List Of Contents | Contents of Equality by Charles Dudley Warner
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theory was sound which, in the beautiful language of the Constitution,
proclaims that all men were born equal, he was," etc.

An enlightening commentary on the meaning of the Declaration, in the
minds of the American statesmen of the period, is furnished by the
opinions which some of them expressed upon the French Revolution while it
was in progress.  Gouverneur Morris, minister to France in 1789, was a
conservative republican; Thomas Jefferson was a radical democrat.  Both
of them had a warm sympathy with the French "people" in the Revolution;
both hoped for a republic; both recognized, we may reasonably infer, the
sufficient cause of the Revolution in the long-continued corruption of
court and nobility, and the intolerable sufferings of the lower orders;
and both, we have equal reason to believe, thought that a fair
accommodation, short of a dissolution of society, was defeated by the
imbecility of the king and the treachery and malignity of a considerable
portion of the nobility.  The Revolution was not caused by theories,
however much it may have been excited or guided by them.  But both Morris
and Jefferson saw the futility of the application of the abstract dogma
of equality and the theories of the Social Contract to the reconstruction
of government and the reorganization of society in France.

If the aristocracy were malignant--though numbers of them were far from
being so--there was also a malignant prejudice aroused against them, and
M. Taine is not far wrong when he says of this prejudice, "Its hard, dry
kernel consists of the abstract idea of equality."--[The French
Revolution.  By H.  A.  Taine.  Vol.  i., bk. ii., chap. ii., sec. iii.
Translation.  New York: Henry Holt & Co.]--Taine's French Revolution is
cynical, and, with all its accumulation of material, omits some facts
necessary to a philosophical history; but a passage following that quoted
is worth reproducing in this connection: "The treatment of the nobles of
the Assembly is the same as the treatment of the Protestants by Louis
XIV. . . . One hundred thousand Frenchmen driven out at the end of the
seventeenth century, and one hundred thousand driven out at the end of
the eighteenth!  Mark how an intolerant democracy completes the work of
an intolerant monarchy!  The moral aristocracy was mowed down in the name
of uniformity; the social aristocracy is mowed down in the name of
equality.  For the second time an abstract principle, and with the same
effect, buries its blade in the heart of a living society."

Notwithstanding the world-wide advertisement of the French experiment,
it has taken almost a century for the dogma of equality, at least outside
of France, to filter down from the speculative thinkers into a general
popular acceptance, as an active principle to be used in the shaping of
affairs, and to become more potent in the popular mind than tradition or
habit.  The attempt is made to apply it to society with a brutal logic;
and we might despair as to the result, if we did not know that the world
is not ruled by logic.  Nothing is so fascinating in the hands of the
half-informed as a neat dogma; it seems the perfect key to all
difficulties.  The formula is applied in contempt and ignorance of the
past, as if building up were as easy as pulling down, and as if society
were a machine to be moved by mechanical appliances, and not a living
organism composed of distinct and sensitive beings.  Along with the
spread of a belief in the uniformity of natural law has unfortunately
gone a suggestion of parallelism of the moral law to it, and a notion
that if we can discover the right formula, human society and government
can be organized with a mathematical justice to all the parts.  By many
the dogma of equality is held to be that formula, and relief from the
greater evils of the social state is expected from its logical extension.

Let us now consider some of the present movements and tendencies that are
related, more or less, to this belief:

I.  Absolute equality is seen to depend upon absolute supremacy of the
state.  Professor Henry Fawcett says, "Excessive dependence on the state
is the most prominent characteristic of modern socialism."  "These
proposals to prohibit inheritance, to abolish private property, and to
make the state the owner of all the capital and the administrator of the
entire industry of the country are put forward as representing socialism
in its ultimate and highest development."--["Socialism in Germany and
the United States," Fortnightly Review, November, 1878.]

Society and government should be recast till they conform to the theory,
or, let us say, to its exaggerations.  Men can unmake what they have
made.  There is no higher authority anywhere than the will of the
majority, no matter what the majority is in intellect and morals.  Fifty-
one ignorant men have a natural right to legislate for the one hundred,
as against forty-nine intelligent men.

All men being equal, one man is as fit to legislate and execute as
another.  A recently elected Congressman from Maine vehemently repudiated
in a public address, as a slander, the accusation that he was educated.
The theory was that, uneducated, he was the proper representative of the
average ignorance of his district, and that ignorance ought to be
represented in the legislature in kind.  The ignorant know better what
they want than the educated know for them.  "Their education [that of
college men] destroys natural perception and judgment; so that cultivated
people are one-sided, and their judgment is often inferior to that of the
working people."  "Cultured people have made up their minds, and are hard
to move."  "No lawyer should be elected to a place in any legislative
body."--[Opinions of working-men, reported in "The Nationals, their
Origin and their Aims," The Atlantic Monthly, November, 1878.]

Experience is of no account, neither is history, nor tradition, nor the
accumulated wisdom of ages.  On all questions of political economy,
finance, morals, the ignorant man stands on a par with the best informed
as a legislator.  We might cite any number of the results of these
illusions.  A member of a recent House of Representatives declared that
we "can repair the losses of the war by the issue of a sufficient amount
of paper money."  An intelligent mechanic of our acquaintance, a leader
among the Nationals, urging the theory of his party, that banks should be
destroyed, and that the government should issue to the people as much
"paper money" as they need, denied the right of banks or of any
individuals to charge interest on money.  Yet he would take rent for the
house he owns.

Laws must be the direct expression of the will of the majority, and be
altered solely on its will.  It would be well, therefore, to have a
continuous election, so that, any day, the electors can change their
representative for a new man.  "If my caprice be the source of law, then
my enjoyment may be the source of the division of the nation's
resources."--[Stahl's Rechtsphilosophie, quoted by Roscher.]

Property is the creator of inequality, and this factor in our artificial
state can be eliminated only by absorption.  It is the duty of the
government to provide for all the people, and the sovereign people will
see to it that it does.  The election franchise is a natural right--a
man's weapon to protect himself.  It may be asked, If it is just this,
and not a sacred trust accorded to be exercised for the benefit of
society, why may not a man sell it, if it is for his interest to do so?

What is there illogical in these positions from the premise given?
"Communism," says Roscher,"  [Political Economy, bk. i., ch. v., 78.]--
is the logically not inconsistent exaggeration of the principle of
equality.  Men who hear themselves designated as the sovereign people,
and their welfare as the supreme law of the state, are more apt than
others to feel more keenly the distance which separates their own misery
from the superabundance of others.  And, indeed, to what an extent our
physical wants are determined by our intellectual mold!"

The tendency of the exaggeration of man's will as the foundation of
government is distinctly materialistic; it is a self-sufficiency that
shuts out God and the higher law.--["And, indeed, if the will of man is
all-powerful, if states are to be distinguished from one another only by
their boundaries, if everything may be changed like the scenery in a play
by a flourish of the magic wand of a system, if man may arbitrarily make
the right, if nations can be put through evolutions like regiments of
troops, what a field would the world present for attempts at the
realizations of the wildest dreams, and what a temptation would be
offered to take possession, by main force, of the government of human
affairs, to destroy the rights of property and the rights of capital, to
gratify ardent longings without trouble, and to provide the much-coveted
means of enjoyment!  The Titans have tried to scale the heavens, and have
fallen into the most degrading materialism.  Purely speculative dogmatism
sinks into materialism."  (M.  Wolowski's Essay on the Historical Method,
prefixed to his translation of Roscher's Political Economy.)]--We need to
remember that the Creator of man, and not man himself, formed society and
instituted government; that God is always behind human society and
sustains it; that marriage and the family and all social relations are
divinely established; that man's duty, coinciding with his right, is,
by the light of history, by experience, by observation of men, and by the
aid of revelation, to find out and make operative, as well as he can, the
divine law in human affairs.  And it may be added that the sovereignty of
the people, as a divine trust, may be as logically deduced from the
divine institution of government as the old divine right of kings.
Government, by whatever name it is called, is a matter of experience and
expediency.  If we submit to the will of the majority, it is because it
is more convenient to do so; and if the republic or the democracy

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