WHAT IS HUMANITY?
"The Society for the Diffusion of Radical Principles."
FOR SALE BY H. LIEBER, INDIANAPOLIS, IND.
est: Ran J, Avery, Co., Boston.
WHAT IS HUMANITY 1
First of all, "humanity" is as cheap as it is favorite a word, which every one has on his lips; and is one of the most popular titles of honor to which each one without scruple lays claims. Who to-day, as far as the world calls itself 41 civilized,'* hut especially so far as it calls itself " Christian," lets himself he reproached as unhuman? Unhuman arc, at the most, those savages who have more relish for the human Ciiristian flesh than for the divine Christian doctrines. and certainly those ."infidels" who can have equally little relish for both. But human is he who goes to church, and commits no direct murder ; human is he who, a Croesus, throws an alms to some poor devil; human is the ruler by the "grace of God," who, for a free word spoken, lets a subject be buried alive in prison only, while he had the power to bring him to the grave at once; human is the Czar, who, with equanimity, orders the massacre of some fifty thousand samples of the genus homo, but without using those inhuman explosive bullets which cause such hateful lacerations internally; human is the slaveholder who treats bis slaves better than his horses; human is the Pope, who, from a bloody pavement, bestows with his own hand his priceless benediction upon the rabble, without distinction, and even without payment,— that same benediction which he has ready for every crowned barbarian; human is the revolutionist who magnanimous^" spares the life of the dethroned tyrant in order
Inter to lose his own head through him; human is the choral singer, joining enthusiastically in the song at. the beer-house, — 44 Ilouor the women ; they weave and they spin," — who, after his return home, does not beat his wife quite to death, although she does not regard the masculine privilege of night-carouse as one of the requisites of a happy marriage ; human, also, is the temperance-man who morally cures the crime of drunkenness through the physical impossibility of drinking: in short, the world swarms with such a mass of humanity, that it seems like a senseless presumption to wish to go still farther beyond its hitherto good intentions and beneficial results.
Nevertheless, we must be guilty of this presumption, while we place before you in some general outlines and suggestions the positive requisites of real humanity. The answer to the question, Where, and how far, in this world of ours to-day, humanity lias arrived at recognition and supremacy? will then appear of itself. We are all striving for it, and comprehend in it the essence of life's ideal. It is therefore necessary for us all to be clear concerning what it demands of us.
The extreme opposite of humanity is bestiality. Bestiality is brutality, and corresponds to the nature of a brute. That sounds simple and exhaustive. Just so simply can I begin with the assertion, humanity is manhood, and corresponds to the nature of man. But, by this juxtaposition, we meet at once a decided divergence. Man differs from the brute in spite of all other resemblances, especially in this, — that he never becomes what he can be. The brute stands still, the man progresses: the brute is, the man becomes. The lion of Alexander's time was what he is to-day. The man of that age would hardly find again his standard in the man of the present. But with the assertion, humanity is manhood, we meet, also, the opposition of the majority of mankind themselves. In speaking of man, we must understand simply the man without additions, and without disfiguration. But how many are satisfied to be simply men? How many would not protest against the honor of being simply human beings? IIow many have confidence in mankind us such, that they can be human? With man hitherto, there has existed that, peculiar condition, that the conception of him consists more of things not belonging to him than those of his real nature. When we form a conception of an animal, we think of the animal by itself: we have before us the horse, the lion, the eagle, &c., of natural history, with their peculiar qualities, and without any supernatural additions. But man we are accustomed to think of as equipped with some enrichments outside of the human: lie wears a divine crown reaching above the clouds, and a demonic tail descending into the depths of the earth.
When we speak of humanity, of human nature, we should, before all things, strip otf froiu the simple inhabitant of earth every conception and every ingredient coming from above or below the earth. The idea of " human " excludes every thco-logic as well as diabolic admixture. Wc have to place man on his own feet, to reduce him to his nature and his qualities. By the question what he can and shall do, we ought not to degrade him below the brutes, in whom we trust the capacity to fulfil their task in life by their own powers and own impulses. If we look at man as an instrument in the hands of an external power, we have no longer man, but this power, before us, and can let the question of humanity rest as it is. Of man's power, his capacity, his will, his aims, wc are, then, no longer speaking, and still less of his responsibility. In the place of manhood, stands, then, divinity, which simply uses the human medium in order to manifest itself. If we will inquire what man is, can, and should be, then he must stand before us as an independent sovereign being, in his peculiar character neither depending upon another, nor referring to it. Humanity can desire nothing but the man, can take nothing into account but the man, and believe in nothing but the man. What has been attributed to him from without, in order to elevate him, can only degrade him, estrange him from himself, and briug him into contradiction with himself. Ever}' thing which is superhuman is also unhuman or anti-human.
Hence man can only be correctly judged by men, and not by theologians ; and therefore I advance the assertion, that religion is not only unable to fulfil the demands of humanity, but that she directly excludes them. Yes, religion which pretends to be pre-eminently the teacher, or even the creator, of humanity, forms a direct contradiction of it, even should she prescribe many actions which in their special operation can be human. Robbing the human being of self-sovereignty, she thus robs him of his own motives as well as his own aims ; she crushes out this instinct of honor, which makes him responsible to himself; she condemns his highest power — reason — to suicide, in order to set faith above its grave; she makes his own nature an object of fear to him; she turns him away from real life, the only field for his human tasks, in order, in an imaginary life, to make him cither a blessed angel who no longer needs humanity, or a condemned sinner whom she can help no more; she leaves him no free choice, but makes his will and his acts only the practice of obedience to an external law; and, where sclf-satisfaction should be his sole aim, she presses upon him as motive, either the fear or the approval of a so-called higher authority : in short, she makes man either a mental slave or a child ; and she is said to make him a man? She shall be able to create through a servile belief that which springs only from, a full conscious freedom and knowledge? She represents human nature as disgraced, yes, as totally depraved ; and she shall teach it to perfect and ennoble itself? She transfers the whole destiny of man beyond this life; and she shall recognize the humanizing of this life as its highest task? No: religion excludes the whole conception of the 44 human," as does the "human" that of religion. The religious believer is man denied and renounced ; the free human being is man recognized and restored. In other words, man begins where ceases the believer; and the intelligent liberation from religion is the real development into manhood.
