"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."
JOHN HAY.
"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.

6/9/17

The Redemption of Money.

If we can fully determine what redemption is, we shall accomplish a great work for human progress. A promise to pay, written on paper, is generally considered redeemed when it is exchanged for coin. This is not always true. If I take a banknote promising to pay one dollar, so far as I am concerned, the note is redeemed; but, if the note is yet outstanding against the bank, it is not redeemed.

If A gives B a note promising to pay one dollar, and B passes that note to C, and C returns it to A, just so soon as A receives it at its full face value, that note is fully redeemed. The great difficulty, in connection with the redemption of paper money, consists of this,— that the promise to pay implies a promise to pay coin; whereas, by right, it should be considered a promise to pay value equal to gold, or silver, whichever may be taken as the standard of value.

In commerce scarcely anybody wants gold, but everybody wants value equal to gold.

If a gold dollar will buy ten yards of cotton cloth, and a bushel of wheat will buy a gold dollar, can there be any difficulty in exchanging wheat for cotton cloth?

Let us remember that, although an absolute standard of value is impossible, a comparative standard is indispensable. We want something of value by which to compare, count, and exchange all other valuable things.

How much fog, mud, and moonshine has been waded through by the would-be teachers of political economy, just because the above truth has not been clearly seen!

Primitive people, as a rule, believe the false and do the wrong. And even when the true thing has been discovered, they are almost sure to start for it in the wrong direction. This is eminently true in regard to money.

Let me repeat,— everybody wants value. Now, if A, B, and C can exchange their goods on the base of a gold valuation, what is the necessity of the gold itself?

Gold always has a marketable value, which is well known. Now, let business men make their exchanges on the value of gold, and not on the gold itself. Then they can use their own credit as money, and redeem their promises to pay by receiving them, and thus, by mutually acting together, they can be independent of the money-lender. For, be it understood that borrowing money, as a good business transaction, is but an exchange of credits. Will the people ever get over the stupid and barbarous notion that money is something of itself?

Our paper money atthe present time (November, 1881) is at par with gold because the government receives it. If A owes B $1,000 and C holds all the gold, how can A pay his debt? Is A has made the promise to pay the gold itself, he must go to C and hive him a bonus for the gold. That is the nature of usury, or interest. But if A, being solvent, has promised to pay B $1,000 in value equal to gold, the debt can be easily cancelled.

What a monstrous barbarism is the arbitrary limitation of money!

And yet money must be limited, to be good money, until people shall find a way to redeem their notes, other than by swapping them for coin.

Apex.

Capital: What It Is and What It Is Not.

Dear Mr. Tucker,— Your comments on my letter in a recent issue call for some response, as it is clear you have not yet got full possesion of the idea you characterise as “unmitigated bosh based on pure chimera.”

Let us pass over the first four and the seventh of your points, for a while, and consider the fifth and the sixth.

You say: “We quite agree with Mr. Smart that ‘accumulated thought and experience are capital,’ but we utterly fail to see why ’things that perish almost as fast as they are produced are not capital!’”

I am glad you admit that “accumulated thought and experience are capital.” You admit, then, that capital is not necessarily material. And you will admit, consequently, that thought and experience (knowledge) — being capital, and being productive — are a force; that, when combined with the simple action of brain and muscle (a purely natural force), they aid the latter, labor, in production. Good!

Now, let us suppose an untutored savage in the wilds of Africa or Australia, who knows just enough to break off a cudgel in the forest to defend himself with or to knock down an animal for food; suppose him carried into civilised lift and taught some useful art by which he can supply himself with previously undreamed-of comforts,— all his capacities developed. From being merely a natural element or organism, possessing dormant or undeveloped capacities and wants, he has now, combined with these, capital, and has become a civilized Man.

Thus far you will agree with me.

Now, let us suppose a piece of uncultivated land in the midst of a jungle, remote from civilization, possessing all kinds of capacity for animal, vegetable, and mineral production, but yielding nothing valuable; suppose a railroad taken in there, axes, ploughs,— in short, all the appliances of civilization. The land will be cleared and fenced and cultivated, and will soon be smiling with abundant crops. From being merely a natural element or organism, possessing dormant or undeveloped capacities and wants, it has now, combined with these, capital, and has become a civilized piece of land,— a farm, or a mine, or a garden.

Now, what difference is there between the two cases? In the one case we have a human savage converted into a civilized man; in the other a land savage converted into a civilized farm.

If the culture invested in the Man is capital, as you admit, why is not the culture invested in Land capital in just the same sense?

And is it not just as proper — or rather, just as improper — to call the material organism, Man, capital, as it is to call the material organism, Land, capital? or any other natural elementary substance, such as wood, stone, coal, or iron; or any animal creature?

Do you not see my meaning? That the productive property or potentiality possessed by any material substance — animate or inanimate — is invested in it, precisely as it is invested in a man’s brain, and is of precisely the same kind. It is capital in the only correct sense of the word; it is stored-up labor in a higher sense than that of the political economists; and neither the man himself, nor the creatures he has civilized, nor the land or things he has civilized are capital.

Have I made this point clear?

As my letter is already long enough for your space, and as I do not wish to confuse this primary question with the other questions included in our discussion, I will leave them for the present.

We are discussing a vital principle,— the corner-stone of Socialism.

W. G. H. Smart.


[Nothing but the above letter was needed to clinch our statement that Mr. Smart’s socialism is an incoherent structure. We print it because we do not wish to be in the least unfair, but we really have not the patience to follow the writer in his absurd hypotheses and indiscriminate analogies. For instance, his statement that “the productive property or potentiality possessed by any material substance” alone is capital, when he has previously supposed no capital to be contained in “a piece of uncultivated land possessing all kinds of capacity for animal, vegetable, and mineral production;” or, his identification of “productive property or potentiality with “stored-up labor,” as if there was no such thing an a natural productive force independent of labor; or, his confusion of man with capital, as if the word capital had not been set apart, in contradistinction to labor, to denote all productive forces and aids to productive forces outside of the laborer, man, and for the express purpose of affording a convenient terminology to be used in discussing the relation of man to wealth; or, finally, his starting out to explain to us why “things that perish almost as fast as they are produced are not capital,” and then making it the conclusion of his letter that capital is stored-up labor and that “neither man himself, nor the creatures he has civilised, nor the land or things he has civilized are capital.” Upon which Mr. Smart asks us if we see his meaning. Well, we frankly confess that we do not, unless he means that men and animals and land are “things that perish almost as fast as they are produced.” But it is useless to ask you, Mr. Smart, what you mean. You probably think that you mean a great deal, but as a matter of fact you do not mean anything at all. You have not the faintest idea of the nature of capital. The A B C of political economy is unfamiliar to you. You have long been an earnest student of the industrial question; you have thoroughly acquainted yourself with many important phases of it; you are constantly saying many good and true and useful things about it; but you have never yet planted yourself upon an intelligible basis, and that is why nobody can ever understand Mr. Smart. — Editor Liberty.]

Apex or Basis?

“Apex” says that it is a barbarism to pay interest on money. That is another way of saying that a state of society in which wealth is not universalized is barbarous, since, in our present stage of evolution, those who have no capital of their own will be glad to borrow from those who have, and to pay interest for the use of the capital.

For it is really capital that is borrowed, and not money, the latter being only the means for obtaining the former, as money would be worthless if it could not be exchanged for the capital needed. We see already that as the loanable capital of a country increases the rate of interest diminishes, and when the accumulated wealth of the world becomes large enough, no one will pay interest.

But to denounce the payment of interest to-day, and (if it could be done) to forbid the man of ability, but lacking means, borrowing the capital he needs, or, in other words, using his credit, would not tend to universalize wealth and so destroy usury; but, on the other hand, it would discourage the production and accumulation of capital, since one of the principal incentives to that production is the use of capital to increase production and add to one’s wealth. It is onvious that, unless the use of capital added to the productiveness of labor, no one would wish to borrow, and no usury could be had. It should not be forgotten, in considering this question, that, in the last analysis, reducing things to their simplest, individualized form, the possessor of capital has acquired it by a willingness to work harder than his fellows and to sacrifice his love of spending all he produces that he may have the aid of capital to increase his power of production. For example, two men work side by side; one consumes all he produces, the other saves part of his product; in time the latter has saved enough to enable him to build or buy a tool, by the aid of which he accomplishes four times as much work as before, and is able to go on adding to his accumulation. The one who has not saved, seeing the advantage of the use of capital, naturally desires to obtain the same benefit for himself, but, not liking to save and wait until he can create capital, he proposes to borrow a portion of the capital of the other. By means of this borrowed capital he can quadruple his product, and is very willing to give a part of his increased product to the neighbor who has befriended him. Would he not be a mean sneak if be were not glad to do so? By the use of the borrowed capital he is not only enabled to pay for the advantage gained, but, by his greater power to produce, he can, in a short time, buy his own tools and no longer be forced to borrow.

Although our present system of business is vastly complicated, and we sometimes seem to borrow money merely, the actual transaction being kept out of sight, yet the case supposed is the real basis of all just payment of interest. I believe there will be a state of society in which money will not be necessary, but that state cannot be built up by commencing at the top. We must build from the foundation, understanding things as they are as well as knowing how they ought to be.

