Latter-Day Pamphlets, by Thomas Carlyle

No. II. Model Prisons.

[March 1, 1850.]

The deranged condition of our affairs is a universal topic among men at present; and the heavy miseries pressing, in their rudest shape, on the great dumb inarticulate class, and from this, by a sure law, spreading upwards, in a less palpable but not less certain and perhaps still more fatal shape on all classes to the very highest, are admitted everywhere to be great, increasing and now almost unendurable. How to diminish them, — this is every man’s question. For in fact they do imperatively need diminution; and unless they can be diminished, there are many other things that cannot very long continue to exist beside them. A serious question indeed, How to diminish them!

Among the articulate classes, as they may be called, there are two ways of proceeding in regard to this. One large body of the intelligent and influential, busied mainly in personal affairs, accepts the social iniquities, or whatever you may call them, and the miseries consequent thereupon; accepts them, admits them to be extremely miserable, pronounces them entirely inevitable, incurable except by Heaven, and eats its pudding with as little thought of them as possible. Not a very noble class of citizens these; not a very hopeful or salutary method of dealing with social iniquities this of theirs, however it may answer in respect to themselves and their personal affairs! But now there is the select small minority, in whom some sentiment of public spirit and human pity still survives, among whom, or not anywhere, the Good Cause may expect to find soldiers and servants: their method of proceeding, in these times, is also very strange. They embark in the “philanthropic movement;” they calculate that the miseries of the world can be cured by bringing the philanthropic movement to bear on them. To universal public misery, and universal neglect of the clearest public duties, let private charity superadd itself: there will thus be some balance restored, and maintained again; thus, — or by what conceivable method? On these terms they, for their part, embark in the sacred cause; resolute to cure a world’s woes by rose-water; desperately bent on trying to the uttermost that mild method. It seems not to have struck these good men that no world, or thing here below, ever fell into misery, without having first fallen into folly, into sin against the Supreme Ruler of it, by adopting as a law of conduct what was not a law, but the reverse of one; and that, till its folly, till its sin be cast out of it, there is not the smallest hope of its misery going, — that not for all the charity and rose-water in the world will its misery try to go till then!

This is a sad error; all the sadder as it is the error chiefly of the more humane and noble-minded of our generation; among whom, as we said, or elsewhere not at all, the cause of real Reform must expect its servants. At present, and for a long while past, whatsoever young soul awoke in England with some disposition towards generosity and social heroism, or at lowest with some intimation of the beauty of such a disposition, — he, in whom the poor world might have looked for a Reformer, and valiant mender of its foul ways, was almost sure to become a Philanthropist, reforming merely by this rose-water method. To admit that the world’s ways are foul, and not the ways of God the Maker, but of Satan the Destroyer, many of them, and that they must be mended or we all die; that if huge misery prevails, huge cowardice, falsity, disloyalty, universal Injustice high and low, have still longer prevailed, and must straightway try to cease prevailing: this is what no visible reformer has yet thought of doing: All so-called “reforms” hitherto are grounded either on openly admitted egoism (cheap bread to the cotton-spinner, voting to those that have no vote, and the like), which does not point towards very celestial developments of the Reform movement; or else upon this of remedying social injustices by indiscriminate contributions of philanthropy, a method surely still more unpromising. Such contributions, being indiscriminate, are but a new injustice; these will never lead to reform, or abolition of injustice, whatever else they lead to!

Not by that method shall we “get round Cape Horn,” by never such unanimity of voting, under the most approved Phantasm Captains! It is miserable to see. Having, as it were, quite lost our way round Cape Horn, and being sorely “admonished” by the Iceberg and other dumb councillors, the pilots, — instead of taking to their sextants, and asking with a seriousness unknown for a long while, What the Laws of wind and water, and of Earth and of Heaven are, — decide that now, in these new circumstances, they will, to the worthy and unworthy, serve out a double allowance of grog. In this way they hope to do it, — by steering on the old wrong tack, and serving out more and more, copiously what little aqua vitae may be still on board! Philanthropy, emancipation, and pity for human calamity is very beautiful; but the deep oblivion of the Law of Right and Wrong; this “indiscriminate mashing up of Right and Wrong into a patent treacle” of the Philanthropic movement, is by no means beautiful; this, on the contrary, is altogether ugly and alarming.

Truly if there be not something inarticulate among us, not yet uttered but pressing towards utterance, which is much wiser than anything we have lately articulated or brought into word or action, our outlooks are rather lamentable. The great majority of the powerful and active-minded, sunk in egoistic scepticisms, busied in chase of lucre, pleasure, and mere vulgar objects, looking with indifference on the world’s woes, and passing carelessly by on the other side; and the select minority, of whom better might have been expected, bending all their strength to cure them by methods which can only make bad worse, and in the end render cure hopeless. A blind loquacious pruriency of indiscriminate Philanthropism substituting itself, with much self-laudation, for the silent divinely awful sense of Right and Wrong; — testifying too clearly that here is no longer a divine sense of Right and Wrong; that, in the smoke of this universal, and alas inevitable and indispensable revolutionary fire, and burning up of worn-out rags of which the world is full, our life-atmosphere has (for the time) become one vile London fog, and the eternal loadstars are gone out for us! Gone out; — yet very visible if you can get above the fog; still there in their place, and quite the same as they always were! To whoever does still know of loadstars, the proceedings, which expand themselves daily, of these sublime philanthropic associations, and “universal sluggard-and-scoundrel protection-societies,” are a perpetual affliction. With their emancipations and abolition principles, and reigns of brotherhood and new methods of love, they have done great things in the White and in the Black World, during late years; and are preparing for greater.

In the interest of human reform, if there is ever to be any reform, and return to prosperity or to the possibility of prospering, it is urgent that the nonsense of all this (and it is mostly nonsense, but not quite) should be sent about its business straightway, and forbidden to deceive the well-meaning souls among us any more. Reform, if we will understand that divine word, cannot begin till then. One day, I do know, this, as is the doom of all nonsense, will be drummed out of the world, with due placard stuck on its back, and the populace flinging dead cats at it: but whether soon or not, is by no means so certain. I rather guess, not at present, not quite soon. Fraternity, in other countries, has gone on, till it found itself unexpectedly manipulating guillotines by its chosen Robespierres, and become a fraternity like Cain’s. Much to its amazement! For in fact it is not all nonsense; there is an infinitesimal fraction of sense in it withal; which is so difficult to disengage; — which must be disengaged, and laid hold of, before Fraternity can vanish.

But to our subject, — the Model Prison, and the strange theory of life now in action there. That, for the present, is my share in the wide adventure of Philanthropism; the world’s share, and how and when it is to be liquidated and ended, rests with the Supreme Destinies.

Several months ago, some friends took me with them to see one of the London Prisons; a Prison of the exemplary or model kind. An immense circuit of buildings; cut out, girt with a high ring-wall, from the lanes and streets of the quarter, which is a dim and crowded one. Gateway as to a fortified place; then a spacious court, like the square of a city; broad staircases, passages to interior courts; fronts of stately architecture all round. It lodges some thousand or twelve hundred prisoners, besides the officers of the establishment. Surely one of the most perfect buildings, within the compass of London. We looked at the apartments, sleeping-cells, dining-rooms, working-rooms, general courts or special and private: excellent all, the ne-plus-ultra of human care and ingenuity; in my life I never saw so clean a building; probably no Duke in England lives in a mansion of such perfect and thorough cleanness.

The bread, the cocoa, soup, meat, all the various sorts of food, in their respective cooking-places, we tasted: found them of excellence superlative. The prisoners sat at work, light work, picking oakum, and the like, in airy apartments with glass roofs, of agreeable temperature and perfect ventilation; silent, or at least conversing only by secret signs: others were out, taking their hour of promenade in clean flagged courts: methodic composure, cleanliness, peace, substantial wholesome comfort reigned everywhere supreme. The women in other apartments, some notable murderesses among them, all in the like state of methodic composure and substantial wholesome comfort, sat sewing: in long ranges of wash-houses, drying-houses and whatever pertains to the getting-up of clean linen, were certain others, with all conceivable mechanical furtherances, not too arduously working. The notable murderesses were, though with great precautions of privacy, pointed out to us; and we were requested not to look openly at them, or seem to notice them at all, as it was found to “cherish their vanity” when visitors looked at them. Schools too were there; intelligent teachers of both sexes, studiously instructing the still ignorant of these thieves.

