The Daily Doc
1. Mary Wollstonecroft, 1792.
2. Wilhelm Liebknecht, .
3. Eric Williams, 1944.
4. Julius & Ethel Rosenberg Trial Transcript, 1951.
Having read with great pleasure a pamphlet, which you have lately published, on National Education, I dedicate this volume to you, the first dedication that I have ever written, to induce you to read it with attention; and, because I think that you will understand me, which I do not suppose many pert witlings will, who may ridicule the arguments they are unable to answer. But, sir, I carry my respect for your understanding still farther: so far, that I am confident you will not throw my work aside, and hastily conclude that I am in the wrong because you did not view the subject in the same light yourself. And pardon my frankness, but I must observe, that you treated it in too cursory a manner, contented to consider it as it had been considered formerly, when the rights of man, not to advert to woman, were trampled on as chimerical. I call upon you, therefore, now to weigh what I have advanced respecting the rights of woman, and national education; and I call with the firm tone of humanity. For my arguments, sir, are dictated by a disinterested spirit: I plead for my sex, not for myself. Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue; and independence I will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to live on a barren heath.
It is, then, an affection for the whole human race that makes my pen dart rapidly along to support what I believe to be the cause of virtue: and the same motive leads me earnestly to wish to see woman placed in a station in which she would advance, instead of retarding, the progress of those glorious principles that give a substance to morality. My opinion, indeed, respecting the rights and duties of woman, seems to flow so naturally from these simple principles, that I think it scarcely possible, but that some of the enlarged minds who formed your admirable constitution, will coincide with me.
In France, there is undoubtedly a more general diffusion of knowledge than in any part of the European world, and I attribute it, in a great measure, to the social intercourse which has long subsisted between the sexes. It is true, I utter my sentiments with freedom, that in France the very essence of sensuality has been extracted to regale the voluptuary, and a kind of sentimental lust has prevailed, which, together with the system of duplicity that the whole tenor of their political and civil government taught, have given a sinister sort of sagacity to the French character, properly termed finesse; and a polish of manners that injures the substance, by hunting sincerity out of society. And, modesty, the fairest garb of virtue has been more grossly insulted in France than even in England, till their women have treated as PRUDISH that attention to decency which brutes instinctively observe.
Manners and morals are so nearly allied, that they have often been confounded; but, though the former should only be the natural reflection of the latter, yet, when various causes have produced factitious and corrupt manners, which are very early caught, morality becomes an empty name. The personal reserve, and sacred respect for cleanliness and delicacy in domestic life, which French women almost despise, are the graceful pillars of modesty; but, far from despising them, if the pure flame of patriotism have reached their bosoms, they should labour to improve the morals of their fellow-citizens, by teaching men, not only to respect modesty in women, but to acquire it themselves, as the only way to merit their esteem.
Contending for the rights of women, my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if she be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge, for truth must be common to all, or it will be inefficacious with respect to its influence on general practice. And how can woman be expected to co-operate, unless she know why she ought to be virtuous? Unless freedom strengthen her reason till she comprehend her duty, and see in what manner it is connected with her real good? If children are to be educated to understand the true principle of patriotism, their mother must be a patriot; and the love of mankind, from which an orderly train of virtues spring, can only be produced by considering the moral and civil interest of mankind; but the education and situation of woman, at present, shuts her out from such investigations.
In this work I have produced many arguments, which to me were conclusive, to prove, that the prevailing notion respecting a sexual character was subversive of morality, and I have contended, that to render the human body and mind more perfect, chastity must more universally prevail, and that chastity will never be respected in the male world till the person of a woman is not, as it were, idolized when little virtue or sense embellish it with the grand traces of mental beauty, or the interesting simplicity of affection.
Consider, Sir, dispassionately, these observations, for a glimpse of this truth seemed to open before you when you observed, ‘that to see one half of the human race excluded by the other from all participation of government, was a political phenomenon that, according to abstract principles, it was impossible to explain.’ If so, on what does your constitution rest? If the abstract rights of man will bear discussion and explanation, those of woman, by a parity of reasoning, will not shrink from the same test: though a different opinion prevails in this country, built on the very arguments which you use to justify the oppression of woman, prescription.
Consider, I address you as a legislator, whether, when men contend for their freedom, and to be allowed to judge for themselves, respecting their own happiness, it be not inconsistent and unjust to subjugate women, even though you firmly believe that you are acting in the manner best calculated to promote their happiness? Who made man the exclusive judge, if woman partake with him the gift of reason?
In this style, argue tyrants of every denomination from the weak king to the weak father of a family; they are all eager to crush reason; yet always assert that they usurp its throne only to be useful. Do you not act a similar part, when you FORCE all women, by denying them civil and political rights, to remain immured in their families groping in the dark? For surely, sir, you will not assert, that a duty can be binding which is not founded on reason? If, indeed, this be their destination, arguments may be drawn from reason; and thus augustly supported, the more understanding women acquire, the more they will be attached to their duty, comprehending it, for unless they comprehend it, unless their morals be fixed on the same immutable principles as those of man, no authority can make them discharge it in a virtuous manner. They may be convenient slaves, but slavery will have its constant effect, degrading the master and the abject dependent.
But, if women are to be excluded, without having a voice, from a participation of the natural rights of mankind, prove first, to ward off the charge of injustice and inconsistency, that they want reason, else this flaw in your NEW CONSTITUTION, the first constitution founded on reason, will ever show that man must, in some shape, act like a tyrant, and tyranny, in whatever part of society it rears its brazen front, will ever undermine morality.
I have repeatedly asserted, and produced what appeared to me irrefragable arguments drawn from matters of fact, to prove my assertion, that women cannot, by force, be confined to domestic concerns; for they will however ignorant, intermeddle with more weighty affairs, neglecting private duties only to disturb, by cunning tricks, the orderly plans of reason which rise above their comprehension.
Besides, whilst they are only made to acquire personal accomplishments, men will seek for pleasure in variety, and faithless husbands will make faithless wives; such ignorant beings, indeed, will be very excusable when, not taught to respect public good, nor allowed any civil right, they attempt to do themselves justice by retaliation.
Let there be then no coercion ESTABLISHED in society, and the common law of gravity prevailing, the sexes will fall into their proper places. And, now that more equitable laws are forming your citizens, marriage may become more sacred; your young men may choose wives from motives of affection, and your maidens allow love to root out vanity.
The father of a family will not then weaken his constitution and debase his sentiments, by visiting the harlot, nor forget, in obeying the call of appetite, the purpose for which it was implanted; and the mother will not neglect her children to practise the arts of coquetry, when sense and modesty secure her the friendship of her husband.
But, till men become attentive to the duty of a father, it is vain to expect women to spend that time in their nursery which they, “wise in their generation,” choose to spend at their glass; for this exertion of cunning is only an instinct of nature to enable them to obtain indirectly a little of that power of which they are unjustly denied a share; for, if women are not permitted to enjoy legitimate rights, they will render both men and themselves vicious, to obtain illicit privileges.
I wish, sir, to set some investigations of this kind afloat in France; and should they lead to a confirmation of my principles, when your constitution is revised, the rights of woman may be respected, if it be fully proved that reason calls for this respect, and loudly demands JUSTICE for one half of the human race.
After considering the historic page, and viewing the living world with anxious solicitude, the most melancholy emotions of sorrowful indignation have depressed my spirits, and I have sighed when obliged to confess, that either nature has made a great difference between man and man, or that the civilization, which has hitherto taken place in the world, has been very partial. I have turned over various books written on the subject of education, and patiently observed the conduct of parents and the management of schools; but what has been the result? a profound conviction, that the neglected education of my fellow creatures is the grand source of the misery I deplore; and that women in particular, are rendered weak and wretched by a variety of concurring causes, originating from one hasty conclusion. The conduct and manners of women, in fact, evidently prove, that their minds are not in a healthy state; for, like the flowers that are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty; and the flaunting leaves, after having pleased a fastidious eye, fade, disregarded on the stalk, long before the season when they ought to have arrived at maturity. One cause of this barren blooming I attribute to a false system of education, gathered from the books written on this subject by men, who, considering females rather as women than human creatures, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than rational wives; and the understanding of the sex has been so bubbled by this specious homage, that the civilized women of the present century, with a few exceptions, are only anxious to inspire love, when they ought to cherish a nobler ambition, and by their abilities and virtues exact respect.
In a treatise, therefore, on female rights and manners, the works which have been particularly written for their improvement must not be overlooked; especially when it is asserted, in direct terms, that the minds of women are enfeebled by false refinement; that the books of instruction, written by men of genius, have had the same tendency as more frivolous productions; and that, in the true style of Mahometanism, they are only considered as females, and not as a part of the human species, when improvable reason is allowed to be the dignified distinction, which raises men above the brute creation, and puts a natural sceptre in a feeble hand.
Yet, because I am a woman, I would not lead my readers to suppose, that I mean violently to agitate the contested question respecting the equality and inferiority of the sex; but as the subject lies in my way, and I cannot pass it over without subjecting the main tendency of my reasoning to misconstruction, I shall stop a moment to deliver, in a few words, my opinion. In the government of the physical world, it is observable that the female, in general, is inferior to the male. The male pursues, the female yields—this is the law of nature; and it does not appear to be suspended or abrogated in favour of woman. This physical superiority cannot be denied—and it is a noble prerogative! But not content with this natural pre-eminence, men endeavour to sink us still lower, merely to render us alluring objects for a moment; and women, intoxicated by the adoration which men, under the influence of their senses, pay them, do not seek to obtain a durable interest in their hearts, or to become the friends of the fellow creatures who find amusement in their society.
I am aware of an obvious inference: from every quarter have I heard exclamations against masculine women; but where are they to be found? If, by this appellation, men mean to inveigh against their ardour in hunting, shooting, and gaming, I shall most cordially join in the cry; but if it be, against the imitation of manly virtues, or, more properly speaking, the attainment of those talents and virtues, the exercise of which ennobles the human character, and which raise females in the scale of animal being, when they are comprehensively termed mankind—all those who view them with a philosophical eye must, I should think, wish with me, that they may every day grow more and more masculine.
This discussion naturally divides the subject. I shall first consider women in the grand light of human creatures, who, in common with men, are placed on this earth to unfold their faculties; and afterwards I shall more particularly point out their peculiar designation.
I wish also to steer clear of an error, which many respectable writers have fallen into; for the instruction which has hitherto been addressed to women, has rather been applicable to LADIES, if the little indirect advice, that is scattered through Sandford and Merton, be excepted; but, addressing my sex in a firmer tone, I pay particular attention to those in the middle class, because they appear to be in the most natural state. Perhaps the seeds of false refinement, immorality, and vanity have ever been shed by the great. Weak, artificial beings raised above the common wants and affections of their race, in a premature unnatural manner, undermine the very foundation of virtue, and spread corruption through the whole mass of society! As a class of mankind they have the strongest claim to pity! the education of the rich tends to render them vain and helpless, and the unfolding mind is not strengthened by the practice of those duties which dignify the human character. They only live to amuse themselves, and by the same law which in nature invariably produces certain effects, they soon only afford barren amusement.
But as I purpose taking a separate view of the different ranks of society, and of the moral character of women, in each, this hint is, for the present, sufficient; and I have only alluded to the subject, because it appears to me to be the very essence of an introduction to give a cursory account of the contents of the work it introduces.
My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their FASCINATING graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone. I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists—I wish to persuade women to endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them, that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings who are only the objects of pity and that kind of love, which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt.
Dismissing then those pretty feminine phrases, which the men condescendingly use to soften our slavish dependence, and despising that weak elegancy of mind, exquisite sensibility, and sweet docility of manners, supposed to be the sexual characteristics of the weaker vessel, I wish to show that elegance is inferior to virtue, that the first object of laudable ambition is to obtain a character as a human being, regardless of the distinction of sex; and that secondary views should be brought to this simple touchstone.
This is a rough sketch of my plan; and should I express my conviction with the energetic emotions that I feel whenever I think of the subject, the dictates of experience and reflection will be felt by some of my readers. Animated by this important object, I shall disdain to cull my phrases or polish my style—I aim at being useful, and sincerity will render me unaffected; for wishing rather to persuade by the force of my arguments, than dazzle by the elegance of my language, I shall not waste my time in rounding periods, nor in fabricating the turgid bombast of artificial feelings, which, coming from the head, never reach the heart. I shall be employed about things, not words! and, anxious to render my sex more respectable members of society, I shall try to avoid that flowery diction which has slided from essays into novels, and from novels into familiar letters and conversation.
These pretty nothings, these caricatures of the real beauty of sensibility, dropping glibly from the tongue, vitiate the taste, and create a kind of sickly delicacy that turns away from simple unadorned truth; and a deluge of false sentiments and over-stretched feelings, stifling the natural emotions of the heart, render the domestic pleasures insipid, that ought to sweeten the exercise of those severe duties, which educate a rational and immortal being for a nobler field of action.
The education of women has, of late, been more attended to than formerly; yet they are still reckoned a frivolous sex, and ridiculed or pitied by the writers who endeavour by satire or instruction to improve them. It is acknowledged that they spend many of the first years of their lives in acquiring a smattering of accomplishments: meanwhile, strength of body and mind are sacrificed to libertine notions of beauty, to the desire of establishing themselves, the only way women can rise in the world—by marriage. And this desire making mere animals of them, when they marry, they act as such children may be expected to act: they dress; they paint, and nickname God’s creatures. Surely these weak beings are only fit for the seraglio! Can they govern a family, or take care of the poor babes whom they bring into the world?
If then it can be fairly deduced from the present conduct of the sex, from the prevalent fondness for pleasure, which takes place of ambition and those nobler passions that open and enlarge the soul; that the instruction which women have received has only tended, with the constitution of civil society, to render them insignificant objects of desire; mere propagators of fools! if it can be proved, that in aiming to accomplish them, without cultivating their understandings, they are taken out of their sphere of duties, and made ridiculous and useless when the short lived bloom of beauty is over*, I presume that RATIONAL men will excuse me for endeavouring to persuade them to become more masculine and respectable.
Indeed the word masculine is only a bugbear: there is little reason to fear that women will acquire too much courage or fortitude; for their apparent inferiority with respect to bodily strength, must render them, in some degree, dependent on men in the various relations of life; but why should it be increased by prejudices that give a sex to virtue, and confound simple truths with sensual reveries?
Women are, in fact, so much degraded by mistaken notions of female excellence, that I do not mean to add a paradox when I assert, that this artificial weakness produces a propensity to tyrannize, and gives birth to cunning, the natural opponent of strength, which leads them to play off those contemptible infantile airs that undermine esteem even whilst they excite desire. Do not foster these prejudices, and they will naturally fall into their subordinate, yet respectable station in life.
It seems scarcely necessary to say, that I now speak of the sex in general. Many individuals have more sense than their male relatives; and, as nothing preponderates where there is a constant struggle for an equilibrium, without it has naturally more gravity, some women govern their husbands without degrading themselves, because intellect will always govern. …
THE RIGHTS AND INVOLVED DUTIES OF MANKIND CONSIDERED.
In the present state of society, it appears necessary to go back to first principles in search of the most simple truths, and to dispute with some prevailing prejudice every inch of ground. To clear my way, I must be allowed to ask some plain questions, and the answers will probably appear as unequivocal as the axioms on which reasoning is built; though, when entangled with various motives of action, they are formally contradicted, either by the words or conduct of men.
Consequently the perfection of our nature and capability of happiness, must be estimated by the degree of reason, virtue, and knowledge, that distinguish the individual, and direct the laws which bind society: and that from the exercise of reason, knowledge and virtue naturally flow, is equally undeniable, if mankind be viewed collectively.
The rights and duties of man thus simplified, it seems almost impertinent to attempt to illustrate truths that appear so incontrovertible: yet such deeply rooted prejudices have clouded reason, and such spurious qualities have assumed the name of virtues, that it is necessary to pursue the course of reason as it has been perplexed and involved in error, by various adventitious circumstances, comparing the simple axiom with casual deviations.
Men, in general, seem to employ their reason to justify prejudices, which they have imbibed, they cannot trace how, rather than to root them out. The mind must be strong that resolutely forms its own principles; for a kind of intellectual cowardice prevails which makes many men shrink from the task, or only do it by halves. Yet the imperfect conclusions thus drawn, are frequently very plausible, because they are built on partial experience, on just, though narrow, views.
Going back to first principles, vice skulks, with all its native deformity, from close investigation; but a set of shallow reasoners are always exclaiming that these arguments prove too much, and that a measure rotten at the core may be expedient. Thus expediency is continually contrasted with simple principles, till truth is lost in a mist of words, virtue in forms, and knowledge rendered a sounding nothing, by the specious prejudices that assume its name.
That the society is formed in the wisest manner, whose constitution is founded on the nature of man, strikes, in the abstract, every thinking being so forcibly, that it looks like presumption to endeavour to bring forward proofs; though proof must be brought, or the strong hold of prescription will never be forced by reason; yet to urge prescription as an argument to justify the depriving men (or women) of their natural rights, is one of the absurd sophisms which daily insult common sense.
The civilization of the bulk of the people of Europe, is very partial; nay, it may be made a question, whether they have acquired any virtues in exchange for innocence, equivalent to the misery produced by the vices that have been plastered over unsightly ignorance, and the freedom which has been bartered for splendid slavery. The desire of dazzling by riches, the most certain pre-eminence that man can obtain, the pleasure of commanding flattering sycophants, and many other complicated low calculations of doting self-love, have all contributed to overwhelm the mass of mankind, and make liberty a convenient handle for mock patriotism. For whilst rank and titles are held of the utmost importance, before which Genius “must hide its diminished head,” it is, with a few exceptions, very unfortunate for a nation when a man of abilities, without rank or property, pushes himself forward to notice. Alas! what unheard of misery have thousands suffered to purchase a cardinal’s hat for an intriguing obscure adventurer, who longed to be ranked with princes, or lord it over them by seizing the triple crown!
Such, indeed, has been the wretchedness that has flowed from hereditary honours, riches, and monarchy, that men of lively sensibility have almost uttered blasphemy in order to justify the dispensations of providence. Man has been held out as independent of his power who made him, or as a lawless planet darting from its orbit to steal the celestial fire of reason; and the vengeance of heaven, lurking in the subtile flame, sufficiently punished his temerity, by introducing evil into the world.
Impressed by this view of the misery and disorder which pervaded society, and fatigued with jostling against artificial fools, Rousseau became enamoured of solitude, and, being at the same time an optimist, he labours with uncommon eloquence to prove that man was naturally a solitary animal. Misled by his respect for the goodness of God, who certainly for what man of sense and feeling can doubt it! gave life only to communicate happiness, he considers evil as positive, and the work of man; not aware that he was exalting one attribute at the expense of another, equally necessary to divine perfection.
Reared on a false hypothesis, his arguments in favour of a state of nature are plausible, but unsound. I say unsound; for to assert that a state of nature is preferable to civilization in all its possible perfection, is, in other words, to arraign supreme wisdom; and the paradoxical exclamation, that God has made all things right, and that evil has been introduced by the creature whom he formed, knowing what he formed, is as unphilosophical as impious.
When that wise Being, who created us and placed us here, saw the fair idea, he willed, by allowing it to be so, that the passions should unfold our reason, because he could see that present evil would produce future good. Could the helpless creature whom he called from nothing, break loose from his providence, and boldly learn to know good by practising evil without his permission? No. How could that energetic advocate for immortality argue so inconsistently? Had mankind remained for ever in the brutal state of nature, which even his magic pen cannot paint as a state in which a single virtue took root, it would have been clear, though not to the sensitive unreflecting wanderer, that man was born to run the circle of life and death, and adorn God’s garden for some purpose which could not easily be reconciled with his attributes.
But if, to crown the whole, there were to be rational creatures produced, allowed to rise in excellency by the exercise of powers implanted for that purpose; if benignity itself thought fit to call into existence a creature above the brutes, who could think and improve himself, why should that inestimable gift, for a gift it was, if a man was so created as to have a capacity to rise above the state in which sensation produced brutal ease, be called, in direct terms, a curse? A curse it might be reckoned, if all our existence was bounded by our continuance in this world; for why should the gracious fountain of life give us passions, and the power of reflecting, only to embitter our days, and inspire us with mistaken notions of dignity? Why should he lead us from love of ourselves to the sublime emotions which the discovery of his wisdom and goodness excites, if these feelings were not set in motion to improve our nature, of which they make a part, and render us capable of enjoying a more godlike portion of happiness? Firmly persuaded that no evil exists in the world that God did not design to take place, I build my belief on the perfection of God.
But, true to his first position, next to a state of nature, Rousseau celebrates barbarism, and, apostrophizing the shade of Fabricius, he forgets that, in conquering the world, the Romans never dreamed of establishing their own liberty on a firm basis, or of extending the reign of virtue. Eager to support his system, he stigmatizes, as vicious, every effort of genius; and uttering the apotheosis of savage virtues, he exalts those to demigods, who were scarcely human—the brutal Spartans, who in defiance of justice and gratitude, sacrificed, in cold blood, the slaves that had shown themselves men to rescue their oppressors.
Disgusted with artificial manners and virtues, the citizen of Geneva, instead of properly sifting the subject, threw away the wheat with the chaff, without waiting to inquire whether the evils, which his ardent soul turned from indignantly, were the consequence of civilization, or the vestiges of barbarism. He saw vice trampling on virtue, and the semblance of goodness taking place of the reality; he saw talents bent by power to sinister purposes, and never thought of tracing the gigantic mischief up to arbitrary power, up to the hereditary distinctions that clash with the mental superiority that naturally raises a man above his fellows. He did not perceive, that the regal power, in a few generations, introduces idiotism into the noble stem, and holds out baits to render thousands idle and vicious.
Nothing can set the regal character in a more contemptible point of view, than the various crimes that have elevated men to the supreme dignity. Vile intrigues, unnatural crimes, and every vice that degrades our nature, have been the steps to this distinguished eminence; yet millions of men have supinely allowed the nerveless limbs of the posterity of such rapacious prowlers, to rest quietly on their ensanguined thrones.
What but a pestilential vapour can hover over society, when its chief director is only instructed in the invention of crimes, or the stupid routine of childish ceremonies? Will men never be wise? will they never cease to expect corn from tares, and figs from thistles?
It is impossible for any man, when the most favourable circumstances concur, to acquire sufficient knowledge and strength of mind to discharge the duties of a king, entrusted with uncontrolled power; how then must they be violated when his very elevation is an insuperable bar to the attainment of either wisdom or virtue; when all the feelings of a man are stifled by flattery, and reflection shut out by pleasure! Surely it is madness to make the fate of thousands depend on the caprice of a weak fellow creature, whose very station sinks him NECESSARILY below the meanest of his subjects! But one power should not be thrown down to exalt another—for all power intoxicates weak man; and its abuse proves, that the more equality there is established among men, the more virtue and happiness will reign in society. But this, and any similar maxim deduced from simple reason, raises an outcry—the church or the state is in danger, if faith in the wisdom of antiquity is not implicit; and they who, roused by the sight of human calamity, dare to attack human authority, are reviled as despisers of God, and enemies of man. These are bitter calumnies, yet they reached one of the best of men, (Dr. Price.) whose ashes still preach peace, and whose memory demands a respectful pause, when subjects are discussed that lay so near his heart.
After attacking the sacred majesty of kings, I shall scarcely excite surprise, by adding my firm persuasion, that every profession, in which great subordination of rank constitutes its power, is highly injurious to morality.
A standing army, for instance, is incompatible with freedom; because subordination and rigour are the very sinews of military discipline; and despotism is necessary to give vigour to enterprises that one will directs. A spirit inspired by romantic notions of honour, a kind of morality founded on the fashion of the age, can only be felt by a few officers, whilst the main body must be moved by command, like the waves of the sea; for the strong wind of authority pushes the crowd of subalterns forward, they scarcely know or care why, with headlong fury.
Besides, nothing can be so prejudicial to the morals of the inhabitants of country towns, as the occasional residence of a set of idle superficial young men, whose only occupation is gallantry, and whose polished manners render vice more dangerous, by concealing its deformity under gay ornamental drapery. An air of fashion, which is but a badge of slavery, and proves that the soul has not a strong individual character, awes simple country people into an imitation of the vices, when they cannot catch the slippery graces of politeness. Every corps is a chain of despots, who, submitting and tyrannizing without exercising their reason, become dead weights of vice and folly on the community. A man of rank or fortune, sure of rising by interest, has nothing to do but to pursue some extravagant freak; whilst the needy GENTLEMAN, who is to rise, as the phrase turns, by his merit, becomes a servile parasite or vile pander.
Sailors, the naval gentlemen, come under the same description, only their vices assume a different and a grosser cast. They are more positively indolent, when not discharging the ceremonials of their station; whilst the insignificant fluttering of soldiers may be termed active idleness. More confined to the society of men, the former acquire a fondness for humour and mischievous tricks; whilst the latter, mixing frequently with well-bred women, catch a sentimental cant. But mind is equally out of the question, whether they indulge the horse-laugh or polite simper.
May I be allowed to extend the comparison to a profession where more mind is certainly to be found; for the clergy have superior opportunities of improvement, though subordination almost equally cramps their faculties? The blind submission imposed at college to forms of belief, serves as a noviciate to the curate who most obsequiously respects the opinion of his rector or patron, if he means to rise in his profession. Perhaps there cannot be a more forcible contrast than between the servile, dependent gait of a poor curate, and the courtly mien of a bishop. And the respect and contempt they inspire render the discharge of their separate functions equally useless.
It is of great importance to observe, that the character of every man is, in some degree, formed by his profession. A man of sense may only have a cast of countenance that wears off as you trace his individuality, whilst the weak, common man, has scarcely ever any character, but what belongs to the body; at least, all his opinions have been so steeped in the vat consecrated by authority, that the faint spirit which the grape of his own vine yields cannot be distinguished.
In the infancy of society, when men were just emerging out of barbarism, chiefs and priests, touching the most powerful springs of savage conduct—hope and fear—must have had unbounded sway. An aristocracy, of course, is naturally the first form of government. But clashing interests soon losing their equipoise, a monarchy and hierarchy break out of the confusion of ambitious struggles, and the foundation of both is secured by feudal tenures. This appears to be the origin of monarchial and priestly power, and the dawn of civilization. But such combustible materials cannot long be pent up; and getting vent in foreign wars and intestine insurrections, the people acquire some power in the tumult, which obliges their rulers to gloss over their oppression with a show of right. Thus, as wars, agriculture, commerce, and literature, expands the mind, despots are compelled, to make covert corruption hold fast the power which was formerly snatched by open force.* And this baneful lurking gangrene is most quickly spread by luxury and superstition, the sure dregs of ambition. The indolent puppet of a court first becomes a luxurious monster, or fastidious sensualist, and then makes the contagion which his unnatural state spreads, the instrument of tyranny.
(*Footnote. Men of abilities scatter seeds that grow up, and have a great influence on the forming opinion; and when once the public opinion preponderates, through the exertion of reason, the overthrow of arbitrary power is not very distant.)
It is the pestiferous purple which renders the progress of civilization a curse, and warps the understanding, till men of sensibility doubt whether the expansion of intellect produces a greater portion of happiness or misery. But the nature of the poison points out the antidote; and had Rousseau mounted one step higher in his investigation; or could his eye have pierced through the foggy atmosphere, which he almost disdained to breathe, his active mind would have darted forward to contemplate the perfection of man in the establishment of true civilization, instead of taking his ferocious flight back to the night of sensual ignorance. …
To account for, and excuse the tyranny of man, many ingenious arguments have been brought forward to prove, that the two sexes, in the acquirement of virtue, ought to aim at attaining a very different character: or, to speak explicitly, women are not allowed to have sufficient strength of mind to acquire what really deserves the name of virtue. Yet it should seem, allowing them to have souls, that there is but one way appointed by providence to lead MANKIND to either virtue or happiness.
If then women are not a swarm of ephemeron triflers, why should they be kept in ignorance under the specious name of innocence? Men complain, and with reason, of the follies and caprices of our sex, when they do not keenly satirize our headstrong passions and groveling vices. Behold, I should answer, the natural effect of ignorance! The mind will ever be unstable that has only prejudices to rest on, and the current will run with destructive fury when there are no barriers to break its force. Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, OUTWARD obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man; and should they be beautiful, every thing else is needless, for at least twenty years of their lives.
Thus Milton describes our first frail mother; though when he tells us that women are formed for softness and sweet attractive grace, I cannot comprehend his meaning, unless, in the true Mahometan strain, he meant to deprive us of souls, and insinuate that we were beings only designed by sweet attractive grace, and docile blind obedience, to gratify the senses of man when he can no longer soar on the wing of contemplation.
