Munera Pulveris, by John Ruskin

Chapter v.

Government.

106. It remains for us, as I stated in the close of the last chapter, to examine first the principles of government in general, and then those of the government of the Poor by the Rich.

The government of a state consists in its customs, laws, and councils, and their enforcements.


I. Customs.

As one person primarily differs from another by fineness of nature, and, secondarily, by fineness of training, so also, a polite nation differs from a savage one, first, by the refinement of its nature, and secondly by the delicacy of its customs.

In the completeness of custom, which is the nation’s self-government, there are three stages — first, fineness in method of doing or of being; — called the manner or moral of acts; secondly, firmness in holding such method after adoption, so that it shall become a habit in the character: i. e., a constant “having” or “behaving;” and, lastly, ethical power in performance and endurance, which is the skill following on habit, and the ease reached by frequency of right doing.

The sensibility of the nation is indicated by the fineness of its customs; its courage, continence, and self-respect by its persistence in them.

By sensibility I mean its natural perception of beauty, fitness, and rightness; or of what is lovely, decent, and just: faculties dependent much on race, and the primal signs of fine breeding in man; but cultivable also by education, and necessarily perishing without it. True education has, indeed, no other function than the development of these faculties, and of the relative will. It has been the great error of modern intelligence to mistake science for education. You do not educate a man by telling him what he knew not, but by making him what he was not.

And making him what he will remain for ever: for no wash of weeds will bring back the faded purple. And in that dyeing there are two processes — first, the cleansing and wringing-out, which is the baptism with water; and then the infusing of the blue and scarlet colours, gentleness and justice, which is the baptism with fire.

107.54 The customs and manners of a sensitive and highly-trained race are always Vital: that is to say, they are orderly manifestations of intense life, like the habitual action of the fingers of a musician. The customs and manners of a vile and rude race, on the contrary, are conditions of decay: they are not, properly speaking, habits, but incrustations; not restraints, or forms, of life; but gangrenes, noisome, and the beginnings of death.

And generally, so far as custom attaches itself to indolence instead of action, and to prejudice instead of perception, it takes this deadly character, so that thus

Custom hangs upon us with a weight

Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life.

But that weight, if it become impetus, (living instead of dead weight) is just what gives value to custom, when it works with life, instead of against it.

108. The high ethical training of a nation implies perfect Grace, Pitifulness, and Peace; it is irreconcilably inconsistent with filthy or mechanical employments — with the desire of money — and with mental states of anxiety, jealousy, or indifference to pain. The present insensibility of the upper classes of Europe to the surrounding aspects of suffering, uncleanness, and crime, binds them not only into one responsibility with the sin, but into one dishonour with the foulness, which rot at their thresholds. The crimes daily recorded in the police-courts of London and Paris (and much more those which are unrecorded) are a disgrace to the whole body politic;55 they are, as in the body natural, stains of disease on a face of delicate skin, making the delicacy itself frightful. Similarly, the filth and poverty permitted or ignored in the midst of us are as dishonourable to the whole social body, as in the body natural it is to wash the face, but leave the hands and feet foul. Christ’s way is the only true one: begin at the feet; the face will take care of itself.

109. Yet, since necessarily, in the frame of a nation, nothing but the head can be of gold, and the feet, for the work they have to do, must be part of iron, part of clay; — foul or mechanical work is always reduced by a noble race to the minimum in quantity; and, even then, performed and endured, not without sense of degradation, as a fine temper is wounded by the sight of the lower offices of the body. The highest conditions of human society reached hitherto have cast such work to slaves; but supposing slavery of a politically defined kind to be done away with, mechanical and foul employment must, in all highly organized states, take the aspect either of punishment or probation. All criminals should at once be set to the most dangerous and painful forms of it, especially to work in mines and at furnaces,56 so as to relieve the innocent population as far as possible: of merely rough (not mechanical) manual labour, especially agricultural, a large portion should be done by the upper classes; —bodily health, and sufficient contrast and repose for the mental functions, being unattainable without it; what necessarily inferior labour remains to be done, as especially in manufactures, should, and always will, when the relations of society are reverent and harmonious, fall to the lot of those who, for the time, are fit for nothing better. For as, whatever the perfectness of the educational system, there must remain infinite differences between the natures and capacities of men; and these differing natures are generally rangeable under the two qualities of lordly, (or tending towards rule, construction, and harmony), and servile (or tending towards misrule, destruction, and discord); and since the lordly part is only in a state of profitableness while ruling, and the servile only in a state of redeemableness while serving, the whole health of the state depends on the manifest separation of these two elements of its mind; for, if the servile part be not separated and rendered visible in service, it mixes with, and corrupts, the entire body of the state; and if the lordly part be not distinguished, and set to rule, it is crushed and lost, being turned to no account, so that the rarest qualities of the nation are all given to it in vain.57


II. Laws.

110. These are the definitions and bonds of custom, or of what the nation desires should become custom.

Law is either archic,58 (of direction), meristic, (of division), or critic, (of judgment).

Archic law is that of appointment and precept: it defines what is and is not to be done.

Meristic law is that of balance and distribution: it defines what is and is not to be possessed.

Critic law is that of discernment and award: it defines what is and is not to be suffered.