The question is asked,— and it is a very important one, and, simple as it is at bottom, a complex one as it stands,— what is money? It would simplify this matter very much if all would agree to call coin, or money having value as merchandise, money, and paper or representative money, currency, or notes. It is plain that the representative money is that which must be and is principally used in this country and in all commercial countries. Coin money derives its real value in exchange, and as a measure for ths exchangeable value of other products, from the fact that it costs labor to produce it, and, although government laws may foolishly try to make it pass for more than its cost value, they never succeed in doing so. No government ever has succeeded in over-riding natural law, though they may and often do obstruct the operations of Nature’s laws to the great detriment of Nature’s children.

The simplest form of representative money, or currency, is furnished by Josiah Warren’s labor note, which was substantially as follows (I quote from memory):
For value received, I promise to pay bearer, on demand, one hour’s labor, or ten pounds of corn.
Modern Times, July 4,1852.
So long as it was believed by his neighbors that the maker of such notes always had the corn on hand with which to redeem them (since their redemption in labor would rarery be practicable or desirable), they would pass current in that locality; and, in fact, such “labor notes” did pass to a limited extent at Modern Times. Interesting as that experiment was, and showing clearly as it does the principle at the basis of all good currency, it could not be extended so as to satisfy the needs of a great commercial country, or, safely, of a large neighborhood.

But a currency, to be good, must possess precisely the qualifications and qualities of that labor note, with the addition of a guaranty, universally recognisable, that the notes actually do represent solid wealth with which they will be redeemed on demand. Now, there is one thing, and only one, that government can rightfully or usefully do in the way of interference with the currency, the ebb and flow of which is governed by natural laws altogether out of the reach of state or national governments; and that is to issue all the notes used for currency on such terms that it shall be universally known truly to represent actual, movable capital (not land, which is not property in the true sense, and which cannot be carried off by any one wishing a note redeemed), pledged for its redumption. There should be no monopoly, but any and every person complying with the terms should be furnished with the national note. Of course no one who had not the requisite capital could procure these notes, and rightly so because notes made by those who have no capital would swindle the people. And, as our government has no property or capital except the necessary tools for carrying on the affairs of the nation, and as government should have no debts and no gold and silver accumulated, it is obvious that it cannot properly make a good note beyond the amount which could be redeemed in payment of taxes. And, as taxes ought to be diminished and ultimately abolished, there is no valid basis for a government note to be used as currency. Neither will Mutual Banks answer any good purpose, if the notes are based on land.

Basis.


The remarks that follow are not intended to debar “Apex” from answering his opponent in these columns in his own time and way, but simply to combat, from Liberty’s standpoint, such of the positions taken by “Basis” as seem to need refutation.

The first error into which “Basis” falls is his identification of money with capital. Representative money is not capital; it is only a title to capital. He who borrows a paper dollar from another simply borrows a title, and not at all that to which it is a title. Consequently he takes from the lender nothing which the lender wishes to use; unless, indeed, the lender desires to purchase capital with his dollar, in which case he will not lend it, or, if he does, will charge for the sacrifice of his opportunity,— a very different thing from usury, which is payment, not for the lender’s sacrifice, but for the borrower’s use; that is, not for a burden borne, but for a benefit conferred. Neither does the borrower of the dollar take from the person of whom he purchases capital with it anything which that person desires to use; for, in ordinary commerce, the seller is either a manufacturer or a dealer, who produces or buys his stock for no other purpose than to sell it. And thence this dollar goes on transferring products for which the holders thereof have no use, until it reaches its issuer and final redeemer and is cancelled, depriving, in the course of its journey, no person of any opportunity, but, on the contrary, serving the needs of all through whose hands it passes. Henco, borrowing a title to capital is a very different thing from borrowing capital itself. But under the system of organized credit contemplated by “Apex,” no capable and deserving person would borrow even a title to capital. The so-called borrower would simply so change the face of his own title as to make it recognizable by the world at large, and at no other expense than the mere cost of the alteration. That is to say, the man, having capital or good credit, who, under the system advocated by “Apex,” should go to a credit-shop — in other words, a bank — and procure a certain amount of its notes by the ordinary processes of mortgaging property or getting endorsed commercial paper discounted, would only exchange his own personal credit — known only to his immediate friends and neighbors and the bank, and therefore useless in transactions with any other parties — for the bank’s credit, known, and receivable for products delivered, throughout the state, or the nation, or, perhaps, the world. And for this convenience the bank would charge him only the labor-cost of its service in effecting the exchange of credits, instead of the ruinous rates of discount, by which, under the present system of monopoly, privileged banks tax the producers of unprivileged property out of house and home. So that “Apex” really would have no borrowing at all, except in certain individual cases not worth considering; and therefore, when “Basis,” answering “Apex,” says that “it is really capital that is borrowed, and not money,” he makes a remark for which there is no audible call.

The second error committed by “Basis” he commits in common with the economists in assuming that an increase of capital decreases the rate of interest and that nothing else can materially decrease it. The facts are just the contrary. The rate of interest may, and often does, decrease, when the amount of capital has not increased; the amount of capital may increase without decreasing the rate of interest, which may, in fact, increase at the same time; and, so far from the universalization of wealth being the sole means of abolishing interest, the abolition of interest is the sinc qua non of the universalization of wealth.

Suppose, for instance, that the banking business of a nation is conducted by a system of banks chartered and regulated by the government, those banks issuing paper money based on specie, dollar for dollar. If, now, a certain number of these banks, by combining to buy up the national legislature, should secure the exclusive privilege of issuing two paper dollars for each specie dollar in their vaults, could they not afford to, and would they not in fact, materially reduce their rate of discount? Would not tho competing banks be forced to reduce their rate in consequence? And would not this reduction lower the rate of interest throughout the nation? Undoubtedly; and yet the amount of capital in the country remains the same as before.

Suppose, further, that during the following year, in consequence of the stimulus given to business and production by this decrease in the rate of interest and also because of unusually favorable natural conditions, a great increase of wealth occurs. If, then, the banks of the nation, holding from the government a monopoly of the power to issue money, should combine to contract the volume of the currency, could they not, and would they not, raise the rate of interest thereby? Undoubtedly; and yet the amount of capital in the country is greater than it ever was before.

But suppose, on the other hand, that all these banks, chartered and regulated by the government and issuing money dollar for dollar, had finally been allowed to issue paper beyond their capital based on the credit and guaranteed capital of their customers; that their circulation, thus doubly secured, had become so popular that people preferred to pay their debts in coin, instead of bank-notes, thus causing coin to flow into the vaults of the banks and add to their reserve; that this addition had enabled them to add further to their circulation, until, by a continuation of the process, it at last amounted to eight times their original capital; that by levying a high rate of interest on this they had bled the people nigh unto death; thus then the government had stepped in and said to the banks: “When you began, you received an annual interest of six per cent., on your capital; you now roceive nearly that rate on a circulation eight times your capital based really on the people’s credit; therefore at one-eighth of the original rate your annual profit would be as great as formerly; henceforth your rate of discount must not exceed three-fourths of one per cent..” Had all this happened (and with the exception of the last condition of the hypothesis similar cases have frequently happened), what would have been the result? Proudhon shall answer for us. In the eighth letter of his immortal discussion with Bastiat on the question of interest he exhausts the whole subject of the relation of interest to capital; and “Basis” cannot do better than read the whole of it. A brief extract, however, must suffice here. He is speaking of the Bank of France, which at that time (1849) was actually in almost the same situation as that described above. Supposing, as we have just done after him, a reduction of the rate of discount to three-fourths of one per cent., he than asks, as we do, what the result would be. These are his words in answer to Bastiat, the “Basis” of that discussion:
The fortune and destiny of the country are to-day in the hands of the Bank of France. If it would relieve industry and commerce by a decrease of its rate of discount proportional to the increase of its reserve; in other words, if it would reduce the price of its credit to three-fourths of one per cent., which it must do in order to quit stealing,— this reduction would instantly produce, throughout the Republic and all Europe, incalculable results. They could not be enumerated in a volume: I will confine myself to the indication of a few.
If, then, the credit of the Bank of France should be loaned at three-fourths of one per cent., ordinary bankers, notaries, capitalists, and even the stockholders of the bank itself would be immediately compelled by competition to reduce their interest, discount, and dividends, to at least one per cent., including incidental expenses and brokerage. What harm, think you, would this reduction do to borrowers on personal credit, or to commerce and industry, who are forced to pay by reason of this fact alone, an annual tax of at least two thousand millions?
If financial circulation could be effected at a rate of discount representing only the cost of administration, drafting, registration, etc., the interest charged on purchases and sales on credit would fall in its turn from six per cent., to zero,— that is to say, business would then be transacted on a cash basis; there would be no more debts. Again, to how great a degree, think you, would that diminish the shameful number of suspencions, failures, and bankruptcies?
But, as in society net product is undistinguishable from raw product, so in the light of the sum total of economic facts capital is undistinguihable from product. These two terms do not, in reality, stand for two distinct things; they designate relations only. Product is capital; capital is product: there is a difference between them only in private economy; none whatever in public economy. If, then, interest, after having fallen in the case of money to three-fourths of one per cent.,— that is, to zero, inasmuch as three-fourths of one per cent. represents only the service of the bank,— should fall to zero in the case of merchandise also, by analogy of principles and facts it would soon all to zero in the case of real estate: rent would disappear — becoming one with liquidation. Do you think, sir, that that would prevent people from living in houses and cultivating land?
If, thanks to this radical reform in the machinery of circulation, labor was compelled to pay to capital only as much interest as would be a just reward for the service rendered by the capitalist, specie and real estate being deprived of their reproductive properties and valued only as products,— as things that can be consumed and replaced,— the favor with which specie and capital are now locked upon would be wholly transferred to products; each individual, instead of restricting his consumption, would strive only to increase it. Whereas, at present, thanks to the restriction laid upon consumable products by interest, the means of consumption are always very much limited, then, on the contrary, production would be insufficient: labor would then be secure in fact as well as in right.
The laboring class gaining at one stroke the five thousand millions, or thereabouts, now taken in the form of interest from the ten thousand millions which it produces, plus five thousand millions which this same interest deprives it of by destroying the demand for labor, plus five thousand millions which the parasites, cut off from a living, would then be compelled to produce, the national production would be doubled and the welfare of the laborer increased four-fold. And you, sir, whom the worship of interest does not prevent from lifting your thoughts to another world,— what say you to this improvement of affairs here below? Do you see now that it is not the multiplication of capital which decreases interest, but, on the contrary, that it is the decrease of interest which multiplies capital?