We commonly conceive of humanity us only a matter of the heart, which, of course, consorts well with belief; but it is, above all things, a matter of the intelligent consciousness. Therefore neither a good heart, nor benevolence, nor affability, nor philanthropy, nor sympathy, nor the so-called universal love, nor any oilier of the beautiful virtues of the affections exercised by us in intercourse with our fellow-men, but also familiar among barbarous people, can in themselves alone bestow a claim to the name of u humanity." There are, without doubt, many religious persons, who, with the best intentions, fulfil every thing regarded by them as a duty towards their fellow-men, and who, for the sake of good aims, reach a high degree of self-denial. I should have conscientious scruples in paining such persons, and nothing of the unsparing scorn which religious absurdity challenges is meant for them ; but to them as little as to the falsest priest can 1 make the concession, that they stand on human ground, since that ground can never be outside of or above man. They themselves, too, will concede, that on human ground never could have grown that which, for thousands of years, has grown on the religions. The soil is different; the seed is different ; and so, also, will the fruit always be. Where it is taught that only the poor in spirit are blessed, and that a true faith proves itself by maintaining the belief in the impossible, there abides no human thinker; for he hopes nothing from poverty of spirit, but every thing from truth discovered by the spirit. Out of a dead, blood-stained cross, which even the thoughtless masses are accustomed to couple with " misery" ("cross and misery " '), no true man sees sprouting the blossoms of humanity. Only the sovereign son of earth, cheerfully looking around oil the world, may hope to be looked at with acquiescence by exclaiming of himself, 4* Ecce homo ! " and this 44 homo " turns with a shudder from a world of despair over whose portal the comforting words invite, 44 Blessed are they that mourn and weep."
1 In German, " Kreuz und Klond."
Sucli an exclusion of religion may be disputed by appealing to the well-known philosophical reference to the course of development mankind had to make, in order to return to itself by this long circuit through the cloudy regions of theology and metaphysics. Such references cannot mislead us. That man, before he could become what lie is, has been a boy, and must have been one, changes nothing of the fact that a boy is not a man, and a man not a boy. That man, renouncing himself, losing himself, enters first into a fantastical world of belief, before he with consciousness assumes his position in the real world, does not subvert the fact, that in tins position only can he be regarded as that being who corresponds to the idea of humanity.
What is humanity? First reply : The independent, sovereign manhood, emancipated through thought from all superhuman authority and guidance.
This answer might induce religious believers to remind us of certain savage tribes, among whom no trace of belief in a " higher being," or a " higher power," is to be found, and to put the question, whether, perhaps, these savages, with their sovereign manhood, fulfil the conception of humanity. This justifiable question leads us to the second great requisite of humanity, —culture.
Humanity as something inborn can onty exist as a germ ; its development can only be promoted by culture; and, although Nature is its source, yet the crndeness of Nature cannot be its element. The simply negative advantage of not being devoted to an imaginary world can impart to man no positive capacity for the real world. This he has to gain first through the development of his mind, and through the creations with which ho fulfils his existence.
There are four principal directions in which the human mind develops and manifests itself according to its disposition and its wants, — the political, leading to the institutions of social communities; the moral, leading to the laws of mutual cousid-cration in a rationally-conducted life; the scientific, leading to a knowledge of the world; and the artistic, leading to a reproduction of what has been received from the world. Without this fourfold development, combined in the word "culture," no humanity is conceivable ; and without education, which signifies the share which the individual appropriates to himself out of this treasure of culture, no one has a right to call himself human. The coarse atheist, ranting in the beer-house against religion, and believing that in this cheap way he is initiated into true human society, is as much mistaken as the coarse Catholic who thinks to satisfy all human demands through prayer and fasting, confession and penance.
What is humanity ) Second answer : Culture.
But too strict a construction of this requisite would reverse its very character of humanity. Culture is a broad conception ; and millions are lacking it from no fault of their own, or are thirsting for it without the power to acquire it. In order to reach the standard for human culture, we need be neither all learned statesmen, nor art-philosophers, and, least of all, German professors. Erudition, as hundreds of examples show, is as often consorted with stupidity as with wickedness; and humanity can use neither of them. On the contrary, it puts as high a value on the disposition as 011 the intellectual schooling. Where it finds a capacity of conception able to render itself intelligible, having an eager desire for further education, an earnest longing for truth, a lively interest for the common-weal, and a receptive sense for ennoblement of character, there it joyfully opens the door, and greets the accession to its companj'. But it will surely protect itself against those, who, indifferent to the intrinsic merits of culture, think to participate in thein through appearance only, through outward position, through imposing association with high-sounding names, or through a one-sided virtuosity. At the temple of humanity, admission may be demanded by a person of rank, a member of some club, a Free-Mason, a brother of some order, a member of a " social " working-man's union, a member of a choral society; they may appear equipped with full purse, or hung about with sashes, leather aprons, ribbons, and all possible distinctions, but yet are forced to confess that they have no sense for any thing but material gains and material pleasures ; that they detest politics, hold truth to be a luxury, avoid all intellectual intercourse, and believe they have satisfied all the demands for the ennoblement of life by some special dexterity : before such, humanity closes the door at once, becomes practical, and exclaims, u No admittance ! "
But how shall humanity receive a representative of those higher spheres in whom sovereignty on earth is the inherited condition, and culture is an unquestioned attribute of the individual? Frederis II. was, it is said, an atheist. lie was, therefore, not only a sovereign ruler, but also a sovereign mind : that, besides this, he did not lack culture, his writings testify. At the same time, most historians praise him for being as liberal as enlightened a monarch, who was even weary of ruling over slaves," after he had used the same to satiety. Will humanity not open wide the door to him? Indignant at the sight of him, she closes it, and pushes the bolt; for on his forehead stands the brand, "Majesty" But over the door of the temple of humanity stands the shining word, "Equality
