- Equality - - No.1 by OMEGA. - Wednesday 18 July 1849 - Deals with Moses, and equality among Christian brotherhood
- Equality - - No.2 by OMEGA. - Wednesday 25 July 1849 - Deals with the banking system
- Equality - - No.3 by OMEGA. - Wednesday 1 August 1849 - Deals the repeal of usury laws
- Capital and Labor - - No. 1 by OMEGA. Wednesday 12 September 1849 - Deals with Transcendentalism
- Capital and Labor - - No. 2 by OMEGA. Wednesday 19 September 1849 - Deals with pantheism and is subtitled "Socialism in Massachusetts" [wiki collation with Equality]
- Plutocracy by OMEGA. Wednesday 7 November 1849 - Deals with government by the wealthy - Mammonocracy
What particularly characterized Sparta? Sparta was the city of the equals: the social name of the citizens of Sparta was this—;the equals. Sparta was composed of ten thousand citizens, organized upon the principle of equality; and these ten thousand citizens ruled over thirty thousand Laconians who were not possessed of this title of equals; over a multitude of Helots; and over a multitude of Slaves. Sparta was thus an embodiment of the most horrible inequality, if we consider it according to the totality of men who composed the empire of Lacedæmon, and lived on its territory. But Sparta was a model fraternity, a model equality, a model community, if we consider the true Lacedæmonians only, that is to say, the equals. Sparta was regarded by all the grave and serious philosophers of antiquity as the inspiring city; in their eyes it was holy and venerable, even as Rome was holy to the Romans, and Jerusalem to the Jews. Why was Sparta thus regarded as holy? It was because, in the midst of this atrocious barbarity, in the midst of this cruel inequality, a holy idea was embodied, the idea of equality—the equality of a certain number, though not of all.
This principle of equality was consecrated in the great Spartan Sacrament, the repast in common. No man could be present at the repasts who was not one of the equals; and no one could be considered one of the equals who did not attend the repasts regularly. Participation in the common repasts was the sacramental sign of citizenship, and conferred the right of voting in public affairs. A citizen of Sparta, therefore, was a man who took his place at the public banquets: this is the summing up of the legislation of Lycurgus, whose whole system is involved in the institution of the Social Banquets.
This institution of the repast in common, was not an isolated institution of Crete and Sparta; for Aristotle tells us that it was widely extended; that it was established especially in Italy and at Carthage. Be this as it may, it cannot be denied that the repast in common obtained in Egypt. The people of Egypt were divided into three classes; that of priests, that of warriors, and that of laborers and mechanics. The two higher classes, the priests and the warriors, lived in community; the priests by themselves, and the warriors by themselves. The priests of Egypt, like the monks of the middle ages, had no private property, but lived in common, in edifices belonging to their order. As for the warriors, a certain portion of land was assigned to each of them; but no warrior was permitted to cultivate the same field two years in succession, for fear that he should attach himself to it, and consider it as his own private property. The people of Egypt were divided into two camps; in one were the priests and the warriors, who constituted the aristocracy; in the other was the mass of the people. The priests among themselves, and the warriors among themselves, lived in community, according to the principle of equality; and the people were taxed to support them. The people, the inferior caste, owned in their own right the property which was in their hands; they were proprietors, and paid taxes. The members of the higher castes had no interest separate from that of the corporation to which they belonged; they were exempt therefore from envy and jealousy, and sat down as brethren and equals, with their brethren and equals at the common banquets: the members of the lower castes were given over to competition among themselves, they had nothing in common with each other; they looked upon each other as rivals and enemies; they ground each other as mill stones grind each other when they have no corn to grind; and thus divided among themselves, hostile to each other, moved by cupidity, and recognizing neither equality nor fraternity, they became the victims of a cruel oppression—they became the caryatides which sustained the social system of the valley of the Nile. Is the supposition devoid of plausibility that Moses borrowed the sacerdotal principle of the Egyptians, when he took no account of the tribe of Levi (the Hebrew Priests) in the division of the conquered land? "The Priests, the Levites, and all the tribes of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel. * * The Lord is their inheritance as he hath said unto them."—Deut. 13: 1, 2.
"Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds."—Acts 7: 22. Through his relationship to Pharaoh's daughter, he was connected with the Egyptian aristocracy; and he was unquestionably initiated into all their secrets. Did Moses borrow anything from Egypt except this principle relating to the priesthood? He certainly borrowed a multitude of institutions and, among others, that of the repast in common. The Jews had three great feasts, the first of which, and the most solemn, was the Passover. The obligation of every Jew to celebrate this festival was so great that whoever neglected it, was legally liable to excommunication—to be cut off from the Jewish nation. "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, * * * The man that is clean, and is not in a journey, and forbeareth to keep the Passover, even the same shall be cut of from among his people."—Num. 9: 10-13. As in Sparta, he that refrained from the public repasts, lost his right of citizenship.
