George Fitzhugh on Morality & Philosophy

A presentation of Fitzhughian thought on morality and philosophy through quotations by George Fitzhugh

“Man’s instincts, except that of sucking, are not born with him, but furnished to him by nature as fast as he
needs them. He walks instinctively without a knowledge of anatomy, or of the laws of mechanic forces, and
sees discriminatingly without having learned the science of optics, and learns to talk before he learns grammar
or lexicography. He does not go out to search for knowledge as do scholars, logicians and philosophers, but
knowledge comes to him unsought and without reflection. His judgments and opinions are not the results of
logical induction or deduction, but are intuitively and unconsciously forced upon him by extraneous causes.
Every one must have observed that the most judicious and practical men are generally those who can give
no reasons for their judgments and opinions, or who give wrong ones. It is mere instinct that controls the
conduct of such men, or at least a large percentage of instinct and a very slight one of reason.”
– George Fitzhugh, Moral Philosophies, page: 2, 1867

“The selfish and social feelings are equally vicious and noxious when indulged to excess, equally virtuous, useful and
healthful when the balance or counterpoise between them is properly adjusted, regulated and preserved. We hold,
then, that the proposed anti-selfish system is, relatively, true-positively, false. True, so long as it holds divided sway
and dominion with free trade, or selfish philosophy. False, the moment it drives the selfish system out of the field of
morals and exercises undivided power. For selfishness, or regard and care of self, is quite as needful and obligatory
a human duty, as social feeling or anti-selfishness, which regards and takes care of others. The individual would
perish without the selfish feeling and action. Society would cease to exist without the social affections, and the
charities. that proceed from those affections. The moral and the physical worlds are governed and controlled by
innumerable antinomes or opposing, yet co-operative laws or forces. Man’s nature is half selfish, half social, and
moral duty consists in moderating the excesses of either of these feelings or propensities, and in adjusting and
preserving a proper balance between them. No exact or universal rules can be laid down for ascertaining, adjusting
and preserving the proper balance between the infinitely numerous, minute and subtle antinomes that sustain
vegetable, animal and moral life; no line of universal and unvarying truth or rectitude has ever been, or ever
will be discovered in the vegetable, animal or moral kingdom-in agriculture, medicine, law or ethics. In morals
we are continually running from one excess to the opposite excess, continually crossing the line of truth and
rectitude, but never treading it, because we can never know when we have arrived at it. Yet we all know when
we have departed and wandered far from this line, and should try to return as near as possible to it-satisfied
with proximate truth, since we never can attain absolute, universal, unvarying truth.”
– George Fitzhugh, Moral Philosophies, page: 6, 1867

“We will not attempt to define the line that separates instinct from reason, but agree with Falstaff, “that instinct is a
great thing,” a much greater, more useful and necessary thing than ever-erring and deceptive reason. The animal
man, like other animals, might sustain life without the faculty of reason. Without his instincts he would perish. It
seems to us that most of our habitual actions, proceeding at first from reason, reflection and calculation become
in time, by continued practice, instinctive and independent of volitions. We eat, we poise ourselves in walking or
riding. We touch the keys of the piano, and perform on other musical instruments instinctively, after long practice.”
– George Fitzhugh, Moral Philosophies, page: 3, 1867

“We believe that vital, heart-felt religion is essential to the full development and maturation of human character.
We do not think that man can reason his way through life, because every thing that he sees and meets with in
the path of life is above and incomprehensible to his reason. He must feel his way, guided by instincts, purified
by religious faith and sentiment. Religion is the keystone of the arch of human passions, emotions, affections,
faculties, propensities, etc., that keeps them all in place, and by moderating their excesses, makes them all
conducive to the good of the individual and to the good of society.”
– George Fitzhugh, Moral Philosophies, pages: 7-8, 1867

“Everything in excess is evil. That is, everything in itself, in the abstract, unrestricted and unbalanced
by its antinomes or opposing powers, is evil and pernicious. Nothing is good of itself and by itself,
nothing good in the abstract, because things in the abstract, pure, simple, undiluted and unbalanced,
would exist in the greatest possible excess. On the other hand, if we were acquainted with all the
secrets of nature, we would be sure to discover that neither in the moral or metaphysical world, nor
in the physical or material world, is there anything evil in the concrete, when properly compounded
or balanced by appropriate antinomes; that is, by things having opposing or qualifying powers or
qualities. It always takes two, or many wrongs to make a right-for all good, all right, all truth, are
but the means or conjoint results of opposite or antinomic evils or wrongs.”
– George Fitzhugh, Liberty Versus Government, page: 1, 1867

“In doing this we have attempted to show that civilization and human progress proceed from, and
are sustained and impelled forward by, what are usually considered the evil passions, emotions
and propensities of man’s nature. We, however, wholly disagree with the ordinary estimation of
man’s moral qualities. We think they are all good when balanced and counterpoised by their
opposites, or antinomes; all evil, when not so balanced and counterpoised-that is, all evil when
carried to excess. That everything, as well in the physical as in the moral world, is evil in itself
-evil in the abstract, for then it exists in the greatest possible excess; everything good in the
concrete, when properly compounded, balanced, or counterpoised. In moderation alone consists
the undiscoverable and undefinable line of truth and rectitude. Envy, jealousy, discontent,
emulation, pride, selfishness, rivalry, competitiveness, ambition, accumulativeness, love of
money, of high social position, of power and of fame, when properly restricted or moderately
indulged, are not evil, but good moral qualities. The grand result, civilization, proceeds from
these human passions and propensities, and that result shows that they are not evil.”
– George Fitzhugh, Land Monopoly, pages: 4-5, 1867

“Evil is but excess of good. There is nothing good or evil in itself, in the abstract. Opposing, antagonistic powers
and principles sustain the physical and the moral world. Thus undue preponderance of any one principle or power
constitutes evil, and brings on decay and death. Good is but the just equilibrium between opposing qualities or
powers. In the moral and the physical world, everything is good, when duly balanced and proportioned, in combination
and in the concrete. Nothing exists, or can exist, in the abstract; there is, therefore, nothing good or evil in itself.
We don’t think with Pope, that “whatever is, is right.” There is always, with men, a. tendency to excess, and
consequent wrong. But we must not try to expel anything that is natural. All of man’s passions, appetites, feelings
and propensities were given to him for good, wise and necessary purposes; they are none evil when not excessively
indulged; and moral duty is performed when we balance them properly, not by eradicating any of them.”
– George Fitzhugh, History of the Origin of Representative Government in Europe, page: 9, 1866

“In the physical as in the moral world, excess is evil, nay poisonous, and destructive of life. Feed man or
any other animal on one kind of food for a length of time, and it will kill him. Not because it is given in
large quantities, but because it is given without its antinomes, that is, food possessing opposite qualities.
Everything in the moral and in the physical world is evil in itself, evil in the abstract, for then it exists in the
greatest possible excess. Everything is good in the concrete, when properly compounded or balanced by
its appropriate antinomes. It certainly takes two or more, nay very many, wrongs to make a right. The
homely phrase, “overly good,” is an admirable one, and should be adopted into polite language, for it
is needed, and we know none other that will supply its place. Alen are eternally riding moral hobbies,
practising to excess, and pushing to extremes, some one virtue to the neglect of all others. Such men
become conscientious villains, the worst, most dangerous and most mischievous of all villains.”
– George Fitzhugh, Terribly in Earnest, page: 1, 1866

“Human nature is very much the same everywhere, and a knowledge of human nature may be
required just as well in a day school as at college. Indeed, this knowledge seems intuitous in
most men, whether they mix with the great world, or have ever lived in a confined neighborhood.
Whilst there are others, reared in cities, sent to college, and habituated to travel and various
intercourse with all kinds of society, who continue through life, irreclaimably green. Great
knowledge of human nature seldom improves man’s morals, and is rather a suspicious and
equivocal intellectual quality. Boys should be sent out in the world sufficiently to learn its
ways, fashions, manners and customs, but they are apt enough in detecting men’s motives
and object”, and to learn human nature requires neither teaching nor travel.”
– George Fitzhugh, Home Education and the Home Circle, page: 3, 1866

“He who makes reason his sole guide, who will accept nothing that does not concur with
his reason, must find, if he be capable of logical analysis and concatenated ratiocination,
that he will have to reject every thing in the material and in the moral world as false,
spurious, nay, as non-existent. Everything that does exist, or that we believe to exist, is
unreasonable, simply because it is super-reasonable. Reason, boldly, fearlessly, profanely
applied to the universe itself, dissolves the universe into thin, airy nothing, and leaves
a few vagrant Ideas floating through the immensity of space. He is no philosopher, but
an ignorant charlatan, who has not reasoned himself to this conclusion, who has not
discovered, that all reasoning, which does not adopt faith for its premises, if pushed
to its ultimate consequences, leads to gross fallacy and glaring absurdity.”
– George Fitzhugh, What’s to Be Done with the Negroes?, page: 1, 1866

“To be “overly good” is but to be decidedly bad. The worst people in the world are your
conceited people who mount a hobby, and practice one virtue or moral duty to criminal
excess, whilst they, of necessity, neglect the performance of all other moral duties. Your
over-affectionate mothers and fathers, and over-kind masters and mistresses, belong
to this conceited, self-righteous class, and constitute a large majority of it.”
– George Fitzhugh, Old Maids and Old Bachelors, page: 2, 1866

“We have often had occasion to remark that the maxims in all languages are the same; that they are systems
of philosophy, tersely expressed, and like all systems of philosophy, but half truths, any one of which, if made
the sole guidance of conduct, becomes a whole falsehood. Hence, we think, in all languages where you find one
maxim you may find another having an opposite meaning. Truth, or the line of rectitude, lies somewhere between
those opposing maxims; yet no one will ever discover exact truth or the line of rectitude, though we all know
when we have departed or aberred far from them. Stoicism and epicurism were, in like manner, half truths, and
the line of rectitude, or positive truth, lay somewhat between them. Yet it is vain to attempt to define that line.”
– George Fitzhugh, Terribly in Earnest, pages: 5, 1866

“Radicalism, or to speak more accurately, “Rationalism” and Conservatism are as old as mankind. The
bold, the enterprising, the men of genius, energy and industry have always relied on the dictates of their
own reason, regardless of the lessons, the experience and the admonitions of the past-always inventive
and progressive, they are frequently rash, precipitate and inconsiderate. They constitute a necessary
element in the organism of society, but unless restricted, checked, balanced and counterpoised by the
conservative element, which is their opposite or antinome, they speedily become the architects of ruin,
of anarchy, of agrarianism, of licentiousness, and of universal infidelity and moral depravity. Want of faith,
religious, political, moral and social, and implicit reliance on the suggestions of their own reason, however
unenlightened by study or experience, have been at all times the distinguishing characteristics of this
party, or part of mankind. Their necessary opposing and balancing force or antinome, the Conservatives,
are studious observers of the history and experience of the past, and treasure up and heed the lessons
which it teaches, because they believe that, human nature never materially changing, the religion, the
laws, and the political institutions adapted to it in the past will be equally well adapted to it in the future.
They fight under the banner of faith, wholly rejecting reason when it conflicts with faith in the experience,
the lessons, and the authority of the past. They oppose all innovation, all change, all revolution, all progress,
almost all improvement. Theirs is the stand-still policy ; which is sure to become retrogressive, when not
dragged along by their antinomes, the Rationalists. Conservatives are too timid, too cautious, rely too
much on the promptings of blind bigot faith, too little on the suggestions.

They have more learning than the Rationalists, but often less practical wisdom. They are, left to themselves,
as dangerous guides or rulers as the Rationalists; for by opposing moderate reforms, rendered necessary
by change of times and circumstances, they beget desperation, and the pent up passions of men burst out in
bloody revolution, as in England under the too conservative Stuarts, and in France under the obtuse, obstinate,
stupid Bourbons. Conservatism and Radicalism, being equally necessary, are equally meritorious when
justly proportioned, opposed and balanced, and equally ruinous and destructive when either party acquires
an undue and prolonged ascendancy. Light and darkness, dryness and moisture, heat and cold, action and
rest, sleep and wakefulness, nay, everything in the moral and physical, is equally good when duly alternated
or balanced, equally evil when not counterpoised or balanced by its opposite or antinome. No doubt, everything
if we knew its peculiar qualities and effects would be good and valuable in a properly compounded concrete,
as everything is known to be evil in the abstract, because it exists there in the greatest possible excess.”
– George Fitzhugh, Impending Fate of the Country, pages: 1-2, 1866

“We have said, that in all societies, and all times, the parties of Faith and
Reason, of Conservatism and Radicalism, have existed. Indeed, we should go
farther, and say that the principles of Faith and Reason are each more or less
developed in the mind of every individual, and that sometimes the one, and
sometimes the other, controls individual conduct. The rash and inconsiderate
rely too little on authority, experience and faith; the timid, too much.”
– George Fitzhugh, Impending Fate of the Country, page: 2, 1866

“The worship of reason is the negation of God. All Rationalists or Radicals, to be consistent,
should be infidels-infidels in religion, which is sure to carry along with it infidelity in law,
government, and all old established usages, customs and institutions of society. The French
thoroughly understood this, and when in their Revolution of 1789 they resolved to cut loose
entirely from the past, and erect institutions founded on pure reason, they formally dethroned the
Christian God, and set up in His stead the Goddess of Reason, impersonated by a prostitute.”
– George Fitzhugh, Impending Fate of the Country, page: 2, 1866

“Without Radicals, or, to speak more accurately, without Rationalists, society would stagnate
and fall back. Without conservatives, society would be in a state of continual revolution. Laws,
customs, political and religious institutions, (for want of stability,) would afford no security to
life, liberty, or property, and anarchy would soon wind up the drama, unless the friendly
sword of despotism intervened to quiet discord and educe order out of chaos. Faith and
reason are equally necessary guides and threes in the conduct of life, individual, social
and political. They are the anti-nomes, the opposing, yet concurrent forces, that sustain
and keep in action the moral world. There never was a sane man, or community, or nation,
that was not more or less influenced and directed in their conduct as well by faith as by
reason. The war between faith and reason did not begin with Luther, and the reformation.
It is a war as old as mankind, and one essential to the preservation of mankind.”
– George Fitzhugh, Virginia-Her Past, Present, and Future, page: 2, 1866

“Rules are the inductions and results of reason. Human reasoning on all moral subjects, and
on whatever relates to human, animal and vegetable life and beak is based on partial, and
therefore false premises. From all but the eye of Omniscience, the first causes of social, animal
and vegetable life’ are hidden, and must ever so remain; for the finite can never comprehend
the infinite, the creature, never understand creation. On these subjects the deductions or results
of human reasoning, proceeding from imperfect and therefore false premises, must be false like
the premises on which they are based; hence the maxim,” There is no rule without exceptions.”
Truth mixed with false-hood, ceases to be truth, and becomes tint truth. There are no true rules.
Reason is never, on the subjects of which we are treating, a safe and practical guide, for its
teachings, or rules are, confessedly, liable to exceptions, against which it can make no provision.
Whatever is reasonable is false. In other words, “There is no rule without exceptions.”
– George Fitzhugh, Antinomic Pathology, page: 2, 1863

“In religion, the deductions of mere reason are more palpably false than in any thing else; for
to reason about religion, or to attempt to arrive at it reasonable religion, is the profane effort of
the creature to comprehend his Creator. A reasonable religion is “ex of termini” a false religion.
“Credo quit impossible.” We believe in Christianity from the overwhelming weight of human
authority that sustains it, and because we feel that it is true-and super-reasonable.”
– George Fitzhugh, Antinomic Pathology, page: 3, 1863

“Men’s feelings, passions, instincts, intuitions and prejudices, are always truthful
when rightly construed. Their opinions and judgments founded upon reasoning,
always more or less false. We entertain the highest respect for the prejudices
of mankind,-the most thorough contempt for their opinions.”
– George Fitzhugh, Antinomic Pathology, page: 3, 1863

“We propose to assume, as the basis of our system of pathology, that “we know nothing,” absolutely. and
actually, and “can so know nothing.” We will begin where other philosophers have ended, and abjuring the
search after absolute un-changeable truth, be satisfied with discovering relative, temporary, and proximate
truth. Rejecting reason as a guide, we will follow the promptings of feeling and instinct, and the diverse
and shifting lights of human experience. We shalt deal only with phenomena (appearances) because
we know nothing, and can never know anything, about notimena (realities.)”
– George Fitzhugh, Antinomic Pathology, page: 3, 1863

“Two or more wrongs make a right, and the right, whether in the physical, vegetable, animal or human and
moral world, can only be educed by proper balancing of wrongs; for every thing is evil in the abstract, every
thing good in the concrete, when justly blended, mixed or counter-balanced. To adjust the balance, to preserve
the proper proportions, to discover the happy means is the business of Antinomic Pathology; for antinomes
are opposing laws, forces, or substances that pervade and keep alive existence, physical and moral.”
– George Fitzhugh, Antinomic Pathology, page: 3, 1863

“In the moral world the same catatonia are apparent. There is not a single, so called, virtue, which practised
or existing in excess, does not become a vice or a crime. Courage is a noble ‘quality, but when unqualified
by fear, begets rashness and combativeness, endangers the life of its possessor and disturbs the peace of
society. Fearfulness, too, is a good quality, for it begets prudence, caution and a pacific temper. But in excess,
it degenerates into cowardice, invites aggression, and endangers the safety, property, life and well being of
the individual, and renders him a useless member of society. It is equally dangerous to be too hopeful or too
despondent. Economy is a virtue, but economy in excess is avarice, and avarice is a loathsome Vice. Generosity,
too, is a virtue, but its excess, prodigality, is a crime. Liberty is a good, but liberty in excess is anarchy, and
anarchy is the direst of evils. Government and law are excellent things, but in excess they become tyranny
and despotism, and are great evils. These examples, and thousands of others which could be cited, will suffice
to show that the moral, like the physical world, is sustained and kept alive by antinomes, and that to balance
the opposing forces and preserve the “happy mean,” is all that we can hope to do.”
– George Fitzhugh, Antinomic Pathology, page: 4, 1863

“The most remarkable and most important antinome in the moral World, is man’s double nature. He is a
social animal and of necessity, lives as much for others as fur himself. The motives of his conduct are one
-half selfish, the other half anti• selfish or self-sacrificing. The selfish half of man’s nature, preserves and
takes care of the individual. The anti-selfish half provides for, protects and preserves society. Were man’s
nature altogether selfish, there could. be no society. Men would live isolated and alone, the strong would
war upon the weak; men would oppress and enslave, women, and parents would kill their children to
get rid of the trouble, labour and expense of rearing them. Were man all purely selfish being, the human
race would I soon disappear from the earth. We live and labor as much for others as for self, for children,
for wives, for husbands, for friends and neighbours, for society, and for country.”
– George Fitzhugh, Antinomic Pathology, page: 4, 1863

“Weakness is a power quite as great as strength. The women know how to employ it, and subject and
enslave the men just when anti as much as they please. The infant in the arms, or just todling about, is
usually the tyrant of the family; for it is impossible to deny anything to one so weak. Instead of enslaving,
as they might, their wives and children, most men labor that they may live at ease. Parents love their
children more than they love themselves-with them, anti-selfishness preponderates over selfishness.”
– George Fitzhugh, Antinomic Pathology, page: 4, 1863

“Had God made man entirely selfish, he never would have required of him the impossible duty, of
“loving his neighbour as himself,” or, of “doing unto others as he would that they should do unto him.”
But making’ him anti-selfish, as well as selfish, these duties become of easy and natural performance,
except with depraved and wicked natures. Most men, in the ordinary relations of life, in slave society,
approach this Christian standard. Where all men are free and equal, all necessarily become competitive,
selfish and inimical.. The emancipation of the serfs of Europe, gave birth to universal selfishness in
the conduct of life, and after awhile to political economy, a system of philosophy intended to justify
that selfishness. It is an infidel theory, and all its great lights have been infidels.”
– George Fitzhugh, Antinomic Pathology, page: 5, 1863

“The man, firm and tenacious of purpose, with some one great aim or object before him, which he
kept always in sight, and continually pursued, through good report and ill report, through prosperity
and adversity, through sunshine and through storm, with steady, cautious, resolute, determined
step, such a man used to be considered the model of his kind. “Nulla vestigia retrorsum,” or, as
the Yankees say, “be sure you are right-then go ahead,” used to be thought the best moral maxim
for youth. Both inculcate the doctrine of “one idea.” On the other hand. we have abundance of old
saws and sayings, warning us to beware of too many ideas-“Jack of all trades and good at none”
-“Too many irons in the fire”-“The rolling stone never gathers moss,” &c.”
– George Fitzhugh, One Idea, pages: ​1-2, 1861

“Religion, as the word imports, is the tie that binds man to man, and gives vitality
and stability to society. In its absence, men become demons, as in the Reign of
Terror in France, and instead of loving and aiding one another go to murdering each
other. Besides, he who believes not, or respects not, the government of God, will
never believe in, respect or obey the government of man. The feeling of reverence
for parents, and for men in authority above us, whether those bolding, authority
be, as good or bad, is an emanation of the religious sentiment-part and parcel of
religion itself. The healthy mind rises in its feeling of reverence from parents to
officials, from common Officials to presidents and kings. But it cannot stop here; it
seeks for a cause and author of this earthly series of subordinations, which secures
to us all the blessings of life, and without which the world would be a pandemonium,
and finds it only in the God of Heaven. The infidel, whose diseased mind does
not rise “from nature up to Nature’s God,” turns back upon society, asserts that all
men are equal, disputes all human authority, and invokes anarchy and moral chaos.”
– George Fitzhugh, Superiority of Southern Races, page: 2, 1861

“We are proud of the churches of the South. Proud of the Catholic, the Methodist, the Baptist, the Presbyterian,
and the Episcopal churches. We believe those churches to be our best, and most influential institutions. We
are prouder still that there is no infidelity among us. We are glad of an opportunity to hold up to public approval
and admiration any of our churches. We believe they are equally truthful, equally useful, equally followers of
the Word of God, as written in the Bible, and only differ in church government and church discipline.”
– George Fitzhugh, The Pioneers, Preachers, and People of the Mississippi Valley, 1861

“The moral and the physical world are kept alive by antagonisms. There is nothing of itself and
by itself, good or evil, in either. Thus the due balance of conflicting powers that constitutes the
health of each. This balance is never steady, but all things moral and physical are continually
oscillating as one or the other of the conflicting powers predominates. Evil is but the undue
preponderance of either power. It is the whole business of philosophy (or rather of our moral
pathology) to watch the oscillations or symptoms, and apply the proper remedy. Peace has
its evils as well as war. They are equally necessary in the economy of the moral world. ” The
canker of a bad world and a long peace” corrodes and corrupts, and enervates mankind,
and war is needed to restore its health, vigor and purity. Luxury and frugality, economy and
prodigality, parsimony and extravagance, are each right or wrong under different circumstances.
We have ever considered that the book of Ecclesiastes contained more profound thought,
and more sound philosophy, than any other work. Like the first satire of Horace, and the
tenth or golden satire of Juvenal, it inculcates a system of moral pathology : ” To every
thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. ” A time to get, and
a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to spend; a time of war, and a time of peace.”
– George Fitzhugh, Wealth and Poverty-Luxury and Economy, pages: 7, 1861

“Next to faith in God, it is necessary to the well-being of society to have faith in
men. Indeed, there could be no such thing as faith in God without faith in men,
for we derive all our ideas of a Christian God through the medium of human
authority. The man who has no faith in his fellow men, especially in those in
positions above him, is a disturber of the peace of society, an Ishmaelite,
“whose hand is against every man, and every man’s hand is against him.”
– George Fitzhugh, Reflections on the Conduct of the War, page: 4, 1861

“Life were worth nothing without its contrasts, its vicissitudes, its alternations of sorrow and of joy.
He who never felt pain has never felt pleasure. Nay, exemption from pain and disquietude, and the
attainment of every wish of the heart, is the most painful and intolerable of all conditions-always
begets ennui and tedium vita, and frequently ends in melanc’holy madness. This state of satiety,
of gloom and restlessness of mind, is beautifully, pathetically and philosophically depicted by
Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. It is the struggle of life, its ups and downs, the meeting
and surmounting of difficulties, the safely weathering the storms of adversity, and the reminiscence
of the “varios casus et multa diserimina versum” through which we have passed, that constitute
the staple of human happiness and render life intolerable. A life of total inaction is a life of corroding
care and constant misery. The contrasts and vicissitudes of events in war are stronger and more
striking than those of peace, and if its pains be more severe its joys are more exquisite.”
– George Fitzhugh, The Times and the War, pages: 9-10, 1861

“The great defect of modern philosophy is, that it attributes all human actions to selfish motives. The political
economists originated the theory, and Paley followed them. Man’s character is not one-sided, and he as often
errs by loving what is without too much, as by loving self too much. Generosity, extravagance, undue indulgence
of children, slaves, and other dependants, as well as love of pets, are the results of our benevolent affections,
of our outward nature, of anti-selfishness. We are as liable (in the common sense of terms) to be too good, as
too bad, as apt to sacrifice our own interests to promote the interests of others, as to injure others to advance
our own good. Education has not only to correct selfishness, but to teach us what is due to ourselves, as well
as to others; especially to teach us how criminal it is to indulge our affections on unworthy objects.”
– George Fitzhugh, Blackwood, page: 4, 1860

“Man is a social, not a selfish animal. All social animals, herds, laves, flocks, &c., must needs love one another
-must live for one another-must practise the golden rule. The bee does it, the ant and the beaver do it; and man,
bad as he sometimes is, lives for society; for others as much as for self. Isolated and individualized, he is the
most helpless of animals; but, living in society, and practising the golden rule, he is stronger and more powerful
than all other animals combined. This rule is no paradox, no absurdity, but the corner-stone of a sound philosophy,
and the key-stone of the arch that sustains society. It is a perfect and comprehensive definition of moral duty;
and to expound, expand, and apply it, is the sole province of ethical philosophy.”
– George Fitzhugh, Blackwood, page: 7, 1860

