Method of Transition for the Consideration of the True Friends of Human Rights and Human Progress

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Joshua King Ingalls

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Joshua King Ingalls, "Method of Transition for the Consideration of the True Friends of Human Rights and Human Progress," The Spirit of the Age, I, 25 (December 22, 1849), 385-387.




The ground is now generally conceded by those who seek a change in our social order, that the monopoly of the soil and currency, resulting in rent and usance, are the main, if not the only obstacles of an external nature to a scientific and harmonious reorganization of society. Attempts to realize association, subject to these exactions, have resulted in failure. To succeed with them would only serve to prolong and intensify the reign of Mammon. But the question still arises, What must be done? Shall we wait till legislation or revolution ha removed these obstacles? Legislation moves slow in curtailing the prerogatives of wealth, and prefers the other course. Revolution may be long delayed, or come like the tornado, sweeping away much good as well as evil. Besides, revolution may be prevented and legislation hastened, by our own example in commencing the work ourselves practically. And there is no way to do this, but to begin at the beginning. To do this there is needed but a little self-sacrifice on the part of a score or two of individuals. And when I think how much is suffered and expended for nominal philanthropic objects, I cannot believe that the individuals will be wanting.

The land, sufficient to commence with, can be had gratuitously. Then all that is wanted is a few families who are willing to migrate, and, in company, subject themselves to hardships which thousands of families do every year, alone. As there will be no capital to build a mansion at first, the working of the plan will be early developed, in the alacrity with which they will co-operate in the construction of log cabins. By beginning at the commencement but little capital will be needed. And what was not possessed by the individuals could be obtained without interest. Some two or three hundred dollars to each family would be enough. Not that we would refuse the advantages of capital if capital could be satisfied with a return of value for value, a simple conservation of its worth. But it cannot be ever admitted as tyrant and extortioner, for this is the thing which makes existing society intolerable, and which we seek to remedy.

By proper exertions and economy the products of our industry will enable us to employ labor-saving machinery in a short time, provide for the thorough education of all our children, and, when outward and internal arrangements are completed, rear ourselves a unitary and commodious building. Association will then be allowed to develop itself under the most favorable circumstance for its purity and simplicity. For in this organization labor will be free, and soon will be made in respect to the riches or poverty of any one. "Every man will be rewarded according to his work." A mutual guaranty will be provided for the attendance of the sick, the support of the aged and the infirm, and the support and education of the young. By co-operating with organized commerce, we should be able almost entirely to separate ourselves from the system of imposture and extortion, which now goes under the name of business. Embracing mechanics and manufactures in our numbers, we could commence operations in different branches of industry, as wisdom suggested and the successful elaboration of capital allowed. As capital would be permitted only a conservation, it would become invested in the most useful business, and of course in the most safe, whereas if per centage were allowed, it would be invested as now, where it could extort the most, without reference to the justice or utility of the operation.

Thus will a demonstration be given to the world, that labor is adequate to its own employment, and that none need longer submit to the tyranny and exactions of the swindler and speculator in the products of others toil. The example would be speedily followed by others who would break away from the slavery of wages, and assert their independence of capital. Men of wealth who wish well to mankind, would bestow land for similar objects, and invest capital with a simple security for its due return. And thus a foundation would be laid for a quiet and peaceful transition from a state of industrial feudalism to one of fraternal and equitable co-operation. The power of wealth to oppress would gradually diminish, and the foes of Reform left without weapons either to oppose it or longer oppress man.

Bu the organization would be enabled to prosecute the change by active co-operation with the movements out of the body. It might hold the donation of land as a debt to humanity, and so by extending its own domain, or freeing another of corresponding worth, facilitate the emancipation of as many more, transmitting thus the obligation, till the laws of the land made the earth as free as the air or sunshine. Through the medium of Protective Unions, Land Reform, and Mechanics' Organizations, there might be established in almost every place a fund for freeing the earth from monopoly, and enabling persons elected by such organization to "go out and possess the land." As in their improved condition, they would soon be enabled to return the money, the land would increase, and this enable increasing numbers to avail themselves of its assistance, This would react favorably on the condition of such as remained. The competition for wages and tenements would decrease, while the demand for labor would not be lessened. Thus better wages and lower rents would be the immediate benefit.

If in a manufacturing village, there are a dozen workmen in one branch, while there is only a permanent demand for ten of them, the two superfluous hands must underbid in order to get employment at all. Then they must overbid in order to secure a dwelling. But suppose the twelve would contribute to a fund to aid the settlement of such upon the land as might be mutually agreed upon, to join the practical Association, or settle in townships on the individual principle, subject to Land Reform restrictions, then, in the course of a year or so, they might aid the two to migrate, who in a few years more would be able to return the loan to be added to the accumulating fund, and thus the process go on, until labor could be organized under the very walls of monopoly. The working-classes, seeing the practical operation of emancipation, its equal justice and entire success, would no longer ask what measures were best for them, or doubt as to whom were to be trusted. But abandoning their blind servility to party and sect, would leave the base impostures under which they now suffer without a foundation to rest upon.

