Sunday, February 21, 2010

William B. Greene, "Plutocracy"

Here's one of William B. Greene's letters to the Worcester Palladium which was not incorporated into either Equality or the 1850 Mutual Banking. Thanks again to Brady Campbell for the research assist on these. A number of my questions from two years ago remain, but I'm back at the work of transcribing and collating the mutual bank writings, so perhaps we can clear most of them up soon.


The term Plutocracy occurs in the Democratic State Address: it is derived from the words Plutus (the god of wealth, mammon) and krateo, (to hold, or govern); and signifies a government of wealth. An aristocracy is a government by a privileged class; a democracy is a government by the people; a plutocracy is an organization of society in which the government is administered by, and for the advantage of, the wealthy classes of the community. A Plutocracy is a Mammonocracy.

On the bureau of the English house of Commons, there is a sacramental book, a political Gospel, which expresses the thought upon which the whole governmental policy of England is founded: that book is the "Spirit of the Laws," by Montesquieu. Why have the English adopted this French book for their political Gospel? Let us open the book, and read!

"There are always"--says Montesquieu, Esprit des Lois, liv. XI, ch.6--"in a State, certain persons distinguished by birth, wealth, or honors. But if they are confounded among the people, and if they have only the same vote which other men possess, the common liberty would be their slavery; and they would have no interest to defend this liberty, because the greater portion of the resolutions would be against them. The part therefore which they have in the legislation, ought to be in proportion to the other advantages they have in the State; which will happen if they form a body having the right to arrest the enterprises of the people, as the people has the right to arrest theirs. Thus the legislative power will be confided to the body of the Nobles, and to the body which will be chosen to represent the people, and these bodies will assemble apart, and have separate views, and interests." This is Montesquieu's formula of the government of England, a formula whose accuracy is acknowledged by the English themselves.

The government of England is not built up on the idea of right, but on the fact of the unjust distribution of rank, wealth, and honor, which now obtains; and it has for aim and purpose, the perpetuation of the present injustice though all coming generations:--the government of England is therefore an aristocracy.

The English constitution does not recognise equality, but, on the contrary, consecrates inequality; it does not recognise virtue, but consecrates privilege:--the government of England is therefore, an tyranny.

The principle of the English Constitution organises the national power in favor of money, and not in favor of money, and not in favor of man:--the government of England is, therefore, a Plutocracy.

The English government is founded on privilege and on inequality; and its artifice consists in giving to the privileged classes a part in legislation proportionate to the other privileges they possess in the State.

The English government may be defined as being a Tyranny--Aristocracy--Plutocracy; one and indivisible, and yet triple: it is three in one, and one in three, and they mystery of iniquity.

If our Constitution ever degenerates, it will be by becoming gradually conformed to that of England. It will become first Plutocratic, and then Aristocratic; for Plutocracy paves the way for Aristocracy, even as Aristocracy paves the way for Tyranny.

The Plutocrats are they who desire to see the right of voting guarded (as they say) by a property qualification, in order that holders of property may have a part in legislation proportionate to the other advantages they possess in the State. The Plutocrats are they who are opposed to the Secret Ballot, because the secret ballot would take from them the power of intimidating dependent voters, and thus take from them the part in legislation proportionate to the other advantages in the State, which they now possess.

A rich man, even if he possesses millions of dollars, is not for that reason a Plutocrat; but he becomes a Plutocrat so soon as he endeavors to seize upon political power proportionate to the advantages he possesses in other respects.

("Plutocracy," by OMEGA [William Batchelder Greene]. Worcester Palladium. Wednesday, 7 November 1849.

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