« AnteriorContinuar »
That point in our social condition, then, (to repeat in another form what we last said,) which we think at variance with Republicanism no less than Christianity, is the moral rank and influence given to mere wealth, but due to talent, education, and character. A dim perception of this variance we look on as giving rise to the common feeling that something is wrong; as well as to the wish of the agrarian to cure this wrong by the equalization of property.
But some one may say that wealth is desired for the luxuries and bodily comforts it brings, and not for rank and influence given its possessor.
As this objection strikes at the root of our whole argument, we must consider it at some length.
Let the reader look back over his own personal experience, and then inquire whether, among the money-seekers whom he has known, the mass have been moved to labor by the hope of better food or raiment, as a means of simple sensual gratification, or in the expectation that known wealth, costly clothes, and fine houses would increase their influence and standing? We would ask him to say from his own observation, if the bodily comforts of the rich exceed those of the independent hand-worker? Do they not rather fall short of his? That there are some, mostly belonging to the dissolute and needy, that desire money as a means to sensual pleasure, is undoubted; and probably no poor man passes through life without wishing for wealth as giving luxuries, but we are speaking now of the great mass, and of the permanent object for which they labor, not of a momentary impulse.
Again, if a man of wealth were thrown into a community of true Christians, with whom wealth was no passport to rank and influence, would he value his riches? or would a poorer man of the world envy him there, as he would in the world?
Again, why is there so much pomp, and display, made with money? Why are not the rich content to have warm and pleasant houses, and soft clothes, and to eat and drink in privacy? Is it not because they wish to have their wealth known and recognized! and why is this, but for the respect they know will be paid to it?
There is a fact also connected with the hostility to wealth in our country, which may give us some light; it is this, the opposition to the rich is not made by all those not rich, but by the hand-working-men, as we have called them. But there are two distinct classes beside the wealthy; one consists of these hand-workers, and the other of clergymen, lawyers, doctors, and writers, many of whom are much poorer, and live in a
much less luxurious state than those mechanics who lead the working party. But this second class have no hostility to wealth, and, with the exception of a few discontented spirits, feel no jealousy of it. Why is this? It is because a poor lawyer or physician ranks higher than a printer of equal education, talent, character, and good breeding; his opinion is listened to, and has weight; the leaders of fashion speak with him; and the first men in the community receive him socially as an equal. But the printer has, equally, within him the love of influence; and when he sees one richer than himself in gold, but poorer in all knowledge and excellence, received with favor, where he dares not venture,—he feels wronged; he feels that he is degraded, while the other merits degradation; Reason, Republicanism, Christianity, all assure him that mere money can give no man a claim to respect, but finding that it does give that claim with the world, he either goes into business to become rich himself, or joins one of the professions, (which are consequently crowded,) or cries out upon this false talisman that so witches men's eyes.
And in England, at this moment, against whom goes the battle? Against the aristocracy, who claim rank and power, and not against the bankers of London. Or if the rich man is abhorred, it is the one that parades his wealth, and lays claim to distinction and standing; that has his chariot and outriders, his box at the opera, and his princely park for the summer; and not the old West Indian that drinks his two bottles of Madeira, and smokes his segar among the dusky piles of of Bishopgate street. Each may have his million, but he is envied to whom the world looks up, and not he that enjoys himself in a corner.
And in France, during both revolutions, the starving and mad mob, while engaged in sacking palaces, and destroying the marks of rank, refused to take the booty that lay about them.
A consideration of these things convinces us that wealth is desired and envied, by strong and energetic men,-not as a means to sensual pleasure, but as giving a claim to moral influence and standing.
We now come to the inquiry why this is not a just claim, or, why it is opposed to Republicanism.
The idea of a Republic is, that men shall be esteemed according to their merit. Under other forms of government, birth, wealth, or even physical power, may form the standard of rank: in a Republic none of these can have weight in themselves. Among savages physical power is meritorious; in their
view the best hunter and warrior is the best man. Among the semi-civilized, where education exists, but is not general, birth is a half guarantee of a good education as weil as good blood. And when you come one step nearer our present condition, wealth aifords probable evidence of industry, care, and moral habits, and is respected,—not for itself, but as proving, them. But in the perfectly civilized state it is not evidence of these things; neither does birth guarantee superiority of education; and brute strength ceases to be merit, save in the eyes of the brutish. A new standard is now erected; intellectual power and culture, and moralcharacter. Suchisthe law of Republicanism and the Christian religionas applied to social rank. The pre-eminence of wealth is also anti-republican, because in a republic the mass rule, but in no land can the mass be wealthy; wherever civilization prevails however, the love of influence is the ruling passion. If therefore wealth have preeminence, the mass will be against it; but the end of government is peace, whereas a republic, where wealth gives influence, leads to war; the two things are therefore in opposition.
