WE have now to
make good our argument that there is a natural probability in favor of a
millennium, or reign of justice. We maintain that man has, within the range
of his natural knowledge, sufficient means for determining, that if the course
of human history continue ordinated on the same principles that may be inferred
from a consideration of the past and present, then in the future there must
come a time when justice shall be the regulative principle of the earth,
and man shall carry it into systematic and universal operation.
After all that
has been said of the millennium, we cannot help thinking that there is a
peculiar satisfaction in finding that nature, history, and reason contribute
to authenticate the promise.
To condense the
argument we posit, that human progression is from logic and the mathematical
sciences, through the physical sciences, and up to man-science.
Man-science has four functions:
Action on the external world.
Action on man, without interference.
Action on man by interference.
Actions towards the Divine Being.
The second class of functions gives rise
to political economy, which furnishes the rule of correct action.
The third class to politics.
The fourth class
to religion, the scientific groundwork of which is theology.
is the only means whereby correct action can be performed. In advancing,
therefore, the probability of a millennium in politics, we must, of course,
imply that a millennium in other departments has actually taken place,
or is now taking place. And this we do. The definition of a millennium
is, for us, not any period of time, but a period of truth discovered and
reduced to practice. And consequently, when we speak of a political millennium,
we speak of a period when political truth shall be discovered and be reduced
to practice; and such a period we maintain to be within the bounds of rational
What, in fact,
is the problem of politics? To discover the laws which should regulate men
in the matter of interference. When those laws are discovered, political
truth is discovered. What reason can possibly be alleged for asserting that
the laws, which should regulate men in the matter of interference, are not
as much within the reach of the human intellect as the laws, which should
regulate the merchant in carrying on his commercial transactions? It is plainly
evident that man, being the most complex of all the objects that inhabit
the earth, must be the last whose phenomena are subjected to analysis. Let
the sciences be classed as they may, man, and man's functions, must always
be placed at the extreme end of the scale of natural knowledge, i.e., of
a description of the various steps of the course which the human race must
take in its passage to an equitable condition of society; and these must
be looked for in the evolution of the sciences one after another. Each new
science is not only a revelation to the intellect, but a new power for performing
things which could not otherwise have been done; in fact, a new sceptre for
man to rule the world, and to bend its elements in obedience to his will.
Let us again repeat,
that knowledge is the only means given to man to evolve correct action;
and that correct action is the only means whereby man can evolve a correct,
and consequently beneficial condition. Let us also note well, that knowledge
does not admit of diversity of opinion; that where knowledge is really
attained and properly substantiated, uniformity of credence is its constant
and necessary result; and consequently, wherever we find diversity of opinion,
we have a region where knowledge is not yet attained, or where it is not
yet met with general acceptance.
Let us now ask,
what is the essence of that ultimate condition of man, expressed for brevity's
sake by the word millennium?—A period when truth is discovered, acknowledged,
and carried into practical operation.
A millennium is
a condition of society in which man shall evolve the maximum of good by
acting correctly. And man can act correctly only where he has acquired
knowledge. The moment, then, we ascertain the order in which knowledge
must he acquired, we learn the scheme of human improvement, and ascertain
the general outline of his course, in his passage from ignorance, poverty,
and depravity, towards knowledge, prosperity, and virtuous action.
past history of human progress must supply us with the beginning of the natural
millennium; and these beginnings we must look for in the sciences that
have been already discovered and reduced to practice.
A political millennium
will come, but it will come only because it forms aportion of the still
greater scheme of human improvement—of the more general millennium, that
involves all human knowledge and all human operations.
we have truth discovered and carried into practical operation, we have
a millennium in that department of knowledge.
truth is the intellect of the creature apprehending correctly the divine
arrangements of the created.
All science therefore
is divine, and divine, not in the sense of pantheism, but in the sense
of its being the correlative object created in harmony with the human reason.
Science is the object of reason, and reality is the object of science;
and both reason and reality are the productions of the divine Creator.
Reason on the one hand, and reality on the other, are the correlatives
of creation, and science is the middle term that unites them; reality giving
the matter of science, and reason giving the form. Knowledge, therefore,
is the divine intention; and all the sciences may be viewed, not as human
acquisitions, but as fulfilments of the divine purpose in creating an intellect
to comprehend, and an object to be comprehended.
that we admit science to be not merely human, science acquires a new character.
It becomes the exponent of humanity, and points out the order of human
progression. We have here a sure basis of operation, a foundation on which
the reason may at last rest in constructing its philosophy of man. Science
is stable. It shifts not with opinion, and changes not with lapse of ages.
Were all knowledge obliterated, and man to begin tomorrow a new course of
research, he could come only to the same truths and to the same sciences;
and those sciences would evolve in a similar order, were the experiment to
take place a hundred or a thousand times.
We must now inquire
how the dogma of knowledge is efficient to produce an amended condition
of man upon the globe.
Every science has
a millennium; that is, a period when its truths are discovered, acknowledged,
and carried into practical operation.
First come the
mathematical sciences. A mathematical millennium takes place when mathematical
truth is discovered, and reduced to practical operation. Mathematical science
is the foundation of man's intellectual and practical progress, and the region
of mathematics is the first region in which a natural millennium takes place.
Without mathematics we have no astronomy, no geography, no measurement
of time, and no systematic navigation, worthy of the name. That is, we
have in those departments ignorance or superstition, instead of knowledge.
Next to a mathematical
millennium is a mechanical millennium. The mathematical sciences are absolutely
essential to the evolution of mechanics, and mechanical knowledge is absolutely
necessary to enable man to turn the earth to the best account. One of
the first great spheres of mechanical operation is "locomotion."
Let us consider
that the earth, as constituted, permits only of locomotion under certain
conditions. It is possible for man to have a maximum of locomotive facility.
