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  • Henry Stephens Salt

    1851-1939

    By Punkerslut

    Henry Salt

         Henry S. Salt can be defined as the Humanitarian. Salt is responsible for many influential changes in the political environment in his day and many of those changes still have a lasting effect. However, before I continue to unveil the developments that Salt is responsible for, it is best that his philosophy be placed into word. To quote Salt from his own self-penned funeral address (Henry Salt, Humanitarian Reformer and Man of Letters)

    "...when I say I shall die, as I have lived, rationalist, socialist, pacifist, and humanitarian, I must make my meaning clear. I wholly disbelieve in the present established religion; but I have a very firm religious faith of my own - a Creed of Kinship I call it - a belief that in years yet to come there will be a recognition of brotherhood between man and man, nation and nation, human and subhuman, which will transform a state of semi-savagery, as we have it, into one of civilisation, when there will be no such barbarity of warfare, or the robbery of the poor by the rich, or the ill-usage of the lower animals by mankind."

         Plainly stated, he was a Humanitarian and a Rationalist. He believed that every conscious being deserves the right to the consideration of his interests. He believed in rational and logical consideration of doctrines. When he studied the sufferings of others, and compared them with his own, he realized that they were in fact similar. From this, he believed in a kinship -- as he highly promoted -- of all conscious beings. He believed in warmth and compassion. He believed that compassion would eventually conquer cruelty, that we will live in a world free from oppression and horror. He was also logical and reasonable in his consideration. He was not bogged down with the unnecessary discrimination and prejudice of his day, or even our day. He did not accept Christ as his savior and he did not accept flesh as his meal. He was an intelligent, caring human being. His net of compassion embraced all conscious beings and his enormous intelligence evicted religion.

         Henry Salt was an admirer of past Humanitarians. Henry David Thoreau is a well-recognized and well-known author today. His essay "On Civil Disobedience" has also had a well-recognized effect. After Mahatma Gandhi had read Thoreau's essay, he put its principles into action in India. Indians had served in World War I for England, and following the conclusion of the war, Indians had wished for the liberation of India. At that time, India was another colony under the rule of England. Once Gandhi had read Thoreau's essay on disobeying government laws through non-violent resistance, he convinced many Indians to take similar action. Once enough Indians had done this, England had finally given India control of its own affairs and had removed its colony status. Gandhi afterwards has been recognized as a world leader in peace and reformation as he heralded the insignia of Civil Disobedience. However, all of this history could have easily not have happened. Thoreau was an obscure and unknown writer. Salt found value in Thoreau's ideas, as Thoreau was said to be a Vegetarian and a Freethinker. Salt wrote a biography of Thoreau (The Life of Henry David Thoreau). It was so impressive and informative that this book is still available by almost any bookstore or library today. Once Salt had written this book on Thoreau, the essays of Thoreau had become immensely popular and had influenced Gandhi's thinking, which led to the inevitable liberation of India. Along with the biography of Thoreau, Salt is well known for his biographies of other important and influential Humanitarians, including Percival Bysshe Shelley and Richard Jefferies.

         Henry Salt and Mahatma Gandhi had kept close ties during most of their lives. They held similar views. In 1932, Salt wrote a letter to Gandhi that read, "I cannot see how there can be any real and full recognition of Kinship as long as men continue either to cheat or to eat their fellow beings." When Salt wrote the book A Plea for Vegetarianism, it had convinced Gandhi of the better ethical habits of Vegetarianism. In his constant efforts to help diminish and destroy all avoidable suffering, in 1891, he had founded the Humanitarian League. Throughout the entire existence of the Humanitarian League, Salt was the editor of it journals. Upon founding this league, he wrote "Aims and Objects of the Humanitarian League." To quote it...

    "The Humanitarian League has been established to enforce the principle that it is iniquitous to inflict avoidable suffering on any sentient being. This principle the League will apply and emphasise in those cases where it appears to be most flagrantly overlooked, and will protest not only against the cruelties inflicted by men on men, in the name of law, authority, and conventional usage but also, in accordance with the same sentiment of humanity against the wanton ill-treatment of the lower animals.