Moses had evidently two objects in view in his legislation: on one hand, the passover distinguished the Jews from all other nations; and, on the other, it united them among themselves, and made them brethren. On one hand, it was the festival of emancipation, of the exodus from slavery; it was the sign of separation from all other nations; it was the sign of insurrection against all foreign tyrants, whether Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, or Romans. But, on the other hand, it was the sign of the fraternity of the Jews among themselves, the sign of their union; it was for them (what Christianity has developed) a veritable communion. In Sparta, there were ten thousand equals, and a multitude of slaves; in Egypt, there were a few priests and warriors, who were equals, and a multitude of slaves. But behold the progress of liberal institutions! Among the Hebrews, there was neither a higher caste, nor a lower caste: for all formed one great nation of equals, and all came by a common right, and seated themselves at the great national banquet! For, though the tribe of Levi existed under a peculiar organization, yet the Levites never formed an aristocracy in Israel. The legislators of Egypt and Sparta, established inequality in the bosoms of the nations to which they gave laws: Moses established equality in Israel, but it must be confessed that he sanctioned inequality among the nations. He taught that the Hebrews were a holy and peculiar race, people, and nation, by right of birth; and excluded by his doctrine, the other nations from the favor of God. It was necessary that a new religion should arise, establishing equality among the nations, and teaching that "God is no respecter of persons; but that in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted of him."—Acts 10: 35.
But how did the Jews partake of the passover? "Thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and ,your staff in your hand: and ye shall eat it in haste; it is the Lord's passover. Ye shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs shall ye eat it. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning: and that which remaineth until the morning, ye shall burn with fire."—Exod., ch. 12.
If you object that the Cretans and the Spartans ate every day in common, while the Jews assembled at the social banquet only once a year, and then only by families; if you say the Spartans communed daily, while the Jews went a whole year without communion, and ask what possible relation two such different practices can have with each other, we answer: Your objection does not appear to be at all profound; for the Hebrews were an agricultural and pastoral nation, not living in one great city, nor in the neighborhood of any one great city, but spread over a great extent of country; and they could not, therefore, by the nature of the case, be often assembled in one place. For these reasons, Moses could not establish the life in community, according to the higher Egyptian pattern among his people; neither were his successors able to do it after him. The people, therefore, were given over to a great extent, to the kind of life that reigned in Egypt in the lowest caste—the life in non-communion. The individual and family were thus abandoned to themselves without social intervention, and, by necessity, inequality with all its evils results from this abandonment. Moses understood this very well. The passover, the only communion possible among men thus separated, remedied none of these evils: it was a sign of nationality and general unity—and that was all.
But Moses was not to be arrested in his legislation by a superficial difficulty of this nature. By another and a still more remarkable institution, he applied an effectual remedy against the inequality and individualism which threatened to establish itself among the families of Israel. I refer to the institution of the Sabbath. First, we notice the Sabbath of days: "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, &c."—Exod. 20: 10. Afterward, we notice the Sabbath of years: "Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; but in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest unto the land; a Sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard."—Levit. 25: 3, 4. Then we notice the Sabbath which follows seven consecutive Sabbaths of years:—let the reader turn to his Bible, and read the whole twenty-fifth chapter of Leviticus, for it is well worth his while to do it. Every fiftieth year, the trumpet of the Jubilee sounded throughout all the land of Israel, proclaiming liberty to all the inhabitants thereof. Whoever had sold his property during the forty-nine years, found it return to him on the day of Jubilee. No man could sell his house or his lands beyond the day of Jubilee; on that day all contracts of sale were broken, all debts were expunged. What a household-exemption law was that! History furnishes us with but one example of the actual application of an agrarian law; and then the law in question was promulgated and applied by the direct command of the Almighty himself. The great characteristic social law of the Jews, was a levelling law. Let the reader turn to the twenty-fifth chapter of Leviticus, and confess that the Mosaic law is an organization of the principle of Equality.<ref>If the reader desires more full, and clearer information in regard to the matters treated of in the foregoing paragraphs, let him consult the treatise on Equality, by Pierre Leroux; where the positions here taken, are firmly established and fully illustrated.</ref>
There are three forms or manifestations of inequality.
