What are the outrages now and then cropping out in Ireland, the assassinations now and then taking place in Russia, but the furies of an avenging justice ? Sydney Smith said that at the mention of Ireland " the English seem to bid adieu to common-sense, and to act with the barbarity of tyrants and the fatuity of idiots;" Byron called England's union with Ireland " the union of the shark with his prey;" Burke affirmed that Ireland "only got justice from England when demanded at the sword's point;" and Gladstone himself confesses that England never concedes anything " except when moved to do so by fear." 1 If this is true, is there not a call for avenging furies ? And of Russia, what description is better than that made long ago, and repeated by Phillips, — "a despotism tempered by assassination " ? Is Nihilism anything more than as Phillips declared, " the last weapon of victims, choked and manacled beyond all other resistance " ? " God means," Phillips continued, and that is only saying that justice demands, " that unjust power be insecure ; and every move of the giant prostrate in chains, whether it be to lift a single dagger or stir a city's revolt, is a lesson in justice".
1 Speeches, p. 114.
All the unrest, all the disorder, all the strikes and outbreaks in our country are simply proofs that the equilibrium of justice is not reached. Men are for peace, when the conditions of peace do not exist. Let men do justice, let the State witness for it, let every shop and factory and means of intercourse and transportation be a scene of it, — and we shall have peace fast enough. When " order reigns in Warsaw " there is spiritual death. Disorder, confusion, uprisings are signs of spiritual life, proofs that there are thoughts stirring in the hearts of men, that they will not be content till they have a chance to become something like what they ought to be. Justice will not let us have rest till we have satisfied her claims ; society, as another ideal voice in American history (Channing) has said, will be shaken, and deserves to be shaken, till its solemn debt to the poor and ignorant is paid. So does the higher law make itself known, not only directly to the conscience, but in the course and development of human history, and in the unrest and disquiet of to-day.
1 See Wendell Phillips's " The Scholar in the Republic," from which I have taken these quotations.
The higher law is the solution of our social problems. It was but one minor political application of it, that to slavery. There is demanded an application wherever man is dishonored, whether civilly free or not. The rule applies everywhere, Treat each man with whom you are in contact as having the ends of a man, and as far as in you lies help him to realize those ends. What are the ends of man ? I need not attempt any formal enumeration. What are the things that we deem suitable and proper for ourselves ? What is good for us, what is dear to us, is likely to be good for others. May we not suppose that others would like a living income, a decent home, some leisure for thought, for the culture of the higher part of their nature ? If I am told that in some cases they do not care for these things, that they have no ambition for more than a hand-to-mouth existence, that they live a stupid, brutalized life, and are content with it, must we not ask, as Matthew Arnold said Englishmen must when they think of the outpourings of Irish Catholic resentment upon themselves, Whose fault is it ? 1 Is it not society's fault, in part, that these men have had to live a hand-to-mouth existence, and to become content with it ? — because, forsooth, it was almost vain for them when left to themselves to strive for more, and they, as a rule, have been left to them selves. Have we the heart, when we think of this, to talk so glibly of their brutalized life ? They will go on living so, it is to be feared, till we become brothers to them, till we carry to them, and keep ever in ourselves, the thought of what they are ideally called to be. If no law of business, no law of the State, commands this, shall we not say that the higher law commands it ? — that law which contemplates us all as brothers, and gives us our duty as grounded in that relation, and knows of no limits to our duty save those inhering in a universal honor and love ? If this is our true relation; if, as Marcus Aurelius said,1 we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids; if it is contrary to nature to be angry with our kinsmen, or to hate them, or to be indifferent to them, — then does so much that we waste on what is superfluous belong to us to waste; does so much of the time that we devote to our selfish interests belong to ourselves; is there not a call for humanity overleaping all conventional limits, a humanity that shall assert practically in our daily lives our brotherhood with the poorest and the least ? The higher law is, in truth, still in advance of and above the ordinary practice and ordinary thoughts of men. Men do not dream of the duties that really belong to them ; they are content with the average standards of morality about them. They would not countenance slavery, oh, no! but that which made slavery wrong makes anything wrong which hinders or makes impossible a free progress of every individual to what is highest and best. The higher law is inconsistent with the customary law of wages; the higher law is inconsistent with the subjection of women, with all that view of her as a mere attendant and helpmeet for man; it is inconsistent with any home where one person exists to serve and another to be served; it calls for a universal application of the rule of respect and honor and love.
1 God and the Bible, p. 45.
1 Meditations, ii. 1.