To the Radical Review

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Benjamin Ricketson Tucker

To the Radical Review.

Dear Radical, I stumble over one of your roots. In your last October 20, commenting on an excellent article of the "Times " with most sensible approbation, you conclude with the following monstrosity (if quoted from the "Times," so much the worse): "To establish itself, and against any policy based on divine authority, human government has not only the right, but the duty to call into requisition all the forces at its command."

Were that sentence isolated, as stating a general issue between "divine authority " and " human government," I should not object to it; for these are precisely the two Kilkenny cats that I should like to see tied together by the tails, until they had eliminated each other; for I think that about the time the last particle of fur disappeared on the wings of the breeze, perhaps Man might wake to life. It would be an interesting experiment. I only wish the combatants were more of a size; but not by making Utah any bigger. Here the evils of polygamy and the clerical invention which imposes it in the interest of a local theocracy fades into moonlight shadow beside the gigantic spectre of Uncle Sam marching at the head of his armies to moralize the universe. I believe in letting people make their own mistakes and abide by the consequences; free to correct them when they come to know better. I agree with you and the " Times," to send Colonel Ingersoll at the head of a missionary corps, two-thirds lady lecturers, to Utah (i. e., if Barkis is willing). Were I eloquent enough, I would elect myself to such a mission, or — what would be more to the purpose — organize a corps of the world's greatest dramatists, authors, actors, and musicians, with a rear guard of novelists, against Mormondom. But the idea of the United States doing anything so rational!!! Why don't you sec that, in proportion as this or any other great public use commends itself to reason, the more overwhelming becomes the absurdity of supposing a government's doing it? The natural function of governments is to blow people's brains out, not to put common sense into them. Make up a congress of such mental calibre as Calhoun, Clay, and Webster, throwing in Emersons, Phillipses, and Bismarcks, and out of these varieties of genius you shall evolve legislative idiocy. The mountain will still bring forth the mouse in sacula saculurum.

The Mormons settled Utah. It belongs to them by moral right. Ethically, the United States' claim to interfere with them is no better than that to the possession of an island on which some ship captain has hoisted a flag. There is nothing but fanaticism, or might makes right, behind such claims. Here the natural right to the soil by personal occupation, labor, and improvements, carries with it the right to play the fool within that local circumscription. Ideas have the ethical right of invasion, for they extrude no settlers; they are seed that grow only where the soil pleases. Ideas, conjugated with sentiments, form the army of Liberty. The fine arts are sutlers that follow in its train. Ask that reign of terror which forfeited to France and to Humanity the results of unparalleled devotion to principle whether political fanaticism is any less hateful than religious fanaticism. Harness these two devils together, with Uncle Sam on the carriage box, and society will make rapid progress backward to the times of the Crusades. If I believed in any other than self-government and the spontaneous combination of wills to meet emergencies, I should regard local or state sovereignty as the only possible basis of a permanent Union. Unless we can agree to disagree, we must explode. Utah may prove a dynamite factory. Between two deaths give me rather dissolution into savagery than the despotism of a puritan government.

Edgeworth


  • Marx Edgeworth Lazarus, “To the Radical Review,” Liberty 2, no. 44 (June 14, 1884): 8.