License to the Strong

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

The bestowing upon men equality of rights, Fitzhugh argues, is but giving license to the strong to oppress the weak:

It begets the grossest inequalities of condition. Menials and day laborers are and must be as numerous as in a land of slavery. And these menials and laborers are only taken care of while young, strong and healthy. If the laborer gets sick, his wages cease just as his demands are greatest. If two of the poor get married, who being young and healthy, are getting good wages, in a few years they may have four children. Their wants have increased, but the mother has enough to do to nurse the children, and the wages of the husband must support six.

There is no equality, except in theory, in such society, and there is no liberty. The men of property, those who own lands and money, are masters of the poor; masters, with none of the feelings, interests or sympathies of masters; they employ them when they please, and for what they please, and may leave them to die in the highway, for it is the only home to which the poor in free countries are entitled. They (the property holders) beheaded Charles Stuart and Louis Capet, because these kings asserted a divine right to govern wrong, and forgot that office was a trust to be exercised for the benefit of the governed; and yet they seem to think that property is of divine right, and that they may abuse its possession to the detriment of the rest of society, as much as they please. A pretty exchange the world would make, to get rid of kings who often love and protect the poor, and get in their place a million of pelting, petty officers in the garb of money-changers and land-owners, who think that as they own all the property, the rest of mankind have no right to a living, except on the conditions they may prescribe. ” ‘Tis bettter to fall before the lion than the wolf,” and modern liberty has substituted a thousand wolves for a few lions. The vulgar landlords, capitalists and employers of to-day, have the liberties and lives of the people more completely in their hands, than had the kings, barons and gentlemen of former times; and they hate and oppress the people as cordially as the people despise them. But these vulgar parvenus, these psalm-singing regicides, these worshipers of mammon, “have but taught bloody instructions which being taught, return to plague the inventor.”

The king’s office was a trust, so are your lands, houses and money. Society permits you to hold them, because private property well administered conduces to the good of all society. This is your only title; you lose your right to your property as the king did to his crown, so soon as you cease faithfully to execute your trust; you can’t make commons and forests of your lands and starve mankind; you must manage your lands to produce the most food and raiment for mankind, or you forfeit your title; you may not understand this philosophy, but you feel that it is true, and are trembling in your seats as you hear the murmurings and threats of the starving poor.

New Things Under the Sun

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

Liberty and equality are new things under the sun, Fitzhugh reminds us — writing from the antebellum South:

The free states of antiquity abounded with slaves. The feudal system that supplanted Roman institutionally changed the form of slavery, but brought with it neither liberty nor equality. France and the Northern States of our Union have alone fully and fairly tried the experiment of a social organization founded upon universal liberty and equality of rights. England has only approximated to this condition in her commercial and manufacturing cities. The examples of small communities in Europe are not fit exponents of the working of the system.

In France and in our Northern States the experiment has already failed, if we are to form our opinions from the discontent of the masses, or to believe the evidence of the Socialists, Communists, Anti-Renters, and a thousand other agrarian sects that have arisen in these countries, and threaten to subvert the whole social fabric. The leaders of these sects, at least in France, comprise within their ranks the greater number of the most cultivated and profound minds in the nation, who have made government their study. Add to the evidence of these social philosophers, who, watching closely the working of the system have proclaimed to the world its total failure, the condition of the working classes, and we have conclusive proof that liberty and equality have not conduced to enhance the comfort or the happiness of the people. Crime and pauperism have increased. Riots, trades unions, strikes for higher wages, discontent breaking out into revolution, are things of daily occurrence, and show that the poor see and feel quite as clearly as the philosophers, that their condition is far worse under the new than under the old order of things.

Radicalism and Chartism in England owe their birth to the free and equal institutions of her commercial and manufacturing districts, and are little heard of in the quiet farming districts, where remnants of feudalism still exist in the relation of landlord and tenant, and in the laws of entail and primogeniture.

