Edward Bellamy 1891
First Published: January 31, 1891;
Source: The New Nation volume I, pages 10-11;
Transcription: Cade Jameson;
Copyleft: Edward Bellamy Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
Why a New Nation? Why will not the old one do?
These are some of the reasons why it will not do: In the old nation, the system by which the work of life is carried on is a sort of perpetual warfare, a struggle, literally, to the death, between men and men. It is a system by which the contestants are forced to waste in fighting more effort than they have left for work. The sordid and bitter nature of the struggle so hardens, for the most part, the relations of men to their fellows that in the domestic circle alone do they find exercise for the better, tenderer and more generous elements of their nature.
Another reason why the old nation will not do, is, that in it the people are divided, against nature, into classes: one very small class being the wealthy; another and much larger class being composed of those who maintain with difficulty a condition of tolerable comfort constantly shadowed by apprehension of its loss; with, finally, a vastly greater and quite preponderating class of very poor, who have no dependence even for bare existence save a wage which is uncertain from day to day.
In the old nation, moreover, half the people—the women, are dependent upon the personal favor of the other half,the men, for the means of support; no other alternative being left them but to seek a beggarly pittance as workers in a labor market already overcrowded by men. In this old nation, the women are, indeed, as a sex, far worse off than the men; for, while the rich man is at least independent, the rich woman, while more luxuriously cared for, is as dependent for support on her husband's favor as the wife of the poorest laborer. Meanwhile, a great many women openly, and no one can tell how many secretly, unable to find men who will support them on more honorable terms, are compelled to secure their livelihood by the sale of their bodies, while a multitude of others are constrained to accept loveless marriage bonds.
In this old nation, a million strong men are even now vainly crying out for work to do, though the world needs so much more work done. Meanwhile, though the fathers and husbands can find no work, there is plenty always for the little children, who flock, in piteous armies, through the chilling mists of winter dawns into the factories.
In this old nation, not only does wealth devour poverty, but wealth devours wealth, and, year by year, the assets of the nation pass more and more swiftly and completely into the hands of a few score individuals out of 65,000,000 people.
In this old nation, year by year, the natural wealth of the land, the heritage of the people, is being wasted by the recklessness of individual greed. The forests are ravaged, the fisheries of river and sea destroyed, the fertility of the soil exhausted.
In this old nation, under a vain form of free political institutions, the inequalities of wealth and the irresistible influence of money upon a people devoured by want, is making nominally republican institutions a machine more convenient even than despotism for the purposes of plutocracy and plunder.
These are a few of the reasons why the old nation will not do. A few of the reasons why men are looking and longing for The New Nation:—
In The New Nation, work will not be warfare, but fraternal co-operation toward a store in which all will share. Human effort, no longer wasted by battle and cross-purposes, will create an abundance previously impossible.
More important far, the conditions of labor under the plan of fraternal co-operation will tend as strongly to stimulate fraternal sentiments and affectionate relations among the workers as the present conditions tend to repress them. The kindly side of men will no longer be known only to their wives and children.
In The New Nation, there will be neither rich nor poor; all will be equal partners in the product of the national industrial organization.
In The New Nation, the dependence of one sex upon another for livelihood, which now poisons love and gives lust its opportunity, will be forever at an end. As equal and independent partners in the product of the nation, women will have attained an economical enfranchisement, without which no political device could help them. Prostitution will be a forgotten horror.
In The New Nation, there will be no unemployed. All will be enabled and required to do their part according to their gifts, save only those whom age, sickness or infirmity has exempted; and these, no longer as now trodden under foot, will be served and guarded as tenderly as are the wounded in battle by their comrades.
In The New Nation, the children will be cherished as precious jewels, inestimable pledges of the divine love to men. Though mother and father forsake them, the nation will take them up.
In The New Nation, education will be equal and universal, and will cover the entire period of life during which it is now enjoyed by the most favored classes.
In The New Nation, the wasting of the people's heritage will cease, the forests will be re-planted, the rivers and seas re-populated, and fertility restored to exhausted lands. The natural resources of the country will be cared for and preserved as a common estate, and one to which the living have title only as trustees for the unborn.
In The New Nation, the debauching influence of wealth being banished, and the people raised to a real equality by equal education and resources, a true democratic and popular government will become possible as it never was before. For the first time in history the world will behold a true republic, rounded, full-orbed, complete, — a republic, social, industrial, political.
These will be some of the characteristics of The New Nation, to the advancement of which, till it shall have utterly replaced and supplanted the old nation, this paper is pledged.
Note: "The New Nation" was originally published in the first issue of Edward Bellamy's newspaper The New Nation, and was republished in subsequent issues as a sort of platform for Bellamy's Nationalist movement. It succinctly captures Bellamy's views on a number of topics, including solidarity, women's rights, child labor, and the environment.