The equality of mankind in rights and condition disappeared at the time when civilization began to appear in arms. To recover this equality, mankind had to traverse that long way through the barbarous intermediate state of a complete despotism ; and on this way they became so modest and moderate, that they willingly recognized an inborn privilege in their earthly half-divinities; no longer questioned the superhuman position assumed by their oppressors, as if it were an institution of nature ; and all they hoped and entreated was a milder degree of oppression. Thus it happened that a drachm more brains, a slight difference in the heat of the blood, a somewhat better digestion, a larger stock of good-nature, could make one oppressor the opposite of the other. If a God-appointed tj'rant had one knot less in his whip than his predecessor, or if his whip had a cheerier snap than the other's, this sufficed to bestow upon him the surname of 41 the good," or even 44 the humane." Every monarch, every ruler by 44 the grace of God," be he as an individual what lie maj', stands, at the very outset, beyond the pale of humanity, just as he stands apart from mankind. Ilis whole position, the whole character which he assumes, excludes him as a hostile being, lie must be unhuman through being what lie is, if he is not so through what he does. May he be a Marcus Aurclius or a Nero, the word 44 huraati" cannot be attached to him. No crime can make him more unhuman than his title already makes him from the very beginning; no virtue can compensate for the crime he commits through simple existence. The fundamental crime excluding a monarch from human society, and making him morally outlawed, is the assumption that he is a specifically different and higher being than his fellow-men, whom he thereby thrusts collectively down to a position of subjection and degradation. By the creation of the condition of 44 subject," he destroys the moral man, or prostitutes him — the most gifted, as well as the most stupid — to a half-brutish idiot, whose highest capacity and honor shall be to devote and sacrifice himself to his ruler as an adored deity. If he demanded service only, then he would simply be a usurping man: but he demands, at the same time, adoration as an idol; and that makes him a superhuman monstrosity, to whom no human conception or consideration can be applied. 44 Majesty " is the most monstrous as well as revolting word in the whole human lan-guage. It stirs up all the pride of human consciousness at the same time with all the hatred against the unnatural falsehood, and can awaken no other thought than annihilation. lie who does not hate a king as a monster cannot respect himself as a human being. He who delivers the world from kings, not only avenges thereby the oppressed enslaved by them, but the whole human race degraded by them.
Opposite to the sovereign, but as its passive supplement, stands the subject. The subject is passively as unhuman as the king is activelyand the servility of the one is as contemptible as the elevation of the other is odious. lie is, to be sure, an object of humanity, but can never, as little as a slave, be its representative. lie raises himself first to the platform of humanity when he revolts against himself, when he is aware of his degradation, and the free man awakes in him. lie-low a republican there can be 110 true man. The "constitu-tional-liberals" of Europe, who shout 44 Long live the king! " or emperor, would never let that cry pass their lips, if they were capable of comprehending what belongs to a man.
A subordinate category of a monarchy, in whose reflected light they shine, is formed by those heroes of high pedigree, who try, as so-called nobility, to raise themselves above the rest of mankind. I pass by them in order to avoid making a comical impression in an unsuitable place. Those humanitarians who live upon the conceit,44 that first with a baron, man begins," will vanish of themselves with their sublime ideals, with whom the unhuman disappears. On the other hand, I must now consider more attentively another kind of philanthropists, who, especially in this country, have contributed to confuse the idea of humanity. As, on the other side of the ocean, we hear humane rulers spoken of, so, on this side, we hear of humane slaveholder**. These were especially such as did not govern their two-legged cattle wholly with the whip, or, thrpugh their last testament, raised their slaves to human beings in a time when they themselves were 110 longer able to treat them otherwise. We must concede that a slaveholder represents a somewhat milder degree of the unhuman being than does the monarch. The former, it is true, buys and sells men, as does the latter; but he simply makes them labor for him, for which he feeds them ; while a monarch not only makes men work for him without feeding them, but also forces them to kill and be killed for him. But, then, the slaveholder docs not ascend to the pretension of standing above the human race wnde he degrades the slave below it. We must, therefore, concede that the distance between the slave and the slaveholder is not so great as between the subject and the sovereign: nevertheless, mockery alone can apply the word 44 human " to a relation which in principle is cut off from the sphere of manhood by an impassable partition-line. lie who trades in human beings cannot belong to them, even should he treat them with the greatest tenderness, lie who recognizes a right of property in man cannot pretend to be human, even if he should be the most benevolent of patriarchs. A slaveholder and a monarch present the most striking illustration of the truth that we can only speak of humanity in the relation of man to man associating with each other on equal terms. If there are humane kings and slaveholders, so there arc, also, humane murderers.
What is humanity? Third answer : Recognition of the common nature and the equality of 'mankind.
But from the equality of nature follows immediately the equality of rights. Only with these equal universal human rights in all things which belong to the security, the happiness, ennoblement, and embellishment of human existence, have we gained the foundation and the possibility of humanity for social life. On them rests, also, all human morality. Human morality is a very different thing from religious morality. It knows neither superhuman offences, nor superhuman duties. The recognition of equal universal human rights is its duty; the violation of them is its offence. With this it decidedly rejects that deceptive and unnatural surrogate with which religion seeks to supplant the ignored rights, and which she calls universal love. IIow this love has advanced humanity, whose mother it pretends to be, history gives an account during these nineteen centuries. By simply glancing over this history, every one may answer for himself this question : Which would have brought humanity into power sooner, — rights without love, or love without rights?