The Slave Trade

Friday, April 26th, 2013

As a strong proponent of paternalistic slavery, Fitzhugh argues against the slave trade:

From several quarters propositions have of late been made for the revival of the African slave trade. The South has generally been opposed to this trade, the North favorable to it. Such is likely to be the case again; for the North would make much money by conducting the trade; the settled states of the South lose much by the depreciation of their negroes. The extreme inhumanity of this trade is enough to condemn it, but men’s interests blind their eyes and steel their hearts against considerations of humanity. Besides, the argument will be most successfully played in its behalf, that it will but take the place of another kind of slave trade, that is still more inhuman. The importation of apprentices or temporary slaves is now actively conducted by England from Africa and various parts of Asia. These apprentices, if not worked to death before their terms of service expire, are left to starve afterwards, and new ones imported in their place. They are treated with less humanity than slaves, because the master has little interest in their lives. Vastly larger numbers must be imported to supply the demand for labor, because their children are not slaves, and they themselves but for a time. After liberation they will become a nuisance to the country that imports them.

The fact that, despite of the enormous annual importation of slaves to Cuba, the number of whites is greater than that of blacks in that island, proves clearly enough that where it is cheaper to buy African slaves than to rear them, men will work these poor natives to death, regardless of humanity. Besides, the natural antipathy between the savage and the civilized man, not only prevents the influence of domestic affection on the heart of the master, but indurates his feelings and degrades his morals. Our slaves are treated far better than they were forty years ago, because they have improved in mind and morals, approached nearer to the master’s state of civilization, and thus elicited more of his interest and attachment. Slavery with us is becoming milder every day; were the slave trade revived, it would resume its pristine cruelty. The slaves we now hold would become less valuable, and we should take less care of them. In justice to them let us protest against the renewal of this infamous traffic. Slavery originating from the conquest of a country is beneficent even in its origin, for it preserves the slaves or serfs who are parcelled out to the conquering chiefs from the waste, pillage, cruelty and oppression of the common soldiers of the conquering army, — but slavery brought about by hunting and catching Africans like beasts, and then exposing them to the horrors of the middle passage, is quite a different thing.

We think it would be both wise and humane to subject the free negroes in America to some modification of slavery. Competition with the whites is killing them out. They are neither so moral, so happy, nor half so well provided as the slaves. Let them select their masters, and this would be another instance of slavery originating without violence or cruelty — another instance in which slavery would redress much greater evils than it occasioned.

I remember watching a documentary on Brazil years ago, which explained how the slave-owners there found it more economical to work slaves to death and import a new batch from Africa each season. When the British ended the slave trade, the Brazilian system had to evolve.

Revolutions Always Harm

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Reformations always do good, Fitzhugh says, but revolutions always harm:

All old institutions in time become incrusted with error and abuse, and frequent reforms are required to keep them in good working order, and to adapt them to the gradually changing circumstances of mankind. This is equally true of religious institutions as of political ones, for there is much in the machinery and external manifestations of the former, that is of mere human origin and contrivance, — and everything human is liable to imperfection and decay.

Total changes, which revolutions propose, are never wise or practicable, because most of the institutions of every country are adapted to the manners, morals and sentiments of the people. Indeed, the people have been moulded in character by those institutions, and they cannot be torn asunder and others substituted, for none others will fit. Hence reforms result in permanent change and improvement. Revolutions, after a great waste of blood and treasure, leave things to return soon to the “status quo ante bellum.” English statesmen, fully alive to these great truths, have for centuries past anticipated and prevented revolutions, by granting timely reforms. Mr. Jefferson, when we separated from Great Britain, wished to effect a total revolution, “laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such forms, as,” &c. Fortunately for us, the practical men who framed our government saw the wisdom and necessity of adopting English institutions (to which we had been accustomed), with very slight modifications, to adapt them to our circumstances. Our separation from England was a great and salutary reform, not a revolution. Scotland is now attempting a reform less in degree, but the same in character — she is trying to get back her parliament and to establish a separate nationality. We have no doubt it would redound to the strength and the glory of Great Britain, if both Scotland and Ireland had separate parliaments.

