The Key of Liberty (William Manning, 1798): Excerpt 3

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3. Shows how the Few & Many Differ in their Interests in its operation

In the sweat of they face shall thou get thy bread until thou return to the ground, is the universal sentence of Heaven on Man for his rebellion. To be sentenced to hard Labor during life is very unpleasant to human Nature. There is a great aversion to it perceivable in all men — yet it is absolutely necessary that a large majority of the world should labor, or we could not subsist. For Labor is the sole parent of all property — the land yields nothing without it, & there is no food, clothing, shelter, vessel, or any necessary of life but what costs Labor & is generally esteemed valuable according to the Labor it costs. Therefore no person can possess property without laboring, unless he get it by force or craft, fraud or fortune out of the earnings of others.

But from the great variety of capacities, strength & abilities of men, there always was, & always will be, a very unequal distribution of property in the world. Many are so rich that they can live without Labor. Also the merchant, physician, lawyer & divine, the philosopher and school master, the Judicial & Executive Officers, & many others who could honestly get a living without bodily labors. As all of these professions require a considerable expense of time & property to qualify themselves therefor, & as no person after this qualifying himself & making a pick on a profession by which he means to live, can desire to have it dishonorable or unproductive, so all these professions naturally unite in their schemes to make their callings as honorable & lucrative as possible. Also as ease & rest from Labor are reckoned among the greatest pleasures of Life, pursued by all with the greatest avidity & when attained at once creates a sense of superiority & as pride and ostentation are natural to the human heart, these orders of men associate together and look down with too much contempt on those that labor.

On the other hand the Laborer being conscious that it is Labor that supports the whole, & that the more there is that live without Labor & the higher they live or the greater their salaries & fees are, so much the harder he must work, or the shorter he must live, this makes the Laborer watch the other with a jealous eye & often has reason to complain of real impositions. But before I proceed to show how the few & many differ in money matters I will give a short description of what Money is.

Money is not property of itself but only the Representative of property. Silver & Gold is not so valuable as Iron & Steel for real use, but receives all its value from the use that is made of it as a medium of trade. Money is simply this — a thing of lighter carriage than property that has an established value set upon it either by law or general Consent. For Instance, if a dollar or a piece of paper, or a chip, would pass throughout a nation or the world for a bushel of corn or any other property to the value of said corn, then it would be the representative of so much property.

Also Money is a thing that will go where it will fetch the most as naturally as water runs down hill, for the possessor will give it where it will fetch the most. Also when there is an addition to the quantity or an extraordinary use of barter & credit in commerce the prices of property will rise. On the other hand if Credit is ruined & the medium made scarcer the price of all kinds of property will fall in proportion. here lies the great shuffle between the few & many. As the interests & incomes of the few lie chiefly in money at interest, rents, salaries, & fees that are fixed in the nominal value of money, they are interested in having money scarce & the price of labor & produce as low as possible. For instance if the prices of labor & produce should fall one half it would be just the same to the few as if their rents, fees & salaries were doubled, all of which they would get out of the many. Besides the fall of Labor and produce and scarcity of money always brings the many Into distress and compels them into a state of dependence on the few for favors and assistance in a thousand ways.

On the other hand, if the many could raise the price of Labor, etc. one half  & have the money circulate freely they could pay their debts, eat & drink & enjoy the good of their labor without being dependent on the few for assistance. Also high prices operate as a bounty on industry & economy — an industrious & prudent man may presently lay up something against time of need when prices are high but if a person leaves off work & lives high when prices are up his money or property will last him but little while.

But the greatest danger the Many are under in these money matters are from the Judicial & Executive Officers, especially so as their incomes for a living are almost wholly gotten from the follies and distress of the Many, & they being governed by the same selfish principles as other men are. They are the most interested in the distresses of the many of any in the Nation, the scarcer money is & the greater the distresses of the many are, the better for them. It not only doubles the nominal sum of their pay, but it doubles and triples their business, & the many are obliged to come to them cap in hand & beg for mercy, patience and forbearance.

This gratifies both their pride and covetousness, when on the other hand when money is plenty & prices high they have little or nothing to do. This is the Reason why they ought to be kept entirely from the Legislative body & unless there can be wisdom enough in the People to keep the three Departments of Government entirely separate a free Government can’t be supported. For in all these conceived differences of interest, It is the business of the Legislative Body to determine what is Justice or what is Right & Wrong, & the duty of every individual in the nation to regulate his conduct according to their decisions. And if the Many were always fully & fairly represented in the Legislative Body they never would be oppressed or find fault so as to trouble the Government, but would always be zealous to support it.

The Reasons why a free government has always failed is from the unreasonable demands & desires of the few. They can’t bear to be on a level with their fellow creatures, or submit to the determinations of a Legislature where (as they call it) the Swinish Multitude are fairly represented, but sicken at the idea, and are ever hankering & striving after Monarchy or Aristocracy where the people have nothing to do in matters of government but to support the few in luxury & idleness.

For these and many other reasons a large majority of those that live without Labor are ever opposed to the principles & operation of a free Government, & though the whole of them do not amount to one eighth part of the people, yet by their combinations, arts & schemes have always made out to destroy it sooner or later, which I shall endeavor to prove by considering –

(To be continued in excerpt 4)


10:45 am on December 27, 2012