F. D. (Frederic Dan) Huntington.

Human society; its providential structure, relations, and offices. Eight lectures delivered at the Brooklyn Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y online

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pends on each, and each on the whole. The


several kingdoms of nature depend on and there-
fore help each other. The mineral is the solid
basis on Avhich is spread out the vegetable, — the
body that its vesture clothes. The vegetable di-
rectly nourishes the animal. The tree does not
grow for itself; it cradles the birds, and feeds
animated races, and shades the traveller till he
blesses it. Of all the ninety thousand species of
plants that Botany has classified, not one, from
the vast oak to the weed that springs out of its
mould and the moss that clings to its bark, but
takes its ajjpointed place in a related family. The
atmosphere would lose its salubrity but for the
salt and bitter sea. The ground would catch no
fertilizing streams if the clouds did not kindly
drop them from the sky. The flowers wait for
the falling light before they unveil their beauty.
All growing things are buttressed up by the vast
ribs of everlasting granite that sleep in sunless
caverns. Heat, electricity, magnetism, attraction,
send their subtle powers through nature, and j)lay
through all its works, as unseen and silent as the
eternal spirit they bear witness of. Everything
helps. Everything is helped.

This dependence, too, is still more striking in
human life. The trades exemplify it. Precisely
because no one man can reach perfection in all


the arts, and be a proficient in every profession,
the progress of civilization requires the division of
labor ; not division in the sense of hostility, but a
division of works with a common will, — many de-
partments with one interest, " diversities of opera-
tion with the same spirit." Not more completely
does the wheel of the engine depend upon the
boiler, or the rod upon the valve, than one indi-
vidual upon another in the more intricate and
wondrous mechanism of Society. Every business
reaches its perfection by the concentrated devotion
of one mind ; and this man, meantime, must be
supported by other pursuits in other hands. The
hands divide, but they are still fellow-helpers. While
each toils at his own bench, he is really working
for all the rest, and all the rest for him. Society
is like a great manufacturing establishment I have
seen, where some hundreds of workmen are em-
ployed, yet the results of the skill of all, in all
departments, are combined and blended together in
the product, which is a musical instrument. So
there may be moral harmony out of industrial dis-
tribution. The old fable of the blind man and the
cripple is realized every day. Every man has some
gift or opportunity that another has not. Both the
blind and the lame are helpless alone. But once
establish a mutual relation of dependence and help


between them, and then the blind man can take
up the cripple, and the cripple, borne on his com-
panion's shonlders, is eyes to the blind. There is
a profound meaning in this simple parable. Every
person in the world is under some infirmity, —
blind or lame, — if alone. Would each man carry
his own power of usefulness to its highest pitch,
with a single will, but with a generous breast,
then the royal law of Society would be fulfilled.

" Heaven forming each on other to depend,
A master, or a servant, or a friend,
Bids each on other for assistance call,
Till one man's weakness grows the strength of all."

We find another impressive illustration of this
social interdependence in the fact that, as fast as
any one productive pursuit is perfected, the rest
incline to share in the benefits of that complete-
ness. Science helps art ; the arts help each other ;
machinery helps commerce, and commerce helps lit-
erature. They all prepare each other's tools, refine
each other's materials, sharpen each other's wits,
raise each other's standards, and, in a thousand
ways, multiply mutual facilities. The surgeon can
practice more clean and skilful clinics, if the cut-
ler was skilful before him. The chemist is in-
debted to the glass-blower, and tlie glass-blower to


the coal-heaver, and the coal-heaver to the basket-
maker. What were your commerce without the
paper-maker and the ship-builder ? There is no
kind of manufacturing, and hardly a family, that
has not reaped as substantial profits from the mod-
ern elaborations of mechanism, or of the elastic
gums, as the proprietors have. By better castings
in metals a whole cluster of arts is set forward.
Every calling reaches over to drop a blessing on
its relatives. One prepares instruments and acces-
sories for another. Agriculture wants the college
for its analyses and scientific suggestions. What a
short-sighted envy, if the farmer tries to embarrass
and disendow the university ! The college wants
agriculture for its produce, its patronage, its pupils.
What a vulgar prejudice, if the collegian sneers at
the farmer ! How clearly God designs to press
forward and upward all the complicated interests
of mankind together ; making each the better for
the others, affording a splendid example of his
own unifying providence, and making all to crys-
tallize into an orderly organization, and thus to
work out the gradual reconcilement of Society.