Free Trade Prevents the Growth of Civilization

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Fitzhugh finds the standard arguments for free trade as false as they are specious:

The usual and familiar arguments in favor of this policy are, that it is cheaper to buy abroad good manufactured articles in exchange for agricultural products, than to buy them at home, where more indifferent articles would be obtained for a larger amount of agricultural products.

And again, that we, having no skill or spare moneyed capital, but possessing a rich soil, fine climate, and suitable labor for farming, should follow farming, whilst other nations, without these advantages, but having a large moneyed capital, and great artistic and mechanical skill, should produce manufactured articles, and exchange them for our grain and other products, that thus both we and they would be benefited. The argument is specious, but as false as it is specious.

If an agricultural people were found without any manufactures, by a manufacturing one, the effect of free trade would be to prevent the invention and practice of all the mechanic arts, for “necessity is the mother of invention,” and trade would remove the necessity of home manufactures. But, in truth, there never was a people, however savage, without some knowledge of manufactures and the mechanic arts. When that knowledge, as in the instances of Africans and Indians, is very slight, and the processes of course very tedious, laborious, and inefficient, the immediate effect of contact with a civilized nation by trade, is to extinguish the little knowledge they have, and to divert them to fishing, hunting, searching for gold and similar pursuits, which savages can practice almost as well as civilized men. The African ceases to smelt iron when he finds a day’s work in hunting for slaves, iron or gold, will purchase more and better instruments than he could make in a week, and the Indian pursues trapping, and hunting, and fishing, exclusively, when he can exchange his game, his furs and fish, for blankets, guns, powder and whiskey, with the American. Thus does free trade prevent the growth of civilization and depress and destroy it, by removing the necessity that alone can beget it. Its effects on agricultural countries, however civilized, are precisely similar in character to those on savages. Necessity compels people in poor regions, to cultivate commerce and the mechanic arts, and for that purpose to build ships and cities. They soon acquire skill in manufactures, and all the advantages necessary to produce them with cheapness and facility. The agricultural people with whom they trade, have been bred to exclusive farming, by the simplicity of its operations, its independence of life, and the fertility of their soil. If cut off like China was, and Japan yet is, from the rest of the civilized world, they would have to practise at home all the arts, trades and professions of civilized life, in order to supply the wants of civilized beings. But trade will supply everything they need, except the products of the soil. As they are unskilled in mechanic arts, have few towns, little accumulated capital, and a sparse population, they produce, with great labor and expense, all manufactured articles. To them it is cheaper, at present, to exchange their crops for manufactures than to make them. They begin the exchange, and each day the necessity increases for continuing it, for each day they learn to rely more and more on others to produce articles, some of which they formerly manufactured, — and their ignorance of all, save agriculture, is thus daily increasing. It is cheaper for a man, little skilled in mechanics, to buy his plough and wagon by the exchange of agricultural products, than awkwardly, clumsily and tediously to manufacture them of bad quality with his own hands. Yet, if this same man will become a skilful mechanic, he will be able to procure four times as much agricultural products for his labor, as he can now secure with his own hands. His labor too, will be of a lighter, less exposed, more social character, and far more improving to his mind. What is true of the individual, is true as to a nation, the people who buy their manufactures abroad, labor four times as hard, and as long, to produce them, as if they made them at home. In the case of the nation, this exclusive agriculture begets a sparse and poor population; sparse, because no more people can be employed, than are sufficient to cultivate the land, — poor, because their labor, though harder and more exposed, produces in the aggregate about one-fourth what the same amount of lighter labor would, in a purely mechanical and manufacturing country. Density of population doubles and quadruples the value of labor and of property, because it furnishes the opportunity for association and division of labor, and the division of charges and expenses. When one man has to bear the expense of a school, a church, a mill, a store, a smith’s shop, &c., he is very apt to let his family go without religion and education, and his farm without many of the necessaries and conveniences that properly appertain to it. Where a few have to bear these expenses, the burden on each is very heavy, but where, as in manufacturing countries, with a dense population and many villages, these expenses are sub-divided among many, the burden is light to each, — so that their property and their labor is vastly more available and valuable.

