Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

draw in the hours devoted to mental pursuits? It is clear that there must be capital accumulated somewhere, in order to provide them with remuneration for their labour. But if they succeeded either by spoliation to distribute that capital, or by tumultuous proceed

ings to drive capital out of the country, where are they to look for

occupation ? Who is to pay them their wages? A few, perchance, might be iniquitously enriched by a system of confiscation, but the great body of the existing mechanics would be worse off even than they are now, and their children would be doomed to irreparable misery. The acquisition of wealth is the great object of industry; it is the very object which the supporters of the doctrine we are combatting have in view. But if it is to be rendered insecure in the hands of those who have earned it by their honest exertions, if it is to be liable as soon as it is accumulated to be distributed amongst those who have not earned it, what becomes of the incentives to labour and to enterprise ? Who would undergo the toil of the advocate or the physician, the merchant or the banker; who would send out commercial expeditions to distant countries, and importin return the products of those countries, if, upon gaining a fortune by industry and enterprise, they should be obliged to surrender it to the mechanics, or to any other set of men, no matter to what class they might belong 2 Stated in this manner, the proposition is monstrous, and tends directly to dissolve the whole frame of society. And yet it is for neither more nor less than this proposition, that the mechanic schools of political economy contend! Here again we may listen with great advantage to the arguments of Mr. Cooper.

“Without wealth enough to afford leisure, there can be no cultivation of intellect; without wealth there can be no pursuit of knowledge, no domestic libraries, no apparatus for scientific investigation, no expensive experiments, no public improvement by means of the voluntary pursuits of individuals who dedicate themselves to knowledge—men to whom the world is indebted for all it knows. These plans of mediocrity and equality, where every man is to have a mouthful of knowledge, and no man a belly-full, are the dreams of presumptuous ignorance—of persons who know not the biography of the benefactors of the human race.

“Throughout the whole of this book I have laboured to show, that from wealth which industry produces, frugality must save; that this saving is capital, which has no other means or source of existence; that capital seeking employment, is the parent of all demand for labour; that demand for labour alone produces wages; that subsistence is the fruit of wages; and population of subsistence. Hence, there is no proposition in Euclid more demonstrable, than that subsistence and population depend exclusively on industry and frugality. But where is the use of industry and frugality, if those who exercise these virtues have no right to dispose of the property which results from them 7

‘Again. These lectures are principally designed for young men ; but others, I hope, will be found to read them. I ask the reader then, are you a parent 2 For whom do you work and save, and practice self-denial? For yourself? No, you do not—you do all this not for yourself, but for your offspring; for the widow and the children whom your death throws upon a careless world, deprived of your protection; it is for those who are dearer to you than you are to yourself, that you thus become and continue a valuable and productive member of society. If you had none of these to care for, would you labour and accumulate to leave wealth behind you when you leave this world ! Would not your motto be, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die—dum vivimus, vivamus 2 I am a parent, and I know the answer. “What then are we to think of these notable reformers, who would improve society by destroying the very strongest of all motives to industry— frugality and accumulation ? And by direct and inevitable consequence, the great, indeed, the only source of permanent population and comfortable subsistence? For it is undeniable that these depend exclusively on accumulated capital. Is it thus the poor are to be benefitted ‘. But I know of no remedy for these (to me) most manifest errors, both of talent and of ignorance, but free discussion, more extended information, and of course a more extended system of national education, for those who will honestly entitle themselves to it. But as to perfect equality between human beings—nature has denied it, and human provisions cannot establish it. Men are born with difference in bodily strength, in mental capacity; differences that operate on every circumstance in life to which they are subsequently exposed, and which daily increase the distance between man and man. These cannot be obviated or eradicated. All that society can do, is to throw no unfair and artificial obstacles in the way of honest exertion; and to take care that industrious effort shall have fair play. ‘ I am glad, however, to see the publication of these reformers, they will elicit useful inquiry. The evils that press on the great mass of population in every modern society, call aloud for discussion and investigation; we must fairly listen to proposals of every kind. But I think it will be difficult for the advocates of a division of property, to give a satisfactory reply to the strong objections to which this proposal is liable.”—pp. 353, 354.

[graphic]

This reasoning seems to us quite unanswerable. But, it is said, all men are born “free, equal, and independent,” and they ought to have equal rights to whatever may be conducive to their happiness. It is, indeed, true, that all men are born free in England, so far as civil liberty is concerned, but it is not true that either in this country, or in any other, men are born equal and independent, except in the sense of civil equality and independence; that is to say, equal protection from the law. The law does not create and bestow wealth upon one man more than upon another, but it guards the wealth of all, and secures it from spoliation. The law does not, and cannot, control the circumstances, which, in society, give rise to variety of occupations, and which must, in every large community, produce very considerable varieties in the condition of men. If all were born equally rich, still there would be divisions arising from the preponderance of talent, and activity, and personal character; but there would be no husbandmen to cultivate the earth, no tailor to make clothes, no masons to build houses,

V.O.L. III. NO. IV. M. M.

and we should all starve, and go naked, and houseless. If all be not born equally rich—and who is to blame if they be not?—then the divisions amongst men must be still more broadly marked ; some must be richer than others, some must labour in order to acquire wealth, and those who do not succeed must still labour to earn a subsistence. In this respect, therefore, there must be a perpetual inequality amongst mankind. And as to men being all born independent, it is an absurdity. We are none of us personally independent of our fellow creatures. The moment we are launched into this world, we are dependent for care, and food, and clothes, and cleanliness, upon our parents or their servants. As we grow up, we are dependent upon our teachers for instruction; in the professions, or trades, or other occupations, when placed in a situation in which we are to earn our own subsistence, we are dependent upon those who give us employment; shopkeepers depend upon their customers, mechanics upon those who pay them their wages. Even the rich cannot be said to be personally independent, for they would be without the luxuries, the comforts, and the common necessaries of life, unless the poorer classes laboured for the money which the rich have at their command. There never was yet a state of society in which men could by possibility live in perfect personal equality and independence; and we may venture to say there never will be, for the thing is utterly impossible. The failure of all the plans of co-operative communities, which were erected upon the theory of equality and independence, places this position before the world in the shape of a fact ascertained by actual experiment, independently of the general reasoning by which it can be demonstrated, as clearly as any proposition in mathematics. “All men are said to be “born free, equal, and independent.” I know of no sense in which this ever was, or is, or can, or will be true. ‘Is a puling infant born free ? If so, in what sense do you use the word? Leave him free from despotic controul for a few hours, and he dies. ‘Are all infants born equal 7 Equal in what? In size, in health, in strength, in mental capability ? Can it be truly asserted that any two infants, from the beginning of time to the present day, ever were born exactly equal in any on these respects 2 Does Nature make no differences 2 ‘Independent; of what and of whom ? Does not the very existence of an infant depend each moment on the fostering care of others ? “At what time then do they become free, equal, and independent? At the age of 21 or of manhood 2 Are they not every where, have they not been at all times, and will they not ever be dependent on, subject to the controul of the community of which they happen to be then members? Are any two men equal in strength, or in mental capacity, or in education ? Do the various circumstances to which two persons are liable to be exposed make no difference between them 2 A child, for instance, educated till the age of 30, among the priests of Jaggernaut, and another among the Scavans of Paris, or the Quakers of Philadelphia? Why then do we use these vague and unmeaning terms; or, if they have meaning, what is it but a false one 2 Nature has denied that they ever were or ever can be true; and the accidents and circumstances to which all human beings are exposed from their birth to any given period of their lives, equally forbid these phrases to be true. “Rights. Unalienable, indefeasible rights. “We are now talking of rights as between a man and his fellow men; for what are the rights of a man who lives by himself on an inaccessible island 2 ‘Let a state of nature be supposed, without any such thing as a community among the persons in question. Then I say the law of nature, is that law which pervades all nature; the law of the strongest. No man has any rights but such as depend upon his relative force of body or force of mind, The universal law of nature is, the law of force. That law by which we subjugate the horse and the bull; castrate them to break their spirits, or to render the flesh more tender when we kill and eat the bull in the form of an ox. So we tame the horse by the same merciful operation; deprive him of his natural liberty, and work him hard till he dies. By what right do you commit these injuries? The right of the strongest. Those valuable members of society, sportsmen and country gentlemen, hunt and fish, and put inferior (weaker) animals to torture and to death, partly for food, chiefly for amusement. By what right, I ask? By the right of power. Is there any other ? * When the inconvenience of these perpetual struggles of force against force come to be felt, then, and not till then, communities are formed, to prevent depredations of property, and the personal conflicts to which such attempts would naturally give rise. By degrees men would find it their interest to live together, upon certain terms agreed on for mutual defence and common convenience, and enforced by the combined power of the society thus formed. Here, and here first, commence political rights; their foundation being public utility. “What then is right? That which is ordained, commanded, directed— or, according to Horne Tooke's just notions, rectum, directum, from regere, dirigere. All of which would be as void of meaning as of use, unless accompanied by the power, the force of the society; which superseding and controuling individual force, thus ordains. This power or force, is what jurists call the sanction of the law; and they agree that a law is nugatory unless thus sanctioned. Always recurring of necessity to this primary law of nature, the law of the strongest. All jurists, for instance, agree, that if two shipwrecked men are seated on one plank, which will not safely hold them both, the strongest may push off the weakest. Independent of civil society then, no such thing as right exists; they relate to, and are, the very creatures of society; the phrase has no meaning unless with this reference; they are what society acknowledges and sanctions, and they are nothing else. It is true a majority may, and, if there be no check, always will, oppress a minority. Ignorance of the real and permanent interest of the society may prevent that which is really expedient, from being acknowledged as right; and may dictate what is absolutely wrong; that is, may dictate through ignorance what, as a permanent rule, is inconsistent with the public good. Still it will be true that rights owe their existence exclusively to society, they are relative in their meaning to society, and they depend on the sanctions with which society accompanies