Abhor one another if 3*011 cannot love one another (that is a matter of your free taste), but acknowledge in all things your equal human rights (that is the inflexible law of your reason). Following this loveless law, you will be safe from that traitorous love with which you have hitherto been deceived and defrauded, plundered and oppressed, persecuted and hurried to the grave. If there is in life no nobler or more beautiful relation than that in which two individuals with a mutual devotion complete each other in a common existence, so, on the other hand, there is 110 more repulsive nor detestable a relation than that in which the one individual simply uses and abuses another. It reminds us of those horrible creatures who suck the blood of living vie-tims, and thus destroy them. But such relations among mankind are not only tolerated, but promoted, by that universal love which knows no universal equal right to life, which 44 gives to Cresar what is Caesar's," but not to the people what is the people's, which comforts the oppressed and miserable with the fraud of a future life, which knows no better remedy to recommend for ill-treatment than a readiness to bear fresh ill-treatment, and which has invented the art, still practised by those in power, of feeding thousands with a few loaves of bread.
This odious love, which is against Nature, and therefore could never become truth, has also thoroughly falsified Nature. But right is even a child of Nature. For its establishment we need 110 philosophical research, no religious revelation, and 110 juridical subtlety, but only a simple definition of Nature's demands. With every inborn capacity is bound the natural necessity for its development, and with every inborn need the natural necessity for its satisfaction in every living being. For the recognition of this necessity as a mutual right, there is needed among beings of the same kind simply the transfer of the consciousness of it from one being to another. Unconsciously animals of the same kind, especially those living in communities, concede among themselves all which their nature has to develop in powers, and to satisfy in needs. Every man carries within himself the rights of his fellow-man. His " I " transplanted into another fellow-being with the same nature tells him at once what that other has to demand of him. My nature with its needs and claims conceived of as existing in my equal is the recognition of his equal rights. To evade this recognition is impossible to me as a rational being. If, however, I infringe upon this recognized right, then I know that I not only rebel against my reason, but against Nature ; and the intolerablencss of this consciousness must increase with the grade of culture which I have reached. If I will not remove this disharmony arising from this infraction of rights by returning to a recognition of rights, then I am compelled to allow a reciprocalness in infraction of rights, hence to recognize a state of war as a state of right. But this consequence would include the untrue, unnatural inference, that I need to have my rights infringed upon as much as I need to infringe upon others.
The consciousness that ever)* other man needs what I need, that no other can desire what I myself must refuse, that every act by which another would excite my opposition justifies his opposition when I turn against him, — this simple consciousness developed from human nature, cultivated clearl}', and deeply impressed, is the best guaranty of all human rights, and the foundation of all human morality. Let this prevail, with all its consequences, through all the relations of life and all its ]>olitical institutions, and in the mind's eye we shall see arise the outlines of a social structure in which no unnecessary tears will be shed, and no fruitless complaints be heard, in which there is no master and no servant, no nabob and no beggar, no privilege and no degradation; and all this without that 44 love," which, evading the right, puffs itself up self-satisfied in its lies, wades among miseries, and chokes in blood.
What is humanity? Fourth answer: Equal universal human ~i<jht to every thing which secures, ennobles, embellishes, and lakes happy, this life: in other words, "freedom, prosperity, education, for all."
Universal human right includes not only all mankind: it includes, also, the entire human being, with all his capacities, needs, aims, and ideals. Humanity, therefore, cannot be satisfied that this right should have a one-sided or a partial recognition and realization. The Vienna Congress abolished slavery: who would call it human? The banker I'eabody bequeathed ten millions of mone}* for the benefit of the poor; the same Pcabody accepted, as the highest recognition of his benevolence, the gift of her portrait from a Queen who does nothing for the poor; the same benefactor would not give a cent for the liberation of the people from their oppressors, or for the enlightenment of a priest-ridden populace, or for the founding of an association of working-men, who, for starvation-wages, make a factory-proprietor a second Peabody: shall we call him human? We would not refuse him the name of 44 benefactor.'' But humanity must strive, as far as possible, to abolish these great benefactors: it must seek to reach that point where there shall neither be Peabodys nor proletaires who relieve them of the burden of their superfluities. Benevolence is a palliative help against misery and neglect for the benefit of individuals and in limited circles; yet it would not correspond to the demands of humanity, even if it could be extended ov.er all society with all their needs. Human satisfaction can be created through the pleasure and favor of single privileged ones who graciously condescend to aid others with their power and their surplus, just as little as communistic Utopias can create this. It can only be obtained in a justly-organized society, securing to every member, through the exercise of equal rights and the use of common means, the same possibility to become the founder of his own fortune.
But the defects in the current humanity present themselves in still more glaring contradictions. That universal human rights comprehends all mankind — black as well as white, red as well as yellow—has at last been revealed to us all on the battle-fields of a war which has swallowed up half a million men. Since that time, universal human rights is in every one's mouth; only there is still a slight reserve made. We say we address this phrase to all persons, and yet exclude, without hesitation, one-half the race, and that the most human half. Having renounced the color of the skin as a token of difference, we now go deeper, penetrate into the internals, and set up a difference in the bones. That is osteologic humanity, or human osteology. It is called a difference of sex; but the ultima ratio of this difference sits in the bones. In spite of all equal human rights, the possessor of the stronger bones has the task of prescribing to the possessor of the weaker the " sphere " of her activity and her rights.
Among all these possessors of the stronger bones there is scarcely a single one who has not alreadj' sunk his bony frame upon its knee-pans before a woman, and implored her, as his 44 angel" and 44 goddess," to pity his weak humanity. Remarkable is it, that the woman possesses such high gifts and such an angelic character at the moment when the masculine osteology assumes such a lowly and brute-like attitude. Or shall we say that the man in the presence of a woman is a human being only, when, as an amorous fool, he humbles his bones before her? We will not inquire further, and will hope that the man will learn to be a human being in an upright position also. We will hope that every one who calls himself a man will not only be just enough, but also proud enough, to respect fully as his equal, and as occupying a position equal to his, her whom he loves, and her who has borne him. Suffice it to lay before him this prognostic, that he will recognize all the rights of a woman as soon as he is humanized enough to exercise his own in her company. The woman will stand on an equality with the man in rights as soon as he stands on an equality with her in humanity. Usually, by the recognition of rights, the questiou is the maturity of those who shall receive them; but the men stand towards the women in that strange relation that they must first become mature to concede them.