A certain speed will be found beyond which we lose in safety, and below
which we lose in celerity without gaining in safety. And this applies to
all systems of locomotion. The problem, then, is to discover the best system;
that which combines the maximum of celerity with the minimum of danger.
And when we have made as near an approach to this as the circumstances of
the earth permit of, we have a locomotive millennium.
We have said enough
to show the direct bearing of science on the improvement of man's condition
on the globe. Knowledge is obtained, an improved system of action is consequently
generated, and from that improved system of action an improved condition
arises as the necessary result.
But then, how comes
it that, notwithstanding man's vast achievements, his wonderful efforts
of mechanical ingenuity, and the amazing productions of his skill, his
own condition in a social capacity should not have improved in the same
ratio as the improvement of his condition in regard to the material world.
In Britain, man has to a great extent beaten the material world, and, notwithstanding
this, a large portion of the population is reduced to pauperism, to that
fearful state of dependence in which man finds himself a blot on the universe
of God—a wretch thrown up by the waves of time, without a use, and without
an end, homeless in the presence of the firmament, and helpless in the face
We do not believe
that pauperism comes from God. It is man's doing, and man's doing alone.
God has abundantly supplied men with all the requisite means of support;
and when he cannot find support we must look not to the arrangements of
the almighty God, but to the arrangements of men and to the order in which
they have portioned out the earth. Charge the poverty of men on God is to
blaspheme the Creator. He has given enough, abundance, more than sufficient;
and if man has not enough, we must look to the mode in which God's gifts
have been distributed. There is enough, enough for all, abundantly enough;
and all that is requisite is freedom to labor on the soil, and to extract
from it the produce that God intended for man's support.
And what is the
cause of human pauperism and human degradation? for the two go hand in
hand. It is because the social arrangements of men have been made by superstition,
and not by knowledge. The sciences, we have shown, lead to an amended
order of action, and an amended order of action leads to an amended and
improved condition. But we must have knowledge in the department in which
we require the condition to be amended. That is, mechanical knowledge
improves man's mechanical condition, as regards his power over external
nature; agricultural knowledge his agricultural condition; chemical knowledge
his chemical condition; and so forth. But social knowledge—that is, social
science—is absolutely requisite before we can labor intelligently to improve
man's social condition. These are the conditions under which man tenants
the globe. Every department of nature, and of man's phenomenology, has
its laws; and if those laws are infringed, evil is the immediate, invariable,
and necessary result. And if man's social condition is evil; if we find
at one end of society a few thousands of individuals with enormous wealth,
for which they work not, and never have worked, and at the other end of
society millions belonging to the same country, and born on the same soil,
with barely the necessaries of life, and too often in abject destitution—there
is no other conclusion possible than that this poverty arises from man's
social arrangements, and that poor the mass of the population must remain
until those arrangements are rectified by knowledge.
If Englishmen discover
that pauperism and wretchedness are unnecessary; that the Divine Being
never intended such things; that the degradation of the laboring population,
their moral degradation consequent on poverty, is the curse of the laws
and not of nature,—does any man suppose that Englishmen would not be justified
in abolishing such laws, or that they will not abolish them? Can we believe
for a moment, that if any arrangement would enable the population to find
plenty, that such an arrangement will not be made? If any man believe this,
he is at all events willing to be credulous. For ourselves, we believe
There are hundreds
of thousands of persons in this country who are not earning above 7s.
to 10s. per week, even when they have constant employment.
With this a man
brings up a family and educates his children. His life is a life of stern
economy, and he faces it like a man. He respects himself, and feels that
he has a right to be respected. He does manage to live like a moral being,
and sometimes escapes the degradation of the poor-roll in his old age.
This is the best position of the laborer, the maximum that the present
condition of Scotland can afford to the highest class of her laboring children—milk,
porridge, and potatoes, and with these he goes through his life of honest
But what is the
minimum, what is the condition of the shoals of Irish peasantry who invade
the west coast, and the tribes of Highlanders who have little or nothing
to do? What can they earn? What food do they habitually use, and what is
their moral existence? Let any one visit the Western Islands, and inquire
into the social condition of the inhabitants and the arrangements men have
made for the destruction of the population. See scores of men, women, and
children gathering shell-fish on the shore as almost their only food, while
the rent of the island is all abstracted, and spent in London or elsewhere;
and then say if it be possible that, with such arrangements, any soil, or
any climate, or any profusion of natural advantages, would have compensated
for the evil arrangements that men have made. Does any one suppose that
those same Highlanders, who find a wretched sustenance on the shore, could
not, and would not, extract an abundant existence out of the soil of their
native island? The law forbids them; that is, men have made such arrangements
with regard to God's earth, that the stable population must be reduced to
destitution, for the purpose of having one man endowed with a wealth which
he, perhaps, knows not how to use, nor even to retain.
And we affirm,
without the slightest hesitation, that the very same kind of improvements
that have followed the mathematical and physical sciences, will follow social
science, and achieve in the world of man far greater wonders than have yet
been achieved in the world of matter. It is not trade Britain wants, nor
more railroads, nor larger orders for cotton, nor new schemes for alimenting
the poor, nor loans to landlords, nor any other mercantile or economical
change. It is social change,—new social arrangements, made on the principles
of natural equity. No economical measure whatever is capable of reaching
the depths of the social evils. Ameliorations may, no doubt, be made for
a time; but the radical evil remains, still generating the poison that corrupts
The evil is expressed
in a few words; and, sooner or later, the nation will appreciate it and
rectify it. It is "the alienation of the soil from the state, and the consequent
taxation of the industry of the country." Britain may go on producing with
wonderful energy, and may accomplish far more than she has yet accomplished.
She may struggle as Britain only can struggle. She may present to the world
peace at home, when the nations of Europe are filled with insurrection.