So, if one member suffer, all the members, — not
only by voluntary sympathy, but by God's law
inwrought in them, — suffer with it. It is said that
if a milch cow breaks her leg, her milk instantly


loses its lime, which is taken off to cement the
fracture and restore the wounded limb. Bruise
or break one limb of the social body, and the
whole vital secretion grows thin and sour. At
the bottom all our business is one. Down at the
roots of the world our roots all interlace. It is
one wide subsoil of humanity that sends up so
many shapes and colors, and after all, with all its
shifting weather and varied climates, our planet
knows only the experience of one toiling, throb-
bing, loving heart.

By bringing men together you reconcile them.
Even amidst the injustices and violences of slavery,
the body-slaves are observed to be privileged, and
tenderly treated, — a certain power of the human
quality breaking down the temper of caste and the
barriers of pride.

You are shut up half an hour in a stage-coach,
or crowded into the corner of a drawing-room,
with the whig or democrat against whom you were
just ready to launch, the next morning, a bitter
political pamphlet; and you go home and burn the
manuscript, or at least strike out the adjectives,
and, ennobled by your humanized manners, exult
in the determination never again to let party dif-
ferences disturb social relations. The divine work-
manship is nowhere self-contradictory. History is


God's discourse, as Society is his living illustration,
and the conclusion never contradicts the exordium.
The moment mankind truly understand, one another,
they will be at peace. In order to this mutual
acquaintance, the social communications must be
multiplied, and the social sympathies quickened,
which is exactly the business of Society. We
never do truly know one another till we feel each
other's feelings, and aspire with one another's aspi-
rations, as well as think each other's thoughts. So
with the great tribes of men. Let the Russian soul
actually appreciate the Turkish soul, and hostilities
must cease. But before that can be, both their
souls must be larger. At present their proportions
are too meagre to support a right manly life in
themselves ; how can you expect them to contain
one another's ? What you want, to end a quarrel,
is only to let the belligerents see each other's hu-
man nature ; and, to that end, to get them a
human nature large enough to be seen, and to
take in something broader than a selfish interest.
In other words, there must be, in these repugnant
races, a more generous social culture, and a better
development of humanity ; a larger quantit}^ of the
real human being. So the world over. The reason
the trades and sciences do not agree better, is
that they do not know each other's bearings and


relations. Let them see that the perfecting of
each is the prosperity of all. Two of our great
American productive forces, — our agriculture and
our manufactures, — have not yet come into a good,
amicable, neighborly understanding. They are like
two suspicious and sharp-eyed housekeepers that
happen to move into adjoining houses. They sit at
their windows, watch each other's movements, criti-
cise each other's housekeeping, and gossip with
their respective friends over each other's manage-
ment, till they have matured a very satisfactory
hatred. But when they have been fairly introduced,
at some sudden emergency, like a fire, or a nativ-
ity, and have sat down to talk matters over, they
are transformed into the most confidential of com-
panions. The moment you bring the Factory and
the Farm to a thorough reciprocal intelligence, you
solve the whole problem of the tariff, because you
demonstrate to both parties that they are not two
interests but one. And either one grows by the

Blunders are constantly perpetrated in our so-
cial economy, and our attempts at reform, by this
partial information, due to our one-sided develop-

* See an eloquent passnge in RnskinV " Political Economy of Art,"
page 160, etc. See also Adam Ferguson's "Civil Society," Part iv.,
section i.


ment, and sluggishness of thought. We try to
judge the wants of the world from our little post
of private observation. We apply help, but in the
wrong spot. We complicate, instead of relieving,
the difficulty. We oiTer^ to the poor what ive
like, instead of what the?/ need, and so feed their
wastefulness instead of their economy and their
moral courage. The poor must be fed ; in the
present state of social knowledge and attainment,
it is as much the dictate of self-preservation as of
benevolence to feed them outright. Rousseau was
right, " When the poor have nothing to eat, they
will eat the rich." It is terribly true. But after
a Christianized science has properly arranged the
whole social structure, and effected a just distribu-
tion of industry and privilege, alms will more and
more give place to wages. Charity will find its
exercise, not in the gross supply of empty stom-
achs, but in the higher and more beautiful offices
that minister moral sympathy and spiritual strength.
The different classes will really help and strengthen
one another, just as fast as they all contribute to
a science of universal growth. Carpenter and gold-
smitli, lawyer and shipwright, farmer and fisherman,
help every one his neighbor, only as they all join
to open and illustrate and pubHsh the grand laws
of human effort and providential equity.


We have next to observe the action of this law
of reconciliation in those great communities of men
called nations, or their governments. When we
have gone to the bottom of the matter, whether
by the way of philosophy or Christianity, we shall
find that the fundamental idea of politics is mutual
protection and friendly intercourse. I do not say
this is the idea of feudal or aristocratic or impe-
rial or partisan poHtics, but of the true, ultimate,
divine politics — towards which all these are tenta-
tive experiments. Not to hold each other back,
and pull each other down, and rob, and stab, but
to confederate for the common good, and to com-
plete, by means of equal labor and free energies,
an economy of universal production whereof all shall
take the benefit, — this is the real and providential
office, whether of separate empires, or of the several
departments under the same administration. Hence,
you serve the cause of good government, both when
you perfect any legitimate business as one of the
great nutritious forces which feed and cover hu-
manity, and also when you bring that business into
amity and reciprocity with other kinds of business.
Unless God fails to furnish a pattern for his chil-
dren in his own love, the right political state for
mankind is the state of social lielp.

According to this higher view of international


connections, whatever forwards the growth of one
government is a service to all. England, in such
a state of things, supiDOse the moral conscience and
sensibility of both nations were educated up to
such a pitch, would have no cause to be jealous
of American territory, or French tactics, or Ger-
man learning, or Cossack discipline. It seems to
me Napoleon uttered a great fallacy, instead of a
sage aphorism, — and just such a fallacy as the pre-
ponderance of the mere selfishly political over the
moral perceptions might have prepared us to ex-
pect, — when he said, " America is a fortunate
country, for she thrives by the follies of our Eu-
ropean countries." No : folly in one nation does
not help another.* It may set the balance of com-
mercial exchange in her favor ; it may pour into
her lap a doubtful population ; it may cast into
her hands some temporary advantage, or leave her
to a transient distinction. But it is the poor
distinction that comes from having no honorable
rivals. It is that sort of preeminence which is

■^' In 1642, the Earl of Bristol openly maintcained, in the House of
Lords, that it was a ffreat advantaQ-e to EnHand for other countries to
be at war with each other, since by that means England would get
possession of their wealth, — forgetting that in the long run wars are
tlie destruction of wealth. See " Parliamentary History," vol. ii.,
page 1274. Since writing this passage, I have met with an able
defence of the same doctrine in Buckle's '' History of Civilization
in Enofland."


enjoyed in a class of dunces and sluggards by a
boy who is only a little less a dunce and slug-
gard than the rest. It is the eminence of the
stunted shrub on a sandy plain. Benefitted hj
other men's follies ! Benefits have no such parent-
age. Only wisdom yields them, as only truth
makes free.

We must acknowledge that the practical realiza-
tion of these principles and these hopes in political
institutions is slow. It is already nearly two thou-
sand years since Cicero, Pagan prophet as he was,
wrote these noble words : " There are those who deny
that any bond of law or of association for purposes
of common good exists among citizens. This opin-
ion subverts all union in a State. There are those
who deny that any such bond exists between them-
selves and strangers ; and this opinion destroys the
community of the human race." It is two centuries
and a half since Lord Bacon, poor menial of a throne
as his soaring and far-sighted intellect became, de-
clared that there is in man's nature " a secret love
of others, which, if not contracted, would expand
and embrace aU men." Yet how tardily does this
sentiment, — this great " Law above all other laws,
and Hope for Humanity," as Guizot pronounces it, —
get itself recognized in the senates and cabinets,
the overreaching diplomacy and the paltry palaces,


