RELIGION, GENIUS, AND REPUBLICANISM.
Religion, Genius and Republicanism. A Church and a Republic.
RELIGION is the bringing man toward God. The priest
is the minister of religion. And the highest priest—say some—is the Pope.
Saint Peter, from whom those Popes pretend to derive their
special title to sanctity, was truly a minister of religion, a confronter
of iniquity, an earnest endeavourer to bring man toward God. At
least, so says the legend. He was no fawner upon Cæsar, no
accomplice of imperial villains; neither a Vitellius nor a Caligula would
have got his benediction. Iscariot himself had been ashamed of such
a task as that which is imposed in our day upon the "Successor of St.
Vicar of Christ—a Ruffian's Valet!—High Priest of the true
God—Worshipper of the Baboon Idol whose filthiness is set up in the
shambles by the pious atheists of France. These are the titles which
the Head of the Catholic Church would unite for the good of Christendom.
The "Catholic" may be as honest as the Protestant. The
peculiarities of his creed may be as creditable as those of Protestantism.
There are doubtless many honest Catholics, even in Ireland, who loathe the
scandal of an alliance between the infallible Pontiff and the
blood-stained, perjured "Napoleon." But the Papal Church consented
to that alliance with Rascality; consented to lend him the altar as a
footstool, to lend him the white garments of the priesthood that he may
wipe with them the accumulated filth from his bloody hands. Every
Frenchman may see that the scarlet of the priest's vestments is the blood
shed on the 2nd of December. All Europe will know it, and when
Justice overtakes the Imperial Miscreant, the Accomplice of his
abominations will fall with him. That word Papacy is written on the
gallows. Since Pope Pius mistook the "Saviour of Society" for the
"Son of God" the Papacy is no more.
Priests of God! We are not without them even in
Protestant England. But which of them, law-ordained or dissenting,
has denounced from his pulpit the hideous Blasphemy which, standing with
one foot in Paris and one in St. Petersburg, throws its shadow over even
this "moral land"? Go into our churches and our chapels; the
minister of religion points his finger at some little breaker of a petty
ordinance, but he will not lift up his parable against the Royalty of
Crime. The "Times" speaks out; but never a bishop or archbishop.
For our priests are atheists; and their flocks do credit to their care.
They "do not meddle with politics." No! they would bring men near to
God only in the after life, when, let us hope, there will be neither Popes
nor Protestant Parasites. Here they have revenues to care for, and
Te, Devil, laudamus! for a weekly service.
But there is religion outside the steeple-house! Though
the priest forgets his ministry, the Truth is not without its prophets.
At the forsaken altar Genius standeth ministering. Genius should so
stand; for ever Genius is sent by God to be His priest, His preacher, His
interpreter. Shame, shame and woe to Genius when it forgets its
consecration and does the Devil's work instead of God's. Shame when
a Rachel prostitutes herself to he something worse than the harlot of the
Parisian Felon: worse, for his mistress might plead some blinding
wilderment of "love"—such "love" as the veriest hero by strangest chance
may possibly inspire. While the Papal hierarchy, from Rome to
Dublin, desecrates God's temples with approval of most disgusting Crime, a
Rachel profanes the altar of Genius with an echo of the same approval.
Leave poor Pius in his livery. Let him slink back again
to his Vatican, and be at peace till the Spirit of old Rome again rise and
kick out the Tiara'd Flunky and his Gallic Dogs. It is long since
Popes were anything except accommodating tools of Tyrants. But
should Genius play the parasite? Is it not the right of Genius to
proclaim God's law even when priests are faithless? Is it not the
duty of Genius to keep pure the sacred fire which lights its brow, to hold
its head erect, that men, lit by the tongued flame, may see their way to
God? Shall Genius stoop its brow to the kennel whenever an Imperial
Murderer heads the sheets? And when that Genius is a Woman, shall it
be less pure, less holy, less decently upright? A Pope may grasp
hands with the Decembrist; but shall a Rachel kiss him and lie trembling
at his feet?
Priests pander to successful Wrong; Genius sells itself for a
villainous smile, a bouquet with bloody stalks, or a handful of
Vespasian's coin careless of the smell! Well, if priests and Genius
play false, what is that to us? Shall not the Republican be true?
Read the following from the lips of one of our best
"Cournet was a great and courageous
citizen, and the name which he leaves is one of those which will remain as
the symbol of political honesty and of an unlimited devotion to the cause
of the people. On his deathbed one thought alone occupied Cournet—the
Republic and the Revolution."
And Cournot fell in a duel,
as Armand Carrel fell.
Over the new grave of him who stood beside Bandin on the
barricades of December, how should we speak censoriously? How should
we forget his life's love for France? How either should we be bold
to blame that French susceptibility which made the duel imperative?
Yet what weight have bravery, undoubted love, or nicest sense of "honour,"
against the truth? What is his epitaph? It is written—not for
him but for us, that he fell in a duel.
Not "the symbol of political honesty," not "an unlimited
devotion to the cause." He turned aside upon his personal errand.
We may not speak falsely even in praise of the best loved.
A man passes rapidly along the road. His duty is
imperative. Haste is urgent. Every minute must be devoted.
He steps aside, gives but a brief while to pick up a flower. He has
missed the road. He has failed in his duty. The flower is
called pleasure. And you curse the selfish voluptuary who for
that pleasure forgot the world's work he had to do—he had undertaken to
do. Call the flower honour instead of pleasure.
Is it any the more "an unlimited devotion?"
One is intrusted with a treasure to be carried to a certain
distance. May he set it down while he fights out some chance
quarrel? And when the treasure is a Republican life, to be borne
safely to the feet of victory? And when the Republican has devoted
this life? Is the abandonment "a symbol of political dishonesty?"
Would Cournet on that December morning in 1851, have deserted
the barricade to fight a duel? And why not then as well as at any
His life was not his own. Neither was his honour (by
which of course we only mean his reputation). "Que mon mom soit
flétri!—My name be blighted"—said Danton. I am the Republic's.
I may not step out of the ranks for any personal matter. This man
Danton—this life which is called Danton—is but as a sword in God's
hand. It is aimed by God; it waits in His hand till He shall be
pleased to strike with it. It leaps not from His hand, nor turns
aside from the one direct blow for any selfish purpose.
For what is a Republican? What his cause? His
cause is that of Humanity—of God. He is a priest devoted to God.
And his whole life is as a religious service. Alas!—what religious
service, what devotion unto God, what truth to Humanity, what
Republicanism is there in tossing up—heads or tails—whether I or you shall
be rendered incapable of any service whatsoever?
The priest may not accept a challenge. Not even a
French priest. Wherefore? Because of his sacred calling.
Is our Republican mission and vocation less sacred? Or are our
services of less worth?
But to be called Coward? To be called. Set
against the false name the false act. "Coward" or deserter?
It is a praise of Cournet that on his death-bed one thought
alone occupied him—the Republic and the Revolution. If but that one
thought had occupied his life we should not now have to lament that
death-bed, should not have to lay these stern upbraidings upon a memory
else so noble. But the sad examples of Carrel and Cournet must not
Sad and every way foolish. Was it Cournet's duty to
slay his opponent? If so, it was his duty to choose the likeliest
means of slaying him. Was that to turn his own pistol to his own
breast and bid his opponent pull the trigger?
Or was it not his duty to slay him? How shall we excuse
the Republican who attempts what is not his duty?
His own life belonged to Humanity, was sacred to God.
His whole life; there could be no reservation of particular
half-hours for the sake of duelling excursions. If he did not
believe that his whole life was bound to be God's servant, and the servant
of Humanity, he was no Republican. Being a Republican, what defence
is there for his act?
He was a Frenchman. Nay—we will not accept so insolent
an excuse. Would Lamennais so throw away his life? We know
truly that certain ages, certain races, have their peculiar weaknesses
which extenuate offences. Still the greatest is he who is most above
the weaknesses of his time and race. But truth alters. Our
Republican ideal remains the same. Though the noblest ghost should
deprecate our reproach, we can not do other than up that ideal for true
men to copy. The duellist, however noble else, on that one occasion
is an egotist, not a Republican.
Are such words harsh? It is so impossible for the best
man to be always unerring. Is that any reason for shutting our eyes
to errors? Do errors ever become virtues? Is it possible for
men to reach perfection; yet who would not hold up perfection as the mark
at which to strive? "There is but one virtue," says George Sand,
"the eternal sacrifice of self." Is not that the condemnation of
duelling for personal honour's sake? What matters that my name be
blighted? My whole life is the Republic's.