The sparsely settled agricultural country makes by its pursuits, one-fourth what the manufacturing country does, and the money that it makes is probably, in general, if spent at home, capable of purchasing one-half only of the pleasures, comforts and luxuries of life that the same amount of money would in countries engaged in other pursuits. The pleasures of society are seldom indulged in, or if indulged in, at much expense of time and inconvenience, in merely farming countries, where people live at considerable distance from each other. There is no occasion for towns or cities, and not enough of the rich to support places of recreation and amusement. The rich are, therefore, all absentees. Some go off for pleasure, some to religious conventions and associations, some for education, and those who remain at home, do so not to spend money and improve the country, but to save it, in order that they too may hereafter visit other regions. The latter class are no less absentees, in effect, than the former classes.


Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Nothing has more perplexed political economists and mankind at large, Fitzhugh says, than the subject of usury:

That it was right, proper, and laudable for every man to get the highest market price for the use of his money, as for the use of every other article, was an obvious deduction from the axioms of the economists. The instincts and common sense of mankind, whilst admitting the premises, stubbornly denied the unavoidable conclusion. Convicted in argument, but not convinced; they still fought on. In truth, the error lay in the premises, in the axioms and first principles of political economy. That systematic selfishness that inculcates the moral duty to let every man take care of himself and his own selfish interest, that advises each to use his wits, his prudence, and his providence, to get the better of those who have less wit, prudence and providence, to make the best bargains one can, and that a thing is worth what it will bring, is false and rotten to the core. It bears no sound fruit, brings forth no good morality. “Laissez nous faire,” and “Caveat Emptor,” (the latter the maxim of the common law,) justify usury, encourage the weak to oppress the strong, and would justify swindling and theft, if fully carried out into practice. But it is not safe or prudent to swindle or steal; one incurs the penalties of the law; and it is not politic, for one scares off customers and subjects. The man who makes good shaving bargains, will in the long run grow rich; the swindler and the thief never do. Mankind have ever detested the extortionate usurer who takes advantage of distress and misfortune to increase his profits, more than a Robin Hood who robs the rich to relieve the poor. There is always at bottom some sound moral reason for the prejudices of mankind. Analyze their motives, their feelings and sentiments closely. The man who spends a life in dealing hardly and harshly with his fellow men, is a much worse and meaner man than the highway robber. The latter is chivalrous, and where there is chivalry there will be occasional generosity.

The law should protect men, as well from the assaults of superior wit as from those of superior bodily strength. Men’s inequalities of wit, prudence, and providence, differ in nothing so much, as in their capacity to deal in and take care of money. This creates the necessity for laws against usury. Under occasional circumstances, a heavy rate of interest is morally right, but it is generally wrong, and laws are passed for ordinary and not extraordinary occasions.

I think he has made a better case against complex contracts and financial derivatives than against high interest rates.

Instinct and Common Sense

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Instinct and common sense deny the economic proposition that a nation gains nothing by selling more than it buys, Fitzhugh says:

