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Is it lawful to accumulate property? This is an important question, not only because it relates to a point of duty, but because the whole of our present social system is involved in its decision. I have been told that a sect has lately sprung up in England, who hold that it is not lawful to accumulate property, and that at farthest, a man may only make provision for a week in advance. Sentiments somewhat similar to this were advanced at a discussion at which I was lately present; and as this age and country are particularly prone to ultraism, it may not be improper to devote a few moments to the consideration of this subject.

If the right to accumulate were limited to the making of a provision only for a few days, or even weeks, all the arrangements of Providence for our support would be at war with our duty. It would have been easy for the Deity to cause this earth to produce spontaneously all that is needed for man's sustenance and comfort; but, for the wisest and most benevolent of purposes, God has arranged this differently. Man must earn his bread by the sweat of his brow; and in many of the most interesting of his labours, those, for instance, of agriculture, the time of toil and of fruition, the time of sowing and of reaping, are placed at a considerable distance from each other. Besides, in most countries, there is but one harvest a year, and hence the unerring teachings

Vol. VIII.—19

of Providence show that the right to accumulate is not circumscribed by the narrow bounds to which some persons would limit it.

Perhaps most persons will agree, that the right of accumulation must be sufficiently broad to allow us to make an adequate provision for our present comfortable support; but some will deny that we have the right to go beyond this; and I shall therefore consider the question, whether a man has the right to accumulate beyond what is necessary to supply the wants of himself and his family, as being the real point at issue.

If the labour to which, by the divine arrangement of things, man is subject, is only intended as a means to enable him to provide for his physical wants, then I admit that it might be questioned, whether the labour bestowed on such accumulation were not an unlawful waste of time. But if we view labour in its true light, as one of the principal means established by God for the gradual development of our intellectual and moral powers, then the question assumes a different aspect. It then is: Whether we have the right voluntarily to stop short in the career of intellectual and moral training in which Providence has placed us, and deprive ourselves of its benefits. The tendency of a business life to develop the intellectual and moral powers must be obvious on a moment's consideration. That such a life is replete with moral danger and temptation is admitted, but it is precisely this which constitutes it a school of moral discipline, for there can be no moral progress where there is no temptation. That, in ordinary cases, in this country at least, labour when accompanied with frugality and prudence, has a tendency to produce an excess of earnings beyond what is wanted for present or individual support, is assumed as an undisputed fact.

It has sometimes been contended, that though it may be lawful to earn such surplus property, yet that it is unlawful to keep it, and that it is our duty to dispose of it to others as fast as it accumulates. But the doing so would be destructive of industry, and would deprive business of much of its intellectual and moral influence. Under the present wise arrangement of things, the increased knowledge of business is accompanied by an increase of capital, calculated to give activity and a further extension to these new born powers.-But if a man possess no capital to give activity to these new powers, a business life, instead of being a scene of constant progression, will soon become to him an irksome, unmeaning task of mere mechanical drudgery, possessing no intellectual nor moral interest.

It follows from the view I have taken of this subject, that I deem the acquisition and accumulation of property to be lawful, and in perfect accordance with our christian duty.It is true, that the possession of wealth imposes on us new obligations and new responsibilities. Wealth, like knowledge, is power,-power to do good and to be useful. Both come to us from God. To Him we are accountable for the use we make of them. But surely we are not permitted to neglect the acqiusition of them, merely because their possession would involve us in additional responsibility:

But perhaps this question may be placed in a clearer light, by assuming the converse of the proposition, and seeing where that would lead us; for the direction of our Saviour, to judge of the tree by its fruits, is equally applicable to systems as it is to men.

If it be unlawful to accumulate, then there is an end of all international intercourse; for the commerce which gives rise to that intercourse, and the ships by which it is carried on, are all the result of previous extensive accumulation.

If it be unlawful to accumulate, then all our manufacturing and commercial establishments, on which so many thousands are dependent for their support, must be destroyed; for all have their origin in, and are dependent on, the principle of accumulation.

If it be unlawful to accumulate, then there is an end to our public improvements, for these are all made, not with the small surplus earnings of the day laborer, but with the accumulated funds of capitalists.

If it be unlawful to accumulate, then there is an end to all our colleges, hospitals and other benevolent institutions, for all were originally founded and endowed, or are now supported, by the fruits of accumulation.

If it be unlawful to accumulate, then there is an end to the art of printing, that great engine of civilization and improvement; for the establishment of a printing press requires that accumulation shall have preceded it.

