Page images

who takes a sincere interest in his welfare?—a friend who assists him with his counsel, and, when needed, with his purse? Is it of no service to him that this friend should procure him work when he has none?—should advise him how to render his efforts for the maintenance of himself and family, and for the improvement of his condition, most effective, and should assist him in placing his children to advantage? Is it of no advantage to a poor man, whose poverty, as is but too frequently the case, is caused by some bad habit, to have some one who will render him sensible of the consequences of such habit, and assist him in curing himself of it? Is it of no value to the poor man to have one to speak to him of God, of eternity, and of judgment to come? to acquaint him with the consolation and promises of the gospel, and to teach him how he may secure to himself the benefit of these promises, and become an heir of immortality? Is it nothing to him to be taught that he too has a Father in heaven, who watches with the most tender solicitude over his welfare, and who orders his lot in wisdom and love?-that whatever befals him is not the effect of chance or of the malevolence of his fellow men, but is the appointment of his father?-that it is sent for his discipline and improvement, and that not one drop of bitterness will be suffered to be infused into his cup of life beyond what is necessary to render it in the highest degree salutary? Will it add nothing to the happiness of the poor man to be then taught that there is a beneficent Providence, who watches over him? And will the belief in this Providence not give a new aspect to his situation in life, and to every thing that befals him? And yet, of this friend Mr. B. would deprive the poor man-for the ministry which effects all this is not the creature of an idle fancy, but a glorious reality. If Mr. B. will only open his eyes, he can, in his own city of Boston, see the successors of the worthy Tuckerman, a Barnard, a Sargent and a Waterston, visiting daily the abodes of poverty, wretchedness and vice, and doing for their unhappy inmates all, ay, and much more than all that I have said. And yet, this glorious ministry Mr. B. pronounces to be a bitter mockery, at which devils laugh!

Again, is it nothing for the poor man to have the common schools open to his children, as much as to those of his wealthier neighbors?-to see them there instructed in those branches of knowledge which shall fit them for increased usefulness in life, and shall thus enable them to rise above the

Bost. Quar. Beview, p. 375.

station which he himself occupies in society? And of this consolation too Mr. B. would deprive him. It is true, that he declares himself friendly to popular instruction, but then he has no faith in priests and pedagogues.* I suppose, therefore, that he intends that learning, like religion, is to come by intuition.

The second remedy, for the fancied evils of society, which Mr. B. proposes, is the substitution of a new religion for the one thus destroyed; and to this new religion he gives, by one of those misnomers to which reformers of his class are peculiarly prone, the name of the "Christianity of Christ." What are to be the peculiar tenets of this new religion does not very clearly appear. Enough however is apparent to shew that it is to be a kind of political, leveling engine, used "to bring down the high," "to bring up the low," and to bring about an absolute equality of property. There is also something said in this connexion about brotherly love; but it does not appear how this brotherly love is to be introduced. In this case again, Mr. B.'s language and actions are directly at variance; for nothing can be more unfavorable to the diffusion of a general spirit of sympathy and universal kindness than the state of isolated independence in which it is his wish to place man.

One of the distinguishing traits of this new religion, is to be the superior zeal of its professors for the contemplated social regeneration, and their willingness to be damned in its cause.† Now I must confess that I deem this willingness to be damned a very dangerous feature. Men are not liable to be damned for doing what is right, but for the commission of crimes; and hence the willingness to be damned to effect a measure, involves the willingness to attain to it by the commission of crime. How dangerous to the peace and welfare of society a set of men, destitute of property, and reckless of future retribution, may become, in the hands of designing demagogues, has been abundantly evidenced by the darker days and darker deeds of the French revolution. As to Mr. B.'s attempt to assimilate this guilty recklessness to the noble self-devotion of St. Paul, that is equally unworthy of his understanding and

of his heart.

These two articles of reform, namely, the destruction of the old religion and the establishment of the new, are, I presume, intended to be brought about by revolutionary means, and through the direct action of the people acting in their pri

*Bost. Quar. Review, p. 375.

+1b. 390.

mary capacity. The remaining two are to be effected through the agency of the government.

The first of those govermental remedies, recommended by Mr. B., is the destruction of all the Banks. This remedy savors rather much of the party politics of the day; and, as it is my wish to keep the Western Messenger free from those exciting topics, I shall not enter into any extended examination of the operations of this remedy, but content myself with making a couple of observations on it. In the first place, the destruction of the Banks would neither increase the amount of labor to be done, nor raise the price of labor, but would have a decidedly contrary tendency. In the second place, it is notorious that, in the hard-money countries in Europe, it is rare for a poor man ever to rise in the world. Here, on the contrary, nothing is more common. A large proportion of our business men and chief mechanics began the world with nothing; and, if we inquire into the means by which they have risen, we shall find that they have all been assisted, more or less, by the credit system which prevails here. For these reasons I think that the destruction of the Banks, instead of being beneficial, would be injurious to the laboring classes.

The second, and last, legislative remedy which Mr. B. recommends, is the abolishment of the right of inheritance, so that, at a man's death, his property shall go, not to his children, or natural heirs, but to the State. A plan better calculated to demoralize society, and to convert a community of industrious, sober, thriving citizens into a set of idle, thriftless, reckless paupers, it would be difficult to invent. As Mr. B. has omitted telling us how this plan would operate, I shall endeavour to supply this deficiency. I shall however content myself with indicating only slightly a few of the prominent evils which this plan would draw after it, as a more extended notice of those evils would be inconsistent with the limits which I have prescribed to myself.

In the first place, this plan would be destructive of all industry. Men now work that they may accumulate in favor of their families; but let it once be settled that these are not to be benefitted by such accumulation, and from that moment all accumulation ceases. Men will then work no more than what they may deem necessary to supply the wants of the present moment; and experience tells us that when men aim at so low a mark, they are very apt to fall short of it.

In the second place, this plan would be destructive of all economy. Men now live within their means, that their families may be benefitted by their savings. But if these sav

ings are not to be for their use, men will every where live up to their incomes, and the universal maxim will be, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die."

In the third place, this plan will be destructive of the principles of integrity. On the death of a man, his family will embezzle what little is left. They will contend that it is not just that what has been earned by the labor of the whole family, should be taken from them because one member of this family had died; and I really do not see what good answer could be given them.

In the fourth place, this plan would tend to bring about an early dissolution of the domestic ties. Children now frequently remain with their parents. Their labor goes to increase the common stock. But let it once be settled that, on the death of these parents, the fruit of their labor is to go to strangers, and they will be induced early to set up for themselves, to prevent themselves from being, after years of toil, turned penniless on the world.

In the fifth place, this plan would tend to produce a universal state of pauperism. From what has already been said, it is clear that the government would derive no revenue from its general heirship. It could therefore give no outfits; and every one would set out in life penniless. In such a state of things, a man could never acquire any property. For want of capital, he would not be able to establish himself in any mechanical trade or occupation; and, if he could, it would not afford him a living; for he would not be able to dispose of the surplus produce of his labor to neighbors who had nothing to give in exchange for it. The utmost to which he could attain would be a kind of Indian existence, deriving his support partly from the produce of some ill-cultivated bit of ground, and partly from the precarious supplies of the chase, the fishery, or the spontaneous productions of nature.

In the sixth place, this plan would diminish the productive powers of the earth, so as soon to render them unequal to the support of even the present number of its inhabitants; and it would also be destructive of the improvements now existing. As, under this new order of things, the land will all belong to the state, it will have to be leased in very small portions, either for a longer or a shorter term, never exceeding that of the life of the lessee. Now it is clear that, under such a system of leasing, no one will be at any expense or trouble to increase the permanent fertility of the soil. On the contrary, every one will draw from it what he can by present cultivation; and the natural consequence will be, that its pro

ductive powers will become entirely exhausted. The exist ing improvements too would soon disappear. No one would think of erecting substantial houses, or of making any lasting improvements. Those which now exist, giving beauty to the scenery, and dispensing comfort to its inhabitants, would soon be suffered to go to decay, and in their stead the country would be covered with hovels similar to the Indian wigwams of the north, or the negro huts of the south.

In the seventh place, this plan is incompatible with civil government. No such government can be carried on without money. But from what possible source could the government of a people thus situated, draw any revenue? Taxes can only be raised from what people possess beyond what is necessary to supply their own wants: but what revenue could be derived from a nation of paupers, or from lands, the produce of which is unequal to the support of those who cultivate it?

In the eighth place, this plan would add new terrors to the close of life, and render death doubly dreadful to every one. The good man, who has made a decent provision for his family, can now resign his breath with composure, in the firm trust that it will be well with those he loves. But with what composure could a man die, if he knew that, at his death, his family would be stripped of all the comforts he had gathered around them, and be turned out penniless, to depend on the charity of a world rendered doubly unfeeling by the situation in which this new order of things has placed it!

In the last place, this plan is destructive of the whole of our present civilization, and tends to carry us forcibly back to the savage state. Whether the present state of civil society owes its origin to the possession of individual property, as Rousseau thought, I shall not now stop to inquire. It is clear that our civilization is in the most intimate and in the most indissoluble manner connected with the present order of things. It rests on our schools, on our religious institutions, on our commerce, and on the numerous sources of public instruction, which are in operation around us. Now Mr. B. would destroy all these, and our civilization would necessarily fall with them. The fact is, that notwithstanding Mr. B.'s Utopian promises, his plans can only tend to convert us, a nation, now in a state of rapid intellectual and 'moral progression, into a nation of white Indians, incapable of all improvement.

I have thus endeavored to analyze Mr. B.'s plan for the regeneration of society, and to carry it out to its necessary results; and I think the reader will agree with me, that it

VOL. VIII.-42.

« PreviousContinue »