Liberty Vol. III. No. 14.
Not the Daughter but the Mother of Order
“For always in thine eyes, O Liberty!
Shines that high light whereby the world is saved;
And though thou slay us, we will trust in thee.”
On Picket Duty.
Emile Gautier, one of the French Anarchists tried and sentenced with Kropotkine, has been released from prison. Rumors are afloat that he obtained the release by some concession or compromise. There is probably no truth in them.
Wonder if James Parton, who lately, in a letter stopping his subscription to Liberty, took occasion to tell me that no man was entitled to speak of General Grant as I did, said anything, in his address to the New York Freethinkers on Victor Hugo, about the great poet’s scathing lines in condemnation of Grant and his refusal of his door to Bismarck’s admirer and American counterpart as a representative of brute force.
Liberty has had something to say in approval of the “Pall Mall Gazette’s” exposures. It wishes to add that, if Editor Stead, as now seems probable, was a party to the abduction and drugging of the girl, Eliza Armstrong, he deserves no sympathy or mercy. We are not justified in violating one innocent individual to save others. Comstockian methods are as bad when used to expose Conservative rottenness as when used to persecute Radical independence. I hope no Liberal journal which has denounced the wiles of Comstock will praise those of Stead, thus following the example of inconsistency already set by certain Conservative journals which are as loud in denunciation of Stead as they have ever been in support of Comstock.
Appeals frequently come from trades unions, labor lyceums, socialistic groups, etc., for the regular supply of a copy of Liberty, for their reading-rooms. These organizations should understand that their request cannot be gratified. Beneficial and praiseworthy as all such movements for the dissemination of ideas undoubtedly are, it is none the less a fact that the great burden of the advanced socialistic agitation is borne by the publishers of its newspapers, and there is no reason why workingmen who are too poor to subscribe for a journal individually should not at least pay for the single copy which they club together to enjoy in common. If laborers would do more to support their newspapers instead of asking their newspapers to support them, they would materially shorten the term of their bondage to the powers that now prevail.
As this issue of Liberty goes to press, the eighth annual convention of the New York State Freethinkers’ Association is in progress at Albany. The programme this year is one of the most brilliant that the association has ever presented, including addresses from Charles Watts, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Courtlandt Palmer, Mattie P. Krekel, James Parton, T. B. Wakeman, Helen H. Gardener, and Colonel Ingersoll. I should have liked especially to hear Mrs. Stanton on “Religious Liberty for Women” and Mr. Parton on “Victor Hugo.” This convention is to be followed, on October 9, 10, and 11, by the ninth annual congress of the National Liberal League at Cleveland, Ohio. Those who realize the graver issues now pressing upon the world’s attention cannot throw themselves into a movement devoted exclusively to religious liberalism, but they are none the less glad to see it go on and grateful for its undoubted broadening effect on the minds of the people.
“No man who puts any conscience into his voting, or who acts from proper self-respect,” says the Boston “Herald,” “will consider himself bound to support a dishonest or unfit candidate merely because he was ‘fairly nominated’ by the majority of his party.” But the “Herald” believes that every man who puts any conscience into his conduct, or who acts from proper self-respect, should consider himself bound to support and obey a dishonest or unfit official merely because he was fairly elected by the majority of his countrymen. Where is the obligation in the latter case more than in the former? “Our country, right or wrong,” is as immoral a sentiment as “our party, right or wrong.” The “Herald” and its mugwump friends should beware of their admissions. They will find that the “divine right to bolt” leads straight to Anarchy.
“Whenever it is proposed,” writes W. J. Potter in the “Index,” “that the voluntary system for religion shall be adopted and trusted wholly, there are many timid folk who start up with the warning that religion would be imperilled. Such people do not appear to have much confidence in the power of religion to maintain itself in the world.” By similar reasoning, how much confidence does Mr. Potter, who would prohibit people from reading literature that does not satisfy his standard of purity, who would prohibit people from drinking liquors that do not satisfy his standard of sobriety, who would compel people to be charitable by making them pay taxes for the support of almshouses and hospitals, and who would compel people to be learned and suit other people to pay the expense of their learning,— how much confidence, I say, does Mr. Potter appear to have in the power of purity, temperance, benevolence, and education to maintain themselves in the world? Mr. Potter should learn of Auberon Herbert that “every measure to which a man objects is a Church-rate if you have the courage and the logic to see it.”
The Chicago “Tribune,” referring to the first outbreak of the Republican agitation in the House of Commons some years ago, says that “Auberon Herbert, a relative of Lord Carnarvon, who was then airing his Republican theories, has since settled down into a plodding Whig.” Will the “Tribune” be good enough to consult the platform of the plodding Whigs? I never found a plank in it against State education, or one against State post-offices, or one against State telegraph lines, or one against State religion, or one against State charities, or one against the factory acts, or one against compulsory vaccination, or one against the exaction of the oath, or one against Sunday laws, or one against the prohibition of prostitution, or one against the prohibition of the liquor traffic, or one against compulsory marriage, or one against the so-called right of eminent domain, or one against compulsory taxation, or one against majority rule. And yet Auberon Herbert’s platform contains all these planks and many others like them. A plodding Whig, indeed! A lightning-paced Radical, rather; yes, an Anarchist of the downright sort! Since his old Republican days he has not “settled down” by any means, but has gone ever onward toward the goal of perfect Liberty, outstripping in this race Dilke, Bradlaugh, and all his old Republican friends, and fairly distancing the “plodding Whigs” and retrogressive Tories.
Ye Sons of Toil, Unite!
(Dedicated to “Wheelbarrow.”)
Note. — This little poem was sent to the “Radical Review” just before its untimely decease. As that journal has since been resurrected and died a second death (which, according to the theologians, is final annihilation), I have renounced all hopes of its appearance in that quarter, and take the liberty to send it to Liberty, with the hope that it will thus come to the notice of the esteemed friend to whom it is dedicated. I have made a few slight alterations, but nothing to change its essential spirit.
Ye sons of toil, unite,
In Freedom’s dawning light,
O’er all the world;
Band ye for liberty!
Till tyrant flags shall be
O men, why do ye sleep?
List! how your children weep
For homes and bread!
If ye were brothers all,
These things could not befall;
Together stand or fall,
Alive or dead.
Link every hand and heart;
Let each man do his part
For common weal;
Against Oppression’s might,
Wage ye your manly fight;
Make every wrong thing right.
With holy zeal.
Brothers, do ye not see,
That wise men will be free,
But we are slaves?
’Tis knowledge that we need;
Truth’s voice we do not heed;
With folly, fear, and greed
We dig our graves.
We are the lords of earth;
Our toil gives life its worth;
Behold our need!
Ye tyrant drones, beware!
Some things men cannot bear;
Our dues to have we swear,
Tho’ millions bleed.
J. Wm. Lloyd.
Law-Ridden and Law-Crazy.
The mania which the average citizen exhibits for wanting “a law” passed for and against everything under the sun is a bona fide Americanism. If there is a law-ridden and law-crazy nation on the globe, it is this blessed nation of ours. Russia may be groaning under a weight of laws, but the Russian people do not glory in it as we do. If some particular hotel drummer has a more melodious voice than the rest of them, somebody at ones asks for a law to gag him. If boys wish to go in swimming this hot weather, the law does not furnish them any facilities, but simply tells them; “Thou shalt not bathe.” There are about a million laws on our statute books that are neither observed nor enforced, but still the clamor for more laws never ceases. It was during the constitutional amendment epidemic which swept over this State last summer that the brilliant Council Bluffs “Nonpareil” wailed forth: “What is the remedy for the excessive prevalence of crime?” to which the Keokuk “Constitution” promptly sent the witty and appropriate reply: “We would suggest it the ‘Nonpareil’ a constitutional amendment prohibiting crime!”
Evolution and Liberty Identical.
[E. C. Walker.]
Evolution is the affirmative basis of all modern infidelity. It rests upon it as its solid bedrock. Evolution justifies all our demands for liberty, political, religious, industrial, and social, for liberty means simply the right to grow, to develop. We call it Liberty in society; in the natural world it is known as Evolution. The terms mean the same, and are the antithesis of Creation,— Authority.
What’s To Be Done?
A Romance. By N. G. Tchernychewsky.
Translated by Benj. R. Tucker.
Continued from No. 65.
“When the fright occasioned by her horrible dream had opened my eyes to the state of her feelings, it was already too late to repair my fault. But if we had seen sooner what she lacked, it is possible that, by making steady efforts over ourselves, she and I would have succeeded in achieving a sort of contentment with each other. But I do not believe that, had we succeeded, anything good would have resulted from it. Suppose we had reconstructed our characters sufficiently to render them harmonious; conversions, nevertheless, are good only when brought into action against some evil proclivities; now, the proclivities that we should have had to change are in no way blameworthy. In what respect is sociability worse or better than the desire for solitude, and vice versa? Now, conversion, after all, is violence, dispersion; in dispersion many things are lost, and the effect of violence is to stupefy.
“The result that we perhaps (perhaps!) should have attained would not have been a compensation. We should have become insignificant and should have withered more or less the freshness of our life. And why? To keep certain places in certain rooms? If we had had children, that would have been another matter; then we should have had to consider carefully the possibly bad influence that our separation would have had upon their fortunes. In that case it would have been necessary to make every possible effort to avoid this denoument, and the result — the joy of having done all that was necessary to make those dear to us happier — would have rewarded adequately all our efforts. But in the actual state of things what rational object could our efforts have had?
“Consequently, the present situation being given, all is arranged for the best. We have not had to violate our natures. We have had much sorrow, but, had we acted any otherwise, we should have had much more, and the result would not have been as satisfactory.”
Such are the words of Dmitry Sergueitch. You can easily see with what persistence he has dwelt in this matter upon what he calls his wrongs. He added: “I feel sure that those who analyze my conduct without sympathy for me will find that I have not been entirely right. But I am sure of their sympathy for her. She will judge me even better than I judge myself. Now, for my part, I believe that I have done perfectly right. Such is my opinion of my conduct up to the time of the dream.”
