7.28.2017 Day in History

World Hepatitis Day today celebrates human advance against this disease; in the city of London four hundred seventy-seven years back, England executed Thomas Cromwell for treason; one hundred fifteen years later, in 1655, across the English Channel, Cyrano de Bergerac lived out his final chapter; two hundred twenty-three years prior to the present pass, both Robespierre and Saint Just lost their heads in Paris; exactly a decade more along the temporal arc, in 1804, a baby boy took a first breath en route to his life as anthropologist and philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach; a hundred ninety-six years ahead of the now, meanwhile, Peru under Jose de San Martin declared independence from Spain; forty-six years subsequently, in 1866, Vinnie Ream became the first female artist to receive a U.S. Government commission for sculpture, for a statue of Lincoln, and the baby girl who became English children’s author Beatrix Potter was born; two years hence, in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment became law of the land, putatively guaranteeing Constitutional rights everywhere; one hundred twenty years ago, Miami came into existence as an incorporated municipality; six years thereafter, 1902, the infant who became renowned philosopher Karl Popper was born; half a decade even closer to today, in 1907, a male child came along who grew up to be the man who invented Tupperware, Edward Tupper; another seven years and many thousands of miles further on, in 1914, Austria declared war on Serbia, initiating what we’ve come to call World War One; eighty-five years ago, Herbert Hoover ordered the so-called ‘Bonus Army’ forcibly evicted from their protest encampment in the District of Columbia by troops of the regular armed forces; seven hundred thirty days henceforth, in 1934, Spain and the Soviet Union established formal diplomatic relations; a dozen years more along time’s road, in 1946, a B-25 bomber crashed into the seventy-ninth floor of the Empire State Building, killing fourteen people; nine years after that moment in time, in 1954, the baby boy came into the world who matured as the iconic leader Hugo Chavez; three hundred sixty-five days beyond that juncture, in 1955, an organization formed, the Union Mundial pro Interlingua, and held its first conference in support of an international language; another decade after that conjunction, in 1965, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson authorized the expansion of the U.S. invasion of Vietnam from 75,000 to over 125,000 troops; two years shy of another decade more proximate to the present point, in 1973, a huge rock festival entertained over half a million people at Watkins Glen, New York; thirteen years back, the scientific Nobellist and co-discoverer of DNA, Francis Crick, played out his last strand; another year hence, in 1905, the Irish Republican Army ended its three decade armed campaign in Northern Ireland; nine years still nearer the now, in 2014, the writer and journalist and neopagan ‘princess,’ Margot Adler, took her final breath in this realm.

7.28.2017 Daily Links

  A Thought for the Day   

Perhaps no other realm of reality’s reign is so likely to develop from unreflective acts of ‘taking things for granted’ as is our relationship with what we now are capable of understanding as scientific and technical matters—whether this presumption elicits utter urgency to own the latest cell phone, complete befuddlement when the lights go out, or the absolute insistence that ‘throwing things away‘ is somehow possible despite the ineluctable fact that no such place as that exists on our way through life’s interconnected ecosystems: inasmuch as such an observation yields a resonant response from an observer, such massive investments and truly totalitarian programs as a Modern Nuclear Project absolutely necessitate close study and popular engagement, unless of course that technology’s downside, in the MNP’s case thermonuclear mass collective suicide, maintains some sort of magical appeal or irresistible influence on our psyches, a sort of Thanatopic worship of death and dystopia despite how unlikely is any conclusion that such practices of willful annihilation will lead to pragmatic outcomes, let alone ones that nurture and sustain humanity’s both relentless and delicate imprimatur here on Planet Earth.

  Quote of the Day  
“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you…. I remember I used to half believe and wholly play with fairies when I was a child. What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood, tempered and balanced by knowledge and common-sense. … I cannot rest, I must draw, however poor the result, and when I have a bad time come over me it is a stronger desire than ever.” – Beatrix Potter

 This Day in History  

World Hepatitis Day today celebrates human advance against this disease; in the city of London four hundred seventy-seven years back, England executed Thomas Cromwell for treason; one hundred fifteen years later, in 1655, across the English Channel, Cyrano de Bergerac lived out his final chapter; two hundred twenty-three years prior to the present pass, both Robespierre and Saint Just lost their heads in Paris; exactly a decade more along the temporal arc, in 1804, a baby boy took a first breath en route to his life as anthropologist and philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach; a hundred ninety-six years ahead of the now, meanwhile, Peru under Jose de San Martin declared independence from Spain    MORE HERE

  Doc of the Day  

1. Ludwig Feuerbach, 1843.

2. Smedley Butler, 1933.

3. Karl Popper, 1934, 1959.

Numero Uno—“§ 1The task of the modern era was the realisation and humanisation of God – the transformation and dissolution of theology into anthropology.

§ 2 Protestantism
The religious or practical form of this humanisation was Protestantism.  The God who is man, that is to say the human God, Christ, this and only this is the God of Protestantism.  Unlike Catholicism, Protestantism is no longer concerned with what God is in himself, but only with what he is for man; hence, it knows no speculative or contemplative tendency like Catholicism.  It has ceased to be theology – it is essentially Christology; that is, religious anthropology.   MORE HERE
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despair OR futility alienation OR estrangement unavoidable OR inevitable OR concomitant OR inherent aspects OR attributes OR accompaniments capitalism OR "bourgeois society" OR "monopoly capital" resistance OR struggle OR opposition necessity OR requirement "for survival" = 36,100 results

book hor


 Writers Tools Issues 

Hemingway and Miro

A Lit Hub look at a very important creative relationship: “The ravishing descriptions in A Moveable Feast give a strong taste of the powerful role that art played in the life and thought of Hemingway. The highlight of his experience as a collector of art offers insight not just into his range of intellectual interests, but also into what he was trying to do as a writer.

His acquisition of Joan Miró’s greatest painting, The Farm, is more than just an anecdote illustrating a little-known artsy side to “Papa” Hemingway, so different from the machismo stories of his pounding poor Morley Callaghan in the boxing ring, cycling with Dos Passos, drilling tennis balls through the racket of Pound, boozing with matadors, and eventually slaying lions.”

 General Media & ‘Intellectual Property’ Issues 

A Union/Worker Owned Daily

A New York Times article that  looks at a recent Union-based acquisition: “Now that the acquisition has become official, Mr. Eisendrath, a Chicago native who has spent much of his career as a politician and business executive, is laying out his grand ambitions for The Sun-Times. He wants to breathe new life into the newspaper, revitalizing it as a publication that tells stories of the working class and acts as a voice of the people.

The idea is particularly resonant in Chicago, one of the last two-newspaper cities in the country, and the place that gave America Studs Terkel and Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.””

 Recent Events 

WSWS Romero Obit

A World Socialist Web Site commemoration of a cultural icon: “George Romero, American director of numerous horror and other films, died July 16 in Toronto. His manager, Chris Roe, explained in a statement that the filmmaker, 77, passed away in his sleep, “following a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer.”

Romero is best known for Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Crazies (1973), Martin (1978), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Creepshow (1982), Day of the Dead (1985), Monkey Shines (1988), The Dark Half (1993), Bruiser (2000) and Land of the Dead (2005).”

 General Past & Present Issues 

Owning Everything, Getting More

A Naked Capitalism post that contextualizes inequality:  “All of the above may contribute to inequality. However, the proximate cause is quite simple. The jump in inequality is due to a small number of people, mostly business executives, who make huge amounts of money. They are the Mega Rich, the top .1 percent in income, who averaged $6.1 million in income in 2014. The Merely Rich are the rest of the 1 percent. It’s the Mega Rich, not the Merely Rich, who drive inequality. (I’m a member of the Merely Rich, so don’t blame me.)”

7.27.2017 Day in History

Today in Finland is National Sleepyhead Day and in Vietnam National Martyrs and Wounded Soldiers Day; in Scotland more or less nine hundred sixty-two years ago, the historical King Macbeth died in battle against English Lord Siward near the Firth of Forth; thirteen and a half decades subsequently, in 1189, fighters of the Third Crusade arrived in Serbia to negotiate their attacks on ‘the Holy Lands;’ thirteen years henceforth, in 1202, nearly one thousand miles Southeast, the then powerful kingdom of Georgia defeated Sultanate incursion at the battle of Basian; at the very end of the same century, in 1299, the nascent Ottoman imperial victory at Nicomedia marked what most scholars consider to be the beginning of Ottoman rule; three more years further along, in 1302, other Ottoman forces confirmed their preeminence with a victory over the Byzantine armies at Bapheus, opening up the conquest of Turkey;london britain british parliament three hundred fifty-three years prior to the here and now,  Britain’s Parliament passed mercantilist legislation that locked in monopoly shipping and control of goods bound for British America; four years past that conjunction, in 1667, a baby boy was born in Switzerland who would, as Johann Bernoulli, join his brother and sons and nephews as a mathematical pathfinder in calculus; twenty-seven years later, in 1694, Britain furthered the State control of its Colonial bourgeois enterprise by granting a corporate charter to the Bank of England; a century afterward, in 1794,  across the Channel in Revolutionary France, Robespierre demonstrated the dangers of overstepping one’s bounds when he ended up under arrest after overseeing the guillotining of 17,000 ‘enemies of the Revolution’; thirty years nearer to now, in 1824, a famed Dumas storyteller had a son whose destiny also involved prose and drama and acclaim, as Alexandre, fils; eleven years beyond that moment in time, in 1835, to the South in Italy, a male infant entered the world in standard fashion en route to success and popularity as a poet and a fierce critic of the conventional, Giosue Carducci, who would win Italy’s first Nobel Literary Laureate for his troubles; a hundred and thirty-six years before the present pass, English forces that sought to dominate Central Asia received a brutal whipping in Afghanistan at the Battle of Maiwand; a decade after that disaster, in 1890, a more personal and yet still substantial loss occurred when Vincent van Gogh shot himself; just a year more than a quarter century hence, in 1916, across the Atlantic ocean and the Appalachians a baby girl gave a first cry near Louisville who would mature as the critic and innovator and founder of the New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Hardwick; precisely three years closer to now, in 1919, just a couple hundred miles away, in the city of Chicago, White people exploded in violence against Blacks in the Chicago Race Riot, which resulted in more than thirty deaths and many hundreds of injuries over a five day period; seven hundred and thirty-one days hence, in 1921, across the Great Lakes in Toronto, researchers proved that insulin regulates blood sugar in mammals; three years on the dot later, in 1924, a male child entered our midst in a well-to-do family who would grow into Vincent Canby, the critical voice of film and theater for many years for the ‘paper of record;’ three more years after that point, in 1927, a California baby male gave a first shout whose fate took him to folk fame and social power as the singer and writer and organizer Guy Carawan; two years still more proximate to the day, in 1929, across the Atlantic, over fifty signatories at Geneva ratified a convention on the treatment of prisoners of war that they and others would soon ignore, and a few hundred miles away in France, a baby boy took a first breath on his way to a life as thinker and critic, Jean Baudrillard; three quarters of a century plus a year back, Bugs Bunny made his debut on A Wild Hare; four years still further along the temporal arc, in 1944, a female baby came along who would grow up as the country crooner and tuneful wordsmith, Bobbie Gentry; nine years subsequent to that soulful milestone, in 1953, an armistice brought the brief but brutal Korean conflict to an end; two years hence, in 1955, a female baby graced the world who would soon become Cat Bauer, a prodigal producer of stories and other written work; twenty-two years thereafter, in 1974, the House Judiciary Committee voted 2 to 1 to indict Richard Nixon on at least one article of impeachment, for obstruction of justice; thirteen more years further along time’s pathway, in 1987, explorers in the middle of the Atlantic began salvage efforts on the Titanic fourteen thousand feet under the Atlantic surface.

7.27.2017 Doc of the Day



1. Walter Bagehot, 1873.

2. Jean Baudrillard, 1981.

3. Ellen Harold & Peter Stone, circa 2003.

london britain british parliament

Numero Uno—“CHAPTER VII. A More Exact Account of the Mode in Which the Bank of England Has Discharged Its Duty of Retaining a Good Bank Reserve, and of Administering It Effectually.

The preceding chapters have in some degree enabled us to appreciate the importance of the duties which the Bank of England is bound to discharge as to its banking reserve.If we ask how the Bank of England has discharged this great responsibility, we shall be struck by three things: first, as has been said before, the Bank has never by any corporate act or authorised utterance acknowledged the duty, and some of its directors deny it; second (what is even more remarkable), no resolution of Parliament, no report of any Committee of Parliament (as far as I know), no remembered speech of a responsible statesman, has assigned or enforced that duty on the Bank; third (what is more remarkable still), the distinct teaching of our highest authorities has often been that no public duty of any kind is imposed on the Banking Department of the Bank; that, for banking purposes, it is only a joint stock bank like any other bank; that its managers should look only to the interest of the proprietors and their dividend; that they are to manage as the London and Westminster Bank or the Union Bank manages.

At first, it seems exceedingly strange that so important a responsibility should be unimposed, unacknowledged, and denied; but the explanation is this.  We are living amid the vestiges of old controversies, and we speak their language, though we are dealing with different thoughts and different facts.  For more than fifty years—from 1793 down to 1844—there was a keen controversy as to the public duties of the Bank.  It was said to be the ‘manager’ of the paper currency, and on that account many expected much good from it; others said it did great harm; others again that it could do neither good nor harm.  But for the whole period there was an incessant and fierce discussion.  That discussion was terminated by the Act of 1844.  By that Act the currency manages itself; the entire working is automatic.  The Bank of England plainly does not manage—cannot even be said to manage—the currency any more.  And naturally, but rashly, the only reason upon which a public responsibility used to be assigned to the Bank having now clearly come to an end, it was inferred by many that the Bank had no responsibility.  The complete uncertainty as to the degree of responsibility acknowledged by the Bank of England is best illustrated by what has been said by the Bank directors themselves as to the panic of 1866.  The panic of that year, it will be remembered, happened, contrary to precedent, in the spring, and at the next meeting of the Court of Bank proprietors—the September meeting—there was a very remarkable discussion, which I give at length below, and of which all that is most material was thus described in the ‘Economist’:

‘The late meeting of the proprietors of the Bank of England has a very unusual importance.  There can be no effectual inquiry now into the history of the late crisis.  A Parliamentary committee next year would, unless something strange occur in the interval, be a great waste of time.  Men of business have keen sensations but short memories, and they will care no more next February for the events of last May than they now care for the events of October 1864.  A pro forma inquiry, on which no real mind is spent, and which everyone knows will lead to nothing, is far worse than no inquiry at all.  Under these circumstances the official statements of the Governor of the Bank are the only authentic expositions we shall have of the policy of the Bank Directors, whether as respects the past or the future.  And when we examine the proceedings with care, we shall find that they contain matter of the gravest import.

‘This meeting may be considered to admit and recognise the fact that the Bank of England keeps the sole banking reserve of the country. We do not now mix up this matter with the country circulation, or the question whether there should be many issuers of notes or only one. We speak not of the currency reserve, but of the banking reserve—the reserve held against deposits, and not the reserve held against notes. We have often insisted in these columns that the Bank of England does keep the sole real reserve—the sole considerable unoccupied mass of cash in the country; but there has been no universal agreement about it. Great authorities have been unwilling to admit it. They have not, indeed, formally and explicitly contended against it. If they had, they must have pointed out some other great store of unused cash besides that at the Bank, and they could not find such store. But they have attempted distinctions; have said that the doctrine that the Bank of England keeps the sole banking reserve of the country was “not a good way of putting it,” was exaggerated, and was calculated to mislead.

‘But the late meeting is a complete admission that such is the fact.
The Governor of the Bank said:
“‘A great strain has within the last few months been put upon the resources of this house, and of the whole banking community of London; and I think I am entitled to say that not only this house, but the entire banking body, acquitted themselves most honourably and creditably throughout that very trying period. Banking is a very peculiar business, and it depends so much upon credit that the least blast of suspicion is sufficient to sweep away, as it were, the harvest of a whole year. But the manner in which the banking establishments generally in London met the demands made upon them during the greater portion of the past half-year affords a most satisfactory proof of the soundness of the principles on which their business is conducted. This house exerted itself to the utmost—and exerted itself most successfully—to meet the crisis. We did not flinch from our post. When the storm came upon us, on the morning on which it became known that the house of Overend and Co. had failed, we were in as sound and healthy a position as any banking establishment could hold, and on that day and throughout the succeeding week we made advances which would hardly be credited. I do not believe that anyone would have thought of predicting, even at the shortest period beforehand, the greatness of those advances. It was not unnatural that in this state of things a certain degree of alarm should have taken possession of the public mind, and that those who required accommodation from the Bank should have gone to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and requested the Government to empower us to issue notes beyond the statutory amount, if we should think that such a measure was desirable. But we had to act before we could receive any such power, and before the Chancellor of the Exchequer was perhaps out of his bed we had advanced one-half of our reserves, which were certainly thus reduced to an amount which we could not witness without regret. But we would not flinch from the duty which we conceived was imposed upon us of supporting the banking community, and I am not aware that any legitimate application made for assistance to this house was refused. Every gentleman who came here with adequate security was liberally dealt with, and if accommodation could not be afforded to the full extent which was demanded, no one who offered proper security failed to obtain relief from this house.”

‘Now this is distinctly saying that the other banks of the country need not keep any such banking reserve—any such sum of actual cash—of real sovereigns and bank notes, as will help them through a sudden panic. It acknowledges a “duty” on the part of the Bank of England to “support the banking community,” to make the reserve of the Bank of England do for them as well as for itself.

‘In our judgment this language is most just, and the Governor of the Bank could scarcely have done a greater public service than by using language so business-like and so distinct. Let us know precisely who is to keep the banking reserve. If the joint stock banks and the private banks and the country banks are to keep their share, let us determine on that; Mr. Gladstone appeared not long since to say in Parliament that it ought to be so. But at any rate there should be no doubt whose duty it is. Upon grounds which we have often stated, we believe that the anomaly of one bank keeping the sole banking reserve is so fixed in our system that we cannot change it if we would. The great evil to be feared was an indistinct conception of the fact, and that is now avoided.

‘The importance of these declarations by the Bank is greater, because after the panic of 1857 the bank did not hold exactly the same language. A person who loves concise expressions said lately “that Overends broke the Bank in 1866 because it went, and in 1857 because it was not let go.” We need not too precisely examine such language; the element of truth in it is very plain—the great advances made to Overends were a principal event in the panic of 1857; the bill-brokers were then very much what the bankers were lately they were the borrowers who wanted sudden and incalculable advances. But the bill-brokers were told not to expect the like again. But Alderman Salomons, on the part of the London bankers, said, “he wished to take that opportunity of stating that he believed nothing could be more satisfactory to the managers and shareholders of joint stock banks than the testimony which the Governor of the Bank of England had that day borne to the sound and honourable manner in which their business was conducted. It was manifestly desirable that the joint stock banks and the banking interest generally should work in harmony with the Bank of England; and he sincerely thanked the Governor of the Bank for the kindly manner in which he had alluded to the mode in which the joint stock banks had met the late monetary crisis.” The Bank of England agrees to give other banks the requisite assistance in case of need, and the other banks agree to ask for it.

‘Secondly. The Bank agrees, in fact, if not in name, to make limited advances on proper security to anyone who applies for it. On the present occasion 45,000,000 L. was so advanced in three months. And the Bank do not say to the mercantile community, or to the bankers, “Do not come to us again. We helped you once. But do not look upon it as a precedent. We will not help you again.” On the contrary, the evident and intended implication is that under like circumstances the Bank would act again as it has now acted.’

This article was much disliked by many of the Bank directors, and especially by some whose opinion is of great authority. They thought that the ‘Economist’ drew ‘rash deductions’ from a speech which was in itself ‘open to some objection—’which was, like all such speeches, defective in theoretical precision, and which was at best only the expression of an opinion by the Governor of that day, which had not been authorised by the Court of Directors, which could not bind the Bank. However the article had at least this use, that it brought out the facts. All the directors would have felt a difficulty in commenting upon, or limiting, or in differing from, a speech of a Governor from the chair. But there was no difficulty or delicacy in attacking the ‘Economist.’ Accordingly Mr. Hankey, one of the most experienced bank directors, not long after, took occasion to observe: ‘The “Economist” newspaper has put forth what in my opinion is the most mischievous doctrine ever broached in the monetary or banking world in this country; viz, that it is the proper function of the Bank of England to keep money available at all times to supply the demands of bankers who have rendered their own assets unavailable. Until such a doctrine is repudiated by the banking interest, the difficulty of pursuing any sound principle of banking in London will be always very great. But I do not believe that such a doctrine as that bankers are justified in relying on the Bank of England to assist them in time of need is generally held by the bankers in London.

‘I consider it to be the undoubted duty of the Bank of England to hold its banking deposits (reserving generally about one-third in cash) in the most available securities; and in the event of a sudden pressure in the money market, by whatever circumstance it may be caused, to bear its full share of a drain on its resources. I am ready to admit, however, that a general opinion has long prevailed that the Bank of England ought to be prepared to do much more than this, though I confess my surprise at finding an advocate for such an opinion in the “Economist.” If it were practicable for the Bank to retain money unemployed to meet such an emergency, it would be a very unwise thing to do so. But I contend that it is quite impracticable, and if it were possible, it would be most inexpedient; and I can only express my regret that the Bank, from a desire to do everything in its power to afford general assistance in times of banking or commercial distress, should ever have acted in a way to encourage such an opinion. The more the conduct of the affairs of the Bank is made to assimilate to the conduct of every other well-managed bank in the United Kingdom, the better for the Bank, and the better for the community at large.’

I am scarcely a judge, but I do not think Mr. Hankey replies to the
‘Economist’ very conclusively.
First. He should have observed that the question is not as to what ‘ought to be,’ but as to what is. The ‘Economist’ did not say that the system of a single bank reserve was a good system, but that it was the system which existed, and which must be worked, as you could not change it.

Secondly. Mr. Hankey should have shown ‘some other store of unused cash’ except the reserve in the Banking Department of the Bank of England out of which advances in time of panic could be made. These advances are necessary, and must be made by someone. The ‘reserves’ of London bankers are not such store; they are used cash, not unused; they are part of the Bank deposits, and lent as such.

Thirdly. Mr. Hankey should have observed that we know by the published figures that the joint stock banks of London do not keep one-third, or anything like one-third, of their liabilities in ‘cash’ even meaning by ‘cash’ a deposit at the Bank of England. One-third of the deposits in joint stock banks, not to speak of the private banks, would be 30,000,000 L.; and the private deposits of the Bank of England are 18,000,000 L. According to his own statement, there is a conspicuous contrast. The joint stock banks, and the private banks, no doubt, too, keep one sort of reserve, and the Bank of England a different kind of reserve altogether. Mr. Hankey says that the two ought to be managed on the same principle; but if so, he should have said whether he would assimilate the practice of the Bank of England to that of the other banks, or that of the other banks to the practice of the Bank of England.

Fourthly. Mr. Hankey should have observed that, as has been explained, in most panics, the principal use of a ‘banking reserve’ is not to advance to bankers; the largest amount is almost always advanced to the mercantile public and to bill-brokers. But the point is, that by our system all extra pressure is thrown upon the Bank of England. In the worst part of the crisis of 1866, 50,000 L. ‘fresh money’ could not be borrowed, even on the best security—even on Consols except at the Bank of England. There was no other lender to new borrowers.

But my object now is not to revive a past controversy, but to show in what an unsatisfactory and uncertain condition that controversy has left a most important subject. Mr. Hankey’s is the last explanation we have had of the policy of the Bank. He is a very experienced and attentive director, and I think expresses, more or less, the opinions of other directors. And what do we find? Setting aside and saying nothing about the remarkable speech of the Governor in 1866, which at least (according to the interpretation of the ‘Economist’) was clear and excellent, Mr. Hankey leaves us in doubt altogether as to what will be the policy of the Bank of England in the next panic, and as to what amount of aid the public may then expect from it. His words are too vague. No one can tell what a ‘fair share’ means; still less can we tell what other people at some future time will say it means. Theory suggests, and experience proves, that in a panic the holders of the ultimate Bank reserve (whether one bank or many) should lend to all that bring good securities quickly, freely, and readily. By that policy they allay a panic; by every other policy they intensify it. The public have a right to know whether the Bank of England—the holders of our ultimate bank reserve—acknowledge this duty, and are ready to perform it. But this is now very uncertain.

If we refer to history, and examine what in fact has been the conduct of the Bank directors, we find that they have acted exactly as persons of their type, character, and position might have been expected to act. They are a board of plain, sensible, prosperous English merchants; and they have both done and left undone what such a board might have been expected to do and not to do. Nobody could expect great attainments in economical science from such a board; laborious study is for the most part foreign to the habits of English merchants. Nor could we expect original views on banking, for banking is a special trade, and English merchants, as a body, have had no experience in it. A ‘board’ can scarcely ever make improvements, for the policy of a board is determined by the opinions of the most numerous class of its members—its average members—and these are never prepared for sudden improvements. A board of upright and sensible merchants will always act according to what it considers ‘safe’ principles—that is, according to the received maxims of the mercantile world then and there—and in this manner the directors of the Bank of England have acted nearly uniformly. Their strength and their weakness were curiously exemplified at the time when they had the most power. After the suspension of cash payments in 1797, the directors of the Bank of England could issue what notes they liked. There was no check; these notes could not come back upon the Bank for payment; there was a great temptation to extravagant issue, and no present penalty upon it. But the directors of the Bank withstood the temptation; they did not issue their inconvertible notes extravagantly. And the proof is, that for more than ten years after the suspension of cash payments the Bank paper was undepreciated, and circulated at no discount in comparison with gold. Though the Bank directors of that day at last fell into errors, yet on the whole they acted with singular judgment and moderation. But when, in 1810, they came to be examined as to their reasons, they gave answers that have become almost classical by their nonsense. Mr. Pearse, the Governor of the Bank, said: ‘In considering this subject, with reference to the manner in which bank-notes are issued, resulting from the applications made for discounts to supply the necessary want of bank-notes, by which their issue in amount is so controlled that it can never amount to an excess, I cannot see how the amount of bank-notes issued can operate upon the price of bullion, or the state of the exchanges; and therefore I am individually of opinion that the price of bullion, or the state of the exchanges, can never be a reason for lessening the amount of bank-notes to be issued, always understanding the control which I have already described.

‘Is the Governor of the Bank of the same opinion which has now been expressed by the Deputy-Governor?

‘Mr. Whitmore, I am so much of the same opinion, that I never think it necessary to advert to the price of gold, or the state of the exchange, on the days on which we make our advances.

‘Do you advert to these two circumstances with a view to regulate the general amount of your advances?—I do not advert to it with a view to our general advances, conceiving it not to bear upon the question.

And Mr. Harman, another Bank director, expressed his opinion in these terms: ‘I must very materially alter my opinions before I can suppose that the exchanges will be influenced by any modifications of our paper currency.’

Very few persons perhaps could have managed to commit so many blunders in so few words.

But it is no disgrace at all to the Bank directors of that day to have committed these blunders. They spoke according to the best mercantile opinion of England. The City of London and the House of Commons both approved of what they said; those who dissented were said to be abstract thinkers and unpractical men. The Bank directors adopted the ordinary opinions, and pursued the usual practice of their time. It was this ‘routine’ that caused their moderation. They believed that so long as they issued ‘notes’ only at 5 per cent, and only on the discount of good bills, those notes could not be depreciated. And as the number of ‘good’ bills—bills which sound merchants know to be good—does not rapidly increase, and as the market rate of interest was often less than 5 per cent, these checks on over-issue were very effective. They failed in time, and the theory upon which they were defended was nonsense; but for a time their operation was powerful and excellent.

Unluckily, in the management of the matter before us—the management of the Bank reserve—the directors of the Bank of England were neither acquainted with right principles, nor were they protected by a judicious routine. They could not be expected themselves to discover such principles. The abstract thinking of the world is never to be expected from persons in high places; the administration of first-rate current transactions is a most engrossing business, and those charged with them are usually but little inclined to think on points of theory, even when such thinking most nearly concerns those transactions. No doubt when men’s own fortunes are at stake, the instinct of the trader does somehow anticipate the conclusions of the closet. But a board has no instincts when it is not getting an income for its members, and when it is only discharging a duty of office. During the suspension of cash payments—a suspension which lasted twenty-two years—all traditions as to a cash reserve had died away. After 1819 the Bank directors had to discharge the duty of keeping a banking reserve, and (as the law then stood) a currency reserve also, without the guidance either of keen interests, or good principles, or wise traditions.

Under such circumstances, the Bank directors inevitably made mistakes of the gravest magnitude. The first time of trial came in 1825. In that year the Bank directors allowed their stock of bullion to fall in the most alarming manner:

On Dec. 24, 1824, the coin and bullion in the Bank was L 10,721,000
On Dec. 25, 1825, it was reduced to L 1,260,000
and the consequence was a panic so tremendous that its results are well remembered after nearly fifty years. In the next period of extreme trial—in 1837-9—the Bank was compelled to draw for 2,000,000 L. on the Bank of France; and even after that aid the directors permitted their bullion, which was still the currency reserve as well as the banking reserve, to be reduced to 2,404,000 L.: a great alarm pervaded society, and generated an eager controversy, out of which ultimately emerged the Act of 1844. The next trial came in 1847, and then the Bank permitted its banking reserve (which the law had now distinctly separated) to fall to 1,176,000 L.; and so intense was the alarm, that the executive Government issued a letter of licence, permitting the Bank, if necessary, to break the new law, and, if necessary, to borrow from the currency reserve, which was full, in aid of the banking reserve, which was empty. Till 1857 there was an unusual calm in the money market, but in the autumn of that year the Bank directors let the banking reserve, which even in October was far too small, fall thus:

Oct. 10 4,024,000 L
” 17 3,217,000 L
” 24 3,485,000 L
” 31 2,258,000 L
Nov. 6 2,155,000 L
” 13 957,000 L
And then a letter of licence like that of 1847 was not only issued, but used. The Ministry of the day authorised the Bank to borrow from the currency reserve in aid of the banking reserve, and the Bank of England did so borrow several hundred pounds till the end of the month of November. A more miserable catalogue than that of the failures of the Bank of England to keep a good banking reserve in all the seasons of trouble between 1825 and 1857 is scarcely to be found in history.

But since 1857 there has been a great improvement. By painful events and incessant discussions, men of business have now been trained to see that a large banking reserve is necessary, and to understand that, in the curious constitution of the English banking world, the Bank of England is the only body which could effectually keep it. They have never acknowledged the duty; some of them, as we have seen, deny the duty; still they have to a considerable extent begun to perform the duty. The Bank directors, being experienced and able men of business, comprehended this like other men of business. Since 1857 they have always kept, I do not say a sufficient banking reserve, but a fair and creditable banking reserve, and one altogether different from any which they kept before. At one period the Bank directors even went farther: they made a distinct step in advance of the public intelligence; they adopted a particular mode of raising the rate of interest, which is far more efficient than any other mode. Mr. Goschen observes, in his book on the Exchanges: ‘Between the rates in London and Paris, the expense of sending gold to and fro having been reduced to a minimum between the two cities, the difference can never be very great; but it must not be forgotten that, the interest being taken at a percentage calculated per annum, and the probable profit having, when an operation in three-month bills is contemplated, to be divided by four, whereas the percentage of expense has to be wholly borne by the one transaction, a very slight expense becomes a great impediment. If the cost is only 1/2 per cent, there must be a profit of 2 per cent in the rate of interest, or 1/2 per cent on three months, before any advantage commences; and thus, supposing that Paris capitalists calculate that they may send their gold over to England for 1/2 per cent expense, and chance their being so favoured by the Exchanges as to be able to draw it back without any cost at all, there must nevertheless be an excess of more than 2 per cent in the London rate of interest over that in Paris, before the operation of sending gold over from France, merely for the sake of the higher interest, will pay.’

Accordingly, Mr. Goschen recommended that the Bank of England should, as a rule, raise their rate by steps of 1 per cent at a time when the object of the rise was to affect the ‘foreign Exchanges.’ And the Bank of England, from 1860 onward, have acted upon that principle. Before that time they used to raise their rate almost always by steps of 1/2 per cent, and there was nothing in the general state of mercantile opinion to compel them to change their policy. The change was, on the contrary, most unpopular. On this occasion, and, as far as I know, on this occasion alone, the Bank of England made an excellent alteration of their policy, which was not exacted by contemporary opinion, and which was in advance of it. The beneficial results of the improved policy of the Bank were palpable and speedy. We were enabled by it to sustain the great drain of silver from Europe to India to pay for Indian cotton in the years between 18621865. In the autumn of 1864 there was especial danger; but, by a rapid and able use of their new policy, the Bank of England maintained an adequate reserve, and preserved the country from calamities which, if we had looked only to precedent, would have seemed inevitable. All the causes which produced the panic of 1857 were in action in 1864—the drain of silver in 1864 and the preceding year was beyond comparison greater than in 1857 and the years before it—and yet in 1864 there was no panic. The Bank of England was almost immediately rewarded for its adoption of right principles by finding that those principles, at a severe crisis, preserved public credit.

In 1866 undoubtedly a panic occurred, but I do not think that the Bank of England can be blamed for it. They had in their till an exceedingly good reserve according to the estimate of that time—a sufficient reserve, in all probability, to have coped with the crises of 1847 and 1857. The suspension of Overend and Gurney—the most trusted private firm in England caused an alarm, in suddenness and magnitude, without example. What was the effect of the Act of 1844 on the panic of 1866 is a question on which opinion will be long divided; but I think it will be generally agreed that, acting under the provisions of that law, the directors of the Bank of England had in their banking department in that year a fairly large reserve quite as large a reserve as anyone expected them to keep—to meet unexpected and painful contingencies.

From 1866 to 1870 there was almost an unbroken calm on the money market. The Bank of England had no difficulties to cope with; there was no opportunity for much discretion. The money market took care of itself. But in 1870 the Bank of France suspended specie payments, and from that time a new era begins. The demands on this market for bullion have been greater, and have been more incessant, than they ever were before, for this is now the only bullion market. This has made it necessary for the Bank of England to hold a much larger banking reserve than was ever before required, and to be much more watchful than in former times lest that banking reserve should on a sudden be dangerously diminished. The forces are greater and quicker than they used to be, and a firmer protection and a surer solicitude are necessary. But I do not think the Bank of England is sufficiently aware of this. All the governing body of the Bank certainly are not aware of it. The same eminent director to whom I have before referred, Mr. Hankey, published in the ‘Times’ an elaborate letter, saying again that one-third of the liabilities were, even in these altered times, a sufficient reserve for the Banking Department of the Bank of England, and that it was no part of the business of the Bank to keep a supply of ‘bullion for exportation,’ which was exactly the most mischievous doctrine that could be maintained when the Banking Department of the Bank of England had become the only great repository in Europe where gold could at once be obtained, and when, therefore, a far greater store of bullion ought to be kept than at any former period.

And besides this defect of the present time, there are some chronic faults in the policy of the Bank of England, which arise, as will be presently explained, from grave defects in its form of government.

There is almost always some hesitation when a Governor begins to reign. He is the Prime Minister of the Bank Cabinet; and when so important a functionary changes, naturally much else changes too. If the Governor be weak, this kind of vacillation and hesitation continues throughout his term of office. The usual defect then is, that the Bank of England does not raise the rate of interest sufficiently quickly. It does raise it; in the end it takes the alarm, but it does not take the alarm sufficiently soon. A cautious man, in a new office, does not like strong measures. Bank Governors are generally cautious men; they are taken from a most cautious class; in consequence they are very apt to temporise and delay. But almost always the delay in creating a stringency only makes a greater stringency inevitable. The effect of a timid policy has been to let the gold out of the Bank, and that gold must be recovered. It would really have been far easier to have maintained the reserve by timely measures than to have replenished it by delayed measures; but new Governors rarely see this.

Secondly. Those defects are apt, in part, or as a whole, to be continued throughout the reign of a weak Governor. The objection to a decided policy, and the indisposition to a timely action, which are excusable in one whose influence is beginning, and whose reign is new, is continued through the whole reign of one to whom those defects are natural, and who exhibits those defects in all his affairs.

Thirdly. This defect is enhanced, because, as has so often been said, there is now no adequate rule recognised in the management of the banking reserve. Mr. Weguelin, the last Bank Governor who has been examined, said that it was sufficient for the Bank to keep from one-fourth to one-third of its banking liabilities as a reserve. But no one now would ever be content if the banking reserve were near to one-fourth of its liabilities. Mr. Hankey, as I have shown, considers ‘about a third’ as the proportion of reserve to liability at which the Bank should aim; but he does not say whether he regards a third as the minimum below which the reserve in the Banking Department should never be, or as a fair average, about which the reserve may fluctuate, sometimes being greater, or at others less.

In a future chapter I shall endeavour to show that one-third of its banking liabilities is at present by no means an adequate reserve for the Banking Department—that it is not even a proper minimum, far less a fair average; and I shall allege what seem to me good reasons for thinking that, unless the Bank aim by a different method at a higher standard, its own position may hereafter be perilous, and the public may be exposed to disaster.

But, as has been explained, the Bank of England is bound, according to our system, not only to keep a good reserve against a time of panic, but to use that reserve effectually when that time of panic comes. The keepers of the Banking reserve, whether one or many, are obliged then to use that reserve for their own safety. If they permit all other forms of credit to perish, their own will perish immediately, and in consequence.

As to the Bank of England, however, this is denied. It is alleged that the Bank of England can keep aloof in a panic; that it can, if it will, let other banks and trades fail; that if it chooses, it can stand alone, and survive intact while all else perishes around it. On various occasions, most influential persons, both in the government of the Bank and out of it, have said that such was their opinion. And we must at once see whether this opinion is true or false, for it is absurd to attempt to estimate the conduct of the Bank of England during panics before we know what the precise position of the Bank in a panic really is.

The holders of this opinion in its most extreme form say, that in a panic the Bank of England can stay its hand at any time; that, though it has advanced much, it may refuse to advance more; that though the reserve may have been reduced by such advances, it may refuse to lessen it still further; that it can refuse to make any further dis counts; that the bills which it has discounted will become due; that it can refill its reserve by the payment of those bills; that it can sell stock or other securities, and so replenish its reserve still further. But in this form the notion scarcely merits serious refutation. If the Bank reserve has once become low, there are, in a panic, no means of raising it again. Money parted with at such a time is very hard to get back; those who have taken it will not let it go—not, at least, unless they are sure of getting other money in its place. And at such instant the recovery of money is as hard for the Bank of England as for any one else, probably even harder. The difficulty is this: if the Bank decline to discount, the holders of the bills previously discounted cannot pay. As has been shown, trade in England is largely carried on with borrowed money. If you propose greatly to reduce that amount, you will cause many failures unless you can pour in from elsewhere some equivalent amount of new money. But in a panic there is no new money to be had; everybody who has it clings to it, and will not part with it. Especially what has been advanced to merchants cannot easily be recovered; they are under immense liabilities, and they will not give back a penny which they imagine that even possibly they may need to discharge those liabilities. And bankers are in even greater terror. In a panic they will not discount a host of new bills; they are engrossed with their own liabilities and those of their own customers, and do not care for those of others. The notion that the Bank of England can stop discounting in a panic, and so obtain fresh money, is a delusion. It can stop discounting, of course, at pleasure. But if it does, it will get in no new money; its bill case will daily be more and more packed with bills ‘returned unpaid.’

The sale of stock, too, by the Bank of England in the middle of a panic is impossible. The bank at such a time is the only lender on stock, and it is only by loans from a bank that large purchases, at such a moment, can be made. Unless the Bank of England lend, no stock will be bought. There is not in the country any large sum of unused ready money ready to buy it. The only unused sum is the reserve in the Banking Department of the Bank of England: if, therefore, in a panic that Department itself attempt to sell stock, the failure would be ridiculous. It would hardly be able to sell any at all. Probably it would not sell fifty pounds’ worth. The idea that the Bank can, during a panic, replenish its reserve in this or in any other manner when that reserve has once been allowed to become empty, or nearly empty, is too absurd to be steadily maintained, though I fear that it is not yet wholly abandoned.

The second and more reasonable conception of the independence of the Bank of England is, however, this: It may be said, and it is said, that if the Bank of England stop at the beginning of a panic, if it refuse to advance a shilling more than usual, if it begin the battle with a good banking reserve, and do not diminish it by extra loans, the Bank of England is sure to be safe. But this form of the opinion, though more reasonable and moderate, is not, therefore, more true. The panic of 1866 is the best instance to test it. As everyone knows, that panic began quite suddenly, on the fall of ‘Overends.’ Just before, the Bank had 5,812,000 L. in its reserve; in fact, it advanced 13,000,000 L. of new money in the next few days, and its reserve went down to nothing, and the Government had to help. But if the Bank had not made these advances, could it have kept its reserve?

Certainly it could not. It could not have retained its own deposits. A large part of these are the deposits of bankers, and they would not consent to help the Bank of England in a policy of isolation. They would not agree to suspend payments themselves, and permit the Bank of England to survive, and get all their business. They would withdraw their deposits from the Bank; they would not assist it to stand erect amid their ruin. But even if this were not so, even if the banks were willing to keep their deposits at the Bank while it was not lending, they would soon find that they could not do it. They are only able to keep those deposits at the Bank by the aid of the Clearing-house system, and if a panic were to pass a certain height, that system, which rests on confidence, would be destroyed by terror.

The common course of business is this. A B having to receive 50,000 l. from C D takes C D’s cheque on a banker crossed, as it is called, and, therefore, only payable to another banker. He pays that cheque to his own credit with his own banker, who presents it to the banker on whom it is drawn, and if good it is an item between them in the general clearing or settlement of the afternoon. But this is evidently a very refined machinery, which a panic will be apt to destroy. At the first stage A B may say to his debtor C D, ‘I cannot take your cheque, I must have bank-notes.’ If it is a debt on securities, he will be very apt to say this. The usual practice—credit being good—is for the creditor to take the debtor’s cheque, and to give up the securities. But if the ‘securities’ really secure him in a time of difficulty, he will not like to give them up, and take a bit of paper—a mere cheque, which may be paid or not paid. He will say to his debtor, ‘I can only give you your securities if you will give me bank-notes.’ And if he does say so, the debtor must go to his bank, and draw out the 50,000 L. if he has it. But if this were done on a large scale, the bank’s ‘cash in house’ would soon be gone; as the Clearing-house was gradually superseded it would have to trench on its deposit at the Bank of England; and then the bankers would have to pay so much over the counter that they would be unable to keep much money at the Bank, even if they wished. They would soon be obliged to draw out every shilling.

The diminished use of the Clearing-house, in consequence of the panic, would intensify that panic. By far the greater part of the bargains of the country in moneyed securities is settled on the Stock Exchange twice a month, and the number of securities then given up for mere cheques, and the number of cheques then passing at the Clearing-house are enormous. If that system collapse, the number of failures would be incalculable, and each failure would add to the discredit that caused the collapse.

The non-banking customers of the Bank of England would be discredited as well as other people; their cheques would not be taken any more than those of others; they would have to draw out bank-notes, and the Bank reserve would not be enough for a tithe of such payments.

The matter would come shortly to this: a great number of brokers and dealers are under obligations to pay immense sums, and in common times they obtain these sums by the transfer of certain securities. If, as we said just now, No. 1 has borrowed 50,000 L. of No. 2 on Exchequer bills, he, for the most part, cannot pay No. 2 till he has sold or pledged those bills to some one else. But till he has the bills he cannot pledge or sell them; and if No. 2 will not give them up till he gets his money, No. 1 will be ruined, because he cannot pay it. And if No. 2 has No. 3 to pay, as is very likely, he may be ruined because of No. 1’s default, and No. 4 only on account of No. 3’s default; and so on without end. On settling day, without the Clearing-house, there would be a mass of failures, and a bundle of securities. The effect of these failures would be a general run on all bankers, and on the Bank of England particularly.

It may indeed be said that the money thus taken from the Banking Department of the Bank of England would return there immediately; that the public who borrowed it would not know where else to deposit it; that it would be taken out in the morning, and put back in the evening. But, in the first place, this argument assumes that the Banking Department would have enough money to pay the demands on it; and this is a mistake: the Banking Department would not have a hundredth part of the necessary funds. And in the second, a great panic which deranged the Clearing-house would soon be diffused all through the country. The money therefore taken from the Bank of England could not be soon returned to the Bank; it would not come back on the evening of the day on which it was taken out, or for many days; it would be distributed through the length and breadth of the country, wherever there were bankers, wherever there was trade, wherever there were liabilities, wherever there was terror.

And even in London, so immense a panic would soon impair the credit of the Banking Department of the Bank of England. That department has no great prestige. It was only created in 1844, and it has failed three times since. The world would imagine that what has happened before will happen again; and when they have got money, they will not deposit it at an establishment which may not be able to repay it. This did not happen in former panics, because the case we are considering never arose. The Bank was helping the public, and, more or less confidently, it was believed that the Government would help the Bank. But if the policy be relinquished which formerly assuaged alarm, that alarm will be protracted and enhanced, till it touch the Banking Department of the Bank itself.

I do not imagine that it would touch the Issue Department. I think that the public would be quite satisfied if they obtained bank-notes. Generally nothing is gained by holding the notes of a bank instead of depositing them at a bank. But in the Bank of England there is a great difference: their notes are legal tender. Whoever holds them can always pay his debts, and, except for foreign payments, he could want no more. The rush would be for bank-notes; those that could be obtained would be carried north, south, east, and west, and, as there would not be enough for all the country, the Banking Department would soon pay away all it had.

Nothing, therefore, can be more certain than that the Bank of England has in this respect no peculiar privilege; that it is simply in the position of a Bank keeping the Banking reserve of the country; that it must in time of panic do what all other similar banks must do; that in time of panic it must advance freely and vigorously to the public out of the reserve.

And with the Bank of England, as with other Banks in the same case, these advances, if they are to be made at all, should be made so as if possible to obtain the object for which they are made. The end is to stay the panic; and the advances should, if possible, stay the panic. And for this purpose there are two rules: First. That these loans should only be made at a very high rate of interest. This will operate as a heavy fine on unreasonable timidity, and will prevent the greatest number of applications by persons who do not require it. The rate should be raised early in the panic, so that the fine may be paid early; that no one may borrow out of idle precaution without paying well for it; that the Banking reserve may be protected as far as possible.

Secondly. That at this rate these advances should be made on all good banking securities, and as largely as the public ask for them. The reason is plain. The object is to stay alarm, and nothing therefore should be done to cause alarm. But the way to cause alarm is to refuse some one who has good security to offer. The news of this will spread in an instant through all the money market at a moment of terror; no one can say exactly who carries it, but in half an hour it will be carried on all sides, and will intensify the terror everywhere. No advances indeed need be made by which the Bank will ultimately lose. The amount of bad business in commercial countries is an infinitesimally small fraction of the whole business. That in a panic the bank, or banks, holding the ultimate reserve should refuse bad bills or bad securities will not make the panic really worse; the ‘unsound’ people are a feeble minority, and they are afraid even to look frightened for fear their unsoundness may be detected. The great majority, the majority to be protected, are the ‘sound’ people, the people who have good security to offer. If it is known that the Bank of England is freely advancing on what in ordinary times is reckoned a good security—on what is then commonly pledged and easily convertible—the alarm of the solvent merchants and bankers will be stayed. But if securities, really good and usually convertible, are refused by the Bank, the alarm will not abate, the other loans made will fail in obtaining their end, and the panic will become worse and worse.

It may be said that the reserve in the Banking Department will not be enough for all such loans. If that be so, the Banking Department must fail. But lending is, nevertheless, its best expedient. This is the method of making its money go the farthest, and of enabling it to get through the panic if anything will so enable it. Making no loans as we have seen will ruin it; making large loans and stopping, as we have also seen, will ruin it. The only safe plan for the Bank is the brave plan, to lend in a panic on every kind of current security, or every sort on which money is ordinarily and usually lent. This policy may not save the Bank; but if it do not, nothing will save it.

If we examine the manner in which the Bank of England has fulfilled these duties, we shall find, as we found before, that the true principle has never been grasped; that the policy has been inconsistent; that, though the policy has much improved, there still remain important particulars in which it might be better than it is. The first panic of which it is necessary here to speak, is that of 1825: I hardly think we should derive much instruction from those of 1793 and 1797; the world has changed too much since; and during the long period of inconvertible currency from 1797 to 1819, the problems to be solved were altogether different from our present ones. In the panic of 1825, the Bank of England at first acted as unwisely as it was possible to act. By every means it tried to restrict its advances. The reserve being very small, it endeavoured to protect that reserve by lending as little as possible. The result was a period of frantic and almost inconceivable violence; scarcely any one knew whom to trust; credit was almost suspended; the country was, as Mr. Huskisson expressed it, within twenty-four hours of a state of barter. Applications for assistance were made to the Government, but though it was well known that the Government refused to act, there was not, as far as I know, until lately any authentic narrative of the real facts. In the ‘Correspondence’ of the Duke of Wellington, of all places in the world, there is a full account of them. The Duke was then on a mission at St. Petersburg, and Sir R. Peel wrote to him a letter of which the following is a part: ‘We have been placed in a very unpleasant predicament on the other question—the issue of Exchequer Bills by Government. The feeling of the City, of many of our friends, of some of the Opposition, was decidedly in favour of the issue of Exchequer Bills to relieve the merchants and manufacturers.

‘It was said in favour of the issue, that the same measure had been tried and succeeded in 1793 and 1811. Our friends whispered about that we were acting quite in a different manner from that in which Mr. Pitt did act, and would have acted had he been alive.

‘We felt satisfied that, however plausible were the reasons urged in favour of the issue of Exchequer Bills, yet that the measure was a dangerous one, and ought to be resisted by the Government.

‘There are thirty millions of Exchequer Bills outstanding. The purchases lately made by the Bank can hardly maintain them at par. If there were a new issue to such an amount as that contemplated—viz., five millions—there would be a great danger that the whole mass of Exchequer Bills would be at a discount, and would be paid into the revenue. If the new Exchequer Bills were to be issued at a different rate of interest from the outstanding ones—say bearing an interest of five per cent—the old ones would be immediately at a great discount unless the interest were raised. If the interest were raised, the charge on the revenue would be of course proportionate to the increase of rate of interest. We found that the Bank had the power to lend money on deposit of goods. As our issue of Exchequer Bills would have been useless unless the Bank cashed them, as therefore the intervention of the Bank was in any event absolutely necessary, and as its intervention would be chiefly useful by the effect which it would have in increasing the circulating medium, we advised the Bank to take the whole affair into their own hands at once, to issue their notes on the security of goods, instead of issuing them on Exchequer Bills, such bills being themselves issued on that security.

‘They reluctantly consented, and rescued us from a very embarrassing predicament.’

The success of the Bank of England on this occasion was owing to its complete adoption of right principles. The Bank adopted these principles very late; but when it adopted them it adopted them completely. According to the official statement which I quoted before, ‘we,’ that is, the Bank directors, ‘lent money by every possible means, and in modes which we had never adopted before; we took in stock on security, we purchased Exchequer Bills, we made advances on Exchequer Bills, we not only discounted outright, but we made advances on deposits of bills of Exchange to an immense amount—in short, by every possible means consistent with the safety of the Bank.’ And for the complete and courageous adoption of this policy at the last moment the directors of the Bank of England at that time deserve great praise, for the subject was then less understood even than it is now; but the directors of the Bank deserve also severe censure, for previously choosing a contrary policy; for being reluctant to adopt the new one; and for at last adopting it only at the request of, and upon a joint responsibility with, the Executive Government.

After 1825, there was not again a real panic in the money market till 1847. Both of the crises of 1837 and 1839 were severe, but neither terminated in a panic: both were arrested before the alarm reached its final intensity; in neither, therefore, could the policy of the Bank at the last stage of fear be tested.

In the three panics since 1844—in 1847, 1857, and 1866—the policy of the Bank has been more or less affected by the Act of 1844, and I cannot therefore discuss it fully within the limits which I have pre scribed for myself. I can only state two things: First, that the directors of the Bank above all things maintain, that they have not been in the earlier stage of panic prevented by the Act of 1844 from making any advances which they would otherwise have then made. Secondly, that in the last stage of panic, the Act of 1844 has been already suspended, rightly or wrongly, on these occasions; that no similar occasion has ever yet occurred in which it has not been suspended; and that, rightly or wrongly, the world confidently expects and relies that in all similar cases it will be suspended again. Whatever theory may prescribe, the logic of facts seems peremptory so far. And these principles taken together amount to saying that, by the doctrine of the directors, the Bank of England ought, as far as they can, to manage a panic with the Act of 1844, pretty much as they would manage one without it—in the early stage of the panic because then they are not fettered, and in the latter because then the fetter has been removed.

We can therefore estimate the policy of the Bank of England in the three panics which have happened since the Act of 1844, without inquiring into the effect of the Act itself. It is certain that in all of these panics the Bank has made very large advances indeed. It is certain, too, that in all of them the Bank has been quicker than it was in 1825; that in all of them it has less hesitated to use its banking reserve in making the advances which it is one principal object of maintaining that reserve to make, and to make at once. But there is still a considerable evil. No one knows on what kind of securities the Bank of England will at such periods make the advances which it is necessary to make.

As we have seen, principle requires that such advances, if made at all for the purpose of curing panic, should be made in the manner most likely to cure that panic. And for this purpose, they should be made on everything which in common times is good ‘banking security.’ The evil is, that owing to terror, what is commonly good security has ceased to be so; and the true policy is so to use the Banking reserve, that if possible the temporary evil may be stayed, and the common course of business be restored. And this can only be effected by advancing on all good Banking securities.

Unfortunately, the Bank of England do not take this course. The Discount office is open for the discount of good bills, and makes immense advances accordingly. The Bank also advances on consols and India securities, though there was, in the crisis of 1866, believed to be for a moment a hesitation in so doing. But these are only a small part of the securities on which money in ordinary times can be readily obtained, and by which its repayment is fully secured. Railway debenture stock is as good a security as a commercial bill, and many people, of whom I own I am one, think it safer than India stock; on the whole, a great railway is, we think, less liable to unforeseen accidents than the strange Empire of India. But I doubt if the Bank of England in a panic would advance on railway debenture stock, at any rate no one has any authorised reason for saying that it would. And there are many other such securities.

The amount of the advance is the main consideration for the Bank of England, and not the nature of the security on which the advance is made, always assuming the security to be good. An idea prevails (as I believe) at the Bank of England that they ought not to advance during a panic on any kind of security on which they do not commonly advance. But if bankers for the most part do advance on such security in common times, and if that security is indisputably good, the ordinary practice of the Bank of England is immaterial. In ordinary times the Bank is only one of many lenders, whereas in a panic it is the sole lender, and we want, as far as we can, to bring back the unusual state of a time of panic to the common state of ordinary times.

In common opinion there is always great uncertainty as to the conduct of the Bank: the Bank has never laid down any clear and sound policy on the subject. As we have seen, some of its directors (like Mr. Hankey) advocate an erroneous policy. The public is never sure what policy will be adopted at the most important moment: it is not sure what amount of advance will be made, or on what security it will be made. The best palliative to a panic is a confidence in the adequate amount of the Bank reserve, and in the efficient use of that reserve. And until we have on this point a clear understanding with the Bank of England, both our liability to crises and our terror at crises will always be greater than they would otherwise be.

The Government of the Bank of England.

The Bank of England is governed by a board of directors, a Governor, and a Deputy-Governor; and the mode in which these are chosen, and the time for which they hold office, affect the whole of its business. The board of directors is in fact self-electing. In theory a certain portion go out annually, remain out for a year, and are subject to re-election by the proprietors. But in fact they are nearly always, and always if the other directors wish it, re-elected after a year. Such has been the unbroken practice of many years, and it would be hardly possible now to break it. When a vacancy occurs by death or resignation, the whole board chooses the new member, and they do it, as I am told, with great care. For a peculiar reason, it is important that the directors should be young when they begin; and accordingly the board run over the names of the most attentive and promising young men in the old-established firms of London, and select the one who, they think, will be most suitable for a bank director. There is a considerable ambition to fill the office. The status which is given by it, both to the individual who fills it and to the firm of merchants to which he belongs, is considerable. There is surprisingly little favour shown in the selection; there is a great wish on the part of the Bank directors for the time being to provide, to the best of their ability, for the future good government of the Bank. Very few selections in the world are made with nearly equal purity. There is a sincere desire to do the best for the Bank, and to appoint a well-conducted young man who has begun to attend to business, and who seems likely to be fairly sensible and fairly efficient twenty years later.

The age is a primary matter. The offices of Governor and Deputy-Governor are given in rotation. The Deputy-Governor always succeeds the Governor, and usually the oldest director who has not been in office becomes Deputy-Governor. Sometimes, from personal reasons, such as ill-health or special temporary occupation, the time at which a director becomes Deputy-Governor may be a little deferred, and, in some few cases, merchants in the greatest business have been permitted to decline entirely. But for all general purposes, the rule may be taken as absolute. Save in rare cases, a director must serve his time as Governor and Deputy-Governor nearly when his turn comes, and he will not be asked to serve much before his turn. It is usually about twenty years from the time of a man’s first election that he arrives, as it is called, at the chair. And as the offices of Governor and Deputy-Governor are very important, a man who fills them should be still in the vigour of life. Accordingly, Bank directors, when first chosen by the board, are always young men.

At first this has rather a singular effect; a stranger hardly knows what to make of it. Many years since, I remember seeing a very fresh and nice-looking young gentleman, and being struck with astonishment at being told that he was a director of the Bank of England. I had always imagined such directors to be men of tried sagacity and long experience, and I was amazed that a cheerful young man should be one of them. I believe I thought it was a little dangerous. I thought such young men could not manage the Bank well. I feared they had the power to do mischief.

Further inquiry, however, soon convinced me that they had not the power. Naturally, young men have not much influence at a board where there are many older members. And in the Bank of England there is a special provision for depriving them of it if they get it. Some of the directors, as I have said, retire annually, but by courtesy it is always the young ones. Those who have passed the chair—that is, who have served the office of Governor—always remain. The young part of the board is the fluctuating part, and the old part is the permanent part; and therefore it is not surprising that the young part has little influence. The Bank directors may be blamed for many things, but they cannot be blamed for the changeableness and excitability of a neocracy.

Indeed, still better to prevent it, the elder members of the board—that is, those who have passed the chair—form a standing committee of indefinite powers, which is called the Committee of Treasury. I say ‘indefinite powers,’ for I am not aware that any precise description has ever been given of them, and I doubt if they can be precisely described. They are sometimes said to exercise a particular control over the relations and negotiations between the Bank and the Government. But I confess that I believe that this varies very much with the character of the Governor for the time being. A strong Governor does much mainly upon his own responsibility, and a weak Governor does little. Still the influence of the Committee of Treasury is always considerable, though not always the same. They form a a cabinet of mature, declining, and old men, just close to the executive; and for good or evil such a cabinet must have much power.

By old usage, the directors of the Bank of England cannot be themselves by trade bankers. This is a relic of old times. Every bank was supposed to be necessarily, more or less, in opposition to every other bank—banks in the same place to be especially in opposition. In consequence, in London, no banker has a chance of being a Bank director, or would ever think of attempting to be one. I am here speaking of bankers in the English sense, and in the sense that would surprise a foreigner. One of the Rothschilds is on the Bank direction, and a foreigner would be apt to think that they were bankers if any one was. But this only illustrates the essential difference between our English notions of banking and the continental. Ours have attained a much fuller development than theirs. Messrs. Rothschild are immense capitalists, having, doubtless, much borrowed money in their hands. But they do not take 100 L. payable on demand, and pay it back in cheques of 5 L. each, and that is our English banking. The borrowed money which they have is in large sums, borrowed for terms more or less long. English bankers deal with an aggregate of small sums, all of which are repayable on short notice, or on demand. And the way the two employ their money is different also. A foreigner thinks ‘an Exchange business’—that is, the buying and selling bills on foreign countries—a main part of banking. As I have explained, remittance is one of the subsidiary conveniences which early banks subserve before deposit banking begins. But the mass of English country bankers only give bills on places in England or on London, and in London the principal remittance business has escaped out of the hands of the bankers. Most of them would not know how to carry through a great ‘Exchange operation,’ or to ‘bring home the returns.’ They would as soon think of turning silk merchants. The Exchange trade is carried on by a small and special body of foreign bill-brokers, of whom Messrs. Rothschild are the greatest. One of that firm may, therefore, well be on the Bank direction, notwithstanding the rule forbidding bankers to be there, for he and his family are not English bankers, either by the terms on which they borrow money, or the mode in which they employ it. But as to bankers in the English sense of the word, the rule is rigid and absolute. Not only no private banker is a director of the Bank of England, but no director of any joint stock bank would be allowed to become such. The two situations would be taken to be incompatible.

The mass of the Bank directors are merchants of experience, employing a considerable capital in trades in which they have been brought up, and with which they are well acquainted. Many of them have information as to the present course of trade, and as to the character and wealth of merchants, which is most valuable, or rather is all but invaluable, to the Bank. Many of them, too, are quiet, serious men, who, by habit and nature, watch with some kind of care every kind of business in which they are engaged, and give an anxious opinion on it. Most of them have a good deal of leisure, for the life of a man of business who employs only his own capital, and employs it nearly always in the same way, is by no means fully employed. Hardly any capital is enough to employ the principal partner’s time, and if such a man is very busy, it is a sign of something wrong. Either he is working at detail, which subordinates would do better, and which he had better leave alone, or he is engaged in too many speculations, is incurring more liabilities than his capital will bear, and so may be ruined. In consequence, every commercial city abounds in men who have great business ability and experience, who are not fully occupied, who wish to be occupied, and who are very glad to become directors of public companies in order to be occupied. The direction of the Bank of England has, for many generations, been composed of such men.

Such a government for a joint stock company is very good if its essential nature be attended to, and very bad if that nature be not attended to. That government is composed of men with a high average of general good sense, with an excellent knowledge of business in general, but without any special knowledge of the particular business in which they are engaged. Ordinarily, in joint stock banks and companies this deficiency is cured by the selection of a manager of the company, who has been specially trained to that particular trade, and who engages to devote all his experience and all his ability to the affairs of the company. The directors, and often a select committee of them more especially, consult with the manager, and after hearing what he has to say, decide on the affairs of the company. There is in all ordinary joint stock companies a fixed executive specially skilled, and a somewhat varying council not specially skilled. The fixed manager ensures continuity and experience in the management, and a good board of directors ensures general wisdom.

But in the Bank of England there is no fixed executive. The Governor and Deputy-Governor, who form that executive, change every two years. I believe, indeed, that such was not the original intention of the founders. In the old days of few and great privileged companies, the chairman, though periodically elected, was practically permanent so long as his policy was popular. He was the head of the ministry, and ordinarily did not change unless the opposition came in. But this idea has no present relation to the constitution of the Bank of England. At present, the Governor and Deputy-Governor almost always change at the end of two years; the case of any longer occupation of the chair is so very rare, that it need not be taken account of. And the Governor and Deputy-Governor of the Bank cannot well be shadows. They are expected to be constantly present; to see all applicants for advances out of the ordinary routine; to carry on the almost continuous correspondence between the Bank and its largest customer—the Government; to bring all necessary matters before the board of directors or the Committee of Treasury, in a word, to do very much of what falls to the lot of the manager in most companies. Under this shifting chief executive, there are indeed very valuable heads of departments. The head of the Discount Department is especially required to be a man of ability and experience. But these officers are essentially subordinate; no one of them is like the general manager of an ordinary bank—the head of all action. The perpetually present executive—the Governor and Deputy-Governor—make it impossible that any subordinate should have that position. A really able and active-minded Governor, being required to sit all day in the bank, in fact does, and can hardly help doing, its principal business.

In theory, nothing can be worse than this government for a bank a shifting executive; a board of directors chosen too young for it to be known whether they are able; a committee of management, in which seniority is the necessary qualification, and old age the common result; and no trained bankers anywhere.

Even if the Bank of England were an ordinary bank, such a constitution would be insufficient; but its inadequacy is greater, and the consequences of that inadequacy far worse, because of its greater functions. The Bank of England has to keep the sole banking reserve of the country; has to keep it through all changes of the money market, and all turns of the Exchanges; has to decide on the instant in a panic what sort of advances should be made, to what amounts, and for what dates; and yet it has a constitution plainly defective. So far the government of the Bank of England being better than that of any other bank—as it ought to be, considering that its functions are much harder and graver—any one would be laughed at who proposed it as a model for the government of a new bank; and that government, if it were so proposed, would on all hands be called old-fashioned, and curious.

As was natural, the effects—good and evil—of its constitution are to be seen in every part of the Bank’s history. On one vital point the Bank’s management has been excellent. It has done perhaps less ‘bad business,’ certainly less very bad business, than any bank of the same size and the same age. In all its history I do not know that its name has ever been connected with a single large and discreditable bad debt. There has never been a suspicion that it was ‘worked’ for the benefit of any one man, or any combination of men. The great respectability of the directors, and the steady attention many of them have always given the business of the Bank, have kept it entirely free from anything dishonorable and discreditable. Steady merchants collected in council are an admirable judge of bills and securities. They always know the questionable standing of dangerous persons; they are quick to note the smallest signs of corrupt transactions; and no sophistry will persuade the best of them out of their good instincts. You could not have made the directors of the Bank of England do the sort of business which ‘Overends’ at last did, except by a moral miracle—except by changing their nature. And the fatal career of the Bank of the United States would, under their management, have been equally impossible. Of the ultimate solvency of the Bank of England, or of the eventual safety of its vast capital, even at the worst periods of its history, there has not been the least doubt.

But nevertheless, as we have seen, the policy of the Bank has frequently been deplorable, and at such times the defects of its government have aggravated if not caused its calamities.

In truth the executive of the Bank of England is now much such as the executive of a public department of the Foreign Office or the Home Office would be in which there was no responsible permanent head. In these departments of Government, the actual chief changes nearly, though not quite, as often as the Governor of the Bank of England. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary—the Deputy-Governor, so to speak, of that office—changes nearly as often. And if the administration solely, or in its details, depended on these two, it would stop. New men could not carry it on with vigour and efficiency; indeed they could not carry it on at all. But, in fact, they are assisted by a permanent Under-Secretary, who manages all the routine business, who is the depository of the secrets of the office, who embodies its traditions, who is the hyphen between changing administrations. In consequence of this assistance, the continuous business of the department is, for the most part, managed sufficiently well, notwithstanding frequent changes in the heads of administration. And it is only by such assistance that such business could be so managed. The present administration of the Bank is an attempt to manage a great, a growing, and a permanently continuous business without an adequate permanent element, and a competent connecting link.

In answer, it may be said that the duties which press on the Governor and Deputy-Governor of the Bank are not so great or so urgent as those which press upon the heads of official departments. And perhaps, in point of mere labour, the Governor of the Bank has the advantage. Banking never ought to be an exceedingly laborious trade. There must be a great want of system and a great deficiency in skilled assistance if extreme labour is thrown upon the chief. But in importance, the functions of the head of the Bank rank as high as those of any department. The cash reserve of the country is as precious a deposit as any set of men can have the care of. And the difficulty of dealing with a panic (as the administration of the Bank is forced to deal with it) is perhaps a more formidable instant difficulty than presses upon any single minister. At any rate, it comes more suddenly, and must be dealt with more immediately, than most comparable difficulties; and the judgment, the nerve, and the vigour needful to deal with it are plainly rare and great.

The natural remedy would be to appoint a permanent Governor of the Bank. Nor, as I have said, can there be much doubt that such was the intention of its founders. All the old companies which have their beginning in the seventeenth century had the same constitution, and those of them which have lingered down to our time retain it. The Hudson’s Bay Company, the South Sea Company, the East India Company, were all founded with a sort of sovereign executive, intended to be permanent, and intended to be efficient. This is, indeed, the most natural mode of forming a company in the minds of those to whom companies are new. Such persons will have always seen business transacted a good deal despotically; they will have learnt the value of prompt decision and of consistent policy; they will have often seen that business is best managed when those who are conducting it could scarcely justify the course they are pursuing by distinct argument which others could understand. All ‘city’ people make their money by investments, for which there are often good argumentative reasons; but they would hardly ever be able, if required before a Parliamentary committee, to state those reasons. They have become used to act on them without distinctly analysing them, and, in a monarchical way, with continued success only as a test of their goodness. Naturally such persons, when proceeding to form a company, make it upon the model of that which they have been used to see successful. They provide for the executive first and above all things. How much this was in the minds of the founders of the Bank of England may be judged of by the name which they gave it. Its corporate name is the ‘Governor and Company of the Bank of England.’ So important did the founders think the executive that they mentioned it distinctly, and mentioned it first.

And not only is this constitution of a company the most natural in the early days when companies were new, it is also that which experience has shown to be the most efficient now that companies have long been tried. Great railway companies are managed upon no other. Scarcely any instance of great success in a railway can be mentioned in which the chairman has not been an active and judicious man of business, constantly attending to the affairs of the company. A thousand instances of railway disaster can be easily found in which the chairman was only a nominal head—a nobleman, or something of that sort—chosen for show. ‘Railway chairmanship’ has become a profession, so much is efficiency valued in it, and so indispensable has ability been found to be. The plan of appointing a permanent ‘chairman’ at the Bank of England is strongly supported by much modern experience.

Nevertheless, I hesitate as to its expediency; at any rate, there are other plans which, for several reasons, should, I think, first be tried in preference.

First. This plan would be exceedingly unpopular. A permanent Governor of the Bank of England would be one of the greatest men in England. He would be a little ‘monarch’ in the City; he would be far greater than the ‘Lord Mayor.’ He would be the personal embodiment of the Bank of England; he would be constantly clothed with an almost indefinite prestige. Everybody in business would bow down before him and try to stand well with him, for he might in a panic be able to save almost anyone he liked, and to ruin almost anyone he liked. A day might come when his favour might mean prosperity, and his distrust might mean ruin. A position with so much real power and so much apparent dignity would be intensely coveted. Practical men would be apt to say that it was better than the Prime Ministership, for it would last much longer, and would have a greater jurisdiction over that which practical men would most value, over money. At all events, such a Governor, if he understood his business, might make the fortunes of fifty men where the Prime Minister can make that of one. Scarcely anything could be more unpopular in the City than the appointment of a little king to reign over them.

Secondly. I do not believe that we should always get the best man for the post; often I fear that we should not even get a tolerable man. There are many cases in which the offer of too high a pay would prevent our obtaining the man we wish for, and this is one of them. A very high pay of prestige is almost always very dangerous. It causes the post to be desired by vain men, by lazy men, by men of rank; and when that post is one of real and technical business, and when, therefore, it requires much previous training, much continuous labour, and much patient and quick judgment, all such men are dangerous. But they are sure to covet all posts of splendid dignity, and can only be kept out of them with the greatest difficulty. Probably, in every Cabinet there are still some members (in the days of the old close boroughs there were many) whose posts have come to them not from personal ability or inherent merit, but from their rank, their wealth, or even their imposing exterior. The highest political offices are, indeed, kept clear of such people, for in them serious and important duties must constantly be performed in the face of the world. A Prime Minister, or a Chancellor of the Exchequer, or a Secretary of State must explain his policy and defend his actions in Parliament, and the discriminating tact of a critical assembly—abounding in experience, and guided by tradition—will soon discover what he is. But the Governor of the Bank would only perform quiet functions, which look like routine, though they are not, in which there is no immediate risk of success or failure; which years hence may indeed issue in a crop of bad debts, but which any grave persons may make at the time to look fair and plausible. A large Bank is exactly the place where a vain and shallow person in authority, if he be a man of gravity and method, as such men often are, may do infinite evil in no long time, and before he is detected. If he is lucky enough to begin at a time of expansion in trade, he is nearly sure not to be found out till the time of contraction has arrived, and then very large figures will be required to reckon the evil he has done.

And thirdly, I fear that the possession of such patronage would ruin any set of persons in whose gift it was. The election of the Chairman must be placed either in the court of proprietors or that of the directors. If the proprietors choose, there will be something like the evils of an American presidential election. Bank stock will be bought in order to confer the qualification of voting at the election of the ‘chief of the City.’ The Chairman, when elected, may well find that his most active supporters are large borrowers of the Bank, and he may well be puzzled to decide between his duty to the Bank and his gratitude to those who chose him. Probably, if he be a cautious man of average ability, he will combine both evils; he will not lend so much money as he is asked for, and so will offend his own supporters; but will lend some which will be lost, and so the profits of the Bank will be reduced. A large body of Bank proprietors would make but a bad elective body for an office of great prestige; they would not commonly choose a good person, and the person they did choose would be bound by promises that would make him less good.

The court of directors would choose better; a small body of men of business would not easily be persuaded to choose an extremely unfit man. But they would not often choose an extremely good man. The really best man would probably not be so rich as the majority of the directors, nor of so much standing, and not unnaturally they would much dislike to elevate to the headship of the City, one who was much less in the estimation of the City than themselves. And they would be canvassed in every way and on every side to appoint a man of mercantile dignity or mercantile influence. Many people of the greatest prestige and rank in the City would covet so great a dignity; if not for themselves, at least for some friend, or some relative, and so the directors would be set upon from every side.

An election so liable to be disturbed by powerful vitiating causes would rarely end in a good choice. The best candidate would almost never be chosen; often, I fear, one would be chosen altogether unfit for a post so important. And the excitement of so keen an election would altogether disturb the quiet of the Bank. The good and efficient working of a board of Bank directors depends on its internal harmony, and that harmony would be broken for ever by the excitement, the sayings, and the acts of a great election. The board of directors would almost certainly be demoralised by having to choose a sovereign, and there is no certainty, nor any great likelihood, indeed, that they would choose a good one. In France the difficulty of finding a good body to choose the Governor of the Bank has been met characteristically. The Bank of France keeps the money of the State, and the State appoints its governor. The French have generally a logical reason to give for all they do, though perhaps the results of their actions are not always so good as the reasons for them. The Governor of the Bank of France has not always, I am told, been a very competent person; the Sub-Governor, whom the State also appoints, is, as we might expect, usually better. But for our English purposes it would be useless to inquire minutely into this. No English statesman would consent to be responsible for the choice of the Governor of the Bank of England. After every panic, the Opposition would say in Parliament that the calamity had been ‘grievously aggravated,’ if not wholly caused, by the ‘gross misconduct’ of the Governor appointed by the ministry. Or, possibly, offices may have changed occupants and the ministry in power at the panic would be the opponents of the ministry which at a former time appointed the Governor. In that case they would be apt to feel, and to intimate, a ‘grave regret’ at the course which the nominee of their adversaries had ‘thought it desirable to pursue.’ They would not much mind hurting his feelings, and if he resigned they would have themselves a valuable piece of patronage to confer on one of their own friends. No result could be worse than that the conduct of the Bank and the management should be made a matter of party politics, and men of all parties would agree in this, even if they agreed in almost nothing else.

I am therefore afraid that we must abandon the plan of improving the government of the Bank of England by the appointment of a permanent Governor, because we should not be sure of choosing a good governor, and should indeed run a great risk, for the most part, of choosing a bad one.

I think, however, that much of the advantage, with little of the risk, might be secured by a humbler scheme. In English political offices, as was observed before, the evil of a changing head is made possible by the permanence of a dignified subordinate. Though the Parliamentary Secretary of State and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary go in and out with each administration, another Under-Secretary remains through all such changes, and is on that account called ‘permanent.’ Now this system seems to me in its principle perfectly applicable to the administration of the Bank of England. For the reasons which have just been given, a permanent ruler of the Bank of England cannot be appointed; for other reasons, which were just before given, some most influential permanent functionary is essential in the proper conduct of the business of the Bank; and, mutatis mutandis, these are the very difficulties, and the very advantages which have led us to frame our principal offices of state in the present fashion.

Such a Deputy-Governor would not be at all a ‘king’ in the City. There would be no mischievous prestige about the office; there would be no attraction in it for a vain man; and there would be nothing to make it an object of a violent canvass or of unscrupulous electioneering. The office would be essentially subordinate in its character, just like the permanent secretary in a political office. The pay should be high, for good ability is wanted—but no pay would attract the most dangerous class of people. The very influential, but not very wise, City dignitary who would be so very dangerous is usually very opulent; he would hardly have such influence he were not opulent: what he wants is not money, but ‘position.’ A Governorship of the Bank of England he would take almost without salary; perhaps he would even pay to get it: but a minor office of essential subordination would not attract him at all. We may augment the pay enough to get a good man, without fearing that by such pay we may tempt—as by social privilege we should tempt—exactly the sort of man we do not want.

Undoubtedly such a permanent official should be a trained banker. There is a cardinal difference between banking and other kinds of commerce; you can afford to run much less risk in banking than in commerce, and you must take much greater precautions. In common business, the trader can add to the cost price of the goods he sells a large mercantile profit, say 10 to 15 per cent; but the banker has to be content with the interest of money, which in England is not so much as per cent upon the average. The business of a banker therefore cannot bear so many bad debts as that of a merchant, and he must be much more cautious to whom he gives credit. Real money is a commodity much more coveted than common goods: for one deceit which is attempted on a manufacturer or a merchant, twenty or more are attempted on a banker. And besides, a banker, dealing with the money of others, and money payable on demand, must be always, as it were, looking behind him and seeing that he has reserve enough in store if payment should be asked for, which a merchant dealing mostly with his own capital need not think of. Adventure is the life of commerce, but caution, I had almost said timidity, is the life of banking; and I cannot imagine that the long series of great errors made by the Bank of England in the management of its reserve till after 1857, would have been possible if the merchants in the Bank court had not erroneously taken the same view of the Bank’s business that they must properly take of their own mercantile business. The Bank directors have almost always been too cheerful as to the Bank’s business, and too little disposed to take alarm. What we want to introduce into the Bank court is a wise apprehensiveness, and this every trained banker is taught by the habits of his trade, and the atmosphere of his life.

The permanent Governor ought to give his whole time to the business of the Bank. He ought to be forbidden to engage in any other concern. All the present directors, including the Governor and Deputy-Governor, are engaged in their own business, and it is very possible, indeed it must perpetually have happened, that their own business as merchants most occupied the minds of most of them just when it was most important that the business of the Bank should occupy them. It is at a panic and just before a panic that the business of the Bank is most exacting and most engrossing. But just at that time the business of most merchants must be unusually occupying and may be exceedingly critical. By the present constitution of the Bank, the attention of its sole rulers is most apt to be diverted from the Bank’s affairs just when those affairs require that attention the most. And the only remedy is the appointment of a permanent and influential man, who will have no business save that of the Bank, and who therefore presumably will attend most to it at the critical instant when attention is most required. His mind, at any rate, will in a panic be free from pecuniary anxiety, whereas many, if not all, of the present directors must be incessantly thinking of their own affairs and unable to banish them from their minds.

The permanent Deputy-Governor must be a director and a man of fair position. He must not have to say ‘Sir’ to the Governor. There is no fair argument between an inferior who has to exhibit respect and a superior who has to receive respect. The superior can always, and does mostly, refute the bad arguments of his inferior; but the inferior rarely ventures to try to refute the bad arguments of his superior. And he still more rarely states his case effectually; he pauses, hesitates, does not use the best word or the most apt illustration, perhaps he uses a faulty illustration or a wrong word, and so fails because the superior immediately exposes him. Important business can only be sufficiently discussed by persons who can say very much what they like very much as they like to one another. The thought of the speaker should come out as it was in his mind, and not be hidden in respectful expressions or enfeebled by affected doubt. What is wanted at the Bank is not a new clerk to the directors—they have excellent clerks of great experience now—but a permanent equal to the directors, who shall be able to discuss on equal terms with them the business of the Bank, and have this advantage over them in discussion, that he has no other business than that of the Bank to think of.

The formal duties of such a permanent officer could only be defined by some one conversant with the business of the Bank, and could scarcely be intelligibly discussed before the public. Nor are the precise duties of the least importance. Such an officer, if sound, able, and industrious, would soon rule the affairs of the Bank. He would be acquainted better than anyone else, both with the traditions of the past and with the facts of the present; he would have a great experience; he would have seen many anxious times; he would always be on the watch for their recurrence. And he would have a peculiar power of guidance at such moments from the nature of the men with whom he has most to deal. Most Governors of the Bank of England are cautious merchants, not profoundly skilled in banking, but most anxious that their period of office should be prosperous and that they should themselves escape censure. If a ‘safe’ course is pressed upon them they are likely to take that course. Now it would almost always be ‘safe’ to follow the advice of the great standing ‘authority’; it would always be most ‘unsafe’ not to follow it. If the changing Governor act on the advice of the permanent Deputy-Governor, most of the blame in case of mischance would fall on the latter; it would be said that a shifting officer like the Governor might very likely not know what should be done, but that the permanent official was put there to know it and paid to know it. But if, on the other hand, the changing Governor should disregard the advice of his permanent colleague, and the consequence should be bad, he would be blamed exceedingly. It would be said that, ‘being without experience, he had taken upon him to overrule men who had much experience; that when the constitution of the Bank had provided them with skilled counsel, he had taken on himself to act of his own head, and to disregard that counsel;’ and so on ad infinitum. And there could be no sort of conversation more injurious to a man in the City; the world there would say, rightly or wrongly, ‘We must never be too severe on errors of judgment; we are all making them every day; if responsible persons do their best we can expect no more. But this case is different: the Governor acted on a wrong system; he took upon himself an unnecessary responsibility:’ and so a Governor who incurred disaster by disregarding his skilled counsellor would be thought a fool in the City for ever. In consequence, the one skilled counsellor would in fact rule the Bank. I believe that the appointment of the new permanent and skilled authority at the Bank is the greatest reform which can be made there, and that which is most wanted. I believe that such a person would give to the decision of the Bank that foresight, that quickness, and that consistency in which those decisions are undeniably now deficient. As far as I can judge, this change in the constitution of the Bank is by far the most necessary, and is perhaps more important even than all other changes. But, nevertheless, we should reform the other points which we have seen to be defective.

First, the London bankers should not be altogether excluded from the court of directors. The old idea, as I have explained, was that the London bankers were the competitors of the Bank of England, and would hurt it if they could. But now the London bankers have another relation to the Bank which did not then exist, and was not then imagined. Among private people they are the principal depositors in the Bank; they are therefore particularly interested in its stability; they are especially interested in the maintenance of a good banking reserve, for their own credit and the safety of their large deposits depend on it. And they can bring to the court of directors an experience of banking itself, got outside the Bank of England, which none of the present directors possess, for they have learned all they know of banking at the Bank itself. There was also an old notion that the secrets of the Bank would be divulged if they were imparted to bankers. But probably bankers are better trained to silence and secrecy than most people. And there is only a thin partition now between the bankers and the secrets of the Bank. Only lately a firm failed of which one partner was a director of the London and Westminster Bank, and another a director of the Bank of England. Who can define or class the confidential communications of such persons under such circumstances?

As I observed before, the line drawn at present against bankers is very technical and exclusively English. According to continental ideas, Messrs. Rothschild are bankers, if any one is a banker. But the house of Rothschild is represented on the Bank direction. And it is most desirable that it should be represented, for members of that firm can give if they choose confidential information of great value to the Bank. But, nevertheless, the objection which is urged against English bankers is at least equally applicable to these foreign bankers. They have, or may have, at certain periods an interest opposite to the policy of the Bank. As the greatest Exchange dealers, they may wish to export gold just when the Bank of England is raising its rate of interest to prevent anyone from exporting gold. The vote of a great Exchange dealer might be objected to for plausible reasons of contrary interest, if any such reasons were worth regarding. But in fact the particular interest of single directors is not to be regarded; almost all directors who bring special information labour under a suspicion of interest; they can only have acquired that information in present business, and such business may very possibly be affected for good or evil by the policy of the Bank. But you must not on this account seal up the Bank hermetically against living information; you must make a fair body of directors upon the whole, and trust that the bias of some individual interests will disappear and be lost in the whole. And if this is to be the guiding principle, it is not consistent to exclude English bankers from the court.

Objection is often also taken to the constitution of the Committee of Treasury. That body is composed of the Governor and Deputy-Governor and all the directors who have held those offices; but as those offices in the main pass in rotation, this mode of election very much comes to an election by seniority, and there are obvious objections to giving, not only a preponderance to age, but a monopoly to age. In some cases, indeed, this monopoly I believe has already been infringed. When directors have on account of the magnitude of their transactions, and the consequent engrossing nature of their business, declined to fill the chair, in some cases they have been asked to be members of the Committee of Treasury notwithstanding. And it would certainly upon principle seem wiser to choose a committee which for some purposes approximates to a committee of management by competence rather than by seniority.

An objection is also taken to the large number of Bank directors. There are twenty-four directors, a Governor and a Deputy-Governor, making a total court of twenty-six persons, which is obviously too large for the real discussion of any difficult business. And the case is worse because the court only meets once a week, and only sits a very short time. It has been said, with exaggeration, but not without a basis of truth, that if the Bank directors were to sit for four hours, there would be ‘a panic solely from that.’ ‘The court,’ says Mr. Tooke, ‘meets at half-past eleven or twelve; and, if the sitting be prolonged beyond half-past one, the Stock Exchange and the money market become excited, under the idea that a change of importance is under discussion; and persons congregate about the doors of the Bank parlour to obtain the earliest intimation of the decision.’ And he proceeds to conjecture that the knowledge of the impatience without must cause haste, if not impatience, within. That the decisions of such a court should be of incalculable importance is plainly very strange.

There should be no delicacy as to altering the constitution of the Bank of England. The existing constitution was framed in times that have passed away, and was intended to be used for purposes very different from the present. The founders may have considered that it would lend money to the Government, that it would keep the money of the Government, that it would issue notes payable to bearer, but that it would keep the ‘Banking reserve’ of a great nation no one in the seventeenth century imagined. And when the use to which we are putting an old thing is a new use, in common sense we should think whether the old thing is quite fit for the use to which we are setting it. ‘Putting new wine into old bottles’ is safe only when you watch the condition of the bottle, and adapt its structure most carefully.

The Joint Stock Banks.

The Joint Stock Banks of this country are a most remarkable success. Generally speaking the career of Joint Stock Companies in this country has been chequered. Adam Smith, many years since, threw out many pregnant hints on the difficulty of such undertakings—hints which even after so many years will well repay perusal. But joint stock banking has been an exception to this rule. Four years ago I threw together the facts on the subject and the reasons for them; and I venture to quote the article, because subsequent experience suggests, I think, little to be added to it.

