Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
GovernmentApril 26, 1861
What is the standard by which man is weighed? There is but one true standard by which man is weighed - and that is by his acts. Men set up standards to weigh others; but the standard of wisdom is a balance, and sooner or later man's acts are tested by that, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar. With this balance, man will know his true weight, for it never varies; but man weighs his fellow man by the balance of public opinion; his weight is his popularity, so he varies according to the atmosphere in which he lives.
To carry out the illustration of weighing men (or mind - for mind is matter) by the standard of public opinion, the balance must rest on the same substance as itself; therefore the atmosphere of the place is the base on which the scale stands. And as each man is a world of himself, he creates a scale to weigh himself; but sometimes circumstances change the atmosphere, and man finds himself weighed by another balance; then his weight is used to fill up a vacuum made by the change of the mind of public opinion.
For instance, you often see a man who feels as though he was of some importance, yet who never shows any wisdom above the circle in which he moves. Although active and aspiring, he evinces no superior intelligence; and restless and uneasy, he attaches himself to a political wheel of fortune, risking what he never really had but thought he had. The wheel revolves and finally stops. Some fall off; others hold on, so a vacuum is formed. He who held on did so from no merit of his wisdom, but from desire to gain; and he is received - not for his worth, but for his persistency to fill the vacuum of the rotation of the wheel of public office.
Now behold the change! His own wisdom never made him anything above a third-class lawyer or an intriguing politician. Leaving his own home (or the place where his talent was balanced), he jumps on the political wheel and is landed on the judge's bench, there to appear in the presence of men who never heard of such an individual. How comes this metamorphosis of a man, jumping from the lowest class of politicians into the highest scale of the legal profession? Is the profession of his class of wisdom - or is there some mistake in the scales? Are judges weighed in the scale of their own wisdom - or the political scale?
Here is something, if wrong, that ought to be corrected; but if it is right - destroy the barrier that separates the demagogue from the legal world. If law is nothing but a bubble, like any political bubble, then the world has been deceived, and it is not what all wise men have claimed it to be. Where is the principle to weigh the differences in these estimates, so that the people may not be deceived by their own ignorance? This has never been done, so political scales, which determine all merit, are the standard of law. This makes law arbitrary; and if it is so, then law has no standard but public opinion, and political opinions are the standard of the laws of nations. Therefore, a government ( or laws founded on public opinion) must sooner or later crumble - bringing anarchy, despotism and destruction. This has always been the case, and always will be, where error holds sway.
Let us see if there cannot be some way by which man can see the scale of justice that weighs every man by his acts. The world must be governed by laws, and the judge must be superior to the law, or he could not explain it. So the judge is the law, and the people are the parties; and when the people make a contract to govern their acts, the judge is to listen to their stories and decide according to contract, and his decision becomes law. If it becomes necessary to have more than one judge, the question comes, “Who shall appoint him?” Must the candidate be weighed on the political scale or on the legal scale? If the judge is a political judge - or made by a political party or any party at all outside of the profession - then have no judge at all; only a political demagogue. This holds true in all classes of science. So long as the judges are taken from the people, the government is in danger; for the wisdom of the political world is always changing.
Every man is a standard, and his wisdom is his weight. Each man shows his weight by his wisdom. If a man is wanted to work out a mathematical problem, one who had never studied mathematics would not be selected; and if, in a school, one of the teachers of that branch should die, no one would expect the scholars to select another. It is so in all branches of arts and sciences. Politicians can never select any man to any professional calling - science or legislation. The power to determine the scientific must be kept apart, as religion and politics.
Now man is a nation of himself and is governed precisely as a nation - and any principle that will promote the health and happiness and prolong the life of a nation will apply to an individual. There is a principle which, if rightly understood, would prolong the lives and happiness of nations; but this principle has never been recognized by the world in nations or individuals The standard of opinions has always held sway, and that is arbitrary. Yet there is an element in both individuals and nations - which is science - which has its secret influence and has always governed the civilized world. It is not recognized by the wisdom of opinions, but is finally referred to, after the opinions are exhausted by their own weakness, and their power is gone. Then steps in this third power and settles the trouble. Wisdom is supposed to be this last-named power, but true wisdom is one thing, and political wisdom is another. But if the former settles the trouble, there is an end of it.
