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Copyright 1911




To that sorely betrayed and some-
what bedraggled goddess, "Liberty"
with whom, however, Puritanism has
prevented the author's personal ac-
quaintance, this little book is affec-
tionately inscribed.













The association of living forms in groups or
communities goes very far back in the annals of
life on the earth. Among vegetable organisms
association occurs mechanically, inexorably,
from the fact of their inability to move from
place to place. The offspring of the parent plant
are of necessity confined to the same locality,
and generation after generation is fixed in the
same habitat. It is not apparent, however, that
vegetation gains any advantage either of nutri-
tion or defense from the fact of association.
One of the chief practical differences between
the vegetable and animal kingdoms is the power
of free locomotion which belongs to animals.
With the acquisition of this faculty, association
assumes a voluntary character. The offspring of
the parents may remain together in the primal
and natural community of the family, or they


may scatter in permanent separation. This al-
ternative implies that if association continues it
does so because of definite advantages which it
affords in the struggle for existence. And, vice
versa, the fact that practically all animal species,
outside the prowling carnivora, are gregarious,
is ample demonstration of the very real and su-
premely important nature of these advantages.
With the strength given by numbers, defense be-
comes more successful, the procurement of food
surer, shelter better, and the care of the young
easier and better performed. The principle of
association and mutual aid is, indeed, one of the
great laws of life, the condition and cause of
success in the contest waged against an adverse
environment by the vast majority of sentient

That conjoint effort is more productive and
efficient than individual labor is an economic tru-
ism, the practice of which is by no means con-
fined to mankind. The hunting pack which unite
in dragging down their quarry, the pair of birds
which build their nest together, the herd which
sends out scouts to discover the choicest and
safest feeding places, all act in obedience to this
general economic law. But it is reserved for
man to rivet yet more firmly the bonds of his
associations, to increase the interdependence of


their membership one upon the other, by the
discovery of the further economic principle of
the division of labor, in the application of which
one man cultivates and becomes adept in a par-
ticular art or labor for the benefit of the com-
munity. By this special adaptation of his pow-
ers his dependence upon the remainder of the
group for necessities which he cannot produce
is firmly fixed, just as, in turn, is fixed the de-
pendence of the group upon him for his own
product. The severance of association means,
under these circumstances, the embarrassment of
the group, and primeval hardship and probable
destruction for the individual. From thence for-
ward man is a social creature by the very terms
of his existence.

Even voluntary association implies a sacrifice
of personal freedom. Private caprice, wayward
desire, selfish advantage must all be subordinated
to the communal interest. Without this, the as-
sociation cannot continue. The application of
the principle of association thus engenders a con-
flict between the interests and desires of the in-
dividual, and the interests of the group as a
whole. The desire, as well as the immediate
interest, of the wolf who has made a kill is to
gorge himself, but the interests of the pack de-
mand that he should share his good fortune with


his fellows. Unless he does so, one of the chief
purposes of the association is defeated, and its
bonds weakened accordingly. So, too, the in-
stinctive desire of individuals between whom a
cause of difference has arisen, is to settle the
merits of the controversy by physical encounter.
But as the group would be rapidly disintegrated
by conflicts between its members, the group in-
terest demands that private desire shall be subor-
dinated to peaceable adjustment of the difficulty.
"Thou shalt do no murder," is, probably, the
oldest law and moral maxim in existence, though
it is not thereby meant that no life whatever
shall be taken, but only that the cohesion of the
group shall not be destroyed by the lawless slay-
ing of its members by each other. In a thou-
sand ways the private wish of the individual
must bend to the larger purpose of the social

The perception of the group interest, unlike
the recognition of personal interest or desire, is
not intuitive. Only the exceptional few of the
community have wisdom and experience suffi-
cient to anticipate the remote if far-reaching re-
sults of anti-social conduct For the majority,
the realization of public or community needs and
obligations must be aided by their formal and
explicit statement, while obedience to them is


compelled either by direct coercion or by attach-
ing to their violations penalties, the fear of
which effectively supplements the vaguer motive
of concern for the general good. Of the rules
so formulated, three general classes may be dis-
tinguished. First, those which are of such obvi-
ous and vital importance that they receive the
sanction of physical force exerted by the com-
munity for their observance. These constitute
laws. Second, those which, though of serious
import to the communal welfare, are neverthe-
less of such flexible application or of such hid-
den, remote or dubious consequence as to pre-
clude a common consent to their enforcement
by physical strength, leaving them to find their
sanction merely in public opinion. These con-
stitute morality. Third, those rules which, while
having no definite public significance, yet lend
grace and facility to personal intercourse and so
aid in smoothly carrying forward the communal
life. These are enforced by the opinion of inti-
mates, and constitute manners. Morality is thus
seen to occupy a middle ground between the in-
stitution of law on the one hand, and the insti-
tution of manners on the other. Like law, its
formulas define and interpret the public good,
the group interest; but, unlike law, it is denied
the supreme sanction of enforcement by the


