Practical Christian Socialism
Part Two: Plan for a New Republic
In order to realize the vast and complex good contemplated, we have actually commenced the establishment of a universal Practical Christian Republic; within which an indefinite number of local Communities may be formed, all acknowledging the sovereignty of divine principles, and all intimately confederated together, yet differing in many respects from each other as to domestic arrangements and matters of mere local concern.
The outlines of a vast social superstructure, from foundation to dome, are presented in design, that all the builders may know what they are about while constructing its component parts, and do nothing which shall require undoing. But the cooperatives are required only to labor faithfully in that constituent portion of the Confederacy which immediately concerns their respective communal companies. None need leave his proper sphere to assume the responsibilities of a wider one. None need be anxious for anything but the faithful performance of his own duty at the post he engages to maintain. Each needs only to feel that he belongs to a grand army of human regenerators, all devoted to a common glorious cause, under a Supreme Commander who will certainly lead his invincible hosts to complete victory. With such motives and such a faith the humblest soldier will be mighty, and will find his least honorable services ennobled and sanctified by their relation to illustrious final results.
We chose the name, Practical Christian Republic, because it seemed most indicative and significant of the real nature of the thing designed. It is proposed to establish by voluntary association a new, grand and comprehensive body politic, such as has never heretofore existed on earth. It is not to be a mere church or ecclesiastical communion. Nor is it to be a mere civil government or political state. Nor yet a duplicate organization of church and state in mutual alliance. But it is to be a perfectly homogeneous organization, at once religious, social and civil in its inherent structural characteristics. It is intended to combine all the useful attributes of a true Christian church and a true civil state, to the utter exclusion of those malign forces which in past time have vitiated both church and state. It is to be preeminently a religious, social and civil Commonwealth, declaratively based on the essential divine principles taught and exemplified by Jesus Christ, and completely subordinate to the sovereignty of those principles.
We call it a Republic, because its governmental functions are to be exercised for the common good of the people confederated in it through their chosen official servants. We call it a Christian Republic, because its acknowledged fundamental and sovereign principles are distinctively Christian. We call it a Practical Christian Republic, because it magnifies and insists on that personal, social and political righteousness which is absolutely practical, but treats as non-essential that mere external righteousness which consists in professions, forms, ceremonies and observances. We call it the Practical Christian Republic, because there is no other of the kind on earth.
If others can improve on my objects, or my plan, by presenting better ones, I am willing. But for my own part I must have sublime objects in view, and a distinct outline of the operations depended on for accomplishing those objects. I cannot work vigorously with feeble motives, or at random. Permit me then to place in your hands for critical and deliberate examination the Constitution of the Practical Christian Republic.
The Principles and Policies
of the Practical Christian Republic
Having laid the foundation for my proposed new order of Society, I am now to erect the superstructure. The twenty-four essential divine principles of the Christian Religion have been set forth as the foundation. The whole edifice must be framed and completed in just correspondence with that basis.
The principal objection I have heard made to my Social System is, the gigantic magnitude of its propositions. Some have exclaimed, Here are objects vast as the habitable globe, which require ages for their attainment, and can hardly be grasped by the most expansive imagination! Why does this handful of beginners presume to look so far into the future, and to aim at results at present so impracticable, if ever possible? Why lay out more than Herculean labors for great nations, and for generations unborn? Why not content themselves with undertakings suited to their present actual capabilities? Are they not reaching out to embrace a huge shadow, at the imminent risk of losing the little substance they already hold?
To such cautionary exclamations I respond:
1. The objects proposed are in accordance with the revealed will of God and the divinely predicted destiny of the human race.
2. They are in accordance with the mission of Jesus Christ into our world, with the genius of his Religion, and with the imperative dictates of its essential divine principles.
3. They are such as should be the animating and controlling motives of minds engaged in founding a new state of human society, in order to their making even a fair beginning.
4. Grand and comprehensive objects aimed at as ultimate results do not relax exertions to maintain present possessions, but strengthen and stimulate them.
5. Nothing is proposed to be done towards building up the Practical Christian Republic but what will be practicable from stage to stage of its growth.
I am perfectly aware that the work proposed must be a difficult and a protracted one. I am painfully sensible of the present unfitness of the majority of mankind to maintain a much better order of society than the one in which they live. Many are so undeveloped, so low minded, so ill educated, so blind to their real interests, so selfish, envious, contentious and vindictive, so much more disposed to thrust each other down than to lift up, so full of violence and war, so proud and ambitious, so willing to prey on one another, and to flourish at each other's expense. Few, perhaps, could be worked into an order of society in which nearly all government would be self-government within the individual, or in communal public opinion; in which all injurious force, even against the most outrageous criminal, is prohibited; and wherein selfishness must be checked at every corner and angle of life's intercourse.
But if human imperfection should necessitate a long and somewhat tedious process of actualization, that ought not to discredit my theory; since the most meritorious and magnificent plans may be slow of consummation, merely by reason of men's reluctance to conform to their conditions of success. If people will not do their duty towards providing the necessaries of physical, intellectual and moral enjoyment, then they must suffer, more or less, the lack of them. But give me the concurrence of those whose happiness is sought - only a tolerable concurrence - and the result is to me certain. God wills it; Angels minister towards its consummation; and Creation groans in the travail of progress for deliverance from the bondage of existing selfishness. Nothing else is necessary but the fraternal cooperation of mankind in realizing their destiny. If they help themselves and help each other, this glorious work of their redemption will be accomplished in due time. I wish you to consider three important facts, which I rely upon for my encouragement.
