Liberty Vol. I. No. 18
Not the Daughter But the Mother of Order
Shines that high light whereby the world is saved;
And though thou slay us, we will trust in thee.”
On Picket Duty.
“Conduct,” well says the editor of the “Index,” “must have beneath it a logical basis of rationality, or else it has no validity.” But in that case what an appalling amount of invalid conduct will the “Index” have to answer for, if its efforts in behalf of law-made virtue shall materially increase the amount of that shoddy product in a moral market already overstocked!
Auberon Herbert, the radical English nobleman, says in a recent letter to the London “Daily News”: “I have not a word to say against the speculators. We are all speculators in something, and we can all speculate with as much enthusiasm as we like, if only we have grace enough not to ask that the rest of the nation should be at the back of our speculations.” On the strength of these words and many similar ones that he has uttered, Liberty recommends Mr. Herbert as eligible for membership in any thorough-going society of Anarchists. When the State ceases to back the speculators, its occupation will be gone. It exists for little else than that.
Wendell Phillips is often caught napping on questions of Liberty, and with mental recklessness frequently does violence to the principle for which his life has been a battle. But when the special issue with which Liberty confronts him is one of race-discrimination, he is always wide-awake enough, and sees it in its true light. Consequently, while keeping step with the army of authority in its campaign for compulsory taxation, protective tariff, money monopoly, and prohibitory liquor laws, he is prompt to part company with his cronies in compulsion when the disputed Chinese question presents itself. Being misquoted in Congress recently by one of the howlers against the heathen, he telegraphed to Representative Candler his “detestation of all restrictions on Chinese immigration as inconsistent, absurd, unjust, and wicked.” Amen to that! say we.
The rights of American citizens abroad are becoming a political question of absorbing interest. For many months several naturalized Americans have been imprisoned in English jails without a trial, and that no trial is intended is evident from the fact that they were arrested by the English government under the Coercion Act, which provides for no trial. These men have appealed in vain to James Russell Lowell, the United Stales minister to England, who, instead of demanding, as he should have done, their immediate release or else the speedy trial which the United States constitution declares the right of every American citizen, attempted to draw distinctions between naturalized, and native Americans and impudently informed them that they conld not expect to be Irishmen and Americans at the same time, after which he went back to his familiar hob-nobbing with the men guilty of this outrage. This delinquent envoy, whose character, once so thoroughly democratic, flattery and station seem to have transformed into that of a fawning flunky, should be instantly recalled, both as a rebuke to himself and as a warning to England. A meeting to demand this as well as instant and determined interference on the part of the United States will be held in Cooper Institute, New York, next Monday evening, and other meetings should be immediately called in all parts of the country to echo the demand. But we fear that there is little to be hoped for from the administration. Governments exist not to protect the people from other governments, but to protect each other from the people whom they oppress. The boasted protection afforded by the State is a chimera. If there were no States, from whom should we need to be protected?
People in general and the governmental socialists in particular think they see a new argument in favor of their beloved State in the assistance which it is rendering to the suffering and starving victims of the Mississippi inundation. Well, such work is better than forging new chains to keep the people in subjection, we allow. But it is not worth the price that is paid for it. The people cannot afford to be enslaved for the sake of being insured. If there were no other alternative, they would do better, on the whole, to take Natures risks and pay her penalties as best they might. But Liberty supplies another alternative, and furnishes better insurance at cheaper rates. The philosophy of voluntary mutualism is universal in its application, not omitting the victims of natural disaster. Mutual banking, by the organization of credit, will secure the greatest possible production of wealth and its most equitable distribution, and mutual insurance, by the organization of risk, will do the utmost that can be done to mitigate and equalize the suffering arising from its accidental destruction.
That able journalist, Prentice Mulford, thus puts the Chinese question in a nutshell: “John Chinaman must be banished so that William Croesus shall give higher wages to Patrick Mahoney. As if William Croesus could not devise means and had not the power and inclination to squeeze by other methods Patrick Mahoney’s day’s pay down to just sufficient to keep body and soul together!” There you have it, Kearneyites, political fuglers, prescriptionists, and deluded working-people! There you have it, and the whole of it! It could not have been said better. The Chinese question is of no moment as a part of the labor question. Given land and money monopoly, it makes but very little difference whether laborers are few or many or to what nationality they belong: under such conditions they will not get much more than they must have. Destroy land and money monopoly, the difference is still as small; for then, no matter how numerous the laborers, each will get his due,— that is, the whole of his product. Where there are free land and free money, the supply of work will always exceed the supply of workers, capital will be at the disposal of all men of moderate ability and good credit, and no one will find himself under the necessity of working for wages too small to satisfy him. This the capitalists and their political tools well know, and because they know it, they are willing to humor and even foster the delusion of the laborers and grant their short-sighted demand for the exclusion of the Chinese. By this means they hope to postpone the inevitable exposure of their own villainy, obscure the true causes of misery and crime, and prolong for a few more years their opportunities for plunder. But the crash will be only the more terrible when it comes.
