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Here is the John Taylor quotation in context:
“There is also another political party, who desire, through the influence of legislation and coercion, to level the world. To say the least, it is a species of robbery; to some it may appear an honorable one, but, nevertheless, it is robbery. What right has any private man to take by force the property of another? The laws of all nations would punish such a man as a thief. Would thousands of men engaged in the same business make it more honorable? Certainly not. And if a nation were to do it, would a nation’s act sanctify a wrong deed? No; the Algerine pirates, or Arabian hordes, were never considered honorable, on account of their numbers; and a nation, or nations, engaging in this would only augment the banditti, but could never sanctify the deed.
I shall not, here, enter into the various manners of obtaining wealth; but would merely state, that any unjust acquisition of it ought to be punished by law. Wealth is generally the representation of labour, industry, and talent. If one man is industrious, enterprising, diligent, careful, and saves property, and his children follow in his steps, and accumulate wealth; and another man is careless, prodigal, and lazy, and his children inherit his poverty, I cannot conceive upon what principles of justice, the children of the idle and profligate have a right to put their hands into the pockets of those who are diligent and careful, and rob them of their purse. Let this principle exist, and all energy and enterprise would be crushed. Men would be afraid of again accumulating, lest they should again be robbed. Industry and talent would have no stimulant, and confusion and ruin would inevitably follow.
Again, if you took men’s property without their consent, the natural consequence would be that they would seek to retake it the first opportunity; and this state of things would only deluge the world in blood. So that let any of these measures be carried out, even according to the most sanguine hopes of the parties, they would not only bring distress upon others, but also upon themselves; certainly they would not bring about the peace of the world.”
I was about to say that they don’t make them like that in Canada anymore, but then again they don’t make them like that in The US anymore either…
John Taylor seems to be mixing two kinds of lawful aquisition: inherited wealth, inherited poverty, as well as the personal aquisition of wealth by personal industry.
….and his children follow in his steps, and accumulate wealth….
…and his children inherit his poverty…
John Taylor is absolutely correct in bringing a generational perspective to this issue. Most wealthy men were not born into a family of indolence and poverty. And most poor people were not born into a family of wealth and industry. I’d say that over 75% of who we are, and the successes or failures we become are a direct result of upbringing, and financial and educational advantages we had. (Of course there are remarkable exceptions, but this is the rule.)
Jesus said: “To him that hath, shall be given, and to him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” The one talent man invariably buries his talent in the earth, and the wealthy man invariably accumulates even more wealth.God says, “I will curse them to the seventh generation.” We do not escape our ancestors, neither the blessings, nor the curses they have heaped upon us.
Yes, it is right that the one talent of the poor man is taken away and given to the one who has ten. But the one who has ten is by no means a superior soul. He is the pinacle of generations of blessings which he reaps, just as the poor man is the pinacle of generations of curses which he reaps.
So, yes, I believe John Taylor’s quote. But not because the rich deserve their wealth. They are graced with their wealth, just as the poor are graced with their poverty. That is the arbitrary grace of God. (Of course there are exceptions, I’m just speaking as a general rule. Yet, who dares to say that all they have accumulated in life is a result solely of their own labors, without any help from the values and advantages of their parents and culture?)
When you think about from where and when John Taylor put together these thoughts, its astounding how different his world was from ours. Its hard for me even to imagine what exactly he means by this quote. Living in a US territory, with hostility toward their neighbors to the east, among a homogeneous religious community, still developing a practice of polygamy, that had attempted to live the law of consecration more than once, with a governor who was also the president of the Church, seeing religious immigrants flow in by the weeks and months, in an agrarian economy…
Christian J, to understand it better I would recommend re-reading the entire speech. It seems to me that he is really condemning all worldly systems, both religious and governmental. He condemns Communism and Socialism but also points out the problems of different religious systems and even has some harsh words for Mexico (which controlled Utah until a year or two before JT arrived there).
What many people do not realize is that JT’s words regarding respecting property and distrusting distribution were extremely common in the 19th century. In the 1850s, in fact, the majority of Democrats were against redistribution of any kind, and this strain lasted until Grover Cleveland. The number of liberty-minded philosophers was in the hundreds, from Mill to Lysander Spooner to Frederic Bastiat. JT was certainly influenced by the events in Europe in 1848 and the lasting negative memory of the French Revolution and subsequent chaos there.
Most people today see the rise of government as a good thing in that governments help take care of the poor and provide a minimum standard of living. This was not a common view in the 19th century, and many, many people like JT warned that while it may seem charitable to take money from some to give to others it will inevitably be taken too far until we end up hurting the people who are supposed to be helped. Almost nobody believes it is a bad thing to temporarily give somebody food and clothing and shelter, but they forget that making people dependent on such social welfare projects will make them less self-sufficient and do more harm than good. John Taylor’s voice from the past is a warning that seems especially appropriate today, when we have completely abandoned the idea of temporary charity and made it a permanent project of dependence, domination and subordination, rather than one of Christ-like love.
Reading the piece as published in the Ensign, it was likely intended to tell folks to avoid socialism and communism. Also to tell them that the solutions proposed by secular societies based on centuries of western wisdom were likely suspect.
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