    "Among the reforms advocated by the Humanitarian League the following are prominent, and are dealt with by two special sub-committees:-

    "A thorough revision and more humane administration of the Criminal Law and Prison system, with a view to the discontinuance of the death penalty and corporal punishment, and an acceptance of the principle of reclamation instead of revenge in the treatment of offenders.

    "A more vigorous application of the existing laws for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and an extension of these laws for the protection of wild animals as well as domestic, with especial reference to blood-sports, vivisection, the slaughter of animals for food, and the cruelties inflicted, at the dictates of fashion, in the name of fur and feather trade.

    "Recognition of the urgent need of humaner education, to impress on the young the duty of thoughtfulness and fellow feeling for all sentient beings.

    "In brief, the distinctive purpose of the Humanitarian League is to consolidate and give consistent expression to the principle of humaneness, and to show that Humanitarianism is not merely a kindly sentiment, a product of the heart rather than of the brain, but an essential portion of any intelligible system of ethics or social science."

         The Humanitarian League attempted to promote many radical ideas about society. The League was around from 1891 to 1920 and Salt collaborated with RSPCA. Salt was the editor of many of their publications. The most influential book of his was "Animals' Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress," which was published the year after the Huminatarian League was formed. To quote the book written by Salt...

    "But, it may be argued, vague sympathy with the lower animals is one thing, and a definite recognition of their 'rights' is another; what reason is there to suppose that we shall advance from the former phase to the latter? Just this; that every great liberating movement has proceeded exactly on these lines. Oppression and cruelty are invariably founded on a lack of imaginative sympathy; the tyrant or tormentor can have no true sense of kinship with the victim of his injustice. When once the sense of affinity is awakened, the knell of tyranny is sounded, and the ultimate concession of "rights" is simply a matter of time. The present condition of the more highly organized domestic animals is in many ways very analogious to that of the negro slaves of a hundred years ago: look back, and you will find in their case precisely the same exclusion from the common pale of humanity; the same hypocritical fallacies, to justify that exclusion; and, as a consequence, the same deliberate stubborn denial of their social "rights." Look back-for it is well to do so-and then look forward, and the moral can hardly be mistaken. ["Animals' Rights Considered In Relation To Social Progress," by Henry S. Salt, chapter 1, 1894.]

         Henry Salt's entire life was devoted to the cause of his brethren or - as he often called it - his "kin." He was incredibly open-minded and incredibly bold at the same time. He would be willing to listen to arguments presented concerning Vegetarianism, but often his opponents constantly dished out the same, dull arguments in defense of their murdering. The Socialism that Salt promoted was a good, fine, and just government system. Under the Humanitarian League, he edited Women's Wages, and the Conditions Under Which they are Earned, written by Miss Isabella O. Ford. The "Justice" magazine -- one which Salt had once written for -- wrote of the book, "It succeeds in placing before the readers the horrible conditions under which the mass of our working sisters contribute their proportion of the superabundant wealth of this country." The League published many other works, including: 'I was in Prison': A Plea for the Amelioration of the Criminal Law, by Reverend J. Stratton, Humanitarianism: Its General Principles and Progress, by Salt, Vivisection, by Edward Carpenter and Edward Maitland, Behind the Scenes in Slaughter-Houses, by H. F. Lester, A Plea For Mercy to Offenders, by C. H. Hopwood, and The Humanizing of the Poor Law, by J. F. Oakeshott. All the works published by the league account up to an innumerable amount. Salt himself had written over forty books. Their determination and belief in justice and compassion was unending. Towards Humanitarians, Salt has written...

    "No League of Nations, or of individuals, can avail, without a change of heart. Reformers of all classes must recognize that it is useless to preach peace by itself, or socialism by itself, or anti-vivisection by itself, or vegetarianism by itself, or kindness to animals by itself. The cause of each and all of the evils that afflict the world is the same the general lack of humanity, the lack of the knowledge that all sentient life is akin, and that he who injures a fellow-being is in fact doing injury to himself. The prospects of a happier society are wrapped up in this despised and neglected truth, the very statement of which, at the present time, must (I well know) appear ridiculous to the accepted instructors of the people." [Seventy Years Among Savages.]