In what has been said we have presented the principal requisites without which real humanity is not conceivable. If they are tenable, it follows that every individual, as well as every community, can only become human in the measure that they fulfil these requisites. Against such a conclusion, no resistance and no evasion can avail. Still further : in order to extend as far as possible our survey, we must, from among the rich material offered in the domain of a working humanity, select a few questions needing special elucidation.
The first of these questions relates to the responsibility of man in his relations to others. We have seen that the capacity to recognize universal rights is inborn in every one; but now arises the question, How far can he be made responsible to respect them also ? Man is a creature of circumstances. Ho could not determine his future with its inevitable results; nor has his education been in his power; nor can he choose at his pleasure his surroundings ; nor is he able to change his hereditary temperament. What all these influences make out of him he cannot be responsible for: how should he, then, be responsible for that which arises from the results of these influences? With strict consistency it would follow that what we call freewill docs not exist at all; that our actions are only the results of an uncontrollable necessity, an inevitable 41 must," and therefore could be as little submitted to a moral appraisal either as crimes or as virtues.
This doctrine of irresponsibility, when it is presented in such universality and extent, rests, however, upon a fallacy. It evades the decisive point by entirely ignoring intelligence as the directing power. Without intelligence there is certainly neither free-will nor resi>onsibility; and, when society calls to aecount its neglected members for their actions which have arisen out of this very neglect, she really ought not to be concerned in maintaining the guilt of these neglected ones, but, at the most, ought to take considerations for public security and practical benefit. But, where intelligence is developed to a capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, there exists, also, the capacity to choose between right and wrong; and it is this capacity which constitutes free-will as well as responsibility. In such cases, circumstances may have the effect to modify the judgment; but they cannot overthrow the fundamental principle on which it has to rest, and which could be briefly stated thus: Understanding is free-will and responsibility.
A gifted woman has made the assertion, 14 To comprehend all, means to forgive all." This assertion contains a very humane, but also a very dangerous doctrine. Many unfortunates treated as criminals are absolved by humanity, when it takes into consideration the course of their development and the influences of their lot. But whither would the doctrine of universal forgiveness lead, if it offered a free pass to those great villains whose actions are only a conscious exercise of arbitrary will, and arise from disregard of the rights of others? IIow a Louis Napoleon could hypocritically insinuate himself into the confidence of the republic, swear a false oath of fidelity to her, then by night artfully murder her, and, over the corpses of gray-beards and children, build a road for himself to an imperial throne, — all that we can exactly 44 comprehend; " but, as regards the 44 forgiving," we should all be of the opinion that it would have been more humane to shoot the murderer than to let him continue in his despotic rule.
But how should such treatment be designated? Would it be a 44punishment" ? This admission would at once be senseless, because no punishment is conceivable which would stand in the most distant proportion to the crimes of that monster. No: humanity knows no punishment, — as little as it knows its mother, revenge; without, however, thereby professing the Christian doctrine of the double blow on the cheek. What the world designates as punishment is nothing else than revenge, taken from the individual, and exercised in the name of the State, or of 44 God." Punishment, like revenge, cannot undo an offence, a suffering, a wrong; therefore, in the light of reason, is not justifiable. But the State's revenge is so much more senseless and barbarous, since it arises from no direct feeling of an actual injur}', therefore is without this single excuse for the feeling of revenge ; and, besides, it measures the retaliation by one fixed, unchanging rule. The English penal code hangs a thief, to whom the person robbed would have, perhaps, gladly given help, had he known his needs and his motive. With that which we call revenge and punishment, humanity can connect no other rational aims than that of indemnification, or deterring from repetition, or making innoxious, or improvement. But the aim to atone for guilt through suffering, to cancel, as it were, a deed in itself by a corresponding torture of the doer, or, through such means, to satisfy a conception of morality and right, has no sense, and belongs to the barbarous ideas of a long-past age. We are led by it wholly away from the path of humanity, when, in the service of religious morality, we hunt for prey in the domain of "sins." This morality, according to which human nature in itself is sinful, makes everv one a
criminal who follows the impulse of this nature without its being sanctified through religious permission. Human morality knows of no evil in nature, and finds wrong in the satisfaction of its impulses, only When with it a wrong to another human being is involved. To put a ban on human nature itself, humanity refuses, as being a disgrace upon the same; and to be ashamed of human nature seems only not a madness when license and passion drag it down to the level of vice.