Disease in man is the same as in nations. I will take our nation as an individual and show how it gets diseased, is kept so, and is finally destroyed and killed; how it sometimes may rise again - as man is believed to rise; and also how it becomes exterminated - as man is believed to be annihilated, body and soul. The life of a nation, like that of an individual, depends on its wisdom; and it is no evidence of wisdom to destroy life in either individuals or nations.
Ignorance is nearer wisdom than error, for error has to retrace her steps to get back to ignorance to receive the truth. According to the judgment of error or opinion, we are the wisest nation on earth - but our acts must tell the story. If the acts of the last administration had not been checked by a superior power than the executive, our beloved country would have been the scene of civil war and a final annihilation of the republic of the United States; showing that, with all our boasted prosperity as a nation, we had hardly reached the age of some individuals on earth.
Now where is the defect - for there must be one somewhere? Is it in the principle that wisdom cannot govern a nation - or is it in the want of wisdom in the rulers? As I have said, a nation born into existence is like a child born into the world; both are nursed until they become old enough to help themselves. Now a nation that is born crippled or diseased is harder to raise to a healthy nation than one born perfect or ignorant. For instance, China is the oldest nation on the globe - and the most ignorant. The American nation is the most enlightened and advanced in the arts and sciences, some pretend to say. Now see the difference. China stands firm; America is on a pivot - time must determine her destiny, for ruin or progress.
The wisdom of the American people has never been heard by the masses. The only sound that has reached their ears is from political demagogues. Tyranny has been the throne that the people have had to submit to, and until the power is wrenched from these political despots, liberty is a mere farce. I will describe the growth of this young child, not quite eighty-six years old. He was born in the year of our Lord, 1775. His parents were driven from their homes to find a place where they could carry out their own way of worshiping God, and here they planted their free principles among a savage race. As in all error, they did not see the true law of justice, and their first Christian act was to make war with the natives and drive them out of their land. Then the same error persecuted all religions opposed to their opinions. Finally the old world, finding her child growing too strong, undertook to put it into subjection; and therefore, opened a war between father and son. The latter, having the sympathy of strangers, fought and finally gained his freedom.
Then came a union of the North and South, which resulted in the birth of a son called Uncle Sam. He, like his father, was diseased; for slavery had bound one side of him, paralyzing it, so that it was a deadweight to the other side. Now it was for wisdom to bring the diseased side to life.
As I speak of each, I will call them North and South. The South, being crippled by slavery - the North had pity for his brother and divided the heritage with him, and they formed a contract called the Constitution. The North had the most political power; the South could not be heard in the political scale, for her voice was in the minority, as she had slaves who, according to their law, could not vote. So to make all things easy, the North agreed to a basis of representation that should put the South on an equal footing.
The North gave five votes to three of the South. So as the slave population grew faster in proportion to the whites, a basis of representation was made, so that five slaves should be equal to three whites. This was made in good faith.
Now slavery was not known in the Constitution, although it was in the minds of the framers. And it was a principle of honor which made the North give the South this advantage of representation. The equivalent was that, in the territory to be acquired, this equalization of power should not be carried. So the Constitution said nothing about slavery but acknowledged the right or representation, as far as the states were concerned, up to the thirteen states. This right being acknowledged, the South forgot the honor of their fathers not to trespass beyond their original states. And when new territory came to be admitted, quoted the contract and claimed her right of representation in free territory.
Here was where the mistake was made by the North in not seeing what was claimed by the South. The South, seeing where she had the advantage of the North, have always endeavored to hold it. But as the West grew up, the South, seeing her power passing from her cries out, “Persecution!” The North, being ignorant of the true issue, have been made to attach their ideas to slavery, instead of representation. So the cry of slavery has been heard at the North, when that has nothing to do with the question at issue. The true question at issue is whether the North is willing to agree to a one-sided bargain that deprives them of two-fifths of their votes for no equivalent. This is the question. It takes two-thirds of Congress to alter the Constitution, but it will not take a long time to convince the North and West that they may stop the South from carrying their basis of representation into free territory.
