Page images

twaddle; that military discipline is the best mode of producing attention, punctuality, and order, and that it is productive of evil and nothing else, and so of every other point. Now, we say " observe and note down;" get your tables, as the astronomer does, and then evolve your theory. What sort of demonstration of gravity could Newton have given without facts piled on facts! the want of one, the length of the degree on our globe, came near defeating his discovery, So it is in education, mental and moral, philosophy, theology, &c. &c.: we want facts accumulated, as the geologist accumulates his slowly, perseveringly, year after year, from every point of the earth. Without these we are as wide of science in education as the old world-builders were in geology:

This is a topic we hope one day to pursue. We believe, from a partial examination, that the so-called science of Theology may be known to rest not on facts but on hypotheses: We believe that when the facts of man, nature, and the Bible are fully and fairly weighed, they will not be found to afford a basis for either Trinitarianism or Unitarianism; for a belief in perpetual punishment, or ultimate restoration; for faith in Christ's Divinity or Humanity, or any other of the main points of Controversial Divinity. Could this be proved by some mind like Kant's, how much would be done toward producing that millenial blessing. Christian union. For one, we do not hesitate to say that we cannot find any reason to hope for a united Christian church until the impossibility of any theory of Christ's nature and similar points is made clear to all.

He who poaches among the labors of the learned only to find what there is polluted in their language, or licentious in their works; he who searches the biography of men of genius to find precedents for his follies, or palliations of his own stupid depravity, can be compared to nothing more strongly, than to the man, who should walk through the gallery of antiques, and every day gaze upon the Apollo, the Venus, or the Laocoon, and yet, proh pudor! bring away an imagination impressed with nothing but the remembrance that they were naked!


The art of embalming thought by oratory, like that of embalming bodies by aromatics, would have perished, but for the exercises of religion. These alone have in the latter ages furnished discourses, which remind us, that eloquence is yet a faculty of the human mind.



The present is truly a revolutionary age. Men, everywhere, have lost that blind veneration for the systems, the opinions and the institutions of former times, which once existed, and begin boldly to examine into their truth, or their adaptation to the present situation of society. Now so far all is right, for this spirit of inquiry lies at the bottom of all improvement; and truth has nothing to fear from it. But in this world good and evil are constantly commingled; and this proneness of the present age to inquiry and speculation, is not without its concomitant evils. Ambitious or vain men, for the sake of acquiring power or notoriety, avail themselves of it to vent opinions equally false in their principles, and destructive in their tendencies; and these are generally rendered doubly dangerous, by the garb of pretended philanthropy and extraordinary zeal for the good of mankind, in which those who utter them envelop themselves.

The danger arising from this source would be vastly less, if these new opinious were subjected to the same severe scrutiny which the old ones are undergoing. But this appears frequently not to be the case. Either from the love of novelty, from the fear of appearing to be behind the age, or from a blind partiality for the innovator, these new opinions are often treated with a criminal indulgence. What cannot be openly approved, is either passed by in silence, or is excused under the plea of good intentions. Now this indulgence is treason to the community. When the public welfare is concerned, things should only be judged according to their truth and their usefulness. As to the good intentions of the innovator, these may affect the judgment we are to form of his character, but they have nothing to do with the truth or usefulness of his opinions or schemes. Our Saviour predicted to his apostles, that the time would come when those who should kill them would think that they were doing God service; and there is not a doubt that many who were actively engaged in some of the darkest deeds of the French revolution, believed honestly that they were serving their country and the cause of humanity.

I have been led to these remarks by an article which appeared lately in the July number of the Boston Quarterly Review. That article appears to have attracted universal notice, and deservedly so, as it advances principles totally destructive of the whole of our present social system. Mr.

Brownson, the avowed author of this article, pretends to have discovered that certain radical defects exist in our social system, and, for the purpose of remedying them, proposes certain measures which he admits cannoi be introduced but by means of a civil


“ the like of which the world has as yet never witnessed."* Now as such a civil war is rather a serious matter, it may be well, before we involve our country in its horrors, and destroy our whole social system, that we should calmly inquire whether the evils of which Mr. B. complains do really exist, and, if they do, whether the remedies which he recommends are calculated to remove them.

Mr. B. represents the condition of the laboring classes as being wretched in the extreme, and that by reason of the defects of our social institutions. As it might be somewhat doubtful whom we are to include under this denomination, in a country where, with few exceptions, every one works, and lives by the produce of his labor, Mr B. has defined with sufficient precision his meaning in this respect. He includes under this denomination only actual laborers, who are laborers and not proprietors, owners of none of the funds of production, neither houses, shops nor lands, nor implements of labor, being therefore solely dependent on their hands. This class of men Mr. B. designates in one place by the name of Proletarii, which I believe means men of the lowest class; but he generally speaks of them under the denomination of the laboring classes, and that too is the denomination which I shall use in speaking of them.

