(1863) Boston, Mass.
432. HAVING given the substance of our programme of true civilization, we leave it for the present to be digested with the assistance of a few desultory remarks.
433. The insisting on Disintegration, as a first step in true order, may require more illustration than such as has been furnished, and the point is too vital to leave unsettled. Other important points may also require confirmation.
434. When a multitude of papers, letters, etc., lay upon our table in confusion, what principle do we involuntarily resort to to put them in order? Do we not separate them - putting the unanswered letters in one place, and those that have been answered in various, different, separate, disintegrated classification? Do we not disintegrate all the newspapers, putting all of the same kind in one pile, and others in other piles, separate from each other?
435. At a public meeting many people want to speak, but all admit that they must not all speak at once, but in a disintegrated or separate order, one at a time.
436. If you and I own a house together, and you want to sell it, and I do not, what can we do better than disintegrate our interests in it by one buying the other out satisfactorily? On the sidewalks in populous cities, when many people are going in opposite directions, there is seen one current going one way and another going in the opposite way, both on the same sidewalk, quite distinct and separate from each other, and consequently without confusion.
437. A man unavoidably forms a disagreeable acquaintance, altogether uncongenial and unprofitable to either, or to anybody; to drop the acquaintance, to disintegrate, is the common practice, and perhaps the best expedient.
438. Sublime and holy as the right of self-sovereignty is in all its practical bearings, as a regulator of human intercourse, it cannot be exercised, except so far as each one's property, responsibilities, and person are so far separate from others that he can exercise his legitimate control over his own without disturbing them. Many of the most humane and best citizens of the American States have struggled for years against being responsible for the communistic legislation in favor of enslaving responsibilities from the general conglomeration.
439. It has passed into an axiom the Corporations have no souls, that is, no responsibility, for there is no responsibility till it becomes Individual, disintegrated from communism.
440. After people have overlooked or disregarded the great law of order and harmony, and entangled themselves and their interests together, and cannot agree, and when they have exhausted all their arguments and expedients without arriving at coincidence, what do they naturally and habitually resort to to avoid further disturbances or violence?
441. Disintegration is necessary only after the great Divine law of order has been violated by obliterating the lines of legitimate Individual jurisdiction, by a conglomeration of interests or "entangling alliances."
442. Apparently impossible solutions are often found by means so simple and self-evident as to mortify us at our obtuseness.
443. A man once asked me if I knew how to "measure the wood in a bundle of brush?" I admitted that I thought it was impossible. "Well," said he, "partly fill a barrel with water, measure its depth, put in the brush, measure the depth again, and calculate the difference."
444. A multitude of questions will arise in minds to which these subjects are comparatively new; some of them may be anticipated. A simple riddle may prepare many to answer their own questions better than any one can do it for them. The riddle is, -
"I'm made at Canterbury and sold at York, I stop a bottle and am called a 'cork'."
445. The whole is so plainly told, and is so self-evident, it puzzles. I once gave this riddle to a lady in presence of her child. She could not solve it, and gave it up, when the child exclaimed, "Why la, mother, it is a cork! Don't he say it is a cork?"
446. "What," says one, "is every Individual to raise himself up in his sovereignty above all law and order - obey what pleases him, and reject or rebel against what does not please him?"
447. Is all to be left to the spontaneous whim of the moment or our present impulses, without any reference to the future? Is everything to be sacrificed to a wild chase after a distorted freedom, the value of which when overtaken may not equal the cost of pursuit? Are we to have no contracts, no order, no system, nothing as a basis for expectations, nothing to depend upon?
448. Yes, we will have order, system, and contracts that will not disappoint us.
449. With regard to self-sovereignty raising us above law, it it is itself the great Divine law of order which no one can raise himself above. Your own questions show you to be exercising this sovereignty in criticising what is proposed! the act of judging a law or statute raises the critic above that law or statute. To be under law is to have no opinion, but only the duty of obedience to it. Criticism, thought, judgment, raises us above the thing criticised or judged. All the people in these States are at this moment above all the enactments of the Government at Washington. But we never can get above primitive or Divine law. It prompts us to judge, and we obey it in judging everything! - even in judging itself!
450. With regards to system, it naturally and harmoniously leads to the most perfect system of social life that it is possible to conceive.