They say, that the way for individuals or people to get rich is to sell more than buy. Philosophy beats them all hollow in argument, yet instinct and common sense are right and philosophy wrong. Philosophy is always wrong and instinct and common sense always right, because philosophy is unobservant and reasons from narrow and insufficient premises, whilst common sense sees and observes all things, giving them their due weight, comes to just conclusions, but being busied about practical every day matters, has never learned the process of abstraction, has never learned how to look into the operations of its mind and see how it has come to its conclusions. It always judges rightly, but reasons wrong. It comes to its conclusions by the same processes of ratiocination that abstract philosophers do, but unaccustomed and untrained to look into its own mental operations, it knows not how it arrived at those conclusions. It sees all the facts and concludes rightly, — abstract philosophers see but a few, reason correctly on them, but err in judgment because their promises are partial and incorrect. Men of sound judgments, are always men who give wrong reasons for their opinions. They form correct opinions because they are practical and experienced; they give wrong reasons for those opinions, because they are no abstractionists and cannot detect, follow and explain the operations of their own minds. The judgment of women is far superior to that of men. They are more calm and observant. Every married man knows that when he places a scheme before his wife and she disapproves it, he conquers her in argument, goes away distrusting his own opinion, though triumphant, and finds in the end his wife was right, though she could not tell him why. Women have more sense than men, but they want courage to carry out and execute what their judgments commend. Hence men, although they fail in a thousand visionary schemes, succeed at last in some one, and are dubbed the nobler sex. An old bachelor friend of ours, says: women are great at a quarrel, bad at argument.

Government without Religion

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Despite the Constitution, there is scarcely a state that would permit any gross violations of Christian morality, Fitzhugh says — again, writing in 1854:

Mormons and Oneida Perfectionists would no sooner be tolerated in Virginia than Pyrrhic Dances and human sacrifices to Moloch. Even Catholics would not be permitted to enact a Parisian sabbath, or Venitian carnival. Christianity is the established religion of most of our States, and Christianity conforming itself to the moral feelings and prejudices of the great majority of the people. No gross violation of public decency will be allowed for the sake of false abstractions.

Women may wear paddies or bloomers, but if they carry the spirit of independence so far as to adopt a dress to conceal their sex, they will soon find themselves in a cage or a prison.

We wished to try the experiment of government without religion, we failed in the attempt. The French did try it, and enthroned the goddess of Reason hard by the reeking guillotine. Moloch might have envied the Goddess the number of her victims, for the streets of Paris ran with blood. The insane ravings of the drunken votaries of Bacchus, were innocency and decency personified, when compared with the mad profanity of Frenchmen, cut loose from religion, and from God.

Soon, very soon, even French republicans discovered the necessity of religion to the very existence of society and of government, and with a profanity more horrible than that which installed the goddess of Reason, they resolved to legislate into existence a Supreme Being. On this occasion, the cruel Robespierre pays one of the most beautiful and just tributes to religion we have ever read. We quote it as a continuation of our argument and an elucidation of our theory — ”That religion is a necessary governmental institution.”


We have not a solitary example in all history to countenance the theories of our ancestors, that a people may be moral, or that a government exist where religion is not in some form or degree recognised by law. What latitude shall be allowed to men in the exercise and practice of religion, is a question for the people to determine when the occasion requires it. It is best not to lay down abstract principles to guide us in advance. Of all the applications of philosophy none have failed so signally as when it has been tried in matters of government. Philosophy will blow up any government that is founded on it. Religion, on the other hand, will sustain the governments that rest upon it. The French build governments on a priori doctrines of philosophy which explode as fast as built. The English gradually and experimentally form institutions, watch their operation, and deduce general laws from those operations.

That kind of philosophy, which neither attempts to create nor account for, is admissible and useful. An extensive knowledge of the history of the various moral philosophies that have succeeded each other in the world, is useful, but only useful because it warns us to avoid all philosophy in the practical affairs of life. If we would have our people moral, and our institutions permanent, we should gradually repudiate our political abstractions and adopt religious truths in their stead.

Slavery Without Domestic Affection

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Slavery without domestic affection would be a curse, Fitzhugh says — and so would marriage and parental authority:

Historians and philosophers, speculating upon the origin of governments, have generally agreed that the family was its first development. It has ever been, and will ever be, its most common form. Two-thirds of mankind, the women and children, are everywhere the subjects of family government. In all countries where slavery exists, the slaves also are the subjects of this kind of government. Now slaves, wives and children have no other government; they do not come directly in contact with the institutions and rulers of the State. But the family government, from its nature, has ever been despotic. The relations between the parent or master and his family subjects are too various, minute and delicate, to be arranged, defined, and enforced by law. God has in his mercy and wisdom provided a better check, to temper and direct the power of the master of the family, than any human government has devised.

It’s called a town

Friday, April 19th, 2013

When Fitzhugh compares a southern plantation to a socialist commune, it reminds me of South Park‘s “Die Hippie, Die” episode:

Natural Slavery

Friday, April 19th, 2013

In the fifth chapter of his Sociology for the South, or The Failure of Free Society, Fitzhugh gives the pro-slavery argument I expected:

Now it has been the practice in all countries and in all ages, in some degree, to accommodate the amount and character of government control to the wants, intelligence, and moral capacities of the nations or individuals to be governed. A highly moral and intellectual people, like the free citizens of ancient Athens, are best governed by a democracy. For a less moral and intellectual one, a limited and constitutional monarchy will answer. For a people either very ignorant or very wicked, nothing short of military despotism will suffice. So among individuals, the most moral and well-informed members of society require no other government than law. They are capable of reading and understanding the law, and have sufficient self-control and virtuous disposition to obey it. Children cannot be governed by mere law; first, because they do not understand it, and secondly, because they are so much under the influence of impulse, passion and appetite, that they want sufficient self-control to be deterred or governed by the distant and doubtful penalties of the law. They must be constantly controlled by parents or guardians, whose will and orders shall stand in the place of law for them. Very wicked men must be put into penitentiaries; lunatics into asylums, and the most wild of them into straight jackets, just as the most wicked of the sane are manacled with irons; and idiots must have committees to govern and take care of them.

This harks back to Aristotle’s concept of natural slavery.

The Science of Slavery

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Political economy is the science of free society, Fitzhugh says, and socialism is the science of slavery:

[T]he world is divided between two philosophies. The one the philosophy of free trade and universal liberty — the philosophy adapted to promote the interests of the strong, the wealthy and the wise. The other, that of socialism, intended to protect the weak, the poor and the ignorant. The latter is almost universal in free society; the former prevails in the slaveholding States of the South. Thus we see each section cherishing theories at war with existing institutions. The people of the North and of Europe are pro-slavery men in the abstract; those of the South are theoretical abolitionists. This state of opinions is readily accounted for. The people in free society feel the evils of universal liberty and free competition, and desire to get rid of those evils. They propose a remedy, which is in fact slavery; but they are wholly unconscious of what they are doing, because never having lived in the midst of slavery, they know not what slavery is. The citizens of the South, who have seen none of the evils of liberty and competition, but just enough of those agencies to operate as healthful stimulants to energy, enterprise and industry, believe free competition to be an unmixed good.

The South, quiet, contented, satisfied, looks upon all socialists and radical reformers as madmen or knaves. It is as ignorant of free society as that society is of slavery. Each section sees one side of the subject alone; each, therefore, takes partial and erroneous views of it. Social science will never take a step in advance till some Southern slave-holder, competent for the task, devotes a life-time to its study and elucidation; for slavery can only be understood by living in its midst, whilst thousands of books daily exhibit the minutest workings of free society. The knowledge of the numerous theories of radical reform proposed in Europe, and the causes that have led to their promulgation, is of vital importance to us. Yet we turn away from them with disgust, as from something unclean and vicious. We occupy high vantage ground for observing, studying and classifying the various phenomena of society; yet we do not profit by the advantages of our position. We should do so, and indignantly hurl back upon our assailants the charge, that there is something wrong and rotten in our system. From their own mouths we can show free society to be a monstrous abortion, and slavery to be the healthy, beautiful and natural being which they are trying, unconsciously, to adopt.


Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

What does Fitzhugh mean by a phalanstery?  He’s referring to Charles Fourier’s utopian building concept, the phalanstère:

Fourier believed that the traditional house was a place of exile and oppression of women. He believed gender roles could progress by shaping them within community, more than by pursuits of sexual freedom or other Simonian concepts.

The structure of the phalanstère was composed by three parts: a central part and two lateral wings. The central part was designed for quiet activities. It included dining rooms, meeting rooms, libraries and studies. A lateral wing was designed for labour and noisy activities, such as carpentry, hammering and forging. It also hosted children because they were considered noisy while playing. The other wing contained a caravansary, with ballrooms and halls for meetings with outsiders. The outsiders had to pay a fee in order to visit and meet the people of the Phalanx community. This income was thought to sustain the autonomous economy of the phalanstère. The phalanstère also included private apartments and many social halls. A social hall was defined by Fourier as a seristère.


Le Corbusier adapted the concept of the phalanstère when he designed the Unité d’Habitation commune in Marseilles.


Nature establishes the only safe and reliable checks and balances in government

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

A well-conducted farm in the South is a model of associated labor that Fourier might envy, Fitzhugh notes:

One old woman nurses all the children whilst the mothers are at work; another waits on the sick, in a house set aside for them. Another washes and cooks, and a fourth makes and mends the clothing. It is a great economy of labor, and is a good idea of the Socialists. Slavery protects the infants, the aged and the sick; nay, takes far better care of them than of the healthy, the middle-aged and the strong. They are part of the family, and self-interest and domestic affection combine to shelter, shield and foster them. A man loves not only his horses and his cattle, which are useful to him, but he loves his dog, which is of no use. He loves them because they are his. What a wise and beneficent provision of Heaven, that makes the selfishness of man’s nature a protecting aegis to shield and defend wife and children, slaves and even dumb animals.

The Socialists propose to reach this result too, but they never can if they refuse to march in the only road Providence has pointed out. Who will check, govern and control their superintending authority? Who prevent his abuse of power? Who can make him kind, tender and affectionate, to the poor, aged, helpless, sick and unfortunate? Qui custodiat custodes? Nature establishes the only safe and reliable checks and balances in government. Alton Locke describes an English farm, where the cattle, the horses and the sheep are fat, plentifully fed and warmly housed; the game in the preserves and the fish in the pond carefully provided for; and two freezing, shivering, starving, half-clad boys, who have to work on the Sabbath, are the slaves to these animals, and are vainly endeavoring to prepare their food. Now it must have occurred to the author that if the boys had belonged to the owner of the farm, they too would have been well-treated, happy and contented. This farm is but a miniature of all England; every animal is well-treated and provided for, except the laboring man. He is the slave of the brutes, the slave of society, produces everything and enjoys nothing. Make him the slave of one man, instead of the slave of society, and he would be far better off.

None but lawyers and historians are aware how much of truth, justice and good sense, there is in the notions of the Communists, as to the community of property. Laying no stress on the too abstract proposition that Providence gave the world not to one man, or set of men, but to all mankind, it is a fact that all governments, in civilized countries, recognize the obligation to support the poor, and thus, in some degree, make all property a common possession. The poor laws and poor houses of England are founded on communistic principles. Each parish is compelled to support its own poor. In Ireland, this obligation weighs so heavily as in many instances to make farms valueless; the poor rates exceeding the rents. But it is domestic slavery alone that can establish a safe, efficient and humane community of property. It did so in ancient times, it did so in feudal times, and does so now, in Eastern Europe, Asia and America. Slaves never die of hunger; seldom suffer want. Hence Chinese sell themselves when they can do no better. A Southern farm is a sort of joint stock concern, or social phalanstery  in which the master furnishes the capital and skill, and the slaves the labor, and divide the profits, not according to each one’s in-put, but according to each one’s wants and necessities.