How grossly do they insult us, who thus advise us only to render ourselves gentle, domestic brutes! For instance, the winning softness, so warmly, and frequently recommended, that governs by obeying. What childish expressions, and how insignificant is the being—can it be an immortal one? who will condescend to govern by such sinister methods! “Certainly,” says Lord Bacon, “man is of kin to the beasts by his body: and if he be not of kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature!” Men, indeed, appear to me to act in a very unphilosophical manner, when they try to secure the good conduct of women by attempting to keep them always in a state of childhood. Rousseau was more consistent when he wished to stop the progress of reason in both sexes; for if men eat of the tree of knowledge, women will come in for a taste: but, from the imperfect cultivation which their understandings now receive, they only attain a knowledge of evil.
Children, I grant, should be innocent; but when the epithet is applied to men, or women, it is but a civil term for weakness. For if it be allowed that women were destined by Providence to acquire human virtues, and by the exercise of their understandings, that stability of character which is the firmest ground to rest our future hopes upon, they must be permitted to turn to the fountain of light, and not forced to shape their course by the twinkling of a mere satellite. Milton, I grant, was of a very different opinion; for he only bends to the indefeasible right of beauty, though it would be difficult to render two passages, which I now mean to contrast, consistent: but into similar inconsistencies are great men often led by their senses:—
My author and disposer, what thou bidst
Unargued I obey; so God ordains;
God is thy law, thou mine; to know no more
Is woman’s happiest knowledge and her praise.”
These are exactly the arguments that I have used to children; but I have added, “Your reason is now gaining strength, and, till it arrives at some degree of maturity, you must look up to me for advice: then you ought to THINK, and only rely on God.”
And these inferior far beneath me set?
Among unequals what society
Can sort, what harmony or delight?
Which must be mutual, in proportion due
Given and received; but in disparity
The one intense, the other still remiss
Cannot well suit with either, but soon prove
Tedious alike: of fellowship I speak
Such as I seek fit to participate
All rational delight.”
In treating, therefore, of the manners of women, let us, disregarding sensual arguments, trace what we should endeavour to make them in order to co-operate, if the expression be not too bold, with the Supreme Being.
By individual education, I mean—for the sense of the word is not precisely defined—such an attention to a child as will slowly sharpen the senses, form the temper, regulate the passions, as they begin to ferment, and set the understanding to work before the body arrives at maturity; so that the man may only have to proceed, not to begin, the important task of learning to think and reason.
To prevent any misconstruction, I must add, that I do not believe that a private education can work the wonders which some sanguine writers have attributed to it. Men and women must be educated, in a great degree, by the opinions and manners of the society they live in. In every age there has been a stream of popular opinion that has carried all before it, and given a family character, as it were, to the century. It may then fairly be inferred, that, till society be differently constituted, much cannot be expected from education. It is, however, sufficient for my present purpose to assert, that, whatever effect circumstances have on the abilities, every being may become virtuous by the exercise of its own reason; for if but one being was created with vicious inclinations—that is, positively bad— what can save us from atheism? or if we worship a God, is not that God a devil?
Consequently, the most perfect education, in my opinion, is such an exercise of the understanding as is best calculated to strengthen the body and form the heart; or, in other words, to enable the individual to attain such habits of virtue as will render it independent. In fact, it is a farce to call any being virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own reason. This was Rousseau’s opinion respecting men: I extend it to women, and confidently assert that they have been drawn out of their sphere by false refinement, and not by an endeavour to acquire masculine qualities. Still the regal homage which they receive is so intoxicating, that, till the manners of the times are changed, and formed on more reasonable principles, it may be impossible to convince them that the illegitimate power, which they obtain by degrading themselves, is a curse, and that they must return to nature and equality, if they wish to secure the placid satisfaction that unsophisticated affections impart. But for this epoch we must wait—wait, perhaps, till kings and nobles, enlightened by reason, and, preferring the real dignity of man to childish state, throw off their gaudy hereditary trappings; and if then women do not resign the arbitrary power of beauty, they will prove that they have LESS mind than man. I may be accused of arrogance; still I must declare, what I firmly believe, that all the writers who have written on the subject of female education and manners, from Rousseau to Dr. Gregory, have contributed to render women more artificial, weaker characters, than they would otherwise have been; and, consequently, more useless members of society. I might have expressed this conviction in a lower key; but I am afraid it would have been the whine of affectation, and not the faithful expression of my feelings, of the clear result, which experience and reflection have led me to draw. When I come to that division of the subject, I shall advert to the passages that I more particularly disapprove of, in the works of the authors I have just alluded to; but it is first necessary to observe, that my objection extends to the whole purport of those books, which tend, in my opinion, to degrade one half of the human species, and render women pleasing at the expense of every solid virtue.
Though to reason on Rousseau’s ground, if man did attain a degree of perfection of mind when his body arrived at maturity, it might be proper in order to make a man and his wife ONE, that she should rely entirely on his understanding; and the graceful ivy, clasping the oak that supported it, would form a whole in which strength and beauty would be equally conspicuous. But, alas! husbands, as well as their helpmates, are often only overgrown children; nay, thanks to early debauchery, scarcely men in their outward form, and if the blind lead the blind, one need not come from heaven to tell us the consequence.
Many are the causes that, in the present corrupt state of society, contribute to enslave women by cramping their understandings and sharpening their senses. One, perhaps, that silently does more mischief than all the rest, is their disregard of order.
To do every thing in an orderly manner, is a most important precept, which women, who, generally speaking, receive only a disorderly kind of education, seldom attend to with that degree of exactness that men, who from their infancy are broken into method, observe. This negligent kind of guesswork, for what other epithet can be used to point out the random exertions of a sort of instinctive common sense, never brought to the test of reason? prevents their generalizing matters of fact, so they do to-day, what they did yesterday, merely because they did it yesterday.
This contempt of the understanding in early life has more baneful consequences than is commonly supposed; for the little knowledge which women of strong minds attain, is, from various circumstances, of a more desultory kind than the knowledge of men, and it is acquired more by sheer observations on real life, than from comparing what has been individually observed with the results of experience generalized by speculation. Led by their dependent situation and domestic employments more into society, what they learn is rather by snatches; and as learning is with them, in general, only a secondary thing, they do not pursue any one branch with that persevering ardour necessary to give vigour to the faculties, and clearness to the judgment. In the present state of society, a little learning is required to support the character of a gentleman; and boys are obliged to submit to a few years of discipline. But in the education of women the cultivation of the understanding is always subordinate to the acquirement of some corporeal accomplishment; even while enervated by confinement and false notions of modesty, the body is prevented from attaining that grace and beauty which relaxed half-formed limbs never exhibit. Besides, in youth their faculties are not brought forward by emulation; and having no serious scientific study, if they have natural sagacity it is turned too soon on life and manners. They dwell on effects, and modifications, without tracing them back to causes; and complicated rules to adjust behaviour are a weak substitute for simple principles.
As a proof that education gives this appearance of weakness to females, we may instance the example of military men, who are, like them, sent into the world before their minds have been stored with knowledge or fortified by principles. The consequences are similar; soldiers acquire a little superficial knowledge, snatched from the muddy current of conversation, and, from continually mixing with society, they gain, what is termed a knowledge of the world; and this acquaintance with manners and customs has frequently been confounded with a knowledge of the human heart. But can the crude fruit of casual observation, never brought to the test of judgment, formed by comparing speculation and experience, deserve such a distinction? Soldiers, as well as women, practice the minor virtues with punctilious politeness. Where is then the sexual difference, when the education has been the same; all the difference that I can discern, arises from the superior advantage of liberty which enables the former to see more of life.
Standing armies can never consist of resolute, robust men; they may be well disciplined machines, but they will seldom contain men under the influence of strong passions or with very vigorous faculties. And as for any depth of understanding, I will venture to affirm, that it is as rarely to be found in the army as amongst women; and the cause, I maintain, is the same. It may be further observed, that officers are also particularly attentive to their persons, fond of dancing, crowded rooms, adventures, and ridicule. Like the FAIR sex, the business of their lives is gallantry. They were taught to please, and they only live to please. Yet they do not lose their rank in the distinction of sexes, for they are still reckoned superior to women, though in what their superiority consists, beyond what I have just mentioned, it is difficult to discover.
The great misfortune is this, that they both acquire manners before morals, and a knowledge of life before they have from reflection, any acquaintance with the grand ideal outline of human nature. The consequence is natural; satisfied with common nature, they become a prey to prejudices, and taking all their opinions on credit, they blindly submit to authority. So that if they have any sense, it is a kind of instinctive glance, that catches proportions, and decides with respect to manners; but fails when arguments are to be pursued below the surface, or opinions analyzed.
May not the same remark be applied to women? Nay, the argument may be carried still further, for they are both thrown out of a useful station by the unnatural distinctions established in civilized life. Riches and hereditary honours have made cyphers of women to give consequence to the numerical figure; and idleness has produced a mixture of gallantry and despotism in society, which leads the very men who are the slaves of their mistresses, to tyrannize over their sisters, wives, and daughters. This is only keeping them in rank and file, it is true. Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience; but, as blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavour to keep women in the dark, because the former only want slaves, and the latter a play-thing. The sensualist, indeed, has been the most dangerous of tyrants, and women have been duped by their lovers, as princes by their ministers, whilst dreaming that they reigned over them.
I now principally allude to Rousseau, for his character of Sophia is, undoubtedly, a captivating one, though it appears to me grossly unnatural; however, it is not the superstructure, but the foundation of her character, the principles on which her education was built, that I mean to attack; nay, warmly as I admire the genius of that able writer, whose opinions I shall often have occasion to cite, indignation always takes place of admiration, and the rigid frown of insulted virtue effaces the smile of complacency, which his eloquent periods are wont to raise, when I read his voluptuous reveries. Is this the man, who, in his ardour for virtue, would banish all the soft arts of peace, and almost carry us back to Spartan discipline? Is this the man who delights to paint the useful struggles of passion, the triumphs of good dispositions, and the heroic flights which carry the glowing soul out of itself? How are these mighty sentiments lowered when he describes the prettyfoot and enticing airs of his little favourite! But, for the present, I waive the subject, and, instead of severely reprehending the transient effusions of overweening sensibility, I shall only observe, that whoever has cast a benevolent eye on society, must often have been gratified by the sight of humble mutual love, not dignified by sentiment, nor strengthened by a union in intellectual pursuits. The domestic trifles of the day have afforded matter for cheerful converse, and innocent caresses have softened toils which did not require great exercise of mind, or stretch of thought: yet, has not the sight of this moderate felicity excited more tenderness than respect? An emotion similar to what we feel when children are playing, or animals sporting, whilst the contemplation of the noble struggles of suffering merit has raised admiration, and carried our thoughts to that world where sensation will give place to reason.
Let us examine this question. Rousseau declares, that a woman should never, for a moment feel herself independent, that she should be governed by fear to exercise her NATURAL cunning, and made a coquetish slave in order to render her a more alluring object of desire, a SWEETER companion to man, whenever he chooses to relax himself. He carries the arguments, which he pretends to draw from the indications of nature, still further, and insinuates that truth and fortitude the corner stones of all human virtue, shall be cultivated with certain restrictions, because with respect to the female character, obedience is the grand lesson which ought to be impressed with unrelenting rigour.
What nonsense! When will a great man arise with sufficient strength of mind to puff away the fumes which pride and sensuality have thus spread over the subject! If women are by nature inferior to men, their virtues must be the same in quality, if not in degree, or virtue is a relative idea; consequently, their conduct should be founded on the same principles, and have the same aim.
Connected with man as daughters, wives, and mothers, their moral character may be estimated by their manner of fulfilling those simple duties; but the end, the grand end of their exertions should be to unfold their own faculties, and acquire the dignity of conscious virtue. They may try to render their road pleasant; but ought never to forget, in common with man, that life yields not the felicity which can satisfy an immortal soul. I do not mean to insinuate, that either sex should be so lost, in abstract reflections or distant views, as to forget the affections and duties that lie before them, and are, in truth, the means appointed to produce the fruit of life; on the contrary, I would warmly recommend them, even while I assert, that they afford most satisfaction when they are considered in their true subordinate light.
Probably the prevailing opinion, that woman was created for man, may have taken its rise from Moses’s poetical story; yet, as very few it is presumed, who have bestowed any serious thought on the subject, ever supposed that Eve was, literally speaking, one of Adam’s ribs, the deduction must be allowed to fall to the ground; or, only be so far admitted as it proves that man, from the remotest antiquity, found it convenient to exert his strength to subjugate his companion, and his invention to show that she ought to have her neck bent under the yoke; because she as well as the brute creation, was created to do his pleasure.
Let it not be concluded, that I wish to invert the order of things; I have already granted, that, from the constitution of their bodies, men seem to be designed by Providence to attain a greater degree of virtue. I speak collectively of the whole sex; but I see not the shadow of a reason to conclude that their virtues should differ in respect to their nature. In fact, how can they, if virtue has only one eternal standard? I must, therefore, if I reason consequentially, as strenuously maintain, that they have the same simple direction, as that there is a God.
It follows then, that cunning should not be opposed to wisdom, little cares to great exertions, nor insipid softness, varnished over with the name of gentleness, to that fortitude which grand views alone can inspire.
I shall be told, that woman would then lose many of her peculiar graces, and the opinion of a well known poet might be quoted to refute my unqualified assertions. For Pope has said, in the name of the whole male sex,
In what light this sally places men and women, I shall leave to the judicious to determine; meanwhile I shall content myself with observing, that I cannot discover why, unless they are mortal, females should always be degraded by being made subservient to love or lust.
To speak disrespectfully of love is, I know, high treason against sentiment and fine feelings; but I wish to speak the simple language of truth, and rather to address the head than the heart. To endeavour to reason love out of the world, would be to out Quixote Cervantes, and equally offend against common sense; but an endeavour to restrain this tumultuous passion, and to prove that it should not be allowed to dethrone superior powers, or to usurp the sceptre which the understanding should ever coolly wield, appears less wild.
Youth is the season for love in both sexes; but in those days of thoughtless enjoyment, provision should be made for the more important years of life, when reflection takes place of sensation. But Rousseau, and most of the male writers who have followed his steps, have warmly inculcated that the whole tendency of female education ought to be directed to one point to render them pleasing.
Let me reason with the supporters of this opinion, who have any knowledge of human nature, do they imagine that marriage can eradicate the habitude of life? The woman who has only been taught to please, will soon find that her charms are oblique sun-beams, and that they cannot have much effect on her husband’s heart when they are seen every day, when the summer is past and gone. Will she then have sufficient native energy to look into herself for comfort, and cultivate her dormant faculties? or, is it not more rational to expect, that she will try to please other men; and, in the emotions raised by the expectation of new conquests, endeavour to forget the mortification her love or pride has received? When the husband ceases to be a lover—and the time will inevitably come, her desire of pleasing will then grow languid, or become a spring of bitterness; and love, perhaps, the most evanescent of all passions, gives place to jealousy or vanity.
I now speak of women who are restrained by principle or prejudice; such women though they would shrink from an intrigue with real abhorrence, yet, nevertheless, wish to be convinced by the homage of gallantry, that they are cruelly neglected by their husbands; or, days and weeks are spent in dreaming of the happiness enjoyed by congenial souls, till the health is undermined and the spirits broken by discontent. How then can the great art of pleasing be such a necessary study? it is only useful to a mistress; the chaste wife, and serious mother, should only consider her power to please as the polish of her virtues, and the affection of her husband as one of the comforts that render her task less difficult, and her life happier. But, whether she be loved or neglected, her first wish should be to make herself respectable, and not rely for all her happiness on a being subject to like infirmities with herself.
He advises them to cultivate a fondness for dress, because a fondness for dress, he asserts, is natural to them. I am unable to comprehend what either he or Rousseau mean, when they frequently use this indefinite term. If they told us, that in a pre-existent state the soul was fond of dress, and brought this inclination with it into a new body, I should listen to them with a half smile, as I often do when I hear a rant about innate elegance. But if he only meant to say that the exercise of the faculties will produce this fondness, I deny it. It is not natural; but arises, like false ambition in men, from a love of power.
Dr. Gregory goes much further; he actually recommends dissimulation, and advises an innocent girl to give the lie to her feelings, and not dance with spirit, when gaiety of heart would make her feet eloquent, without making her gestures immodest. In the name of truth and common sense, why should not one woman acknowledge that she can take more exercise than another? or, in other words, that she has a sound constitution; and why to damp innocent vivacity, is she darkly to be told, that men will draw conclusions which she little thinks of? Let the libertine draw what inference he pleases; but, I hope, that no sensible mother will restrain the natural frankness of youth, by instilling such indecent cautions. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh; and a wiser than Solomon hath said, that the heart should be made clean, and not trivial ceremonies observed, which it is not very difficult to fulfill with scrupulous exactness when vice reigns in the heart.
Women ought to endeavour to purify their hearts; but can they do so when their uncultivated understandings make them entirely dependent on their senses for employment and amusement, when no noble pursuit sets them above the little vanities of the day, or enables them to curb the wild emotions that agitate a reed over which every passing breeze has power? To gain the affections of a virtuous man, is affectation necessary?
Nature has given woman a weaker frame than man; but, to ensure her husband’s affections, must a wife, who, by the exercise of her mind and body, whilst she was discharging the duties of a daughter, wife, and mother, has allowed her constitution to retain its natural strength, and her nerves a healthy tone, is she, I say, to condescend, to use art, and feign a sickly delicacy, in order to secure her husband’s affection? Weakness may excite tenderness, and gratify the arrogant pride of man; but the lordly caresses of a protector will not gratify a noble mind that pants for and deserves to be respected. Fondness is a poor substitute for friendship!
In a seraglio, I grant, that all these arts are necessary; the epicure must have his palate tickled, or he will sink into apathy; but have women so little ambition as to be satisfied with such a condition? Can they supinely dream life away in the lap of pleasure, or in the languor of weariness, rather than assert their claim to pursue reasonable pleasures, and render themselves conspicuous, by practising the virtues which dignify mankind? Surely she has not an immortal soul who can loiter life away, merely employed to adorn her person, that she may amuse the languid hours, and soften the cares of a fellow-creature who is willing to be enlivened by her smiles and tricks, when the serious business of life is over.
Besides, the woman who strengthens her body and exercises her mind will, by managing her family and practising various virtues, become the friend, and not the humble dependent of her husband; and if she deserves his regard by possessing such substantial qualities, she will not find it necessary to conceal her affection, nor to pretend to an unnatural coldness of constitution to excite her husband’s passions. In fact, if we revert to history, we shall find that the women who have distinguished themselves have neither been the most beautiful nor the most gentle of their sex.
Nature, or to speak with strict propriety God, has made all things right; but man has sought him out many inventions to mar the work. I now allude to that part of Dr. Gregory’s treatise, where he advises a wife never to let her husband know the extent of her sensibility or affection. Voluptuous precaution; and as ineffectual as absurd. Love, from its very nature, must be transitory. To seek for a secret that would render it constant, would be as wild a search as for the philosopher’s stone, or the grand panacea; and the discovery would be equally useless, or rather pernicious to mankind. The most holy band of society is friendship. It has been well said, by a shrewd satirist, “that rare as true love is, true friendship is still rarer.”
Love, the common passion, in which chance and sensation take place of choice and reason, is in some degree, felt by the mass of mankind; for it is not necessary to speak, at present, of the emotions that rise above or sink below love. This passion, naturally increased by suspense and difficulties, draws the mind out of its accustomed state, and exalts the affections; but the security of marriage, allowing the fever of love to subside, a healthy temperature is thought insipid, only by those who have not sufficient intellect to substitute the calm tenderness of friendship, the confidence of respect, instead of blind admiration, and the sensual emotions of fondness.
This is, must be, the course of nature—friendship or indifference inevitably succeeds love. And this constitution seems perfectly to harmonize with the system of government which prevails in the moral world. Passions are spurs to action, and open the mind; but they sink into mere appetites, become a personal momentary gratification, when the object is gained, and the satisfied mind rests in enjoyment. The man who had some virtue whilst he was struggling for a crown, often becomes a voluptuous tyrant when it graces his brow; and, when the lover is not lost in the husband, the dotard a prey to childish caprices, and fond jealousies, neglects the serious duties of life, and the caresses which should excite confidence in his children are lavished on the overgrown child, his wife.
In order to fulfil the duties of life, and to be able to pursue with vigour the various employments which form the moral character, a master and mistress of a family ought not to continue to love each other with passion. I mean to say, that they ought not to indulge those emotions which disturb the order of society, and engross the thoughts that should be otherwise employed. The mind that has never been engrossed by one object wants vigour—if it can long be so, it is weak.
A mistaken education, a narrow, uncultivated mind, and many sexual prejudices, tend to make women more constant than men; but, for the present, I shall not touch on this branch of the subject. I will go still further, and advance, without dreaming of a paradox, that an unhappy marriage is often very advantageous to a family, and that the neglected wife is, in general, the best mother. And this would almost always be the consequence, if the female mind was more enlarged; for, it seems to be the common dispensation of Providence, that what we gain in present enjoyment should be deducted from the treasure of life, experience; and that when we are gathering the flowers of the day and revelling in pleasure, the solid fruit of toil and wisdom should not be caught at the same time. The way lies before us, we must turn to the right or left; and he who will pass life away in bounding from one pleasure to another, must not complain if he neither acquires wisdom nor respectability of character.
Supposing for a moment, that the soul is not immortal, and that man was only created for the present scene; I think we should have reason to complain that love, infantine fondness, ever grew insipid and palled upon the sense. Let us eat, drink, and love, for to-morrow we die, would be in fact the language of reason, the morality of life; and who but a fool would part with a reality for a fleeting shadow? But, if awed by observing the improvable powers of the mind, we disdain to confine our wishes or thoughts to such a comparatively mean field of action; that only appears grand and important as it is connected with a boundless prospect and sublime hopes; what necessity is there for falsehood in conduct, and why must the sacred majesty of truth be violated to detain a deceitful good that saps the very foundation of virtue? Why must the female mind be tainted by coquetish arts to gratify the sensualist, and prevent love from subsiding into friendship or compassionate tenderness, when there are not qualities on which friendship can be built? Let the honest heart show itself, and REASON teach passion to submit to necessity; or, let the dignified pursuit of virtue and knowledge raise the mind above those emotions which rather imbitter than sweeten the cup of life, when they are not restrained within due bounds.
I do not mean to allude to the romantic passion, which is the concomitant of genius. Who can clip its wings? But that grand passion not proportioned to the puny enjoyments of life, is only true to the sentiment, and feeds on itself. The passions which have been celebrated for their durability have always been unfortunate. They have acquired strength by absence and constitutional melancholy. The fancy has hovered round a form of beauty dimly seen—but familiarity might have turned admiration into disgust; or, at least, into indifference, and allowed the imagination leisure to start fresh game. With perfect propriety, according to this view of things, does Rousseau make the mistress of his soul, Eloisa, love St. Preux, when life was fading before her; but this is no proof of the immortality of the passion.
Of the same complexion is Dr. Gregory’s advice respecting delicacy of sentiment, which he advises a woman not to acquire, if she has determined to marry. This determination, however, perfectly consistent with his former advice, he calls INDELICATE, and earnestly persuades his daughters to conceal it, though it may govern their conduct: as if it were indelicate to have the common appetites of human nature.
Noble morality! and consistent with the cautious prudence of a little soul that cannot extend its views beyond the present minute division of existence. If all the faculties of woman’s mind are only to be cultivated as they respect her dependence on man; if, when she obtains a husband she has arrived at her goal, and meanly proud, is satisfied with such a paltry crown, let her grovel contentedly, scarcely raised by her employments above the animal kingdom; but, if she is struggling for the prize of her high calling, let her cultivate her understanding without stopping to consider what character the husband may have whom she is destined to marry. Let her only determine, without being too anxious about present happiness, to acquire the qualities that ennoble a rational being, and a rough, inelegant husband may shock her taste without destroying her peace of mind. She will not model her soul to suit the frailties of her companion, but to bear with them: his character may be a trial, but not an impediment to virtue.
If Dr. Gregory confined his remark to romantic expectations of constant love and congenial feelings, he should have recollected, that experience will banish what advice can never make us cease to wish for, when the imagination is kept alive at the expence of reason.
I own it frequently happens, that women who have fostered a romantic unnatural delicacy of feeling, waste their lives in IMAGINING how happy they should have been with a husband who could love them with a fervid increasing affection every day, and all day. But they might as well pine married as single, and would not be a jot more unhappy with a bad husband than longing for a good one. That a proper education; or, to speak with more precision, a well stored mind, would enable a woman to support a single life with dignity, I grant; but that she should avoid cultivating her taste, lest her husband should occasionally shock it, is quitting a substance for a shadow. To say the truth, I do not know of what use is an improved taste, if the individual be not rendered more independent of the casualties of life; if new sources of enjoyment, only dependent on the solitary operations of the mind, are not opened. People of taste, married or single, without distinction, will ever be disgusted by various things that touch not less observing minds. On this conclusion the argument must not be allowed to hinge; but in the whole sum of enjoyment is taste to be denominated a blessing?
The question is, whether it procures most pain or pleasure? The answer will decide the propriety of Dr. Gregory’s advice, and show how absurd and tyrannic it is thus to lay down a system of slavery; or to attempt to educate moral beings by any other rules than those deduced from pure reason, which apply to the whole species.
Gentleness of manners, forbearance, and long suffering, are such amiable godlike qualities, that in sublime poetic strains the Deity has been invested with them; and, perhaps, no representation of his goodness so strongly fastens on the human affections as those that represent him abundant in mercy and willing to pardon. Gentleness, considered in this point of view, bears on its front all the characteristics of grandeur, combined with the winning graces of condescension; but what a different aspect it assumes when it is the submissive demeanour of dependence, the support of weakness that loves, because it wants protection; and is forbearing, because it must silently endure injuries; smiling under the lash at which it dare not snarl. Abject as this picture appears, it is the portrait of an accomplished woman, according to the received opinion of female excellence, separated by specious reasoners from human excellence. Or, they (Vide Rousseau, and Swedenborg) kindly restore the rib, and make one moral being of a man and woman; not forgetting to give her all the “submissive charms.”
How women are to exist in that state where there is to be neither marrying nor giving in marriage, we are not told. For though moralists have agreed, that the tenor of life seems to prove that MAN is prepared by various circumstances for a future state, they constantly concur in advising WOMAN only to provide for the present. Gentleness, docility, and a spaniel-like affection are, on this ground, consistently recommended as the cardinal virtues of the sex; and, disregarding the arbitrary economy of nature, one writer has declared that it is masculine for a woman to be melancholy. She was created to be the toy of man, his rattle, and it must jingle in his ears, whenever, dismissing reason, he chooses to be amused.
To recommend gentleness, indeed, on a broad basis is strictly philosophical. A frail being should labour to be gentle. But when forbearance confounds right and wrong, it ceases to be a virtue; and, however convenient it may be found in a companion, that companion will ever be considered as an inferior, and only inspire a vapid tenderness, which easily degenerates into contempt. Still, if advice could really make a being gentle, whose natural disposition admitted not of such a fine polish, something toward the advancement of order would be attained; but if, as might quickly be demonstrated, only affectation be produced by this indiscriminate counsel, which throws a stumbling block in the way of gradual improvement, and true melioration of temper, the sex is not much benefited by sacrificing solid virtues to the attainment of superficial graces, though for a few years they may procure the individual’s regal sway.
As a philosopher, I read with indignation the plausible epithets which men use to soften their insults; and, as a moralist, I ask what is meant by such heterogeneous associations, as fair defects, amiable weaknesses, etc.? If there is but one criterion of morals, but one archetype for man, women appear to be suspended by destiny, according to the vulgar tale of Mahomet’s coffin; they have neither the unerring instinct of brutes, nor are allowed to fix the eye of reason on a perfect model. They were made to be loved, and must not aim at respect, lest they should be hunted out of society as masculine.
But to view the subject in another point of view. Do passive indolent women make the best wives? Confining our discussion to the present moment of existence, let us see how such weak creatures perform their part? Do the women who, by the attainment of a few superficial accomplishments, have strengthened the prevailing prejudice, merely contribute to the happiness of their husbands? Do they display their charms merely to amuse them? And have women, who have early imbibed notions of passive obedience, sufficient character to manage a family or educate children? So far from it, that, after surveying the history of woman, I cannot help agreeing with the severest satirist, considering the sex as the weakest as well as the most oppressed half of the species. What does history disclose but marks of inferiority, and how few women have emancipated themselves from the galling yoke of sovereign man? So few, that the exceptions remind me of an ingenious conjecture respecting Newton: that he was probably a being of a superior order, accidentally caged in a human body. In the same style I have been led to imagine that the few extraordinary women who have rushed in eccentrical directions out of the orbit prescribed to their sex, were MALE spirits, confined by mistake in a female frame. But if it be not philosophical to think of sex when the soul is mentioned, the inferiority must depend on the organs; or the heavenly fire, which is to ferment the clay, is not given in equal portions.
