Fourth Quarterly Festival of the Philadelphia Union of Associationists
FOURTH QUARTERLY FESTIVAL
OF THE PHILADELPHIA UNION OF ASSOCIATIONI6T8.
The regular festivity of this Union took place on the 30th ult. About seventy persons were present on that occasion, among whom were noticed many strangers, attracted thither, probably, by the social atmosphere of the place.
This Union was organized in April, 1847. It has grown to its present stature without effort and indeed, against some discouragements, necessarily thrown in the way of individuals, who, however worthy, were not of the stamp essential to maintain the character of the Union. When it was organized dullness and insipidity reigned supreme in th« city of Quakers. A thick scum had gathered on the surface of society, unbroken from the stillness of the waters. The only ray of light that broke the horizon, was the socialist society, then so called which was actively at work demolishing existing institutions, social, political and religious. But from the prejudice existing against it, that society wielded little influence.
Since the Associationists have commenced presenting their views of society, more attention has been paid to it. The French revolution brought the subject prominently forward, and excited inquiry in relation to it. The consequence is, that socialism has become a common topic in the city of Brotherly Love, and people are fast making up their minds for or against it.
This, though a brief, is deemed a fair history of the origin and progress of the cause in Philadelphia, and it may be remarked, that circumstances have conspired to place the Philadelphia Uniou in a much more prominent position before the public than was at first anticipated. Fortunately it has the talent and the inherent strength necessary for the emergency.
The recent festival was conducted by a committee of which Mr. Alexander Harrison was chairman, and was managed with that case and tact for which that gentleman is distinguished. The exercises consisted of short addresses interspersed with music. The heavier artillery of the Uuion, comprising Drs. Elder, Lazarus and others, was not employed on this occasion from an apprehension that too much sameness would characterize the festival. The addresses were, therefore, assigned to Mr. Jas. Sellers, Mr. Geo. Bayne and Mr. J. Rehn.
Too much credit cannot be awarded the ladies, whose good taste and management presided over the arrangement of the Hall, and the distribution of the refreshments. Uuder the auspicious, the irksomeness of a public demonstration was entirely removed, and each felt as free and happy as if the occasion were merely a meeting of intimate friends.
By a remarkable coincidence, the speakers severally selected sentiments in nearly the same words :
By Mr. Sellers.—The present and the future.
By Mr. Bayne.—The present as the promise of the future.
By Mr. Rehn.—The present and consummate future. Notwithstanding this apparent similarity of subject, each occupied a field of his own.
The exercises commenced with a vocal trio, with piano aocompanaments, which was neatly exeouted by Mr. A. W. Harrison, Mr. Samuel Sartain, and Mr. W. R. Harrison.
Mr. Jas. Sellers then addressed the Union on the religious aspects of society, is their relation to the future realization of association, but we were unable to obtain a copy of his remarks, to be published with this report.
The address was followed by a vocal duet, by Mr. A. W. Harrison and Mr. E. S. Smith. This was well received; after which the second sentiment was read, to which Mr. Geo. Bayne responded nearly as follows:
The Present.—The promise of the future.
It was the remark of a German writer, that "every human opinion or belief, to be maintained, must possess the power of establishing its own supramacy. It must predomminate or perish."
The affinity of the human mind is for truth. Error is the result of ignorance. Truth is eternal. It is a necessity of existence. It is founded in the fitness of things ; and must ultimately survive all shocks and triumph over every delusion.
The Baconian philosophy may be said to have ushered in a new day. It suggested for the first time, a probable connection between matter and mind. Reasoning from facts, it developed principles, and having these to light the way, science has grown into a system of real knowledge, imperfect, it is true, in many of its parts, yet to the higest value in the details of every day life. The error underlaying the ancient philosophy,
is its pure intellectuality. It had no material vase. It was a pyramid invested. The crowning glory of the modern philosophy is, that it reigns with matter and ends with spirit. It does not despise crude earth. On the contrary, it freely confesses, that its errors arise chiefly from an imperfect knowledge of earth, its wants, its laws, its destiny.
We assume that the present contains the germ and promise of the future. But at no earlier period of the modern world, would this have been true. Tho degree of divergence from the true path of progress, depends upon the end had in view. If the object be too high, we shall stumble over the facts of earth at every step, and fall at last into some unlooked for quagmire. If too low we become mere animals, having no relation to psychological or spiritual existence.
The starting point of nations has usually been war and military renown, ending, of course, in the slavery of one portion of the race and profligacy of the rest. Keeping this fact in mind, it may be observed, that at various periods in ancient history was Association as attainable as at the present time, had public attention taken that direction. The human race has underwent many revolutions. It has often before in detached portions, emerged from barbarism into civilization, and this too, to a point at which it would be extremely hazardous to fix a limit. The raging of Solomon that " there is nothing now under the sun" yet remains to be refuted. With all duo deference to our great author, Fourier, I feel bound, therefore to reject his supposition of a gradual growth of humanity from Eden ism, upward.
Only within the present century has general attention been directed to the pursuits of industry, and to the influence exerted by institutions and laws on human affairs. The consequence has been a rapid material progress throughout the civilized world, in science, in art, in agriculture. The American continent especially has partaken largely of this progress, and seems destined to be the ground on which the problem of society is to be solved. It is said that on the discovery of the Island of Cowos, in 1460, there was found tho statue made of burnt clay, of a man on horseback, he had a cloak on, but no covering on his head : his left hand was on his horses mane, his right pointing to the West! There were some letters rudely carved on the lower rock, but no explanation could be obtained of them. He seemed to point out America as the land of hope and promise.
