Orestes A. Brownson: Works in Political Philosophy, vol. 2:1828-1841

Orestes A. Brownson: Works in Political Philosophy, vol. 2:1828-1841

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ISBN-13: 9781933859064
Publisher: ISI Books
Publication date: 01/20/2007
Series: Orestes A. Brownson: Works in Political
Pages: 550
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.90(d)

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Works in Political Philosophy

Volume II 1828-1841

Contents

Editor's Introduction by Gregory S. Butler............................................IX An Essay on the Progress of Truth November 1827-March 1828............................1 The Essayist July-September 1828......................................................35 Free Inquiry August 1828..............................................................49 Free Enquirers March 1829.............................................................53 Church and State I May-September 1829.................................................57 Equality September 1829...............................................................85 Church and State II November 1831.....................................................89 Social Evils and Their Remedy I May 1834..............................................93 Memoir of Saint-Simon June 1834.......................................................101 Independence Day Address at Dedham, Massachusetts July 1834...........................111 Progress of Society July 1835.........................................................125 New Views of Christianity, Society, and the Church 1836...............................149 Democracy January 1838................................................................203 Slavery-Abolitionism April1838.......................................................237 Tendency of Modern Civilization April 1838............................................255 Religion and Politics July 1838.......................................................287 The American Democrat July 1838.......................................................305 Abolition Proceedings October 1838....................................................321 Specimens of Foreign Literature October 1838..........................................345 Democracy and Reform October 1839.....................................................355 Observations and Hints on Education April 1840........................................387 The Laboring Classes July 1840.........................................................411 Progress Our Law-A Discourse October 1840.............................................441 Conversations with a Radical-By a Conservative January-April 1841.....................451 Social Evils and Their Remedy II July 1841............................................529 Notes..................................................................................551 Index..................................................................................557

Chapter One

An Essay on the Progress of Truth

November 1827-March 1828

Essay No. 1

I this week commence a series of numbers on the progress of moral reform throughout the world. I shall continue them if I have leisure and health, until I either exhaust my subject or my knowledge. The importance and interesting nature of this subject, as well as my own method of treating it, will be unfolded as I proceed, hence need not be labored in an exordium.-As a motto to my inquiry I select Isaiah, chap xxxv. 1.

"The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the rose."

The final emancipation of the human race from sin, misery and death, is a source of pleasing contemplation, and may justly employ the attention of those, who despair of ever finding consolation from the prospective improvement of man while an inhabitant of this sublunary state. At a convenient time, we should not hesitate to wing imagination through regions of ether, and survey a beautified universe bending around the throne of Light, bursting amid the rays of Jehovah's love; but the present requires us to consider what amelioration the progress of Truth will make in the condition of human society below.

Whatever bliss there may be in store for us in that unseen world to which we are all hastening, the present is all we can call our own. We are now inhabitants of the earth, and our chief inquiry should be-how can we render it a pleasing and desirable habitation? I am a believer in life and immortality beyond the grave; but I am not ambitious of being one of that number who forget earth for heaven-who, to ensure the joys of that invisible kingdom; forego the rational pleasures of this.

The present generation owes a duty to all succeeding ones. The course we take will have a greater or less effect upon the morals or happiness of our latest posterity. We live not for ourselves alone; we are connected with all nations, all generations of men. Let us not, then, because we expect soon to remove to some distant clime, demolish or suffer to decay, the institutions necessary to give peace and felicity to our successors. There are those, who think, if our future welfare or happiness after death be secured, there is no necessity of troubling ourselves about our condition here; and if this generation was the last of the human race, there would be some force in the consideration. But "one generation passeth and another cometh, but the earth abideth forever." The parent finds sufficient inducement to labor, that he may secure his child a competent support; the philanthropist looks through futurity to ages yet unborn, and, while his bosom swells with the prospect, he invokes the genius of improvement to transmit them such institutions as shall preserve external peace and internal tranquility-to transmit them such a fund of knowledge, that the evils with which we and our forefathers have been afflicted, may never reach them.

Is this no inducement to labor? Look back then upon past ages; what deplorable ignorance has debased the human mind! Man has been the slave of both civil and ecclesiastical tyrants. The dignity of his nature has been forgotten amid the bigotry and superstition with which he has been governed. At one time, he is seen rushing with ruthless fury against his brother; at another bowing and cringing before a God of his own manufacture-the property of a fellow lordling, who supports the luxury of his table with the produce of his blood-the dupe of designing hypocrites, who made him sick, that they may be paid for curing him-filled with a zeal for God, fired with enthusiasm for his law, he is seen dealing forth death upon all whose zeal and enthusiasm are different from his own.-Robbed by the political despot of the right of pursuing happiness and enjoying the fruit of his labor-divested by the priest of the liberty of conscience and all the felicity of mental independence, he rises in gaudy ignorance or splendid poverty, in the most abject servitude and the most degrading superstition. A prey to all the evils of his physical constitution and the calamities incident to life, rendered thrice double severe by his own folly and the exorbitant exactions of his brethren; war sweeps off its millions, carries mourning to as many cottages, and childlessness to as many mothers. Theological wrangling, intestine divisions and domestick discord, destroys what little repose might otherwise have been received!-Say ye friends of the human race! do you wish those evils to go down to posterity? Have you no anxiety to remove these evils, that the wrongs and outrages which you have suffered may not be entailed upon your offspring?

