The Intellectual Foundations of Political Economy | Pepperdine University | School of Public Policy

The Intellectual Foundations of Political Economy

19th Century Socialist Thinkers


Letters From an Inhabitant

Saint-Simon

First Letter Second Letter

FIRST LETTER

I have addressed this plan directly to humanity because it interests humanity collectively. But I have not succumbed to the mad hope of seeing it suddenly put into effect. I have always thought that success would depend on the efforts made by persons of great influence on this occasion. The best way to win their approval is to clarify the question as much as possible. That is the purpose of my addressing the different sections of humanity, which I divide into three classes: the first (to which you and I are honoured to belong under the standard of the progress of the human mind, and is composed of the scientists, artists, and all men of liberal ideas; on the banner of the second is written 'no innovation' - all the property owners who do not belong to the first class are attached to the second.

The third class, which rallies to the word 'equality, comprises the rest of humanity.

To the first class I shall say: everyone with whom I have discussed my plan for humanity has approved it in the end, usually after quite a short discussion. The have all told me that they wish it success, but at the same time they have all revealed a fear that the plan will not succeed.

In view of the unanimity of their opinion, it seems likely that I shall find all men, or at least the majority, similarly disposed. If this prediction is correct, only the force of inertia will stand in the way of my ideas.

Scientists, artists, and also those of you who devote some of your power and resources to the progress of enlightenment: you are the section of humanity with the greatest intellectual energy, the section most able to appreciate a new idea, and most directly interested in the subscription's success. It is up to you to defeat the force of inertia. So, mathematicians; as you are the vanguard, begin!

Scientists, artists: look with your eye of genius at the present condition of the human mind. You will see that the sceptre of public opinion is in your hands. Seize it vigorously! You can secure your own happiness as well as that of your contemporaries. You can protect posterity against the evils which we have suffered and those which we still endure. Subscribe, all of you.

I shall then speak as follows to the property owners of the second class:

Gentlemen,

Compared with those who do not own property you are numerically very small. Why, then, are they willing to obey you? It is because your superior enlightenment enables you to combine your powers against them, and this is usually enough to give you the advantage in the natural and inevitable struggle which always exists between you and them.

Once this principle has been established, it is clearly in your interest to admit to your ranks all the non-proprietors who prove their intellectual superiority through their important discoveries. It is equally clear that as this is in the interest of the whole of your class, every member should contribute . . .

As long as you do not adopt my proposal, gentlemen, each of you will be exposed, in your own particular country, to such calamities as have befallen those members of your class living in France. You need only reflect upon the course of events in that country since 1789 to be convinced of what I am saying. The first popular movement there was secretly stirred up by the scientists and artists. As soon as the insurrection assumed legitimacy, through its success, they declared themselves to be its leaders. When their attempt to destroy every institution which offended their self-esteem met with resistance, they aroused the ignorant even more, breaking all the links of subordination which checked the fiery passions of the non-proprietors. They succeeded in their aim: all the institutions they originally intended to destroy were inevitably overthrown. In short, they won the battle and you lost it. The cost of victory was high; but you who were defeated suffered even more. Some scientists and artists, victims of their army's insubordination, were massacred by their own soldiers. From the moral point of view they all had to endure your reproaches, as they appeared to be responsible for the atrocities committed against you, and for all the disorder their mob had caused through the savage impulse of their ignorance.

Once the misfortunes had reached their height, the remedy became possible. You offered no more resistance. The scientists and artists, having learned from experience, and recognising your superiority in enlightenment over the non-proprietors, wanted you to be given the necessary power to regulate the organisation of society. The non-proprietors had to suffer almost the whole burden of the famine, which was the outcome of the extravagant measures to which they had been led. They were curbed.

The French population, although forced by circumstances to seek a return to order, could only be reorganised socially by a man of genius. Bonaparte undertook the task and succeeded.

In the course of presenting my ideas to you, I have expressed the view that you lost the battle. If you still have any doubts on this score, compare the esteem and the comforts enjoyed by French scientists and artists today with their situation before 1789.

Avoid a quarrel with these men, gentlemen, for you will be defeated in every war you allow them to fight against you. You will suffer more than they will during the hostilities, and peace will be to your disadvantage. Show your worth and do with a good grace what sooner or later the scientists. artists. and men of liberal ideas, reunited with the non-proprietors, would compel you to do. Subscribe, all of you. It is the only way to prevent the misfortunes I now see threatening you.

Now that this matter has been broached, let us have the courage not to leave it until we have glanced at the political situation in the most enlightened part of the globe.

In Europe the activity of governments is not at present troubled by any ostensible opposition from the governed. But in view of the climate of opinion in England, Germany, and Italy, it is easy to see that this calm will not last for long unless the necessary precautions are taken in time. For, gentlemen, the fact does not have to be concealed from you that the present crisis of the human mind is common to all enlightened peoples. The symptoms that were to be observed in France during that country's terrible explosion are now visible (to the intelligent observer) among the English and even the Germans.

Gentlemen, by adopting my proposal, you will reduce the crises which these peoples must undergo (and which no power on earth can prevent) to simple governmental and financial changes, and you will save them from the kind of general upheaval experienced by the French, an upheaval which upsets social relations so that anarchy, the greatest of all scourges, is free to play havoc until it finally plunges the whole nation into such misery that the souls of the most ignorant are filled with the desire to see order restored . . .

I now take pleasure in presenting this plan from a point of view which will appeal to your self-esteem. Think of yourselves as men who control the progress of the human mind. You can play this role, because through the subscription you can give the men of genius esteem and ease, and since it is a provision of this subscription that those who are elected should not occupy any governmental posts, you will thereby be protecting yourselves and the rest of humanity from the danger which would arise if they were given direct power.

Experience has proved that new, powerful and just conceptions which serve as a basis for discoveries are, to begin with, usually mixed up with false ideas. In spite of this the inventor, if he had his way, would often apply these conceptions. This is one particular example of the kind of danger involved, but there is another which is absolutely general: Every time that a discovery, in order to be put into practice, requires a change in people's habits, it is a treasure which the existing generation should enjoy only through its affection for the generation destined to benefit from it. I shall end this short discourse, which I venture to address to you, gentlemen, by saying that if you remain in the second class it is only because you choose to do sob for you have the power to rise to the first.

Finally, I speak to the third class:

My Friends,

In England there are many scientists. Educated Englishmen have more respect for scientists than for kings. In England everyone knows how to read, write, and count. And, my friends, in this country the workers in the towns and even in the country eat meat every day!

In Russia, when a scientist displeases the Emperor, they cut off his nose and ears, and send him to Siberia. In Russia the peasants are as ignorant as their horses. And, my friends, the Russian peasants are badly fed, badly clothed, and badly beaten!

Hitherto the rich have done nothing except order you about. Force them to educate themselves and instruct you. They make you put your hands to work for them; make them put their heads to work for you. Do them a service by relieving them of the heavy weight of their boredom. They pay you with money; pay them with respect. Respect is a very precious currency. Fortunately, even the poorest man possesses some of it. If you spend what you have sensibly, your condition will quickly improve. So that you can judge my advice, and can appreciate the possible advantages of executing my plan for humanity, I shall have to elaborate it. I shall concentrate on those details which seem to me to be most essential.

A scientist, my friends, is a man who predicts. It is because science provides the means of making predictions that it is useful, and that scientist are superior to all other men. All known phenomena have been divided into different classes. Here is one classification which has been adopted: astronomical, physical, chemical, and physiological phenomena. Every man engaged in scientific work has a particular interest in one of these fields. Some of the predictions which astronomers make are known to you. For example, you know that they announce eclipses. But they make many other predictions with which you are not concerned, and which I shall not bother to discuss now. I just want to say a few words about the applications of this knowledge, the usefulness of which is well known to you. Astronomical predictions have enabled us to determine the exact positions of different points on the earth. They have also provided a means of navigating on the largest seas. You are familiar with some of the predictions of chemists. A chemist tells you what stone to use to make lime, and what stone not to use. He tells you how you can bleach your linen by using a certain quantity of ashes from one kind of tree, or a larger quantity from another tree. He tells you what to expect, by way of appearance and quality, when you mix two substances together.

When you are ill the physiologist (who is concerned with organic phenomena) tells you: you will try such a thing today, and tomorrow you will be in such a condition.

Do not think I am suggesting that scientists can predict everything. They certainly cannot. I am indeed certain that they can predict accurately only a very small number of things. But you will agree that it is the scientists, working in their various fields, who are able to make the most predictions. We can be certain of that, since they only acquired their scientific reputations through the verifications which were made of their predictions. That, at least, is how things stand today; but it has not always been so. This requires us to look at the progress of the human mind . . .

The first phenomena to be observed systematically were astronomical phenomena. There is a good reason for this: they are the simplest phenomena. When astronomical studies first began, man confused the facts he observed with those he imagined, and through this elementary rigmarole he made the best calculations he could in order to satisfy all the demands of prediction. He then successively relinquished those facts created by his imagination, and finally, after a great deal of work, he was able to adopt a certain method of perfecting this science. Astronomers no longer accepted any facts which were not verified by observation. They chose the best system of linking these facts, and they have not put a foot wrong in science since then . . .

Because chemical phenomena are more complex than astronomical phenomena, it was a long time before man began to study them. In chemistry he repeated the same mistakes he had made in the study of astronomy. Finally, however, the chemists rid themselves of the alchemists.

Physiology is still at the undeveloped stage through which the astronomical and chemical sciences have passed. The physiologists must expel the philosophers, moralists, and metaphysicians, just as the astronomers expelled the astrologers, and the chemists expelled the alchemists.

My friends, we ourselves are organic bodies. It is by considering our social relations as physiological phenomena that I have conceived the present plan; and by using ideas borrowed from the system of linking physiological facts I shall prove that the plan is a good one.

A fact proved by a long series of observations is that every man experiences to a certain extent the desire to dominate all other men. Reason clearly confirms one thing: every man who is not isolated is both actively and passively involved in relations of domination with other men.

I urge you to make use of the small degree of domination you exercise over the rich. But before going any further I must examine a fact which grieves you greatly. You may say: we are ten, twenty, a hundred times more numerous than the property owners; yet the property owners dominate us much more than we dominate them. I concede, my friends, that it is most vexing. But you must observe that the property owners, although inferior in numbers, are more enlightened than you, and that for the sake of the general good, domination should be proportionate to enlightenment. Look at what happened in France when your comrades were in control: they caused a famine.

Let me return to my proposal. By adopting and then executing it, you will place permanently in the hands of humanity's twenty-one most enlightened men the two great instruments of domination: respect and money. For a thousand reasons the result will be rapid progress in the sciences. It is recognised that every scientific advance makes the study of the sciences that much easier. Thus, those who, like yourselves, can devote only a small amount of time to their education will be able to learn more, and by becoming more educated they will lessen the domination exercised over them by the rich. You will not have to wait long, my friends, for favourable results . . .

Let us now consider the artists.

On Sundays eloquence charms you. It gives you pleasure to read a well-written book, to see beautiful paintings and statues, or to listen to a captivating piece of music. It takes a great deal of work to speak or write in an entertaining manner, to create a pleasing painting or statue, or to compose interesting music. Is it not perfectly fair, my friends, that you should reward the artists who fill your leisure time with the most intellectually satisfying pleasures by stimulating the most delicate aspects of your feelings?

Subscribe, all of you, my friends. However small your individual subscriptions, there are so many of you that the total sum will be considerable. Besides, those who are elected will be held in such great esteem that their strength will be incalculable. The rich, you will see, will strive to distinguish themselves in the sciences and the arts when that is the route which leads to the highest degree of respect . . .

If you accept my plan you will have only one problem to face: the choice. I shall tell you, my friends, what I would do. I would ask all the mathematicians I know, who, in their opinion, are the three best mathematicians, and I would nominate the three mathematicians who received the most votes from those persons I consulted. I would do the same for the physicists. Etc.

My friend,

After dividing humanity into three sections, and presenting each of them with the arguments in favour of my plan. I shall now address my contemporaries collectively, and present them with my reflections on the French Revolution.

The suppression of the privileges of birth, the strain of which broke the bonds of social organisation, was not an obstacle to social reorganisation; but the frequent appeal to all members of society to assume the functions of a deliberate assembly was unsuccessful. Apart from the terrible atrocities to which such an application of the principle of equality naturally led, by placing power in the hands of the ignorant, it finally gave rise to an absolutely impracticable form of government under which there were so many rulers (including, in the end, the non-proprietors) that the labour of the governed was insufficient to maintain them. This led to a result which was absolutely contrary to the most steadfast desire of the non- proprietors: to pay low taxes.

Here is an idea which seems sound: The primary needs of life are the most important. The non-proprietors cannot satisfy them completely. To a physiologist it is clear that their most steadfast desire should be to decrease taxation or increase wages, which amounts to the same thing.

I believe that all social classes would benefit from this organisation: spiritual power in the hands or the savants;; temporal power in the hands of the property owners; the power to elect the leaders of humanity in the hands of everyone; the reward of the rulers, respect.

Let us continue tomorrow, my friend. I think that is enough for today.

Is it an apparition? Is it only a dream? I do not know; but I am certain that I did experience what I am now about to recount.

Last night I heard these words:

'Rome will renounce its claim to be the headquarters of my Church. The Pope, the cardinals, bishops, and priests will cease speaking in my name. Man will be filled with shame for his ungodliness in recognising such improvident men as my representatives .

'I forbade Adam to make the distinction between good and evil. He disobeyed me. I expelled him from paradise, but I provided his descendants with the means of appeasing my wrath: If they work to perfect themselves through the knowledge of good and evil, I shall improve their condition. The day will come when I shall make a paradise of the earth.

'All men who have founded religions received their power from me, but they did not clearly understand my instructions. They all believed that I shared my divine knowledge with them. Their self-esteem led them to draw a dividing-line between good and evil in the most trifling aspects of man's life. But they all neglected the most essential part of their mission: to found an establishment which will provide human intelligence with the quickest way of returning indefinitely to the care of my divine providence. They all forgot to warn my priests that I would take away from them the power to speak in my name once they were no longer more learned than their flock, and allowed themselves to be dominated by the temporal power.

'Hear this: I have placed Newton at my side, to control enlightenment and command the inhabitants of all planets. Hear this also: the man who proved himself to be the greatest enemy of enlightenment {Robespierre) has been hurled into darkness, and is destined to remain there for eternity, agent and object of my vengeance.

'The assembly of the twenty-one elect of humanity will be called the Council of Newton. The Council of Newton will represent me on earth. It will divide humanity into four divisions: English, French, German, Italian. Each division will have its own council, with the same composition as the council-in-chief. Every man, in whatever part of the globe he lives, will be associated with one of these divisions, and will subscribe for both the council-in-chief and his own divisional council. Every man who fails to obey this commandment will be regarded and treated by others as an animal. Women will be allowed to subscribe and stand for election. After their deaths the faithful will receive the treatment they earned for themselves during their lives.

'Members of the divisional councils will have to be approved by the council-in-chief, which will admit only those men who have demonstrated the most superior knowledge, each in the particular field for which he has been elected.

'The inhabitants of any part of the globe, whatever its location and size, may at any time establish their own section within a particular division, and elect their own Council of Newton. The members of this council will have to be approved by the divisional council. Permanent delegations from the divisional councils will attend the council-in-chief. Similarly, delegations from the sectional councils will attend their divisional council. These delegations will consist of seven members, one from each class.

'In every council the mathematician who receives the most votes will be president.

'Every council will be divided into two divisions: the first will be composed of the first four classes, and the second of the last three classes. When the second division assembles separately, its president will be the author who receives the most votes.

'Every council will have a temple built containing a mausoleum in honour of Newton. This temple will be divided into two parts: the one containing the mausoleum will be decorated by the artists, who should use all the resources at their disposal; the other part will be constructed and decorated so as to give men an idea of the eternal fate which awaits all those who hinder the progress of the sciences and the arts. The mausoleum of Newton will lead down into an underground temple.

'The first division will control the form of worship inside the mausoleum. No human beings other than members of the first divisions of the councils will be allowed to enter the underground temple without the president's express permission.

'The second division of the council will control the form of worship outside the mausoleum, making sure that a majestic and brilliant spectacle is presented. Every distinguished service to humanity, every action which has been of great use to the propagation of the faith will be honoured. The assembled council will decide what honours are to be awarded.

'All the faithful who live at least one day's walk away from a temple will go down into the mausoleum of Newton once each year through an entrance consecrated for that purpose. Children will be brought there by their parents as soon as possible after their birth. Everyone who fails to obey this commandment will be regarded by the faithful as an enemy of the religion.

'Any mortal who enters the mausoleum may be transported to another planet if Newton considers it to be necessary for my purpose.

'Laboratories, workshops, and a college will be built in the vicinity of the temple. All magnificence will be confined to the temple. The laboratories and workshops, the college, and the residences of councillors and council delegations will be built and decorated in a simple fashion. The library will never contain more than five hundred volumes.

'Each year every councillor will nominate five persons:

'First, a deputy who will have the right to a seat and a deliberative vote when the councillor who nominates him is absent.

'Secondly, a minister, chosen from the five hundred most generous subscribers, who will officiate at major ceremonies.

'Thirdly, one person whose work has contributed to the progress of the sciences and the arts.

'Fourthly, one person who has made useful applications of the sciences and the arts.

'Fifthly, one person for whom the councillor has a particular affection.

'These nominations will not be valid until they have been approved by a majority of the council, and they will be renewed each year. Nominees will hold office for one year only, after which they will be eligible for re-election.

'The president of each council will nominate a guardian of the holy territory on which the temple and its out-buildings stand. The guardian will be an agent of the police. He will be the treasurer, administering all expenses according to the orders of the council. He will be chosen from the hundred most generous subscribers, and will have the right to a council seat. His nomination will not be valid until it has been approved by a majority of the council.

'Distinctive badges will be made for the councillors and their nominees. They will be made in such a way that they can be shown or hidden according to the wishes of those who wear them.

'The council-in-chief will have an office in every division, and will reside in a different division each year.

'The founder of this religion will be a man of great power. As a reward he will have the right to join all the councils and preside over them. He will retain this right for life, and after his death he will be buried in the tomb of Newton. The faithful will give him the title Captain of the Newtonian Guard.

'All men will work. They will all regard themselves as workers attached to a workshop whose task is to raise human intelligence to the level of my divine providence. The Council-in-Chief of Newton will supervise this work, and will do its best to achieve a thorough understanding of the effects of universal gravitation, which is the single law to which I have subjected the universe.

'The council-in-chief will have the right to increase or decrease the number of divisional councils.

'All the Councils of Newton will respect the division between spiritual and temporal power.

'As soon as elections for the council-in-chief and the divisional councils have taken place, Europe will be for ever rid of the scourge of war.

'Hear this: Europeans are the children of Abel. Asia and Africa are inhabited by the descendants of Cain. Just observe how bloodthirsty these Africans are. Look at the indolence of the Asians. These impure men gave up their first attempt to raise themselves to the level of my divine providence. Europeans will unite their forces and free their Greek brothers from the domination of the Turks. The founder of the religion will be commander-in-chief of the armies of the faithful. These armies will subject the children of Cain to the religion, and cover the entire earth with defences for the protection of the members of the Councils of Newton. who will make all the journeys they consider necessary for the progress of the human mind.'

Sleep .

When I awoke I found what you have just read engraved quite clearly on my memory.

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SECOND LETTER

 It was God who had spoken to me. Could a man have invented a religion superior to all those that have ever existed? It would first of all have to be supposed that none of them was of divine origin. Look at the religion revealed to me! See how clear its basic principle is, and how certain it is to be executed. The obligation is imposed on everyone to constantly use their personal powers for the benefit of humanity. The hands of the poor will continue to nourish the rich but the rich man is commanded to put his brain to work, and if his brain is not up to the task, he will then have to work with his hands For Newton will certainly not allow any workers to remain useless on thus planet (which is one of the nearest to the sun)

We shall no longer have a religion whose ministers have the right to elect the leaders of humanity. All the faithful will nominate their guides, every year. And the qualities by which they will recognise God's chosen representatives will no longer be insignificant virtues such as chastity and continence; they will be real talents the greatest talents.

I shall not prolong this subject. Every man who believes in revelation will inevitably be convinced that only God could have provided humanity with a means of forcing each of its members to follow the rule of brotherly love.

 

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