- B o o k T w o
T h e C h u r c h
o f G o o d S o c i e t y
The Babylonian Fire-God
The Canonization of Incompetence
Land and Livings
Graft in Tail
Bishops and Beer
Anglicanism and Alcohl
Suffer Little Children
The Court Circular
- Within the House of Mammon his priesthood stands alert
By mysteries attended, by dusk and splendors girt,
Knowing, for faiths departed, his own shall still endure,
And they be found his chosen, untroubled, solemn, sure.
Within the House of Mammon the golden altar lifts
Where dragon-lamps are shrouded as costly incense drifts -
A dust of old ideals, now fragrant from the coals,
To tell of hopes long-ended, to tell the death of souls.
The Rain Makers
- I begin with the Church of Good Society, because it happens to be the Church in which I was brought up. Reading this statement, some of my readers suspected me of snobbish pride. I search my heart; yes, it brings a hidden thrill that as far back as I can remember I knew this atmosphere of urbanity, that twice every Sunday those melodious and hypnotizing incantations were chanted in my childish ears! I take up the book of ritual, done in aristocratic black leather with gold lettering, and the old worn volume brings me strange stirrings of recollected awe. But I endeavor to repress these vestigial emotions and to see the volume - not as a message from God to Good Society, but as a landmark of man's age-long struggle against myth and dogma used as a source of income and a shield to privilege.
In the beginning, of course, the priest and the magician ruled the field. But today, as I examine this "Book of Common Prayer", I discover that there is at least one spot out of which he has been cleared entirely; there appears no prayer to planets to stand still, or to comets to go away. The "Church of Good Society" has discovered astronomy! But if any astronomer attributes this to his instruments with their marvelous accuracy, let him at least stop to consider my "economic interpretation" of the phenomenon - the fact that the heavenly bodies affect the destinies of mankind so little that there has not been sufficient emolument to justify the priest in holding on to his job as astrologer.
But when you come to the field of meteorology, what a difference! Has any utmost precision of barometer been able to drive the priest out of his prerogatives as rainmaker? Not even in the most civilized of countries; not in that most decorous and dignified of institutions, the Protestant Episcopal Church of America! I study with care the passage wherein the clergyman appears as controller of the fate of crops. I note a chastened caution of phraseology; the church will not repeat the experience of the sorcerer's apprentice, who set the demons to bringing water, and then could not make them stop! The spell invokes "moderate rain and showers"; and as an additional precaution there is a counter-spell against "excessive rains and floods": the weather-faucet being thus under exact control.
I turn the pages of this "Book of Common Prayer", and note the remnants of magic which it contains. There are not many of the emergencies of life with which the priest is not authorized to deal; not many natural phenomena for which he may not claim the credit. And in case anything should have been overlooked, there is a blanket order upon Providence: "Graciously hear us, that those evils which the craft or subtilty of the devil or man worketh against us, be brought to nought!" I am reminded of the idea which haunted my childhood, reading fairy-stories about the hero who was allowed three wishes that would come true. I could never understand why the hero did not settle the matter once for all - by wishing that everything he wished might come true!
Most of these incantations are harmless, and some are amiable; but now and then you come upon one which is sinister in its implications. The volume before me happens to be of the Church of England, which is even more forthright in its confronting of the Great Magic. Many years ago I remember talking with an English army officer, asking how he could feel sure of his soldiers in case of labor strikes; did it never occur to him that the men had relatives among the workers, and might some time refuse to shoot them? His answer was that he was aware of it, the military had worked out its technique with care. He would never think of ordering his men to fire upon a mob in cold blood; he would first start the spell of discipline to work, he would march them round the block, and get them in the swing, get their blood moving to military music; then, when he gave the order, in they would go. I have never forgotten the gesture, the animation with which he illustrated their going - I could hear the grunting of bayonets in the flesh of men. The social system prevailing in England has made necessary the perfecting of such military technique; also, you discover, English piety has made necessary the providing of a religious sanction for it. After the job has been done. and the bayonets have been wiped clean, the company is marched to church, and the officer kneels in his family pew, and the privates kneel with the parlor-maids, and the clergyman raises his hands to heaven and intones: "We bless thy Holy Name, that it hath pleased Thee to appease the seditious tumults which have been lately raised up among us!"
And sometimes the clergyman does more than bless the killers - he even takes part in their bloody work. In the Home Office Records of the British Government I read (vol 40, page 17) how certain miners were on strike against low wages and the "truck" system, and the Vicar of Abergavenny put himself at the head of the yeomanry and the Greys. He wrote the Home Office a lively account of his military operations. All that remained was to apprehend certain of the strikers, "and then I shall be able to return to my Clerical duties." Later he wrote of the "sinister influences" which kept the miners from returning to their work, and how he had put half a dozen of the most obstinate in prison.
- So we come to the most important of the functions of the tribal god, as an ally in war, an inspirer to martial valour. When in ancient Babylonia you wished to overcome your enemies, you went to the shrine of the Firegod, and with awful rites the priest pronounced incantations, which have been preserved on bricks and handed down for the use of modern churches. "Pronounce in a whisper, and have a bronze image therewith," commands the ancient text, and runs on for many strophes in this fashion:
Let them die, but let me live!
Let them be put under a ban, but let me prosper!
Let them perish, but let me increase!
Let them become weak, but let me wax strong!
O, fire-god, mighty, exalted among the gods,
Thou art the god, thou art my lord, etc.
This was in heathen Babylon, some three thousand years ago. Since then, the world has moved on -
Three thousand years of war and peace and glory,
Of hope and work and deeds and golden schemes,
Of mighty voices raised in song and story,
Of huge inventions and of splendid dreams -
And in one of the world's leading nations the people stand up and bare their heads, and sing to their god to save their king and punish those who oppose him -
O Lord our God, arise,
Scatter his enemies,
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On him our hopes we fix,
God save us all.
Recently, I understand, it has become the custom to omit this stanza from the English national anthem; but it is clear that this is because of its crudity of expression, not because of objection to the idea of praying to a god to assist one nation and injure others; for the same sentiment is expressed again and again in the most carefully edited of prayer-books:
Abate their pride, assuage their malice, and confound their devices. Defend us, Thy humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies. Strengthen him (the King) that he may vanquish and overcome all his enemies. There is none other that fighteth for us, but only Thou, O God.
Prayers such as these are pronounced in every so-called civilized nation today. Behind every battle-line in Europe you may see the priests of the Babylonian Fire-god with their bronze images and their ancient incantations; you may see magic spells being wrought, magic standards sanctified, magic bread eaten and magic wine drunk, fetishes blessed and hoodoos lifted, eternity ransacked to find means of inciting soldiers to the mood where they will "go in". Throughout all civilization, the phobias and manias of war have thrown the people back into the toils of the priest, and that church which tortured Galileo in the dungeons of the Inquisition, and shot Ferrier beneath the walls of the fortress of Montjuich, is rejoicing in a "rebirth of religion".
- Andrew D. White tells us that
It was noted that in the 14th century, after the great plague, the Black Death, had passed, an immensely increased proportion of the landed and personal property of every European country was in the hands of the Church. Well did a great eclesiastic remark that "pestilences are the harvests of the ministers of God."
And so naturally the clergy hold on to their prerogative as banishers of epidemics. Who knows what day the Lord may see fit to rebuke the upstart teachers of impious and atheistical inoculation, and scourge the people back into His fold as in the good old days of Moses and Aaron? Viscount Amberley, in his immensely learned and half-suppressed work, "The Analysis of Religious Belief", quotes some missionaries to the Fiji islanders, concerning the ideas of these benighted heathen on the subject of a pestilence. It was the work of a "disease-maker", who was burning images of the people with incantations; so they blew horns to frighten this disease-maker from his spells. The missionaries undertook to explain the true cause of the affliction - and thereby revealed that they stood upon the same intellectual level as the heathen they were supposed to instruct! It appeared that the natives had been at war with their neighbors, and the missionaries had commanded them to desist; they had refused to obey, and God had sent the epidemic as punishment for savage presumption!
And on precisely this same Fijian level stands the "Book of Common Praye" of our most decorous and cultured of churches. I remember as a little child lying on a bed of sickness, occasioned by the prevalence in our home of the Southern custom of hot bread three times a day; and there came an amiable clerical gentleman and recited the service proper to such pastoral calls: "Take therefore in good part the visitation of the Lord!" And again, when my mother was ill, I remember how the clergyman read out in church a prayer for her, specifying all sickness, "in mind, body or estate. I was thinking only of my mother, and the meaning of these words passed over my childish head; I did not realize that the elderly plutocrat in black broadcloth who knelt in the pew in front of me was invoking the aid of the Almighty so that his tenements might bring in their rentals promptly; so that his little "flyer" in cotton might prove successful; so that the children in his mills might work with greater speed.