This argument might be extended much farther, but enough, I presume, has already been said to shew, that the whole of our present social system rests on the principle of accumulation, and that the destruction of that principle, would inevitably resolve society again into a state of barbarismn.

But it will probably be objected to the result at which I have thus arrived, that our Saviour, in his Sermon on the Mount, expressly prohibits the accumulation of riches.* If I mistake not, this objection rests on a misapprehension of the true meaning of the Saviour, and on the error, of converting a direction given to a particular class of persons, under special circumstances, into a general aphorism of universal application.* To whom was the Sermon on the Mount addressed, and on what occasion was it delivered? Both Matthew and Luke tell us that it was addressed to the disciples, and the latter informs us, that it was delivered immediately after the choosing of the twelve apostles. If so, it may be considered as a charge to them on the duties of the office to which they had just been raised. But whether it was delivered on this occasion or at another time, both the evangelists agree in saying, that it was addressed to the disciples. Now these were to be separated from the common mass of society. To them a special mission was assigned.They were to go forth into distant countries and regions, to convert mankind to the knowledge of the truth, and the practice of righteousness; and with this separation from the common pursuits of life, new maxims and modes of action must necessarily be connected. If they were to answer the great purpose of their calling, they must abandon their kindred, their homes, their possessions and their common avocations, and rely solely on God's care for their daily support. They must not waste their time on the common money-making pursuits of life, or stop by the way to contend with the world about their just rights. In imitation of their great Master, theirs must be a life of voluntary poverty and non-resistance; but it does not follow, that the same maxims which suited their situation, would also answer for those who are differently situated. Every situation and condition in life has its own particular duties connected with it, and it is our business to adapt our conduct to the situations in which Providence has placed us. It is true, Christianity is a universal religion, adapted to all situations and conditions of life. It contains injunctions of justice, mercy, kindness, love, purity and truth, which are of universal and eternal obligation; but it is left to every one to apply these injunctions to his own particular

*Matt. vi. 19.

*It is in the error of giving to special directions a general application, that the Anti-Social Monastic institutions of Christianity have had their origin; and, if I mistake not, we must attribute the ultra peace societies of the present day to the same source. If the non-resistance principle, instead of being considered as a mere theoretical speculation, were adopted by our government as a practical rule of action, our country would soon become a prey to rapine and violence; our commorce would be swept from the ocean by pirates, and our North West Indians would again convert our fertile fields into a hunting ground for their nomadic tribes. A late attack, by an African robber on one of the Liberian Colonies shews, that safety is only to be found in a readiness to resist lawless violence.

Mau. vi. 2.' Luke vi. 20.

situation. Christianity is a system of great fundamental principles, not of minute legislation.

The following passage, upon the same subject, from Edward Everett, may fitly close this article.

“The philosophy that denounces accumulation is the philosophy of barbarism. It places man below the condition of most of the native tribes on this continent. No man will voluntarily sow that another may reap. You may place a man in a paradise of plenty on this condition, but its abundance will ripen and decay unheeded. At this moment the fairest regions of the earth-Sicily, Turkey, Africa, the loveliest and most fertile portions of the East; the regions that in ancient times, after feeding their own numerous and mighty cities, nourished Rome and her armies—are occupied by oppressed and needy races, whom all the smiles of heaven and the bounties of the earth cannot tempt to strike a spade into the soil, further than is requisite for a scanty supply of necessary food. On the contrary, establish the principle that property is safe, that a man is secure in the possession of his accumulated earnings, and he creates a paradise on the barren earth-Alpine solitudes echo to the lowing of his herds—he builds up his dykes against the ocean, and cultivates a field beneath the level of its waves, and exposes his life fearlessly in sickly jungles and among ferocious savages. Establish the principle that his property is his own, and he seems almost willing to sport with its safety. He trusts it all in a single vessel, and stands calmly by while she unmoors for a voyage of circumnavigation around the globe. He knows that the sovereignty of his country accompanies it with a sort of earthly omnipresence, and guards it as vigilantly in the loneliest island of the Antarctic Sea, as though it were locked in his coffers at home. He is not afraid to send it out upon the common pathway of the ocean, for he knows that the sheltering wings of the law of nations will overshadow it there. He sleeps quietly, though all that he has is borne upon six inches of plank on the bosom of the unfathomed waters; for even if the tempest should bury it in the deep, he has assured himself against ruin, by the agency of those institutions which modern civilization has devised for the purpose of averaging the loss of individuals upon the mass.”


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