Now I am going to communicate to you his feelings concerning the subsequent events:
“I have said [Dmitry Serguditch’s words] that from the first words that she uttered about her dream I understood that a change in our relations was inevitable. I expected that this change would be a pretty radical one, for it was impossible that it should be otherwise, considering the energy of her nature and the intensity of her discontent at that time; and her discontent was all the greater from having been long suppressed. Nevertheless, I looked only for an external change and one quite to my advantage. I said to myself: ‘For a time she will be under the influence of a passionate love for some one; then, a year or two having gone by, she will come back. I am an estimable man; the chances of finding another man like me are very rare (I say what I think, and have not hypocrisy enough to underrate my merits); her feeling will lose a portion of its intensity by satisfaction; and she will see that, although one side of her nature is less satisfied in living with me, on the whole she is happier and freer with me than with any one else. Then things will again shape themselves as in the past. Having learned by experience, I shall bestow more attentions upon her, she will have a greater and keener attachment for me, and we shall live more harmoniously than in the past.’
“But (this is a thing which it is a very dedicate matter for me to explain, and yet it must be done),— but what effect did the prospect of this reestablishment of our relations have upon me? Did it rejoice me? Evidently. But was that all? No. I looked forward to it as a burden, a very agreeable burden, to be sure, but still a burden. I loved her much, and would have violated my nature to put myself in greater harmony with her; that would have given me pleasure, but my life would have been under restraint. That was the way in which I looked at things after the first impression had passed away, and I have seen that I was not mistaken. She put me to the proof of that, when she wished me to force myself to keep her love. The month of complaisance which I devoted to her was the most painful month of my life. There was no suffering in it,— that expression would be out of place and even absurd, for I felt only joy in trying to please her,— but it wearied me. That is the secret of the failure of her attempt to preserve her love for me.
“At first blush that may seem strange. Why did I not get weary of devoting so many evenings to students, for whom I certainly would not have seriously disturbed myself, and why did I feel so much fatigue from devoting only a few evenings to a woman whom I loved more than myself and for whom I was ready to die, and not only to die, but to suffer all sorts of torments? It is strange, I admit, but only to one who has not fathomed the nature of my relations with the young, to whom I devoted so much time. In the first place, I had no personal relations with these young people; when I was with them, I did not seem to have men before me, but abstract types exchanging ideas; my conversations with them were hardly to be distinguished from my solitary dreams; but one side of the man was occupied, that which demands the least rest,— thought. All the rest slept. And furthermore the conversation had a practical, a useful object,— cooperation for the development of the intellectual life and the perfecting of my young friends. This was so easy a task that it rather reestablished my strength, exhausted by other work,— a task which did not tire me, but, on the contrary, refreshed me; nevertheless, it was a task, and it was not rest that I was after, but a useful object. In short, I let my whole being go to sleep, thought excepted, and that acted without being troubled by any personal prepossession regarding the men with whom I was talking; consequently, I felt as much at my ease as if I had been alone. These conversations did not take me out of my solitude, so to speak. There was nothing in them similar to the relations in which the entire man participates.
“I know what a delicate matter it is to utter the word ‘ennui’; but sincerity will not permit, me to withhold it. Yes, with all my love for her, I felt a sense of relief when later I became convinced that our relations were forever broken. I became convinced of it about the time when she perceived that to comply with her desires was a burden to me. Then my future seemed to assume a more agreeable shape, seeing that it was impossible to maintain our old relations, I began to consider by what method we could soonest — I must again use a delicate expression — consummate the separation. That is why those who judge only by appearances have been able to believe in my generosity. Nevertheless I do not wish to be hypocritical and deny the good that is in me; therefore I must add that one of my motives was the desire to see her happy. But this was only a secondary motive, a strong one enough, to be sure, but far inferior in intensity to the first and principal motive,— the desire to escape ennui: that was the principal motive. It was under this influence that I began to analyze attentively her manner of life, and I easily discovered that the person in question was dominated in her feelings and acts by the presence and absence of Alexander Matveitch. That obliged me to consider him also. Then I understood the cause of her strange actions, to which I had at first paid no attention. That made me see things in a still more agreeable light. When I saw in her not only the desire for a passionate love, but also the love itself, an unconscious love for a man entirely worthy of her and able to completely replace me at her side; when I saw that this man too had a great passion for her,— I was thoroughly rejoiced. It is true, however, that the first impression was a painful one: no grave change takes place without some sorrow. I saw now that I could no longer conscientiously consider myself indispensable to her, as I had been accustomed to do and with delight; this new change, therefore, had a painful side. But not long. Now I was sure of her happiness and felt no anxiety about her. That was a source of great joy. But it would be an error to believe that that was my chief pleasure; no, personal feeling was dominant even here: I saw that I was to be free. I do not mean that single life seemed to me freer than family life: no, if husband and wife make each other mutually happy without effort and without thought, the more intimate their relations the happier they are. But our relations were not of that character. Consequently to me separation meant freedom.
“It will be seen that I acted in my own interest, when I decided not to stand in the way of their happiness; there was a noble side to my conduct, but the motive power was the desire of my own nature for a more comfortable situation. And that is why I had the strength to act well, to do without hesitation and without pain what I believed to be my duty: one does his duty easily when impelled by his own nature.
“I started for Riazan. Some time afterwards she called me back, saying that my presence would not trouble her. I took the contrary view,— for two reasons, as I believe. It was painful to her to see the man to whom (in her opinion) she owed so much. She was mistaken; she was under no obligation to me, because I had always acted much more in my own interest than in hers. But she saw it differently, and moreover she felt a very profound attachment for me, which was a source of pain. This attachment had also its agreeable side, but this could not have become dominant unless it had been less intense, for, when intense, it is very painful. The second motive (another delicate explanation, but I must say what I think) arose from the fact that her rather abnormal situation in the matter of social conditions was disagreeable to her. Thus I came to see that the proximity of my existence to hers was painful to her. I will not deny that to this new discovery there was a side incomparably more painful to me than all the feelings that I had experienced in the preceding stages of the affair. I retained very good dispositions toward her: I wished to remain her friend. I hoped that such would be the case. And when I saw that it could not be, I was much grieved. And my chagrin was compensated by no personal interest. I may say, then, that my final resolution was taken only through attachment to her, through a desire to see her happy. Consequently, my conduct toward her even in our happiest days never gave me so much inner satisfaction as this resolution. Then at last I acted under the influence of what I may call nobility, or, to speak more accurately, noble design, in which the general law of human nature acts wholly by itself without the aid of individual peculiarities; and I learned to know the high enjoyment of seeing one’s self act nobly,— that is, in the way in which all men without exception ought to act. This high enjoyment of feeling one’s self simply a man, and not Ivan or Peter, is too intense; ordinary natures like mine cannot stand it too often. But happy the man who has sometimes felt it!
“I do not need to explain this side of my conduct, which would have been senseless to the last degree in dealing with other men; it is, however, only too well justified by the character of the person to whom I yielded. When I was at Riazan, not a word passed between her and Alexander Matveitch. Later, at the time when I took my final resolution, not a word passed between him and me or between her and me. But to know their thoughts I did not need to hear them.”
I have transmitted literally the words of Dmitry Sergueitch, as I have already said.
I am an entire stranger to you, but the correspondence upon which I enter with you, in carrying out the will of poor Dmitry Sergueitch, is of so intimate a nature that you will be curious perhaps to know who this unknown correspondent is, who is so familiar with Dmitry’s inner life. I am a medical student who has renounced his profession; I can tell you nothing more about myself. Of late years I have lived in St. Petersburg. A few days ago I conceived the idea of travelling and seeking a new career in foreign lands. I left St. Petersburg the day after you learned of Dmitry’s loss. By the merest chance I did not have my passport, but I succeeded in getting that of another, which one of our common acquaintances had the kindness to furnish me. He gave them to me on condition that I would do some errands for him on the way. If you happen to see M. Rakhmetoff, be kind enough to tell him that all his commissions have been attended to. Now I am going to wander about for a while,— probably in Germany observing the customs of the people. I have a few hundred roubles, and I wish to live at my ease and without doing anything. When I grow weary of idleness, I shall look for work. Of what sort? It is of no consequence. Where? It matters not. I am as free as a bird, and I can be as careless as a bird. Such a situation enchants me.
Probably you will wish to reply, but I do not know where I shall be a week hence,— perhaps in Italy, perhaps in England, perhaps at Prague. Now I can live according to my caprice, and where it will take me I know not. Consequently, upon your letters place only this address: “Berlin, Friedrichstrasse 20, Agentur von H. Schmeidler”; within this envelope place another containing your letter, and upon the inner envelope, instead of any address, write the figures 12345; to the Schmeidler agency that will mean that the letter is to be sent to me. Accept, Madame, the assurance of the high esteem of a man unknown to you, but profoundly devoted to you, who signs himself
A Quondam Medical Student.
My much esteemed Monsieur Alexander Matveitch:
In conformity with the wishes of poor Dmitry Sergueitch, I must tell you that he considered the obligation to yield his place to you the best conclusion possible. The circumstances which have induced this change have gradually come about within the last three years, in which you had almost abandoned his society, and without, consequently, any share in them on your part. This change results solely from the acts of two individuals whom you have tried in vain to bring together, and the conclusion was inevitable. It is needless to say that Dmitry Sergueitch could in no way attribute it to you. Of course this explanation is superfluous, and it is only for form’s sake that he has charged me with making it. He was not titled for the situation which he occupied, and in his opinion it is better for all that he has yielded his place to you.
I shake your hand.
A Quondam Medical Student.
“And, for my part, I know” . . . .
What’s that? The voice is familiar to me. I look behind me; it is he, it is really he, the reader with the penetrating eye; lately expelled for knowing neither A nor B on a question of art, here he is again, and with his usual penetration again he knows something.
“Ah! I know who wrote that” . . . . .
I seize precipitately the first object that comes to my hand,— it is a napkin, inasmuch as, after copying the letter of the quondam student, I sat down to breakfast,— I seize the napkin and I close his mouth. “Well! know then! but why cry out like a madman?”
St. Petersburg, August 25, 1856.
You cannot imagine how happy I was to receive your letter. I thank you with all my heart. Your intimacy with Dmitry Sergueitch, who has just perished, entitles me to consider you a friend, and permit me to call you so.