Now, this reduction of the rate of discount to the cost of the bank’s service, and the results therefrom as above described, are precisely what would happen if the whole business of banking should be thrown open to free competition. It behooves “Basis” to examine this argument well; for, unless he can find a fatal flaw in it, he must stand convicted, in saying that “when the accumulated wealth of the world be comes large enough, no one will pay interest,” of putting the cart before the horse.

“Basis” is in error a third time in assuming that “Apex” wishes to “forbid the man of ability, but lacking means, using his credit.” It is precisely because such men are now virtually prohibited from using their credit that “Apex,” and Liberty with him, complains. This singular misconception on the part of “Basis” indicates that he does not yet understand what he is fighting.

The fourth error for which “Basis” assumes responsibility is found in his statement that “in the last analysis the possessor of capital has acquired it by a willingness to work harder than his fellows and to sacrifice his love of spending all he produces that he may have the aid of capital to increase his power of production.” A man who thoroughly means to toll the truth here reiterates one of the most devilish of the many infernal lies for which the economists have to answer. It is indeed true that the possessor of capital may, in rare cases, have acquired it by the method stated, though even then he could not be excused for making the capital so acquired a leech upon his fellow-men. But ninety-nine times in a hundred the modern possessor of any large amount of capital has acquired it, not “by a willingness to work harder than his fellows,” but by a shrewdness in getting possession of a monopoly which makes it needless for him to do any real work at all; not “by a willingness to sacrifice his love of spending all he produces,” but by a cleverness in procuring from the government a privilege by which he is able to spend in wanton luxury half of what a large number of other men produce. The chief privilege to which we refer is that of selling the people’s credit for a price.

“Basis” is guilty of several other errors which we have not space to discuss at length. He supposes that to confine the term money to coin and to call all other money currency would simplify matters, when in reality it is the insistance upon this false distinction that is the prevailing cause of mystification. If the idea of the royalty of gold and silver could be once knocked out of the people’s heads, and they could once understand that no particular kind of merchandise is created by nature for monetary purposes, they would settle this question in a trice. Again, he seems to think that Josiah Warren based his notes on corn. Nothing of the kind. Warren simply took corn as his standard, but made labor and all its products his basis. His labor notes were rarely redeemed in corn. If he had made corn his exclusive basis, there would be no distinction in principle between him and the specie men. Perhaps the central point in his monetary theory was his denial of the idea that any one product of labor can properly be made the only basis of money. To quote him in this connection at all is the height of presumption on the part of “Basis.” A charge that his system, which recognized cost as the only ground of price, ever contemplated a promise to pay anything “for value received,” he would deem the climax of insult to his memory. “Basis,” in donning the garments of Josiah Warren to defend the specie fraud, has “stolon the livery of heaven to serve the devil in.” “Basis” is wrong, too, in thinking that land is not a good basis for currency. True, unimproved land, not having properly a market value, cannot properly give value to anything that represents it; but permanent improvements on land, which should have a market value and carry with them a title to possession, are an excellent basis for currency. It is not the raw material of any product that fits it for a basis, but the labor that has been expended in shaping the material. As for the immovability of land unfitting it for a basis, it has just the opposite effect. Here “Basis” is misled by the idea that currency can be redeemed only in that on which it is based.

But this fertile subject has taken us farther than we intended to follow it. So here, for the present, we will quit its company, meanwhile handing over “Basis” to the tender mercies of “Apex,” and heartily endorsing almost all that “Basis” says at the close of his article concerning the true duty of government, as long as it shall exist, regarding the currency.
Liberty has won praise from Sir Hubert. J. M. L. Babcock, the founder of “The New Age,” writes that he “rejoices greatly in Liberty,” which he describes as “a periodical in which the most radical thoughts are radically spoken.” These words fitly describe also the paper which Mr. Babcock conducted. The career of “The New Age” was short, but of such a character that its editor may look back to it with unmixed pride and satisfaction. It was one of the few papers that have ever lived that was not afraid of its subscribers. In many more respects it was a model journal, and, typographically and otherwise, we feel that we owe much to it. We grieved greatly at its death, and are glad of this opportunity to acknowledge that we profited greatly by its life.

Guiteau’s “Malice.”

When one man kills another, he is not a murderer, unless he kills him from some motive, which the law calls “malice.” And this malice must be such as a saneman can entertain, and such as is naturally sufficient to induce a sane man to commit a murder. The violent passions, impulses, or delusions of an insane man are not such “malice” as the law requires to convert a homicide into a murder.

Now, what sane malice — such malice as could reasonably be expected to induce a sane man to commit a murder — has Guiteau ever exhibited, towards Garfield, either at the time of the homicide, or before, or since? None at all, unless it be this: Corkhill shows, or attempts to show, that Guiteau was a persistent and disappointed officeseeker; and he wishes it to be inferred that he (Guiteau) was indignant at his disappointment; and that this indignation amounted to legal malice; to such malice as might reasonably be expected to induce a sane man to commit murder. His whole case hangs upon this fact.

But Guiteau had little or no occasion to be indignant at Garfield personally, on account of his disappointment. If he was indignant at any body, on this account, he evidently had much more reason to be indignant at Blaine, than at Garfield; for he evidently understood that Blaine, rather than Garfield, was the one who stood in the way of his success.

But admit that Guiteau acted from malice — from such malice as a persistent, disappointed, indignant, and sane officeseeker might reasonably be expected to entertain, and act upon — what is the inference? Why, that all persistent, disappointed, indignant, and sane officeseekers are dangerous persons; that they go about with murder in their hearts, and pistols in their pockets; and may reasonably be expected to commit murder.

This being the case, who can tell the number of dangerous persons there are abroad in the community? What census could enumerate them? it is frightful to think of their number. And they are of all grades, from those who aspire to the presidency, down to those who aspire only to the humblest offices in the nation, or the States.

We are far from defying that this class of persons are dangerous. On the contrary, we have no doubt that all officeseekers, the successful ones as well as the disappointed ones, are dangerous. In fact, we think the successful ones are by far the more dangerous. They kill men by the hundreds of thousands, when it is necessary to maintain their power. But we are now considering only the cases of the disappointed ones.

And here an important inquiry forces itself upon us, viz.: If all persistent, disappointed, indignant, and sane officeseekers are to be supposed capable of such legal malice as prompts men to commit murder, what shall we say of Blaine, and John Sherman, and Grant? They were publicly known to be persistent, disappointed, and indignant aspirants for the presidency, at the last election. And it is not likely that either of them has recovered, or ever will recover, from either his disappointment, or his indignation. They are, therefore, dangerous persons. Yet they are still at large; and who of us are safe from their malice?

But this is not all. The number of like characters — only of lower grades — is such that, on the principle laid down in Guiteau’s case, they constitute a great public danger; a danger everywhere present, and that no one can guard against. The only remedy would seem to be, to abolish the government itself, on the principle that “the public safety is the supreme law.” If, therefore, Guiteau shall be convicted, we shall expect to see the people rise en masse, and abolish the government, as their only means of saving themselves from the pistols of persistent, disappointed, indignant, and sane officeseekers.

And here we wish to protest against the examination of medical experts, as to Guiteau’s insanity. The question is not, what will an insane man do? but what will a sane man do? a sane officeseeker? a persistent, disappointed, indignant, but still sane, officeseeker? That is the question. What do the superintendents of lunatic asylums know about such a case that? They never had such a case on their hands. Or who do know any thing about it, except officeseekers themselves, and their intimates? They are evidently the only ones who can tell us what crimes a persistent, disappointed, indignant, and sane officeseeker is capable of. These, then, are the only ones whom the government should summon.