‘The main classes of joint stock companies which have answered are three:—1st. Those in which the capital is used not to work the business but to guarantee the business. Thus a banker’s business—his proper business—does not begin while he is using his own money: it commences when he begins to use the capital of others. An insurance office in the long run needs no capital; the premiums which are received ought to exceed the claims which accrue. In both cases, the capital is wanted to assure the public and to induce it to trust the concern. 2ndly. Those companies have answered which have an exclusive privilege which they have used with judgment, or which possibly was so very profitable as to enable them to thrive with little judgment. 3rdly. Those which have undertaken a business both large and simple—employing more money than most individuals or private firms have at command, and yet such that, in Adam Smith’s words, “the operations are capable of being reduced to a routine or such an uniformity of method as admits of no variation.”

‘As a rule, the most profitable of these companies are banks. Indeed, all the favouring conditions just mentioned concur in many banks. An old-established bank has a “prestige,” which amounts to a “privileged opportunity”; though no exclusive right is given to it by law, a peculiar power is given to it by opinion. The business of banking ought to be simple; if it is hard it is wrong. The only securities which a banker, using money that he may be asked at short notice to repay, ought to touch, are those which are easily saleable and easily intelligible. If there is a difficulty or a doubt, the security should be declined. No business can of course be quite reduced to fixed rules. There must be occasional cases which no pre-conceived theory can define. But banking comes as near to fixed rules certainly as any existing business, perhaps as any possible business. The business of an old-established bank has the full advantage of being a simple business, and in part the advantage of being a monopoly business. Competition with it is only open in the sense in which competition with “the London Tavern” is open; anyone that has to do with either will pay dear for it.

‘But the main source of the profitableness of established banking is the smallness of the requisite capital. Being only wanted as a “moral influence,” it need not be more than is necessary to secure that influence. Although, therefore, a banker deals only with the most sure securities, and with those which yield the least interest, he can nevertheless gain and divide a very large profit upon his own capital, because the money in his hands is so much larger than that capital.

‘Experience, as shown by plain figures, confirms these conclusions. We print at the end of this article the respective profits of 110 banks in England, and Scotland, and Ireland, being all in those countries of which we have sufficient information—the Bank of England excepted. There are no doubt others, but they are not quoted even on local Stock Exchange lists, and in most cases publish no reports. The result of these banks, as regards the dividends they pay, is—

No. of Companies Capital
Above 20 per cent 15 5,302,767
Between 15 and 20 per cent 20 5,439,439
” 10 and 15 per cent 36 14,056,950
” 5 and 10 per cent 36 14,182,379
Under 5 per cent 3 1,350,000
110 40,331,535
that is to say, above 25 per cent of the capital employed in these banks pays over 15 per cent, and 62 1/2 per cent of the capital pays more than 10 per cent. So striking a result is not to be shown in any other joint stock trade.

‘The period to which these accounts refer was certainly not a particularly profitable one—on the contrary, it has been specially unprofitable. The rate of interest has been very low, and the amount of good security in the market small. Many banks—to some extent most banks—probably had in their books painful reminiscences of 1866. The fever of excitement which passed over the nation was strongest in the classes to whom banks lent most, and consequently the losses of even the most careful banks (save of those in rural and sheltered situations) were probably greater than usual. But even tried by this very unfavourable test banking is a trade profitable far beyond the average of trades.

‘There is no attempt in these banks on the whole and as a rule to divide too much—on the contrary, they have accumulated about 13,000,000 L., or nearly 1/3 rd of their capital, principally out of undivided profits. The directors of some of them have been anxious to put away as much as possible and to divide as little as possible.

‘The reason is plain; out of the banks which pay more than 20 per cent, all but one were old-established banks, and all those paying between 15 and 20 per cent were old banks too. The “privileged opportunity” of which we spoke is singularly conspicuous in such figures; it enables banks to pay much, which without it would not have paid much. The amount of the profit is clearly proportional to the value of the “privileged opportunity.” All the banks which pay above 20 per cent, save one, are banks more than 25 years old; all those which pay between 15 and 20 are so too. A new bank could not make these profits, or even by its competition much reduce these profits; in attempting to do so, it would simply ruin itself. Not possessing the accumulated credit of years, it would have to wind up before it attained that credit.

‘The value of the opportunity too is proportioned to what has to be paid for it. Some old banks have to pay interest for all their money; some have much for which they pay nothing. Those who give much to their customers have of course less left for their shareholders. Thus Scotland, where there is always a daily interest, has no bank in the lists paying over 15 per cent. The profits of Scotch banks run thus:

Capital Dividend
Bank of Scotland 1,500,000 12
British Linen Company 1,000,000 3
Caledonian 125,000 10
Clydesdale 900,000 10
Commercial Bank of Scotland 1,000,000 13
National Bank of Scotland 1,000,000 112
North of Scotland 280,000 10
Union Bank of Scotland 1,000,000 10
City of Glasgow 870,000 8
Royal Bank 2,000,000 8
Good profits enough, but not at all like the profits of the London and Westminster, or the other most lucrative banks of the South.

‘The Bank of England, it is true, does not seem to pay so much as other English banks in this way of reckoning. It makes an immense profit, but then its capital is immense too. In fact, the Bank of England suffers under two difficulties. Being much older than the other joint stock banks, it belongs to a less profitable era. When it was founded, banks looked rather to the profit on their own capital, and to the gains of note issue than to the use of deposits. The first relations with the State were more like those of a finance company than of a bank, as we now think of banking. If the Bank had not made loans to the Government, which we should now think dubious, the Bank would not have existed, for the Government would never have permitted it. Not only is the capital of the Bank of England relatively greater, but the means of making profit in the Bank of England are relatively less also. By custom and understanding the Bank of England keep a much greater reserve in unprofitable cash than other banks; if they do not keep it, either our whole system must be changed or we should break up in utter bankruptcy. The earning faculty of the Bank of England is in proportion less than that of other banks, and also the sum on which it has to pay dividend is altogether greater than theirs.

‘It is interesting to compare the facts of joint stock banking with the fears of it which were felt. In 1832, Lord Overstone observed: “I think that joint stock banks are deficient in everything requisite for the conduct of the banking business except extended responsibility; the banking business requires peculiarly persons attentive to all its details, constantly, daily, and hourly watchful of every transaction, much more than mercantile or trading business. It also requires immediate prompt decisions upon circumstances when they arise, in many cases a decision that does not admit of delay for consultation; it also requires a discretion to be exercised with reference to the special circumstances of each case. Joint stock banks being of course obliged to act through agents and not by a principal, and therefore under the restraint of general rules, cannot be guided by so nice a reference to degrees of difference in the character of responsibility of parties; nor can they undertake to regulate the assistance to be granted to concerns under temporary embarrassment by so accurate a reference to the circumstances, favourable or unfavourable, of each case.”

‘But in this very respect, joint stock banks have probably improved the business of banking. The old private banks in former times used to lend much to private individuals; the banker, as Lord Overstone on another occasion explained, could have no security, but he formed his judgment of the discretion, the sense, and the solvency of those to whom he lent. And when London was by comparison a small city, and when by comparison everyone stuck to his proper business, this practice might have been safe. But now that London is enormous and that no one can watch anyone, such a trade would be disastrous; at present, it would hardly be safe in a country town. The joint stock banks were quite unfit for the business Lord Overstone meant, but then that business is quite unfit for the present time.

This success of Joint Stock Banking is very contrary to the general expectation at its origin. Not only private bankers, such as Lord Overstone then was, but a great number of thinking persons feared that the joint stock banks would fast ruin themselves, and then cause a collapse and panic in the country. The whole of English commercial literature between 1830 and 1840 is filled with that idea. Nor did it cease in 1840. So late as 1845, Sir R. Peel thought the foundation of joint stock banks so dangerous that he subjected it to grave and exceptional difficulty. Under the Act of 1845, which he proposed, no such companies could be founded except with shares of 100 L. with 50 L.; paid up on each; which effectually checked the progress of such banks, for few new ones were established for many years, or till that act had been repealed. But in this, as in many other cases, perhaps Sir R. Peel will be found to have been clear-sighted rather than far-sighted. He was afraid of certain joint stock banks which he saw rising around him; but the effect of his legislation was to give to these very banks, if not a monopoly, at any rate an exemption from new rivals. No one now founds or can found a new private bank, and Sir R. Peel by law prevented new joint stock banks from being established. Though he was exceedingly distrustful of the joint stock banks founded between 1826 and 1845, yet in fact he was their especial patron, and he more than any other man encouraged and protected them.

But in this wonderful success there are two dubious points, two considerations of different kinds, which forbid us to say that in other countries, even in countries with the capacity of co-operation, joint stock banks would succeed as well as we have seen that they succeed in England. 1st. These great Banks have not had to keep so large a reserve against their liabilities as it was natural that they should, being of first-rate magnitude, keep. They were at first, of course, very small in comparison with what they are now. They found a number of private bankers grouped round the Bank of England, and they added themselves to the group. Not only did they keep their reserve from the beginning at the Bank of England, but they did not keep so much reserve as they would have kept if there had been no Bank of England. For a long time this was hardly noticed. For many years questions of the ‘currency,’ particularly questions as to the Act of 1844, engrossed the attention of all who were occupied with these subjects. Even those who were most anxious to speak evil of joint stock banks, did not mention this particular evil. The first time, as far as I know, that it was commented on in any important document, was in an official letter written in 1857 by Mr. Weguelin, who was then Governor of the Bank, to Sir George Lewis, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Governor and the Directors of the Bank of England had been asked by Sir George Lewis severally to give their opinions on the Act of 1844, and all their replies were published. In his, Mr. Weguelin says:

‘If the amount of the reserve kept by the Bank of England be contrasted with the reserve kept by the joint stock banks, a new and hitherto little considered source of danger to the credit of the country will present itself. The joint stock banks of London, judging by their published accounts, have deposits to the amount of 30,000,000 L. Their capital is not more than 3,000,000 L., and they have on an average 31,000,000 L., invested in one way or another, leaving only 2,000,000 L. as a reserve against all this mass of liabilities.’

But these remarkable words were little observed in the discussions of that time. The air was obscured by other matters. But in this work I have said so much on the subject that I need say little now. The joint stock banks now keep a main part of their reserve on deposit with the bill-brokers, or in good and convertible interest-bearing securities. From these they obtain a large income, and that income swells their profits. If they had to keep a much larger part than now of that reserve in barren cash, their dividends would be reduced, and their present success would become less conspicuous.

The second misgiving, which many calm observers more and more feel as to our largest joint stock banks, fastens itself on their government. Is that government sufficient to lend well and keep safe so many millions? They are governed, as every one knows, by a board of directors, assisted by a general manager, and there are in London unrivalled materials for composing good boards of directors. There are very many men of good means, of great sagacity and great experience in business, who are obliged to be in the City every day, and to remain there during the day, but who have very much time on their hands. A merchant employing solely or principally his own capital has often a great deal of leisure. He is obliged to be on the market, and to hear what is doing. Every day he has some business to transact, but his transactions can be but few. His capital can bear only a limited number of purchases; if he bought as much as would fill his time from day to day he would soon be ruined, for he could not pay for it. Accordingly, many excellent men of business are quite ready to become members of boards of directors, and to attend to the business of companies, a good deal for the employment’s sake. To have an interesting occupation which brings dignity and power with it pleases them very much. As the aggregation of commerce in great cities grows, the number of such men augments. A council of grave, careful, and experienced men can, without difficulty, be collected for a great bank in London, such as never could have been collected before, and such as cannot now be collected elsewhere.

There are facilities, too, for engaging a good banker to be a manager such as there never were before in the world. The number of such persons is much on the increase. Any careful person who is experienced in figures, and has real sound sense, may easily make himself a good banker. The modes in which money can be safely lent by a banker are not many, and a clear-headed, quiet, industrious person may soon learn all that is necessary about them. Our intricate law of real property is an impediment in country banking, for it requires some special study even to comprehend the elements of a law which is full of technical words, and which can only be explained by narrating its history. But the banking of great cities is little concerned with loans on landed property. And all the rest of the knowledge requisite for a banker can easily be obtained by anyone who has the sort of mind which takes to it. No doubt there is a vast routine of work to be learned, and the manager of a large bank must have a great facility in transacting business rapidly. But a great number of persons are now bred from their earliest manhood in the very midst of that routine; they learn it as they would learn a language, and come to be no more able to unlearn it than they could unlearn a language. And the able ones among them acquire an almost magical rapidity in effecting the business connected with that routine. A very good manager and very good board of directors can, without unreasonable difficulty, be provided for a bank at present in London.

It will be asked, what more can be required? I reply, a great deal. All which the best board of directors can really accomplish, is to form a good decision on the points which the manager presents to them, and perhaps on a few others which one or two zealous members of their body may select for discussion. A meeting of fifteen or eighteen persons is wholly unequal to the transaction of more business than this; it will be fortunate, and it must be well guided, if it should be found to be equal to so much. The discussion even of simple practical points by such a number of persons is a somewhat tedious affair. Many of them will wish to speak on every decision of moment, and some of them—some of the best of them perhaps—will only speak with difficulty and slowly. Very generally, several points will be started at once, unless the discussion is strictly watched by a rigid chairman; and even on a single point the arguments will often raise grave questions which cannot be answered, and suggest many more issues than can be advantageously decided by the meeting. The time required by many persons for discussing many questions, would alone prevent an assembly of many persons from overlooking a large and complicated business.

Nor is this the only difficulty. Not only would a real supervision of a large business by a board of directors require much more time than the board would consent to occupy in meeting, it would also require much more time and much more thought than the individual directors would consent to give. These directors are only employing on the business of the Bank the vacant moments of their time, and the spare energies of their minds. They cannot give the Bank more; the rest is required for the safe conduct of their own affairs, and if they diverted it from these affairs they would be ruined. A few of them may have little other business, or they may have other partners in the business, on whose industry they can rely, and whose judgment they can trust; one or two may have retired from business. But for the most part, directors of a company cannot attend principally and anxiously to the affairs of a company without so far neglecting their own business as to run great risk of ruin; and if they are ruined, their trustworthiness ceases, and they are no longer permitted by custom to be directors.

Nor, even if it were possible really to supervise a business by the effectual and constant inspection of fifteen or sixteen rich and capable persons, would even the largest business easily bear the expense of such a supervision. I say rich, because the members of a board governing a large bank must be men of standing and note besides, or they would discredit the bank; they need not be rich in the sense of being worth millions, but they must be known to possess a fair amount of capital and be seen to be transacting a fair quantity of business. But the labour of such persons, I do not say their spare powers, but their principal energies, fetches a high price. Business is really a profession often requiring for its practice quite as much knowledge, and quite as much skill, as law and medicine; and requiring also the possession of money. A thorough man of business, employing a fair capital in a trade, which he thoroughly comprehends, not only earns a profit on that capital, but really makes of his professional skill a large income. He has a revenue from talent as well as from money; and to induce sixteen or eighteen persons to abandon such a position and such an income in order to devote their entire attention to the affairs of a joint stock company, a salary must be given too large for the bank to pay or for anyone to wish to propose.

And an effectual supervision by the whole board being impossible, there is a great risk that the whole business may fall to the general manager. Many unhappy cases have proved this to be very dangerous. Even when the business of joint stock banks was far less, and when the deposits entrusted to them were very much smaller, a manager sometimes committed frauds which were dangerous, and still oftener made mistakes that were ruinous. Actual crime will always be rare; but, as an uninspected manager of a great bank has the control of untold millions, sometimes we must expect to see it: the magnitude of the temptation will occasionally prevail over the feebleness of human nature. But error is far more formidable than fraud: the mistakes of a sanguine manager are, far more to be dreaded than the theft of a dishonest manager. Easy misconception is far more common than long-sighted deceit. And the losses to which an adventurous and plausible manager, in complete good faith, would readily commit a bank, are beyond comparison greater than any which a fraudulent manager would be able to conceal, even with the utmost ingenuity. If the losses by mistake in banking and the losses by fraud were put side by side, those by mistake would be incomparably the greater. There is no more unsafe government for a bank than that of an eager and active manager, subject only to the supervision of a numerous board of directors, even though that board be excellent, for the manager may easily glide into dangerous and insecure transactions, nor can the board effectually check him.

The remedy is this: a certain number of the directors, either those who have more spare time than others, or those who are more ready to sell a large part of their time to the bank, must be formed into a real working committee, which must meet constantly, must investigate every large transaction, must be acquainted with the means and standing of every large borrower, and must be in such incessant communication with the manager that it will be impossible for him to engage in hazardous enterprises of dangerous magnitude without their knowing it and having an opportunity of forbidding it. In almost all cases they would forbid it; all committees are cautious, and a committee of careful men of business, picked from a large city, will usually err on the side of caution if it err at all. The daily attention of a small but competent minor council, to whom most of the powers of the directors are delegated, and who, like a cabinet, guide the deliberations of the board at its meetings, is the only adequate security of a large bank from the rash engagements of a despotic and active general manager. Fraud, in the face of such a committee, would probably never be attempted, and even now it is a rare and minor evil.

Some such committees are vaguely known to exist in most, if not all, our large joint stock banks. But their real constitution is not known. No customer and no shareholder knows the names of the managing committee, perhaps, in any of these large banks. And this is a grave error. A large depositor ought to be able to ascertain who really are the persons that dispose of his money; and still more a large shareholder ought not to rest till he knows who it is that makes engagements on his behalf, and who it is that may ruin him if they choose. The committee ought to be composed of quiet men of business, who can be ascertained by inquiry to be of high character and well-judging mind. And if the public and the shareholder knew that there was such a committee, they would have sufficient reasons for the confidence which now is given without such reasons.

A certain number of directors attending daily by rotation is, it should be said, no substitute for a permanent committee. It has no sufficient responsibility. A changing body cannot have any responsibility. The transactions which were agreed to by one set of directors present on the Monday might be exactly those which would be much disapproved by directors present on the Wednesday. It is essential to the decisions of most business, and not least of the banking business, that they should be made constantly by the same persons; the chain of transactions must pass through the same minds. A large business may be managed tolerably by a quiet group of second-rate men if those men be always the same; but it cannot be managed at all by a fluctuating body, even of the very cleverest men. You might as well attempt to guide the affairs of the nation by means of a cabinet similarly changing.

Our great joint stock bands are imprudent in so carefully concealing the details of their government, and in secluding those details from the risk of discussion. The answer, no doubt will be, ‘Let well alone; as you have admitted, there hardly ever before was so great a success as these banks of ours: what more do you or can you want?’ I can only say that I want further to confirm this great success and to make it secure for the future. At present there is at least the possibility of a great reaction. Supposing that, owing to defects in its government, one even of the greater London joint stock banks failed, there would be an instant suspicion of the whole system. One terra incognita being seen to be faulty, every other terra incognita would be suspected. If the real government of these banks had for years been known, and if the subsisting banks had been known not to be ruled by the bad mode of government which had ruined the bank that had fallen, then the ruin of that bank would not be hurtful. The other banks would be seen to be exempt from the cause which had destroyed it. But at present the ruin of one of these great banks would greatly impair the credit of all. Scarcely any one knows the precise government of any one; in no case has that government been described on authority; and the fall of one by grave misgovernment would be taken to show that the others might as easily be misgoverned also. And a tardy disclosure even of an admirable constitution would not much help the surviving banks: as it was extracted by necessity, it would be received with suspicion. A sceptical world would say ‘of course they say they are all perfect now; it would not do for them to say anything else.’

And not only the depositors and the shareholders of these large banks have a grave interest in their good government, but the public also. We have seen that our banking reserve is, as compared with our liabilities, singularly small; we have seen that the rise of these great banks has lessened the proportion of that reserve to those liabilities; we have seen that the greatest strain on the banking reserve is a ‘panic.’ Now, no cause is more capable of producing a panic, perhaps none is so capable, as the failure of a first-rate joint stock bank in London. Such an event would have something like the effect of the failure of Overend, Gurney and Co.; scarcely any other event would have an equal effect. And therefore, under the existing constitution of our banking system the government of these great banks is of primary importance to us all.

The Private Banks.

Perhaps some readers of the last part of the last chapter have been inclined to say that I must be a latent enemy to Joint Stock Banking. At any rate, I have pointed out what I think grave defects in it. But I fear that a reader of this chapter may, on like grounds, suppose that I am an enemy to Private Banking. And I can only hope that the two impressions may counteract one another, and may show that I do not intend to be unfair.

I can imagine nothing better in theory or more successful in practice than private banks as they were in the beginning. A man of known wealth, known integrity, and known ability is largely entrusted with the money of his neighbours. The confidence is strictly personal. His neighbours know him, and trust him because they know him. They see daily his manner of life, and judge from it that their confidence is deserved. In rural districts, and in former times, it was difficult for a man to ruin himself except at the place in which he lived; for the most part he spent his money there, and speculated there if he speculated at all. Those who lived there also would soon see if he was acting in a manner to shake their confidence. Even in large cities, as cities then were, it was possible for most persons to ascertain with fair certainty the real position of conspicuous persons, and to learn all which was material in fixing their credit. Accordingly the bankers who for a long series of years passed successfully this strict and continual investigation, became very wealthy and very powerful.

The name ‘London Banker’ had especially a charmed value. He was supposed to represent, and often did represent, a certain union of pecuniary sagacity and educated refinement which was scarcely to be found in any other part of society. In a time when the trading classes were much ruder than they now are, many private bankers possessed variety of knowledge and a delicacy of attainment which would even now be very rare. Such a position is indeed singularly favourable. The calling is hereditary; the credit of the bank descends from father to son: this inherited wealth soon begins inherited refinement. Banking is a watchful, but not a laborious trade. A banker, even in large business, can feel pretty sure that all his transactions are sound, and yet have much spare mind. A certain part of his time, and a considerable part of his thoughts, he can readily devote to other pursuits. And a London banker can also have the most intellectual society in the world if he chooses it. There has probably very rarely ever been so happy a position as that of a London private banker; and never perhaps a happier.

It is painful to have to doubt of the continuance of such a class, and yet, I fear, we must doubt of it. The evidence of figures is against it. In 1810 there were 40 private banks in Lombard Street admitted to the clearing-house: there now are only 3. Though the business of banking has increased so much since 1810, this species of banks is fewer in number than it was then. Nor is this the worst. The race is not renewed. There are not many recognised impossibilities in business, but everybody admits ‘that you cannot found a new private bank.’ No such has been founded in London, or, as far as I know, in the country, for many years. The old ones merge or die, and so the number is lessened; but no new ones begin so as to increase that number again.

The truth is that the circumstances which originally favoured the establishment of private banks have now almost passed away. The world has become so large and complicated that it is not easy to ascertain who is rich and who is poor. No doubt there are some enormously wealthy men in England whose means everybody has heard of, and has no doubt of. But these are not the men to incur the vast liabilities of private banking. If they were bred in it they might stay in it; but they would never begin it for themselves. And if they did, I expect people would begin to doubt even of their wealth. It would be said, ‘What does A B go into banking for? he cannot be as rich as we thought.’ A millionaire commonly shrinks from liability, and the essence of great banking is great liability. No doubt there are many ‘second-rate’ rich men, as we now count riches, who would be quite ready to add to their income the profit of a private bank if only they could manage it. But unluckily they cannot manage it. Their wealth is not sufficiently familiar to the world; they cannot obtain the necessary confidence. No new private bank is founded in England because men of first-rate wealth will not found one, and men not of absolutely first-rate wealth cannot.

In the present day, also, private banking is exposed to a competition against which in its origin it had not to struggle. Owing to the changes of which I have before spoken, joint stock banking has begun to compete with it. In old times this was impossible; the Bank of England had a monopoly in banking of the principle of association. But now large joint stock banks of deposit are among the most conspicuous banks in Lombard Street. They have a large paid-up capital and intelligible published accounts; they use these as an incessant advertisement, in a manner in which no individual can use his own wealth. By their increasing progress they effectually prevent the foundation of any new private bank.

The amount of the present business of private banks is perfectly unknown. Their balance sheets are effective secrets—rigidly guarded. But none of them, except a few of the largest, are believed at all to gain business. The common repute of Lombard Street might be wrong in a particular case, but upon the general doctrine it is almost sure to be right. There are a few well-known exceptions, but according to universal belief the deposits of most private bankers in London tend rather to diminish than to increase.

As to the smaller banks, this naturally would be so. A large bank always tends to become larger, and a small one tends to become smaller. People naturally choose for their banker the banker who has most present credit, and the one who has most money in hand is the one who possesses such credit. This is what is meant by saying that a long established and rich bank has a ‘privileged opportunity’; it is in a better position to do its business than any one else is; it has a great advantage over old competitors and an overwhelming superiority over new comers. New people coming into Lombard Street judge by results; they give to those who have: they take their money to the biggest bank because it is the biggest. I confess I cannot, looking far forward into the future, expect that the smaller private banks will maintain their ground. Their old connections will not leave them; there will be no fatal ruin, no sudden mortality. But the tide will gently ebb, and the course of business will be carried elsewhere.

Sooner or later, appearances indicate, and principle suggests, that the business of Lombard Street will be divided between the joint stock banks and a few large private banks. And then we have to ask ourselves the question, can those large private banks be permanent? I am sure I should be very sorry to say that they certainly cannot, but at the same time I cannot be blind to the grave difficulties which they must surmount.

In the first place, an hereditary business of great magnitude is dangerous. The management of such a business needs more than common industry and more than common ability. But there is no security at all that these will be regularly continued in each generation. The case of Overend, Gurney and Co., the model instance of all evil in business, is a most alarming example of this evil. No cleverer men of business probably (cleverer I mean for the purposes of their particular calling) could well be found than the founders and first managers of that house. But in a very few years the rule in it passed to a generation whose folly surpassed the usual limit of imaginable incapacity. In a short time they substituted ruin for prosperity and changed opulence into insolvency. Such great folly is happily rare; and the business of a bank is not nearly as difficult as the business of a discount company. Still much folly is common, and the business of a great bank requires a great deal of ability, and an even rarer degree of trained and sober judgment. That which happened so marvelously in the green tree may happen also in the dry. A great private bank might easily become very rotten by a change from discretion to foolishness in those who conduct it.

We have had as yet in London, happily, no example of this; indeed, we have hardly as yet had the opportunity. Till now private banks have been small; small as we now reckon banks. For their exigencies a moderate degree of ability and an anxious caution will suffice. But if the size of the banks is augmented and greater ability is required, the constant difficulty of an hereditary government will begin to be felt. ‘The father had great brains and created the business: but the son had less brains and lost or lessened it.’ This is the history of all great monarchies, and it may be the history of great private banks. The peculiarity in the case of Overend, Gurney and Co. at least, one peculiarity is that the evil was soon discovered. The richest partners had least concern in the management; and when they found that incredible losses were ruining them, they stopped the concern and turned it into a company. But they had done nothing; if at least they had only prevented farther losses, the firm might have been in existence and in the highest credit now. It was the publicity of their losses which ruined them. But if they had continued to be a private partnership they need not have disclosed those losses: they might have written them off quietly out of the immense profits they could have accumulated. They had some ten millions of other people’s money in their hands which no one thought of disturbing. The perturbation through the country which their failure caused in the end, shows how diffused and how unimpaired their popular reputation was. No one in the rural districts (as I know by experience) would ever believe a word against them, say what you might. The catastrophe came because at the change the partners in the old private firm—the Gurney family especially—had guaranteed the new company against the previous losses: those losses turned out to be much greater than was expected. To pay what was necessary the ‘Gurneys’ had to sell their estates, and their visible ruin destroyed the credit of the concern. But if there had been no such guarantee, and no sale of estates, if the great losses had slept a quiet sleep in a hidden ledger, no one would have been alarmed, and the credit and the business of ‘Overends’ might have existed till now, and their name still continued to be one of our first names. The difficulty of propagating a good management by inheritance for generations is greatest in private banks and discount firms because of their essential secrecy.

The danger may indeed be surmounted by the continual infusion of new and able partners. The deterioration of the old blood may be compensated by the excellent quality of the fresh blood. But to this again there is an objection, of little value perhaps in seeming, but of much real influence in practice. The infusion of new partners requires from the old partners a considerable sacrifice of income; the old must give up that which the new receive, and the old will not like this. The effectual remedy is so painful that I fear it often may be postponed too long.

I cannot, therefore, expect with certainty the continuance of our system of private banking. I am sure that the days of small banks will before many years come to an end, and that the difficulties of large private banks are very important. In the mean time it is very important that large private banks should be well managed. And the present state of banking makes this peculiarly difficult. The detail of the business is augmenting with an overwhelming rapidity. More cheques are drawn year by year; not only more absolutely, but more by each person, and more in proportion to his income. The payments in, and payments out of a common account are very much more numerous than they formerly were. And this causes an enormous growth of detail. And besides, bankers have of late begun almost a new business. They now not only keep people’s money, but also collect their incomes for them. Many persons live entirely on the income of shares, or debentures, or foreign bonds, which is paid in coupons, and these are handed in for the bank to collect. Often enough the debenture, or the certificate, or the bond is in the custody of the banker, and he is expected to see when the coupon is due, and to cut it off and transmit it for payment. And the detail of all this is incredible, and it needs a special machinery to cope with it.

A large joint stock bank, if well-worked, has that machinery. It has at the head of the executive a general manager who was tried in the detail of banking, who is devoted to it, and who is content to live almost wholly in it. He thinks of little else, and ought to think of little else. One of his first duties is to form a hierarchy of inferior officers, whose respective duties are defined, and to see that they can perform and do perform those duties. But a private bank of the type usual in London has no such officer. It is managed by the partners; now these are generally rich men, are seldom able to grapple with great business of detail, and are not disposed to spend their whole lives and devote their entire minds to it if they were able. A person with the accumulated wealth, the education and the social place of a great London banker would be a ‘fool so to devote himself. He would sacrifice a suitable and a pleasant life for an unpleasant and an unsuitable life. But still the detail must be well done; and some one must be specially chosen to watch it and to preside over it, or it will not be well done. Until now, or until lately, this difficulty has not been fully felt. The detail of the business of a small private bank was moderate enough to be superintended effectually by the partners. But, as has been said, the detail of banking—the proportion of detail to the size of the bank—is everywhere increasing. The size of the private banks will have to augment if private banks are not to cease; and therefore the necessity of a good organisation for detail is urgent. If the bank grows, and simultaneously the detail grows in proportion to the bank, a frightful confusion is near unless care be taken.

The only organisation which I can imagine to be effectual is that which exists in the antagonistic establishments. The great private banks will have, I believe, to appoint in some form or other, and under some name or other, some species of general manager who will watch, contrive, and arrange the detail for them. The precise shape of the organisation is immaterial; each bank may have its own shape, but the man must be there. The true business of the private partners in such a bank is much that of the directors in a joint stock bank. They should form a permanent committee to consult with their general manager, to watch him, and to attend to large loans and points of principle. They should not themselves be responsible for detail; if they do there will be two evils at once: the detail will be done badly, and the minds of those who ought to decide principal things will be distracted from those principal things. There will be a continual worry in the bank, and in a worry bad loans are apt to be made and money is apt to be lost.

A subsidiary advantage of this organisation is that it would render the transition from private banking to joint stock banking easier, if that transition should be necessary. The one might merge in the other as convenience suggested and as events required. There is nothing intrusive in discussing this subject. The organisation of the private is just like that of the joint stock banks; all the public are interested that it should be good. The want of a good organisation may cause the failure of one or more of these banks; and such failure of such banks may intensify a panic, even if it should not cause one.

The Bill-Brokers.

Under every system of banking, whether that in which the reserve is kept in many banks, or one in which it is kept in a single bank only, there will always be a class of persons who examine more carefully than busy bankers can the nature of different securities; and who, by attending only to one class, come to be particularly well acquainted with that class. And as these specially qualified dealers can for the most part lend much more than their own capital, they will always be ready to borrow largely from bankers and others, and to deposit the securities which they know to be good as a pledge for the loan. They act thus as intermediaries between the borrowing public and the less qualified capitalist; knowing better than the ordinary capitalist which loans are better and which are worse, they borrow from him, and gain a profit by charging to the public more than they pay to him.

Many stock brokers transact such business upon a great scale. They lend large sums on foreign bonds or railway shares or other such securities, and borrow those sums from bankers, depositing the securities with the bankers, and generally, though not always, giving their guarantee. But by far the greatest of these intermediate dealers are the bill-brokers. Mercantile bills are an exceedingly difficult kind of security to understand. The relative credit of different merchants is a great ‘tradition’; it is a large mass of most valuable knowledge which has never been described in books and is probably incapable of being so described. The subject matter of it, too, is shifting and changing daily; an accurate representation of the trustworthiness of houses at the beginning of a year might easily be a most fatal representation at the end of it. In all years there are great changes; some houses rise a good deal and some fall. And in some particular years the changes are immense; in years like 1871 many active men make so much money that at the end of the year they are worthy of altogether greater credit than anyone would have dreamed of giving to them at the beginning. On the other hand, in years like 1866 a contagious ruin destroys the trustworthiness of very many firms and persons, and often, especially, of many who stood highest immediately before. Such years alter altogether an important part of the mercantile world: the final question of bill-brokers, ‘which bills will be paid and which will not? which bills are second-rate and which first-rate?’ would be answered very differently at the beginning of the year and at the end. No one can be a good bill-broker who has not learnt the great mercantile tradition of what is called ‘the standing of parties’ and who does not watch personally and incessantly the inevitable changes which from hour to hour impair the truth of that tradition. The ‘credit’ of a person—that is, the reliance which may be placed on his pecuniary fidelity—is a different thing from his property. No doubt, other things being equal, a rich man is more likely to pay than a poor man. But on the other hand, there are many men not of much wealth who are trusted in the market, ‘as a matter of business,’ for sums much exceeding the wealth of those who are many times richer. A firm or a person who have been long known to ‘meet their engagements,’ inspire a degree of confidence not dependent on the quantity of his or their property. Persons who buy to sell again soon are often liable for amounts altogether much greater than their own capital; and the power of obtaining those sums depends upon their ‘respectability,’ their ‘standing,’ and their ‘credit,’ as the technical terms express it, and more simply upon the opinion which those who deal with them have formed of them. The principal mode in which money is raised by traders is by ‘bills of exchange;’ the estimated certainty of their paying those bills on the day they fall due is the measure of their credit; and those who estimate that liability best, the only persons indeed who can estimate it exceedingly well, are the bill-brokers. And these dealers, taking advantage of their peculiar knowledge, borrow immense sums from bankers and others; they generally deposit the bills as a security; and they generally give their own guarantee of the goodness of the bill: but neither of such practices indeed is essential, though both are the ordinary rule. When Overends failed, as I have said before, they had borrowed in this way very largely. There are others now in the trade who have borrowed quite as much.

As is usually the case, this kind of business has grown up only gradually. In the year 1810 there was no such business precisely answering to what we now call bill-broking in London. Mr. Richardson, the principal ‘bill-broker’ of the time, as the term was then understood, thus described his business to the ‘Bullion Committee:’

‘What is the nature of the agency for country banks?—It is twofold: in the first place to procure money for country bankers on bills when they have occasion to borrow on discount, which is not often the case; and in the next place, to lend the money for the country bankers on bills on discount. The sums of money which I lend for country bankers on discount are fifty times more than the sums borrowed for country bankers.

‘Do you send London bills into the country for discount?—Yes.

‘Do you receive bills from the country upon London in return, at a date, to be discounted?—Yes, to a very considerable amount, from particular parts of the country.

‘Are not both sets of bills by this means under discount?—No, the bills received from one part of the country are sent down to another part for discount.

‘And they are not discounted in London?—No. In some parts of the country there is but little circulation of bills drawn upon London, as in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Sussex, &c.; but there is there a considerable circulation in country bank-notes, principally optional notes. In Lancashire there is little or no circulation of country bank-notes; but there is a great circulation of bills drawn upon London at two or three months’ date. I receive bills to a considerable amount from Lancashire in particular, and remit them to Norfolk, Suffolk, &c., where the bankers have large lodgments, and much surplus money to advance on bills for discount.’

Mr. Richardson was only a broker who found money for bills and bills for money. He is further asked:

‘Do you guarantee the bills you discount, and what is your charge per cent?—No, we do not guarantee them; our charge is one-eighth per cent brokerage upon the bill discounted, but we make no charge to the lender of the money.

‘Do you consider that brokerage as a compensation for the skill which you exercise in selecting the bills which you thus get discounted?—Yes, for selecting of the bills, writing letters, and other trouble.

‘Does the party who furnishes the money give you any kind of compensation?—None at all.

‘Does he not consider you as his agent, and in some degree responsible for the safety of the bills which you give him?—Not at all.

‘Does he not prefer you on the score of his judging that you will give him good intelligence upon that subject?—Yes, he relies upon us.

‘Do you then exercise a discretion as to the probable safety of the bills?—Yes; if a bill comes to us which we conceive not to be safe, we return it.

‘Do you not then conceive yourselves to depend in a great measure for the quantity of business which you can perform on the favour of the party lending the money?—Yes, very much so. If we manage our business well, we retain our friends; if we do not, we lose them.’

It was natural enough that the owners of the money should not pay, though the owner of the bill did, for in almost all ages the borrower has been a seeker more or less anxious; he has always been ready to pay for those who will find him the money he is in search of. But the possessor of money has rarely been willing to pay anything; he has usually and rightly believed that the borrower would discover him soon.

Notwithstanding other changes, the distribution of the customers of the bill-brokers in different parts of the country still remains much as Mr. Richardson described it sixty years ago. For the most part, agricultural counties do not employ as much money as they save; manufacturing counties, on the other hand, can employ much more than they save; and therefore the money of Norfolk or of Somersetshire is deposited with the London bill-brokers, who use it to discount the bills of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

The old practice of bill-broking, which Mr. Richardson describes, also still exists. There are many brokers to be seen about Lombard Street with bills which they wish to discount but which they do not guarantee. They have sometimes discounted these bills with their own capital, and if they can re-discount them at a slightly lower rate they gain a difference which at first seems but trifling, but with which they are quite content, because this system of lending first and borrowing again immediately enables them to turn their capital very frequently, and on a few thousand pounds of capital to discount hundreds of thousands of bills; as the transactions are so many, they can be content with a smaller profit on each. In other cases, these non-guaranteeing brokers are only agents who are seeking money for bills which they have undertaken to get discounted. But in either case, as far as the banker or other ultimate capitalist is concerned, the transaction is essentially that which Mr. Richardson describes. The loan by such banker is a re-discount of the bill; that banker cannot obtain repayment of that loan, except by the payment of the bill at maturity. He has no claim upon the agent who brought him the bill. Bill-broking, in this which we may call its archaic form, is simply one of the modes in which bankers obtain bills which are acceptable to them and which they re-discount. No reference is made in it to the credit of the bill-broker; the bills being discounted ‘without recourse’ to him are as good if taken from a pauper as if taken from a millionaire. The lender exercises his own judgment on the goodness of the bill.

But in modern bill-broking the credit of the bill-broker is a vital element. The lender considers that the bill-broker—no matter whether an individual, a company, or a firm—has considerable wealth, and he takes the ‘bills,’ relying that the broker would not venture that wealth by guaranteeing them unless he thought them good. The lender thinks, too, that the bill-broker being daily conversant with bills and bills only, knows probably all about bills: he lends partly in reliance on the wealth of the broker and partly in reliance on his skill. He does not exercise much judgment of his own on the bills deposited with him: he often does not watch them very closely. Probably not one-thousandth part of the creditors on security of Overend, Gurney and Co., had ever expected to have to rely on that security, or had ever given much real attention to it. Sometimes, indeed, the confidence in the bill-brokers goes farther. A considerable number of persons lend to them, not only without much looking at the security but even without taking any security. This is the exact reverse of the practice which Mr. Richardson described in 1810; then the lender relied wholly on the goodness of the bill, now, in these particular cases, he relies solely on the bill-broker, and does not take a bill in any shape. Nothing can be more natural or more inevitable than this change. It was certain that the bill-broker, being supposed to understand bills well, would be asked by the lenders to evince his reliance on the bills he offered by giving a guarantee for them. It was also most natural that the bill-brokers, having by the constant practice of this lucrative trade obtained high standing and acquired great wealth, should become, more or less, bankers too, and should receive money on deposit without giving any security for it.

But the effects of the change have been very remarkable. In the practice as Mr. Richardson described it, there is no peculiarity very likely to affect the money market. The bill-broker brought bills to the banker, just as others brought them; nothing at all could be said as to it except that the Bank must not discount bad bills, must not discount too many bills, and must keep a good reserve. But the modern practice introduces more complex considerations. In the trade of bill-broking, as it now exists, there is one great difficulty; the bill-broker has to pay interest for all the money which he receives. How this arose we have just seen. The present lender to the bill-broker at first always used to discount a bill, which is as much as saying that he was always a lender at interest. When he came to take the guarantee of the broker, and only to look at the bills as a collateral security, naturally he did not forego his interest: still less did he forego it when he ceased to take security at all. The bill-broker has, in one shape or other, to pay interest on every sixpence left with him, and that constant habit of giving interest has this grave consequence: the bill-broker cannot afford to keep much money unemployed. He has become a banker owing large sums which he may be called on to repay, but he cannot hold as much as an ordinary banker, or nearly as much, of such sums in cash, because the loss of interest would ruin him. Competition reduces the rate which the bill-broker can charge, and raises the rate which the bill-broker must give, so that he has to live on a difference exceedingly narrow. And if he constantly kept a large hoard of barren money he would soon be found in the ‘Gazette.’

The difficulty is aggravated by the terms upon which a great part of the money at the bill-brokers is deposited with them. Very much of it is repayable at demand, or at very short notice. The demands on a broker in periods of alarm may consequently be very great, and in practice they often, are so. In times of panic there is always a very heavy call, if not a run upon them; and in consequence of the essential nature of their business, they cannot constantly keep a large unemployed reserve of their own in actual cash, they are obliged to ask help of some one who possesses that cash. By the conditions of his trade, the bill-broker is forced to belong to a class of ‘dependent money-dealers,’ as we may term them, that is, of dealers who do not keep their own reserve, and must, therefore, at every crisis of great difficulty revert to others.

In a natural state of banking, that in which all the principal banks kept their own reserve, this demand of the bill-brokers and other dependent dealers would be one of the principal calls on that reserve. At every period of incipient panic the holders of it would perceive that it was of great importance to themselves to support these dependent dealers. If the panic destroyed those dealers it would grow by what it fed upon (as is its nature), and might probably destroy also the bankers, the holders of the reserve. The public terror at such times is indiscriminate. When one house of good credit has perished, other houses of equal credit though of different nature are in danger of perishing. The many holders of the banking reserve would under the natural system of banking be obliged to advance out of that reserve to uphold bill-brokers and similar dealers. It would be essential to their own preservation not to let such dealers fail, and the protection of such dealers would therefore be reckoned among the necessary purposes for which they retained that reserve.

Nor probably would the demands on the bill-brokers in such a system of banking be exceedingly formidable. Considerable sums would no doubt be drawn from them, but there would be no special reason why money should be demanded from them more than from any other money dealers. They would share the panic with the bankers who kept the reserve, but they would not feel it more than the bankers. In each crisis the set of the storm would be determined by the cause which had excited it, but there would not be anything in the nature of bill-broking to attract the advance of the alarm peculiarly to them. They would not be more likely to suffer than other persons; the only difference would be that when they did suffer, having no adequate reserve of their own, they would be obliged to ask the aid of others.

But under a one-reserve system of banking, the position of the bill-brokers is much more singular and much more precarious. In fact, in Lombard Street, the principal depositors of the bill-brokers are the bankers, whether of London, or of provincial England, or of Scotland, or Ireland. Such deposits are, in fact, a portion of the reserve of these bankers; they make an essential part of the sums which they have provided and laid by against a panic. Accordingly, in every panic these sums are sure to be called in from the bill-brokers; they were wanted to be used by their owners in time of panic, and in time of panic they ask for them. ‘Perhaps it may be interesting,’ said Alderman Salomons, speaking on behalf of the London and Westminster Bank, after the panic of 1857, to the committee, ‘to know that, on November 11, we held discounted bills for brokers to the amount of 5,623,000 L. Out of these bills 2,800,000 L. matured between November 1 and December 4; 2,000,000 L. more between December 1 and December 31; consequently we were prepared merely by the maturing of our bills of exchange for any demand that might come upon us.’ This is not indeed a direct withdrawal of money on deposit, but its principal effect is identical. At the beginning of the time the London and Westminster Bank had lent 5,000,000 L. more to the bill-brokers than they had at the end of it; and that 5,000,000 L. the bank had added to its reserve against a time of difficulty.

The intensity of the demand on the bill-broker is aggravated therefore by our peculiar system of banking. Just at the moment when, by the nature of their business, they have to resort to the reserves of bankers for necessary support, the bankers remove from them large sums in order to strengthen those reserves. A great additional strain is thrown upon them just at the moment when they are least able to bear it; and it is thrown by those who under a natural system of banking would not aggravate the pressure on the bill-brokers, but relieve it.

And the profits of bill-broking are proportionably raised. The reserves of the bankers so deposited with the bill-broker form a most profitable part of his business; they are on the whole of very large amount, and at all times, except those of panic, may well be depended upon. The bankers are pretty sure to keep them there, just because they must keep a reserve, and they consider it one of the best places in which to keep it. Under a more natural system, no part of the banking reserve would ever be lodged at the brokers. Bankers would deposit with the brokers only their extra money, the money which they considered they could safely lend, and which they would not require during a panic. In the eye of the banker, money at the brokers would then be one of the investments of cash, it would not be a part of such cash. The deposits of bill-brokers and the profits of bill-broking are increased by our present system, just in proportion as the dangers of bill-brokers during a panic are increased by it.

The strain, too, on our banking reserve which is caused by the demands of the bill-brokers, is also more dangerous than it would be under a natural system, because that reserve is in itself less. The system of keeping the entire ultimate reserve at a single bank, undoubtedly diminishes the amount of reserve which is kept. And exactly on that very account the danger of any particular demand on that reserve is augmented, because the magnitude of the fund upon which that demand falls is diminished. So that our one-reserve system of banking combines two evils: first, it makes the demand of the brokers upon the final reserve greater, because under it so many bankers remove so much money from the brokers; and under it also the final reserve is reduced to its minimum point, and the entire system of credit is made more delicate, and more sensitive.

The peculiarity, indeed, of the effects of the one reserve is indeed even greater in this respect. Under the natural system, the bill-brokers would be in no respect the rivals of the bankers which kept the ultimate reserve. They would be rather the agents for these bankers in lending upon certain securities which they did not themselves like, or on which they did not feel competent to lend safely. The bankers who in time of panic had to help them would in ordinary times derive much advantage from them. But under our present system all this is reversed. The Bank of England never deposits any money with the bill-brokers; in ordinary times it never derives any advantage from them. On the other hand, as the Bank carries on itself a large discount business, as it considers that it is itself competent to lend on all kinds of bills, the bill-brokers are its most formidable rivals. As they constantly give high rates for money it is necessary that they should undersell the Bank, and in ordinary times they do undersell it. But as the Bank of England alone keeps the final banking reserve, the bill-brokers of necessity have to resort to that final reserve; so that at every panic, and by the essential constitution of the money market, the Bank of England has to help, has to maintain in existence, the dealers, who never in return help the Bank at any time, but who are in ordinary times its closest competitors and its keenest rivals.

It might be expected that such a state of things would cause much discontent at the Bank of England, and in matter of fact there has been much discussion about it, and much objection taken to it. After the panic of 1857, this was so especially. During that panic, the Bank of England advanced to the bill-brokers more than 9,000,000 L., though their advances to bankers, whether London or country, were only 8,000,000 L.; and, not unnaturally, the Bank thought it unreasonable that so large an inroad upon their resources should be made by their rivals. In consequence, in 1858 they made a rule that they would only advance to the bill-brokers at certain seasons of the year, when the public money is particularly large at the bank, and that at other times any application for an advance should be considered exceptional, and dealt with accordingly. And the object of that regulation was officially stated to be ‘to make them keep their own reserve, and not to be dependent on the Bank of England.’ As might be supposed, this rule was exceedingly unpopular with the brokers, and the greatest of them, Overend, Gurney and Co., resolved on a strange policy in the hope of abolishing it. They thought they could frighten the Bank of England, and could show that if they were dependent on it, it was also dependent on them. They accordingly accumulated a large deposit at the Bank to the amount of 3,000,000 L., and then withdrew it all at once. But this policy had no effect, except that of exciting a distrust of ‘Overends’: the credit of the Bank of England was not diminished; Overends had to return the money in a few days, and had the dissatisfaction of feeling that they had in vain attempted to assail the solid basis of everyone’s credit, and that everyone disliked them for doing so. But though this un-conceived attempt failed as it deserved, the rule itself could not be maintained. The Bank does, in fact, at every period of pressure, advance to the bin-brokers; the case may be considered ‘exceptional,’ but the advance is always made if the security offered is really good. However much the Bank may dislike to aid their rivals, yet they must aid them; at a crisis they feel that they would only be aggravating incipient demand, and be augmenting the probable pressure on themselves if they refused to do so.

I shall be asked if this anomaly is inevitable, and I am afraid that for practical purposes we must consider it to be so. It may be lessened; the bill-brokers may, and should, discourage as much as they can the deposit of money with them on demand, and encourage the deposit of it at distant fixed dates or long notice. This will diminish the anomaly, but it will not cure it. Practically, bin-brokers cannot refuse to receive money at call. In every market a dealer must conduct his business according to the custom of the market, or he will not be able to conduct it at all. All the bin-brokers can do is to offer better rates for more permanent money, and this (though possibly not so much as might be wished) they do at present. In its essence, this anomaly is, I believe, an inevitable part of the system of banking which history has given us, and which we have only to make the best of, since we cannot alter it.

The Principles Which Should Regulate the Amount of the Banking
Reserve to Be Kept by the Bank of England.
There is a very common notion that the amount of the reserve which the Bank of England ought to keep can be determined at once from the face of their weekly balance sheet. It is imagined that you have only to take the liabilities of the Banking department, and that a third or some other fixed proportion will in all cases be the amount of reserve which the Bank should keep against those liabilities. But to this there are several objections, some arising from the general nature of the banking trade, and others from the special position of the Bank of England.

That the amount of the liabilities of a bank is a principal element in determining the proper amount of its reserve is plainly true; but that it is the only element by which that amount is determined is plainly false. The intrinsic nature of these liabilities must be considered, as well as their numerical quantity. For example, no one would say that the same amount of reserve ought to be kept against acceptances which cannot be paid except at a certain day, and against deposits at call, which may be demanded at any moment. If a bank groups these liabilities together in the balance-sheet, you cannot tell the amount of reserve it ought to keep. The necessary information is not given you.

Nor can you certainly determine the amount of reserve necessary to be kept against deposits unless you know something as to the nature of these deposits. If out of 3,000,000 L. of money, one depositor has 1,000,000 L. to his credit, and may draw it out when he pleases, a much larger reserve will be necessary against that liability of 1,000,000 L. than against the remaining 2,000,000 L. The intensity of the liability, so to say, is much greater; and therefore the provision in store must be much greater also. On the other hand, supposing that this single depositor is one of calculable habits—suppose that it is a public body, the time of whose demands is known, and the time of whose receipts is known also—this single liability requires a less reserve than that of an equal amount of ordinary liabilities. The danger that it will be called for is much less; and therefore the security taken against it may be much less too. Unless the quality of the liabilities is considered as well as their quantity, the due provision for their payment cannot be determined.

These are general truths as to all banks, and they have a very particular application to the Bank of England. The first application is favourable to the Bank; for it shows the danger of one of the principal liabilities to be much smaller than it seems. The largest account at the Bank of England is that of the English Government; and probably there has never been any account of which it was so easy in time of peace to calculate the course. All the material facts relative to the English revenue, and the English expenditure, are exceedingly well known; and the amount of the coming payments to and from this account are always, except in war times, to be calculated with wonderful accuracy. In war, no doubt, this is all reversed; the account of a government at war is probably the most uncertain of all accounts, especially of a government of a scattered empire, like the English, whose places of outlay in time of war are so many and so distant, and the amount of whose payments is therefore so incalculable. Ordinarily, however, there is no account of which the course can be so easily predicted; and therefore no account which needs in ordinary times so little reserve. The principal payments, when they are made, are also of the most satisfactory kind to a banker; they are, to a great extent, made to another account at his bank. These largest ordinary payments of the Government are the dividends on the debt, and these are mostly made to bankers who act as agents for the creditors of the nation. The payment of the dividends for the Government is, therefore, in great part a transfer from the account of the Government to the accounts of the various bankers. A certain amount no doubt goes almost at once to the non-banking classes; to those who keep coin and notes in house, and have no account at any bank. But even this amount is calculable, for it is always nearly the same. And the entire operation is, to those who can watch it, singularly invariable time after time.

But it is important to observe, that the published accounts of the Bank give no such information to the public as will enable them to make their own calculations. The account of which we have been speaking is the yearly account of the English Government—what we may call the Budget account, that of revenue and expenditure. And the laws of this are, as we have shown, already known. But under the head ‘Public Deposits’ in the accounts of the Bank, are contained also other accounts, and particularly that of the Secretary for India in Council, the laws of which must be different and are quite unknown. The Secretary for India is a large lender on its account. If any one proposed to give such power to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there would be great fear and outcry. But so much depends on habit and tradition, that the India Office on one side of Downing Street can do without remark, and with universal assent, what it would be thought ‘unsound’ and extravagant to propose that the other side should do. The present India Office inherits this independence from the old Board of the Company, which, being mercantile and business-like, used to lend its own money on the Stock Exchange as it pleased; the Council of India, its successor, retains the power. Nothing can be better than that it should be allowed to do as it likes; but the mixing up the account of a body which has such a power, and which draws money from India, with that of the Home government clearly prevents the general public from being able to draw inferences as to the course of the combined account from its knowledge of home finance only. The account of ‘public deposits’ in the Bank return includes other accounts too, as the Savings’ Bank balance, the Chancery Funds account, and others; and in consequence, till lately the public had but little knowledge of the real changes of the account of our Government, properly so called. But Mr. Lowe has lately given us a weekly account, and from this, and not from the Bank account, we are able to form a judgment. This account and the return of the Bank of England, it is true, unhappily appear on different days; but except for that accident our knowledge would be perfect; and as it is, for almost all purposes what we know is reasonably sufficient. We can now calculate the course of the Government account nearly as well as it is possible to calculate it.

So far, as we have said, an analysis of the return of the Bank of England is very favourable to the Bank. So great a reserve need not usually be kept against the Government account as if it were a common account. We know the laws of its changes peculiarly well: we can tell when its principal changes will happen with great accuracy; and we know that at such changes most of what is paid away by the Government is only paid to other depositors at the Bank, and that it will really stay at the Bank, though under another name. If we look to the private deposits of the Bank of England, at first sight we may think that the result is the same. By far the most important of these are the ‘Bankers’ deposits’; and, for the most part, these deposits as a whole are likely to vary very little. Each banker, we will suppose, keeps as little as he can, but in all domestic transactions payment from one is really payment to the other. All the most important transactions in the country are settled by cheques; these cheques are paid in to the ‘clearing-house,’ and the balances resulting from them are settled by transfers from the account of one banker to another at the Bank of England. Payments out of the bankers’ balances, therefore, correspond with payments in. As a whole, the deposit of the bankers’ balances at the Bank of England would at first sight seem to be a deposit singularly stable.

Indeed, they would seem, so to say, to be better than stable. They augment when everything else tends to diminish. At a panic, when all other deposits are likely to be taken away, the bankers’ deposits, augment; in fact they did so in 1866, though we do not know the particulars; and it is natural that they should so increase. At such moments all bankers are extremely anxious, and they try to strengthen themselves by every means in their power; they try to have as much money as it is possible at command; they augment their reserve as much as they can, and they place that reserve at the Bank of England. A deposit which is not likely to vary in ordinary times, and which is likely to augment in times of danger, seems, in some sort, the model of a deposit. It might seem not only that a large proportion of it might be lent, but that the whole of it might be so. But a further analysis will, as I believe, show that this conclusion is entirely false; that the bankers’ deposits are a singularly treacherous form of liability; that the utmost caution ought to be used in dealing with them; that, as a rule, a less proportion of them ought to be lent than of ordinary deposits.

The easiest mode of explaining anything is, usually, to exemplify it by a single actual case. And in this subject, fortunately, there is a most conspicuous case near at hand. The German Government has lately taken large sums in bullion from this country, in part from the Bank of England, and in part not, according as it chose. It was in the main well advised, and considerate in its action; and did not take nearly as much from the Bank as it might, or as would have been dangerous. Still it took large sums from the Bank; and it might easily have taken more. How then did the German Government obtain this vast power over the Bank? The answer is, that it obtained it by means of the bankers’ balances, and that it did so in two ways.

First, the German Government had a large balance of its own lying at a particular Joint Stock Bank. That bank lent this balance at its own discretion, to bill-brokers or others, and it formed a single item in the general funds of the London market. There was nothing special about it, except that it belonged to a foreign government, and that its owner was always likely to call it in, and sometimes did so. As long as it stayed unlent in the London Joint Stock Bank, it increased the balances of that bank at the Bank of England; but so soon as it was lent, say, to a bill-broker, it increased the bill-broker’s balance; and as soon as it was employed by the bill-broker in the discount of bills, the owners of those bills paid it to their credit at their separate banks, and it augmented the balances of those bankers at the Bank of England. Of course if it were employed in the discount of bills belonging to foreigners, the money might be taken abroad, and by similar operations it might also be transferred to the English provinces or to Scotland. But, as a rule, such money when deposited in London, for a considerable time remains in London; and so long as it does so, it swells the aggregate balances of the body of bankers at the Bank of England. It is now in the balance of one bank, now of another, but it is always dispersed about those balances somewhere. The evident consequence is that this part of the bankers’ balances is at the mercy of the German Government when it chooses to apply for it. Supposing, then, the sum to be three or four millions and I believe that on more than one occasion in the last year or two it has been quite as much, if not more—that sum might at once be withdrawn from the Bank of England. In this case the Bank of England is in the position of a banker who is liable for a large amount to a single customer, but with this addition, that it is liable for an unknown amount. The German Government, as is well known, keeps its account (and a very valuable one it must be) at the London Joint Stock Bank; but the Bank of England has no access to the account of the German Government at that bank; they cannot tell how much German money is lying to the credit there. Nor can the Bank of England infer much from the balance of the London Joint Stock Bank in their Bank, for the German money was probably paid in various sums to that bank, and lent out again in other various sums. It might to some extent augment that bank’s balance at the Bank of England, or it might not, but it certainly would not be so much added to that balance; and inspection of that bank’s balance would not enable the Bank of England to determine even in the vaguest manner what the entire sum was for which it might be asked at any moment. Nor would the inspection of the bankers’ balances as a whole lead to any certain and sure conclusions. Something might be inferred from them, but not anything certain. Those balances are no doubt in a state of constant fluctuation; and very possibly during the time that the German money was coming in some other might be going out. Any sudden increase in the bankers’ balances would be a probable indication of new foreign money, but new foreign money might come in without causing an increase, since some other and contemporaneous cause might effect a counteracting decrease.

This is the first, and the plainest way in which the German Government could take, and did take, money from this country; and in which it might have broken the Bank of England if it had liked. The German Government had money here and took it away, which is very easy to understand. But the Government also possessed a far greater power, of a somewhat more complex kind. It was the owner of many debts from England. A large part of the ‘indemnity’ was paid by France to Germany in bills on England, and the German Government, as those bills became due, acquired an unprecedented command over the market. As each bill arrived at maturity, the German Government could, if it chose, take the proceeds abroad; and it could do so in bullion, as for coinage purposes it wanted bullion. This would at first naturally cause a reduction in the bankers’ balances; at least that would be its tendency. Supposing the German Government to hold bill A, a good bill, the banker at whose bank bill A was payable would have to pay it; and that would reduce his balance; and as the sum so paid would go to Germany, it would not appear to the credit of any other banker: the aggregate of the bankers’ balances would thus be reduced. But this reduction would not be permanent. A banker who has to pay 100,000 L. cannot afford to reduce his balance at the Bank of England 100,000 L.; suppose that his liabilities are 2,000,000 L., and that as a rule he finds it necessary to keep at the Bank one-tenth of these liabilities, or 200,000 L., the payment of 100,000 L. would reduce his reserve to 100,000 L.; but his liabilities would be still 1,900,000 L. and therefore to keep up his tenth he would have 90,000 L. to find. His process for finding it is this: he calls in, say, a loan to the bill-brokers; and if no equal additional money is contemporaneously carried to these brokers (which in the case of a large withdrawal of foreign money is not probable), they must reduce their business and discount less. But the effect of this is to throw additional business on the Bank of England. They hold the ultimate reserve of the country, and they must discount out of it if no one else will: if they declined to do so there would be panic and collapse. As soon, therefore, as the withdrawal of the German money reduces the bankers’ balances, there is a new demand on the Bank for fresh discounts to make up those balances. The drain on the Bank is twofold: first, the banking reserve is reduced by exportation of the German money, which reduces the means of the Bank of England; and then out of those reduced means the Bank of England has to make greater advances.

The same result may be arrived at more easily. Supposing any foreign Government or person to have any sort of securities which he can pledge in the market, that operation gives it, or him, a credit on some banker, and enables it, or him, to take money from the banking reserve at the Bank of England, and from the bankers’ balances; and to replace the bankers’ balances at their inevitable minimum, the Bank of England must lend. Every sudden demand on the country causes, in proportion to its magnitude, this peculiar effect. And this is the reason why the Bank of England ought, I think, to deal most cautiously and delicately with their banking deposits. They are the symbol of an indefinite liability: by means of them, as we see, an amount of money so great that it is impossible to assign a limit to it might be abstracted from the Bank of England. As the Bank of England lends money to keep up the bankers’ balances, at their usual amount, and as by means of that usual amount whatever sum foreigners can get credit for may be taken from us, it is not possible to assign a superior limit (to use the scientific word) to the demands which by means of the bankers’ balances may be made upon the Bank of England.

The result comes round to the simple point, on which this book is a commentary: the Bank of England, by the effect of a long history, holds the ultimate cash reserve of the country; whatever cash the country has to pay comes out of that reserve, and therefore the Bank of England has to pay it. And it is as the Bankers’ Bank that the Bank of England has to pay it, for it is by being so that it becomes the keeper of the final cash reserve.

Some persons have been so much impressed with such considerations as these, that they have contended that the Bank of England ought never to lend the ‘bankers’ balances’ at all, that they ought to keep them intact, and as an unused deposit. I am not sure, indeed, that I have seen that extreme form of the opinion in print, but I have often heard it in Lombard Street, from persons very influential and very qualified to judge; even in print I have seen close approximations to it. But I am satisfied that the laying down such a ‘hard and fast’ rule would be very dangerous; in very important and very changeable business rigid rules are apt to be often dangerous. In a panic, as has been said, the bankers’ balances greatly augment. It is true the Bank of England has to lend the money by which they are filled. The banker calls in his money from the bill-broker, ceases to re-discount for that broker, or borrows on securities, or sells securities; and in one or other of these ways he causes a new demand for money which can only at such times be met from the Bank of England. Every one else is in want too. But without inquiring into the origin of the increase at panics, the amount of the bankers’ deposits in fact increases very rapidly; an immense amount of unused money is at such moments often poured by them into the Bank of England. And nothing can more surely aggravate the panic than to forbid the Bank of England to lend that money. Just when money is most scarce you happen to have an unusually large fund of this particular species of money, and you should lend it as fast as you can at such moments, for it is ready lending which cures panics, and non-lending or niggardly lending which aggravates them.

At other times, particularly at the quarterly payment of the dividends, an absolute rule which laid down that the bankers’ balances were never to be lent, would be productive of great inconvenience. A large sum is just then paid from the Government balance to the bankers’ balances, and if you permitted the Bank to lend it while it was still in the hands of the Government, but forbad them to lend it when it came into the hands of the bankers, a great tilt upwards in the value of money would be the consequence, for a most important amount of it would suddenly have become ineffective.

But the idea that the bankers’ balances ought never to be lent is only a natural aggravation of the truth that these balances ought to be used with extreme caution; that as they entail a liability peculiarly great and singularly difficult to foresee, they ought never to be used like a common deposit.

It follows from what has been said that there are always possible and very heavy demands on the Bank of England which are not shown in the account of the Banking department at all: these demands may be greatest when the liabilities shown by that account are smallest, and lowest when those liabilities are largest. If, for example, the German Government brings bills or other good securities to this market, obtains money with them, and removes that money from the market in bullion, that money may, if the German Government choose, be taken wholly from the Bank of England. If the wants of the German Government be urgent, and if the amount of gold ‘arrivals,’ that is, the gold coming here from the mining countries, be but small, that gold will be taken from the Bank of England, for there is no other large store in the country. The German Government is only a conspicuous example of a foreign power which happens lately to have had an unusual command of good securities, and an unusually continuous wish to use them in England. Any foreign state hereafter which wants cash will be likely to come here for it; so long as the Bank of France should continue not to pay in specie, a foreign state which wants it must of necessity come to London for it.

And no indication of the likelihood or unlikelihood of that want can be found in the books of the Bank of England.

What is almost a revolution in the policy of the Bank of England necessarily follows: no certain or fixed proportion of its liabilities can in the present times be laid down as that which the Bank ought to keep in reserve. The old notion that one-third, or any other such fraction, is in all cases enough, must be abandoned. The probable demands upon the Bank are so various in amount, and so little disclosed by the figures of the account, that no simple and easy calculation is a sufficient guide. A definite proportion of the liabilities might often be too small for the reserve, and sometimes too great. The forces of the enemy being variable, those of the defence cannot always be the same.

I admit that this conclusion is very inconvenient. In past times it has been a great aid to the Bank and to the public to be able to decide on the proper policy of the Bank from a mere inspection of its account. In that way the Bank knew easily what to do and the public knew easily what to foresee. But, unhappily, the rule which is most simple is not always the rule which is most to be relied upon. The practical difficulties of life often cannot be met by very simple rules; those dangers being complex and many, the rules for encountering them cannot well be single or simple. A uniform remedy for many diseases often ends by killing the patient.

Another simple rule often laid down for the management of the Bank of England must now be abandoned also. It has been said that the Bank of England should look to the market rate, and make its own rate conform to that. This rule was, indeed, always erroneous. The first duty of the Bank of England was to protect the ultimate cash of the country, and to raise the rate of interest so as to protect it. But this rule was never so erroneous as now, because the number of sudden demands upon that reserve was never formerly so great. The market rate of Lombard Street is not influenced by those demands. That rate is determined by the amount of deposits in the hands of bill-brokers and bankers, and the amount of good bills and acceptable securities offered at the moment. The probable efflux of bullion from the Bank scarcely affects it at all; even the real efflux affects it but little; if the open market did not believe that the Bank rate would be altered in consequence of such effluxes the market rate would not rise. If the Bank choose to let its bullion go unheeded, and is seen to be going so to choose, the value of money in Lombard Street will remain unaltered. The more numerous the demands on the Bank for bullion, and the more variable their magnitude, the more dangerous is the rule that the Bank rate of discount should conform to the market rate. In former quiet times the influence, or the partial influence, of that rule has often produced grave disasters. In the present difficult times an adherence to it is a recipe for making a large number of panics.

A more distinct view of abstract principle must be taken before we can fix on the amount of the reserve which the Bank of England ought to keep. Why should a bank keep any reserve? Because it may be called on to pay certain liabilities at once and in a moment. Why does any bank publish an account? In order to satisfy the public that it possesses cash—or available securities—enough to meet its liabilities. The object of publishing the account of the banking department of the Bank of England is to let the nation see how the national reserve of cash stands, to assure the public that there is enough and more than enough to meet not only all probable calls, but all calls of which there can be a chance of reasonable apprehension. And there is no doubt that the publication of the Bank account gives more stability to the money market than any other kind of precaution would give. Some persons, indeed, feared that the opposite result would happen; they feared that the constant publication of the incessant changes in the reserve would terrify and harass the public mind. An old banker once told me: ‘Sir, I was on Lord Althorp’s committee which decided on the publication of the Bank account, and I voted against it. I thought it would frighten people. But I am bound to own that the committee was right and I was wrong, for that publication has given the money market a greater sense of security than anything else which has happened in my time.’ The diffusion of confidence through Lombard Street and the world is the object of the publication of the Bank accounts and of the Bank reserve.

But that object is not attained if the amount of that reserve when so published is not enough to tranquillise people. A panic is sure to be caused if that reserve is, from whatever cause, exceedingly low. At every moment there is a certain minimum which I will call the apprehension minimum,’ below which the reserve cannot fall without great risk of diffused fear; and by this I do not mean absolute panic, but only a vague fright and timorousness which spreads itself instantly, and as if by magic, over the public mind. Such seasons of incipient alarm are exceedingly dangerous, because they beget the calamities they dread. What is most feared at such moments of susceptibility is the destruction of credit; and if any grave failure or bad event happens at such moments, the public fancy seizes on it, there is a general run, and credit is suspended. The Bank reserve then never ought to be diminished below the ‘apprehension point.’ And this is as much as to say, that it never ought very closely to approach that point; since, if it gets very near, some accident may easily bring it down to that point and cause the evil that is feared.

There is no ‘royal road’ to the amount of the ‘apprehension minimum’: no abstract argument, and no mathematical computation will teach it to us. And we cannot expect that they should. Credit is an opinion generated by circumstances and varying with those circumstances. The state of credit at any particular time is a matter of fact only to be ascertained like other matters of fact; it can only be known by trial and inquiry. And in the same way, nothing but experience can tell us what amount of ‘reserve’ will create a diffused confidence; on such a subject there is no way of arriving at a just conclusion except by incessantly watching the public mind, and seeing at each juncture how it is affected.

Of course in such a matter the cardinal rule to be observed is, that errors of excess are innocuous but errors of defect are destructive. Too much reserve only means a small loss of profit, but too small a reserve may mean ‘ruin.’ Credit may be at once shaken, and if some terrifying accident happen to supervene, there may be a run on the Banking department that may be too much for it, as in 1857 and 1866, and may make it unable to pay its way without assistance—as it was in those years.

And the observance of this maxim is the more necessary because the ‘apprehension minimum’ is not always the same. On the contrary, in times when the public has recently seen the Bank of England exposed to remarkable demands, it is likely to expect that such demands may come again. Conspicuous and recent events educate it, so to speak; it expects that much will be demanded when much has of late often been demanded, and that little will be so, when in general but little has been so. A bank like the Bank of England must always, therefore, be on the watch for a rise, if I may so express it, in the apprehension minimum; it must provide an adequate fund not only to allay the misgivings of to-day, but also to allay what may be the still greater misgivings of to-morrow. And the only practical mode of obtaining this object is—to keep the actual reserve always in advance of the minimum ‘apprehension’ reserve.

And this involves something much more. As the actual reserve is never to be less, and is always, if possible, to exceed by a reasonable amount the ‘minimum’ apprehension reserve, it must when the Bank is quiet and taking no precautions very considerably exceed that minimum. All the precautions of the Bank take time to operate. The principal precaution is a rise in the rate of discount, and such a rise certainly does attract money from the Continent and from all the world much faster than could have been anticipated. But it does not act instantaneously; even the right rate, the ultimately attractive rate, requires an interval for its action, and before the money can come here. And the right rate is often not discovered for some time. It requires several ‘moves,’ as the phrase goes, several augmentations of the rate of discount by the Bank, before the really effectual rate is reached, and in the mean time bullion is ebbing away and the ‘reserve’ is diminishing. Unless, therefore, in times without precaution the actual reserve exceed the ‘apprehension minimum’ by at least the amount which may be taken away in the inevitable interval, and before the available precautions begin to operate, the rule prescribed will be infringed, and the actual reserve will be less than the ‘apprehension’ minimum. In time the precautions taken may attract gold and raise the reserve to the needful amount, but in the interim the evils may happen against which the rule was devised, diffused apprehension may arise, and then any unlucky accident may cause many calamities.

I may be asked, ‘What does all this reasoning in practice come to? At the present moment how much reserve do you say the Bank of England should keep? state your recommendation clearly (I know it will be said) if you wish to have it attended to.’ And I will answer the question plainly, though in so doing there is a great risk that the principles I advocate may be in some degree injured through some mistake I may make in applying them.

I should say that at the present time the mind of the monetary world would become feverish and fearful if the reserve in the Banking department of the Bank of England went below 10,000,000 L. Estimated by the idea of old times, by the idea even of ten years ago, that sum, I know, sounds extremely large. My own nerves were educated to smaller figures, because I was trained in times when the demands on us were less, when neither was so much reserve wanted nor did the public expect so much. But I judge from such observations as I can make of the present state of men’s minds, that in fact, and whether justifiably or not, the important and intelligent part of the public which watches the Bank reserve becomes anxious and dissatisfied if that reserve falls below 10,000,000 L. That sum, therefore, I call the ‘apprehension minimum’ for the present times. Circumstances may change and may make it less or more, but according to the most careful estimate I can make, that is what I should call it now.

It will be said that this estimate is arbitrary and these figures are conjectures. I reply that I only submit them for the judgment of others. The main question is one of fact—Does not the public mind begin to be anxious and timorous just where I have placed the apprehension point? and the deductions from that are comparatively simple questions of mixed fact and reasoning. The final appeal in such cases necessarily is to those who are conversant with and who closely watch the facts.

I shall perhaps be told also that a body like the Court of the Directors of the Bank of England cannot act on estimates like these: that such a body must have a plain rule and keep to it. I say in reply, that if the correct framing of such estimates is necessary for the good guidance of the Bank, we must make a governing body which can correctly frame such estimates. We must not suffer from a dangerous policy because we have inherited an imperfect form of administration. I have before explained in what manner the government of the Bank of England should, I consider, be strengthened, and that government so strengthened would, I believe, be altogether competent to a wise policy.

Then I should say, putting the foregoing reasoning into figures, that the Bank ought never to keep less than 11,000,000 L.. or 11,500,000 L. since experience shows that a million, or a million and a half, may be taken from us at any time. I should regard this as the practical minimum at which, roughly of course, the Bank should aim, and which it should try never to be below. And, in order not to be below 11,500,000 L., the Bank must begin to take precautions when the reserve is between 14,000,000 L. and 15,000,000 l.; for experience shows that between 2,000,000 L. and 3,000,000 L. may, probably enough, be withdrawn from the Bank store before the right rate of interest is found which will attract money from abroad, and before that rate has had time to attract it. When the reserve is between 14,000,000 L. and 15,000,000 L., and when it begins to be diminished by foreign demand, the Bank of England should, I think, begin to act, and to raise the rate of interest.


I know it will be said that in this work I have pointed out a deep malady, and only suggested a superficial remedy. I have tediously insisted that the natural system of banking is that of many banks keeping their own cash reserve, with the penalty of failure before them if they neglect it. I have shown that our system is that of a single bank keeping the whole reserve under no effectual penalty of failure. And yet I propose to retain that system, and only attempt to mend and palliate it.

I can only reply that I propose to retain this system because I am quite sure that it is of no manner of use proposing to alter it. A system of credit which has slowly grown up as years went on, which has suited itself to the course of business, which has forced itself on the habits of men, will not be altered because theorists disapprove of it, or because books are written against it. You might as well, or better, try to alter the English monarchy and substitute a republic, as to alter the present constitution of the English money market, founded on the Bank of England, and substitute for it a system in which each bank shall keep its own reserve. There is no force to be found adequate to so vast a reconstruction, and so vast a destructions and therefore it is useless proposing them.

No one who has not long considered the subject can have a notion how much this dependence on the Bank of England is fixed in our national habits. I have given so many illustrations in this book that I fear I must have exhausted my reader’s patience, but I will risk giving another. I suppose almost everyone thinks that our system of savings’ banks is sound and good. Almost everyone would be surprised to hear that there is any possible objection to it. Yet see what it amounts to. By the last return the savings’ banks—the old and the Post Office together—contain about 60,000,000 L. of deposits, and against this they hold in the funds securities of the best kind. But they hold no cash whatever. They have of course the petty cash about the various branches necessary for daily work. But of cash in ultimate reserve—cash in reserve against a panic—the savings’ banks have not a sixpence. These banks depend on being able in a panic to realise their securities. But it has been shown over and over again, that in a panic such securities can only be realised by the help of the Bank of England—that it is only the Bank with the ultimate cash reserve which has at such moments any new money, or any power to lend and act. If in a general panic there were a run on the savings’ banks, those banks could not sell 100,000 L. of Consols without the help of the Bank of England; not holding themselves a cash reserve for times of panic, they are entirely dependent on the one Bank which does hold that reserve.

This is only a single additional instance beyond the innumerable ones given, which shows how deeply our system of banking is fixed in our ways of thinking.  The Government keeps the money of the poor upon it, and the nation fully approves of their doing so.  No one hears a syllable of objection.  And every practical man—every man who knows the scene of action—will agree that our system of banking, based on a single reserve in the Bank of England, cannot be altered, or a system of many banks, each keeping its own reserve, be substituted for it.  Nothing but a revolution would effect it, and there is nothing to cause a revolution.

This being so, there is nothing for it but to make the best of our banking system, and to work it in the best way that it is capable of.  We can only use palliatives, and the point is to get the best palliative we can. I have endeavoured to show why it seems to me that the palliatives which I have suggested are the best that are at our disposal.

I have explained why the French plan will not suit our English world.  The direct appointment of the Governor and Deputy-Governor of the Bank of England by the executive Government would not lessen our evils or help our difficulties.  I fear it would rather make both worse.  But possibly it may be suggested that I ought to explain why the American system, or some modification, would not or might not be suitable to us.  The American law says that each national bank shall have a fixed proportion of cash to its liabilities (there are two classes of banks, and two different proportions; but that is not to the present purpose), and it ascertains by inspectors, who inspect at their own times, whether the required amount of cash is in the bank or not.  It may be asked, could nothing like this be attempted in England? could not it, or some modification, help us out of our difficulties?  As far as the American banking system is one of many reserves, I have said why I think it is of no use considering whether we should adopt it or not.  We cannot adopt it if we would.  The one-reserve system is fixed upon us.  The only practical imitation of the American system would be to enact that the Banking department of the Bank of England should always keep a fixed proportion—say one-third of its liabilities—in reserve.  But, as we have seen before, a fixed proportion of the liabilities, even when that proportion is voluntarily chosen by the directors, and not imposed by law, is not the proper standard for a bank reserve.  Liabilities may be imminent or distant, and a fixed rule which imposes the same reserve for both will sometimes err by excess, and sometimes by defect.  It will waste profits by over-provision against ordinary danger, and yet it may not always save the bank; for this provision is often likely enough to be insufficient against rare and unusual dangers.  But bad as is this system when voluntarily chosen, it becomes far worse when legally and compulsorily imposed.  In a sensitive state of the English money market the near approach to the legal limit of reserve would be a sure incentive to panic; if one-third were fixed by law, the moment the banks were close to one-third, alarm would begin, and would run like magic.  And the fear would be worse because it would not be unfounded—at least, not wholly.  If you say that the Bank shall always hold one-third of its liabilities as a reserve, you say in fact that this one-third shall always be useless, for out of it the Bank cannot make advances, cannot give extra help, cannot do what we have seen the holders of the ultimate reserve ought to do and must do.  There is no help for us in the American system; its very essence and principle are faulty.

We must therefore, I think, have recourse to feeble and humble palliatives such as I have suggested.  With good sense, good judgment, and good care, I have no doubt that they may be enough.  But I have written in vain if I require to say now that the problem is delicate, that the solution is varying and difficult, and that the result is inestimable to us all.”     Walter Bagehot, Lombard Street: a Description of the Money Market; Chapters VII-XIII, 1873.  

A Rand McNally map appended to the 1914 edition of The New Student's Reference Work.
A Rand McNally map appended to the 1914 edition of The New Student’s Reference Work.

Numero Dos–-“If we were able to take as the finest allegory of simulation the Borges tale where the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory (but where, with the decline of the Empire this map becomes frayed and finally ruined, a few shreds still discernible in the deserts – the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction, bearing witness to an imperial pride and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, rather as an aging double ends up being confused with the real thing), this fable would then have come full circle for us, and now has nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra. Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept.  Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance.  It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.  The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it.  Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory–precession of simulacra–it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map.  It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own.  The desert of the real itself.

In fact, even inverted, the fable is useless.  Perhaps only the allegory of the Empire remains.  For it is with the same imperialism that present-day simulators try to make the real, all the real, coincide with their simulation models.  But it is no longer a question of either maps or territory.  Something has disappeared: the sovereign difference between them that was the abstraction’s charm.  For it is the difference which forms the poetry of the map and the charm of the territory, the magic of the concept and the charm of the real.  This representational imaginary, which both culminates in and is engulfed by the cartographer’s mad project of an ideal coextensivity between the map and the territory, disappears with simulation, whose operation is nuclear and genetic, and no longer specular and discursive.  With it goes all of metaphysics.  No more mirror of being and appearances, of the real and its concept; no more imaginary coextensivity: rather, genetic miniaturization is the dimension of simulation.  The real is produced from miniaturized units, from matrices, memory banks and command models—and with these it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times.  It no longer has to be rational, since it is no longer measured against some ideal or negative instance.  It is nothing more than operational.  In fact, since it is no longer enveloped by an imaginary, it is no longer real at all.  It is a hyperreal: the product of an irradiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere.

In this passage to a space whose curvature is no longer that of the real, nor of truth, the age of simulation thus begins with a liquidation of all referentials—worse: by their art)ficial resurrection in systems of signs, which are a more ductile material than meaning, in that they lend themselves to all systems of equivalence, all binary oppositions and all combinatory algebra.  It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody.  It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself; that is, an operation to deter every real process by its operational double, a metastable, programmatic, perfect descriptive machine which provides all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes.  Never again will the real have to be produced: this is the vital function of the model in a system of death, or rather of anticipated resurrection which no longer leaves any chance even in the event of death.  A hyperreal henceforth sheltered from the imaginary, and from any distinction between the real and the imaginary, leaving room only for the orbital recurrence of models and the simulated generation of difference.


The divine irreference of images

To dissimulate is to feign not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one hasn’t. One implies a presence, the other an absence. But the matter is more complicated, since to simulate is not simply to feign: “Someone who feigns an illness can simply go to bed and pretend he is ill. Someone who simulates an illness produces in himself some of the symptoms” (Littre). Thus, feigning or dissimulating leaves the reality principle intact: the difference is always clear, it is only masked; whereas simulation threatens the difference between “true” and “false”, between “real” and “imaginary”. Since the simulator produces “true” symptoms, is he or she ill or not? The simulator cannot be treated objectively either as ill, or as not ill. Psychology and medicine stop at this point, before a thereafter undiscoverable truth of the illness. For if any symptom can be “produced,” and can no longer be accepted as a fact of nature, then every illness may be considered as simulatable and simulated, and medicine loses its meaning since it only knows how to treat “true” illnesses by their objective causes. Psychosomatics evolves in a dubious way on the edge of the illness principle. As for psychoanalysis, it transfers the symptom from the organic to the unconscious order: once again, the latter is held to be real, more real than the former; but why should simulation stop at the portals of the unconscious? Why couldn’t the “work” of the unconscious be “produced” in the same way as any other symptom in classical medicine? Dreams already are.

The alienist, of course, claims that “for each form of the mental alienation there is a particular order in the succession of symptoms, of which the simulator is unaware and in the absence of which the alienist is unlikely to be deceived.” This (which dates from 1865) in order to save at all cost the truth principle, and to escape the specter raised by simulation: namely that truth, reference and objective caues have ceased to exist. What can medicine do with something which floats on either side of illness, on either side of health, or with the reduplication of illness in a discourse that is no longer true or false? What can psychoanalysis do with the reduplication of the discourse of the unconscious in a discourse of simulation that can never be unmasked, since it isn’t false either?2

What can the army do with simulators? Traditionally, following a direct principle of identification, it unmasks and punishes them. Today, it can reform an excellent simulator as though he were equivalent to a “real” homosexual, heart-case or lunatic. Even military psychology retreats from the Cartesian clarifies and hesitates to draw the distinction between true and false, between the “produced” symptom and the authentic symptom. “If he acts crazy so well, then he must be mad.” Nor is it mistaken: in the sense that all lunatics are simulators, and this lack of distinction is the worst form of subversion. Against it, classical reason armed itself with all its categories. But it is this today which again outflanks them, submerging the truth principle.

Outside of medicine and the army, favored terrains of simulation, the affair goes back to religion and the simulacrum of divinity: “l forbade any simulacrum in the temples because the divinity that breathes life into nature cannot be represented.” Indeed it can. But what becomes of the divinity when it reveals itself in icons, when it is multiplied in simulacra? Does it remain the supreme authority, simply incarnated in images as a visible theology? Or is it volatilized into simulacra which alone deploy their pomp and power of fascination – the visible machinery of icons being substituted for the pure and intelligible Idea of God? This is precisely what was feared by the Iconoclasts, whose millennial quarrel is still with us today.3 Their rage to destroy images rose precisely because they sensed this omnipotence of simulacra, this facility they have of erasing God from the consciousnesses of people, and the overwhelming, destructive truth which they suggest: that ultimately there has never been any God; that only simulacra exist; indeed that God himself has only ever been his own simulacrum. Had they been able to believe that images only occulted or masked the Platonic idea of God, there would have been no reason to destroy them. One can live with the idea of a distorted truth. But their metaphysical despair came from the idea that the images concealed nothing at all, and that in fact they were not images, such as the original model would have made them, but actually perfect simulacra forever radiant with their own fascination. But this death of the divine referential has to be exorcised at all cost.

It can be seen that the iconoclasts, who are often accused of despising and denying images, were in fact the ones who accorded them their actual worth, unlike the iconolaters, who saw in them only reflections and were content to venerate God at one remove. But the converse can also be said, namely that the iconolaters possesed the most modern and adventurous minds, since, underneath the idea of the apparition of God in the mirror of images, they already enacted his death and his disappearance in the epiphany of his representations (which they perhaps knew no longer represented anything, and that they were purely a game, but that this was precisely the greatest game – knowing also that it is dangerous to unmask images, since they dissimulate the fact that there is nothing behind them).

This was the approach of the Jesuits, who based their politics on the virtual disappearance of God and on the worldly and spectacular manipulation of consciences – the evanescence of God in the epiphany of power – the end of transcendence, which no longer serves as alibi for a strategy completely free of influences and signs. Behind the baroque of images hides the grey eminence of politics.