The efforts of humanity are exerted to establish a rational harmony in a nobler society, through the securing of universal mutual recognition and promotion of all human rights and interests: hence it must be, of course, also its task to smooth away the various obstacles on the road to a rational and peace-fid understanding. It wishes to relieve the State from the necessity of carrying on war against its own citizens: how, then, can it consent to the necessity of war being carricd on between different nations? It would be a pure waste of words should I show that humanity does, and why it does, condemn war, — that bloody offspring of civilized barbarity which can only exist so long as there are princes and subjects: hence humanity seeks to destroy from the face of the earth every thing which belongs to war, or reminds of it, from the cannon to the uniform. But it is not superfluous to call attention to the fact, how little the fondness for war, outwardly deplored and denounced by all, has been till now destroyed in the thoughts and inclinations of mankind. Otherwise how would it be possible that military fame should still outshine all other? that dis-tinctions gained on the battle-field should overshadow every other? that the so-called heroes of war excite such undivided and universal admiration? and that participation in war, let it be carried on for what it may, is nowhere regarded as a degradation, an infamy, a treason, on mankind and humanity? But the most striking testimony of this lies in the fact, that Art, whose merit should consist in the embellishment and ennoblement of life, the idealization of all true human productions and forms, should still seek her highest task in the glorification of human slaughter and the masters in that work. What poet, what painter, what sculptor, is thought ill of, if, in this nineteenth century, he is inspired by this butcher-glory, blood-romance, amputation-passion, and gunpowder-poesy? Who denounces this taste as barbarous, and this versified, painted, and chiselled propaganda for murder in wholesale, as criminal? If this murderous handiwork is a suitable object for art, how can it be an abhorrent example for life? So long as the battle-poets and battle-painters are not cast out of the temple of Art, so long will the battle-fighters have no cause to fear for their business and their popularity. Did I understand to wield the painter's brush, I would represent in a battle-picture a Napoleon quietly seated on a drum among heaps of lacerated corpses, with his boots sunk in blood above their spurs, smilingly taking a draught from the field-flask of a corporal, and listening to the enthusiastic cries of his surviving murdering slaves, 44 Vive FEmpcreur!" or another, where, in crossing the Beresina, he looks with a grin of satisfaction on the desperate struggles of his drowning victims, and utters to his companion these humane words, 41 Voycz ces crapauds ! "
Those would be battle-paintings where the art of the painter and the feelings of the man co-operate. But our battle-painters are thoughtless, unprincipled speculators, who, to please the populace and its idols, idealize and glorify witli their showy masterpieces the barbarous art of human destruction, without being brought to their senses by the protestations of a humanitarian criticism. Where do we ever find maintained the demand that art shall vindicate itself before the judgment-seat of humane sentiment and humane thought? If the nature and meaning in an object of art are indifferent to us, and only the maintaining of an idea, and the technical execution, shall decide, why do we change at once from art-judges into moral judges when an obscene picture puts to the test the prevailing hypocrisy? As little as the beautiful execution can in such a case atone for the licentious scene depicted, so little can a friend of progress let himself be reconciled to the masterly execution of the painter's brush, which, through the creation of a battle-painting, lends itself to the propagation of barbarism, or, through the production of an altar-picture, aids religious stultification. And in this same category belong the poets with their stupid 44 battle-song" and 44 sword's clang," the sculptors with their despots set up on pedestals, and the musicians with their hymns and oratorios meant to bring men down upon their knees. I would not lay fetters upon Art by demanding the creation of works of humane tendency only; but she should surely make it a law to herself never to encourage the opposite tendency through her productions.
Humanity is the promoter of peace; but peace is only to be gained through combat: and what kind of combat to choose in each case, and how the combatants shall conduct in all circumstances, is as important as difficult a question. He who surveys the powerful and varied opponents of humanity will at once see clearly, that, in these combats, the preservation of one's equanimity will sometimes be as difficult as the gaining of the victory* and that the manner of the combat must frequently contrast with the proelaimed aim. Obstinate opposition to settled truths wearies the patience; intentional misunderstanding of the best purposes excites a hostile disposition; malicious persecution for defending a just cause sharpens the weapons of defence. Open opposition provokes, concealed irritates, unexpected iin-bittcrs. At last, from the necessity of constant combat, and the habit of combating, arises a danger, — that of regarding the combat and the opposition as an aim, instead of looking upon them as a means only.
No one can so often be tempted to act unhumanly, or to yield to indignation, no one needs so much humor as an antidote, as the champion of humanity, espcciall}* when he does not know how to guard against the weakness of regarding difficulties in the way of progress (which are founded in the nature of things, and therefore inevitable) as being obstacles wilfully prepared, or their delayed removal as a proof of impossibility of effecting it at all. Such weakness has not only deterred many a friend of humanity from prosecuting his purpose, and led him to an inactive despair, but has also made him a misanthropist, or a recluse and egotist. The surest protection against such despair is found in convictions, drawn from the study of human nature and of history, that the innate abilities of man musty with an inevitable certaint}*, develop into humanity: hence every effort in this direction follows the right path. At the most, therefore, a doubt may arise as to the right means for the purpose; and this doubt, also, would soon disappear, had humanity not to overcome, beside intellectual opposition, also that of physical force. That leads us to the question, whether humanity, the opponent of all use of force, ought ever to employ forcible means. I do not hesitate to answer, it is justified, as well as compelled, to use every means, where, through brute force, it is prevented from using intellectual ones. Force, as the tyrant over free minds, nullifies ail humane considerations, and allows only those of serviceableness to remain. To shrink from the use of force where the aim makes it a necessity, and the opportunity makes it a possibility, is as much a treason to humanity as is the unnecessary use of force a renunciation of it. In a time of revolution, it may be a difficult task to avoid both these faults; but the first is always harder to excuse, and avenges itself more bitterly, than the second.
But also, in purely intellectual combats, it is not always easy to keep the right measure, and choose the right weapons. Not every friend of humanity is a Socrates, as is not every opponent a Hellene. Socrates sometimes stood nine hours on one spot, to exercise his patience: he is said to have selected Xantippe as his wife in order to learn the difficult art of enduring the intolerable qualities of another. Perhaps even he would, in our daj's, have found his patience, as well as his arts of endurance, wholly thwarted, if he had had to be concerned with subjects and their lords in Europe, or with party-newspapers and demagogues in America.
One of the chief obligations of humanity gifted minds have declared to be tolerauce, especially in religious things. Voltaire has written a thick book on this point, and Lessing has made propaganda for it in his most renowned drama. To me, toleration to the extent which it is usually demanded or exercised seems like a betrayal of truth. Kither peaceful relations between different errors incompatible with each other, or neutrality of truth towards falsehood, is demanded ; and that is called tolerance.. Humanity may demand mutual forbearance with personal weakness, forgiveness of personal offences, even occasional assistance to personal enemies; but it can set up a law of tolerance at the cost of truth as little as at the cost of right. In that domain I know no other tolerance than the recognition of and respect for the right of every opinion to speak out freely, and as freely to combat every other opposed to it. To be tolerant in anv other sense means to be re-action-
ary, means to place error and falsehood under the protection of a privilege, which, under false pretences, would exclude that requisite of all progress, —combat.