Louis Napoleon, Socialist Emperor

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

The effect of free society is to encourage the oppression of the poor, Fitzhugh says — in contrast to slave societies:

The ink was hardly dry with which Adam Smith wrote his Wealth of Nations, lauding the benign influences of free society, ere the hunger and want and nakedness of that society engendered a revolutionary explosion that shook the world to its centre. The starving artisans and laborers, and fish-women and needle-women of Paris, were the authors of the first French revolution, and that revolution was everywhere welcomed, and spread from nation to nation like fire in the prairies.

The French armies met with but a formal opposition, until they reached Russia. There, men had homes and houses and a country to fight for. The serfs of Russia, the undisciplined Cossacks, fought for lares and penates, their homes, their country, and their God, and annihilated an army more numerous than that of Xerxes, and braver and better appointed than the tenth legion of Caesar. What should Western European poor men fight for? All the world was the same to them. They had been set free to starve, without a place to rest their dying heads or to inter their dead bodies. Any change they thought would be for the better, and hailed Buonaparte as a deliverer. But the nature of the evil was not understood; there were some remnants of feudalism, some vigor in the Catholic church; these Buonaparte swept away, and left the poor without a stay or a hope. Buonaparte is conquered and banished, universal peace restored; commerce, mechanic arts, manufactures and agriculture revive and flourish; invention is stimulated, industry urged on to its utmost exertion. Never seemed the world so prosperous, so happy, so progressive. But only seemed! Those awful statistics unfold the sad tale that misery and crime and poverty are on the increase still. The prisons are filled, the poor houses and the penal colonies supplied too fast, and the gallows ever pendant with its subject.

In 1830, Paris starves again, builds barricades, continues hungry, and hesitates what next to do. Finally sets up a new king, no better than the one she has expelled. Revolution follows revolution with electric speed throughout great part of Western Europe. Kings are deposed, governments changed; soon new kings put in their places, and things subside — not quietly — into the status quo ante bellum. All this, while millions of the poor are fleeing from Europe as men fly from an infected plague spot, to seek their fortunes in other climes and regions. Another eighteen years of hunger, of crime, of riots, strikes, and trades unions, passes over free society.

In 1848 the drama of 1830 is almost literally re-enacted. Again Paris starves, builds barricades, and expels her king. Again Western Europe follows her example. By this time, however, men had discovered that political changes would not cure the diseases of society. The poor must have bread; government must furnish it. Liberty without bread was not worth fighting for. A Republic is set up in Paris that promises employment and good wages to every body. The experiment is tried and fails in a week. No employment, except transplanting trees and levelling mounds, could be found, and the treasury breaks.

After struggling and blundering and staggering on through various changes, Louis Napoleon is made Emperor. He is a socialist, and socialism is the new fashionable name of slavery. He understands the disease of society, and has nerve enough for any surgical operation that may be required to cure it. His first step in socialism was to take the money of the rich to buy wheat for all. The measure was well-timed, necessary and just. He is now building houses on the social plan for working men, and his Queen is providing nurseries and nurses for the children of the working women, just as we Southerners do for our negro women and children. It is a great economy. Fourier suggested it long after Southerners had practiced it.

During these times there was a little episode in Ireland — Ireland, the freest country in the world, where law is violated every day, mocked at and derided, whence the rich and the noble have emigrated, where all are poor, all equal, and all idle. A few thousands only had usually starved annually; but the potatoe crop failed; they had no feudal lords to buy other food for them, and three hundred thousand starved in a single season. No slave or serf ever did starve, unless he were a runaway. Irishmen, although they love liberty to distraction, have lost their taste for starving. They are coming en masse to America, and in a few years, at the present rate of emigration, will leave the island without inhabitants. The great and increasing emigration from free society in Europe can only be accounted for on the ground that they believe their social system so rotten that no mere political change can help them — for a political revolution can be had on twenty-four hours’ notice.