This error arises from the fact that, when the wisdom of the political world makes political judges, the scientific world is enslaved. This was the case in the Dred Scott decision; the judges were political judges under the influence of political power; therefore they decided according to their party. Now I go back to the starting point. If judges have no more wisdom than the political demagogues or masses, their science is a sham, and law is a humbug. The health of a nation, like that of an individual, depends on the influences that govern it.
Perhaps it may be better illustrated by the case of a sick person. The sick are made so by the influences that govern them. Political quacks or doctors, like political leaders, deceive the patient by false issues. The doctors make their opinions the standard; create disease, like politicians, and deceive the people into a belief that makes them sick. They then offer their services to get them out of the trouble they have gotten them into. Now how can these evils be overcome? Only by teaching the people to know the difference between an opinion and a truth. This I will try to show.
I will return to the political judge. If the people want to have a healthy nation, they must have wise judges. Now can that be done? All will admit that a law is not as wise as the lawgiver. For the lawgiver would see a defect, where the parties would overlook one. But if a decision is made by a judge not fully acquainted with the law, then the people are the losers. This was the case in the Dred Scott decision. If the judges had been honest, they would have seen that the law was not defined in the case; and therefore, to decide a question or principle embracing so much by giving an opinion upon what they could not decide was assuming a power that showed that they were not judges of the law, but party judges. They were to decide the law - not give an opinion; for an opinion is not law.
The North had one opinion - the South another; each claimed to be right. The Constitution, being silent on the law of territory - each party might speak with some show of truth; and the judges, had they been independent of party, must have agreed, provided there was no question. And if there was a question, let the people decide that; and when a similar case came up, the judges would decide according to contract or law.
These political judges are the cause of all disease. They make it by their own error, and the people take their opinions for reality or truth. This caused a dissension among the people. It split up the North and untied the South and condensed a political error into a party truth. The error, running into the North, set fire there and turned the executive power into a political engine used against the North - and instead of pumping water to put out the fire, it turned its power towards upsetting the North.
As I sit penning this article, the engine of government is in the hands of the North, but not without a struggle - for all that Buchanan and his party could do was done to destroy the government. If General Scott has been a traitor, like the rest, we should at this time - April 26th, 1861 - be in a bloody war. But fortunately their power has departed, and Buchanan - like Nebuchadnezzar - is turned out to grass; and Abraham has assumed the throne. His first act is to decide what the judges misrepresent. He says, “Let the people decide what is not plain in the Constitution.” This is as it should be.
Now his acts are to take effect - and what I now say is a prophecy; not yet fulfilled. It is based on a law - not of opinion, but of wisdom - or on a chemical change taking place in the political world, which is governed by a wisdom superior to an opinion; although to the masses, it is an opinion. But it is based on a truth that must prove true, or the country is lost.
The nation stands now like a man given over by his friends. The political doctors stand around his couch dropping a hypocritical tear for their lost father - but ready to devour his substance as soon as he breathes his last. They have exhausted all their skill on him, till there is nothing left but the skeleton of Uncle Sam. The people have gotten angry with these quacks and have taken the old gentleman into their hands and have employed a new physician, by name - Abraham Lincoln. As soon as he comes to the old mansion, his first act is to listen to Uncle Sam's story.
Here it is. While the old gentleman was sleeping, his son James, who had the whole care of him, was planning with the rest of his brethren to rob the old gentleman of his money and arms and get possession of his goods, so that the kingdom would fall into their hands. So when the old gentleman was roused by Abraham, he was nearly powerless; out of thirty-four children, seven had stolen all they could. This roused Abraham, and his decree has gone forth. Baltimore is to be the scene of action, and if the Northern troops do not pass, then the fight commences there. But I think that the government will pass their troops through, and this ends the fighting at the North; but the principal fighting will be in the border states.