sheer physical power of the community. Hence
it fails to receive that exact and painstaking
statement, that precise and elaborate interpreta-
tion and application, which are features of all
systems of jurisprudence. Like manners, moral-
ity must depend upon the opinion and attitude
of others for its coercive emphasis; but, unlike
social convention, its importance is of public
rather than of personal concern, and obedience
to its precepts is induced by much severer repro-
bation visited upon their transgressor, than upon
those guilty of mere ill-breeding. The line be-
tween morals and manners, however, remains
indistinct, manners, in an effete society, tending
to rise to the dignity of morals, while morals,
grown obsolete, often persist as social conven-

Immoral impulses are checked, in the first in-
stance, by the fear of the dislike, aversion, ostra-
cism and contempt which an injured or outraged
public will manifest toward the offender. In
exceptional instances, this motive may be sup-
plemented by an honest and generous wish to
conserve the welfare of the community as de-
fined by moral precept, though usually the group
interest affected is so remote or so disguised, or
is to all appearances so slightly involved, or
loyalty to the group is so tenuous, that the mere


promotion of the general good does not alone
furnish adequate motive for moral conduct.
Neither of these considerations, however, is
commonly regarded, among people in the more
primitive stages of culture, as sufficiently potent
to insure moral observance, and accordingly it is
deemed necessary to secure some additional sanc-
tion which shall restrain the wayward and rebel-
lious from moral laxity. The realization of the
communal necessities which are voiced in moral
precepts, and the formulation of the precepts
themselves, being matters requiring unusual in-
tellectual power, foresight and wisdom, natur-
ally fall into the hands of those in the associa-
tion who possess superior mental attainments
and who thus become, as it were, the custodians
of morals, possessing not only the privilege of
ethical enactment but the duty of exhortation
to ethical conduct. Now, with all primitive peo-
ples, these functionaries of superior intelligence
are also the priests, the persons authorized to
address the gods and to interpret the divine will
to men. Very naturally, therefore, an additional
and final sanction for the practice of virtue is
declared by the custodians of morals to lie in the
divine pleasure, which demands the service of
righteousness from all those who would please
the gods, and which will visit with condign pun-


ishment those who persist in evil doing. Moral-
ity thus becomes linked with religion, its pre-
cepts are represented as embodying the divine
will, and their violation becomes sin, the trans-
gression of the will of the gods, to be visited by
the terrors of the divine wrath both in this life
and in the life to come. The religious sanction
which morality thus acquires is enormously pow-
erful, particularly amongst peoples in the lower
stages of enlightenment, whose superstitious
minds unquestioningly accept the instruction
thus received. So important, indeed, is this re-
ligious sanction that it may be regarded almost
as affording a distinguishing mark of morality
as against mere manners and ceremonial con-

The prestige gained by morality when enun-
ciated as a revelation of the divine will operates
in two ways. First, it inspires a direct terror
of the divine anger and of the punishments to
be accordingly suffered, and so furnishes a new
and fresh motive for the practice of righteous-
ness, the potency of which is but little impaired
by the fact that the fears inspired are imagi-
nary rather than actual. Second, the aversion
which the public feels toward the person dis-
covered to be guilty of immorality is, by the re-
ligious aspect of the case, intensified to such


horror, loathing and detestation as may fittingly
be exhibited toward one who has incurred the
wrath of deity and who is numbered amongst
the enemies of the gods. The primary sanction
of public opinion is thus stimulated, educated
and directed until any deficiency which may have
originally impaired its efficiency is removed, and
it becomes a redoubtable agency in guiding the
recalcitrant soul into the paths of virtue.

Morality always presents itself as a conflict
between the private impulse and inclination of
the individual, and the more remote and abstract
but more important interests of the group, clan
or class in its collective aspect. And because
morality expresses the popular will and opinion,
and because it has the sanction of religious
teaching, disobedience to its injunctions assumes
the guise of rebellion, transgression, sin. The
sense of conflict and struggle which ever haunts
the spirit of man, and which is primarily a sub-
jective reflection of his contest with an adverse
environment, with the bufferings, betrayals and
parsimony of oblivious nature, receives an added
emphasis from this secondary antagonism of his
most rudimentary instincts by the prescribed
duties and calculated restrictions of the communal
life which is itself formed for the purpose of aid-
ing in the general struggle for existence. This


conception of the battle of good and evil finds ex-
pression in endless legends and traditions, from
Michael, the archangel, triumphing over Satan,
or St. George slaying the dragon, down to the
latest civic-righteousness fiction of our popular
magazines. And if the good must always prove
eventually victorious, it is because the good is
felt to be synonymous with the triumph of
life, the furtherance of progress, the fulfill-
ment of human destiny. For however irk-
some moral precept may be, or however fan-
tastically it may be explained or enforced, it
must be remembered that while the association
continues homogeneous, that is, before the de-
velopment of private property has given rise to
different economic classes within the group hav-
ing hostile interests and aims, both laws and
moral codes really represent the true welfare
of the species, and, in most instances, of the
refractory individual as well. With the rise of
private property, however, and the consequent
formation of antagonistic economic classes, a
collective common interest, uniform with all
members of the group, ceases in large measure
to exist, and both law and morality come rather
to embody but the interest, prestige and welfare
of the dominant, proprietary class. From this
on, it is only in a secondary fashion, and when



viewed in the perspective of a long historical
evolution, that law and morality can be said to
have also ministered to the general progress of
the race.



Notwithstanding the naive confidence in the
realization of liberty, equality and fraternity
which illuminated the beginning of the nine-
teenth century, he would be a hardy debater
who would venture now to deny the existence
of economic classes in modern society, or to
question the fundamental and irreconcilable na-
ture of their enmities. Still less would any one
question the existence of such classes in the
past, when the legalized status of master and
slave, of lord and serf, made cavil upon the sub-
ject impossible. In the slow progress achieved
by our barbarian ancestors through the match-
ing of their inventive powers against an adverse
environment, tools were created and gradually
improved until a point was reached, the most
momentous thus far encountered in human his-
tory, where, with the aid of tools, a man might
produce by his labor not only sufficient for his
own needs but a surplus of which he could be
despoiled without materially impairing his effi-
ciency as a laborer. At this point a use was
discovered for the captives taken in battle.


They became possible subjects of exploitation.
In the picturesque language of a contemporary,
"Mankind abandoned cannibalism just as soon as
it was discovered that more meals could be got
from a captive by keeping him alive and work-
ing him than by killing and eating him." A pro-
found alteration was thus wrought in the
structure of the human association from the
homogeneity of barbarian communistic society to
the heterogeneity of the class organization which
ushers in the stage of development we know as
civilization. Society became split into two hos-
tile economic class the master or proprietary
class which owned the slaves as private property
and lived by appropriating the surplus product
of slave labor, and the slaves themselves whose
labor sustained both them and their masters.
The basic fact of this, as of all, class organiza-
tion was that of exploitation the fact that a
portion of the fruit of one man's labor is taken
without recompense by another man under the
safeguard of legal and moral protection and ap-
proval. And thus arise the radical and funda-
mental divergence of interests and the profound,
implacable and unremitting class warfare, which
constitute the key to the interpretation of all the
annals and institutions of civilization.


In the new organization of society thus
brought about, the "intellectuals," to whose cus-
tody law and morality had been perforce com-
mitted and who were the priests, the wise men,
the jurists, legislators and moral exhorters of
the tribe, occupied a somewhat anomalous place.
Exceptional wisdom or superior mental equip-
ment is not commonly united with martial prow-
ess, especially when prowess is synonymous
with brute strength. The captives, and there-
fore slaves, falling to the lot of the intellectuals
were accordingly few, and insufficient to give
them place as members of the proprietary class.
Nor were the intellectuals either fitted or accus-
tomed to supply their own necessities directly by
manual labor. For, after all, it is only manual
labor which effects that modification of mate-
rial substances which fits them to the satisfac-
tion of bodily needs. Mere intellectual effort,
however valuable and deserving, is not directly
productive of material goods, and therefore it
must always be bartered or exchanged before it
yields a livelihood to him who performs it. But
in a class society, the exploitation which feeds
fat the proprietary class leaves it the only class
possessed of the means of purchasing or of com-
pensating intellectual labor, and it is to the
proprietary or master class, therefore, that the


intellectual must always turn for a supply of
those material goods without which he cannot
live. Hence it is that, with the creation of eco-
nomic classes, the intellectuals, the trustees of
law and morals, become of necessity the paid
retainers of the master class.