“Seeing is Believing,” the first article in the October No., is a labored and logical attempt to expose the fallacious
reasoning of the spiritualists. The essay is an able one, and probably the argument quite as good as the subject
admits. But it is impossible to make a good argument in a very good cause; impossible to make that clearer, which
to most readers is self-evident; impossible to demonstrate what is axiomatic. All reasoning, all demonstration proceeds
to deduce propositions that are less evident, from those that are more evident. If it do not thus proceed, it is not
reasoning at all. The best dialectician, if called at mid-day, when the sky was dear, to prove that the sun was shining,
would find himself at a loss for an argument; but any metaphysician could demonstrate that it was not shining. “The
shining of the sun” is an idea of your mind, but an idea of your mind is not the sun, and as you cannot show that the
sun exists, but only that your idea exists, of course you cannot prove that it shines. You hold the affirmative and
stand convicted, because you fail to prove your proposition. But I will go farther and prove a negative. You admit
the idea, that the sun is shining, exists in your mind. That is enough to account for the phenomenon; you must
not infer another cause for a phenomenon already sufficiently accounted for. You admit “the shining of the sun”
to be an ”idea;” this precludes you from proving it to be “a fact.”
– George Fitzhugh, Blackwood, page: 2, 1860

“Our outward affections are as natural as our selfishness, and their unwise or undue indulgence is as criminal
as too much selfishness. We should “love our neighbor as ourselves,” but not more than ourselves. What we
call virtues become vices, when carried to excess. ‘Tis right to love our children, our relatives, friends and neighbors,
our slaves and servants, our domestic animals; our fields, our gardens, our houses and homes, but it is criminal
to misdirect our affections, and to love most what is farthest off and least deserves love. He who exhausts his
benevolent affections on a poodle or a terrier, and neglects his neighbors is as silly, contemptible, and criminal
a character as a Lord Broughham, who lets millions of Englishmen die yearly around him from physical want,
and is only zealous to ameliorate the condition of cannibal negroes. Brougham loves strong stimulants, and
feels and sympathizes only for cannibals and murderers.”
– George Fitzhugh, Blackwood, page: 4, 1860

“Nothing is so difficult as to tread that line of life in which we do, equally, our duties to others
and our duties to self, yet in properly treading it all virtue consists. Epicureans teach us that
selfishness is the only motive to human action, and that all virtue consists in well-a ijusted,
expansive, and compre-hensive selfishness. Stoics say that virtue consists in self-sacrifice
-in that approbation of conscience that arises from the reflection that the good of the individual
has been sacrificed to the general good. Sentimentally, we are a stoic—we can’t help thinking,
that he is the happiest who feels that he has surrendered his own enjoyment to promote and
increase the enjoyments of others. In feeling, we are stoic. The stoic seems to us to mark the
distinction between the animal man, whose motto is “obedientia neutri,” and the intellectual
and Christian being, who lives for others. But reason and experi-ence teach us, that this living
for others, this “rosewater philanthropy” does more harm than good. Indulgence spoils men;
and the best part of education is to learn, neither to indulge ourselves, nor to indulge those
committed to our con-trol. Severity is a virtue, and one not half so easy to practise as laxity,
leniency, and self-indulgence. Rigid and exact se-verity is the best part of education, for
it begets useful habits, that last through life, and benefits others as much as self.”
– George Fitzhugh, Home Education and Schools, pages: 2-3, 1860

“Religion, a church government of some sort, and a priesthood, stand first among the instinctive and aboriginal
institutions of men. They seem always to have prevailed in some form, more or less distinctly developed, among
all races of men. They always play an important part in government. They bind and attach men to each other,
take care of the lesser morals, which human laws cannot reach, purify the heart, the seat of action, and teach
respect and obedience to political government and human rulers, as a part of religious sentiment and religious
duty, just as reverence, prayer, and worship, are due to Deity, the Supreme Ruler. If human government be
not an emanation of religion, at least, experience shows, that religion is essential to its support.”
– George Fitzhugh, The Declaration of Independence and the Republican Party, page: 4, 1860

“Fear and courage, pain and pleasure, grief and joy, are intimately blended, and inseparably connected. There is
nothing good or evil in the abstract, or of itself. The sum of human, life is made up, both physically and morally, of
opposing, yet concurrent forces, some of which we term good, and others evil; yet, being all equally essential to
life, and life being desirable above all things, they are, in truth, all good. Pain has been defined as but excess of
pleasure. There is much truth in the definition, and it should teach us not to repine at our lot, as-the evils which
we now suffer may be but part of these contrasts and vicissitudes of life, which will give zest to future prosperity,
that, without such contrasts, would be cloying, Wearisome, and intolerable. Let the laborer complain not of fatigue ;
for without fatigue, rest is but restlessness and ennui. Repose and quiet, sound sleep, after severe labor, are
higher enjoyments than the idle ever know. Hunger and thirst, when not endured too long, are the only means
of procuring pleasure from food and drink. The coarsest crust, and the cheapest beverage, bring exquisite
enjoyment to the hungry and thirsty, while the most luxurious dishes, and most costly wines, disappoint the
satiated and palsied palates of the gourmand, the glutton, and the epicure. Exposure to cold prepares us to
feel the luxurious comfort from the fire of a cabin ; and repose, after labor in a hot sun, beneath a grateful
shade, and beside a cool rivulet, confers a calm and quiet enjoyment, that none but the overheated and
wearied can fully appreciate. To remain indoors in cold, or in hot weather, without employment, in order to
keep comfortable, is to make life a tedious and monotonous burden. Comfort is a pleasure only to those
recently relieved from discomfort. ” With all appliances and means to boot,” it brings nothing but misery and
wretchedness to those who have no further aims, no troubles to encounter, no difficulties to overcome.”
– George Fitzhugh, Love of Danger and Love of War, page: 1, 1860

“Non ignara mall, miseris encourrere disco.” What a glorious line. It teaches wisdom, and
breathes pure and exalted morality. It were worth while to lead a life of suffering, if only to
acquire the heart that “feels another’s woes.” :In youth, we heard an old Scotch song that
delighted us, because it contained a fraction of the same thought:” ‘Tis the poor man
alone That can feel for the poor.” All men are not poor, but all who have reached middle
life have suffered much and suffered often. The chastening rod of adversity very generally
subdues pride, softens the heart, and expands the affections. As we have recommended
one line already from Virgil, as a motto for the young, we cannot pass this last line without
recommending it as a maxim-for the old and the young. “Non ignara mall, minds succurrere
disco,” approaches in purity the Christian injunction,” Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
– George Fitzhugh, Love of Danger and Love of War, page: 3, 1860

“Profoundly metaphysical as is the subject of Free Will, it is one of every day practical importance, and which should
not be omitted or ignored in any moral or religious system. Men who hold the doctrine of fatalism are apt to be less
enterprising, sanguine, and energetic. Strange, to say, we find that they are not all less conscientious. We think that
reason teaches demonstratively that we are not free agents, but that instinct, intuition, involuntary belief, convince
us and compel us to believe that we are free agents; that this consciousness of free agency, which we cannot throw
off, is stronger proof of its truth than any possible argument against it, because such consciousness is a more obvious
axiom than any premises on which an argument can be erected against free will. Dr. Johnson thus expresses the same
theory: “Sir, we know our will is free, and there’s an end of it.” Again he says: “You are surer that you are free than you
are of prescience; you are surer that you can lift up your finger or not as you please, than you are of any conclusion
from a deduction of reasoning.” Again: “All theory is against the freedom of the will, all experience for it.” It seems to
us he would have expressed himself more accurately had he said : All reasoning is against the freedom of the will, all
consciousness for it. We think this much-vexed question, like that of a material or physical existence, is conclusively
settled by showing That consciousness, or involuntary belief, is the highest proof-is axiomatic proof in morals.”
– George Fitzhugh, Johnson, Boswell, Goldsmith, Etc, page: 11, 1860

“Next to lying, the worst habit a man can get into is truth. telling. What Jonathan Wild said of a, lie, is equally applicable
to the truth: “It is too precious a thing to be told often.” All wise men in all ages have been taciturn, reserved, cautious
in expressing their thoughts and opinions, and econominal of the truth. In a large company, telling the truth is sure to
offend somebody, and to make an enemy; while silent attention to what others say, makes all our friends, however
much they differ and dispute with each other. One’s first duty is to one’s self ; while telling unpleasant truths, however
useful it may prove to society, is sure, for the time, to injure the teller. ‘Tis true after a long time a man may be excused,
when others learn to understand and appreciate what he has said or written. But this is hardly probable, for where the
truth so prematurely promulged is generally acknowledged, the original rash truth-teller will find a thou-sand competitors
and enemies who claim to be the real authors of the newly-discovered truth. An Americus Vespuccius robs Columbus
of his honors; a plagiarist defrauds a Virgil ; and our poor truth-teller is driven to exclaim Ego versioulos feel, alter cepit
honorem. But should a man be excused and forgiven ; nay, after a while get credit for proclaiming some new truth-so
much the worse for him. His vanity becomes excited, and the thing becomes a habit. He is eternally offending the world
by exposing its errors, or for what is more unpardonable, exposing its downright hypocrisy. He is considered a retailer of
paradoxes, a disturber of the peace of society, a rash and danger-ous man. When truth-telling becomes a habit, a man’s
fate is sealed for life, for the friends he makes to-day, he will be sure to offend and lose to-morrow. To be ahead of the age,
is to make war on the age. If posterity would honor one’s drafts, or rather, if contemporaries would discount drafts drawn
on posterity, the rash truth-teller might get along very well ; but such paper has no credit on “‘Change.”
– George Fitzhugh, Oliver Goldsmith and Dr. Johnson, page: 1-2, 1860