The first is Slavery, which weighed upon the lower classes in Sparta and Egypt, upon the lower classes in all the nations of remote antiquity;—yea, which prevails now in many of the nations of Christendom.
The second is inequality among the nations; the Jews regarded themselves as a holy and elect nation, contradistinguishing themselves from all the rest of the world, and characterizing the citizens of all gentile states as reprobate and impure; the Greeks contradistinguished themselves from the barbarians, and held that all who were not Greeks were worthy only to be slaves; the Roman citizen, by his mere right of citizenship, looked upon himself as lord and master over all other men.
There is a third form of inequality, which prevails at the present day, founded on the false organization of credit.
The legislation of Moses anathematized all personal slavery, and pronounced an eternal curse against the first form of inequality;<ref>[...]</ref> but Moses sanctioned the second form of inequality—the inequality between nations.—When our Lord came into the world, no man possessed any right which he did not draw from the race to which he belonged; no natural and inalienable rights of man were recognized. Was not Paul himself, the great destroyer of national inequality, obliged to have recourse, not to the principles of natural justice, but to his rights as a Roman citizen, to save himself from torture?—Acts 22: 22-39. What was the great foundation of the doctrine of Paul? Was it not that God looked with equal favor upon all nations? Was it not that God, in Christ Jesus, had broken down the middle wall of partition which separated between Jew and Gentile? Was not Paul's doctrine a reaction against the Mosaic law? How does the Apostle characterize the new order of social existence which was to grow out of the preaching of the Gospel? He says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. There is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all and in all".
What, in fact, is the Christian communion? It is a transformation and development of the Jewish Passover. Our Lord seated himself at the table with his twelve Apostles, to partake of the Passover, and said, "With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." Then he instituted the ordinance of the communion, transforming the Jewish festival, and a re-enacting the law enforcing its perpetual obligation. The primitive Christian Communion was a social banquet: the table was spread, and bread and wine were abundantly supplied. The Christians did not assemble together in families as did the ancient Jews, but whole churches assembled socially after the manner of the superior castes of Egypt and Sparta. "When ye come together therefore into one place (says the Apostle Paul,) this is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating every one taketh before another his own supper: and one is hungry and another is drunken. What! have ye not houses to eat and drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not?" The perversion of the ordinance there indicated, gives us a clear conception of the manner in which it was celebrated in primitive times. The Christian. communion is the organization of a new social state, it is the extending of the right of citizenship to every member of the human family. In Egypt and Sparta, the nobles only communed; with Moses the communion was restricted to the Hebrew race; but Christ calls upon all men to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and thus throws the communion open to every one of the children of Adam. "For in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female." Is it not evident that the Christian communion is the organization of the principle of equality?
But let us follow the order of the establishment of this divine institution. In our Lord's discourse (commencing at the thirteenth chapter of John's Gospel) which he spake to his disciples, as they were assembled together around the table to partake of the feast of the Passover, we find abundant indications of the profound meaning which he intended to embody in the ordinance. First of all, our Lord rose from the table, and girding himself with a towel, he began to wash and to wipe his disciples' feet! Behold Satan falling like lightning out of heaven! If our Lord had intended to teach the dogma of equality, (which he evidently did) could he have taken a more effectual course than this? What action could be more worthy of him who said; "He that is greatest among you, let him be your servant;"—of him who taught us to call those to whom we delegate power, not lords, not kings, not rulers by divine right, but public servants! Listen to the Master's words—"Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another's feet: for I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done unto you." Where now is the aristocracy of Egypt and Sparta? The walls of partition are thrown down, and every vile slave, every member of the degraded castes, is called upon to receive the Christian illumination, to enter into communion, to receive the right of citizenship.
Verily, Moses promulgated the eternal anathema against slavery; but Christ has done more than this, he has proclaimed the abiding curse against all social inequality whatever;—he has opened the way for the establishment of God's justice among the children of men.
The Apostles misunderstood the tenor, in some points, of their Master's doctrine. They supposed he came merely to extend the Mosaic institutions: they endeavored, therefore, to establish fully the Mosaic agrarianism; they endeavored to establish a community of goods, and to put the levelling system in complete operation. "The multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and of one soul: neither said any of them that aught of the things he possessed was his own; but they had all things common."—Acts 4: 32 The Mosaic system was powerful for levelling down, for repressing all aristocracy: but our Lord did not come for this. He came to level up. He came to confer nobility on the whole human race. He came to make all men priests and kings.—Rev. 1: 6. The system of Moses caused the Jewish nation to stagnate; it was destructive to all progress; whenever any change occurred, his laws levelled everything back to their original position: but the system of Christ is the very incarnation of the spirit of progress. Christ throws all gates open to men; he constitutes his disciple a son of God—can any one lay claim to a more aristocratic descent than that? He confers upon his disciple the right of citizenship in the whole universe; nay, the right of citizenship in the highest heaven itself;—where now are the privileges of Rome and Sparta? "Let no man glory in men; for all things are yours; whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's."—1 Cor. 3: 21, 22, 23.