In life, as in death, may the Republic be our one thought!
Nor love, nor hate, nor hope, nor joy, nor fear have power to call us from
the side of duty! Our lives are in God's hands.
Had Cournet been my brother and an Englishman, I had spoken
these words over his grave. Shall I speak less frankly because he
was a Frenchman and my brother in the faith? Honour to his virtuous
life! Forgiveness for his one fault! And may both his life and
death be useful to Humanity.
A Church and a Republic.
There is a Democracy and there is a Republic. The two
things are not necessarily the same. A Republic, truly, can not be
other than democratic, being the government of the whole by the whole for
the benefit of the whole. But a Democracy may be no government at
The United States of America present us with a sample of mere
Democracy. There is not government, but only a somewhat inefficient
machinery for police purposes and for managing the relations with foreign
States. This, perhaps, is what the illogical advocates of the
"voluntary system" would call a perfect government. It is not
Republican government. It is not the ideal to which we would raise
the thoughts of Englishmen.
A "Republic" which abets slavery, which cannot repress
outrageous crime, nor harmonise the general interests of its citizens,
which knows no duty to the world, a "Republic" which mainly differs from
monarchical England in the titles and salaries of its chief officers, and
in the one circumstance of its land being not yet all appropriated, a
"Republic" whose institutions are not Republican, whose life has been
exactly formed in the mould of monarchical England, whose differences from
England's habits are seldom more than accidental, whose course and
tendency is through the same social tyrannies and religious falsehoods
toward the same phases of anarchy and atheism, such a Republic is not
worthy of the name. We repeat, that is not the ideal to which we
would lift the hopes of Englishmen.
And yet toward America our eyes may turn, looking back to its
first colonising, when religious men were careful to found a new England,
which should be, not a mere bigger Babel tower of anarchical
money-getters, but a lasting temple of the Eternal God. Not that we
would renew the fashion of even the purer Puritanism of Vane; not that we
would acknowledge the dead letter of a Jewish law; but we would revive the
puritan's spirit, we would uphold the correctness of their perception that
man's life is altogether religious, and the business of government nothing
less than the organisation of all the powers of life toward one religious
aim. For Church and State are one.
The Church and State are one; this is different from a State
and a State-Church. That abomination of priestcraft, that division
of the people into clergy and laity, that severance of man's life into two
parts—religious and secular, was the fatal error of the Papacy.
Though they sought thereby to unite the world, believing that only on such
a spiritual ground men could unite, their error was not the less.
Its anti-Christian results are manifest again, infallible monsters and
ecstatic monomaniacs in "the Church" whether papal or "reformed," and
outside, as compensation in the balance, the weaknesses and conceited
follies of a secular atheism. Humanity is not to be so cut in twain.
The cup is for the whole people, as John Huss would have it. The
whole people is the priesthood, in them alone is the right of electing
their high priests. And as everyone is priest, so the life of
everyone should be priestly; altogether so; the office sacred, the
calling, the functions, and the conduct, altogether holy and devoted.
At present, as we have our division of the body politic, the
State, into two sets, one set of men to "serve God," and another to "do
the work of man," so we have every man likewise divided by two doctrines,
one for Sundays and the other for "week days." Or rather, we have a
division of theory and practice, the theory being reserved for appointed
times, under the direction of the clergy; and the practice for all but
those appointed times, after the "guidance" of a magistracy. There
is no occasion for the Sunday theory and the work day practice to accord;
our religion is not represented in the "House," and politics are not
proper in the "Church." So a devilish dualism ruins the whole of
life, breaking our integrity, preventing all directness and earnestness of
action, making us vacillators, compromising, unstable, and incapable of
natural growth or progress.
Credo: I believe. The animal exists: the man believes.
The creed is the essential distinction of humanity. I believe.
A parrot might be taught to utter the word: but there is no manhood in the
mere utterance. I believe is but the beginning of a sentence.
What is it I believe? That ascertained, as nearly as I can ascertain
it, and knowing that belief is life, I may go to work. I find that,
I believe in God, in the Power of Truth, whose Word and Work is
Justice, whose Spirit is the Beauty of Eternity. I believe that
human, life is an emanation from, God, and that it naturally aspires
toward God. I believe therefore that as the origin is one, and the
aim also one, so the course and government of life should be one, that
everything should be made serviceable to the one end. So
believing in the oneness of life, and duty deduced therefrom, how can I
tolerate the division of life into religious and secular, into parson life
and parliament life, into work-day mammon worship and Sunday-lip service
Whatever our creed is, that we should act out, through every
portion of our lives. What is our English creed? Not mine, not
yours, but the creed of the time! The creed of the time! Be
sure, if you will take the trouble, you will find an overwhelming majority
upon certain important principles of action: that is the creed of the
time. Let the majority act upon it. If the creed of this time
is such Christianity as is taught in our churches and chapels, let it not
hide in them, to be shown to us only once or twice a week and then thrust
out of sight like a dirty surplice! but let it come out and rule us in
Parliament and in the marketplace, and be master in the streets and
fields, yea even in our secretest chambers. How shall this be unless
the believers of this creed organise their worship, making of themselves a
church, whose doctrines shall be law? If they believe it to be
Gospel, shall it not be also Law? The law and the gospel should be
And here let us mark the distinction to be made between
principles and opinions. Opinions will be as various as the
minds of men. We want not unity, but the utmost possible diversity
of opinion. But principles, the beginnings of action, the grounds
from which actions start, are far more easily agreed to. Opinions
are but parts of ourselves; principles are truths independent of us.
We do want unity of these last. Without it we have no
coherence in society, no possibility of government, no stability on which
to build the future. Mark well this difference between principle and
The creed of the majority becomes law. That is right.
It is right that they should use their power in endeavouring to realise
their theory of life. Is their theory right? Though only as a
temporary theory, they will be successful in accordance with its
rightness. Is it wrong, it will fail; so at least some of them may
be convinced, and a new majority begin a new experiment. Am I in a
minority? Let me work as earnestly as the majority, not denying the
right of the greater number to organise and so best use their powers, but
endeavouring to win a majority to my faith. Give me but "the liberty
to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience," and all
shall be well with me, and with those others also. For at worst
their earnestness will bring them true experience.
If, indeed, the most of us believe in gold as the only
God, in the absoluteness of personal interests, and such solidarity as can
be got out of that, rather than in the oneness of human aim and
aspiration, then let that belief be explicitly and boldly uttered,
organised, and carried through. If money-getting is the aim of every
life, and the Church business of very doubtful utility, except, indeed,
for some contingent reversions elsewhere, let us frame our state, our
polity, our life accordingly, and supplement our free-trade and economical
Acts of Parliament with not only a parliamentary Book of Common Prayer,
but with parliamentary provisions for the whole parsonising process, with
cheaper division of employments—why not all by machinery, with much saving
of cost, and gain of certainty in the making, to say nothing of variety of
patterns to suit the tastes of all folk, and accommodate the peculiarities
of those in need of "religious influence." So our Anarchy shall at
least avoid the reproach of double-mindedness, and our Incoherencies be as
coherent as the "solidarity of interests" may permit. This would be
the perfection of a "Secular" State, which would just provide religious
toys, not too expensively, for its babes and fools.
Or if life should be a religious service; if God, or Truth,
exists; if the religious bond, the Godward aspiration which gives birth to
duty, is indeed the law of our nature; still let us beware how we sever
religion and polity, theory and practice, belief and deed. They must
be one even as life is one. They must be harmoniously according, or
our life will be a discord. Is it not so even now?
How Church and State shall become one: the Church not
prostituted to the State as now, but married to it to the bringing forth
of a righteous national life; this lies beyond our singular dictation.
Enough to point out the error of a divided and dual life,
haply to the convincing some earliest few to the necessity of
integrity—which is the wholeness of truth in all things, in a State
as well as in an individual. Nay, of how much more consequence in a
State than in an individual. Some few convinced of this may, by
patient striving, win a majority to believe so much, and then the how
it shall be accomplished will be brought in question.
Certainly it will not be accomplished by believers rubbing
their hands and saying—Ah, presently: business is very brisk just now.
Life is a progress and an ascension. The vivifying
flame breathed into us by God soars ever upwards towards God.
We believe in the immortality of the soul. This earthly
life is but one stage of our existence.
