Monday, April 29, 2013


The Founder of Capitalism and
                       the Tale of the Invisible Hand

“In the neo-liberal world – i.e an autocratic world of trade and profit - today we have a new type of tyranny which, to better secure its domination, chooses to forget the past and erases completely the hope of a future alternative.”(p.15, ibid. S.C. Marcos, LA REVUELTA DE LA MEMORIA)
   We left Manchester in the morning for Todmorden. The train ride took only a half hour, but I had a chance to look at the day’s paper.  A headline screamed, “Who was Adam Smith, and does he deserve to be on our banknotes?”  “The Governor of the Bank of England has announced that a portrait of Adam Smith will appear on the 20 pound banknote next year.”  Smith (1723 – 1790) was the founding economist-theologian of Capitalism.  His book, Wealth of Nations, a title taken from the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, advocated free trade and belief in the ‘invisible hand.’  Smith’s ideas on free trade and non government interference in commerce are also called ‘liberalism.’  ‘Liberal’ economics advocated for freedom of merchants from government controlled mercantilism.  The ideal was completely free trade.

The article gave a rationale for Smith’s new honor. 

   Yes he is, (a controversial figure) and association with          
   Thacherite economics is one of the main reasons (for his
   new honor).  But it is not the only one.  Tony Blair’s New
   Labour accepted many of the free market capitalist
   principles of the Thatcher years.

Democrat President of the U.S., Bill Clinton, also went along with a ‘free trade’ program resulting in the tragic loss of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs. 

   Blair and Clinton are called neo-liberals.  Could we include Barack Obama – what about his trade agreement with Columbia famous for murdering union people?  Contrary to Adam Smith, trade laws are accepted, but only in so far as they favor large corporations.  Labor and the environment are left to the regulation of the Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ or the free market.

   A notable historical example of Smith’s ‘liberal’ economics causing a disaster for the working class is the Irish potato famine.  Free trade for Ireland during the potato famine years meant sending grain out of the country while the people starved.  Irish poet Lady Wilde, the mother of Oscar Wilde, wrote:

   Weary men what reap ye? – ‘Golden corn for the stranger.’
   what sow ye?-‘Human corpses that await for the Avenger.
   fainting forms, all hunger-stricken, what see you in the offing?
  ‘Stately ships to bear our food away amid the stranger’s
  scoffing.’ (The Penguin Book of Irish Verse, ed. Brendan Kennelly,               “The Famine Year,” Penguin Books, 1970, p. 232.)

Was Lady Wilde a traitor to her class?  The Irish potato famine caused a massive emigration from Ireland to the U.S. and other countries.


Jeremy’s Tale and a Warm Welcome on a Cold Day

   We arrived at Todmorden shortly after  twelve noon.  It was cold and windy; Milwaukee - Chicago weather.  The station seemed deserted, however, there was a man sweeping the stairs, and we asked him how to get to our hotel.  We were chilled and anxious to get settled, but I couldn’t help but quiz him about Todmorden and the Fielden family.  He was a former high school teacher and a treasure of information.  I asked his name and he replied, “Jeremy Burgoine.”

‘Honest John’ Fielden, Member of Parliament

   Jeremy provided a very gracious and warm welcome to Todmorden.  He knew nothing of Sam Fielden, but did know about the Fielden family and was very knowledgeable about the most famous of the Fieldens, ‘Honest John’ Fielden, M.P.  ‘Honest John’ is revered in Todmorden to this day.  If I would try to be humorous and say that I would never trust anyone by the name ‘Honest John,’ the response would not be a smile or a chuckle but a glance that made me feel as if I had made another ugly American faux pas.

   My point of reference for Jeremy’s discussion and for our visit to Todmorden was Sam Fielden’s death row autobiography; written in prison after he had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death for the killings at the Chicago Haymarket. Sam wrote that the Fielden Brothers’ cotton mill was the largest of numerous mills in Todmorden.  ‘Honest John’ was one of the owner brothers.  The mill contained about 2,000 looms according to Sam and other accounts.  Sam, his father, brother, and sister all worked at this mill.  (The Autobiographies of the Haymarket Martyrs, ed. Phillip S. Foner, Monad Press, 1969)

Stoodley Pike and Dobroyd Castle

   Jeremy immediately pointed out two Todmorden landmarks in the distant hills.  One was an obelisk called the Stoodley Pike Peace Monument, a community project supported by the Fieldens, built in 1815.   The other was the Dobroyd Castle built by mill owner John Fielden, son of ‘Honest John’ for his mill worker wife.  The Castle was completed in 1869.  Sam Fielden the Anarchist was born in 1847 and knew both landmarks.