From an inner upper room or gallery, we looked down into a range of private courts, where certain Chartist Notabilities were undergoing their term. Chartist Notability First struck me very much; I had seen him about a year before, by involuntary accident and much to my disgust, magnetizing a silly young person; and had noted well the unlovely voracious look of him, his thick oily skin, his heavy dull-burning eyes, his greedy mouth, the dusky potent insatiable animalism that looked out of every feature of him: a fellow adequate to animal-magnetize most things, I did suppose; — and here was the post I now found him arrived at. Next neighbor to him was Notability Second, a philosophic or literary Chartist; walking rapidly to and fro in his private court, a clean, high-walled place; the world and its cares quite excluded, for some months to come: master of his own time and spiritual resources to, as I supposed, a really enviable extent. What “literary man” to an equal extent! I fancied I, for my own part, so left with paper and ink, and all taxes and botherations shut out from me, could have written such a Book as no reader will here ever get of me. Never, O reader, never here in a mere house with taxes and botherations. Here, alas, one has to snatch one’s poor Book, bit by bit, as from a conflagration; and to think and live, comparatively, as if the house were not one’s own, but mainly the world’s and the devil’s. Notability Second might have filled one with envy.

The Captain of the place, a gentleman of ancient Military or Royal–Navy habits, was one of the most perfect governors; professionally and by nature zealous for cleanliness, punctuality, good order of every kind; a humane heart and yet a strong one; soft of speech and manner, yet with an inflexible rigor of command, so far as his limits went: “iron hand in a velvet glove,” as Napoleon defined it. A man of real worth, challenging at once love and respect: the light of those mild bright eyes seemed to permeate the place as with an all-pervading vigilance, and kindly yet victorious illumination; in the soft definite voice it was as if Nature herself were promulgating her orders, gentlest mildest orders, which however, in the end, there would be no disobeying, which in the end there would be no living without fulfilment of. A true “aristos,” and commander of men. A man worthy to have commanded and guided forward, in good ways, twelve hundred of the best common-people in London or the world: he was here, for many years past, giving all his care and faculty to command, and guide forward in such ways as there were, twelve hundred of the worst. I looked with considerable admiration on this gentleman; and with considerable astonishment, the reverse of admiration, on the work he had here been set upon.

This excellent Captain was too old a Commander to complain of anything; indeed he struggled visibly the other way, to find in his own mind that all here was best; but I could sufficiently discern that, in his natural instincts, if not mounting up to the region of his thoughts, there was a continual protest going on against much of it; that nature and all his inarticulate persuasion (however much forbidden to articulate itself) taught him the futility and unfeasibility of the system followed here. The Visiting Magistrates, he gently regretted rather than complained, had lately taken his tread-wheel from him, men were just now pulling it down; and how he was henceforth to enforce discipline on these bad subjects, was much a difficulty with him. “They cared for nothing but the tread-wheel, and for having their rations cut short:” of the two sole penalties, hard work and occasional hunger, there remained now only one, and that by no means the better one, as he thought. The “sympathy” of visitors, too, their “pity” for his interesting scoundrel-subjects, though he tried to like it, was evidently no joy to this practical mind. Pity, yes: but pity for the scoundrel-species? For those who will not have pity on themselves, and will force the Universe and the Laws of Nature to have no “pity on” them? Meseems I could discover fitter objects of pity!

In fact it was too clear, this excellent man had got a field for his faculties which, in several respects, was by no means the suitable one. To drill twelve hundred scoundrels by “the method of kindness,” and of abolishing your very tread-wheel, — how could any commander rejoice to have such a work cut out for him? You had but to look in the faces of these twelve hundred, and despair, for most part, of ever “commanding” them at all. Miserable distorted blockheads, the generality; ape-faces, imp-faces, angry dog-faces, heavy sullen ox-faces; degraded underfoot perverse creatures, sons of indocility, greedy mutinous darkness, and in one word, of STUPIDITY, which is the general mother of such. Stupidity intellectual and stupidity moral (for the one always means the other, as you will, with surprise or not, discover if you look) had borne this progeny: base-natured beings, on whom in the course of a maleficent subterranean life of London Scoundrelism, the Genius of Darkness (called Satan, Devil, and other names) had now visibly impressed his seal, and had marked them out as soldiers of Chaos and of him, — appointed to serve in his Regiments, First of the line, Second ditto, and so on in their order. Him, you could perceive, they would serve; but not easily another than him. These were the subjects whom our brave Captain and Prison–Governor was appointed to command, and reclaim to other service, by “the method of love,” with a tread-wheel abolished.

Hopeless forevermore such a project. These abject, ape, wolf, ox, imp and other diabolic-animal specimens of humanity, who of the very gods could ever have commanded them by love? A collar round the neck, and a cart-whip flourished over the back; these, in a just and steady human hand, were what the gods would have appointed them; and now when, by long misconduct and neglect, they had sworn themselves into the Devil’s regiments of the line, and got the seal of Chaos impressed on their visage, it was very doubtful whether even these would be of avail for the unfortunate commander of twelve hundred men! By “love,” without hope except of peaceably teasing oakum, or fear except of a temporary loss of dinner, he was to guide these men, and wisely constrain them, — whitherward? No-whither: that was his goal, if you will think well of it; that was a second fundamental falsity in his problem. False in the warp and false in the woof, thought one of us; about as false a problem as any I have seen a good man set upon lately! To guide scoundrels by “love;” that is a false woof, I take it, a method that will not hold together; hardly for the flower of men will love alone do; and for the sediment and scoundrelism of men it has not even a chance to do. And then to guide any class of men, scoundrel or other, No-whither, which was this poor Captain’s problem, in this Prison with oakum for its one element of hope or outlook, how can that prosper by “love” or by any conceivable method? That is a warp wholly false. Out of which false warp, or originally false condition to start from, combined and daily woven into by your false woof, or methods of “love” and such like, there arises for our poor Captain the falsest of problems, and for a man of his faculty the unfairest of situations. His problem was, not to command good men to do something, but bad men to do (with superficial disguises) nothing.

On the whole, what a beautiful Establishment here fitted up for the accommodation of the scoundrel-world, male and female! As I said, no Duke in England is, for all rational purposes which a human being can or ought to aim at, lodged, fed, tended, taken care of, with such perfection. Of poor craftsmen that pay rates and taxes from their day’s wages, of the dim millions that toil and moil continually under the sun, we know what is the lodging and the tending. Of the Johnsons, Goldsmiths, lodged in their squalid garrets; working often enough amid famine, darkness, tumult, dust and desolation, what work they have to do:— of these as of “spiritual backwoodsmen,” understood to be preappointed to such a life, and like the pigs to killing, “quite used to it,” I say nothing. But of Dukes, which Duke, I could ask, has cocoa, soup, meat, and food in general made ready, so fit for keeping him in health, in ability to do and to enjoy? Which Duke has a house so thoroughly clean, pure and airy; lives in an element so wholesome, and perfectly adapted to the uses of soul and body as this same, which is provided here for the Devil’s regiments of the line? No Duke that I have ever known. Dukes are waited on by deleterious French cooks, by perfunctory grooms of the chambers, and expensive crowds of eye-servants, more imaginary than real: while here, Science, Human Intellect and Beneficence have searched and sat studious, eager to do their very best; they have chosen a real Artist in Governing to see their best, in all details of it, done. Happy regiments of the line, what soldier to any earthly or celestial Power has such a lodging and attendance as you here? No soldier or servant direct or indirect of God or of man, in this England at present. Joy to you, regiments of the line. Your Master, I am told, has his Elect, and professes to be “Prince of the Kingdoms of this World;” and truly I see he has power to do a good turn to those he loves, in England at least. Shall we say, May he, may the Devil give you good of it, ye Elect of Scoundrelism? I will rather pass by, uttering no prayer at all; musing rather in silence on the singular “worship of God,” or practical “reverence done to Human Worth” (which is the outcome and essence of all real “worship” whatsoever) among the Posterity of Adam at this day.