Somebody asked Voltaire if you could kill a cow by incantations, and he answered, "Yes, if you use a little strychnine with it." And that would seem to be the attitude of the present-day Anglican church-member; he calls in the best physician he knows, he makes sure that his plumbing is sound, and after that he thinks it can do no harm to let the Lord have a chance. It makes the women happy, and after all, there are a lot of things we don't yet know about the world. So he repairs to the family pew, and recites over the venerable prayers, and contributes his mite to the maintenance of an institution which, fourteen Sundays every year, proclaims the terrifying menaces of the Athanasian Creed:
Whoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholick faith. Which faith, except one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
For the benefit of the uninitiated reader, it may be explained that the "Catholick faith" here referred to is not the Roman Catholic, but that of the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church of America. This creed of the ancient Alexandrian lays down the truth with grim and menacing precision - forty-four paragraphs of metaphysical minutiae, closing with the final doom: "This is the Catholick faith: which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved."
You see, the founders of this august institution were not content with cultured complacency; what they believed they believed really, with their whole hearts, and they were ready to act upon it, even if it meant burning their own at the stake. Also, they knew the ceaseless impulse of the mind to grow; the terrible temptation which confronts each new generation to believe that which is reasonable. They met the situation by setting out the true faith in words which no one could mistake. They have provided, not merely the Creed of Athanasius, but also the "Thirty-nine Articles" - which are thirty-nine separate and binding guarantees that one who holds orders in the Episcopal Church shall be either a man of inferior mentality, or else a sophist and hypocrite. How desperate some of them have become in the face of this cruel dilemma is illustrated by the tale which is told of Dr. Jowett, of Balliol College, Oxford: that when he was required to recite the "Apostle's Creed" in public, he would save himself by inserting the words "used" between the words "I believe", saying the inserted words under his breath, thus, "I used to believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Perhaps the eminent divine never did this; but the fact that his students told it, and thought it funny, is sufficient indication of their attitude toward their "Religion." The son of William George Ward tells in his biography how this leader of the "Tractarian Movement" met the problem with cynicism which seems almost sublime: "Make yourself clear that you are justified in deception; and then lie like a trooper!"
- The supreme crime of the church to-day is that everywhere and in all its operations and influences it is on the side of sloth of mind; that it banishes brains, it sanctifies stupidity, it canonizes incompetence. Consider the power of the Church of England and its favorite daughter here in America; consider their prestige with the press and in politics, their hold upon literature and the arts, their control of education and the minds of children, of charity and the lives of the poor: consider all this, and then say what it means to society that such a power must be, in every new issue that arises, on the side of reaction and falsehood. "So it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be," runs the church's formula; and this per se and a priori, of necessity and in the nature of the case.
Turn over the pages of history and read the damning record of the church's opposition to every advance in every field of science, even the most remote from theological concern. Here is the Reverend Edward Massey, preaching in 1772 on "The Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Inoculation"; declaring that Job's distemper was probably confluent small-pox; that he had been inoculated doubtless by the devil; that diseases are sent by Providence for the punishment of sin; and that the proposed attempt to prevent them is "a diabolical operation". Here are the Scotch clergy of the middle of the nineteenth century denouncing the use of chloroform in obstetrics, because it is seeking "to avoid one part of the primeval curse on woman". Here is Bishop Wilberforce of Oxford anathematizing Darwin: "The principle of natural selection is absolutely incompatible with the word of God"; it "contradicts the revealed relation of creation to its creator"; it "is inconsistent with the fulness of His glory"; it is "a dishonoring view of nature". And the Bishop settled the matter by asking Huxley whether he was descended from an ape through his grandmother or grandfather.
Think what it means, friends of progress, that these ecclesiastical figures should be set up for the reverence of the populace, and that every time mankind is to make an advance in power over Nature, the pioneers of thought have to come with crow-bars and derricks and heave these figures out of the way! And you think that conditions are changed to-day? But consider syphilis and gonorrhea, about which we know so much, and can do almost nothing; consider birth-control, which we are sent to jail for so much as mentioning! Consider the divorce reforms for which the world is crying - and for which it must wait, because of St. Paul! Realize that up to date it has proven impossible to persuade the English Church to permit a man to marry his deceased wife's sister! That when the war broke upon England the whole nation was occupied with a squabble over the disestablishment of the church of Wales! Only since 1888 has it been legally possible for an unbeliever to hold a seat in Parliament; while up to the present day men are tried for blasphemy and convicted under the decisions of Lord Hale, to the effect that "it is a crime either to deny the truth of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion or to hold them up to contempt or ridicule." Said Mr. justice Horridge, at the West Riding Assizes, 1911: "A man is not free in any public place to use common ridicule on subjects which are sacred."
The purpose, as outlined by the public prosecutor in London, is "to preserve the standard of outward decency." And you will find that the one essential to prosecution is always that the victim shall be obscure and helpless; never by any chance is he a duke in a drawing-room. I will record an utterance of one of the obscure victims of the British "standard of outward decency", a teacher of mathematics named Holyoake, who presumed to discuss in a public hall the starvation of the working classes of the country. A preacher objected that he had discussed "our duty to our neighbor" and neglected "our duty to God"; whereupon the lecturer replied: "Our national Church and general religious institutions cost us, upon accredited computation, about twenty million pounds annually. Worship being thus expensive, I appeal to your heads and your pockets whether we are not too poor to have a God. While our distress lasts, I think it would be wise to put deity upon half pay." And for that utterance the unfortunate teacher of mathematics served six months in the common Gaol at Gloucester!
While men were being tried for publishing the "Free-thinker", the Premier of England was William Ewart Gladstone. And if you wish to know what an established church can do by way of setting up dullness in high places, get a volume of this "Grand Old Man's" writings on theological and religious questions. Read his "Juventus Mundi", in the course of which he establishes, a mystic connection between the trident of Neptune and the Christian Trinity! Read his efforts to prove that the writer of Genesis was an inspired geologist! This writer of Genesis points out in Nature "a grand, fourfold division, set forth in an orderly succession of times: First, the water population; secondly, the air population; thirdly, the land population of animals; fourthly, the land population consummated in man." And it seems that this division and sequence "is understood to have been so affirmed in our time by natural science that it may be taken as a demonstrated conclusion and established fact." Hence we must conclude of the writer of Genesis that "his knowledge was divine"! Consider that this was actually published in one of the leading British monthlies, and that it was necessary for Professor Huxley to answer it, pointing out that so far is it from being true that "a fourfold division and orderly sequence" of water, air and land animals "has been affirmed in our time by natural science", that on the contrary, the assertion is "directly contradictory to facts known to everyone who is acquainted with the elements of natural science". The distribution of fossils proves that land animals originated before sea-animals, and there has been such a mixing of land, sea and air animals as utterly to destroy the reputation of both Genesis and Gladstone as possessing a divine knowledge of Geology.
- I have a friend, a well-known "scholar", who permits me the use of his extensive library. I stand in the middle and look about me, and see in the dim shadows walls lined from floor to ceiling with decorous and grave-looking books, bound for the most part in black, many of them fading to green with age. There are literally thousands of such, and their theme is the pseudo-science of "divinity". I close my eyes, to make the test fair, and walk to the shelves and put out my hand and take a book. It proves to be a modern work, "A History of the English Prayer-book in Relation to the Doctrine of the Eucharist". I turn the pages and discover that it is a study of the variations of one minute detail of church doctrine. This learned divine - he has written many such works, as the advertisements inform us - fills up the greater part of his pages with foot-notes from hundreds of authorities, arguments and counter-arguments over supernatural subtleties. I will give one sample of these footnotes - asking the reader to be patient:
I add the following valuable observation, of Dean Goode: ("On Eucharist", II p 757. See also Archbishop Ware in Gibson's "Preservative", vol X, Chap II) "One great point for which our divines have contended, in opposition to Romish errors, has been the reality of that presence of Christ's Body and Blood to the soul of the believer which is affected through the operation of the Holy Spirit notwithstanding the absence of that Body and Blood in Heaven. Like the Sun, the Body of Christ is both present and absent; present, really and truly present, in one sense - that is, by the soul being brought into immediate communion with - but absent in another sense - that is, as regards the contiguity of its substance to our bodies. The authors under review, like the Romanists, maintain that this is not a Real Presence, and assuming their own interpretation of the phrase to be the only true one, press into their service the testimony of divines who, though using the phrase, apply it in a sense the reverse of theirs. The ambiguity of the phrase, and its misapplication by the Church of Rome, have induced many of our divines to repudiate it, etc."
Realize that of the work from which this "valuable observation" is quoted, there are at least two volumes, the second volume containing not less than 757 pages! Realize that in Gibson's "Preservative" there are not less than ten volumes of such writing! Realize that in this twentieth century a considerable portion of the mental energies of the world's greatest empire is devoted to that kind of learning!