But avoiding, as I have hitherto done, any direct comparison of the two sexes collectively, or frankly acknowledging the inferiority of woman, according to the present appearance of things, I shall only insist, that men have increased that inferiority till women are almost sunk below the standard of rational creatures. Let their faculties have room to unfold, and their virtues to gain strength, and then determine where the whole sex must stand in the intellectual scale. Yet, let it be remembered, that for a small number of distinguished women I do not ask a place.
It is difficult for us purblind mortals to say to what height human discoveries and improvements may arrive, when the gloom of despotism subsides, which makes us stumble at every step; but, when morality shall be settled on a more solid basis, then, without being gifted with a prophetic spirit, I will venture to predict, that woman will be either the friend or slave of man. We shall not, as at present, doubt whether she is a moral agent, or the link which unites man with brutes. But, should it then appear, that like the brutes they were principally created for the use of man, he will let them patiently bite the bridle, and not mock them with empty praise; or, should their rationality be proved, he will not impede their improvement merely to gratify his sensual appetites. He will not with all the graces of rhetoric, advise them to submit implicitly their understandings to the guidance of man. He will not, when he treats of the education of women, assert, that they ought never to have the free use of reason, nor would he recommend cunning and dissimulation to beings who are acquiring, in like manner as himself, the virtues of humanity.
Surely there can be but one rule of right, if morality has an eternal foundation, and whoever sacrifices virtue, strictly so called, to present convenience, or whose DUTY it is to act in such a manner, lives only for the passing day, and cannot be an accountable creature.
For that they are bound by the adamantine chain of destiny is most certain, if it be proved that they are never to exercise their own reason, never to be independent, never to rise above opinion, or to feel the dignity of a rational will that only bows to God, and often forgets that the universe contains any being but itself, and the model of perfection to which its ardent gaze is turned, to adore attributes that, softened into virtues, may be imitated in kind, though the degree overwhelms the enraptured mind.
If, I say, for I would not impress by declamation when reason offers her sober light, if they are really capable of acting like rational creatures, let them not be treated like slaves; or, like the brutes who are dependent on the reason of man, when they associate with him; but cultivate their minds, give them the salutary, sublime curb of principle, and let them attain conscious dignity by feeling themselves only dependent on God. Teach them, in common with man, to submit to necessity, instead of giving, to render them more pleasing, a sex to morals.
Further, should experience prove that they cannot attain the same degree of strength of mind, perseverance and fortitude, let their virtues be the same in kind, though they may vainly struggle for the same degree; and the superiority of man will be equally clear, if not clearer; and truth, as it is a simple principle, which admits of no modification, would be common to both. Nay, the order of society, as it is at present regulated, would not be inverted, for woman would then only have the rank that reason assigned her, and arts could not be practised to bring the balance even, much less to turn it.
These may be termed Utopian dreams. Thanks to that Being who impressed them on my soul, and gave me sufficient strength of mind to dare to exert my own reason, till becoming dependent only on him for the support of my virtue, I view with indignation, the mistaken notions that enslave my sex.
I love man as my fellow; but his sceptre real or usurped, extends not to me, unless the reason of an individual demands my homage; and even then the submission is to reason, and not to man. In fact, the conduct of an accountable being must be regulated by the operations of its own reason; or on what foundation rests the throne of God?
It appears to me necessary to dwell on these obvious truths, because females have been insulted, as it were; and while they have been stripped of the virtues that should clothe humanity, they have been decked with artificial graces, that enable them to exercise a short lived tyranny. Love, in their bosoms, taking place of every nobler passion, their sole ambition is to be fair, to raise emotion instead of inspiring respect; and this ignoble desire, like the servility in absolute monarchies, destroys all strength of character. Liberty is the mother of virtue, and if women are, by their very constitution, slaves, and not allowed to breathe the sharp invigorating air of freedom, they must ever languish like exotics, and be reckoned beautiful flaws in nature; let it also be remembered, that they are the only flaw.
As to the argument respecting the subjection in which the sex has ever been held, it retorts on man. The many have always been enthralled by the few; and, monsters who have scarcely shown any discernment of human excellence, have tyrannized over thousands of their fellow creatures. Why have men of superior endowments submitted to such degradation? For, is it not universally acknowledged that kings, viewed collectively, have ever been inferior, in abilities and virtue, to the same number of men taken from the common mass of mankind—yet, have they not, and are they not still treated with a degree of reverence, that is an insult to reason? China is not the only country where a living man has been made a God. MEN have submitted to superior strength, to enjoy with impunity the pleasure of the moment—WOMEN have only done the same, and therefore till it is proved that the courtier, who servilely resigns the birthright of a man, is not a moral agent, it cannot be demonstrated that woman is essentially inferior to man, because she has always been subjugated.
Brutal force has hitherto governed the world, and that the science of politics is in its infancy, is evident from philosophers scrupling to give the knowledge most useful to man that determinate distinction.
Bodily strength from being the distinction of heroes is now sunk into such unmerited contempt, that men as well as women, seem to think it unnecessary: the latter, as it takes from their feminine graces, and from that lovely weakness, the source of their undue power; and the former, because it appears inimical with the character of a gentleman.
That they have both by departing from one extreme run into another, may easily be proved; but it first may be proper to observe, that a vulgar error has obtained a degree of credit, which has given force to a false conclusion, in which an effect has been mistaken for a cause.
People of genius have, very frequently, impaired their constitutions by study, or careless inattention to their health, and the violence of their passions bearing a proportion to the vigour of their intellects, the sword’s destroying the scabbard has become almost proverbial, and superficial observers have inferred from thence, that men of genius have commonly weak, or to use a more fashionable phrase, delicate constitutions. Yet the contrary, I believe, will appear to be the fact; for, on diligent inquiry, I find that strength of mind has, in most cases, been accompanied by superior strength of body, natural soundness of constitution, not that robust tone of nerves and vigour of muscles, which arise from bodily labour, when the mind is quiescent, or only directs the hands.
Dr. Priestley has remarked, in the preface to his biographical chart, that the majority of great men have lived beyond forty-five. And, considering the thoughtless manner in which they lavished their strength, when investigating a favourite science, they have wasted the lamp of life, forgetful of the midnight hour; or, when, lost in poetic dreams, fancy has peopled the scene, and the soul has been disturbed, till it shook the constitution, by the passions that meditation had raised; whose objects, the baseless fabric of a vision, faded before the exhausted eye, they must have had iron frames. Shakespeare never grasped the airy dagger with a nerveless hand, nor did Milton tremble when he led Satan far from the confines of his dreary prison. These were not the ravings of imbecility, the sickly effusions of distempered brains; but the exuberance of fancy, that “in a fine phrenzy” wandering, was not continually reminded of its material shackles.
I am aware, that this argument would carry me further than it may be supposed I wish to go; but I follow truth, and still adhering to my first position, I will allow that bodily strength seems to give man a natural superiority over woman; and this is the only solid basis on which the superiority of the sex can be built. But I still insist, that not only the virtue, but the KNOWLEDGE of the two sexes should be the same in nature, if not in degree, and that women, considered not only as moral, but rational creatures, ought to endeavour to acquire human virtues (or perfections) by the SAME means as men, instead of being educated like a fanciful kind of HALF being, one of Rousseau’s wild chimeras.
But, if strength of body be, with some show of reason, the boast of men, why are women so infatuated as to be proud of a defect? Rousseau has furnished them with a plausible excuse, which could only have occurred to a man, whose imagination had been allowed to run wild, and refine on the impressions made by exquisite senses, that they might, forsooth have a pretext for yielding to a natural appetite without violating a romantic species of modesty, which gratifies the pride and libertinism of man.
Women deluded by these sentiments, sometimes boast of their weakness, cunningly obtaining power by playing on the WEAKNESS of men; and they may well glory in their illicit sway, for, like Turkish bashaws, they have more real power than their masters: but virtue is sacrificed to temporary gratifications, and the respectability of life to the triumph of an hour.
Women, as well as despots, have now, perhaps, more power than they would have, if the world, divided and subdivided into kingdoms and families, was governed by laws deduced from the exercise of reason; but in obtaining it, to carry on the comparison, their character is degraded, and licentiousness spread through the whole aggregate of society. The many become pedestal to the few. I, therefore will venture to assert, that till women are more rationally educated, the progress of human virtue and improvement in knowledge must receive continual checks. And if it be granted, that woman was not created merely to gratify the appetite of man, nor to be the upper servant, who provides his meals and takes care of his linen, it must follow, that the first care of those mothers or fathers, who really attend to the education of females, should be, if not to strengthen the body, at least, not to destroy the constitution by mistaken notions of beauty and female excellence; nor should girls ever be allowed to imbibe the pernicious notion that a defect can, by any chemical process of reasoning become an excellence. In this respect, I am happy to find, that the author of one of the most instructive books, that our country has produced for children, coincides with me in opinion; I shall quote his pertinent remarks to give the force of his respectable authority to reason.*
(*Footnote. A respectable old man gives the following sensible account of the method he pursued when educating his daughter. “I endeavoured to give both to her mind and body a degree of vigour, which is seldom found in the female sex. As soon as she was sufficiently advanced in strength to be capable of the lighter labours of husbandry and gardening, I employed her as my constant companion. Selene, for that was her name, soon acquired a dexterity in all these rustic employments which I considered with equal pleasure and admiration. If women are in general feeble both in body and mind, it arises less from nature than from education. We encourage a vicious indolence and inactivity, which we falsely call delicacy; instead of hardening their minds by the severer principles of reason and philosophy, we breed them to useless arts, which terminate in vanity and sensuality. In most of the countries which I had visited, they are taught nothing of an higher nature than a few modulations of the voice, or useless postures of the body; their time is consumed in sloth or trifles, and trifles become the only pursuits capable of interesting them. We seem to forget, that it is upon the qualities of the female sex, that our own domestic comforts and the education of our children must depend. And what are the comforts or the education which a race of beings corrupted from their infancy, and unacquainted with all the duties of life, are fitted to bestow? To touch a musical instrument with useless skill, to exhibit their natural or affected graces, to the eyes of indolent and debauched young men, who dissipate their husbands’ patrimony in riotous and unnecessary expenses: these are the only arts cultivated by women in most of the polished nations I had seen. And the consequences are uniformly such as may be expected to proceed from such polluted sources, private misery, and public servitude.
“But, Selene’s education was regulated by different views, and conducted upon severer principles; if that can be called severity which opens the mind to a sense of moral and religious duties, and most effectually arms it against the inevitable evils of life.”—Mr. Day’s “Sandford and Merton,” Volume 3.)
But should it be proved that woman is naturally weaker than man, from whence does it follow that it is natural for her to labour to become still weaker than nature intended her to be? Arguments of this cast are an insult to common sense, and savour of passion. The DIVINE RIGHT of husbands, like the divine right of kings, may, it is to be hoped, in this enlightened age, be contested without danger, and though conviction may not silence many boisterous disputants, yet, when any prevailing prejudice is attacked, the wise will consider, and leave the narrow-minded to rail with thoughtless vehemence at innovation.
The mother, who wishes to give true dignity of character to her daughter, must, regardless of the sneers of ignorance, proceed on a plan diametrically opposite to that which Rousseau has recommended with all the deluding charms of eloquence and philosophical sophistry: for his eloquence renders absurdities plausible, and his dogmatic conclusions puzzle, without convincing those who have not ability to refute them.
Throughout the whole animal kingdom every young creature requires almost continual exercise, and the infancy of children, conformable to this intimation, should be passed in harmless gambols, that exercise the feet and hands, without requiring very minute direction from the head, or the constant attention of a nurse. In fact, the care necessary for self-preservation is the first natural exercise of the understanding, as little inventions to amuse the present moment unfold the imagination. But these wise designs of nature are counteracted by mistaken fondness or blind zeal. The child is not left a moment to its own direction, particularly a girl, and thus rendered dependent—dependence is called natural.
To preserve personal beauty, woman’s glory! the limbs and faculties are cramped with worse than Chinese bands, and the sedentary life which they are condemned to live, whilst boys frolic in the open air, weakens the muscles and relaxes the nerves. As for Rousseau’s remarks, which have since been echoed by several writers, that they have naturally, that is from their birth, independent of education, a fondness for dolls, dressing, and talking, they are so puerile as not to merit a serious refutation. That a girl, condemned to sit for hours together listening to the idle chat of weak nurses or to attend at her mother’s toilet, will endeavour to join the conversation, is, indeed very natural; and that she will imitate her mother or aunts, and amuse herself by adorning her lifeless doll, as they do in dressing her, poor innocent babe! is undoubtedly a most natural consequence. For men of the greatest abilities have seldom had sufficient strength to rise above the surrounding atmosphere; and, if the page of genius has always been blurred by the prejudices of the age, some allowance should be made for a sex, who, like kings, always see things through a false medium.
In this manner may the fondness for dress, conspicuous in women, be easily accounted for, without supposing it the result of a desire to please the sex on which they are dependent. The absurdity, in short, of supposing that a girl is naturally a coquette, and that a desire connected with the impulse of nature to propagate the species, should appear even before an improper education has, by heating the imagination, called it forth prematurely, is so unphilosophical, that such a sagacious observer as Rousseau would not have adopted it, if he had not been accustomed to make reason give way to his desire of singularity, and truth to a favourite paradox.
Yet thus to give a sex to mind was not very consistent with the principles of a man who argued so warmly, and so well, for the immortality of the soul. But what a weak barrier is truth when it stands in the way of an hypothesis! Rousseau respected—almost adored virtue—and yet allowed himself to love with sensual fondness. His imagination constantly prepared inflammable fuel for his inflammable senses; but, in order to reconcile his respect for self-denial, fortitude and those heroic virtues, which a mind like his could not coolly admire, he labours to invert the law of nature, and broaches a doctrine pregnant with mischief, and derogatory to the character of supreme wisdom.
His ridiculous stories, which tend to prove that girls are NATURALLY attentive to their persons, without laying any stress on daily example, are below contempt. And that a little miss should have such a correct taste as to neglect the pleasing amusement of making O’s, merely because she perceived that it was an ungraceful attitude, should be selected with the anecdotes of the learned pig.*
(*Footnote. “I once knew a young person who learned to write before she learned to read, and began to write with her needle before she could use a pen. At first indeed, she took it into her head to make no other letter than the O: this letter she was constantly making of all sizes, and always the wrong way. Unluckily one day, as she was intent on this employment, she happened to see herself in the looking glass; when, taking a dislike to the constrained attitude in which she sat while writing, she threw away her pen, like another Pallas, and determined against making the O any more. Her brother was also equally averse to writing: it was the confinement, however, and not the constrained attitude, that most disgusted him.” Rousseau’s “Emilius.”)
I have, probably, had an opportunity of observing more girls in their infancy than J. J. Rousseau. I can recollect my own feelings, and I have looked steadily around me; yet, so far from coinciding with him in opinion respecting the first dawn of the female character, I will venture to affirm, that a girl, whose spirits have not been damped by inactivity, or innocence tainted by false shame, will always be a romp, and the doll will never excite attention unless confinement allows her no alternative. Girls and boys, in short, would play harmless together, if the distinction of sex was not inculcated long before nature makes any difference. I will, go further, and affirm, as an indisputable fact, that most of the women, in the circle of my observation, who have acted like rational creatures, or shown any vigour of intellect, have accidentally been allowed to run wild, as some of the elegant formers of the fair sex would insinuate.
The baneful consequences which flow from inattention to health during infancy, and youth, extend further than is supposed, dependence of body naturally produces dependence of mind; and how can she be a good wife or mother, the greater part of whose time is employed to guard against or endure sickness; nor can it be expected, that a woman will resolutely endeavour to strengthen her constitution and abstain from enervating indulgences, if artificial notions of beauty, and false descriptions of sensibility, have been early entangled with her motives of action. Most men are sometimes obliged to bear with bodily inconveniences, and to endure, occasionally, the inclemency of the elements; but genteel women are, literally speaking, slaves to their bodies, and glory in their subjection.
I once knew a weak woman of fashion, who was more than commonly proud of her delicacy and sensibility. She thought a distinguishing taste and puny appetite the height of all human perfection, and acted accordingly. I have seen this weak sophisticated being neglect all the duties of life, yet recline with self-complacency on a sofa, and boast of her want of appetite as a proof of delicacy that extended to, or, perhaps, arose from, her exquisite sensibility: for it is difficult to render intelligible such ridiculous jargon. Yet, at the moment, I have seen her insult a worthy old gentlewoman, whom unexpected misfortunes had made dependent on her ostentatious bounty, and who, in better days, had claims on her gratitude. Is it possible that a human creature should have become such a weak and depraved being, if, like the Sybarites, dissolved in luxury, every thing like virtue had not been worn away, or never impressed by precept, a poor substitute it is true, for cultivation of mind, though it serves as a fence against vice?
Such a woman is not a more irrational monster than some of the Roman emperors, who were depraved by lawless power. Yet, since kings have been more under the restraint of law, and the curb, however weak, of honour, the records of history are not filled with such unnatural instances of folly and cruelty, nor does the despotism that kills virtue and genius in the bud, hover over Europe with that destructive blast which desolates Turkey, and renders the men, as well as the soil unfruitful.
Women are every where in this deplorable state; for, in order to preserve their innocence, as ignorance is courteously termed, truth is hidden from them, and they are made to assume an artificial character before their faculties have acquired any strength. Taught from their infancy, that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and, roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison. Men have various employments and pursuits which engage their attention, and give a character to the opening mind; but women, confined to one, and having their thoughts constantly directed to the most insignificant part of themselves, seldom extend their views beyond the triumph of the hour. But was their understanding once emancipated from the slavery to which the pride and sensuality of man and their short sighted desire, like that of dominion in tyrants, of present sway, has subjected them, we should probably read of their weaknesses with surprise. I must be allowed to pursue the argument a little farther.
Perhaps, if the existence of an evil being was allowed, who, in the allegorical language of scripture, went about seeking whom he should devour, he could not more effectually degrade the human character than by giving a man absolute power.
This argument branches into various ramifications. Birth, riches, and every intrinsic advantage that exalt a man above his fellows, without any mental exertion, sink him in reality below them. In proportion to his weakness, he is played upon by designing men, till the bloated monster has lost all traces of humanity. And that tribes of men, like flocks of sheep, should quietly follow such a leader, is a solecism that only a desire of present enjoyment and narrowness of understanding can solve. Educated in slavish dependence, and enervated by luxury and sloth, where shall we find men who will stand forth to assert the rights of man; or claim the privilege of moral beings, who should have but one road to excellence? Slavery to monarchs and ministers, which the world will be long in freeing itself from, and whose deadly grasp stops the progress of the human mind, is not yet abolished.
Let not men then in the pride of power, use the same arguments that tyrannic kings and venal ministers have used, and fallaciously assert, that woman ought to be subjected because she has always been so. But, when man, governed by reasonable laws, enjoys his natural freedom, let him despise woman, if she do not share it with him; and, till that glorious period arrives, in descanting on the folly of the sex, let him not overlook his own.
Women, it is true, obtaining power by unjust means, by practising or fostering vice, evidently lose the rank which reason would assign them, and they become either abject slaves or capricious tyrants. They lose all simplicity, all dignity of mind, in acquiring power, and act as men are observed to act when they have been exalted by the same means.
It is time to effect a revolution in female manners, time to restore to them their lost dignity, and make them, as a part of the human species, labour by reforming themselves to reform the world. It is time to separate unchangeable morals from local manners. If men be demi-gods, why let us serve them! And if the dignity of the female soul be as disputable as that of animals, if their reason does not afford sufficient light to direct their conduct whilst unerring instinct is denied, they are surely of all creatures the most miserable and, bent beneath the iron hand of destiny, must submit to be a FAIR DEFECT in creation. But to justify the ways of providence respecting them, by pointing out some irrefragable reason for thus making such a large portion of mankind accountable and not accountable, would puzzle the subtlest casuist.
The only solid foundation for morality appears to be the character of the Supreme Being; the harmony of which arises from a balance of attributes; and, to speak with reverence, one attribute seems to imply the NECESSITY of another. He must be just, because he is wise, he must be good, because he is omnipotent. For, to exalt one attribute at the expense of another equally noble and necessary, bears the stamp of the warped reason of man, the homage of passion. Man, accustomed to bow down to power in his savage state, can seldom divest himself of this barbarous prejudice even when civilization determines how much superior mental is to bodily strength; and his reason is clouded by these crude opinions, even when he thinks of the Deity. His omnipotence is made to swallow up, or preside over his other attributes, and those mortals are supposed to limit his power irreverently, who think that it must be regulated by his wisdom.
I disclaim that species of humility which, after investigating nature, stops at the author. The high and lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity, doubtless possesses many attributes of which we can form no conception; but reason tells me that they cannot clash with those I adore, and I am compelled to listen to her voice.
It seems natural for man to search for excellence, and either to trace it in the object that he worships, or blindly to invest it with perfection as a garment. But what good effect can the latter mode of worship have on the moral conduct of a rational being? He bends to power; he adores a dark cloud, which may open a bright prospect to him, or burst in angry, lawless fury on his devoted head, he knows not why. And, supposing that the Deity acts from the vague impulse of an undirected will, man must also follow his own, or act according to rules, deduced from principles which he disclaims as irreverent. Into this dilemma have both enthusiasts and cooler thinkers fallen, when they laboured to free men from the wholesome restraints which a just conception of the character of God imposes.
It is not impious thus to scan the attributes of the Almighty: in fact, who can avoid it that exercises his faculties? for to love God as the fountain of wisdom, goodness, and power, appears to be the only worship useful to a being who wishes to acquire either virtue or knowledge. A blind unsettled affection may, like human passions, occupy the mind and warm the heart, whilst, to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God, is forgotten. I shall pursue this subject still further, when I consider religion in a light opposite to that recommended by Dr. Gregory, who treats it as a matter of sentiment or taste.
To return from this apparent digression. It were to be wished, that women would cherish an affection for their husbands, founded on the same principle that devotion ought to rest upon. No other firm base is there under heaven, for let them beware of the fallacious light of sentiment; too often used as a softer phrase for sensuality. It follows then, I think, that from their infancy women should either be shut up like eastern princes, or educated in such a manner as to be able to think and act for themselves.
Still I know that it will require a considerable length of time to eradicate the firmly rooted prejudices which sensualists have planted; it will also require some time to convince women that they act contrary to their real interest on an enlarged scale, when they cherish or affect weakness under the name of delicacy, and to convince the world that the poisoned source of female vices and follies, if it be necessary, in compliance with custom, to use synonymous terms in a lax sense, has been the sensual homage paid to beauty: to beauty of features; for it has been shrewdly observed by a German writer, that a pretty woman, as an object of desire, is generally allowed to be so by men of all descriptions; whilst a fine woman, who inspires more sublime emotions by displaying intellectual beauty, may be overlooked or observed with indifference, by those men who find their happiness in the gratification of their appetites. I foresee an obvious retort; whilst man remains such an imperfect being as he appears hitherto to have been, he will, more or less, be the slave of his appetites; and those women obtaining most power who gratify a predominant one, the sex is degraded by a physical, if not by a moral necessity.
This objection has, I grant, some force; but while such a sublime precept exists, as, “be pure as your heavenly father is pure;” it would seem that the virtues of man are not limited by the Being who alone could limit them; and that he may press forward without considering whether he steps out of his sphere by indulging such a noble ambition. To the wild billows it has been said, “thus far shalt thou go, and no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” Vainly then do they beat and foam, restrained by the power that confines the struggling planets within their orbits, matter yields to the great governing Spirit. But an immortal soul, not restrained by mechanical laws, and struggling to free itself from the shackles of matter, contributes to, instead of disturbing, the order of creation, when, co-operating with the Father of spirits, it tries to govern itself by the invariable rule that, in a degree, before which our imagination faints, the universe is regulated.
Besides, if women are educated for dependence, that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop? Are they to be considered as viceregents, allowed to reign over a small domain, and answerable for their conduct to a higher tribunal, liable to error?
It will not be difficult to prove, that such delegates will act like men subjected by fear, and make their children and servants endure their tyrannical oppression. As they submit without reason, they will, having no fixed rules to square their conduct by, be kind or cruel, just as the whim of the moment directs; and we ought not to wonder if sometimes, galled by their heavy yoke, they take a malignant pleasure in resting it on weaker shoulders.
But, supposing a woman, trained up to obedience, be married to a sensible man, who directs her judgment, without making her feel the servility of her subjection, to act with as much propriety by this reflected light as can be expected when reason is taken at second hand, yet she cannot ensure the life of her protector; he may die and leave her with a large family.
A double duty devolves on her; to educate them in the character of both father and mother; to form their principles and secure their property. But, alas! she has never thought, much less acted for herself. She has only learned to please men, to depend gracefully on them; yet, encumbered with children, how is she to obtain another protector; a husband to supply the place of reason? A rational man, for we are not treading on romantic ground, though he may think her a pleasing docile creature, will not choose to marry a FAMILY for love, when the world contains many more pretty creatures. What is then to become of her? She either falls an easy prey to some mean fortune hunter, who defrauds her children of their paternal inheritance, and renders her miserable; or becomes the victim of discontent and blind indulgence. Unable to educate her sons, or impress them with respect; for it is not a play on words to assert, that people are never respected, though filling an important station, who are not respectable; she pines under the anguish of unavailing impotent regret. The serpent’s tooth enters into her very soul, and the vices of licentious youth bring her with sorrow, if not with poverty also, to the grave.
I have, however, taken it for granted, that she was well disposed, though experience shows, that the blind may as easily be led into a ditch as along the beaten road. But supposing, no very improbable conjecture, that a being only taught to please must still find her happiness in pleasing; what an example of folly, not to say vice, will she be to her innocent daughters! The mother will be lost in the coquette, and, instead of making friends of her daughters, view them with eyes askance, for they are rivals—rivals more cruel than any other, because they invite a comparison, and drive her from the throne of beauty, who has never thought of a seat on the bench of reason.
It does not require a lively pencil, or the discriminating outline of a caricature, to sketch the domestic miseries and petty vices which such a mistress of a family diffuses. Still she only acts as a woman ought to act, brought up according to Rousseau’s system. She can never be reproached for being masculine, or turning out of her sphere; nay, she may observe another of his grand rules, and, cautiously preserving her reputation free from spot, be reckoned a good kind of woman. Yet in what respect can she be termed good? She abstains, it is true, without any great struggle, from committing gross crimes; but how does she fulfil her duties? Duties!—in truth she has enough to think of to adorn her body and nurse a weak constitution.
With respect to religion, she never presumed to judge for herself; but conformed, as a dependent creature should, to the ceremonies of the church which she was brought up in, piously believing, that wiser heads than her own have settled that business: and not to doubt is her point of perfection. She therefore pays her tythe of mint and cummin, and thanks her God that she is not as other women are. These are the blessed effects of a good education! these the virtues of man’s helpmate. I must relieve myself by drawing a different picture.
Let fancy now present a woman with a tolerable understanding, for I do not wish to leave the line of mediocrity, whose constitution, strengthened by exercise, has allowed her body to acquire its full vigour; her mind, at the same time, gradually expanding itself to comprehend the moral duties of life, and in what human virtue and dignity consist. Formed thus by the relative duties of her station, she marries from affection, without losing sight of prudence, and looking beyond matrimonial felicity, she secures her husband’s respect before it is necessary to exert mean arts to please him, and feed a dying flame, which nature doomed to expire when the object became familiar, when friendship and forbearance take place of a more ardent affection. This is the natural death of love, and domestic peace is not destroyed by struggles to prevent its extinction. I also suppose the husband to be virtuous; or she is still more in want of independent principles.
Fate, however, breaks this tie. She is left a widow, perhaps, without a sufficient provision: but she is not desolate! The pang of nature is felt; but after time has softened sorrow into melancholy resignation, her heart turns to her children with redoubled fondness, and anxious to provide for them, affection gives a sacred heroic cast to her maternal duties. She thinks that not only the eye sees her virtuous efforts, from whom all her comfort now must flow, and whose approbation is life; but her imagination, a little abstracted and exalted by grief, dwells on the fond hope, that the eyes which her trembling hand closed, may still see how she subdues every wayward passion to fulfil the double duty of being the father as well as the mother of her children. Raised to heroism by misfortunes, she represses the first faint dawning of a natural inclination, before it ripens into love, and in the bloom of life forgets her sex—forgets the pleasure of an awakening passion, which might again have been inspired and returned. She no longer thinks of pleasing, and conscious dignity prevents her from priding herself on account of the praise which her conduct demands. Her children have her love, and her brightest hopes are beyond the grave, where her imagination often strays.
I think I see her surrounded by her children, reaping the reward of her care. The intelligent eye meets her’s, whilst health and innocence smile on their chubby cheeks, and as they grow up the cares of life are lessened by their grateful attention. She lives to see the virtues which she endeavoured to plant on principles, fixed into habits, to see her children attain a strength of character sufficient to enable them to endure adversity without forgetting their mother’s example.
