Saturday, March 31, 2007

Van Ornum, Co-operation, XI

Twentieth Century, July 26, 1894, 7-8.



A form of co-operation which is older, and has had a larger degree of development in England and America than any other in existence, is that which is appropriately known as the friendly societies in which the members co-operate together to defray funeral expenses and for mutual protection against the calamities of sickness, accident and death. Among these are included the Odd Fellows, the Foresters, the Ancient Order of Romans, the Ancient Order of Shepherds, the British Order of Free Gardeners, the Catholic Benefit Societies, the United Order of Comical Fellows, the Ancient Order of Britons, the United Order of Workmen, the Rechabites, the Independent Order of Mechanics, the Engineers and Firemen’s Friendly Society, the Order of Alfreds, the Order of Druids, the Knights of Pythias, and many others, besides a great number of variations such as twelve kinds of Odd Fellows, etc. Among these may also be classed the various temperance orders, which apply the principle of mutual help to curb the appetites; or, in the larger statement of it, the application of co-operation to the making of individual character.

Many of these orders date back more than three hundred years; and it is in them that life insurance had its real origin; although, independent of them, it was customary for private underwriters, during the sixteenth century, and for long afterward, to undertake special risks upon lives for short periods to cover contingencies of a temporary character. These were, however, only isolated cases and for special purposes. The general need for life insurance was first felt by the poor who sought a provision against the distress which might fall upon the survivors should their breadwinners be suddenly snatched away. It was in the friendly societies that plans were first developed for the systematic satisfaction of this want. The greatest difficulty they had to encounter was, the fact that no data existed on which calculations could be based of rates of mortality, or accident; nor did anyone know just what observations were necessary in order to obtain such data. Their experience tables must be made; and there was no way to make them but by the slow record of their own history with its successes and its failures. But, at the very time when it was most important to observe and record closely all the facts relating to the experience of those societies, in order to form the basis for life insurance, it is certain that their leaders did not appreciate that importance. It is probable that they regarded their societies as little capable of improvement, not realizing that the condition of their very existence, for any considerable time, depended upon reaching a basis of assessments which would closely cover the risks and expenses. That these societies, practically doing what we now know as a life insurance business, eaHy preceded life insurance as a business, may be inferred from the works of Daniel Defoe, whose “Essay of Projects” was published in 1698, in which he extolls the virtues of the friendly societies; and, in his later works, advocated the compulsory establishment of societies for mutual assurance, and for relief in seasons of distress. At the same time he was loud in his condemnation of the business of life insurance. If Defoe can be considered in any way a reflection of the popular estimation of the two at the time, then it is certain that the societies had obtained an earlier foothold than the insurance companies.

In 1723 the first act of Parliament was passed dealing with those societies. At that time they had begun to assume considerable importance and attract attention. Previous to this, their growth had been wholly in spite of the law; for, being unrecognized by the law, they were outside its protection and consequently a prey to all who were disposed to plunder them. The partial removal of those disabilities was a sort of negative assistance; but so far as any positive assistance went, in the granting of state aid in their promotion, that state aid, as it is always bound to do, was found to degrade and demoralize them. From then on they were taken up by resolute men; the principle of mutual self-help more fully developed; and, as a result, the different orders which have since grown up were evolved, spreading over a considerable part of the civilized world. But it was not until about the middle of the eighteenth century that these orders attained anything like permanence; and even then, they were constantly represented by their enemies as being based upon no scientific principle. What was meant was, that the assessments bore no scientific relation to the risks and expenses; which was true, for reasons already given. But they were based upon a deeper and more scientific principle than that. Mutual helplessness of man to man is always scientific. It is always a success. This is co-operation, and co-operation has never been a failure. It has only been where men have failed to adhere to the real principles of co-operation that their schemes have failed; or they have been killed by causes outside of themselves, like the Ralashine cornmunity.

In the ritual and work of the various societies I am informed that they are largely modelled after the masonic order; and that many of them lay claim to great antiquity. The Druids, for instance, are said to go back to the building of the ark; the Free Gardeners to Paradise; the Odd Fellows to Adam; and the Foresters to Eden. They have been vastly useful in promoting social intercourse among the people; the social benefits resulting being nearly, if not quite, as important as the cash benefits granted in times of need. The Ancient Order of Romans had for its motto, “One for all, and all for one” and this is, at bottom, the spirit which underlies them all. Theoretically their management is, and always has been democratic, requiring equal service and conferring equal benefits. But whenever autocracy has obtained in their management, an immovable junta has secured control; it has tended directly to destroy not only their usefulness, but the societies themselves.

Like all other efforts on the part of the people to better their condition by their own efforts, this has met with the most violent denunciations from both the press and the pulpit. Especially was this true of the period from 1834 to 1851, nine years after they had won complete recognition from the English law, during which that violence was only equaled by their ignorance of the subject. To them was joined the voice of such lordly idiots as the Earl of Albemarle, who contemptuously warned the English workingmen against them, declaring that they were not a brotherhood, but a humbug.

Their recognition by law was only secured after a long and stubbornly contested fight maintained down to 1842. Small concessions were made under different acts of Parliament, but they were generally coupled with conditions which hampered instead of helped the societies. The whole history of English legislation on the subject is one continued series of blundering and meddlesome interference. It is probable that the only benefit such legislation ever conferred upon these orders was to accord them an equal standing before the law with other organizations. Until then they were made a prey of fraudulent men who were only bent upon carrying forward their corrupt schemes. Every possible means were resorted to by the schemers who were interested in continuing the abuses, so much so that several of the orders were nearly wrecked. From one to two hundred of the lodges of the Odd Fellows were closed for want of funds; pamphlets and scurrilous songs were published reflecting on the order; but it was a wholesome process for purging away undesirable material and methods. When it was done the orders were stronger than ever; and they have since been extended into almost all parts of the civilized world. They contained within them that which in time triumphed and brought order out of confusion: the principle of mutual self-help. Better business methods came with a better knowledge of the special requirements and the experience tables on which they could base their calculations. From 1842 to 1857 the friendly societies were improved, strengthened and extended all over England and in English speaking countries. And well they needed to be, especially those in England; for they were about to receive the severest test to which they had ever been subjected. The Landhill colliery disaster which launched hundreds of their members into eternity, completely exhausted the funds of a large number of lodges, and was followed by sweeping epidemics which depleted the treasuries of hundreds of others. Then, on top of all, came the cotton famine caused by the war between the North and South, in America, which closed the industries from which .many thousands of members derived their sustenance; and the very fact that any survived which were subject to such a series of disasters is simply wonderful.

It will be needless to go into statistics showing the extent of the development of friendly societies in this and other countries. Statistics would convey a very inadequate idea of it at best, even if they were access- able, which they are not. To say the least, they furnish a large proportion of the life insurance, and most of the sick benefits in this country, and probably others. That they do this in a satisfactory way is evident from their constant growth and extension. They have demonstrated the practicability of co-operation to deal with the conditions which they are intended to meet. And that demonstration is all the more complete from the fact that they have had to construct their own experience tables out of their own experience, and often in spite, of fraudulent officers enjoying a practical immunity by law from punishment for their frauds.

Some will ask me what the necessity was for the expenditure of so much energy build up a co operative system of life insurance, when, under a true and adequate system of co-operation, life insurance will not be needed. I will answer: if the end was only to build up a system of life insurance, it was not necessary. Under a true co-operation there will be no room for life insurance, because there can remain no want or destitution. Private fortunes will give place to a common wealth, from which all can draw freely for the satisfaction of all wants. It is plain that under these conditions there can be no place for life insurance. But this is the smallest part of the achievement of these societies. They have proved that cooperation is able to answer the most difficult requirements of human association, and to soften the conditions which environ us. I think the time has arrived when it is destined to change those conditions, and utterly destroy capitalism, which is the author of those conditions.

Van Ornum, Co-operation, X

Twentieth Century, July 19, 1894, 8-10.



In Italy, co-operative banking has developed another of its possibilities; that is, the issuing of bills of credit, or current money. The People’s Bank of Milan was the first, started by Signor Luzzati, in 1866. Within a few days after it opened its doors it was confronted by a war. The government had levied a forced loan; and a financial panic was the result. The People’s Bank promptly came to the rescue and offered to issue small bills of five, three and two lire, against security. Any person could obtain the bills by depositing approved security. The printing press was started at once, and with the most admirable success. From that moment the success of the bank was assured. At the beginning, it had but £28 capital, exactly the same as that possessed at the start by the Rochdale Pioneers; and all work was performed gratuitous. According to the last reports which are accessible, it now employs over 100 paid employees and 240 unpaid officers. It had 16,392 members; a capital of £336,752; and a reserve of £168,376, doing an annual business of £71,841,788; and distributing in dividends £46,080.

