Benson John Lossing.

Harper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) online

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assertion which, though it has been found choice and of responsibility as attendant
difficult to prove experimentally, there can thereon. New England Puritanism was
be less difficulty in accepting, since we intolerant, even persecuting; but the re-
see life in rudimentary forms and in dif- ligious founder and prophet of Rhode Isl-
ferent stages of development. Huxley and proclaimed the principles of perfect
wielded a trenchant pen and was an un- toleration and of the entire separation of
compromising servant of truth. A bitter the Church from the State. The ice of
controversy between him and Owen arose New England Puritanism was gradually
out of Owen s tendency to compromise, thawed by commerce, non-Puritan immi-
He came at one time to the extreme con- gration from the ofd country, and social
elusion that man was an automaton, influences, as much as by the force of
which would have settled all religious intellectual emancipation; though in
and moral questions out of hand; but in founding universities and schools it had
this he seemed afterwards to feel that in fact prepared for its own ultimate sub-
he had gone too far. An automaton an- version. Unitarianism was a half-way
tomatically reflecting on its automatic house through which Massachusetts pass-
character is a being which seems to defy ed into thorough-going liberalism such as
conception. The connection of action with we find in Emerson, Thoreau, and the
motive, of motive with character and circle of Brook Farm; and afterwards
circumstance, is what nobody doubts; into the iconoclasm of Ingersoll. The
but the precise nature of the connection, only Protestant Church of much impor-
as it is not subject, like a physical con- tance to which the New World has given
nection, to our inspection, defies scrutiny, birth is the Universalist, a natural off-
and our consciousness, which is our only spring of democratic humanity revolting
informant, tells that our agency in some against the belief in eternal fire. En-
qualified sense is free. thusiasm unilluminated may still hold its

The all-embracing philosophy of Mr. camp-meetings and sing " Rock of Ages "
Herbert Spencer excludes not only the in the grove under the stars,
supernatural but theism in its ordinary The main support of orthodox Protes-
form. Yet theism in a subtle form may tantism in the United States now is an
be thought to lurk in it. " By continu- off-shoot from the old country. It is Meth-
ally seeking," he says, " to know, and odism, which, by the perfection of its
being continually thrown back with a organization, combining strong ministerial
deepened conviction of the impossibility authority with a democratic participa-
of knowing, we may keep alive the con- tion of all members in the active service
sciousness that it is alike our highest of the Church, has so far not only held
wisdom and our highest duty to regard its own but enlarged its borders and in-
that through which all things exist as creased its power : its power, perhaps,
the Unknowable." Unknowableness in it- rather than its spiritual influence, for
self excites no reverence, even though it the time comes when the fire of enthusi-
be supposed infinite and eternal. Noth- asm grows cold and class-meetings lose
ing excites our reverence but a person, or their fervor. The membership is mostly
at least a moral being. drawn from a class little exposed to the

Religion passed from Old to New Eng- disturbing influences of criticism or sci-
land in the form of a refugee Protestant- ence; nor has the education of the min-
ism of the most intensely Biblical and the isters hitherto been generally such as to
most austere kind. It had, notably in bring them into contact with the argn-
Connecticut, a code of moral and social ments of the sceptic.

438



FREE THOUGHT

In the United States at the beginning of as happy as anything the Catholic Church
the nineteenth century there were faint rel- had to show. From fear of New England
ics of state churches churches, that is, rec- Puritanism it had kept its people loyal
ognized and protected, though not endowed to Great Britain during the Revolutionary
by the state. But there had been little to War. From fear of French atheism it
irritate scepticism or provoke it to vio- kept its people loyal to Great Britain
lence of any kind, and the transition has during the war with France. It sang
accordingly been tranquil. Speculation, Tc Dcum for Trafalgar. So things were
however, has now arrived at a point at till the other day. But then came the
which its results in the minds of the Jesuit. He got back, from the subservi-
more inquiring clergy come into collision ency of the Canadian politicians, the lands
with the dogmatic creeds of their churches which he had lost after the conquest and
and their ordination tests. Especially the suppression of his order. He sup-
does awakened conscience rebel against planted the Galileans, captured the hier-
the ironclad Calvinism of the . Westmin- archy, and prevailed over the great Sul-
ster Confession. Hence attempts, hitherto pician Monastery in a struggle for the
baffled, to revise the creeds; hence heresy pastorate of Montreal. Other influences
trials, scandalous and ineffective. have of late been working for change in