For all round this beautiful Establishment, or Oasis of Purity, intended for the Devil’s regiments of the line, lay continents of dingy poor and dirty dwellings, where the unfortunate not yet enlisted into that Force were struggling manifoldly, — in their workshops, in their marble-yards and timber-yards and tan-yards, in their close cellars, cobbler-stalls, hungry garrets, and poor dark trade-shops with red-herrings and tobacco-pipes crossed in the window, — to keep the Devil out-of-doors, and not enlist with him. And it was by a tax on these that the Barracks for the regiments of the line were kept up. Visiting Magistrates, impelled by Exeter Hall, by Able–Editors, and the Philanthropic Movement of the Age, had given orders to that effect. Rates on the poor servant of God and of her Majesty, who still serves both in his way, painfully selling red-herrings; rates on him and his red-herrings to boil right soup for the Devil’s declared Elect! Never in my travels, in any age or clime, had I fallen in with such Visiting Magistrates before. Reserved they, I should suppose, for these ultimate or penultimate ages of the world, rich in all prodigies, political, spiritual, — ages surely with such a length of ears as was never paralleled before.

If I had a commonwealth to reform or to govern, certainly it should not be the Devil’s regiments of the line that I would first of all concentrate my attention on! With them I should be apt so make rather brief work; to them one would apply the besom, try to sweep them, with some rapidity into the dust-bin, and well out of one’s road, I should rather say. Fill your thrashing-floor with docks, ragweeds, mugworths, and ply your flail upon them, — that is not the method to obtain sacks of wheat. Away, you; begone swiftly, ye regiments of the line: in the name of God and of His poor struggling servants, sore put to it to live in these bad days, I mean to rid myself of you with some degree of brevity. To feed you in palaces, to hire captains and schoolmasters and the choicest spiritual and material artificers to expend their industries on you, No, by the Eternal! I have quite other work for that class of artists; Seven-and-twenty Millions of neglected mortals who have not yet quite declared for the Devil. Mark it, my diabolic friends, I mean to lay leather on the backs of you, collars round the necks of you; and will teach you, after the example of the gods, that this world is not your inheritance, or glad to see you in it. You, ye diabolic canaille, what has a Governor much to do with you? You, I think, he will rather swiftly dismiss from his thoughts, — which have the whole celestial and terrestrial for their scope, and not the subterranean of scoundreldom alone. You, I consider, he will sweep pretty rapidly into some Norfolk Island, into some special Convict Colony or remote domestic Moorland, into some stone-walled Silent–System, under hard drill-sergeants, just as Rhadamanthus, and inflexible as he, and there leave you to reap what you have sown; he meanwhile turning his endeavors to the thousand-fold immeasurable interests of men and gods, — dismissing the one extremely contemptible interest of scoundrels; sweeping that into the cesspool, tumbling that over London Bridge, in a very brief manner, if needful! Who are you, ye thriftless sweepings of Creation, that we should forever be pestered with you? Have we no work to do but drilling Devil’s regiments of the line?

If I had schoolmasters, my benevolent friend, do you imagine I would set them on teaching a set of unteachables, who as you perceive have already made up their mind that black is white, — that the Devil namely is the advantageous Master to serve in this world? My esteemed Benefactor of Humanity, it shall be far from me. Minds open to that particular conviction are not the material I like to work upon. When once my schoolmasters have gone over all the other classes of society from top to bottom; and have no other soul to try with teaching, all being thoroughly taught, — I will then send them to operate on these regiments of the line: then, and, assure yourself, never till then. The truth is, I am sick of scoundreldom, my esteemed Benefactor; it always was detestable to me; and here where I find it lodged in palaces and waited on by the benevolent of the world, it is more detestable, not to say insufferable to me than ever.

Of Beneficence, Benevolence, and the people that come together to talk on platforms and subscribe five pounds, I will say nothing here; indeed there is not room here for the twentieth part of what were to be said of them. The beneficence, benevolence, and sublime virtue which issues in eloquent talk reported in the Newspapers, with the subscription of five pounds, and the feeling that one is a good citizen and ornament to society, — concerning this, there were a great many unexpected remarks to be made; but let this one, for the present occasion, suffice:—

My sublime benevolent friends, don’t you perceive, for one thing, that here is a shockingly unfruitful investment for your capital of Benevolence; precisely the worst, indeed, which human ingenuity could select for you? “Laws are unjust, temptations great,” &c. &c.: alas, I know it, and mourn for it, and passionately call on all men to help in altering it. But according to every hypothesis as to the law, and the temptations and pressures towards vice, here are the individuals who, of all the society, have yielded to said pressure. These are of the worst substance for enduring pressure! The others yet stand and make resistance to temptation, to the law’s injustice; under all the perversities and strangling impediments there are, the rest of the society still keep their feet, and struggle forward, marching under the banner of Cosmos, of God and Human Virtue; these select Few, as I explain to you, are they who have fallen to Chaos, and are sworn into certain regiments of the line. A superior proclivity to Chaos is declared in these, by the very fact of their being here! Of all the generation we live in, these are the worst stuff. These, I say, are the Elixir of the Infatuated among living mortals: if you want the worst investment for your Benevolence, here you accurately have it. O my surprising friends! Nowhere so as here can you be certain that a given quantity of wise teaching bestowed, of benevolent trouble taken, will yield zero, or the net Minimum of return. It is sowing of your wheat upon Irish quagmires; laboriously harrowing it in upon the sand of the seashore. O my astonishing benevolent friends!

Yonder, in those dingy habitations, and shops of red herring and tobacco-pipes, where men have not yet quite declared for the Devil; there, I say, is land: here is mere sea-beach. Thither go with your benevolence, thither to those dingy caverns of the poor; and there instruct and drill and manage, there where some fruit may come from it. And, above all and inclusive of all, cannot you go to those Solemn human Shams, Phantasm Captains, and Supreme Quacks that ride prosperously in every thoroughfare; and with severe benevolence, ask them, What they are doing here? They are the men whom it would behoove you to drill a little, and tie to the halberts in a benevolent manner, if you could! “We cannot,” say you? Yes, my friends, to a certain extent you can. By many well-known active methods, and by all manner of passive methods, you can. Strive thitherward, I advise you; thither, with whatever social effort there may lie in you! The well-head and “consecrated” thrice-accursed chief fountain of all those waters of bitterness, — it is they, those Solemn Shams and Supreme Quacks of yours, little as they or you imagine it! Them, with severe benevolence, put a stop to; them send to their Father, far from the sight of the true and just, — if you would ever see a just world here!

What sort of reformers and workers are you, that work only on the rotten material? That never think of meddling with the material while it continues sound; that stress it and strain it with new rates and assessments, till once it has given way and declared itself rotten; whereupon you snatch greedily at it, and say, Now let us try to do some good upon it! You mistake in every way, my friends: the fact is, you fancy yourselves men of virtue, benevolence, what not; and you are not even men of sincerity and honest sense. I grieve to say it; but it is true. Good from you, and your operations, is not to be expected. You may go down!

Howard is a beautiful Philanthropist, eulogized by Burke, and in most men’s minds a sort of beatified individual. How glorious, having finished off one’s affairs in Bedfordshire, or in fact finding them very dull, inane, and worthy of being quitted and got away from, to set out on a cruise, over the Jails first of Britain; then, finding that answer, over the Jails of the habitable Globe! “A voyage of discovery, a circum-navigation of charity; to collate distresses, to gauge wretchedness, to take the dimensions of human misery:” really it is very fine. Captain Cook’s voyage for the Terra Australis, Ross’s, Franklin’s for the ditto Borealis: men make various cruises and voyages in this world, — for want of money, want of work, and one or the other want, — which are attended with their difficulties too, and do not make the cruiser a demigod. On the whole, I have myself nothing but respect, comparatively speaking, for the dull solid Howard, and his “benevolence,” and other impulses that set him cruising; Heaven had grown weary of Jail-fevers, and other the like unjust penalties inflicted upon scoundrels, — for scoundrels too, and even the very Devil, should not have more than their due; — and Heaven, in its opulence, created a man to make an end of that. Created him; disgusted him with the grocer business; tried him with Calvinism, rural ennui, and sore bereavement in his Bedfordshire retreat; — and, in short, at last got him set to his work, and in a condition to achieve it. For which I am thankful to Heaven; and do also, — with doffed hat, humbly salute John Howard. A practical solid man, if a dull and even dreary; “carries his weighing-scales in his pocket:” when your jailer answers, “The prisoner’s allowance of food is so and so; and we observe it sacredly; here, for example, is a ration.” — “Hey! A ration this?” and solid John suddenly produces his weighing-scales; weighs it, marks down in his tablets what the actual quantity of it is. That is the art and manner of the man. A man full of English accuracy; English veracity, solidity, simplicity; by whom this universal Jail-commission, not to be paid for in money but far otherwise, is set about, with all the slow energy, the patience, practicality, sedulity and sagacity common to the best English commissioners paid in money and not expressly otherwise.

