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LIBERTY AND SLAVERY.
It seems to us that the vain attempts to define liberty in theory, or to secure its enjoyment in practice, proceed from the fact that man is naturally a social and gregarious animal, subject, not by contract or agreement, as Locke and his followers assume, but by birth and nature, to those restrictions of liberty which are expedient or necessary to secure the good of the human hive, to which he may belong. There is no such thing as natural human liberty, because it is unnatural for man to live alone and without the pale and government of society. Birds, and beasts of prey, who are not gregarious, are naturally free. Bees and herds are naturally subjects or slaves of society. Such is the theory of Aristotle, promulged more than two thousand years ago, generally considered true for two thousand years, and destined, we hope, soon again to be accepted as the only true theory of government and society.
Modern social reformers, except Mr. Carlyle,
proceeding upon the theory of Locke, which is the opposite of Aristotle, propose to dissolve and disintegrate society; falsely supposing that they thereby follow nature. There is not a human tie that binds man to man, that they do not propose to cut “sheer asunder.” 'Tis true, after their work of destruction is finished, they see the necessity of society; but instead of that natural and historical society, which has usually existed in the world, with its gradations of rank and power, its families and its slaves, they propose wholly to disregard the natural relations of mankind, and profanely to build up states, like Fourierite Phalansteries, or Mormon and Oneida villages, where religion shall be banished, and in which property, wife and children shall be held somewhat in common.
These social establishments, under a self-elected despotism like that of Joe Smith, or Brigham Young, become patriarchal, and succeed, so long as such despotism lasts. That is, when the association loses the character intended by its founders, and acquires a despotic head like other family associations, it works well, because it works naturally. But this success can only be temporary; for nothing but the strong rule of a Cromwell or Joe Smith can keep a society together, that wants the elements of cohesion, in the natural ties that bind man to man: and Cromwells and Joe Smiths are not to be found every day.
'Tis an historical fact, that this family association, this patriarchal government, for purposes of defence against enemies from without, gradually merges into larger associations of men under a common government or ruler. This latter is the almost universal, and we may thence infer, natural and normal condition of civilized man. In this state of society there is no liberty for the masses. Liberty has been exchanged by nature for security.
What is falsely called Free Society, is a very re.cent invention. It proposes to make the weak, ignorant and poor, free, by turning them loose in a world owned exclusively by the few (whom nature and education have made strong, and whom. property has made stronger,) to get a living. In the fanciful state of nature, where property is unappropriated, the strong have no weapons but superior physical and mental power with which to oppress the weak. Their power of oppression is increased a thousand fold, when they become the exclusive owners of the earth and all the things thereon. They are masters without the obligations of masters, and the poor are slaves without the rights of slaves.
It is generally conceded, even by abolitionists, that the serfs of Europe were liberated because the multitude of laborers, and their competition as freemen to get employment, had rendered free labor cheaper than slave labor. But, strange to say, few seem to have seen that this is in fact asserting that they were less free after emancipation than before. Their obligation to labor was increased; for they were compelled to labor more than before to obtain a livelihood, else their free labor would not have been cheaper than their labor as slaves. They lost something in liberty, and everything in rights—for emancipation liberated or released the masters from all their burdens, cares and liabilities, whilst it increased both the labors and the cares of the liberated serf. In our chapter on the Decay of English Liberty, we show that the whole struggle in England has been to oppress the working man, pull down the powers, privileges and prerogatives of the throne, the nobility, and the church, and to elevate the property-holding class.
The extracts from the Era and Northern Churchman, in another chapter, will further elucidate this subject. We promised to confirm our doctrine of the illusory and undefinable character of liberty and slavery, by extracts from standard authors.
PALEY on Civil Liberty:
“ To do what we will, is natural liberty: to do what we will, consistently with the interest of the community to which we belong, is civil liberty; that is to say, the only liberty to be desired in a state of civil society.
I should wish, no doubt, to be allowed to act, in every
instance, as I pleased; but I reflect, that the rest also of mankind would then do the same; in which state of universal independence and self-direction, I should meet with so many checks and obstacles to my own will, from the interference and opposition of other men's, that not only my happiness, but my liberty, would be less than whilst the whole community were subject to the dominion of equal laws.
The boasted liberty of a state of nature exists only in a state of solitude. In every kind and degree of union and intercourse with his species, it is possible that the liberty of the individual may be augmented by the very laws which restrain it; because he may gain more from the limitation of other men's freedom than he suffers by the diminution of his own. Natural liberty is the right of common upon a waste; civil liberty is the safe, exclusive, unmolested enjoyment of a cultivated enclosure.
The definitions which have been framed of civil liberty, and which have become the subject of much unnecessary altercation, are most of them adapted to this. idea. Thus, one political writer makes the essence of the subject's liberty to consist in his being governed by no laws but those to which he hath actually consented; another is satisfied with an indirect and virtual consent; another, again, places civil liberty in the separation of the legislative and executive offices of government; another in the being governed by law; that is, by known, preconstituted, inflexible rules of action and adjudication; a fifth, in the exclusive right of the people to tax themselves by their own representatives; a sixth, in freedom and purity of elections of representatives; a sev