THE fundamental proposition upon which the whole National Reform structure is built, is that “the nation is a moral person.” If this proposition will not hold good in the sense in which they use it, their whole scheme is a fallacy. That it will not hold good is certain.
Their idea of the State as a moral person will not allow that it is the whole people, but that it is a mysterious, imaginary something which stands separate and distinct from the people which compose it. Their concept of a State is that it is formed of all the people, yet that it is not all the people, but a distinct entity, having a personality all its own; and this personality that springs in some way from the whole people, is a person in the eyes of men just as distinct as is General Sherman or Mr. Blaine. As therefore General Sherman, or Mr. Blaine, or any and every other person, is a moral person, is responsible to God, and must acknowledge that responsibility, so this other individual, which springs in part from each individual, being a person as real, as distinct, in the eyes of men as is any one of the people, is a moral person, is responsible to God, and must acknowledge that responsibility, so this other individual, which springs in part from each individual, being a person as real, as distinct, in the eyes of men as is any one of the people, is a moral person, is responsible to God, and must acknowledge that responsibility. As it is the duty of General Sherman, or Mr. Blaine, or any other person, to have a religion, and to exercise himself about religious affairs, so this person called the State or the nation must have a religion, and must exercise itself about religious affairs. With this very important difference, however, that, whereas General Sherman, Mr. Blaine, John Smith, James Robinson, Thomas Brown, John Doe, and Richard Roe, having each his own religion, must exercise himself in that religion without interfering with the exercise of anybody else’s religion; this other individual must not only have a religion of its own, and exercise itself with that religion, but it must exercise itself about everybody else’s religion, and must see to it especially that the religion of everybody else is the same as its own.
A State, as pictured by Prof. J. R. W. Sloane, D. D., in the Cincinnati Convention, is as follows:—
“What is the State? … Its true figure is that of a colossal man, his consciousness the resultant of the consciousness of the millions that compose this gigantic entity, this body corporate, his power their power, his will their will, his purpose their purpose, his goal the end to which they are moving; a being created in the sphere of moral law, and therefore both moral and accountable.”
But that is not all; they even go so far as to give it a soul! In this same speech Professor Sloane said:—
“‘The State has no soul’ is the dictum of an atheistic political theory. On the contrary we say, with the famous French priest, Pere Hyacinth, ‘What I admire most in the State is its soul.’”
Well, if the State be, as he also said, “a personality as distinct in the eyes of men as General Grant or Mr. Colfax,” then we cannot wonder that it should have a soul. But what is the soul of the State? He tells us:—
“Moral principles are the soul of a nation; these are the informing spirit that mould its various elements into a compact unity, and that bind them together with bands stronger than steel.”
Does Professor Sloane mean to say that “moral principles” composed the soul, and were the kind of a soul that “General Grant or Mr. Colfax” had? Are moral principles the soul of each of the millions of people that compose this “gigantic entity”? If; as he says, the consciousness of this colossal man is “the resultant of the consciousness of the millions that compose him, his power their power, his will their will, his purpose their purpose, his goal their goal,” then why is not his soul their soul? If moral principles are his soul, and he is but the resultant of all the others, then what can their souls be but moral principles? Truly this is a new conception of the soul, which we commend to the consideration of psychologists and theologians. We confine ourselves to the political aspect of the question.
The Doctor proceeds:—
“A still more practical view of the subject is taken when we consider the moral obligations of a nation as such; like an individual, it is held bound in the judgment of mankind to the fulfillment of its obligations. Great Britain, France, and Italy owe enormous debts. The same is true of our own country. Shall the obligations of these debts be met? May the nation repudiate? If not, why not? …. Or does the law, ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ bind a nation as well as an individual? … Do we not apply to nations the same adjectives expressing moral qualities, which we apply to men? Has not Great Britain a national character as well defined in the minds men as her queen or Prime Minister—a character into which her physical character and resources scarcely enter, but which is determined by moral qualities? Is not the United States a personality as distinct in the eyes of men as General Grant or Mr. Colfax?”
Having thus established, as they suppose, their proposition that the State is a moral person, the fundamental principle of the whole National Reform movement is, as stated by themselves:—
“The nation being a moral person, must have a religion of its own, and exercise itself about religious affairs.”—Christian Statesman, Feb. 28, 1884, p. 5.
It is too often the case with a person who is eager to prove a particular proposition that he first resolves upon his conclusion, and then makes “a major of most comprehensive dimensions, and, having satisfied himself that it contains his conclusion, never troubles himself about what else it may contain;” and as soon as it is examined it is found to contain an infinite number of conclusions, every one being a palpable absurdity. This is exactly the logical position occupied by the advocates of this so-called National Reform. Take the statements which we have here quoted, and who cannot see that they apply with equal force to any conceivable association of human beings for a common purpose? Let us here apply their argument in a single case, and anybody can extend it to any number of similar cases.
What is a railroad company? Its true figure is that of a colossal man, his consciousness the resultant of the consciousness of the stockholders of this gigantic entity, this body corporate; his power their power, his will their will, his purpose their purpose, his goal the end to which they are moving; a being created in the sphere of moral law, and therefore both moral and accountable. It is composed of moral beings subject to moral law, and is therefore morally accountable.
A still more practical view of this subject is taken when we consider the moral obligations of a railroad company as such; like an individual it is held bound in the judgment of mankind to the fulfillment of its obligations. May the railroad company repudiate? If not, why not? Or does the law, “Thou shalt not steal,” bind a railroad company as well as an individual? Do we not apply to railroad companies the same adjectives expressing moral qualities which we apply to men? Has not the Erie Railroad Company a character as well defined in the minds of men as its president or its cashier—a character into which its physical character and resources scarcely enter, but which is determined by moral qualities? Is not the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company a personality as distinct in the eyes of men as is General Sheridan or Mr. Edmunds?
“The railroad company has no soul” is the dictum of an atheistic political theory. On the contrary, we say, with the famous financial priest, James Fisk, Jr., what I admire most in the railroad company is its soul. Moral principles are the soul of a railroad company. The denial of the moral character and accountability of the railroad company is of the nature of atheism; it is practically a denial of God’s  providential government—leads to the subversion of morals, and the destruction of the railroad itself. That a railroad company is possessed of moral character, that it is therefore a subject of moral law, and consequently accountable to God, is not theory but fact; not hypothesis, but science. That all men do not admit that a railroad company is a moral being, and accountable to God, does not prove that it is not an established principle of moral and political National Reform science. Therefore the railroad company, being a moral person, must have a religion of its own, and must exercise itself about religious affairs.
There, that is a genuine National Reform argument. And we submit to any candid mind that it is just as good in proof of the personality and moral obligation of the railroad company as it is for that of the State. And not only for the railroad company and the State, but likewise, and equally, good for the personality and moral obligation of banks, insurance companies, steamship companies, gas companies, water companies, steamship companies, gas companies, water companies, publishing companies, lodges, benefit societies, clubs, corporations, and associations of all kinds; and the logic of the whole situation is that each and every one of these must in its corporate capacity “have a religion of its own, and must exercise itself about religious affairs.” If the premises of the National Reform Association be true, this conclusion and a number of other equally absurd inevitably follow, or else there is no truth in syllogism. But if the logic of the thing be so absurd, it only demonstrates the absurdity of the principle.
Now the National Reformers, being wedded to the principle, and wishing to be divorced from the inevitable conclusions, resort to the fallacy that railroad, bridge, steamboat, etc., companies are “but creatures of the State,” and so are not moral persons. Dr. McAllister in the Cleveland convention, in trying to meet this point said:—
“The nation is a moral person, created by God, and creation implies the authority of the creator; but a company of the kind described, receives its charter from the State, is subject to the laws of the State.”
With that, place the following from Rev. T. C. Sproull in the same convention, speaking to the same resolution as was Dr. McAllister:—
“If the nation if not a moral being, it cannot be subject to the law of God.”
Accordingly, between the State and the company, we have the following
is created by God;
is created by the State;
person, and hence is
Subject to the law of God.Therefore the company is not a moral
person, and hence is
Not subject to the law of God.
Now if, as they say, the railroad and other companies are not-moral persons; and if, as they also say, and which is manifestly true, these not-moral persons (or companies) “cannot be subject to the law of God,” then why is there so much ado made about these “Sabbath-breaking railroads,” these “Sabbath-breaking steamboats,” and so on through the list? Then why are the railroad companies told, as they are in the address of the International Sabbath Association, printed in the Statesman of Feb. 7, 1884, pp. 2, 3:—
“Your action in thus multiplying trains to desecrate the day of rest is in direct violation of divine law”? “In view of your responsibilities to God…. you cannot afford to do this.”
We would respectfully submit to the consideration of the National Reform Party the following: From your own premises there is not, and there cannot be, any such thing as a Sabbath-breaking railroad company, nor any other kind of a Sabbath-breaking company. For you say, first (truly), the Sabbath is a part of the law of God; secondly, you say that a not-moral person “cannot be subject to the law of God;” thirdly, you say that the company, as distinguished from the Government, is “not a moral person”; and then, you inconsistently accuse the railroad companies of “direct violation of divine law”!
Now how is it possible for a person, being, or thing which “cannot be subject to the law of God,” to violate that law? It is plainly impossible for a not-moral being to violate moral law. It is equally impossible for such a being to have any “responsibilities to God;” because where there can be no subjection to law, there can be no violation of law; and where there can be no violation of law, there can be no obedience to law; and where there can no obedience to the law of God, there is no responsibility to God. Therefore it just as absolutely follows from your premises that a railroad or other company cannot break the Sabbath, as that two and two make four. And it is just as absolutely true that your resort to a fallacy to escape an absurdity, has involved you in a glaring inconsistency; for it is plainly inconsistent for you to hold a being subject to that to which you say it “cannot be subject.”
But if you persist in holding the companies responsible to the law of God, you must admit that they are moral beings, and hence equally with the Government must profess a religion, and have a test, and with that, logically admit an infinite number of other absurd conclusions; in short, admit that every combination of human beings for a common purpose, must, as such combination, profess a religion and have a test.
Here, then, is the dilemma of the National Reform Party,—either an inconsistency or an absurdity. But we have no ground for hope that they will abandon either the fallacy or the absurdity. For as the fallacy was adopted for the express purpose of escaping the absurdity, for them to abandon either would be to abandon their cause. Therefore we have only to expect that they will act in harmony with the ways of error always, and hold to both the absurdity and the inconsistency, and when questioned about either, do as is suggested by Rev. R. C. Wylie in the Statesman, of Feb. 14, 1885; that is, “adopt a plan that will prevent a repetition” of any such questions.
A. T. J.