111. A. Archic Law. If we choose to unite the laws of precept and distribution under the head of “statutes,” all law is simply either of statute or judgment; that is, first the establishment of ordinance, and, secondly, the assignment of the reward, or penalty, due to its observance or violation.

To some extent these two forms of law must be associated, and, with every ordinance, the penalty of disobedience to it be also determined. But since the degrees and guilt of disobedience vary, the determination of due reward and punishment must be modified by discernment of special fact, which is peculiarly the office of the judge, as distinguished from that of the lawgiver and law-sustainer, or king; not but that the two offices are always theoretically, and in early stages, or limited numbers, of society, are often practically, united in the same person or persons.

112. Also, it is necessary to keep clearly in view the distinction between these two kinds of law, because the possible range of law is wider in proportion to their separation. There are many points of conduct respecting which the nation may wisely express its will by a written precept or resolve, yet not enforce it by penalty:59 and the expedient degree of penalty is always quite a separate consideration from the expedience of the statute; for the statute may often be better enforced by mercy than severity, and is also easier in the bearing, and less likely to be abrogated. Farther, laws of precept have reference especially to youth, and concern themselves with training; but laws of judgment to manhood, and concern themselves with remedy and reward. There is a highly curious feeling in the English mind against educational law: we think no man’s liberty should be interfered with till he has done irrevocable wrong; whereas it is then just too late for the only gracious and kingly interference, which is to hinder him from doing it. Make your educational laws strict, and your criminal ones may be gentle; but, leave youth its liberty and you will have to dig dungeons for age. And it is good for a man that he “wear the yoke in his youth:” for the reins may then be of silken thread; and with sweet chime of silver bells at the bridle; but, for the captivity of age, you must forge the iron fetter, and cast the passing bell.

113. Since no law can be, in a final or true sense, established, but by right, (all unjust laws involving the ultimate necessity of their own abrogation), the law-giving can only become a law-sustaining power in so far as it is Royal, or “right doing;"— in so far, that is, as it rules, not misrules, and orders, not dis-orders, the things submitted to it. Throned on this rock of justice, the kingly power becomes established and establishing; “θειος,” or divine, and, therefore, it is literally true that no ruler can err, so long as he is a ruler, or αρχων ουδεις αμαρτανει τοτε ὁταν αρχων η; perverted by careless thought, which has cost the world somewhat, into —“the king can do no wrong.”

114. B. Meristic Law,60 or that of the tenure of property, first determines what every individual possesses by right, and secures it to him; and what he possesses by wrong, and deprives him of it. But it has a far higher provisory function: it determines what every man should possess, and puts it within his reach on due conditions; and what he should not possess, and puts this out of his reach, conclusively.

115. Every article of human wealth has certain conditions attached to its merited possession; when these are unobserved, possession becomes rapine. And the object of meristic law is not only to secure to every man his rightful share (the share, that is, which he has worked for, produced, or received by gift from a rightful owner), but to enforce the due conditions of possession, as far as law may conveniently reach; for instance, that land shall not be wantonly allowed to run to waste, that streams shall not be poisoned by the persons through whose properties they pass, nor air be rendered unwholesome beyond given limits. Laws of this kind exist already in rudimentary degree, but need large development; the just laws respecting the possession of works of art have not hitherto been so much as conceived, and the daily loss of national wealth, and of its use, in this respect, is quite incalculable. And these laws need revision quite as much respecting property in national as in private hands. For instance: the public are under a vague impression that, because they have paid for the contents of the British Museum, every one has an equal right to see and to handle them. But the public have similarly paid for the contents of Woolwich arsenal; yet do not expect free access to it, or handling of its contents. The British Museum is neither a free circulating library, nor a free school: it is a place for the safe preservation, and exhibition on due occasion, of unique books, unique objects of natural history, and unique works of art; its books can no more be used by everybody than its coins can be handled, or its statues cast. There ought to be free libraries in every quarter of London, with large and complete reading-rooms attached; so also free educational museums should be open in every quarter of London, all day long, until late at night, well lighted, well catalogued, and rich in contents both of art and natural history. But neither the British Museum nor National Gallery is a school; they are treasuries; and both should be severely restricted in access and in use. Unless some order of this kind is made, and that soon, for the MSS. department of the Museum, (its superintendents have sorrowfully told me this, and repeatedly), the best MSS. in the collection will be destroyed, irretrievably, by the careless and continual handling to which they are now subjected.

Finally, in certain conditions of a nation’s progress, laws limiting accumulation of any kind of property may be found expedient.

116. C. Critic Law determines questions of injury, and assigns due rewards and punishments to conduct.

Two curious economical questions arise laterally with respect to this branch of law, namely, the cost of crime, and the cost of judgment. The cost of crime is endured by nations ignorantly, that expense being nowhere stated in their budgets; the cost of judgment, patiently, (provided only it can be had pure for the money), because the science, or perhaps we ought rather to say the art, of law, is felt to found a noble profession and discipline; so that civilized nations are usually glad that a number of persons should be supported by exercise in oratory and analysis. But it has not yet been calculated what the practical value might have been, in other directions, of the intelligence now occupied in deciding, through courses of years, what might have been decided as justly, had the date of judgment been fixed, in as many hours. Imagine one half of the funds which any great nation devotes to dispute by law, applied to the determination of physical questions in medicine, agriculture, and theoretic science; and calculate the probable results within the next ten years!

