« PreviousContinue »
cess; in short, the beginning and the middle and the end. Then, and then only, shall we be prepared for a thorough reform ; and then only, if already reformed, shall we be effectually guarded from all approaches to the like folly. It is in view of facts and principles like these, that we may venture to assign so high a rank in present and prospective usefulness, to a work once so pernicious as the stupendous forgery now before us. Though not the prime cause of Popery, for that is to be found in the depths of human nature, -it was among the earliest and most effective agencies in the organization of all the spiritual despotisms that have existed in the church. And now, like an arch-culprit in chains on the gibbet, it hangs an everlasting memento to the whole world.”
But let us not forget that it was a pious fraud of which the culprit was guilty. In one point of view, there is in this fact an enormous aggravation of the offense; and in another, there are mitigating circumstances. It becomes us to be discriminating and candid in the sentence of condemnation which we must pronounce; and it will be well if we of modern times, after all that has occurred, are never betrayed into the act of snatching the sceptre from the hand of our Lord, or into the use of unchristian means for the attainment of an object which we may deem desirable, and for the greater glory of God.
Art. III.-SOCIALISM IN THE UNITED STATES. 1. Der Socialismus und Communismus des heutigen Frankreichs. Ein Beitrag
zur Zeitsgeschichte. Von L. STEIN, Professor in Kiel. Leipzig. 1848. Socialism and Communism in France of the present day. A Contribution to the
History of the Times. By L. STEIN, Professor in Kiel. Leipsic. 1848. Second
revised and enlarged edition. In two volumes, with an Appendix. Pp. 592, 251. 2. Petites Traités Publiés par l'Académie des Sciences, Morales et Politiques.
Paris. 1848, 1849. Small Tracts, published by the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences. Four
teen Numbers. 3. Moralism and Christianity; or Man's Experience and Destiny. In three Lec
tures. By HENRY JAMES. New York. 1850. Pp. 184. 4. Hints Toward Reforms. By HORACE GREELEY. New-York. 1850. Pp. 400.
It is becoming every day more obvious, that Socialism is not merely a caprice of the theorist or a passion of the revolutionist, and that it presents grave practical questions which claim the regard of earnest thinkers in all lands. In France the Socialist movement did not begin, as some seem to suppose, with the insurrection of workmen who overturned the French throne in the February of 1848, nor did it end under the bayonets of Cavaignac in the following June. It sprang from causes that have been at work for nearly a century; and now that, as we hope, its destructive agitations have ceased, its serious problems are committed to the most careful and conservative minds. In England, the word no longer stands identified with the communism of Owen and the atheism of Wright, but is used by political economists and even by Churchmen to designate the most sober measures for the improvement of the condition of the poor, the better ordering of their dwellings and their labor. In our own country, candid men have ceased making merry at the follies of social reformers, and are ready to confess that behind the most extravagant reform movements there is truth enough to justify their origin and demand the most serious thought. The questions that agitate our nation most deeply are connected with the relation between labor and capital. Slavery, protective duties, the currency, these are the staples of political discussion; whilst in some quarters even these engrossing topics are made to yield to others, and in great conventions and village coteries the rights of labor and the need of land reform are discussed more vehemently than our national politics.
We do not feel obliged to give an exact definition of Socialism. It would not be easy to define a thing so vague and general-comprehending the wildest follies and also the gravest social science of our time. It is enough for us to indicate the generic principle to which all its various tendencies may be traced. Regarded as a practical movement, Socialism is the effort to secure to labor its due share of the goods which it produces, and to bring the laborer into juster relations with the capitalist. Regarded as a science, Socialism is the philosophy of the right adjustment of labor and capital, and however far it may go into the regions of theology or metaphysics, it always comes back to this point as the practical issue.
Professor Stein's definition is more specific than this, and represents Socialism as being “the systematic science of the equality to be realized by the supremacy of labor in property, the state, and society.” Our present purpose does not require us to enter into any nice scientific distinctions, for we aim only to lay before our readers in a very general way the socialist tendencies at work in our own country. We cannot of course do this without some reference to movements in Europe, and have therefore placed at the head of this article the books that have seemed to us most suggestive or important regarding the European and American field. Professor Stein, in volumes whose careful research is fitly honored by their rare typographical beauty, aims rather to be the historian than the philosopher of Socialism. He describes its origin in the very nature of society, and its developments in France, the country destined to exhibit its workings alike for the instruction and the warning of other nations. He presents without reserve the frightful discords in modern society, agrees with the Socialists in the importance which they attach to the issue between labor and capital, whilst he criticises them without mercy, and finds in none of their nostrums a remedy for the disease to be healed. He is too wary to presume to legislate for society, and from his position
as a philosophic monarchist, he seems to wait for time and Providence to develop the measures that baffle human invention. In a better harmonizing of human labors and interests he has full faith, and his work, so full of acuteness and caution, is not without generous hope and incentive. His first volume is given to the general philosophy of the subject, and describes the various developments of the idea of equality in the history of France. The second volume treats in detail of the Socialist leaders, St. Simon and Fourier, characterizes the various social tendencies, the religious in De la Mennais, the abstract in Leroux, the critical in Proudhon, and the publicist in Louis Blanc,—then treats of Communism and its leaders, and ends with appendices, the last of which contains the bibliography of Socialist literature in some fifteen double columns. A brochure of 250 pages, printed as an appendix to the whole work, deserves to be called a separate volume, and carries the history of opinions and movements in France through all the agitations of 1848. As a manual of reference upon the whole subject, this work seems to be the most full and scholarly that has been published.