1. My proposed order of society is purely voluntary. None will be compelled to enter into it, or to remain in it against their will.
2. There are a few, perhaps a respectable minority of mankind, high enough to form and maintain voluntarily something like my proposed social order. We have many millions of professedly experimental Christians, who hope they have become regenerate, have renounced their sins, and laid up their treasure in heaven. How many of these are unselfish and heavenly minded enough to dwell together in unity, under the sovereignty of divine principles, without the sword for their dernier resort, I cannot calculate. It would be a shame if there were not enough to form several Communities. We have hosts of educated people, too, philosophers, refined in mind and manners, besides zealous philanthropists and reformers not a few. I think I have reason to calculate on mustering volunteers enough to make a respectable beginning. It would be deplorable if so many Churches, Theological Seminaries and Sunday Schools; Universities, Colleges, Academies and Common Schools; printing presses, books and publications; literary, humane, philanthropic and reform Associations; and the ten thousand other instrumentalities of the civilized world for regenerating, elevating and refining people; should all be insufficient to furnish a goodly number wherewith to carry forward the experiment. I will content myself that I may calculate on volunteers enough to make a commencement. Give me this fulcrum for my lever, and I will ultimately move the world.
3. The few who are prepared for this higher order of society will not only accelerate their own progress in Love, Wisdom and Happiness by ascending into it, but will thereby do more than they otherwise could to elevate all below them. For the common and almost universal doubt is, whether the principles of my Social System can be made the basis of any practicable form of society. "Show us your new order of Society in actual, steady operation, and we will then believe," say most of these skeptics. If therefore the thing can be thus shown, the moral effect must be great and salutary, both within and without the new Social State.
Suppose, then, I find twenty souls, or one hundred, or one thousand, or ten thousand, with the distant prospect of millions, who heartily accept my fundamental principles, and who say to me, Please show us how we can communitize and establish an order of society in accordance with your principles. This is precisely what I now propose to do; and thereby I shall present the Constitutional Polity of what, in my judgment, is the true Social System.
The Seven Spheres of Human Life
The true Social System has for its grand aim the promotion and harmonization of all human interests. If actualized in any established order of Society, all the real interests of the members will be secured to their utmost extent, and yet so secured as to harmonize in the highest common good. I do not propose to annihilate individual interests, nor sacrifice them to societary interests in the least degree; nor, on the other hand, to sacrifice the common good to individual good.
We have been accustomed to regard it as impossible to institute Society without compromising conflicting interests, and sacrificing those of individuals to the public good. And you may think my Social System would carry this compromise of individual interests much farther than is done in the existing order of society. By no means. I take for granted that all real human interests, could we but see them in the true light of nature and the divine order, are perfectly consonant with each other; the highest good of each and all being identical in every possible case.
As a Practical Christian Socialist, I propose a System of Society which keeps distinctly in view the preservation and promotion of all real human interests. It must not destroy, override or impair one of them. It must recognize, promote, secure and harmonize them all. Neither individual nor social good must be sacrificed. Both must stand together on a common foundation, upheld by common bonds. If I do not present such a Social System, my work will be a failure.
First then, let us inquire what the real interests of human nature are. They must all be involved in wants, rights and duties. If man's real wants are well supplied, his real rights well secured, and his real duties well performed, it follows that all his real interests are promoted, and happiness must be the result.
What then are man's wants, rights and duties? I think we may look for them in the seven spheres of his activity and relationship:
1. Individuality. He is a unit, an individual identity, a man. This is the central reality of his existence. Should he cease to be an individual, sentient, intellectual, rational, moral being he would be no man. Nothing then could be predicated of him. As an individual being he has wants, rights and duties - consequently real interests. This is the sphere of his Individuality.
2. Connubiality. Man was created male and female. Thence comes the union of two individuals in marriage. This is the sphere of Connubiality.
3. Consanguinity. From marriage results offspring and blood relationship, which comprehends ordinarily, besides the immediate family, a larger or smaller circle of kindred. This is the sphere of Consanguinity.
4. Congeniality. Next comes the sphere of Congeniality, embracing a larger or smaller circle of persons, who, by reason of similar tastes and pursuits, or on account of strong interior sympathies, become strongly attached friends.
5. Federality. Beyond the sphere of Congeniality man confederates with his fellows in the Community, the Municipality, the Nationality, etc., to maintain an orderly Social and Political System of relationship. This is his sphere of Federality.
6. Humanity. Outside of all federal compacts lies our common humanity, to which we stand in a certain relationship, and must act accordingly. This is man's sphere of Humanity.
7. Universality. But still outside of this human sphere, man holds relationship to all beings and things in the whole conceivable Infinitarium, from the invisible atom to the sun, and from the lowest insect to the highest angel - above all to the Infinite Spirit-Father. This is his sphere of Universality.
Each successive sphere, you perceive, is wider than the preceding. But nothing in a. narrower sphere is necessarily destroyed or impaired by the peculiarities of the more expanded one. Rather, everything ought to be conserved. None of man's real interests in the sphere of Individuality should be injured by entering into marriage. There must be something wrong in a marriage which makes either husband or wife a more diminutive being than before, which impairs the real interests of either, or renders either on the whole less happy. True Connubiality must therefore be conservative of true Individuality. The same may be said of each widening sphere. All should be harmony in the motion of these "wheels within a wheel." And if man could be brought to act truly in all these spheres, he would be greater and happier in each, for acting well his part in every other. His proper Individuality would then realize its greatest importance, integrity and happiness.
An Example: The Sphere of Individuality
I will now endeavor to set forth the great interests of man's Individuality which must be recognized, preserved and promoted by the true Social System. What then are man's wants, rights and duties in the sphere of his Individuality?
What is man? He is a physical, affectional, intellectual and moral being. The Scriptures represent him as consisting of body, soul and spirit. We are accustomed to speak of his physical, intellectual and moral nature. So he has physical, intellectual and moral interests to be promoted.
Let us look at his physical interests. He needs food, clothing, shelter, exercise, rest, recreation, and, when distressed from any cause, relief; that is, he needs a comfortable home and subsistence, in which we may include whatever is necessary to the physical enjoyment of life. The interests involved in securing these necessaries are so pressing on mankind, that all are sensible of them.
Look at man's intellectual interests. He needs food, clothing, shelter, exercise, rest, recreation and relief for the mind. I mean, he needs knowledge, instruction, use of language, mental training, opportunities for intellectual activity, with the requisite rest and recreation. He needs teachers, books, educational institutions, and all the necessaries of proper mental culture, improvement and usefulness; in fine, all that affords true intellectual enjoyment.
Once more, look at man's moral interests. Here we contemplate him as an affectional, passional, sentimental being, and of course a social one. The true passional loves of the soul, I mean the normal and legitimate ones, yearn for gratifications, which ought to be as promptly and adequately provided as those demanded by the physical and intellectual departments of his nature. Among these I include his Connubial, Consanguinal, Congenial, Federal, Humanital, and highest religious loves. The affectional and sentimental soul is a living fountain of loves - all innocent when normal, legitimate, unperverted and harmoniously exercised. They do not all manifest themselves with equal intensity in all individuals. But I may safely affirm that they exist in human nature; that they involve man's profoundest interests; that they include his highest wants, rights and responsibilities; and that they must not be disregarded. Ample provision must be made for the innocent gratification of these wants, for the just exercise of these rights, and for the faithful discharge of these responsibilities.
I sum up man's interests in the sphere of Individuality thus: Physically, intellectually and morally he wants all the necessaries of happiness; he has the right to all those necessaries; and he is in duty bound to do all he is fairly able towards providing them for himself. The true Social System should guarantee, to the utmost extent, all these necessaries of Individual culture and enjoyment. Any system which should propose less would be unworthy of respect. And the same is true in respect to Connubiality, Consanguinity, Congeniality, Federality, Humanity and Universality - with all the wants, rights, duties and interests appertaining to human nature in those several spheres.
Divine Sovereignty vs. Human Government
By "divine principles" I mean those stated in Part 1. I affirm that whatever is plainly repugnant to those principles is absolutely wrong and of no rightful authority whatever.
I have met with two exactly opposite minds who demurred to the doctrine of the sovereignty of divine principles. One of them said it struck a fatal blow at the sovereignty of all established human governments, whether Monarchical, Aristocratic or Democratic, whether Despotic or Constitutional. He acknowledged it was right in the abstract; but, said he, Human Government must be sustained in its assumed sovereignty for the present, right or wrong.
He was right to this extent, that no one man, nor class of men, nor national people, can rightfully do or require to be done any thing whatsoever which is plainly contrary to divine principles. Man is ever a bounden subject of the divine law. He cannot repeal it, nor annul it to the least extent, nor violate it with impunity. If any man, or combination of men, claims a sovereignty of this nature, they are rebels against God, and in a state of insurrection to his authority.
If autocrats, monarchs or constitutional governments set up and enforce laws which they deem just, and which I deem wicked, as being plainly contrary to divine principles, I shall protest against all such laws, as morally null and void. I shall deny that their enactors have any sovereignty or right to make such requirements. I shall refuse to obey such laws, and stand upon my conscience before God. If they enforce the penalties of those laws upon me, then I shall try to suffer their inflictions meekly, patiently and heroically, without physical resistance, but with a solemn moral protest, even unto death, against the wrong done.
Divine Sovereignty vs. Individual Sovereignty
My other friend was entirely devoted to the modern notion of individual sovereignty. He denounced all monarchical, aristocratic, democratic, ecclesiastical, theocratic, communal and associational sovereignty of man over man as usurpation and tyranny. Every individual of the race, he contended, was a sovereign over him or herself alone. He declared himself totally opposed to all creeds, covenants, standards, declarations, compacts and constitutions whereby individuals relinquish any part of their own sovereignty. And he insisted that it was impossible to have any such without abridging individual sovereignty.
He did not deny the existence and supreme sovereignty of God, but he said every individual must settle all questions of faith, religion and morals for himself, and had no right to meddle with another's judgment of what was true or right. He himself believed in the God of nature, and that this God had made every human being and individual sovereign. He believed also in natural laws or principles, which eternally executed themselves by a regular succession of cause and effect. But what those principles were, and how they were to be regarded, no man could assume to say for another. Each must investigate, judge and act for himself. He deemed it altogether absurd, as well as wrong, for a company of individuals to draw up a formal declaration of so-called divine principles, and acknowledge themselves under the absolute sovereignty thereof. Who could be sure today, whether tomorrow he would or would not regard a principle as divine? One of these same sovereign divine principles might next week become, in the mind's judgment, no principle at all, or perhaps an infernal principle . Everyone was bound by the dignity of his own natural individual sovereignty to keep his mind unfettered from moment to moment, that he might always think, feel, speak and act spontaneously, as seemed to him proper.
I should not deem it worth my while to contend with such a thinker. If sincere in his notion of individual sovereignty, of course he cannot assent to our doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of divine principles, nor approve of our Constitution, nor do otherwise than protest against the Practical Christian Republic. We must follow our convictions of truth and duty, and leave him to follow his. There can be no unity between him and us. He has no faith in our fundamentals. We have none in his. He is positive that every human being is an individual sovereign over him or herself. We are positive that no human being is his own lawgiver, judge or sovereign, or has the least right to contravene the sovereignty of divine principles. Why then dispute about the matter? Let him go his way, while we go ours. Every tree shall be known by its fruits. Time will give practical and conclusive demonstrations of the truth on this, as on all other questions at issue. "Wisdom is justified of all her children."
Differences on Minor Points No Threat to Unity
In relation to the twenty-four acknowledged divine principles, I have been asked if I expect all who accept them to agree exactly in their explicatory ideas. To this I reply, Certainly not. That would be expecting what is quite impossible in the nature of things, during the present imperfect development of the human mind. I expect only that the grand central truth of each proposition will be recognized, revered and cherished by all.
You must know that every fundamental principle has a spiritual essence of its own, which cannot be seen with equal clearness and comprehensiveness by all who embrace it as a divine reality, and which cannot be perfectly expressed in any external human language. It is very necessary to express spiritual truths as clearly as possible in external human language, because thereby most minds are inducted, as they otherwise could not be, into juster conceptions of them. But after all, the highest master of language cannot state a fundamental truth in words which perfectly express the spiritual reality. He may approximate such an expression very closely, to his own satisfaction; but other minds will view his grand truth from different standpoints, through more or less lucid atmospheres, and will form peculiar explicatory ideas of it, which they will express in their own way. This latitude of conception and explication must be allowed among the adherents of all fundamentals. It is just, innocent and harmless. So long as the differences among common acknowledgers of declared fundamentals do not affect their spiritual vitality, the necessary unity of the associates remains unimpaired.
To make my meaning unmistakable in the present case, suppose one of my brethren, who perfectly agrees with me in acknowledging the existence of one all-perfect, infinite God, differs from me in certain conceptions of His personality, mode of existence, or causative activity in the universe. Why need such differences disturb our harmony? Again. Another agrees cordially with me in acknowledging the mediatorial manifestation of God through Christ, which to him is a cardinal truth in his own ideas of it, yet he differs from me respecting the pre-existence of Jesus, or his miraculous conception, or respecting the precise mode whereby the divine nature dwelt in him, spoke through him and made him the Christ. Why need such differences disturb our fraternal harmony; since we both believe that God actually made a sublime, authoritative and world-redeeming manifestation of his will, attributes and moral perfections through that same Jesus Christ?
Again, a brother cordially agrees with me in believing in the final universal triumph of good over evil, which to him, as well as to me, is a cheering and hope-sustaining truth. Yet, he is not, like me, confident that there will come a period on earth when all people shall be holy and happy. Nor like me is he confident that all human beings in some future eternity will be perfectly holy and happy. He thinks it possible, and even probable, that some of the race will cease to exist, or will remain to all eternity in a condition of restraint and inferior happiness. He would be glad to hope for as glorious a triumph of good over evil as I do. He feels no repugnance to me on account of the extent to which my faith carries me. He himself rejoices in the assurance that evil will be reduced to its lowest possible minimum and so restrained as to become comparatively inappreciable in the condition of our race. If he thought otherwise, he would have too little hope to work in this great enterprise of human regeneration. Need such differences disturb our fraternal harmony? Surely not. I might take up all my fundamentals in the same way, and show that unity of faith in and love for each may consist with many differences of explicatory ideas respecting it.
It is true that these explicatory differences might sometimes insensibly run into radical differences. That is something which cannot be prevented by straining upon words. We should have to bear with gray cases till they grew dark enough to be unmistakable. Then the leading convictions of the general membership must dictate amputation of the threatening tumor. But I have no serious apprehensions on this point. The vital essence of our declared sovereign divine principles is so obvious that no one of them can easily be confounded with its radical opposite. No man can go far towards atheism, pantheism or polytheism without setting at naught the radical truth that there is one all-perfect, infinite God. Nor far towards anti-Christian theism without trampling on the radical truth that God has manifested himself mediatorially through Christ. Nor far towards naturalism and rationalism without contemning the radical truth that God has given divine revelations and inspirations to mankind, as set forth in the Bible, and as asserted with strong attestations by individuals in all ages down to our own times. Nor far towards mere materialism without doubting the existence of human angelic spirits outside the realm of flesh and blood. Nor far towards mere materialism or fatalism without denying the moral agency and religious obligation of mankind. Nor far towards Calvinism without rejecting the grand idea that good is finally to triumph over evil in our universe, In fine, I am confident no person could cherish a radically contrary idea to either of our acknowledged sovereign divine principles without soon flying off in a tangent from the whole movement. Consequently I cannot apprehend any serious mischief to come from the thousand and one explicatory and opinional differences which always inevitably arise on minor points, even in the most united of human associations.
I fell in with one friend, the other day, who strenuously insisted that it was all folly to acknowledge any precise statement of fundamental principles as the basis of a compact; because human beings are progressive and cannot absolutely know that what they now confidently deem a fundamental principle will not turn out to be a fundamental error, and then there must be a great ado made about the change which truth would dictate. He belongs to a class which has many worthy people in it, but who are affected with a kind of creedophobia, which has carried them so far that they seem fearful of everything in religion and morals which assumes to be a definite assertion of fundamental principle.
All I can say to them is, that they have fallen into an indefensible extreme, of which experience will cure them, or which will forever prevent their accomplishing much for human progress. Little can be done for individual and social improvement without well-settled fundamental principles of religion and morals. Even erroneous ones, if cherished in the deepest convictions of mankind, will accomplish results which mere philosophizing, sentimentalizing, temporizing moralists may be powerless either to rival or to countervail. How much more then truthful ones?
Now it is ever the desideratum of really honest souls to get rid of all false principles in religion and morals. But it would be pitiful in them to treat their present highest convictions of essential truth and righteousness as too doubtful to proclaim and act upon, merely because at some future period they may possibly be obliged to change convictions. No man ought to bind himself never to change his convictions. We ask no one thus to bind himself. But every human being ought to act upon his or her highest religious and moral convictions for the time being, and to be willing to acknowledge them. So long as a certain proposition fairly expresses what to me, for the time being, is a sovereign divine principle, I ought to acknowledge and act upon it as such. If next year new light impels me to renounce what until then I have honestly held to be a divine fundamental, let me renounce it With equal uprightness, without shame, and with a noble willingness to suffer whatever reproach it shall cost me to be a true man.
Am I ashamed or afraid to do this? Do I wish to play hide and seek in such a matter? Do I wish to say, "O I have not changed my mind; I never had any settled religious and moral convictions; I have none now; I dare not profess any; nothing is very certain to me; I am going to keep on learning ; and if I never come to the knowledge of the truth I cannot help it!" What are such minds likely to accomplish towards bettering the condition of humanity? Like moth millers they will flutter through their aimless career, from flower to flower by day, and from lamp to lamp by night, till at length drawn by irresistible attraction into the blaze of some much admired light, their wings shall be fatally singed, and they expire. The Practical Christian Republic has little to hope from minds of this stamp. We will do them no harm, and must take care that they do us none.
Policy toward Sword-Sustained Governments
Our Policy is founded strictly on acknowledged divine principles, and allows of no time-serving expediency contrary to those principles. This is our duty. Yet it is not the less Policy. We call it Policy because it takes on the character of prudential forecast, and indicates precautionary measures with reference to possible difficulties with outsiders.
By "sword-sustained governments of the world" I mean all human governments which hold to the rightfulness of resorting to war, capital punishment and penal injury for the maintenance of their own existence and authority whenever they deem the same necessary. I know of no human governments not sword-sustained, excepting our incipient Republic. And here is a great moral gulf which separates us from the old order of society. We renounce the sword and all manner of penal injury as a dernier resort for self-preservation, whether individually, socially or governmentally.
What, you may ask, if we should gain the ascendancy in any country, so that the responsibility were thrown upon you by the common wish of the people to exercise the government thereof? In such an event they would adopt our government in all its length and breadth, and our course would be straightforward. Our moral power would then have become so strong and consolidated in that country, that we should have no need of the sword or any kind of injurious penalties to sustain our government. We might have our turbulent individuals at home and some foreign aggressions, yet our policy founded on our principles would be equal to all emergencies. We should be under no necessity to kill or injure our offenders. We should have a more excellent way of getting through our difficulties; I mean that of overcoming evil with good. Anyhow, it is useless to borrow trouble from so far off a future. We expect that the members of our Republic are to live for years, perhaps centuries, under these sword-sustained governments; we can anticipate nothing else.
Assuming that our members live under a sword-sustained government, they must not come into anti-Christian conflict with it. What is anti-Christian conflict? A conflict of arms, a conflict by deadly or injurious force, a conflict by resisting any kind of evil with moral evil. Should we resist or attempt to thwart a government by means contrary to our principles, we should carry on an anti-Christian conflict with such government. This we cannot do. We may maintain a righteous moral conflict in a good cause, but cannot resort to injurious force, nor to immoral expedients of any kind. We may suffer wrong, but we must not do wrong. In this lies the secret of our strength.
Succor and Protection of Members
We intend to govern, succor and protect our own people, to the utmost of our ability, so far as we can go without coming into anti-Christian conflict with "the powers that be." We all stand solemnly pledged to succor and protect such of our members as may need sympathy, counsel, money or moral influence, by reason of misfortunes, oppressions, persecutions and tribulations which from any cause or quarter may befall them. We are bound to do so. They are "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh," in the best social sense of those terms. So long as our members demean themselves worthily of the Republic, it would be shameful in us not to succor and protect them to the utmost extent of our ability. I mean ability compatible with our principles. We cannot fight with carnal weapons, even in self-defense. Nor is our revolution one to be promoted by violence. It is a peaceful one altogether, though so radical.
In legislating, adjudicating and executing we can go very far; because we are a voluntary body politic, and may do what we are agreed among ourselves is right. You would not expect such a people to look up to a sword-sustained human government to teach them what was right, nor to settle their controversies, nor to regulate their domestic police. They will govern themselves, and government outside will do little but impose taxes and subject them to its general laws. Now the policy prescribed is, to do everything for ourselves in the way of government that we can do without coming into anti-Christian conflict with the sword-sustained government of the old order of society.
Therefore, if we have talent, wealth, influence, we must pour them out like water for the succor and protection of our suffering members. The pure white flag of our Republic must proclaim to all the world, that its humblest citizen will receive all the sympathy and protection which an undivided people can righteously render. Our poor are not to be thrown upon the old order of society for support. Our widows and orphans are not to go abroad begging relief and protection. And if any of our citizens are fined, imprisoned or in any manner oppressed by "the powers that be" for acting conscientiously according to our standard of Practical Christianity, they are to be aided and befriended by us to the utmost extent of our power, i.e. within the limits of innocence. We are to suffer with them - to make common cause with them. So, if our feebler members are crowded upon, injured and taken advantage of by unprincipled men of the world, the stronger members in talent, wealth and weight of character are to interpose a shield of protection over them, without money and without price; that it may be known by all in due time, that what they do unto the least of us they do unto the mightiest and unto the whole Practical Christian Republic. We could do less without shame and contempt, in view of our professions.
Avoiding Unnecessary Conflict
The second point of our fundamental, uniform and established policy is, to avoid all unnecessary conflicts with sword-sustained governments, by conforming to all their laws and requirements which are not repugnant to the sovereignty of divine principles. It would be easy to differ with and oppose them for the sake of keeping up a broad line of distinction between them and ourselves. It would be easy for many well-meaning members of our Republic to magnify their disfellowship of the old order of society and government by non-conformity to requirements which were right in themselves, or indifferent, merely because those requirements made a part and parcel of a wrong whole. All such non-conformity would be foolish and pernicious.
Why stickle and make a great ado about non-essentials? The existing order of society and government has many good things in it, good laws, customs and usages - such as with slight modifications would befit our Republic. It has also a great many formal niceties which have a technical and legal importance, which time will sweep away as mere cobwebs of vanity, but which are of no consequence to us. It would be folly for our people to stand out and contend with government functionaries about these indifferent things. Our thunder should be reserved for worthy occasions.
There are essentials enough to stand out for. Let trifles go. We are to differ with no human being or beings for the sake of differing. We are not to be singular for the sake of being singular. We are not to be whimish, mulish and crotchety, merely to let the world know that we are not "of it." We are to choose conformity in preference to non-conformity always when we can do so without violating our divine principles. This should be our policy. Then noble souls and wise minds will see that our dissent, singularity and nonconformity are determined by principle, and not by egotism, clannishness, or wrongheadedness. Unnecessary conflicts are therefore always to be avoided, that necessary ones may be maintained the more courageously, dignifiedly and triumphantly.
Non-participation in Government and Politics
The third specification of our Policy is to abstain from all participation in the working of the political machinery of sword-sustained governments, and to be connected as little as possible with their system of operations. This is the fundamental love-principle itself, which forbids man to kill or injure man. Those who object to it either do not accept that principle as forbidding all injury between man and man, or they will not allow its application to government, or they plead that the time has not come for insisting on it. Indeed, they seem to be quite indisposed to recognize, appreciate and reason from fundamental religious and moral principles at all. They take everything up by pieces, and look at it in the light of expediency. And their expediency is like the child's world, bounded by the sensible horizon, which terminates in all directions where the sky seems to shut down upon the earth. It is a very short-sighted expediency. But they are none the less confident it comprehends all things. Such is their mole-eyed wisdom.
With this sensible horizon of expediency for their universe, and the self-confidence which is its concomitant, these objectors generally begin thus: "What, not vote, not take office, not participate in the government of the country, stand off by themselves as a separate people or nation! That is preposterous! That spoils the whole thing! I should think something of the scheme, were it not for this silly nonresistance and no-governmentism. I admire the larger part of their Constitution; but such weak, absurd and impracticable notions damn it for me."
I should ask such an objector: "Is the old order of human society right? Are you satisfied with it?"
