Sunday, March 25, 2007

J. K. Ingalls, Reminiscences, Chapter 19

Joshua King Ingalls, Reminiscences of an octogenarian in the fields of industrial and social reform. New York : M.L. Holbrook ; London : L.N. Fowler, 1897.


In reviewing what has been written I find there are many tried friends and some earnest opponents of the views emphasized in these chapters, which have been omitted. In my denominational relations, there was Zephemial Baker, Moses Ballon, Emmons Partridge, E. E. Guild, W. M. Fernald and others. There were others still, who were more particularly identified with the spiritualistic departure. T. L. Harris, S. B. Britain, Wm. Fishbough, R. P. Ambler and many others to whom I feel indebted for generous sympathy and wise suggestions. Dr. Brittain was a warm and dear friend of mine, when we were in the Universalist fraternity, and our friendship remained through all evolutions of progressive thought.

When that phenomenal book appeared, "Nature's Divine Revelations," by Andrew J. Davis, I found myself in deep sympathy with the persons who gathered around him. I had known Mr. Davis, when [168] a green youth, with neither culture not genius, aside from his clairvoyant powers. I had known Dr. Livingstone his first mesmeriser, and also Dr. Lyon, who mesmerised him while dictating the book. Mr. Fishbough the scribe, I had known for years. Neither of these were qualified to write a book like that. I was present during some of the sittings, and know that the things dictated were often a surprise to them all, and in conflict with their beliefs. This was particularly so with the scribe, who wrote as he was dictated to by the Seer.

As to the mystery of the book's production I am no better satisfied than at the time of its publication. Of the clairvoyant faulty of some minds I have no doubt, but of its extent and the reliance to be placed upon its communications, I have no decided notions. I feel certain that the book was produced as claimed. Once Metaphysical and speculative questions interested me, but on reading the book the "Voice to Mankind" was the most attractive portion. It stated very clearly the social disorders of our industrial system and presented in very interesting form the system of Association of Charles Fourier. It prophesied that Peace, Plenty and human happiness should pervade the social world as soon as distributive justice should be established in the relations of human industry. After an address at Steinway Hall, by Wendell Philips, I heard Mr. Davis say to him: "The people who have declined for the last twenty years to listen to J. K. Ingalls, upon the land question, hear and think upon it now when you present the same subject and in the same way."

I may say here that in 1848 at an Abolition meeting in the Tabernacle, where Mr. George H. Evans had been given opportunity to speak on the land monopoly issue Mr. Philips had treated him in much the same way as Mr. Douglass did me, as stated in Chapter VII. Mr. Evans did not live to see Mr. Philips come to his position on the land question, as I lived to see Mr. Douglass come to mine; but he came to it quite as soon.

But with the limits permitted to this volume I am unable to notice many who have sympathized with me or who have opposed me in my advocacy of the "Use and Occupancy" title to land. The most direct way of attaining this desired condition has seemed to [169] be the abrogation of all loans for the collection of rent. The same might be found necessary as to interest, or even profit, where the increase could not be shown to arise from some service rendered by the claimant.

I have had little to say about Trades Unions, not because I do not sympathize with the workingman; but because their organization is militant and only an antagonistic force.

Of course there can be no organization of industry, where the prime base is in the hands of private or corporate monopoly. To organize labor therefore is only intended to wage war on a field where all the material advantage is on the side of the monopolist. It can only be justified on the ground of absolute necessity.

I have many friends among the unionists. I will mention Victor Drury, C. Osborne Ward and Edward King; but I have always held that to attempt to prevent persons from working for any one on any terms which could be agreed upon, was one of the worst forms of tyranny that could be conceived. Were workingmen generally favorable to co-operation, and willing to accept the responsibilities of production and exchange, instead of the wage which transfers their shares in the joint increase, they could rightfully claim a share of the business from which they could not be discharged or evicted at the will of the employer, and have just and I think legal grounds for resisting any party w-ho should attempt to take their job from them. A strike against wage work altogether would be intelligent and morally, justifiable. A strike for higher wages, or against a reduction of wages, is illogical while accepting the position of wage workers, and only justifiable as a war measure against positive or tacit combinations of employers. There seems to me little to hope from such measures. They can only in a very indirect way affect the lard monopolist or the money manipulator who squeezes the employer and employee with equal zest and avidity.

That such organizations help on in a blind way the evolution of the industrial age is probable, if only through survival of the fittest by natural selection; but its advance through intelligent selection seems more desirable under the light which modern science social and economic throws upon the field of material prosperity and intellectual progress. Doubtless the tendency of workmen's combinations [170] is towards the attainment of more exact knowledge. Their disinclination to mass their forces in aid of partisan polities has been favorable to deliberate thought and careful investigation of principles, though their clannish tendencies have had an opposite effect.

