousands pass whole nights at the card-table; where every one wishing ill to another, neither friendship, peace, nor sincerity, can exist. No vice is more diffusive in its contamination of the human character than gambling. It represses every good principle in the soul; and nourishes every bad one. It overbears the generous emotions of sympathetic complacency, and gradually corrupts the whole heart. Every one that plays, desires gain. For one to gain, another must lose. It aptly leads to a habit of cheating; and this for several reasons so very obvious as scarce to require a designation. One is, cheating makes a part of this very business. Illusion is constantly employed, and advantage taken of others’ ignorance and want of perspicacity. Hope of gaining and fear of losing are constantly taking their turns in the gamester’s thoughts; which, as he is expecting others to be always on the watch as his self is, makes him a suspicious being; while the whole energy of his mind and constant current of his thoughts being bent into this one track, he is wont to take undue advantages when dealing with his fellow-creatures in any mode whatever.
Furthermore, this practice tends to covetousness. There is scarce a professed gambler who gets an estate by gaining small sums in play, that does not become odiously parsimonious and close-fisted. He foregoes the tranquility of his fireside, the society of his wife, the pleasure of educating his children, the endearments of domestic retirement, to pursue what? To pursue gain! Lucre gotten by chance and by his own subtlety, on which he exults in his adroitness! And when he has given up all other things for this, he assuredly esteems it too costly to be wasted. There is not a more zealous or a more ardent worshipper of the Grand Lama among the Chinese, than there are worshippers of Mammon among our crews of gamblers. The habitual gamester is among the most worldly and contracted earthlings. There is no greatness of mind in one who follows gambling. There is neither sound integrity nor magnanimity in those who have this habit.
Merchandize is a very popular, though pernicious, species of gambling. What is called “speculating” in land, or buying cheap and selling dear to poor people to get gain, is gambling. In short, the whole system of trading is a system of gambling sanctioned by religion and law. S.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XX.
Perhaps it will not be impertinent to take notice of the peculiar troubles attendant on the methods used in the education of children according to the present institutions. They partly arise direct from the corrupt way of treating infants. For this it is, that roots in them bad principles. Hereby the worst of principles get their root in them. Now, this has its rise from the institution of exclusive property. For if there were no love of money, the energy of the common people’s minds would not be absorbed in trifling themes, and excluded from the study of education. They would not be bent on the pursuit of low and frivolous objects invented in consequence of the love of money; to that degree that they could not give attention to the delicate art of educating infants. They would not be so eagerly engaged in the drudgery of pursuing gain and wealth, and preeminence in power, as to neglect all serious study whatever, disregard the morals of their children, and let them grow up wild like beasts, untutored. In a word, they would not be computing the worth of their time at so many cents: per hour all their days, and consider that they were wickedly wasting all those minutes which they should employ in speculations that diverted them from their regular tasks in the accumulation of superfluous possessions. They would learn some other method of computing their time, their children, and themselves, than that which represents the commentitious right to possess things not wanted. They would give themselves leisure: they would feel they were free: they would of choice turn the eye of their mind upon this subject; and they would take interest in it too;—for they would not be so corrupted: by trade that they could feel interested in-nothing but gross perceptible things measured and computed by money; they would be interested in it as something connected with the genial entertainment of an intelligent and social being. But what regard is paid now to the culture of the infant mind? What force of mind is now appropriated to investigating the causes and effects of early impressions?’ Behold! the very first thing that is taught children, is play: and that the most nugatory and useless of all play in the world. There is no possible utility to be extracted from it: On the contrary, it is found to be very injurious, In several points of view. The people make playthings of their children. They play with them for their own amusement rather than the good of the children. And whether it gives amusement to the children or not, it is greatly injurious to them-with a view to intellectual and moral improvement. Indeed they have little more regard to intellectual or moral character than brutes have. ‘They talk at random to their children; they play with them at random; and follow no other guide than their capricious humor, in their whole treatment. Are they not tolerated in squealing and bawling like wild cats? Are they not brought up precisely in such a manner as to habitually cry and yell for every thing they want, as if impressed with the certainty that there is no other way to get it; and to constantly express their anger by squealing and shrieking, as bullies and sailors do by blasphemous language? And are not the houses of the common people, very like bedlams? Is there any object more odious in the universe than a child squealing in anger? The screaming of children is disagreeable to every body. No one delights in it. Yet, what energy of mind is applied by the commonalty, to search out a method to prevent it?
Are not the children very commonly heard to talk in a profane, trifling, nugatory manner? Are they not ordinarily heard uttering ribaldry before they know the meaning of a single word by which it is distinguished? Do they not delight in insulting, ridiculing, and annoying strangers? Behold: their dearest delight is in wounding the feelings of strangers that appear in a bad light and seem to have been unfortunate. All the days of their childhood they are insolent, impertinent, and mischievous. They keep society in a continual ferment;—owing to a want of skill and inclination to invest them with proper principles in their infancy, and modify them, from their birth, according to the law of human perfection.
From the same principle as makes them neglect the first stage of education, they neglect also the education of youth; and treat it in the most contemptuous manner. They reduce it to writing their names, reading the bible, and the rules of simple arithmetic: This is their definition of scholastic education: [If they stretch it to an initiation in Latin and Greek, they make it still more despicable and sterile.] These are the articles to which they limit the business of their common schools. The drudges who are to conduct this business, they rate as their meanest servants. Hence it comes to be estimated a low contemptible employ, which those who seek, are less regarded than common beggars. The parents do not respect them; neither do they teach their children to respect them. This perhaps is owing to an antipathy to learning, arising from a lack of knowledge. Hereon rises an aversion to all the signs and accompaniments of a meditative cast of mind. Many of them regret the money they pay for tuition, more than the holiday-allowance they afford their slaves. Twelve cents on a school-bill more than was expected, will produce lasting animosity, and put a period to the interchange of common tokens of civility. But if any of the children desire to visit a museum, a theatre, a circus; if they-are anxious to peep into a show box to see something rare or fine; if they wish to feast their eyes on the feats of a juggler or a rope-dancer, or swell the throng of a fashionable ball-room; a little cash is cheerfully allowed them and never regretted. But nothing they part with, is with more reluctance than the paltry stipends of public instructors, for grounding their offspring in the common arts and sciences of life.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XXI.
Those of another class reck not so much the money that is to be paid to instructors, as the victuals and drink and washing which are to be provided for them. In this party are arrayed multitudes of womankind. They are averse to laboring for a teacher. No other service seems so hard. Some owe this averseness to a sort of pride of superiority in knowledge of talents, which is wounded by the sight of a person who they imagine knows something more than theirselves know, or has some erudition and accomplishments which theirselves have not been at the trouble to acquire.
Others there are who affect exquisite skill in scholastic discipline, and judge with hypercritic austerity the methods of training children used by different practitioners whom they hear of, but never examine with their own eyes; taking the reports of pupils which they or their neighbors occasionally send to try them and pry into their characters; it being sufficiently evident when a teacher is represented by the pupils that attend him; and no other evidence is wanted of the manner in which the business of a school is managed, than the testimony of one or more of the scholars. In case of a miscreant that is supposed to have robbed and murdered a man on the highway, in order to condemn him one or two witnesses are requisite that are not mere children but of sufficient years to be thought capable of considering the consequences of truth and falsehood,—and not personally interested. But it does not require so much parade of ceremony to blast the reputation of a teacher. They sit at home during the term of the school, and scandalize their teacher by asserting the reports of the children.. Another way they have, and which is considered always sufficient to damn a teacher, is to examine some book of writing-tasks, or other work done by the scholars, which is blotted and scrawled, and decide at once on the man’s qualifications by what has happened to a pupil’s book and the awkward manner in which the child has executed his copies. I have known a parent enter a pupil at a quarterly school, which after three days he withdrew without ever having seen the face of the teacher, confessedly for no other reason than having discovered some blots and scrawls and crooked lines in its writing book!
There is a prevailing rage for young teachers. A teacher must have the appearance of youth, and have something of loquacity and gaiety about him; otherwise he is hardly to be tolerated amongst the bulk of the commonalty in this country; unless he either has a family and a house to live in, or is a foreigner. Furthermore, he is liable to be thrown from his school into the street at any moment, and subject to have his house tumbling about his ears, if he has not something costly and fashionable in his clothing. If his outside appearance grows dull, his situation is very precarious,
It is so common a thing to consider a contract for teaching, a mere matter of convenience and form, that people do no more consider themselves holden to perform a promise to a teacher, than they do to a child, whom to pacify, they have promised what is not feasible: nor than children conceive themselves bound by any engagements in their play. For dealing with teachers is considered in the same light as children’s play. In this last, it is a custom and a matter of honor to make certain stipulations, and a matter of honor to not enforce them; and one is said to deal unfair when he enforces another’s forfeiture or promise. The same is expected of dealings with a teacher. If a man makes a bargain with a carpenter or a farmer, he considers it obligatory, and expects to perform his part. But if he contracts with a teacher, he considers himself holden no further and no longer than he may be pleased with it.
Because they love money, they grudgingly pay it for schools and school houses. But if they grudge to give money for these things, they grudge to give any thing else; for the value of every thing is measured by money, and every thing can be exchanged for money. They deem time and money too valuable to be appropriated to such objects: They reckon for the proper way of appropriating them, they should be constantly devoted to getting gain: and, as “money begets money and its offspring begets more,” and “time,” because when employed, it procures it, “is money,” they reckon the proper use of these is to accumulate and get together more money. In this dull circle they perpetually trudge. They have no love of study nor of scientific research; and can have no inclination to give their children a love of study or of learning. They seek cheap teachers; they get worthless ones. There is no authority over the children at home nor at school.
The same effects accrue when the people have but little money, upon which they depend both for their sustenance and school. For the teacher cannot subsist unless he has money for his teaching, inasmuch as none will give him his bread and clothes without his giving them money therefor. Thus the whole business of the people of this world is but taking, handling, changing, with a view to increase, parcels of gross perceptible matters of possession, to wit, combinations of the material elements; the sole end of which, is preeminence in ascendant influence in each individual over others, measured by title of superior possession; wherein every one is engaged in aggrandizement of his own self, to the exclusion and at the expense of all others. What cultivation of sympathy can have place in all this? What cultivation of the highest and most noble faculties and properties of our nature, can have place in such a state of things as this? Behold! is not the irresistible tendency undeniably as much to the reverse as that of the most profligate playing at any kind of games of lot and chance? Does not one wish ill to another as aptly and unavoidably as at the card-table? By the loss of one, another gains. Every one is in his heart wishing for what tends to his neighbor’s downfall. He that carries commodities to market, is praying that such articles may be scarce and dear. He that goes to purchase the like commodities in market, prays that they may be plentiful and cheap. So that mankind live in a state of perpetual hostility. The interests of individuals are at point blank opposition. Is this a state of peace? Is any such thing as harmony to be found here? Is here love, good-will, friendship, or social complacency?—How
can one love his neighbor as himself? How can a man forgive his brother seventy times seven? How can a man promote and encourage whatever tends to meliorate the condition of his species? How can any of these precepts be put into practice in such a state of things as this? How can there be any such thing as a disposition to obey any of these great commands? Yet in the moments of reflection, every feeling man acknowledges these to be the precepts of the moral law of nature, and congenial to what directs us to the perfection of our characters as social intelligences. Lo! every thing that is habituated in the course of thought or of conduct, is in constant résistance of, and repugnance to, these sublime precepts. Human creatures are at open war with each other.
Now then we have had a survey of some of the pernicious effects of the system of exclusive property. It arms men with poniards against one another; it rends nations in pieces; it divides families; it separates and scatters kindred; it breaks up the most intimate and tender alliances; it compels the poor to leave his parents, his brothers, his sisters, and perchance, his wife, to seek in distant places the means of sustenance or of fortifying the lot of his family against the overbearing bolts of adversity; and while one is exposed to the perils of remote seas, another is pining with grief and melancholy at home: This home is despoiled and barren; in consequence the family is dispersed, and nearest relatives separated, and wandering in remote corners in search of a livelihood, which could not be obtained on their native ground. For it is this ruinous system that causes a scarcity of employment at one place and at one time more than another. It causes all lucrative occupations gradually to be engrossed by the rich and the fortunate. It prevents marriages, and compels hundreds of individuals to drag out a sterile and insipid life of celibacy, with the contristating reflection that they ‘shall leave no vestige of their existence behind them;—on the other hand, it fills our cities with courtezans and lechers; it crowds them with stews; and makes merchandize of debauchery !
Let us next turn to the contrast of this hideous picture; and consider the peculiar beauties and advantages of an opposite institution.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XXII.
No other mode of society possible; is so propitious to the establishing of harmony among mankind, as that wherein all wealth is common stock; and the only criterion of property is immediate want of the use of anything in reasonable purposes. Where all persons are governed by one common principle of conduct, and directed to one object; they can scarce be otherwise than harmonious. When all are governed by reason, and when the great object and end to which the movements of all are referred, is the general good; when no private granary, when no individual’s purse is to be filled by the-labor of different persons, how can arise ‘quarrelling or jangling between different individuals about the quantity of labor that any one performs in a day or an hour.—No master, no lordling land-holder, negro-driver, or petty monarch, is here to find fault with servants or hirelings, to task them, or to fix the quantities or price of their labor. Every one labors according to rules which are reasonable rules, that is, he follows reason; he labors proportionably to his strength and qualifications, during a certain number of hours in each day, sufficient for his health, and to perform his part in the procuring of the sustenance of the whole, so as to secure the approbation of those he lives with. Their labor is without anxiety and without compulsion. They labor to one end, and not for ends which are contradictory and exclusive of one another?—How then can they be otherwise than in harmony? Their interests are not detached and divergent; but concentrated and identified. This is according to the dictates of nature. This is what nature, in laboring to our perfection, attaches to our welfare.—Men are in harmony when there is nothing to break or interrupt it. In a state of exclusive rights, is every thing to interrupt. There, harmony is destroyed. The original state of mankind, is harmony. Put aside every thing that sets awry and makes their affections and actions oblique, men are naturally in harmony. They agree. They are alike in their conformation, their apprehension, their wants, their number of senses, &c. They would naturally labor in concert and in the same methods to supply their wants. Why should one be suspicious of another? Why should one be afraid of another? It is always because one possesses something that may be lost or another possesses something that may be gained, that they are in fear of being molested by one another. Therefore these troubles have their source in the invention of exclusive property. Every one wants a shelter from storms, heat and cold. If they but put to their force, and work in concert like beavers, for the constructing of such-shelter, they are in harmony. Is not a horse or a cow worth so much when it is in company with a hundred others, and fed with forage that was gathered. by twenty different men in partnership and in a stable that is owned by the whole of them, as it is in a hovel built by one man, fed with forage of his gathering only?, Lo! the true values of these things are not altered; their real uses remain the same. Men would not fear to live together in society, neither would they fear a combination of their labors and their effects, but that there is a fashion of exclusive property, inveterately habitual, whereby is suggested a set of factitious uses of things, which are employed in hostility against each other’s particular weal, in dividing and opposing the interests and in disturbing the harmony of the human race. Remove this, and you re-establish harmony. Make all things common, and you for ever banish discord, animosity, suspicion, distrust, and aversion, from the face of civil society. Men would as naturally cooperate in providing for their wants, as they would have the same wants, the same wishes and desires, in consequence of having the same organization. This aversion to a coalescence of interests, makes ridiculous fools of mankind. It leads nations into an endless maze of trifling. The whole subject of subsistence is converted into a lottery. Hence numerous individuals unawares trudge in one another’s footsteps offering the same articles for sale where they are not wanted.
Some people have a conceit that there is no room for the social virtues in a commonwealth; and that there is no play for those gentle and benign emotions of compassion, gratitude, pity, friendship, &c. that exalt the character of the human being, and give a relish and variegation to life. They think there is nothing to elicit the sublime virtues, philanthropy, hospitality, charity, patriotism, and gratitude. They are not aware that the whole business of a community is a uniform system of social virtue. All the labor of all the members of the community, is a continual process of social virtue. Every one labors for the good of the whole. Every one is doing good to others. In hospitality they act in unison to relieve strangers. They have no lack of an object; there are strangers passing along every day through the world: they pass from one community to another. They unitedly perform charity upon their sick and inform, constantly without asking. Yes, they act in unison, to relieve and sustain such as cannot labor at all, nor contribute any thing to their sustenance. It is instituted and conditionary; yet not the less is it virtue. Would you have twenty thousand people suffering poverty and pain that one may be distinguished among them as a philanthropist? Would Howard have opposed the establishment of a commonwealth? And would he have disdained to become a member of one? Or did he wish that the mass of society should be miserable that he might be a celebrated philanthropist and particularly distinguished from all other people by posterity as well as by his contemporaries? No—This was not the temperament of the man. He labored not merely for fame. His philanthropy was too real and too expansive, not to-wish that the miseries and disorders of society should be remedied more readily than his own ability alone could accomplish it. As a man possessed of genuine and effusive benevolence, he wished for the acceleration of human improvement, and that society should be made happy. What glorious thing is it to be an extraordinary philanthropist? It is the accident of millions suffering misery or being ignorant, that makes him great and prodigious. He would not be an extraordinary philanthropist if thousands around were not wicked and miserable. He does nothing more than every member of an enlightened community would do. Every true member of a commonwealth of five thousand, would systematically and harmoniously act out the same virtue. Every one is daily laboring for the good of others: particularly. for the sick that are unable to perform any part of the common labor; particularly to strangers who do not tarry to gather the supplies by labor; generally to the whole. Every one that has health, and ability to speak or act, is useful some way or other to all the rest of the community.
I shall be told, they have less temptation and therefore their virtue is not so great. What now? Shall the world be filled with temptations in order that virtue may be great? But this greatness arises from a contrast. Let virtue be common, and accustomed by all mankind: Its intrinsic excellence is the same. It is nothing more nor less than a necessary recourse for the preservation and happiness of men it society. Is philanthropy any less virtue because a thousand philanthropists live together in a society, than if only one philanthropist were found among that thousand? Am I the less so, because five thousand men around me are philanthropists and continually practising the same virtue? Surely, five thousand philanthropists are as good at least as one philanthropist;—the prevalence is certainly accordant with the views and wishes of every true one; for the essence of philanthropy is to wish all mankind to be happy and virtuous. Virtue is a thing that is not depreciated by being made customary; it is not the less worthy or the less amiable for being practiced by every body every day; though it be less splendid. It loses not its value, like other things, by being made ordinary and profuse.
Rational men have a different way of estimating the value of virtue, from what they use in estimating the value of corn, cabbage, and poultry;—They call the values of these things the prices they bear in the market: these depend upon their scarcity or profusion. This is a fashion that is derived from our corrupt institutions; and governs the reckoning of all transferable things. Whereas virtue is always admired. The most abandoned wicked admire virtue,—and admire it, not merely on account of the magnanimity and strength of mind which it indicates, but rather for the happiness it announces and the benefits with which it is fraught. To be sure it requires magnanimity to resist temptations and encounter hardships for the sake of virtue when vice is fashionable; but he that is sufficiently magnanimous to practise virtue amidst temptations and in defiance of dangers, will certainly have magnanimity enough to be virtuous when no temptations, dangers, nor discouragements are in his way.
So then virtue, so far from being diminished by being made usual, is increased. In a commonwealth, virtue is systematized, made easy, made familiar, made habitual, and made the constant practice of all. Here also is matter enough for the most sublime virtues to act upon. Here are means to develope every degree of virtuous sensibility. It is but for a person to be reasonable; and he is virtuous. To follow reason, is to be virtuous; and to be virtuous, is to follow reason. It is so in the moral law of nature. The bare contemplation of such a state of refinement in the common mind whereby it is capable of discarding monopoly and exclusion and of adopting such a sort of government wherein it follows the plain prescribed path of the. law of our perfection, is speculative virtue, and delights and elevates every reflecting mind.
This mode of possession, puts it in every one’s power to do good. Whereas, under the old institutions, no more than one in a thousand has in his power any important office of beneficence to the generation in which he lives, and but one in ten thousand of these has the will. The rest of the world consists mostly of knaves and dupes, who proportionally heir the wretchedness of guilt, poverty and delusion.
In a commonwealth, is room for gratitude, for condolence, for hospitality, for meekness, for justice, and for friendship. Here a child may be grateful to its parents, in words and actions. It may appropriate of its leisure moments to gather cordial herbs, roots, or fruits, to alleviate their sickness or regale them when in health. Here is opportunity for a multiplicity of offices to announce every virtuous emotion and every virtue may be cultivated, not only in speculation but in action: The mind is at ease and leisure, being enfranchised from the anxieties of trade and slavery: and I aver, here is tenfold more play for the social affections than in the state of aristocratical government:
This, therefore, is not the least advantageous point of view in which we can contemplate this scheme of society in contrast with the conflicting interests and exclusive pursuits of the aristocratical system, with reference to the cultivation of the minds and affections of men. The harmony and equanimity which here have place, are propitious to the cultivation of sympathy. When society has no-sources of disquietude to the minds of men; when the manner in which they are situated with respect to each other or with respect to their subsistence, has no alarms, they are at leisure to contemplate others’ feelings and views; and they are also capable of drawing entertainment from this source. The contemplation of such objects is susceptible to be accompanied with a serene delight: Wherefore they have a proclivity to it. And if from these circumstances they have this predisposition to such an employment of their thoughts, they have herewith a peculiar opportunity for it. When numbers labor together, as in a commonwealth, and their aims in respect of the effects of their labor are exactly coincident, and they are constantly within the sight and hearing of each other, they have evidently a signal opportunity to become intimately acquainted with some of the peculiarities of each other’s character, and to gain assurance of the intellectual attainments, the genius, the tastes, the temperaments, and the habits of thinking, by which they are severally distinguished one from another. This enables them to judge correctly of the manner in which they are likely to be affected by the words and motions which each has in his power to address. Moreover, this situation does not fail to give them a very clear and affecting sense of the urgency of securing each other’s approbation. How can they enjoy a moment’s satisfaction unless they are sure of the good will of those with whom they constantly associate? Here they have a lesson, of mutual condescension and of affability. All these things conduce to the cultivation of sympathy. Here is opportunity to refine their conversation. Where is constant intercourse without anxiety, is a ready observance of every excellence and defect, and instant attendance to correct inaccuracies without, reproach. Every one has peculiar knacks, peculiar associations of ideas, and peculiar trains of experience. Every one can please or instruct another, out of the store-house of his memory or by dint of his invention. In this intercourse they unavoidably improve all the faculties of their minds. They are at no loss, they are under no delusion, with respect to each other’s real views, ‘interests, wants, wishes, tastes, or tempers. They are agitated with no strange mistrusts for want of mutual acquaintance. People thus situated, become intimate friends. They contract reciprocal attachments that last through life. Here is the improvement of sympathy.
These are some of the benefits of common possession, in an organized society.
It produces harmony. It necessitates men to act alike. The practice of acting alike, makes it habitual. Herein men harmonize in their conduct. They become also assimilated in their thoughts, their wishes, their modes of reasoning, and their opinions. Their opinions concerning things unknown, are regulated by their light of real science, which is generally and evenly diffused among them without respect to a distinction of ranks.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XXIII.
Nature, in a comprehensive sense, means the great assemblage of whatever substances exist, with all their peculiar modes and relations intrinsic or incidental, as operating irresistibly in a regular course of causation issuing from their unchangeable essences,
All that we see,—all that we perceive by any of our senses, whether it be of hearing, of tasting, of feeling,—all that we can form any notion of, is nature. It is the universal assemblage and sum of all things existing; in two words, substance and accident, in all their conceivable diversity. This is nature.
Nature moves not by a single volitive impulse.—We come at no such idea as this vast complex unlimited machine, this sum of things, acting and moving by will. We acquire this idea, (of will) by contemplating that which is a minute part of this great system. This property, the principle of volitive impulse, appertains to the essence of a part of the entire assemblage, and not of the sum. We find it in percipient organized fabrics. Each of these has a will, or power of volition. But we cannot infer from this, that the universal fabric or body of nature, which is the compound of all things, has a will, has choice, has the peculiar affections which distinguish an individual of our species.
Consequently, nature does not produce morally, in other words, is not the moral cause of any calamity or whatever other thing happens to any part of itself. Yet it produces all things physically; it is the physical source of every particular event. For it contains within itself the elements of all changes, all causes, operations, and appearances. But not by intention, as a moral agent, can it be said to perform or produce any thing, or have any thing properly ascribed to it, as such.
Nevertheless, man, which is a part of nature, can produce morally, be the moral cause of, things; may be the cause of calamities and afflictions that befall him, which seem to flow from error in himself. Only where is will, is moral action, Morality belongs only to a species which has will.
In this minute part of the mighty mass immeasurable of nature intire, we observe such a quality as will. By contemplating the inward operations of our own selves, we acquire the idea of voluntary action. Among the diversity of distinguishable modes of motion in oar constitution, there is such a thing discernable as what we call voluntary effort; and the words choice and volition have their peculiar meanings and are significant words. Also they are things really existing; for we make them objects of our understanding, which we accustom ourselves to designate by those words. Such is the source whence we derive this idea. But such ideas will not accord to the intire of nature. To imagine the mighty ma- chine of the universe operating by choice and will, and moving by design its limbs and members, is a monstrous chimera.
Such a sort of idea consists only with that of the system of a percipient being, as distinguished from the great whole, of which it is a part. We find it out in man; we apply it to other species of animals.
Where should we place the object towards which such movement of nature should tend? How can nature act on an object beyond itself? Equally absurd is it to go about to attach this idea to something above or ulterior to nature. This were carrying the conception out of the limits of the source in which we have its derivation; and attempting to express by a word, what we have no idea of.
Nature may be supposed to be the remote physical cause of all appearances that come to us.—Man, to be the proximate moral cause of the evils which come in a train of causation from his misgoings. We should not confound the little system of man with the great system of the whole of things; we can scarce bring them into a comparison! Much less should we affect to set the little system over the great system, to control or superintend its motions!
Therefore, what is meant when we say “man brings his calamities on himself and nature does not, that to himself they are to be attributed and not to nature,” is that nature does not intentionally cause them, as a moral agent,—does not choose, will, design, adopt, them, nor choose, will, design, or adopt the things which produce them; because choosing, willing, designing, and adopting, are modes which do not belong to the main spring of the great machine, but to a subordinate spring in it. We find them first in man. We observe the like, or signs which denote the like, in other percipient beings.—And such a kind or order of beings as organized percipient intelligent structures of matter, measures the utmost limits within which we can apply any such idea. To go beyond this boundary, the consistency of our natural conceptions combines no such elements. If I attempt to separate the idea of willing, of choosing, of designing, of adopting, from the idea of a sensible organized body, it is vain. When I go about to attach either of these ideas to an inorganic mass, and suppose a rock or a tree to have will, design, choice, intelligence, my imagination instantly transforms that rock or that tree into a sensible organized being.
In short, nature does not produce those calamities morally, but physically. Yet men can produce them morally. All that we see, comes from necessary ascendency of moving or moved matter. All motions may be necessary, and yet man be a free agent.—Free is not exactly opposed to necessary considered physically;—for if all be physically necessary, no thing can be physically free. One would be a contradiction of the other. Free is a moral and relative word. It is never used but morally and relatively. Perhaps we cannot consistently apply it to any thing discriminately and merely physical; any thing which appertains to ‘the fixed succession of causes and effects in the operation of inanimate things. Free imports little more than voluntary.—It is used synonymous with voluntary. But free is not reciprocal to necessary when necessary is applied to the march of nature as it is considered controlling, directing, superintending, as well as originating, all inferior motions, as of minute parts of itself.—These are complex modes of motion peculiar to particular combinations, which must be subordinate and conformable to, as they are made up of, the primary ones which are essential to the elements, or, in other words, which are the immediate effluence of the essences of those elements. For the motions of all the combinations of matter in the universe, can be nothing but the result of the simple unalterable motions, imposed, by their peculiar essences, upon every particle of the elements that compose those combinations, Physical necessity, as applied to the march of nature, is a term which has not its reciprocal or adversative; neither perhaps can have, in human logic. We see that among the movements of the human system, are such diversities as voluntary and involuntary. Each of these is distinct from the other: yet both the one and the other may be necessary; because, being among the subordinate consecutive movements adherent to minute components of the great machine, they are invincibly and irreversibly conformed to it in its all-involving course. All the motions in the world being necessary, does not prevent man from being a voluntary agent. He is necessarily so.
When we use words in a moral, relative, and limited sense, we sometimes speak of things unnatural.
We consider the mutual habitudes of minute subordinate things,—such as those of the human race, the movements of the human system and other contiguous things. We speak not of nature in the abstract; we speak of relations. We refer to the well-being, preservation, perfection, and happiness of a particular species. This is the standard we ultimately refer to. Essential to this idea of nature considered in its general and abstract sense, is the idea of whole, a universal whole. Whatsoever we have to determine, peculiarize, and define this idea of a whole, different from that of every thing which is fully comprehensible, consists in the negation of all reference to any other existence distinct from itself. All limitation is excluded and denied. From the instant that any thing is precisely bounded in our conceptions, and known in point of extent, it is self-evidently a finite, subaltern, component thing, that makes only a part of the whole. It may immediately be referred and compared to something beyond and not contained within itself; (which reference is necessarily implied in the idea of limitation;) and therefore must be a thing that, as a particle, is contained in what is comprehended in that predicament which is put under the term nature. Nature is never out of order. No confusion is in nature.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XXIV.