We think those political editors, who are so anxious to have Guiteau hanged, should be first put upon the stand, and be required to tell what they know about themselves, and their officeseeking associates. We wish, for example, that Horace Greeley were still alive, and capable of testifying. He was himself a lifelong, persistent, disappointed, and indignant officeseeker. Whether he was sane may be questioned. He was subject to violent paroxysms of rage and profanity. We should like to know whether he ever wished to kill any body, except Seward and Thurlow Weed.

Then there were Seward, and Chase, and Cass, and Webster, and Calhoun, and Clay, who were persistent, disappointed, and indignant officeseekers; seekers of the presidency. We wish they could be put upon the stand, and required to tell what they knew about officeseekers, high and low; and whether they themselves, in their disappointments, ever wished to kill anybody.

What revelations we might have, if all these political experts could be put upon the stand, and made to tell us all they knew about officeseekers!

But it is not necessary to call up these old and famous officeseekers. Let them rest, although they never suffered anybody else to rest. Without their oral testimony, we know enough of the nature of officeseekers, successful and unsuccessful, to know that, as such, they are all utterly dangerous, and thoroughly bad. We know that the successful ones will murder mankind by the wholesale, to maintain their power; and we know that the unsuccessful ones would do the same, if they could but get into power. But if, not getting into power, they feel indignant, and now and then kill a man, that is a small matter, compared with what they would have done, if they had been successful in their ambitions.

But whether these disappointed ones are sane or insane, it is time to have done with a system that breeds, in such numbers, these dangerous creatures.

Honoring a Great Law-Breaker.

On the evening of Friday, December 2, the twenty-second anniversary of the execution of old John Brown of Ossawattomie at Harper’s Ferry, a festival in honor of the hero’s memory was held at New York in the theatre of Turn Hall. A large audience, made up in part of ladies, was present, including also not a few colored people. The hall was prettily and appropriately decorated with flowers and mottoes. The meeting was held under the auspices of workingmen, and, as was eminently fit, the tributes of the evening to the martyr of oppressed black labor came from the lips of men now among the foremost in championing oppressed white labor,— the speakers being Hugh McGregor, Victor Drury, and John Swinton. The latter made the principal speech of the evening, and nothing could be more appropriate to Liberty’s columns than the following extract from the New York’ “Sun’s” report:


It were hard to tell in what way we should properly estimate the depth and the scope of the influence of this man John Brown upon our country’s history. We know that after ages of ascendancy for American slavery, he was the first man to enter its stronghold and smite it with the sword; and we know how quickly the sword that was struck from his hand brought destruction to American slavery. We know how slavery stood in safety before he delivered his blow; we know how it reeled to ruin under that blow. We know how the South was startled by Harper’s Ferry, and how the North. It was the challenge to battle, the first shot in the war.

It was a new policy that John Brown brought into play against American slavery,— the policy of meeting it upon its own terms and its own field, confronting with force a system based upon force, and establishing human rights by the weapons that upheld public wrongs. In place of the old way of acquiescing in slavery, or compromising with it, or arguing over it, or resisting its extension, he adopted the way of assailing it by the only means that gave any hope of destroying it. John Brown’s way was justified by the event — justified amid flame and smoke by Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of abolition. . . . . . . . .

I proclaim it here to-night ns my judgment that the man who goes highest in his estimate of the immediate, the far off, and the permanent efficacy of John Brown’s influence, is most nearly right.

Now, then, in this view of his life and work, and from this vantage of the years, I acclaim as Prophet, Hero, Martyr, and Victor, the man John Brown — prophet for half a century, hero for five years, martyr for a day, victor forever — victorious in Kansas with his rifle, victorious in Virginia on his scaffold, victor against slavery in the United States,— victor over the earth and through the ages — his name as a pillar of fire in the sky, guiding men to the Canaan which be himself saw not.

But hark! I hear the drool of Old Legality that John Brown was condemned and hanged under the authority of government and law. Ay, it is true. So we then hold that John Brown was guilty? Nay, nay, nay; but let our guilty system of government and law beware lest his condemnation be its doom.

What is this thing that arrogates to itself the title of law, the records of which are foul with wrong — the hands of which are red with the world’s best blood — the administrators of which were so perfectly described by Zephaniab, the Hebrew prophet, who said “The Judges are wolves, gnawing the bones” — which has supported every powerful culprit and every incorporate monstrosity — which poisoned Socrates, slew the Gracchi, strangled Savonarola, beheaded Vane, burned Servetus, hanged John Brown — ay, crucified the young Galilean himself — the devices of which are the scourge, the rack, the wheel, the stake, the gibbet, the cross, and every invention of torture?

Who are these beloved felons at law arrayed in white, for they are worthy, their names effulgent in the sky, burnishing the dull world? How many of the apostles and prophets of the ages have fallen victims to the fraud misnamed law? The world is to-day as busily engaged as ever it was in sacrificing them. Look at the scaffolds of Russia, the dungeons of Germany. But, my hearers, this will not last forever. As Samson in his death brought down the temple of Dagon, as John Brown in his death shivered the bulwarks of chattel slavery, so every martyr hastens the end of the system under which he is sacrificed.

Well, now, my hearers of to-night, though chattel slavery has been abolished from our country, we have yet other wrongful and destructive things established among us which, in their turn, shall be brought to the judgment of justice. Take notice, then, of a few of the features of John Brown’s revolutionary action:

1. John Brown acted under his own authority, or, as he himself said, “under the auspices of John Brown,” by the power of his own manhood, in behalf of right and man’s rights. He took the responsibility, seeking no sanction other than that of his own conscience. He did not refrain from action because he was weak, nor wait till the majority was on his side. “I acknowledge no master in human form,” said John Brown.

2. John Brown did not hesitate to confront the government and all its menaces. He stood by himself against all the established shows of the day — political, ecclesiastical, and pecuniary.

3. John Brown violated law and the laws.

4. John Brown believed in destroying wrongful institutions by the sword, when no other way was available.

5. John Brown believed in fighting for others, in giving his life for the freedom of slaves.

6. John Brown took no heed of self-interest, obloquy, petty prudence, or the condemnation and vengeance of the times.

7. John Brown put his whole soul in his work, and gave it all he had, his own life and his four sons, three of whom fell by his side.

8. Yet withal, John Brown was a practical and sensible man, the attestation of which are his work and his success.

If it be not for us of to-day to imitate John Brown’s action, well were it for us to possess the qualities of soul that underlay it.

Other times need other work and ways of other men. Man rises to each occasion. For every emergency, bountiful nature furnishes the man. . . . . . . . .

According to the song that swelled from our embattled hosts during the years of strife, John Brown was a body and a soul, which became a mouldering body and a marching soul. Behold John Brown in the body — erect, rugged and grim, battling for man and for freedom, closing his career on the gallows. Behold John Brown’s soul, luminous and august, compassionate and benignant, enriching us all by its radiance, raising us all by its puissance, and softening us all by its tender grace, of which he made such sublime display during the closing scenes of his life.

A monument to John Brown here in our city! Would that my fiat could raise it aloft! There is already a monument to John Brown at North Elba, where he is buried; there is, I believe, another at Ossawattomie, on the plains of Kansas; his statue will stand in the Capitol at Washington; and in the quiet Massachusetts town of Concord, you may see, in the Summer School of Philosophy, besides the busts of Anaxagoras, Plato, Pestalozzi, and Emerson, the bust of John Brown. But I should like to see two other memorials or monuments to this man — one of them here in our city, at this gate of the continent; the other at Charlestown, in Virginia, on the site of his scaffold — so that the North and the South, and all the world, would thus again have perpetual reminder that here was a man of our nineteenth century who, accounting his own life and home and treasures as naught, gave himself to battle and death that he might deliver those who were crushed and lost, even black slaves.

How hopeful were the times and the skies, had we among us but a few men — ay, or one man — of John Brown’s conscience, judgment, valor, righteousness, and, above all, of his self-sacrificing life!

Now, as my last words for to-night, I exclaim: Great were John Brown’s life and work and triumph! Worthy, thrice worthy, is John Brown!

In the course of the meeting Prof. Marquand played on the piano a funeral march by Beethoven, “John Brown’s Body,” “The Marseillaise,” and “Marching Through Georgia.”

On Picket Duty.

Without unrestricted competition there can be no true cooperation.

The Boston “Investigator” offers itself to trial subscribers for one month for twenty-five cents. The paper has a glorious record, and all Liberals should unite in rewarding its valiant struggle against superstition by stanch support in its honorable and still vigorous old age.

Herbert Spencer, though he knows nothing of Proudhon’s ideas and made a complete fool of himself on the only occasion when he ever undertook to criticise them, is as much of an anarchist, if he only knew it, as was Proudhon himself. For his theory of social evolution from militancy to industrialism means the eventual abolition of the State. Mr. Spencer is a philosopher who busies himself more with the past than the future, but the lesson of his teaching and the applications of his theories, though less emphatic on that account, are just as clear to thinking people.