But if these considerations have no weight with the philanthropist of the day, it only shows the degradation of their minds, the narrowness of their conceptions, and the feeble claim they have to the name they assume; and no stronger argument is required to show the importance of a reformation throughout the world. Those, however, who can join in the prospective improvement of our race while here, reasons sufficient to call forth their exertions will contemplate with delight the improvement itself, and huger with inexpressible gratitude to God, on the certainty it will in due time be effected.

The improvement of which we speak, or the reformation which we desire, is one that will recognize the original equality of the human family-secure to them all the rights which nature has given them, whether as individuals or members of society. The government of the country recognizes many of our original rights and in a good degree secures them. The reformation we seek, will base all institutions whether civil or ecclesiastical, upon this original equality, and will call forth all the energies of statesman, moralists or divines to preserve it. Government will then aim at the good of the governed; political, and other rulers will be the servants, not the masters of the people-will be chosen for the good of the whole, not of a few, and be supported from a conviction of their utility, not because they have been born to hereditary advantages, or been forced upon us by circumstances over which our partiality for ancient usages would give us no control.

Men will then be free in their persons, free to pursue happiness, and free to enjoy the good of their labors. Amid this freedom, industry will awake and all will be enabled to find a competent support. Temptations to vice will be removed; crimes will become less and less frequent till they finally disappear, and our jails and penitentiaries be thrown open, or converted to abodes of virtue and happiness.

The mind will then have recovered its independence; conscience will not then be bound by the fetters of priestcraft; but it will become the monitor to virtue, the friend of mankind-will entwine around each heart the cords of fraternal affection, and no more break a brother on the wheel or burn him at the stake. Reason will have regained her long lost dominions; her mild and gentle laws will extend peace through all her empire, and preserve the quietness and felicity of every bosom. The happy children of men will form the cheerful circle around the evening fire; give free exercise to all the kind and benevolent feelings of the heart, with no gloomy personage to destroy their heaven born harmony, with his furious declamations and horrid denunciations! Implicit faith in unintelligible dogmas will find no adherents. Each will claim the right of examination; whatever is not congenial with facts, corroborated by universal experience, will be laid aside as a remnant of ancient superstition.

Religion will then rest on its support on a knowledge of human nature, not on the assertions of ignorant or interested men. It will not be a fruitful source of unhappy contention, will not tend to alienate the affections of brethren, nor drive them to the commission of the foulest crimes that ever blackened the page of history; but it will encourage all those good actions, cherish all those kind feeling, render all that mutual assistance which our dependant situation requires.

Such is the improvement we seek, such is the reformation that will be accomplished when men shall have recovered mental independence, and shall dare reason on the nature and propriety of existing institutions; when they shall acknowledge no law but reason, no religion but justice, no morality but humanity in all its forms.

* * *

Essay No. II

The opposition to the emancipation of the human race from the bondage of their numerous masters, will be long and obstinate. There are so many notions abroad; so many vague and inconsistent theories are proclaimed by the learned, and enforced by those who claim the direction of the public mind, upheld by those in authority and eagerly embraced by the multitude; the simple dictates of reason-the plain injunctions of morality, are so readily consigned to forgetfulness, that he who comes forward with a plain and rational scheme, is in danger of being doomed to suffer the contempt of the ignorant, and the persecution of the designing.

The experiment has been fairly tried: to the advocates of a blind and unnatural religion, and to the adherents of a cruel and despotic policy, every indulgence has been granted; we have listened with the most profound attention; we have believed with the most yielding credulity, and obeyed with the most persevering enthusiasm. The popular instructors, from their first existence, have contended earnestly for "the faith"-extolled the purity of their principles, and the wonderful efficacy of their instructions in making society virtuous and man universally happy. Alas! Discord has marked their proceedings, confusion their preaching; and notwithstanding man was totally depraved at first, he has been growing worse ever since!

