Knowledge is credence based on sufficient
evidence, and reason is the power of perceiving consequences, and
of inferring antecedents. The combination of knowledge and reason is
the great moving power destined to emancipate the world. It is the only
ground of hope for the unprivileged classes, but, at the same time, it
is a sure ground of hope; and the more rapidly knowledge increases, the
more rapidly will its all-powerful influence be made apparent to the
world. Correct credence is absolutely essential to the human race, before
that race can know and work out its own wellbeing.
elements of this correct credence are, 1st, The Bible. 2nd, A correct
view of the phenomena of material nature. 3rd, A correct philosophy
of the mental operations.
The Bible. So far from the Bible being in opposition to the reason
of mankind, it is the great emancipator of the reason.
of all considerations of a hereafter, the Bible has an eminent effect
in regulating the conditions of men of this world.
Bible strikes at the root of persecution, by removing the false credence
on which it is based; it sanctions no persecution, but teaches men
that they are made of one flesh, and that they are personally responsible
to their Creator.
A correct view of natural phenomena. In this two things are implied:
1st, A knowledge of natural phenomena (science); and, 2nd, The attribution
of those phenomena to their true cause. If God be the creator of the
universe, God is also the physical governor of the universe; and as such
we must regard the occurrences of nature as the results of the laws established
by Him. And when once men shall really awake to the conviction, that the
social evils of the community (poverty and want, with the accompaniments
of crime, ignorance and disease) arise from an infringement of certain
invariable laws, no more uncertain in their nature than those which regulate
the fall of a stone or the motion of a planet, we may reasonably expect
that men will bend their eye on the phenomenon, endeavor to ascertain the
conditions and forces that result in good or evil, and thus to discover
a natural science of society that may open a new era in the history of
civilization. Induction is no less applicable to the phenomena of men than
it is to the phenomena of matter.
as man takes the fact in nature, and seeks to assign a cause, he follows
the true path; and that path is abstractly correct, however absurd
may be the fancied explanation.
variety of phenomena are constantly occurring around us, and these, by
a law of our mental constitution, are referred to causes. These causes have
ever played a most prominent part in the history of mankind, and the fancy
has ever thrown around them that mysterious mantle of the imagination by
which they were clothed with personality. From necessary forms of rational
thought, they become transfigured into conscious existences, that willed
and acted for themselves and produced the multifarious phenomena of
nature. The world was filled with half material spirits, demons and
demigods, fates, furies, destinies, and all vague mythologies of mysterious
it was reserved for the corruption of Christianity to throw the darkest
shade. It is said that "the shadow is nowhere so dark as immediately
under the lamp." Piety died away and theology took her place. The wisdom
that is from above is not a creed, but a principle of life imbued
with truth; and when the Church forgot the life, the truth vanished from
the symbol and left the dead remains of unspiritual knowledge. The shadows
were dark before, but now was the night of degradation. Demons and devils
stared from out the ordinary phenomena of nature; and the multitude of
sorcerers who were immolated in the Middle Ages, were as much the victims
of nature misinterpreted, as the martyr Christians were the victims
of a false theology.7
broke at last, and nature was emancipated from the mystic folds of
superstition. The great turning-point of modern times was, when the doctrine
of constant repetition of similar phenomena in similar conditions was
substituted for the dread of unseen, and too often malevolent, agency.
learned at last to bend his eye on the phenomenon, accurately to observe
the conditions, and accurately to measure the change. Physical truth
was the result of this operation, so simple, now we know it, yet of
such vast importance to the welfare of the world. Superstition here
received its blow of death; and, just in proportion as the inductive philosophy
(in physical science) was received and cultivated, so was man emancipated
from the terrors of unseen agency, and the phenomena of nature were fixed
on a stable basis that invited man constantly to further inquiry.
But what has become of the causes?
causes were now no longer beings, but the laws by which the one God
carries on the government of the material world.
has this view of nature a direct bearing on the political condition
of mankind? No doubt of it whatever. Those who have advocated the utilitarian
theory are true benefactors to their country; and, though we may take
occasion to advert to the cases in which that theory has been carried
altogether out of its legitimate province, we of course accept it to
its utmost extent in those matters that come within its range. But what
is the utilitarian theory, and what is its connection with inductive
us suppose men legislating on a theological principle (no matter what),
and carrying out their laws by force. Let us suppose an inductive philosopher
beginning at the effects of these laws, carefully collecting the statistics
of the things he can observe, and arranging them into an exhibition
of facts. Let us suppose that these facts show the results of the legislation
to have been eminently detrimental to the great body of the population.
Suppose he publishes these details. Of course those who legislate on
a theological principle care nothing about consequences; for if the principle
be correct, the legislation is a duty at all hazards. Now, what is to
be done? Of course, if the populace are not quite so certain about the
principle as the legislators are, they might begin to suspect a mistake
in the rulers' method of proceeding, and perhaps they might weigh the
statistics against the theology, and give the preference to the former.
This is very likely. Now, what course have the rulers? Either to abandon
their legislation, or to expel the philosopher, and prevent all further
inquiries of the kind. But suppose the inductive mode of judging of legislative
acts should happen to procure free course, it is quite impossible that
facts, mere facts, should not tell on the country in the long run, and
that reasonings upon those facts should not spring up in every man's mind,
and cause him to throw all his weight into every change in which he could
see his own, and the interest of his fellows involved.
suppose a new light were to break upon the nation. Suppose men should
happen to reflect that facts come from the operations of the laws of
God, and suppose the thought should strike them that God is a benevolent
and a just God—that he made a good world, gave it good laws, and that
social evils sprang from man's injustice to his fellow, and from the wrong
way in which things have been divided. Suppose the idea should go abroad
that God is no respecter or persons, but that perhaps the welfare of a
peasant is of as much value in the eyes of Him, who doeth all things well,
as the welfare of a king. Now, suppose to these reflections were joined
another or two, that God made man's reason, and made man to hate pain
and flee from it; and also that man's nature obliges him to live in society,
and that societies may make mistakes, as the child does who puts his finger
into the flame, and that the pain is to teach him to beware in future.
