The Church of the Slavers
See, underneath the Crown of Thorn, The eye-balls fierce, the features grim! And merrily from night to morn We chaunt his praise and worship him-- Great Christus-Jingo, at whose feet Christian and Jew and Atheist meet!
A wondrous god! most fit for those Who cheat on 'Change, then creep to prayer; Blood on his heavenly altar flows, Hell's burning incense fills the air, And Death attests in street and lane The hideous glory of his reign. ~Robert Buchanan.
Face of Caesar
The thesis of this book is the effect of fixed dogma in producing mental paralysis, and the use of this mental paralysis by Economic Exploitation. From that standpoint the various Protestant sects are better than the Catholic, but not much better. The Catholics stand upon Tradition, the Protestants upon an Inspired Word; but since this Word is the entire literary product, history and biography, science and legislation, poetry, drama and fiction of a whole people for something like a thousand years, it is possible by judicious selection of texts to prove anything you wish to prove and to justify anything you wish to do. The "Holy Book" being full of polygamy, slavery, rape and wholesale murder, committed by priests and rulers under the direct orders of God, it was a very simple matter for the Protestant Slavers to construct a Bible defense of their system.
They get poor Jesus because he was given to irony, that most dangerous form of utterance. If he could come back to life, and see what men have done with his little joke about the face of Caesar on the Roman coin, I think he would drop dead. As for Paul, he was a Roman bureaucrat, with no nonsense in his make-up; when he ordered, "Servants obey your masters," he meant exactly what he said. The Roman official stamp which he put upon the gospel of Jesus has been the salvation of the Slavers from the Reformation on.
In the time of Martin Luther, the peasants of Germany were suffering the most atrocious and awful misery; Luther himself knew about it, he had denounced the princely robbers and the priestly land-exploiters with that picturesque violence of which he was a master. But nothing had been done about it, nothing ever is done about it--until at last the miserable peasants attempted to organize and win their own rights. Their demands do not seem to us so very criminal as we read them today; the privilege of electing their own pastors, the abolition of villeinage, the right to hunt and fish and cut wood in the forest, the reduction of exorbitant rents, extra payment for extra labor, and--that universal cry of peasant communes whether in Russia, England, Mexico or sixteenth century Germany--the restoration to the village of lands taken by fraud. But Luther would hear nothing of slaves asserting their own rights, and took refuge in the Pauline sociology: If they really wished to follow Christ, they would drop the sword and resort to prayer; the gospel has to do with spiritual, not temporal, affairs; earthly society cannot exist without inequalities, etc.
And when the peasants went on in spite of this, he turned upon them and denounced them to the princes; he issued proclamations which might have been the instructions of Mr. John Wanamaker to the police-force of his "City of Brotherly Love": "One cannot answer a rebel with reason, but the best answer is to hit him with the fist until blood flows from the nose." He issued a letter: "Against the Murderous and Thieving Mob of Peasants," which might have come from the Reverend Woelfkin, Fifth Avenue Pastor of Standard Oil: "The ass needs to be beaten, and the populace needs to be controlled with a strong hand. God knew this well, and therefore he gave the rulers, not a fox's tail, but a sword." He implored these rulers, after the fashion of Methodist Chancellor Day of the University of Syracuse: "Do not be troubled about the severity of their repression, for it will save many souls." With such pious exhortations in their ears the princes set to work, and slaughtered a hundred thousand of the miserable wretches; they completely aborted the social hopes of the Reformation, and cast humanity into the pit of wage-slavery and militarism for four centuries. As a church scholar, Prof. Rauschenbusch, puts it:
The glorious years of the Lutheran Reformation were from 1517 to 1525, when the whole nation was in commotion, and a great revolutionary tidal wave seemed to be sweeping every class and every higher interest one step nearer to its ideal of life. . . . The Lutheran Reformation had been most truly religious and creative when it embraced the whole of human life and enlisted the enthusiasm of all ideal men and movements. When it became "religious" in the narrow sense, it grew scholastic and spiny, quarrelsome, and impotent to awaken high enthusiasm and noble life.
Deutschland ueber Alles
As a result of Luther's treason to humanity, his church became the state church of Prussia, and Bible-worship and Devil-terror played their part, along with the Mass and the Confessional, in building up the Junker dream. A court official--the Oberhofprediger--was set up, and from that time on the Hohenzollerns were the most pious criminals in Europe. Frederick the Great, the ancestral genius, was an atheist and a scoffer, but he believed devoutly in religion for his subjects. He said: "If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks." And Carlyle, instinctive friend of autocrats, tells with jocular approval how he kept them from thinking:
He recognizes the uses of Religion; takes a good deal of pains with his Preaching Clergy; will suggest texts to them; and for the rest expects to be obeyed by them, as by his Sergeants and Corporals. Indeed, the reverend men feel themselves to be a body of Spiritual Sergeants, Corporals, and Captains, to whom obedience is the rule, and discontent a thing not to be indulged in by any means.
So the soldiers stayed in the ranks, and Frederick raided Silesia and Poland. His successors ordered all the Protestant sects into one, so that they might be more easily controlled; from which time the Lutheran Church has been a department of the Prussian state, in some cases a branch of the municipal authority.
In 1848, when the people of various German states demanded their liberty, it was an ultra-pious king of Prussia who sent his troops and shot them down--precisely as Luther had advised to shoot down the peasants. At this time the future maker of the German Empire rose in the Landtag and made his bow before the world; a young Prussian land-magnate, Otto von Bismarck by name, he shook his fist in the face of the new German liberalism, and incidentally of the new German infidelity:
Christianity is the solid basis of Prussia; and no state erected upon any other foundation can permanently exist.
The present Hohenzollern has diligently maintained this tradition of his line. It was his custom to tour the Empire in a train of blue and white cars, carrying as many costumes as any stage favorite, most of them military; with him on the train went the Prussian god, and there was scarcely a performance at which this god did not appear, also in military costume. After the failure of the "Kultur-kampf," the official Lutheran religion was ordered to make friends with its ancient enemy, the Catholic Church. Said the Kaiser:
I make no difference between the adherents of the Catholic and Protestant creeds. Let them both stand upon the foundation of Christianity, and they are both bound to be true citizens and obedient subjects. Then the German people will be the rock of granite upon which our Lord God can build and complete his work of Kultur in the world.