Are we not justified in affirming that the dogma of Equality is hidden in the very centre of the Christian ordinance of Communion? But what necessity is there for prolonged discussion? Is there a man in the Christian Church who dares to go to the Communion table denying that he goes as an equal to meet with equals?
"Omega" "Equality.—No. 1. The Banking System." Worcester Palladium, July 18, 1849, 3.
THE BANKING SYSTEM.
WHEN a certain number of persons desire to be incorporated as a banking company, they petition the legislature of the state in which they reside, praying for such privilege. If the prayer be granted, they are incorporated; and the amount of their capital is fixed in the act of incorporation. This sum is divided into shares; public notice is given; books are opened for subscription; and individuals subscribe for as many shares as they desire, and are able to take. The subscribers are called Stockholders, and the shares are called stock. When the necessary amount has been subscribed, the stockholders meet, and choose, from their number, certain persons to conduct the operations of the bank who are called Directors. The Directors then choose from their own number, a President, and some person, not of their number, to be Cashier. Upon the President and Cashier (under the control of the board of Directors) the active duties of conducting the affairs of the bank depend.
So far all is clear: but certain consequences follow necessarily whenever a bank is established;—what are these consequences? Answer for yourself, reader! Would not the stockholders, if no bank had been established, have remained individual capitalists, competing with each other in the market? Would not this competition have had the effect of depressing the rate of interest? But now, through the establishment of this bank, these capitalists have become stockholders; and thus, by uniting their interests they have escaped competition, and all its attendant effects. The capitalist is unquestionably benefitted; but he appears to be benefitted at the expense of the borrower. At first sight, therefore, it would appear that banks are established for the exclusive benefit of the lenders. Let us examine this matter, however, a little more carefully. Competition is natural to man. Every blow aimed at competition, is a blow aimed at liberty and equality; for competition is but another name for that liberty and equality which ought to exist in every manufacturing and commercial community. In the natural order, the borrowers compete with each other, and thus raise the rate of interest; meanwhile the lenders, by competition among themselves, depress that rate. By the establishment of a bank, the lenders prevent competition among themselves, and thus prevent a fall in the rate of interest; it is evident, therefore, that the borrower could obtain money on better terms if the bank did not exist.
A laborer who has no tools, no raw materials to work upon, can bring little, or rather nothing, to pass, no matter how industriously he may follow his calling; he seeks therefore, first of all, to obtain tools and the raw material; that is, he endeavors to find some capitalist who will lend him the money requisite for the purchase of these things. The capitalist, on the other hand, finds his money to be of little use to him so long as he cannot lend it out at interest;—his machinery and raw material will spoil on his hands if he can find no laborer who will make them available for useful purposes. The capitalist and the laborer are mutually necessary to each other; and, for this reason, they are always seeking each other. Banks (according to the true theory of such institutions) ought to be established for the purpose of bringing together the borrower and lender, the laborer and the capitalist. Whoever has anything to lend, ought to be able to go to the bank, and there lend it, provided there is some person in the community who desires to borrow; and borrowers ought to have like facilities. So much for theory; what is the fact?
Banks are instruments whereby the lenders escape their fair share of the general competition: they are instruments whereby a certain number of lenders are enabled to bring an immense, combined, and crushing force to bear upon every person who does not belong to their number. A bank is a model equality, a model community, a model fraternity, if we consider the stockholders only; but it is a horrible inequality, if we consider it in its relations to the mass of the people.
Banks confer exclusive privileges upon a certain class. Every unprivileged member of the community operates in his own strength; but the stockholder in a bank operates with the whole strength of his corporation. These stockholders mutually insure each other; for, when the bank makes a bad speculation, the loss is equitably divided among all. There is equity among themselves; but woe to him that is on the outside! The unprivileged individual lies awake nights, thinking of his liabilities; he labors hard to bring his affairs to a prosperous issue. The stockholder in the bank folds his hands, and sleeps soundly; he is insured from loss, and has hired the officers of the bank to think and be anxious for him. If operatives combine with each other, because they find competition bears too strongly upon them, and strike for higher wages, they are legally liable to severe punishment: but, if capitalists combine to prevent competition among themselves, and thus prevent a fall in the price of the commodity they have to offer in the market, the legislature applauds their action, and grants them a charter to enable them to accomplish their purpose more easily and effectually. It is affirmed, nevertheless, that we live in a country of equal laws. If it is for the good of the community that laborers should compete among themselves, it is equally for the good of the community that the capitalists should compete in like manner; at least, so it would appear.