Were such notions to go abroad, it is perfectly evident that the inductive
philosophy, when it found out evils and suffering attending legislative
acts, would come backed with the authority of Him who made the laws of nature,
and it would lead to the belief that the welfare of the great masses of
the population was never sacrificed to procure the wealth of the few, without
God's displeasure being always made manifest in the suffering that ensued.
Not that this suffering was a miraculous interference, but the result
of the ordinary laws which God has made' for the government of the world.
however, one more principle should be admitted, namely, that "that
which is just is beneficial, and for the good of the greatest number."
Suppose men should reflect that induction requires time and knowledge
before it can be brought to perfection, and that God endowed man with
an á priori principle of justice, to enable him to steer clear of
injuring his fellow, even where the inductive evidence should not be at
hand. Suppose the results of this justice and of this induction should
happen to turn out always and invariably coincident, and although pursuing
different paths to reach the same end, yet the end arrived at never was different.
all this admitted, it is plain that the inductive method of examining
the condition of the country would have a most direct and most powerful
influence on the legislation of the country. Where suffering was considered
not the mere accident of chance, nor the work of a malevolent spirit,
but the voice of a just and benevolent God telling men to amend the order
of society, and to return to those elementary principles of justice that
He had implanted in their mind—surely we can see that the progress of
this nation must be very different from the progress of that nation from
which inductive philosophy was banished, and where men legislated for
themselves and pretended to be legislating for God.
3rd, A correct philosophy of
the mental operations.
we approach what is termed metaphysical philosophy, we feel that we
approach a quagmire, over which a dense mist seems to hold its perpetual
habitation. If we attempt to advance, two ultimate and hitherto impassable
objects present themselves to view. On the one hand is the bottomless
pit of scepticism, and on the other is the commanding but inaccessible
height of absolute truth.
scepticism on the one hand, and the dogmatism of unsupported faith
on the other, philosophy has slowly swayed backwards and forwards, leaving
man as little farther advanced in ontology as he was five hundred,
or a thousand, or two thousand years since.
To suppose, however, that philosophy
is the useless jargon that some writers appear desirous of representing,
because it has failed to solve the great problem, namely: "How can objective
existence be rationally substantiated" is surely to look at history
with only one eye.
that scepticism in philosophy is the ultimate result of all investigation;
let us only be consistent, and make that scepticism universal, and
the bugbear of scepticism disappears forever. Let us write a plus or
a minus, a sign positive or a sign negative, before all our knowledge,
and what difference can it possibly make?—knowledge remains the same
in all its relative proportions; and all that man has really ascertained
to be true, remains as permanently stable, and as really capable of application,
as if ten thousand syllogisms had proven that knowledge was truth, and
that the axiomatic credence of mankind was really veracious. Scepticism,
whatever be its danger, is only dangerous when partially applied. When one
man shall have demonstrated to another man his own existence (and the most
sceptical of sceptics admits the existence of the me), it will then be
time to substantiate objective existence, by a process of proof that
can have no difficulties, when once the proof of the one me is furnished
to the other. If we will be sceptics, let us be consistent; and let us
write our sign negative, not merely before objective knowledge, but before
the existence of that me, whose existence is absolutely as incapable of
every approach to rational proof as is the existence of an external world.
however, we take the existence of the me for granted, and then insist
that other objective existence should produce a proof of which it is
incapable, our scepticism is not only dangerous but fatal. Rational
proof there is none, either in the one case or the other; for the me
is as really objective to all our consciousness, as is matter or universal
mind. We are conscious of mental phenomena alone; and the me is as far
removed from immediate appreciation, as is any other substantive existence
that our race admits with persevering universality. Let us only make scepticism
(philosophic scepticism), absolutely universal, and the foundations of
real knowledge are laid anew, scepticism being buried in a grave of its
ourselves, we believe that scepticism may be fairly met, and fairly
vanquished by the most strict rules of logic. Its stronghold is in the
ambiguity of terms, and in the use of terms which it has no logical right
to use. Scepticism says, "You have no proof for the objective truth of
your subjective convictions." We deny the fact, and allege that an argument
based on the calculation of probabilities would establish, beyond the
smallest possibility of doubt, the objective veracity of the subjective
laws of reason. The mathematical sciences are, every one of them—namely,
arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and statics, purely objective; every one
of their primary propositions is an axiomatic truth taken for granted, self-evident,
incapable of question, purely abstract, and that does not pronounce on
the real existence of any concrete reality whatever. Now how comes it,
that when these subjective sciences are applied to matter, an entity with
which they have nothing to do, they are invariably as correct as when merely
contemplated by the reason? How, if the subjective convictions and subjective
processes of the reason are not correct, can an astronomer predict the
return of a comet?—and the comet does return, to other men's perceptions,
years after his dead. Scepticism is the greatest imposition that ever
fooled a man's reason, yet it must he fairly met.
perhaps, was the absence of a definition productive of so much fruitless
toil, as when men set to work on philosophy. What does a man propose
to expound when he teaches philosophy? For a long period philosophy
was ontology; that is, the knowledge of being, entirely and exclusively
objective in its character, entirely and exclusively subjective in its
means of operation. That is, men endeavored to substantiate both the reality
and the form of the universe in their own minds, without the connecting
link, evidence, that renders one form of thought knowledge. There was no
evidence, therefore there was no knowledge. With such a system the abstract
sciences alone are possible, as in them the evidence is subjective, and
supplied by the rational constitution of the mind.