   Stoodley Pike was described by Jeremy as a monument to peace constructed after Napoleon’s defeat in 1814 recognized by the Treaty of Ghent.  The Treaty of Ghent also ended hostilities with the United States, namely the War of 1812.  The dispute was about U.S. expansionism and trade, but the War of 1812 is not remembered at Stoodley Pike.  Ironically the monument collapsed in 1854 at the outbreak of the Crimean War.  It was rebuilt a year later.  It is curious that, unlike other monuments in Britain celebrating the end of a war which emphasizes the glory of the British military, the Stoodley Pike is simply described as a peace monument built on hallowed ground.  Its inscription reads, “STOODLY PIKE A PEACE MONUMENT Erected by Public Subscription.”  Jeremy commented that the Fieldens had originally been Quakers who are peace advocates. 

   As for the other landmark mentioned by Jeremy, Sam Fielden remembered the draining of the land for the Dobroyd Castle in his death row autobiography.  The mill in Todmorden had been shut down because cotton shipments from the southern U.S. were stopped during the American Civil War by the Union blockade of Confederate ports.  Sam was hired to prepare the ground for the Castle promised by John Fielden, ‘Honest John’ Fielden’s son, to his mill worker fiancée.

               “I went to work assisting to drain some land on which one  
          of my employers has since built a magnificent castle, which
          is called the Dobroyd castle.  …it was in the winter time, and
          I had to pick the tiles up out of the ice and water.  One day
          I became chilled to the marrow:  I began to grow dizzy, and
          then it grew dark and I fell to the ground insensible.  I was
          carried home and thawed out, and the next day I had to go
          out to the same work again.”  (Ibid. p. 144)

Who should be credited with building the Dobroyd Castle, John Fielden the Rich or Sam Fielden the Anarchist and his fellow workers?  We would go up to visit the castle the next day.

‘Honest John’ Fielden and the Todmorden Cotton Mill

   Jeremy recounted that ‘Honest John’ and his brothers founded the Fielden Brothers Cotton Mill where Sam, his father, brothers and sister worked.  In Sam’s time the mill was run by the sons of ‘Honest John:’  John, Samuel, and Joshua.

   As a member of parliament ‘Honest John’ Fielden, M.P. advocated for the ten hour act which passed in l847, the year Sam was born.  The ten hour act became known as the Fielden Act. A comment in a town history brochure stated, “He (‘Honest John’ Fielden, M.P.) was an employer arguing, as some people saw it, against the people of his own class.” Sam wrote that ‘Honest John’ Fielden, M.P. “fought so valiantly for the ten hour act.”  Sam also noted in his death row autobiography that his father Abraham, a mill worker, was also a ten hour a day activist and a Chartist.

   When the ten hour movement was being agitated in England
   my father was on the committee of agitation of my native
   town, and I have heard him tell of sitting on the platform
   with the Earl of Shaftesbury, John Fielden, Richard Otler,
   and other advocates of that cause.  I always thought he
   put a little sarcasm into the word Earl, at any rate he had
   but little respect for aristocracy and royalty.  He was also
   a Chartist. (P. 132)

The Chartist movement had the goal of universal sovereignty and began with the Great Charter – Magna Carta (Runnymede, 1215) when King John was forced to recognize basic rights of the aristocracy.  The movement had a great influence on the U.S. struggle for independence.

    Jeremy told us the story of ‘Honest John’s’ encounter with the ‘Plug Pullers.’  The ‘Plug Pullers’ were activist mill workers in the area who demanded higher wages for all mill laborers.  Refusal led to the workers pulling the plug on boiler tanks that produced the steam operating the mill machinery.  When the ‘Plug Pullers’ discovered that the Fielden Brothers were already paying the wages that they demanded, the activists decided to leave town without doing any damage.  ‘Honest John’ objected and told them to pull the plugs at his mill as well because all the mills had to be shut down to get an increase in wages.  The ‘Plug Pullers’ were eventually arrested and convicted.  ‘Honest John’ as a member of Parliament and the most important mill owner in the area, was able to get a reduced sentence for the offenders.  