Nature is never out of order, with reference to the weal of itself as a whole. This is the sense in which there is no disorder in nature. Here, is no such thing as nature being out of order. I cannot even distinctly conceive of such a state. No part of nature is out of order in reference to the weal of the whole: But a particular part of nature may be out of order with, reference to the weal of itself, in relation to a course that would lead to the perfection of that part. Man is out of order in relation to a course which shall lead him to his perfection as a particular species, and minute part of nature; i. e to his greatest good, even to such a temperament in which he shall experience more pleasure than pain,—and just such a degree of happiness as is the greatest degree he can steadily enjoy. Yet his perfection and his imperfection are indifferent or are equally and promiscuously effective, to the weal of nature. It is only relatively to some part or incident of the general frame, or to some mode which we come at through our comparative views, that we say any system is out of order. But we speak not of the whole. The body is out of order in reference to health. The morbid motions are natural necessary motions; and are in order. If they terminate in death, it is a natural and necessary effect; and is in order. Bodily distempers can be cured. There are properties in bodies existing, that may be arranged into a train of operating causes that will necessarily put an end to the morbid motions, and substitute healthy ones in their stead. If there are people with skill and inclination to put these causes in arrangement and into operation, and they do so, all these motions are natural and necessary; and are in order. The effect is a healthy action in the system. This is a natural and necessary motion; and is in order. If these things are neglected and no remedies applied, the motions that are in consequence of this neglect, are necessary and natural motions; and are in order. Moral life is out of order in reference to man’s greatest good, as a social intelligent being; i.e. to social happiness. The irregular and distempered motions in moral life; are natural and necessary motions; and are in order. If they tend to unhappiness, war, destruction,—and overturn society, the effect is natural and necessary; and is in order. Moral distempers can be cured: There are possible causes that eventually will irresistibly change the manners of men. There are persons that have the skill to find out the means and make the proper applications to put these causes into operation in a direct train towards the desired end. If these do so exert themselves, their motions and all the motions that follow, are necessary and natural motions; and are in order. Their effect is happiness in individuals and communities. This is a natural and necessary effect; and is in order. If the means are neglected, the motions following such neglect are necessary and natural motions; and are in order.
As every atom of substance moves exactly according to its essence, it being part of its essence to be capable of moving such and such ways and no other, the whole sum and assemblage of atoms must move and operate in a manner consistent with the preservation of its being and the continuation of its essential habitudes. The great body of nature, therefore, is always in such a state in respect to the habitudes and movements of its constituent members, as is propitious to the preservation of itself considered as a whole. This is the order of nature. Such a state of any system or assemblage of members, wherein all the parts move and are disposed and arranged in a way that is compatible with, and conducive to, its perpetual preservation without peril or amission, is order. Nature intire is always in this state, considered in the gross; therefore nature is always in order. If nature is always in order, then all the complicated systems which are components, of nature, are, in respect to the weal of nature itself which they constitute, always in order. But although every system and the parts of every system, are always in order with respect to the weal of the whole body of nature, because beyond that there is no possible reference to another of which it forms a part; yet the parts of any component system with respect to the weal of that system itself, may be out of order. Consequently, a component system may at the same time be in one sense in order, and in another sense out of order; as it has each of these two distinct references. The difference between nature itself as a’ whole, and a system which is a part or member of it, is, that the one is (or by us only supposed or imagined to be) A system comprehensive of all things, without conceivable bounds, and beyond which therefore we cannot conceive of any thing with which to compare it, or to which to refer it; and consequently is not a component system; and the other is a component system. Any system to which we can conceive bounds, and of which we can frame a reference to something beyond, of which it is a part or upon which it depends, is a component system. To one of these we cannot in every respect apply the same remarks as to the other; nor conceive the one to be subjected to all the same laws as the other is. For though a component system may be in order and out of order at the same time, having two separate references; yet that which is not a component system, cannot be in order and out of order at the same time. And since we cannot separate the perception of things as they are, from our consciousness of existence, and our capacity of perceiving things at all, and the state of all things as they exist (with reference to the intire); must be precisely what the essences of all the particles of substance which compose all things, make it to be, and nothing else; it follows, nature intire [or what is not a component system] cannot be out of order, and, of consequence, always is in order. Yet order is always one identical thing. Order has still one and the same signification, in philosophical propriety. We apply the word to one idea. It is relation of parts to a whole. It is particular sort of relation between the parts and whole—a relation of such assemblage of the mutual postures and movements of the parts, to the essence of the structure as a whole, as tends to preserve its existence, as such. Thus when the parts of the animal body are in such a disposition and in such movement, as tend to keep up life and the pleasure of existence, we say it is in order: and this is health. When there is any irregularity, redundance, or defect, it is out of order: it is disordered: it is diseased. When the proper functions of the mind are in their regular applications in their due proportions of energy, and there is no confusion in its ideas, when its reasonings are clear and it receives ideas adequate to things which make impressions on it, the mind is in order: It is said to be sane. Otherwise, it is out of order: its movements are such as indicate declension, and proclivity to extinction of its powers. Tic moral world is in order when its movements tend to the preservation of society, and the due enjoyment of social life without any excess or defect. It is then in order, in nations, in states, in families, and in the lives of individuals. When its movements are such as have a contrary tendency, they are out of order: There is obliquity—There is moral disorder—There is vice—There the moral part of human nature is distempered. The end of all true morality is the greatest enjoyment of man as a social being.
The parts of a component system, and the whole of a component system, may be out of order in regard to the weal of itself: But it does not follow that every component system at one and the same time, can be out of order in regard to the weal of itself; for this would contradict the order of nature. If the whole of nature is in order, then every part of the whole of nature, cannot be out of order in reference to the weal of every part of nature, at the same instant. This would be contradictory of the health and perpetuity of the whole frame. For if all the parts run into confusion, the whole must be in confusion. And if all the parts go to destruction, the whole must go to destruction. With respect to nature, there is no such thing. When one component system is destroyed, the universe suffers no diminution. Another rises up collaterally, and sustains the balance of things. For when one system goes to destruction, it does not go to destruction as a substance but as a system. Not a particle of substance is annihilated. All the particles of substance that were in it, remain still in existence. It is only a system that ceases to exist,—an organized or unorganized mass, whose essence consists partly of a set of modes, and a system of relations of the constituent particles or compounded members, one to another and to external things. It has external relations and internal relations. Relations to things beyond itself, and to things within itself that compose it. It has also peculiar distinctive movements. These circumstances all cease. The bond of their connection is dissolved. But the substantial particles do not cease to exist. Moreover, the instant these fabrics fall away, what is their equivalent rises into, the equilibrium of nature. Neither is it probable that there is less organic life in the universe at one moment than at any preceding moment: though it must be admitted that improvements are gradually acceding to organic things; and that they are successively acquiring capabilities and accommodations; so that it seems the organic world itself has a’ natural tendency towards perfection, through experimental exercise and applying its powers continually for preservation and enlargement. When an animal body dissolves, it gives life to many other smaller organized bodies. So it is with the vegetable. The primordial molecules which are the base of all our fabrics, remain perpetual without diminution in the common ocean of entity.
“Like bubbles on the sea of matter borne,
We rise, we break, and to that sea return.”
Nature is continually killing, and giving life. If our whole system of planets and comets should be at once in confusion, in consequence of every one of these revolving globes being unbalanced in succession; this would not be the dissolution of nature; it would not be the confusion of nature; it were a necessary part of her eternal course, having effect to remodel her combinations, and make a new distribution of her indestructible elements. If the planetary system should be dissolved and ruined, it would be to sustain other systems and other processes, which, in their turn, would reproduce it. Whatever new modes are assumed, the energy and the substance of nature remain for ever undiminished.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XXV.
Many things are called order, which truly are not so. The word order is frequently applied to that which, strictly examined, is found to be intirely another thing, and not to have such tendencies as pertain essentially to the character of order. With respect to mankind, order, in the moral world, may be defined such an adaptation of parts and modes as tends to the preservation, happiness, and perfection, of the human species, as a social being. But we know man is a social being, and that his happiness and perfection are essentially concerned with his relations to other individuals—that is, to individuals of his species. Now, that is often called order, which is not order: not having a tendency to promote either preservation, happiness, or perfection; but rather the reverse. Powers are fictitiously and ignorantly imputed to it, which it has not. The arrangements of religious establishments, are called order,—the ancient order of things—the good old way—the venerable institutions—the order of society, &c. But in rapport to human weal, there are delusively called order. These are not order, in such a respect; neither are the habitual movements which they produce. The relation they hold, to the weal of the species, is not that which is essential to order as applied to the system of that species of being: not among the things that indispensably subserve its perfection.
We speak, in one sense, of an order of things: but it is not good. It does not tend to our greatest good. It is not the order of good. Since then there appear to be several different sorts of order, in that a variety of things are fictitiously and ignorantly called order which are not order, we arrive at an occasion to make a distinction of something that we call good order.—This we may call the order of good: which is no more, applied to the moral characters and operations of men, than what in strict propriety is called order in its true signification as limited to the human species.-—And if this is not what appertains to, is brought about by, or is an adjunct of, the prevailing institutions of the world, then certainly it must be something else. Order in component systems being discriminated by a tendency to the perfection and greatest good of the system among whose parts it is considered to exist and in which it terminates, it will be proper to distinguish it by a connection of the epithet of that system with its ultimate end. And that which belongs to man we may call the order of human perfection. This is, ultimately, good. It is essential to our greatest good. We are in order when we are in such a trim as comports with our greatest good: the highest degree and greatest quantity of happiness our nature admits of, according to the original inherent qualities of that nature, in our present constitution and state of existence. When we have not reached this, we are not perfect: we have not attained to what we are capable of attaining to. All the excellences of our nature are not developed: There are properties that have not yet come to light: we have not those accomplishments and those habits which we are capable of acquiring. It is our supreme good; by whatever number of words we express it. We say preservation, happiness, and perfection. We need use but one of these words:-—Perfection is sufficient when we purport merely to distinguish our proper order. For there could be neither happiness nor perfection without preservation; and there cannot be perfection without happiness, nor perfect happiness without perfection. Therefore the last implies the whole. A being that is perfect in all other respects, is perfect in enjoyment; and, if perfect in enjoyment, must be perfect in all other respects. That equilibrium of enjoyment which is the character of our greatest happiness, must be the immediate effluence of the perfection of all parts of our constitution. If we are perfect, we have all the happiness we are capable of;—and if we are not so happy as we are capable of being, it is because we are not perfect. So that we may say without impropriety the order of our perfection,—or else, the order of human perfection. When our habitual movements, moral, intellectual, and corporeal, or the recourses we have to perfect these, are in a train direct towards our perfection, we may be said to be in order. Any contexture of modes, whether principal or subsidiary, which subserves to accelerate our perfection, is in the order of our perfection. But any thing that subserves to elicit wars, fightings, revilings, slanders, assassinations, malice, or whatever is adverse to the preservation or happiness of men, certainly cannot belong to this order. Consequently, the order of religious government, the order of any religious establishment, of monopoly, of trade, or of any other of the prevailing institutions of the world, is not in the order of human perfection. For our observation, and all history, concur in telling us that these have filled the earth with violence, confusion and misery; that they have brought on wars and all manner of wickedness, and made the world a stage of blood and rapine. They may be in the order of something, aside of our real interest; the arrangements of an ecclesiastical establishment may be in the order of hierarchy, or of theological polity; it is a sort of order; but it is not good. 1t may be in a direct line of accomplishing the design of a cabinet of priests; it may subserve the sustenance and aggrandizement of one man, or of a set of men; but does not come within the definitive scope of the order of human perfection. All that is in this order, is good, and is right. It is good because it tends to secure our happiness.—A cause of happiness is called good. If a voluntary action, it is called moral good. It is right because a tendency to our perfection and the highest happiness we are capable of in a general view, is the criterion of moral rectitude. This is what properly denominates any intentional mode right. For the moral law of the universe, is enforced by a chain of causes and effects that reaches direct to the consummation of human happiness. The moral law of nature, [or of the universe] is that part of the essences of things, or active and passive powers of substances existing, that gives certain tendencies to voluntary actions, and from which issues that chain of causes, which, including voluntary actions of those beings, extends direct to the perfection of the natures of intelligent beings, and consequently to the consummation of their enjoyment; the contrary whereof must extend direct to the depravation of intelligent beings and the consummation of their misery. Such chain of causes is the putting in force, and executing of the moral law of nature. Now it is plain, that any voluntary action of mortal men, which agrees to, and is of the same sort with, the actions that are included in this chain of causes extending to the perfection of intelligent and volitive natures and the consummation of their enjoyment, and which, therefore, will make a part of such chain of causes, is agreeable to the moral law of nature; and any such voluntary action which is repugnant to, and is not of the same sort with, the actions entering into and included in that chain of causes, and which therefore will not make a part of such chain of causes, is contrary to the moral law of nature. Any action which agrees to the moral law of nature, is right; and any action which is contrary to the moral law of nature, is wrong. The one has a tendency to the perfection of intelligent beings; and the other has a tendency to the deterioration of intelligent beings. One is in the order of our perfection; the other is in the order of our perdition. Any action that is right, men have a right to do; and any action that is wrong, men have not a right to do.
Right is commonly applied to actions; and good both to actions and other things. Any thing that is in, or coincides with, this chain of causes and effects which is the enforcement of the moral law of nature, is in the order of human perfection; and is good, and is right. This law is the standard of moral good and evil. This law determines any voluntary action to be good or evil, virtuous or vicious, right or wrong. Virtue, then, is in the order of human perfection:—And, if so, then all institutes that habituate or diffuse virtue, are in this order. Consequently, what subserves to inspire or encourage virtue, appertains to this order. It follows, that to determine whether the inured civil and religious institutes of the moral world, modifying human society and manners, are in, appertain to, or comport with, this order, is but to determine whether they are fitted to promote our perfection, to facilitate or expedite our progression to our greatest happiness, or not. For all those things which are not fitted and are not capable, directly or indirectly, proximately or remotely, to subserve this end, have plainly no connection nor concern with this order. And those things which tend to excite animosity and dissention among men, evil thoughts and evil speaking, strife, oppression, wars, frauds, robberies, murder, rapine, and revenge, must be intirely out of this order. But all history, in concurrence with our daily observation and experience, testifying that the old inured institutions prevailing in the world, do these things; it follows, they are not in this order of human perfection; and that human society subjected to their modification, is not in order, but out of order. Therefore, to be truly and fairly in this order, is something which we have not been accustomed to: But to attain to it, is, by following the light of reason till we become more fully acquainted with the reality of nature, and initiated in the law of the universe, to return to the original path of rectitude, wherein this immutable law directs us, on a straight line, to our perfection, being by way of a series of causes and effects founded in the essences of things.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XXVI
Right and wrong, as applied to the voluntary actions of men, are the ultimate tendency, of one action to produce more happiness than pain, and of another to produce more pain than happiness. The law of the universe determines the right and wrong of our actions by fixing and bounding their tendency; directing it to the ultimate production of pleasure or pain in others; and making some actions to be the causes of happiness, and others to be the causes of misery;—whence it is said to command some actions to be done in order to attain happiness, and to prohibit other actions to be done, in order to avoid the misery to which they regularly tend. And the relation of those actions which, conformably to this placit of the law of the universe, tend to produce happiness, is called right, or moral good: and the actions themselves virtuous actions: and the relation of those actions to the same in the law of the universe, which, by being contrary to this command, tend to produce misery, is called wrong, or moral evil; and the actions themselves vicious actions. Moral good is right; and right is moral good.