Baconian philosophy broke up ontology by supplying the connecting
link that must unite the object and the subject. That link was evidence,
and that evidence was only possible by means of observation. Philosophy
now separated into two parts—metaphysics and science, which latter was
the new philosophy that arose from the new method of founding knowledge
new philosophy has advanced with wonderful strides, enlightening man's
intellect, and dispersing innumerable benefits, which reproduce themselves
in an infinity of forms, and hold out hopes of great and permanent
advantage to our race. The old philosophy remains much where it was
as regards its nature, but in a very different position as to the extent
of the ground it occupies.
period the method of making science without evidence was universal. It
was applied to physics as well as to metaphysics, and its domain was supposed
to extend over everything that could become the subject of human knowledge.
It has now been driven from every part of that region that has been occupied
by positive science.
nothing be learned from this fact? We think that something can, and
it is this—That philosophy, after retrograding from every region of
thought to which man may apply his attention, shall at last resolve
itself into the science of human thought, and pronounce nothing whatever
on any subject that is not merely and exclusively human thought. If we
consider knowledge, we shall find that it implies three things, the object
(that is, the universe); the subject (that is, the human mind); and
the connecting link between them, that is, evidence. Now, if we consider
that philosophy has abandoned one portion after as positive see that, if
another of the object, just in proportion as positive science has occupied
that portion, we can see that the process continues, the whole of the object
must ultimately be abandoned, and the subject alone become the object of
contemplation. And if so, then will philosophy teach only psychology, taking
that term extensively to signify mental science.
multitude, in all ages, and in all places, have admitted the existence
of the mind, the existence of the external world, and the existence
of Deity. These appear to be the common and general groundwork of human
credence and human action. The multitude believed, and acted on their
belief, taking the three great facts we have mentioned as the most common
and ordinary truths, without which the whole economy of thought must be
overturned, and laid in inextricable confusion.
philosophers, however, endeavored to give a rational explanation of
the theory of human credence. Their object was not to accept these great
facts, and thence to proceed to specific knowledge, but to lay anew
the rational evidence on which these facts themselves were to be admitted.
before man can reason, three substantives must be taken for granted,
and two propositions must also be given, involving those three substantives
as the terms or he cannot by any possibility arrive at a proposition
established by rational, that is, by logical proof. Let men therefore
pursue their inquiry as far back as the most subtle intellect can possibly
reach, there must necessarily be found at the bottom of all real or of all
hypothetical reasoning, three substantives and two propositions, which,
if accepted, may lead to real knowledge, and, if rejected, must land
us without further difficulty in scepticism, absolutely universal.
being the case, we may unhesitatingly assert, that at the bottom of
all knowledge whatever there must be found some substantive existences
absolutely incapable of rational substantiation, and some propositions
absolutely incapable of rational demonstration. Without these it is
impossible for man to reason.
specific difference, then, between real knowledge and philosophy appears
to be this:—Real knowledge, or positive science, accepts the ordinary
belief of the multitude; and, pursuing it forwards, endeavors to determine
its limitations, becoming at every step less and less general. Philosophy,
on the contrary, commencing at the ordinary belief of the multitude,
pursues its course backwards, endeavoring at every step to become more
and more general. The ultimate termination of this course must ever
necessarily be, either to accept some propositions as primary and unproven
or to maintain a consistent scepticism, which absolutely obliterates
the possibility of rational knowledge.
geometrician, for instance, accepts space, without the smallest inquiry
into its nature. His object is to limit, define, and exhibit the relations
of spaces. The sister substantive of space, namely time, is also
accepted by the man of science, whose only object is to measure it
accurately—that is, definitely to determine the limitations of its
portions. The physical sciences, again, accept matter; and without
the smallest speculation as to what matter really is, they each, in their
several branches, endeavor to determine definitely its various forms,
and accurately to specify its manifestations. Philosophy, on the contrary,
endeavors to go backwards from the ordinary credence, and to furnish
some explanation as to what matter is or is not, for some have attempted
to obliterate it altogether.
two substantives, space and matter, are sufficient for our purpose.
Positive science accepting space, and pursuing the inquiry forwards—investigating
first the forms of spaces, and then the necessary relations that exist
between those forms furnishes us with geometry. While by accepting matter,
and inquiring only into the forms of its manifestation, and the relations
that are observed to exist between those forms, we are, by the exercise
of the human reason, at last presented with the sciences of astronomy,
mechanics, chemistry, physiology, etc.
has philosophy to place in the opposite scale? After a thousand years
of speculation as to whether matter be a substance or a shadow, an
existence real or ideal, not one single hair's breadth of progress
towards its determination has ever been made. Every discussion as to
the nature of matter or of space may be raised today as well as two thousand
then, that the moment at which philosophy wandered and went astray was,
when it attempted to discuss the objective truth or falsehood of the primary
credences or convictions of mankind. These primary convictions, in their
general form, are at the bottom of all human knowledge; but whether human
knowledge have or have not an external, real and objective counterpart, which
would remain if man and man's intellect were annihilated, neither philosophy
nor any other natural method can possibly determine. Whether the mental
propositions which constitute knowledge coincide with actual and external
realities is a matter, not of knowledge, which can be rationally substantiated,
but of primary, unproven, and unprovable credence.
can no longer attempt to pronounce á priori upon what is or
what is not, but must confine itself exclusively to thought and to
that alone. The true province of philosophy is not to inquire into the
truth or falsehood of the primary convictions of the intellect, but to
observe and record what those primary convictions are, to enumerate them,
to determine the forms of their manifestations, and to pursue with regard
to human thought the same kind of inquiry that the mathematical sciences
pursue with regard to numbers, quantities, and spaces, and more nearly
still, the same kind of inquiry that the physical sciences pursue with
regard to matter and its manifestations.
mind as complex as it may, it could of itself originate not one single iota
of knowledge, unless the substantive groundwork of that knowledge were
furnished to it from without. Observation, psychological or sensational,
can alone furnish us with a fact, and a fact in one form or other
must lie at the bottom of every chain of reasoning, not purely hypothetical.
The primary matter of knowledge, whether relating to the me or the not
me, must be derived exclusively from observation and never can by any
possibility be more than guessed at by the mere metaphysician. The
form of knowledge and not the matter is the true object of philosophy.
then, our argument with regard to the combination of knowledge and reason.
We mean not that men must combine knowledge and reason, but that the great
masses of the unprivileged classes must combine together on the same knowledge
and on the same principles, that they have rationally deduced from that
knowledge. It has been said, that "for men to be free, it is sufficient that
they will it;" never was there a greater mistake, or one so utterly at variance
with the great facts of history. Perhaps no sentiment is stronger than the
love of liberty. For this men have panted, prayed, fought, struggled, rebelled,
and endured every kind of hardship, and every kind of cruelty. And yet they
are not free. To be free, it is first necessary that men should know wherein
true freedom consists; namely, in the absolute supremacy of equal and impartial
law, made without respect of persons or classes, and administered with uprightness
and regularity. Nor is this all. True freedom is the very highest point of
political civilization; and to suppose that mere will can ever lead to that
point, is to suppose that men may overleap the conditions of their nature,
and reach the goal without the struggles of the race. True freedom, however
simple in its theory, is the highest, and probably the most complex, form
of combined society. It is the whole body of society acting on the principles
of knowledge, and carrying truth into practical operation. Will can never
achieve this. It is the result and ultimate end of a great progress, which
makes its way with knowledge, sometimes advancing with peaceful steps, sometimes
overturning the barriers that stand in the way amid the din of revolution.
It is the condition of society where will is excluded, and law is made on
an objective reason, which convinces man's judgement that it is equitable.
It is the condition first to be defined in its abstract form by the man of
thought, and then to be striven for by the mass of the population. A condition
that supposes great advancement and infinite benefit to mankind, but a condition
that must be purchased, and purchased only on those terms which are prescribed
by the laws of man's constitution.
are three conditions of society involving a cause on the one hand,
and an effect on the other.
causes are Knowledge, Superstition, Infidelity. The effects Freedom,
are the conditions of our nature. Man may make his election of the
cause, but God has determined the character of the consequent.
stands out more prominently from the condition of the various nations, or
from their history, than that those conditions, and the great actions of
men in the figure of society, depend upon their credences; that is, on the
convictions of their intellect; that is, on the propositions they hold to
be true. What makes one nation press ardently forward in the pursuit of
liberty, while another sits dead and stupid under the iron rule of the despot?
Thought, mere thought, impalpable and invisible thought, a something which
can neither be seen, felt, nor handled; but which fixes man's destiny, raising
him if correct to the dignity and energy of freeman, dooming him if erroneous
to vice, degradation, and slavery. The history of the world has to be re-written
on a new principle, and this unseen element has to be exhibited as the cause
of the condition of the nations. Climate, circumstance, and race, may all
go for something or for much; but, far more influential than either, is
credence. Sooner or later men must learn the great fact, that the social
and political condition of a nation is absolutely dependent on that nation's
credence. Correct credence is knowledge, and knowledge alone is capable
of regenerating the political condition of mankind. Change thee credence
of a nation, and you change the whole current of its future progress.
turn to the use of combination. There are certain evils which belong to
the race of mankind, and which afflict humanity more or less in every quarter
of the globe. In the existence of these evils is to be found the reason
of combination; and the object of combination is to remove as much as possible,
such of them as affect the political condition of men, or the condition
of men in society.
first great master evil is that which causes man to prefer the gratification
of passion to the enlightened and rational exercise of his natural
faculties. Whatever view may be taken of the theological question of
natural depravity, we hold it a historical fact of the very
first magnitude, and of the most indubitable veracity, that the human race,
as such, has always, and in every known region of the earth, done
the things which it ought not to have done, and left undone the things
which it ought to have done." With regard to man's nature, we shall
enter into no disputation; but, with regard to men's actions, we view
them through the common medium of history, and we hesitate not to see
the practice of injustice more or less prevalent in every country of the
earth, and, at the same time, to accept that explanation of the fact which
is furnished in much plain terms by the words of divine revelation.
History informs us that the actions of men are wicked; and surely there
can he no absurdity in giving credence to Scripture, when it informs
us that their hearts are so likewise. With the depravity of the heart,
politics has no concern; but, so soon as that depravity comes to manifest
itself in action, and to appear in the form of fraud or violence, the necessity
of a system of politics is immediately substantiated. Men are wicked, and
therefore inclined to do wrong; but they are also rational, and may combine
systematically to prevent the wrong from being done.
The progress of mankind is a progress from ignorance, error, and superstition,
Governments being established in the earlier stages of society—that
is, during the reign of ignorance, error, and superstition—have always,
and in every known case, been more or less despotic; that is, have
systematically assumed powers to which they were not justly entitled.