And what is the mistake which shuts out the great class of hand-working-men from cultivated society.
It is this: manual labor is taken as evidence of a want of education at least; while wealth and intellectual labor are received as proofs of the contrary.
In this statement we believe the cause of the whole difficulty will be found. Because in Europe bodily labor, ignorance, and vulgarity have gone so much together, we think them blood relations, and suppose the presence of the first cannot but bring in the two last. Instead of asking whether this printer or that cabinet-maker is as well educated and behaved, possesses as much talent and as high a character as the lawyer or physician next door, we take it for granted that he does not; though every body knows that free schools, manual labor colleges, and mechanics' institutes are giving our mechanics all needful learning-and as to manners we doubt much if the court-house be a better school than the work-shop. The presumption against farmers is going by, in consequence of the good sense of many young men of family and wealth, who have taken the plough into their own hands; but against mechanics the prejudice remains as of old.
We have now pointed to the spot in our social condition, where we think there is something at variance with republicanism; I have shown in what that variance is, and why it is; we now come to the question: can it be remedied?
The evil is, that an undue rank is assigned to wealth; and also, that an undue importance is assigned to employments; to both of which this common characteristic belongs,—that the mass, the profession, or occupation is too much thought of,—the individual too little.
With respect to these evils one of three courses must be adopted; they must either be left to run, as many would say, their natural course,--though we do not think the sins of artificial life ought to be thus put upon poor nature; or wealth must be equalized; or men must be taught not to respect mere wealth nor place, but to consider the intellect, education, and character of each individual, known by examination, and not by inference from his business, as giving him a claim to social influence and standing.
Which course should be adopted?
If we take the first, civil war and anarchy are almost certain, for there may, as truly, be a civil war in the halls of legislation, as the fields of battle. If we adopt the second course, we but take the shorter path to the same point, anarchy. How is it if we take the third? Wealth will neither be desired nor envied then as now; education and character, both attainable by all in this land, will be the things to which the ambition of all will be directed; the cry of Agrarianism will die away; the professions will no longer be crowded by incompetent deserters from the mechanic arts; and well behaved, well mannered mechanics will rank everywhere as highly as equally-deserving men of whatever station.
But how can the influence of wealth be done away, and merit be made the standard of rank.
It can never be done entirely, but we may approximate to it in many ways, and indeed are now doing so.
To say that the spread of Christian feeling and principle among men will tend to the desired object, is but another form of saying that Christianity opposes the prevalent worship of mammon; and yet there are many that would oppose what they thought a wrong in the commonwealth, but never think of opposing it by religion; very few, it is to be feared, see that the best principles of policy are wrapped up in the teachings of Jesus; and very few by making these teachings known in their remote consequences, would hope to heal the sores of a state; but we believe all good and statesmanlike, and substantial policy to be based upon, and flow logically from, the grand principles of human nature, and its guide, the Book of Life. A dissemination, then, of Christian truth; a thorough and unsectarian development and application of this truth to
every individual as a man, a citizen, and one member of a family, we believe to lie at the root of all reformation.
Next to this in importance we place the spread of education by manual labor schools, where the laborer may be instructed and yet not cease to be a laborer. The line now drawn between educated men and working-men must be done away; the farmer and mechanic must be educated; by which, we mean—not only that they must read, write and cypher, but that they must attain to those ends to the reaching which those 'things are means. Education is not only to fit men to buy and sell without being cheated, it looks farther than this life and its profits. Education, in this sense, may and must be given to the industrious and enterprising of our nation; those whose misdirected but honest energy now threatens the rights of property, would then stand its friends.
In the third place, we look to the efforts of the educated men in our republic; their duties have been fully and ably set forth by Mr. Parsons, in the address delivered at Cambridge. By their teachings, through the press, from the pulpit, the bar, the desk of the lyceum, they must fit this people for freedom; Christian freedom; pure republicanism, when money will have no power except that which is its own,—the power of buying so much labor, or the results of so much labor. The reformation of feeling with regard to wealth, if it begin at all, must begin with those who have the same rank and influence with the wealthy. They are to blame if the present unwholesome state of things continues. They must first become freemen, and then break the chains of others. And they not only must teach, but practice; they must receive and respect the printer, of good manners and character, while they turn from the rich gambler, or the time-serving attorney. They must be willing to become themselves hewers of wood and drawers of water; already is this done to some extent in the country, and the more it is done the better for religion and the republic; a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,—and one man of educated and disinterested talent may give tone and standing to a great class. If the Russian Peter is to be honored because he became a shipwright for the mercantile welfare of his people, how much more deserving that man who gives up present rank for the eternal and all-embracing good of those about him.
We come then to these conclusions, that the respect now paid mere wealth, and the prejudice yet existing in favor of some, and against other occupations, is opposed to Republicanism; that the elements of warfare of necessity exist among us, our social condition being in these respects at variance with