Изображения страниц

prietors of their possessions. There is, perhaps, little prospect in a country like ours of the adoption of such violent measures; but the dissemination of principles like these, which virtually make every land-owner a thief, is always dangerous, since many men do not reason, but are led by passion or prejudice. Let Mr. George propose a tax based on economic principles alone, and theologians will leave him to himself; but when he advocates confiscation of all land, on the principle that no private individual can justly hold it, he attacks the law of God and the essential truths of morality. We repeat, let his followers retract the proposition that "property in land is unjust," and we will relegate the discussion to political economists. They may study the question of taxation, and are not likely to persuade any civilized community to take any kind of property from its owners by a confiscating tax.

"But," say some of the advocates of the new socialism," "does not the right of eminent domain exist fully recognized by all countries? Does not this right of the commune imply that all property, especially that of land, belongs to the state?" We reply, that the right of eminent domain does exist, and not only implies, but asserts, the justice of private property in land. It directly contradicts the theory that the state is the source of property to individuals. It really declares that private proprietors hold their possessions by a natural right which no positive law can extinguish. Let us see what is meant by eminent domain. We quote the words of Chancellor Kent:

"The right of eminent domain, or inherent sovereign power, gives to the legislature the control of private property for public uses only." "A provision for compensation is a necessary attendant on the due and constitutional exercise of the power of the law-giver to deprive an individual of his property without his consent, and this principle in Americau constitutional jurisprudence is founded on natural equity, and is laid down by jurists as an acknowledged principle of universal law."

To quote a theologian, Suarez writes that

"The commonwealth or the king has a certain high dominion over the possessions of all the citizens, and the private property of all, which does not exclude their private dominion; but, notwithstanding that, it gives power to use these goods for the common utility of the state when the moment of need calls for it."

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

We have seen how the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution of the State of New York, forbids the "taking of private property for public use without just compensation." The high dominion of a state can take private prop erty for public use, preferring the need or good of the whole people to that of a private individual. But in so doing it must render just compensation. By this is protected the right of the citizen to that which is his own. If it were not his own, if he were a thief in holding land to which he had no just title, no compensation could be due. This principle of eminent domain also asserts the natural right of the individual to his property, as the state cannot extinguish that right. If the state created that right it might extinguish it. With what face, then, do socialists refer us to eminent domain when they urge seizure of private property without compensation, and propose the violation of one of the fundamental laws of nations?

There are two points remaining on which we desire to speak before we close this brief essay. We have sufficiently shown the unchristian character of the main principle of Mr. George. His proposition that private property in land is a grievous wrong, has been condemned by the Catholic Church many times in word and act. Some of his friends, we believe with no inspiration from him, take refuge from the censure of the church in the fact that the Sacred Congregation of the Index has not condemned any of his books, and, therefore, assert that Catholics may safely hold his opinions. Any reasoning mind will at once see that this is a dishonest position. If the supreme tribunal of the church has already condemned the main proposition of his theory, that condemnation alone is sufficient for sincere Catholics. No ecclesiastic nor any ecclesiastical corporation could for one moment justly hold any property in land if his theory were true. It is also certain that many books worse than those of Mr. George's are not yet placed upon the Index. It would be a curious reasoning to conclude from this fact that Catholics could follow their teaching. He who proves too much proves nothing. When the Sacred Congregation sees fit in its wisdom to consider the works of Henry George, there can be no doubt that it will condemn his political economy, which is nothing but a

[ocr errors]

new edition of socialism. Proudhon is already condemned, and to him he owes the theory on which he bases his system. Property is theft," says Proudhon, and "property in land is theft," says Mr. George, and land is the only "real" property. The passage from this socialism to communism in its complete form is easy.