And here is the oath required of the Catholic clergy, upon their admission to equality of trustworthiness with their Protestant confreres:
I will be submissive, faithful and obedient to his Royal Majesty,--and his lawful successors in the government,--as my most gracious King and Sovereign; promote his welfare according to my ability; prevent injury and detriment to him; and particularly endeavor carefully to cultivate in the minds of the people under my care a sense of reverence and fidelity towards the King, love for the Fatherland, obedience to the laws, and all those virtues which in a Christian denote a good citizen; and I will not suffer any man to teach or act in a contrary spirit. In particular I vow that I will not support any society or association, either at home or abroad, which might endanger the public security, and will inform His Majesty of any proposal made, either in my diocese or elsewhere, which might prove injurious to the State.
And later on this heaven-guided ruler conceived the scheme of a Berlin-Bagdad railway, for which he needed one religion more; he paid a visit to Constantinople, and made another debut and produced another god--with the result that millions of Turks are fighting under the belief that the Kaiser is a convert to the faith of Mohammed!
All this was, of course, in preparation for the great event to which all good Germans looked forward--to which all German officers drank their toasts at banquets--the Day.
This glorious day came, and the field-gray armies marched forth, and the Pauline-Lutheran God marched with them. The Kaiser, as usual, acted as spokesman:
Remember that the German people are the chosen of God. On me, the German emperor, the spirit of God has descended. I am His sword, His weapon and His viceregent. Woe to the disobedient and death to cowards and unbelievers.
As to the Prussian state religion, its attitude to the war is set forth in a little book written by a high clerical personage, the Herr Consistorialrat Dietrich Vorwerk, containing prayers and hymns for the soldiers, and for the congregations at home. Here is an appeal to the Lord God of Battles:
Though the warrior's bread be scanty, do Thou work daily death and tenfold woe unto the enemy. Forgive in merciful long-suffering each bullet and each blow which misses its mark. Lead us not into the temptation of letting our wrath be too tame in carrying out Thy divine judgment. Deliver us and our ally from the Infernal Enemy and his servants on earth. Thine is the kingdom, the German land; may we, by the aid of Thy steel-clad hand, achieve the fame and the glory.
It is this Herr Consistorialrat who has perpetrated the great masterpiece of humor of the war--the hymn in which he appeals to that God who keeps guard over Cherubim, Seraphim, and Zeppelins. You have to say over the German form of these words in order to get the effect of their delicious melody--"Cherubinen, Seraphinen, Zeppelinen!" And lest you think that this too-musical clergyman is a rara avis, turn to the little book which has been published in English under the same title as Herr Vorwerk's "Hurrah and Hallelujah." Here is the Reverend S. Lehmann:
Germany is the center of God's plans for the world. Germany's fight against the whole world is in reality the battle of the spirit against the whole world's infamy, falsehood and devilish cunning.
And here is Pastor K. Koenig:
It was God's will that we should win the war.
And Pastor J. Rump:
Our defeat would mean the defeat of His Son in humanity. We fight for the cause of Jesus within mankind.
And here is an eminent theological professor:
The deepest and most thought-inspiring result of the war is the German God. Not the national God such as the lower nations worship, but "our God," who is not ashamed of belonging to us, the peculiar acquirement of our heart.
It is a cheap way to gain applause in these days, to denounce the Prussian system; my only purpose is to show that Bible-worship, precisely as saint-worship or totem-worship, delivers the worshipper up to the Slavers. This truth has held in America, precisely as in Prussia. During the middle of the last century there was fought out a mighty issue in our free republic; and what was the part played in this struggle by the Bible-cults? Hear the testimony of William Lloyd Garrison: "American Christianity is the main pillar of American slavery." Hear Parker Pillsbury: "We had almost to abolish the Church before we could reach the dreadful institution at all."
In the year 1818 the Presbyterian General Assembly, which represented the churches of the South as well as of the North, passed by a unanimous vote a resolution to the effect that "Slavery is utterly inconsistent with the law of God, which requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves." But in a generation the views of the entire South, including the Presbyterian Church, had changed entirely. What was the reason? Had the "law of God" been altered? Had some new "revelation" been handed down? Nothing of the kind; it was merely that a Yankee by the name of Eli Whitney had perfected a machine to take the seeds out of short staple cotton. The cotton crop of the South increased from four thousand bales in 1791 to four hundred and fifty thousand in 1820 and five million, four hundred thousand in 1860.
There was a new monarch, King Cotton, and his empire depended upon slaves. According to the custom of monarchs since the dawn of history, he hired the ministers of God to teach that what he wanted was right and holy. From one end of the South to the other the pulpits rang with the text: "Cursed be Canaan; a servant to servants shall he be to his brethren." The learned Bishop Hopkins, in his "Bible View of Slavery", gave the standard interpretation of this text:
The Almighty, forseeing the total degredation of the Negro race, ordained them to servitude or slavery under the descendants of Shem and Japheth, doubtless because he judged it to be their fittest condition.
I might fill the balance of this volume with citations from defenses of the "peculiar institution" in the name of Jesus Christ--and not only from the South, but from the North. For it must be understood that leading families of Massachusetts and New York owed their power to Slavery; their fathers had brought molasses from New Orleans and made it into rum, and taken it to the coast of Africa to be exchanged for slaves for the Southern planters. And after this trade was outlawed, the slave-grown cotton had still to be shipped to the North and spun; so the traders of the North must have divine sanction for the Fugitive Slave law. Here is the Bishop of Vermont declaring: "The slavery of the negro race appears to me to be fully authorized both in the Old and New Testaments." Here in the "True Presbyterian", of New York, giving the decision of a clerical man of the world: "There is no debasement in it. It might have existed in Paradise, and it may continue through the Millenium."