I say nothing yet of the more deadly, more lamentable loss, involved in the use of purchased, instead of personal, justice —"επακτω παρ αλλων—απορια οικεων.”

117. In order to true analysis of critic law, we must understand the real meaning of the word “injury.”

We commonly understand by it, any kind of harm done by one man to another; but we do not define the idea of harm: sometimes we limit it to the harm which the sufferer is conscious of; whereas much the worst injuries are those he is unconscious of; and, at other times, we limit the idea to violence, or restraint; whereas much the worse forms of injury are to be accomplished by indolence, and the withdrawal of restraint.

118. “Injury” is then simply the refusal, or violation of, any man’s right or claim upon his fellows: which claim, much talked of in modern times, under the term “right,” is mainly resolvable into two branches: a man’s claim not to be hindered from doing what he should; and his claim to be hindered from doing what he should not; these two forms of hindrance being intensified by reward, help, and fortune, or Fors, on one side, and by punishment, impediment, and even final arrest, or Mors, on the other.

119. Now, in order to a man’s obtaining these two rights, it is clearly needful that the worth of him should be approximately known; as well as the want of worth, which has, unhappily, been usually the principal subject of study for critic law, careful hitherto only to mark degrees of de-merit, instead of merit; — assigning, indeed, to the Deficiencies (not always, alas! even to these) just estimate, fine, or penalty; but to the Efficiencies, on the other side, which are by much the more interesting, as well as the only profitable part of its subject, assigning neither estimate nor aid.

120. Now, it is in this higher and perfect function of critic law, enabling instead of disabling, that it becomes truly Kingly, instead of Draconic: (what Providence gave the great, wrathful legislator his name?): that is, it becomes the law of man and of life, instead of the law of the worm and of death — both of these laws being set in changeless poise one against another, and the enforcement of both being the eternal function of the lawgiver, and true claim of every living soul: such claim being indeed strong to be mercifully hindered, and even, if need be, abolished, when longer existence means only deeper destruction, but stronger still to be mercifully helped, and recreated, when longer existence and new creation mean nobler life. So that reward and punishment will be found to resolve themselves mainly61 into help and hindrance; and these again will issue naturally from time recognition of deserving, and the just reverence and just wrath which follow instinctively on such recognition.

121. I say, “follow,” but, in reality, they are part of the recognition. Reverence is as instinctive as anger; — both of them instant on true vision: it is sight and understanding that we have to teach, and these are reverence. Make a man perceive worth, and in its reflection he sees his own relative unworth, and worships thereupon inevitably, not with stiff courtesy, but rejoicingly, passionately, and, best of all, restfully: for the inner capacity of awe and love is infinite in man, and only in finding these, can we find peace. And the common insolences and petulances of the people, and their talk of equality, are not irreverence in them in the least, but mere blindness, stupefaction, and fog in the brains,62 the first sign of any cleansing away of which is, that they gain some power of discerning, and some patience in submitting to, their true counsellors and governors. In the mode of such discernment consists the real “constitution” of the state, more than in the titles or offices of the discerned person; for it is no matter, save in degree of mischief, to what office a man is appointed, if he cannot fulfil it.

122. III. Government by Council.

This is the determination, by living authority, of the national conduct to be observed under existing circumstances; and the modification or enlargement, abrogation or enforcement, of the code of national law according to present needs or purposes. This government is necessarily always by council, for though the authority of it may be vested in one person, that person cannot form any opinion on a matter of public interest but by (voluntarily or involuntarily) submitting himself to the influence of others.

This government is always twofold — visible and invisible.

The visible government is that which nominally carries on the national business; determines its foreign relations, raises taxes, levies soldiers, orders war or peace, and otherwise becomes the arbiter of the national fortune. The invisible government is that exercised by all energetic and intelligent men, each in his sphere, regulating the inner will and secret ways of the people, essentially forming its character, and preparing its fate.

Visible governments are the toys of some nations, the diseases of others, the harness of some, the burdens of more the necessity of all. Sometimes their career is quite distinct from that of the people, and to write it, as the national history, is as if one should number the accidents which befall a man’s weapons and wardrobe, and call the list his biography. Nevertheless, a truly noble and wise nation necessarily has a noble and wise visible government, for its wisdom issues in that conclusively.

123. Visible governments are, in their agencies, capable of three pure forms, and of no more than three.

They are either monarchies, where the authority is vested in one person; oligarchies, when it is vested in a minority; or democracies, when vested in a majority.

But these three forms are not only, in practice, variously limited and combined, but capable of infinite difference in character and use, receiving specific names according to their variations; which names, being nowise agreed upon, nor consistently used, either in thought or writing, no man can at present tell, in speaking of any kind of government, whether he is understood; nor, in hearing, whether he understands. Thus we usually call a just government by one person a monarchy, and an unjust or cruel one, a tyranny: this might be reasonable if it had reference to the divinity of true government; but to limit the term “oligarchy” to government by a few rich people, and to call government by a few wise or noble people “aristocracy,” is evidently absurd, unless it were proved that rich people never could be wise, or noble people rich; and farther absurd, because there are other distinctions in character, as well as riches or wisdom (greater purity of race, or strength of purpose, for instance), which may give the power of government to the few. So that if we had to give names to every group or kind of minority, we should have verbiage enough. But there is only one right name —“oligarchy.”

124. So also the terms “republic” and “democracy”63 are confused, especially in modern use; and both of them are liable to every sort of misconception. A republic means, properly, a polity in which the state, with its all, is at every man’s service, and every man, with his all, at the state’s service —(people are apt to lose sight of the last condition), but its government may nevertheless be oligarchic (consular, or decemviral, for instance), or monarchic (dictatorial). But a democracy means a state in which the government rests directly with the majority of the citizens. And both these conditions have been judged only by such accidents and aspects of them as each of us has had experience of; and sometimes both have been confused with anarchy, as it is the fashion at present to talk of the “failure of republican institutions in America,” when there has never yet been in America any such thing as an institution, but only defiance of institution; neither any such thing as a res-publica, but only a multitudinous res-privata; every man for himself. It is not republicanism which fails now in America; it is your model science of political economy, brought to its perfect practice. There you may see competition, and the “law of demand and supply” (especially in paper), in beautiful and unhindered operation.64 Lust of wealth, and trust in it; vulgar faith in magnitude and multitude, instead of nobleness; besides that faith natural to backwoodsmen —“lucum ligna,”65— perpetual self-contemplation, issuing in passionate vanity; total ignorance of the finer and higher arts, and of all that they teach and bestow; and the discontent of energetic minds unoccupied, frantic with hope of uncomprehended change, and progress they know not whither;66— these are the things that have “failed” in America; and yet not altogether failed — it is not collapse, but collision; the greatest railroad accident on record, with fire caught from the furnace, and Catiline’s quenching “non aquâ, sed ruinâ.”67 But I see not, in any of our talk of them, justice enough done to their erratic strength of purpose, nor any estimate taken of the strength of endurance of domestic sorrow, in what their women and children suppose a righteous cause. And out of that endurance and suffering, its own fruit will be born with time; [not abolition of slavery, however. See § 130.] and Carlyle’s prophecy of them (June, 1850), as it has now come true in the first clause, will, in the last:—

“America, too, will find that caucuses, divisionalists, stump-oratory, and speeches to Buncombe will not carry men to the immortal gods; that the Washington Congress, and constitutional battle of Kilkenny cats is there, as here, naught for such objects; quite incompetent for such; and, in fine, that said sublime constitutional arrangement will require to be (with terrible throes, and travail such as few expect yet) remodelled, abridged, extended, suppressed, torn asunder, put together again — not without heroic labour and effort, quite other than that of the stump-orator and the revival preacher, one day.”

125.68 Understand, then, once for all, that no form of government, provided it be a government at all, is, as such, to be either condemned or praised, or contested for in anywise, but by fools. But all forms of government are good just so far as they attain this one vital necessity of policy —that the wise and kind, few or many, shall govern the unwise and unkind; and they are evil so far as they miss of this, or reverse it. Not does the form, in any case, signify one whit, but its firmness, and adaptation to the need; for if there be many foolish persons in a state, and few wise, then it is good that the few govern; and if there be many wise, and few foolish, then it is good that the many govern; and if many be wise, yet one wiser, then it is good that one should govern; and so on. Thus, we may have “the ant’s republic, and the realm of bees,” both good in their kind; one for groping, and the other for building; and nobler still, for flying; — the Ducal monarchy69 of those

Intelligent of seasons, that set forth

The aery caravan, high over seas.

126. Nor need we want examples, among the inferior creatures, of dissoluteness, as well as resoluteness, in government. I once saw democracy finely illustrated by the beetles of North Switzerland, who by universal suffrage, and elytric acclamation, one May twilight, carried it, that they would fly over the Lake of Zug; and flew short, to the great disfigurement of the Lake of Zug — Κανθαρον λιμην— over some leagues square, and to the close of the cockchafer democracy for that year. Then, for tyranny, the old fable of the frogs and the stork finely touches one form of it; but truth will image it more closely than fable, for tyranny is not complete when it is only over the idle, but when it is over the laborious and the blind. This description of pelicans and climbing perch, which I find quoted in one of our popular natural histories, out of Sir Emerson Tennant’s Ceylon, comes as near as may be to the true image of the thing:—

“Heavy rains came on, and as we stood on the high ground, we observed a pelican on the margin of the shallow pool gorging himself; our people went towards him, and raised a cry of ‘Fish, fish!’ We hurried down, and found numbers of fish struggling upward through the grass, in the rills formed by the trickling of the rain. There was scarcely water to cover them, but nevertheless they made rapid progress up the bank, on which our followers collected about two baskets of them. They were forcing their way up the knoll, and had they not been interrupted, first by the pelican, and afterwards by ourselves, they would in a few minutes have gained the highest point, and descended on the other side into a pool which formed another portion of the tank. In going this distance, however, they must have used muscular exertion enough to have taken them half a mile on level ground; for at these places all the cattle and wild animals of the neighbourhood had latterly come to drink, so that the surface was everywhere indented with footmarks, in addition to the cracks in the surrounding baked mud, into which the fish tumbled in their progress. In those holes, which were deep, and the sides perpendicular, they remained to die, and were carried off by kites and crows.”70