For it is the glory of England that she has a turn for fidelity in practical work; that sham-workers, though very numerous, are rarer than elsewhere; that a man who undertakes work for you will still, in various provinces of our affairs, do it, instead of merely seeming to do it. John Howard, without pay in money, did this of the Jail-fever, as other Englishmen do work, in a truly workmanlike manner: his distinction was that he did it without money. He had not 500 pounds or 5,000 pounds a year of salary for it; but lived merely on his Bedfordshire estates, and as Snigsby irreverently expresses it, “by chewing his own cud.” And, sure enough, if any man might chew the cud of placid reflections, solid Howard, a mournful man otherwise, might at intervals indulge a little in that luxury. — No money-salary had he for his work; he had merely the income of his properties, and what he could derive from within. Is this such a sublime distinction, then? Well, let it pass at its value. There have been benefactors of mankind who had more need of money than he, and got none too. Milton, it is known, did his Paradise Lost at the easy rate of five pounds. Kepler worked out the secret of the Heavenly Motions in a dreadfully painful manner; “going over the calculations sixty times;” and having not only no public money, but no private either; and, in fact, writing almanacs for his bread-and-water, while he did this of the Heavenly Motions; having no Bedfordshire estates; nothing but a pension of 18 pounds (which they would not pay him), the valuable faculty of writing almanacs, and at length the invaluable one of dying, when the Heavenly bodies were vanquished, and battle’s conflagration had collapsed into cold dark ashes, and the starvation reached too high a pitch for the poor man.

Howard is not the only benefactor that has worked without money for us; there have been some more, — and will be, I hope! For the Destinies are opulent; and send here and there a man into the world to do work, for which they do not mean to pay him in money. And they smite him beneficently with sore afflictions, and blight his world all into grim frozen ruins round him, — and can make a wandering Exile of their Dante, and not a soft-bedded Podesta of Florence, if they wish to get a Divine Comedy out of him. Nay that rather is their way, when they have worthy work for such a man; they scourge him manifoldly to the due pitch, sometimes nearly of despair, that he may search desperately for his work, and find it; they urge him on still with beneficent stripes when needful, as is constantly the case between whiles; and, in fact, have privately decided to reward him with beneficent death by and by, and not with money at all. O my benevolent friend, I honor Howard very much; but it is on this side idolatry a long way, not to an infinite, but to a decidedly finite extent! And you, — put not the modest noble Howard, a truly modest man, to the blush, by forcing these reflections on us!

Cholera Doctors, hired to dive into black dens of infection and despair, they, rushing about all day from lane to lane, with their life in their hand, are found to do their function; which is a much more rugged one than Howard’s. Or what say we, Cholera Doctors? Ragged losels gathered by beat of drum from the overcrowded streets of cities, and drilled a little and dressed in red, do not they stand fire in an uncensurable manner; and handsomely give their life, if needful, at the rate of a shilling per day? Human virtue, if we went down to the roots of it, is not so rare. The materials of human virtue are everywhere abundant as the light of the sun: raw materials, — O woe, and loss, and scandal thrice and threefold, that they so seldom are elaborated, and built into a result! that they lie yet unelaborated, and stagnant in the souls of wide-spread dreary millions, fermenting, festering; and issue at last as energetic vice instead of strong practical virtue! A Mrs. Manning “dying game,” — alas, is not that the foiled potentiality of a kind of heroine too? Not a heroic Judith, not a mother of the Gracchi now, but a hideous murderess, fit to be the mother of hyenas! To such extent can potentialities be foiled. Education, kingship, command, — where is it, whither has it fled? Woe a thousand times, that this, which is the task of all kings, captains, priests, public speakers, land-owners, book-writers, mill-owners, and persons possessing or pretending to possess authority among mankind, — is left neglected among them all; and instead of it so little done but protocolling, black-or-white surplicing, partridge-shooting, parliamentary eloquence and popular twaddle-literature; with such results as we see! —

Howard abated the Jail-fever; but it seems to me he has been the innocent cause of a far more distressing fever which rages high just now; what we may call the Benevolent–Platform Fever. Howard is to be regarded as the unlucky fountain of that tumultuous frothy ocean-tide of benevolent sentimentality, “abolition of punishment,” all-absorbing “prison-discipline,” and general morbid sympathy, instead of hearty hatred, for scoundrels; which is threatening to drown human society as in deluges, and leave, instead of an “edifice of society” fit for the habitation of men, a continent of fetid ooze inhabitable only by mud-gods and creatures that walk upon their belly. Few things more distress a thinking soul at this time.

Most sick am I, O friends, of this sugary disastrous jargon of philanthropy, the reign of love, new era of universal brotherhood, and not Paradise to the Well-deserving but Paradise to All-and-sundry, which possesses the benighted minds of men and women in our day. My friends, I think you are much mistaken about Paradise! “No Paradise for anybody: he that cannot do without Paradise, go his ways:” suppose you tried that for a while! I reckon that the safer version. Unhappy sugary brethren, this is all untrue, this other; contrary to the fact; not a tatter of it will hang together in the wind and weather of fact. In brotherhood with the base and foolish I, for one, do not mean to live. Not in brotherhood with them was life hitherto worth much to me; in pity, in hope not yet quite swallowed of disgust, — otherwise in enmity that must last through eternity, in unappeasable aversion shall I have to live with these! Brotherhood? No, be the thought far from me. They are Adam’s children, — alas yes, I well remember that, and never shall forget it; hence this rage and sorrow. But they have gone over to the dragons; they have quitted the Father’s house, and set up with the Old Serpent: till they return, how can they be brothers? They are enemies, deadly to themselves and to me and to you, till then; till then, while hope yet lasts, I will treat them as brothers fallen insane; — when hope has ended, with tears grown sacred and wrath grown sacred, I will cut them off in the name of God! It is at my peril if I do not. With the servant of Satan I dare not continue in partnership. Him I must put away, resolutely and forever; “lest,” as it is written, “I become partaker of his plagues.”

Beautiful Black Peasantry, who have fallen idle and have got the Devil at your elbow; interesting White Felonry, who are not idle, but have enlisted into the Devil’s regiments of the line, — know that my benevolence for you is comparatively trifling! What I have of that divine feeling is due to others, not to you. A “universal Sluggard-and-Scoundrel Protection Society” is not the one I mean to institute in these times, where so much wants protection, and is sinking to sad issues for want of it! The scoundrel needs no protection. The scoundrel that will hasten to the gallows, why not rather clear the way for him! Better he reach his goal and outgate by the natural proclivity, than be so expensively dammed up and detained, poisoning everything as he stagnates and meanders along, to arrive at last a hundred times fouler, and swollen a hundred times bigger! Benevolent men should reflect on this. — And you Quashee, my pumpkin, — (not a bad fellow either, this poor Quashee, when tolerably guided!) — idle Quashee, I say you must get the Devil sent away from your elbow, my poor dark friend! In this world there will be no existence for you otherwise. No, not as the brother of your folly will I live beside you. Please to withdraw out of my way, if I am not to contradict your folly, and amend it, and put it in the stocks if it will not amend. By the Eternal Maker, it is on that footing alone that you and I can live together! And if you had respectable traditions dated from beyond Magna Charta, or from beyond the Deluge, to the contrary, and written sheepskins that would thatch the face of the world, — behold I, for one individual, do not believe said respectable traditions, nor regard said written sheepskins except as things which you, till you grow wiser, will believe. Adieu, Quashee; I will wish you better guidance than you have had of late.

