“The National Reform Movement an Absurdity” The American Sentinel 1, 7, pp. 53, 54.

IN the discussion of the National Reform theory of the personality of the State, in our June issue, we showed conclusively that the theory is absurd; and that in the endeavor to escape the absurd consequences of their position, the National Reform Party resort to a fallacy which involves them in the inconsistency of holding beings subject to that to which, according to the theory, they cannot be subject. But we say again that we see no ground for hope that that party will ever abandon either the fallacy or the absurdity. For, as the theory is absurd, and as they affirm that the theory is fundamental to this whole movement, it is evident that absurdity is inherent in the whole National Reform system. That is not only the logic of the question, but it is strictly in accordance with all the facts in the case.

The absurdity of the view that the State is a person distinct from the individuals that compose it, is made more apparent when we consider the obligations of a nation, or State, as such. Doctor Sloane in a speech on this subject in the Cincinnati National Reform Convention, instanced the fact that “Great Britain, France, Italy, and our own country own enormous debts.” But we would inquire of the National Reform Party, Does this personality, which you call the State, of Great Britain, France, Italy, or the United States, own this debt distinct from the people? and will it pay it distinct from the people? When Germany laid upon France the war indemnity of five milliards of francs, was it laid upon a “personality” distinct from the individuals that compose the nation? and when it was paid was it paid by such a distinct personality? To the minds of all reasonable men, to ask these questions is to answer them. These National Reform religio-political economists know as well as anybody does, that of the war indemnity exacted from France by Germany, every franc came from the people who compose the State, and not from some hypothetical “individual personality” distinct from the people. They know full well that every dollar of the national debt of our own country that has ever been paid has been paid by the people of the United States, and not a cent of it by any such theoretical absurdity as the National Reform Party defines to be the State.

Does the National Reform Party mean to say that, when it gets its iniquity framed by a law, and has thus perfected its idea of the personality of a State, it will have the State a personality so entirely distinct and separate from that of the people, that the State will pay the national debt without any help on the part of the people? No. That party itself, we do them the justice to suppose, would pronounce the idea preposterous. And so do we. But if it be so, where is the sense of all their argument about the personality of the State as distinct from the personality of the people who compose the State? If the State has a personality, an individuality of its own, and a soul of its own as distinct from that of any or all of the people who compose it, as is that of General Sherman or Mr. Blaine, then why can’t it pay its debts distinct from the people, as General Sherman or Mr. Blaine pays his? The very idea is absurd.

Again, Prof. O. N. Stoddard, in the Cincinnati Convention, said:—

“If the character and liabilities of the State are not distinct from those of its individual members, then the State is punished hereafter in the persons of its subjects.”

We would like Professor Stoddard or any other of the National Reformers to show where a State has ever been or ever can be punished, either here or hereafter, except in the persons of its subjects. When France was punished for its ill-advised declaration of war upon Germany, did the punishment fall upon the State distinct from the persons of its subjects? When Rome was punished for the fearfulness of her iniquities—when from the Rhine and the Danube to the deserts of Africa, and from the Black Sea and the Hellespont to the wall of Antoninus and the Atlantic Ocean, the whole empire was swept by the successive and devastating waves of savage barbarism—did these terrors afflict some such figment of a State as is conjured up by the National Reform brain? Did they not rather fall upon every age, sex, and condition of the individuals that composed the State? Again we say that but to ask the question is to answer it. But it demonstrates to all reasonable men the wild absurdity of the National Reform theory of the personality of a State. There is not, and there cannot be, any such personality of a State. And we are certain that no such thing would ever be seriously advocated in this country, were it not essential to the success of a scheme of religious bigotry and priestly despotism, whose most perfect likeness is that of the papacy.

Webster defines a State to be:—

“A political body, or body politic; the whole body of people united under one Government.”

Chief Justice Chase defined a State as follows:—

“It describes sometimes a people or community of individuals united more or less closely in political relations, inhabiting temporarily or permanently the same country; often it denotes only the country or territorial region inhabited by such a community; not unfrequently it is applied to the Government under which the people live; at other times it represents the combined idea of people, territory, and Government. It is not difficult to see that in all these senses the primary conception is that of a people or community. The people in whatever territory dwelling…. constitute the State.”—Great Decisions by Great Judges, p. 641.

Bouvier says that a State is,—

“A sufficient body of persons united together in one community for the defense of their rights and to do right and justice to foreigners. In this sense the State means the whole people united into one body-politic.” “As to the persons who compose the body-politic, or associate themselves, they take collectively the name of ‘people or nation.’”—Law Dictionary.

A body-politic is:— [54]

“The collective body of a nation or State, as politically organized, or as exercising political functions; also a corporation.”—Webster.

All this is in perfect harmony with the Scriptures. When God speaks of a nation he speaks of “the whole body of people” who form the nation. When he speaks to a State he speaks to “the people who constitute the State.” When he inflicts judgments upon a State, those judgments fall upon the people who compose the State. To prove this we need no better illustration than the text which, in this connection, is doubtless more used than any other by the National Reform Party. It is this: “At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.” Jeremiah 18:7-10.

Thus it is the people who do the evil, and it is “unto them” that God pronounces to do evil; and when they “turn from their evil,” then he turns from the evil he pronounced “to do unto them.” In this same connection the Lord makes his own application of the principle which he has just laid down. Immediately following the text quoted, he says: “Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” Verse 11. Here God “framed evil” against the house of Israel, against the nation of the Jews, against the State of Judah, and the way to avert it was for the “men of Judah,” and “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” “every one” to turn from his evil way. It would be impossible to more plainly show that, in the mind of God, and in the contemplation of the word of God, a State or nation is the people who compose it; that it is they individually who sin; and that it is to them individually, “every one,” to whom the Lord speaks.

When the Lord pronounced judgment against Babylon, it was thus: “A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the Lord, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men. A sword is upon the liars; and they shall dote; a sword is upon her mighty men and they shall be dismayed. A sword is upon their horses, and upon their chariots, and upon all the mingled people that are in the midst of her.” “The violence done to me and to my flesh be upon Babylon, shall the inhabitant of Zion say; and my blood upon the inhabitants of Chaldea, shall Jerusalem say.” Jeremiah 50:35-37; 51:35.

To present other instances from Scripture would only be superfluous; the whole Bible is consistent herewith, and but confirms the correctness of the definitions given, and the truth of the position which we maintain, that the idea of a State having a personality, a will, a soul, and a moral responsibility of its own distinct from the individuals that compose it, is absurd. If a nation be wicked it is because the individuals who compose it are wicked; if it be righteous it is because the people, in their own individual moral relation to God, are righteous. When God exclaimed, “Ah, sinful nation”! it was because the people were “laden with iniquity.” Isaiah 1:4.

Thus it is clearly shown that the National Reform theory of a State is not only opposed to reason and common sense, but to established and authoritative definitions, and the word of God, as well.

There is, however, in connection with a State, a body-politic, or a corporation, the merest shadow of that which the National Reform Party pushes to such absurd conclusions. It is this: All bodies-politic, whether they be States, banks, railroads, or corporations of whatever kind, are, by a legal fiction and “for the advancement of justice,” given a personality, but this personality “has no existence except in a figure.” The definition is this:—

“A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law. In certain respects and for certain purposes, corporations are deemed ‘person.’ … But a corporation cannot be deemed a moral agent, and, like a natural person, be subjected to personal suffering. Malice and willfulness cannot be predicated of a corporation, though they may be of its members.”—Boones Law Corporations.

Such, and such only, is the true doctrine of the personality of a State. And yet this “invisible,” “intangible,” “artificial” thing, this legal fiction, is the fundamental proposition upon which rests the whole National Reform movement? It is this sheer abstraction which that Party proposes to push to such enormous conclusions—conclusions that are fatal to liberty, both civil and religious. Could anything possibly be more absurd?

Professor Pomeroy, the eminent law writer, says:—

“The State, as separated fro the individuals who compose it, has no existence except in a figure; and to predicate religious responsibility of this abstraction is an absurdity.”

To predicate responsibility of this abstraction, is exactly what the National Reform Party does; therefore the demonstration is complete, by every principle of logic and of law, that the National Reform movement is an absurdity.

And that all may understand precisely what this demonstration amounts to, we append Webster’s unabridged definition of an absurdity:—

“ABSURDITY—The quality of being absurd or inconsistent with obvious truth, reason, or sound judgment.” “ABSURD—Opposed to manifest truth; inconsistent with reason or the plain dictates of common sense; logically contradictory.”

That is what we mean in this connection, and that is exactly what the National Reform movement is.

A. T. J.

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