« PreviousContinue »
Theodore Dwight Woolsey.
BORN in New York, N. Y., 1801.
OUR NATIONALITY, AS THE OUTGROWTH OF THE COLONIAL SYSTEM. [The First Century of the Republic. 1876.]
HAT which more than all things else determined the future of this country was the number of colonies, together with their general similarity and their important differences. If there could have been one vast colony, under one government, extending along the whole line of coast from the French possessions to the Spanish settlements in Florida, it might have been strong and prosperous possibly, but the present United States would not have grown up on such a foundation. There was a necessity of just such a series of colonies as were actually planted, all animated by a common English feeling, and speaking the common English tongue, yet settled for different reasons, and, in a course of many years of self-government, developed into different entities, as weli as having distinctive characteristics. The Northern and Southern groups of these colonies, alike among themselves, yet differing each from the other in their climates, industries, institutions, and religious peculiarities, might have formed the nucleus of two nations if English feeling, influence from the mother country, trade, and many common interests had not brought them together more than the causes of an opposite nature tended to keep them apart. The colonies lying between these extremes had no common likeness; indeed, before the cession of New Netherlands to the English they had no common bond of union, and afterward, although best situated for purposes of commerce, were more fitted for some time to follow than to lead. We will make the supposition that when the Southern colonies admitted slavery, New England had thought it a sin and a shame; even such an opinion could easily have prevented the two extremes from meeting. As it was, slavery existed everywhere, and not being regarded as a wrong or an evil until the Quakers began to teach a higher morality, no such cause of separation existed. We will make another supposition, that the colony of New Netherlands, lying like a wedge on the coast, with the best seaport within its borders, settled originally by colonists not understanding the English tongue and not educated under English political institutions, could have retained its nationality until no power could have conquered it. In this case a most serious problem would have offered itself in the course of time-either the Eastern and Southern English colonies would have pursued their destinies apart, or, if they could have acted in conjunction with the
Dutch colony, difficulties from language and institutions might have prevented a perfect union. Thus we see that the colonies were pointed toward confederation by their history, and were almost prevented from establishing any other kind of government throughout the course of centuries. One cluster of confederates, or more than one, seems to have been the only possible political alternative if they were ever to separate from the mother country. Two or more clusters, so far as we can interpret the probabilities of things, would have been most disastrous, as containing the seeds of strife, and sowing them for all the future.
SOCIALISM THE PATH TO A DESPOTIC GOVERNMENT.
[Communism and Socialism in their History and Theory. 1880.]
UT in such a thorough change of society as socialism contemplates there is no room for compromise. The plan is to take away all the means of production-all land, machinery, manufactories, all means of transport—from private persons, and transfer property in them to the state; to abolish all private trade, credit, business relations, and the medium of circulation, without which these could not go on; so that there is not a work in life, not an employment or pursuit, that would not be put on a wholly new basis What room for compromise is there here? There never was a revolution in history, since history told the story of the world, so complete as this. Nations have passed under the sway of conquerors; but an age or two brought back the rights of property and free management of their affairs to multitudes of the conquered. Nations have been deported to distant settlements; but multitudes throve in the land of exile, or their descendants were restored to their properties in the old home. Is it conceivable that, with all the personal evils which stand at the very door of such a change in view, multitudes would succumb and compromise rather than risk their lives for an essential good and a sacred right, as they regard it, of themselves and their posterity?
As the issue in such a conflict is uncertain, so the form which the state, constructed on the ruins of private property, would assume would be uncertain, except so far as the industrial changes should require some special conformation of the government. We have, then, a problem to solve, when the social state is to be considered, which has to take some uncertain factors into account. But we have more right to speculate on this point than socialists themselves have; for our speculations can do little harm if they prove false, while theirs, if they prove false, may involve themselves and their countries in remediless ruin.
Properly speaking, we need to look at two points-the governments under which the socialists hope to carry out their industrial theory, and the form of state polity which the theory itself seems to render necessary. As for the inclinations and opinions of the socialists and communists, there is no question that, as a body, from the commencement of the French Revolution, both in France and elsewhere, they have leaned toward the principle of equality as the main foundation of a well-regulated state. But equality is a broad term, and the question at once arises how much must it include? Liberty and equality stand side by side in all the declarations of French political Utopias. But it is evident that, if personal liberty has the breadth of rights which is conceded to it even in some arbitrary governments, equality of condition and inequality of situation, or of amount of worldly advantages, may be found together; so that a conflict must necessarily arise between the two, which cannot easily be adjusted. Equality of condition, the absence of all ranks and orders, secured by constitutions, would be accepted by all socialists as a sine qua non, before the working class can be raised above the disadvantages which encounter them in modern society; but inequality of situation, some power by which the free action of an individual may enable him to rise above a general level, is clung to, in existing society, far more tenaciously than the proper democratic principle of equality in political rights and the sameness of condition throughout society.
The feeling of equality, then, is not confined to the equal diffusion of political rights; but it extends to material advantages. It is the feeling of one competitor toward another-the same feeling which has led and may again lead to the lot, as preventing a man of more influence and ability from gaining an office by his ability. The world is not full enough and never will be full enough of material goods to satisfy all; and if the struggle for them were not checked by the social system, one would secure for himself more than another, if the state did not interpose. It is not to be denied that evils attend on the present system of unlimited power to gain wealth; but the point which we now make is that, in seeking to prevent these evils, the social theorists find it necessary to restrict the freedom of individuals, especially the power of rising by enterprise, soundness of judgment, unbounded energy, and other qualities, which not only aid the individual in his advancement, but contribute to the improvement of general society.
When the individual is confined by law and public institutions in his sphere of operations, society loses a great part of its force; and the state must acquire an equal or greater amount of force, or all the hopes of a community will be shipwrecked. Thus, if private capital is to cease, the state must have the new function of general business director, or there will soon be no state at all. Is it not perfectly evident that the state