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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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cialism. Uneasy at the inequaHties, the false distinc-
tions, the miseries, which he sees prevaiUng in the
world around him, or perhaps feels pressing upon
him, the Sociahst refers them to particular social
conditions and circumstances. Society, and human
nature in all states of Society, are confounded ; and
the evils that spring from the latter are ascribed
to the former. By a logical inversion, it is pro-
posed to cure the disordered cause through the
effect, not the effect through the cause.

In order to strike the principle which must guide
our present discussion, we have to recall that great
twofold law of man's constitution which sets him in
equipoise between the claims and ministries of as-
sociate life, on the one side, and his own individ-
uality on the other.

Nature has two purposes with him — first, to make
the most of him as a unit, by developing all the



144 SOCIAL THEORIES.

personal qnality and personal force peculiar to him-
self; and second, to turn him to the best account,
in the way of reception and action, as an edu-
cated and living influence among his fellows. There
is an error on two sides, and a loss from both, in
the violation of this design of the Creator, Society,
as a system of mutual dependencies and assistances,
may be sacrificed to the individual, as by Ilobbes.
The individual may be sacrificed to Society ; this is
Socialism, which stands in much the same relation
to Society, as conventionalism to good manners, ar-
tifice to art, sciolism to science, or pietism to piety.
Each mistake may spring from a selfish spirit,
or not. Contemplating, as we have now to do, the
socialist theories, and seeing how often they have
had their origin in a sincere desire to benefit the
less favored classes, or in a reaction from real in-
justice and frightful abuses of wealth and position,
we can well afford to treat them with respect.
Nay, as we would seek to displace them, we can-
not afford to treat them otherwise, however popular
it may have been to attack them with ridicule or
contempt. I believe that a fair inquiry into their
purport, arguments, and operation, will result, by
contrast, in the confirmation of our principal prop-
osition, that Society in itself is an illustration of
the Power, and Wisdom, and Goodness of God.



SOCIAL THEORIES. 145

Socialism has frequently been assailed, on the
ground that its systems for arranging mankind are
artificial, while Nature is the only safe guide. With
suitable discriminations and definitions, there is va-
lidity in this objection. But we must take care
what w^e mean by Nature, and what others under-
stand us to mean. For in our human nature there
are terrible forces of evil, as well as powders of
light and love. Besides, although the socialist the-
ories look artificial to their opponents, we must
remember that it is claimed for them by their sev-
eral advocates that they are a simple and happy
Avay of returning to Nature, and of giving the provi-
dential law^s a freer play. On the whole, it appears
to me, that w^hen our reason, our political economy,
our philosophy, and our prejudices, have all uttered
their protest, and passed their criticism, the only
really eftectual refutation of these errors, after all,
must be drawer from one of two sources : the les-
sons of historical experience, and the gospel .of
Christ. Of these two, the first alone will not be
adequate : for new exigencies are liable to arise con-
tinually, for which the precedents of the past ])ro-
vide no perfect rule. The teachings of Christianity
alone are infallible and final. And so long as of
those a divine sacrifice is the central fact, the
cross is the universal symbol, and self-denial the

10



146 SOCIAL THEORIES.

chamcteiistic spirit .and essential duty, so long the
systems that aim chiefly to make life easy and to
free it from care, and to accommodate it to self-
will, must be adjudged false and futile. It is, at
least, a conflict, in which one party or the other
must be utterly overthrown.

The grand aim of all those schemes known un-
der both the names of Socialism and Communism,
has been to regulate, by external arrangement, the
three great interests. Labor, Property, and the Pas-
sions, and especially the passion of sex. At the
root of all these schemes has been that idea of
human equality of which Rousseau was the leading
apostle. It is undoubtedly owing either to the in-
fluence of that man on the modern French mind,
or else to a national characteristic of which he
was a remarkable exponent, that France has been
the principal theatre of these socialist experiments.
Strictly speaking, the attempt to secure the pro-
posed equality by means of labor is Socialism ; the
attempt to secure it by means of the abolition of
property is Communism.

