Thursday, October 11, 2007

Reader Needs Our Help

If you can help Rich, please e-mail me ASAP.
Hi Nancy,

It's Rich. Can I ask you for a favour? Would you post a question on the ACS blog for anyone who could help?

The book is almost done. I am annotating it as we speak and soon I will have a complete manuscript on the distributist anthology of G.K.'s Weekly. I've run into a snag and maybe your readers can assist.

I came across a name Chesterton gives to the private big business owner named Moses Miggs. I'm assuming it is a fictitious name because I could not find the name online anywhere. Do you know or do your readers know if they have seen the name of Moses Miggs in any of Chesterton's fiction? I'm trying to find out if this is a real person or not (I assume the latter).

Here is the context and thanks in advance!

"But if Mr. Moses Miggs, who has a shop next door to the Post Office, buys up all the pens, ink, and paper, from all the shops miles round, so that nobody can write a letter except by coming to terms with him, then Mr. Miggs does in fact obtain exactly the same power as the Post Office..."
Anyone know?


  1. Since it's a hypothetical situation, I suspect your hunch is right and "Moses Miggs" is a made-up name. When Chesterton wanted to criticize powerful monopoly capitalists, he didn't hesitate to name names we all know, such as John Rockefeller or Andrew Carnegie.

    His criticisms could be telling. In my (soon-out) Chesterton on War, he blasts Carnegie's peace efforts, noting that someone who couldn't settle disputes with his workers without resorting to violence was ill-suited to tell the world how to achieve peace.

    Chesterton's illustration about mailing letters is, as usual, a marvelous one, showing in a down to earth way how in its concentration of power in the hands of a few, monopoly capitalism is functionally equivalent to socialism. Not surprisingly, some of the giant capitalists of his day found appealing the same top-down solutions as socialists. Just a few days ago I was reading a 1929 Henry Ford book, My Philosophy of Industry, in which he calls for a world state. I quote:

    "Machinery is accomplishing in the world what man has failed to do by preaching, propaganda, or the written word. The aeroplane and radio know no boundary. They pass over the dotted lines on the map without heed or hindrance. They are binding the world together in a way no other systems can. The motion picture with its universal language, the aeroplane with its speed, and the radio with its coming international programme—these will soon bring the whole world to a complete understanding. Thus we may vision a United States of the World. Ultimately it will surely come." [Henry Ford, My Philosophy of Industry (New York: Coward-McCann, 1929), 18.]

    Ford as a world-changer hasn't aged well, although those ideas remain all-too-common. But we should never forget that Aldous Huxley makes him the founder of the shallow, technocratic world state he describes in Brave New World (1932). In that anti-utopia Ford replaces Jesus as the individual from whom all history is dated, which isn't surprising when you realize the messianic role Ford ascribed to technology. The chapter I quoted above is titled, "Machinery, The New Messiah."

    Part of the brilliance of Chesterton lies in his ability to see that seemingly opposites are often alike, that socialists and monopolist capitalists share a desire to regiment the rest of us. In the far shallower writings of Ayn Rand, those same capitalists become our protection against socialism. Not so.

    In matters of war and peace, Chesterton saw telling similarities between militarists and pacifists. You can see that today in the debate over Iraq where its pacifists who wanted Saddam to stay in power, crushing rebellion among his own people and gobbling up neighboring countries in much the same fashion as Prussia did in Churchill's day. As Chesterton put it, both the militarists and pacifists were one in believing that might made right. Pacifist, he noted, didn't believe in achieving peace, they merely opposed all methods to achieve peace but one.

    --Mike Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

  2. Thank you, Mike, I forwarded your message to Rich.

    We wish you well on your book, too! Exciting.

  3. There is almost as comic a contradiction in our use of the word "Enchantment" when we say "I was enchanted to meet Mr. Miggs,"

    From "Magic and Enchantment in Fiction" -- Sidelights

    ~ Gramps

  4. I should still regard it rather as a symptom of social evil than as a necessary cause of social crime. Miss Miggs will sometimes make almost as much fuss about a spot of grease as Lady Macbeth about a spot of blood. But to infer from this that we are bound to murder Miss Miggs, and that Lady Macbeth was bound to murder Duncan, and that everybody is bound to murder everybody whom he happens to find troublesome for any reason for any considerable length of time - that is one of the dubious and creeping deductions which are beginning to appear, more or less tentatively, in many of the tragedies published in our time; and I should like to protest against all such savage fatalism, before it becomes more explicit. It is, of course, only the logical consequence, as applied to the problem of murder, of what is now everywhere applied to the problem of marriage.

    ILN March 10, 1934

    At No. 3 is my friend Miggs, who has a clean Christian breakfast at a clean Christian hour.

    ILN November 18, 1905


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