127. But whether governments be bad or good, one general disadvantage seems to attach to them in modern times — that they are all costly.71 This, however, is not essentially the fault of the governments. If nations choose to play at war, they will always find their governments willing to lead the game, and soon coming under that term of Aristophanes, “καπηλοι ασπιδων,” “shield-sellers.” And when (πημ επι πηματι)72 the shields take the form of iron ships, with apparatus “for defence against liquid fire,"— as I see by latest accounts they are now arranging the decks in English dockyards — they become costly biers enough for the grey convoy of chief mourner waves, wreathed with funereal foam, to bear back the dead upon; the massy shoulders of those corpse-bearers being intended for quite other work, and to bear the living, and food for the living, if we would let them.

128. Nor have we the least right to complain of our governments being expensive, so long as we set the government to do precisely the work which brings no return. If our present doctrines of political economy be just, let us trust them to the utmost; take that war business out of the government’s hands, and test therein the principles of supply and demand. Let our future sieges of Sebastopol be done by contract — no capture, no pay —(I admit that things might sometimes go better so); and let us sell the commands of our prospective battles, with our vicarages, to the lowest bidder; so may we have cheap victories, and divinity. On the other hand, if we have so much suspicion of our science that we dare not trust it on military or spiritual business, would it not be but reasonable to try whether some authoritative handling may not prosper in matters utilitarian? If we were to set our governments to do useful things instead of mischievous, possibly even the apparatus itself might in time come to be less costly. The machine, applied to the building of the house, might perhaps pay, when it seems not to pay, applied to pulling it down. If we made in our dockyards ships to carry timber and coals, instead of cannon, and with provision for the brightening of domestic solid culinary fire, instead of for the scattering of liquid hostile fire, it might have some effect on the taxes. Or suppose that we tried the experiment on land instead of water carriage; already the government, not unapproved, carries letters and parcels for us; larger packages may in time follow; — even general merchandise — why not, at last, ourselves? Had the money spent in local mistakes and vain private litigation, on the railroads of England, been laid out, instead, under proper government restraint, on really useful railroad work, and had no absurd expense been incurred in ornamenting stations, we might already have had — what ultimately it will be found we must have — quadruple rails, two for passengers, and two for traffic, on every great line; and we might have been carried in swift safety, and watched and warded by well-paid pointsmen, for half the present fares. [For, of course, a railroad company is merely an association of turnpike-keepers, who make the tolls as high as they can, not to mend the roads with, but to pocket. The public will in time discover this, and do away with turnpikes on railroads, as on all other public-ways.]

129. Suppose it should thus turn out, finally, that a true government set to true work, instead of being a costly engine, was a paying one? that your government, rightly organized, instead of itself subsisting by an income-tax, would produce its subjects some subsistence in the shape of an income dividend? — police, and judges duly paid besides, only with less work than the state at present provides for them.

A true government set to true work! — Not easily to be imagined, still less obtained; but not beyond human hope or ingenuity. Only you will have to alter your election systems somewhat, first. Not by universal suffrage, nor by votes purchasable with beer, is such government to be had. That is to say, not by universal equal suffrage. Every man upwards of twenty, who has been convicted of no legal crime, should have his say in this matter; but afterwards a louder voice, as he grows older, and approves himself wiser. If he has one vote at twenty, he should have two at thirty, four at forty, ten at fifty. For every single vote which he has with an income of a hundred a year, he should have ten with an income of a thousand, (provided you first see to it that wealth is, as nature intended it to be, the reward of sagacity and industry — not of good luck in a scramble or a lottery). For every single vote which he had as subordinate in any business, he should have two when he became a master; and every office and authority nationally bestowed, implying trustworthiness and intellect, should have its known proportional number of votes attached to it. But into the detail and working of a true system in these matters we cannot now enter; we are concerned as yet with definitions only, and statements of first principles, which will be established now sufficiently for our purposes when we have examined the nature of that form of government last on the list in § 105 — the purely “Magistral,” exciting at present its full share of public notice, under its ambiguous title of “slavery.”

130. I have not, however, been able to ascertain in definite terms, from the declaimers against slavery, what they understand by it. If they mean only the imprisonment or compulsion of one person by another, such imprisonment or compulsion being in many cases highly expedient, slavery, so defined, would be no evil in itself, but only in its abuse; that is, when men are slaves, who should not be, or masters, who should not be, or even the fittest characters for either state, placed in it under conditions which should not be. It is not, for instance, a necessary condition of slavery, nor a desirable one, that parents should be separated from children, or husbands from wives; but the institution of war, against which people declaim with less violence, effects such separations — not unfrequently in a very permanent manner. To press a sailor, seize a white youth by conscription for a soldier, or carry off a black one for a labourer, may all be right acts, or all wrong ones, according to needs and circumstances. It is wrong to scourge a man unnecessarily. So it is to shoot him. Both must be done on occasion; and it is better and kinder to flog a man to his work, than to leave him idle till he robs, and flog him afterwards. The essential thing for all creatures is to be made to do right; how they are made to do it — by pleasant promises, or hard necessities, pathetic oratory, or the whip — is comparatively immaterial.73 To be deceived is perhaps as incompatible with human dignity as to be whipped; and I suspect the last method to be not the worst, for the help of many individuals. The Jewish nation throve under it, in the hand of a monarch reputed not unwise; it is only the change of whip for scorpion which is inexpedient; and that change is as likely to come to pass on the side of license as of law. For the true scorpion whips are those of the nation’s pleasant vices, which are to it as St. John’s locusts — crown on the head, ravin in the mouth, and sting in the tail. If it will not bear the rule of Athena and Apollo, who shepherd without smiting (ου πληγη νεμοντες), Athena at last calls no more in the corners of the streets; and then follows the rule of Tisiphone, who smites without shepherding.

131. If, however, by slavery, instead of absolute compulsion, is meant the purchase, by money, of the right of compulsion, such purchase is necessarily made whenever a portion of any territory is transferred, for money, from one monarch to another: which has happened frequently enough in history, without its being supposed that the inhabitants of the districts so transferred became therefore slaves. In this, as in the former case, the dispute seems about the fashion of the thing, rather than the fact of it. There are two rocks in mid-sea, on each of which, neglected equally by instructive and commercial powers, a handful of inhabitants live as they may. Two merchants bid for the two properties, but not in the same terms. One bids for the people, buys them, and sets them to work, under pain of scourge; the other bids for the rock, buys it, and throws the inhabitants into the sea. The former is the American, the latter the English method, of slavery; much is to be said for, and something against, both, which I hope to say in due time and place.74

132. If, however, slavery mean not merely the purchase of the right of compulsion, but the purchase of the body and soul of the creature itself for money, it is not, I think, among the black races that purchases of this kind are most extensively made, or that separate souls of a fine make fetch the highest price. This branch of the inquiry we shall have occasion also to follow out at some length, for in the worst instances of the selling of souls, we are apt to get, when we ask if the sale is valid, only Pyrrhon’s answer75—“None can know.”

133. The fact is that slavery is not a political institution at all, but an inherent, natural, and eternal inheritance of a large portion of the human race — to whom, the more you give of their own free will, the more slaves they will make themselves. In common parlance, we idly confuse captivity with slavery, and are always thinking of the difference between pine-trunks (Ariel in the pine), and cowslip-bells (“in the cowslip-bell I lie”), or between carrying wood and drinking (Caliban’s slavery and freedom), instead of noting the far more serious differences between Ariel and Caliban themselves, and the means by which, practically, that difference may be brought about or diminished.

134.76 Plato’s slave, in the Polity, who, well dressed and washed, aspires to the hand of his master’s daughter, corresponds curiously to Caliban attacking Prospero’s cell; and there is an undercurrent of meaning throughout, in the Tempest as well as in the Merchant of Venice; referring in this case to government, as in that to commerce. Miranda77 (“the wonderful,” so addressed first by Ferdinand, “Oh, you wonder!") corresponds to Homer’s Arete: Ariel and Caliban are respectively the spirits of faithful and imaginative labour, opposed to rebellious, hurtful and slavish labour. Prospero (“for hope”), a true governor, is opposed to Sycorax, the mother of slavery, her name “Swine-raven,” indicating at once brutality and deathfulness; hence the line —

“As wicked dew as e’er my mother brushed, with raven’s feather,"—&c.

For all these dreams of Shakespeare, as those of true and strong men must be, are “φαντασματα θεια, και σκιαι των οντων"— divine phantasms, and shadows of things that are. We hardly tell our children, willingly, a fable with no purport in it; yet we think God sends his best messengers only to sing fairy tales to us, fond and empty. The Tempest is just like a grotesque in a rich missal, “clasped where paynims pray.” Ariel is the spirit of generous and free-hearted service, in early stages of human society oppressed by ignorance and wild tyranny: venting groans as fast as mill-wheels strike; in shipwreck of states, dreadful; so that “all but mariners plunge in the brine, and quit the vessel, then all afire with me,” yet having in itself the will and sweetness of truest peace, whence that is especially called “Ariel’s “ song, “Come unto these yellow sands, and there, take hands,” “courtesied when you have, and kissed, the wild waves whist:” (mind, it is “cortesia,” not “curtsey,") and read “quiet” for “whist,” if you want the full sense. Then you may indeed foot it featly, and sweet spirits bear the burden for you — with watch in the night, and call in early morning. The vis viva in elemental transformation follows —“Full fathom five thy father lies, of his bones are coral made.” Then, giving rest after labour, it “fetches dew from the still vext Bermoöthes, and, with a charm joined to their suffered labour, leaves men asleep.” Snatching away the feast of the cruel, it seems to them as a harpy; followed by the utterly vile, who cannot see it in any shape, but to whom it is the picture of nobody, it still gives shrill harmony to their false and mocking catch, “Thought is free;” but leads them into briers and foul places, and at last hollas the hounds upon them. Minister of fate against the great criminal, it joins itself with the “incensed seas and shores “— the sword that layeth at it cannot hold, and may “with bemocked-at stabs as soon kill the still-closing waters, as diminish one dowle that is in its plume.” As the guide and aid of true love, it is always called by Prospero “fine” (the French “fine,” not the English), or “delicate”— another long note would be needed to explain all the meaning in this word. Lastly, its work done, and war, it resolves itself into the elements. The intense significance of the last song, “Where the bee sucks,” I will examine in its due place.