The unity of interest which characterizes prim-
itive communistic society necessarily pales be-
fore the internecine struggle which exploitation
and the establishment of the class system en-
gender. Even were no other circumstance oper-
ative to distort law and morality from their
pristine function of enunciating the common
interest, the very fact of the existence of a class
warfare within the group would suffice to make
it impossible that these institutions should con-
tinue to embody the true interests of all citi-
zens irrespective of their class allegiance. To
do this would require both law and morality to
divide within themselves into antagonistic and
contradictory codes, one set expressive of the
masters' interests, the other, of those of the
slaves. But the receipt of income by the intel-
lectuals from the proprietary class which alone
can yield it, speedily determines the fate
of both law and morals. There need be
no illusion about the position of a paid
retainer. He must serve his employer's


will, he must promote his employer's interest, or
his pay stops. His continued existence, particu-
larly upon the plane of luxury and ease to which
he has become accustomed, depends directly
upon his subserviency. Law and morals, there-
fore, promptly become but embodiments of the
class concerns of the proprietary class alone, are
made to sanctify and defend exploitation and
class superiority and control, while for the work-
ing class they express but the antithesis and
denial of all its true interests. Thus, the obedi-
ence of the workers is vital to the masters' safe-
ty and welfare, while rebellion only can con-
serve their own welfare; yet law and morality
must always enjoin and enforce obedience and
condemn and punish rebellion. So, exploitation
is the masters' method of livelihood, while it rep-
resents a robbery of the worker; yet law and
morality must require the servant to yield the
surplus of his labor peaceably to his owner. It
may be questioned whether in any class system
of morality a residuum can be found which con-
tinues to represent the entire group interest in-
dependently of class considerations. Even the
most elementary maxims take on a class color.
Thus, "Thou shalt not kill," comes to forbid
only the slaying of a member of the master
class, and by no means prevents the master tak-


ing the life of the slave, as in Rome, where a
slave might be killed and fed to the master's
eels without any violation of law. Nor can such
power of life and death over the slave be at-
tributed to his original position as a captive who
held his life at the victor's mercy, since the pow-
er persisted long after the slave's character as a
captive taken in battle had been merged and
lost in the general body of slave property. It
is explicable only on the theory that the slave,
as such, was outside the bounds of class, and
therefore of human, fellowship, and because the
successful maintenance of the system required
that no assuagement of terror should be afforded
the slave by the legal safeguarding of his physi-
cal integrity. In later times, and in freer and
more highly organized societies, indeed, the pure-
ly group interests in a measure reassert them-
selves, as in sanitary laws, and the like. The
workers may even be so far recognized as mem-
bers of the group as to be given a perfunctory
protection, such concessions being either dic-
tated by the exigencies of production, or inspired
by fear of an insurrection of the laboring class.
But in the main, under a class organization of
society, the function of law is merely to crystal-
lize into formal statement the dominance of the
masters, and to adjust their private differences


peaceably between themselves so that their posi-
tion may not be imperiled by internal strife,
while morality becomes in turn but the fainter
yet even more faithful echo of purely class

The business of the male citizen of a barbarian
community is that of a hunter and fighter, while
the women are employed in household drudgery
and the exercise of those primitive arts which
are the faint prototypes of the industries of
civilization. But the thorough-going commun-
ism which marks this era in social evolution
prevents the position of women being reduced to
that of a true slavery. While their labors are
more onerous and persistent than those of their
male companions, they are less hazardous, and
the universal right to share freely in the com-
munal wealth frees even the female employment
from any actual exploitation. The difference be-
tween male and female vocation is rather an
instance of the primitive division of labor, than
the mark of a real servile exploitation of

The normal attitude of barbarian communi-
ties towards each other is one of actual or at
least potential warfare. The member of an alien
tribe is perforce an enemy just as the beasts that
prowl the jungle are also enemies. The bar-


barian is therefore a warrior. But he is also a
hunter, a fisherman, and in later times, a herds-
man and agriculturist. Peaceful industries find
place among his pursuits. Though a warrior,
he has not yet become a professional soldier.
With the rise of chattel slavery, however, society
crystallizes into a distinctively military mold. A
fixed military establishment becomes imperative,
both to hold the slave property in subjection, and
to add to it by further conquest. At first all
males of the master class bear arms. Later, the
military becomes detached from the balance of
the class as a special caste or occupation. Later
still, the legionaries become, like the intellectuals,
the mercenaries or paid retainers of the proprie-
tors. But at all times the military organization
and habit of life, together with the direct impli-
cations of the slave relation itself, determine the
conventional morality of the slave society. As
the slave property is, for the most part, alien in
origin, being composed of the conquered mem-
bers of foreign tribes and peoples, the support of
the system demands first of all patriotism, or
devotion to one's own dominant tribe, city or
commonwealth, as a supreme virtue. In the
southern states of the American Republic be-
fore the Civil War, where the distinction be-
tween master and slave followed racial lines, this


virtue took the form of pride of race, the denun-
ciation of miscegenation, and the somewhat
frantic outcry for the preservation of "racial
integrity." In classic antiquity, however, slaves
and masters were of the same, or substantially

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Online LibraryClarence MeilyPuritanism → online text (page 1 of 9)