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Hermes. The Grecian believed it when he made Apollo and Mercury and the Muses its inventors and patrons— when he regarded poetry as the direct inspiration of the deity, and poet and prophet as synonymous. Even the less enthusiastic and less imaginative Roman, imbibed, with the Grecian's art, the Grecian's reverential belief in its divinity. And we too must feel that there is something divine in true art—that the great artist is sent for a purpose. It is difficult to believe that, in the economy of nature, mighty capacity is conferred of improving, elevating, refining and delighting mankind, which must depend for its awakening on accident and for its direction on chance. We have always been disposed to call in question the existence of the “mute, inglorious Miltons.” The heart “pregnant with celestial fire” must and will find utterance, and in spite of every impediment and obstacle—in spite of penury, suffering, contempt and neglect–vill, like Burns and Chatterton, “wake to ecstacy the living lyre”—saddened though its melody be by the groans which keen agony alone can wring from such souls. Alas! that those groans, mournful accompaniment to sweet music, should so often awaken no effectual sympathy, no generous response, until “weary with the march of life”—world-sick, heart-sick, if not heart-broken—the poor son of genius, on whom though the world frowned, the muses smiled, gives over the struggle and in some “neglected spot is laid "
ART. WII.--THE RIGHT To LABor. Journal des Economisles. Vol. 21st, from August to Novenber, (1848,) inclusive.
WITH IN this specious formula—“the right to labor”— lie concentrated the greater number of those terrible falla. cies which now threaten to overrun and devastate civilized society. The hydra of communism holds struggling in its deadly folds the Hercules of truth. That the latter conquers, who can doubt? Man's nature, his soul, and instinct, alike lead him to the light. The world is progressive. The past shows, the present hopes for, and the future promises this; but fearful are the doubts, the despondencies, and the agonies, through which society must pass to attain its highest tone ! Around each great truth is gathered a crowd of errors—deceitful reflections of its beauty—giving to the mischievous a pretext for ill, and often, with ignis fatuus light, misleading even the truehearted and the good. There are crises in the world's course, when, rousing from temporary lethargy, reason seems more than usually wide awake to the influence of truth and light. But, in this very waking, is she also more subject to the misleading influence of error. The craving heart—the longing, seeking, hungering for truth—is roused; and, in its eager search, how often, alas! is the will-o'-the-wisp mistaken for the star-beam | Through one of these crises are we now struggling. The world is in labor of a great truth, but its sick fancy is cheated with the bewildering dazzle of its own delirious dreams. One of society's closest guards—a kind of shepherd's dog, as it were, of the flock—stands political economy. Watching, barking, wrangling at every intruder, suspicious of outward show, nor satisfied with skin-deep inspection, it examines, before admitting all pretenders as true prophets, and strips many a wolf of his sheep's clothing. The evilinclined, thus, naturally, hoot and revile it. The ignorant mistrust it. What do we, its advocates, ask in its defence? Simply nothing, but that the world should learn to know it. We wish no law for its imposition—no tax for its protection. Let truth be but heard : there is in the heart of man an instinct to know and to seize it. Error is simply negative; like shadow, it is only want of light. Heaven's sunbeam on the material world—reason's effulgence on the thinking soul—alone suffice to work God’s purposes. Man, his humble instrument, cannot make the light; he can but strive to remove the obstacles which intercept its abundant flow. We ask, then, only to be heard. Let the world know us. Let the people know us. Let political economy be the science of the crowd. It is neither incomprehensible nor abstruse. It requires but that each individual man should think, think—not imagine, not dream, not utopianize—but think, study, and understand for himself. Where the masses are ignorant, what more natural than that they stumble into wrong? Mind must act; and more and more, as the world advances, does it call for the right of exerting and developing its power. In earlier ages, learning, information, thought, being limited to the few, the masses took the word from these high-priests of reason, whose veiled holy of holies was sacred from the intrusion of the crowd. But, now, the veil is rent asunder. Not you, nor we, nor he—nor any chosen one—nor ten, nor twenty—but man,—now claims the right to think for himself. He claims it; he will have it; he ought to have it. Let but those who are ahead in the race of knowledge give to those who need; guide those who stumble in the dark; and each, thus putting in his mite of well-doing in the cause, ward off, as much as possible, the calamities which necessarily hover round the great and progressive change through which the world is passing. Great changes are oftenest wrought out only through great convulsions. It is a man's work, and man's heart is in it, when the humblest individual, with shoulder to the wheel, stands boldly and honestly forth, to raise his hand in warding off the avalanche of evil. France, which now stands before the world, in the agonies of her struggles—great alike in truth and in error-France has experimented, and