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Tais assumption of the economists is due to ignorance, to the densest ignorance of the human nature which they tell us we have failed to study.
Political economy is a science of human affairs. Every science which professes to be a science of human affairs must be built upon an estimate of human nature. If it is built upon a false conception of human nature, the science is a failure. If it is built upon a true conception of human nature, the science is a
Now the political economy of our opponents is built upon a false conception of human nature. In the first place, it recognizes only one motive, which is sheer folly. In the second place, it assumes that the strongest motive is avarice, which is untrue.
These flaws are due to the fact that the founders and upholders of this system of grab and greed are men who have never possessed either the capacity or the opportunity for studying human nature. Mere bookmen, schoolmen, business-men, and logic choppers can never be authorities on human nature. The great authorities on human nature are the poets, the novelists, the artists, and the men whose lives and labors bring them into daily contact with their fellow creatures.
The only school for the study of human nature is the world. The only textbooks are the works of men like Shakespeare, Hugo, Cervantes, Sterne, and other students who learned in that school.
But the effectual study of human nature demands from the student a vast fund of love and sympathy. You will never get admitted into the heart of a fellow-creature unless you go as a friend.
I remember as a child reading a fairy tale of a prince who had given to him a feather of magic properties. When he touched people with that feather they spoke what was in their minds. Such a feather with such powers you may have any day if you will, and the name of it is love. That is the magic feather of Shakespeare, of Sterne, and of Cervantes. If you would witness the manifestation of its power, go to your books and make acquaintance with Sancho Panza and Uncle Toby, and with Rosalind and Dogberry, and Mercutio and Macbeth.
The study of human nature is a most difficult one. Only specially-gifted men can master it; and that with much pains. Judge, then, for yourself whether the motley mob of readywriters in the press are authorities on such a subject. Judge for yourself whether a man who spends all his days in the study of economics and the mathematic sciences is qualified to build up a system which depends upon a deep and wide knowledge of the souls of men. Go now and contrast the Frankenstein monster of the political-economist with Sterne's “Muleteer,” Eliot's
Silas Marner," Shakespeare's “Hamlet,” or Rabelais' "Pan. urge," and decide for yourself as to whether the study of litere ature is of any use in the study of social science.
Consider the lady nurse at the seat of war. Gentle, delicate, loving, and lovable, of high intelligence, of great beauty, young, refined, and educated, she leaves pleasure and home and ease, and all the pomps and flatteries of courts and assemblies, to labor amid peril and hardship and all the sickening and dreadful sounds and sights of the battle-field, the hospital, and the camp. Amid pestilence and blood, amid death and mutilation, you find her, calm and gentle and fearless. Dressing loathsome wounds, soothing fevered heads, hearing the imprecations and the groans of delirious and sick men, always unselfish, always patient, always kind, with but one motive and that charity, without any crown or recompense of glory or reward-such is the lady nurse at the seat of war. It is a noble picture—is it not? Well, that is human nature.
Consider now the outcast Jezebel of the London pavement. Fierce and cunning, and false and vile. Ghastly of visage under her paint and grease. A creature debased below the level of the brutes, with the hate of a devil in her soul and the fire of hell in her eyes. Lewd of gesture, strident of voice, wanton of gaze; using language so foul as to shock the pot-house ruffian, and laughter whose sound makes the blood run cold. A dreadful specter, shameless, heartless, reckless, and horrible, A creature whose touch is contamination, whose words burn like a flame, whose leers and ogles make the soul sick. A creature living in drunkenness and filth. A moral blight. A beast of prey who has cast down many wounded, whose victims fill lunatic ward and the morgue; a thief, a liar, a hopeless, lost, degraded wretch, of whom it has been well said, “Her feet take hold of hell; her house is the way to the grave, going down to the chamber of death." It is an awful picture-is it not? But that is human nature.
There is the character of Don Quixote, that is human nature, so is the character of Sancho Panza. The same applies to the characters of Sam Weller and Bill Sikes, of Hermione and Lady Macbeth, of Ancient Pistol and Coriolanus, of Corporal Trim and Corporal Brock, of John Knox and Charles II, of Voltaire and Martin Luther. of Grace Darling and Carmen, of John Wesley and Tom Sayers.
There is human nature in Raleigh's spreading of the cloak before the queen; in the wounded Sydney giving up the cup water to the wounded soldier; in Nelson on the deck of the “Victory” with his breast ablaze with orders; in Napoleon afraid to die at Sedan; in St. Paul's endurance of stripes and contumely; in Judas selling his master for thirty pieces of silver.
Human nature is a complex and an awful thing. It is true of man that he is fearfully and wonderfully made. But consider all these types of humanity, picture to yourself the soldier at his post, the thief at his work, the smith at the forge. the factory girl at the loom, the actor on the stage, the priest at his prayers, the sot at his can, the mother with her babe, the widow at the husband's grave, the judge in his wig, the Indian in his paint, the farmer at the plow, the beggar asleep in the ditch, the peer with his betting book, the surgeon with his knife, the street arab in the slums, and the young girl dreaming over a love tale, and then recall to your mind the bloodless, soulless abortion of the political economist, and the “unit” of “society," whose purpose in life is to "produce," and whose only motive power is the “desire for gain."
The last refuge of Gradgrind, when he is beaten by socialistic argument, is the assertion that human nature is incapable of good. But this is not true. Men instinctively prefer “light to darkness, love to hate, and good to evil.
The most selfish man would not see a fellow-creature die or suffer if he could save him without personal cost or risk.
Only a lunatic would wantonly destroy a harvest or poison'a well, unless he might thereby reap some personal advantage.
It is clear, therefore, that men will do good for its own sake; but they will not do evil except with the hope of gain. And this may be said of the lowest and the basest types of mankind. But of the highest, even of the intermediate types of mankind, how much more may be said? So much more, indeed, as may overthrow Gradgrind and his brutal theories, and bury him and them in the ruins of his arguments of ashes and of his defenses of clay. For mankind turns to the sun, even to seeking it through fog and storm. They will obey God's commandment when they can hear it, and resist the temptations of Satan with such power as they possess. True are the words of Tennyson :
“We needs must love the highest when we see it,
Not Launcelot, nor another. "Miserabler theory," says Carlyle, “miserabler theory than that of money on the ledger being the primary rule for empires, or for any higher entity than city owls, and their mice-catching, cannot be propounded."
Major Burke, of the Wild West, told me one day that on the prairies the cowboys went about finger on trigger, ever on the qui vive for an ambush. If a leaf stirred they fired, if a twig snapped they fired; and in about five cases out of a hundred they shot an Indian.
This is the state in which men live under a competitive commercial system. It is war. The hand of every man is against
every man's hand. Men move finger on trigger, and fire at the falling of a leaf. But in a socialistic state of society they would no more go armed and in fear of their fellow-creatures than did the Wild-West cowboys in London,
Then the church speaks, saying that men are born bad, Now, I hold that human nature is not innately bad, I take the scientists? view that man is an undeveloped creature. That he is a being risen from lower forms of life, that he is slowly working out his development, in an upward direction, and that he is yet a long way from the summit. How far he is below the angels, how far above the brutes, in his pilgrimage, is a matter for dispute. I believe that he is a great deal better than the church and the economist suppose him to be; and that the greater part of what these superior persons call his “badness" is due to the conditions under which he lives, or in which he and his fathers have been bred.
It is no use arguing whether man is bad by nature, and without respect to circumstances. Man is a creature of circumstances. If you separate him from his surroundings he ceases to exist. We will waive the discussion of what man might be, and concede to our opponents the advantage of considering him as he is. We will consider man as we see him, and his circumstances as we see them.
The question asked is whether human nature is bad. We must begin by asking under what circumstances? Will a peach tree bear peaches? Yes, if planted in good soil and against a south wall. Will a rose tree flourish in England ? Not if you set it in an ash-heap and exclude the light and air. Is a river a beautiful and a wholesome thing ? Yes, when it is fed by the mountain streams, washed by the autumn rains, and runs over a pebbly bed, between grassy meadows decked with water lilies. fringed with flowering rushes, shaded by stately trees; but not when it is polluted by city sewers, stained by the refuse of filthy dye-vats and chemical works; not when its bed is slime its banks ashes, and when the light falling upon it is the flame of forges, and the shadows those of mills, and manure works, and prisons. Is human nature sweet, and holy, and fruitful of good things? Yes. When it gets light and air and culture, such as we give to the beasts of the farm and to the lilies of the field; but when it is poisoned and perverted and defiled, when it is crushed, cursed, and spat upon, then human nature becomes bad. Tell me, then, shall we, in judging rivers, take the Irwell; or shall we, in judging men, take the slums, or the city council or the house of commons, or the Bourse, or the stock exchange, or any other body where vulgarity, and aggression, and rascality, and selfish presumption are the elements of success? No thing
on this earth can be good under adverse conditions-not the river, not the green grass, not the skylark, nor the rose; but if a thing can be good under propitious circumstances we say of it, “This is good." We say that of all the things of the earth except man. Of man we say, without hesitation and without conditions, “He is bad."
We will leave the Mongolian, the Turanian, and other inferior races out of our calculation, and take the Caucasian race as the type of humanity. Then it may be said that several intellectual qualities are common to all men. The average man, under average conditions, is fond of woman, fond of children-especially his own. He is also fond of himself. He likes to succeed. He likes to be admired. He enjoys his food and drink. He likes excitement and variety. He likes to laugh. He admires beauty, and is pleased with music.
Now consider how these qualities of the body and the mind may be acted upon by circumstances. We know how the pure passion of love may be debased. We know how men may become so brutalized that they will ill-use women; that they will cease to love and cherish their children. We know how a man grows selfish and cruel. We know how he sinks to sottishness, to gluttony; to torpid, savage boorishness. We know we have with us vast numbers of rich and poor, of respectable and disreputable liars and rogues and beasts and dastards. Is that the fault of human nature? Or is it the fault of the evil influences that choke and poison human nature ?
Gradgrind tells me that greed is the chief motor of the human heart. It has been so called by generations of shallow cynics and stupid dunces before him; and, as he never thinks for himself, he has never found out the error. But let any man look about him and think of what he sees, and I believe that he will agree with me that what phrenologists call “love of approbation" is a hundred-fold stronger force than greed. What observer of life will deny this? Is it pot plain to all when the eyes are opened that the desire to get praise or admiration is a stronger motive than the desire to get money? Nay, this desire to get wealth is only one out of a thousand consequences of the love of approbation. Only a miser loves money for its own sake. The great bulk of our graspers and grubbers value money for what it will bring. A few and to a small extent because it brings them luxury, ease, indulgence. A larger number, and to a greater extent, because it saves them and theirs from the risks of penury and degradation. A great preponderance, and to the widest extent, because it wins them the admiration, the wonder, the envy, and the services of their fellows.
Greed is not the strongest passion of the human heart. A