[graphic]

them. That which society refuses to acknowledge or sanction is not a right; it has no character of a right.'—pp. 360–362.

Among the rights claimed by the mechanic school of political

economy, is that of universal suffrage in the election of members of the legislature: they say “the legislature” in America, because both branches, the Senate and Congress, are elective: here the right is demanded in the election of members of the Commons' House of Parliament. We fully agree with Mr. Cooper in opinion, that natural rights are mere nonsense. There can be no rights but those which are ordained by society. At the same time, it is perfectly competent to men to say that society, or the legislature representing society, and wielding its power, ought to make ordinances conferring upon the community at large, or a portion of it, certain rights, which they might deem conducive to the general welfare; and in this point of view, we may consider the demand that is not as yet, but will very soon be, made in this country for universal suffrage. And, undoubtedly, if it were likely that the concession of the elective franchise to all men of matured age and sound mind, untainted by crime, would conduce to the general welfare of this empire, there would be no good reason why it should not be granted. The franchise should not be a privilege confined to a few, if by giving it to the many the interests of the whole might be best secured. It is impossible to foresee what may happen hereafter: it may be, for aught that we know, that education, and knowledge, and personal freedom, may be so extensively diffused, that all men of the description mentioned, might be safely, and even usefully, admitted to the franchise. But viewing the present condition of our dense population, their general poverty, ignorance, and dependence, they would, if they possessed that right, use it for one of two purposes. Either they would use it as their employers might direct them, or in opposition to the will of those upon whom they are dependent. If they acted in the former way, they would be but so many additional instruments in the hands of wealth, which already possesses and wields too many; if they acted in the latter way, they would eventually effect a distribution of property, and destroy the framework of society. We say, therefore, that universal suffrage, instead of conducing to the interests of the whole, would directly counteract those interests, and render the country uninhabitable. We hold, however, that the right of suffrage should be diffused among the people of this country, in proportion as personal independence and education are extended. The former would secure the freedom, the latter the propriety of choice. Property, to a certain extent, should be the test of the individual’s qualification in these respects. For instance, if a man were brought up to a

particular occupation requiring skill, and that by the exertion of

« ElőzőTovább »