451. The assertion here is, that the true law of order has been "rejected by the builders," and the law of confusion mistakingly preferred! "Union" of interests is this root of confusion, and disintegration is a necessary step back towards individuality which is the great Divine law of order everywhere. Where or what would the objector be if he was not free to criticise these statements? Simply a slave. Objecting to them, he is exercising the very sovereignty to which he objects! Remember the riddle.
452. We will have systems adapted to the demands for them. The mechanic in his shop, or the chemist in his laboratory, who has no partner to consult, can arrange his tools or his materials in any manner whatever that he pleases, and can change his system any time he pleases. He is thus above or sovereign of his system, but if he has a partner, he must consult that partner's wishes, and if they happen not to coincide, neither of them can exercise this individuality without violating the individuality of the other. If he has three partners he must consult the wishes of all, and the chances of agreement are diminished by every additional partner to the communistic interest or "Union," and by the magnitude and importance of the interests held in common; and there may be so many partners that there cannot be found points of coincidence enough to found any system upon. True order and system are found only within the individual sphere, or in proportion to the coincidences between different parties.
453. We will have contracts, arrangements, and appointments, but we will have them only where they are wanted, and understandingly consented to by the persons involved in them.
454. We will not make such as may prove impossible of fulfilment, without providing for such contingency.
455. Our contracts will not be Shylock contracts, to be fulfilled to the letter (instead of the spirit), though they take the pound of flesh from the heart.
456. We will not make man for contracts, but contracts for the benefit of those who make them. A contract which can be forseen to be contrary to divine law, and may prove impossible of fulfilment, is null and void. A contract by a child to grow twenty feet high is null and void.
457. A contract which is not understood alike by the parties to it (such as all written constitutions), is null and void, because they have not consented to the same thing.
458. A contract which, at the time of making it, all the parties intend to fulfil, may be broken by unforeseen events, over which neither of the parties could have any control. The man that abandoned the lifting of the timber to save this family, broke his contract, which, but for that accident, he would have fulfilled. The sudden abandonment of the timber might have been of serious consequence to the other parties who were lifting it. Would it not have been well for the leader to have a man or two in reserve to meet such contingencies? But they were not thought of. What is to be done with the case as a violation of contract? Does it not force us to admit that they are, often unavoidably, imperfect devices, like our own structure, and that their defects have to be borne, like the toothache, as misfortunes, and that to insist on the absolute perfection and sacredness of all contracts is an error?
459. Is every one, then, to be perfectly free to enter into any contract, and extract from it whatever suits him, and then abandon it, and disappoint the other parties to it, on the plea of unforeseen contingencies?
460. No. I may promise to pay you twenty dollars tomorrow night, at six o'clock; you have no means of judging of my resources; there is but little within our experience to forbid the expectation of the money, when it is known that it is for my own interest to fulfil the contract. As I alone know my own resources, I take the whole responsibility of the promise. To-morrow afternoon I lose all my money by being tempted into a bad speculation. I fail to pay you, and you are obliged to go to a usurer to borrow the money. You call on me and state your grievance. I say that unforeseen contingencies prevented me from fulfilling my contract; but the explanation does not satisfy you, and I refuse to give further satisfaction. What next? Present civilization fails to give a satisfactory answer. We must go farther than it has gone.
461. Suppose you select two or three well-balanced minds in your neighborhood to deliberate on the case, giving me the opportunity to represent myself, and with an invitation for all the public to attend as listeners. You state your case. What can I do? Perhaps I refuse in the face of all self-evident rectitude to abide the decision of the tribunal, - on the ground of my right of self-sovereignty. But the tribunal decide that I have indirectly invaded your sovereignty, and that I ought to repair damages; that I have put you to trouble and cost for my convenience, and wantonly refuse to make Equitable reparation, which is in my power. I still refuse. The opinions of more or less of the tribunal are handed over to the military (or "the Government"), and if there is sufficient coincidence there to take enough of my property to compensate you, it will be done. What would be compensation in the case? 1st, Whatever it cost you to borrow the money; 2d, compensation for disappointment; 3d, compensation for your time consumed in getting judgment from the tribunal; 4th, contingent expenses of room where they met, and the costs, if any, of the aid of the Government or police.