Government is educational. The object of Government is
to assure the progress of all, to discover and to apply the laws of God
for the elevation of Humanity. The State is not merely a policeman
or a purveyor of the kitchen. Neither is the educational function of
Government applicable only to the young. Life from birth to death is
but a school time, and the oldest have yet their lessons.
Are they only to learn of the things which pass not beyond
this "grave-rounded" life? Shall they not also inquire of their
relation to eternity? Life is one, however many may be its stages.
The aspirations of mankind are heavenward. The religious feeling,
the sentiment which makes God the beginning and the end of all, which
looks upon past, present, and future, as links of one great change of
being—is too universal and important to be left to chance. For is
not this the basis of our whole scheme of duty? The organisation of
religious worship is, therefore, a part of the business of Government.
In the name of religions freedom the individual claims a
right not only to think but to preach and proselytise.
Shall the minority, even the unit, have this freedom, and the
majority, the State, be restrained? In the name of what? Of
Shall the prophet or apostle have full liberty to prophesy
and proclaim God's truth, and when the general consent of mankind has
confirmed his assertion—shall religious freedom forbid the organised
publication of the gospel?
Shall every little sect possess its chapel : and the State,
the Nation, have no church, no place wherein to remind men even of truths
the most generally acknowledged? Or shall the State be trusted with
the education of our youth, the training of the rising generation in the
principles of morality, and yet not be empowered to express its definition
of those principles?
Shall it hold the right to apply a moral law to the young and
yet have no means of developing it, of publishing it before the elders of
The doctrines inculcated in the State school, shall they not
be the doctrines expounded in the State Church?
Truly, a State Church should not descend to the trivialities
of creeds. These, peculiar to individual minds, and if accurately
examined, almost as various, must be left altogether to individuals.
Let the sects in their private chapels, or possibly meeting in turn within
the national temples (taken out of monopolist hands and restored to the
nation's use), adopt what divisional rituals may please them. The
State Church must be the Church of the Nation, the utterer and echo of its
faith, the explainer of the general truths of the relation of Humanity
One would not now dare even attempt to draw up a form of
faith, nor prescribe a form of national worship, nor indicate who should
be its ministers or how the service should be arranged.
Only when they who now usurp the throne and the altar shall
give place to the whole people, when the people shall be both king and
priest, will it be possible to organise a national worship.
But will there be occasion for this when every man shall be
his own priest, when his daily life will be a prayer, a thanksgiving, or a
sermon, a continual service in the temple of Humanity? Even then the
ceremonial association of one with another will not be a mere idle form.
Now the new-born child (we note not the baptism into
sectarianism—speaking here of national matters) is registered by the
State, but registered as one might enter in an account book the increase
Then the presentation in the temple will be of one more
servant to society, one more worker to the world; the public recognition
by the State of the nation's duty toward a new member, in virtue of the
equal right, all society standing sponsor for it; it will be the
admission, not merely formal and of one without will into some narrow
congregation, but of one denoted as a priest in one of the national
churches of Humanity.
For "confirmation" there will be the vow of the boy and girl,
as of the Greek of old, "to make their country greater and more glorious;"
and the public investiture of the young man or woman with the full rights
and faculties of citizenship.
In the temple also will the loving publicly fulfil their
troth (no matter what added ceremony peculiar views may enjoin), and, as
men learn a purer morality, no lighter or less holy connection will
degrade the race. There, too, the patriot will receive the olive or
the oaken garland; old age be crowned with silver honour; and when the
course is run—there, too, the very unbeliever will approach and listen, no
longer shocked by formal anathemas, to the loving, hopeful words which the
true may lay upon the grave of even the most estranged by the variance of
speculation. Nor need religious services be merely ceremonial.
There shall likewise be the perpetual ministration of the
priests of human life: the preaching and aspiring prayer of our poets, our
prophets; why not also those "sermons in stones," the accuracies of
science no longer sceptical but wisely reverent—tracking from the very
vestiges of creation the harmony and wonderful growth of life. All
things above the actual business of the day will find their expression in
our ritual, nor even the commonest avocations be divorced from the
Again, mankind will assemble in their temples to frame their
laws to formulise God's law in adaptation to human occasions, to take
council together how best to magnify and exalt their country for the
service of Humanity, for the glory of the Eternal.
That Englishmen should be jealous of any State Church is
natural enough, not only because our popular struggles hitherto have been
solely for individual freedom, not yet generally understood as preparative
of the organisation of freemen—and so any concentration of power seems
repugnant to the habit of our thought (not always to be so), but also
because our State Church, at least since it was reformed, has been nothing
but a greedy corporation, an unspiritual stepmother, growing fat upon our
unremitted service, starving our minds and exacting from the sweat of our
brows—utterly careless of our education, and altogether alien to the
nature which has outgrown even the possibility of her directing it.
But when the Republic shall be established, when every man
and woman shall be recognised as God's priest in virtue of human life,
then it will be understood that individual freedom may be preserved intact
even while men associate in common forms; the faith, the aspirations of
the majority will find a voice, a formulised expression, age after age,
will change the formula in accordance with the growth of life.
Even now, notwithstanding all the chances that divide us, and
the innumerable difficulties in the way of understanding one another,
thoughtful men are seeking for some common worship, anxious to discover
some temple yet unmonopolised by sectarian intolerance, wherein they may
at least associate in the expression of a general hope, in the exercise of
that faculty of adoration which distinguishes man from the beast; where,
too, the millions who have no church, nor creed, nor ritual, might
assemble, and learn from the higher natured there kneeling beside them,
the ennobling lessons of a faith in the future.
The first stone of that temple may be laid by our Republican
organisation. We associating, no matter in what rude huts, may form
the first congregation of believers.
But the State Church can only be when we have indeed a State,
a national power—a Republic.
Then men without fear of power, for power will be their own,
themselves—will acknowledge that it is not enough to organise and rule the
secular concerns of life; but that the religious, that which links the
generation to Eternity, needs also and even more urgently and primarily,
the most careful organisation. And, thereafter, they may find that,
as in the inner spirit, so likewise in even the outward regulations of
life there is no duality; that religious and political Government are one
and the same "politics" being only the practical application of religion,
and "religion" the theory upon which alone true polity can build.
The time may be far distant; nevertheless, those for whom we
hope, the eternity for which we work, shall surely behold and rejoice in
LIBERTY AND EQUALITY.
Liberty and Equality. Republican Fraternity. Nationality.
[See note p.191]
THE spirit of our earth has made but two steps upon
the path of life. History has written but two chapters. They
are the two phases of individual life: liberty and equality.
Human life is educational. Humanity—the whole of humankind—as
is one man, whose law of life is growth, whose teacher is experience.
Only in this they seem to differ: the man dies yet ignorant, immature, and
his labour unaccomplished. Humanity lives to try new problems,
problem after problem, experience after experience, till the sum of
knowledge shall be complete. The ages of the earth are but as the
days of a single life; the experiences of nations are the world's acts.
History has been grandly called—one of God's poems. Be
sure it is a poem neither wanting rhythm or purpose, though to many
readers the metre seem but uncouthly fashioned, and to some, even of the
writers—the purpose is not very clear. The world, indeed, is but an
act of God, His thought informs it, be the historian never so profoundly
Human life, we repeat, has as yet gone through but two phases
of its existence—struggle for individual liberty, the struggle for
individual equality. We date our years from the commencement of the
second chapter. The first is the period of barbarism, the second is the
era of Christianity.
The first savage inhabitants of the earth were free.
Their ruling Spirit—their God—the Ideal they worshipped was Freedom.
They knew nought of the Younger God—Equality or Equal Right. Of the
Spirit to proceed from them the wisest of the heathen scarcely dreamed.
The first problem set for the world's solving was this—How
to establish Freedom without regard to equal right. For there are
two sides to every question, two extremes to everything, use and abuse of
all power. Men seek to propitiate the true divinity with offerings
not divine. So Freedom was first sought for the sake of the seeker,
not for love of the Truth. The world must prove all things before it
shall hold fast what is good.
The Freedom of the world's first day was Anarchy: the
anarchical assertion of Self. It vindicated only the will of the
stronger. When the Man would be free, it was for his own sake only:
when the Nation asserted the right of Freedom, it was against all
others. Freedom was my God—the genius of the individual, or our
God—the tutelary deity of a peculiar people. The freest kept his
slaves. The Medes and Persians overthrew great Babylon, but to found
new Babylonish empires; the Persians overcame the Mede, but to strive for
mastery with the Greek; Greece spurned back the monstrous invasion of
Persia, but to be free to play the lord at home. The freest Greek
"Republics" were but aristocracies; corporations of freemen with masses of
slaves below. Sparta had its helotry and the crypteia to keep the
helots down. Wisest Athens was no wiser. Rome's great freemen
laboured to enslave the world; and God's favoured race, His peculiar
people, worshipped also at that heathen shrine of Self. God was our
God, who made the kings of the lands our captives and bound the noblest in
fetters of iron. Equal liberty was never the God of ancient worship.