We do not believe that there is any danger of the adoption of Mr. George's system in our country. We think it would prove the ruin of the very class it seeks to serve. But we would ask the laboring class to consider well the risk they run in giving favor to principles which, if they could be carried out, would diminish their resources and destroy their prospect of independ We make no attack upon the honesty or sincerity of Mr. George. Undoubtedly he believes that he has found a remedy for the ills of society, and thinks his theory the fruit of true philanthropy. Many political economists as wise as he find many contradictions in his statement, and are unable to see how the universal robbery of land-owners can benefit the working class, or stimulate trade or production. For ourselves, we think that his principles acted upon would reduce the earnings of the laboring class and increase the cost of living. But, leaving aside theories of political economy, and arguing from the point of morality, which underlies the prosperity of nations, we can never be made to believe that injustice will benefit any people. Deep in the heart of any prosperous nation must be implanted the sense of justice, the obligation to render to every one that which is his due. A remedy which proposes universal robbery is not only worse than the evil it seeks to cure, but would lead to the disregard of all rights. In the observance of the natural law of God the poor are as much concerned as are the rich.

There is another great evil which flows from socialism and its kindred theories. It seeks to array capital against labor, as if one were the natural enemy of the other. Surely society is made up of different classes, and all should co-operate for the common good; one cannot well do without the other. All are equal before the law, possessing an equality of civil rights. An equality of social condition never has existed and never will exist, and to hold it up as possible is to deceive men with a fool

ish dream which can never be realized. Theorists of this kind are the worst enemies of the working classes, deluding them by vain prospects, familiarizing them with injustice, and cheating them of the just rewards of their labor. The Catholic Church is confessedly the friend of the poor. She looks upon them as the most cherished children of her flock. Schemes of benevolence and even of divine tenderness have their fountain in her heart. For ages has she been the defender of the oppressed, and she has relieved want and blessed poverty everywhere. She has taught the obligations of the divine law to every class, to the king upon his throne, to the rulers of the state, to the rich in their many cares, and to the toilers in the field and the mine. All her children are equal to her, all the recipients of her bounty, of the grace with which her Lord has endowed her. It is her special mission "to preach the gospel to the poor, deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind." No philanthropist, however sincere, can measure the fountain of divine pity that is in her. Her priests are specially consecrated to the service of those in want or suffering. They, in their vocation, are the benefactors of the poor, teaching obedience to law and justice, and self-denial where God commands it. Not for this world was man made, but for a world eternal, for a life with God, to which the trials of our different probations lead. To forget this high truth, to trample upon the principles of justice and the precepts of the natural law, is to hurry on the ruin of nations. Thus far by Christian society socialism of every kind has been rejected as the foe of peace and order, the enemy of the honest and industrious poor. We do not believe that the time has come when men, forgetting the truths of religion, and the dictates of the natural law, will tear in pieces the hallowed fabric of society, and consign themselves to a chaos of disorder.



IN attempting to give my views on so difficult and elusive a subject, it may be said, in extenuation, that I have not "rushed in," but have hesitated long, and am complying at last with repeated requests.

At the outset the question naturally arises, What is the element of life? It is not easy to define. Life in all its forms is a mystery, never more so than in a book; yet it is something as real as it is intangible. It is a quality which an author, consciously or unconsciously, gives to his story, thus endowing it with a power to live among living men and women and to interest them. Inherent life in a novel, like life elsewhere, manifests and asserts itself, feebly in some instances because vitality is weak, strongly in others because the principle is robust and aggressive. In the latter case the reader's eye kindles, his pulse quickens; he lays the book down with reluctance, goes back to it when he can, and sits up in the "wee sma' hours" to finish it. He is full of the story the next morning. He berates it for keeping him awake, and in a way which leads his household to seek at once the same cause for sleeplessness. With an irrelevancy only apparent-for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks-he mentions the book to friends and acquaintances, who in turn pass under its power and become its advocates. It does not follow that the reader is wholly pleased; on the contrary he may find much to dislike or condemn; but, as he might express himself, "the story took a strong hold on me at the start, and kept it to the end." It is the element of life which gives a novel this grasp on the attention of the average reader.

Many books are read because they contain desired information, or are classics associated with great names, or are the latest sensation in the circle to which the reader belongs. But how about the scores of novels to be published during the next


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »