Preface of a Saint (2)
[Common of a Monastic or Professed Religious]
[Of the Incarnation]
[For the Ministry III]
PRAYER (traditional language)
Preserve thy people, O God, from discouragement in the face of adversity, as thou didst thy servant James Huntington, knowing that when thou hast begun a good work thou wilt bring it to completion. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and
reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.
PRAYER (contemporary language)
Preserve your people, O God, from discouragement in the face of adversity, as you did your servant James Huntington, knowing that when you have begun a good work you will bring it to completion. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and
reigns, one God, for ever and ever.
This commemoration appears in Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018 with revised lessons & collects.
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Leat updated Sept. 28, 2022
JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON
FOUNDER (25 NOV 1935)
Huntington was born in Boston in 1854, studied at Harvard and at St Andrew's
Divinity School in Syracuse, was ordained to the priesthood around 1880,
and served a working-class congregation. After a few years, he felt called
to found a monastic order for priests of the Episcopal Church, and with
two companions he began working among poor immigrants on New York's Lower
East Side. After a slow start, he with others became the Order
of the Holy Cross, which now has a monastery in West Park, New York,
and priests involved in parish work and social work scattered elsewhere.
Huntington was Superior of the order for several non-consecutive terms,
but devoted himself chiefly to preaching, teaching, and counselling until
his death on 28 June 1935. Since this is the feast of Irenaeus of Lyons,
he is commemorated on the anniversary of the receiving of his monastic
vows by the Bishop of New York on 25 November 1884.
In the course of his work, he became involved in the labor-union movement
and the land-tax movement. The latter of these may require some explanation.
(Those who have no interest in proposals for social reform may wish to
skip to the closing prayer.)
Henry George, author of Progress and Poverty, argued that, while
some forms of wealth are produced by human activity, and are rightly the
property of the producers (or those who have obtained them from the previous
owners by voluntary gift or exchange), land and natural resources are bestowed
by God on the human race, and that every one of the N inhabitants of the
earth has a claim to 1/Nth of the coal beds, 1/Nth of the oil wells, 1/Nth
of the mines, and 1/Nth of the fertile soil. God wills a society where
everyone may sit in peace under his own vine and his own fig tree.
The Law of Moses undertook to implement this by
making the ownership of land hereditary, with a man's land divided among
his sons (or, in the absence of sons, his daughters), and prohibiting the
permanent sale of land. (See Leviticus 25:13-17,23.) The most a man might
do with his land is sell the use of it until the next Jubilee year, an
amnesty declared once every fifty years, when all debts were cancelled
and all land returned to its hereditary owner.
Henry George's proposed implementation is to tax
all land at about 99.99% of its rental value, leaving the owner of record
enough to cover his bookkeeping expenses. The resulting revenues would
be divided equally among the natural owners of the land, viz. the people
of the country, with everyone receiving a dividend check regularly for
the use of his share of the earth (here I am anticipating what I think
George would have suggested if he had written in the 1990's rather than
This procedure would have the effect of making the
sale price of a piece of land, not including the price of buildings and
other improvements on it, practically zero. The cost of being a landholder
would be, not the original sale price, but the tax, equivalent to rent.
A man who chose to hold his "fair share," or 1/Nth of all the land, would
pay a land tax about equal to his dividend check, and so would break even.
By 1/Nth of the land is meant land with a value equal to 1/Nth of the value
of all the land in the country.
Naturally, an acre in the business district of a
great city would be worth as much as many square miles in the open country.
Some would prefer to hold more than one N'th of the land and pay for the
privilege. Some would prefer to hold less land, or no land at all, and
get a small annual check representing the dividend on their inheritance
from their father Adam.
Note that, at least for the able-bodied, this solves
the problem of poverty at a stroke. If the total land and total labor of
the world are enough to feed and clothe the existing population, then 1/Nth
of the land and 1/Nth of the labor are enough to feed and clothe 1/Nth
of the population. A family of 4 occupying 4/Nths of the land (which is
what their dividend checks will enable them to pay the tax on) will find
that their labor applied to that land is enough to enable them to feed
and clothe themselves. Of course, they may prefer to apply their labor
elsewhere more profitably, but the situation from which we start is one
in which everyone has his own plot of ground from which to wrest a living
by the strength of his own back, and any deviation from this is the result
of voluntary exchanges agreed to by the parties directly involved, who
judge themselves to be better off as the result of the exchanges.
Some readers may think this a very radical proposal.
In fact, it is extremely conservative, in the sense of being in agreement
with historic ideas about land ownership as opposed to ownership of, say,
tools or vehicles or gold or domestic animals or other movables. The laws
of English-speaking countries uniformly distinguish between real property
(land) and personal property (everything else). In this context, "real"
is not the opposite of "imaginary." It is a form of the word "royal," and
means that the ultimate owner of the land is the king, as symbol of the
people. Note that English-derived law does not recognize "landowners."
The term is "landholders." The concept of eminent domain is that the landholder
may be forced to surrender his landholdings to the government for a public
purpose. Historically, eminent domain does not apply to property other
than land, although complications arise when there are buildings on the
land that is being seized.
I will mention in passing that the proposals of
Henry George have attracted support from persons as diverse as Felix Morley,
Aldous Huxley, Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, Leo Tolstoy,
William F Buckley Jr, and Sun Yat-sen. To the Five Nobel Prizes authorized
by Alfred Nobel himself there has been added a sixth, in Economics, and
the Henry George Foundation claims eight of the Economics Laureates as
supporters, in whole or in part, of the proposals of Henry George (Paul
Samuelson, 1970; Milton Friedman, 1976; Herbert A Simon, 1978; James Tobin,
1981; Franco Modigliani, 1985; James M Buchanan, 1986; Robert M Solow,
1987; William S Vickrey, 1996).
The immediate concrete proposal favored by most
Georgists today is that cities shall tax land within their boundaries at
a higher rate than they tax buildings and other improvements on the land.
(In case anyone is about to ask, "How can we possibly distinguish between
the value of the land and the value of the buildings on it?" let me assure
you that real estate assessors do it all the time. It is standard practice
to make the two assessments separately, and a parcel of land in the business
district of a large city very often has a different owner from the building
on it.) Many cities have moved to a system of taxing land more heavily
than improvements, and most have been pleased with the results, finding
that landholders are more likely to use their land productively -- to their
own benefit and that of the public -- if their taxes do not automatically
go up when they improve their land by constructing or maintaining buildings
An advantage of this proposal in the eyes of many is
that it is a Fabian proposal, "evolution, not revolution," that it is
incremental and reversible. If a city or other jurisdiction does not like
the results of a two-level tax system, it can repeal the arrangement or
reduce the difference in levels with no great upheaval. It is not like
some other proposals of the form, "Distribute all wealth justly, and make
me absolute dictator of the world so that I can supervise the distribution,
and if it doesn't work, I promise to resign." The problem is that absolute
dictators seldom resign.
For those who wish to inquire further, I recommend
reading the book Progress
and Poverty, by Henry George. It is available from the Robert Schalkenbach
Foundation or from your
local bookstore or library. It should be on every list of Great Books of
the Western World, or of books that every educated person is assumed to
have read. Ask for their catalog, and make a similar request of the Henry
I repeat, this is not an argument for a political
or economic proposal, but simply background material on the founder of
a religious order. You did not expect me to tell you that James Huntington
was a disciple of Henry George and leave you wondering who Henry George
was, did you?
by James Kiefer