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taken it from the hands of God, and is to adminis-
ter it in trust for humanity. That is the doctrine
of Christianity. It leaves to the people individual
enterprise ; it contemplates and intends variations
of wealth and of condition ; but it maintains this
fundamental principle : That every man is a trus-
tee, and every man must account for the adminis-
tration of his trust.

He is a trustee, first of all, for his own family.
Whatever money comes to us we are to hold in
trust, first, for our own household, not for luxury,
which enervates and destroys, but for education,
culture, development. We have not only a right,
but a duty, to make provision for the manhood of
our boys and the womanhood of our girls.

Next, we are trustees for those who are en-


gaged with us in industrial life. A writer in the
" Forum " a few years ago expressed the following
judgment : —

" I admit — no, I assert — the demands of charity on
every human being, but charity and business are and
forever ought to be divorced. An employer is under
no more financial obligation to his workmen after he
has paid their current wages than they are to him, or to
a passer-by on the street whom they never saw." ^

I believe that is an unchristian heresy. Every
man who has workingmen in his employ is a trus-
tee for them. He and they are in a true sense
partners engaged in a common enterprise. He
owes them an obligation which wages do not meet.
The first duty of an employer to his employed is
the duty of loyalty. When a ship founders in
storm, the captain is not the first to abandon her,
leaving the crew to go down. When a regiment is
in peril in battle, the colonel does not flee and leave
the reoiment to 2:0 under the sod. When the
Christians in Armenia are trembling in fear of
martyrdom, the missionaries do not follow the
advice given to them and flee to the coast for pro-
tection. They stay with their native Christian
brethren so long as staying can be of any possible
service. And the time will come when every mer-
chant and every manufacturer will follow the
example which is now set by many a merchant and

1 W. A. Croffut : " What Rights have Laborers ? " Forum,
May, 1886.


many a manufacturer, and will stand by his crew
in stormy times. ^

Lastly, there is the trust held by men of wealth
for the benefit of the entire community.

What is the meaning of this term, " men of
wealth " ? It cannot be accurately defined. For
what is wealth in one community, one class, or one
epoch, is not in another. But, for my purposes
here, I will define the man of wealth as one who,
after fulfilling his trust to his own family by pro-
viding adequately for tiieir best equipment, and
fulfilling his trust to his copartners, without whose
cooperative industry his accumulations would have
been impossible, still has a surplus. That surplus
belongs to the community; it has been derived
from the community ; and it is to be administered
for the benefit of the community.

Every man ought to aim at securing something
of such a surplus, not merely as a provision
against the accidents of life or the infirmities of
old age, not merely as a provision against accidents
or infirmities which may involve his household or
his business copartners in misfortune, but also as

^ "I said: 'You prefer then, to live surrounded by your em-
ployees, and do not mind the white flutter of washing-days, or the
shouts of children at play below, because you think you can bet-
ter their lot by your presence ? ' ' It is not, with me, a question
of preference at all,' was the reply. ' This mill and these people
are my life, my career, the next greatest responsibility I have in
the world after that of my own family. I dare as soon desert my
flag in action as leave my hands without their natural and ap-
pointed head. Good-by.' " — Pidgeon. Old- World Questions and
New-World Answers, p. 128.


a means of giving back to the community, in some
form, the wealth which the community has enabled
him to accumulate. But every man ought to recog-
nize the truth that benevolence does not consist
merely in distributing his surplus. Benevolence is
the law of life, not of this small fragment of life.
All property, not merely the surplus, is subject to
the law of love.