He would answer promptly, "O no, no; it is very bad - full of selfishness, antagonism, hatred, violence and misery."
"Do you want a better order of society established in the earth?"
He would answer, "Yes, yes, certainly."
"How do you expect that better order of society is to be established?"
He would reply, "By Association, unselfish, peaceful Association."
"By Association on any radically different principles from the now prevailing order of Association?"
"Yes, certainly, more just, fraternal and unselfish principles, and more scientific too - more unitary."
"Would you exclude war and vindictive punishments from the new order?"
"Most assuredly. Stop; exclude? no not formally, perhaps; but in true attractive Association all these evils would be transcended. They would cease with the cessation of their causes and occasions, which would not exist in the true order of society. So they would need no other preclusion."
"But you would have the new order of society in close fellowship with the old, so that your members might vote, hold office, litigate, fight and do everything else in the governments thereof just like the rest of its citizens?"
"Yes; only they should be more virtuous and honorable than ordinary, and should do everything constitutionally, legally and properly."
"You would have them soldiers, generals, hangmen, sheriffs, etc., etc., etc. - all bound by solemn oath to sustain the old order of society and its government, by force of arms if necessary?"
"Certainly; leave all these things to take their course. Only I would have our Associationists and Communists aim continually to improve the old order of society, to favor the new order as much as possible, and to make their influence felt for the general good. That is the beauty of the thing. Just think how much good we could do by exercising our political rights in the old order of society and government!"
"But what would become of your new order of society, and who would take care of its growth, while its most talented and enterprising minds were taking such beautiful care of the bad old order of society and government; and while, too, they were in a scramble with each other for the rich loaves and fishes of office, as partisans of rival leaders?"
"O, I would not have our Socialists neglect their own work, nor be mere office seekers, or salary hunters, nor get divided among themselves into rival squads of politicians. Not at all."
You would have them attend to their own business, and other people's too! Expend their best energies in improving the old order of society, and at the same time show all the world the excellences of the new order! Be devoted to the politics of rival parties in sword-sustained governments, and still be united at home in the bonds of peace! Serve two masters with equal fidelity! Sit on two stools, and not come to the ground between them! All this may be very beautiful, but is not very likely to come to pass in such a world as ours. I venture to suggest that it would savor more of common sense, if not of honesty, to confess at once, that the only road to a new order of society is through the old one by gradual improvement, whereof politics is the indispensable "staff of accomplishment." In that case, let the objector cease to amuse himself and others by talking of a new order. Let him stick to the old like a pertinacious tinker till he shall have patched it into a new kettle. I can excuse him from joining the Practical Christian Republic till he takes a few more lessons in the school of experience. It is ridiculous, as well as utterly impracticable, to ride two such different horses, on two such different roads, at the same time.
It is objected that our policy seems to be to leave government wholly in the hands of bad men, by withdrawing all good men from it. What is to become of the world if bad men are to be left to wield all the power of government? Why not vote for State and National officers, to aid in keeping out bad men, and getting in good men? For seven reasons.
1. We seldom know which of the candidates is best.
2. The best as a man is not always the best as a partisan officer.
3. The best man of the best party must bind himself by oath or affirmation to do some things which are in plain violation of our sovereign divine principles.
4. By voting we become complicated with the political party whose general course we most approve, which nevertheless we must radically differ from.
5. We invite discord into our own circles, where there can hardly fail to be honest differences of opinion about the merits of opposing parties, or the propriety of taking sides in such contests.
6. Or, if our people all voted one way, we should provoke public suspicion against ourselves as an ambitious, consolidated clan, ripening for political mischief.
7. We should neglect our own sacred enterprise to help govern an order of society from which we profess to have separated ourselves for conscience' sake; and thus we should not only open the door for all our members to meddle continually with the political, seditious and revolutionary turmoils of the world, but actually involve our whole movement in the uncertain issues of those commotions.
For these reasons it would be folly, madness and suicide, for Practical Christian Republicans to participate in such elections. Our cause would have nothing to gain, but everything to lose, from such meddling. "Let the potsherds of the earth contend with the potsherds of the earth." Let each order of society be managed by its own adherents, on its own professed principles. Then by their fruits good men will know which is most worthy of support. The two cannot be amalgamated. Nor can the new wine of love and peace be put into the old war-bottles. And there would be nearly the same objection to our members voting in municipal affairs - so nearly that it would hardly be worth while to pick out the possible cases which might be exceptions.
I have no fear that I shall succeed in withdrawing all good men from the support of the world's sword-sustained governments. I do not doubt that good men are much needed to countervail bad ones in most governments; but I am afraid they are more needed than welcome, generally. At any rate, I am sure the Practical Christian Republic will not rob any government of the ability or the will to do good in its own sphere and way.
1. The kind of good men thereby withdrawn from sword-sustained governments will be precisely those who would not be wanted if they could be had, and would not be allowed to lead if they were introduced into government. They might be acceptable as appendages of moral respectability, to make well-meaning people think favorably of the government as a whole; but they would be allowed no real influence in shaping important public measures, or in working its powerful machinery. This kind of good men are always deemed impracticables, or visionaries, by the world's leading politicians and statesmen.
