[From the Herald of Freedom of May 5, 1843; Miscellaneous Writings, 255-59]
It is enslaved outright, in one portion of this democratic Republic, - and despised heartily in every portion of it. Wealth, and Edjucation and Indolence, and empty-headed Vanity in all its departments, are worshipped. Labor worships them, among the rest, and despises itself. The laboring man, generally, despises his vocation, and himself on account of it, - about as our Negro brother despises himself, on account of his complexion, &c.
And Labor is generally poor, as well as degraded. It earns all that is earned, by any body in the world, and might naturally be expected to share some of its own earnings. The Slave gets none of his, and the free Laborer as little of his Usage and the Religion of the times can't help his having. These get away from him all they can, and generally leave him ragged poor. And he thinks it all right, - or if his nature is restless under the horrible perversion, he does not dream that it is any fault of his tyrants and plunderers. He adores and worships them, and despises his brother in poverty and toil. Half the time - nine tenths of the time, he would be a tyrant himself, as they are, if he had the power. It is the vice of general morality, that he is so, and that springs from the Religion of the People. A people's religion is generally, perhaps always , their own viciousness, exalted and sanctified, and made sublime enough to be worshipped. The People create their Gods in their own image, - put thunder and lightning &c., into their hands, and thus worship their own wickedness.. Our Religion, whatever name you may call it by - as it is preached and practiced, and carried on - makes us what we are, and, among other deplorable effects, places Labor where it is, - and sets up Idleness over it, as its Lord and Master.
I deny that Labor ought to be degraded, or ought to starve. I am bold to deny it. I hazard the startling assertion, that Work ought not to go hungry, or naked, but have something to eat, and to wear. It may cost some of our remaining subscribers, to say it, but I will risk it. I say nobody, ought to go without it, and I might venture further - that nobody, able to labor, but who does not labor, ought to have a living. I would give them one for the honor of the race, or as God sends rain on the unjust, but they do not deserve it. No laborer should want, and no idler should enjoy, - and no man has a right to be idle. He may be for all me,, but not for all himself. He owes it to himself, to earn his bread at the least, - to earn it by useful labor, and not by useless - much less mishievous labor, - as too many earn it, or get it by now. Further, as no man has a right to be idle, and live on the earnings of others, so no man ought to obliged to support the idle, or to labor much (if any) beyond support of himself. There ought, of course, to be labor enough done on earth, to support all its inhabitants, richly - and if it were properly shared, no one would need do more, and none would do less. Men have no right to overwork themselves, if they can help it. They owe it to their nature and to God, who is dishonored (if that is possible) in its degradation. It is in derogation of glorious human nature, to overwork it, and more grossly so, to have it slothful and idle, and basely live on the unrequited toil of others.
Every one owes it to himself, as well as to his otherwise overburdened and injured neighbor, to do manual labor enough, to earn the bread he consumes, and all his support. He must earn it for himself, or somebody else must earn it for him, which is clearly wrong. He may say he pays for his support, but he ought to consider that he pays money that is not his own, - for he did not earn it - and social combinations that cast it upon him, are vicious, - and in violation of human welfare and right. I would not disturn them violently - but I think they are wrong, and will say so.
If every body worked as much as they ought to, nobody would be obliged to work more than they opught to, which would be a mighty amelioration of human condition and character. A people broken down with labor, whether free labor (so called) or slave, must be morally degraded. It is easy for a Priesthood to ride such a people. They have not the leisure, nor the elasticity of soul, to appreciate or assert their own freedom. Their backs are bowed down, like a kneeling camel's and the Priest mounts them easily, and rides, all their miserable lives long.
Every body ought to earn his own living by manual labor, and if practicable, had better earn this much, by cultivating the face of the ground. To say nothing of the healthfulness of such labor and the enjoyment of it, - which every body needs - there is an independence about it, a certainty of remuneration, that human justice or folly cannot defeat. And then it is due the face of our mother earth. The glorious old mother, her children, (for they all repose in her motherly lap) owe it to her, to keep her whole face, her entire surface, where there is terra firma for the noble plow, dressedto her taste and their own. They ought to deck deck her "universal face in pleasant green." And labor enough done by all, to earn their living, would do it. There need not a man overtoil himself, to turn all earth into a paradise, - a fit abode for gods - and godlike creatures would then inhabit it. Mechanical labor is useful, necessary, honorable. But prosecuted constantly and uninterruptedly, it is not so healthful or pleasant as when mingled with cultivation and adornment of the earth, nor so sure or requital. He who vests his labor in the faithful ground is dealing directly with God, and human fraud or weakness does not intervene between him and his requital. He is very apt to get his reqward. The mechanic is quite apt to fail of his. No mechanic has a set of customers equally trustworthy as God and the elements, - or so unfailingly able, as well as willing to pay. No savings Bank is ever so sure as the old earth, to restore all its deposites and with overflowing and gushing usury. Every mechanic knows his own condition best, perhaps. But I am extravagant in saying it would be well for every one to cultivate the earth enough to raise his own support? There is enough earth for all - provided humanity could be allowed to come on to it and dig.
The earth is as fine a one as God could furnish us. I don't believe the Clergy or the Legislature could better it - or our honester friends who are looking for the Prince of Peace to come with the torch of the incendiary and set it afire. I tell our conflagration friends, by the way, if Christ touches match to this glorious earth of ours, (which if He be God, He made to the best of His Almighty skill,) and burns it up - or burns a single human creature that sins and suffers on its surface, he is not the "Son of man" revealed in the New Testament. There is not a trait of character of him, delineated in the gospel, that such an act would not violate and outrage. No, let no such inflammatory scenes be anticipated. Would we burn the earth, and our miserable neighbors, - if we felt right toward them. No - nor if we felt right, should we ever expect God would do any such thing. It is only when we are wrong and wicked ourselves, that we clothe our God with such an incendiary and revengeful disposition. Nero set Rome afire and played on the fiddle at the sight of the conflagration - Nero would most naturally attribute to God the disposition he was manifesting.
But the earth is as beautiful as God could make it. They complain of it being cursed. The only curse now resting on it, it seems to me, is the curse of the indolent, idle tyranny, and curse of down-trodden, back-broken labor. No wonder the earth is cursed and blasted. See war let loose upon it, under the sanction of religion, to devastate what poor, desponding Labor has done toward its adornment. See how it drives its harnessed horses through the harvest field, and ruts it with its accursed cannon wheels, and tears the sweetest green swards with its murderous shot. And how it mows down the laborers, manuring the earth with their bones. That is all war ever does for agriculture. It manures the ground with the blood and bones of the cultivator. Waterloo, they say, was made fat in this way, by that darling system of Kings and Clergy. They rained blood on that field, and the plaster of Paris they spread on for manure, was the bleached and powrdered bones of the soldiery. But I am digressing, as friend Palmer of the Courier almost wittily said of the Herald, the other day.