Centralization and Socialism – George Fitzhugh, 1856
The complaint is universal that modern improvements, while they lessen the labor required to create wealth, and are vastly increasing in aggregate amount, beget continually its more unequal distribution. They are, as yet, but engines in the hands
of the rich and the skillful to oppress the laboring class. The large towns are consuming the small ones, and the great capitalists eating up the lesser ones. Every day sends forth its new swarms of paupers, whilst every month begets its millionaire. Capital becomes more powerful as it is wielded in larger masses, and as it grows stronger it becomes more oppressive and exacting.
The small capitalist sympathises somewhat with his laborers because he is not far removed from them in social condition,
and is acquainted with their persons, their feelings, and their wants. The wealthy capitalist soon learns to look on them as
mere human machines representing no much physical and industrial power. It is a notorious statistical fact, that free laborers
generally throughout the world are suffering physical discomfort and destitution. It is equally notorious that slaves in all
ages and countries have had their physical wants well supplied. Such suffering and destitution as the free laboring class
now endure must injuriously affect their moral condition, and the statistics of crime everywhere attest the truth of the theory.
Man emancipated from human masters, and remitted to the unfeeling despotism of capital, has, so far, lost by the exchange,
both physically and morally. His prospects in the thture are still darker than the past, for every improvement in physical
science, and in the mechanic arts are but mere instruments of oppression and exaction in the hoods of capital and skill.
The wealth which labor is daily creating are but new fetters that it welds wherewith its own limbs are to be bound, for labor
alone creates and pays the profits of capital, and the larger the amount of capital, the more labor will be required to pay
its rents, interest, and dividend.. The condition of the domestic slave generally improves in some degree as his master
becomes more wealthy. The master capital must needs exact harder work of its laborers, and supply them more scantily,
as the amonnt of capital increases, for its increased profits can only accrue from an increased tax on labor.
This tendency of modern civilization in free society is well and generally understood in Europe and America. The discovery
has given rise to hundreds of new schools of economic science that may be classed under the general term of socialists.
When you quit the confines of the south it is here more difficult to find men who are not socialists than to find those who
are. Mr. Carlyle, the only conservative socialist whose works we have read, utters but the common thought of all when
he exclaims: “We must have a new world if we are to have any world at all !” If we except Mr. Carlyle, we shall find that
all the socialists derive, in some degree, their theories from Plato’s republic. He borrowed his thoughts from actual models;
but the little communities of Crete and Sparta cannot be acted over again in our day. Their highly artificial social forms
were kept alive by outside pressure and inside necessity. They were forced to lead a military and camp life, as well to
keep down insurrections of their too numerous slaves as to be ready at all times to repel attacks from without. But if these
instances proved anything in favor of socialism, they would prove too much for the abolitionists, for they only show that
socialism is practicable when based upon slavery. Mr. Carlyle boldly proclaims slavery as the only cure for existing social
evils. We concur with him that if not a cure, it is the only means yet discovered of so modifying those evils as to render
them tolerable. The abolitionists, however, are not willing to compare our southern institutions with any forme of free society
that have yet existed, but only with those fanciful Utopias, fairy visions of which they descry in the future. We wish they
could be induced to delay their assaults till they had tested their multitudinous theories by actual experiment, and produced
some model worthy of imitation. They may rest assured that when, by sufficient experiment, they have discovered an
improved social organisation, all other forms of society among civilized men will gradually be merged into it. The most
efficient agent of centralization is money and the various forms of credit which it begets when invited by the leads of
trade. Lycurgus banished it from Sparta, and Sir Thomas More proposes to banish it from his Utopia.
We are quite certain that money is a necessary means to the attainment of a high civilization, and that slavery, in restriding
its employment, sufficiently corrects its evil tendencies. Money is not employed on the farm in the intercourse and dealings
of master and slaves, wives and children. Formerly the overseer too was paid in a part of the crop. Thus does slavery, in a
great measure, attain a result which most socialists desire. We could readily show that in associating labor and capital, in
protecting the weak, and in sufficiently insuring the physical well being of all, it goes far to remove most of the evils of free
society of which socialists complain. We will conclude by citing a passage from the Utopia of Sir Thomas More, from which
socialists may see that their complaints and their proposed remedies are not altogether new, and from which slaveholders
may discern that even when England was sparsely settled her society was afflicted with evils from which ours is partially
exempt. Those evils in England have now grown to such enormous size as to be very generally pronounced intolerable.
As we have not a copy of the work before us, the extract must be postponed for a future time.