The types of slavery in Caliban are more palpable, and need not be dwelt on now: though I will notice them also, severally, in their proper places; — the heart of his slavery is in his worship: “That’s a brave god, and bears celestial — liquor.” But, in illustration of the sense in which the Latin “benignus” and “malignus” are to be coupled with Eleutheria and Douleia, note that Caliban’s torment is always the physical reflection of his own nature —“cramps” and “side stiches that shall pen thy breath up; thou shalt be pinched, as thick as honeycombs:” the whole nature of slavery being one cramp and cretinous contraction. Fancy this of Ariel! You may fetter him, but you set no mark on him; you may put him to hard work and far journey, but you cannot give him a cramp.

135. I should dwell, even in these prefatory papers, at more length on this subject of slavery, had not all I would say been said already, in vain, (not, as I hope, ultimately in vain), by Carlyle, in the first of the Latter-day Pamphlets, which I commend to the reader’s gravest reading; together with that as much neglected, and still more immediately needed, on model prisons, and with the great chapter on “Permanence” (fifth of the last section of “Past and Present”), which sums what is known, and foreshadows, or rather forelights, all that is to be learned of National Discipline. I have only here farther to examine the nature of one world-wide and everlasting form of slavery, wholesome in use, as deadly in abuse; — the service of the rich by the poor.

54 [Think over this paragraph carefully; it should have been much expanded to be quite intelligible; but it contains all that I want it to contain.]

55 “The ordinary brute, who flourishes in the very centre of ornate life, tells us of unknown depths on the verge of which we totter, being bound to thank our stars every day we live that there is not a general outbreak, and a revolt from the yoke of civilization."—Times leader, Dec. 25, 1862. Admitting that our stars are to be thanked for our safety, whom are we to thank for the danger?

56 Our politicians, even the best of them, regard only the distress caused by the failure of mechanical labour. The degradation caused by its excess is a far more serious subject of thought, and of future fear. I shall examine this part of our subject at length hereafter. There can hardly be any doubt, at present, cast on the truth of the above passages, as all the great thinkers are unanimous on the matter. Plato’s words are terrific in their scorn and pity whenever he touches on the mechanical arts. He calls the men employed in them not even human, but partially and diminutively human, “ανθρωπισκοι,” and opposes such work to noble occupations, not merely as prison is opposed to freedom but as a convict’s dishonoured prison is to the temple (escape from them being like that of a criminal to the sanctuary); and the destruction caused by them being of soul no less than body. —Rep. vi. 9. Compare Laws, v. 11. Xenophon dwells on the evil of occupations at the furnace and especially their “ασχολια, want of leisure."—Econ. i. 4. (Modern England, with all its pride of education, has lost that first sense of the word “school;” and till it recover that, it will find no other rightly.) His word for the harm to the soul is to “break” it, as we say of the heart. —Econ. i. 6. And herein, also, is the root of the scorn, otherwise apparently most strange and cruel, with which Homer, Dante, and Shakspeare always speak of the populace; for it is entirely true that, in great states, the lower orders are low by nature as well as by task, being precisely that part of the commonwealth which has been thrust down for its coarseness or unworthiness (by coarseness I mean especially insensibility and irreverence — the “profane” of Horace); and when this ceases to be so, and the corruption and profanity are in the higher instead of the lower orders, there arises, first, helpless confusion, then, if the lower classes deserve power, ensues swift revolution, and they get it; but if neither the populace nor their rulers deserve it, there follows mere darkness and dissolution, till, out of the putrid elements, some new capacity of order rises, like grass on a grave; if not, there is no more hope, nor shadow of turning, for that nation. Atropos has her way with it.

So that the law of national health is like that of a great lake or sea, in perfect but slow circulation, letting the dregs fall continually to the lowest place, and the clear water rise; yet so as that there shall be no neglect of the lower orders, but perfect supervision and sympathy, so that if one member suffer, all members shall suffer with it.

57 “ολιγης, και αλλως γιγνομενης.” (Little, and that little born in vain.) The bitter sentence never was so true as at this day.

58 [This following note is a mere cluster of memoranda, but I keep it for reference.] Thetic, or Thesmic, would perhaps be a better term than archic; but liable to be confused with some which we shall want relating to Theoria. The administrators of the three great divisions of law are severally Archons, Merists, and Dicasts. The Archons are the true princes, or beginners of things; or leaders (as of an orchestra). The Merists are properly the Domini, or Lords of houses and nations. The Dicasts, properly, the judges, and that with Olympian justice, which reaches to heaven and hell. The violation of archic law is ἁμαρτια (error), πονηρια (failure), or πλημμελεια (discord). The violation of meristic law is ανομια (iniquity). The violation of critic law is αδικια (injury). Iniquity is the central generic term; for all law is fatal; it is the division to men of their fate; as the fold of their pasture, it is νομος; as the assigning of their portion, μοιρα.