It must be remembered, however, that the Italian banks started out on a radically different plan from those of Germany. They began upon the principle that borrowing means dependence upon others; so they discarded it as the prime purpose; and largely confined their transactions to bills of exchange, discarding the principle of unlimited liability. In this, and in their share capital, their dividends and other capitalistic features they are less co-operative than their neighbors in Germany and Austria. Their method of borrowing is this: suppose A is considered good for £40; B for £30; and C for £60; on the strength of their joint signatures any one of them is entitled to a loan of £130, provided no other paper is out signed or backed by A, B and C. Then again, a tradesman, having money owing him from a customer, needs but to have the customer’s acknowledgement of the debt, when he can get it discounted. This system has been found to work well and safely. Under it banks have paid all the way from six per cent to twenty per cent dividends. Year by year Signor Luzzatti has insisted upon stopping that, but without avail. “Limit dividends,” he said, “cast away every inducement to greed.” The only lesson of value in this type of bank is, that co-operative banks can just as safely and properly issue circulating bills of credit based upon proper security as any other agency in the world. Beyond this, the banks of Signor Luzzatti do not differ widely, in the extent of their co-operation, from the banks of Schulze-Delitzsch. They are not for the very poor. They fail to reach those who are in greatest need of their help.

Realizing this fact, Dr. Wollemborg started a new type of credit bank, in Lombardy, in June, 1883, with only thirty.two members, and patterned very nearly after the Raiffeisen banks of Germany. A few peasants became borrowers. When their first quarter came around they were surprised to receive notice that they owed 1 1/2 per cent on their loans. They could not understand it. They had been used to from 30 per cent to 100 per cent; and sometimes much higher. They brought in their notices to see if some mistake had not been made. Being assured that the notices were correct they at once proclaimed the good news. The subsequent history has been a repetition of that of the Raiffeisen banks in Germany. In fact, they have followed closely the Raiffeisen lines, except in some cases carrying his principles still further. They have thoroughly met the wants of the very poor, and have produced the same moral effects among them. As to personal character, they are strict as no other. A man may be as poor as a church mouse; but it is no bar to membership. Not a penny has to be paid down for shares; but the applicant must be honest, sober, thrifty, well conducted and thoroughly trusted by his neighbors. He must also have a rudimentary knowledge of reading and writing. It is said that under these influences illiteracy, which was as prevalent as in any portion of Ireland, is rapidly disappearing. The stimulus of personal interest has proved more powerful, in habits of temperance, than all the eloquence of priests and the arguments of temperance lecturers. Just as in Germany, unlimited liability has been found to be devoid of any element of danger. Not a farthing has been lost to anybody. Even where members have left the country they have sent in their payments with regularity. The poor become self- reliant and business like; cultivation has been improved; paupers are transformed into self-supporting citizens; and the usurer finds his occupation gone. The hovels are transformed into neat and tasty houses; and thrift and order take the place of carelessness and disorder.

The credit unions of Belgium are formed on a still different plan. An indefinite number of members join, each taking one share, of say 200 francs. On this they pay 20 francs, and in some cases only 10; but the share entitles them to a credit of 200 francs on paper, to which the union affixes its signature, and becomes responsible; a modification of the issue of currency bills of credit. At first this seems extremely hazardous; but with care in accepting members this has been found to work well. The first one established proved its soundness by living through a crisis of almost unparalleled severity.

In Switzerland almost the only form of co-operative bank which has been introduced to any extent has been something like our building and loan associations: co-operation in savings. But these have flourished for more than sixty years. They pay no dividends; carry all surplus to the reserve; and have redeemed every farthing of their share capital. Their management is strictly democratic; and the same attention is given to small as to large business.

In other directions co-operation is well advanced in Switzerland. Co-operative dairy associations, which produce the famous Swiss cheese; co-operative cattle- purchase associations; cooperative Smithies, which have effected important savings; and co-operative insurance associations against hail and cattle plague, and sometimes against fire, have much reduced the cost of insurance below that charged by joint stock companies. In some places co operative butcheries exist. There are thirty-five co-operative cattle-purchase associations in the canton of Thurgan, which supply 22,230 of the population with their needed farm stock. For more than forty years have these associations kept the population in milch cows and heifers, rendering invaluable services, and receiving their money back with interest. But why with interest? If the associations are co-operative: that is, operated strictly in the interest of those who want cattle, then there is n sense in collecting interest or profit from those members; because, whatever profit is made above running expenses it must needs be divided right back to the same people again as dividends. It is something more than a suspicion, that in this particular they are not co-operative; but that capitalists, large or small, find this a means of loaning money on interest to some otherwise co-operative societies, thus reaping a return without work. There is nothing co-operative about any scheme of interest.

The war of 1870, whereby France was overrun by the German armies, swept away the small co-operative banks which had been planted prior to that time In i866 France had no less than 300, following very nearly the Raiffeisen plan, each with from 25 to 50 members, modest and obscure, but doing their work faithfully and meeting the real wants of the people at small cost to anyone. One of the largest, situated in the Fanbourg St. Antoine, in the six years of its existence loaned upwards of 6,000,000 of francs, and only had two small losses to report. The rigor of self-help; the sense of responsibility; and the humility of its work made it a success where the millionaire enterprises of the state and rich capitalists failed. It has been said that French co-operation was born of the revolution; and had for its object, not the reform of trade, but the emancipation of the workmen. The war practically put an end to co-operation in France, until it was again revived about 1887 by Father De Besse, a Capuchin monk. He has, however, deviated considerably from the Raiffeisen plan; and has been obliged to resort to indirect methods to maintain security. Being a churchman also, he has made them largely a church affair; and yet, in their way they are doing a useful work, while falling far short of the Raiffeisen banks of Germany. Members pay five francs entrance fee, and take shares of fifty francs, which bear no interest. They adhere to the principle of unlimited liability; and repayment is made by installments.

The People’s banks in Algiers and throughout French Africa, of which there are about sixty, follow closely the Raiffeisen lines; and are doing a good work in an unpretending but thoroughly useful manner.
In sharp contrast to these institutions for mutual self-help, it will be instructive to glance at a few of those conspicuous failures started on the principle of a help to be conferred upon the people by their rulers. The first Napoleon set up his Société du Crédit Agricole, with a great flourish of trumpets, upon a vast capital mainly furnished by himself. His object was to loan money to farmers with which to improve and cultivate their farms. But the scheme was looked upon with suspicion; and he could get no borrowers. At last he loaned 168,000,000 of francs to the Khedive of Egypt, which brought the bank to an end.

Another attempt (I think by Napoleon III.), was called the Chasse d’ Escompte, with a million of money, one half contributed by himself; but no one could be found to borrow. It ended quite as ingloriously as the first. The Empress Eugenia also had to try her hand. She set up the Société des Prets de l’Enfrance; and with the same result. Gambetta started one on the same principle with a capital of 50,000,000 of francs: 12,000,000 of which was subscribed; and later on, Benjamin Rampal, with 2,000,000 francs, all of which failed. They were unsuited to the wants of the people. They could not attract those whom it was absolutely necessary to reach in order to carry out their benevolent schemes. Whatever improvement in the condition of the people that is ever realized must be achieved by the people themselves. It can never come from their rulers; and that is just as true of the politicians in a republic as it is in a monarchy. The difference between them is only in the name.

There is also in France a type of co-operative supply associations among farmers called syndicates. These, while as yet limited to a small compass of activity, ambitiously aim to do almost everything, just as our granges did at one time. They are not unlikely to fall as far short of their ideal as did the grange. But they are educating the people to look to co-operation for great benefits in the future; and when the time comes that an adequate scheme of co-operation is offered the work done by those syndicates and our granges will be found a most useful preparation. Already those syndicates have rendered valuable service to the farmers of France in the purchase of fertilizers and other supplies for farm use.

Those interested in the study of European credit banks would do well to read carefully “People’s Banks,” by Henry W. Wolff, published by Longmans, Green & Co., New York, from which this and the two previous chapters are largely condensed.

Van Ornum, Co-operation, IX

Twentieth Century, July 12, 1894, 7-8.



When a Raffeisen Loan Bank is to be started, a definite district is selected, commonly containing about 400 inhabitants. Within the limits of that district members are selected with great discrimination by those who have undertaken its formation, or who have already joined, the object being to secure a membership limited to the very best materials. No difference is observed between the rich and poor, except, that as the bank is based on the unlimited liability of its members, the well-to-do are generally accorded a leading part in the administration, because they must bear the brunt of the liability. A committee of five is elected which is charged with executive work of the institution. A council of supervision is also chosen, consisting from six to nine members according to the size of the district, to supervise the work of the executive committee and overhaul all that has been done at least once a month. Both the executive committee and the council of supervision serve without pay. The cashier is the only person who receives pay for his services; and he has no voice in the administration. The bank is strictly forbidden to transact any of the ordinary business of a bank. Originally there were no capital shares or entrance fees. But Bismarck insisted that the plan should include a share capital. The associations replied by placing the shares as low as ten or twelve mark, payable by installments. Raiffeisen insisted that there should be no dividends, but again Bismarck interfered. And again the associations practically annulled the chancellor’s edict. Every farthing that is left over is rigorously passed to the reserve, which slowly but steadily grows and forms a solid basis of credit for the association. Not even in the event of the dissolution of the association is any sharing out permitted.

Borrowing is not made easy, but hard. While money must he found for all who need it, in every case the borrower must make out a good case; prove that he is trustworthy, and that his enterprise is sound. If he does this, no matter how poor, the money will be placed at his disposal. Without such proof, no matter how rich, the money is sure to be refused. He must then apply the money strictly to the objects for which he received it. The smallness of the districts enables every one to act as a check upon every other. No one can misapply the money without others knowing it.

Every three months a complete review is made by the council of supervision. If necessary better security is called for from the borrower in the interests of the association. If not forthcoming the loan is called in at four week’s notice. This, however, is almost never resorted to. It is only an expedient which may be resorted to if necessary.

Lending is almost entirely done on personal character. Notes of hand are taken, generally unbacked, or else backed by one, or at most two.

In addition to the close supervision by disinterested officers of the associations, men who serve without pay, a corps of inspectors are kept travelling from one association to another examining books and accounts, and the workings of the associations.
The associations obtain money by borrowing it from banks and individuals; which they can do by reason of the confidence inspired by their strict business habits. They are able to get all the money they want at the lowest rates of interest. So great is the confidence inspired in the stability of these banks that the law courts actually allow trust funds to be paid to them on deposit. During the two critical periods of German credit; the war of x866 with Austria, and that of 1870 with France, when deposits were withdrawn at wholesale from other banks, deposits were actually pressed upon the Raiffeisen banks for safe keeping, although it should be without any interest at all.

With a record of millions of money lent, mostly to poor people, through a more or less complicated sys. tern of business in about a thousand associations, and extending over forty three years, there have been only ten cases of embezzlement or misappropriation of funds; and in every case these were met out of the reserve, or by the sureties. No wonder they command confidence; and no wonder they can obtain all the money they want for any length of time for productive purposes, as low as per cent per annum ! Unlike the Schulze-Delitzsch banks, loans are made for long time. The record shows that about 15 per cent of the loans are made for one year; 43 per cent from one to five years; 34 per cent for from five to ten years; and 8 per cent for a longer period. So long as a borrower continues regular in his payments, and applies his loan to the objects for which the money was granted he may be sure that it will go on.

These associations have led to other co-operative schemes, such as co-operative associations to insure cattle against disease; co-operative dairy associations; co-operative hop growers’ associations, and co-operative vine growers’ associations. These latter have doubled the receipts of the cultivators in many districts. Grapes are gathered and are taken directly to a common press, where they are immediately tested for sugar, and credited to the grower according to an agreed scale. By means of their credit associations they can pay cash down, only reserving a small balance to be paid at the end of the year. The result is, the wine is made pure and cheap. A move has lately been set on foot to establish co-operative wine shops for the sale of wine from co operative associations.

Like the Schulze-Delizsch, the Raiffeisen banks are based upon the principle of unlimited liability. This is essential to their very existence; but they introduce an element of safety wholly wanting in the first. Each being restricted to a certain district, and that too a small one, the members are kept, constantly in touch One with another; each acts as a check upon the other, and none can misuse the funds borrowed without the fact becoming known to the others whose interests would be imperiled. The workings of these banks has greatly raised the standard of personal character among the people. So greatly do they prize the memberships in these associations that they cultivate a very high degree of excellence in order to obtain them. Drunkards become sober; the indolent industrious; the improvident thrifty; and the ignorant and illiterate learn to read and write that they may become familiar with their business and reports. The meetings are well attended the members taking the liveliest interest in all their affairs. These Raffeisen banks have made character a realizable asset, tending directly to develop a higher order of character among the poor.

Another element of safety that must not be overlooked is, that the work of administration is performed without compensation. The offices offer no temptation for greed ; and the fact that men can be found to do arduous and responsible work of the highest quality without pecuniary compensation speaks volumes of promise for co-operation. The failures which have attended the Schulze-Delitzsch banks are all traceable to this one fault: the carelessness and greed of their officers which was stimulated by the payment of salaries and commissions. The contrast in the results of the two systems is so marked that no room is left for doubt as to their comparative merits. The Schulze-Delitzsch, while developing more rapidly, is far less co-operative and contains many more capitalistic features. Although it has enjoyed a large measure of public confidence it has encountered many signal failures; while the Raiffeisen system has never had one.

In Russia the credit associations have been thwarted and crippled by the vicious and meddlesome interference of the government, so much so as to almost destroy their usefulness. In 1883 there were reports of a thousand associations; but they were mostly nominal. They have since dwindled until it is doubtful if there are now as many as half that number, and they of no great use. If a member borrows for a specific purpose he may divert the funds to other purposes; and the government forbids the association to expel him, thus directly encouraging people to join merely to defraud the associations. Wherever government interferes in the affairs of the people, it always does it to the injury of the people.

It is reported that in some of the provinces of China there exists a form of mutual bank, whereby the people can easily obtain the means necessary for making improvements; but I have been unable to obtain satisfactory details of their plan and workings.

Co-operative credit has recently obtained a foothold in Japan also, with every prospect of success.

Van Ornum, Co-operation, VIII

Twentieth Century, July 5, 1894, 7-8.



We now come to a most remarkable phase of cooperative work; remarkable alike for its present achievements and for the possibilities which it suggests It has wrought a transformation scene in the condition of a large part of the working people, and often among those of the very lowest, in at least three of the principle countries in Europe; and improved their material condition in many others, just in proportion to the extent to which is h is been applied. It has opened the way for mutual self help to the very poorest, inspired them with hope; aroused their self- respect, and stimulated their spirit of independence. It has been the means of making their homes more habitable, improving the culture of their fields by purchasing machinery, procuring fertilizers and buying stock, and has enabled them to got better prices for their products and to buy supplies at wholesale But the most wonderful effects have been wrought upon the people themselves, The idle have become industrious, the spendthrift made thrifty; the drunkard forsook his cups and the tavern hunter the inn. The illiterate, even when bowed with age, have learned to read and write, A Prussian judge reports that litigation, by reason of it, especially in the collection of debt, is sensibly diminished. Even one priest reports that the co-operative bank has done more, in his parish, to reform the morals of the people than all his ministrations. Those who study co operation more to arrive at a definite working principle and plans, than as a hazy sentimentalism, should carefully consider the European Credit Banks in all their details and variations. I say European, because, while the Credit Banks had a distinctively German origin, they have had a different development in different countries, according to the special needs and circumstances found in those countries In one country they have taught one lesson; and in other countries others. Or, rather, in one place they have taught one part and in another place another part of the same great lesson, that to operation is applicable to all the wants of human association, and that the development of the individual depends upon the extent to which he is enabled to cooperate with his fellows.

Herr Schulze-Delitzsch, a man of some means and a benevolent character, about 1845, observing the extreme straights to which the peasants were driven through the exertions of professional usurers, set himself to devise a plan of relief, The problem, according to his own words, was, “to procure capital without a capital of guarantee.” Passy, one of Schulze’s associates, put it, “to find means of giving credit to those who have no security to offer in exchange.” In other words, the question to be solved was, could labor be pledged for money?

Schulze’s first step was the formation of a co-operative association for the purchase of raw material, He next proceeded to the formation of a credit association, The dominating principle in this was benevolence, It was a capitalist institution, philanthropic, condescending, and was to be supplied with funds by those who did not expect to become borrowers, It looked to helping the people instead of developing a mutual self-help among the people themselves. Its weakness was, that it was not sufficiently co operative. It soon became evident that this would not accomplish the desired end; when Dr. Bernardi, a friend and fellow worker with Schulze, devised a more co-operative scheme, Still, it was sought first to protect the interests of the investor—the lender. Co-operative credit was of secondary importance. Money was borrowed from those who had money to lend; and business was done for a profit, Consequently, interest was kept at a comparatively high rate—ay, from twelve to fourteen per cent, afterward reduced to eight, Each member as required to subscribe for one share and no more, which was at first fixed at £30, payable in small installments. The bank was permitted to engage in all kinds of banking operations; but all money was to be loaned inside the association. All forms of security— mortgages, pledges, securities, bills of exchange, etc, were accepted. Loans were not restricted in amount, but must be made for short time, commonly for three months, with but one renewal. The administration was placed in the hands of a committee which drew a salary and a commission on the amount of the business done. These associations were based upon the unlimited liability of the members; that is, every member was liable for the debts of the whole association.

These associations multiplied with great rapidity. By 1883 more than 4,000 associations had been established with a membership of 1,200,000, and with a capital of £10,000,000, doing business at the rate, according to some estimates, of £100,000,000 a year, They had extended throughout Germany, Austria, Italy; and, to a considerable extent, to almost all the countries of Europe. According to Herr Schmid, of Vienna, in 1886 the total number in and out of Germany, formed on Schulze-Delitzsch lines, was 4,500, with 1,500,000 members, and doing a business of £450,000,000 annually.

From the first, the government put every conceivable obstruction in Schulze’s way. He was politically a present ed man’ officially harassed and badgered, persecuted by the courts and tabooed by the press, But he added more to the wealth of German than the entire amount of the French indemnity. When the system was started it was almost impossible for a poor man to obtain a loan. Interest ranged from 50 per cent to 100 per cent and one instance has been recorded where 750 per cent was exacted. And yet, not withstanding the great benefit which these institutions brought to the people, there is no doubt that they are more capitalistic than co-operative They are open to the criticism of Father DeBesse of France that they are “fighting usury by practicing it." Almost every feature of them is capitalistic with a definite capitalization in shares with interest, usury and dividends and with fixed salaries and commissions to the responsible officers of the institutions Their success has been wholly due to the small element of co-operation which is found in their constitution, viz.: the unlimited liability of the members. In that way the members co-operate together to protect each other's credit and enable them to obtain loans which they could not do singly With this one exception, the Schulze-Delitzsch credit banks are pure and simple capitalism and while they have had a rapid development, and transact a vast volume of business, they have been subject to the same dangers that other capitalistic enterprises encounter. Failures have been frequent. Between 1875 and 1876 (one year) no less than thirty six associations ere declared bankrupt and 176 more went into liquidation In all cases however their failure has been directly traceable to greed and carelessness on the part of the officers and not to a failure of the principles of co-operation, as will appear later.

