Lord I send us weeks of Sunılays,

A saint's day every day,
Shirts gratis, ditto breeches,

No work and double pay.
Tell Short and Long they're both short now,

To Slow and Fast one meed allow,
Let Louis Blanc take Ashley's cow,

And Richmond give her hay.

The free competition pundits cannot discern the difference between a base and suicidal selfishness, little worse than that sanctioned by their own theory, and the divine law of Humanity linked with that of Justice, in our legislation. The blindness which confounds landlord protection and ten-hour-bills, and condemns them both together, has likewise, with perfect consistency, put its veto on every other social amelioration.

You propose to educate the people. Facts are collected to show that what is not expended in Schoolmasters, must be in Judges and in Gaols. The children on the common, and the animals which crop it, are left under like influences ! You propose to remedy this evil, to give culture to these outcasts, and prevent them from becoming the future scourges of society. And the reply? It is not the business of Government-let private interests take care of themselves !

Or perhaps you pass a factory-whence the mothers and wives of the next generation are issuing forth. One can scarcely think that harsh voice, those coarse manners, belong to one by nature soft and gentle. She has become unfitted for lier future high office; the Factory has done its work. You would interfere. Alas! you have yet to learn the new gospel of do-nothing-ism— Let private interests take care of themselves.'

Half our population is destroyed by disease before they reach a third of man's allotted term. Selfish ignorance breeds fever in our streets and pestilence in our homes. It builds whole towns in so small a place that the winds of heaven cannot enter. It extracts rent from every inch of soil—from door, window, and chimney. Every proposal to hold the creators of these and similar evils responsible, is met by the cry: Let private interests take care of themselves. Well may Carlyle ask


“When shall we have done with all this of British Liberty, Voluntary-Principle, Dangers of Centralization, and the like? It is really getting too bad. For British Liberty, it seems, the people cannot be taught to read. British Liberty, shud. dering to interfere with the rights of capital, takes six or eight millions of money annually to feed the idle laborer whom it dare not employ. For British Liberty we live over poisonous cesspools, gully-drains, and detestable abominations, and omnipotent London cannot sweep the dirt out of itself. British Liberty produces what ? Floods of Hansard Debates every year, and apparently little else at present. If these are the result of British Liberty, I for one, move we should lay it on the shelf a little, and look ont for something other and farther. We have achieved British Liberty hundreds of years ago ; and are fast growing, on the str. ngth of it, one of the most absurd populations the Sun, among his great Museum of Absurdities, looks down upon at present.”

Certainly, when the populations around me excrcise an overwhelming


effect upon my own destiny, -I have the deepest interest that they should be virtuous and intelligent beings rather than moral pestilences. To the will of the short-sighted selfish Few, should be opposed that of the Many embodied in the shape of law. Moreover, design is preferable to chance, system to disorder, strength to weakness; and rightful Government, or a wise State, implies all this.

The question then arises, What is government, or the state? We might simply define it, Society organized. Under the use of the term Voluntary,' more properly designated 'Let-aloneism,' it is covertly assumed, that state interference is antagonistic to liberty. We admit it, if government have an origin distinct from the people and superior to them, administering its functions by a divine right, or any right other than the Will of those for whose benefit it exists. But Government arising out of common consent, founded in the wants of the people and terminating at their will, executes no laws but such as are voluntary. When Government represents Society, its acts are social, and therefore in perfeet accordance with all legitimate liberty. Simply considered, Government is nothing more than the Committee of a large Benefit Society, whereof each member sacrifices a small portion of his labor, or his liberty, in return for a greater advantage. Lord Brougham justly observes :-"All government is made for the benefit of the community: the people have a right, not only to be governed, but to be well governed; and not only to be well governed, but to be governed as well as possible; that is, with as little expense to their natural freedom and their resources as is consistent with the nature of human affairs.”—Each particular case of interference must be tried by its own merits, it being impossible, from the continual changes in the wants of Society, to define the duties of government à priori.

The goodness of the Governing, obviously depends on the goodness of the Committee. How then shall a good committee be got at? There are two ways, and but two, in which this can be done. Either the Governors must elect themselves, or they must be elected by the people. Either their title to power, to the guidance of the governed, is a self-assumed one, like that of the ancient barons to their lands, or that of the pious New England puritans, who, nem. con., voted themselves the elect,' with all the privileges thereunto belonging ;-or it is one dependent on the suffrage of others ? One of these systems has Antiquity, the other Justice and Common-sense, in its favor. Some people fear the newer system will not work,—that the ‘ship will not double Cape Horn by its excellent plans of voting.'