Is there any use in rich men ? Is it of advan-
tage to the community that there should be men in
it who, having discharged their duty to their fami-
lies and to their copartners, have still a surplus
which they can employ either in business enter-
prises or in so-called benevolences for the public
welfare? This is one of the critical questions of
our times. However impatient men of wealth
may be that this question should be asked, how-
ever indignant they may be with the questioners,
it is well for them to know that democracy is ask-
ing this question, and is seriously determined to get
an answer to it. While on the one hand concen-
tration of wealth has certainly increased during the
past century, if it is not now increasing, on the
other hand it is equally certain that wages are ris-
ing, that interest is dimhiishing, and that the power
of men of wealth to transmit their surplus to suc-
ceeding generations has been materially lessened,
and is likely to be lessened still more. The most
casual student of political and industrial history
in Great Britain and the United States cannot fail
to see, in the progressive Income Tax, in the pro-
gressive Inheritance Tax, in the Single Tax move-


ment, and in the socialistic or semi-socialistic de-
mands for the extension of governmental control
over certain forms of industry, protests against the
concentration of wealth, and demands for the ad-
ministration of the surplus by democratic methods,
— protests far too powerful to be treated with con-
tempt. Personally I concur with Frederic Harri-
son in both the opinions which he expresses in the
following significant paragraph : —

" My own creed, on which this is not the time or place
to enlarge, teaches me that in our industrial age all wealth
is really the product of thousands working together in
ways of which they are not conscious, and with complex
and subtle relations that no analysis can apportion. The
rich man is simply the man who has managed to put
himself at the end of the long chain, or into the centre of
an intricate convolution, and wliom society and law suffer
to retain the joint product conditionally ; partly because
it is impossible to apportion the just shares of the co-
operators, and partly because it is the common interest
that the products should be kept in a mass and freely
used for the public good. But this personal appropri-
ation of wealth is a social convention, and jiurely condi-
tional on its proving to be convenient. The great prob-
lem which the next century will have seriously to take
in hand and finally solve is this : Are rich men likely
to prove of any real social use, or will it be better for
society to abolish the institution ? For my own part, I
see many ways in which they can be of use, and I ear-
nestly invite them to convince the public of this before it
is too late." ^

^ " Uses of Rich Men in a Republic," Forum, Dec, 1898, vol. xvi
pp. 4<S7, 488.


They certainly cannot convince the public of
their usefulness by personal extravagance, by ex-
pending their wealth on palatial residences, sump-
tuous repasts, competitive displays in dress, and
then seeking to defend their course by the affirma-
tion, which deceives no one, not even themselves,
that they are thus furnishing employment to labor.
Nor will they succeed any better in convincing the
public of their utility by retaining their property
in their own possession until death relaxes their
grip upon it, and then bestowing it in miscalled
public benefactions by their will. " What is
wrested from me," says Mr. Gladstone, " by the
gripe of death, I can in no true sense be said to
give ; and yet we hear of the bounty and munifi-
cence of A or B, and that such and such a hospital
was founded at the sole costs and charges of C,
when there was neither bounty nor munificence,
since nothing can be given whicli is not also taken
away from the giver ; but nothing is here taken
from any giver by the bequest he makes, for it is
already gone ; nor are there any costs or charges in
the case, for no man can spend his money, any more
than he can walk in Bond Street or Hyde Park,
after he is dead." ^

There is only one way in which rich men can
justify their existence to the community. It is by
using, in the administration of their trust for the
jmblic, the capacities with which they have been

1 Nineteenth Century, Nov., 1890 (vol. xxviii. p. 685) Mr. Car-
negie's " Gospel of Wealth.''


endowed, and by which they have acquired the
wealth which it is their duty to distribute. Those
of us whose surplus is not large, or who have none
at all, must frankly recognize the difficulty of the
task which his exceptional position lays upon the
man of wealth. It is almost impossible to give
money to the individual without danger of pauper-
izing the individual ; it is not easy to give money
to the comnmnity without danger of pauperizing
the community. But if the men whose abilities
have enabled them to accumulate wealth have not
also the ability to distribute it wisely, a democratic
age will find a way to distribute that surplus by
democratic methods, which is only another way of
saying that the providence of God will deprive
them of a trust which they lack either the fidelity
or the capacity to administer. This is not com-
munism : it is simply the affirmation of the self-
evident principle, that a trustee who is unfaithful
in the administration of his trust cannot be and
will not be left in charge of it. The railroad
millionaire may well question w^hat proportion of
his wealth should go into colleges, hospitals, or
other public charities, and what into new railroads,
opening up new countries and making possible new
homes for the hoQieless, and larger life for the im-
prisoned and the impoverished. The mill-owner
may well believe that he will feed more hungry
ones by enlarging his business than by establishing
a soup-house. Neither Christianity nor science
insists upon a common ownership and a common


