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"EQUALITY"

By Charles Dudley Warner



In accordance with the advice of Diogenes of Apollonia in the beginning
of his treatise on Natural Philosophy--"It appears to me to be well for
every one who commences any sort of philosophical treatise to lay down
some undeniable principle to start with"--we offer this:

               All men are created unequal.

It would be a most interesting study to trace the growth in the world of
the doctrine of "equality."  That is not the purpose of this essay, any
further than is necessary for definition.  We use the term in its popular
sense, in the meaning, somewhat vague, it is true, which it has had since
the middle of the eighteenth century.  In the popular apprehension it is
apt to be confounded with uniformity; and this not without reason, since
in many applications of the theory the tendency is to produce likeness or
uniformity.  Nature, with equal laws, tends always to diversity; and
doubtless the just notion of equality in human affairs consists with
unlikeness.  Our purpose is to note some of the tendencies of the dogma
as it is at present understood by a considerable portion of mankind.

We regard the formulated doctrine as modern.  It would be too much to say
that some notion of the "equality of men" did not underlie the
socialistic and communistic ideas which prevailed from time to time in
the ancient world, and broke out with volcanic violence in the Grecian
and Roman communities.  But those popular movements seem to us rather
blind struggles against physical evils, and to be distinguished from
those more intelligent actions based upon the theory which began to stir
Europe prior to the Reformation.

It is sufficient for our purpose to take the well-defined theory of
modern times.  Whether the ideal republic of Plato was merely a
convenient form for philosophical speculation, or whether, as the
greatest authority on political economy in Germany, Dr. William Roscher,
thinks, it "was no mere fancy"; whether Plato's notion of the identity of
man and the State is compatible with the theory of equality, or whether
it is, as many communists say, indispensable to it, we need not here
discuss.  It is true that in his Republic almost all the social theories
which have been deduced from the modern proclamation of equality are
elaborated.  There was to be a community of property, and also a
community of wives and children.  The equality of the sexes was insisted
on to the extent of living in common, identical education and pursuits,
equal share in all labors, in occupations, and in government.  Between
the sexes there was allowed only one ultimate difference.  The Greeks, as
Professor Jowett says, had noble conceptions of womanhood; but Plato's
ideal for the sexes had no counterpart in their actual life, nor could
they have understood the sort of equality upon which he insisted.  The
same is true of the Romans throughout their history.

More than any other Oriental peoples the Egyptians of the Ancient Empire
entertained the idea of the equality of the sexes; but the equality of
man was not conceived by them.  Still less did any notion of it exist in
the Jewish state.  It was the fashion with the socialists of 1793, as it
has been with the international assemblages at Geneva in our own day,
to trace the genesis of their notions back to the first Christian age.
The far-reaching influence of the new gospel in the liberation of the
human mind and in promoting just and divinely-ordered relations among men
is admitted; its origination of the social and political dogma we are
considering is denied.  We do not find that Christ himself anywhere
expressed it or acted on it.  He associated with the lowly, the vile,
the outcast; he taught that all men, irrespective of rank or possessions,
are sinners, and in equal need of help.  But he attempted no change in
the conditions of society.  The "communism" of the early Christians was
the temporary relation of a persecuted and isolated sect, drawn together
by common necessities and dangers, and by the new enthusiasm of self-
surrender.  ["The community of goods of the first Christians at
Jerusalem, so frequently cited and extolled, was only a community of use,
not of ownership (Acts iv. 32), and throughout a voluntary act of love,
not a duty (v. 4); least of all, a right which the poorer might assert.
Spite of all this, that community of goods produced a chronic state of
poverty in the church of Jerusalem."  (Principles of Political Economy.
By William Roscher.  Note to Section LXXXI.  English translation.  New
York: Henry Holt & Co. 1878.)]--Paul announced the universal
brotherhood of man, but he as clearly recognized the subordination of
society, in the duties of ruler and subject, master and slave, and in all
the domestic relations; and although his gospel may be interpreted to
contain the elements of revolution, it is not probable that he undertook
to inculcate, by the proclamation of "universal brotherhood," anything
more than the duty of universal sympathy between all peoples and classes
as society then existed.

If Christianity has been and is the force in promoting and shaping
civilization that we regard it, we may be sure that it is not as a
political agent, or an annuller of the inequalities of life, that we are
to expect aid from it.  Its office, or rather one of its chief offices on
earth, is to diffuse through the world, regardless of condition or
possessions or talent or opportunity, sympathy and a recognition of the
value of manhood underlying every lot and every diversity--a value not
measured by earthly accidents, but by heavenly standards.  This we
understand to be "Christian equality."  Of course it consists with
inequalities of condition, with subordination, discipline, obedience; to
obey and serve is as honorable as to command and to be served.

If the religion of Christ should ever be acclimated on earth, the result
would not be the removal of hardships and suffering, or of the necessity
of self-sacrifice; but the bitterness and discontent at unequal
conditions would measurably disappear.  At the bar of Christianity the
poor man is the equal of the rich, and the learned of the unlearned,
since intellectual acquisition is no guarantee of moral worth.  The
content that Christianity would bring to our perturbed society would come
from the practical recognition of the truth that all conditions may be
equally honorable.  The assertion of the dignity of man and of labor is,
we imagine, the sum and substance of the equality and communism of the
New Testament.  But we are to remember that this is not merely a "gospel
for the poor."

Whatever the theories of the ancient world were, the development of
democratic ideas is sufficiently marked in the fifteenth century, and
even in the fourteenth, to rob the eighteenth of the credit of
originating the doctrine of equality.  To mention only one of the early
writers,--[For copious references to authorities on the spread of
communistic and socialistic ideas and libertine community of goods and
women in four periods of the world's history--namely, at the time of the
decline of Greece, in the degeneration of the Roman republic, among the
moderns in the age of the Reformation, and again in our own day--see
Roscher's Political Economy, notes to Section LXXIX., et seq.]--
Marsilio, a physician of Padua, in 1324, said that the laws ought to be
made by all the citizens; and he based this sovereignty of the people
upon the greater likelihood of laws being better obeyed, and also being
good laws, when they were made by the whole body of the persons affected.

In 1750 and 1753, J. J. Rousseau published his two discourses on
questions proposed by the Academy of Dijon: "Has the Restoration of
Sciences Contributed to Purify or to Corrupt Manners?" and "What is the
Origin of Inequality among Men, and is it Authorized by Natural Law?"
These questions show the direction and the advance of thinking on social
topics in the middle of the eighteenth century.  Rousseau's Contrat-
Social and the novel Emile were published in 1761.

But almost three-quarters of a century before, in 1690, John Locke
published his two treatises on government.  Rousseau was familiar with
them.  Mr. John Morley, in his admirable study of Rousseau, [Rousseau.
By John Morley.  London: Chapman & Hall.  1873--I have used it freely in
the glance at this period.]--fully discusses the latter's obligation to
Locke; and the exposition leaves Rousseau little credit for originality,
but considerable for illogical misconception.  He was, in fact, the most
illogical of great men, and the most inconsistent even of geniuses.  The
Contrat-Social is a reaction in many things from the discourses, and
Emile is almost an entire reaction, especially in the theory of
education, from both.

His central doctrine of popular sovereignty was taken from Locke.
The English philosopher said, in his second treatise, "To understand
political power aright and derive it from its original, we must consider
what state all men are naturally in; and that is a state of perfect
freedom to order their actions and dispose of their persons and
possessions as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature,
without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man--a state
also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal,
no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident than
that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all
the advantages of nature and the use of the same faculties, should also
be equal one amongst another, without subordination or subjection, unless
the Lord and Master of them all should by any manifest declaration of His
will set one above another, and confer on him by an evident and clear
appointment an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty."  But a state
of liberty is not a state of license.  We cannot exceed our own rights
without assailing the rights of others.  There is no such subordination
as authorizes us to destroy one another.  As every one is bound to

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