I wish to sum up what I have said in a few words, for I here throw down my gauntlet, and deny the existence of sexual virtues, not excepting modesty. For man and woman, truth, if I understand the meaning of the word, must be the same; yet the fanciful female character, so prettily drawn by poets and novelists, demanding the sacrifice of truth and sincerity, virtue becomes a relative idea, having no other foundation than utility, and of that utility men pretend arbitrarily to judge, shaping it to their own convenience.
To become respectable, the exercise of their understanding is necessary, there is no other foundation for independence of character; I mean explicitly to say, that they must only bow to the authority of reason, instead of being the MODEST slaves of opinion.
In the superior ranks of life how seldom do we meet with a man of superior abilities, or even common acquirements? The reason appears to me clear; the state they are born in was an unnatural one. The human character has ever been formed by the employments the individual, or class pursues; and if the faculties are not sharpened by necessity, they must remain obtuse. The argument may fairly be extended to women; for seldom occupied by serious business, the pursuit of pleasure gives that insignificancy to their character which renders the society of the GREAT so insipid. The same want of firmness, produced by a similar cause, forces them both to fly from themselves to noisy pleasures, and artificial passions, till vanity takes place of every social affection, and the characteristics of humanity can scarcely be discerned. Such are the blessings of civil governments, as they are at present organized, that wealth and female softness equally tend to debase mankind, and are produced by the same cause; but allowing women to be rational creatures they should be incited to acquire virtues which they may call their own, for how can a rational being be ennobled by any thing that is not obtained by its OWN exertions?” Mary Wollstonecroft, Vindication of the Rights of Women; Letter of Dedication, Introduction, Chapters I-III, 1792
Numero Dos—“Some incorrigible blockheads usually quote this speech – which I am now re-publishing without any changes – to prove that today I am a different person from what I was 19 years ago. Well, I plead guilty and admit forthwith that I am indeed a “conformer” in so far as I act in accordance with circumstances. I even hold the heretic view that a person, who does not modify his actions when circumstances change, will not set the sea on fire. To stick to old tactics when conditions have changed signifies not a strong character but a feeble mind, not consistency but incompetence. A general is inept if he is incapable of changing his plan of action in the course of battle; many a brilliant victory has been won by a switch in tactics during the battle.
My aim is now the same as it was 20 or 40 or more years ago – merely somewhat clearer and considerably expanded – but I have altered my tactics repeatedly, and it is quite possible that I will change them once more or perhaps even several times more. And I will certainly do so, if the grounds or basis for it change.
In the first place I would like to draw the reader’s attention to the date of my speech. It was delivered in 1869, that is, before the Franco-German War, before the establishment of the German Empire.
The North German Confederation  which then existed, like the queer political formations in Southern Germany, was plainly marked as a transitory phenomenon. Whether it was a still-birth, a miscreation or the formation of a new state, no one could say. Not even Bismarck.  For everything depended on the favourable attitude of foreign countries, whose more or less moral support had helped to bring about this “patriotic” deed. And I, who fought in 1848 and 1849 in the name of German unity and freedom against the producers of this “national” monstrosity, who would have been summarily court-martialled had I fallen into their clutches – was I to abandon my past and allow myself to be enticed into the mousetrap of an enlarged Prussian military and police state by the bait of universal suffrage? But that could never be. I saw events then as I should see them now, if the same conditions still prevailed.
The war with France broke out. The North German Confederation, which was at the mercy of France and Russia, became the German Empire.
That created a completely new situation.
In no way does the German Empire correspond to the “national ideal” It embodies neither unity nor freedom. It is merely a torso of Germany, a large barrack enclosed in an even larger prison.
However, the German Empire has an independent existence, it is not at the mercy of foreign countries, and it cannot be suddenly overthrown by one blow from within or without. This large barrack, encompassed by a still larger prison, can become a free state only through internal organic evolution.
In short, this torso of Germany contains within it the elements that will in time transform it into a really free and united Germany, which will occupy an honourable position in the United States of Europe and of the world, so that the sorrowful role it now plays in the civilized world will be forgotten.
Were I to follow my wishes and inclination I would never set foot in the Reichstag. It always makes me laugh to hear the “anarchist” braggarts call me a dyed-in-the-wool parliamentarian. I am personally at loggerheads with parliamentarism. From time immemorial I have regarded talk and oratory with a certain disdain and I have certainly not been cut out for parliamentary life. It by no means suits my nature. I always speak with reluctance and only because I am compelled by a higher necessity. None can hold a lower opinion than I of my parliamentary accomplishments.
But under prevailing conditions, parliamentary work has such great advantages for our party, that one must be blind not to appreciate them. It is mainly due to our parliamentary activity and participation in the elections, which again is inseparable from arid dependent upon our parliamentary work, that Social-Democracy in Germany is better organized and represents a far greater power than in any other country.
I am fully in accord with my comrades in placing this participation foremost. The educational results of universal suffrage are so obvious as to need no re-statement. If we had decided not to participate in the elections but to abstain from voting, we would still be a sect today and not a party, around which the whole of our political life revolves, although all parties-the government included-are most vehemently fighting against us.
That propaganda is the main purpose of our participation in the elections and in parliamentary work, has been stated so often by my comrades and myself that it needs no further elaboration. So long as we are a small minority, and all the other parties of the Reichstag confront us as “one reactionary mass,” which opposes any effective labour legislation and any real step towards social reform, this cannot change, and to influence the people and win them over to our side will remain the primary purpose of our parliamentary activity.
And now a word about parliamentarism. Only a few remarks. Orators are as a rule bad politicians, the orator intoxicates himself and his audience. Rhetorical and histrionic success are similar in so far as they both stimulate vanity and produce a megalomania, which is usually simply ridiculous but which sometimes can also be dangerous.
Although the principle of representation cannot be altogether abandoned, it should however be reduced to a strictly indispensable minimum, in particular, the legislative and government functions should be exercised by committees and not by parliament, where, as every experienced person knows, debates are not serious deliberations but mere theatrical performances. Even today the major work of the Reichstag has to be done in committees.
Committees elected by the people for specified purposes, which can meet whenever common interests are involved, and which have to submit to plebiscite all laws before they come into force; the people possessing not only the right to reject, but also the right to introduce legislation; in addition, complete freedom of the press and of assembly, and a government which has no power to wield against the people – this is, in rough outline, my idea of the future mode of legislation and government – so long as it may still be possible to call it government at all. The government in the United States of America is even now to a great extent mere administration, and it will become exclusively administration as soon as the class rule of the bourgeoisie is smashed, for the latter must furnish the state or the government with the power to oppress the working people.
However, this is for the time being only a “dream of the future.” For the present I have defined in a speech, is which I also delivered a few years ago in Berlin, my parliamentary or non-parliamentary programme as follows:
The greatest possible restriction of rhetorical aspects, speeches to be made only when required by party interests. If these are not involved, e.g., if it is not a matter of labour legislation, or branding the enemy, evaluation of prevailing conditions, and if no propagandist task is served-silence is better than talk, prolific and eloquent talk spells death to vigorous action, and has become the grave of many a party.
Parliamentary activity ought to be restricted to bare necessity, not only at plenary sessions of the Reichstag, but also in the committees, if these are again opened to us. But only restricted, for it would be just as foolish to renounce the weapons which we obtain through our participation in committee meetings as to exclude ourselves from the legislative work at the plenary sessions. Our electors justly demand that we do our utmost in the Reichstag to improve the position of the working people and to advance the cause of Social-Democracy. To assume a purely negative or dissenting attitude would be the surest way of alienating our voters and cutting the ground from under our feet. Here again, as usual in practical politics, the simple utilitarian point of view is decisive – provided the inviolability of principle is maintained. …
What I was compelled to say with regard to the following speech during the recent proceedings of the “high treason trial”  at the Leipzig Jury Court, makes a detailed explanation now superfluous. I have only little to add. The address, delivered fully three years ago, was a “topical speech” and has to be understood as such. I need neither withdraw nor qualify anything. Least of all my criticism of Bismarck’s parliamentarism, which is manifesting itself as gloriously in the “German Reichstag” as in the quondam “North German Reichstag.”
In fact I should rather have extended my censure of this particular excrescence to parliamentarism as a whole. For though it has played nowhere – not even in the Bas-Empire of Bonaparte – such a melancholy role as in Prussian Germany, it helps to deceive and enslave the people in all countries where it prevails; behind this opera-cloak, adorned with the tinsel of empty phrases, absolutism and class rule hide their ugly limbs and their murderous weapons. Where the people govern, in Switzerland and in America – although they are not model republics in the Social-Democratic sense – there is no parliamentarism. Direct government and legislation by the people, which is our aim, will not be able to dispense altogether with a representative body, but the delegates, brought to the fore by the people’s free choice, will form committees, designed to discharge certain, clearly defined tasks; but not gossip clubs where verbose impotence flourishes and where conscientious investigation, serious debate, and resolute decisions are quite impossible. It was not the French Convention but its committees which accomplished the gigantic task facing the militant revolution-the cleansing of the Augean stables  of feudal society. Even our parliament is forced to let committees transact its real business. But I will deal with that on another occasion.
Because of the party relations prevailing at that time, I still distinguished in my speech between Schweitzer’s activity and the royal Prussian court socialism. Bebel’s  address and mine at the general meeting of the General Association of German Workers,  held at Barmen-Elberfeld in March 1869, had brought about a sort of truce with Herr van Schweitzer  which then still obtained, though it lapsed soon afterwards. However strong Schweitzer’s influence on the General Association of German Workers was and, I regret to say, indirectly still is at the present time, I have never identified Herr von Schweitzer – now happily advanced to Poet Laureate – with this Association, whose political position could be correctly described in those days as “national-liberal.”
The emphasis which I put on the indivisibility of democracy and socialism was called forth by Schweitzer’s tactics of arousing doubts about democracy among the workers; and all the misinterpretations of “bourgeois democracy,” which I defended against the Jesuitical attacks of the royal Prussian Socialists, have now lost their grounds because of Jacoby’s  joining the Social-Democratic Party, for I had in mind only Jacoby and his associates.
After these preliminary remarks, I let my speech follow unchanged according to the version published in summer 1869 in the Demokratisches Wochenblatt  and later on in pamphlet form; a version incidentally that was not based on a stenographic report. …
The question as to what position Social-Democracy should occupy in the political fight, can be answered easily and confidently if we clearly understand that socialism and democracy are inseparable. Socialism and democracy are not identical, but they are simply different expressions of the same principle; they belong together, supplement each other, and one can never be incompatible with the other. Socialism without democracy is pseudo-socialism, just as democracy without socialism is pseudo-democracy. The democratic state is the only feasible form for a society organized on a socialist basis.
All enemies of the bourgeoisie agree with the negative aspect of socialism. Wagener  and Bishop Ketteller , the Catholic clergy in the Austrian Reichsrat, the Protestant squires of the Prussian model state – they all condemn the bourgeoisie just as loudly as the most radical Socialist, using the same slogans. This shows that in itself the fight against the bourgeoisie is not necessarily democratic, but can arise from the most reactionary motives. Here we are faced immediately with the necessity of emphasizing not only the negative side of socialism but also its positive side, which distinguishes us from those reactionaries; and, above all, of waging a political fight in addition to the social fight, and of marching in its front ranks at that. We call ourselves Social-Democrats, because we have understood that democracy and socialism are inseparable. Our programme is implied in this name. But a programme is not designed to be given merely lip-service and to be repudiated in action. It should be the standard which determines our conduct.
If we restrict ourselves to the social struggle, or pay insufficient attention to the political battles, we run the risk that our enemies will make use of the existing class antagonisms, and in accordance with the maxim divide et impera flirt sometimes with the bourgeoisie against the workers, sometimes with the workers against the bourgeoisie. This kind of double-dealing is typical of modern Caesarism, which is based essentially on the exploitation of class antagonisms. In France the Empire today “saves” the bourgeoisie from the workers, and tomorrow it flirts with the workers, to drive the frightened bourgeoisie into its net. Here in Prussia, Caesarism copies its French model also in this respect, and alternately pats the bourgeoisie and the workers on the shoulder. Thus it happened that National-Liberalism, that is, the political party representing the bourgeoisie, looks towards the government for its salvation from the workers, while deluded workers – I hope not many despite the systematic corruption from the top – expect the same government to give them protection against the bourgeoisie.
If Caesarism is not to benefit from the social movement, socialism must take the lead in the political struggle.
Above all one thing must be clearly stated: the social movement is a process of revolutionary transformation, which cannot be accomplished overnight. The social question does not resemble that mythical plant whose buds suddenly burst into flower after lying dormant for a century. The word “revolution” expresses two different things. Sometimes it means simply the overthrow of a government, which can be the result of a brief street battle. That is the narrower sense of the word. In the wider sense it comprises the entire development of a new social structure, which has to create for itself an adequate political form. And although this revolutionary process, which continues even during the most calm periods, can be accelerated, it cannot be compressed at will by a magic formula into an arbitrarily chosen minimum length of time.
The bourgeoisie required half a millennium to develop its present power. The proletariat, which must abolish the bourgeois method of production based on the wage system and eradicate class rule together with wage slavery, cannot solve its task in a few years. But the modern proletarian revolution will not take as long as the bourgeois revolution did – in the age of the steam-engine and the telegraph, humanity advances more rapidly, culture is made accessible to a greater number of people, and the army fighting for the new ideas has a wider recruitment field.
But the new society is in irreconcilable contradiction to the old state. It cannot develop in the feudal, police and military state. Whoever wants the new society, therefore has to aim at the destruction of the old state. That is why, under present conditions, Social-Democracy is restricted mainly to the field of theory in so far as the purely social question is concerned. It has yet to win the political basis for its social practice.
This determines the attitude of Social-Democracy towards “Germany’s reorganization.” The “action” of 1866 is for Germany, what the coup d’etat of December 2, 1851 was for France. Bismarck’s coup d’etat, like that of Louis Napoleon, was aimed against democracy. It is not the use of force in these acts, which causes us to condemn them – since force is the last resort of both sovereigns and nations – but that they were perpetrated in France for the benefit of a crowd of depraved adventurers, and in Germany for the benefit of a class that has no longer any right to exist, the Junkers, the landed aristocracy.
The so-called “Prussian constitutional conflict“ was an attempt by the people, in the first place the bourgeoisie, to gain state power by parliamentary means. The year 1866 has degraded the parliamentary struggle to a sham fight and transferred the real scene of action to another sphere. In spite of universal suffrage the North German “Reichstag” has absolutely no power, having no determining but only an advisory capacity, and because it is without power it cannot serve democracy as a battle-ground for the attainment of power.
Just as French democracy stood against the Empire, so German democracy must repudiate and oppose the North German Confederation and all its appurtenances. If it were to relinquish this opposition, it would not only surrender its principle and therefore itself, but also violate the simplest rules of practical action.
Now to the question: should democracy participate at all in the elections to the “Reichstag”? To vote or not to vote is merely a question of expediency, not a question of principle, where universal suffrage exists. We have the right to vote – the fact that the right has been thrust upon us does not deprive us of our natural right – and when we can benefit by it, we vote. It is from this point of view that we in Saxony considered the convocation of the “Reichstag.” For reasons of expediency some were against, others for participation in the election. Those favouring abstention declared that this course would help to bring home to the people the absence of civil rights, while those favouring participation emphasized, that if democracy were to abstain our opponents would gain exclusive possession of the speaker’s platform, that they alone would hold the floor, and could thus all the more readily confuse the people’s sense of justice. This consideration prevailed, and it was decided to take part in the election. My personal opinion was that the representatives elected by us should enter the “Reichstag,” deliver their protest, and depart again immediately afterwards, without however resigning their seats. I remained in the minority with that opinion; it was agreed that the representatives of democracy could make use of any opportunity that appeared practical to them to voice their opposition and their protest in the “Reichstag,” but that they keep aloof from parliamentary business proper, for this would imply recognition of the North German Confederation and Bismarck’s policy, and could only mislead the people about the fact that the fight in the “Reichstag” is merely a sham fight, merely a comedy. We fol1owed this rule in the first and second session of the “Reichstag.” During the debate on trade regulations, which formed the main subject of the present session, some of my party comrades thought that in the interest of the workers and for propaganda purposes they had to make an exception. I did not agree. Under no circumstances and on no grounds should the Social-Democratic Party negotiate with its adversaries. One can only negotiate where a common basis exists. To negotiate with an opponent from whom one differs in matters of principle amounts to a sacrifice of principle. Principles are indivisible, they can either be maintained completely or sacrificed completely. The smallest concession on a point of principle is a renunciation of the principle. Those who converse with the enemy parley, those who parley come to terms.
The Progressive Party  (Fortschrittspartei) can serve as an instructive and cautionary example. At the time of the so-called Prussian constitutional conflict it spared no pains to deliver beautiful as well as strong speeches. How energetically it protested against the reorganization – in words! How “staunchly” and “ably” it championed the rights of the people – in words! But the government took no notice of these legal deductions. Yielding the right to the Progressive Party, it retained and used the power. And the Progressive Party? Instead of abandoning the parliamentary fight, which under the circumstances had become harmful tomfoolery, instead of withdrawing from the speaker’s rostrum, thus compelling the government to reveal its naked absolutism, instead of appealing to the people, the Progressive Party, taking satisfaction from its own phrases, continued untiringly to issue empty protests and legal conclusions and to pass resolutions which were bound to remain ineffective, as everybody knew. Thus the Chamber of Deputies was transformed from a political arena into a theatre. Hearing always the same speeches and seeing always the same lack of results, the people turned away, at first with indifference and then with disgust. The year 1866 thus became possible. The “beautiful” “strong” opposition speeches of the Prussian Progressive Party prepared the ground for the blood and iron policy,  they were the funeral orations of the Progressive Party itself. In the most literal sense of the word it had talked itself to death.
Lassalle , I must recall here, and I would like to remind in particular those members of the Association founded by him who may be present – Lassalle condemned most emphatically the conduct of the Progressive Party and predicted the consequences. He advised the deputies to withdraw from the parliamentary scene and to resign their seats. But unfortunately he did not go so far as to demand that they refuse to vote for the finance bills, at that time the only way, and a sure way, of keeping the government in check. However that may be, Lassalle in any case showed clearly the perversity and the ruinous effect of parliamentary rhetoric, of talking for the sake of talking.
If democracy now commits the same error as the Progressive Party committed six years ago, the same cause will again produce the same effect.
But quite apart from the strictly political point of view, our party’s participation in parliamentary debates cannot be of the slightest practical use.
It will be readily granted that with the present composition of the Reichstag it is quite impossible to carry any motions which are fundamentally important from our point of view.
“But,” some may argue, “in the Reichstag we have the best opportunity to expound Social-Democratic principles.” Of course there is that opportunity; but certainly not the best, and not even a good one.
Do you believe the “Reichstag” will permit us to use its floor as a speaker’s platform? Suppose a person like Marx wished to deliver a series of theoretical lectures to the deputies, how long, and how often would they listen to him? Perhaps once, out of curiosity, but not again.
It is impossible, as I said already, to exert influence upon legislation; what for heaven’s sake should then be the purpose of stating our principles in the “Reichstag”? Should it be perhaps to convert some of its members? To consider such a possibility would be more than naive, it would be childish.
It would be just as useful, and less ridiculous, to prattle about our principles to the billows of the sea. Fellows like Braun  and their associates know very well what we want. For them, as in general for the ruling classes, almost exclusively represented in the Reichstag, socialism is no longer a question of theory, but simply a question of power, which, like any other question of power, cannot be decided in parliament, but only in the streets, on the battle-field.
“Of course we do not hope to influence the ‘Reichstag’ itself, we wish to use the Reichstag platform to talk to the people outside.”
Very well. At one time I also used the platform of the Reichstag in this way, and when the opportunity arises I will do so again. But is it the best place for theoretical elaboration? In the “Reichstag” the deputy is not permitted to read his speech and you will agree with me that even the most experienced orator – even gainsaying that his audience is listening quietly, which is certainly not the case in the “Reichstag” – cannot deliver a scientific discourse from memory and dictate it to the stenographers in so finished a form as he could write at his desk at home.
“But in the Reichstag he can state certain things that are banned elsewhere.”
I deny that. In the “Reichstag” I can make attacks upon the present political order, which would not pass unpunished in any other Prussian assembly, but with regard to social matters, particularly in the theoretical field, there is nothing that could not be said elsewhere with equal impunity. And should we fear to do battle with the law? The fact is that in Prussia far more revolutionary words are freely written and spoken every day than can be found on the social question in all the speeches delivered in the “Reichstag.”
But let us assume that somebody succeeded in smuggling into the “Reichstag” a truth that could not have been uttered anywhere else – what has been gained thereby? The law undoubtedly permits the printing of the speech in question; however, if the press reproduces only excerpts from a speech or one speech only instead of the entire debate, the law makes the press responsible for every single word of the speech whether printed in full or in part. And even the largest newspapers, let alone the small Social-Democratic sheets, have not sufficient space to publish the authorized stenographic report of the entire debate.
The truth, so cleverly smuggled into the “Reichstag,” can only be smuggled out again to the people by way of the official stenographic report; which however is inaccessible to the masses because of its volume and price.
What the workers learn of the debates dealing with social questions, they learn from the labour papers, and what the latter publish in the form of parliamentary reports, they could publish far better, much more carefully composed, in their own leading articles and essays.
I should also like to mention that the practical argument about “smuggling in” originates with those who are least likely to deal in any goods offending against the police regulations. Take for example the “great speech”  of Herr von Schweitzer – every word of it would have been passed by the pre-March censorship.
To sum up:
Our speeches cannot exert any direct influence on legislation.
Our speeches cannot convert the “Reichstag.”
Our speeches do not enable us to disseminate among the masses any truths, which could not be publicized much better by other means.
What “practical” purpose, therefore, have the speeches delivered in the “Reichstag”? None! But speaking without purpose is a fool’s game.
Not a single advantage! And here, on the other hand, are the disadvantages: principles have been sacrificed, serious political struggle has been degraded to the level of a sham fight, the people have been deluded into thinking that Bismarck’s “Reichstag” is qualified to solve the social question. – And we should take part in the parliamentary game for “practical reasons”? Only treachery or short-sightedness can make such an unreasonable demand.
The method which is correct in principle always proves to be the best in practice as well. Loyalty to one’s principles is the best policy.
I do not wish to maintain thereby that the parliamentary fight must always and under all circumstances be rejected. In periods of chronic debility, when the blood circulates sluggishly through the body politic, when the crushed spirit of the people sees no hope of salvation for decades to come, in such periods it may be useful to keep alight in some parliament a little lamp of liberty, whose bright flame will penetrate the surrounding night.
And when the people, when the “workers’ battalions” stand ready at the gates of parliament, then perhaps a word from the speaker’s platform can, like an electric spark, start a blaze and give the signal for the liberating action.
But now we are, thank God, no longer in a state of chronic stagnation, and alas not yet on the eve of an action, emanating from the midst of the people.
I do not underestimate the importance of the spoken word. But in a period of crisis, when one world is dying and another world is coming into being, the representatives of the people must be among the people. For my part, I consider it not only more honourable but also more useful to speak at a meeting of honest workers than in that society of Junkers, apostates and nonentities, called the North German “Reichstag,” which has been brought together at a nod from a statesman who despises both justice and humanity.
“But the Reichstag is the offspring of universal suffrage. Universal suffrage is the will of the people, and as democrats we must respect the will of the people, and consequently the Reichstag.”
In this argument, which is fairly common, we encounter the unreasonable overvaluation of universal suffrage, which, based on Lassalle’s authority, has developed into downright idolatry. Many people, particularly in North Germany, believe that universal suffrage is a magic wand, which will open to the “rited” the gates of state power; they labour under the delusion that though living in a police and military state they can pull themselves out of the quagmire of social misery by means of universal suffrage; as of yore Münchhausen pulled himself out by his pigtail. Their head should be graced by Münchhausen’s queue. Universal suffrage is undoubtedly a “sacred right” of the people, a fundamental principle of the democratic, the Social-Democratic state. But by itself, separated from civil liberty, without freedom of the press, without freedom of association, subjected to the sabre of the policeman and soldier – in short, in the absolutist state, universal suffrage can be nothing but the plaything and tool of abso1utism.
When Louis Bonaparte had assassinated the Republic, he proclaimed universal suffrage.
When Count Bismarck had enabled the particularism of the Prussian Junkers to triumph, when by his 1866 “successes” he had vanquished the liberal bourgeoisie in Prussia and had dismembered Germany, he did what his prototype had done fifteen years earlier, he proclaimed universal suffrage.
On both of these occasions the victory of despotism was sealed by the proclamation, the imposition of universal suffrage. This alone should be sufficient to open the eyes of the naive enthusiasts who worship the gospel of universal suffrage.
This is not the place to discuss Bonaparte’s motives. As to Count Bismarck, his reasons are perfectly obvious.
The three-class election system , undemocratic and anti-democratic as it is, has at the same time an anti-feudal character, since it moves the centre of gravity within the parliamentary representation to the propertied classes. Although these classes are always ready to make common cause with absolutism against the workers, against democracy, they are, nevertheless, with the exception of the great landowners, enemies of the absolutist state, and to a certain degree they are “liberal.”
The liberal Chamber of Deputies, the product of the three-class election system, was inconvenient to the Junker government. A counterbalance had to be established, this was achieved by means of universal, direct and equal suffrage.
How many persons can be found in the present-day police state; in the state of intellectual and military drill, who are intellectually and materially independent? The peasantry alone, which in this country obeys unquestioningly and has to obey every gesture of the authorities, constitutes fully two-thirds of the total population.
Count Bismarck counted on this and did not miscalculate. With the help of universal suffrage he swept away the opposition of the propertied classes and acquired a docile majority in the “Reichstag,” which he could never have obtained under the three-class election system.
Hence universal suffrage was introduced not as a lever for democracy, but as a weapon for reaction.
It is entirely controlled by the government, in this country even more than in France, where the people are politically more experienced, where they have already gone through three revolutions and are facing the fourth. It is quite safe to say that in Prussia no one can be elected to the “Reichstag,” whom the government seriously opposes. I recall how during the last elections in Hanover the proclamations issued by the opposition were confiscated and thousands of obstacles placed in its way. And in this case a candidate was involved who was merely inconvenient, not dangerous. Had the government used all its power – I mean used it lawfully, for the “intelligent” absolutism usually hides behind a legal cloak – it could have easily prevented Ewald’s  election. Suppose that a candidate is nominated, whom the government definitely wants to keep out of the “Reichstag”: it will confiscate the newspapers which support his election – quite legally; it will seize his election circulars – again legally; it will prohibit election campaign meetings – legally; or it may permit such meetings and then dissolve them – also legally; it will arrest the candidate’s sponsors – legally; it will arrest the candidate himself – perfectly legally. Even a “member of the Reichstag” was recently arrested, and today he would still have been in prison had not a gesture from Bismarck convinced the National-Liberals of the “martyr’s” inoffensiveness.
But assuming that a feeling of confidence or some miscalculation caused the government to refrain from using its powers, and that we succeeded in electing to the “Reichstag” a Social-Democratic majority, which is the dream of some fanciful Socialist politicians – what should the majority do? Hic Rhodus, hic salta. Now is the moment to transform society and the state. The majority adopts an epoch-making resolution, a new era is born-by no means; a company of soldiers drives the Social-Democratic majority from the sanctuary and if these gentlemen do not submit quietly, they are escorted by a few policemen to the city jail where they have time to meditate on their quixotic conduct.
Revolutions are not made with the gracious permission of the authorities; the socialist ideal cannot be accomplished within the present state; it can be brought into existence only by overthrowing the existing state.
No peace with the present-day state.
Away with the cult of the universal and direct suffrage.
Let us continue to participate actively in the elections, using them however merely as means of propaganda, and emphasizing always that the ballot-box can never become the cradle of the democratic state. Universal suffrage will acquire its decisive influence on the state and society only after the abolition of the police and military state.
Finally a word on the various kinds of socialism, which we now encounter in Germany, and also in the “Reichstag,” and which correspond closely to our political party structure.
First we have – for I need not speak here of Dr. Max Hirsch  who claims that class contradictions are a “misapprehension” and who acts, so to speak, as a voluntary special constable of the bourgeoisie against socialism – first we have the royal Prussian court socialism or feudal socialism, as represented by Herr Wagener who incidentally adapted the machinery of universal suffrage for Count Bismarck. Numerous facts are available to prove that Herr Wagener does not carry on socialism on his own responsibility, but acts on instructions from above. I need only remind you of the tolerance shown by the police towards the General Association of German Workers, which had been declared “unlawful” by the Supreme Court. Two more facts, which are not widely known, may be cited.
When the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung  entered into that well-known relationship with Count Bismarck, as a consequence of which I had to withdraw from the paper, Brass  offered to place two columns daily in his sheet at the disposal of Marx, Engels and myself, remarking that we could write on socialism and communism without restriction. The government, in which we were mistaken, intended to do something for the poor man, for the proletariat. Of course I declined; we cannot assist in placing the labour movement in the hands of royalty by divine grace.
By the way, this happened before the publication of Lassalle’s reply , proving that the government was not induced by Lassalle to study the social question, an allegation frequently made by both his friends and his enemies.
The second fact: During a meeting of the Committee for the Relief of Distress in East Prussia, a Progressive member complained that official and semi-official circles were flirting with certain socialist aspirations. Whereupon the second highest person in the state – that is, if one does not consider Count Bismarck to be the highest person – to whom the remark had been addressed (the crown prince), declared: “This is the express wish of Count Bismarck who is of the opinion that encouragement of socialist aspirations is the best way to paralyse democracy.”
Secondly, we have the National-Liberal Socialists, who base themselves on the “conditions created in 1866,” who accept the coup d’etat, consider that the constitution of the North German Separate Federation can be improved and endeavour to improve it. Like the National-Liberal practical politicians, the National-Liberal practical Socialists – in so far as they are honest – are happily blessed with the simple faith, that in spite of all their compromises they can keep their principles pure and that in the end they will manage to outwit the police and military state. The miserable failure suffered by Braun, Miquel  and their associates is a portent of their fate. The inconsistency of this political view is clearly revealed by the fact that the National-Liberal Socialists are acting in perfect unison politically with the National-Liberal bourgeoisie, whose social rule they wish to break.
Democratic socialism has nothing in common either with this National-Liberal or that feudal socialism, both of which rest on the separation of the social from the political question. Democratic socialism proceeds from the principle that the political and social questions are inseparable; proudly rejecting any pact with the existing order, it is determined to win a democratic state for a society that will be organized on a socialist basis. Only we, the adherents of this socialism, are justified in calling ourselves a socialist party. The others are a clique or a sect. We are Social-Democracy.
We are not suspended in mid-air, as some people allege, we merely have nothing in common with the present order of things, neither politically nor socially. I am a republican, the fact that I live in a monarchy, does not make me a royalist.
We do recognize power, but only as a fact, not as a right – as a fact which we endure until this power will no longer have power, that is, until it can be opposed by a greater power. We do not sit idle, but we use all the weapons, left us by the ruling power, to fight the ruling power. And thus “we are also acting according to circumstances” – in the only manner consistent with our principles and with good sense.
French democracy provides us with a brilliant example. Having made his coup d’etat, Bonaparte proclaimed universal suffrage and built a golden bridge designed to span the river of blood spilled on December 2 and lead across to democracy, to the people, to the workers.
French democracy – let it be said to its immortal glory – scornfully rejected the allurements offered by the emperor, remaining faithful to its principles, faithful to its hatred. Eighteen years have passed; those few, who, like Ollivier, could not resist the magic of success and have crossed the golden bridge, bear the mark of Cain’s treachery on their forehead and are shunned by every honest person, while French democracy faces Caesarism solidly, uncompromisingly, confident of victory, certain of victory.
Neither will we cross the golden bridge, we are biding our time, and letting the may-flies hatched by the sun of “success” die.
We cannot prevent the government’s attempts to exploit the labour question, but we can and will ensure that those attempts fail; we can and will prevent reaction, the Junkers from benefiting by the class struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie. We will succeed in this if we wage the political struggle as vigorously as we do the social struggle. I know that in Prussia this is difficult, but it must be done. First of all the working class must rid itself of the distrust, artificially produced and kept alive, against so-called “bourgeois democracy,” which is represented by Jacoby.
If someone wishes to spread confusion among the parties, he only needs to fling a double-entendre, an ambiguous expression, among them. “Bourgeois democracy” is such an expression, such an apple of discord.
The word “bourgeois” (Bürger) in German has three different meanings. First, it means citizen, and in this sense it comprises the idea of political equality; secondly, it means the petty bourgeois, and the conditions of the petty bourgeoisie in Germany compel it in its own interest to side with the working class; thirdly, and finally, it means the bourgeois, the big bourgeois who lives by the exploitation of workers and seeks to perpetuate it.
Because of the hateful associations connected with the word “bourgeois,” the expression “bourgeois democracy” has become a term of abuse for many workers. But is the bourgeoisie democratic? On the contrary. It is well aware of the close connection existing between democracy and socialism, it hates democracy and is national-liberal. And strange to relate, the same people who with passionate fury attack Jacoby, the enemy of the bourgeoisie, as a “bourgeois democrat,” are politically hand in glove with the bourgeoisie and help it to uphold its social privileges. This proves that those who shout against “bourgeois democracy” are either very short-sighted or very dishonest.
Jacoby, I admit, is not yet a socialist in the strict sense of the word. He still emphasizes the political aspect more than the social aspect, which is just as serious an error as the reverse. But as surely as he values truth and justice above everything, so surely will he come over to us entirely. Even though he is still more of a politician than a socialist, that shall not deter us from accepting the profferred hand. We do not wish to quarrel with our friends about minor questions for the benefit of our enemies. The future belongs to the socialism which is democratic, to the democracy which is socialist.
In March 1848 all were democrats. When the movement, however, became serious and it became evident that either the “achievements” would be lost, or a real complete revolution had to be made giving the proletariat its rights, the democratic bourgeoisie, or, to use a more accurate term, the democratizing” bourgeoisie, madly frightened by the spectre of communism, separated from the democratic working class. Where now are the bourgeois democrats of those day? The “old democrats,” the “men of 1848,” have not fallen away, as has been often claimed, they have merely fallen into the place where they belonged, where they were due to fall. From unconscious bourgeois they turned into conscious bourgeois, as soon as the economic contradictions developed, in consequence of the enormous industrial and commercial upsurge after 1848. So far as they are not dead and gone, today we find those democratic bourgeois almost without exception in the ranks of the more or less progressive National-Liberalism; they were never democrats but merely muddle-heads intoxicated by democratic phrases, the content of which they did not understand.
The true democrat is of necessity a socialist as well.
A more determined position than they occupied so far ought to be taken up in the social sphere by the democrats, which are represented by Jacoby, and in the political sphere by the Socialists. Only when that is done, when socialist and democratic efforts strengthen and complement each other instead of fighting one another, will a broad and powerful social-democratic movement come into being, strong enough to break down any resistance confronting it.
Why is Social-Democracy at present still so weak? I am fully aware that much noise is made about it, but it is great boast and small roast. Having the advantage of looking behind the scenes I consider it very foolish-leaving the moral issue completely aside-to try to deceive the public and our own party about our strength. But why is our party at present so weak? Why does the overwhelming majority of the workers keep aloof? Why does Social-Democracy particularly in Berlin apparently have such a small following? Only quite recently, as a result of a successful strike , has it been able to unite under its banner a few hundred men. A few hundred out of a hundred thousand!
Why? The conviction that at present the reactionary forces are taking advantage of the social movement, that they benefit by it, this well-founded conviction keeps away the masses, who possess democratic instincts.
When all uncertainty regarding the political position of Social-Democracy is removed, when Social-Democracy without neglecting the class struggle stands in the forefront of the political fight, from that moment onwards we will have the backing of the working masses and will be able to say: “Berlin belongs to us.” And then Germany will belong to us; for the chief enemy is here in Berlin, and the decisive battle will be fought here. Germany was enslaved from Berlin, and Germany must be liberated in Berlin.
The speech was followed by an animated discussion. Commenting upon the observations made by a member of the General Association of German Workers (Herr Armborst) Liebknecht said inter alia:
“The arguments of the previous speaker demonstrate where an attempt to separate socialism from democracy leads; for him democrat is synonymous with bourgeois, according to this logic the worker must of course be a reactionary.
“I thought I had proved that I fear neither the laughter nor the howls of rage of the gentlemen in the ‘Reichstag.’ I may say that I have defied them as no one has; but I did it to protest, to state my opinion of the ‘Reichstag’ and everything connected with it, and one cannot do that often. Otherwise it loses its value. To preach socialist theories pour le roi de Prusse to the benches of the ‘Reichstag,’ I feel beneath my dignity.
“I have not the least intention of conducting the actual fight in the political field only. Even in 1864 I publicly advocated trade unions, and I did my utmost since then to organize them. But here too one should never lose sight of the ultimate goal, of the principle. For if that happens it is only too easy to forget, in the struggle for material improvements, for higher wages, that the bourgeois mode of production in its entirety has to be reorganized, that the wage system as a whole must be abolished.
“One final word. Herr Armborst believes that in time we would gain a majority in the ‘Reichstag.’ Let him consider the following calculation: at present we have even ‘Social-Democrats’ in the ‘Reichstag’; provided that at the next and each of the following elections we get seven more – and that is certainly a most favourable supposition – 63 years must elapse, before we obtain in this way the majority, that is, at least 149 deputies for the ‘Reichstag’ has 297 members. Well, if Herr Armborst and his friends feel inclined to wait until the elections of 1933, they may do so; we consider it a crime against Social-Democracy to hold the workers back from the political struggle, waged at the present time, by holding out hopes for the future.” …
Habent sua fata libelli [Books have their fate (Latin)].
Not only books, but speeches too have their strange fate. At any rate the preceding speech. I had already forgotten all about it when one fine morning in August 1869 the postman delivered an epistle bearing a Berlin postmark. Its antediluvian size and its garb of greyish brown blotting-paper immediately betrayed its official origin. My curiosity aroused, I opened the object and read that a Mr. Schütz, royal Prussian public prosecutor, had made a study of the speech in question and claimed to have discovered in it a “defamation of the royal Prussian Government.” According to the notes taken by the various police officers of higher and lower rank, who had honoured the meeting of May 31 with their presence, I am supposed to have said among other things:
“Germany’s present political structure exists only through a violation of law, and is upheld by the sword.”
Whether I used these particular expressions, I can no longer recall, but similar ones certainly, when I compared Bismarck’s coup d’etat with the December coup of Bonaparte. In any case as official representative of the Prussian constitutional state – in partibus – Mr. Schütz was scandalized by the expression “violation of law”; moreover, in his legal zeal he so completely forgot his character as a citizen of the Prussian military state in esse that to be “upheld by the sword” seemed to him also a criminal offence. To do justice to the man, I will however not exclude the possibility of his wrath being caused by the error I committed in confusing the old heathen and medieval “sword” with the modern champion of civilization, the “needle-gun,” which does indeed show my great ignorance in military matters. However that may be, Mr. Schütz has attended the compulsory course of lectures in logic and felt obliged to testify to this with the following argument: “Germany’s present political structure has been brought about by the policy of the Prussian Government, it is therefore a defamation of this policy to identify it with a violation of the law.” This could also be formulated thus: “Germany’s present political structure rests on the policy of the Prussian Government, the Prussian Government can do no wrong, violation of the law is a wrong, it is therefore a defamation of the Prussian Government to identify it with a violation of the law.” Or: “The Prussian Government violated the law in 1866 and that was right; to say, however, that it violated the law,” is wrong. Liebknecht said it, therefore he must be punished.” On the basis of this logical argument Mr. Schütz had filed an application with the Berlin City Court, to order an investigation against me for infringement of § 101 (“hatred and contempt”). The City Court, whose members had also studied the collegium logicum, notified me in the greyish-brown blotting-paper epistle, that I must present myself for a hearing at the premises of the Berlin City Court, Lagerhaus, Klostergasse 76, first floor, at 10:45 a.m. on September 17, 1869. “If you do not appear,” threatened the epistle, “the court as it sees fit will proceed to hear evidence and to pass and pronounce the judgement in contumacy, or it will fix another hearing and order you to be arrested and brought before it.” That sounded rather businesslike: “arrest,” “bring before” – I felt a cold shiver and I experienced again the familiar smell of bugs which pervades the city jail – but luckily I remembered the old saying, that in Nuremberg they cannot hang anybody before catching him, and praising the Creator for the fact that Saxony had not yet been completely “annexed,” I threw the greyish-brown blotting-paper epistle in with the rest of the editorial waste paper, packed my travelling bag and cheerfully set out for the International Congress at Basle.
Again I forgot the Berlin speech and the greyishbrown blotting-paper epistle. However the City Court of Berlin had a better memory. Approximately two weeks after my return from Basle, the postman delivered a second greyish-brown blotting-paper epistle. Its outside resembled the first as closely as one infantry helmet resembles another, – but inside it differed slightly. But the intentional or unintentional humour remained the same.” Wilhelm Liebknecht, ” On the Political Position of Social Democracy;” Preface to the First & Second editions, speech itself, and “Tragi-Comic Sequel,” 1869
Numero Tres—“WHEN IN 1492 COLUMBUS, representing the Spanish monarchy, discovered the New World, he set in train the long and bitter international rivalry over colonial possessions for which, after four and a half centuries, no solution has yet been found. Portugal, which had initiated the movement of international expansion, claimed the new territories on the ground that they fell within the scope of a papal bull of 1455 authorizing her to reduce to servitude all infidel peoples. The two powers, to avoid controversy, sought arbitration and, as Catholics, turned to the Pope a natural and logical step in an age when the universal claims of the Papacy were still unchallenged by individuals and governments. After carefully sifting the rival claims, the Pope issued in 1493 a series of papal bulls which established a line of demarcation between the colonial possessions of the two states: the East went to Portugal and the West to Spain. The partition, however, failed to satisfy Portuguese aspirations and in the subsequent year the contending parties reached a more satisfactory compromise in the Treaty of Tordesillas, which rectified the papal judgment to permit Portuguese ownership of Brazil.
Neither the papal arbitration nor the formal treaty was intended to be binding on other powers, and both were in fact repudiated. Cabot’s voyage to North America in 1497 was England’s immediate reply to the partition. Francis I of France voiced his celebrated protest: “The sun shines for me as for others. I should very much like to see the clause in Adam’s will that excludes me from a share of the world.” The king of Denmark refused to accept the Pope’s ruling as far as the East Indies were concerned. Sir William Cecil, the famous Elizabethan statesman, denied the Pope’s right “to give and take kingdoms to whomsoever he pleased.” In 1580 the English government countered with the principle of effective occupation as the determinant of sovereignty. 1 Thereafter, in the parlance of the day, there was “no peace below the line.” It was a dispute, in the words of a later governor of Barbados, as to “whether the King of England or of France shall be monarch of the West Indies, for the King of Spain cannot hold it long. . . .” 2 England, France, and even Holland, began to challenge the Iberian Axis and claim their place in the sun. The Negro, too, was to have his place, though he did not ask for it: it was the broiling sun of the sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations of the New World.
According to Adam Smith, the prosperity of a new colony depends upon one simple economic factor “plenty of good land.” 3 The British colonial possessions up to 1776, however, can broadly be divided into two types. The first is the self-sufficient and diversified economy of small farmers, “mere earthscratchers” as Gibbon Wakefield derisively called them, 4 living on a soil which, as Canada was described in 1840, was “no lottery, with a few exorbitant prizes and a large number of blanks, but a secure and certain investment.” 5 The second type is the colony which has facilities for the production of staple articles on a large scale for an export market. In the first category fell the Northern colonies of the American mainland; in the second, the mainland tobacco colonies and the sugar islands of the Caribbean. In colonies of the latter type, as Merivale pointed out, land and capital were both useless unless labor could be commanded. 6 Labor, that is, must be constant and must work, or be made to work, in co-operation. In such colonies the rugged individualism of the Massachusetts farmer, practising his intensive agriculture and wringing by the sweat of his brow niggardly returns from a grudging soil, must yield to the disciplined gang of the big capitalist practising extensive agriculture and producing on a large scale. Without this compulsion, the laborer would otherwise exercise his natural inclination to work his own land and toil on his own account. The story is frequently told of the great English capitalist, Mr. Peel, who took 50,000 and three hundred laborers with him to the Swan River colony in Australia. His plan was that his laborers would work for him, as in the old country. Arrived in Australia, however, where land was plentiful too plentiful the laborers preferred to work for themselves as small proprietors, rather than under the capitalist for wages. Australia was not England, and the capitalist was left without a servant to make his bed or fetch him water. 7
For the Caribbean colonies the solution for this dispersion and “earth-scratching” was slavery. The lesson of the early history of Georgia is instructive. Prohibited from employing slave labor by trustees who, in some instances, themselves owned slaves in other colonies, the Georgian planters found themselves in the position, as Whitefield phrased it, of pepple whose legs were tied and were told to walk. So the Georgia magistrates drank toasts “to the one thing needful” slavery until the ban was lifted. 8 “Odious resource” though it might be, as Merivale called it, 9 slavery was an economic institution of the first importance. It had been the basis of Greek economy and had built up the Roman Empire. In modern times it provided the sugar for the tea and the coffee cups of the Western world. It produced the cotton to serve as a base for modern capitalism. It made the American South and the Caribbean islands. Seen in historical perspective, it forms a part of that general picture of the harsh treatment of the underprivileged classes, the unsympathetic poor laws and severe feudal laws, and the indifference with which the rising capitalist class was “beginning to reckon prosperity in terms of pounds sterling, and . . . becoming used to the idea of sacrificing human life to the deity of increased production.” 10
Adam Smith, the intellectual champion of the industrial middle class with its new-found doctrine of freedom, later propagated the argument that it was, in general, pride and love of power in the master that led to slavery and that, in those countries where slaves were employed, free labor would bemore profitable. Universal experience demonstrated conclusively that “the work done by slaves, though it appears to cost only their maintenance, is in the end the dearest of any. A person who can acquire no property can have no other interest than to eat as much, and to labour as little as possible.” 11
Adam Smith thereby treated as an abstract proposition what is a specific question of time, place, labor and soil. The economic superiority of free hired labor over slave is obvious even to the slave owner. Slave labor is given reluctantly, it is unskilful, it lacks versatility. 12 Other things being equal, free men would be preferred. But in the early stages of colonial development, other things are not equal. When slavery is adopted, it is not adopted as the choice over free labor; there is no choice at all. The reasons for slavery, wrote Gibbon Wakefield, “are not moral, but economical circumstances; they relate not to vice and virtue, but to production.” 13 With the limited population of Europe in the sixteenth century, the free laborers necessary to cultivate the staple crops of sugar, tobacco and cotton in the New World could not have been supplied in quantities adequate to permit large-scale production. Slavery was necessary for this, and to get slaves the Europeans turned first to the aborigines and then to Africa.
Under certain circumstances slavery has some obvious advantages. In the cultivation of crops like sugar, cotton and tobacco, where the cost of production is appreciably reduced on larger units, the slaveowner, with his large-scale production and his organized slave gang, can make more profitable use of the land than the small farmer or peasant proprietor. For such staple crops, the vast profits can well stand the greater expense of inefficient slave labor. 14 Where all the knowledge required is simple and a matter of routine, constancy and cooperation in labor slavery is essential, until, by importation of new recruits and breeding, the population has reached the point of density and the land available for appropriation has been already apportioned. When that stage is reached, and only then, the expenses of slavery, in the form of the cost and maintenance of slaves, productive and unproductive, exceed the cost of hired laborers. As Merivale wrote: “Slave labour is dearer than free wherever abundance of free labour can be procured” 15
From the standpoint of the grower, the greatest defect of slavery lies in the fact that it quickly exhausts the soil. The labor supply of low social status, docile and cheap, can be maintained in subjection only by systematic degradation and by deliberate efforts to suppress its intelligence. Rotation of crops and scientific farming are therefore alien to slave societies. As Jefferson wrote of Virginia, “we can buy an acre of new land cheaper than we can manure an old one.” 16 The slave planter, in the picturesque nomenclature of the South, is a “land-killer.” This serious defect of slavery can be counterbalanced and postponed for a time if fertile soil is practically unlimited. Expansion is a necessity of slave societies; the slave power requires ever fresh conquests. 17 “It is more profitable,” wrote Merivale, “to cultivate a fresh soil by the dear labour of slaves, than an exhausted one by the cheap labour of freemen.” 18 From Virginia and Maryland to Carolina, Georgia, Texas and the Middle West; from Barbados to Jamaica to Saint Domingue and then to Cuba; the logic was inexorable and the same. It was a relay race; the first to start passed the baton, unwillingly we may be sure, to another and then limped sadly behind.
Slavery in the Caribbean has been too narrowly identified with the Negro. A racial twist has thereby been given to what is basically an economic phenomenon. Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery. Unfree labor in the New World was brown, white, black, and yellow; Catholic, Protestant and pagan.
The first instance of slave trading and slave labor developed in the New World involved, racially, not the Negro but the Indian. The Indians rapidly succumbed to the excessive labor demanded of them, the insufficient diet, the white man’s diseases, and their inability to adjust themselves to the new way of life. Accustomed to a life of liberty, their constitution and temperament were ill-adapted to the rigors of plantation slavery. As Fernando Ortiz writes: “To subject the Indian to the mines, to their monotonous, insane and severe labor, without tribal sense, without religious ritual, . . . was like taking away from him the meaning of his life. … It was to enslave not only his muscles but also his collective spirit.” 19
The visitor to Ciudad Trujillo, capital of the Dominican Republic (the present-day name of half of the island formerly called Hispaniola), will see a statue of Columbus, with the figure of an Indian woman gratefully writing (so reads the caption) the name of the Discoverer. The story is told, on the other hand, of the Indian chieftain, Hatuey, who, doomed to die for resisting the invaders, staunchly refused to accept the Christian faith as the gateway to salvation when he learned that his executioners, too, hoped to get to Heaven. It is far more probable that Hatuey, rather than the anonymous woman, represented contemporary Indian opinion of their new overlords.
England and France, in their colonies, followed the Spanish practice of enslavement of the Indians. There was one conspicuous difference the attempts of the Spanish Crown, however ineffective, to restrict Indian slavery to those who refused to accept Christianity and to the warlike Caribs on the specious plea that they were cannibals. From the standpoint of the British government Indian slavery, unlike later Negro slavery which involved vital imperial interests, was a purely colonial matter. As Lauber writes: “The home government was interested in colonial slave conditions and legislation only when the African slave trade was involved. . . . Since it (Indian slavery) was never sufficiently extensive to interfere with Negro slavery and the slave trade, it never received any attention from the home government, and so existed as legal because never declared illegal.” 20
But Indian slavery never was extensive in the British dominions. Ballagh, writing of Virginia, says that popular sentiment had never “demanded the subjection of the Indian race per se, as was practically the case with the Negro in the first slave act of 1661, but only of a portion of it, and that admittedly a very small portion. … In the case of the Indian . . . slavery was viewed as of an occasional nature, a preventive penalty and not as a normal and permanent condition.” 21 In the New England colonies Indian slavery was unprofitable, for slavery of any kind was unprofitable because it was unsuited to the diversified agriculture of these colonies. In addition the Indian slave was inefficient. The Spaniards discovered that one Negro was worth four Indians. 22 A prominent official in Hispaniola insisted in 1518 that “permission be given to bring Negroes, a race robust for labor, instead of natives, so weak that they can only be employed in tasks requiring little endurance, such as taking care of maize fields or farms.” 23 The future staples of the New World, sugar and cotton, required strength which the Indian lacked, and demanded the robust “cotton nigger” as sugar’s need of strong mules produced in Louisiana the epithet “sugar mules.” According to Lauber, “When compared with sums paid for Negroes at the same time and place the prices of Indian slaves are found to have been considerably lower.” 24
The Indian reservoir, too, was limited, the African inexhaustible. Negroes therefore were stolen in Africa to work the lands stolen from the Indians in America. The voyages of Prince Henry the Navigator complemented those of Columbus, West African history became the complement of West Indian.
The immediate successor of the Indian, however, was not the Negro but the poor white. These white servants included a variety of types. Some were indentured servants, so called because, before departure from the homeland, they had signed a contract, indented by law, binding them to service for a stipulated time in return for their passage. Still others, known as “redemptioners,” arranged with the captain of the ship to pay for their passage on arrival or within a specified time thereafter; if they did not, they were sold by the captain to the highest bidder. Others were convicts, sent out by the deliberate policy of the home government, to serve for a specified period.
This emigration was in tune with mercantilist theories of the day which strongly advocated putting the poor to industrious and useful labor and favored emigration, voluntary or involuntary, as relieving the poor rates and finding more profitable occupations abroad for idlers and vagrants at home. “Indentured servitude,” writes C. M. Haar, “was called into existence by two different though complementary forces: there was both a positive attraction from the New World and a negative repulsion from the Old.” 25 In a state paper delivered to James I in 1606 Bacon emphasized that by emigration England would gain “a double commodity, in the avoidance of people here, and in making use of them there.” 26
This temporary service at the outset denoted no inferiority or degradation. Many of the servants were manorial tenants fleeing from the irksome restrictions of feudalism, Irishmen seeking freedom from the oppression of landlords and bishops, Germans running away from the devastation of the Thirty Years’ War. They transplanted in their hearts a burning desire for land, an ardent passion for independence. They came to the land of opportunity to be free men, their imaginations powerfully wrought upon by glowing and extravagant descriptions in the home country. 27 It was only later when, in the words of Dr. Williamson, “all ideals of a decent colonial society, of a better and greater England overseas, were swamped in the pursuit of an immediate gain,” 28 that the introduction of disreputable elements became a general feature of indentured service.
A regular traffic developed in these indentured servants. Between 1654 and 1685 ten thousand sailed from Bristol alone, chiefly for the West Indies and Virginia. 29 In 1683 white servants represented one-sixth of Virginia’s population. Two-thirds of the immigrants to Pennsylvania during the eighteenth century were white servants; in four years 25,000 came to Philadelphia alone. It has been estimated that more than a quarter of a million persons were of this class during the colonial period, 80 and that they probably constituted one-half of all English immigrants, the majority going to the middle colonies. 81
As commercial speculation entered the picture, abuses crept in. Kidnaping was encouraged to a great degree and became a regular business in such towns as London and Bristol. Adults would be plied with liquor, children enticed with sweetmeats. The kidnapers were called “spirits,” defined as “one that taketh upp men and women and children and sells them on a shipp to be conveyed beyond the sea.” The captain of a ship trading to Jamaica would visit the Clerkenwell House of Correction, ply with drink the girls who had been imprisoned there as disorderly, and “invite” them to go to the West Indies. 32 The temptations held out to the unwary and the credulous were so attractive that, as the mayor of Bristol complained, husbands were induced to forsake their wives, wives their husbands, and apprentices their masters, while wanted criminals found on the transport ships a refuge from the arms of the law. 88 The wave of German immigration developed the “newlander,” the labor agent of those days, who traveled up and down the Rhine Valley persuading the feudal peasants to sell their belongings and emigrate to America, receiving a commission for each emigrant. 84
Much has been written about the trickery these “newlanders” were not averse to employing. 85 But whatever the deceptions practised, it remains true, as Friedrich Kapp has written, that “the real ground for the emigration fever lay in the unhealthy political and economic conditions. . . . The misery and oppression of the conditions of the little (German) states promoted emigration much more dangerously and continuously than the worst ‘newlander.’ ” 36
Convicts provided another steady source of white labor. The harsh feudal laws of England recognized three hundred capital crimes. Typical hanging offences included: picking a pocket for more than a shilling; shoplifting to the value of five shillings; stealing a horse or a sheep; poaching rabbits on a gentleman’s estate. 37 Offences for which the punishment prescribed by law was transportation comprised the stealing of cloth, burning stacks of corn, the maiming and killing of cattle, hindering customs officers in the execution of their duty, and corrupt legal practices. 38 Proposals made in 1664 would have banished to the colonies all vagrants, rogues and idlers, petty thieves, gipsies, and loose persons frequenting unlicensed brothels. 89 A piteous petition in 1667 prayed for transportation instead of the death sentence for a wife convicted of stealing goods valued at three shillings and four pence. 40 In 1745 transportation was the penalty for the theft of a silver spoon and a gold watch. 41 One year after the emancipation of the Negro slaves, transportation was the penalty for trade union activity. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that there was some connection between the law and the labor needs of the plantations, and the marvel is that so few people ended up in the colonies overseas.