In each of the words which you have communicated to me I have recognized the character of Dmitry Sergueitch. He was always searching for the most hidden causes of his acts, and it pleased him to apply thereto the theory of egoism. For that matter it is a habit common to all our circle. My Alexander also is fond of analyzing himself in this fashion. If you could hear how he explains his conduct towards me and Dmitry Sergueitch for the last three years! To hear him, he did everything from selfish design, for his own pleasure. I, too, long since acquired this habit. Only it occupies us — Alexander and me — a little less than Dmitry Sergueitch; we have the same inclination, only his was stronger. Yes, to hear us, we are all three the greatest egoists that the world has yet seen. And perhaps it is the truth. It is possible, after all.
But, besides this trait, common to all three of us, the words of Dmitry Sergueitch contain something peculiar to himself: the object of his explanations is evident,— to quiet me. Not that his words are not wholly sincere,— he never said what he did not think,— but he makes too prominent that side of the truth calculated to quiet me. I am very grateful to you, my friend, but I too am an egoist, and I will say that his anxiety on my account was useless. We justify ourselves much more easily than others justify us. I too do not consider myself at all guilty towards him; I will say more: I do not even feel under any obligation to have an attachment for him. I appreciate highly his noble conduct, but I know that he acted nobly, not for me, but for himself; and I, in not deceiving him, acted, not for him, but for myself,— not because, in deceiving him, I should have been unjust to him, but because to do so was repugnant to me. I say, like him, that I do not accuse myself. But like him also I am moved to justify myself; to use his expression (a very correct one), that means that I foresee that others will not be as indulgent as myself regarding some phases of my conduct. I have no desire to justify myself regarding that part of the matter upon which he touches; but, on the other hand, I have a desire to justify myself regarding the part upon which he does not need to justify himself. No one will call me guilty on account of what took place before my dream. But, then, is it not my fault that the affair took so melodramatic an aspect and led to a theatrical conclusion? Ought I not to have taken a much simpler view of a change of relations already inevitable, when my dream for the first time opened the eyes of Dmitry Sergueitch and myself to my situation? In the evening of the day when Dmitry Sergueitch died, I had a long conversation with that ferocious Rakhmetoff; what a good and tender man, that Rakhmetoff! He said I know not how many horrible things about Dmitry Sergueitch. But, if one should repeat them in a friendly tone, they would be almost just.
I believed that Dmitry Sergueitch knew perfectly well what Rakhmetoff was going to say to me, and that he had calculated upon it. In my state of mind I needed to hear him, and his remarks did much to quiet me. Whoever planned that conversation, I thank you much, my friend. But the ferocious Rakhmetoff himself had to confess that in the last half of the affair the conduct of Dmitry Sergueitch was perfect. Rakhmetoff blamed him only for the first half, concerning which it pleased Dmitry Sergueitch to justify himself.
But I am going to justify myself concerning the second half, although no one has told me that I was guilty. But every one of us — I speak of ourselves and our friends, of our whole circle — has a severer censor than Rakhmetoff himself,— his or her own mind. Yes, I understand, my friend, that it would have been much easier for all if I had taken a simpler view of the affair and had not given it so tragic a bearing. And, if we leave it to the opinion of Dmitry Sergueitch, I shall have to say further that he would then have had no need to resort to a sensational climax very painful to him: he had to act as he did only because pushed by my impetuous way of looking at things.
I suppose that he must have thought so too, although he did not charge you to tell me so. I set the higher value on his good feelings towards me from the fact that, in spite of all that happened, they did not weaken. But listen, my friend; this opinion is not just; it was not from any fault of mine, it was not from my unnecessary exaggeration of feeling, that the necessity presented itself to Dmitry Sergueitch of an experience which he himself calls very painful. It is true that, if I had not attached a great importance to the change of relations, the journey to Riazan might have been dispensed with, but he says that that was not painful to him; in this respect, then, my excitement caused no great unhappiness. It was only the necessity of dying that was painful to him. He explains by two reasons why he was forced to adopt that resolution.
In the first place, I suffered from my extreme attachment for him; in the second, I suffered because I could not give my relations with Alexander the character demanded by public opinion. In fact, I was not altogether tranquil; my situation was burdensome, but he did not divine the real cause. He believed that his presence was painful to me on account of the depth of my gratitude; this was not quite the case. We are very much disposed to look for consoling thoughts, and when Dmitry Sergueitch saw the necessity of dying, that necessity had long ceased to exist: my gratitude had decreased to that moderate degree which constitutes an agreeable feeling. Now, deep gratitude was the sole cause of my painful exaggeration of feeling. The other cause mentioned by Dmitry Sergueitch — the desire to give my relations with Alexander the character demanded by society — did not depend at all upon my way of viewing the affair. It was the result of society’s ideas. That cause I could not have controlled; but Dmitry Sergueitch was absolutely mistaken if he supposed that his presence was painful to me for that reason. If a husband lives with his wife, that is enough to prevent scandal, whatever the relations of his wife with another. That is a great step already. We see many examples where, thanks to the noble character of the husband, affairs are thus arranged, and in that case society lets the woman alone. Now, I consider that the best and easiest way of arranging affairs of this sort. Dmitry Sergueitch at first proposed this plan to me. I then refused on account of my exaggeration of feeling. I do not know what would have happened if I had accepted; but, if I had been able to content myself with being left alone and the avoidance of scandal regarding my relations with Alexander, it is evident that the plan proposed by Dmitry Sergueitch would have been sufficient, and that, if I had adopted it, there would have been no need of his decision to die. In that case evidently I should have had no reason to desire to formally determine my relations with Alexander. But it seems to me that such an arrangement, satisfactory in most cases similar to ours, in ours would not have been so. Our situation had one peculiar feature,— the three individuals whom it concerned were of equal force. If Dmitry Sergueitch had felt an intellectual and moral superiority in Alexander; if, in yielding his place to him, he had yielded to moral superiority; if his withdrawal, instead of being voluntary, had been only the withdrawal of the weak before the strong,— why, then certainly nothing would have weighed upon me.
[To be continued.]
A Letter to Grover Cleveland:
On His False, Absurd, Self-Cortradictory, and Ridiculous Inaugural Address. By Lysander Spooner.
[The author reserves his copyright in this letter.]
Sir, your idea of the true character of our government is plainly this: you assume that all the natural, inherent, inalienable, individual, human rights of fifty millions of people — all their individual rights to preserve their own lives, and promote their own happiness — have been thrown into one common heap,— into hotchpotch, as the lawyers say: and that this hotchpotch has been given into the hands of some four hundred champion robbers, each of whom has pledged himself to carry off as large a portion of it as possible, to be divided among those men — well known to himself, but who — to save themselves from all responsibility for his acts — have secretly (by secret ballot) appointed him to be their champion.
Sir, if you had assumed that all the people of this country had thrown all their wealth, all their rights, all their means of living, into hotchpotch; and that this hotchpotch had been given over to four hundred ferocious hounds; and that each of these hounds had been selected and trained to bring to his masters so much of this common plunder as he, in the general fight, or scramble, could get off with, you would scarcely have drawn a more vivid picture of the true character of the government of the United States, than you have done in your inaugural address.
No wonder that you are obliged to confess that such a government can be carried on only “amid the din of party strife”; that it will be influenced — you should have said directed — by “purely partisan zeal”; and that it will be attended by “the animosities of political strife, the bitterness of partisan defeat, and the exultation of partisan triumph.”
What gang of robbers, quarrelling over the division of their plunder, could exhibit a more shameful picture than you thus acknowledge to be shown by the government of the United States?
Sir, nothing of all this “din,” and “strife,” and “animosity,” and “bitterness,” is caused by any attempt, on the part of the government, to simply “do equal and exact justice to all men,”— to simply protect every man impartially in all his natural rights to life, liberty, and property. It is all caused simply and solely by the government’s violation of some men’s “rights,” to promote other men’s “interests.” If you do not know this, you are mentally an object of pity.
Sir, men’s “rights” are always harmonious. That is to say, each man’s “rights” are always consistent and harmonious with each and every other man’s “rights.” But their “interests,” as you estimate them, constantly clash; especially such “interests” as depend on government grants of monopolies, privileges, loans, and bounties. And these “interests,” like the interests of other gamblers, clash with a fury proportioned to the amounts at stake. It is these clashing “interests,” and not any clashing “rights,” that give rise to all the strife you have here depicted, and to all this necessity for “that spirit of amity and mutual concession,” which you hold to be indispensable to the accomplishment of such legislation as you say is necessary to the welfare of the country.
Each and every man’s “rights” being consistent and harmonious with each and every other man’s “rights”; and all men’s rights being immutably fixed, and easily ascertained, by a science that is open to be learned and known by all; a government that does nothing but “equal and exact justice to all men” — that simply gives to every man his own, and nothing more to any — has no cause and no occasion for any “political parties.” What are these “political parties” but standing armies of robbers, each trying to rob the other, and to prevent being itself robbed by the other? A government that seeks only to “do equal and exact justice to all men,” has no cause and no occasion to enlist all the fighting men in the nation in two hostile ranks; to keep them always in battle array, and burning with hatred towards each other. It has no cause and no occasion for any “political warfare” any “political hostility,” any “political campaigns,” any “political contests,” any “political fights,” any “political defeats,” or any “political triumphs.” It has no cause and no occasion for any of those “political leaders,” so called, whose whole business is to invent new schemes of robbery, and organize the people into opposing bands of robbers; all for their own aggrandizement alone. It has no cause and no occasion for the toleration, or the existence, of that vile horde of political bullies, and swindlers, and blackguards, who enlist on one side or the other, and fight for pay; who, year in and year out, employ their lungs and their ink in spreading lies among ignorant people, to excite their hopes of gain, or their fears of loss, and thus obtain their votes. In short, it has no cause and no occasion for all this “din of party strife,” for all this “purely partisan zeal,” for all “the bitterness of partisan defeat,” for all “the exultation of partisan triumph,” nor, worst of all, for any of “that spirit of amity and mutual concession [by which you evidently mean that readiness, “in the halls of national legislation,” to sacrifice some men’s “rights” to promote other men’s “interests”] in which [you say] the constitution had its birth.”
If the constitution does really, or naturally, give rise to all this “strife,” and require all this “spirit of amity and mutual concession,”— and I do not care now to deny that it does,— so much the worse for the constitution. And so much the worse for all those men who, like yourself, swear to “preserve, protect, and defend it.”