How could it be? Outside of Greece all was "barbarian;" outside of
that narrow Judæa all was "heathen;" and the Roman freeman had not his
distinguishing renown for nought.
The religions of the old world were one: however various
their dogmas, however different their manifestations. They were all
but endeavours (differing according to the genius or circumstances of the
peoples) toward the solving of the first problem of human
progression—self-assertion—freedom for myself—the imperfect freedom which
is anarchical—the religion of egotism, caste, and nationalism.
Savage against savage first, the stronger claiming freedom even to enslave
the weaker; then a warrior class—as in earliest Egypt—ruling all else;
then priestcraft, for some time hand in hand with the warrior, and at
length climbing upon his shoulders to still higher power, and, as in
India, providing for the perpetuation of slavery by the establishment of
castes. In the Holy Land the Jehovah of the Jews insists upon the
narrowest worship, and there too is caste, the tribe set apart as holy,
the privileged class, the Levitical mandarins. Phenicia was but an
earlier Venice, as tyrannical a slavemaster. Sparta was no less
terrible a despot. Athens taught her sons to swear upon her altar to
make their country greater and more glorious; but only the citizen-class
was so privileged; the slave and the alien shared neither the greatness
nor the glory. One scourged the slave, massacring the bondmen when
they grew too numerous, one slew the Amalekite, one dragged the nations at
her horses' heels. The first Brutus could but transfer authority
from the king to the patrician; Roman history within the walls is but the
tale of never-ceasing contentions between the discontented slaves and
their imperious lords; and Spartacus and the Grecchi vainly strove to pass
the bounds in which great Roman Freedom was so haughtily confined. O
Brutus! thy name stands highest among those who have dared to worship
Freedom; O Roman Regulus! thy patriotism shall not be surpassed: yet it
was my freedom, and my country for which you dared and did.
Self was written on the altar though it stood in Freedom's temple.
So did the old world solve the question—How to establish Freedom
without care for Equality. It could not be so established.
The question had been wrongly put. Without Equality Freedom may not
And yet the God was worshipped in the idol: though
whom they did so ignorantly and devoutly worship had not been declared
unto them. There is truth in the partial problem. Freedom even
for one's self alone is so divine a thing, needs first that we call down
the Divine into our own souls. There after the Spirit which has
become one with us shall go forth to those that are yet in darkness.
Divine indeed, the Spirit of Freedom which, burning fervently in the
horn-lanterns of those untaught hearts, lit men's lives from the close
darkness of the tomb of Self, to the beholding—not indeed of the horizoned
width of earth, but of—the far-surrounding walls of earth's great
temple—Country. It was something to step from the littleness of
Me to the grandeur of My Country. The chamber of Self was
enlarged, the prison of Freedom widened out. It was the Temple
instead of the Ark. There was room for the imprisoned God, though
still it was but a room; and the Universal Spirit could not be content.
However, Time was young. The child walks in leadingstrings before
its thews are strung. So the Free walked in the support of an
antagonistic and selfish patriotism before he had gained strength to
journey through the world. The fire was for a while shut in, that it
might grow more intense. By-and-bye it shall embrace the world.
Then men scarce knew there was a world. What was the world to the
Roman? The Sabine and the Carthaginian enemy might be conquered or
absorbed. Beyond were Scythian forests and the dim realms of the
unknown, hidden in the fogs of the surrounding ocean. What could he
discern in that bewilderment and gloom, whose very shape and bound was but
an obscure enigma? But before him burned the sacred fire upon the
altar of patriotism, the glory shone around the brows of her who sate upon
the seven hills; he bowed him down and worshipped where the Divinity
appeared. Glorious Roman selfishness—scarcely to be called selfish,
however based on selfishness—indeed, it was a yearning out of
self!—glorious and devout selfishness of a Brutus, a Curtius, and a
Regulus! The highest Spirit of Freedom—whose name is Unbounded
Duty—might well smile upon worshippers such as those. The glorious
army of Martyrs for Humanity has no nobler company than those who served
Truth even though they knew him not. Their love of country was
indeed selfish. Even within their country was the fatal division of
noble and debased. Notwithstanding, as the wide-spreading oak is in
the acorn, so the sublimity of Duty had its germ in Roman deed.
And then, as ever, were the men before their time, who
without seeing the error of the system in which they lived, made of their
lives an unconscious protest against it, and a prophecy of the future to
which perhaps their highest thought had never soared. For the
earliest age has in it some forecasting of the maturest. How many
harvests in the one seed-corn! It is only for the sake of better
understanding that we divide into periods. Even in the narrow
hardness of old Rome were instincts of the universal humanity, and
sometimes hopes of a brotherly organisation. Nevertheless, the broad
characteristic of antique time was the worship of Unequal Freedom.
Such exceptions as the following alter not the meaning of the whole.
They are of the protests and the prophecies of which we spoke just now.
The Fabii were of the liberal party of the patricians.
Unable to stem the tide of patrician oppression or to persuade the senate
to consent to the long-deferred and mean-to-be-deferred division of the
public lands among the plebeians, whose blood and sweat had earned them,
Caeso Fabius, in his third consulship, on his return from a victorious
campaign, came into the senate-house followed by every member of his
family. If he might not do justice to the people, since the majesty
of Roman Law held him back from civil war, he would no longer stay among
the unjust. "Send us out "—he said—"against the Veians, and take ye
care afterward of yourselves. We promise to protect the majesty of
the Roman name." On the following day, the whole family, their
households and their clients, passed through the gates of Rome, three
hundred and six men, to give their lives away. Within two years not
one remained to drive back new foes or to show the plebeians that there
were some among the patricians to count them as fellow-citizens.
Are not the Zoo of Leonidas of the same devoted stamp?
Freedom for Self and for that larger Self—one's country—could find no
Yet that very grandeur, and even in its most exceptional
moods, helped to prove the insufficiency of Unequal Liberty. It is
proved nor needs the last poor clinching of an American repetition.
Unequal Freedom was not enough even with the Fabii to aid. To that
chapter of human capability we can add nothing. On that unequal
ground of human greatness none can outgrow the Roman and the Greek.
The story of the Maccabees is of the same stature. And yet it avails
not. The slaveholder shall not continue free. The ancient
empires with all their nobleness have passed. Judæa and Greece
become mere Roman provinces; Judæa is an unholy sepulchre, and an idiot
squats on the yet beautiful corpse of Greece. Rome has been. The old
Roman Freedom is not sufficient to revive her. All of ancient virtue
could not maintain Freedom in one corner of the earth, Freedom could only
remain with the whole earth for habitation. The gods departed from
the nations, and in the winter depth when all was darkly still the God of
humankind looked down upon the stable in which a poor man's child was
born. And the Son appeared to make the Father known. Equality,
the Slave's Mediator, to lead—not the favoured race, but—the Gentile world
into the presence of Liberty. God is Liberty: Creative Freedom.
Equality is the Christ: the Intercessor—atoning for offences, making all
as one. The first chapter of human life was ended. The Anarch—Barbarism—Unequal
Liberty—had reigned. Rightly do we date out years from the coining
of the Preacher of human equality.
Not Liberty, but Equality to lead men to Liberty is
the one distinguishing dogma of Christianity. How freemen and
slaves, when all are children of God? That title effaces all
distinctions. All are heirs of the promises. Who dares enslave
the heir? Here is the one aim and meaning of Christianity; the one
aim and meaning, which priests and protesting preachers alike have missed,
for all their babbling of prevenient grace. The distinguishing
characteristic of a religion is not to be known in only some poor points
of formula or expression. Brahminism found God born of a pure
virgin; Confucius in words as clear as Christ's foretaught the true
morality of love. Not for that or the other dogma was Christianity
the new religion; but because it brought down from heaven the new faith of
the equality of man, so becoming the one great fact in human progress.
For the first step is not progress; the second is. The first step
was barbaric Freedom, the second is Equality from heaven. The first
was Freedom because I am a man. The second is Equality
because we are all sons of God.