written for us, in her sufferings, a mighty lesson. May we but read and learn it ! Revelling in the madness of newly-gained freedom, her people, not knowing the use of what they had seized, for them it became the synonyme of license. Rushing from extreme to extreme, they forgot that liberty was but enfranchise ment, and, with “democracy” for their watchword, exercised a despotism much more fearful than that of the single tyrant, because its power, like its name, was “legion.” And what is the result Credit dead; industry paralyzed; commerce annihilated; her starving people now sinking despondent under their difficulties—now driven to the madness of revolt, against they know not whom--asking, they know not what. France, terrified at her own acts, calls out for succor, and on every side resound the answers of her best and wisest citizens: “Step back from your errors; give truth its way”—“laissez passer”— “laissez faire.” Amidst the throng of confused theories, each of which burns into the very vitals of the suffering state, its brand of crime and folly,
“While lean-looked prophets whisper fearful change,”
political economy alone, with its great and simple truths, seems to hold forth some hope of a real regeneration. It alone enjoins upon its disciples to follow, step by step—to sift to the bottom its theories and their remotest effects— before launching the world upon untried experiments. It alone gropes patiently its way, grappling with doubts and difficulties, making sure and clear its footing, before calling upon society to follow. Its opponents—socialists of every grade—leaping blindfold to their conclusions, and, taking impulse for inspiration, recklessly drag on their devotees from one wild dream to another, until
“Contention, like a horse,
They do not mean the evil which they do. Very possibly, their hearts are of the purest—but their ideas, unfortunately, not of the clearest. Without examining into the practicability of their own schemes, they give way to a misty vision of gooduess—a kind of foggy virtue—which, often but the rush-light of their own unregulated fancy—too indolent or too cowardly to probe to its source, and follow to its end— they imagine an inward light, a transmitted beam of heaven, and so dream on
Many, too, who would shrink from the broad notions of communism and forced fraternity, most unwittingly often assist in scattering the poison through society. Something they find out of joint: the world might be better certainly; and, forth with, they set about preaching the vague ideas of fraternity, equality Heaven knows the while (for they themselves do not) what it is all aiming at . Such a writer as Carlyle, for instance, popular and plausible, forever holds up to view the wretchedness of the masses, with threats of undefined evil to the better classes, if this is not remedied, scoffing bitterly, the while, at the laissez faire system. His heart, we believe, is good, his intentions pure—but does he himself know (has he ever put the question to his own heart, and answered it fairly,) where he is leading? We mistake much, if Carlyle would not shrink from forced legalized fraternity, from communism, or from Owenism; and yet to such do his vague generalities drag us. Working up dis. contented, and even well-intentioned minds, to a restless feeling of the need of something better, he does not sufficiently impress upon them that if, in his own beautiful words, “always there is a black spot in our sunshine, it is even the shadow of ourselves,” and that “he who seeks out of himself what is found in himself, will seek forever and find nothing.”—(Zchokke.) Many, to save themselves the trouble of thinking, (and do not ninety-nine in the hundred shirk this when they can 2) take it for granted that he has his idea—that he has his plan; and, as it seems to be philanthropic, well rounded with groans and appeals for suffering humanity, they range themselves under his banner. But to what does all this complaining lead 2 There is sorrow—ay, and wretchedness and suffering, oppression and injustice, trampled misery and heartless power, enough, too much—in this world of ours; we see this as well as he—but where is his remedy ? While he is continually telling us that the “laissez faire” of political economy is treason against the rights of the poor, and that something must be done; that something he never indicates, never hints at. The crowd, having taken his dictum so far— “something is wrong, it must be righted ”—when he comes to a halt, for which they are totally unprepared, are almost forced to rush on a little farther, into the arms of some better revolutionizer—Cabet, Proudhon, &c. It might be well for this energetic writer to con over more frequently his own humorous fable: “Once upon a time, a man, somewhat in drink belike, raised a dreadful outcry at the corner of the market-place, ‘that the world was turning all topsy-turvy; that the men and cattle were all walking with their feet uppermost; that the houses and earth at large (if they did not mind it) would fall into the sky; in short, that unless prompt means were taken, things in general were on the high road to the devil.” As the people only laughed at him, he cried the louder and more vehemently; nay, at last, began objuring, foaming, imprecating, when a good-natured auditor, going up, took the orator by his haunches, and, softly inverting his position, set him down upon his feet. The which, upon perceiving, his mind was staggered not a little. ‘Ha! deuce take it,' cried he, rubbing his eyes; ‘so it was not the world that was hanging by its feet, then, but I that was standing on my head ''