I turn to the date upon the volume, and find that it is 1910. I was in England within a year of that time, and so I can tell what was the condition of the English people while printers were making and papers were reviewing and book-stores were distributing this work of ecclesiastical research. I walked along the Embankment and saw the pitiful wretches, men, women and sometimes children, clad in filthy rags, starved white and frozen blue, soaked in winter rains and shivering in winter winds, homeless, hopeless, unheeded by the doctors of divinity, unpreserved by Gibson's "Preservative". I walked on Hampstead Heath on Easter day, when the population of the slums turns out for its one holiday; I walked, literally trembling with horror, for I had never seen such sights nor dreamed of them. These creatures were hardly to be recognized as human beings; they were some new grotesque race of apes. They could not walk, they could only shamble; they could not laugh, they could only leer. I saw a hand-organ playing, and turned away - the things they did in their efforts to dance were not to be watched. And then I went out into the beautiful English country; cultured and charming ladies took me in swift, smooth motor-cars, and I saw the pitiful hovels and the drink-sodden, starch-poisoned inhabitants - slum-populations everywhere, even on the land! When the newspaper reporters came to me, I said that I had just come from Germany, and that if ever England found herself at war with that country, she would regret that she had let the bodies and the minds of her people rot; for which expression I was severely taken to task by more than one British divine.
The bodies - and the minds; the rot of the latter being the cause of the former. All over England in that year of 1910, in thousands of schools, rich and poor, and in the greatest centres of learning, men like Dean Goode were teaching boys dead languages and dead sciences and dead arts; sending them out to life with no more conception of the modern world than a monk of the Middle Ages; sending them out with minds, made hard and inflexible, ignorant of science, indifferent to progress, contemptuous of ideas. And then suddenly, almost overnight, this terrified people finds itself at war with a nation ruled and disciplined by modern experts, scientists and technicians. The awful muddle that was in England during the first two years of the war has not yet been told in print; but thousands know it, and some day it will be written, and it will finish forever the prestige of the British ruling caste. They rushed off an expedition to Gallipoli, and somebody forgot the water-supply, and at one time they had ninety-five thousand cases of dysentery!
They always "muddle through", they tell you; that is the motto of their ruling caste. But this time they did not "muddle through" - they had to come to America for help. As I write, our Congress is voting billions and tens of billions of dollars, and a million of the best of our young manhood are being taken from their homes - because in 1910 the mind of England was occupied with Dean Goode "On Eucharist", and the ten volumes of Gibson's "Preservative".
- What the Church means in human affairs is the rule of the aged. It means old men in the seats of authority, not merely in the church, but in the law-courts and in Parliament, even in the army and navy. For a test I look up the list of bishops of the Church of England in Whitaker's Almanac; it appears that there are 40 of these functionaries, including the archbishops, but not the suffragans; and that the total salary paid to them amounts to more than nine hundred thousand dollars a year. This, it should be understood, does not include the pay of their assistants, nor the cost of maintaining their religious establishments; it does not include any private incomes which they or their wives may possess, as members of the privileged classes of the Empire. I look up their ages in Who's Who, and I find that there is only one below fifty-three; the oldest of them is ninety-one, while the average age of the goodly company is seventy. There have been men in history who have retained their flexibility of mind, their ability to adjust themselves to new circumstances at the age of seventy, but it will always be found that these men were trained in science and practical affairs, never in dead languages and theology. One of the oldest of the English prelates, the Archbishop of Canterbury, recently stated to a newspaper reporter that he worked seventeen hours a day, and had no time to form an opinion on the labor question.
And now - here is the crux of the argument - do these aged gentlemen rule of their own power? They do not! They do literally nothing of their own power; they could not make their own episcopal robes, they could not even cook their own episcopal dinners. They have to be maintained in all their comings and goings. Who supports them, and to what end?
The roots of the English Church are in the English land system, which is one of the infamies of the modern world. It dates from the days of William the Norman, who took possession of Britain with his sword, and in order to keep possession for himself and his heirs, distributed the land among his nobles and prelates. In those days, you understand, a high ecclesiastic was a man of war, who did not stoop to veil his predatory nature under pretense of philanthropy; the abbots and archbishops, of William wore armor and had their troops of knights like the barons and the dukes. William gave them vast tracts, and at the same time he gave them orders which they obeyed. Says the English chronicler, "Stark he was. Bishops he stripped of their bishopricks, abbots of their abbacies". Green tells us that "the dependencie of the church on the royal power was strictly enforced. Homage was exacted from bishop as from baron." And what was this homage? The bishop knelt before William, bareheaded and without arms, and swore: "Hear my lord, I become liege man of yours for life and limb and earthly regard, and I will keep faith and loyalty to you for life and death, God help me."
The lands which the church got from William the Norman, she has held, and always on the same condition - that she shall be "liege man for life and limb and earthly regard". In this you have the whole story of the church of England, in the twentieth century as in the eleventh. The balance of power has shifted from time to time; old families have lost the land and new families have gotten it; but the loyalty and homage of the church have been held by the land, as the needle of the compass is held by a mass of metal. Some two hundred and fifty years ago a popular song gave the general impression -
For this is law that I'll maintain
Until my dying day, sir:
That whatsoever king shall reign
I'll still be vicar of Bray, sir!
So, wherever you take the Anglican clergy, they are Tories and Royalists, conservatives and reactionaries, friends of every injustice that profits the owning class. And always among themselves you find them intriguing and squabbling over the dividing of the spoils; always you find them enjoying leisure and ease, while the people suffer and the rebels complain. One can pass down the corridor of English history and prove this statement by the words of Englishmen from every single generation. Take the fourteenth century; the "Good Parliament" declares that
Unworthy and unlearned caitiffs are appointed to benefices of a thousand marks, while the poor and learned hardly obtain one of twenty. God gave the sheep to be pastured, not to be shaven and shorn.
And a little later comes the poet of the people, Piers Plowman -
But now is Religion a rider, a roamer through the streets, A leader at the love-day, a buyer of the land, Pricking on a palfrey from manor to manor, A heap of hounds at his back, as tho he were a lord; And if his servant kneel not when he brings his cup, He loureth on him asking who taught him courtesy. Badly have lords done to give their heirs' lands Away to the Orders that have no pity; Money rains upon their altars. There where such parsons be living at ease They have no pity on the poor; that is their "charity". Ye hold you as lords; your lands are too broad, But there shall come a king and he shall shrive you all And beat you as the bible saith for breaking of your Rule.
Another step through history, and in the early part of the sixteenth century here is Simon Fish, addressing King Henry the Eighth, in the "Supplicacyon for the Beggars", complaining of the "strong, puissant and counterfeit holy and ydell" which "are now increased under your sight, not only into a great nombre, but ynto a kingdome."
They have begged so importunatly that they have gotten ynto their hondes more than a therd part of all youre Realme. The goodliest lordshippes, maners, londes, and territories, are theyres. Besides this, they have the tenth part of all the come, medowe, pasture, grasse, wolle, coltes, calves, lambes, pigges, gese and chikens. Ye, and they looke so narowly uppon theyre proufittes, that the poore wyves must be countable to thym of every tenth eg, or elles she gettith not her rytes at ester, shal be taken as an heretike... Is it any merveille that youre people so compleine of povertie? The Turke nowe, in your tyme, shulde never be abill to get so moche grounde of christendome ... And whate do al these gredy sort of sturdy, idell, holy theves? These be they that have made an hundredth thousand idell hores in your realme. These be they that catche the pokkes of one woman, and here them to an other.
The petitioner goes on to tell how they steal wives and all their goods with them, and if any man protest they make him a heretic, "so that it maketh him wisshe that he had not done it". Also they take fortunes for masses and then don't say them. "If the Abbot of westminster shulde sing every day as many masses for his founders as he is bounde to do by his foundacion, 1000 monkes were too few." The petitioner suggests that the king shall "tie these holy idell theves to the cartes, to be whipped naked about every market towne till they will fall to laboure!"
- King Henry did not follow this suggestion precisely, but he took away the property of the religious orders for the expenses of his many wives and mistresses, and forced the clergy in England to forswear obedience to the Pope and make his royal self their spiritual head. This was the beginning of the Anglican Church, as distinguished from the Catholic; a beginning of which the Anglican clergy are not so proud as they would like to be. When I was a boy, they taught me what they called "church history", and when they came to Henry the Eighth they used him as an illustration of the fact that the Lord is sometimes wont to choose evil men to carry out His righteous purposes. They did not explain why the Lord should do this confusing thing, nor just how you were to know, when you saw something being done by a murderous adulterer, whether it was the will of the Lord or of Satan; nor did they go into details as to the motives which the Lord had been at pains to provide, so as to induce his royal agent to found the Anglican Church. For such details you have to consult another set of authorities - the victims of the plundering.
When I was in college my professor of Latin was a gentleman with bushy brown whiskers and a thundering voice of which I was often the object - for even in those early days I had the habit of persisting in embarrassing questions. This professor was a devout Catholic, and not even in dealing with ancient Romans could he restrain his propaganda impulses. Later on in life he became editor of the "Catholic Encyclopedia", and now when I turn its pages, I imagine that I see the bushy brown whiskers, and hear the thundering voice: "Mr. Sinclair, it is so because I tell you it is so!"
I investigate, and find that my ex-professor knows all about King Henry the Eighth, and his motives in founding the Church of England; he is ready with an "economic interpretation", as complete as the most rabid muckraker could desire! It appears that the king wanted a new wife, and demanded that the Pope should grant the necessary permission; in his efforts to browbeat the Pope into such betrayal of duty, King Henry threatened the withdrawal of the "annates" and the "Peter's pence". Later on he forced the clergy to declare that the Pope was "only a foreign bishop", and in order to "stamp out overt expression of disaffection, he embarked upon a veritable reign of terror".
In Anglican histories, you are assured that all this was a work of religious reform, and that after it the Church was the pure vehicle of God's grace. There were no more "holy idell theves", holding the land of England and plundering the poor. But get to know the clergy, and see things from the inside, and you will meet some one like the Archbishop of Cashell, who wrote to one of his intimates:
I conclude that a good bishop has nothing more to do than to eat, drink and grow fat, rich and die; which laudable example I propose for the remainder of my days to follow.
If you say that might be a casual jest, hear what Thackeray reports of that period, the eighteenth century, which he knew with peculiar intimacy:
I read that Lady Yarmouth (my most religious and gracious King's favorite) sold a bishopric to a clergyman for 5000 pounds. (She betted him the 5000 pounds that he would not be made a bishop, and he lost, and paid her.) Was he the only prelate of his time led up by such hands for consecration? As I peep into George II's St. James, I see crowds of cassocks pushing up the back-stairs of the ladies of the court; stealthy clergy slipping purses into their laps; that godless old king yawning under his canopy in his Chapel Royal, as the chaplain before him is discoursing. Discoursing about what? - About righteousness and judgment? Whilst the chaplain is preaching, the king is chattering in German and almost as loud as the preacher; so loud that the clergyman actually burst out crying in his pulpit, because the defender of the faith and the dispenser of bishoprics would not listen to him!
Land and Livings
- And how is it in the twentieth century? Have conditions been much improved? There are great Englishmen who do not think so. I quote Robert Buchanan, a poet who spoke for the people, and who therefore has still to be recognized by English critics. He writes of the "New Rome", by which he means present-day England:
The gods are dead, but in their name
Humanity is sold to shame,
While (then as now!) the tinsel'd priest
Sitteth with robbers at the feast,
Blesses the laden, blood-stained board,
Weaves garlands round the butcher's sword,
And poureth freely (now as then)
The sacramental blood of Men!
You see, the land system of England remains - the changes having been for the worse. William the Conqueror wanted to keep the Saxon peasantry contented, so he left them their "commons"; but in the eighteenth century these were nearly all filched away. We saw the same thing done within the last generation in Mexico, and from the same motive - because developing capitalism needs cheap labor, whereas people who have access to the land will not slave in mills and mines. In England, from the time of Queen Anne to that of William and Mary, the parliaments of the landlords passed some four thousand separate acts, whereby more than seven million acres of the common land were stolen from the people. It has been calculated that these acres might have supported a million families; and ever since then England has had to feed a million paupers all the time.
As an old song puts the matter:
Why prosecute the man or woman
Who steals a goose from off the common,
And let the greater felon loose
Who steals the common from the goose?
In our day the land aristocracy is rooted like the native oak in British soil: some of them direct descendants of the Normans, others children of the court favorites and panders who grew rich in the days of the Tudors and the unspeakable Stuarts. Seven men own practically all the land of the city and county of London, and collect tribute from seven millions of people. The estates are entailed - that is, handed down from father to oldest son automatically; you cannot buy any land, but if you want to build, the landlord gives you a lease, and when the lease is up, he takes possession of your buildings. The tribute which London pays is more than a hundred million dollars a year. So absolute is the right of the land-owner that he can sue for trespass the driver on an aeroplane which flies over him; he imposes on fishermen a tax upon catches made many hundred of yards from the shore.
And in this graft, of course, the church has its share. Each church owns land - not merely that upon which it stands, but farms and city lots from which it derives income. Each cathedral owns large tracts; so do the schools and universities in which the clergy are educated. The income from the holdings of a church constitutes what is called a "living"; these livings, which vary in size, are the prerogatives of the younger sons of the ruling families, and are intrigued and scrambled for in exactly the fashion which Thackeray describes in the eighteenth century.
About six thousand of these "livings" are in the gift of great land owners.; one noble lord alone disposes of fifty-six such plums; and needless to say, he does not present them to clergymen who favor radical land-taxes. He gives them to men like himself - autocratic to the poor, easy-going to members of his own class, and cynical concerning the grafts of grace.
In one English village which I visited the living was worth seven hundred pounds, with the use of a fine mansion; as the incumbent had a large family, he lived there. In another place the living was worth a thousand pounds, and the incumbent hired a curate, himself appearing twice a year, on Christmas day and on the King's birthday, to preach a sermon; the rest of the time he spent in Paris. It is worth noting that in 1808 a law was proposed compelling absentee pluralists - that is, clergymen holding more than one "living" - to furnish curates to do their work; it might be interesting to note that this law met with strenuous clerical opposition, the house of Bishops voting against it without a division. Thus we may understand the sharp saying of Karl Marx, that the English clergy would rather part with thirty-eight of their thirty-nine articles than with one thirty-ninth of their income.
There is always a plentiful supply of curates in England. They are the sons of the less influential ruling families, and of the clergy; they have been trained at Oxford or Cambridge, and possess the one essential qualification, that they are gentlemen. Their average price is two hundred and fifty pounds a year; their function was made clear to me when I attended my first English tea-party. There was a wicker table, perhaps a foot and a half square, having three shelves, one below the other the top layer the plates and napkins, on the next the muffins, and on the lowest the cake. Said the hostess, "Will you pass the curate, please?" I looked puzzled, and she pointed. "We call that the curate, because it does the work of a curate."
Graft in Tail
- As one of America's head muck-rakers, I found that I was popular with the British ruling classes; they found my books useful in their campaigns against democracy, and they were surprised and disconcerted when they found I did not agree with their interpretation of my writings. I had told of corruption in American politics; surely I must know that in England they had no such evils! I explained that they did not have to; their graft, to use their own legal phrase, was "in tail"; the grafters had, as a matter of divine right, the things which in America they had to buy. In America, for instance, we had a Senate, a "Millionaire's Club", for admission to which the members paid in cash; but in England the same men came to the same position as their birth-right. Political corruption is not an end in itself, it is merely a means to exploitation; and of exploitation England has even more than America. When I explained this, my popularity with the British ruling classes vanished quickly.
As a matter of fact, England is more like America than she realizes; her British reticence has kept her ignorant about herself. I could not carry on my business in England, because of the libel laws, which have as their first principle "the greater the truth, the greater the libel". Englishmen read with satisfaction what I write about America; but if I should turn my attention to their own country, they would send me to jail as they sent Frank Harris. The fact is that the new men in England, the lords of coal and iron and shipping and beer, have bought their way into the landed aristocracy for cash, just as our American senators have done; they have bought the political parties with campaign gifts, precisely as in America; they have taken over the press, whether by outright purchase like Northcliffe, or by advertising subsidy - both of which methods we Americans know. Within the last decade or two another group has been coming into control; and not merely is this the same class of men as in America, it frequently consists of the same individuals. These are the big money-lenders, the international financiers who are the fine and final flower of the capitalist system. These gentlemen make the world their home - or, as Shakespeare puts it, their oyster. They know how to fit themselves to all environments; they are Catholics in Rome and Vienna, country gentlemen in London, bons vivants in Paris, democrats in Chicago, Socialists in Petrograd, and Hebrews wherever they are.
And of course, in buying the English government, these new classes have bought the English Church. Skeptics and men of the world as they are, they know that they must have a Religion. They have read the story of the French revolution, and the shadow of the guillotine is always over their thoughts; they see the giant of labor, restless in his torment, groping as in a nightmare for the throat of his enemy. Who can blind the eyes of this giant, who can chain him to his couch of slumber? There is but one agent, without rival - the Keeper of the Holy Secrets, the Deputy of the Almighty Awfulness, the Giver and Withholder of Eternal Life. Tremble, slave! Fall down and bow your forehead in the dust! I can see in my memory the sight that thrilled my childhood - my grim old Bishop, clad in his gorgeous ceremonial robes, stretching out his hands over the head of the new priest, and pronouncing that most deadly of all the Christian curses:
"Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained!"
Bishops and Beer
- For example, the International Shylocks wanted the diamond mines of South Africa - wanted them more firmly governed and less firmly taxed than could be arranged with the Old Man of the Boers. So the armies of England were sent to subjugate the country. You might think they would have had the good taste to leave the lowly Jesus out of this affair - but if so, you have missed the essential point about established religion. The bishops, priests, and deacons are set up for the populace to revere, and when the robber-classes need a blessing upon some enterprise, then is the opportunity for the bishops, priests and deacons to earn their "living." During the Boer war the blood-lust of the English clergy was so extreme that writers in the dignified monthly reviews felt moved to protest against it. When the pastors of Switzerland issued a collective protest against cruelties to women and children in the South African concentration-camps, it was the Right Reverend Bishop of Winchester who was brought forward to make reply. Nowadays all England is reading Bernhardi, and shuddering at Prussian glorification of war; but no one mentions Bishop Welldon of Calcutta, who advocated the Boer war as a means of keeping the nation "virile"; nor Archbishop Alexander, who said that it was God's way of making "noble natures".
The British God had other ways of improving nations - for example, the opium traffic. The British traders had been raising the poppy in India and selling its juice to the Chinese. They had made perhaps a hundred million "noble natures" by this method; and also they were making a hundred million dollars a year. The Chinese, moved by their new "virility," undertook to destroy some opium, and to stop the traffic; whereupon it was necessary to use British battle-ships to punish and subdue them. Was there any difficulty in persuading the established church of Jesus to bless this holy war? There was not! Lord Shaftesbury, himself the most devout of Anglicans, commented with horror upon the attitude of the clergy, and wrote in his diary:
I rejoice that this cruel and debasing opium war is terminated. We have triumphed in one of the most lawless, unnecessary, and unfair struggles in the records of history; and Christians have shed more heathen blood in two years, than the heathens have shed of Christian blood in two centuries.
That was in 1843; for seventy years thereafter pious England continued to force the opium traffic upon protesting China, and only in the last two or three years has the infamy been brought to an end. Throughout the long controversy the attitude of the church was such that Li Hung Chang was moved to assert in a letter to the Anti-Opium Society:
Opium is a subject in the discussion of which England and China can never meet on a common ground. China views the whole question from a moral standpoint, England from a fiscal.
And just as the Chinese people were poisoned with opium, so the English people are being poisoned with alcohol. Both in town and country, labor is sodden with it. Scientists and reformers are clamoring for restriction - and what prevents? Head and front of the opposition for a century, standing like a rock, has been the Established Church. The Rev. Dawson Burns, historian of the early temperance movement, declares that "among its supporters I cannot recall one Church of England minister of influence." When Asquith brought in his bill for the restriction of the traffic in beer, he was confronted with petitions signed by members of the clergy, protesting against the act. And what was the basis of their protest? That beer is a food and not a poison? Yes, of course; but also that there was property invested in brewing it, Three hundred and thirty-two clergy of the diocese of Peterborough declared:
We do strongly protest against the main provisions of the present bill as creating amongst our people a sense of grave injustice as amounting to a confiscation of private property, spelling ruin for thousands of quite innocent people, and provoking deep and widespread resentment, which must do harm to our cause and hinder our aims.
I have come upon references to another and even more plainspoken petition, signed by 1,280 clergymen; but war-time facilities for research have not enabled me to find the text. In Prof. Henry C. Vedder's "Jesus Christ and the Social Question," we read:
It was authoritatively stated a short time ago that Mr. Asquith's temperance bill was defeated in Parliament through the opposition of clergymen who had invested their savings in brewery stock, the profits of which might have been lessened by the bill.
Also the power of the clergy, combined with the brewer, was sufficient to put through Parliament a provision that no prohibition legislation should ever be passed without providing for compensation to the owners of the industry. Today, all over America, appeals are being made to the people to eat less grain; the grain is being shipped to England, some of it to be made into beer; and a high Anglican prelate, his Grace the Archbishop of York, comes to America to urge us to increased sacrifices, and in his first newspaper interview takes occasion to declare that his church is not in favor of prohibition as a measure of war-time economy!
- This partnership of Bishops and Beer is painfully familiar to British radicals; they see it at work in every election - the publican confusing the voters with spirits, while the parson confuses them with spirituality. There are two powerful societies in England employing this deadly combination - the "Anti-Socialist Union" and the "Liberty and Property Defense League." If you scan the lists of the organizers, directors and subsidizers of these satanic institutions, you find Tory politicians and landlords, prominent members of the higher clergy, and large-scale dealers in drunkenness. I attended in London a meeting called by the "Liberty and Property Defense League," to listen to a denunciation of Socialism by W. H. Mallock, a master sophist of Roman Catholicism; upon the platform were a bishop and half a dozen members of the Anglican clergy, together with the secretary of the Federated Brewers' Association, the Secretary of the Wine, Spirit, and Beer Trade Association, and three or four other alcoholic magnates.
In every public library in England and many in America you will find an assortment of pamphlets published by these organizations, and scholarly volumes endorsed by them, in which the stock misrepresentations of Socialism are perpetuated. Some of these writings are brutal - setting forth the ethics of exploitation in the manner of the Rev. Thomas Malthus, the English clergyman who supplied for capitalist depredation a basis in pretended natural science. Said this shepherd of Jesus:
A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents, and if society does not want his labor, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and in fact has no business to be where he is. At Nature's mighty feast there is no cover for him. She tells him to he gone, and will quickly execute her own orders.
Such was the tone of the ruling classes in the nineteenth century; but it was found that for some reason this failed to stop the growth of Socialism, and so in our time the clerical defenders of Privilege have grown subtle and insinuating. They inform us now that they have a deep sympathy with our fundamental purposes; they burn with pity for the poor, and they would really and truly wish happiness to everyone, not merely in Heaven, but right here and now. However, there are so many complications - and so they proceed to set out all the anti-Socialist bug-a-boos. Here for example, is the Rev. James Stalker, D. D., expounding "The Ethics of Jesus," and admonishing us extremists:
Efforts to transfer money and property from one set of hands to another may be inspired by the same passions as have blinded the present holders to their own highest good, and may be accompanied with injustice as extreme as has ever been manifested by the rich and powerful.
And again, the Rev. W. Sanday, D. D., an especially popular clerical author, gives us this sublime utterance of religion on wage-slavery:
The world is full of mysteries, but some clear lines run through them, of which this is one. Where God has been so patient, it is not for us to be impatient.
And again, Professor Robert Flint, of Edinburgh University, a clergyman, author of a big book attacking Socialism, and bringing us back to the faith of our fathers:
The great bulk of human misery is due, not to social arrangements, but to personal vices.
I study Professor Flint's volume in the effort to find just what, if anything, he would have the church do about the evils of our time. I find him praising the sermons of Dr. Westcott, Bishop of Durham, as being the proper sort for clergymen to preach. Bishop Westcott, whether he is talking to a high society congregation, or to one of workingmen, shows "an exquisite sense of knowing always where to stop." So I consulted the Bishop's volume, "The Social Aspects of Christianity" and I see at once why he is popular with the anti-Socialist propagandists - neither I or any other man can possibly discover what he really means, or what he really wants done.
I was fascinated by this Westcott problem; I thought maybe if I kept on the good Bishop's trail, I might in the end find something a plain man could understand; so I got the beautiful two-volume "Life of Brooke Westcott, by his Son" - and there I found an exposition of the social purposes of bishops! In the year 1892 there was a strike in Durham, which is in the coal country; the employers tried to make a cut in wages, and some ten thousand men walked out, and there was a long and bitter struggle, which wrung the episcopal heart. There was much consultation and correspondence on episcopal stationery, and at last the masters and men were got together, with the Bishop as arbitrator, and the dispute was triumphantly settled - how do you suppose? On the basis of a ten per cent reduction in wages!
I know nothing quainter in the history of English graft than the naivete with which the Bishop's biographer and son tells the story of this episcopal venture into reality. The prelate came out from the conference "all smiles, and well satisfied with the result of his day's work." As for his followers, they were in ecstacies; they "seized and waltzed one another around on the carriage drive as madly as ever we danced at a flower show ball. Hats and caps are thrown into the air, and we cheer ourselves hoarse." The Bishop proceeds to his palace, and sends one more communication on episcopal stationery - an order to all his clergy to "offer their humble and hearty thanks to God for our happy deliverance from the strife by which the diocese has been long afflicted." Strange to say, there were a few varlets in Durham who did not appreciate the services of the bold Bishop, and one of them wrote and circulated some abusive verses, in which he made reference to the Bishop's comfortable way of life. The biographer then explains that the Bishop was so tender-hearted that he suffered for the horses who drew his episcopal coach, and so ascetic that he would have lived on tea and toast if he had been permitted to. A curious condition in English society, where the Bishop would have lived on tea and toast, but was not permitted to; while the working people, who didn't want to live on tea and toast, were compelled to!
- For more than a hundred years the Anglican clergy have been fighting with every resource at their command the liberal and enlightened men of England who wished to educate the masses of the people. In 1807 the first measure for a national school-system was denounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury as "derogatory to the authority of the Church." As a counter- measure, his supporters established the "National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Doctrines of the Established Church"; and the founder of the organization, a clergyman, advocated a barn as a good structure for a school, and insisted that the children of the workers "should not be taught beyond their station." In 1840 a Committee of the Privy Council of Education was appointed, but bowed to the will of the Archbishops, setting forth the decree of "their lordships" that "the first purpose of all instruction must be the regulation of the thoughts and habits of the children by the doctrine and precepts of revealed religion." In 1850 a bill for secular education was denounced as presenting to the country "a choice between Heaven or Hell, God or the Devil." In 1870, Forster, author of the still unpassed bill, wrote that while the parsons were disputing, the children of the poor were "growing into savages."
As with Education, so with Social Reform. During the struggle to abolish slavery in the British colonies, some enthusiasts endeavored to establish the doctrine that Christian baptism conferred emancipation upon negroes who accepted it; whereupon the Bishop of London laid down the formula of exploitation: "Christianity and the embracing of the gospel do not make the least alteration of civil property."
Gladstone, who was a democrat when he was not religious, spoke of the cultured classes of England:
In almost every one, if not every one, of the greatest political controversies of the last fifty years, whether they affected the franchise, whether they affected commerce, whether they affected religion, whether they affected the bad and abominable institution of slavery, or what subject they touched, these leisured classes, these educated classes, these titled classes have been in the wrong.
The "Great Commoner" did not add "these religious classes," for he belonged to the religious classes himself; but a study of the record will supply the gap. The Church opposed all the reform measures which Gladstone himself put through. It opposed the Reform Bill of 1832. It opposed all the social reforms of Lord Shaftesbury. This noble-hearted Englishman complained that at first only a single minister of religion supported him, and to the end only a few. He expressed himself as distressed and puzzled "to find support from infidels and non-professors; opposition or coldness from religionists or declaimers."
And to our own day it has been the same. In 1894 the House of Bishops voted solidly against the Employers' Liability Law. The House of Bishops opposed Home Rule, and beat it; the House of Bishops opposed Womans' Suffrage, and voted against it to the end. Concerning this establishment Lord Shaftesbury, himself the most devout of Englishmen, used the vivid phrase: "this vast aquarium full of cold-blooded life." He told the Bishops that he would give up preaching to them about ecclesiastical reform, because he knew that they would never begin. Another member of the British aristocracy, the Hon. Geo. Russell, has written of their record and adventures:
They were defenders of absolutism, slavery, and the bloody penal code; they were the resolute opponents of every political or social reform; and they had their reward from the nation outside Parliament. The Bishop of Bristol had his palace sacked and burnt; the Bishop of London could not keep an engagement to preach lest the congregation should stone him. The Bishop of Litchfield barely escaped with his life after preaching at St. Bride's, Fleet Street. Archbishop Howley, entering Canterbury for his primary visitation, was insulted, spat upon, and only brought by a circuitous route to the Deanery, amid the execrations of the mob. On the 5th of November the Bishops of Exeter and Winchester were burnt in effigy close to their own palace gates. Archbishop Howley's chaplain complained that a dead cat had been thrown at him, when the Archbishop - a man of apostolic meekness - replied: "You should be thankful that it was not a live one."
The people had reason for this conduct - as you will always find they have, if you take the trouble to inquire. Let me quote another member of the English ruling classes, Mr. Conrad Noel, who gives "an instance of the procedure of Church and State about this period":
In 1832 six agricultural labourers in South Dorsetshire, led by one of their class, George Loveless, in receipt of 9s. a week each, demanded the 10s. rate of wages usual in the neighbourhood. The result was a reduction to 8s. An appeal was made to the chairman of the local bench, who decided that they must work for whatever their masters chose to pay them. The parson, who had at first promised his help, now turned against them, and the masters promptly reduced the wage to 7s., with a threat of further reduction. Loveless then formed an agricultural union, for which all seven were arrested, treated as convicts, and committed to the assizes. The prison chaplain tried to bully them into submission. The judge determined to convict them, and directed that they should be tried for mutiny under an act of George III, specially passed to deal with the naval mutiny at the Nore. The grand jury were landowners, and the petty jury were farmers; both judge and jury were churchmen of the prevailing type. The judge summed up as follows: "Not for anything that you have done, or that I can prove that you intend to do, but for an example to others I consider it my duty to pass the sentence of seven years' penal transportation across His Majesty's high seas upon each and every one of you."
Suffer Little Children
- The founder of Christianity was a man who specialized in children. He was not afraid of having His discourses disturbed by them, He did not consider them superfluous. "Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven", He said; and His Church is the inheritor of this tradition - "feed my lambs". There were children in Great Britain in the early part of the nineteenth century, and we may see what was done with them by turning to Gibbin's "Industrial History of England":
Sometimes regular traffickers would take the place of the manufacturer, and transfer a number of children to a factory district, and there keep them, generally in some dark cellar, till they could hand them over to a mill owner in want of hands, who would come and examine their height, strength, and bodily capacities, exactly as did the slave owners in the American markets. After that the children were simply at the mercy of their owners, nominally as apprentices, but in reality as mere slaves, who got no wages, and whom it was not worth while even to feed and clothe properly, because they were so cheap and their places could be so easily supplied. It was often arranged by the parish authorities, in order to get rid of imbeciles, that one idiot should be taken by the mill owner with every twenty sane children. The fate of these unhappy idiots was even worse than that of the others. The secret of their final end has never been disclosed, but we can form some idea of their awful sufferings from the hardships of the other victims to capitalist greed and cruelty. The hours of their labor were only limited by exhaustion, after many modes of torture had been unavailingly applied to force continued work. Children were often worked sixteen hours a day, by day and by night.
In the year 1819 an act of Parliament was proposed limiting the labor of children nine years of age to four-teen hours a day. This would seem to have been a reasonable provision, likely to have won the approval of Christ; yet the bill was violently opposed by Christian employers, backed by Christian clergymen. It was interfering with freedom of contract, and therefore with the will of Providence; it was anathema to an established Church, whose function was in 1819, as it is in 1918, and was in 1918 B. C., to teach the divine origin and sanction of the prevailing economic order. "Anu and Baal called me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, worshipper of the gods"... so begins the oldest legal code which has come down to us, from 2250 B. C.; and the coronation service of the English church is made whole out of the same thesis. The duty of submission, not merely to divinely chosen King, but to divinely chosen Landlord and divinely chosen Manufacturer, is implicit in the church's every ceremony, and explicit in many of its creeds. In the Litany the people petition for increase of grace to hear meekly Thy Word"; and here is this "Word," as little children are made to learn it by heart. If there exists in the world a more perfect summary of slave ethics, I do not know where to find it.
My duty towards my neighbour is... To honour and obey the King, and all that are put in authority under him; To submit myself to all my governours, teachers, spiritual pastors, and masters: To order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters... Not to covet nor desire other men's goods; but to learn and labour truly to get mine own living, and to do my duty in that state of life, unto which it shall please God to call me.
A hundred years ago one of the most popular of British writers was Hannah More. She and her sister Martha went to live in the coal-country, to teach this "catechism" to the children of the starving miners. The "Mendip Annals" is the title of a book in which they tell of their ten years' labors in a village popularly known as "Little Hell." In this place two hundred people were crowded into nineteen houses. "There is not one creature in it that can give a cup of broth if it would save a life." In one winter eighteen perished of "a putrid fever", and the clergyman "could not raise a sixpence to save a life."
And what did the pious sisters make of all this? From cover to cover you find in the "Mendip Annals" no single word of social protest, not even of social suspicion. That wages of a shilling a day might have anything to do with moral degeneration was a proposition beyond the mental powers of England's most popular woman writer. She was perfectly content that a woman should be sentenced to death for stealing butter from a dealer who had asked what the woman thought too high a price. When there came a famine, and the children of these mine-slaves were dying like flies, Hannah More bade them be happy because God had sent them her pious self. "In suffering by the scarcity, you have but shared in the common lot, with the pleasure of knowing the advantage you have had over many villages in your having suffered no scarcity of religious instruction." And in another place she explained that the famine was caused by God to teach the poor to be grateful to the rich!
Let me remind you that probably that very scarcity has been permitted by an all-wise and gracious Providence to unite all ranks of people together, to show the poor how immediately they are dependent upon the rich, and to show both rich and poor that they are all dependent upon Himself. It has also enabled you to see more clearly the advantages you derive from the government and constitution of this country - to observe the benefits flowing from the distinction of rank and fortune, which has enabled the high to so liberally assist the low.
It appears that the villagers were entirely convinced by this pious reasoning; for they assembled one Saturday night and burned an effigy of Tom Paine! This proceeding led to a tragic consequence, for one of the "common people," known as Robert, "was overtaken by liquor," and was unable to appear at Sunday School next day. This fall from grace occasioned intense remorse in Robert. "It preyed dreadfully upon his mind for many months," records Martha More, "and despair seemed at length to take possession of him." Hannah had some conversation with him, and read him some suitable passages from "The Rise and Progress". "At length the Almighty was pleased to shine into his heart and give him comfort."
Nor should you imagine that this saintly stupidity was in any way unique in the Anglican establishment. We read in the letters of Shelley how his father tormented him with Archdeacon Paley's "Evidences" as a cure for atheism. This eminent churchman wrote a book, which he himself ranked first among his writings, called "Reasons for Contentment, addressed to the Labouring Classes of the British Public." In this book he not merely proved that religion "smooths all inequalities, because it unfolds a prospect which makes all earthly distinctions nothing"; he went so far as to prove that, quite apart from religion, the British exploiters were less fortunate than those to whom they paid a shilling a day.
Some of the conditions which poverty (if the condition of the labouring part of mankind must be so called) imposes, are not hardships, but pleasures. Frugality itself is a pleasure. It is an exercise of attention and contrivance, which, whenever it is successful, produces satisfaction... This is lost among abundance.