She may lead foremost in the march of civilization, and be first among the
kingdoms of the earth. All this she may do, and more. But as certainly
as Britain continues her present social arrangements, so certainly will
there come a time when—the other questions being cleared on this side and
on that side, and the main question brought into the arena—the labor of
Britain will emancipate itself from thraldom. Gradually and surely has the
separation been taking place between the privileged landowner and the unprivileged
laborer. And the time will come at last that there shall be but two parties
looking each other in the face, and knowing that the destruction of one is
an event of necessary occurrence. That event must come. Nor is it in man
to stay it or to produce it. It will come as the result of the laws that
govern nature and that govern man.
We may as well
attempt mechanical impossibilities as political impossibilities: and, notwithstanding
the almost universal prevalence of the current superstition about the
rights of landed property, we have no hesitation in affirming that a very
few years will show that superstition destroyed, and the main question
of England's welfare brought to a serious and definite discussion.
In politics there
are only two main questions—first, personal liberty; second, natural property.
England has been at work for centuries in the endeavor to settle the first;
and, when that is definitely settled, she will give her undivided attention
to the second.
The first and most
obvious requirement in a country, is some degree of security for life,
liberty, and property. This gives birth to criminal law, the great end
of which is ostensibly to prevent crimes. The minor proposition, "What
is a crime?" requires to be determined on exactly the same principles as
we determine "What is a square?" or, "What is the orbit of the earth? "Without
this determination, made on principles which are not arbitrary but scientific,
law is despotism; and no man in the world is morally bound to obey it,
except as Scripture may enjoin him to obey even unjust laws. If legislatures
will make arbitrary crimes—that is, make actions legally criminal, which
are not naturally criminal—no population is bound to obey them. On the contrary,
it becomes one of the highest duties of man to resist such laws; to use every
effort to procure their abolition; and, if he cannot do so by reason, then
do so by force. The welfare of humanity demands this at the hand of every
man; and the base and slavish doctrine of non-resistance is fit—not for men
who study truth in God's universe—but for hireling sycophants, who care not
what man may suffer so that their vile carcasses are clothed and fed. The
liberties we have in England are mainly owing to the fact, that England would
not tolerate the determination of crime by the executive rulers, but reserved
this for the deliberate assembly.
with the theory of crime (much more so than is usually imagined), is the
theory of natural property. The law assumed crime arbitrarily, and proceeded
to punish it; it assumed property arbitrarily, and proceeded to protect
it. The king, who had the power to make or unmake crimes, had the power
to dispose of the land that belonged to the state. He sold or gifted it,
and thus in the long run the whole of the lands of England, with some trifling
exceptions, have been alienated from the nation, and the burden of taxation
has been placed upon the people. Superstition (that is, unfounded credence)
was at the bottom of the king's right in both cases; and the present inhabitants
of the British islands are bound to observe the laws, made in former times,
concerning crimes and property, just in so far as those laws are now equitable,
or would now be re-enacted were there no laws on those subjects. The present
possessor of a portion of land derives not one iota of present right from
the former gift of a defunct monarch; and his right, to be now valid, must
be such, that were all his titles destroyed the nation would proceed to
place him in possession of the lands, because he, as an individual man,
had an equitable claim to them. Just as, if all the laws and statutes of
England were destroyed, the nation would proceed as usual to the arrest and
punishment of the murderer and robber—those persons being punished, not because
there are laws for their punishment, but because it is just that they should
be punished, and just that there should be laws to punish. The justice of
the punishment does in no case derive from the law, but the whole force and
validity of the law derives from the justice of the punishment; and where
the punishment is not just, that punishment is a crime, whatever the law
may be, or whatever it may declare.
One striking fact
is apparent in considering the past history of laws with regard to crimes
and property. The laws with regard to crimes have been considered alterable,
the laws with regard to property have been considered unalterable. One
generation of legislators and rulers made an action a legal crime; but
the next generation did not on that account consider itself bound forever
so to esteem it. On the contrary, every generation of legislators has considered
itself at full liberty to alter, revise, amend, and abolish such laws,
according to its own judgement. But with regard to the king's gift of lands
it has been quite otherwise. The deeds of past rulers have been supposed
to extend to all future generations; and the doctrine now prevalent is,
that the lands once alienated by the king's gift, could not be reassumed
by the nation without a breach of equity—without, in fact, committing that
crime abhorrent in the eyes of aristocracy, "attacking the rights of property."
This discrepancy is at once explained, when we reflect that the legislators
of Britain have been for the most part the landlords themselves, or those
so immediately connected with their interests, that the government was to
all intents and purposes a landlordocracy. But the question still occurs,
and must occur again and again, "If the acts of past rulers were not morally
permanent with regard to crime, how can they possibly be so with regard to
property? and if they are morally permanent with regard to property, how
can they be otherwise with regard to crime?"
We have now to
show that crime and property are not distinct, in fact that, so far as regards
legislation, they are identical; and that the laws (or king's grants,
which are in fact nothing else than laws, although this fact is overlooked)
regarding landed property, are neither more nor less than laws regarding
crime. Property is usually regarded as an object, as something essentially
distinguished from action. Yet we shall undertake to show that action alone
is concerned, and that all laws regarding property are merely laws regarding
action. And if we succeed in doing this, we have unhinged the superstition
that prevails on the subject of landed property,—we have loosened the
fabric of aristocracy, and laid open a question that for many years to
come will occupy the attention of Great Britain. There is already in the
public mind a very extensive suspicion that the present distribution of
the land is the true and main cause of England's distress and Ireland's
wretchedness; but the supposed difficulty of presenting a scheme which should
be perfectly just in theory, and practicable and beneficial if carried into
effect, appears to have deterred many from openly attacking the question,
and from subjecting it to the same kind of calm and rational investigation
so lavishly accorded to other questions of incomparably less importance.
The apparent hopelessness, also, of effecting any radical change in the
present system, and the fear of advocating "wild" doctrines, have both exerted
an influence in repressing investigation. This apathy, however, cannot continue
long. Whatever may be the result, the investigation cannot fail to be made.
We now undertake
to show that the gift of the land by the king is nothing more than a law
affecting action; and, consequently, is of the same character as a law
relating to crime. And if so, it must follow the general course of the
laws relating to crime; and if those laws are not morally permanent, neither
is the king's gift of land morally permanent, but may be revised, amended,
or abolished, exactly in the same manner as a law affecting crime. And
over and above, we maintain, that neither the one nor the other is one
atom more valid, or more binding, on account of legislation, but that they
are right now, or wrong now, wholly and solely according to their own merits;
that the law cannot make a crime, although the law may call an action by
this name, and treat it as such; and that the law cannot make a portion of
land property although it may call it property. Both crime and property are
anterior to law, and superior to it: and it was not to make either the one
or the other, but to prevent the one and protect the other, that legislative
law was called into existence. Law is not the moral measure of right and
wrong; but the rule of practice for the policeman, constable, jailer, judge,
sheriff, and hangman; and until law is absolutely perfect, there is a canon
higher than the canon of law, one more valid and more stable—the canon of
reason—to which law itself must be subject.
A law against crime
is a public declaration that certain acts ought not to be performed; and
that he who performs them shall be visited with certain specified penalties.
This, we maintain, is exactly the essence of the king's grant of landed
property, because the law declares that if any persons use the land without
permission of the grantee, they shall be punished.
Now the essential
part of this political arrangement is this:—"All persons in the nation
are forbidden, under pains and penalties, to use a certain portion of land,
with the exception of the grantee, or by his permission." This, then, is
essentially a law against action—a law declaring that to use a certain
portion of land is a crime for the vast majority of the population.
Now, if we turn
to the effects of this arrangement, we find that this grantee is in no
respect bound to make the land produce. He may utterly neglect it; nay,
he may, as has actually been done recently in the Highlands of Scotland
(and as the king did himself ages ago at the New Forest)—may drive off the
population, drive off the sheep (the food of the man), and convert the district
into a game desert for his own amusement—he having plenty of wealth, derived
perhaps from other lands, wherewith to support these costly pleasures—at
the expense of the nation.
Such, on the side
of the grantee, is the limit of liberty. Let us now ask, What the limit
is on the part of the nation? No matter what may be the state of the land—even
if it is lying waste, and producing nothing for man's support, as is actually
the case in many parts of the kingdom—no man in Britain may put into it
a spade or a potato, to save his family from starvation, without incurring
the penalties of the law. He would be a criminal (the law would call him
so), and he would be treated as such.
This state of affairs
represents the extremes; and all that is better than the extremes is due,
not to the law, but to the laws of nature. Now, the law has done this
grievous injury; it has deprived the poor of the natural remedy whereby
they would have corrected so enormous an abuse. Let us suppose that there
was no law, and that one man claimed thirty thousand acres for his amusement.
Other persons require the land for their support. They begin to occupy
it, and he endeavors to repel them. Now, what would be the natural consequence?
What ought the cultivators to do? Should they retire and starve? or expatriate
themselves? They would resist the aggression by force, and in so doing
they would only do their duty. But the law will not allow them to resist.
The law has first deprived them of the land, and then enlisted a standing
army to prevent them from using the natural means of recovering it.
No truth can be
more certain than that God gave the land for the benefit of all; and if
any arrangement interfere with, or diminish that benefit, then has man
as man, as the recipient of God's bounty, an undoubted right to alter or
abolish that arrangement, exactly as he alters his arrangements in agriculture,
in medicine, in mechanics, or in navigation. No more crime, and no more
wrong attaches to his alterations in the one case than in the other.
takes place exactly as men discover and definitely determine the true
nature of crime, and exactly as they confine their laws to the prohibition
of those actions which are crimes, and to the non-prohibition of those
actions which are not crimes. The laws of man cannot make a crime, neither
can they unmake a crime. Crime is logically anterior to human legislation,
and the very end and intent of legislation in its first and most essential
capacity is,—to prevent crime.
All nations with
which we are acquainted have punished as crimes actions which were not
crimes; and the gradual improvement of the laws of man in this respect,
is one of the great phenomena that we learn from history.
But while we have
a positive major proposition, we have also a negative major proposition,
"No action that is not a crime ought to be
prevented by the law."
Now, as legislators
and rulers are only men (there is no divine wisdom, nor divine sacredness
about them), they may be the criminals as well as any of the population.
It is quite easy for the generality of writers on these subjects to treat
of crime as committed by the population. They see so far, and sometimes
their views are valuable and correct. But they have first perched the government
on a great height, which they do not intend to survey; and then they confine
their observation to the subject population. To include both at one view
appears a stretch beyond their power, and hence their admirable dissertations
are unsatisfactory; and by unsatisfactory, we do not mean that they are
not distinguished by talent of the highest order, and by upright sincerity;
but that they treat only one portion of the phenomenon, and omit its correlative.
Exactly as if one were to write an able dissertation on the earth's motion,
furnishing us with a perfect diagram and specification of the orbit, and
an exact determination of the velocity, and yet should altogether omit to
mention the sun. Such a dissertation, let its details be as perfect as they
may, would be altogether unsatisfactory; because the correlative, the sun,
has not been exhibited in its relations to the earth.
And so it is with
crime. He who studies crime as a portion of man-science, must include
in his view the whole phenomenon, and must inquire what does' man do, as
man. And when we turn to Britain with this principle, we must regard the
whole population, king, lords, commons, soldiers, judges, laborers, paupers,
in fact, the whole mass of society, as merely men. And when we define crime,
and find that actions coinciding with that definition are performed by
any of these parties, by whatever name they may be called, or under whatever
pretences they may appear, we must not hesitate to call the action by the
name of crime, and to say, "this is a crime committed by men." Reverence
for law as law, as a human rule of action de facto enacted by legislators,
is mere debasing superstition; nor, however venerable law may be in some
men's estimation, do we consider either their law or their worship of it
at all entitled to respect. Men venerate law and care nothing for justice,
just as they venerate the priest and forget the Deity.