[ocr errors]

“Unanimity on board ship; yes indeed, the ships crew, may be very unanimous, which doubtless, for the time being, will be very comfortable to the ship’s crew, and to their Phantasm Captain, if they have one; but if the tack they unanimously steer upon is guiding them into the belly of the Abyss, it will not profit them much ! Ships accordingly, do not use the ballot-box at all.” a

If we remember rightly, however, the ancient system, that had no ‘able-editors'

* Latter-day Pamphlets; by Thomas Carlyle. No. I.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

or ' ballot boxes,' and only counted heads as the farmer counts his sheep, to find out the amount of fleece, never proved itself so very expert in doubling Cape Horn,' or so very successful in avoiding the 'admonitions of Ice-bergs,' that one should mourn for its restoration. Brief as ballot-box Government has been, it will bear comparison with any Iron-handed Despotism to which Mr. Carlyle’s Philosophy would again conduct us. Moreover, should Ballot-box government even fail to double Cape IIorn, it must even try again. Every jolt is a lesson, and nations, like individuals, have also to go thrö the school of adversity. The instinct of the ship's crew will teach them to find, in times of danger at least, the ablest captain. But if not so, what then? Liberty is quite as great a necessity of men as guidance, and better sink to the bottom of the Abyss with Phantasm captains of ones own choice, than round the cape with some arrogant self-elected despot. As a rule (which no man has better taught than this writer), Truth and the Right are stronger than Falsehood and Wrong—because a God, and not a Demon, presides over human affairs—and will as effectually vindicate themselves as do the laws of light and gravitation. To err, not to see the right and true, and to suffer in consequence, are conditions of States as of individuals, and seem to be as necessary to social development, as the stumbling of the child is needful to its learning to walk, and one stage of its progress. By failure and by suffering men learn the consequences of folly and wickedness, and it is the part of the Historian and Political Philosopher to teach Society what the conditions and laws of the Common Weal really are. The greater the number of men in the state who ponder such teachings, the safer, and the better, any nation must be. Happier far that society, each member of which 'knows his rights, and knowing dare maintain,' than a society 'caring for none of these things,' even tho governed by the pupils of a Xenophon or a Fenelon.

For the same reason much of the outcry about ‘rights,' liberties,' and the like, appears unmeaning, if not hypocritical. Far wiser would it be to tell men of their Mights than their Rights, provided we included in the term, not merely their material resources, but also their spiritual ones. Nations have ever as much liberty as they deserve, and the government is as good as the People. Government, in the main, virtually represents their virtue, their vices, their strength, their weakness. In this country monarchy tricks itself in 'barbaric splendor,' because, notwithstanding all the affected liberalism of the day, there is little of that stern republican sentiment which would frown such foppery out of existence. Aristocracy sends its game to eat up the farmer's produce, and takes the owner to the pollingbooth like a lamb to the slaughter, yet the farmer 'doff's bis hat' in the great man's presence. Chartism grows hysterical because its vote is not counted, but chartism will scarcely yet give up its gin and its pipe to buy the votes of an universe.

'It is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.' That Government is daily becoming more and more the instrument of Society, is simply owing to the fact that society is becoming more and more fit to govern. Indubitably, a people among whom annually circulate one hundred millions of newspapers, with a proportionate number of books, not to enumerate magazines,





tracts, and 'Latter-day' pamphlets, are not exactly in a position to be governed by the old methods. Thrö the agency of the press and the platform, hundreds of thousands of the people of this country are also learning a little of the purpose and nature of Government. Henceforth the steward must be prepared to render an account of his stewardship, to those whose servant he is.

That each man in a nation, or at least the majority of men in a nation, should understand the nature and effects of social regulations, seems to be an essential condition of all true and permanent social progress. Practically, in this as in all other matters, the truth vindicates itself. Most admirable constitutions, and cut and dried symmetrical organizations, have been projected for the benefit of ungrateful society, but they perished because they found no responses in the wants and aspirations of man, and were therefore unsuited to him.

The only effectual mode of arriving at social organization, is by the dissemination of Ideas. These given, the adequate social organization to represent them shall follow as naturally as the bud follows the flowing of the sap. Form a social organization for any, the simplest object, without these, and you have a cardcastle which a touch will ruin. We can imagine a benevolent despot, à la Carlyle, attempting to reform a good many things, eye-sores to the reflecting intellect and outrages on our sentiment of Justice and Humanity,—nay the gullies, cesspools, and drains purified, the unemployed poor respectively 'warned, whipt, or shot’into discipline, and many of those tasks actually achieved which are at present reserved for the coming man.' But unless these reforms have a broad basis in the public sentiment, there is little or no possibility of their being effected, and not the slightest of their permanence. The influence removed which gave them birth, and straightway society relapses into its previous condition. With an unenlightened, unconvinced public opinion, your despot must have the omniscience and the omnipotence of a God, with much of his duration, to get the cesspools cleansed, the paupers regimented, and the other ends of good government realized.

To improvise a state of Society surpassing the visions of a Fourier or a Cabet, is not a very difficult matter. Man, however, is not made of such plastic material as theorists assume. His individuality must be respected, his free-will held sacred. An organization in which the organized do not co-operate, is not good government—it is slavery. The end of all government, the object of every social organization, is, or ought to be-the progressive development and unfolding of each man. To impose laws against the general sense of the community, even with this high object, would be to sacrifice the end in the means.

For our part, we respect the old method of preaching and teaching. What approach has yet been made to the desired results have beeu mainly achieved by that despised person, the 'Stump Orator.' Lecturer, Newspaper, and Magazine, have during the past few years been everywhere denouncing filth, until, by dint of their iteration, John Bull has come at last to believe that there is such a thing, and that it behoves him to be rid of it. To the evils arising from this agent, is no longer turned the light of a solitary intellect; the understandings of millions are now directed towards them. The ‘Stump Orator' has educated the popular sentiment on the subject, and has


more effectually removed the evil than could the will of any Napoleon, for this mode secures the co-operation of the people in the removal of the filth, which no mere despotic law could possibly effect. The actual progress of Reform is perhaps not so rapid as if dependent on the will of a single individual, but the advantages gained are free from the danger of being reversed by the next Sable man' at the head of affairs. The principles in which they are founded have sunk deep into the public sentiment, and they now stand identified with the nation itself.

Assuming that the majority elect those who make and execute the laws, and not merely a majority, but as large a majority as possible, the objection that state interference is an infringement of liberty,' falls to the ground. The acts of him who is appointed by me, and responsible to me as my agent, are my acts. In carrying out any act of interference, the legislator is reasonably presumed to express the wishes of those who appoint him, and for them his acts cannot be construed as tyranny. To desire that a law felt by the majority to be conducive to their well-being, should be foregone for the sake of the minority, would be indeed a tyranny. Even in what are called voluntary associations, the majority govern. All that the minority can reasonably claim is the freest discussion, and, as the last resort, the liberty of retiring.

Each particular case of interference on the part of the state must be tried on its own merits. The wants of Society at one period, afford no guidance as to its wants at another. Society must determine for itself what shall be legally right and expedient. To do this, in accordance with the real facts and interests of the case, is the business of the wise and good. Whether votes and ballot-boxes find such men, or not, it will remain the only way till a better be pointed out. In the mean time, the majority must govern. There was sense in the madness of kim who said that the world was mad while he was sane, but that the world was stronger. It may be legally right to compel the quaker to subscribe to a wartax, or a church rate, and morally right, even heroic, in him to resist it. Let the recusant persevere, if he have truth and right on his side, he will triumph, for, in the long run, the hearts and interests of men will be found with him. On the other hand, the state must have the power of Compulsion, otherwise a fool or a knave might, under any pretext, frustrate the most beneficent social purposes.

An occasional injustice on the part of the ruler is less to be feared than private injustice. The crime of the legislator is seen by all, and if he value not men's love, he will fear their hate. The private oppressor can inflict a deeper injury, and more easily escape detection. The advocates of Let-alone-ism are inconsistent in delegating even the functions of administering Justice to the state. There is scarcely a single argument used against a more comprehensive state-interfence which is not equally valid against this extent of it. Has man no property besides house, land, and chattels ? Or, to adopt our opponents style of reasoning, Why not let every man take up his own thief ? Against such aggression men have weapons, and also ? Chubb's patent.' But what weapon shall defend the ignorant, the poor, the young,-in a word, the weak,--against the overreaching, or

b It has been wisely suggested to have a system of double election which should enable the minority to be represented in proportion to their numbers.

« VorigeDoorgaan »