And there was William Wilberforce, as sincere a philanthropist as Anglicanism ever produced, an ardent supporter of Bible societies and foreign missions, a champion of the anti-slavery movement, and also of the ruthless "Combination Laws," which denied to British wage-slaves all chance of bettering their lot. Wilberforce published a "Practical View of the System of Christianity", in which he told unblushingly what the Anglican establishment is for. In a chapter which he described as "the basis of all politics," he explained that the purpose of religion is to remind the poor
That their more lowly path has been allotted to them by the hand of God; that it is their part faithfully to discharge its duties, and contentedly to bear its inconveniences; that the objects about which worldly men conflict so eagerly are not worth the contest; that the peace of mind, which Religion offers indiscriminately to all ranks, affords more true satisfaction than all the expensive pleasures which are beyond the poor man's reach; that in this view the poor have the advantage; that if their superiors enjoy more abundant comforts, they are also exposed to many temptations from which the inferior classes are happily extempted; that, "having food and raiment, they should be therewith content," since their situation in life, with all its evils, is better than they have deserved at the hand of God; and finally, that all human distinctions will soon be done away, and the true followers of Christ will all, as children of the same Father, be alike admitted to the possession of the same heavenly inheritance. Such are the blessed effects of Christianity on the temporal well-being of political communities.
The Court Circular
- The Anglican system of submission has been transplanted intact to the soil of America. When King George the Third lost the sovereignty of the colonies, the bishops of his divinely inspired church lost the control of the clergy across the seas; but this revolution was purely one of Church politics - in doctrine and ritual the "Protestant Episcopal Church of America" remained in every way Anglican. The little children of our free republic are taught the same slave-catechism, "to order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters." The only difference is that instead of being told "to honour and obey the King," they are told "to honour and obey the civil authority."
It is the Church of Good Society in England, and it is the same in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Charleston. Just as our ruling classes have provided themselves with imitation English schools and imitation English manners and imitation English clothes - so in their Heaven they have provided an imitation English monarch. I wonder how many Americans realize the treason to democracy they are committing when they allow their children to be taught a symbolism and liturgy based upon absolutist ideas. I take up the hymn-book - not the English, but the sturdy, independent, democratic American hymn-book. I have not opened it for twenty years, yet the greater part of its contents is as familiar to me as the syllables of my own name. I read:
Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim bowing down before Thee,
Which wert, and art, and ever more shall be!
One might quote a hundred other hymns made thus out of royal imagery. I turn at random to the part headed "General," and find that there is hardly one hymn in which there is not "king ... .. throne," or some image of homage and flattery. The first hymn begins -
Ancient of days, Who sittest, throned in glory;
To Thee all knees are bent, all voices pray.
And the second -
Christ, whose glory fills the skies -
And the third -
Lord of all being, throned afar,
Thy glory flames from sun and star.
There is a court in Heaven above, to which all good Britons look up, and about which they read with exactly the same thrills as they read the Court Circular. The two courts have the same ethical code and the same manners; their Sovereigns are jealous, greedy of attention, self-conscious and profoundly serious, punctilious and precise; their existence consisting of an endless round of ceremonies, and they being incapable of boredom. No member of the Royal Family can escape this regime even if he wishes; and no more can any member of the Holy Family - not even the meek and lowly Jesus, who chose a carpenter's wife for his mother, and showed all his earthly days a preference for low society.
This unconventional Son lived obscurely; he never carried weapons, he could not bear to have so much as a human ear cut off in his presence. But see how he figures in the Court Circular:
The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain:
His blood-red banner streams afar:
Who follows in His train?
This carpenter's son was one of the most unpretentious men on earth; utterly simple and honest - he would not even let anyone praise him. When some one called him "good Master," he answered, quickly, "Why callest thou me good? There is none good save one, that is, God." But this simplicity has been taken with deprecation by his church, which persists in heaping compliments upon him in conventional, courtly style:
The company of angels
Are praising Thee on high;
And mortal men, and all things
Created, make reply:
All Glory, laud and honour,
To Thee, Redeemer, King. ...
The impression a modern man gets from all this is the unutterable boredom that Heaven must be. Can one imagine a more painful occupation than that of the saints - casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea - unless it be that of the Triumvirate itself, compelled to sit through eternity watching these saints, and listening to their mawkish and superfluous compliments!
But one can understand that such things are necessary in a monarchy; they are necessary if you are going to have Good Society, and a Good Society church. For Good Society is precisely the same thing as Heaven; that is, a place to which only a few can get admission, and those few are bored. They spend their time going through costly formalities - not because they enjoy it, but because of its effect upon the populace, which reads about them and sees their pictures in the papers, and now and then is allowed to catch a glimpse of their physical Presences, as at the horse-show, or the opera, or the coaching-parade.
- I know the Church of Good Society in America, having studied it from the inside. I was an extraordinarily devout little boy; one of my earliest recollections - I cannot have been more than four years of age - is of carrying a dust-brush about the house as the choir-boy carried the golden cross every Sunday morning. I remember asking if I might say the "Lord's prayer" in this fascinating play; and my mother's reply: "If you say it reverently." When I was thirteen, I attended service, of my own volition and out of my own enthusiasm, every single day during the forty days of Lent; at the age of fifteen I was teaching Sunday-school. It was the Church of the Holy Communion, at Sixth Avenue and Twentieth Street, New York; and those who know the city will understand that this is a peculiar location - precisely half way between the homes of some of the oldest and most august of the city's aristocracy, and some of the vilest and most filthy of the city's slums. The aristocracy were paying for the church, and occupied the best pews; they came, perfectly clad, aus dem Ei gegossen, as the Germans say, with the manner they so carefully cultivate, gracious, yet infinitely aloof. The service was made for them - as all the rest of the world is made for them; the populace was permitted to occupy a fringe of vacant seats.
The assistant clergyman was an Englishman, and a gentleman; orthodox, yet the warmest man's heart I have ever known. He could not bear to have the church remain entirely the church of the rich; he would go persistently into the homes of the poor, visiting the old slum women in their pitifully neat little kitchens, and luring their children with entertainments and Christmas candy. They were corralled into the Sunday-school, where it was my duty to give them what they needed for the health of their souls.
I taught them out of a book of lessons; and one Sunday it would be Moses in the Bulrushes, and next Sunday it would be Jonah and the Whale, and next Sunday it would be Joshua blowing down the walls of Jericho. These stories were reasonably entertaining, but they seemed to me futile, not to the point. There were little morals tagged to them, but these lacked relationship to the lives of little slum-boys. Be good and you will be happy, love the Lord and all will be well with you; which was about as true and as practical as the procedure of the Fijians, blowing horns to drive away a pestilence.
I had a mind, you see, and I was using it. I was reading the papers, and watching politics and business. I, followed the fates of my little slum-boys - and what I saw was that Tammany Hall was getting them. The liquor-dealers and the brothel-keepers, the panders and the pimps, the crap-shooters and the petty thieves - all these were paying the policeman and the politician for a chance to prey upon my boys; and when the boys got into trouble, as they were continually doing, it was the clergyman who consoled them in prison - but it was the Tammany leader who saw the judge and got them out. So these boys got their lesson even earlier in life than I got mine - that the church was a kind of amiable fake, a pious horn-blowing; while the real thing was Tammany.
I talked about this with the vestrymen and the ladies of Good Society; they were deeply pained, but I noticed that they did nothing practical about it; and gradually, as I went on to investigate, I discovered the reason - that their incomes came from real estate, traction, gas and other interests, which were contributing the main part of the campaign expenses of the corrupt Tammany machine, and of its equally corrupt rival. So it appeared that these immaculate ladies and gentlemen, aus dem Ei gegossen, were themselves engaged, unconsciously, perhaps, but none the less effectively, in spreading the pestilence against which they were blowing their religious horns!
So little by little I saw my beautiful church for what it was and is: a great capitalist interest, an integral and essential part of a gigantic predatory system. I saw that its ethical and cultural and artistic features, however sincerely they might be meant by individual clergymen, were nothing but a bait, a device to lure the poor into the trap of submission to their exploiters. And as I went on probing into the secret life of the great Metropolis of Mammon, and laying bare its infamies to the world, I saw the attitude of the church to such work; I met, not sympathy and understanding, but sneers and denunciation - until the venerable institution which had once seemed dignified and noble became to me as a sepulchre of corruption.
- There stands on the corner of Broadway and Wall Street a towering brown-stone edifice, one of the most beautiful and most famous churches in America. As a child I have walked through its church yard and read the quaint and touching inscriptions on its gravestones; when I was a little older, and knew Wall Street, it seemed to me a sublime thing that here in the very heart of the world's infamy there should be raised, like a finger of warning, this symbol of Eternity and Judgment. Its great bell rang at noon-time, and all the traders and their wage-slaves had to listen, whether they would or no! Such was Old Trinity to my young soul; and what is it in reality?
The story was told some ten years ago by Charles Edward Russell. Trinity Corporation is the name of the concern, and it is one of the great landlords of New York. In the early days it bought a number of farms, and these it has held, as the city has grown up around them, until in 1908 their value was estimated at anywhere from forty to a hundred million dollars. The true amount has never been made public; to quote Russell's words:
The real owners of the property are the communicants of the church. For 94 years none of the owners has known the extent of the property, nor the amount of the revenue therefrom, nor what is done with the money. Every attempt to learn even the simplest fact about these matters has been baffled. The management is a self perpetuating body, without responsibility and without supervision.