The Almighty Maker
and Ruler of mankind will have men subject to justice and not to men;
and the very moment the rules of justice, which vary not, nor can vary,
are departed from, that moment is man relieved from his allegiance to the
ruler; and if the population have the power, they may arrest the rulers,
and bring them to the same judicial trial that would be reserved for the
Hence the necessity
for all "science of justice," that men—definitely ascertaining, on principles
which are not arbitrary, the real actions which are criminal may appoint
a first magistrate to carry into execution the laws of justice. And this
first magistrate—king, president, or anything else—is not to govern men,
but to regulate them according to the laws of equity; and in performing this
function, he occupies the highest position to which man may attain, and,
performing his duties with impartial sincerity, he merits the constant respect,
aid, and support of every person in the land. This portion of the British
constitution, the first magistrate king, the independent judges, and the
jury from the locality, is unsurpassed, if not unequalled, by anything in
the whole history of man. In England, we have in this portion of our political
mechanism, the most profound reason for thankfulness to God. Had the slave-owner
been tried, he could not have been convicted because of the law; but had
the legislature been tried for making laws to allow slavery, and for using
the British arms to support it, there can be no question that, if the ordinary
decisions were adhered to, the jury would have found the legislature guilty,
and England may proudly say that her judges would not have hesitated to pronounce
the condemnation. Definitely to determine what is a crime and what is not
a crime is one of the first great problems of political science. We define
crime to be, "a breach of equity"; and consequently we maintain that whatever
is not a breach of equity is not a crime, and under no circumstances whatever
ought to be prohibited or restricted by the laws. Absolute freedom, then,
to perform every action that is not a breach of equity, constitutes the
great final termination of man's political progress, so far as liberty
But what is man's
final termination with regard to the other great substantive of politics,
But it is necessary to understand what we
mean by a lord and a serf.
Here we approach
a subject that, in the course of a few years (in all probability), will
be the great element of strife and contention. Here is the rock on which
England's famous constitution of King, Lords, and Commons, will suffer
its final shipwreck. Such an assertion is, of course, at present a mere
opinion; but if the scheme we have advanced be in the main correct, then
we do not hesitate to affirm, that if we continue that scheme into the
future, we may see that the question of landed property will be the cause
of a stupendous struggle between the aristocracy and the laborocracy of
Britain, and that its final settlement will entail the destruction of the
constitution. And the question lies in narrow bounds, all that is required
being an answer to a question virtually the following: "Is the population
to he starved, pauperized, and expatriated, or is the aristocracy to be
Let the political arrangements be
what they may, let there be universal or any other suffrage, so long as
the aristocracy have all the land, and derive the rent of it, the laborer
is only a serf, and a serf he will remain until he has uprooted the rights
of private landed property. The land is for the nation, and not for the aristocracy.
A serf is a man
who, by the arrangements of mankind, is deprived of the object on which
he might expend his labor, or of the natural profit that results from his
labor; and consequently is under the necessity of supporting himself and
his family by his labor alone. And a lord or an aristocrat is a man who,
by the arrangements of mankind, is made to possess the object; and who
consequently can support himself and his family without labor, on the profits
created by the labor of others. This is the essential distinction between
the lord and the serf; and we maintain that the constitution of the world
forbids that any arrangement of this kind should result in any other than
an evil condition of society, which must necessarily condemn a large part
of the population to physical degradation, and if to physical degradation
to moral degradation. No instance can be adduced of a population reduced
to extreme poverty (as must ever be the case where the land, the great
source of wealth, is allotted to a few who labor not), where that population
has not been also and in consequence reduced to moral and intellectual degradation,
and where the spirit of man has not been depraved and borne down by the
circumstances in which man, and not God, has placed him.
The history of
the acquisition of liberty (in Britain, for instance) is only the history
of the gradual destruction of the privileges of the lord, and of the legal
title which the serf has from time to time succeeded in establishing to those
natural rights of which he has been deprived.
We are fully aware
that there exists in the minds of many persons a vague apprehension, that
if the present laws relating to landed property were to be disturbed,
evils of the most malignant character would invade the society of Britain.
Nothing can be more absurd, more puerile, more dastardly. The very same
fears have prevailed with regard to every other change that has taken
place; and, down to the last change that man shall make in his political
arrangements, we may rest satisfied that the craven, the placeman, and the
aristocrat will not fail to vent loud lamentations on the evils which, in
their estimation, are sure to follow. The arrangements of mankind have
established diversities of rights affecting the possession of the earth,
which the Creator intended for the race; and thus one man was endowed with
vast extents of territory, while, on the other hand, multitudes were thereby
necessarily deprived of everything except their labor. So singular a system
could only originate in the reign of power, and could only be perpetuated
through the ignorance of the masses of the population. But the arrangements
of mankind with regard to the earth did not stop here. One generation was
not content with making arrangements which were to be in force for that
generation alone; but laws were enacted, and customs were acknowledged
whereby the arrangements of one generation were to descend to future generations,
and to be imposed on men not yet born, who were to be born into a world
already portioned out, and consequently to which they had no title. Those,
therefore, who were born into the world in a country where the land had been
accorded to individual proprietors, could obtain their livelihood only by
labor for other men; and as those to whom the land had been accorded could
not cultivate it themselves, and as the land was required for the support
of the population, the laborers were under the necessity of paying a rent
to those who thus procured a vast revenue without labor. This system of diversity
of rights to the natural earth, which God intended for the race, being perpetuated
from generation to generation, entails with it, as its necessary attendant,
that baneful condition of society, in which we have a few aristocrats endowed
with vast wealth without labor, and a multitude of laborers reduced to poverty,
destitution, and sometimes to actual starvation.
No political truth
requires to be more strenuously impressed upon the world, than that the
men of every succeeding generation have the same right to make their own
arrangements, unburdened with any responsibilities, restrictions, diversities
of rights and privileges, other than those restrictions imposed by the
general laws of equity, or those diversities of office which they may agree
to make for their general advantage.
If, then, we admit
that every generation of men has the same free right to make its own arrangements,
and to carry into effect the principles it knows or believes to be true,
quite independently of the arrangements that have been made by any anterior
generations, we must also of necessity admit, that the earth and all it
contains, belongs, for the time being, to every existing generation, and
that the disposition of the earth (as the great storehouse from which man
must derive his support and sustenance) is not to be determined by the
laws, customs, arrangements, king's gifts, or prescriptive rights of any
past generation of men, but by the judgement and reason of the existing
generation, ordering all arrangements according to the rules of equity,
which are always valid and always binding, and which at every given moment
of time are the rules which ought to determine human action. Consequently
the question at every period is, "What is the equitable disposition of the
earth?" The great problem is to discover "such a system as shall secure
to every man his exact share of the natural advantages which the Creator
has provided for the race; while, at the same time, he has full opportunity,
without let or hindrance, to exercise his labor, industry, and skill, for
his own advantage." Until this problem is solved, both in theory and in practice,
political change must continually go on.
in the eye of the law with regard to natural rights, is the final termination
of man's political progress, the last term in that grand series of changes
that commenced with the two opposite elements—the lord and the serf; and
which will terminate with the one element—the freeman without privileges
and without oppressions.
There cannot be
the slightest question that the progression of modern states is towards
universal suffrage; that is, towards absolute equalization of the political
function of the individuals of whom the state is composed. The necessary
attendant of universal suffrage must be, "the equal eligibility of every
member of the state to fill any office in the state."
When a state arrives
at this ultimatum with regard to the political function of each individual,
the question of natural property must fall to be discussed; and as no
possible reason can be alleged why one individual should a priori be endowed
with more of the earth (which God, the Creator and Father of mankind, has
given to the human race) than any other individual; and as every generation
of existing men must have exactly the same title to a free earth, unencumbered
with any arrangements of past generations, we may rest satisfied, that through
whatever transformations men may pass, the ultimate point at which they
must necessarily arrive, is absolute equality with regard to natural property.
And if so, the intention of Providence will then be realized, that the industrious
man shall be rich, and the man who labors not shall be poor. Such is the
intention of nature, and such is the intention of the Almighty Maker of mankind.
The great social
problem, then, that cannot fail ere long to appear in the arena of European
discussion is, "to discover such a system as shall secure to every man
his exact share of the natural advantages which the Creator has provided
for the race; while, at the same time, he has full opportunity, without
let or hindrance, to exercise his skill, industry, and perseverance for
his own advantage."
Of this problem,
we maintain that there can be but one general solution possible; and the
whole analogy of scientific discovery assures us that, sooner or later,
the problem will be solved, that the solution will be acknowledged, and
that it will be transformed from an intellectual dogma into a practical rule
of action, thereby presenting a realization, in outward condition, of those
propositions which the reason has seen to be correct.
The solution we
propound is the following, although, of course, there is no supposition
that any general solution can be immediately applicable to the circumstances
of this or any other country.
We shall speak
of England alone, and consider the state of England as composed of an indefinite
number of members, all equal in the eye of the law, all on a parity with
regard to primary political function, and all equally eligible to fill
any office to which they may he elected by the suffrages of the majority.
All authority of man is of course excluded, and the canon of right is the
science of equity—that is, the rules of divine and immutable justice, as
capable of being apprehended by the human reason.
[Even if it were
true that there ought to be an inequality of rights among the individuals
of the human race, it would be absolutely impossible to determine which
individuals of the race should be born to more rights, and which individuals
to fewer rights, than their fellows.2
of rights can only be based on superstition, and the very moment reason
is substituted for superstition in political science (as it has been in
physical science), that moment must men admit that no possible means are
known by which an inequality of rights could possible be substantiated.]
The state of England,
then, would present a soil (including the soil proper, the mines, forests,
fisheries, etc.; in fact, that portion of the natural earth called England)
which was permanent, and a population that was not permanent, but renewed
by successive generations.
The question then
is, "What system will secure to every individual of these successive generations
his portion of the natural advantages of England?" Of this problem, we
maintain that there is but one solution possible.
No truth can be
more absolutely certain as an intuitive proposition of the reason, than
that "an object is the property of its creator"; and we maintain that creation3
is the only means by which an individual right
to property can be generated. Consequently, as no individual and no generation
is the creator of the substantive, earth, it belongs equally to all the
existing inhabitants. That is, no individual has a special claim to more
But while on the
one hand we take into consideration the object—that is, the earth; we
must also take into consideration the subject—that is, man, and man's
The object is the
common property of all; no individual being able to exhibit a title to
any particular portion of it. And individual or private property is, the
increased value produced by individual labor. Again, in the earth must
be distinguished the permanent earth and its temporary or perishable productions.
The former—that is, the permanent earth—we maintain, never can be private
property; and every system that treats it as such must necessarily be unjust.
No rational basis has ever been exhibited to the world on which private
right to any particular portion of the earth could possible be founded.
But though the
permanent earth never can be private property (although the laws may call
it so, and may treat it as such), it must be possessed by individuals for
the purpose of cultivation, and for the purpose of extracting from it all
those natural objects which man requires.
The question then
is, upon what terms, or according to what system, must the earth be possessed
by the successive generations that succeed each other on the surface of
the globe? The conditions given are—First, That the earth is the common
property of the race; Second, That whatever an individual produces by his
own labor (whether it be a new object, made out of many materials, or a
new value given by labor to an object whose form, locality, etc., may be
changed) is the private property of that individual, and he may dispose of
it as he pleases, provided he does not interfere with his fellows. Third,
The earth is the perpetual common property of the race, and each succeeding
generation has a full title to a free earth. One generation cannot encumber
a succeeding generation.
And the condition
required is, such a system as shall secure to the successive individuals
of the race their share of the common property, and the opportunity without
interference, of making as much private property as their skill, industry,
and enterprise would enable them to make.
The scheme that
appears to present itself most naturally is, the general division of the
soil, portioning it out to the inhabitants according to their number. Such
appears to be the only system that suggests itself to most minds, if we
may judge from the objections brought forward against an equalization of
But men must go
forward, never backward. To speak of a division of lands in England is
absurd. Such a division would be as useless as it is improbable. But it
is more than useless—it is unjust; and unjust, not to the present so-called
proprietors, but to the human beings who are continually being born into
the world, and who have exactly the same natural right to a portion that
their predecessors have.
The actual division
of the soil need never be anticipated, nor would such a division be just,
if the divided portions were made the property (legally, for they could
never be so morally) of individuals.
If, then, successive
generations of men cannot have their fractional share of the actual soil
(including mines, etc.), how can the division of the advantages of the
natural earth be effected?
By the division
of its annual value or rent; that is, making the rent of the soil the
common property of the nation. That is (as the taxation is the common
property of the state), by taking the whole of the taxes out of the rents
of the soil, and thereby abolishing all other kinds of taxation whatever.
And thus all industry would be absolutely emancipated from every burden,
and every man would reap as his skill, industry, or enterprise rendered
legitimately his, according to the natural law of free competition.4
This we maintain to be the only theory that
will satisfy the requirements of the problem of natural property. And
the question now is: how can the division of the rent be effected? An actual
division of the rent—that is, the payment of so much money to each individual—would
be attended with, perhaps, insuperable inconveniences; neither is such an
actual division requisite, every requirement being capable of fulfilment
We now apply this
solution to England. England forms a state; that is, a community acting
through public servants for the administration of justice, etc. In the
actual condition of England, many things are at present unjust; and the
right of the government to tax and make laws for those who are excluded
from representation, is at all events questionable. However, we shall make
a few remarks on England as she is, and on England as she ought to be;
that is, as she would he were the rules of equity reduced to practical
1st. The state
has alienated the lands to private individuals called proprietors, and the
vast majority of Englishmen are born to their labor, minus their share of
2d. This taxation
of labor has introduced vast systems of restriction on trades and industry.
Instead of a perfectly free trade with all the world, England has adopted
a revenue system that most materially diminishes both the amount of trade
and its profit. And, instead of a perfectly free internal industry, England
has adopted an excise that is as vexatious in its operation as can well
be conceived. Both the customs and excise laws, and every other tax on
industry, have arisen from the alienation of the soil from the state;
and had the soil not been alienated, no tax whatever would have been requisite;
and were the soil resumed (as it undoubtedly ought to be), every tax of
every kind and character, save the common rent of the soil, might at once
be abolished, with the whole army of collectors, revenue-officers, cruisers,
coastguards, excisemen, etc., etc.
3d. Taxation can
only be on land or labor. [By land we mean the natural earth, not merely
the agricultural soil.] These are the two radical elements that can be
subjected to taxation, capital being originally derived from one or the
other. Capital is only hoarded labor or hoarded rent; and as all capital
must be derived from the one source or the other, all taxation of capital
is only taxation of land or of labor. Consequently all taxation of whatever
kind is,—1st, taxation of labor, that is, a deduction from the natural
remuneration which God intended the laborer to derive from his exertions;
or 2nd, taxation of land, that is, the appropriation of the current value
of the natural earth to the expenses of the state.
Now, labor is essentially
private property and land is not essentially private property, but on
the contrary is the common inheritance of every generation of mankind.
Where the land is taxed, no man is taxed, nor does the taxation of land
interfere in any way whatever with the progress of human industry. On the
contrary, the taxation of land, rightly directed, might be made to advance
the condition of the country to a high degree of prosperity.
4th. For the expenses
of a state there must be a revenue, and this revenue must be derived from
the taxation of labor, or from the rent of the lands. There is no other
alternative; either the rents of the soil must be devoted to the common
expenses of the state, or the labor of individuals must be interfered with;
and restrictions, supervisions, prohibitions, etc., must be called into
existence, to facilitate the collection of the revenue.
The political history
of landed property in England, appears to have been as follows:—
1st. The lands
were accorded by the king to persons who were to undertake the military service
of the kingdom.
2nd. The performance
of this military service was the condition on which individuals held the
3rd. The lands
were at first held for life, and afterwards were made hereditary.
4th. The military service was abolished by
the law, and a standing army introduced.
5th. This standing army was paid by the king.
6th. The king,
having abolished the military services of the individuals who held the national
land, resorted to the taxation of articles of consumption for the payment
of the army.
The lands of England,
therefore, instead of being held on condition of performing the military
service of the kingdom, became the property of the individuals who held
them, and thus the State of England lost the lands of England. And the military
service of the kingdom, instead of being performed by those individuals
who held the national land, was henceforth (after the reign of Charles II.)
to be paid for by the general taxation of the inhabitants of the country.
Therefore the present
system of taxation, and the national debt, the interest of which is procured
by the forcible taxation of the general inhabitants of England, are both
due to the alienation of the lands from the State, inasmuch as the national
debt (incurred for war expenses) would have been a debt upon the lands,
and not a debt upon the people of England. If, therefore, the legislature
had a right to abolish the military services of those who held the national
land, and thereby to impose on the general community all the liabilities
of the military service of the kingdom, the legislature has the same right
to abolish the general taxation of the community, and to allocate to those
who hold the land all the expenses that have been incurred, and that are
still incurred, for the war charges of the kingdom.
of the land from the state, and its conversion into private property, was
the first grand step that laid the foundation of the modern system of society
in England,—a system that presents enormous wealth in the hands of a few
aristocrats, who neither labor, nor even pay taxes in proportion to those
who do labor; and a vast population laboring for a bare subsistence, or
reduced sometimes by millions to the condition of pauperism.