Who can undertake to say how far re- a direction neither Gallican nor Jesuit,

ligion now influences the inner life of Railroads have broken into the rural se-

the American people? Outwardly life in elusion which favored the ascendency of

the United States, in the Eastern States the priest. Popular education has made

at least, is still religious. Churches are some way. Newspapers have increased

well maintained, congregations are full, in number and are more read. The peas-

ofFertories are liberal. It is still respect- ant has been growing restive under the

able to be a church-goer. Anglicanism, burden of tithe and fabriqiic. Many of

partly from its connection with the Eng- the habitants go into the Northern States

lish hierarchy, is fashionable among the of the Union for work, and return to

wealthy in cities. We note, however, that their own country bringing with them

in all pulpits there is a tendency to glide republican ideas. Americans who have

from the spiritual into the social, if not been shunning continental union from

into the material ; to edge away from the dread of French-Canadian popery may lay

pessimistic view of the present world aside their fears.

with which the Gospels are instinct; to It was a critical moment for the Catho-

attend less exclusively to our future, and lie Church when she undertook to extend

more to our present state. Social re- her domain to the American Republic,

unions, picnics, and side-shows are grow- She had there to encounter a genius radi-

ing in importance as parts of the church cally opposed to her own. The remnant

system. Jonathan Edwards, if he could of Catholic Maryland could do little to

now come among his people, would hard- help her on her landing. But she came

ly find himself at home. in force with the flood of Irish, and after-

In French Canada the Catholic Church wards of South German, emigration. How

has reigned over a simple peasantry, her far she has been successful in holding

own from the beginning, thoroughly sub- these her lieges would bo a question dif-

missive to the priesthood, willing to give ficult to decide, as it would involve a

freely of its little store for the build- rather impalpable distinction between

ing of churches which tower over the formal membership and zealous attach-

hamlet, and sufficiently firm in its faith ment. In America, as in England, ritu-

to throng to the fane of St. Anne Beau- alism has served Roman Catholicism as

pre for miracles of healing. She has kept a tender. The critical question was how

the habitant ignorant and unprogressive, the religion of the Middle Ages could

but made him, after her rule, moral, in- succeed in making itself at homo under

sisting on early marriage, on remarriage, the roof of a democratic republic, the

controlling his habits and amusements animating spirit of which was freedom,

with an almost Puritan strictness. Prob- intellectual and spiritual as well as polit-

ably French Canada has been as good and ical, while the wit of its people was pro-

439



FREE THOUGHT

verbially keen and their nationality was dom of inquiry and advance in thought
jealous as well as strong. The papacy are of course impossible. Nothing is pos-
may call itself universal; in reality, it is sible but immobility, or reaction such as
Italian. During its sojourn in the French that of the syllabus. Dr. Brownson, like
dominions the popes were French: other- Hecker, a convert, showed after his con-
wise they have been Italians, native or version something of the spirit of free in-
domiciled, with the single exception of quiry belonging to his former state, though
the Flemish Adrian VI., thrust into the rather in the line of philosophy than in
chair of St. Peter by his pupil, Charles that of theology, properly speaking. But
V., and by the Italians treated with con- if he ever departed from orthodoxy he re-
tumely as an alien intruder. The great turned to it and made a perfectly edify-
majority of the cardinals always has ing end.

