Laws are generally not understood by three sorts of persons, viz.: by those who make them, by those who execute them, and by those who suffer by them if they break them.
Thoughts for the Working Men. – Existing abuses may be pointed out and acknowledged, but they will never be cured by the aid or consent of that small class of men who profit by them. We see and hear great professions in behalf of suffering humanity, but we find no individual ready to make a personal sacrifice to improve its condition. In the first place I must be sustained and fortified in the enjoyment of every sensual indulgence to which I am accustomed; then I will talk with you about the wants of the dear people, about benevolence and charity. the wrong end of society sits upon the upper spokes of the political ladder. The men who have wealth can take care of themselves in any situation. But the preponderance which attaches to wealth under any circumstances, the rich by the aid of combination monopolize legislative and judicial power.
Legislation is exclusively for the use and benefit of the rich, and the judicial administration of the law is regulated by the controlling of influence of money. To a poor man, the law is an outrageous mockery. It is worse; it is an oppressor’s rod. It is a two-edged sword which the rich man only can wield, and from which the poor may only hope to escape. Justice is offered to all, audmented out to him who can best pay for it.
Property, life and character, are in the hands of the law. The law is in the hands of the rich. The rich have leisure to combine and the means to command legal talent, the pulpit and the press. While the great mass of society, who support the whole by useful labor, whose industry produces all, whose virtue and courage defends all, who hold the nation together, and without this aid the rich must toil or starve; that great body of useful men and women and children are scattered over the face of society, and fulfilling their duty in the most essential form to their country and their God, but neglecting and trusting to others the very important duty of self-government.
Our political rights are the same, we are all equal under our declaration of independence. But here the equality stops. The constitutions are defective. The laws are unjust, and their administration wicked. The rich prosper by this injustice, and will strive to continue and strengthen existing abuses. – We can have no remedy, and justly hope for none, until the mass of common people, the hard-working mechanics, and farmers, the men of useful toil, whether corporeal or intellectual – the laboring millions combine, take the helm of state exclusively into their own hands, and save themselves, and save the nation from the political and social evils which are now hurrying us with fearful rapidity into the great vortex of buried nations.
The end of all government is the happiness of the whole community; and whenever it does not secure that, it is a bad government, and it was time it was altered.
A few words to the young men of Lowell (Continued)
March 13th, 1846
It is a fact fully established by philosophy and common sense, that in all states of society, individuals have collective or public duties – duties they owe to the general good of the community or country in which they live, as well as their own individual happiness. It is right and necessary that the people of one town or State or of different towns and States should consult together, as to the best means and modes of securing their general and individual happiness, and of promoting the great and end and aim of life.
These duties, society has denominated political because they relate to government or the administration of the affairs of States or Nations. But instead of their remaining pure and fee from the contaminating influences of individual party selfishness, they have been used at nearly all ages as instruments of aggrandizement in the hands of the few, to oppress the many. Instead of promoting the public good, party and individual interests have been gratified.
Instead of legislating for the people, with as little expense as possible, the few have used it as a hereditary right or party privilege to render themselves distinguished among their fellowmen, and provide the comforts and luxuries of life without labor.
Thus, instead of men’s legislating as a public duty, for the welfare of society, they have made it an individual business, and in accordance with the general law of supply and demand have created as much of this business as possible, that their “trade may continue good,” thereby bringing an enormous tax upon the people and rendering human laws, which should be plain and simple complicated and unintelligible, that the “common people” should not steal the trade.”
This state of things has given rise to heredity kings, despots and rulers, who have revelled in luxury and excess, while the mass of the people have toiled in privation and want, until they could hear the burdens no longer, when open rebellion, blood and carnage have been the results. The American Revolution is a well known illustration of the effects of this system of tyranny, when long practiced upon the public. The oppression of the British government became too intolerable to be longer borne by our forefathers, and receiving new and enlarged views of the rights of man from the new world which they had fled, they determined to resist at the peril of all things, any farther encroachments upon their declared rights. They “fought, bled and died.” – American was declared a “free and independent Nation.” Under her new form of government, our people prospered and became comparatively happy; – American was declared a “free and independent Nation.” Under her new form of government, our people prospered and became comparatively happy; – their interests were mutual – their legislators were servants to the best known good of the public weal, and to promote the general prosperity of their country seemed to them paramount to individual interests.
But a change has come over the face of our political career, and although our country remains nominally free, oppression is fast rearing its hydra head, under the genial shades of “republicanism.” The glorious truths that, “all men are created free and equal, and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuits of happiness,” still remain upon our national escutcheon, – but shamefully neglected – a mere array of words with which demagogues embellish their heartless harangues, while humanity is thirsting and starving for want of their realization. While we retain this national motto, we have proved ourselves false to its spirit by fostering and legislating for systems which virtually say, that all men are “entitled to life, liberty and the pursuits of happiness,” whose circumstances are favorable – who vote on “our side,” or if seventy five cents or one dollar per day will give them life and liberty and make them happy, then they are entitled, or in other words, that it takes from two to twenty five thousand dollars a year to give life, liberty and happiness to one class of men, while it requires but two or three hundred for another of like natural requirements.
Now what we wish to impress upon your minds, is, that liberty and republicanism mean something, and that a country is no better off than a monarchy, where these names are found without the spirit.
In a true Republic, all the people enjoy the same natural rights, and the same privileges of wealth and intellectual culture. In a true Republic, Man controls wealth and renders it subservient to the general good. In a true Republic, the blessings of freedom will be alike dispensed upon all the members of the Republic and the institutions of heathenism, and monarchy will not be required to protect their virtues and property and secure peace.
Do not suppose that a few are born legislators and that you are bound to submit to their decrees. What laws and regulations are necessary to promote the virtue and happiness of all, and secure harmony and good order throughout all departments of society; you should be fully acquainted with and prepared to administer or improve them as friends and Christians. But above all, do not be partisans – governed by a political creed formed by the selfish ambition and caprice of party aspirants. Nothing will tend more to make you illiberal, bigoted and stunt your natural desire for human progression. Parties are a hindrance and curse to the progress of the age. They tend to seal up the understanding against the truth and create enmity and uncharitableness among men.
An illustration of the effects of party influences over the better feelings of men may be seen by reference to the manifested by the Massachusetts Legislature in relation to the “Ten Hour” petition now before that body. Party and capital control their deliberations and labor and humanity are neglected. The fifteen thousands of human voices which have gone forth, praying that the grievous burden which combined capital has imposed upon them, may be removed, are passed by silence or winked at, while the dictates of capital are readily obeyed. Entertain young men, enlarged view of humanity, of your duty to your country and your race. Recollect that the increasing poverty, want and vice among the working classes are not the fruits of republicanism. Act then, from enlightened convictions of right untrammeled by party or love of gain. The destinies of a country every way adapted to nourish and support millions on millions of happy and enlightened freemen, are with you, - shall America be free indeed?
Our government, which was instituted to promote the good of all mankind, to be made the instrument for enriching the few and impoverishing the many?
Very few public men but look upon the public as their debtors, and their prey: so much for their pride and honesty.
Past Sentiments for Present Consumption.
Republics. – In republics the sovereign power, or the power over which there is no control, and which controls all others, remains where nature placed it, in the people. In a country under a despotic form of Government the Sovereign is the only free man in it. In a republic the people retaining the sovereignty is the only free man in it. In a republic the people retaining the sovereignty themselves, naturally and necessarily retain freedom with it: for wheresoever the sovereignty is, there must the freedom be: the one cannot be in one place, and the other in another.