On the whole, what a reflection is it that we cannot bestow on an unworthy man any particle of our benevolence, our patronage, or whatever resource is ours, — without withdrawing it, it and all that will grow of it, from one worthy, to whom it of right belongs! We cannot, I say; impossible; it is the eternal law of things. Incompetent Duncan M’Pastehorn, the hapless incompetent mortal to whom I give the cobbling of my boots, — and cannot find in my heart to refuse it, the poor drunken wretch having a wife and ten children; he withdraws the job from sober, plainly competent, and meritorious Mr. Sparrowbill, generally short of work too; discourages Sparrowbill; teaches him that he too may as well drink and loiter and bungle; that this is not a scene for merit and demerit at all, but for dupery, and whining flattery, and incompetent cobbling of every description; — clearly tending to the ruin of poor Sparrowbill! What harm had Sparrowbill done me that I should so help to ruin him? And I couldn’t save the insalvable M’Pastehorn; I merely yielded him, for insufficient work, here and there a half-crown, — which he oftenest drank. And now Sparrowbill also is drinking!

Justice, Justice: woe betides us everywhere when, for this reason or for that, we fail to do justice! No beneficence, benevolence, or other virtuous contribution will make good the want. And in what a rate of terrible geometrical progression, far beyond our poor computation, any act of Injustice once done by us grows; rooting itself ever anew, spreading ever anew, like a banyan-tree, — blasting all life under it, for it is a poison-tree! There is but one thing needed for the world; but that one is indispensable. Justice, Justice, in the name of Heaven; give us Justice, and we live; give us only counterfeits of it, or succedanea for it, and we die!

Oh, this universal syllabub of philanthropic twaddle! My friend, it is very sad, now when Christianity is as good as extinct in all hearts, to meet this ghastly-Phantasm of Christianity parading through almost all. “I will clean your foul thoroughfares, and make your Devil’s-cloaca of a world into a garden of Heaven,” jabbers this Phantasm, itself a phosphorescence and unclean! The worst, it is written, comes from corruption of the best:— Semitic forms now lying putrescent, dead and still unburied, this phosphorescence rises. I say sometimes, such a blockhead Idol, and miserable White Mumbo-jumbo, fashioned out of deciduous sticks and cast clothes, out of extinct cants and modern sentimentalisms, as that which they sing litanies to at Exeter Hall and extensively elsewhere, was perhaps never set up by human folly before. Unhappy creatures, that is not the Maker of the Universe, not that, look one moment at the Universe, and see! That is a paltry Phantasm, engendered in your own sick brain; whoever follows that as a Reality will fall into the ditch.

Reform, reform, all men see and feel, is imperatively needed. Reform must either be got, and speedily, or else we die: and nearly all the men that speak, instruct us, saying, “Have you quite done your interesting Negroes in the Sugar Islands? Rush to the Jails, then, O ye reformers; snatch up the interesting scoundrel-population there, to them be nursing-fathers and nursing-mothers. And oh, wash, and dress, and teach, and recover to the service of Heaven these poor lost souls: so, we assure you, will society attain the needful reform, and life be still possible in this world.” Thus sing the oracles everywhere; nearly all the men that speak, though we doubt not, there are, as usual, immense majorities consciously or unconsciously wiser who hold their tongue. But except this of whitewashing the scoundrel-population, one sees little “reform” going on. There is perhaps some endeavor to do a little scavengering; and, as the all-including point, to cheapen the terrible cost of Government: but neither of these enterprises makes progress, owing to impediments.

“Whitewash your scoundrel-population; sweep out your abominable gutters (if not in the name of God, ye brutish slatterns, then in the name of Cholera and the Royal College of Surgeons): do these two things; — and observe, much cheaper if you please!” — Well, here surely is an Evangel of Freedom, and real Program of a new Era. What surliest misanthrope would not find this world lovely, were these things done: scoundrels whitewashed; some degree of scavengering upon the gutters; and at a cheap rate, thirdly? That surely is an occasion on which, if ever on any, the Genius of Reform may pipe all hands! — Poor old Genius of Reform; bedrid this good while; with little but broken ballot-boxes, and tattered stripes of Benthamee Constitutions lying round him; and on the walls mere shadows of clothing-colonels, rates-in-aid, poor-law unions, defunct potato and the Irish difficulty, — he does not seem long for this world, piping to that effect?

Not the least disgusting feature of this Gospel according to the Platform is its reference to religion, and even to the Christian Religion, as an authority and mandate for what it does. Christian Religion? Does the Christian or any religion prescribe love of scoundrels, then? I hope it prescribes a healthy hatred of scoundrels; — otherwise what am I, in Heaven’s name, to make of it? Me, for one, it will not serve as a religion on those strange terms. Just hatred of scoundrels, I say; fixed, irreconcilable, inexorable enmity to the enemies of God: this, and not love for them, and incessant whitewashing, and dressing and cockering of them, must, if you look into it, be the backbone of any human religion whatsoever. Christian Religion! In what words can I address you, ye unfortunates, sunk in the slushy ooze till the worship of mud-serpents, and unutterable Pythons and poisonous slimy monstrosities, seems to you the worship of God? This is the rotten carcass of Christianity; this mal-odorous phosphorescence of post-mortem sentimentalism. O Heavens, from the Christianity of Oliver Cromwell, wrestling in grim fight with Satan and his incarnate Blackguardisms, Hypocrisies, Injustices, and legion of human and infernal angels, to that of eloquent Mr. Hesperus Fiddlestring denouncing capital punishments, and inculcating the benevolence on platforms, what a road have we travelled!

A foolish stump-orator, perorating on his platform mere benevolences, seems a pleasant object to many persons; a harmless or insignificant one to almost all. Look at him, however; scan him till you discern the nature of him, he is not pleasant, but ugly and perilous. That beautiful speech of his takes captive every long ear, and kindles into quasi-sacred enthusiasm the minds of not a few; but it is quite in the teeth of the everlasting facts of this Universe, and will come only to mischief for every party concerned. Consider that little spouting wretch. Within the paltry skin of him, it is too probable, he holds few human virtues, beyond those essential for digesting victual: envious, cowardly, vain, splenetic hungry soul; what heroism, in word or thought or action, will you ever get from the like of him? He, in his necessity, has taken into the benevolent line; warms the cold vacuity of his inner man to some extent, in a comfortable manner, not by silently doing some virtue of his own, but by fiercely recommending hearsay pseudo-virtues and respectable benevolences to other people. Do you call that a good trade? Long-eared fellow-creatures, more or less resembling himself, answer, “Hear, hear! Live Fiddlestring forever!” Wherefrom follow Abolition Congresses, Odes to the Gallows; — perhaps some dirty little Bill, getting itself debated next Session in Parliament, to waste certain nights of our legislative Year, and cause skipping in our Morning Newspaper, till the abortion can be emptied out again and sent fairly floating down the gutters.

Not with entire approbation do I, for one, look on that eloquent individual. Wise benevolence, if it had authority, would order that individual, I believe, to find some other trade: “Eloquent individual, pleading here against the Laws of Nature, — for many reasons, I bid thee close that mouth of thine. Enough of balderdash these long-eared have now drunk. Depart thou; do some benevolent work; at lowest, be silent. Disappear, I say; away, and jargon no more in that manner, lest a worst thing befall thee.” Exeat Fiddlestring! — Beneficent men are not they who appear on platforms, pleading against the Almighty Maker’s Laws; these are the maleficent men, whose lips it is pity that some authority cannot straightway shut. Pandora’s Box is not more baleful than the gifts these eloquent benefactors are pressing on us. Close your pedler’s pack, my friend; swift, away with it! Pernicious, fraught with mere woe and sugary poison is that kind of benevolence and beneficence.