The progress of political society is a progress in which these unjust
powers have been gradually curtailed and abolished, in proportion as
the nation has progressed from ignorance and superstition, and advanced
use, then, of the combination of knowledge and reason, is (not to
combine against individual injustice, this being the province of the
government, but) to reduce the powers of the government and the laws
of the country within those bounds of justice beyond which they cannot
be other than despotic.
the combination of the nation, or of the enlightened portion of the nation,
against the laws of the nation, and against the unjust powers of the rulers.
is advanced not by the warfare of one nation against another nation,
but by the warfare (physical or moral) of the unprivileged classes against
the unjust laws, and against the unjust privileges that prevail within
the nation itself; and this warfare can only be carried on efficiently
by the mass of the population combining to extort those measures that have
been theoretically shown to be right, or those measures that on good
grounds are presumed to be beneficial.
we look back on the history of England or of any other country that
has made considerable progress, we see that all the great changes that
have taken place in the political condition of the population have
been preceded by changes in the theoretic credence of the population,
and that the amended order of society has resulted directly from a new
and more correct order of thought. And we may also see that these beneficial
changes have seldom, if ever, originated with the rulers themselves,
but have been extorted from them sometimes by force, and sometimes by the
moral influence that the man in the right has over the man in the wrong.
alluding to the explosion of the "divine right of kings," etc. (which
enabled rulers to practice flagrant iniquities without being brought
to judicial trial), we may refer to two modern instances of the combination
of knowledge and reason, by which the whole of Britain obtained changes
of vast extent, by a moral power which overcame the will of the rulers
and of the privileged orders, who were linked to support the abuses.
We refer to the emancipation of the negroes, and to the repeal of the
laws of Great Britain declared that it was lawful for one man to possess
another man as his property; and this principle was carried into
practical operation by the seizure and reduction to slavery of vast
numbers of Africans.
negro slavery we have a vast system of fraud and violence, established and
continued by authority of the British government; that is, we have the
power which has been conferred on the government for the purpose of preventing
violence and fraud, turned altogether away from its legitimate exercise,
and made the instrument of supporting a system of glaring injustice and
flagrant iniquity. We have that greatest of all political evils, injustice,
established and maintained by law. And what was it that abolished negro
slavery? It was the moral influence of knowledge, reason, and religion.
The trade had been sanctioned by long use; the interests of the wealthy
and powerful were linked to maintain it; the laws of the empire had declared
it legitimate, and the government was opposed to its abolition. More
than this, not one single man who had the means and the opportunity to
make himself heard on behalf of the negro, had one farthing of pecuniary
interest in procuring the negro's emancipation.
then, were the motives and the means that led to so great a political
change as the emancipation of a race from slavery?
Certain individuals learnt to think aright on the subject, and to
give utterance to their thoughts. The battle was then commenced. On the
one hand was reason, involving the principles of natural equity, and
on the other was the despotism of the law, the power of the government,
and the pecuniary wealthy and influential.
or later correct thought makes its way, and the more rapidly and
surely, the more a nation has abandoned superstition.
theoretic argument or credence adopted by the advocates of liberty
was, "That man is made free by God, and can never be made rightfully
a slave by man." The argument in its most essential character was one
of mere justice, not of economical benefit or prejudice, profit or loss.
A moral agitation was commenced, the few were transformed into the many,
and the progress of opinion (of credence) was such, that every possible
argument that could be adduced on the opposite side was brought forth from
the lying chambers of selfishness. Everything in the shape of an argument,
everything that could be made to pass for one, though halt, lame, or blind,
was pressed into the service of casuistry, for the purpose of perpetuating
theoretic credence, however, gained ground, and was powerfully aided
by a more accurate knowledge of the enormities that Britons practised
on Africans under shelter of British law. Authentic information was obtained
and disseminated, and at last a great combination of knowledge and
reason was brought to bear against the iniquity. Political justice, however,
is a plant of slow growth; and years of debate, of contest between truth
and falsehood, were necessary, before even the trading in human
blood, the buying and selling of man, who was made in the image of the
Creator, ceased to receive the sanction of the most enlightened and freest
state in the world. And here we can not fail to remark one circumstance
that has almost invariably accompanied every political change which had
for its object the destruction of an injustice. We mean the outcry about
the evils that would follow. No sooner has anyone, more enlightened or more
impartial than his neighbors, insisted on an act of justice (which, after
all, let it never be forgotten, is only the refraining from injustice),
than all the evils in the category are immediately prognosticated, as
if the doing of God's will were to let loose hell to ravage the earth.
the emancipation of the African was spoken of and when the nation
of Britain appeared to be taking into serious consideration the rightfulness
of slavery, what tremendous evils were to follow. Trade was to be ruined,
commerce was almost to cease, and manufacturers were to be bankrupts.
Worse than all, private property was to be invaded (property in human
flesh), the rights of planters sacrificed to the speculative notions
of fanatics, and the British government was to commit an act that would forever
deprive it of the confidence of British subjects. These evils at home were,
of course, to be accompanied by others abroad much more tremendous. The
West India islands were, of course, to be ruined past all possible hope
of recovery; the blacks were to insurge and to destroy the white population;
a moral hurricane, ten times more dreadful than the winds of heaven, was
to sweep across the Caribbean Sea; blood was to flow like water; the
emancipated slave was to celebrate the first moment of his liberty with
rape, rapine, and murder; evils unheard of and inconceivable were to
astonish the earth; the very heavens were to fall. And why? Because
British subjects were no longer to be permitted by British law to hold
their fellow men in slavery on British ground.
law was a positive enactment armed with power, and the moment the
law ceased to exist the negro was emancipated, not by the law, but by
nature. The law may make a slave, but it is beyond the power of the law
to make a freeman. The only question that ever be legitimately taken
into consideration, with regard to slavery, is immediate and total abolition,
and so of all similar cases where injustice is established or systematically
perpetuated by law.
people of Great Britain were taxed by force for the purpose of paying
the planters for their slaves.: Theoretically, the Commons imposed the
taxation on themselves; but nine-tenths of the population have nothing
to do with the election of members of parliament, and so far as they
were concerned, the taxation was ab extra—forced on them by a government
which they had no voice in electing. We maintain that this act was one
of downright injustice and oppression, whatever may be said of its magnanimity.
planters knew perfectly well that they never had a moral right to
the slaves, and consequently they they could have no moral claim to
compensation. Now, the slave-laws were not enacted by this generation,
and it is admitted that those who enacted them had no possible right
to do so. The payment of the twenty millions, therefore, resolved itself
into this, "The law of Britain will not cease to lend its aid and its
arm to perpetuate slavery, unless the people of Britain pay an immense
sum to the planters." The only course that was really legitimate was for
the government of Britain to declare that it had no possible right to
make or keep men slaves, and at once to expunge the statutes, letting the
planters take their chance, at the same time protecting the negroes, as
British subjects, born on British ground. It was a just, and as the world
goes, a glorious thing for Britain to abolish slavery as it did; but
most certainly the laboring man who pays five per cent on his tea, sugar,
and tobacco, to pay the planters, is as surely oppressed and defrauded
as was the negro, although not to the same extent. No man in the world,
and no association in the world, could ever have an equitable right to tax
a laborer for the purpose of remunerating a man-robber; and although the
measure is now passed and done with, we very much question whether some
analogous cases will not be cleared up by the mass of the nation ere many
years pass over the heads of Englishmen. When the question of landed property
comes to a definite discussion, there may be little thought of compensation.
other instance of a great and successful combination, in which knowledge
and reason triumphed over the law, the government, and the privileged
classes of the country, was recently exhibited in the repeal of the
The case of the corn-laws appears
to have been this.
farmer, in taking a farm, has three great subjects to consider, 1st,
The quantity of produce, 2nd, The probable price of produce. 3rd, Amount
first question which the would-be farmer has to answer, is, "Can he
make a profit by taking land from the landowner, and selling corn to
the consumer?" A given farm is estimated to produce a certain average
quantity of grain. This quantity is the first item to be considered,
as it is the basis of all future calculation. A certain portion of this
quantity is requisite for consumption, and the remainder is marketable.
The marketable portion, being the real merchandise which the farmer buys
and retails again must always be assumed at a certain value in the terms
of the price paid for it. Whatever price the farmer pays for his marketable
corn, he must expect, on the first principle of commerce, to receive
a larger price (in the same terms) from the consumer. This larger price
is the whole ultimate object of the farmer; and provided it is sufficient
he is satisfied.
then appears to have been the essence of the corn-laws. At the price
at which corn would be sold in the English market, provided that market
were open to all the world, the farmer could only pay a certain rent
for land; but, provided all foreign competition was excluded up to a
given point, the farmer could afford to pay a much higher rent for land,
and yet derive the same real profit. The farmer was deluded into the idea
of obtaining a high price for corn, and naturally gave, or stipulated
to give, a high price for land. The evil was unseen in its real malignity,
until the abundant harvests of 1835 and 1836. The farmers were then
reduced to sell at a natural price, while they had to pay a taxation
rent, and of course they felt the weight of that system of legislation
which attempted to amend the order of Providence, and on which, with all
its nice adjustments, the landed legislators had descanted so wisely.
low price of corn at that period let the manufacturers into a secret;
they obtained great sums of money, and with the money obtained what
was of more value to the country—they obtained knowledge. They were taught
that their commercial prosperity depended, in a great measure, on the
low price of corn in Britain; and a very cursory consideration may explain
how this happens. Let us suppose that there are five millions of the laboring
population who have a gross income of from 10s. or 19.s. to 30s. or
40s. per week. The laborer, out of his income, has to provide the three
great requisites—food, shelter, and raiment; and, even at the best and
most prosperous of times, his earnings are not much more than sufficient
to procure these in decent abundance. Let us suppose that wheat is at
40s. per quarter, and that a laborer's family consumes 4s. worth of bread
per week. He then has the remainder of his week's income to dispose of
in the purchase of his other requisites. But let wheat rise to 80s. per quarter,
and he must then expend 8s. per week for the same quantity of bread that
he previously purchased for 4s. We have here a difference of 4s. per week;
and the question is, What does the laborer do with those 4s. when bread
is cheap? The answer is very simple—he spends it with the manufacturer. The
laborer is at ease in his circumstances because he has this little revenue
of 4s. a week to come and go on. It is true, he must lay it out carefully;
but then how different to have it to think about, instead of having it screwed
out him by a crying pressure for food! When he has it, he feels himself a
free man, he has a new social and domestic existence, he is a buyer from choice,
not from necessity; and the family deliberations as to how it shall be spent,
give a new interest to the hours he spends at home. All goes on merrily,
and Old England is worth all the countries under the sun.
us take even a moderate estimate of this 4s. a week, and we shall
see how vast a sum it amounts to in the course of a year. Suppose that
five millions have it to spend, and that those five millions spend £10
with the manufacturers. Fifty millions sterling arises from the difference
in the price of corn! Had the corn-laws operated according to the intentions
of land-proprietors, and kept wheat at 80s. in the year 1836, there can
be no doubt whatever that they would have deprived the laboring population
of fifty millions worth of goods, and the manufacturers of fifty millions
worth of sales, as directly as if those fifty millions had been wrested
by violence from the laborer; but this is one of the facts which the indirect
system of taxation is employed to conceal.
