Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Two - The Church of Good Society

Graft in Tail

As one of Americas head muck-rakers, I found that I was popular with the British ruling classes; they found my books useful in their campaigns against democracy, and they were surprised and disconcerted when they found I did not agree with their interpretation of my writings. I had told of corruption in American polities; surely I must know that in England they had no such evils! I explained that they did not have to; their graft, to use their own legal phrase, was "in tail"; the grafters had, as a matter of divine right, the things which in America they had to buy. In America, for instance, we had a Senate a "Millionaire's Club," for admission to which the members paid in cash; but in England the same men came to the same position as their birth-right. Political corruption is not an end in itself, it is merely a means to exploitation; and of exploitation England has even more than America. When I explained this, my popularity. with the British ruling classes vanished quickly.

As a matter of fact, England is more like America than she realizes; her British reticence has kept her ignorant about herself. I could not carry on my business in England, because of the libel laws, which have as their first principle "the greater the truth, the greater the libel." Englishmen read with satisfaction what I write about America; but if I should turn my attention to their own country, they would send me to jail as they sent Frank Harris. The fact is that the new men in England, the lords of coal and iron and shipping and beer, have bought. their way into the landed aristocracy for cash, just as our American senators have done; they have bought the political parties with campaign gifts, precisely as in America; they have taken over the press, whether by outright purchase like Northcliffe, or by advertising subsidy - both of which methods we Americans know. Within the last decade or two another group has been coming into control; and not merely is this the same class of men as in America, it frequently consists of the same individuals. These are the big moneylenders, the international financiers who are the fine and final flower of the capitalist system. These gentlemen make the world their home - or, as Shakespeare puts it, their oyster. They know how to fit themselves to all environments; they are Catholics in Rome and Vienna, country gentlemen in London, bons vivants in Paris, democrats in Chicago, Socialists in Petrograd, and Hebrews wherever they are.

And of course in buying the English government, these new classes have bought the English Church. Skeptics and men of the world as they are, they know that they must have a Religion. They have read the story of the French revolution, and the shadow of the guillotine is always over their thoughts; they see the giant of labor, restless in his torment, groping as in a nightmare for the throat of his enemy. Who can blind the eyes of this giant, who can chain him to his couch of slumber? There is but one agent without rival - the Keeper of the Holy Secrets, the Deputy of the Almighty awfulness, the Giver and Withholder of Eternal Life. Tremble, slave! Fall down and bow your forehead in the dust! I can see in my memory the sight that thrilled my childhood - my grim old Bishop, clad in his gorgeous ceremonial robes, stretching out his hands over the head of the new priest, and pronouncing that most deadly of all the Christian curses:

1 "Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained!"

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