Let us have done with the trivialities of a corrupt or stupid
priesthood. A new religion is not a new set of pious formulas; is
not the change from Solomon's Temple to St. Peter's nor the Conventicle;
is not a new Sunday coat in which to occasionally parade ourselves before
the Awful Majesty of the Eternal. A new religion is a new
revelation, a new idea whispered by God into our souls for us to incarnate
in daily fact. It is a new link in the chain with which we must be
led to God, another round of the golden cord let down from heaven to draw
us up. Our religion is different from that of old time. Our
religion is the equal brotherhood of mankind. This, this only is
Christianity. We are not else better than the heathen; and without
it the nations of Christendom would perish even as the ancient empires
perished. There is absolutely no other difference (except in form)
between the Christian and the heathen. Old Norse creeds taught as
grandly the "Consecration of Valour," Mahommedanism as firm reliance upon
the will of God; humility (which is self-negation—but too often mistakenly
confounded with true self-devotion) was never better learned than by the
Buddhist. Let us not foolishly pride ourselves on any other
difference between the Christian and the "Benighted." For it is not
by complacently enthroning ourselves in the judgment seat of the
sectarian, thanking God with Hebrew exclusiveness that we are not as those
heathens were, nor by exaggeration of evils not peculiar to age or race,
nor by any illiberal qualification of noblest deeds as well enough for
such a time, nor by denial of the truth and conscience of antique life,
that we can in any measure inform ourselves of the true meaning of God's
earlier utterance in the world. In Him men lived and moved and had
their being then as now. Their religious forms were then as now the
human manifestations of His Spirit. Why needlessly degrade the
characters of the ancient creeds? Christianity is strong enough to
stand upon its own merits, asks not to have its weakness propped by
unwarranted piling up of the opposing errors. That in its earlier
days Egyptian worship was not brutish, but sought, like the Persian, to
track the Eternal, through the deep blue sea of heaven, by the shining
course of suns and stars, nay, even by the hail of rarer comets, far less
easily discerned; that Indian philosophy, however wild its after errors,
however deep its modern degradation, was not, at one time, ignorant of
man's creation, his existence, or his immortality, but taught in sublimist
words the emanation from the deity, the needs of purity and holiness, and
the possible return to the bosom of the Father, a return in later times
(yet far antecedent to the light that hung over Bethlehem) plainly
announced by Buddha; that, albeit Judaism was hopelessly intolerant, and
though the offerings—not to be called worship—of Phenician traders were
foul and fierce; the faith of Greece could lead men to, at least, the
porch of the Diviner Beauty of the world, and train up a Phidias, a
Sophocles a Plato, and a Timoleon, to penetrate toward the inner
sanctuary; that even the hidden mysteries of Greece and less refined Rome
were not mere orgies of an atheistic licentiousness (however so perverted
in the worst of days); that in all, ay! even in the poorest forms of
religion, were some words of God, more or less faintly enunciated as they
might be in the craftily obscured language of a priestly paraphrase, and
that the best were radiant with holy characters, which we, even in the
purer and more perfect light of this ripening day, may find not altogether
dim or cloudy; this much surely may be acknowledged without fear, since
the most of truth is but comparative, and the diviner less divine than the
divinest, yet unrevealed, slumbering on the deeper heart of God.
Rather than accuse the immaturities of the growing youth of time, it would
behove us to inquire wherein our manlier energies have earned renown;
rather than upbraid the twilight of the earth, we should expose our own
deeds to the searching light of this advancing day. The virtues that
change not with the alterations of the world's seasons, nor with the
progression of its years, were not wanting before the morning star kissed
reverently the forehead of the poor, the houseless, and the weak.
The Socratic life has not yet been surpassed, even among the sects who can
spare their pity for the "unconverted." Aristides is still
pre-eminently the just. Yet stand as monumental examples to all time
the constancy of the elder Brutus, the generous spirit of the Fabii, the
noble motherhood of Cornelia, the devotion of our hero sons. And be
such heights uncommon in the little span of Greece or Rome, do we outcount
them with the later braveries of the length of 1800 years? Our own
enlightened English life, how transiently it glowed with faith like that
which warmed the patriot of old Rome or tempered the steel of Jewish
valour to become the sword of the Lord and of Gideon. Our Drakes,
our Sidneys, our Raleighs, are gathered into one forgotten constellation,
and in another starry crown the jewelled lustres of Cromwell and his Peers
are vainly overhanging the dull downward brow of England. Look away
to the expiring Islam for the zeal which has fled the irreligious camp of
Christendom. At what age, emulating the Athenian youth, or upon what
altar do we moderns swear, though only in the silence of the heart, to
labour to mike our country greater and more glorious? Truly the
mouldy and scarce-read chapters of old heroic story might seem to offer
proof that the world sinks into shameful discrepitude, but that some rays
yet reach us from the glorified front of Milton; Danton's noble voice yet
thunders through the clouds, and Poland's Martyr Hymn and Rome's Eternal
Song are yet upheld by valiant and prophetic lives. Nor, unable to
claim pre-eminence in actual virtue, are the unheathened times entitled to
a negative praise for avoidance of crime or virtue. The Cæsar Borgia,
the Szela, and the lesser Napoleon, are all of Christian growth. And
Christian also are the Dark Ages, the Jesuits, and the Inquisition.
Not therefore do we underrate the vantage of Christianity, of the new era
beginning with the advent of the Nazarene.
Whether we regard the caste-systems of Egypt and India, the
martial despotism of Persia, the rule of wealth and craft in Phenicia, or
the class-divisions of Greece and Rome and Judæa, the one obvious
characteristic will be found pervading the ancient nations: everywhere the
social fabric was built upon the assumption of the natural inequality
of man, the necessary, because divinely appointed, inferiority of
certain races. And this not only within the pale of the nation, but
universally without. Everywhere was the same idea (most strongly
exemplified in the Spartan crypteia and the Jewish slaughter of the
Amalekites), the religious dogma of a peculiar people, and within that
again a peculiar race, each more or less assured of its divine
establishment. Not in the superstitious tenets and observances of
heathen theology, nor in the absence of a law of right and wrong, nor in
any want of the higher powers of humanity, nor in any difficulties—from
which we have now exemption—in the way of a wider benevolence, nor in the
lack of such advantages as we are licensed to reap from the discovery of
printing, nor in any supposed inefficacy of human toils to assure
progress—but in this universal religious dogma of human inequality,
we find the sufficing reason of the imperfect freedom and consequent
decline of the greatest and the freest empires of antiquity. But
when the antique period closed, Christianity stood forth with one clear
dogma—The divine Equality of Man. Men's rights ignorantly asserted,
contended for upon no ground except that common to both right and
wrong—the ground of expediency, convenience, fitness or present
strength—these, in such manner, had been urged even from the beginning;
but now the ground of right was taught as a religious faith—and in the
face of a privileged priesthood, in the face of the divine appointment of
caste, was proclaimed the sacred and indissoluble brotherhood of man,
through one equal Father—God, Henceforth, Freedom had a place whereupon to
stand. Archimedes could plant his lever; the world began to move.
Centuries before the Christian era Buddha had flung forth the
same truth, but it had not fairly grown. Either the concurrent doctrine of
poverty and renunciation, better suited to Asiatic indolence, neutralised
its effects, or else, perhaps, the doctors of Buddhism were more
successful than the doctors of Christianity in persuading their disciples
of the utter worthlessness of the present life, and the wisdom for the
unclerical, at least, of being content with a mere spiritual equality
before God; the enterprising nature of the European possessed a hardier
logic. Notwithstanding the passive character of Christ, despite the
apostolic avoidance of any interference with political systems or between
the classes of society (wherefrom their Christianity has been dragged in
as a witness for slavery), notwithstanding the reiterated exhortation to
submit to every ordinance of man:—the dogma of equality remained at the
base of the new faith, to be pursued through all its hearings to its
proper end. "Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's," but
what are they?
Does a son of God belong to Cæsar? When it was
perceived that all men—the slave as well as the free—the poor as well as
the wealthy—the plebeian as well as the patrician—were of one blood, the
children of one common Father, whose regard saw only the human soul,
whether under imperial purple or in the filth of trampled rags, then the
bond of authority—the idolatry of caste—was broken. If the outcast
was as the Emperor before God, why should not the poor despised be the
Emperor's equal upon earth? Rome, choosing her priests from the
plough, asserted the equality of mankind, vindicated the right of genius
to devote itself to God; and the base born and the beggar climb above the
thrones of princes; a lesson not to be forgotten when the priest himself
turned to harlotry, and, faithless to the spirit of his own power, renewed
a heathen division into castes—the clerkly and the lay. Huss came
next, bearing the cup to the people; all men are priests and equal.