2. All the people brought into our Republic will be of real service to the governments under which they may live. They will govern themselves and their dependents in the best possible manner almost entirely at their own expense. They will exert a healthful moral influence on all around them, and do as much at least as ordinary peace officers to preserve good order. They will be a check on vice, crime and violence wherever they are known. They will dispense alms and relieve much surrounding want. They will make no criminals nor paupers among themselves to be a charge on government. They will breed no lawsuits, and require no police nor military interpositions, either to restrain or to protect them. They will be good customers of the Post Office, being far more than ordinarily addicted to correspondence and to reading public intelligence. At the same time they will be liberal, peaceable and prompt tax-payers to government. If more than all this is wanted of them, to demonstrate that they are the very best subjects any government can have, I should like to know what!
3. There are several grades of very respectable good men who will still adhere to all these sword-sustained governments; who will be glad to hold any office of honor or emolument to be had; and who will not be troubled with scruples about doing anything required by the established Constitution or laws of the land. So there will be no lack, on that score, for generations to come.
4. There are always plenty of bad men and rogues ready to serve these governments for money, in hunting down and punishing their own like; and it is well known that such are always remarkably expert and efficient on the police, among the prisons, at the gallows and in the military department. There is nothing like setting a rogue to catch a rogue, or a ruffian to kill a ruffian. Thus our secession from the old order of society will still leave sufficient help in the punishing and fighting line.
5. If by possibility it should ever so happen that any sword-sustained government in any country is obliged to dissolve, on account of the growth of our Republic, we pledge ourselves to take its subjects under our care, and see that nobody in the world is a loser by the change.
I think these reasons conclusively show that no serious calamity is likely to happen from the establishment of our Republic, or from its rigid adherence to the policy under consideration.
Non-participation in the Legal System
Granting that it is totally inconsistent for the members of our Republic to profess allegiance to the sovereignty of divine principles and yet participate in war, preparations for war, capital punishment and penal injuries, either as officers or subordinates of sword-sustained governments, still, why may they not seek redress at law for injuries done them?
It is possible they might innocently resort to judicial assistance in some cases. They are not precluded from doing so, except in cases prescriptively involving the infliction of death, or some other absolute injury, by man on man. Yet our policy is to stand aloof as much as possible from participation in the machinery of these sword-sustained governments, even in cases where our principles might permit it. This would so seldom happen, and would be so little in unison with the usual course to be pursued, that it would be safest to make no calculation on such a resort at all.
In all sword-sustained governments, the sword, or some other instrument of penal vengeance, is necessarily always behind the civil authorities as their dernier resort. To sue a man for debt, or for the purpose of compelling him to conform to our will, is to call on the government to use their sword-sustained power in our behalf. If it is right for us to sue to them for the use of such power for our convenience, why have we any scruples against doing the same thing ourselves? If wrong for its to use the sword ourselves, is it not also wrong to ask others to do so for us? Would it not be adding meanness to our inconsistency? We should do more harm than good, both to ourselves and the world, by departing from our general course. In some cases, few and far between, it might be best for us to use our rights and innocent liberties in the particulars referred to; but such exceptions will take care of themselves, without disturbing the general tenor of our Policy.
Our principles will not preclude our appearing in the Courts of sword-sustained governments to plead in our own defense, when wrongfully prosecuted or accused by others. The difference between being defendants and plaintiffs in those Courts, is the difference between dragging a man into Court with the strong arm of power backed by the sword, and being dragged thither unjustly by such an arm against our choice. I am not absolutely obliged to plead in my own defense; but I have a natural right to defend myself by truthful testimony and speech against false accusations and unjust allegations. Most human Courts concede this right. I may therefore use it, as Paul did before Felix and Festus, or waive it, as Jesus did before Pilate. If I use it, I violate none of my principles. If I waive it, I do so at my own option. I am arraigned before "the powers that be" at the prosecuting instigation of another. I did not ask the government to bring me into Court, nor to compel him to come. I am the coerced party; and if I defend myself there, it is not by injurious force, nor by invoking the injurious force of government to help me. I stand up as a man, with the common consent, to plead my cause by the force of truth. And when I have done so, I am in the hands of that authority before which my prosecutor compelled me to appear.
We shall doubtless be wronged more or less in person and estate, both by individuals and governments. But all we shall lose and suffer will not be a tithe of what the same number of people with the same amount of property in the old order of society will lose and suffer during the same period of time.
Faithful Adherence to Principles and Policy
We have all made up our minds to bear true allegiance in our Republic to the sovereignty of divine principles, and to adhere uncompromisingly to the fundamental Policy dictated by these Principles, be the consequences what they may. We have faith in God, in our principles and our policy.
We ask no human being to join us in ignorance of our Principles or Policy, nor against his honest convictions of duty, nor without being fully persuaded in his own mind that he ought to sacrifice all worldly ambition, honor and emolument. We have no bribes, no flatteries, no compromises of principle to offer. We want no talents, skill or enterprise which shall not voluntarily respond to our sublime moral and religious appeal from the living souls of their possessors. God through his holy angels will provide help for us, whoever may hold back or turn the cold shoulder. We have faith that our Republic will not lack for talent, skill and enterprise.