And the writer goes on to describe the business policy of this great corporation, which is simply the English land system complete. It refuses to sell the land, but rents it for long periods, and the tenant builds the house, and then when the lease expires, the Corporation takes over the house for a nominal sum. Thus it has purchased houses for as low as $200, and made them into tenements, and rented them to the swarming poor for a total of fifty dollars a month. The houses were not built for tenements, they have no conveniences, they are not fit for the habitation of animals. The article, in Everybody's Magazine for July, 1908, gives pictures of them, which are horrible beyond belief. To quote the writer again:
Decay, neglect and squalor seem to brood wherever Trinity is an owner. Gladly would I give to such a charitable and benevolent institution all possible credit for a spirit of improvement manifested anywhere, but I can find no such manifestation. I have tramped the Eighth Ward day after day with a list of Trinity properties in my hand, and of all the tenement houses that stand there on Trinity land, I have not found one that is not a disgrace to civilization and to the City of New York.
It happens that I once knew the stately prelate who presided over this Corporation of Corruption. I imagine how he would have shivered and turned pale had some angel whispered to him what devilish utterances were some day to proceed from the lips of the little cherub with shining face and shining robes who acted as the bishop's attendant in the stately ceremonials of the Church! Truly, even into the goodly company of the elect, even to the most holy places of the temple, Satan makes his treacherous way! Even under the consecrated hands of the bishop! For while the bishop was blessing me and taking me into the company of the sanctified, I was thinking about what the papers had reported, that the bishop's wife had been robbed of fifty thousand dollars worth of jewels! It did not seem quite in accordance with the doctrine of Jesus that a bishop's wife should possess fifty thousand dollars worth of jewels, or that she should be setting the blood-hounds of the police on the train of a human being. I asked my clergyman friend about it, and remember his patient explanation - that the bishop had to know all classes and conditions of men: his wife had to go among the rich as well as the poor, and must be able to dress so that she would not be embarrassed. The Bishop at this time was making it his life-work to raise a million dollars for the beginning of a great Episcopal cathedral; and this of course compelled him to spend much time among the rich!
The explanation satisfied me; for of course I thought there had to be cathedrals - despite the fact that both St. Stephen and St. Paul had declared that "the Lord dwelleth not in temples made with hands." In the twenty-five years which have passed since that time the good Bishop has passed to his eternal reward, but the mighty structure which is a monument to his visitations among the rich towers over the city from its vantage-point on Morningside Heights. It is called the Cathedral of St. John the Divine; and knowing what I know about the men who contributed its funds, and about the general functions of the churches of the Metropolis of Mammon, it would not seem to me less holy if it were built, like the monuments of ancient ravagers, out of the skulls of human beings.
- There remains to say a few words as to the intellectual functions of the Fifth Avenue clergy. Let us realize at the outset that they do their preaching in the name of a proletarian rebel, who was crucified as a common criminal because, as they said, "He stirreth up the people." An embarrassing "Savior" for the church of Good Society, you might imagine; but they manage to fix him up and make him respectable.
I remember something analogous in my own boyhood. All day Saturday I ran about with the little street rowdies, I stole potatoes and roasted them in vacant lots, I threw mud from the roofs of apartment-houses; but on Saturday night I went into a tub and was lathered and scrubbed, and on Sunday I came forth in a newly brushed suit, a clean white collar and a shining tie and a slick derby hat and a pair of tight gloves which made me impotent for mischief. Thus I was taken and paraded up Fifth Avenue, doing my part of the duties of Good Society. And all church-members go through this same performance; the oldest and most venerable of them steal potatoes and throw mud all week - and then take a hot bath of repentance and put on the clean clothing of piety. In this same way their ministers of religion are occupied to scrub and clean and dress up their disreputable Founder - to turn him from a proletarian rebel into a stained-glass-window divinity.
The man who really lived, the carpenter's son, they take out and crucify all over again. As a young poet has phrased it, they nail him to a jeweled cross with cruel nails of gold. Come with me to the New Golgotha and witness this crucifixion; take the nails of gold in your hands, try the weight of the jeweled sledges! Here is a sledge, in the form of a dignified and scholarly volume, published by the exclusive house of Scribner, and written by the Bishop of my boyhood, the Bishop whose train I carried in the stately ceremonials: "The Citizen in His Relation to the Industrial Situation," by the Right Reverend Henry Codman Potter, D. D., L. L. D., D. C. L. - a course of lectures delivered before the sons of our predatory classes at Yale University, under the endowment of a millionaire mining king, founder of the Phelps-Dodge corporation, which the other day carried out the deportation from their homes of a thousand striking miners at Bisbee, Arizona. Says my Bishop:
Christ did not denounce wealth any more than he denounced pauperism. He did not abhor money; he used it. He did not abhor the company of rich men; he sought it. He did not invariably scorn or even resent a certain profuseness of expenditure.
And do you think that the late Bishop of J. P. Morgan and Company stands alone as an utterer of scholarly blasphemy, a driver of golden nails? In the course of this book there will march before us a long line of the clerical retainers of Privilege, on their way to the New Golgotha to crucify the carpenter's son: the Rector of the Money Trust, the Preacher of the Coal Trust, the Priest of the Traction Trust, the Archbishop of Tammany, the Chaplain of the Millionaires' Club, the Pastor of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Religious Editor of the New Haven, the Sunday-school Superintendent of Standard Oil. We shall try the weight of their jewelled sledges - books, sermons, newspaper-interviews, after-dinner speeches - wherewith they pound their golden nails of sophistry into the bleeding hands and feet of the proletarian Christ.
Here, for example, is Rev. F. G. Peabody, Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard University. Prof. Peabody has written several books on the social teachings of Jesus; he quotes the most rabid of the carpenter's denunciations of the rich, and says:
Is it possible that so obvious and so limited a message as this, a teaching so slightly distinguished from the curbstone rhetoric of a modern agitator, can be an adequate reproduction of the scope and power of the teaching of Jesus?
The question answers itself: Of course not! For Jesus was a gentleman; he is the head of a church attended by gentlemen, of universities where gentlemen are educated. So the Professor of Christian Morals proceeds to make a subtle analysis of Jesus' actions; demonstrating therefrom that there are three proper uses to be made of great wealth: first, for almsgiving - "The poor ye have always with you!"; second, for beauty and culture - buying wine for wedding-feasts, and ointment-boxes and other objets de vertu; and third, "stewardship," "trusteeship" - which is plain English is "Big Business."
I have used the illustration of soap and hot water; one can imagine he is actually watching the scrubbing process, seeing the proletarian Founder emerging all new and respectable under the brush of this capitalist professor. The professor has a rule all his own for reading the scriptures; he tells us that when there are two conflicting sayings, the rule of interpretation is that "the more spiritual is to be preferred." Thus, one gospel makes Jesus say: "Blessed are ye poor." Another puts it: "Blessed are the poor in spirit." The first one is crude and literal; obviously the second must be what Jesus meant! In other words, the professor and his church have made for their economic masters a treacherous imitation virtue to be taught to wage-slaves, a quality of submissiveness, impotence and futility, which they call by the name of "spirituality". This virtue they exalt above all others, and in its name they cut from the record of Jesus everything which has relation to the realities of life!
So here is our Professor Peabody, sitting in the Plummer chair at Harvard, writing on "Jesus Christ and the Social Question," and explaining:
The fallacy of the Socialist program is not in its radicalism, but in its externalism. It proposes to accomplish by economic change what can be attained by nothing less than spiritual regeneration.
And here is "The Churchman," organ of the Episcopalians of New York, warning us:
It is necessary to remember that something more than material and temporal considerations are involved. There are things of more importance to the purposes of God and to the welfare of humanity than economic readjustments and social amelioration.
Without doubt there is a strong temptation today, bearing upon clergy and laity alike, to address their religious energies too exclusively to those tasks whereby human life may be made more abundant and wholesome materially... We need constantly to be reminded that spiritual things come first.
There come before my mental eye the elegant ladies and gentlemen for whom these comfortable sayings are prepared: the vestrymen and pillars of the Church, with black frock coats and black kid gloves and shiny top-hats; the ladies of Good Society with their Easter costumes in pastel shades, their gracious smiles and their sweet intoxicating odors. I picture them as I have seen them at St. George's, where that aged wild boar, Pierpont Morgan, the elder, used to pass the collection plate; at Holy Trinity, where they drove downtown in old-fashioned carriages with grooms and footmen sitting like twin statues of insolence; at St. Thomas', where you might see all the "Four Hundred" on exhibition at once; at St. Mary the Virgin's, where the choir paraded through the aisles, swinging costly incense into my childish nostrils, the stout clergyman walking alone with nose upturned, carrying on his back a jewelled robe for which some adoring female had paid sixty thousand dollars. "Spiritual things come first?" Ah, yes! "Seek first the kingdom of God, and the jewelled robes shall be added unto you!" And it is so dreadful about the French and German Socialists, who, as the "Churchman" reports, "make a creed out of materialism." But then, what is this I find in one issue of the organ of the "Church of Good Society"?
Business men contribute to the Y. M. C. A. because they realize that if their employes are well cared for and religiously influenced, they can be of greater service in business!
Who let that material cat out of the spiritual bag?