Truly, one of the saddest sights in these times is that of poor creatures, on platforms, in parliaments and other situations, making and unmaking “Laws;” in whose soul, full of mere vacant hearsay and windy babble, is and was no image of Heaven’s Law; whom it never struck that Heaven had a Law, or that the Earth — could not have what kind of Law you pleased! Human Statute-books, accordingly, are growing horrible to think of. An impiety and poisonous futility every Law of them that is so made; all Nature is against it; it will and can do nothing but mischief wheresoever it shows itself in Nature: and such Laws lie now like an incubus over this Earth, so innumerable are they. How long, O Lord, how long! — O ye Eternities, Divine Silences, do you dwell no more, then, in the hearts of the noble and the true; and is there no inspiration of the Almighty any more vouchsafed us? The inspiration of the Morning Newspapers — alas, we have had enough of that, and are arrived at the gates of death by means of that!

“Really, one of the most difficult questions this we have in these times, What to do with our criminals?” blandly observed a certain Law-dignitary, in my hearing once, taking the cigar from his mouth, and pensively smiling over a group of us under the summer beech-tree, as Favonius carried off the tobacco-smoke; and the group said nothing, only smiled and nodded, answering by new tobacco-clouds. “What to do with our criminals?” asked the official Law-dignitary again, as if entirely at a loss. — “I suppose,” said one ancient figure not engaged in smoking, “the plan would be to treat them according to the real law of the case; to make the Law of England, in respect of them, correspond to the Law of the Universe. Criminals, I suppose, would prove manageable in that way: if we could do approximately as God Almighty does towards them; in a word, if we could try to do Justice towards them.” — “I’ll thank you for a definition of Justice?” sneered the official person in a cheerily scornful and triumphant manner, backed by a slight laugh from the honorable company; which irritated the other speaker. — “Well, I have no pocket definition of Justice,” said he, “to give your Lordship. It has not quite been my trade to look for such a definition; I could rather fancy it had been your Lordship’s trade, sitting on your high place this long while. But one thing I can tell you: Justice always is, whether we define it or not. Everything done, suffered or proposed, in Parliament or out of it, is either just or else unjust; either is accepted by the gods and eternal facts, or is rejected by them. Your Lordship and I, with or without definition, do a little know Justice, I will hope; if we don’t both know it and do it, we are hourly travelling down towards — Heavens, must I name such a place! That is the place we are bound to, with all our trading-pack, and the small or extensive budgets of human business laid on us; and there, if we don’t know Justice, we, and all our budgets and Acts of Parliament, shall find lodging when the day is done!” — The official person, a polite man otherwise, grinned as he best could some semblance of a laugh, mirthful as that of the ass eating thistles, and ended in “Hah, oh, ah!” —

Indeed, it is wonderful to hear what account we at present give ourselves of the punishment of criminals. No “revenge” — O Heavens, no; all preachers on Sunday strictly forbid that; and even (at least on Sundays) prescribe the contrary of that. It is for the sake of “example,” that you punish; to “protect society” and its purse and skin; to deter the innocent from falling into crime; and especially withal, for the purpose of improving the poor criminal himself, — or at lowest, of hanging and ending him, that he may not grow worse. For the poor criminal is, to be “improved” if possible: against him no “revenge” even on week-days; nothing but love for him, and pity and help; poor fellow, is he not miserable enough? Very miserable, — though much less so than the Master of him, called Satan, is understood (on Sundays) to have long deservedly been!

My friends, will you permit me to say that all this, to one poor judgment among your number, is the mournfulest twaddle that human tongues could shake from them; that it has no solid foundation in the nature of things; and to a healthy human heart no credibility whatever. Permit me to say, only to hearts long drowned in dead Tradition, and for themselves neither believing nor disbelieving, could this seem credible. Think, and ask yourselves, in spite of all this preaching and perorating from the teeth outward! Hearts that are quite strangers to eternal Fact, and acquainted only at all hours with temporary Semblances parading about in a prosperous and persuasive condition; hearts that from their first appearance in this world have breathed since birth, in all spiritual matters, which means in all matters not pecuniary, the poisonous atmosphere of universal Cant, could believe such a thing. Cant moral, Cant religious, Cant political; an atmosphere which envelops all things for us unfortunates, and has long done; which goes beyond the Zenith and below the Nadir for us, and has as good as choked the spiritual life out of all of us, — God pity such wretches, with little or nothing real about them but their purse and their abdominal department! Hearts, alas, which everywhere except in the metallurgic and cotton-spinning provinces, have communed with no Reality, or awful Presence of a Fact, godlike or diabolic, in this Universe or this unfathomable Life at all. Hunger-stricken asphyxied hearts, which have nourished themselves on what they call religions, Christian religions. Good Heaven, once more fancy the Christian religion of Oliver Cromwell; or of some noble Christian man, whom you yourself may have been blessed enough, once, long since, in your life, to know! These are not untrue religions; they are the putrescences and foul residues of religions that are extinct, that have plainly to every honest nostril been dead some time, and the remains of which — O ye eternal Heavens, will the nostril never be delivered from them! — Such hearts, when they get upon platforms, and into questions not involving money, can “believe” many things! —

I take the liberty of asserting that there is one valid reason, and only one, for either punishing a man or rewarding him in this world; one reason, which ancient piety could well define: That you may do the will and commandment of God with regard to him; that you may do justice to him. This is your one true aim in respect of him; aim thitherward, with all your heart and all your strength and all your soul, thitherward, and not elsewhither at all! This aim is true, and will carry you to all earthly heights and benefits, and beyond the stars and Heavens. All other aims are purblind, illegitimate, untrue; and will never carry you beyond the shop-counter, nay very soon will prove themselves incapable of maintaining you even there. Find out what the Law of God is with regard to a man; make that your human law, or I say it will be ill with you, and not well! If you love your thief or murderer, if Nature and eternal Fact love him, then do as you are now doing. But if Nature and Fact do not love him? If they have set inexorable penalties upon him, and planted natural wrath against him in every god-created human heart, — then I advise you, cease, and change your hand.

Reward and punishment? Alas, alas, I must say you reward and punish pretty much alike! Your dignities, peerages, promotions, your kingships, your brazen statues erected in capital and county towns to our select demigods of your selecting, testify loudly enough what kind of heroes and hero-worshippers you are. Woe to the People that no longer venerates, as the emblem of God himself, the aspect of Human Worth; that no longer knows what human worth and unworth is! Sure as the Decrees of the Eternal, that People cannot come to good. By a course too clear, by a necessity too evident, that People will come into the hands of the unworthy; and either turn on its bad career, or stagger downwards to ruin and abolition. Does the Hebrew People prophetically sing “Ou’ clo’!” in all thoroughfares, these eighteen hundred years in vain?

To reward men according to their worth: alas, the perfection of this, we know, amounts to the millennium! Neither is perfect punishment, according to the like rule, to be attained, — nor even, by a legislator of these chaotic days, to be too zealously attempted. But when he does attempt it, — yes, when he summons out the Society to sit deliberative on this matter, and consult the oracles upon it, and solemnly settle it in the name of God; then, if never before, he should try to be a little in the right in settling it! — In regard to reward of merit, I do not bethink me of any attempt whatever, worth calling an attempt, on the part of modern Governments; which surely is an immense oversight on their part, and will one day be seen to have been an altogether fatal one. But as to the punishment of crime, happily this cannot be quite neglected. When men have a purse and a skin, they seek salvation at least for these; and the Four Pleas of the Crown are a thing that must and will be attended to. By punishment, capital or other, by treadmilling and blind rigor, or by whitewashing and blind laxity, the extremely disagreeable offences of theft and murder must be kept down within limits.

And so you take criminal caitiffs, murderers, and the like, and hang them on gibbets “for an example to deter others.” Whereupon arise friends of humanity, and object. With very great reason, as I consider, if your hypothesis be correct. What right have you to hang any poor creature “for an example”? He can turn round upon you and say, “Why make an ‘example’ of me, a merely ill-situated, pitiable man? Have you no more respect for misfortune? Misfortune, I have been told, is sacred. And yet you hang me, now I am fallen into your hands; choke the life out of me, for an example! Again I ask, Why make an example of me, for your own convenience alone?” — All “revenge” being out of the question, it seems to me the caitiff is unanswerable; and he and the philanthropic platforms have the logic all on their side.

