Caesar's Column, by Ignatius Donnelly

Chapter 40.

The Garden in the Mountains

[These concluding lines are from the journal of Gabriel Weltstein.]

Since my return home I have not been idle. In the first place, I collected and put together the letters I had written to my brother Heinrich, from New York. I did this because I thought they were important, as a picture of the destruction of civilization, and of the events which led up to it. I furthermore had them printed on our printing-press, believing that every succeeding century would make them more valuable to posterity; and that in time they would be treasured as we now treasure the glimpses of the world before the Deluge, contained in the Book of Genesis.

And I have concluded to still further preserve, in the pages of this journal, a record of events as they transpire.

As soon as I had explained to my family the causes of our return — for which they were in part prepared by my letters to Heinrich — and had made them acquainted with my wife and friends, I summoned a meeting of the inhabitants of our colony — there are about five thousand of them, men, women and children.

They all came, bringing baskets of provisions with them, as to a picnic. We met in an ancient grove upon a hillside. I spoke to them and told them the dreadful tale of the destruction of the world. I need not say that they were inexpressibly shocked by the awful narrative. Many of them wept bitterly, and some even cried out aloud — for they had left behind them, in Switzerland, many dear friends and relatives. I comforted them as best I could, by reminding them that the Helvetian Republic had survived a great many dynasties and revolutions; that they were not given to the luxuries and excesses that had wrecked the world, but were a primitive people, among whom labor had always remained honorable. Moreover, they were a warlike race, and their mountains were their fortifications; and they would, therefore, probably, be able to defend themselves against the invasion of the hungry and starving hordes who would range and ravage the earth.

The first question for us, I said, was to ascertain how to best protect ourselves from like dangers. We then proceeded to discuss the physical conformation of our country. It is a vast table-land, situated at a great height far above the tropical and miasmatic plains, and surrounded by mountains still higher, in which dwell the remnants of that curious white race first described by Stanley. The only access to our region from the lower country is by means of the ordinary wagon road which winds upward through a vast defile or gorge in the mountains. At one point the precipitous walls of this gorge approach so closely together that there is room for only two wagons to pass abreast. We determined to assemble all our men the next day at this place, and build up a high wall that would completely cut off communication with the external world, making the wall so thick and strong that it would be impossible for any force that was likely to come against us to batter it down.

This was successfully accomplished; and a smooth, straight wall, thirty feet high and about fifty broad at its widest point, now rises up between our colony and the external world. It was a melancholy reflection that we — human beings — were thus compelled to exclude our fellow-men.

We also stationed a guard at a high point near the wall, and commanding a view of its approaches for many miles; and we agreed upon a system of bale-fires (Bael fires), or signal beacons, to warn the whole settlement, in case of the approach of an enemy.

We next established a workshop, under the charge of Carl Jansen, in which he trained some of our young men in metal-working, and they proceeded to make a large supply of magazine rifles, so that every man in the settlement might be well armed. Carl is one of those quiet, unpretending men whose performance is always better than their promise; and he is a skillful worker in the metals. The iron and coal we found in abundance in our mountains. We also cast a number of powerful cannon, placed on very high wheels, and which could be fired vertically in case we were attacked by air-ships; — although I thought it probable that the secret of their manufacture would be lost to the world in the destruction of civilization. We, however, carefully housed the Demon under a shed, built for the purpose, intending, when we had time, to make other air-ships like it, with which to communicate with the external world, should we desire to do so.

Having taken all steps necessary to protect ourselves from others, we then began to devise means by which we might protect ourselves from ourselves; for the worst enemies of a people are always found in their own midst, in their passions and vanities. And the most dangerous foes of a nation do not advance with drums beating and colors flying, but creep upon it insidiously, with the noiseless feet of a fatal malady.

In this work I received great help from Max, and especially from his father. The latter had quite recovered the tone of his mind. He was familiar with all the philosophies of government, and he continued to be filled with an ardent desire to benefit mankind. Max had seemed, for some days after our arrival, to be seriously depressed, brooding over his own thoughts; and he seized eagerly upon the work I gave him to do, as if he would make up by service to our people for any injuries he had done the world. We held many consultations. For good purposes and honest instincts we may trust to the multitude; but for long-sighted thoughts of philanthropy, of statesmanship and statecraft, we must look to a few superior intellects. It is, however, rarely that the capacity to do good and the desire to do good are found united in one man.

