Monday, October 31, 2011

Eliphalet Kimball in 1873

Here's a bit of follow-up on the Eliphalet Kimball story I recently posted. More searching has not turned up any more direct account of Kimball's 1852 presidential platform, but while filling some holes in my bibliography I found an 1873 article in the Boston Investigator which I had not see previously. In many ways, this newly unearthed article repeats the concerns and attitudes of Kimballs contributions in the 1860s, but it also seems to echo very strongly the ideas reported in 1852. My developing sense is that Kimball may have adopted his peculiar variety of anarchism quite early and stayed fairly consistent over several decades.

For the Boston Investigator. 
Capital, Labor, Natural Government.

Abolition of Capital and Labor.—Natural Government.—The Criminal and Dangerous Classes; who they are.—Natural Education by Right Generation.

Mr. Editor:—Reform of labor is conservative. Reform of society is destructive.—What is necessary for the reform of society is the abolishment of capital and labor. Their relations are those of master and slave, and the idea of their adjustment is an absurdity, for there is no justice in them. They can be abolished only by destroying all artificial law, for that is the cause of them, as it is of every other social wrong. Artificial government is disorder. Its unavoidable effect is overgrown wealth and suffering poverty, luxury and fashion, aristocracy and monarchy, vice and crime, ignorance and priestcraft. Natural government is freedom, equality, fraternity, justice, order, knowledge, and happiness. Everything is always right when Nature can take its course. Entire freedom from legal restraint and subjection to natural consequences is the whole of social science.

Statesmanship is ability put to a bad use. Under an artificial government the most wealthy have all the influence; under natural government the most virtuous have it.—Human nature inclines to goodness. In entire freedom from legal restraint all the virtues are called into action, and the bad traits are inactive. Under artificial government it is the reverse.

A healthy constitution of society is a spontaneous growth. The division of the brain into different organs fits man for society, and that is government. All human contrivances to regulate society ought to be swept away at once, and nothing artificial “built up” instead.

Let Nature do the “building up,” and then this world will be a good one.—There is no such thing as carrying destruction too far, nor doing it too suddenly. Insurrection of the working people is order.—Society under artificial government may be compared to an habitual drunkard. The distress he feels in giving up the habit, is a necessary means that Nature uses to restore his system to its natural and healthy state. Just so with law-drunken society. The disturbance, and sometimes violence, which would follow from the destruction of artificial government, would be necessary for the removal of great social wrongs. All debts would be honestly paid if there was no law to collect them. Natural marriage, and a fair chance for women, would put an end to prostitution, venereal disease, and promiscuity, because the marriage law and the inferior and helpless condition of women is the cause of them. The willingness of men to be bound for life in marriage, is proof that they would in general be steadfast without a marriage law.

If nobody claimed our land, all persons would occupy what they needed of it, and nobody would trouble them. Of course there would be no disputes about land when nobody claimed to own it. It would be the same as it is when a company of persons go on the water together in boats to catch fish, or on the hills to pick wild berries. Water and wild berries are free, and that prevents the possibility of disputes and of monopoly. Roads and bridges would be built spontaneously if there was no law for it. Parents would educate their children at home, as they ought to, if there was no law about schools.

Natural government would destroy commerce, and it ought to be destroyed. Merchants are the poison of society. They introduce luxury and fashion, inequality, dishonesty, aristocracy, and crime. These evils are always connected as cause and effect.—The “merchant princes” will be the nobility of this country, and govern it as they did Venice, unless the working-people unite, take the government into their own hands, and abolish the miserable contrivance of representative government. Under natural government, and without commerce, love of money would be unknown. Plainness and simplicity would be the style. All would work, and only a little labor would be necessary. Scarcely ever a person would think of wronging another, but if he did, the whole weight of society would be turned against him and force him to do right. All forms of government are bad, and the representative system tends necessarily to corruption and monarchy. Our own country is a sad example. Our Representatives cannot be trusted. If the people want laws, it is their business to make them and keep the power in their own hands. Nothing could be more imprudent and fatal than for the people to give up their own judgment and leave the management of public affairs to a few men. Even if they were good men it makes no difference; but the people know but little of the candidates they vote for. Trial by jury is worthless and pernicious as representative government. Natural government and true Democracy is this: when a crime is committed, or a wrong attempted, for all the people of the neighborhood to do what they please about it. The people, by practice, would become good judges and jurors. No people on earth can maintain a Republic Government honest and uncorrupted. The fault is not in the people. Natural government maintains itself pure.—Every person living is fit for natural government.

Confidence in Nature and in man’s capacity for self-government, springs from reason and goodness. An enthusiasm of equality proves a noble character. Jackson was remarkable for that quality. Garibaldi is.—Only unprincipled and superficial persons are aristocrats and monarchists. The greatest crimes and the most dishonesty are committed by the rich and men of business. They impress their character and example on society, and have made it what it is. They are the cause of the crimes committed by the poor. The laboring poor have no influence upon society except for good. In all countries they are the most virtuous class. Jackson said to a visitor, “About all the virtue left is in the laboring people.” The leading men, including the wealthy, the business men and the clergy, are the criminal and dangerous class.

We often read that education is the support of Republican .Governments, and ignorance the cause of crime. The sentiment is vague and irrational. Reason and goodness are the kind of education that supports Republican Government, and the want of them is the ignorance that causes crime. The innate qualities of reason and goodness are self-education, or natural education. They are the qualities that make a likely person, and a likely person is a good voter, even if unable to read. A likely person and good voter is “born, not made.” When a child is ready to be born its character is finished, positive and unchangeable. After birth nothing can ever make it better or worse. The natural character can never be educated, except by reason and goodness. The conduct, however, may be influenced for a while by outward or artificial education, as parental training, books, and sometimes by religion. Character and conduct, however, are two different things. The tree is not always known by its fruit: Grafted trees are not. Grafting never changes the tree. Bend the twig, but it will always be the same tree. The tree stays bent through life, but man does not when educated contrary to his natural character. A man with great book-learning, with only small reason and goodness, must always be essentially an ignorant man.. A person may be unable to read, but if he has large reason and goodness he is not ignorant. Napoleon Bonaparte said he never had an education that was an advantage to him, except mathematics. Reason, goodness, and firmness, each in the highest degree, are the qualities that make a great man, a commander, and a statesman. Refinement is reason and goodness..

If anybody ought to be restricted from voting, it is the wealthy men and the clergy, or else it ought to depend on the degree of reason and goodness a man was born possessed of. As a general thing, the rich vote with selfish motives, but the poor from motives of justice and for the public good.

     Yours, Eliphalet Kimball

Orford, (N. H.,) Feb. 10, 1873.

Eliphalet Kimball, “Capital, Labor, Natural Government,” The Boston Investigator 42, no. 45 (March 5, 1873): 1.

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