The Tracts published by the French Academy are just what might be expected from their authors, such men as Thiers, Cousin, Mignet, Dupin, Blanqui, &c., writing under the influence of the reaction following the last Revolution in France. They are full of valuable information, especially in regard to the history of labor and property, pervaded by the peculiar philosophy of their school, utterly hostile to the new Socialism, and disposed to rest in the ideas of 1789 and 1830, or of the first Revolution and the third. They give many important facts as to the practical working of industrial associations, and might be translated to the profit of the more extravagant Associationists in this country. Their publication will not be useless to the French, if it be merely for the sake of the excellent Life of Franklin, whom Mignet sets before the countrymen of Rousseau as the true type of the workman who would raise himself and companions from ignorance and want. Of the American publications named above, we will speak in the appropriate place.
It is obvious that America would not for many years have been troubled by Socialist agitation, had we been left to the working of our own institutions, apart from the influence of foreigners. But our connection with the Old World is now so close, that we must in some measure share all its tendencies, and burden our young national life with the weight of European decrepitude. Our task is thus not merely the prevention, but the removal of dangerous social inequalities. Our cities are fast filling up with the proletaries of the Old World, and by their growing number and the competition between them and our own workmen, we find ourselves heirs to the relics of European feudalism, and before our time grieved by the wants of a class of people which in the last century hardly existed in our land, the class of laborers without any capital. Their pedigree under the feudal system it is not difficult to trace. We can very readily see, that the developments of modern society have given them at once a new freedom and a new servitude, removing the old political bondage and establishing in its place a closer dependence upon capital. The French ouvrier found himself at once visited by the vote distributor and by starvation. The English operative learned almost at the same time from Adam Smith that labor is the source of all wealth, and from his employers that the laborer cannot have wages constant and large enough to live upon. The introduction of machinery and the consequent minute division of labor, in connection with the want of sufficient industrial and general education, have tended to swell the multitude of men dependent upon simple labor, and reduce vast numbers, once able to carry on a tolerable business by themselves, into mere operatives depending upon the owners of machinery. It is an indisputable fact, as Sismondi with others has so emphatically developed, that in Europe, the tendency is constantly to depress and diminish the middle class, and divide society into the extremes of the rich and poor. In property the attraction is in the ratio of the mass, and the Îarge fortunes are absorbing more of the land and other capital, and exhibiting the contrast of Dives and Lazarus upon an ever increasing scale.
Such extremes do not exist in this country, nor are they likely to appear so long as our system of popular education, laws of inheritance, and free industry remain. In fact, they can never exist here without the utter wreck of our government, for no force at the command of the magistracy could sustain the laws and protect property when the wretched become a large minority, not to say majority. American Socialists affirm very strongly that the tide is setting with us as in Europe, and the small properties are fast being swallowed up by the great fortunes. We are by no means ready to believe in any such fatal doom to our great middle class. However the case may be in the great cities, it is more than probable that in the nation the number of landholders is every year increasing, and that immigration, which so swells the ranks of the poor in our cities, is adding greatly to the number of land-owners in the country at large. Their number has been estimated as high as four fifths of all thevoters of the nation, and there can be no doubt that it exceeds considerably one half that amount.
It is not then the prevalence of poverty or the prospect of any speedy civil commotions that has given socialist questions such interest in this country. But other causes in a measure peculiar to our condition have prompted the discussion. The very fact that we have a new country, not cursed by centuries of feudal oppression, encourages generous minds to consider what must be done to shun the miseries that have sprung from the European system, and which may under new forms appear among us. Among ardent speculative thinkers there has always been something of that disposition to shape out a new future in America which led Southey and Coleridge in their enthusiastic days to look westward for their Utopia, and plan their Pantisocracy on the Susquehanna banks. In our people at large, even among those in comfortable circumstances, there is a singular sensitiveness to social distinctions, which makes them impatient under inferiority, and shows itself in much of the reform spirit of our country. The fact, moreover, that every man has here a vote, gives a certain practical importance to the discussion of leading questions, and prompts classes of persons to consider our social and political system who might otherwise plod on in the beaten path as if precedent were fate. The large number who go from our free schools into the mechanical trades are giving a peculiar character to the discussions of American workmen,