When we had formulated our scheme of government we called the people together again; and after several days of debate it was substantially agreed upon.

In our constitution, we first of all acknowledged our dependence on Almighty God; believing that all good impulses on earth spring from his heart, and that no government can prosper which does not possess his blessing.

We decreed, secondly, a republican form of government. Every adult man and woman of sound mind is permitted to vote. We adopted a system of voting that we believed would insure perfect secrecy and prevent bribery — something like that which had already been in vogue, in some countries, before the revolution of the Proletariat.

The highest offense known to our laws is treason against the state, and this consists not only in levying war against the government, but in corrupting the voter or the office-holder; or in the voter or office-holder selling his vote or his services. For these crimes the penalty is death. But, as they are in their very nature secret offenses, we provide, in these cases only, for three forms of verdict: “guilty,” “not guilty” and “suspected.” This latter verdict applies to cases where the jury are morally satisfied, from the surrounding circumstances, that the man is guilty, although there is not enough direct and positive testimony to convict him. The jury then have the power — not as a punishment to the man, but for the safety of the community — to declare him incapable of voting or holding office for a period of not less than one nor more than five years. We rank bribery and corruption as high treason; because experience has demonstrated that they are more deadly in their consequences to a people than open war against the government, and many times more so than murder.

We decreed, next, universal and compulsory education. No one can vote who cannot read and write. We believe that one man’s ignorance should not countervail the just influence of another man’s intelligence. Ignorance is not only ruinous to the individual, but destructive to society. It is an epidemic which scatters death everywhere.

We abolish all private schools, except the higher institutions and colleges. We believe it to be essential to the peace and safety of the commonwealth that the children of all the people, rich and poor, should, during the period of growth, associate together. In this way, race, sectarian and caste prejudices are obliterated, and the whole community grow up together as brethren. Otherwise, in a generation or two, we shall have the people split up into hostile factions, fenced in by doctrinal bigotries, suspicious of one another, and antagonizing one another in politics, business and everything else.

But, as we believe that it is not right to cultivate the heads of the young to the exclusion of their hearts, we mingle with abstract knowledge a cult of morality and religion, to be agreed upon by the different churches; for there are a hundred points wherein they agree to one wherein they differ. And, as to the points peculiar to each creed, we require the children to attend school but five days in the week, thus leaving one day for the parents or pastors to take charge of their religious training in addition to the care given them on Sundays.

We abolish all interest on money, and punish with imprisonment the man who receives it.

The state owns all roads, streets, telegraph or telephone lines, railroads and mines, and takes exclusive control of the mails and express matter.

As these departments will in time furnish employment for a great many officials, who might be massed together by the party in power, and wielded for political purposes, we decree that any man who accepts office relinquishes, for the time being, his right of suffrage. The servants of the people have no right to help rule them; and he who thinks more of his right to vote than of an office is at liberty to refuse an appointment.

As we have not an hereditary nobility, as in England, or great geographical subdivisions, as in America, we are constrained, in forming our Congress or Parliament, to fall back upon a new device.

Our governing body, called The People, is divided into three branches. The first is elected exclusively by the producers, to-wit: the workmen in the towns and the farmers and mechanics in the country; and those they elect must belong to their own class. As these constitute the great bulk of the people, the body that represents them stands for the House of Commons in England, or the House of Representatives in America. The second branch is elected exclusively by and from the merchants and manufacturers, and all who are engaged in trade, or as employers of labor. The third branch, which is the smallest of the three, is selected by the authors, newspaper writers, artists, scientists, philosophers and literary people generally. This branch is expected to hold the balance of power, where the other two bodies cannot agree. It may be expected that they will be distinguished by broad and philanthropic views and new and generous conceptions. Where a question arises as to which of these three groups or subdivisions a voter belongs to, the matter is to be decided by the president of the Republic.

No law can be passed, in the first instance, unless it receives a majority vote in each of the three branches, or a two-thirds vote in two of them. Where a difference of opinion arises upon any point of legislation, the three branches are to assemble together and discuss the matter at issue, and try to reach an agreement. As, however, the experience of the world has shown that there is more danger of the upper classes combining to oppress the producers than there is of the producers conspiring to govern them — except in the last desperate extremity, as shown recently — it is therefore decreed that if the Commons, by a three-fourths vote, pass any measure, it becomes a law, notwithstanding the veto of the other two branches.

The executive is elected by the Congress for a period of four years, and is not eligible for re-election. He has no veto and no control of any patronage. In the election of president a two-thirds vote of each branch is necessary.

Whenever it can be shown, in the future, that in any foreign country the wages of labor and the prosperity of the people are as high as in our own, then free trade with that people is decreed. But whenever the people of another country are in greater poverty, or working at a lower rate of wages than our own, then all commercial intercourse with them shall be totally interdicted. For impoverished labor on one side of a line, unless walled out, must inevitably drag down labor on the other side of the line to a like condition. Neither is the device of a tariff sufficient; for, although it is better than free trade, yet, while it tends to keep up the price of goods, it lets in the products of foreign labor; this diminishes the wages of our own laborers by decreasing the demand for their productions to the extent of the goods imported; and thus, while the price of commodities is held up for the benefit of the manufacturers, the price of labor falls. There can be no equitable commerce between two peoples representing two different stages of civilization, and both engaged in producing the same commodities. Thus the freest nations are constantly pulled down to ruin by the most oppressed. What would happen to heaven if you took down the fence between it and hell? We are resolved that our republic shall be of itself, by itself —“in a great pool, a swan’s nest.”

As a corollary to these propositions, we decree that our Congress shall have the right to fix the rate of compensation for all forms of labor, so that wages shall never fall below a rate that will afford the laborer a comfortable living, with a margin that will enable him to provide for his old age. It is simply a question of the adjustment of values. This experiment has been tried before by different countries, but it was always tried in the interest of the employers; the laborers had no voice in the matter; and it was the interest of the upper class to cheapen labor; and hence Muscle became a drug and Cunning invaluable and masterful; and the process was continued indefinitely until the catastrophe came. Now labor has its own branch of our Congress, and can defend its rights and explain its necessities.

In the comparison of views between the three classes some reasonable ground of compromise will generally be found; and if error is committed we prefer that it should enure to the benefit of the many, instead of, as heretofore, to the benefit of the few.

We declare in the preamble to our constitution that “this government is intended to be merely a plain and simple instrument, to insure to every industrious citizen not only liberty, but an educated mind, a comfortable home, an abundant supply of food and clothing, and a pleasant, happy life.”

Are not these the highest objects for which governments can exist? And if government, on the old lines, did not yield these results, should it not have been so reformed as to do so?

We shall not seek to produce uniformity of recompense for all kinds of work; for we know that skilled labor is intrinsically worth more than unskilled; and there are some forms of intellectual toil that are more valuable to the world than any muscular exertion. The object will be not to drag down, but to lift up; and, above all, to prevent the masses from falling into that awful slough of wretchedness which has just culminated in world-wide disaster.

The government will also regulate the number of apprentices who shall enter any given trade or pursuit. For instance, there may be too many shoemakers and not enough farmers; if, now, more shoemakers crowd into that trade, they will simply help starve those already there; but if they are distributed to farming, and other employments, where there is a lack, then there is more work for the shoemakers, and in time a necessity for more shoemakers.

There is no reason why the ingenuity of man should not be applied to these great questions. It has conquered the forces of steam and electricity, but it has neglected the great adjustments of society, on which the happiness of millions depends. If the same intelligence which has been bestowed on perfecting the steam-engine had been directed to a consideration of the correlations of man to man, and pursuit to pursuit, supply and demand would have precisely matched each other, and there need have been no pauperism in the world — save that of the sick and imbecile. And the very mendicants would begin to rise when the superincumbent pressure of those who live on the edge of pauperism had been withdrawn.

We deny gold and silver any function as money except for small amounts — such as five dollars or less. We know of no supplies of those metals in our mountains, and if we tied our prosperity to their chariot, the little, comparatively, there is among us, would gradually gravitate into a few hands, and these men would become the masters of the country. We issue, therefore, a legal-tender paper money, receivable for all indebtedness, public and private, and not to be increased beyond a certain per capita of population.

We decree a limitation upon the amount of land or money any one man can possess. All above that must be used, either by the owner or the government, in works of public usefulness.

There is but one town in our colony — it is indeed not much more than a village — called Stanley. The republic has taken possession of all the land in and contiguous to it, not already built on — paying the owners the present price of the same; and hereafter no lots will be sold except to persons who buy to build homes for themselves; and these lots will be sold at the original cost price. Thus the opportunity for the poor to secure homes will never be diminished.

We further decree that when hereafter any towns or cities or villages are to be established, it shall only be by the nation itself. Whenever one hundred persons or more petition the government, expressing their desire to build a town, the government shall then take possession of a sufficient tract of land, paying the intrinsic, not the artificial, price therefor. It shall then lay the land out in lots, and shall give the petitioners and others the right to take the lots at the original cost price, provided they make their homes upon them. We shut out all speculators.

No towns started in any other way shall have railroad or mail facilities.

When once a municipality is created in the way I have described, it shall provide, in the plat of the town, parks for recreation; no lot shall contain less than half an acre; the streets shall be very wide and planted with fruit trees in double and treble rows. In the center of the town shall be erected a town hall, with an assembly chamber, arranged like a theater, and large enough to seat all the inhabitants. The building shall also contain free public baths, a library, a reading-room, public offices, etc. The municipality shall divide the people into groups of five hundred families each, and for each group they shall furnish a physician, to be paid for out of the general taxes. They shall also provide in the same way concerts and dramatic representations and lectures, free of charge. The hours of labor are limited to eight each day; and there are to be two holidays in the week, Wednesday and Sundays. just as the state is able to carry the mails for less than each man could carry them for himself, so the cost of physicians and entertainments procured by the municipality will be much less than under the old system.

We do not give any encouragement to labor-saving inventions, although we do not discard them. We think the end of government should be — not cheap goods or cheap men, but happy families. If any man makes a serviceable invention the state purchases it at a reasonable price for the benefit of the people.

Men are elected to whom all disputes are referred; each of the contestants selects a man, and the three act together as arbitrators. Where a jury is demanded the defeated party pays all the expenses. We hold that it is not right that all the peaceable citizens should be taxed to enable two litigious fellows to quarrel. Where a man is convicted of crime he is compelled to work out all the cost of his trial and conviction, and the cost of his support as a prisoner, before he can be discharged. If vice will exist, it must be made self-supporting.

[An extract from Gabriel’s journal-five years later.]

I have just left a very happy group upon the veranda — Estella and our two darling little children; Christina and her three flaxen-haired beauties. Max is away on his sheep farm. My mother and Mrs. and Mr. Phillips are reading, or playing with the children. The sun is shining brightly, and the birds are singing. I enter my library to make this entry in my journal.

God has greatly blessed us and all our people. There were a few conservatives who strenuously objected at first to our reforms; but we mildly suggested to them that if they were not happy — and desired it — we would transfer them to the outside world, where they could enjoy the fruits of the time-hallowed systems they praised so much. They are now the most vigorous supporters of the new order of things. And this is one of the merits of your true conservative: if you can once get him into the right course he will cling to it as tenaciously as he formerly clung to the wrong. They are not naturally bad men; their brains are simply incapable of suddenly adjusting themselves to new conceptions.

The Demon returned yesterday from a trip to the outside world. Max’s forebodings have been terribly realized. Three-fourths of the human race, in the civilized lands, have been swept away. In France and Italy and Russia the slaughter has been most appalling. In many places the Demon sailed for hundreds of miles without seeing a human being. The wild beasts — wolves and bears — are reassuming possession of the country. In Scandinavia and in northern America, where the severity of the climate somewhat mitigated the ferocity of man, some sort of government is springing up again; and the peasants have formed themselves into troops to defend their cattle and their homes against the marauders.

But civility, culture, seem to have disappeared. There are no newspapers, no books, no schools, no teachers. The next generation will be simply barbarians, possessing only a few dim legends of the refinement and wonderful powers of their ancestors. Fortunate it is indeed, that here, in these mountains, we have preserved all the instrumentalities with which to restore, when the world is ready to receive it, the civilization of the former ages.

Our constitution has worked admirably. Not far from here has arisen the beautiful village of Lincoln. It is a joy to, visit it, as I do very often.

The wide streets are planted with trees; not shade trees, but fruit trees, the abundance of which is free to all. Around each modest house there is a garden, blooming with flowers and growing food for the household. There are no lordly palaces to cast a chill shadow over humble industry; and no resplendent vehicles to arouse envy and jealousy in the hearts of the beholders. Instead of these shallow vanities a sentiment of brotherly love dwells in all hearts. The poor man is not worked to death, driven to an early grave by hopeless and incessant toil. No; he sings while he works, and his heart is merry. No dread shadow of hunger hangs over him. We are breeding men, not millionaires.

And the good wife sings also while she prepares the evening meal, for she remembers that this is the night of the play; and yonder, on that chair, lies the unfinished dress which her handsome daughter is to wear, next Saturday night, to the weekly ball. And her sons are greatly interested in the lectures on chemistry and history.

Let us look in upon them at supper. The merry, rosy faces of young and old; the cheerful converse; the plain and abundant food. Here are vegetables from their own garden, and fruit from the trees that line the wide streets.

Listen to their talk! The father is telling how the municipality bought, some three years ago, a large number of female calves, at a small cost; and now they are milch cows; and the town authorities are about to give one of them to every poor family that is without one.

And they praise this work; they love mankind, and the good, kindly government — their own government — which so cares for humanity and strives to lift it up. And then the father explains that each person who now receives a free gift of a milch cow is to bring to the municipal government the first female calf raised by that cow, and the city will care for that, too, for two or three years, and then bestow it upon some other poor family; and so, in endless rotation, the organized benevolence does its work, perennial as seed-time and harvest; and none are the poorer for it, and all are the happier.

But come; they have finished their supper, amid much merriment, and are preparing to go to the play. Let us follow them. How the streets swarm! Not with the dark and terrible throngs that dwell so vividly in my memory; but a joyous crowd — laughing, talking, loving one another — each with a merry smile and a kindly word for his neighbor. And here we are at the door of the play-house.

There is no fumbling to find the coins that can perhaps be but poorly spared; but free as the streets the great doors open. What hurry, what confusion, what chatter, what a rustle of dresses, as they seek their seats.

But hush! The curtain rises. The actors are their own townspeople — young men and women who have shown an aptitude for the art; they have been trained at the cost of the town, and are paid a small stipend for their services once a week. How the lights shine! How sweet is the music! What a beautiful scene! And what lovely figures are these, clad in the picturesque garb of some far-away country or some past age. And listen! They are telling the old, old story; old as the wooing of Eve in Eden; the story of human love, always so dear, so precious to the human heart.

But see! the scene has changed — here is a merry-making; a crowd of flower-wreathed lads and lasses enter, and the harmonious dance, instinct with life and motion — the poetry of human limbs — unrolls itself before our eyes.

And so the pretty drama goes forward. An idyl of the golden age; of that glorious epoch when virtue was always triumphant, and vice was always exposed and crushed.

But the play is over; and the audience stream back, laughing and chatting, under the stars, down the long, fruit-embowered streets, to their flower-bedecked, humble homes.

And how little it costs to make mankind happy!

And what do we miss in all this joyous scene? Why, where are the wolves, that used to prowl through the towns and cities of the world that has passed away? The slinking, sullen, bloody-mouthed miscreants, who, under one crafty device or another, would spring upon, and tear, and destroy the poor, shrieking, innocent people — where are they?

Ah! this is the difference: The government which formerly fed and housed these monsters, under cunning kennels of perverted law, and broke open holes in the palisades of society, that they might crawl through and devastate the community, now shuts up every crevice through which they could enter; stops every hole of opportunity; crushes down every uprising instinct of cruelty and selfishness. And the wolves have disappeared; and our little world is a garden of peace and beauty, musical with laughter.

And so mankind moves with linked hands through happy lives to deaths; and God smiles down upon them from his throne beyond the stars.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37