         From studying the character, work, and life of Henry Salt, one will come to the inevitable conclusion that Salt was here to make a change. Many individuals born in the 1800's - nay... - many individuals born in whatever time period can only claim that they were molded by the world. Salt can claim that he had molded the world, and arguably so. Salt used the ethic of compassion. From this viewpoint, he saw incredible barbarities. He detested the killing, cruelty, abuse, and exploitation. He fought to end the conditions of animals is laboratories and in slaughterhouses. He fought to end the conditions of men, women, and children in Capitalist businesses that abused workers. He fought for a better education, for better conditions in prisons, and he fought to end Capital Punishment. With no doubt, it can be said that this man was a reformer of his time and highly influential upon the political world of his day. In his book "Animals' Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress," he writes of reformers...

    "As for the demand so frequently made on reformers, that they should first explain the details of their scheme-how this and that point will be arranged, and by what process all kinds of difficulties, real or imagined, will be circumvented-the only rational reply is that it is absurd to expect to see the end of a question, when we are now but at its beginning. The persons who offer this futile sort of criticism are usually those who under no circumstances would be open to conviction; they purposely ask for an explanation which, by the very nature of the case, is impossible because it necessarily belongs to a later period of time. It would be equally sensible to request a traveler to enumerate beforehand all the particular things he will see by the way, on the pain of being denounced as an unpractical visionary, although he may have a quite sufficient general knowledge of his course and destination." [Animals' Rights, by Henry Salt, chapter 1.]

         Like Robert Green Ingersoll, Henry Salt held a healthy amount of detestment for religion. To the extent of religion and humaneness, he has said...

    "Religion has never befriended the cause of humaneness. Its monstrous doctrine of eternal punishment and the torture of the damned underlies much of the barbarity with which man has treated man; and the deep division imagined by the Church between the human being, with his immortal soul, and the soulless "beasts", has been responsible for an incalculable sum of cruelty." [From: Seventy Years Among Savages, page 218.]

         Henry Salt died in 1939. He was being cared by many of his friends at that time. His life had spanned eighty-eight years, most of which were bent for the cause of reform and change in society.

         Henry Stephens Salt was not a blind man. He was not the kind of man who would accept a state of injustice. The liberation of India, the reform of criminal law, the reform of Animal Rights laws, and the general humanizing of a population in a cruel era can all be - in some way - attributed to the publications of Henry Salt. He was a fighter and a champion. Society, the unmoving ignoramus of dogma and cruelty, would hold steadfast at an attempted reform, and this is not exclusive to Salt's era but of all societies. The rigidness of a society that consumed flesh did not stop Henry Salt from advancing his position. Salt would continue to write books and continue to give lectures. His effortless drive to remove all unnecessary cruelty and suffering from the world went unsurpassed. Like so many men, Salt had dreamed of a great Utopian world. He had dreamed of a brotherhood between man and man, human and sub-human; a Utopian world in which cruelty was a thing of the pass and suffering was avoided. But what separates Henry Salt from the others who dream of this - what makes Salt a bold and courageous figure in the hall of reform - is that unlike others who dreamed of a Utopian world, Henry Stephens Salt spent every waking moment of his life to make this dream a reality. He wrote books, gave lectures, wrote letters, wrote for newspapers, wrote for newsletters, promoted Humanitarian publications, and formed the Humanitarian League. Till Henry Salt's death, he was an ardent fighter and a Humanitarian to the last breath.

    Punkerslut,

    Henry Stephens Salt Links
  • HenrySalt.Co.Uk
  • Wikipedia: Henry S. Salt
  • Wikiquote: Henry S. Salt
  • KnowledgeRush Entry of Henry Stephens Salt
  • Animals' Rights (transcribed by Punkerslut)
  • Henry S. Salt at the International Vegetarian Union
  • Henry Salt on Herman Melville
  • Henry Salt on Marquesan Melville

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