“Parliaments and State legislatures grow up naturally, and have answered excellent
purposes. We can comprehend fully none of the works of nature. What works well in
practice should never be rejected because it is unreasonable in theory. As for ourselves,
in politics and religion, our leading maxim is, Credo quia impossibile est! Nothing is so
unreasonable in theory, as the unanimous verdict of twelve men in the trial by jury, yet it
has worked admirably in practice.” Instinct is a great thing!” Coupled with experience, it
is the only safe guide: Man’s boasted reason never fails to mislead and betray him, when
he relies on it alone, and rejects the silent warnings of faith, instinct, and authority.”
– George Fitzhugh, Popular Institutions, page: 8, 1860

“Might makes right” is the moral law of the outer world. ” Love thy neighbor as thyself,” the law of home. It is somewhat
remarkable that it has never been observed that the Christian precept, “Do unto others as we would they should do
unto us,” is the natural and common rule of conduct in the family, consisting of parents, children, and slaves. The father
certainly usually observes this rule in his conduct toward his wife, children, and servants. His happiness is almost wholly
reflected happiness, and he usually delves and labors all day with expectation of no other reward than the pleasant and
approving greeting of his family at night. The mother’s chief delight is ” to bear another’s woes.” She lives a martyr, and
lives for others. The children and the servants, too, seem naturally to prefer the happiness of parents and masters to their
own. A refined self-interest might dictate this course of conduct within the family, where each one sees that he promotes
his own happiness and well-being most, when ministering to the happiness of others. But it is the prompting of God and
of nature, not selfish calculation, that makes the golden rule the family gospel. God instituted home and family, and
bestowed on them the harmony which distinguishes all his works. Destroy the family, set wife, children, and slaves free,
each to take care of themselves, and of necessity selfish-ness becomes the sole motive of conduct—” every man for
himself [and every woman and child, too], and devil take the hindmost.” Now, this is the philosophy which literally arose
from the emancipation of European serfs. ‘Tis the free-trade let-alone philosophy, which has almost ruined the South,
but which, thank God she has at length utterly repudiated; nay, more, she has adopted a Christian philosophy in place
of the free-trade infidel philosophy. ” State protection to state interests ” is the order of the day. Public good, general
well-being, is looked to, not mere private individual greed and advancement.

The people, the whole people, begin to be recognized as having rights-not merely the smartest, cutest, and most
selfish of them. Railroads, canals, court-houses, public libraries, public paintings and statuary, public walks, gardens,
and cemeteries, public buildings of all sorts, are the common property of the whole people. At any cost of taxation the
South must gradually stud herself all over with public properties like these. Thus will she fraternize and equalize her
people, just so far as it is desirable or practical, to fraternize and equalize them. “Make Home Attractive!” must be
our motto and our guide, and we can easily learn from history that we can effect this only by erecting great public
works that shall be the property of the whole people. The greatest man who ever lived, with all his weaknesses, is
a most contemptible thing; but mankind, in the aggregate, is the noblest work of God. Let us worship mankind, but
avoid the silly delusion that any one of the species ever got much the start of the rest. A Barnum or a razor-strap
man, an Alexander or a Bonaparte, is not a whit the superior to our next door neighbor. Let us despise men while
we reverence mankind. Let us respect office and contemn the incumbent.”
– George Fitzhugh, Make Home More Attractive, pages: 10-11, 1860

“Knowledge is not mastered until it is forgotten. Only then has it become our own, and added to
the growth of our minds, as digested food adds to the growth of our bodies. The highest order of
intellects, such as Shakespeare, Caesar, and Washington, show their knowledge only in its results,
not in its gross, undigested form. These men had not learned more from books than they could
thoroughly generalize, digest, assimilate, and forget. Observation teaches wisdom better than books,
because it supplies us with truths only, while books give us but half truths, and these discolored,
distorted, and perverted. The observant man reasons from correct data or premises, and comes
to correct conclusions. The reading man from false premises, and arrives at false conclusions.”
– George Fitzhugh, Milton and Macaulay page: 9, 1860

“Whatever is obviously and palpably false and impossible, disgusts the reader. Nay, whatever is wholly unnatural disgusts
us, for Nature is truth. Nature, in her exceptional, obscure, eccentric, grand, and sublime moods, is most interesting ; but
this is nature still. A Northern winter, on a region of lakes and mountains, like Scotland and Switzer-land, abounds with the
illusory and incomprehensible, with optical delusions, with multiplied and reverberating voices, and startling echoes. These
are fine subjects for prose or for poetry. They excite the imagination, and give rise to thou-sands of superstitions ; but such superstitions are connected with, and based upon, truth and nature. Not so with that machinery of elves, fairies, witches,
gods, and devils, which modern poets have borrowed from the ancients. In olden times, both Dii majores and Dii minores
were mere mortals, transferred to another sphere of existence, and exercising as gods but a little more influence over
human affairs than they had done as men. The ancients believed in those gods, and the poetic fictions in-which they
were introduced, appeared to them neither im-possible nor improbable. Like the characters and events in a modern
novel, they impressed and affected the reader just in proportion to their naturalness and truthfulness. They embodied
and personified truth, and like Greek ideals, or the characters of Shakespeare, were mom natural than nature it-self;
because they presented nature in a condensed and intensified form. Truth is, in this sense, more essential to fiction
than to real narrative or history. The poet, the novelist, and the dramatist, must avoid telling truths, wholly at war with
human beliefs and human experience ; for improbability disgusts, although attested by ten thousand witnesses. The
historian records his facts as he finds them, and leaves the reader to account for them. Where they are attested by
strong proofs, their improbability but heightens the reader’s interest. Fiction to please, must always be the vehicle of
truth ; history and biography, to improve or interest, must abound in the strange, improbable, and seemingly untruthful.
We require in the former what concurs with our belief and our experience; in the latter we expect what is novel, and
what differs from our former knowledge, and what exceeds our experience.”
– George Fitzhugh, Milton, Byron, and Southey, page: 2-3, 1860

“The young, when ushered into the theatre of life, find all the seats occupied by the old. Change, change, is the only thing
that can benefit them, and furnish them with seats. Death, with his scythe, moves too slowly for the enterprising and ambitious young. They are ” in haste to be rich,” and would, in the name of patriotism, rudely push the old from their seats, in order
to occupy their places. They, like Bonaparte and Cromwell, desire, and will have, at any cost, the best places. When they
have got them, by revolution and radicalism, they try to preserve them by invoking order, subordination, and conservatism.
The difference between virtue and vice, between youth and old age, between Whigs and tories, is only the difference
between force and fraud. The young hold, that all virtue consists in force ; the old, that all consists in fraud. Young and old
thoroughly concur in the theory, that, “all human merit consists in wronging your fellow-creatures.” No man, in ancient or
modern times, ever rose to respectability by his own labors, but always by exchanging a little of his own labor, for a great
deal of other people’s labor. Mankind, in all ages and countries, are agreed on this point, that he is the greatest and best man
who most wrongs his fellow-beings; who, by force or fraud, uses them to build up his own fortunes. Outside the Bible, this
has always been the scale of merit: “He is best and greatest, who makes slaves, tools, or instruments, of most of his fellow
-beings.” What a Pandemonium would this world be without the Bible! Now, Southey, in early life, like a good democrat,
would have risen in life by revolution and force, in latter life he was satisfied, like a good tory, to effect the same end by
superior cunning and fraud. Outside the pale of the Christian church, the good man is the cautious exploitator; the bad man,
the cheat, robber, or murderer. There is no morality without religion, but only selfishness, travelling by different routes.”
– George Fitzhugh, Milton, Byron, and Southey, page: 4, 1860