   M.P. Fielden also proposed an eight hour day, and opposed the ‘poor laws.’  The ‘Poor Laws’ were similar to U.S. President Clinton’s welfare reform in establishing pools of cheap labor.
There were strong protests in Todmorden against the ‘Poor Laws.’   Some of M.P. John Fielden’s views on social justice are expressed in his book, The Curse of the Factory System.  ‘Honest John’ Fielden received a complimentary footnote in Engels’, The Condition of the Working Classes in England.

   There is a statue of ‘Honest John’ Fielden M.P. in the Centre Vale Park of Todmorden, but nothing to honor the ‘Plug Pullers,’ who courageously fought the greedy mill owners.  By their protests, the ‘Plug Pullers’ also challenged the “Iron Law of Wages” theory of ‘liberal’ economist David Ricardo (1722 – 1823) who tried to give a scientific reason to explain why paying starvation wages is not evil.  Ricardo was a follower of Adam Smith.  To this day defenders of Capitalism cite the Iron Law of Wages as dogma.  George Will, syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, wrote in opposing an increase of the minimum wage, “The minimum wage should be the same everywhere:  Labor is a commodity; governments make messes when they decree commodities prices.”  Capitalist dogma decrees that supply and demand set prices for all commodities including labor which is considered a commodity not as fellow human beings – creators of the ‘wealth of nations.’

   Fergus O’Connor, a supporter of the ‘Plug Pullers,’ is mentioned in Sam’s autobiography.  Sam writes that his father was “an earnest champion and admirer” of O’Connor.  Besides being a Chartist and one time M.P. from Cork Ireland, O’Connor published a radical newspaper called the Northern Star and, according to Sam, his father claimed the paper was very popular in Todmorden. (ibid. p. 132)  Marx collaborator Fredrick Engles wrote for the Northern Star.  After serving time in prison for ‘seditious libels,’ O’Connor was tried and sentenced for his part in the ‘Plug Riots’ of 1842.
Fergus O’Connor and Violence

   Was Sam Fielden of the Chicago Haymarket not only influenced by his Todmorden Quaker background on the use of violence but also by Fergus O’Connor’s views?  O’Connor at Peep Green in 1839 said,

  “Do the magistrates think of putting down our meeting
   by acts of violence?  I for one think they do, and should
   we be attacked today, come what will, life, death, or
   victory, I am determined no house will cover my head
   tonight.  I am quite ready to stand by the law, and not give
   our tyrants the slightest advantage in attacking us in
   sections; but should they employ force against us.  I am
   repelling attack by attack.”

In his Haymarket court testimony Sam Fielden stated that in his opinion, the existing economic system would be overthrown either peaceably or by force.  Sam testified that he did not own a gun or ever use one. 

   The Haymarket Martyrs were convicted because the court insisted they advocated violence as a means of social change, therefore even though they may have had nothing to do with the bomb that killed policemen, the Haymarket Martyrs were judged as guilty.  In context, the Haymarket Riot took place in the poisoned atmosphere of the hanging of the Pennsylvania Irish coal miners, the ‘Molly Maguires,’ in 1873; Federal troops in fourteen states suppressing with force the railroad strike of 1877; the killing of two striking stone workers in the Chicago suburb of Lamont in 1885 and the killing of two strikers at the McCormick tractor works the day before the Haymarket event.

The Unitarians

   Jeremy pointed out the tall spire of the Unitarian Church and explained that it was built by the three sons of ‘Honest John,’ John, Samuel, and Joshua.  Samuel Fielden, in his death row autobiography, wrote that the “rich Fielden Brothers … were the main support of the unitarian church in the town.” (ibid. p. 142)

   In Jeremy’s opinion the Fieldens may have originated in a lowland weaving center such as Flanders and emigrated to England in the 12th or 13th century.