AVithout, at this moment, referring to all the
specific varieties of theory, we may say that with
respect to Labor, the object has been to produce a
greater equality, a smaller amount, — relatively to
the production of value, — and more willingness, or



SOCIAL THEORIES. 147

agreeableness, in the performance. Under each of
these proposals we can detect its own distinct and
particnlar fallacy. First : the Socialist, instead of
producing equality of labor, is so to distribute the
work that every man and woman shall have just
that work to do which each can do best, and
which each will therefore choose. But it is by no
means a uniform rule that men choose to do the
work that they are best fitted for, nor that they
are capable of telling what their real adaptations
are, nor that anybody can tell without that sort
of experimenting and comparison which take place
in the ordinary social competition.

So of private Property : the allegation is that the
acquisition of it, by the existing competitory meth-
ods, stimulates selfish and alienating propensities ;
that its inequalities lead to other moral evils and
abuses ; and that wealth produces a dangerous and
oppressive kind of power. To which it is replied,
1. That the stimulus of personal thrift develops en-
ergies, also, which are a positive good. 2. That the
very temptations to fraud and to excess, in avarice,
covetousness and luxury, which attend the present
system of competition, form a necessary and provi-
dential school for virtue, offering a discipline without
which it would never acquire its due robustness and
independence 5 and 3. That, in the same way, over



148 SOCIAL THEORIES.

against the abuses of riches are set those possible
advantages of personal beneficence, public spirit, and
wise expenditure, which furnish a nobler exercise to
humanity than a monotonous, inevitable, involuntary
comfort : — besides which is urged the impossibility of
equalizing the conditions of men, wdiose natural ca-
pacities are made unequal by their Creator, however
often you throw into common stock and re-distribute
their goods.

Of the Passions, whereas it is affirmed by Social-
ism that their evils spring from the resistances they
meet, philosophy answers. No ; but from their own
excesses. Whereas Socialism says they are to be
managed through outward circumstances, experience
says. No ; but by an inward principle in every soul,
which is equal to their mastery; and wiiereas Social-
ism teaches that the conflicts of the desires are to
cease by their indulgence, Christianity teaches that
they can be controlled only by their subjection to
conscience, and their submission to the law of God.
" Without piety," says the terse and thoughtful au-
thor of " Friends in Council," " there will be no
good government."

Observe here, that something of the socialist
spirit and sophistry attach to those measures of
special combination which, without collecting com-
munities of peo2)le, and often with the kindest in-



SOCIAL THEORIES. 149

tention, do virtually interfere with what ma}^ be
called, without begging the question, the regular
action of the social Family, and break in upon the
mutual understanding, and the implied good faith ot
different branches of industry in the hands of in-
dividuals.

Leagues among working classes, for cheapening
provisions, disturb the common balance and broad
partnership of the employments, by a class privi-
lege, and are just as contrary to a true social
spirit as the class privileges of aristocratic wealth.
The English Trades' Unions, which proposed to do
away with the master mechanics, failed. So did
Mr. Babbage's proposed scheme of association, for
reducing the cost of the necessaries of life among
factory operatives. Sumptuary legislation, or legis-
lation that undertakes to coerce private morality^
or to force the free relations of capital and labor,
comes to the same unfortunate end. By an act
of Parliament of 1773, a rule of minimum wages,
/. e., a rule providing that wages should never go
below a certain point, was applied to the Spital-
fields weavers. It was intended to protect the in-
terests of the operatives ; but in twenty years four
thousand looms were standing idle, and the hands
were out of work and wages both. Strikes among
workmen illustrate the same suicidal policy of at-



150 SOCIAL THEORIES.

tempting to compel one class to conform to the
will of another, and to take the course of demand
and supply in employment out of its natural clian-
nels. Lnbor depends on capital. Strikes diminish
the capital by suspending the work. Of course
they diminish, the further they go, the means of
raising wages, and defeat their own object. It is
the industry of the working classes that increases
the prosperity of the emplo3'er, and thus the work-
man's own wages. Each helps the other. In sea-
sons of pressure, when the markets are dull, and
goods too plenty, the manufacturing company are
obliged to contract their operations. If the opera-
tives will take up, temporarily, with reduced pay,
both survive, though both suffer. But if the opera-
tives refuse, then the mills stop, and all alike may
be crushed.