administration of property, nor upon the deflection
of any specified proportion from what are called
" business enterprises " to what are called " be-
nevolences." But Christianity and science com-
bine to insist that every property-owner is a trustee,
and that the questions, how much shall be spent on
the family, how much distributed through the em-
ployees in wages or dividends, how much employed
in enlarging a business which is itself beneficence,
and how much given to what are technically re-
garded as charities, are questions, not between the
selfish and the benevolent use of property, but be-
tween different forms of fulfilling the same essen-
tial trust. In the light both of Christian teaching
and of scientific teaching, all wealth is to be held
and administered as a common wealth.



If we are to understand the relation of Chris-
tianity to Socialism, we must understand what
Christianity is and what Socialism is. But there
are many and very divergent definitions both of
Christianity and Socialism. Some men regard
Christianity as a system of doctrine ; some as a
kind of worship ; some as an ecclesiastical orga-
nization ; some as a purely individual life. The
differences in definition of Socialism are quite as
numerous and quite as great. Compare these
two definitions, both by men eminent for culture,
and for ripeness and sobriety of judgment. The
first is James Russell Lowell's : —

" Socialism means, or wishes to mean, cooperation
and community of interests, sympathy ; the giving to the
hands, not so large a share as to the brain, but a larger
share than hitherto, in the wealth they must combine to
produce ; means, in short, the practical application of
Christianity to life, and has in it the secret of an
orderly and benign reconstruction." ^

If that is a correct definition of Socialism, I
shoidd hope we are all Socialists. The other

^ James Russell Lowell, Democracy and other Addresses, p. 40.


definition is Professor Robert Flint's, of Edin-
burgh, a man scarcely less eminent in his own
country than James Russell Lowell is in ours : —

" Socialism, then, as I understand it, is any theory of
social organization which sacrifices the legitimate liberty
of individuals to the will or interests of the community." ^

It would be very difficult to find any man any-
where who would profess to be a Socialist under
that definition. One might say, " I approve of
sacrificing the interests of the individual to the
interests of the community," but it would be very
difficult to find any man anywhere who would say,
" I believe in sacrificing the legitiynate liberty of
individuals to the will or interests of the commu-
nity." If Professor Flint's definition is correct,
there are no Socialists ; if James Russell Lowell's
is correct, we are all Socialists.

I do not propose to add another definition of
Socialism; but I propose to try to trace briefly
its history, and point out some of its character-
istics, in order to show in what respects it agrees
with, in what it differs from, Christianity.

Men have attempted to trace Socialism back to
early ages. They have found it in the mediaeval
church ; in Plato's " Republic ; " in Christ's teach-
ing ; in the teaching of the Hebrew prophets ;
and in the organization of the Hebrew theocracy.
And it is unquestionably true that in all ages
prophetic souls have anticipated a better social

^ Robert Flint. Socialism, p. 17.


order, one which shall realize the hopes of human
brotherhood. Such a vision of a future was the
Theocracy of the Old Testament and the King-
dom of God in the New. Such was the Republic
of Plato, the City of the Sun of Campanella, the
Utopia of Sir Thomas More, the New Atlantis of
Bacon, the Oceana of Harrington, the Voyage to
Icaria of Cabet, the Basiliade of Morelly, the
Society of Equals of Babeuf, and the Phalanstere
of Fourier.^ But, however true it may be that
every age has felt a dissatisfaction with the exist-
ing social order and aspirations for a social re-
generation, the word " Socialism " is of wholly
modern origin. It came into existence in the early
part of this century to designate a widely-spread
reaction against the individualism which immedi-
ately preceded it, as that in turn was a reaction
against the prior paternalism.^

In the sixteenth century Luther woke slum-
bering Europe with a trumpet-call to liberty.