    The statistical arguments showing that comprehensive immigration    reform would improve the nation’s economy are impressive and effective, but what about – it’s just the right thing to do?  Our dear friend Anne Channel, who passed away last week and will be sorely missed by her many friends and her Union A.F.T. Local 212, would say, “it’s just human decency.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

BACK TO THE OLDE SOD: A Tale of May Day in England & Ireland

THE RECOVERY OF MEMORY: “They want to erase our history because to forget history is to negate our claim for justice.” p.177.   “How can you honor the bloody sacrifice of those who were murdered for justice, who gave us our voice and our future. May I speak of these dead in this fiesta? After all they made it possible.  Can we say that we are here because of them?”  p. 221   (LA REVUELTA DE LA MEMORIA, Textos del S.C. Marcos y del EZLN sobre la Historia, Centro de Informacion y Analisis, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, 1999)

   We first visited London to be with our son and daughter-in-law and then went with them to Ireland.  While in England and Ireland, I asked people about labor unions and the first of May as International Labor Day.  Although awareness of May lst as Labor Day has been suppressed in the U.S. by a McCarthyesq mentality, I expected that most in the U.K. and Ireland, especially the working class people, would be aware of May Day as Labor Day.  During the Haymarket trial, George Bernard Shaw spoke at a protest meeting in London, and in the intervening years there have been massive labor inspired May Day demonstrations in London.

   The Roman Catholic Church in 1955 established the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1st as an alternative to International May Day celebrations which the Church considered Communist.  A reading for the mass of the day is from a letter to the Colossians purported to be from St. Paul, but scripture scholars have their doubts.

    Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord
    and not from men, knowing that you will receive
    from the Lord due payment of the inheritance; be
    slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Is this the “opiate of the people”? Let us pray that most are free of such a drug. 
   It surprised me that most in the U.K. connected the holiday at the beginning of May as a bank holiday and couldn’t relate it to labor.  The T.U.C. (AFL-CIO equivalent in the U.K.) representative responded by e-mail. 

   l May is indeed our equivalent of Labor Day.  The best short                       
   summary I’ve read is on wikipedia, although I’m sure there   
   are more scholarly texts.  To be honest in most countries in   
   Western Europe, Mayday is celebrated as a generic workers’
   day (and the original pagan roots of the celebrations on that
   day),  rather than a commemoration of the Haymarket Riot –    
   few people I suspect know of that connection, even in   
   organising groups.

   On the cheap Ryan Air flight to Ireland, as a first question, I asked the young stewardess if she was a member of a labor union; she responded, “What’s a labor union?”  She was a recent immigrant from Poland so I tried to relate labor unions to Lech Walesa but without success.  On a boat trip on the Irish fiord of Killary, I asked the Irish sailors about May Day and labor unions.  They had no knowledge of May Day as a labor holiday and said that they were not union members because their company was not big enough.

   On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic we discovered that May 1st is celebrated in the Dominican Republic as a national holiday in honor of workers.  Everyone we questioned was aware that May 1st is a workers’ holiday.


Tales of Wealth & Poverty  
   We returned to London from Ireland and then made plans to visit the small town of Todmorden, the birth place of Haymarket Martyr Sam Fielden.  We were advised to take the bus to Manchester then the train to Todmorden.  Helen Toft, Catherine’s sister who went to the University in Manchester, suggested that we spend some time in the city.  She claimed Manchester was the birth place of the industrial revolution and noted that Marx and Engles had been there. 

   We traveled by bus to Manchester, and at the Manchester bus depot, I asked a security guard about Labor Day and labor unions.  He said he didn’t know about Labor Day and he didn’t like unions.  He immediately went to talk to the man he said was his boss.  They looked over at me and the boss laughed.  I guess the boss didn’t consider me much of a threat.  More conversations led me to believe that Margaret Thatcher did a better job of suppressing labor in the U.K. than Ronald Reagan in the U.S.  Tops, of course is Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

   We didn’t have much time to tour Manchester, but we did visit the Church of England Cathedral and discovered some unexpected treasures.  At the back of the church is a statue of the pioneer Manchester capitalist Humphrey Chetham (Would you buy a used car from someone with such a name?) who in 1653 left money for the purchase of buildings just north of the church for the founding of a school and library.  This library is the oldest free library in the English speaking world.  Chetham’s library is where Marx and Engels met and researched the economics of Capitalism in the 1840’s.  Where else you might ask. While in Manchester Engels worked in the textile firm of Ermen and Engels in which his father was a large shareholder.  Engels described the slum condition of this area in his book, The Condition of the Working Classes in England in 1844.