Religious belief has as little claim for protection against opposition and attack as any other tendency of thought, and expression of the mind: it should even be placed in the front rank, because its errors fasten deeper, and extend farther, than all others. Only what stands the test in mental combat has a right to exist. Humanity can demand or concede nothing more than that the combat shall be carried on in all directions with equal right, with equal freedom, and shall be secured against violent interference. That is the only tolerance to be justified. The Catholic shall allow to the Protestant, the Protestant to the Jew, the Atheist to every one who wishes, to worship ** his God" after the desires of his heart; but every one shall consider it not only as his right, but as his duty, intellectually to dethrone the God of the other when his conviction tells him that he must fall. An actual conviction can be tolerant as little as the principle can which it serves. It will, it must, fight against what contradicts it. Only half-wavness, or confusion of ideas, can preach tolerance. The Catholic scorns it, as does the Atheist, because both are something whole; and they will at last have to contend for supremacy upon the grave of this mongrel tolerant, " rationalism." In this there is only one distinguishing circumstance to be observed, — that the Atheist never uses nor requires any other weapons than the word and the pen ; while that u love " preaching Church, when not restrained by physical force, commonly displays a special fondness for pavement-stones, clubs, dungeons, instruments for stabbing, crushing, and racking, but especially for stake-fires.
But the domain of tolerance extends beyond the field of religion. It will be conceded that humanity requires intelligence ; but that admission brings at once the embarrassment as to how she shall behave with the opposite of intelligence. How shall humanity treat that? What position has she to take towards that notorious, mighty power which we call stupidity? A friendly one, certainly not; but of what use would a hostile one be ? An assertion which has formerly provoked so much astonishment and anger — that " against stupidity the gods contend in vain " (Schiller) — would to-day be accepted by every one who maintains that the sons should not rise against their mothers : as for ourselves, we only feel anger that even as vainly human beings contend against that power. Yet, in truth, this anger is just as irrational as the contest is vain. The fault lies here, that intelligence is generally stupid enough to regard stupidity as possessing some intelligence. It gives it credit for an impossible capacity, — that of judging and condemning itself.
Few persons have intelligence enough to comprehend stupidity entirely: hence they commonly presuppose an intention, whereas there was only an incapacity. In things which, iu our opinion, must at once be evident to every child, it is difficult for us to believe iu an honest blindness: wherefore we suspect either dissimulation, or indolence in opening the eyes. But is it not cruel to punish incapability as evil intention, to treat misfortune as a wrong, and to create a responsibility for impossibilities? Is it humane to make a person responsible for the fact that his mother put him into the world with a skull of eighteen inches' compass, instead of twenty-four?
To the humane critic, stupidity should really be what is called " sacred; " and perhaps it would be so, if it did not itself rebel agaiust its honest recognition. But whoever will be forbearing with stupidity because it is deficient in perception, offends it just as much as he who combats it because it is not clever. It is as little pleased with pity as with generosity, and is the only incapacity in the world which does not conduct itself passively. This was experienced by Huss at the stake; aud, if it was grand in his position to pity the sancta simplicitas which fanned the fire at his feet, he still must have thought it quite unnecessary that this sancta simplicitas had the power to burn him alive. Stupidity always has intelligence enough to wish to pass for intelligence itself, and to hate the real intelligence: hence it becomes pretentious, defiant, and polemic; and, in order to conclude a peace with it, intelligence has no other means than that impossible one, to surrender voluntarily to it. It would be proper for stupidity to be onl}r good-natured and modest; but it is malicious and ambitious without bound, especially when it has studied theology, and earrics a cross in its hand. Its direct object is universal supremacy, and thereby it keeps intelligence constantly on the alert. It forces the latter into activity, and, in return, is forced by it, at last, to ruin itself through the very means by which it sought to destroy intelligence. Stupidity dies only through suicide ; and that is a wis® arrangement. Could intelligence directly kill it, the former would soon stand alone. But stupidity is, to a certain degree, necessary; it is the food and stimulus of intelligence: that is the humanest point of view from which I can regard it. It is the checking-force which puts intelligence to the test, and compels it to moderation. Were we perfectly rid of it, were there only intelligence in the world, we should, out of pure intelligence, get desperate, and in the end would pray, " Lord, give us back again a little stupidity! "
More difllcult than the right appreciation of stupidity is it for humanity to decide upon the treatment of a kindred power; namely, baseness. If stupidity, originating in the brain, is only repulsive intellectual\y, baseness, proceeding from the sentiments and tastes, is at once repulsive morally and a?stheti-cally. It is the passion of the mean and the detestable: it hates the noble and the beautiful, as stupidity hates enlightenment and knowledge. Still more incurable than this latter, it is at once more odious and repulsive, because it is more unprincipled and foul. Stupidity can, in a measure, be respectable, so far as it is honest: baseness is always dishonorable as well as dishonest. The former may excite a certain sympathy through its ridiculousness: the latter cannot even claim the benefit of ridiculousness, and only provokes the gravity of abhorrence. There is no consideration, no interpretation of human nature, which may soften the condemnatory sentence against baseness. Reconciliation with it is an impossibility ; and cither the avoidance of aversion, or the unsparing contest of annihilation, is the only choice left for humanity. "Without stupidity, mankind could not exist; but why we are burdened also with baseness will be difficult for even the most sagacious utilitarian to discover, unless it has the aim of keeping alive a moral and aisthetic disgust. But for this end a smaller number of its representatives would fully suffice, while now the quantity of their productions blunts the feelings against their effects.
But now, Goddess of Humanity, help me to find the measure of tolerance which we owe to those of our fellow-men who unintentionally offend our taste, whose unfortunate personality makes them tolerable to us through no sympathetic feeling, whose simple presence is painful to us, but who, if they are friends, reduce us actuall}* to despair, and could prompt in us the wish to have them for enemies, that we might get rid of them. There are persons whose physiognomj', or voice alone, can drive us from them; there are persons whose ideal world lies so infinite^ far from ours, that the impossibility of an approximation to us deters from every attempt even ; there are persons who have so little suspicion of the impression made by their repulsive personality, that they even displa\- their most intolerable peculiarities with the greatest predilection; thero are persons, who, in conversation, know as little moderation as discrimination; there arc persons, who, with their virtuosity in tediousness, could make martyrs of the most patient.