Thus perhaps at stake has always been the murderous capacity of images: murderers of the real; murderers of their own model as the Byzantine icons could murder the divine identity. To this murderous capacity is opposed the dialectical capacity of representations as a visible and intelligible mediation of the real. All of Western faith and good faith was engaged in this wager on representation: that a sign could refer to the depth of meaning, that a sign could exchange for meamng and that something could guarantee this exchangeGod, of course. But what if God himself can be simulated, that is to say, reduced to the signs which attest his existence? Then the whole system becomes weightless; it is no longer anything but a gigantic simulacrum: not unreal, but a simulacrum, never again exchanging for what is real, but exchanging in itself, in an umnterrupted circuit without reference or circumference

So it is with simulation, insofar as it is opposed to representation. Representation starts from the principle that the sign and the real are equivalent (even if this equivalence is Utopian, it is a fundamental ax~om). Conversely, simulation starts from the Utopia of this principle of equivalence, from the radical negation of the sign as value, from the sign as reversion and death sentence of every reference. Whereas representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation as itself a simulacrum.

These would be the successive phases of the image:

1 It is the reflection of a basic reality.
2 It masks and perverts a basic reality.
3 It masks the absence of a basic reality.
4 It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum.

In the first case, the image is a good appearance: the representation is of the order of sacrament. In the second, it is an evil appearance: of the order of malefice. In the third, it plays at being an appearance: it is of the order of sorcery. In the fourth, it is no longer in the order of appearance at all, but of simulation.

The transition from signs which dissimulate something to signs which dissimulate that there is nothing, marks the decisive turning pomt. The first implies a theology of truth and secrecy (to which the notmn of ideology still belongs). The second inaugurates an age of simulacra and simulation, in which there is no longer any God to recognize his own, nor any last judgement to separate truth from false, the real from its art)ficial resurrection, since everything is already dead and risen in advance.

When the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning. There is a proliferation of myths of origin and signs of reality; of second-hand truth, objectivity and authenticity. There is an escalation of the true, of the lived experience; a resurrection of the figurative where the object and substance have disappeared. And there is a panic-stricken production of the real and the referential, above and parallel to the panic of material production. This is how simulation appears in the phase that concerns us: a strategy of the real, neo-real and hyperreal, whose universal double is a strategy of deterrence.

Hyperreal and imaginary

Disneyland is a perfect model of all the entangled orders of simulation. To begin with it is a play of illusions and phantasms: pirates, the frontier, future world, etc. This imaginary world is supposed to be what makes the operation successful. But, what draws the crowds is undoubtedly much more the social microcosm, the miniaturized and religious revelling in real America, in its delights and drawbacks. You park outside, queue up inside, and are totally abandoned at the exit. In this imaginary world the only phantasmagoria is in the inherent warmth and affection of the crowd, and in that aufficiently excessive number of gadgets used there to specifically maintain the multitudinous affect. The contrast with the absolute solitude of the parking lot – a veritable concentration camp – is total. Or rather: inside, a whole range of gadgets magnetize the crowd into direct flows; outside, solitude is directed onto a single gadget: the automobile. By an extraordinary coincidence (one that undoubtedly belongs to the peculiar enchantment of this universe), this deep-frozen infantile world happens to have been conceived and realized by a man who is himself now cryogenized; Walt Disney, who awaits his resurrection at minus 180 degrees centigrade.


The objective profile of the United States, then, may be traced throughout Disneyland, even down to the morphology of individuals and the crowd. All its values are exalted here, in miniature and comic-strip form. Embalmed and pactfied. Whence the possibility of an ideological analysis of Disneyland (L. Marin does it well in Utopies, jeux d’espaces): digest of the American way of life, panegyric to American values, idealized transposition of a contradictory reality. To be sure. But this conceals something else, and that “ideological” blanket exactly serves to cover over a third-order simulation: Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the “real” country, all of “real” America, which is Disneyland (just as prisons are there to conceal the fact that it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, which is carceral). Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.


The Disneyland imaginary is neither true nor false: it is a deterrence machine set up in order to rejuvenate in reverse the fiction of the real. Whence the debility, the infantile degeneration of this imaginary. It ~s meant to be an infantile world, in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the “real” world, and to conceal the fact that real childishness is everywhere, particularly among those adults who go there to act the child in order to foster illusions of their real childishness.


Moreover, Disneyland is not the only one. Enchanted Village, Magic Mountain, Marine World: Los Angeles is encircled by these “imaginary stations” which feed reality, reality-energy, to a town whose mystery is precisely that it is nothing more than a network of endless, unreal circulation: a town of fabulous proportions, but without space or dimensions. As much as electrical and nuclear power stations, as much as film studios, this town, which is nothing more than an immense script and a perpetual motion picture, needs this old imaginary made up of childhood signals and faked phantasms for its sympathetic nervous system.


Political incantation

Watergate. Same scenario as Disneyland (an imaginary effect concealing that reality no more exists outside than inside the bounds of the art)ficial perimeter): though here it is a scandal-effect concealing that there is no difference between the facts and their denunciation (identical methods are employed by the CIA and the Washington Post journalists). Same operation, though this time tending towards scandal as a means to regenerate a moral and political principle, towards the imaginary as a means to regenerate a reality principle in distress.


The denunciation of scandal always pays homage to the law. And Watergate above all succeeded in imposing the idea that Watergate was a scandal – in this sense it was an extraordinary operation of intoxication: the reinjection of a large dose of political morality on a global scale. It could be said along with Bourdieu that: “The specific character of every relation of force is to dissimulate itself as such, and to acquire all its force only because it is so dissimulated”; understood as follows: capital, which is immoral and unscrupulous, can only function behind a moral superstructure, and whoever regenerates this public mocality (by indignation, denunciation, etc.) spontaneously furthers the; order of capital, as did the Washington Post journalists.


But this is still only the formula of ideology, and when Bourdieu enunciates it, he takes “relation of force” to mean the truth of capitalist domination, and he denounces this relation of force as itself a scandal: he therefore occupies the same deterministic and moralistic position as the Washington Post journalists. He does the same job of purging and revivihg moral order, an order of truth wherein the genuine symbolic violence of the social order is engendered, well beyond all relations of force, which are only elements of its indifferent and shifting configuration in the moral and political consciousnesses of people.


All that capital asks of us is to receive it as rational or to combat it in the name of rationality, to receive it as moral or to combat it in the name of morality. For they are identical, meaning they can be read another way: before, the task was to dissimulate scandal; today, the task is to conceal the fact that there is none.


Watergate is not a scandal: this is- what must be said at all cost, for this is what everyone is concerned to conceal, this dissimulation masking a strengthening of morality, a moral panic as we approach the primal (mise-en-)scene of capital: its instantaneous cruelty; its incomprehensible ferocity; its fundamental immorality – these are what are scandalous, unaccountable for in that system of moral and economic equivalence which remains the axiom of leftist thought, from Enlightenment theory to communism. Capital doesn’t give a damn about the idea of the contract which is imputed to it: it is a monstrous unprincipled undertaking, nothing more. Rather, it is “enlightened” thought which seeks to control capital by imposing rules on it. And all that recrimination which replaced revolutionary thought today comes down to reproaching capital for not following the rules of the game. “Power is unjust; its justice is a class justice; capital exploits us; etc.” – as if capital were linked by a contract to the society it rules. It is the left which holds out the mirror of equivalence, hoping that capital will fall for this phantasmagoria of the social contract and furfill its obligation towards the whole of society (at the same time, no need for revolution: it is enough that capital accept the rational formula of exchange).


Capital in fact has never been linked by a contract to the society it dominates. It is a sorcery of the social relation, it is a challenge to society and should be responded to as such. It is not a scandal to be denounced according to moral and economic rationality, but – challenge to take up according to symbolic law.


Moebius: spiralling negativity

Hence Watergate was only a trap set by the system to catch its adversaries – a simulation of scandal to regenerative ends. This is embodied by the character called “Deep Throat,” who was said to be a Republican grey eminence manipulating the leftist journalists in order to get rid of Nixon – and why not? All hypotheses are possible, although this one is superfluous: the work of the Right is done very well, and spontaneously, by the Left on its own. Besides, it would be naive to see an embittered good conscience at work here. For the Right itself also spontaneously does the work of the Left. All the hypotheses of manipulation are reversible in an endless whirligig. For manipulation is a floating causality where positivity and negativity engender and overlap with one another; where there is no longer any active or passive. It is by putting an arbitrary stop to this revolving causality that a principle of political reality can be saved. It is by the simulation of a conventional, restricted perspective field, where the premises and consequences of any act or event are calculable, that a political credibility can be maintained (including, of course, “objective” analysis, struggle, etc.) But if the entire cycle of any act or event is envisaged in a system where linear continuity and dialectical polarity no longer exist, in a field unhinged by simulation, then all determination evaporates, every act terminates at the end of the cycle having benefited everyone and been scattered in all directions.


Is any given bombing in Italy the work of leftist extremists; or of extreme right-wing provocation; or staged by centrists to bring every terrorist extreme into disrepute and to shore up its own failing power; or again, is it a police-inspired scenario in order to appeal to calls for public security? All this is equally true, and the search for proof- indeed the objectivity of the fact- does not check this vertigo of interpretation. We are in a logic of simulation which has nothing to do with a logic of facts and an order of reasons. Simulation is characterized by a precession of the model, of all models around the merest fact- the models come first, and their orbital (like the bomb) circulation constitutes the genuine magnetic field of events. Facts no longer have any trajectory of their own, they arise at the intersection of the models; a single fact may even be engendered by all the models at once. This anticipation, this precession, this short-circuit, this confusion of the fact with its model (no more divergence of meaning, no more dialectical polarity, no more negative electricity or implosion of poles) is what each time allows for all the possible interpretations, even the most contradictory – all are true, in the sense that their truth is exchangeable, in the image of the models from which they proceed, in a generalized cycle.


The communists attack the socialist party as though they wanted to shatter the union of the Left. They sanction the idea that their reticence stems from a more radical political exigency. In fact, it is because they don’t want power. But do they not want it at this conjuncture because it is unfavorable for the Left in general, or because it is unfavorable for them within the union of the Left – or do they not want it by definition? When Berlinguer declares, “We mustn’t be frightened of seeing the communists seize power in Italy,” this means simultaneously:


1 That there is nothing to fear, since the communists, if they come to power, will change nothing in its fundamental capitalist mechanism.


2 That there isn’t any risk of their ever coming to power (for the reason that they don’t want to); and even if they do take it up, they will only ever wield it by proxy.


3 That in fact power, genuine power, no longer exists, and hence there is no risk of anybody seizing it or taking it over.


4 But more: 1, Berlinguer, am not frightened of seeing the communists seize power in Italy – which might appear evident, but not so evident, since:


5 It can also mean the contrary (no need for psychoanalysis here): I am frightened of seeing the communists seize power (and with good reason, even for a communist).


All the above is simultaneously true. This is the secret of a discourse that is no longer only ambiguous, as political discourses can be, but that conveys the impossibility of a determinate position of power, the impossibility of a determinate position of discourse. And this logic belongs to neither party. It traverses all discourses without their wanting it.


Who will unravel this imbroglio? The Gordian knot can at least be cut. As for the Moebius strip, if it is split in two, it results in an additional spiral without there being any possibility of resolving its surfaces (here the reversible continuity of hypotheses). Hades of simulation, which is no longer one of torture, but of the subtle, maleficent, elusive twisting of meaning4 – where even those condemned at Burgos are still a gik from Franco to Western democracy, which finds m them the occasion to regenerate its own flagging humamsm, and whose indignant protestation consolidates in return Franco’s regime by uniting the Spanish masses against foreign intervention? Where is the truth in all that, when such collusions admirably knit together without their authors even knowing it?


The conjunction of the system and its extreme alternative like two ends of a curved mirror, the “vicious” curvature of a political space henceforth magnetized, circularized, reversibilized from right to lek a torsion that is like the evil demon of commutation, the whole system, the infinity of capital folded back over its own sur&ce: transfinite? And isn’t it the same with desire and libidinal space? The conjunction of desire and value, of desire and capital. The conjunction of desire and the law; the ultimate joy and metamorphosis of the law (which is why it is so well received at the moment): only capital takes pleasure, Lyotard said, before coming to think that we take pleasure in capital. Overwhelming versatility of desire in Deleuze: an enigmatic reversal which brings this desire that is “revolutionary by itself, and as if involuntarily, in wanting what it wants,” to want its own repression and to invest paranoid and fascist systems? A malign torsion which reduces this revolution of desire to the same fundamental ambiguity as the other, historical revolution.


All the referentials intermingle their discourses in a circular, Moebian compulsion. Not so long ago sex and work were savagely opposed terms: today both are dissolved into the same type of demand. Formerly the discourse on history took its force from opposing itself to the one on nature, the discourse on desire to the one on power: today they exchange their signifiers and their scenarios.


It would take too long to run through the whole range of operational negativity, of all those scenarios of deterrence which, like Watergate, try to revive a moribund principle by simulated scandal, phantasm, murder – a sort of hormonal treatment by negativity and crisis. It is always a question of proving the real by the imaginary; proving truth by scandal; proving the law by transgression; proving work by the strike; proving the system by crisis and capital by revolution; and for that matter proving ethnology by the dispossession of its object (the Tasaday). Without counting: proving theater by anti-theater; proving art by anti-art; proving pedagogy by anti-pedagogy; proving psychiatry by anti-psychiatry, etc., etc.


Everything is metamorphosed into its inverse in order to be perpetuated in its purged form. Every form of power, every situation speaks of itself by denial, in order to attempt to escape, by simulation of death, its real agony. Power can stage its own murder to rediscover a glimmer of existence and legitimacy. Thus with the American presidents: the Kennedys are murdered because they still have a political dimension. Others – Johnson, Nixon, Ford – only had a right to puppet attempts, to simulated murders. But they nevertheless needed that aura of an art)ficial menace to conceal that they were nothing other than mannequins of power. In olden days the king (also the god) had to die – that was his strength. Today he does his miserable utmost to pretend to die, so as to preserve the blessing of power. But even this is gone.


To seek new blood in its own death, to renew the cycle by the mirror of crisis, negativity and anti-power: this is the only alibi of every power, of every institution attempting to break the vicious circle of its irresponsibility and its fundamental nonexistence, of its deja-vu and its deja-mort.


Strategy of the real

Of the same order as the impossibility of rediscovering an absolute level of the real, is the impossibility of staging an illusion. Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible. It is the whole political problem of the parody, of hypersimulation or offensive simulation, which is posed here.

For example: it would be interesting to see whether the repressive apparatus would not react more violently to a simulated hold up than to a real one? For a real hold up only upsets the order of things, the right of property, whereas a simulated hold up interferes with the very principle of reality. Transgression and violence are less serious, for they only contest the distribution of the real. Simulation is infinitely more dangerous since it always suggests, over and above its object, that law and order themselves might really be nothing more than a simulation.

But the difficulty is in proportion to the peril. How to feign a violation and put it to the test? Go and simulate a theft in a large department store: how do you convince the security guards that it is a simulated theft? There is no “objective” difference: the same gestures and the same signs exist as for a real theft; in fact the signs mclme neither to one side nor the other. As far as the established order is concerned, they are always of the order of the real.

Go and organize a fake hold up. Be sure to check that your weapons are harmless, and take the most trustworthy hostage, so that no life is in danger (otherwise you risk committing an offence). Demand ransom, and arrange it so that the operation creates the greatest commotion possible. In brief, stay close to the “truth”, so as to test the reaction of the apparatus to a perfect simulation. But you won’t succeed: the web of art)ficial signs will be inextricably mixed up with real elements (a police officer will really shoot on sight; a bank customer will faint and die of a heart attack; they will really turn the phoney ransom over to you). In brief, you will unwittingly find yourself immediately in the real, one of whose functions is precisely to devour every attempt at simulation, to reduce everything to some reality: that’s exactly how the established order is, well before institutions and justice come into play.

In this impossibility of isolating the process of simulation must be seen the whole thrust of an order that can only see and understand m terms of some reality, because it can function nowhere else. The simulation of an offence, if it is patent, will either be punished more lightly (because it has no “consequences”) or be punished as an offence to public office (for example, if one triggered off a police operation “for nothing”) – but never as simulation, since it is precisely as such that no equivalence with the real is possible, and hence no repression either. The challenge of simulation is irreceivable by power. How can you punish the simulation of virtue? Yet as such it is as serious as the simulation of crime. Parody makes obedience and transgression equivalent, and that is the most serious crime, since it cancels out the difference upon which the law is based. The established order can do nothing against it, for the law is a second-order simulacrum whereas simulation is a third-order simulacrum, beyond true and false, beyond equivalences, beyond the rational distmctions upon which function all power and the entire social stratum. Hence, failing the real, it is here that we must aim at order.

This is why order always opts for the real. In a state of uncertainty, It always prefers this assumption (thus in the army they would rather take the simulator as a true madman). But this becomes more and more difficult, for it is practically impossible to isolate the process of simulation; through the force of inertia of the real which surrounds us, the inverse is also true (and this very reversibility forms part of the apparatus of simulation and of power’s impotency): namely, it is now impossible to isolate the process of the real, or to prove the real.

Thus all hold ups, hijacks and the like are now as it were simulation hold ups, in the sense that they are inscribed in advance in the decoding and orchestration rituals of the media, anticipated in their mode of presentation and possible consequences. In brief, where they function as a set of signs dedicated exclusively to their recurrence as signs, and no longer to their “real” goal at all. But this does not make them inoffensive. On the contrary, it is as hyperreal events, no longer having any particular contents or aims, but indefinitely refracted by each other (for that matter like so-called historical events: strikes, demonstrations, crises, etc.5), that they are precisely unverifiable by an order which can only exert itself on the real and the rational, on ends and means: a referential order which can only dominate referentials, a determinate power which can only dominate a determined world, but which can do nothing about that indefinite recurrence of simulation, about that weightless nebula no longer obeying the law of gravitation of the real – power itself eventually breaking apart in this space and becomnig a simulation of power (disconnected from its aims and objectives, and dedicated to power effects and mass simulation).

The only weapon of power, its only strategy against this defection, is to reinject realness and referentiality everywhere, in order to convince us of the reality of the social, of the gravity of the economy and the finalities of production. For that purpose it prefers the discourse of crisis, but also – why not? – the discourse of desire. “Take your desires for reality!” can be understood as the ultimate slogan of power, for in a nonreferential world even the confusian of the reality principle with the desire principle is less dangerous than contagious hyperreality. One remains among principles, and there power is always right.

Hyperreality and simulation are deterrents of every principle and of every objective; they turn against power this deterrence which is so well utilized for a long time itself. For, finally, it was capital which was the first to feed throughout its history on the destruction of every referential, of every human goal, which shattered every ideal distinction between true and false, good and evil, in order to establish a radical law of equivalence and exchange, the iron law of its power. It was the first to practice deterrence, abstraction, disconnection, deterritorialization, etc.; and if it was capital which fostered reality, the reality principle, it was also the first to liquidate it in the extermination of every use value, of every real equivalence, of production and wealth, in the very sensation we have of the unreality of the stakes and the omnipotence of manipulation. Now, it is this very logic which is today hardened even more against it. And when it wants to fight this catastrophic spiral by secreting one last glimmer of reality, on which to found one last glimmer of power, it only multiplies the signs and accelerates the play of simulation.

As long as it was historically threatened by the real, power risked deterrence and simulation, disintegrating every contradiction by means of the production of equivalent signs. When it is threatened today by simulation (the threat of vanishing in the play of signs), power risks the real, risks crisis, it gambles on remanufacturing artificial, social, economic, -political stakes. This is a question of life or death for it. But it is too late.

Whence the characteristic hysteria of our time: the hysteria of production and reproduction of the real. The other production, that of goods and commodities, that of la belle epoque of political economy, no longer makes any sense of its own, and has not for some time. What society seeks through production, and overproduction, is the restoration of the real which escapes it. That is why contemporary “material” production is itself hyperreal. It retains all the features, the whole discourse of traditional production, but it is nothing more than its scaled-down refraction (thus the hyperrealists fasten in a striking resemblance a real from which has fled all meaning and charm, all the profundity and energy of representation). Thus the hyperrealism of simulation is expressed everywhere by the real’s striking resemblance to itself.

Power, too, for some time now produces nothing but signs of its resemblance. And at the same time, another figure of power comes into play: that of a collective demand for signs of power – a holy union which forms around the disappearance of power. Everybody belongs to it more or less in fear of the collapse of the political. And in the end the game of power comes down to nothing more than the critical obsession with power: an obsession with its death; an obsession with its survival which becomes greater the more it disappears. When it has totally disappeared, logically we will be under the total spell of power – a haunting memory already foreshadowed everywhere, manifesting at one and the same time the satisfaction of having got rid of it (nobody wants it any more, everybody unloads it on others) and grieving its loss. Melancholy for societies without power: this has already given rise to fascism, that overdose of a powerful referential in a society which cannot terminate its mourning.

But we are still in the same boat: none of our societies know how to manage their mourning for the real, for power, for the social itself, which is implicated in this same breakdown. And it is by an art)ficial revitalization of all this that we try to escape it. Undoubtedly this will even end up in socialism. By an unforeseen twist of events and an irony which no longer belongs to history, it is through the death of the social that socialism will emerge – as it is through the death of God that religions emerge. A twisted coming, a perverse event, an unintelligible reversion to the logic of reason. As is the fact that power is no longer present except to conceal that there is none. A simulation which can go on indefinitely, since -unlike “true” power which is, or was, a structure, a strategy, a relation of force, a stake – this is nothing but the object of a social demand, and hence subject to the law of supply and demand, rather than to violence and death. Completely expunged from the political dimension, it is dependent, like any other commodity, on production and mass consumption. Its spark has disappeared; only the fiction of a political universe is saved.

Likewise with work.  The spark of production, the violence of its stake no longer exists.  Everybody still produces, and more and more, but work has subtly become something else: a need (as Marx ideally envisaged it, but not at all in the same sense), the object of a social ‘demand,’ like leisure, to which it is equivalent in the general run of life’s options.  A demand exactly proportional to the loss of stake in the work process.  The same change in fortune as for power: the scenario of work is there to conceal the fact that the work-real, the production-real, has disappeared.  And for that matter so has the strike-real too, which is no longer a stoppage of work, but its alternative pole in the ritual scansion of the social calendar.  It is as if everyone has ‘occupied’ their work place or work post, after declaring the strike, and resumed production, as is the custom in a ‘self-managed’ job, in exactly the same terms as before, by declaring themselves (and virtually being) in a state of permanent strike.

This isn’t a science-fiction dream: everywhere it is a question of a doubling of the work process.  And of a double or locum for the strike process—strikes which are incorporated like obsolescence in objects, like crises in production.  Then there are no longer any strikes or work, but both simultaneously, that is to say something else entirely: a wizardry of work, a trompe l’oeil, a scenodrama (not to say melodrama) of production, collective dramaturgy upon the empty stage of the social.

It is no longer a question of the ideology of work – of the traditional ethic that obscures the ‘rea'” labour process and the ‘objective’ process of exploitation—but of the scenario of work.  Likewise, it is no longer a question of the ideology of power, but of the scenario of power.  Ideology only corresponds to a betrayal of reality by signs; simulation corresponds to a short-circuit of reality and to its reduplication by signs.  It is always the aim of ideological analysis to restore the objective process; it is always a false problem to want to restore the truth beneath the simulacrum.

This is ultimately why power is so in accord with ideological discourses and discourses on ideology, for these are all discourses of truth—always good, even and especially if they are revolutionary, to counter the mortal blows of simulation.”     Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulations; from Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings, 1981, 1988.  

"Selma to Montgomery Marches" by Peter Pettus - Library of Congress.
“Selma to Montgomery Marches” by Peter Pettus – Library of Congress.

Numero Tres–-“Guy Carawan (b. Los Angeles, 1927) is best known for introducing the song that became the anthem of the Civil Rights movement, ‘We Shall Overcome,’ to the founding convention of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNNC) in Raleigh, N. C., in 1960 and for helping spread ‘Eyes on the Prize’ throughout the South.  As song leader for the famed Highlander Folk School (where Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks had attended workshops in the 1950s), Guy was on the front lines of the first sit-ins of the ’60s Civil Rights Movement (along with many others who today are still relatively unsung).  His warm personality and quiet steadiness made him an ideal participant in that struggle.  Yet throughout their lives, Guy and his wife Candie have been so self-effacing and so scrupulous about crediting others, that their own contributions have been largely overlooked.  In addition to their participation in and invaluable documentation of the Civil Rights movement, they have also worked tirelessly organizing and advocating for voter literacy and worker health and safety issues.  As performers and folklorists they have done as much as anyone to celebrate and preserve traditional music.  Alan Lomax wrote that the Carawans, ‘instead of just writing books and making records, . . . instead of just singing, . . . have gone to the problem areas, to the face of the culture, to the creators, with patience, with love, with wisdom, [and] have helped them toward the realization of themselves and their cultural heritage'(Letter, 1982).Although a Californian, Guy’s roots are Southern.  His mother, from a socially prominent family in Charleston, S. C., was resident poet at Winthrop College.  His father was a decorated World War I veteran from a modest rural background, who farmed tobacco in North Carolina and did asbestos contracting in California.  Both Guy’s father and brother died from asbestosis, which doubtless spurred Guy’s interest in miner lung health and safety issues.  Guy graduated from Occidental College in 1949 with a degree in mathematics and received an M.A. in sociology from UCLA, with a special interest in folklore.  Always musical, in college and graduate school he took up guitar, banjo, and hammer dulcimer.

Through his friend and musical partner Frank Hamilton (who subsequently replaced Pete Seeger in the Weavers), Guy became part of a group of political progressives active in and around Los Angeles (many former members of People’s Songs), who believed in using folk songs as a vehicle for grass roots activism.  Early on, Wayland Hand, professor of German and folklore at UCLA, warned Guy against mixing folk music and politics, saying that the Nazis had done this in Germany, but Guy’s faith in music as a way to galvanize social change never wavered.

In the early ’50s Guy and Frank moved to New York City, where the lively Washington Square folk music scene included Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Eric Darling, and Woody Guthrie’s acolyte, Jack Elliot.  There were musical parties at Tiny Robinson’s (Lead Belly’s niece), and Guy often served as driver to Sonny Terry, who was blind.  In 1953, Guy and Frank Hamilton decided to take a road trip to see the South, ‘I wanted to see the farm where my father had grown up,’ Guy explained.  Jack Elliot insisted on joining them and though they at first accepted his presence somewhat reluctantly, his musical and busking skills were to prove extremely useful.

On Pete Seeger’s recommendation, the trio stopped for several weeks at Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn. In the late 1940s Highlander had been center of interracial CIO organizing in the South. Now, forced by red baiting to curtail its union activities, it had shifted its focus to adult literacy and voter registration. Highlander, an adult education center founded in 1932 by Don West and Myles Horton (a student of Reinhold Niebuhr) on the model of Bishop Grundtvig’s Danish Folk Schools, had a mission of empowering people to better themselves and society through individual and collective action. Music played a significant role in the Folk School program, which included singing and weekly dances. Union organizer Zilphia Horton, a gifted singer who was married to Myles, ran the music program. One of her favorite songs was then known as  “We Will Overcome” a hymn she had learned in 1945 from Lucille Simmons, who had sung it during a prolonged strike by the Negro Food and Tobacco Workers’ Union in Charleston, S.C., as a valediction to end each day’s picketing. Zilphia used it to end meetings at Highlander; it was printed in union song books, and was also in Pete Seeger and Frank Hamilton’s repertoires.

Energized by his Southern tour, Guy returned to California where he resumed his studies and performing career. During a European tour in 1957 he stayed for a month in London with Alan Lomax, with whom he formed a life-long personal and professional relationship. (Later, Lomax would send Guy the Cantometrics handbook and tapes to get his opinion on the method.) That year Guy was one of a group of 40 Americans, including Peggy Seeger, who attended the Sixth World Youth and Student Festival in Moscow and then traveled on for a six-week trip to the People’s Republic of China, in defiance of State Department rules, resulting in the revocation of their passports.

In 1959, learning that Highlander needed a music coordinator, Guy offered his services: “I knew that Zilphia Horton had died and Myles was without anyone to do music there. So I called Myles and asked if I could be a volunteer. He said yes, but I would have to do some real work there. He said they needed a music program.” (Sing Out, 44 [3]: 50)

guy carawan music banjo solidarityGuy Carawan in 1961

When he arrived, local conservatives were trying to shut the school down. There were frequent police raids on trumped-up charges of serving liquor without a license, among other things. Staff and students often found themselves in the Grundy County Jail, where they sang to keep up their spirits. During a raid, while they were being forced to sit for several hours in the dark, a young student spontaneously added the verse “We are not afraid, today” to “We Shall Overcome,” giving the song a tremendous moral immediacy. The singers made other changes — in rhythm and syncopation that impressed Guy deeply as well. Ultimately, the harassment forced the school to relocate to Knoxville.Precisely how “We Will Overcome” became “We Shall Overcome” (parallel to another celebrated union song, “We Shall Not Be Moved”) is not known. Some credit the change to pioneer activist and adult literacy teacher Septima Clark, Highlander’s director of workshops and founder of Citizenship Schools throughout the South. In 1959 Guy was Clark’s driver and assisted her in setting up a Citizenship School on Johns Island, S.C. They used documents such as the U.S. Constitution and also lyrics of songs sung at Highlander as reading texts to teach people to fill out drivers’ license and voter registration forms. When Guy introduced the labor movement staple, “Keep Your Hand on the Plow, Hold On,” a local resident, Mrs. Alice Wine, told him, “I know a different echo. We sing ‘Keep your Eyes on the Prize’.” Guy liked this version and adopted it into his repertoire.

On that trip Guy attended the unique all-night Christmas services at Moving Star Hall, which featured a distinctive polyrhythmic a cappella African-American spiritual “shouting” Gullah tradition that went back to Colonial days. It was a transforming experience for Guy, who would revisit Johns Island often and who formed a lifelong friendship with the founding family of Moving Star Hall headed by Janey Hunter, herself a teacher and disseminator of Sea Island traditions.

The first months of 1960 saw the historic first lunch counter sit-in campaign, first in Greensboro, N.C., and then in Nashville. On April 1, during Highlander’s annual College Workshop, held that year in Nashville, Guy Carawan taught 83 students new ways to sing old songs, many of which he had heard sung in jail. On April 15, two hundred students who had assembled as a youth wing of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., determined to form their own independent body, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). They invited Carawan to lead the singing, and he closed the first evening of the three-day conference with “We Shall Overcome.” Movement leader Rev. C. T Vivian, a lieutenant of Martin Luther King reminisced:

I don’t think we had ever thought of spirituals as movement material. When the movement came up, we couldn’t apply them. The concept has to be there. It wasn’t just to have the music but to take the music out of our past and apply it to the new situation, to change it so it really fit.…. The first time I remember any change in our songs was when Guy came down from Highlander. Here he was with this guitar and tall thin frame, leaning forward and patting that foot. I remember James Bevel and I looked across at each other and smiled. Guy had taken this song, “Follow the Drinking Gourd” — I didn’t know the song, but he gave some background on it and boom — that began to make sense. And, little by little, spiritual after spiritual began to appear with new words and changes: “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, Hold On” or “I’m Going to Sit at the Welcome Table.” Once we had seen it done, we could begin to do it.(Interview, 1983, quoted in Sing For Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs, 1990, p. 4.)

On April 19, Vivian invited Guy to “bring your guitar” to a demonstration protesting the bombing of the home of prominent black Nashville lawyer Z. Alexander Looby. Four thousand demonstrators marched to Nashville’s City Hall, where Guy led the singing of “We Shall Overcome” adding the verse, “We are not alone.” In what David Halberstam (in The Children, 1999) has called one of the Civil Rights movement’s finest hours, student leader Diane Nash got white Mayor Ben West to publicly agree that segregation was morally wrong: “And the people shouted with a great shout, so that the wall came down,” reads a plaque erected on the spot today. Among the demonstrators present was Guy’s future wife, Candie Anderson, one of a handful of young white students who had come to Fisk University to take a workshop in Gandhian non-violent direct action with the Rev. James Lawson, the leading theoretician of the movement. Candie, like Guy, was a Californian of Southern lineage and was already a veteran of the sit-in movement.

By the summer of 1960, Guy believed that the young African-American singers were better than he and that his instruments got in the way of their exciting a cappella style and he gracefully stepped back. His role would henceforth be to collect, record, and teach songs rather than to lead them. Using Highlander as their base, Guy and Candie (who were married in April of 1961) would visit friends and alumni from Highlander all over the South and document the ongoing Civil Rights movement.

Later that year Guy returned to the Sea Island Citizenship Program, and in February of 1961, the year of the Freedom Rides, he brought a group of Freedom Singers from Nashville and Montgomery to Carnegie Hall for a benefit concert for Highlander organized by Pete and Toshi Seeger. In 1962 they went to Albany, Ga., where Guy recorded Freedom in the Air, which was produced by Guy and Alan Lomax for SNCC on Vanguard Records.

In 1963 Guy and Candie moved to Atlanta to work more closely with SNCC. The movement’s focus was shifting primarily to voting rights, and in June the couple returned to Johns Island to help with voter registration. Now the parents of a young son, they decided to make the island their home. During their residence they set up the Sea Island Folk Festival and arranged for the Moving Star Hall Singers to tour as a formal group.

In the late ’60s the Carawans moved to Hellier, Ky., in the rural eastern Appalachians, to support the striking coal mine workers. Corrupt relations between politicians and the mining industry produced strip mining and, with it, health issues —black lung was common — along with poverty, and poor social services. Guy and Candie worked to help the miners improve their health and dignity through community organizing. They also began to record and study in depth the music of Appalachia. They then returned to California where Guy taught courses in Civil Rights, American folk life, and ran Appalachian field-study programs for four years at Pitzer College in Claremont.

In 1972 the new Highlander moved from Knoxville to New Market, Tenn., in the Great Smokies, where the Carawans moved in 1975. In the ensuing years, Guy, Candie, their son Evan, and their daughter Heather have traveled to such political hot spots as Honduras and Nicaragua. Having explored Irish, Appalachian, and African-American music in the past, as well as the environmental and economic issues of Native Americans, the Carawans have most recently turned their attention to the music of the newer Latino populations in the South.

Guy recorded and released nearly thirty albums, often joined by Candie, herself a singer, and their son Evan, who also plays hammered dulcimer and mandolin. He has also produced albums for other performers (including the Stanley Brothers), written songs recorded by other performers (including Peter, Paul and Mary), and played guitar on albums for Shirley Collins’ first album and for Alan Lomax’s 1961 album of Texas songs, among others.

The Carawans have recently been the subject of a documentary film The Telling Takes Me Home  (2005) by their daughter Heather. In 2006 Stanford University bestowed on them its King Award on the occasion of the inauguration of its newly expanded Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute.

Guy and Candie Carawans’ books include:
We Shall Overcome! Songs of the Southern Freedom Movement
Julius Lester, editorial assistant. Ethel Raim, music editor and design: Additional musical transcriptions: Joseph Byrd [and] Guy Carawan. New York: Oak Publications, 1963. .

Ain’t You Got a Right to the Tree of Life? The People of Johns Island, South Carolina —- their faces, their words and their songs.
Photographs by Robert Yellin. Music transcribed by Ethel Raim. Preface by Alan Lomax. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966. Reprint: University of Georgia Press, 1989. ISBN 0-82031-132-4

Freedom is a Constant Struggle Songs of The Freedom Movement, with Documentary Photographs.
Ethel Raim, music editor.New York: Oak Publications, 1968.

Voices from the Mountains: Life and Struggle in the Appalachian South (1975); Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996. ISBN 0-82031-882-5

Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Its Songs 
Bethlehem, PA: Sing Out Corp., 1990, 1992. ISBN 0-9626704-4-8 Incorporates We Shall Overcome! and   Freedom is a Constant Struggle

Recordings include:

Songs with Guy Carawan. Folkways Records, FG 3544, 1950.

America at Play.  CLP1174 1958. Children’s songs with Guy Carawan and Peggy Seeger.

Guy Carawan Sings: Something Old, New, Borrowed and Blue., Folkways Records, FG 3548, 1959.

Freedom in the Air: Albany Georgia. 1961-62. SNCC #101. Produced by Vanguard Records for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Recorded by Guy Carawan. Produced by Guy Carawan and Alan Lomax. “Freedom In the Air . . . is a record of the 1961 protest in Albany, Georgia, when, two weeks before Christmas, 737 people brought the town nearly to a halt to force its integration. The record’s never been reissued and that’s a shame, as it’s a moving document of a community through its protest songs, church services, and experiences in the thick of the civil rights struggle.”—Nathan Salsburg, January 2007.

Birmingham, Alabama, 1963: Mass Meeting. Folkways Records, FD#5487, 1980. Includes Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and the Birmingham Movement Choir. Recorded by Guy Carawan in Birmingham, Al.

The Story of Greenwood, Mississippi. Folkways Records, FD#5593, 1965. Includes Robert Parris Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers, Dick Gregory. Recorded by Guy Carawan in Greenwood, MS.

Sea Island Folk Festival: Moving Star Hall Singers. Folkways Records, FS#3841, 1966. Includes Alan Lomax speaking at festival. Recorded and produced by Guy and Candie Carawan

Been in the Storm So Long: Spirituals, Shouts, Folk Tales and Children’s Songs of Johns Island, South Carolina. Folkways Records, FS#3842, 1967. Recorded and produced by Guy & Candie Carawan.

Freedom Now! Songs for a New America. With Candie Carawan. Plane Records, Germany, #55301, 1968.

Come All You Coal Miners. Rounder Records, #4005, 1974. Includes Nimrod Workman, Sarah Gunning, George Tucker, Hazel Dickens. Recorded by Roger and Lucy Phenix at Appalachian Music Workshop at Highlander Center, October 1972. Produced by Guy Carawan.

The Telling Takes Me Home. Cur Non Records, cnl 722, 1972

Sing for Freedom, Southwide Workshop. Folkways Records, FD#5488, 1980. Produced by Guy and Candie Carawan, Highlander Center. Recorded at the Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Ga., at a workshop with Freedom Singers, Birmingham Movement Choir, Georgia Sea Island Singers, Doc Reese, Phil Ochs, and Len Chandler.

They’ll Never Keep Us Down: Women’s Coal Mining Songs. Rounder Records, #4012, 1983. Includes Hazel Dickens, Sarah Gunning, Florence Reece, Phyllis Boyens, and the Reel World String Band. Dedicated to Sarah Gunning who died October 14, 1983. Produced by Guy and Candie Carawan for Rounder.

Hammer Dulcimer Music. With Evan Carawan. Flying Fish Records, FF 329, 1984.

Highlander was situated on some two hundred acres in Monteagle, Tennessee. In 1959 the local authorities had raided the school and arrested most members of its staff, including Guy Carawan; that began a two year legal battle on their part to close down the school by taking away its land. A series of charges, some bogus, some reflecting the prejudices of the time, were leveled at it: Highlander was holding integrated classes and integration was illegal in Tennessee . . .  Horton was illegally selling beer without a license. In time the charge about integrated classes was dropped. But the overall campaign against Horton and his school was successful, the land was sold at public auction, and the Highlander people were forced to set up shop in Knoxville. . . . . The original Highlander land moved back and forth between different owners in different sales. Recently, in one of those wonderful ironies wherein places which were once scenes of violence in the South have now been designated as historical landmarks, some to the land was offered for sale again. The advertisement for the land in the local paper noted that his was a historically valuable piece of land, one “where the New South was born.” —David Halberstam, The Children, New York: Fawcett Books, 1999, pp. 207–208.

Now, Myles Horton is one of the most remarkable people of the twentieth century. . . . He built a central Highlander Folk School in the Appalachians (Grundy County, Tenn.) where he brought people together to discuss their fate. He didn’t tell them what to think — they told each other what they decided, and this center is where the Union Movement in the South began, where the voter registration movement in the South began. Rosa Parks, the black lady who somewhat single-handedly started the whole Civil Rights Movement by refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in downtown Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, was formed at Highlander.  —Alan Lomax, interviewed by Arnold Rypens, 1994.


Letter to Alan prepared for the Folk Alliance Meeting in 1994

December 31, 1994

Dear Alan,

Candie and I are thinking about you as the year draws to a close. It’s a big challenge to put into words all the appreciation we feel for you after so many years of friendship. You are surely one of the few key people who have influenced our lives and work in the most major and dramatic way. We feel gratitude and love when we think of the years of support, generosity, and keen interest you have taken in our projects and our lives. Thank you, dear friend.

Long before I met you in person you were having an influence on me. Your books and the field recordings you and your father had put at the Library of Congress were much of the inspiration that got me into the study of folk song and folklore at UCLA with Wayland Hand. Your writings and recordings made the material come alive in a way that was absolutely irresistible. I had the good fortune to know and learn from Bess [Lomax Hawes] during those years, and she put me in touch with you when I traveled through London in 1957 on the way to the World Youth Festival in the Soviet Union and then on to China. Your personal generosity kicked in then. You let me stay in your London apartment learning about what you were doing and soaking up ideas about the power and richness of folk cultures; the link they can have to people’s social and political goals.

Once you had moved back to this country in 1960 and were living in New York City, I found my way to your apartment again and again over the years to talk with you about my own work — to play field recordings for you, show you photographs, discuss the importance of documentation, and also cultural organizing. You were always challenging — pushing me to think in new ways about what I was trying to do; you were always generous with your time and your knowledge.

Knowing about your work and the work of your family encouraged me to get a good Ampex tape recorder in 1959 and indeed to place myself in the heart of communities rich in cultural traditions.  I first went to live on Johns Island, home of Mrs. Janie Hunter and Moving Star Hall, where Highlander was developing a literacy empowerment program.   When Candie and I met in 1960, we began to follow the exciting events and locations of the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement — Albany, Birmingham, Jackson, Atlanta, Knoxville.  And you would come to see us!

It meant a lot to me and to Candie also that you would come to see us in the Sea Islands and that you would participate in the cultural workshops we organized for civil rights workers in Mississippi and at Highlander in Knoxville.  (We still remember how you taught two-year-old Evan to stamp his foot and shout, ‘Down with fascism!’ when we were together on Johns Island.)   Later you would also visit the Appalachian communities where we had been working in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee.

Many times when we needed it most, you gave public support to our work.  You probably can’t even know how important that was to us.  I know you continue to give support and encouragement to young people today.  Your work with Cantometrics and with the Global Jukebox is creating a new generation of cultural activists.

For all this, and for being the creative and generous, inexhaustible person that you are, Candie and I send our profound thanks.  Please stay well and healthy and please keep in good touch with us.  We need you in our lives.

With much love,

Guy Carawan”     Ellen Harold and Peter Stone, “Guy Carawan;” Association for Cultural Equity, circa 2003.  



7.27.2017 Daily Links

  A Thought for the Day   

Human societies, without any exceptions whatsoever, have consecrated certain plants as portals to important epiphanies, as gateways to successful manifestations of thriving and survival; in such universal environs of multiple ecstatic highs, of course, a ‘war on drugs,’ at a minimum, seems anomalous and false, simultaneously as official instances of playing both ends against the middle—both demonizing and promoting substances, for instance, from pot to peyote—introduces elements of complexity and uncertainty into these issues that one downplays, or worse, ignores at one’s immediate and most mortal peril, inasmuch as the contradictions and conniptions that prohibition of contraband inevitably entails ultimately will affect one and all in ways at once daunting and dangerous, in the end at times even lethal, the upshot of all of which must be a fractious relationship indeed with oneself and one’s inherent inclination to imbibe, to shift one’s point of view, truly to alter, one’s consciousness and awareness of self and All-That-Is.

  Quote of the Day  
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day.
Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.
WE SHALL OVERCOME Words and Music by Zilphia Hart., Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan
And Pete Seeger

 This Day in History  

Today in Finland is National Sleepyhead Day and in Vietnam National Martyrs and Wounded Soldiers Day; in Scotland more or less nine hundred sixty-two years ago, the historical King Macbeth died in battle against English Lord Siward near the Firth of Forth; thirteen and a half decades subsequently, in 1189, fighters of the Third Crusade arrived in Serbia to negotiate their attacks on ‘the Holy Lands;’ thirteen years henceforth, in 1202, nearly one thousand miles Southeast, the then powerful kingdom of Georgia defeated Sultanate incursion at the battle of Basian; at the very end of the same century, in 1299, the nascent Ottoman imperial victory at Nicomedia marked what most scholars consider to be the beginning of Ottoman rule; three more years further along, in 1302, other Ottoman forces confirmed their preeminence with a victory over the Byzantine armies at Bapheus, opening up the conquest of Turkey;  MORE HERE

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democracy participation "sine qua non" OR "necessary component" OR "central element" = 396,000 results

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 Interesting People Places Things of Note 

Contextualizing the Panthers

An AAIHS post that looks at the conception of a party through the work of a fearless academic:  “Although I received my formal training as a historian from Columbia University’s History Department, I credit Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College for schooling me on Black grassroots organizations. In the 1990s, Medgar boasted a predominantly working-class student body and was as much an educational institution as a Black political hub. Located across the street from Ebbets Field, a towering affordable housing complex, and just minutes from where I grew up in East Flatbush, Medgar stood a world away from what Columbia represented—Manhattan’s largest landowner with homelessness, literally and figuratively, at its gates. In 1995, I started volunteering at the Center for Women’s Development while I began the dissertation research that anchored The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland.”

 Writers Tools Issues 

Distraction’s Three-Century Ride

An Aeon article of interest to all those who strive to focus and concentrate and create product on a regular basis: “The rise of the internet and the widespread availability of digital technology has surrounded us with endless sources of distraction: texts, emails and Instagrams from friends, streaming music and videos, ever-changing stock quotes, news and more news. To get our work done, we could try to turn off the digital stream, but that’s difficult to do when we’re plagued by FOMO, the modern fear of missing out. Some people think that our willpower is so weak because our brains have been damaged by digital noise. But blaming technology for the rise in inattention is misplaced. History shows that the disquiet is fuelled not by the next new thing but by the threat this thing – whatever it might be – poses to the moral authority of the day.”


 Recent Events 

Denuding Nuclear Ban’s Newsworthiness

A Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists post that examines the current landscape around disarmament: “Readers of the Washington Post who looked in the Saturday, July 8 print edition for international news would have found the following stories…

That was apparently all the international news worth noting. Except perhaps for this one-paragraph story, the last in the “News Digest,” buried at the bottom right corner of page nine: “More than 120 countries approved the first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons Friday at a UN meeting boycotted by all nuclear-armed nations. Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the UN conference that has been negotiating the legally binding treaty, announced the results of the ‘historic’ vote: 122 nations in favor, the Netherlands opposed and Singapore abstaining.”

 General Past & Present Issues 

Predicting Falling Empires

A Popular Resistance look at the fall of an empire soon to come, and possible consequences: “The Pentagon recently released a report, “At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World,” which details its concerns about losing access to resources and “resistance to authority” both at home and around the world as governments lose legitimacy. Faced with these changes, the United States could embrace them, become a cooperative member of the world, transition to a lower-waste lower-energy sustainable existence and draw back the military to use those resources to meet domestic needs.

Sadly, that is not what the Pentagon has in mind. There is a saying, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The US is the biggest empire in the world; therefore, the Pentagon’s solutions are “more surveillance, more propaganda (‘strategic manipulation of perceptions’) and more military expansionism.””

7.26.2017 Day in History

CC BY-NC-ND by izahorsky

On this date every year, Cuba celebrates a Day of the National Rebellion to commemorate the launching of the 26th of July Movement under the aegis of Fidel Castro; on the Arabian Peninsula, meanwhile, a thousand three hundred and sixty years ago, the factional and fractious fighting of the early post-Prophet period of Islam continued with the Battle of the Siffin, where the forces of so-called “Rightly-Guided,” or Rashidun Caliphs clashed with the supporters of the ‘Sons of Umayya,’ or nascent Umayyad Caliphs; a thousand ninety-seven years ahead of today, in the Islamic incursions into Europe via the Iberian Peninsula, an utter rout of Christian forces occurred at Pamplona, laying the basis for nearly complete Muslim dominion over what is now Spain; eight hundred thirty-eight years onward from there, in 1758, across the wide Atlantic, English fighters succeeded in ousting the French from Louisburg and taking control of the Gulf of St Lawrence in the midst of the French and Indian Wars, the North American version of an early world conflict of capitalism; twenty-seven years later, in 1775, the Continental Congress established the mail delivery service that would become the US Post Office, pacing Benjamin Franklin in charge of the entire operation; twenty-one years on the dot past that momentous passage, in 1796, a baby boy was born who would grow to become the artist and explorer George Catlin; just over a quarter century thereafter, in 1822, further South in the Western Hemisphere, Jose de San Martin arrived in Guayaquil to parlay with another Latin American Revolutionary, Simon Bolivar, and across the wide Atlantic and through most of the Mediterranean, in Greece, Ottoman Imperial defenders clashed with Greek rebels at Dervenakia; exactly a quarter century subsequent to that conjunction, in 1847, with the help of nascent US imperial adventurers, Liberia declared its ‘independence;’ nine years to the


day henceforth, in 1856, a little baby boy opened his eyes who would rise as George Bernard Shaw, a redoubt of truth and empowering women and working people, not to mention winning the Nobel Literary Laureates; just shy of two decades farther along the path to now, in 1875, another male infant entered our midst who would mature as the maestro of myth and psyche and introspection, Carl Jung; seven hundred thirty-one days more in the direction of today, in 1877, across the wide Atlantic from Europe and Africa, U.S. soldiers gunned down thirty workers in the Battle of the Viaduct in Chicago, where five thousand or more strikers and protesters had been assembling and seeking redress in what later court decisions agreed was an entirely legal and acceptable manner, not that this observation did much to assist the dead proletarians or to minimize the cruel class war that characterized America then, much as it still does now; eight additional years along time’s path, in 1885, back in Europe, a male infant first looked round him to see his family’s great fortune en route to a life as a thinker and writer and storyteller who took the name Andre Maurois in times of the tumult and depredation about which he wrote prolifically as a French bourgeois operative of empire and intrigue; another two years further along, in 1887, ‘Dr. Esperanto’s first book,’ Unua Libro introduced the concept of a Babel-deconstructing tongue to the world, a favorite of certain occultists, new-age thinkers, and others at the cultural fringe; an additional thousand ninety-six days past that point, in 1890, roughly six thousand miles or so to the Southwest in Argentina, a disjointed ‘Revolution of the Park’ unfolded that managed to unseat the Republic’s president, even as its inchoate program and disorganized uprising didn’t accomplish a lot else except to show the underpinnings of influence and corruption that were operating then, much as now, in the Southern Cone; fourteen hundred sixty-one days yet later on, in 1894, President Grover Cleveland ordered the railroad railway train track hobo homeless transient povertycreation of a Strike Commission to investigate the recent Pullman and railroad strikes that vaulted Eugene Debs to national prominence as a spokesperson for labor rights that amounted to more than a slightly less noxious form of slavery that what the Emancipation Proclamation had supposedly ended, and an infant boy cried out who would mature as the omniscient writer and social critic, Aldous Huxley; three years yet nearer to the here and now, in 1897, halfway round the world at the border where England’s and Russia’s empires met, something like 10,000 Pashtun fighters in a third Anglo-Pakistan War laid siege to a British outpost in what is now the ‘tribal’ area of Pakistan; not quite a full decade onward from that, in 1908, back round the globe in North America, the U.S. Attorney General Joseph Bonaparte, inaugurated the Office of the Chief Examiner, which soon enough, after another transitional name change, would become the Federal Bureau of Investigation; four years afterward, in 1912, in West Virginia, clashing colliers and company gun thugs exchanged 100,000 shots, which resulted in the death of a dozen miners and four of the so-called guards; seven hundred thirty days in the future from that, in 1914, back across the wide Atlantic in the Balkans, Serbia and Bulgaria recalled their ambassadors in anticipation of the greatest martial blood-letting in human history to that point; eleven years hence, in 1925, the important analytical philosopher and mathematical logician Gottlob Frege underwent his final theorem, and the baby boy bounced into the world who would rise up as the filmmaker and screenwriter of terror and fetish and psychological

CC BY-NC-ND by Adam Polselli

ennui, Stanley Kubrick; nine years past that precise moment in space and time, in 1936, back in Europe, the fascists announced intentions to intervene in the Spanish Civil War on the side of Francisco Franco’s reactionary forces, with no similar support, except from Russia, for the Republicans; half a decade onward, in 1941, Japan’s occupation of French Indochina led President Roosevelt to declare a freezing of all Japanese assets in the United States; a mere year subsequently, in 1942, the literary genius and popular storyteller William Faulkner accepted a job with Universal Studios to write screenplays; six thousand miles to the East, and another three hundred sixty-five days onward in time, in 1943, a male child was born in wartime England who would become in some senses the King of Rock lyrics an showmanship, Mick Jagger; another year en route to today, in 1944, across the English Channel and much of Europe, Soviet troops liberated Lviv in Western Ukraine from German occupation to discover that fewer than 1,000 of the more than 100,000 Jews who had lived there five years before remained alive; another year toward today, in 1945, England’s Labour Party displaced Winston Churchill in an electoral victory that suggested the social changes that war had wrought, while across the English Channel, Churchill himself, Harry Truman, and Joseph Stalin signed the Potsdam Declaration which fatefully – if disingenuously—called for ‘unconditional surrender’ of the hiroshima war explosion nuke nuclearJapanese, at the same time that shipboard components arrived in the South Pacific of the nuclear weapon which would soon incinerate Hiroshima, Truman’s ‘ace in the hole’ against the Soviets in Europe; two years even closer to the current context, in 1947, Harry Truman signed off on a police state and militarized economy by putting his signature on the National Security Act, which projected the creation of the President’s National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the subtly bogus Department of Defense among other components of the Federal bureaucracy of control and catastrophe; another year further down the pike, in 1948, in a subtly divergent development of imperial America, Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which advanced the absolutely essential element of social justice, equal opportunity, that rulers and founding fathers and such had for hundreds of years been blatantly and purposefully withheld from people of color, among others; three years more on the march to this moment, in 1951, Walt Disney’s wizards of animation debuted Alice in Wonderland in London; a pair of years further onward in time, in 1953, Fidel Castro and his comrades conducted an assault on the barracks at Moncada, a disastrous raid that nevertheless marked the initiation of the Cuban Revolution; three additional years more proximate to the present pass, in 1956, Egypt’s leaders, having pondered the World Bank’s denial of further funding to the Aswan High Dam, elected to nationalize the Suez Canal Zone and begin a crisis of earthshaking scope; another three hundred sixty-five days in time’s flow, in 1957, thousands of miles to the West in Guatemala, a likely-paid assassin who conveniently enough soon ‘committed suicide,’ murdered Carlos Castillo Armas, the beneficiary of the C.I.A. coup against Jacobo Arbenz, within a day or so of which United Fruit regained all of the lands that it had lost as a result of earlier nationalization; a half dozen years hence, in 1963, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration launched Syncom 2, Earth’s first geosynchronous satellite, and in a completely different sort of advance for the forces of order and empire, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development voted to permit Japan into its ranks; half a decade helicopter war vietnampast those big days for modern capital, in 1968, a more dour, and in the event dire, situation unfolded in Vietnam as the leader of the ‘democratic republic’s’ opposition faced a five year sentence at hard labor for suggesting a coalition government with the Viet Minh; a half dozen years in still closer proximity to today’s light and air, in 1974, Byzantine developments in Greek politics saw a civilian Prime Minister assume administrative oversight for the first time in seven yearsa thousand ninety-six days forward from that occurrence, in 1977, Quebec’s National Assembly declared French to the province’s official language; another three years later still, in 1980, the farsighted analyst of public opinion, George Gallup, lived through his final poll; nine years subsequent to that passing, in 1989, a defining moment of the computer age took place when Federal authorities orchestrated an indictment of a Cornell graduate student, Robert Morris, for his part in ‘infecting’ the early Internet with the Morris Worm; three hundred and sixty-five days thereafter, in 1990, the still young performer and songwriter of the Grateful Dead, Brent Mydland, overdosed and died; two years nearer still to today, in 1992, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandated “reasonable accommodation” on the job for folks with crippling injuries or congenital disabilities, and a progenitor of Motown’s signature sounds, Mary Wells, sang her swan song; seven years back, in 2008, a series of twenty-one terrorist bombings happened in Ahmedabad, India, killing fifty-six and injuring hundreds, one of a series of three days of attacks in different cities; another cycle round the sun toward the present point, in 2009, a vastly more hideous and deadly uprising transpired in Nigeria, as the state police summarily executed a Boko Haram leader for sedition and conspiracy and his cohorts the day after that led attacks on police stations and a state of near civil war ensued, in which at least a thousand citizens lost their lives.

7.26.2017 Daily Links

  A Thought for the Day   

From conception’s hopefully joyous miracle through youth’s florid flower, we can pray for the fortune and search for the grit to lay the basis for the power of a prime from which will spring whatever propagation that we have to proffer, thereby preparing, with a modicum of luck, a smiling decline into dotage, and eventual exit to where all our achievements are finally and eternally beyond either our ken or control, which is why our choices while conscious determine whatever memorial that we merit.

  Quote of the Day  
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. George Bernard Shaw

 This Day in History  

On this date every year, Cuba celebrates a Day of the National Rebellion to commemorate the launching of the 26th of July Movement under the aegis of Fidel Castro; on the Arabian Peninsula, meanwhile, a thousand three hundred and sixty years ago, the factional and fractious fighting of the early post-Prophet period of Islam continued with the Battle of the Siffin, where the forces of so-called “Rightly-Guided,” or Rashidun Caliphs clashed with the supporters of the ‘Sons of Umayya,’ or nascent Umayyad Caliphs; a thousand ninety-seven years ahead of today, in the Islamic incursions into Europe via the Iberian Peninsula, an utter rout of Christian forces occurred at Pamplona, laying the basis for nearly complete Muslim dominion over what is now Spain;  MORE HERE

  Doc of the Day  

1. Carl Jung, 1909.
2. Andre Maurois, 1921.
3. George Bernard Shaw, 1949.
4. Fidel Castro, 1953.
5. Gar Alperovitz, 1985.
Numero Uno“When you honored me with an invitation to lecture at Clark University, a wish was expressed that I should speak about my methods of work, and especially about the psychology of childhood.  I hope to accomplish this task in the following manner: In my first lecture I will give to you the view points of my association methods; in my second I will discuss the significance of the familiar constellations; while in my third lecture I shall enter more fully into the psychology of the child.  MORE HERE

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 Interesting People Places Things of Note 

Rejuvenating Highlander

A Facing South post that looks at the ongoing good work of the Highlander Center: “Seventy years ago, a group of cigar factory workers from Charleston, South Carolina, traveled almost 500 miles to the Highlander Folk School, a leadership training school founded in East Tennessee in 1932. There, the workers introduced the school’s musical director to a gospel song that had boosted their spirits during a protracted strike the previous year. Highlander staff taught the song to thousands of labor and civil rights movement activists over the years and, as its popularity spread, “We Shall Overcome” became an anthem for human rights causes worldwide. It has been sung by left-wing college students in India, anti-apartheid protesters in South Africa, and civil rights supporters from Birmingham, Alabama, to Belfast, Northern Ireland.

In the footsteps of the tobacco workers, three Charleston food and hospitality industry workers attended an educational and organizing workshop at Highlander earlier this month sponsored by Raise Up for $15. Since the summer of 2013, Raise Up has been the Southern expression of the national “Fight for $15″ — the Service Employees International Union-backed movement for a livable wage and union rights for low-wage workers.”

 Writers Tools Issues 

Jung’s Association Method Lecture

An All-About-Psychology piece that shares fascinating psychological and cognitive properties to all scribes and readers: “Before the experiment begins the test person receives the following instruction: “Answer as quickly as possible with the first word that occurs to your mind.” This instruction is so simple that it can easily be followed. The work itself, moreover, appears extremely easy, so that it might be expected any one could accomplish it with the greatest facility and promptitude. But, contrary to expectation, the behavior is quite otherwise.”


 Recent Events 

Another Falling Empire Prognostication

A Popular Resistance look at another fall-of-empire assessment, from the lens of the G -20 summit: ““The G-20 summit highlighted a transition in geopolitical power that has been developing for years. The process has escalated in recent months since President Trump took office, but its roots go much deeper than Trump. Europe is tired of the US spying on its leaders and creating a massive refugee crisis from its chaos creating wars. Russia and China are being pulled together as the US threatens both with missiles and bases on their borders. Now Trump seeks more money from everyone to reduce the US trade deficit and holds the world back on the climate crisis. The United States is losing power, a multi-polar world is taking shape and people power is on the rise “

 General Past & Present Issues 

Alperovitz on Atomic Intimidation

An aged but still timely piece from Washington Post looking at the realities of nukes today: “Once the new weapon had been proven, the military leaders went along with the president’s decision to use it. But this fact has often led subsequent observers to confuse approval with the question of whether, as Eisenhower put it, the weapon was still deemed “mandatory as a measure to save American lives.” Strategy for the bomb was in any event largely handled outside the normal chain of command by the president and his advisers.

Did the president understand the possibility that the atomic bomb was not required to prevent an invasion? On this question there is much dispute. However, the documents now available make it very difficult to believe he did not.”

7.26.2017 Doc of the Day

1. Carl Jung, 1909.
2. Andre Maurois, 1921.
3. George Bernard Shaw, 1949.
4. Fidel Castro, 1953.
5. Gar Alperovitz, 1985.
Numero Uno“When you honored me with an invitation to lecture at Clark University, a wish was expressed that I should speak about my methods of work, and especially about the psychology of childhood.  I hope to accomplish this task in the following manner: In my first lecture I will give to you the view points of my association methods; in my second I will discuss the significance of the familiar constellations; while in my third lecture I shall enter more fully into the psychology of the child.


I might confine myself exclusively to my theoretical views, but I believe it will be better to illustrate my lectures with as many practical examples as possible.  We will therefore occupy ourselves first with the association test which has been of great value to me both practically and theoretically.  The history of the association method in vogue in psychology, as well as the method itself, is, of course, so familiar to you that there is no need to enlarge upon it.  For practical purposes I make use of the following formula:

The Association Method

This formula has been constructed after many years of experience.  The words are chosen and partially arranged in such a manner as to strike easily almost all complexes which occur in practice.  As shown above, there is a regulated mixing of the grammatical qualities of the words.  For this there are definite reasons – (The selection of these stimulus words was naturally made for the German language only, and would probably have to be considerably changed for the English language).

Before the experiment begins the test person receives the following instruction: ‘Answer as quickly as possible with the first word that occurs to your mind.’  This instruction is so simple that it can easily be followed.  The work itself, moreover, appears extremely easy, so that it might be expected any one could accomplish it with the greatest facility and promptitude.   But, contrary to expectation, the behavior is quite otherwise.

I. An Example of a Normal Reaction Time

The Association Method

II. An Example of An Hysterical Reaction Time

The Association Method

(*) Denotes misunderstanding, (t) Denotes repetition of the stimulus words.

The following figures illustrate the reaction times in an association experiment in four normal test-persons.  The height of each column denotes the length of the reaction time.

The Association Method

The following diagram shows the course of the reaction time in hysterical individuals.  The light cross-hatched columns denote the places where the test-person was unable to react (so-called failures to react).  The first thing that strikes us is the fact that many test persons show a marked prolongation of the reaction time.  This would seem to be suggestive of intellectual difficulties, wrongly however, for we are often dealing with very intelligent persons of fluent speech.

The Association Method

The explanation lies rather in the emotions. In order to understand the matter comprehensively, we must bear in mind that the association experiments cannot deal with a separated psychic function, for any psychic occurrence is never a thing in itself, but is always the resultant of the entire psychological past.

The Association Method

The association experiment, too, is not merely a method for the reproduction of separated word couplets, but it is a kind of pastime, a conversation between experimenter and test-person.  In a certain sense it is still more than that.  Words really represent condensed actions, situations, and things.  When I give a stimulus word to the test-person, which denotes an action, it is as if I represented to him the action itself, and asked him, ‘How do you behave towards it?  What do you think of it?  What would you do in this situation?’  If I were a magician, I should cause the situation corresponding to the stimulus word to appear in reality, and placing the test-person in its midst, I should then study his manner of reaction.

The Association Method

The result of my stimulus words would thus undoubtedly approach infinitely nearer perfection.  But as we are not magicians, we must be contented with the linguistic substitutes for reality; at the same time we must not forget that the stimulus word will almost without exception conjure up its corresponding situation.  All depends on how the test-person reacts to this situation.  The word ‘bride’ or ‘bridegroom’ will not evoke a simple reaction in a young lady; but the reaction will be deeply influenced by the strong feeling tones evoked, the more so if the experimenter be a man.  It thus happens that the test-person is often unable to react quickly and smoothly to all stimulus words.  There are certain stimulus words which denote actions, situations, or things, about which the test-person cannot think quickly and surely, and this fact is demonstrated in the association experiments. The examples which I have just given show an abundance of long reaction times and other disturbances. In this case the reaction to the stimulus word is in some way impeded, that is, the adaptation to the stimulus word is disturbed.  The stimulus words therefore act upon us just as reality acts; indeed, a person who shows such great disturbances to the stimulus words, is in a certain sense but imperfectly adapted to reality.  Disease itself is an imperfect adaptation; hence in this case we are dealing with something morbid in the psyche, with something which is either temporary or persistently pathological in character, that is, we are dealing with a psychoneurosis, with a functional disturbance of the mind.  This rule, however, as we shall see later, is not without its exceptions.

Let us, in the first place, continue the discussion concerning the prolonged reaction time.  It often happens that the test-person actually does not know what to answer to the stimulus word.  He waives any reaction, and for the moment he totally fails to obey the original instructions, and shows himself incapable of adapting himself to the experimenter.  If this phenomenon occurs frequently in an experiment, it signifies a high degree of disturbance in adjustment.  I would call attention to the fact that it is quite indifferent what reason the test-person gives for the refusal.  Some find that too many ideas suddenly occur to them; others, that they suffer from a deficiency of ideas.  In most cases, however, the difficulties first perceived are so deterrent that they actually give up the whole reaction.  The following example shows a case of hysteria with many failures of reaction:

The Association Method

(*) Denotes misunderstanding, (t) Denotes repetition of the stimulus words, (+) Reproduced unchanged.

In example II. we find a characteristic phenomenon. The test-person is not content with the requirements of the instruction, that is, she is not satisfied with one word, but reacts with many words. She apparently does more and better than the instruction requires, but in so doing she does not fulfil the requirements of the instruction. Thus she reacts: custom good barbaric; foolish narrow minded restricted; family big small everything possible.

These examples show in the first place that many other words connect themselves with the reaction word. The test person is unable to suppress the ideas which subsequently occur to her. She also pursues a certain tendency which perhaps is more exactly expressed in the following reaction: new old as an opposite. The addition of “as an opposite ” denotes that the test-person has the desire to add something explanatory or supplementary. This tendency is also shown in the following reaction: finger not only hand, also foot a limb member extremity.

Here we have a whole series of supplements. It seems as if the reaction were not sufficient for the test-person, something else must always be added, as if what has already been said were incorrect or in some way imperfect. This feeling is what Janet designates the “sentiment d’incompletude,” but this by no means explains everything. I go somewhat deeply into this phenomenon because it is very frequently met with in neurotic individuals. It is not merely a small and unimportant subsidiary manifestation demonstrable in an insignificant experiment, but rather an elemental and universal manifestation which plays a role in other ways in the psychic life of neurotics.

By his desire to supplement, the test-person betrays a tendency to give the experimenter more than he wants, he actually makes great efforts to find further mental occurrences in order finally to discover something quite satisfactory. If we translate this observation into the psychology of everyday life, it signifies that the test-person has a constant tendency to give to others more feeling than is required and expected. According to Freud, this is a sign of a reinforced objectlibido, that is, it is a compensation for an inner want of satisfaction and voidness of feeling. This elementary observation therefore displays one of the characteristics of hysterics, namely, the tendency to allow themselves to be carried away by everything, to attach themselves enthusiastically to everything, and always to promise too much and hence perform too little. Patients with this symptom are, in my experience, always hard to deal with; at first they are enthusiastically enamored of the physician, for a time going so far as to accept everything he says blindly; but they soon merge into an equally blind resistance against him, thus rendering any educative influence absolutely impossible.

We see therefore in this type of reaction an expression of a tendency to give more than is asked or expected. This tendency betrays itself also in other failures to follow the instruction:

to quarrel – angry – different things – I always quarrel at home;
to marry – how can you marry? – reunion – union; plum – to eat – to pluck – what do you mean by it? – is it symbolic?
to sin – this idea is quite strange to me, I do not recognise it.These reactions show that the test-person gets away altogether from the situation of the experiment. For the instruction was, that he should answer only with the first word which occurs to him. But here we note that the stimulus words act with excessive strength, that they are taken as if they were direct personal questions. The test-person entirely forgets that we deal with mere words which stand in print before us, but finds a personal meaning in them; he tries to divine their intention and defend himself against them, thus altogether forgetting the original instructions.

This elementary observation discloses another common peculiarity of hysterics, namely, that of taking everything personally, of never being able to remain objective, and of allowing themselves to be carried away by momentary impressions; this again shows the characteristics of the enhanced object-libido.

Yet another sign of impeded adaptation is the often occurring repetitions of the stimulus words. The test-persons repeat the stimulus word as if they had not heard or understood it distinctly. They repeat it just as we repeat a difficult question in order to grasp it better before answering. This same tendency is shown in the experiment. The questions are repeated because the stimulus words act on hysterical individuals in much the same way as difficult personal questions. In principle it is the same phenomenon as the subsequent completion of the reaction.

In many experiments we observe that the same reaction constantly reappears to the most varied stimulus words. These words seem to possess a special reproduction tendency, and it is very interesting to examine their relationship to the test-person. For example, I have observed a case in which the patient repeated the word “short” a great many times and often in places where it had no meaning. The test person could not directly state the reason for the repetition of the word “short.” From experience I knew that such predicates always relate either to the test-person himself or to the person nearest to him. I assumed that in this word “short” he designated himself, and that in this way he helped to express something very painful to him. The test person is of very small stature. He is the youngest of four brothers, who, in contrast to himself, are all tall. He was always the “child” in the family; he was nicknamed “Short” and was treated by all as the “little one.” This resulted in a total loss of self-confidence. Although he was intelligent, and despite long study, he could not decide to present himself for examination; he finally became impotent, and merged into a psychosis in which, whenever he was alone, he took delight in walking about in his room on his toes in order to appear taller. The word ” short,” therefore, stood to him for a great many painful experiences. This is usually the case with the perseverated words ; they always contain something of importance for the individual psychology of the test-person.

The signs thus far discussed are not found spread about in an arbitrary way through the whole experiment, but are seen in very definite places, namely, where the stimulus words strike against emotionally accentuated complexes. This observation is the foundation of the so-called “diagnosis of facts” (Tatbestandsdiagnostik). This method is employed to discover, by means of an association experiment, which is the culprit among a number of persons suspected of a crime. That this is possible I will demonstrate by the brief recital of a concrete case. On the 6th of February, 1908, our supervisor reported to me that a nurse complained to her of having been robbed during the forenoon of the previous day. The facts were as follows: The nurse kept her money, amounting to 70 francs, in a pocket-book which she had placed in her cupboard where she also kept her clothes. The cupboard contained two compartments, of which one belonged to the nurse who was robbed, and the other to the head nurse. These two nurses and a third one, who was an intimate friend of the head nurse, slept in the room where the cupboard was. This room was in a section which was occupied in common by six nurses who had at all times free access to this room. Given such a state of affairs it is not to be wondered that the supervisor shrugged her shoulders when I asked her whom she most suspected.

Further investigation showed that on the morning of the theft, the above-mentioned friend of the head nurse was slightly indisposed and remained the whole morning in bed in the room. Hence, following the indications of the plaintiff, the theft could have taken place only in the afternoon. Of the other four nurses upon whom suspicion could possibly fall, there was one who attended regularly to the cleaning of the room in question, while the remaining three had nothing to do in it, nor was it shown that any of them had spent any time there on the previous day.

It was therefore natural that the last three nurses should be regarded for the time being as less implicated, and I therefore began by subjecting the first three to the experiment.

From the information I had obtained of the case, I knew that the cupboard was locked but that the key was kept near by in a very conspicuous place, that on opening the cupboard the first thing which would strike the eye was a fur boa, and, moreover, that the pocket-book was between the linen in an inconspicuous place. The pocket-book was of dark reddish leather, and contained the following objects: a 50-franc banknote, a 20-franc piece, some centimes, a small silver watchchain, a stencil used in the lunatic asylum to mark the kitchen utensils, and a small receipt from Dosenbach’s shoeshop in Zurich.

Besides the plaintiff and the guilty one, only the head nurse knew the exact particulars of the deed, for as soon as the former missed her money she immediately asked the head nurse to help her find it, thus the head nurse had been able to learn the smallest details, which naturally rendered the experiment still more difficult, for she was precisely the one most suspected. The conditions for the experiment were better for the others, since they knew nothing concerning the particulars of the deed, and some not even that a theft had been committed. As critical stimulus words I selected the name of the robbed nurse, plus the following words: cupboard, door, open, key, yesterday, banknote, gold, 70, 50, 20, money, watch, pocket-book, chain, silver, to hide, fur, dark reddish, leather, centimes, stencil, receipt, Dosenbach. Besides these words which referred directly to the deed, I took also the following, which had a special effective value : theft, to take, to steal, suspicion, blame, court, police, to lie, to fear, to discover, to arrest, innocent.

The objection is often made to the last species of words that they may produce a strong affective resentment even in innocent persons, and for that reason one cannot attribute to them any comparative value. Nevertheless, it may always be questioned whether the affective resentment of an innocent person will have the same effect on the association as that of a guilty one, and that question can only be authoritatively answered by experience. Until the contrary is demonstrated, I maintain that words of the above-mentioned type may profitably be used.

I distributed these critical words among twice as many indifferent stimulus words in such a manner that each critical word was followed by two indifferent ones. As a rule it is well to follow up the critical words by indifferent words in order that the action of the first may be clearly distinguished. But one may also follow up one critical word by another, especially if one wishes to bring into relief the action of the second. Thus I placed together “darkish red” and “leather,” and “chain” and “silver.”

After this preparatory work I undertook the experiment with the three above-mentioned nurses. As examinations of this kind can be rendered into a foreign tongue only with the greatest difficulty, I will content myself with presenting the general results, and with giving some examples. I first undertook the experiment with the friend of the head nurse, and judging by the circumstances she appeared only slightly moved. The head nurse was next examined; she showed marked excitement, her pulse being 120 per minute immediately after the experiment. The last to be examined was the nurse who attended to the cleaning of the room in which the theft occurred. She was the most tranquil of the three; she displayed but little embarrassment, and only in the course of the experiment did it occur to her that she was suspected of stealing, a fact which manifestly disturbed her towards the end of the experiment.

The general impression from the examination spoke strongly against the head nurse. It seemed to me that she evinced a very “suspicious,” or I might almost say, “impudent” countenance. With the definite idea of finding in her the guilty one I set about adding up the results.

One can make use of many special methods of computing, but they are not all equally good and equally exact. (One must always resort to calculation, as appearances are enormously deceptive.) The method which is most to be recommended is that of the probable average of the reaction time. It shows at a glance the difficulties which the person in the experiment had to overcome in the reaction.

The technique of this calculation is very simple. The probable average is the middle number of the various reaction times arranged in a series. The reaction times are, for example, (Reaction times are always given in fifths of a second) placed in the following manner: 5,5,5,7,7,7,7, 8,9,9,9, 12, 13, 14. The number found in the middle (8) is the probable average of this series. Following the order of the experiment, I shall denote the friend of the head nurse by the letter A, the head nurse by B, and the third nurse by C.

The probable averages of the reaction are:

A 10.0
B 12.0
C 13.5No conclusions can be drawn from this result. But the average reaction times calculated separately for the indifferent reactions, for the critical, and for those immediately following the critical (post-critical) are more interesting.

From this example we see that whereas A has the shortest reaction time for the indifferent reactions, she shows in comparison to the other two persons of the experiment, the longest time for the critical reactions.

The Probable Average of The Reaction Time

For A B C

Indifferent reactions 10.0, 11.0, 12.0
Critical reactions 16.0, 13.0, 15.0
Post-critical reactions 10.0, 11.0, 13.0The difference between the reaction times, let us say between the indifferent and the critical, is 6 for A, 2 for B, and 3 for C, that is, it is more than double for A when compared with the other two persons.

In the same way we can calculate how many complex indicators there are on an average for the indifferent, critical, etc., reactions.

The Average Complex-Indicators For Each Reaction

For A B C

Indifferent reactions 0.6, 0.9, 0.8
Critical reactions 1.3, 0.9, 1.2
Post-critical reactions 0.6, 1.0, 0.8The difference between the indifferent and critical reactions for A = 0.7, for B = 0, for C = 0.4. A is again the highest.

Another question to consider is, in what special way do the imperfect reactions behave?

The result for A = 34%, for B = 28%, and for C = 30%. Here, too, A reaches the highest value, and in this, I believe, we see the characteristic moment of the guilt-complex in A. I am, however, unable to explain here circumstantially the reasons why I maintain that memory errors are related to an emotional complex, as this would lead me beyond the limits of the present work. I therefore refer the reader to my work “Ueber die Reproductionsstorrungen im Associationsexperiment” (IX Beitrag der Diagnost. Associat. Studien).

As it often happens that an association of strong feeling tone produces in the experiment a perseveration, with the result that not only the critical association, but also two or three successive associations are imperfectly reproduced, it will be very interesting to see how many imperfect reproductions are so arranged in the series in our cases. The result of computation shows that the imperfect reproductions thus arranged in series are tor A 64.7%, for B 55.5%, and for C 30.0%.

Again we find that A has the greatest percentage. To be sure, this may partially depend on the fact that A also possesses the greatest number of imperfect reproductions. Given a small quantity of reactions, it is usual that the greater the total number of the same, the more imperfect reactions will occur in groups. But in order that this should be probable it could not occur in so great a measure as in cur case, where, on the other hand, B and C have not a much smaller number of imperfect reactions when compared to A. It is significant that C with her slight emotions during the experiment shows the minimum of imperfect reproductions arranged in series.

As imperfect reproductions are also complex indicators, it is necessary to see how they distribute themselves in respect to the indifferent, critical, etc., reactions.

It is hardly necessary to bring into prominence the differences between the indifferent and the critical reactions of the various subjects as shown by the resulting numbers of the table. In this respect, too, A occupies first place.

Imperfect Reproductions Which Occur

In A B C

Indifferent reactions 10, 12, 11
Critical reactions 19, 9, 12
Post-critical reactions 5, 7, 7Naturally, here, too, there is a probability that the greater the quantity of the imperfect reproductions the greater is their number in the critical reactions. If we suppose that the imperfect reproductions are distributed regularly and without choice, among all the reactions, there will be a greater number of them for A (in comparison with B and C) even as reactions to critical words, since A has the greater number of imperfect reproductions. Admitting such a uniform distribution of the imperfect reproductions, it is easy to calculate how many we ought to expect to belong to each individual kind of reaction.

From this calculation it appears that the disturbances of reproductions which concern the critical reactions for A greatly surpass the number expected, for C they are 0.9 higher, while for B they are lower.

Imperfect Reproductions

The Association Method

All this points to the fact that in the subject A the critical stimulus words acted with the greatest intensity, and hence the greatest suspicion falls on A. Practically one may assume the probability of this person’s guilt. The same evening A made a complete confession of the theft, and thus the success of the experiment was confirmed.

Such a result is undoubtedly of scientific interest and worthy of serious consideration. There is much in experimental psychology which is of less use than the material exemplified in this test. Putting the theoretical interest altogether aside, we have here something that is not to be despised from a practical point of view, to wit, a culprit has been brought to light in a much easier and shorter way than is customary. What has been possible once or twice ought to be possible again, and it is well worth while to investigate some means of rendering the method increasingly capable of rapid and sure results.

This application of the experiment shows that it is possible to strike a concealed, indeed an unconscious complex by means of a stimulus word; and conversely we may assume with great certainty that behind a reaction which shows a complex indicator there is a hidden complex, even though the test-person strongly denies it. One must get rid of the idea that educated and intelligent test-persons are able to see and admit their own complexes. Every human mind contains much that is unacknowledged and hence unconscious as such; and no one can boast that he stands completely above his complexes. Those who persist in maintaining that they can, are not aware of the spectacles upon their noses.

It has long been thought that the association experiment enables one to distinguish certain intellectual types. That is not the case. The experiment does not give us any particular insight into the purely intellectual, but rather into the emotional processes. To be sure we can erect certain types of reaction; they are not, however, based on intellectual peculiarities, but depend entirely on the proportionate emotional states. Educated test-persons usually show superficial and linguistically deep-rooted associations, whereas the uneducated form more valuable associations and often of ingenious significance.

This behavior would be paradoxical from an intellectual viewpoint. The meaningful associations of the uneducated are not really the product of intellectual thinking, but are simply the results of a special emotional state. The whole thing is more important to the uneducated, his emotion is greater, and for that reason he pays more attention to the experiment than the educated person, and his associations are therefore more significant. Apart from those determined by education, we have to consider three principal individual types:

1. An objective type with undisturbed reactions
2. A so-called complex type with many disturbances in the experiment occasioned by the constellation of a complex.
3. A so-called definition-type. This type consists in the fact that the reaction always gives an explanation or a definition of the content of the stimulus word; e.g. apple, – a tree-fruit;table, – a piece of household furniture; to promenade, – an activity; father, – chief of the family.This type is chiefly found in stupid persons, and it is therefore quite usual in imbecility. But it can also be found in persons who are not really stupid, but who do not wish to be taken as stupid. Thus a young student from whom associations were taken by an older intelligent woman student reacted altogether with definitions. The test-person was of the opinion that it was an examination in intelligence, and therefore directed most of his attention to the significance of the stimulus words; his associations, therefore, looked like those of an idiot. All idiots, however, do not react with definitions; probably only those react in this way who would like to appear smarter than they are, that is, those to whom their stupidity is painful. I call this widespread complex the “intelligence-complex.” A normal test-person reacts in a most overdrawn manner as follows:

anxiety – heart anguish; to kiss – love’s unfolding; to kiss – perception of friendship.

This type gives a constrained and unnatural impression. The test-persons wish to be more than they are, they wish to exert more influence than they really have. Hence we see that persons with an intelligence complex are usually unnatural and constrained; that they are always somewhat stilted, or flowery; they show a predilection for complicated foreign words, high-sounding quotations, and other intellectual ornaments. In this way they wish to influence their fellow beings, they wish to impress others with their apparent education and intelligence, and thus to compensate for their painful feeling of stupidity. The definition type is closely related to the predicate type, or, to express it more precisely, to the predicate type expressing personal judgment (Wertprddikattypus). For example:

flower – pretty;money – convenient; animal – ugly; knife – dangerous; death – ghastly.

In the definition type the intellectual significance of the stimulus word is rendered prominent, but in the predicate type its emotional significance. There are predicate types which show great exaggeration where reactions such as the following appear:

piano – horrible; to sing – heavenly; mother – ardently loved; father – something good, nice, holy.

In the definition type an absolutely intellectual make-up is manifested or rather simulated, but here there is a very emotional one. Yet, just as the definition type really conceals a lack of intelligence, so the excessive emotional expression conceals or overcompensates an emotional deficiency. This conclusion is very interestingly illustrated by the following discovery: On investigating the influence of the familiar milieus on the association type it was found that young people seldom possess a predicate type, but that, on the other hand, the predicate type increases in frequency with advancing age. In women the increase of the predicate type begins a little after the 40th year, and in men after the 60th. That is the precise time when, owing to the deficiency of sexuality, there actually occurs considerable emotional loss. If a test-person evinces a distinct predicate type, it may always be inferred that a marked internal emotional deficiency is thereby compensated. Still, one cannot reason conversely, namely, that an inner emotional deficiency must produce a predicate type, no more than that idiocy directly produces a definition type. A predicate type can also betray itself through the external behavior, as, for example, through a particular affectation, enthusiastic exclamations, an embellished behavior, and the constrained sounding language so often observed in society.

The complex type shows no particular tendency except the concealment of a complex, whereas the definition and predicate types betray a positive tendency to ‘exert in some way a definite influence on the experimenter. But whereas the definition type tends to bring to light its intelligence, the predicate type displays its emotion. I need hardly add of what importance such determinations are for the diagnosis of character.

After finishing an association experiment I usually add another of a different kind, the so-called reproduction experiment. I repeat the same stimulus words and ask the test persons whether they still remember their former reactions. In many instances the memory fails, and as experience shows, these locations are stimulus words which touched an emotionally accentuated complex, or stimulus words immediately following such critical words.

This phenomenon has been designated as paradoxical and contrary to all experience. For it is known that emotionally accentuated things are better retained in memory than indifferent things. This is quite true, but it does not hold for the linguistic expression of an emotionally accentuated content. On the contrary, one very easily forgets what he has said under emotion, one is even apt to contradict himself about it. Indeed, the efficacy of cross-examinations in court depends on this fact. The reproduction method therefore serves to render still more prominent the complex stimulus. In normal persons we usually find a limited number of false reproductions, seldom more than 19-20 per cent., while in abnormal persons, especially in hysterics, we often find from 20-40 per cent, of false reproductions. The reproduction certainty is therefore in certain cases a measure for the emotivity of the test-person.

By far the larger number of neurotics show a pronounced tendency to cover up their intimate affairs in impenetrable darkness, even from the doctor, so that he finds it very difficult to form a proper picture of the patient’s psychology. In such cases I am greatly assisted by the association experiment. When the experiment is finished, I first look over the general course of the reaction times. I see a great many very prolonged intervals; this means that the patient can only adjust himself with difficulty, that his psychological functions proceed with marked internal friction, with resistances. The greater number of neurotics react only under great and very definite resistances; there are, however, others in whom the average reaction times are as short as in the normal, and in whom the other complex indicators are lacking, but, despite that fact, they undoubtedly present neurotic symptoms. These rare cases are especially found among very intelligent and educated persons, chronic patients who, after many years of practice, have learned to control their outward behavior and therefore outwardly display very little if any trace of their neuroses. The superficial observer would take them for normal, yet in some places they show disturbances which betray the repressed complex.