   Among the other Cathedral surprises was a statue of Mary, Jesus the carpenter’s mother.  The Cathedral is dedicated to St. Mary, St. Denys and St. George.  Usually statues of the Blessed Virgin show her as a member of the royalty – a queen.  However, outside the Cathedral stands a statue called the Lancashire Madonna wearing the traditional shawl of a local mill worker. Obviously the product of a new theology, the statue was part of the post-war reconstruction of 1958.
  The next stop will be Todmorden, the birth place of Samuel Fielden.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TODMORDEN TALES - SAM FIELDEN THE IMMIGRANT WORKER – A Keystone for American Working Class Identity

    The Beginning of a May Day Pilgrimage – The Worker’s Tale


   A trip to England and Ireland six years ago to visit our son Joel and our daughter-in-law Catherine plunged Joanne and me into a living history, and we became more conscious of what it means to be working class Americans.  We would like to share with you the account of our pilgrimage as it appears in our journal with some editing.  The focus is the history of the May 1st Labor Day memorial marches.
   As part of our trip we planned to visit Todmorden, the hometown of Samuel Fielden, one of the Haymarket Martyrs.  In the town of Todmorden we not only discovered the roots of Samuel Fielden but also the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, Capitalism, and the Labor Movement.  We became aware of the influence of religion on the radical economic changes of the 18th and 19th centuries.

   The Chicago’s Haymarket Riot has always been a fascinating story for me.  I was born and grew up in Chicago, but Joanne and I have lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for over thirty years and have been active in the labor movement.  Milwaukee workers remember the events in the 1886 struggle for the eight-hour day with an annual first week of May ritual at the monument to those killed in the Bayview Massacre.  We also have a large May 1st march with a focus on rights for immigrant workers. 
   Several demonstrators were gunned down by the Wisconsin National Guard in Bayview, a lakefront suburb just south of downtown Milwaukee.  Polish workers, the latest immigrants to the city, met at St. Stanislaus Church, then marched to the Bayview Rolling Mill in support of the eight-hour day.  At the Rolling Mill they were met with a rain of gunfire from the Polish immigrant manned Kosciuzko Guard.   The Bayview Massacre took place the day after the May 4th 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago where many more were killed by contagious police fire.

   Remembering the Bayview Massacre is made easier by looking at the buildings around the Voces de la Frontera office where we volunteer.  The buildings were constructed around the time of the Bayview tragedy.  St. Stanislaus Church, where it all began, is only a few blocks away.

  The police at the Chicago Haymarket were reacting to a bomb that was thrown and killed a policeman.  Six more policemen died from wounds received in the melee that followed.  It is not known how many bystanders and labor activists were killed.  Samuel Fielden was shot in the leg trying to escape the unintended confrontation.

   Chicago police, prompted by Chicago retail mogul Marshall Field and others, arrested hundreds after the Haymarket killings.  Eight labor leaders were selected to be scapegoats for the Chicago blood bath.   One of them was Samuel Fielden.  Seven of the eight were migrant workers and the other, Albert Parsons, was born in Montgomery Alabama and was a member of the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  Parsons had ancestors who fought in the U.S. War of Independence.  

   Albert Parsons has a Milwaukee connection; Parsons, his wife Lucy, and their two children fled to the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha immediately after the Haymarket incident.  They stayed with the Hoan family. One of the Hoan children, Daniel, became the second of three Socialist mayors in Milwaukee.  He was Milwaukee mayor from 1916 to 1940.

   When the trial in Chicago began, Parsons turned himself in.  When he arrived at the court he stated, “I present myself for trial with my comrades, your honor.”  Without Parsons the trial would have been simply a judgment of migrant workers, and perhaps it would have been easier to gain sympathy for the trial and its verdict from the public.

   Those brought to trial were called anarchists because of their association with a group called the “International Working People’s Association.” One of them was Samuel Fielden of Todmorden, England.  Fielden, born in 1847, emigrated to the U.S. as a young man of 21 and became a labor activist.