^ I do not mean to indicate that these are analogous, except in
this, that they indicate a social unrest in all ag-es, a strong- sense
in prophets and poets that not merely individual improvement,
but social reconstruction, is necessary to the highest welfare of
the human race.

^ The Encyclopaedia Britannica gives the date as 1835, and
says the -vford. was coined to designate the system of John Owen.
This statement agrees with Mr. Holyoak's History of Cooperation,
vol. i. p. 210, ed. 1875. Professor Flint throws some doubt on this
statement of the origin of the word, but none on the fact that it
Hrst appeared in the language about the year 1885, and as the
designation of a system, or group of systems, formed in oppo-
sition to individualism. See Flint's Socialism, pp. 12, 13.


His fundamental doctrine was not justification by
faitli ; it was the individual responsibility of every
soul to God. Against the notion that that respon-
sibility could be assumed by a corporate institu-
tion, by a vicar of Christ, he insisted that every
man must give account of himself to God ; and
that every man, therefore, had not only a right
but a duty of judging of his religious obligations,
of framing his religious opinions, and of answering
to the Almighty for those opinions and for the
fulfillment of that duty. This doctrine he kept
within due bounds, but the men who followed
him did not. Out of the Lutheran movement
there sprang up an excessive individualism. In
theology it led to what is known as the Anti-
nomian movement, that is, to the doctrine that
there is no law, — that every man is free to do
what he will ; in church order, to sectarianism, —
not only to a denial of the authority of the Pope
and of the church, but also to a denial of the
unity of the church. The process of segrega-
tion went on until, in this country, there are
seven great denominations, and, if you count the
smaller ones, one hundred and forty-three different
denominations ; for each one of the great denomi-
nations is divided into smaller ones, according to
the taste, the fancy, or the opinions of those who
constitute it. Thus you may belong, if you like,
to any one of six kinds of Adventists, twelve
kinds of Mennonites, twelve kinds of Presbyteri-
ans, thirteen kinds of Baptists, sixteen kinds of


Lutherans, seventeen kinds of Methodists, besides
a variety of Episcoj^alians and Congregationalists.
And, if this freedom of choice does not satisfy
you, you can join any one of the one hundred
and fifty-three independent congregations which
have no fellowship with any one. Yet there are
those who think there is not liberty in the Church
of Christ ! 1

This excessive individualism which has brought
about these sectarian differences in the church
appeared in a similar manner in government.
Rousseau produced his doctrine of the Social Con-
tract.^ He maintained that the state of nature is
the ideal state. Men, then, were in liberty, he
said ; every man could do as he pleased. But men
found certain advantages would accrue from com-
bination. They therefore surrendered a part of
their liberty, contracting one with another to give
up something of their freedom for a common gain
to be obtained by a combination. Little by little
thus they parted with their liberty. And Rous-
seau tauo^ht that what the world wanted was to
return to a state of nature, to annul the contract,
to reestablish the individualism of the early ages.
Human nature he held to be naturally good ; the
evils in society were due to government : abolish
government and men would return to their natural

1 H. K. Carroll, The lieligious Forces of the United States, p. xv.
- Not original with him, except in the form in which he stated
it and the popularity which he imparted to it.