Banks of Discount obtain profits (1) from interest on notes discounted. This is the great source of their revenue. You go to the bank and offer your note, payable after a certain lapse of time; if the bank considers you, or your indorsers, good, and believes the note will be paid, the officers will give you the money borne on the face of your note, deducting from it interest for the time the note has to run. This deduction is called the discount. All this appears very fair. We have seen, however, that in the natural order, the borrower and lender meet on equal terms, since they are equally necessary to each other:—You are obliged, nevertheless, to ask the bank to grant you a discount as a favor; you are liable to insult from the bank officials if you happen to be a poor man; you will oftentimes get no discount if you do not belong to some particular political party, or, perhaps, to some particular social clique, or attend some particular church. You will oftentimes be required to leave on deposit in the bank, ten per cent. of what you draw; thus you will be forced to pay illegal interest. The bank has the advantage of you in every way; for you are dealing with a hundred stockholders, who, by combination, have escaped all the effects of competition among themselves, while you stand in your unassisted individual strength;—and your strength is evidently weakness. The bank decides on your claims arbitrarily, and you have no remedy. On your part, you are subject to human feeling; the conduct of the bank toward you may give rise in your heart to hope, fear, joy, or mortification; but, on the part of the bank, there is the insensibility of a body without a soul.
We have said that banks ought to bring the lender and borrower together; but they never perform this office; and here lies the greatest evil of the whole system. It is the stockholder who is the lender; the bank officer is but an agent. The borrower comes to the bank, his mind filled with anxiety; he is thinking of his wife and children, and is depressed in consequence of reflection on the state of his business; he knows he can give good security for all he wishes to borrow, but he fears his offer will be rejected. The lender, instead of meeting this trembling, anxious human being on equal terms as a human being, sends the remorseless engine which is called a bank, to transact the business for him, and in his stead; and the borrower finds himself suddenly, perhaps, in the presence of the infernal powers.
Banks of Discount obtain profits (2d) from deposits. You deposit your money in a bank, and the bank lends your money, and receives interest upon it. All interest received in this way is divided among the stockholders; no part of it is given to you, although you ought to have the whole, (except so much as would pay the officers of the bank for their trouble,) since you bear all the risk. Thus banks obtain profits by receiving interest on your money; they make it at your expense and at your risk.
Banks of Discount obtain profits (3d) from exchanges. But it is difficult to see how any money can be made in this way if no recourse is had to fraud. The rate of exchange can never rise above the cost of the transportation of specie, including the insurance: if the bank charges more than this, with perhaps a slight addition to pay for the trouble, it charges too much. But banks sometimes make money by the following method:—You go to the bank and ask a discount on your note: you are answered that the bank cannot spare any money, but that you can have a draft on some specified city: you know that exchange is against that city, and that you will be obliged to sell the draft at a loss if you take it: nevertheless, you take it, because you are pushed for money. Thus the bank charges you interest to the full amount, although it knows the draft to be not worth what it purports on its face to be worth. Perhaps the bank refuses to discount for you if you do not consent to pay some artificial rate of exchange. Perhaps an agent of the bank follows you into the street, and buys back the draft at a discount, so that no transaction in exchange really takes place at all.
Banks can add nothing to the capital of a country; though they may augment the private fortunes of those interested in them. Banks enable the lenders to live without working. If there were no banks, the capitalist would become acquainted with the laborer to whom he lends money: he would be obliged to understand the order of business: he would naturally seek out and encourage industrious and honest laborers, giving them facilities, for thus he would increase and secure his own income. By being interested in a great many operations, he would become capable of giving advice and instruction to artisans and mechanics, and thus he would be perhaps the most useful member of the community; thus all would be enabled to labor to a more effectual purpose. If there were no banks, the capitalist would unfold his hands, would become human, would have a feeling for common accidents and infirmities: he would no longer isolate himself from mankind; he would no longer feel that no evil could come near him; he would no longer make it his pride to cultivate a patrician haughtiness calculated to give him an immediate ascendancy over all who approach him. But the capitalist is now so secure, he is so well protected by the banking system, that nothing can come near him without his permission. He has no favor to ask of any one, and every body has favors to ask of him. His merit is considered so great by the human race, because he accumulated a fortune in some past time, that he receives (what Socrates demanded for himself) a support at the public expense. He is never called upon to spend a dollar of the fortune he accumulated; he is never called upon to raise his hand for any useful purpose; he is never called upon to exert his mind to look narrowly after his affairs; on the contrary, an arrangement is made by which the public indirectly pay the officers of a bank for furnishing him semiannually, without trouble or anxiety to himself, with a certain amount of money, in a fixed proportion to the fortune he is not called upon to spend; and he lives upon the money which he thus receives, so long as he condescends to exist among men upon the surface of the earth.