In sharp contrast to the Schulze-Delitzsch associations was the Loan Banks devised by Raiffeisen, a burgomaster in twenty five parishes in Westerwald, Germany In almost every essential particular these banks are the direct opposites of those of Schulze-Delitzsch. Schulze placed the interests of the lender foremost and Raiffeisen those of the borrower. The first aimed at business and the second at social benefit. Still they each occupied their own separate sphere, the Schulze-Delitzsch associations reaching the middle lower class of people while the Raiffeisen did the same for the very poorest. But the history of the last has been the most remarkable and the most instructive from the standpoint of co-operation.

In his official capacity Raiffeisen was brought in daily contact with the miseries of the poor during the famine of 1846 and 1847 The population was half starved ill clad, badly housed and badly brought up. By hard labor it could hardly eke out enough to keep body and soul together. The country was under the pest of remorseless usury. The people suffered in mute despair, deeming it utterly impossible to protect themselves from the exactions of the professional usurer. The whole district was turned into a usurer's hell.

Raiffeisen determined to take the cudgel and declare relentless war against usury. His first venture was a co-operative bakery. It was a signal success. It enabled the poor to buy their bread at just half the current price. He next started a Co-operative Cattle Purchase Association, which was again a success. The usurers, however, still held their money debts. To combat these, Raiffeisen now started his first bank with £300 which he had managed to scrape together. No one ever contributed a penny in share capital and yet from this small beginning, it has grown until it distributes its millions through its thousands of channels bringing comfort and plenty everywhere that it sets its foot. The usurers were compelled to relax their grasp and the people were given a new lease of life. Starting, as it did, in one of the poorest provinces in Westerwald, it has grown to enormous proportions with its branches reaching out all over Germany, Italy Austria and Hungary, with offshoots in France and Russia

Personally modest and unassuming Raiffeisen entered upon no noisy propaganda. He was content to work in his own limited way and sphere. It was five years before his second bank was formed and eight more until the third was started. After that, it was six years to the starting of the fourth. Since 1880 they have multiplied with great rapidity When in 1888 Herr Raiffeisen died a half of Germany mourned him as a benefactor No higher tribute can be paid to his practical good sense than this, that after a history of forty three years, out of more than 1,000 institutions established on his lines, and all dealing with the very poorest in their localities, they can boast that neither member nor creditor has ever lost a penny by them. This also teaches some further lessons that co-operation when organized on national lines, is applicable to the affairs of the poorest and most ignorant; and also that men, as a whole, are honest and upright in their dealings when it is possible for them to be so. In the face of such a history who shall say that co-operation is impracticable in any direction. Almost at the same time that Raiffeisen started his Loan Bank in Germany, Proudhon began his People's Bank in Paris, with a great flourish of trumpets, parading before the world his splendid enterprise. It was big with promise and flush of funds but was destined to end in nothing but smoke in less than two months. One was the enterprise of a practical, sensible and earnest man and the other the imperfect scheme of a visionary

In the next will be given the details of the organization of the Raiffeisen Loan Banks

Van Ornum, Why Government at All? - Part IV, Chapter 8




If we have read man aright in these pages, if his springs of action, his natural promptings, the end and purpose of his life are as they have appeared to us in the long inquiry just ended, then he is himself the true Divinity, the sublimest fact in all nature, the crowning glory of all the sons of development from the lowest monad up to a Darwin or a Spencer. If this is true, the baseness, the greed, the vice, the crime and the brutality of men are but the remainders of an imperfect but progressive development, which only requires freedom from external and unnatural restraint to remove. If selfishness is the mainspring of human progress, and only becomes perverted from its true and natural expression into a debasing greed for wealth, as a result of legal enactments which violate the natural condition of property by setting up special rights of property, then the proper way to destroy that greed is to destroy the rights of property which have been set up by the law. The greed of wealth is but misdirected selfishness. The evils which come from it are like the inharmonious sounds which come forth from an imperfectly tuned violin. Nature is a wonderful musician, and is now tuning its instrument, eliminating its discords. The strings are bound together so that they hold each other in check. They cannot vibrate. Free those strings, and permit nature to tune them in her own way; and when she has removed the discords of poverty, vice, and crime, there will break forth such rapturous melodies, such divine harmonies that all nature shall dance together for joy. In the light of all this, and in all that our inquiry has shown, there arise [354] in thought the most enchanting visions of a social paradise that have ever flashed upon the imagination of the wildest social reformer. And those visions are endowed with a consistency, an almost present possibility, which bids us but stretch out our hands in order to grasp their substance.

The sacred fire of liberty which Prometheus stole from Zeus, in a hollow tubs, for the benefit of mortals, has remained hidden away, and concealed, cause men have not recognized its genial warmth and power. And as a result, the diseases, sufferings, and miseries which torment mortals; evils which Pandora, the daughter of the gods, released when she lifted the lid of the vessel in which the foresight of Prometheus had concealed them, have been permitted to work their way unhindered. It is for us to rekindle this Promethean spark, and again confine those torments which have plagued the whole race of mortals, and brought to naught their highest and purest aspirations.

How fair and radiant is liberty! She brings the olive branch of peace to soothe and quiet the angry passions of warring nations, to remove class distinctions, and heal the wounds that jealousy and bitter wrong have made. She brings no word of reproach, and no condemnation to the outcast, or the erring; but lovingly binds up the bleeding heart, and wipes away every tear. She brings joy, and peace, and love to the master as well as the slave, to the high as well as the low, to the rich as well as the poor. Her face is radiant as the sun, while the touch of her lips is as soft and fragrant as the kiss of a babe. But she permits no chain. She cannot be bound. Authority and obligation are alike repugnant. She does all from love, and her own desire, and nothing from duty. Duty kills, but love makes alive; the law destroys, while freedom preserves. Those who would enjoy her must also be free. They have no need to enslave themselves to authority. [356] They may not incur an obligation, assumes duty, or submit to the reign of law. Do this, and liberty flies. She brooks no restriction, and submits to no leaders.

To win her, we have only to break the chains, renounce the obligations, deny authority, repudiate duty, and give scope to man’s freest thought and act. His natural promptings are truer than the temporal or spiritual rulers would have us believe. If not, what is it that keeps those rulers aright? Wherein do they differ from us who are not rulers?

To break those chains it needs no violence; no angry passions. A widespread knowledge of the true principles of liberty is the first step toward its attainment. To this all can contribute by spreading the light, each among his own associates; and no power of any ruler can prevent it. Any efforts to do so can only help instead of hinder. Let us always seek to convince instead of to vanquish. Victor Hugo says: “I make little account of victory. Nothing is so stupid as to vanquish; the real glory is to convince.” And when the time comes to act, as I have outlined, in treating of the remedy, all that is required is steadiness and firmness, and withal kindness. The right, when it triumphs, has no need to be violent. And if the first efforts do not immediately succeed, it is only because a knowledge of those principles has not become sufficiently general; and it shows the need of further work. But every effort, whether at once successful or not, cannot do other than spread a knowledge of liberty, and kindle the hope of mankind. It is a warfare with ignorance in which there are no defeats. Every contest but makes more certain the final victory.

“A fire would cause a dawn, undoubtedly, but why not wait for the break of day? A volcano enlightens, but the morning enlightens still better.”—Victor Hugo.

Work and wait.

Van Ornum, Why Government at All? - Part IV, Chapter 7




Going still further in the application of these principles, the simple, natural principles of liberty, principles which every man can easily understand, to all the multitude of human affairs, to all the relations of mankind in society, it solves every question, removes every injustice, and cures every social evil. When the absolute liberty of every individual is once clearly recognized, when no man, and no woman, can bring any sort of physical compulsion to bear upon another one to do anything in this world which he or she does not choose to do, the only way in which any one can secure a given line of conduct on the part of another will be to compel him, or her, by kindness. It cannot fail to increase greatly the sum of human kindness. Men’s selfishness will compel them to be kind, to seek the wellbeing and happiness of others, instead of crushing them as now.

While it must be plain to every one that changes like this must produce very important results, yet we need to examine the subject with considerable care before we can realize how great will be those changes.

First, what will be the condition of labor? Manifestly it will be free; but from what? From rents, from taxes, from interest, from the exactions of monopoly, free to take freely from the earth, the storehouse of nature, the materials upon which to labor, and provide for the satisfaction of desire; free from the necessity of supporting in idleness an employer, or even a lot of stock-holders in the products of labor; and free from the arrogant dictation of others as to hours of labor, or rate of wages. All nature [346] stands beckoning to every man to come and take freely from its exhaustless resources. Are men hungry? Come till the soil, and gather the fruits of it. The beasts of the field and the fishes of the sea are for your use and pleasure. Are you cold, or naked, or homeless? Here in the earth are clay and stone, and minerals of the greatest variety and utility; and in such abundance that all the people of all time cannot exhaust them. In the forest are the woods of every kind to suit the tastes or fancy of men, while the forces of nature are everywhere ready to come at your bidding and perform every service. The law is the only thing that erects a barrier between mankind and its natural and bounteous mother earth. Destroy the law, and the laborer shall plant the vineyard and eat the fruit of it. Nothing shall hinder him from exchanging freely the product of his labor with others, as suits-his convenience. The relation of master and servant, and of mistress and maid will be ended, because no one will serve another when he can just as well serve himself.

As this applies to labor in its broadest sense, it includes every one who does any useful thing in this world,—every one who derives his or her support from their labor of head or hand, as opposed to those who live upon the labor of others, such as landlords, bondholders, money loaners, stockholders in productive enterprises in which they perform no labor, professed employers who subsist upon a profit derived from the inadequate pay of those employed, those living upon royalties derived from patents, copyrights, or other forms of legal privilege, and government officers. Labor does not mean merely those who work at manual labor for stipulated wages. It includes merchants, manufacturers, and professional men, farmers, editors, authors, actors, students, all who seek to increase by their own efforts in any way, the general store of human knowledge, or enjoyment. [347]

But when we have catalogued them all, and found that they are free, it does not itself convey an adequate idea of the enormous change that will have taken place. The first effect, after the suspension of the functions of the law by stopping the appropriations for its execution, will be seen in the immediate relief from the pressure of hard times, first in the stoppage of rents, taxes and interest. People are not so much in love with the landlord as to continue payments when he has no longer the power to compel them. Those who can do so will at once take possession of vacant land and begin the erection of homes. For money, some form of mutual token will be adopted which will be generally accepted, and serve in making settlements.

Such changes in social relations make necessary long lines of changes in architecture, in methods of business, in public amusements, in education, in the learned professions, and in domestic affairs. There are very few buildings, public or private which will not require to be rebuilt. The present residences of the poor are little better than stables, and will not be used longer than until others suited to a much higher degree of comfort can be built. The middle class houses are little better, but on the whole, will remain the longest; while the present mansions of the rich will, for a time, stand as monuments of the arrogance and folly of their builders. It will be impossible to obtain servants to care for them, while for their proprietors to do it, will involve an amount of labor and care they will not long submit to; and they will either be pulled down or transformed to other uses.

Changes in methods of business will also involve changes in structures devoted to business. The great store with its multitude of employees will be a thing of the past, unless conducted on a purely co-operative plan. And the same thing is true of [348] the great manufactories. The improved condition of the people, their freedom from the necessity of constant toil during long hours to get a living, will enormously increase the demand for-public amusements; so that present conveniences bill be found totally inadequate. In education also, methods better adapted to the true purposes of education, and to the development of a high individuality, will certainly supersede present clumsy and vicious methods, and render useless the barn-like structures which now pass as school-houses.

But the changes in the learned professions will be the most radical. With the disuse of the law will necessarily come the disuse of the lawyer. His functions will be at an end. He will no longer find an honorable calling in the promotion, for pay, of the dishonest schemes of his clients. He will no longer study how much unjust advantage he can secure for his client, and still keep within the forms of law. An honorable profession will no longer be based upon making trouble to others. The priests will continue to exercise their calling as long as they can find ignorant and credulous people; but ignorance and credulity cannot last long in the face of such general prosperity. Make a man prosperous, and he becomes self-reliant, and progressive. There is no danger in religion if deprived of the sanctions and support of the law. The medical profession, also, will receive a powerful stimulus. The law will no longer protect incompetence; and physicians will maintain an honorable consideration just as long as they keep to the fore front of medical knowledge, and no longer. College professors will no longer depend for their positions upon their willingness to teach the ancient philosophies long since disproved, and avoid the more dangerous dogmas which incline men to liberty.

But in every department of science investigation will be promoted, because freedom will increase a [349] thousand fold the number of those who can prosecute original investigations. I think it is probable that these original invocators will become the teachers of the future; not as a means of subsistence or for the acquirement of wealth, but in the pursuit of distinction.

Second, what will be the condition of the farmer? Again the answer is, he will be free. From what? From debt, from taxes, from interest, from the exactions of monopoly, free to produce, and free to exchange with whomsoever he will anywhere on the face of the broad earth. There can be no custom house officers to take toll upon his exchanges, and thus reduce his earnings. Even the cost of transportation will be relieved of its greatest burden, because it will immediately destroy the stocks and bonds which now constitute fixed charges against the business of the roads, abolish interest, dividends, and salaries to ornamental officers. The operating expenses of the roads will be the labor involved by the actual workmen, plus the maintenance of the rolling stock and road. But ultimately, with the extinction of private property through universal wealth, railroad men will perform the railroad service just as other men will perform services, for the honor and distinction it will bring them, and not for any reward of wealth, because all will take freely from the common wealth.

This is a rational, tangible relief, which is clearly within reach of the farmers whenever they have the courage and wisdom to grasp it.

Third, how will it help the merchant? Just as it does the workingman, and the farmer; he will be free; free from unjust and ruinous debts, from rents, interest, taxes, and licenses, from injurious interference, and from unequal competition. The sources of advantage which the large dealer, or the department stores, have over him will be destroyed. A great store requires a large number of employees. [350] When the wages of those employees rise from five to ten times as high as they are now, as they certainly must do, these high wages, coupled with a less efficient service than where performed for one’s self, must certainly place the great store at a disadvantage by the side of the small ones operated by individuals almost without expense, or by several individuals working co-operatively. The power of the great corporation or wealthy employer lies in the law which prevent people from employing themselves, and which thus permits the employer to reduce wages to ruinously low prices. Break down the legal fences which bar men from the natural means of self-employment, and the merchant is doing two things: he is destroying the unequal power of his competitor, and, at the same time, increasing the prosperity of those whom he expects to become customers. Think what this increased prosperity means. When all the men, women and children in Chicago, or for that matter, in the whole country, are so prosperous that they can buy anything they want, will not trade be good in every line? Merchants certainly will not want for customers. But when, along with it the expenses of doing business are reduced by abolishing rents, interest, taxes, licenses, high prices for transportation, and monopoly prices for goods, I want some one to tell me how a merchant will go to work to fail in business. He will certainly be an ingenious man who can do it under such circumstances.

Then who can conceive of the inestimable boon such an emancipation will bring to the despised and outcast ones of earth, branded by the injustice of the law as criminals, and prostitutes; or who are condemned by the hard conditions of life to live incomplete and unnatural lives, with all their natural promptings suppressed, sometimes until reason itself is dethroned? The plague-spots of vice and poverty in our cities will vanish like mists before [351] the rising sun. The jails, the penitentiaries, the reformatories, [!] the alms-houses, and the insane asylums will be tenantless, while the waste places will blossom like the rose. Liberty is the true Messiah for whom we wait. We know not yet where he will be born, but his time draws nigh. It may be in the manger, or in the hovel, but when he comes, nature itself will break into singing, “Peace on earth, good will to men. And that song will be heard around the world, speaking hope and deliverance to the oppressed and downtrodden of every name and every clime; while the monopolists, the rulers, the Herods of this world, will send out to slay the young child, in the hope of preserving their power. Oh weak! Oh fools! Oh blind! Do you not know that liberty comes to you with as great a boon as to the slave? Do you not know that the emancipation of the slave is the emancipation of the master? What is all your untold wealth, when the utmost possibility of enjoyment cannot bring you a single day’s unalloyed happiness? What more can you do with it than to buy distinction? And when you have bought it you have only a counterfeit. It is the distinction of possession, instead of personal worth. It brings the idle stare of the multitude, instead of the love and esteem of a community of equals. It surrounds you with base sycophants, and flatterers, whose interest in you is in the crumbs that fall from your tables. Can you develop a personal nobility in an environment of baseness? Can you rear healthy children in an atmosphere of sewer gas? Liberty to you also brings freedom; freedom from anxiety, from care, from false friends, from a ceaseless grind to obtain and keep wealth, from baseness, and from the ingratitude of those whom you have trusted. It offers you an opportunity of attainment, and a capacity for enjoyment, infinitely greater than anything you have ever dreamed of. It invites you to a residence in [352] a society where each separate person will be the highest expression of individual attainment, each in his own way; a society into which, if your wealth would buy it, you would gladly expend it all. Liberty kindles no hatreds of man against man. It is the slavery of ignorance that does that. Liberty is peace, prosperity, and happiness for all; and if for all, none can be unhappy. It is the prime condition of association, of civilization itself.

Then why should not the rich join with us in achieving a real liberty? They give up nothing that is valuable, nothing that does not impede their own progress. Why not cast off the impediments of slavery which hamper not only others, but themselves?

I know that many will be strongly prejudiced by reason of my strictures upon religion, and the church; and will be disposed to condemn this whole work as irreligious and immoral; and for that reason to shun it. But it has been necessary to carry the examination to the full extent to which I have carried it, because religion, as represented by the church, is one of the strongest props to the law; because it necessarily teaches subjection and subordination, which of themselves are vicious; and because it directly prevents the growth of individual self-respect and independence, which are essential to the spirit of liberty. Men must be free in mind before they can achieve or appreciate freedom of the body.

Still, there is nothing in what I propose as a remedy for social ills, nothing in a combination of the people to defeat the appropriation of money to pay the expenses of government, to prevent even the most religious from joining heartily in that movement, while yet practicing all the religious ceremonies, and observances enjoined by their churches. They may reject my theories as to religion, and yet work in perfect accord in the practical measures [353] I have outlined. If I am wrong in my theories of religion, and religion has a real basis of good, the adoption of the social reforms which must result from liberty will give a powerful stimulus to that good. So that, whatever there is of value in religion will be helped, but the evil will be powerless for evil when no longer sustained by the law. In the end I think it will be proved that religion is exactly what I have found it in these pages to be: a form and method of enslavement of the mind, the more perfectly to secure the enslavement of the body. But if it has a natural or rightful basis, it needs no artificial support, and cannot be injured by being thrown upon its own resources. To deny this, is to manifest a serious lack of faith in the inherent power of religion. But religion is harmless so long as there is no law to keep men poor, and therefore ignorant and superstitious.

Van Ornum, Why Government at All? - Part IV, Chapter 6




One of the most portentous of the questions that loom up before the people of this country, and one that is fraught with the greatest possible danger unless settled in time, and settled aright, is the race question. To the white people of the south the possibility of negro supremacy constantly haunts them like a spectre. Increase in numbers, increase in wealth, increase in education and culture are all looked upon with extreme jealousy and apprehension. The more thrifty and enterprising the blacks are; in other words, the better citizens they become the more imminent appears the danger. What shall be done? This common fear has heretofore kept the south solid for one political party by practically disfranchising the blacks through the manipulations made possible by law and politics, or by actual force and fraud. This again furnishes other politicians with excuses for fanning the flames of race prejudice, and paving the way to an open rupture. On one side, disfranchisement by law is advocated openly in order to provide against the danger of negro supremacy; and on the other, a measure of force is urged to compel respect for the rights of the negro to the ballot. These are Just the conditions out of which are liable to come serious trouble; and many already predict a most relentless and terrible race war in the south within the next twenty-five years.

At the close of the late civil war it was widely believed that the negro race was so inferior that when brought directly in competition with the white man, free from whatever protection slavery was supposed to afford, his natural inferiority would [337] place him at such a disadvantage that he would be unable to hold his own; and, like the Indian, would rapidly diminish in numbers, and finally become extinct. But the truth appears now that in some parts of the south, at least, the negroes are increasing more rapidly than the whites. And, although I know of no reliable data upon which positive conclusions can be based, I think it will be found that where emigration has not sensibly decreased their numbers, they are everywhere increasing more rapidly than the native white population. I have come to this conclusion notwithstanding the statement of Robert P. Porter, superintendent of the census of 1890, in one of the advance bulletins of that census. He states that, “during the last decade the colored population of the south has not held its own against the whites in the region where climate is most favorable.” But it will only take a moment’ s examination to see that the census upon which Mr. Porter based his hypothesis is utterly worthless for any purposes of generalization. For instance: in Alabama, in the period from 1860 to 1870, the white population decreased 0.93 per cent. but the blacks increased 8.62 during the same time. Turning to the census of 1890 we find the whites increased from 1880 to 1890, 25.46 per cent. while the blacks only increased 13.55 per cent. during the same time. What was it that gave the whites so much greater increase? Without doubt it was immigration. During the last decade a considerable tide of white immigration has been pouring into all the southern states. On the other hand there has been a counter current of blacks northward and westward. Superintendent Porter shows that in Arkansas from 1860 to 1870, when changes from immigration were slight, the whites increased 11.71 per cent. while the blacks only showed 9.81 per cent. of increase; but from 1880 to 1890 the ratios were 38.03 of increase for the whites, while the blacks were 47.40. What was it [339] that made the blacks so much more fertile than the whites in the last decade, when they were less so in the other? And what should make the increase in both of them so much greater than in Maryland for the same period, where the whites increased 13.72 per cent. against the blacks’ 3.70 per cent? Evidently it was owing again to shifting populations. Those migrations of population have been sufficiently great to destroy any value which generalizations would have, based upon any census showing of a stable population. This is even more strikingly shown in the case of the Virginias. In old Virginia, the increase in white population from 1880 to 1890, was 15.19 per cent. while the colored population only increased 1.46 per cent. In West Virginia, right along side of it, the white population increased during the same time 23.07 per cent; but even that is left far in the rear by the colored, which shows 29.44 per cent. increase. Are we to understand that the ratio of fecundity of the blacks between old Virginia and West Virginia is as 1.46 in the former to 29.44 in the latter? If the census figures are intended to show a lower degree of vitality on the part of the black population than exists among the whites, they are utterly worthless for the purpose. But there are other evidences which go to show that the blacks, as a race, possess a vigor and tenacity which were little expected twenty-five years ago.

Whatever the truth may be as to numbers, mere numbers are of slight consequence. As we have seen, numbers count for little in the control of public matters, if by public matters is meant the control of government, and the shaping of the state. The real thing that does control is wealth.

Now the blacks are a progressive race, not only as regards population, but they are extremely thrifty. While their standards of living have undoubtedly risen on the whole since their emancipation, [340] both can and do live with greater frugality than the whites. Their earnings are hoarded until they can be safely and profitably invested. One characteristic, I am told, is that they seldom if ever buy subject to a mortgage, but nearly always pay all cash down. This relieves them of the danger of losses by foreclosure, and the burden of interest charges, as in the case of men who buy on time. While they undoubtedly do work for small wages, this very fact tends to keep them constantly employed; and their frugality enables them always to save a portion, so that with almost all of them there is a steady accumulation.

A recent writer, in treating of this subject, stated that according to a late census of the state of Georgia, the colored population in that state were paying taxes upon $15,000,000 of valuation of real property. As the assessed valuations in that state are regularly made upon the basis of one half of the actual value, this would indicate that at least $30,000,000 of the real estate of Georgia is already in the hands of the colored population. This writer saw in this, grave danger to the continued supremacy of the whites. He looked forward to the time when the wealth of the state would be mainly owned by negroes; and as wealth also confers power, they would be the employers of labor, could dictate the policy of the state, and would come to rule the descendants of their former masters. To him there was no other solution of the difficulty but to take away at once their political power before it became fortified by accumulated wealth. The alternative he presented was, that within the next twenty-five years would come a war of extermination between the whites and blacks, with all the horrors such a war would involve.

There is no doubt of the danger he portrays. Nor is it any less serious than he indicates. But the remedy he proposes, so far from averting the [341] danger would be the surest possible means of precipitating it. Any such general injustice enacted against the blacks must inevitably change an industrious, frugal, and contented people into a bitterly hostile one. It would not prevent their acquirement of power, because the power lies in the wealth instead of in the elective franchise. The simple and natural way is to take away the power which wealth gives. Then they may accumulate wealth to any extent, and it offers no menace to any one. It is true, it involves an abandonment of the supremacy of the whites; but it sets up no supremacy of any other in its place. It is a settlement that is perfectly just and equal. It is liberty to both whites and blacks. So long as either is supreme: so long as either rules the other, the question as to who shall rule will return to plague us and our children after us, until it is settled right, or settled in blood. So long as there is a law to administer, the question as to who shall do the administering will destroy the peace, and haunt both sides with hideous dreams of slavery, or tempt with visions of authority. Justice and liberty is the only desirable thing; it is the only safe thing for either side.

The foregoing is addressed to the mass of the whites irrespective of condition. I have something now to say to that portion of the white population of the south which does not enjoy any form of monopoly, the great middle and lower class. If trouble ever comes between the two races, the weight of the burden of it must certainly fall upon you. You are sure to be the sufferers. The supremacy of the government, is not your own supremacy. It is the supremacy of monopoly; and you are not the beneficiaries of monopoly. You have everything to lose by trouble between the races, and nothing to gain. A man from among your ranks may occasionally be elected to an office; but it cannot help the mass of the class itself. Monopoly cares no more for white [342] supremacy than it does for black, so long as it can maintain its own position. If it can do so to advantage it will use the blacks to crush the whites just as quickly as it will the whites against the blacks. This is proven over and over again by mine owners, and others, who hire a force of blacks to take the place of the whites on strike, just as quickly as they will hire whites to replace blacks. Monopoly secretly foments strife between races in order to plunder both of them; so that with the most combustible materials placed in such close proximity to each other, as the whites and the blacks of the south must continue to be placed, and then with another capable of igniting them, and whose interests are in igniting them, it is certain that there is going to be a fire. That combustibility may be destroyed, along with the interest any one could have in kindling the fire of discord, by doing away with the principle of government itself. Government is only useful to sustain the artificial rights of property set up by the law, in the interest of those who have the most property.

As an instance of the way that monopoly, or government, foments strife between races, in order to plunder them both, I may mention the Russian agitation against the Jews. The laws of property operate in Russia just as they do in the south, or in any other place in this world. They enable the Jews, who, like the negroes, are extremely industrious and frugal, whose expenses of living are kept much below the average standard, but who still prefer earning something, even though it be little, to idleness, to accumulate constantly. But the Jew adds to all this, the faculty of loaning his accumulations for usury; a power which is conferred by the law. He simply takes advantage of the law, just as other people do when they can. Their accumulations have gone on until it has become an object for the governing classes, or the government [343] itself, to plunder them; and it is an easy matter to stir up the ignorant prejudices of the people against the usurers, and get them expelled from the country, after being despoiled of their hoards. Does any one suppose that the poor people of Russia are benefited by the plunder and expulsion of the Jews? They certainly are not one particle. They are made to play directly into the hand of their real masters, the governing classes of Russia. Even admitting all that any one can allege of the Jews as to their extortionate practices, the fact remains that the only thing which makes those practices possible is the laws of property. It is the most inhuman barbarity to visit the popular indignation upon those who have only taken advantage of what the law permitted them to do. It is precisely what I should do, if I were to arouse the popular phrensy against the wealthy monopolists of our own country to plunder them, and then expel them empty handed. The Jews were not to blame, nor are our monopolists to blame, for doing what the law places within their power to do. It is our ignorance that permits the law. The law is the only effective means of oppression; and the only way to destroy oppression is to destroy the law.