At the recent celebration of John Bright’s seventieth birthday at Rochdale the hero of the occasion, responding to the tributes of the admiring laboring population, briefly roviewed the progress made in England during his career. In the course of a glorification of free trade he said, jubilantly: “So far as selling to all the world, you are perfectly free with your labor as we are perfectly free with our capital.” What a sorrowful satire upon the present system of industry and commerce that a prominent representative of a class which does next to no labor and therefore produces next to no capital should be able to stand before an audience made up from the class which does nearly all the labor and therefore produces nearly all the capital, and talk to them, unrebuked, of “your labor” and “our capital”!

The “Free Religious Index” has dropped the adjectives from its name, and wishes henceforth to be known, as of old, simply as the “Index.” Whether the discarded title implied too much freedom to suit the old management, or too much religion to suit the new, or whether both old and new have become suddenly impressed by the profundity of a remark said to have been made by a near relative of the original manager, Mr. Abbot,— namely, that she did not like the term, “free religion,” because it reminded her of “free love,” — we are not informed. But, whatever the motives that inspired it, the change is a good one. A combination of circumstances that makes it expedient for a newspaper to abandon its original name is very rarely found. [George Chainey, please notice!] Certainly no such circumstances ever occurred in the history of the “Index.” The old title is unquestionably simpler, stronger, broader, and, in its present lettering, typographically neater than the one recently in use. Its readoption, therefore, is to be commended. Moreover, the paper itself is now much better “made up” than ever before. The new editor, Mr. Underwood, has reconstructed its anatomy to advantage. If, in addition, he will infuse some blood into its colorless veins, it will become a readable and valuable journal.

6/7/17

Mr. Frothingham’s Defection.

[For Liberty]

Free Religion may put on mourning now. Its ex-chef, if he has not fallen, has had his mind greatly shaken, and knows not but he must beat a retreat to the shades whence twenty years ago intellectually he emerged. “I do not want to give the impression,” he is reported as saying, “taht I recant anything. I simply stop denying, and wait for more light.” I am not surprised to find Mr. Frothingham at this point of doubting, for, though I believe him always perfectly sincere, it has ever seemed to me that his nutural frame of mind could be best imaged by a doubt. He doubted “revealed religion.” He pleaded for the “Religion of Humanity.” But his plea never leaped forth like an irresistible conviction. It sounded like what the old Christian writers called an “apology,”— an apology for his doubt. It was an argument: an intellectual stating, a lawyer-like presenting of his case,— his case against the old supernatural faith. Always well done; strong, classical, rhetorical, elegant; but not stirring one with more than a keen intellectual appreciation. “I always feel cold chills run down my back when —————— speaks,” once said an acquaintance of mine;” and when that happens, I know my soul is coming up to fever heat.” But it was not Mr. Frothlngham’s discourse that produced in my friend’s soul these responding fever heats. Yet, it can be truly said that few men have made clearer statements of what has been termed the Radical, or Liberal, position than has Mr. Frothingham. He has done great service, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, who would earnestly confess that he had been a real helper to them. He helped, as we have indicated, in resolving their doubts,— placing the weight of argument to the doubter’s side. But to quicken the believer in his belief, clearing away the contentious intellectualism that intervene between the universe of spiritualities and the soul’s vision by spontaneous spiritual affirmations which no soul could or would gainsay,— that function of the great teacher, or quickener, he did not, in any marked degree, possess. He was not, however, without that side of human nature. Especially in his private conversation, when controversy or advocacy did not come to the front, he would manifest a reserve transcendental power which not alone surprised the listener, but suggested that Mr. Frothingham was probably the “coming man.” But this suggestion was not to be realized. The view of the intellectual doubter was too habitual with him. He must leave his own direct vision for the reconstruction of old visions or old beliefs. Not contented with what he himself could believe, he must enter the arena of debate, and rid the world, by force of new arguments and profounder statements, of its errors. The “situation” had a charm he could not resist. How Free Religion stood; how much headway it made from year to year; how the old faith was affected by it, and what might be the next step,— all these considerations came up for him as for the others; he and they came consciously to regard themselves as a part of a movement in history, and were ever busy about the “logic” of it; unrestful with their ideas, unless they could also be making themselves felt as a power in the Republic, shaping events.

Finally, some two years ago, it came to pass that Mr. Frothingham felt the stress of a new departure so strongly that he retired from his old associations and sought to regain himself in the quiet of foreign travel. He did well; and, if the report of the result, as given by an interviewer to the press, be correct, he has, in our opinion, made a decided gain upon the free religious past which he had forsaken. What Mr. Frothingham now more clearly sees is the fact that there is something in human experience corresponding to what the Christian world has proclaimed as “revealed religion.” He sees or feels that the materialistic religion coming to the front has only the intellectual basis which closes up the channels of the spirit whose in-coming into human experience is all that keeps human life fresh, progressive, and, in any true sense, alive. When he left New York two years ago, he announced that his ministrations from the transcendental, or individualistic, standpoint were at an end. He looked for no farther progress, save in the beneficent aids of social, scientific organization. It was his lapse into those materialistic moods which have more or less overtaken nearly all the liberal leaders. To-day he turns his face toward “revelation,” which is simply a word that stands for the so-called orthodox interpretation of the soul’s proclamation. As the Christian world has understood (or misunderstood) the great fact of the soul’s revelation of itself, the world is limited to an individualism of a past age. Peter, Paul, and Jesus had revelations from the soul, but no individual to-day may assume any such importance. This limitation is the Christian’s misapprehension, the truth being that all ages and all individuals may leave this open door for the soul’s entrance. Undoubtedly Mr. Frothingham saw in the Catholic clergy a certain “power behind them which must mystify the philosophers,” especially those whose life is led by speculations of the materialistic brain. These Catholics have at least some portions of the soul’s revelation by inheritance. Had they that which might and would come to them separately as individuals were they disconnected from organised tyranny, the mysterious power Mr. Frothingham speaks of would not lessen, but increase.

Mr. Frothingham’s purpose to stop denying and wait for more light is a good one. He can well afford now to let “Evangelical religion” alone: neither concern himself with its errors or its truths, nor be oppressed or elated by its strength or weakness. Its churches may or may not be filled,— what is that to a man who is conscious of his own spiritual health? For, though the light that is in him be at ebb, if he will in truth “wait,” it will come again at flood. But, if he forsakes the Free Religious organization to run after other organizations, to hear their dissertations of “revealed religion,” he will cease to be loyal to his purpose. There is a difference between waiting and going after light. In our judgment Mr. Frothingham’s greatest failure in the twenty yeary of his ministry was his unsteady reliance on the revelations of his own soul. His waiting may restore his faith therein, and clothe him with power as from on High.

Usury.

Paying money for the use of money is a great and barbarous wrong. It is also a stupendous absurdity. No one man can use money. The use of money involves its transfer from one to another. Therefore, as no one man can use money, it cannot be right and proper for any man to pay for the use of that which he cannot use. The people do use money; consequently, they should pay whatever the money may cost.

Money is necessarily a thing which belongs to society. This is one of the great truths of civilization which has been generally overlooked. For this whole question of the rightfulness of interest turns on the question, “What is money?” So long as the people shall continue to consider money as a thing of itself objectively,— why, there is no hope for humanity.

All wealth is the product of labor, but no labor can produce money. There can be no money until some wealth has been produced, because money is a representative of wealth.

Money is a form of credit,— credit in circulation. It is not a thing of substance. The great object of money is to exchange values. Now value is an idea, and money is used to represent, count, and exchange values. The symbol or token of money is not the money itself. Therefore, as money is not a thing of substance, and cannot wear out, it is and ever must to a great wrong and an utter absurdity to give wealth for the use of an idea.

In equity compensation implies service or labor, and as money does not cost labor, why, labor cannot, justly be demanded for its use.

But let us look at it practically. The people use money; the people furnish the money; and, if the cost of issue is paid, there can be no other expense. The great difficulty touching this whole matter is a barbarous misconception of the nature of monoy and a more barbarous disposition to monopolize power and rob the weak. For — let us ask — who pays the great tax of interest? Not those who have and handle the money; not those who use the money; but the poor, the weak, the ignorant, the dupes of the ruling class. We can illustrate this by a fact of to-day. If five or more men having one hundred thousand dolars, and no more, organise and establish a national bank, just so soon as their bank is in operation they have the use and income of one hundred and ninety thousand dollars. Now, is it not clear that, this company having got ninety thousand dollars for nothing, somebody has lost that amount? For, if one man gets a dollar that he has not earned, some other man has earned a dollar that he has not got. That is as certain as that two and two make four.

If all men could use their own credit in the form of money, there could be no such thing as interest. Yet, to put this idea into practice, there must be organization and consolidation of credit. Commercial credit, to be good, must be known to be good. A man’s credit may be good to the extent of a thousand dollars, but, that fact not being generally known, he must, as things are, exchange his credit for that which is known to be good, and pay a monopoly price for the privilege of using his own credit in the form of money.