Here we see what is meant by right, in a substantive sense; to wit, a relation of our actions to a rule, which is the moral law of nature; in which is instituted that chain of causes and effects that reaches to our greatest good. Adjectively, it is the epithet expressing that tendency or subserviency of actions to the same end: In all eases it is expressive of a relation of voluntary actions, with a reference to the subservience and promotion of that one great object, the greatest good of men as social beings. Yet in several moral and political books extant, this word used substantially means little or nothing else, to all appearance, but power and opportunity: and to say one has a right to do this or that action, is the same thing as to say he has power to do it without the danger of being hindcred: or, that he has a right to such a thing as a matter of possession, imports merely that he has power to hold it in possession, and no one dares molest him in it. So, in different places are different rights; according to the nature of the government adopted in each country, and the extent of signification they are in the habit of giving to the word right; and what is right in one country, is not right in another. The rights of the people of one nation, are very different from those of another, as laid down in their laws. This is the perversion of morals. It is abusive of language, and introduced perplexity into moral and political discourses. It is also trifling with rational creatures; and gives a disgusting aspect to the study of the civil laws. How can there be any right without consistency or propriety? Any action that is consistent and agreeable, in reference to that tendency which is the universal criterion of moral good, is right. It agrees to the moral law of the universe. It consists with that chain of causes and effects that leads to the supreme good. Agreement of action to this law, constitutes right. Where is no consistency nor agreement, is no right. To say a person has a right to perform such or such an action, or has a right to such a possession, is no more but to say that such action or such possession does not militate against, but is consistent with, the moral law of the universe; which is but little else but to say that it is fitted to come into the chain of causes of our happiness,—is one of the same sort of actions as is included in such chain of causes. If I am said to have a right to do any thing, what is properly meant, is simply that an action I have in my power to do, is right: If an action is not right, I have no right to do it. If I have aright to possess and use any thing, it is only that such use is right—is consistent with the well being of society—is consistent with what conduces to my happiness as a social being—is agreeable to the moral law of nature.
But what new mode of society is that, different and distinct from what we have been accustomed to, and withdrawn from the prescriptive Institutions of the day, which is necessary to the order of our perfection?
It must be one in which all our rights are recognized: One in which all the true natural rights of mankind, are known, tolerated and respected: A mode of society in which the moral law of the universe is taken for a standard of rights: Where a man is not said to have a right to do that which is not right, but wrong: And where, whether it be of action, or of use and enjoyment of any material or materials, the right to it is nothing but the circumstance of its being right, when compared to the rule and standard of moral rectitude, which is the moral law of nature or the universe, whereby it is seen whether it comports and coincides with it or not, in other words, whether it be of a sort of mode or relation that enters into that chain of causes [fixed by said laws] ultimately productive of the consummation of our happiness; whereupon because it is so, it is called right, and for no other reason: and in course, a man is said to have a right to do such actions or to make use of such possession.
Every human creature has a right, equally with every other human creature, to the use of the elements, so far forth as is requisite for the supply of his wants, to the intent of his preservation and comfort.
‘This is because it is right that he has such use: It is agreeable to the standard of moral rectitude and moral good: It coincides with the scale of causes extending to the greatest good of the species. For any one that has common sense, knows, that without preservation, can be no consummation of happiness—can be no finishing or perfecting of any thing moral or intellectual. The use of the elements is necessary to our preservation. Without the use of the elements, men perish. The use we can have of the elements consists principally in eating, drinking, shelter, and clothing. Without these, we soon perish inevitably. But there are other wants which require the use of the elements;—other wants besides these, the supply of which is right because it is consistent with and conformable to the law of our preservation and happiness. All are constitutional wants, because they naturally result from our constitution. The happiness of the species is not complete when individuals fare very unequally, and when one individual is excluded from the supplying of his constitutional wants while another has abundance. Where is any partiality, it is plain the greatest quantity and degree of happiness cannot take place. There must be equity, justice, and equality; otherwise this happiness is circumscribed. Perfect virtue enters into the scale of the moral law. In perfect virtue is justice: and where justice is, is equity: And wherever is equity, are equal opportunities of sustenance and of all reasonable purposes, enjoyed by all persons.
One human creature has not a right to hold in his private possession, more of the elements than what is necessary for the supply of his wants, to the exclusion of others who have not sufficient for such supply.
Now if every human creature has a right, equally with every other human creature, to the use of the elements so far forth as is requisite to the supply of his wants, to the intent of his preservation and comfort; it irresistibly follows, that any one human creature has nota right to heap up and to hold any quantity of the elements more and over and above what is requisite in the supplying of his wants to the exclusion of others who have not sufficient for such supply and therefore are in need. This is a plain undeniable consequence. If one proposition is true, the other must necessarily be true likewise. But one human being has no right to accumulate and per force hold in his private possession, more of the elements than he wants in immediate use, to the exclusion of others who have not so much as they want for the immediate use of supplying their necessities, because it is wrong. It is obvious to common sense that it is wrong for one individual of the human family to heap up for himself quantities of means of sustenance over and above what is requisite to supply his present wants, and hold them, out of all use, to the exclusion of others who have not what is sufficient to supply their wants. It is not right. It does not agree to the moral law of the universe. It is repugnant to the standard of moral right and moral good. It violates the law of universal preservation. It is repugnant to every mode and relation composing the chain of causes that generates our perfection and happiness. For if there be but a limited quantity of means of life in a certain area of earth and many individuals abide there, and one man grasps the greatest part of these means and holds them to the exclusion of others—if he fences up the most of the soil and heaps up the products in his own dwelling, and, though his wants are amply supplied, detains the whole in a useless and dormant state, excluding all the others though they are suffering; it plainly follows, that several others of those individuals must suffer hunger, and be in danger of suffering starvation: but at all events, that in order to subsist, the greatest part of those persons must immediately remove to some distant place, in consequence of this exclusion by an individual, Whereby it is evident this accumulation and detention are wrong: They are unjust: And one cannot have a right to do that which is wrong. It produces pain and not happiness; it disorders society; it puts up one and puts down others; it tends to make tyrants of one part of the human race and slaves of another. If one has not such a right, another has not. It is wrung to withhold a small quantity of wealth, as well as a large quantity. There is no such right. It were contrary to nature. If it is wrong on one part of the globe, it is equally so on another. If it is wrong here, it is wrong in China: and if wrong in China, it is wrong in Britain. Also, if it is wrong to seize an empire, to the exclusion of all others, and command millions of people against their will; it is wrong to seize upon one acre of land more than one at present wants, to the exclusion of others that do want it.
If then no individual has a right to exclude all others nor any other, from the free and equal use of any quantity of the elements in any form of combination appropriate to sustenance, that is beyond and over and above what he hisself wants for the present and immediate use of allaying the pains of his wants while others have like wants unsupplied; every individual has a right, equally with every other individual, to the use of the elements so far forth as is requisite for the supply-of his wants, to the intent of his preservation and comfort. Every individual that has life and sense and will, has also an equal right to an inheritance and use of what among the productions of the earth, and” the ground out of which they grow, is necessary and appropriate to his comfort and well-being, as much as he has to the air which he respires, the light that pours itself upon his eyes, or the water that drops from the clouds.
There are other wants besides the original constitutional wants of nature. Others that are generated from these, through the customary recourses of gratifying these; and are incidental, yet are consistent with them, and the supplying of them is equally right, equally conformable to the law of good; for it is subservient to that of the other: they are consequent on them. Such are the requirements of all other reasonable purposes. But all may be put under the predicament of constitutional wants; since they accrue directly or indirectly from our constitutions and the essences of things related to them. If a man wants bread, he perhaps wants something to make bread out of. He wants wherewith to build an oven, in which to bake bread. If he wants clothes, he wants some of the workmanship of the silkworm, or a stock of flax, to make him a thread by which he can sew his cloth together; and wants a piece of wire to make him a needle. If he wants potatoes, he wants a piece of land in which to plant and raise potatoes. But all such wants are understood to be reasonable wants. In the idea of a want is included the idea of necessity. Aside of that criterion, wants may be reckoned unreasonable; or rather no wants at all, but irregular desires. As reason is the guide which discovers to us what is right and what is wrong, of consequence, what our rights are and what they are not; and that leads us to a knowledge of the law by which is determined the right and wrong, the good and evil, of actions in general; so it is reason that points out to us what are reasonable purposes, and what are not; what are wants, and what are the cravings of fancy.
This, then, is one of the fundamental rights of human nature. It is an imprescriptible constitutional right. And if this be so, it follows that all genuine property is equal and universal and commensurate to the actual wants of mankind: and that all wealth ought to be common and inclusive to the community or nation in which it is. This is the proper place of all wealth or accumulated surplus over the supply of men’s wants; and the true disposition of it according to equity. What is not in use, belongs to the whole community; and not to one individual exclusively. Every one owns the whole; but inclusively, as united to the rest, and not exclusively. This is the proper and true state of property and wealth, according to the law of the universe. This is the only foundation of perfect equity amongst men in a state of society. Our limbs, the motion of our limbs, our wills, the determination of our wills, are not matters of property nor of wealth. They are awkwardly reckoned so in the most corrupt stage of society where one man holds another as his slave, and buys and sells him as a horse or an ox. They are not properly considered in the same light as those combinations of the elements separate from ourselves, appropriate to sustenance. These last every one has aright to, in proportion to his need. This is true property, according to the law of the universe. The only solid and sure foundation of equal justice in societies of men, is common property. This is the only bottom on which perfect equity can permanently subsist. When mankind shall follow reason, they will hold all things common. Every one will make use of the elements so far forth as sufficient to supply his constitutional wants and necessities, and all reasonable purposes subsidiary hereto, or derivative from his real improvements as an intelligent social agent; and this without avarice, pride, contention, or anxiety of being molested by others. This is essential to the highest degree of civilization mankind can ever attain to. If there is or ever was a family on the face of this globe, living in harmony, peace, and amity, it was because every member of that family considered what he had, as equally belonging to any other when that other had need of it. And every degree of social happiness known in the world, grows out of this same principle. There is no-harmony nor friendship in human society upon any other foundation but this mode of viewing things. Without the reciprocal yielding of all uses, according to the direction of reason, any number of human beings cannot live peacefully and harmoniously together for any considerable length of time. Upon any other ground, men cannot do to others as they would have others do to them; nor can a man love his neighbor as himself. These precepts are not practicable upon any other ground but this: and upon this ground they are practicable. Here, a man can possibly do to another as he would have another do to him; and can possibly love his neighbor as himself.
In the next place, man has a right to pursue the investigation of truth relative to any subject whatever, as far as his reasoning and invention can reach; and to pursue any of his trains of thought started within himself, wheresoever they may lead. Therefore no person is amenable to another person for his opinions and persuasions that he bas within him, be they whatever they may. One person’s peculiar faith is not discernible by another, No person can have knowledge of another’s belief or of any other degree of faith he has within him concerning any subject whatever: he can have nothing more than assurance of it. If a person makes a sincere profession of faith, it is known only to himself whether it is sincere or insincere. To all others it is matter of opinion but not of knowledge. If he makes profession of faith, which he has not, and his profession is wholly insincere, it is known only to himself. How absurd it is, then, to judge people’s sincerity or integrity by their professions of faith! And how fallacious it is to estimate the character of their minds or their hearts by imputing to them any particular faith; which at best is but assured to us by their profession! It is worse than trifling.
If these things be so, it follows that no person has a right to exclude another person from any of the benefits of society, for his professing any particular faith, his denying any particular position, or his being supposed to possess or to be destitute of any particular faith. Faith has nothing to do with moral life, in any other way than by a connection with motives, a priori: For, in itself, it is no moral mode. It includes no voluntary motion; and is a metaphysical circumstance of mind, wherein it acquiesces in a proposition, This circumstance of mind, with respect to any proposition, has no merit with it; neither has the want of it any demerit with it. Consequently, profession of faith is not the criterion by which the worth of men’s characters is to be known, nor by which wisdom and folly arc to be distinguished.
GRAY LIGHT.—-No. XXVII.
Of all the sources of uneasiness to the children of men, the most constant and universal, and in the present state of things unavoidable, is the fear of poverty. This is that which disturbs the repose of almost every human mortal without exception; and fills the whole earth with inquietude. No rank, age, or station, escapes its molesting incursions. It transforms the fair lap of nature into a hideous wilderness infested with lurking serpents and rapacious beasts of prey. To the atrabilarious worldling and the boding victim of oppression, the tawdry landscape of cultivated society is a labyrinth of briars and brambles. The rich are in fear of losing what they have; and the poor are in fear that they shall not obtain what is comfortable. The beggar is afraid he shall lose the opportunity of obtaining so plentiful a dinner to-morrow as he has had to day: he is afraid he shall be denied his necessary meals when he shall ask for them, and therefore shall be in danger of starvation: —Then would he be really poor. The monarch that moves millions of people by his nod, is afraid he shall lose a province;—is afraid of losing some island, to which his title is disputed; is afraid he shall lose a part of his kingdom by revolt, through a conspiracy with a neighboring nation;—nay, he is afraid of losing his crown, and possession of his kingdom altogether, which would make him poor indeed. For he would get pity from fewer people of his country than the beggar. He would be likely to meet with less compassion than the beggar. At least he would have reason to expect he should be treated with less compassion, and therefore his dread of adversity would be proportionably greater. For however it may be in the esteem of the multitude, there is nothing will divest the tyrant of the consciousness of his iniquity, and how little he deserves of his people. Now, how many different stations and postures of life intervene between these two extremes, that are equally exposed to loss and deprivation, and subject to the same unhappiness from the fear of poverty! The farmer is afraid he shall lose his crops when he has a season unsuitable to his grounds, because losing them would make him poor, and dependent on he knows not what, for his bread corn; for he has no storehouse public or private, to which he can recur and draw out his supply to make up the deficiency of his own fields. His neighbors will not make up his loss, and secure him and-his family their sustenance. He has no friends to call on, who would readily yield him the supply, as they would do to their own children, and consider his interest their own. It is poverty that he is afraid of: the fear of this, makes him unhappy. The miser is afraid of losing his treasure, which yet while he has it, is utterly without use. He has a fantastical sort of satisfaction going along with the idea of holding or possessing a great store of money lying dormant, to look and gaze upon once in a day or week, or merely to examine whether it remains safe. His ruling passion is made of fear and desire; which are both painful passions. How unhappy must be that man’s mind, whose governing temperament has nothing but uneasiness in it! He has steadily a desire of getting more money, and fear of losing what he has. Both of these are uneasy emotions; yet these constitute his ruling passion, called avarice. If then the emotions that constitute his prevailing temper of mind, are characteristically in themselves full of uneasiness, how great is that uneasiness which preys upon such a man’s life! For he reckons upon the possession of money as his greatest good, and only source of happiness; and yet that very thing is an exciting object of painful uneasy emotions in him. It continually excites fear and desire, which have no pleasure in them, but constitute his greatest unhappiness.— Wretched creature!—He that has a ship floating at sea, freighted with an amount of goods equivalent to all his possessions on land, which are in mortgage for it, is afraid of a wreck of that ship; consequently he is afraid of a storm; for a storm might cause a wreck: But he would not be afraid of either if he were not afraid of poverty:—Poverty is the thing that he fears, at last. For the loss of that ship, would reduce him to poverty—Yea, utter destitution of sustenance. Then, what has he to expect? He that shewed no mercy, shall perish without mercy.” He that stands on his own foundation,—when that foundation perishes where is he? “If every tub stands on its own bottom”—when that bottom falls away where goes the tub? He that depends for his sustenance and freedom from a jail, upon the sale of a waggon load of produce he has sent to market, is in fear that it will not be sold; or, if sold, will not bear the price expected; because a disappointment would bring poverty with it. The gambler that sits down to a gaming table under a stake of 2000 dollars, is afraid he shall not [by chance] win; because not winning will be the loss of his estate: This will throw him at once into the jaws of poverty. Sometimes poverty is feared as a cause of other deprivations considered paramount to it. The young man who wishes to marry, fears poverty because it would avert from his grasp the jewel of his greatest desires and hopes,—would prevent his contemplated marriage. For her parents will not permit that marriage if he chance to be poor. This darling, too, who engrosses his affections, dare not marry him if she has opportunity’ not because she is afraid of her parents, but because she is afraid of poverty. He that drives fatted cattle to a seaport, is afraid to look into a newspaper Jest he should spy news that war has ceased on the other side of the Atlantic. He is afraid of peace taking place in foreign countries. But why does he dread the news of peace? Because it would reduce the price of his cattle. But he would not fear this, if he were not afraid of poverty. Poverty is an object of so great terror, that the very shadow of it—the probable approach to it, is to be dreaded. The poor invalid is afraid to set out on a journey which would restore his health, because he has but-little money, and he is afraid he shall come to poverty on the road. Thus though death stares him in the face at intervals, and there is evidently no other probable recourse to escape his devouring jaws but to travel far and wide and inhale the pure oxygen of the atmosphere while he varies and exhilarates his exercise; yet to be overtaken with poverty amidst strangers, is a bugbear so appalling to his apprehension, that he even thinks it eligible to stay where he is, and trace the narrow circle of his neighbors and kindred; even death at some little distance being less terrible than poverty!