Benjamin Franklin opposed this “dumping upon the New World of the outcasts of the Old” as the most cruel insult ever offered by one nation to another, and asked, if England was justified in sending her convicts to the colonies, whether the latter were justified in sending to England their rattlesnakes in exchange? 42 It is not clear why Franklin should have been so sensitive. Even if the convicts were hardened criminals, the great increase of indentured servants and free emigrants would have tended to render the convict influence innocuous, as increasing quantities of water poured in a glass containing poison. Without convicts the early development of the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century would have been impossible. Only a few of the colonists, however, were so particular. The general attitude was summed up by a contemporary: “Their labor would be more beneficial in an infant settlement, than their vices could be pernicious.” 43 There was nothing strange about this attitude. The great problem in a new country is the problem of labor, and convict labor, as Merivale has pointed out, was equivalent to a free present by the government to the settlers without burdening the latter with the expense of importation. 44 The governor of Virginia in 1611 was willing to welcome convicts reprieved from death as “a readie way to furnish us with men and not allways with the worst kind of men.” 45 The West Indies were prepared to accept all and sundry, even the spawn of Newgate and Bridewell, for “no goalebird \sic] can be so incorrigible, but there is hope of his conformity here, as well as of his preferment, which some have happily experimented.” 46
The political and civil disturbances in England between 1640 and 1740 augmented the supply of white servants. Political and religious nonconformists paid for their unorthodox^ by transportation, mostly to the sugar islands. Such was the fate of many of Cromwell’s Irish prisoners, who were sent to the West Indies. 47 So thoroughly was this policy pursued that an active verb was added to the English language to “barbadoes” a person. 48 Montserrat became largely an Irish colony, 49 and the Irish brogue is still frequently heard today in many parts of the British West Indies. The Irish, however, were poor servants. They hated the English, were always ready to aid England’s enemies, and in a revolt in the Leeward Islands in i689 50 we can already see signs of that burning indignation which, according to Lecky, gave Washington some of his best soldiers. 61 The vanquished in Cromwell’s Scottish campaigns were treated like the Irish before them, and Scotsmen came to be regarded as “the general travaillers and soldiers in most foreign parts.” 52 Religious intolerance sent more workers to the plantations. In r 66 1 Quakers refusing to take the oath for the third time were to be transported; in 1664 transportation, to any plantation except Virginia or New England, or a fine of one hundred pounds was decreed for the third offence for persons over sixteen assembling in groups of five or more under pretence of religion. 53 Many of Monmouth’s adherents were sent to Barbados, with orders to be detained as servants for ten years. The prisoners were granted in batches to favorite courtiers, who made handsome profits from the traffic in which, it is alleged, even the Queen shared. 54 A similar policy was resorted to after the Jacobite risings of the eighteenth century.
The transportation of these white servants shows in its true light the horrors of the Middle Passage not as something unusual or inhuman but as a part of the age. The emigrants were packed like herrings. According to Mittelberger, each servant was allowed about two feet in width and six feet in length in bed. 55 The boats were small, the voyage long, the food, in the absence of refrigeration, bad, disease inevitable. A petition to Parliament in 1659 describes how seventy-two servants had been locked up below deck during the whole voyage of five and a half weeks, “amongst horses, that their souls, through heat and steam under the tropic, fainted in them.” 56 Inevitably abuses crept into the system and Fearon was shocked by “the horrible picture of human suffering which this living sepulchre” of an emigrant vessel in Philadelphia afforded. 67 But conditions even for the free passengers were not much better in those days, and the comment of a Lady of Quality describing a voyage from Scotland to the West Indies on a ship full of indentured servants should banish any ideas that the horrors of the slave ship are to be accounted for by the fact that the victims were Negroes. “It is hardly possible,” she writes, “to believe that human nature could be so depraved, as to treat fellow creatures in such a manner for so little gain.” 58
The transportation of servants and convicts produced a powerful vested interest in England. When the Colonial Board was created in 1661, not the least important of its duties was the control of the trade in indentured servants. In 1664 a commission was appointed, headed by the King’s brother, to examine and report upon the exportation of servants. In 1670 an act prohibiting the transportation of English prisoners overseas was rejected; another bill against the stealing of children came to nothing. In the transportation of felons, a whole hierarchy, from courtly secretaries and grave judges down to the jailors and turnkeys, insisted on having a share in the spoils. 69 It has been suggested that it was humanity for his fellow countrymen and men of his own color which dictated the planter’s preference for the Negro slave. 60 Of this humanity there is not a trace in the records of the time, at least as far as the plantation colonies and commercial production were concerned. Attempts to register emigrant servants and regularize the procedure of transportation thereby giving full legal recognition to the system were evaded. The leading merchants and public officials were all involved in the practice. The penalty for manstealing was exposure in the pillory, but no missiles from the spectators were tolerated. Such opposition as there was came from the masses. It was enough to point a finger at a woman in the streets of London and call her a “spirit” to start a riot.
This was the situation in England when Jeffreys came to Bristol on his tour of the West to clean up the remnants of Monmouth’s rebellion. Jeffreys has been handed down to posterity as a “butcher,” the tyrannical deputy of an arbitrary king, and his legal visitation is recorded in the textbooks as the “Bloody Assizes.” They had one redeeming feature. Jeffreys vowed that he had come to Bristol with a broom to sweep the city clean, and his wrath fell on the kidnapers who infested the highest municipal offices. The merchants and justices were in the habit of straining the law to increase the number of felons who could be transported to the sugar plantations they owned in the West Indies. They would terrify petty offenders with the prospect of hanging and then induce them to plead for transportation. Jeffreys turned upon the mayor, complete in scarlet and furs, who was about to sentence a pickpocket to transportation to Jamaica, forced him, to the great astonishment of Bristol’s worthy citizens, to enter the prisoners’ dock, like a common felon, to plead guilty or not guilty, and hectored him in characteristic language: “Sir, Mr. Mayor, you I meane, Kidnapper, and an old Justice of the Peace on the bench. … I doe not knowe him, an old knave: he goes to the taverne, and for a pint of sack he will bind people servants to the Indies at the taverne. A kidnapping knave! I will have his ears off, before I goe forth of towne. . . . Kidnapper, you, I mean, Sir. … If it were not in respect of the sword, which is over your head, I would send you to Newgate, you kidnapping knave. You are worse than the pick-pockett who stands there. … I hear the trade of kidnapping is of great request. They can discharge a felon or a traitor, provided they will go to Mr. Alderman’s plantation at the West Indies.” The mayor was fined one thousand pounds, but apart from the loss of dignity and the fear aroused in their hearts, the merchants lost nothing their gains were left inviolate. 61
According to one explanation, Jeffreys’ insults were the result of intoxication or insanity. 62 It is not improbable that they were connected with a complete reversal of mercantilist thought on the question of emigration, as a result of the internal development of Britain herself. By the end of the seventeenth century the stress had shifted from the accumulation of the precious metals as the aim of national economic policy to the development of industry within the country, the promotion of employment and the encouragement of exports. The mercantilists argued that the best way to reduce costs, and thereby compete with other countries, was to pay low wages, which a large population tended to ensure. The fear of overpopulation at the beginning of the seventeenth century gave way to a fear of underpopulation in the middle of the same century. The essential condition of colonization emigration from the home country now ran counter to the principle that national interest demanded a large population at home. Sir Josiah Child denied that emigration to America had weakened England, but he was forced to admit that in this view he was in a minority of possibly one in a thousand, while he endorsed the general opinion that “whatever tends to the depopulating of a kingdom tends to the impoverishment of it.” 03 Jeffreys’ unusual humanitarianism appears less strange and may be attributed rather to economic than to spirituous considerations. His patrons, the Royal Family, had already given their patronage to the Royal African Company and the Negro slave trade. For the surplus population needed to people the colonies in the New World the British had turned to Africa, and by 1680 they already had positive evidence, in Barbados, that the African was satisfying the necessities of production better than the European.
The status of these servants became progressively worse in the plantation colonies. Servitude, originally a free personal relation based on voluntary contract for a definite period of service, in lieu of transportation and maintenance, tended to pass into a property relation which asserted a control of varying extent over the bodies and liberties of the person during service as if he were a thing. 64 Eddis, writing on the eve of the Revolution, found the servants groaning “beneath a worse than Egyptian bondage.” 65 In Maryland servitude developed into an institution approaching in some respects chattel slavery. 60 Of Pennsylvania it has been said that “no matter how kindly they may have been treated in particular cases, or how voluntarily they may have entered into the relation, as a class and when once bound, indentured servants were temporarily chattels.” 67 On the sugar plantations of Barbados the servants spent their time “grinding at the mills and attending the furnaces, or digging in this scorching island; having nothing to feed on (notwithstanding their hard labour) but potatoe roots, nor to drink, but water with such roots washed in it, besides the bread and tears of their own afflictions; being bought and sold still from one planter to another, or attached as horses and beasts for the debts of their masters, being whipt at the whipping posts (as rogues,) for their masters’ pleasure, and sleeping, in sties worse than hogs in England. . . .” 68 As Professor Harlow concludes, the weight of evidence proves incontestably that the conditions under which white labor was procured and utilized in Barbados were “persistently severe, occasionally dishonourable^nd generally a disgrace to the English name.” 09
English officialdom, however, took the view that servitude was not too bad, and the servant in Jamaica was better off than the husbandman in England. “It is a place as grateful to you for trade as any part of the world. Tt is not so odious as it is represented.” 70 But there was some sensitiveness on the question. The Lords of Trade and Plantations, in 1676, opposed the use of the word “servitude” as a mark of bondage and slavery, and suggested “service” instead. 71 The institution was not affected by the change. The hope has been expressed that the white servants were spared the lash so liberally bestowed upon their Negro comrades. 72 They had no such good fortune. Since they were bound for a limited period, the planter had less interest in their welfare than in that of the Negroes who were perpetual servants and therefore “the most useful appurtenances” of a plantation. 73 Eddis found the Negroes “almost in every instance, under more comfortable circumstances than the miserable European, over whom the rigid planter exercises an inflexible severity.” 74 The servants were regarded by the planters as “white trash,” and were bracketed with the Negroes as laborers. “Not one of these colonies ever was or ever can be brought to any considerable improvement without a supply of white servants and Negroes,” declared the Council of Montserrat in i68o. 75 In a European society in which subordination was considered essential, in which Burke could speak of the working classes as “miserable sheep” and Voltaire as “canaille,” and Linguet condemn the worker to the use of his physical strength alone, for “everything would be lost once he knew that he had a mind” 76 in such a society it is unnecessary to seek for apologies for the condition of the white servant in the colonies.
Defoe bluntly stated that the white servant was a slave. 77 He was not. The servant’s loss of liberty was of limited duration, the Negro was slave for life. The servant’s status could not descend to his offspring, Negro children took the status of the mother. The master at no time had absolute control over the person and liberty of his servant as he had over his slave. The servant had rights, limited but recognized by law and inserted in a contract. He enjoyed, for instance, a limited right to property. In actual law the conception of the servant a a piece of property never went beyond that of personal estate and never reached the stage of a chattel or real estate. The laws in the colonies maintained this rigid distinction and visited cohabitation between the races with severe penalties. The servant could aspire, at the end of his term, to a plot of land, though, as Wertenbaker points out for Virginia, it was not a legal right, 78 and conditions varied from colony to colony. The serf in Europe could therefore hope for an early freedom in America which villeinage could not afford. The freed servants became small yeomen farmers, settled in the back country, a democratic force in a society of large aristocratic plantation owners, and were the pioneers in westward expansion. That was why Jefferson in America, as Saco in Cuba, favored the introduction of European servants instead of African slaves as tending to democracy rather than aristocracy. 79
The institution of white servitude, however, had grave disadvantages. Postlethwayt, a rigid mercantilist, argued that white laborers in the colonies would tend to create rivalry with the mother country in manufacturing. Better black slaves on plantations than white servants in industry, which would encourage aspirations to independence. 80 The supply moreover was becoming increasingly difficult, and the need of the plantations outstripped the English convictions. In addition, merchants were involved in many vexatious and costly proceedings arising from people signifying their willingness to emigrate, accepting food and clothes in advance, and then sueing for unlawful detention. 81 Indentured servants were not forthcoming in sufficient quantities to replace those who had served their term. On the plantations, escape was easy for the white servant; less easy for the Negro who, if freed, tended, in self-defence, to stay in his locality where he was well known and less likely to be apprehended as a vagrant or runaway slave. The servant expected land at the end of his contract; the Negro, in a strange environment, conspicuous by his color and features, and ignorant of the white man’s language and ways, could be kept permanently divorced from the land. Racial differences made it easier to justify and rationalize Negro slavery, to exact the mechanical obedience of a plough-ox or a cart-horse, to demand that resignation and that complete moral and intellectual subjection which alone make slave labor possible. Finally, and this was the decisive factor, the Negro slave was cheaper. The money which procured a white man’s services for ten years could buy a Negro for life. 82 As the governor of Barbados stated, the Barbadian planters found by experience that “three blacks work better and cheaper than one white man.” 83
But the experience with white servitude had been invaluable. Kidnaping in Africa encountered no such difficulties as were encountered in England. Captains and ships had the experience of the one trade to guide them in the other. Bristol, the center of the servant trade, became one of the centers of the slave trade. Capital accumulated from the one financed the other. White servitude was the historic base upon which Negro slavery was constructed. The felon-drivers in the plantations became without effort slave-drivers. “In significant numbers,” writes Professor Phillips, “the Africans were latecomers fitted into a system already developed.” 84
Here, then, is the origin of Negro slavery. The reason was economic, not racial; it had to do not with the color of the laborer, but the cheapness of the labor. As compared with Indian and white labor, Negro slavery was eminently superior. “In each case,” writes Bassett, discussing North Carolina, “it was a survival of the fittest. Both Indian slavery and white servitude were to go down before the black man’s superior endurance, docility, and labor capacity.’ 7 85 The features of the man, his hair, color and dentifrice, his “subhuman” characteristics so widely pleaded, were only the later rationalizations to justify a simple economic fact: that the colonies needed labor and resorted to Negro labor because it was cheapest and best. This was not a theory, it was a practical conclusion deduced from the personal experience of the planter. He would have gone to the moon, if necessary, for labor. Africa was nearer than the moon, nearer too than the more populous countries of India and China. But their turn was to come.
This white servitude is of cardinal importance for an understanding of the development of the New World and the Negro’s place in that development. It completely explodes the old myth that the whites could not stand the strain of manual labor in the climate of the New World and that, for this reason and this reason alone, the European powers had recourse to Africans. The argument is quite untenable. A Mississippi dictum will have it that “only black men and mules can face the sun in July.” But the whites faced the sun for well over a hundred years in Barbados, and the Salzburgers of Georgia indignantly denied that rice cultivation was harmful to them. 80 The Caribbean islands are well within the tropical zone, but their climate is more equable than tropical, the temperature rarely exceeds 80 degrees though it remains uniform the whole year round, and they are exposed to the gentle winds from the sea. The unbearable humidity of an August day in some parts of the United States has no equal in the islands. Moreover only the southern tip of Florida in the United States is actually tropical, yet Negro labor flourished in Virginia and Carolina. The southern parts of the United States are not hotter than South Italy or Spain, and de Tocqueville asked why the European could not work there as well as in those two countries? 87 When Whitney invented his cotton gin, it was confidently expected that cotton would be produced by free labor on small farms, and it was, in fact, so produced. 88 Where the white farmer was ousted, the enemv was not the climate but the slave plantation, and the white farmer moved westward, until the expanding plantation sent him on his wanderings again. Writing in 1857, Weston pointed out that labor in the fields of the extreme South and all the heavy outdoor work in New Orleans were performed by whites, without any ill consequences. “No part of the continental borders of the Gulf of Mexico,” he wrote, “and none of the islands which separate it from the ocean, need be abandoned to the barbarism of negro slavery.” 89 In our own time we who have witnessed the dispossession of Negroes by white sharecroppers in the South and the mass migration of Negroes from the South to the colder climates of Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh and other industrial centers of the North, can no longer accept the convenient rationalization that Negro labor was employed on the slave plantations because the climatS was too rigorous for the constitution of the white man.
A constant and steady emigration of poor whites from Spain to Cuba, to the very end of Spanish dominion, characterized Spanish colonial policy. Fernando Ortiz has drawn a striking contrast between the role of tobacco and sugar in Cuban history. Tobacco was a free white industry intensively cultivated on small farms; sugar was a black slave industry extensively cultivated on large plantations. He further compared the free Cuban tobacco industry with its slave Virginian counterpart. 00 What determined the difference was not climate but the economic structure of the two areas. The whites could hardly have endured the tropical heat of Cuba and succumbed to the tropical heat of Barbados. In Puerto Rico, the jibaro, the poor. white peasant, is still the basic type, demonstrating, in the words of Grenfell Price, how erroneous is the belief that after three generations the white man cannot breed in the tropics. 91 Similar white communities have survived in the Caribbean, from the earliest settlements right down to our own times, in the Dutch West Indian islands of Saba and St. Martin. For some sixty years French settlers have lived in St. Thomas not only as fishermen but as agriculturalists, forming today the “largest single farming class” in the island. 92 As Dr. Price concludes: “It appears that northern whites can retain a fair standard for generations in the trade- wind tropics if the location is free from the worst forms of tropical disease, if the economic return is adequate, and if the community is prepared to undertake hard, physical work.” 03 Over one hundred years ago a number of German emigrants settled in Seaford, Jamaica. They survive today, with no visible signs of deterioration, flatly contradicting the popular belief as to the possibility of survival of the northern white in the tropics. 94 Wherever, in short, tropical agriculture remained on a small farming basis, whites not only survived but prospered. Where the whites disappeared, the cause was not the climate but the supersession of the small farm by the large plantation, with its consequent demand for a large and steady supply of labor.
The climatic theory of the plantation is thus nothing but a rationalization. In an excellent essay on the subject Professor Edgar Thompson writes: “The plantation is not to be accounted for by climate. It is a political institution.” It is, we might add, more: it is an economic institution. The climatic theory “is part of an ideology which rationalizes and naturalizes an existing social and economic order, and this everywhere seems to be an order in which there is a race problem.” 95
The history of Australia clinches the argument. Nearly half of this island continent lies within the tropical zone. In part of this tropical area, the state of Queensland, the chief crop is sugar. When the industry began to develop, Australia had a choice of two alternatives: black labor or white labor. The commonwealth began its sugar cultivation in the usual way with imported black labor from the Pacific islands. Increasing demands, however, were made for a white Australia policy, and in the twentieth century non-white immigration was prohibited. It is irrelevant to consider here that as a result the cost of production of Australian sugar is prohibitive, that the industry is artificial and survives only behind the Chinese wall of Australian autarchy. Australia was willing to pay a high price in order to remain a white man’s country. Our sole concern here with the question is that this price was paid from the pockets of the Australian consumer and not in the physical degeneration of the Australian worker.
Labor in the Queensland sugar industry today is wholly white. “Queensland,” writes H. L. Wilkinson, “affords the only example in the world of European colonization in the tropics on an extensive scale. It does more; it shows a large European population doing the whole of the work of its civilization from the meanest service, and most exacting manual labor, to the highest form of intellectualism.” 96 To such an extent has science exploded superstition that Australian scientists today argue that the only condition on which white men and women can remain healthy in the tropics is that they must engage in hard manual work. Where they have done so, as in Queensland, “the most rigorous scientific examination,” according to the Australian Medical Congress in 1920, “failed to show any organic changes in white residents which enabled them to be distinguished from residents of temperate climates.” 97
Negro slavery, thus, had nothing to do with climate. Its origin can be expressed in three words: in the Caribbean, Sugar; on the mainland, Tobacco and Cotton. A change in the economic structure produced a corresponding change in the labor supply. The fundamental fact was “the creation of an inferior social and economic organization of exploiters and exploited.” 98 Sugar, tobacco, and cotton required the large plantation and hordes of cheap labor, and the small farm of the ex-indentured white servant could not possibly survive. The tobacco of the small farm in Barbados was displaced by the sugar of the large plantation. The rise of the sugar industry in the Caribbean was the signal for a gigantic dispossession of the small farmer. Barbados in 1645 had 11,200 small white farmers and 5,680 Negro slaves; in 1667 there were 745 large plantation owners and 82,023 slaves. In 1645 t ^e island had 18,300 whites fit to bear arms, in 1667 only 8,300.” The white farmers were squeezed out. The planters continued to offer inducements to newcomers, but they could no longer offer the main inducement, land. White servants preferred the other islands where they could hope for land, to Barbados, where they were sure there was none. 100 In desperation the planters proposed legislation which would prevent a landowner from purchasing more land, compel Negroes and servants to wear dimity manufactured in Barbados (what would English mercantilists have said?) to provide employment for the poor whites, and prevent Negroes from being taught a trade. 101 The governor of Barbados in 1695 drew a pitiful picture of these ex-servants. Without fresh meat or rum, “they are domineered over and used like dogs, and this in time will undoubtedly drive away all the commonalty of the white people.” His only suggestion was to give the right to elect members of the Assembly to every white man owning two acres of land. Candidates for election would “sometimes give the poor miserable creatures a little rum and fresh provisions and such things as would be of nourishment to them,” in order to get their votes and elections were held every year. 102 It is not surprising that the exodus continued.
The poor whites began their travels, disputing their way all over the Caribbean, from Barbados to Nevis, to Antigua, and thence to Guiana and Trinidad, and ultimately Carolina. Everywhere they were pursued and dispossessed by the same inexorable economic force, sugar; and in Carolina they were safe from cotton only for a hundred years. Between 1672 and 1708 the white men in Nevis decreased by more than three-fifths, the black population more than doubled. Between 1672 and 1727 the white males of Montserrat declined by more than twothirds, in the same period the black population increased more than eleven times. 103 “The more they buie,” said the Barbadians, referring to their slaves, “the more they are able to buye, for in a yeare and a halfe they will earne with God’s blessing as much as they cost.” 104 King Sugar had begun his depredations, changing flourishing commonwealths of small farmers into vast sugar factories owned by a camarilla of absentee capitalist magnates and worked by a mass of alien proletarians. The plantation economy had no room for poor whites; the proprietor or overseer, a physician on the more prosperous plantations, possibly their families, these were sufficient. “If a state,” wrote Weston, “could be supposed to be made up of continuous plantations, the white race would be not merely starved out, but literally squeezed out.” 105 The resident planters, apprehensive of the growing disproportion between whites and blacks, passed Deficiency Laws to compel absentees, under penalty of fines, to keep white servants. The absentees preferred to pay the fines. In the West Indies today the poor whites survive in the “Redlegs” of Barbados, pallid, weak and depraved from in-breeding, strong rum, insufficient food and abstinence from manual labor. For, as Merivale wrote, “in a country where Negro slavery prevails extensively, no white is industrious.” 106
It was the triumph, not of geographical conditions, as Harlow contends, 107 but of economic. The victims were the Negroes in Africa and the small white farmers. The increase of wealth for the few whites was as phenomenal as the increase of misery for the many blacks. The Barbados crops in 1650, over a twenty-month period, were worth over three million pounds, 108 about fifteen millions in modern money. In 1666 Barbados was computed to be seventeen times as rich as it had been before the planting of sugar. “The buildings in 1643 were mean, with things only for necessity, but in 1666, plate, jewels, and household stuff were estimated at 500,000, their buildings very fair and beautiful, and their houses like castles, their sugar houses and negroes huts show themselves from the sea like so many small towns, each defended by its castle.” 109 The price of land skyrocketed. A plantation of five hundred acres which sold for 400 in 1640 fetched 7,000 for a half-share in i648. 110 The estate of one Captain Waterman, comprising eight hundred acres, had at one time been split up among no less than forty proprietors. 111 For sugar was and is essentially a capitalist undertaking, involving not only agricultural operations but the crude stages of refining as well. A report on the French sugar islands stated that to make ten hogsheads of sugar required as great an expenditure in beasts of burden, mills and utensils as to make a hundred. 112 James Knight of Jamaica estimated that it required four hundred acres to start a sugar plantation. 118 According to Edward Long, another planter and the historian of the island, it needed 5,000 to start a small plantation of three hundred acres, producing from thirty to fifty hogsheads of sugar a year, 14,000 for a plantation of the same size producing one hundred hogsheads. 114 There could be only two classes in such a society, wealthy planters and oppressed slaves.
The moral is reinforced by a consideration of the history of Virginia, where the plantation economy was based not on sugar but on tobacco. The researches of Professor Wertenbaker have exploded the legend that Virginia from the outset was an aristocratic dominion. In the early seventeenth century about two-thirds of the landholders had neither slaves nor indentured servants. The strength of the colony lay in its numerous white yeomanry. Conditions became worse as the market for tobacco was glutted by Spanish competition and the Virginians demanded in wrath that something be done about “those petty English plantations in the savage islands in the West Indies” through which quantities of Spanish tobacco reached England. 115 None the less, though prices continued to fall, the exports of Virginia and Maryland increased more than six times between 1663 and 1699. The explanation lay in two words Negro slavery, which cheapened the cost of production. Negro slaves, one-twentieth of the population in 1670, were one-fourth in 1730. “Slavery, from being an insignificant factor in the economic life of the colony, had become the very foundation upon which it was established.” There was still room in Virginia, as there was not in Barbados, for the small farmer, but land was useless to him if he could not compete with slave labor. So the Virginian peasant, like the Barbadian, was squeezed out. “The Virginia which had formerly been so largely the land of the little farmer, had become the land of Masters and Slaves. For aught else there was no room.” 116
The whole future history of the Caribbean is nothing more than a dotting of the i’s and a crossing of the t’s. It happened earlier in the British and French than in the Spanish islands, where the process was delayed until the advent of the dollar diplomacy of our own time. Under American capital we have witnessed the transformation of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic into huge sugar factories (though the large plantation, especially in Cuba, was not unknown under the Spanish regime), owned abroad and operated by alien labor, on the British West Indian pattern. That this process is taking place with free labor and in nominally independent areas (Puerto Rico excepted) helps us to see in its true light the first importation of Negro slave labor in the British Caribbean a phase in the history of the plantation. In the words of Professor Phillips, the plantation system was u less dependent upon slavery than slavery was upon it. … The plantation system formed, so to speak, the industrial and social frame of government . . ., while slavery was a code of written laws enacted for that purpose.” 317
Where the plantation did not develop, as in the Cuban tobacco industry, Negro labor was rare and white labor predominated. The liberal section of the Cuban population consistently advocated the cessation of the Negro slave trade and the introduction of white immigrants. Saco, mouthpiece of the liberals, called for the immigration of workers “white and free, from all parts of the world, of all races, provided they have a white face and can do honest labor.” 118 Sugar defeated Saco. It was the sugar plantation, with its servile base, which retarded white immigration in nineteenth century Cuba as it had banned it in seventeenth century Barbados and eighteenth century Saint Domingue. No sugar, no Negroes. In Puerto Rico, which developed relatively late as a genuine plantation, and where, before the American regime, sugar never dominated the lives and thoughts of the population as it did elsewhere, the poor white peasants survived and the Negro slaves never exceeded fourteen per cent of the population. 119 Saco wanted to “whiten” the Cuban social structure. 120 Negro slavery blackened that structure all over the Caribbean while the blood of the Negro slaves reddened the Atlantic and both its shores. Strange that an article like sugar, so sweet and necessary to human existence, should have occasioned such crimes and bloodshed!
After emancipation the British planters thought of white immigration, even convicts. The governor of British Guiana wrote in glowing terms in 1845 about Portuguese immigrants from Madeira. 121 But though the Portuguese came in large numbers, as is attested by their strength even today in Trinidad and British Guiana, they preferred retail trade to plantation labor. The governor of Jamaica was somewhat more cautious in his opinion of British and Irish immigrants. Sickness had broken out, wages were too low, the experiment could only be partially useful in making an immediate addition to the laboring population, and therefore indiscriminate importation was inadvisable. 122 The European immigrants in St. Christopher bewailed their fate piteously, and begged to be permitted to return home. “There is not the slightest reluctance on our part to continue in the island for an honest livelihood by pleasing our employers by our industrious labour if the climate agreed with us, but unfortunately it do not; and we are much afraid if we continue longer in this injurious hot climate (the West Indies) death will be the consequence to the principal part of us ” 123
It was not the climate which was against the experiment. Slavery had created the pernicious tradition that manual labor was the badge of the slave and the sphere of influence of the Negro. The first thought of the Negro slave after emancipation was to desert the plantation, where he could, and set up for himself where land was available. White plantation workers could hardly have existed in a society side by side with Negro peasants. The whites would have prospered if small farms had been encouraged. But the abolition of slavery did not mean the destruction of the sugar plantation. The emancipation of the Negro and the inadequacy of the white worker put the sugar planter back to where he had been in the seventeenth century. He still needed labor. Then he had moved from Indian to white to Negro. Now, deprived of his Negro, he turned back to white and then to Indian, this time the Indian from the East. India replaced Africa; between 1833 and 1917, Trinidad imported 145,000 East Indians* and British Guiana 238,000. The pattern was the same for the other Caribbean colonies. Between 1854 and 1883 39,000 Indians were introduced into Guadeloupe; between 1853 and 1924, over 22,000 laborers from the Dutch East Indies and 34,000 from British India were carried to Dutch Guiana. 124 Cuba, faced with a shortage of Negro slaves, adopted the interesting experiment of using Negro slaves side by side with indentured Chinese coolies, 125 and after emancipation turned to the teeming thousands of Haiti and the British West Indies. Between 1913 and 1924 Cuba imported 217,000 laborers from Haiti, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. 126 What Saco wrote a hundred years ago was still true, sixty years after Cuba’s abolition of slavery.