The recognition of those laws of reciprocal har-
mony and interdependence, which bind the several
trades and professions together, is a matter of pro-
found importance, not only to our philosophy of
Reform, but to our personal conduct, especially in
periods of financial distress, and our general prac-
tical applications of the princij^les of political econ-
omy. It explodes if it does not silence much of
the fallacious and illogical exhortation which springs
to the lips of superficial moralists, in ''Hard Times,"



SOCIAL THEORIES. 151

about retrenchment in expenditure. Precisely be-
cause the different employments of Society do thus
depend on each other, the duty of wise men, when
any of them are embarrassed, is to keep the rate
of expenditure as nearly as possible at its usual
average amount. The disorder is a depressed state
of credit and currency. If now your classes that
are really able and competent to buy, suddenly
change their whole habit, hearken to this indis-
criminate cry for retrenchment, and cut off all the
comforts and luxuries they can possibly spare,
what is the necessary effect? They stop the cur-
rents of small trade, — those rills that feed ten
thousand homes, disappoint the traders, throw an
unsaleable stock upon their hands, bring down ca-
lamity from the great establishments and manufac-
turing corporations into the retail department, and
turn these industrious tradesmen, mechanics, florists,
dress-makers, servants, into paupers. Could a pol-
icy be devised more exactly calculated to aggra-
vate the disease and increase the confusion ? Some
branches of business deal wholly in those fanciful
and ornamental articles which, in moments of alarm,
or real loss, people first pronounce superfluous.
Doubtless, individual judgment must be applied to
particular cases. Men who have not money to
spend cannot spend it. There is a line between



152 SOCIAL THEORIES.

liberality and extravagance. But nothing ought to
be plainer than that abrupt alterations in modes of
living are a wrong inflicted by one class on an-
other, violating the gracious principle of their mu-
tual dependence. To all joersons whose means are
not actually stripped away, that law says, " Post-
pone your reductions for the present ; economize by
and bye ; use discretion always ; go not beyond
your means ; incur no rash debts ; but, otherwise,
as to the comforts and even the luxuries in which
you have been accustomed to indulge, preserve as
nearly as possible the ordinary rule of outlay, and
so satisfy the commercial expectations which your
past habits have reasonably awakened. Shocks and
convulsions are the malady ; cure them, so far as
lies in your power, by a regular and uniform dis-
bursement."

I pass on now to some description and some
criticism of different theories of Socialism. We
have to distinguish, at the outset, between the
more elaborate and ambitious forms of socialist
speculation, and certain local communities, gathered
on an exceptional basis, for particular objects.
Such as these latter are the various relicrious
communities that have been organized, in different
periods, by the spirit of asceticism, or charity,
or a separating enthusiasm, or a purity repelled



SOCIAL THEORIES. 153

from suiTOimcling faLseliood and corruption. It can
scarcely be pretended that the monks, the Mo-
ravians, the Jesuits of Paraguay, the Shakers,
even when their societies were most flourishing,
contemplated a complete social plan. They did not
profess to meet all social wants. Religious faith
and zeal commonly protected them from many of
the worst mischiefs, though we cannot help regard-
ing even them as deviations from a true social
economy. The sexes w^ere separated. Everything
bore the character of an exceptional and temporary
provision. This was emphatically true of the very
incidental and limited communistic element in the
Apostolic church. And though the Christian monas-
ticism of the following centuries was far more sys-
tematic and presumptuous, yet, in its wildest fanati-
cism, it never pretended to be a universal social
scheme.

Some of the elements of Communism were intro-
duced into the ancient State of Lacedsemon. Plu-
tarch, in his Life of Lycurgus, gives an account of
the attempts of that legislator to throw the landed
property of the nation into common stock, and
then to equalize it. The project originated, appar-
ently, in a benevolent purpose ; but it resulted in
a miserable despotism. The Spartan had no house-
hold, no home. If allowed to marry at all, his



154 SOCIAL THEORIES.

married life was still subject to public supervision.
The State watched and controlled him ; and what
the State wanted was to breed warriors. If the
sight of their children made fathers too tender-
hearted for that, they must either not beget chil-
dren, or not live with them, or even refuse to see
them. Among the free citizens there must be no
commerce, no dealings in money. All traffic and
artizanship were handed over to the helots. It
was a tremendous piece of coercion ; a strange mix-
ture of Socialism and tyranny, — a model not likely
to find copies.