The French are theorists, the Anglo-Saxons are
practical. In a pscudo history, whose sole au-
thority was a poet's imagination, the Anglo-Saxon
people took little interest ; in a philosophy of gov-
ernment, which promised to deliver the people from
the remains of feudalism and lead them on to lib-
erty, they took a great deal of interest. Kous-
seauism, borrowed by him from England and
transported back again to England, where it modi-
fied without revolutionizing government, and to
America, where it was accepted as the foundation
of their political theories by a considerable and
influential class of American political reformers,
became this : The sole function of government is to
govern ; to protect the community from the aggres-
sions of other communities, and the individual from
the aggressions of other individuals : there its duty
stops.i Its existence is due to evil ; it is itself a
necessary evil, and consequently the less govern-
ment there is the better.^

1 " The Constitution of Alabama expresses admirably the best
spirit of American statesmanship when it states that ' the sole
and only leg-itimate end of government is to protect the citizen
in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the
government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppres-
sion.' " W. E. H. Lecky, Democracy and Liberty., vol. i. p. 118.

- The kinship between the French, English, and American
schools of individualism is indicated by the following extracts, —
the first, a characterization of the French doctrine by an English
interpreter, the best brief statement I have been able to find ; the
second, the definition of the English school by perhaps its most
eminent philosopher ; and the third, a statement of the radical
American school by its most popular exponent : —

"That complete freedom or lawlessness — for the two things


But individualism did not stop here. If govern-
ment is a necessary evil, it is not strange that men

were supposed to be identical — is the natural condition of man ;
that all men are born and continue equal in rights ; that civil
society is an artificial state resting- upon a contract, between these
sovereign units, whereby the native independence of each is sur-
rendered, and a power over each is vested in the body politic as
absolute as that which nature gives every man over his limbs ;
' that human nature is good, and that the evil in the Avorld is the
result of bad education and bad institutions ; ' that man, uncor-
rupted by civilization, is essentially reasonable ; and that the will
of the sovereign units, dwelling in any territory under the social
contract, that is. of the majority of them, expressed by their dele-
gates, is the rightful and only source of justice and of law, — such
is the substance of the dogma which the Revolution has been
endeavoring for a century to unite to the reality of life." W. S.
Lilly, A Century of Revolution, p. 15,

" One simple principle is entitled to govern absolutely the deal-
ing of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and
control, namely, the principle that the sole end for which man-
kind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering
with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protec-
tion, — that the sole purpose for which poAver can be rightfully
exercised over any member of a civilized community against his
will is to prevent harm to others." J. S. Mill on Liberty, ch. i.
p. 21.

" Some writers have so confounded societj' Avith government as
to leave little or no distinction between them ; whereas tliey are
not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced
by our wants, and government by our wickedness ; the former
promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the
latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages in-
tercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron,
the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but gov-
ernment, even in its state, is but a necessary evil ; in its Avorst
state an intolerable one ; for when we suffer, or are exposed to
the same miseries by a Government which we might expect in a
country without Government, our calamity is heightened by reflect-
ing that we furnish the means by wliich Ave suffer.'' Thomas
Paine, Common Sense, vol. i. p. 09.


said, Let us have no government : abolish it alto-
gether. And so there grew up in modern times —
a natural product of Rousseau's democracy — Nihil-
ism, or Anarchism, — the doctrine that there ought
to be no government. It is rather curious to see
the daily papers putting Anarchism and Socialism
together, as though they were alike. They stand
at the extreme antipodes of social thought. They
harmonize only as extremes meet. Socialism in
its extreme form is the abolition of individualism,
— the doctrine that government should do every-
thing, that all industries should be controlled and
directed by government for the common good.
Nihilism is the abolition of all government, the
apotheosis of the individual, the doctrine that
everything should be left to the individual. " The
liberty of man," says Bakunin, the Russian Anar-
chist, in his " God and the State," " consists solely
in this, that he obey the laws of nature, because he
has himself recognized them as such, and not be-
cause they have been imposed upon him externally
by any foreign will whatsoever, human or divine,
collective or individual." ^ Such is Anarchism, — no
government, human or divine, democratic or aris-
tocratic. It can be treated as a phase of Socialism

Online LibraryLyman AbbottChristianaity and social problems → online text (page 7 of 25)