Negro slavery therefore was only a solution, in certain historical circumstances, of the Caribbean labor problem. Sugar meant labor at times that labor has been slave, at other times nominally free; at times black, at other times white or brown or yellow. Slavery in no way implied, in any scientific sense, the inferiority of the Negro. Without it the great development of the Caribbean sugar plantations, between 1650 and 1850, would have been impossible.
2 THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NEGRO SLAVE TRADE
THE NEGRO SLAVES were “the strength and sinews of this westtern world.” 1 Negro slavery demanded the Negro slave trade. Therefore the preservation and improvement of the trade to Africa was “a matter of very high importance to this kingdom and the plantations thereunto belonging.” 2 And thus it remained, up to 1783, a cardinal object of British foreign policy.
The first English slave-trading expedition was that of Sir John Hawkins in 1562. Like so many Elizabethan ventures, it was a buccaneering expedition, encroaching on the papal arbitration of 1493 which made Africa a Portuguese monopoly. The slaves obtained were sold to the Spaniards in the West Indies. The English slave trade remained desultory and perfunctory in character until the establishment of British colonies in the Caribbean and the introduction of the sugar industry. When by 1660 the political and social upheavals of the Civil War period came to an end, England was ready to embark wholeheartedly on a branch of commerce whose importance to her sugar and her tobacco colonies in the New World was beginning to be fully appreciated.
In accordance with the economic policies of the Stuart monarchy, the slave trade was entrusted to a monopolistic company, the Company of Royal Adventurers trading” to Africa, incorporated in 1663 for a period of one thousand years. The Earl of Clarendon voiced the enthusiasm current at the time, that the company would “be found a model equally to advance the trade of England with that of any other company, even that of the East Indies.” 8 The optimistic prediction was not realized, largely as a result of losses and dislocations caused by war with the Dutch, and in 1672 a new company, the Royal African Company, was created.
The policy of monopoly however remained unchanged and provoked determined resistance in two quarters the merchants in the outports, struggling to break down the monopoly of the capital; and the planters in the colonies, demanding free trade in blacks as vociferously and with as much gusto as one hundred and fifty years later they opposed free trade in sugar. The mercantilist intelligentsia were divided on the question. Postlethwayt, most prolific of the mercantilist writers, wanted the company, the whole company and nothing but the company. 4 Joshua Gee emphasized the frugality and good management of the private trader. 5 Davenant, one of the ablest economists and financial experts of his day, at first opposed the monopoly, 6 and then later changed his mind, arguing that other nations found organized companies necessary, and that the company would “stand in place of an academy, for training an indefinite number of people in the regular knowledge of all matters relating to the several branches of the African trade.” 7
The case against monopoly was succinctly stated by the free traders or interlopers as they were then called to the Board of Trade in 1711. The monopoly meant that the purchase of British manufactures for sale on the coast of Africa, control of ships employed in the slave trade, sale of Negroes to the plantations, importation of plantation produce “this great circle of trade and navigation,” on which the livelihood, direct and indirect, of many thousands depended, would be under the control of a single company. 8 The planters in their turn complained of the quality, prices, and irregular deliveries, and refused to pay their debts to the company. 9
There was nothing unique in this opposition to the monopoly of the slave trade. Monopoly was an ugly word, which conjured up memories of the political tyranny of Charles I, though no “free trader” of the time could have had the slightest idea of the still uglier visions the word would conjure up one hundred and fifty years later when it was associated with the economic tyranny of the West Indian sugar planter. But in the last decade of the seventeenth century the economic current was flowing definitely against monopoly. In 1672 the Baltic trade was thrown open and the monopoly of the Eastland Company overthrown. One of the most important consequences of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the expulsion of the Stuarts was the impetus it gave to the principle of free trade. In 1698 the Royal African Company lost its monopoly and the right of a free trade in slaves was recognized as a fundamental and natural right of Englishmen. In the same year the Merchant Adventurers of London were deprived of their monopoly of the export trade in cloth, and a year later the monopoly of the Muscovy Company was abrogated and trade to Russia made free. Only in one particular did the freedom accorded in the slave trade differ from the freedom accorded in other trades the commodity involved was man.
The Royal African Company was powerless against the competition of the free traders. It soon went bankrupt and had to depend on parliamentary subsidy. In 1731 it abandoned the slave trade and confined itself to the trade in ivory and gold dust. In 1750 a new organization was established, called the Company of Merchants trading to Africa, with a board of nine directors, three each from London, Bristol and Liverpool. Of the slave traders listed in 1755, 237 belonged to Bristol, 147 to London, and 89 to Liverpool. 10
With free trade and the increasing demands of the sugar plantations, the volume of the British slave trade rose enormously. The Royal African Company, between 1680 and 1686, transported an annual average of 5,000 slaves. 11 In the first nine years of free trade Bristol alone shipped 160,950 Negroes to the sugar plantations. 12 In 1760, 146 ships sailed from British ports for Africa, with a capacity for 36,000 slaves; 18 in 1771, the number of ships had increased to 190 and the number of slaves to 47,ooo. 14 The importation into Jamaica from 1700 to 1786 was 610,000, and it has been estimated that the total import of slaves into all the British colonies between 1680 and 1786 was over two million. 15
But the slave trade was more than a means to an end, it was also an end in itself. The British slave traders provided the necessary laborers not only for their own plantations but for those of their rivals. The encouragement thereby given to foreigners was contrary not only to common sense but to strict mercantilism, but, in so far as this foreign slave trade meant the Spanish colonies, there was some defence for it. Spain was always, up to the nineteenth century, dependent on foreigners for her slaves, either because she adhered to the papal arbitration which excluded her from Africa, or because of a lack of capital and the necessary goods for the slave trade. The privilege of supplying these slaves to the Spanish colonies, called the Asiento, became one of the most highly coveted and bitterly contested plums of international diplomacy. British mercantilists defended the trade, legal or illegal, with the Spanish colonies, in Negroes and manufactured goods, as of distinct value in that the Spaniards paid in coin, and thus the supply of bullion in England was increased. The supply of slaves to the French colonies could plead no such justification. Here it was clearly a clash of interest between the British slave trader and the British sugar planter, as the trade in the export of British machinery after 1825 led to a clash of interests between British shippers and British producers.
The sugar planter was right and the slave trader wrong. But in the first half of the eighteenth century this was noticed only by the very discerning. Postlethwayt condemned the Asiento of 1713 as scandalous and ruinous, an exchange of the substance for the shadow: “a treaty could scarce have been contrived of so little benefit to the nation.” 16 During the nine months of British occupation of Cuba in the Seven Years’ War, 10,700 slaves were introduced, over one-sixth of the importations from 1512 to 1763, over one-third of the importations from 1763 to I789. 17 Forty thousand Negroes were introduced into Guadeloupe by the British in three years during the same war. 18 The Privy Council Committee of 1788 paid special attention to the fact that of the annual British export of slaves from Africa two-thirds were disposed of to foreigners. 19 During the whole of the eighteenth century, according to Bryan Edwards, British slave traders furnished the sugar planters of France and Spain with half a million Negroes, justifying his doubts of “the wisdom and policy of this branch of the African commerce.” 20 Britain was not only the foremost slave trading country in the world; she had become, in Ramsay ‘s phrase, the “honourable slave carriers” of her rivals. 21
The story of this increase in the slave trade is mainly the story of the rise of Liverpool. Liverpool’s first slave trader, a modest vessel of thirty tons, sailed for Africa in 1709. This was the first step on a road which, by the end of the century, gained Liverpool the distinction of being the greatest slave trading port in the Old World. Progress at first was slow. The town was more interested in the smuggling trade to the Spanish colonies and the tobacco trade. But, according to a historian of the town, it soon forged ahead by its policy of cutting down expenses to a minimum, which enabled it to undersell its English and continental rivals. In 1730 it had fifteen ships in the slave trade; in 1771 seven times as many. The proportion of slave ships to the total shipping owned by the port was slightly over one in a hundred in 1709; in 1730 it was one-eleventh; in 1763, one-fourth; in 1771, one-third. 22 In 1795 Liverpool had five-eighths of the British slave trade and three-sevenths of the whole European slave trade. 23
The “horrors” of the Middle Passage have been exaggerated. For this the British abolitionists are in large part responsible. There is something that smacks of ignorance or hypocrisy or both in the invectives heaped by these men upon a traffic which had in their day become less profitable and less vital to England. A West Indian planter once reminded Parliament that it ill became the elected representative of a country which had pocketed the gains from the slave trade to stigmatize it as a crime. 24 The age which had seen the mortality among indentured servants saw no reason for squeamishness about the mortality among slaves, nor did the exploitation of the slaves on the plantations differ fundamentally from the exploitation of the feudal peasant or the treatment of the poor in European cities. Mutinies and suicides were obviously far more common on slave ships than on other vessels, and the brutal treatment and greater restrictions on the movements of the slaves would doubtless have tended to increase their mortality. But the fundamental causes of this high mortality on the slave ships, as on ships carrying indentured servants and even free passengers, must be found firstly in epidemics, the inevitable result of the long voyages and the difficulty of preserving food and water, and secondly in the practice of overcrowding the vessels. The sole aim of the slave merchants was to have their decks “well coverd with black ones.” 25 It is not uncommon to read of a vessel of 90 tons carrying 390 slaves or one of 100 tons carrying 4I4. 26 Clarkson’s investigations in Bristol revealed a sloop of twentyfive tons destined for seventy human beings, and another of a mere eleven tons for thirty slaves. 27 The space allotted to each slave on the Atlantic crossing measured five and a half feet in length by sixteen inches in breadth. Packed like “rows of books on shelves,” as Clarkson said, chained two by two, right leg and left leg, right hand and left hand, each slave had less room than a man in a coffin. It was like the transportation of black cattle, and where sufficient Negroes were not available cattle were taken on. 28 The slave trader’s aim was profit and not the comfort of his victims, and a modest measure in 1788 to regulate the transportation of the slaves in accordance with the capacity of the vessel evoked a loud howl from the slave traders. “If the alteration takes place,” wrote one to his agent, “it will hurt the trade, so hope you will make hay while the sun shines.” 29
The journal of one slave dealer during his residence in Africa admits that he had “found no place in all these several countrys of England, Ireland, America, Portugal!, the Caribes, the Cape de Verd, the Azores or all the places I have been in … where I can inlarge my fortune so soon as where I now live.” Money made the man. The prodigal who returned home emptyhanded would have to be content with the common name of “the Mallato just come from Guinea.” If, however, he returned with his pockets well stuffed with gold, “that very perticular hides all other infirmities, then you have hapes of frinds of all kinds thronging and wateing for your commands. Then your known by the name of ‘the African gentleman’ at every great man’s house, and your discource is set down as perticular as Cristopher Culumbus’s expedition in America.” 80
About 1730 in Bristol it was estimated that on a fortunate voyage the profit on a cargo of about 270 slaves reached 7,000 or 8,000, exclusive of the returns from ivory. In the same year the net return from an “indifferent” cargo which arrived in poor condition was over 5,7oo. 31 Profits of 100 per cent were not uncommon in Liverpool, and one voyage netted a clear profit of at least 300 per cent. The Lively, fitted out in 1737 with a cargo worth 1,307, returned to Liverpool with colonial produce and bills of exchange totalling 3,080, in addition to cotton and sugar remitted later. The Ann, another Liverpool ship, sailed in 1751 with an outfit and a cargo costing 1,604; altogether the voyage produced 3,287 net. A second voyage in 1753 produced 8,000 on a cargo and outfit amounting to 3,153.?
An eighteenth century writer has estimated the sterling value of the 303,737 slaves carried in 878 Liverpool ships between 1783 and 1793 at over fifteen million pounds. Deducting commissions and other charges and the cost of the outfit of the ships and maintenance of the slaves, he concluded that the average annual profit was over thirty per cent. 33 Modern scholarship has tended to reproach contemporary observers with undue exaggeration. But even taking the reduced estimates of Professor Dumbell, the net profit of the Enterprise in 1803, estimated on cost of outfit and cost of cargo, was 38 per cent, while that of the fortune in 1803, for a cargo of poor slaves, was over 16 per cent. Again with these reduced estimates the profit of the Lottery in 1802 was thirty-six pounds per slave, the Enterprise sixteen pounds, and the fortune five. 34 The slave trade on the whole was estimated to bring Liverpool alone in the eighties a clear profit of 300,000 a year; and it was a common saying in the town of the far less profitable West Indian trade that if one ship in three came in a man was no loser, while if two came in he was a good gainer. On an average only one ship in five miscarried. 35
Such profits seem small and insignificant compared with the fabulous five thousand per cent the Dutch East India Company cleared at times in its history. It is even probable that the profits from the slave trade were smaller than those made by the British East India Company. Yet these trades were far less important than the slave trade. The explanation lies in the fact that from the mercantilist standpoint the India trade was a bad trade. It drained Britain of bullion to buy unnecessary wares, which led many at the time to think that “it were a happie thing for Christendome that the navigation to the East Indies, by way of the Cape of Good Hope, had never bene found out.” 36 The slave trade, on the contrary, was ideal in that it was carried on by means of British manufactured goods and was, as far as the British colonies were concerned, inseparably connected with the plantation trade which rendered Britain independent of foreigners for her supply of tropical products. The enormous profits of the Dutch spice trade, moreover, were based on a severe restriction of production to ensure high prices, whereas the slave trade created British industry at home and tropical agriculture in the colonies.
The “attractive African meteor,” 37 as a contemporary Liverpool historian called it, therefore became immensely popular. Though a large part of the Liverpool slave traffic was monopolized by about ten large firms, many of the small vessels in the trade were fitted out by attorneys, drapers, grocers, barbers and tailors. The shares in the ventures were subdivided, one having one-eighth, another one-fifteenth, a third one-thirtysecond part of a share and so on. “Almost every man in Liverpool is a merchant, and he who cannot send a bale will send a band-box . . . almost every order of people is interested in a Guinea cargo, it is to this influenza that (there are) so many small ships.” 38
The purchase of slaves called for a business sense and shrewd discrimination. An Angolan Negro was a proverb for worthlessness; Coromantines (Ashantis), from the Gold Coast, were good workers but too rebellious; Mandingoes (Senegal) were too prone to theft; the Eboes (Nigeria) were timid and despondent; the Pawpaws or Whydahs (Dahomey) were the most docile and best-disposed. 39 The slaves were required for arduous field work, hence women and children were less valuable than robust males, the former because they were liable to interruptions from work through pregnancies, the latter because they required some attention until able to care for themselves. One Liverpool merchant cautioned his agents against buying ruptured slaves, idiots or any “old spider leged quality.” 40 A West Indian poet advised the slave trader to see that the slave’s tongue was red, his chest broad and his belly not prominent. 41 Buy them young, counselled one overseer from Nevis; “them full grown fellers think it hard to work never being brought up to it they take it to heart and dye or is never good for any thing….” 42
But the slave trade was always a risky business. “The African Commerce,” it was written in 1795, “holds forward one constant train of uncertainty, the time of slaving is precarious, the length of the middle passage uncertain, a vessel may be in part, or wholly cut off, mortalities may be great, and various other incidents may arise impossible to be foreseen.” 43 Sugar cultivation, moreover, was a lottery. The debts of the planters, their bankruptcies and demand for long credits gave the merchants many worries. “As you know,” wrote one of them, “quick dispatch is the life of trade, I have had many anxious hours this year, I wou’d not wish the same again for double the profits I may get if any.” 44 From 1763 to 1778 the London merchants avoided all connection with the Liverpool slave traders, on the conviction that the slave trade was being conducted at a loss; between 1772 and 1778 the Liverpool merchants were alleged to have lost 7oo,ooo. 45 Of thirty leading houses which dominated the slave trade from 1773, twelve had by 1788 gone bankrupt, while many others had sustained considerable losses. 46 The American Revolution seriously interrupted the trade. “Our once extensive trade to Africa is at a stand,” lamented a Liverpool paper in 1775. Her “gallant ships laid up and useless,” Liverpool’s slave traders turned to privateering, 47 anxiously awaiting the return of peace, with never a thought that they were witnessing the death rattles of an old epoch and the birth pangs of a new.
Prior to 1783, however, all classes in English society presented a united front with regard to the slave trade. The monarchy, the government, the church, public opinion in general, supported the slave trade. There were few protests, and those were ineffective.
The Spanish monarchy set the fashion which European royalty followed to the very last. The palace-fortresses of Madrid and Toledo were built out of the payment to the Spanish Crown for licences to transport Negroes. One meeting of the two sovereigns of Spain and Portugal was held in 1701 to discuss the arithmetical problem posed by a contract for ten thousand “tons” of Negroes granted the Portuguese. 48 The Spanish queen, Christina, in the middle of the nineteenth century, openly participated in the slave trade to Cuba. The royal court of Portugal, when it moved to Brazil to avoid capture by Napoleon, did not find the slave atmosphere of its colonial territory uncongenial. Louis XIV fully appreciated the importance of the slave trade to metropolitan France and France overseas. The plans of the Great Elector for Prussian aggrandizement included the African slave trade. 49
Hawkins 7 slave trading expedition was launched under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth. She expressed the hope that the Negroes would not be carried off without their free consent, which “would be detestable and call down the vengeance of Heaven upon the undertakers.” But there was as much possibility that the transportation of the Negroes would be effected in democratic fashion as there was of collective bargaining. The Company of Royal Adventurers and the Royal African Company had, as their names imply, royal patronage and, not infrequently, investments by members of the royal family. 60 According to Wilberforce, George III later opposed abolition, 51 and great was the joy of the Liverpool slave traders and Jamaican sugar planters when the royal Duke of Clarence, the future William IV, “took up the cudgills” against abolition 52 and attacked Wilberforce as either a fanatic or a hyprocrite. 58 The British government, prior to 1783, was uniformly consistent in its encouragement of the slave trade. The first great rivals were the Dutch, who monopolized the carrying trade of the British colonies. The bitter commercial warfare of the second half of the seventeenth century between England and Holland represented an effort on the part of England to break the commercial net the Dutch had woven about England and her colonies. “What we want,” said Monk with military bluntness, “is more of the trade the Dutch now have.” 54 Whether it was nominal peace or actual war, a sort of private war was maintained, for thirty years, between the Dutch West India Company and the Royal African Company.
England’s victory over Holland left her face to face with France. Anglo-French warfare, colonial and commercial, is the dominant theme in the history of the eighteenth century. It was a conflict of rival mercantilisms. The struggle was fought out in the Caribbean, Africa, India, Canada and on the banks of the Mississippi, for the privilege of looting India and for the control of certain vital and strategic commodities Negroes; sugar and tobacco; fish; furs and naval stores. 55 Of these areas the most important were the Caribbean and Africa; of these commodities the most important were Negroes and sugar. The outstanding single issue was the control of the Asiento. This privilege was conceded to England by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 as one result of her victory in the War of the Spanish Succession, and produced popular rejoicings in the country. It was the proud boast of Chatham that his war with France had given England almost the entire control of the African coast and of the slave trade.
Colonial assemblies frequently impeded the slave traders by imposing high duties on imported slaves, partly to raise revenue, partly out of their fear of the growing slave population. All such laws were frustrated by the home government, on the insistence of British merchants, who opposed taxes on British trade. The Board of Trade ruled in 1 708 that it was “absolutely necessary that a trade so beneficial to the kingdom should be carried on to the greatest advantage. The well supplying of the plantations and colonies with a sufficient number of negroes at reasonable prices is in our opinion the chief point to be considered.” 56 In 1773 the Jamaica Assembly, for the purpose of raising revenue and to reduce the fear of slave rebellions, imposed a duty on every Negro imported. The merchants of London, Liverpool and Bristol protested, and the Board of Trade condemned the law as unjustifiable, improper and prejudicial to British commerce. The governor was sharply reprimanded for his failure to stop efforts made to “check and discourage a traffic so beneficial to the nation.” 57 As counsel for the sugar planters later argued: “in every variation of our administration of public affairs, in every variation of parties, the policy, in respect to that trade, has been the same. … In every period of our history, in almost every variation of our politics, each side and description of party men have, in terms, approved this very trade, voted its encouragement, and considered it as beneficial to the nation.” 58
Parliament appreciated the importance of slavery and the slave trade to Britain and her plantations. In 1750 Horace Walpole wrote scornfully of “the British Senate, that temple of liberty, and bulwark of Protestant Christianity, . . . pondering methods to make more effectual that horrid traffic of selling negroes.” 58 Parliament heard many debates in its stately halls over abolition and emancipation, and its records show the doughty defenders the slave traders and slave owners possessed. Among them was Edmund Burke. The champion of conciliation of America was an accessory to the crucifixion of Africa. In 1772 a bill came before the House of Commons to prohibit the control of the African Committee by outsiders who were not engaged in the slave trade. Burke protested, not against the slave trade, however, but against depriving of the right to vote those who had legally purchased that right. Only a few, he argued, were so accused. “Ought we not rather to imitate the pattern set us in sacred writ, and if we find ten just persons among them, to spare the whole ? . . . Let us not then counteract the wisdom of our ancestors, who considered and reconsidered this subject, nor place upon the footing of a monopoly what was intended for a free trade.” 60 Bristol could well afford to share in the general admiration of the great Liberal.
The Church also supported the slave trade. The Spaniards saw in it an opportunity of converting the heathen, and the Jesuits, Dominicans and Franciscans were heavily involved in sugar cultivation which meant slave-holding. The story is told of an old elder of the Church in Newport who would invariably, the Sunday following the arrival of a slaver from the coast, thank God that “another cargo of benighted beings had been brought to a land where they could have the benefit of a gospel dispensation.” 61 But in general the British planters opposed Christianity for their slaves. It made them more perverse and intractable and therefore less valuable. It meant also instruction in the English language, which allowed diverse tribes to get together and plot sedition. 62 There were more material reasons for this opposition. The governor of Barbados in 1695 attributed it to the planters’ refusal to give the slaves Sundays and feast days off, 63 and as late as 1823 British public opinion was shocked by the planters’ rejection of a proposal to give the Negroes one day in the week in order to permit the abolition of the Negro Sunday market. 64 The Church obediently toed the line. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel prohibited Christian instruction to its slaves in Barbados, 66 and branded “Society” on its new slaves to distinguish them from those of the laity; 66 the original slaves were the legacy of Christopher Codrington. 67 Sherlock, later Bishop of London, assured the planters that “Christianity and the embracing of the Gospel does not make the least difference in civil property.” 68 Neither did it impose any barriers to clerical activity; for his labors with regard to the Asiento, which he helped to draw up as a British plenipotentiary at Utrecht, Bishop Robinson of Bristol was promoted to the see of London. 69 The bells of the Bristol churches pealed merrily on the news of the rejection by Parliament of Wilberforce’s bill for the abolition of the slave trade. 70 The slave trader, John Newton, gave thanks in the Liverpool churches for the success of his last venture before his conversion and implored God’s blessing on his next. He established public worship twice every day on his slaver, officiating himself, and kept a day of fasting and prayer, not for the slaves but for the crew. “I never knew,” he confessed, “sweeter or more frequent hours of divine communion than in the last two voyages to Guinea.” 71 The famous Cardinal Manning of the nineteenth century was the son of a rich West Indian merchant dealing in slave-grown produce. 77 Many missionaries found it profitable to drive out Beelzebub by Beelzebub. According to the most recent English writer on the slave trade, they “considered that the best way in which to remedy abuse of negro slaves was to set the plantation owners a good example by keeping slaves and estates themselves, accomplishing in this practical manner the salvation of the planters and the advancement of their foundations.” 73 The Moravian missionaries in the islands held slaves without hesitation; the Baptists, one historian writes with charming delicacy, would not allow their earlier missionaries to deprecate ownership of slaves. 74 To the very end the Bishop of Exeter retained his 655 slaves, for whom he received over 12,700 compensation in 183 3.
Church historians make awkward apologies, that conscience awoke very slowly to the appreciation of the wrongs inflicted by slavery and that the defence of slavery by churchmen “simply arose from want of delicacy of moral perception.” 76 There is no need to make such apologies. The attitude of the churchman was the attitude of the layman. The eighteenth century, like any other century, could not rise above its economic limitations. As Whitefield argued in advocating the repeal of that article of the Georgia charter which forbade slavery, “it is plain to demonstration that hot countries cannot be cultivated without negroes. ” 77
Quaker nonconformity did not extend to the slave trade. In 1756 there were eighty-four Quakers listed as members of the Company trading to Africa, among them the Barclay and Baring families. 78 Slave dealing was one of the most lucrative investments of English as of American Quakers, and the name of a slaver, The Willing Quaker, reported from Boston at Sierra Leone in 1793, symbolizes the approval with which the slave trade was regarded in Quaker circles. The Quaker opposition to the slave trade came first and largely not from England but from America, and there from the small rural communities of the North, independent of slave labor. “It is difficult,” writes Dr. Gary, “to avoid the assumption that opposition to the slave system was at first confined to a group who gained no direct advantage from it, and consequently possessed an objective attitude.” 80
The Navy was impressed with the value of the West Indian colonies and refused to hazard or jeopardize their security. The West Indian station was the “station for honour,” and many an admiral had been feted by the slave owners. Rodney opposed abolition. 81 Earl St. Vincent pleaded that life on the plantations was for the Negro a veritable paradise as compared with his existence in Africa. 82 Abolition was a “damned and cursed doctrine, held only by hypocrites.” 83 The gallant admiral’s sentiments were not entirely divorced from more material considerations. He received over 6,000 compensation in 1837 for the ownership of 418 slaves in Jamaica. 84 Nelson’s wife was a West Indian, and his views on the slave trade were unequivocal. “I was bred in the good old school, and taught to appreciate the value of our West Indian possessions, and neither in the field nor the Senate shall their just rights be infringed, while I have an arm to fight in their defence, or a tongue to launch my voice against the damnable doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies.” 85
Slavery existed under the very eyes of eighteenth century Englishmen. An English coin, the guinea, rare though it was and is, had its origin in the trade to Africa. 80 A Westminster goldsmith made silver padlocks for blacks and dogs. 87 Busts of blackamoors and elephants, emblematical of the slave trade, adorned the Liverpool Town Hall. The insignia and equipment of the slave traders were boldly exhibited for sale in the shops and advertised in the press. Slaves were sold openly at auction. 88 Slaves being valuable property, with title recognized by law, the postmaster was the agent employed on occasions to recapture runaway slaves and advertisements were published in the official organ of the government. 80 Negro servants were common. Little black boys were the appendages of slave captains, fashionable ladies or women of easy virtue. Hogarth’s heroine, in The Harlot’s Progress, is attended by a Negro boy, and Marguerite Steen’s Orabella Burmester typifies eighteenth century English opinion in her desire for a little black boy whom she could love as her long-haired kitten. 90 Freed Negroes were conspicuous among London beggars and were known as St. Giles blackbirds. So numerous were they that a parliamentary committee was set up in 1786 for relieving the black poor. 91
“Slaves cannot breathe in England/’ wrote the poet Cowper. This was license of the poet. It was held in 1677 t ^at “Negroes being usually bought and sold among merchants, so merchandise, and also being infidels, there might be a property in them.” In 1729 the Attorney General ruled that baptism did not bestow freedom or make any alteration in the temporal condition of the slave; in addition the slave did not become free by being brought to England, and once in England the owner could legally compel his return to the plantations. 92 So eminent an authority as Sir William Blackstone held that “with respect to any right the master may have lawfully acquired to the perpetual service of John or Thomas, this will remain exactly in the same state of subjection for life,” in England or elsewhere. 93
When, therefore, the assiduous zeal of Granville Sharp brought before Chief Justice Mansfield in 1772 the case of the Negro James Somersett who was about to be returned by his owner to Jamaica, there were abundant precedents to prove the impurity of the English air. Mansfield tried hard to evade the issue by suggesting manumission of the slave, and contented himself with the modest statement that the case was not “allowed or approved by the law of England” and the Negro must be discharged. Much has been made of this case, by people constantly seeking for triumphs of humanitarianism. Professor Coupland contends that behind the legal judgment lay the moral judgment and that the Somersett case marked the beginning of the end of slavery throughout the British Empire. 94 This is merely poetic sentimentality translated into modern history. Benjamin Franklin pointed scornfully to “the hypocrisy of this country, which encourages such a detestable commerce, while it piqued itself on its virtue, love of liberty, and the equity of its courts in setting free a single negro.” 95 Two years after the Somersett case the British government disallowed the Jamaican Acts restricting the slave trade. In 1783 a Quaker petition for abolition was solemnly rejected by Parliament.
