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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 39


page 8


It is a commonplace that all wealth consists of two ingredients—the material of it and the labor put into it. Of course, no one can make or create any material; and, although a person may discover, or appropriate, or manipulate, or alter the form of it, making it by such means more serviceable, or, if it be land, may plough, or plant, or fence it, or if a new region may plant a flagstaff on it, and thereby may lay claim to have earned or won it; yet it certainly is not apparent that society, whether the Republic of nations or a particular State, is in any manner bound to admit such a claim in all cases indiscriminately, or to concede the exercise of such a privilege to persons without limit or restriction, and, in fact, no State or society ever did so. It does not appear equitable for a person to take advantage of either chance or skill or any sort of capacity in order to possess himself of more than his fair, even share of the material of production, any more than it is equitable to use force for the same purpose; and violent robbery is just as natural as any other mode of selfishness, nor is it any more painful to the victims of it.

Wealth gets apportioned among the citizens of a State in this wise. In the scrimmage of half-barbarous times, or, later, through the diverse operation of talent or of fortune, A secures 10, B 20. But A's offspring A inherits A's 10, whereas B's offspring 4 B inherit of B's 20 only 5 each. Passing to the tenth generation, 50 A10 have each 100, but they are imbecile; 200 B10 have 0, but they are capable, while 40 C10 inherit debts, vicious morals, and diseased constitutions (enough for all); 50 D10 have 100 each like the A's, but they are capable; but 50 E10 are rich, imbecile, and vicious. And so we find wealth with and without capacity or merit, and vice versa in every degree and variety. At this point the rich ask with Cain: "Are we our brother's keeper?" The reply is doubly yes, both in righteousness and from the necessity of the social state. To let a man die is as wicked as to kill him, and often more injurious both to him and to the republic. The blood of Lazarus is on the head of Dives, who will find his hell hot enough in French revolutions, etc.

In all ancient States, including Greece and Rome, during page 9 their palmiest days, the right—the sacred right—of practising infanticide was universally recognised, and surely nothing could strike one as more natural than the claim of people to do as they will with their own. The prohibition of infanticide may be described as an extremely violent, revolutionary, Democratic, one may almost say incendiary, and assuredly hazardous, piece of legislation. By forbidding infanticide, the modern State virtually recognises in the child an independent claim to life; and this seems to include or to imply a claim to some property, or, in some way, to means of subsistence, or the opportunity of laboring for its own maintenance. One might even say that the two things were identical. He who has not this, independently of anyone's convenience, caprice, or will, is a real slave. Far from enjoying the proud rank of citizen, he only holds his very life on sufferance.