   The eight were convicted of murder in a notorious trial that failed to connect any of them with the killings.  One was given a fifteen year prison sentence; the others were condemned to death including Samuel Fielden.  Of the seven condemned to death, four were hanged, one committed suicide or perhaps was murdered, and the sentences of Fielden and one other condemned to death were commuted to life in prison.  The commutation decision was delivered the day before the hangings. The three that remained in prison were eventually pardoned in 1893, Samuel Fielden being one of those pardoned. Governor Altgeld, when he issued his pardon, said, “These men are not being pardoned because they have suffered enough, but because they are innocent.”

   The violence to repress the eight-hour movement, the subsequent Haymarket trial and hangings, indicated a serious flaw in the capitalist system which has never been resolved.
Anarchists point out that the legal system is often used as the enemy of the working class. A current example would be the Milwaukee Palermo Pizza strike.

   Joanne and I found Samuel Fielden a fascinating labor icon to study because he was a man of Faith, a family man and a labor activist.  We both are volunteers at an immigrant workers center called Voces de la Frontera.  Voces includes The New Sanctuary Movement which works with families and others on the cusp of deportation.  Our volunteer work is mostly with the New Sanctuary section.  Sam fits well for us as a role model.   Both of us are descendants of Irish-German immigrants and we are active in the Latino Labor Community.  We found the struggle of 19th century migrant workers instructive and inspiring,
   The 1886 struggle for the eight-hour day and the Haymarket Riot prompted the celebration of May Day as the International Day of Solidarity for labor.  I remember as high school teachers in Bolivia, Joanne and I were required to march in the annual May Day parade.  We heard speeches commemorating “Los Martires de Chicago.”  I often wondered how many working class people in Chicago knew about the ‘Chicago Martyrs?’

   Years later we saw murals in Mexico City depicting the Haymarket Martyrs.  One was by Diego Rivera in the Palace of Justice and the other appears in a union hall.

   In my next edition I will take you to Ireland and to Killary, the Irish fiord, then on to the charming town of Todmordon, the birthplace of Samuel Fielden, a town nestled in a valley, surrounded by the famous moors of Central England.

Monday, April 8, 2013

May 1st March, an Historical Perspective

   Voces de la Frontera’s annual May 1st March is for worker rights and focuses on immigration reform while referencing itself to the historic May 1st marches in the past.

   The story begins in 1886 when the Knights of Labor – a national labor union – campaigned for the eight-hour day.  In Chicago two demonstrations resulted in police violence.  A demonstration of workers, mostly immigrants from Germany, at Chicago’s Haymarket, between Desplaines and Halsted Streets, resulted in several being killed.  Although the workers had a permit for the public meeting, those thought to have organized the meeting were indicted and convicted of murder.  Four were executed by the state of Illinois. Those indicted and convicted are called the Haymarket Martyrs and have been memorialized in May 1st marches since the 1890’s mostly in Europe and Latin America.

   A few days after the ‘Haymarket,’ a group of Polish workers in Milwaukee gathered at St. Stanislaus Church to march to the Bay View Rolling Mills to demand an eight-hour day.  The marchers were met with gunfire from the Wisconsin National Guard and several workers were killed. This event in labor history is chronicled as the Bay View Massacre.  The Milwaukee confrontation is not well known, but Milwaukee workers remember and so do the immigrant workers of Voces de la Frontera remember as they march on May 1st for immigration reform and the rights of all workers.

   The above is a brief review of the events that are memorialized in the May 1st Marches since the 1890’s.  The next postings will provide a more detailed account of the “Haymarket Riot” and the “Bay View Massacre,” starting Tuesday, April 16th and for successive Tuesdays.

  The story is related from the point of view of a trip to England to learn more about Samuel Fielden, an Immigrant from England and one of the “Haymarket Martyrs.” Again, a new posting will be made every Tuesday starting on April 16th .

Monday, April 1, 2013



For starters let’s register some opinions and facts -

The U.S. Declaration of Independence states:

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights Governments are instituted among Men, deriving there just powers from the consent of the governed.

The U.S. Constitution:

We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.

Nature, (synderesis): The human person naturally seeks the ‘Good.’   Evil is chosen because it is perceived as ‘good’ – common sense choices tend to be correct and are morally good.

Human dignity: The human being is specifically different from the rest of nature in that a person can know and know that she/he knows.  The person has the natural right to freely choose - to pursue happiness in community as a fulfillment of the reason for existence.