462. Would it not have been more profitable, pecuniarily and morally, for me to have fulfilled my promise to you, or to have endeavored to have given satisfactory or excusable reasons for not doing so?
463. "But," asks another, "suppose you had come across an old creditor that afternoon, that was just on the point of ruin, and you could save him from it by letting him have the twenty dollars. How then?"
464. In this case I have a choice of evils, and decide, on my own responsibility, to pay the former debt and run the risk of satisfying you.
465. Knowing that I ought to pay you all the costs of disappointment, I come as early as possible to you, state the circumstances, and offer at once to pay all the costs that you have incurred by my non-fulfilment of contract. No tribunal and no resort to the government would then be thought of. But there is a better way than any of these, when that way is possible, and that is to "owe no man anything," but settle every transaction in the time of it. But this not being always practicable, the expedient here recommended is to settle, at the time of the transaction, what is due, and give a note with conditions that will not seriously disappoint any one. (See "Equitable Money.") Careful as we may be, contracts are but human devices, and, unavoidably, more or less imperfect.
466. Being understandingly amenable to the injured party for all costs of non-fulfilment of legitimate contracts, we shall be careful how we enter into them, and equally careful to fulfil them. Contracts will not then be the tyrants of men, but the servants of men.
467. The smaller the number of the parties to a contract, the more points of agreement there may be expected between them; the larger the number, the less points of coincidence will be found.
468. A universal organization, to include every person of the race, could have no assurance of universal coincidence, expect where DISSENT ITSELF CONFIRMS THE COMPACT. Such is our point of coincidence!
469. A man in a model village gave out notice that he would give a course of lectures to show the fallacy of the "self-sovereignty" idea.
470. The advocates of that idea provided him with a room; opened and closed it for him; invited the people to hear him, and, but for disturbing the audience, would have laughed aloud to see him so vehemently exercising his "Individual sovereignty" in attempting to expose the idea as a fallacy!
471. But there is another aspect of this case that excited other feelings. The idea of self-sovereignty had become, as it were, an institution; and this institution itself protected opposition itself, and the things called "SCHISM," and "TREASON," and "REBELLION," were IMPOSSIBLE.
472. The word Rebellion is only a barbarian name for the exercise of Freedom, and "crushing out rebellion" is CRUSHING OUT LIBERTY!.
473. I need not multiply words to show that the words Treason, Traitors, Loyalty, Disloyalty, Rebellion, etc., stab to the heart the very germ of liberty, and the spirit of American institutions. It is the spirit only, and not the institutions, that can survive the wounds!
474. In the case above mentioned, one was asked, Are you not going to reply to L----? No, certainly not. He has an absolute right in his sovereignty to oppose self-sovereignty or anything else proposed for his or any one's adoption. There is no ground for opposition till he attempts to enforce his views upon other sovereigns.
475. With regard to a "wild pursuit after a distorted Freedom," nothing has ever so effectually restrained and regulated the instinctive and impulsive pursuit of our own ends, and invested Freedom with such beautiful and enchanting symmetry as the sacred and constant regard to this absolute right of unqualified sovereignty in others over their own; and so inspires a ready spirit of forbearance and accommodation where the mutual exercise of this divine absolute right is impossible; and the most polite, benevolent, Equitable, charming deportment in the highest cultivated circles, is characterized in every step, word, and deed, as if this idea was the divine regulator of all.
476. The great difficulty has been in determining what constitutes one's own, over which he may harmlessly exercise this unqualified jurisdiction, or sovereignty, especially with regard to property.
477. If no error has been committed in the principle of Equivalents, this great obstacle to harmonic adjustment is overcome.
478. It is possible that the sphere of individual absolute jurisdiction has not been fully and exactly stated, but if each one becomes so conditioned that he can exercise this jurisdiction over his or her own person, responsibilities, time, and property, without disturbing others, true order will have commenced, and future wisdom may supply deficiencies.
479. "Individuality" has been misapprehended and misrepresented as "isolation," "selfishness," "unsociableness," etc.
480. I say misapprehended, because I cannot believe that any one who perceives the sublime importance of it, as a regulator of human intercourse, could find a motive to misrepresent it. Education, drill, on this great theme, seem to be indispensable.