It is clear that, under the present state of things, persons thus situated, must hire their labor to others, until, by the accumulation of their wages, they can purchase for themselves implements of labor, houses, shops or lands, and set up for themselves. But this is an arrangement which meets with Mr. B.'s most violent reprobation. He will not that one man should hire his Jabor to another. He pronounces wages to be a cunning device of the devil.f He declares the northern system of free labor to be more oppressive and more demoralizing than the slave labor of the south,g and says that as to actual freedom, the free laborer of the north and the slave are about on a par.|| In order to remedy this pretended evil, Mr. B. insists that our social institutions be so altered as that there be no rich men and no poor men in the community,T but that the most perfect equality of property prevail, so that no one shall possess what another lacketh.** In another place

Bost. Quar. Review, p. 395. tlbid. p. 367. flbid. p. 371. bIbid. p. 371, jIbid. p. 368 SIbid. p. 376. **Ibid. p. 388.

he insists that the arrangements be such that, by the time an individual is of proper age to settle in life, he shall have enough to be an independent laborer on his own farm or his own shop.* In order to secure these effects, it is proposed to place the government in the hands of this class of men who have no property.f

It may be objected to this latter part of this scheme, that it is at direct variance with the very fundamental principles of our republican constitutions. These rest on the principle that it is the voice of the majority which is to govern, whereas Mr. B. proposes to place the government in the hands of a small minority, for such are in this country this class of Proletarii, or men of no property, in comparison to the community. But to this it may be answered, that in order to effect the projected social and moral regeneration of the community, the constitution must temporarily give way; that in Europe we can find plenty of precedent for placing the government in the hands of a minority; and besides, that so soon as all shall have been reduced to the same state of penniless equality, all will of course return to the enjoyment of their full state of citizenship.

Another objection to Mr. B.'s plan appears, to me more difficult to remove, namely, that some of these projected improvements are directly at variance with, and exclude others. Thus, in one plan it is required that the possessions of all shall be perfectly equal; and in another, that each one shall have his separate allotment. Now these two things are evidently. incompatible. If to-day an equal division were made of all the property in the country, that equality of wealth would disappear in a few months. The industry, economy and good management of some would cause them to have abundance, while the indolence, wastefulness and bad management of others, or some accidental missortunes, would reduce them to want. A perfect equality of wealth is incompatible with a severalty of possession. "If we require the former, there must be a community of property. It property be held in severalty, there always will be an inequality of wealth there will be the rich and the poor.

These incongruities and contradictions, and others with which the essay under consideration abounds, are too obvious to have escaped the notice of a man of Mr. B.'s powers of mind. To what cause, then, are we to attribute them? This question I cannot answer. In reading the essay under

[blocks in formation]

consideration, I have been sometimes tempted to believe that the ostensible purpose for writing it, held out to the world, was not the real purpose of the author, and that he had some latent object in view, which would be better answered by cold assertion and vivid declamation than by severe reasoning and calm investigation. What that object may be I shall not attempt to inquire.

But is there then something so very objectionable in the present arrangements of society in respect to labor? It is irue, Mr. B. denounces it in the most violent manner; he speaks of the employer as the oppressor and natural enemy of the laborer; but we must noi take Mr. B.'s word for this. If we look for ourselves, we shall find the case to be exactly the reverse of what he represents it to be. A young man who has no property, or, even if he has some, who wishes to acquire some additional knowledge or experience before he sets up

for himself, hires his services to anoiher man. In this there is certainly nothing degrading. He merely does what every one else does who is in business: he exchanges his labor for what will command to him, whenever he pleases, an equivalent of the labor of others - money; and when he has obtained by his labor a sufficiency of this, he can invest it in land, or a house, or shop, or stock in trade. This is an operation which I see every day going on around me, and which may be witnessed in every section of the country; and this operation, so far from producing the injurious effects which Mr. B. attributes to it, has a directly contrary tendency. So far from its demoralizing those thus employed, it generally tends to their education; to the increase of their knowledge and the development of their powers. Neither does this relation of employer and employed necessarily tend to create a feeling of enmity and ill will between them. The latter is not the slave of the former, as Mr. B. pretends, but simply his assistant in his labors. He is a freeman, who has made a voluntary contract with his employer, as an equal treating with an equal; and where this contract is faithfully lived up to by both parties, it generally produces a feeling of lasting good will between them. It is not an infrequent occurrence for persons to marry in the families in which they are thus employed, and a still more frequent one to see feelings of mutual friendship grow out of this relation, which continue through life.

In the consideration of this subject, it must not be overlooked, that the inequality of condition among mankind, and the present social order, exist by the special arrangement of

« PreviousContinue »