The whole world of mankind is thrown into a trepidation at thought of this formidable spectre! But why should poverty be so much feared? What is it that makes people so afraid of poverty?—Because it is an object of dread and aversion. It is a proper object of dread. The principal reason why poverty is feared, is, it is an adequate object of fear. It is a thing that is fit to excite dread; and naturally excites dread. What makes poverty a proper object of fear? Exclusive property. This it is that makes it an object fit to be dreaded and shunned; gives it all its terrors; and makes it capable of bringing pain and death upon the subjects of it. Set aside this state of things,—poverty would not be feared. It would be considered a trifling accident that would hurt no one. The circumstance of one’s being destitute of what he wanted, would be no more than not having it immediately on his hands; when yet his supply could instantaneously be brought from the common storehouse, from the fields, or from the house of another member of the community. Indeed there would be no such thing as poverty, in the present sense of the word; there is neither poverty nor wealth in the present sense of the words, but in consequence of the institution of exclusive property.
It is very much the same with poverty in some respects, even in the present state of things, as it is with death; to wit, that it is a less evil in itself than the fear of it: Since men are all their lives fearing what if it even terminates in death, is but temporary, and of transient continuance: So that in both cases, the amount of what they suffer beforehand, is greater than that, which, at a distance, excites all their painful apprehensions. But it is comparatively seldom that poverty causes death, even under the tyranny of our present institutions; though it is an adequate object of dread and aversion, because it brings hunger and thirst and other privations, sometimes disease, and withal, may often put one in danger of famishing, and in some instances causes death by starvation. In either case it is not suffered so long, i. e. the pains of it are not so durable, as those of the fear of it and the anxieties of providing against it, which infest men during their lifetime.
The sense of death is most in apprehension—
And another poet,
Imagination’s fool and error’s wretch,
Man makes a death which nature never made,
Then on the point of his own fancy falls,
And feels a thousand deaths in fearing one.—
So it falls out in the case of the fear of poverty:—although it is admitted that poverty, as things are at present, is an adequate cause of fear and aversion, with the multitude: Still it is considered by reflecting persons as comparatively advantageous in the present constitution of society, inasmuch as it supersedes those torments which, perpetually attendant on the avaricious and those who by possessing riches are enamored of them, arise from the cares of providing against it, and of augmenting that superfluity, of which the possession’ makes them continually crave more. When a man has become actually poor, and reduced quite down to destitution, he has got over some of the pains of fearing it. It being present, he needs be no longer agitated with forebodings of its approach, as a thing future. One says, “People may talk as they please about independence: your only real independent man, is he of the empty purse.—What is the rise or fall of stocks to him? What cares he for commercial failures? What, for high or low prices? What, for taxation or national debt? What for commotions, revolutions, the decline and fall of empires? Nothing. He smiles at the robber by night and the taxgatherer by day, and regards the excise man and the pickpocket with equal indifference. He is your free philosopher, worthy the eye of Jove—one who stands
“Unhurt amid the war of elements,
The wreck of matter and the crush of worlds.”
So it may be with some ingenious persons: it is not so easy with the mass of the vulgar. There is some ground for fearing poverty. In the present structure of society, poverty is necessarily an object of fear, because it has power to deprive one of the comforts of life, and to necessitate low and irregular recourses for preservation.
If poverty has so horrible an aspect, it does not fail to excite great exertions to avoid it. Racking efforts of both body and mind, are set on foot to avert, elude, prevent, or escape poverty. Society is rent with tumultuous agitations, in their scrabble to compass the means to distance this universal enemy of the species. Invention is tortured for expedients to keep clear of poverty; and the world is in a perpetual uproar, by the constant colluctation and interfering of exclusive pursuits of separate and opposite interests.
“To either India see the Merchant fly,
Scared by the spectre of pale poverty!
See him with pains of body, pangs of soul,
Burn thro’ the tropic—freeze beneath the pole!”
It gives rise to crimes. Thousands of criminal deeds are perpetrated to keep clear of poverty. Innocence is every where bartered for a security against poverty. The fear of poverty gives a sort of grace to the armour of the highwayman, the house-breaker, the pirate, and the plunderer,
“All rush rapacious—friends o’er trodden friends,
Sons o’er their fathers, subjects o’er their kings,
Priests o’er their Gods, and lovers o’er the fair,
(Still more ador’d)—to snatch the golden shower,
Where Fortune smiles.”
For they vainly reckon upon gold as the infallible catholicon for this heart-eating malady. Alas! it fails. Fails of removing their fear. So far is gold from removing the cause of their disquietude, itself has a great share in that cause. It fails of giving security against the inroads of this fatal disturber of human felicity. It proportionably multiplies the chances of deprivation. Money is in the train of causation that has brought about this evil;—How, then, can it be a protection against it?
“How quickly nature falls into revolt
When gold becomes her object!
For this the foolish over-careful fathers
Have broke their sleep with thoughts, their brains with care,
Their bones with industry;
For this they have engross’d and piled up
The canker’d heaps of strange achieved gold;
For this they have been thoughtful to invest
Their sons with arts and martial exercises.”
If this fear of poverty is the rise of so much misery and perturbation, surely it is a desirable thing to get rid of it. When a calamity bas befallen any society, as a pestilence, a famine, or insurrection, the people have recourse to methods for extirpating it. How desirable is it, then, for all people, to put themselves out of the reach of this torment?—As much so as to arrest a conflagration. It is therefore an important inquiry, to investigate the proper means to put an end to this evil:—which shall be the business of another paper.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XXVIII.
A method with physicians, preparatory to the cure of a disease, is to explore the cause. If they can find out the immediate cause, they can assure themselves of the proper means to remove it or to arrest its operation. The same recourse should be had, in treating the chronical disorders of society. The disease I was speaking of in my last communication, is the fear of poverty. Now, the cause of the fear of poverty, is exclusive property. The old venerable institution of exclusive rights of possession, is that which gives rise to the fear of poverty. Take away the cause, and you remove the effect. The same thing is the cause of poverty itself. It causes poverty; and makes it fearful. It brings forth the spectre; and clothes it with its terrors. Had no such thing as poverty ever been known, there would be no fear of poverty. In the condition of common inclusive inheritance, is no poverty; neither is any danger of poverty; consequently, no fear of poverty: Furthermore, poverty is not known, Such a thing as poverty, [in the present acceptation of the word] is not known. If things had remained common, as a rationally constituted society would have placed them, there never had been dreamed such distinctions of individuals. Neither riches nor poverty would ever have been known. Therefore no such source of misery as the fear of poverty now is.
To disarm poverty of its terrors—in short, to put it out of existence and: remove altogether this cause of uneasiness to the human soul, is one great desideratum to be ensured by the renovation of society.—This fear of poverty will be fully superseded by a common equal inclusive inheritance of things. This is one of the greatest advantages of such a state of society over the present state. A community of this mould, can, with much less labor, enjoy a greater plenty of the means of life than a society of the present fashion.
For, in the first place, less of the product of its labor will be wasted. Observe what millions are now laid out for mere vanity! What millions are squandered for luxury, for pageantry, for show,—for that which bas no utility, and that which not only does no good, but does much harm, either by encroaching upon health, or diverting the thoughts of men from that which is useful. See what immense sums are lavished on ornamental carving and sculpture about buildings! How much is wasted in the fabric of a carriage, and in idle decorations of all things that appear about the abode of one who would distinguish himself by his wealth! A court-yard or garden fence must have abundance of curious workmanship in it; to no better end than to draw the eyes of idle and vacant starers, whose stupid veneration of wealth, leads them to admire and to muse with adoration on these tokens of prodigality! How much is thrown away upon the superfluities of dress land upon the mere coloring and shaping of garments, the fashions of which vary oftener than the seasons! In short, how much is expended for spirituous drink, which annually destroys thousands of lives! This and a thousand other luxuries which cost great labor, and take up the time of many individuals to produce them, and yet yield no real benefit in their appropriation in any respect whatever, are profusely employed by mankind in the present state of society. Governments encourage their use. They raise revenues to pay their expenses, out of their taxes for licences to sell spirituous drink. They also raise revenues out of the duties on imported fineries. Deduct all this superfluity and. pernicious waste; and how disproportionate is the product of solid food and raiment, to the quantity of labor that is done by mankind! Let the effect of all this labor be converted only to what is really beneficial,—what a vast supply of the necessaries and comforts of life would result, more than sufficient to satisfy all the wants of the human race! A rational society will lay aside all these trifling usages, and devote its labor wholly to objects of real utility.
Secondly; more people would labor. Two fifths of mankind now lie idle or worse than idle,—while the rest drudge like slaves to maintain them. And not content with what they can put down their throats and wrap round their lazy useless bodies, the former cause to be appropriated millions of the product of the others’ slavish labor, to feed the idle eye with pageantry. Thus one half of the world must not only labor to support the whole of it, but to cover it with artificial finery. Hence all the foppery of garish buildings, carriages, equipages, walks, &., is extracted from the sweat of the laboring poor. In a pure republic, all having equal privileges, none would be exempt from labor, Every one would labor a reasonable proportion of the time, and sufficiently for health: And, he would do it willingly and cheerfully, For when men begin to reason, they continue to improve themselves. If they begin to follow reason, they progress to something greater than that with which they commenced. When men are so far enlightened, and so far accustomed to reason, as to be capable of forming themselves into a republic, and uniting and identifying their interests, and they do this, they are likely to be so reasonable as to lay aside foppery and prodigality, to disuse pernicious luxuries, as unwholesome drinks and meats, and to use sufficient bodily exercise in useful employments to preserve their health, and when they do this they produce abundance of the means of life.
Thirdly; there would be a greater plenty of every thing necessary and comfortable produced with less labor. A consort of efforts, increases the effect of labor. A less quantity of labor, with a concurrence of forces, would yield a greater quantity of products. Therefore less labor would be required. Moreover, those who labor, would not be required to labor so great a part of the time; and those who now do nothing unless it be mischief, would labor enough for their health. The whole business of domestic economy would be simplified, by a coincidence of plans and unity of interests.—One oven would bake the bread of several families at one blast. One person could drive a team which would convey in one day from their mil]; their supply of flour to thirty families for several months consumption. To say nothing of making roads and canals, draining swamps, clearing land, &c., wherein the same, number of individuals uniting their forces and making use of machinery, would effect in the same time more than the double of what they could bring about when scattered and divided and laboring to an opposition of interests. Regions of wild land would be settled more expeditiously by communities of united and free people than by single and estranged families; and many places rendered salubrious where now hundreds sicken from noisome effluvia. In our western states, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee, and Mississippi, individual adventurers have pitched their habitations remote from each other, with many miles of wilderness and swamp intervening, full of unwholesome exhalations, and often unpassable, whose sterile umbrage the concentrated energy of a community would transform in a little time into a landscape of fields, gardens, and groves.
All the wealth would belong to the whole, and not to one. Therefore no comparison of one individual to another in respect to possession. Wealth would be the surplus product, above what is in use for supplying the daily wants of the members of the society. Would it be advantageous? No farther than the probability of drought or sickness. Would one community be richer than another? It would be of no use but either to exchange with another community for such things as it has not got, and which another has; of else to lie dormant till an occasion might arise to employ it. This would not be distinguished as matter of preeminence; and the idea of riches, which in the present state is, applied to individuals, would have no use at ll. The same with that of poverty. There would be no need of such words. They would not be found in the language.
Such is the state of a republican commonwealth.—No individual owns any thing peculiar to himself and known by his name, that any body could crave or envy: There is no envy; no, desire of molesting another in possession; there is no poverty; there is no danger of poverty ; there is no fear of poverty;—and there is no mention of poverty. For, during their health they labor in concert, whether in the field, in. the wood, or in the workshop.—I say, the laborers labor in concert, diligently, for a reasonable number of hours in each day, the weak as well as the strong, the great as well as the little; being rated by their virtue and not their fortune; by their diligence, promptitude, and assiduity, and not by the quantity of their labor in regard to its effect. Indeed this is not to be distinguished at all, in respect to any individual, when many labor in concert: There is no inquiry what any one accomplishes; this is not a concern to vex any persons mind, as in the capacity of a master, a servant, or a hireling; for neither of these characters exists.
There is not, therefore, the most distant danger of poverty. There is profuse provision for every want of a reasonable being. Ina society of 300 members, every one has 299 sureties that he shall be well attended and supplied when sick; that he shall have suitable provision when unable to labor; and that he shall have no lack of employment when able to labor. He has the veracity, honor, and integrity, of 299 persons, pledged for his support.