And when the slave-holding oligarchy of the South rose in arms against those who presumed to interfere with this divine institution, the men of God of the South called down blessings upon their armies in words which, with the proper change of names, might have been spoken in Berlin in August, 1914. Thus Dr. Thornwell, one of the leading Presbyterian divines of the South: "The triumph of Lincoln's principles is the death-knell of slavery...... Let us crush the serpent in the egg." And the Reverend Dr. Smythe of Charleston: "The war is a war against slavery, and is therefore treasonable rebellion against the Word, Providence and Government of God." I read in the papers, as I am writing, how the clergy of Germany are thundering against President Wilson's declaration that that country must become democratic. Here is a manifesto of the German Evangelical League, made public on the four hundredth anniversary of the Reformation:
We especially warn against the heresy, promulgated from America, that Christianity enjoins democratic institutions, and that they are an essential condition of the kingdom of God on earth.
In exactly the same way the religious bodies of the entire South united in an address to Christians throughout the world, early in the year 1863:
The recent proclamation of the President of the United States, seeking the emancipation of the slaves of the South, is in our judgment occasion of solemn protest on the part of the people of God.
Witches and Women
To whatever part of the world you travel, to whatever page of history you turn, you find the endowed and established clergy using the word of God in defense of whatever form of slave-driving may then be popular and profitable. Two or three hundred years ago it was the custom of Protestant divines in England and America to burn poor old women as witches; only a hundred and fifty years ago we find John Wesley, founder of Methodism, declaring that "the giving up of witchcraft is in effect the giving up of the Bible." And if you investigate this witch-burning, you will find that it is only one aspect of a blot upon civilization, the Christian Mysogyny. You see, there were two Hebrew legends--one that woman was made out of a man's rib, and the other that she ate an apple; therefore in modern England a wife must be content with a legal status lower than a domestic servant.
Perhaps the most comical of the clerical claims is this--that Christianity has promoted chivalry and respect for womanhood. In ancient Greece and Rome the woman was the equal and helpmate of man; we read in Tacitus about the splendid women of the Germans, who took part in public councils, and even fought in battles. Two thousand years before the Christian era we are told by Maspero that the Egyptian woman was the mistress of her house; she could inherit equally with her brothers, and had full control of her property. We are told by Paturet that she was "juridically the equal of man, having the same rights and being treated in the same fashion." But in present-day England, under the common law, woman can hold no office of trust or power, and her husband has the sole custody of her person, and of her children while minors. He can steal her children, rob her of her clothing, and beat her with a stick provided it is no thicker than his thumb. While I was in London the highest court handed down a decision on the law which does not permit a woman to divorce her husband for infidelity, unless it has been accompanied by cruelty; a man had brought his mistress into his home and--compelled his wife to work for and wait upon her, and the decision was that this was not cruelty in the meaning of the law!
And if you say that this enslavement of Woman has nothing to do with religion--that ancient Hebrew fables do not control modern English customs--then listen to the Vicar of Crantock, preaching at St. Crantock's, London, Aug. 27th, 1905, and explaining why women must cover their heads in church:
(1) Man's priority of creation. Adam was first formed, then Eve.
(2) The manner of creation. The man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man.
(3) The purport of creation. The man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man.
(4) Results in creation. The man is the image of the glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.
(5) Woman's priority in the fall. Adam was not deceived; but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression.
(6) The marriage relation. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands.
(7) The headship of man and woman. The head of every man is Christ, but the head of the woman is man.
I say there is no modern evil which cannot be justified by these ancient texts; and there is nowhere in Christendom a clergy which cannot be persuaded to cite them at the demand of ruling classes. In the city where I write, three clergymen are being sent to jail for six months for protesting against the use of the name of Jesus in the wholesale slaughter of men. Now, I am backing this war. I know that it has to be fought, and I want to see it fought as hard as possible; but I want to leave Jesus out of it, for I know that Jesus did not believe in war, and never could have been brought to support a war. I object to clerical cant on the subject; and I note that an eminent theological authority, "Billy" Sunday, appears to agree with me; for I find him on the front page of my morning paper, assailing the three pacifist clergymen, and making his appeal not to Jesus, but to the blood-thirsty tribal diety of the ancient Hebrews:
I suppose they think they know more than God Almighty, who commanded the sun to stand still while Joshua won the battle for the Lord; more than the God who made Samson strong so he could slay thousands of his nation's enemies in a righteous cause.
Right you are, Billy! And if the capitalist system continues to develop unchecked, we shall some day see it dawn upon the masters of the world how wasteful it is to permit the superannuated workers to perish by slow starvation. So much more sensible to make use of them! So we shall have a Bible defense of cannibalism; we shall hear our evangelists quoting Leviticus: "They shall eat the flesh of their own sons and daughters." Or perhaps some of our leisure-class ladies might make the discovery that the flesh of working-class babies is relished by pomeranians and poodles. If so, the Billy Sundays of the twenty-first century may discover the text: "Happy shall be he that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones."
Moth and Rust
It is especially interesting to notice what happens when the Bible texts work against the interests of the Slavers and their clerical retainers. Then they are null and void--and no matter how precise and explicit and unmistakable they may be! Take for example the Sabbath injunction: "Six days shalt thou labor and do all that thou hast to do." Karl Marx records of the pious England of his time that
Occasionally in rural districts a day-labourer is condemned to imprisonment for desecrating the Sabbath by working in his front garden. The same labourer is punished for breach of contract if he remains away from his metal, paper or glass works on the Sunday, even if it be from a religious whim. The orthodox Parliament will hear nothing of Sabbath-breaking if it occurs in the process of expanding capital.
Or consider the attitude of the Church in the matter of usury. Throughout ancient Hebrew history the money-lender was an outcast; both the law and the prophets denounced him without mercy, and it was made perfectly clear that what was meant was, not the taking of high interest, but the taking of any interest whatsoever. The early church fathers were explicit, and the Catholic Church for a thousand years consigned money-lenders unhesitatingly to hell. But then came the modern commercial system, and the money-lenders became the masters of the world! There is no more amusing illustration of the perversion of human thought than the efforts of the Jesuit casuists to escape from the dilemma into which their Heavenly Guides had trapped them.