Let us remember that no man can borrow money, as a good business transaction, under any system, unless he has the required security to make the lender whole in case he should lose the money. What a stupendous wrong is this,— that a man having credit cannot use it, but must exchange it and pay a monopoly price, which is really for the privilege of using his own credit!

And again, he cannot pay this himself, but must compel the poor man to work out this tax; the latter must pay this interest in the enhanced price of goods. I wonder if the people will always be this blind and stupid!

So long as business men, as such, and laborers shall continue to permit the few shrewd moneyed men to monopolize commercial credit,— that is, money,— just so long will it be hard times for business and labor. What we want now is the organization of credit on a just and equal plan. William B. Greene solved this whole matter and summed it up in two words: “Mutual Banking.” That is what we want.

Apex.

Attention, “Apex”!

My dear Mr, Tucker,— Allow me just to say that “Apex” is in error in supposing he has answered my question. It appears by his own comment that his “Yes” means that the plough-lender is entitled to pay for the wear and tear of the plough. I asked: Is he entitled to pay for its use? I marvel that he should overlook the distinction, for I bad been careful to mark it in my first statement. When the question as I put it is answered in the affirmative, I shall be ready to answer the other, “What of it?” But I am still left to the mournful impression that my question is not answered.

Yours cordially,

J. M. L. Babcock.

6/3/17

“Leaves of Grass.”

Liberty has received from the publishers (James R. Osgood & Co., Boston), and joyfully welcomes “Leaves of Grass,” the collective title of Walt Whitman’s poems. It is a convenient, compact, and tastefully “got up” volume of 382 pages, and contains a number of hitherto unpublished poems, besides those of the earlier editions. “Leaves of Grass” have lost nothing of their original native simplicity, freshness, and vigor from being more carefully arranged and placed in a more artistic, though it may be a more conventional vase. The book will be more readily purchased and read, at any rate; and that is the main point. The titles of some of the poems have been changed, and the table of contents newly arranged and made much more convenient for reference to special passages.

We have not discovered that the book has lost anything of its characteristic outspoken independence, nor that any concession has been made to Mrs. Grundy. It still retains all its naked truthfulness and purity, like its prototype in marble, the Greek Slave.

Walt Whitman is preeminently, above all and before all, the poet of innovation, the poet of change, the poet of growth, the poet of evolution. There is not a drop of stagnant blood in his veins. Every fibre of him quivers with life, energy, and fire. His spirit is at the same time the spirit of content and discontent. He is satisfied with whatever is and as it is — for to-day, but not for to-morrow, nor that for any future to-morrow.

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
That seems to him to be the key-note of the universe.

A study, “By Blue Ontario’s Shore,” affords a good idea of what he himself considers his mission, and shows how thoroughly one in purpose that mission is with Liberty’s. He shall speak for himself from that poem.

By blue Ontario’s shore,
As I mused of these warlike days and of peace return’d, and the dead that return no more,
A Phantom gigantic superb, with stern visage accosted me,
Chant me the poem, it said, that comes from the soul of America,
Chant me the carol of victory, and strike up the marches of Libertad, marches more powerful yet,
And sing me before you go the song of the throes of Democracy.


The poet, in responding, commences with a striking bit of individual self-assertion, of which we can quote but a few lines:

A Nation announcing itself,
I myself make the only growth by which I can be appreciated,
I reject none, accept all, then reproduce all in my own forms.


We are powerful and tremendous in ourselves,
We are executive in ourselves,
We are sufficient in the variety of ourselves,
We are the most beautiful to ourselves and in on ourselves,
Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves,
Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we are beautiful or sinful in ourselves only.


(O mother — O sisters dear!
If we are lost, no victory else has destroy’d us,
It is by ourselves we go down to eternal night.)


Have you thought there could be but a single supreme?
There can be any number of supremes . . .
All is eligible to all,
All is for individuals, all is for you.


Produce great Persons, the rest follows.

Then comes this attack upon Authority and conservatism:

Piety and Conformity to them that like,
Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like,
I am he who tauntingly compels men, women, nations,
Crying, Leap from your seats and contend for your lives;
I am he who walks the States with a barb’d tongue, questioning every one I meet,
Who are you that wanted only to be told what you knew before?


Somewhat changing the theme:

I listened to the Phantom by Ontario’s shore,
I heart the voice arising demanding bards,
By them all native and grand, by them alone can these States be fused into the compact organism of a Nation.


To hold men together by paper and seal or by compulsion is no account,
That only holds men together which aggregates all in a living principle, as the hold of the limbs of the body or the fibres of plants.


Of these States the Poet Is the equable man,
For the great Idea, the idea of perfect and free individuals,
For that the bard walks in advance, leader of leaders.
The attitude of him cheers up slaves and horrifies foreign despots.


Without extinction is Liberty, without retrograde is Equality,
They live in the feelings of young men and the best women,
(Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the earth been always ready to fall for Liberty.)


For the great Idea,
That, O my brethren, that is the mission of poets.


A few lines to show what he claims for himself:

Give me the pay I have served for,
Give me to sing the songs of the great Idea, take all the rest.
I have loved the earth, sun, animals, I have despised riches,
Claim’d nothing to myself which I have not carefully claim’d for others on the same terms,
I am willing to wait to be understood by the growth of the taste o myself,
Rejecting none, permitting all.


We must find room for our poet’s creed of Individualism, and close therewith our quotations trom this remarkable book:

I swear I begin to see the meaning of these things,
It is not the earth, it is not America who is so great,
It is I who am great or to be great, it is you up there, or any one,
It is to walk rapidly through civilizations, governments, theories,
Through poems, pageants, shows, to form individuals,


Underneath all, individuals,
I swear nothing is good to mo that ignores individuals,
The only government is that which makes minute of individuals,
The whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly to one single individual — namely to you,
(Talk as you like, he only suits these States whose manners favor the audacity and sublime turbulence of the States,)
Underneath the lessons of things, spirits, Nature, governments, ownerships, I swear I perceive other lessons,
Underneath all to me in myself, to you yourself, (the same monotonous old song.)


I am for those who have never been master’d,
For men and women whose tempers have never been master’d,
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can never master.
I am for those who walk abreast the whole earth,
Who innagurate one to inaugurate all.


I will not be out-faced by irrational things,
I will penetrate what it is in them that is sarcastic upon me,
I will make cities and civilizations defer to me,
This is what I have learn’t from America — it is the amount, and it I teach again.


(Democracy, while weapons were everywhere aim’d at your breast, I saw you serenely give birth to immortal children, saw in dreams your dilating form,
Saw you with spreading mantle covering the world.)


I will confront these shows of the day and night,
I will know if I am to be less than they,
I will see if I am not as majestic as they,
I will see if I am not as subtle and real as they,
I will see if I am to be less generous than they,
I will see if I have no meaning, while the houses and ships have meaning,
I will see if the fishes and birds are to be enough for themselves, and I am not to be enough for myself.

6/2/17

Play-House Philanthropy.

Among the ablest and most interesting contributions to the columns of the “Irish World” are the sketches of one of its staff correspondents, “Honorius,” in which that writer, week after week, with all the skill and strategy of a born general, marshals anecdote, illustration, history, biography, fact, logic, and the experiences of every-day life in impregnable line of battle, and precipitates them upon the cohorts of organized tyranny and theft, making irreparable breaches in their fortifications, and spreading havoc throughout their ranks. The ingenuity which he displays in utilizing his material and turning everything to the account of his cause is marvellous. Out of each new fact that falls under his notice, out of each new character with whom he comes in contact, he develops some fresh argument against the system of theft that underlies our so-called “civilization,” some novel application of the principles that must underlie the coming true society.

Unless we are greatly mistaken, the latest of his assaults will not prove the least effective, since in it he has improved an excellent opportunity to turn his guns upon enemies nearer home, enemies in the guise of friends. He briefly tells the story of the career of a Yorkshire factory-lord, one Sir Titus Salt, who, through his fortunate discovery of the process of manufacturing alpaca cloth, accumulated an enormous fortune, which he expended in the establishment of institutions for the benefit of his employees and in deeds of general philanthropy. To this man he pays a tribute of praise for various virtues, which, for aught we know, is well deserved. But he supplements it by forcible insistance on the fact that Sir Titus was but a thief after all; that, however great his generosity of heart, it was exercised in the distribution of other people’s earnings; and that his title to exemption from the condemnation of honest men was no better than that of the more merciful of the Southern slave-owners. The importance of this lesson it is impossible to overestimate. Gains are no less ill-gotten because well-given. Philanthropy cannot palliate plunder. Robbery, though it be not born of rapacity, is robbery still. This Sir Titus Salt but serves as a type of a large class of individuals who are ever winning the applause and admiration of a world too prone to accept benevolence and charity in the stead of justice and righteousness.