This, then, is the state and condition of society wherein it has adopted common or inclusive inheritance of things, and a free and equal participation of their uses according to the assignments of reason. There is neither servant nor master, rich nor poor, riches nor poverty. Every one labors freely, voluntarily, cheerfully. The labor of all produces abundance. This abundance is equally shared by all, according to their wants; i. e. every one has what he needs. Here is no fear of poverty. This is what is here recommended as being that to which it ought to be the object of our highest ambition to attain. Such is a true republic. Here people are free. Can there be a republic of slaves?
GRAY LIGHT—No. XXIX.
Another great improvement human society has in this mode, is its freedom from deceit in all the forms and operations it has in the view of getting gain.—I say, the next and not the least advantageous view of this mode of society in comparison with the exclusive system, is that of the improvement it gets from a total freedom from all: species of fraud and swindling practised: for a purpose of getting gain, and ascendant power by means of superior possessions: which is exceeding obvious; since where no such thing as gain is, and. consequently no such thing as ascendant power to be got by means of it, being no such thing known as individual wealth, it is plain no recourses can take place to obtain it; and of course no temptation to make use of illusion to insure such objects.
We every day hear of thefts, forgeries, cheats, and impositions. The columns of our newspapers are thronged with reports of swindling, counterfeiting of money, forging of orders, checks, and bonds, stratagems and assassinations to get money.—What does this mischief come from? Whence arises all this melancholy section of history? What gives rise to these visitations?—-Exclusive property.—They progress to destroy all the foundations of general tranquility ; and make society a scene of horror, suspicion, and disgust. One man sees another possess abundance, more than he uses in his sustenance. He desires the use of it. It is excluded; it is peculiarized; it is out of his power. He has no way to possess himself of a share of it, but to go in the night, clandestinely, and secretly seize it, or else, by dissembling and stratagem, to deprive him of it by fraud: In order to do this, he must either forge papers or coin, or make use of some such illusive contrivance as will deceive his senses, or, else make him believe a lie. These are the ways of imposture. Such things would have no foundation if one man did not possess more than another, and exclude others from it by virtue of his right or rather his power to possess, without regard to the limits of his necessities, all that he gains. They would have no root. This furnishes, the object, the temptation, and the motive.—There is a sort of legal cheating. It is practised by lawyers and magistrates; and countenanced by legislators. In a free commonwealth, all these things will disappear. When men become so far enlightened and refined as to adopt the system of common property and inclusive inheritance of the, benefits of all things, fraud will fail. There will be no occasion to have recourse to imposture to get rich: There will be no inducement to it; neither will there be an exciting object to it.
Who will dispute that the system-of common property would abolish: deceit and fraud, [but we shall every day meet with objectors who will oppugn this very argument,] when it takes away the object of this vice, root and branch? I say root and branch: the root of the object is the setting of a value on superfluity held in one’s private possession, as any matter of wealth possessed by an individual: and the branch is, such wealth existing in the hands of the individuals of the-community. Now it is plain this would not exist. Such wealth would not exist. Such a thing, though sought, could no longer be found. There would be nothing: -to steal; therefore no object to theft. No one would have any thing to be cheated out of, therefore no object of cheating. Neither would any value be set upon such a thing. One could not be respected for it; one could not be envied for it; and it could not be coveted by any one. And although it may be supposed that one of the steal of ‘the treasured surplus belonging to the community; yet no value being set upon individual wealth, and it not being accounted property nor preeminence; here we find the root is gone: There is no object nor foundation of an object to theft or fraud: because what one should obtain, would be good for nothing when he should have gotten it: it could neither be valued by others nor himself. Besides, in stealing from the community, he would steal from himself. This is a sort of absurdity, to suppose a man to steal from himself.—For, of whatever belongs to the common treasury, every one owns the whole, so far forth as to supply all his wants, and to be securely assured of a supply to all future exigencies: but in the hands of an individual it is of no use nor value any farther than the present supply. But where every one is supplied openly and freely, no occasion exists to get any thing clandestinely. It may farther be said that the marauder would withdraw himself into the world with his booty, and there enjoy it as private property, and be respected for it. But if all the people of the world, being civilized, lived in this same mode of society, he could withdraw himself but into a similar community and come under the same rule of estimate; unless he detracted himself altogether from human intercourse, and became an unsocial savage. This would be doing violence to his nature;. and eluding his own happiness. And if we suppose this system in its infancy, and this community isolated and distinguished from the rest of the world. around, he would no sooner resolve upon filching any thing from it than he would cease to be a member of the community and be on the point of abandoning it, having renounced its principles; and would also be liable to be arraigned before the tribunal of this community, and furthermore, pursued by this same party and prosecuted by the penal laws of the government where it is, and punished in the same manner as if he had never belonged to the community. So that he would have no more chance of impunity than any other robber or swindler would have, in the present state of things. And this will serve in some measure towards a reply to the objection that a society of this sort would be peculiarly obnoxious to the depredations of outlaws.
In a well organized community, no one could find any use for private wealth. He must go beyond the pales of the community, before he can apply it to any use. He must abandon the principles of the community, before he can project any appropriation of such wealth, aside of the general stock. What inducement could there be then to practise any manner of chicanery to get gain? None, to those who belong to the community; therefore this community would exclude it. The community of goods excludes every inducement to every species of fraud and deceptive dealing. There is no occasion for bargaining, between individuals. Every one has only to labor for the whole. No individual has occasion to make bargains with another in the society, neither for buying nor for selling nor for exchanging. This makes no part of their business. Indeed, the commissioners, or persons deputed as agents of the community where this is distinguished and isolated, are to purchase for the general store, or procure by exchanges, what not being among the products of its labor, is needful for its use. But they are to purchase without, of detached companies or individuals that manufacture or that deal; and not of individuals within the community. But because it is a common thing in the present fashion of society for people to cheat and rob individuals and the public, some objectors conclude there will be cheats and robbers in a community; and argue that it is not prudent to risque their possessions in such a stock! To draw arguments from the present state of things and the resulting temperaments of men, against the system of common property, is to draw arguments against virtue from the prevalence of vice: As, who should say, it is never worth while to preach temperance; never will suit the people, they are addicted to drunkenness and gluttony: it never will come in fashion; the people will not abide by its rules; they will not continue in such a course of regimen but a short time; one and another will be continually breaking over these prescripts; therefore it is folly to preach it; it is folly to set an example of it. Indeed, it is to argue, against a reformation, the very thing which gives rise to the necessity of it! i.e. because men are corrupt, they should not be moralized or made wise—because men are learned to be wicked, they ought not to be instructed to be virtuous. Very like is the argument some bring, of the impracticability of such an institution, which they deduce from the general depravity of the human heart. Here is a man that is sick. He has no appetite for solid food. He cannot eat potatoes, nor pulse, nor corn. Will you argue, it is not expedient to plough his fields; and that it is lost labor and time to plant that which he cannot eat? All mankind are sick: they are out of order: they are not prone to what is reasonable, just, and equitable: they have little or no relish for the cultivation of the social virtues. They have this distemperature because they are accustomed to live under a tyrannical government. This tyrannical government is the institute of exclusive property. Whatever induces them to abrogate this, in any extent, and substitute the community of goods, commences their cure—commences a radical reformation of mind and morals. After this, it is not to be argued against the re-introduction of tyranny and wickedness, merely that men have no propensity to them, that they do not relish them, &c.; but rather that they have a tendency to the degradation and misery of the species. Would not any thing be said against preaching extortion, usury, compound interest, banking, slavery, horseracing, &c.; but, that the people had no relish for hearing such things; that their habits were such at present that they could not approve of them; that they could not be entertained nor pleased with them; and that such things could not be brought into fashion? Surely something more would be said;—the argument would be the actual tendency of those things to the deterioration of men, and their repugnance to social felicity.
So, what men are now, is not what they: will be in the new system of society. The dispositions they have now, will not be their dispositions when they shall have adopted inclusive inheritance. While men remain exactly what they are at present, they can never adopt the new system of society. It were as impossible as for one body to be in two places at the same time. When men adopt common property, or inheritance, they follow reason. They do not now adopt it; therefore they do not follow reason. And they-cannot follow reason and not follow reason at the same time. Moreover, the circumstances of such a state and condition when once adopted, would carry on the change, to a complete renovation of character. Habit perfects it.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XXX.
That sort of arguing which opposes: the present dispositions of men to the adoption of a mode of living which, in its projection, implies a change of those dispositions, and which not only presupposes a reform, but has a conspicuous tendency to a universal amelioration of morals, is futile. The dispositions of men, independent of the influence of such a system, have nothing to do in its disparagement. Such inferences, therefore, are obviously illogical. Yet arguments of this sort are continually in people’s mouths whenever this mode of society is recommended. As soon as we mention common stock, they cry out, Ah! there will be some rogues—there will be always some scabby sheep in a flock—it is not safe to entrust property with mankind in this way. In the name of nature, could not disorderly persons be corrected, in this, as well as in any society? Could not villains, should they exist, be detected and brought to justice here, as well as under the old institutions? While it will be admitted there is less chance of villainy, there is evidently more opportunity of detecting it, where all are at liberty to inspect the public administration, where every thing is, as it were, continually under the eye of every one of the members of the commonwealth, there being but one set of individuals to superintend the public concerns; and this, whether called trustees, overseers, commissioners, or councilmen, accountable to the general assembly of the community, than even in the present state of things. But what is this entrusting of property with mankind? What is it but trusting ourselves, after we have come to the resolution to follow the laws of nature and the dictates of reason? Are indeed mankind so desperately depraved, and so hostile to one another, that every one must need be continually clad in armor, and looking out for assassins and thieves? Is not one to be believed, or trusted upon his word ?—Can we not rely upon one of our fellow-creatures, under any circumstances, for the sincerity of his word when he declares he is convinced of the truth and rectitude of the principles of the doctrine of common property? How then can we be in a worse condition than we are? We can scarcely lose by a change. While this bitter suspicion, and fear of the loss of property, linger in the hearts of men, they have not a glimmer of a community spirit:—Exceeding far are they from being prepared to enter into the new order of society.
Our business is not here to investigate the formation of communities or commonwealths. What we have to do at present is to explore the advantages which such a state-or mode of society, supposing it to exist, possesses over that of exclusive property.—Here we suppose the thing to be established, and a matter of experimental knowledge and of reality;—and the other mode, also, to be somewhat with which we are acquainted: and the task is, to compare the dangers and assurances, the pleasures and pains, of one, with those of the other. One capital advantage of a commonwealth over the state in which property is individual and exclusive, is freedom from fraud and deceit. What is the object of cheating and deceiving? To get rich. One deceives another to get peculiar property— property to hold exclusively to himself. The property-is to pass from one individual to another. That which one owns, he is to be cheated out by another. Now, where is no such kind of property in existence, it is plain, can be no object of fraud. And if no object, then no inducement to practise it. If that which is the adequate object, which is the end for which imposture is practised and toward which it is a recourse, do not exist; no inducement exists t practise it. Now this is the casein the state of common possession. Therefore no fraud has place among the members of a free community. In such a state of society, is no illusion to get gain. People have no cause to be apprehensive of the approach of thieves, house-breakers, or plunderers, by night: they have no occasion to lose sleep to be on their guard against these things. They have no anxiety about the gain or loss of 12 per cent. of interest upon money lent: nor fear of losing the principal. None needs go borrowing nor begging.—None needs to go to his neighbor and say, have you any work to employ me to-day? I will work cheap.—Nor has any one to fear the danger of being cheated out of his estate by a banker, a highwayman, or a horse-jockey. For his estate is the whole community. The interest of one, is the interest of the whole: and the interest of the whole is the interest of every one. There are however, two ways of considering this mode of society wherein all property is common and inclusive—One is when it is considered as the only one at the same time existing, no other sort of society being accustomed by mankind in the world; and the other is, to suppose there are abroad other societies of different structure, which make property a peculiar thing; in which case is a temptation to such as, belonging to the free community, have opportunity to possess themselves of what might be enjoyed privately—Because what? there exists a specimen of peculiar property. Thus all the temptation to any kind of surreptitious or fraudulent acquisitions, arises from this very institute of exclusive inheritance. Here is a specimen of that sort of property. The bare idea of it in deprehensio a priori, is not sufficient. But stop a minute—Perhaps this living pattern of it, itself, would not effectually tempt those who have embraced the true principles of common property. Perhaps (I say) no-temptation would arise to those who are sincere members and have once imbibed the true distinctive principles of such constitution of society. For although it is seen there is an opportunity wherein it is supposed property might be enjoyed privately, yet it cannot rationally appear to such that it could be enjoyed so well or with so much satisfaction, as in a free community.
Some will still hold up the objection, that those intrusted with the common treasures may steal them and run off into the world: inasmuch as, in the beginning, it will be impossible for the people to be sure, or at least certain, that they have not got some of that sort of rogues among those they adopt for trustees or commissioners. Let us suppose then a community just now formed, and surrounded by the old institutions. If the whole world were in common stock, one community could not take in a whole nation. The inhabitants of these states could not be united into a single community. Here must be different communities organized, upon the same principles. There might be as many communities as are now townships in the United States: For so numerous a body as the whole, could not conveniently assemble together to transact business. One community must make exchanges with another, for mutual accommodation.—Let us suppose five or six hundred people forming themselves into a commonwealth, de novo. Some persons must be set apart to superintend the public concerns. Certain discreet and sagacious individuals must be deputed as the agents of the whole body of the people, and whose task shall be to supervise the public concerns, the enforcement of the laws and regulations, the employments of the members according to their different capacities, &c. When men follow reason, they have no need of any other guide, governor, or director. Yet still, where is a numerous throng of people that are busy in different employments, some marks and limits must be laid down as directories and mementoes, in order that their movements may be regular, easy, undisturbed, and propitious to the general weal. Whatever they are named, whether trustees, commissioners, or supervisors, they must be in part entrusted with the public stores. These would not be very portable, and easy to carry off by stealth, being the produce of the field or the manufactory: so that little danger exists of their running away with them. Money makes no part of the public treasure when men, being generally civilized, live in communities of this sort. When this shall become a usual thing, and not so infrequent and uncouth a subject as at present, no use will be made of money of any kind. But while this system is in its infancy, and a community is on all hands surrounded with peculiar property, and is the first that is organized in the country, or at least has yet no interchange with any other, some use must be made or money when it is necessary to deal with people of the world: and we will suppose there is some money is the common treasury. And there is just the same possibility of the agents stealing this and running away with it, as there is of the treasurer of the United States stealing and running away with the money confided to his keeping. I say the same possibility, though I will not say the same probability. I contend the probability is less. I say, it is less probable that these men should steal what money lies deposited in this common treasury and run away with it, than that the treasurer of the United States should steal the treasures reposed in his custody and run away with them. In the first place, this treasurer has been educated in the principles of exclusive property, and has never renounced them. In the next place, he would run less risk. Having profuse riches, he could easily conceal or screen himself; and should he be detected, would not be obnoxious to an infamous punishment as a mail-robber, a house-breaker or an incendiary. On the other hand, these commissioners, or overseers would first be obnoxious to the indignation, censure, reproach, reprobation, and proscription, of the whole mass of the community by whom they had been held in esteem and with whom they had been intimately connected; and then be liable, as much as if they had never- belonged to this community, to be delivered up to the same infamous punishments as common house-burners, house-breakers, and thieves: being subject to be prosecuted by the penal laws of the land wherein the community is located, and that even at the instance of the members hereof, whether they be a body corporate and politic or not.