Here, for example is Alphonso Ligouri, a Spanish Jesuit of the eighteenth century, a doctor of the Church, now worshipped as St. Alphonsus, presenting a long and elaborate theory of "mental usury"; concluding that, if the borrower pay interest of his own free will, the lender may keep it. In answer to the question whether the lender may keep what the borrower pays, not out of gratitude, but out of fear that otherwise loans will be refused to him in future, Ligouri says that "to be usury, it must be paid by reason of a contract, or as justly due; payment by reason of such a fear does not cause interest to be paid as an actual price," Again the great saint and doctor tells us that "it is not usury to exact something in return for the danger and expense of regaining the principal!" Could the house of J. P. Morgan and Company ask more of their ecclesiastical department?
The reader may think that such sophistications are now out of date; but he will find precisely the same knavery in the efforts of present-day Slavers to fit Jesus Christ into the system of competitive commercialism. Jesus, as we have pointed out, was a carpenter's son, a thoroughly class-conscious proletarian. He denounced the exploiters of his own time with ferocious bitterness, he drove the money-changers out of the temple with whips, and he finally died the death of a common criminal. If he had forseen the whole modern cycle of capitalism and wage-slavery, he could hardly have been more precise in his exortations to his followers to stand apart from it. But did all this avail him? Not in the least!
I place upon the witness-stand an exponent of Bible-Christianity whom all readers of our newspapers know well: a scholar of learning, a publicist of renown; once pastor of the most famous church in Brooklyn; now editor of our most influential religious weekly; a liberal both in theology and politics; a modernist, an advocate of what he calls industrial democracy. His name is Lyman Abbott, and he is writing under his own signature in his own magazine, his subject being "The Ethical Teachings of Jesus". Several times I have tried to persuade people that the words I am about to quote were actually written and published by this eminent doctor of divinity, and people have almost refused to believe me. Therefore I specify that the article may be found in the "Outlook", the bound volumes of which are in all large libraries: volume 94, page 576. The words are as follows, the bold face being Dr. Abbott's, not mine:
My radical friend declares that the teachings of Jesus are not practicable, that we cannot carry them out in life, and that we do not pretend to do so. Jesus, he reminds us, said, 'Lay not up for yourself treasures upon earth;' and Christians do universally lay up for themselves treasures upon earth; every man that owns a house and lot, or a share of stock in a corporation, or a life insurance policy, or money in a savings bank, has laid up for himself treasure upon earth. But Jesus did not say, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth." He said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal." And no sensible American does. Moth and rust do not get at Mr. Rockefeller's oil wells, nor at the Sugar Trust's sugar, and thieves do not often break through and steal a railway or an insurance company or a savings bank. What Jesus condemned was hoarding wealth.
Strange as it may sound to some of the readers of this book, I count myself among the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. His example has meant more to me than that of any other man, and all the experiences of my revolutionary life have brought me nearer to him. Living in the great Metropolis of Mammon, I have felt the power of Privilege, its scourge upon my back, its crown of thorns upon my head. When I read that article in the "Outlook", I felt just as Jesus himself would have felt; and I sat down and wrote a letter--
To Lyman Abbott
This discovery of a new method of interpreting the Bible is one of such very great interest and importance that I cannot forbear to ask space to comment upon it. May I suggest that Dr. Abbott elaborate this exceedingly fruitful idea, and write us another article upon the extent to which the teachings of the Inspired Word are modified by modern conditions, by the progress of invention and the scientific arts? The point of view which Dr. Abbott takes is one which had never occurred to me before, and I had therefore been completely mistaken as to the attitude of Jesus on the question. Also I have, like Dr. Abbott, many radical friends who are still laboring under error.
Jesus goes on to bid his hearers: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin." What an apt simile is this for the "great mass of American wealth," in Dr. Abbott's portrayal of it! "It is serving the community," he tells us; "it is building a railway to open a new country to settlement by the homeless; it is operating a railway to carry grain from the harvests of the West to the unfed millions of the East," etc. Incidentally, it is piling up dividends for its pious owners; and so everybody is happy--and Jesus, if he should come back to earth, could never know that he had left the abodes of bliss above.
Truly, there should be a new school of Bible interpretation founded upon this brilliant idea. Jesus says, "Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men." Verily not; for of what avail are trumpets, compared with the millions of copies of newspapers which daily go forth to tell of Mr. Rockefeller's benefactions? How transitory are they, compared with the graven marble or granite which Mr. Carnegie sets upon the front of each of his libraries!
There is the paragraph, "Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black." I have several among my friends who are Quakers; presumably Dr. Abbott has also; and he should not fail to point out to them the changes which scientific discovery has wrought in the significance of this command against swearing. We can now make our hair either white or black, or a combination of both. We can make it a brilliant peroxide golden; we could, if pushed to an extreme, make it purple or green. So we are clearly entitled to swear all we please by our head.
Nor should we forget to examine other portions of the Bible according to this method. "Look not upon the wine when it is red," we are told. Thanks to the activities of that Capitalism which Dr. Abbott praises so eloquently, we now make our beverages in the chemical laboratory, and their color is a matter of choice. Also, it should be pointed out that we have a number of pleasant drinks which are not wine at all--"high-balls" and "gin rickeys" and "peppered punches"; also vermouthe and creme de menthe and absinthe, which I believe, are green in hue, and therefore entirely safe.
Then there are the Ten Commandments. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image." See how completely our understanding of this command is changed, so soon as we realize that we are free to make images of molten metal! And that we may with impunity bow down to them and worship them and serve them--even, for instance, a Golden Calf!
"The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates." This, again, it will be noted, is open to new interpretations. It specifies maidservants, but does not prevent one's employing as many married women as he pleases. It also says nothing about the various kinds of labor-saving machinery which we have now taught to work for us--sail-boats, naptha launches, yachts, automobiles, and private cars--all of which may be busily occupied during the seventh day of the week. The men who run these machines--the guides, boatmen, stokers, pilots, chauffeurs, and engineers--would all indignantly resent being regarded as "servants", and so they do not come under the prohibition any more than the machines.
"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's." I read this paragraph over for the first time in quite a while, and I came with a jolt to its last words. I had been intending to point out that it said nothing about a neighbor's automobile, nor a neighbor's oil wells, sugar trusts, insurance companies and savings banks. The last words, however, stop one off abruptly. One is almost tempted to imagine that the Divine Intelligence must have foreseen Dr. Abbott's ingenious method of interpretation, and taken this precaution against him. And this was a great surprise to me--for, truly, I had not supposed it possible that such an interpretation could have been foreseen, even by Omniscience itself. I will conclude this communication by venturing the assertion that it could not have been foreseen by any other person or thing, in the heavens above, on the earth beneath, or the waters under the earth. Dr. Abbott may accept my congratulations upon having achieved the most ingenious and masterful exhibition of casuistical legerdemain that it has ever been my fortune to encounter in my readings in the literatures of some thirty centuries and seven different languages.
And I will also add that I respectfully challenge Dr. Abbott to publish this letter. And I announce to him in advance that if he refuses to publish it, I will cause it to be published upon the first page of the "Appeal to Reason", where it will be read by some five hundred thousand Socialists, and by them set before several million followers of Jesus Christ, the world's first and greatest revolutionist, whom Dr. Lyman Abbott has traduced and betrayed by the most amazing piece of theological knavery that it has ever been my fortune to encounter.
Dr. Lyman Abbott published this letter! In his editorial comment thereon he said that he did not know which of two biblical injunctions to follow: "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be thought like unto him"; or "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit". I replied by pointing out a third text which the Reverend Doctor had possibly overlooked: "He that calleth his neighbor a fool shall be in danger of hell-fire." But the Reverend Doctor took refuge in his dignity, and I bided my time and waited for that revenge which comes sooner or later to us muck-rakers. In this case it came speedily. The story is such a perfect illustration of the functions of religion as oil to the machinery of graft that I ask the reader's permission to recite it at length.
For a couple of decades the political and financial life of New England has been dominated by a gigantic aggregation of capital, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. It is a "Morgan" concern; its popular name, "The New Haven", stands for all the railroads of six states, nearly all the trolley-lines and steamship-lines, and a group of the most powerful banks of Boston and New York. It is controlled by a little group of insiders, who followed the custom of rail-road-wrecking familiar to students of American industrial life: buying up new lines, capitalizing them at fabulous sums, and unloading them on the investing public; paying dividends out of capital, "passing" dividends as a means of stock manipulation, accumulating surpluses and cutting "melons" for the insiders, while at the same time crushing labor unions, squeezing wages, and permitting rolling-stock and equipment to go to wreck.
All these facts were perfectly well known in Wall Street, and could not have escaped the knowledge of any magazine editor dealing with current events. In eight years the "New Haven" had increased its capitalization 1501 per cent; and what that meant, any office boy in "the Street" could have told. What attitude should a magazine editor take to the matter?
At that time there were still two or three free magazines in America. One of them was Hampton's, and the story of its wrecking by the New Haven criminals will some day serve in school text-books as the classic illustration of that financial piracy which brought on the American social revolution. Ben Hampton had bought the old derelict "Broadway Magazine", with twelve thousand subscribers, and in four years, by the simple process of straight truth-telling, had built up for it a circulation of 440,000. In two years more he would have had a million; but in May, 1911, he announced a series of articles dealing with the New Haven management.
The articles, written by Charles Edward Russell, were so exact that they read today like the reports of the Interstate Commerce Commission, dated three years later. A representative of the New Haven called upon the editor of Hampton's with a proof of the first article--obtained from the printer by bribery--and was invited to specify the statements to which he took exception; in the presence of witnesses he went over the article line by line, and specified two minor errors, which were at once corrected. At the end of the conference he announced that if the articles were published, Hampton's Magazine would be "on the rocks in ninety days."
Which threat was carried out to the letter. First came a campaign among the advertisers of the magazine, which lost an income of thousands of dollars a month, almost over night. And then came a campaign among the banks--the magazine could not get credit. Anyone familiar with the publishing business will understand that a magazine which is growing rapidly has to have advances to meet each month's business. Hampton undertook to raise the money by selling stock; whereupon a spy was introduced into his office as bookkeeper, his list of subscribers was stolen, and a campaign was begun to destroy their confidence.
It happened that I was in Hampton's office in the summer of 1911, when the crisis came. Money had to be had to pay for a huge new edition; and upon a property worth two millions of dollars, with endorsements worth as much again, it was impossible to borrow thirty thousand dollars in the city of New York. Bankers, personal friends of the publisher, stated quite openly that word had gone out that any one who loaned money to him would be "broken". I myself sent telegrams to everyone I knew who might by any chance be able to help; but there was no help, and Hampton retired without a dollar to his name, and the magazine was sold under the hammer to a concern which immediately wrecked it and discontinued publication.
The Industrial Shelley
Such was the fate of an editor who opposed the "New Haven". And now, what of those editors who supported it? Turn to "The Outlook, a Weekly Journal of Current Events," edited by Lyman Abbott--the issue of Dec. 25th, nineteen hundred and nine years after Christ came down to bring peace on earth and good-will toward Wall Street. You will there find an article by Sylvester Baxter entitled "The Upbuilding of a Great Railroad." It is the familiar "slush" article which we professional writers learn to know at a glance. "Prodigious", Mr. Baxter tells us, has been the progress of the New Haven; this was "a masterstroke", that was "characteristically sagacious". The road had made "prodigious expenditures", and to a noble end: "Transportation efficiency epitomizes the broad aim that animated these expenditures and other constructive activities." There are photographs of bridges and stations--"vast terminal improvements", "a masterpiece of modern engineering", "the highest, greatest and most architectural of bridges". Of the official under whom these miracles were being wrought--President Mellen--we read: "Nervously organized, of delicate sensibility, impulsive in utterance, yet with an extraordinarily convincing power for vividly logical presentation." An industrial Shelley, or a Milton, you perceive; and all this prodigious genius poured out for the general welfare! "To study out the sort of transportation service best adapted to these ends, and then to provide it in the most efficient form possible, that is the life-task that President Mellen has set himself."
There was no less than sixteen pages of these raptures--quite a section of a small magazine like the "Outlook". "The New Haven ramifies to every spot where industry flourishes, where business thrives." "As a purveyor of transportation it supplies the public with just the sort desired." "Here we have the new efficiency in a nutshell." In short, here we have what Dr. Lyman Abbott means when he glorifies "the great mass of American wealth". "It is serving the community; it is building a railway to open a new country to settlement by the homeless; it is operating a railway to carry grain from the harvests of the West to the unfed millions of the East," etc. The unfed millions--my typewriter started to write "underfed millions"--are humbly grateful for these services, and hasten to buy copies of the pious weekly which tells about them.
