It is to you, O thoughtful and considerate public, that I dedicate this book. May it, under the providence of God, do good to this generation and posterity!
I earnestly hope my meaning, in the writing thereof, may not be misapprehended.
It must not be thought, because I am constrained to describe the overthrow of civilization, that I desire it. The prophet is not responsible for the event he foretells. He may contemplate it with profoundest sorrow. Christ wept over the doom of Jerusalem.
Neither am I an anarchist: for I paint a dreadful picture of the world-wreck which successful anarchism would produce.
I seek to preach into the ears of the able and rich and powerful the great truth that neglect of the sufferings of their fellows, indifference to the great bond of brotherhood which lies at the base of Christianity, and blind, brutal and degrading worship of mere wealth, must--given time and pressure enough--eventuate in the overthrow of society and the destruction of civilization.
I come to the churches with my heart filled with the profoundest respect for the essentials of religion; I seek to show them why they have lost their hold upon the poor,--upon that vast multitude, the best-beloved of God's kingdom,--and I point out to them how they may regain it. I tell them that if Religion is to reassume her ancient station, as crowned mistress of the souls of men, she must stand, in shining armor bright, with the serpent beneath her feet, the champion and defender of mankind against all its oppressors.
The world, to-day, clamors for deeds, not creeds; for bread, not dogma; for charity, not ceremony; for love, not intellect.
Some will say the events herein described are absurdly impossible.
Who is it that is satisfied with the present unhappy condition of society? It is conceded that life is a dark and wretched failure for the great mass of mankind. The many are plundered to enrich the few. Vast combinations depress the price of labor and increase the cost of the necessaries of existence. The rich, as a rule, despise the poor; and the poor are coming to hate the rich. The face of labor grows sullen; the old tender Christian love is gone; standing armies are formed on one side, and great communistic organizations on the other; society divides itself into two hostile camps; no white flags pass from the one to the other. They wait only for the drum-beat and the trumpet to summon them to armed conflict.
These conditions have come about in less than a century; most of them in a quarter of a century. Multiply them by the years of another century, and who shall say that the events I depict are impossible? There is an acceleration of movement in human affairs even as there is in the operations of gravity. The dead missile out of space at last blazes, and the very air takes fire. The masses grow more intelligent as they grow more wretched; and more capable of cooperation as they become more desperate. The labor organizations of to-day would have been impossible fifty years ago. And what is to arrest the flow of effect from cause? What is to prevent the coming of the night if the earth continues to revolve on its axis? The fool may cry out: "There shall be no night!" But the feet of the hours march unrelentingly toward the darkness.
Some may think that, even if all this be true, "Cæsar's Column" should not have been published. Will it arrest the
moving evil to ignore its presence? What would be thought of the surgeon who, seeing upon his patient's lip the first nodule of the cancer, tells him there is no danger, and laughs him into security while the roots of the monster eat their way toward the great arteries? If my message be true it should be spoken; and the world should hear it. The cancer should be cut out while there is yet time. Any other course
"Will but skin and film the ulcerous place, While rank corruption, mining all beneath, infects unseen."
Believing, as I do, that I read the future aright, it would be criminal in me to remain silent. I plead for higher and nobler thoughts in the souls of men; for wider love and ampler charity in their hearts; for a renewal of the bond of brotherhood between the classes; for a reign of justice on earth that shall obliterate the cruel hates and passions which now divide the world.
If God notices anything so insignificant as this poor book, I pray that he may use it as an instrumentality of good for mankind; for he knows I love his human creatures, and would help them if I had the power.