It is admitted, indeed, that the people cannot have certainty that their agents are all without guile.—They make declaration that they are convicted of the truth of the doctrine of common property; that they acquiesce in the principles of the constitution; and they deliver up their possessions to the general stock. After all these movements, we have no certainty of their inward opinions, inclinations, or intentions. Precisely of the same predicament, is the treasurer of the United States. We have not absolute certainty whether he is honest or not. He is ostensibly upright in his general carriage; and he takes the oath of his office, But where is our certainty whether he is an honest man or a knave? The same things may be said of the treasurer of any particular state, of any county, or of any corporation.
We have been speaking of the difficulties which attend the infancy of this sort of establishment, and the first struggles of bringing it to repute and utility.—When the great mass of mankind shall be civilized, no such difficulties will have place. It will be the prevailing and universal order of things among men. Therein will be a perfect freedom from all the dross of corruption engendered by the pernicious system of exclusive property.
The members of a free community will have no occasion for intrigue or deceit.
GRAY LIGHT.—No. XXXI.
Men have made no refinement at all in government, in passing from the barbarian state into that which goes under the name of the civil state. They have rather degenerated in that particular, and have constructed society much worse than it ever is in the barbarian state. They naturally progress in discoveries of nature even in the most supine state of the public mind, and of course they make refinements on their arts. But the inquiry is now, of their progress in a general view,—not only in their arts of subsistence, not only in the discovery of the properties of bodies, or of methods in making use of them; but in their morals, their government, their manner of living in society—the aggregate of their proficiency in improvement, as it particularly modifies their political or social institutes.
Some societies now in the barbarian state, have their property common: but they do not realize all the comforts and advantages that would result from a systematic arrangement whereby all anxiety of sustenance in individuals might be precluded, and this for want of an enlargement of their minds and extended knowledge of nature proceeding from the proficiency of intellectual education.
However it be in particular instances, I shall proceed upon the general supposition that people, when in the barbarian state, hold their property mostly in common stock. The main means of sustenance are matter of common inheritance.
That the ruinous corruption of our exclusive system has not extended so far, and has never been so tenaciously efficient, in the barbarian state as in that which we call civil or civilized, is a well known fact. Men have not refined upon that which is good; but upon that which is evil, They have elaborated whatsoever facilitates the arts of delusion and corruption. They have systematized those modes which degrade them, and sink them into the vilest of slavery.
The fittest move from the barbarian state, is to an organization of society, whereby the business of the members is simplified and defined. For when different arts and manufactures are established, there is a variety of occupations for persons of different capacities and degrees of strength: and to make such a distribution that all may be employed suitably to their abilities, inclinations, or habits of thinking, so that no complaint can arise of any one’s constitution suffering from severity of labor or ill-adapted employ, is an improvement. What is proper to do in the first place, is to erect a common repository for all their superflux of provision, whatever it be, beyond what is wanted in present use; and to appoint a number of individuals for commissioners to superintend the arrangements and take care of the common stores;—that is to say, to see that they are not neglected, and only to assist the others in attending on them; for the laborers should have a rotation in adverting to those things, in concert with the commissioners.—Here is regularity. Here all useful arts, and investigation, can make advancement. j But instead of this, men blundered into a wrong track. Instead of making such arrangements, as to refine and perpetuate the enjoyments of an amicable and equal subsistence, they straggled out of the straight and direct path to the perfection of their nature according to the original constitution of things. As soon as they had arrived at the skill of cultivating the ground, they began to partition lands and to institute peculiar and exclusive inheritances—A was to take this, and B that: These were to be inherited by the progeny of each by hereditary descent, unless the succession should be bought with money—Thus the mischief was perpetuated: and the antisocial maxim being adopted, that every individual should have right to possess, in exclusion of every other, whatever he should acquire by lawful means, i. e. means consistent with the instituted laws of the government, whether obtained by labor, by bequest of progenitors, or otherwise, the interests of men were divided and set in opposition: men were made strangers and averse to each other; they were inimical to the very existence of each other; the pristine bands of sympathetic union were broken asunder; every one was made a monarch over his own little domain; and the whole species being split into as many parties as individuals, was plunged into a state of continued intestine war. This is the ruinous track of human degeneracy.—Such is the course by which has come about the total subversion of morals and the depravation of the intelligent world. I speak of what has been, and do not say whether it must have been, and could not have been otherwise, or not. From this point, then, all our movement has been astray. Considered as nations, as tribes, as confederations, as generations of men, all that we have advanced from this point, appears to have been aside of the line of our profection. In real civilization we have gained little or nothing; though we have gathered, by the way, many materials and instruments that will eventually conduce to it.
From the moment when men came to the experiment of cultivating the earth, to feed their herds and flocks of animals to greater advantage, as well as to procure grains and fruits for themselves, without roving continually from one place to another, their straight course had been to organize themselves into commonwealths and build repositories for their redundance. I speak of a straight course; though it may be questioned whether society can arrive at its perfection by any other than a crooked course. On the hypothesis of a direct and uniform scale, the first character in which society should appear, after emerging from the barbarian state, is that of equality of possession, wherein is perfect freedom from all anxiety of sustenance in individuals; where if there be any solicitude it is for the public store, every one’s wishes having reference to the general weal, out of which is drawn the particular weal of every individual; where the happiness of every one is so inseparably associated with the happiness of all, that one cannot conceive himself to be made happy independently of the rest. This is the first aspect human society should put on after that of barbarism supposing its alterations to be on the direct line of improvement.
We speak of what should have been done, and what men might have done, which yet under the then existing circumstances, perhaps was not feasible. We say, it is possible, when probably we should speak with more propriety if we were to say it is conceivable. We can conceive of such an advance, and take a correct account of the next degree of civilization attainable, in course, from the condition of barbarians, whensoever it should transpire. But perhaps it was not possible for men to advance uninterruptedly from the barbarian state to so high a degree of excellence as to adopt entire common property and organize society upon the principles of equity. They were not sufficiently enlightened. If it were possible, why should it not have taken place? If the cause did not exist, the effect could not make its appearance. The necessary motives to impel them to such a course, were not in being. The adequate motive powers were not applied to their will. Therefore they could not proceed to such an achievement. They must have the light of experience to guide them to the sure means of their felicity. The course of improvement is long and crooked. The track by which we arrive at civilization, is circuitous. “Nature seems to require that man should groan for a longtime under the weight of his vices and his follies.” He must wander in darkness and illusion for a succession of ages before he emerges to the light of the renovation of society. I speak of nations and bodies of men. Meanwhile many individuals in every age, reach important discoveries in various sciences.
GRAY LIGHT.—-No. XXXII.
When men arrive at the cultivation of the ground, they pass from what is called the barbarian state of society, into another which we distinguish from at Here they may remain a thousand years in a state no better in pot of real civilization and the structure of society, than the barbarian state; and at that period arrive at another stage of improvement whereat they commence the organization of society on the principles of common stock.
Let us suppose a community of ten thousand persons, with their neat cattle, their sheep, their deer, their camels, their horses, and their poultry, feeding by turns at different stations which afford them forage and fruits, each having his wooden cup or leathern sack in which to draw milk for sustenance, at once arrive at the full purpose of tilling the ground by digging and ploughing, and raising grain and forage for themselves and flocks to eat, and at the same time adopt the partition of possessions and split into several hundred families which are to be lords and masters of their several allotments with the privilege of representative property and of trade. Here they may remain, at this identical point, for a thousand years. They may pass successively through all the varieties of government; they may serve an apprenticeship under every form of tyranny, hierarchy, monarchy, aristocracy, limited monarchy, and pseudo democracy, and still be slaves. They are slaves as long as they hold property exclusive; they gain not one degree of true civilization. Such, no doubt, has been the case of several existing nations on this earth. Look at the mass of the people of Italy, of Spain, of France, of Britain, of Germany —Are they any more refined than in the earliest stages of their history?—-Are they any more free? Have they less solicitude? Are they not at war? Do they not wish ill to each other? Behold! they are more unhappy than in their most profound ignorance of the arts. The weight of their chains is more severely felt. Until they let go their gripe of individual lucre, they are slaves. They are slaves to the love of wealth, slaves to the worship of wealth, slaves to those who are the most wealthy, slaves to their institutions which make it necessary for them to pursue mean recourses to procure a livelihood, which necessitate servility and dissimulation in their dealings in order to their preservation and comfort, which attach a fictitious turpitude to actions which otherwise were innocent, which make all the business of their lives consist of mean and low actions, wherefore from a mere choice of the least of the evils they sometimes take that course which is lawful and sometimes the reverse, which make one wish ill to another, the seller to the buyer, the buyer to the seller, the borrower to the lender, the servant to the master, and vice versa, as necessarily and unavoidably as ho wishes well to himself, the misfortune of one being the prosperity of another.
Let me not be understood to deny that the predisposing principles of civilization are operating in the species, as leaven in a mass of meal. Their signs are discernible by such as minutely explore moral causes. Their effect is not realized till they modify the structure of society to the foundation. Then it is that men take a degree in civilization. Though all the mechanic arts and the fine arts be cultivated and raised to their highest degree of refinement; the people are not happy as long as property is exclusive; they are not effectually advanced in their civilization. A few scattered instances of civilization in individuals, prove nothing in favor of the general mass of society, except the probable approach of the epoch of its renovation. For the common people are scarcely less miserable for being acquainted with the rules of many arts and being expert in their application, so long as they have not less solicitude to secure their sustenance, every one for himself contending to maintain his particular rights in opposition to all others; which is the case when property is exclusive and the interests of men are detached. Not but that it is to be admitted that several advantages gradually arise from the progressive operation of these causes, and extend themselves to numerous persons in every class and rank of mankind; still they are not of that extent or of that kind which announces a decided proficiency of civilization in the species, or demonstrates an absolute increase of human happiness till they begin to modify the structure of society. Then takes place the proper appropriation of the arts and sciences. Then the arts and sciences have their true use and effect. They heighten the enjoyment of life—they enlarge the sum of human felicity. Then the arts are estimated by their true standard; not by the quantity of money they may subserve to accumulate in a given time. The legerdemain of trade then comes to a stop; and things are rated according to their use,
To understand the use of iron and the art of agriculture, is an advantage; but it may be turned to a bad appropriation. Such use may be made of this acquisition as to make it rather a matter of disparagement, and instrumentally an occasion of mischief. For the more knacks and arts men are masters of the more means of disturbing the repose of the world. When trade is countenanced, all their acquirements are instruments of evil when applied to the modification of individual exchanges, I am not speaking of morality, which controls and directs the appropriation of all inferior arts. In proportion to men’s advance in this, they are civilized.
They will ask, why is it not eligible to let civilization go on as it does now at this present time in the ordinary course of things, without attempting, by the invention of new expedients and motive powers, to accelerate its march? I reply, civilization must go on as it now does; it cannot be otherwise: Whenever improvement goes on, it goes on necessarily by the necessary means and causes of it, and they cannot act otherwise than they do. Wherever is a cause of civilization, it cannot do otherwise than produce civilization. But money used as a motive power to industry has no such effect. Even the causes of individual wealth, splendor, and populous settlements, do not accelerate or diffuse civilization: For the stimulus of the idea of personal preeminence or of gain, and the success of merchandize, cannot induce that expansive liberality of feeling, which finds delight in participating the use of the common bounties of nature impartially with other individuals of the same species. The true access to the melioration of society, cannot be adopted before it is known. Those to whom it is not originally suggested by their own reflection, must need have it suggested to them by others. In order to the melioration of society, the principles upon which it depends and which lead to it, must be diffused through of the multitude which composes society. Therefore the dissemination of these principles is necessary. To promulgate the truth concerning the discriminations, the features, the rise, and the introduction of this order, is a necessary cause to promote civilization.
TWELVE MONTHS IN NEW HARMONY;
PRESENTING A FAITHFUL ACCOUNT OF THE PRINCIPAL OCCURRENCES WHICH HAVE TAKEN PLACE THERE WITHIN THAT PERIOD; INTERSPERSED WITH REMARKS.
BY PAUL BROWN
A number of papers from me rested on the printer’s file, as accepted and approved by the editor. Mr. Owen became the editor and conductor of the paper himself; the other man being discharged or resigning: indeed he never was treated well in his office, being often interfered with or slighted. Even those papers which came by mail from Tennessee, were not all published. After a suspension of four or five weeks, [recommended by the former editor] the printer having put the next in type, Mr. Owen [according to the statement of this printer] explicitly forbade him to publish any more of those papers, and said he was sorry he had inserted this. I had  heard several persons speak favorably of these papers, but none speak against them. I speak of such as had appeared in the Gazette. They were all of the same principles, and similar style. Mr. Owen himself had spoken well of them publicly to the people, recommending their perusal. Moreover the printer represented that some young persons had spoken against them as become irksome, but could not tell who. Under these considerations l wrote a letter to Owen, as follows:
Mr. Robert Owen, Editor of the New-Harmony Gazette.
NEW-HARMONY, AUG. 28, 1826.
SIR— As thirty-four numbers of a series of communications had been handed forward for publication in the Gazette, thirty-one of which had gone into the printer’s hands, and were accepted and approved by the preceding editors in so far as to publish twenty-eight; at the conjuncture of publishing which last, the printer stated he had received express orders from you to publish no more—saying you were sorry he inserted that, that they had become “so objectionable” that they must be discontinued; intimating that they were worn out, &c.—observing, besides, that he had given you the three succeeding numbers and you had returned them with the above interdiction, wherefore it was supposed you had inspected them; I take the liberty to inquire of you wherein those three next numbers, twenty-nine, thirty, and thirty-one were so objectionable, or what there might be in particular in the six numbers (which were prepared) up to thirty-four, that made them unworthy of a place in that paper, more than the others. As all I had heard concerning them from persons abroad, was favorable to the others, and not finding any instance of a person speaking otherwise of them here, except the printer, this seemed worthy of inquiry. Please to give  me an answer in writing, pointing out the faults in those three numbers. Yours, with much consideration,
About the same time I also sent him a short, plain scheme of education, calculated and proposed for the practice of a community, taking children from birth, and extending to the highest branches of the sciences, asking him to publish it in his Gazette. After the lapse of a few days, this paper, together with the letter, were returned to me through the hands of the former editor, by whom, they had been sent forward, without a word being said why he did not publish it, or on what account he objected to any thing of my writing, except that he made declaration that, with reference to the papers the letter spoke of, he had not read them. Now he undoubtedly forbade the printer to publish any more of them, and expressed his regret that the printer had set in type the last then in print. And this is a rather odd and curious fashion, for an editor to condemn and reject, without reading, what had been received, and the former editors had approved; especially when himself had commended the tenor of the series of which this was a part, and of the same style and principles. However, the printer said he had given the papers into Owen’s hands, who afterwards returned then, and, as if he had inspected them, forbade their publication, saying they had ‘become so objectionable’ that they must be discontinued. Hereafter we have his own declaration that he had not read them. So that here is confessedly a prohibition to publish, and regret that any part was then printed, of course a rejection, of things without examination, without reading. Does this agree with the stipulations in the prospectus of the New-Harmony Gazette? As the papers had been delivered back into my hands, it was advised by this man who had been the editor for near a year past, a man of reflection and talents, and a sound judgment, to hand Owen the communications that remained, that he might read them, and know what they contained; which appeared to me eligible, that he should at least be presented with the two which had lain on hand so long and had been sent such a distance at expense; as it seemed altogether proper that an editor should see and examine the things he rejected, especially when they had been approved by his predecessors. Whereupon it was agreed that the whole of those papers should be handed to Owen for his particular examination; which afterwards was accordingly done. Nothing came to my ear concerning then, but after a few days, one or two of them, the next in the order of the series to those which had been printed, were delivered to the printer for publication; one of which soon appeared; and the other a few weeks afterwards.