Luther demands the right of conscience, at least in spiritual
affairs. Voltaire and the Encyclopedists are but echoers of the same
claim, yet not pushing the consequences to their full extent. The
dogma yet advances from thought and word to very deed.
Men rise and trample upon the necks of kings, proclaiming
their political equality. To the social is the next step, there is
no retreat. Is not equality there also? Free-trade springs
from the same seed, and, the reaction against the hierarchal complete,
Proudhonist, Atheism, and Communism are reached. The world tastes
even of the worst, be it never so briefly, to learn in all ways the
flavour of equality.
What matters it that we have but experimented; that yet
nowhere the Christian equality is really formulised; that society, as in
healthiest days, maintains its old fatal divisions of freemen and
governed, or rich and poor—a still less tolerable establishment?
What though in one or other of the decayed nations may be found the types
of our improved institutions? the falsehood of all that inequality is no
longer believed true. We have not done, but we have learned.
Who sees not that the days of inequality are numbered? The world
leaps not from change to change, but slowly and cautiously steps through
long ages of transition, wherein the many-featured experiment of the new
is so tried.
So the wisdom of the past accumulates, and the world has
never to relearn its lesson. So, letter by letter, the lesson of
equality has been spelled till it is well nigh learned. Many a word
may be misunderstood till the whole sentence has been mastered; but at
length, tried in every way, equality is recognised as true; not, indeed,
as the end, but as the means—the base of the world's building, the ground
of universal freedom, the beginning of the world's sure progress; and
freedom thenceforward established as the inalienable birthright of all
mankind, the political lesson of Christianity is accomplished; the evening
and the morning complete another day; and again a new era dawns upon the
insatiate hopes, the toils, the progression of Humanity.
For equality is but for the individual's gain. It is
not for the sake of others but for my own sake that I care to establish
the equality of freedom. Am I weak?—it is my only protection.
Am I strong—can I be sure there are none stronger? Equality of right
is the only assurance of universal freedom. If freedom is not
universal, who knows but I may be among the exceptions? Once break
the rule, who shall be sure? But now in the universal equality Self
embraces the whole world; and the next progress is beyond self. Duty
succeeds to right—Right takes its place at the feet of duty. It is
for humanity's sake that I am free.
Equality and freedom are but means, not ends; their true
significance the unchecked opportunity of growth.
There is yet work and worth before us.
Though we establish our freedom upon the enduring basis, we
win therefrom no title to immediate rest, as if our triumph had snatched a
millennium from eternity or ransomed from traditionary tombs the pleasant
garden of content.
God's Angels—memory and hope—have for ever barred the
paradise of unplucked knowledge; and endowing us with the wisdom of our
faults, and promises of glorious worth unknown as yet, with flaming
swords, lighting the path of time, point to the future as the only goal of
As one lives not for himself alone, but also for his fellows,
so generation after generation lives and acts for those that follow—even
as a father for his children. Not for present enjoyment—albeit
cheerfulness is present joy, the passage of beauty a delight for ever, and
the veriest torture of the martyr's wreath of fire as nothing in
comparison with his serenity of soul—yet not for enjoyment, but for works
of future worth, man's life springs upward from the earth, like a blade of
wheat grass appointed toward the harvest.
And here we tread upon the threshold of the new era—the era
of organisation for the sake of universal progress, that the free
growth of individuals may be ordered to a more abundant garnering.
Christianity has no instruction here; nor indeed any marvel
thereat, calling to mind its aim, before considered—not the inculcation of
the political system (void of that as on lessons in mechanics or in the
economy of wealth), nor the establishment of order, but rather the
breaking down of the inequality of caste, and of the absurd and unjust
authority of tyrannical and patriarchal ages, for the revenging of right,
the right of the individual, redeeming the souls of men with the
faith that they are amenable to none but God.
All that fusion and blind obedience could accomplish for
organisation, the unchristian Empires had achieved. Of a horde of
slaves the Christian religion—the faith which places the lowest man in
immediate relation with God—the faith which is the cause of duty—has made
or yet shall make a race of men; the gospel of equal freedom becomes
manifest to all, slavery is thenceforth impossible, and the second age of
the world (whose motive power has been this religion of two thousand
years) completes the cycle. The God of the world's first day was
freedom; very God, however blindly or unworthily adored; God the Fattier,
the Creator, who brooded over the chaos of the world's barbarism and bade
the light appear; God, whose angel drove men from the paradise of a
bestial content into suffering and sin, that through the knowledge and
experience of good and ill they might become God-like, wise unto their own
The God of the second day, of our two thousand years, is the
word which proclaimed men to be divine, sons of God, and equal brothers
upon earth; so rebuking the isolation of the heathen freemen.
And this word has not been peace, but a sharp sword to pierce
through and through till the bond are free. The first law was
growth; our second gospel is righteousness.
The God of the future, the motive power which shall rule the
approaching time, the Comforter who shall surely come, is the spirit of
Wisdom, which is more than truth and love, and yet one with them; the
spirit which shall bind together the whole human race in their families
and nations—like the many sorts of grain into their several sheaves, and
all into one harvest.
This is the spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son;
the spirit of harmony, which is peace; which, following the knowledge of
true liberty and the triumph of a loving equality, shall touch our brows
with holy flame when the day of Pentecost is fully come.
Then will commence the third day, the third chapter of the
book of human life, the chapter of duty, of organisation, the work of
The knell has rung for American slavery, a garrison's strength has not
been used in vain. The funeral bells of all the most Christian kings
are pealing fast. Bury your dead out of your way. The Hour of
the peoples cometh on.
"Victory, Victory! feel'st thou
not, O world,
The earthquake of his chariot thundering up
The great European war is recommenced, the war between
peoples and governments, the strife for nationality, for national
organisation, that the free may turn their freedom to its fullest use.
What matter how the waves recoil? the tide flows surely on.
No imperial word, from the East or from the West, can stay
the flood. The revolutionary deluge must overspread the earth.
The day of kings and governments is no more.
The day of the real freedom dawns at last. Free-men
begin to organise themselves in their several nationalities, no more
played with or exploited and sadly severed or unequally yoked together for
the caprice or interest of tyrants; no more organised only for outward
policies or for police at home, but organised to make of their whole lives
one strong and righteous progress for the good of all, for the glory of
The Italian dream of Caius Gracchus is realised; some younger
Phidias may now sculpture the new Grecian glory; Poland gathers smilingly
the abundant harvest of her worth; Germany has awakened from her dreams;
Russia crowns the tombs of Pestel and the Mouravieff's; France atones the
infamy of these unhappy days.
And is not England among the nations? Have not we too
our part in the contention, our duty toward the right—duty to be performed
in our own country and toward our fellows even of remotest lands?
Where is the sword that struck terror into the hearts of
tyrants? Where is the zeal that counted no odds in the battle for
the right? Where the indomitable bravery of our Alfred, the
courageous stubbornness that turned at bay on the field of Agincourt, the
desperate daring of Florez' fight? Where are the conquerors of the
Armada, the protectors of the Waldenses? Where is Blake, the
champion of the right? And Nelson, who fought so well even upon a
doubtful quarrel? Where is the heroism which made England great
abroad, for all the unchristian slavery at home?
And where is this goodly tower of a Commonwealth which the
English boasted they would build to overshadow kings, and be another Rome
in the West? Who shall begin to build its bricks one upon the other,
who shall lay the first stone?
Or is the Commonwealth here already—the goodly tower well
built, needing only some little corner-rounding, waiting only to be
admired by all, when the statues of the Iretons and the Blakes, the
Hampdens and the Vanes, shall be arranged in their due order?
Is equality the English rule? Are all free citizens?
Are there none of the proved errors of the past still
cherished by our patrician and phenician wisdoms? Are all our people
Is there no division of governors and governed, free and
bond, unjustly rich and wretchedly impoverished?
Have all education, all the means of work-which is worth
doing—all the opportunities of worshipful lives?