Socialist reformers sometimes refer to the author-
ity of Plato. Plato's political system was invented
as a kind of practical illustration of his whole
ethical and metaphysical philosophy. The Dialogue
on the Ptepublic, where this system is unfolded, is
a summary, or rather a logical terminus, of all his
ideas of being, morality, general science, and civil
organization. It opens with an abstract discussion
of the nature of Justice, and passes out into an
ideal representation of the embodiment of Right in
a city or a State. The State is considered as an
exhibition {napadecy^a) of the individual. Yet " the
State takes its rise because none of us individually
happens to be self-sufficient." Plato divides the citi-
zens of his ideal republic into three classes, the



»

SOCIAL THEORIES. 155

deliberative, the auxiliary, and the money-making.
The administration of the government, for peace
and war, should be committed to the highest, that
is, the wisest, purest, best bred order of men and
women, — whom he calls the philosophers. These
guardians should have their training at the public
cost and should be without property, so as to be
exempt from all the calculations, anxieties and
sordid overreachings which corrupt and distract a
ruler's mind. To release them more effectually
from domestic care and ambition, the fiimily should
be abolished, and a community of wives and chil-
dren take its place. The two grand departments
of education should be music and gymnastics, —
which may perhaps better bo rendered, the har-
monious development and the vigorous discipline of
the powers. Poetry should be, for the most part,
excluded, partly because it tends to the enervation
and relaxing of the stronger forces of the soul,
and partly for the subtle reason that, as all things
may be said, in the Platonic scheme, to exist
originally in the idea, or invisible form, and sec-
ondly, to be produced in a sensible shape, the
poet, who only pictures this sensible shape, really
gives us the thing at the third remove from the
original f;xct. Thus a common table exists first in
its archetypal idea; secondly, in the wooden shape



156 SOCIAL THEORIES.

of legs and leaves formed by the cabinet-maker ;
and thirdly, in the illusive representation or de-
scription of a poet or an artist. The work of
this latter, being imitative in the second de-
gree, is superfluous and useless. In every respect,
Plato aims at real advantages, the most complete
subjugation of the passions, and an elevated hea-
then morality.

Of the different kinds of government he desig-
nates five. The first is that which he recommends
as accordant with Right, the true Avelfare of a
commonwealth. This is an aristocracy ; only the
word is taken not in its present popular sense,
but literally, as denoting a government of those
persons from the people who are everyway best, —
most competent, brave, patriotic, learned, and disin-
terested. Contrasted with this are four faulty kinds
of rule : a timocracy, or government of ambition ;
an oligarchy ; a democracy ; and a desi)otism.

In its lofty requirement of self-denial, this Pla-
tonic Socialism differs totally from the modern the-
ories. Nor is the view carried out into all their
minuteness of detail. With its many defects and
mistakes, it is incapable of mischief, hanging there
in the cool, rare atmosphere of intellectual specu-
lation, — a city in the air. Plato's own language at
the outset is, "as if we were talking in the way



SOCIAL THEORIES. 157

of fable. "'^ Yet the Dialogue is one of the mas-
terpieces of the most imperial mind of antiquity,
and is a sublime illustration of the great Platonic
idea, that Good is a social principle. In this it
exhibits that singular combination of dialectic force
with humane designs which has always struck
Plato's interpreters as wonderful, and which led
one of them to say, " Plato's great object was
man. He lived with man, felt as a man, held in-
tercourse with kings, interested himself deeply in
the political revolutions of Sicily, was the pupil of
one whose boast it was to have brought down
philosophy from heaven to earth that it might raise
man up from earth to heaven ; and, above all, he
was a witness and an actor in the midst of that
ferment of humanity exhibited in the democracy
of Athens."

Of the Utopias, the two most remarkable, per-
haps, are those of Sir Thomas More and James
Harrington. More wrote the work which gives, a
name to the whole class, while he was receiving
the most dazzling attentions from his sovereign,
and was really the most signal person of his age
in England. It was about the year 1518 that it
was published, in Latin, at Basle. From his early
youth, this great political genius and incorruptible

* Book ii., chapter 17.