The same principles are applicable to all the disputes between different races in this, or in any other age. Without government to erect a supremacy of one over the other, or to stir up the passions of one against the other, there could no disagreement arise between them as races. If individuals differed, it would remain an individual matter, not involving others in the least; because the personal interests of other individuals would so strongly be on the side of peace that it would be impossible to dragoon them into a dispute not their own.

The Indians and the whites could not possibly get into war one with the other if there were no domination of one over the other by law. There is [344] certainly room enough for all; and there is not the slightest occasion for either to feel the least jealousy or bitterness against the other. The only reason which makes the world seem crowded, and why it is crowded in places, is that the laws of property keep most of it idle, while a small part of it is crowded. Destroy the law, and throw open the resources of the world to the people of the world, and race disputes will be no more likely to arise, than disputes between people who have black eyes, with those having blue eyes.

All this involves no question of enforced association of one race with another. That will take care of itself. Each individual, white, black, or yellow, will consult his own tastes and inclinations in selecting associates. And when he has selected them no other individual has any right to interfere, and could not interfere effectively in the absence of law. Liberty is peace, plenty, security, and fraternity between individuals and peoples, and between nations and races; while the law is slavery, discord, poverty, strife and war between them all.

Van Ornum, Why Government at All? - Part IV, Chapter 5




There remains now to examine those principles of liberty which we have reached in the course of our extended inquiries, in their application to the various branches of the social question. This is necessary for two reasons: one is, to be able to forecast the practical results to be obtained from a realization of a condition of unqualified liberty, and the other, to see if a platform and plan of work looking to such a realization will afford common standing ground for all genuine reformers of every name.

One of the most important as well as delicate of those branches is the relation of the sexes. The necessity for some relation of intercourse between them obviously arises from the most imperative necessity of mankind itself. And the natural forces impelling the sexes to assume and maintain relations of intercourse have been made powerful commensurate with that importance; therefore the law, when dealing with those relations, is meddling with the most powerful factors of human association. Even admitting that any sort of regulation, other than those natural instincts which prompt and control that association, is necessary or possible, it is manifest that it should be undertaken with the greatest caution, and carried out with the highest wisdom. But considering those who make the laws, there is nothing either in their habits or training which would lead us to expect even an average degree of wisdom. The methods by which legislators are chosen are such as almost preclude the possibility of obtaining any other than the grossly vulgar, and corrupt. Nor is there anything in the manner in which laws are suggested, or enacted, which [332] would remove the difficulties one particle. They rather thicken as we advance, rendering more and more remote the possibility of, even by chance, the enacting of a good law.

But we are not left to hypothesis in this matter. The evidences are positive and overwhelming of the most serious evils which come from efforts to regulate the relations of the sexes by law. Ill-assorted marriages, violations of the marriage contract, tyrannical and abusive treatment by one of the parties, jealousies, quarrels, constant friction, often culminating in appalling tragedies, are some of the more direct effects which flow from arbitrary legal restraints.

Scarcely less direct, in fact often forming steps to these disagreements, are the results which come from the laws of property. Instead of sexual relations being the result of inclination, of love, they are made to depend upon sordid considerations as far removed from the natural object of such a union as it is possible to conceive. The first consideration is made a support, and afterward, social position. Wealth, conferring distinction, is sought for the sake of the distinction; and the degree of distinction,—the social position, depends upon the degree of wealth. Even where love exists, and would assert itself, poverty stands in the way. Herbert Spencer says:

“Where attachments exist what most frequently decides for or against marriages? The possession of adequate means. Though some improvidently marry without means, yet it is undeniable that in many instances marriage is delayed by the man, or forbidden by the parents, or not assented to by the woman until there is a reasonable evidence of ability to meet the responsibilities.”

In the face of such obstacles, with natural instincts so powerful, is it any wonder that artificial standards of morals are often violated? The mother instinct in women, while differing somewhat in intensity, is universal. It is manifested even in infancy [333] in the passion for dolls. It grows in strength with increasing years until it either finds its proper expression, or is crushed by adverse circumstances at the expense, not to say of happiness, but of health of mind and body, and may be of life. This mother instinct, just in proportion to its intensity, imparts a sweetness and grace to the personal character, which most powerfully attracts the opposite sex. If, under the influence of these powerful attractions, manifestly the most natural as well as the most exalted, artificial standards of morals are violated, is it not because the law has set up barriers against the natural gratification of desire? Society then steps in with its unwritten laws, but which are just as despotic, and just as arbitrary, to finish the work begun by the statute, and destroy, often the purest and truest of womanhood, and consign them to lives of dishonor. In this case, just as we have found in many other cases, the best and noblest qualities are made the ones which most surely bring dishonor and ruin. That this is the character, in a very large degree, of those who have entered upon a life of prostitution is shown by a great many circumstances, often small in themselves but exceedingly significant. The honesty of their dealings with their washerwomen, and the shopkeepers who trust them while inmates of houses of prostitution, is a matter of frequent note, although in many cases they are shamefully victimized. Another thing, still more significant, is the experience of physicians at Blackwell’s Island Hospital, who say that there are no nurses so tender and devoted to the sick and dying, as those girls. Yet some of our most earnest and conscientious people continue to uphold, not only the law, but the pretended standard of morals, although frequently their own children are the victims; and they will speak of their honor as having been violated by a beloved daughter, whom they feel called upon to disown and [334] discard. Dishonor? Yes. But the dishonor lies in their own weakness and ignorance which permits them to enact such a monstrous injustice to a beloved child.

But some women enter into the ranks of prostitution, just as other women marry, for money. Some of them do it from necessity, and some from choice. But what have they done more than those who marry for the same reasons? They have each sought for support,—for wealth. The only difference is that one method is legalized, and the other is not. The cold blooded social pharisees, who would cut all others to their own measure, are made respectable by law, while their more unfortunate sisters are not.

Everywhere it is the same question,—that of a support, whether in marriage, or out; and it is the same in all the other phases of the woman question, that of equality of opportunity in employments, equality of wages, equality in the family, and equality in political power. It all resolves itself at last into the question of a support. How then will perfect freedom from the restraints of the law act upon this question of a support for women? Precisely as it will for men. It will destroy privilege. It will take away the power that one man or one woman, or some men and some women, exert over other men and women. It will make support infinitely easier for all, at once; and soon will bring about a common possession of property for both men and women; so that the question of a support will be settled in the most complete and substantial way, leaving the relations of the sexes to be determined by natural inclination, or love. Support will no longer be an element in determining those relations. There will be no longer any law to enforce subjection of one party to the will of the other, or to enforce a continuance of relations when no longer productive of happiness, the object for which they [335] were originally assumed. There can be no prostitution, because all will have the most abundant support; and the opportunity for the gratification of sexual desires will depend upon the mutual and natural promptings and consent of the parties themselves, and none other. Women, as men, can and will work at whatever they please, and as they please, not for a support, but as a means of self-culture, of improvement, and to win renown and distinction. The same path of progress will be open to them as to men; and the end will be accomplished by the same means. But now, if a brutal husband knows that he can force his suffering wife to obey him, that she risks starvation, or still greater suffering in mind or body by refusing, while he is practically exempt from any injury to his reputation as long as he maintains a semblance of respectability, be will be extremely careless of criticism and make the life of his wife a burden. He now has a power over her which no person in this world should possess over another. It is precisely the power which the master has over his slave. The only difference is in the extent to which he can carry it.

What then will be the condition of the family: that institution which the law so persistently professes to protect? I do not know; nor do I care to stop to consider. If it is a natural institution, and suited to the wants of humanity, it needs no artificial support like the law to sustain it. And if it is not, it will give place to something that will better express the needs of humanity. In any case it will be purified from the imperfections which are imposed upon it by law. But if the family can only be preserved at the expense of preserving poverty, prostitution, subjection of women to men, domestic infelicity, and the blight and ruin which always follow in the wake of the law, then we had a thousand times better give up the family. It is too high a price to pay even for a good article. [336]

I suppose these sentiments will, at first, find small favor among the professed leaders in social reform. Leaders are only so many rulers in their way. Almost invariably they are infected with the itch of governing. Their ideal of equality and liberty is the equal liberty of scrambling for an office, that they may lord it over the people while in office, and enjoy the emoluments and honors while they are able to retain office. If the leaders in the woman’s movement to obtain equal political power with men, really wish to secure the emancipation of women, they will find that they can only do it by, at the same time, emancipating men. The emancipation of men is the emancipation of women, and the law is the only thing that stands in the way of either. What is the use in wasting our energies for what has failed to produce equality among men. Agitation for right of the franchise, or any other artificial contrivance, cannot possibly do more than delay the day of emancipation, by keeping up a false and misleading issue. If, however, the purpose of the leaders is the same as that of politicians generally, and reform is only presented to hoodwink the people and secure office for the leaders, then they will utterly ignore these propositions until the people, for whom these pages were written, shall take to doing their own thinking and acting, which they must do before they can obtain relief, and act without the intervention of leaders. And really, it is not leaders that men want. So long as they submit to being led, they will be led to the advantage of the leaders. Men must do their .own thinking; and all that I can do, or any other man can do, is to hold up whatever light we have. When men and women understand where the trouble is, their natural interests, and co-operative instincts, will enable them to associate effectively to overcome the obstruction that stands in the way of freedom.