After examining the reaction times I turn my attention to the type of the association to ascertain with what type I am dealing.  If it is a predicate type I draw the conclusions which I have detailed above; if it is a complex type I try to ascertain the nature of the complex.  With the necessary experience one can readily emancipate one’s judgment from the test-person’s statements and almost without any previous knowledge of the test-persons it is possible under certain circumstances to read the most intimate complexes from the results of the experiment.  I look at first for the reproduction words and put them together, and then I look for the stimulus words which show the greatest disturbances.  In many cases merely assorting these words suffices to unearth the complex.  In some cases it is necessary to put a question here and there.  The matter is well illustrated by the following concrete example:

It concerns an educated woman of 30 years of age, married three years previously.  Since her marriage she has suffered from episodic excitement in which she is violently jealous of her husband.  The marriage is a happy one in every other respect, and it should be noted that the husband gives no cause for the jealousy.  The patient is sure that she loves him and that her excited states are groundless.  She cannot imagine whence these excited states originate, and feels quite perplexed over them.  It is to be noted that she is a catholic and has been brought up religiously, while her husband is a protestant.  This difference of religion did not admittedly play any part.  A more thorough anamnesis showed the existence of an extreme prudishness.  Thus, for example, no one was allowed to talk in the patient’s presence about her sister’s childbirth, because the sexual moment suggested therein caused her the greatest excitement.  She always undressed in the adjoining room and never in her husband’s presence, etc.  At the age of 27 she was supposed to have had no idea how children were born.  The associations gave the results shown in the accompanying chart.

The stimulus words characterized by marked disturbances are the following: yellow, to pray, to separate, to marry, to quarrel, old, family, happiness, false, fear, to kiss, bride, to choose, contented.  The strongest disturbances are found in the following stimulus words: to pray, to marry, happiness, false, fear, and contented.  These words, therefore, more than any others, seem to strike the complex.  The conclusions that can be drawn from this is that she is not indifferent to the fact that her husband is a protestant, that she again thinks of praying, believes there is something wrong with marriage, that she is false, entertains fancies of faithlessness, is afraid (of the husband? of the future?), she is not contented with her choice (to choose) and she thinks of separation.  The patient therefore has a separation complex, for she is very discontented with her married life.  When I told her this result she was affected and at first attempted to deny it, then to mince over it, but finally she admitted everything I said and added more.  She reproduced a large number of fancies of faithlessness, reproaches against her husband, etc.  Her prudishness and jealousy were merely a projection of her own sexual wishes on her husband.  Because she was faithless in her fancies and did not admit it to herself she was jealous of her husband.

It is impossible in a lecture to give a review of all the manifold uses of the association experiment.  I must content myself with having demonstrated to you a few of its chief uses.”     Carl Jung, “The Association Method;” 1909.  


‘The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.’—G. B. Shaw (in A Revolutionist’s Handbook).

Colonel Musgrave of the R.A.S.C. had been instructed to superintend the supply and transport arrangements of the Portuguese Division, and Lieutenant Barefoot, in charge of a Labour Company, had been detailed to assist him.

‘These men,’ he explained to Colonel Musgrave, ‘are all Southampton dockers.  In peace time I am their employer, and Sergeant Scott over there is their foreman.  They tell me your Labour Companies have often shown rather poor discipline.  There’s no fear of anything like that with my men; they have been chosen with care, and look up to me as if I were a king.  Scott, my sergeant, can do anything; neither he nor my men ever drink a drop.  As for me, I am a real business man, and I intend to introduce new methods into the army.’

Barefoot was fifty years old; he had a bald head shaped like an egg.  He had just enlisted to serve his King and country, and was overflowing with goodwill.

The next morning twenty of his men were dead-drunk, two were absent at roll-call, and Sergeant Scott had a scar on his nose which seemed to be the result of a somewhat sudden encounter with mother earth.

‘No matter,’ said the worthy N.C.O., ‘Barefoot is an ass, and never notices anything.’

Next day the first batch of Portuguese troops arrived.  British tugs towed the huge transports round the tiny harbour with graceful ease, and the decks seethed with masses of troops.  The harbour captain and the Ponts et Chaussées engineer were loud in protest against these wonders, as being ‘contrary to the ideas of the Service.’  The wharves were filled with motor lorries, mountains of pressed hay, sacks of oats and boxes of biscuits.

Colonel Musgrave, who was to take charge of this treasure-store, began to make his plan of campaign.

‘To-morrow, Friday,’ he said, ‘there will be a parade on the wharf at 7 a.m.  I shall hold an inspection myself before work is begun.’

On Friday morning at seven, Barefoot, his labourers and the lorries were all paraded on the wharf in excellent order.  At eight the colonel got up, had his bath and shaved.  Then he partook of eggs and bacon, bread and jam, and drank two cups of tea.  Towards nine o’clock his car took him to the wharf.  When he saw the men standing motionless, the officer saluting and the lorries all in a row, his face went as red as a brick, and he stood up in his car and addressed them angrily:

‘So you are incapable of the slightest initiative!  If I am absent for an hour, detained by more important work, everything comes to a standstill!  I see I cannot rely on anyone here except myself!’

The same evening he called the officers together.

‘To-morrow, Saturday,’ he said, ‘there will be a parade at 7 a. m.—and this time I shall be there.’

The next morning Barefoot with his men and lorries paraded once more on the wharf, with a sea-wind sweeping an icy rain into their faces.  At half-past seven the lieutenant took action.

‘We will start work,’ he said.  ‘The colonel was quite right yesterday and spoke like a real business man.  In our respect for narrow formalism, we stupidly wasted a whole morning’s work.’

So his men began to pile up the cases, the lorries started to move the sacks of oats, and the day’s work was pretty well advanced when Colonel Musgrave appeared.  Having had his bath and shaved, and absorbed poached eggs on toast, bread, marmalade and three cups of tea, he had not been able to be ready before ten.  Suddenly coming upon all this healthy bustle, he leaped out of his car, and angrily addressed the eager Barefoot, who was approaching him with a modest smile.

‘Who has had the impudence to call the men off parade before my arrival?’ he said.  ‘So if I happen to be detained elsewhere by more important work, my orders are simply disregarded! I see again that I cannot rely on anyone here except myself!’

Meanwhile the crestfallen Barefoot was meditating upon the mysterious ways of the army.  Musgrave inspected the work and decided that everything was to be done all over again.  The biscuits were to be put in the shed where the oats had been piled, and the oats were to be put out in the open where the biscuits had been.  The meat was to change places with the jam, and the mustard with the bacon.  The lorries were to take away again everything they had just brought up.  So that when lunch-time arrived, everything was in exactly the same state as it had been at dawn.  The Admiralty announced the arrival of a transport at two o’clock; the men were supposed to find their rations ready for them upon landing.

Musgrave very pluckily decided that the Labour Company were to have no rest, and were just to be content with nibbling a light lunch while they went on with their work.

Barefoot, who had got up at six and was very hungry, approached the colonel in fear and trembling.

‘May I leave my sergeant in charge for half an hour, sir?’ he asked.  ‘He can do everything as well as I can.  I should like just to run along to the nearest café and have something warm to eat.’

Musgrave gazed at him in mournful astonishment.

‘Really,’ he said, ‘you young fellows don’t seem to realize that there’s a war on.’  Whereupon he stepped into his car and drove off to the hotel.

Barefoot, somewhat downcast, buttonholed the interpreter, who was father-confessor to all Englishmen in distress. Aurelle begged him not to get excited.

“You are always talking about introducing your business methods into the army. As if that were possible! Why, the objects of the two things are entirely different. A business man is always looking for work; an officer is always trying to avoid it. If you neglect these principles, I can foresee an ignominious end in store for you, Barefoot, and Colonel Musgrave will trample on your corpse.”

Now the thirty thousand Portuguese had been fed during their long voyage on tinned food; and as the transports’ holds were being cleared, innumerable empty tins began to accumulate on the wharves. Barefoot and his men were ordered to gather these tins together into regular heaps. These grew so rapidly that the Mayor of the town was exceedingly concerned to see such a waste of space in a harbour already filled to bursting-point, and sent a pointed letter to Colonel Musgrave, asking him to find some other place for his empty tins.

Colonel Musgrave ordered his interpreter to write an equally pointed letter, reminding the Mayor of B—— that the removal of refuse was a municipal concern, and that the British Army was therefore waiting for the Town to hand over a plot of ground for the purpose.

Barefoot happened to speak of this difficulty one day to the business man at whose house he was billeted; and the latter told him that a process had recently been discovered by which old tins could be melted down and used again, and that a company had been floated to work out the scheme; they would be sure to purchase Colonel Musgrave’s tins.

The enthusiastic Barefoot began to see visions of profitable and glorious enterprises. Not only would he rid his chief and the Mayor of B—— of a lot of cumbersome salvage, but this modest contract for some tens of tons might well serve as a model to those responsible for the sale of the millions of empty tins scattered daily by the British Army over the plains of Flanders and Artois. And the Commander-in-Chief would call the attention of the War Office to the fact that “Lieutenant E. W. Barefoot, by his bold and intelligent initiative, had enabled salvage to be carried out to the extent of several million pounds.”

“Aurelle,” he said to the interpreter, “let’s write to this company immediately; we’ll speak about it to the colonel when we get their reply.”

The answer came by return; they were offered twenty francs per ton, carriage at the company’s cost.

Barefoot explained his scheme to Colonel Musgrave with assumed modesty, adding that it would be a good thing to flatten out the tins before dispatching them, and that Sergeant Scott, who was a handy man, could easily undertake the job.

“First of all,” said the colonel, “why can’t you mind your own business? Don’t you know you are forbidden to correspond with strangers upon matters pertaining to the service without consulting your superior officers? And who told you I‘ve not been thinking for quite a long time of selling your damned tins? Do you think things are as simple as all that in the army? Fetch Aurelle; I’m going to see the superintendent of the French Customs.”

Three years’ experience had taught Colonel Musgrave that the French Customs Service were always to be relied on.

“Kindly ask this gentleman whether the British Army, having imported tins with their contents without paying any duty, has the right to sell these tins empty in France?”

“No,” answered the official, when the colonel’s question had been translated to him, “there is an order from our headquarters about the matter. The British Army must not carry on any sale of metal on French soil.”

“Thank him very much,” said the colonel, satisfied.

“Now just look here,” he said to Barefoot on returning, “what a nice mess you would have made if I hadn’t known my business. Let this be a lesson to you. In future it will be better if you look after your men and leave the rest to me. As for the tins, I have thought of a solution which will satisfy everyone concerned.”

Next day Barefoot received orders to have the tins packed on lorries, and carried in several loads to the end of the pier, whence they were neatly cast into the sea. In this way the Mayor was spared the trouble of finding a dumping-ground, the British Government paid for the petrol consumed by the lorries, the Ponts et Chaussées bore the expense of the dredging, and, as Colonel Musgrave said, every one was satisfied.

Colonel Parker, before rejoining the Division, wrote out a report, as usual, about the operations at B——.

“I beg to draw attention,” the document ran, “to the excellent organization of the Supply arrangements. Thirty thousand men have been provided with rations in a harbour where no British base existed. This result is due especially to the organizing abilities displayed by Colonel A. C. Musgrave, C.M.G., D.S.O. (R.A.S.C.). Although this officer has only recently been promoted, I consider it my duty to recommend him …”

“What about Barefoot?” said Aurelle. “Couldn’t he be made a captain?”

“Barefoot? That damned shopkeeper fellow whom Musgrave told me about? The man who wanted to introduce his methods into the army? He’s a public danger, my boy! But I can propose your friend Major Baraquin for a C.M.G., if you like.”

“Baraquin?” Aurelle exclaimed in turn. “Why, he always refused everything you asked him for.”

“Yes,” said the colonel; “he’s not very easy to get on with; he doesn’t understand things; but he’s a soldier, every inch of him! I like old Baraquin!” 


“La Nature fait peu de gens vaillants; c’est la bonne institution et la discipline.”—Charron.

The new padre was a stout, artless man with a kind face. He was only just out from England, and delighted the general with his air of innocent surprise.

“What’s making all that noise?” he asked.

“Our guns,” said Colonel Parker.

“Really?” replied the padre, in mild astonishment. As he walked into the camp, he was stopped by a sentry.

“Who goes there?”

“Friend,” he answered. Then he went up to the man and added anxiously, “I suppose that was the right thing to answer, wasn’t it?”

The general was delighted at these stories, and asked the Rev. Mr. Jeffries to take his meals at his own table.

“Padre,” he said, “don’t you think our mess is a happy family?”

“Padre,” chimed in the doctor approvingly, “don’t you think that this mess has all the characteristics of a family? It is just a group of people thrown together by chance, who never understand each other in the least, who criticize one another severely, and are compelled by circumstances to put up with each other.”

“There’s nothing to joke about,” said Colonel Parker. “It’s these compulsory associations that often give rise to the finest devotion.”

And being in a lively mood that evening, he related the story of Private Biggs:

“You remember Biggs, who used to be my orderly? He was a shy, refined little fellow, who used to sell neckties in peace-time. He loathed war, shells, blood and danger.

“Well, at the end of 1916, the powers that be sent the battalion to Gamaches training camp. A training camp, padre, is a plot of ground traversed by imitation trenches, where officers who have never been near the line teach war-worn veterans their business.

“The officers in charge of these camps, having a clientèle to satisfy, start some new fashion every season. This spring I understand that ‘open file’ is to be the order of the day; last autumn ‘massed formation’ was the watchword of the best firms. There’s a lot of talk been going on for some time, too, about ‘firing from the hip’; that’s one of my friend Lamb’s absolutely original creations—a clever fellow that; he ought to do very well.

“At Gamaches the officer in command was Major Macleod, a bloodthirsty Scot whose hobby was bayonet work. He was very successful at showing that, when all’s said and done, it’s the bayonet that wins battles. Others before him have sworn that it is only hand-grenades, heavy guns, or even cavalry that can give a decisive victory. But Macleod’s doctrine was original in one respect: he favoured moral suggestion rather than actual practice for the manufacture of his soldiers. For the somewhat repulsive slaughter of bayonet fighting he found it necessary to inspire the men with a fierce hatred of the enemy.

“For this purpose he had bags of straw stuffed to the shape of German soldiers, adorned with a sort of German helmet and painted field-grey, and these were given as targets to our Highlanders.

“‘Blood is flowing,’ he used to repeat as the training proceeded, ‘blood is flowing, and you must rejoice at the sight of it. Don’t get tender-hearted; just think only of stabbing in the right place. To withdraw the bayonet from the corpse, place your foot on the stomach.’

“You can imagine how Biggs’s soul revolted at these speeches. In vain did Sergeant-Major Fairbanks of the Guards deliver himself of his most bloodthirsty repertoire; Biggs’s tender heart was horror-struck at the idea of bowels and brains exposed, and it was always owing to him that the most carefully-prepared charges were deprived of the warlike frenzy demanded by Major Macleod.

“‘As you were!’ Sergeant-Major Fairbanks used to yell. ‘As you were! Now then, Private Biggs.’ And after twenty attempts had failed, he would conclude sadly, ‘Well, boys, mark my words, come Judgment Day, when we’re all p’radin’ for the final review an’ the Lord comes along, no sooner will the Archangel give the order, “‘Tention!” than ‘e’ll ‘ave to shout, “As you were! Now then, Private Biggs!”‘

“When the period of training was over, Macleod assembled all our men in a large shed and gave ’em his celebrated lecture on ‘hatred of the enemy.’

“I was really curious to hear him, because people at G.H.Q. were always talking about the extraordinary influence he had over the troops’ moral. ‘One of Macleod’s speeches,’ said the Chief of Staff, ‘does the Huns as much harm as ten batteries of heavy howitzers.’

“The lecturer began with a ghastly description of the shooting of prisoners, and went on to a nauseating account of the effects of gas and a terrible story about the crucifixion of a Canadian sergeant; and then, when our flesh was creeping and our throats were dry, came a really eloquent hymn of hate, ending with an appeal to the avenging bayonet.

“Macleod was silent for a few minutes, enjoying the sight of our haggard faces; then, considering we were sufficiently worked up, he went on:

“‘Now, if there is any one of you who wants anything explained, let him speak up; I’m ready to answer any questions.’

“Out of the silence came the still, small voice of Private Biggs.

“‘Please, sir?’

“‘Yes, my man,’ said Major Macleod kindly.

“‘Please, sir, can you tell me how I can transfer to the Army Service Corps?’

“That evening, in the kitchen, our orderlies discussed the incident, and discovered in course of conversation that Biggs had never killed a man. All the others were tough old warriors, and they were much astonished.

“Kemble, the general’s orderly, a giant with a dozen or so to his account, was full of pity for the poor little Cockney. ‘Mon, mon,’ he said, ‘I can hardly believe ye. Why, never a single one? Not even wounded?’

“‘No,’ said Biggs, ‘honest Injun. I run so slowly, I’m always the last to get there—I never get a chance.’

“Well, a few days later, the battalion was up in the line again, and was sent into a little stunt opposite Fleurbaix, to straighten out a salient. You remember, sir? It’s one of the best things the Division has ever done.

“Artillery preparation, low barrage, cutting communications—everything came off like clockwork, and we caught the Boches in their holes like rabbits.

“While the men were busy with their rifles, grenades and bayonets, cleaning up the conquered trenches, suddenly a voice was heard shouting:

“‘Harry, Harry, where are you?… Just send Biggs along here, will you?… Pass the word along to Private Biggs.’

“It was the voice of the Highlander, Kemble. Some giant grasped Biggs by the seat of his trousers and swung him and his rifle up to the parapet. Then two strong hands seized the little man, and he was swung in mid-air from man to man right up the file till he was finally handed over to Kemble, who seized him affectionately with his left hand, and, full of joy at the dainty treat he had in store for his friend, cried, ‘Mon, mon, look in this wee hole: I’ve got twa of ’em at the end of my rifle, but I’ve kept ’em for you.’

“This is a true story,” added Colonel Parker, “and it shows once more that the British soldier has a kind heart.”

The Rev. Mr. Jeffries had turned very pale.


“I do not like seriousness. I think it is irreligious.”—Chesterton.

“They’ll be here soon,” said Dr. O’Grady. “The moon is low, and the shadows are long, and these oblique lights will suit them very well.”

The division was in rest on the hills overlooking Abbeville, and the doctor was walking to and fro with Colonel Parker and Aurelle along the lime-bordered terrace, from which they could see the town that was going to be attacked. From the wet grassy lawns near by groups of anxious women were scanning the horizon.

“Yesterday evening, in a suburb,” said Aurelle, “they killed a baker’s three children.”

“I am sorry,” put in the doctor, “they should be favoured with this fine weather. The law of the storm seems to be exactly the same for these barbarians as it is for innocent birds. It’s absolutely contradictory to the notion of a just Divinity.”

“Doctor,” said Aurelle, “you are an unbeliever.”

“No,” replied the doctor, “I am an Irishman, and I respect the bitter wisdom of the Catholic faith. But this universe of ours, I confess, strikes me as completely non-moral. Shells and decorations fall haphazard from above on the just and the unjust alike; M. Poincaré’s carburettor gets out of order just as often as the Kaiser’s. The Gods have thrown up their job, and handed it over to the Fates. It is true that Apollo, who is a well-behaved person, takes out his chariot every morning; that may satisfy the poets and the astronomers, but it distresses the moralist. How satisfactory it would be if the resistance of the air were relative to the virtues of the airman, and if Archimedes’ principle did not apply to pirates!”

“O’Grady,” observed Colonel Parker, “you know the words of the psalm: ‘As for the ungodly, it is not so with them; but they are like the chaff which the wind scattereth away from the face of the earth.'”

“Yes, colonel; but supposing you, a good man, and I, a sinner, were suddenly hit by a bomb——”

“But, doctor,” Aurelle interrupted, “this science of yours is after all only an act of faith.”

“How so, my boy? It is obvious that there are laws in this world. If I press the trigger of this revolver, the bullet will fly out, and if General Webb is given an Army Corps, General Bramble will have a bilious attack.”

“Quite so, doctor; you observe a few series linked together, and you conclude that the world is governed by laws. But the most important facts—life, thought, love—elude your observations. You may perhaps be sure that the sun is going to rise to-morrow morning, but you don’t know what Colonel Parker is going to say next minute. Yet you assert that the colonel is a machine; that is because your religion tells you to.”

“So does every one else’s religion,” said the doctor. “Only yesterday I read in the Bishop of Broadfield’s message: ‘The prayers for rain cannot take place this week, as the barometer is too high.'”

Far away over the plain, in the direction of Amiens, the star-sprinkled sky began to flicker with tiny, flashing points of light.

“Here they come,” said Aurelle.

“They’ll be ten minutes yet,” said the doctor. They resumed their walk.

“O’Grady,” Colonel Parker put in, “you’re getting more crazy every day. You claim, if I comprehend your foolish ideas aright, that a scientist can foretell rain better than an Anglican bishop. What a magnificent paradox! Meteorology and medicine are far less solid sciences than theology. You say that the universe is governed by laws, don’t you? Nothing is less certain. It is true that chance seems to have established a relative balance in the tiny corner of the universe which we inhabit, but there is nothing to show that this balance is going to last. If you were to press the trigger of this revolver to-morrow, it is just possible that it would not go off. It is also possible that the German aeroplanes will cease to fly, and that General Bramble will take a dislike to the gramophone. I should not be surprised at any of these things; I should simply recognize that supernatural forces had come into our lives.”

“Doctor,” said Aurelle, “you know the clock which my orderly Brommit winds up every evening? Let us suppose that on one of the molecules that go to make up the minute-hand of that clock there live a race of beings who are infinitely small, and yet as intelligent as we are. These little creatures have measured their world, and have noticed that the speed of its motion is constant; they have discovered that their planet covers a fixed distance in a fixed period of time, which for us is a minute and for them a century. Amongst their people there are two schools of thought. The scientists claim that the laws of the universe are immutable, and that no supernatural power can intervene to change them. The believers admit the existence of these laws, but they also assert that there is a divine being who can interfere with their course; and to that being they address prayers. In that tiny world, which of them is right? The believers, of course; for there is such a being as Private Brommit, and if he forgets one evening to wind up the clock, the scientists and all their proud theories will vanish away like smoke in a cataclysm which will bring whole worlds to their doom.”

“That’s so,” said the doctor; “but if they had prayed——”

“Listen,” interrupted Aurelle.

The park had become strangely silent; and though there was no wind, they could hear the gentle rustling of the leaves, the barking of a dog in the valley, the crackling of a twig under a bird’s weight. Up above, in the clear sky, there was a feeling of some hostile presence, and a disagreeable little buzzing sound, as though there were some invisible mosquito up among the stars.

“They’re here now,” said the doctor.

The noise increased: a buzzing swarm of giant bees seemed to be approaching the hill.

Suddenly there was a long hiss, and a ray of light leaped forth from the valley and began to search the sky with a sort of superhuman thoroughness. The women on the lawn ran away to the shelter of the trees. The short, sharp barking of the guns, the deeper rumble of the bombs that were beginning to fall on the town, and the earth-shaking explosions terrified them beyond endurance.

“I’m going to shut my eyes,” said one, “it’s easier like that.”

“My God,” exclaimed another, “I can’t move my legs an inch!”

“Fear,” said the doctor, “shows itself in hereditary reflexes. Man, when in danger, seeks the pack, and fright makes his flesh creep, because his furred ancestors bristled all over when in combat, in order to appear enormous and terrible.”

A terrific explosion shook the hill, and flames arose over the town.

“They’re aiming at the station,” said the colonel. “Those searchlights do more harm than good. They simply frame the target and show it up.”

“When I was at Havre,” Aurelle remarked, “a gunner went to ask the Engineers for some searchlights that were rotting away in some store or other. ‘Quite impossible,’ said the engineer; ‘they’re the war reserve; we’re forbidden to touch them.’ He could never be brought to understand that the war we were carrying on over here was the one that was specified in his schedule.”

The great panting and throbbing of an aeroplane was coming nearer, and the whole sky was quivering with the noise of machinery like a huge factory.

“My God,” exclaimed the doctor, “we’re in for it this time!”

But the stars twinkled gently on, and above the din they heard the clear, delicate notes of a bird’s song—just as though the throbbing motors, the whizzing shells and the frightened wailing of the women were nothing but the harmonies devised by the divine composer of some military-pastoral symphony to sustain the slender melody of a bird.

“Listen,” whispered Colonel Parker, “listen—a nightingale!”


“… Of which, if thou be a severe sour-complexion’d man, then I hereby disallow thee to be a competent judge.”—The Compleat Angler.

The Infant Dundas struck up a rag-time on the sergeant-major’s typewriter, did a juggling turn with the army list, and let forth a few hunting yells; then, seeing that the interpreter had reached the required state of exasperation, he said:

“Aurelle, why should we stay in this camp? Let’s go into the town; I’ll get hold of the Intelligence car, and we’ll go and see Germaine.”

Germaine was a pretty, friendly girl who sold novels, chocolates and electric lamps at Abbeville. Dundas, who was not interested in women, pretended to have a discreet passion for her; in his mind France was associated with the idea of love-affairs, and he thought it the right thing to have a girl-friend there, just as he would have thought it correct to hunt in Ireland, or to ski at St. Moritz.

But when Germaine, with feigned timidity, directed on him the slowly dwindling fire of her gaze, Dundas was afraid to put his arm round her waist; this rosy-cheeked giant, who was a champion boxer and had been wounded five times, was as bashful and shy as a child.

“Good morning,” he would say with a blush.

“Good morning,” Germaine would answer, adding in a lower voice for Aurelle’s benefit, “Tell him to buy something.”

In vain did Aurelle endeavour to find books for the Infant. French novels bored him; only the elder Dumas and Alphonse Daudet found favour in his eyes. Dundas would buy his seventeenth electric lamp, stop a few minutes on the doorstep to play with Germaine’s black dog Dick, and then say good-bye, giving her hand a long squeeze and going away perfectly happy in the thought that he had done his duty and gone on the spree in France in the correct manner.

“A nice boy, your friend—but he is rather shy,” she used to say.

On Sundays she went for walks along the river with an enormous mother and ungainly sisters, escorted gravely by Dundas. The mess did not approve of these rustic idylls.

“I saw him sitting beside her in a field,” said Colonel Parker, “and his horse was tied to a tree. I think it’s disgusting.”

“It’s shameful,” said the padre.

“I’ll speak to him about it,” said the general, “it’s a disgrace to the mess.”

Aurelle tried to speak up for his friend.

“Maybe,” said the doctor, “pleasure is a right in France, but in England it’s a crime. With you, Aurelle, when girls see you taking a lady-friend out, their opinion of you goes up. In London, on the other hand——”

“Do you mean to say, doctor, that the English never flirt?”

“They flirt more than you do, my boy; that’s why they say less about it. Austerity of doctrine bears a direct proportion to strength of instinct. You like to discuss these matters, because you think lightly of them, and in that we Irish resemble you. Our great writers, such as Bernard Shaw, write thousands of paradoxes about marriage, because their thoughts are chaste. The English are far more prudish because their passions are stronger.”

“What’s all this you’re saying, doctor?” interrupted the general. “I seem to be hearing very strange doctrines.”

“We’re talking about French morals, sir.”

“Is it true, Messiou,” inquired Colonel Parker, “that it is the custom in France for a man to take his wife and his mistress to the theatre together to the same box?”

“You needn’t try to convince Aurelle of your virtue, colonel,” said the doctor; “he’s been living with you for four years, and he knows you.”

Meanwhile Dundas continued to go down into Abbeville every day and meet his friend. The shelling had got very bad, and the inhabitants began to leave the town. Germaine, however, remained calm. One day a shell hit the shop next door to hers, and shattered the whole of the whitewashed front of the house, and the plaster crumbling away revealed a fine wooden building which for the last two centuries had been concealing its splendid carved beams beneath a wretched coat of whitewash. So also did Germaine, divested by danger of her superficial vulgarity, suddenly show her mettle and prove herself the daughter of a race of soldiers.

Accordingly Dundas had conceived a warm and respectful friendship for her. But he went no further until one day when the alarm caught them together just as he was bidding her good-bye; then only did the darkness and the pleasant excitement of danger cause him to forget ceremony and convention for a few minutes.

Next day Germaine presented the Infant with a fat yellow book; it was Madame de Staëls Corinne. The rosy-cheeked one looked askance at the small closely printed pages.

“Aurelle,” he implored, “be a good chap and tell me what it’s all about—I’m not going to read the damned thing!”

“It’s the story of a young Scotch laird,” replied Aurelle, “who wants to marry a foreign girl against his family’s wish.”

“My God!” exclaimed Dundas. “Do you think she expects me to marry her? My cousin Lord Bamford married a dancer and he’s very happy; he’s the gentleman and she has the brains. But in this case it’s the mother—she’s a terrible creature!”

“The Zulus,” put in the doctor, who was listening, “have a religious custom which forbids the bridegroom-elect to see his mother-in-law. Should he happen but to see her footprints in the sand, he must turn and flee. Nothing could be wiser; for love implies an absurd and boundless admiration for the loved one, and her mother, appearing to the lover in the very image of his beloved without the charm and liveliness of youth, will deter him from that brief spell of folly which is so necessary for the propagation of the species.”

“Some mothers are charming,” argued Aurelle.

“That’s another danger,” said the doctor, “for as the mother always tends to live her daughter’s emotional life, there is a constant risk of her falling in love with her son-in-law.”

“My God!” cried Dundas, horror-struck.

However, the German airmen set his fears at rest that very evening by destroying half the town. The statue of Admiral Courbet in the middle of the square near the bookseller’s shop was hit by a bomb. The admiral continued to point an outstretched finger towards the station, but the bookseller cleared out. Germaine followed him regretfully.

As she was unable to take her dog Dick—a horrid mongrel, half-poodle and half-spaniel—Dundas gravely consented to look after him. He loved dogs with a sentimental warmth which he denied to men. Their ideas interested him, their philosophy was the same as his, and he used to talk to them for hours at a time like a nurse to her children.

The general and Colonel Parker were not a bit astonished when he introduced Dick into the mess. They had found fault with him for falling in love, but they approved of his adopting a dog.

Dick, an Abbeville guttersnipe, was therefore admitted to the refinements of the general’s table.  He remained, however, a rough son of the people, and barked when Private Brommit appeared with the meat.

‘Behave yourself, sir,’ Dundas said to him, genuinely shocked, ‘behave yourself.  A well-brought-up dog never, never does that.  A good dog never barks indoors, never, never, never.’

Germaine’s pet was offended and disappeared for three days.  The orderlies reported he had been seen in the country in doubtful company.  At last he returned, cheerful and unkempt, with one ear torn and one eye bleeding, and asked to be let in by barking merrily.

‘You’re a very naughty dog, sir,’ said Dundas as he nursed him adroitly, ‘a very, very bad little dog indeed.’

Whereupon he turned towards the general.

‘I’m very much afraid, sir,’ he said, ‘that this fellow Dick is not quite a gentleman.’

‘He’s a French dog,’ replied General Bramble with sorrowful forbearance.”     Andre Maurois, General Bramble; Chapters IV-VII, 1921.  

Numero Tres“The Lysenko controversy has been honored in The Times by a special article.  To anyone who knows the ropes the rumpus is laughable.  Lysenko is a neo-Lamarckian who believes that acquired characteristics are inherited, in flat contradiction to the neo Darwinist Weismann, who denied that any acquired characteristic can be inherited, and was so fanatically Determinist that he maintained that every act of a living creature was imposed on it by external circumstances, and could not be prevented or initiated or forwarded by any legislature or any purpose or desire or volition of its living agents.  As Butler had put it to Darwin, Determinism ‘banishes mind from the universe.’  Call it Fatalism and it becomes plain at once that it is a doctrine that no State can tolerate, least of all a Socialist State, in which every citizen shall aim at altering circumstances for the better purposely and conscientiously, and no criminal nor militant reactionary can be excused on the ground that his actions are not his own but the operation of external natural forces predetermined from the beginning of the world and entirely beyond his control or prevention.  There is not a civilized country on earth which does not hold its citizens responsible for their conduct, persecuting ruthlessly all who act too irresponsibly, and in extreme cases certifying them as madmen and locking them up.Lysenko is no Determinist.  Following up Michurin’s agricultural experiments he found that it is possible to extend the area of soil cultivation by breeding strains of wheat that flourish in a sub-Arctic climate, and transmit this acquired characteristic to its seed.  This hard fact nullified Weismann and his Determinism, as facts are continually nullifying paper theories and hypotheses.

Lysenko is not the first in the field.  Samuel Butler realised 80 years age the enormity of the Fatalism inherent in Darwinism, though Darwin, a Unitarian, was not a Darwinist, but a naturalist whose specialty was the semblance of evolution produced by what he called Natural Selection.  Butler, in two books entitled Life and Habit and Luck or Cunning? fought Darwin tooth and nail.

Butler was followed in 1906 by myself.  After a careful observation of my own acquired habits I pointed out, in the course of a lecture on Darwin to the Fabian Society, that evolution means that all habits are inherited.  I cited the fact that as breathing is an inborn habit, and speaking, like skating and bicycling, one which every generation has to acquire, proves that habits are acquired by imperceptible increments at each generation, the inborn habits being those already fully acquired, and the rest only in process of acquirement.

I was followed by Bergson, who supplemented Butler’s views and mine with a philosophy of our Creative Evolution.

After Bergson, Weismannism lost its stranglehold on the scientific world. Scott Haldane (father of J.B.S.), Needham, and in Russia Michurin and Lysenko, broke away from Fatalism, not polemically, but by simply ignoring it.

And now comes the joke. Fatalism is now dropped or certified as Materialism gone mad. Creative Evolution is basically Vitalist, and, as such, mystical, intuitive, irrational, poetic, passionate, religious, and catholic; for neither Lamarck nor Butler nor I nor Bergson nor Lysenko nor anyone else can account rationally for the Life Force, the Evolutionary Appetite, the Elan Vital, the Divine Providence (alias Will of God), or the martyrdoms that are the seed of Communism. It has just to be accepted as a so far inexplicable natural fact.

Weismannism, dismissing this force as an illusion produced by Darwinian Natural Selection, is soulless, totally rationalist, fatalist, anarchist, mechanist, and arch-materialist. It immobilises its votaries morally, driving Lysenko to the extremity of demanding its persecution as a Voodoo.

Lysenko is on the right side as a Vitalist; but the situation is confused by the purely verbal snag that Marx called his philosophy Dialectical Materialism. Now in Russia Marx is a Pontif; and all scientists who do not call themselves Materialists must be persecuted. Accordingly, Lysenko has to pretend that he is a Materialist when he is in fact a Vitalist; and thus muddles us ludicrously. Marxism seems to have gone as mad as Weismannism; and it is no longer surprising that Marx had to insist that he was not a Marxist.

The fault is wholly that of the detestable Hegelian jargon which hampered and bothered the Socialist movement in the eighteen sixties, and is mere abracadabra in England.

We have a parallel mix-up at home. In the Church of England no candidate for ordination can be inducted to a living unless when catechized by the Bishop he tells the flat lie, which the Bishop knows to be a lie, that he believes without mental reservations everything in The Bible literally. His justification is that as he will not be allowed to exercise his vocation without going through this imposture, he does it under duress and is therefore not morally responsible for it. Lysenko has to tell the flat lie that he is a Materialist, and can make the same excuse for what it is worth. Meanwhile it is our business not to let this bogus controversy be used as a red herring to split us into two factions squabbling about nothing. The trick is an old one: Divide and Govern.

Anyone can be a good Christian without believing that Joshua stopped the sun, or Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. So also is it possible to be a Socialist without, like Engels, making Das Kapital ‘the Bible of the working class,’ or accepting Marx’s version of the exploded capitalist theory of value or his attempt to account for Surplus Value by an analysis of the circulation of commodities that is now tiresome nonsense. He knew nothing of the theory of rent and interest; and his English translators, like those of Wagner, made a mess of the German philosophic lingo, not having the literary genius of Carlyle, who assimilated it superbly. If only they had read the Jacobean Bible and learnt from it how to write English as Bunyan did, Marx would not have had to wait twenty-five years for his doctrine to be put into plain English by Hyndman, Morris and the Fabians. By that time he was dead.


P.S. Sir Henry Dale’s resignation of his membership of the Soviet Academy of Science on the Lysenko issue is entirely conscientious and honorable in intention.  But the real issue is between the claim of the scientific professions to be exempted from all legal restraint in the pursuit of knowledge, and the duty of the State to control it in the general interest as it controls ail other pursuits.  To my old question ‘May you boil your mother to ascertain at what temperature a mature woman will die?’ the police have a decisive counter in the gallows.  To Lysenko’s question ‘Can the State tolerate a doctrine that makes every citizen the irresponsible agent of inevitable Natural Selection?’ the reply is a short No.  The Yes implied by Sir Henry Dale’s resignation is a hangover from the faith of Adam Smith, who believed that God interferes continually in human affairs, overruling them to a divine purpose no matter how selfishly they are conducted by their human agents.  Experience has not borne this faith out. Laissez-faire is dead.  Sir Henry should think this out.

My long political experience has taught me that what we are hardest up against is not general ignorance of Communism and all the rival paper Isms, but of the status quo, our notions of which are so fantastically Utopian that we daily reproach Russians and foreigners in general for practices and institutions and codes that are in full blast here, and in fact mostly originated in Merry England.”     George Bernard Shaw, “The Lysenko Muddle;” Labour Monthly, 1949.  

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Numero CuatroHonourable Judges
Never has a lawyer had to practice his profession under such difficult conditions; never has such a number of overwhelming irregularities been committed against an accused man.  In this case, counsel and defendant are one and the same.  As attorney he has not even been able to take a look at the indictment.  As accused, for the past seventy-six days he has been locked away in solitary confinement, held totally and absolutely incommunicado, in violation of every human and legal right.

He who speaks to you hates vanity with all his being, nor are his temperament or frame of mind inclined towards courtroom poses or sensationalism of any kind.  If I have had to assume my own defense before this Court it is for two reasons.  First: because I have been denied legal aid almost entirely, and second: only one who has been so deeply wounded, who has seen his country so forsaken and its justice trampled so, can speak at a moment like this with words that spring from the blood of his heart and the truth of his very gut.

There was no lack of generous comrades who wished to defend me, and the Havana Bar Association appointed a courageous and competent jurist, Dr. Jorge Pagliery, Dean of the Bar in this city, to represent me in this case.  However, he was not permitted to carry out his task.  As often as he tried to see me, the prison gates were closed before him.  Only after a month and a half, and through the intervention of the Court, was he finally granted a ten minute interview with me in the presence of a sergeant from the Military Intelligence Agency (SIM).  One supposes that a lawyer has a right to speak with his defendant in private, and this right is respected throughout the world, except in the case of a Cuban prisoner of war in the hands of an implacable tyranny that abides by no code of law, be it legal or humane.  Neither Dr. Pagliery nor I were willing to tolerate such dirty spying upon our means of defense for the oral trial.  Did they want to know, perhaps, beforehand, the methods we would use in order to reduce to dust the incredible fabric of lies they had woven around the Moncada Barracks events?  How were we going to expose the terrible truth they would go to such great lengths to conceal?  It was then that we decided that, taking advantage of my professional rights as a lawyer, I would assume my own defense.

This decision, overheard by the sergeant and reported by him to his superior, provoked a real panic.  It looked like some mocking little imp was telling them that I was going to ruin all their plans.  You know very well, Honorable Judges, how much pressure has been brought to bear on me in order to strip me as well of this right that is ratified by long Cuban tradition.  The Court could not give in to such machination, for that would have left the accused in a state of total indefensiveness.  The accused, who is now exercising this right to plead his own case, will under no circumstances refrain from saying what he must say.  I consider it essential that I explain, at the onset, the reason for the terrible isolation in which I have been kept; what was the purpose of keeping me silent; what was behind the plots to kill me, plots which the Court is familiar with; what grave events are being hidden from the people; and the truth behind all the strange things which have taken place during this trial.  I propose to do all this with utmost clarity.

You have publicly called this case the most significant in the history of the Republic. If you sincerely believed this, you should not have allowed your authority to be stained and degraded. The first court session was September 21st. Among one hundred machine guns and bayonets, scandalously invading the hall of justice, more than a hundred people were seated in the prisoner’s dock. The great majority had nothing to do with what had happened. They had been under preventive arrest for many days, suffering all kinds of insults and abuses in the chambers of the repressive units. But the rest of the accused, the minority, were brave and determined, ready to proudly confirm their part in the battle for freedom, ready to offer an example of unprecedented self-sacrifice and to wrench from the jail’s claws those who in deliberate bad faith had been included in the trial. Those who had met in combat confronted one another again. Once again, with the cause of justice on our side, we would wage the terrible battle of truth against infamy! Surely the regime was not prepared for the moral catastrophe in store for it!

How to maintain all its false accusations? How to keep secret what had really happened, when so many young men were willing to risk everything – prison, torture and death, if necessary – in order that the truth be told before this Court?

I was called as a witness at that first session. For two hours I was questioned by the Prosecutor as well as by twenty defense attorneys. I was able to prove with exact facts and figures the sums of money that had been spent, the way this money was collected and the arms we had been able to round up. I had nothing to hide, for the truth was: all this was accomplished through sacrifices without precedent in the history of our Republic. I spoke of the goals that inspired us in our struggle and of the humane and generous treatment that we had at all times accorded our adversaries. If I accomplished my purpose of demonstrating that those who were falsely implicated in this trial were neither directly nor indirectly involved, I owe it to the complete support and backing of my heroic comrades. For, as I said, the consequences they might be forced to suffer at no time caused them to repent of their condition as revolutionaries and patriots, I was never once allowed to speak with these comrades of mine during the time we were in prison, and yet we planned to do exactly the same. The fact is, when men carry the same ideals in their hearts, nothing can isolate them – neither prison walls nor the sod of cemeteries. For a single memory, a single spirit, a single idea, a single conscience, a single dignity will sustain them all.

From that moment on, the structure of lies the regime had erected about the events at Moncada Barracks began to collapse like a house of cards. As a result, the Prosecutor realized that keeping all those persons named as instigators in prison was completely absurd, and he requested their provisional release.

At the close of my testimony in that first session, I asked the Court to allow me to leave the dock and sit among the counsel for the defense. This permission was granted. At that point what I consider my most important mission in this trial began: to totally discredit the cowardly, miserable and treacherous lies which the regime had hurled against our fighters; to reveal with irrefutable evidence the horrible, repulsive crimes they had practiced on the prisoners; and to show the nation and the world the infinite misfortune of the Cuban people who are suffering the cruelest, the most inhuman oppression of their history.

The second session convened on Tuesday, September 22nd. By that time only ten witnesses had testified, and they had already cleared up the murders in the Manzanillo area, specifically establishing and placing on record the direct responsibility of the captain commanding that post. There were three hundred more witnesses to testify. What would happen if, with a staggering mass of facts and evidence, I should proceed to cross-examine the very Army men who were directly responsible for those crimes? Could the regime permit me to go ahead before the large audience attending the trial? Before journalists and jurists from all over the island? And before the party leaders of the opposition, who they had stupidly seated right in the prisoner’s dock where they could hear so well all that might be brought out here? They would rather have blown up the court house, with all its judges, than allow that!

And so they devised a plan by which they could eliminate me from the trial and they proceeded to do just that, manu militari. On Friday night, September 25th, on the eve of the third session of the trial, two prison doctors visited me in my cell. They were visibly embarrassed. ‘We have come to examine you,’ they said. I asked them, ‘Who is so worried about my health?’ Actually, from the moment I saw them I realized what they had come for. They could not have treated me with greater respect, and they explained their predicament to me. That afternoon Colonel Chaviano had appeared at the prison and told them I ‘was doing the Government terrible damage with this trial.’ He had told them they must sign a certificate declaring that I was ill and was, therefore, unable to appear in court. The doctors told me that for their part they were prepared to resign from their posts and risk persecution. They put the matter in my hands, for me to decide. I found it hard to ask those men to unhesitatingly destroy themselves. But neither could I, under any circumstances, consent that those orders be carried out. Leaving the matter to their own consciences, I told them only: ‘You must know your duty; I certainly know mine.’

After leaving the cell they signed the certificate. I know they did so believing in good faith that this was the only way they could save my life, which they considered to be in grave danger. I was not obliged to keep our conversation secret, for I am bound only by the truth. Telling the truth in this instance may jeopardize those good doctors in their material interests, but I am removing all doubt about their honor, which is worth much more. That same night, I wrote the Court a letter denouncing the plot; requesting that two Court physicians be sent to certify my excellent state of health, and to inform you that if to save my life I must take part in such deception, I would a thousand times prefer to lose it. To show my determination to fight alone against this whole degenerate frame-up, I added to my own words one of the Master’s lines: ‘A just cause even from the depths of a cave can do more than an army.’ As the Court knows, this was the letter Dr. Melba Hernández submitted at the third session of the trial on September 26th. I managed to get it to her in spite of the heavy guard I was under. That letter, of course, provoked immediate reprisals. Dr. Hernández was subjected to solitary confinement, and I – since I was already incommunicado – was sent to the most inaccessible reaches of the prison. From that moment on, all the accused were thoroughly searched from head to foot before they were brought into the courtroom.

Two Court physicians certified on September 27th that I was, in fact, in perfect health. Yet, in spite of the repeated orders from the Court, I was never again brought to the hearings. What’s more, anonymous persons daily circulated hundreds of apocryphal pamphlets which announced my rescue from jail. This stupid alibi was invented so they could physically eliminate me and pretend I had tried to escape. Since the scheme failed as a result of timely exposure by ever alert friends, and after the first affidavit was shown to be false, the regime could only keep me away from the trial by open and shameless contempt of Court.

This was an incredible situation, Honorable Judges: Here was a regime literally afraid to bring an accused man to Court; a regime of blood and terror that shrank in fear of the moral conviction of a defenseless man – unarmed, slandered and isolated. And so, after depriving me of everything else, they finally deprived me even of the trial in which I was the main accused. Remember that this was during a period in which individual rights were suspended and the Public Order Act as well as censorship of radio and press were in full force. What unbelievable crimes this regime must have committed to so fear the voice of one accused man!

I must dwell upon the insolence and disrespect which the Army leaders have at all times shown towards you. As often as this Court has ordered an end to the inhuman isolation in which I was held; as often as it has ordered my most elementary rights to be respected; as often as it has demanded that I be brought before it, this Court has never been obeyed! Worse yet: in the very presence of the Court, during the first and second hearings, a praetorian guard was stationed beside me to totally prevent me from speaking to anyone, even among the brief recesses. In other words, not only in prison, but also in the courtroom and in your presence, they ignored your decrees. I had intended to mention this matter in the following session, as a question of elementary respect for the Court, but – I was never brought back. And if, in exchange for so much disrespect, they bring us before you to be jailed in the name of a legality which they and they alone have been violating since March 10th, sad indeed is the role they would force on you. The Latin maxim Cedant arma togae has certainly not been fulfilled on a single occasion during this trial. I beg you to keep that circumstance well in mind.

What is more, these devices were in any case quite useless; my brave comrades, with unprecedented patriotism, did their duty to the utmost.

‘Yes, we set out to fight for Cuba’s freedom and we are not ashamed of having done so,’ they declared, one by one, on the witness stand. Then, addressing the Court with impressive courage, they denounced the hideous crimes committed upon the bodies of our brothers. Although absent from Court, I was able, in my prison cell, to follow the trial in all its details. And I have the convicts at Boniato Prison to thank for this. In spite of all threats, these men found ingenious means of getting newspaper clippings and all kinds of information to me. In this way they avenged the abuses and immoralities perpetrated against them both by Taboada, the warden, and the supervisor, Lieutenant Rozabal, who drove them from sun up to sun down building private mansions and starved them by embezzling the prison food budget.

As the trial went on, the roles were reversed: those who came to accuse found themselves accused, and the accused became the accusers! It was not the revolutionaries who were judged there; judged once and forever was a man named Batista – monstruum horrendum! – and it matters little that these valiant and worthy young men have been condemned, if tomorrow the people will condemn the Dictator and his henchmen! Our men were consigned to the Isle of Pines Prison, in whose circular galleries Castells’ ghost still lingers and where the cries of countless victims still echo; there our young men have been sent to expiate their love of liberty, in bitter confinement, banished from society, torn from their homes and exiled from their country. Is it not clear to you, as I have said before, that in such circumstances it is difficult and disagreeable for this lawyer to fulfill his duty?

As a result of so many turbid and illegal machinations, due to the will of those who govern and the weakness of those who judge, I find myself here in this little room at the Civilian Hospital, where I have been brought to be tried in secret, so that I may not be heard and my voice may be stifled, and so that no one may learn of the things I am going to say. Why, then, do we need that imposing Palace of Justice which the Honorable Judges would without doubt find much more comfortable? I must warn you: it is unwise to administer justice from a hospital room, surrounded by sentinels with fixed bayonets; the citizens might suppose that our justice is sick – and that it is captive.

Let me remind you, your laws of procedure provide that trials shall be ‘public hearings;’ however, the people have been barred altogether from this session of Court. The only civilians admitted here have been two attorneys and six reporters, in whose newspapers the censorship of the press will prevent printing a word I say. I see, as my sole audience in this chamber and in the corridors, nearly a hundred soldiers and officers. I am grateful for the polite and serious attention they give me. I only wish I could have the whole Army before me! I know, one day, this Army will seethe with rage to wash away the terrible, the shameful bloodstains splattered across the military uniform by the present ruthless clique in its lust for power. On that day, oh what a fall awaits those mounted in arrogance on their noble steeds! – provided that the people have not dismounted them long before that!

Finally, I should like to add that no treatise on penal law was allowed me in my cell. I have at my disposal only this tiny code of law lent to me by my learned counsel, Dr. Baudillo Castellanos, the courageous defender of my comrades. In the same way they prevented me from receiving the books of Martí; it seems the prison censorship considered them too subversive. Or is it because I said Martí was the inspirer of the 26th of July? Reference books on any other subject were also denied me during this trial. But it makes no difference! I carry the teachings of the Master in my heart, and in my mind the noble ideas of all men who have defended people’s freedom everywhere!

I am going to make only one request of this court; I trust it will be granted as a compensation for the many abuses and outrages the accused has had to tolerate without protection of the law. I ask that my right to express myself be respected without restraint. Otherwise, even the merest semblance of justice cannot be maintained, and the final episode of this trial would be, more than all the others, one of ignominy and cowardice.

I must admit that I am somewhat disappointed. I had expected that the Honorable Prosecutor would come forward with a grave accusation. I thought he would be ready to justify to the limit his contention, and his reasons why I should be condemned in the name of Law and Justice – what law and what justice? – to 26 years in prison. But no. He has limited himself to reading Article 148 of the Social Defense Code. On the basis of this, plus aggravating circumstances, he requests that I be imprisoned for the lengthy term of 26 years! Two minutes seems a very short time in which to demand and justify that a man be put behind bars for more than a quarter of a century. Can it be that the Honorable Prosecutor is, perhaps, annoyed with the Court? Because as I see it, his laconic attitude in this case clashes with the solemnity with which the Honorable Judges declared, rather proudly, that this was a trial of the greatest importance! I have heard prosecutors speak ten times longer in a simple narcotics case asking for a sentence of just six months. The Honorable Prosecutor has supplied not a word in support of his petition. I am a just man. I realize that for a prosecuting attorney under oath of loyalty to the Constitution of the Republic, it is difficult to come here in the name of an unconstitutional, statutory, de facto government, lacking any legal much less moral basis, to ask that a young Cuban, a lawyer like himself – perhaps as honorable as he, be sent to jail for 26 years. But the Honorable Prosecutor is a gifted man and I have seen much less talented persons write lengthy diatribes in defense of this regime. How then can I suppose that he lacks reason with which to defend it, at least for fifteen minutes, however contemptible that might be to any decent person? It is clear that there is a great conspiracy behind all this.

Honorable Judges: Why such interest in silencing me? Why is every type of argument foregone in order to avoid presenting any target whatsoever against which I might direct my own brief? Is it that they lack any legal, moral or political basis on which to put forth a serious formulation of the question? Are they that afraid of the truth? Do they hope that I, too, will speak for only two minutes and that I will not touch upon the points which have caused certain people sleepless nights since July 26th? Since the prosecutor’s petition was restricted to the mere reading of five lines of an article of the Social Defense Code, might they suppose that I too would limit myself to those same lines and circle round them like some slave turning a millstone? I shall by no means accept such a gag, for in this trial there is much more than the freedom of a single individual at stake. Fundamental matters of principle are being debated here, the right of men to be free is on trial, the very foundations of our existence as a civilized and democratic nation are in the balance. When this trial is over, I do not want to have to reproach myself for any principle left undefended, for any truth left unsaid, for any crime not denounced.

The Honorable Prosecutor’s famous little article hardly deserves a minute of my time. I shall limit myself for the moment to a brief legal skirmish against it, because I want to clear the field for an assault against all the endless lies and deceits, the hypocrisy, conventionalism and moral cowardice that have set the stage for the crude comedy which since the 10th of March – and even before then – has been called Justice in Cuba.

It is a fundamental principle of criminal law that an imputed offense must correspond exactly to the type of crime described by law. If no law applies exactly to the point in question, then there is no offense.

The article in question reads textually: ‘A penalty of imprisonment of from three to ten years shall be imposed upon the perpetrator of any act aimed at bringing about an armed uprising against the Constitutional Powers of the State. The penalty shall be imprisonment for from five to twenty years, in the event that insurrection actually be carried into effect.’

In what country is the Honorable Prosecutor living? Who has told him that we have sought to bring about an uprising against the Constitutional Powers of the State? Two things are self-evident. First of all, the dictatorship that oppresses the nation is not a constitutional power, but an unconstitutional one: it was established against the Constitution, over the head of the Constitution, violating the legitimate Constitution of the Republic. The legitimate Constitution is that which emanates directly from a sovereign people. I shall demonstrate this point fully later on, notwithstanding all the subterfuges contrived by cowards and traitors to justify the unjustifiable. Secondly, the article refers to Powers, in the plural, as in the case of a republic governed by a Legislative Power, an Executive Power, and a Judicial Power which balance and counterbalance one another. We have fomented a rebellion against one single power, an illegal one, which has usurped and merged into a single whole both the Legislative and Executive Powers of the nation, and so has destroyed the entire system that was specifically safeguarded by the Code now under our analysis. As to the independence of the Judiciary after the 10th of March, I shall not allude to that for I am in no mood for joking … No matter how Article 148 may be stretched, shrunk or amended, not a single comma applies to the events of July 26th. Let us leave this statute alone and await the opportunity to apply it to those who really did foment an uprising against the Constitutional Powers of the State. Later I shall come back to the Code to refresh the Honorable Prosecutor’s memory about certain circumstances he has unfortunately overlooked.

I warn you, I am just beginning! If there is in your hearts a vestige of love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice, listen carefully. I know that I will be silenced for many years; I know that the regime will try to suppress the truth by all possible means; I know that there will be a conspiracy to bury me in oblivion. But my voice will not be stifled – it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it.

From a shack in the mountains on Monday, July 27th, I listened to the dictator’s voice on the air while there were still 18 of our men in arms against the government. Those who have never experienced similar moments will never know that kind of bitterness and indignation. While the long-cherished hopes of freeing our people lay in ruins about us we heard those crushed hopes gloated over by a tyrant more vicious, more arrogant than ever. The endless stream of lies and slanders, poured forth in his crude, odious, repulsive language, may only be compared to the endless stream of clean young blood which had flowed since the previous night – with his knowledge, consent, complicity and approval – being spilled by the most inhuman gang of assassins it is possible to imagine. To have believed him for a single moment would have sufficed to fill a man of conscience with remorse and shame for the rest of his life. At that time I could not even hope to brand his miserable forehead with the mark of truth which condemns him for the rest of his days and for all time to come. Already a circle of more than a thousand men, armed with weapons more powerful than ours and with peremptory orders to bring in our bodies, was closing in around us. Now that the truth is coming out, now that speaking before you I am carrying out the mission I set for myself, I may die peacefully and content. So I shall not mince my words about those savage murderers.

I must pause to consider the facts for a moment. The government itself said the attack showed such precision and perfection that it must have been planned by military strategists. Nothing could have been farther from the truth! The plan was drawn up by a group of young men, none of whom had any military experience at all. I will reveal their names, omitting two who are neither dead nor in prison: Abel Santamaría, José Luis Tasende, Renato Guitart Rosell, Pedro Miret, Jesús Montané and myself. Half of them are dead, and in tribute to their memory I can say that although they were not military experts they had enough patriotism to have given, had we not been at such a great disadvantage, a good beating to that entire lot of generals together, those generals of the 10th of March who are neither soldiers nor patriots. Much more difficult than the planning of the attack was our organizing, training, mobilizing and arming men under this repressive regime with its millions of dollars spent on espionage, bribery and information services. Nevertheless, all this was carried out by those men and many others like them with incredible seriousness, discretion and discipline. Still more praiseworthy is the fact that they gave this task everything they had; ultimately, their very lives.

The final mobilization of men who came to this province from the most remote towns of the entire island was accomplished with admirable precision and in absolute secrecy. It is equally true that the attack was carried out with magnificent coordination. It began simultaneously at 5:15 a.m. in both Bayamo and Santiago de Cuba; and one by one, with an exactitude of minutes and seconds prepared in advance, the buildings surrounding the barracks fell to our forces. Nevertheless, in the interest of truth and even though it may detract from our merit, I am also going to reveal for the first time a fact that was fatal: due to a most unfortunate error, half of our forces, and the better armed half at that, went astray at the entrance to the city and were not on hand to help us at the decisive moment. Abel Santamaría, with 21 men, had occupied the Civilian Hospital; with him went a doctor and two of our women comrades to attend to the wounded. Raúl Castro, with ten men, occupied the Palace of Justice, and it was my responsibility to attack the barracks with the rest, 95 men. Preceded by an advance group of eight who had forced Gate Three, I arrived with the first group of 45 men. It was precisely here that the battle began, when my car ran into an outside patrol armed with machine guns. The reserve group which had almost all the heavy weapons (the light arms were with the advance group), turned up the wrong street and lost its way in an unfamiliar city. I must clarify the fact that I do not for a moment doubt the courage of those men; they experienced great anguish and desperation when they realized they were lost. Because of the type of action it was and because the contending forces were wearing identically colored uniforms, it was not easy for these men to re-establish contact with us. Many of them, captured later on, met death with true heroism.

Everyone had instructions, first of all, to be humane in the struggle. Never was a group of armed men more generous to the adversary. From the beginning we took numerous prisoners – nearly twenty – and there was one moment when three of our men – Ramiro Valdés, José Suárez and Jesús Montané – managed to enter a barrack and hold nearly fifty soldiers prisoners for a short time. Those soldiers testified before the Court, and without exception they all acknowledged that we treated them with absolute respect, that we didn’t even subject them to one scoffing remark. In line with this, I want to give my heartfelt thanks to the Prosecutor for one thing in the trial of my comrades: when he made his report he was fair enough to acknowledge as an incontestable fact that we maintained a high spirit of chivalry throughout the struggle.

Discipline among the soldiers was very poor. They finally defeated us because of their superior numbers – fifteen to one – and because of the protection afforded them by the defenses of the fortress. Our men were much better marksmen, as our enemies themselves conceded. There was a high degree of courage on both sides.

In analyzing the reasons for our tactical failure, apart from the regrettable error already mentioned, I believe we made a mistake by dividing the commando unit we had so carefully trained. Of our best trained men and boldest leaders, there were 27 in Bayamo, 21 at the Civilian Hospital and 10 at the Palace of Justice. If our forces had been distributed differently the outcome of the battle might have been different. The clash with the patrol (purely accidental, since the unit might have been at that point twenty seconds earlier or twenty seconds later) alerted the camp, and gave it time to mobilize. Otherwise it would have fallen into our hands without a shot fired, since we already controlled the guard post. On the other hand, except for the .22 caliber rifles, for which there were plenty of bullets, our side was very short of ammunition. Had we had hand grenades, the Army would not have been able to resist us for fifteen minutes.

When I became convinced that all efforts to take the barracks were now useless, I began to withdraw our men in groups of eight and ten. Our retreat was covered by six expert marksmen under the command of Pedro Miret and Fidel Labrador; heroically they held off the Army’s advance. Our losses in the battle had been insignificant; 95% of our casualties came from the Army’s inhumanity after the struggle. The group at the Civilian Hospital only had one casualty; the rest of that group was trapped when the troops blocked the only exit; but our youths did not lay down their arms until their very last bullet was gone. With them was Abel Santamaría, the most generous, beloved and intrepid of our young men, whose glorious resistance immortalizes him in Cuban history. We shall see the fate they met and how Batista sought to punish the heroism of our youth.

We planned to continue the struggle in the mountains in case the attack on the regiment failed. In Siboney I was able to gather a third of our forces; but many of these men were now discouraged. About twenty of them decided to surrender; later we shall see what became of them. The rest, 18 men, with what arms and ammunition were left, followed me into the mountains. The terrain was completely unknown to us. For a week we held the heights of the Gran Piedra range and the Army occupied the foothills. We could not come down; they didn’t risk coming up. It was not force of arms, but hunger and thirst that ultimately overcame our resistance. I had to divide the men into smaller groups. Some of them managed to slip through the Army lines; others were surrendered by Monsignor Pérez Serantes. Finally only two comrades remained with me – José Suárez and Oscar Alcalde. While the three of us were totally exhausted, a force led by Lieutenant Sarría surprised us in our sleep at dawn. This was Saturday, August 1st. By that time the slaughter of prisoners had ceased as a result of the people’s protest. This officer, a man of honor, saved us from being murdered on the spot with our hands tied behind us.

I need not deny here the stupid statements by Ugalde Carrillo and company, who tried to stain my name in an effort to mask their own cowardice, incompetence, and criminality. The facts are clear enough.

My purpose is not to bore the court with epic narratives. All that I have said is essential for a more precise understanding of what is yet to come.

Let me mention two important facts that facilitate an objective judgement of our attitude. First: we could have taken over the regiment simply by seizing all the high ranking officers in their homes. This possibility was rejected for the very humane reason that we wished to avoid scenes of tragedy and struggle in the presence of their families. Second: we decided not to take any radio station over until the Army camp was in our power. This attitude, unusually magnanimous and considerate, spared the citizens a great deal of bloodshed. With only ten men I could have seized a radio station and called the people to revolt. There is no questioning the people’s will to fight. I had a recording of Eduardo Chibás’ last message over the CMQ radio network, and patriotic poems and battle hymns capable of moving the least sensitive, especially with the sounds of live battle in their ears. But I did not want to use them although our situation was desperate.

The regime has emphatically repeated that our Movement did not have popular support. I have never heard an assertion so naive, and at the same time so full of bad faith. The regime seeks to show submission and cowardice on the part of the people. They all but claim that the people support the dictatorship; they do not know how offensive this is to the brave Orientales. Santiago thought our attack was only a local disturbance between two factions of soldiers; not until many hours later did they realize what had really happened. Who can doubt the valor, civic pride and limitless courage of the rebel and patriotic people of Santiago de Cuba? If Moncada had fallen into our hands, even the women of Santiago de Cuba would have risen in arms. Many were the rifles loaded for our fighters by the nurses at the Civilian Hospital. They fought alongside us. That is something we will never forget.

It was never our intention to engage the soldiers of the regiment in combat. We wanted to seize control of them and their weapons in a surprise attack, arouse the people and call the soldiers to abandon the odious flag of the tyranny and to embrace the banner of freedom; to defend the supreme interests of the nation and not the petty interests of a small clique; to turn their guns around and fire on the people’s enemies and not on the people, among whom are their own sons and fathers; to unite with the people as the brothers that they are instead of opposing the people as the enemies the government tries to make of them; to march behind the only beautiful ideal worthy of sacrificing one’s life – the greatness and happiness of one’s country. To those who doubt that many soldiers would have followed us, I ask: What Cuban does not cherish glory? What heart is not set aflame by the promise of freedom?

The Navy did not fight against us, and it would undoubtedly have come over to our side later on. It is well known that that branch of the Armed Forces is the least dominated by the Dictatorship and that there is a very intense civic conscience among its members. But, as to the rest of the national armed forces, would they have fought against a people in revolt? I declare that they would not! A soldier is made of flesh and blood; he thinks, observes, feels. He is susceptible to the opinions, beliefs, sympathies and antipathies of the people. If you ask his opinion, he may tell you he cannot express it; but that does not mean he has no opinion. He is affected by exactly the same problems that affect other citizens – subsistence, rent, the education of his children, their future, etc. Everything of this kind is an inevitable point of contact between him and the people and everything of this kind relates him to the present and future situation of the society in which he lives. It is foolish to imagine that the salary a soldier receives from the State – a modest enough salary at that – should resolve the vital problems imposed on him by his needs, duties and feelings as a member of his community.

This brief explanation has been necessary because it is basic to a consideration to which few people, until now, have paid any attention – soldiers have a deep respect for the feelings of the majority of the people! During the Machado regime, in the same proportion as popular antipathy increased, the loyalty of the Army visibly decreased. This was so true that a group of women almost succeeded in subverting Camp Columbia. But this is proven even more clearly by a recent development. While Grau San Martín’s regime was able to preserve its maximum popularity among the people, unscrupulous ex-officers and power-hungry civilians attempted innumerable conspiracies in the Army, although none of them found a following in the rank and file.

The March 10th coup took place at the moment when the civil government’s prestige had dwindled to its lowest ebb, a circumstance of which Batista and his clique took advantage. Why did they not strike their blow after the first of June? Simply because, had they waited for the majority of the nation to express its will at the polls, the troops would not have responded to the conspiracy!

Consequently, a second assertion can be made: the Army has never revolted against a regime with a popular majority behind it. These are historic truths, and if Batista insists on remaining in power at all costs against the will of the majority of Cubans, his end will be more tragic than that of Gerardo Machado.

I have a right to express an opinion about the Armed Forces because I defended them when everyone else was silent. And I did this neither as a conspirator, nor from any kind of personal interest – for we then enjoyed full constitutional prerogatives. I was prompted only by humane instincts and civic duty. In those days, the newspaper Alerta was one of the most widely read because of its position on national political matters. In its pages I campaigned against the forced labor to which the soldiers were subjected on the private estates of high civil personages and military officers. On March 3rd, 1952 I supplied the Courts with data, photographs, films and other proof denouncing this state of affairs. I also pointed out in those articles that it was elementary decency to increase army salaries. I should like to know who else raised his voice on that occasion to protest against all this injustice done to the soldiers. Certainly not Batista and company, living well-protected on their luxurious estates, surrounded by all kinds of security measures, while I ran a thousand risks with neither bodyguards nor arms.

Just as I defended the soldiers then, now – when all others are once more silent – I tell them that they allowed themselves to be miserably deceived; and to the deception and shame of March 10th they have added the disgrace, the thousand times greater disgrace, of the fearful and unjustifiable crimes of Santiago de Cuba. From that time since, the uniform of the Army is splattered with blood. And as last year I told the people and cried out before the Courts that soldiers were working as slaves on private estates, today I make the bitter charge that there are soldiers stained from head to toe with the blood of the Cuban youths they have tortured and slain. And I say as well that if the Army serves the Republic, defends the nation, respects the people and protects the citizenry then it is only fair that the soldier should earn at least a hundred pesos a month. But if the soldiers slay and oppress the people, betray the nation and defend only the interests of one small group, then the Army deserves not a cent of the Republic’s money and Camp Columbia should be converted into a school with ten thousand orphans living there instead of soldiers.

I want to be just above all else, so I can’t blame all the soldiers for the shameful crimes that stain a few evil and treacherous Army men. But every honorable and upstanding soldier who loves his career and his uniform is dutybound to demand and to fight for the cleansing of this guilt, to avenge this betrayal and to see the guilty punished. Otherwise the soldier’s uniform will forever be a mark of infamy instead of a source of pride.

Of course the March 10th regime had no choice but to remove the soldiers from the private estates. But it did so only to put them to work as doormen, chauffeurs, servants and bodyguards for the whole rabble of petty politicians who make up the party of the Dictatorship. Every fourth or fifth rank official considers himself entitled to the services of a soldier to drive his car and to watch over him as if he were constantly afraid of receiving the kick in the pants he so justly deserves.

If they had been at all interested in promoting real reforms, why did the regime not confiscate the estates and the millions of men like Genovevo Pérez Dámera, who acquired their fortunes by exploiting soldiers, driving them like slaves and misappropriating the funds of the Armed Forces? But no: Genovevo Pérez and others like him no doubt still have soldiers protecting them on their estates because the March 10th generals, deep in their hearts, aspire to the same future and can’t allow that kind of precedent to be set.

The 10th of March was a miserable deception, yes … After Batista and his band of corrupt and disreputable politicians had failed in their electoral plan, they took advantage of the Army’s discontent and used it to climb to power on the backs of the soldiers. And I know there are many Army men who are disgusted because they have been disappointed. At first their pay was raised, but later, through deductions and reductions of every kind, it was lowered again. Many of the old elements, who had drifted away from the Armed Forces, returned to the ranks and blocked the way of young, capable and valuable men who might otherwise have advanced. Good soldiers have been neglected while the most scandalous nepotism prevails. Many decent military men are now asking themselves what need that Armed Forces had to assume the tremendous historical responsibility of destroying our Constitution merely to put a group of immoral men in power, men of bad reputation, corrupt, politically degenerate beyond redemption, who could never again have occupied a political post had it not been at bayonet-point; and they weren’t even the ones with the bayonets in their hands …

On the other hand, the soldiers endure a worse tyranny than the civilians. They are under constant surveillance and not one of them enjoys the slightest security in his job. Any unjustified suspicion, any gossip, any intrigue, or denunciation, is sufficient to bring transfer, dishonorable discharge or imprisonment. Did not Tabernilla, in a memorandum, forbid them to talk with anyone opposed to the government, that is to say, with ninety-nine percent of the people? … What a lack of confidence! … Not even the vestal virgins of Rome had to abide by such a rule! As for the much publicized little houses for enlisted men, there aren’t 300 on the whole Island; yet with what has been spent on tanks, guns and other weaponry every soldier might have a place to live. Batista isn’t concerned with taking care of the Army, but that the Army take care of him! He increases the Army’s power of oppression and killing but does not improve living conditions for the soldiers. Triple guard duty, constant confinement to barracks, continuous anxiety, the enmity of the people, uncertainty about the future – this is what has been given to the soldier. In other words: ‘Die for the regime, soldier, give it your sweat and blood. We shall dedicate a speech to you and award you a posthumous promotion (when it no longer matters) and afterwards … we shall go on living luxuriously, making ourselves rich. Kill, abuse, oppress the people. When the people get tired and all this comes to an end, you can pay for our crimes while we go abroad and live like kings. And if one day we return, don’t you or your children knock on the doors of our mansions, for we shall be millionaires and millionaires do not mingle with the poor. Kill, soldier, oppress the people, die for the regime, give your sweat and blood …’

But if blind to this sad truth, a minority of soldiers had decided to fight the people, the people who were going to liberate them from tyranny, victory still would have gone to the people. The Honorable Prosecutor was very interested in knowing our chances for success. These chances were based on considerations of technical, military and social order. They have tried to establish the myth that modern arms render the people helpless in overthrowing tyrants. Military parades and the pompous display of machines of war are used to perpetuate this myth and to create a complex of absolute impotence in the people. But no weaponry, no violence can vanquish the people once they are determined to win back their rights. Both past and present are full of examples. The most recent is the revolt in Bolivia, where miners with dynamite sticks smashed and defeated regular army regiments.

Fortunately, we Cubans need not look for examples abroad. No example is as inspiring as that of our own land. During the war of 1895 there were nearly half a million armed Spanish soldiers in Cuba, many more than the Dictator counts upon today to hold back a population five times greater. The arms of the Spaniards were, incomparably, both more up to date and more powerful than those of our mambises. Often the Spaniards were equipped with field artillery and the infantry used breechloaders similar to those still in use by the infantry of today. The Cubans were usually armed with no more than their machetes, for their cartridge belts were almost always empty. There is an unforgettable passage in the history of our War of Independence, narrated by General Miró Argenter, Chief of Antonio Maceo’s General Staff. I managed to bring it copied on this scrap of paper so I wouldn’t have to depend upon my memory:

‘Untrained men under the command of Pedro Delgado, most of them equipped only with machetes, were virtually annihilated as they threw themselves on the solid rank of Spaniards. It is not an exaggeration to assert that of every fifty men, 25 were killed. Some even attacked the Spaniards with their bare fists, without machetes, without even knives. Searching through the reeds by the Hondo River, we found fifteen more dead from the Cuban party, and it was not immediately clear what group they belonged to, They did not appear to have shouldered arms, their clothes were intact and only tin drinking cups hung from their waists; a few steps further on lay the dead horse, all its equipment in order. We reconstructed the climax of the tragedy. These men, following their daring chief, Lieutenant Colonel Pedro Delgado, had earned heroes’ laurels: they had thrown themselves against bayonets with bare hands, the clash of metal which was heard around them was the sound of their drinking cups banging against the saddlehorn. Maceo was deeply moved. This man so used to seeing death in all its forms murmured this praise: “I had never seen anything like this, untrained and unarmed men attacking the Spaniards with only drinking cups for weapons. And I called it impedimenta!”‘

This is how peoples fight when they want to win their freedom; they throw stones at airplanes and overturn tanks!

As soon as Santiago de Cuba was in our hands we would immediately have readied the people of Oriente for war. Bayamo was attacked precisely to locate our advance forces along the Cauto River. Never forget that this province, which has a million and a half inhabitants today, is the most rebellious and patriotic in Cuba. It was this province that sparked the fight for independence for thirty years and paid the highest price in blood, sacrifice and heroism. In Oriente you can still breathe the air of that glorious epic. At dawn, when the cocks crow as if they were bugles calling soldiers to reveille, and when the sun rises radiant over the rugged mountains, it seems that once again we will live the days of Yara or Baire!

I stated that the second consideration on which we based our chances for success was one of social order. Why were we sure of the people’s support? When we speak of the people we are not talking about those who live in comfort, the conservative elements of the nation, who welcome any repressive regime, any dictatorship, any despotism, prostrating themselves before the masters of the moment until they grind their foreheads into the ground. When we speak of struggle and we mention the people we mean the vast unredeemed masses, those to whom everyone makes promises and who are deceived by all; we mean the people who yearn for a better, more dignified and more just nation; who are moved by ancestral aspirations to justice, for they have suffered injustice and mockery generation after generation; those who long for great and wise changes in all aspects of their life; people who, to attain those changes, are ready to give even the very last breath they have when they believe in something or in someone, especially when they believe in themselves. The first condition of sincerity and good faith in any endeavor is to do precisely what nobody else ever does, that is, to speak with absolute clarity, without fear. The demagogues and professional politicians who manage to perform the miracle of being right about everything and of pleasing everyone are, necessarily, deceiving everyone about everything. The revolutionaries must proclaim their ideas courageously, define their principles and express their intentions so that no one is deceived, neither friend nor foe.

In terms of struggle, when we talk about people we’re talking about the six hundred thousand Cubans without work, who want to earn their daily bread honestly without having to emigrate from their homeland in search of a livelihood; the five hundred thousand farm laborers who live in miserable shacks, who work four months of the year and starve the rest, sharing their misery with their children, who don’t have an inch of land to till and whose existence would move any heart not made of stone; the four hundred thousand industrial workers and laborers whose retirement funds have been embezzled, whose benefits are being taken away, whose homes are wretched quarters, whose salaries pass from the hands of the boss to those of the moneylender, whose future is a pay reduction and dismissal, whose life is endless work and whose only rest is the tomb; the one hundred thousand small farmers who live and die working land that is not theirs, looking at it with the sadness of Moses gazing at the promised land, to die without ever owning it, who like feudal serfs have to pay for the use of their parcel of land by giving up a portion of its produce, who cannot love it, improve it, beautify it nor plant a cedar or an orange tree on it because they never know when a sheriff will come with the rural guard to evict them from it; the thirty thousand teachers and professors who are so devoted, dedicated and so necessary to the better destiny of future generations and who are so badly treated and paid; the twenty thousand small business men weighed down by debts, ruined by the crisis and harangued by a plague of grafting and venal officials; the ten thousand young professional people: doctors, engineers, lawyers, veterinarians, school teachers, dentists, pharmacists, newspapermen, painters, sculptors, etc., who finish school with their degrees anxious to work and full of hope, only to find themselves at a dead end, all doors closed to them, and where no ears hear their clamor or supplication. These are the people, the ones who know misfortune and, therefore, are capable of fighting with limitless courage! To these people whose desperate roads through life have been paved with the bricks of betrayal and false promises, we were not going to say: ‘We will give you …’ but rather: ‘Here it is, now fight for it with everything you have, so that liberty and happiness may be yours!’

The five revolutionary laws that would have been proclaimed immediately after the capture of the Moncada Barracks and would have been broadcast to the nation by radio must be included in the indictment. It is possible that Colonel Chaviano may deliberately have destroyed these documents, but even if he has I remember them.

The first revolutionary law would have returned power to the people and proclaimed the 1940 Constitution the Supreme Law of the State until such time as the people should decide to modify or change it. And in order to effect its implementation and punish those who violated it – there being no electoral organization to carry this out – the revolutionary movement, as the circumstantial incarnation of this sovereignty, the only source of legitimate power, would have assumed all the faculties inherent therein, except that of modifying the Constitution itself: in other words, it would have assumed the legislative, executive and judicial powers.

This attitude could not be clearer nor more free of vacillation and sterile charlatanry. A government acclaimed by the mass of rebel people would be vested with every power, everything necessary in order to proceed with the effective implementation of popular will and real justice. From that moment, the Judicial Power – which since March 10th had placed itself against and outside the Constitution – would cease to exist and we would proceed to its immediate and total reform before it would once again assume the power granted it by the Supreme Law of the Republic. Without these previous measures, a return to legality by putting its custody back into the hands that have crippled the system so dishonorably would constitute a fraud, a deceit, one more betrayal.

The second revolutionary law would give non-mortgageable and non-transferable ownership of the land to all tenant and subtenant farmers, lessees, share croppers and squatters who hold parcels of five caballerías of land or less, and the State would indemnify the former owners on the basis of the rental which they would have received for these parcels over a period of ten years.

The third revolutionary law would have granted workers and employees the right to share 30% of the profits of all the large industrial, mercantile and mining enterprises, including the sugar mills. The strictly agricultural enterprises would be exempt in consideration of other agrarian laws which would be put into effect.

The fourth revolutionary law would have granted all sugar planters the right to share 55% of sugar production and a minimum quota of forty thousand arrobas for all small tenant farmers who have been established for three years or more.

The fifth revolutionary law would have ordered the confiscation of all holdings and ill-gotten gains of those who had committed frauds during previous regimes, as well as the holdings and ill-gotten gains of all their legates and heirs. To implement this, special courts with full powers would gain access to all records of all corporations registered or operating in this country, in order to investigate concealed funds of illegal origin, and to request that foreign governments extradite persons and attach holdings rightfully belonging to the Cuban people. Half of the property recovered would be used to subsidize retirement funds for workers and the other half would be used for hospitals, asylums and charitable organizations.

Furthermore, it was declared that the Cuban policy in the Americas would be one of close solidarity with the democratic peoples of this continent, and that all those politically persecuted by bloody tyrannies oppressing our sister nations would find generous asylum, brotherhood and bread in the land of Martí; not the persecution, hunger and treason they find today. Cuba should be the bulwark of liberty and not a shameful link in the chain of despotism.

These laws would have been proclaimed immediately. As soon as the upheaval ended and prior to a detailed and far reaching study, they would have been followed by another series of laws and fundamental measures, such as the Agrarian Reform, the Integral Educational Reform, nationalization of the electric power trust and the telephone trust, refund to the people of the illegal and repressive rates these companies have charged, and payment to the treasury of all taxes brazenly evaded in the past.

All these laws and others would be based on the exact compliance of two essential articles of our Constitution: one of them orders the outlawing of large estates, indicating the maximum area of land any one person or entity may own for each type of agricultural enterprise, by adopting measures which would tend to revert the land to the Cubans. The other categorically orders the State to use all means at its disposal to provide employment to all those who lack it and to ensure a decent livelihood to each manual or intellectual laborer. None of these laws can be called unconstitutional. The first popularly elected government would have to respect them, not only because of moral obligations to the nation, but because when people achieve something they have yearned for throughout generations, no force in the world is capable of taking it away again.

The problem of the land, the problem of industrialization, the problem of housing, the problem of unemployment, the problem of education and the problem of the people’s health: these are the six problems we would take immediate steps to solve, along with restoration of civil liberties and political democracy.

This exposition may seem cold and theoretical if one does not know the shocking and tragic conditions of the country with regard to these six problems, along with the most humiliating political oppression.

Eighty-five per cent of the small farmers in Cuba pay rent and live under constant threat of being evicted from the land they till. More than half of our most productive land is in the hands of foreigners. In Oriente, the largest province, the lands of the United Fruit Company and the West Indian Company link the northern and southern coasts. There are two hundred thousand peasant families who do not have a single acre of land to till to provide food for their starving children. On the other hand, nearly three hundred thousand caballerías of cultivable land owned by powerful interests remain uncultivated. If Cuba is above all an agricultural State, if its population is largely rural, if the city depends on these rural areas, if the people from our countryside won our war of independence, if our nation’s greatness and prosperity depend on a healthy and vigorous rural population that loves the land and knows how to work it, if this population depends on a State that protects and guides it, then how can the present state of affairs be allowed to continue?

Except for a few food, lumber and textile industries, Cuba continues to be primarily a producer of raw materials. We export sugar to import candy, we export hides to import shoes, we export iron to import plows … Everyone agrees with the urgent need to industrialize the nation, that we need steel industries, paper and chemical industries, that we must improve our cattle and grain production, the technology and processing in our food industry in order to defend ourselves against the ruinous competition from Europe in cheese products, condensed milk, liquors and edible oils, and the United States in canned goods; that we need cargo ships; that tourism should be an enormous source of revenue. But the capitalists insist that the workers remain under the yoke. The State sits back with its arms crossed and industrialization can wait forever.

Just as serious or even worse is the housing problem. There are two hundred thousand huts and hovels in Cuba; four hundred thousand families in the countryside and in the cities live cramped in huts and tenements without even the minimum sanitary requirements; two million two hundred thousand of our urban population pay rents which absorb between one fifth and one third of their incomes; and two million eight hundred thousand of our rural and suburban population lack electricity. We have the same situation here: if the State proposes the lowering of rents, landlords threaten to freeze all construction; if the State does not interfere, construction goes on so long as landlords get high rents; otherwise they would not lay a single brick even though the rest of the population had to live totally exposed to the elements. The utilities monopoly is no better; they extend lines as far as it is profitable and beyond that point they don’t care if people have to live in darkness for the rest of their lives. The State sits back with its arms crossed and the people have neither homes nor electricity.

Our educational system is perfectly compatible with everything I’ve just mentioned. Where the peasant doesn’t own the land, what need is there for agricultural schools? Where there is no industry, what need is there for technical or vocational schools? Everything follows the same absurd logic; if we don’t have one thing we can’t have the other. In any small European country there are more than 200 technological and vocational schools; in Cuba only six such schools exist, and their graduates have no jobs for their skills. The little rural schoolhouses are attended by a mere half of the school age children – barefooted, half-naked and undernourished – and frequently the teacher must buy necessary school materials from his own salary. Is this the way to make a nation great?

Only death can liberate one from so much misery. In this respect, however, the State is most helpful – in providing early death for the people. Ninety per cent of the children in the countryside are consumed by parasites which filter through their bare feet from the ground they walk on. Society is moved to compassion when it hears of the kidnapping or murder of one child, but it is indifferent to the mass murder of so many thousands of children who die every year from lack of facilities, agonizing with pain. Their innocent eyes, death already shining in them, seem to look into some vague infinity as if entreating forgiveness for human selfishness, as if asking God to stay His wrath. And when the head of a family works only four months a year, with what can he purchase clothing and medicine for his children? They will grow up with rickets, with not a single good tooth in their mouths by the time they reach thirty; they will have heard ten million speeches and will finally die of misery and deception. Public hospitals, which are always full, accept only patients recommended by some powerful politician who, in return, demands the votes of the unfortunate one and his family so that Cuba may continue forever in the same or worse condition.

With this background, is it not understandable that from May to December over a million persons are jobless and that Cuba, with a population of five and a half million, has a greater number of unemployed than France or Italy with a population of forty million each?

When you try a defendant for robbery, Honorable Judges, do you ask him how long he has been unemployed? Do you ask him how many children he has, which days of the week he ate and which he didn’t, do you investigate his social context at all? You just send him to jail without further thought. But those who burn warehouses and stores to collect insurance do not go to jail, even though a few human beings may have gone up in flames. The insured have money to hire lawyers and bribe judges. You imprison the poor wretch who steals because he is hungry; but none of the hundreds who steal millions from the Government has ever spent a night in jail. You dine with them at the end of the year in some elegant club and they enjoy your respect. In Cuba, when a government official becomes a millionaire overnight and enters the fraternity of the rich, he could very well be greeted with the words of that opulent character out of Balzac – Taillefer – who in his toast to the young heir to an enormous fortune, said: ‘Gentlemen, let us drink to the power of gold! Mr. Valentine, a millionaire six times over, has just ascended the throne. He is king, can do everything, is above everyone, as all the rich are. Henceforth, equality before the law, established by the Constitution, will be a myth for him; for he will not be subject to laws: the laws will be subject to him. There are no courts nor are there sentences for millionaires.’

The nation’s future, the solutions to its problems, cannot continue to depend on the selfish interests of a dozen big businessmen nor on the cold calculations of profits that ten or twelve magnates draw up in their air-conditioned offices. The country cannot continue begging on its knees for miracles from a few golden calves, like the Biblical one destroyed by the prophet’s fury. Golden calves cannot perform miracles of any kind. The problems of the Republic can be solved only if we dedicate ourselves to fight for it with the same energy, honesty and patriotism our liberators had when they founded it. Statesmen like Carlos Saladrigas, whose statesmanship consists of preserving the statu quo and mouthing phrases like ‘absolute freedom of enterprise,’ ‘guarantees to investment capital’ and ‘law of supply and demand,’ will not solve these problems. Those ministers can chat away in a Fifth Avenue mansion until not even the dust of the bones of those whose problems require immediate solution remains. In this present-day world, social problems are not solved by spontaneous generation.

A revolutionary government backed by the people and with the respect of the nation, after cleansing the different institutions of all venal and corrupt officials, would proceed immediately to the country’s industrialization, mobilizing all inactive capital, currently estimated at about 1.5 billion pesos, through the National Bank and the Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank, and submitting this mammoth task to experts and men of absolute competence totally removed from all political machines for study, direction, planning and realization.