Perhaps the most conspicuous example of the class referred to now posing before the world is the man referred to by “Honorius” in connection and comparison with Sir Titus,— Godin of Guise, the famous founder of the Familisterre. “The great Godin of Guise,” “Honorius” styles him; and it is precisely because this clear-headed writer, misinformed as to the real facts, makes him the object of exaggerated and misplaced adulation that the present article is written. Of Sir Titus Salt we could not speak, but of the Familisterre and its founder we can say somewhat that may interest and enlighten their admirers. But first the words of “Honorius:”

Sir Titos Salt was the companion, as a noble-souled employer, to that fellow-philanthropist, the great Godin of Guise, who founded the famous social palace known as the Familisterre, although not so grand a character as the renowned Frenchman. Titus Salt was a sectarian. His $80,000 church was for the “accommodation” of his own sect, and those who held to other creeds found no place of worship from his money. Godin was a grand, liberal soul. Though educated a Catholic, he made the most liberal provision for every shade of belief among his working people, and he despised every form of narrowness and bigotry. Godin, too, was too noble a soul to descend to the arts of the politician, and would have despised himself had he solicited a vote from any of his people. So wonderful was the success of his industrial experiment at Guise that Louis Napoleon became jealous of the possibilities for labor which he had demonstrated, and that despicable fraud and royal scoundrel, “Louis the Little,” repeatedly went out of his way to hamper his business, and even sought to disfranchise him.

Let us see how much of this is true,— if this man is really great, or only a pretender and a sham. It was once our privilege to visit the Familisterre. The visit extended through the better part of a week, and occurred at a very favorable time, including one of the two annual fete days (celebrating Education and Labor) peculiar to the institution. But the impression left on our mind was by no means favorable. The establishment seemed pervaded throughout by an atmosphere of supervision and routine, tempered here and there by awkward attempts at the picturesque. The air of buoyant contentment which the glowing accounts given of the Social Palace would lead one to expect did not characterize the members of the large household to any great extent. The workmen seemed to feel themselves and their class still the victims of oppression. A very slight acquaintance with them was sufficient to reveal the fact that their “boss” and “benefactor” does not appear an godlike in their eyes as in those that view him at a distance. In the presence of the inquiring observer their faces assumed an expression that seemed to say: “Oh, you think it’s all very pretty, no doubt; no rags here, no dirt; everything clean and orderly, and a moderate degree of external comfort among us all. But all this has to be paid for by somebody, and it is the outside world that foots the bills. Our master has the reputation of being very kind and generous, but he is our master. We enjoy this material welfare at the expense of something of our independence. Besides, he’s got a soft thing of it,— rolling up his millions year by year and excusing himself by distributing a certain proportion of his stealings among us; but he and the rest of us are living very largely on our fellow-laborers elsewhere, out of whose pockets these immense profits come.”

And actual questioning proved that their faces told the truth. Inability to converse fluently in French prevented us from inquiring closely into details, but from an intelligent young Russian visiting the place at the same time and on much the same mission as ourselves, whose knowledge of French and English was excellent, we elicited information quite sufficient. The more intelligent of the workmen had told him confidentially just what we had read in their faces as stated above, not a few of them confessing that M. Godin, who at that time was a member of the National Chamber of Deputies, held his seat by a method strikingly similar to that which in Massachusetts the Boston “Herald” is wont to apologize for as “civilized bulldozing,”— that is, prior to election day he contrived to have it understood among his employees that a convenient opportunity would be found for the discharge of such of them as should fail to vote for him, no matter what their previous political affiliations or present political beliefs. And yet “Honorius” says (or seems to hint) that he is not ambitious, and “Honorius” is an honorable man. Hundreds and thousands of honorable men share the same delusion,— for a delusion it certainly is.

A strange sort of “philanthropist,” this! A singular “nobility of soul” is M. Godin’s! His religious liberality referred to by “Honorius” evidently does not extend into his business and politics. Here is a man, ingenious, shrewd, calculating, with large executive capacity and something of a taste for philosophy, who discovers an industrial process which, through a monopoly guaranteed by the patent laws, he is enabled to carry on at an enormous profit; he employs hundreds of operatives; for them and their families he builds a gigantic home, which he dignifies by the name of a palace, though it needs but a few bolts and bars to make it seem more like a prison, so cheerless, formal, and forbidding is its gloomy aspect; he distributes among them a portion of the profits, perhaps to quiet his conscience, perhaps to become noted for fair dealing and philanthropy; the balance — more than sufficient to satisfy the ordinary manufacturer subject to competition — he complacently pockets, putting forth, meanwhile, the ridiculous pretence that he holds this fund as a trustee; finally, knowing nothing of Liberty and Equity and sneering at their defenders, he professes to think that he can regenerate the world by the fanciful and unsound schemes of education that he spends his leisure hours in devising and realizing, supporting them with wealth gained by theft, power gained by indirect bribery and bulldozing, and popularity gained by pretence and humbuggery. Nevertheless, for doing this the whole humanitarian world and not a few hard-headed reformers bow down and worship him. Even clear-sighted “Honorius” heaps honors on his head. But “Honorius” knows, and does not fail to emphasize, the true lesson of the man’s life, which is that the impending social revolution has certain fixed principles behind it; that one of these principles is, “Thou shalt not steal;” that any scheme by which a single individual becomes inordinately rich, whether as proprietor or trustee (unless the trust be purely voluntary), is necessarily carried on in violation of that principle; and that whoever prosecutes it as in accordance with that principle thereby proves himself either too ignorant or too insincere to be allowed to serve, much less to lead, in the revolutionary movement. Such a man is of the plunderers, and should be with them. Idol-smashing is no enviable task; but to unmask the pretensions of piny-house philanthropists whose highest conception of distributive justice seemes to be the sharing with a fortunate few of goods stolen from the many is a service that, however disagreeable, is of prime necessity in the realization of that Equity which distributes to each the product of his labor and that Liberty which renders it impossible for one to reap the profit of another’s toil.

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Liberty had in type, and intended to publish in this issue, a communication from the central bureau of information at London reporting the progress and growth of the reorganized International Working- people’s Association, and containing a complete list of the groups and sections that have forwarded their adhesions and accepted the platform; but facts have recently transpired that make it dangerous to reveal the existence and location of the French, Italian, and Spanish groups. Therefore, rather than print an incomplete list, we omit it altogether, simply stating that, apart from the numerous sections that prefer to correspond directly with each other, forty-six are in direct communication with the central bureau, working together for the social revolution the world over in harmony substantially complete. The United States is represented by groups located in New York, Jersey City, and Milwaukee. New sections are forming everywhere with great rapidity. The progress of anarchistic socialism in Europe is really wonderful. In Spain, where the working-people are beginning to see the futility of political methods, a recent workingmen’s congress declared, by the voice of one hundred and twenty-eight out of one hundred and thirty-six delegates representing two hundred sections, squarely in favor of anarchy.

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A valued contributor strongly defends in another column the attitude recently taken by O. B. Frothingham, viewing it from a transcendental standpoint. We are materialists of the most extreme sort, but do not find it necessary to discuss Mr. Frothingham’s attitude toward revealed religion as if it were an issue between the experiential and intuitional philosophies. The position of Mr. Frothingham seems to us something like this. Years ago he discovered that the Christian edifice, comfortable as it was, stood on a rotten foundation, and that its decaying walls were liable at any moment to tumble about his ears. He wisely hastened to abandon it, and proceeded, in company with others (we do not refer especially to the Free Religious Association), to lay the foundations for a more solid structure. They did their work well, and it is now going bravely on. But, as winter approaches, the cold north winds whistle through the bare framework of the Freethought temple, and Mr. Frothingham begins to shiver. So incomplete is the structure as yet that it is impossible to heat it or to furnish it with those comforts and decorations that make a house a home both for body and soul. So Mr. Frothingham leaves his fellow-workmen, brave builders that they are, to toil on in the cold, and goes off blowing his delicate fingers with the breath from his blue nose. He now sits hesitatingly in the sunniest spot that he can find in the open air, wondering whether he would not do better to return to the edifice which he originally abandoned. “I know it is crumbling,” we can hear him murmur, “but there is a furnace there at least. Shall I not take the risk?” If he succeeds in withstanding the temptation, there is a bare possibility that, when the Liberal structure is completed, he will again seek admission to enjoy its comforts, or even, when summer comes, ask permission to take a band in finishing the work. Others may look upon such a course with what favor they can; but to us it seems weak, childish, petulant, cowardly, ignoble, and faithless.

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A well-dressed, well-behaved woman in Providence was returning to her home at 3 o’clock a.m. The streets being empty, she lighted a cigar, and, as she sped along, watched the curling smoke dissolve in the moonbeams, very much after the manner of a free and independent citizen of the stronger sex. She was quiet and orderly, and went straight along about her business. Suddenly a policeman turned the corner and roughly confronted her. After some impertinent questions, he laid violent hands upon her, and marched her rudely to the station. There she received a second dose of blue-coated rudeness, and, after many insults, was suffered to go, with officious reprimands. The Woman Suffrage Association was sitting in Providence at that time. Its leaders must have seen the item in the papers, and we humbly suggest to Lucy Stone, Mrs. E. B. Chace, and the other disciples of woman’s rights that this incident was worth more as a text than all that was offered in behalf of suffrage. No half-way decent man would have molested this lady with her cigar. The voting swindle created these police ruffians and their superiors. The State is the real loafer, and true woman will yet learn not to covet its company or keep it alive with votes.