The circumstances of the age call aloud for reform. There has been so much tinsel; so many pretenses have been made; so much noise about religion and divine communications has been heard; that men, whose minds have been enlightened by science-whose hearts are warmed by philanthropy, and whose bosoms bleed with compassion for the human race, have turned with disgust from every thing bearing such a recommendation, and sought in nature alone, a remedy for infatuated man. They may have gone too far; but every truly enlightened mind will reject with disdain every notion that contradicts the great principles of universal existence, or supersedes the necessity of studying them. I am no enemy to religion; but I would listen with attention, and examine with the most diligent caution;-whatever is not conducive to our happiness while here, I reject is unworthy [of] our attention. Happy would be for all men, if they would come to this conclusion. But the obstacles to be surrounded in coming to this are many. They rise like mountains, and we tremble as we survey the broadness of their base and the sublimity of their tops. The heirs of antiquity are so numerous and so tenaciously embraced, that no wonder timorous souls are despondent. No improvement can be affected while men retain their veneration for institutions merely because they are ancient; for until many, who now labor with the most preserving assiduity to perpetuate such veneration, shall cease from their pernicious task, and turn their attention to ascertain what is beneficial to man in his social and individual capacity. But the struggle to accomplish this, will be long and arduous. Princes who hold their power on the precarious tenure of artificial distinctions in the human family, will be unwilling to enlighten their subjects. Truth is dreaded by them, for they well know the right, by which they govern, has no existence in the nature of things. Should people learn, the God of the Universe made all men originally equal, privileged classes would lose their prerogatives, and he reduced to a level with the rest of mankind. Kings would then depend on the suffrages of their subjects for election.-This, the crowned heads of the Earth well know. Hence it was, they saw with consternation the independence of this country, and armed their united forces against Republican France. It is the apprehension that truth may enter the dark recesses of their deluded, degraded subjects, that binds together the "Holy Alliance" of Europe and it is this that drives them to extinguish every ray of liberty that might for a moment illume the darkness of despotism!

Kings and potentates will, from a regard to their own interest, oppose any innovation upon the old order of things. Their power is founded in ignorance, supported by arbitrary and unnecessary distinctions, and has no recommendation but hoary age. Consequently they have nothing so much to fear as a spirit of inquiry, and close investigation.-Such a spirit would undermine the thrones on which they are seated, and trample in the dust every vestige of their tyranny! They will, it must be expected, use every exertion in their power to prevent any alteration in the condition of their people.

Our religious education, and the nature of our ecclesiastical institutions, are much more powerful obstacles in the march of improvements. These form an impediment much more difficult to remove, because supported by more stubborn, more numerous, and more complicated prejudices. It is here to, where reformation is most needed. Whoever has turned over the historic page and traced man through his religious career, has wandered in the midst of crime, through scenes the most foul and horrible that a fancy can paint. Man, though doomed to suffer from the physical circumstances of his condition-though he is a child of sickness and distress-a prey to every calamity-affected by every change in this ever changing state, may forget the whole, in the magnitude and numberless variety of the evils he has heaped upon him by his pretended spiritual assistants.

From time immemorial, men have formed themselves into religious association; and under the pretense of superior sanctity, of more successfully promoting their own and their brethren's welfare, have presumed to dictate to the world what it must believe, and what ceremonies it must observe. To over awe the mind and make it submissive to what all the better feelings of the heart oppose, inspiration has been pretended, and the voice of the Almighty has been made to sanction errors too absurd to be believed on less authority. The venders of this inspiration have usurped an undue ascendancy over the lives and consciences of men, as degrading to those who obey as it is profitable to those who rule.

Particular churches have been established, and the priest has promised heaven to all who unite, and denounced the most horrid doom upon all who refuse. A creed was drawn up for the church; the more unintelligible the better, because the aid of the priest in its explication becomes thus the more necessary; a system of external duties is enjoined, the more absurd, or the farther removed from common utility the better, for its observance thus most clearly draws the line of distinction between those who belong to the church, and those denominated the world. All that is required to maintain the purity of one's character, is to believe this unintelligible creed, and damn all who doubt it; to perform external duties enjoined, which usually consist in assembling together, making a few grimaces, and genuflections, repeating over, parrot like, a few unmeaning words, in doing penance, supporting the church, and treating with infinite contempt or extreme cruelty all who pay less reverence to such pious indispensables. This maintains one's claim to holiness, opens to him the doors of the church here, and of heaven hereafter-gives him a passport to regions of glory, and entitles him to endless beatitude in the mansions of felicity.

(Continues...)



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Table of Contents


Editor's Introduction   Gregory S. Butler     IX
An Essay on the Progress of Truth: November 1827-March 1828     1
The Essayist: July-September 1828     35
Free Inquiry: August 1828     49
Free Enquirers: March 1829     53
Church and State I: May-September 1829     57
Equality: September 1829     85
Church and State II: November 1831     89
Social Evils and Their Remedy I: May 1834     93
Memoir of Saint-Simon: June 1834     101
Independence Day Address at Dedham, Massachusetts: July 1834     111
Progress of Society: July 1835     125
New Views of Christianity, Society, and the Church: 1836     149
Democracy: January 1838     203
Slavery-Abolitionism: April 1838     237
Tendency of Modern Civilization: April 1838     255
Religion and Politics: July 1838     287
The American Democrat: July 1838     305
Abolition Proceedings: October 1838     321
Specimens of Foreign Literature: October 1838     345
Democracy and Reform: October 1839     355
Observations and Hints on Education: April 1840     387
The Laboring Classes: July 1840     411
Progress Our Law-A Discourse: October 1840     441
Conversations with a Radical-By a Conservative: January-April 1841     451
Social Evils and Their Remedy II: July 1841     529
Notes     551
Index     557

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