The association of capital for the purposes of industry and humanity once commence on just and mutual principles, and demonstrated as practical, there would follow a movement unparalleled in the history of Man. Again Crusades and a Holy War would be preached, and the glory and chivalry of the nations rush to the fields of industry, where service to humanity would determine the degree of honor and authority conferred on each. The bitterest foes of progress and most selfish worldlings would then beg the guaranty to preserve from decay and diminution of value the very wealth they now glory in as a means to extort profit, rent and usury from the plunder of the toiling.

But, to return to the organization, it would be enable by commencing without capital to keep free fro arbitary conditions and influences. The voice of Labor, of Man only would be heeded. Thus some difficulties in the science might be determined by practical tests, to which, at least, indeed, all science must be brought. The members would not be compelled to associate any farther or faster than they discovered an internal attraction, and external fitness. An Association growing up thus free and gradual, would undoubtedly present a true model, and the only question is as to its success. This is the great point, and to it let us direct our attention.

Success depends mainly on two things: on the practicability of the thing to be done, and the fitness and capacity of the agent employed. Is the plan capable of being realized? Let us consider all the difficulties that are likely to arise: To go out, construct suitable dwelling, and provide ourselves with food and clothing. Is this so difficult a matter as to preclude a rational consideration? Do not thousands and tens of thousands migrate to the West, to California, &c., under circumstance far more adverse? Do not many individual go alone with their families, and almost destitute of means, settle in the wilderness, pay for their land, and in a few years become comparatively wealthy? Would not a number be able to succeed as well with perseverance? Much of the loneliness and suffering connected with the isolation certainly would be obviated. Production could be greatly facilitated by combined operations, and many of the comforts and enjoyments of society could be realized from the first. Our school, reading-room, and some other arrangements could be mad unitary at once, and the rest as fast as we became prepared. Interest and rent being unknown, who would question the ability of any man of ordinary industry and prudence to meet his obligations? The inducing cause of all failure and bankruptcy avoided, what should prevent success? But it may be replied, that people cannot be found to unite on such a basis; that unless advantage is given to present wealth, or what may be accumulated in the association hereafter, neither the rich nor poor will be induced to join. From this remark, however, must be excepted those individuals who are informed with regard to the rights of man and property, and who are willing to be governed by equal and just principles. The very thing, then, that will retard our initiatory movement, will prove its permanent salvation. As none will come into it who are seeking selfish ends, no danger will be encountered from the scheming or disruptive, from the ambitious and refractory. As the general good—in harmony with strict justice to all—will be the moving principle, confusion of aims and tendencies need not be feared. As self-sacrifice and persevering toil will be exacted of all, none disposed to shrink from useful industry or to share the avails of labor they will not share, will be attracted or remain, to create jealousies or discontent. And when it is remembered how much self-devotion is now practiced to accomplish objects of questionable philanthropy, to promulgate superficial systems and build up narrow an exclusive institutions, it can hardly be questioned, that in due time a sufficient number with means will be obtained, to give the first impulse to a movement which will regenerate the world, turn aside the dark clouds of impending revolution, and speed the realization of truly democratic social institutions, n the place of that system of partisan corruption and plunder which now revels in our political organizations.

The beauty of this movement consists in the fact, that not number or wealth are necessay to its success. Only true hears and persevering hands are requisite. In the Shaker communities the thing has already been demonstrated. Had they left out a strange religious infatuation, they would ere now have the whole aspect of business and society. It is not necessary to wait till political parties take up our measures, or capitalists subscribe "two hundred thousand dollars to our stock." If Association is not able to move without these, the working-man has little interest in it. With political favor, with capital in hand, persons can get along well enough without Association. If it be not able to do something for man without these and in spite of them, let us follow it no longer as the thought of the age; let us turn to something better, that will enable the industrious poor to take care of themselves, as well as teach the wealthy how to live to the best advantage.

The peculiar form of organization cannot now be given in detail. Much must be left to the combined wisdom of the body after it is organized, and which will undoubtedly be developed with the progress of life and elaboration of means. The individual who shall be agreed on the great principles of Man's freedom, equality, and brotherhood, who acknowledge the indubitable right of labor to its whole product of property, to a comprehensive guaranty of conservation, and the general truths promulgated by the social school, have only to come together, fully understand each other, and the thing is done. First agriculture, then mechanics and manufactures, and then trade, finance, and commerce must feel the force of a combined mutualism, which will only pay the expense of replenishing the soil and keeping good the improvement, the wear and tear of machinery, the actual cost of transportation and delivery, and of keeping the account of loan and deposite. In some such way the movement must be made, if the blessings of a social reorganization are to be realized in our day. If left alone the world will ultimately arrange itself after the divine plan, but then what immeasurable suffering might be saved to the race, by demonstrating practically what we know to be the right principles, in the place of leaving the world to learn by such horrible experience as poor Ireland and other nations are passing through at the present time.

Whoever are inclined to aid or join a movement of the description above, are invited to correspond with the writer. A meeting will be called in New-York some time during the winter and preliminaries agreed upon, and perhaps the location determined. Any information respecting location, or suggestions with regard to the movement will be cheerfully received, and such explanation as are desired will be readily communicated.

J. K. Ingalls

Southington, Conn.