And yet you have the face to make no end of professions, or pretences, that the impelling power, the real motive, in all this robbery and strife, is nothing else than “the service of the people,” “their interests,” “the promotion of their welfare.” “good government,” “government by the people,” “the popular will,” “the general weal,” “the achievements of our nations’ destiny,” “the benefits which our happy form of government can bestow,” “the lasting welfare of the country,” “the priceless benefits of the constitution,” “the greatest good to the greatest number,” “the common interest,” “the general welfare,” “the people’s will,” “the mission of the American people,” “our civil policy,” “the genius of our institutions,” “the needs of our people in their home life,” “the settlement and development of the resources of our vast territory,” “the prosperity of our republic,” “the interests and prosperity of all the people,” “the safety and confidence of business interests,” “making the wage of labor sure and steady,” “a due regard to the interests of capital invested and workingmen employed in American industries,” “reform in the administration of the government,” “the application of business principles to public affairs,” “the constant and ever varying wants of an active and enterprising population,” “a firm determination to secure to all the people of the land the full benefits of the best form of government ever vouchsafed to man,” “the blessings of our national life,” etc., etc.
Sir, what is the use of such a deluge of unmeaning words, unless it be to gloss over, and, if possible, hide, the true character of the acts of the government?
Such “generalities” as these do not even “glitter.” They are only the stale phrases of the demagogue, who wishes to appear to promise everything, but commits himself to nothing. Or else they are the senseless talk of a mere political parrot, who repeats words he has been taught to utter, without knowing their meaning. At best, they are the mere gibberish of a man destitute of all political ideas, but who imagines that “good government,” “the general welfare,” “the common interest,” “the best form of government ever vouchsafed to man,” etc., etc., must be very good things, if anybody can ever find out what they are. There is nothing definite, nothing real, nothing tangible, nothing honest, about them. Yet they constitute your entire stock in trade. In resorting to them — in holding them up to public gaze as comprising your political creed — you assume that they have a meaning; that they are matters of overruling importance; that they require the action of an omnipotent, irresponsible, lawmaking government; that all these “interests” must be represented, and can be secured, only “in the halls of national legislation”; and by such political hounds as have been selected and trained, and sent there, solely that they may bring off, to their respective masters, as much as possible of the public plunder they hold in their hands; that is, as much as possible of the earnings of all the honest wealth-producers of the country.
And when these masters count up the spoils that their hounds have thus brought home to them, they set up a corresponding shout that “the public prosperity,” “the common interest,” and “the general welfare” have been “advanced.” And the scoundrels by whom the work has been accomplished, “in the halls of national legislation,” are trumpeted to the world as “great statesmen.” And you are just stupid enough to be deceived into the belief, or just knave enough to pretend to be deceived into the belief, that all this is really the truth.
One would infer from your address that you think the people of this country incapable of doing anything for themselves, individually; that they would all perish, but for the employment given them by that “large variety of diverse and competing interests” — that is, such purely selfish schemes — as may be “persistently seeking recognition of their claims . . . . . in the halls of national legislation,” and secure for themselves such monopolies and advantages as congress may see fit to grant them.
Instead of your recognizing the right of each and every individual to judge of, and provide for, his own well-being, according to the dictates of his own judgment, and by the free exercise of his own powers of body and mind,— so long as he infringes the equal rights of no other person,— you assume that fifty millions of people, who never saw you, and never will see you, who know almost nothing about you, and care very little about you, are all so weak, ignorant, and degraded as to be humbly and beseechingly looking to you — and to a few more lawmakers (so called) whom they never saw, and never will see, and of whom they know almost nothing — to enlighten, direct, and “control” them in their daily labors to supply their own wants, and promote their own happiness!
You thus assume that these fifty millions of people are so debased, mentally and morally, that they look upon you and your associate lawmakers as their earthly gods, holding their destinies in your hands, and anxiously studying their welfare; instead of looking upon you — as most of you certainly ought to be looked upon — as a mere cabal of ignorant, selfish, ambitious, rapacious, and unprincipled men, who know very little, and care to know very little, except how you can get fame, and power, and money, by trampling upon other men’s rights, and robbing them of the fruits of their labor.
Assuming yourself to be the greatest of these gods, charged with the “welfare” of fifty millions of people, you enter upon the mighty task with all the mock solemnity, and ridiculous grandiloquence, of a man ignorant enough to imagine that he is really performing a solemn duty, and doing an immense public service, instead of simply making a fool of himself. Thus you say:
Fellow citizens: In the presence of this vast assemblage of my countrymen, I am about to supplement and seal, by the oath which I shall take, the manifestation of the will of a great and free people. In the exercise of their power and right of self-government, they have committed to one of their fellow citizens a supreme and sacred trust, and he here consecrates himself to their service. This impressive ceremony adds little to the solemn sense of responsibility with which I contemplate the duty I owe to to all the people of the land. Nothing can relieve me from anxiety lest by any act of mine their interests [not their rights] may suffer, and nothing is needed to strengthen my resolution to engage every faculty and effort in the promotion of their welfare. [Not in “doing equal and exact justice to all men.” After having once described the government as one “pledged to do equal and exact justice to all men,” you drop that subject entirely, and wander off into “interests,” and “welfare,” and an astonishing number of other equally unmeaning things.]
Sir, you would have no occasion to take all this tremendous labor and responsibility upon yourself, if you and your lawmakers would but keep your hands off the “rights” of your “countrymen.” Your “countrymen” would be perfectly competent to take care of their own “interests,” and provide for their own “welfare,” if their hands were not tied, and their powers, crippled, by such fetters as men like you and your lawmakers have fastened upon them.
Do you know so little of your “countrymen,” that you need to be told that their own strength and skill must be their sole reliance for their own well-being? Or that they are abundantly able, and willing, and anxious above all other things, to supply their own “needs in their home life,” and secure their own “welfare”? Or that they would do it, not only without jar or friction, but as their highest duty and pleasure, if their powers were not manacled by the absurd and villanous laws you propose to execute upon them? Are you so stupid as to imagine that putting chains on men’s hands, and fetters on their feet, and insurmountable obstacles in their paths, is the way to supply their “needs,” and promote their “welfare”? Do you think your “countrymen” need to be told, either by yourself, or by any such gang of ignorant or unprincipled men as all lawmakers are, what to do, and what not to do, to supply their own “needs in their home life”? Do they not know how to grow their own food, make their own clothing, build their own houses, print their own books, acquire all the knowledge, and create all the wealth, they desire, without being domineered over, and thwarted in all their efforts, by any set of either fools or villains, who may call themselves their lawmakers? And do you think they will never get their eyes open to see what blockheads, or impostors, you and your lawmakers are? Do they not now — at least so far as you will permit them to do it — grow their own food, build their own houses, make their own clothing, print their own books? Do they not make all the scientific discoveries and mechanical inventions, by which all wealth is created? Or are all these things done by “the government”? Are you an idiot, that you can talk as you do, about what you and your lawmakers are doing to provide for the real wants, and promote the real “welfare,” of fifty millions of people?
“A free man is one who enjoys the use of his reason and his faculties; who is neither blinded by passion, nor hindered or driven by oppression, nor deceived by erroneous opinions.” — Proudhon.
Say You Politics, or Anarchy?
I pen this article from a beautiful spot in Central New York. To one bred among the rugged hills of New England, how refreshing the contrast! The soil is rich and mellow and yields bounteously. A vast, fruitful garden opens up on every hilltop; rich verdure feasts the eye, and glutted cattle lounge in the meadows. What a paradise for the happy yeoman! is the first thought of the uninitiated stranger, as he drinks in the surroundings, with vision solely compassed by the bounty of Nature.
And yet I find these farmers all sick. Almost without exception they are anxious to sell their homes. They feed the sweet hay in their meadows to cows whose rich milk only nets them one cent a quart, and is turned into butter and cheese by speculators. The staples, they say, are hardly worth getting to market, though they are within the richest and most populous section of the continent. Apples rot on the ground, and garden vegetables are not worth enclosing. To a large extent the neighbors help themselves.
“No market!” And yet a canal courses like a natural artery at the feet of the sad farmer who utters it. Not even a toll is exacted for its use. It is free to all, and only a few miles away is a great city,— the heart of the Empire State.
I go to the next rural town to inquire more nearly into the cause of this strange state of things. The timid country store-keeper tells me that the railroad corporations pounce upon the country merchant who patronizes the canal, and immediately discriminate in rates against such as utilize this natural means of escaping their tyranny. Where once the shores were lined with busy canal men, now the hulks of useless boats are rotting. Only now and then a sickly boat drags along the canal, where once they could be numbered by hundreds in a day. And yet he says the town is bonded in the snug sum of three hundred thousand dollars to feed the very railroad viper that is slowly choking out its life, and that the farmers groan piteously over the consequent taxes, while already nearly a third of the farms are struggling in the death clutches of mortgagees. I asked one prominent village merchant whether he would dare negotiate for his own transportation and buy where he chose. “No,” said he; “the first offence would cost me a freight discrimination of over three hundred per cent., and the offence repeated a few times would drive me out of business; for the great merchants in Syracuse, in league with the railroad monopolists,— notoriously such robbers as Congressman Dennis McCarthy,— have now acquired nearly absolute power of life or death over the country merchants within a large radius.”
While the body of these great railroad vipers is laid throughout the vitals of the State, feeding railroad suckers are extended into all the ends and corners of it. These are controlled, if not owned, by the central monopoly, and thus the whole people are being drawn tighter and tighter into the grasp of inevitable slavery. Middle-class capital, the most timid of existing cowards, is afraid to speak. Thousands of farmers who behold themselves slowly strangled to death are, when not radically ignorant, utterly powerless to help themselves, and so the railroad monster gradually coils its anaconda form around the richest and most populous State in the “Union.”
That a free and educated people sit down and see a conspiracy, radiating from not more than a dozen chief robbers, slowly but surely strangle them, is from some points of view utterly amazing. Fifty resolute men, secretly combined, could gut this whole capitalistic brigandage in a twelvemonth. A few pounds of dynamite, applied persistently to the trunk and suckers of this railroad monster, would bid an effective halt to its deadly career. Yet the humiliating spectacle is presented of a sickening and crouching population waiting for state and national politics to save them, when the very radiating centres of the conspiracy are in Albany and Washington.
“If politics cannot grapple with this problem, civil war must sooner or later step in,” whispered a trembling country merchant to me, the other day.
“But how long do you suppose a handful of men could shackle a whole state, were politics itself out of the way, and the victims felt free to suddenly rip up a low rails all along the line?” said I.
“Ah, that means Anarchy,” the astonished man replied.
“Yes, and it means order,” I answered.
The man looked at me, and then glanced timidly about to see if anybody was in sight; and, seeing his discomfiture, I bade him good day and departed.
To sum up the whole matter, it is not that whole populations are robbed by a few men; it is that they are robbed by their own superstitious fear of seizing the robber and his plunder and making short work with both. Monopoly is sired alone of politics, and the real robber is politics itself. Tear down this house; or rather refuse to prop it up by ballot-boxes, and the monopolist would flee for his life, being in himself as harmless and helpless a creature as walks the earth.
Spread the light!
If it be true that we may judge of a nation’s wisdom by its hope, America is to be credited with having, in her hope, if not in all her doings, laid the foundations for her solution of the human problem on the eternal necessities of man’s nature. Her declaration that all were created equal — that is, each with the natural right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — has such fundamental basis. That the fathers were here building better than they knew may or may not be the fact. Certain it is that it has required the agitation of a century to reveal to their descendants that all really meant all. In the supreme moment of their separation from the mother country, the words of universal significance came from their lips as eternal verities. They saw, and yet they did not. There was an analogy in their condition, perhaps, to the artist before his clear unpainted canvas. Of him it may be said, he sees, yet he does not see. In his mind there is a vision, but, as we are told our earth was at the beginning of creation, it is formless and void. Gradually the water and the dry land appear, and the heavens are lifted over them, and one after another the several details are determined, and the first promise of the work is exhilarating enough. But, as he works on, many things are wrong in their proportion, in color, and some may have to be left out altogether, in order to bring the picture into harmony, or, in the commonly-used expressive phrase, “to make it hang together.” If you get at the bottom of this business of making it hang together, you find that it has been achieved by the artist’s developing a scientific as well as an artistic conception. He thus may say, even of his own creation, “Behold, it is very good,” because he knows he is stating a fact. He is not exclaiming in the exuberance of his vanity, “I did it,” but taking, as he has a right to do, a deep satisfaction in the thought that the thing is well done. He may have struggled months, he may have struggled years. George Fuller lived and wrought in hope to produce his marvelous creations of beauty, giving to each years of love; did this with a patience that was infinite enough to proclaim his genius, at last.
In like manner, adopting Pascal’s thought that the human race is as one man who never dies, but is always growing on toward perfection, we may think of America evolving in all these years her ideal of freedom into tangible, visible form, which at the start may indeed be said to have been formless and void. I think this a better solution of all manifest inconsistency and lack of proportion and harmony in our institutions than to say, “The athers lied, and the children have stuck to it.”
Out of the Revolution rose the fair ideal of self-government. What more natural than that it should be interpreted at the outset in the light of, and in deference to, traditional authority. The Declaration of Independence was rather a declaration of intention, not an accomplished fact. The men of ’76 battled for eight years to give their declared purpose a physical reality. It is yet an open question how far our new world has gone in giving to its affirmed independence an intellectual and ethical basis. Self-government, rightly speaking, is the control the individual exercises over himself and what belongs to him. Any other attempt for his government must be, as Mr. Spencer declares, born of aggression. I do not now raise the question whether such aggression may not find its apology in the exigencies of the occasion. I notice only that it is a departure from the ideal of a people trained to self-government, and take for granted that separation from ideals, though it may be excused, is never declared by rational beings to be endless. The formless vision of the fathers took form, but did they evolve, have we evolved, for it the perfect form, or made the nearest possible approach thereto?
Mr. Spencer says the oil of anointing ran off the head of the one on to the heads of the many. It was a natural movement. At the time it was not so much a question of what the king did as of his right to do it. He was no longer hedged about by “divinity.” He was simply one man whom force of circumstances had given a place of power. The people had thrown off the superstition of his being God-anointed, and they challenged his right to be there. They defied him on our New England shore, and cast his authority into Boston harbor. The throne was vacant. But it must be occupied. Who should ascend into the place of the Most High? The response came irresistibly,— the people. The voice of the people is the voice of God. And so was established, as Mr. Lincoln phrased it at Gettysburg, quoting Theodore Parker, “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.” And why should we not be satisfied? What is the good of eternally kicking? None, if such elevation of your heels is only the outward and visible sign of some ill-working gastric juice of the stomach,— that is, of no use, except it may be to yourself. But if it be the earnest desire to still fashion and finish a great and beneficent work, a work well undertaken, but not yet constructed “on a scale of proportion to the majesty of nature,” a work to which you are at least accessory and so responsible, why, your simple duty is to declare, in whatever most convincing manner, your sense of dissatisfaction.
Let us notice, therefore, that the vacant throne of the king taken possession of by the people in the name of self-government is a throne from which edicts still proceed very much after the old king’s fashion.
Says De Tocqueville in his “Democracy in America”:
A majority taken collectively may be regarded as a being whose opinions, and most frequently whose interests, are opposed to those of another being which is styled a minority. If it be admitted that a man possessing absolute power may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should a majority not be liable to the same reproach? Men are not apt to change their characters by agglomeration; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with the consciousness of their strength. And for these reasons I can never willingly invest any number of my fellow-creatures with that unlimited authority which I should refuse to any one of them. . . . . When I see that the right and the means of absolute command are conferred on a monarchy or a republic, I recognize the germ of tyranny, and I journey onward to a land of more hopeful institutions.
It is for us to journey on to more hopeful institutions in our own land.
A request which I lately received from the State Socialists of Paris that I subscribe, and induce others to subscribe, to the campaign expenses of their candidates at the coming French elections is hereby respectfully refused. If the working men will be foolish enough to fleet musters over themselves, they must do it at their own expense; I certainly shall not help them.
The Root of Prostitution.
What slurs our cruel streets from end to end
With eighty thousand women in one smile
Who only smile at night beneath the gas?
Do the working-people realize that it is their daughters, and theirs only, that are being sacrificed by the thousand every year to the money lords in the manner that has been recently exposed by the “Pall Mall Gazette”? Do they realize that the capitalistic system, after extorting the last cent from the working-women, forces them into the street to re-earn by prostitution a part of the wages that have been stolen from them? Do they realize that both directly and indirectly the present unjust distribution of the products of labor is the sole cause of prostitution? Some may assert that the viciousness of men is the cause, or, at least, a cause. To these we make answer that, if the people did not furnish to these men the time and means to support their viciousness, it could not exist. Of all the societies, White Cross, Social Purity, etc., which have arisen to combat the “social evil” not one has struck a single blow at its root. No society that we have ever heard of, no government, has ever proposed to pay women sufficiently well for their work, so that they would not be forced to eke out by prostitution their miserable wages. In the published governmental and society reports we often find admissions that destitution is the chief cause of prostitution, but, when we come to examine the remedies proposed, we find not a word on the subject of paying women, not justly (this we could scarcely expect), but even of making their wages equal to those of a man for the same work. We find all sorts of schemes for making men moral and women religious, but no scheme which proposes to give woman the fruits of her labor.
For fear some of my readers may be inclined to think I am making too broad a statement in attributing prostitution entirely to tilt unjust distribution of wealth, we will quote a few of the more prominent writers on this subject, those who cannot be accused of being rabid socialists.
The result of my researches — and they have been numerous — is that needlework is insufficient to furnish to the larger part of those that work at it that which is strictly necessary to lodge, feed, and clothe them; that we must attribute to this insufficiency the immorality of a great number, and consequently the necessity in which they find themselves of delivering themselves to prostitution. — Parent Duchatelet, Prostitution de Paris.
In the work just quoted Duchatelet gives some very valuable tables, showing that the recruitment of the prostitutes is almost entirely from the artisan class.
Paul Leroy Beaulieu has calculated that there are at least fifteen thousand women in Paris who cannot, by unremitting toil, obtain more than from twenty to thirty cents a day. Mme. de Barau, who has made a special study of the subject, is convinced that the average wages paid for female labor do not exceed forty-nine cents, and M. d’Haussonville arrives at the same conclusion. We cannot, then, avoid the inference that the mass of Paris working girls are inexorably compelled to seek assistance from the other sex by their sheer inability to support themselves. . . . . It is undeniable that much of the sexual immorality which prevails in Paris is directly traceable to the frequent failure of the most conscientious efforts on the part of the working-women to earn an honest livelihood. — New York Sun, June 3, 1883, on Statistics of M. d’Haussonville published in “Revue des Deux Mondes.”
Needlework is so badly paid for in London that young persons who follow this employment with difficulty carn from three to five shillings a week, though working sixteen to eighteen hours daily. The wages of an embroiderer for a long day are from six to nine pence, shirt makers six pence for a shirt. Nothing can be more frightful than the lives of these girls. They rise to work at four or five in the morning in every season, and work unceasingly to midnight, five or six together in a room, with a view to economize fire and light. Is it to be wondered at that some, alarmed at finding the path of virtue so rough, should have recourse to prostitution. — London Times, April 20, 1857?
Now here there is a real speculation to engage in, supported on the one hand by gilded libertinage, and the other by youth and beauty without bread and without social protection. — M. Ryan, M. D., Prostitution in London.
Considered as a class, the fate of the needlewomen has not changed. They remain exposed to the same distress, having always in perspective, as a term of this fatal struggle, suicide, prostitution, or theft. — Leon Faucher.
But when trade falls off and work decreases, a number of these girls repair to Edinburgh to find means of subsistence. These they seek in prostitution; most of them, indeed, would find it difficult to make their living in any other way. — The Greatest of the Social Evils, by A Physician.
Innumerable cases of prostitution through want solely and absolutely are constantly occurring. — Mayhew, London Laborers and the London Poor.
No belief is more false than that woman prostitutes herself to satisfy her own sexual desires. But, as we shall see presently, she is wholly dependent upon man for the means of subsistence, and is obliged to barter her virtue for a livelihood. — Ward, Dynamic Sociology.
We might multiply these quotations, but sufficient have been made to show the unanimity of opinion on this subject.
The close quarters in which the working classes are compelled to live favor prostitution eventually by removing from the daughters of the poor every incentive to decency and morality. This we could also prove by quotations from numberless accepted respectable authorities, but a few must suffice.
Few girls can grow up to maturity in such dens as exist in the First, Sixth, Eleventh, and Seventeenth Wards, and be virtuous. . . . If a female child be born and brought up in a room in one of these tenement-houses, she loses very early the modesty which is the great shield of virtue. — C. L. Brack, The Dangerous Classes of New York.
The illicit intercourse and general licentiousness of the sexes result from the conditions in which they are placed. — Wade, Working Classes.
In one single block in the Eleventh Ward there are 52 tenement-houses, occupied by 586 families,— in all, by 2356 inmates. — New York Tribune, July, 1883.
Glasgow has 35,000 houses of one room each, 52,600 of two rooms each. There is a population of 10,000 persons in 1853 apartments, or more than 5 to a room. — Report of Bret Harte to Department of State, 1883.
Of 5375 laborers’ cottages in England, Dr. Hunter found that 2195 had only one sleeping-room, which was often also the living room, 2390 only two rooms, and 280 more than two.
According to the census of 1851, 346,000 houses in the agricultural districts of France had no other opening than the door, while 1,817,535 have but a single window.
Any one desiring to know further how the poor live, and how much morality is to be expected under these conditions, has only to consult the reports of the English and United States Boards of Health, the reports of the Bureaus of Labor Statistics, etc.
Lastly, the money with which the daughters of the people are purchased is supplied by the people themselves, men, women, and children, working in the mines and factories, thus making complete the chain of slavery.
Our fathers are praying for pauper’s pay,
Our mothers with death’s kiss are white,
Our sons are the rich man’s serfs by day,
Our daughters his slaves by night.
Gertrude B. Kelly.
What Is It To Be A Slave?
[Colonel William B. Greene’s “Blazing Star.”]
Some men — not all men — see always before them an ideal, a mental picture if you will, of what they ought to be, and are not. Whoso seeks to follow this ideal revealed to the mental vision, whoso seeks to attain to conformity with it, will find it enlarge itself, and remove from him. He that follows it will improve his own moral character; but the ideal will remain always above him and before him, prompting him to new exertions. What is the natural conscience if it be not a condemnation of ourselves as we are, mean, pitiful, weak, and a comparison of ourselves with what we ought to be, wise, powerful, holy?
It is his Ideal of what we ought to be, and are not, that is symbolically pictured in the Blazing Star.
The abject slave on an East-African rice plantation, brutal, ignorant, and a devil-worshipper, sees this Day-Star rising in his heart, and straightway he becomes intellectually of age. For it is the soul, not the body, that attains to the age of discretion. They who see this Star, have attained to their majority: all other persons are minors. Before the rays of this Star, voudouism and devil-worship, whether in refined societies, or among barbarous peoples, vanish into night; for immersion into the rays of this Star, is the beginning of the baptism of repentance and penance for the remission of sin — and of the penalties of sin.
Man’s duty to himself and to his fellow-man, under the rays of the Blazing Star, is threefold: (1) the achievement ot his own Liberty; (2) the definitive establishment of relations of Equality between himself and other men; and (3) the fusion of himself, in the solidarity of Brotherhood, with all human beings who, like himself, recognize the Blazing Star.
Liberty is the power which every human being ought to possess of acting according to the dictates of his own private conscience, under the rays of that Blazing Star which is seen by him, secretly, from the centre of his individual heart.
Equality is the condition that obtains in every society where no special or artificial privilege is granted to any one, or to any set, of its members.
Brotherhood is that strict solidarity between the members of a social body, which causes, under the rays of the Blazing Star, the welfare of each to be seen as involved in that of every other, and of all, and that of all in that of each.
Liberty is the right of each member against every other member, and against all the members. Equality is the right of every other member, and of all the members, against each member. Liberty and Equality find their harmony in the synthetic principle of Fraternity. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: this is the mystical triangle that ought to be inscribed on the banners of every truly-constituted social organism.
Liberty alone may lead to anarchy [the word is used here in the ordinary sense. — Editor.], or to the tyranny of individuals over the mass; but the dangers from Liberty vanish in the presence of Equality. Equality alone may lead to the tyranny of the general mass over individuals or over minorities; but the dangers from Equality vanish in the presence of Liberty. Fraternity is never alone for it is, in its essence, the synthesis of Liberty and Equality.
What is it to be a Slave? It is to have the inward knowledge of that which is great and holy, and to be constrained to do tilings that are small and base. It is to be a person consciously capable of self-government, and to be, at the same time, subject to the will of another person. It is to be, a full-grown person whose actual rights are those of a child only. It is to see the Blazing Star, and not be permitted to follow it.
Slavery is a factitious and arbitrarily-imposed prolongation of the term of moral minority. Paternal government, actual or constructive, is just and legitimate when exercised over persons who are morally under age; but, to such as know the Blazing Star, it is, when exercised to the confiscation of their initiative, the most infernal of all tyrannies. Paternal government, exercised by the natural father over his own minor children, is tempered by affection, and justifies itself; but paternal government, exercised by usurpers over their natural equals and superiors, is an oppressive wrong, and the most intolerable of all outrages,— at the least, it is so in the estimation of such as have seen the Blazing Star.
It is neither the experience of physical want and privation, nor the fact of subordination to legitimate authority, that makes a man to be a slave; for saints and soldiers suffer hardships, and obey their superiors, and are not slaves. On the contrary, it is by the token of the conscious moral penury which a soul feels when it finds itself helpless and hopeless under the domination of an alien soul,— it is by the sentiment of a confiscated individuality, by the consciousness of being annexed, as a base appendage, to another soul,— it is by the consciousness of being sacrificed to a foreign personality,— it is by the darkening of the moral firmament, and by the occultation of the Blazing Star, through the intervention of an extraneous usurping will,— that a man comes to know that he is a slave. And it is, on the other hand, the insolent, lying hypocrisy, the false professions of morality, the transparently-spurious philanthropy, the limitless and blinding arrogance of self-conceit, under which the usurper half-conceals, half-reveals, his unnatural lust to wipe out human souls, and to obliterate every individuality except his own,— that gives energy to slaves, and renders conspiracies, risings, strikes, and revolutions, deadly and chronic.
The fundamental right of a man is the right to be himself; and this right is his sovereignty. No man has a right to confiscate the sovereignty of any other man. No man can delegate to another man, or to society, any right which he does not himself possess. A man may wickedly forfeit his sovereignty by the commission of crime; he may perversely turn his back upon the Blazing Star, and abdicate his individuality and his manhood. But no man can rightfully abdicate his sovereignty. It is the duty of every man of sane mind, who supports himself, and is not convicted of crime, to vindicate his essential dignity as rightful sovereign of himself and of everything that pertains to his individuality. Every able-bodied man has a natural right, and a natural duty, to forcibly repel, and to combine with others to forcibly repel, any and all wrongful iuvasions of his sovereignty. Society exists for the individual, and not the individual for society. Institutions are made for man, and not man for institutions.
Statute Law as the Standard of Right.
To the Editor of Liberty:
The “Index” recently said, in an ex cathedra tone worthy of more dogmatic ages, that “lawless violence makes an arbitrary use of legal force, which often appears at the time heartless and cruel, a necessity.” Are we entitled to draw any inference from the careful use of the adjective lawless that no such effect accompanies lawful violence? Or is it only when violence is lawless rather than lawful that the arbitrary use of legal force appears heartless and cruel? Would it be a “lawless violence” to the imagination to substitute Gregory VII for the “Index” as the author of its next sentence? Let us read in reverence: “What would result if at any time dissatisfied men could at pleasure defy law, destroy property, and dictate terms to established authorities?” The spirit is the same, though Liberty has worked a change in the definitions of law and property; each defends what established authorities declare to be law and property. Shades of Huss, Bruno, anu John Grown, save us! I annex the following lines, trusting that they breathe no “lawless violence” to the spirit of
The simple faith that peopled Hell s’ share
With fair-limbed gods who loved a hero’s deed,
And lent attentive ear to human need;
That lured the maid, who from the rounding bore
Her vase, her imaged beauty to adore,
And filled the hills with notes from Orpheus’ reed,—
Was laughed to scorn in Christian zealot’s creed
That has made countless millions life deplore.
So those who fain would index Freedom’s sway,
And laugh to scorn the creed that holds the mind
In self-forged gyves for superstition’s prey,
Yet cringe to economic gods that bind
Men’s lives to want, and index us a way
To stumble in, to Freedom’s meaning blind.
Then and Now.
XX. A Discourse on Brains.
Boston, September 5, 2085.
My Dear Louise:
Mr. De Demain and I were looking through his old scrap-book of newspaper clippings, to which I have before referred, a few days ago, when I noticed a short article from the New York “Herald” of 1885 entitled “Brains.” I was interested and read it. When I had finished, Mr. De Demain said: “You can see, looking back from today, that that little article is wonderfully suggestive.” Then he proceeded to comment on it at length. As you may not have noticed the article when it was printed in the “Herald,” I copy it here:
When asked to give his opinion as to the cause of business depression in America, a gentleman replied, with considerable emphasis, “too much brains, sir.” It is barely possible that there may be something in this rather original solution of a difficult problem. When one man in a crowd has brains, he becomes the leader of the others. They work with their hands, and so save themselves the responsibility of thinking. He gets pretty nearly all there is, and they have what is left. He is the aristocrat, and they are the common people. When, however, the whole crowd have brains, and know how to use them, they are unwilling to serve, because they all wish to be masters. Whatever good is to be had, each will contrive to get his share.
It is the peculiarity of every free-born American citizen that he believes in his right to the possession of a corner lot and an ample fortune. He disdains service and spends his time in contriving. With our public schools behind us, with every possibility round about us, we are a nation of brigadier generals. No people on the earth are so unwilling to do merely manual work, and none are so capable of doing brain work. Not a boy on the continent but expects to be a millionaire; not one who is not looking forward and reaching forward.
This brings the unhappiness of numerous disappointments. Certainly, but it averages up the whole people’s ability to do and be in a very wonderful way. It makes us restless, without doubt; it creates competitions of the fiercest kind; it involves commercial risks which too frequently end in disaster; but it makes a people who have a tremendous impetus for great achievements. Brains are a good thing to have, if we have enough to get out of a difficulty after we have fallen into it. The American people have never yet been “stumped,” and it will go hard but they will find a way through this commercial crisis to booming times. Brains will do it.
Said Mr. De Demain: “The gentleman referred to as having given the reason for the business depression of that time as ‘too much brains’ was right. He who had brains, not only in the time of Caesar,— who said that because Cassius thought too much he was dangerous,— but always, was a bad man for the State. If he were rich and consequently powerful, he held the State in his grasp; if he were poor, he saw that the State was the cause, in great measure, of his poverty. Before the people had become possessed of much brains — brains here meaning deep thinking power — there was little business depression. The reasons were these: They did not know their rights; they did not realize that the result of their labor belonged to themselves; they were satisfied to take what their employers gave them, never asking if they were getting their fair share of the world’s bounty. They looked upon the rich and employing classes as the lords of the earth; the rightful owners of the Land and all upon it; the masters of themselves and their children; the anointed of God to rule. They worked on and on, taking what fell from the hands of their masters and complaining not, or, if at all, so faintly that the great busy world did not hear it.
“But somehow, in spite of all these disadvantages, their brains grew bigger and bigger, and they began to think more. Then they began to grow dangerous,— dangerous to the State, to the robbers, to the stealers of the fruits of their labor. This is why they were called the dangerous classes. This is why there was business depression, strikes, lower rates of interest, small profits, depreciated stocks, unremunerative bonds, broken banks, and failures of business houses, it was brains. It was thought. It was a dawning of the light of Anarchy. It was the beginning of the appreciation of the fact that the world is not for any select few, but for all. It was the realization of the truth that labor was the producer and should be the consumer.
“Before brains began to show themselves among the workers, there were no-spells of business depression. Business was always good — for the employer. Money would always bring good interest. Rents were always high. Bonds and stocks were better money-earners than labor. Mills ran from early morning until late at night, year in and year out. Employees always busy. Employers were always prosperous. Men worked ten and twelve hours six days in every week in the year and just kept themselves and their wives and children on the bright side of starvation. Then came brains. Not all at once, but, when they got started, they developed rapidly. Then came business depression. Idle mills, broken banks, ruined merchants and manufacturers, showed that the people were thinking, showed that brains were developing.
“The latter part of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries stand out upon the background of history like a mountain. The people passed over it into the beautiful valley of Liberty,— not they, but their children. They only, like Moses, saw the promised land, but to see it was worth dying for.
“It is brains that alone make Anarchy possible; Anarchy alone makes brains worth possessing. Anarchy without brains would not continue for a day; brains without Anarchy would make men — at least such as had ever tasted of true Liberty — miserable.”
Of course, I can’t argue against history. I can simply console myself with the reflection that one, to be entirely happy, must have something besides brains.
Anarchy and Reform.
What relation has Anarchy to reform? This. Anarchy comprehends the fundamental principles of all true reform. Justice (or right relationship), Freedom, Natural Law,— these are the principles of Anarchy; they are the principles of reform. As the greater includes the less, then, why should not all reformers become Anarchists, and, by supporting Liberty, support the Mother of Reform?
Consider a few samples. In religious reformers there should exist peculiar sympathy with Anarchism. How win that universal mental liberty of which freethinkers dream be realized without universal physical liberty,— liberty for the whole man. Freethought denies the divine right of priests and bibles; Anarchy denies the divine right of rulers and statute books. Freethought says: Leave all religions questions to the reason and conscience of the individual; Anarchy says: Leave all questions to the individual reason and conscience. The former denies the need of religious chiefs; the latter, of political chiefs. Freedom from arbitrary and conventional control, and the elevation of the individual, are the common aims of both: the only difference being that Anarchy is infinitely the most sweeping, radical, comprehensive, and logical. Therefore, of necessity, all Anarchists are freethinkers, though the converse is by no means true. Anarchy opposes every power, spiritual or material, religious, social, or political, that binds the free spirit of man. It brands it a titleless usurper. Only to natural law is the free man responsible, and in his obedience to that law does his liberty consist, for, in the eloquent words of Wakeman:
The association of law with restraint or compulsion comes from considering the word as meaning a statute or State enactment. But law in science does not mean a criminal code, but the line of least resistance, wherein only freedom is to be found. The forces always follow this line of least resistance, and so the order of the world is simply the record of freedom. Law is achieved liberty, the observed order of Nature. In so far as we conform our lives to her order, we are free. When we conquer by obedience, we are emancipated from restraint. Says Goethe:
Only the law can to us freedom give.
(Und das Gesetz aur Kann uns Freiheit geben.)
Then you find that law is the absence of restraint; for its recognition transforms duty into devotion. To do our duty because we can and wish to do no otherwise, any more than the tree wishes to grow downward instead of up towards the light of the Sun,— that is the most beautiful realization of Liberty, Law, and Religion, for it is the three in one. Take, for instance, our American elm, so grand that it may stand for our symbol life-tree. How freely it lifts its head towards the sky! With what unbounded freedom and grace it plays in the breeze! And yet not a branch or leaf or cell in all that glorious structure takes part in that play except under and by virtue of eternal, inevitable, inexorable law. Thus, freedom and law are the same in the New Faith; for law is the order that freedom takes in executing itself.
From the very logic of their position, therefore, every atheist, agnostic, Free Religionist, or freethinker of any other name or station, should be an Anarchist.
In medical reform the same principles come into play. Physicians have banded themselves into associations, forming a veritable priesthood, formulating an arbitrary code of ethics, dictating to each and every individual physician how and by what rules he shall practise, what agents employ, and what prices charge, and invoking the aid of the State to support them in this outrageous attack upon free action and free competition. The physician was once the priest, and seems never to have forgotten it. He still wields the anathema and excommunicates the heretic. “Regular” and “Old School” have the same place in the medical world that “Orthodox” and “Mother Church” have in the religious. Let the learning and ability, the skill and success, of the individual healer be what they may, if he does not belong to the association, subscribe to the code, and display the sacred charm of the diploma, above all, if he has peculiar ideas of practice, he is a “quack” and an “irregular.” The priest of the body is as full of pride and acrimony as the priest of the soul. Unfortunately, medical reformers generally ape political reformers, and, in escaping from an old despotism, have no higher motive than the establishment of a new one,— an Eclectic, Homoeopathic or Physio-medical school, in place of an Allopathic one. These are great improvements, but not radical. The true medical reformer should become Anarchistic, and then he will proclaim and defend the right of every individual to practise the healing art according to his own intelligence, without the license or dictation of any man or set of men, being responsible only to his patients for his well-doing or malpractice.
The Hygienist goes still further. His appeal is always from the arbitrary laws of medicine, fashionable dress and diet, etc., to the unalterable laws of nature. Just as the religious reformer defeuds the right of every man to be his own priest and attend to the salvation of his own soul, so the hygienist defends the right of every man to be his own doctor and care for the salvation of his own body. He opposes compulsory vaccination just as the freethinker does compulsory baptism. Just as the freethinker considers that by right relationship to the laws of mind he can maintain spiritual health without the aid of priests; just as the Anarchist considers he can maintain social health by right relationship to humanity without the aid of rulers; so the hygienist believes that by right relationship to the vital laws of the body he can maintain physical health without the aid of physicians. Therefore, by the logic of his position, every hygienist should be an Anarchist, and work radically for the good time coming, when the arbitrary priest, ruler, and physician will be supplanted by the teachers of morals, justice, and health, whose advice will only be accepted in so far as proved by the laws of the universe and approved by the individual reason.
How can the free lover be aught but an Anarchist? His whole course and doctrine is an eloquent protest against the arbitrariness of those man-made laws which so insult, invade, enslave, hamper, and restrict the holiest and sweetest of human emotions that millions of human souls make horrible shipwreck on this fairest of life’s seas. So far as he goes, every free lover is an Anarchist, and he should go on to the glorious end.
Even those reformers who wish to accomplish reform by legislative enactments will often find those ends better accomplished by no enactments at all. The best way to reform the civil service is to abolish it. When there are no statute laws to bind unequally on man and woman, when woman is free to learn and do all that her brother may, then the righters of Woman will see the fruition of their hopes. Pure democracy is only realizable in Anarchy, for that alone is a government in which each man has his full share, and all his political rights and privileges. Where can the financial reformer find a financial policy more radical and scientific than that advocated by Anarchists? Where can the labor reformer find a better reform than that which emancipates him at one stroke from the tyrannies of Capital and Trade Unionism? Does not the land-reformer, the interest-reformer, the rent reformer, the libertarian of whatever scope, or name, or sect, find all he desires, and more, under the broad wings of Anarchy.
Even the reformer in art matters, the Pre-Raphaelite, or what not, finds his power in appealing from the conventionalisms of the schools to the sweet law and liberty of Nature. In short, every true reformer, consciously or unconsciously, follows the route of Anarchy,— from misrelation to justice (right relation), from the arbitrary to the reasonable, from the hampered to the free.
J. Wm. Lloyd.
Gold and Silver.
The present issue between these two old rogues, in which each finds so many eloquent champions, is a pleasant illustration of the way in which the voters of the United States are humbugged about their liberties. Supposing, by the most extravagant stretch of the democratic principle, that the national policy on this subject — i.e. the equalization in value of the corresponding metallic coins — were to be submitted directly to popular vote, or the projects of legislation about them to a plebiscite; would it be anything more than referring to popular election or decision a question of court etiquette? Shall your masters march abreast, or shall one of them march fifteen steps before the other? Liberal organs favor the march abreast, upon the principle that, as all exchangeable values have equal natural rights to enter into circulation, the equal use of two, silver and gold, is a step in progress towards the democratization of the currency. Such a step! Such a long stride! Queen Victoria has been an illustrious example of that multiplication in kind, for which Malthus reproves the imprudent self-indulgence of laborers. Now, suppose all her children were declared equally kings and queens of the British empire, how much more democratic would be the English constitution?
Pros and Cons of the Silver Coinage Question.
Pro: In the actual scarcity of currency, the addition of two million dollars a month would seem to favor the interests of the great body of the people, while not specially favoring creditors, as would the suppression of the silver coinage, or the addition of fifteen cents to the bullion value of the silver dollar.