“A free man is one who enjoys the use of his reason and his faculties; who is neither blinded by passion, not hindered or driven by oppression, not deceived by erroneous opinions.” — Proudhon.
The Red Cross Fund.
The appeal of the “Red Cross Society of the People’s Will” for aid for the suffering exiles in Siberia is beginning to take effect. Returns are already coming in from some of the localities to which subscription lists have been sent, though many weeks will elapse before Liberty, with its limited means, can succeed in arousing all sections of this vast country to the necessities of their suffering fellow-beings on the opposite side of the globe. But the results which we are able to announce are not at all discouraging. Here are the
Receipts to March 28, 1882.
John Swinton, New York, ... $40.00 Wm. B. Wright, Boston, ... 2.00 Emil Ross, Boston, ... 1.00 A Friend, Baldwinsville, N. Y., ... 1.00 Mel. Herbert, Boston, ....50 E. Plisworth, Boston, ....50 Cash, Boston, ....25 P. K. O’Lally, Boston, ... 1.50 G. V. Williams, Boston, ... 1.00 H. W. Brown, Boston, ....50 F. C. Freigang, Boston, ... 1.00 W. L. Sexauer, Boston, ... 1.00 Walter C. Wright, Medford, Mass., ... 2.00 J. W. Holland, Boston, ... 1.00 Friends in Providence, R. I., (names to be acknowledged in next issue) ... 7.00
Total, ... $60.25
The munificent subscription with which John Swinton leads the list comes from one of the fortunate few who unite a big heart with a big salary and whose sympathies are with the unfortunate many. By all means let those who are able surpass him in his generosity, and let those who are not approach him as nearly as they can. But by no means let the poorest be deterred from contributing his or her mite by any fear that it will not be as warmly welcomed as the larger offerings of the more favorably situated. Every little helps to swell the total, which, in any event, will be all too small for the entire fulfilment of the purpose in view. To the many newspapers of the country which have helped to make known the nature of this purpose Liberty, in behalf of the sufferers, extends the most hearty thanks; also to the friends who send us words of encouragement. We print below two of the letters thus far received:
From Liberal, Missouri.
Benj R. Tucker:
Dear Sir,— Having read the heart-rending appeal of the really noble man and woman, Vera Zassoulitch and Pierre Lavroff, in your issue of March 18, I thought I must do something in their behalf as a Russian, a freeman, a Nihilist,— as a human being whose heart is not tamed into stone. But, poor as I am, my mite must be a very insignificant one. Therefore I propose, if you would bestow the honor of a collection in this little town upon me, to undertake it, and shall be happy to do my best in this direction.
Yours very respectfully,
Liberal, Barton Co., Mo, March 23, 1882.
Benj. R. Tucker:
Dear Sir,— Your circular to the press concerning the appeal of the Russian Nihilists has been received by the “Sentinel.” I publish it in full with my hearty endorsement. At some future time I shall contribute something myself. When I think of the desolate condition of the Russian prisoners and exiles, I cannot help wishing that I could be God Almighty for about one hour! I would either soften the hard hearts of their oppressors, or I would blast them with avenging wrath!
Yours for the Liberty of Mankind,
Office of “Sentinel,” Chicago, March 24, 1882.
No one will wonder at Mr. Norton’s righteous indignation who will take the pains to read the accounts of the terrible deeds and more terrible purposes of the Russian government printed in this issue of Liberty. Truly, in view of all the appalling facts, the Springfield “Republican” puts it mildly enough in saying of our fund, “there is no exception to be taken to this society’s purpose, and unhappily there is no doubt as to its need.” Come, friends, down deep into your pockets, and roll up the Red Cross fund!
Organization, False and True.
The philosophy of Liberty is emphatically opposed to organization, as generally understood. We regard what is commonly recognized as organization as a great and serious obstacle in the way of true progress, and one which Liberty’s intelligent disciples should seek on every occasion to frustrate and oppose.