The one answer to him is: “Caitiff, we hate thee; and discern for some six thousand years now, that we are called upon by the whole Universe to do it. Not with a diabolic but with a divine hatred. God himself, we have always understood, ‘hates sin,’ with a most authentic, celestial, and eternal hatred. A hatred, a hostility inexorable, unappeasable, which blasts the scoundrel, and all scoundrels ultimately, into black annihilation and disappearance from the sum of things. The path of it as the path of a flaming sword: he that has eyes may see it, walking inexorable, divinely beautiful and divinely terrible, through the chaotic gulf of Human History, and everywhere burning, as with unquenchable fire, the false and death-worthy from the true and life-worthy; making all Human History, and the Biography of every man, a God’s Cosmos in place of a Devil’s Chaos. So is it, in the end; even so, to every man who is a man, and not a mutinous beast, and has eyes to see. To thee, caitiff, these things were and are, quite incredible; to us they are too awfully certain, — the Eternal Law of this Universe, whether thou and others will believe it or disbelieve. We, not to be partakers in thy destructive adventure of defying God and all the Universe, dare not allow thee to continue longer among us. As a palpable deserter from the ranks where all men, at their eternal peril, are bound to be: palpable deserter, taken with the red band fighting thus against the whole Universe and its Laws, we — send thee back into the whole Universe, solemnly expel thee from our community; and will, in the name of God, not with joy and exultation, but with sorrow stern as thy own, hang thee on Wednesday next, and so end.”

Other ground on which to deliberately slay a disarmed fellow-man I can see none. Example, effects upon the public mind, effects upon this and upon that: all this is mere appendage and accident; of all this I make no attempt to keep account, — sensible that no arithmetic will or can keep account of it; that its “effects,” on this hand and on that, transcend all calculation. One thing, if I can calculate it, will include all, and produce beneficial effects beyond calculation, and no ill effect at all, anywhere or at any time: What the Law of the Universe, or Law of God, is with regard to this caitiff? That, by all sacred research and consideration, I will try to find out; to that I will come as near as human means admit; that shall be my exemplar and “example;” all men shall through me see that, and be profited beyond calculation by seeing it.

What this Law of the Universe, or Law made by God, is? Men at one time read it in their Bible. In many Bibles, Books, and authentic symbols and monitions of Nature and the World (of Fact, that is, and of Human Speech, or Wise Interpretation of Fact), there are still clear indications towards it. Most important it is, for this and for some other reasons, that men do, in some way, get to see it a little! And if no man could now see it by any Bible, there is written in the heart of every man an authentic copy of it direct from Heaven itself: there, if he have learnt to decipher Heaven’s writing, and can read the sacred oracles (a sad case for him if he altogether cannot), every born man may still find some copy of it.

“Revenge,” my friends! revenge, and the natural hatred of scoundrels, and the ineradicable tendency to revancher oneself upon them, and pay them what they have merited: this is forevermore intrinsically a correct, and even a divine feeling in the mind of every man. Only the excess of it is diabolic; the essence I say is manlike, and even godlike, — a monition sent to poor man by the Maker himself. Thou, poor reader, in spite of all this melancholy twaddle, and blotting out of Heaven’s sunlight by mountains of horsehair and officiality, hast still a human heart. If, in returning to thy poor peaceable dwelling-place, after an honest hard day’s work, thou wert to find, for example, a brutal scoundrel who for lucre or other object of his, had slaughtered the life that was dearest to thee; thy true wife, for example, thy true old mother, swimming in her blood; the human scoundrel, or two-legged wolf, standing over such a tragedy: I hope a man would have so much divine rage in his heart as to snatch the nearest weapon, and put a conclusion upon said human wolf, for one! A palpable messenger of Satan, that one; accredited by all the Devils, to be put an end to by all the children of God. The soul of every god-created man flames wholly into one divine blaze of sacred wrath at sight of such a Devil’s-messenger; authentic firsthand monition from the Eternal Maker himself as to what is next to be done. Do it, or be thyself an ally of Devil’s-messengers; a sheep for two-legged human wolves, well deserving to be eaten, as thou soon wilt be!

My humane friends, I perceive this same sacred glow of divine wrath, or authentic monition at first hand from God himself, to be the foundation for all Criminal Law, and Official horsehair-and-bombazine procedure against Scoundrels in this world. This first-hand gospel from the Eternities, imparted to every mortal, this is still, and will forever be, your sanction and commission for the punishment of human scoundrels. See well how you will translate this message from Heaven and the Eternities into a form suitable to this World and its Times. Let not violence, haste, blind impetuous impulse, preside in executing it; the injured man, invincibly liable to fall into these, shall not himself execute it: the whole world, in person of a Minister appointed for that end, and surrounded with the due solemnities and caveats, with bailiffs, apparitors, advocates, and the hushed expectation of all men, shall do it, as under the eye of God who made all men. How it shall be done? this is ever a vast question, involving immense considerations. Thus Edmund Burke saw, in the Two Houses of Parliament, with King, Constitution, and all manner of Civil–Lists, and Chancellors’ wigs and Exchequer budgets, only the “method of getting twelve just men put into a jury-box:” that, in Burke’s view, was the summary of what they were all meant for. How the judge will do it? Yes, indeed:— but let him see well that he does do it: for it is a thing that must by no means be left undone! A sacred gospel from the Highest: not to be smothered under horsehair and bombazine, or drowned in platform froth, or in any wise omitted or neglected, without the most alarming penalties to all concerned!

Neglect to treat the hero as hero, the penalties — which are inevitable too, and terrible to think of, as your Hebrew friends can tell you — may be some time in coming; they will only gradually come. Not all at once will your thirty thousand Needlewomen, your three million Paupers, your Connaught fallen into potential Cannibalism, and other fine consequences of the practice, come to light; — though come to light they will; and “Ou’ clo’!” itself may be in store for you, if you persist steadily enough. But neglect to treat even your declared scoundrel as scoundrel, this is the last consummation of the process, the drop by which the cup runs over; the penalties of this, most alarming, extensive, and such as you little dream of, will straightway very rapidly come. Dim oblivion of Right and Wrong, among the masses of your population, will come; doubts as to Right and Wrong, indistinct notion that Right and Wrong are not eternal, but accidental, and settled by uncertain votings and talkings, will come. Prurient influenza of Platform Benevolence, and “Paradise to All-and-sundry,” will come. In the general putrescence of your “religions,” as you call them, a strange new religion, named of Universal Love, with Sacraments mainly of — Divorce, with Balzac, Sue and Company for Evangelists, and Madame Sand for Virgin, will come, — and results fast following therefrom which will astonish you very much!

“The terrible anarchies of these years,” says Crabbe, in his Radiator, “are brought upon us by a necessity too visible. By the crime of Kings, — alas, yes; but by that of Peoples too. Not by the crime of one class, but by the fatal obscuration, and all but obliteration of the sense of Right and Wrong in the minds and practices of every class. What a scene in the drama of Universal History, this of ours! A world-wide loud bellow and bray of universal Misery; lowing, with crushed maddened heart, its inarticulate prayer to Heaven:— very pardonable to me, and in some of its transcendent developments, as in the grand French Revolution, most respectable and ever-memorable. For Injustice reigns everywhere; and this murderous struggle for what they call ‘Fraternity,’ and so forth has a spice of eternal sense in it, though so terribly disfigured! Amalgam of sense and nonsense; eternal sense by the grain, and temporary nonsense by the square mile: as is the habit with poor sons of men. Which pardonable amalgam, however, if it be taken as the pure final sense, I must warn you and all creatures, is unpardonable, criminal, and fatal nonsense; — with which I, for one, will take care not to concern myself!