We think we are justified in drawing the conclusion that banks operate, practically, to enable the few to bring the many under tribute. So far as the community is concerned, banks do, in practice, cover nothing but conspiracies and combinations to defraud the public. No: the word defraud is too severe; for the stockholders in the banks are as honest as the common run of men; nevertheless, we know of no other English word which properly characterises the practical operation of the banking system.
But to proceed with our remarks a bank may issue bills to the amount of its whole capital, and the bill-holders be perfectly safe. Indeed, they may be doubly secured. First, there is specie enough in the vaults of the bank to redeem all the bills, and, secondly, the bills were issued in exchange for notes by which responsible individuals bound themselves to pay sums of money to the bank, equivalent to the value they received in bank bills. No bank bill can honestly get into circulation, except in exchange for a note binding the person who receives it from the bank for its amount. Now it is found that a bank can issue bills to a far greater extent than the value of the specie in its vaults, and still redeem every bill, at sight, in specie. For, while one person presents a bill and demands specie, some other person will probably be depositing specie in the bank: besides, it is almost impossible that the bills would all require to be paid at the same instant. From these reasons combined, it is evident that the bank may, without violating its obligation to redeem its bills in specie at sight, issue a larger amount of them than it contains specie in its vaults. Every bank which thus issues its bills to an amount greater than that of the specie in its vaults, is called a Bank of Circulation. If it keeps within the amount of the specie it has on hand, it is not a bank of circulation, for its bills are mere specie checks. We are under the impression that banks in this State, have the power of issuing bills to the extent of two and a half times their capital.
All this, again, presents a very fair appearance, as indeed everything does connected with the system of banking; but what are the facts? First of all, the banks seldom have more than one fifth part of their capital on hand in specie; and therefore they would find it impossible to fulfill the solemn promises borne on their bills, if there should be a run upon them for specie, for a single day. But this is a very common place criticism; let us examine the matter more carefully.
Money is a commodity whose value is regulated like that of every other commodity, by the ratio of the supply to the demand. Gold and silver possess a value which is determined by the relation of the supply of the precious metals to the demand for them in the market of the world. When gold and silver become scarce in any country, the demand for them increases; their price rises; a given quantity of the precious metals will buy more of other commodities than it would have done before the rise; that is, the prices of other commodities fall. Merchants, finding the prices of commodities to be less at home than abroad, will export their goods, exchanging them for the precious metals: thus gold and silver will be imported, and this importation will continue until the currency of the country is restored to the level of the currency of the world. The cheapest commodity is always exported; if the precious metals are cheapest, merchants exchange their goods for them, and send the specie to some market where it will command a better price; and there they exchange it for commodities which command a good price at home. Where there is no tampering with the currency, the balance of trade takes care of itself. But if some of our banks once issue bills to an amount beyond the amount of specie in their vaults, the dollar immediately falls in value, because there is more than the proper amount of money in the country. Money becomes the cheapest commodity, and is of course, immediately exported. But what sort of money is it that is exported? bank bills?—Not at all. Bank bills are worth little or nothing in the market of the world. It is the gold and silver, therefore, which is exported. As soon as a quantity of specie is exported sufficient to cause a reinstatement of the value of money, the banks issue more bills, and a further exportation of specie takes place. At last, the currency of the country is composed entirely of paper, with the exception of the small quantity of gold and silver which is requisite for the purposes of making change. The banks are careful always to have bills enough in circulation to keep money plenty; that is, to keep gold and silver cheap. Thus the banks protect themselves against all foreign competition; for the foreigner cannot afford to bring his silver dollar into a market where it will at once depreciate in value. Do you say, that we go too far, that we affirm a power in the banks which they do not possess in relation to this exclusion of foreign competition? Do you say that the value of money is determined by the rate of interest it bears, and that the debasement of the currency, by the issue of bank bills, does not therefore exclude foreign competition ? We ask, then, what explanation you give of the remarkable fact that capitalists obtain only two and three per cent. interest for their money in Europe, while they might receive six per cent. for it here, and yet that they never enter our market in competition with the banks? The foreigner, it is true, sometimes invests money in our banks; but does he ever compete with them? We confess that the discount the foreigner is obliged to pay, when he brings his dollar into the market, is not directly charged, and that the process of the extortion is not evident at first sight. The foreigner brings his money, if he brings it all, in gold and silver, and loans it out at six per cent. interest, say on six month's notes. As soon as the money goes out of his hands, it leaves the country, because specie is at a premium for exportation. When the six months expire, his debtors pay him all they owe him, with the interest; but in what do they pay him? in gold and silver? Not at all: they pay him in the local currency of the country; they pay him in the bills of the banks of issue; and these banks, from that moment forward, grind him between their millstones, even as they do the rest of the community. He has a large claim against the banks; he presents it, and demands specie: if the banks are alarmed by the amount of the claim, they suspend specie payments. The sympathy of the public is altogether on the side of the banks; for was not the suspension brought on by the necessity of contending against foreign capital? The people are innocent, and believe whatever the banks tell them. They seldom reflect that every dollar brought into the country creates the competition among capitalists, thus raising the rate of wages, and benefiting the working man. Specie payments are however, seldom suspended to protect the banks against foreign capital; for the foreigner knows his own interest, and is too wise to exchange his specie for paper promises.
Let us sum up the results of our investigation. 1. Capitalists, by combining with each other to form a bank, destroy competition among themselves. 2. Through the power of their organization, they bear with their united weight upon every individual with whom they have dealings. On the side of the bank, there is a small army, well equipped, well officered, and well disciplined; on the side of the community, there is a large, undisciplined crowd, without arms, and without leaders. Society is a contest between a large number of sheep who are entirely disconnected with each other, and a small number of wolves who meet every Saturday afternoon to confer upon the internal affairs of the common lupine interest. 3. But the capitalists are not satisfied yet; they have protected themselves in every possible way against competition among themselves; but they are afraid that some one will come in from without to compete with them and lower the rate of interest. They therefore petition the legislature, and obtain permission to exert a power which ought never to be exercised by the government itself. Do they ask permission to coin money? No; they are not so modest as that: they ask permission to create paper money that shall be equivalent to specie; they ask the privilege of having it recognised that a piece of paper coming from their hands, shall be worth as much as a silver dollar coming from the hands of any other person. After thus debasing the currency, they have no longer anything to fear from competition.
Now the banks have everything in their hands. They make great issues, and money becomes plenty; that is, all other commodities become dear. Then the capitalist sells what he has to sell, while prices are high. The banks draw in their issues, and money becomes scarce, that is, all other commodities become cheap. The community is distressed for money, individuals are forced to sell property to raise money—and to sell at a loss on account of the state of the market: then the capitalist buys what he desires to buy, while everything is cheap. The banks have control over every dollar in every private man's pocket; for, by a large issue, it can make money plenty, and thus diminish the value of money throughout the community. The capitalist trades for the dollar which is in the pocket of the private man, and receives it from him at its depreciated value. Immediately the bank draws in its issues, and the value of money is increased; but the dollar is now in the hands of the capitalist, who sells it to his former owner at its increased value. The operation of the banking system is evident; it is said, nevertheless, that banks are established for the convenience of the community!
THE REPEAL OF THE USURY LAWS.
All usury laws appear to be arbitrary and unjust. The rent paid for the use of lands and houses is freely determined in the contract between the landlord and tenant; freight is settled by the contract between the ship owner, and the person hiring of him; profit is determined in the contract of purchase and sale: but when we come to interest on money, all principles seem suddenly to change; here the government intervenes, and says to the capitalist, "You shall, in no case, take more than six per cent. interest on the amount of principal loaned: if competition among capitalists brings down the rate of interest to three, two, or one per cent., you have no remedy; but if, on the other hand, competition between borrowers forces that rate up to seven, eight, or nine per cent., you are prohibited, under severe penalties, from taking any advantage of the rise." Where is the morality of this restriction? So long as the competition of the market is permitted to operate without legislative interference, the charge for the use of capital in any of its forms, will be properly determined by the contract between the capitalists and the person with whom he deals. If the capitalist charges too much, the borrower obtains money at the proper rate from some other person. If the borrower is unreasonable, the capitalist refuses to part with his money; and money can always be invested somewhere, for there is always a demand for capital. If lands, houses, bridges, canals, boats, wagons, are abundant in proportion to the demand for them, the charge for the use of them will be proportionally low: if they are scarce, it will be proportionally high. Upon what ground can you justify the legislature in making laws to restrict a deserving class of capitalists, depriving them invidiously of the benefit which they would naturally derive from a system of unrestricted competition? If a man owns a sum of money, he must not lend it for more than six per cent. interest; but he may buy houses, lands, ships, wagons, with it, and these he may freely let out at fifty per cent. if he can find any person willing to pay that rate! Is not the distinction drawn by the legislature arbitrary--and therefore unjust? A man wishes to obtain certain lands, wagons, &c., and applies to you for money to buy them with; you can lend the money for six per cent. interest, and no more; but you can purchase the articles the man desires, and let them out to him at any rate of remuneration upon which you mutually agree. Every sound argument in favor of the intervention of the legislature to fix by law the charge for the use of money, bears with equal force in favor of legislative intervention to fix by law the rent of lands and houses, the freight of ships, the hire of horses and carriages, or the profit on merchandise sold. We conclude, therefore, that legislative interference fixing the rate of interest by law, is impolitic and unjust.