481. A volume wholly devoted to its illustration as the great Divine law of order and as a preventive of confusion and violence, could scarcely begin to do it justice, and all that can be done here is to excite thought towards it as a study, by a few hints, in addition to those already given, and leave it to the after experience of the reader for continuous illustration and confirmation.
482. Suppose every person possessed the same countenance, the same name, the same voice, the same stature, so that one could not be distinguished from another, what could equal the confusion to which it would immediately lead? What prevents this confusion but the individualities of countenance, voice, gait, stature, name, etc.?
483. Why not name every woman Eve, and every man Adam? Because of the confusion it would make.
484. Why do we mark different drawers or packages with different numbers or letters? To prevent confusion.
485. Why not have the letters of the alphabet alike? Because we could spell nothing; we should destroy all written language and deprive ourselves of all it benefits.
486. What makes the confusion in all our controversies? It is because so many of the words we are obliged to use, are alike in sound and in their orthography, while the words themselves mean different things. The remedy, if it were possible, would be in having each word to represent only one Individual thing. Hence the necessity of controversialists defining and defining and defining the terms they use, till both parties understand the particular definite Individual idea which the word is to represent in their controversy. The simple perception of this would almost annihilate controversies and disputes and often end in most disastrous results, or, perhaps, which never ends! Our every day and every hour's conversation - almost every remark, is invested with more or less confusion, because one word may mean more than one thing, and common education has not trained us to the habitual consciousness or perception of it.
487. The Reformation was one step towards this Individuality. It was a step in disintegration from concentrated power and dominion; but it has led to other steps in the same direction - to more divisions and subdivisions of sects, till theological sectism is nearly harmless; but the Reformation will not be complete till it is clearly and universally understood that each mind is an indestructible individuality which may or may not coincide with other minds in more or less particulars; but that to attempt to enforce conformity when this coincidence is wanting is a fatal undertaking, which will proceed in violence and confusion, and end in disappointment. And the same is true throughout the political sphere. We shall see divisions and subdivisions of political parties till partyism destroys itself by the insignificance of each; the ultimate step of division landing us, as in the theological sphere, in INDIVIDUALITY: the same process in the different spheres resulting in every one being his own sect and party, or "Priest and King," or his own sovereign.
488. But this is directly opposite in principles and in process to all political "Unions," "Confederacies," Combination and Organizations of States, Nations, sects, tribes, clans, or parties, and directly away from all the confusions, violence, crime, destruction, and desolation which necessarily attend them.
489. From this new point
"Starting fresh, as from a second birth, Man in the sunshine of the world's new spring, Shall walk transparent, like some holy thing."
490. Individual, instead of mixed or communistic Responsibilities appears to be the only possible remedy against a whole city or a whole nation being destroyed for the words or acts of two or three of its members! One, and perhaps more, of the ferocious partisan newspapers openly advocated the destruction of the whole city of Baltimore, on account of the acts of five or six of its inhabitants! Education on this subject would hold those five or six alone responsible for their acts, unless others voluntarily assumed responsibility for them, and no greater element of confusion and violence exists in our midst than holding every one responsible for all the opinions or acts of those with whom they may be occasionally associate. No one would be willing to be responsible for all the acts of the best friend he may have, and the axiom, "Tell me what company you keep, and I will tell you what you are," is true only with those who have no Individuality - no self-hood, no private judgment, and it has done, and is continually doing, more harm than can ever be estimated.
491. To force all the citizens of Baltimore into a compact Clanship-responsibility for each other's words or acts, is to force them, for self-preservation, to attempt to enforce an outward conformity of speech and act to the pattern struck out by the crude editor of a paper, or to some other one pattern, which, being impossible, leads directly to confusion and violence, intensified to the last degree.
492. A Southern paper said, "Slavery is the natural and normal condition of the laboring man, whether white or black!" We cannot measure the evils that may have grown to a great extent out of this remark having been taken as the sentiments and designs of all the South. To have held the writer of it alone Individually responsible for it would have been only Equitable, and to have treated all similar cases in the same way might have averted the present desolating internal war.
493. A reckless editor of a New York paper impudently announces himself as the representative of the American people in the "Trent" and Mason and Slidel case, to which a large portion of Englishmen, supposing that he told the truth, very justly took great umbrage, and were ready to make war on the whole of the Americans, all from the single mistake of assuming that the Americans were responsible for that one reckless man's words! The practice of holding every one alone Individually responsible for his ASCERTAINED acts and words would avert such dangers.
494. This would break up the system of a majority voting other into responsibilities which they do not choose to assume! Very well; then we have at last found a remedy for an evil as great as any other. What, then, becomes of National debts, forced on future generations without consulting them?
495. I leave this for the present, to be answered by those who incur them and appropriate the Loans, and who alone should be held responsible.
496. Constitutions, statutes, rules, axioms, and all verbal formulas are subject to various and conflicting interpretations, all growing out of the inherent and indestructible Individuality of different minds. A compact between parties who do not understand it alike is null and void, because they have not consented to the same thing, even if they have signed it! What is to be done with this fact? We can do nothing with it but accept it as an irrefutable truth, and provide means of dispensing with whatever conflicts with it.
497. Individuality as the great divine law of order and harmony, while it exposes and rebukes these poor devices, itself dispenses with them, and practically accomplishes the objects vainly attempted by them!
498. Individual ownership is another phase of individuality, and is the base of all security against incessant confusion, conflict, repression, and violence. Communism is its exact antipode, and on this account was reasonably objected to by the French Government, in the time of St. Simonism, on the ground that it worked against security of condition.
499. An accidental quarrel occurs between two or three individuals in a street of Greytown, in Central America, - one man throws a bottle at Mr. Borland's nose (it seems that bottles were nearest at hand), and forthwith the whole town is reduced to fragments and ashes by a North American ship-of-war lying in the harbor! Had the men who worked the guns been educated to know the value of Individual responsibilities, instead of being reduced to mere machines by the dried-herring subordination, they would not have had any hand in that wanton outrage, but would have waited till they understood something of the quarrel, and then would have said, we will do nothing to unnecessarily add to the violence already done. Let the disturbance be confined to the individuals who voluntarily too part in, and who alone are responsible for it.
500. In justice to a very large portion of the North Americans, it should be stated that there was, at the time, an involuntary and extensive outburst of indignant protest against the ruffian outrage, and that the Government itself has since (I believe) entered into negotiation for reparation of damages.
501. Voltaire says that one of the kings of Prussia (I have forgotten which) candidly acknowledged to him that his most prominent reasons for going to war with the Queen of Bohemia, were, that he had an army that was tired of inactivity; and ambition, interest, and the desire to make the world to talk of him!
502. One cannot be said to act on his own responsibility, except so far as he takes on himself the risks, costs, and natural penalties of his own acts and decisions. If this should become one of the regulating thoughts among men, what would become of such wars, or any wars?
503. The confusion and discord which have uniformly attend the attempts at Co-operative reconstruction have arisen chiefly from the parties having pledged themselves to co-operation, without understanding the word alike. One, perhaps, had thought only of the economies that would result to him; another of the general harmony that he saw would result from it; another saw in it only the opportunity of making speeches and getting into office. As soon as they commence operations, they find that there is no coincidence, and consequently no co-operation between them. The attempts appear to have been partially successful, just in proportion as they have confined themselves, like most common partnerships, to the co-operation in one particular, individual thing. For instance, store-keeping, and saving and accumulating money or property; but success itself in this particular alone, as illustrated by Rapp's Society at Economy, and by the Rochdale co-operators, by furnishing a communistic fund to differ about, tends to discord, dissolution, disappointment, and insecurity of condition, which latter is the greatest evil to be remedied.
504. When our interests (as we understand them) co-operate or harmonize, we shall co-operate so far as our conditions admit of it. Nothing further need be expected. The understanding, as well as the hands, should co-operate. If we attempt to generalize co-operation, we shall fail to get the required co-operation of understanding.
505. It is only by INDIVIDUALIZING each case - DISINTEGRATING it from all others, and leaving every one FREE to co-operate in THAT PARTICULAR CASE IN HAND OR NOT, that we avoid the discordant collisions, and secure co-operation so far as each one expects to be benefited by it, or so far as his interests prompt him.