We all know what it means on a pleasure-walk, or at a social refreshment-table, to have the infliction of a companion who informs us that the sun shines to-day, that it rained yesterday, that spring comes before summer, and, this instruction gone through with, proceeds to examine us thoroughly as to what we ourselves think on this inexhaustible theme. We know what it moans to be fettered to a neighbor in a stage or railroad-car, who in spite of, or even on- account of, our monosyllabic style, does not remit in his policeman-like inquiries, — from whence we came, whither we were going, what business we were engaged in, and where we had eaten, slept, and lived : in short, we know what it means to be placed in a position where our only choice
is either to become a victim and martyr of a stranger's intru-
siveness and conversational powers, or to become a so-called churl and clown. We are all acquainted with that species of philanthropist called in German Klcbpjlaster (u stick ing-plas-ter"), and in English a u bore." IIow shall we treat all these our fellow-men, who, without being to blame, maltreat us, but who, without our being to blame, are insufferable to us? lie who retains his patiencc with them deserves to be admired just as much as those who lose their patience deserve to be excused. But surely most of us would rather let ourselves be excused than admired.
The combating humanity has its trials to undergo; but the enduring humanity has also sometimes not less; and she will not be called heartless if she sometimes, in uncongenial company, relieves herself with the cjaculatory sigh, —
To drive them away is not light:
'Tis harder to kill them outright;
But hardest to have them always in sight.
With this I conclude my remarks upon a subject which might better be treated in a book than in a single essay; but, in closing, I would like to say a special word concerning the Germans.
Humanity, whose general tendency is comprehended under the word " humanismus," can be treated as a system; and a system allows no gaps. To comprehend and present it fully would, therefore, only be possible for those who strive, and are able, to think systematically and comprehensively. This leads
of itself to the question, where true humanity will first find its home, and what people are best fitted for its representatives. If we adhere to the fundamental requisites which have been affirmed, we must acknowledge, that for humanity no sure home has yet been established. Where it finds the external freedom inviting entrance, there is lacking the internal freedom necessary for an abode; where the internal freedom stretches out the arms to greet it, the external enemies deter it from entering; and where, judging by all other possibilities, it might calculate upon a worthy reception, there it is met, not by recognition, but despair, which calls for its help under the insulting name, necessity.
Where could humanity sooner expcct to found its empire than in this republic, which rejoices in all the aid given by libertj', and which has just completed the great work of abolition of . slavery? Let us pause a moment by this example in order to place our question in the right light.
Was it humanity which abolished slavery? No; but the obstinacy of inhumanit}'. Not Abraham Lincoln, but Jefferson Davis, abolished it. Its death-sentence was written under compulsion by that same hand which had just prepared a second pen in order to offer it a new title to life. The renowned Lincoln proclamation, containing not a single humane letter, allowed to slavery " a full period of one hundred days " as a time to save itself, and provided then for the abolition of the obstinate institution simply as " a proper and necessary war-measure for the suppression of the Rebellion." No paragraph of the Constitution, to which it refers, hindered its author from giving an inspiration to it by the expression of a humane motive. This motive was lacking in his action, because it was lacking in liis sentiments, and not in his alone. The majority of that party which has abolished slavery would have quietly allowed it to continue in existence, if there had been no other considerations against it than those of humanity. Thus one of the most renowned and momentous acts of humanity was
accomplished without humanity. History says a lie if she reports otherwise. Therefore, also, we cannot say that the American nation has become intrinsically more humane since the abolition of slavery: it has simply lost the opportunity to cherish and practise inhumanity. In this example wo recognize the insignificance of mere humane appearance, and the intrinsic worthlessncss of actions not arising from carefully formed principles, from consistent humane sentiments, and a broad humane consciousness. They produce results in one case, which, in a precisely similar case, may be entirely reversed.
Consistency in action, this far-famed " jewel," is not possible without consistency in thought. The gaps of thought are filled either with follies or crudities. In no country do we find, in proportion, more deficiencies in thought than in "free" and "practical" America, — that same America, which, by its defective reasoning, places republicanism and monarchy on an equality as rightful forms of government; which, without shame, lets its foreign policy be dictated by kings, and, in its domestic government, has constructed a monarchy without knowing it; which holds the overthrow of democracy to be democracy; which couples religious tyranny with religious freedom, and by religious freedom understands the freedom for religion to overthrow all freedom.
With this faulty, defective method of thinking among Americans, I contrast the consistent and comprehensive method of the Germans. This method of thinking, joined to an idealistic tendency of mind, should be the very qualification to make the Germans step forward pre-eminent as advance-guards and champions of humanity; and if they demand for this a banner, German Radicalism has long shown them what colors it should have.
What is humanity? Final answer: The much-abused German Radicalism.
This answer is certainly brief and easy in words; but it is not so in its operation in all the relations of life. This can only be lightened through the co-operation of all who cannot dispute its rightful claims. The task of humanity is so much the more beautiful, but also so much the more indisputable, the more difficult it is. Man is a powerful being, and has already accomplished much which seemed impossible. lie has removed mountains, and drained seas; he has destroyed time and space by sea and land, and will learn to do the same by air; he flashes his thought in a moment around the earth, and measures the most distant gigautic stars on a bit of paper. But to this mighty ruler of Nature, who solves such difficult problems with case, the most difficult one of all is himself; namely, to become a human being.
OTHER WRITINGS BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
Six Letters to a Pious Mail. With an Introductory Address to a Jesuit, and a Supplementary One to a Humbugger......
Mankind the Criminal. A Lecture
The True Character of Humboldt. An Oratiou .
LessonB of a Century ......
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