The Substance of a Lecture delivered at New-Harmony, on Sunday, May 26th. 1826
For the New-Harmony Gazette,
The Substance of a Lecture delivered at New-Harmony, on Sunday, May 26th. 1826.
By Paul Brown.
The great stumbling-block in the entrance of men's speculations on a community (so called) or a new system of society in which they promise themselves an enfranchisement from the hardships, the anxieties, the disappointments, in short most of the evils adjunct to their accustomed institutes and old way of living, is, that they lay their account with deriving their happiness from the identical sources peculiarly afforded by the institutes which they abandon. They seem to think they shall inherit all the pleasures, and the same sorts of pleasures, and none of the pains, adherent to the old constitution of society, at the same time that they reckon upon changing the very structure of society and constituting it on entirely different principles, being a new system of reciprocal relations of individuals. All this is frustraneous. This proceeds from illusory and inadequate conceptions of those principles. They seem not to have considered them thoroughly, nor to have investigated the reasons or the truth of them; not to have traced out their necessary connection with the conclusions to be logically deduced from them;—but, in making their inferences, they fall into error; and directly return into the dull circle of their calculations of individual interest in which they were educated. In consequence whereof, they remain incompetent to apply those principles beneficially to practice.
Those fantastical and illiberal enjoyments which are continually objects of pursuit under the old exclusive individual arrangements of society, and are there invariable stimulants of contention and envy, have no place in a pure commonwealth. All refinement of social enjoyment, must proceed from the cultivation of sympathy. That sort of pleasure which is derived from the idea of being thought superior to others in the opportunity or means of comfort, leisure, possession of costlier or finer clothes, furniture, more commodious habitations, &c. cannot be enjoyed in a community. Therefore the pride of appearance, pride of power, dominion, or influence, cannot have place in any persons that are fit members of a community.—Any such as have their delight in these things, cannot be sincere members of a community.
The essence of a community, is common property. All matters of possession are in a common stock.—There is a common inclusive inheritance of the uses of things by all the members, for supplying every one's wants and necessities—Reason being the constant guide of all appropriations; and the sole umpire in cases of doubt. All persons should be ready to yield to the decisions of reason. Therefore the young should be taught to reason. They should be taught moral reasoning—taught to reason on moral modes and relations—the relations in which individuals stand to each other,—their comparative wants, views, capacities, feelings, duties, &c. They should not only be taught mathematics, geometry, ball-playing, card-playing, dancing, and fiddling; but they should be taught to reason, and that accurately; and to habitually follow reason. In a perfect community all transferable and impersonal things are held in common stock. All persons have equal privileges and opportunities of enjoyment. It is a community of goods. Now some goods may be common, and not all. Such is not an absolute or perfect community. In a perfect community, all sorts of good are common. All the goods in the community are common and equally accessible to all persons belonging to it, without a single exception: Whether it be bread, cloth, brooms, baskets, tea, wino, milk, land, houses, cider, or fruit,—whatsoever is produced or procured by the labor of the community, every one should have equal access to the use of it according to his necessities. Where goods are not common stock, of free and equal access to all, as reason points out their appropriation, is no community. Where one person holds part of his possessions to his name at a distance, another part at his residence, of things he does not need; where another puts in his whole estate into the general stock; where another puts in none of it; and where another, because he has no private property when he comes, and contributes nothing but his labor, lives poorer and coarser than others who were rich, is no community :—it is far enough from a free and equal community—a community of equality—It is a sort of mongrel, between aristocracy and anarchy. Where one has fine carpets, fine curtains, fine and gaudy clothing, fine furniture, fine bedding, elegant and commodious dishes and culinary apparatus, and another has but an iron cup to drink his water out of, rough tables, rough seats, coarse clothing, course lodging, &c—Where one eats eggs, cheese, butter, soups, and confectionary; and another has nothing but bread, and swine flesh;—in short, where the people in any one house live better than those in any other house, as to the quality or proportional quantity of their provisions; we find no such thing as a free republic—no such thing as a community of equality. Also; the people of a free community will participate of the products of their labor in proportion to their wants, whether they treasure any redundance to sell to the world for money or not. If they can make cider, porter, or wine, they will drink it. If they deem it unhealthy they will not make it. If they can procure by means of their labor, nourishing and wholesome provisions, they will eat them.—Those who labor, ought to live as well as any people. If any difference, they ought to live 'better than those who do nothing. At any rate, they ought to have plentiful and nourishing sustenance, if the traveller is entitled to wine or strong beer for his money, he that labors in the community is entitled to it for his labor. For his labor is as good as the traveller's money. Money cannot be better than labor; for it can represent nothing more than what is produced by labor. Use can be made of money by a community in its incipient stage, to procure things of the world, which it cannot produce within itself: But labor' is that which ultimately produces every thing; and it ought to have the precedence. Those who do the labor that produces or procures these things, ought not to be excluded from the use of them: This were to muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. An enlightened and free people will not descend to be mew caterers to the gentry of aristocratical society, who travel and lounge about to gratify their curiosity; and for the sake of their money, crucify their own guts. He that travels the road, does not stand in need of any more wine, or strong beer, or other cordial and nourishing drinks or aliments, than the laborer that labors in the community according to his strength, towards procuring those things, and certainly he does not any more deserve them for his money, than the laborer does for his labor—because his money is of no more value, than the labor of him that labors. The member of the community that labors, as much deserves, porter, wine, cider, tea, eggs, cheese, or whatever is afforded to any one, for hi, labor, as the traveller, deserves them for money. I say, the laborer who is a member of the community, deserves, and is entitled to, every thing that is as good to eat and drink, as the traveller, who is not a member of the community, does for his money. If the majority of a community have that sordidness, to sell all the best of the fruits of their industry, and live miserly themselves, they are not free: and they never can be an intelligent and happy community. They lack that liberality of mind, essential to the invariable object of their professed purpose of the renovation of social institutes which is the highest refinement of social happiness. Few things are more odious to cultivated minds than parsimony and close avaricious calculations to get or save money. Who are they that will consent to live miserable and penurious all the remainder of their lives, in order that their children that come after them may live well when themselves are dead?—A multitude of grocers, shopkeepers, and confectioners, in our cities, have a bountiful provision of delicate and cordial aliments and drinks, which they keep to sell to customers for money, which they never set upon their own tables, but keep themselves and their households upon very coarse fare,—that they may acquire a hoard of money to pay the rent of their houses end maintain a splendid outside show of the fantastical satisfaction of living in a conspicuous situation in a populous city. Thus they are sure to hold in readiness for sale to those that have money, the most expensive and extravagant preparations of luxuries, at the expense of their own guts, and those of their households.
Something like this would be the character of a people who should make a point to sell all their most valuable products for gain, and deny themselves a reasonable supply to sustain the comforts of life. I have known some families allow themselves high feeding on Sundays when they did no labor; and on their working days live as coarse as dogs. Likewise when they had friends visiting them, they were found able to set before these the most costly luxuries; though at all other times their table was that of the most indigent people. I once sojourned at the house of a thrifty Dutchman, whose farm had yielded him a plentiful year's stock of cider; and because he could get eight dollars a barrel for it in cash, he had sold the whole, and not reserved a drop to set upon his own table during the year.
It indicates sure progress in civilization, when the laborer lives upon the very best provisions that are afforded by the labor done upon the estate where he lives.
The people of a free enlightened community will not gage the character of the members merely by the visible effect of each one's efforts; nor by the quantity of their labor: but by their integrity, their stability, their punctuality, and their devotion to the general weal. Their comparative estimate of character will not be graduated precisely by the quantities of labor accomplished by every one in given times; but other circumstances will be taken into view.—One man is not able to labor as many hours in a day in some occupations, or perhaps in any occupation at all, as another is—and yet he may be as good a member of the community, notwithstanding:—and both are equally intitled to a comfortable living.—Nature has made one man strong; and another weak. The one does not merit any thing for his strength; neither does the other deserve any blame, for the want of it. Both the one and the other ought to be esteemed good members in proportion as they are willing to do what is in their power, consistent with the preservation of their health, to advance the common interest. Possibly, one man may not be able to more than four hours in a day; while another, having a strong constitution, can with equal ease accomplish ten hours' labor. Likewise the same person may be unable to effect more than one hours labor in one day, and on another day he is enabled to labor ten hours. The one requires as much clothing and nourishment as the other: and is intitled to them, by the law of nature. More particular regard should be had to the manner in which the work is done, than to the quantity; if a view is had to the estimate of character. The weak man is reckoned a good citizen because he is willing to labor whenever he is able, and to do what he can, to promote, in any way competent to his capacity, the general weal.
Furthermore, the children and all the young part of the population should be bounded and conducted in such a manner as to assimilate them to each as delight in order and tranquility. Otherwise, there will be less satisfaction than among the scattered settlements of general society. For a large number of young collected together in a small compass being clamorous, blustering, and boisterous in their movements must continually irritate the feelings of such as being studious and contemplative, are pleased with whatsoever is mild, gentle, regular, and deliberate. Such recreations as involve vociferation and obstreperousness, should be discountenanced. For if the children be, not only tolerated, but encouraged, in vociferation, violent irregular motions, loud and harsh speaking, "like the piercing of a sword"—fascination, horse laugh, &c., there will evidently be less tranquility than what is found to prevail in some situations under the old system;—and they not only disturb, but they go to form a class by themselves with contrary views and intents from those of the more experienced part of the society. For, those elderly sedate persons, of a meditative cast of mind, who are mostly entertained in the pursuits of wisdom and virtue, are necessarily interested in having all things tranquil around them, in soft and gentle speaking, and amiable and humane deportment of the young:—whereas children and youth that find their habitual entertainment in noisy sorts of sport, uproar, confusion, and absence of all deliberation and reflection, have their interest in the company of those only who approve of such things and acquiesce in them; considering the others as enemies. Now here are two separate classes of persons with distinct and opposite interests. There can be no intimate friendship between these—little or no sympathy: for what communion has tumult with serenity? Here is a manifest discrepance of temperament. This state of things then, is irreconcileable to the idea of a harmonious community. The youth should have their education conducted in such a way as will make them necessarily and unavoidably find their evident interest in things that are propitious to this tranquility and unanimity of the society.
. All those vain and trifling amusements which degrade the minds and misapply the thought of the young, should be discouraged, discountenanced, and suppressed.
We have several reasons why card-playing for amusement, should be wholly suppressed and driven out of repute, in a community.
1. Advert to its origin. Playing-cards were invented expressly for the diversion of a weak-minded monarch, to amuse his vacant hours:—They were invented us a recourse of amusement of (I think) one of the kings of England, in the dark ages, purely to relieve ennui, in the idle and heavy-hanging intervals of his dissipation and vanity. How very proper, then, to be used now to exercise and divert the thoughts of the free born sons and daughters of an enlightened people, (at the present stage of human science) which are capable of so much more elevated entertainments!! It seems to be paying quite too great a compliment to the imbecility and puerility of crowned heads, to perpetuate the use of these baubles.
2. It disturbs the tranquility of contemplative persons who disapprove of so trifling employments of the thoughts of their fellow beings, whereby they are excluded from all rational intercourse. It keeps the mind vacant, and regardless of the feelings of others, it leads on to clamor, and the keeping of late hours. I have known parents with their children sit round a card table the whole night; and with their scrannel uproar, disturb the repose of all the rest of their household. Much more exercise of mind would be found in learning the grammar of their language, and perusing sentimental and scientific books, without intercepting the intercourse with intelligent persons, or giving offence. Even the singing of sentimental songs, is a better exercise than card-playing, and might with some advantage be substituted for it.
3. Every thing base, despicable, and immoral, is associated with the idea of card-playing. Wherefore it invariably suggests to reflecting minds, the most disagreeable images. The history of cultivated nations, ever since the invention of cards, constantly presents instances of the most frightful traits of the human character, in a point of strong association with card-playing. Slanders, house-burnings, duels, murder, robberies, ribaldry, fighting, swindling, and every sort of disorder, have been somewhere immediate effects of cards. So that it is apparently a disgrace to refined cultivated society, by the inveterate odium of its associations.
4. It directly conduces to a deceptions and elusive turn of mind, and a habit of insincerity. But the people of a community should be sincere. It has been said, that, upon the predominancy of a community spirit, every one will aptly speak with the most unrestricted sincerity, exactly what he thinks. The card-table is a poor school of sincerity; for it teaches deception: and deception is insincerity. For the very essence of this sort of game, is cheating. The game itself (of card-playing) consists of arts and knacks of deception. Those who play, are continually exercised in methods to elude each other's perspicacity. Their thoughts are entirely occupied in expedients to mislead and deceive. How can a man cheat and deceive, and yet be sincere! Every moment the young are playing cards for amusement, they are learning insincerity. But if they learn insincerity, how can we rely upon their being sincere? How then can they be fit members of a Community? It is utterly irreconcileable to the principles upon which we profess to establish communities. In a perfect community there can be no card-playing.
5. It tends to a confliction of interests, Those who play; and those who know it to be a trifling and pernicious employment of mind, and therefore necessarily despise it; have opposite interests. Here are two distinct parties opposed to each other,—between which, can be no reciprocity of good feelings—no friendly intercourse—the young that are always playing cards or poring over some frivolous romance,—and the studious contemplative considerate class, who are disturbed and contrastated by the prospect of such frivolity and contempt of reasoning.—The former are interested in clamor, loud talking, loud laughing, negacity, equivocation, and in having for their company only those who approve of, and look with complacency on, their trifling play, as feeling some degree of interest in it; wherefore they view with eyes of distrust and aversion, the considerate, whom they deem a sort of adversaries. The latter cannot feel interested in these things; but place their interest in tranquility, in having such around them with whom they can hold intelligent converse, in beholding mild, gentle, and humane deportment in the young, and in these young having due respect far experience. So then here are two great parties or classes of persons with detached and irreconcilable interests. But, in a Community should be but one party and one interest;—and indeed cannot be; else it is no longer a community. Such colluctation is inadmissible to a community—it is in plain contradiction to it. Since then it is impossible that card-playing for amusement should exist in a perfect community, it seems fit, for these reasons, that it should be put out of countenance among those who are to form a community.