After settling the one hundred thousand small farmers as owners on the land which they previously rented, a revolutionary government would immediately proceed to settle the land problem. First, as set forth in the Constitution, it would establish the maximum amount of land to be held by each type of agricultural enterprise and would acquire the excess acreage by expropriation, recovery of swampland, planting of large nurseries, and reserving of zones for reforestation. Secondly, it would distribute the remaining land among peasant families with priority given to the larger ones, and would promote agricultural cooperatives for communal use of expensive equipment, freezing plants and unified professional technical management of farming and cattle raising. Finally, it would provide resources, equipment, protection and useful guidance to the peasants.

A revolutionary government would solve the housing problem by cutting all rents in half, by providing tax exemptions on homes inhabited by the owners; by tripling taxes on rented homes; by tearing down hovels and replacing them with modern apartment buildings; and by financing housing all over the island on a scale heretofore unheard of, with the criterion that, just as each rural family should possess its own tract of land, each city family should own its own house or apartment. There is plenty of building material and more than enough manpower to make a decent home for every Cuban. But if we continue to wait for the golden calf, a thousand years will have gone by and the problem will remain the same. On the other hand, today possibilities of taking electricity to the most isolated areas on the island are greater than ever. The use of nuclear energy in this field is now a reality and will greatly reduce the cost of producing electricity.

With these three projects and reforms, the problem of unemployment would automatically disappear and the task of improving public health and fighting against disease would become much less difficult.

Finally, a revolutionary government would undertake the integral reform of the educational system, bringing it into line with the projects just mentioned with the idea of educating those generations which will have the privilege of living in a happier land. Do not forget the words of the Apostle: ‘A grave mistake is being made in Latin America: in countries that live almost completely from the produce of the land, men are being educated exclusively for urban life and are not trained for farm life.’ ‘The happiest country is the one which has best educated its sons, both in the instruction of thought and the direction of their feelings.’ ‘An educated country will always be strong and free.’

The soul of education, however, is the teacher, and in Cuba the teaching profession is miserably underpaid. Despite this, no one is more dedicated than the Cuban teacher. Who among us has not learned his three Rs in the little public schoolhouse? It is time we stopped paying pittances to these young men and women who are entrusted with the sacred task of teaching our youth. No teacher should earn less than 200 pesos, no secondary teacher should make less than 350 pesos, if they are to devote themselves exclusively to their high calling without suffering want. What is more, all rural teachers should have free use of the various systems of transportation; and, at least once every five years, all teachers should enjoy a sabbatical leave of six months with pay so they may attend special refresher courses at home or abroad to keep abreast of the latest developments in their field. In this way, the curriculum and the teaching system can be easily improved. Where will the money be found for all this? When there is an end to the embezzlement of government funds, when public officials stop taking graft from the large companies that owe taxes to the State, when the enormous resources of the country are brought into full use, when we no longer buy tanks, bombers and guns for this country (which has no frontiers to defend and where these instruments of war, now being purchased, are used against the people), when there is more interest in educating the people than in killing them there will be more than enough money.

Cuba could easily provide for a population three times as great as it has now, so there is no excuse for the abject poverty of a single one of its present inhabitants. The markets should be overflowing with produce, pantries should be full, all hands should be working. This is not an inconceivable thought. What is inconceivable is that anyone should go to bed hungry while there is a single inch of unproductive land; that children should die for lack of medical attention; what is inconceivable is that 30% of our farm people cannot write their names and that 99% of them know nothing of Cuba’s history. What is inconceivable is that the majority of our rural people are now living in worse circumstances than the Indians Columbus discovered in the fairest land that human eyes had ever seen.

To those who would call me a dreamer, I quote the words of Martí: ‘A true man does not seek the path where advantage lies, but rather the path where duty lies, and this is the only practical man, whose dream of today will be the law of tomorrow, because he who has looked back on the essential course of history and has seen flaming and bleeding peoples seethe in the cauldron of the ages knows that, without a single exception, the future lies on the side of duty.’

Only when we understand that such a high ideal inspired them can we conceive of the heroism of the young men who fell in Santiago. The meager material means at our disposal was all that prevented sure success. When the soldiers were told that Prío had given us a million pesos, they were told this in the regime’s attempt to distort the most important fact: the fact that our Movement had no link with past politicians: that this Movement is a new Cuban generation with its own ideas, rising up against tyranny; that this Movement is made up of young people who were barely seven years old when Batista perpetrated the first of his crimes in 1934. The lie about the million pesos could not have been more absurd. If, with less than 20,000 pesos, we armed 165 men and attacked a regiment and a squadron, then with a million pesos we could have armed 8,000 men, to attack 50 regiments and 50 squadrons – and Ugalde Carrillo still would not have found out until Sunday, July 26th, at 5:15 a.m. I assure you that for every man who fought, twenty well trained men were unable to fight for lack of weapons. When these young men marched along the streets of Havana in the student demonstration of the Martí Centennial, they solidly packed six blocks. If even 200 more men had been able to fight, or we had possessed 20 more hand grenades, perhaps this Honorable Court would have been spared all this inconvenience.

The politicians spend millions buying off consciences, whereas a handful of Cubans who wanted to save their country’s honor had to face death barehanded for lack of funds. This shows how the country, to this very day, has been governed not by generous and dedicated men, but by political racketeers, the scum of our public life.

With the greatest pride I tell you that in accordance with our principles we have never asked a politician, past or present, for a penny. Our means were assembled with incomparable sacrifice. For example, Elpidio Sosa, who sold his job and came to me one day with 300 pesos ‘for the cause;’ Fernando Chenard, who sold the photographic equipment with which he earned his living; Pedro Marrero, who contributed several months’ salary and who had to be stopped from actually selling the very furniture in his house; Oscar Alcalde, who sold his pharmaceutical laboratory; Jesús Montané, who gave his five years’ savings, and so on with many others, each giving the little he had.

One must have great faith in one’s country to do such a thing. The memory of these acts of idealism bring me straight to the most bitter chapter of this defense – the price the tyranny made them pay for wanting to free Cuba from oppression and injustice.

Beloved corpses, you that once
Were the hope of my Homeland,
Cast upon my forehead
The dust of your decaying bones!
Touch my heart with your cold hands!
Groan at my ears!
Each of my moans will
Turn into the tears of one more tyrant!
Gather around me! Roam about,
That my soul may receive your spirits
And give me the horror of the tombs
For tears are not enough
When one lives in infamous bondage!

Multiply the crimes of November 27th, 1871 by ten and you will have the monstrous and repulsive crimes of July 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th, 1953, in the province of Oriente. These are still fresh in our memory, but someday when years have passed, when the skies of the nation have cleared once more, when tempers have calmed and fear no longer torments our spirits, then we will begin to see the magnitude of this massacre in all its shocking dimension, and future generations will be struck with horror when they look back on these acts of barbarity unprecedented in our history. But I do not want to become enraged. I need clearness of mind and peace in my heavy heart in order to relate the facts as simply as possible, in no sense dramatizing them, but just as they took place. As a Cuban I am ashamed that heartless men should have perpetrated such unthinkable crimes, dishonoring our nation before the rest of the world.

The tyrant Batista was never a man of scruples. He has never hesitated to tell his people the most outrageous lies. To justify his treacherous coup of March 10th, he concocted stories about a fictitious uprising in the Army, supposedly scheduled to take place in April, and which he ‘wanted to avert so that the Republic might not be drenched in blood.’ A ridiculous little tale nobody ever believed! And when he himself did want to drench the Republic in blood, when he wanted to smother in terror and torture the just rebellion of Cuba’s youth, who were not willing to be his slaves, then he contrived still more fantastic lies. How little respect one must have for a people when one tries to deceive them so miserably! On the very day of my arrest I publicly assumed the responsibility for our armed movement of July 26th. If there had been an iota of truth in even one of the many statements the Dictator made against our fighters in his speech of July 27th, it would have been enough to undermine the moral impact of my case. Why, then, was I not brought to trial? Why were medical certificates forged? Why did they violate all procedural laws and ignore so scandalously the rulings of the Court? Why were so many things done, things never before seen in a Court of Law, in order to prevent my appearance at all costs? In contrast, I could not begin to tell you all I went through in order to appear. I asked the Court to bring me to trial in accordance with all established principles, and I denounced the underhanded schemes that were afoot to prevent it. I wanted to argue with them face to face. But they did not wish to face me. Who was afraid of the truth, and who was not?

The statements made by the Dictator at Camp Columbia might be considered amusing if they were not so drenched in blood. He claimed we were a group of hirelings and that there were many foreigners among us. He said that the central part of our plan was an attempt to kill him – him, always him. As if the men who attacked the Moncada Barracks could not have killed him and twenty like him if they had approved of such methods. He stated that our attack had been planned by ex-President Prío, and that it had been financed with Prío’s money. It has been irrefutably proven that no link whatsoever existed between our Movement and the last regime. He claimed that we had machine guns and hand-grenades. Yet the military technicians have stated right here in this Court that we only had one machine gun and not a single hand-grenade. He said that we had beheaded the sentries. Yet death certificates and medical reports of all the Army’s casualties show not one death caused by the blade. But above all and most important, he said that we stabbed patients at the Military Hospital. Yet the doctors from that hospital – Army doctors – have testified that we never even occupied the building, that no patient was either wounded or killed by us, and that the hospital lost only one employee, a janitor, who imprudently stuck his head out of an open window.

Whenever a Chief of State, or anyone pretending to be one, makes declarations to the nation, he speaks not just to hear the sound of his own voice. He always has some specific purpose and expects some specific reaction, or has a given intention. Since our military defeat had already taken place, insofar as we no longer represented any actual threat to the dictatorship, why did they slander us like that? If it is still not clear that this was a blood-drenched speech, that it was simply an attempt to justify the crimes that they had been perpetrating since the night before and that they were going to continue to perpetrate, then, let figures speak for me: On July 27th, in his speech from the military headquarters, Batista said that the assailants suffered 32 dead. By the end of the week the number of dead had risen to more than 80 men. In what battles, where, in what clashes, did these young men die? Before Batista spoke, more than 25 prisoners had been murdered. After Batista spoke fifty more were massacred.

What a great sense of honor those modest Army technicians and professionals had, who did not distort the facts before the Court, but gave their reports adhering to the strictest truth! These surely are soldiers who honor their uniform; these, surely, are men! Neither a real soldier nor a true man can degrade his code of honor with lies and crime. I know that many of the soldiers are indignant at the barbaric assassinations perpetrated. I know that they feel repugnance and shame at the smell of homicidal blood that impregnates every stone of Moncada Barracks.

Now that he has been contradicted by men of honor within his own Army, I defy the dictator to repeat his vile slander against us. I defy him to try to justify before the Cuban people his July 27th speech. Let him not remain silent. Let him speak. Let him say who the assassins are, who the ruthless, the inhumane. Let him tell us if the medals of honor, which he went to pin on the breasts of his heroes of that massacre, were rewards for the hideous crimes they had committed. Let him, from this very moment, assume his responsibility before history. Let him not pretend, at a later date, that the soldiers were acting without direct orders from him! Let him offer the nation an explanation for those 70 murders. The bloodshed was great. The nation needs an explanation. The nation seeks it. The nation demands it.

It is common knowledge that in 1933, at the end of the battle at the National Hotel, some officers were murdered after they surrendered. Bohemia Magazine protested energetically. It is also known that after the surrender of Fort Atarés the besiegers’ machine guns cut down a row of prisoners. And that one soldier, after asking who Blas Hernández was, blasted him with a bullet directly in the face, and for this cowardly act was promoted to the rank of officer. It is well-known in Cuban history that assassination of prisoners was fatally linked with Batista’s name. How naive we were not to foresee this! However, unjustifiable as those killings of 1933 were, they took place in a matter of minutes, in no more time than it took for a round of machine gun fire. What is more, they took place while tempers were still on edge.

This was not the case in Santiago de Cuba. Here all forms of ferocious outrages and cruelty were deliberately overdone. Our men were killed not in the course of a minute, an hour or a day. Throughout an entire week the blows and tortures continued, men were thrown from rooftops and shot. All methods of extermination were incessantly practiced by well-skilled artisans of crime. Moncada Barracks were turned into a workshop of torture and death. Some shameful individuals turned their uniforms into butcher’s aprons. The walls were splattered with blood. The bullets imbedded in the walls were encrusted with singed bits of skin, brains and human hair, the grisly reminders of rifle shots fired full in the face. The grass around the barracks was dark and sticky with human blood. The criminal hands that are guiding the destiny of Cuba had written for the prisoners at the entrance to that den of death the very inscription of Hell: ‘Forsake all hope.’

They did not even attempt to cover appearances. They did not bother in the least to conceal what they were doing. They thought they had deceived the people with their lies and they ended up deceiving themselves. They felt themselves lords and masters of the universe, with power over life and death. So the fear they had experienced upon our attack at daybreak was dissipated in a feast of corpses, in a drunken orgy of blood.

Chronicles of our history, down through four and a half centuries, tell us of many acts of cruelty: the slaughter of defenseless Indians by the Spaniards; the plundering and atrocities of pirates along the coast; the barbarities of the Spanish soldiers during our War of Independence; the shooting of prisoners of the Cuban Army by the forces of Weyler; the horrors of the Machado regime, and so on through the bloody crimes of March, 1935. But never has such a sad and bloody page been written in numbers of victims and in the viciousness of the victimizers, as in Santiago de Cuba. Only one man in all these centuries has stained with blood two separate periods of our history and has dug his claws into the flesh of two generations of Cubans. To release this river of blood, he waited for the Centennial of the Apostle, just after the fiftieth anniversary of the Republic, whose people fought for freedom, human rights and happiness at the cost of so many lives. Even greater is his crime and even more condemnable because the man who perpetrated it had already, for eleven long years, lorded over his people – this people who, by such deep-rooted sentiment and tradition, loves freedom and repudiates evil. This man has furthermore never been sincere, loyal, honest or chivalrous for a single minute of his public life.

He was not content with the treachery of January, 1934, the crimes of March, 1935 and the forty million dollar fortune that crowned his first regime. He had to add the treason of March, 1952, the crimes of July, 1953, and all the millions that only time will reveal. Dante divided his Inferno into nine circles. He put criminals in the seventh, thieves in the eighth and traitors in the ninth. Difficult dilemma the devils will be faced with, when they try to find an adequate spot for this man’s soul – if this man has a soul. The man who instigated the atrocious acts in Santiago de Cuba doesn’t even have a heart.

I know many details of the way in which these crimes were carried out, from the lips of some of the soldiers who, filled with shame, told me of the scenes they had witnessed.

When the fighting was over, the soldiers descended like savage beasts on Santiago de Cuba and they took the first fury of their frustrations out against the defenseless population. In the middle of a street, and far from the site of the fighting, they shot through the chest an innocent child who was playing by his doorstep. When the father approached to pick him up, they shot him through his head. Without a word they shot ‘Niño’ Cala, who was on his way home with a loaf of bread in his hands. It would be an endless task to relate all the crimes and outrages perpetrated against the civilian population. And if the Army dealt thus with those who had had no part at all in the action, you can imagine the terrible fate of the prisoners who had taken part or who were believed to have taken part. Just as, in this trial, they accused many people not at all involved in our attack, they also killed many prisoners who had no involvement whatsoever. The latter are not included in the statistics of victims released by the regime; those statistics refer exclusively to our men. Some day the total number of victims will be known.

The first prisoner killed has our doctor, Mario Muñoz, who bore no arms, wore no uniform, and was dressed in the white smock of a physician. He was a generous and competent man who would have given the same devoted care to the wounded adversary as to a friend. On the road from the Civilian Hospital to the barracks they shot him in the back and left him lying there, face down in a pool of blood. But the mass murder of prisoners did not begin until after three o’clock in the afternoon. Until this hour they awaited orders. Then General Martín Díaz Tamayo arrived from Havana and brought specific instructions from a meeting he had attended with Batista, along with the head of the Army, the head of the Military Intelligence, and others. He said: ‘It is humiliating and dishonorable for the Army to have lost three times as many men in combat as the insurgents did. Ten prisoners must be killed for each dead soldier.’ This was the order!

In every society there are men of base instincts. The sadists, brutes, conveyors of all the ancestral atavisms go about in the guise of human beings, but they are monsters, only more or less restrained by discipline and social habit. If they are offered a drink from a river of blood, they will not be satisfied until they drink the river dry. All these men needed was the order. At their hands the best and noblest Cubans perished: the most valiant, the most honest, the most idealistic. The tyrant called them mercenaries. There they were dying as heroes at the hands of men who collect a salary from the Republic and who, with the arms the Republic gave them to defend her, serve the interests of a clique and murder her best citizens.

Throughout their torturing of our comrades, the Army offered them the chance to save their lives by betraying their ideology and falsely declaring that Prío had given them money. When they indignantly rejected that proposition, the Army continued with its horrible tortures. They crushed their testicles and they tore out their eyes. But no one yielded. No complaint was heard nor a favor asked. Even when they had been deprived of their vital organs, our men were still a thousand times more men than all their tormentors together. Photographs, which do not lie, show the bodies torn to pieces, Other methods were used. Frustrated by the valor of the men, they tried to break the spirit of our women. With a bleeding eye in their hands, a sergeant and several other men went to the cell where our comrades Melba Hernández and Haydée Santamaría were held. Addressing the latter, and showing her the eye, they said: ‘This eye belonged to your brother. If you will not tell us what he refused to say, we will tear out the other.’ She, who loved her valiant brother above all things, replied full of dignity: ‘If you tore out an eye and he did not speak, much less will I.’ Later they came back and burned their arms with lit cigarettes until at last, filled with spite, they told the young Haydée Santamaría: ‘You no longer have a fiancé because we have killed him too.’ But still imperturbable, she answered: ‘He is not dead, because to die for one’s country is to live forever.’ Never had the heroism and the dignity of Cuban womanhood reached such heights.

There wasn’t even any respect for the combat wounded in the various city hospitals. There they were hunted down as prey pursued by vultures. In the Centro Gallego they broke into the operating room at the very moment when two of our critically wounded were receiving blood transfusions. They pulled them off the tables and, as the wounded could no longer stand, they were dragged down to the first floor where they arrived as corpses.

They could not do the same in the Spanish Clinic, where Gustavo Arcos and José Ponce were patients, because they were prevented by Dr. Posada who bravely told them they could enter only over his dead body.

Air and camphor were injected into the veins of Pedro Miret, Abelardo Crespo and Fidel Labrador, in an attempt to kill them at the Military Hospital. They owe their lives to Captain Tamayo, an Army doctor and true soldier of honor who, pistol in hand, wrenched them out of the hands of their merciless captors and transferred them to the Civilian Hospital. These five young men were the only ones of our wounded who survived.

In the early morning hours, groups of our men were removed from the barracks and taken in automobiles to Siboney, La Maya, Songo, and elsewhere. Then they were led out – tied, gagged, already disfigured by the torture – and were murdered in isolated spots. They are recorded as having died in combat against the Army. This went on for several days, and few of the captured prisoners survived. Many were compelled to dig their own graves. One of our men, while he was digging, wheeled around and slashed the face of one of his assassins with his pick. Others were even buried alive, their hands tied behind their backs. Many solitary spots became the graveyards of the brave. On the Army target range alone, five of our men lie buried. Some day these men will be disinterred. Then they will be carried on the shoulders of the people to a place beside the tomb of Martí, and their liberated land will surely erect a monument to honor the memory of the Martyrs of the Centennial.

The last youth they murdered in the surroundings of Santiago de Cuba was Marcos Martí. He was captured with our comrade Ciro Redondo in a cave at Siboney on the morning of Thursday the 30th. These two men were led down the road, with their arms raised, and the soldiers shot Marcos Martí in the back. After he had fallen to the ground, they riddled him with bullets. Redondo was taken to the camp. When Major Pérez Chaumont saw him he exclaimed: ‘And this one? Why have you brought him to me?’ The Court heard this incident from Redondo himself, the young man who survived thanks to what Pérez Chaumont called ‘the soldiers’ stupidity.’

It was the same throughout the province. Ten days after July 26th, a newspaper in this city printed the news that two young men had been found hanged on the road from Manzanillo to Bayamo. Later the bodies were identified as those of Hugo Camejo and Pedro Vélez. Another extraordinary incident took place there: There were three victims – they had been dragged from Manzanillo Barracks at two that morning. At a certain spot on the highway they were taken out, beaten unconscious, and strangled with a rope. But after they had been left for dead, one of them, Andrés García, regained consciousness and hid in a farmer’s house. Thanks to this the Court learned the details of this crime too. Of all our men taken prisoner in the Bayamo area, this is the only survivor.

Near the Cauto River, in a spot known as Barrancas, at the bottom of a pit, lie the bodies of Raúl de Aguiar, Armando del Valle and Andrés Valdés. They were murdered at midnight on the road between Alto Cedro and Palma Soriano by Sergeant Montes de Oca – in charge of the military post at Miranda Barracks – Corporal Maceo, and the Lieutenant in charge of Alta Cedro where the murdered men were captured. In the annals of crime, Sergeant Eulalio Gonzáles – better known as the ‘Tiger’ of Moncada Barracks – deserves a special place. Later this man didn’t have the slightest qualms in bragging about his unspeakable deeds. It was he who with his own hands murdered our comrade Abel Santamaría. But that didn’t satisfy him. One day as he was coming back from the Puerto Boniato Prison, where he raises pedigree fighting cocks in the back courtyard, he got on a bus on which Abel’s mother was also traveling. When this monster realized who she was he began to brag about his grisly deeds, and – in a loud voice so that the woman dressed in mourning could hear him – he said: ‘Yes, I have gouged many eyes out and I expect to continue gouging them out.’ The unprecedented moral degradation our nation is suffering is expressed beyond the power of words in that mother’s sobs of grief before the cowardly insolence of the very man who murdered her son. When these mothers went to Moncada Barracks to ask about their sons, it was with incredible cynicism and sadism that they were told: ‘Surely madam, you may see him at the Santa Ifigenia Hotel where we have put him up for you.’ Either Cuba is not Cuba, or the men responsible for these acts will have to face their reckoning one day. Heartless men, they threw crude insults at the people who bared their heads in reverence as the corpses of the revolutionaries were carried by.

There were so many victims that the government still has not dared make public the complete list. They know their figures are false. They have all the victims’ names, because prior to every murder they recorded all the vital statistics. The whole long process of identification through the National Identification Bureau was a huge farce, and there are families still waiting for word of their sons’ fate. Why has this not been cleared up, after three months?

I wish to state for the record here that all the victims’ pockets were picked to the very last penny and that all their personal effects, rings and watches, were stripped from their bodies and are brazenly being worn today by their assassins.

Honorable Judges, a great deal of what I have just related you already know, from the testimony of many of my comrades. But please note that many key witnesses have been barred from this trial, although they were permitted to attend the sessions of the previous trial. For example, I want to point out that the nurses of the Civilian Hospital are absent, even though they work in the same place where this hearing is being held. They were kept from this Court so that, under my questioning, they would not be able to testify that – besides Dr. Mario Muñoz – twenty more of our men were captured alive. The regime fears that from the questioning of these witnesses some extremely dangerous testimony could find its way into the official transcript.

But Major Pérez Chaumont did appear here and he could not elude my questioning. What we learned from this man, a ‘hero’ who fought only against unarmed and handcuffed men, gives us an idea of what could have been learned at the Courthouse if I had not been isolated from the proceedings. I asked him how many of our men had died in his celebrated skirmishes at Siboney. He hesitated. I insisted and he finally said twenty-one. Since I knew such skirmishes had never taken place, I asked him how many of our men had been wounded. He answered: ‘None. All of them were killed.’ It was then that I asked him, in astonishment, if the soldiers were using nuclear weapons. Of course, where men are shot point blank, there are no wounded. Then I asked him how many casualties the Army had sustained. He replied that two of his men had been wounded. Finally I asked him if either of these men had died, and he said no. I waited. Later, all of the wounded Army soldiers filed by and it was discovered that none of them had been wounded at Siboney. This same Major Pérez Chaumont who hardly flinched at having assassinated twenty-one defenseless young men has built a palatial home in Ciudamar Beach. It’s worth more than 100,000 pesos – his savings after only a few months under Batista’s new rule. And if this is the savings of a Major, imagine how much generals have saved!

Honorable Judges: Where are our men who were captured July 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th? It is known that more than sixty men were captured in the area of Santiago de Cuba. Only three of them and the two women have been brought before the Court. The rest of the accused were seized later. Where are our wounded? Only five of them are alive; the rest were murdered. These figures are irrefutable. On the other hand, twenty of the soldiers who we held prisoner have been presented here and they themselves have declared that they received not even one offensive word from us. Thirty soldiers who were wounded, many in the street fighting, also appeared before you. Not one was killed by us. If the Army suffered losses of nineteen dead and thirty wounded, how is it possible that we should have had eighty dead and only five wounded? Who ever witnessed a battle with 21 dead and no wounded, like these famous battles described by Pérez Chaumont?

We have here the casualty lists from the bitter fighting sustained by the invasion troops in the war of 1895, both in battles where the Cuban army was defeated and where it was victorious. The battle of Los Indios in Las Villas: 12 wounded, none dead. The battle of Mal Tiempo: 4 dead, 23 wounded. Calimete: 16 dead, 64 wounded. La Palma: 39 dead, 88 wounded. Cacarajícara: 5 dead, 13 wounded. Descanso: 4 dead, 45 wounded. San Gabriel de Lombillo: 2 dead, 18 wounded … In all these battles the number of wounded is twice, three times and up to ten times the number of dead, although in those days there were no modern medical techniques by which the percentage of deaths could be reduced. How then, now, can we explain the enormous proportion of sixteen deaths per wounded man, if not by the government’s slaughter of the wounded in the very hospitals, and by the assassination of the other helpless prisoners they had taken? The figures are irrefutable.

‘It is shameful and a dishonor to the Army to have lost three times as many men in combat as those lost by the insurgents; we must kill ten prisoners for each dead soldier.’ This is the concept of honor held by the petty corporals who became generals on March 10th. This is the code of honor they wish to impose on the national Army. A false honor, a feigned honor, an apparent honor based on lies, hypocrisy and crime; a mask of honor molded by those assassins with blood. Who told them that to die fighting is dishonorable? Who told them the honor of an army consists of murdering the wounded and prisoners of war?

In war time, armies that murder prisoners have always earned the contempt and abomination of the entire world. Such cowardice has no justification, even in a case where national territory is invaded by foreign troops. In the words of a South American liberator: ‘Not even the strictest military obedience may turn a soldier’s sword into that of an executioner.’ The honorable soldier does not kill the helpless prisoner after the fight, but rather, respects him. He does not finish off a wounded man, but rather, helps him. He stands in the way of crime and if he cannot prevent it, he acts as did that Spanish captain who, upon hearing the shots of the firing squad that murdered Cuban students, indignantly broke his sword in two and refused to continue serving in that Army.

The soldiers who murdered their prisoners were not worthy of the soldiers who died. I saw many soldiers fight with courage – for example, those in the patrols that fired their machine guns against us in almost hand-to-hand combat, or that sergeant who, defying death, rang the alarm to mobilize the barracks. Some of them live. I am glad. Others are dead. They believed they were doing their duty and in my eyes this makes them worthy of admiration and respect. I deplore only the fact that valiant men should fall for an evil cause. When Cuba is freed, we should respect, shelter and aid the wives and children of those courageous soldiers who perished fighting against us. They are not to blame for Cuba’s miseries. They too are victims of this nefarious situation.

But what honor was earned by the soldiers who died in battle was lost by the generals who ordered prisoners to be killed after they surrendered. Men who became generals overnight, without ever having fired a shot; men who bought their stars with high treason against their country; men who ordered the execution of prisoners taken in battles in which they didn’t even participate: these are the generals of the 10th of March – generals who would not even have been fit to drive the mules that carried the equipment in Antonio Maceo’s army.

The Army suffered three times as many casualties as we did. That was because our men were expertly trained, as the Army men themselves have admitted; and also because we had prepared adequate tactical measures, another fact recognized by the Army. The Army did not perform brilliantly; despite the millions spent on espionage by the Military Intelligence Agency, they were totally taken by surprise, and their hand grenades failed to explode because they were obsolete. And the Army owes all this to generals like Martín Díaz Tamayo and colonels like Ugalde Carrillo and Albert del Río Chaviano. We were not 17 traitors infiltrated into the ranks of the Army, as was the case on March 10th. Instead, we were 165 men who had traveled the length and breadth of Cuba to look death boldly in the face. If the Army leaders had a notion of real military honor they would have resigned their commands rather than trying to wash away their shame and incompetence in the blood of their prisoners.

To kill helpless prisoners and then declare that they died in battle: that is the military capacity of the generals of March 10th. That was the way the worst butchers of Valeriano Weyler behaved in the cruelest years of our War of Independence. The Chronicles of War include the following story: ‘On February 23rd, officer Baldomero Acosta entered Punta Brava with some cavalry when, from the opposite road, a squad of the Pizarro regiment approached, led by a sergeant known in those parts as Barriguilla (Pot Belly). The insurgents exchanged a few shots with Pizarro’s men, then withdrew by the trail that leads from Punta Brava to the village of Guatao. Followed by another battalion of volunteers from Marianao, and a company of troops from the Public Order Corps, who were led by Captain Calvo, Pizarro’s squad of 50 men marched on Guatao … As soon as their first forces entered the village they commenced their massacre – killing twelve of the peaceful inhabitants … The troops led by Captain Calvo speedily rounded up all the civilians that were running about the village, tied them up and took them as prisoners of war to Havana … Not yet satisfied with their outrages, on the outskirts of Guatao they carried out another barbaric action, killing one of the prisoners and horribly wounding the rest. The Marquis of Cervera, a cowardly and palatine soldier, informed Weyler of the pyrrhic victory of the Spanish soldiers; but Major Zugasti, a man of principles, denounced the incident to the government and officially called the murders perpetrated by the criminal Captain Calvo and Sergeant Barriguilla an assassination of peaceful citizens.

‘Weyler’s intervention in this horrible incident and his delight upon learning the details of the massacre may be palpably deduced from the official dispatch that he sent to the Ministry of War concerning these cruelties. “Small column organized by commander Marianao with forces from garrison, volunteers and firemen led by Captain Calvo, fought and destroyed bands of Villanueva and Baldomero Acosta near Punta Brava, killing twenty of theirs, who were handed over to Mayor of Guatao for burial, and taking fifteen prisoners, one of them wounded, we assume there are many wounded among them. One of ours suffered critical wounds, some suffered light bruises and wounds. Weyler.”‘

What is the difference between Weyler’s dispatch and that of Colonel Chaviano detailing the victories of Major Pérez Chaumont? Only that Weyler mentions one wounded soldier in his ranks. Chaviano mentions two. Weyler speaks of one wounded man and fifteen prisoners in the enemy’s ranks. Chaviano records neither wounded men nor prisoners.

Just as I admire the courage of the soldiers who died bravely, I also admire the officers who bore themselves with dignity and did not drench their hands in this blood. Many of the survivors owe their lives to the commendable conduct of officers like Lieutenant Sarría, Lieutenant Campa, Captain Tamayo and others, who were true gentlemen in their treatment of the prisoners. If men like these had not partially saved the name of the Armed Forces, it would be more honorable today to wear a dishrag than to wear an Army uniform.

For my dead comrades, I claim no vengeance. Since their lives were priceless, the murderers could not pay for them even with their own lives. It is not by blood that we may redeem the lives of those who died for their country. The happiness of their people is the only tribute worthy of them.

What is more, my comrades are neither dead nor forgotten; they live today, more than ever, and their murderers will view with dismay the victorious spirit of their ideas rise from their corpses. Let the Apostle speak for me: ‘There is a limit to the tears we can shed at the graveside of the dead. Such limit is the infinite love for the homeland and its glory, a love that never falters, loses hope nor grows dim. For the graves of the martyrs are the highest altars of our reverence.’

… When one dies
In the arms of a grateful country
Agony ends, prison chains break – and
At last, with death, life begins!

Up to this point I have confined myself almost exclusively to relating events. Since I am well aware that I am before a Court convened to judge me, I will now demonstrate that all legal right was on our side alone, and that the verdict imposed on my comrades – the verdict now being sought against me – has no justification in reason, in social morality or in terms of true justice.

I wish to be duly respectful to the Honorable Judges, and I am grateful that you find in the frankness of my plea no animosity towards you. My argument is meant simply to demonstrate what a false and erroneous position the Judicial Power has adopted in the present situation. To a certain extent, each Court is nothing more than a cog in the wheel of the system, and therefore must move along the course determined by the vehicle, although this by no means justifies any individual acting against his principles. I know very well that the oligarchy bears most of the blame. The oligarchy, without dignified protest, abjectly yielded to the dictates of the usurper and betrayed their country by renouncing the autonomy of the Judicial Power. Men who constitute noble exceptions have attempted to mend the system’s mangled honor with their individual decisions. But the gestures of this minority have been of little consequence, drowned as they were by the obsequious and fawning majority. This fatalism, however, will not stop me from speaking the truth that supports my cause. My appearance before this Court may be a pure farce in order to give a semblance of legality to arbitrary decisions, but I am determined to wrench apart with a firm hand the infamous veil that hides so much shamelessness. It is curious: the very men who have brought me here to be judged and condemned have never heeded a single decision of this Court.

Since this trial may, as you said, be the most important trial since we achieved our national sovereignty, what I say here will perhaps be lost in the silence which the dictatorship has tried to impose on me, but posterity will often turn its eyes to what you do here. Remember that today you are judging an accused man, but that you yourselves will be judged not once, but many times, as often as these days are submitted to scrutiny in the future. What I say here will be then repeated many times, not because it comes from my lips, but because the problem of justice is eternal and the people have a deep sense of justice above and beyond the hairsplitting of jurisprudence. The people wield simple but implacable logic, in conflict with all that is absurd and contradictory. Furthermore, if there is in this world a people that utterly abhors favoritism and inequality, it is the Cuban people. To them, justice is symbolized by a maiden with a scale and a sword in her hands. Should she cower before one group and furiously wield that sword against another group, then to the people of Cuba the maiden of justice will seem nothing more than a prostitute brandishing a dagger. My logic is the simple logic of the people.

Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time there was a Republic. It had its Constitution, its laws, its freedoms, a President, a Congress and Courts of Law. Everyone could assemble, associate, speak and write with complete freedom. The people were not satisfied with the government officials at that time, but they had the power to elect new officials and only a few days remained before they would do so. Public opinion was respected and heeded and all problems of common interest were freely discussed. There were political parties, radio and television debates and forums and public meetings. The whole nation pulsated with enthusiasm. This people had suffered greatly and although it was unhappy, it longed to be happy and had a right to be happy. It had been deceived many times and it looked upon the past with real horror. This country innocently believed that such a past could not return; the people were proud of their love of freedom and they carried their heads high in the conviction that liberty would be respected as a sacred right. They felt confident that no one would dare commit the crime of violating their democratic institutions. They wanted a change for the better, aspired to progress; and they saw all this at hand. All their hope was in the future.

Poor country! One morning the citizens woke up dismayed; under the cover of night, while the people slept, the ghosts of the past had conspired and has seized the citizenry by its hands, its feet, and its neck. That grip, those claws were familiar: those jaws, those death-dealing scythes, those boots. No; it was no nightmare; it was a sad and terrible reality: a man named Fulgencio Batista had just perpetrated the appalling crime that no one had expected.

Then a humble citizen of that people, a citizen who wished to believe in the laws of the Republic, in the integrity of its judges, whom he had seen vent their fury against the underprivileged, searched through a Social Defense Code to see what punishment society prescribed for the author of such a coup, and he discovered the following:

‘Whosoever shall perpetrate any deed destined through violent means directly to change in whole or in part the Constitution of the State or the form of the established government shall incur a sentence of six to ten years imprisonment.

‘A sentence of three to ten years imprisonment will be imposed on the author of an act directed to promote an armed uprising against the Constitutional Powers of the State. The sentence increases from five to twenty years if the insurrection is carried out.

‘Whosoever shall perpetrate an act with the specific purpose of preventing, in whole or in part, even temporarily, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the President, or the Supreme Court from exercising their constitutional functions will incur a sentence of from six to ten years imprisonment.

‘Whosoever shall attempt to impede or tamper with the normal course of general elections, will incur a sentence of from four to eight years imprisonment.

‘Whosoever shall introduce, publish, propagate or try to enforce in Cuba instructions, orders or decrees that tend … to promote the unobservance of laws in force, will incur a sentence of from two to six years imprisonment.

‘Whosoever shall assume command of troops, posts, fortresses, military camps, towns, warships, or military aircraft, without the authority to do so, or without express government orders, will incur a sentence of from five to ten years imprisonment.

‘A similar sentence will be passed upon anyone who usurps the exercise of a function held by the Constitution as properly belonging to the powers of State.’

Without telling anyone, Code in one hand and a deposition in the other, that citizen went to the old city building, that old building which housed the Court competent and under obligation to bring cause against and punish those responsible for this deed. He presented a writ denouncing the crimes and asking that Fulgencio Batista and his seventeen accomplices be sentenced to 108 years in prison as decreed by the Social Defense Code; considering also aggravating circumstances of secondary offense treachery, and acting under cover of night.

Days and months passed. What a disappointment! The accused remained unmolested: he strode up and down the country like a great lord and was called Honorable Sir and General: he removed and replaced judges at will. The very day the Courts opened, the criminal occupied the seat of honor in the midst of our august and venerable patriarchs of justice.

Once more the days and the months rolled by, the people wearied of mockery and abuses. There is a limit to tolerance! The struggle began against this man who was disregarding the law, who had usurped power by the use of violence against the will of the people, who was guilty of aggression against the established order, had tortured, murdered, imprisoned and prosecuted those who had taken up the struggle to defend the law and to restore freedom to the people.

Honorable Judges: I am that humble citizen who one day demanded in vain that the Courts punish the power-hungry men who had violated the law and torn our institutions to shreds. Now that it is I who am accused for attempting to overthrow this illegal regime and to restore the legitimate Constitution of the Republic, I am held incommunicado for 76 days and denied the right to speak to anyone, even to my son; between two heavy machine guns I am led through the city. I am transferred to this hospital to be tried secretly with the greatest severity; and the Prosecutor with the Code in his hand solemnly demands that I be sentenced to 26 years in prison.

You will answer that on the former occasion the Courts failed to act because force prevented them from doing so. Well then, confess, this time force will compel you to condemn me. The first time you were unable to punish the guilty; now you will be compelled to punish the innocent. The maiden of justice twice raped.

And so much talk to justify the unjustifiable, to explain the inexplicable and to reconcile the irreconcilable! The regime has reached the point of asserting that ‘Might makes right’ is the supreme law of the land. In other words, that using tanks and soldiers to take over the presidential palace, the national treasury, and the other government offices, and aiming guns at the heart of the people, entitles them to govern the people! The same argument the Nazis used when they occupied the countries of Europe and installed their puppet governments.

I heartily believe revolution to be the source of legal right; but the nocturnal armed assault of March 10th could never be considered a revolution. In everyday language, as José Ingenieros said, it is common to give the name of revolution to small disorders promoted by a group of dissatisfied persons in order to grab, from those in power, both the political sinecures and the economic advantages. The usual result is no more than a change of hands, the dividing up of jobs and benefits. This is not the criterion of a philosopher, as it cannot be that of a cultured man.

Leaving aside the problem of integral changes in the social system, not even on the surface of the public quagmire were we able to discern the slightest motion that could lessen the rampant putrefaction. The previous regime was guilty of petty politics, theft, pillage, and disrespect for human life; but the present regime has increased political skullduggery five-fold, pillage ten-fold, and a hundred-fold the lack of respect for human life.

It was known that Barriguilla had plundered and murdered, that he was a millionaire, that he owned in Havana a good many apartment houses, countless stock in foreign companies, fabulous accounts in American banks, that he agreed to divorce settlements to the tune of eighteen million pesos, that he was a frequent guest in the most lavishly expensive hotels for Yankee tycoons. But no one would ever think of Barriguilla as a revolutionary. Barriguilla is that sergeant of Weyler’s who assassinated twelve Cubans in Guatao. Batista’s men murdered seventy in Santiago de Cuba. De te fabula narratur.

Four political parties governed the country before the 10th of March: the Auténtico, Liberal, Democratic and Republican parties. Two days after the coup, the Republican party gave its support to the new rulers. A year had not yet passed before the Liberal and Democratic parties were again in power: Batista did not restore the Constitution, did not restore civil liberties, did not restore Congress, did not restore universal suffrage, did not restore in the last analysis any of the uprooted democratic institutions. But he did restore Verdeja, Guas Inclán, Salvito García Ramos, Anaya Murillo and the top hierarchy of the traditional government parties, the most corrupt, rapacious, reactionary and antediluvian elements in Cuban politics. So went the ‘revolution’ of Barriguilla!.

Lacking even the most elementary revolutionary content, Batista’s regime represents in every respect a 20 year regression for Cuba. Batista’s regime has exacted a high price from all of us, but primarily from the humble classes which are suffering hunger and misery. Meanwhile the dictatorship has laid waste the nation with commotion, ineptitude and anguish, and now engages in the most loathsome forms of ruthless politics, concocting formula after formula to perpetuate itself in power, even if over a stack of corpses and a sea of blood.

Batista’s regime has not set in motion a single nationwide program of betterment for the people. Batista delivered himself into the hands of the great financial interests. Little else could be expected from a man of his mentality – utterly devoid as he is of ideals and of principles, and utterly lacking the faith, confidence and support of the masses. His regime merely brought with it a change of hands and a redistribution of the loot among a new group of friends, relatives, accomplices and parasitic hangers-on that constitute the political retinue of the Dictator. What great shame the people have been forced to endure so that a small group of egoists, altogether indifferent to the needs of their homeland, may find in public life an easy and comfortable modus vivendi.

How right Eduardo Chibás was in his last radio speech, when he said that Batista was encouraging the return of the colonels, castor oil and the law of the fugitive! Immediately after March 10th, Cubans again began to witness acts of veritable vandalism which they had thought banished forever from their nation. There was an unprecedented attack on a cultural institution: a radio station was stormed by the thugs of the SIM, together with the young hoodlums of the PAU, while broadcasting the ‘University of the Air’ program. And there was the case of the journalist Mario Kuchilán, dragged from his home in the middle of the night and bestially tortured until he was nearly unconscious. There was the murder of the student Rubén Batista and the criminal volleys fired at a peaceful student demonstration next to the wall where Spanish volunteers shot the medical students in 1871. And many cases such as that of Dr. García Bárcena, where right in the courtrooms men have coughed up blood because of the barbaric tortures practiced upon them by the repressive security forces. I will not enumerate the hundreds of cases where groups of citizens have been brutally clubbed – men, women, children and the aged. All of this was being done even before July 26th. Since then, as everyone knows, even Cardinal Arteaga himself was not spared such treatment. Everybody knows he was a victim of repressive agents. According to the official story, he fell prey to a ‘band of thieves’. For once the regime told the truth. For what else is this regime? …

People have just contemplated with horror the case of the journalist who was kidnapped and subjected to torture by fire for twenty days. Each new case brings forth evidence of unheard-of effrontery, of immense hypocrisy: the cowardice of those who shirk responsibility and invariably blame the enemies of the regime. Governmental tactics enviable only by the worst gangster mobs. Even the Nazi criminals were never so cowardly. Hitler assumed responsibility for the massacres of June 30, 1934, stating that for 24 hours he himself had been the German Supreme Court; the henchmen of this dictatorship which defies all comparison because of its baseness, maliciousness and cowardice, kidnap, torture, murder and then loathsomely put the blame on the adversaries of the regime. Typical tactics of Sergeant Barriguilla!

Not once in all the cases I have mentioned, Honorable Judges, have the agents responsible for these crimes been brought to Court to be tried for them. How is this? Was this not to be the regime of public order, peace and respect for human life?

I have related all this in order to ask you now: Can this state of affairs be called a revolution, capable of formulating law and establishing rights? Is it or is it not legitimate to struggle against this regime? And must there not be a high degree of corruption in the courts of law when these courts imprison citizens who try to rid the country of so much infamy?

Cuba is suffering from a cruel and base despotism. You are well aware that resistance to despots is legitimate. This is a universally recognized principle and our 1940 Constitution expressly makes it a sacred right, in the second paragraph of Article 40: ‘It is legitimate to use adequate resistance to protect previously granted individual rights.’ And even if this prerogative had not been provided by the Supreme Law of the Land, it is a consideration without which one cannot conceive of the existence of a democratic collectivity. Professor Infiesta, in his book on Constitutional Law, differentiates between the political and legal constitutions, and states: ‘Sometimes the Legal Constitution includes constitutional principles which, even without being so classified, would be equally binding solely on the basis of the people’s consent, for example, the principle of majority rule or representation in our democracies.’ The right of insurrection in the face of tyranny is one such principle, and whether or not it be included in the Legal Constitution, it is always binding within a democratic society. The presentation of such a case to a high court is one of the most interesting problems of general law. Duguit has said in his Treatise on Constitutional Law: ‘If an insurrection fails, no court will dare to rule that this unsuccessful insurrection was technically no conspiracy, no transgression against the security of the State, inasmuch as, the government being tyrannical, the intention to overthrow it was legitimate.’ But please take note: Duguit does not state, ‘the court ought not to rule.’ He says, ‘no court will dare to rule.’ More explicitly, he means that no court will dare, that no court will have enough courage to do so, under a tyranny. If the court is courageous and does its duty, then yes, it will dare.

Recently there has been a loud controversy concerning the 1940 Constitution. The Court of Social and Constitutional Rights ruled against it in favor of the so-called Statutes. Nevertheless, Honorable Judges, I maintain that the 1940 Constitution is still in force. My statement may seem absurd and extemporaneous to you. But do not be surprised. It is I who am astonished that a court of law should have attempted to deal a death blow to the legitimate Constitution of the Republic. Adhering strictly to facts, truth and reason – as I have done all along – I will prove what I have just stated. The Court of Social and Constitutional Rights was instituted according to Article 172 of the 1940 Constitution, and the supplementary Act of May 31, 1949. These laws, in virtue of which the Court was created, granted it, insofar as problems of unconstitutionality are concerned, a specific and clearly defined area of legal competence: to rule in all matters of appeals claiming the unconstitutionality of laws, legal decrees, resolutions, or acts that deny, diminish, restrain or adulterate the constitutional rights and privileges or that jeopardize the operations of State agencies. Article 194 established very clearly the following: ‘All judges and courts are under the obligation to find solutions to conflicts between the Constitution and the existing laws in accordance with the principle that the former shall always prevail over the latter.’ Therefore, according to the laws that created it, the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights should always rule in favor of the Constitution. When this Court caused the Statutes to prevail above the Constitution of the Republic, it completely overstepped its boundaries and its established field of competence, thereby rendering a decision which is legally null and void. Furthermore, the decision itself is absurd, and absurdities have no validity in law nor in fact, not even from a metaphysical point of view. No matter how venerable a court may be, it cannot assert that circles are square or, what amounts to the same thing, that the grotesque offspring of the April 4th Statutes should be considered the official Constitution of a State.

The Constitution is understood to be the basic and supreme law of the nation, to define the country’s political structure, regulate the functioning of its government agencies, and determine the limits of their activities. It must be stable, enduring and, to a certain extent, inflexible. The Statutes fulfill none of these qualifications. To begin with, they harbor a monstrous, shameless, and brazen contradiction in regard to the most vital aspect of all: the integration of the Republican structure and the principle of national sovereignty. Article 1 reads: ‘Cuba is a sovereign and independent State constituted as a democratic Republic.’ Article 2 reads: ‘Sovereignty resides in the will of the people, and all powers derive from this source.’ But then comes Article 118, which reads: ‘The President will be nominated by the Cabinet.’ So it is not the people who choose the President, but rather the Cabinet. And who chooses the Cabinet? Article 120, section 13: ‘The President will be authorized to nominate and reappoint the members of the Cabinet and to replace them when occasion arises.’ So, after all, who nominates whom? Is this not the classical old problem of the chicken and the egg that no one has ever been able to solve?

One day eighteen hoodlums got together. Their plan was to assault the Republic and loot its 350 million pesos annual budget. Behind peoples’ backs and with great treachery, they succeeded in their purpose. ‘Now what do we do next?’ they wondered. One of them said to the rest: ‘You name me Prime Minister, and I’ll make you generals.’ When this was done, he rounded up a group of 20 men and told them: ‘I will make you my Cabinet if you make me President.’ In this way they named each other generals, ministers and president, and then took over the treasury and the Republic.

What is more, it was not simply a matter of usurping sovereignty at a given moment in order to name a Cabinet, Generals and a President. This man ascribed to himself, through these Statutes, not only absolute control of the nation, but also the power of life and death over every citizen – control, in fact, over the very existence of the nation. Because of this, I maintain that the position of the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights is not only treacherous, vile, cowardly and repugnant, but also absurd.

The Statutes contain an article which has not received much attention, but which gives us the key to this situation and is the one from which we shall derive decisive conclusions. I refer specifically to the modifying clause included in Article 257, which reads: ‘This constitutional law is open to reform by the Cabinet with a two-thirds quorum vote.’ This is where mockery reaches its climax. Not only did they exercise sovereignty in order to impose a Constitution upon a people without that people’s consent, and to install a regime which concentrates all power in their own hands, but also, through Article 257, they assume the most essential attribute of sovereignty: the power to change the Basic and Supreme Law of the Land. And they have already changed it several times since March 10th. Yet, with the greatest gall, they assert in Article 2 that sovereignty resides in the will of the people and that the people are the source of all power. Since these changes may be brought about by a vote of two-thirds of the Cabinet and the Cabinet is named by the President, then the right to make and break Cuba is in the hands of one man, a man who is, furthermore, the most unworthy of all the creatures ever to be born in this land. Was this then accepted by the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights? And is all that derives from it valid and legal? Very well, you shall see what was accepted: ‘This constitutional law is open to reform by the Cabinet with a two-thirds quorum vote.’ Such a power recognizes no limits. Under its aegis, any article, any chapter, any section, even the whole law may be modified. For example, Article 1, which I have just mentioned, says that Cuba is a sovereign and independent State constituted as a democratic Republic, ‘although today it is in fact a bloody dictatorship.’ Article 3 reads: ‘The national boundaries include the island of Cuba, the Isle of Pines, and the neighboring keys …’ and so on. Batista and his Cabinet under the provisions of Article 257 can modify all these other articles. They can say that Cuba is no longer a Republic but a hereditary monarchy and he, Batista, can anoint himself king. He can dismember the national territory and sell a province to a foreign country as Napoleon did with Louisiana. He may suspend the right to life itself, and like Herod, order the decapitation of newborn children. All these measures would be legal and you would have to incarcerate all those who opposed them, just as you now intend to do with me. I have put forth extreme examples to show how sad and humiliating our present situation is. To think that all these absolute powers are in the hands of men truly capable of selling our country along with all its citizens!

As the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights has accepted this state of affairs, what more are they waiting for? They may as well hang up their judicial robes. It is a fundamental principle of general law that there can be no constitutional status where the constitutional and legislative powers reside in the same body. When the Cabinet makes the laws, the decrees and the rules – and at the same time has the power to change the Constitution in a moment of time – then I ask you: why do we need a Court of Social and Constitutional Rights? The ruling in favor of this Statute is irrational, inconceivable, illogical and totally contrary to the Republican laws that you, Honorable Judges, swore to uphold. When the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights supported Batista’s Statutes against the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land was not abolished but rather the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights placed itself outside the Constitution, renounced its autonomy and committed legal suicide. May it rest in peace!

The right to rebel, established in Article 40 of the Constitution, is still valid. Was it established to function while the Republic was enjoying normal conditions? No. This provision is to the Constitution what a lifeboat is to a ship at sea. The lifeboat is only launched when the ship has been torpedoed by enemies laying wait along its course. With our Constitution betrayed and the people deprived of all their prerogatives, there was only one way open: one right which no power may abolish. The right to resist oppression and injustice. If any doubt remains, there is an article of the Social Defense Code which the Honorable Prosecutor would have done well not to forget. It reads, and I quote: ‘The appointed or elected government authorities that fail to resist sedition with all available means will be liable to a sentence of interdiction of from six to eight years.’ The judges of our nation were under the obligation to resist Batista’s treacherous military coup of the 10th of March. It is understandable that when no one has observed the law and when nobody else has done his duty, those who have observed the law and have done their duty should be sent to prison.

You will not be able to deny that the regime forced upon the nation is unworthy of Cuba’s history. In his book, The Spirit of Laws, which is the foundation of the modern division of governmental power, Montesquieu makes a distinction between three types of government according to their basic nature: ‘The Republican form wherein the whole people or a portion thereof has sovereign power; the Monarchical form where only one man governs, but in accordance with fixed and well-defined laws; and the Despotic form where one man without regard for laws nor rules acts as he pleases, regarding only his own will or whim.’ And then he adds: ‘A man whose five senses constantly tell him that he is everything and that the rest of humanity is nothing is bound to be lazy, ignorant and sensuous.’ ‘As virtue is necessary to democracy, and honor to a monarchy, fear is of the essence to a despotic regime, where virtue is not needed and honor would be dangerous.’

The right of rebellion against tyranny, Honorable Judges, has been recognized from the most ancient times to the present day by men of all creeds, ideas and doctrines.

It was so in the theocratic monarchies of remote antiquity. In China it was almost a constitutional principle that when a king governed rudely and despotically he should be deposed and replaced by a virtuous prince.

The philosophers of ancient India upheld the principle of active resistance to arbitrary authority. They justified revolution and very often put their theories into practice. One of their spiritual leaders used to say that ‘an opinion held by the majority is stronger than the king himself. A rope woven of many strands is strong enough to hold a lion.’

The city states of Greece and republican Rome not only admitted, but defended the meting-out of violent death to tyrants.

In the Middle Ages, John Salisbury in his Book of the Statesman says that when a prince does not govern according to law and degenerates into a tyrant, violent overthrow is legitimate and justifiable. He recommends for tyrants the dagger rather than poison.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, in the Summa Theologica, rejects the doctrine of tyrannicide, and yet upholds the thesis that tyrants should be overthrown by the people.

Martin Luther proclaimed that when a government degenerates into a tyranny that violates the laws, its subjects are released from their obligations to obey. His disciple, Philippe Melanchton, upholds the right of resistance when governments become despotic. Calvin, the outstanding thinker of the Reformation with regard to political ideas, postulates that people are entitled to take up arms to oppose any usurpation.

No less a man that Juan Mariana, a Spanish Jesuit during the reign of Philip II, asserts in his book, De Rege et Regis Institutione, that when a governor usurps power, or even if he were elected, when he governs in a tyrannical manner it is licit for a private citizen to exercise tyrannicide, either directly or through subterfuge with the least possible disturbance.

The French writer, François Hotman, maintained that between the government and its subjects there is a bond or contract, and that the people may rise in rebellion against the tyranny of government when the latter violates that pact.

About the same time, a booklet – which came to be widely read – appeared under the title Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, and it was signed with the pseudonym Stephanus Junius Brutus. It openly declared that resistance to governments is legitimate when rulers oppress the people and that it is the duty of Honorable Judges to lead the struggle.

The Scottish reformers John Knox and John Poynet upheld the same points of view. And, in the most important book of that movement, George Buchanan stated that if a government achieved power without taking into account the consent of the people, or if a government rules their destiny in an unjust or arbitrary fashion, then that government becomes a tyranny and can be divested of power or, in a final recourse, its leaders can be put to death.

John Althus, a German jurist of the early 17th century, stated in his Treatise on Politics that sovereignty as the supreme authority of the State is born from the voluntary concourse of all its members; that governmental authority stems from the people and that its unjust, illegal or tyrannical function exempts them from the duty of obedience and justifies resistance or rebellion.

Thus far, Honorable Judges, I have mentioned examples from antiquity, from the Middle Ages, and from the beginnings of our times. I selected these examples from writers of all creeds. What is more, you can see that the right to rebellion is at the very root of Cuba’s existence as a nation. By virtue of it you are today able to appear in the robes of Cuban Judges. Would it be that those garments really served the cause of justice!

It is well known that in England during the 17th century two kings, Charles I and James II, were dethroned for despotism. These actions coincided with the birth of liberal political philosophy and provided the ideological base for a new social class, which was then struggling to break the bonds of feudalism. Against divine right autocracies, this new philosophy upheld the principle of the social contract and of the consent of the governed, and constituted the foundation of the English Revolution of 1688, the American Revolution of 1775 and the French Revolution of 1789. These great revolutionary events ushered in the liberation of the Spanish colonies in the New World – the final link in that chain being broken by Cuba. The new philosophy nurtured our own political ideas and helped us to evolve our Constitutions, from the Constitution of Guáimaro up to the Constitution of 1940. The latter was influenced by the socialist currents of our time; the principle of the social function of property and of man’s inalienable right to a decent living were built into it, although large vested interests have prevented fully enforcing those rights.

The right of insurrection against tyranny then underwent its final consecration and became a fundamental tenet of political liberty.

As far back as 1649, John Milton wrote that political power lies with the people, who can enthrone and dethrone kings and have the duty of overthrowing tyrants.

John Locke, in his essay on government, maintained that when the natural rights of man are violated, the people have the right and the duty to alter or abolish the government. ‘The only remedy against unauthorized force is opposition to it by force.’

Jean-Jaques Rousseau said with great eloquence in his Social Contract: ‘While a people sees itself forced to obey and obeys, it does well; but as soon as it can shake off the yoke and shakes it off, it does better, recovering its liberty through the use of the very right that has been taken away from it.’ ‘The strongest man is never strong enough to be master forever, unless he converts force into right and obedience into duty. Force is a physical power; I do not see what morality one may derive from its use. To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will; at the very least, it is an act of prudence. In what sense should this be called a duty?’ ‘To renounce freedom is to renounce one’s status as a man, to renounce one’s human rights, including one’s duties. There is no possible compensation for renouncing everything. Total renunciation is incompatible with the nature of man and to take away all free will is to take away all morality of conduct. In short, it is vain and contradictory to stipulate on the one hand an absolute authority and on the other an unlimited obedience …’

Thomas Paine said that ‘one just man deserves more respect than a rogue with a crown.’

The people’s right to rebel has been opposed only by reactionaries like that clergyman of Virginia, Jonathan Boucher, who said: ‘The right to rebel is a censurable doctrine derived from Lucifer, the father of rebellions.’

The Declaration of Independence of the Congress of Philadelphia, on July 4th, 1776, consecrated this right in a beautiful paragraph which reads: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness; That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.’

The famous French Declaration of the Rights of Man willed this principle to the coming generations: ‘When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for them the most sacred of rights and the most imperative of duties.’ ‘When a person seizes sovereignty, he should be condemned to death by free men.’

I believe I have sufficiently justified my point of view. I have called forth more reasons than the Honorable Prosecutor called forth to ask that I be condemned to 26 years in prison. All these reasons support men who struggle for the freedom and happiness of the people. None support those who oppress the people, revile them, and rob them heartlessly. Therefore I have been able to call forth many reasons and he could not adduce even one. How can Batista’s presence in power be justified when he gained it against the will of the people and by violating the laws of the Republic through the use of treachery and force? How could anyone call legitimate a regime of blood, oppression and ignominy? How could anyone call revolutionary a regime which has gathered the most backward men, methods and ideas of public life around it? How can anyone consider legally valid the high treason of a Court whose duty was to defend the Constitution? With what right do the Courts send to prison citizens who have tried to redeem their country by giving their own blood, their own lives? All this is monstrous to the eyes of the nation and to the principles of true justice!

Still there is one argument more powerful than all the others. We are Cubans and to be Cuban implies a duty; not to fulfill that duty is a crime, is treason. We are proud of the history of our country; we learned it in school and have grown up hearing of freedom, justice and human rights. We were taught to venerate the glorious example of our heroes and martyrs. Céspedes, Agramonte, Maceo, Gómez and Martí were the first names engraved in our minds. We were taught that the Titan once said that liberty is not begged for but won with the blade of a machete. We were taught that for the guidance of Cuba’s free citizens, the Apostle wrote in his book The Golden Age: ‘The man who abides by unjust laws and permits any man to trample and mistreat the country in which he was born is not an honorable man … In the world there must be a certain degree of honor just as there must be a certain amount of light. When there are many men without honor, there are always others who bear in themselves the honor of many men. These are the men who rebel with great force against those who steal the people’s freedom, that is to say, against those who steal honor itself. In those men thousands more are contained, an entire people is contained, human dignity is contained …’ We were taught that the 10th of October and the 24th of February are glorious anniversaries of national rejoicing because they mark days on which Cubans rebelled against the yoke of infamous tyranny. We were taught to cherish and defend the beloved flag of the lone star, and to sing every afternoon the verses of our National Anthem: ‘To live in chains is to live in disgrace and in opprobrium,’ and ‘to die for one’s homeland is to live forever!’ All this we learned and will never forget, even though today in our land there is murder and prison for the men who practice the ideas taught to them since the cradle. We were born in a free country that our parents bequeathed to us, and the Island will first sink into the sea before we consent to be the slaves of anyone.

It seemed that the Apostle would die during his Centennial. It seemed that his memory would be extinguished forever. So great was the affront! But he is alive; he has not died. His people are rebellious. His people are worthy. His people are faithful to his memory. There are Cubans who have fallen defending his doctrines. There are young men who in magnificent selflessness came to die beside his tomb, giving their blood and their lives so that he could keep on living in the heart of his nation. Cuba, what would have become of you had you let your Apostle die?

I come to the close of my defense plea but I will not end it as lawyers usually do, asking that the accused be freed.  I cannot ask freedom for myself while my comrades are already suffering in the ignominious prison of the Isle of Pines.  Send me there to join them and to share their fate.  It is understandable that honest men should be dead or in prison in a Republic where the President is a criminal and a thief.

To you, Honorable Judges, my sincere gratitude for having allowed me to express myself free from contemptible restrictions.  I hold no bitterness towards you, I recognize that in certain aspects you have been humane, and I know that the Chief Judge of this Court, a man of impeccable private life, cannot disguise his repugnance at the current state of affairs that compels him to dictate unjust decisions.  Still, a more serious problem remains for the Court of Appeals: the indictments arising from the murders of seventy men, that is to say, the greatest massacre we have ever known.  The guilty continue at liberty and with weapons in their hands—weapons which continually threaten the lives of all citizens.  If all the weight of the law does not fall upon the guilty because of cowardice or because of domination of the courts, and if then all the judges do not resign, I pity your honor.  And I regret the unprecedented shame that will fall upon the Judicial Power.

I know that imprisonment will be harder for me than it has ever been for anyone, filled with cowardly threats and hideous cruelty.  But I do not fear prison, as I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who took the lives of 70 of my comrades.  Condemn me.  It does not matter.  History will absolve me.”     Fidel Castro, “History Will Absolve Me;” final statement, insurrection trial, 1953.  https://www.marxists.org/history/cuba/archive/castro/1953/10/16.htm

Numero Cinco“The Ambassador had just had a long private meeting with President Harry S Truman, in office less than six weeks following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Truman had told him two extraordinary things: First, if all went well, the United States would soon possess a weapon of awesome and hitherto unknown power.Charging him with ‘utmost secrecy,’ Truman revealed something ‘which I have not told anybody’ — that he had decided to postpone negotiations with Stalin on the shape of the postwar world until he knew for sure whether the weapon really worked.

‘I was startled, shocked and amazed,’ Joseph E. Davies, former U.S. envoy to the Soviet Union, wrote in his diary on May 21, 1945 after the meeting.  In an asterisked footnote he added: ‘Uranium — for reason of security I will have to fill this in later.’

On July 16, the first atom bomb was tested successfully at Alamogordo, N.M.  On July 17, Truman sat down to talk with Stalin.  And on Aug. 6, a bomb would fall on Hiroshima, ultimately killing an estimated 130,000 Japanese and changing the world.

Now, 40 years later, revelations based on privately held and previously classified information continue to illuminate the complex decision-making that led to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Most Americans assume the reason Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed was simply to prevent a costly invasion of Japan.

However, the newest documents have strengthened the theory that other considerations — especially the new weapon’s impact on diplomacy toward the Soviet Union — were involved.

The invasion of Japan — which President Truman claimed might cost up to a million casualties — was scheduled to begin on Nov. 1 with a landing on the island of Kyushu, with a full invasion in the spring of 1946. ( Documents of the time suggest that many planners foresaw far fewer casualties.)

But by the mid-summer of 1945 Japan was in a very bad way.  How allied intelligence understood the situation at the time was detailed in a report to the American and British Combined Chiefs of Staff, made public in 1976:

‘The increasing effects of sea blockade and cumulative devastation wrought by strategic bombing . . . has already rendered millions homeless and has destroyed from 25 percent to 50 percent of the built-up area of Japan’s most important cities . . . . A conditional surrender . . . might be offered by them at any time . . . .’

The Japanese code had been broken early in the war.  Faint peace feelers appeared as early as September 1944.

In July, Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal’s diary described the latest cables as “real evidence of a Japanese desire to get out of the war . . . .”

Forrestal was referring to a message from Togo to his ambassador in Moscow instructing him to see Molotov before he and Stalin left to meet Truman at the Potsdam Conference. The Japanese envoy was “to lay before him the emperor’s strong desire to secure a termination of the war.”

Forrestal noted that “Togo said further that the unconditional surrender terms of the Allies was (sic) about the only thing in the way . . . .”

Discussion of surrender was also underway through a channel in Switzerland. In a recently discovered memo dated May 12, William J. Donovan, director of the Office of Strategic Services, told Truman that an OSS source had “talked with Shunichi Kase, the Japanese minister to Switzerland . . . . Kase expressed a wish to help arrange for a cessation of hostilities . . . .”

Donovan reported the same judgment as that contained in the intercepted cables — a slight change in the surrender formula seemed the only remaining issue: “One of the few provisions . . . would be the retention of the emperor . . . .”

Did top U.S. officials understand the import of the cables? There was, to be sure, the possibility that the initial feelers were without substance. However, Truman’s diary, discovered in 1978, terms the key intercepted message “the telegram from Jap emperor asking for peace.”

Adm. William D. Leahy, who served as chief of staff to the President and presided over the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in his diary in mid-June that “at the present time . . . a surrender of Japan can be arranged with terms that can be accepted by Japan and that will make fully satisfactory provision for America’s defense against future trans-Pacific aggression.” Afterwards, Leahy would reflect that “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan . . . .”

Likewise, Eisenhower would later state that “it wasn’t necessary” to hit the Japanese “with that awful thing.” On July 20, 1945, in front of Gen. Omar Bradley, he advised Truman of his objections.

There is some confusion as to precisely how other top military figures felt, particularly in the crucial last month before Hiroshima. There is no doubt, of course, that they approved planning for an invasion.

The important question is whether by July and early August military planners still believed an invasion would be required if the atomic bomb was not used.

Adm. Ernest J. King, commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet, had for much of the war argued that naval blockade would secure unconditional surrender without an invasion.

The top Army air forces commander, Gen. H.H. “Hap” Arnold, said unconditional surrender could be won by October. He outlined the devastation that would hit the Japanese population, with its enormous casualties.

“Japan, in fact, will become a nation without cities, with her transportation disrupted and will have tremendous difficulty in holding her people together for continued resistance.”

Precisely how the leading Army figure, Gen. George C. Marshall, felt is not entirely clear. On the one hand, Marshall pressed forward on invasion planning, but he also urged changing the surrender formula and, as we shall see, advised of the importance of a Russian declaration of war.

As for the troops in the field: “Every individual moving to the Pacific,” Marshall said, “should be indoctrinated with a firm determination to see it through.”

Once the new weapon had been proven, the military leaders went along with the president’s decision to use it. But this fact has often led subsequent observers to confuse approval with the question of whether, as Eisenhower put it, the weapon was still deemed “mandatory as a measure to save American lives.” Strategy for the bomb was in any event largely handled outside the normal chain of command by the president and his advisers.

Did the president understand the possibility that the atomic bomb was not required to prevent an invasion? On this question there is much dispute. However, the documents now available make it very difficult to believe he did not.

First, Truman was repeatedly advised that a change in the unconditional surrender formula allowing Japan to keep the emperor seemed likely to end the war. There is also documentation — from the diaries of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, acting Secretary of State Joseph C. Grew and from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill — confirming that the president did not regard such a change as major. And in the end, of course, he did make such a change after the bomb was used.

It is sometimes argued that the Japanese military would have prevented a surrender had the atomic bomb not been used. But this argument usually assumes there would have been no change in the surrender formula. Given the right terms, as Leahy put it, “We were certain that the Mikado could stop the war with a royal word.”

Of course, the president preferred not to alter the terms if possible.

The idea that the atomic bomb had to be used to avoid an invasion turns on whether or not there were other options.

As early as September 1944, Churchill felt the Japanese might collapse when Russia entered the war. On May 21, 1945, Secretary of War Stimson advised of the “profound military effect” of Soviet entry.

In mid-June, Marshall advised the president that “the impact of Russian entry on the already hopeless Japanese may well be the decisive action levering them into capitulation at that time or shortly thereafter if we land in Japan.”

A month later the Combined British-U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed the Russian option at Potsdam. Gen. Sir Hastings Ismay summarized the Combined Intelligence Staffs’ conclusion for Churchill: “If and when Russia came into the war against Japan the Japanese would probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the dethronement of the emperor.”

Did the president also understand the advice that the Russian declaration of war was likely to bring about capitulation?

After his first meeting with Stalin on July 17, 1945 — three weeks before Hiroshima — the president noted in his diary:

“He’ll be in the Jap war on August 15th. Fini Japs when that comes about.”

It is clear that the president preferred to end the war without Russian help, but that does not mean that he had no alternative but to use the atomic bomb. We now know he rejected Russian help for political, not military, reasons.

The original planning date for Russian entry into the war was August 8. Hiroshima was bombed on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9.

The person for whom the linkage between the atomic bomb and strategy towards Russia was most direct was Secretary of State James F. Byrnes — Truman’s chief adviser both on diplomacy and on the atomic bomb.

Byrnes was a complex, secretive, even devious politician. In his diary Truman refers to him at this time as “conniving.”

There is unmistakable evidence that Byrnes tried to rewrite the historical record, in part by destroying documents, in part by literally rewriting the private diaries of his assistant, Warren Brown — and passing them off to official government archivists as authentic.

In any case, Forrestal’s diaries, show Byrnes “most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in . . . .” It was also Byrnes who formally proposed that the bomb be targeted on a factory surrounded as closely as possible by workers’ housing to achieve maximum psychological effect.

Ambassador Davies, who was “shocked, startled and amazed” when told of the decision to postpone talks with Stalin, was disturbed by “Byrnes’ attitude that the atomic bomb assured ultimate success in negotiations . . . .” On July 28, 1945 Davies warned him that “the threat wouldn’t work, and might do irreparable harm.”

Byrnes was particularly worried that if the Russians entered the Japanese war they would get control of Manchuria and north China. He was also concerned about Eastern Europe. Roosevelt had selected Byrnes — his “assistant president” at the time — as the leading public advocate and defender of the famous Yalta agreement which promised democracy and free elections in Eastern Europe.

Though at Yalta Byrnes participated in cutting the teeth out of language that would have made the agreement more than a statement of general intentions, recent research indicates he hoped the atomic bomb would enforce in practice what had been signed away in principle.

According to atomic scientist Leo Szilard, who met with Byrnes on May 28, 1945 — 10 weeks before Hiroshima: “Mr. Byrnes did not argue that it was necessary to use the bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war . . . ” Byrnes “was concerned about Russia’s postwar behavior.

“Russian troops had moved into Hungary and Rumania; Byrnes thought it would be very difficult to persuade Russia to withdraw . . . and that Russia might be more manageable if impressed by American military might.

“I shared Byrnes’s concern . . . ” Szilard observed, “but I was completely flabbergasted by the assumption that rattling the bomb might make Russia more manageable . . . .”

There is no evidence Byrnes used the atomic bomb as an explicit threat, but a month after the Potsdam meeting with Stalin, for example, Stimson talked with him at the White House, and noted in his diary: “I found that Byrnes was very much against any attempt to cooperate with Russia. His mind is full of his problems with the coming meeting of foreign ministers, and he looks to having the presence of the bomb in his pocket, so to speak, as a great weapon . . . .”

Byrnes, who previously had been senator from South Carolina, was on very intimate terms with the president. He had, in fact, acted as Truman’s mentor when he went to the Senate from Missouri. Roosevelt had also seemingly selected Byrnes to be vice president in 1944, switching only at the last minute to Truman.

One of the reasons Truman made Byrnes secretary of state was that this move put Byrnes next in line of succession for the presidency after Truman moved up from vice president.

On May 3, 1945, Truman also asked Byrnes to be his representative on the “Interim Committee” studying atomic strategy — and there were numerous meetings between the two men throughout the summer.

Truman and Byrnes left Washington together on July 7 to meet with Stalin at Potsdam, where Stimson complained that Byrnes was “hugging matters pretty close to his bosom.”

Before the Potsdam conference Truman was also advised by Stimson: “We shall probably hold more cards in our hands later than now.” During the conference Truman was enormously bolstered by the successful atomic test. “Now I know what happened to Truman yesterday,” Churchill observed. “I couldn’t understand it. When he got to the meeting after having read this report (of the atomic test) he was a changed man.”

“He told the Russians just where they got on and off and generally bossed the whole meeting.”

He also told Stalin that America had developed a powerful new weapon, but did not specify that it was atomic.

There are still many unanswered questions about the decisions made during the month before Hiroshima.  However, there is little doubt about some things.  Had the United States so desired, either the forthcoming Russian declaration of war or a change in the surrender formula (or both together) seemed likely to end the war without the atomic bomb.  There was also plenty of time to use the weapon if these options failed in the three months before the Kyushu landing.

‘The historic fact remains, and must be judged in the aftertime,’ Churchill subsequently observed, ‘that the decision whether or not to use the atomic bomb . . . was never even an issue.’  It is possible that top policy makers, especially the president, simply wanted to leave no stone unturned to end the war.

However, in view of what we now know about Japan’s attempt to surrender, military factors alone appear inadequate to explain the choice.

As historian Martin Sherwin put it, the idea the atomic bomb would help make Russia manageable both in Asia and in Europe was an important consideration — ‘inextricably involved.’

In mid-May America’s leaders had postponed negotiations with Stalin, basing their strategy on the assumption the bomb would strengthen their hand.  Thereafter, some of those most intimately involved in diplomacy — unlike some of the top military figures — apparently were either unable or unwilling to understand the significance of the June and July information on Japan’s collapse.

The evidence that diplomatic considerations were very important is especially clear in connection with the president’s closest adviser, Byrnes.  Nevertheless, 40 years after the fact some government documents still remain classified.  It may be that when these are finally released — perhaps when still other diaries are discovered — we will know the full story.”     Gar Alperovitz, “Did America Have to Drop the Bomb? Not to End the War, But Truman Wanted to Intimidate Russia;” Washington Post, 1985.  

7.25.2017 Day in History

Today in the Incan tradition was a time to honor the God of Thunder; in what is now Italy a thousand seven hundred and eleven  years ago, the Emperor who would in many ways define the operation of imperial Rome as a positive process, the first Constantine, accepted his ascension to the throne at the behest of his troops; five hundred fifty-nine years beyond that celebratory moment, in 864, a Frankish leader, whom people knew as Charles the Bald, announced various defensive measures against marauding Vikings; two and three quarter centuries thereafter, in 1139, a Portuguese military leader at the Battle of Ourique managed the forces that helped to initiate centuries of Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula from Islamic hegemony; twenty-six years subsequently, in 1165, the at-the-time renowned philosopher and Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi lived through his final dervish dance; ninety-six years onward from that, in 1261, Theodosius_II_solidus_Constantinople antiquity coin goldNicaean army’s recapture of Constantinople allowed for a brief reestablishment of the Byzantine Empire; seventeen years past that precise instant, in 1278, a significant setback for the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula by Christians occurred when the Granadian Emirate forces won the Battle of Algeciras; five hundred fifty years ahead of today, different Italian factions battled each other in the first contest that deployed substantial gunpowder armaments; one hundred twenty-six years onward from that exact moment, in 1593, a fourth French King Henry publicly disavowed Protestant beliefs with which he had formally abandoned Catholicism; two hundred sixty-two years back, those Acadians who refused to swear a loyalty oath and embrace English faced deportation, either to New Brunswick, back to Europe, or to the ‘Cajun’ environments of the lower Mississippi delta; thirty-tree years henceforth, in 1788, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart released his Symphony 40 in G Minor; half a decade more in the direction of the here and now, in 1793, reactionary forces in Europe issued the Brunswick Manifesto to the people of France with the threat of punishment should harm befall the King and Queen; another half a dozen years forward toward today, in 1799, the ascendant Napoleon

"David - Napoleon crossing the Alps
“David – Napoleon crossing the Alps

led forces that crushed an army of 10,000 Ottoman soldiers in Egypt; thirty-five years afterward, in 1834, the poet and writer and thinker Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived out his final stanza; a thousand ninety-six days in the future from that momentous event, in 1837, London hosted the first commercial usage of al electronic telegraph, heralding an age that is still ongoing, albeit in constantly transformed fashion; seven years yet nearer to today, in 1844, a baby boy was born who would mature as the estimable photographer and artist Thomas Eakins; another nine years onward in space and time, in 1853, across the continent in California, the fabled bandido, Joaquin Murrieta, a Hispanic Robin Hood, was shot down by his enemies, his head immediately on display as a demonstration of what opponents of capital had in store; eight years after that, in 1861, back in the District of Columbia, Andrew Johnson co-authored a resolution that advanced the fantastical proposition that the War Between the States only concerned maintaining the Union; civil war history dixie southan additional eight years in the direction of now, in 1869, half a world away in Japan, wealthy landlords began to give up some of their holdings to the Meiji Emperor in preparation for the rise of modern Japan; three hundred sixty-five days on time’s relentless march, in 1870, a baby boy was born who would end up as the popular artist and illustrator Maxfield Parrish; two decades subsequent to that, in 1890, garment workers in New York successfully concluded a lengthy strike seeking union recognition and a closed shop for their organization; a thousand four hundred sixty-one days hence, in 1894, again on the other side of

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the planet in Japan, the first Sino Japanese War began with with the engagement between Japanese and Chinese warships;a thousand ninety-six days after that, in 1897, the nascent literary genius Jack London set out for the Klondike from San Francisco; another single year forward in time, in 1898, back in the Western Hemisphere, the United States initiated the expansion of its own imperial project with the invasion of the just ‘liberated’ Puerto Rico; seven years farther down the pike, in 1905, the male infant entered our midst en route to a life as the thinker and writer and playwright Elias Canetti; a thousand ninety-six days thereafter, in 1908, a Japanese professor, in investigating kombu soup, uncovered monosodium glutamate and developed a process for its mass production; nine years more in the direction of today, in 1917, Canada instituted a ‘temporary’ income tax to pay for war that, because of capital’s addiction to military industrial complex, ended up continuing to this day; three years hence, in 1920, nearly two years after the end of World War One, France ‘captured’ Damascus in its bid to make certain its control of the newly-created ‘state’ of Syria; a half-decade yet nearer to now, in 1925, the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union, or TASS, first came into existence; not quite a decade onward in space and time, in 1934, two the West in Austria, Nazi killers gunned down Austria’s Chancellor  with plans to follow up with a coup d’état that did not unfold successfully till years later; an additional three years into the future from that, in 1937, fifteen women who were in the process of dying from cancer testified to the Illinois Industrial Commission about how they had followed company protocols in their jobs at a watch dial factory, licking radium-paint-laden brushes in order to speed up their production; three years yet later on, in 1940, across the wide Atlantic, Swiss military authorities promulgated an order that made surrender illegal in the event of any German invasion; three hundred sixty-five days farther along the temporal road, in 1941, Henry Ford, having befriended Adolf Hitler but not a big fan of the results, sent a letter to Mahatma Gandhi extolling the virtues of pacifism, and in Chile, a little baby boy was born who would grow up as the prominent experimental filmmaker Raul Ruiz, whose works have been most popular in France;another year beyond that, in 1942, anti-fascist Norwegians agreed with Gandhi and Ford in calling for nonviolent resistance to the Nazis; three years even closer to the current context, in 1945, at the Potsdam Conference on the future of Europe, Harry Truman, who hiroshima war explosion nuke nuclearregularly described the fission bombs that incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the nation’s “ace in the hole” versus the Soviets, first hinted to Josef Stalin about the new weapon; just a year after that, in 1946, in the South Pacific at the Operations Crossroads series of tests, the U.S. detonated a nuclear weapon under water that ended up causing a much larger and more dangerous radioactive contamination than did air burst weapons; fourteen hundred sixty-one days past that precise point in time, in 1950, a male infant first looked round him on his way to a life as the rocker and lyricist Mark Clark; seven hundred thirty-one days still later, in 1952, more than half a century after its colonial occupation by the United States, Puerto Ricans finally had a chance to adopt a ‘constitution’ of their own, despite the fact that they remained a U.S. possession; half a decade farther down the pike, in 1957, a few thousand miles East in North Africa, Tunisia proclaimed its independence from the colonial dominance of the French; a single year onward from that, in 1958, to the South among France’s Sub Saharan African colonies, both collaborationists and nationalist forces met for the first time as the African Regroupment Party; another three hundred sixty-five day period farther along the temporal arc, in 1959, in Israel, the author and rabbinical thinker and influential Zionist Yitzhak Herzog breathed his last, and a vaccine researcher discovered an vaccine medicineunintended side effect of an experimental tuberculosis inoculation was to impede tumor growth, laying the basis for decades more research and the development of an anti-cancer treatment; two additional years more proximate to the present pass, in 1961, President John Kennedy warned that an attack on Berlin was an attack on all NATO countries; in a major cultural upheaval, four years after that, in 1965,  Bob Dylan discombobulated many of his folk fans when, at the Newport Folk Festival, he plugged in an electric guitar and ‘electrified’ his audience; another year onward in space and time, in 1966, popular poet Frank O’Hara lived through his final verse; three years hence in 1969, less than a year after taking office, Richard Nixon announced a new Presidential Doctrine that would require more participation by Vietnam and other Asian nations in their own ‘defense;’ nine years in even greater proximity to today, in 1978, Puerto Rican police commemorated the twenty-six anniversary of their constitution by assassinating two Nationalist activists in Cerro Maravilla, and the first viable ‘test tube baby’ came into the world approximately eight months after her transplantation into an actual woman’s womb from a Petri dish;  half a dozen years afterward, in 1984,  Blues legend Big Mama Thornton sang her swan song, and a Russian woman became the first female cosmonaut to ‘walk’ in space; a farther pair of years along time’s pathway, in 1986, acclaimed filmmaker and screenwriter Vincent Minnelli died; seven years more toward today’s general vicinity, in 1993, Israel invaded Lebanon in a week long bloodletting; a year further along, in 1994, Israel and Jordan agreed to peace terms that ended a state of war that had guitar music art performanceexisted for the previous forty-six years; a mere year still nearer to the here and now, in 1995, the esteemed and eclectic ‘Silver Fox’ of country music and songwriting, Charlie Rich, drew a final breath; a decade henceforth exactly, in 2005, the labor reform group, Change to Win, published a call to benefit working people more by focusing on organizing and deemphasizing lobbying and Democratic Party politics; five years subsequent to that passage, in 2010, Wikileaks published a huge cache of classified documents that revealed the realities of the war in Afghanistan, much to the chagrin of the American establishment; four years further on, on the dot, in 2014, the hundred three year old writer and teacher and storyteller Bel Kaufman lived out her last scene.


7.25.2017 Doc of the Day

1. Ibn al-Arabi, circa 1210 et seq.
2. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1853.
3. Journal of Sierra-Nevada History & Biography, 2008.
4. Frank Riley, 2010.

5. Arthur Schnitzler, 2014.

pens-keith-williamson-writing writer

Numero Uno“Know, that Being qua Being is neither external existence nor mental, since each one is a type of existence.  Being itself is not subject to condition nor is it restricted by either absoluteness or restriction.  It is neither a universal nor a particular, nor categorized by generality or particularity.  It is one, but not with a oneness superadded to its Essence, nor is it multiple, since each one of these, accompanies Being, in accordance with its respective degrees and stations, indicated by the verse, ‘Raiser of Ranks, possessor of the Throne.’  Being, therefore, becomes absolute, limited, universal, particular, general, specific, unitary or multiple, without experiencing any change in it its Essence and reality. Being is not a substance, for a substance exists externally without a locus, nor is it a quiddity, which were it to exist would also be in a locus.  It is not like specific substances, which need being and its concomitants for its realization.  Nor is it an accident, since an accident is defined as that which exists in a locus, or a quiddity, which were it to exist would be in a locus.  Being does not exist in the sense that it has a being superadded to it which would necessitate its restriction to a locus.  Being is not conceived mentally or externally, rather, its existence is essential and established by itself and not by something differentiated from it.  Additionally, if it were an accident, it would subsist in a locus that essentially precedes it in existence, and would result in the existence of a thing prior to itself.  Moreover, the existence of both [substance and accident] is superadded to them, whereas, it is not possible for Being to be superadded to itself, since the definition of both is derived from it, given that Being is more general than and separate from either [substance or accident].

Being is not a mental construct, as posited by the misguided, because of the realization of its Essence without a thinker conceiving it, above and beyond their concepts, rational or otherwise, as mentioned by the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) ‘Allah was, and there was nothing else with Him.’  A reality that can be conceived—’conditioned by association’—rationally and conceptually does not necessitate its being ‘unconditioned by anything”’as well.  Therefore, it is not an existential mental attribute such as necessity or contingency, for the Necessary and the contingent, respectively.  It is the most universal of all things because of its universal prevalence and embracing of quiddities, even to the extent that it presents the ideas of absolute non-being and relative non-being when contemplated in the mind.  The mind determines the difference between the two, namely the impossibility of one of them, and the possibility of the other.  Since that for which existence is possible, its nonexistence is also possible… and other such propositions.

Being is more manifest with respect to its realization and its identity such that is said that it is self-evident, although it is more hidden than everything else with respect to its quiddity and reality.  The one who is the most knowledgeable in creation, spoke the truth when he said in his supplication, ‘We have not known You with a full knowledge of Your reality.’  Nothing either in the mind or in external existence is realized except through Being, for it encompasses all things by its Essence and all are things are sustained by it.  Were it not for Being, there would be nothing in existence, either in the external world or in the mind.  Thus, Being sustains all things, rather is identical with all things.  It is Being that self-discloses in its different degrees, and manifests through their forms and realities, either noetically or in external reality; [Being] is called the ‘quiddity,”’(al-mahiya) or the Immutable Archetypes (ai-a’yan al-thabita), as will be discussed in chapter three, God willing.  There is nothing intermediate between Being and non-being, just as there is absolutely nothing intermediate between an existent thing and a non-existent thing.

Quiddity, however, is intermediate between its specific existence and non-existence. Something that is purely conceptual does not have realization in actuality (nafs a\-‘amrf\ and the present discussion concerns that which has realization. Being has neither contrary nor like. Since, contrary and like are two existents that are either opposed to each other or are equal to each other. Being, on the other hand, is different from all realities, because the existence of their opposite and the realization of their like is utterly separate from it. This is indicated by the verse, “Nothing is like unto Him.”19 Being qua Being is one; therefore, another existence cannot be realized facing it.

Through Being contraries are realized and likes are sustained. Indeed, it is Being that manifests itself in the form of contraries and other forms, necessitating the joining of both sides of a contradiction. Since each side [of the contradiction] negates the other, the difference between the two sides is only conceptual. However, in Being all aspects are united since manifestation and hiddenness and all contrary existential qualities are annihilated in Being itself, so there is no distinction except conceptually. Privative attributes despite their belonging to non-being also pertain to Being from one point of view. Each of the differing aspects—with respect to their mental existence—is the identical with all others, and since both [contraries] are joined in Being itself they are joined in mental existence as well. Since, were it not for the existence of both [in Being] they would not have been able to join. The inability of both to join in external existence—which is one type of absolute Being—does not negate their joining in Being qua Being.

[Being qua Being] does not accept division and partition, essentially, in the mind or in external reality, for it is simple. It, therefore, does not have genus, differentium, or definition. It does not accept intensification or decline in its Essence, since both are conceivable only with respect to either static [accidents] such as blackness and whiteness, each of which adheres in a separate location, or non-static [accidents], which are oriented in a certain direction such as increase and decrease in the case of motion, and non-increase and decrease, intensity, and weakness. Each of these pairs adheres to Being in accordance with its manifestation and its hiddenness in some of its degrees, just as occurs with static essences such as bodies, or non-static essences such as motion and time.

Being is absolute good and everything that is good is from it, by means of it, and subsists through its essence and for its essence since it is not in need of anything outside itself for its realization, for it issubsistentand established by itself and establishes all others. It has no beginning, otherwise it would be in need of an existing cause for its coming into being, for it would be contingent. It has no end, otherwise it would be subject to non-being and be described by its opposite, or it would undergo inversion. Being is pre-eternal and everlasting, the First, the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden, because all that is manifest in the Visible or hidden in the Unseen returns to it.

Being is omniscient with respect to all things because of its encompassing of all things by its Essence. The acquisition of knowledge by [any other] knower takes place through a given means. Thus, being is more entitled to having knowledge, rather all perfections are necessary for it and all attributes are established by it, such as life, knowledge, will, power, hearing, vision, etc, for it is the Living, the Knower, the One who wills, the Powerful, the Hearing, the Seeing, by its own Essence not by means of anything else. It attaches all things with their perfections, rather it manifests through its epiphanies and its transformation in various forms representing those perfections. Thus, it becomes subject to essences21 since they are specific existents subsumed in the degree of Singularity (martabat al-ahadiyya) and manifest on the degree of Unity (martabat al-wahidiyya).

Being is a unitary reality possessing no multiplicity. Multiplicity of its manifestations and forms does not violate the oneness of its Essence. Entification [of its manifestation] and distinction does not take place by an entification superadded to its Essence, since there is nothing in existence in contrast to it for it to share with it in one thing and distinct from it in another. That is not incompatible with its manifestation in specific degrees, rather it is the origin of all entification of the names and attributes and their manifestation in the [divine] knowledge and external world.

It possesses a oneness that is not in opposition to multiplicity rather, it is the origin of the oneness that is in contrast to it [multiplicity]. Its oneness is identical with its Singular Essence and the Unity of the names that contrasts with multiplicity—which is the shadow of that original oneness of the Essence—and is also identical with it from one perspective, as we will explain, God willing. Being is pure light, since all things are perceived through it. It is manifest by itself and through it things are made manifest. Being is the light of the unseen heavens, the spirits, the earth of bodies and forms, because all of these are realized and exist through it. It is the source of all spiritual and corporeal lights.

The reality of Being is unknown to other than it. It cannot be expressed as the cosmos (kawn), or occurrence (husul), or realization (tahaqquq), or subsistence (thubut), if the verbal noun is intended, since all of these would then be necessarily accidental. If, however, what is meant by these terms is the same is what is meant by the word “being,” then there is no dispute, in the same way that the people of Allah have used the word the cosmos (kawn) to mean existence of the world. In that case, Being would not be any these, whether they are substances or accidents, as just mentioned, nor can its reality be known, even though it is knowable with respect to its ipseity. Verbal definition must take into account general usage of the term in order to provide cognitive worth. “Being” (wujud) is more current than the cosmos but other than it, necessarily.

General being (wujud al-amm al-munbasit) which extends over the Immutable Archetypes in the [divine] knowledge is a shadow of it, qualified by generality. Similarly mental existence and external existence are shadows of that shadow [immutable Archetypes] because of the compounding of limitations, referred to by the verse, “Have you not seen how your Lord has extended the shadow, and if He had willed, He would have made it stationary?”(Al-Furqan: 45). He is the Necessary Being, the Truth, the Glorified, the Most High, subsisting in Himself, giving subsistence to others, described by the divine names, qualified by the attributes of Lordship, called upon by the prophets and saints, the Guide of His creatures to Himself, the Summoner of His manifestations through His prophets to the source of His collectivity (‘aynjam jami’ihi) and the Degree of Divinity {martabat al-uluhiya).

He has indicated through their tongues, “He is through His ipseity with everything, and by His reality with every living thing.” He has also indicated that He is identical with all things, by saying, “He is the First, the Last, the Manifest, the Hidden, and He is aware of all things.”His being identical with all things is by manifesting Himself in the raiment of the divine names, both in the [divine] knowledge and the external world. His being other than them is by His hiddenness in His Essence, His superiority by His attributes from that which brings about deficiency and dishonor, His transcendence from limitation and specification, and His being sanctified from the mark of origination and creation.

His engendering of things and becoming hidden in them—while manifesting Himself in them and His annihilation of them at the Greater Resurrection—is His manifestation in His oneness, His overwhelming them through removal of their entification and their marks, and making them dispersed, as in His words, “To whom does sovereignty belong today? To Allah, the One, the Subduer,” (Ghafir: 16) and “Everything is perishing, except His face.” (al-Qisas: 88) In the Lesser Resurrection, things are transformed from the Visible world to the Unseen realm or from one form to another in the same world.

Quiddities are the forms of His perfections and the manifestations of His names and attributes. They first appear in [His] knowledge, then in actuality because of His love for manifesting His signs, and raising His banners and flags. Multiplicity is due to forms, whereas He possesses real unity and everlasting perfections. He perceives the realities of things in the way that He perceives the reality His own Essence, but not by some other faculty such as the First Intellect, etc., since these realities are the same as His Essence in reality, even if they are other than Him by way of entitification. Others do not perceive Him, as mentioned in the verse, “Vision does not perceive Him, but He perceives all vision,” (al-An’am: 103) and “They cannot comprehend Him in their knowledge,” (Taha: 110) and “They do not regard Allah with the regard due Him,” (al-An’am: 91) and “Allah warns you to beware of Him, and Allah is most kind to His servants.” (al-‘Imran: 30) He has apprised His servants of this as a kindness and mercy lest they waste their lives in that which is impossible to obtain. Therefore, if it has become clear for you that Being is the Real, then you would understand His saying, “He is with you wherever you may be,” and “We are nearer to him [the dying man] than you are, though you do not perceive,” (al-Waqi’ah: 85) and “And in your selves, do you not then perceive?” (al-Dhariat: 21) and “It is He, who is God in the Heavens and God on the earth,” (al-Zukhruf: 84) and “Allah is the light of the Heavens and the Earth,” (al-Nur: 35) and “And Allah encompasses everything,” (Fussilat: 54) and, “I will be his hearing and his seeing,” (Hadith Qudsi) and the mystery in [the Prophet’s (peace and blessing be upon him)] statement “If you were to extend a rope [to the lowest level of the earth] it would reach Allah,” (Tirmidhi) and similar enigmatic statements pointing towards oneness (tawhid) in the language of allusions.

Remark for the People of Intuition in the Language of the Speculative Thinkers:

Being is necessary in itself, for if it were contingent, then it would require an engendering cause, resulting in a thing preceding itself. It cannot be said that a contingent thing does not require a cause because it is non-existent in our presence, given that it is conceptual. For we do not accept that a concept does not require a cause, since it cannot be realized in the mind except through the perceiver, and this is the cause. Furthermore, the perceiver is not realized in the external world except through existence, since if existence is totally removed from him, then the result would be absolute non-being. If [the perceiver] were conceptual, then everything in existence would be conceptual since quiddities—which are separated from existence—are concepts; the falsity of this claim is obvious. The realization of a thing by itself does not remove it from being something real. Since the nature of Being qua Being is obtained through the specific necessary existence in the external world, it is necessary for this nature to exist within it, but without an existence superadded to it. Thus, if it were contingent, it would have needed a cause, necessarily.

Another Remark

Being is neither substance nor accident, as mentioned previously. Everything that is contingent is either substance or accident. Therefore, Being is not contingent, but defined to be necessary. Furthermore, Being does not possess a reality superadded to itself, otherwise it would be like other beings in their of being; this is an infinite regress. Everything that fits this description is the Necessary in itself because of the impossibility of removing the essence of a thing from itself. It may be said that necessity is a relation occurring accidentally on a thing, when considering its external existence, so that which does not have existence externally superadded to itself, is not characterized by necessity. The reply would be that necessity occurs as an accident for a thing that is other than Being, from the aspect of its existence. However, if that thing is Being itself, then necessity is pertains to its essence and not other than it, since necessity requires absolute otherness not just in [external] reality, just as knowledge necessitates otherness between the knower and the thing known, sometimes conceptually when the thing is perceived in itself, and sometimes as [external] reality, when it is perceived by something else.

Furthermore, everything that is other than Being is in need of it with respect to its existence and realization. Being qua Being is not in need of anything, rather, it is independent from everything for its existence, and everything that is needless from others for its existence is the Necessary. Thus, Being is necessary in itself.

It may be said that Being qua Being is a natural universal (kulli Tabi’i)and every natural universal acquires existence only through one of its individuals, then Being qua Being would not be necessary since it would require an individual to be realized. The reply is that if what is meant by the greater premise is the natural contingent entities then this is acceptable. However, this does not yield the above conclusion, since it is the condition of contingent beings to enter and leave existence, but the nature of Being does not allow that, as we have seen. If however, what is meant by the greater premise is something more general, then the greater premise is false, and one should meditate on His statement, “There is nothing like Him…”

Indeed, we do not admit that the natural universal is dependent upon a type of existence occurring for it [externally], contingent or necessary. Since if this were true, then it would result in a tautology, whether or not the accidental brings about type (munawwi’) or is individuatingThis is because the accident is not realized without its object. If the object depended on the accident for its realization, it would result in a vicious circle.

The truth of the matter is that every natural universal, for its realization in the Visible world, requires its individuating deteirninants that are effused from its engenderer. For its manifestation in the world of meaning (a/am al-maani) as that which brings out its type, it requires its universal individuating determinants, not for the realization in itself.

Everything that is made a type or is individuated is subsequent to its nature as genus and type (tabiat al-jinsiya wa al-nauiya) and that which is subsequent cannot be a cause for the realization of that which is prior. Rather the converse is true, and that which makes the nature a nature is naturally more suitable than both to make the nature a type or individual, in addition to what occurs to them by the individuating determinants. All modes of existential individuation return to Being itself so it follows that the reality of Being does not need anything—for its existence in the external—other than it. In reality, there is nothing in existence except Being.

Another Remark

Every contingent being is receptive of non-being. Nothing of Absolute Being is receptive of non-being. Therefore, Being is necessary in itself. It cannot be said that the existence of a contingent being is subject to non-being. For we say that the existence of the contingent consist of its occurrence in the external world and its manifestations therein; further it is one of the accidents of real Being, returning to Being—in one aspect—insofar as relativeness is removed from [real Being], and not identical with it.

The recipient must exist simultaneously with the thing it receives, but Being cannot exist simultaneously with non-being. Therefore, the recipient [for Being] is through quiddity not its existence, thereof. It cannot be said: If you accept that non-being cannot attach to Being that is agreed, but why is it not possible for Being to cease itself and be terminated? The reply is: non-being is not a thing so as to attach to either quiddity or Being. When we say that quiddity accepts non-being, it means that quiddity is capable of having existence removed from it. This cannot apply to Being, since it would entail transmutation of Being into non-being.

The possibility of its cessation, therefore, is necessitated from its essence, but Being necessitates itself by its Essence, necessarily, as mentioned, and the essence of a single thing cannot necessitate both itself and the possibility of its own non-existence. Thus, its existence cannot cease.

In reality, the contingent does not cease to exist, rather, it disappears and enters the Unseen, from which it had emerged. One who is veiled maintains that it ceases to exist. Imagining the existence of the contingent to cease arises from the supposition that Being has individuals, such as external individuals as in the case of human beings. This is not the case, since Being is a single reality that possesses no multiplicity, while its individuations are conceived only in their relation to quiddities. These relations are conceptual and are not existent in themselves so as to cease and go out of existence. Rather what ceases is the relation of individuations to quiddities. Its cessation does not necessitate the cessation or negation of Being, otherwise it would entail the transformation of the reality of Being into the reality of non-Being, since cessation of essential Being is necessarily non-being, which is clearly inadmissible.


If there are no real individuals distinct from the reality of Being, [Being] is not a general accident for them. If Being were a general accident, it would be either a substance or accident. However, it has been established that Being is neither substance nor accident.

Being qua Being is predicated for relative existents, because of the truth of the statement, “This existence is existence.” Anything that is predicated for something else must have between it and its subject an aspect of unity and an aspect of distinction. In this case, the aspect of unity between the subject and predicate (in the above statement) is none other than Being, and the aspect of distinction is “this”-ness (hadhiya). So it is clear that Being qua Being is identical with the relative existents in reality, otherwise they would not have existence, necessarily. One who opposes this conclusion goes against the dictates of his own reason, unless he uses the same term “being” for them [contingent existents] and for Being qua Being with different denotations, which is also patently false.

It is said that Being does not apply to its individuals uniformly, for it applies to the existence of a cause and an effect through being prior and posterior, and to the existence of a substance and an accident through primacy or its lack thereof, and the existence of static and non-static through intensity or weakness; rather it applies to them through gradation. Whatever is applied through gradation can be neither identical with the quiddity of a thing nor a part of it.

If what is meant [by gradation] is priority or posteriority, primacy or lack thereof, intensity or weakness when applied to Being qua Being, this is inadmissible since these are all relative qualities that are conceivable only in relation to one another. Application of gradation is from the aspect of universality and generality, but Being qua Being is neither general nor specific.

If what is meant [by gradation] is that theyare joined to Being in relation to quiddities, this is correct, but it does not entail gradation in Being as it is since the aspect of the loci of accidentals is different from the aspect of Being.

This is precisely the view of the people of Allah, since they hold that as Being descends in the degrees of existence, it becomes manifest in the enclosures of contingency, and the multiplicity of intermediaries—its hiddenness intensifies, its manifestation and perfections weaken. Likewise, as its intermediaries decrease, its light is intensified, its manifestation strengthened, and its perfections and attributes appear. Therefore, to apply “Being” to a relatively strong manifestation is preferable to applying it to a relatively weak manifestation.

In affirmation of this you should know that Being has manifestations in the noetic realm, just as it has manifestations in the external world. Among them are general affairs and universals that do not have existence except in the noetic realm. The ascription of Being to individuals related to quiddities through gradation is in light of noetic manifestation. For that reason it is said that [gradation] is conceptual (i’tibari), and Being qua Being cannot be described by [individuals] through gradation, but only as a rationally predicated universal.

This meaning does not negate its being identical with the quiddity of its individuals, that is, from the aspect of its natural universal, just as the natural, “animal” is only part of the individual [animal], and not the subject of predication. However, from the aspect of its application—unconditionally—it is a genus that accepts predication and from the aspect of its being applied to species of a type subsumed under that natural universal, it is a general accident. The same is true for everything that is described by gradation through its individuals.

The disparity in the individual instances of Being is not in Being itself, rather it is in the manifestation of its properties, such as the agency and receptivity in cause and effect; and in its subsisting by itself in a substance, and does subsisting by itself in an accident; and in the intensity of manifestation in the static essence, and its weakness in the non-static essence. Likewise, the disparity in human beings is not a disparity in the humanness itself, but in the manifestation of its properties in them. Were there some escape for Being from being identical with the realities of individuals, there would have been an escape for humanness from being identical with the reality of its individuals. The disparity found within human beings is not comparable to the disparity found in other creatures. For this reason, some attain a higher level and a more sublime station than the angels, while others acquire the lowest degree, and a more wretched state than the animals, as mentioned in the Quran, “They are like cattle, rather more astray,” and,

“We have created man in the best form, then We brought him down to the lowest of the low.” For that reason, “The unbeliever will say, “I wish I were dust.”What has been mentioned at this juncture suffices for the people of perspicacity and whose inner vision has been illuminated by Allah, and for those who have understood the foregoing, who have deepened their gaze in it, and are not disabled by the doubts of their delusive imagination and false objections. And Allah is the Helper and upon Him we rely.

Remark Concerning Some the Universal Stations and some Terminology of the Group:

The reality of Being, if considered under the condition of nothing accompanying it, is called the Degree of Singularity (al-ahadiya) by the Group, wherein all the attributes and names are effaced, and it is also called the Collectivity of the Collectivity (jam al-jam), the Reality of Realities (haqiqat al-haqaiq), and the “Cloud” (al-‘ama). If it is considered as “conditioned by something” it is either conditioned by all of its concomitants, whether universal or particular, which are called the names and attributes, then it is the Degree of Divinity (al-uluhiya), called by the Group, the Unity (al-wahidiyya) and the Station of Collectivity (maqam al-jam). This degree, insofar as it conveys the manifestations of the names—which are the archetypes and realities—to the perfections appropriate to their potentialities in the external world, is called the Degree of Lordship. If it is considered as “not conditioned by something” and “not conditioned by nothing,” it is called the “Ipseity permeating all existents.”

If it is conditioned by the permanence of noetic forms in it, it is the degree of the name the Absolute Hidden, the First, the Knowledgeable, and the Lord of the Immutable Archetypes. If it is conditioned by the universals of all things only, it is the degree of the name, the Compassionate (al-Rahman), the Lord of the First Intellect (rabb al-‘aql al-awwal), which is also called the Tablet of Destiny (lawh al-qadha’), the Mother of the Book (um d-kitab), and the Highest Pen (al-qalam al-‘ala). If it is conditioned by universals in them as permanent particulars, without any veil from their universals, it is the level of the name, the Merciful (ar-Rahim), the Lord of Universal Soul (d-nafs al-kulliya), also called the Tablet of Decree (lawh al-qadr), the Guarded Tablet (al-lawh al-mahfuz), and the Manifest Book (al-hadith al-mubin).

If it is conditioned by the specific forms as being mutable particulars, it is the degree of the name the Effacer (al-Ma’hi), the Establisher (al-muthabbit), the Giver of Death (al-Mumit), the Life-giver (al-Mu’hyi), the Lord of the Soul Impressed on the Universal Body (rabb al-nafs al-muntaba’a fi al-jism al-kulli), and the Tablet of Obliteration and Establishment (kitab al-mahw wa d-ithbat). If it is conditioned by receiving types, spiritual and corporeal, it is the level of the name the Receiver, the Lord of Universal Prime Matter, referred to as the Inscribed Book (kitab al-manshur), and the Outstretched Parchment (riqq al-manshur). If it is conditioned by the ability to affect, it is the degree of the name the Active, also called the Originator (al-mujid), the Creator (al-khdliq), and the Lord of the Universal Nature (rabb al-tabia cd-kulliya).

If it is conditioned by immaterial spiritual forms, it is called the degree of the name, the All-knowing (al-‘alim), the Separator (al-mufassil), the Arranger (al-mudabbir), and the Lord of the Rational Intellects and Souls (rabb al ‘uqul wa al-nufus d-natiqa). That which the philosophers refer to as the Immaterial Intellect (al-‘aql-al mujarrad) is the Spirit in the view of the people of Allah. That is why it is said that the First Intellect is the Spirit of Sanctity (ruh al-qudus). What the former refer to as the Immaterial Rational Soul, the latter call the Heart, since universals are specified in it and witnessed individually therein. What the former refer to as the Soul, they refer to as the Impressed Animal Soul.

If conditioned by Unseen material forms, it is the degree of the name the “Fashioner,” the Lord of the Absolute and Relative Imaginal Realm. If conditioned by material form in the external world, it is the level of the name, the Absolute “Manifest”, and the Lord of the Dominion (mulk).

The degree of the Perfect Man consists of the collectivity of all divine and existential realms, from the universal and particular intellects and souls, and the degrees of nature to the final existential descent. It is also called the “Degree of the Cloud,” for it corresponds to the Degree of Divinity such that there is no difference between the two except that the first possess Lordship and the second receptivity thereto. For that reason he stands as the vicegerent of Allah. If you have grasped this, then you will have realized the difference between the degrees of divinity, lordship, and existence.

A certain scholar has made the Degree of Divinity identical with the First Intellect, due to the inclusiveness of the name the Compassionate (al-Rahman) of all other names, just as the name Allah is all-inclusive of them. Although this is true in one aspect, the very fact that the name Beneficent is subsumed under the name Allah calls for a distinction between the two degrees. Were there no difference between them, [Compassionate] would not have followed the name Allah, in “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” So understand!


It has been mentioned that all perfection that adheres to things through Being, essentially belongs to Being, for it is the Living, the Eternal, the all-Knowing, the One who wills, the Able by Essence. No attribute is superadded to the Essence, for there would arise the need—for it to bring forth those perfections—for another life, knowledge, power and will, since it is not possible to bring them forth except what it already possesses.

If you know this, then you will know what is meant by, “His attributes are identical with His Essence.” A glimmer of its reality will appear to you, its meaning will be seen to be what has been mentioned and not what the mind conjectures in saying that the life, knowledge, and power that emanate from Him and are concomitant with Him, are identical with His Essence. Although this is true from one perspective, from another perspective, Being at the Degree of Singularity (al-ahadiya), negates all entification. There remains neither attribute, nor possessor of attributes, nor name, nor named, but only the Essence. However, at the Degree of Unity (al-wdhidiya), which is the level of the names and attributes, there are attributes, possessor of attributes, names and the named; it is the Degree of Divinity (al-uluhiya).

The meaning of our saying, “His existence is identical with His Essence,” is that He exists through Himself and not through the endowment of existence from Himself, so that existence is identical with His Essence—so too, His attributes of life, knowledge and power, and all the positive attributes are united, in the same way that the attribute and the possessor of the attribute are united in the first level [Singularity].

The mind perceives [attributes] as being distinct, just as it separates mentally the attribute and the possessor of the attribute, although in actual existence they are one. The mind perceives knowledge as being distinct from power and will just as [it perceives] a distinction between genus and differentium. However, in existence there is nothing other than the unitary Essence, just as in the external world [genus and differentium] combine in single thing, which is type. For this reason, Amir al-Muminin (Sidna Ali) said, “The perfection of sincerity is the negation of attributes describing Him.”

In the second level [Unity], knowledge is distinct from power and power is distinct from will. In this way, attributes become multiple, and through this multiplicity, the names and their manifestations become multiple. The divine realities are distinguished from one another so that knowledge, life and power, and other attributes each refer to both the Essence and its permanent reality. There is distinction among the attributes because of their shared connotation (ishtirak lafa), because these realities are from one perspective accidents because they are either purely relative attributes, essential attributes, attributes possessing relation, or substances from another perspective, in the case of immaterial beings, since their knowledge of their essences is one with their essences, from one aspect. Therefore, life, power, and will and the [unitary] Essence are exalted above being either substance or accident.

The meaning of this becomes clear for one to whom appears the pervasiveness of the divine Ipseity in all substances, with which these attributes are identical and from the fact that these realities are specific existents, and that the unitary Essence is absolute Being; that which is limited is the absolute with the addition of entification. This also results from the manifestations of the Essence. Applying [the attributes] to them and to the Essence is by way of using shared meaning (ishtirak al-mdnawi] through gradation (al-tashklk), while applying it to individuals of a single type (nau), such as a priori knowledge for example, is by way of applying the term uniformly (al-tawatu’).

These realities are neither substances nor accidents at times, given that they are necessary and pre-eternal, at other times, contingent substances occurring in time; and at other times they are accidents attached to substances. Whoever perceives the reality of what has been described, and grasps the various perspectives, is extricated from doubts and misgivings. And Allah is the Guide.

Qaysari’s Commentary

Shaykh Sidi Dawud al-Qaysari

“Matla’ Khusus al-Kilam fi ma’ani Fusus al-Hikam”

By Dr. Mukhtar Hussain Ali


Qaysari begins the Muqaddima with a discussion of Being. Given that the subject of Being is all-inclusive and lays out the foundation of every other science, any work that aims to outline the principles of mysticism must include a thorough investigation of the nature of Being. Furthermore, by opening the work with the subject of Being, Qaysari elucidates the fundamental issues concerning the Unity of God, His attributes, and His relation to the world, in order to repudiate many of the accusations leveled against the Sufis. Since many have misunderstood the sayings of the gnostics because of their lack of understanding of the existential world-view of Sufism, they have consequently failed to grasp complex ideas such as divine manifestations, unity within multiplicity, or attainment to God. Indeed, without understanding the very nature of Being, it is not possible to probe into secondary matters in mysticism such as the existence of the soul and its perfection, God’s immanence and transcendence, and the existence of the hereafter. Finally, as mentioned in the introduction, this science discusses the manifestation of the divine names, the methodology of wayfaring of the people of God, their practices, discipline, and the outcome of their efforts, and the result of their actions. Thus, understanding God and His attributes is a prerequisite for understanding the method of wayfaring and its corollaries.

Being, and that it is the Real

The gnostic uses the term the Real (al-haqq) to refer to God, Almighty and is synonymous with the term Being. There are numerous meanings of the term al-haqq, that include truth, reality, fact, rightness, to be established, and necessary. It is also one of the epithets of God, referring to the fact that He is the sole reality, the truth, the established, the necessary, the opposite of falsehood, and whose existence and reality are proved to be true. It also refers to absolute Being, the divine Essence, or that through which all things are known, so that the gnostic who obtains awareness of God, distinguishes that which is real and that which is false and illusory in existence. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) was asked from which thing did he come to know God, to which he replied, “I came to know things through God,” that is, he came to know God through God, and not through contingent existence, since contingent things are known through their opposites and since God does not have an opposite, He cannot be known through them. Furthermore, what is real is in opposition to what is illusory, and what is true is in opposition to falsehood, which is, in a sense, illusory as well. God is real, established and the Necessary Being, and not the object of imagination, a mental construct, or an illusion.

For this reason, the gnostics have used the term al-haqq to prevent any attribution of contingency to the Necessary Being, who is the sole reality. Furthermore, since al-haqq, refers to Being, when the gnostic discovers Being, he discovers God. In the terminology of the gnostics, God, the Real, (al-haqq), and Being refer to one and the same reality.

Privative Properties of Being

Being qua Being is neither external existence nor mental, since both these types of existence are manifestations of non-delimited Being. External existence is in contrast to mental existence, although in another sense, it is a general category that includes mental existence, which is a type of external existence. Mental existence is a type of external existence that occurs in the mind of a perceiver. It is different from external existence in the specific sense since it does not possess the effects of the latter. For example, a person may conceive of the concept of fire without experiencing some of the effects of fire such as heat.

Being itself is not subject to condition nor is it restricted by either absoluteness or restriction. This is because absoluteness is itself a condition and is in contrast to limitedness. Each is a type of condition and cannot be posited for Being qua Being. In this regard, Imam Ali says:

The foremost [stage] in religion is knowledge of Him, and the perfection of knowledge of Him is attesting to Him, and the perfection of attesting to Him is affirming His oneness, and the perfection of affirming His oneness is positing transcendence for Him, and the perfection of positing transcendence for Him is negating attributes for Him—for every attribute indicates that it is other than the attributed, and that the attributed is other than the attribute. Thus, whoever ascribes an attribute to God, the Glorified, has associated Him [with another], and whoever associates Him [with another], has regarded Him as two, and whoever regards Him as two has divided Him, and whoever divides Him has misunderstood Him; and whoever misunderstands Him has indicated Him; and who indicates Him has posited limitations for Him; and who posits limitations for Him has numbered Him; and whoever asks ‘what is He in?’ considered Him contained, and whoever asks ‘what is His on?’ deems Him isolated.

Here Imam Ali is referring to absolute Being or the divine Essence, which is beyond the limitation of attributes and conditions. In fact, it can be said that Being transcends existence, in that existence is a manifestation of Being, whereas, Being precedes its own manifestation and is not dependent on it. This is not to say, however, that God does not possess attributes, since it is clearly stated in the Quran, “To Him belong the most Beautiful names,” rather the names and attributes are not superadded to His Essence, since His Essence in its entirety is knowledge, power, life, and not distinct and separate from the attributes.

It is neither universal nor particular. Attributes such as universality or particularity cannot be applied to Being qua being but only to its manifestations in various planes of existence. Only when Being is manifested through the agency of the divine names, does it become external, mental, universal or particular, unitary or multiple, in accordance with the respective plane of manifestation. Being is independent of all manifestations whereas the divine names necessitate their loci in order to become manifest. Were it not for the things upon which divine power could be exercised, the attribute of power would be meaningless, and likewise every other attribute which is in need of a locus of manifestation. Essential Being, however, has neither attachment, nor entification, nor name alluding to it, “There was Allah, and there was nothing else with Him.” As for the name “Allah,” it sometimes refers to the collectivity of the divine names and not the Essence itself, yet sometimes refers to the unknowable Essence. The name “Allah” is derived from the Arabic root alif, lam and ha, whose most basic meaning is ‘to be perplexed,’ from aliha. The word takes on the meaning of the passive particle, ma’luh, which means ‘that about which the minds are perplexed.’Thus, when “Allah” refers to the unknowable Essence, then “None knows God but God.” If, however, it refers to the collectivity of the names, its knowledge raises the question of whether knowledge of the first entification is possible, which will be discussed further in subsequent sections.

Being is not a substance, for a substance exists externally without a locus, nor is it a quiddity, which were it to exist would also be in a locus. Substance is a quiddity that exists in the external world without a locus, while accident is a quiddity that exists only in a locus. An example of a substance is a body since it does not need anything but itself to subsist, whereas color is an example of an accident since a color exists in the external world insofar as it inheres in a body. Although substances exist in the external world independent of loci, they are in need of Being to subsist. Being is superadded to substance and accident while nothing is superadded to it for its existence. It exists in and of itself and is the source of all other existents. Furthermore, as mentioned in the works of philosophy, quiddity is defined as essence, limit, or receptacle for existence. A thing’s existence is additional to its quiddity and answers the question, “What is it?” What is understood by existence is different from what is understood by quiddity, such that the mind divests the notion of “whatness” from its existence. Predication occurs in the mind after having extrapolated the concept of a thing from its actual existence. Likewise, negating its existence does not negate the concept in the mind.

Therefore, the philosophers mention that there are, in fact, two things in the external world, the existence of a thing, which is its actual existence, and the quiddity of a thing, which is a mental construct extrapolated from its actual existence. What is real is its existence while its quiddity is the defining limit of that thing. For example, a tree is what it is because of the existential limits of “tree-ness.” It is, therefore, not a mountain, nor an ocean, since the defining limits of the latter are not included in the quiddity of “tree-ness.” It is important to note that what is real is existence and not quiddity, since the defining limit of a thing is the negative predication of a thing, that is, what it is not Because the mind is accustomed to perceiving realities through quiddities, it supposes that the quiddity of a tree exists externally when contemplating the statement, “The tree exists.” In fact, what is real is the existence of a thing whose quiddity is “tree-ness.” This view is a reiteration of the Peripatetic view of the fundamentally of existence, which is echoed in the school of Ibn Arabi, although Ibn Arabi further says that all multiplicity is a manifestation of Being and possesses no real independent existence. Ashtiyani asserts this in his commentary citing the Shark al-hidaya of Mulla Sadra:

The Sufis, among the monotheists, are of the view that there is nothing in existence except the Real Being and the world is only the self-disclosure, manifestation and entiflcation of Being. They see nothing in existence except God and His manifestations, and they do not view the manifestations as an independent reality.

Substance and accident are quiddities that exist because of Being whereas Being exists in itself and is not due to something external or superadded to it. Furthermore, Being qua being is not limited by anything and therefore possesses neither quiddity nor definition.

Substance and Accident in the View of the Gnostics

In the view of the gnostics, Substance is none other than the reality of Being. Since Being qua Being is neither Substance nor accident, as mentioned previously, the term “substance” is used differently by the gnostics from the philosophers. Substance is the shadow of the Essence, also called extended Being (al-wujud al-munbasit), the First Engenderer (al-sadir al-awwal), the Outstretched Parchment, the Muhammadan Light, or, as Qaysari writes in his commentary on the Fusus, “If the Breath of the All-merciful is realized externally and entitled, it is called Substance.” Qaysari writes in the fourth chapter of the Muqaddima that substance is that which is antecedent and accidents are that which is subsequent. Thus, all entities, which are the words of God, originate from the Breath of the All-merciful. The former are subsequent and are accidents, and the latter is antecedent and is Substance.

The gnostics use the terms “substance” and “accident” to explain multiplicity originating from unity in the degree of Being that is considered the first level of the contingent realm. This is because the divine names and the Immutable Archetypes are not considered part of the contingent realm, whereas substance and accident are considered contingent. From another perspective, however, the gnostics do not maintain that substance is created since the first entity in creation is the Intellect, which is lower in the Arc of Descent than Substance. In the degree of Substance there is a greater degree of individuation and entification and the formation of types. The relationships between the divine names, such as their engendering, combining, and governance, which will be mentioned in the following chapter, are applied to the reality of substances as well. This is based on the premise that there is no disjunction between the descending degrees of creation; rather realities emerge as an emanation from a single source that manifests through gradation.

Qaysari s systematic elaboration of the ontology of mysticism is more clearly understood by observing the way in which he shows multiplicity emerging from unity in each successive chapter. For example, the first chapter is concerned with the issues related to Being qua Being and the absoluteness of the Essence. The second chapter is an elaboration of the divine names, which is the first degree of multiplicity originating directly from the Essence yet is identical with the Essence. The third chapter discusses the divine knowledge which are the forms of the divine names. The fourth chapter contemplates Being as it relates more directly to the contingent realm, which is the origination of multiplicity of the contingent entities. In the degrees prior to this, the notion of createdness is not applied; rather effusion and emanation are more appropriate to describe the realities of the Immutable Archetypes and the divine names. The degree that is associated with substances and accidents is below the degree of the Immutable Archetypes and the divine names.

* * *

Being is not a mental construct (i’tibari), as mentioned earlier, since anything that exists in the mind by way of mental existence is dependent on the mind of the thinker. This would imply that either the mind precedes Being or is the cause of it. A mental construct is any concept that does not have an extension in the external world. For example, concepts such as possession or leadership are abstract notions that are based on the relations between objects that do have extension in the external world. “Leadership” is an abstract idea that is applied to someone who fulfills certain functions of governance for a group. Likewise, possession, in and of itself, does not exist externally, but is assigned to someone who has a special relation with an object. Being is not an abstract mental construct because it has extension in the external world. In fact, both mental and external things are due to Being and therefore can neither precede Being nor be the cause of it.

Mental attributes are either primary intelligibles (ma’qulat al-awwaliya) or secondary intelligibles (maqulat al-thanawiya). Primary intelligibles are propositions that the mind assesses through its immediate association with the external world. When the blackness of coal is observed in the external world, the attribute of “blackness” is applied to the external existence of the coal and is performed immediately through sensory perception. Secondaryintelligiblesare propositions that require the operation of the rational faculty and do not have external extension. The concepts “necessary” and “contingent” are of this type since the rational faculty must be exercised and one cannot rely solely on sense perception. Universals such as “human,” “genus,” or “differentium” are descriptions of primaryintelligiblesbut are ascertained through ratiocination. Furthermore, philosophical secondaryintelligiblesare those that describe external objects such as “paternity,” and logical secondaryintelligiblesare those whose referent is not external, but conceptual, such as genus or species.

Positive Properties of Being

It is the most universal of all things. The reality of Being with respect to its manifestation and self-disclosure, its embracing of quiddities and pervasiveness in creation is more general than every existent thing. The pervasiveness of Being even gives rise to the concept of non-being, which, although has no external referent, exists in the mind. What has external existence is the concept in the mind, not actual non-being. Absolute non-being is singular, and its contrary is Being. Relative non-being may be multiple since it is the non-existence of a contingent being such as Zayd, etc. Or it may be the non-existence of the sight when speaking of a blind man. Relative non-being is different from conditioned non-being, conditioned by time for example.

Being is more manifest with respect to its realization. Being is self-evident and more manifest than anything else with respect to its realization while at the same time hidden with respect to its Essence and Quiddity. This is because things are known through their quiddities and distinctions while Being is without distinction and its “quiddity”107 is without limit, condition, or distinction. However, since all things subsist through Being, Being is not hidden, while at the same time since quiddities are by their nature limited and contingent, nothing in existence can point to the reality of Being itself. For this reason, the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said, “We have not known You as You have deserved to be known,” that is, one cannot know the reality of Absolute Being without himself possessing absoluteness, which is impossible. However, this does not preclude the possibility of the knowledge of God through contemplating His signs, as it says in the Quran, “We will show them Our signs in themselves and on the horizons so it becomes clear that He is the Truth.” What is not possible however, is knowledge of the Essence of God, either through the prism of existence or through God Himself, since “None knows God but God.”

Being sustains all things, rather is identical with all things. This occurs through the divine effusion on the various planes of existence, which is none other than the manifestation of Being. The divine effusion is divided into two types, the Most Holy Effusion (al-fayd al-aqdas) and the Holy Effusion (al-fayd al-muqaddas). The Most Holy Effusion is the source of the divine names, which emanate directly from the divine Essence, whereas the Holy Effusion is the source of the Immutable Archetypes (al-a’yan al-thabita), which emanate from the divine names.

The Immutable Archetypes

The manifestation of Being occurs initially through the Most Holy Effusion bringing forth the divine names, then through the Holy Effusion bringing forth the Immutable Archetypes, which are the pre-existent realities in the divine knowledge. These realities are called “Archetypes” whereas the realities of the entities are called quiddities. They are called “Immutable” because they exist in the divine knowledge and do not undergo mutability and transformation. This is because His knowledge is identical with His Essence and mutability in His knowledge would imply mutability in His Essence.

The external worlds arise from these Archetypes and are divided into the Noetic realm (alam al-‘aql), the Imaginal realm (alam al-mithal), and the material realm (alam al-mddda), according to one classification.

Since Being is manifested in each of these realms, it is not distinct from any one of them, rather it is identical with them. This identity is in accordance with the existential capacity of the recipient and not in accordance with the absoluteness of the Essence. Since the Essence is the station of absoluteness, alluded to in the hadith “God was and there was nothing else with Him,” the Essence is behind an impenetrable veil, which is independent even from its own manifestation. However, manifestation occurs in a succession of descent from the degree of Singularity (al-martabat al-ahadiya) to the lowest form of primordial matter (al-hayula al-ula).

The Immutable Archetypes are either universals or particulars and are considered noetic forms of the divine names. However, they remain in the realm of the unseen—for they are governed by the name, the Hidden and the First—and do not partake in existence; they remain in the state of sheer potentiality. Entities in the external world are their manifestations and are consequently governed by the names, the Last and the Manifest. The philosophers call the universals among them quiddities and the particulars ipseities.

The Immutable Archetypes have not appeared in external existence. For this reason, they cannot be considered as being created or formed, just as ideas in the mind or the imagination of a person are not considered real until they appear in the external world. This is also the reason why the philosophers call the Immutable Archetypes quiddities, since quiddity possesses neither existence nor non-existence. Quiddities are conceptual and not real, in the same way that Immutable Archetypes are “concepts” in the divine knowledge and do not possess real existence. If they did possess real existence, then even the impossible contingents would be considered real, which is an obvious contradiction. What is meant by “real” is that which exhibits effects in the external world.

As mentioned, quiddities do not have real existence in the external world but they do possess noetic existence. They possess real existence on the plane of divine knowledge since God’s knowledge is identical with His Essence. The gnostics have preferred to name the objects of divine knowledge as the Immutable Archetypes instead of quiddities because the latter are only realized through existence while the former are ontological realities that are identical with the reality of Being. That which exists in the external world is quiddity and existence. The former is conceptual and extrapolated, and the latter is real and possesses effects. However, the Immutable Archetypes cannot be without existence given that divine knowledge is not separate from the Essence, and all that exists is none other than Being and its manifestations. This leads to an important distinction between external existence and noetic existence on the plane of divine knowledge, namely, that quiddities do not have real existence in the external world except when existence is superadded to them, whereas on the plane of divine knowledge, quiddity and existence are united. This is because in the higher degrees of being there is a greater degree of simplicity and ontological comprehensiveness and a lesser degree of multiplicity.

The ontological status of the Immutable Archetypes is superior to that of the quiddities that are contemplated in the mind, for it is possible to conceive of a thing without witnessing its realization in the external world. However, since the Immutable Archetypes are noetic realities and have real existence on the plane of divine knowledge they are not without their effects in the worlds, namely, the world of spirits, the Imaginal Realm, and the external world. Just as the divine attributes exist on the divine plane of Unity and have real existence that affect every subordinate degree of Being, the Immutable Archetypes possess a form of existence in every subordinate degree of Being appropriate for that degree. Quiddities in the mind of a perceiver are considered mental existence and are the weakest form of existence, since its effects are limited to the mind and do not extend to the external world. If those concepts find realization in the external world, it is Being that produces those effects and not the quiddities themselves.

Since the divine names are realities that do not possess form in and of themselves, it is only through the divine self-disclosure on the plane of the knowledge that they possess form. Yet, since they are noetic in nature, “form” is applied only metaphorically because God’s knowledge is identical with the Essence. Therefore, “entification” is more appropriate for the Immutable Archetypes and “form” is more appropriate for external entities. Just as the divine names are considered divine perfections on the plane of the divine Unity, the Immutable Archetypes are divine perfections on the plane of divine knowledge.

As mentioned earlier, Being self-discloses in descending degrees of perfection, each degree possessing a greater degree of multiplicity. The Immutable Archetypes are the first degree of multiplicity since the “multiplicity” of the divine names is only the distinction of their realities and they remain on the plane of Unity. Qaysari writes in the third chapter of the Muqaddima, “These forms emanate from the divine Essence by the Most-Holy Effusion and initial self-disclosure, by means of divine love and the petition by the Keys of the Unseen.”

As Qaysari mentions in the fourth chapter, the Immutable Archetypes can be viewed as an isthmus between the divine names and the external entities. If viewed from the perspective that they are forms of the realities of the divine names, they are bodies for spirits. If viewed from the perspective that they are noetic forms for external entities, they are spirits for bodies. This is because there is no distinct separation in the degrees of being, as in the words of the Quran, “You will not see in the creation of the All-Merciful any incongruity. Look again, do you see any rift?” Being is a continuum emanating from a single source, in the same way that the sun’s rays emanate from the sun, and the difference between the source and its emanation, the giver and recipient, differ only in aspect. Each degree of existence in relation with the degree above it is colored by multiplicity and unified in relation to the degree below it. Furthermore, that which is ontologically higher in existence possesses greater activity and unity, and governance. This is why the gnostics say that the Immutable Archetypes possess receptivity for the effusion that emanates from the divine names, called the Most Holy Effusion, and the external entities possess receptivity for the effusion pouring forth from the Immutable Archetypes, as mentioned by Ibn Arabi in the first chapter of the Fusus, “The recipient is only due to the Most Holy Effusion.” However, activity and receptivity exist both between the degrees of existence as well as within a specific degree. Some of the divine names are active in relation to others, such as the Mothers of the Names and the Universal Names in relation to the Daughters of the Names and Particular Names.

The degree of Singularity is the degree of Being in which all multiplicity is effaced, even the multiplicity of the divine names. It is the first entification of Being where the names are in collectivity and comprehensiveness. Unity is the degree of being which embraces the names but in respect of their infinite ontological potentialities. It includes all the modes of being but in potential. Since the Essence does not possess any entification, it is only at the degree of Unity that the Immutable Archetypes come into being, embracing the myriad objects of creation.

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Being at the degree of the Essence and ipseity is unknown to everything but itself It can neither be known nor defined and is the Absolute Unseen. Even the term Being or existence is used in a metaphorical way since Being is in fact, above existence. Its reality is hidden behind the veil of inaccessibility, such that even the names and attributes cannot be spoken of. Whatever can be known of it is due to one of its manifestations, and the aspect of similarity (tashbih), while the unknowability of its Essence is due to the aspect of its transcendence (tanzih).

There is nothing intermediate between Being and non-being, just as there is no intermediate between an existent thing and a non-existent thing. However, the philosophers have said that quiddities occupy an intermediate position between the two in the sense that the definition of quiddity does not presuppose either the existence or non-existence of a thing. The concept of a tree does not necessitate its existence nor does it necessitate its non-existence. It is simply a mental construct that is indifferent to both being and non-being. In fact, what exists is the concept in the form of mental existence; the existence of a concept in the mind is not the thing itself. What exists in external reality is only Being, not quiddities in and of themselves. Contraries and likes and the multiplicity that arises from them are quiddities that are realized in external reality through Being, which is unitary.

Through Being contraries are realized and likes sustained. It is unitary without distinction and differentiation. What is observed in the external world by way of contraries is the manifestation of Being in accordance with the existential capacity of the recipient. Manifestation of “whiteness” is other than the manifestation of “blackness” from the point of view of quiddity. Both, however, are manifestations of Being, and the limitation is due to the limitation of material existence.

Since material existence is the lowest realm and that farthest removed from divine unity and is at the utmost extremity of multiplicity, it is the incapacity of this realm that does not allow for contraries to exist simultaneously. Material bodies do not possess the capability to have more than one form impressed upon them at any one time, unlike spiritual and non-material substances that may possess contrary qualities at one time. The immaterial soul, for example, may possess contrary properties because it is not limited to the confines of matter. As existence approaches the higher realms, it sheds multiplicity and partakes further in unity, thus becoming more comprehensive and less differentiated. A similar relation exists between the Singularity and Unity where the latter is a unity that opposes multiplicity and is the shadow of the former. The former, however, is a unity that is not in contrast with any multiplicity.

Although Being is unitary and without differentiation with respect to the Essence, there is gradation in existence with respect to its manifestations. Every realm of existence that is closer to the Essence through the first entification, that is, the station of Singularity, subsumes all that is below it. Every higher ontological realm is more comprehensive, simple, luminous, and governs that which is below it. That is why multiplicity is an attribute of the lower dimensions of existence while it is used with reservation when speaking of the names and attributes because of their proximity to and union with the Essence.

Often the metaphor of the sun is used to describe this relation between unity within multiplicity. From one perspective, the rays of the sun are distinct from the sun in that they display individual properties, while from another perspective they are none other than the sun. Were it not for the gentleness and subtlety of the sun’s rays, life would not have been possible, while at the same time everything perishes at the rays’ source. The closer one is to the sun, the greater the intensity of the rays and the lesser the differentiation, so that at a certain point the distinction between the rays and the sun itself disintegrates. In a similar way, the realms of existence are in one sense distinct realities making possible the existence of the creatures in each respective realm, yet at the same time they are not separate and independent of Being itself. Both perspectives must be borne in mind if one is to understand the contradictory relation between unity and multiplicity. In describing this relation Imam Ali says, “He is in all things but not contained within them, He is outside of all things but not isolated from them.”

Privative attributes despite their belonging to non-being also pertain to Being. Negative propositions that indicate that which cannot be predicated about Being are in reality taken from positive predications of Being, for the meaning behind negating contingency for Being is in fact positing the necessity of existence for it.

[Being qua Being] does not accept division and partition. Being is simple and not composed of parts. It is not composed of parts in the external world such as matter and form, since matter and form are both types of Being. If Being were composed of something that requires it for its own existence, Being would precede itself since the composite parts of Being would precede Being itself. Furthermore, Being is not composed of quantity since quantity is an accidental quality of bodies, which also necessitates Being for its existence. Being is not composed of mental attributes such as genus and differentium since both are by definition limitations of existence and require Being for their realization. Since Being pervades all things it has neither limit nor definition and thus cannot be composed of genus and differentium.

Such definitions are used in discursive reasoning and are based on the apparent properties of things. This type of knowledge is acquired knowledge (‘ilm husuli) and does not give certainty. The gnostics do not rely on this knowledge since it does not pertain to the essence of things and their transcendental source, giving preference to immediate knowledge (‘ilm huduri), which is acquired through immediate spiritual vision. Defining “man” through its quiddity as a “rational animal” does not indicate the reality of the human being, which can only be known through spiritual insight and unveiling. Just as Rumi says,

The world’s forms are foam upon the Sea. If you are a man of purity, pass beyond the foam?

Contingent existence has form and limit while Being cannot be limited by form. Thus, Being is simple and not composed of parts on which it might depend for its subsistence.

Division of the Contingent

The contingent is divided into the possible contingent and impossible contingent. The latter is further subdivided into those contingents that may be conceived rationally but do not possess realization in the worlds because of their impossibility and those that do not possess realization in the external world because they are eternally hidden in the Absolute Unseen; they are the names referred to by the Prophet as the “Reserved Names” (al-asma al-musta’thara) whose knowledge is reserved only for God. The first type of contingent is one that is hypothetical and has no reality either in the mind or in external existence, such as the supposition of the joining of a contradiction. For example, it is impossible to conceive that a thing can simultaneously exist and not exist at the same time and place. What is conceived is the hypothetical proposition of its existence and not the thing itself. That is, it has no referent either in the mind or in external reality and is subsumed under the category of absolute non-being. It may be asked, if one can conceive of “the joining of a contradiction in the mind, how can it be considered absolute non-being, while it has mental existence? It may be replied that what exists in the mind is the hypothetical concept of the “joining of a contradiction” and not the thing itself, since by definition the thing is impossible to conceive.

As for the impossible contingent entities that exist in the Absolute Unseen, they are impossible because they can never appear in the manifest realm. Impossibility is ascribed to them even though they exist in the divine knowledge, because their essences seek the Hidden and flee from the Manifest. Their particular forms are noetic divine realities on the plane of divine knowledge. There is no possible contingent entity that does not seek its manifestation in the external realms and does not receive it. If some entities were to receive existence over others, it would undermine the reality of God’s magnanimity, which by its very nature gives all things its due, namely existence. Or it would result in the inclination of a quiddity towards non-existence, while its reality necessitates existence.

Another division of the contingent entities is that of substance and accident. Substantial entities are either simple immaterial entities, such as spirits, intellects, and souls, or simple material such as elements or compound; such as concepts in the mind which consists of genus and differentium, or things that exist both in the mind and external world.

It does not accept intensification or decline in its Essence. Being qua Being does not undergo intensity and weakness in its Essence because these are applied only to accidents such as “blackness” and “whiteness” that exist in a specific locus. There is no gradation in the reality of Being; rather gradation originates at various levels of existence given that it is the source of multiplicity. The gnostics such as Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi”, Ibn Turka, and ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Kashani have negated the idea of gradation in the essential reality of Being, since this would undermine the foundation of essential oneness of Being. This view is based on the grounds that positing gradation in existence does not violate the oneness of Essential Being since Being pervades all things and is not separate from it either from the point of view of its Essence or names. In the same way that Essential Being embraces the myriad quiddities without undergoing any change or distinction in its Essence, gradation in existence is not superadded to the Essence. It is both one with the Essence insofar as the Essence embraces everything, and distinct from it insofar as nothing encompasses it.

Being is absolute good and everything that is good is from it. Every good that appears in existence is from it and subsists through it. Goodness in this sense is ontological and not ethical, that is, existence is a form of good and non-being a form of evil. This definition of good extends in the ethical dimension as well such that every good action is in fact a spiritual reality that the soul acquires increasing its ontological perfection thereby. Likewise, every evil deed is the deficiency of the soul in acquiring the appropriate ontological perfection. In the philosophic sense evil is non-being or the soul’s inability to reach a particular perfection, while goodness is the soul’s acquisition of it.

It has no beginning…It has no end. Being qua Being is neither preceded nor followed by non-being, and it exists neither through a cause nor is it transformed into non-being. Transformation of Being into non-being is impossible, because the very definition of Being is the negation of non-being. Being cannot remain itself and at the same time transform into non-being. In a similar fashion, the number “one” cannot undergo transformation into the number “two,” while still maintaining the definition of oneness. Being is the Hidden, the Manifest, the First and the Last. When Being self-discloses, it becomes manifest, while still remaining hidden. In other words, all realities emanate from Being becoming manifest from the hiddenness of their Immutable Archetypes, and return to the Hidden after their allotted period in the world expires.

Being is omniscient with respect to all things. Every attribute including life, knowledge and power not only originates from Being, is sustained by Being, but is also at one with Being. That is, every attribute in existence is in reality a divine attribute and name. Since all things originate from Being, Being is more entitled to be qualified by the attributes than the contingent beings. Being bestows these attributes on the creatures in accordance with their ontological receptivity. Therefore, when a creature has the ability to see or hear it is through the divine name of the Hearing and Seeing that it acquires the ability to do so, and it becomes the locus of manifestation of these names. If man has the capacity to know and see, how can it be that Being is not all-knowing and all-seeing?

How can it be that knowledge, power, and will, be attributed to man and not be attributed to God, upon whom creation is essentially dependent? In fact, no creature possesses any perfection except that it is a perfection of Being in the form of manifestation.

The forms of contingent realities follow their essences, which are quiddities annihilated on the level of Singularity but manifest on the level of Unity. In another sense, however, the essences also depend on contingent things so that they may be realized through them. Ibn Arabi writes, “The gnostic sees that causes are also caused by their effects, because the cause remains in a state of non-being without the realization of its effect.”119 In this way there is a mutual necessitation between cause and effect. Another example is that of the student and teacher. In one aspect the student follows the teacher by attending to his instructions, yet on the other hand the teacher follows the student in instructing the student in accordance with his needs and in accordance with his capacity. Likewise, the lower planes of existence depend on and follow the higher planes while at the same time the higher planes require and therefore need the lower planes in order to become manifest.

As for essences being obliterated at the station of Singularity, this is due to the fact that it is the plane on which there is neither form nor trace of anything, even the divine names. The objects of existence first appear at the station of Unity in the form of the divine names and then descend stage after stage throughout the various realms of existence.

Being is a unitary reality possessing no multiplicity. Multiplicity arises through the manifestation of Being which is unitary on the level of the Essence but multiple with respect to the forms of its manifestation. The Quran alludes to this in the verse, “Every day He is upon some task,” (al-Rahman: 29) that is, every moment He manifests Himself through the perpetual engendering of creation. This is what the gnostics call entification (ta’ayyun), or the manifestation of Being in a certain aspect qualified by the ontological receptivity of the receiver by virtue of its essence. It was mentioned previously that the station of Singularity does not allow for any form or trace. This does not imply that existence is in a state of absolute non-being; rather, it has no entification at this station. That is, all realities are in a state of collectivity such that it might be said that they are encompassed and absorbed by Absolute Being and no longer have any individual existence.

It possesses a oneness that is not in opposition to multiplicity. Being is one despite the multiplicity of its manifestation. In the same way that visible light appears unified yet the diffraction of its rays through a prism brings forth the multiple colors from which it is composed, the multiplicity of Being manifests itself in the prism of existence. This is why the gnostic sees God in everything, or from another perspective sees nothing but God. Imam Ali said, “I did not see anything except that I saw Allah with it, before and after it.” Therefore, these manifestations are not superadded to Being, rather originate from Being and are one with it. In the same way that a single person may be both father and son, Being is qualified by multiple designations all of which refer to the same entity.

There are however, different types of unity referred to by the gnostics. The first type is true unity, also referred to as general unity or absolute unity. This type of unity does not allow for any multiplicity or duality whatsoever, either conceptually or in reality. This is what the gnostics refer to as Being qua Being, and it permeates all levels of creation. The second type of unity is the unity of the names or relative unity, and it is the origin of all multiplicity. Multiplicity here is the multiplicity of the names, not of contingent existence, since the names are one with the divine Essence, but individual with respect to their own essences. Therefore, the unity of divine names is due to their unification with the Essence but subordinate to the absolute unity such that it is the shadow of its unity. The oneness of absolute unity is not superadded to its Essence, unlike the names whose unity is colored with the multiplicity of their individuation. Another type of unity is numerical unity that is in contrast to duality and multiplicity, since the number one is conceived in relation to the number two, three and so on.

Being is pure light since all things are perceived through it It is manifest in and of itself and through its luminosity everything else is made manifest. It illuminates the heavens of the unseen and the spirits, that is, the immaterial and noetic realms. These realms are luminous by their essences although their light is a ray of the pure divine light. The earth of material bodies refers to corporeal existence, which is the earth in relation to the unseen world. It is the source of all spiritual and corporeal light, which consists of the gnostic sciences and sensory objects, respectively.

The reality of Being is unknown to other than it. None knows the reality of Being but Being itself. Being is neither the cosmos (kawn), nor occurrence (thubut), nor realization (tahaqquq), since it is more general and comprehensive than each. Each is an expression of Being’s entification not Being qua Being. Although the knowledge of Being is self-evident, the reality of the essence of Being cannot be known. It is a self-evident reality whose innermost aspect is hidden. The following passage explains the reason for Being’s unknowability:

“God’s invisibility is due to the severity of His manifestation, and His remoteness is because of His extreme proximity. If an entity’s manifestation were to be more evident than knowledge, notion, and knower, and if it were to be nearer than the thing is to itself, such intense manifestation necessarily creates invisibility and such extreme proximity creates distance” .

General Being (al-wujud al-am al-munbasit) which extends over the Immutable Archetypes is a shadow of the essential reality of Being, since it is the origination of entification through the auspices of the Most Holy Effusion (al-fayd al-aqdas). It is also referred to as the Holy Effusion (al-fayd al-muqaddas), or the Breath of the All-merciful (al-nafas al-rahmani), which emanates from the Most Holy Effusion. It is also the first entification arising from the station of Singularity, which is the inner aspect of the Holy Effusion. Both mental and external existence are a shadow of the Immutable Archetypes, which are in turn a shadow of the divine knowledge, which is a shadow of essential Being emanating from the Holy Effusion. Each successive entification is a shadow of the preceding in the terminology of the gnostics, and a degree farther removed from the presence of essential Being. Or in other words, the first entification, which is the degree of Singularity, is the degree in which particulars are in collectivity, whereas the Unity is the degree in which collectivity is in the form of particulars.

As for its being called the Breath of the All-merciful, this is due to the fact that the breath symbolizes a state of collectivity through which words and meanings are engendered. Just as in man, words are brought into the external world from the domain of the intellect through the breath, the objects of creation and all divine perfections, which are the words of God, are made manifest and brought into the external worlds from the plane of divine knowledge through the breath of the All-merciful. “Thus, breath is a vapor, relieves constriction in the breast, and is the vehicle for words; in the same way the Breath of the All-merciful is a Cloud, relieves the constriction of the Immutable entities (or the divine names)—which desire to see the outward manifestation of their properties—and is the vehicle for God’s own words, which are the creatures.” Ibn Arabi writes:

God described Himself as having a Breath. This is His emergence from the Unseen and the manifestation of the letters as the Visible. The letters are containers for meanings, while the meanings are the spirits of the letters. The Breath of the breather is none other than the non-manifest of the breather. The breath becomes manifest as the entities of letters and words. It does not become manifest through anything superadded to the non-manifest, so it is identical with the non-manifest.

The Quran itself alludes to this idea in the verse, “Though all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea—seven seas after it to replenish it—were ink, yet would the words of God not be spent.” Furthermore, the created process is described in the Quran as, “Our only speech to a thing, when We desire it, is to say to it ‘Be!’ and it is.”

Therefore, General Being is the second entification in which the particulars of the Immutable Archetypes are brought forth. From one perspective it is the outer aspect of the degree of Singularity and the inner aspect of the Immutable Archetypes, in the same way that the breath in the human being is the isthmus between ideas and words.

He has indicated through their tongues, “He is through His ipseity with everything, and by His reality with every living thing.” The prophets and saints whose ultimate purpose was to instruct mankind in divine unity have made the proofs of the oneness of God evident. However, it is God that guides in order to make manifest His attribute of the Guide, just as the attribute of the Light is manifested through the sun. Were it not for the prophets’ call to the oneness of His Being and the station of divinity, people would set their gaze on transient existence and be enveloped in multiplicity.

But since His ipseity is with everything, only those whose hearts are alive know that He is identical with existence by way of manifestation, in the raiment of the divine names and attributes but hidden with respect to His essence. Therefore, He is exalted above every limitation and blemish of createdness, since every created thing is limited in the aspect of temporality and occurrence. He becomes manifest through His engendering of things while still remaining hidden in them, as mentioned by Imam Ali, “He is in everything but not by being contained within them and separate from all things but not by being isolated from them.”

His engendering of things and becoming hidden in them—while manifesting Himself in them and His annihilation of them at the Greater Resurrection—is His manifestation in His oneness. His annihilation of all things during the Greater Resurrection is in fact, the return of the manifestation of His oneness, through the effacement of all multiplicity. This is because the Greater Resurrection is the return to the station of collectivity after the annihilation of multiplicity of contingent existence. In the Lesser Resurrection, which occurs immediately after physical death, it is the transformation of entities from their corporeal form to their spiritual forms hidden within them. There is another type of resurrection called the Intermediate Resurrection that occurs by the will of the wayfarer once he has died the death of the lower self. God’s manifestation also takes place in the transformation of forms in a single world.

Know that the Rising, as we have indicated, is behind the veils of the (physical) heavens and earth. Its relation to this world is like that of man (as an embryo) to the womb, of the bird to the egg: As long as the structure of outer appearance is not broken, the states of the inner reality cannot be revealed. For the Unseen (world) and the manifest one cannot be combined in a single place. So the “hour” (of the greater Rising) only occurs when the earth is shaken with its shaking (99:1) and the heaven is split apart (82:l).

The Greater Resurrection is the reversal of the governance of the names, the Manifest and the Hidden. All that is hidden in the external world, such as the realities of the soul, the inner meanings of acts performed by people, and intentions, will become manifest in the Greater Resurrection. Thus, the forms of paradise, hellfire and the Resurrection will become apparent after the cessation of this world because the dominion of the name, the Hidden, will encompass the dominion of the name, the Manifest.

The proofs of the Greater Resurrection, paradise, and hell are numerous, in both the Quran and hadith. Just as there is an external manifestation of these realities they exist in the spiritual realms as well, that is, on the plane of the spirit, heart and soul. In these realms, paradise corresponds to adorning the heart with moral virtues and praiseworthy qualities, while hell corresponds to immersion in base desires. Just as paradise and hell have manifestations and concomitants in each plane of existence, the resurrection (the Hour) has manifestation on each of the five divine planes.

Each type is considered the Minor or Intermediate Resurrection, which is followed by a particular kind of death, namely a spiritual transference called voluntary death.

The Macrocosmic Greater Resurrection:

There are two aspects of the Resurrection. The first concerns the macrocosm, such as the cosmic realities, the annihilation of the worlds, the rolling up of the heavens and the manifestation of some names over others, their governance and their terms. The second aspect is that which concerns the microcosm, or what is known as the Greater Resurrection of the spirit.

The Greater Resurrection in the macrocosm is the manifestation of the names the Inward and the Last, as well as the names, the Just, the One, and the Subduer, the Life-giver and the One who brings death. Although the Quran uses the term “afterlife” (al-akhira), to denote its posteriority, some of the gnostics believe that the Resurrection is not temporally posterior to the present world. Just as the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) states, “Whoever dies, his Resurrection has already begun,” that is, when the spirit has separated from its elemental body, the inward realities of Paradise and Hell are immediately perceptible to the spirit as there no longer remains any veil between it and those realities. Likewise in the hadith, “By Him who holds the soul of Muhammad in his hand, indeed paradise and hell is closer to each one of you than your shoelaces.”

Similarly, what the soul experiences by way of pleasure and pain in the intermediate state of the grave (barzakh), is due to the ontological unity of those realities in the spirit. This is alluded to in the Prophetic saying, “The grave is either one of the gardens of Paradise or one of the pits of Hell.” Likewise the following Quranic verses illustrate this, “Rivalry [and vainglory] distracted you until you visited the graves. No indeed! Soon you will know! Again, no indeed! Soon you will know! No indeed! Were you to know with certain knowledge, you would surely see Hell. Again, you will surely see it with the eye of certainty.” (al-Takathur: 1-7) The above verses and hadith indicate that those who have arrived at the station of the intermediate realm already perceive the realities of either Paradise or Hell with the eye of certainty. In relation to this type of perception Mulla Sadra writes:

In reality all that man conceives or perceives—whether through intellection or sensation, and whether in this world or in the other world—are not things separate from his essence and from his ipseity…Therefore, in the state of (bodily) death, there is nothing to prevent the soul from perceiving all that it perceives and senses, without any association with external material or with any bodily organ separate from the world of the souls and its own reality…None of the things that a man sees and directly witnesses in the other world—whether they be the blessings of Paradise, such as the houris, palaces, gardens, trees, and streams, or the opposite sorts of punishment that are in Hell—are outside the essence of the soul and separate from the soul’s being…

Therefore, from one perspective Paradise and Hell are immediately perceptible for one whose inward vision is not obscured by veils or has already passed beyond the material realm into the intermediate realm (barzakh).

However, in another sense, the Resurrection will occur after the annihilation of all contingent existence, including the angels, as referred to in the verse, “Everything shall perish, except His face,” that is, everything will be subsumed under the dominion of the Degree of Singularity, which is the effacement of all multiplicity, even the multiplicity of the names and attributes. Since the Resurrection is the return of all things to their origin, even the names will return to their origin, which is the Degree of Singularity of the Essence.

The Resurrection will occur on the basis of the governing properties of the names, the Hidden, the One, the Eternal, the Needless, the Mighty, the Returner, the Lifegiver, and other names necessitated by the mode of existence which is characterized by eternality, subsistence, reward and punishment, and sovereignty.

Qaysaripoints out that those who have only rational knowledge and have not witnessed through spiritual unveiling, doubt the realities of the Resurrection and of paradise and hell, their concomitant events and mode of existence, and the states of the soul in the afterlife. This is because these realities and other spiritual matters are beyond the comprehension of ordinary intellects and certainty in them is only possible through unveiling. Otherwise, one must have faith in the statements and descriptions of the prophets.

The Microcosmic Greater Resurrection:

In the macrocosm the Greater Resurrection is the cessation of the manifestations of contingency and the arrival of the manifestations that are particular to the Essence. Just as the multiplicity of the phenomenal world is annihilated in the wake of Essential unity in the macrocosm, there is a Greater Resurrection in the microcosm, which is the spiritual plane of the human being. It is the last station of development and movement in the Arc of Descent (qaus al-nuzuli) for human beings, whereas all other entities have a defined ontological position in their respective realms. The Microcosmic Greater Resurrection is the station of annihilation in the Real and subsistence in Him, with respect to human essence, attributes and acts, each corresponding to the divine Essence, attributes and acts.

In the same way that the individuation of the drops of water is annihilated when they return to the ocean, the individuation of createdness and the aspect of servitude are annihilated in the aspect of Lordship. Alternatively, certain human attributes are replaced by divine attributes, whereby God becomes the eyes and ears of the wayfarer and as a result, his activity in the world is none other than divine activity. Sayyid Haydar

Amuli discusses gnostic annihilation, which is the Greater Resurrection of the spirit:

[Annihilation] is the unveiling of the divine Essence and its Being from the veils of Beauty and Majesty, and the veil of seeing otherness is completely lifted, whereby one sees nothing other than Him. Rather, one sees a single Essence self-disclosing in the loci of infinite names.

This is similar to the statement of Junayd, “There is naught in existence except God.”At this point, the wayfarer reaches Unity of the Essence and rises for the Greater Resurrection of the spirit. This is because the Resurrection in the macrocosm is an expression of the verse, “To whom does sovereignty belong today? To Allah, the One the Subduer!” Since the microcosm is a mirror for the macrocosm, in the spiritual Resurrection sovereignty must also belong to Allah, the One, the Subduer. Therefore, the governance of the name, the One, must pervade the microcosm and all otherness must be annihilated by the name, the Subduer.

In the microcosm there are three resurrections pertaining to form. The first occurs through natural death which removes the veil of the corporeal body, the second is remaining in the intermediary world (barzakh) and experiencing the pleasures or torments pertaining to that world, and the third is the Day of Judgment itself. There are also three resurrections in the microcosm pertaining to meaning.

This degree of annihilation is not simply noetic; it is existential. The reality of annihilation and attaining unity with the divine Essence can be known only by one who experiences it. It can be said that true annihilation of the wayfarer in divine unity is comparable to the multiplicity of drops of water unifying with the ocean, or rays of light from both the sun and stars entering a house. In these examples multiplicity is dissolved in unity, which is something real, and not conceptual. If one observes unity within multiplicity in dense bodies, how is it not possible for one to attain unity with the All-encompassing, the Subtle, who is present in every realm of being?

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Quiddities are the forms of His perfections and the manifestation of His names and attributes. Quiddities, in the terminology of the gnostics, are the Immutable Archetypes and are the forms of His perfections because they are the manifestation of the divine names and attributes. They arise initially in the divine knowledge, then in the external world because of His essential love of self-disclosure. This is in accordance with the Hadith Qudsi, “I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known so I created creation so that I may become known.”

He perceives the realities of things in the same way that He perceives His own Essence. He does not perceive them through any intermediary such as the First Intellect, and so on.

This is because Being is unitary and pervades all multiplicity such that it is both unitary and multiple, hidden and manifest. It is multiple in view of its manifestation but unitary by virtue of its Essence and reality. However, the objects of creation do not perceive its reality because of the limitation of their own ontological horizon. This is why it can be said that God pervades all existence but everything is not God, in the same way that a mirror reflects the sun but is not the sun itself. The mirror emits light but not by its own essence, but through the property of reflection. Contingent existence, therefore, is one with Being by virtue of manifestation, but is other than it, since nothing encompasses Being; Being, however, is all-encompassing.

This relationship between Being and creation reflects the transcendence and immanence duality that is essential in the theological and mystical world-view of Islam. Transcendence indicates that the essential reality of Being is unattainable and unknowable, while immanence indicates that God can be known through His manifestation, since what He manifests is none other than Him. This idea is affirmed in a statement by one of the Shi’ite Imams, “There is nothing between the Creator and the created,” as well as a hadith from the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), “If you were to extend a rope [to the lowest level of the earth] it would reach Allah.”

Necessity, Contingency and Impossibility

(Remark for the People of Intuition in the Language of the Philosophers)

Being is necessary in itself, for if it were contingent, then it would require an engendering cause, resulting in a thing preceding itself. That is, Being exists by the necessity that is found in its own essence and not by an external cause. Since a thing can either be necessary in itself, necessary by something else, contingent, or impossible, Being is necessary in itself in that it does not require a cause to be realized. The claim that contingent entities also do not need a cause since they are not realized in the external world but are mental constructs is negated, because if it were the case that contingent things also do not require a cause, then Being could be considered a type of contingent entity that does not require a cause. However, since the premise that contingent things do not require a cause is false, as demonstrated by Qaysari, the conclusion, that Being is contingent, is also false. The proof, as Qaysari demonstrates, is that contingent things, because they are quiddities, require a cause either in the external world, or in the mind of the perceiver.

(Another Remark)

Being is neither substance nor accident, as mentioned previously. Being is not contingent because it is neither substance nor accident and every contingent thing is either substance or accident. Necessity is intrinsic to Being but occurs accidentally with respect to quiddities that are themselves in need of Being for their realization in the external world. The distinction between the necessity with respect to contingent existence and that which is intrinsic to Being is only a mental construct, in the same way that knowledge, the knower, and the known are distinct in the mind, but are in reality united. This is because everything other than Being is in need of Being for its realization, whereas Being is independently realized due to its own nature.

It may be said that Being qua Being is a natural universal (kulli Taabi’i) and every natural universal acquires existence only through one of its individual, then Being qua Being would not be necessary since it would require an individual to be realized. If Being qua Being is a natural universal, which is only realized in the external world by means of its individuals, then Being would also need to be realized through individuation, and therefore, cannot be necessary. The natural universal possesses universality in the mind and is capable of corresponding to a multiplicity of things such as “human,” which possesses universality in the mind and corresponds to referents in the external world. Genus is also a universal but does not have a referent in the external world, and is therefore not a “natural” universal, unlike “human.”

However, the nature of Being is not like the nature of quiddities since it needs nothing other than itself for its realization, while at the same time, according to the hadith, “There was Allah, and there was nothing else with Him.” That is, all realization is the manifestation of Being, while at the same time, Being is independent of manifestation and is not dependent on it.

(Another Remark)

Every contingent being is receptive of non-being. Nothing of Absolute Being is receptive of non-being. When entities leave existence in the external world it is not because Being is affected with non-being; rather they return to the Unseen through the name, the Hidden. When non-existence is applied to contingent entities it is the removal of state of existence from its quiddity. That is why it is not permissible to say, “contingent existence is capable of accepting non-being,” except metaphorically. Non-being does not possess “thingness” (shay’iyya) such that it would be imposed upon quiddity; it is more accurate to say that existence is removed from quiddity. Furthermore, existence of a quiddity cannot accept non-being since this would render Being into non-being, which is impossible, since a thing cannot simultaneously be itself and its contrary.

The Oneness of Being

Since Being is a single reality that appears in different forms in accordance with the degree of its manifestation, it is never affected by non-being, despite the multiplicity and transformation of its manifestation. Its individuation through quiddities is the shadow of its Essence, which does not permit any deficiency whatsoever, let alone non-being, which is its contrary. One who does not see the oneness of Being, and is absorbed in the multiplicity of its manifestation, reckons that entities enter and leave existence, while in actuality non-being is a metaphor for the transfer of Being from one state to another. That is, either a thing never having received existence remains in the divine knowledge, or it acquires existence in the external world, which is the final plane of Being’s manifestation. Individual entities are associated with Being through an illuminative relation (al-iddfa al-ishrdqiyya), in the terminology of the gnostics. This relation is a mental construct and not individuation in the absolute sense because Being qua Being is singular and does not possess multiplicity. When an entity ceases to exist in the external world, the relationship between its existence and its quiddity is severed; it is not the transformation of its existence into non-existence.

Gradation in Being (Note)

Entities do not possess an independent reality separate from the reality of Being. A group of Peripatetic philosophers hold a similar view, positing that Being is a universal concept applied to entities that are each independent existential realities. However, the gnostics maintain that Being does not possess existential individuation independent of its own reality, nor does its individuation possess intensity or weakness in gradation; rather individuation is on the plane of quiddities.

The gnostics refute gradation in the essential reality of Being. Gradation is divided into various types. The first type, which is the Peripatetic view, is general gradation in which entities are all independent existential realities and similarity between two things is not in the same aspect. The second type of gradation is more specific and posits that Being is a graded reality differing in weakness and intensity in the same way that light is a single reality whose aspect of distinction is the same aspect of similarity, namely, the quality of light. That is, both weak and strong light share in the quality of luminosity, while at the same time differing in that very quality. The gnostics posit a more specific definition of gradation, namely, Being is a single reality that differs in the intensity and weakness of manifestation, since gradation implies distinction within independent degrees of Being. Since Being is a single reality, it is not possible to speak of independent degrees of its essential reality; rather distinction and differentiation are due to its manifestation in various forms. The gnostic, therefore, does not accept the terms individuations, extensions (masadiq), or degrees of Being in the same sense as the philosophers. They hold that the terms are valid only when referring to the manifestations of Being.

It is said that Being does not apply to its individuals uniformly. It is not the case that Being is predicated of its object uniformly in the same way “human” is predicated of Zayd and ‘Amr uniformly. Since it is not predicated of its objects uniformly, it is predicated through gradation. Whatever cannot be predicated uniformly cannot be identical to or part of its quiddity. It must be accidental and not essential to its quiddity. However, since priority and posteriority, strength and weakness, are relative accidents that are realized only in relation to each other, they are related to Being through their association with quiddities. Thus, since Being does not possess individuations as independent realities, it cannot be a general accident for them, otherwise it would be substance in the case of substances or accident in the case of accidents.

Every predication must agree with its subject in some aspect and differ with it in another. It is not possible to predicate a stone for human in “a human is a stone,” since there is no aspect of similarity between the quiddity of human and the quiddity of stone, whereas when it is said, “Zayd is standing,” the predication of standing can hold true for Zayd, while at the same time the predication is meaningful since the meaning of standing differs in the meaning of Zayd. Thus, when it is said, “this thing exists,” the aspect of similarity between the thing and its existence is existence itself, and the aspect of distinction is the quiddity of the object.

In short, gradation and distinction in Being arise from the manifestations of Being and the pervasiveness of the reality of Being, not within the essential nature of Being. The closer the manifestation is to the degree of Singularity, the more complete its manifestation. This gradation occurs on the plane of quiddities or the Immutable Archetypes. Ashtiyani clarifies this point in the following passage:

Being with respect to its descending degrees of manifestation on the plane of contingency, and the multiplicity of its self-disclosure, becomes farther and farther removed from the station of Absoluteness, and is therefore described as intense or weak. The greater the intermediaries of contingency, the more hidden the essential reality of Being becomes, and the weaker the manifestation of its absoluteness.

In affirmation of this you should know that Being has manifestations in the noetic realm, just as it has manifestations in the external world. The manifestations of Being both in the external world and noetic realm are identical with their loci of manifestation. The external world is not a vessel for Being’s manifestations, rather it is identical with the external world, in the same way that the breath of a person is identical with his speech in the external world. It is not the case that words are individuations or extensions of the breath since words are engendered simultaneously with the breath and by the breath. It is for this reason that gradation is considered a mental construct while in actuality Being is a single reality. In a similar fashion, the existence of a single object in the external world can be described as possessing matter and form, both of which are mental constructs denoting a single reality externally. This, however, should not lead to the conclusion that multiplicity in existence is a mental construct or imaginary. Multiplicity of contingent existence is real since it emanates from Being itself. An example of this principle is illustrated in the human being, in that a single person possesses a manifest aspect and a hidden aspect. The manifest aspect contains mineral, vegetal, and animal aspects, while the hidden aspect possesses various degrees of the soul, such as the imagination, the rational soul, the spirit, and other immaterial aspects. Each and every aspect of the human being refers to a single individual, whose various aspects do not negate its unity.

As for the disparity found in separate individuals, it does not lie in the quiddity of humanness, but in the manifestation of each particular individual. Therefore, just as it is not possible for unitary Being to be removed from the multiplicity of its individuals, it is not possible for the quiddity of human to be removed from its individuals despite the disparity of individuals with respect to their specific attributes.

The disparity in the individual instances of Being is not in Being itself The disparity found in individual humans is not like the disparity found in other creatures since the domain of the human being is more extensive than that of the other creatures. For this reason it is said that in the hereafter each person will be resurrected as a unique type (naw’) whose genus is human, whereas in this world, every individual is of the same type, that is, human, whose genus is animal and differentium is rational. This is because the other creatures do not diverge from their essential type since each animal acts in accordance with its instinctual nature and the properties of its type, whereas, human beings possess a nature that encompasses both angelic and bestial qualities and the free will needed to shape the ultimate outcome of their nature. The comprehensiveness of the human soul is such that humans are human insofar as their outer form is concerned, but as for their inner meaning and the reality of the soul, there is gradation in the level of humanness that each individual possesses. Some may appear human, but inwardly the entire domain of the soul is of a bestial nature, while another’s soul is adorned with angelic qualities.

The Universal Degrees

(Remark Concerning the Universal Degrees and Some Terminology of the Group)

The Universal Degrees of Being are the most important levels of manifestation in the view of the gnostics. The term “universal” denotes the extensive scope of these degrees and does not refer to a conceptual construct in logic.

Being, with respect to the Essence, independent of the names and attributes, is known as the Degree of Singularity (al-ahadiyya). It is the degree in which the names and attributes assume a state of collectivity without distinction and differentiation. This degree is the source of effusion of the Immutable Archetypes, the objects of divine knowledge. Similarly, in this station the Immutable Archetypes are not distinct realities but remain hidden and latent like a seed containing all the potentialities of the tree, as yet in the form of collectivity. Furthermore, it is the first entification of the unknowable Essence, above which there is no station, referred to as the Collectivity of the Collectivity (jam al-jam). Thus, the station of Singularity is not qualified by anything, even the names and attributes or the station referred to by the Quran as, “Independent of the worlds”.

Another term for this station is the Cloud (al-‘ama), because it is a veil and isthmus between the unknowable Essence and the multiplicity of the names and attributes, in the same way that a cloud is a veil and an isthmus between the earth and the sky.

Being, in view of the names and attributes, is called the Degree of Unity (al-wahidiyya), the Station of Collectivity (maqam al-jam), or the Degree of Divinity (al-uluhiyya). If this degree is viewed in light of bringing things to their completion and perfection, it is called the Station of Lordship (al-rububiyya), since the name al-rabb involves the aspect of nurturing and sustaining. In relation to the station of Singularity it is a manifest degree of Being, while in relation to lower degrees of Being, it is an inward and hidden degree. For this reason, the station of Singularity is the absolute Unseen and the external world is the absolute manifest realm. Although only God is aware of the absolute Unseen, the gnostic may become aware of the relative unseen realms depending on the strength of his inner spiritual vision.

The divine ipseity pervading all existence is Being conditioned by absoluteness; that is, it is not conditioned by anything such as the degree of Singularity or the degree of Unity. It is consideration of Being’s pervasiveness in all of creation as the water of a river pervades streams. It is also referred to as Expansive Being (al-wujud d-munbasit); or the Breath of the Merciful (al-nafas d-rahmani), from which creation emanates, or the Outstretched Parchment (al-riqq al-manshur), on which are written divine words of creation. It is also called the First Proceeder (al-sddir d-awwal), which some say is the degree before creation of the First Intellect (d-‘aql d-awwal). The First Intellect is the first among creation in the realm of contingency emanating from the First Proceeder, which is not considered to be part of the contingent realm.

If it is conditioned by the permanence of noetic forms in it, it is the degree of the name the Absolute Hidden. Noetic forms in the divine knowledge are governed by the names the Knowledgeable, the Hidden, and the First, since they have not emerged from the plane of the hidden to the plane of the manifest. Therefore, Being is the Lord of Immutable Archetypes, which are the objects of divine knowledge.

If Being is considered in view of universals in existence, then it is the plane of the name the Compassionate (al-rahman), which is all-pervasive and general mercy, subsumed under the name, Allah. Each designation, the First Intellect (al-‘aql al-awwd), the Tablet of Destiny (lawh al-qadr) and the Mother of the Book (umm al-kitab) refers to the fact that this degree possesses universals, and descends directly from the Immutable Archetypes, since the intellect comprehends universals. Destiny (qada) is universal and immutable, while decree (qadr) is the particular aspect of destiny. It is called the Mother of the Book since it is source of existential realities. It is called the Highest Pen (al-qalam al-‘ala) since particulars are inscribed by it on the tablet of creation. Ibn Arabi writes:

Since God created this First Intellect as a Pen, it sought through its own reality a place for its affectivity to write, since it is a Pen. From this search arose the Guarded Tablet, that is, the Soul. Hence the Tablet was the first existent thing to arise from something created, since it arose from the searching that subsisted in the Pen…

The Intellect cast to the Soul everything within itself to the Day of Resurrection, inscribed and arranged. This was the third existent thing, whose level was between the Tablet and the Pen and whose existence came after the Tablet…

The form of the Intellect’s acceptance from God was a self-disclosure of the All-merciful out of love between the Self-disclosurer and that to which He disclosed himself.

The First Intellect

The First Intellect is the first form in existence, mentioned in the hadith literature as the first creation, “The first thing that God created was the Intellect.” It possesses the perfections and potentialities of all things by virtue of its proximity to the source of perfection. As Imam Sadiq states, “God created the intellect and it was the first creation from the spiritual beings, proceeding from His light from the right side of the divine throne.”

The First Intellect and the Universal Soul are the forms of the Mother Book and the Immutable Archetypes. Whatever exists in the Universal Soul exists in the First Intellect, but as particulars. It is for this reason that the Universal Soul is called the Manifest Book, since that which is undifferentiated remains hidden, and becomes manifest only through individuation and differentiation. The form of the Universal body is the form of the Universal Soul and is more closely connected with temporal existence. It is for this reason that it is called the Book of Effacement and Establishment (al-mahw wa al-ithbat) since objects contained within it are not fixed because of the mutable nature of the temporal world. Furthermore, this book is connected to individual forms and their states rather than to universals, since universals are fixed.

The First Intellect is also called the Muhammadan Light, referred to by the hadith, “The first thing that God created was my light,” because it is the first creation emanating from the divine names. It is also called the World of Invincibility (jabarut) due to its intensity and strength. The First Intellect is also called the Highest Pen because it possesses two aspects, an aspect of receptivity from God and an aspect of activity in creation. Qunawi writes, “When God turned the attentiveness of His desire [toward creating the cosmos], this gave rise within the World of Writing and Inscription to a single ontological result that carried the unseen manyness of the relationships. God named it a “pen” and an “intellect.” Likewise, Ibn Arabi describes this dual nature of the Intellect in the following:

This reality is an “intellect” in respect of the face turned toward its Lord, a face that receives from Him bestowal and replenishment. The Intellect is the first entitled existent thing that intellectually perceives its own self along with everything that is distinguished from itself. It also perceives everything through which it becomes distinguished from other, in contrast to those who precede it in level, the “enraptured ones.”

God called it a “pen” in respect of its face turned toward the engendered world, so it exercises effect upon this world and replenishes it. Moreover, the Pen carries the unseen undifferentiated manyness that is deposited in its essence so that it may differentiate it in that which becomes manifest from it, whether through a level or some other way.

