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suppose him to pay a rent Instead, this la but a doubtful choice of evils. Would the savage have been wise to exchange his wigwam for a palace on these terms ?
It may be guessed that I reduce almost the whole advantage of holding this superfluous property as a fund in store against the future, so far as the individual is concerned, mainly to the defraying of funeral expenses. But perhaps a man is not required to bury himself. Nevertheless this points to an important distinction between the civilized man and the savage ; and, no doubt, they have designs on us for our benefit, in making the life of a civilized people an institution, in which the life of the individual is to a great extent absorbed, in order to preserve and perfect that of the
But I wish to show at what a sacrifice this advantage is at present obtained, and to suggest that we may possibly so live as to secure all the advantage without suffering any of the disadvantage. What mean ye by saying that the poor ye nave always with you, or that the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge ?
“ As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall
not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.
“ Behold all souls are mine ; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.")
When I consider my neighbors, the farm. ers of Concord, who are at least as well off as the other classes, I find that for the most part they have been toiling twenty, thirty, or forty years, that they may become the real owners of their farms, which commonly they have inherited with encumbrances, or else bought with hired money, — and we may regard one third of that toil as the cost of their houses, — but commonly they have not paid for them yet. It is true, the encumbrances sometimes outweigh the value of the farm, so that the farm itself becomes one great encumbrance, and still a man is found to inherit it, being well acquainted with it, as he says. On applying to the assessors, I am surprised to learn that they cannot at once name a dozen in the town who own their farms free and clear. If
you would know the history of these homesteads, inquire at the bank where they are mortgaged. The man who has actually paid for his farm with labor on it is so rare that
every neighbor can point to him. I doubt if there are three such men in Concord. What has been said of the merchants, that a very large majority, even ninety-seven in a hundred, are sure to fail, is equally true of the farmers. With regard to the mer. chants, however, one of them says pertinently that a great part of their failures are not genuine pecuniary failures, but merely failures to fulfil their engagements, because it is inconvenient; that is, it is the moral character that breaks down. But this puts an infinitely worse face on the matter, and suggests, beside, that probably not even the other three succeed in saving their souls, but are perchance bankrupt in a worse sense than they who fail honestly. Bankruptcy and repudiation are the spring-boards from which much of our civilization vaults and turns its somersets, but the savage stands on the unelastic plank of famine. Yet the Middlesex Cattle Show goes off here with éclat annually, as if all the joints of the ag. ricultural machine were suent.
The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself. To get his shoestrings he speculates in herds of
cattle. With consummate skill he has set his trap with a hair springe to catch comfort and independence, and then, as he turner away, got his own leg into it. This is the reason he is poor; and for a similar reason we are all
poor in respect to a thousand sav. age comforts, though surrounded by luxuries. As Chapman sings, “ The false society of men —
— for earthly greatness All heavenly comforts rarefies to air." And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.) As I understand it, that was a valid objection urged by Momus against the house which Minerva made, that she " had not made it movable, by which means a bad neighborhood might be avoided ;" and it may still be urged, for our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them; and the bad neighborhood to be avoided is our own scurvy
selves. I know one or two families, at least, in this town, who, for nearly a generation, have been wishing to sell their houses in the outskirts and move into the village, but have not been able to accomplish it, and only death will set them free.
Granted that the majority are able at last either to own or hire the modern house with all its improvements. While civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them. It has created palaces, but it was not so easy to create noblemen and kings. And if the civilized man's pursuits are no worthier than the savage's, if he is employed the greater part of his life in obtaining gross necessaries and comforts merely, why should he have a better dwelling than the former ?
But how do the poor minority fare? Perhaps it will be found that just in proportion as some have been placed in outward circumstances above the savage, others have been degraded below him. The luxury of one class is counterbalanced by the indigence of another. On the one side is the palace, on the other are the almshouse and “ silent poor." The myriads who built the pyramids to be the tombs of the Pharaohs were fed on garlic, and it
were not decently buried themselves.
The mason who finishes the cornice of the palace returns at night perchance to a hut not so good as a wigwam. It is a mistake to sup