of actual states ! None the less is it every man's
private obligation in his own place, — not less than
that of statesmen and ministers of state and em-
perors, — to avow it, and stand by it, and be its
consistent disciple. The day has broken into the
sky. The shadow on the golden dial grows daily
thinner, as the sun rises deliberately towards the
eternal noon. Take the law of nations as an exam
pie. Nothing deserving that name had existence til]
these modern times. The barbarous tribes waited
for it so long. Yet already the modifications and
enlargements it has admitted indicate the progress
of this spirit. From laws between nations we are
evidently going on to duties between nations, and
then to sympathies and courtesies. At first, the
chief use was to secure treaties of traffic, and a
public highway. But now the bonds are widening,
and begin to embrace the great doctrine of Frater-
nity. America is eager to protect a victim of op-
pression, though he is hardly yet her own subject ;
and so diplomacy has to stretch its ancient prece
dents to accommodate this broader feeling of the
age. It would be vain to expect any hasty com-
pletion of these ameliorations. But it is wise to
mark their signals, and generous to hope for their

There have been systems in the world which de-


nied all this, — systems specious and splendid, — some
in ethics, some in political economy. But they have
vanished like morning mists that lose and scatter
themselves before the everlasting hills; or if they
have lingered on, like those vapors they have had
to settle and brood only in the low and less pure
places where the mountain winds let decay alone.
Take the system of Ilobbes, denying the disinter-
ested affections. Certainly it did not fail for want
of gifts and powers in its defender. With a mind
so acute and so original, blending so remarkably
the usually separated capacities of discrimination and
combination, as to make him the admiration of wits,
the deUght of scholars, and a model to philosophers,
declared by Leibnitz one of the only two men of
modern times capable of reducing morals and juris-
prudence to a science, with a style Avhich has been
pronounced " the very perfection of didactic lan-
guage," " knowing so w^ell how to steer between
pedantry and vulgarity that two centuries probably
have not superannuated more than a dozen of his
words," he has yet scarcely an avowed disciple to
honor his name, scarcely a reader whom shame does
not drive from his conclusions as from some crime
revolting to humanity, certainly not an institution
to extend or embody his principles. With him "a
deliberate regard to personal interest is the only


possible motive to hiimaii action. There is no sense
of duty, no compunction at our own offences, no
indignation against the crimes of others unless they
affect our own safety, no secret cheerfulness shed
over the heart by the practice of well-doing."
Hence, mankind, with all their impulsive selfishness,
must, in their cool and rational hours, reject and
disdain his doctrine. His moral and political system,
as another has well said, was "a palace of ice,
transparent, exactly proportioned, majestic ; but grad-
ually undermined by the central warmth of human
feeling, before it was thawed into muddy water by
the sunshine of true philosophy." Grod, in his
Almighty love, made mankind to love, help, serve,
and bless one another. Thomas Hobbes, with his
prudential selfishness, could not succeed.

It follows that every monopoly which erects pri-
vate advantage against the general advantage, —
observe, I do not say private advantage m accord-
ance tvith the general advantage, but against it, —
has God's providence for an antagonist. The great
commercial schemes which propose to fatten and
feast on poor men's poverty are toppled over ; and
bury their builders, or their builders' children under

" The mills of God do slowly wind,
But they at last to powder grind."


Servile insurrections, Sepoy mutinies, the years
'89 and '48 in Paris, are only hints of this tre-
mendous truth — as really as the miraculous night
that killed the hrst-horn of Egypt, and emancipated
Israel. When the whole land of Italy came to be
monopolized, as Gibbon says it was at one time,
by seventeen hundred and sixty families, — only about
as many as make up the city of Cincinnati, — no
wonder the curse of a blighted population began to
creep over the country. No class can put its inter-
ests forward at the expense of the rest. The
selfish mob is just as false, just as inhuman, just
as much the enemy of man and of true society,
as the selfish monarch. " Open national workshops
for us, and pay us your money," screeched the
Parisian populace in 1848, "and we wiU down with
the barricades." They had their way. Socialism,
for the time, triumphed over Society. Suppose the
experiment had gone on. These unemployed classes
would have continued enriching themselves. They
would have drawn money from the regular channels
of trade, interrupted commerce, embarrassed capital,
till employment would have ceased again. Society
would have come round where it was before, to
inequality, oppression, hungei', wdth the plague of
anarchy and chaos thrown in. The empire super-
vened, and proved, perhaps, quite as significant an