For the New-Harmony Gazette.
The Substance of a Lecture delivered at New-Harmony, on Sunday, May 26th. 1826.
By Paul Brown.
The great stumbling-block in the entrance of men’s speculations on a community (so called) or a new system of society in which they promise themselves an enfranchisement from the hardships, the anxieties, the disappointments, in short most of the evils adjunct to their accustomed institutes and old way of living, is, that they lay their account with deriving their happiness from the identical sources peculiarly afforded by the institutes which they abandon. They seem to think they shall inherit all the pleasures, and the same sorts of pleasures, and none of the pains, adherent to the old constitution of society, at the same time that they reckon upon changing the very structure of society and constituting it on entirely different principles, being a new system of reciprocal relations of individuals. All this is frustraneous. This proceeds from illusory and inadequate conceptions of those principles. They seem not to have considered them thoroughly, nor to have investigated the reasons or the truth of them; not to have traced out their necessary connection with the conclusions to be logically deduced from them;—but, in making their inferences, they fall into error; and directly return into the dull circle of their calculations of individual interest in which they were educated. In consequence whereof, they remain incompetent to apply those principles beneficially to practice.
Those fantastical and illiberal enjoyments which are continually objects of pursuit under the old exclusive individual arrangements of society, and are there invariable stimulants of contention and envy, have no place in a pure commonwealth. All refinement of social enjoyment, must proceed from the cultivation of sympathy. That sort of pleasure which is derived from the idea of being thought superior to others in the opportunity or means of comfort, leisure, possession of costlier or finer clothes, furniture, more commodious habitations, &c. cannot be enjoyed in a community. Therefore the pride of appearance, pride of power, dominion, or influence, cannot have place in any persons that are fit members of a community.—Any such as have their delight in these things, cannot be sincere members of a community.
The essence of a community, is common property. All matters of possession are in a common stock.—There is a common inclusive inheritance of the uses of things by all the members, for supplying every one’s wants and necessities—Reason being the constant guide of all appropriations; and the sole umpire in cases of doubt. All persons should be ready to yield to the decisions of reason. Therefore the young should be taught to reason. They should be taught moral reasoning—taught to reason on moral modes and relations—the relations in which individuals stand to each other,—their comparative wants, views, capacities, feelings, duties, &c. They should not only be taught mathematics, geometry, ball-playing, card-playing, dancing, and fiddling; but they should be taught to reason, and that accurately; and to habitually follow reason. In a perfect community all transferable and impersonal things are held in common stock. All persons have equal privileges and opportunities of enjoyment. It is a community of goods. Now some goods may be common, and not all. Such is not an absolute or perfect community. In a perfect community, all sorts of good are common. All the goods in the community are common and equally accessible to all persons belonging to it, without a single exception: Whether it be bread, cloth, brooms, baskets, tea, wino, milk, land, houses, cider, or fruit,—whatsoever is produced or procured by the labor of the community, every one should have equal access to the use of it according to his necessities. Where goods are not common stock, of free and equal access to all, as reason points out their appropriation, is no community. Where one person holds part of his possessions to his name at a distance, another part at his residence, of things he does not need; where another puts in his whole estate into the general stock; where another puts in none of it; and where another, because he has no private property when he comes, and contributes nothing but his labor, lives poorer and coarser than others who were rich, is no community :—it is far enough from a free and equal community—a community of equality—It is a sort of mongrel, between aristocracy and anarchy. Where one has fine carpets, fine curtains, fine and gaudy clothing, fine furniture, fine bedding, elegant and commodious dishes and culinary apparatus, and another has but an iron cup to drink his water out of, rough tables, rough seats, coarse clothing, course lodging, &c—Where one eats eggs, cheese, butter, soups, and confectionary; and another has nothing but bread, and swine flesh;—in short, where the people in any one house live better than those in any other house, as to the quality or proportional quantity of their provisions; we find no such thing as a free republic—no such thing as a community of equality. Also; the people of a free community will participate of the products of their labor in proportion to their wants, whether they treasure any redundance to sell to the world for money or not. If they can make cider, porter, or wine, they will drink it. If they deem it unhealthy they will not make it. If they can procure by means of their labor, nourishing and wholesome provisions, they will eat them.—Those who labor, ought to live as well as any people. If any difference, they ought to live ‘better than those who do nothing. At any rate, they ought to have plentiful and nourishing sustenance, if the traveller is entitled to wine or strong beer for his money, he that labors in the community is entitled to it for his labor. For his labor is as good as the traveller’s money. Money cannot be better than labor; for it can represent nothing more than what is produced by labor. Use can be made of money by a community in its incipient stage, to procure things of the world, which it cannot produce within itself: But labor’ is that which ultimately produces every thing; and it ought to have the precedence. Those who do the labor that produces or procures these things, ought not to be excluded from the use of them: This were to muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. An enlightened and free people will not descend to be mew caterers to the gentry of aristocratical society, who travel and lounge about to gratify their curiosity; and for the sake of their money, crucify their own guts. He that travels the road, does not stand in need of any more wine, or strong beer, or other cordial and nourishing drinks or aliments, than the laborer that labors in the community according to his strength, towards procuring those things, and certainly he does not any more deserve them for his money, than the laborer does for his labor—because his money is of no more value, than the labor of him that labors. The member of the community that labors, as much deserves, porter, wine, cider, tea, eggs, cheese, or whatever is afforded to any one, for hi, labor, as the traveller, deserves them for money. I say, the laborer who is a member of the community, deserves, and is entitled to, every thing that is as good to eat and drink, as the traveller, who is not a member of the community, does for his money. If the majority of a community have that sordidness, to sell all the best of the fruits of their industry, and live miserly themselves, they are not free: and they never can be an intelligent and happy community. They lack that liberality of mind, essential to the invariable object of their professed purpose of the renovation of social institutes which is the highest refinement of social happiness. Few things are more odious to cultivated minds than parsimony and close avaricious calculations to get or save money. Who are they that will consent to live miserable and penurious all the remainder of their lives, in order that their children that come after them may live well when themselves are dead?—A multitude of grocers, shopkeepers, and confectioners, in our cities, have a bountiful provision of delicate and cordial aliments and drinks, which they keep to sell to customers for money, which they never set upon their own tables, but keep themselves and their households upon very coarse fare,—that they may acquire a hoard of money to pay the rent of their houses end maintain a splendid outside show of the fantastical satisfaction of living in a conspicuous situation in a populous city. Thus they are sure to hold in readiness for sale to those that have money, the most expensive and extravagant preparations of luxuries, at the expense of their own guts, and those of their households.
Something like this would be the character of a people who should make a point to sell all their most valuable products for gain, and deny themselves a reasonable supply to sustain the comforts of life. I have known some families allow themselves high feeding on Sundays when they did no labor; and on their working days live as coarse as dogs. Likewise when they had friends visiting them, they were found able to set before these the most costly luxuries; though at all other times their table was that of the most indigent people. I once sojourned at the house of a thrifty Dutchman, whose farm had yielded him a plentiful year’s stock of cider; and because he could get eight dollars a barrel for it in cash, he had sold the whole, and not reserved a drop to set upon his own table during the year.
It indicates sure progress in civilization, when the laborer lives upon the very best provisions that are afforded by the labor done upon the estate where he lives.
The people of a free enlightened community will not gage the character of the members merely by the visible effect of each one’s efforts; nor by the quantity of their labor: but by their integrity, their stability, their punctuality, and their devotion to the general weal. Their comparative estimate of character will not be graduated precisely by the quantities of labor accomplished by every one in given times; but other circumstances will be taken into view.—One man is not able to labor as many hours in a day in some occupations, or perhaps in any occupation at all, as another is—and yet he may be as good a member of the community, notwithstanding:—and both are equally intitled to a comfortable living.—Nature has made one man strong; and another weak. The one does not merit any thing for his strength; neither does the other deserve any blame, for the want of it. Both the one and the other ought to be esteemed good members in proportion as they are willing to do what is in their power, consistent with the preservation of their health, to advance the common interest. Possibly, one man may not be able to more than four hours in a day; while another, having a strong constitution, can with equal ease accomplish ten hours’ labor. Likewise the same person may be unable to effect more than one hours labor in one day, and on another day he is enabled to labor ten hours. The one requires as much clothing and nourishment as the other: and is intitled to them, by the law of nature. More particular regard should be had to the manner in which the work is done, than to the quantity; if a view is had to the estimate of character. The weak man is reckoned a good citizen because he is willing to labor whenever he is able, and to do what he can, to promote, in any way competent to his capacity, the general weal.
Furthermore, the children and all the young part of the population should be bounded and conducted in such a manner as to assimilate them to each as delight in order and tranquility. Otherwise, there will be less satisfaction than among the scattered settlements of general society. For a large number of young collected together in a small compass being clamorous, blustering, and boisterous in their movements must continually irritate the feelings of such as being studious and contemplative, are pleased with whatsoever is mild, gentle, regular, and deliberate. Such recreations as involve vociferation and obstreperousness, should be discountenanced. For if the children be, not only tolerated, but encouraged, in vociferation, violent irregular motions, loud and harsh speaking, “like the piercing of a sword”—fascination, horse laugh, &c., there will evidently be less tranquility than what is found to prevail in some situations under the old system;—and they not only disturb, but they go to form a class by themselves with contrary views and intents from those of the more experienced part of the society. For, those elderly sedate persons, of a meditative cast of mind, who are mostly entertained in the pursuits of wisdom and virtue, are necessarily interested in having all things tranquil around them, in soft and gentle speaking, and amiable and humane deportment of the young:—whereas children and youth that find their habitual entertainment in noisy sorts of sport, uproar, confusion, and absence of all deliberation and reflection, have their interest in the company of those only who approve of such things and acquiesce in them; considering the others as enemies. Now here are two separate classes of persons with distinct and opposite interests. There can be no intimate friendship between these—little or no sympathy: for what communion has tumult with serenity? Here is a manifest discrepance of temperament. This state of things then, is irreconcileable to the idea of a harmonious community. The youth should have their education conducted in such a way as will make them necessarily and unavoidably find their evident interest in things that are propitious to this tranquility and unanimity of the society.
All those vain and trifling amusements which degrade the minds and misapply the thought of the young, should be discouraged, discountenanced, and suppressed.
We have several reasons why card-playing for amusement, should be wholly suppressed and driven out of repute, in a community.
1. Advert to its origin. Playing-cards were invented expressly for the diversion of a weak-minded monarch, to amuse his vacant hours:—They were invented us a recourse of amusement of (I think) one of the kings of England, in the dark ages, purely to relieve ennui, in the idle and heavy-hanging intervals of his dissipation and vanity. How very proper, then, to be used now to exercise and divert the thoughts of the free born sons and daughters of an enlightened people, (at the present stage of human science) which are capable of so much more elevated entertainments!! It seems to be paying quite too great a compliment to the imbecility and puerility of crowned heads, to perpetuate the use of these baubles.
2. It disturbs the tranquility of contemplative persons who disapprove of so trifling employments of the thoughts of their fellow beings, whereby they are excluded from all rational intercourse. It keeps the mind vacant, and regardless of the feelings of others, it leads on to clamor, and the keeping of late hours. I have known parents with their children sit round a card table the whole night; and with their scrannel uproar, disturb the repose of all the rest of their household. Much more exercise of mind would be found in learning the grammar of their language, and perusing sentimental and scientific books, without intercepting the intercourse with intelligent persons, or giving offence. Even the singing of sentimental songs, is a better exercise than card-playing, and might with some advantage be substituted for it.
3. Every thing base, despicable, and immoral, is associated with the idea of card-playing. Wherefore it invariably suggests to reflecting minds, the most disagreeable images. The history of cultivated nations, ever since the invention of cards, constantly presents instances of the most frightful traits of the human character, in a point of strong association with card-playing. Slanders, house-burnings, duels, murder, robberies, ribaldry, fighting, swindling, and every sort of disorder, have been somewhere immediate effects of cards. So that it is apparently a disgrace to refined cultivated society, by the inveterate odium of its associations.
4. It directly conduces to a deceptions and elusive turn of mind, and a habit of insincerity. But the people of a community should be sincere. It has been said, that, upon the predominancy of a community spirit, every one will aptly speak with the most unrestricted sincerity, exactly what he thinks. The card-table is a poor school of sincerity; for it teaches deception: and deception is insincerity. For the very essence of this sort of game, is cheating. The game itself (of card-playing) consists of arts and knacks of deception. Those who play, are continually exercised in methods to elude each other’s perspicacity. Their thoughts are entirely occupied in expedients to mislead and deceive. How can a man cheat and deceive, and yet be sincere! Every moment the young are playing cards for amusement, they are learning insincerity. But if they learn insincerity, how can we rely upon their being sincere? How then can they be fit members of a Community? It is utterly irreconcileable to the principles upon which we profess to establish communities. In a perfect community there can be no card-playing.
5. It tends to a confliction of interests, Those who play; and those who know it to be a trifling and pernicious employment of mind, and therefore necessarily despise it; have opposite interests. Here are two distinct parties opposed to each other,—between which, can be no reciprocity of good feelings—no friendly intercourse—the young that are always playing cards or poring over some frivolous romance,—and the studious contemplative considerate class, who are disturbed and contrastated by the prospect of such frivolity and contempt of reasoning.—The former are interested in clamor, loud talking, loud laughing, negacity, equivocation, and in having for their company only those who approve of, and look with complacency on, their trifling play, as feeling some degree of interest in it; wherefore they view with eyes of distrust and aversion, the considerate, whom they deem a sort of adversaries. The latter cannot feel interested in these things; but place their interest in tranquility, in having such around them with whom they can hold intelligent converse, in beholding mild, gentle, and humane deportment in the young, and in these young having due respect far experience. So then here are two great parties or classes of persons with detached and irreconcilable interests. But, in a Community should be but one party and one interest;—and indeed cannot be; else it is no longer a community. Such colluctation is inadmissible to a community—it is in plain contradiction to it. Since then it is impossible that card-playing for amusement should exist in a perfect community, it seems fit, for these reasons, that it should be put out of countenance among those who are to form a community.