So long as this
system is allowed to continue, it appears (from the constitution of the
earth, and of man's power to extract from it a maintenance) an absolute
impossibility that pauperism should be obliterated; inasmuch as the burden
of taxation necessarily falls on labor,—and more especially as the value
of labor is necessarily diminished wherever there is a soil allocated to
The three events
which have at last left the lands of England in the hands of a small number
of aristocrats, are these: the suppression of the monasteries; the abolition
of military tenures; and the enclosure of the common lands.
Yet every one of
these events has a right side as well as a wrong side. It was right to
abolish the monasteries and the military tenures, but it was iniquitous
to transform the lands thus obtained into the property of the aristocracy.
The enclosure of
the common lands, again, was a proper measure, inasmuch as the lands were
producing a little; and every measure that caused the lands to produce
more for the consumption of the country was so far beneficial. It would
have been quite absurd to leave the common lands in pasture, while their
enclosure would produce for the service of the country a much larger quantity
of food. But these allotments were assigned, under enclosure acts, not to
the occupiers, but the owners of the cottages. Thus almost a complete severance
has been affected between the English peasantry and the English soil. The
little farmers and cottiers of the country have been converted into daylaborers,
depending entirely upon daily earnings, which may, and frequently in point
of fact do, fail them. They have now no land, upon the produce of which
they can fall as a reserve whenever the demand for labor happens to he slack.
And now it is necessary
to inquire, "Why does it happen, that in the richest country in the world
a large portion of the population should he reduced to pauperism?" Until
the causes of pauperism are satisfactorily ascertained, and until the remedy
is applied to the cause, no remedial measure can do more than alleviate
the evil. Apply the remedy to the cause, and the evil is eradicated. The
cause, or at least one of the great causes, is that expressed in the words
quoted above, the severance between the English peasantry and the English
soil;" and until the peasantry recover that soil, the inhabitants of England
may rest satisfied that the curse of pauperism will pursue them. The British
public can never be sufficiently reminded that there need have been no taxes
had it not been for the alienation of the land from the state.
No truth appears
to be more satisfactorily and more generally borne out by the history
of modern Europe, than that the progression of men in the matter of liberty
"is from a diversity of privileges towards an equality of rights;" that
is, that the past progress has been all in this direction since the maximum
of diversity prevailed in the aspect of individual lord and individual serf.
And if this be the case, it cannot be an unreasonable conclusion, that if
sufficient time be allowed for the evolution, the progress of change will
continue to go on till some ultimate condition is evolved. And that ultimate
condition can only be at the point where diversity of privilege disappears,
and every individual in the state is legally entitled to identically the
same political functions. Diversities of office there may be, and there must
be, but diversity of rights there cannot be without injustice.
Such, then, is
the theoretic ultimatum that satisfies the reason with regard to its equity,
and such is the historic ultimatum that the reason infers from the past history
of mankind. Such, then, is the point towards which societies are progressing;
and when that point is reached, the ultimatum of equity is achieved, and
the present course of historical evolution is complete.
The next steps
required to lead society towards its final destination are questions for
the practical statesman.
Diversity of opinion
may arise between two men who are both apparently in the right, if the
attention of the one be directed to what is theoretically right, and the
attention of the other to what is practically expedient as the next step
which the present balance of powers in the state renders possible. The one
takes the unchangeable and imperishable element of man, the objective reason,
crowns it with imperial authority, and demands that all should at once acknowledge
its supremacy. The other takes the variable element of man—his subjective
condition—and, rejecting every dogma that claims to be absolute, discourses
only on the proximate possibility of improving that condition.
Between these two
parties, therefore, there is not so much a perpetual warfare, as a perpetual
misunderstanding. Their point of view is different. They stand on different
elevations, and have quite a different range of horizon.
To a certain extent,
both are necessary—both are workers in the great field of human improvement
and of man's amelioration. Incomprehensible as they must ever be to each
other (till the last final item of change shall bring both to an identity
of purpose), they are fellow-laborers in the scheme of human evolution.
The one devises afar off the general scheme of progress; the other carries
the proximate measures of that scheme into practical operation. The one
is the hydrographer who constructs the chart; the other, the mariner who
navigates the ship, ignorant perhaps what may be its final destination.
The theorist, too
often trusting to his individual perceptions, forgets that propositions
which appear to him of absolute certitude, can never be accepted by the
world until they have received a far wider authentication than any one man
could possibly bestow upon them. And though perchance he might evolve some
propositions which should ultimately be able to stand their ground, experience
will prove that the diffusion of truth is no less necessary than its discovery.
Truth, like leaven, must pervade the mass before the requisite, transformation
is effected. On the other hand, the man of practice moves, for the most part,
as he is impelled by the convictions of the multitude, and his object is
not to theorize but to design the requisite changes, and to carry them into
execution. The theories of today he regards with indifference or aversion;
they are of no practical avail; he is pressed with the necessity of action,
and forgets that he moves in action because the multitude have moved in
mind; and that the multitude moved in mind because they had imbibed the
theories of former speculators, and changed their credence under the influence
of conviction. He forgets that change of action comes from change of credence,
and that change of credence comes from theoretic speculation. He forgets
that if there were no theories there would be no change, and if no change
no necessity for him to execute it.
In assigning, then, a theoretic ultimatum
to man's political progress, we posit—
That absolute equality in the eye of the law,
without the slightest distinction of individuals or classes, is the ultimatum
of political progression; and this ultimatum is the only condition that
satisfies the requirements of the reason, and the only condition that presents
a rational termination to those changes which, according to history, have
been gradually taking place for centuries.