illustration of the principle, on less costly terms.
Self-interest carried out to unscrupulous conclusions,
and riding rough-shod over order, is, sooner or later,
self-destruction ; for it breaks up all those social ties
and obhgations without which man cannot be truly
himself. No matter whether it appears in the genteel
and legalized forms of corporate gluttony and insatia-
ble financial aggrandizement, or in the savage starva-
tion riots that prowl the streets when these bubbles
burst, mocking and parodying the most pathetic ap-
peals of human want — villains growling for "work and
bread," who mean never to do a day's "work" if they
can live by theft, and to eat every day something
much spicier than " bread." The virtue of one class
is the economy of all. The grasping avarice of one is
the bankruptcy of all. Taxes — direct or indirect — for ;
war, prisons, bad debts, carry up prices. Everything
that sets man against his brother eats up the com-
mon substance. It hinders the law of mutual help.
We call the axiom of Machiavelli, that the king
is to rule for his own advantage, a monstrous and
inhuman Me. But it is only one formal justification
of that grasping temper which instigates man any-
where to live for himself alone — a temper as sternly
reprobated by the inherent laws of the social nature
as by Paul's thirteenth chapter to the Corinthians on


If we had the life-time of jNIethuselah, we shonhl
all probably rejoice at last, not without a certain
solemnity of thanksgiving, to see the quarrels of
nations ending in their predestined reconciliations.
The bitterest political antagonisms will grow friend-
I3-. Tariff and internal improvements, fishing-smack
and mill-wheel, warehouse and market-garden, city
and village, will form symmetrical features in a
peaceful landscape. This heavenly estate on earth,
the last triumph of social economy in the great
family mansion of our life, — the true golden age of
the Future, — it is for Christianity alone to achieve ;
solving the hardest problems of our social state,
and covering the earth with righteous institutions.
Then national policy will be, not repulsion, but at-
traction ; or rather policy will cease, and principle
be installed. The game called politics, — that crafty
match of mutual hindrance, — ^will give place to a
benignant science of mutual helps, — where govern-
ments are only branches in an associate moral or-
ganism. The State will legislate order, justice, lib-
erty. The school will teach truth. The church
will live and pray like the Christ.

To further the final inauguration of that royal
social age, every nation that has flourished under the
sun has been ordained by the Creator and Father of
them all. Each has brouuht in its hand, or its head.


or its heart, some necessary contribution. And then
the races shall meet together and dwell in peace ;
the strong heart of the Saxon, without his bloody
hand ; the graceful, courtly Norman, without his lev-
ity and 23ride; the brave Celt, without his impudent
ferocity ; the vigorous, iron-willed " Senatus Populus-
que Romanus," without the audacity and cruelty of
its eagles ; Egypt, meditative, but cleared of its
mysticism ; Greece, ingenious, beautiful, aspiring, re-
deemed from its idolatry of Beauty to the worship
of God; the Hebrew, with his reverent ritual, but
without his national hatred and suspicion ; Chaldea
and Shinar, forgetting even their lofty superstitions
and looking above the stars to Him that holdeth
them in his right hand ; and all adoring the invisi-
ble Father acceptably, because they come to the
altar reconciled to the brother whom they have
seen. For, whether there be tongues, they shall
cease ; and, whether there be knowledge, it shall
vanish away. But faith and hope and charity
abide ; and the greatest, still, is charity.



We had reached, towards the close of the last
lecture, a distinction between Social Science and So-

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Online LibraryF. D. (Frederic Dan) HuntingtonHuman society; its providential structure, relations, and offices. Eight lectures delivered at the Brooklyn Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y → online text (page 8 of 17)