59 [This is the only sentence which, in revising these essays, I am now inclined to question; but the point is one of extreme difficulty. There might be a law, for instance, of curfew, that candles should be put out, unless for necessary service, at such and such an hour, the idea of “necessary service” being quite indefinable, and no penalty possible; yet there would be a distinct consciousness of illegal conduct in young ladies’ minds who danced by candlelight till dawn.]

60 [Read this and the next paragraph with attention; they contain clear statements, which I cannot mend, of things most necessary.]

61 [Mainly; not altogether. Conclusive reward of high virtue is loving and crowning, not helping; and conclusive punishment of deep vice is hating and crushing, not merely hindering.]

62 Compare Chaucer’s “villany” (clownishness).

Full foul and chorlishe seemed she,

And eke villanous for to be,

And little coulde of norture

To worship any creature.

63 [I leave this paragraph, in every syllable, as it was written, during the rage of the American war; it was meant to refer, however, chiefly to the Northerns: what modifications its hot and partial terms require I will give in another place: let it stand now as it stood.]

64 Supply and demand! Alas! for what noble work was there ever any audible “demand” in that poor sense (Past and Present)? Nay, the demand is not loud, even for ignoble work. See “Average Earnings of Betty Taylor,” in Times of 4th February of this year 1863: “Worked from Monday morning at 8 a.m. to Friday night at 5.30 p.m. for 1s. 5-1/2d.“—Laissez faire. [This kind of slavery finds no Abolitionists that I hear of.]

65 [“That the sacred grove is nothing but logs."]

66 Ames, by report of Waldo Emerson, says “that a monarchy is a merchantman, which sails well, but will sometimes strike on a rock, and go to the bottom; whilst a republic is a raft, which would never sink, but then your feet are always in the water.” Yes, that is comfortable; and though your raft cannot sink (being too worthless for that), it may go to pieces, I suppose, when the four winds (your only pilots) steer competitively from its four corners, and carry it, ως οπωρινος Βορεης φορεησιν ακανθας, and then more than your feet will be in the water.

67 [“Not with water, but with ruin.” The worst ruin being that which the Americans chiefly boast of. They sent all their best and honestest youths, Harvard University men and the like, to that accursed war; got them nearly all shot; wrote pretty biographies (to the ages of 17, 18, 19) and epitaphs for them; and so, having washed all the salt out of the nation in blood, left themselves to putrefaction, and the morality of New York.]

68 [This paragraph contains the gist of all that precede.]

69 [Whenever you are puzzled by any apparently mistaken use of words in these essays, take your dictionary, remembering I had to fix terms, as well as principles. A Duke is a “dux” or “leader;” the flying wedge of cranes is under a “ducal monarch”— a very different personage from a queen bee. The Venetians, with a beautiful instinct, gave the name to their King of the Sea.]

70 [This is a perfect picture of the French under the tyrannies of their Pelican Kings, before the Revolution. But they must find other than Pelican Kings — or rather, Pelican Kings of the Divine brood, that feed their children, and with their best blood.]

71 [Read carefully, from this point; because here begins the statement of things requiring to be done, which I am now re-trying to make definite in Fors Clavigera.]

72 [“Evil on the top of Evil.” Delphic oracle, meaning iron on the anvil.]

73 [Permit me to enforce and reinforce this statement, with all earnestness. It is the sum of what needs most to be understood in the matter of education.]

74 [A pregnant paragraph, meant against English and Scotch landlords who drive their people off the land.]

75 [In Lucian’s dialogue, “The sale of lives."]

76 [I raise this analysis of the Tempest into my text; but it is nothing but a hurried note, which I may never have time to expand. I have retouched it here and there a little, however.]

77 Of Shakspeare’s names I will afterwards speak at more length; they are curiously — often barbarously — much by Providence — but assuredly not without Shakspeare’s cunning purpose — mixed out of the various traditions he confusedly adopted, and languages which he imperfectly knew. Three of the clearest in meaning have been already noticed. Desdemona, “δυσδαιμονια,” “miserable fortune,” is also plain enough. Othello is, I believe, “the careful;” all the calamity of the tragedy arising from the single flaw and error in his magnificently collected strength. Ophelia, “serviceableness,” the true lost wife of Hamlet, is marked as having a Greek name by that of her brother, Laertes; and its signification is once exquisitely alluded to in that brother’s last word of her, where her gentle preciousness is opposed to the uselessness of the churlish clergy —“A ministering angel shall my sister be, when thou liest howling.” Hamlet is, I believe, connected in some way with “homely” the entire event of the tragedy turning on betrayal of home duty. Hermione (ερμα), “pillar-like,” (ἡ ειδος εχε χρυσης ‘ἡειδος Αφροδιτης). Titania (τιτηνη), “the queen;” Benedict and Beatrice, “blessed and blessing;” Valentine and Proteus, enduring (or strong), (valens), and changeful. Iago and Iachimo have evidently the same root — probably the Spanish Iago, Jacob, “the supplanter,” Leonatus, and other such names, are interpreted, or played with, in the plays themselves. For the interpretation of Sycorax, and reference to her raven’s feather, I am indebted to Mr. John R. Wise.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/r/ruskin/john/munera/chapter5.html

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