been and still is Italian. She has not Such is the position in which at the
thrust the intolerance and obscurantism close of the nineteenth century Christendom
of the encyclical in the face of the dis- seems to have stood. Outside the pale of
ciples of Jefferson. She has paid all due reason of reason ; we do not say of truth
homage to republican institutions, alien were the Roman Catholic and Eastern
though they are to her own spirit, as her Churches; the Roman Catholic Church
uniform action in European politics resting on tradition, sacerdotal author-
hitherto has proved. She has made little ity, and belief in present miracles; the
show of relics. She has abstained from Eastern Church supported by tradition,
miracles. The adoration of Mary and sacerdotal authority, nationality, and the
the saints, though of course fully main- power of the Czar. Scepticism had not
tained, appears to be less prominent, eaten into a church, preserved, like that
Compared with the mediaeval cathedral of Russia, by its isolation and intellectual
and its multiplicity of side chapels, al- torpor; though some wild sects had been
tars, and images, the cathedral at New generated, and Nihilism, threatening with
York strikes one as the temple of a some- destruction the church as well as the
what rationalized version. Yet between state, had appeared on the scene. Into
the spirit cf American nationality, even the Roman Catholic Church scepticism
in the most devout Catholic, and that of had eaten deeply, and had detached from
the Jesuit or the native liegeman of her, or was rapidly detaching, the intel-
Rome, there cannot fail to be an opposi- lect of educated nations, while she seemed
tion more or less acute, though it may resolutely to bid defiance to reason by
be hidden as far as possible under a de- her syllabus, her declaration of papal
cent veil. This was seen in the case of infallibility, her proclamation of the im-
Father Hecker, who had begun his career maculate conception of Mary. Outside
as a Socialist at Brook Farm, and, as a the pale of traditional authority and
convert to Catholicism, founded a mission- amenable to reason stood the Protestant
ary order, the keynote of which was that churches, urgently pressed by a question
" man s life in the natural and secular as to the sufficiency of the evidences of
order of things is marching towards free- supernatural Christianity above all, of
dom and personal independence." This its vital and fundamental doctrines: the
he described as a radical change, and a fall of man, the incarnation, and the
radical change it undoubtedly was from resurrection. The Anglican Church, a
the sentiments and the system of Loyola, fabric of policy compounded of Catholi-
Condemnation by Rome could not fail to cism without a pope and biblical Prot-
follow. Education has evidently been the estantism, was in the throes of a strug-
scene of a subterranean conflict between gle between those two elements, largely
the Jesuit and the more liberal, or, antiquarian and of little importance com-
what is much the same thing, the more pared with the vital question as to the
American section. The American and lib- evidences of revelation and the divinity
eral head of a college has been deposed, of Christ.

under decorous pretences, it is true, but In the Protestant churches generally
still deposed. In the American or any other rcstheticism had prevailed. Even the most
branch of the Roman Catholic Church free- austere of them had introduced church

440



FREE TRADE

art, flowers, and tasteful music; a ten- of reason seems to be that of reviewing

dency .which, with the increased craving reverently, but freely and impartially, the

for rhetorical novelty in the pulpit, seem- evidences both of supernatural Christi-

ed to show that the simple Word of God anity and of theism, frankly rejecting

and the glad tidings of salvation were what is untenable, and if possible laying

losing their power, and that human at- new and sounder foundations in its place,

tractions were needed to bring congrega- To estimate the gravity of the crisis w r e

tions together. have only to consider to how great an

The last proposal had been that dogma, extent our civilization has hitherto rest-
including the belief in the divinity of cd on religion. It may be found that after
Christ, having become untenable, should all our being is an insoluble mystery,
be abandoned, and that there should be If it is, we can only acquiesce and make
formed a Christian Church with a ritual the best of our present habitation; but
and sacraments, but without the Chris- who can say what the advance of knowl-
tian creed, though still looking up to edge may bring forth ? Effort seems to
Christ as its founder and teacher; an or- be the law of our nature, and if continued
ganization which, having no definite ob- it may lead to heights beyond our pres-
ject and being held together only by in- ent ken. In any event, unless our inmost
dividual fancy, would not be likely to nature lies to us, to cling to the unten-
last long. able is worse than useless; there can be

The task now imposed on the liegemen no salvation for us but in truth.



FREE TRADE

Free Trade. William Ewart Gladstone, nature. And where should an English-
several times Prime Minister of England, man look for weapons to be used against
wrote the following plea for Free Trade, protection, or an American for weapons
to which a reply was made by James G. to be wielded in its favor, except in
Elaine, which will be found in the ar- America and England respectively?
ticle on PROTECTION : This sentiment received, during a late

Presidential struggle, a lively^ illustration

in practice. . An American ^.gentleman,

The existing difference of practice be- Mr. N. McKay, of New York, took, -ac-

tween America and Britain with respect cording to the proverb, the bull by the

to free trade and protection of neces- horns. He visited Great Britain, made

sity gives rise to a kind of inter- what he Considered to be an inspection of

rational controversy on their respective the employments, wages, and condition of

merits. To interfere from across the the people, and reported the result to his

water in such a controversy is an act countrymen, while they were warm with

which may wear the appearance of im- the animation of the national contest,

pertinence. It is prima facie an intrusion under the doleful titles of Free-Trade

by a citizen of one country into the do- Toilers and Starvation Wages for Men

mestic affairs of another, which as a and Women. He was good enough to

rule must be better judged of by deni- forward to me a copy of his most interest-

zens than by foreigners. Nay, it may ing tract, and he did me the further honor

even seem a rather violent intrusion; for to address to me a letter covering the

the sincere advocate of one of the two pamphlet. He challenged an expression

systems cannot x>peak of what he deems of my opinion on the results of free trade

to be the demerits of the other otherwise in England and on " the relative value of

than in broad and trenchant terms. In free trade and protection to the English-

this case, however, it may be said that speaking people."

something of reciprocal reproach is im- There was an evident title thus to call

plied in the glaring contrast between the upon me, because I had, many years since,

legislation of the two countries, apart given utterance to an opinion then and

from any argumentative exposition of its now sincerely entertained. I thought, and

441



FREE TRADE

each of the rolling years teaches me more before." And I can state with truth that

and more fixedly to think, that in inter- 1 have heard this very same melody before;

national transactions the British nation nay, that I am familiar with it. It comes

for the present enjoys a commercial pri- to us now with a pleasant novelty; but

macy; that no country in the world once upon a time we British folk wore

shows any capacity to wrest it from us, surfeited, nay, almost bored to death, with

except it be America; that, if America it. It is simply the old song of our

shall frankly adopt and steadily main- squires, which they sang with perfect as-

tain a system of free trade, she will by surance to defend the corn laws, first

degrees, perhaps not slow degrees, out- from within the fortress of an unreformed

strip us in the race, and will probably Parliament, and then for a good many

take the place which at present belongs years more, with their defences fatally

to us; but that she will not injure us and fast crumbling before their eyes, after

by the operation. On the contrary, she Parliament had been reformed. Mr. Mc-

will do us good. Her freedom of trade Kay and protection, now made vocal m

will add to our present commerce and our him, terrify the American workman by

present wealth, so that we shall be bet- threatening him with the wages of his

ter than we now are. British comrade, precisely as the English

It would have been impertinent in me, landlord coaxed our rural laborers, when

and on other grounds impolitic, to accept we used to get our best wheats from Dant-

the invitation of Mr. McKay while the zig, by exhibiting the starvation wages of

I residential contest was yet pending. But the Polish peasant.

all the agencies in that great election But there is also a variation in the

have now done their work, and protection musical phrase. Our low wages, it is

has obtained her victory. Be she the love- said, form the basis of our cheap produc-

liest and most fruitful mother of the tion. So it is desired, as Mr. McKay ap-

wealth of nations, or be she an impostor prises me, to " get some relief from the

and a swindler, distinguished from other American government"; by which I

swindlers mainly by the vast scale of her understand that he calls for more protec-

operations, she no longer stands within tion. For example: I have learned that

the august shadow of the election, and turfs are occasionally senc from Ireland

she must take her chance in the arena of to America to supply the Irish immigrant

discussion as a common combatant, en- with a rude memorial of the country he

titled to free speech and to fair treat- was forced to leave, but has not ceased to

ment, but to nothing more. So that the love; and that these turfs are dear to his

citizens of two countries long friendly, and affectionate patriotism, and have been

evidently destined to yet closer friendli- bought by him at prices relatively high,

ness, may now calmly and safely pursue an But they are charged (I am told) as

argument which, from either of the oppos- unenumerated articles, at 15 per cent, on

ing points of view, has the most direct bear- the value. I hope there is no strong tur-

ing on the wealth, comfort, and well-being bary interest in America, for I gather

of the people on both sides of the water. that, to secure high wages to the diggers.