But let logic have her perfect work. If one arbitrary act of legislature is impolitic and unjust, every other similar legislative act is equally impolitic, equally unjust. Suppose the usury laws were repealed to-day, would justice prevail tomorrow? By no means. The government says to me, "I leave you and your neighbor to compete with each other: fight out your battles among yourselves; I will have nothing more to do with your quarrels." I act upon this hint of the legislature, I enter into competition with my [...]
The term Plutocracy occurs in the Democratic State Address: it is derived from the words Plutus (the god of wealth, mammon) and keateo, (to hold, or govern); and signifies a government of wealth. An aristocracy is a government by a privileged class; a democracy is a government by the people; a plutocracy is an organization f society in which the government is administered by, and for the advantage of, the wealthy classes of the community. A Plutocracy is a Mammonocracy.
On the bureau of the English house of Commons, there is a sacramental book, a political Gospel, which expresses the thought upon which the whole governmental policy of England is founded: that book is the "Spirit of the Laws," by Montesquieu. Why have the English adopted this French book for their political Gospel? Let us open the book, and read!
"There are always"--says Montesquieu, Esprit des Lois, liv. XI, ch.6--"in a State, certain persons distinguished by birth, wealth, or honors. But if they are confounded among the people, and if they have only the same vote which other men possess, the common liberty would be their slavery; and they would have no interest to defend this liberty, because the greater portion of the resolutions would be against them. The part therefore which they have in the legislation, ought to be in proportion to the other advantages they have in the State; which will happen if they form a body having the right to arrest the enterprises of the people, as the people has the right to arrest theirs. Thus the legislative power will be confided to the body of the Nobles, and to the body which will be chosen to represent the people, and these bodies will assemble apart, and have separate views, and interests." This is Montesquieu's formula of the government of England, a formula whose accuracy is acknowledged by the English themselves.
The government of England is not built up on the idea of right, but on the fact of the unjust distribution of rank, wealth, and honor, which now obtains; and it has for aim and purpose, the perpetuation of the present injustice though all coming generations:--the government of England is therefore an aristocracy.
The English constitution does not recognise equality, but, on the contrary, consecrates inequality; it does not recognise virtue, but consecrates privilege:--the government of England is therefore, an tyranny.
The principle of the English Constitution organises the national power in favor of money, and not in favor of money, and not in favor of man:--the government of England is, therefore, a Plutocracy.
The English government is founded on privilege and on inequality; and its artifice consists in giving to the privileged classes a part in legislation proportionate to the other privileges they possess in the State.
The English government may be defined as being a Tyranny--Aristocracy--Plutocracy; one and indivisible, and yet triple: it is three in one, and one in three, and they mystery of iniquity.
If our Constitution ever degenerates, it will be by becoming gradually conformed to that of England. It will become first Plutocratic, and then Aristocratic; for Plutocracy paves the way for Aristocracy, even as Aristocracy paves the way for Tyranny.
The Plutocrats are they who desire to see the right of voting guarded (as they say) by a property qualification, in order that holders of property may have a part in legislation proportionate to the other advantages they possess in the State. The Plutocrats are they who are opposed to the Secret Ballot, because the secret ballot would take from them the power of intimidating dependent voters, and thus take from them the part in legislation proportionate to the other advantages in the State, which they now possess.
A rich man, even if he possesses millions of dollars, is not for that reason a Plutocrat; but he becomes a Plutocrat so soon as he endeavors to seize upon political power proportionate to the advantages he possesses in other respects.