158 SOCIAL THEORIES.

patriot had been a student of civil institutions,
public law, and forensic eloquence. Neither the
court nor the times favored a virtue so rare. The
great thinker used to steal away from the festivi-
ties and garden walks wdiere the king fondled and
flattered him, to write out his dream of a happy
commonwealth. Imagining an island, of lovely scen-
ery and delightful climate, in the western seas, he
peoples it with the virtuous, prosperous groups.
The name, Utopia, is taken from that of a sup-
posed hero, or leader, Utopus. The work is an
extended description of the laws, customs, religion,
occupations, of this imaginary settlement, including
some communistic features. The mixture of what
is grotesque and frivolous with what is noble and
true, has puzzled many of the commentators. The
probable key to the plan is furnished by the
theory that More wished to publish views of gov-
ernment and society very dear to himself, but
more liberal and enlightened than Henry VIII. or
his age Avould tolerate, if they were put forth in
a serious form and by a direct argument. Resort-
ing to a device of fancy, therefore, and intermin-
gling much which should carry its own explanation
as merely a fantastic or chimerical entertainment,
the sagacious statesman yet contrived to introduce
and to commend some of his noblest doctrines of



SOCIAL THEORIES. 159

freedom, conscience, and a lofty standard of political
ethics. This conij)orts with the spirit of the earnest
martyr to the simple conviction of Right, who
not long after gave his head to the axe rather
than connive at the domestic crimes of his king.
But there is nothing to indicate that More was
drawing out a defiliite pattern of any social sys-
tem to be realized among men.

James Harrington was a contemporary of the
first settlers of New England, Though an Oxford
scholar, and an officer in the royal household of
Charles L, he was a stanch republican, and was
at last driven to side with the Roundheads. His
" Oceana," published in 1656, was a political ro-
mance, — its fictitious form being adopted as a con-
venient vehicle for the author's passionate attach-
ment to the principles of freedom. As the plan of
a State, it has exerted no force ; and with all its
literary merit, it has probably been much less read
than the " Utopia" of More.

The great name in modern Socialism is Charles
Fourier. Fourier is entitled to this preeminence on
several accounts : by the boldness and thoroughness
of his theory ; by the minute, systematic, and, we
may even say, the formally scientific arrangement
and distribution of all the parts of his plan ; by
the intellectual brilliancy and eloquent audacity with



160 SOCIAL THEORIES.

which he thrust his stupendous absurdity upon the
incredulity, and yet conquered for it the admira-
tion, of the thinking worhl ; and by the strange,
the ahnost whimsical contrast between the splendor
of the imaginary scenes he pictured for the future
of our race and the narrow and dingy accompani-
ments of his own personal condition.

This French visionary, who might have been a
philosopher if philosophy were never subjected to
the test of practice, or who might have been a
poet if he had not indulged in imaginations meant
to be put into practical operation, was the son of
a cloth dealer, and was born eighty-six years ago,
at Besan^on, in France. His entire life he spent
in subordinate situations in mercantile establish-
ments, at Marseilles, Lyons and Paris, and most
of it in obscurity and poverty. Amidst this rou-
tine of drudgery and this contracted scenery, there
passed before him the gorgeous spectacle of a ren-
ovated earth, a reconstructed Humanity, a social
state glorious as any ideal conception of Paradise
itself. Nor was it in his conception, apparently,
altogether a cloudy, confused vision, all a dream
to him, and all rhetoric to his reader. Rigorous
and exact rules of the mathematics were applied
to it. It was a careful and complicated compound
of morals, ftmcies, principles and numbers. The



SOCIAL THEORIES. 161

arithmetic proportion of his phalansteries was based
on the calculations of Newton. And there is
scarcely a department of human knowledge with
which the learning of his voluminous works does
not, in some way, intermeddle.

For the publication of liis compositions, which he
commenced in 1808, he depended on the assistance
of some wealthy friends.'^' The first few disciples
that could be prevailed on to read these extrava-
gant writings, and were credulous enough to yield
to them, were not found till he was more than
fifty years old, about 1825. The French revolu-
tion of five years later unsettled the old order,


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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 9 of 17)