If the mind cannot know the essence of a being and can only rely on knowledge, that is, a collection of similar individuals, then a statement about the collection is a statement that, at best, is more or less true.  “All men are created equal” can simply mean white male property owners living in the U.S.A.  This limited concept of equality can change if we expand the meaning through new legislation, or the concept is broadened by a court battle.  The ‘dignity of man,’ the right to a labor union,  a voice in the workplace and civil society would be unheard of without well defined power legislation and contentious court battles. “What about the squirrels?”  This is not ‘humanity’ as understood by Julian of Norwich.  The movement of ‘individualism’ dictates the role of government in protecting these human rights; it emphasizes the individual, not the community.   

Common sense: looks to a guide for moral decisions, then makes a judgment.  This guide, the circumstances and the situation are all factors to consider.  Courage and faith to choose the best solution and then to act is key, especially since often there is no certainty that the apparent best solution will work.  (Abraham Lincoln had faith – see John Burt, A Tragic Pragmatism, Harvard Press, 2013)

Common Good: “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or individuals to reach their fulfillment more easily.” (Gaudium et Spes, para. 26.)

Natural Law: Rational by nature, the human person should choose to do that which is reasonable. (From the Epicureans, Stoics, Thomas Aquinas.)

   President Lincoln faced the dilemma of the Declaration of Independence stating that “all men are created equal” with a right to the fruits of their labor, yet the Constitution supported slavery.  Slavery, of course, is a labor problem and is still relevant.  For some this was not a dilemma; it was just a fact of life.  Some, because of their situation were not to be considered as persons with rights to be protected.  “All are created equal” is similar to Catholic Social Teaching’s “Dignity of Man” therefore workers have a right to a voice in the workplace – a union.  Lincoln’s understanding of “All are created equal” was different than that of Jefferson or that of John Locke (1632-1704), the Oxford ‘enlightenment’ promoter of common sense. Locke and Jefferson were empiricists, whereas Lincoln was an ‘essentialist’ who understood      humanity in terms of essence as the ancient Greeks, Romans and the realist scholastics of the Middle Ages.  Common sense for Lincoln meant that “All are created equal” and he referred to ‘humanity’ not just as white, male, property owners.  Gary Wills says that Lincoln in the Gettysburg address refers to the Declaration of Independence and presents a new understanding of the phrase “all are created equal.”  Lincoln’s words go beyond Jefferson and they redefine the Republic.  At the funeral oratory of Gettysburg, Lincoln announced a “new birth of freedom.”

   Wills traces Lincoln’s ‘essentialism’ back to the Lincoln/Douglas debates.  Lincoln opposed the Kansas – Nebraska Act which would have allowed the people of these new territories to vote on slavery.  For Lincoln this was not an issue that could be decided by a vote.  For Lincoln slavery was wrong, against the American principle of equality and couldn’t be sanctioned by a positive vote.  Such is the voice of common sense.

    Lincoln’s reasons are those of the Transcendentalists.  As Unitarians with a developed philosophy and theology, they proposed that justice transcends law. Let’s consider one Transcendentalist, George Bancroft.  He wrote the following concerning the Declaration of Independence:  “The bill of rights which it promulgates is of rights that are older than human institutions, and spring from the eternal justice.” (Gary Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg, Simon & Schuster, 1992, p. 104.)

   Consider the words of Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Nature, is the incarnation of thought … the world is mind precipitated.”  (ibid. p. 103)  These comments reflect Lincoln’s realism; he went beyond the empiricism of Jefferson and Locke.

   Epistemological realism also influenced Lincoln’s position on secession.  Lincoln admitted in his first inaugural address that some states have spoken for disunion but not the people, “my rightful masters.”  “Otherwise, ‘The United States (would) be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of a contract (or pact) merely.’” (Ibid. p. 130)  There is opposition to Lincoln’s view to this day, as President Reagan liked to put it, “the federal government hadn’t created the states; the states created the federal government.” But the Constitution states: We the people – not we the states.
Notre Dame professor of law Vincent Rougeau writes: 

Catholicism in particular has long instructed that true individual flourishing can occur only the within the context of a web of human relationships. This culturally, heterogeneous situated understanding of human well being is an accepted part of political philosophies around the world but it has been rejected in the United States in favor of a contractarian understanding of rights…
(Vincent Rougeau, Christians in the American Empire, Oxford, 2008, p. 17.)   

