Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/319

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

to force them to stay.[1] If the landlord wants to turn his land to other use, it is a servitude for him if he can not evict his tenants. The modern peasant proprietor is one in whose status all these privileges and servitudes have met, coalesced, and disappeared, so that they are all summed up in the question whether his land is worth holding and tilling, subject to the taxes which must be paid on it.

In all these variations and mutations of social status and of the relations of classes, which we might pursue with any amount of detail through the history of the last fifteen hundred years, where is there any such thing as personal liberty of the sort which means doing as one likes? None, have had it but those who were privileged—that is to say, it has lain entirely outside of civil liberty. It has had the form of an artificial social monopoly, and the fact has come out distinctly that liberty to do as you please in this world is only possible as a monopoly, but that it is the most valuable monopoly in the world, provided you can get it as a monopoly. You would realize it when you got into the position of Nero, or Louis XIV, or Catharine II.

We may gather some other cases in point.

A man who expects to go to the almshouse in his old age may regard a law of settlement as his patent of security, because it defines and secures his place of refuge. A man who is in the same status, but who is determined to better his condition by energy and enterprise, tries to move. He finds the law of settlement a curse, which may hold him down and force him to become a pauper.

If you are not able to make your own way in the world, you want to be protected by status. If you have ambition and ability to make a career for yourself, you find that status holds you down. In the former case it holds you up, or keeps you from falling; in the latter it holds you down, or keeps you from rising. On the whole, therefore, it keeps the society stagnant. If numbers do not increase very much, there may not be much suffering. If numbers do increase, there will be mendicancy, pauperism, vagabondage, and brigandage. It is a matter of great surprise that so little investigation has been expended on the vagabondage of the middle ages. The students of that period have kept their attention on those who were inside of its institutions. The test of the mediaeval system is to be found in a study of those who were kept out of its institutions.

If it is a mark of a free man, as in early Rome, to do military duty, every one may regard that function as a right or privilege, rather than as a burden or duty. It may carry with it privileges

  1. It was so in Denmark in the last century. See Falbe-Hansen, "Stavnsbaands-Lösningen," and the "Nation," 1889, p. 123.