Category Archives: political

William Harrison Riley, “A Visitor from Luna” (1901)

I am a native of Luna. By what means I reached this earth I shall not, in this brief narrative, explain. It is evident that I am here, this writing being sufficient evidence thereof.
In the ancient, powerful and glorious kingdom of Dementia. (whose flag has braved, ten thousand years, the battle and the breeze) I was introduced as a native-born citizen by my parents (and by gracious permission of the Royal Clerics) in the year of Sanctity 72,942. One year previous to my birth, my parents had purchased a right to become parents from the above-named Royal Clerics; therefore I was legally introduced into Luna.
Before I was one month old, I was carried to one of the offices of the Royal Clerical Emporium, where my parents purchased the right to confer on me the name, Tcej Busa. The Royal Clerics performed a solemn ceremony suitable and essential to the occasion. They lubricated my nose with oil, and publicly informed Jupiter, Saturn and Mars that I was a legal person, with a legal name, and that the regular fees required to establish any person in such a legal position had been duly paid to, and pocketed by, the only genuine agents of the only genuine Emporium.
Jupiter, Saturn and Mars are (as all true Lunatics profess to believe) three persons of one substance, power and eternity. Saturn is the breath of Jupiter, and Mars is the breath of Jupiter and Saturn. Mars is of one substance, majesty and glory with Jupiter and Saturn, very and eternal Sol. There is but one living and true So], everlasting, without body, parts or passions; and this one Sol—having no body nor parts—is composed of three persons: Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Such is the foundation of the simple, logical and sublime belief, of which the King of Dementia is the Protector.
When Sol created mankind he declared the work to be good; yet, strange to say, mankind are born physically imperfect. Of course, this is not Sol’s fault; but it is due to the obstinacy of mankind, who malevolently assume imperfect forms previous to their birth. I was no exception to this lamentable rule, for I had stubbornly caused myself to be born with two ears. In spite of the legality of my conception, I was born in sin and shapen in iniquity. I, alone, was to blame; for the marriage of my parents was sanctified by the Royal Clerics, and Sol, our Creator, cannot err (Pelttileno troflli newteh illimyt sloofno).
When I was six weeks old, an order was issued by the King of Dementia and delivered to my parents by one of his Detective Agents, commanding the removal of my left ear, according to law; and my parents (who were not associates of the “silly clique of anti-amputators”) obeyed the order, and paid the fees.
[It is necessary to explain, that a learned Royal Amputator had discovered that cutting off the left ear was a certain preventative of boils. A patient might suffer internally from poison or from the accumulation of waste matter, and might die in consequence thereof, but no boils or pimples could appear on the skin after the left ear had been amputated—successfully.]
My left ear having been (“successfully”) removed from my head, I had surmounted the third step of legal subjection. I was a legal inhabitant of Luna; I had a legal name; I had a legal constitution. If I died before reaching the age of discretion, I should be transformed into a miburehc—and I couldn’t die of boils.
When I was six years old, I was sent to a school, in which I was taught to spell, write and cipher. I learned how to spell my name, but was never told what I was or whence I came. After a time, however, I was informed by some boys that I was found in a cabbage field, and mother confirmed the statement. When I asked my Sunday-school teacher, he told me I was made of dust; and when I asked him who made me, he said it was Sol,
Now I was an exceedingly precocious boy, insomuch that I was often spoken of as the meddlesome question-asker, and I asked many questions about Sol. I asked where Sol was; and some told me he was in Heaven, and others said “he is everywhere.” Then I asked: “Is Sol alive?” and was answered, “Yes, He is the ever-living Sol.” “But,” said I, “he—he can’t move! There is no place to move to when he is everywhere to begin with.” Then I was reproved, and told that something very dreadful was sure to happen to me.
At another time, I asked: “Is Sol a person?Has he—has he got a head?” For that question I was punished, and was told to pray to Sol to give me faith and knowledge; but I retorted: “If you have prayed and got the knowledge, why don’t you tell me if Sol has got a head and legs and things like we have?”
Often, I wanted to pray; but I had no idea of the being I was told to address. Praying to the air, merely, seemed like praying to nothing. Then I reasoned—for, alas! I was an unregenerate boy and was tempted by the omnipresent, everlasting Serpent. I argued thus: “If Sol is everywhere, he cannot have any shape; and I cannot think of such a being.” Then I tried to pray, and I said: “Help me, oh Sol, of whom I know nothing—of whom I cannot even think.”
The fourth step of legal advancement was “Ratification.” At the solemn ceremony of nose-oiling, my parents had pledged their word that I believed all the articles of the Saturnalian faith; and in consideration of that pledge, and of other reasonable, faithful and veracious pledges (and a pecuniary fee) the Royal Clerics had declared me Regenerate. Alas! I was a miserable little sinner, a downright heretic!
The inhabitants of the kingdom of Sundia did not profess to worship Sol, as we did; but were idolatrous Heathen, who worshipped the universe; and therefore our king sent an army of our people to conquer the Sundians. Our soldiers killed many thousands of the Heathen, and burned their towns; but, after a few months, our army was driven from the country with the army of the enemy following closely behind. When our army in its retreat passed through the town I lived in they set fire to it, to destroy it, so that the enemy might not get possession of it. My parents died in the conflagration. I was having a day in the country, and thus I escaped.
The people talked of “the enemy” almost unceasingly; but I could not help thinking that our greatest enemies were the King of Dementia and his hired agents, and I laid to their charge the murder of my parents.
I was adopted by an uncle, for whom I worked several years. I toiled hard for scanty food, and was told that I should be grateful for the opportunity.
In Dementia, every square yard of land is owned as private property, except such portions as are occupied by roads, streets, prisons and a few other small government properties, and I found that I had no legal right to live anywhere, except in prison, unless some private owner of a portion of the land of my birth sold me permission to live on his portion. And how was I to get the means of purchasing such permission? I had no legal right to compel any private individual to hire me as his servant. I was a legal person, with a legal name and a legal constitution, but I had no legal right to live except in a prison, a poorhouse or a lunatic asylum. I hoped to find equitable statutes on this planet.
The legal right to own the land of Dementia as private property is based upon conquest. The proprietors are the heirs of foreign soldiers who invaded Dementia, drove the people off their farms and destroyed their villages. And our King (by the grace of Sol) claims to be a direct descendant of the chief of the invading, conquering, devastating army of murderers, and the lineage is considered honorable. I hoped to find wiser ideas on this planet.
During my nine years of servitude in Dementia I felt rebellious towards society and its statutes. I felt that I was under no moral obligation to respect the statutes. I had entered into no contract, and therefore could not break one. I had not even been asked or even permitted to endorse the statutes. They were not in conformity with the laws of Sol, as revealed by Nature, and were not even in conformity with the laws of the Book of Sol—the book which Dementian society professed to reverence and implicitly believe. The book emphatically recognised the right of the people to live by free labor. It commanded that the land should be equitably shared amongst the people. It forbade usury, and it denounced kingcraft and priestcraft. I hoped to find more honesty and less hypocrisy on this planet.
Loyal Dementians told me I should honor the King. But why should If He has never done anything of use to me, and I have never heard that he had ever done any noble or brave work, He has occupied much of his time in destroying innocent little animals, and in gambling and wine-drinking.
The only inventions I can remember that have been introduced by the royally-patented nobility are:
The Game of Spellakins.
The Game of Tiddledewinks.
The Game of Pony Polo.
The Game of Dove Killing.
The Game of Knocker Wrenching.
A Pipe to smoke in Bed.
Transparent Cards.
A Walking-stick, with a Dagger concealed therein.
A Double-headed Coin, for Tossing with.
The Game of shooting large animals from a Safe Place. There are other similar pastimes, such as the hunting of weak animals by troops of red-coated and red-faced men, assisted by many large dogs.
There are in Dementia two regular political parties, called the Tops and the Bottoms. In the Tops are nearly all of the land-usurpers, and the Bottoms party works for the interests of the money-profiters. Both parties are Royalists, and neither of them has any desire to emancipate the disinherited working people. I hoped to find the People governing on this planet.
I did not blame our King, or his gang of lords; he correctly represented a majority of the people, for most of the men drink, gamble and love cruel sports. When Dementia is fit to have a nobler representative as its figure-head, one will be peaceably chosen—not as governor, but as chief servant.
I have seen on this planet you call the Earth, some countries named “Republics” over which there should be imperial dictators until the people are better qualified to elect legislators than the people of England and America are today.
Some of your kings resemble our king of Dementia, and some of your Presidents are more oppressive than the most despotic of your kings. When the people are fit for freedom they will be free; and then they will not need either President or King. And I think that until you are fit for freedom you had better keep your kings and provide for them a larger revenue than their richest subjects receive; for it is well that your kings should be placed above the reach of bribery.
I have heard of a country in which the people live naked and unashamed; where there is no hypocrisy, no usurer, no spirit-dealer, no prison, and where there are no locks or bolts; a country in which all men and women do their share of the little work that is needed where there is no war or usury and all work and share equitably. I am going to that country, and I hope I may be permitted to live and die there.
Farewell, you people who are mad with avarice, boastful of robberies, saturated with superstitions, rioting in vicious luxuries, adulterators, peculators, pilferers, falsifiers, disguisers, equivocators—all you who fear the truth and who are ashamed of the light. Farewell, also, you who have been degraded by destitution and tortured by the scorn of the usurers. You will get your reward, and so will they. Farewell to you who are preaching the true gospel—to all the brave pioneers: your noble work will not be in vain. You are sowing the seed, and the seed will bear fruit, and multiply. If it were possible to stay with you, I would stay. But the gods are with you, and you will find some of the fruit of your work in the heavens that are not now visible to you.
Farewell, you hired Clerics, and you hired killers of men. Farewell, you most pitiful usurers. Farewell, you tinselled kings!
Tcej Busa.
[Translated by Wm. HARRISON RILEY, Lunenberg, Mass]
William Harrison Riley, “A Visitor from Luna,” Freedom 15 no, 159 (August, 1901): 41-42.

Comments Off on William Harrison Riley, “A Visitor from Luna” (1901)

Filed under 1900s, political, religion, William Harrison Riley

Paschal Grousset, “The Dream of an Irreconcilable” (1869)

I’ve posted a working translation of Paschal Grousset’s 1869 The Dream of an Irreconcilable, an odd little political “utopia” of sorts, which begins with the narrator falling asleep over his newspaper, as he reads the new revisions to the French constitution, explores in a novel fashion some of the details of a rather Paris Commune-like post-revolutionary future, and then ends with one last jab at the current regime. Translation is, in this case, simply the first step in making the work intelligible, since it is full to overflowing with topical references and in jokes, which I’ve now started to explore and will eventually document in an annotated edition. Grousset, who is probably best known for his work as a writer of adventure fiction and a collaborator of Jules Verne, was a radical journalist, a communard deported to New Caledonia, and an escapee from the penal colony there. The Dream originally appeared as an issue of Le Diable à Quatre (The Devil to Pay).

Comments Off on Paschal Grousset, “The Dream of an Irreconcilable” (1869)

Filed under 1890s, fiction, Paschal Grousset, political, translations, utopia