We have what will be conceded, on comparison with other governments, an improved political system. The divine right of King's, is a doctrine, whioh, so far as we are concerned he passed away for ever. Unlike the varying character of monarchic institutions, we have what is termed a constitutional government, recognizing as its basis, and being organizad for no other purpose than to secure to each and all the rights pertaining to intelligent beings. In tho United States, at least, certain political principles have been reached, and established against all peradventure. They are unchangeable.
I know how common it is, among Associatiunists, to undervalue political institutions as they now exist, as compared with the great system which they propose to establish. But I must reason on things as they are, not as they ought to be. Our sympathy for tho French, the Italians and Hungarians, in their struggles for liberty was a spontaneous impulse, based upon the admitted evils to which they were subject, as compared with ourselves. And wc can hardly go amiss, when a tyrant was heard to say, as was the Emperor of Austria. " I shall oppose with a will of iron the progress of liberal principles in my empire.
But not merely in the political sphere, used in its most general sense, but in the social sphere, also, do we find the constructive tendency in a state of development. As a proof of it take the serial arrangement happily adopted for local and municipal purposes,—the village, the town, the city, the county, the State. Each is sovereign in certain essential particulars. Those who object to the scheme of Association, are bound in consistency to denounce all local combinations, as they certainly are open to the charge of being merely an enlargement of the same plan. It may be said that the construction of bridges, roads and canals, the lighting, cleaning and paving of the streets, the building and repair of wharves, arc matters of public security. But why so, except it would be too inconvenient and expensive for every one to do it for himself ? Here then we have the unitary principle distinctly recognized. Our corporators would find it no easy task to divorce themselves from concern in the industry of the people, were they so disposed, and I apprehend, this difficulty will increase from year to year. Should the movement take place here, that is now going on in Paris, an organized city is not a very improbable or very distant event.
The State assumes it, as an axiom, that popular education is essential to the preservation of republican institutions. It goes out of the way in some instances, to invade the private circle and compel the children to attend the schools, whether the parent be willing or not, because, it is contended, the state is supreme and cannot lightly regard the integrity of its own existence.
For this advance, we feel truly grateful. It is tantamount to an admission, that the State has duties to perform in relation to her citizens, besides the mere negative obligation of catching the thief after the robbery is committed. It is not impossible, that it may some day discover that its interest requires each chili to be created industrially as well as intellectually. It may take upon itself the unusual task of computing the expense of judges, juries and prisons and the results of them, as compared with the portable cost of a system of agricultural schools, and the results which might be anticipated in the way of the prevention of crime, and the improvement of the waste lands of the State. There is no greater scandal in existence, then those dens of pollution, which we find in every county, in the shape of prisons. It remains for the most able advocates of them, to show the first particle of good produced by them. Are they not usually tenanted by the same individuals from year to year, who become old offenders merely because they can find no better place to move in than the jail or penitentiary?
When an enlightened public opinion shall be brought to bear upon this subject, our political hacks may be compelled to give more attention to the public interest, and less to ther own, and then there will be really no predicting the good that may follow.
This lack of an industrial eduoation, in connection with the intellectual, is the source of countless miseries. It produces a superabundance of lawyers, doctors and ministers, all miseries themselves, and the cause of miseries in others. Without law, roguery would not be productive ; without medicine and devinity, disease and siu would not be so obstinate. Au excess of tinkering aggravates them all. There is one good result, however, arises from this one sided education. It makes the honest workman restive under oppression , it arms him with the knowledge of his true position ; and confers the power of asserting it. Not the least exciting topic to be discussed hereafter will be the right to labor, and the right to the soil, and the right of the laborer to the product of bis labor, against all t he world.
Considerations, such as these, induce me to believe, that society. in the C. S. is on the right track, that taking the present as the basis of judgment for the future, the nineteenth century will not go out, without witnessing great social changes; not produced by violence ; not the result of nasty and destructive measures, but by the silent working of ideas in the popular mind, conjoined with the material necessities which are pressing themselves upon it. Society has the law of being. It will assert its supremacy in duo time. Herein is the proof of the doctrine whether it be of heaven or of man. The Social law is founded in the fitness of things, as much as the moral law. it is just as much a necessity of true existence, as air to the lungs and food to the body. It is a movement which is destined to succeed alike without as with a plan, though it be through fields of blood, and years of suffering, on the part of the mass of the people.
The religious feature of the associative enterprise has not been much dwelt on, while it is one of great importance. We have no creed but humanity. We acknowledge no faith that does not comprehend works. Our duties arc those of moral and intelligent beings having relation to our fellow man.
How then can we countenance, by mingling with it, the chicanery and duplicity of existing society? Is it not the duty of all who value their moral obligations to "come out from it and be separate," working as best they may, to build up some system whereby existing evils may be remedied ?
I believe the day will come when the whole system of brokerage and exchange, as now carried on will be classed with robbery, when our present commerce shall be deemed swindling ; and those who cheat the laborer out of his full share of the product of his industry, as Shylocks, who value their pound of flesh for its own sake, regardless of all sentiments of right or humanity.
But I have extended my remarks too far already.
A vocal duet was then performed, and the third sentiment having been read, Mr. J. Rehn, made the following remarks.
(Those shall appear in the next number.)