But we by no means would be understood as opposing any rational method by which large bodies of people, having a common purpose in a given sphere, may be brought to act in harmony. We are in perfect accord with the popular truism that “union is strength.” Our position is that the basis of popular organization is utterly unscientific, and is a certain source of disunion and weakness. We once heard a skilled parliamentarian, in the ante-room of a lyceum of trained debaters, offer a wager that he could step into that lyceum and break up an exciting debate, though every man on the floor wished to see the debate go on, and do it all under the sanction of “Cushing’s Manual,” with strict parliamentary rulings. His wager was accepted, and it took him just twenty minutes to accomplish the feat, in spite of the facts that the president of the lyceum was thoroughly conversant with parliamentary law and that the whole floor was united against the intruder.
The fact is that organization, as now conducted, is patterned after the State. The State is a conspiracy against Liberty and true social order, and the procedure which governs its representative bodies, known as parliamentary law, is simply an invented trick to enable the main conspirators to squelch damaging dissenters, and thus forestall the survival of the really fittest. We appeal to the common experience of our readers in asking if nine-tenths of the time and motive power of ordinary clubs, unions, leagues, and lyceums is not generally consumed in lumbering over parliamentary law and in getting out of the tangle of red tape.
The strike now going on in Lawrence presents a case where the friends of labor almost unanimously deplore the fact that there was no organization among the bewildered and undecided strikers. We also deplore the fact, if by organization is meant the presence of some master mind, or minds, to nerve the outraged operatives into intelligent unity of purpose. But if by organisation is meant the presence of a labor union, with an arbitrary code of principles, by-laws, rules of order, and all the paraphernalia of a legislative body,— the whole supplemented by threats, force, and compulsion,— then we say, No.
Now, there are doubtless master minds among the five thousand striking operatives of Lawrence. The “Irish World” alone has educated master minds on the land and labor questions in almost every community in America. But so enslaved are the people by organization that brave and level-headed men have come to think that they have no right to stand up and lead their fellows, unless authorized by some artificially equipped and officered machine. Authority, in some form or other, has its grip on everybody.
All organization which it is safe to countenance and defend rests on spontaneity, free agency, and choice. In the natural order of things the noble fellow who should post himself in the public square and there, in plain language, give his assembled fellow-workers sound advice as to ultimate ends and immediate measures, would do more effective work for Liberty and emancipation than the despotic fiat of a thousand labor organizations. That fellow is probably there, but, bright and brave as he is, still too servile to authority to feel that he has just as good a right to lead the people as has the grand master of the Knights of Labor, who boasts of his organized following of 250,000 strong. When men first learn to cast off the shackles of authority and office, then we shall see an organization, not founded on compulsion, red tape, and parliamentary hocus pocus, but on the irresistible inspiration that can alone come of intelligence and Liberty.
Upon the occasion of the celebration of his eighty-sixth birthday last week the German emperor made a very notable speech in reply to an address by a deputation of conservatives from the Reichstag. He said the times were very serious; anarchy threatened both sovereign and people. The worst doctrines were promulgated, and well-intentioned people were led astray. He therefore considered it necessary to again remind the country what the crown of Prussia was. It was a symbol of absolute authority given by God, and not to be taken away by man.
This latter remark is said to have made a deep impression upon those who heard it. No wonder it did; and this deep impression, stripped of diplomatic hypocrisy and translated into plain and profane English, probably was that Wilhelm was a damned old fool,— an impression, however, which is no very new one in Germany.
Yes, there is no mistaking the signs of the times. The doctrines of anarchistic socialism are being promulgated throughout the world, and in Germany especially are rapidly absorbing the social democracy. It is a harmless thing for Wilhelm to fall back on God with his shaky old traps of despotism. God has had to shoulder worse rubbish than he. By natural limitation this royal old coon of Hohenzollern must soon come down. His successor will probably again seek to repair the throne with divinity finishings but the old concern is worm-eaten and bound to crumble and rot. It must come down, and the royal tribe must go. This “God-given” trick is becoming very diaphanous. Take away your army of a million blind-folded butchers, Wilhelm, and let us see how long God will back you against man.
A Disgusted Politician.
Within the borders of that political pigmy known as Rhode Island, the land of Roger Williams and “soul liberty,” it is a crime to have been born a foreigner, in that it deprives the citizen of a vote unless he is a land-grabber to the extent of $134. The bottom motive of this discrimination is to put the laboring masses entirely at the mercy of the manufacturing barons who run the machine.
Certain misguided friends of “equal rights,” Lowever, have so much agitated the matter that the legislature recently appointed a committee to hear their grievances, the committee, of course, being a jury packed in the interest of the manufacturers’ ring. During the hearing one of the protestants against the injustice entered into a laborious argument to prove that a minority rules in Rhode Island. The chairman of the committee, a tool of the ring, named Sheffield, after he had listened long enough in disgust to the logic and the facts, suddenly shouted out contemptuously: “A minority rules in Rhode Island! Doesn’t a minority rule in every State in Christendom?”
And yet there were scores of intelligent reformers present who looked up in surprise, as if they had just learned something now. It is astonishing, but true, that we have sane men on every hand who still believe that in a republic a majority rules. Of course a majority has no better right to rule than a minority; but supposing that the majority theory has any virtue in equity, it is utterly preposterous to assume that even that right was ever long established in fact anywhere. Even a professional politician like Sheffield could not patiently listen to a man so “fresh” as to argue seriously on such a point.
A recent issue of the Springfield “Republican” contained a labored article in which it was maintained that the mathematical custom of neglecting infinitesimals cannot be safely followed in politics. In illustration it was argued that the Chinese should be excluded notwithstanding this fact that we have five hundred Caucasians to each Mongolian. But, curiously enough, a subsequent paragraph contained these words: “Barbarism neglects the infinitesimal, the individual, the petty. The savage gorges himself so long as he has food, and starves until he has it again. He knows nothing of slow accumulation and patient saving; he acquires wealth in mass, if at all, and lacks the percentage virtues. Rudely civilised society in a less degree deals only in the gross..... As civilization progresses, smaller coin comes in, doner reckonings are made, until it is the man who looks out for the nickel who succeeds.” Now it is well known that the Chinese surpass all other peoples in slow accumulation, patient saving, and the percentage virtues. The “Republican,” then, assumes the awkward position of advocating the exclusion from our shores of the very people whose virtues it commends to Americans and who, by its own standard, have reached a higher point in the scale of civilization than any other element from which our population is increased.
Sixteen Deaths for One.
Upon the announcement of the result of the recent Nihilist trials in Russia condemning ten more victims to the gallows the following editorial from the pen of Henri Rochefort appeared in “L’Intransigeant:”
It will be with the death of Alexander II. as with that of Archbishop Darboy. The platoon which shot the latter was composed of twelve men. That is why the councils of war sentenced twenty-eight to the galleys and ten to the gallows as guilty of having fired at him.
So, for two bombs thrown under the carriage of the czar, five Nihilists, of whom one was a woman, have already been hanged. As for Hessy Helfmann, the sixth, who was pregnant, imperial pity was worth to her the privilege of being privately strangled in her prison, she and her child, of whom there has never been any news in spite of the most persistent demands therefor.
Nevertheless, in six condemnations to death for two bombs there was not sufficient food to appease the hunger of the Muscovite ogre. The tribunals of St. Petersburg now offer him ten more victims, of whom this time two are women, who, not being pregnant, will have the opportunity of being publicly suspended from the gallows with their comrades, instead of being secretly choked in their dungeon by an executioner instructed to submit them to torture.
We understand the eagerness of M. Gambetta to sign, the day after his accession to power, decrees for the expulsion of twenty-two Russian refugees, and the haste of M. de Freycinet to honor his signature in the case of the proscribed Lavroff. Evidently the Russian monarchy, to every possessor of power, is the ideal government. When a citizen becomes troublesome, they arrest him without telling him why, and confine him in a casemate dug beneath the level of the Neva. There he dies or goes mad in a very few months; or, should he have the impertinence to endure this freezing process, he is dragged before a court more or less martial, which refuses him the right to summon witnesses or present any other defense.
The public is excluded from the court-room, to which police agents and the servants of the czar are alone admitted, so that no one outside knows what goes on within the four walls from which the accused never emerge except on their way to the scaffold.
And when men rebel against these monstrosities, Messrs. Gambetta and Freycinet have them escorted back to the frontier under the pretext that they are preaching revolution. What the devil would these two cronics have them preach? The status quo perhaps? Then let our government have the courage of their abominable opinion.
If the strangling of pregnant women, the suppression of judicial trials, and the closed-door condemnations of accused parties forbidden to defend themselves seem to them to constitute so superior a political system that they arrest and violently expel Russians guilty of dreaming of another, let them, then, apply to France the Muscovite regime, and no more deafen us with their liberal and progressive declarations.
The day when the cabinet yielded to the executioners’ demands for expulsion, it took sides with them against the executed. Its duty was to answer as England, America, and even Austria would have answered: “We cannot prevent you from making martyrs of your countrymen and sending them to the gallows when they are at home. But, while they remain with us, we shall protect them from the rope which you twist for them.”
After the execution of Sophie Perovskaya, Jeliaboff, and their companions, we are to witness a new massacre, which certainly will be followed by many others.
Well! it is humiliating to have to admit it, but it is the French government which, by the baseness of its attitude toward the executioners, has encouraged them thus to double the number of their victims. They say to each other as they exhibit their gibbets to the crowd: “We are upheld in our little job, not only by monarchical Europe, but by republican France. Of what use is it to interfere with us?”
And at the next slaughter, instead of ten bodies there will be thirty-five.
Soon after the publication of the foregoing article a Russian despatch was sent all over the world announcing that Hessy Helfmann had just died in consequence of her confinement, to which the indomitable Rochefort replied as follows in an article headed “The Confession of the Crime:”
We demanded the other day what had become of Hessy Helfmann, whom first the Russian ministerial organs and then the French ministerial organs pretended had been pardoned by the czar at the solicitation of his gracious spouse.
We who had from an eye-witness the details of the assassination of the condemned, strangled in her prison after tortures which had induced a miscarriage,— we have never ceased to demand during the last six months that this woman said to be still alive and her pretended child be shown to some one capable of identifying them; for the Russian police had surrounded the crime with a series of falsehoods grouped like the characters in one of Dennery’s dramas.
In the first place, the prisoner had had her sentence commuted to hard labor in Siberia, for which she had expressed her warm gratitude toward the emperor. After which she gave birth in due season to a sound and healthy child.
And the sheets which had already denied the horrors of the Bloody Week denied with the same energy those of the dungeons of St. Petersburg. The “Telegraphe” laughed loudly at our accounts of the tortures of the prisoner, and declared that we owed our acquittal in the Roustan case to a bit of the rope with which “Hessy Helfmann was not hanged.”
Unfortunately for the Muscovite police as well as their Parisian champions, not a Siberian exile had Hessy Helfmann in his convoy. Inquiries were vainly instituted in every direction, and the uncle of the child of this tortured woman, having gone boldly to the director of the Third Section to announce his desire not only to see and embrace his nephew, but to take charge of him, was usable to find the new-born babe. Nevertheless, it was greatly for the interest of the Russian government to produce this human document in order to refute the charges of assassination circulated by numerous German, Italian, and French journals, especially by “L’Intransigeant.”
The czar has finally come to see that this comedy could last no longer, and here are the words with which he puts an end to the inconsiderate questionings of public opinion:
Hessy Helfmann, condemned to death and then pardoned because of her pregnancy, died last week at St. Petersburg from the results of her confinement. Her child, who bad been intrusted to a nurse, has been placed in the foundling hospital.
All the gazettes of moderately good breeding printed yesterday this necrological paragraph. Never did murderer, surprised with his knife in the throat of his victim, make more stupid confession of his crime,— the crime in this case being one of which we had been long aware and which we have revealed to our readers in all its details. It was said to the government of all the Russias:
“We accuse you of having executed Hessy in her cell, not having dared to hang her publicly because of the storm of indignation which the execution of a pregnant woman would have provoked. You affirm that you have pardoned her. We call upon you to show her to us pardoned.”
Thus driven to the wall, or rather, to the gibbet, the Russian government replies:
“She died last week at St. Petersburg from the results of her confinement.”
At St. Petersburg? In what part? In her dungeon under the Neva? In that case it was not worth while to save a woman from the gallows for the purpose of keeping her during her confinement in a freezingly cold cave. It was more than evident that that would only change the manner of her death.
In a hospital? Which one? In what ward, in what bed has she been cared for during the six months that these interminable “results of her confinement” have lasted?
As for the child, seeing that it would be going a little too far to make it die on the same day as its mother, the executioners have hit upon the ingenious device of changing this missing body into a boarder at the foundling hospital. Whenever any one shall express a desire for ocular evidence of the truth of this story, he will be shown the first baby he comes to, with the words: “There is the little Helfmann. He is the very picture of his mother.”
We shall see how the sceptics of the cringing press will receive this new yarn, whose enormity certainly passes all bounds. The real stranglers are certainly as cruel as any of the great bandits whose names have been handed down by history. Only they are infinitely more crafty. The Genghis Khans, the Cambyses, and even the Neros brought a certain bluster to the execution of their massacres. They exposed to the light the cruelties of which they willingly boasted. The Neros of to-day commit their crimes with closed doors, and then try to pass themselves off as the benefactors of the people of whom they have got rid in the darkness by means of the dagger or the rope.
It will be admitted that the revolutionists who blew to a height which he never could have expected to attain the csar, Alexander II., made no pretence of having pardoned him.
And yet some people profess astonishment that half of Russia has become Nihilistic. The surprising thing to us is that the other half has yet to become so.
In anticipation of the approaching executions, Vera Zassoulitch and thirty-five other Russian socialists who have sought refuge at Geneva have issued the following eloquent appeal:
Ten more gibbets erected by the executioners in the employ of the crowned coward who hides behind the walls of Gatchina.
Shall we allow all the brave to be hanged, all those who still feel the dignity of life and the pride of thought? Shall there be none left in Russia but judges to condemn the innocent, soldiers to cut off their heads, and dogs to lick up their blood?
European friends, we call you to our aid. Send our condemned comrades a word of enconragement. Let them not die without the knowledge that they will be avenged! For our cause is your cause, and it is the struggle began long ago on your barricades that we continue before the palaces of the Neva. If you abandon us, you deny your fathers, and — mark this well — you also condemn your children to a new slavery!
While the backbones of our governors bend lower before the czar with each crime that he commits, stand ye the stiffer, friends, give us your strong hand to reassure us that we are brothers. Tell your masters what you think of their friend, the hangman of all the Russias!
To these voices have been added the potent one of Victor Hugo, whose words, it is rumored, have frightened the czar into commuting the sentences of five of the condemned, though the truth of this report is yet to be established.
Strangely novel facts are taking place.
Despotism and Nihilism continue their war. Shameless war of evil against evil; a duel of the darkness. At intervals an explosion rends the obscurity; a ray of light appears, and night becomes day. It is horrible. Civilization must intervene.
Here is the situation at this hour: Unlimited obscurity; in the midst of the shadow ten human creatures, two of them women (two women!), are marked for death. And ten others are destined for the Russian cellar, Siberia.
Why this gibbet? Why this dungeon? A group of men has assembled. It has called itself a high tribunal. Who assisted at its sessions? Nobody. No public? No public. Who reported the proceedings. Nobody. No journals. But the accused? They were not present. But who spoke? No one knows. But the lawyers? There were no lawyers. But what code was cited? None at all. On what law did they base their decisions? On all and on none. And what is the result?
Ten condemned to death. And the others.
Let the Russian government beware!
It is a regular government. It has nothing to fear from a regular government; it has nothing to fear from a free nation, nothing to fear from an army, nothing to fear from a legal State, nothing to fear from a correct power, nothing to fear from a political force. It has everything to fear from the firstcomer, from a passer-by, from any voice whatsoever.
Any voice whatsoever is nobody, is everybody, is the anonymous immensity. That voice will be heard; it will cry: Mercy! I cry mercy in the shadow. Mercy below is mercy above. I ask the emperor to spare the people; if he does not, I ask God to spare the emperor.
To these exposures of Russian horrors past and present may be fitly added the following revelation of one still more frightful that perhaps is yet to come. Again we quote from “L’Intransigeant,” this time under the head of “A Russian St. Bartholomew:”
Let our friends, the revolutionists of Russia, who struggle with so much courage and perseverance for Liberty, be on their guard: at this very hour, in the palace of the czar, a plot is being hatched against them for the extermination of all Russians who have committed the unpardonable sin of not considering the despotism of the czars as the ideal of governments.
This plot a mere chance, an extraordinary circumstance, has revealed to us. The information that follows reaches us from the most reliable source, and we can certify to its absolute accuracy. We get it, in fact, from the czar’s own household.
Here is what happened but a few days ago at the imperial palace:
The ministers were gathered in council. Alexander III. was present at the sitting. The discussion bore on the rapid and instant progress of Nihilism and the measures to be adopted for the suppression of the impending revolution.