Dogs should not be taught to eat leather, says the old adage: no; — and where, by general fault and error, and the inevitable nemesis of things, the universal kennel is set to diet upon leather; and from its keepers, its ‘Liberal Premiers,’ or whatever their title is, will accept or expect nothing else, and calls it by the pleasant name of progress, reform, emancipation, abolition-principles, and the like, — I consider the fate of said kennel and of said keepers to be a thing settled. Red republic in Phrygian nightcap, organization of labor a la Louis Blanc; street-barricades, and then murderous cannon-volleys a la Cavaignac and Windischgratz, follow out of one another, as grapes, must, new wine, and sour all-splitting vinegar do: vinegar is but vin-aigre, or the self-same ‘wine’ grown sharp! If, moreover, I find the Worship of Human Nobleness abolished in any country, and a new astonishing Phallus–Worship, with universal Balzac–Sand melodies and litanies in treble and in bass, established in its stead, what can I compute but that Nature, in horrible throes, will repugn against such substitution, — that, in short, the astonishing new Phallus–Worship, with its finer sensibilities of the heart, and ‘great satisfying loves,’ with its sacred kiss of peace for scoundrel and hero alike, with its all-embracing Brotherhood, and universal Sacrament of Divorce, will have to take itself away again!”

The Ancient Germans, it appears, had no scruple about public executions; on the contrary, they thought the just gods themselves might fitly preside over these; that these were a solemn and highest act of worship, if justly done. When a German man had done a crime deserving death, they, in solemn general assembly of the tribe, doomed him, and considered that Fate and all Nature had from the beginning doomed him, to die with ignominy. Certain crimes there were of a supreme nature; him that had perpetrated one of these, they believed to have declared himself a prince of scoundrels. Him once convicted they laid hold of, nothing doubting; bore him, after judgment, to the deepest convenient Peat-bog; plunged him in there, drove an oaken frame down over him, solemnly in the name of gods and men: “There, prince of scoundrels, that is what we have had to think of thee, on clear acquaintance; our grim good-night to thee is that! In the name of all the gods lie there, and be our partnership with thee dissolved henceforth. It will be better for us, we imagine!”

My friends, after all this beautiful whitewash and humanity and prison-discipline; and such blubbering and whimpering, and soft Litany to divine and also to quite other sorts of Pity, as we have had for a century now, — give me leave to admonish you that that of the Ancient Germans too was a thing inexpressibly necessary to keep in mind. If that is not kept in mind, the universal Litany to Pity is a mere universal nuisance, and torpid blasphemy against the gods. I do not much respect it, that purblind blubbering and litanying, as it is seen at present; and the litanying over scoundrels I go the length of disrespecting, and in some cases even of detesting. Yes, my friends, scoundrel is scoundrel: that remains forever a fact; and there exists not in the earth whitewash that can make the scoundrel a friend of this Universe; he remains an enemy if you spent your life in whitewashing him. He won’t whitewash; this one won’t. The one method clearly is, That, after fair trial, you dissolve partnership with him; send him, in the name of Heaven, whither he is striving all this while and have done with him. And, in a time like this, I would advise you, see likewise that you be speedy about it! For there is immense work, and of a far hopefuler sort, to be done elsewhere.

Alas, alas, to see once the “prince of scoundrels,” the Supreme Scoundrel, him whom of all men the gods liked worst, solemnly laid hold of, and hung upon the gallows in sight of the people; what a lesson to all the people! Sermons might be preached; the Son of Thunder and the Mouth of Gold might turn their periods now with some hope; for here, in the most impressive way, is a divine sermon acted. Didactic as no spoken sermon could be. Didactic, devotional too; — in awed solemnity, a recognition that Eternal Justice rules the world; that at the call of this, human pity shall fall silent, and man be stern as his Master and Mandatory is! — Understand too that except upon a basis of even such rigor, sorrowful, silent, inexorable as that of Destiny and Doom, there is no true pity possible. The pity that proves so possible and plentiful without that basis, is mere ignavia and cowardly effeminacy; maudlin laxity of heart, grounded on blinkard dimness of head — contemptible as a drunkard’s tears.

To see our Supreme Scoundrel hung upon the gallows, alas, that is far from us just now! There is a worst man in England, too, — curious to think of, — whom it would be inexpressibly advantageous to lay hold of, and hang, the first of all. But we do not know him with the least certainty, the least approach even to a guess, — such buzzards and dullards and poor children of the Dusk are we, in spite of our Statistics, Unshackled Presses, and Torches of Knowledge; — not eagles soaring sunward, not brothers of the lightnings and the radiances we; a dim horn-eyed, owl-population, intent mainly on the catching of mice! Alas, the supreme scoundrel, alike with the supreme hero, is very far from being known. Nor have we the smallest apparatus for dealing with either of them, if he were known. Our supreme scoundrel sits, I conjecture, well-cushioned, in high places, at this time; rolls softly through the world, and lives a prosperous gentleman; instead of sinking him in peat-bogs, we mount the brazen image of him on high columns: such is the world’s temporary judgment about its supreme scoundrels; a mad world, my masters. To get the supreme scoundrel always accurately the first hanged, this, which presupposes that the supreme hero were always the first promoted, this were precisely the millennium itself, clear evidence that the millennium had come: alas, we must forbear hope of this. Much water will run by before we see this.

And yet to quit all aim towards it; to go blindly floundering along, wrapt up in clouds of horsehair, bombazine, and sheepskin officiality, oblivious that there exists such an aim; this is indeed fatal. In every human law there must either exist such an aim, or else the law is not a human but a diabolic one. Diabolic, I say: no quantity of bombazine, or lawyers’ wigs, three-readings, and solemn trumpeting and bow-wowing in high places or in low, can hide from me its frightful infernal tendency; — bound, and sinking at all moments gradually to Gehenna, this “law;” and dragging down much with it! “To decree injustice by a law:” inspired Prophets have long since seen, what every clear soul may still see, that of all Anarchies and Devil-worships there is none like this; that this is the “Throne of Iniquity” set up in the name of the Highest, the human Apotheosis of Anarchy itself. “Quiet Anarchy,” you exultingly say? Yes; quiet Anarchy, which the longer it sits “quiet” will have the frightfuler account to settle at last. For every doit of the account, as I often say, will have to be settled one day, as sure as God lives. Principal, and compound interest rigorously computed; and the interest is at a terrible rate per cent in these cases! Alas, the aspect of certain beatified Anarchies, sitting “quiet;” and of others in a state of infernal explosion for sixty years back: this, the one view our Europe offers at present, makes these days very sad. —

My unfortunate philanthropic friends, it is this long-continued oblivion of the soul of law that has reduced the Criminal Question to such a pass among us. Many other things have come, and are coming, for the same sad reason, to a pass! Not the supreme scoundrel have our laws aimed at; but, in an uncertain fitful manner, at the inferior or lowest scoundrel, who robs shop-tills and puts the skin of mankind in danger. How can Parliament get through the Criminal Question? Parliament, oblivious of Heavenly Law, will find itself in hopeless reductio ad absurdum in regard to innumerable other questions, — in regard to all questions whatsoever by and by. There will be no existence possible for Parliament on these current terms. Parliament, in its law-makings, must really try to attain some vision again of what Heaven’s Laws are. A thing not easy to do; a thing requiring sad sincerity of heart, reverence, pious earnestness, valiant manful wisdom; — qualities not overabundant in Parliament just now, nor out of it, I fear.

Adieu, my friends. My anger against you is gone; my sad reflections on you, and on the depths to which you and I and all of us are sunk in these strange times, are not to be uttered at present. You would have saved the Sarawak Pirates, then? The Almighty Maker is wroth that the Sarawak cut-throats, with their poisoned spears, are away? What must his wrath be that the thirty thousand Needlewomen are still here, and the question of “prevenient grace” not yet settled! O my friends, in sad earnest, sad and deadly earnest, there much needs that God would mend all this, and that we should help him to mend it! — And don’t you think, for one thing, “Farmer Hodge’s horses” in the Sugar Islands are pretty well “emancipated” now? My clear opinion farther is, we had better quit the Scoundrel-province of Reform; better close that under hatches, in some rapid summary manner, and go elsewhither with our Reform efforts. A whole world, for want of Reform, is drowning and sinking; threatening to swamp itself into a Stygian quagmire, uninhabitable by any noble-minded man. Let us to the well-heads, I say; to the chief fountains of these waters of bitterness; and there strike home and dig! To puddle in the embouchures and drowned outskirts, and ulterior and ultimate issues and cloacas of the affair: what profit can there be in that? Nothing to be saved there; nothing to be fished up there, except, with endless peril and spread of pestilence, a miscellany of broken waifs and dead dogs! In the name of Heaven, quit that!

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Last updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 21:30