In 1783, moreover, the same Mansfield handed down a decision in the case of the ship *Long. Short of water, the captain had thrown 132 slaves overboard, and now the owners brought an action for insurance alleging that the loss of the slaves fell within the clause of the policy which insured against “perils of the sea.” In Mansfield’s view “the case of slaves was the same as if horses had been thrown overboard.” Damages of thirty pounds were awarded for each slave, and the idea that the captain and crew should be prosecuted for mass homicide never entered into the head of any humanitarian. In 1785 another insurance case, involving a British ship and mutiny among the slaves, came before Mansfield. His Daniel judgment was that all the slaves who were killed in the mutiny or had died of their wounds and bruises were to be paid for by the underwriters; those who had died from jumping overboard or from swallowing water or from “chagrin” were not to be paid for on the ground that they had not died from injuries received in the mutiny; and the underwriters were not responsible for any depreciation in price which resulted to the survivors from the mutiny. 06
The prosecution of the slave trade was not the work of the dregs of English society. The daughter of a slave trader has assured us that her father, though a slave captain and privateer, was a kind and just man, a good father, husband, and friend. 97 This was probably true. The men most active in this traffic were worthy men, fathers of families and excellent citizens. The abolitionist Ramsay acknowledged this with real sorrow, but pleaded that “they had never examined the nature of this commerce and went into it, and acted as others had done before them in it, as a thing of course, for which no account was to be given in this world or the next.” 98 The apology is unnecessary. The slave trade was a branch of trade and a very important branch. An officer in the trade once said that “one real view, one minute absolutely spent in the slave rooms on the middle passage would do more for the cause of humanity than the pen of a Robertson, or the whole collective eloquence of the British senate.” 99 This is dubious. As it was argued later about the Cuban and Brazilian slave trade, it was no use saying it was an unholy or unchristian occupation. It was a lucrative trade, and that was enough. 100 The slave trade has even been justified as a great education. “Think of the effect, the result of a slave voyage on a youngster starting in his teens. . . . What an education was such a voyage for the farmer lad. What an enlargement of experience for a country boy. If he returned to the farm his whole outlook on life would be changed. He went out a boy; he returned a man.” 101
The slave traders were among the leading humanitarians of their age. John Gary, advocate of the slave trade, was conspicuous for his integrity and humanity and was the founder of a society known as the “Incorporation of the Poor.” 102 The Bristol slaver “Southwell” was named after a Bristol parliamentarian, whose monument depicts him as true to king and country and steady to what he thought right. 103 Bryan Blundell of Liverpool, one of Liverpool’s most prosperous merchants, engaged in both the slave and West Indian trades, was for many years trustee, treasurer, chief patron and most active supporter of a.charity school, the Blue Coat Hospital, founded in xyo^ 104 To this charity another Liverpool slave trader, Foster Cunliffe, contributed largely. He was a pioneer in the slave trade. He and his two sons are listed as members of the Liverpool Committee of Merchants trading to Africa in 1752. Together they had four ships capable of holding 1,120 slaves, the profits from which were sufficient to stock twelve vessels on the homeward journey with sugar and rum. An inscription to Foster Cunliffe in St. Peter’s Church describes him thus: “a Christian devout and exemplary in the exercise of every private and publick duty, friend to mercy, patron to distress, an enemy only to vice and sloth, he lived esteemed by all who knew him . . . and died lamented by the wise and good. . . .” 105 Thomas Leyland, one of the largest slave traders of the same port, had, as mayor, no mercy for the engrosser, the forestaller, the regrater, and was a terror to evil doers. 106 The Heywoods were slave traders and the first to import the slave-grown cotton of the United States. Arthur Heywood was treasurer of the Manchester Academy where his sons were educated. One son, Benjamin, was elected member of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, and was admitted to the Billiard Club, the most recherche club Manchester has ever possessed, which admitted only the very best men as regards manners, position and attainments. To be admitted to the charmed circle of the Forty meant unimpeachable recognition as a gentleman. Later Benjamin Hey wood organized the first of the Manchester exhibitions of works of art and industry. 107
These slave traders held high office in England. The Royal Adventurers trading to Africa in 1667, a list headed by royalty, included two aldermen, three dukes, eight earls, seven lords, one countess, and twenty-seven knights. 108 The signatures of the mayors of Liverpool and Bristol appear on a petition of the slave traders in I739. 109 The Bristol Committee set up in 1789 to oppose abolition of the slave trade included five aldermen, one an ex-captain of a slaver. 110 Many a slave trader held Liverpool’s highest municipal dignity. 111 The slave traders were firmly established in both houses of Parliament. Ellis Cunliffe represented Liverpool in Parliament from 1755 to I767- 112 The Tarleton family, prominent in the slave trade, voiced Liverpool’s opposition to abolition in Parliament. 113 The House of Lords, traditionally conservative, was confirmed in its instinctive opposition to abolition by the presence of many ennobled slave traders. It gave sympathetic hearing to the Earl of Westmorland’s statement that many of them owed their seats in the Upper House to the slave trade, 114 and that abolition was Jacobinism. 115 No wonder Wilberforce feared the Upper Chamber. 110 Not without confidence did the Assembly of Jamaica state categorically in 1792 that “the safety of the West Indies not only depends on the slave trade not being abolished, but on a speedy declaration of the House of Lords that they will not suffer the trade to be abolished.” 117
Some protests were voiced by a few eighteenth century intellectuals and prelates. Defoe in his “Reformation of Manners,” condemned the slave trade. The poet Thomson, in his “Summer,” drew a lurid picture of the shark following in the wake of the slave ship. Cowper, after some hesitation, wrote his memorable lines in “The Task.” Blake wrote his beautiful poem on the “Little Black Boy.” Southey composed some poignant verses on the “Sailor who had served in the Slave Trade.” But much of this eighteenth century literature, as Professor Sypher has shown in an exhaustive analysis, 118 concentrated on the “noble Negro,” the prince unjustly made captive, superior even in bondage to his captors. This sentimentality, typical of the eighteenth century in general, more often than not carried the vicious implication that the slavery of the ignoble Negro was justified. Boswell on the other hand stated emphatically that to abolish the slave trade was to shut the gates of mercy on mankind, and dubbed Wilberforce a “dwarf with big resounding name.” 119
Two eighteenth century merchants, Bentley and Roscoe, opposed the slave trade before 1783; they were more than merchants, they were Liverpool merchants. Two eighteenth century economists condemned the expensiveness and inefficiency of slave labor Dean Tucker and Adam Smith, the warning tocsin, the trumpeter of the new age. The discordant notes went unheeded. The eighteenth century endorsed the plea of Temple Luttrell: “Some gentlemen may, indeed, object to the slave trade as inhuman and impious; let us consider that if our colonies are to be maintained and cultivated, which can only be done by African negroes, it is surely better to supply ourselves with those labourers in British bottoms, than purchase them through the medium of French, Dutch, or Danish factors.” 120
On one occasion a Mauritius gentleman, eager to convince the abolitionist Bnxton that “the blacks were the happiest people in the w r orld,” appealed to his wife to confirm his statement from her own impressions of the slaves she had seen. “Well, yes,” replied the good spouse, “they were very happy, I’m sure, only I used to think it so odd to see the black cooks chained to the fireplace.” 121 Only a few Englishmen before 1783, like the good spouse, had any doubts about the morality of the slave trade. Those who had realized that objections, as Postlethwayt put it, would be of little weight with statesmen who saw the great national emoluments which accrued from the slave trade. “We shall take things as they are, and reason from them in their present state, and not from that wherein we could hope them to be. … We cannot think of giving up the slave-trade, notwithstanding my good wishes that it could be done.” Later, perhaps, some noble and benevolent Christian spirit might think of changing the system, ‘which, as things are now circumstanced, may not be so easily brought about.’ Before the American Revolution English public opinion in general accepted the view of the slave trader: ‘Tho’ to traffic in human creatures, may at first sight appear barbarous, inhuman, and unnatural; yet the traders herein have as much to plead in their own excuse, as can be said for some other branches of trade, namely, the advantage of it. … In a word, from this trade proceed benefits, far outweighing all, either real or pretended mischiefs and inconveniencies.'” Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery; Chapter One, “The Origins of Negro Slavery,” 1944
Numero Cuatro—“COURT: Did you ever discuss with Ann Sidorovich the respective preferences of economic systems between Russia and the United States?
ROSENBERG: Well, your Honor, if you will let me answer that question in my own way I want to explain that question.
COURT: Go ahead.
ROSENBERG: First of all, I am not an expert on matters on different economic systems, but in my normal social intercourse with my friends we discussed matters like that. And I believe there are merits in both systems, I mean from what I have been able to read and ascertain.
COURT: I am not talking about your belief today. I am talking about your belief at that time, in January 1945.
ROSENBERG: Well, that is what I am talking about. At that time, what 1 believed at that time I still believe today. In the first place, I heartily approve our system of justice as performed in this country, AngloSaxon jurisprudence. I am in favor, heartily in favor, of our Constitution and Bill of Rights and I owe my allegiance to my country at all times.
E. H. BLOCH: Do you owe allegiance to any other country?
ROSENBERG: No, I do not.
E. H. BLOCH: Have you any divided allegiance?
ROSENBERG: I do not.
F. H. BLOCH: Would you fight for this country
ROSENBERG: Yes, I will.
E. H. BLOCH: If it were engaged in a war with–
ROSENBERG: Yes, I will, and in discussing the merits of other forms of governments, I discussed that with my friends on the basis of the performance of what they accomplished, and I felt that the Soviet Government has improved the lot of the underdog there, has made a lot of progress in eliminating illiteracy, has done a lot of reconstruction work and built up a lot of resources, and at the same time I felt that they contributed a major share in destroying the Hitler beast who killed six million of my co-religionists and I feel emotional about that thing.
E. H. BLOCH: Did you feel that way in 1943?
ROSENBERG: Yes, I felt that way in 1945–
E. H. BLOCH: Do you feel that way today?
ROSENBERG: I still feel that way.
COURT: Did you approve the communistic system of Russia over the capitalistic system in this country?
ROSENBERG: I am not an expert on those things, your Honor, and I did not make any such direct statement. E. H. BLOCH: Did you ever make any comparisons in the sense that the Court has asked you, about whether you preferred one system over another?
ROSENBERG: No, I did not. I would like to state that my personal opinions are that the people of every country should decide by themselves what kind of government they want. If the English want a king, it is their business. If the Russians want communism, it is their business. If the Americans want our form of government, it is our business. I feel that the majority of people should decide for themselves what kind of government they want.
E. H. BLOCH: Do you believe in the overthrow of government by force and violence?
ROSENBERG: I do not.
E .H. BLOCH: Do you believe in anybody committing acts of espionage against his own country?
ROSENBERG: I do not believe that.
COURT: Well, did you ever belong to any group that discussed the system of Russia?
ROSENBERG: Well, your Honor, if you are referring to political groups– is that what you are referring to?
COURT: Any group.
ROSENBERG: Well, your Honor, I feel at this time that I refuse to answer a question that might tend to incriminate me.
COURT: I won’t direct you at this point to answer; I will wait for the cross-examination.
Rosenberg was asked whether he had ever cut the side of a Jell-O box to use as a recognition signal.
E. H. BLOCH: Did any such incident ever take place?
ROSENBERG: It never did.
Rosenberg was asked about the nature of the visit with Greenglass when he was in New York on forlough.
E. H. BLOCH: Did you discuss politics with Greenglass that night?
ROSENBERG: Well, as every intelligent American did in those times, we discussed the war.
SAYPOL: May I ask to have the answer stricken as not responsive?
E. H. BLOCH: I consent.
SAYPOL: I don’t want this man set up as a standard for intelligent Americans.
E. H. BLOCH: Now, I move to strike out Mr. Saypol’s statement.
COURT: Disregard Mr. Saypol’s statement and strike from the record “intelligent Americans.”
E. H. BLOCH: Never mind about any intelligent American. We are asking you whether you and your wife and sister-in-law and brother-in-law discussed politics?
ROSENBERG: Yes, we discussed the war.
E. H. BLOCH: Was that unusual for you to discuss politics with your familv or friends?
ROSENBERG: No, it was not.
E. H. BLOCH: Have you any independent recollection of what specific subject you discussed that night with Dave and Ruth?
ROSENBERG: Well, we were talking about the effort all the different Allies were making in the war and we noted that the Russians were carrying at that particular time the heaviest load of the German Army….
E. H. BLOCH: Did you ever mention to Davey that you would support him or get the Russians to support him if he continued his college education?
ROSENBERG: I did not….
Rosenberg denied having contact with any employees of General Electric, a company which developed technology that would be of interest to the Soviets.
COURT: Did you know anybody working there?
ROSENBERG: Sure I did.
COURT: Whom did you know working there?
ROSENBERG: Morton Sobell.
COURT: How long had you known Sobell?
ROSENBERG: I went to school with him.
COURT: And you had known him continuously right up until the present day?
ROSENBERG: Well, sporadically for a time and then–
COURT: Rather close?
ROSENBERG: Well, he was a friend of mine….
Rosenberg testified as to his version of the conversation he had with Greenglass during the walk they took shortly before Greenglass was arrested. Rosenberg said that during their walk Greenglass demanded $2,000. According to Rosenberg, Greenglass claimed Julius owed him for their failed business venture.(Greenglass had testified that during the walks Julius described how he might flee the United States and take a circuitous route to the Soviet Union.)
COURT: And you can’t think of any reason whatsoever, can you, why David Greenglass would, of all the people he knew, his brother, all the other members of his family, single you out, as he did apparently and as you say he did, and say that you would be sorry unless you gave him the money?
ROSENBERG: Well, he knew that I owed–he had an idea that I owed him money from the business, and I guess that is why he figured he wanted to get money from me.
Rosenberg was asked to describe his interviews with the FBI conducted prior to his arrest.
ROSENBERG: Well, there was a Mr. Norton in the room sitting at a desk with a pad in front of him, and Mr. Harrington sat on the other side of the table. I sat down on the front side of the table and another member of the FBI came in and sat behind, and they started asking questions about what I knew about David Greenglass. First they tried to get my background, what relations I had with him. I gave them my school background, work background and I told them whatever I knew about David Greenglass’ education and his work background.
E. H. BLOCH: Did you tell them that you had formerly been employed by the Government of the United States?
ROSENBERG: Yes, I told them, and at that point they said to me–they questioned me and tried to focus my attention to, as I notice now, certain dates in the overt acts listed in this indictment. They asked me questions concerning when David Greenglass came in on furlough. I didn’t remember. I helped them as much as I could in what I could remember. At one point in the discussion, I would say it was about two hours after I was there, they said to me, “Do you know that your brother-in-law said you told him to supply information for Russia?” So I said, “That couldn’t be so.” So I said, “Where is David Greenglass?” I didn’t know where he was because I knew he was taken in custody. They wouldn’t tell me. I said, “Will you bring him here and let him tell me that to my face?” And they said, “What if we bring him here, what will you do?” “I will call him a liar to his face because that is not so.” And I said, “Look, gentlemen, at first you asked me to come down an d get some information concerning David Greenglass. Now you are trying to implicate me in something. I would like to see a lawyer!Well, at this point, Mr. Norton said, “Oh, we are not accusing you of anything. We are just trying to help you.”I said, “I would like to get in touch with the lawyer for the Federation of Architects and Engineers.” I asked the FBI to please call him. Well, at this point Mr. Norton said, “Have a smoke, have a piece of gum. Would you like something to eat?” And the language he used in his actions were what the fellows at West Street would call conning–and we discussed around the point. Mr. Norton asked me again, “Did you ask David Greenglass to turn over information for the Russians?” And I said, “No.” I denied it. And then we discussed again what periods of time David Greenglass came in. I didn’t recall too well and I kept on asking Mr. Norton, “I want to get in touch with my lawyer.”Finally, some time after lunch, it was probably between 10 and 1, my wife reached me at the FBI office and I told her that the FBI is making some foolish accusations, to please–
SAYPOL: May that–
E. H. BLOCH: Never mind what you told your wife–
SAYPOL: No, no, I do not mind what he told his wife but I mind his characterization about what the charges were.
COURT: Oh, now, wait a minute, Mr. Saypol; that objection doesn’t mean anything. You are either going to object to what he told his wife–if that is what he told his wife–he has a right to repeat it here.
SAYPOL: I do not object to what he told his wife.
COURT: Then he can go right ahead. …
COURT: Did you know anything about the charges that had been leveled against your husband by the Government in ’45?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Oh, you mean the time that the Government dismissed him?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Well, it was alleged that he was a member of the Communist Party.
COURT: And he was dismissed for that reason?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: I refuse to answer on the ground that this might be incriminating.
COURT: No, no, no. I say, the Government dismissed him for that reason? I am not asking you whether he was. I am asking you whether the Government gave that as a reason for his dismissal.
A. BLOCH: May I advise the witness to answer that question?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Well, they gave that as a reason, that is right.
COURT: Now, you typed the reply for him; is that right?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes.
COURT: And the reply which you typed denied that he was a Communist?
COURT: Now, you typed the reply for him; is that right?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes.
COURT: And the reply which you typed denied that he was a Communist; is that correct?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: I refuse to answer on the ground that this might be self-incriminating.
A. BLOCH: I advise you to answer.
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes.
Rosenberg testified that she never attempted to persuade Ruth Greenglass to ask he husband is he would be willing to steal secrets from Los Alamos. Judge Kaufman interrupted with questions.
COURT: Did you know that your brother was working on the atomic bomb project?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: No.
COURT: When did you find out about that for the first time?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Oh, when he came out of the Army.
COURT: You mean in 1946?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes.
COURT: Did you know that he was working on a secret project while he was in the Army?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Well, he told us that when he came in on furlough.
ETHEL ROSENBERG: At my mother’s house.
COURT: In January 1945 or in November 1944?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: I don’t know the exact date of the furlough, but the first time.
A. BLOCH: May I ask you to keep your voice up, please?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes, I am sorry….
COURT: Well, what were your own views about the subject matter of the United States having any weapon that Russia didn’t have at that time? That is, in 1944 and I945?
A. BLOCH: May I respectfully object to your question?
COURT: Yes. Objection overruled.
A. BLOCH: As incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.
COURT: It is most relevant. It goes to the matter of the state of mind, and intention has to be established in this case.
A. BLOCH: I except.
ETHEL ROSENBERG: I don’t recall having any views at all about it.
COURT: Your mind was a blank on the subject?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Absolutely.
COURT: There was never any discussions about it at all?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Not about that, not about the weapon.
COURT: Was there any discussion at all as to any advantages which the United States had to make warfare that the Russians didn’t have?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: No, nothing of that sort.
COURT: You never heard any discussions that there should be some equalization between Russia and the United States?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: No, sir.
Bloch asked Ethel about the testimony of the Greenglasses concerning David’s visit with the Rosenbergs while on his first forlough from Los Alamos. Ethel denied that any plan was discussed to pass information to Ann Sidorovich in a theater in Denver.
A. BLOCH: Do you recall whether on that occasion Ann Sidorovich was present in your home?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: She may or may not have been. I really don’t recall that.
Bloch then repeated the Greenglasses’ testimony about the Jell-O box. He quoted Greenglass’s testimony as to how Julius had said:
A. BLOCH: “This half will be brought to you by another party and he will bear the greetings from me and you will know that I have sent him”; was there any such thing? Did you ever hear of any such thing as a Jell-O box being cut in two in order to be a means of identification of any emissary or agent to be sent by your husband out West in order to get information from the Los Alamos Project?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Outside of this courtroom, I never heard of any such thing.
COURT: Incidentally, did you have any Jell-O boxes in your apartment?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Oh, yes….
A. BLOCH: Now, your sister-in-law testified, in substance, that she had a miscarriage some time after she had been living with her husband in Albuquerque, and that she had written you a letter in which she informed you of the fact that she had had a miscarriage, and that thereupon she received a response from you in the shape of a letter, in writing, in which you said, in substance, that soon a relative will come to visit her, and insinuated that that was a sort of a signal, or that the word “relative” had some meaning, transmitting to her the idea that somebody was going to come to see her and receive information; did you ever write a letter containing a phrase that a relative would come to see her?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: No, I did not.
A. BLOCH: Did you ever make an arrangement with her, or did your husband in your presence, that if the phrase “relative” would be used in any letter, it would mean as an identifying mark, and that it would refer to somebody, an emissary of yours or your husband’s coming over to get information?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: There was never any such talk.
A. BLOCH: Did you also communicate with your brother?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes, I did.
A. BLOCH: Now, your brother Dave was the youngest in the family?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: That’s right.
A. BLOCH: And you were six years older than he was; and what was the relationship between him and you throughout the period of your living together in the same household, until you married and after you married?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Well, he was my baby brother.
A. BLOCH: Did you treat him as such?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes, that is exactly how I treated him.
A. BLOCH: Did you love him?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes, I loved him very much.
COURT: Did he sort of look up to you?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes.
COURT: And your husband? Before the arguments that were discussed here in court?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: He liked us both. He liked my husband.
COURT: Sort of hero worship?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Oh, by no stretch of the imagination could you say that was hero worship.
COURT: You heard him so testify, did you not?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes, I did….
A. BLOCH Now can you give us an idea of what you wrote about when you did write to your brother and to your sister-in-law?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Well, I wrote the usual “How are you? We are all right,” and “Take care of yourself,” and “This one had a baby,” or “The other one got married,” and things of that sort.
Ethel denied knowledge of Yakovlev, Bentley, Gold, and Fuchs beyond what she read in newspapers.
A. BLOCH: Did your husband at any time ever mention to you that he was engaged in any spying or espionage work or transmitting information received from various sources or from any source to the Russians?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: He wasn’t doing any such thing. He couldn’t possibly have mentioned it to me.
Bloch asked a series of questions designed to show that Ethel was too ill during the period of alleged espionage work to have played a very active role.
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Well, it so happens that I have had a spinal curvature since I was about thirteen and every once in a while that has given me some trouble, and at that time it began to kick up again. and occasionally I have to get into bed and nurse a severe backache. Through the bargain, I developed a case of low blood pressure, and that used to give me dizzy spells, sometimes to the point where I almost fainted. I also had very severe headaches, and it finally got so bad that I went to visit my doctor.
A. BLOCH: Who is your doctor?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Doctor Max Lionel Hart of Rego Park, Long Island.
A. BLOCH: Is Dr. Hart one of the witnesses listed as a Government witness in this case?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes, he is.
COURT: What is the point there? Why ask her that question? What is the relevancy of that?
A. BLOCH: Why not?
COURT: You mean to say that the Government has to call every witness listed on that?
A. BLOCH: I didn’t say anything of the kind. I am just identifying the man. That is all.
COURT: All right. Go ahead.
A. BLOCH: And how long between that period, between the fall of 1944 and the middle of 1945, were you under Dr. Hart’s care, professional care?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Well, I used to go for iron injections once or twice a week at least once a week, and very often twice a week regularly.
A. BLOCH: And that was during the period in which they claim you participated in this espionage plan?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Well, that was the period between the fall of 1944 and the spring of I945–
COURT: But you saw your brother, didn’t you, when he came in on his furlough in January 1945?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes, I did.
Ethel added her son’s infirmity to her own as an indication that her troubles precluded activities on an espionage front.
A. BLOCH: And what was the condition of your child’s health?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: The condition of my child was very poor. I had had a very difficult time ever since his birth, I mean, with him. He was given to severe colds and sore throat with high fever. It wasn’t the usual thing of where a baby gets sick occasionally. It was practically every week in and week out. By the time he was a year and a half old, that winter was extremely severe.
Ethel continued to deny playing any criminal role in espionage activities. She specifically denied typing up Greenglass’s notes from Los Alamos. Questions turned to the table in their home allegedly used for processing microfilm.
A. BLOCH: Your sister-in-law testified that on a certain occasion in 1946, or at least she thought it was in 1946–that is page 10I3 -your sister-in-law visited you at your home and that she noticed a piece of furniture and that that piece of furniture was a mahogany console table; and that she had a conversation with the Rosenbergs-that means you and your husband-concerning the table; that she said that she admired the table and she asked you “when she bought a new piece of furniture,” and that “she said she had not bought it, she had gotten it as a gift”; that she said “it was a very nice gift to get from a friend,” and that “Julius said it was from his friend and it was a special kind of table,” and thereupon your husband, Julius, “turned the table on its side to show us why it was so special”; did any such thing ever occur.
ETHEL ROSENBERG: No, it did not.
A. BLOCH: She further testified that “there was a portion of the table that was hollowed out for a lamp to fit underneath it so that the table could be used for photograph purposes,” and that your husband said that “when he used the table he darkened the room so that there would be no other light and he wouldn’t be obvious to anyone looking in”; did you hear any such conversation, at any time, either in I946 or 1947, or at any other period?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: I never heard any such conversation.
A. BLOCH Did your husband ever use any table, console table or any other table, for photograph purposes?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: No, he did not.
A. BLOCH: Did your husband ever photograph on microfilm or any other substance anything pertaining to any information or secret concerning the national defense, or anything else at all?
ETHEL ROSENBERG No, he did not.
Ethel was asked whether Julius ever discussed with her the demand for money made by Greenglass, which was alleged in Julius’s testimony.
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Well, the first time he said that Davey had demanded $2,000 from him and had seemed pretty upset, and that when my husband told him that he had no such amount of money, he couldn’t raise any such money for him, he said, “Well, could you at least do me another favor? Could you at least find out if your doctor will give me a vaccination certificate?”
COURT: Did he add why he wanted that vaccination certificate?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: No, I don’t recall my husband telling me anything of any reason for it. Except that Dave said that he was in a jam, he was in some trouble.
A. BLOCH: Were you worried about it?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes, I was.
COURT: Well, forget whether you were worried about it; what did you do about it?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Well, I said to my husband, “Well, doesn’t he know the kind of financial situation we are in? Didn’t you tell him you can’t give him money like that?” And then I remember saying something to the effect that “If Ruthie doesn’t stop nagging him for money, she is liable to give him another psychological heart attack like he had in the winter.”
Ethel testified that Julius told her about another conversation with David Greenglass.
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Well, this time my husband told me that Davey really must be in some very serious trouble, that he was extremely nervous and agitated and that he began to talk wildly, threatened that he would be sorry if he didn’t–my husband said that David threatened him, that he, my husband, would be sorry if that money wasn’t forthcoming.
A. BLOCH: What did you say or do about it?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Well, I told my husband that I thought I should call the house and find out if everything is all right, and my husband said, “Well, the only thing is, Dave may be working, he may not even be home and I have no way of knowing just how much of this Ruthie knows about,” and she has really had her hands full between her burns and having given birth to a child, and perhaps it would be wiser if he took it upon himself to see him at the earliest opportunity he could….
A. BLOCH: Did you at any time either on that occasion or any other occasion, either in words or in substance ask her to get an assurance from Dave that he was not going to talk, that he was going to claim he was going to be innocent, or that he was innocent and that if he does that, everybody will be okay and satisfied?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: No, I never said any such thing….
A. BLOCH: That is all as far as I am concerned.
E. H. BLOCH Did I ever advise you to go to see Ruthie Greenglass and tell Ruthie Greenglass to tell her husband to keep his mouth shut?
COURT: What has that got to do with it? There has been no accusation hurled at you.
E. H. BLOCH: But Ruthie Greenglass testified that Ethel Rosenberg said her lawyer sent her down.
COURT: All right, go ahead.
ETHEL ROSENBERG: No, you never told me to do any such thing.
E. H. BLOCH: Well, what did I tell you to do with respect to the Greenglass family?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: You told me to stay away from them.
E. H. BLOCH: Did I tell you I believed that they were your enemies?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Yes, you told me that.
E. H. BLOCH: That is all.
Saypol asked about the console that the Greenglass’s suggested was a gift from the Russians.
SAYPOL: Did you ever tell any one that that table was a present?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: No, I never did.
SAYPOL: You are sure of that?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: I am sure of that, yes….
Saypol asked about film developing equipment found by the FBI in the Rosenberg home.
SAYPOL: Did your husband ever do his own developing and printing at home?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: He never did. He made one attempt in 1950 to develop some films and he did such a poor job of it that he decided that that kind of a hobby wasn’t for him.
SAYPOL: Is that the first time he ever tried to develop some film?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: That’s right; first time.
SAYPOL: What kind of material, what kind of equipment did he have and did he use in connection with his attempt to try to develop some films?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: I don’t think I could even describe it or name the stuff. It was just some developing developer, whatever you call it.
SAYPOL: Did he have trays?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: What did you say?
SAYPOL: Did he have trays, enamel trays, that he used for developing and printing photographs?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: Not that I can recall.
SAYPOL: Did he have chemicals?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: I think he had some kind of chemical.
SAYPOL: Did he have what is known as a daylight developing tank?
ETHEL ROSENBERG: I never even heard of those words until you just said them.
SAYPOL: Don’t you know that when he was arrested, the agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation took away from your home some photographic equipment, including a developing tank and some trays?
A. BLOCH: I will object to it upon the ground it is assuming something that has not been proven. It may not be proven, and it is in the record.
The United States v. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, et al., excerpts of the Rosenberg’s testimony from the trial transcript, 1951: http://www.famous-trials.com/rosenberg/2019-trialtranscript