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The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
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Life of Albert Parsons

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Interests became alarmed at the increasing power of the wage-labor system. They perceived their "vested right" to lawfully, constitutionally hold property in slaves to be threatened. Their power had until now been supreme in national affairs and they were blinded with arrogance. They refused all overtures to peaceably manumit their slaves by means of gradual emancipation, to be recompensed out of the public treasury, but, on the contrary, indignantly rejected all such proposals and insisted upon their constitutional right to extend slavery in the Territories. Their attitude sharpened the contest between the wage-labor capitalists and the chattel-slave owners. Upon the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States in 1860 "the South" seceded from "the North" and set up a Confederacy which recognized the chattel-slave labor as its cornerstone, Mr. Lincoln, though in sentiment an "Abolitionist," an ardent defender of man's abstract right to life and liberty, was also, for the time being, the representative of the wage-labor system. The exigencies of the war of the rebellion afforded the sought-for opportunity, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued as "a military necessity." Chattel-slave labor was abolished and the system of wage-labor was established in its stead. While upon it surface this struggle between the "North" and "South" was waged ostensibly in behalf  of "free" against "slave" labor, and was apparently a political question waged for the preservation of the Union, it was, in fact, an economic question growing out of the two diverse and conflicting systems of labor, viz: chattel and wage. The owners of capital in the form of chattel-slaves were compelled by armed revolution to relinquish that form of property. They threw themselves as a barrier across the pathway of societary evolution, of historic development and were swept aside by its irresistible force.

The rebellion of 1861 was a failure. The Rebellion of 1776 was a success. The former was a struggle against evolutionary development of modern capitalism: the latter was fought on the line with and for progress. Both contests are generally regarded as political; but the underlying, moving cause in which was economic. The apparently political character of these two revolutionary struggles arises from the fact the contest in both instances was waged by one portion of the propertied class against the other upon questions of property.

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