repeal of the corn-laws was effected by a great combination of knowledge
and reason. Certain individuals found that their lawful interests were seriously
injured by the interference of the enactments, and they resolved to make
an effort for the abolition of those enactments. Of themselves they were
utterly powerless, and all their individual exertions would have been ineffectual
to achieve their end. They had, however, knowledge and reason on their side;
that is, they were in possession of certain facts, which led by necessary
inference to the conclusion, that the corn-laws were eminently prejudicial
in their operation, and that therefore the corn-laws should no longer be
allowed to exist. Conscious that they had truth on their side, they came
fearlessly before the nation, and staked their cause on the power of truth
to convince the mass of the population. They lectured, and published, and
spoke, and argued, all for one specific end; namely, to communicate knowledge
to the nation, and thereby to make the nation change its credence on the
subject of the corn-laws. The truth gradually prevailed; that is, was generally
disseminated; that is, the same knowledge was received by a larger number
of individuals, who naturally drew the same necessary inference. A great
combination was formed, such as must ever remain one of the historic glories
of Britain and of Britons. It was essentially a combination of knowledge
and reason; and well-grounded argument was the only weapon with which it
maintained the contest. Far more was involved than a mere change in the economical
laws of the kingdom; it was a contest between the two great classes of British
society—the unprivileged laborers and the privileged landowners.
The privileged classes, almost to a man, were against the change;
and they also, on their side, endeavored to establish a combination—a
combination of class interest, in which the only available argument
was the pecuniary interest of the order. The exertions made by the
anti-corn-law party to convince the judgment of the nation were prodigious
and never had any political agitation so much the appearance of instructing,
and so little the appearance of exciting the passions. Instead of the
vague harangues of noisy and designing demagogues, there was the sober
communication of information which would have been interesting and instructive,
even had it been altogether unconnected with the great practical consequence.
The nation was convinced at last; and not withstanding all the influence
of the aristocracy, and all the unwillingness of the Government, the laws
were repealed, and, as there is every reason to suppose, abolished forever.
the slave-laws and the corn-laws were positive enactments to restrain
and diminish the natural liberty of men who had infringed no law
of equity, and who had in no respect injured their fellow-men by force,
fraud, or licentiousness. The abolition of those laws therefore, was
only to allow things to remain as they were established by nature; and
when the world discovers that God has constituted nature aright, men
will have arrived at the first and greatest principle of social science.
legislators of the country were, in their private capacity, extensively
interested in the maintenance of their repeal, the unjust laws; and thus,
in opposing their repeal, were using their official influence for their
own personal advantage to the eminent detriment of their fellow subjects.
abolition of the slave- and corn-laws was only attained after a long and
arduous struggle; the legislature of Great Britain, so far from taking
the initiative in their repeal, offered every possible opposition to the
wishes of the nation; and it was only when the pressure from without became
so imperative that further resistance might have been dangerous, that the
deliberative assembly of the freest state of the world declared that it
was not a crime for a man with a dark skin to enjoy natural freedom, or for
a trader to import corn without being subject to a tax so enormous, that
it usually operated as a prohibition.
slave- and corn-laws were at last repealed, by a process which we doubt
not will ultimately achieve the repeal of every law which restricts or
prohibits actions not naturally criminal—the wiser and better part of the
nation combined against the legislature. On the one hand were knowledge,
reason, and religion; on the other, prescriptive privilege, and the will
of the legislator. The abolition of slavery was a question of justice; the
abolition of the corn-laws, a question of benefit. The main argument advanced
against slavery was that it was unjust; the main argument advanced against
the corn-laws was that they were prejudicial to the country.
argument of justice proceeds upon the principle that certain actions may
not be done, whatever be their consequences. The argument of benefit assumes
that the action itself is indifferent; that is, that it has not in itself
any such moral character as will enable us to pronounce at once, whether
it ought or ought not to be done.
teaches us, that it is not sufficient for men to know that an action
or an enactment is unjust to induce them to abandon the action, or
to abolish the enactment; for this they seldom do until the evidence
of the evil fruits of the injustice are so superabundant, that no mere
sophism can be longer held as an excuse. 'I'he argument of justice,
instead of being the most practically influential, as it is the most
morally valid, is seldom of avail until backed by a knowledge of the
economical evils that never in any one case fail to accompany injustice;
and though the voice of God, and the voice of universal reason may ever
be heard proclaiming, "Do not unto others as ye would not that others should
do unto you," it is not until some summation of evil consequences has convinced
men of their error, that they abandon their course of lawless selfishness,
and allow the constitution of society to remain on the natural footing
established by the Creator. And in this we may see the reason why the political
progress of mankind has been so slow, and why an extensive knowledge of
facts must accompany an admission of principles, before societies awake
to the necessity og remodelling their constitution, and returning from
the systems established in barbarous ages, to the more simple and equitable
system which the eve of reason may read in the constitution of harmonious
nature. It is ever immutably and irrevocably wrong, that any man, or
any body of men whatever, should constrain another man, not a criminal,
to labor for the advantage of any save himself and his kindred; yet
half a century of agitation was necessary before England withdrew her
oppressing arm from the negro; and then the negro was only emancipated
by wresting his price from the population of Britain.
were two modern instances of the combination of knowledge and reason,—spirit-stirring
exhibitions of the energies of a noble people warring for the abolition
of injustice, and for the emancipation of legitimate industry.