Several ministers inclined to the opinion that the establishment liberal regime, the concession of a constitution, could alone restrain the revolutionary movement. And one of them, whom we could name, said that in his view a general amnesty was not only necessary but absolutely indispensable to the extinction of the hatreds aroused by bitter persecution and the re-establishment of peace in Russia.
General Ignatieff remained silent while his colleagues spoke. When all had expressed their opinion, he arose, and very oddly addressed the council in substance as follows:
“There is a better course than a constitution and an amnesty. Let the government promise both; let it officially announce its indention of allowing the return of the exiled revolutionists and of setting at liberty those now detained in Siberia or in prisons; in short, let it permit the establishment for a few weeks of a regime of tolerance.”
“The Nihilists will grow bolder; this intangible Executive Committee which the Third Section bat pursued in vain for several years will uncover itself; many revolutionists now in hiding will reappear under the broad day; of those in foreign countries a large number will come back to Russia. And then, knowing its enemies and having them in hand, the government of the czar can take advantage of their unsuspecting weakness to wipe them out at one swoop, at the same time crushing the Revolution.”
Such are almost the exact words of the wicked proposition made by General Ignatieff a few days ago to the emperor, Alexander III., which the latter — we affirm it in the most positive manner — has accepted.
But the Muscovite plan is not novel in its bloodiness. It was conceived, in its general outline as well as in the details of its execution, by Catherine de Medicis a little more than three hundred years ago. Then as now the problem was to draw into an abominable trap people whose presence was embarrassing; consequently General Ignatieff has not found it necessary to draw heavily on his imagination. The means which succeeded in 1572 seem to him as good as ever in 1882: a feigned reconciliation, promises of amnesty, liberty, and general pacification,— will not these suffice to put to sleep the vigilance of the Russian revolutionists?
The Russian government thinks so, and, we repeat, it has adopted the plan of General Ignatieff, at once so simple and so monstrous.
This plan might have succeeded, but only on condition of nothing leaking out, of no warning coming to put the Nihilists on the alert.
Now our friends in Geneva and London are warned, and certainly not one of them will put his foot in the trap.
The World for its Builders.
With the following earnest and eloquent words John Swinton introduced an oration delivered by him on the evening of March 16 before the largest audience of working-people ever gathered in Philadelphia:
This is a new idea, these great conferences of world-builders in the chief cities of the country to examine the groundwork of things. It is a genuine democratic idea, worthy of the American people.
Outside of political parties, beyond the control of party leaders, looking to other ends than those pursued by the cormorants of office are the men of the new movement. I have observed, in these great conferences at which I have been present in New York, Chicago, and elsewhere, as well as here in Philadelphia, a readiness to take hold of questions from which the pusillanimous parties shrink, but which are advancing inexorably to the front, and which must be grappled with if we are not to succumb to their menaces and dangers.
It is not with foolish audacity, but with due regard to the public safety and welfare, that we confront these great questions — that we demand a hearing for the millions against the millionaires, for man against parties, and establishments, and vested privileges, and corporations, and courts, and customs, and cannon, and capital,— against the false system of land, holding, the wrongful features of trade, the crashing contrivances of legislation, and the ruinous practices of society.
It is not with malice or levity, but with serious mind and purpose, that we approach the fundamental principles that must be properly solved, under penalty of death. We know the powers that are defying the people,— their might and insolence. We behold their ravages and their victims. We can see into what a state they are bringing our beloved country. It is too grave for bitterness, too alarming for charlatanry.
The world-builders, the men who do the world’s work, have a right to take up these questions, and they have the power to settle them. This is the feature of our Democratic-Republican Constitution,— the one about which flourishes all our cheer for the future. To you, men of Pennsylvania, all power is given over all things within your dominion, and yon can fashion everything here according to your judgment of the proper nature of things. Yours is the land of the State, if ye do but know it; yours are its mines of coal and iron, if ye do but take them; yours are all its swelling resources as soon as ye assert your right to them; yours are its institutions, yours its laws and legislature, if ye will but lay hold of them.
The world belongs to its builders. and theirs is the loss if they permit the plunderers to seize it, or the gamblers to cheat them out of it.
The Perils of Prejudice.