Within a few years past, I have become acquainted with the literature of "The Labor Exchange," and have had slight correspondence with Carl Gleeser, F. W. Cotton, and others. Although there is some discrepancy between the regulars, who advocate a general organization, before attempting practical operations except as experiments, and others who impatient of a deliberate and orderly advance, seek to rush into immediate demonstration, there s little discrepancy, I think, in regard to the practicability of its theory. So far as I am able to judge the theory is nearly faultless. With its practical operation, or the wisdom being exercised in its local management, I only am informed by reports, from time to time published in the papers friendly to its purposes. Many mistakes and failures, will be met as a matter of course, but I see no reason why with judicious direction it should not prove a means of great good. It seems to embrace all three salient points of the old Protective Unions, while avoiding their weak ones; giving to co-operation its full scope in equitable exchange. As compared with the other theoretical hobbies which distract the march of Reform, or the remedies which enthusiasts seek to apply for the disease of the social organism, it stands high above them all. Protective tariffs, quasi free trade, Land banks, Single Tax, Mutual Banking, etc., have nothing in them of good which are not embraced in it, while the fallacies of each are avoided.

Debt is eschewed. The labor check is redeemed by the thing for which it was given or its approximate value in some other product of labor. Thus the labor measure becomes the standard of value in exchange, and a cornering of its money would mean nothing but an unusual demand for labor; the only thing the laborer has to sell. No serious defalcation or repudiation could take place without involving a criminal act, and the temptation to such would be greatly reduced. This would be banking on a plenum not a vacuum. But I by no means intend to say that as yet presented the Labor [171] Exchange is perfect. I have seen so many "schemes" in the last sixty years offered for the salvation of society, many of which worked directly to promote private advantage and the despoiling of honest industry, that I must ever accept with caution any plan which professes to work for the good of the toiling. Did the Exchange propose to bank on indebtedness as a means to benefit borrowers, I would shun it as I would the nightmare.

I will make but one criticism, not upon its potential capacity for good; but upon the advocacy of its principles, by those who antagonize the single tax, and the claims of the land reformers. It may be available to a plausible defense of the exchange to say it does not require political agitation or the making of laws to give it an impetus to success. I think also it might be advisable to confine its business at first to simple exchange and leave production to individual enterprise and initiative. But it will be found in the end or whenever the exchange enters the field of production in organized form, that the land question cannot be thus ignored.

Production is the first in order of the processes of increase. Division is second followed by exchange. Counters, money or checks are instruments in exchange. They are not essential to production or division. And can affect the equities of either in no conclusive way. To think of reforming either by manipulating the currency or exchange token is only the conception of a dreamer. He might as well think of cleansing the water of an impure spring by changing the bucket with which he goes for water.

Production of social wealth is through the associated labor upon the raw material, the land, either directly or through exchange. Now if the laborer or the land, are owned by a legal superior, the increase will be appropriated by the owner, and your division and exchange only concern him. What possibility is there then that the instrument by which exchanges are made, should secure justice to the worker in the matters determined before the exchange takes place?

But the value of the Labor Exchange principle can doubtless be demonstrated by experiments even under the operation of our pernicious land system. I prophecy that the Labor Exchange will be the first to acknowledge and adopt the labor hour as the true unit of commercial value, and its ultimate acceptance of occupancy and use as the only title to land ownership.

The issue between the organizers and those who favor immediate practical application of the principle and the individual initiative, I trust will not be serious or retard the progress of the work. A mutual [172] and active co-operation of both sections is to be desired, which will not hamper the individual in the advocacy of private convictions, or the adoption of any principle of social science, discovered by any person interested in human progress.

With the state socialists, who promise to become a power in polities, a sort of forlorn hope to the populist advance, I have had little association. I believe most devoutly in co-operation, in Voluntary Socialism. But of co-operation under legal forms and compulsory processes we have altogether too much already. Our mammoth factories, our bonanza farms, our department stores, furnish instances of most successful co-operation; but the principle of division being omitted or previously determined, exchange or its measures have no power to remedy the prior injustice. The experience of all time shows that collective rule develops all the evils which attends absolute personal government and that improvement has been gained mainly by relief of the individual from the spirit of invasion, whether from the monarch or majority. It was an ultra democratic jury which condemned Socrates to drink the hemlock. It was the voice of the majority that outweighed Pilate's impartial verdict when the Nazerene was sent to the Cross. It is the vote or the cowardly submission of the majority which establishes or allows to be established our syndicates and trusts and tolerates bribed legislators, corrupted officials and kept Judges. Not that these are worse than the average man or woman, but that the idea that one man or combination of men, may determine matters of interest to the life or possessions of the individual, destroys all sense of right and equity among men and makes the childish desire to dominate or rob others, a prime factor in all political and commercial affairs.

In the proper relation of the individual to the collectivity is to be found the solution of the industrial and every social question. To make the individual every thing and society nothing is absolutism and equal freedom becomes freedom for invasion. To make society everything and the individual nothing, ends in the same thing; completing the circle by reducing all individuality to subjection to the State, and then the State to the individual Paramount, who avers: "I am the State."

At present it appears that the fears of Herbert Spencer are well grounded, and that society has more to fear from centralization and authoritative socialism than from anarchist negation. To me it is evident that the motion of advancing civilization is vibratory between those two extremes, and that the mutual effort and not the extreme of either impulse should enlist our serious thought and action. Not liberty through order, or order through liberty; but liberty and order in Reciprocation of Service and Equity of Exchange.

No comments: