Bruce Smith, Liberty and Liberalism: A Protest against the Growing Tendency toward undue Interference by the State, with Individual Liberty, Private Enterprise and the Rights of Property (1887)





Bruce Smith, Liberty and Liberalism: A Protest against the growing Tendency toward undue Interference by the State, with Individual Liberty, Private Enterprise and the Rights of Property (London: Longmans, Green, and Co.,1887).



"The English themselves, having their eyes open, as I may say, upon their liberty, from their first entrance into life, are perhaps too much familiarised with its enjoyment to enquire with real concern into its causes"

DE LOLME (The Constitution of England)

"Those who have and who hold to that foundation of common liberty, we consider as the true, and the only true, Englishmen. Those who depart from it…are attainted, corrupted in blood, and wholly fallen from their original rank and value. They are the real rebels to the fair constitution and just supremacy of England"

EDMUND BURKE (Address to the British Colonists of North America)



CONTENTS. [short version]


CONTENTS. [long version]

    Impossibility of obtaining universally accepted definitions of party-terms—British party-titles not applicable in younger communities—Differences between such communities—Attitude of certain section of Colonial "Liberal" Press—Effect of perversion of party-title meanings—"Liberalism" and "Protection" paradoxical terms—Position of Liberals during period of Corn Laws Repeal in Great Britain—"Liberalism" and "Protection" anomalous, apart from history—Influence of Victorian "Liberal" Press—Newspapers a commercial enterprise—Deductions from the fact—Instances of misinterpretation of the term "Liberalism"—Causes of such misconception by the masses—Tendency to look for positive benefits from "Liberal" legislation—Illustrations of "Liberal" and "Conservative" principles as popularly understood—Terms "Liberal" and "Conservative"—Unusual attention drawn to same during last two English elections—Mr. Chamberlain's proposals claimed to be "Liberal" measures—Modern "Radicalism" admitted to be synonymous with "Socialism"—Changes of party-titles in consequence—Alleged changes in principles of certain eminent statesmen—Mr. Bright—Mr. Goschen—Lord Hartington—The Times on the changes in party-titles—Home Rule and consequent party-discussions—Illustrations of change of meaning in terms—Effect of such changes generally—Answers to "Why am I a Liberal?"—The Radical programme—Modern tendency in legislation—Consequent perversion of meanings…
    History of England the history of its political parties—Use of English party-titles in colonies should give their history an interest for all English-speaking peoples—The year 1641 marks the first use of any party-titles of consequence—Class-divisions previous to that year—In 1641 originated the two great parties which, under different names, have ever since existed—Origin of terms "Cavalier" and "Roundhead"—Principle underlying that party division—Persistency of Charles I. regarding the preservation of his prerogatives—Macaulay's definition of the respective principles of those parties—Terms "Cavalier" and "Roundhead" succeeded by term "Tory" and "Whig"—Origin of term "Whig"—Origin of term "Tory"—Date of their first use—Principles underlying those terms—Socia classes represented by each—Hume, Macaulay, and Hallam on their respective principles—Apparent exceptions in their continuous representation of the same principles—Such exceptions can be recenciled, and are really not exceptions—Origin of term "Conservative"—Synonymous with "Tory"—First use of term "Liberal"—Modern meanings of term "Liberal" as various as numerous— [x] Definitions of "fifty reputed Liberals"—Mr. Broadhurst's definition—Lord Hartington's definition—Numerous other definitions—Numerous instances of confusion of meanings—Modern Radicalism—Origin of the term—Modern Radicalism synonymous with Socialism—Illustrations from Mr Chamberlain's speeches—Inconsistent utterances of that politician—Impossibility of deducing any clear or unanimously acknowledged meaning for any current political party-titles—Original meaning of term "Liberal"—Function of Liberal party in the future…
    A brief review of the principal struggles for civil liberty, from the Norman Conquest to the Reform Bill of 1832.
    Man, a progressive animal—Ever striving for higher civilisation, i.e., more happiness—Historical instances of his missing the true course—Misery to society thus produced acts as a lesson to mankind—Politics a progressive science—Revolutions are the results of erroneous sociological calculations—To realise human progress, history must be viewed broadly, not in epochs only—Epochs mark the oscillations merely in the onward march—On the whole the movement is ever forward—Freedom the distinguishing point between Eastern and Western civilisations—Love of liberty traceable to climate—Advancement of the Western world, and stagnation of the Eastern, traceable to this element in society—Origin of government—Origin of feudal system—Theory of gradual growth of civil liberty from the Norman Conquest—Constant struggle for "equal opportunities"—History of Liberalism must be traced through "Whiggism" and "Roundheadism"—Charter of Henry I. the first limitation on the despotism established by the Conquest—Condition of English people after the Conquest—Division of property among the nobles—Absolute subjection of the English—Origin of Charter of Henry 1.—It marks the new relation between the people and the king—Magna Charta—Opinions of historians—How obtained from King John—Analysis of its provisions—All conferring additional liberty on the people——Petition of Right—Its origin—Its effect in conferring additional liberties—Habeas Corpus Act—Causes which led to it—Merely re-enactment of part of Magna Charta—What effect it had, in conferring additional liberty on citizens—The Revolution of 1688 - Produced by persistent abuses of royal prerogative—The immediate causes—The Cabal—Effect of the Revolution—Principles of the Declaration of Right—Effect on the people's liberties—Opinions of historians—American Independence—Causes which led to—Parliamentary struggle—Burke's and Chatham's efforts and warnings—The American War—Success of the colonists—Independence proclaimed—Catholic emancipation—Origin of the Reformation—Persecution of Catholics by English monarchs—The penal code—Catholic Association—Its suppression—Its reorganisation—The cry of "Emancipation—O'Connell's election to parliament—Passing of the measure—General conclusions from a review of the preceding reforms…
    A brief review of the principal extensions of civil liberty, from the Reform Bill of 1832 to the Ballot Act of 1872.
    The Reform Bill, one of the greatest Liberal victories in modern English history—Growth of Parliament—Early claims for the admission of "the people" to Parliamentary representation, by Burke and Wilkes—Condition of Parliamentary representation prior to the Reform Bill—Macaulay's criticism of the measure—Abolition of Slavery—Origin of the movement—Thomas Clarkson's efforts— [xi] Opposition of vested interests—George the Third's view of the institution—Passage of the measure—Corn-Laws abolition—History of the Corn-Laws over several centuries—Agitation for repeal—Really a trial of strength between Free-Trade and Protection Cobden's, Bright's, and Villiers' service in the cause—Immense sums of money collected in furtherance of the agitation—Division on the measure—Comments of Sir Erskine May, Buckle, and others—John Bright's testimony to the assistance of the Irish representatives—Sir Robert Peel's eulogy of Cobden—Subsequent comments of John Bright—The Chartist movement—Distinguishing features—Partly Liberal, partly Socialistic in its demands—Social discontent underlying the movement—Agitation for the measure—The "six points"—Influence of the French Revolution—Causes of its failure—Macaulay's criticism in Parliament—His prediction concerning Universal Suffrage—Jewish Disabilities—Previous history of the race in England—Their unchristian treatment—Repeated persecutions—First introduction of the measure—Macaulay's expressions of opinion in Parliament—Baron Rothschilds election, and refusal to take the oath—His forced withdrawal—Mr. David Salomon's election and forced withdrawal—Mr. Bright's views in 1853—Trades' Union Act of 1871—Early treatment of labouring classes—Legislative interference with wages, hours of labour, etc.—Trade associations regarded as illegal—Passing of the measure—Ballot Act of 1872—First advocates in 1705—Early interest in the question by Burke, Fox, Sheridan, and others—Controversy concerning the principle of the measure—Views of John Bright and Sir Erskine May—Numerous divisions on the annual motion concerning it—Review of the several Liberal movements treated of in the chapter…
    An attempt to define, in general terms, the sociological basis of government.
    Politics really a science—Widespread ignorance of the fact—Various authorities in confirmation—Legislative failures—Proportion of abortive legislation—Happiness of humanity the fundamental aim of all good government—Man, the starting-point—Security of the person and of property man's first wants—Subject to those limitations, liberty for the individual the great aim—More necessary even in civilised communities—Without security no safety for life—Without security for property, no accumulation for the future—Without accumulation there is no leisure—Without leisure there is no civilisation—Cowen, Carlyle, Bright, and Burke on the blessings of liberty—Failure of Eastern nations for want of liberty—What is liberty?—Not absolute freedom—That is Anarchy—Limitations to be placed upon absolute freedom—Primary functions of a governing power—Double function in the present day—To rectify the past, and to provide for the future—Definition of true Liberalism—Growth of Liberalism in England—Definitions by "fifty reputed" Liberals—Reversal of true functions in present day—Tyranny of majorities—Principles of Liberalism defined by Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Stansfield, Professor Dicey, Léon Say, and others—Relative positions of Conservative and Liberal parties—Ideal of true Liberalism…
    Differences in the causes which led to spurious Liberalism in historic times and in modern times—Abortive attempts to encourage agricultural interest in reign of George II.—Formerly government in hands of better educated classes who were ignorant of economic laws—Now that political economy known to most educated people, balance of government passed into hands of masses, who are equally ignorant of economic laws—Effect of Franchise Act of 1885—Prospects of wiser government in view of the extended franchise—Abortive attempts to regulate prices of bread in reign of Henry III.—Abortive attempts to regulate prices of wool; to stimulate woollen manufacture; to prohibit exportation of wool and iron; to reduce the price of labour; to concentrate English markets; to dictate prices of provisions—Restraints upon foreign merchants—Abortive attempts to [xii] regulate prices of corn; to prevent usury; to prevent exportation of money, plate, or bullion; to prevent exportation of horses; to regulate the prices of bows, to regulate prices of cloth and other goods; to prevent the manufacture of cloth by machinery; to prevent the manufacture by other than trained workmen—System of monoopolies introduced by Elizabeth—Their effects on commerce—Abortive attempt to stimulate Shrewsbury cotton industry—Consequent decline of the industry—Confessions of the advocates of the interference—Destructive effect on commerce of exclusive companies encouraged by James I.—Abortive attempts in the reign of George II. to regulate prices of corn—Exportation prohibited—Contrary effect—Attempt in reign of Edward III. to keep down the price of herrings—Contrary result—Attempts to fix the locality of manufactories—Interference with workmen's wages—Attempts to regulate price of roofing material and tilers' wages—Prohibition of workmen's combinations—Tyranny over the working-classes in reign of Edward VI.—Regulation of hours of labour—Interference as late as 1795—Alleged approval of Pitt and Fox—Treatment of Scotch miners—Statute of labourers—Legislative regulation of workmen's meals—Number and nature of courses—Regulations regarding wearing apparel—Summary of chapter…
    Some infirmities of democratic government—Misconceived legislation of historic times, resulting from ignorance of economic laws—Existing data now afforded for a more complete political science—Present position of political economy in modern education—Perfunctory study of the subject—Ignorance of the masses concerning it—Infinitesimal proportion of the people actually acquainted with the political science—Consequence of such a state of things—Balance of political power now in hands of those who ignore the existence of such a science—Chances now greatly in favour of the decisions of the people being erroneous—Injury liable to result therefrom—Injurious results already operating—Correctness of Macaulay's prediction concerning universal suffrage—Some difficulties of the political science - Sir Henry Maine on the antagonism between democratic opinion and scientific truth—Universal suffrage in Australian colonies—"Self" the test of legislation—Illustrations from Colonial Trades' Union Congress—Tendency to demoralisation of legislators—Illustrations of class selfishness from proceedings of English Trades' Union Congresses—Connivance by Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Chamberlain—Democracy in America—Inevitable effect of persistent resort to class legislation—De Tocqueville on American democracy—Aristotle on democracy—Belief in wisdom of majorities—Belief in justice of determinations of majorities—Presumption in favour of majorities being entire y erroneous in their conclusions on any subject—Effect on current legislation—Correcting influences afforded by the existing method of government by party—Late Rev. F. W. Robertson on majorities—Prevalence of political bribery of the masses—The Bishop of Peterborough on wisdom of majorities—Lord Beaconsfield on the embodiment of principles of liberty in form of permanence—Mill on the necessity for guarding individual freedom—Opinions of the masses concerning duties of government—Frederick Harrison's advice to the working classes on the choice of representatives—Statutes literally measured by thickness of the volume—Universal practice of ignoring remote consequences of legislative measures—Hasty and ill-digested legislation—Advice of Lord Hartington, Mr. Gladstone, and Mr. Bright, concerning blind belief in acts of parliament—Illustrations of the prevalent ignorance as to limit of functions—General results of past legislation of the spurious order—Prospects for the immediate future—Conservative influences operating in colonial communities…
    Theory of the growth of Liberalism—Test of Liberalism by the working-classes of the present day—Direction of present-day Liberalism directly opposite to that of former times—Modern tendency to experiment on society by visionary state-schemes—Manifesto of Liberty and Property Defence League—Mr. Gladstone [xiii] on modern tendency—Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" marks an epoch in economic knowledge—Slow progress of the truth of that writer's doctrines—Free trade and Protection criticised in connection with state functions—Opinions of Herbert Spencer, John Bright, The Times, Joseph Chamberlain—Some illustrations of remote effects of a protective policy—Connection of free trade doctrines with the principle of the division of labour—Bounties and their results—Illustrations from the sugar industry—Indirect effects of Protection in the woollen, leather, farming, opium, and timber industries—Attempt to use diplomatic and consular officials abroad for commercial purposes—Lord Rosebery's criticism—Factories Act in the colony of Victoria—Injury to property of manufacturers involved—Shops-closing acts—Their effect on property—Legislation on the "eight hours" system—Shipping legislation and its injurious results—Illustrations of legislative ignorance—Confessions of shipwreck committee concerning futility of legislative interference—Confession by Mr. Chamberlain on same subject—Sunday-closing measures; their futility—Local option advocates; their further demands—Poor Law legislation—Agricultural allotments scheme—Opinions of Lord Hartington, John Bright, W. E. Forster, Mr. Goschen—The rights of property and Bentham—The "greatest happiness" principle and Bentham—The caucus and Mr. Joseph Cowen—The caucus in America—Choice of a Liberal leader by means of the caucus—Mr. Chamberlain and the caucus—Burke's standard of political independence—Liberalism, and liberality with state moneys—Employers' Liability Act; attempted extension—Socialist demands—Liberal statesmen and modern differences of opinion—Municipal socialism; its dangers—Increased functions of English municipalities—Socialism at St. Stephens in 1886—Increasing burdens of legislatures—Experimental legislation—Its dangers—Mr. Justice Kent's opinion—Remote effects—Summary…
    Necessity for demonstrating capabilities for practical application of any theory of legislation—Laissez faire; its real and literal meanings distinguished—Abuse of the reductio ad absurdumLaissez faire frequently interpreted by its opponents as synonymous with Anarchy—Differences of opinion as to the point of limitation to human liberty—Effects of recognising no limit to state functions—Necessity for unanimity as to where that limit should be placed—Self-interest, the motive power of society—Self-interest should be subjected to the minimum of limitation, compatible with equal opportunities—Liberty, the true object of Government—Egoism and altruism alike founded on self-interest—The real difference is in the effect on society, the source being the same—Importance of regarding remote effects of legislation—Their non-recognition by the average legislator—Socialists and Individualists, the party-titles of the future—Fundamental misconception at the root of present social discontent—Present equality of all before the law—Point of divergence between Socialists and Individualists or true Liberals—Normal condition of man in primitive society—Effect of division of labour on production—Normal condition in civilised society, that of hard work—Capitalist class possess no privileges—Their domain an open field to all men—Visionary schemes for levelling up society—Wealth in one citizen as an obstacle to the individual freedom of others—Differences of opinion as to possibility of fixing a definite limit to state functions—Two theories of rights—Natural rights curtailed by the social contract—Natural rights abolished, and fresh rights conferred and secured by the law—Disciples of the two theories—Blackstone—Prof. Stanley Jevons—Bentham—Austin—Burke—Locke—Mr. Herbert Spencer—Impracticability of the former theory—Right to ignore the state—Human infirmities standing in the way of ideal legislation—Want of acknowledged limitation to state functions attributable to the different theories concerning rights—History of English law shows security to property and to the person to have been the first objects of government—Blackstone's classification of rights—Objections to rigid rules for legislation—Three fundamental principles—How applied—Burden of proof thrown on advocates of any measure subversive of those principles—Poor Laws—Confession of Poor Law Commissioners—Conclusions for and against the system—Balance of arguments favour continuance in communities where already established—Needful limitations—State education—Conclusions respecting true [xiv] functions of the state—Housing of the Poor—Radical arguments in favour—Conclusions against the proposal—Unemployed—Increasing resort to the practice of state assistance—Objections—Payment of members—Original object—Radical arguments—Grounds for objection—Land Nationalisation—Alleged advantages from the system examined—Conclusions—Public Works—Allowable departures from the general principle—State railways—Effect on taxpayers—Arguments for their being undertaken in young communities examined—Gas and water supply—Telegraph and telephone systems—Colonial railway results—Municipal undertakings—State monopolies condemned—Drainage, sewage, paying, lighting—Allotments scheme—Shipping legislation—Injury to British shipping compared with that of foreign countries—Steam boilers—Contracts—Shops closing—Factories Acts—Protection—Sunday closing—Summary of chapter…
    A short enquiry concerning the principal theories and practical experiments of ancient and modern times, in the search for an ideal form of commonwealth.
    Bearing of the chapter on remainder of the work—Relative attitudes of Individualism and Socialism explained—Effect of the latter on human motives—Present constitution of the English legislature—Prospects of scientific legislation—Drift of modern public opinion—Signs of the approaching conflict—French anarchists—Knights of Labour in America—America's reception of John Most, the expelled revolutionist—Socialist Press of New York—London Socialist outbreaks—Mr. Chamberlain's doctrines—The Radical programme—M. de Laveleye's "Primitive Property"—His doctrines—Mill's earlier observations on Socialism and Communism—Aristotle on community of property—Effect on the virtues of liberality and kindness—Christian Socialism—Causes which led to it—Commonwealth of Love—The Poor Saints—The voluntary element prominent in all early experiments—Middle-Ages Communism—Brothers of the Common Lot—Brothers of the Common Life—Apostolici—The Waldenses and the Minorities—The Lollards—The Taborites—The Cathari, Apostolicals, Fratricelli, Belguins, Albigenses, and Hussites—The Moravian Brotherhood—The United Brethren—The Hernhuters and the Hutterites—The Unitas Fratrum—Christian Republic of Paraguay—M. de Laveleye's "Primitive Property"—Village communities in Russia—The Russian Mir—M. de Laveleye's reasoning examined—Village communities in Java and India—The Allmends of Switzerland—Social inequalities under the system—Unfair comparisons—The German Mark—Agrarian system of the Irish Celts—Agrarian communities among the Arabs and other nations—The French Revolution—Its effect in producing a crop of social schemes—Element of poetry in almost all ideal theories—Modern definitions of Socialism and Communism—Saint-Simon—His theories—His disciples—François Babœuf and his theories—Charles Fourier and his theories—Ettiene Cabet and his theories—Proudhon and his theories—Karl Rodbertus and his theories—Louis Blanc and his theories—Karl Marx and his theories—Ferdinand Lassalle and his theories—Robert Owen; his theories and experiments—American Socialism—Advantages of experiment over theory—The Shakers—The Amana Community—The Harmony Society—The Separatists of Zoar—The Perfectionists of Oneida—The Aurora and Bethel Communes—The Icarians—Unanimity of Coramunist leaders as to the causes of failure—Mill's later opinions on Communism and Socialism—Review of the whole work—The outlook and its dangers—The coming struggle…



"It is of the utmost importance that all reflecting persons should take into early consideration what these popular political creeds are likely to be, and that every single article of them should be brought under the fullest light of investigation and discussion; so that, if possible, when the time shall be ripe, whatever is right in them may be adopted, and what is wrong rejected, by general consent; and that, instead of a hostile conflict, physical or only moral, between the old and the new, the best parts of both may be combined in a renovated social fabric."

J. S. MILL ("Chapters on Socialism").





THE following pages have been written for the purpose of tracing the gradual but sure growth of our civil liberty, from historic times, downward to our own day, and of investigating the great principles which inspired our ancestors, in their efforts to secure that great inheritance to us, their posterity. A further object that I have had in view—and perhaps this latter may be regarded as the more important—is to show the symptoms, which are gathering fast and thick around us, of a new order of things—of, in fact, a distinct surrender of the traditional safeguards of that civil liberty—the "cornerstone" of our great and deservedly enviable constitution.

I have endeavoured to prove that the invaluable principle of individual freedom—which, from the Norman Conquest downward, fired the most noble-minded of our ancestors to rebel against the tyranny of those who won, or inherited, the rights of that conquest—is in imminent danger of being lost to us, at the very hour of its consummation. And I have, I think, further demonstrated that so sure as we depart from those traditional lines, in the endeavour to realise a condition of society, which can only exist in the imagination—viz., a community of people, enjoying equal social conditions,—we shall, when it is too late, find that we have lost the substance, in grasping at the shadow.

In order to realise the above perhaps somewhat ambitious purposes, I have enumerated instances to show that the term "Liberalism," which in its original and true interpretation was [ii] synonymous with "freedom," has, in our own day, lost that genuine meaning, and is, instead, carrying with it, to the minds of most men, other and quite erroneous significations; and further, that political party-titles, generally, have now ceased to carry with them any clear conception of political principles: having become so inextricably mixed and confused in the meanings which they convey, that it is impossible to deduce, from the fact of their being professed by any individual, any distinct conclusion as to that individual's political creed.

I have then shown that, from the earliest times in the regular history of England, the principle of individual freedom was the one which, paramount to all others, characterised the greatest of England's reforms; but that, in the present day, that time-honoured principle appears to have lost its charm, and the political title "Liberalism," which previously served as its synonym, is being gradually perverted to the service of a cause, which must, sooner or later, be wholly destructive of that very liberty, from which it derived its existence as a political term.

I have also, I believe, been able to demonstrate that this tendency (though the fact is not generally recognised) is clearly in the direction of those conditions or forms of society, known as "Socialism" and "Communism;" and, finally, I have, I think, given sufficient proof, from unexceptionable authorities, of the fact that all practical attempts at such conditions of society, have, whenever and wherever tried, hopelessly failed in their results; and, instead of lifting the lowest stratum of society to the level of the highest, (as was anticipated), or even approximating to it, dragged the whole fabric down to the dead level of a primitive and uncultured existence, sapped the enterprise and independence, as well as stifled the higher faculties of all who have helped to constitute such communities, and ended in placing such as conformed to their principles at the mercy of nature, with [iii] all its uncertainties of season, and disappointments of production.

I venture to think that there is no part of the civilised world, in which the term "Liberalism" has been more constantly, or with more confidence, misused than in the English colonies, and more especially in the colony of Victoria. Political thought has there been developed and sharpened to an extent, which has scarcely been equalled, certainly not surpassed, in any part of the world—even in the United States; so that, in fact, it affords to the political students of other and older countries, who may consider it worthy of their attention, an invaluable political laboratory for the purpose of judging the merits of many "advanced" legislative experiments. This identical view I expressed at some length in The Times, as far back as 1877.

Bearing the foregoing facts in view, I have drawn a great number and variety of my illustrations from the legislative and other public proceedings of the particular colony mentioned.

Side by side with this unusual development of political activity and intelligence, which is specially noticeable in that colony, there has unfortunately grown up a most serious misconception or misrepresentation, as to the true meaning of the political term, concerning which I have more particularly treated; and there is distinctly apparent—there, as in Great Britain—all the symptoms of a return to "class" legislation of the most despotic character; not, as of old, in favour of the wealthy and aristocratic orders, but in the opposite direction, of conferring positive benefits upon the working classes—that is to say, the manual working classes—at the expense of the remainder of the community. Indeed the extreme Radical party of Great Britain have already acknowledged that "there is scarcely an organic change which has found a place in the programme of advanced Liberalism, that has not been accepted, and voluntarily introduced…at the Antipodes."


One of the most unfortunate circumstances in connection with colonial politics is the disinclination on the part of the wealthier and better educated classes to enter into competition with the omnipromising political hack, for the honour of a seat in parliament. That most constituencies are at the mercy of those candidates who promise most of what does not belong to them, is indeed too true; but there are, one is happy to be able to say, many constituencies in which political morality has not sunk so low as to necessitate a candidate substituting flattery and transparent bribes, for home truths and sound political doctrine. Those constituencies are, however, comparatively few in number. That fact, coupled with the thoroughly unscientific tone of current politics, has, in most of the colonies, left the field open to a class of men, by no means representative of the average education, or of the average political knowledge. It is to be regretted, however, that the wealthier and better-educated classes do not make a greater sacrifice, on patriotic grounds, and thus assist to raise the tone of an institution which they are always too ready to condemn.

Since commencing my investigations, which have extended over many months, and have been carried on during the leisure hours left to me out of an otherwise extremely busy life, I have been brought into contact with a mass of material, evidencing the patriotic "footprints" of a body of men, now doing good work in England, under the title of "The Liberty and Property Defence League." This League has been formed for the purpose of "resisting over-legislation, for maintaining Individualism as opposed to Socialism—entirely irrespective of party politics."

To have become acquainted with the efforts of such an organisation, and to have learnt how great is the success which has attended its efforts, has considerably encouraged my own labours.


I find that, during the last two years, the League printed 54,250 pamphlets and 39,300 leaflets, "pointing out, in general and particular, the growing tendency to substitute Government regulation, in place of individual management and enterprise, in all branches of industry; and demonstrating the paralysing effect of this kind of legislation upon national development."

I find, further, that "these publications have been distributed among over 500 of the chief London and provincial papers, and among members of both Houses of Parliament and the general public;" and that "400 lectures and addresses have been delivered by representatives of the League, before working-class audiences, in London and elsewhere." The annual report for 1884 states that, "reckoning together those who have thus joined through their respective societies or companies" with which the League is associated, in addition to "those who have joined individually, it comprises over 300,000 members."

The council of the League embraces the names of many eminent men, including those of Lord Justice Bramwell, the Earl of Wemyss, Lord Penzance, and the Earl of Pembroke; and it would seem that scarcely any single parliamentary measure is allowed to put in an appearance, in either branch of the British legislature, without being subjected to the most searching examination and dissection, at the hands of that council.

Such legislation as is considered contrary to the principles of the League—which are non-party—is opposed in every possible way; and no money or other means appear to be spared, to prevent such legislation being placed upon the statute-book. The efforts of the League seem, too, so far as they have gone, to have been extraordinarily successful.

I may add that my own investigations were commenced with the simple object of delivering a short lecture; but the materials, which I found necessary to collect, soon grew to [vi] the proportions of a volume, which I have now completed, in the hope that others, who are sufficiently interested to peruse it, may be saved the same research and classification of principles, which are necessary to a complete understanding and grasp of the subject. As far as originality is concerned, I claim no merit, except in the mere arrangement of my work; but the labour has, notwithstanding, been great, and not always encouraging. Indeed, in almost every position which I have taken up in the investigation of my subject, I have, as will be seen, fortified myself with the opinions of the greatest among those who have sounded the depths of political philosophy. Any exception, therefore, which may be taken to the doctrines which I have merely reproduced, will involve a joining of issue with many of the most profound political thinkers of ancient and modern times.

I owe an explanation—perhaps an apology—to many of the authors from whose writings I have thus drawn my numerous quotations, for the constant rendering of their words in italics. In almost every case throughout the work the italicising is my own. I am fully aware of the danger of detracting from the force of language, by the too frequent resort to that aid to emphasis. My only excuse is the unusual necessity for clear distinctions, in the terms and phrases employed.

No apology is, I think, needed for my venturing to draw public attention to the subject itself, with which I have thus dealt. That it is sufficiently important, there can be no possible doubt; and that it is not a settled question, has been fully admitted by no less an authority than Mill, who says: "One of the most disputed questions, both in political science and in practical statesmanship, at this particular period, relates to the proper limits of the functions and agency of governments." And he adds that it is, as a discussion, "more likely to increase than diminish in interest." Indeed, it has at various [vii] times been a matter of considerable surprise to me, how little the whole subject seems to have been investigated, or even considered, not merely by the ordinary political delegate (popularly known as a politician), but by men, educated in history, and professing to feel an interest in the philosophy which underlies it.

If, in the compilation of the thoughts of others, I should succeed in directing the attention of some of my fellow-men to the great political and social danger which is now impending, and thus bring about a clearer and more correct recognition of the traditional principles which I have ventured to champion, I shall be quite satisfied with the result of my labours.

I am quite conscious of the unpopularity which much of what I have written is calculated to draw upon me from the working-classes, as also from mere work-a-day politicians, concerning whose knowledge of the political science I have certainly not spoken in flattering terms. To have so written has, however, required the more courage, inasmuch as I am desirous, and even sanguine, of yet taking a further and more prominent part in practical politics. But I have ventured to say what I have said, because I believe it to be true; and I have sufficient faith in the spirit of manliness and fair play, which, at least, has always characterised our race, to hope that the unpalatableness of my remarks may be forgiven, on the score of their sincerity and good intent.

June, 1887.


"The time has come when, if this country is to be preserved from serious perils, honest men must enquire, not what any one with whom they are invited to co-operate may call himself, but what he is, and what the political objects are for which he would use the power if he had it."

LORD SELBORNE (Contemporary Review), March, 1887.






"A group of words, phrases, maxims, and general propositions, which have their root in political theories, not indeed far removed from us by distance of time, but as much forgotten by the mass of mankind, as if they had belonged to the remotest antiquity."—SIR HENRY MAINE, Popular Government.

MANY and various circumstances have, of late, rendered it almost impossible to obtain anything like universally accepted definitions of the principal terms of political classification, which are in general use among the present generation of English-speaking communities. Great Britain has lately passed through the ordeal of two general elections, occurring in quick succession, and the kaleidoscopic results of those elections, among political parties, and among political leaders, have rendered that uncertainty of signification even more striking than it was before. In some of the British colonies, as might have been expected, a tolerably widespread use has been made of the political arguments and theories which have done so much service in the older community; and this especially applies in the case of the colony of Victoria, to the legislation of which, I shall, in the following pages, frequently refer for illustrations of my arguments.

It does not seem to be thought, or at least very clearly recognised, in any of such colonies, that those arguments [2] and theories, though originally capable of ready and consistent application in the case of Great Britain, which has a history, which has traditions, which possesses a less "advanced" condition of society, as well as institutions of a much less democratic order, should nevertheless have little or no bearing upon the affairs of younger communities, in which the whole circumstances of the people are upon a different footing. Strange to say, this anomaly seems to have been less realised in the colony of Victoria than in any other of such younger communities, notwithstanding the fact that, in it, there is no established church; that, in it, land (the chief subject of modern political theories) can be purchased from the State, at a price which would seem ridiculous to an English agricultural labourer; and that, in it, such restrictive customs upon land transfer and land disintegration, as primogeniture and entail, do not exist.

There is, I venture to think, no community in the world, not excepting the United States, in which the terms of political classification, now current in Great Britain, have less real application, than in the colony of Victoria, where every man already has an equal voice in matters political, irrespective of wealth, social status, or even common intelligence—where, in short (to use the words of the "Liberal" Press), "the working classes really run the political machine, where there is exactly the same freedom to rich and poor alike, and where the rich are for the most part recruited from the ranks of the poor, and have become rich by the labour of their own hands."

However, since Anglo-colonials are, for the most part originally of Great Britain, it is but natural that they, or their parents before them, should have brought with them the traditional political terms of the mother country, though never so inapplicable. As consequences, however, of so doing, many persons, in the younger communities, have become involved in a maze of needless bewilderment, and [3] have filled their minds with, what Sir Henry Maine has aptly described, as "a group of words, phrases, maxims, and general propositions, which have their root in political theories, not indeed far removed from us by distance of time, but as much forgotten by the mass of mankind as if they had belonged to the remotest antiquity." [1] It is my purpose, in this chapter, to show, first, that the political party-titles, which are upon everybody's lips in Great Britain in the present day, and in comparatively frequent use in the Australian colonies, cannot have, according to their proper interpretation, any application to the latter; secondly, that even if they were capable of such an application, the meanings which are being attached to them are wholly incorrect and misleading. In the particular colony, from which I have stated my intention to draw many of my illustrations, there is a powerful section of the Press, which designates itself "Liberal." That section has hitherto assumed the function of classifying the various candidates offering themselves for Parliamentary election, and of promising success, or predicting failure, in the case of each of them, according to that classification. In the performance of this self-imposed duty, it has not always been content to adopt the political terms applied by the candidates to themselves, who should certainly be best qualified to speak concerning their own principles, but it has frequently denied, in a very positive way, their right to be placed in the category which they had themselves chosen. The reasons given by this section of the Press for these somewhat haphazard classifications have been anything but noteworthy for their soundness, and the confusion of meanings, which other circumstances have of late combined to produce, regarding the meanings of such terms as "Liberal" and "Conservative," has been intensified rather than cleared up by these [4] bewildering attempts at local application. An illustration of this misuse of terms is afforded in the fact that, a few months previous to the time at which I am writing, the section of the Press in question strongly advocated the return of a particular candidate to Parliament, upon the ground that he was "a Liberal and a Protectionist," and at the same time recommended the rejection of his opponent, upon the ground of his being "a Conservative and a Freetrader."

Now, it is about as clear that one man cannot possibly be a "Liberal and a Protectionist," at one and the same time, as it is that a sceptic, in theological matters, cannot be orthodox.

A mere glance at the history of the Corn Laws Repeal will show this conclusively; for that movement (the greatest of all battle-grounds for the principles of Free Trade and Protection), will prove that that repeal, but for the constant and persistent opposition of the Tory party in the House of Commons, and the consequent establishment of Free-trade, would have taken place some years earlier than it really did. It will show, further, that, in "all the divisions" upon the repeal of those laws, "the Government had the aid of nearly the whole of the Liberals, the opposition being almost entirely Tory," [2] and that, in the final division, 202 Liberals voted for the repeal, and only 8 against it, while 208 Conservatives voted against the repeal, and only 102 for the maintenance of the old protective policy. [3] Mr. Harris, in the work from which I quote, observes that "It was in Free Trade alone that Palmerston was a Liberal." Quite apart, however, from the historical aspect of the movement, it is apparent that the principle of Protection is diametrically opposed to the spirit of "Liberalism," inasmuch as the former depends upon the [5] imposition of an artificial restriction on importation, having the effect of curtailing the liberties of such citizens as desire to purchase, abroad, the particular class of goods so protected, in order that a positive benefit may be conferred upon a particular section of the community. The latter school of politics, on the other hand, depends, for the very derivation and ordinary meaning of its title, upon the principle of "freedom for the individual."

If, by the term "Liberalism," it is intended to convey that the individual should be made more free by the removal of class restrictions, —that being, I contend, the fundamental principle of the school— then "Protection," as a policy, is wholly retrogressive, and contrary to the meaning of that term; and it is therefore absolutely paradoxical to speak of the two principles involved in the terms "Liberalism" and "Protection" being professed by one and the same person, at the same time. This single illustration is of great importance, when considered in connection with the colony from which it is taken. Victoria has consistently maintained for upwards of twenty years, a policy of substantial protection to local industries; and, throughout that period, the "Liberal" section of the Press has, as consistently, claimed that policy as coming unmistakably within the meaning of its party-title. So persistently, too, has this been contended for, that the bulk of the working classes of the colony have come, at last, to regard "Liberalism" and "Protection" as almost synonymous.

It has often been said that, if a falsehood is only repeated often enough, the teller of the story, in which the falsehood is involved, will, in time, come himself to believe in its truth. The above circumstance affords an illustration in which the hearers also have become convinced by mere repetition.

Such an application of the term, as that above mentioned, points to a most marked misinterpretation, intentional or [6] otherwise, of the title "Liberalism," by the very section of the Press, which professes to deal with public matters from its standpoint, and it is a noteworthy fact, as evidencing the absence of any deep-seated differences in political opinion, that throughout the last one or two general elections in Victoria, the terms "Liberal" and "Conservative" were the only two political party-titles used with any degree of frequency. In Great Britain, about the same period, a much larger number were brought into service, with which however, we are not now concerned.

If one looks for light regarding the local application of this term in the colony referred to, one fails to find it in the occasional definitions which are incidentally afforded. They all point to a sort of hotch-potch of ideas, and it is impossible even to get a clear meaning to attach to the term, even though one might be satisfied to overlook the fact of such a meaning being erroneous.

I have mentioned the "Liberal" Press of Victoria, or rather that section of the Press which professes "Liberal" principles, because of the prominent part which it assumes, and is, in fact, allowed to take in the settlement of the public affairs of that colony; and, further, because it exercises, in matters political, an immense amount of influence over the masses, which it has, unfortunately, and whatever may have been its motives, more often than not, so directed, as to intensify rather than allay any class animosity, which has arisen from other causes.

It is moreover to the same source, more particularly, that is owed the constant and persistent employment of the term, as well as the erroneous meaning which has come to be attached to it among the masses of the people in that particular colony.

That this constant use, or rather misuse, has had an appreciable effect upon party divisions in the past, whether inside or outside Parliament, there can be no doubt; but [7] that effect has not, I venture to think, arisen so much from the use of any sound argument in favour of its application, as to the facts that the term carries with it, in most minds, many favoured associations; and that the assertions regarding its applicability have been repeated for so many years, —an influence, sufficient in itself, to carry conviction to the minds of the majority of one's fellow-beings.

One is much inclined to look for the motive for this really injurious practice of labelling undesirable things with desirable names: of advocating undesirable movements by attaching to them names, which carry conviction by their very associations. It is of course necessary to remember, and it would be well if the masses would only do so, that newspaper proprietors, like merchants and manufacturers, have to make their ventures pay; and just as the merchant and the manufacturer learn to import or make an article which suits the public fancy, and thereby meets with a ready sale, so the newspaper proprietor, unless actuated by purely philanthropical motives (which can scarcely be expected) deems it most advantageous to give to his subscribers matter, which is calculated to please, rather than to instruct. The Press, however, is by no means the only source of error in this particular; for I find colonial politicians, of comparative eminence, using the term in question, in senses wholly foreign to its original and correct signification, without, moreover, provoking any comment from their party associates.

Within a very short period of the time at which I write, I find a prominent "Liberal" member of the Victorian Legislature, characterising an Act of Parliament, for irrigation purposes, as "a pawn-broker's bill." "It was" he said" a mean conservative measure; and the duty of the House was to liberalise it, for there was," he added, "no liberality in it."


This remarkable utterance points to a very popular interpretation of the term among many colonial politicians. Some time, indeed, before this, a Minister of the Crown, of the same colony, in speaking before his constituents concerning the same measure, then in prospect only, boasted that it was a proposal "which for liberality and justice could neither be equalled nor surpassed."

He then went on to say that the government, of which he was a member, would have power to "postpone the payment of interest" on moneys advanced to the farming class for purposes of irrigation works. This was a course, which, according to the popular interpretation alluded to, would have fully entitled his ministry to the title "Liberal," though it could be so applied only in the sense of a government being "liberal" to one section of the community, at the expense of the whole population, interested in the general revenue.

On another occasion, I find an ex-Minister of the Crown, also in the same colony, deprecating an alliance between the "Liberals" and the "Conservatives" on the ground that there was a sufficient number of the former to constitute what he termed a "straight" Liberal government.

On being asked by a fellow-member what he meant by a conservative, he replied, "a conservative is a man who looks after number one." Here again we find the same misconception at work—the word "Liberal" being interpreted as meaning one who is given to liberality with the public revenue, and in favour of class interests—the "conservative" one who is opposed to such liberality.

I might quote many like instances, in the different colonies, to show that the true meaning of this term is a matter which gives little concern to the ordinary run of politicians, though meanwhile general elections are allowed to turn on it.

The result of these numerous misinterpretations which have been placed upon such political terms, and more [9] especially upon the particular one of which I am treating, by many public men, as also by an important and influential section of the Press, has been to lead to a complete neglect of the true principles which they respectively represent. And that neglect having continued, other and spurious meanings have been meanwhile attached to them by the masses of the people. It is of course a fact which everyone who has studied history must know, that all the great reforms, which have taken place during the last eight centuries of English history, have had the effect of conferring on "the people" (as distinguished from Royalty, and the aristocratic and monied classes) a large amount of individual freedom. As a result of that freedom, the people have been enabled to enjoy a great many more opportunities for worldly comfort and social advantages. They have been enabled to take part in political matters, and thus secured many liberties which formerly they were denied; and they have been enabled to combine among themselves, without fear of punishment, and thus secured higher wages, and a larger share of the comforts of life. All this, as I shall show hereafter, has been the combined results of many "Liberal" movements. On account of the absolute usurpation of power and privilege, by Royalty and by the aristocracy, at the time of the Norman Conquest, the progress of "Liberalism" has produced a long, uninterrupted, and concurrent flow of concessions to the people's liberty. So long has this "horn of plenty" continued to shower these concessions and consequent advantages upon "the people," that the working classes have been brought to believe no action of the Legislature can possibly be entitled to be placed in the category of "Liberal" measures, unless it is actually accompanied by some positive advantages for themselves. Thus, from the very nature of England's early history, these benefits have invariably flowed from "Liberal" legislation; but, as I shall, I think, hereafter show, a time has been reached in that [10] history, (whether of England itself or of the English speaking race in our own colonies) when privileges of almost every kind have been abolished, so that every man, be he rich or poor, now enjoys "equal opportunities" with the possessor of the "bluest blood," or of the largest bank balance.

That being so, the (what I would term) aggressive function of Liberalism has been exhausted, and, with certain minor exceptions, it only remains for it to guard over the equal liberties of citizens generally, with a view to their preservation. This I regard as the proper function of Liberalism in the present day. The masses of the people, however, are still looking for positive benefits, and their production or non-production by any legislative measure is still made the test of its being the "genuine article." The masses, too, are prepared to apply the term, and to acquiesce in its being applied by others, to any measure which promises to confer some advantages upon themselves as a class, even, there is reason to fear, though such a measure may, on the very face of it, involve treatment, injurious to the interests of the remainder of the community.

This I regard as the cardinal error of modern politics, and modern legislation; and, as a consequence of this error being so widely entertained, there are, I venture to think, becoming apparent, tolerably clear symptoms of a class struggle through the medium of the legislature, which must end injuriously to our best civil interests.

In the colony of Victoria, public life, has been greatly demoralised by this misconception. A candidate for parliament presents himself before his would-be constituents, and readily promises to give them anything they may want, and to secure an act of parliament for any and every desire to which they may think fit to give expression. He readily undertakes to ignore the rich man, and do everything for the poor one, make life easy—a paradise in fact—for the latter, and punish the former with [11] more taxation. Such a candidate is at once held up for the admiration and approval of the electors as a "Liberal." Another aspirant, having some regard for his principles, ventures to say that he disapproves of class legislation; that he will do nothing calculated to unduly curtail the liberties of his fellow citizens, for the benefit of a section of the community; that he considers the good government of the country of more importance than selfish political party divisions, founded upon terms which have no meaning or application in the community. That man is immediately, and with as little meaning or reason, marked "Conservative," and, as likely as not favoured with a few graceful epithets, directed at his motives.

This constant application, or misapplication of these two terms, and the "damnable iteration" to which they have been subjected, have given the particular words certain fixed signification, alike erroneous and dangerous; and it certainly seems as if the time had long since arrived when some effort should be made, if not to restore to them the meanings and bearings which they originally and properly conveyed, at least to endeavour to bring about a clearer and more correct understanding of the new significations which are to be attached to them in the future.

Let us turn now more immediately to the politics of Great Britain, and we shall find that though the institutions of that older community, would, with some better show of consistency, admit of the application of such party-titles to its national politics, nevertheless they are in the present day, even there, being perverted to significations, altogether foreign to those which were originally intended. The last two general elections in Great Britain may be said to have attracted more attention to the meanings of the terms "Liberal" and "Conservative" than perhaps they have ever previously received, and a consideration of the political incidents of the last two or three years, over which period [12] the change has been gradually taking place, is capable of affording abundant matter for reflection on the subject with which I am dealing.

Mr. Joseph Chamberlain's, or perhaps, it would be more correct to say, Mr. Jesse Collings' startling proposals, with which every student of current politics is familiar, seem to have necessitated the reconsideration by many old and experienced politicians of the very first principles of the political policy which they were being assumed to profess. This arose from their continuing to class themselves under political party names, to which a new generation, or the leaders of that generation, were endeavouring to attach significations alike novel and historically incorrect. Those particular proposals, which are of the most unmistakably socialistic character, were then, and have been since claimed to come, whether considered from an analytical or historical standpoint, within the definition of the term "Liberalism;" and so frequently and persistently has this been contended for, that many people, who had previously gloried in their connection with the school of politics, which that term originally designated, have been forced, in order to avoid misconception as to their principles, to either use some qualifying phrase, such as "Moderate Liberalism," to better define their political creed, or to actually go over to the Conservative party. This influence, acting upon a good many minds, already more or less near the border-land of the respective party domains, has produced within the last one or two years only, some peculiarly kaleidoscopic effects in the political ranks of Great Britain. Such sound Liberals, even as Lord Hartington, Mr. Goschen, and others, were constrained, for the time being, to leave their political friends in the division on the question referred to—that of the allottments for agricultural labourers; claimed, as I have said, to come properly within the lines of "Liberalism." The division to which I here refer, was that which took place [13] upon an amendment to the reply to the Queen's Speech, immediately after the general election of 1885, and which was moved by Mr. Jesse Collings. The amendment turned upon the question of adding to the reply to the Queen's Speech an expression favourable to the allottments proposals. The division resulted in the defeat of the Tory party; but the proposals were strongly denounced by Lord Hartington and Mr. Goschen, as also by Mr. Bright and Mr. Joseph Cowen, all being Liberals of the soundest order. Ere these pages leave my hands we are in receipt of the astounding news that this identical scheme has been adopted by the Conservative Government, now in power, and that there is every prospect of its being acquiesced in by the "rank and file" of that party. A more significant event even than that is the acceptance by Mr. Goschen (an admittedly sound Liberal) of the leadership, in the House of Commons, of the Conservative party. Such events as these must indeed be conclusive, as showing that party titles have entirely lost their meaning, and really involve no principles whatever. The measure referred to originated with the most "advanced" wing of the Radical party, was denounced by the most moderate of the Liberals, and within a few months is included in the Tory policy! The Times, of 22nd October, 1886, observes—"It is right that the Tory party should become a moderate Liberal party, just as after the first Reform Bill, it became a Conservative party; but we doubt if either Conservative, or Unionist's Liberals will be content to see it transformed into a Radical party, pure and simple."

One of the most singular instances which I can mention, of the changed significations which are gradually being attached to such terms, is afforded by a quotation from a late publication, called "The Gladstone Parliament." "Most of the measures," says the writer, "which Mr. Bright advocated, have been passed, and Mr. Bright has become a Conservative [14] to all intents and purposes." I leave to my readers to determine whether it is not more likely that the term "Conservative" has undergone a great change of meaning than that a great and ever consistent "Liberal" statesman, such as Mr. Bright, has changed his political principles. Almost the same thing has been said of Mr. Goschen, who is probably one of the most steadfast and consistent Liberals of his generation. Indeed, the "Liberal Press" of the colony of Victoria has paid a high tribute to the ability and constancy to principle of that statesman. "He is," it has said, "in the very front rank of English Liberals, and has proved himself a sterling administrator. He has always been of a scholarly temperament, a man thoroughly conversant with first principles, and indisposed to sacrifice abstract right to expediency." "Yet," confesses the same journal, "he might count almost anywhere on splitting the Liberal vote, and on getting the solid vote of the Conservatives." This is afterwards accounted for on the ground that (among other things), "he has often voted over the heads of the multitude," and "never perfectly mastered the clap-trap and party cries of the British Philistine."

The fact is, as will be admitted by all who know anything of the man's career, he is an absolutely consistent Liberal who well knows the meaning of his party title, and the fundamental principles upon which it is founded, while the average elector, who contributed to his late rejection, is quite ignorant of that meaning or those principles.

Mr. Chamberlain lately said of Mr. Goschen, "Although he sits behind us he is very far behind, and I think that under a system of scientific classification he is rather to be described as a 'moderate Conservative' than as a 'Liberal.'"

The fact is the meanings of these terms are fast changing, and they themselves are being perverted to denote principles which were never contemplated either in their etymology, or by their originators. The following quotation from the [15] Times of 26th February, 1885, is peculiarly confirmatory of such a process. Speaking of the growing tendency to over-legislation in our own day that journal says, "This readiness to invoke the interference of the State between man and man, and to control by legislation, the liberties of individuals and the rights of property, is rapidly modifying the character of Liberal principles, as they were understood, even a few years ago." Elsewhere the same journal says, "The march of time has obliterated most of the distinctions between Whig and Tory. People are beginning to enquire seriously what a political party means." And again, it speaks of "The party badges which have long since ceased to denote any real difference of sentiment."

On 4th March, 1886, the following passage occurs in a leader of the same influential organ, "Our actual party names have become useless and even ridiculous. It is absurd to speak of a Liberal, when no man can tell whether it means Mr. Gladstone or Sir Henry James. It is absurd to speak of a Radical, when the word may denote either a man like Mr. Chamberlain, or a man like Mr. Morley…. It is ridiculous to maintain a distinction between moderate Liberals and moderate Conservatives, which no man can define or grasp, and which breaks down every test that can be applied by the practical politics of the day."

A much later proof of the want of clearness and certainty in the meaning of these two principle political terms is afforded by the division upon Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill. On that occasion we find some of the most prominent and eminent Liberals of the day—men like Lord Hartington, Mr. Bright, Mr. Goschen, and Mr. Trevelyan, as well as more "advanced" politicians of the Radical school, such as Mr. Chamberlain, completely breaking away from their party, on grounds of absolute principle. We find the difference of opinion so deeply seated, that at the general [16] election which followed the rejection of that measure, a large and formidable section of the Liberal and Radical parties actually allied themselves with the Tories, in their determination to vindicate, what they deemed to be, a vital principle of their school. Indeed, it is in the highest degree questionable whether the breach, which has thus been brought about, will be thoroughly healed for a considerable time, so strong has been the feeling, and so deeply rooted the differences of principle which have been thereby developed.

Who indeed could now say, under such circumstances, whether the Home Rule principle is or is not properly within the lines of Liberalism? Mr. Gladstone has claimed it as such, because, he contends, Liberalism means "trust in the people," and the measure has for its object the enabling the Irish to "govern themselves." Men like Lord Hartington, Mr. Goschen, and Mr. Bright, have expressed opinions equally strong in the opposite direction, showing at least the inconclusiveness of Mr. Gladstone's definition.

I have before me a volume of political speeches, delivered by Mr. Chamberlain during the last few years, and a perusal of them affords endless illustrations of the confusing and bewildering complication which has been produced in the various attempts to modify and adapt to modern circumstances these older party-titles, without having; at the same time, a clear knowledge of the principles which they originally connoted.

"A Liberal Government," says Mr. Chamberlain, "which pretends to represent the Liberal party, must, of necessity, consist of men of different shades of opinion." Speaking of the Conservative party, he says, elsewhere: "They have stolen my ideas, and I forgive them the theft in gratitude for the stimulus they have given to the Radical programme, and for the lesson they have taught to the weak-kneed Liberals, and to those timid politicians, who strained at the [17] Radical gnat, and who now find themselves obliged to swallow the Tory camel."

"You cannot," he observes, "turn over a page of the periodical Press, without finding 'True Conservatives,' or 'Other Conservatives,' or 'an Independent Conservative,' or 'a Conservative below the gangway.'"

Speaking, under the significant title of "Tory transformation," he draws attention to the fact that Sir Michael Hicks-Beach (the then Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer), had announced his government's adhesion to a particular policy, "in terms which any Radical might approve."

In another place the same authority says:—"The old Tory party, with its historic traditions, has disappeared. It has repudiated its name, and it has become Conservative. The Conservatives, in turn, have been seeking for another designation, and sometimes they come before you as 'Constitutionalists,' and then they break out in a new place as 'Liberal Conservatives.'" Alluding to Lord Randolph Churchill, Mr. Chamberlain says: "The Whigs are left in the lurch, and the Tories have come over bodily to the Radical camp, and are carrying out the policy which we have been vainly endeavouring to promote for the last five years…. He (Lord Randolph Churchill) was a Tory-Democrat in opposition, and he is a Tory-Democrat in office."

Who shall make head or tail of this medley of terms, or who shall or could possibly say what, if any, principles are involved in their application?

Some allowance should perhaps be made for the fact that in all of the sentences quoted Mr. Chamberlain was "abusing the other side," but, even after making such an allowance, there remains a substantial residuum of truth in the charges of transformation.

During the most agitated period of the English general elections of 1885, there issued from the London Press a [18] volume entitled, "Why am I a Liberal?" which the Times considered of sufficient importance to refer to at some length in one of its leading articles. A perusal of that volume will show how numerous and various, and how conflicting even, in their fundamental principles, are the definitions, offered by prominent statesmen and politicians in the present day, of the term "Liberalism" as a word of political classification. The author of the book determined (to use the words of the Times) "to heckle as many of the Liberal chiefs as would submit to the process," and, having so far succeeded in that determination, made public the fruits of his cross-questioning. He required "fifty-six reputed Liberals" to ask themselves for a reason for the political faith that was in them, and the result is certainly instructive, if only to show how "doctors differ,"—that is to say, how little unanimity there was among so many "professed Liberals" regarding the very principles upon which their party organisation is supposed to be based.

Let us first take Mr. Gladstone's answer to this pertinent question. "The principle of Liberalism" he says, "is trust in the people, qualified by prudence…. The principle of Conservatism is mistrust of the people qualified by fear." This, it must be admitted, is absolutely unscientific as a definition of a particular political policy; and, inasmuch as it makes use of, and depends upon words of such uncertain signification as "trust" and "prudence," to both of which probably no two minds would attach exactly the same meaning, the definition itself affords no guide on the point which it professes to elucidate. Lord Beaconsfield certainly said in 1872, that "the principles of Liberty, of order, of law and of religion ought not to be entrusted to individual opinion, or to the caprice and passion of multitudes, but should be embodied in a form of permanence and power"; but this can scarcely be fairly interpreted as implying "mistrust" of the people. If, [19] moreover, we consider Mr. Gladstone's definition in the light of his late Home Rule proposals, it would seem as if he had not, during fifty years experience of practical politics, seen the application of his principle of "trust" to the Irish people, until the element of "fear" had become an extremely prominent factor among his own party.

There is a passage in the same speech of Lord Beaconsfield, from which I have already quoted, in which that statesman might well be imagined to be addressing himself to the Home Rule question as a phase of Mr. Gladstone's present-day "Liberalism." "If," says Lord Beaconsfield, "you look to the history of this country since the advent of Liberalism—forty years ago—you will find that there has been no effort so continuous, so subtle, supported by so much energy, and carried on with so much ability and acumen, as the attempts of Liberalism to effect the disintegration of the Empire of England." [4]

In any case Mr. Gladstone's definition is useless as a test by which to gauge any future legislative proposal; and we may fairly infer that Mr. Gladstone's eminently logical mind is not prepared with anything more accurate for the present.

Turn now to the definition offered by Lord Rosebery, which is even more vague, and more useless as a definition. "I am a Liberal" he says, "because I wish to be associated with the best men in the best work." If such a sentence had been composed by any politician as little known as Lord Rosebery is well known, it is very doubtful whether it would have been deemed worth putting into print, not-withstanding its brevity. The author of the book, in which the definition is published, was evidently thankful for small mercies, for he has characterised it as a "magnificent sentence."


If the "best men" all gravitate to Liberalism as Lord Rosebery understands it, there must surely be some good reason for their so doing; and that very reason involves the definition which Lord Rosebery was evidently at a loss to supply. It might fairly be deduced as a sort of corollary from such a proposition that inasmuch as Mr. Goschen has now dissociated himself from the Liberal party, he is therefore one of the "worst" of men. I shall, however, contend hereafter, that Mr. Goschen's liberalism is based upon an infinitely surer and sounder foundation than that of Lord Rosebery. Mr. Chamberlain says "Progress is the law of the world;" and "Liberalism is the expression of this law in politics." But what is progress? That is the whole question requiring solution. Mr. Chamberlain himself proposed a scheme of granting allottments to the agricultural labourer, out of estates to be compulsorily taken by the Crown at a popular valuation. Even such Liberals as Mr. Goschen and Lord Hartington, as I have said, condemned the scheme as tending towards "Socialism;" and most men of intelligence regard "Socialism" as a theory of society, the adoption of which would involve retrogression. Who then shall judge between the author of this so-called progress, and those who otherwise regard it?

Mr. Joseph Arch begins his answer thus: "Because it was by men like Richard Cobden, John Bright, and other true Liberals, that I, as a working man, am able to obtain a cheap loaf to feed my family with." What a host of anomalies such an answer suggests! Mr. Arch obviously intends, by opening his definition with such a sentence, to convey his belief that Liberalism has, before all things, produced Free Trade. But if that is correct, the whole Liberal party and the whole Liberal Press of the colony of Victoria, to which I have referred, are professing one policy and practising another; for "Liberalism" and "Free Trade," are as I have also shown, regarded by those two interests as [21] absolutely contradictory. That party and that section of the Press would brand as a renegade any fellow "Liberal" who talked of a "cheap loaf" or of "the liberty to buy in the cheapest market." And if they are right, what becomes of Mr. Arch's definition?

I prefer to regard Mr. Arch's position as the more correct; and he certainly displays a consistency of principle for, in a subsequent part of his answer, he says of the Liberals: "Their past service for the good of mankind has established my confidence in them…in the future they will confer upon the nation greater freedom by just, wise, and liberal legislation." It is obvious that "Free Trade," by its very name, as well as by its nature, has, wherever it exists, added to the freedom of citizens—yet it will be seen, these opposite and contradictory interpretations are occurring among "Liberals" themselves! One of those who were interrogated possessed a rhyming tendency, and his answer is quoted in this somewhat mystifying publication. He says:—

"I am a Liberal, because
I would have equal rights and laws,
And comforts, too, for all."

This definition, if such it may be called, is even more comprehensive than that of Mr. Chamberlain, for it practically defines Communism, under which, not only "rights and laws" should be equal, but "comforts," too! which word includes everything calculated to make mankind happy—in fact, such a definition points to a general division! But, turning to another page, we find Mr. Broadhurst taking an entirely different view. He says Liberalism "teaches selfreliance, and gives the best opportunities to the people to promote their individual interest." "Liberalism," he says, "does not seek to make all men equal; nothing," he adds, "can do that. But its object is to remove all obstacles erected by men which prevent all having equal opportunities." [22] "This, in its turn," he continues, "promotes industry, and makes the realisation of reasonably ambitious hopes possible to the poorest man among us."

It would be interesting to know what "promotion" our present "industry" would undergo if "equal comforts" were secured to all by a "liberal" government. It is not unlikely that the "equality" would be realised in our all having none at all! Yet one other answer to this important question, and then I must leave the work, in which these interesting replies are contained, for a future chapter. "Liberal principles," says another of the interrogated, "develop responsibility." Some of the "liberal" legislation of Victoria would certainly not answer the requirements of this definition. Instance the Factories and Shops Act of that colony, by means of which shop-assistants have been relieved, through parliament, of the responsibility of helping themselves, as they might have done, by unanimity of action in relation to hours of work, and have had solved for them, by act of parliament, the truly difficult problem of determining which is the most suitable and wholesome portion of the factory in which to eat their meals! It is surely questionable whether this would come under the class of Liberalism which Mr. Broadhurst speaks of as "teaching self-reliance."

One of the "fifty-six reputed Liberals" stated that he was a Liberal because that school of politics seemed to him to mean "faith in the people, and confidence that they will manage their own affairs better than those affairs are likely to be managed for them by others."

Again I ask, who shall decide, among such a medley and contradiction of principles and definitions what Liberalism really means, when judged by this curious method? Yet it must have a meaning. Statesmen, politicians, newspaper writers must all mean something when they use the expression so frequently and so glibly. Yet those meanings seem [23] as various as the people themselves. And why? I think one of the chief causes is that the word is not used in its historical sense; that instead of first ascertaining what the term means, and then using it in its true signification, men form their own ideas as to that meaning, and, as a consequence, the definitions are as numerous as the people themselves. I think, too, another of the chief causes is to be found in the fact that the advocates of the greater part of the socialistic legislation, which is becoming so popular in Great Britian, as well as in other European countries, constantly and persistently claim its inclusion among the Radical or "Advanced Liberal" programme of the immediate future. This is done, obviously, in order to avail themselves of the popular associations which those party-titles carry with them, and by that means secure for such proposals a reputation and prestige which they do not deserve.

Some of the most unmistakably socialistic measures, which are now being widely discussed in England, as matters of "practical" politics, have been included in a list of subjects lately published, with a preface by Mr. Chamberlain, under the title of "The Radical programme." In this volume the author candidly admits that "Socialism" and "Radicalism" as advocated by him, and approved by Mr. Chamberlain, are synonymous. Mr. Chamberlain, too, in one of his speeches (April 28, 1885), says:—"Because State Socialism may cover very injurious and very unwise theories, that is no reason at all why we should refuse to recognise the fact that government is only the organisation of the whole people, for the benefit of all its members, and that the community may, aye, and ought to provide for all its members, benefits, which it is impossible for them to provide by their solitary and separate efforts." And elsewhere, speaking of the advantages of local government, he says:—"By its means you will be able to increase their (the masses) [24] comforts, to secure their health, to multiply the luxuries which they may enjoy in common." This extraordinary extension of the meaning of the term is one of the most marked tendencies of the times in which we live; and I venture to characterise it as a distinctly retrogressive movement in politics, which, when the history of our generation comes to be written, will be found to constitute an undoing, as it were, of much that has been done for us, and concerning which we have hitherto prided ourselves, at former epochs of our national history.

The Times, in August, of 1885, comments upon Mr. Chamberlain's allottment proposals in the following trenchant passage: "The most striking political phenomenon of the present day is the extraordinary crop of schemes for effecting social and moral reforms by act of parliament, which is ripening, under the fostering warmth of an impending appeal to a new set of electors, by politicians who find their old cries somewhat inadequate. Those who will take the trouble to make a rough analysis of the matter which fills the columns of the Times, will probably be surprised to find how large a proportion of it must be put down under the head of social legislation. The curious in such matters will further find that nearly all the proposals, now falling in quick succession on the public ear, imply a return to beliefs and methods, which it was the main boast of the Liberal party, in the days of youthful vigour which followed the first Reform Bill; to have exploded and discredited. A great part of its work consisted of clearing the statute book of well meant but abortive attempts to police men into morality, and to protect them into prosperity. It proclaimed the principles of individual responsibility, individual initiative, and private association for ends requiring combined action. The results of these principles are written in our material, moral, and legislative progress, during the last half century; but the watchwords have, somehow, lost their attractiveness, and we [25] are now busy with the work of reconstructing an edifice, closely resembling that which we so recently pulled down."

The truth is, the reins of government, in the present day, are in very different hands to those which held them fifty years ago. No doubt the comprehensive rectification of the franchise which was effected by the Reform Bill of 1832, immediately placed the machinery of government under the control of a much wider class; but it will take many years, even one or two generations, to enable that wider class to fully realise the extent and capabilities of the power thus placed in its hands. Now, that the fact has been partially realised, it is easy to understand that those who possess the power, without perhaps the necessary amount of judgment to wield it wisely, should have forgotten the experience of the Liberal party acquired at a time when they had not begun to co-operate in that party's doings. The Earl of Pembroke, in his admirable address on "Liberty and Socialism," considers one of the chief causes of this erroneous interpretation to be "the transfer of political power to classes, whose inexperience in political science, and whose circumstances in life, render them peculiarly liable to be tempted to try to better their position by the apparently short and easy method of legislation." Even at the present day, the democracy of England has not fully realised the dangers of which the political power they possess is capable, when selfishly and injudiciously wielded; and, as a consequence, they have not yet learned, by long possession, that much of the legislation, for which they are now crying out, has been already, even long since, tried, found wanting, and, as the Times says, become "exploded and discredited." In fact, as I shall show hereafter, the democracy is beginning to exercise its legislative strength in the very direction from which it took our forefathers centuries to advance; with this only exception, that it is tending towards the handing over of individual liberty to the great god "Demos," instead of the [26] King and the Nobles, who held it in days gone by, and from whom it required centuries of time, and rivers of blood to redeem it. I shall show in a subsequent chapter that the masses of Great Britain, as also of some of our colonies, in their failure to forsee and regard the ultimate, as distinguished from the immediate results of legislation, bid fair, in the short-sighted desire for class advantages, to build up, in and around the communities in which they are able to turn the political scale, a series of restrictions and curtailments upon personal liberty, which, if persisted in, must sooner or later render citizenship in such communities almost unbearable.

Now the mere change of meaning, in such terms as those with which I have been dealing, need not necessarily be an evil in itself, if only such a change could be made once for all, and such men, as were likely to be influenced by the mere application of the terms, were clearly and permanently impressed with these new meanings, and induced to change their position and party attitude in accordance with these altered significations. In such cases it would require only a short time to enable the various parties to again crystalise into compactness and definiteness. But, even if this were practicable, which it is not, the word "Liberalism" has a history, and its preceding synonyms (representing the same principles) run their roots far back into the past centuries of our mother-country's growth and social development. As a consequence of this, the altered meaning which it is sought, for various reasons, to attach to the word "Liberalism" is likely to be, and of late has been, productive of endless confusion and social disturbance, since a very large proportion of politicians are wholly influenced, in their action, by party titles, which, in too many cases, they do not take the trouble to analyse.

In an old established community such as Great Britain, party-loyalty is, among many families, regarded as one of the [27] most sacred of traditions; and a party-title might therefore undergo more than sufficient alteration to lead to misunderstanding and social injury, before many of such a class would think themselves justified in breaking away from a traditional party-title. This hesitation would exist equally on the Liberal or Conservative side, so that, as a necessary consequence of such a change of signification, there must result, and really has resulted in our own day, a continuous support of, or opposition to measures, based on neither reason nor personal approval. [5]

I propose, in the following chapter, to completely investigate the historical meaning of the term "Liberalism," through the medium of those other party-titles which served, in turn, as watchwords for the same deeply-cherished principles. I propose also to show the bearing of those terms upon their respective contemporary politics; to explain their original and correct meaning, and, in subsequent chapters, to expose, as well as I am able, the spurious political creed, which, during the last few years, has, under cover of the good name, been sought to be foisted upon the less thoughtful of our fellow-men.

Finally, I shall show that the new doctrines, which are confidently spoken of as coming under the equivocal term "advanced Liberalism," if not sooner or later checked by the influence of all lovers of wise and equitable government, are likely to completely undermine our freedom and our enterprise, as well as the deeper foundations of our social order and progress.




"Not only in politics, but in literature, in art, in science, in surgery and mechanics, in navigation and agriculture, nay, even in mathematics, we find this distinction. Everywhere there is a class of men who cling with fondness to whatever is ancient, and who, even when convinced by overpowering reasons that innovation would be beneficial, consent to it with many misgivings and forebodings. We find, also, everywhere, another class of men, sanguine in hope, bold in speculation, always pressing forward, quick to discern the imperfections of whatever exists, disposed to think lightly of the risks and inconveniences which attend improvements, and disposed to give every change credit for being an improvement. In the sentiments of both classes there is something to approve. But of both, the best will be found not far from the common frontier. The extreme section of one class consists of bigoted dotards—the extreme section of the other consists of shallow and reckless empirics."—MACAULAY.






"A body of members anxious to preserve, and a body eager to reform."—MACAULAY.

IT has been well said that "At no time in the history of any nation have men not been banded together to attain certain ends. The patriarchal chief may be tyrannous or madly cruel—a party of his clan join together to check or depose him. Here, in its simplest form, is foreshadowed the resistance to royal prerogative, of Magna Charta, the Bill of Rights, the battles of parliament with the Crown, resulting in the death of Charles, the exclusion of James, and the inauguration of the present era." [1]

The history of Great Britain, during the last eight centuries is, in fact, the history of the political parties which have from time to time struggled for supremacy in her government; and it may be safely said, that during no period, since the Norman Conquest, has there been wanting a wholesome difference of opinion as to the fundamental principles, according to which such government should be conducted. The growth, or, as it has been called, the "expansion" of Great Britain, in the development of her many prosperous colonies, has, in many, if not most cases [30] been accompanied by the local adoption in those colonies of the same political party-titles which have served in the older community, and that adoption has frequently produced extraordinary results in shaping the forms of government and the legislation itself of the younger communities. The history and meaning of such terms should therefore be a subject of considerable interest to all English-speaking people.

Of all the political party-titles which have, at different epochs, been used to designate and classify groups of men, bound together over some important common cause, or widely-recognised principle, there are not many which historians have considered of sufficient importance to entitle them to either permanent record, or lengthy consideration.

I propose to deal in this chapter with the titles "Roundhead" and "Cavalier," which originated in the seventeenth century, with those of "Tory" and "Whig," which were afterwards substituted for them, and, finally, with the more modern terms, "Conservative," "Liberal," and "Radical," as also with some of the expressions which are used now-a-days to designate various shades of the political creeds which the former are intended, or supposed, to indicate.

From the date of the Conquest (which seems a sufficiently remote epoch from which to commence any investigations for practical purposes) up to the year 1641—when Charles I. found it necessary to visit Scotland, with a view to pacify that kingdom, by consenting to relinquish certain plans of ecclesiastical reform—up to that time, history affords us no instances of the use of any political party-titles of consequence, that is to say, such as involved any great and important principle, affecting the well being of society. [2]


I by no means intend to imply that during the period previous to that date (1641), embracing as it does, five centuries of England's history, society was not agitated, and, from time to time, distinctly divided on questions of importance and even of magnitude to the whole English race. As a fact, that period witnessed some of the most severe and most memorable struggles for civil and religious liberty which have been recorded in our country's history—including, indeed, those never-to-be-forgotten instances which culminated in the Charter of Henry I.; the Great Charter of King John; the establishment of parliament as a medium for the expression of the people's wants—even the Reformation itself. One might even characterise that period (from the 11th to the 17th century) as the most important—so far as our liberties are concerned—in the whole of English history. Indeed Macaulay says, speaking of the 13th century, "sterile and obscure as is that portion of our annals, it is there that we must look for the origin of our freedom, our prosperity and our glory. Then it was that the great English people was formed, that the national character began to exhibit those peculiarities which it has since retained; and that our forefathers became emphatically islanders—islanders not merely in geographical position, but in their politics, their feelings, and their manners. Then first appeared with distinctness that constitution which has ever since, through all changes, preserved its identity; that constitution of which all the other free constitutions in the world are copies, and which, in spite of some defects, deserves to be regarded as the best under which any society has ever yet existed, during many ages." [3]

Even at the time of which I am speaking, considerable progress had been made in the levelling up of classes, which was effected by reducing the power of the Sovereign and his nobility, and increasing the freedom of the masses. [32] Three centuries before, "there had been barons able to bid defiance to the sovereign, and peasants degraded to the level of the swine and oxen which they tended;" but now (in the 14th century) "the exorbitant power of the baron had been gradually reduced. The condition of the peasant had been gradually elevated. Between the aristocracy and the working people, had sprung up a middle class, agricultural and commercial. There was still, it may be, more inequality than is favourable to the happiness and virtue of our species, but no man was altogether above the restraints of law, and no man was altogether below its protection. [4]

Thus it will be seen that much had been done during and even prior to the 14th century, towards the attainment of our civil liberties. Yet, as I have already said, over none of the gradual or spasmodic social movements, by which these altered conditions were secured, do there seem to have arisen any political party-titles which were widely adopted and rendered current as a means of implying the championship of some great principle of government. It was not, I repeat, until the year 1641 that any such party-titles came to be widely used.

From that year we must date "the corporate existence of the two great parties which have ever since alternately governed the country." "In one sense" says Macaulay, "the distinction which then became obvious had already existed and always must exist; for it has its origin in diversity of temper, of understanding and of interest, which are found in all societies, and which will be found till the human mind ceases to be drawn in opposite directions by the charm of habit and the charm of novelty." [5]

"There can be no doubt," says the same eloquent writer, "that in our very first parliaments might have been discerned a body of members anxious to preserve, and a body eager [33] to reform. But while the sessions of the legislature were short, these bodies did not take definite and permanent forms, array themselves under recognised leaders, or assume distinguishing names, badges, and war cries. [6]

How these parties came into existence has thus been described: "In October 1641, when the parliament reassembled, after a short recess, two hostile parties, essentially the same with those which, under different names, have ever since contended, and are still contending for the direction of public affairs, appeared confronting each other. During some years they were designated "Cavaliers" and "Roundheads": They were subsequently called "Whigs" and "Tories." [7] These particular party-titles served as terms of classification during many political struggles, but there is, as I shall show, traceable, throughout the whole period during which they were in constant use, one main principle, which was never lost sight of until our own day.

"No doubt" says a specialist, "in dealing with the question of parties, the various phases of these struggles were infinitely intricate, and complicated throughout, by personal interest and questions of the day, which interfere with our vision of their general drift; but, taking a view over these centuries, from the vantage ground we have reached, we see that, in the main, the battle was being fought of freedom of thought, civil and religious, against the dynastic and despotic in politics, and the saterdotal and mysterious in religion." [8] The origin of the former of these terms "Cavalier" and "Roundhead" is sufficiently explained by Hume. Writing of the disordered and disturbed state of affairs which existed in 1641 between the Commons, the Lords, and the King, over questions of parliamentary privilege, he says, with reference to one particular collision between the royalists [34] and the popular party; "Several reduced officers and young gentlemen of the Inns of court, during the time of disorder and danger, offered their services to the King. Between them and the populace there passed frequent skirmishes which ended not without bloodshed. By way of reproach, these gentlemen gave the rabble the appellation of "Roundheads," on account of the short cropped hair which they wore; these called the others "Cavaliers": and thus the nation, which was before sufficiently provided with religions as well as civil causes of quarrels, was also supplied with party names, under which the factions might rendezvous and signalise their mutual hatred." [9]

At this time, a bill was introduced into the Commons, the object of which was to enable soldiers to be pressed into the service of Ireland. The bill quickly passed the Lower House. "In the preamble, the King's power of pressing—a power exercised during all former times—was declared illegal, and contrary to the liberty of the subject." [10] Here was a most distinct resuscitation of the same sacred principle, which had underlain such great movements as Magna Charta, centuries before—a principle unmistakable in its aim, and susceptible of only one interpretation. It was, in fact, a distinct challenge on the part of the people, by which the principle of "equal rights" was again demanded recognition: a protest, in short, against the assumed power of the monarch to interfere with the individual liberty of his subjects.

The fate of the measure in question is interesting and worth mentioning. "In order to elude this law the King offered to raise 10,000 volunteers for the Irish service, but the Commons were afraid lest such an army should be too much at his devotion. Charles, still unwilling to submit to so considerable a diminution of power, came to the House of Peers and offered to pass the law without the preamble [35] by which means, he said, that ill-timed question, with regard to the prerogative, would, for the present, be avoided, and the pretensions of each party left entire. Both Houses were plunged into conflict over this measure…. The Lords, as well as the Commons, passed a vote, declaring it to be a high breach of privilege, for the King to take notice of any bill, which was in agitation in either of the Houses, or to express his sentiments, regarding it, before it be presented to him for his assent in a Parliamentary manner." [11] The confidence of the Commons now rose to a great height. They ventured to tell the Lords, in the most open manner, "that they themselves were the representative body of the whole kingdom, and that the peers were nothing but individuals who held their seats in a particular capacity; and, therefore, if their lordships will not consent to the passing of acts necessary for the preservation of the people, the Commons, together with such of the Lords as are more sensible of the danger, must join together and represent the matter to his Majesty." [12] Notwithstanding the threatening action of the Commons in this matter, "the majority of the Lords adhered to the King, and plainly forsaw the depression of nobility as a necessary consequence of popular usurpations on the Crown." [13] "The King," adds Hume, "was obliged to compose all matters by an apology."

It is probable, therefore, that the real reason for these two party-names having outlived the particular quarrel over which they originated, is to be found in the fact that they at once crystalised certain popular sentiments of freedom and liberalism, which were rife in those troubled times, during which they served so conspicuously. Such sentiments were then probably ever present among the people, who frequently found it necessary to revive the memory of earlier [36] struggles for the same principles. That these were the sentiments of the contending parties, who were afterwards known by the above-mentioned names, there can be little doubt. Macaulay, speaking of them, and their respective principles, says, "If in her (England's) institutions, freedom and order, the advantages arising from innovation, and the advantages arising from prescription, have been combined to an extent elsewhere unknown, we may attribute this happy peculiarity to the strenuous conflicts and alternate victories of two rival confederacies of statesmen: a confederacy zealous for authority and antiquity, and a confederacy zealous for liberty and progress…. Twice in the course of the seventeenth century," he adds, "the two parties suspended their dissensions, and united their strength in the common cause. Their first coalition restored hereditary monarchy. Their second coalition rescued constitutional freedom." [14] And again, the same writer, summing up the arguments of these two contending parties, credits the "Cavaliers" with the following sentiments:—"Hence-forth, it will be our wisdom to look with jealousy on schemes of innovation, and to guard, from encroachment, all the prerogatives with which the law has, for the public good, armed the Sovereign." Regarding the "Roundheads," on the other hand, they contended thus, "If once the check of fear were withdrawn, if once the spur of opposition were suffered to slumber, all the securities for English freedom resolved themselves into a single one—the Royal word; and it had been proved by a long and severe experience that the Royal word could not be trusted."

Elsewhere, speaking of the character of a famous states-man of the times, Macaulay says, "He was, by hereditary connection a Cavalier; but with the Cavaliers he had nothing in common. They were zealous for monarchy, and condemned in theory all resistance." [15]


From the foregoing quotations and authorities, it must, I think, be sufficiently evident that the respective parties, concerning which I have been speaking, derived their political inspiration and enthusiasm from the same principles which have since given life and vigour to the Whig and the Liberal, respectively, of subsequent times.

The author of "Phases of Party," from which I have already quoted, says:—"The Cavaliers proved the starting-point or nucleus of what, in our own times, is still, by some, called the Tory party. [16] And Macaulay himself, speaking of the Cavaliers and Roundheads, says, "They were subsequently called Whigs and Tories." [17]

Let us turn then to the latter terms, as coming next in order after those with which we have dealt; and further confirmation will be found of that, for which I am contending—viz., that the same spirit, the same sentiments, the same fundamental principles, in fact, which actuated the Roundheads, in the time of Charles, influenced the Whig party in later times.

The actual origin of the word "Whig" is not as clear as archæologists might wish, but it is sufficiently clear for my purpose. "The name of Whig," says Hallam, "meaning sour milk, as is well known, is said to have originated in Scotland in 1648, and was given to those violent Covenanters who opposed the Duke of Hamilton's invasion of England, in order to restore Charles I." [18] "The Whigs," says another authority, "during the first half of the seventeenth century, had one object of paramount national importance, to which all their energies had to be devoted—the maintenance of the Protestant settlement and dynasty. On this hung our religious and political liberties." [19] Macaulay, speaking of certain other political party-titles, with which we are not now concerned, says:—"These appellations soon became [38] obsolete, but at this time were first heard two nicknames, which, though originally given in insult, were soon assumed with pride; which are still in daily use, which have spread as widely as the English race, and which will last as long as the English literature. It is a curious circumstance that one of these nicknames was of Scotch, and the other of Irish origin. Both in Scotland, and in Ireland, misgovernment had called into existence bands of desperate men, whose ferocity was heightened by religious enthusiasm…. These zealots were most numerous among the rustics of the Western lowlands, who were vulgarly called "Whigs." Thus the appellation of "Whig" was fastened on the Presbyterian zealots of Scotland, and was transferred to those English politicians, who showed a disposition to oppose the Court, and to treat Protestant Nonconformists with indulgence. The bogs of Ireland, at the same time, afforded a refuge to Popish outlaws, much resembling those, who were afterwards known as "Whiteboys." These men were then called "Tories." [20] Hallam says much the same thing regarding the origin of the word. He speaks of it as "a nickname for some of the Wild Irish of Ulster." The author of "Phases of Party" says it was "equivalent to the word rapparee, used of the Wild Irish beyond the English pale." Regarding the political application of the term, Macaulay says, further: "The title of Tory was given to Englishmen, who refused to concur, in excluding a Roman Catholic prince from the throne." [21]

Carlyle, in his "Cromwell's Letters" mentions 1648 as the "first appearance of the Whig party on the page of history, called" he says, "the Whiggimore Raid," while Hume, writing of 1680 says, "This year is remarkable for being the epoch of the well-known epithets Whig, and Tory, by which, and sometimes without any material difference, this island [39] has been so long divided. The Court party, he adds, "reproached their antagonists with their affinity to the fanatical Covenanters in Scotland, who were known by the name of Whigs; the Country party found a resemblance between the Courtiers and the Popish Banditti in Ireland, to whom the appellation of "Tory" was affixed, and, after this manner, these foolish terms of reproach came into public and general use." [22] "It was" says Hallam again, "in the year 1679 that the words Whig and Tory were first heard, in their application to English factions, and though as senseless as any cant terms that could be devised, they became instantly as familiar in use, as they have since continued. There were then questions in agitation, which rendered the distinction more broad and intelligible, than it has generally been in later times. One of these, and the most important was the Bill of Exclusion in which, as it was usually debated, the republican principle that all positive institutions of society are in order to the general good, came into collision with that of monarchy." [23] "Then," says the same writer, "were first ranged, against each other, the hosts of Whig and Tory, under their banners of liberty, and loyalty."

The same principles of individual liberty, on the one hand, and monarchical authority on the other, are observable throughout the history of these terms. A study of that history will prove that, with one or two temporary exceptions, which, indeed, prove the rule, the terms served to suggest the same principles, the same longings and aspirations for a state of society under which the "equal rights" and "equal opportunities" of all men should be fully recognised. Nor, is it difficult to understand, that such a contention should be urged with some warmth of feeling, by the least influential classes, who would, naturally, be disregarded by the more wealthy and better educated section of society, then possessing the balance of political [40] power. Such was, in fact, the case. Macaulay says, in dealing with the history of the seventeenth century:—"The gentry and clergy…were, indeed, with few exceptions, Tories. But the yeomen, the traders of the town, the peasants, and the citizens, were generally animated by the old Roundhead spirit."

It has been often contended that these terms were frequently reversed, and, to such an extent, as to render it impossible to associate them with any well-defined principles; but this view is, as we shall, upon good authority, show hereafter, erroneous. Meanwhile, however, let us look further to history, or similar writings, for information concerning the meanings attached to these terms, as they were generally understood. The apparent exceptions can be dealt with afterwards. Macaulay says, in his essay on the "Earl of Chatham:"—"If, rejecting all that is merely accidental, we look at the essential characteristics of the Whig and the Tory, we may consider each of them as the representative of a great principle, essential to the welfare of nations. One is, in an especial manner, the guardian of liberty, and the other of order. One is the moving power, and the other the steadying power of the State—one is the sail without which society would make no progress, the other the ballast, without which there would be small safety in a tempest." [24]

Elsewhere Macaulay says, "The Whig theory of government is that kings exist for the people and not the people for kings". [25] Hallam says that no clear understanding can be acquired of the political history of England, without distinguishing with some accuracy of definition, these two great parties. [26] They differed, he says, mainly in this, "that to a Tory the constitution, inasmuch as it was the constitution, was an ultimate point, beyond which he never looked, and from which he thought it altogether impossible to [41] swerve; whereas a Whig deemed all forms of government subordinate to the public good, and therefore liable to change, when they should choose to promote that object. The one (he continues) loved to descant on liberty, and the rights of mankind, the other on the mischiefs of sedition, and the rights of kings." [27] The Tory was "hostile to the liberty of the Press and to freedom of enquiry, especially in religion; the latter their friend. The principle of the one was amelioration; of the other conservation." The respective banners of the two parties, he says further, were those of "liberty or loyalty." [28]

Hume says "A Tory may be defined, in a few words, to be a lover of monarchy, though without abandoning liberty." A Whig may be defined, he adds, as a "lover of liberty, though without renouncing monarchy." [29]

Macaulay again says, in his "Essay on the History of the Revolution," "It had always been the fundamental doctrine of that (the Whig) party, that power is a trust for the people; that it is given to magistrates, not for their own, but for the public advantage." And once more in the same essay he speaks of the same party as looking "with complacency on all speculations favourable to public liberty, and with extreme aversion on all speculations favorable to arbitrary power."

Hallam, too, in a note to his history (Chap xvi), speaks of a distinction having been drawn, in the reign of Queen Anne, between what were known as the "Old Whigs" and the "Modern Whigs;" but, he adds, that the distinction lay in the fact that the former professed "a more steady attachment (than the latter) to the principles of civil liberty."

It will be observed that throughout these implied definitions, there is one word prominent above all others, and that which must be regarded as the watchword of the party, [42] I refer to the word "liberty." Whether we take the definitions of the term "Roundhead" or the term "Whig," we find the same word, and the same principle, underlying every action, and even every attempt at action, entered upon by the party, working as an organisation. There can therefore be no doubt, that as far as history is able to enlighten us on the subject, these parties were ever struggling to reach the goal of freedom of citizenship: liberty for the individual.

Let us revert now to the exceptions which have been mentioned as disturbing the continuous and uniform interpretation of the words "Whig" and "Tory." That there have been some apparent exceptions to that uniformity of signification, there is no doubt; but they are only what we would call surface objections, that is to say exceptions which disappear upon a closer examination of the facts surrounding and underlying them. The true explanation concerning most of these exceptions is to be found in the fact that the Whig party were always in advance of the Tories, in the demand for more liberty—more freedom.

By continuous efforts and successes, on the part of the Whigs, the Tory party, at different stages of history, became gradually less exclusive, and more liberal in their view of social questions. Having started from an attitude of absolute exclusiveness, at which time the demands of the Whig party were comparatively modest, it would naturally, and actually did happen, that the Tories came to view favourably a class of legislation which they had at one time resisted. Meanwhile the Whigs had become more pressing in their demands, and, step by step, the Tory party, as a whole, was forced to recognise principles and claims, which it had, at one time, strenuously opposed. By this means the policy of the Tory party, when viewed from a distance (as is the case in the reading of history), appears at one time to approve principles which the Whigs had, at a former period, been advocating.


This is in fact the case, as I shall show. Mr. Gladstone has lately defined the Tory policy to be "mistrust of the people, qualified by fear" a definition which, though extremely vague and unsatisfactory, nevertheless throws some light on this feature of my subject. The Tory party never had any fixed standard. Their's has always been the policy of the "brake," retarding the progress of the Whigs. The mistrust of the people (to follow out Mr. Gladstone's definition) would (if unqualified) have prompted the Tory party to offer physical resistance to the Whig principles; but doubtless the "fear," of which Mr. Gladstone speaks, has, throughout the struggles of these two parties, served always as a subject for reflection in cooler moments, and ultimately led to a gradual giving way to the Whig demands.

What then are these exceptions? I venture the opinion that they merely indicate the advancing steps which Whiggism has made in its struggles for liberty. What the Tories at one time resisted, at another time they approved—that would follow as a result of their gradually giving way to Whig demands. But no case can be quoted in which the Whigs, as a body, approved, at one time, that which they had, at another period, disapproved. Macaulay in his essay on "The Succession in Spain," which constitutes a review of a history of that epoch, finds reason for again touching upon this subject of political party-titles. Lord Mahon, the author of that history, had said:—"I cannot but pause for a moment, to observe how much the course of a century has inverted the meaning of our party nicknames—how much a modern Tory resembles a Whig of Queen Anne's reign, and a Tory of Queen Anne's reign a modern Whig." Commenting upon these words, Macaulay says, "We grant one half of Lord Mahon's proposition; from the other half we altogether dissent.We allow that a modern Tory resembles, in many things, a Whig of Queen Anne's reign. It is natural [44] (he adds), that such should be the case. The worst things of one age often resemble the best things of another," "The science of government" he continues, "is an experimental science, and, therefore, it is, like all other experimental sciences, a progressive science…. If Lord Mahon lives fifty years longer, we have no doubt that, as he now boasts of the resemblance which the Tories of our time bear to the Whigs of the Revolution, he will then boast of the resemblance borne by the Tories of 1882 to those immortal patriots, the Whigs of the Reform Bill." [30] "Society" he adds, "is constantly advancing in knowledge. The tail is now where the head was some generations ago. But the head and the tail still keep their distance…. In the same way, though a Tory may now be very much like a Whig of a hundred and twenty years ago, the Whig is as much in advance of the Tory as ever." "Though, therefore," he concludes, on that feature of his subject "we admit that a modern Tory bears some resemblance to a Whig of Queen Anne's reign, we can by no means admit that a Tory of Queen Anne's reign resembled a modern Whig."

One very distinct instance there is, in which the Tory party were to be found strongly resisting the one institution of all others, which it has been the aim of the party, on all occasions, and under all other circumstances, to support, viz., the Crown; and, on the other hand, the Whigs were to be found as strenuously supporting that same institution. Here is a seeming inconsistency; but the inconsistency is only superficial. The period to which I refer is the half century or so, which followed the accession of the House of Hanover. "There can be no doubt," says Macaulay, "that, as respected the practical questions, then pending, the Tory [45] was a reformer, and, indeed, an intemperate and indiscreet reformer; while the Whig was a Conservative, even to bigotry. Thus the successors of the old Cavaliers had turned demagogues: the successors of the old Roundheads had turned courtiers. [31]

But it is now necessary to observe what were "the practical questions of the day," as Macaulay calls them? The most prominent question, then at issue, was that of the Protestant dynasty. The Whig party was strenuously supporting it, while the Tory viewed it with the most intense animosity. At first there seems to be here an unmistakable contradiction in principle, but, as we have already said, the contradiction was only upon the surface. Both parties were, to use Macaulay's words, "thrown into unnatural situations; and both, like animals transported to an incongenial climate, languished and degenerated."

Macaulay, however, supplies elsewhere the following explanation of the situation. "The Whig conceived that he could not better serve the cause of civil and religious freedom than by strenuously supporting the Protestant dynasty." [32] Thus the support of an institution, ever previously distasteful, was made a means to the great end of Whiggism—viz., Liberty.

It may be added that the fact of any other "practical questions then pending," receiving any other than genuine Whig treatment, is due to the circumstance, that, to use Macaulay's words, "both parties were thrown into unnatural situations, and came, by degrees, to attach more importance to the means than to the end." This, however, in a short time, rectified itself, so that the period of departure, even if it may be so regarded, was a mere "fly in the amber," as affecting the fundamental principle of Whiggism. Indeed, Hallam, treating of that particular period, says, in confirmation of this conclusion, that, "In the conduct of this (Whig) [46] party, generally speaking, we do not, I think, find any abandonment of the cause of liberty." [33]

Turning, now, to the more modern terms of political classification, it will, in the first place, be seen that their adoption, as party-titles, has been anything but spontaneous. It will be equally evident, on a closer study of their original application to men and measures, that they were used for the purpose of connoting the same principles, which had been implied in the respective terms which preceded them. The term "Liberal" will perhaps be found to be better adapted to the spirit of the times, in which it was first used, yet, nevertheless, to represent the same principle of individual freedom which was involved in its two predecessors "Roundhead" and "Whig."

The term "Conservative" likewise, will be found to represent the same principle of resistance to the wave of popular government, the gradual but certain approach of which is observable throughout history. There is this difference, however, between the respective sets of terms, that whereas those, which have always represented the popular side (Roundhead, Whig, Liberal), have, from first to last, been associated with one particular principle of individual liberty, those which represented the more exclusive side (Cavalier, Tory, Conservative), have been alike in their meaning, only in their general tendency to resist the growth of popular government. Towards what measures that resistance should be offered, has depended upon the epoch, at which it has been demanded by the people; for, as I have shown, the Conservative party has, at times, acquiesced in legislation to which the Tory party had offered resistance, and in like manner, the Tory party acquiesced in legislation which the old Cavalier party had opposed.

The one party has been ever reaching forwards, in the direction of the same goal—the other has always [47] consistently acted the part of the brake, giving way only when the force of public opinion was plainly incapable of resistance.

Before proceeding now to a closer consideration of the words "Liberal," "Conservative" and "Radical," let us in a few words trace, what I would term, their dove-tailing with those other terms which preceded them, in order to show when, and for what reason, they came into existence. As far as my present knowledge serves me, the word "Liberal" is much older, as a political term, than the word "Conservative." The latter is said to have first "come into fashion" about the year 1837. The original use of the word, as describing a particular political party, is attributed to Mr. Wilson Croker, who had used it, some years before, in a Quarterly Review article, in which he avowed his attachment to "what is called the Tory, but which," he said, "might, with more propriety, be called the Conservative party." During the general election for the year mentioned, Lord John Russell, in the course of a public utterance, twitted the Tory party with the new name, which was beginning to be used by themselves. "If," said he, "that is the name that pleases them; if they say that the old distinction of Whig and Tory should no longer be kept up, I am ready, in opposition to their name of 'Conservative,' to take the name of 'Reformer,' and to stand by that opposition." [34] This, however, is not the first time at which the term was used in a political sense, for I find that Macaulay, in a speech upon reform, in 1831, that is six years before Mr. Croker's article appeared, spoke of "a Liberal Government" making a "Conservative people." Mr. Croker may, however, have been the first to advocate its definite adoption as a party-title.

The word "Liberal" does not seem to have had so definite and spontaneous an origin. I am not aware even [48] that the actual origin of the word, as a party-title, is anywhere mentioned, with any degree of definiteness, whether in works of modern history or in that class of literature which deals more particularly with party-names. It has been supposed, by some, to have been first used in the Corn Law times; by others in the year of the Reform Bill. Mr. Chambers in his short treatise on "Phases of Party" says: "The Liberal party may be said to have its rise as a technical section of the country from the time of the Reform Bill of 1832," [35] but I have found it used, and with a certain degree of familiarity as far back as the year 1820—in such a way, too, as to confirm and strengthen my contention that, just as the word "Whig" served as a substitute for its predecessor Roundhead, in signifying that class of politicians who were ever striving for more individual freedom in our social arrangements; so the word "Liberal" came gradually to take the place of the word "Whig" in the same behalf. "They mean" says Mr. Chambers, speaking of the Liberal party, "that body of men, who, whether originally Whigs or converts from the Conservative side…had all along advocated Liberal principles." They, in mental tone, were little removed from the Whig party of the 17th and 18th centuries. [36]

In the published collection of Lord Jeffrey's contributions to the Edinburgh Review, the following phrase is used, as a sort of page-heading, over one of the essays, entitled, "United States of America"—"English Liberals, more abused than American." The essay itself was published as far back as 1820, but the edition, in which it is collected, is of a much later date. The phrase, therefore, might not have occurred in the original publication.

In a later essay, however, originally published in 1826, and entitled "Middle and Extreme Parties," the word "Liberal" is used more than once in the text itself, and, in [49] such a way as, not only to designate a class of political opinions, but also to show what the particular principles were, which such term signified and comprehended. Speaking of the party attitude of the Review, in which the essay was then published, and, of which he himself was, at the time, editor, Lord Jeffrey says:—"It is but fair, however, before concluding, to state that, though we do occupy a position between the intolerant Tories and the thorough Reformers, we conceive that we are considerably nearer to the latter than to the former. In our principles, indeed, and the ends, at which we aim, we do not materially differ from what is professed by the more sober among them; though we require more caution, more securities, more exceptions, more temper, and more time. That is the difference in our theories. In practice, we have no doubt, we shall all have time enough; for it is the lot of England, we have little doubt, to be ruled, in the main, by what will be called a Tory party, for as long a period as we can now look forward to, with any great distinctness—by a Tory party, however, restrained more and more in its propensities, by the growing influence of Whig principles, and the enlightened vigilance of that party, both in parliament and out of it; and now and then admonished by a temporary expulsion, of the necessity of a still greater conformity with the progress of liberal opinions than could be spontaneously obtained." [37]

It is evident from this essay, as I shall by quotation show, that the two extreme parties then existing were the "Tories" on the one hand, and the "Radical Reformers" on the other. The "Whigs" stood between, and it is equally evident, that the Whigs were being looked to, to display that liberal moderation which constitutes true "Liberalism." Speaking, for instance, of the prospects of parties, the same writer says:—"The thorough Reformers [50] never can be in power in this country, but by means of an actual revolution. The Whigs may, and occasionally will, without any disturbance to its peace." The Whigs, he goes on to say, cannot approach the Radical Reformers, because of the "dangerous" and "unreasonable" nature of the latter's principles, and their mode of asserting them. The Radical Reformers, on the other hand, can, he contends, come to the Whigs, because of the preference which the former must have for the principles and measures of the latter over those of the Tories.

"This accordingly," he says, "will ultimately be the result, and is already, we have no doubt, in the course of accomplishment; and, taken along with the gradual abandonment of all that is offensive in Tory pretensions, and the silent adoption of most of the Whig principles, even by those who continue to disclaim the name, will effect almost all that sober lovers of their country can expect, for the security of her liberties, and the final extinction of all extreme parties, in the liberal moderation of Whiggism." [38] The latter words are significant as showing what I have already said, that the school of politics, which has now distinctly acquired the name "Liberalism" is "Whiggism" itself, or, as Jeffrey says, a "liberal moderation" of it.

Elsewhere, in the same essay from which I have quoted, Lord Jeffrey says:—"We are entitled to reckon that every one who is detached from the Tory or the Radical faction, will make a stage at least, or half-way house of Whiggism." Again, "If there was no natural war between Democracy and Monarchy, no true ground of discord between Tories and Radical Reformers—we admit there would be no vocation for Whigs; for the true definition of that party, as matters now (1826) stand in England, is that it is a middle party, between the two extremes of high monarchial principles, on the one hand, and extremely popular principles on [51] the other." Again, the same authority speaks of "this middle party, which we take to be now represented by the old Constitutional Whigs of 1688."

The two essays in question are full of interesting allusions to the different and then existing parties, all of which I cannot find room for here; but from a careful perusal of which I deduce the following general conclusions, viz.,—That the Whig party stood mid-way between the Tories and the "Radical Reformers;" that the party who then championed the cause of Liberty, if not identical with the Whig party of the day, at least comprehended all the moderate section of that party; that the Radical party of that day were extreme in their policy, inasmuch as the middle party—the nucleus of the present Liberal party; advocates, too, for freedom—regarded their policy as "unreasonable and dangerous."

The term "Liberal" is used in much the same sense, in Hallam's "Constitutional History," written in 1827. Speaking there of the Revolution of 1688, he says:—"It was the triumph of those principles which, in the language of the present day, are denominated Liberal or Constitutional, over those of absolute monarchy, not effectually controlled by State boundaries."

I find, also, constant reference to the term in Burke's "Letter on the Penal Laws against Catholics," and his "Address to the British Colonists in North America," written in 1777 and 1790 respectively; but, in both cases, the word, though used in a political sense, is evidently intended to characterise a condition of mind towards political questions rather than a distinctly recognised political creed.

So much then for the date of the first use of this term as a party-title; and, if, turning again to the question of its original meaning, we consult well-known dictionaries of half a century ago, we find the term explained thus: "One who [52] advocates greater freedom from restraint, especially in political matters." That, however, is by no means the signification attached to it by present-day politicians; and the fact of its having undergone so complete a change in its connotation has been frequently commented on. "The admirable maxims," says the Times, "which, a generation ago, were the watchwords of Liberalism, are disappearing with an alarming rapidity from the minds of men. Long after the Prime Minister entered parliament, one of the chief notes of instructed Liberalism was the dogma that the best government is that which interferes least with social affairs. The grandeur of the principle, that the free play of individual character is the surest guarantee for the well-being of the nation, was then unquestioned, save by the retrograde and disaffected. It required as much courage to deny its universal truth and applicability, as to doubt the sphericity of the earth. Now, it is hardly too much to say that every liberal measure, of any consequence, involves, directly or indirectly, a negation of that principle."

Let us consider now the later signification which has come to be attached to the term with which I am dealing. The task is not an easy one, inasmuch as the volume, to which I have had occasion to refer in the previous chapter, supplies me with definitions by upwards of fifty "reputed Liberals," the greater number of whom are so far from being unanimous that one would scarcely think they were endeavouring to explain the same term.

I shall first deal with those definitions which, in my opinion, attach to the word the meaning which it was originally intended to convey; and, afterwards, I shall enumerate several of those which point to a neglect or misreading of history on the part of the "Liberals" who supplied them. These latter have, as I shall show, fallen into the popular error by which the term is interpreted, as meaning a "generous, open-handed" policy on the part [53] of the State—altogether forgetful of the ulterior results which such a policy must produce on the character of citizens, and equally unmindful of the fact that such generosity towards the people must ultimately be paid for out of their own or their neighbours' pockets.

First, let us take the definition given by Mr. Henry Broadhurst. That I regard as the most truly scientific among them all, and, coming as it does, from a representative of the working classes, it is all the more valuable. "Liberalism," he says, "does not seek to make all men equal: nothing can do that. But its object is to remove all obstacles erected by men, which prevent all having equal opportunities." [39] In the whole course of my reading on this subject, which has been necessarily wide, I have come across no definition so comprehensive, yet so terse and correct as this. Whether we take the struggles of our forefathers in feudal times, the struggles of the Roundheads, in the time of Charles; the struggles of the Whigs through the succeeding three or four centuries, or the struggles over the last Reform Bill in England, by which two millions of agricultural labourers were admitted to the franchise, we find one general principle involved, and one which this definition at once touches and completely defines, viz., the desire to remove some "osbtacle" or obstacles of "human origin," such as royal prerogatives, aristocratic privileges, or class disabilities, which prevent all men from enjoying equal opportunities.

While any such restrictions or obstacles exist, and, as it were, block the way to wealth or position, or equal political power for any citizen, or class of citizens, it must be at the expense of that citizen's, or that class of citizens' liberty. To remove such obstacles, therefore, is one of the provinces of true Liberalism. In July of 1886 Lord Hartington delivered a speech at Derby, in which he asked, "What are the distinctive features of the Liberal policy? I should [54] say," he adds, "in the first place, that what all Liberals most strongly, most ardently, desire, is that as large an amount of personal freedom and liberty should be secured for every individual and every class in the country as is possible." These definitions, though in different words, are practically one and the same thing. Another member of the House of Commons—Mr. Sydney Buxton—gave, as a reason for belonging to the Liberal party, that it promotes "personal, civil, and religious liberty (liberty of the weak as well as of the strong)." [40] He might have added, "Liberty of the minority as well as of the majority."

The editor of Lloyd's newspaper, in the course of his answer, said "Free-trade, a free press, the free expression of opinion, and all our social and religious liberties have been won by beating down the narrow conservatism, which, so long, barred the way…. I desire (he adds) the triumph of the Liberal cause, which means progress, the growth of freedom, and the advancement of the general good." [41]

Another prominent Liberal expresses the opinion that "Liberal measures have given freedom of speech and action. The monarch, the peer, the commoner, the manufacturer—all feel its power, but that power is not the power of the autocrat—it is the gentle breath of liberty, given to us Britons, by the Liberal party." [42] Mr. George Jacob Holyoake, well known as an ardent political reformer, says, "A political liberal is one who seeks no right, not equally shared by the entire community, nor any social distinction which they do not sanction." [43] "The true Liberal," says another of the "fifty reputed," "is opposed to monopoly and privilege, to legislation on behalf of vested interests, to the burdening of the many for the advantage of the few. Its watchword is justice, justice to all, high or low, rich or poor. From this," he adds, "flow freedom of [55] opinion, liberty of person, equal political rights at home, but conciliatory bearing to the nations abroad." [44]

Lastly, the Marquis of Lorne answers the same pertinent question as follows: "Civil and religious freedom are the fruits of its (the Liberal party's) past victories, and I am a Liberal, in the hope that freedom from tyranny, of mob, or monarch, will be the safeguard of its future triumphs." [45]

It must be always remembered that upon the borderland, as it were, of every political party there are many men, who, with variously actuated purposes, hold aloof from consistent party action, and, as a consequence, cannot be always definitely classed with either group. There are others again, who see, or believe they see, so much abuse of party government, that they decline to be influenced by that consideration merely, and give their support, or offer their resistance to particular measures, just as they appear desirable, or undesirable, in the public interest.

Again, there are, and have been, many politicians, willing to advocate and assist in the passing of measures of "reform," who yet insist on a limited definition of its meaning, claiming, in all things, care and moderation; and, particularly now-a-days, there are many men, who, though unwilling to abandon their party-title, are yet forced, by reason of its altered meaning, to frequently vote against the party which professes it.

On the other hand, there are men who are never content, unless they see everything carried out in a thorough and radical manner. They are, in most cases, men of a more emphatic and impulsive nature, who, too frequently, devote insufficient time to deliberation and judgment, concerning whatever they happen to have in hand. Such men more often than not fail to discern and fully realise all the difficulties and dangers which accompany sudden social and political changes. Beyond all this, many men, who even [56] agree as to the principles desirable to be observed in legislative movements, frequently differ substantially regarding certain measures, as to whether, or how far, such principles are involved. These, and many other disturbing elements in political matters must always prevent clear and definite crystalisation in party divisions; and, as a consequence, there has always been, and, probably ever will be, much difference of opinion as to the precise meaning of partytitles, after they have served their immediate purpose. Instance, in the present day, the distinction between Liberals and Radicals, according to the popular acceptation of the two terms. Who shall say, with any degree of definiteness, where the province of one ends and that of the other begins? Mr. Chamberlain formulates and supervises the publication of a volume, entitled, "The Radical Programme," then, almost in the same breath, states his reasons for belonging to the Liberal party!

If I were asked to lay down some distinction between the professions of men, classing themselves under the two banners, in the present day, I should be inclined to resort to some such division as that which was adopted by Lord Jeffrey in 1826. When distinguishing the Liberals from the Radical Reformers, he preferred to regard the difference as one of degree only, the former being more "moderate" in their views. Meantime, however, both parties have considerably "advanced." The Radical Reformers have become Socialists, and the Liberals have become as immoderate as the Radical Reformers were in Lord Jeffrey's time. Anyone who has kept himself fairly informed concerning the course of English domestic politics, during the last few years, must have observed that whereas men like Lord Hartington, Mr. Goschen, and Mr. Chamberlain profess the same general principles, the former two distinctly refused to follow the latter in the extreme doctrines involved in his allotments scheme; yet, within a few months of that [57] event, we hear of its inclusion in the Conservative programme as announced by Lord Randolph Churchill!

I shall, I think, be able to show as I proceed, that such a divergence could not possibly occur, if the meaning of the term "Liberalism" were scientifically determined. There are authorities to show that the Radical party have, in the past, viewed themselves as merely an "advanced" wing of the Liberal party; and that is made known in more ways than one. For instance, Mr. Wm. Harris, in his "History of the Radical Party in Parliament," says "The liberal party always has been, and probably always will be, composed of men, differing, to some extent, as to the rate of progress, which should be made in the direction in which all desire to go." "If," he adds, "it is no longer desirable that all its movements should be directed by the section which is least advanced, it does not follow that the counsels of men, who call themselves moderate, should not be listened to."

The Radicals of the present day profess many truly Liberal principles; but either from the want of a clear recognition of the limits to which State interference should go, or from having placed a strained and unscientific interpretation upon the word "liberty," they are actually favouring a reaction, in the direction of Toryism—of a democratic type. In other words, while striving to confer "equal liberty" on all, they are really conferring, or seeking to confer privileges on a class, to the curtailment of the liberties of the remainder. This feature of my subject I shall pursue further in a subsequent chapter. But as to the term "Radical" itself, it no doubt has a history, though by no means a clear one. The term is said by Harriet Martineau to have been first assumed by the reformers in the year 1819, [46] and the name is said to have been given, or taken, in immediate connection with an agitation for parliamentary [58] reform; though it is, at the same time, claimed to have been "used, and properly used, to designate those who, not only sought, directly, to increase the power of the democratic element in the Government, but who tried to utilise existing institutions for obtaining some material, intellectual, or social advantages for the unrepresented masses of the people." [47] Whether the "advantages," which it is said to properly seek to obtain for the masses, are anything beyond the "equal opportunities" which Mr. Broadhurst speaks of, or something much more tangible, we are not made aware. If they are something more, then we can only say that Radicalism, in the sense in which it is used by Mr. Harris, must be closely related to "Socialism," and even "Communism" in a modified form. Such an interpretation would then harmonise with the admission in the authorised "Radical programme" as to the parallel between the two policies—Radicalism and Socialism. Though the date mentioned by Miss Martineau (1819) may be the first time that party name came into use, we have the authority of Mr. Lecky, to the effect that the spirit of Radicalism made its appearance much earlier. "The year 1769," he says "is very memorable in political history, for it witnessed the birth of English Radicalism, and the first serious attempt to reform and control Parliament by a pressure from without, making its members habitually subservient to their constituents." [48]

Such being the origin of the party, and of the name itself, let us see what meaning was, or is now intended to be attached to the latter. Throughout the "History of the Radical Party in Parliament," a large, closely written, and, withal, extremely discursive volume, there is not a single clearly expressed definition of the policy or principles of the party. The word "reform" seems always to be the author's [59] synonym for Radicalism; but whether such reform is intended to be of a moderate, or extreme—deliberate, or hasty character, is not indicated; nor, indeed, is there anything, in the volume, to show what the author conceives to come within the meaning of that word—in itself so comprehensive, and, at the same time, so equivocal.

The volume, however, supplies us with one or two passages, which will go to prove that the Radical party, like the Liberals and their predecessors, rank the principle of liberty, or freedom, among their most cherished aims.

"Whilst it is impossible," says its author, "to point, with certainty, to any particular year, as marking the origin of a party, whose existence was the result, not of an act of creation, but of growth and development, it is quite possible to refer to a time, when movements took place amongst the Whigs, which led to the grouping of different sections round particular leaders, and in defence of special ideas, and which gave to politicians, without traditional or family connections with them, the desire to appeal to a wider constituency. This period was the beginning of the reign of George III. It was then that the old fight, between royal prerogative, and popular liberty, was re-commenced…. It (the Government) was regarded, partly by classes whose special interest it served, and partly by the general reverence of the country, whose liberties it had protected, as sacred in form as well as beneficial in spirit." [49]

Elsewhere, the same writer says, in writing of the year 1766: "Three subjects now come up for consideration, of not merely temporary importance, but raising questions affecting the authority of government, the rights and liberties of individuals, and the true source of political power." [50] One of these was the struggle between England and the North American Colonies. There were, he says, three [60] main lines, upon which opinions ran. The first was the "Doctrine of the absolute authority of the Imperial Government, over the lives and liberties of its subjects, either in America or elsewhere." The second was "that parliament had, of right, the power of taxing the colonies; but that it was inexpedient, and unjust, to do so." The first was, he says, the Tory view, and the latter "was eventually the Whig doctrine." Thus we see that the Radical party followed the true Liberal doctrine over this matter at least.

A perusal of the volume, from which I have been quoting, will show that, though the Radicals and the Liberals have been, and even now, are, or profess to be actuated by the same principles—differing for the most part only in degree—they have frequently had occasion to join issue in a very marked manner. With such differences I cannot here attempt to deal.

This, however, is very certain, that the terms "Radical" and "Radicalism," are, like the other party-titles, with which I have been dealing, now undergoing a change of meaning, of the most thorough character.

The original watchword of the Radical party, may have been, as Mr. Harris says, "popular liberties." If that is so, there was probably (as he also implies) little difference—except in degree—between the Liberals and the Radicals. It is, however, very evident that in our own day, Radicalism, as professed by, what is known as the Birmingham school, is not actuated by motives half so sound, or half so beneficial to the community. The New Radicalism is of a totally different order, and practically impossible to gauge. In one breath, it advocates "the reduction of incomes over a certain amount," and, in another, disclaims any tendency towards "the paralysis of private industry." At one moment, it advocates "increasing the comforts, securing the health, and multiplying the luxuries of the masses," by [61] means of government, and, at another, repudiates, as tending to communism, legislation likely to lead to "the atrophy of private enterprise." It may well be said "Under the head of Neo-Radicalism must on no account be included the Radicalism of the old Manchester school, which was merely advanced Liberalism. Indeed the old and the new Radical are more widely separated by principle, than the Conservative and Liberal. The old Radical was all for freedom, and was opposed to state interference; the new Radical is for despotism and government control in everything." [51]

But this uncertainty of principles, and inconsistency in the various attempts to state them, are not confined to comparisons between the new and the old schools. If we take the professions of the new order alone, we find a contradiction in statement which must be sadly bewildering to the "rank and file" of their own party. Observe for example the following comparisons:—


"I have never supposed you could equalise the capacities and conditions of men. The idler, the drunkard, the criminal, and the fool must bear the brunt of their defects. The strong man, and the able man will always be first in the race."—JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, Speech, January 14, 1885. "Government is only the organisation of the whole people, for the benefit of all its members…The community…ought to provide, for all its members, benefits which it is impossible for individuals to provide by their solitary and separate efforts."—JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, Speech, April 28, 1885.
"I am not a Communist, although some people will have it that I am. Considering the difference in the character and capacity of men, I do not believe that there can ever be an absolute equality of conditions, and I think that nothing would be more undesirable than that we should remove the stimulus to industry, and thrift, and exertion, which is afforded by the security, given to every man, in the enjoyment of the fruits of his own individual exertions."—JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, Speech, August 5, 1885. "Local government will bring you into contact with the masses. By its means you will be able to increase their comforts, to secure their health, to multiply the luxuries, which they may enjoy in common; to carry out a vast co-operative system for mutual aid and support; to lessen the inequalities of our social system, and to raise the standard of all classes in the community. I believe that, in this way, you may help to equalise to a great extent, the condition of men."—JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, Speech, April 28,
  "It belongs to the authority and duty of the State—that is to say, of the whole people, acting through their chosen representatives, to utilise, for this purpose, all local experience, and all local organisation, to protect the weak, and to provide for the poor; to redress the inequalities of our social condition, to alleviate the harsh conditions of the struggle for existence, and to raise the average enjoyment of the majority of the population."—JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, Speech, April 28, 1885.
"Communism means the reduction of everything to a dead level, the destruction of private adventure, the paralysis of private industry, the atrophy of private effort."—"Radical Programme." "The goal towards which the advance will probably be made at an accelerated pace is that in the direction of which the legislation of the last quarter of a century has been tending—the intervention of the State on behalf of the weak against the strong, in the interests of labour against capital, of want and suffering against luxury and ease."—"Radical Programme."
  "A general reduction of incomes."
  "Fines for misuse of property."
  "Authority to purchase (land) without allowance for prospective value or compulsory sale."
  "The expense of making towns habitable for the toilers, who dwell in them, must be thrown on the land."—"Radical Programme."


All this has, I think, a sufficiently strong flavour of communism (let alone Socialism), about it, to call for a distinction to be drawn by those who advocate it. That distinction is not forthcoming; but, instead, we have the following confession:—"If," says the author of the Radical Programme, in reference to the measures which are therein advocated, "If it be said that it is legislation of a socialist tendency, the impeachment may readily be admitted." And he adds: "Socialism is not a stigma, but a modern tendency pressing for recognition." The Radical Programme being an authorised publication, and founded, for the most part, on Mr. Chamberlain's speeches, I may, without further enquiry conclude that the Radicalism of the present day is synonymous with socialism. Such a school of politics can have little in common with true Liberalism, for directly the State stretches out its octopus-like arms to attempt an equalisation or approximate equalisation of, not only the "opportunities," but also the "conditions," the "enjoyments," and the "luxuries" of life, such as are therein advocated, there is begun a series of reversals of the most legitimate and most important function of government, viz. (to use Mr. Chamberlain's own words), the affording "security to every man, in the enjoyment of the fruits of his own individual exertions."

My present object has, I hope, now been sufficiently attained, viz., to show that, amid the changes and chances of party government in England; amid the oft-occurring, and somewhat confusing kaleidoscopic transformations, to which such party-government, and the concurrent want of definiteness in party-names must inevitably lead, there is observable, to the student of history—looking back from a bird's-eye view, over centuries of historical record—a comparatively distinct transmission of certain political doctrines, which consist in regarding "the liberty of the individual" as one of, if not the principal of the corner stones of the [64] social fabric. It has been a further object on my part to show that those inherited doctrines have been, respectively, held and maintained, in the past, by the several political parties known as Roundheads, Whigs, Liberals, and Radicals; though, as I shall show hereafter, many steps have been already taken, and many more appear likely to be taken, under cover of the latter two terms, which are false to the traditions of the parties who originated those titles, and which, if persisted in, as precedents for future legislation, bid fair to deal a serious blow sooner or later, at our present social organisation, by destroying the chief source of individual effort and excellence among men.

It has been said by a writer of some authority on this subject that "as a political power, Toryism is utterly extinct." The author of "The Radical Programme" has defined Toryism as aiming at "the preservation of class privilege." If "to create class privileges" can be taken as having practically similar aims, then Toryism (that is to say, Democratic-Toryism) is—far from being extinct—in a condition of the most robust health. The above authority says "the occupation of the old Liberal party is gone." [52] No doubt what I have ventured to call its aggressive function is exhausted; but if to be a Liberal means, as it did of old, to be "one who advocates greater freedom from restraint, especially in political matters," then, I contend, its occupation is by no means gone. It is, indeed, time that every true Liberal "buckled on his armour," and prepared himself for the coming political contest. The struggle for freedom in the past was by the many against the few; by the masses against the privileged classes; but, in the future, if I judge the political barometer aright, the contest will be longer and much more severe, since it will have to be fought by the few against the many; by the minority against the majority, who, in their ignorance [65] of the political science, think that right is to be gauged by might, and wisdom by the number of mouths which proclaim it.

I venture to affirm that Liberalism has by no means lost its occupation. The advocate is wanted as much in defence as in attack, and the function which will have to be exercised in defence of "individual liberty" and "freedom from restraint" will more heavily tax the resources of its adherents than was the case when its history was but a record of uninterrupted victories.






A brief review of the principal struggles for civil liberty, from the Norman Conquest to the Reform Bill of 1832.

"The history of England is the history of a government constantly giving way, sometimes peaceably, sometimes after a violent struggle, but constantly giving way, before a nation which has been constantly advancing."—LORD MACAULAY.

"English history stands alone as the history of the progress of a great people towards liberty, during six centuries."—SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH.

"It seems needful to remind everybody what Liberalism was in the past, that they may perceive its unlikeness to the so-called Liberalism of the present."—HERBERT SPENCER.

WHATEVER else may be claimed to be connoted by the word "man," in the hundred and one definitions which have been attempted concerning him, he may at least be written down, and with some degree of safety, as a "progressive animal." "Man alone, among organised beings," says Sir George Cornewall Lewis, "possesses the moral and intellectual qualities which render one generation of human beings unlike another, and which enable him to alter his own condition and that of others by self-culture. Hence, he alone, of all living beings, possesses a history." [1]


Whether we judge man by the meagre evidence which we possess concerning him and his movements in prehistoric times, or by the more elaborate accounts which have been handed down to us from different ages, since he acquired the faculty of committing his thoughts to writing, we are irresistibly forced to the conclusion that he is constantly on the move towards what he conceives to be, and hopes to be, a more civilised condition of living, that is to say, a condition of living which he supposes will afford him a larger share of happiness than he has hitherto enjoyed. I say "what he conceives to be" advisedly, because he, not unfrequently, loses his way, mistakes retrogression for progression, and, not seldom, is forced to retrace his steps and start afresh in another and quite different direction or course of conduct.

History affords very numerous instances of communities having got off the track, as it were, of real progress, and being compelled thus to make, in some cases, many attempts, before they could regain the course from which they had diverged—having become, in the meantime wiser, if not sadder, by the painful experience. The "decline and fall" of the Romans, as a people, was nothing more than this—a falsely conceived social organisation, lacking soundness of foundation, which therefore had to come down. The edifice had to be recommenced from what remained of the scattered fragments. Man had in this case simply missed his way, mistaken a state of society for progressive which was really retrogressive, and the march had again to be commenced, after travelling a considerable distance in a circle.

The French Revolution is another remarkable instance of the same process. The wanton extravagance of the Court, the Church and the Aristocracy; the concurrent disregard for the interests of the masses of the people as also for their civil and religious liberties—all this meeting a broad current [68] of political enlightenment which was then spreading over Europe, could end in one way only, that is, as it did. The social fabric fell to pieces, and out of the débris had to be constructed a differently organised society: a new order of things. All this, too, after a momentous lesson had been taught to mankind in general.

These memorable events in history are the great human errors which have been committed by reason of a want of knowledge of the nature of man, of the science of society, of the art of government. "History," says Bolingbroke, "is philosophy teaching by example," and the philosophy or moral of all such great events is that we should study, more than those who went before us did, the nature of man as an individual, the science of society as an organisation, and the art of government as applied to that organisation.

"The science of government," says Macaulay, "is an experimental science, and like all other experimental sciences it is generally working itself clearer and clearer and depositing impurity after impurity." "There was a time," he says, "when the most enlightened statesmen thought it the first duty of a government to persecute heretics, to found monasteries, to make war on Saracens; but," he adds, "time advances; facts accumulate; doubts arise. Faint glimpses of truth begin to appear and shine more and more unto the perfect day. The highest intellects, like the tops of mountains, are the first to catch and reflect the dawn…. First come hints, then fragments of systems, then defective systems, then complete and harmonious systems." [2]

If one wishes to fully realise the steady but sure progress which man is making, throughout all these great political errors and miscalculations regarding his fellow-men, their wants, their passions, and their proclivities, one must view history broadly. Then, and then only, shall we see that the [69] temporary delays and backward movements, which in themselves present the appearance of absolutely retrogressive steps, are mere oscillations in the great forward march of the human race. This thought also has been beautifully expressed in regard to England by the eloquent and versatile Macaulay. "The history of England," he says, "when we take a comprehensive view of it, is a history of progress; but when examined in small separate portions, it may, with more propriety, be called a history of actions and reactions. The public mind resembles a sea, when the tide is rising; each successive wave rushes forward, breaks and rolls back; but the great flood is steadily coming in. A person who looked on the waters, only for a moment, might fancy that they were retiring. A person who looked on them, only for five minutes, might fancy that they were rushing capriciously to and fro. But when he keeps his eye on them for a quarter of an hour, and sees one sea-mark disappear after another, it is impossible for him to doubt of the general direction in which the ocean is moved. Just such has been the course of events in England. In the history of the national mind, which is, in truth, the history of the nation, we must carefully distinguish between that recoil which regularly follows every advance, and a general ebb." Buckle says much the same thing: "This is the ebb and flow of history: the perpetual flux to which, by the laws of our nature, we are subject. Above all this there is a far higher movement; and as the tide rolls on, now advancing, now receding, there is, amid its endless fluctuations, one thing and one alone which endures for ever."

That these receding movements have their use there can be no doubt, though it would be better if we could learn the truths which they convey less painfully. It is from them, however, that we store up the reactionary power which gives impetus to the next onward movement. France emerged from the Revolution a more free, a more happy [70] and withal a wiser nation, and one of the greatest lessons in the science of government which was ever taught to men, was thus handed down for subsequent generations. Now, it will be found, from what I term a "broad" view of history, that the progress of society (using the word in its widest acceptation) has always been proportionate to the freedom of its institutions. The tyranny of monarchy and aristocratic government in France, as also the unequal opportunities afforded to its citizens, together with the erroneous notion regarding fundamental differences among men, produced a reaction in favour of such sentiments as "Liberty, equality and fraternity."

The despotism of the Eastern world, under which millions of human beings lived and died in the enjoyment of less freedom than the dumb animals around them, has resulted in nothing but ruin—ruin of whole nations, extending over whole ages.

That these millions of human beings should have never organised themselves and resisted the slavish treatment, to which they were subjected, is only to be accounted for by the fact that they were physically a poor race of people, whose wants were simple, and whose lot was cast in climates of the most enervating character; with whom the struggle for existence also was not sufficiently keen to lead to insubordination and rebellion. "History and observation," says Sir Erskine May, "alike attest that tropical regions have been the ever-lasting abodes of despotism: where kings, chiefs and priests have governed, from time immemorial, without control, and where the people have been unresisting subjects and slaves. Temperate climes alone," he adds, "have been the homes of freedom." [3]

Elsewhere the same writer offers an explanation of this distinction. "A hot climate and a fertile soil multiply the means of subsistence and foster the rapid growth of population. [71] The wants of the multitude are few and easily gratified…. Nor can it be doubted that great heat is enervating alike to the minds and bodies of men—disinclining them to vigorous thought and action, and disposing them to a languid acquiescence in their accustomed lot."

The inhabitants of Europe, and especially of the northern parts, might have easily had predicted for them a different history. Living in a cold and bracing climate, not warm enough to enervate, and not rigorous enough to limit activity, where the amount of nourishment required by the human body is much greater than in a warmer zone; where, too, on account of the same cause, much more elaborate wants in the form of clothing and habitations had to be supplied to secure ordinary comfort, it can be easily understood that by the continuous energy, enterprise, and industry rendered necessary to such a people, they should not long allow to remain unused the powers of self-help and of resistance, which they might, at any time, by a little organisation, bring to bear on their oppressors. Sir Erskine May himself, drawing his conclusions from Buckle, says: "In colder climates… the bounties of nature are less prodigal: their wants are multiplied and more difficult to satisfy: their good clothing and dwellings are more costly. Hence the growth of population is checked: the value of labour is sustained: the people share in the distribution of the wealth of the country, and the general condition of society is improved and progressive. The strength and spirit of such men are braced by a temperate climate, by constant labour and enterprise, and by the hope of social advancement. And these (he adds) are the qualities which arouse resistance to oppression and fit men for the enjoyment of freedom." [4]

The step which man has made from the condition of mere slavery, under which he lived in the earlier stages of [72] the world's history, to the condition of civilisation and freedom which he now enjoys in the Western world, is indeed difficult to realise.

When I speak thus of man, I refer to the masses of the human race who, in former times, were regarded as the mere creatures of the comparatively few who then held the reins of power, but who now stand, each and all, at least in English-speaking communities, possessed of the most absolute freedom of thought, of opinion, and of action "limited alone by the like freedom of all." This great stride. from the lowest depths of slavery and degradation to the highest level of civilised citizenship, would, if traced through all its stages, involve not simply much, but all history. These stages, however, are well marked for those whose province it is to study them. My present purpose covers a much narrower ground, viz., the history of the struggle for civil liberty in Great Britain, so far as it is capable of illustrating that principle of social evolution by which man is ever striving for a larger degree of personal freedom and individual development, even though it frequently happen (as we have seen) that he fails to rightly judge how, or in what direction, that end is to be most surely attained.

I have thought fit to make the foregoing general observations because the principle of the gradual growth of civil freedom, which the wider history involves, is, in my opinion, the key-note, to the narrower branch of history with which I am chiefly concerned. It is in the highest degree probable that the practice of designating any member of any legislative or other deliberative body by some name, which briefly summarised the principles which had been observed as a general rule to actuate his conduct and demeanour as such member, came into existence almost, if not quite, as soon as the institution of Parliament itself. Nor do I refer merely to the advent of constitutional government, for the same practice would doubtless obtain in [73] large assemblies of the most primitive character—even among tribal communities.

The actual origin of legislation or government is, as far as written history can inform us, obscure. Many writers, necessarily somewhat speculative on such a subject, offer theories, tracing back the institution even to "the family" [5] or "the household," which I presume is the most extreme limit, since it reaches almost to the level of ordinary animal life. The stage of society, next in advance of the family or household, would obviously be the tribe, and it is highly probable that, at that stage, when many heads of families or "households" came into close communion, it was regarded as desirable to determine upon some governing individual, or group of individuals, to settle questions, regarding which, the undivided action of the whole, was essential to the welfare of the individual families. It is equally probable that the head or chief of the tribe was frequently self-constituted—that is, assumed the position by sheer force of character or of arms, and derived his authority as leader from the mere fact of the rest of his tribe tacitly acknowledging his superiority, and grouping themselves about his person as subjects and dependents. The following is an interesting (and of course speculative) opinion by Hooker, who is extensively quoted by Locke in dealing with the subject of "primitive government:"—"To take away all such mutual grievances, injuries, and wrongs, such as attend men in the state of nature, there was no way but only by growing into composition and agreement among themselves; by ordaining some kind of government public, and by yielding themselves subject thereto, that unto whom they granted authority to rule and govern them, the peace, tranquility, and happy estate of the rest might be procured." "The end of civil society (to use the words of Locke himself) [74] is to avoid and remedy those inconveniences of the state of nature which necessarily follow from every man's being judge in his own case, by setting up a known authority to which everyone of that society may appeal upon any injury received or controversy that may arise, and which everyone of the society ought to obey." That the "known authority" of Locke, and the "government public" of Hooker originated in the parent, is confirmed by Sir Henry Maine, who says, "The most recent researches into the primitive history of society point to the conclusion that the earliest tie which knitted men together in communities, was consanguinity or kinship," [6] and the "learned" Sir Robert Filmer commences the first chapter of his "Patriarcha" with the proposition "That the first Kings were Fathers of Families."

Assuming, then, that these are correct statements of the origin of government, an assumption requiring no great stretch of imagination, but rather one which recommends itself to the reason, there can be, I venture to think, little doubt, that if, from such a starting-point, all rules of conduct, which were subsequently laid down by chiefs, kings and legislatures respectively, had been based upon the sound principle of "equal opportunities," instead of that which reserves special privileges for the few, society would, at the present day, be far in advance of its existing condition of growing unrest and discontent.

But the idea of "equal opportunities" was obviously far from being recognised as the scientific or even just test by which tribal rules, or, in more advanced times, sovereign edicts and parliamentary legislation should be tried. When it became necessary, as a stage beyond the parent, to obtain the "known authority" of whom Locke speaks, he was provided in the shape of a chief, or king, or "able man," as Carlyle calls him. But it would then (and probably did) [75] become a question, whether the chief, or king himself, could do wrong. There would be no one to appeal to, in the event of such a contingency arising, nor could his decision, if favourable to himself, be questioned; and he would, naturally drift, as he became more conscious of his unlimited or at least very wide powers, into the position and habits of a dictator, whose word was incapable of being questioned. Moreover, if he were the brave or "able" man of his tribe, there would be little inclination to question his authority, or even the justice of his decisions. Thus, most probably, did society drift into the condition of subservience to kingly power, the abuse of which ultimately led to the spirit of rebellion against Royal prerogatives, as opposed to what were termed the "rights of the people."

Locke says, bearing upon this point, "Wherever any persons are, who have not such an authority to appeal to and decide any difference between them there, those persons are still in the state of nature. And so is every absolute prince in respect of those who are under his dominion."

Coming now to history proper—that is to say, written history—we find that kings, and probably chiefs and other less important monarchs before them, developed a disposition to adopt what historians call "favourites," that is to say certain persons who proved congenial as companions to the particular monarch, and had a sort of kingly license by which they enjoyed more than an "equal" share of "opportunities." This was probably the first departure from true liberalism in history, next after that by which the king claimed to himself greater privileges than he could allow between his subjects. These favourites have almost invariably been recipients of some distinguishing mark of patronage, as an expression of the favour in which they were held. Hence the order of "nobles;" and, following upon this distinction, it is but an easy stage to that state of things, by which they [76] became invested with some of the "privileges," not enjoyed by the ordinary people of their time.

Herein lies what I conceive to be the explanation of the origin of the feudal system, as introduced into England by William the Conqueror in the eleventh century.

The nobles of that monarch, as is well known by every reader of early English history, exercised over their vassals the most complete and absolute dominion; and instead of the latter possessing or enjoying "equal opportunities," they, and their families, were overwhelmed with duties and obligations, and burdened with restrictions on their liberty, which left them with about as much freedom as was possessed by the African slave previous to 1806. To use the words of a historian: "The masses of the people were depressed by heavy burdens, enslaved by varied wrongs and paralysed by superstitious fears. They were credulous and poor, and had neither liberty, knowledge, nor ambition."

From this condition of things, there is discernable, throughout history, a gradual growth of popular freedom, marked more particularly by such epochs as the Magna Charta in 1215, the Petition of Right in 1628, the Habeas Corpus Act in 1678, the Revolution in 1688, and the Reform Bill of 1832. First the king was supreme; then the people were allowed to take a part in the government; next the people imposed restrictions upon the power of the king, and finally the monarch was transformed, as is the case now, into a sort of national "figure head," receiving income and privileges by the consent of a free and self-governing people. All these great social movements, each constituting, as it were, the practical expression of a long-pent public grievance, may be classified under the heading of "the growth of liberalism." Those movements consisted (with one exception) of public protests against the abuse of power on the part of the respective monarchs, in whose reign they developed and culminated; and they had the effect of [77] "freeing" or "liberating" the people from the yoke of monarchical power, under which they and their ancestors had lived for centuries. The exception was the Reform Bill, which was a protest against the monopoly of parliamentary representation by a class.

"It has been usual," as Sir Erskine May says, in his "Democracy in Europe," "to conduct controversies regarding political institutions and forms of government as if they were simply founded upon abstract experience; as if monarchies and republics had been established upon à priori theories, and were to be judged according to their approach to some ideal polity. It is not in this spirit that history is to be studied. If any instruction is to be gained, it will be by the investigation of the moral, social, and physical causes which have contributed to the rise, growth, and overthrow of institutions—of despotism, of free monarchies, of aristocracies, and of republics." These last words, in fact, stand in the order in which the various social steps, which led to their overthrow, have occurred.

Though the word "liberalism" has been first used in, and received its interpretation from much later times than those of which I have been speaking, nevertheless it is very necessary to study those periods in order to fully and clearly understand the principle which underlies the spirit of liberty and freedom that the word is intended to signify.

Such an investigation, especially if prosecuted with some particularity, will show that the more modern school of politics, to which that title has been applied, is founded upon the identical principles of freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and freedom of action, for which the people of various countries, but especially our own, have, for centuries, been struggling—the determination to possess, at all hazards, "equal opportunities" with other men, irrespective of family, irrespective of kingly favour, and irrespective of wealth. "Britain," says an eloquent writer on Reform, [78] "once a land of savage pagans, was long subsequent to the Norman Conquest, the abode of ignorance, superstition, and despotism. And, though for centuries past, she has witnessed a steady advance in knowledge and in civil and religious liberty—though her men of letters have sent down to posterity works that shall live till science, philosophy, and poetry are known no more; though her lawyers have gradually worn off the rugged features of the feudal system till the common law of England has been adopted as the basis of the Republican Code of America; though her Church long since yielded to the attacks of non-conformity and sanctioned a liberal toleration—though all that was vital and dangerous in the maxim, 'The king can do no wrong,' fell with the head of Charles I. in 1649 — yet it is only within the last fifty years that she has sanctioned the changes in her institutions long counselled by a class of innovators designated as Reformers." [7]

It is over the longer period that we need to ponder, in order to discover, and arrive at some certainty, regarding the general principle which should be conveyed by the particular term under consideration. Let us turn to history itself, as recorded by those who have made it their special study.

Though the term "Liberalism" is, therefore, of comparatively modern use, in order that its meaning and bearing may be traced and understood, it is necessary to go back to these earlier times, and investigate the history in which, without resort to political party-titles, the same principle which animates the truer interpreters of the word in our own day, spurred on our forefathers in the earlier struggles for freedom and the building up of our oft-extolled constitution.

The Norman Conquest was naturally and of necessity a great shock to the inhabitants of England, and so unequal were they to the comprehensive and overwhelming invasion to which they were subjected, that, as a nation, they dropped, [79] for the time being, into a condition of absolute slavery. But, says De Lolme, "it is to the era of the Conquest that we are to look for the real foundation of the English constitution."

I shall, from this epoch in English records, trace, with fitting brevity, the history of the principle of Liberalism—a principle which has, at various periods, been recognised and acted upon, under different and changing titles, and has, at all times, spurred on, to fresh thoughts and fresh actions, all who could see, in the future, an improved condition of civil and religious freedom, based upon the even broader principle of the "equality of men." To go behind this period in history would lead me into fields quite beyond my present purpose—into the histories, in fact, of the various peoples who formed the constituent parts of the much mixed nation, now known as Great Britain. I need not, therefore, carry my investigations further back than the Conquest of England, to discover how, and under what circumstances that principle first took root.

The author of the "History of the English People" has characterised the charter granted on the accession to the throne of Henry I. as not only the "direct precedent for the Great Charter of John," but, also, as "the first limitation which had been imposed on the despotism established by the Conquest." [8]

This epoch is therefore in every way a suitable starting-point for my short sketch. In order to fully and clearly realise the nature and extent of the memorable concession to civil freedom, which that charter involved, it is necessary to remember what were the social and political conditions of the people of England, prior to that event. Macaulay says, "The battle of Hastings, and the events which followed it, not only placed a Duke of Normandy on the English throne, but gave up the whole population of [80] England to the tyranny of the Norman race. The subjugation of a nation by a nation," he says, "has seldom, even in Asia, been more complete. The country was portioned out among the captains of the invaders. Strong military institutions, closely connected with the institution of property, enabled the foreign conquerors to oppress the children of the soil. A cruel penal code, cruelly enforced, guarded the privileges, and even the sports of the alien tyrants." [9] Hume speaks of William the Conqueror as having "appeared," immediately after ascending the English throne, "solicitous to unite, in an amicable manner, the Normans and the English, by inter-marriages and alliances," and says that "all his new subjects, who approached his person, were received with affability and regard." [10] "But," he adds, "amidst this confidence and friendship, which he expressed for the English, he took care to place all real power in the hands of his Normans." However, notwithstanding any good disposition which he may, as a conqueror, have felt towards the English, in the first flush of victory, there can be little doubt that, after his almost immediate return to Normandy, and reappearance in England, during which time the English and the Normans had again come into conflict, he showed little, if any respect, for the promises which he had made under the coronation oath, one of which was "to administer justice and to repress violence." [11] As a fact, the conquerors and the conquered failed to harmonise, and though in public and domestic life everything seemed favourable to the king, "the discontents of his English subjects augmented daily, and the injuries, committed and suffered on both sides, rendered the quarrel, between them and the Normans, absolutely incurable. The insolence of the victorious masters, dispersed throughout the kingdom, seemed intolerable to the natives." [12]


Hume adds that the English people, in a great measure, had "lost all national pride and spirit," by their recent and long subjection to the Danes. However that may be, they quickly fell into a condition of abject subordination to their insolent and high-handed victors. Instead of being governed by "equal laws," as had been promised, they were, on every occasion, and, under all circumstances, denied even the most common justice. "It was crime sufficient in an Englishman to be opulent, or noble, or powerful; and the policy of the king, concurring with the rapacity of foreign adventurers, produced almost a total revolution in the landed property of the kingdom. Ancient and honourable families were reduced to beggary, the nobles themselves were everywhere treated with ignominy and contempt; they had the mortification of seeing their castles and manors possessed by Normans, of the meanest birth, and lowest stations, and they found themselves carefully excluded from every road which led either to riches or preferment. [13] Then was introduced the feudal laws and the feudal system. The whole of the lands of England, with few exceptions, were divided into baronies, which were conferred, subject to certain services and payments, upon the most important among the king's followers. [14] These barons, then, subdivided their estates, among the less important of the Normans, called knights or vassals. These latter became liable to the same obligations to the particular baron, under whom they held, as had been undertaken by him in the king's behalf. The whole of England is said to have been thus divided into seven hundred chief tenancies or baronies, and sixty thousand two hundred and fifteen knight-fees. No Englishmen were [82] included among the former class, and the few, who managed to retain their property, were compelled to reconcile themselves to being included among the latter, subject, of course, to a Norman baron as landlord, as also to the numerous burdens of service, etc., which such a tenancy entailed—this, too, notwithstanding that their respective estates had been, previously, freeholds, acquired by inheritance, and in no way encumbered with any such obligations. [15] These under tenants were required to swear allegiance to their particular baron, in the following words: "Hear, my Lord, I become liege man of yours, for life, and limb, and earthly regard; and I will keep faith and loyalty to you, for life and death; God help me"; and this comprehensive obligation was entered into while the dependant kneeled, without arms, and bare-headed, at the feet of his superior; his hands being placed in those of the latter. [16] It is said that, under this system, the king could at any moment summon sixty thousand knights to the royal standard. In addition to these two classes, it must be remembered that there was a lower order, called Ceorls, or Villeins, concerning whom it is an open question whether they were not actual slaves. They certainly were so, in all but name, inasmuch as the lord had the power of life or death over them. In summing up his account of the oppression which this conquest inflicted upon the English people, Macaulay says: "During the century and a half which followed it, there is, to speak strictly, no English history," and Hume, in the same way says: "The introduction of the feudal law had much infringed the liberties, however imperfect, enjoyed by the Anglo-Saxons in their ancient government, and had reduced the whole people to a state of vassalage under the king or barons, and even the greater part of them to a state of real slavery."


Such then was the condition of the English people after the Norman Conquest. The King had upon ascending the throne promised "equal laws." The promise had been broken, and the most glaring inequality existed, not only in possessions, for that had always been and ever will be so, but in the eye of the law, which need not, and should not have been. The Normans were, in short, the recipients of extensive privileges, at the expense of those they had conquered. Let us now see the course which events took. Discontent must have followed, and quickly found expression; for a collection of laws, called the "Magna Charta of William the Conqueror," has been preserved, in which the King seems to have entered into the following treaty with his subjects, constituting a substantial concession, considering the times, to the principle of liberalism or freedom: "We will enjoin and grant, (so it runs), that all freemen of our kingdom shall enjoy their land in peace, free from all tallage and from every unjust exaction, so that nothing but their service lawfully due to us shall be demanded at their hands."

William the Conqueror died in 1087, and, notwithstanding the above undertaking, the condition of the people at his death does not seem to have been in any way an advancement on that of twenty years previous. Hume says, speaking of the year 1087: "It would be difficult to find in all history a revolution more destructive, or attended with a more complete subjection of the ancient inhabitants. Contumely seems even to have been wantonly added to oppression; and the natives were universally reduced to such a state of meanness and poverty, that the English name became a term of reproach. [17]

William Rufus claimed to succeed his father, but inasmuch as by doing so he was consciously violating his elder brother's (Robert) right, he took very hasty measures to [84] secure the Crown. He displayed a willingness to concede any condition, in order to secure himself in the estimation of his subjects. "As an earnest of his future reign he renounced all the rigid maxims of conquest, and swore to protect the Church and the people, and to govern by St. Edward's laws; a promise extremely grateful to all parties; for the Normans, finding the English passionately desirous of those laws, and only knowing that they were in general favourable to liberty, and conducive to peace and order, became equally clamorous for their re-establishment." [18]

These resolutions, likewise, were ignored, very much in the same manner as was the case with those of his father before him. "The forest laws were executed with rigour, the old impositions revived, and new laid on." [19]

William Rufus died in the year 1100, and was succeeded by his younger brother, Henry I., who thus, in his turn, usurped his elder brother's lawful rights. "Knowing," says Hume, "that the Crown, so usurped, against all rules of justice, would sit unsteady on his head, he resolved by fair professions at least, to gain the affections of all his subjects." [20]

He seized the opportunity to address the nobility and "a vast concourse of inferior people," who had been drawn to Winchester, by the news of his brother's death. After plausibly setting forth his title, on the ground of having been born next after his father had acquired the kingdom,—a ground upon which the nobility retired to consult—he "threw himself entirely upon the populace." He began by drawing his sword and swearing with a bold and determined air to persist in his pretensions to his last breath." He "turned to the crowd," and made "promises of a milder government than they had experienced, either beneath his brother, or his father: the Church should enjoy [85] her immunities, the people their liberties,… the distinction of Englishman and Norman be heard no more." [21]

As might be expected "the people received this popular harangue, delivered by a prince, whose person was full of grace and majesty, with shouts of joy and rapture. Immediately they rush to the house where the council is held, which they surround, and, with clamour and menaces, demand Henry for their King." [22] He confirmed and enlarged the privileges of the city of London, and, in the words of Edmund Burke, "gave to the whole kingdom a charter of liberties, which was the first of the kind, and laid the foundation of those successive charters, which at last completed the freedom of the subject." [23] Among the numerous provisions of this charter, was one, in which the King promised that the vassals of the barons should enjoy the same privileges which he granted to his own barons. [24] In order to give guarantees for his sincerity in making these concessions, he lodged a copy of the charter which contained them, in an abbey of each county; yet it is evident that, as soon as his immediate object had been attained, he showed that he had never seriously intended to observe any part of it. "The whole of it fell so much into neglect and oblivion, that, in the following century, when the barons, who had heard an obscure tradition of it, desired to make it the model of the great charter, which they exacted from King John, they could, with difficulty, find a copy in the kingdom. [25] This charter was, though by no means observed, "the first limitation which had been imposed on the despotism established by the Conquest." [26] and formed one of the "two great measures, which, following his (Henry's) coronation, mark "the new relation which was then brought about between the people and their King." [27]


Such was the first great concession, in English history, to the spirit of true liberalism; and it consisted in the undertaking to grant equal liberties to all men, irrespective of race or social status. We shall presently see that this obligation, like most others of those times, was made, only to be ignored and forgotten by him who made it.

Let us pass now to a still greater epoch in the history of liberalism. Hume says, speaking generally of these charters: "Henry I., that he might allure the people to give an exclusion to his elder brother Robert, had granted them a charter, favourable in many particulars to their liberties; Stephen had renewed the grant; Henry II. had confirmed it. But the concessions of all these princes had still remained without effect, and the same unlimited, at least irregular authority, continued to be exercised, both by them and their successors." [28]

In the succeeding reign of John, all the unreasonable and irritating demands, which had been made by his predecessors, were greatly intensified, and accompanied with further acts of tyranny, of an even more unbearable nature. "One is surprised," says Hallam, "at the forbearance displayed by the barons, till they took arms at length in that confederacy which ended in establishing the Great Charter of Liberties." [29] Historians seem to vie with one another in their endeavours to picture the domineering and oppressive conduct of King John. "Equally odious and contemptible," says Hume, "both in public and private life, he affronted the barons by his insolence, dishonoured their families by his gallantries, enraged them by his tyranny, and gave discontent to all ranks of men by his endless exactions and impositions." [30] In addition to all these forms of insolence and tyranny, which it is difficult to understand that one man should be allowed to practise on a whole nation, there yet remained many portions of the feudal law, as introduced by the [87] Conqueror, which had, by abuse and arbitrary administration, become constant sources of discontent and rebellious feeling.

One of the most useful generalisations which, in my opinion, it is possible to draw from history is that which teaches what I might term the law of social oscillation. Every historical student must have observed that society, when viewed over long periods of time, seems to pass through successive stages, somewhat analagous to the motions of a pendulum—that is to say, whenever, by reason of its surrounding circumstances, it is forced into any extreme condition, involving an abnormal state of mind on the part of the individuals who compose it, there almost inevitably follows a reactionary movement, similarly extreme, though in the contrary direction. Thus, as Burke says, "Our best securities for freedom have been obtained from princes, who were either warlike, or prodigal, or both," [31] and again, as stated by De Tocqueville, "Liberty is generally established in the midst of agitation; it is perfected by civil discord." [32]

We have an instance of the sociological law in question, in the fact that this very oppression and tyranny, to which the people of England were subjected, and the almost slavish condition, to which they were, in consequence, reduced, constituted the very source of their future freedom.

"It was," says De Lolme, "the excessive power of the king which made England free; because it was this very excess that gave rise to the spirit of union and of coresistance. Possessed of extensive demesnes, the king found himself independent; vested with the most formidable prerogatives, he crushed, at pleasure, the most powerful barons in the realm. It was only by close and numerous confederacies, therefore, that these could resist his tyranny; [88] they even were compelled to associate the people in them, and make them partners of public liberty."

The confederacy which was entered into, to put an end to this unbearable state of things, as it existed under John, was greatly assisted, if not even initiated by the then Archbishop of Canterbury—by name Langton—who, conceiving that an acquisition of liberty to the people would contribute towards the powers of his Church, took an extremely practical and useful part in framing some of the most important clauses of the Great Charter, and insisted upon them, as conditions precedent to his (John's) avoidance of excommunication. He obtained possession, from one of the monasteries, of a copy of Henry the First's charter, and, having shown it to some of the most influential barons of his time, urged them to demand its recognition and observance by the King. The feeling grew from day to day, and a large meeting of barons was again held, this time "under colour of devotion." Langton once more used his powerful and eloquent exhortations, in order to bring about the desired result. The barons, thereupon, entered into a solemn compact, sealed with an oath, that they would never desist until they had obtained an equally solemn undertaking from the King on the subject of their liberties. They resolved to prepare an armed force, and to meet again when their plans were matured. When the time arrived for taking the final step, they boldly demanded of the King "a renewal of Henry's charter, and a confirmation of the laws of St. Edward." "Hitherto the barons had fought for themselves alone: now they became the national leaders in maintaining the liberties of England." [33] The King asked for time, and offered valuable sureties. Meanwhile he sought, by conceding great privileges to the Church, to baffle the plans of the barons, and certainly succeeded in some measure in winning the partisanship of the Pope; but the [89] barons, having first made an appeal to Rome, quickly assembled a large force of armed retainers, and advanced towards the King's residence, whence he sent a messenger desiring to know the barons' terms. They delivered him a record of their principal demands; but when he learned its contents, he broke into a furious passion, and vowed he would never grant such concessions.

Immediately the barons chose a leader, and proceeded to levy war upon the King: besieged castles and palaces belonging to him, threatened anybody and everybody who ventured to join in his defence, and, finally, became such masters of the position, that, after numerous attempts at compromise, the King, surrounded by only a few followers, was forced to arrange a meeting, in order to confer with the barons finally, regarding their demands. The meeting-place was the celebrated Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines. The two parties formed separate camps, and, after several days' debate, the King was forced to sign the Great Charter, which, in the words of Hume, "secured very important liberties and privileges to every order of men in the kingdom, to the clergy, to the barons, and to the people."

Let us consider now, in less general terms, what this Great Charter did for our ancestors, and for us.

It is but natural and reasonable that, inasmuch as the barons were themselves the head and front of the movement, they should have turned their attention more particularly to their own interests; but, inasmuch also as they required the concurrence of "the people," in the bold step they were taking, they found it advisable, if not necessary, to take into consideration the interests of that class also, which they accordingly did. Sir Erskine May says: "Hitherto the barons had fought for themselves alone, now they became the national leaders in maintaining the liberties of England." Moreover, it is evident that the barons themselves had been guilty of tyranny and oppression to those [90] under them, quite as great, and as galling, as that displayed by the King. [34]

It would not be interesting, and, even if it were, it would scarcely be in place, here, to go fully and particularly into the numerous aspects of civil liberty which the Great Charter attempted to place upon a firm and settled basis. The provisions of the charter have, as a whole, been described as "strung together in a disorderly manner." [35] Generally speaking, they were as follow, consisting principally of "either abatements in the rigour of the feudal law, or determinations in points which had been left by that law, or had become by practice arbitrary and ambiguous."

The preamble or opening address to the charter begins thus: "To all archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, sheriffs, provosts, officers, and to all bailiffs and other our faithful subjects, etc&helip;Know ye that we&helip;have granted&helip;these liberties following, to be kept in our kingdom of England for ever." Following this there were thirty-seven chapters, the first being a confirmation of liberties in the following words: "We have granted to God, and, by our present chapter have confirmed for us, and our heirs, for ever, that the Church of England shall be free, and shall have all her whole rights and liberties inviolable. We have granted also, and given to all the freemen of our realm, for us, and our heirs, for ever, these liberties underwritten: to have and to hold them and their heirs of us and our heirs for ever."

Chapter 2 deals with the subject of "reliefs." As all the King's tenants were supposed to have received their lands by his gift, it was customary, upon the death of an ancestor, for the heir to purchase a continuance of the king's favour, by paying a sum of money called a "relief," for entering into the estate. When the conquest was over, this practice [91] was "much abused and perverted." The above-mentioned chapter therefore provided that such payment should not be arbitrary, but fixed according to the rank of the heir.

By chapter 7 it was enacted that widows of knights might marry as they chose, without deductions being made from their dower; and that if they chose to remain single, they should not be compelled to marry. Hitherto the baron had possessed the power of compelling widows of their knights to marry whom they pleased, and, as may be easily imagined, the power had been greatly abused.

The 9th chapter perpetuates the right of self-government, "the source and bulwark," as it has been called, "of our constitutional freedom;" and it preserved to London and all other cities, boroughs, and towns" all their liberties and free customs. The 10th chapter prevented excessive distress for more service than was due for a knight's fee. This power to distrain had previously been greatly abused by "compelling a compliance with unjust demands."

The 14th chapter provided against excessive fines; laid down the principle that they should always be in proportion to the gravity of the offence, and instituted the now well-known rule of law that a man's tools, instruments, or other possessions necessary for his support and maintenance should be free from any such fine or process. This was in all probability demanded by the barons, in order that their dependants might not be deprived of their only means of performing their service to them, for we are told that "nothing more required mitigation than the rigour with which the King's debts were exacted and levied."

During the reigns of Richard and John, many exactions had been made for erecting bulwarks, fortresses, bridges, and banks, contrary to law and right. The 15th chapter of the charter declared that no freeman should be distrained for the purpose, except in certain specified cases, limited in number. Previous to the charter also, there seems to have [92] been a tendency, possibly a common practice, of appropriating certain fisheries in various parts of the different rivers, which were common property. This practice was probably indulged in by the more powerful. The 16th chapter, however, remedied the abuse, and restored to each his original rights.

The 29th chapter is the most important of all, and constitutes the very corner-stone of our civil liberties. It runs thus: "No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be deprived of his freehold or liberties or free customs, or be outlawed or exiled, or any otherwise destroyed; nor will we pass upon him, nor condemn him but by lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. To no man will we sell, to no man deny, to no man delay justice or right."

The 30th chapter provided that all merchants (meaning foreigners) should pass in and out of England by land or by water, for purposes of buying or selling, without tolls or extortions of any kind, and established the principle that in time of war, merchants from other countries, when found in England, should have just the same treatment extended to them which was being accorded to English merchants in that particular country from which those merchants came. Reeve says: "Previous to the charter, and for many years, merchants had been subjected to ruthless extortion, under the names of tolls, in going through the lands of these feudal tyrants to get to the towns where they carried on their trade." This chapter removed the restriction, or at least gave them whatever protection the law could afford in such rude times.

The concluding chapter of the charter contains the curious fiction that the whole of it has been bought from the Crown for a certain proportion of movable property, in consideration of which, the King grants "for us and our heirs, that neither we nor our heirs shall attempt to do [93] anything whereby the liberties contained in this charter may be infringed or broken." There were numerous other provisions, in this great and memorable document, but not such as would be of interest to set forth here.

Throughout all those which we have quoted, there must be evident to every intelligent reader, one great principle, viz., that the sovereign was simply giving to his subjects additional liberty, to do as they chose with their own property, and to exercise in what direction they chose the personal freedom, which the law should secure to every human being, subject only to the equal freedom in others. By the feudal law the king was, rightly or wrongly, taken to possess and to be justified in exercising the most complete control over the property and personal liberty of his subjects. That control had, as is natural, been much abused, until the tyranny of the monarch became unbearable. Then the subjects turned, and going back as it were to first principles, questioned the right of the monarch to hold his subjects in such a condition of thraldom. The result was nothing more or less than a giving up by the sovereign of a large part of such control, whereby the previously curtailed liberties of the barons, and the people, were extended. Both classes experienced an accession of freedom. This great charter therefore is, according to the principle for which I am contending, true Liberalism, inasmuch as it was a contribution towards the aggregate amount of liberty enjoyed by the members of the community; or, in other words, inasmuch as by it, a larger aggregate amount of liberty was bestowed than was taken away. To show, too, that in putting this construction upon the great charter, I am not striving after any strained interpretation—or seeking to exaggerate its true bearing—let me quote some of the opinions found concerning it by historians:

Guizot, the French historian, has characterised it as "the origin of free institutions in England." [36]


Hume says, speaking of the concessions which it contained: "The barbarous license of the kings, and perhaps of the nobles, was thenceforth somewhat more restrained; men acquired some more security for their properties and their liberties." [37]

Elsewhere Hume speaks of its provisions, as constituting "the most sacred rampart to national liberty and independence." [38]

Hallam characterises it as the "great charter of liberties," and "the key stone of English liberty." "Its beauty consists," he says in "an equal distribution of civil rights to all classes"; and again, referring to the two leading spirits whose names are associated with the great measure, he adds: "To their temperate zeal for a legal government, England was indebted, during that critical period, for the two greatest blessings that patriotic statesmen could confer; the establishment of civil liberty, and the preservation of national independence."

Elsewhere the same great constitutional authority speaks of the celebrated 29th chapter, as containing clauses which protect the personal liberty and property of all freemen, and in further proof of the statement, that no important portion of the people was passed over, he says: "An equal distribution of civil rights, to all classes of freemen, forms the peculiar beauty of the charter." [39]

Edmund Burke speaks of the charter as having first disarmed the Crown of its unlimited prerogative, and laid the foundation of English liberty, [40] and De Lolme characterises it as "the bulwark that protected the freedom of individuals." So much, then, for this great epoch in our country's history. The demand for liberty had been made, and the concession, which followed it, became a valuable [95] precedent for future monarchs: constituting, as it did, an admission, which could not henceforth be honourably, or even legally gainsaid. That so comprehensive a treaty, extracted from the king, contrary to his real wishes, might not be always fully recognised and acted up to by subsequent monarchs, or even by John himself, was probably anticipated by those who obtained it for themselves and posterity. Indeed, as Sir Erskine May says, "Society was not yet sufficiently advanced to ensure the enjoyment of liberties so extended;" yet, nevertheless, those who had succeeded in winning it from their despotic monarch had the satisfaction and consolation of reflecting that any such disregard on the king's part to conform to its provisions, would at once become an indefensible transgression of the laws of England.

I pass now to another important epoch in our history—that marked by the "Petition of Right." It will be seen, from what is to follow, that the same principle of liberty for the individual inspired every movement which led up to its ultimate adoption as a part of our constitution.

When Charles I. succeeded to the throne, "grave issues were pending between prerogative on the one side, and law and parliamentary privilege on the other." [41] The most strained relationship existed between the institution of monarchy and the existing parliament, as representing the people of England. But, notwithstanding this feeling, Charles was met by his first parliament in a "passion of loyalty." One over-sanguine member of the Commons exclaimed: "We can hope everything from the king who now governs us."Though, therefore, the times were full of trouble everything promised fairly well for the young sovereign, except that some of the cooler heads in the Commons, knowing his character, had serious misgivings as to his future conduct. Green says he had already "revealed [96] to those around him, a strange mixture of obstinacy and weakness;" a "duplicity which lavished promises, because he never purposed to be bound by any," and a "petty pride, that subordinated every political consideration to personal vanity, or personal pique." [42]

No sooner had he taken in his hands the reins of government, than he displayed an impatience to assemble the Commons. His first parliament was accordingly called together in the year 1625. He immediately asked for supplies. At that time the House of Commons was almost entirely governed by a set of men of the most uncommon capacity, and of the largest views, including such as Coke, Seymour, Wentworth, Pym, Hampden, and others—all "animated with a warm regard for liberty," and "resolved to seize the opportunity which the king's necessities offered them, of reducing the prerogative within more reasonable compass." [43] It was in their opinion necessary to fix a choice; either to "abandon, entirely, the privileges of the people, or to secure them by firmer and more precise barriers than the constitution had hitherto provided for them." [44] They, accordingly, "embraced the side of freedom," and resolved to grant no supplies to their necessitous prince, without extorting concessions "in favour of civil liberty." [45] A war was being maintained with France and Spain, which caused a continuous drain upon the king's funds, and, every day, rendered the necessity for further supplies more urgent. Though it had been long the custom to grant the duties of tonnage and poundage for the king's life, the parliament declined to do so for more than one year. This somewhat unexpected check upon kingly power greatly astonished Charles. Taught as he was "to consider even the ancient laws and constitution more as lines to direct his conduct, than barriers to withstand his power, [97] this conspiracy to erect new ramparts, in order to straiten his authority, appeared but one degree removed from open sedition and rebellion." [46]

The bill, granting one year's supplies, was thrown out by the Lords, and the parliament, thereupon, granted two subsidies. But this extended vote was only offered conditionally upon the king's conforming to the wishes of the Commons, upon the subject of modifying the prerogative. The king immediately dissolved parliament, and raised a certain amount of money by Letters under Privy Seal. With the money thus raised he fitted out his fleet, and proceeded to prosecute the Spanish War; but, failing in the attempt to capture a Spanish fleet, the English vessels returned, and the king's funds were again exhausted. He now summoned a second parliament (1626). The Commons, thus re-assembled, voted a very liberal supply, but deferred its final passing until the king should concede the limitation to the prerogative, which had been previously demanded. The struggle which followed "exceeded in violence any that had yet taken place." [47] Acts of reprisal followed one another in quick succession. The Commons denied the right of the king to levy tonnage and poundage [48] without their consent. The king now threatened the Commons, that if they did not furnish him with supplies, he would be obliged to try "new counsels." "This," says Hume, "was sufficiently clear." Lest, however, it should be misunderstood, it was carefully explained by the Vice-Chamberlain. "I pray you consider," said that functionary, "what these new counsels are or may be. I fear to declare those I conceive. In all Christian kingdoms," he continued, "you know that parliaments were in use anciently, by which [98] those kingdoms were governed in a most flourishing manner, until the monarchs began to know their own strength, and, seeing the turbulent spirit of their parliaments, at length they, little by little, began to stand on their prerogatives, and, at last, overthrew the parliaments throughout Christendom, except here only with us. Let us be careful, then," he concluded, "to preserve the king's good opinion of parliament, which bringeth such happiness to this nation, and makes us envied of all others, while there is this sweetness between His Majesty and the Commons, lest we lose the repute of a free people by our turbulency in parliament." "These imprudent suggestions," says Hume, "rather gave warnings than struck terror. A precarious liberty, the Commons thought, which was to be preserved by unlimited complaisance, was no liberty at all." [49] Two prominent members of the Commons were thrown into prison, on false charges of seditious language, and the House was exasperated to "show some degree of precipitancy and indiscretion."

The House of Lords now roused itself from a condition of inactivity. The king resolved to again dissolve parliament, and the Lords interposed, and desired him to postpone his decision; but the king replied, "Not a moment longer," and thereupon effected the dissolution. The Commons at once framed a remonstrance, in order to justify their conduct in the eyes of the people. The king, as a counter move, promulgated a vindication of his conduct, in which he gave his reasons for having so suddenly dissolved parliament. Material was thus supplied to the partisans of both sides with which to intensify the dispute. The king now resorted to the new counsels, which had been threatened. He granted a commission to compound with the Catholics, and to dispense with the penal laws which were enacted against them. This at once supplied him with funds; but [99] it at once, also, stirred up one of the most dangerous of political influences. He called upon the nobles for contributions, and demanded from the city a loan of one hundred thousand pounds. The nobility unwillingly responded to his demand, but the city, under cover of many excuses, refused to do so. In order to fit out a fleet, each of the maritime towns was called upon to assist in the expenditure. The city of London was rated at twenty ships. "This," says Hume, "is the first appearance, in Charles's reign, of ship-money—a taxation which had once been imposed by Elizabeth, but which, afterwards, when carried some steps farther by Charles, created such violent discontents."

Innumerable methods were now adopted to obtain money from the people, and the most ingenious and insinuating arguments were advanced to justify them. First, a general loan was demanded, as an equivalent for the subsidies which parliament had refused to grant. "No stretch of prerogative so monstrous," says Sir Erskine May, "had yet been tried." The public feeling, which had arisen by this time, can be better imagined than described. Throughout the whole country, these so-called loans were refused by many; some, too, encouraged others to resist them, and were, in consequence, thrown into prison. Five English gentlemen displayed the courage of their opinions, by positive refusals, and, in the words of Hume, "had spirit enough, at their own hazard and expense, to defend the public liberties." John Hampden was among this number, and, when asked for his reasons for refusal, replied, "that he could be content to lend as well as others, but feared to draw upon himself that curse in Magna Charta, which should be read twice a year against those who infringe it." The Privy Council thereupon committed him to prison. He was again brought up; again refused to give any other reason; and, again, committed to prison. He and his four companions endeavoured to obtain their release, by the assistance of the [100] writ of habeas corpus; but, on a technical point, which told in favour of the king, they failed to obtain their freedom. "This judgment," says Sir Erskine May, "was opposed to the most cherished doctrines of English liberty." [50] Matters went on thus for some time. A foolish war was undertaken against France; soldiers were billeted on the people; crimes of various kinds were punished by martial law; but, withal, the funds which had thus been raised, in various illegal or unconstitutional ways, were found wholly insufficient. Charles now found himself again compelled to call his parliament together. He endeavoured to conciliate the people, by setting free those who had been committed to prison—Hampden among the number. The discontent, which had meanwhile been engendered on every side, justified the apprehension of insurrection, and the assembling of parliament was looked forward to, by the king, with dread. He hoped that the Commons would now be content to forget the past, and be found willing to make reasonable compliances.

These hopes were by no means realised. When parliament did meet, it was as stubborn as ever, on the old points of difference. "No parliament," says May, "had ever met in England with more just causes of resentment against a king." He told them, in his first speech, that "If they should not do their duties, in contributing to the necessities of the state, he must, in discharge of his conscience, use those other means which God had put into his hands, in order to save that which the follies of some particular men may otherwise put in danger. Take not this for a threatening," he said, "for I scorn to threaten any but equals, but as an admonition from him, who, by nature and duty, has most care of your preservation and prosperity." The Commons saw, by this, that the king was only seeking a further opportunity for dissolving parliament, and it was [101] further apparent that, should such a step be taken, the results, to all concerned, would be more calamitous than any which had yet happened. Sir Francis Seymour eloquently protested against this transparent attempt to frighten members from their public duty. "He is no good subject," he said, "who would not, willingly and cheerfully, lay down his life, when that sacrifice may promote the interests of his sovereign, and the good of the commonwealth. But, he is not a good subject—he is a slave—who will allow his goods to be taken from him, against his will and his liberty, against the laws of the kingdom."

Sir Robert Phillips, in the same strain, said "I read of a custom among the old Romans, that once every year they held a solemn festival, in which their slaves had liberty, without exception, to speak what they pleased, in order to ease their afflicted minds; and, on the conclusion of the festival, the slaves severally returned to their former servitude. This institution," he continued, "may well set forth our present state and condition. After the revolution of some time, and the grievous sufferance of many violent oppressions, we have now at last, as those slaves, obtained for a day, some liberty of speech; but shall not, I trust, be hereafter slaves, for we are born free… The grievances by which we are oppressed, I draw under two heads: acts of power against law, and the judgments of lawyers against our liberties. O, unwise forefathers!" he continued, "to be so curious in providing for the quiet possession of our lands and the liberties of parliament; and, at the same time, to neglect our personal liberty… If this be law, why do we talk of liberties?"

These sentiments, Hume says, were unanimously embraced by the whole House. "And the spirit of liberty," he continues, "having obtained some contentment by this exertion, the reiterated messages of the king, who pressed for supply, were attended to with more temper." Five [102] subsidies were thereupon voted, with which the King was extremely pleased; but the supply was not finally passed into law. They resolved, says Hume, "to employ the interval in providing some barriers to their rights and liberties, so lately violated."

They proceeded to draw up the document which was ultimately called the Petition of Right—so called in order to imply that it was a mere "corroboration or explanation of the ancient constitution; not any infringement of royal prerogative, or acquisition of new liberties." Meanwhile, the subject of the bill was being eagerly debated throughout the kingdom. There were abundant reasons advanced on both sides in parliament, and in the country. The king endeavoured to evade the Petition, and went so far as to write a letter to the Lords, in which he declared that he would never again imprison any man for not lending money, and that he would never "pretend any cause, of whose truth he was not fully satisfied." This was all of no avail. The Lords endeavoured to append a clause to the Petition, which, while providing for the "preservation of liberties," would have had the effect of negativing the whole purpose of the document.

All obstacles of the kind having failed to influence the Commons, the Petition passed through that House, and was sent to the Lords. They quickly passed it, and nothing was left to give it the force of law but the royal assent. The king went to the House of Lords, and sent for the Commons, upon the arrival of whom, the Petition was read to him. Instead of giving utterance to the usual formal words which serve to indicate the royal confirmation or rejection of a measure, he indulged in a comparatively lengthy and equivocal answer, in which he merely expressed his willingness to see the existing law put in force for the preservation of the "just rights and liberties" of his subjects. The Commons were much displeased at this unusual and [103] practically negative answer. They returned to their chamber, and proceeded to impeach certain persons, notably Dr. Mainwaring, who had preached a sermon, which had been subsequently printed by royal command, and in which he advocated the "divine right" and other "doctrines subversive of all civil liberty." "We must vindicate our ancient liberties," said Sir Thomas Wentworth in the Commons, when they were about to deal in a somewhat similar manner with the Duke of Buckingham—the king's friend and favourite—as they had done with Mainwaring. The king, however, fearing the trouble which was about to fall on that nobleman, and, in order to divert it, "thought proper, upon a joint application of the Lords and Commons, to endeavour giving them satisfaction with regard to the Petition of Right. He came therefore to the House of Peers, and pronouncing the usual form of words, "Let it be law as desired," gave full sanction and authority to the Petition." [51]

"The acclamation," says Hume, "with which the House resounded, and the universal joy diffused over the nation, showed how much this Petition had been the object of all men's vows and expectations."

"It may be affirmed, without any exaggeration," he continues, "that the king's assent to the Petition of Right produced such a change in the government, as was almost equivalent to a revolution; and by circumscribing, in so many articles, the royal prerogative, gave additional security to the liberties of the subject." [52]

By ratifying that law, the king bound himself never again to impose taxes, or in any way demand money, by loan or otherwise, except by consent of parliament; never again to commit any of his subjects to prison, or otherwise deprive them of their personal liberty, except in due course of law, [104] duly enacted by the same authority. He undertook also, never again to subject them to the jurisdiction of courtsmartial, as he had previously done, and never to repeat the practice of billeting soldiers upon the people, "all which" the Petition concluded "they (the king's subjects) humbly pray of your most excellent Majesty as their rights and liberties, according to the laws and statutes of the realm." [53]

Macaulay speaks of this great measure as "the second great charter of the liberties of England." [54]

The fact that it was violated, almost as soon as granted, though rendering it almost valueless for the time being, could not affect its actual existence, as evidencing a great and memorable victory in the cause of civil liberty; as constituting a great and welcome standard of right, to which future generations could turn in justification of their resistance to royal encroachments, or in vindication of their demands for popular freedom. That it was so ignored and violated is one of the hard facts of history; and that continual encroachments upon the limits which it provided for kingly power, were persisted in, has been rendered ever memorable by the penalty of death which Charles had, ultimately, and in consequence, to suffer. It would be beside my present purpose to follow, further, the somewhat checkered history of this great measure. I have briefly traced it from its earliest immediate causes; and I have shown how it was ultimately placed among the sacred traditions of our race. It witnessed, even after its final adoption, many years and generations of trouble and civil disturbance, before the principles which it involves were unexceptionably acknowledged; and it often served, meanwhile, as the logical battle-ground of many bitter controversies and disputes.

These and many other surrounding events have passed away, but the Petition itself lies preserved in the traditional [105] archives of our race, and stands out from the pages of England's statute book in all its stern reality, constituting, like the great charter itself, one of the most valued buttresses of our cherished constitution.

As a measure, it involves the same important principle, which runs, like a thread, through all the great reforms of early English history. The people claimed freedom for the individual, in the disposal of his legally acquired possessions; and ventured to restrain a king even from transgressing that right, except by consent of themselves, and for a constitutional purpose. They were willing to contribute, upon a grant by the parliament, constituted from their duly authorised representatives, but they resented all compulsion, such as was involved in the power of committment and the denial of their "habeas corpus." It was in truth a determined protest against the then kingly practice of appropriating the legally acquired property of a subject, against his will, by other than constitutional methods—a demand in short for "more liberty."

Within about half a century of the last mentioned memorable charter, we find the English people engaged in another great struggle for the same ever pressing claims of personal freedom and liberty of citizenship. I refer to the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679. Macaulay has characterised the enactment of this measure as a "great era in our history." "From the time of the great charter" he says, "the substantive law, respecting the personal liberty of Englishmen, had been nearly the same as at present; but it had been inefficacious, for want of a stringent system of procedure. What was needed was not a new right, but a prompt and searching remedy; and such a remedy the Habeas Corpus Act supplied." [55] According to Hallam, the origin of this important measure consisted in the "arbitrary proceedings of Lord Clarendon." That nobleman was actually [106] impeached, in the reign of Chas. II., for having caused many persons to be imprisoned contrary to law. They were released by the administration of the Duke of Buckingham, which administration, according to Hallam, "acted, in several respects, on a more liberal principle, than any other in that monarch's reign." The practice does not, however, seem to have been discontinued. Probably the disregard for the great charter, so far as its provisions in defence of personal liberty were concerned, was present to the minds of the leaders of this movement. It was not indeed a matter to be quickly forgotten that the great Hampden, together with four other knights, had been met by the most technical objections, when seeking their release under the writ, as clearly provided for in Magna Charta. "The fundamental immunity of English subjects had never before been so fully canvassed; and it is to the discussion which arose out of the case of these five gentlemen that we owe its continual assertion and its ultimate establishment, in full practical efficacy, by the statute of Charles II." [56]

Hallam says it is a very common mistake, and that, not only among foreigners, but with many from whom some knowledge of our constitutional laws might be expected, to suppose that this statute of Charles II. (Habeas Corpus Act) enlarged in a great degree our liberties, and forms a sort of epoch in our history. Though, he says, a very beneficial enactment, and eminently remedial in many cases of illegal imprisonment, it introduced no new principle, nor conferred any right upon the subject, beyond that which was already contained in Magna Charta. He admits that it "cut off the abuses by which the government's lust of power, and the servile subtlety of crown lawyers had impaired so fundamental a privilege." [57] It is evident that the Habeas Corpus Act, at least made more certain the provision in [107] Magna Charta which protected personal liberty. If it did this, then the adoption of the Act must, as Macaulay says, be entitled to be regarded as indeed a "great era in our history." Under the great charter the provision which was aimed at—guaranteeing personal liberty—was not sufficiently surrounded with safeguards against legal quibbles; as evidenced in the case of Hampden. The Habeas Corpus Act provided those additional safeguards, and, therefore, may be confidently said to have enlarged our liberties, by making them secure where they were formerly insecure. The history of the passing of the measure is as follows: "A bill to 'prevent the refusal of the writ of habeas corpus' was introduced into parliament in 1668, but did not pass. A second was passed by the Commons in 1669-70, but was thrown out by the Lords. The Commons then persisted in their efforts for its passage, and, in 1673-4, passed two bills, one to prevent the imprisonment of a subject 'beyond seas,' and the other to secure greater expedition in the matter of the writ in criminal matters. These were again rejected by the Lords, and, though they appear to have been persistently repeated, it was not till 1679 that they were passed by that body, consolidated in one act called the 'Habeas Corpus Act.'" Hallam accounts for this determined opposition to the bill on the ground that "The House of Lords contained, unfortunately, an invincible majority for the court, ready to frustrate any legislative security for public liberty."

Green, in his "History of the English People," says: "To the freedom of the press, the Habeas Corpus Act added a new security for the personal freedom of every Englishman." [58]

Macaulay says: "It is indeed not wonderful that this great law should be highly prized by all Englishmen, without distinction of party; for it is a law, which, not by [108] circuitous, but by direct operation, adds to the security and happiness of every inhabitant of the realm." [59]

Hume says: "The great charter had laid the foundation of this valuable part of liberty; the Petition of Right had renewed and extended it; but some provisions were still wanting to render it complete and prevent all evasion or delay from ministers and judges. The Act of Habeas Corpus served these purposes." [60]

Buckle says: "By the Habeas Corpus Act, the liberty of every Englishman was made as certain as law could make it, it being guaranteed to him that, if accused of crime, he, instead of languishing in prison, as had often been the case, should be brought to a fair and speedy trial." [61]

As this is the first of the more important struggles for liberty which took place after party names had been clearly adopted and understood in England, it may be worthy of mention that the measure was passed "during the ascendancy of the Whigs." [62]

During the two centuries which have elapsed since this memorable act was placed upon the statute book, there have been occasions, upon which it has been claimed to be justifiable, and statesmen who have had the resolution to attempt, to suspend its operation. Charles James Fox, in 1794, when criticising such an attempt said that "the evil they were pretending to remedy was less than the one they were going to inflict by the remedy itself." [63]

Edmund Burke, in a letter to the sheriffs of Bristol, dated 1777, having reference to certain acts passed with regard to the troubles in America, expressed his grief for one of the results—"legislative regulations which subvert the liberties of our brethren." "All the ancient, honest, juridical principles and institutions of England," he says, "are so many clogs to check and retard the headlong course [109] of violence and oppression. They were invented for this one good purpose, that what was not just should not be convenient. Convinced of this" he continues, "I would leave things as I found them. The old cool-headed general law is as good as any deviation, dictated by present heat. I could," he adds, "see no fair justifiable expedience pleaded to favour this new suspension of the liberty of the subject." [64]

The Revolution of 1688 marks an epoch in English History, which I cannot afford to omit from this brief and hurried glance at the gradual growth and development of Liberalism.

Notwithstanding the great and memorable struggles for liberty, which had preceded this important event, it remained yet for the seventeenth century to witness a resuscitation of many of the old contentions for civil and religious freedom, as opposed to the constantly recurring claims for monarchical supremacy. One would have thought that history contained, for subsequent monarchs, lessons sufficiently clear and impressive to have convinced them of the hopelessness of attempting to deal with the inhabitants of Great Britain as if they were a people constituted after the type of Eastern subjects, upon whom despotism had ever been practiced without producing irritation or rebellion; and upon whom the blessings of free government might perhaps be bestowed without any pleasurable response. With greater reason might it have been anticipated that the sons of the unfortunate Charles I., who had paid the price of his life for his persistent encroachments upon the public liberty, would have sufficiently deeply realised the great lesson for which that death was partly intended, and have been content to wield, with judgment and moderation, the already large powers which their father's subjects were only too willing to vest in them as his successors. Unfortunately this was not so. Either those two princes—Charles II. [110] and James II—had studied their country's history and their father's life, with indifference to the great principles which they involved, or must have possessed an amount of vanity which no trouble or calamity could eradicate. It was thus reserved for England to be again plunged into a condition of revolution, in order to re-impress royalty with the fact that the inhabitants of Great Britain were destined, despite all counter influences, to become a free and a self-governing people.

The death of Charles I.—the direct result of the abuse of kingly power—should, and, to men of fair intelligence, must have taught a life-long lesson, regarding the folly of attempting, or even hoping, to stifle in those in whom it had been once found to exist, the deep craving for freedom, and for the liberty of disposal of one's legally acquired possessions.

That this was not so, may be said to be the main cause for the further social upheaval which was rendered necessary in 1688, and which is known as the second English Revolution.

When Charles II. returned to England in 1660, after his enforced absence abroad, subsequent to the death of his father, he was received by the whole nation with open arms. The joy and enthusiasm with which he was welcomed was almost unprecedented. He was, says Macaulay, "at that time, more loved by the people than any other of his predecessors had ever been. The calamities of his house, the heroic death of his father, his own long-sufferings and romantic adventures, made him an object of tender interest." He is described, as to character, by the same writer, as possessing "social habits, with polite and engaging manners, and with some talent for lively conversation; but fond of sauntering, and of frivolous amusements; incapable of self denial and of exertion; without desire of renown, and without sensibility to reproach." Much was expected of him—more, in fact, than those who knew his real character [111] were justified in anticipating. The great and only feature of his character, with which we are concerned, is that which was involved in the question as to possible future movements in the liberal government of his people. He, as might be supposed, promised that he would rule his subjects according to the laws of the land, and that he would grant liberty of conscience to all his people. These were important as fundamental principles, but, inasmuch as they had been promised by all his predecessors, even by his father, they probably carried little, if any import, to those who were familiar with what had gone before in the history of their country.

Without attempting to go through the reign of this prince in detail, some part of which I have already touched upon in tracing the history of the Habeas Corpus Act, it may be said, generally, that no sooner had he ascended the throne than he began to display the same disregard for promises, which his father had exhibited before him. He entered into a secret alliance with France, and offered to declare himself a Roman Catholic, in order to obtain certain pecuniary aid from Louis XIV., which should render him independent of his own parliament; he acquiesced in, and, by doing so, encouraged a gross breach of public faith in order to raise money, by repudiating banking debts to the extent of thirteen hundred thousand pounds; during his reign "proclamations, dispensing with acts of parliament, or enjoining what only parliament could enjoin, appeared in rapid succession." [65]

He brought to his aid five corrupt statesmen, known collectively by the name of "the Cabal," by whose influence in the House of Commons many disgraceful acts were perpetrated. Religious persecution was carried to a high pitch of cruelty; the old penal laws of Elizabeth were revived, under the infamous judicial administration of the notorious [112] Jeffreys; and, generally, the conduct of the King was about as bad as could be well imagined. His whole reign was, in truth, a continuous attack upon public liberty. It was ignored in every direction—freedom of opinion in matters of religion; freedom of the citizen to do as he wished with his own possessions, except such only as parliament, in its constitutional right, required for lawful purposes; freedom of the individual, subject only to the verdict of his peers, but uninfluenced by a corrupt and blood-thirsty judge: at the beck and call of the monarch; freedom of citizens, grouped as juries, to form their own verdict: undeterred and uncoerced by a corrupt judge, with regal influence at his back; lastly, freedom of citizenship for each to live as he may think fit, limited only by the constitutionally-made and justly administered laws of one's country. In all these particulars Charles II. trampled upon the rights and liberties of his subjects, and, by so doing, contributed largely towards the oppression and consequent anger of the English people, which was continued and aggravated by his brother James, and culminated in his expulsion from the throne of England.

Charles II. died in 1685, and was succeeded by James II. With the accession of this prince, good and peaceful times were again hoped for. When he appeared before the Privy Councillors, after the death of his brother Charles, he, in the course of a speech, repudiated the reputation which he had already acquired in anticipation—that of possessing an arbitrary character. He announced his intention of maintaining the established government in church and state, and, without relinquishing any of his own rights, expressed his intention of going as far as any man in support of his country's liberties. One reads with feelings of irony that "The members of the Council broke forth into clamours of delight and gratitude." [66] He began, within a few hours of becoming king, by issuing a proclamation to collect duties [113] which had not yet been constitutionally voted to him. As soon as parliament assembled, he addressed to the Commons a speech, in which he admonished them not to suppose that by doling out supplies they would cause him to call them frequently together; and he warned them to use him well, if they wanted to meet often. He further insulted his own subjects, by apologising to Louis XIV. for having called the English parliament together without that monarch's consent. He begged for a French subsidy, and sent an embassy to Versailles with assurances of submission, though the Commons and the Scotch Parliament had just granted a handsome vote. His motive, in obtaining money from Louis, was that he might be independent of his parliament. He sanctioned the most cruel religious persecution, and acquiesced in the inhuman maladministration of the law by the notorious Jeffreys. He used every available means to restore Roman catholicism in its most despotic form; and, with equal zeal, endeavoured to destroy the established church. He grossly abused his prerogative, by the creation of an unconstitutional tribunal known as the High Commission. He issued special commissions to enable him to effect objects which the ordinary law could not reach, and endeavoured to overturn the constitutional parliament of his country, by the creation of a new and illegally constituted assembly of privy councillors. He contemplated obtaining a "repeal of the Habeas Corpus Act, which he hated, as it was natural that a tyrant should hate, the most stringent curb that ever legislation imposed on tyranny." [67]

It now became obvious to all classes of his subjects, that James was, as a monarch, absolutely indifferent to his obligations, whether expressed or implied. He had violated the constitution; ignored or over-ridden acts of parliament: used every effort to destroy the established church and to restore a religion, against which the nation had rigidly [114] legislated; endeavoured to subvert one of England's most cherished guarantees for personal liberty, and prevented the constitutional parliament of the country from assembling. All classes joined in unqualified condemnation of his conduct, and a powerful conspiracy was initiated for the purpose of dethroning him. The Prince of Orange was made familiar with these designs, and he agreed to invade England. James II. at first treated this rumour with scorn, but, as he commenced to realise more and more its truth and reality, he began to offer concessions to the people. The Prince of Orange landed in England, and though, at first, there were signs that a conflict would take place between his forces and those of James II., a short time sufficed to cause all the supporters of the latter to abandon him, and he was compelled to fly the kingdom, fearful, doubtless, that he would, if arrested, share the fate of his unfortunate father.

Before all this was accomplished, and, while the invasion of William was yet in preparation, that prince had subscribed to the celebrated document, known as "The Declaration of Right." This Declaration was "a recital of certain established laws which had been violated by the Stuarts, and a solemn protest against the validity of any precedent which might be set up in opposition to those laws."

The words run thus: "They do claim, demand, and insist upon all and singular the premises, as their undoubted "rights and liberties." [68] The Declaration was, in fact, a sort of consolidation of the principle enactments which had been in dispute, from time to time, between the people and the crown. It began with a solemn preamble, setting forth the necessity for the strict observance of the law, as contributing to the happiness of nations and the security of governments. It recited the violation of the constitution; the usurpation of power by the monarch in dispensing with Acts of Parliament; the necessity for maintaining the [115] established religion; the necessity for strictly regarding "the great charter of the liberties of England;" the advantages of a free and lawful parliament; and this it stated to be his (William's) chief object. It was not till this Declaration was circulated in Holland that James II. clearly realised his position. The numerous concessions which he had offered had not been well received. He had fled the country, and, after much deliberation, the throne was declared vacant, upon the ground "that James had broken the fundamental laws of the kingdom." William and Mary were then crowned as King and Queen of England.

The coronation, which I cannot here dwell upon, was performed amid great ceremony, and William gave the most profound assurances of his intention to promote the welfare of the kingdom. The rejoicings were loud and universal. Thus was consummated the English Revolution.

Let us consider for a moment, what it effected. In order to do so it is necessary to turn to the Declaration of Right itself, for Edmund Burke says: "If the principles of the Revolution of 1688 are anywhere to found, it is in the statute called the Declaration of Right." [69] And Hallam says: "The Declaration was indissolubly connected with the Revolution settlement, as its motive and its condition." [70] The Declaration consists of three parts, viz., a recital of the illegal and arbitrary acts of James, and of the consequent vote of abdication; a declaration that such enumerated acts are illegal; and a resolution that the throne shall, subject to certain limitations, be filled by the Prince and Princess of Orange.

The Lords and Commons, in this important instrument, declared, among other things, that the pretended power of suspending laws and the execution of laws by regal authority, without consent of parliament, was illegal; that the pretended power of dispensing with laws by regal authority, [116] "as it hath been assumed and exercised of late," was illegal; that the levying of money for or to the use of the Crown, by pretence of prerogative, without grant of parliament, for longer time, or in any other manner than the same is or shall be granted, was illegal; that election of members of parliament ought to be free; that the freedom of speech, or of debates, or of proceedings in parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament. [71]

The Declaration was, some months afterwards, confirmed by a regular act of the legislature, in the Bill of Rights, which (with the addition of one clause), was a copy of the Declaration. The Declaration of Right is called "An act for declaring the rights and liberties of the subject, and for settling the succession of the crown," and the whole care of the two Houses was "to secure the religion, laws, and liberties, that had been long possessed, and had been lately endangered." [72]

The two houses "taking into their most serious consideration the best means for making such an establishment, that their religion, laws, and liberties, might not be in danger of being again subverted, auspicate all their proceedings by stating, as some of those best means, in the first place to do as their ancestors in like cases have usually done, for vindicating their ancient rights and liberties, to declare—and then they pray the King and Queen that it may be declared and enacted that all and singular the rights and liberties, asserted and declared, are the true ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom." [73] All historians, and other writers of note, concur in characterising this epoch in history, as one of the [117] very first importance among those which touch the question of our civil and religious liberties.

Guizot, the French historian, in his "History of civilisation in Europe," speaking of the end of the sixteenth century, says: "There were, then, two national wants in England at this period; on one side was the need of religious revolution and liberty, in the heart of the reformation already commenced; and on the other, was required political liberty, in the heart of the pure monarchy then in progress; and, in the course of their progress, these two wants were able to invoke all that had already been done in either direction. They combined. The party who wished to pursue religious reformation invoked political liberty to the assistance of its faith and conscience, against the king and the bishops. The friends of political liberty again sought the aid of the popular reformation. The two parties united to struggle against absolute power in the temporal, and in the spiritual orders—a power now concentrated in the hands of the king. This" he says, "is the origin and purport of the English Revolution."

"It was thus," he continues, "essentially devoted to the defence or achievement of liberty. For the religious party it was a means, and for the political party an end; but with both liberty was the question."

Again the same writer says: "Taking everything together, the English Revolution was essentially political; it was brought about in the midst of a religious people, and in a religious age; religious thoughts and passions were its instruments; but its chief design and definite aim were political; were devoted to liberty, and the abolition of all absolute power." [74]

Hallam says: "It" (the House of Stuart) "made the co-existence of an hereditary line, claiming a sovereign prerogative, paramount to the liberties they had vouchsafed [118] to concede, incompatible with the security or probable duration of those liberties. This incompatibility is the true basis of the Revolution of 1688." [75]

Elsewhere the same writer says: "The glorious Revolution stands in no need of vulgar credulity, no mistaken prejudice, for its support. It can only rest on the basis of a liberal theory of government, which looks to the public good as the great end for which positive laws, and the constitutional order of states have been instituted." [76] And again, "I consider the Revolution to have been eminently conducive to our freedom and prosperity." [77] "It was the triumph of those principles, which, in the language of the present day, are denominated liberal, or, constitutional." [78]

Macaulay, in his essay on Milton, speaks of the Revolution as "the expulsion of a tyrant, the solemn recognition of popular rights, liberty, security, toleration." And Burke says: "The revolution was made to preserve our ancient indisputable laws and liberties, and that ancient constitution of government, which is our only security for law and liberty." [79]

Burke, again, in a proposed address to George III., on the American War, written nearly a century after this great epoch, so eloquently and comprehensively summarises its aim and effect, that I shall venture to again quote his words. "The revolution," he says, "is a departure from the ancient course of the descent of this monarchy. The people, at that time, re-entered into their original rights; and it was not because a positive law authorised what was then done, but because the freedom and safety of the subject, the origin and cause of all laws, required a proceeding paramount and superior to them. At that evermemorable and instructive period, the letter of the law was superceded in favour of the substance of liberty. To the [119] free choice, therefore, of the people, without either king or parliament, we owe that happy establishment, out of which both king and parliament were regenerated. From that great principle of liberty have originated the statutes, confirming and ratifying the establishment from which your Majesty derives your right to rule over us. Those statutes have not given us our liberties; our liberties have produced them." [80]

I need scarcely say that the Whigs took a very prominent part in this great event of our history. The fact that the bulk of the Tories, also, assisted in the struggle, does not affect my contention, viz., that in every such movement for the preservation of civil liberty, all friends of truly Liberal principles were to be found among the front ranks, when the time for action had come. "The two parties," says Macaulay, "whose strife had convulsed the empire during half a century, were united for a moment; and all that vast royal power, which, three years before, had seemed immovably fixed, vanished at once, like chaff before a hurricane." [81]

I pass now to another and still later epoch in the history of my subject—that which is marked by the struggle for, and acquirement of independence, by the American colonies, now known as the United States. This struggle involved that important branch of civil liberty which is comprehended in the question of national taxation. It will be seen, from the following short sketch, that the right of a monarch or his government to impose taxation is, for obvious reasons, watched always with the utmost jealousy; and that one of the most sensitive characteristics of a liberty-loving people is touched, the moment an attempt is made to trespass beyond the most strictly legitimate limits of a State's true functions in that direction.

The settlement of the American colonies, which, as Hume says, were "established on the noblest footing that [120] had been known in any age or nation" had taken place in the reign of James I. In them "the spirit of independency, which was reviving in England, shone forth in its full lustre, and received new accession from the aspiring character of those who, being discontented with the established church and monarchy, had sought for freedom in those savage deserts." [82]

There can be no doubt that those early settlers, who sailed for the American continent to found a new home and a new country for themselves, carried with them all the liberty-loving traditions of the race from which they sprang. The memory of the great historic struggles, which stood as landmarks in their country's history, had, in all probability, left a deep impression upon the leading spirits of that enterprising and now historic expedition.

Edmund Burke, in his celebrated speech upon "Conciliation with America," which he delivered in 1775, said:—"The people of the colonies are descendants of Englishmen. England, sir, is a nation which, still I hope, respects and formerly adored her freedom. The colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant; and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted from your hands. They are, therefore, not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty, according to English ideas, and on English principles." Again, in the course of the same utterance, he said: "This fierce spirit of liberty is stronger in the English colonies, probably, than in any other people of the earth." [83]

The American colonies, thus formed, had, almost all, after several struggles, succeeded in securing for themselves a form of government which fostered these feelings, rather than allowed them to fade from the memory. "The [121] executive power was vested in a governor appointed by the king. He was assisted by a council, which sometimes conjoined the functions of a Privy Council and a House of Peers. The people were represented by a House of Assembly, consisting of persons chosen by the freeholders in the country parts, and the householders or corporations of towns. The governor could levy no money without the consent of the House of Assembly. The British parliament, however, claimed, but scarcely ever exercised, the privilege of imposing taxes upon the colonists, without consulting them. [84] This claim, however, was by no means admitted, but, in fact, was regarded rather as an encroachment on the rights and privileges of the colonists. The taxes which were collected in the colonies at the time with which I am dealing, were not large, and the expenditure of them was confined to the local wants. The political condition of the colonies was of the freest character, and they were also in a state of great prosperity. It was this prosperity indeed, added to the growing indebtedness of England, which prompted the British government to impose taxes upon the American colonies. Sir Robert Walpole had been sounded, and had refused to act on the suggestion, but Mr. Grenville, less able to foresee the ultimate effect of his act, and thinking to lighten the monetary burdens which continuous wars had entailed on the mother country, projected the celebrated Stamp Duties as a precedent. The tax was in itself, small, but there was a principle involved in it which the colonists immediately detected and regarded as dangerous to their future civil liberty; they therefore offered to it the most strenuous objection.

Grenville's contention was that inasmuch as the colonists received protection from the English government, they were bound to contribute toward the revenue, out of which that protection was defrayed. In the words of Green, "As the [122] burden had been partly incurred in the defence of the American colonies, Grenville resolved that the colonies should bear their share of it. The colonists, on the contrary, contended that 'taxation and representation should go hand in hand'; and, as America had no representatives in the British parliament, they declined to be taxed without their consent. The question was one purely of principle, for the representatives of the colonists, in their local parliaments, were willing to vote moneys of a much larger amount than that which had been demanded by the Home government. But they protested against its being levied on them by the English legislature, in which they had no voice. They therefore deputed the famous Benjamin Franklin to proceed to London, and there protest against the proposed taxation. This determined stand rendered Grenville more resolved than ever to have his own way. The first colony to take up this firm attitude of protest was Virginia. Among those in England, who took up the colonists cause, was the elder Pitt, afterwards Lord Chatham, who said: "In my opinion, this kingdom has no right to lay a tax on the colonies…. America is obstinate! America is almost in open rebellion! Sir, I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people," he added, "so dead to all the feelings of liberty, as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest." [85]

The opposition of the colonists took many forms—including resolutions, petitions, and various other publications. At a certain point of this growing resistance, the then existing ministry displayed great vacillation, and, in a very short time, the celebrated Stamp Act, which had been the source of all the discontent and excitement among the colonists, was repealed; but, unfortunately, the matter was not allowed to end here. It was necessary, in the opinion of those who were charged with the carrying on of Her [123] Majesty's government, to offer some consolation to the pride of the English people, and probably to themselves also; and with this view, an act was passed, which simply declared the right of the mother country "to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever." The determination to impose taxes upon the colonies was, however, by no means abandoned, but it was thought advisable to try some other means of securing the end in view. Import duties were imposed, at the colonial ports, on several articles of merchandise, including tea, but no sooner was the step made known than the indignation of the colonists became more intense than ever. It was at this stage that Edmund Burke made his celebrated speech upon the subject of "Conciliation with America," to which I have already referred, and, in which he commented with so much force and eloquence upon the "love of freedom," and the "fierce spirit of liberty" which was so strongly marked in the colonists, with whom England was, every day, being placed more and more at issue. "On this point of taxes," he said, "the ablest pens and the most eloquent tongues have been exercised… They (the English) took infinite pains to inculcate as a fundamental principle, that in all monarchies the people must, in effect, themselves, mediately or immediately, possess the power of granting their own money, or no shadow of liberty could subsist. The colonies draw from you," he said, "their life-blood, these ideas and principles. Their love of liberty, as with you, fixed and attached on this specific point of taxing. Liberty might be safe or might be endangered in twenty other particulars, without their being much pleased or alarmed. Here they felt its pulse, and as they found that beat, they fret themselves sick or sound." [86]

A new administration now came into existence under Lord North, and, almost immediately, the whole of the objectionable duties were repealed, with one exception— [124] that upon tea—which was retained in order to assert the principle of England's right to impose taxes on her colonies. In addition to the retention of this duty, a series of remarkable innovations were introduced. Here again, Edmund Burke's voice was heard, in all its force and eloquence, in criticising the weakness and vacillation of English policy. "Your act of 1767," he said, "asserts that it is expedient to raise a revenue in America; your act of 1769, which takes away that revenue, contradicts the act of 1767." [87] And then he added, in touching the vital principle which this struggle involved: "Could anything be a subject of more just alarm to America than to see you go out of the plain high road of finance, and give up your most certain revenues, and your clearest interests, merely for the sake of insulting your colonies…. The feelings of the colonies were formerly the feelings of Great Britain. Their's were formerly the feelings of Mr. Hampden, when called upon for the payment of twenty shillings. Would twenty shillings have ruined Mr. Hampden's fortune? No! but the payment of half twenty shillings, on the principle it was demanded, would have made him a slave." [88] The principle contained in this argument had already been attempted to be answered by Lord Carmarthen, who had contended that the Americans were England's children, and that, therefore, they could not revolt against their parent. "If they are not free in their present state," then, he urged, "England is not free; because Manchester and other considerable places are not represented." [89] Burke was ready with a complete answer to such an argument, and, like all his reasoning, it contained a principle of importance. "So then," he said, "because some towns in England are not represented, America is to have no representative at all. [125] They are our 'children,' but when children ask for bread, we are not to give them a stone. Is it because the natural resistance of things, and the various mutations of time hinder our government, or any scheme of government, from being any more than a sort of approximation to the right; is it therefore that the colonies are to recede from it infinitely? When this child of ours wishes to assimilate to its parent, and to reflect, with a true filial resemblance, the beauteous countenance of British liberty; are we to turn to it the shameful parts of our constitution? Are we to give them our weakness for their strength; our opprobrium for their glory? and the slough of slavery, which we are not able to work off, to serve them for their freedom? If this be the case, ask yourselves this question: Will they be content in such a state of slavery? If not, look to the consequences. Reflect how you are to govern a people, who think they ought to be free, and think they are not. Your scheme yields no revenue; it yields nothing but discontent, disorder, disobedience; and such is the state of America, that, after wading up to your eyes in blood, you could only end just where you began; that is, to tax where no revenue is to be found." [90]

Burke's eloquence and reasoning were unavailing. The King (George III.) had determined to seize the first opportunity to rescind the "fatal compliance of 1766." Some unimportant riots had marked the rising indignation of the colonists, and the occasion was at once grasped, as a reason for steps of a most rigorous character.

A petition from the Legislative Assembly of Massachusetts, praying the dismissal of certain public officers located in the colonies, who had advised the Home authorities to deprive the colonies of their free institutions, was rejected as "frivolous and vexatious" by an act of the Commons. The port of Boston was closed against all commerce; the [126] State of Massachusetts was deprived of the liberties which it had enjoyed since the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers; it was made what we now term a Crown colony; the appointment of its judges was transferred from the people to the governor; and the latter was empowered to send to England, to take their trial, all persons charged with having taken part in the disturbances which had already occurred. A strong military force was established under the commandership of a general, who, at the same time, became governor of Massachusetts. The King was jubilant at the prospects, and wrote to his minister: "The die is cast; the colonies must either triumph or submit." The colonists, meanwhile, were preparing for resistance. They determined to refuse all commercial negotiations with the mother country; and preparations for war were set on foot in every direction. Legal proceedings were suspended; jurors declined the oath; and, on every side, were apparent symptoms of social disorganisation. The whole of the colonies, between whom there had existed, in times of peace, various local jealousies, now co-operated in one common cause—the defence of their liberties. Thus, in a short time, were both countries plunged into a war of the most painful character, inasmuch as the combatants were practically fellow-countrymen. In Burke's speech on "Conciliation," delivered in March, 1775, are collected some interesting figures showing the population and extent of the trade of the colonies shortly before the war. He estimates the former at "two millions of inhabitants of our own European blood and colour, besides at least 500,000 others, probably slaves." The exports to the colonies constituted half of the whole export trade of England—that is to say, six millions out of twelve. The war began in 1775, and lasted till 1783, when the British troops evacuated New York, and the American army was disbanded. It was on July 4th, 1776, about a year after the war began, that the [127] American Congress published its celebrated Declaration of Independence. It begins with the following words: "We, the representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, solemnly publish and declare that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent States." Thus may be said to have commenced the history of the United States of America, and to have been attained one of the most signal victories for true Liberalism which the new world has yet witnessed.

Among the many reflections, which a study of this great struggle must produce in the mind of every student of history, is that which points to the attitude of George III., and his assumption of the old kingly powers, which had led to so much trouble with his predecessors. This was probably the chief cause of the struggle. "His wish was not to govern against law, but simply to govern: to be freed from the dictation of parties and ministers; to be, in effect, the first minister of the state." [91] "In ten years," says the same writer, "he reduced government to a shadow, and turned the loyalty of his subjects into disaffection. In twenty he had forced the colonies of America into revolt and independence, and brought England to the brink of ruin." [92] He spoke of the colonists, at an early stage of the quarrel, as "rebels," and characterised the elder Pitt (who had protested against the whole policy of the Home government) as a "trumpet of sedition." The speeches and writings of Edmund Burke are replete with philosophic observations upon this great struggle, which will be found deeply interesting to all who can give more attention to it than is demanded here. In a proposed address to the king which was evidently written while the struggle with the colonies was at an early stage, he said, "It will be [128] impossible long to resist the powerful and equitable arguments in favour of the freedom of these unhappy people, that are to be drawn from the principle of our own liberty;" and, in an "Address to the British colonists in North America," he says, even more powerfully: "We view the establishment of the English colonies on principles of liberty, as that which is to render this kingdom venerable to future ages. In comparison of this, we regard all the victories and conquests of our warlike ancestors, or of our own times as barbarous, vulgar distinctions, in which many nations, whom we look upon with little respect or value, have equalled, if not far exceeded us. This is the peculiar and appropriated glory of England. Those who have, and who hold to that foundation of common liberty, whether on this, or on your side of the ocean, we consider as the true, and the only true Englishmen. Those who depart from it, whether there or here, are attainted, corrupted in blood, and wholly fallen from their original rank and value. They are the real rebels to the fair constitution and just supremacy of England." [93]

Let me conclude my hasty sketch of this particular epoch by a quotation from Sir Erskine May. "When the Great Republic," he says, "was fully established as an independent state, it afforded an example of freedom and equality unknown in the previous history of the world." [94]

The last event with which we are concerned in this chapter, is that which is shortly and generally summarised under the heading of "Catholic Emancipation." I shall endeavour to show that, just as all the previous movements, with which I have already dealt, have been inspired by the strong love among men for personal liberty, and the equally strong desire for freedom in the disposal (as best conforms to each individual's wishes) of such property as society recognises as one's own; so, in the event, with which I am [129] now about to deal, there is evident the struggle to obtain recognition of an analogous, and, at the same time equally vital principle to society—the liberty of action in the matter of worship, and the liberty of conscience in the choice of a creed. To trace, with any degree of detail, the origin of the issue, which was ultimately settled in the movement known as Catholic Emancipation, would indeed involve more space than I have here at my disposal. I shall, therefore, touch upon the various stages of the movement in general terms only, taking care to make as distinct as possible, those particular points which turn on the principle underlying the struggle.

It has been considered by historians that the depressed and degraded condition which characterised the people of Europe during the fifteenth century, is attributable to the papal as much as to the feudal despotism of those times. The papal power which was wielded during that period was, indeed, not confined to matters of a spiritual nature, but it obtruded itself into almost all such as can fairly be comprehended under the term "temporal." It, in fact, claimed, and, for the most part, exercised a jurisdiction over all human relations, whether spiritual, political, social, or intellectual.

The Church was then, in truth, the depositary of almost all learning and intellectual superiority; and, as a consequence, in such times, it acquired an influence, in the various courts of Europe, which made it practically the supreme authority among all civilised peoples.

This great power, as might have been predicted, led to many and great abuses. What was originally intended as a means towards the elevation of the human race, became an end in itself—the original object being in time lost sight of. Worship degenerated into idolatry; ritual and ceremony became nothing more than extravagant and meaningless pomp; faith and reliance in a supreme power were allowed [130] to drift into superstition and ignorant credulity. Inquiry was stifled by persecution, and intellectual doubt, as soon as discovered, visited with tyranny and cruelty of the most revolting character.

Martin Luther carried in his mind the great intellectual lever by which this old and rotten edifice was to be shaken and ultimately thrown down. The Reformation, of which he was the pioneer and leading spirit, may be said to have begun with the sixteenth century; and its influence swept over England as well as the other countries of Europe. The Church of England did not acquire independence till 1535, and may be considered the first step of that great movement in England. During the reign of Henry VIII., the influence of Rome was boldy resisted. That monarch, under cover of other motives, resolved to enrich himself, and, at the same time, to abolish corruption, by suppressing the monasteries within his realm. By an act of parliament of his reign, 380 of those institutions fell into his hands, enriching him to the extent of thirty-two thousand pounds a year—an immense sum in those days. The spoils were largely distributed among his own favourites. Serious riots followed. In 1539, the king decreed the suppression of all monasteries; and church property of all kinds, including land, buildings, and gold and silver relics of great value, were seized and confiscated. The king renounced the papal supremacy, and the religion of the English people was thenceforth changed.

Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, endeavoured to complete the Reformation. He further removed Roman abuses and established the Evangelical creed; circulated the Bible among the people, and altered the service and ritual of the national church.

With the reign of Mary, however, a reaction set in. Protestantism had again to give way to the church of Rome. Many bishops of that church, who had been deposed by [131] Henry, were reinstated: and the queen acknowledged her allegiance to the pope. Then followed persecution, in all its worst and most revolting forms. The prisons were filled, and the terrible fires of Smithfield were called into constant requisition. Two hundred and eighty-eight persons, including bishops, clergymen, women and children, were burned at the stake; and many thousand of others suffered different forms of persecution. Then it was that Latimer, Ridley, Hooper, and the great Cranmer sacrificed their lives for their creed.

With the accession of Elizabeth, in 1558, the protestant religion was again restored: the re-establishment being effected upon the basis laid down by Cranmer and his followers. During that reign every catholic priest was branded as a traitor, and all catholic worship as disloyalty. [95]

In the reign of Charles I., "the persecution of the catholics, which had long been suspended, out of deference to Spanish intervention, recommenced with vigour," [96] but, subsequently, that wayward monarch, for various reasons, became much more tolerant. Even as late as the protectorship of Cromwell, when "liberty of worship was secured for all," an exception was made in the case of Papists. "Liberty of conscience," however, was secured for every citizen. [97] William of Orange, after the battle of the Boyne in 1690, entered into the Treaty of Limerick, by which he guaranteed religious toleration to his Irish catholic subjects. He undertook to bind his heirs and successors; but the treaty was afterwards disregarded, and twenty years or so later, was completed the celebrated catholic penal code, consisting of several acts of the legislature, passed at different times, in and about that period.

"A statute was fabricated," says Burke, "in the year 1699, by which the saying mass was forged into a crime, [132] punishable with perpetual imprisonment. The teaching school… even in a private family was, in every catholic, subjected to the same punishment…. Every Roman catholic was to forfeit his estate to his nearest protestant relation, until he redeemed by his hypocrisy, what the law had transferred to his kinsman as the recompense of his profligacy. When thus turned out of doors from his paternal estate, he was disabled from acquiring any other, by his industry, donation, or charity, but was rendered a foreigner in his native land, only because he retained the religion along with his property, handed down to him from those who had been the old inhabitants of that land before him. Does any one who hears me," added Burke, "approve this scheme of things, or think there is common justice, common sense, or common honesty in any part of it?" [98]

The Penal code, shortly summarised, provided as follows:—No papist could take real estate by descent or purchase. A conveyance to a papist was void. A protestant who turned papist was guilty of high treason. A papist father was, under penalty of five hundred pounds, debarred from being guardian to papist children. A papist was prohibited from marrying a protestant, and the priest, who celebrated such a marriage, was guilty of felony. Papists were prevented from becoming barristers; from teaching in schools; from saying or hearing mass; from holding office, civil or military; from sitting in parliament, or voting at an election.

Popish recusants—that is, persons who did not attend the established church—could not hold office, keep arms, come within ten miles of London, or travel five miles from their own home, except upon license obtained for the purpose. They were debarred the right of maintaining an action at law, or in equity. Any one baptising, marrying, or burying such a person was liable to heavy penalties. A woman of that class, who married, forfeited two-thirds of her dower or [133] jointure, and, during marriage, she could, at any time, be imprisoned, unless her husband redeemed her at the rate of ten pounds per month. All other recusant females were compelled to renounce popery or quit the realm—otherwise they could be put to death. In addition, papists were excluded from grand juries; and many other liberties, too numerous to mention here, but all of which were enjoyed by protestant subjects, were denied to those who professed the creed of Rome. "It was," said Burke, "a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, noted for its vicious perfection, and as admirably fitted for the oppression, impoverishment, and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man." The same writer, in his tracts on the popery laws, written about 1780, says that they affected two-thirds of the whole nation, numbering 2,800,000 souls. Such was the condition of things as affecting catholics previous to 1779.

In 1779, and again a few years afterwards, the harshness of this code was considerably ameliorated. The elective franchise was extended to catholics, but they were still excluded from parliament. To secure these slight privileges, however, rigid oaths and declarations had to be submitted to, and even then it was maintained an offence to worship according to the Roman catholic ritual.

Burke, in a "Letter to a Peer of Ireland," upon the subject of these laws, written just previously to the amelioration of which I have spoken, speaks of them, to that nobleman, as "a code of statutes, by which you are totally excluded from the privileges of the commonwealth, from the highest to the lowest—from the most material of the civil professions, from the army, and even from education." [99] The bill of 1782, which effected this amelioration referred to, re-affirmed many of the old acts; and this revival led Burke to say of [134] the measure by which that was effected: "To look at the bill in the abstract, it is neither more nor less than a renewed act of universal, unmitigated, indispensable, exceptionless DISQUALIFICATION." "One would imagine," he continues, "that a bill, inflicting such a multitude of incapacities, had followed on the heels of a conquest made by a very fierce enemy, under the impression of recent animosity and resentment." [100] In 1801, when Pitt was concerned with the great question of conciliation with Ireland, he conceived the question of religious equality to be one of the most powerful means towards that end. "In proposing to the English parliament the union of the two countries, he had pointed out that when thus joined to a protestant country like England, all danger of a catholic supremacy in Ireland—should catholic disabilities be removed—would be practically at an end." [101] The hope, which was thus held out to the catholics, prevented opposition to the bill which brought about the legislative union, though it is acknowledged that the catholic influence could have secured its defeat. "After the passing of the bill, Pitt prepared to lay before the cabinet a measure, which would have raised, not only the catholic, but the dissenter also to perfect equality of civil rights. He proposed to remove all religious tests which limited the exercise of the franchise, or were required for admission to parliament, the magistracy, the bar, municipal offices, or posts in the army or the service of the state." [102] George III., whose unjustifiable assumption of historical prerogatives I have already instanced, in dealing with the subject of American independence, here also obstructed the passage of a most genuine piece of Liberal legislation. Having heard of Pitt's intention to submit such a scheme to his cabinet, that monarch said: "I count any man my personal enemy, who proposes any such measure." Pitt, [135] thereupon, laid his whole plan before the king; submitting that "the political circumstances under which the exclusive laws originated, arising, either from the conflicting power of hostile and nearly balanced sects; from the apprehension of a popish queen as successor; a disputed succession and a foreign pretender; a division in Europe between catholic and protestant powers, are no longer applicable to the present state of things." The king was obdurate, giving as a reason, that he held himself bound by his coronation oath to maintain the tests. [103] Pitt, equally firm in his resolution, resigned.

In 1823, the Irish Liberal party being united, "they closed hands in defence of their common liberties." O'Connel and Shiel, long estranged, met, and became reconciled. Out of that meeting a league was formed under the title of the "Catholic Association."

It became in a short time a great political power. The greatest orators which Ireland could produce were enlisted in the cause, and parliament immediately became the recipient of numerous and powerful petitions. Tracts and circulars, bearing upon the questions which inspired its members, were widely distributed; and, in many other ways, not always to be commended, its influence was felt over the whole political field of its time. So great was its power, that parliament, in 1825, passed an act terminating its existence; but, almost immediately afterwards, it was reorganised. The general election of 1826 was the next battle ground; and the growing feeling was prominently represented in the result. The term "emancipation" was then used to designate the element of liberty.

From this time forward the agitation continued. In 1828 O'Connell was induced to become a candidate for a seat in the House of Commons. His address ran as follows:—"Fellow countrymen: your country wants a representative. I respect [136] fully solicit your suffrages to raise me to that station…. You will be told I am not qualified to be elected, and to be your representative. It is true that, as a catholic, I cannot, and of course never will, take the oaths at present prescribed to members of parliament. But the authority which created those oaths can abrogate them; and I entertain a confident hope that, if you elect me, the most bigoted of our enemies will see the necessity of removing, from the chosen representative of the people, an obstacle which would prevent him from doing his duty to his king and to his country." O'Connell was duly elected. The Duke of Wellington was at the head of the government, and, at once, saw that the matter must be dealt with. Parliament was convened on March 5th, 1829, and, immediately, Mr. Peel moved that the House go into committee, "to take into consideration the civil disabilities of his Majesty's Roman catholic subjects." Two days' debate followed. A bill was introduced, and, notwithstanding the presentation of a thousand petitions, intended to defeat its progress, the bill was passed by the Commons and the Lords, though by the latter after a great struggle. On April 13th, it received the royal assent. "It was hailed with joy by the friends of religious freedom in England, as well as in Ireland." [104] O'Connell, having been elected before the passage of the act, was refused admission to the House of Commons; and his seat was, after much debate, declared vacant. He returned to Ireland, and was returned unopposed, having acquired the title of "the Liberator of his country." In order to justify my inclusion of this epoch, among others, as one of the great "struggles for liberty," and therefore, as an instance of the true Liberalism in politics, I feel bound to quote the following additional passage from Edmund Burke, contained in a letter to his son, on the subject of the popery laws. It indicates his [137] view of those laws in such a way as to show how he would have regarded their repeal. "A liberty made up of penalties! A liberty made up of incapacities! A liberty made up of exclusion and proscription—continued for ages—of four-fifths, perhaps, of the inhabitants of all ranks and fortunes! In what does such liberty differ from the description of the most shocking kind of servitude?" [105] Sir Erskine May says, speaking of this cause: "It was supported by eminent English statesmen, and by the liberal judgment of an enlightened party in parliament, and in the country." [106] Thus, then, was ended this great and memorable struggle known as "Catholic Emancipation," and thus concludes my sketch of what I have termed "Historic Liberalism." I may say of the several movements with which I have thus dealt—to use the words of Macaulay, "the Charter of Henry Beauclerc, the Great Charter, the Extinction of Personal Slavery, the Separation from the See of Rome, the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act, the Revolution,… the Abolition of Religious Disabilities… all these seem to us to be the successive stages of one great revolution." The whole of these great events have been so ably and so eloquently summarised by the inexhaustible Edmund Burke that I shall again venture to quote his words: "Our oldest reformation is that of Magna Charta. You will see that Sir Edward Coke, that great oracle of our law, and indeed all great men who follow him, to Blackstone, are industrious to prove the pedigree of our liberties…. In the famous law of the third of Charles I., called the Petition of Right, the parliament says to the king, "Your subjects have inherited this freedom;" claiming their franchise, not on abstract principles, as 'the rights of men, [107] but as the rights of Englishmen, and as a patrimony derived from their forefathers…. The same policy pervades [138] all the laws which have since been made for the preservation of our liberties. In the first of William and Mary, in the famous statute called the Declaration of Right, the two Houses utter not a syllable of 'a right to frame a government for themselves.' You will see that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws and liberties, that had been long possessed, and had been lately endangered. Taking into their most serious consideration the best means for making such an establishment, that their religion, laws and liberties might not be in danger of being again subverted. You will observe" he adds, "that from Magna Charta to the Declaration of Right it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties, as an entailed inheritance, derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity…. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and a House of Commons; and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors." [108]

I know of no passage with which I can more suitably close this chapter than the following from the pen of Sir Erskine May:—"The whole history of England" says that writer, "is in fact the history of popular rights and franchises acquired, maintained, extended, and developed, without subverting the ancient constitution of the State. It is the history of reforms, not of revolutions. It is the history of a monarchy under which the people have acquired all the freedom of a republic." [109]






A brief review of the principal extensions of civil liberty from the Reform Bill of 1832 to the Ballot Act of 1872

"LIBERAL.—One who advocates greater freedom from restraint, especially in political institutions."—Webster's Dictionary, 1847.

"In the sphere of the State, the business of the last half century has been, in the main, a process of setting free the individual man, that he may work out his vocation without wanton hindrance, as his maker will have him do."—W. E. GLADSTONE, "Locksley Hall and the Jubilee," (Nineteenth Century, January, 1887.)

THE Reform Bill of 1832, with which I open this chapter, constitutes one of the greatest victories for Liberal principles which modern English history affords. Prior to it, as I shall show, the representation of the people, in the English legislature, was distributed, in a manner, at once unequal and inequitable. Parliament—the medium through which the public revenue was collected and, afterwards, expended, and by which all the laws which determined the rights and liberties of the people were enacted—was, practically, in the hands, and under the influence of a comparatively infinitesimal section of the nation; and, as a consequence, there was nothing to guarantee, and everything to prevent the equitable distribution of civil rights under the constitution.

The gradual growth of the important popular movement, which culminated in the Reform Bill of 1832, can be told in few words.


The supreme legislative power of England in the eleventh century was lodged in the king and the great Council, or what was afterwards called the parliament. It is not doubted but that the archbishops, bishops, and most considerable abbots were constituent members of that council. The barons were another constituent part of the same body, and, in addition, the knights who held their estates under them. So far the nature of the ancient parliament is beyond doubt. [1] It seems, however, equally certain that the commons were no part of the parliament, nor became so "till some ages after the conquest." [2] The "meetings of the wise men" are spoken of as having taken place before the conquest, but their constitution and proceedings are so vaguely recorded, that beyond mere mention, they do not call for further comment. "There are traces of the attendance of a few of the lesser knighthood, gentry perhaps of the neighbourhood where the Assembly was held, in some of its meetings under Henry III. (thirteenth century); but, till a late period in the reign of his successor, the great Council practically remained a gathering of the greater barons, the prelates, and the officers of the crown." [3] In 1265 two burgesses from each town were summoned to parliament, but "rather to afford financial information to the great Council than as representatives." [4] In 1295 "the admission of the burgesses and knights of the shire to the assembly completed the fabric of our representative constitution." The great Council of the Barons had then become the parliament of the realm, a parliament in which every order of the state found itself represented, and took part in the grant of supplies, the work of legislation, and the control of government." [5] The proclamation by which this Council was convened, invited [141] "all who had any grace to demand of the king in parliament, or any plaint to make in matters which could not be redressed or determined by ordinary course of law, or who had been in any way aggrieved by any of the king's ministers, or justices, or sheriffs, or their bailiffs, or any other officer, or have been unduly assessed rates, charged or surcharged to aids, subsidies, or taxes," to deliver their petition to the Receivers at the great hall of the Palace of Westminster. [6]

These petitions were then forwarded to the Council. It appears tolerably certain that the first liberal extension of the franchise, in the direction of the "commoners," was effected, not so much on the score of a consideration for their rights, as for the purpose of constituting a check upon the barons, who had gradually become haughty and powerful; and to facilitate the collection of certain subsidies.

As England grew in population, in commerce, and in civilisation, the middle classes began to claim, as a right, what had been originally granted as a concession; and what had been originally used as a means to facilitate the exercise of the royal prerogative, became, in time, an ever-growing check upon its hitherto practically unlimited power.

As the country progressed, and as wealth accumulated and became more widely distributed, claims for representation were more confidently expressed by the people. At first, all counties, and cities, and boroughs sent representatives to the parliament thus constituted. As fresh towns came into notice, they too were admitted to take part in its deliberations; but no provision was made for contracting or reducing the representation of such towns and boroughs as, in the natural order of things, fell away in population and importance, with the evolution of commerce and society. In 1509, the House of Commons consisted of 298 members, some of whom represented constituencies, the population of [142] which had in some cases shrunk almost out of existence. In fact, (except in a very small number of cases resulting from bribery,) from this date to the Reform Bill of 1832, no town or borough was curtailed in its representation, yet no less than 255 additional members were added to represent new towns and boroughs. Thus the Commons had come to consist of upwards of 550 members. The condition of English representation, in 1832, previous to the great Reform Bill of that year, was of an extraordinary nature, and it is somewhat surprising that it should have been allowed thus to drift so far away from a condition of even approximate justice and equity to the different classes of the community. Burke had already said, in his "Thoughts on the Causes of the Present Discontents:—"I see no other way for the preservation of a decent attention to public interest in the representatives, but the interposition of the body of the people itself," but he had said this without effect, and, in 1776, Wilkes had asked leave to introduce a measure, in order to increase the proportion of representation allowed to the metropolis and certain growing and increasingly important counties; and, further, to give, for the first time, representation to a number of the modernly developed manufacturing towns—such as Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Leeds. "Reform," in fact, became, for the time being, a popular cry, but it led to nothing practical.

In 1830, the condition of things had become almost ridiculous, and it was in consequence of that fact that certain boroughs acquired the unenviable reputation of "rottenness." They consisted for the most part of places which, having been at one time opulent and important, had, in the course of generations, sunk into commercial inactivity and unimportance. One of the most notorious was known as "Old Sarum." No business had been conducted, nor had any inhabitants resided in the place for generations; [143] yet it was as fully represented in the House of Commons as the county of Lancaster, the population of which was over a million. In such cases the representation was in the hands of wealthy peers or "log-rolling" commoners, who had uses for them; and such constituencies were passed from hand to hand with the property within which they were comprehended. It is said that an East Indian prince was possessed of estates which entitled him to send twenty members to the House of Commons. In the course of the debate upon the subject it was asserted that certain constituencies, with an aggregate population of less than five thousand, returned one hundred members to the House of Commons. "Manchester," said Macaulay, in one of his Reform speeches, "with two hundred thousand inhabitants, has no members. 'Old Sarum,' with no inhabitants has two members." As a fact, thirty-eight noblemen commanded one hundred and fifty votes, [7] and two hundred persons, already sufficiently represented in the House of Lords, were said to have returned a majority of the House of Commons. The expulsion of the Bourbons from the French throne in 1830 intensified the agitation for reform, which was already becoming powerfully felt. The masses of the people were beginning to more vividly realise their numerical strength. The cry of "reform" was going up on all sides, and being rendered more simultaneous, and therefore more effectual for agitative purposes, by means of the increasingly powerful labour organisations which had then lately sprung into existence.

The election of September, 1830, resulted in a considerable gain by the Liberals. The King's Speech, instead of promising, or even mentioning reform, boasted of the prosperity and social contentment of the people. In the House of Lords, in the debate on the Address, Earl Gray, [144] referring to France, said: "We ought to learn wisdom from what is passing before our eyes; and when the spirit of liberty is breaking out all around, it is our first duty to secure our own institutions, by introducing into them a temperate reform." The Duke of Wellington, in reply, insisted on the existing condition of parliamentary representation as being eminently satisfactory in every way, and boldly asserted that he would strenuously resist any measure of reform.

A fortnight after this, the ministry was defeated on a financial question, and resigned. Lord Grey's ministry followed—the first Liberal ministry (with one or two exceptions, covering as many months,) which had existed for upwards of sixty years.

On 1st March, 1831, Lord John Russell introduced a Reform Bill. It did not provide for any alteration in the number of members, but, in the matter of their distribution, great changes were proposed to be effected. The "rotten" boroughs were proposed to be completely abolished. By the bill, fifty-six of them were wholly disfranchised; thirtyone were partially disposed of in the same way; and fortyone new towns were afforded parliamentary representation: some receiving two members, others only one. The large cities were increased in the number of their representatives: the same treatment being accorded to Scotland and Ireland, as well as to England. The aggregate number of electors was doubled, by means of this extension of the franchise.

Macaulay, in speaking upon the bill, said: "I have no hesitation in pronouncing it a wise, noble, and comprehensive measure, skilfully framed for the healing of great distempers, for the securing at once of the public liberties, and of the public repose, and for the reconciliation and knitting together of all the orders of the state." Speaking of the principle of the bill, he said: "It is to admit the [145] middle class to a large and direct share in the representation, without any violent shock to the institutions of our country."

Macaulay, however, liberal as he was, did not consider that the principle of manhood suffrage was then defensible. He admitted its success in America, but argued that, inasmuch as the labouring classes in England were occasionally in a state of great distress, and as the condition of mind which that distress would produce was calculated to render men "irritable, unreasonable, credulous, eager for relief, and heedless of remote consequences, it was expedient to require a pecuniary qualification for the suffrage." Many Tories, of course, predicted "revolution," instead of "reformation."

The bill passed its second reading by a majority of one! Parliament was dissolved. The excitement of the populace was intense. The supporters of the bill carried nearly all the counties; and all the cities, and large towns. The Tories relied, for the most part, upon the constituencies which were speaking for the last time. The bill was now passed by a majority of 109, and was sent up to the Lords. In advocating the measure before them, Lord Brougham made what has been regarded as the greatest oratorical effort of his life. He spoke for five hours, and the speech is said to have constituted "an era in the history of that House." The peroration is somewhat thrilling: terminating as follows: "Rouse not a peace-loving, but resolute people. Alienate not from your body the affections of a whole empire. I counsel you to assist with your uttermost efforts in preserving peace, and upholding and perpetuating the constitution. Therefore, I pray and exhort you not to reject this measure. By all you hold dear—by all the ties which bind every one of us to our common order and our common country, I solemnly adjure you, I warn you, I implore you, yea, on my bended knees, I supplicate you, reject not this bill!" [146] The bill was rejected notwithstanding. The public excitement now became intense, and frequent riots occurred. The property of various anti-reformers was destroyed, and the whole country was profoundly agitated. The bill was again introduced, and again boldly opposed. It, however, passed the second reading; but an amendment, which destroyed its usefulness, was adopted. The head of the administration (Lord Grey), now demanded the creation of sufficient peers to carry the bill, which request the king refused. The ministry resigned, and the people rose in a body, and petitioned the Commons to stop supplies. At many public meetings resolutions were passed that the payment of taxes should be resisted. The king proposed a compromise between the two parties, and immediately public indignation rose to a dangerous pitch. The king then recalled Lord Grey, and agreed to create peers for the purpose required. The peers now saw that further resistance was useless, and the bill was quickly passed through all its stages, and became the law of the land.

Thus was placed upon England's statute book one of the most famous and the most Liberal of enactments—the Reform Bill of 1832. "It broke down the monopoly which the aristocracy and landed classes had enjoyed, and admitted the middle classes to a share of the law-making power. The representation was divided between the aristocracy and the middle class, instead of being, as before, the exclusive possession of the former." [8]

Macaulay, in his speech of March, 1831, upon the subject of this measure, said when it was introduced by Lord John Russell, "A great plan of reconciliation, prepared by the minister of the crown, has been brought before us in a manner which gives additional lustre to a noble name, inseparably associated, during two centuries, with the dearest liberties of the English people." I need scarcely spend [147] time in showing that this great measure comes unmistakably within the definition of Liberalism, in its historical and genuine interpretation. "The taking away of a vote" says Burke, "is the taking away of the shield, which the subject has against the oppression of power." [9]

To have withheld this fair distribution of voting power, by conserving the unequal and inequitable state of things which existed prior to the bill, would certainly have been to deprive the masses of the English people of the political shield with which to protect their civil rights.

Finally, Macaulay said of the great measure, "I call it, and the nation calls it, and our posterity will long call it, this second Bill of Rights: this great charter of the liberties of England." [10]

The abolition of slavery in one country, by means of the generosity and love of freedom in another, is unprecedented in the world's history, as a spontaneous expression of genuine Liberalism.

The abolition of slavery itself, as an institution, in 1833, was preceded by the abolition of the slave trade with Africa, which was effected a quarter of a century before—viz., in 1806–7.

The latter movement is said to have originated from the fact of a vice-chancellor of one of the colleges at Cambridge, having, in 1785, chosen, as a subject for a Latin dissertation, the following question: "Is it right to make slaves of others, against their will?" Thomas Clarkson, one of the competitors, concentrated his whole mind upon the question, and won the prize. His essay was translated and supplemented. He then became seized with an overwhelming enthusiasm for the subject. Having collected every obtainable fragment of information concerning the question, and having convinced himself of the truth of the frightful tales of [148] kidnapping which he had heard, he published the results, and called together a committee, of which he was afterwards appointed secretary. The eminent Wilberforce, in 1787, lent his sympathy and great abilities to the movement. In 1788 Clarkson published a work, entitled "The Impolicy of the Slave Trade."He visited France, and enlisted further sympathy among the most famous men of that country; and, by unceasing labour and advocacy, succeeded in bringing the matter under the notice of parliament. In the same year, Mr. Pitt carried a resolution to the effect that it was desirable that the subject should be dealt with by parliament. In 1790, Wilberforce himself brought forward a proposal for the total abolition of the traffic. The proposal was supported by such men as Pitt, Fox, and Burke. Strong opposition was raised by the West-India interest; they claimed that the system was justified by Biblical writings, and declared that its abolition would ruin English commerce. Two years afterwards, petitions in favour of the movement were sent into the House of Commons from all quarters of the country; and the same distinguished statesmen again gave it their earnest support. Wilberforce was stigmatised as a "meddling fanatic." The subject was revived annually, until 1806, when, by a vote of the Commons, the whole system was condemned. In the following year it was totally abolished. The name of Granville Sharpe is inseparably connected with this great movement. In 1767, he had interested himself in the case of a negro slave, who had been cruelly whipped and ill-used by his master in London. Sharpe's interference involved him in a law suit. His legal advisers discouraged him in his contention that the law should not, and would not tolerate slavery in England. He devoted all his energies to a searching examination of English law in support of his views, and succeeded in persuading some eminent authorities of their soundness. He completely circumvented his [149] adversary, and mulcted him in heavy costs. In 1772, a negro slave, named Somersett, who had been brought to England by his master, claimed his freedom. Every effort was made, and the ablest advocacy employed on both sides to attain success. The subject was argued and re-argued: occupying several months in being thus dealt with. Sharpe was throughout deeply interested in it, and frequently assisted in the case, in various capacities. Lord Mansfield, on June 22nd, 1772, delivered judgment, deciding (admittedly against his own inclinations) that the institution of slavery, being inconsistent with natural law, must require actual and positive law to support it. No such positive law being in existence, he pronounced the man free, and, thereby, laid down the general principle that such must always be the result as soon as a slave "touches English soil."

The success which had thus attended the efforts put forth against the slave trade was now only diverted to the institution of slavery itself. In 1823 public sympathy had become sufficiently excited to enable Mr. Canning to carry resolutions affirming the desirability of measures to ameliorate the wretched condition of the slave population in British colonies. The resolutions were not then further acted upon. An insurrection in the West Indies, followed by the barbarous treatment and ultimate death of a clergyman, who was suspected by the planters of having incited the people by his religious teachings, roused public indignation in England. Lord (then Mr.) Brougham moved in the House of Commons a vote of censure on the government and court of the West India colony, in which the outrage had occurred. The motion was lost by a very small majority, but its effect again aroused public feeling. The year 1830 saw the subject still fresh in the minds of the people. It then became a question whether the abolition should be gradual or immediate. Daniel O'Connell said: "I enter into no compromise with slavery; I am for justice, in the [150] name of humanity, and according to the law of the living God."

Lord Brougham, in the same year, again introduced resolutions on the subject, and literally thundered denunciations on what he termed the "traffic of blood." Then came the French Revolution of 1830, absorbing, as it did, all public attention. In 1831-2, however, that event having passed into the list of reconciled occurrences, and another outbreak having taken place in Jamaica, the public sympathy was once more aroused; and, in 1832, a committee of enquiry was appointed by the House of Lords. The Commons adopted a similar course, on the motion of Mr. T. Fowell Buxton. The result of the two committees was most favourable to the cause. The ministry of the day gave its advocates an assurance that it would be dealt with "without delay." The government proposal was made in May, 1833. The measure was pronounced a compromise, inasmuch as it limited emancipation to slaves under six years of age, and subjected those above that age to a further term of service of twelve, afterwards reduced to four or six years. The bill then stipulated that, at the end of those terms, the slaves should be free, and further provided for compensation amounting to £20,000,000. The bill was most doggedly opposed. The abolitionists themselves, at first, objected to compensation. The West India interest objected to the whole measure. The subject afforded opportunities for several great oratorical efforts; and, in the course of the debate which it gave rise to, many hard things were said, and many harder ones predicted. But the bill was passed in August, 1833, and constitutes a glorious monument to true Liberalism—the love of personal freedom among men, irrespective of race. For the English people to have contributed so enormous a sum towards the manumission of a race of people, separated from them by thousands of miles—a race, too, of a different colour, having nothing in [151] common with themselves but their humanity, is sufficient in itself to have placed England in the very van of freedom and civilisation.

It is perhaps difficult to find, now-a-days, any intelligent person who is prepared to advance a single argument in favour, or in justification of the institution of slavery; yet it is evident, from the fact of its having required so many years of agitation to overturn, that the institution had many advocates as well as opponents. Buckle says that "George III. looked upon slavery as one of those good old customs which the wisdom of his ancestors had consecrated." [11]

I come now to a legislative movement which has had the most far-reaching consequences in determining the occupations, affecting the commercial prosperity, and generally influencing the modern history of the English people. I refer to that alteration of 1846 in the fiscal policy of Great Britain, which consisted of the repeal of the Corn Laws, which had, as a fact, been established, off and on, for some centuries.

This was, of all the legislative acts with which I have dealt, one of the most unmistakably Liberal in its character. It consisted in the removal of certain misconceived restrictions upon the right of a citizen to purchase one of the first necessities of his daily life; viz., his bread, where it was obtainable at the cheapest price. This most ordinary liberty had been subjected, for centuries, to the most arbitrary interference on the part of parliament; and it was not till the year I have mentioned (1846), that public opinion became sufficiently unanimous to bring about a repeal of the meddling legislation in question, and to secure to the subject, in the purchase of his corn and bread, that full liberty of action which, in other departments of his daily life, had been fought for by his ancestors with so much vigour and determination. At the present day, in Great Britain, it is the frequent wonder of enlightened citizens, and leading [152] Liberal statesmen, that such a restriction upon civil liberty could have been allowed to remain so long upon the statute book of a country, which was recognised as standing in the very van of human progress. Lord Stanley, when defending the Corn Laws, sought to be repealed, boasted that the principle of protection to the agricultural interest had lasted for eight centuries; but the boast was of no avail in stemming the tide of popular intelligence. The truth is that, for many centuries, there existed in England a strong belief that the general prosperity of the people could be artificially guarded, and even created, by means of legislative action and reaction upon the one staple article—corn. Glancing cursorily at history, we find that, so far back as the year 1272, (Henry III.), the price of bread was fixed by statute to rise and fall according to the value of corn; and Hume, the historian, mentions that this statutory regulation was "copied from a preceding assize, established as far back as the reign of King John." [12] In 1461, (Henry VI.), the permission of parliament had to be obtained for the exportation of corn, and even the carrying of that commodity from one county to another was restricted, except by license from a collector of customs. [13] In the reign of James I., a proclamation was issued, establishing national magazines, and empowering commissioners to purchase corn to fill them. [14] In 1753, (George II.), a bill was introduced for the purpose of offering a premium on the exportation of corn. [15] So that, in the eighteenth century, we find parliament offering a premium for that which it expressly prohibited in the fifteenth century. Again, in 1757, a bill was passed to prohibit the exportation of corn, and many other articles of commerce, because it was feared that there might be a dearth, and consequent distress to the poorer classes. In the same year, an act was passed removing the import duty on foreign [153] corn and flour; and a resolution of the Commons was passed to prevent spirits from being distilled from wheat, lest, by that means, it should reach too high a price. [16] Later again, in the same year, further interference was exercised by parliament. In 1758, an act was passed, prohibiting the exportation of corn, or its use in the distillation of spirits, and, at the same time, removing the import duty on that article. [17]

In 1759, the subject again occupied the attention of parliament, and was afterwards repeatedly dealt with in 1774, 1791, 1804, 1815, and 1828. The system, which is generally known under the title of the "Corn Laws," arose by virtue of the revisions which took place in 1815 and 1828. The whole object of these statutory provisions was to produce a monopoly for English agriculturalists, or perhaps, more correctly speaking, English landlords, by practically prohibiting the importation of foreign corn.

The import duty was fixed on what was known as a sliding scale, by which, when the home corn rose in price beyond a certain sum, the import duty fell proportionately: thus allowing the introduction of the foreign article when the home article became too high in its value. The price, however, to which it was necessary for the home article to rise, before the foreign article could come in, was altered from time to time. In 1774, it was 48s. per quarter; in 1791, it was 54s.; in 1804, it was 66s.; and in 1815, it was 80s.—the quarter containing eight bushels. In 1828, the maximum price was again lowered to 73s. By means of these laws the English farmers, or rather the English landowners, had a magnificent monopoly secured to them; and the whole bread-consuming population, rich and poor alike, were compelled to subsidise this wealthy class, by contributing, in the high price of the loaf, towards that great [154] monopoly. "The theory of this law had," says Mr. McCarthy, "a charming give and take—live and let live air about it. 'You give me a little more than the market price for my corn, and, don't you see, I shall be able to buy all the more of your cloth and tea and sugar, or to pay you the higher rent for your land.' Such a compact," he adds, "seems reasonable and tempting." [18]

By the scale which was thus adopted, the duties fell as the prices rose, and rose as the prices fell. The act of 1828 had twenty or thirty degrees in its scale, three or four of which are given as illustrations. When the average price of wheat in the kingdom was 52s. per quarter, the duty on foreign wheat was 34s. 8d. When the price reached 60s. the duty fell to 26s. 8d. When the price rose to 70s., the duty sank to 10s. 8d. When the price attained 73s. and upwards, the duty went down to 1s. [19] The prices were ascertained every Saturday, at 150 of the chief market places in the kingdom, and an average taken; then the averages of the preceding five weeks were added and the 'general average' of the whole six taken. This price was proclaimed every Thursday by the government, as the standard for the ensuing week. The greatest influence which was wielded during the struggle that led to this important epoch, was that which emanated from an association known as the Anti-Corn Law League. It has been said of it that, "in seven years it revolutionised the minds of the most intelligent nation of Europe; bent to its will the proudest legislature in the world; and overthrew a system, rooted to the the earth by the steady growth and fostering culture of centuries." [20]

The struggle for the repeal of the Corn Laws was, indeed, a broader and more comprehensive political conflict than the terms, in which it is described, would at first indicate. It was, in fact, a decisive trial of strength, between the [155] advocates of the two economic doctrines, known under the respective titles of "Free Trade" and "Protection." The latter of these theories had, as I have said, held the field for centuries; and the Anti-Corn Law League was really a Free Trade League, and set itself to fight for the broad doctrine, of which the Corn-Law question was only an example. So far back as the year 1581, free trade in corn was recommended in an essay, referred to by Buckle; and that writer says of it, that it "should be read by every student of English history."

Adam Smith, again, writing his "Wealth of Nations," in 1776, had said that "to give the monopoly of the home market to the produce of domestic industry, in any particular art or manufacture, is, in some measure, to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capital; and must, in all cases, be either a useless or a hurtful regulation." And he added that "the statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capital, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever; and which would nowhere be so dangerous, as in the hands of a man, who had folly, and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it." [21]

He had argued that, inasmuch as different countries possess different qualifications, which render them more or less adapted to the production of certain articles of human want, it was desirable, on the ground of "the division of labour," that each should produce that to which it was best suited; that inasmuch as "every individual endeavours, as much as he can, both to employ his capital in support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry, that its produce may be of the greatest value," each country was more likely to produce the best aggregate result by [156] unrestricted trade. "It is," he said, "a maxim of every prudent master of a family, never to attempt to make at home, what it will cost him more to make than to buy;" and that "all people find it for their interest, to employ their whole industry in a way in which they have some advantage over their neighbours, and to purchase with a part of its produce, or what is the same thing, with the price of a part of it, whatever else they have occasion for. What is prudence," he added, "in the conduct of every private family, can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom." [22]

It is not my province to enter here into this wide controversy, but merely to set forth the general terms of Adam Smith's arguments, as constituting one of the many factors which operated in the movement with which I am dealing.

These arguments, however, did not prevail. Though Adam Smith is spoken of familiarly, in the present day, by hundreds and thousands of people, there is good reason to believe that comparatively few have actually read his writings; and it is more than likely that, in the times about which they were first published, they enjoyed a still more limited perusal.

In 1837, England suffered a great commercial crisis, partly attributable to previous bad harvests, and aggravated by the same cause in that year. Many intelligent people attributed the national trouble to the Corn Laws; and, in consequence, there was formed at Manchester, an Anti-Corn Law Association. Mr. Justin Macarthy, in his "History of Our Own Times," says:—"Naturally, it was in places like Manchester, that the fallacy of all this theory was first commonly perceived, and most warmly resented. The Manchester manufacturers saw that the customers for their goods were to be found in all parts of the world; and they knew that at every turn they were hampered in their dealings [157] with the customers, by the system of protective duties. They wanted to sell their goods wherever they could find buyers, and they chafed at any barrier between them and the sale." [23] "Manchester," he adds, "had always spoken out for free trade." Mr. Richard Cobden was the real leader of the Anti-Corn Law movement. In December, 1838, the Manchester Chamber of Commerce presented a petition to parliament, praying for an immediate and total repeal of the Corn Laws. In 1839, an immense meeting was called of delegates from all parts of the kingdom. In pursuance of this meeting, the Anti-Corn Law Association, which had now become possessed of large funds, sent deputies to London on the opening of parliament. They petitioned parliament to allow them to appear at the bar of the House, in order to expose the injurious effects of the Corn Laws. The motion, which was brought forward by Mr. Charles Villiers, was negatived. The protectionists called the association the "Anti-Corn Law Parliament," which title they at once adopted; and, a month later, Mr. Villiers again brought forward his motion, which was ridiculed, and again negatived. He brought it forward again and again with no greater success; but meanwhile, the League was vigorously engaged in the provincial centres. In the beginning of 1840, over one hundred important towns had had established in them branches of the League. The cry for "cheap bread" was now raised, and spread like an epidemic through the whole country. The public feeling was gradually but surely working up to a high pitch of enthusiasm. In 1841, Lord John Russell, seeing the coming change in popular opinion, and, having determined on a dissolution of parliament, gave notice of a motion, which had for its object the abandonment of the sliding scale, and the adoption, in its place, of a fixed duty of eight shillings per quarter on imported wheat. This was, of course, a political ruse, conceived with a view to catch the [158] current of public feeling which was then discernible. The effect of this false move was felt throughout the country. The Conservatives, who represented the landed interests, thus threatened, (to use the words of an able writer upon this subject), "swept the kingdom." When Lord John Russell returned with the new parliament his motion was defeated. He then resigned, and Sir Robert Peel succeeded him; but, meanwhile, Richard Cobden had become a member of the new House of Commons. It was fully expected that though the new member had moved Manchester audiences as he liked, he would be lost in the crowd, now that he had entered parliament. It was not so. He became a power, almost from the moment he entered its portals. The year 1842 was one of great distress in the manufacturing centres. The duties were now sought to be much reduced by Sir Robert Peel himself. Mr. Villiers' motion for absolute repeal came forward again, as a counter movement, but the government measure was adopted by a large majority. It was, however, distinctly stated by Sir Robert Peel, that parliament had no power to secure, for the producer, by means of any fixed or movable duty, a certain price for his corn. Sir Robert Peel had adopted the Free Trade doctrine—that was evident—and to many of his followers, galling; but nevertheless a fact; for in the same year he expressed his belief that, "on the general principle of Free Trade, there is now no great difference of opinion; and that all agree in the general rule that we should buy in the cheapest, and sell in the dearest market." [24] This confession was followed by "ironical cheers," to which he gave answer that the Corn Laws were "exceptions to the general rule," and added "I will not go into that question now." At the end of 1842, it was proposed by the League to raise £50,000; and Messrs. Cobden, Bright, and Thompson, were deputed to traverse [159] the country and address the people. The great Free Trade Hall was now built at Manchester, and opened in the beginning of 1843. Some twenty-four years or so previously, a meeting of Manchester reformers had been held, and had been dispersed by an attack of soldiers and militia, with the loss of many lives. "The memory of that day," says Mr. McCarthy, "rankled in the hearts of Manchester Liberals, for long after." [25] The land, upon which this meeting had taken place, was the property of Mr. Cobden, and he had given it to the League. This hall was now built upon it. At the opening of the building it was announced that £44,000 of the £50,000 had been collected. London was next made the centre of the League's operations. Drury Lane Theatre was the scene of nightly crowded meetings, and, meanwhile, Cobden traversed thirty-two counties, holding numberless meetings, and coming face to face with the advocates of the protectionist doctrines.

In 1844, it was proposed to raise £100,000, and to distribute ten million anti-corn law tracts; £20,000 of this sum was contributed by the Manchester branch, at a single meeting. In the same year, Cobden moved a resolution that the effects of the protective duties should be investigated; and it is the speech which he made on that occasion, which is supposed to have completed Sir Robert Peel's conversion to Free Trade principles. The League was now sending many of its members into parliament, and matters were becoming somewhat urgent. In 1845 duties were repealed on 450 articles—in fact, the whole tariff was re-arranged; but corn was left untouched.

Covent Garden now became the scene of numerous and excited meetings. Many noblemen were numbered among its audiences, and the cry of "cheap bread" went up from many thousand throats. A single bazaar, organised by ladies, realised £15,000. At the end of 1845 the League [160] was engaged in raising a quarter of a million of money. Macaulay, speaking at Edinburgh, said: "I have always considered the principle of protection of agriculture as a vicious principle. I have always thought that this vicious principle took, in the act of 1815, in the act of 1828, and in the act of 1842, a singularly vicious form. [26] There was a time," he said, "when politicians were not ashamed to defend the Corn Laws, merely as contrivances for putting the money of the many into the pockets of the few…. Nobody now ventures to say in public that ten thousand families ought to be put on short allowance of food, in order that one man may have a fine stud, and a fine picture gallery…. It seems strange that Conservatives—people who profess to hold new theories in abhorrence; people who are always talking about the wisdom of our ancestors—should insist on our receiving, as an undoubted truth, a strange paradox, never heard of from the creation of the world, till the nineteenth century." [27] The end had now come. The session of 1846 opened. The Corn Laws were repealed. Sir Robert Peel said, in the speech in which he announced that famous measure: "I will not withhold the homage which is due to the progress of reason, and of truth, by denying that my opinions on the subject of protection have undergone a change"; and he afterwards added: "Not to the Tory party, nor to the Whig party; not to myself, nor to the noble lord at the head of the opposition, is this change to be attributed; but the people of this country are indebted, for this great measure of relief, to the rare combination of elements which centre in the mind and heart of Richard Cobden." Mr. Harris, in his "History of the Radical Party," says, in speaking of the divisions on the bill which repealed the Corn Laws: "In all these divisions the government had [161] the aid of nearly the whole of the Liberals, the opposition being almost entirely Tory." [28]

In the final division, 202 Liberals and 102 Conservatives voted for the bill and 208 Conservatives and only eight Liberals against it. [29] Thus ended, for the time being, the Conservative theories of protection to home industries; and thus was concluded the Liberal struggle for freedom of action in the matter of trade, by which was permanently established the principle of liberty to the individual to buy where he can do so most cheaply, and to sell where he can get the best price for his products. "A permanent revival of the old order of things," says the author of "Reform and Reformers," "is no longer hoped for, or even desired; unless, by a few superannuated members of the House of Peers, and some half dozen unyielding old Tories and Quixotic young Hotspurs in the House of Commons."

Let us turn now to a few of the innumerable comments which have been, from time to time, made regarding the passing of this great Liberal measure.

Sir Erskine May says: "The employers of labour, and the working classes, were combined in support of interests common to them both. This agitation, if an illustration of the force of democracy, is also an example of the power of reason in a free State." [30] Buckle says: "The abolition of the Corn Laws is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable facts in the history of England during the century. The propriety, and indeed the necessity of their abolition is now admitted by every one of tolerable information." [31] "Those who knew the facts, opposed the laws; those who were ignorant of the facts, favoured the laws. It was clear that, whenever the diffusion of knowledge reached a certain point, the laws must fall." [32] "The Reform Bill, the Emancipation of the [162] Catholics, and the Repeal of the Corn Laws, are admitted to be the three greatest political achievements of the present generation." [33] Mr. Harris, in his "History of the Radical Party," says, in commenting on the policy of Lord Palmerston in 1850–55: "It was in Free Trade alone that Palmerston was a Liberal." John Bright, than whom England has never produced a more thorough or more consistent Liberal, said in 1845: "The Corn Law is as great a robbery of the man who follows the plough, as it is of him who minds the loom, with this difference that the man who follows the plough is of the two nearest the earth, and it takes less power to press him into it." [34]

In 1858, the same statesman said: "Twelve years ago there was a great party in parliament, led by a duke in one House, and by the son and brother of a duke in the other, which declared that utter ruin must come, not only on the agricultural interest, but upon the manufactures and commerce of England, if we departed from our old theories upon the subject of Protection…. The plain, honest, common sense of the country swept away their cobweb theories, and they are gone. What is the result? From 1846 to 1857 we have received into this country, of grain of all kinds…not less than an amount, equal in value to £224,000,000…. During that period your home growth has been stimulated to an enormous extent…. With all this, agriculture was never more prosperous; while manufactures were never, at the same time, more extensively exported; and with all this the labourers, for whom the tears of the protectionists were shed, have, according to the admission of the most violent of the class, never been in a better state, since the beginning of the great French War." [35]

In 1866, speaking on the subject of Ireland, and Daniel O'Connell's connection with the Corn Law agitation, Mr. Bright said: "We owe much to his exertions in connection [163] with that question; for almost the whole Liberal—I suppose the whole Liberal party of the Irish representatives in parliament supported the measure of Free trade, of which we were the prominent advocates." [36] In October, 1885, when addressing a large audience in Somerset, he dealt at length with the Corn Law repeal movement. He said, in the course of that speech: "I should like, if I might be allowed, to state a few things which describe the state of affairs in this district in the year 1845, which is now exactly forty years ago. I should begin by stating that, at that time, there was an extraordinary law in this country, which you would suppose could not be possible—I will not say among Christian men, but among thinking men—that is a law, which prevented the importation of grain, and especially of wheat, from foreign countries into this country. At that time, there were a great many men, who thought that law very wicked—a great many more men have come to that conclusion since—and these men, who thought it a wicked law, formed themselves into an association with a view, not violently to overthrow it, but by persistent labour and discussion, to bring the great body of the people, and ultimately the legislature, to the conclusion that that law ought to be repealed." [37]

Mr. Herbert Spencer, commenting upon this matter in the abstract, says: "In putting a veto upon the commercial intercourse of two nations, or in putting obstacles in the way of that intercourse, a government trenches upon men's liberties of action; and, by so doing, directly reverses its function…. Trade prohibitions, and trade restrictions not only do not secure this freedom, but they take it away." [38]

The Chartist movement, which culminated, and also subsided, in 1848, is an epoch which cannot consistently be passed over here; though, unlike the other movements with which I have dealt, it failed to terminate in the legislative [164] enactment of the principles which inspired it. There can be little doubt that the six "points" of "the Charter," which, yet, failed to receive legislative recognition, were conceived in the true Liberal spirit; and the chief use of a study of that movement is to be found in a consideration of the reasons why it did not, as a whole, meet with a larger share of success. I shall be able, I think, to show that the movement so failed, by reason of its including among its demands a condition of affairs which comes distinctly within the definition of "Socialism," which the English people, of that time at least (whatever may be the tendency now), were by no means inclined to view favourably.

I shall have occasion, hereafter, to carefully define the limit of state functions, as determined by the principles of true Liberalism. I shall then show that such principles favour the possession, by each citizen, of the maximum of personal liberty, limited only by such restrictions as are necessary to secure equal liberty to all other citizens; or, as Mr. Herbert Spencer puts it, of "the fullest liberty to exercise his faculties, compatible with the possession of like liberty by every other man." [39]

I shall show, in this chapter, that the demands of the Chartists, of 1848, included principles which, when carried into practice, meant nothing more nor less than social anarchy. I am not aware that at the time, these excessive demands were analysed with any degree of scientific accuracy, for the purpose of showing that they really were excessive; but there is little doubt that the majority of the public, and their legislators, were, however vaguely, impressed with the fact that the movement was being pushed on by the advocacy of principles, which would, if realised, overturn, or at least permanently disturb the social organisation. Macaulay himself showed this, in a speech which he delivered in parliament, in criticism of the Charter, and [165] from which I shall quote hereafter. It is to these excesses; to the unnecessarily violent and unpopular means adopted for the purpose of forcing on the movement, that is to be attributed its ultimate non-success. A proof of this is to be found in the fact that all that was included in the Charter, which was reasonable, has since been made the law of the land, though the Charter, as a whole, failed in 1848. This movement, like all others of its kind, has a history. Its cause can be pretty clearly traced to certain other events and circumstances which preceded it.

"The year 1838," we are told, "chronicled the avowed and open beginning of chartism." The same authority [40] informs us that the year 1837 was one of great commercial depression; that there were heavy failures in London, Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow; that, ere the summer arrived, deep distress had reached the houses of the working classes; and that, in Lancashire, thousands of factory hands were discharged. "The Chartists," says Mr. McCarthy, "who represented the bulk of the artizan class, in most of the large towns, did in their very hearts believe that England was ruled for the benefit of aristocrats and millionaires, who were absolutely indifferent to the sufferings of the poor." [41]

The manifesto, which afterwards came to be known as the Chartist Petition, was adopted at a great Radical meeting, held in Birmingham, a few weeks after the queen's coronation. [42] The movement was supported by a large amount of genuine enthusiasm, passion, and intelligence; and it appealed, strongly and naturally, to whatever there was of discontent among the working classes. [43] Thousands upon thousands of the unthinking masses joined in the movement, who were yet really indifferent as to its real political objects. "They were poor; they were overworked; they were badly paid; their lives were altogether wretched; they [166] got into their heads some wild idea that the people's Charter would give them better food and wages, and lighter work, if it were obtained." [44]

The manifesto to which I have already referred, and which came to be known as the "people's Charter," contained six "points." One was manhood suffrage, another was annual parliaments, a third was the ballot, a fourth was the abolition of the property qualification for parliamentary candidates, a fifth was payment of members of parliament, and a sixth was the division of the country into equal electoral districts. It has been said of Chartism that it soon became divided into two distinct divisions—the "moral force" Chartism and the "physical force" Chartism. Some of the leaders were men of great ability and eloquence; and the movement brought into existence a newspaper literature of its own; for every town of importance was possessed of its Chartist press.

The agitation for the parliamentary recognition of this movement and for the legislative realisation of its "points," was energetically maintained. Torch light processions were held, and here and there riots were the result. There began to spring up, in many minds, a desire to resort to arms and physical force, in order to push on the movement. The town of Newport became well known in connection with it, in consequence of a serious and fatal disturbance which occurred there. Newport was possessed of a large mining population, and a procession was arranged to take place after midnight, with the further intention of attacking the gaol, and releasing certain Chartist prisoners. They came into collision with the authorities, and a large number of people were killed and wounded. The ring-leaders were transported for life. Still the agitation went on. The government, meanwhile, were on the alert; and prosecutions, in hundreds, were instituted in different parts of the country. Many of the leaders were [167] convicted and imprisoned. The Chartists began to acquire considerable political influence, and it is said that, in 1841, by reason of their support of the Tory party, they assisted in the downfall of the Melbourne administration. In 1842, parliament was moved in the matter; the Petition containing the now celebrated "six points," concluding with the following paragraph:—"Your petitioners therefore, exercising their just constitutional right, demand that your Honourable House, to remedy the many gross and manifest evils of which your petitioners complain, do immediately, without alteration, deduction, or addition, pass into law the document entitled 'The Peoples' Charter.'"—The motion was rejected by 287 votes to 49.

In 1848, The Revolution in France had cast its influence over the other European countries, and had created a feeling of dissatisfaction among a large number of the working classes. Mr. McCarthy says:—"In England and Ireland the effect of the events in France was instantly made manifest. The Chartist agitation instantly came to a head. There was, as I have said, a widespread belief, among the artizan class, that the country was being corruptly governed to their detri ment, and with a disregard for their misery." [45]

On the other hand, "Most of what are called the ruling class did really believe the English workingmen, who joined the Chartist movement, to be a race of fierce, unmanageable, and selfish communists, who, if they were allowed their own way for a moment, would prove themselves determined to overthrow throne, altar, and all established securities of society." [46] It was in this year (1848) that the most celebrated procession of the Chartists was arranged. A convention, for the purpose of its organisation, sat in London, and some very wild language was indulged in. It was resolved to present a monster petition to the Commons, demanding the enactment of the Charter. A serious difference occurred upon [168] the point of obeying the authorities, in case an attempt should be made to interfere with the procession. The demonstration took place on Kennington Common, but, though the numbers were large, they fell far short of what was anticipated. It was said that half-a-million people would be present, but only about 25,000 appeared upon the scene. The air was full of wild rumours as to what the day would bring forth, and many people believed England was upon the eve of a revolution. The Duke of Wellington undertook to perfect all the arrangements for the protection of the metropolis; and, in order to remove any doubts, nearly 200,000 persons were enrolled as special constables.

The eagerly looked for procession collapsed, and the great Chartist petition itself, concerning which such wild and various rumours were current, proved a failure. It was duly presented to Parliament by Feargus O'Connor, the great Chartist leader, and, at the time, was said to contain five millions of signatures. When examined, however, by a committee of experts, it was found to fall short of two millions, a large proportion of which, even, were not genuine. This terrible fiasco was the death of Chartism; for it became, from that hour, a subject of ridicule, rather than of serious consideration. Another monster gathering was attempted, two months afterwards; but it, likewise, was a failure, and has, moreover, been described as "the last gasp of Chartism."

Most writers upon the subject agree, in opinion, as to the causes of its failure as a political movement. Macaulay, when criticising it in 1842, in his speech in the House of Commons, said: "There is only one of the six points on which I am diametrically opposed to them (the petitioners). One of the six points," he said, "is the ballot. I have voted for the ballot, and I have seen no reason to change my opinion on that subject. Another point is the abolition of the pecuniary qualification for members of this [169] House On that point I cordially agree with the petitioners. The Chartists demand annual parliaments. There certainly I differ from them; but I might, perhaps, be willing to consent to some compromise. I differ from them also as to the expediency of paying the representatives of the people, and of dividing the country into electoral districts; but I do not consider these matters vital. The essence of the Charter," he added, "is 'universal suffrage.' If you grant that, it matters not at all what else you withhold. If you grant that the country is lost…. My firm conviction is that in our country universal suffrage is incompatible, not with this, or that form of government, but with all forms of government, and with everything for the sake of which forms of government exist; that it is incompatible with property, and that it is incompatible with civilisation…. I entertain no hope that, if we place the government of the kingdom in the hands of the majority of the males of one and twenty, told by the head, the institution of property will be respected." This, at first sight, seems a very extreme view to take of an institution, which has, since the year in which these words were uttered, been in actual work, in more than one of our colonies; but a further passage of the same speech shows what circumstances had led to such anticipations. "If," he said, "I am asked why I entertain no such hope, I answer:—Because the hundreds and thousands of males of twenty-one, who have signed this petition, tell me to entertain no such hope; because they tell me that, if I trust them with power, the first use which they will make of it will be to plunder every man in the kingdom who has a good coat on his back, and a good roof over his head. God forbid," he added, "that I should put an unfair construction on their language! I shall read their own words. 'Your petitioners complain that they are enormously taxed to pay the interest of what is called the national debt, a debt amounting, at present, to eight hundred [170] millions, being only a portion of the enormous amount expended in cruel and expensive wars for the suppression of all liberty, by men not authorised by the people, and who, consequently, had no right to tax posterity for the outrages committed by them upon mankind.' If these words mean anything," continued Macaulay, "they mean that the present generation is not bound to pay the public debt, incurred by our rulers in past times; and that a national bankruptcy would be both just and politic…. They tell us that nothing will unshackle labour from its misery, until the people possess that power under which all monopoly and oppression must cease; and your petitioners respectfully mention the existing monopolies of the suffrage; of paper money; of machinery; of land; of the public press; of religion; of the means of travelling and transit; and a host of other evils, too numerous to mention: all arising from class legislation. What," says Macaulay, "can the monopoly of land mean except property in land? The only monopoly of land which exists in England is this, that nobody can sell an acre of it which does not belong to him. And what can the monopoly of machinery mean but property in machinery? Another monopoly, which is to cease, is the monopoly of the means of travelling. In other words, all the canal property and railway property in the kingdom is to be confiscated. What other sense do the words bear? And these are only specimens of the reforms which, in the language of the petition, are to unshackle labour from its misery…. In short, the petitioners ask you to give them power, in order that they may not leave a man of a hundred a year in the realm." [47]

A subsequent passage, in the same speech, affords some further explanation of the apparently exaggerated view of the institution of universal suffrage. "What we are asked to do," he says, "is to give universal suffrage before there is [171] universal education," and he adds, "Have I any unkind feeling towards these poor people? No more than I have to a sick friend who implores me to give him a glass of iced water which the physician has forbidden. I would not give the draught of water because I know that it would be poison…. I would not give up the keys of the granary because I know that, by doing so, I should turn a scarcity into a famine; and, in the same way, I would not yield to the importunity of multitudes, who, exasperated by suffering, and blinded by ignorance, demand, with wild vehemence, the liberty to destroy themselves…. But the doctrine of the Chartist philosophers is that it is the business of the government to support the people. It is supposed by many that our rulers possess, somewhere or other, an inexhaustible storehouse of all the necessaries and conveniences of life, and from mere hard-heartedness refuse to distribute the contents of this magazine among the poor." [48] I have quoted Macaulay at some length, because the speech, referred to, sets forth, better than I know it to be done elsewhere, the extreme and revolutionary portions of the Charter, to which I consider its failure was in a great measure owing; and further, its comments, upon those portions, are so much better than any that have been made by others.

Mr. McCarthy says: "The effect of this unlucky petition, on the English public mind, was decisive. From that day, Chartism never presented itself to the ordinary middle-class Englishman as anything but an object of ridicule." [49] And, elsewhere, the same writer says: "Its active or aggressive influence ceased with 1848…. All that was sound in its claims asserted itself, and was in time conceded." [50] It is highly probable that, if the Chartist movement had been conducted, throughout, without the constant references to physical force; and if, in addition, the Charter had been confined to the "six points," which professed to sum up [172] the wants of the petitioners, but to which were added the ill-considered and revolutionary demands which I have noticed, it might have received early legislative sanction, instead of having proved a failure; and men like Feargus O'Connor, who now stand in English History as mere visionary agitators, would have been ranked among the reformers of modern times.

The connection which this movement has with the other subjects of this chapter, consists in the fact that, amid the noise, clamour, and fevered agitation which surrounded it, there were, at least, three genuinely Liberal demands, which, nevertheless, were lost sight of, or pushed out of consideration, by reason of the revolutionary character of many of the other sentiments which it contained, and to which Macaulay took such serious exception. The ballot, universal suffrage, and the abolition of a property qualification for parliament are principles, which have long since been adopted in British colonies, without, so far, leading to any great amount of injury to society; and there can be little doubt that, although the second of these "points" was somewhat before its time, the first and the third would have met with a favourable reception by the English people, if they had not been introduced in a document, which contained, also, so much that pointed to a social revolution.

It is certainly somewhat difficult to realise, in the present day, that, less than a quarter of a century ago, the fact of an English citizen professing the Jewish religion, was deemed a sufficient reason for excluding him from the Council of the nation, even though he had been duly elected by a competent constituency. Yet, such is the fact. The admission of Jews into the House of Commons, as representatives of the people, was allowed for the first time in 1859; and a study of English history will show that, from the Conquest downwards, to that date, the treatment of this able and industrious race has consisted of a [173] gradually reducing, and mitigating system of persecution: begun in absolute cruelty and practical exile from all political privileges, and ending in the acquirement of the fullest civil liberty accorded to Englishmen themselves. The removal of the disabilities, which had hitherto prevented this consummation, constitutes one of the most unmistakeable steps in the history of Liberalism. It was nothing more or less than a concession, to a section of citizens, of one of the most clearly recognised of civil rights—freedom of thought and belief, in matters of religion; and a section of citizens, too, whose ancient traditions, as a race, were essentially free and liberal in their character. Sir Erskine May speaks of the Jews as being "by far the most interesting example of freedom in an Eastern race," [51] and adds, that the fact "that a race more entitled to our reverence, than any people of antiquity, should have afforded an example of popular freedom, notwithstanding their Eastern origin, and the influence of Eastern despotism, by which they were surrounded, is a conspicuous illustration of the principle that the spirit and intelligence of a people are the foundations of liberty." [52] I shall now take a brief survey of the condition of the Jews from the Conquest, down to the date of the removal of their disabilities, in order that the justice of that removal may be the more fully realised.

The Jewish traders, who followed the Conqueror from Normandy, and from whom that monarch found it extremely convenient to draw advances for his immediate wants, were, in return, afforded royal protection, and allowed to establish themselves in separate quarters or jewries of the chief English towns. He (the Jew) then had no civil rights, and the "jewry," in which he lived, was exempt from the common law of the country. [53] "He was simply the king's chattel, and his life and goods were absolutely at the king's [174] mercy." [54] But, upon the principle of royal indulgence, the Jewish merchant was, in many ways, protected from persecution and affront, and his valuable possessions were allowed to be deposited in the royal palace at Westminster. He was the only capitalist in Europe; and, heavy as was the usury he exacted, his loans gave an impulse to industry, such as England had never felt before…nor was the influence of the Jews simply industrial. Through their connection with the Jewish schools, in Spain and in the East, they opened the way for the revival of physical science…. To the king, the Jew was simply an engine of finance,…it was in his coffers that the Norman kings found strength to hold their baronage at bay." [55]

A century or more later, (1189), they seem to have been less fortunate; for their industry and frugality had "put them in possession of all the ready money, which the idleness and profusion of the English had enabled them to lend, at exorbitant and unequal interest;" [56] and they were held in the greatest hatred and detestation by the English people in consequence. They were, by royal edict, prohibited from appearing at the coronation of Richard I.; but some of them ventured to do so notwithstanding: bringing with them considerable presents from their nation. They were grossly insulted, and put to flight. A rumour became current that the king had ordered their massacre, and a series of dreadful outrages followed. The people, moved by rapacity and zeal, broke into their houses, which they plundered, after having murdered their owners; and, where the Jews barricaded their houses, and defended themselves with vigour, the rabble set fire to the houses." [57] This terrible outrage extended to all the most important towns of England. "In York, 500 of them, who had retired into the castle for safety, and found themselves unable to defend the [175] place, murdered their own wives and children, threw the dead bodies over the walls upon the populace, and then setting fire to the houses, perished in the flames." [58]

In 1275, great dissatisfaction existed, on account of the very prevalent adulteration of the coinage, and, "as this crime required more art than the English of that age, who chiefly employed force and violence in their iniquities, were possessed of, the imputation fell upon the Jews." [59]

Edward, who entertained a strong prejudice against them, as a race, and whose zeal for Christianity was intensified by an expedition to the Holy Land, "let loose the whole rigour of his justice against that unhappy people." In London alone, two hundred and eighty were hanged for this crime, besides those in other parts of England. Their property was confiscated, and half of it given to such as were willing to profess Christianity. Edward determined to clear the kingdom of the race, and seized the whole of their property for himself. No less than fifteen thousand of them were robbed and banished the kingdom. [60]

Green describes the condition of these people, previous to their expulsion from the kingdom. "Statute after statute," he says, "hemmed them in. They were forbidden to hold real property; to employ Christian servants; to move through the streets, without the coloured label of wool on their breast, which distinguished their race. They were prohibited from building new synagogues, or eating with Christians, or acting as physicians to them." [61]

In the midst of this reign of tyranny over a class, it is refreshing to find, so far back as the 17th century, a spirit of fairness—a spirit in fact, of true Liberalism, springing out of a juster conception of moral rights.

Green, again, speaking of Cromwell during the protectorate, says that he "remained true, throughout, to his cause [176] of religious liberty." "The Jews (he adds) had been excluded from England since the reign of Edward I., and a prayer, which they now presented for leave to return, was refused by the Commission of merchants and divines, to whom the protector referred it for consideration. But the refusal was quietly passed over, and the connivance of Cromwell, in the settlement of a few Hebrews in London and Oxford, was so clearly understood that no one ventured to interfere with them. From this time forward, the Jews seem to have been accorded a moderate amount of fair and liberal treatment, and, as a consequence, they increased in number and influence. In 1753 'An act to permit persons, professing the Jewish religion, to be naturalised by parliament' was introduced into the House of Lords, and was passed without much opposition. In the Commons, it was favourably regarded by the ministry; and it was further supported by petitions from manufacturers and merchants. The mayor, aldermen, and commons of the city of London, lodged a counter petition, on the grounds of 'dishonour of the Christian religion,' 'danger to the constitution,' and 'prejudice to the trade of the kingdom.' This was supported by a further petition from merchants and traders. Counsel were heard, and violent debates ensued. Extravagant arguments were used against the measure. It was 'prognosticated that the Jews would multiply so much in number, engross such wealth, and acquire so great power and influence in Great Britain, that their persons would be reverenced, their customs imitated, and Judaism become the fashionable religion of the English.' It was contended, further, that 'such an act was directly flying in the face of the prophecy, which declares that the Jews shall be a scattered people, without country or fixed habitation, until they shall be converted from their infidelity, and gathered together in the land of their forefathers.'" [62] The measure [177] excited a complete ferment throughout the nation, and created a renewed and intense feeling against the Jews; but the bill passed through both houses, and was duly assented to.

In the following session, however, public disfavor had been again worked up to a high pitch, and the ministry, who had supported the measure, were held up to the most universal reproach. Ministers became, now, as anxious to repeal, as they had formerly been to pass the measure, and its passage through the Commons was correspondingly rapid. Though somewhat more deliberate, the House of Lords finally sanctioned the bill, and it was duly assented to, so that the Liberalism of the preceding session was completely nullified. The feeling against the Jews, throughout the country, was now more bitter than before the Naturalisation Act; and an attempt was actually made to repeal some former acts favourable to them. Fortunately, there was sufficient sense of justice to prevent such a palpable piece of tyranny. The attempt therefore failed. In 1830, leave was asked, in Parliament, to bring in a bill to remove the civil disabilities under which the Jews laboured. The claim, then made on their behalf, was "simply that they should be allowed to enjoy all those rights which we may call fundamental to the condition of the British subject, without having to profess the religion of the State." [63] During the debate on this motion, Macaulay delivered his maiden speech. The bill was strongly opposed, and defeated by a majority of sixty-three votes. In 1833 the bill was again introduced. It passed the Commons, but was thrown out by the Lords, by a majority of fifty. On this occasion Macaulay again spoke, and there are one or two passages, in his speech, which are well worth quotation, as presenting a brief summary of the claims which the Jews had upon a people like the English, who prided themselves in their freedom, and, as a fact, [178] owed so much to the civilisation and intellectual progress of older nations.

"In the infancy of civilisation," he said, "when our island was as savage as New Guinea; when letters and arts were still unknown to Athens; when scarcely a thatched hut stood on what was afterwards the site of Rome, this contemned people had their fenced cities, and cedar palaces; their splendid temples; their fleets of merchant ships; their schools of sacred learning; their great statesmen and soldiers, their natural philosophers, their historians, and their poets. What nation ever contended more manfully against overwhelming odds for its independence and religion? What nation, ever, in its last agonies, gave such signal proofs of what may be accomplished by a brave despair? And, if, in the course of many centuries, the oppressed descendants of warriors and sages have degenerated from the qualities of their fathers; if, while excluded from the blessings of law, and bowed down under the yoke of slavery, they have contracted some of the vices of outlaws and of slaves, shall we consider this as a matter of reproach to them? Shall we not, rather, consider it as a matter of shame and remorse to ourselves? Let us do justice to them. Let us open to them the door of the House of Commons. Let us open to them every career, in which ability and energy can be displayed." [64]

The resolution, upon which this speech was made, was ingeniously phrased, in order to appeal to the liberality of those who were to have the determination in their hands. It affirmed "that, in the opinion of this committee, it is expedient to remove all civil disabilities, at present existing, with respect to His Majesty's subjects professing the Jewish religion, with the like exceptions, as are provided with respect to His Majesty's subjects professing the Roman Catholic religion." Seeing that the Catholic Emancipation [179] movement had been crowned with success, only four years before, this ingenious reference to that long oppressed, but so lately liberated people, was well calculated to arouse whatever spark of liberty there might be in the minds of those who were about to be appealed to, on the question which it involved; but, as I have shown, that spirit was wanting among the peers of England, who, consequently, threw out the measure. In the following year the same fate attended it.

In 1847, a new turn was given to the movement, by the election of Baron Lionel Rothschild, for the city of London; and in the following year the bill was again thrown out by the House of Lords; whereupon Baron Rothschild at once resigned his seat, and was re-elected. In 1850, Lord John Russell moved a resolution, affirming their eligibility, and it was carried by a large majority. Baron Rothschild had presented himself at the table of the House, and offered to take the required oaths. He went through with all the ceremony, excepting that portion, in which he was required to use the words, "On the true faith of a Christian," which he thereupon omitted. He was, in consequence, forced to withdraw from the body of the House, and take up his seat in the gallery. Lord John Russell's bill was passed by the Commons, but again rejected by the Lords. In 1851, another Jew (Mr. David Salomans), was elected. He, likewise, refused the part of the oaths referred to, and was forced to withdraw. But, subsequently, he re-entered the House, and took his seat among other members. Considerable excitement followed, and many prominent members of the House were really at a loss to know what ought to be done. Lord John Russell tested the question by moving that Mr. Salomans be ordered to withdraw. An irregular discussion followed, in which the latter spoke, and even took part in the divisions. Lord John Russell's motion was carried. Mr. Salomans refused to withdraw. The serjeant-at-arms [180] approached, to take the usual course of physical removal, when Mr. Salomons, being touched upon the shoulder, withdrew. Two actions were brought against Mr. Salomons, and, after careful argument and consideration, the Court of Exchequer, by three to one, decided against him. The bill, for the removal of the disabilities, was again and again introduced, and thrown out by the Lords. In 1859, when the measure was again rejected by the same authority, the question was raised whether the Commons should not deal for itself with the question of admission of its members. This had the desired effect, for, on the 26th July, the bill, having passed both Houses, Baron Rothschild took his seat in the ordinary way, having been, under the provisions of the act, permitted to omit the words, "On the true faith of a Christian."

As I have said, it is difficult to understand, even now,—so short a time since the passage of this measure—how the reform should have been so long delayed. The arguments, to a fairly constituted mind, are overwhelming. In fact, as Macaulay said, in 1833, "the strength of the case was a serious inconvenience to an advocate, for it was hardly possible to make a speech without wearying the audience by repeating truths which were universally admitted."

Macaulay had occasion, in 1829, to write upon the subject of the "Civil Disabilities of the Jews," and he dwelt with great force and effect upon the glaring anomalies involved in their exclusion from parliament. "Government exists," he said, "for the purpose of keeping the peace; for the purpose of compelling us to settle our disputes by arbitration, instead of settling them by blows; for the purpose of compelling us to supply our wants by industry, instead of supplying them by rapine. This is the only operation for which the machinery of government is peculiarly adapted, the only operation which wise governments ever propose to themselves as their chief object. If [181] there is any class of people who are not interested, or who do not think themselves interested, in the security of property and the maintenance of order, that class ought to have no share of the powers which exist for the purpose of securing property and maintaining order. But, why a man should be less fit to exercise those powers because he wears a beard; because he does not eat ham; because he goes to the synagogue on Saturday, instead of going to the church on Sundays we cannot conceive." [65] "But," he continued, "it would be monstrous, say the persecutors, that Jews should legislate for a Christian community. This is a palpable misrepresentation. What is proposed is not that the Jews should legislate for a Christian community, but that a legislature composed of Christians and Jews should legislate for a community composed of Christians and Jews." [66]

Mr. John Bright, speaking upon the same subject at a much later date, (1853), uttered very similar sentiments, when he said, "What can be more marvellous than that any sane man should propose that doctrinal differences in religion should be made the test of citizenship and political rights. Doctrinal differences in religion, in all human probability, will last for many generations to come, and may, possibly, last so long as man shall inhabit this globe; but if you permit these differences to be the tests of citizenship, what is it but to admit into your system this fatal conclusion—that social and political differences, in all nations, can never be eradicated, but must be eternal?" [67] The same speaker went on to remind the Commons that, up to that time even, the bill had been passed by them, and in each case rejected by the Lords fourteen times, and he concluded by exhorting them in the following words:—"Let us then get rid of this question, which has been discussed and decided year after year; and, above all, let us see that the Commons House [182] of England is open to the Commons of England, and that every man, be his creed what it may, if elected by a constituency of his countrymen, may sit in this House, and vote on all matters which affect the legislation of this kingdom." [68] Let me close this sketch by adding that the opposition to the claims of the Jews came almost exclusively from the Tories, and especially from the Tories in the House of Lords; from the High churchmen, also from the bishops." [69]

The Trades-Union Act of 1871, which stands next in my category of modern Liberal measures, marks an epoch of great and memorable import to a very large section of Englishmen, viz., the whole of the working classes. This measure was undoubtedly of a truly Liberal character, as it had the simple and beneficial effect of conferring additional liberty upon a large class of subjects, who had previously suffered under the disadvantage of legislative restriction, for which no good defence or justification can, or could at the time, be urged. This act removed the last remnant of formidable legislative barriers, which had previously curtailed the liberty of workmen, in their endeavours to strengthen their position by combination and unanimity of action, in dealing with employers.

It will be necessary, hereafter, for me to distinguish between that part, or those features of trades-unionism which can, and those which cannot be justified upon the true principles of Liberalism. That part which I am now justifying, as having been legalised by the measure of 1871, I shall carefully define hereafter. It is not generally known that trades-unionism is really a very old institution, and that strikes and locks-out are by no means novel, as means of increasing the power of employers or employés respectively. So far back, in fact, as 1349, it was considered necessary to [183] introduce legislation for the purpose of dealing with the subject of labour.

The previous year had witnessed what was known as the "Black Death," described by Green as "the most terrible plague the world ever witnessed." In consequence of its ravages, "the organisation of labour was thrown out of gear." As a result of the scarcity of hands, farms were abandoned, and cultivation became impossible. "The sheep and cattle," says a contemporary, "strayed through the fields of corn, and there were none left who could drive them." Wages suddenly rose, "harvests rotted on the ground; and fields were left untilled, not merely from scarcity of hands, but from the strife which now, for the first time, revealed itself between capital and labour." [70] "While the landowners of the country, and the wealthier craftsmen of the town, were threatened with ruin, by what seemed to their age the extravagant demands of the new labour class, the country itself was torn with riot and disorder. The outbreak of lawless self-indulgence, which followed everywhere in the wake of the plague, told especially upon the "landless men," wandering in search of work, and for the first time masters of the labour market." [71]

A remedy for all this was attempted, by means of the Statute of Labourers of 1349. By this act, "every man or woman, of whatever condition, free or bond, able in body, and within the age of three score years…not having of his own, whereof he may live, nor land of his own about the tillage of which he may occupy himself, and not serving any other, shall be bound to serve the employer who shall require him to do so, and shall take only the wages which were accustomed to be taken in the neighbourhood, where he is bound to serve, two years before the plague began." The statute further provided for punishment [184] by imprisonment. Shortly afterwards, (1350) further and even more stringent measures were adopted. The price of labour was fixed; the labourer was forbidden to leave his parish in search of better wages; and, if he did so, he was deemed a "fugitive, and subjected to punishment." Green observes that it was impossible to enforce such a law, inasmuch as corn had risen to such a price, that a day's labour on the old terms would not purchase sufficient for a man's support. The original penalties were so insufficient for their intended purposes, that a "fugitive" was punished by being branded on the forehead with a hot iron. By means of legal ingenuity, many duly emancipated serfs were successfully claimed to still belong to the class from which they had been regarded as having been freed. "In the towns, where the system of forced labour was applied, with even more rigour than in the country, strikes and combinations became frequent among the lower craftsmen." A lawless spirit began to show itself among the class affected by these restrictions on personal liberty; and, from this time downwards, the working classes, and those in authority——whether parliament or the monarch—have carried on a series of reprisals in the attempt to, on the one hand regulate, on the other hand resist the regulation of such matters as rates of wages, hours of labour, etc.

In 1362, for instance, after a violent storm, when much damage was done to roofs, a royal order was issued that neither the price for materials for roofing, nor the wages of tilers should be increased in consequence. This was an attempt to interfere with the free play of supply and demand in labour and material, which had been suddenly disturbed by the damage mentioned. In the following year, in consequence of the continued rise of wages, and the increased prosperity of the peasant population, an act was passed admonishing agricultural labourers generally not to eat or drink "excessively," or to wear any material in their [185] clothes except "blanket and russet wool of twelvepence." At the same time domestic servants were declared entitled to no more than one meal a day of flesh and fish, and were required to content themselves, for the remainder, with "milk, butter, cheese, and other such victuals." This attempted interference touched even more near home in the direction of personal liberty, and of course met with some resistance. Still wages rose. In 1383 a proclamation was issued from the City authorities of London, prohibiting all "congregations, covins, and conspiracies of workmen." The punishments were very severe, but, notwithstanding, the combinations continued to be maintained.

In the beginning of the sixteenth century, Sir Thomas Moore published his "Utopia," and he dealt, at considerable length, with the hardships of the working classes. He advocated the "nine-hours'" system, with a view to the intellectual improvement of the workmen.

In 1548, an act of parliament was passed, by which any man who refused to work at statute prices, could be branded "V" for vagabond, and reduced to a condition of slavery for two years; and, if he attempted to escape, he could be branded "S," by which he became a slave for life. If he further objected, he was hanged. The preamble of the act in question evidences the existence, even then, of combinations of workmen, and of their being regarded as illegal and injurious to commerce; for it recites that artificers, handicraftsmen and labourers have made confederacies and promises, and have sworn mutual oaths, not only that they should not meddle with one another's work, and perform and finish what another had begun; but also to constitute and appoint how much they shall do in a day, and what hours and times they shall work, contrary to the laws and statutes of this realm, and to the great impoveriskment of his Majesty's subjects." Under this act, a third conviction resulted in the prisoner's ear being cut off. Down to the year 1812, the [186] justices had the power to fix the rates of wages for certain classes of workmen; but the exercise of the power fell into disuse, sometimes for long periods, and was only revived when the wages had risen to a level which attracted notice, and appeared to require regulation. As affecting weavers' wages, no interference was attempted up to 1720, when an effort was made to re-assert the almost forgotten prerogative. The attempt was not successful, but was again made in 1745. In 1768, an act was passed, by which the hours of labour for London journeymen tailors were fixed at "6 a.m. to 7 p.m." with an allowance of one hour for meals. By the same act, the wages of cloth-workers were fixed and an employer who engaged a workman, living more than five miles from London, was liable to a fine of £500. The miners of Scotland, at this time, were subjected to great oppression, in consequence of the statutory provisions affecting them. Down to so late a time as 1779, that class were not at liberty to come up out of a pit, unless with the consent of their master; and it is said that they were actually sold as part of the property. If they attempted to obtain work at another mine, they could be taken, brought back, and flogged as thieves, for having robbed him of their labour. All their hardships and oppressions naturally tended to nourish the growth of combination, which was carried on, notwithstanding the many attempts at repression. Up to the same date which I have just mentioned, a workman could not travel out of his own district in search of work. So great continued to be the fear of the law, as affecting the members of trade organisations, that, as late as 1810, a society of ironfounders held their meetings at night, "on the water and moors on the highlands of the Midland counties;" and all the papers connected with the association were kept buried in the peat.

Down to the year 1824, with the exception of a certain modification in 1813, the act of Elizabeth remained in force, [187] by which the acceptance of wages was rendered compulsory, and the hours and wages were definitely fixed; and down to the year 1825, the mere combination of workmen was absolutely illegal. Previous to 1871, the date of the measure with which we are more particularly concerned, trades unions were, in the eye of the law, illegal, and, as a consequence, no contract made by such an organisation could be enforced, or made the groundwork of a prosecution.

In 1869, a secretary of a trade's association misappropriated a large sum of money, and was accordingly prosecuted. The charge was, however, dismissed, on the ground that the society was established for illegal purposes. Inasmuch as combinations do exist, and have nearly always existed among merchants and others, for the purpose of securing better terms in the disposal of their particular commodities, it is obviously unfair and inequitable, that those who have their labour to dispose of should not be allowed the same right of combination. Yet, such was the case; for, whereas, if a servant of such a merchant had appropriated a sum of money, he could be duly prosecuted for the offence, while the servant or secretary of a trades union could not be so prosecuted. This was obviously unjust, and constituted a denial of the "equal opportunities," or the "equality in the eye of the law" to which every citizen is entitled.

It was to remedy this unjust state of things that the act of 1871, was passed. By it, workmen were allowed the liberty to act in unison in matters of the hours of labour, or the rates of pay; and its concessions, amount to nothing more nor less than what every other class of citizen was enjoying. The act provides that "the purposes of any trades union shall not, by reason merely that they are in restraint of trade, be deemed to be unlawful," (sec. 2) that "the purposes of any trades union shall not, by reason merely that they are in restraint of trade, be unlawful, so as to render [188] void or voidable any agreement or trust." The same act contains many provisions regarding the registration of trades unions. The practical effect of the act was simply to permit men to exercise their civil liberty, by accumulating their funds for combined purposes, without being thereby deprived of the protection of the law, in the event of such funds being criminally appropriated by any officer happening to have it under his custody.

Shortly described, this measure had for its object the bestowal of more liberty and more equal opportunities for the perfecting of trades-unionism—an institution perfectly legal in itself, though frequently used for purposes just as tyrannical as the very laws which, for centuries, retarded its own growth and development.

The Ballot Act of 1872, which should be classed among the most important of modern Liberal measures, finally disposed of a question, which had, with more or less frequency, and with greater or less intensity, occupied and agitated the public mind for upwards of a century and a half. This feature of the movement is not generally known. The author of "The Radical Party in Parliament," writing of the year 1778, says: "At a meeting on the 22nd March, with Fox in the chair, and Burke, Sheridan, and Beckford present, we come upon the first reference to the ballot." The resolution which contained that reference ran as follows:—"That the obtaining of a law for taking the suffrages of the people, in such a mode as to prevent both expense in elections, and the operation of undue influence therein, is necessary towards the freedom of parliament." [72]

This is, however, not the first reference to that subject; for Hallam, in a note to his "Constitutional History," mentions the publication, in 1705, of a tract, entitled "A Patriot's Proposal to the People of England," which consists of a recommendation of election by ballot. [73] The same writer [189] also mentions the introduction into the Commons of a bill "for voting by ballot," in 1710.

Notwithstanding that Lord John Russell once said that "secret voting was opposed to the open and free constitution of the country," [74] a moment's reflection will convince any one that, as the resolution of the Westminster committee of 1778, discloses, the ballot was "necessary towards the freedom of parliament." The Ballot Act simply gave voters the liberty to vote secretly, if they thought it desirable; but by no means compelled them to maintain secrecy, afterwards, as to how they had voted. Previous to the act, a voter possessed less freedom than after its passage, inasmuch as he had not the power to vote secretly if he wished. The effect of the act was to leave it optional with a voter whether he kept as a secret, or made it known, how he expressed himself at the poll. This option was, too, a necessary liberty, inasmuch as thousands of voters have been in the past, and are, in the present, liable to intimidation by employers, landlords, creditors, and others; and, if this privilege, or rather liberty, to express a choice at the poll, were not possessed by all citizens, much of the freedom of opinion on matters political which now exists would be withheld from those who at present possess it.

The employer, the landlord, and the creditor were able to record their votes without fear of suffering disadvantage, if it happened to be contrary to the wishes of others; but the employé, the tenant, and the debtor were frequently compelled to choose the alternative of stultifying themselves at the poll, or incurring the displeasure, perhaps the serious enmity of others, on whom they were dependent, by voting "contrary to orders."

The ballot then conferred freedom on a class who did not previously possess it, without any corresponding curtailment of liberty in regard to any other class. This is true [190] Liberalism; and, therefore, such an institution could not have been "opposed to the open and free constitution of the country." Cobden said "it would do much to put an end to that corruption in the boroughs, and subserviency in the counties, which we have now to deplore."

When Burke wrote his "Reflections on the French Revolution," in 1790, he took a very jaundiced view of society, to which we may attribute the gloomy prognostication that "all contrivances by ballot were vain and childish, to prevent a discovery of inclinations." He was certainly wrong; for, nowadays, unless a man is weak enough to lose control of his tongue, he may carry to the grave with him the secret as to how he voted at an election; and, if he finds it necessary to do so, he may even "prevent a discovery of his inclinations." When Burke wrote this, however, he was despondent of society, which had been subjected to so complete an upheaval in France. Many of his most cherished Liberal opinions and theories, concerning it, had appeared to be for ever doomed to disappointment, by that great revolution; and, he was, in consequence, rendered permanently sceptical as to the popular judgment.

Mr. Bright, in one of his speeches, mentions that John Stuart Mill, even, had considerable scruples on the question of the ballot, though he seems to have been curious to see it tried. [75] We are not without high authority as to the intimidation to which voters were subjected, previous to the passing of this liberal measure. Sir Erskine May says: "The Ballot Act of 1872, by introducing secret voting, struck at the influence of patrons and employers over the independence of electors." [76]

It is somewhat interesting to trace the history and vicissitudes of this proposal, from the date of the Reform Bill (1832) down to 1872, when it became law.


It was O'Connell who asked for leave in the former year to introduce a bill to establish triennial parliaments, universal suffrage, and vote by ballot; and, in 1832, Lord Durham did his utmost to have a provision, dealing with the subject of voting by ballot, introduced into the Reform Bill. [77] In fact, according to Mrs. Grote, [78] it was actually inserted in the original draft of that measure, though subsequently omitted. The same writer informs us that, as a principle, it had always formed a "leading article of the Radical faith."

In 1833, George Grote himself undertook to introduce the question in the ensuing session of Parliament. The decision appears to have arisen out of a meeting between a number of distinguished men, including Joseph Hume, John Romilly, Prescott the historian, Grote himself, and the elder Mill. Grote is said to have introduced the subject in a speech, which "not only conferred honour on the speaker, but strengthened the party to which he was attached." [79] The division resulted in there being 134 for the motion, and 239 against the motion. From this time forward, Grote made his motion on the subject annually. In 1837, 155 members voted for the motion and 267 against it, and out of the latter number, 200 of the votes were given by Tories. In 1838 Lord John Russell declared himself opposed to the ballot, and prominent Radicals protested against such an expression of opinion. In 1839 the annual motion was affirmed by 217 votes as against 335, and Macaulay's name was included in the former number. In 1848 the same resolution was included in a larger and more comprehensive one, dealing with extension of suffrage and triennial parliaments; and it did not therefore afford a test as to the growth of feeling on the subject. In 1849 the matter was taken in hand by Mr. H. Berkely, who repeated it year by year until [192] his name became as inseparably connected with it as that of Sir Wilfred Lawson with the subject of Local Option. For some years the divisions were very small, and show that the interest taken in the motion was by no means intense; but, in 1855, the proportion was much more favourable, there being 157 for and 194 only against the motion. In 1858 Mr. John Bright, speaking upon the subject of the ballot, said: "The argument has been already exhausted for twenty years," and, a few days later, he said, in speaking of the large class of people interested in Reform: "I believe the ballot alone will give them the power of exercising the franchise, in accordance with their own convictions." [80] In the same speech, he added, "I cannot comprehend why any man should oppose the ballot. I can understand its importance being exaggerated, but I cannot understand the man who thinks it would be likely to inflict injury upon the country…. The educated man, the intellectual man, the benevolent man, the man of religious and saintly life, would continue to exercise a most beneficent influence, which the ballot, I believe, would not in the slightest degree impair; but the influence of the landlord, of the creditor, of the customer—the influence of the strong and unscrupulous mind over the feeble and the fearful—that influence would be as effectually excluded, as I believe it could be, by any human contrivance whatsoever."

Mr. Bright then speaks of the "moral aspect" of the question. "How," he says, "would canvassing be conducted under the ballot? I do not know how you conduct the canvassing of electors in this great city, but I will tell you how it is managed in small and moderate boroughs in England. The candidate goes to see as many electors as possible. In calling on any particular elector, the canvassers endeavour to find out his employer, his landlord, some one [193] who has lent him money, or done a kindness to some of his friends, or who has some influence over him; and half-a-dozen meet together, and though there may be nothing said, the elector knows very well there is somebody in that small number who has done him a benefit for which he expects a return: somebody who has power over him, and who expects to be obliged; and while the object is professedly a canvass, it is little better than a demonstration of force and tyranny. Every man who, for want of the ballot, votes contrary o his convictions, is a demoralised and degraded man…. There is no portion—I can assure this meeting there is not one of the propositions for Reform that have been submitted to the public—there is no other portion that is received with such unanimity, such enthusiasm of resolution, throughout all the meetings in England, as the proposition that the ballot shall form a portion of the coming Reform." [81]

In 1860, the division on the ballot was very close, though it is evident, from the smallness of the numbers, that the amount of interest taken in the matter was very slight. Ninety-nine votes were recorded for, and 102 against the motion. In subsequent years, down to 1866, the divisions were not so favourable.

In the same year we find Mr. Bright again mentioning the subject, in a speech upon Ireland. "The ballot," he said, "is almost universal in the United States. It is almost universal in the colonies, at any rate in the Australian colonies; it is almost universal on the continent of Europe; and, in the new parliament of North Germany, which is about soon to be assembled, every man of twenty-five years of age is to be allowed to vote, and to vote by ballot. There is," he adds, "no other people in the world that considers that it has a fair representative system, unless it has the ballot." [82] A remarkable fact, in connection with the ballot, is that John [194] Stuart Mill, who had begun by advocating it, subsequently became an opponent of it, on the ground that it was unmanly to conceal one's vote, [83] and, strange to say, in the very speech in which he condemned it, he quoted an opinion of Edmund Burke, which appears to tell completely against the conclusion which he was actually founding upon it. The sentence was to the effect that "the system which lays its foundations in rare and heroic virtues will be sure to have its superstructure in the basest profligacy and corruption."

In 1871-72, a change was taking place in public feeling upon the subject of the ballot. "The gross and growing profligacy and violence, which disgraced every election, began to make men feel that something must be done to get rid of such hideous abuses." [84] "The objection to the open vote was that, in a vast number of instances, the elector could not safely vote according to his conscience and his convictions. If he was a tenant, he was in terror of his landlord; if he was a workman, he was afraid of his employer; if he was a small shopkeeper in a country town, he was in dread of offending some wealthy customer; if he was a timid man, he shrank from exposing himself to the violence of the mob. In many cases, a man giving a conscientious vote would have had to do so with the certainty that he was bringing ruin upon himself and his family. In Ireland, the conflicting power of the landlord, and of the crowd, made the vote a mere sham. A man in many places dared not vote, but as the landlord bade him. Sometimes, when he thought to secure his safety by pleasing the landlord, he ran serious risk by offending the crowd who supported the popular candidate. Voters were dragged to the poll, like slaves or prisoners, by the landlord and his agents." [85]

In 1869, a committee had been appointed to enquire into the method and manner of conducting elections, and that [195] committee had reported in favour of the principle of the ballot. In 1872 the Ballot Act was, after a good deal of hesitation on the part of the House of Commons, passed. Having been affirmed on the third reading by 276 votes against 218, the measure was sent to the Lords; and, inasmuch as they had rejected a similar measure in the preceding session, they made several amendments in the bill, the principal one being that which rendered the ballot optional. This modification was resisted on the motion of Mr. Forster, but supported by Lord Beaconsfield, (then Mr. Disraeli) who characterised the system as a new-fangled experiment, which he considered of a degrading character, and no better, as an expedient against corruption, than the Riot Act was against the tending to riot. [86] Ultimately, a compromise was arrived at between the two Houses—the Commons admitting the right of scrutiny, on demand by a defeated candidate, and accepting the limitation of the operation of the act to 1880: the "optional" feature being of course eliminated. The bill then passed. The 1874 election which followed, is said to have been "one of the most quiet and most orderly ever known," and the same may be said of that of 1880.

The Ballot Act has by no means rendered corruption a thing of the past; but it is acknowledged to have almost completely prevented intimidation being exercised over voters.

Let me now, before closing this chapter, briefly glance back over the several Liberal measures dealt with, in order to show how one and all of them conform to the principle we have laid down as the true foundation of that school of politics, viz., the conferring of "equal liberties" by the removal of class privileges, which have grown up by prescription, or been actually conferred by the action of parliament. I have, in the opening of this volume, used, as a sort of text for my subject, an admirable, and, at the same time a most scientific [196] definition of "liberalism," by Mr. Henry Broadhurst. I shall deal with it at greater length in a subsequent chapter; but shall also quote it here, in order that I may, by the light it affords, criticise the several Liberal measures dealt with in the present chapter.

"Liberalism," says Mr. Broadhurst, "does not seek to make all men equal—nothing can do that. But its object is to remove all obstacles erected by men, which prevent all having equal opportunities." [87]

The affirmative part of this definition can be further abbreviated into "the securing, to all, equal opportunities." But, it is necessary to observe that "Liberalism does not seek to make all men equal," that is to say, that, while aiming at the bestowal of equal opportunities, it does not attempt to produce an uniformity of wealth, or an equality in social conditions; but aims merely at securing "equal opportunities," such as may result from the removal of "obstacles of human origin." Mr. Joseph Cowen, in his admirable speech upon "Principles," says much the same thing. "The first of Liberal principles is equality. I do not mean equality of social condition. That is a speculative chimera which can never be realised…. If they were made equal to-day, they would be unequal to-morrow. I mean equality of opportunity—a clear and equal course, and victory to the wisest and the best." [88] We may from these two definitions of Liberalism, offered by prominent Liberals of the most pronounced type, draw the conclusion that the object of Liberalism is to secure "equality of opportunity" to all men; and from this it follows that any attempt to approximate to a more extended equality, such as equality of wealth, or of social conditions, would involve a departure from true Liberalism, inasmuch as it would at once have the effect of rendering the opportunities unequal. Men will always be unequal in wealth, in social position, and even in the extent [197] of happiness which falls to their lot, so long as they are born with different abilities, among different surroundings, and with different constitutions and susceptibilities. To attempt to equalise them with regard to the natural gifts which they possess would be to attempt an impossibility; to attempt to equalise their surroundings would be similarly impracticable; and, at the same time, it would be open to the objection that it was an attempt to make men equal in "social conditions." To attempt to equalise the constitution or susceptibilities of men would be ridiculous. So that one is brought back to the conclusion that all "Liberalism" can do is to secure to every man "equal opportunities" for the exercise of whatever faculties he may possess: unrestricted by any actual obstacle or hindrance, which nature has not herself imposed. When that is secured, victory must be allowed, as Mr. Cowen says, to go to "the wisest and the best."

An examination of the various instances of Liberalism, which I have dealt with in this and the preceding chapter, will show that they have all conformed to this definition, and, therefore, come correctly under the category of Liberal legislation, even though that party-title was not known when many of them were made part of the constitution under which we live. It will be found that this expression "equal opportunities" is almost identical with the older and more traditional word "liberties."

De Lolme, in his treatise on the British constitution, says "Private liberty, according to the division of the English lawyers, consists, first, of the right of property, that is of the right of enjoying exclusively the gifts of fortune, and all the various fruits of one's industry; secondly, of the right of personal security; thirdly, of the locomotive faculty: taking the word Liberty in its more confined sense. Each of these" continues that writer, "is inherent in the person of every Englishman." In my chapter entitled "Historic Liberalism," I have sufficiently shown how each of the events, therein dealt [198] with, involved the principle of "liberty," thus defined. I shall now show how each of those reforms coming under the category of "Modern Liberalism" does likewise, and conforms also to the "equal opportunities" principle.

The Reform Bill of 1832, produced a closer approximation to that "equality of opportunity" which consists in possessing, as fully as one's fellow-men, the right to a voice in the election of the national legislature, and in the consequent management of the public funds in which every citizen is interested. If, as Edmund Burke has said, a citizen's vote is his shield against the oppression of power, then, it is essential to his possessing equal opportunities, that he should have that shield in his possession.

The Anti-Slavery movement certainly needs no apology; for, so long as a man was deprived of personal freedom, he was deprived of his equal opportunites by reason of "obstacles" of the most distinctly "human origin." The Anti-Slavery movement of 1833, was, therefore, one of the most Liberal measures ever proposed.

The Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, was a most unmistakably liberal piece of legislation. Previous to its passing, the great majority of the English people were prohibited, by legislation, from purchasing their bread where they chose, and where they could buy it at the cheapest price. The Corn Laws, which were in existence, practically imposed a penalty on all who purchased corn abroad, by requiring a duty to be paid. The effect of those laws was to give the landowners of England an artificial price for the produce of their land, which they could not otherwise have obtained: thus affording to them opportunities which the legislature could not secure for all citizens equally. The Repeal Act removed this inequality of opportunity, without in any way trespassing upon the rights of others.

Regarding the Chartist movement a distinction must be observed. As I have pointed out, the Charter failed because [199] it contained erroneous and revolutionary proposals. Those which have since been made the law of England, were truly liberal, inasmuch as they clearly conform to the principle of "equal opportunities." The ballot simply gave to the poor and dependent man the right to record his vote without fear of punishment. The rich and powerful citizen enjoyed that privilege; and the ballot, as a principle, sought only that all should be similarly free.

The desire that the pecuniary qualification for the House of Commons should be removed was equally liberal. The necessity for a money qualification was an "obstacle" of "human origin," which prevented many men from enjoying the privilege of entering parliament if elected. The removal of such an obstacle was therefore in strict accordance with true Liberal principles.






An attempt to define, in general terms, the sociological basis of government.

"I should say, in the first place, that what all Liberals most strongly, most ardently desire is that as large an amount as possible of personal freedom and liberty should be secured for every individual, and for every class in the country."—LORD HARTINGTON (Speech at Derby, July 12, 1886).

"The maximum right of the individual to please himself, subject to the minimum right of the community to control him."—The Times, (Oct. 29, 1886.)

"I think that nothing would be more undesirable than that we should remove the stimulus to industry, and thrift, and exertion, which is afforded by the security given to every man in the enjoyment of the fruits of his own individual exertions."—JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN (Speech at Hull, Aug. 5, 1885).

IN order to clearly and correctly comprehend the nature of Liberalism, in its original and scientific meaning, it is, above all things, necessary to recognise that that which is so glibly spoken of in our every-day conversation as "politics," comprehends one of the most profound and complex of [201] sciences. This important fact is, with most people, completely lost sight of, or, to speak more correctly, never actually realised, except by the comparatively few who have made of the subject a close study. There is, in truth, no other topic in which all men alike are called upon to take an interest, which, to be rightly understood, requires so much and so continuous study and concentration; and yet, contradictory though it may be, there is no subject, in connection with which men act with so little real reflection, or concerning which they express settled convictions with so much confidence and self-satisfaction. "Over his pipe in the village ale-house," writes Mr. Herbert Spencer, "the labourer says, very positively, what parliament should do." This confidence, and the widespread ignorance which begets it, are, by no means, confined to the working classes. Among the more educated of society—even among what are termed University men—there is a surprising lack of knowledge concerning the fundamental principles of government. Some of the simplest axioms of political economy are as systematically ignored as if they had never been established; and equal disregard is displayed, in the ordinary political "talk," for some of the first principles of sociology which bear upon the practical government of the day.

As long as this is so, there is little hope that the genuine and scientific meaning of the political term in question will be widely understood, and so made to operate in the formation of public opinion. Milton's well-known line, regarding the "fear of angels," has no apter illustration than that which is afforded by "the people," in their confident treatment of political matters. Political problems are, from time to time, raised for settlement, in these days of "popular government," such as would require, for a correct solution, all the knowledge and concentration of a Mill or a Burke; yet, they are disposed of, for the time being, as if the questions involved were of the very simplest nature. "The [202] enthusiastic philanthropist, urgent for some act of parliament to remedy this evil or secure the other good, thinks it a very trivial and far-fetched objection that the people will be morally injured by doing things for them, instead of leaving them to do things themselves. He vividly realises the benefit he hopes to get achieved, which is a positive and really imaginable thing: he does not realise the diffused, invisible, and slowly accumulating effect wrought on the popular mind, and, so, does not believe in it; or, if he admits it, thinks it beneath consideration. Would he but remember, however, that all national character is gradually produced by the daily action of circumstances, of which each day's result seems so insignificant as not to be worth mentioning, he would see that what is trifling, when viewed in its increments, may be formidable when viewed in its sum total." [2]

In the ordinary way, and more especially at times when party feeling runs high, any appearance of doubt in connection with political matters is immediately interpreted as evidencing want of "back-bone," "shilly-shallying," "sitting-on-a-rail," or some other reprehensible condition of mind. At election time, a voter experiencing such misgivings would, if not abused, certainly be considered a fit subject for sympathy. Yet, if the truth were known, such a man, provided his hesitation were the genuine result of doubt, arising from a recognition of the great difficulties of any particular political question, would be a far safer citizen, in a democracy, than the thousands of confident electors who have, in their own minds, and to their own satisfaction, reduced all the great social problems of our day to a cut-and-dried condition, such as leaves no doubt whatever regarding the course to be pursued. Without, however, dwelling longer upon that point, let me say that, in the opinion of all the greatest thinkers who have dealt with this subject, what we call "politics" or [203] "government" is regarded as a science; and, what is more, as one of the most profound with which the human mind has so far had to deal. And this is a conclusion to which everyone must come, who sets himself to its investigation with any degree of seriousness.

"The constitution of a State," says Edmund Burke, "and the due distribution of its powers, is a matter of the most delicate and complicated skill. It requires a deep knowledge of human nature and human necessities, and of the things which facilitate or obstruct the various ends which are to be pursued by the mechanism of civil institutions." [3] Again, the same writer, says: "The science of government requires experience, and even more experience than any person can gain in his whole life, however sagacious and observing he may be." [4] And further, "The nature of man is intricate, the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity; and therefore no simple disposition, or direction of power can be suitable either to man's nature, or to the quality of his affairs. When (he adds) I hear the simplicity of contrivance aimed at and boasted of in any new political constitutions, I am at no loss to decide that the artificers are grossly ignorant of their trade, or totally negligent of their duty." [5] A more modern authority has said much the same thing; thus:—"Legislation is so complex, that only those who give themselves wholly to the study can be acquainted with any considerable part of it. The true method of approaching a legislative measure assumes the form of a complicated logical and scientific problem." [6] Unfortunately, the bulk of our fellow-men do not take the same view. Those who have cast upon them the responsibility of electing the politicians or legislators of our day have formed their own opinions; and, what is more, [204] placed their own value upon their own abilities, in calculating the importance and correctness of those opinions.

Representatives for parliament appear to be chosen (if we can judge from the amount of confidence displayed in the operation) upon the assumption that a knowledge of politics, or of the science upon which they are based, is a matter of simple intuition; and that, in fact, the exercise of the franchise, or the correct criticism of a measure, is one of the most easily and lightly discharged of our every-day duties.

"A man," says Mr. Joseph Cowen, "is expected to serve an apprenticeship, or to pass a competitive examination for every profession save criticism and government. Legislators (he adds, somewhat ironically) are ready-made. Politics, however, are not personalities; yet the man who can rattle off a list of names and measures, with the chronological exactness of a sporting prophet, recounting the pedigree of a horse, is deemed a politician…. These personal data may be entertaining enough for gossip, but they are a trumpery contribution to the philosophy of government." [7]

We have heard a good deal from time to time upon the subject of direct representation for the working man, in parliament, a proposal which is, of necessity, based upon the supposition that it is not only possible, but out of the region of doubt that a journeyman could lay aside the tools, with which he has been engaged during the day in constructing a door or laying bricks, and, without any difficulty, take a really useful part in the making of laws for his country.

About two years ago a debate took place upon the question of "Payment of members of parliament," among the delegates present at an Intercolonial Trades' Union Congress held in the colony of Victoria. The proceedings have since been published and are indeed instructive. One member said, that it was necessary to give "an opportunity [205] to men who had every quality necessary to make a good legislator, but had not the means to live without labour, to enter parliament." Another speaker "maintained that there were as good men to be found among the working classes as ever sat in the legislative assemblies." These speeches were both cheered; so that we may infer that the sentiments which they expressed met with general approval.

It would, perhaps, not be very seriously entertained by these gentlemen, if they were told that they, in fact, possessed very few of the requisite qualifications; yet they have been frequently so informed already, and by "Liberals" of considerable authority.

Mr. Frederick Harrison, for instance, in a lecture on the "Political Function of the Working Classes," delivered in March, 1868, to the London Trades' Council, said, in his usual candid manner: "I tell you plainly that, in my opinion, if the people were to manage their own concerns they never would be worse managed. Manage your own concerns for yourselves!" he exclaimed. "Do you ever make your own boots and shoes, or turn your own enginedriver on a railway, or cut off your own leg when amputation is inevitable? If we all managed our own concerns for ourselves, we should be reduced to a state of the merest savages. Civilisation simply means the adjustment of parts to the most efficient hands—putting the round men in the round holes. We get our law done by men trained all their lives to the work. We get taught by professed teachers; we have our armies led by experienced and scientific generals; and if, in all things of life, great and small, we rely on men of special gifts and attainments, and know that even they can do us no good service, unless we entrust them with full freedom of action and concentration of power, how can we venture to dispense with these advantages, in the greatest and most difficult art of all—the art of government? What would be the result if the passengers in a [206] train insisted on turning this or that handle of the engine in the course of the journey; if we insisted on substituting one drug for another in a physician's prescription; if the operations of an army in the field were directed by the votes of the rank and file? Yet (he says) these are comparatively easy to the art of government, especially in these days. Of all quacks (he adds) distrust most those who tell you that it is an easy thing to govern such a country as ours." [8] Sir George Cornewall Lewis, one of the very highest authorities on this and kindred subjects, says: "There is no branch of human knowledge; no art or applied science, which may not be put in requisition for the purposes of civil government." [9]

The truth is that, in addition to government being a science, and an extremely complex one, very little is understood regarding it, even by those who most confidently profess a "practical" knowledge of its principles.

"In the great science of politics," [10] says the Duke of Argyle, "which investigates the complicated forces, whose action and reaction determine the condition of organised societies of men, we are still standing, as it were, only at the [207] break of day." [11] Can we then, in the face of these reflections, fortified, as they are, by endless authorities, resist the conclusion that the position and responsibilities of a law maker, or, as he is glibly called, a "politician," call for a special training, at least as difficult and laborious as that needed in other professions? Mill was of opinion that "there is hardly any kind of intellectual work, which so much needs to be done, not only by experienced and exercised minds, but by minds trained to the task through long and laborious study, as the business of making laws; [12] and Mr. Joseph Cowen is of much the same opinion, as are indeed all writers of eminence on the subject. "If," says Mr. Cowen, "the science of legislation is to be learnt, it must be cultivated. No man can do this in a day. It must be the labour of years, and to that labour must be brought the powers of a mind, prepared by previous training, and strengthened by preliminary discipline." [13]

However government may have been regarded in the past, by students of history and others, who have directed their attention to the theory of the subject, no past governments have thought fit, even if they were so inclined, to be guided by the true principles which underlie it. "If (says Humbolt) we cast a glance at the history of political organizations, we shall find it difficult to decide, in the case of any one of them, the exact limits to which its activity was [208] conformed, because we discover, in none, the systematic working out of any deliberate scheme, grounded on a certain basis of principle." [14] "There is (says Mill) no recognised principle by which the propriety of government interference is customarily tested." [15]

It may fairly be said that these statements regarding the scientific side of politics, and its complexity and profundity as a study, require some support in the nature of facts. One might, to that, reply that such authorities should be conclusive in themselves; but it is unnecessary to take refuge in such an answer, for the same writers have given sound reasons and facts for their conclusions, and some of the latter are indeed somewhat startling. In the first place the effect of measures is, as a rule, quite different to that which has been aimed at and expected. Indeed, it would be an extremely difficult matter to calculate the number of legislative disappointments which have resulted in our own history, by reason of this want of political knowledge; or the amount of harm which has, at different times, been inflicted upon society, as the result of abortive attempts at statesmanship. "Every great reform," says Buckle, "which has been effected, has consisted, not in doing something new, but in undoing something old. The most valuable additions made to legislation have been enactments destructive of preceding legislation, and the best laws which have been passed have been those by which some former laws were repealed…. We owe no thanks to lawgivers as a class; for since the most valuable improvements in legislation are those which subvert preceding legislation, it is [209] clear that the balance of good cannot be on their side. It is clear that the progress of civilisation cannot be due to those who, on the most important subjects, have done so much harm that their successors are considered benefactors, simply because they reverse their policy, and, thus, restore affairs to the state in which they would have remained if politicians had allowed them to run on in the course which the wants of society required." [16] Again, "It is no exaggeration to say that the history of the commercial legislation of Europe presents every possible contrivance for hampering the energies of commerce." [17] "For no government having recognised its proper limits, the result is that every government has inflicted, on its subjects, great injuries, and has done this, nearly always, with the best intentions." [18]

Here is an even stronger piece of evidence. "It would be easy to push the enquiry still further, and to show how legislators, in every attempt they have made to protect some particular interests, and uphold some particular principles, have, not only failed, but have brought about results, diametrically opposite to those which they proposed." [19]

If facts are needed we have not far to go for them. In a paper read to the Statistical Society, in May 1873, Mr. Janson, vice-president of the Law Society, affirmed that, "from the Statute of Merton (20 Henry III.), to the end of 1872, there had been passed 18,110 public acts, of which he estimated that four-fifths had been wholly or partially repealed." [20] Nor is this very strong evidence of the ignorance of legislators confined to remote times. Mr. Spencer has himself ascertained that (speaking of the time at which he wrote) "in the last three sessions of the English parliament there have been totally repealed 650 acts belonging to the present reign alone." [21]


Can one doubt, then, the soundness of the contention that the science of government is not the very simple study which most people imagine, but a science, in the strict sense of the word, involving a knowledge, and a profound knowledge of the laws "of human nature and human necessities," and of whatever other laws may regulate the operations and prospects of the numerous and varied institutions grown and growing up around us as a part of our social organisation? If, then, politics are a science, surely they should be so treated, instead of being dealt with in the haphazard immethodical manner adopted towards them by the bulk of our fellow-men.

Now, true Liberalism, as I understand it, is based on scientific considerations. It has regard for the happiness of all who comprise the state; not only for their immediate happiness, nor for the happiness of the present generation exclusively. It looks rather to the happiness immediate and remote; and of the race rather than of any single generation. Aristotle says: "Since, in every art and science, the end aimed at is always good, the greatest good is particularly the end of that which is the most excellent of all, and this is the political science." [22]

Bentham has defined the object of legislation to be the "greatest happiness of the greatest number," and Mr. Herbert Spencer, in his "Social Statics," has contended that such a definition brings one no nearer than before to the point sought to be defined. [23] The word "happiness" has certainly many objections, for it does not, in the minds of all men, bear the interpretation of the "greatest good." It might, and probably does mean, to [211] many men, a "short life and a merry one," which is certainly not "good" in the sense in which Aristotle used the word. A wise government must, as I have said, have regard to the real good of its subjects, and must not lose sight of the whole race, one generation only of which it is called upon to govern.

How best is that good to be considered? Not, certainly, by "feasting and wine bibbing," nor, indeed, by carelessly expending the wealth of a state over any single generation or age. Every government has entrusted to it the charge of a great inheritance, which has to be handed on, again, to its successors. If we were asked how any individual should live the most worthy and successful life possible, we should all agree tolerably well in our answer; but the multiplication of individuals somewhat complicates the problem.

A government should, no doubt, aim at the ultimate as well as the immediate happiness of the whole people. But how is this to be attained? That is the great problem which, in different forms, every legislator is called upon to assist in solving. Men will of course differ greatly as to the best methods to be adopted, in order to attain success. [24]

At the outset, we find it necessary to resort to human nature in order that we may first ascertain what it is that is to be governed. Man, as an individual, is the real starting-point, and a study of the individual is preliminary to a study of the group, which we call society. "To me," says Mr. Joseph Cowen, "politics are the science of mundane existence. The starting-point is the individual, free and self-centred." Before all things, man must see that he lives, and it therefore becomes necessary that he be allowed to do so, by his fellow-men. His first want, therefore, is security to the person. From this want springs [212] the necessity for the family or tribal combination, by which that security is, to some extent, obtained. It is, next, essential that he shall have food. If he live in any but a tropical climate, he stands in almost equal need of clothing and shelter from the elements. In a primitive state of society, the greater part of a man's time is occupied over these three wants, especially if he have offspring. In primitive society, men are also liable to famine, arising from failure in crops, failure in sport, or from illness and consequent inability to follow the daily calling. Man too, being naturally disinclined to exertion, will not, voluntarily, undergo more toil than is necessary to acquire sufficient to satisfy the wants of himself, and of those who have claims upon him. From this, it follows that, in a primitive state of living, men will not, without good reason, provide for the wants of others, unless such as nature has bound to them by, what we term, "ties of affection," "love," etc. In all communities, men are forced to either make provision for emergencies, or, as an alternative, suffer the consequences. In less civilised communities, where food or material for clothing are obtainable only at certain seasons, the more provident take care, and the less provident are forced to lay by more than sufficient for their immediate wants. Upon those who systematically neglect such providence, the law of "the survival of the fittest" inevitably operates, unless, indeed, as is sometimes the case, now-a-days, society offers encouragement to improvidence. From the above condition of things accumulation results, and, thereupon, a new necessity arises—that of preventing such accumulations from being taken by those who are, either too lazy, or too improvident to adopt similar precautions for themselves.

Here therefore, in the very infancy of society, there arises the necessity (life, even, depending on it), for "security for property." These may, therefore, be rightly termed the [213] first duties of government—"security to the person" and "security for property."

"Without security of property, and freedom to engage in every employment, not hurtful to others, society can make no considerable advances." [25] "Therefore," adds the same writer, "we have, first, to consider the means of obtaining security, and protection." [26] "The great and chief end," says Locke, "of men's uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property." [27]

There is an obvious reason in thus regarding this principle as paramount. The safety of society depends upon accumulation. The uncompromising character of the laws of nature is a principle firmly established in the mind of every observant person; and it is a remarkable and noteworthy fact that, though many of our fellow-beings honestly believe that supernatural interference can be brought to bear upon the natural operation of those laws, in answer to human requests, yet, those very persons neglect no effort to resist or divert the operation of the laws themselves, by natural means. [28] Man, in a primitive condition, is liable to a hundred and one dangers, of which famine is the most terrible. Where any tribe, or larger community of men, is content to depend, for food and clothing, upon that which can be obtained from day to day, its members are in constant danger of this greatest of all calamities, and, while such a possibility is impending, no feeling of safety or security can exist in the minds of those over whom the danger hangs. Hence follows the importance of this particular function of [214] government—the giving security to property; [29] and, up to a certain point, it may be also said that the extent of happiness of a people will be in correspondence with the extent of its accumulation, since it will be, thus, the farther removed from the condition of danger which famine would entail. Accumulation, therefore, and human happiness itself, depend upon security for property.

Having then obtained this security for the person and for whatever food or property may be acquired, and seeing further that, up to a certain point, the greater the accumulation, the greater the happiness, it becomes necessary to enquire what is the next want for which society calls. It is acknowledged to be "freedom." Now, why is freedom, or liberty a necessity among men, and what do we mean by the expression?

Mr. Herbert Spencer answers the question for us from first principles. "Animal life," he says, "involves waste; waste must be met by repair; repair implies nutrition. Again, nutrition pre-supposes obtainment of food; food cannot be got without powers of prehension, and usually of locomotion; and that these powers may achieve their ends, there must be freedom to move about. If you shut up an animal in a small space, or tie its limbs together, or take from it the food it has procured, you eventually, by persistence in one or other of these courses, cause its death. Passing a certain point, hindrance to the fulfilment of these requirements is fatal. And all this, which holds of the higher animals at large, of course, holds of man." [30]

Without freedom, it is obvious that man could not choose the time, place, means, or methods of obtaining the requirements of life; and, as I shall show hereafter, the more [215] crowded a community becomes, and the more artificial the condition of living within it, the greater the necessity for freedom to the individual, upon whom depends the responsibility of a livelihood for himself, and perhaps for others. Therefore, as Locke says, "the end of law is not to abolish, or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom." [31] The argument stands thus: The object of man (upon which all sane people must be agreed) is to be happy. The first essential to that end is that he may live. In order to live, others must be prevented from killing him. Hence the necessity for "security for the person." To maintain life the body must be nourished. Food, therefore, is essential; and inasmuch as the uncertainty of supply of food renders life precarious, it is also essential, to man's continuance of life, that he should accumulate. Security is essential to accumulation, for without it man would have no encouragement to accumulate. Security, however, being obtained by common consent and common assistance, it becomes necessary to offer every additional encouragement to accumulation. A certain amount of freedom is indispensable to that end, and beyond that, the greater the freedom, the greater the chances of accumulation, provided that the freedom be sufficiently limited to enable every member of the community to enjoy the same protection and security; that is to say, "the liberty of each, limited only by the like liberty of all." [32]

Let us pass away now from these considerations regarding a primitive condition of society, to those regarding a more advanced form. In the latter, the necessity for freedom becomes, as I have said, even greater than in the former. With an advanced civilisation comes division of labour, and the much more elaborate requirements of our daily life. It becomes almost a physical impossibility for any individual to live as he might do in a primitive community. All the [216] circumstances which surround him combine to force him into the more artificial and complex mode of existence. He is compelled to devote himself to the acquirement of some special knowledge, possibly very indirectly connected with the production of food, in order that he may obtain the means of livelihood; for, having had afforded to him, by society, some guarantee regarding the safety of his person, he is compelled to effect an exchange, with some other member of society, of his special knowledge for a supply of the necessaries of life, or for some other medium by which those necessaries can be obtained from a third person. On account of the adoption by society of the principle of "division of labour," he finds himself unable to produce these necessaries for himself, and he is thus forced to devote himself to some occupation which will be most valuable for the purposes of exchange with his fellow-citizens. Every individual needs, then, the fullest freedom to choose that occupation for which his nature and abilities best suit him, in order that he may obtain the largest amount of exchangeable value with which to purchase those necessaries of life. Moreover, eating, drinking, sleeping, and generally rendering oneself and one's belongings comfortable in life, are only a small part of man's mission. To have secured such ends is certainly the first duty of every citizen, and security and liberty are absolutely essential in order that they may be attained. But man has other wants besides the mere bodily ones. With leisure, and the opportunities for reflection, such as are, or can be enjoyed by every man in our present civilisation, there come desires, even yearnings, for far higher satisfactions. According to the constitution of our minds, or the nature of the early training which we have undergone, we find ourselves inclining in the direction of certain occupations, accomplishments, or amusements. One discovers, and finds pleasure in cultivating a faculty for painting; another for literature; a third for music. One is [217] led, by the bent of his mind, into the mazes of philosophy and abstract speculation; another finds pleasure in mechanics; while a third is drawn to the study of nature, either in the direction of astronomy, geology, or, may be, natural history. Many are content to concentrate their attention, wholly, upon the happiness and improvement of their fellow-beings, while others prefer to leave the busy haunts of men and lead the life of a recluse, in some occupation of a more primitive character. As Joseph Cowen has said, "Every human being has an organisation peculiar to himself. He has his own life to live, his own work to do, and no one can live the one or do the other for him. It is with man as with nature. Each plant grows by itself, in the sunshine or the shade. The thistle gives no laws to the convolvulus. The oak and the willow have their different growths; the rose and the daisy their different forms and hues. But each has its separate function, and each its distinctive beauty. In humanity there is the same unbounded diversity. So all men, however different their capacity, should have equal liberty of germination. The same sun warms them, and the same wind breathes to them melodiously. Let each have the space and the culture most fitted for the unchecked unfolding of his powers. One man is a heretic; another is orthodox. Give both equal liberty to preach their doctrines." [33] This liberty to open up one's individuality is not for one only, or for any particular class. It is essential to the happiness of all. The race, the nation, the city, the village, are made up of individuals, all, if we could but ascertain, possessing, and desiring the realisation of, some ideal. The liberty to "followup" that ideal is essential to individual happiness and, therefore, to the happiness of the nation, of which the individuals are but the units. "That a good man be 'free,' as we call it—be permitted to unfold himself, in works of [218] goodness and nobleness—is," says Carlyle, "surely a blessing to him, immense and indispensable—to him and to those about him." [34] "Reason cannot desire for man any other condition than that in which each individual, not only enjoys the most absolute freedom of developing himself by his own energies, in his perfect individuality, but in which external nature even is left unfashioned by any human agency, but only receives the impress given to it by each individual, of himself and his own freewill, according to the measure of his wants and instincts, and restricted only by the limits of his powers and his rights." So says the famous Von Humbolt, [35] and he adds that this principle "must, therefore, be the basis of every political system." [36] Such a principle would secure what Joseph Cowen calls "a clear and equal course," so that victory might go "to the wisest and the best." By it, the paths are opened up to wealth, success, honour, fame, everything, in fact, worth man's aspirations. "Personal liberty," says Cowen again, "develops individual energy, and raises the level of human dignity, by inspiring, in it, sentiments of self-reliance." [37] "Every human being," he repeats, "has a quality peculiar to himself, that distinguishes him from every other human being that has been, that is, or will be. Those distinctive qualities constitute his character, and his life. To develop those attributes—moral, intellectual, and physical,—is his mission. To accomplish this mission, he requires freedom, without which there can be no responsibility, and equality, without which, liberty is a deception." [38] Hear, too, what Mr. Bright has said upon the same subject:—"Do you not know that all progress comes from successful and peaceful industry, and that, upon it, is based your superstructure of education, of morals, of self-respect among your people, as well as every measure for extending and consolidating [219] freedom in your institutions." [39] "For liberty," says Burke "is a good to be improved, and not an evil to be lessened. It is not only a private blessing of the first order, but the vital spring and energy of the state itself, which has just so much life and vigour, as there is liberty in it." [40] This principle of liberty is no new doctrine, though it has been preached in vain, in many ages, and in many lands. Aristotle dwelt upon it upwards of two thousand years ago, whilst Eastern nations lay mouldering into oblivion, for want of it.

Having defined a democracy to be "a state where the freemen and the poor, being the majority, are invested with the power of the state," as distinguished from an oligarchy, in which "the rich and those of noble family being few, possess it," he adds: "The very foundation of a democratical state is liberty." And, further, a criterion of that state is "that everyone may live as he likes, for this is a right peculiar to liberty, since he is a slave who must live as he likes not." [41] Just as history, the record of all political experiments, shows what liberty has accomplished for those who enjoyed its many and great blessings, so it discloses the melancholy existence and end of nations, which expired for want of it. "The nations," says Sir Erskine May, "which have enjoyed the highest freedom, have bequeathed to us the rarest treasures of intellectual wealth, and, to them we owe a large measure of our own civilisation. The history of their liberties will be found concurrent with the history of their greatest achievements in oratory, literature, and the arts. In short, the history of civilisation is the history of freedom." [42] But what of the other side of the picture? What is the history of those countries in which this great principle, this great motive power in human nature has been ignored, and, as it were, stifled out of existence? The same [220] authority, whose opinion in the fields of comparative politics and comparative history, is of high value, says, of the Asiatic mind: "It has failed to reach the mental elevation of the West. It has proved itself inferior in religion, in morals, in science, and the arts; and above all, in freedom, and the art of government. Not only has liberty been practically unknown through thousands of years: it has been even ignored in theory. Never did the founders of Eastern religions, or lawgivers, or philosophers, dream of it. Not a word is to be found in the Vedas concerning freedom, or national rights. The Buddhists, indeed, favoured the doctrine that all men are equal; but it was barren, until quickened, a thousand years later, by Christian faith; and wherever Buddhism has flourished, first in India and, afterwards, in China, Japan, and Eastern Asia, liberty has been beyond the conception of the races who have embraced that religion. Not even in Indian poetry or song is utterance given to any sentiment of liberty." [43] Let us now examine the nature of this great national characteristic, concerning which so much has been said. What is liberty? Where does it begin? and what are its limits, if it has any?

The word in its primary signification means "freedom to do as one wishes; freedom from restraint." That is, in fact, the condition of primitive man, before such a thing as "law" is known. It is, in truth, the condition of the animal world, subject, as in the case of primitive man, to one limitation only, viz., physical capability.

It requires no explanation to show that this is not the meaning which attaches to the word, in the sense in which it is being here advocated. Under such conditions, society would be impossible—would become anarchical. We have already seen that one of the indispensable conditions of the happiness and progress of humanity, when raised above the level of the savage, is "security," whether of the person, or of [221] what is termed "property." This security is not compatible with such an extended and unqualified liberty. To be able to "do as one wished"—to be "free from restraint"—would mean to be allowed to injure or destroy others, whose existence or presence was objectionable. It would mean one man being allowed to take the property of another, merely because he enjoyed superior physique. It would, as I have said, mean anarchy, and, if not mutual destruction, certainly mutual injury—social stagnation and disorganisation.

It is evident, then, that the kind or extent of liberty, which is calculated to encourage industry and the accumulation of the necessities and luxuries of life, and which is essential to the mental and moral development of a people, is not that which is signified by the word in its primary meaning. We must look for the true signification in the same source, but subject to certain important limitations. Liberty in the sense in which I understand it, and in which I take it to be used by those writers from whom I have quoted, means "the freedom to do as one wishes; freedom from restraint—subject to the same or equal freedom in our fellows," or, to use the words of Mr. Herbert Spencer, "the liberty of each, limited only by the like liberty of all."

Sir George Cornewall Lewis, in his valuable treatise on "Political Terms," says, "Persons who speak of liberty in general; of the blessings of liberty; of the cause of liberty, may be understood to use the word to denote an immunity or exemption from certain restrictions, which they consider as pernicious to society." [44] Sir James Mackintosh says that liberty is "security against wrong," and Blackstone defines it thus:—"Political or civil liberty…is no other than natural liberty, so far restrained by human laws (and no further), as is necessary and expedient for the general [222] advantage of the public." [45] This definition leaves, unexplained, the extent to which it is "necessary and expedient" to restrain "natural liberty," by human laws, for "the general advantage of the general public." It is sufficiently clear, however, from it, and the preceding observations, that the liberty which men originally possessed should be lessened only so far as to secure equal liberty to all.

This, then, is the conclusion at which I arrive by what I conceive to be a scientific investigation of the conditions of man's progress and development—that in order to obtain for a community the largest aggregate amount of happiness, each member of it should have secured to him the most absolute freedom or liberty; subject only to such limitations as are necessary in order to secure equal freedom or liberty to all other members. And this I contend is the true principle of "Liberalism," whether tested by the light of the sociological science, or by the political history of our race.

Having then ascertained the true principle upon which this particular school of politics is founded, it is necessary to consider, still further, what are its functions in regard to practical legislation. If it were about to be applied to the regulation of a newly constituted society, there would be little difficulty in determining the proper course to be pursued. Seeing that the units of such a community are, in a primitive state, in possession of absolute freedom, limited only by the physical capabilities of each, all that would be necessary would be to enact laws which would prevent any one or more of such units from depriving any other one or more of their fellows of the same amount of liberty enjoyed by himself or themselves. It would be [223] found essential to provide against bodily trespass of all kinds, which would include injury to the person and interference with personal freedom. It would be found essential, also, to provide against the usurpation, by one or more of property, lawfully acquired by others of their fellows.

As the community progressed and developed, and other classes of rights grew up, it would be found necessary to protect them in a similar way. The number, and extent, and nature of such rights would depend upon the stage of civilisation which the community had reached. But, whatever they might be, so soon as all members of the community were, alike, protected from the invasion of their individual freedom, the "home" functions of the governing power (however constituted it might be), would, for the time being, be exhausted, until some new class of rights, not previously dealt with, had been similarly protected.

It would, simultaneously, become necessary for the governing power to take steps for protecting the community, as a whole, from outside, or, as it is termed, foreign aggression, lest, otherwise, the liberty of the whole should be jeopardised; and, with this view, the governing power would be justified in calling upon each member of the community to contribute his proportion of assistance (or some recognised equivalent) towards the general security. This would, in a civilised community, take the form of conscription, or of taxes for the maintenance of land or sea forces, or both. In the same way, with a view to rendering effectual the laws for the security of liberties against internal attack, the governing power would be justified in calling upon each member of the community to contribute his proportion towards the maintenance of the police and the judiciary, with all their necessary and incidental adjuncts.

Having accomplished all this, the governing power would have exercised the whole of its immediate functions, and have merely to watch for the development of new liberties, [224] requiring protection, as also for any threatening dangers from within or without.

With the completion of such a policy, it would be found that each member of the community was in the enjoyment of the most absolute liberty, subject only to such limitations as were necessary, in order to secure equal liberty to all members.

But, with regard to practical legislation, that is to say, legislation applicable to the times in which, and the circumstances under which we now live, the case is quite different. Legislators are not now called upon to arrange a "newly-constituted" community, but, on the contrary, to regulate, and in some cases to reform, a very old and complicated one, interwoven with traditions requiring careful and delicate treatment. We are living in a time which stands many centuries later than the period at which many of the existing laws and customs were originated and enacted. Society is surrounded by legislative restrictions, in the enactment of which the present generation has taken no part; and, as a consequence, those who profess to legislate on true Liberal principles are confronted with a twofold duty. First, to watch over and preserve, in their integrity, the liberty of their fellow-countrymen, subject only to equal liberties for all. Secondly, to examine, closely, the legislation of our ancestors, and, after careful investigation, endeavour to repeal such as they find to have been enacted in contravention of true principles.

Liberalism, in the nineteenth century, therefore, is charged with a second function, which would not pertain to a community newly constituted.

It will be observed that in the definition of Liberalism, at which I have arrived, no provision whatever is made for depriving the stronger, or the more capable, in any way, of the right to enjoy, to the utmost, the fruits of that superiority, so long as he regards the like liberty in others. [225] Under such a principle of government, as practised in a primitive community, the swiftest, or the keenest, or the most ingenious hunter would obtain, and have secured to him, when obtained, the largest amount of sport. If a member of any tribe, more anxious than others in regard to the comfort of his family, chose to spend a greater part of his time in the erection and decoration of a dwelling, he would have secured to him the fullest enjoyment of the result of his labour. If, on the other hand, any member of such a tribe, either from stupidity or laziness, neglected to provide himself with the requirements of existence, he would, nevertheless, be forced to have regard to the rights and liberties of his fellows, and be restrained from helping himself to the fruits of their labour and exertion. Such a person, having failed to display the necessary qualifications of a self-supporting unit of society, would be thrown upon the charity or good nature of his fellows, instead of acquiring a claim to any proportion of their accumulations. In a more advanced society, such as that in which we are now living, citizens, standing in a somewhat analogous position to the community, are fre quently encouraged, rather than discouraged, by reason of the indiscriminate charity of society.

It will be seen at a glance that by such means as those mentioned above, the swift hunter and the keen sportsman would be incited to become still more swift and more keen, while, on the other hand, the stupid member of the tribe would, by force of circumstances, be aroused to a keener condition of mind, and the lazy would be ultimately starved into a condition of physical activity, and thus compelled to exert himself in the chase, as others around him were doing. By the operation of such principles, the whole tendency of a people would be in the direction of a higher development, and an improved method of living. The effects of such principles, upon a people, living in a more advanced state of civilisation, would [226] be the same; though, necessarily, more complex and more subtle in their operation. In both cases, there would be a strong influence in the direction of self-reliance; there would be no tendency towards equalising men, but rather towards rendering more prominent the inequalities in human nature, which operation in its turn would engender emulation, and lead to an uniform progression.

The best, that is to say the most capable in the qualities essential to success in life, would find their reward in that superiority; and by reason of the maximum amount of freedom enjoyed by everyone, there would be no position of honour in the community, and no kind of success in life, which would not be open alike to the humblest and the most pretentious member of it.

Having, then, progressed so far with my chain of reasoning, and in order that I may not be suspected of originality in my theories, (a charge which, if sustained in connection with a subject so time-worn as that with which I am dealing, would be almost inevitably fatal to its acknowledgment or reception), let me show how identical, in every respect, are the conclusions, at which I thus arrive, with those deduced by certain authorities already famous in the "Liberal" cause. "Liberal principles," says Mr. Joseph Cowen, "what are they? The first is equality. I do not mean equality of social condition. That is a speculative chimera that can never be realised. One man owns his clothes, and another owns a county. If they were equal to-day, they would be unequal to-morrow. I mean equality of opportunity—a clear and equal course, and victory to the wisest and the best. That is practicable," he adds, and then, "I would remove all artificial impediments and restraints that make the path of progress tedious and painful." [46] "Liberty," he says, "is the second Liberal principle. By liberty, I mean much more than liberty of locomotion, or liberty to buy in the cheapest [227] or sell in the dearest market. I mean liberty of thought, speech, and development. Physical liberty constitutes us free agents; intellectual liberty gives us the power of acting up to our sense of right and wrong; religious liberty enables us to make the decisions of our consciences our rule of conduct; and civil liberty gives us the unchecked opportunity of growth. The idea running through these definitions is that of self-sovereignty. If our volitions do not originate with ourselves we have not personal freedom; if our convictions are controlled by our prejudices, and our consciences controlled by our passions, we have neither mental nor moral freedom; if we have to practice or pay for modes of worship, imposed by others, we have not religious freedom; and if any power assert the right to inflict upon us laws or taxes without our leave, we have not civil freedom."

Elsewhere the same authority says: "Without physical liberty a man is a machine; without moral liberty, he is the victim of his appetite; without mental liberty, he is a slave; and without political liberty, he is a serf." [47] No practical politician of our time has touched so frequently and so trenchantly upon this important question, and no one has, outside literature, told the masses such home-truths with regard to the modern tendency to ignore these principles.

Mark, now, the definition of Liberalism which has been given by Mr. Henry Broadhurst, and which has, already, more than once, been touched upon. It is, perhaps the most concise and scientific which has yet been offered, with relation to modern tendencies; and, coming as it does, from one who owes his present position in the political world to the freedom which has resulted from Liberalism in the past, it acquires all the more value.

"I am a Liberal," he says, "because the true, full, and free application of Liberal principles is best calculated to promote the highest order of manhood. It teaches [228] self-reliance, and gives the best opportunites to the people to promote their individual, as well as their united and best permanent interest. Liberalism does not seek to make all men equal: nothing can do that. But its object is to remove all obstacles erected by men, which prevent all having equal opportunities. This in its turn promotes industry, and makes the realisation of reasonably ambitious hopes possible to the poorest man amongst us." [48]

To the same effect is a definition by Mr. Burt, equally entitled, from the nature of his political career, to speak with authority upon the beneficial effects of civil freedom. Liberalism, he says, is "the doctrine, not of equality of wealth and position, but the doctrine of equality of all before the law—of equality of opportunity."

Here, again, is the same leading principle, pithily expressed by the editor of a prominent Liberal journal, enjoying one of the largest circulations in England. "I desire," says that authority, "the triumph of the Liberal cause, which means progress, the growth of freedom, and the advancement of the general good." [49] Yet another of those who were interrogated upon this important subject, and whose answers are contained in the volume, to which I have before referred: "Liberal principles develop responsibility; responsibility educates and humanises, and the fully educated man is the most serviceable member of the social organisation." [50] The same subject has been dealt with from another and totally different quarter, but nevertheless with great clearness and force.

The late Rev. F. W. Robertson, of Brighton (England), whose versatility enabled him to throw considerable light on every subject he touched, gave to a body of working men the following good advice:—"Democracy (he said), if it means anything, means goverment by the people. Now let us not endeavour to make it ridiculous. I suppose that [229] a sensible democrat does not mean that all individual men are equal in intelligence and worth. He does not mean that the bushman, or the Australian aboriginal, is equal to the Englishman. But he means this—that the original stuff of which all men are made is equal; that there is no reason why the Hotentot and the Australian may not be cultivated, so that, in the lapse of centuries, they may be equal to Englishmen. I suppose (he adds), that the democrat would say there is no reason why the son of a cobbler should not, by education, become fit to be prime minister of the land, or take his place on the bench of judges; and I suppose that all free institutions mean this. I suppose they are meant to assert:—Let the people be educated; let there be a fair field and no favour; let every man have a fair chance, and then the happiest condition of a nation would be that, when every man had been educated, morally and intellectually, to his very highest capacity, there should, then, be selected, out of men so trained, a government of the wisest and the best." [51]

It will be observed that, in all these definitions, wherever mention is made of the necessity for removing obstacles, care has been taken to distinguish between those which exist in the individual himself, and such as have been placed as obstructions to individual freedom, by human agency. Hobhes puts this in his usual quaint style, in the chapter of his "Leviathan" entitled "Of the Liberty of Subjects:"—"When the impediment of motion is in the constitution of the thing itself, we use not to say it wants the liberty, but the power to move; as when a stone lieth still, or a man is fastened to his bed by sickness."