506. I am not willing to use the word "interests" here without explaining that I recognize MORAL interests as taking precedence of pecuniary interests; and yet I would have it clearly understood and settled that I will not make pecuniary sacrifices unless I feel myself compensated in the moral interest I feel, or the pleasure I derive, from the contemplation of the good promised by it.
507. The natural, inevitable necessity of Individuality in any lead of co-operative action has already been illustrated.
508. Individuality of the sovereign power is equally necessary to true order, and herein Monarchists are right; but this individuality of the sovereignty is not INDIVIDUAL as long as it can be divided! and is not attained until it rests in each person over his or her own only.
509. One of the greatest sources of confusion in controversies or disputes is, that the disputants do not confine themselves to the one individual thing in which the dispute originated, till that is settled and disposed of, but they draw in new points just as disputable, one after another, till the whole becomes conglomerated confusion. The remedy can be found only in discussing one individual thing or point at a time.
510. One says that John Villars is a rogue, and another says that the same John Villars is an excellent man. Both may be equally correct. Under some conditions John might have acted the part of a rogue, and under other conditions the same John Villars might have performed the part of an angel. The individuality or diversity of conditions explains all this. And there is probably no greater effort of self-government required, no greater moral victory to attain, than that of individualizing each case, - judging and treating each according to its own apparent merits; condemning one act of our neighbor at one moment, and the next minute being ready to approve another act of the same neighbor! Yet this is only Individualizing or exercising discrimination!
511. Had the American public mind been educated to understand that Individuality is the vital principle of order, it would have generally seen and admitted that Government has, properly, but one (Individual) function, which is to resist or restrain encroachments upon the rights of Individuals. That it is not the true function of governments to prescribe opinions, either moral, religious, or political; to meddle with manufactures or importations; to prescribe the cut of the citizen's hair, the employment of his time, or the disposal of his life or his property, but simply and solely to protect him against such impertinences.
512. They would have seen that the employment of force for any other purpose than to resist or restrain violence, is, itself, an encroachment which should be resisted. This would give the absolute right of secession, per se, to any extent whatever, leaving nothing to talk about but the entangled or communistic property between the parties, and the present ruin of all parties would not have occurred. A war for the protection or relief of the oppressed might or might not have arisen in time, but not the present war.
513. Again: In the discussion of the issue of the war, if the parties had considered one thing at a time till that thing was settled, the war would not have arisen; but we are now discussing the right or wrong of secession, the rights and wrongs of slaves, the expediency of Tariffs, the right to collect revenue, the right to compel citizens to fight against their wills, the navigation of the Mississippi River, possible foreign relations, and several other subjects all at once, and never settle one of them. The issue of the war arose on the absolute right of secession. If that had been dwelt on Individually till it was settled (as "nothing is ever settled till it is settled right"), the war would not have arisen, because the absolute and inalienable right of self-preservation or self-sovereignty, according to the Declaration of Independence, having been arrived at and admitted, would have ended all controversy. And I therefore assert that, if the public mind had been properly educated to discuss one thing at a time till it was settled, instead of a conglomeration of things, and never settling one of them, we should have averted the ruin that has followed.
514. For want of proper training, we jump from one subject to another, understanding none thoroughly, and ludicrously commit ourselves on both sides of the same issue, and then exclaim, "Whoever is not for us is against us!"
515. One party denies the right of secession or self-sovereignty, to the whites of the South and to their white subordinates at home, and in the same breath assert that right in favor of the blacks of the South!
516. The other party leaders claim that right for themselves, but deny it to their white subordinates, and to the black people of the South! This is the difference between the parties! That is, no difference at all. Both fatally contradict themselves, and become entangled in a web of confusion, from which nothing but the simple admission of that great inalienable right of sovereignty in every person (within his or her own sphere, as explained) can possibly extricate them.
517. The right of secession being included in, and settled by, the admission of this great universal right, political slavery of all colors is logically at an end; but the enslavement of Labor is another subject which concerns whites and blacks alike, but which can find no solution till the Equitable compensation for labor is understood. If I get an hour's labor of you more than I am justly entitled to, I have enslaved you pecuniarily to that extent; but how can we tell what I am Equitably entitled to for an hour of my services?