To the Editor of Liberty:
I had supposed that your discrimination and judgment would save the readers of Liberty from such vague growls and aimless rhetoric as (I am sorry to say) appeared in your issue, March 4, under the heading, “Nobodies.” I venture to assert that “B,” its writer, is neither an editor nor a lawyer; and no one will assume that his judgment of current affairs in Boston is at all trustworthy. Why? Because his accusations and complaints are too general to be weighty and too indiscriminate to be beneficial. To my mind, no person who considers the progress of civilization can fail to see that reformers today must make specific indictments in order to command attention. And all criticism of present political or social affairs in this State or the Union, if designed to make men reflect and reform, ought to be precise, clear, and at least approximately true. Generalizations like the following, “B’s” opening sentence, ought, I say, to be studiously avoided. He declares, for example, that, “judging from the daily papers, one would infer that the great mass of the people in this community, or in this Commonwealth, are nobodies, and that only a small percentage of our population is of actual account” ask, is that true? Does any one who works for a living and moves about among men believe that it is even comparatively true? I am sure I know of no intelligent, sane person who would be so impressed by reading the daily newspapers, though “B” may have the acquaintance of such.
Then, following that sentence, he declares in the loosest possible way, as to politicians, that “the daily papers are full of their movements, sayings, and doings. When they die, a column or two are devoted to their biographies and obituaries. We are told how ’smart’ they were, and how sumptuously they lived at the public expense.” Further on “B” throws himself into this false and foolish assertion,— that “the death of a prominent man is a real godsend to the newspapers, of which they make the most by spreading it over as much space as possible. Indeed, every incident and every notorious individual are magnified and dilated by the press out of all proportion to its or his importance.”
These quotations will suffice, and, I may say, they fairly show the style of fault-finding too many careless talkers and writers follow as “reformers.” Such disciples, I submit, are not safe guides, and they certainly are not competent critics or reliable teachers.
“B” grumbles because the newspapers had considerable to say recently about Judge Horace Gray when he was named for a very high office, the bench of the supreme court at Washington; but, as long as “B” was not compelled to read the despatches or editorials printed, what ground had he for complaint? If he, “B,” is a “nobody,” whose fault is it but his own in this free country where all men can compete on tolerably fair terms for almost any elective position or any place to be reached by holiest industry? There is a legion of such snarlers as “B” in the country, men either once badly disappointed or soured by fretting over their own lack of popularity and prominence. Such persons ought not to be jealous or hasty about airing their prejudices against men like Judge Gray, who attend steadily to their daily work, and go on to the end free from corruption at least, if they are not men of originating minds and workers in the ranks of what we call reform.
I hope, therefore, that “B” will consider his words next time his indignation rises, and try to be reasonably specific and clear. Truth, equity, and justice demand it, and we cannot have Liberty without reason.
Boston, March 10, 1882.
[Of the substance of the above criticism we shall say nothing. If “B” desires to answer it, he will have no trouble in doing so. But, to save him the annoyance of vindicating his own personality, we may remark that he is an editor, and one of much longer and larger experience than Mr. Wright; that he enjoys an acquaintance with Boston in particular, and with the world and its public men in general, much more intimate and of much longer standing than Mr. Wright’s; that, far from being a soared and disappointed man, he is a most genial and companionable old gentleman, of liberal education, who prefers earnest work in modest retirement to the glare of publicity; and that Mr. Wright, in supposing him to be otherwise, has exhibited the very recklessnees of assumption of which he writes so deploringly. — Editor Liberty.]
An Explanation Called For.
To the Editor of Liberty:
At the close of the National Socialistic Congress at Chicago held in October last a committee was appointed to revise the records of its meetings for publication. I think that A. Spies of the “Arbeiter Zeitung” and P. Peterson, publisher of “Den Nye Tid” and the secretary of the congress, constituted that committee. The formation of a Revolutionary Socialistic Party, as provided for by the congress, depends upon the authoritative announcement of that body’s deliberations. Six months have gone, and that report has not been published. There are those in Boston who desire to form a group, and, I am told, have sent money for copies of the report. As one of the delegates of that congress I ask through Liberty the cause of this unfortunate delay. Grasping monopolies, concentrations of capital, enormous fortunes rapidly increase. The ever-increasing dissatisfaction of the despoiled workers indicates an approaching conflict. It may arrive at any moment. Yet we sleep as did the dwellers on the blooming fruitful slopes of Vesuvius when it belched forth its torrents of molten lava, turning smiling gardens into desolate wastes and overwhelming all with swift and terrible deaths. An eruption of Vesuvius is but a zephyr beside the social tornado that will come if we do not avert it.
Yours for a pacific Social Revolution through the abolition of the State,
Boston, March 24, 1882.