* * *

As for the level of permanent particulars, it is called Universal Soul, or the Tablet of Decree (lawh al-qadr) or the station of the name of the Merciful (al-rahim), which is specific divine mercy. This degree is a reflection of the previous degree except that it is in the form of particulars. It is called the Manifest Book (al-kitab al-mubin) since the universals of the Mother of the Book become evident because of their appearing as particulars. It is called the Guarded Tablet (al-lawh al-mahfudh) since it refers to the immutable aspect of particulars.Kashaniwrites:

There are four tablets: The tablet of precedent decree (qada) towers beyond obliteration and affirmation. It is the First Intellect.

The tablet of Measure (qadar) is the Universal Rational soul, within which the Universal things of the First Tablet become differentiated and attached to their secondary causes. It is named the Guarded Tablet.

The tablet of the particular, heavenly souls is a tablet on which is inscribed everything in this world along with it shape, condition, and measure. This tablet is called the “heaven of this world.” It is like the imagination of the cosmos, just as the first [tablet] is like its spirit, and the second [tablet] is like its heart.

Then there is the tablet of matter, which receives forms of the visible world. And God knows best.

If it is conditioned by the specific forms as being mutable particulars, it is the degree of the name the Effacer (al-ma’hi), the Establisher (al-muthabbit), the Giver of Death (al-mumit), the Life-giver (al-muhyi), since these names govern the external world. Specific forms of mutable particulars refer to the natural world, since universal forms are particularized, are engendered and effaced, and undergo change and transformation. Thus, it is called the realm of Generation and Corruption (al-kawn wa-alfasad)and the Tablet of Obliteration and Establishment(kitabd-makwwaal-ithbat).Particulars are mutable in this realm unlike the previous realm in which particulars are established and permanent.

The natural universal is mentioned in Qaysari’s commentary on the Bezel of Tsa in the Fusus as follows: “Nature in the view of the gnostics refers to the spiritual meaning pervading all existence, whether it is intellect, soul, immaterial, or corporeal, although for the philosophers it refers to the power pervading all bodies.”

If it is conditioned by receiving types, spiritual and corporeal, it is the level of the name the Receiver. Universal Prime Matter is that which possesses pure receptivity of forms. Likewise, both the Inscribed Book and the Outstretched Parchment refer to receptivity, whereas the names, the Originator and the Creator, refer to activity. Immaterial spiritual forms are related to the rational intellects and souls since the latter are immaterial and possess the capacity of acquiring knowledge. These divine names are associated with each descending realm of Being. Each realm of Being is governed by the divine names appropriate for it and this degree of Being is the degree of the All-Knowing.

That which the philosophers refer to as the Immaterial Intellect (al-‘aql-al-mujarrad) is the Spirit in the view of the people of Allah The spirit and heart are the microcosmic realities of the human being that correspond to the macrocosmic realities of the Supreme Spirit, the Spirit of Sanctity, or the First Intellect, respectively. The following sections discuss the concepts of the macrocosm and microcosm followed by a detailed discussion of the microcosmic spirit, heart and intellect.

The Macrocosm and the Microcosm

One of the concepts Ibn Arabi expounds is the Great Man (al-insan al-kabir). This is in conjunction with the Small Man (al-insan al-saghir), the Great World (al-alam al-kabir), and the Small World (al-‘alam al-saghir). The terms have multiple designations, each referring to the same essence but from different perspectives. The term Great Man often denotes the cosmos, which in essence refers to the reality of the form of man. Sometimes, however, it refers to man himself since man is the manifestation of the Supreme Name “Allah” and there is no greater entity in the realm of being. In this sense, the Small Man refers to the cosmos since the existence of the cosmos is a manifestation of the Supreme Spirit through its descent through the levels of being. Since the Supreme Spirit is the reality of the Muhammadan light as referred to by the hadith, “The first thing that God created was my light,” all levels of existence are the particulars of that light. The same correspondence can be applied to the Great and Small Cosmos. However, Qaysari employs the term Great Man to mean the macrocosm when defining the terms the First Intellect, the Supreme Pen, and the Universal Soul in order to contrast it with the microcosm which contains the Secret, the Arcane, the spirit, heart, etc., all of which are realities of the human spiritual landscape. In the tenth chapter of the Muqaddima he writes:

Just as there are manifestations of the divine names from the First Intellect, the Supreme Pen, the Light, the Universal Soul, the Guarded Tablet, and others we have alluded to, to indicate that reality of man is manifest by these realities in the macrocosm, there are manifestations of the divine names in the microcosm, according to the levels designated by the Folk of Allah (ura/a), and they are the Secret, the Arcane, the Spirit, the Heart, the Word, and ra —with a damma on the ra —the fu’ad, the Breast, the Intellect, and the Soul.

Qaysarihere draws a parallel between manifestations of the divine names in the macrocosm and manifestations in the microcosm, each reality in the macrocosm having a corresponding reality in the microcosm. Furthermore, it may be said that both the macrocosm and microcosm are essentially one reality that differ only with respect to their being governed by the names, the Manifest and the Hidden. Both modes of Being are in essence the manifestation of the Supreme Name, “Allah”, which refers to the cosmos as the Great Man and the human being as the Small Man. Since the Supreme Name “Allah” refers to all of the divine names before their differentiation, it can also be said that this name encompasses the realities of all things in the state of collectivity, while every other name besides it has governance only over that which defines it.

The Microcosmic Spirit, Heart and Intellect

Both the macrocosm and the microcosm are manifestations of the Supreme Spirit, which is the manifestation of the divine Essence, and the reality of the human spirit. Just as the macrocosm contains the First Intellect, which is the first creation in existence, the Highest Pen, the Universal Intellect and Soul, the microcosm, or the human dimension, possesses various degrees of manifestation, called the spirit, heart, intellect, and soul, etc. Qaysari describes these correspondences in the tenth chapter of the Muqaddima:

As you have come to know, the human reality has manifestations in the world in the form of particulars, know that there are also manifestations in the human world in the form of collectivity. The first of its manifestations in it is the form of immaterial spirit corresponding to the form of the Intellect. Then, it is the form of the heart corresponding to the form the Universal Soul. Then, it is the form of the animal soul corresponding to the Universal Nature (al-tabia al-kulliya) and the Impressed Celestial Soul (al-nafs al-muntabia al-falakiya), etc. Then, it is the subtle ethereal spirit known as the “animal spirit” by the physicians, corresponding to the Universal Primordial Matter (huyala). Then, it is the form of blood corresponding to the form of the Universal Body. Then, it is the form of the limbs corresponding to the Body of the Great World. It is from these descending degrees of manifestation on the human plane that there occurs a correspondence between the two replicas (nuskhatayn).

Although various terms are used to describe the inner landscape of the human being, it should not be imagined that the various manifestations of the Supreme Spirit are discrete entities like physical organs. Rather, it is a single immaterial reality that can be described from various perspectives, in accordance with the descending degrees of manifestation in the microcosm. Qaysari defines the various terms used to describe the microcosmic Supreme Spirit in greater detail in the following:

As for itsbeing called the secret, it is because none perceive its lights except the possessors of hearts and those firm in knowledge. It is called the hidden because of the hiddenness of its reality from the gnostics and others. It is called the spirit because of its lordship over the body, being the source of material life and the wellspring of effusion in the powers of the soul. It is called the heart because of its fluctuating from the side which faces the Lord, receiving illumination thereby, and the side which faces the animal soul, so that it emanates what it has received from its source, according to its capacity. It is called the word because of its appearing in the breath of the All-Merciful, in the same way that a word appears in the breath of the human being. It is called the inner heart due to its being affected from its source, since al-fa’d means “injury” and “affected,” literally. It is called the breast because it faces the body and is the source of its light, managing it. It is called the ru because of the fear and trepidation of the overpowering aspect of its origin, the divine name, the Subduer (al-Qahhar), since the etymology of the word rou indicates fear. It is called the intellect because of its discerning its essence and engenderer, and for its limitation and specific particularization, and its specifying and registering that which it perceives, and determining the objects of its cognition. It is called the soul because of its attachment to the body and its governance of it. It is called the “vegetal soul,” in reference to the appearance of vegetal activity by its custodians on the vegetal plane and called the “animal soul” in reference to animal actions appearing on the animal plane.

The term spirit is often used in contrast to body and symbolizes the fundamental conceptual duality of the cosmos. Everything other than the material realm is in some form spiritual (wham)That is, the term has wide application relating to everything that is connected to divinity. It has appeared in various contexts in both the Quran and hadith in reference to the divine spirit, the command of God, and the human spirit. Because of the central position of the spirit in Islamic thought, this section of the commentary examines the various terms that are used in describing the degrees of the human spirit.

The Spirit:

The lexical root of rah in the Arabic signifies breath, wind, or as the ancient natural philosophers maintained, “a subtle vaporous substance, which is the principle of vitality and of sensation and of voluntary motion, or the vital principle in man, or the breath that man breathes, and which pervades the whole body.” This definition of spirit, however, refers only the physical reality of man, while the spirit, insofar as it is an immaterial luminous substance, is divested from matter and independent of it. The Quran describes the spirit as a command of God. Commentators of the Quran explain this usage of the word “command” (amr) to mean the World of Commandwhich is a luminous world that originates from the engendering command “Be!”

The Quran refers to the Worlds of Creation and Command in the verses, “To Him belong the Creation and the Command; Glory be to the Lord of the worlds,” (al-‘Araf: 54) and “His only command when He wants a thing is to say to it ‘Be!’ and it is.” (Yasin: 82) The former verse indicates that there is a distinction between the Command and the Creation and that they are independent worlds. The latter verse indicates that the command of God is instantaneous and without intermediary. As a consequence, the World of Command is ontologically higher in the Arc of Descent since the higher the realm, the greater the simplicity, luminosity, and proximity to the Essential divine unity. Furthermore, the Quran mentions that the spirit is from the Command of God, or the World of Command. It is therefore, a unified substance that is not divisible into parts, nor susceptible to measure and quantity. In this regard, Najm al-Din al-Razi (573/1177-654/1256), a prominent gnostic and a contemporary of Ibn Arabi writes:

Know that the human spirit belongs to the World of Command and is set apart by a proximity to God that no other creature enjoys, as was explained in preceding chapters.

The world of Command consists of a world which is subject to neither amount, quantity nor measure, by contrast with the world of Creation, which is subject to these. The name of Command was given to the world of spirits because it came in to being upon the command “Be!” with neither temporal delay nor material intermediary. The World of Creation also came into being upon the command “Be!”, but through the intermediary of matter and the extension of days—”He created the heaven and the earth in six days” (Araf: 54).

…The spirit is itself the matter from which the world of spirits is derived, and the world of spirits is the origin of the world of Dominion, and the world of Dominion is the source of the world of Kingship. The world of Kingship subsists, in its entirety, by the world of Dominion; the world of Dominion subsists by the world of spirits; the world of spirits subsists by the human spirit; and the human spirit subsists by God’s attribute of self-subsisting. “Glorified be He in Whose hand is the Dominion of all things and to Whom ye shall be returned.”

The Supreme Spirit is the reality of human spirit, the manifestation of the divine Essence, and the locus of all of the divine names. Since there is no intermediary between it and the Command of God “Be!” it is the most proximate creation to the divine Essence. Furthermore, its reality is the reality of the Spirit of God since God refers to it as belonging to His spirit, “And when I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My spirit…” It should be noted that the Supreme Spirit is neither identical with the Essence nor a part of it, as elucidated in the verse by the use of the word “of,” in “… of My Spirit.” This is because the reality of the Essence transcends all existence and nothing can be likened to it. Furthermore, it cannot be a part of it since, as explained earlier, the spirit is not subject to quantity, measure and division. It is, therefore, the first entification in existence emanating from the divine Essence, possessing all the perfections of the Essence in the form of the names and attributes. In the terminology of the gnostics, it is the first manifestation of all realities on the plane of the Unity, also referred to as the First Intellect, the Muhammadan Reality, or the Muhammadan Light, and the Pen, as mentioned in various hadith, “The first thing that God created was my light,” and “The first thing that God created was the Intellect,” and “The first thing that God created was my spirit.” These terms refer to the reality of the spirit in the macrocosm, where it exists without the body before its descent into the phenomenal world. In the microcosm, however, the spirit attaches itself to the body and needs it to acquire spiritual perfections that are specific to the phenomenal world, namely, knowledge of the particulars, and to reap the benefits from actions that the body carries out in the visible world, as Rumi says:

The spirit cannot function without the body, and the body without the spirit is withered and cold. Your body is manifest and your spirit hidden: These two put all the business of the world in order.God made the body the locus of manifestation for the spirit.

After its attachment to the body in the microcosm, it is called the spirit, the heart, the intellect, and the rational soul. That is, it is called the spirit in light of the totality of divine names and attributes that it encompasses in the state of collectivity. When it acquires knowledge from the perceptible world it is called the heart, since it fluctuates between its spiritual essence and the phenomenal world and acquires knowledge of its particulars.

In the following verses of the Quran the relationship between the body and spirit is further elucidated:

“When your Lord said to your angels, ‘I am going to create a man from clay. So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit then fall down in prostration before him. Thereat the angels prostrated, all of them together except Iblis, He acted arrogantly and he was one of the faithless. He said, 0′ Iblis! What keeps you from prostrating before that which I have created with My two hands? Are you arrogant, or are you one of the exalted ones?’ He said, I am better than him, You created me from fire and You created him from clay.’”

Since the angels are each a manifestation of one of the divine names, the command of prostration was to place each of them under the governance of the Supreme Spirit of the Perfect Human, who is the manifestation of the Supreme Name “Allah.” As mentioned earlier, the name “Allah” is all-inclusive of the divine names and attributes. Rumi explains:

That is why the angels prostrated themselves before Adam: his spirit was greater than their existence. After all, it would not have been proper to command a superior being to prostrate himself to an inferior one. How could God’s Justice and Kindness allow a rose to prostrate to a thorn?

Since the form of Adam was created from clay, and his spirit from the divine attributes of Beauty and Majesty, referred to by “My two hands,” the reality of Adam encompasses both the corporeal and the spiritual dimension, or the manifest and the hidden. Clay is in opposition to spirit since the former is at the extremity of corporeality and the latter is at the extremity of immateriality. The divine duality of “My two hands,” is at work both with respect to the body’s relation to the spirit as well as the divine attributes of Beauty and Majesty that pertain to the degree of the spirit.

The command to prostrate was given to the angels as well as Iblis even though he was of the Jinn and not an angel. It is because of his activity and station that he was counted among them and was therefore, included in the command to prostrate. However, given that Iblis is of the Jinn, he was not able to comprehend the exalted station of the Supreme Spirit because the macrocosmic reality of Iblis is the Universal Imagination (al-wahm al-kulli), which cannot comprehend universals but only particulars.

This is clarified in the following statement:

This immaterial substance is the Intellect of the Great World which has been expressed by some as the first human and is other than Adam; rather, the spirit of Adam is a manifestation of it. In opposition to this luminous reality is another reality, the Universal Imagination (al-wahm al-kulli) in the absolute human, which inclines to evil and corruption by the impulse of its primordial nature and natural disposition and summons to error and devising. It is identical with the reality of the Iblis of Iblisess and the Greatest Satan of which all the rest of the Iblisess and Satans are a manifestation.

Therefore, Iblis was only able to see the outward form of Adam, which is a particular, and not the all-inclusive universality of his spirit. Rather than admitting to his inherent inability to comprehend the spiritual reality of Adam, he contended with God stating that Adam’s creation was from clay and that fire is superior to clay. Rumi discusses further the above passage of the Quran pointing out the inherent inability of Iblis to see beyond the form of Adam:

Of Adam, who was peerless and unequalled, the eye of Iblis saw naught but clay. When the angels prostrated themselves to him, Adam said to that one who saw only outward, “Simpleton! Do you consider it proper that I be but a tiny body?” Iblis saw things separately: He thought that we are apart from God. Do not gaze upon Adam’s water and clay, like Iblis: Behold a hundred thousand rose gardens behind that clay! With both eyes, see the beginning and the end! Beware! Be not one-eyed, like the accursed Iblis! Close your Iblis-like eye for a moment. After all, how long will you gaze upon form? How long? How long?

The Heart:

Of the various aspects of the spirit, perhaps no other aspect has greater significance from the point of view of the Quran and hadith than the heart. This is because the heart is the center of man’s consciousness, his innermost reality and the organ of spiritual vision through which God is known. Drawing on Quran and hadith Najm al-Din al-Razi describes the heart’s significance in the spiritual landscape of man:

Know that the relationship of the heart to the body is like that of God’s Throne to the world. In the same way that the Throne is the plane of manifestation for the repose of the attribute of compassion in the macrocosm, so too the heart is the place of manifestation for the repose of the attribute of spirituality in the microcosm… The heart, however, has a property and nobility that the Throne does not possess, for the heart is aware of receiving the effusion of the grace of the spirit, while the Throne has no such awareness.

The root meaning of the term qalb (heart) is to overturn, to return, to go back and forth, to fluctuate and to undergo transformation. As its name suggests, the heart has two aspects, one that faces the spirit and one that faces the corporeal body. The aspect that faces the body is called the soul and the aspect that faces the spirit is called the intellect. That which the heart acquires from the spirit are universals and that which it acquires from the soul and its faculties are particulars. Thus, the heart straddles two dimensions, as Najm al-Din al-Razi further describes:

Similarly, one face of the human heart is turned to the world of spirituality, and the other face to the world of the bodily frame. It is for this reason that the heart is called qalb, for it contains within itself two worlds, corporeal and spiritual, and constantly turns from one to the other. All sustaining grace received from the spirit is distributed by the heart.

The heart stands between the spiritual world of the spirit and the corporeal world of the body, also described by ‘Abd al-Razzaq Kashani:

The heart is a luminous, disengaged substance halfway between the spirit and the soul. It is that through which true humanity is realized. The philosophers refer to it as the rational soul. The spirit is the inward dimension, and the animal soul is its mount and its outward dimension, halfway between it and the body. Thus, the Quran [24:35] compares the heart to a glass and a shining star, while it compares the spirit to a lamp. The tree is the soul, the niche is the body. The heart is the intermediate reality in existence and in levels of descents, like the Guarded Tablet in the cosmos. The glass is an allusion to the heart that is illumined by the spirit and illuminates everything around it by shining light upon them.

There are numerous verses in the Quran that indicate the centrality of the heart in the human being. The heart is the locus of good and evil, right and wrong, knowledge and ignorance, and both people of faith and unbelievers have hearts. It is the center of the human personality and the place where man meets God. There is both a cognitive and moral dimension, as mentioned in the hadith, “God does not look at your bodies or your forms, but He looks at your hearts,” that is, it is the abode of piety and faith. Quranic virtues such as sincerity, piety, peace, love and repentance are located in the heart. Both spiritual cognition and moral rectitude arise from the purification of the heart. When the heart is oriented toward the mundane world and entangled in bodily pleasures, it turns its face away from the domain of the spirit and is subject to spiritual illnesses, as indicated by the verse, “In their hearts is a sickness,” (al-Baqara: 10) and “It is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the hearts within the breasts,” (al-Hajj: 45) and “What, have they no hearts to use intelligence or eyes to see with?” (A’raf: 179) When, on the contrary it orients itself towards the spirit’s luminosity it becomes the locus of all the divine attributes that it receives from the spirit.

Since the heart is both a recipient of the divine effusion and the origin of all acts in visible world, purification of the heart is the essence of the spiritual path and the means by which one attains perfection. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said, “There is in the body of the son of Adam a piece of flesh which, if it be sound, causes the rest of the body to be sound; and if it be corrupt, causes the rest of the body to be corrupt.” Likewise, Rumi writes, “When you look carefully, you see that all good qualities dwell in the heart. All these disgraceful qualities derive from water and clay.”

The heart is the place where God reveals Himself to human beings. His presence is felt in the heart since it is the organ of spiritual vision, understanding and remembrance and in the words of the Hadith Qudsi, “Neither My heaven nor My earth embraces Me, but the heart of My servant with faith does embrace Me.” It might be asked why the spirit has not been singled out to embrace divinity rather than the heart? After all, the Supreme Spirit is the manifestation of all the divine attributes. The reason is that the heart encompasses both the spiritual and the corporeal, the hidden and the manifest, and possesses knowledge of both universals and particulars. The divine attributes in the spirit are in the form of collectivity, whereas the heart embraces both collectivity and differentiation. Through its interaction with the visible world, it acquires knowledge of particulars while at the same time it receives effusion from the spirit.

Thus, God ennobled that entity which possesses complete ontological receptivity of the divine as the essence of man; it was mentioned previously that man is the mirror of God and creation. In order to describe the heart’s ability to reflect the images cast on it, Najm al-Din al-Kubra (d. 618/l22l) uses a similar analogy:

Know that the subtle reality which is the heart fluctuates from state to state, like water that takes on the color of its container.” The heart is subtle and accepts the reflection of thoughts and meanings that circle around it. Hence the color of the thing that faces the subtle reality takes form within it, just as forms are reflected in a mirror or in pure water.

Some of the gnostics have described in detail the spiritual landscape of the human being, citing the Verse of Light in the Quran:

The similitude of His light is a niche in which there is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass, is as it were, a shining star, lit by the blessed olive tree, neither form the east nor West, whose oil would almost glow forth if itself though no fire touched it. Light upon Light! Allah guides to His light whom He wills.

The following section paraphrases ‘Abd al-Razzaq Kashani’s commentary on this verse describes these interrelationships. The first layer, which is considered the outermost aspect of the human being is the body (jism), which is corporeal, dark and dense. This is analogous to the “lamp-niche” which is dark and has no light of itself. The spirit is the lamp which illuminates out of its very essence, as fire intrinsically radiates light. The glass is the heart, since it draws luminosity from the lamp and is like a bright star in its radiance and high position. Moreover, the glass can transmit the essential luminosity of the lamp only if it is clean and translucent. Otherwise, an opaque glass would only limit the lamp’s essential luminosity since the glass covers the lamp. The blessed olive tree is the soul, as Kashani explains, for the soul has faculties and is the source of great benefit just as branches and fruits give benefit. Thus, the spirit is the source of divine perfections found within the very essence of man; the heart, the locus of receptivity of the spirits essential goodness, the soul, the heart’s mount, and the body, the mount for the soul. Here Kashani gives a positive view of the soul, although many authors have disparaged the soul as being the source of the bestial properties found in man. In Kashani’s view, it is the essential receptivity of the soul governed by the spirit’s divine nature that is taken into consideration. Thus, the spirit’s luminosity and essential goodness percolates to each level of one’s inner being, casting out all darkness and bestial attributes.

The Intellect:

The word in Arabic for intellect is ‘aql. The lexical meaning of ‘aql is to tie, fetter or bind, which also indicates its function, that is to tether ideas in the mind through limiting and defining them. The intellect gains access to universals and particulars through the process of a “complete definition” (al-hadd al-tamm), using the genus (jins) and differentium (fasl) such as the definition of man given by the logicians and philosophers, “a rational animal.”

The terms intellect, spirit, and heart are used interchangeably, all of which refer to man’s inward reality but differ only in aspect. Some of these complex correspondences are surnmarized in the following verses of Rumi:

Sense perception is in bondage to the intellect, oh friend! And know too that the intellect is in bondage to the spirit.The body is outward, the spirit hidden; the body is like the sleeve, the spirit the hand. Then the intellect is more hidden than spirit: the senses perceive the spirit more quickly. The spirit of prophetic revelation is beyond the intellect; coming from the Unseen, it belongs to that side.What is the spirit? One-half of a leaf from the garden of Thy Beauty. What is the heart? A single blossom from Thy provisions of plenty.Without doubt the intellects and hearts derive from the divine Throne, but they live veiled from the Throne’s light.Then the army of the human individual came from the world of the spirit; the intellect, the vizier; the heart, the king. After a time, the heart remembered the city of the spirit. The whole army returned and entered the world of Everlastingness.

The intellect is the faculty of understanding, cognition and rationality. It differs from the heart in that the heart is the organ of vision, faith, piety and moral attributes, whereas the intellect is the abode of thought and perception. The intellect seeks the good, the outcomes of affairs, and discerns between right and wrong. The intellect is the bearer of knowledge after reflecting on concepts and acquiring new sciences.

However, in many hadith, the term “intellect” is used synonymously with the Supreme Spirit. As mentioned earlier, these terms are interchangeable and point towards a single reality but they differ in degree and aspect. Thus, it cannot be said conclusively that the function of a particular aspect is this or that since their usage in the hadith and Sufi literature is often ambiguous. For this reason, many Sufi authors have put forward various schema, sometimes a five fold and sometimes a seven fold, often including terms such as the Kernel (lubb), the Grain (habbat al-qalb), the Core (suwayda), and the Pericardium (shaghaf).

* * *

The degree of the Perfect Man consists of the collectivity of all divine and existential realms. The Perfect Human (al-insan al-kamil), or the Complete Human, is one of the central concepts in the school of Ibn Arabi Its importance cannot be understated especially since Qaysari devotes many chapters in the Muqaddima expanding on various aspects of the human spiritual landscape. In fact, one may view the Muqaddima as focusing on two primary themes, divinity and man. The following section discusses the concept of the Perfect Human in relation to the other planes of Being.

The Five Divine Presences

In conjunction with the above division there is another set of terms that describe the fundamental degrees of Being. The gnostics use the term “presence” (hadra) to describe these degrees and to indicate that God is present in all the worlds. Although there are as many “presences” as there are manifestations, the gnostics have summarized the most fundamental divisions of the levels of Being as the five Divine Presences (al-hadarat al-ilahiyya). Chittick writes, “The Divine Presence is that “location” where Allah is to be found, or where we can affirm that what we find is He. It includes the Essence of Allah, which is God in Himself without regard to His creatures; the attributes of Allah, also called His names, which are the relationships that can be discerned between the Essence and everything other than He; and the acts, which are all the creatures in the cosmos along with everything that appears from them. Hence, the Divine Presence designates God on the one hand and the cosmos, inasmuch as it can be said to be the locus of His activity, on the other.”

The first presence is the Absolute Unseen. In contrast to this station is the absolute visible (al-shahada d-mutlaqa), which is the external world and is also called mulk or nasut. It is the last realm in the Arc of Descent, which is the final, and most outward manifestation of the Essence. Every world in relation to the Absolute Unseen is considered an external world. However, in relation to each other, the World of Universal Intellects and Souls (‘alam al-‘uqal wa al-nufus al-kulliya) is the relative unseen and the Imaginal World (al-alam al-mithal) is the relative visible. The Imaginal World is the shadow of the noetic realm and encompasses the absolute visible world. The visible world is the realm of multiplicity and differentiation. The first presence is also known as the presence of Immutable Archetypes; the second as the world of spirits, given that they are immaterial intellects; the third as the Imaginal World; the fourth as the material world; and the fifth, which is the comprehensive world encompassing the previous four, as the reality of the Perfect Human (d-insan d-kamil). Furthermore, each presence is a shadow of the previous realm, such that each successive higher realm encompasses the one below it. The Perfect Human encompasses all the realms and is the shadow of the name Allah, which represents all the divine names in totality.

These five presences are also considered the books of God, and differ from the words of God since the books represent stationary degrees in existence while words (kalimat) refer to the manifestations within those degrees that arise immediately from the divine command. That is, the books of God represent degrees of created reality, while the words of God arise from the divine breath or “exhalation” which results in the immediate engendering of things. The term “books” emphasizes the created order of things, and the way in which God’s command exists in the form of individuation and separation, while the “words of God” emphasize God’s independence from the need of intermediaries for the subsistence of the world, which is an expression of God’s engendering command, “Be!” One final distinction between the two is that “books” refer to the world in an individuated and differentiated state and “words” refer to the world in the state of being collective and undifferentiated.

The World of Dominion (malakut) is a manifestation of the World of Invincibility (jabarut), also called the world of spirits or the Muhammadan Spirit, which is the differentiated form of the Muhammadan Light, as the hadith mentions: “God spoke a word; He said to it, ‘Be light!’ then He spoke a word, and said to it, ‘Be Spirit!’ and He combined the spirit with the light.”

The World of Dominion is the realm occupied by the spiritual beings such as the angels and spirits. The lower degree of this realm is the Imaginal World because of the existence of forms in it, while its higher degree possesses the characteristics of the World of Invincibility and is totally devoid of any constriction by the sensory world and world of forms. This is why there are different classes of angels, some possessing form and not others. Furthermore, the sensory world is a manifestation of the World of Dominion. Each successive realm is a shadow of the former but since it is more distant from the Essence, the manifestation of the divine attributes in that realm is also weaker.

The fifth divine presence, as mentioned, is that of the Perfect Human (al-insan al-kamil), which is the comprehensive book containing the entirety of existence, and is therefore the microcosm of the Great World. Thus, within man there exists a corresponding division of the divine presences that exist in the macrocosm. The microcosm is the mirror of the macrocosm, or in the terminology of the gnostics, the human is the Small Man and the world is the Great Man, while at the same time, the human is the Small World and the world is the Great World. Another formula for this relation is that the human is the Great World, and the world is the Small World since only man is the direct and complete reflection of God, whereas the cosmos is subservient to God’s vicegerent, and therefore subordinate in worth.

Just as there are levels of manifestation, also known as the divine presences, there are also levels of human existence. The Perfect Human is none other than the reflection of the divine names in all levels of his being. The outermost aspect, which is referred to as the “lowest of the low”in the Quran, is the physical body. As one moves deeper inward, the aspects of the self become more subtle, immaterial, luminous, comprehensive, noble, and ultimately are a perfect reflection of the divine attributes. It is only when the inward journey is undertaken, that one actualize the divine names in one’s being, since there are some names that are manifested only on the level of the spirit, or the hidden (khafi). In fact, the greater one’s distance from immaterial spiritual realities the weaker the manifestation of any given name.

That is why in practical gnosticism the Perfect Human traverses all the realms of Being so that he reaches the plane of Singularity, which is the plane that encompasses all the divine names in collectivity. Just as the spirit represents the collectivity of all realities, or the Mother of the Book (umm al-kitab), and the heart represents the realities in the form of separation or the Manifest Book (kitab al-mubin), so too the Perfect Human actualizes the divine names associated with each plane of existence, whether it is in state of collectivity or separation.

Sadr al-Din Qunawi, the greatest expositor of Ibn Arabi’s works, writes in Kitab al-fuluk, a commentary on Ibn Arab’s Fusus al-Hikam,

Just as the Divine Presence, referred to by the name Allah, comprises all the specific Attributes, their particular properties, and their inter-relationships, so that there is no intermediary between the Essence and the Attributes, likewise, from the point of view of man’s reality and his station, there is no intermediary between man and God. His reality is such that he is the comprehensive isthmus (al-barzakhiyya d-jami’a) between the properties of necessity and possibility since he encompasses both.

Man’s inward reality is identical with the Divine Reality since the “Perfect Human is the locus of manifestation of the Comprehensive Name Allah and he has a share in the glory of his Master; thus he becomes sanctified.” While, other entities in creation manifest some attribute or another, man assumes the unique position of manifesting all the Names. Qunawi writes: “All beings are determined by the properties of the Names they manifest, each taking on a specific relationship and existential position.”

The Vicegerency of Man

In the opening chapter of the Fusus, Ibn Arabi describes the unique and noble position of man as the vicegerent of God and the complete manifestation of the divine names. One finds this idea clearly stated in the Quran where God says, “I am going to make a vicegerent on earth” (al-Baqara: 30), “And when I have breathed into him of My Spirit,” (Sad: 82)and “What prevented you from prostrating to whom I have created with My own two hands?” (Sad: 75) The Quran is explicit in many instances regarding the superiority of man due to the specific designation of vicegerency and God’s endowing him with the knowledge of all the names, as in the verse, “God taught Adam the names, all of them” (al-Baqara: 31). Furthermore, many gnostics have relied upon the hadith, “God created Adam in His own form,” as evidence for man’s extreme proximity to the divine being as well as being an explication of the true nature of man. In a hadith related by Imam Sadiq (peace and blessing be upon him) from Imam Ali, we find a clear and explicit statement concerning the form of man:

The form of man is the greatest proof of God in creation. It is the book that He wrote by His own hand, the edifice that He constructed by His wisdom, and the totality of the forms of the worlds. It is the summation of the Guarded Tablet, the witness of all that is absent, the argument against every denier, the straight path to every good, and the bridge spanning paradise and hell.

Imam Ali’s statement clearly indicates that the form of man is the totality of the forms of the worlds. However, his statement also conveys that were it not for man being created in the form of God, he would not have served as the greatest proof of God, since God does not need contingent beings to prove His existence. Thus, Imam Husayn says in the supplication of Arafa, “How can a thing which is dependent upon You for its own existence prove Your existence? When have you been absent that You should require a proof, and when have You been distant such that effects should lead to You? Blind is the eye that does not see You!” It is only through the reflection of the divine being in Man that he serves as the greatest proof of Him, since a proof is an indicator and a sign for some greater reality with which it is associated. Just as “world” in Arabic, al-alarn, which is derived from the word, sign, or token, as in ‘alama, serves as a sign and proof for His existence and acts as a mirror for the divine attributes, the existence of man is the greatest proof of His existence through his mirroring of the divine attributes in their totality.

From the Quranic point of view, God taught man all the names, a reality which was comprehended by neither Iblis nor the angels. Since man’s reflection is of the Supreme Name Allah, which is reserved for the Essence, without entification, the station of vicegerency is reserved for one whose existential capacity possesses all the divine names. Were there to exist a being in creation whose reality man did not encompass, it would not have been appropriate for Adam to hold the station of vicegerency, since the vicegerent possesses governance and dominion over his subjects. It would be possible, then, for that being to possess a degree of superiority in that aspect which was lacking in man, and therefore, nullify his vicegerency in that particular aspect. But since God taught man all the names, not even the angels were able to object to God’s designation of Adam. Although each angel wished to object to God’s preference of Adam, they were unable to relate the names as God commanded them, since each had been limited by the aspect of their own individual essences and consequently blinded by their own ontological limits. Ibn Arabi writes:

Thus no one was entitled to be the vicegerent except the Perfect Man, for God created his outward form out of all the realities and forms of the world, and his inward form on the model of His own form. Nothing, in the world possesses the comprehensiveness that is possessed by the vicegerent. In fact, he has obtained (his vicegerency) only because of his comprehensiveness.

Divine effusion (al-fayd al-uluhi) descends through the divine command “Be!” generating the different levels of existence without causal intermediaries. The descending command emanating from the “Non-delimited Effusion of the Essence (mutlaq al-fayd al-dhati) creates the First Intellect, also called the Pen, then the Tablet, then the Throne, then the Chair, then the Heavens, one after another, then the elements, then the ‘three progeny, minerals, plants, and animals, and finally man, who is colored by all that which passed before him.”

The Muhammadan Reality

Divine manifestation occurs in two grand movements known as the Arc of Ascent and the Arc of Descent. The former describes the movement of manifestation and the latter describes the movement of the Return, alluded to in the verse, “To Him we belong and to Him we shall return” (al-Baqara: 156). Since these two movements are carried out in both the macrocosm and the microcosm, it can be said that the entirety of existence is circular. The universe enters into existence from the degree of Singularity to the point of greatest differentiation of primordial matter and then returns to oneness through the human being’s spiritual ascent. Qunawi states, “The governing properties of existence, realities and the degrees of created things are circular, and the movements of noetic, sensible and other universals and their concomitants are also circular.” Ibn Arabi states further:

There is no divine name that is not between two divine names, for the divine affair is circular. That is why God’s affair in the things is infinite, for a circle has no first and no last, except by way of supposition… The affair occurs [with an inclination towards circularity] because things proceed from God and return to Him. From Him it begins and to Him it goes back… This does not happen in a linear shape, or it would never go back to Him, but it does go back. Hence there is no escape from circularity in both the suprasensory and sensory domains.

The existential circle is, more specifically, a process through which man originates from the state of Non-delimited Effusion of the Essence (mutlaq al-fayd al-dhati) to the physical form of a human. Man’s external existence is the final stage in creation succeeding the plants, animals and minerals; it is the furthest point from the divine Unity and is characterized by extreme multiplicity. It is however, his inner reality that remains divine and thus allows man to journey from existential lowness characterized by multiplicity and composition towards All-Comprehensive Unity (ahadiyat al-jam’a). In al-Fukuk, Qunawi writes,

If man reaches the highest stage of his wayfaring and unites with the Souls and Intellects, and traverses them in their essential states until he reaches the station of “isthmus” {barzakhiya), which is his original station after departing from the utmost extreme of multiplicity and its forms, he will also reach the Unity of this multiplicity, then the barzakhi state…So the one who reaches his original nature, is the one whom ‘We created in the best form (al-Tin: 4), and one who does not is the one whom ‘We brought down to the lowest of the low (al-Tin: 5), for being distant, due to his multiplicity, from his original station of Divine Oneness.

The first point on this circle is known as the singularity of the Muhammadan Reality, also referred to as the Muhammadan Light, and the First Intellect. Ashtiyani mentions that the Essence, with respect to its attribute of real singularity necessitates an entification, sometimes referred to by the people [gnostics] as the first entification and sometimes referred to as the Muhammadan reality. Ibn Arabi explains this further in the final chapter in the Fusus saying,

His is the wisdom of singularity because he is the most perfect existent of this human species, which is why the matter begins with him and ends with him, for he was a prophet while Adam was between clay and water. Then, in his elemental form he became the Seal of the Prophets.

Qaysari writes in his commentary on the Fusus,

It is the wisdom of singularity because of his singularity in the degree of divine comprehensiveness, above which is nothing except the degree of the Singular Essence. This is because it is the locus of the name Allah, which is the greatest, all-comprehensive name amongst all the names and attributes.

The Muhammadan reality is the first point in existence, engendered by the Most Holy Effusion from the divine degree of Singularity. It is, therefore, the locus of the name “Allah,” the all-comprehensive name. Qaysari further explains in his commentary:

The first that came about by the Most Holy Effusion from amongst the entities was his Immutable Archetype and the first thing that came to exist through the Holy Effusion in its outward aspect from amongst the existent things was his sanctified spirit, just as he said, “The first thing that God created was my light.” So he came about through the Singular Essence, the degree of divinity and his Immutable Archetype which was the first singularity.

There is a divine conflict in the external entities since each name is veiled from the other by the name, the Manifest, and requires another name to arbitrate between the entities. The conflict is resolved by the manifestation of the name, the Just, which guides each entity to its perfection and protects it from transgressing on each other. The just arbitrator is the real prophet and the eternal pole of existence that guides and brings all things to their ontological perfection. It is the Muhammadan Reality, who is the true prophet and the lord of the hidden and manifest realms.

Just as each prophet functions as the just arbitrator who guides a nation in a manner appropriate for that time, the Muhammadan Reality is the hidden prophet who guides each individual prophet in his own spiritual development. For this reason the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) stated, “I was a prophet while Adam was between water and clay,” that is, between spirit and body, or noetic form in the Immutable Archetypes and elemental form.

As for the Muhammadan prophethood in the visible realm, which is the manifestation of the Muhammadan Reality and the Supreme Spirit, it is for the sake of guidance and instruction of the creatures, enabling them to attain their individual perfection in accordance with their existential capacities.

In the terminology of the gnostics, both the Perfect Human and the Muhammadan Reality are the complete manifestation of the all-comprehensive name “Allah.” Both represent the totality of the divine attributes and perfections through which the rest of creation is endowed with existence. In one sense the terms are synonymous, both referring to the complete mirror of the divine Being. However, in another sense, the terms describe different aspects of the reality of man. Ibn Arabi points out this difference in ‘Anqa’ Maghribعنقاء مغرب في ختم الأولياء وشمس المغرب: “The spirit attributed to God [in verse 32:8, where it is said that God breathed ‘His Spirit’ into Adam] is the Muhammadan reality.”He continues: “The Muhammadan Reality arises out of the Light of Absolute Plenitude (min al-anwar al-samadiyya) in the dwelling of Singularity.” “The Muhammadan Reality was endowed with existence, and then out of it He drew the Universe.”

The difference between the concepts of the Perfect Human and the Muhammadan Reality is in priority and posteriority, respectively. The former describes man in terms of his primordiality and the latter describes man in terms of his finality.In other words, the Perfect Human refers to man’s origin and potential, while the Muhammadan Reality refers to the actuality of the Perfect Human. The Prophet is the realization of “God created Adam in His form,” and the ontological reality of the Perfect Human.

Lordship of the Muhammadan Reality:

It was mentioned earlier in this chapter that the divine names and attributes have governing properties and manifestations in all the realms. Each name has a dominion and period in which it is efficacious. When its period expires, it becomes subsumed under the governance of another name whose dominion is greater. As for the name “Allah,” since it is the Supreme Name, its governance does not expire and it exerts an effect in all realms and in every period. Since the Muhammadan Reality is the manifestation of the name Allah, its governance also extends in every realm and in every period, and thus possesses lordship over every manifestation. Just as the name Allah acts as lord (rabb) over the rest of the divine names, the Muhammadan Reality acts as lord over the forms of the worlds. The term “lord” refers to the divine name of the Essence that possesses a relationship with creation. The relationship of lordship includes ownership, possession, leadership, bestowal, nurturing, management of affairs and bringing things to their perfection. It is applied to the Muhammadan Reality since its lordship is a shadow of the Lordship of the Essence and its lordship permeates all of existence.

The divine effusion issues forth from the degree of Singularity and extends initially to the Muhammadan Reality, in the terminology of the gnostics, and the First Intellect. All subsequent effusion is from the Muhammadan Reality which possesses absolute lordship over creation. This is on account of its ontological comprehensiveness, since that which is ontologically higher in creation has the responsibility of nurturing that which is lower. Similarly, that which is ontologically lower in creation is subservient to that which is higher in the same way that the mineral kingdom is subservient to the vegetal, the vegetal kingdom is subservient to the animal, and the animal kingdom is subservient to man. But since man is the vicegerent of God, he is ontologically higher than all the kingdoms, including the angels and the Jinn. Within the species of man, the prophets are ontologically higher than the rest of humanity and are commissioned to guide humanity to perfection. Among the prophets, the “possessors of might” (ulu al-‘azm) are ontologically higher than the rest, and Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) is the leader and guide of them all, and therefore, possesses absolute lordship. Qaysari writes that lordship is conceived only with respect to giving everything its due and fulfilling the needs of every creature and requires complete agency and ability. It is for this reason that the Muhammadan Reality must actualize every divine attribute in every realm of existence.

The station of absolute lordship of the Muhammadan Reality is further clarified in Sayyid Haydar Amuli’s discussion of the relationship between the prophethood of Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) and the rest of the prophets:

Every prophet from Adam to Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) is a manifestation of the prophethood of the Supreme Spirit, for its prophethood is essential and eternal and the prophethood of [its] manifestations is accidental and interrupted, except for the prophethood of Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), for it is eternal and uninterrupted. This is because its reality is the reality of the Supreme Spirit and its form is the form in which it manifests this reality. The rest of the prophets are the manifestations [of the Supreme Spirit] with respect to some of the names and attributes, whereby it self-discloses in each locus of manifestation some of the attributes and names, but it self-discloses in the Muhammadan manifestation its essence with respect to all of its attributes; and prophethood is sealed with him. Thus, the Prophet preceded all the prophets with respect to [his] reality and follows them with respect to [his] form, as he said, “We are the last, the first.”

Qaysari mentions in his Muqaddima that this lordship relates to the aspect of the Muhammadan Reality and not to the aspect of the Prophet’s humanness, since in the latter the Prophet is a servant of God. Therefore, his reality possesses two aspects, the aspect of divinity and that of servitude. The latter is the aspect of contingency, his descent into the phenomenal world and the appearance of his reality in the manifest realm. Those characteristic actions he performed in the manifest world also have spiritual significance, such as weeping because of his separation from the Real, or his heart’s constriction when dealing with the hypocrites. Therefore, his descent into the phenomenal world is his perfection just as his return to his original station. He is the comprehensive isthmus between the phenomenal and spiritual worlds.

The Muhammadan Vicegerency:

As mentioned previously, the Perfect Human is the vicegerent of God who is the epiphany of all the divine names, as mentioned in the verse, “And We taught Adam all the names.” As for the Muhammadan vicegerency, it is necessitated by God for all times because of the need for a vicegerent in both the hidden and manifest realms. Since the vicegerent is one who exercises delegated power on behalf of a Sovereign, he must possess all that the Sovereign Himself possesses, and he becomes, therefore, the pole around which existence revolves. Although each prophet is a vicegerent of God whose vicegerency and governance is in accordance with the manifestation of some of the divine names to the exclusion of others, they are each limited by a specific ontological horizon. Some are manifest prophets such as Ibrahim (peace and blessing be upon him) and some are hidden saints such as Khidr during the time of the manifest prophethood of Musa (peace and blessing be upon him). Khidr was governed by the name the Hidden and Musa by the name the Manifest. The Muhammadan Vicegerency, however, is present in both Musa and Khidr since it governs both Hidden and Manifest realms. Furthermore, its reality is the Supreme Spirit and it is the locus of manifestation of all the divine names.

Thus, when it is said in the Quran, “We do not differentiate between any of the messengers” (al-Baqara: 285), means that each messenger is a manifestation of the Supreme Spirit, which is a single all-encompassing reality. Just as every divine name is ontologically one with every other name, the prophets are ontologically united with the Supreme Spirit. However, just as the names differ with respect to their governing properties, periods, and degrees of inclusiveness, the prophets differ in degree in accordance with the governing properties of the names and the mode of their manifestation in each prophet, as indicated by the Quran, “These are the apostles, some of whom We gave an advantage over others” (al-Baqara: 253). This is why the scripture and code of laws of previous messengers was abrogated whereas the Quran and the Islamic Law shall remain in effect until the end of time.

Thus, the circle of prophethood begins with the Muhammadan Reality that is present with each prophet in every period and ends with the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) himself. The former is the hidden Muhammadan prophethood and the latter is the manifest Muhammadan prophethood. After the circle of prophethood is complete, there only remains spiritual guardianship (al-wilaya) or sainthood, which also must terminate before the Greater Resurrection.

Spiritual Guardianship (wilaya)

The guardianship that follows prophethood is an extension of the guardianship that is contained within prophethood. Indeed, it is the inner aspect and the reality of prophethood.

Lexically, wilaya, derived from the Arabic root letters wow, lam, andya, means to be near, close, to follow, to border, to have a relationship from two sides, and to befriend. Other derivatives include mutawali, which means something that follows something else, as in a chain, or events following each other. The word tali is used in contrast with muqaddam, which links two events that follow each other. The word wall, is in the form of fat but denotes the active participle (fail); it means one who possesses authority over something else and manages it, or one who displays love and support, that is, one who is a caretaker of another by virtue of the love that exists for the other.Thus, the basic lexical meaning of the root and its derivates indicates that the spiritual guardianship possesses a relationship with something else in succession, in the way that a father exerts guardianship over a child, a believer exerts guardianship over another, or in the way God possesses guardianship over the believers. God exerts wilaya over the believers in three aspects, by guiding them, by demonstrating His proofs through the prophets and revealed scriptures, by supporting them against their enemies and establishing His religion, and by rewarding them for their righteous actions.

As for the technical usage of the word wilaya with the kasra on the wow, it means authority, and walaya with the fatha on the wow means love or friendship.243 Thus, the former is connected to guardianship, in the sense of protection, management of affairs, and authority and superiority. Wilaya is the chain of authority extending from God’s own authority, as mentioned in the Quran, “Originator of the heavens and earth, You are my wali in the world and the hereafter.” Furthermore, this authority extends to the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him): “Indeed, your wali is Allah, and the Messenger, and those who are the ‘possessors of authority.’” This is the same authority that was given to Imam Ali on the Day of Ghadir when the Prophet said, “Do I not hold greater authority over you than your own souls? Then, whosoever considered me his master (mawla), ‘Ali is his master.” When the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) reminds the people of his own authority before delegating that authority to Imam Ali, he emphasizes the interconnectedness of the station of wilaya. The authority that the Prophet possesses directly from God, as mentioned in the Quran, is the very same authority he confers to his successor. Some commentators on the hadith of Ghadir have claimed that the meaning of waif in “Whosoever considers me his mawla, ‘Ali is his mawla,” is of love or friendship, and not authority. However, Muntaziri writes,

The wilaya the prophet established for ‘Ali is the very same wilaya he possessed himself, which is of authority, as mentioned in the verse. It is for this reason he began his speech proclaiming three times “Do I not hold greater authority (awla) over you than your own souls??” The apparent usage of the word mawla is the same in both sentences.

Although the meaning of wilaya includes friendship and love, the Shit theologians base their view of Imamate on the above interpretation of wilaya, which is an important cornerstone in the elaboration of Shi’ism.

Wilaya in the Terminology of the Gnostics:

As mentioned in the Quran, Wall is one of the divine names, and in the terminology of the gnostics, “It is a universal reality of the divine Essence, the source of manifestation and the origin of entification. Indeed, it describes the Essence and is the source for the entification of the divine names and attributes. And Allah is the Wali and Praiseworthy.’” Ibn Arabi elaborates this definition as follows:

Know that wilaya is the sphere which encompasses all other spheres, and for this reason it has no end in time…. On the other hand, legislative prophethood (nubuwwa) and the mission of the messengers (risala) do have an end which they have reached in the person of Muhammad, since after him there is neither any other prophet—meaning a prophet who brings a revealed Law or submits himself to a previously revealed Law—nor any other legislating messenger.

Qaysari mentions that there are two types of wilaya, the general and the specific. General wilaya is obtained by the believers and is commensurate with one’s level of faith. Those whose states of unveiling correspond to reality have the highest faith, whereas those whose faith is based on rational deduction and proofs have an intermediate level, and those whose faith is based on imitation of the veracious are at the lowest level. Nonetheless, God says in the Quran, “Allah is the wall of the believers; He takes them out of the darkness into light.”

The second type of wilaya is specific to the wayfarers who have arrived at the station of subsistence after their annihilation in the Real. The annihilation that precedes the station of subsistence is the removal of the attributes of contingency and does not refer to absolute non-being. Subsistence after annihilation is through the existential acquisition of divine attributes, as in the hadith, “Adorn yourselves with the divine attributes.” As mentioned earlier, this annihilation is not only noetic but existential as well, since there is an actual transformation in the visible aspect of the wayfarer due to the overpowering effect of his spirit. Qaysari illustrates this point with the analogy of a piece of coal that is adjacent to a fire. Initially coal is different from fire in all of its properties. However, its inherent receptivity for acquiring the properties of fire in addition to proximity to the fire itself brings about a complete transformation of the outer form of the coal. Were it not for the aspect of inherent similarity between the essence of the coal and the essence of the fire, it would not have been able to transform itself completely. Similarly, the wayfarer possesses an aspect of separation and an aspect of unity between himself and God. It is when he orients himself completely to the divine presence, thereby gaining proximity to the Real, that he acquires the properties of divinity and sheds the properties of contingency. Thus, the aspect of separation and individuation no longer remains.

Qaysari writes that annihilation of the absolute wall is because of the orientation to the Real due to essential love.  Mulla Hadi Sabzawari also expresses a parallel notion in Sha’h al-asma describing the two types of wayfarers.  Just as there are two types of wilaya, there are two types of wayfaring, that which is initiated by the Beloved, and that which is initiated by the lovers.  The first type is one in which the wayfarer attains God such that he arrives without effort, struggle, discipline, piety, or guidance of a master.  It is sheer divine providence and essential primordial guidance alluded to by the Quran in the verse, ‘Those to whom there has gone beforehand the best reward from Us’ (Anbiya’: 101).  The second type of wayfaring is that in which attainment of God is based on personal effort, struggle, discipline, abstention, piety, and the guidance of a master, alluded to by the verse, ‘As for those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them in Our ways’ (Ankabut: 69).  As for the first category of wayfarers, it consists of the lovers among the prophets, saints and their followers who are distinguished by their primordial truthfulness and complete sincerity.  Their attainment of God is without effort and cause; rather it is the result of complete divine bestowal, succor and the Essential Will before the creation of the world and everything within it, as referred to by the verse, ‘Their Lord will give them to drink, a pure drink.’  Imam Ali further describes those saints in his statement:

‘Verily God Almighty has a wine for His friends (awliya), so that when they drink it, they become intoxicated; when they become intoxicated, they delight; when they delight, they melt away; when they melt away, they become pure; when they become pure, they seek; when they seek, they find; when they find, they attain; when they attain they unite, so when they unite, there remains no difference between them and their Beloved.’

The first type of wayfarers are the prophets and divinely appointed saints (awliya’), who possess a primordial nearness to God based on their essential ontological capacity, and who are the individuations of the absolute wilaya of God.  In Shi’ism, the divinely appointed saints are the twelve Imams who possess infallibility and are the inheritors of the absolute wilaya of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him).  This is because absolute wilaya is the inner aspect and the reality of prophethood which extends through these individuals until it reaches the Twelfth Imam, the Master of the Age.  Wilaya is more comprehensive than prophethood since it includes both prophets and saints and is a manifestation of the divine name al-Wali.”      Ibn al-Arabi, “Being and That It Is Real;” Chapter One of Pearls of Wisdom, circa 1210.  

"S&g1" by User:Kosmopolitat -
“S&g1” by User:Kosmopolitat –

Numero DosLETTER I.My Dear Friend,

employed the compelled and most unwelcome leisure of severe indisposition in reading The Confessions of a Fair Saint in Mr. Carlyle’s recent translation of the Wilhelm Meister, which might, I think, have been better rendered literally The Confessions of a Beautiful Soul.  This, acting in conjunction with the concluding sentences of your letter, threw my thoughts inward on my own religious experience, and gave immediate occasion to the following Confessions of one who is neither fair nor saintly, but who, groaning under a deep sense of infirmity and manifold imperfection, feels the want, the necessity, of religious support; who cannot afford to lose any the smallest buttress, but who not only loves Truth even for itself, and when it reveals itself aloof from all interest, but who loves it with an indescribable awe, which too often withdraws the genial sap of his activity from the columnar trunk, the sheltering leaves, the bright and fragrant flower, and the foodful or medicinal fruitage, to the deep root, ramifying in obscurity and labyrinthine way-winning—

In darkness there to house unknown,
Far underground,
Pierced by no sound
Save such as live in Fancy’s ear alone,
That listens for the uptorn mandrake’s parting groan!

I should, perhaps, be a happier—at all events a more useful—man if my mind were otherwise constituted.  But so it is, and even with regard to Christianity itself, like certain plants, I creep towards the light, even though it draw me away from the more nourishing warmth.  Yea, I should do so, even if the light had made its way through a rent in the wall of the Temple.  Glad, indeed, and grateful am I, that not in the Temple itself, but only in one or two of the side chapels, not essential to the edifice, and probably not coëval with it, have I found the light absent, and that the rent in the wall has but admitted the free light of the Temple itself.

I shall best communicate the state of my faith by taking the creed, or system of credenda, common to all the Fathers of the Reformation—overlooking, as non-essential, the differences between the several Reformed Churches, according to the five main classes or sections into which the aggregate distributes itself to my apprehension.  I have then only to state the effect produced on my mind by each of these, or the quantum of recipiency and coincidence in myself relatively thereto, in order to complete my Confession of Faith.

I.  The Absolute; the innominable Αὑτοπάτωρ et Causa Sui, in whose transcendent I Am, as the Ground, is whatever verily is:—the Triune God, by whose Word and Spirit, as the transcendent Cause, exists whatever substantially exists:—God Almighty—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, undivided, unconfounded, co-eternal.  This class I designate by the word Στάσις.

II.  The Eternal Possibilities; the actuality of which hath not its origin in God: Chaos spirituale:—’Απόστασις.

III.  The Creation and Formation of the heaven and earth by the Redemptive Word:—the Apostasy of Man:—the Redemption of Man:—the Incarnation of the Word in the Son of Man:—the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Son of Man:—the Descent of the Comforter:—Repentance (μετάνοια):—Regeneration:—Faith:—Prayer:—Grace—Communion with the Spirit:—Conflict:—Self-abasement:—Assurance through the righteousness of Christ:—Spiritual Growth:—Love:—Discipline:—Perseverance:—Hope in death:—Μετάστασις—’Ανάστασις.

IV.  But these offers, gifts, and graces are not for one, or for a few.  They are offered to all.  Even when the Gospel is preached to a single individual it is offered to him as to one of a great household.  Not only man, but, says St. Paul, the whole creation is included in the consequences of the Fall—τῆς ἀποστάσεως—so also in those of the change at the Redemption—τῆς μεταστάσεως, καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως.  We too shall be raised in the Body.  Christianity is fact no less than truth.  It is spiritual, yet so as to be historical; and between these two poles there must likewise be a midpoint, in which the historical and spiritual meet.  Christianity must have its history—a history of itself and likewise the history of its introduction, its spread, and its outward-becoming; and, as the midpoint abovementioned, a portion of these facts must be miraculous, that is, phenomena in nature that are beyond nature.  Furthermore, the history of all historical nations must in some sense be its history—in other words, all history must be providential, and this a providence, a preparation, and a looking forward to Christ.

Here, then, we have four out of the five classes.  And in all these the sky of my belief is serene, unclouded by a doubt.  Would to God that my faith, that faith which works on the whole man, confirming and conforming, were but in just proportion to my belief, to the full acquiescence of my intellect, and the deep consent of my conscience!  The very difficulties argue the truth of the whole scheme and system for my understanding, since I see plainly that so must the truth appear, if it be the truth.

V.  But there is a Book of two parts, each part consisting of several books.  The first part (I speak in the character of an uninterested critic or philologist) contains the relics of the literature of the Hebrew people, while the Hebrew was still the living language.  The second part comprises the writings, and, with one or two inconsiderable and doubtful exceptions, all the writings of the followers of Christ within the space of ninety years from the date of the Resurrection.  I do not myself think that any of these writings were composed as late as A.D. 120; but I wish to preclude all dispute.  This Book I resume as read, and yet unread—read and familiar to my mind in all parts, but which is yet to be perused as a whole, or rather a work, cujus particulas et sententiolas omnes et singulas recogniturus sum, but the component integers of which, and their conspiration, I have yet to study.  I take up this work with the purpose to read it for the first time as I should read any other work, as far at least as I can or dare.  For I neither can, nor dare, throw off a strong and awful prepossession in its favour—certain as I am that a large part of the light and life, in and by which I see, love, and embrace the truths and the strengths co-organised into a living body of faith and knowledge in the four preceding classes, has been directly or indirectly derived to me from this sacred volume—and unable to determine what I do not owe to its influences.  But even on this account, and because it has these inalienable claims on my reverence and gratitude, I will not leave it in the power of unbelievers to say that the Bible is for me only what the Koran is for the deaf Turk, and the Vedas for the feeble and acquiescent Hindoo.  No; I will retire up into the mountain, and hold secret commune with my Bible above the contagious blastments of prejudice, and the fog-blight of selfish superstition.  For fear hath torment.  And what though my reason be to the power and splendour of the Scriptures but as the reflected and secondary shine of the moon compared with the solar radiance; yet the sun endures the occasional co-presence of the unsteady orb, and leaving it visible seems to sanction the comparison.  There is a Light higher than all, even the Word that was in the beginning; the Light, of which light itself is but the shechinah and cloudy tabernacle; the Word that is Light for every man, and life for as many as give heed to it.  If between this Word and the written letter I shall anywhere seem to myself to find a discrepance, I will not conclude that such there actually is, nor on the other hand will I fall under the condemnation of them that would lie for God, but seek as I may, be thankful for what I have—and wait.

With such purposes, with such feelings, have I perused the books of the Old and New Testaments, each book as a whole, and also as an integral part.  And need I say that I have met everywhere more or less copious sources of truth, and power, and purifying impulses, that I have found words for my inmost thoughts, songs for my joy, utterances for my hidden griefs, and pleadings for my shame and my feebleness?  In short, whatever finds me, bears witness for itself that it has proceeded from a Holy Spirit, even from the same Spirit, which remaining in itselfyet regenerateth all other powersand in all ages entering into holy soulsmaketh them friends of Godand prophets.  (Wisd. vii.)  And here, perhaps, I might have been content to rest, if I had not learned that, as a Christian, I cannot, must not, stand alone; or if I had not known that more than this was holden and required by the Fathers of the Reformation, and by the Churches collectively, since the Council of Nice at latest, the only exceptions being that doubtful one of the corrupt Romish Church implied, though not avowed, in its equalisation of the Apocryphal Books with those of the Hebrew Canon, and the irrelevant one of the few and obscure sects who acknowledge no historical Christianity.  This somewhat more, in which Jerome, Augustine, Luther, and Hooker were of one and the same judgment, and less than which not one of them would have tolerated—would it fall within the scope of my present doubts and objections?  I hope it would not.  Let only their general expressions be interpreted by their treatment of the Scriptures in detail, and I dare confidently trust that it would not.  For I can no more reconcile the doctrine which startles my belief with the practice and particular declarations of these great men, than with the convictions of my own understanding and conscience.  At all events—and I cannot too early or too earnestly guard against any misapprehension of my meaning and purpose—let it be distinctly understood that my arguments and objections apply exclusively to the following doctrine or dogma.  To the opinions which individual divines have advanced in lieu of this doctrine, my only objection, as far as I object, is—that I do not understand them.  The precise enunciation of this doctrine I defer to the commencement of the next Letter.



My Dear Friend,

In my last Letter I said that in the Bible there is more that finds me than I have experienced in all other books put together; that the words of the Bible find me at greater depths of my being; and that whatever finds me brings with it an irresistible evidence of its having proceeded from the Holy Spirit.  But the doctrine in question requires me to believe that not only what finds me, but that all that exists in the sacred volume, and which I am bound to find therein, was—not alone inspired by, that is composed by, men under the actuating influence of the Holy Spirit, but likewise—dictated by an Infallible Intelligence; that the writers, each and all, were divinely informed as well as inspired.  Now here all evasion, all excuse, is cut off.  An infallible intelligence extends to all things, physical no less than spiritual.  It may convey the truth in any one of the three possible languages—that of sense, as objects appear to the beholder on this earth; or that of science, which supposes the beholder placed in the centre; or that of philosophy, which resolves both into a supersensual reality.  But whichever be chosen—and it is obvious that the incompatibility exists only between the first and second, both of them being indifferent and of equal value to the third—it must be employed consistently; for an infallible intelligence must intend to be intelligible, and not to deceive.  And, moreover, whichever of these three languages be chosen, it must be translatable into truth.  For this is the very essence of the doctrine, that one and the same intelligence is speaking in the unity of a person; which unity is no more broken by the diversity of the pipes through which it makes itself audible, than is a tune by the different instruments on which it is played by a consummate musician, equally perfect in all.  One instrument may be more capacious than another, but as far as its compass extends, and in what it sounds forth, it will be true to the conception of the master.  I can conceive no softening here which would not nullify the doctrine, and convert it to a cloud for each man’s fancy to shift and shape at will.  And this doctrine, I confess, plants the vineyard of the Word with thorns for me, and places snares in its pathways.  These may be delusions of an evil spirit; but ere I so harshly question the seeming angel of light—my reason, I mean, and moral sense in conjunction with my clearest knowledge—I must inquire on what authority this doctrine rests.  And what other authority dares a truly catholic Christian admit as coercive in the final decision, but the declarations of the Book itself—though I should not, without struggles, and a trembling reluctance, gainsay even a universal tradition?

I return to the Book.  With a full persuasion of soul respecting all the articles of the Christian Faith, as contained in the first four classes, I receive willingly also the truth of the history, namely, that the Word of the Lord did come to Samuel, to Isaiah, to others; and that the words which gave utterance to the same are faithfully recorded.  But though the origin of the words, even as of the miraculous acts, be supernatural, yet the former once uttered, the latter once having taken their place among the phenomena of the senses, the faithful recording of the same does not of itself imply, or seem to require, any supernatural working, other than as all truth and goodness are such.  In the books of Moses, and once or twice in the prophecy of Jeremiah, I find it indeed asserted that not only the words were given, but the recording of the same enjoined by the special command of God, and doubtless executed under the special guidance of the Divine Spirit.  As to all such passages, therefore, there can be no dispute; and all others in which the words are by the sacred historian declared to have been the Word of the Lord supernaturally communicated, I receive as such with a degree of confidence proportioned to the confidence required of me by the writer himself, and to the claims he himself makes on my belief.

Let us, therefore, remove all such passages, and take each book by itself; and I repeat that I believe the writer in whatever he himself relates of his own authority, and of its origin.  But I cannot find any such claim, as the doctrine in question supposes, made by these writers, explicitly or by implication.  On the contrary, they refer to other documents, and in all points express themselves as sober-minded and veracious writers under ordinary circumstances are known to do.  But perhaps they bear testimony, the successor to his predecessor?  Or some one of the number has left it on record, that by special inspiration he was commanded to declare the plenary inspiration of all the rest?  The passages which can without violence be appealed to as substantiating the latter position are so few, and these so incidental—the conclusion drawn from them involving likewise so obviously a petitio principii, namely, the supernatural dictation, word by word, of the book in which the question is found (for, until this is established, the utmost that such a text can prove is the current belief of the writer’s age and country concerning the character of the books then called the Scriptures)—that it cannot but seem strange, and assuredly is against all analogy of Gospel revelation, that such a doctrine—which, if true, must be an article of faith, and a most important, yea, essential article of faith—should be left thus faintly, thus obscurely, and, if I may so say, obitaneously, declared and enjoined.  The time of the formation and closing of the Canon unknown;—the selectors and compilers unknown, or recorded by known fabulists;—and (more perplexing still) the belief of the Jewish Church—the belief, I mean, common to the Jews of Palestine and their more cultivated brethren in Alexandria (no reprehension of which is to be found in the New Testament)—concerning the nature and import of the θεοπνευστία attributed to the precious remains of their Temple Library;—these circumstances are such, especially the last, as in effect to evacuate the tenet, of which I am speaking, of the only meaning in which it practically means anything at all tangible, steadfast, or obligatory.  In infallibility there are no degrees.  The power of the High and Holy One is one and the same, whether the sphere which it fills be larger or smaller;—the area traversed by a comet, or the oracle of the house, the holy place beneath the wings of the cherubim;—the Pentateuch of the Legislator, who drew near to the thick darkness where God was, and who spake in the cloud whence the thunderings and lightnings came, and whom God answered by a voice; or but a letter of thirteen verses from the affectionate Elder to the elect lady and her childrenwhom he loved in the truth.  But at no period was this the judgment of the Jewish Church respecting all the canonical books.  To Moses alone—to Moses in the recording no less than in the receiving of the Law—and to all and every part of the five books called the Books of Moses, the Jewish doctors of the generation before, and coëval with, the apostles, assigned that unmodified and absolute theopneusty which our divines, in words at least, attribute to the Canon collectively.  In fact it was from the Jewish Rabbis—who, in opposition to the Christian scheme, contended for a perfection in the revelation by Moses, which neither required nor endured any addition, and who strained their fancies in expressing the transcendency of the books of Moses, in aid of their opinion—that the founders of the doctrine borrowed their notions and phrases respecting the Bible throughout.  Remove the metaphorical drapery from the doctrine of the Cabbalists, and it will be found to contain the only intelligible and consistent idea of that plenary inspiration, which later divines extend to all the canonical books; as thus:—“The Pentateuch is but one Word, even the Word of God; and the letters and articulate sounds, by which this Word is communicated to our human apprehensions, are likewise divinely communicated.”

Now, for ‘Pentateuch’ substitute ‘Old and New Testament,’ and then I say that this is the doctrine which I reject as superstitious and unscriptural.  And yet as long as the conceptions of the revealing Word and the inspiring Spirit are identified and confounded, I assert that whatever says less than this, says little more than nothing.  For how can absolute infallibility be blended with fallibility?  Where is the infallible criterion?  How can infallible truth be infallibly conveyed in defective and fallible expressions?  The Jewish teachers confined this miraculous character to the Pentateuch.  Between the Mosaic and the Prophetic inspiration they asserted such a difference as amounts to a diversity; and between both the one and the other, and the remaining books comprised under the tithe of Hagiographa, the interval was still wider, and the inferiority in kind, and not only in degree, was unequivocally expressed.  If we take into account the habit, universal with the Hebrew doctors, of referring all excellent or extraordinary things to the great First Cause, without mention of the proximate and instrumental causes—a striking illustration of which may be obtained by comparing the narratives of the same event in the Psalms and in the historical books; and if we further reflect that the distinction of the providential and the miraculous did not enter into their forms of thinking—at all events not into their mode of conveying their thoughts—the language of the Jews respecting the Hagiographa will be found to differ little, if at all, from that of religious persons among ourselves, when speaking of an author abounding in gifts, stirred up by the Holy Spirit, writing under the influence of special grace, and the like.

But it forms no part of my present purpose to discuss the point historically, or to speculate on the formation of either Canon.  Rather, such inquiries are altogether alien from the great object of my pursuits and studies, which is to convince myself and others that the Bible and Christianity are their own sufficient evidence.  But it concerns both my character and my peace of mind to satisfy unprejudiced judges that if my present convictions should in all other respects be found consistent with the faith and feelings of a Christian—and if in many and those important points they tend to secure that faith and to deepen those feelings—the words of the Apostle, rightly interpreted, do not require their condemnation.  Enough, if what has been stated above respecting the general doctrine of the Hebrew masters, under whom the Apostle was bred, shall remove any misconceptions that might prevent the right interpretation of his words.



My Dear Friend,

Having in the former two Letters defined the doctrine which I reject, I am now to communicate the views that I would propose to substitute in its place.

Before, however, I attempt to lay down on the theological chart the road-place to which my bark has drifted, and to mark the spot and circumscribe the space within which I swing at anchor, let me first thank you for, and then attempt to answer, the objections—or at least the questions—which you have urged upon me.

“The present Bible is the Canon to which Christ and the Apostles referred?”


“And in terms which a Christian must tremble to tamper with?”

Yea.  The expressions are as direct as strong; and a true believer will neither attempt to divert nor dilute their strength.

“The doctrine which is considered as the orthodox view seems the obvious and most natural interpretation of the text in question?”

Yea, and nay.  To those whose minds are prepossessed by the doctrine itself—who from earliest childhood have always meant this doctrine by the very word Bible—the doctrine being but its exposition and paraphrase—Yea.  In such minds the words of our Lord and the declarations of St. Paul can awaken no other sense.  To those on the other hand who find the doctrine senseless and self-confuting, and who take up the Bible as they do other books, and apply to it the same rules of interpretation—Nay.

And, lastly, he who, like myself, recognises in neither of the two the state of his own mind—who cannot rest in the former, and feels, or fears, a presumptuous spirit in the negative dogmatism of the latter—he has his answer to seek.  But so far I dare hazard a reply to the question—In what other sense can the words be interpreted?—beseeching you, however, to take what I am about to offer but as an attempt to delineate an arc of oscillation—that the eulogy of St. Paul is in nowise contravened by the opinion to which I incline, who fully believe the Old Testament collectively, both in the composition and in its preservation, a great and precious gift of Providence;—who find in it all that the Apostle describes, and who more than believe that all which the Apostle spoke of was of Divine inspiration, and a blessing intended for as many as are in communion with the Spirit through all ages.  And I freely confess that my whole heart would turn away with an angry impatience from the cold and captious mortal who, the moment I had been pouring out the love and gladness of my soul—while book after book, law, and truth, and example, oracle, and lovely hymn, and choral song of ten thousand thousands, and accepted prayers of saints and prophets, sent back, as it were, from heaven, like doves, to be let loose again with a new freight of spiritual joys and griefs and necessities, were passing across my memory—at the first pause of my voice, and whilst my countenance was still speaking—should ask me whether I was thinking of the Book of Esther, or meant particularly to include the first six chapters of Daniel, or verses 6–20 of the 109th Psalm, or the last verse of the 137th Psalm?  Would any conclusion of this sort be drawn in any other analogous case?  In the course of my lectures on Dramatic Poetry, I, in half a score instances, referred my auditors to the precious volume before me—Shakespeare—and spoke enthusiastically, both in general and with detail of particular beauties, of the plays of Shakespeare, as in all their kinds, and in relation to the purposes of the writer, excellent.  Would it have been fair, or according to the common usage and understanding of men, to have inferred an intention on my part to decide the question respecting Titus Andronicus, or the larger portion of the three parts of Henry VI.?  Would not every genial mind understand by Shakespeare that unity or total impression comprising and resulting from the thousandfold several and particular emotions of delight, admiration, gratitude excited by his works?  But if it be answered, “Aye! but we must not interpret St. Paul as we may and should interpret any other honest and intelligent writer or speaker,”—then, I say, this is the very petitio principii of which I complain.

Still less do the words of our Lord apply against my view.  Have I not declared—do I not begin by declaring—that whatever is referred by the sacred penman to a direct communication from God, and wherever it is recorded that the subject of the history had asserted himself to have received this or that command, this or that information or assurance, from a superhuman Intelligence, or where the writer in his own person, and in the character of an historian, relates that the word of the Lord came unto priest, prophet, chieftain, or other individual—have I not declared that I receive the same with full belief, and admit its inappellable authority?  Who more convinced than I am—who more anxious to impress that conviction on the minds of others—that the Law and the Prophets speak throughout of Christ?  That all the intermediate applications and realisations of the words are but types and repetitions—translations, as it were, from the language of letters and articulate sounds into the language of events and symbolical persons?

And here again let me recur to the aid of analogy.  Suppose a life of Sir Thomas More by his son-in-law, or a life of Lord Bacon by his chaplain; that a part of the records of the Court of Chancery belonging to these periods were lost; that in Roper’s or in Rawley’s biographical work there were preserved a series of dicta and judgments attributed to these illustrious Chancellors, many and important specimens of their table discourses, with large extracts from works written by them, and from some that are no longer extant.  Let it be supposed, too, that there are no grounds, internal or external, to doubt either the moral, intellectual, or circumstantial competence of the biographers.  Suppose, moreover, that wherever the opportunity existed of collating their documents and quotations with the records and works still preserved, the former were found substantially correct and faithful, the few differences in nowise altering or disturbing the spirit and purpose of the paragraphs in which they were found; and that of what was not collatable, and to which no test ab extra could be applied, the far larger part bore witness in itself of the same spirit and origin; and that not only by its characteristic features, but by its surpassing excellence, it rendered the chances of its having had any other author than the giant-mind, to whom the biographer ascribes it, small indeed!  Now, from the nature and objects of my pursuits, I have, we will suppose, frequent occasion to refer to one or other of these works; for example, to Rawley’s Dicta et Facta Francisci de Verulam.  At one time I might refer to the work in some such words as—“Remember what Francis of Verulam said or judged;” or, “If you believe not me, yet believe Lord Bacon.”  At another time I might take the running title of the volume, and at another the name of the biographer;—“Turn to your Rawley!  He will set you right;” or, “There you will find a depth which no research will ever exhaust;” or whatever other strong expression my sense of Bacon’s greatness and of the intrinsic worth and the value of the proofs and specimens of that greatness, contained and preserved in that volume, would excite and justify.  But let my expressions be as vivid and unqualified as the most sanguine temperament ever inspired, would any man of sense conclude from them that I meant—and meant to make others believe—that not only each and all of these anecdotes, adages, decisions, extracts, incidents, had been dictated, word by word, by Lord Bacon; and that all Rawley’s own observations and inferences, all the connectives and disjunctives, all the recollections of time, place, and circumstance, together with the order and succession of the narrative, were in like manner dictated and revised by the spirit of the deceased Chancellor?  The answer will be—must be—No man in his senses!  “No man in his senses—in this instance; but in that of the Bible it is quite otherwise; for (I take it as an admitted point that) it is quite otherwise!”

And here I renounce any advantage I might obtain for my argument by restricting the application of our Lord’s and the Apostle’s words to the Hebrew Canon.  I admit the justice—I have long felt the full force—of the remark—“We have all that the occasion allowed.”  And if the same awful authority does not apply so directly to the Evangelical and Apostolical writings as to the Hebrew Canon, yet the analogy of faith justifies the transfer.  If the doctrine be less decisively Scriptural in its application to the New Testament or the Christian Canon, the temptation to doubt it is likewise less.  So at least we are led to infer; since in point of fact it is the apparent or imagined contrast, the diversity of spirit which sundry individuals have believed themselves to find in the Old Testament and in the Gospel, that has given occasion to the doubt;—and, in the heart of thousands who yield a faith of acquiescence to the contrary, and find rest in their humility—supplies fuel to a fearful wish that it were permitted to make a distinction.

But, lastly, you object that—even granting that no coercive, positive reasons for the belief—no direct and not inferred assertions—of the plenary inspiration of the Old and New Testament, in the generally received import of the term, could be adduced, yet—in behalf of a doctrine so catholic, and during so long a succession of ages affirmed and acted on by Jew and Christian, Greek, Romish, and Protestant, you need no other answer than:—“Tell me, first, why it should not be received!  Why should I not believe the Scriptures throughout dictated, in word and thought, by an infallible Intelligence?”  I admit the fairness of the retort; and eagerly and earnestly do I answer: For every reason that makes me prize and revere these Scriptures;—prize them, love them, revere them, beyond all other books!  Why should I not?  Because the doctrine in question petrifies at once the whole body of Holy Writ with all its harmonies and symmetrical gradations—the flexile and the rigid—the supporting hard and the clothing soft—the blood which is the life—the intelligencing nerves, and the rudely woven, but soft and springy, cellular substance, in which all are imbedded and lightly bound together.  This breathing organism, this glorious panharmonicon which I had seen stand on its feet as a man, and with a man’s voice given to it, the doctrine in question turns at once into a colossal Memnon’s head, a hollow passage for a voice, a voice that mocks the voices of many men, and speaks in their names, and yet is but one voice, and the same; and no man uttered it, and never in a human heart was it conceived.  Why should I not?—Because the doctrine evacuates of all sense and efficacy the sure and constant tradition, that all the several books bound up together in our precious family Bible were composed in different and widely-distant ages, under the greatest diversity of circumstances, and degrees of light and information, and yet that the composers, whether as uttering or as recording what was uttered and what was done, were all actuated by a pure and holy Spirit, one and the same—(for is there any spirit pure and holy, and yet not proceeding from God—and yet not proceeding in and with the Holy Spirit?)—one Spirit, working diversely, now awakening strength, and now glorifying itself in weakness, now giving power and direction to knowledge, and now taking away the sting from error!  Ere the summer and the months of ripening had arrived for the heart of the race; while the whole sap of the tree was crude, and each and every fruit lived in the harsh and bitter principle; even then this Spirit withdrew its chosen ministers from the false and guilt-making centre of Self.  It converted the wrath into a form and an organ of love, and on the passing storm-cloud impressed the fair rainbow of promise to all generations.  Put the lust of Self in the forked lightning, and would it not be a Spirit of Moloch?  But God maketh the lightnings His ministers, fire and hail, vapours and stormy winds fulfilling His word.

Curse ye Merozsaid the angel of the Lordcurse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof—sang Deborah.  Was it that she called to mind any personal wrongs—rapine or insult—that she or the house of Lapidoth had received from Jabin or Sisera?  No; she had dwelt under her palm tree in the depth of the mountain.  But she was a mother in Israel; and with a mother’s heart, and with the vehemency of a mother’s and a patriot’s love, she had shot the light of love from her eyes, and poured the blessings of love from her lips, on the people that had jeoparded their lives unto the death against the oppressors; and the bitterness, awakened and borne aloft by the same love, she precipitated in curses on the selfish and coward recreants who came not to the help of the Lordto the help of the Lordagainst the mighty.  As long as I have the image of Deborah before my eyes, and while I throw myself back into the age, country, circumstances, of this Hebrew Bonduca in the not yet tamed chaos of the spiritual creation;—as long as I contemplate the impassioned, high-souled, heroic woman in all the prominence and individuality of will and character,—I feel as if I were among the first ferments of the great affections—the proplastic waves of the microcosmic chaos, swelling up against—and yet towards—the outspread wings of the dove that lies brooding on the troubled waters.  So long all is well,—all replete with instruction and example.  In the fierce and inordinate I am made to know and be grateful for the clearer and purer radiance which shines on a Christian’s paths, neither blunted by the preparatory veil, nor crimsoned in its struggle through the all-enwrapping mist of the world’s ignorance: whilst in the self-oblivion of these heroes of the Old Testament, their elevation above all low and individual interests,—above all, in the entire and vehement devotion of their total being to the service of their divine Master, I find a lesson of humility, a ground of humiliation, and a shaming, yet rousing, example of faith and fealty.  But let me once be persuaded that all these heart-awakening utterances of human hearts—of men of like faculties and passions with myself, mourning, rejoicing, suffering, triumphing—are but as a Divina Commedia of a superhuman—O bear with me, if I say—Ventriloquist;—that the royal harper, to whom I have so often submitted myself as a many-stringed instrument for his fire-tipt fingers to traverse, while every several nerve of emotion, passion, thought, that thrids the flesh-and-blood of our common humanity, responded to the touch,—that this sweet Psalmist of Israel was himself as mere an instrument as his harp, an automaton poet, mourner, and supplicant;—all is gone,—all sympathy, at least, and all example.  I listen in awe and fear, but likewise in perplexity and confusion of spirit.

Yet one other instance, and let this be the crucial test of the doctrine.  Say that the Book of Job throughout was dictated by an infallible intelligence.  Then re-peruse the book, and still, as you proceed, try to apply the tenet; try if you can even attach any sense or semblance of meaning to the speeches which you are reading.  What! were the hollow truisms, the unsufficing half-truths, the false assumptions and malignant insinuations of the supercilious bigots, who corruptly defended the truth:—were the impressive facts, the piercing outcries, the pathetic appeals, and the close and powerful reasoning with which the poor sufferer—smarting at once from his wounds, and from the oil of vitriol which the orthodox liars for God were dropping into them—impatiently, but uprightly and holily, controverted this truth, while in will and in spirit he clung to it;—were both dictated by an infallible intelligence?—Alas! if I may judge from the manner in which both indiscriminately are recited, quoted, appealed to, preached upon by the routiniers of desk and pulpit, I cannot doubt that they think so—or rather, without thinking, take for granted that so they are to think;—the more readily, perhaps, because the so thinking supersedes the necessity of all afterthought.



My Dear Friend,

You reply to the conclusion of my Letter: “What have we to do with routiniers?  Quid mihi cum homunculis putata putide reputantibus?  Let nothings count for nothing, and the dead bury the dead!  Who but such ever understood the tenet in this sense?”

In what sense then, I rejoin, do others understand it?  If, with exception of the passages already excepted, namely, the recorded words of God—concerning which no Christian can have doubt or scruple,—the tenet in this sense be inapplicable to the Scripture, destructive of its noblest purposes, and contradictory to its own express declarations,—again and again I ask:—What am I to substitute?  What other sense is conceivable that does not destroy the doctrine which it professes to interpret—that does not convert it into its own negative?  As if a geometrician should name a sugar-loaf an ellipse, adding—“By which term I here mean a cone;”—and then justify the misnomer on the pretext that the ellipse is among the conic sections!  And yet—notwithstanding the repugnancy of the doctrine, in its unqualified sense, to Scripture, Reason, and Common Sense theoretically, while to all practical uses it is intractable, unmalleable, and altogether unprofitable—notwithstanding its irrationality, and in the face of your expostulation, grounded on the palpableness of its irrationality,—I must still avow my belief that, however fittingly and unsteadily, as through a mist, it is the doctrine which the generality of our popular divines receive as orthodox, and this the sense which they attach to the words.

For on what other ground can I account for the whimsical subintelligiturs of our numerous harmonists—for the curiously inferred facts, the inventive circumstantial detail, the complemental and supplemental history which, in the utter silence of all historians and absence of all historical documents, they bring to light by mere force of logic?  And all to do away some half score apparent discrepancies in the chronicles and memoirs of the Old and New Testaments—discrepancies so analogous to what is found in all other narratives of the same story by several narrators—so analogous to what is found in all other known and trusted histories by contemporary historians, when they are collated with each other (nay, not seldom when either historian is compared with himself), as to form in the eyes of all competent judges a characteristic mark of the genuineness, independency, and (if I may apply the word to a book), the veraciousness of each several document; a mark, the absence of which would warrant a suspicion of collusion, invention, or at best of servile transcription; discrepancies so trifling in circumstance and import, that, although in some instances it is highly probable, and in all instances, perhaps, possible that they are only apparent and reconcilable, no wise man would care a staw whether they were real or apparent, reconciled or left in harmless and friendly variance.  What, I ask, could have induced learned and intelligent divines to adopt or sanction subterfuges, which neutralising the ordinary criteria of full or defective evidence in historical documents, would, taken as a general rule, render all collation and cross-examination of written records ineffective, and obliterate the main character by which authentic histories are distinguished from those traditional tales, which each successive reporter enlarges and fashions to his own fancy and purpose, and every different edition of which more or less contradicts the other?  Allow me to create chasms ad libitum, and ad libitum to fill them up with imagined facts and incidents, and I would almost undertake to harmonise Falstaff’s account of the rogues in buckram into a coherent and consistent narrative.  What, I say, could have tempted grave and pious men thus to disturb the foundation of the Temple, in order to repair a petty breach or rat-hole in the wall, or fasten a loose stone or two in the outer court, if not an assumed necessity arising out of the peculiar character of Bible history?

The substance of the syllogism, by which their procedure was justified to their own minds, can be no other than this.  That, without which two assertions—both of which must be alike true and correct—would contradict each other, and consequently be, one or both, false or incorrect, must itself be true.  But every word and syllable existing in the original text of the Canonical Books, from the Cherethi and Phelethi of David to the name in the copy of a family register, the site of a town, or the course of a river, were dictated to the sacred amanuensis by an infallible intelligence.  Here there can be neither more nor less.  Important or unimportant gives no ground of difference; and the number of the writers as little.  The secretaries may have been many—the historian was one and the same, and he infallible.  This is the minor of the syllogism, and if it could be proved, the conclusion would be at least plausible; and there would be but one objection to the procedure, namely, its uselessness.  For if it had been proved already, what need of proving it over again, and by means—the removal, namely, of apparent contradictions—which the infallible Author did not think good to employ?  But if it have not been proved, what becomes of the argument which derives its whole force and legitimacy from the assumption?

