1844 Socialism Makes Men Beasts, America Expects Men to Fend for Themselves
Hints Addressed to the Young Men of the United States (1844), pp. 18-22. By John Todd, D.D
In almost all the old world, the mind of man is fettered, and the soul clogged by other things besides the body. The whole machinery of society is based upon the assumed principle that men are not competent to take care of themselves, and that everything that relates to man, as a social, intellectual, moral and even immortal being, must be minutely taken care of by a superintending wisdom called government. Hence the government provides, endows, directs and governs all the schools: founds the Colleges, prescribes the studies, appoints the Professors, marks out their duties and fixes salaries: the government regulates all trades and professions: the government decides what is religion and what is not, what modes of worship shall prevail, who are Christians and who are not; it appoints, pays, removes, or banishes the Teachers of religion at its pleasure, and all the relations of man, family, social, intellectual and moral, are regulated by government. If you have thoughts of your own on political subjects, you may not utter them, for the very walls of your dwelling have ears, - you may not communicate them in the confidence of friendship, for the Post Office is a spy all over the country; you may not print them, for the press is under close and severe censorship. Government is all, and the individuals of the nation are nothing. Hence is is that there is no public opinion to govern men; and hence it follows, that in little things with which the government does not interfere, they are under less restraint than we are here. Here, public opinion governs all and decides every question. It decides how you shall furnish your house, - how you must dress and live, in order to have such and such a standing. There, government gives you your standing, and you have no regard to public opinion. You may live as you please, in splendor or in plainness, and no one questions the propriety of your course. The government decides what is or what is not respectable, and gives every man his standing. Hence it is, that being governed here by public opinion alone, foreigners are surprised to find us furnishing our dwellings so much alike, and to see so much that is cut out by the same pattern.
Very few have any but a faint conception of the difference of character which is thus formed in the old world and in our own country. In that, a man is a Christian by law, and his children are, by law, made Christians, on being baptized. The high questions relating to eternity are all settled before he is born, and the citizen has nothing to do with them. The Schools and Colleges and Seminaries and Churches have all been provided by the government, and he has no anxiety about them. The army, the press, the newspapers, are all taken care of, and he need not worry about them. Every burden of the kind is wholly taken from his shoulders; and he has no cares for the public, for these too would be useless. From the cradle to the grave, he is not a moment free from the control, the guidance and the powerful hand of government. He has nothing to do but eat and drink, pay his taxes and obey, as his father did before them. Now we are told how happy these people are! They can eat and digest four times as much as we can: they can drink four times as much, and they can sleep a great deal sounder, and they can laugh a great deal easier, and they pass through life without worry, anxiety and fatigue. Less medicine will cure them if sick, for if they will only only stop eating and drinking, they will recover without any medicine, - or, if they must die, they die far easier than we do!
But is it not plain that if a man be laughing and happy in this condition he must be reared and trained and educated very much like an animal? That he must be animalized to a degree that debases, cramps and almost reduces man from the scale in which his Maker placed him? In this country, we prefer to live our own way; and we prefer to be thin in the flesh, haggard in countenance, dyspeptic in our stomachs, but, to be free in our thoughts, free in our speech, free in our press, and free to use our powers and influence as we see best. We prefer taking the responsibilities of governing upon our own shoulders, - to undertake the mighty task of ruling through public opinion, - to have all the anxieties of guarding as well as endowing, our Schools, our Colleges, the press, the Sabbath, and all that pertains to man as a social and immortal being. We choose to govern by public opinion, even if we sometimes have to manufacture that public opinion which we want, by slander and the aide of a sharp tongue, or even by the press. This is a part of the philosophy of all the hard and severe things that are spoken and written under a free government. We wish to regulate our neighbors, and our public men, and keep them in their places, and we do it by ridicule, or severe speaking or writing, and in proportion as law is not felt or seen, there the tongue is the mightiest in its inflictions. We sometimes hear great complaints of the tyranny of public opinion. There is no need of complaining. If public opinion be correct, it is the best ruler in the world; if it be not correct, let every man do his best to set it right. If it be ignorant, enlighten it. Strangers from abroad, as they pass through the land, wonder where our police are to be found. They see no tipstaves, no public men with the button on the hat, and hence they talk about our laws being a rope of sand. A friend of mine was lately gravely asked in Europe, if a man could safely travel through this country at the present time! And when told that in the summer we frequently leave the door open all night in order to have the house cool, and that we have neighbors who never drew a bolt or turned a key in their house for forty years, they cannot comprehend it. They cannot conceive of a condition where every man is on the side of the law, and where every man helps to create public opinion - the most powerful of all kinds of law.
John Todd, D.D. (1800-1873), b. Rutland, VT; d. Pittsfield, MA. Todd graduated at Yale College (1822) and at the Andover Theological Seminary (1825). He was a Congregational minister and a prolific author, writing over thirty books including the popular The Student's Manual (1835). He was for over 30 years the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Pittsfield, MA.