   Lincoln’s realism went beyond that of Aristotle, the Stoics and Thomas Aquinas who supported natural slavery.  It was not the realism of Karl Marx who infused his doctrine of historical materialism into Hegel’s spiritual thrust of history.   It was a realism comparable to that of Bartolomé de las Casas, who eventually opposed slavery in Latin America.  Lincoln added the dimension of democracy as a right and a necessity for humanity. Marx saw the “spirit of history” in matter and came up with historical materialism.  Lincoln saw the “spirit of history” as a creative destiny in the people and in democracy.  People and politics are difficult at best to predict.  Lincoln’s democracy did not have Marx’s certitude of historical materialism or the Calvanist confidence of  Manifest Destiny.   

   Manifest Destiny is an idealistic philosophy and a theology that fueled support for the war with Mexico (1846-1848).  It was a doctrine of expansionism and racism that Lincoln as a U.S congressman opposed.  Michael Hogan cites Mexican scholar Bergoña Arteta as documenting clearly:   “the connection between the invasion of Mexico in 1846 and the doctrines of Calvinism, Manifest Destiny, expansionism, coupled with Anglo Saxon belief in racial superiority …”  (Hogan, Michael, The Irish Soldiers of Mexico, Custom Book Tique, Quebec, Canada, 2011, p.107.)

Such is the Civil War climate that Lincoln faced and that we continue to experience.  For example, the neo-cons ironically are born out of classical thought like Lincoln.  They follow Professor Leo Straus and classical philosophy, but it should be  remembered that Aristotle and St. Thomas supported natural slavery.      
   The common sense meaning of “all men are created equal” is a philosophical problem for epistemology.  John Courtney Murray, S.J. wrote:
Every proposition, if it is to be argued, supposes an epistemology of some sort.  The epistemology of the American Proposition was, I think by the Declaration of Independence by the famous phrase, ‘We hold these truths …’ (p. viii)
… What cannot be questioned, however, is that the American Proposition rests on the forthright assertion of a realist epistemology.” (p. viii) 
…In this matter philosophical reflection does not augment the data of common sense.  It merely analyzes, penetrates, and organizes them in their full abstractness; this does not, however, remove them from vital contact with their primitive source in experience. (p.329)
         (John Courtney Murray, We Hold These Truths, Sheed & Ward, New York, 1960)   
    John Burt’s book, Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism, promises to give a thorough review of Lincoln’s philosophical understanding of common sense.  ‘Tragic Pragmatism’…what is that?  Book reviewer, Steven B. Smith, explains: “Burt argues that Lincoln’s decision to pursue a politics of principle over deal making was an act of faith.”  But where will this mystical destiny take us? (Steven B. Smith, “Book Review – N.Y. Times,” Feb. 17, 2013)

   Could emancipation of the slaves move the nation anywhere but a new freedom?   Samuel Fielden reflected on the results of the U.S. Civil War in his death row autobiography.  Fielden was an immigrant from Todmorden, England who became a labor movement leader in Chicago.  He was caught up in Chicago’s Haymarket Riot in 1886 and sentenced to death. In his reflections he wrote about working in the southern United States after the Civil War and the Negro.

    I worked before my return to the north in the states of Louisiana,         Mississippi and Arkansas, and I took every opportunity I could to learn about the condition of the Negro, and I learned he was as much a bondsman as ever he was, and in many cases worse. 
(Philip S. Forner, end, Autobiographies of the Haymarket Martyrs,  Monad Press, New York, 1969, p.151)

Fielden was pardoned by Illinois Governor John Altged in 1893.

   The story continued and continues, “American democracy remains a work in progress.” (Ibid. p. 14)  Faith in the destiny of democracy and humanity is key.

    I’m not an anti-clerical Argentinean, but if Newt Gingrich is excited about the new Pope Francis there must be more than something wrong.
   The color, the pageantry, the smoke, the screaming crowds – but – we end up with an old white man carrying the baggage of horrible murders in Argentina as Pope – how depressing. Is this something more to cover-up?   Faith too easily slips into the denial of reality and belief in staged fantasy. But there is the possibility that there is something more.