In fact, it is clear that the harmonists and their admirers held and understood the doctrine literally.  And must not that divine likewise have so understood it, who, in answer to a question concerning the transcendant blessedness of Jael, and the righteousness of the act, in which she inhospitably, treacherously, perfidiously murdered sleep, the confiding sleep, closed the controversy by observing that he wanted no better morality than that of the Bible, and no other proof of an action’s being praiseworthy than that the Bible had declared it worthy to be praised?—an observation, as applied in this instance, so slanderous to the morality and moral spirit of the Bible as to be inexplicable, except as a consequence of the doctrine in dispute.  But let a man be once fully persuaded that there is no difference between the two positions: “The Bible contains the religion revealed by God,” and “Whatever is contained in the Bible is religion, and was revealed by God,” and that whatever can be said of the Bible, collectively taken, may and must be said of each and every sentence of the Bible, taken for and by itself, and I no longer wonder at these paradoxes.  I only object to the inconsistency of those who profess the same belief, and yet affect to look down with a contemptuous or compassionate smile on John Wesley for rejecting the Copernican system as incompatible therewith; or who exclaim “Wonderful!” when they hear that Sir Matthew Hale sent a crazy old woman to the gallows in honour of the Witch of Endor.  In the latter instance it might, I admit, have been an erroneous (though even at this day the all but universally received) interpretation of the word, which we have rendered by witch; but I challenge these divines and their adherents to establish the compatibility of a belief in the modern astronomy and natural philosophy with their and Wesley’s doctrine respecting the inspired Scriptures, without reducing the doctrine itself to a plaything of wax; or rather to a half-inflated bladder, which, when the contents are rarefied in the heat of rhetorical generalities, swells out round, and without a crease or wrinkle; but bring it into the cool temperature of particulars, and you may press, and as it were except, what part you like—so it be but one part at a time—between your thumb and finger.

Now, I pray you, which is the more honest, nay, which the more reverential proceeding—to play at fast and loose in this way, or to say at once, “See here, in these several writings one and the same Holy Spirit, now sanctifying a chosen vessel, and fitting it for the reception of heavenly truths proceeding immediately from the mouth of God, and elsewhere working in frail and fallible men like ourselves, and like ourselves instructed by God’s word and laws?”  The first Christian martyr had the form and features of an ordinary man, nor are we taught to believe that these features were miraculously transfigured into superhuman symmetry; but he being filled with the Holy Ghostthey that looked steadfastly on himsaw his face as it had been the face of an angel.  Even so has it ever been, and so it ever will be with all who with humble hearts and a rightly disposed spirit scan the sacred volume.  And they who read it with an evil heart of unbelief and an alien spirit, what boots for them the assertion that every sentence was miraculously communicated to the nominal author by God himself?  Will it not rather present additional temptations to the unhappy scoffers, and furnish them with a pretext of self-justification?

When, in my third letter, I first echoed the question “Why should I not?” the answers came crowding on my mind.  I am well content, however, to have merely suggested the main points, in proof of the positive harm which, both historically and spiritually, our religion sustains from this doctrine.  Of minor importance, yet not to be overlooked, are the forced and fantastic interpretations, the arbitrary allegories and mystic expansions of proper names, to which this indiscriminate Bibliolatry furnished fuel, spark, and wind.  A still greater evil, and less attributable to the visionary humour and weak judgment of the individual expositors, is the literal rendering of Scripture in passages, which the number and variety of images employed in different places to express one and the same verity, plainly mark out for figurative.  And lastly, add to all these the strange—in all other writings unexampled—practice of bringing together into logical dependency detached sentences from books composed at the distance of centuries, nay, sometimes a millennium from each other, under different dispensations, and for different objects.  Accommodations of elder Scriptural phrases—that favourite ornament and garnish of Jewish eloquence; incidental allusions to popular notions, traditions, apologues (for example, the dispute between the Devil and the archangel Michael about the body of Moses, Jude 9); fancies and anachronisms imported from the synagogue of Alexandria into Palestine, by or together with the Septuagint version, and applied as mere argumenta ad homines (for example, the delivery of the Law by the disposition of angels, Acts vii. 53, Gal. iii. 19, Heb. ii. 2),—these, detached from their context, and, contrary to the intention of the sacred writer, first raised into independent theses, and then brought together to produce or sanction some new credendum for which neither separately could have furnished a pretence!  By this strange mosaic, Scripture texts have been worked up into passable likenesses of purgatory, Popery, the Inquisition, and other monstrous abuses.  But would you have a Protestant instance of the superstitious use of Scripture arising out of this dogma?  Passing by the Cabbala of the Hutchinsonian School as the dotage of a few weak-minded individuals, I refer you to Bishop Hacket’s sermons on the Incarnation.  And if you have read the same author’s life of Archbishop Williams, and have seen and felt (as every reader of this latter work must see and feel) his talent, learning, acuteness, and robust good sense, you will have no difficulty in determining the quality and character of a dogma which could engraft such fruits on such a tree.

It will perhaps appear a paradox if, after all these reasons, I should avow that they weigh less in my mind against the doctrine, than the motives usually assigned for maintaining and enjoining it.  Such, for instance, are the arguments drawn from the anticipated loss and damage that would result from its abandonment; as that it would deprive the Christian world of its only infallible arbiter in questions of faith and duty, suppress the only common and inappellable tribunal; that the Bible is the only religious bond of union and ground of unity among Protestants and the like.  For the confutation of this whole reasoning, it might be sufficient to ask: Has it produced these effects?  Would not the contrary statement be nearer to the fact?  What did the Churches of the first four centuries hold on this point?  To what did they attribute the rise and multiplication of heresies?  Can any learned and candid Protestant affirm that there existed and exists no ground for the charges of Bossuet and other eminent Romish divines?  It is no easy matter to know how to handle a party maxim, so framed, that with the exception of a single word, it expresses an important truth, but which by means of that word is made to convey a most dangerous error.

The Bible is the appointed conservatory, an indispensable criterion, and a continual source and support of true belief.  But that the Bible is the sole source; that it not only contains, but constitutes, the Christian Religion; that it is, in short, a Creed, consisting wholly of articles of Faith; that consequently we need no rule, help, or guide, spiritual or historical, to teach us what parts are and what are not articles of Faith—all being such—and the difference between the Bible and the Creed being this, that the clauses of the latter are all unconditionally necessary to salvation, but those of the former conditionally so, that is, as soon as the words are known to exist in any one of the canonical books; and that, under this limitation, the belief is of the same necessity in both, and not at all affected by the greater or lesser importance of the matter to be believed;—this scheme differs widely from the preceding, though its adherents often make use of the same words in expressing their belief.  And this latter scheme, I assert, was brought into currency by and in favour of those by whom the operation of grace, the aids of the Spirit, the necessity of regeneration, the corruption of our nature, in short, all the peculiar and spiritual mysteries of the Gospel were explained and diluted away.

And how have these men treated this very Bible?  I, who indeed prize and reverence this sacred library, as of all outward means and conservatives of Christian faith and practice the surest and the most reflective of the inward Word; I, who hold that the Bible contains the religion of Christians, but who dare not say that whatever is contained in the Bible is the Christian religion, and who shrink from all question respecting the comparative worth and efficacy of the written Word as weighed against the preaching of the Gospel, the discipline of the Churches, the continued succession of the Ministry, and the communion of Saints, lest by comparing them I should seem to detach them; I tremble at the processes which the Grotian divines without scruple carry on in their treatment of the sacred writers, as soon as any texts declaring the peculiar tenets of our Faith are cited against them—even tenets and mysteries which the believer at his baptism receives as the title-writ and bosom-roll of his adoption; and which, according to my scheme, every Christian born in Church-membership ought to bring with him to the study of the sacred Scriptures as the master-key of interpretation.  Whatever the doctrine of infallible dictation may be in itself, in their hands it is to the last degree nugatory, and to be paralleled only by the Romish tenet of Infallibility—in the existence of which all agree, but where, and in whom, it exists stat adhuc sub lite.  Every sentence found in a canonical Book, rightly interpreted, contains the dictum of an infallible Mind; but what the right interpretation is—or whether the very words now extant are corrupt or genuine—must be determined by the industry and understanding of fallible, and alas! more or less prejudiced theologians.

And yet I am told that this doctrine must not be resisted or called in question, because of its fitness to preserve unity of faith, and for the prevention of schism and sectarian byways!  Let the man who holds this language trace the history of Protestantism, and the growth of sectarian divisions, ending with Dr. Hawker’s ultra-Calvinistic Tracts, and Mr. Belsham’s New Version of the Testament.  And then let him tell me that for the prevention of an evil which already exists, and which the boasted preventive itself might rather seem to have occasioned, I must submit to be silenced by the first learned infidel, who throws in my face the blessing of Deborah, or the cursings of David, or the Grecisms and heavier difficulties in the biographical chapters of the Book of Daniel, or the hydrography and natural philosophy of the Patriarchal ages.  I must forego the means of silencing, and the prospect of convincing, an alienated brother, because I must not thus answer “My Brother!  What has all this to do with the truth and the worth of Christianity?  If you reject à priori all communion with the Holy Spirit, there is indeed a chasm between us, over which we cannot even make our voices intelligible to each other.  But if—though but with the faith of a Seneca or an Antonine—you admit the co-operation of a Divine Spirit in souls desirous of good, even as the breath of heaven works variously in each several plant according to its kind, character, period of growth, and circumstance of soil, clime, and aspect; on what ground can you assume that its presence is incompatible with all imperfection in the subject—even with such imperfection as is the natural accompaniment of the unripe season?  If you call your gardener or husbandman to account for the plants or crops he is raising, would you not regard the special purpose in each, and judge of each by that which it was tending to?  Thorns are not flowers, nor is the husk serviceable.  But it was not for its thorns, but for its sweet and medicinal flowers that the rose was cultivated; and he who cannot separate the husk from the grain, wants the power because sloth or malice has prevented the will.  I demand for the Bible only the justice which you grant to other books of grave authority, and to other proved and acknowledged benefactors of mankind.  Will you deny a spirit of wisdom in Lord Bacon, because in particular facts he did not possess perfect science, or an entire immunity from the positive errors which result from imperfect insight?  A Davy will not so judge his great predecessor; for he recognises the spirit that is now working in himself, and which under similar defects of light and obstacles of error had been his guide and guardian in the morning twilight of his own genius.  Must not the kindly warmth awaken and vivify the seed, in order that the stem may spring up and rejoice in the light?  As the genial warmth to the informing light, even so is the predisposing Spirit to the revealing Word.”

If I should reason thus—but why do I say if?  I have reasoned thus with more than one serious and well-disposed sceptic; and what was the answer?—“You speak rationally, but seem to forget the subject.  I have frequently attended meetings of the British and Foreign Bible Society, where I have heard speakers of every denomination, Calvinist and Arminian, Quaker and Methodist, Dissenting Ministers and Clergymen, nay, dignitaries of the Established Church, and still have I heard the same doctrine—that the Bible was not to be regarded or reasoned about in the way that other good books are or may be—that the Bible was different in kind, and stood by itself.  By some indeed this doctrine was rather implied than expressed, but yet evidently implied.  But by far the greater number of the speakers it was asserted in the strongest and most unqualified words that language could supply.  What is more, their principal arguments were grounded on the position, that the Bible throughout was dictated by Omniscience, and therefore in all its parts infallibly true and obligatory, and that the men whose names are prefixed to the several books or chapters were in fact but as different pens in the hand of one and the same Writer, and the words the words of God Himself: and that on this account all notes and comments were superfluous, nay, presumptuous—a profane mixing of human with divine, the notions of fallible creatures with the oracles of Infallibility—as if God’s meaning could be so clearly or fitly expressed in man’s as in God’s own words!  But how often you yourself must have heard the same language from the pulpit!”

What could I reply to this?  I could neither deny the fact, nor evade the conclusion—namely, that such is at present the popular belief.  Yes—I at length rejoined—I have heard this language from the pulpit, and more than once from men who in any other place would explain it away into something so very different from the literal sense of their words as closely to resemble the contrary.  And this, indeed, is the peculiar character of the doctrine, that you cannot diminish or qualify but you reverse it.  I have heard this language from men who knew as well as myself that the best and most orthodox divines have in effect disclaimed the doctrine, inasmuch as they confess it cannot be extended to the words of the sacred writers, or the particular import—that therefore the doctrine does not mean all that the usual wording of it expresses, though what it does mean, and why they continue to sanction this hyperbolical wording, I have sought to learn from them in vain.  But let a thousand orators blazon it at public meetings, and let as many pulpits echo it, surely it behoves you to inquire whether you cannot be a Christian on your own faith; and it cannot but be beneath a wise man to be an Infidel on the score of what other men think fit to include in their Christianity!

Now suppose—and, believe me, the supposition will vary little from the fact—that in consequence of these views the sceptic’s mind had gradually opened to the reception of all the truths enumerated in my first Letter.  Suppose that the Scriptures themselves from this time had continued to rise in his esteem and affection—the better understood, the more dear; as in the countenance of one, whom through a cloud of prejudices we have at least learned to love and value above all others, new beauties dawn on us from day to day, till at length we wonder how we could at any time have thought it other than most beautiful.  Studying the sacred volume in the light and in the freedom of a faith already secured, at every fresh meeting my sceptic friend has to tell me of some new passage, formerly viewed by him as a dry stick on a rotten branch, which has budded and, like the rod of Aaron, brought forth buds and bloomed blossomsand yielded almonds.  Let these results, I say, be supposed—and shall I still be told that my friend is nevertheless an alien in the household of Faith?  Scrupulously orthodox as I know you to be, will you tell me that I ought to have left this sceptic as I found him, rather than attempt his conversion by such means; or that I was deceiving him, when I said to him:—

“Friend!  The truth revealed through Christ has its evidence in itself, and the proof of its divine authority in its fitness to our nature and needs; the clearness and cogency of this proof being proportionate to the degree of self-knowledge in each individual hearer.  Christianity has likewise its historical evidences, and these as strong as is compatible with the nature of history, and with the aims and objects of a religious dispensation.  And to all these Christianity itself, as an existing power in the world, and Christendom as an existing fact, with the no less evident fact of a progressive expansion, give a force of moral demonstration that almost supersedes particular testimony.  These proofs and evidences would remain unshaken, even though the sum of our religion were to be drawn from the theologians of each successive century, on the principle of receiving that only as divine which should be found in all—quod semperquod ubiquequod ab omnibus.  Be only, my friend! as orthodox a believer as you would have abundant reason to be, though from some accident of birth, country, or education, the precious boon of the Bible, with its additional evidence, had up to this moment been concealed from you;—and then read its contents with only the same piety which you freely accord on other occasions to the writings of men, considered the best and wisest of their several ages!  What you find therein coincident with your pre-established convictions, you will of course recognise as the Revealed Word, while, as you read the recorded workings of the Word and the Spirit in the minds, lives, and hearts of spiritual men, the influence of the same Spirit on your own being, and the conflicts of grace and infirmity in your own soul, will enable you to discern and to know in and by what spirit they spake and acted—as far at least as shall be needful for you, and in the times of your need.

“Thenceforward, therefore, your doubts will be confined to such parts or passages of the received Canon as seem to you irreconcilable with known truths, and at variance with the tests given in the Scriptures themselves, and as shall continue so to appear after you have examined each in reference to the circumstances of the writer or speaker, the dispensation under which he lived, the purpose of the particular passage, and the intent and object of the Scriptures at large.  Respecting these, decide for yourself: and fear not for the result.  I venture to tell it you beforehand.  The result will be, a confidence in the judgment and fidelity of the compilers of the Canon increased by the apparent exceptions.  For they will be found neither more nor greater than may well be supposed requisite, on the one hand, to prevent us from sinking into a habit of slothful, undiscriminating acquiescence, and on the other to provide a check against those presumptuous fanatics who would rend the Urim and Thummim from the breastplate of judgment, and frame oracles by private divination from each letter of each disjointed gem, uninterpreted by the Priest, and deserted by the Spirit, which shines in the parts only as it pervades and irradiates the whole.”

Such is the language in which I have addressed a halting friend—halting, yet with his face toward the right path.  If I have erred, enable me to see my error.  Correct me, or confirm me.



Yes, my dear friend, it is my conviction that in all ordinary cases the knowledge and belief of the Christian Religion should precede the study of the Hebrew Canon.  Indeed, with regard to both Testaments, I consider oral and catechismal instruction as the preparative provided by Christ himself in the establishment of a visible Church.  And to make the Bible, apart from the truths, doctrines, and spiritual experiences contained therein, the subject of a special article of faith, I hold an unnecessary and useless abstraction, which in too many instances has the effect of substituting a barren acquiescence in the letter for the lively faith that cometh by hearing; even as the hearing is productive of this faith, because it is the Word of God that is heard and preached.  (Rom. x. 8, 17.)  And here I mean the written Word preserved in the armoury of the Church to be the sword of faith out of the mouth of the preacher, as Christ’s ambassador and representative (Rev. i. 16), and out of the heart of the believer from generation to generation.  Who shall dare dissolve or loosen this holy bond, this divine reciprocality, of Faith and Scripture?  Who shall dare enjoin aught else as an object of saving faith, beside the truths that appertain to salvation?  The imposers take on themselves a heavy responsibility, however defensible the opinion itself, as an opinion, may be.  For by imposing it, they counteract their own purposes.  They antedate questions, and thus, in all cases, aggravate the difficulty of answering them satisfactorily.  And not seldom they create difficulties that might never have occurred.  But, worst of all, they convert things trifling or indifferent into mischievous pretexts for the wanton, fearful difficulties for the weak, and formidable objections for the inquiring.  For what manfearing God dares think any the least point indifferent, which he is required to receive as God’s own immediate Word miraculously infused, miraculously recorded, and by a succession of miracles preserved unblended and without change?—Through all the pages of a large and multifold volume, at each successive period, at every sentence, must the question recur:—“Dare I believe—do I in my heart believe—these words to have been dictated by an infallible reason, and the immediate utterance of Almighty God?”—No!  It is due to Christian charity that a question so awful should not be put unnecessarily, and should not be put out of time.  The necessity I deny.  And out of time the question must be put, if after enumerating the several articles of the Catholic Faith I am bound to add:—“and further you are to believe with equal faith, as having the same immediate and miraculous derivation from God, whatever else you shall hereafter read in any of the sixty-six books collected in the Old and New Testaments.”

I would never say this.  Yet let me not be misjudged as if I treated the Scriptures as a matter of indifference.  I would not say this, but where I saw a desire to believe, and a beginning love of Christ, I would there say:—“There are likewise sacred writings, which, taken in connection with the institution and perpetuity of a visible Church, all believers revere as the most precious boon of God, next to Christianity itself, and attribute both their communication and preservation to an especial Providence.  In them you will find all the revealed truths, which have been set forth and offered to you, clearly and circumstantially recorded; and, in addition to these, examples of obedience and disobedience both in states and individuals, the lives and actions of men eminent under each dispensation, their sentiments, maxims, hymns, and prayers—their affections, emotions, and conflicts;—in all which you will recognise the influence of the Holy Spirit, with a conviction increasing with the growth of your own faith and spiritual experience.”



My Dear Friend,

In my last two Letters I have given the state of the argument as it would stand between a Christian, thinking as I do, and a serious well-disposed Deist.  I will now endeavour to state the argument, as between the former and the advocates for the popular belief,—such of them, I mean, as are competent to deliver a dispassionate judgment in the cause.  And again, more particularly, I mean the learned and reflecting part of them, who are influenced to the retention of the prevailing dogma by the supposed consequences of a different view, and, especially, by their dread of conceding to all alike, simple and learned, the privilege of picking and choosing the Scriptures that are to be received as binding on their consciences.  Between these persons and myself the controversy may be reduced to a single question:—

Is it safer for the individual, and more conducive to the interests of the Church of Christ, in its twofold character of pastoral and militant, to conclude thus:—The Bible is the Word of God, and therefore, true, holy, and in all parts unquestionable?  Or thus:—The Bible, considered in reference to its declared ends and purposes, is true and holy, and for all who seek truth with humble spirits an unquestionable guide, and therefore it is the Word of God?

In every generation, and wherever the light of Revelation has shone, men of all ranks, conditions, and states of mind have found in this volume a correspondent for every movement toward the better, felt in their own hearts, the needy soul has found supply, the feeble a help, the sorrowful a comfort; yea, be the recipiency the least that can consist with moral life, there is an answering grace ready to enter.  The Bible has been found a Spiritual World, spiritual and yet at the same time outward and common to all.  You in one place, I in another, all men somewhere or at some time, meet with an assurance that the hopes and fears, the thoughts and yearnings that proceed from, or tend to, a right spirit in us, are not dreams or fleeting singularities, no voices heard in sleep, or spectres which the eye suffers but not perceives.  As if on some dark night a pilgrim, suddenly beholding a bright star moving before him, should stop in fear and perplexity.  But lo! traveller after traveller passes by him, and each, being questioned whither he is going, makes answer, “I am following yon guiding star!”  The pilgrim quickens his own steps, and presses onward in confidence.  More confident still will he be, if, by the wayside, he should find, here and there, ancient monuments, each with its votive lamp, and on each the name of some former pilgrim, and a record that there he had first seen or begun to follow the benignant Star!

No otherwise is it with the varied contents of the Sacred Volume.  The hungry have found food, the thirsty a living spring, the feeble a staff, and the victorious warfarer songs of welcome and strains of music; and as long as each man asks on account of his wants, and asks what he wants, no man will discover aught amiss or deficient in the vast and many-chambered storehouse.  But if, instead of this, an idler or scoffer should wander through the rooms, peering and peeping, and either detects, or fancies he has detected, here a rusted sword or pointless shaft, there a tool of rude construction, and superseded by later improvements (and preserved, perhaps, to make us more grateful for them);—which of two things will a sober-minded man,—who, from his childhood upward had been fed, clothed, armed, and furnished with the means of instruction from this very magazine,—think the fitter plan?  Will he insist that the rust is not rust, or that it is a rust sui generis, intentionally formed on the steel for some mysterious virtue in it, and that the staff and astrolabe of a shepherd-astronomer are identical with, or equivalent to, the quadrant and telescope of Newton or Herschel?  Or will he not rather give the curious inquisitor joy of his mighty discoveries, and the credit of them for his reward?

Or lastly, put the matter thus: For more than a thousand years the Bible, collectively taken, has gone hand in hand with civilisation, science, law—in short, with the moral and intellectual cultivation of the species, always supporting, and often leading, the way.  Its very presence, as a believed Book, has rendered the nations emphatically a chosen race, and this too in exact proportion as it is more or less generally known and studied.  Of those nations which in the highest degree enjoy its influences it is not too much to affirm, that the differences, public and private, physical, moral and intellectual, are only less than what might be expected from a diversity in species.  Good and holy men, and the best and wisest of mankind, the kingly spirits of history, enthroned in the hearts of mighty nations, have borne witness to its influences, have declared it to be beyond compare the most perfect instrument, the only adequate organ, of Humanity; the organ and instrument of all the gifts, powers, and tendencies, by which the individual is privileged to rise above himself—to leave behind, and lose his individual phantom self, in order to find his true self in that Distinctness where no division can be—in the Eternal I AM, the Ever-living Word, of whom all the elect from the archangel before time throne to the poor wrestler with the Spirit until the breaking of day are but the fainter and still fainter echoes.  And are all these testimonies and lights of experience to lose their value and efficiency because I feel no warrant of history, or Holy Writ, or of my own heart for denying, that in the framework and outward case of this instrument a few parts may be discovered of less costly materials and of meaner workmanship?  Is it not a fact that the Books of the New Testament were tried by their consonance with the rule, and according to the analogy, of faith?  Does not the universally admitted canon—that each part of Scripture must be interpreted by the spirit of the whole—lead to the same practical conclusion as that for which I am now contending—namely, that it is the spirit of the Bible, and not the detached words and sentences, that is infallible and absolute?  Practical, I say, and spiritual too; and what knowledge not practical or spiritual are we entitled to seek in our Bibles?  Is the grace of God so confined—are the evidences of the present and actuating Spirit so dim and doubtful—that to be assured of the same we must first take for granted that all the life and co-agency of our humanity is miraculously suspended?

Whatever is spiritual, is eo nomine supernatural; but must it be always and of necessity miraculous?  Miracles could open the eyes of the body; and he that was born blind beheld his Redeemer.  But miracles, even those of the Redeemer himself, could not open the eyes of the self-blinded, of the Sadducean sensualist, or the self-righteous Pharisee—while to have said, I saw thee under the fig-tree, sufficed to make a Nathanael believe.

To assert and to demand miracles without necessity was the vice of the unbelieving Jews of old; and from the Rabbis and Talmudists the infection has spread.  And would I could say that the symptoms of the disease are confined to the Churches of the Apostasy!  But all the miracles, which the legends of Monk or Rabbi contain, can scarcely be put in competition, on the score of complication, inexplicableness, the absence of all intelligible use or purpose, and of circuitous self-frustration, with those that must be assumed by the maintainers of this doctrine, in order to give effect to the series of miracles, by which all the nominal composers of the Hebrew nation before the time of Ezra, of whom there are any remains, were successively transformed into automaton compositors—so that the original text should be in sentiment, image, word, syntax, and composition an exact impression of the divine copy!  In common consistency the theologians, who impose this belief on their fellow Christians, ought to insist equally on the superhuman origin and authority of the Masora, and to use more respectful terms, than has been their wont of late, in speaking of the false Aristeas’s legend concerning the Septuagint.  And why the miracle should stop at the Greek Version, and not include the Vulgate, I can discover no ground in reason.  Or if it be an objection to the latter, that this belief is actually enjoined by the Papal Church, yet the number of Christians who road the Lutheran, the Genevan, or our own authorised, Bible, and are ignorant of the dead languages, greatly exceeds the number of those who have access to the Septuagint.  Why refuse the writ of consecration to these, or to the one at least appointed by the assertors’ own Church?  I find much more consistency in the opposition made under pretext of this doctrine to the proposals and publications of Kennicot, Mill, Bentley, and Archbishop Newcome.

But I am weary of discussing a tenet which the generality of divines and the leaders of the religious public have ceased to defend, and yet continue to assert or imply.  The tendency manifested in this conduct, the spirit of this and the preceding century, on which, not indeed the tenet itself, but the obstinate adherence to it against the clearest light of reason and experience, is grounded—this it is which, according to my conviction, gives the venom to the error, and justifies the attempt to substitute a juster view.  As long as it was the common and effective belief of all the Reformed Churches (and by none was it more sedulously or more emphatically enjoined than by the great Reformers of our Church), that by the good Spirit were the spirits tried, and that the light, which beams forth from the written Word, was its own evidence for the children of light; as long as Christians considered their Bible as a plenteous entertainment, where every guest, duly called and attired, found the food needful and fitting for him, and where each—instead of troubling himself about the covers not within his reach—beholding all around him glad and satisfied, praised the banquet and thankfully glorified the Master of the feast—so long did the tenet—that the Scriptures were written under the special impulse of the Holy Ghost remain safe and profitable.  Nay, in the sense, and with the feelings, in which it was asserted, it was a truth—a truth to which every spiritual believer now and in all times will bear witness by virtue of his own experience.  And if in the overflow of love and gratitude they confounded the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, working alike in weakness and in strength, in the morning mists and in the clearness of the full day; if they confounded this communion and co-agency of divine grace, attributable to the Scripture generally, with those express, and expressly recorded, communications and messages of the Most High which form so large and prominent a portion of the same Scriptures; if, in short, they did not always duly distinguish the inspiration, the imbreathment, of the predisposing and assisting Spirit from the revelation of the informing Word, it was at worst a harmless hyperbole.  It was holden by all, that if the power of the Spirit from without furnished the text, the grace of the same Spirit from within must supply the comment.

In the sacred Volume they saw and reverenced the bounden wheat-sheaf that stood upright and had obeisance from all the other sheaves (the writings, I mean, of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church), sheaves depreciated indeed, more or less, with tares,

            “and furrow-weeds,
Darnel and many an idle flower that grew
Mid the sustaining corn;”

yet sheaves of the same harvest, the sheaves of brethren!  Nor did it occur to them, that, in yielding the more full and absolute honour to the sheaf of the highly favoured of their Father, they should be supposed to attribute the same worth and quality to the straw-bands which held it together.  The bread of life was there.  And this in an especial sense was bread from Heaven; for no where had the same been found wild; no soil or climate dared claim it for its natural growth.  In simplicity of heart they received the Bible as the precious gift of God, providential alike in origin, preservation, and distribution, without asking the nice question whether all and every part were likewise miraculous.  The distinction between the providential and the miraculous, between the Divine Will working with the agency of natural causes, and the same Will supplying their place by a special fiat—this distinction has, I doubt not, many uses in speculative divinity.  But its weightiest practical application is shown, when it is employed to free the souls of the unwary and weak in faith from the nets and snares, the insidious queries and captious objections, of the Infidel by calming the flutter of their spirits.  They must be quieted, before we can commence the means necessary for their disentanglement.  And in no way can this be better effected than when the frightened captives are made to see in how many points the disentangling itself is a work of expedience rather than of necessity; so easily and at so little loss might the web be cut or brushed away.

First, let their attention be fixed on the history of Christianity as learnt from universal tradition, and the writers of each successive generation.  Draw their minds to the fact of the progressive and still continuing fulfilment of the assurance of a few fishermen, that both their own religion, though of Divine origin, and the religion of their conquerors, which included or recognised all other religious of the known world, should be superseded by the faith in a man recently and ignominiously executed.  Then induce them to meditate on the universals of Christian Faith—on Christianity taken as the sum of belief common to Greek and Latin, to Romanist and Protestant.  Show them that this and only this is the ordo traditionisquam tradiderunt Apostoli iis quibus committebant ecclesias, and which we should have been bound to follow, says Irenæus, si neque Apostoli quidem Scripturas reliquissent.  This is that regula fidei, that sacramentum symboli memoriæ mandatum, of which St. Augustine says:—noveritis hoc esse Fidei Catholicæ fundamentum super quod edificium surrexit Ecclesiæ.  This is the norma Catholici et Ecclesiastici sensus, determined and explicated, but not augmented, by the Nicene Fathers, as Waterland has irrefragably shown; a norm or model of Faith grounded on the solemn affirmations of the Bishops collected from all parts of the Roman Empire, that this was the essential and unalterable Gospel received by them from their predecessors in all the churches as the παράδοσις ἐκκλησιαστικὴ cui, says Irenæus, assentiunt multæ gentes eorum qui in Christum credunt sine charta et atramentoscriptam habentes per Spiritum in cordibus suis salutemet veterum traditionem diligenter custodientes.  Let the attention of such as have been shaken by the assaults of infidelity be thus directed, and then tell me wherein a spiritual physician would be blameworthy, if he carried on the cure by addressing his patient in this manner:—

“All men of learning, even learned unbelievers, admit that the greater part of the objections, urged in the popular works of infidelity, to this or that verse or chapter of the Bible, prove only the ignorance or dishonesty of the objectors.  But let it be supposed for a moment that a few remain hitherto unanswered—nay, that to your judgment and feelings they appear unanswerable.  What follows?  That the Apostles’ and Nicene Creed is not credible, the Ten Commandments not to be obeyed, the clauses of the Lord’s Prayer not to be desired, or the Sermon on the Mount not to be practised?  See how the logic would look.  David cruelly tortured the inhabitants of Rabbah (2 Sam. xii. 31; 1 Chron. xx. 3), and in several of the Psalms he invokes the bitterest curses on his enemies: therefore it is not to be believed that the love of God toward us was manifested in sending His only begotten Son into the worldthat we might live through Him (1 John iv. 9).  Or, Abijah is said to have collected an army of 400,000 men, and Jeroboam to have met him with an army of 800,000 men, each army consisting of chosen men (2 Chron. xiii. 3), and making together a host of 1,200,000, and Abijah to have slain 500,000 out of the 800,000: therefore, the words which admonish us that if God so loved uswe ought also to love one another (1 John iv. 11), even our enemies, yea, to bless them that curse us, and to do good to them that hate us (Matt. v. 44), cannot proceed from the Holy Spirit.  Or: The first six chapters of the book of Daniel contain several words and phrases irreconcilable with the commonly received dates, and those chapters and the Book of Esther have a traditional and legendary character unlike that of the other historical books of the Old Testament; therefore those other books, by contrast with which the former appear suspicious, and the historical document (1 Cor. xv. 1–8), are not to be credited!”

We assuredly believe that the Bible contains all truths necessary to salvation, and that therein is preserved the undoubted Word of God.  We assert likewise that, besides these express oracles and immediate revelations, there are Scriptures which to the soul and conscience of every Christian man bear irresistible evidence of the Divine Spirit assisting and actuating the authors; and that both these and the former are such as to render it morally impossible that any passage of the small inconsiderable portion, not included in one or other of these, can supply either ground or occasion of any error in faith, practice, or affection, except to those who wickedly and wilfully seek a pretext for their unbelief.  And if in that small portion of the Bible which stands in no necessary connection with the known and especial ends and purposes of the Scriptures, there should be a few apparent errors resulting from the state of knowledge then existing—errors which the best and holiest men might entertain uninjured, and which without a miracle those men must have entertained; if I find no such miraculous prevention asserted, and see no reason for supposing it—may I not, to ease the scruples of a perplexed inquirer, venture to say to him; “Be it so.  What then?  The absolute infallibility even of the inspired writers in matters altogether incidental and foreign to the objects and purposes of their inspiration is no part of my creed: and even if a professed divine should follow the doctrine of the Jewish Church so far as not to attribute to the Hagiographa, in every word and sentence, the same height and fulness of inspiration as to the Law and the Prophets, I feel no warrant to brand him as a heretic for an opinion, the admission of which disarms the infidel without endangering a single article of the Catholic Faith.”—If to an unlearned but earnest and thoughtful neighbour I give the advice;—“Use the Old Testament to express the affections excited, and to confirm the faith and morals taught you, in the New, and leave all the rest to the students and professors of theology and Church history!  You profess only to be a Christian:”—am I misleading my brother in Christ?

This I believe by my own dear experience—that the more tranquilly an inquirer takes up the Bible as he would any other body of ancient writings, the livelier and steadier will be his impressions of its superiority to all other books, till at length all other books and all other knowledge will be valuable in his eyes in proportion as they help him to a better understanding of his Bible.  Difficulty after difficulty has been overcome from the time that I began to study the Scriptures with free and unboding spirit, under the conviction that my faith in the Incarnate Word and His Gospel was secure, whatever the result might be;—the difficulties that still remain being so few and insignificant in my own estimation, that I have less personal interest in the question than many of those who will most dogmatically condemn me for presuming to make a question of it.

So much for scholars—for men of like education and pursuits as myself.  With respect to Christians generally, I object to the consequence drawn from the doctrine rather than to the doctrine itself;—a consequence not only deducible from the premises, but actually and imperiously deduced; according to which every man that can but read is to sit down to the consecutive and connected perusal of the Bible under the expectation and assurance that the whole is within his comprehension, and that, unaided by note or comment, catechism or liturgical preparation, he is to find out for himself what he is bound to believe and practise, and that whatever he conscientiously understands by what he reads is to be his religion.  For he has found it in his Bible, and the Bible is the Religion of Protestants!

Would I then withhold the Bible from the cottager and the artisan?—Heaven forfend!  The fairest flower that ever clomb up a cottage window is not so fair a sight to my eyes as the Bible gleaming through the lower panes.  Let it but be read as by such men it used to be read; when they came to it as to a ground covered with manna, even the bread which the Lord had given for his people to eat; where he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.  They gathered every man according to his eating.  They came to it as to a treasure-house of Scriptures; each visitant taking what was precious and leaving as precious for others;—Yea, more, says our worthy old Church-historian, Fuller, where “the same man at several times may in his apprehension prefer several Scriptures as best, formerly most affected with one place, for the present more delighted with another, and afterwards, conceiving comfort therein not so clear, choose other places as more pregnant and pertinent to his purpose.  Thus God orders it, that divers men (and perhaps the same man at divers times), make use of all His gifts, gleaning and gathering comfort as it is scattered through the whole field of the Scripture.”



You are now, my dear friend, in possession of my whole mind on this point—one thing only excepted which has weighed with me more than all the rest, and which I have therefore reserved for my concluding letter.  This is the impelling principle or way of thinking, which I have in most instances noticed in the assertors of what I have ventured to call Bibliolatry, and which I believe to be the main ground of its prevalence at this time, and among men whose religious views are anything rather than enthusiastic.  And I here take occasion to declare, that my conviction of the danger and injury of this principle was and is my chief motive for bringing the doctrine itself into question; the main error of which consists in the confounding of two distinct conceptions—revelation by the Eternal Word, and actuation of the Holy Spirit.  The former indeed is not always or necessarily united with the latter—the prophecy of Balaam is an instance of the contrary,—but yet being ordinarily, and only not always, so united, the term, “Inspiration,” has acquired a double sense.

First, the term is used in the sense of Information miraculously communicated by voice or vision; and secondly, where without any sensible addition or infusion, the writer or speaker uses and applies his existing gifts of power and knowledge under the predisposing, aiding, and directing actuation of God’s Holy Spirit.  Now, between the first sense, that is, inspired revelation, and the highest degree of that grace and communion with the Spirit which the Church under all circumstances, and every regenerate member of the Church of Christ, is permitted to hope and instructed to pray for, there is a positive difference of kind—a chasm, the pretended overleaping of which constitutes imposture, or betrays insanity.  Of the first kind are the Law and the Prophets, no jot or tittle of which can pass unfulfilled, and the substance and last interpretation of which passes not away; for they wrote of Christ, and shadowed out the everlasting Gospel.  But with regard to the second, neither the holy writers—the so-called Hagiographi—themselves, nor any fair interpretations of Scripture, assert any such absolute diversity, or enjoin the belief of any greater difference of degree, than the experience of the Christian World, grounded on and growing with the comparison of these Scriptures with other works holden in honour by the Churches, has established.  And this difference I admit, and doubt not that it has in every generation been rendered evident to as many as read these Scriptures under the gracious influence of the spirit in which they were written.

But alas! this is not sufficient; this cannot but be vague and unsufficing to those with whom the Christian religion is wholly objective, to the exclusion of all its correspondent subjective.  It must appear vague, I say, to those whose Christianity as matter of belief is wholly external, and like the objects of sense, common to all alike; altogether historical, an opus operatum—its existing and present operancy in no respect differing from any other fact of history, and not at all modified by the supernatural principle in which it had its origin in time.  Divines of this persuasion are actually, though without their own knowledge, in a state not dissimilar to that into which the Latin Church sank deeper amid deeper from the sixth to the fourteenth century; during which time religion was likewise merely objective and superstitious—a letter proudly emblazoned and illuminated, but yet a dead letter that was to be read by its own outward glories without the light of the Spirit in the mind of the believer.  The consequence was too glaring not to be anticipated, and, if possible, prevented.  Without that spirit in each true believer, whereby we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error in all things appertaining to salvation, the consequence must be—so many men, so many minds!  And what was the antidote which the Priests and Rabbis of this purely objective Faith opposed to this peril?  Why, an objective, outward Infallibility, concerning which, however, the differences were scarcely less or fewer than those which it was to heal; an Infallibility which taken literally and unqualified, became the source of perplexity to the well-disposed, of unbelief to the wavering, and of scoff and triumph to the common enemy, and which was, therefore, to be qualified and limited, and then it meant so munch and so little that to men of plain understandings and single hearts it meant nothing at all.  It resided here.  No! there.  No! but in a third subject.  Nay! neither here, nor there, nor in the third, but in all three conjointly!

But even this failed to satisfy; and what was the final resource—the doctrine of those who would not be called a Protestant Church, but in which doctrine the Fathers of Protestantism in England would have found little other fault, than that it might be affirmed as truly of the decisions of any other bishop as of the Bishop of Rome?  The final resource was to restore what ought never to have been removed—the correspondent subjective, that is, the assent and confirmation of the Spirit promised to all true believers, as proved and manifested in the reception of such decision by the Church Universal in all its rightful members.

I comprise and conclude the sum of my conviction in this one sentence.  Revealed religion (and I know of no religion not revealed) is in its highest contemplation the unity, that is, the identity or co-inherence, of subjective and objective.  It is in itself, and irrelatively at once inward life and truth, and outward fact and luminary.  But as all power manifests itself in the harmony of correspondent opposites, each supposing and supporting the other; so has religion its objective, or historic and ecclesiastical pole and its subjective, or spiritual and individual pole.  In the miracles and miraculous parts of religion—both in the first communication of Divine truths, and in the promulgation of the truths thus communicated—we have the union of the two, that is, the subjective and supernatural displayed objectively—outwardly and phenomenally—as subjective and supernatural.

Lastly, in the Scriptures, as far as they are not included in the above as miracles, and in the mind of the believing and regenerate reader and meditater, there is proved to us the reciprocity or reciprocation of the spirit as subjective and objective, which in conformity with the scheme proposed by me, in aid of distinct conception and easy recollection, I have named the Indifference.  What I mean by this, a familiar acquaintance with the more popular parts of Luther’s works, especially his “Commentaries,” and the delightful volume of his “Table Talk,” would interpret for me better than I can do for myself.  But I do my best, when I say that no Christian probationer, who is earnestly working out his salvation, and experiences the conflict of the spirit with the evil and the infirmity within him and around him, can find his own state brought before him, and, as it were, antedated, in writings reverend even for their antiquity and enduring permanence, and far more and more abundantly consecrated by the reverence, love, and grateful testimonies of good men, through the long succession of ages, in every generation, and under all states of minds and circumstances of fortune, that no man, I say, can recognise his own inward experiences in such writings, and not find an objectiveness, a confirming and assuring outwardness, and all the main characters of reality reflected therefrom on the spirit, working in himself and in his own thoughts, emotions, and aspirations, warring against sin and the motions of sin.  The unsubstantial, insulated self passes away as a stream; but these are the shadows and reflections of the Rock of Ages, and of the Tree of Life that starts forth from its side.

On the other hand, as much of reality, as much of objective truth, as the Scriptures communicate to the subjective experiences of the believer, so much of present life, of living and effective import, do these experiences give to the letter of these Scriptures.  In the one the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we have received the spirit of adoption; in the other our spirit bears witness to the power of the Word, that it is indeed the Spirit that proceedeth from God.  If in the holy men thus actuated all imperfection of knowledge, all participation in the mistakes and limits of their several ages had been excluded, how could these writings be or become the history and example, the echo and more lustrous image of the work and warfare of the sanctifying principle in us?  If after all this, and in spite of all this, some captious litigator should lay hold of a text here or there—St. Paul’s cloak left at Troas with Carpus, or a verse from the Canticles, and ask, “Of what spiritual use is this?”—the answer is ready:—It proves to us that nothing can be so trifling, as not to supply an evil heart with a pretext for unbelief.

Archbishop Leighton has observed that the Church has its extensive and intensive states, and that they seldom fall together.  Certain it is, that since kings have been her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing mothers, our theologians seem to act in the spirit of fear rather than in that of faith; and too often, instead of inquiring after the truth in the confidence that whatever is truth must be fruitful of good to all who are in Him that is true, they seek with vain precautions to guard against the possible inferenceswhich perverse and distempered minds may pretend, whose whole Christianity—do what we will—is and will remain nothing but a pretence.

You have now my entire mind on this momentous question, the grounds on which it rests, and the motives which induce me to make it known; and I now conclude by repeating my request: Correct me, or confirm me.



Faith may be defined as fidelity to our own being, so far as such being is not and cannot become an object of the senses; and hence, by clear inference or implication to being generally, as far as the same is not the object of the senses; and again to whatever is affirmed or understood as the condition, or concomitant, or consequence of the same.  This will be best explained by an instance or example.  That I am conscious of something within me peremptorily commanding me to do unto others as I would they should do unto me; in other words a categorical (that is, primary and unconditional) imperative; that the maxim (regula maxima, or supreme rule) of my actions, both inward and outward, should be such as I could, without any contradiction arising therefrom, will to be the law of all moral and rational beings.  This, I say, is a fact of which I am no less conscious (though in a different way), nor less assured, than I am of any appearance presented by my outward senses.  Nor is this all; but in the very act of being conscious of this in my own nature, I know that it is a fact of which all men either are or ought to be conscious; a fact, the ignorance of which constitutes either the non-personality of the ignorant, or the guilt; in which latter case the ignorance is equivalent to knowledge wilfully darkened.  I know that I possess this knowledge as a man, and not as Samuel Taylor Coleridge; hence, knowing that consciousness of this fact is the root of all other consciousness, and the only practical contradistinction of man from the brutes, we name it the conscience, by the natural absence or presumed presence of which the law, both Divine and human, determines whether X Y Z be a thing or a person; the conscience being that which never to have had places the objects in the same order of things as the brutes, for example, idiots, and to have lost which implies either insanity or apostasy.  Well, this we have affirmed is a fact of which every honest man is as fully assured as of his seeing, hearing, or smelling.  But though the former assurance does not differ from the latter in the degree, it is altogether diverse in the kind; the senses being morally passive, while the conscience is essentially connected with the will, though not always, nor indeed in any case, except after frequent attempts and aversions of will dependent on the choice.  Thence we call the presentations of the senses impressions, those of the conscience commands or dictates.  In the senses we find our receptivity, and as far as our personal being is concerned, we are passive, but in the fact of the conscience we are not only agents, but it is by this alone that we know ourselves to be such—nay, that our very passiveness in this latter is an act of passiveness, and that we are patient (patientes), not, as in the other case, simply passive.

The result is the consciousness of responsibility, and the proof is afforded by the inward experience of the diversity between regret and remorse.

If I have sound ears, and my companion speaks to me with a due proportion of voice, I may persuade him that I did not hear, but cannot deceive myself.  But when my conscience speaks to me, I can by repeated efforts render myself finally insensible; to which add this other difference, namely, that to make myself deaf is one and the same thing with making my conscience dumb, till at length I became unconscious of my conscience.  Frequent are the instances in which it is suspended, and, as it were, drowned in the inundation of the appetites, passions, and imaginations to which I have resigned myself, making use of my will in order to abandon my free-will; and there are not, I fear, examples wanting of the conscience being utterly destroyed, or of the passage of wickedness into madness; that species of madness, namely, in which the reason is lost.  For so long as the reason continues, so long must the conscience exist, either as a good conscience or as a bad conscience.

It appears, then, that even the very first step—that the initiation of the process, the becoming conscious of a conscience—partakes of the nature of an act.  It is an act in and by which we take upon ourselves an allegiance, and consequently the obligation of fealty; and this fealty or fidelity implying the power of being unfaithful, it is the first and fundamental sense of faith.  It is likewise the commencement of experience, and the result of all other experience.  In other words, conscience in this its simplest form, must be supposed in order to consciousness, that is, to human consciousness.  Brutes may be and are scions, but those beings only who have an I, scire possunt hoc vel illud una cum seipsis; that is, conscire vel scire aliquid mecum, or to know a thing in relation to myself, and in the act of knowing myself as acted upon by that something.

Now the third person could never have been distinguished from the first but by means of the second.  There can be no He without a previous Thou.  Much less could an I exist for us except as it exists during the suspension of the will, as in dreams; and the nature of brutes may be best understood by considering them as somnambulists.  This is a deep meditation, though the position is capable of the strictest proof, namely, that there can be no I without a Thou, and that a Thou is only possible by an equation in which I is taken as equal to Thou, and yet not the same.  And this, again, is only possible by putting them in opposition as correspondent opposites, or correlatives.  In order to this, a something must be affirmed in the one which is rejected in the other, and this something is the will.  I do not will to consider myself as equal to myself, for in the very act of constructing myself I, I take it as the same, and therefore as incapable of comparison, that is, of any application of the will.  If, then, I minus the will be thethesis, Thou, plus will, must be the antithesis, but the equation of Thou with I, by means of a free act, negativing the sameness in order to establish the equality, is the true definition of conscience.  But as without a Thou there can be no You, so without a You no They, These, or Those; and as all these conjointly form the materials and subjects of consciousness and the conditions of experience, it is evident that conscience is the root of all consciousness—à fortiori, the precondition of all experience—and that the conscience cannot have been in its first revelation deduced from experience.

Soon, however, experience comes into play.  We learn that there are other impulses beside the dictates of conscience, that there are powers within us and without us ready to usurp the throne of conscience, and busy in tempting us to transfer our allegiance.  We learn that there are many things contrary to conscience, and therefore to be rejected and utterly excluded, and many that can coexist with its supremacy only by being subjugated as beasts of burthen; and others again, as for instance the social tendernesses and affections, and the faculties and excitations of the intellect, which must be at least subordinated.  The preservation of our loyalty and fealty under these trials, and against these rivals, constitutes the second sense of faith; and we shall need but one more point of view to complete its full import.  This is the consideration of what is presupposed in the human conscience.  The answer is ready.  As in the equation of the correlative I and Thou, one of the twin constituents is to be taken as plus will, the other as minus will, so is it here; and it is obvious that the reason or super-individual of each man, whereby he is a man, is the factor we are to take as minus will, and that the individual will or personalising principle of free agency (“arbitrement” is Milton’s word) is the factor marked plus will; and again, that as the identity or co-inherence of the absolute will and the reason, is the peculiar character of God, so is the synthesis of the individual will and the common reason, by the subordination of the former to the latter, the only possible likeness or image of the prothesis or identity, and therefore the required proper character of man.  Conscience, then, is a witness respecting the identity of the will and the reason, effected by the self-subordination of the will or self to the reason, as equal to or representing the will of God.  But the personal will is a factor in other moral synthesis, for example, appetite plus personal will = sensuality; lust of power, plus personal will = ambition, and so on, equally as in the synthesis on which the conscience is grounded.  Not this, therefore, but the other synthesis, must supply the specific character of the conscience, and we must enter into an analysis of reason.  Such as the nature and objects of the reason are, such must be the functions and objects of the conscience.  And the former we shall best learn by recapitulating those constituents of the total man which are either contrary to or disparate from the reason.

I.  Reason, and the proper objects of reason, are wholly alien from sensation.  Reason is supersensual, and its antagonist is appetite, and the objects of appetite the lust of the flesh.

II.  Reason and its objects do not appertain to the world of the senses, inward or outward; that is, they partake not of sense or fancy.  Reason is supersensuous, and here its antagonist is the lust of the eye.

III.  Reason and its objects are not things of reflection, association, discursion, discourse in the old sense of the word as opposed to intuition; “discursive or intuitive,” as Milton has it.  Reason does not indeed necessarily exclude the finite, either in time or in space, but it includes them eminenter.  Thus the prime mover of the material universe is affirmed to contain all motion as its cause, but not to be, or to suffer, motion in itself.

Reason is not the faculty of the finite.  But here I must premise the following.  The faculty of the finite is that which reduces the confused impressions of sense to their essential forms—quantity, quality, relation, and in these action and reaction, cause and effect, and the like; thus raises the materials furnished by the senses and sensations into objects of reflection, and so makes experience possible.  Without it, man’s representative powers would be a delirium, a chaos, a scudding cloudage of shapes; and it is therefore most appropriately called the understanding, or substantiative faculty.  Our elder metaphysicians, down to Hobbes inclusively, called this likewise discourse, discuvsus discursio, from its mode of action as not staying at any one object, but running, as it were, to and fro to abstract, generalise, and classify.  Now when this faculty is employed in the service of the pure reason, it brings out the necessary and universal truths contained in the infinite into distinct contemplation by the pure act of the sensuous imagination—that is, in the production of the forms of space and time abstracted from all corporeity, and likewise of the inherent forms of the understanding itself abstractedly from the consideration of particulars, as in the case of geometry, numeral mathematics, universal logic, and pure metaphysics.  The discursive faculty then becomes what our Shakespeare, with happy precision, calls “discourse of reason.”

We will now take up our reasoning again from the words “motion in itself.”

It is evident, then, that the reason as the irradiative power, and the representative of the infinite, judges the understanding as the faculty of the finite, and cannot without error be judged by it.  When this is attempted, or when the understanding in its synthesis with the personal will, usurps the supremacy of the reason, or affects to supersede the reason, it is then what St. Paul calls the mind of the flesh (φρόνημα σαρκός), or the wisdom of this world.  The result is, that the reason is superfinite; and in this relation, its antagonist is the insubordinate understanding, or mind of the flesh.

IV.  Reason, as one with the absolute will (In the beginning was the Logosand the Logos was with Godand the Logos was God), and therefore for man the certain representative of the will of God, is above the will of man as an individual will.  We have seen in III. that it stands in antagonism to all mere particulars; but here it stands in antagonism to all mere individual interests as so many selves, to the personal will as seeking its objects in the manifestation of itself for itself—sit pro ratione voluntas;—whether this be realised with adjuncts, as in the lust of the flesh, and in the lust of the eye; or without adjuncts, as in the thirst and pride of power, despotism, egoistic ambition.  The fourth antagonist, then, of reason, is the lust of the will.

Corollary.  Unlike a million of tigers, a million of men is very different from a million times one man.  Each man in a numerous society is not only coexistent with, but virtually organised into, the multitude of which he is an integral part.  His idem is modified by the alter.  And there arise impulses and objects from this synthesis of the alter et idem, myself and my neighbour.  This, again, is strictly analogous to what takes place in the vital organisation of the individual man.  The cerebral system of the nerves has its correspondent antithesis in the abdominal system: but hence arises a synthesis of the two in the pectoral system as the intermediate, and, like a drawbridge, at once conductor and boundary.  In the latter, as objectised by the former, arise the emotions, the affections, and, in one word, the passions, as distinguished from the cognitions and appetites.  Now, the reason has been shown to be superindividual, generally, and therefore not less so when the form of an individualisation subsists in the alter than when it is confined to the idem; not less when the emotions have their conscious or believed object in another, than when their subject is the individual personal self.  For though these emotions, affections, attachments, and the like, are the prepared ladder by which the lower nature is taken up into, and made to partake of, the highest room—as we are taught to give a feeling of reality to the higher per medium commune with the lower, and thus gradually to see the reality of the higher (namely, the objects of reason), and finally to know that the latter are indeed, and pre-eminently real, as if you love your earthly parents whom you see, by these means you will learn to love your Heavenly Father who is invisible;—yet this holds good only so far as the reason is the president, and its objects the ultimate aim; and cases may arise in which the Christ as the Logos, or Redemptive Reason, declares, He that loves father or another more than Meis not worthy of Me; nay, he that can permit his emotions to rise to an equality with the universal reason, is in enmity with that reason.  Here, then, reason appears as the love of God; and its antagonist is the attachment to individuals wherever it exists in diminution of, or in competition with, the love which is reason.

In these five paragraphs I have enumerated and explained the several powers or forces belonging or incidental to human nature, which in all matters of reason the man is bound either to subjugate or subordinate to reason.  The application to faith follows of its own accord.  The first or most indefinite sense of faith is fidelity: then fidelity under previous contract or particular moral obligation.  In this sense faith is fealty to a rightful superior: faith is the duty of a faithful subject to a rightful governor.  Then it is allegiance in active service; fidelity to the liege lord under circumstances, and amid the temptations of usurpation, rebellion, and intestine discord.  Next we seek for that rightful superior on our duties to whom all our duties to all other superiors, on our faithfulness to whom all our bounden relations to all other objects of fidelity, are founded.  We must inquire after that duty in which all others find their several degrees and dignities, and from which they derive their obligative force.  We are to find a superior, whose rights, including our duties, are presented to the mind in the very idea of that Supreme Being, whose sovereign prerogatives are predicates implied in the subjects, as the essential properties of a circle are co-assumed in the first assumption of a circle, consequently underived, unconditional, and as rationally unsusceptible, so probably prohibitive, of all further question.  In this sense, then, faith is fidelity, fealty, allegiance of the moral nature to God, in opposition to all usurpation, and in resistance to all temptation to the placing any other claim above or equal with our fidelity to God.

The will of God is the last ground and final aim of all our duties, and to that the whole man is to be harmonised by subordination, subjugation, or suppression alike in commission and omission.  But the will of God, which is one with the supreme intelligence, is revealed to man through the conscience.  But the conscience, which consists in an inappellable bearing-witness to the truth and reality of our reason, may legitimately be construed with the term reason, so far as the conscience is prescriptive; while as approving or condemning, it is the consciousness of the subordination or insubordination, the harmony or discord, of the personal will of man to and with the representative of the will of God.  This brings me to the last and fullest sense of faith, that is, the obedience of the individual will to the reason, in the lust of the flesh as opposed to the supersensual; in the lust of the eye as opposed to the supersensuous; in the pride of the understanding as opposed to the infinite; in the φρόνημα σαρκός in contrariety to the spiritual truth; in the lust of the personal will as opposed to the absolute and universal; and in the love of the creature, as far as it is opposed to the love which is one with the reason, namely, the love of God.

Thus, then, to conclude.  Faith subsists in the synthesis of the Reason and the individual Will.  By virtue of the latter therefore, it must be an energy, and, inasmuch as it relates to the whole moral man, it must be exerted in each and all of his constituents or incidents, faculties and tendencies;—it must be a total, not a partial—a continuous, not a desultory or occasional—energy.  And by virtue of the former, that is Reason, Faith must be a Light, a form of knowing, a beholding of truth.  In the incomparable words of the Evangelist, therefore, Faith must be a Light originating in the Logosor the substantial Reasonwhich is co-eternal and one with the Holy Willand which Light is at the same time the Life of men.  Now, as Life is here the sum or collective of all moral and spiritual acts, in suffering, doing, and being, so is Faith the source and the sum, the energy and the principle of the fidelity of man to God, by the subordination of his human Will, in all provinces of his nature, to his Reason, as the sum of spiritual Truth, representing and manifesting the Will Divine.”     Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit; Letters I-VII & “Essay on Faith,” 1853, edited by Henry Coleridge.  

Numero TresYellow Bird His name was Cheesquatalawny.  He lived in Grass Valley.  He died young at the age of forty, but what he did changed American popular culture to this day.

In the quiet Greenwood Cemetery, near Lyman Gilmore School, there is a row of markers for the Ridge Family.  Most prominent among them is the stone for John Rollin Ridge, one of the most interesting and influential figures of Gold Rush California history.

Born a Cherokee

John Rollin Ridge was the son of a powerful Cherokee family.  He was born in 1827 in the Cherokee Nation, near today’s Rome, Georgia.  His native name was Cheesquatalawny, which translates into ‘Yellow Bird.’

Book coverJohn Rollin Ridge personally experienced the most traumatic moments in the tribe’s history.  In 1830, the Indian Removal Act accelerated the removal of Cherokees from their homes in the Southeast.  The Cherokees resisted, but there were divisions within the tribal community as to how to proceed in the future.  Federal officials exploited these disagreements.  In 1835 the government convinced twenty-one Cherokees, including John Rollin’s grandfather, Major Ridge, and John Rollin’s father, John Ridge, to sign the Treaty of New Echota.  The treaty provided for the removal of the tribe to the West and for the abandonment of all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi.  Some Cherokees supported the treaty, while others felt it was a betrayal.  A portion of the Indian Removal, in which thousands of Cherokees died enroute to Indian Territory (today’s Oklahoma), came to be called ‘The Trail of Tears.’

Ridges Murdered by Cherokees

quoteThe 12-year-old John Rollin witnessed his father’s assassination. unquote

Conflicts about removal within the tribe intensified following the treaty. Within months of removal, the tensions burst into violence. In 1839, Major Ridge and John Ridge were murdered by other Cherokees. The 12-year-old John Rollin witnessed his father’s assassination.

John Rollin Ridge left Indian Territory immediately and went to Arkansas, where he lived for four years. In 1843, young John Rollin was sent to Massachusetts for schooling. He returned to Arkansas in 1845 and began law practice. John Rollin was particularly interested in Cherokee politics and closely followed the developments within the tribe. On one occasion, he expressed a desire to avenge the deaths of his father and grandfather.

In 1847, he married Elizabeth Wilson, a white woman he had met in Massachusetts, and one year later, the couple had their only child, Alice Bird.

First novel written by a Native American

John Rollin’s involvement in tribal politics strengthened. He grew increasingly passionate, and, in 1849, his passion boiled over into bloodshed. John Rollin killed David Kell; a Cherokee that he believed was one of his father’s assassins.

John Rollin RidgeLargely to escape prosecution, John Rollin fled. In 1850, he arrived in California, during the early days of the California Gold Rush. In 1852, Elizabeth Wilson Ridge and Alice Bird made the long journey to the gold fields by way of the Isthmus of Panama to join him. From 1852 to 1864, John Rollin and his family lived in six different California communities, including Sacramento and San Francisco.

After briefly working as a miner, John Rollin Ridge gained a reputation as a writer of note. He wrote poetry (most notably the poem “Mt. Shasta”), but mostly became known as a newspaper editor, reporter and columnist. In 1854, he would write a novel about a celebrated California bandit. It is generally considered to be the first novel written by a Native American and the first novel published in California.

But … more about that in Part Two.

Editor and a Sacramento Bee Founder

From 1857 to 1862, Ridge worked as an editor for several California newspapers, including the California Express, the National Democrat, the San Francisco Herald, and the Red Bluff Beacon. Ridge is also considered to be one of the founding members of the Sacramento Bee.

quote John Rollin often ignored, perhaps deliberately, the abuses suffered upon natives by the government. unquote

Not surprisingly, John Rollin wrote extensively about Native American politics. Surprisingly, he was often scathing toward Native Americans. He disagreed with the notion that Indians should remain independent from government control, believing that the federal government provided necessary guidance and assistance to the tribes. John Rollin often ignored, perhaps deliberately, the abuses suffered upon natives by the government. He felt California Indians were inferior to other natives and supported policies that stripped California natives of their lands and rights.

In his earlier days, John Rollin had been a slaveowner and he found himself sympathetic to the conservative faction of the Democratic Party that supported slavery and its extension to California. With the advent of the Civil War, John Rollin’s writings were a study in contradictions. He supported retaining national union at all costs, but he also protested the election of Abraham Lincoln and was favorable toward the Confederacy.

Grass Valley Newspaper Owner

In 1864, John Rollin Ridge and family moved to Grass Valley. He purchased an interest in the Grass Valley National newspaper. He was co-editor with W.S. Bryne. In 1866, Bryne would buy the Grass Valley Union.

John Rollin Ridge and his family lived in a house on Church Street in Grass Valley. Ridge worked as Editor of the National until his death in 1867. In 1866, he briefly traveled to Washington, D.C., as part of a Cherokee delegation hoping to annex the tribal region into the Union as a state. The effort failed and Ridge returned to Grass Valley. He fell ill and died on October 5, 1867. In his October 8th obituary, it was written: “As a writer probably no man in California had a wider and better reputation than John R. Ridge. He possessed a good education had a clear and vigorous mind, was well up in classical lore; and in the possession of these essentials to journalistic distinction it is not surprising that he was professionally successful. With more energy and with stronger aspirations to place his name among the highest literary lights he might have added many volumes to the purer and better literature of the time….He wrote with ease, and as is generally the case with genius, sometimes carelessly…. His remains were yesterday interred in Greenwood Cemetery near this place, his funeral cortege being a very large one….”

Today, John Rollin Ridge rests in final slumber next to his wife; his daughter; his brother, Andrew Jackson Ridge; and some in-laws.

Tree in His Honor Still Stands

In 1876, his widow Elizabeth planted a red maple tree at the corner of School and Neal Street in honor of her husband. The tree came from the battlefield at Gettysburg. It still stands proudly, although it was seriously damaged by a powerful January 2005 storm.

However, John Rollin Ridge lives on through the impact of his stories of Joaquin Murieta, the legendary bandit hero of the California Gold Country. The mythology surrounding Joaquin Murieta stubbornly refuses to expire. Throughout the Mother Lode, his name is still invoked. Sprinkled throughout the region are plaques, inscriptions, and markers recounting the prodigious feats of Murieta, “our” Joaquin. And his legend began with John Rollin Ridge.

“I am Joaquin!”

Drawing of Murieta by NahlHe was crafty, generous, vindictive, heroic, and remarkably cool under pressure. He was kindly benefactor and cold-blooded killer. He was a man of startling handsomeness and bravado. He was a stealthy avenger, a resourceful escape artist, loyal friend of the downtrodden, and swashbuckling defender of a lost culture. He was real—flesh and blood—his supporters steadfastly proclaimed, while his detractors sniffed that he was the purest fantasy—the creation of John Rollin Ridge’s feverishly romantic imagination. He was Joaquin Murieta, legendary bandit hero of the Gold Country.

Seemingly, Joaquin was everywhere.

quote… there once was a well-hidden treehouse that secreted the elusive public enemy … unquote

Saw Mill Flat, outside the Southern Mother Lode town of Sonora, boasts of being the location of Joaquin’s first homestead upon arriving from Sonora, Mexico, in 1850. Down the road in Murphys, they still tell the tale of how the brave young Murieta swore revenge on the Anglo hooligans who tied him to a tree, beat him bloody and senseless, and then killed his half-brother and raped Joaquin’s girlfriend Rosita. A few miles away, in San Andreas, the story is of Joaquin’s miraculous bulletproof vest, constructed for him by a sympathetic French argonaut. Joaquin was grateful but practical—to test its effectiveness, he made the Frenchman wear the vest while Joaquin shot at him. In Hornitos, they point to a tunnel supposedly used by Murieta in an escape from heavily armed pursuers. Miles away in Volcano, it is claimed that there once was a well-hidden treehouse that secreted the elusive public enemy as tired lawmen rested below him. Dozens of towns claim that Joaquin was here—Joaquin escaped here—Joaquin slept here—Joaquin distributed his loot here—Joaquin. Joaquin. Joaquin.

Did He Really Exist?

Did it actually happen? It is known that in 1853, a man who was called Joaquin Murieta was killed by a hired gunman.

But … was this the legendary Joaquin? And how much of this tale is fact? How much fiction? It is here that the historical paths diverge.

There are a handful who claim that every incident, every nuance is true, all true. Some admit that the facts may have been fudged a mite, but the skeleton of truth is secure. A few historians acknowledge that some facts are in the historical record, but, for the most part, the story of Joaquin Murieta is an exaggeration. Many scholars believe that the Murieta tale is myth—an entertaining yarn constructed of whole cloth, smoke and mirrors. This latter view is now the predominant historical interpretation.

However, those who argue that the Murieta case is a mixture of fact and folklore offer the following evidence.

Taxes, Crime and Thieves

In early Gold Rush California, it is indisputable that the clash between the once dominant Californio Latino culture and the newly arrived Anglo-American gold miners intensified. In the wake of the 1850 Foreign Miners’ Tax (which required Latinos and other non-English speaking immigrants to pay $16 a month) and the often wholesale expulsion of Californios and Mexicans from the gold fields, land pirates began preying on the mining communities. While many of the outlaws were known to be of European heritage, the majority appear to be Latino. Crime increased dramatically and fear mounted among the good citizens of the Mother Lode.

By 1852 and 1853, the Southern Mines were troubled by a number of thieves. Most of them were called or claimed to be named Joaquin. However, the last names varied—Valenzuela, Carillo, Botilleras, Ocomorenia, and Murieta. They were all mobile, all deceptive, all elusive, and all bothersome. It was difficult, if not downright impossible, to determine which Joaquin had committed a crime. Authorities frequently reported that the criminal was often identified only as “Joaquin” by those interviewed at the scene.

California Legislature Hires Ranger Harry Love

Drawing of Murieta by NahlWhat to do? The Mother Lode mining communities were crying for the immediate apprehension of this wily criminal (or criminals). In May 1853, the California legislature responded by hiring gunman and former Texas Ranger Harry Love to capture the outlaw Joaquin—no last name specified. Dead or Alive. The legislature had debated five different full names, but decided on instructions that used only the generic name of Joaquin. As a reward, the state government offered Love and his twenty member posse a $5000 reward and $150 monthly stipend for all involved. This was a huge sum of money in the days when a few hundred dollars was considered an excellent annual income, and a lot of cash even considering the inflated prices of the Gold Country.

By now this diverse group of lawbreakers had begun to assume a single identity—Joaquin Murieta. Love and his compatriots rode out to seize the cunning Joaquin and his reported accomplice, Three Fingered Jack. Three Fingered Jack was the alias of Manuel Garcia, who was wanted throughout California for theft and murder. On top of the threat to the general populace, it was noted that Garcia hated the Chinese and was a suspected serial killer of Chinese miners in Calaveras County. It was claimed that Joaquin Murieta had killed as many as 200 Chinese as well. In this tense atmosphere, the pressure to deliver Joaquin weighed heavily upon Love’s crew.

Three Fingers’ Hand and Joaquin’s Head?

Poster of travelling showFor several weeks, they had no luck. Then … near Panoche Pass, outside of Hornitos in the Southern Gold Country, Love’s patrol encountered a Mexican band. At least two of the Latinos were killed. One had claimed to be the group’s leader, but he did not mention his name. Love decapitated this supposed chieftain and had his head sealed in a jar of alcohol. Additionally, a hand was severed from a second victim and placed in a separate jar. Love claimed the head was that of Joaquin Murieta and the hand had once belonged to Three Fingered Jack. He returned triumphantly to reclaim his reward. Others were skeptical to say the least. A surviving member of the Mexican party stated that the head was clearly that of Joaquin Valenzuela. Witnesses who saw the gruesome pickled head swore that it bore no resemblance to the “actual” Joaquin. Love insisted that the grotesque relics were authentic. He exhibited them throughout the Gold Country for a $1 admission fee. Interestingly, Harry Love never displayed his grisly trophies in Calaveras County where the “real” Joaquin Murieta reportedly had a primary hangout.

Initially the show drew large crowds, but, by 1856, interest was dwindling. In that year, a San Francisco entrepreneur purchased the head and hand. They became permanent attractions in that city’s Pacific Museum. The items were said to have vanished in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire.

Joaquin’s Legend Grows Through John Rollin Ridge

While Love and his macabre carnival traveled the countryside, the legend of Joaquin Murieta grew.

In 1854, as recounted in the first part of this two-part series, a struggling gold miner turned writer named John Rollin Ridge (also known by his Cherokee name Yellow Bird) collected the various Joaquin stories and fused them into a single myth. From Ridge’s fertile imagination sprung a book entitled The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, The Celebrated California Bandit. Ridge consolidated the stories, exaggerated actual details, invented breathtaking situations, concocted wild escapes, and promoted the image of Joaquin as a Mother Lode Robin Hood driven to crime by social injustice. The book is considered to be the first novel written by a Native American and the first novel published in California. Ridge’s introductory passage presented Joaquin’s persona and set the stage for the adventures that followed.

The first that we hear of him in the Golden State is that, in the spring of 1850, he is engaged in the honest occupation of a miner in the Stanislaus placers, then reckoned among the richest portions of the mines. He was then eighteen years of age, a little over the medium height, slenderly but gracefully built, and active as a young tiger. His complexion was neither very dark or very light, but clear and brilliant, and his countenance is pronounced to have been, at that time, exceedingly handsome and attractive. His large black eyes, mouth, his well-shaped head from which the long, glossy, black hair hung down over his shoulders, his silvery voice full of generous utterance, and the frank and cordial bearing which distinguished him made him beloved by all with whom he came in contact.

A longer passage is presented separately in this article – click here.

Ridge’s Tale – Fact or Fiction?

Ridge exploited common knowledge of Love’s pursuit and cleverly ended his tale with the criminal genius captured and decapitated by the relentless Texas Ranger.  When issued the account was considered comprehensive.  The public knew that Love had killed a Mexican, most likely a bandit, so the assumption was made that the preceding passages had to be true.  To this day, Ridge’s story is viewed as accurate by some and a few history books still cite Ridge’s fabrications as fact.

Painting by NahlGrass Valley resident John Rollin Ridge died at age 40 in 1867, having realized little financial gain from his fable.  But others profited.  Contemporary artists, most notably the prominent Gold Rush artist Charles Nahl, painted fictionalized ‘portraits’ of Joaquin Murieta which were widely disseminated and sold well.  In 1919, the famous silent movie director D.W. Griffith made his only western—’Scarlet Days’—based upon the Joaquin Murieta legend.  The film has been lost, although a handful of stills remain.  Griffith passed on a young actor touted as being the perfect Joaquin—Rudolph Valentino.  In 1932, Walter Noble Burns published The Robin Hood of El Dorado, a collection of Joaquin stories.  In 1936, another Joaquin Murieta movie biography was produced starring Warner Baxter of Cisco Kid fame.  Most folklorists believe the Zorro stories, popularized by author Johnston McCulley in his 1919 novel The Curse of Capistrano, are based, at least in significant part, on the Joaquin Murieta mythology.  The combination of Ridge’s catalyst linked with these later creative endeavors solidified the position of Joaquin Murieta as a California historical and cultural icon.  Zorro continues to be a popular cultural icon with movies and TV series produced to this day.

Love’s Life Ends

One who did not profit significantly was Harry Love.  Following the sale of his dismembered objects, Love operated a sawmill in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  In 1858, he married but the relationship was bitter and argumentative and the couple separated soon afterward.  In 1868, Love accused another man of having an affair with his estranged wife.  The two men exchanged gunfire and Love was fatally wounded.  He died on the operating table.

While having origin in the oppression of Gold Rush Latinos, the story of Joaquin Murieta is myth, speculation, conjecture, and fabulous adventure.  It is not history, but legend.  But it is entertaining legend that reflects historical actualities, romantic visions, and cultural exasperation.  As long as there are those who remember the past, dream of adventure, or hope for the end of discrimination, it can truly be said that ‘Joaquin was here.’

And the myth’s beginnings were in the agile mind and prolific pen of the author known as Yellow Bird—John Rollin Ridge of Grass Valley.”     Journal of Sierra-Nevada History & Biography, “The California Bandit and Yellow Bird: the Story of Joaquin Murieta and John Rollin Ridge;” 2008.  

CC BY-NC-ND by Martin Beek
CC BY-NC-ND by Martin Beek

Numero Cuatro“Seldom has a popular artist received such venomous attacks and opprobrium than Bob Dylan on his appearance at Newport Folk Festival in May 1965 and after when he ‘went electric.’  Indeed, this continued for years, and even has echoes today.  Dylan’s performance at Newport had tremendous repercussions, not only in the folk music world, but throughout popular music based on American traditions, especially rock music.

Dylan brought the use of meaningful lyrics back into the popular song.  More than that, he sparked poetic lyrics and was, for good or ill, the progenitor of a myriad of singer-songwriters.  Even the Beatles said that they got away from teeny-bop words under the influence of Dylan.  But the role of the ‘Communist’ Party (CP) – in the US and, later, Britain – in, first, building him up, and then trying to knock him down, has not been explained adequately.  The Communist parties were allied to the bureaucratic regime in the Soviet Union, supported the totalitarian state as genuine socialism and, invariably, justified every twist and turn of Soviet policy.

When Dylan turned up on stage in Newport with an electric rock band and burst into the song Maggie’s Farm, a rewrite of an old folk song, Penny’s Farm, there was uproar among the folk traditionalists.  Pete Seeger, the then (and now) veteran ‘leader’ of the American folk scene, who had suffered blacklisting during the McCarthy era, went apoplectic.  There are many legends told about that day: such as, that Seeger tried to cut the electric cable with an axe, and that his and Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, wrestled in the mud.

Seeger did admit to saying: ‘If I had an axe I’d cut the cable,’ and there were rows going on between the organisers and ‘Dylan’s people’ behind the scenes.  What is certain is that Dylan was booed by a substantial part of the crowd.  Order had to be restored and, eventually, Dylan came back on stage with an acoustic guitar and sang some of his more ‘acceptable’ songs.

To what extent the Newport outburst was organised heckling no one really knows, although there certainly seemed to be organisation behind the booing that he received at all his concerts on his ensuing world tour.  His ‘going electric’, however, should not have come as a great surprise.  Dylan’s album, Bringing It All Back Home, acoustic on one side, electric on the other, and which included Maggie’s Farm, had been on sale for months.

In fact, Dylan had started out playing rock and roll when at school, and had even played piano at a couple of gigs with Bobby Vee, very much a bubblegum pop star.  In his school yearbook, where students write down what they intend to do next, even though he was going to Minnesota University, he wrote: ‘Gone to join Little Richard”.’ If anything, therefore, his ‘treachery’ was merely a return to type.  And he was to switch codes many times during his long career, often delighting, bemusing and irritating fans, colleagues and critics in equal measure.

The young Robert Allen Zimmerman who became Bob Dylan, from Hibbing, a Minnesota mining town, rapidly rose to fame in 1962-63 on the back of a couple of ‘protest’ songs he had written in the folk tradition, notably Blowin’ in the Wind and The Times they are A-Changin’. Since then, Dylan has written and performed all forms of American popular songs from diverse traditions – folk, rock, blues, country, gospel, even jazz – becoming, probably, the most influential songwriter and performer in the post-war era. Although he was originally held up as some sort of political Messiah, and carefully groomed by the American CP, against his wishes and knowledge, he suddenly became a ‘traitor’ for moving on.

A new Woody Guthrie?

DYLAN HAD ARRIVED in New York in 1961 aged 19, a musical devotee of folk singer Woody Guthrie, whom he visited before he died in a New Jersey hospital. Guthrie was a close associate of the CP. His colleagues, led by Pete Seeger, were reviving what they regarded as ‘the people’s’ songs as part of their political activity. Although Guthrie probably never formally joined the CP, he accepted the party line just as much as his card-carrying colleagues. He had for a time a column in the CP newspaper, People’s Daily World. He also wrote and sang peace songs between 1939-41, during the time of the Stalin-Hitler pact, when the Communist parties in Britain and the US opposed the war.

Indeed, according to Seeger, it was Guthrie who first changed the line when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Seeger said: “Woody had a smile on his face. He said: ‘Well I guess we won’t be singin’ any more peace songs’. I said: ‘What? You mean we’re gonna support Churchill?’ He said: ‘Yup, Churchill’s flip-flopped. We got to flip-flop’. He was right”. (Interview with Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo issue 193, December 2009) It is interesting that they did not say that it was Stalin, but Churchill, who had been forced to flip-flop!

Guthrie had become famous in the US mostly through his song This Land is Your Land, which he conceived as a radical alternative ‘anthem’ to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America. However, the feeling of the song owes more to the American Dream than a demand for public ownership of the land. He was co-opted by Roosevelt government agencies to promote the New Deal, being paid to sing in depressed towns and villages about to be destroyed to make way for hydro-electric schemes, including the Grand Coulee Dam, honoured in his song of that name.

Dylan gravitated to the working class-cum-bohemian Greenwich Village, New York. A precocious talent, he was nurtured by the much older artists around Seeger and became romantically involved with Suze Rotolo, a 19-year-old artist who worked in the civil rights movement. (She was on the cover of his second album, Freewheelin’.) Rotolo was what she calls a ‘red diaper baby’, her parents having been working-class CP activists. She had grown up in this milieu.

CP members, Seeger and Irwin Silber, publisher of Sing Out! a magazine that put out new ‘topical’ songs, were constantly in touch with Rotolo, making sure she kept their protégée onside, although it seems that she was not wholly aware of what they were up to. As far as she was concerned she was just helping Bobby. They were hoping Dylan would become the new Woody Guthrie and help spread their version of socialism while becoming the big star of the folk world.

Dylan openly admits that he ran his political songs past Rotolo before release. “She’ll tell you how many nights I stayed up and wrote songs and showed them to her and asked her ‘Is this right?’. Because I knew her father and mother were associated with unions and she was into this equality-freedom thing long before I was. I checked the songs out with her”. (Robert Shelton, No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan) He later said that he did not know that they were communists, and would not have cared even if he had. Dave von Ronk, folk singer and self-styled ‘Trotskyist mayor of McDougall Street’ (Greenwich Village), also befriended Dylan, and soon discovered he was apolitical.

A ‘musical expeditionary’

THIS DOES NOT mean that Dylan was not sincere in his civil rights songs and actions. His love of music with African-American roots, and his Jewish upbringing, made him a natural anti-racist. Black artists also had a great rapport with Dylan – he was never regarded as a white liberal salving his conscience. American black artists, from gospel singers, the Staples family, through Stevie Wonder to Jimi Hendrix, recorded Dylan songs. Bobby Seale dedicates a chapter of his book, Seize the Time, to a discussion with Huey P Newton, leader of the Black Panthers, of the Dylan song Ballad of a Thin Man. Ironically, while the CP was attacking this song and others, Columbia records almost did not release it on the grounds that it was ‘communistic’!

Harry Belafonte, a black singer who had been successful in the mainstream, dedicated much of his time and money promoting new black artists. Nevertheless, he gave Dylan his first recording experience: playing harmonica on the Belafonte album Midnight Special. Dylan still occasionally reverts to political comment in his songs. As recently as 2006, Workingman’s Blues #2 contains the lines: “The buyin’ power of the proletariat’s gone down/Money’s gettin’ shallow and weak”.

Dylan was greatly underestimated by those who sought to exploit him, including the CP. Far from being the country hick from Hibbing, Dylan was a ruthless user of everyone who could further his career. His fellow students and musicians at St Paul’s and Minneapolis had discovered this. He soaked up everything that could be used later, nicknamed the ‘sponge’ for his merciless theft of anything he could use musically: ideas, songs and arrangements. He still attempts to justify this by saying he was a “musical expeditionary”.

What the folkies around Seeger really objected to most in 1965 was not the switch to electric instruments but Dylan’s refusal to write any more “finger-pointin’” (as Dylan called protest) songs. They accused him of being ‘introspective’ and, therefore, it was implied, reactionary. This was an echo, in fact, of the sterile ‘socialist realism’ and ‘proletarian culture’ espoused by Stalinism and which manifested itself in the folkies’ insistence on musical ‘purity’.

Britain’s folk scene

IN BRITAIN, A similar development had occurred in the folk music world. In 1951, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) published a pamphlet, The American Threat to British Culture. The perceived threat to ‘British’ music was taken up in earnest by party members Bert Lloyd (well known as folklorist A L Lloyd) and folk singer Ewan MacColl (real name Jimmy Miller), writer of the popular song Dirty Old Town, about his home town of Salford.

MacColl had started out in radical drama (his first wife was Joan Littlewood). After meeting American folklorist and CP member Alan Lomax, whose secretary happened to be Carla Rotolo, sister of Suze, he switched his attention to folk music. MacColl and Lloyd set out, successfully, to launch a folk revival in Britain. There was much cross-fertilisation between Britain and the US. Indeed, there is some evidence that Pete Seeger, whose folk singer sister Peggy later became MacColl’s partner, modelled his folk revival in the US on the work of Lloyd and MacColl.

This was also the year that produced the CPGB programme, The British Road to Socialism, a completely reformist affirmation of the Stalinist theory of ‘socialism in one country’. MacColl’s theories on music flowed directly from this. A debate about ‘purity’ and ‘workers’ songs’ raged in the British folk world, with MacColl being a leading protagonist. He eventually reached the absurd position that if a singer was from England the song had to be English; if American, the song had to be American, and so on. There were also detailed definitions of ‘traditional’, ‘commercial’, ‘ethnic’, ‘amateur’, etc. This was adopted as policy in those folk clubs (a majority) where MacColl and his supporters held sway.

Enter Bob Dylan into this minefield. In 1962, Dylan came to Britain. After some difficulty getting into the Singer’s Club, based in the Pindar of Wakefield pub in London, he was allowed to sing three songs, two of them his own. Contemporary accounts say that MacColl and Peggy Seeger, who ran the club, were hostile. As Dylan was little-known, one interpretation could be that Alan Lomax had talked to them about him. Dylan did not get on well with Carla Rotolo – a relationship immortalised in Dylan’s Ballad in Plain D: “For her parasite sister I had no respect” – so this may explain it. Or it may be that they did not regard his self-written songs ‘valid’ folk. Later, when Dylan was pronounced anathema by the CP, MacColl went one step further and announced that all Dylan’s previous work in the folk idiom had not been true folk music.

Civil rights campaigning

DYLAN ONLY RARELY got involved in public political action. He went to the southern states of the US with Pete Seeger to support the black voter registration campaign. He also sang, with Joan Baez, next to Martin Luther King on the platform on the March on Washington – the occasion of the ‘I have a dream’ speech. (Baez’s political activity stemmed from a Quaker peace movement background: her father was an eminent physicist who refused to work on weapon-related projects and her hardcore traditional folk songs came from her Scottish-American mother.)

When he was with Seeger in the south, Dylan sang a new song, Only a Pawn in Their Game, about the recent murder of civil rights leader, Medgar Evers. Everyone knew that redneck Ku Klux Klan member, Byron De La Beckwith, did it. But it took 30 years (1994) to find a Mississippi jury prepared to convict him. In the song, Dylan lays the blame firmly on capitalism, pointing out that the poor whites are used to split the working class as pawns in the ruling class’s game. The line: “The poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool”, sums up the message of the song.

Seeger says he found this an “interesting new slant” on the issue. (No Direction Home, film documentary by Martin Scorsese, 2005). This exposes the CP’s liberal position: seeing racism simply as a black-and-white issue. Dylan’s words, on the other hand, reflect a certain class consciousness.

The ‘Judas’ protest

ONE MONTH AFTER the Newport debacle, on 28 August 1965, Dylan played Forest Hills with a newly formed rock group based on The Hawks, later to be called The Band.  A crowd of 14,000 applauded his opening 45 minutes acoustic set and then booed throughout the second half of the concert when the band came on.  On 24 September 1965 in Austin, Texas, Dylan began a tour across America and then the world which would last a full year.  The pattern of Forest Hills was to repeat itself everywhere.  Never before had anyone known people buy tickets to go to a concert to express vociferous dissatisfaction.  Levon Helm, the drummer, gave up in disgust before they even left America and was replaced.

By the time the tour reached Britain in May 1966, the pattern was set.  In Edinburgh, the Young Communist League had a debate and decided to stage a walk-out when the electric instruments were brought on stage.  Similar events occurred in Dublin and Bristol.  There was little press coverage of this, except for the Melody Maker which carried the headline on 14 May, The Night of the Big Boo, so the suspicion of covert organisation remains.  Prior to the concert in Manchester the University Folk Society had a meeting which voted to boycott, though not disrupt, it.

This was the background to the extraordinary scene at Manchester Free Trade Hall on 17 May 1966 (See CP Lee, Like the Night, Helter Skelter publishing, 1998).  The concert had the usual trouble-free first half.  Then, three songs into the second set – ironically, immediately after the ‘communistic’ Ballad of a Thin Man – slow-hand clapping began, then individual heckles.  A girl went up to Dylan and gave him a piece of paper which, it later transpired, said: ‘Tell the band to go home.’

Then, in a moment of silence between songs there rang out loud and clear the now infamous protest call: ‘Judas!’  Dylan was audibly angry and shaken – the concert is now on official CD release after years of availability as a bootleg (misnamed the Albert Hall Concert).  Although this is generally regarded as the peak of this bizarre period, things became much more serious in Glasgow, where a ‘fan’ tried to get into Dylan’s hotel room armed with a knife.  No one can seriously blame the Communist Party for this last event, but there is little doubt that some of its members were cheerleaders in the extraordinary events of the 1965-66 tour, based on a twisted Stalinist interpretation of ‘proletarian culture’ dashed with an unhealthy dose of nationalism.”     Frank Riley, “We Live in a Political World: Bob Dylan and the Communist Party;” Socialism Today, 2010.  

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