"A Healthy Hatred Of Scoundrels"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The Victorian Age, bringing the world closer together, also increased the difficulties of the lower classes. Some writers, like Carlyle, thought such progress would prove suicidal in the end. He was sick about the sordid lives of the workers in the factories, and the additional crimes occurring with increasing poverty. Since he had known poverty as a child in Scotland, he was sympathetic with the plight of the poor, and began writing attacks on current social evils. His trouble–as one critic pointed out–was that, as a philosopher, he had no system. Some of his conclusions about the social order have proved impractical and dangerous. He believed in a strong paternalistic government because of his sympathy with the unprotected poor, and was convinced that because society changes, it ought to do so intelligently, directed by its best men, "its Heroes." His essay on "Model Prisons" was written following a visit with a friend to an exemplary or model prison in London. There, he says, twelve hundred prisoners are housed in clean buildings where they are well fed and given opportunity to learn in good schools under intelligent teachers. By the "Methods of Kindness," the Captain of the prisoners is training thieves and murderers to do nothing. Yet Carlyle asserts that this system is the worst investment of benevolence that human ingenuity can devise. It is impossible to bestow benevolence on an unworthy man without withdrawing it from a worthy recipient. Around the collection of attractive buildings cluster hundreds of dingy, poor, and dirty dwellings, where nonsinners, not yet a part of the "Devil's regiment," are forced to live. If Carlyle were doing the job, he would sweep the scoundrels somewhere out of the way, and provide good food and good teachers for those who were not criminally inclined. He declares himself sick of the "sugary, disastrous jargon of philanthrophy, the reign of love, the new era of universal brotherhood, that provides, not a Paradise to the welldeserving, but a Paradise to all-and-sundry." It operates under the guise of religion. Then he goes on to say:

Not the least disgusting feature of this Gospel according to the Platform is its reference to religion, and even to the Christian Religion, as an authority and mandate for what it does. Christian Religion? Does the Christian or any religion prescribe love of scoundrels, then? I hope it prescribes a healthy hatred of scoundrels;–otherwise what am I, in Heaven's name, to make of it? Me, for one, it will not serve as a religion on those strange terms. Just hatred of scoundrels, I say; fixed, irreconcilable, inexorable enmity to the enemies of God; this, and not love for them, and incessant whitewashing, and dressing and cockering of them, must, if you look into it, be the backbone of any human religion whatsoever.