Van Ornum, Why Government at All? - Part IV, Chapter 3




As we have seen, one of the first results of the abolition of the law will be to remove, not only actual poverty, but all fear of poverty. When the boundless resources of nature are once opened up to the unrestricted use of mankind, and with no organized force remaining which is capable of robbing it of the fruits of its labor, not only poverty but the fear of it becomes a thing of the past. And when the possession of property confers no power by reason of that possession, it will cease to be sought as a means of distinction. Is man then less selfish than before? Not at all. His selfishness will seek new means of gratification. It will seek its natural channel of expression, instead of the artificial one. The supreme purpose of human life is the making of individual character; and in order to stimulate its development every man possesses a love of the admiration of his fellows, which I have called a love of distinction. So long as wealth alone confers distinction, men seek it with an all absorbing greed, regardless of the true aim and purpose of life. Character is sacrificed instead of promoted. But take away the power of property, by abolishing the laws which decree special rights of property, and men will seek distinction by cultivating those personal qualities which command the admiration of others, instead of depending upon property, the possession of which is more likely to indicate a want of those qualities.

Let each consider a moment how much greater will be his own powers of individual improvement when the question of a support through life, for [325] himself and for his family, is entirely eliminated, so that the acquirement of wealth will be merely a pastime, and he can follow his own inclinations to the utmost, free from all fear of want, or of the interference of his fellow man, instead of being compelled to toil unceasingly day in and day out, and year in and year out, for a mere subsistence, with a constant liability of being brought to a condition of destitution. And then contrast a whole people so situated, every individual member able to follow the utmost bent of his own desires, instead of being bound down to a brutalizing scramble for mere wealth, and we can form some idea of the vastly different results to be expected as the aggregate of human growth. When we were considering the causes that impel men to the commission of crime, it appeared that it is often the purest and loftiest impulses which most surely make men criminals. This fact ought to convince every one that such conditions are wholly unnatural; but they are no more unnatural than that men should be bound down to an everlasting grind to obtain a subsistence. Almost every person adopts some particular line of study, research, investigation, or experiment, or tries to perfect himself in some special industry, according to the bent of his, or her own mind; and make himself master of it. In the pursuit of that object he finds his greatest pleasure and enjoyment. When freed from the anxieties of getting a living, he can and will pursue that natural bent, and seek in the attainment of a high degree of excellence in that particular, the admiration of others. Herein will lie the natural development of individual character. Selfishness will here find its legitimate and healthy expression in the attainment of the highest degree of excellence possible. That degree of excellence will be that individual’s title to nobility; and the pursuit of such a nobility will be open to every one. Selfishness loses none of its intensity. [326] It is rather extended, exalted, purified, and lifted to new and higher objects, and is manifested in better ways. It is like gold refined from the dross which debases and hides the pure metal. The crowning glory of liberty will be a free and luxuriant individuality, with a title of nobility, which will be a real distinction, for everybody.

Herbert Spencer, in his ‘Social Statics,” recognizes the necessity for a constantly increasing differentiation in the constituent parts of society; and he looked for it in a differentiation as to political power. Therein was his mistake. He did not see that a differentiation in the constituent parts of society is consistent with the entire absence of political power, and a perfect freedom and equality of those constituents. He evidently saw no other place for such a differentiation except as to political power. If this were true, then slavery would be the inevitable condition of a large part of mankind; and just as civilization increases would slavery deepen, class distinctions become more pronounced, and social evils more intensified. So far from his being right, those differentiations as to political power must be obliterated before the natural, the individual differentiations, can find their legitimate expression. In the subdivision of labor may be seen an indication of the course of that natural differentiation which runs through all nature, producing specialization of function, and promoting the greatest variety of talent, while at the same time bringing all talents practically to the same level as to capacity. Here, as everywhere else, the one absolute imperative need is perfect freedom of action.

But under this condition of perfect liberty which I am contemplating, labor itself will become an emulation, a means of distinction, an expression of the highest individuality. Men will seek in the performance of labor, in the production of wealth which all may enjoy, in the doing of those things [327] which bring happiness to others, the gratification of their own happiness, and the attainment of their own honor and distinction. Man needs no laws toll compel him to do right, or to respect the rights and feelings of others. If he were to fail in these particulars, he would fail in the attainment of what most, if not all men, hold dearer than life itself,—their honor. The gratification of his own selfish desires will lead man to do more for society than he could be brought to do, if the doing of them were in recognition of any claim which society holds against him. Herein most certainly lies the pathway to that universal brotherhood the visions of which have appeared with varying clearness to social reformers of every age and clime; not in a human regeneration, not in a change in man’s nature, but in a development of that nature; not in a condition of society organized upon any plan, or according to any scheme; but in the destruction of all special organization and restrictions which hinder such a development.

I wish to caution the reader against dismissing too lightly this love of distinction as an element in the making of individual character, and in determining the course of individual action. It has been too common with writers to treat it as a weakness to be overcome, instead of an universal fact to be studied, and taken account of in all estimates of human dynamics. Milton speaks of fame as “the last infirmity of noble minds;” and this thought has run all through a large part of the literature of religion, and the teaching of a certain school of professed moral philosophers, who would make men over again after plans of their own. They would have them sacrifice their pride, humble themselves, crucify self, and become lowly and obedient. That very element which is intended to sweeten human intercourse, to awaken reciprocal feelings of love and sympathy between men, and to bring about an [328] universal brotherhood, is sought to be degraded and discredited. On the other hand, I hold that men need no other change than is afforded by a natural growth and development. Whatever I have found in the constitution of man, I have assumed that it is there because it belongs there, because it is necessary to the perfection and symmetry of his character; and that to suppress any of those constituents would be to destroy that symmetry, and produce an abnormal development. Men in all ages and climes, and under all conditions, seek distinction; and the way in which that propensity manifests itself is the surest mark of their degree of knowledge. If it is found, as in the Fiji Islander, in an ambition to be a murderer, it indicates the dense ignorance and brutality of the barbarian. So through all the gradations of human character up to our ideal condition where the possession of wealth no longer furnishes that gratification, and where labor itself becomes an emulation, we find the same active force moulding human character after its own highest ideal.

As the reader has probably already anticipated, the effect of the application of the proposed remedy upon the formation of individual character, must, as we have seen, remove every possible incentive to criminality. With universal wealth, and freedom from anxiety as to support in life, and with the possession of wealth conferring upon its possessor no power or distinction, there remains not the least object for any man to steal from another; (in fact, I am unable to see how he could possible steal at all) or to accumulate in one’s own possession more than his present needs require. Then this same universal love of distinction will surely obliterate the last remaining causes of violence, or aggression, which now come under the head of offenses against persons; and every spark of criminality must necessarily be extinguished. And this is exactly what [329] we might expect from a removal of that repressive force which now acts through the law to produce the prevailing volume of criminality.

Who shall pass judgment upon his brother? Who will add to the load of misery he is compelled to bear through the injustice of the law? Who shall even say that he is an erring brother? The real struggles of life are enacted in secret. There is an unseen bravery against the invasion of baseness and necessity which transcends the exploits of military heroes. There are triumphs which no eye sees, no renown rewards, and no trumpet salutes. How then can any man pass judgment upon another, or by his verdict condemn him to a life of infamy, no matter what the outward circumstances, and no matter what the evidence. For myself, I could not sit as a juror in any criminal case, and by my verdict consign any man to punishment. Victor Hugo says: “There is a sublime glory in the scriptural injunction to visit those who are sick and in prison; and in the commendation, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did unto me.” Every man who believe in the truth of the doctrines here formulated can do much to bring those doctrines to the attention of mankind, by refusing to convict a fellow man when sitting as a juror; and even if rejected as a juror by reason of those opinions, the very fact of announcing such opinions becomes a protest against the injustice of the law; and the oftener that protest is entered, the stronger it becomes. Every report of such a protest published in the newspapers will serve to direct men’s attention to the truth, and aid not only to bring about a truer understanding of crime, and its causes, but of the principles of liberty.

But it is not necessary to wait until summoned on a jury before protesting against the inhuman treatment of criminals, that commonly prevails. In private as well as in public men should make that protest [330] heard We ought never to join in the popular condemnation of others for the commission of offenses, even though they shock all our own sensibilities, and tend to arouse our resentments. There is an adequate cause for all things; and somewhere there operate causes sufficient to impel the criminal to commit the crime. The commission is an effect; in other words, the causes being what they were, he could not help doing what he did. Therefore he should not be blamed. “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these, ye did it unto me.” Let us rather seek to remove the cause of crime, and the effect will disappear. The effect never can be removed until the restrictions of the law which produce it have been obliterated. We shall then see such a growth of individual character, and such improved social conditions as will remove all possible motive for crime, and develop every possible motive against it.