The "Outlook" runs a column of "current events" in which it tells what is happening in the world; and sometimes it is compelled to tell of happenings against the interests of "the great mass of American wealth". The cynical reader will find amusement in following its narrative of the affairs of the New Haven during the five years subsequent to the publication of the Baxter article.
First came the collapse of the road's service; a series of accidents so frightful that they roused even clergymen and chambers of commerce to protest. A number of the "Outlook's" subscribers are New Haven "commuters", and the magazine could not fail to refer to their troubles. In the issue of Jan. 4th, 1913, three years and ten days after the Baxter rhapsody, we read:
The most numerous accidents on a single road since the last fiscal year have been, we believe, those on the New Haven. In the opinion of the Connecticut Commission, the Westport wreck would not have occurred if the railway company had followed the recommendation of the Chief Inspector of Safety Appliances of the Interstate Commerce Commission in its report on a similar accident at Bridgeport a year ago.
And by June 28th, matters had gone farther yet; we find the "Outlook" reporting:
Within a few hours of the collision at Stamford, the wrecked Pullman car was taken away and burned. Is this criminal destruction of evidence?
This collapse of the railroad service started a clamor for investigation by the Interstate Commerce Commission, which of course brought terror to the bosoms of the plunderers. On Dec. 20, 1913, we find the "Outlook" "putting the soft pedal" on the public indignation. "It must not be forgotten that such a road as the New Haven is, in fact if not in terms, a National possession, and as it goes down or up, public interests go down or up with it," But in spite of all pious admonitions, the Interstate Commerce Commission yielded to the public clamor, and an investigation was made--revealing such conditions of rottenness as to shock even the clerical retainers of Privilege. "Securities were inflated, debt was heaped upon debt", reports the horrified "Outlook"; and when its hero, Mr. Mellen--its industrial Shelley, "nervously organized, of delicate sensibility"--admitted that he had no authority as to the finances of the road and no understanding of them, but had taken all his orders from Morgan, the "Outlook" remarks, deeply wounded: "A pitiable position for the president of a great railway to assume." A little later, when things got hotter yet, we read:
In the search for truth the Commissioners had to overcome many obstacles, such as the burning of books, letters and documents, and the obstinacy of witnesses, who declined to testify until criminal proceedings were begun. The New Haven system has more than three hundred subsidiary corporations in a web of entangling alliances, many of which were seemingly planned, created and manipulated by lawyers expressly retained for the purpose of concealment or deception.
But do you imagine even that would sicken the pious jackals of their offal? If so, you do not know the sturdiness of the pious stomach. A compromise was patched up between the government and the thieves who were too big to be prosecuted; this bargain was not kept by the thieves, and President Wilson declared in a public statement that the New Haven administration had "broken an agreement deliberately and solemnly entered into," in a manner to the President "inexplicable and entirely without justification." Which, of course, seemed to the "Outlook" dreadfully impolite language to be used concerning a "National possession"; it hastened to rebuke President Wilson, whose statement was "too severe and drastic."
A new compromise was made between the government and the thieves who were too big to be prosecuted, and the stealing went on. Now, as I work over this book, the President takes the railroads for war use, and reads to Congress a message proposing that the securities based upon the New Haven swindles, together with all the mass of other railroad swindles, shall be sanctified and secured by dividends paid out of the Public purse. New Haven securities take a big jump; and the "Outlook", needless to say, is enthusiastic for the President's policy. Here is a chance for the big thieves to baptize themselves--or shall we say to have the water in their stocks made "holy"? Says our pious editor, for the government to take property without full compensation "would be contrary to the whole spirit of America."
The Outlook for Graft
Anyone familiar with the magazine world will understand that such crooked work as this, continued over a long period, is not done for nothing. Any magazine writer would know, the instant he saw the Baxter article, that Baxter was paid by the New Haven, and that the "Outlook" also was paid by the New Haven. Generally he has no way of proving such facts, and has to sit in silence; but when his board bill falls due and his landlady is persistent, he experiences a direct and earnest hatred of the crooks of journalism who thrive at his expense. If he is a Socialist, he looks forward to the day when he may sit on a Publications' Graft Commission, with access to all magazine books which have not yet been burned!
In the case of the New Haven, we know a part of the price--thanks to the labors of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Needless to say, you will not find the facts recorded in the columns of the Outlook; you might have read it line by line from the palmy days of Mellen to our own, and you would have got no hint of what the Commission revealed about magazine and newspaper graft. Nor would you have got much more from the great metropolitan dailies, which systematically "played down" the expose, omitting all the really damaging details. You would have to go to the reports of the Commission--or to the files of "Pearson's Magazine", which is out of print and not found in libraries!
According to the New Haven's books, and by the admission of its own officials, the road was spending more than four hundred thousand dollars a year to influence newspapers and magazines in favor of its policies. (President Mellen stated that this was relatively less than any other railroad in the country was spending). There was a professor of the Harvard Law School, going about lecturing to boards of trade, urging in the name of economic science the repeal of laws against railroad monopolies--and being paid for his speeches out of railroad funds! There was a swarm of newspaper reporters, writing on railroad affairs for the leading papers of New England, and getting twenty-fivedollars weekly, or two or three hundred on special occasions. Sums had been paid directly to more than a thousand newspapers--$3,000 to the Boston "Republic", and when the question was asked "Why?" the answer was, "That is Mayor Fitzgerald's paper." Even the ultra-respectable "Evening Transcript", organ of the Brahmins of culture, was down for $144 for typing, mimeographing and sending out "dope" to the country press. There was an item of $381 for 15,000 "Prayers"; and when asked about that President Mellen explained that it referred to a pamphlet called "Prayers from the Hills", embodying the yearnings of the back-country people for trolley-franchises to be issued to the New Haven. Asked why the pamphlet was called "Prayers", Mr. Mellen explained that "there was lots of biblical language in it."
And now we come to the "Outlook"; after five years of waiting, we catch our pious editors with the goods on them! There appears on the pay-roll of the New Haven, as one of its regular press-agents, getting sums like $500 now and then--would you think it possible?--Sylvester Baxter! And worse yet, there appears an item of $938.64 to the "Outlook", for a total of 9,716 copies of its issue of Dec. 25th, nineteen hundred and nine years after Christ came to bring peace on earth and good will towards Wall Street!
The writer makes a specialty of fair play, even when dealing with those who have never practiced it towards him. He wrote a letter to the editor of the "Outlook", asking what the magazine might have to say upon this matter. The reply, signed by Lawrence F. Abbott, President of the "Outlook" Company, was that the "Outlook" did not know that Mr. Baxter had any salaried connection with the New Haven, and that they had paid him for the article at the usual rates. Against this statement must be set one made under oath by the official of the New Haven who had the disbursing of the corruption fund--that the various papers which used the railroad material paid nothing for it, and "they all knew where it came from." Mr. Lawrence Abbott states that "the New Haven Railroad bought copies of the 'Outlook' without any previous understanding or arrangement as anybody is entitled to buy copies of the 'Outlook'." I might point out that this does not really say as much as it seems to; for the President of every magazine company in America knows without any previous understanding or arrangement that any time he cares to print an article such as Mr. Baxter's, dealing with the affairs of a great corporation, he can sell ten thousand copies to that corporation. The late unlamented Elbert Hubbard wrote a defense of the Rockefeller slaughter of coal-miners, published it in "The Fra," and came down to New York and unloaded several tons at 26 Broadway; he did the same thing in the case of the copper strike in Michigan, and again in the case of "The Jungle"--and all this without the slightest claim to divine inspiration or authority!
Mr. Abbott answers another question: "We certainly did not return the amount to the railroad company." Well, a sturdy conscience must be a comfort to its possessor. The President of the "Outlook" is in the position of a pawnbroker caught with stolen goods in his establishment. He had no idea they were stolen; and we might believe it, if the thief were obscure. But when the thief is the most notorious in the city--when his picture has been in the paper a thousand times? And when the thief swears that the broker knew him? And when the broker's shop is full of other suspicious goods? Why did the "Outlook" practically take back Mr. Spahr's revelations concerning the Powder barony of Delaware? Why did it support so vigorously the Standard Oil ticket for the control of the Mutual Life Insurance Company--and with James Stillman, one of the heads of Standard Oil, president of Standard Oil's big bank in New York, secretly one of its biggest stockholders!
Also, why does the magazine refuse to give its readers a chance to judge its conduct? Why is it that a search of its columns reveals no mention of the revelations concerning Mr. Baxter--not even any mention of the $400,000 slush fund of its paragon, of transportation virtues? I asked that question in my letter, and the president of the "Outlook" Company for some reason failed to notice it. I wrote a second time, courteously reminding him of the omission; and also of another, equally significant--he had not informed me whether any of the editors of the "Outlook", or the officers or directors of the Company, were stockholders in the New Haven. His final reply was that the questions seem to him "wholly unimportant"; he does not know whether the "Outlook" published anything about the Baxter revelations, nor does he know whether any of the editors or officers or directors of the "Outlook" Company are or ever have been stockholders of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company. The fact "would not in the slightest degree affect either favorably or unfavorably our editorial treatment of that corporation." Caesar's wife, it appears is above suspicion--even when she is caught in a brothel!
I have seen a photograph from "Somewhere in France", showing a wayside shrine with a statue of the Virgin Mary, innocent and loving, with her babe in her arms. If you were a hostile aviator, you might sail over and take pictures to your heart's content, and you would see nothing but a saintly image; you would have to be on the enemy's side, and behind the lines, to make the discovery that under the image had been dug a hole for a machine-gun. When I saw that picture, I thought to myself--there is capitalist Religion!
You see, if cannon and machine-guns are out in the open, they are almost instantly spotted and put out of action; and so with magazines like "Leslie's Weekly", or "Munsey's", or the "North American Review", which are frankly and wholly in the interest of Big Business. If an editor wishes really to be effective in holding back progress, he must protect himself with a camouflage of piety and philanthropy, he must have at his tongue's end the phrases of brotherhood and justice, he must be liberal and progressive, going a certain cautious distance with the reformers, indulging in carefully measured fair play--giving a dime with one hand, while taking back a dollar with the other!
Let us have an illustration of this clerical camouflage. Here are the wives and children of the Colorado coal-miners being shot and burned in their beds by Rockefeller gun-men, and the press of the entire country in a conspiracy of silence concerning the matter. In the effort to break down this conspiracy, Bouck White, Congregational clergyman, author of "The Call of the Carpenter", goes to the Fifth Avenue Church of Standard Oil and makes a protest in the name of Jesus. I do not wish to make extreme statements, but I have read history pretty thoroughly, and I really do not know where in nineteen hundred years you can find an action more completely in the spirit and manner of Jesus than that of Bouck White. The only difference was that whereas Jesus took a real whip and lashed the money-changers, White politely asked the pastor to discuss with him the question whether or not Jesus condemned the holding of wealth. He even took the precaution to write a letter to the clergyman announcing in advance what he intended to do! And how did the clergyman prepare for him? With the sword of truth and the armor of the spirit? No--but with two or three dozen strong-arm men, who flung themselves upon the Socialist author and hurled him out of the church. So violent were they that several of White's friends, also one or two casual spectators, were moved to protest; what happened then, let us read in the New York "Sun", the most bitterly hostile to radicalism of all the metropolitan newspapers. Says the "Sun's" report:
A police billy came crunching against the bones of Lopez's legs. It struck him as hard as a man could swing it eight times. A fist planted on Lopez's jaw knocked out two teeth. His lip was torn open. A blow in the eye made it swell and blacken instantly. A minute later Lopez was leaning against the church with blood running to the doorsill.
And now, what has the clerical camouflage to say on this proceeding? Does it approve it? Oh no! It was "a mistake", the "Outlook" protests; it intensifies the hatred which these extremists feel for the church. The proper course would have been to turn the disturber aside with a soft answer; to give him some place, say in a park, where he could talk his head off to people of his own sort, while good and decent Christians continued to worship by themselves in peace, and to have the children of their mine-slaves shot and burned in their beds. Says our pious editor:
The true way to repress cranks is not to suppress them; it is to give them an opportunity to air their theories before any who wish to learn, while forbidding them to compel those to listen who do not wish to do so.
Or take another case. Twelve years ago the writer made an effort to interest the American people in the conditions of labor in their packing-plants. It happened that incidentally I gave some facts about the bedevilment of the public's meat-supply, and the public really did care about that. As I phrased it at the time, I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach. There was a terrible clamor, and Congress was forced to pass a bill to remedy the evils. As a matter of fact this bill was a farce, but the public was satisfied, and soon forgot the matter entirely. The point to be noted here is that so far as concerned the atrocious miseries of the working-people, it was not necessary even to pretend to do anything. The slaves of Packingtown went on living and working as they were described as doing in "The Jungle", and nobody gave a further thought to them. Only the other day I read in my paper--while we are all making sacrifices in a "War for Democracy"--that Armour and Company had paid a dividend of twenty-one per cent, and Swift and Company a dividend of thirty-five per cent.
This prosperity they owe in good part to their clerical camouflage. Listen to our pious "Outlook", engaged in countermining "The Jungle". The "Outlook" has no doubt that there are genuine evils in the packing-plants; the conditions of the workers ought of course to be improved; BUT--
To disgust the reader by dragging him through every conceivable horror, physical and moral, to depict with lurid excitement and with offensive minuteness the life in jail and brothel--all this is to overreach the object .... Even things actually terrible may become distorted when a writer screams them out in a sensational way and in a high pitched key...... More convincing if it were less hysterical.
Don't you see what these clerical crooks are for?
A four years' war was fought in America, a million men were killed and half a continent was devastated, in order to abolish chattel slavery and put wage slavery in its place. I have made a thorough study of both these industrial systems, and I freely admit that there is one respect in which the lot of the wage slave is better than that of the chattel slave. The wage slave is free to think; and by squeezing a few drops of blood from his starving body, he may possess himself of machinery for the distribution of his ideas. Taking his chances of the policeman's club and the jail, he may found revolutionary organizations, and so he has the candle of hope to light him to his death-bed. But excepting this consideration, and taking the circumstances of the wage slave from the material point of view alone, I hold it beyond question that the average lot of the chattel slave of 1860 was preferable to that of the modern slave of the Beef Trust, the Steel Trust, or the Coal Trust. It was the Southern master's real concern, his business interest, that the chattel slave should be kept physically sound; but it is nobody's business to care anything about the wage slave. The children of the chattel slave were valuable property, and so they got plenty to eat, and a happy outdoor life, and medical attention if they fell ill. But the children of the sweat-shop or the cotton-mill or the canning-factory are raised in a city slum, and never know what it is to have enough to eat, never know a feeling of security or rest--
We are weary in our cradles From our mother's toil untold; We are born to hoarded weariness As some to hoarded gold.
The system of competitive commercialism, of large-scale capitalist industry in its final flowering! I quote from "The Jungle":
Here in this city tonight, ten thousand women are shut up in foul pens, and driven by hunger to sell their bodies to live. Tonight in Chicago there are ten thousand men, homeless and wretched, willing to work and begging for a chance, yet starving, and fronting with terror the awful winter cold! Tonight in Chicago there are a hundred thousand children wearing out their strength and blasting their lives in the effort to earn their bread! There are a hundred thousand mothers who are living in misery and squalor, struggling to earn enough to feed their little ones! There are a hundred thousand old people, cast off and helpless, waiting for death to take them from their torments! There are a million people, men and women and children, who share the curse of the wage-slave; who toil every hour they can stand and see, for just enough to keep them alive; who are condemned till the end of their days to monotony and weariness, to hunger and misery, to heat and cold, to dirt and disease, to ignorance and drunkenness and vice! And then turn over the page with me, and gaze upon the other side of the picture. There are a thousand--ten thousand, maybe--who are the masters of these slaves, who own their toil. They do nothing to earn what they receive, they do not even have to ask for it---it comes to them of itself, their only care is to dispose of it. They live in palaces, they riot in luxury and extravagance--such as no words can describe, as makes the imagination reel and stagger, makes the soul grow sick and faint. They spend hundreds of dollars for a pair of shoes, a handkerchief, a garter; they spend millions for horses and automobiles and yachts, for palaces and banquets, for little shiny stones with which to deck their bodies. Their life is a contest among themselves for supremacy in ostentation and recklessness, in the destroying of useful and necessary things, in the wasting of the labor and the lives of their fellow-creatures, the toil and anguish of the nations, the sweat and tears and blood of the human race! It is all theirs--it comes to them; just as all the springs pour into streamlets, and the streamlets into rivers, and the rivers into the ocean--so, automatically and inevitably, all the wealth of society comes to them. The farmer tills the soil, the miner digs in the earth, the weaver tends the loom, the mason carves the stone, the clever man invents, the shrewd man directs, the wise man studies, the inspired man sings--and all the results, the products of the labor of brain and muscle, are gathered into one stupendous stream and poured into their laps!
This is the system. It is the crown and culmination of all the wrongs of the ages; and in proportion to the magnitude of its exploitation, is the hypocrisy and knavery of the clerical camouflage which has been organized in its behalf. Beyond all question, the supreme irony of history is the use which has been made of Jesus of Nazareth as the Head God of this blood-thirsty system; it is a cruelty beyond all language, a blasphemy beyond the power of art to express. Read the man's words, furious as those of any modern agitator that I have heard in twenty years of revolutionary experience: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth!--Sell that ye have and give alms!--Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of Heaven!--Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation!--Verily, I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of Heaven!--Woe unto you also, you lawyers!--Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"
"And this man"--I quote from "The Jungle" again--"they have made into the high-priest of property and smug respectability, a divine sanction of all the horrors and abominations of modern commercial civilization! Jewelled images are made of him, sensual priests burn insense to him, and modern pirates of industry bring their dollars, wrung from the toil of helpless women and children, and build temples to him, and sit in cushioned seats and listen to his teachings expounded by doctors of dusty divinity!"
THE END of BOOK FOUR.
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