“At present, the world has but one philosophy, and that teaches that trade is the only good thing, and that government
has no duty but “laissez faire,”-let it alone. Letting it alone begets panics, and has well nigh brought ruin on those
countries who practise the system. On this subject, as on all others, the world needs a moral pathology, that shall
watch symptoms, restrain excesses, and try to attain that “juste mi lien,” in which alone truth is found. Political
economy, and every other system of philosophy that has preceded it, are mere charlatanic panaceas, that reduce
all moral diseases to one, and propose to cure them by a single remedy. Men love simplification, and are never
satisfied with a medicine, or a theory in morals, that is not a specific in all cases. Yet, every farmer knows that each
plant he rears, is “wonderfully and fearfully formed,” and that there is no mode of treatment or culture, no fertilizer,
which, applied at the wrong time, or applied in excess, will not prove noxious and destructive. How much more
“wonderfully and fearfully” is society formed than the plant. How delicate, how complex, how incomprehensible,
its whole organism and operations! Its only philosophy is found in the words of Solomon: “There is a time for all
things.” We cannot foretell or forestall the coming time, nor prescribe beforehand for its treatment, but only
practise on the social phenomena as they arise. This is moral pathology, not philosophy.”
– George Fitzhugh, Trade and Panics, Pages: 163-164, 1859

“Consciousness, intuition, involuntary belief, convince us of our free agency, and we all, from the necessity of our
natures, act upon the conviction. Reason cannot reconcile the belief in Providence, or a First Cause, with human
free agency. The assertion of the one is the palpable negation of the other. Yet, what every man’s reason rejects, every
man’s faith accepts. Reason, in like manner, disproves the existence of an external material world, but reason
neither controls or affects involuntary belief. Despite of the demonstrative philosophy of a Hume or a Berkely, they
would have dodged as soon from the blow of a stick, as the veriest clodhopper in England. Man’s life is a Sysiphian
labor. Yet his existence and his happiness require that he should continue to roll upward the ever-rebounding rock.
He will never place it in a fixed and firm position, but is contented, if not happy, because employed, and cherishing
and clinging to the hope of ultimate success. Happiness consists in the pursuit, and none but the hypochondriac
moralizes too closely as to the “cui bona.” Illusions are the substance and reality of life, and to banish them, when
innocent, is suicidal folly-the folly of over-wisdom, like that of Solomon, when, having seen clear through the
“vanity of human wishes and pursuits,” he exclaimed, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, saith the preacher.”
– George Fitzhugh, Law Books-Multiplicity of Law Reports, page: 3, 1859

“Work on, ye Soions and Lycurguses, ye Justinians and Napoleons! Cherish your illusions. Make laws that will fit
all times and all cases, and need no change. Kill all the heads of the moral Hydra, and apply such cauteries to their
roots, that they shall spring out and grow no more. Be earnest, hard-working, hopeful men; thus only can you be
useful men. Strong faith is the noblest of virtues, because it is the only incentive to high self-sacrificing action. It
matters little what the faith be about. When you have done your works give them the sanction of religion. Consult
the goddess Egeria, or retire to foreign lands, and make your people swear never to change your laws until you
return. Well-directed superstition is the best prop and stay of law and government. If you can’t get the fiat and
imprimatur of a god, get, at least, the perpetual edict of an emperor. Pronounce your work GOOD, and to make
it perfect and immortal let no commentaries be written on it, for Justinian, when he had finished his Digest, truly
declared that “the contradictions of expositors had disturbed the whole body of the ancient law.”
– George Fitzhugh, Law Books-Multiplicity of Law Reports, pages: 3-4, 1859

“If one could only stop and stereotype human affairs, if the world would stand still, a single legal digest would answer for
all time. If bodily diseases continued to occur, of the same type and character, Brandreth’s pills and the last treatise on
fever, would be shop and library enough for the physician. If language would but stop growing at the command of Noah
Webster and Lindley Murray, the misses’ boarding schools would turn out accomplished professors of belles-lettres. But
new words and phrases, like leaves in the spring, come forth, flourish, and supplant the deciduous crop, although sanctified
and ordained for perpetual use by Webster and Murray. Usage is the only grammar, spelling-book, and dictionary. Fashion
rules language, and all old books are ungrammatical because unfashionable. “To keep up with the times and fashions is the
sum total of human wisdom and of human philosophy.” But the labor and difficulty of keeping up with the “times and fashions”
daily increases as luxury increases, and as human affairs and human relations become more numerous and complex.”
– George Fitzhugh, Law Books-Multiplicity of Law Reports, page: 3, 1859

“There is not a mother, white, negro, or Indian, in all America, who is not perfect master of political economy, or
rather of social economy, within her own sphere of action; not a scholar, philosopher, or statesman, in the world,
who comprehends, or ever will comprehend, its true, national, political, and world-wide applications; yet the principles
of the science are identically alike with the mother and the statesman. Protect, nurse, the child, nation, or community,
until it is old enough, big enough, smart enough, skillful enough, to take care of itself, to compete with the world; then,
and not till then, it is fitted for the war of the wits; then, turn it loose, to cheat “all mankind and the rest of the world.” A
mother knows when, and how long, to practise the protective system, and when to send out the sharp youth to practise
free trade, or the war of the wits system. Free trade, and protection, are equally true; the practical pathologist, and the
sagacious, instinctive mother (woman’s instincts never err), only know when to apply the one, when the other. We have
long since learned that there is nothing so very true; at least, no truths which the human mind can comprehend and
follow out, in all their ramifications, and to their whole extent. Hence, all systems of philosophy are of necessity false;
and hence, we intend, when we have leisure and sufficient encouragement, to write a treatise on “Moral Pathology.”
– George Fitzhugh, The Old Dominion-The Valley of the Rappahannock, page: 15, 1859

“The Greeks surpassed all who have succeeded them in the art of sculpture, and no doubt in painting also.
There has been no advance, no improvement, in the science of politics, of ethics, of economies, of pure meta
-physics, or of logic, since the time of Aristotle; and one of the fruits, and best fruits, of the social and political
reaction, which is now progressing, will be the revival of the study of Aristotle. The pretended discoveries of
Bacon, in the art, of logic, was but the giving names to things, that every one, who reasoned at all, had been
practising throughout all time. What Butler says of rhetoric is equally true of logic: “For all the Rhetoricians rules
But teach to name his tools.” Though “reading and writing (do not) come by nature,” the art of reasoning does;
and there is not a county court in the Union at whose bar there is not a better practical logician than Bacon
or Aristotle. In medical science and in agriculture the world seems to have been stationary for two thousand
years; for crops have not improved, the implements of agriculture scarcely changed at all, and the labor of
farming and of rearing agricultural products has not been lessened. We have no reliable evidence that
human mortality is less now than in the days of the remotest antiquity.”
– George Fitzhugh, The Atlantic Telegraph, page: 1-2, 1858

“Poetry, oratory, and historical and biographical writing, have chiefly to do with man, his passions, affections, motives,
and pursuits, and with external nature-in these there has been no change for two thousand years. Men end external
nature, as they now exist, are better described in the Old Testament than by the latest poet or novelist. As no new
phenomena have arisen, or can arise, there is no chance of improvement in this direction, unless some one should
arise superior in intellectual capacity to the ancients. But no one lies appeared, or will appear, who will equal them,
because the simplicity of their mode of living gave them time for concentrated and continuous thought, and uninterrupted
attention. Homer and Milton, two of the greatest poets, were blind; and probably owed much of their greatness to
their blindness, which enabled them the better to absorb their thoughts in reflections on the subjects on which they
wrote. There is a useful moral in the small house of Socrates and the tub of Diogenes. They wished to exclude all
bores and troublesome visitors, who would interrupt their philosophical studies, break their chain of thought, and
divert their attention. Modern discoveries and inventions, aided by the resistless caprices of fashion, have introduced
such a multitude of artificial wants, that half of the time of most men, however rich, is employed in supplying those
wants, and the other half haunted with plans and schemes to supply them. The greater simplicity of the lives of the
ancients is quite sufficient to account for their intellectual superiority. We have unpremeditatedly anticipated the
suggestions we intended to offer on the want of progress in the sciences of pure Meta-physics, Politics, Ethics,
and Economics. These, too, have to do with man, his habits and customs, passions and propensities, and with the
faculties, organization, and operation of his mind. Here experience has added nothing to the stock of knowledge
-no new phenomena have appeared-for man, today, is in mind and body as like man of three thousand years ago,
as the hens’ eggs of the days of Pharoah were to those layed yesterday”
– George Fitzhugh, The Atlantic Telegraph, page: 3-4, 1858

“There is a remarkable similarity in the system of policy adopted by the Romans, in the administration
and disposition of their public lands, and that employed by ourselves, for the same purposes. We have
unconsciously followed their example, without imitating or copying them. Like circumstances and necessities,
acting upon civilized peoples, have produced like effects-showing the identity of human nature in all
ages, and that the works of man, like those of bees, ante and other inferior animals, are the prompting
of instinct, or the impulsions of Providence, rather than the results of reasoning.”
– George Fitzhugh, Public Lands of Rome and America, page: 1, 1858

“Ambition has ever been considered the most noble of human failings. It is, however, no failing, or crime, at all.
Ambition desires power, and without power there can be no safe, prudent and active benevolence. The selfish,
the indolent, and the timid, are without ambition, and eschew power, because of the trouble, the expenses, and
the responsibilities which it imposes. The actively good are always ambitious, and desire to possess power,
in order that they may control, in some measure, the conduct of those whom they desire to benefit.”
– George Fitzhugh,Cannibals All!, page: 279, 1857

“Man is, by nature, the most social and gregarious, and, therefore, the least selfish of animals. Within the
family there is little room, opportunity or temptation to selfishness-and slavery leaves but little of the world
without the family. Man loves that nearest to him best. First his wife, children and parents, then his slaves,
next his neighbors and fellow-countrymen. But his unselfishness does not stop here. He is ready and
anxious to relieve a famine in Ireland, and shudders when he reads of a murder at the antipodes. He feels
deeply for the sufferings of domestic animals, and is rendered happy by witnessing the enjoyments of
the flocks, and herds, and carroling birds that surround him. He sympathizes with all external nature. A
parched field distresses him, and he rejoices as he sees the groves, and the gardens, and the plains
flourishing, and blooming, and smiling about him. All men are philanthropists, and would benefit their
fellow-men if they could. But we cannot be sure of benefiting those whom we cannot control. Hence,
all actively good men are ambitious, and would be masters, in all save the name.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page: 56, 1857

“The moral philosophy of our age, (which term we use generically to include Politics, Ethics, and Economy, domestic
and national,) is deduced from the existing relations of men to each other in free society, and attempts to explain,
to justify, to generalize and regulate those relations. If that system of society be wrong, and its relations false, the
philosophy resulting from it must partake of its error and falsity. On the other hand, if our current philosophy be
true, slavery must be wrong, because that philosophy is at war with slavery. No successful defence of slavery can
be made, till we succeed in refuting or invalidating the principles on which free society rests for support or defence.
The world, however, is sick of its philosophy; and the Socialists have left it not a leg to stand on. In fact, it is, in all
its ramifications, a mere expansion and application of Political Economy,-and Political Economy may be summed
-up in the phrase, “Laissez-faire,” or “Let alone.” A system of unmitigated selfishness pervades and distinguishes
all departments of ethical, political, and[ economic science. The philosophy is partially true, because selfishness, as
a rule of action and guide of conduct, is necessary to the existence of man, and of all other animals. But it should
not be, with man especially, the only rule and guide; for he is, by nature, eminently social and gregarious. His wants,
his weakness, his appetites, his affections, compel him to look without, and beyond self, in order to sustain self.
The eagle and the owl, the lion and the tiger, are not gregarious, but solitary and self-supporting. They practice
political economy, because ’tis adapted to their natures. But men and beavers, herds, bees, and ants, require a
different philosophy, another guide of conduct. The Bible, (independent of its authority,) is far man’s best guide,
even in this world. Next to it, we would place Aristotle. But all books written four hundred or more years ago,
are apt to yield useful instruction, whilst those written since that time will generally mislead.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page: 80, 1857

“Benevolence, the love of what is without, and the disposition to incur pain
or inconvenience to advance the happiness and well-being of what is without
self, is as universal a motive of human conduct, as mere selfishness-which
is the disposition to sacrifice the good of others to our own good.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page: 56, 1857

“The Reformation, like the American Revolution, was originated and conducted to successful issue by
wise, good and practical men, whose intuitive judgments and sagacious instincts enabled them to feel
their way through the difficulties that environed them. Wise men know that there is too much of complexity
in the tangled web of human affairs, to justify the attempt at once to practice and philosophise, to act
and to reason. Fools and philosophers too often mar the good works of such men, by pretending to see
clearly, and to define accurately, the principles of action which have led to those works. A Washington,
a Peel, or a Wellington, never “writes himself down an ass” by appealing to abstract principles to justify
measures which are rendered necessary by a thousand minute and peculiar circumstances of the hour,
which common sense and experience instinctively appreciate, but which philosophy in vain attempts to
detect or to generalize. Common sense never attempts “to expel nature,” but suggests and carries through a
thousand useful reforms by recurrence to and comparison with the past, and by cautious experimentation.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, pages: 194-195, 1857

“The great men of the day but show larger portions of the common thought. Men, and all other social and
gregarious animals, have a community of thought, of motions, instincts and intuitions. The social body is
of itself a thinking, acting, sentient being. This is eminently observable with the lower animals. Bees and
herds perform their evolutions with too much rapidity and precision, to leave any doubt but that one mind and
one feeling, either from within or without, directs their movements. The great error of modern philosophy is
the ignorance or forgetfulness of this fact. The first departure from it was not the Reformation-for that was
preëminently a social idea and a social movement;-but the doctrine of the right of private judgment, which
speculative philosophers and vain schismatics attempted to engraft upon it, or deduce from it. Human equality,
the social contract, the let-alone and selfish doctrines of political economy, universal liberty, freedom of speech,
of the press, and of religion, spring directly from this doctrine, or are only new modes of expressing it.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, pages: 197, 1857

“It is delightful to retire from the outer world, with its competitions, rivalries, envyings, jealousies, and
selfish war of the wits, to the bosom of the family, where the only tyrant is the infant-the greatest slave
the master of the household. You feel at once that you have exchanged the keen air of selfishness, for
the mild atmosphere of benevolence. Each one prefers the good of others to his own, and finds most
happiness in sacrificing selfish pleasures, and ministering to others’ enjoyments. The wife, the husband,
the parent, the child, the son, the brother and the sister, usually act towards each other on scriptural
principles. The infant, in its capricious dominion over mother, father, brothers and sisters, exhibits, in
strongest colors, the “strength of weakness,” the power of affection. The wife and daughters are more
carefully attended by the father, than the sons, because they are weaker and elicit more of his affection.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page: 301, 1857

“The dependent exercise, because of their dependence, as much control over their superiors,
in most things, as those superiors exercise over them. Thus, and thus only, can conditions be
equalized. This constitutes practical equality of rights, enforced not by human, but by divine law.
Our hearts bleed at the robbing of a bird’s nest; and the little birds, because they are weak,
subdue our strength and command our care. We love and cherish the rose, and sympathize with
the lily, which some wanton boy has bruised and broken. Our faithful dog shares our affections,
and we will risk our lives to redress injustice done him. Man is not all selfish. “Might does not
always make right.” Within the family circle, the law of love prevails, not that of selfishness.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page: 301-302, 1857

“Self-preservation, the first law of human and animal nature, makes this selfish course of action
essential to preserve existence. It is almost equally obvious, that in the natural, social, or family
state, unselfishness, or the preference of others’ good and happiness, is the dictate of nature
and policy. Nature impels the father and husband to self-abnegation and self-denial to promote
the happiness of wife and children, because his reflected enjoyments will be a thousand
times greater than any direct pleasure he can derive by stinting or maltreating them. Their
misery and their complaints do much more to render him wretched than what he has denied
them can compensate for. Wife and children, too, see and feel that in denying themselves
and promoting the happiness of the head of the family, they pursue true policy, and are
most sensibly selfish when they seem most unselfish. Especially, however, is it true with
slaves and masters, that to “do as they would be done by” is mutually beneficial.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page: 317, 1857

“Physical force, not moral suasion, governs the world. The negro sees the driver’s lash, becomes
accustomed to obedient, cheerful industry, and is not aware that the lash is the force that impels
him. The free citizen fulfills, “con amore,” his round of social, political and domestic duties, and
never dreams that the Law, with its fines and jails, penitentiaries and halters, or Public Opinion,
with its ostracism, its mobs, and its tar and feathers, help to keep him revolving in his orbit. Yet,
remove these physical forces, and how many good citizens would shoot, like fiery comets, from
their spheres, and disturb society with their eccentricities and their crimes.”
– George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, page: 362, 1857

“The thing that hath been, is that which shall be and that which is done, is that which shall be done
and there is no new thing under the sun.” Man’s moral and intellectual nature has neither improved
nor deteriorated from the time that history gives any account of his doings. Despite of the experience
of the past, he re-enacts the same follies now that he acted three thousand years ago. Each individual,
and each generation, has to buy, not borrow, its experience. The denunciations of the Hebrew Prophets,
and the ridicule of the Greek and Roman Satirists, neither arrested the crimes and follies which they
depict, nor prevented succeeding generations from perpetrating those very same crimes and follies,
despite the warnings of history, the fellow-beings with whom we daily associate, are better described
by Moore’s and Solomon’s Homer and Horace, than by the latest novelist.”
– George Fitzhugh, Black Republicanism in Ancient Athens, page: 1-2, 1857

“All men concur in the opinion that some government is necessary. Even the political economist would punish
murder, theft, robbery, gross swindling, &c. but they encourage men to compete with and slowly undermine
and destroy one another by means quite as effective as those they forbid. Members of Congress, of the Young
American party, boast that the Anglo-Saxon race is manifestly destined to eat out all other races, as the wire
-grass destroys and takes the place of other grasses. Nay, they allege this competitive process is going on
throughout all nature; the weak are everywhere devouring the strong; the hardier plants and animals destroying
the weaker, and the superior races of man exterminating the inferior. They would challenge our admiration for
this war of nature, by which they say Providence is perfecting its own work – getting rid of what is weak and
indifferent, and preserving only what is strong and hardy. We see the war, but not the improvement. This
competitive, destructive system has been going on from the earliest records of history; and yet the plants, the
animals, and the men of today are not superior to those of four thousand years ago. To restrict this destructive,
competitive propensity, man was endowed with reason, and enabled to pass laws to protect the weak against
the strong. To encourage it, is to encourage the strong to oppress the weak, and to violate the primary object of
an government. It is strange it should have entered the head of any philosopher to set the weak, who are the
majority of mankind, to competing, contending and fighting with the strong, in order to improve their condition.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 31-32, 1854

“There can never be a wise moral philosopher, or a sound philosophy, till some one arises who sees and
comprehends all the “things in heaven and earth.” Philosophers are the most abstracted, secluded, and
least observant of men. Their premises are always false, because they see but few facts; and hence their
conclusions must also be false. Plato and Aristotle have today as many believers as Smith, Paley or Locke,
and between their times a hundred systems have arisen, flourished for a time, and been rejected. There is not
a true moral philosophy, and from the nature of things there never can be. Such a philosophy has to discover
first causes and ultimate effects, to grasp infinitude, to deal with eternity at both ends. Human presumption will
often attempt this, but human intellect can never achieve it. We shall build up no system, attempt to account for
nothing, but simply point out what is natural and universal, and humbly try to justify the ways of God to man.”
– George Fitzhugh,Sociology for the South, page: 10, 1854

“We have not a solitary example in all history to countenance the theories of our ancestors, that a people may
be moral, or that a government exist where religion is not in some form or degree recognised by law. What latitude
shall be allowed to men in the exercise and practice of religion, is a question for the people to determine when
the occasion requires it. It is best not to lay down abstract principles to guide us in advance. Of all the applications
of philosophy none have failed so signally as when it has been tried in matters of government. Philosophy
will blow up any government that is founded on it. Religion, on the other hand, will sustain the governments
that rest upon it. The French build governments on a priori doctrines of philosophy which explode as fast as
built. The English gradually and experimentally form institutions, watch their operation, and deduce general
laws from those operations. That kind of philosophy, which neither attempts to create nor account for, is
admissible and useful. An extensive knowledge of the history of the various moral philosophies that have
succeeded each other in the world, is useful, but only useful because it warns us to avoid all philosophy in
the practical affairs of life. If we would have our people moral, and our institutions permanent, we should
gradually repudiate our political abstractions and adopt religious truths in their stead.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 114-115, 1854=

“In truth, a material and infidel philosophy has prevailed for a century, and seemed to threaten the overthrow of
Christianity. But man is a religious animal. His mind may become distempered and diseased for a time, and he
may cavil and doubt as to Deity, immortality and accountability – but “conscience that makes cowards of us all,”
soon forces upon him the conviction that he is living in the presence of a God. The belief in God and moral
accountability, like the belief in self-existence and free agency, is necessitous and involuntary. It is part of our
consciousness. We cannot prove that we exist; we cannot prove that we are free agents. We must take our
consciousness and involuntary belief, as proof that we do exist and are free agents. This is the conclusion
at which metaphysicians have arrived. Now explore all the secrets of human hearts, all the recesses of history,
and it will be found that religion is as much a matter of consciousness and involuntary belief as free agency
or self-existence. It is a stubborn fact in human nature. Statesmen cannot ignore its existence, and must
provide for its exercise and enjoyment, else their institutions will vanish like chaff before the wind.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 116-117, 1854

“Political economists maintain that a nation gains nothing by selling more than it buys. That the balance of trade
is a humbug; nay more, that the way for a nation to get rich is to buy more than it sells. Thus more will come in
than goes out. Instinct and common sense deny the proposition. They say, that the way for individuals or people
to get rich is to sell more than buy. Philosophy beats them all hollow in argument, yet instinct and common sense
are right and philosophy wrong. Philosophy is always wrong and instinct and common sense always right,
because philosophy is unobservant and reasons from narrow and insufficient premises, whilst common sense
sees and observes all things, giving them their due weight, comes to just conclusions, but being busied about
practical every day matters, has never learned the process of abstraction, has never learned how to look into
the operations of its mind and see how it has come to its conclusions. It always judges rightly, but reasons
wrong. It comes to its conclusions by the same processes of ratiocination that abstract philosophers do, but
unaccustomed and untrained to look into its own mental operations, it knows not how it arrived at those
conclusions. It sees all the facts and concludes rightly, – abstract philosophers see but a few, reason correctly
on them, but err in judgment because their promises are partial and incorrect. Men of sound judgments,
are always men who give wrong reasons for their opinions. They form correct opinions because they are
practical and experienced; they give wrong reasons for those opinions, because they are no abstractionists
and cannot detect, follow and explain the operations of their own minds. The judgment of women is far
superior to that of men. They are more calm and observant. Every married man knows that when he places
a scheme before his wife and she disapproves it, he conquers her in argument, goes away distrusting his
own opinion, though triumphant, and finds in the end his wife was right, though she could not tell him why.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 118-119, 1854

“That it was right, proper, and laudable for every man to get the highest market price for the use of his money, as for
the use of every other article, was an obvious deduction from the axioms of the economists. The instincts and common
sense of mankind, whilst admitting the premises, stubbornly denied the unavoidable conclusion. Convicted in argument,
but not convinced; they still fought on. In truth, the error lay in the premises, in the axioms and first principles of political
economy. That systematic selfishness that inculcates the moral duty to let every man take care of himself and his own
selfish interest, that advises each to use his wits, his prudence, and his providence, to get the better of those who have
less wit, prudence and providence, to make the best bargains one can, and that a thing is worth what it will bring, is
false and rotten to the core. It bears no sound fruit, brings forth no good morality. “Laissez nous faire,” and “Caveat
Emptor,” (the latter the maxim of the common law,) justify usury, encourage the weak to oppress the strong, and would
justify swindling and theft, if fully carried out into practice. But it is not safe or prudent to swindle or steal; one incurs
the penalties of the law; and it is not politic, for one scares off customers and subjects. The man who makes good
shaving bargains, will in the long run grow rich; the swindler and the thief never do. Mankind have ever detested the
extortionate usurer who takes advantage of distress and misfortune to increase his profits, more than a Robin Hood
who robs the rich to relieve the poor. There is always at bottom some sound moral reason for the prejudices of mankind.
Analyze their motives, their feelings and sentiments closely. The man who spends a life in dealing hardly and harshly
with his fellow men, is a much worse and meaner man than the highway robber. The latter is chivalrous, and where
there is chivalry there will be occasional generosity. The law should protect men, as well from the assaults of superior
wit as from those of superior bodily strength. Men’s inequalities of wit, prudence, and providence, differ in nothing
so much, as in their capacity to deal in and take care of money.

This creates the necessity for laws against usury. Under occasional circumstances, a heavy rate of interest is
morally right, but it is generally wrong, and laws are passed for ordinary and not extraordinary occasions. We
do not think badly of our fellow men, but badly of their philosophy. Their kind feelings, impulses, and sentiments,
get the better of their principles, and they are continually doing good and preaching evil. If men were no better
than political economy would make them, the world would be a Pandemonium. The Bible fortunately is a more
common book than Adam Smith. Its influences are exerted over the hearts and conduct of thousands who never
enter a church. “The still small voice of conscience” oft brings back the mother’s image, and the mother’s divine
precepts, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” “Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, pages: 133-134, 1854

“In framing and revising the institutions and government of a nation, and in enacting its laws, sensible and
prudent statesmen study carefully the will of God and designs of Providence, as revealed in Holy Writ, or
as gathered from history and experience. “Truth is mighty, and will prevail,” and laws in contravention of
the great truths deducible from these sources, will become nugatory and inefficient. Yet whilst the law
is on the statute book, every citizen is bound to respect and obey it, or else take the consequences of
trespass, felony or treason. He may discuss the question, “Does the law coincide with the ‘Higher Law’?”
but he may not act on his conclusions if they be against the law. Does slavery violate the Higher Law?
Certainly not, if that Higher Law is to be found in the Bible. Certainly not, if you throw aside the Bible,
and infer what is right, proper, and natural, from the course of nature, the lessons of history, or the
voice of experience. But consult the same sources for your Higher Law, and as certainly is free
society a violation of the laws of Nature and the revealed will of God.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, page: 204, 1854

“This intimate connexion and dependence, of slavery, marriage and religion, we suggest as a subject for the
investigation and rejection of the reader. If ever the abolitionists succeed in thoroughly imbuing the world with
their doctrines and opinions, all religion, all government, all order, will be slowly but surely subverted and
destroyed. Society can linger on for centuries without slavery; it cannot exist a day without religion. As an
institution of government, religion is strictly within the scope of our work, and as such we treat of it.”
– George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, page: 206, 1854

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