The appeal of the champion whose call you would readily, and quite eonsistent-

has brought me into the field is very prop- ly, raise this, say, to 25. The protec-

erly made " to the wage-earners of the the argument, however, at this stage

United States." He exhibits the deplo- rather is, How can the capitalist engaged

rable condition of the British workingman, in manufacture compete with his British

and asks whether our commercial suprem- rival, who obtains labor at half the

acy is not upheld at his expense. The price? But this also is to us neither

constant tenor of the argument is this: more nor less than the repetition of an

High wages by protection, low wages by old and familiar strain. The argument

free trade. It is even as the recurring is so plausible that, in the early days of

burden of a song. Now, it sometimes our well-known corn-law controversy, it

happens that, while we listen to a melody commended itself even to some of the first

presented to us as new, the idea gradual- champions of repeal. They pointed out

ly arises in the mind, " I have heard this that during the great French war the

442



FREE TRADE

trade of our manufacturers was secured edge. My enumeration may be sufficient

by our possession of the sea ; but that or may be otherwise. Whether it be ex-

when, by the establishment of peace, that haustive or not, the facts will of them-

became an open highway, it was impossi- selves tend to lay upon protectionism the

ble for our manufacturers, who had to burden of establishing, by something more

pay their workmen wages based upon pro- than mere concomitancy, a casual rela-

tection prices for bread as the first neces- tion between commercial restraint and

sary of life, any longer to compete with wages relatively high. But what if, be-

the cheap bread and cheap labor of the sides doing this, I show (and it is easy)

Continent. And, in truth, they could that wages which may have been partially

show that their trade was at the time, to and relatively high under protection, have

a great extent, either stationary or even become both generally and absolutely

receding. These arguments were made higher, and greatly higher, under free

among us, in the alleged interest of labor trade?

and of capital, just as they are now em- That protection may coexist with high

ployed by you: for America may at pres- wages, that it may not of itself neutral-

ent be said to diet on the cast-off reason- i;:e all the gifts and favors of nature,

ings of English protectionism. They that it does not as a matter of course

were so specious that they held the field make a rich country into a poor one

until the genius of Cobden recalled us all this may be true, but is nothing to

from conventional phrases to natural laws, the point. The true question is whether

and until a series of bad harvests (about protection offers us the way to the maxi-

1838-41) had shown the British workman mum of attainable wage. This can only

that what enhanced the pnce of his bread be done by raising to the utmost attain-

had no corresponding power to raise the able height the fund out of which wages

rate of his wages, but distinctively tended and profits alike are drawn. If its ten-

to depress them. dency is not to increase, but to diminish,

Let me now mark the exact point to that fund, then protection is a bar to
which we have advanced. Like a phono- high wages, not their cause 4 and is, there-
graph of Mr. Edison, the American pro- fore, the enemy, not the friend, of the
tectionist simply repeats on his side of classes on whose wages their livelihood
the Atlantic what has been first and depends. This is a first outline of the
often, and long ago, said on ours. Under propositions which I shall endeavor to
protection our wages were, on the whole, unfold and to bring home,
higher than those of the Continent. Mr. McKay greatly relied upon a repre-
Under protection American wages are sentation which he has given as to the
higher than those of Great Britain. We rate of wages in England. It is only in-
then argued, post hoc, ergo propter hoc. cidental to the main discussion, for the
He now argues (just listen to his phono- subject of this paper is not England, but
graph), post hoc, ergo propter hoc. But America. Yet it evidently requires to be
our experience has proceeded a stage fur- dealt with ; and I shall deal with it broad-
ther than that of the American people, ly, though briefly, asking leave to con-



Online LibraryBenson John LossingHarper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) → online text (page 68 of 76)