Or, have we lingered in the unchristian ways till the curse
of antique folly—the curse of decline and death—steals almost unnoticed
onus? Have we, once foremost among the peoples, yet to learn the
very beginning of liberty, yet to ground ourselves in the rudiments of
humane philosophy, yet to stammer confusedly ere we dare pronounce the
Christian equality? Is it only for the poor and unlearned to
continue their many years' struggle for the place of manhood, the right of
citizenship, whereupon alone the duty of a citizen can be fulfilled for
the nation's and the world's good; and are our leaders and governors yet
so blind that they insist on dragging us into the doom of barbarous years?
O ye who call yourselves Christian! and ye who would be patriots! and ye
who would be just! and ye who think that righteousness is possible or
peace desirable! what are ye that eighteen centuries after Christ you do
not require the freedom even of your meanest brethren?
Where is English valour, where is English hope, where is
English sense, that a few fools who call themselves our representatives
drive us like a herd of beasts into the depths wherein both slaves and
Kings and slaves are passing away. Nothing is stable
but the righteous growth. Only upon the ground of equal freedom can
the future be organised, or peace alight with healing on her wings.
The present dies out, having done its work. England is not without
hope for the future. Wherefore, let us be up and doing,
The Social and Democratic Republic. Hither is our aim.
The absolute sovereignty of the whole people, directly exercised for the
social organisation of the whole people, for the better government of
society. Not upon us Republicans rests the charge of desiring
We would not have government a mere nonentity. It is
not we, but the Proudhons, the Gerardins, the Cobdens, and the Humes, who
would make their damnable non-intervention theory not only the rule of
international conduct, but the rule of our ordering at home.
Let the strongest bear rule, and the weaker go to the wall!
Let the rich have addition without end, and from the poor take away the
little that remains to him!
We Republicans want not this, but the equal freedom which
shall protect the poor man, lessen poverty of all hinds, and give to the
poorest the opportunity of honestly acquiring wealth of mind and of
estate. And care not what may be said about the unfitness of the
people for freedom, about the blunders they will make, the mischief they
will do to themselves! Let it be so. Who made the Peels and
the Russels, and the Beresfords and the reforming Jacob Bells, and the
respectable knaves of St. Albans and elsewhere our tutelar deities, our
guardian angels, to keep the most ignorant of us from going astray?
Let the people go astray!
They will find their way in time toward the truth, and learn
wisdom through experience.
Let them go astray! but let them give up being led astray!
For your kindest and most careful governors have a sad knack of going
Universal freedom, absolute freedom, equal freedom. Not
that each should be independent of the rest, but that the whole should be
firmly bound and banded together by their own free wills: that upon the
only sure ground of equality of right we may freely build up the scheme of
duty, and establish the brotherhood of humanity, an organisation of all
the powers and faculties of the whole, for the growth and progression of
the whole, from generation to generation, for ever and ever.
When Curius Dentatus in his second consulship was holding a
levy preparatory to meeting Pyrrhus in the field, and a momentary
hesitation about enlistment was manifest among the people, he ordered the
name of a tribe to be taken by lot, and then the name of one of its
members, also drawn by lot, to be called. The man thus summoned not
appearing, Curius directed his property to be seized and publicly sold,
and on the delinquent's hastening forward to appeal to the Tribunes
against the Consul, the latter commanded him also to be sold, declaring
that the commonwealth had no need of a citizen who would not perform his
duty of citizenship.
The Roman understood the meaning of patriotism; the duty of
the individual to the nation.
In our day a man flings off his country as if it were an old
shoe, with as little conscience as if in the first instance he had chosen
it for a mere whim and now might discard it at his caprice.
Thomas Francis Meagher renounced his allegiance to the Queen
of Great Britain and Ireland of whom he was a subject; Kossta, Hungarian
born, was protected by America on account of his supposed right of
American citizenship. Lord Brougham petitioned the French
authorities to make a Frenchman of him and not a whit less English.
Messrs. Sturgeon cheated their country as they would not venture to cheat
a Yankee private Customer; powder was supplied to Russia, war steamers
were built for Russia by English traders: and free trade, "peace," and the
individual right of voluntary action are still appealed to for the
disregard of patriotic duty. Is the duty to one's country to be so
Is there any such thing as duty? should rather be the
question. If there is duty, how shall it be shown ?
Did Meagher really owe allegiance to the Queen of Great
Britain and Ireland? We believe not. But owing none, there was
nothing to renounce.
He did owe allegiance to Great Britain and Ireland. Say
Ireland only. Upon what ground? Simply that he was an Irishman
born and bred.
He was the growth of Ireland. He belonged to Ireland.
My country is not the country belonging to me, but the country to which I
If Meagher ever owed allegiance to Ireland it was on this
ground, not at all a matter of his own choice, but a duty imposed upon him
at his birth.
Born Irish, a man will die Irish, whatever he may call
himself. He may be dutiful or undutiful; an Irish patriot or an
Irish rebel (for the only real rebellion is treason against one's
country), but he will never be an American. Even slave-souled John
Mitchel could not manage that.
Kossta did not pretend to deny that he was Hungarian.
He denied only the right of Austria or of an Austrian tyrant over Hungary.
He, the Hungarian, in his duty to Hungary, was at war with the Austrian
He pretended not to claim American citizenship as an escape
from his Austrian allegiance. He claimed the help of the stranger
who had no rights over him, against an enemy who would usurp a right over
Captain Ingraham's ground of American citizenship was
untenable. Kossta could not be an American citizen, though the whole
Union should acclaim him.
He was Kossta the Hungarian. Born and to die Hungarian.
On the ground of humanity, stepping between the tyrant and
his victim, America had right of interference.
No pretence of citizenship was needed to justify that.
No claim of citizenship could justify it.
If there is such a thing as duty, how shall it be shown?
The highest duty is the duty to humanity. But how accomplish that
duty if you neglect those very organisations of humanity which are the
means of usefulness? If a man neglects his duty to his family, he is
neglecting the nation of which that family is a component part. If
he neglects his duty to that larger family his nation,—he neglects the
world of which the nation is a part.
Acknowledge duty, and you can no more throw out of view the
country than you can throw off family or humanity. You may as well
neglect one as the other, and all as one.
True, there are what seem exceptional cases: cases in which
the family must be sacrificed to the country, the country forsaken for
Wherever the higher right, the more important duty, there, if
right and duties "clash," is the man bound.
My first duty is to my own nature; to perfect that. For
what? Merely for my own sake?
Are sun, and moon, and stars, this globe and all that it
contains—are all the hosts of heaven, and all powers of past and present,
but my servants, to perfect me?
Am I God then, to be so self-sufficient? Rather is my
nature to be perfected that I may be the abler servant of God, and of
God's humanity, through which alone I can render service to Him. So
soon as I am able to serve I am bound to serve.
My family are there next to me for my first service.
Not because they are mine, my possession, but because I am theirs—in
virtue of having power to serve them, the nearest part of God's humanity.
Through them I serve my country—through my country the human family—that
country of countries.
Some day may come in which my duty may no longer be to train
up the young citizens for the State, some day in which the happy home life
I offer as the best worth with which I can serve and example my country
may no longer be best service. There is war upon our borders, and
whoso can bear arms must leave wife and children, to drive back the
If I stay at home, who will not call me traitor? The
universal conscience answers.
The voice of the people is the voice of God. Every
tongue brands me as a traitor. How so, if my country has not a right
to my devotion?
But suppose the country is an aggressor, the war unjust?
The country, blinded with passion, depraved by lust of gain, still claims
me as its soldier.
As my duty to my family is but a part of duty to my country,
so duty to my country is but a part of duty toward humanity.
The unjust war is a wrong to humanity. Not that I am
less dutiful to my country, but that the higher duty is to humanity.
Nay, is not my refusal to take part in that great wrong the best service I
can render even to my country?
Are there not times in which such "rebellion" is a duty?
When the American Legislature ordered its subjects to kidnap
men, to be guilty of the highest of all crimes and treasons, then to rebel
against that order became the duty of every honest citizen. It can
never be any man's duty to do wrong.
It is for the sake of truth and the realisation of
truth—which is right—that I owe a duty to my family, duty to my country,
duty to my generation, duty unto the human future.
For such honest and right rebellion my country may cast me
out. What then? Let me serve my country even against its will.