the length of our argument concerning the combination of knowledge
and reason, we shall not consider it too lengthened, if it in anywise
contributes to elucidate those means that must be put in operation
for advancing the political progress of mankind. It is the greatest
possible absurdity to suppose that all the changes that take place in
the political condition of societies are only portions of a routine
which, when fulfilled, is to commence again, and again to present the
same phases, and the same or analogues phenomena. No; the political
progress of mankind is a passage to one definite end, to an ultimatum,
to a condition that requires no further change, to a stable system of
law that does not demand perpetual deliberation, but only perpetual
administration; and the great question for the political world is, "What
is that end? What is that system? What is that ultimatum?" What, in fact,
is the political condition of society that controverts no principle of
reason, and sins against no precept of religion? for this, we may rest
assured, is the ultimate end towards witch all civilized societies must
progress; no man for a moment can hesitate to pronounce, or to prophesy
with unlimited assurance, that the negroes in the slave states of America
will ultimately obtain their freedom, and that the serfs of Russia will
ultimately be emancipated.
real history of political progress commences only at that period where
the maximum of disparity between the various orders or classes begins to
be systematically diminished. From this point (which is chronologically
different in the various countries) there is a natural course of progress,
different in the outward circumstances of its manifestation, but essentially
the same in its abstract characters, in every country that achieves civilization.
The essence of this progress is the gradual emancipation of the
rights of the serf or unprivileged laborer, and the corresponding
diminution of the privileges of the lord. Now it may he observed, that
the great revolutions which take place in the earlier portions of this
progress are physical force revolutions, changes brought about by the
sword, because there are no other means sufficiently powerful to effect
them. Nor is it difficult to see why. Were the privileged classes to admit
reason as the umpire, there would be no necessity for force revolutions;
but as the changes come to be necessary, they must be achieved by such
means as will effect them, however undesirable it may be that such means
should be necessary. Where, however, liberty has made a real progress,
knowledge must have made a real progress; and where knowledge has progressed,
reason becomes as powerful an agent as force and one which ought ever to
be chosen if the alternative be in our choice.
history of civilized communities shows us, that the progression of mankind
in a political aspect is, from a diversity of privileges towards an equality
one man can have a privilege only by depriving another man, or many
other men, of a portion of their rights, consequently, a reign of
justice will consist in the destruction of every privilege, and in
the restitution of every right.
That under the supreme direction
of divine providence, man is the agent employed in working out his
own political wellbeing.
man cannot work out his political wellbeing unless he knows wherein
that wellbeing consists. Knowledge, therefore, is necessary to enable
man to work out his political wellbeing.
That men must know correctly
before they can act correctly.
the political wellbeing of mankind involves two things—correct knowledge
and correct action. Correct action is knowledge carried into practical
the political regeneration of mankind is 'depending on the acquisition
and promulgation of political knowledge.
in the laws which should regulate man's political action, there
is a truth and a falsehood, as much as there is a truth and a falsehood
in matters of geometric or astronomic science.
the political condition of men can never be what it ought to be,
until men have acquired the requisite knowledge; that is, until they
have perfected political science, and reduced it to the same form and
ordination as any of the other sciences.
with the perfection of political science, there will necessarily
follow an amended order of political action, and consequently an amended
condition of Society.
political knowledge is divided into two distinct branches; First,
a sensational branch, which furnishes us with the facts of man's condition,
and the actual results of human action; Second, a rational branch
which furnishes us with the principles that ought to regulate human
The first is political economy;
the second is politics, or the science of equity.
improvements in the political conditions of a country are made exactly
in proportion as the truths of political economy and political science
are reduced to practice.
in every country there are privileged classes who have more power
or more property than they are justly entitled to, and unprivileged
classes who have less power or less property than they are justly entitled
to. That the difference between these two classes has been undergoing
a gradual but sure process of diminution. This fact we learn from history.
the further progress of the diminution in the difference between
the privileged and unprivileged classes, may be surely anticipated
as the continuation of a process that has already been going on for
the absolute equality of men in all political rights is the ultimate
end of political progression.
so long as there is not absolute equality of political rights, there
is the constant element of further change and consequently good reason
for anticipating further change.
while a single individual may or may not determine his actions according
to his knowledge, the constitution of humanity in the mass necessarily
determines, that wherever knowledge is obtained, systematically ordinated,
and generally diffused, an amended order of action will invariably
as the old condition necessarily involves the interests of some parties
(placemen, slave-owners, land-owners, for instance), the transition from
the old condition, which was erroneous, to the new and amended condition,
is always the cause of a social struggle between the partisans of the old
condition and the partisans of the new.
change be sought in a country that has attained to liberty of discussion,
a free press, a tolerably extensive representation, etc. (that is,
where deliberative judgement and not mere will rules) the sword (always
an evil, though sometimes necessary) may be superseded by the moral
force of truth. Knowledge disseminated will convince the masses, and
when the masses are convinced they will combine, and when they combine,
the change, sooner or later, will follow as a necessary consequence.
But wherever the unjust interests of the ruling classes are required to
give way before the progress of knowledge, and those ruling classes peremptorily
refuse to allow the condition of society to be amended, the sword is
the instrument which knowledge and reason may be compelled to use; for
it is not possible, it is not within the limits of man's choice, that
the progress of society can be permanently arrested when the intellect
of the masses has advanced in knowledge beyond those propositions, of
which the present condition is only the realisation.
finally, that the acquisition, scientific ordination, and general
diffusion of knowledge, will necessarily obliterate error and superstition,
and continually amend the condition of man upon the globe, until his
ultimate condition shall be the best the circumstances of the earth
permit of. When the rule of reason and equal justice to all has superseded
the rule of superstition and prescription, and when the doctrine of
equality has been applied to society and we have no privileges, no hereditary
distinctions, and no diversity of conditions, except those of office
or those produced by the more or less successful result of industry, skill
or enterprise, we shall have a system that contains within itself the construction
of a jural society, and also the obliteration of all just cause of war.
On this ground we take up the natural probability of a millennium whose
natural probability we maintain to be within the calculation of the human