This simple adjustment is defeated by the arbitrary conduct of government, which, after buying silver and coining it, instead of paying it out and throwing it into the circulation, has been hoarding it up, while no reduction has been made in taxes. Thus we have only been increasing the national debt and adding nothing to the currency. This is one of the numerous instances of some arbitrary intervention baffling the calculations of political economy. Of course, this step has been prompted by the large creditors who profit by contraction of the currency. Such contraction has been effected in part by the sums paid away for the coin hoarded, and in part by the increase of the population using coin. Concerning the effect of contraction and expansion of currency upon wages and their purchasing power, there has been much ill-grounded assumption. Wages are controlled by motives and wills independent of the currency and capable of adapting any currency equally well to their purpose. What renders subsistence possible is the general measure of wages, and the pressure of competition among capitalists, combined with the difficulty of sales, renders it impossible to be otherwise under the excitement of commercial speculation. For a limited autonomy, such as a Russian village, or even a State as well organized as the Peru of the Incas, the remedy would not be far to seek. Census statistics would enable the administration to estimate approximately the kinds and quantities of produce needed by a given area and population. Labor, if solidary with capital in production, would not enslave itself by excessive work in view of problematical gains, but be content to live at home. It is the schism between Capital and Labor that subjects industry to commerce. The intermediary ownership of goods by the exchanging merchant is the radical vice of our system, and frustrates all economic calculations.
The same economic simplification in the relations of the members of a local autonomy which controls the investments of Labor and of Capital would give a sound and sufficient currency without either gold or silver coin, for all values conveniently exchangeable have the same right to representation by the bill of exchange, whether or not this has received the endorsement of a banking house or of certain administrative officers. The only advantage of such endorsement is to give the bill a wider capacity of circulation. The farmer or artisan may by this means share the facilities which are now confined to merchants. To the abstract proposition of a desirable uniform scale of values, or standard of values, for currency, all will assent, and the fact that increasing the bullion value of the silver dollar will give to certain creditors an unforeseen advantage in collecting their dues, is a pang of financial contrition that finds the nerves of labor quite insensible. It cannot either affect the wages of laborers or the purchasing power of their money, for they have no specie at stake. And while legislation has its hands in, why should it not silence debtors’ protests by remitting fifteen per cent. of all debts not contracted with proviso for payment in gold, previous to passage of its equalization bill? But this question of the adjustment of privilege between the two rival kings of the market inflates the press, exercises the presidential conscience, and inspires legislation, while laborers starve by privation at once of the produce of their labor and the means of producing and exchanging. However desirable a uniform standard of values may be, and supposing either gold or silver, or gold and silver, to afford such, which is a very risky and elastic supposition, what security is there of maintaining this standard in coinage, from the passage of a bill this year to that effect, contravening former bills to opposite effect, and which is is in turn liable to be annulled next year, at the caprice of the same arbitrary power?
Legislation on the values of currency is like the king’s sword thrown into the balance. Natural adjustment, or the equipoise of values, implies the absence of all legislation, of every arbitrary force. Any two or more men have the natural right to contract for an exchange of values on any terms they please, and one may cheat the other; but the mischief thus occuring from personal dishonesty is amenable to social culture, not to legislation, which can only increase the proportions of such mischief. Financial adjustments and rectifications, like those of our bodily organs, are not accomplished without inconvenience by the rupture of established relations. Crooked limbs and stiff joints can be made straight or serviceable, but only at the cost of a painful dissection and elaborate apparatus of constraint. Such surgery, when successful, is a finality. Content with restoring the primitive natural type, it then lets things alone; but Government, but Legislation, is forever meddling. Like Penelope, it undoes every night its embroidery of the day before. It is an ingenious contrivance for magnifying and multiplying the contradictions of personal fickleness, while it arms with gaffs the spurs of monopoly.
[Gramont in L’Intransigeant, June 10.]
It is hot. We believe we may make this assertion without risking any imputation of excessively paradoxical intentions on our part. On the other hand, the Cholera has just made its appearance in Spain. Numerous cases have been discovered, especially in the province of Valencia. It is enough to put together these two announcements of these two indisputable facts to excite some apprehension.
The hot season, as we know, is the most favorable to the birth of Cholera. Our enemies, the microbes,— that terrible flock of which M. Pasteur aspires to be the shepherd,— seem to be in the nature of dormice. They sleep, keep quiet, and do not budge in winter. When summer comes, great heat comes with it: then the microbes begin to crawl and wriggle, and try to insert their formidable commas into the book of our existences. Commas which, in reality, are generally full stops.
So much for the season. As to locality, the place where the hateful bacilli are the most active is Spain,— that is, a country which is a neighbor of ours. Bordering upon us, to use the geographical phrase. This proximity, in the present emergency, is not altogether pleasing. One soon crosses a frontier, especially when one is a microbe and consequently imperceptible, sure thereby of escaping the watchfulness of those modern Arguses generally known as gendarmes and custom-house officers.
I shall be told that between Spain and ourselves arise as a protective barrier the Pyrenees. “Pyrenees mountains, you are — more than ever — our loves.” But do the Pyrenees exist any longer? Louis XIV said that they were no more. From the moment that “the King has said it,” one has to believe it: ask Gondinet.
In short, we have had reason to fear for a moment the visit of a sinister sovereign. This tragic monarch is King Pest, Lord Cholera, the Black Prince who marks his passage everywhere by almost instantaneous deaths.
Not that we have the slightest need of an expedition into our domains from this lugubrious promenader. We have enough microbes without those that constitute his train. Microbes of finance, of politics, of literature,— how many unhealthy animalcules vitiate the blood of France! Without lying, Lord Cholera, we can dispense with yours. But, alas! man proposes — and epidemics dispose. Generally, in fact, they begin by indisposing.
Far from me the perverse intention of sowing the seeds of alarm, of planting trouble in placid hearts, and of placing obstacles in the way of the development of commerce and industry by making myself the echo of disturbing reports, capable of deterring rich foreigners from coming this summer to spend their banknotes and cheeks in the modern Babylon. Far from me the thought of playing the roles of the Jeremiahs, the Ezekiels, and the other prophets of misfortune.
In fact, I approach this subject only at a time when all fears seem dissipated and it appears certain that nothing in the nature of cholera now threatens us.
But, after all, it is always best to expect anything, were it only to avoid a repetition of the sad spectacle of last year. Then, when the first cases of cholera were identified in the good, but too impressionable, city of Paris, there was a general infatuation. Never had it been so absurdly seized with fear. Now, Fear is the prime minister of King Pest, and often kills those whom he would have spared.
Still, the Parisians, the true Parisians, preserved some degree of coolness, and kept, for the most part, good countenance enough. But the provincials and the foreigners took to their heels and fled. Some must be running yet. In a twinkling the hotels were empty. The first announcement of the epidemic had, upon all the “furnished apartments” of the capital, the effect of a colossal air-pump. It was lamentable and piteous.
And yet, if ever Cholera was benign, if ever King Pest showed himself a good prince, it was in 1884. An epidemic cholera destroying very few more victims than sporadic cholera, of which there are cases every year.
I shall be told in reply that the benignity of cholera is always relative; that it depends on the point of view which one occupies; that its effect is always one of quantity, never one of quality. To those whom the disease kills it matters little whether they are thinly-scattered or numerous; they are none the less slain. Whether I go into the ground all alone or in plenty of company, the result, as far as I am concerned, is identical.
I do not dispute it. But that does not alter the fact that the gravity of an epidemic is to be judged by the number of its victims. From this point of view, the only just one, how can it be denied that the cholera of 1884 was a small matter? There were but a few cases in all. I say mortal, but the mortal cases are the only cases. The cholera that can be cured, the cholera that does not kill, is not cholera: it is colic.
Unfortunately, fear does not reason. If it reasoned, it would be fear no longer; it would cease to be a fault, would become a virtue, and would be called prudence.
And yet, when cholera prevails, there are many reassuring considerations which should not be lost sight of.
For instance, when one reflects upon it, how many people do we not have to deduct from the number of victims, although they pass from life to death? They die, it is true, but theirs are not deaths to be seriously considered. In the first place, there are imprudent, those who scorn the most elementary precautions, ignore the simplest hygienic prescriptions, and choose precisely the dangerous moment, when one should be chaste and sober, to rush into all sorts of excesses. The death of these, if we examine the matter closely, is suicide, and does not count.
No more have we to count the used-up, finished men, who have reached the natural term of their existence and seize the first opportunity to drop off. These die of cholera, as they would die of typhoid fever or of small pox, if small pox or typhoid fever were raging. It is very evident that, if you die of cholera at the age of ninety-nine, it is not to cholera alone that your decease is to be attributed: it is also and principally to your ninety-nine years.
Finally, there are those who are supposed to have died of cholera who may have succumbed to very different causes. Not to irritate the learned doctors, we will suppose that their number is small; but certainly there are such cases. Is it not admissible, for instance, that, if a millionaire should die of cholera, the microbe should be accepted as his murderer only under all possible reservations?
If the indelicate but straitened heirs of some rich relative desired to administer a mixture to hasten their succession, could they choose for the accomplishment of this reprehensible project a more propitious moment than a cholera season? Cholera, like poison, may kill suddenly; one may be struck dead without awakening suspicion. Note, further, that, in a time of epidemic, they get rid of the dead with a rapidity which leaves no room for an inquest.
Nevertheless, so far as this last class of false victims of cholera is concerned, I confess that it is somewhat hypothetical, chimerical, and fallacious.
In fact, it is not the millionaires, as a general thing, that epidemics use badly. It is in the wretched localities — as might have been seen only last year — that cholera pushes its ravages; it is in the homes of the poor that King Pest sets up his funeral court.
The prophylactics of cholera is not only in the domain of medicine and hygiene; it is also in the domain of political and social economy. Misery engenders all leprosies, all pests,— those of the body as well as those of the soul. It creates ignorance, vice, debauchery; it unchains epidemics. To combat misery, to work for its extinction, would be then, in reality, to work for the suppression of epidemics, of the pest, and of cholera.
Alas! when the cholera was raging here last year, they talked a great deal, amid the general excitement, of measures to be taken in the future to prevent return of the scourge, I do not know that, so far, the people whom this matter concerns have taken many precautions of any sort.
Above all, I do not see what has been done within a year to ameliorate the condition of the unfortunate, what reforms have been voted, what sanitary improvements attempted. How many more scourges and catastrophes will be needed to determine us to seek a practical solution of this terrible problem of Misery, in which all of them are enclosed? Yes, Misery is the box of Pandora; in it all the evils are confined; they are continually escaping from it, the key that locks the cursed box is lost, and no one takes the trouble to hunt for it or to forge a new one.