I may influence it even from without. My country may hinder me from
fulfilling a citizen's duty: it can not absolve me from the duty, it can
not hinder continual attempt. The natural tie between us can not be
severed. As to some tyranny which is not the country, that is
altogether beyond the question. Kossta was not exiled by his
country, but by the Austrian. Meagher never believed that Ireland
exiled him. Why then did he break with Ireland? It is only
poor piratical Paul Jones that quarrels with his country for some private
Is an adopted home then impossible? It can never be
more than secondary. Say that Meagher, driven from Ireland, taking
refuge in America, seeks as an American citizen to serve humanity, having
no opportunity now of acting as an Irish citizen. The "no
opportunity now" is his only justification. In some few years,
perhaps, Ireland would recall him, will demand back her citizen and his
service. Has he the right of renouncing Ireland? Can he be
citizen of two lands at once, like clever Lord Brougham? And the two
lands perhaps at war.
Sentence of exile, residence, however long in the place of
refuge, laws of naturalisation; none of these things can overthrow the
natural right or destroy the law of duty. Men may pass laws, but the
law of God remains unaltered.
The Emigrants who would found a new nation are no exception
to the rule. English colonies are English. But the colony
grows into the nation as the child into the man. It has thenceforth
its own character, its own ideal of life, its own nationality. It
does not renounce the parent nationality: it outgrows it. But
"America renounced it." True! So sometimes by ill-conduct the
father drives out the boy from home. That is not the natural course.
Nor is it good. The boy is not a man, therefore, America suffers for
But free-traders, peace-men, and voluntaryists, object to our
doctrine. The assertion of the individual right is all-sufficient
for them. Let us see where this supremacy of the individual would
lead us. Trade is, properly speaking, the exchange of the world's
material wealth. That can not be too free. Clearly enough the
freedom is for the world's benefit, not on account of the individual
The good of the community is the ground of the freedom.
It is a contradiction to ask any freedom beyond the good of the community.
If one man sells gunpowder to Russia, and another manufactures war
steamers for our enemy, this is an abuse of free trade. They may be
so selling, not merely gunpowder and steam ships, but their country's
freedom and very existence as a nation. They are not only selling
powder, but selling me and you. The national right overrules the
particular. The trader has a right to trade and profit only so long
as he does not rob society—his immediate customers, his country, humanity.
If his private right is absolute and the national right of no
esteem, to-morrow he may sell his dockyard to the enemy, his quarter of
the town, his portion of this English soil: hand over Manchester or
Portsmouth to Russia for the red gold.
It is absurd enough, but it is the logical following out of
the absurdity of absolute individual right, which leads naturally to the
abolition of all bonds of duty, which throws back life to the savagest
state of ignorant dutiless anarchy.
The Russian newspapers in their lists of voluntary
subscriptions publish an offering of 3,000 roubles to the Tzar from an
English Company at St. Petersburg; with what theory of duty does that
square? If the action is right, why may not Englishmen at Manchester
follow in the same course? Why stop at 3,000 roubles? The
other day a Scotchman bequeathed a million to the Tzar, to furnish the war
against Scotland. Quite right? Why not a Russian Loan too, and
every possible assistance to the Tzar in his endeavours to enslave the
world—including our own little Island-corner? Will the free-trader
justify that length, or where will he draw the line? If the
Government is right in confiscating powder going to the enemy, on what
ground is it right? Will you find any but the ground of nationality;
the right which overrules individual right?
The other day an American sold himself into slavery.
The voluntaryist must justify him. Might he not do what he liked
with his own?
The believer in duty asserts that the man is not his own:
that he belongs to God, to God's humanity, to his country. That part
belongs to the whole. There is no atom of dust independent of the
Your free-traders, voluntaryists, and peace-men, overstrain
individual right and lose sight of the solidarity of life.
But is the individual to be merged in the State? Far
from it; but he may never forget that he is a part of the State. Is
my conscience to submit to any human ordinance? We say not that,
only be sure that it is conscience which opposes ordinance.
Conscience seeks how best to perform duty, not how to evade it.
Conscience is God's Angel, the good genius which leads us to the
fulfilment of right for the service of humanity.
Combination is stronger than isolated and incoherent action.
Wherefore God implanted in men the tendency to associate, gathering them
into families and nations.
And the law of nationality remains, whatever mistakes may
have, been made by those whose ignorance found only a narrow
interpretation, who knew not that the nation itself is but an individual
in the great family of Nations, a family in the great Country of mankind.
Page 1. This chapter on "Republican Principles" is based upon an Address to the Peoples of Europe, which was issued in
1850 by the Central European Democratic Committee in the second number of
Le Proscrit, a monthly journal published in Paris and London.
With the third number its name was changed to La Voix du Proscrit,
and it became the organ of the Central Committee. In writing
Republican Principles Mr. Linton intended it as a general exposition
of the principles of Republicanism which were to be treated in further
numbers of The English Republic with more detail. On the
whole, the principles set forth by Mr. Linton resemble very closely those
of the "Address," but he has digressed sometimes, so as to make the
exposition more easily understood by the English readers to whom he
addressed it, by illustrations and applications, which are all, however,
in logical agreement with the principles of the "Address."
Page 2. Mr. Linton does not here enter into
the still vexed question of circumstances, save to remark that it cannot
be denied that circumstances before birth have weight as well as
those which effect the organism after birth. "No two children
are absolutely alike; no two are born with precisely the same aptitude or
capacity." It seems almost absurd to remark on so obvious a truism,
but so frequently is it lost sight of, particularly in the matter of
education, that attention cannot be drawn to it too often.
Page 6. Mr. Linton has here seized on the idea
which has been formulated by Mr. Herbert Spencer and reduced to a
sociologic law in his "Principles of Sociology"—viz., that Society is one
organism, and that each individual is a part or a single organ of this
vast structure, which must develop or retrogress with the development or
retrogression of Society. Each of these units has its separate
function, but it can only live and display its normal activity in
connection with the parent organism.
Page 13. It is here that we see most clearly
the gulf which separates so widely and so deeply the Republican and the
Socialist. It is quite a common thing to hear of Republicanism
spoken of as a form of Socialism, but the notion is erroneous. The
two systems are in opposition. The only thing in common between them
is that which is common also to Individualism, to Social Democracy, and to
all schemes of a kindred nature, the desire of improving the existing
social conditions and the knowledge of the inequalities in the social
system; inequalities which require to be righted.
Page 20. Education.—The author wishes it to be
clearly understood that whenever the word "Government" is used, it is the
Government he advocates, and not any existing forms which he considers are
but mockeries of the word's meaning. This distinction should be
specially borne in mind when he is treating of Education, as it is here
that the different merits of State-Education and Voluntaryism appear most
Page 40. It is contended by Mr. Linton that a
State Church should embrace men of all denominations. Unless it does
so, its existence is intolerable as a connection of the State.
Page 43. The centralisation, of which the
English Government is a striking instance, is to be done away with in an
English Republic, as it is not the business of Government to interfere
with local affairs—the Government only to superintend and harmonise the
Page 44. Waste lands are to be appropriated
by the Government, not necessarily to enclose them, but to prevent the
encroachments of private persons, who possess no right to encroach
Page 47. A uniform rental should be charged
on the land, any improvement made by the tenant to benefit himself alone,
and not to be used as an excuse for raising his rent.
Page 53. When the State takes upon itself to
punish private vices, it is overstepping its prerogative and interfering
with individual liberty. It can only interfere where such vices
Page 62. Mr. Linton appends a note to the
effect that "If it were proposed to leave the prosecution of criminals to
voluntary effort, the voluntaries themselves would inquire if we were
ready to have society crushed beneath the power of crime. Because
the restraint and punishment of criminals is necessary to the security of
the State, provision of a certain character is made; and it is only
because education is looked upon as a matter of less consequence than the
detection and punishment of criminals that it is left, or proposed to be
left—for philanthropy to play with."
Page 63. The religion taught in the schools
would not be sectarian. On Sundays, parents might inculcate the
principles of the sect to which they belonged if so they chose.
Page 64. It is remarked that physical
exercise is not advocated for mere health's sake, but also for the
perfection of the senses. For there is a close relation between the
habit of mind and body.
Page 106. Mr. Linton here seems to have
anticipated recent legislation. Even the terms he uses, "Local
Government," "County Council," &c., &c., have now become part of current
Page 129. Various protests by Socialists
against the article called "Socialism and Communism" reached the author,
to which he replied that although he was a social and a democratic
Republican, he was not a Socialist, and that if his correspondents did
"not repudiate Property, Individuality, Family, Country, or Religion,"
they were not the kind of Socialists he had attacked.
Page 191. The Crypteia: when the Spartans
thought their slaves were growing too numerous, they sent out their young
freemen to massacre a sufficient number. This was instituted by
Lycurgus. Plato proposes a similar institution for his Cretan Republic.