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Mr. W. G. H. Smart is about to issue in pamphlet form an address delivered by him, October 2, before the Transatlantic Land and Labor League of South Boston, entitled “The Social Economic System That Is, and That Is To Be.” It will be printed on good paper and arranged in two parts. Dealers and labor organizations, from whom Mr. Smart requests early orders, can obtain the work, at the rate of twenty-five copies for one dollar, or one copy for ten cents, from E. M. Chamberlin, “Echo” Priming Office, Washington Street, Boston, to whom post-office money orders should be made payable. Liberty has little in common with Mr. Smart’s fundamental thought, but has no hesitation in endorsing him as a good writer and sincere student, from whose works a discriminating mind may extract much that is valuable.

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The congress of State socialists at Chur, Switzerland, which made so much noise, in advance, proved a complete fiasco. By the confession of P. J. McGuire, the American delegate, all that it did was to resolve to do better next time. A very commendable resolution!

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The despatch from Washington announcing that twelve jurors had been drawn to try Guiteau added that they were “all Christians.” Meanwhile Guiteau stoutly declares, as heretofore, that he is not insane, axcept in the “legal sense,”— that is, in the sense that the plea is simply a lawyer’s trick for professional purposes. Now, if twelve Christians can convict Guiteau, they must be frauds. He says that God told him to do the deed, just as He told Abraham to offer up Isaac. The divine command was to him unmistakable. He obeyed it. If he dies at the hands of twelve Christian jurors, he will die a martyr to his faith, while they will go back on theirs. The “gospel train,” however, probably will ignore this religious hot box, but the more thoughtful of the passengers are beginning to fear the consequences and may hasten to get off at the next station.

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In the critical comments that appeared in our last number upon some recent utterances of George Chainey we were guilty of a misquotation in attributing the phrase “free and equal” to the Declaration of Independence. It occurs instead, as a kind friend has pointed out to us, in the Massachusetts Bill of Rights. We found fault with Mr. Chainey for carelessness concerning facts. Now we “know how it is ourselves,” and make public apology for our own carelessness concerning quotations.

5/31/17

Michael Bakounine.

As announced in our last number, we present on this page, for the first time in America, a faithful portrait of the founder of Nihilism,— the physical lineaments of an heroic reformer, of whom we are willing to hazard the judgment that coming history will yet place him in the very front ranks of the world’s great social saviours. The grand head and face speak for themselves regarding the immense energy, lofty character, and innate nobility of the man. We should have esteemed it among the chief honors of our life to have known him personally, and should account it a great piece of good fortune to talk with one who was personally intimate with him and the essence and full meaning of his thought and aspiration. In the absence of any direct knowledge of the man and his own interpretation of his life-work we can do no more than publish a brief sketch of his career, gathered from various German and French writings, with such inferences as appear to us just and natural.

Michael Bakounine was born in 1814 of an ancient aristocratic Russian family. His father was a wealthy proprietor of Torchok in the governmental department of Twer. He was at an early age sent to the cadet school of St. Petersburg, and entered as ensign in the artillery. In that day the artillery branch of military service was one in which the most favored aristocracy were enrolled, and it had always been the traditional policy of the czars to permit greater freedom of thought and research in that branch of the service than in any other. The immunities and privileges there enjoyed corresponded with that license which the German monarchs have always suffered in the universities, and it was there that Bakounine first nurtured the germs of those great revolutionary ideas which were destined to make his life so eventful, so heroic, and so significant in the evolution of sociological drifts.

With a deep yearning to thoroughly master the leading philosophical thought of his time, and having been commissioned as commandant of an obscure and isolated district, he became restless and disgusted, and in 1841 quitted Russia, and took up his abode in Berlin in order to become master of the Hegelian philosophy, which had already seized upon the young students and thinkers of Germany with a bewitching fascination. Here he entered assiduously into the whole realm of philosophy, especially the Hegelian, which he characterized as the “Algebra of Revolution,” and visited Dresden, Leipzig, and every other locality where he might exchange thought with the leading progressive spirits of the times. He published numerous philosophical writings over the name of Jules Elisard. In 1843 he visited Paris. Here he became an enthusiastic admirer of Proudhon, who probably seasoned his thought with those anarchistic tendencies that in later days developed his logic into what constitutes the philosophical method of Nihilism, which now appals and confounds despotism and challenges the attention of the whole world.

From Paris he next went to Switzerland, where he remained from 1843 to 1847. Here he entered into the new social movement, being en rapport with the Polish exiles. But already he had excited the gravest suspicions on the part of the Russian government, and his permis to sojourn abroad was rescinded. Instead of obeying, he returned to Paris, and there delivered a public appeal to the Poles and Russians to unite in a grand Pan-Slavonic revolutionary confederation. At the demand of the czar he was expelled in 1848 from France, and ten thousand rubles were offered for his arrest and return to Russia. But the revolution of February soon brought him back to Paris, which he quitted again, however, for Prague to attend the Congress of Slavs. The following year he went to Dresden, and became one of the chiefs of the May revolution and a member of the insurrectionary government. Forced to fly from Dresden, he was captured, sent to prison, and condemned to be executed in May, 1850. His sentence, however, was commuted to imprisonment for life. Escaping into Austria, he was again captured and again sentenced to death,— this time for high treason. But again his sentence was commuted to perpetual imprisonment. Upon repeated threats and entreaties the Austrian government was constrained to deliver him up to Russia.

As if hardly knowing how to dispose of so dear a prize, he was kept for several years in a dungeon in the fortress of Neva, and finally deported to Siberia. He spent several years in a penal colony, suffering the most cruel hardships, but finally succeeded in escaping from Siberia, a feat which he alone, it is said, ever accomplished. After a journey of one thousand miles, under hardships which approach the miraculous, he reached the sea, and obtained passage to Japan. From there he sailed to California, thence to New York, and in 1860, as if descending from the clouds, Michael Bakounine alighted, like a thunderbolt, in London.

Experiences like those already suffered would have cooled the ardor of most men, but hardly had Bakounine stepped foot in London when he took up his revolutionary schemes with redoubled enthusiasm. He issued numerous addresses to the Poles and Russians to join in a grand revolutionary confederation of Slavs. Associated with Herzen and Ogareff he published a revolutionary sheet called “The Kolokol” (The Bell). But so grand and deep and searching was his philosophy that he led all his co-laborers beyond their depth. The anarchistic philosophy which he had imbibed from Proudhon permeated all his schemes. He was now precipitated into an ever-deepening conflict with the revolutionary socialists of the Karl Marx school. At the great socialist congress in Geneva in 1870 he took direct and positive issue with the governmental wing of the party. He demanded the abolition of the State and all organized “machines” of social and religious administration. At the congress of the International at Hague in 1872 he was expelled, but succeeded in carrying thirty delegates with him, which body of anarchistic radicals finally waxed strong enough to overthrow the International Association, only to reorganize it later (as they did this last summer) under their own direction. Michael Bakounine now formulated his system of scientific anarchy as fully as his resources would permit. His hope was to crown his life-work by setting in motion a revolution throughout the world, looking to the abolition of the State and the substitution of that natural order which comes of justice, selection, and liberty. His ruling idea was: Given equality of conditions, and organized State and Church become unnecessary. The absence of equality of conditions is due to the existence of the State, and the State alone. Abolish the State! was the banner which he set up to conquer despotism, and erect upon its ruins a reign of true order and natural government. His philosophy and purposes he elaborated in several pamphlets, now very rare, principal among which was one entitled, “Dieu et l’Etat” (God and the State).

Russia, his native country, was the land in which he sought to inaugurate the grand revolution. The result is seen to-day in Nihilism, of which he is the father. Though the flippant, self-sufficient literati of the world may call Michael Bakounine a mad fanatic and visionary, there is one man who sees method in his madness, if not a wisdom akin to his sublime heroism. That man is the czar. Michael Bakounine has doomed the czardom, if not imperialism throughout Europe. His soul is marching on, and his ideas, baptized in living martyrdom, are a terror to all despots, though they may feign iguorance of him.

With hands and heart and brain full of revolutionary material, our hero died at Berne, Switzerland, in 1876. Even a tame sketch of his sufferings and adventures in the cause of liberty would make a tale alike touching and sublime. For several years of his life he was practically outlawed in every land on the planet he sought to redeem. No country would recognize him in a passport, even had he dared to ask for one. He was a refugee and an exile from every land. Despotism had standing rewards for his body. He was early disowned by his family, although his name figures among some of the chief officers near the Russian court to-day. The executioner stood waiting for him in several countries. He was everywhere tracked by spies and detectives. He dared not expose his name on the continent outside of Switzerland. He has no biographer, no authoritative defender, and possibly no authenticated grave. But his thought lives after him, and to the new world of Liberty, Justice, Peace, and Love, to establish which he suffered and died, remains the honor of doing his memory the justice denied him while living. Liberty is not afraid to honor him, being assured that posterity will yet search out his lonely resting-place and bear him from it aloft among the great founders of the new heavens and the new earth.