Mr. Cowen speaks of "artificial impediments and restraints." Mr. Broadhurst speaks of "obstacles erected by men," and elsewhere Mr. Cowen again says, "Health and wealth, industry and thrift, capacity and endurance, are [230] irregularly distributed, and will favourably handicap those endowed with them, in the race of life. These inequalities we cannot obliterate; but all artificial hindrances that stand in the way of individual effort; of free and full mental expansion ought to be cleared away." [52]

All obstacles which "stand in the way" ought, undoubtedly, to be removed—that is to say, obstacles not of nature. Those which are of nature, or, as Hobbes puts it, "in the constitution of the man himself," we cannot and must not obliterate. If we try to do so we shall inevitably fail: we shall simultaneously obliterate our civilisation and our progress. As Sir James Fitzjames Stephen has cleverly put it: "To try to make men equal by altering social arrangements is like trying to make the cards of equal value by shuffling the pack." [53] If we endeavour to keep back the industrious and the thrifty till those, less fortunate, have come up to them, we cannot possibly expect to progress. The able, the industrious, the ingenious, the thrifty, cannot exercise their respective forms of activity if they be retarded for the benefit of the less qualified. Besides, who is to judge between temporary incompetence and incapability, on the one hand, and sheer indolence and absolute indifference on the other?

Liberalism secures to every man the fruit of his labour, or of his ingenuity, and by so securing it to him, encourages improved methods of work and production. It is, in fact, a system of rewards, inasmuch as whoever runs and wins may have that which he has so obtained. If this were not so guaranteed to men, certainly few would compete for the rewards which life offers. If property were not secured, no individual would exert himself to accumulate; there would be little cultivation and refinement—in short, the minimum of civilisation. And if Buckle is right, when he says, [231] "that of all the great social improvements, the accumulation of wealth must be first, because without it there can be neither taste nor leisure for that acquisition of knowledge on which the progress of civilisation depends," then a community in which these principles were ignored would practically stand still. "The man who works has the right, and he alone, to the creation of his work and sacrifice. No confederation or commonwealth has any right to trench upon a man's personal possessions and rob him for the world's benefit. The things that are produced by him, purchased by him, or given to him by others, who fairly own them, are his and no others. But it may be said he has a superfluity, while others want. Possibly. Still the state cannot honestly or wisely sequestrate. If it could, what would follow? The man would cease to labour. He would not work, if the fruits of his toil were to be confiscated. He may give of his free will out of his abundance. That may be a moral obligation, but his obligation to give does not entitle the state to take. The institution of property, and its security are the basis of civilisation and liberty." [54] In order, now, that the practical application of Liberal principles to the past may be clearly comprehended in their two-fold operation, let us turn to history and briefly investigate the part they have played in the principal epochs out of which it is made up.

The early history of England begins (i.e., from the Conquest) in a condition of society under which the king was a veritable despot, and his nobles or co-conquerors had, vested in them, privileges of the most comprehensive nature; a condition of society, in fact, in which (to use the words of Macaulay) "a cruel penal code, cruelly enforced, guarded the privileges, and even the sports of the alien tyrants." It can be readily understood that, under the circumstances of the Norman Conquest, the conqueror himself, and his nobles. [232] should refuse to recognise any laws which might have the effect of restraining their power over the people. If there were any such laws in existence, which, as it were, covered the people from previous kingly abuses, they were all now at an end, and practically a dead letter.

The king ascended the conquered throne as an absolute ruler. Subsequent events show that he claimed, and (by virtue of the physical force of his followers) exercised the power to tax, imprison, and govern, when and how he pleased, the subjects of his newly vanquished realm.

England, as a community, may be said to have started a new period of history under the Plantagenets, with absolutely none of their original liberty preserved to them. They were, as a matter of fact, in a state of bondage, inasmuch as the king could do just as he pleased with them, and their possessions, while the nobles enjoyed almost equal powers with the king himself. So soon as each subject was by that means placed at the mercy of the king, by reason of the royal usurpation of popular freedom, each and every decree, action, and determination, by which the monarch signified the limitation of that freedom, involved the erection of an "artificial restriction," which it thenceforth became one of the functions of Liberalism to remove, as soon as an opportunity offered. Each one of these limitations so imposed, became, in the words of Mr. Broadhurst's definition, an "obstacle erected by men," which prevented each subject of the realm from enjoying "equal opportunities" with the nobles, who, after all, were subjects like themselves, though of a more favoured caste, such as true Liberalism does not, and cannot recognise.

De Lolme, in his "British Constitution," lays down the following classification of "private liberties":—"Private liberty," he says, "according to the division of the English lawyers, consists, first, of the right of property—that is, of the right of enjoying, exclusively, the gifts of fortunes, and all [233] the various fruits of one's industry; secondly, of the right of personal security; thirdly, of the locomotive faculty." [55]

It is needless to say that the inhabitants of England, under William the Conqueror, did not enjoy any of these liberties. Blackstone says: "The spirit of liberty is so deeply implanted in our constitution, and rooted, even in our very soil, that a slave, or a negro, the moment he lands in England falls under the protection of the laws, and, so far, becomes a free man." [56] It is equally certain, however, that such a condition of things did not obtain in the Conqueror's time, and must have dated from a period long subsequent to the accession of that monarch, as I shall now show.

Regarding the first of the three divisions, viz., the "right of property," it is quite evident that no attempt was made to observe it; for, as Macaulay says, "The country was portioned out among the captains of the invader;" and we have seen, elsewhere, that in order to render the confiscation as complete and comprehensive as possible, certain of these "nobles" were granted by their monarch, as many as six, seven, and even eight hundred estates, respectively, belonging to the conquered people. Again, Hume tells us that "ancient and honourable families were reduced to beggary, the nobles themselves (that is the English nobles) were everywhere treated with ignominy and contempt; they had the mortification of seeing their castles and manors possessed by Normans of the meanest birth and lowest station, and found themselves carefully excluded from every road which led either to riches or preferment." [57]

Regarding the second of the three divisions, viz., the right of personal security, equal indifference was displayed. Hume tells us, again, that the English people, who had been deprived of their freeholds by inheritance, and compelled to take up the subordinate positions of under-tenants, [234] were required to swear allegiance to their respective barons in the following words: "Hear, my lord, I become liege man of yours for life and limb and earthly regard, and I will keep faith and loyalty to you for life and death. God help me." Lower still than this class were the ceorls or villeins, with even less liberty and security of life. The feudal system had, in fact, as Hume says, "reduced the whole people to a state of vassalage under the king or barons, and even the greater part of them to a state of real slavery." Thus, it will be seen that the second class of liberties, mentioned by De Lolme, were taken from the English people. The "locomotive faculty," as the third class is called, would follow with the second, inasmuch as it was impossible that the English people could be reduced to such a state of serfdom as is above indicated, and yet retain the liberty to move about at will. Thus, then, as I have said, England, as a community, may be said to have started a new period of history, under the Plantagenets, with absolutely none of their original liberty preserved to them.

While this remained so, those who had liberty, viz., the Normans, enjoyed some degree of prosperity, while those who had been, as I have shown, thrown back to a condition of comparative barbarism, fell, for a time, into a state of absolute stagnation.

But the spirit of freedom, which was implanted in the breast of the English people, could not, for all time, be thus confined and restrained. Discontent and social unrest must have sooner or later shown itself, for the Conqueror himself granted a charter in which it was conceded that "all freemen of our kingdom shall enjoy their land in peace, free from all tillage, and from every unjust exaction." Here, we find the first dawning of Liberalism on the darkened horizon of English subjection and oppression; and, it will be observed that that first symptom took the form of "security for property." It is scarcely to be expected that either a [235] monarch by conquest, or his heirs, would willingly consent to giving up that which they regarded as their spoil—viz., the right to govern how, and with what amount of despotism he or they might think fit. Nor did they. Though much was frequently promised, in moments of pressure and emergency; those promises were, as a rule, more "honoured in the breach than the observance;" yet each confession was a step towards the great goal of Liberalism: and so it seems to have been received.

In 1100 we find Henry I. anxious to ingratiate himself with his people. He promised "the people their liberties," that "the distinction of Englishman and Norman should be heard no more." One of the terms of that monarch's celebrated charter was that the vassals of the barons should enjoy the same privileges which he granted to his own barons. This charter again was not observed with any degree of care by him who had granted it, but it marked "the new relation which was thus brought about between the people and their king."

We pass now to the reign of John, a king who was as impatient of restriction upon his power as any monarch well could be. I need not dwell here, as I have done in a previous chapter, upon the struggles which preceded the granting of Magna Charta; nor need I recapitulate the causes which ultimately led to a coalition between the nobles and the people, in defence of their common liberties. "Hitherto" says May, "the barons had fought for themselves alone; now they became the national leaders, in maintaining the liberties of England." That great Charter secured, as Hume says, "very important liberties and privileges to every order of men in the kingdom—to the clergy, the barons and the people." The Charter, itself, is bristling, from beginning to end, with references to the "liberties" and "rights" of the subject; and a cursory examination of its main provisions, such as I have given in [236] a previous chapter, will show that the spirit of Liberalism was fast blossoming and making itself felt as a power, which nothing could resist. That chapter is of most importance which began: "No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his freehold, or liberties…but by lawful judgment of his peers." Personal freedom and security of property were the two prominent principles which inspired that great bulwark. Hume says: "Men acquired some more security for their properties and their liberties."

Passing from this epoch to that which secured the ratification of the Petition of Right, we find a further concession to the principle of security; for, by that ratification, the king bound himself never again to impose taxes, or, in any way, demand money from his subjects, except by their own free consent, expressed through parliament.

The Habeas Corpus Act, by confirming the sacred principle of personal liberty, which had been clearly laid down by the terms of the Great Charter, made the right more distinct, and more certain for the future. The Revolution, of 1688, practically confirmed all past concessions to the public liberty, and, in a firm and decisive manner, broke the neck of royal despotism in England. The curtailment of popular liberties, by the direct action of royalty, was practically at an end with the Revolution; but the struggle for equal opportunities was by no means completed then; for, with the final disposal of Royal demands, there still remained a condition of things, under which the government, and the consequent inequitable distribution of civil burdens, and civil privileges, was left in the hands of a limited, and, too often, selfishly-motived class, who took care, at all times, and, under all circumstances, to legislate in that manner, best calculated to forward their own interests. I refer generally to the aristocratic and moneyed classes, who, practically, absorbed the [237] legislative power previous to the Reform Bill of 1832. "Look," says a modern writer on Reform, speaking of the treatment of the people by the legislature between 1688 and 1832; "Look," he says, "at the statute-book, and see the long array of revenue laws and game laws. Look at the laws for protection of property; protection against trespass; protection against creditors. Look at the long series of Corn Laws; laws putting down combinations of workmen to protect themselves against the rapacity of their masters; criminal laws against workmen, to compel them to fulfil their engagements; laws to compel men to work at such wages as a magistrate chose to fix. Look at the laws prohibiting public meetings, and the discussion of grievances—at the variety and extent of indirect taxation, that made living, to the poor man, almost impossible—at the frightful punishments for the smallest offences." [58]

An endless array of authorities might, in fact, be quoted to show that, down to a few years ago, whatever class legislation was passed, conferred its advantages always in one direction, that was in favour of the aristocratic and wealthy section of society, who happened to be more fully represented in the legislature. If history is carefully followed, therefore, and attention paid to the principles which underlie it, as it works down to our own time, it will be seen that so soon as that class of liberties, with which royal despotism had persistently interfered, had been rescued, and permanently held by means of a final curtailment of kingly prerogative, Liberalism found a new and extensive field, upon which to exercise its equalising functions. It was gradually, and (as popular power was realised) more vividly realised that society, as a whole, was surrounded by restrictions upon "the people's" liberty. It became more and more apparent that the masses were not in the enjoyment of those "equal opportunities," which it is the function of true Liberalism to [238] secure for all; and an investigation of the greater number of the legislative reforms which have been effected since 1832, will reveal the fact that parliament has been chiefly occupied in securing that "equality of opportunity," which is the chief, and, in truth, the only aim of Liberalism to consummate. This field has been, ever since, the battle ground of Liberalism and Conservatism—the former, as is its function, ever striving to abolish class restrictions of all kinds; the latter ever striving to prevent their destruction or removal, professedly on the ground that "the people" were not competent to wield, and therefore not entitled to possess that equal power which would be thus acquired.

The struggle for, and acquirement of independence, by the Anglo-American colonists, who had migrated from the old to the new world, once for all laid down the principle that, so soon as an offshoot of the mother country became self-supporting, the members of it should become entitled to self-government: that is to say, should be freed from the restrictions which a distant government involved, and from the principle of taxation, which is an exception to the right of security of property, justifiable only when necessary to contribute towards the protection of the liberties of those upon whom the taxes are being imposed.

The oppressive state of the law which led to the great reform known as "Catholic Emancipation" was unworthy of modern times, to which its repeal was delayed. It is, indeed, scarcely credible that, in the nineteenth century, in which we are now living, there should have been, in the parliament of Great Britain a large body of men, so dead to the principles of common justice and liberty, from which they themselves had derived so many blessings, that they should be found willing to continue so long the exclusion from parliament, and from other even more primitive liberties, a large portion of their fellow-countrymen, for no other reason than that of a difference in religious creed. Yet, so [239] it was; and thus it was reserved to our own century, to remove from some millions of our fellow-men a restriction which would have been more in keeping with what are termed "the dark ages." The Reform Bill, of 1832, simply equalised parliamentary representation, by a more equitable distribution of the seats, and the bestowal of a more extended franchise. In the words of Mr. Justin McCarthy, already quoted, it "broke down the monopoly which the aristocracy and landed classes had enjoyed, and admitted the middle classes to a share of the law-making power."

The repeal of the Corn Laws was, in fact, the abolition of a state of things, by which every man, woman, and child in the kingdom, who consumed bread, or any other article of which grain was the primary ingredient, was compelled to contribute to the artificial maintenance of the agricultural industry of Great Britain. Such a restriction upon the subject was an interference with the liberty of the citizen to "buy in the cheapest market." The repeal of those laws set the people free in that direction.

It requires no comment or explanation to prove that there was a distinct bestowal of more equal opportunities effected, in the admission of Jews to parliament; and it is equally unnecessary to show how a like result was obtained, by the passage of the Trades Union Act of 1871, the immediate effect of which was that any person could become a member of one of those combinations, without forfeiting any of his privileges of citizenship.

The Ballot Act, in the same way, gave every subject the liberty to vote as he chose. Inasmuch as many persons, by reason of intimidation being brought to bear upon them, were frequently compelled to vote contrary to their judgment or conviction, it was necessary to prevent any undue pressure from being brought to bear, by giving each elector the right of voting in secret, by ballot, if he thought fit.


Thus, it will be seen that, from the Conquest downwards, freedom has been fought for, and won, by a gradual but sure process of wresting, first from the sovereign, and afterwards from the aristocratic and moneyed classes, the unequal power which they, respectively, had arrogated to themselves, when they had might upon their side.

As each successive stage of progress has been reached, the people have acquired a further share in the deliberations of that body, by which all "rights" and "opportunities" are regulated. Thus, there has at last been reached, a condition of society, under which (with some few exceptions) all men may be said to enjoy the "equal opportunities" for which, and for which alone, true Liberalism contends.

It would be indeed difficult, in our own day, to point to any feature in the laws of England, or of our self-governed colonies, and show that, by reason of that feature, any citizens are deprived of any individual liberty, beyond that which is essential to restrict for the general protection and good of all members of the community; and it would, also, be well to ask ourselves, from time to time, what obstacle, which can be said to have been "erected by men," can be now pointed to, by which any other citizen is suffering a deprivation of "equal opportunities," enjoyed by any other of his fellow-citizens. So soon as that social condition has been reached, by which each member of the community enjoys "equal opportunities," then will have been attained the ideal of true Liberalism; and such a condition of things having been (with some few exceptions) realised, the chief objects of legislation will have been served. Parliament is not an end, but only a means. If "equal opportunities" have been secured by parliament, then the principal functions of that body are, for the time being, at an end.

But in any case, the determination of such a question will at all times require the closest investigation of any supposed restriction; for it will frequently happen, by reason of the [241] great disparities among men, in wealth and social position, that envy and jealousy will be engendered; and the inability of one class to attain to the position and circumstances of another will be hastily attributed to the possession, by that other, of some legal or political advantages over and above those of the class whose envy has been so excited. Upon a closer investigation, supported by a knowledge of sociology, it would be discovered that such differences are really attributable to obstacles of nature, such as want of ability, want of application, improvidence or some other negative quality possessed by the more unsuccessful class. A hungry man is not over nice in his logic, and will readily and confidently attribute his inability to procure a meal, or other necessities, to some conspiracy among capitalists, or to the abuse of some economic laws, with which he is not familiar, or has only the most superficial knowledge.

In the same way, as I shall show hereafter, poverty will exhaust every other means of accounting for itself, before it will consent to refer it to some disqualification for success in those who fail to lift themselves out of such a condition.

Mr. Bright has said, in one of his speeches, that most of the great reforms for which he laid himself out, at the commencement of his political career, have been effected; and there can be no doubt that if a condition of "equal opportunities" is the goal of true Liberalism, as I contend it is, then that condition has (with some few exceptions) been already attained in all English-speaking communities.

It would, as I have already said, be difficult to point to any existing law which upon close and careful investigation will be found to constitute "an obstacle" to any member of the community enjoying "equal opportunities" with any other of his fellow-men. What exceptions there are I shall deal with in a future chapter. The present position of women as members of a commonwealth is certainly open [242] to very much doubt, and I would go so far as to confess that I regard the present numerous restrictions upon that class, in the legal disqualifications for taking their equal part in political matters, as a distinctly neglected feature of true Liberalism.

The fact of being a woman is no protection against the numerous penalties provided under the law for particular offences against society, and it therefore follows that every woman who is not by marriage or otherwise represented in the legislature is simultaneously held amenable to a code of laws in the making of which, and in the reform of which she is debarred from taking part. As it has been tersely but convincingly put: "Women are admitted to the gallows and the gaols, but not to the franchise." The one principle upon which manhood suffrage is justifiable renders female suffrage equally unanswerable.

Beyond this question there are undoubtedly others of less importance, which still offer a field for the efforts of true Liberals. The unnecessary and inconvenient restrictions upon the transfer of landed property are wrong in principle, and were only established for the purpose of preventing estates passing out of the hands of the particular families in whom they were vested. Any such laws are clear interferences with the freedom of the individual, and should be removed, since they are "obstacles erected by men."

But, as I have said, there are not now any "crying" abuses of power, in the shape of class privileges; and, therefore, the (what may be termed) "heroic" days of Liberalism have passed away, at least for a time. Henceforth the more important function of that school of politics will be to watch closely and carefully for the development of new rights and liberties, needing to be protected from invasion, and for fresh attempts on the part of any class, however large, to trespass on old rights which, in the meantime, are being respected. That is, as I shall endeavour to [243] show in the next chapter, the great danger of our time, and the one which it will be an important function of Liberalism to watch in the immediate future.

Inasmuch as, in the past, so much political power has been possessed by monarchs and the aristocratic and wealthy classes, to the detriment of the labouring classes, and, as a consequence, every liberal measure aimed at securing equal opportunities has had the effect of conferring a larger and increasing amount of liberty upon the latter, throughout a period of some centuries, the idea has become almost a cardinal principle with the "working" classes that every measure which has that effect must of necessity be a liberal measure. That has, in fact, with most of the class mentioned, become the only test of Liberalism in any measure, and the danger, to which I refer, consists in the general adoption of such a test, in the future.

If I am right in laying down, as the fundamental principle of Liberalism, that each individual should have secured to him the most absolute liberty, subject to such restrictions only, as are necessary to secure equal liberty to all, then it follows that the state should take no steps to curtail the liberty of any class, merely because it will confer an immediate advantage upon another class, even though that other class happen to be much larger or more influential politically than the former.

Yet sound as this may be as a principle, it is by no means acknowledged. The masses of the people talk glibly of "the majority," and seem to have concluded that so long as that preponderance be secured, anything which it may determine must of necessity be right, and, now that the masses of the people are beginning to realise the enormous political power which the continuing enlargements of the franchise are conferring upon them, they are showing a strong tendency to resort to that identical class of legislation which it has been the traditional aim of true Liberalism (under different names) [244] to counteract and gradually erase from the statute-book. The tendency is, in fact, towards what I should term a democratic Toryism —a school of legislation conceived in the interests of a particular class of society, viz., the masses.

In the published report of "The Second Intercolonial Trades' Union Congress," which was held in the colony of Victoria, I find, under the heading of "Direct Representation of Manual Labour in Parliament," a resolution moved and unanimously carried, urging "upon labour organizations, in the various colonies," to elect a parliamentary committee to assist in framing measures "for the benefit of labour." Under the heading of "Payment of Members," in the same publication, I find it stated, with approval, that "it should be the object of the delegates to break the monopoly of representation down, so as to have direct representation in the interests of the working classes."

This is only an echo of what is apparent on all sides of the political horizon—the test of wisdom or justice in a measure being whether it has a majority in its favour. Now, according to the principle for which I am contending, this kind of test is absolutely fallacious, and, if relied on, and acted upon, calculated to lead to every kind of legislative extravagance.

The Marquis of Lorne, in his answer to the question, "Why am I a Liberal?" said, pertinent to this consideration: "Civil and religious freedom are the fruits of its past victories, and I am a Liberal, in the hope that freedom from tyranny, of mob or monarch, will be the safeguard of its future triumph."

If the function of the state is limited, as Mr. Herbert Spencer puts it, "to preventing the aggressions of individuals on each other, or to the protection of the nation at large against external enemies," [59] then the fact that a majority is to be found in favour of a particular measure [245] should be no guide whatever where its enactment will have the effect of depriving others, even though a smaller number, of their rightful liberties. The majority is, in the estimation of many great authorities, really no criterion of either wisdom or justice. "Why," says the Bishop of Peterborough, "am I to place unlimited confidence in a majority? Are majorities always in the right? Have they never in times past been in the wrong? Have minorities never been in the right? Is it so in private life? Are the majorities of each man's acquaintance persons in whom he reposes unlimited confidence; and, if not, why must it be so in public life?…I hold that there may be as much unwisdom, and what is more, as much injustice and tyranny, where the many govern the few, as where the few govern the many; and, further, that if there be such tyranny, it is the more hopeless and the more universally present tyranny of the two." [60]

"If ever," says De Tocqueville, "liberty is lost in America, the fault will be with the omnipotence of the majority, in driving the minority to despair." [61] And Mill has said, "that the institution of society should make provision for keeping up,…as a shelter for freedom of thought, and individuality of character, a perpetual and standing opposition to the will of the majority."

The truth is, the principle which I have ventured to lay down here will not admit of this appeal to heads, as a test of the propriety of any sort of legislative interference.

Every man and every woman must be allowed to "unfold" as he or she may think fit; and in every branch of life there must be the maximum of freedom of action, limited only by a due regard for the equal liberties of one's fellows. Nature herself teaches us the use and advantages of self-help, and on every side discovers to us what can be done under circumstances which are calculated to encourage [246] or incite feelings of emulation or competition. "The law of nature," says Locke, "stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others." "The natural effort," says Adam Smith, "which every man is continually making to better his own condition, is a principle of preservation, capable of preventing and correcting, in many respects, the bad effects of a political economy, in some degrees, both partial and oppressive."

John Stuart Mill goes even further, and points to the inevitable effects of neglecting to regard this law. "A people," he says, "among whom there is no habit of spontaneous action, for a collective interest—who look habitually to their government to command or prompt them in all matters of joint concern—who expect to have everything done for them, except what can be made an affair of mere habit and routine, have their faculties only half developed; their education is defective in one of its most important branches." The same writer elsewhere says: "The cultivation of the active faculties by exercise through the whole community is itself one of the most valuable of national possessions." And again, "In proportion as the people are accustomed to manage their affairs by their own active intervention, instead of leaving them to the government, their desires will turn to repelling tyranny rather than to tyrannising…. Let alone, in short, should be the general practice: every departure from it, unless required by some great good, is a certain evil."

The popular objection, which would be at once offered to these principles, is that they are selfish; and that to put them to practice would in every case allow the strong, physically and mentally, to secure an advantage over the weak. But it must be remembered that the state would always have the right, and be in duty bound, to step in at that point at which the exercise of the principle of "self" involved the curtailment of the "equal liberty" of others. As to the exercise of the principle of self-interest, it would [247] be wrong to regard it otherwise than as the very tap-root of human progress. The Duke of Argyle even, who is one of the keenest opponents of a selfish materialism, has well said, "The interests of self, justly appreciated, and rightly understood, may be, nay indeed must be the interests also of other men—of society —of country—of the Church and of the world."

The same writer, speaking of Adam Smith, and referring to the mass of "meddling" legislation which existed prior to his time, says, "He found positive institutions regulating and restricting natural human action in two different directions. There were laws restricting free interchange in the products of labour itself, and there were other laws restricting the free employment of labour. He denounced both. Labour was deprived of its natural freedom by laws forbidding men from working at any skilled labour unless they had served an apprenticeship of a specified time. It was also deprived of its natural freedom by monopolies, which prevented men from working in any trade, within certain localities, unless allowed to do so by those who had the exclusive privileges. The first mode of restriction prevented labour from passing freely from place to place; the second mode of restriction, from passing freely even in the same trade. Both of these restrictions were as mischievous and as destructive of their own object as restrictions in the free interchange of goods. They both depended on the same vicious principle of attempting to obtain, by legislation, results which would be more surely attained by allowing every man to sell his goods and his labour when, where, and how he pleased. The labour of a poor man was his capital. He had a natural right to employ it as he liked. And, as for protecting the community from bad or imperfect work; that would be best secured by unrestricted competition…. Natural law was the best regulation of both. Such were the doctrines of Adam Smith, then new in the world." [62]


And, again, he says: "It was his (Adam Smith's) labour to prove that in the rude contrivances of legislation, due account had not been taken of the natural forces with which it had to deal. He showed that among the very elements of human character there were instincts and desires and faculties of contrivance, all of which by clumsy machinery had been impeded and obstructed and diverted from the channels in which they ought to work." [63]

I cannot refrain from setting forth here an eloquent and philosophical passage from Macaulay, upon the present branch of my subject, which was quoted in an able article in the Edinburgh Review of October, 1885, entitled "Plain Truths and Popular Fallacies."

"It is not," says Macaulay, "by the intermeddling of the omnipotent and omniscient state, but by the prudence, energy, and foresight of its inhabitants, that England has been hitherto carried forward in civilisation, and it is to the same energy, prudence, and foresight that we shall look forward with comfort and good hope. Our rulers will best promote the improvement of the nation by strictly confining themselves to their own legitimate duties; by leaving capital to find its most lucrative course, commodities their fair price; industry and intelligence their natural reward; idleness and folly their natural punishment; by maintaining peace; by defending property; by diminishing the price of law, and by observing strict economy in every department of the state. Let the government do this and the people will assuredly do the rest."

This passage contains, in a summarized form, the whole duty of the legislator, and the last sentence contains a covert admonition which would be a blessing to impress indelibly upon the mind of every man who takes the humblest part in the government of his country, viz., after attending properly to the duties enumerated above, to "let [249] the people alone" and leave them to manage their own affairs for themselves, so long as they do not unduly interfere with one another, and thus prevent the equally free exercise of faculties, and the equally free use of their possessions, by all members of the community.

Mr. Gladstone, most popular of Liberal statesmen, whose earlier utterances were more in harmony with the true principles of Liberalism than those of later years, wrote to Mr. James Stansfield a letter which has been reprinted in the Contemporary for October, 1885, in an article entitled, "Liberal Programmes." "Liberalism," says Mr. Gladstone, "has ever sought to unite freedom of individual thought and action, to which it so largely owes its healthy atmosphere, with corporate efficiency."

Mr. Stansfield himself, in the same article, adds, "There is one safe test, I think, by which to judge such measures: we should never yield to the temptation of them, unless we can first satisfy ourselves that, if successful, they will not at once or later undermine and sap, but, on the contrary, that they will give new life and vigour to independence of character and habit of mind, and to the spirit and capacity of self-help and self-control."

Again, in an article in the Nineteenth Century, for November, 1885, Professor Edward Dicey makes the following comparative statement of the real Liberalism, and the new creed, as being promulgated by what has been termed the Birmingham school of politicians. "Individual liberty," says Mr. Dicey, "freedom of contract, the superiority of private contract over state action, the right of every man to do what he thinks fit with his own, so long as he does not infringe the liberty of others, open competition as between purchaser and seller, capitalist and labourer—these are the main planks of the old liberal platform in respect of Home politics." In the same article, the writer goes on to say:—"The substitution of state control for [250] individual action, the creation of a new peasant proprietary by the compulsory sale of private lands, a system of graduated taxation by which capital is to be mulcted for the benefit of labour, the introduction of local government boards under which local bodies throughout the United Kingdom are to exercise the functions now discharged by the Imperial parliament—or, in plainer words, the introduction of Home Rule—the providing of gratuitous education for the poor at the cost of the ratepayers, the legislative limitation of the hours of labour—these," says Mr. Dicey, "are only a few of the measures which the Radicals have proclaimed their intention of promoting as soon as they are in a position to do so. These measures are, one and all, based upon the principles which underlie Socialism, as distinguished from Liberalism."

There is a principle in the law of evidence by which a greater value than usual is attached to certain testimony upon the ground that it is "against the interest" of the witness. The principal authority on that subject says: "The ground upon which this evidence is received is the extreme improbability of its falsehood." Having this principle in view, I have endeavoured as much as possible, in the treatment of this subject, to draw as many as possible of my various definitions and illustrations of true Liberalism from the most illustrious Liberals themselves. Regarding this feature of the subject, indeed, my difficulty has been rather to discriminate as to which to choose of the profusion of quotations I have at hand, than to find a sufficiency in support of my contention. There is one which aptly points the moral regarding the danger of legislative interference, as effecting the national character. "We cannot," says Mr. Jefferson Davis, "legislate to destroy the motive of self-interest; for that lies at the foundation of material progress." [64]


Mark, too, the weighty opinions of M. Léon Say, of whom the Times speaks as "the eminent French statesman and economist." Presiding at a meeting of the Liberty and Property Defence League at Westminster, he said in his address: "The functions of government ought to have well-defined limits, and there are limits which could not be transgressed without entailing misfortunes on mankind. Civilisation itself," he added, "would be in peril if governments were allowed to go beyond the limits of their natural functions and attributes." "Liberal economists," he continued, "were determined to take their stand on the solid ground of observation, and not to deviate from the principles of experimental science. Experimental science showed that human society was a natural fact. Society was not the result of a contract; it was the very condition of humanity…. Two principles appeared dominant. They were necessary for society, and were, so to speak, its springs. Those principles were individual energy and personal responsibility. It was impossible to conceive a human society which should not be animated, as it were, by those two principles…. If government did not respect those two principles, it destroyed society, and turned men aside from the paths of progress, to throw them back on their previous course. Governments which respected these principles led humanity in the ways of civilisation, while other governments exposed them to the risk of losing the way and of going back into barbarism." "Every law," he added, "which assailed individual energy, or which diminished individual responsibility, was a law which passed beyond the legitimate powers of the state, and might, according to circumstances, produce decadence, or mark a period of retrogression in the development of civilisation."

The moral to be drawn from all this has been well and succinctly put by M'Culloch, in his treatise on Political [252] Economy. Dealing with the subject of government interference he says:—"It cannot be too strongly impressed upon those in authority that non-interference should be the leading principle of their policy, and interference the exception only; that in all ordinary cases individuals should be left to shape their conduct according to their own judgment and discretion, and that no interference should ever be made on any speculative or doubtful grounds, but only when its necessity is apparent, or when it can be clearly made out that it will be productive of public advantage…. Whenever legislators set about regulating, they are treading a path encompassed with difficulties; and while they advance with caution, they should be ready to stop the moment they do not see the way clearly before them." [65]

It cannot be too carefully remembered that almost every clause of an act of parliament, if it have any force or effect at all, takes away a liberty from somebody, because it must of necessity speak of something which shall or shall not be done where before it was optional.

The utmost care and caution needs, therefore, to be observed in order that it may first be ascertained whether, in so limiting somebody's liberty, a more equal distribution of liberties generally is being brought about. If this is not being done, the measure is not Liberal in the true sense of the word. "It ought," says Burke, "to be the constant aim of every wise public council to find out, by cautious experiments and rational cool endeavours, with how little, not how much of this restraint, the community can subsist; for liberty is a good to be improved and not an evil to be lessened."

Assuming, then, that this advanced state of Liberalism has been reached in any country—that by dint of popular effort, and representative advocacy, the condition of "equal opportunities" has actually been realised—what is the policy [253] of Liberalism? My answer is to preserve that state of things; to watch, as I have already said, for any attempts to encroach upon that domain of freedom or "equal opportunities," and to see that no new rights or liberties, which may be developed in our ever-evolving social organization are left unprotected from aggression by any one, or any number of citizens.

If, therefore, Conservatism be taken in the present day to mean merely a maintenance or preservation of institutions as they are, then society, having reached the desired social condition at which Liberalism aims, we should have the two political schools, Conservatives and Liberals, embracing the same policy; and this reflection appears to have been experienced by Mr. Joseph Cowen when he wrote the following passage:—"Many a man," he says, "inherits his political opinions as he does his property. Political faith is largely a matter of sentiment, disposition, and training. The working classes, up to a certain era in English history, were, as a rule, conservative. They certainly were Conservatives during Mr. Pitt's régime. Since then they have been Liberal, and Liberal because the Conservatives refused to concede them political rights. They have now got those political rights, and stand on the same level as other classes; and no doubt they will be Tory or Liberal, according to circumstances." [66] This was all said at an election meeting in answer to the question, "Why should not a working man be a Tory?" Conservatism is, however, by no means understood or professed according to this interpretation, by all who embrace it as a political title. It too frequently means, in the mouths of its followers, a distinct refusal to recognise the equality of men in their rights and privileges. It is too frequently supposed by the more fortunate, and more delicately nurtured side of society, that the distinction among men in wealth, education, and [254] social position, is of an innate and permanent character; and that what are called the working classes, constitute a distinct species of human nature, designed by Providence for the purpose of doing the rough and objectionable work of the world.

Such persons would debar "the people" from the franchise; from liberty to organize among themselves; from liberty to enter parliament; from liberty to acquire a higher education, and if possible to lift themselves into a higher level of life and a higher sphere of society.

With such doctrines and such desires, true Liberalism has no sympathy. By it, as I have fully shown, all men are equal—not in wealth or position, or ability; but in "the eye of the law." The ideal is, as Mr. Herbert Spencer has put it, "to see that the liberty of each man to pursue the objects of his desires is unrestricted, save by the like liberty of all." Thus will be afforded to every citizen, what Mr. Cowen has called "a clear and equal course," and by such means "the victory" in life will be allowed to go to "the wisest and the best."






"It would be easy to show how legislators, in every attempt they have made to protect some particular interests, and uphold some particular principles, have, not only failed, but have brought about results diametrically opposite to those which they proposed."—BUCKLE, History of Civilisation.

"The substitution of government direction for the play of individual action, and the attempt to secure by restriction what can better be secured by freedom."—HENRY GEORGE, Progress and Poverty.

"Experience hath plainly taught in the said town that the said act hath not only not brought the good effect that then was hoped and surmised, but also hath been, and now is likely to be the very greatest cause of the impoverishing and undoing of the poor artificers and others, at whose suit the said act was procured."—Extract from an Act of Parliament of the Reign of Elizabeth.

THE above quotations should sufficiently explain, in general terms, the purpose of the present chapter, and the application of the title which I have adopted for it. In dealing with the very numerous instances of falsely-conceived legislation, which are afforded by historic and modern times, and which I have collected from different sources in order to illustrate the theories for which I am contending, I have found it necessary to divide this portion of my subject into two parts—the first containing those instances which may be fairly placed under the head of "historic;" the second containing those which more correctly come under the heading of the "present day."


I have applied the term "Spurious Liberalism" to both divisions—each of which occupies a chapter—though the instances enumerated under the former were enacted at a time when the word "Liberalism" had not yet been adopted as a political term.

The nature of that older legislation, however, is so identical in principle with the more modern school, that I have, notwithstanding, preferred to treat them both under that head. The principal objectionable feature which characterises all those historic, as well as those modern instances with which I purpose dealing, is that they have the effect of either curtailing the liberty of citizens instead of widening it; involving the State in commercial pursuits instead of leaving that field to private enterprise; or of interfering with the recognised rights of property—in each case, too, to an extent beyond that requisite for the general good, up to which point there could, of course, be no objection. English history presents us with an abundant crop of legislation to which the term "Spurious Liberalism" can fairly be applied, though, nevertheless, it was placed upon the statute-book at a time when the working classes had only a very partial voice in the government of the country.

While the gradual growth of freedom, which I have endeavoured to trace in previous chapters, was going on: stimulated, from time to time, by the growing confidence of the people, and the more frequent expression of the popular wishes, there were certain other features of Liberalism which failed to receive anything like clear recognition, even by the people themselves who were most immediately interested. The broad principles of freedom had certainly been recognised, and understood in the earliest times, even by the dullest classes of citizens; for it required the minimum of intelligence to discern the advantages of liberty of locomotion, for the person; liberty to do as one wished with one's own property; liberty to believe, and worship, in [257] accordance with the particular creed which happened to be most popular in one's own time. These broader features of Liberalism were the first to be recognised and valued by the masses of the people, if not as principles of a studied political science, yet as human wants of a very practical and necessary character. But there were other important features which were not so clearly understood. There were, in fact, other phases of personal freedom which were not so quickly, if at all discerned, in the times of which I am about to speak. I refer to such matters as freedom of commercial intercourse and interchange; freedom of contract in the natural rise and fall of wages and in the conditions of labour; freedom of individual taste and expenditure in the more private concerns of life. These were matters which, in many cases, affected the poor and the rich alike, but principally the poor, who, in their meagre parliamentary representation, enjoyed few opportunities for effectual protest. One can only account for the continuance of those which materially affected the better classes, who did enjoy representation, to the fact that, not being familiar with the fundamental economic laws which are now so widely understood, they were not prompted to any practical resistance. It is highly probable, too, that, for want of knowledge of these fundamental principles, most people rested satisfied with the vague belief (which exists to a large extent in our own day) that in some way or other, though not very clear, such restrictive legislation produced some good to somebody. This is, in fact, the only feasible explanation of the widespread belief in Protection in our own time. In the period which elapsed between the reign of Henry III. and the abolition of the Corn Laws, there existed a most universal ignorance among legislators, regarding the very fundamental principles of what is now termed "political economy." It is tolerably evident, indeed, from history, that an act of parliament was considered to [258] possess something of a creative faculty, by which it could really produce positive benefits, that is to say, could confer them on one class of society, without, at the same time, subtracting them, or the means by which they were obtained, from some other class. It is now generally recognised by all persons, who have read or thought beneath the surface of things, that the comforts of life can only be produced by human exertion of some kind; that though machinery (which the working classes have, from time to time, abused) can much facilitate the production of those comforts, still, previous exertion has to be stored up in order to produce that machinery; and that parliament, which after all, is only a large debating society, cannot, by any magic process, produce something out of nothing—can only, in fact, and that by an improper use of its power, compel one citizen to transfer something to another citizen. An act of parliament, therefore, cannot confer positive advantages on any section of its citizens, except by first taking those advantages, or the means of obtaining them, from some other section of its citizens. This simple—I might almost say primitive—truth has required some centuries for men to find out; and, even in our own day, there are thousands who have not yet fully realised it. This fundamental error lies at the root of all the falsely-conceived legislation of past and present times. In historic times, indeed, there were few men who knew the error of this view, for the science of political economy was almost unknown. In the present day this class of legislation is proposed and enacted in the very face of this knowledge; and many of the men who assist in that enactment ignore, by so doing, all the history of their forefathers, and all the science and political philosophy of their contemporaries.

I propose, therefore, to divide my subject into two branches, enumerating, under the present heading, all those instances which arose under the earlier state of economic knowledge—from the time of Henry III. to the time of the [259] Corn-Laws repeal—and, in a subsequent chapter, all those instances which have been and are being proposed, in our own day, notwithstanding our possession of the facts from history and from science, which, if studied, would inevitably lead to a more correct view of such matters. As I have already said, political economy is a comparatively modern science, practically dating from the time of Adam Smith, whose treatise was published a little over a century ago. [1] It teaches that the operations of society, in relation to commerce, are regulated by ascertainable laws, and that any anticipation of the good effects of any such law, in one direction, must, inevitably, be followed by a corresponding forfeiture of advantages in another direction. For instance, when in the reign of George II. a bounty was paid on the exportation of corn, in order to encourage the agricultural interest, it was little thought that the incentive, thus offered to exportation, would prove so effectual as to lead to corn acquiring an almost fabulous value in the producing country itself, and, as a consequence, to give rise to serious riots. Yet, such was the fact; and, subsequently, when the other extreme was resorted to, by actually prohibiting the exportation of corn, and laying an embargo on all ships laden from British ports, the authors of the law equally lost sight of the fact that what they were doing would have the effect of paralysing the national shipping interests. Yet such also was the case.

Now, in both these instances, the legislation referred to had been prompted by the very best intentions, though the result, in each case, proved that the authors failed to foresee the ultimate effects of their measures, which, in the light of modern economic knowledge, would now be predicted by any person of moderate political education. The first of [260] these laws was conceived for the encouragement of the agricultural interest; the second, with the purpose of removing the dearth of corn, which, according to Hume, "so much distressed the poorer class of people." These were distinct instances of a spurious Liberalism; for, though appearing at first sight to promise national benefits, the liberty of the taxpayer was, in the one case, infringed by his being compelled to contribute, through the revenue, to the granting of a bounty for the purpose of bolstering up a particular industry, for the benefit of a particular class; while, in the second case, the liberty of the agriculturalist was infringed by preventing him from selling to a foreign purchaser, willing to give him a higher price for his corn than that which was obtainable in his own country. These are only individual instances of a far-reaching misconception, by means of which commerce was hampered for purposes which were never to be realised, and interfered with in such a way as to discourage all attempts at development. All such laws had, sooner or later, to be revoked, that is to say, repealed, and the mere repeal was in its turn looked upon as a reform. [2]

It was only by a series of experiences of this kind that men came, at last, to understand the principles of what we term political economy. Now, during the period over which so much of this experience was gained, that is to say over which we find commerce almost strangled with abortive legislative restrictions, the government of the country (England) was really in the hands of the monied and better educated section of society. If any class should have known how hopeless were such attempts, it was the class who then more or less monopolised the governing power. But, as I have said, the world was only learning political [261] economy, and at a considerable cost to its commerce and its social advancement. To this fact, alone, can we attribute those great and numerous legislative errors. Consider, for a moment, the position of affairs in the present day. The science of political economy has been expounded by some of the greatest intellects of our century; treatises, without number, have been placed within the reach of the poorest citizen, and the subject has been taught in every university, as well as in many of the best schools in every English-speaking community. Every educated man knows, or, at least, has been taught those principles; and the mistakes of our forefathers have in fact become our heritage, from which we are enabled to draw morals for our own political guidance. The fundamental truth, for instance, which underlies the theory of Freetrade is trite among properly educated persons, and, as Mr. Bright said some time ago, it is difficult to understand "how reasonable men ever thought otherwise." If this be so, it may be fairly asked how it is that, notwithstanding the great advance in political education, so much of what I have called misconceived legislation is still being passed in such a community as that of Great Britain? The answer is obvious. The class who formerly held the preponderance of the governing power, and who, themselves, were parties to the misconceived legislation in earlier times, of which I have spoken, have certainly corrected their view of political questions; but—and this is the reason for which I am seeking—meanwhile, the governing power has been passed on to the masses, who, unfortunately, are almost as little versed in political principles, as were the more educated classes before Adam Smith's time. Parliament is, of necessity, the mirror of the political opinions entertained by those who elect it, and one of the natural but also unfortunate consequences of representative government is that candidates are always forthcoming to advocate the unwise as well as the wise expressions of public opinion. There is [262] reason to believe that, as time progresses, the masses will make a more familiar acquaintance with sound political principles, and resist, more than they have hitherto done, the overtures of aspiring candidates who are not disinclined to stultify themselves in order to win the approval of those who can turn the scale at election time. Thus, then, though the better educated classes of the present day are familiar with political principles, the fact that the government has, to a great extent, passed out of their hands into those of the masses renders the chances of wiser and more far-seeing legislation somewhat remote. A review of some of the modern and impending legislation, which I shall undertake in a future chapter, will, I think, go far to show that society is just now in as great danger, from the passing of misconceived measures, as it was in those remote times to which I have alluded. Every important extension of the franchise brings in to the electoral fold a fresh detachment of the less provident and less reflective section of society. Each of such detachments constitutes a new disturbing factor in the periodical expression of the public opinion, and the effect of such a disturbance in the formation of that opinion, whether for good, or for evil, depends upon the amount of wisdom which is possessed in determining their wants, and the amount of judgment which is exercised in wielding the power by which that determination is expressed. The mere fact of such a detachment having been hitherto excluded from the franchise is, in itself, evidence of having been under age, or of having wanted means; and it would be a mere truism to assert that both youth and poverty are, as a rule, unaccompanied by a large amount of political or any other wisdom. The net result of the Franchise Act of 1885 has been carefully set forth in "The Radical Programme" as follows:—"The parliament of 1880 was elected by three millions of electors, of whom it was estimated one-third were of the working classes. The next [263] House of Commons" (now sitting) "will be elected by five millions of men, of whom three-fifths belong to the labouring population." [3] The Act of 1885 therefore added two millions to the franchise, principally of the agricultural-labourer class. This has been the dream of Radicals for years; yet, hear what the author of the "Radical Programme" says of the class from which this new detachment has been taken:—"The English masses are nearly impervious to political ideas…. The people know vaguely what they want…. There never was a time when instruction was more sorely needed on all these topics." [4] Elsewhere the same authority says:—"It is for the people's leaders to indicate to them the precise methods and instruments by which their wishes may be realised." [5]

The modus operandi is then as follows:—All men are, of course, aiming at wise government. Two more millions of electors have been added to the electoral roll of Great Britain, who are "impervious to political ideas;" who "know their wants only vaguely;" and who are "in sore need of instruction on political topics." These two millions are to express "their wishes," and certain other persons, having heard those "wishes," are to carry them out. These latter persons are, in Radical phraseology, to be called "leaders," and the sum and substance of this whole process is that we are to approximate more closely than before to a "wise" government—that is to say, to a government working in the real interests of the "whole people"! Will such a series of propositions stand the most superficial logical analysis? The future is indeed not promising, but let us not venture on prophecy. Let us turn now to the past. The investigation which I shall now make of "Spurious Liberalism," in its historic instances, will prove that the repeated attempts to produce happiness or success for the people, by Act of Parliament, have not only failed to effect their purpose, but, [264] in many cases, produced results entirely opposite to those which were intended and anticipated. It will, at the same time, be noticed that, in a large number of instances, the matters dealt with were of the most private and trivial nature, which could have had no real concern for anybody but the individuals themselves, and certainly not the remotest for the government of the country, or for the people at large, whom the government are supposed to represent.

I shall first deal with those interferences with national commerce, which form part of the material from which Buckle deduced the conclusion that "the history of the commercial legislation of Europe presents every possible contrivance for hampering the energies of commerce." Those interferences were principally with the natural supply and demand of the necessaries of life, such as corn, meat, and wool; and a study of them will show how vain and profitless were, and almost must be, the attempts to improve upon the ordinary economic laws by which the English people are now content to allow their markets to be ruled.

In the reign of Henry III. an assize of bread was fixed—that is to say, a statute was passed with the object of regulating prices. [6] Hume says, in reference to it:—"Yet did the prices often rise much higher than any taken notice of by the statute." [7] The state, in fact, did not succeed in regulating the prices, for they rose notwithstanding the statute. It was, in short, an attempt to keep down the price of bread, but it is evident that the object of the legislative restriction failed to effect its purpose. Even if such an enactment had effected its authors' aim, no argument is necessary to show that such a restriction would have worked an injustice on the holders of corn and the sellers of bread, by depriving them of the liberty of selling it to such persons as would purchase it at the best obtainable price.


In the reign of Edward III. (according to Hume), by far the most considerable of England's exports was that of wool. The king placed an imposition of forty shillings on each sack exported: thus again interfering with the laws of supply and demand, and trespassing, for no legitimate purpose, upon the liberty of those citizens, whose interest it was to export and dispose of abroad, for the best price obtainable, their law-fully acquired commodity. The same monarch, in order to give an artificial stimulus to the woollen manufacture, offered protection and encouragement to foreign weavers, and enacted a law, prohibiting everyone from wearing any cloth but that of English fabric. Later, in the same reign, the exportation of wool was absolutely prohibited, as also that of manufactured iron. [8] This was done with a view of compelling foreigners to come and buy in the English markets; and, lest the law should be evaded, the penalty for a breach was fixed at "death and confiscation."

The policy of parliament, during various periods of this reign, became unbearably interfering. It attempted, what Hume characterises as "the impracticable scheme" of reducing the price of labour, as also that of poultry. [9] A reaper, in the first week of August, was not allowed above twopence a day, or near sixpence of our present money; in the second week, a third more. A master carpenter was limited, through the whole year, to threepence a day; a common carpenter to twopence a day, money of that age. [10]

In the following reign (Richard II.), parliament complained (as might have been expected) of the decay of shipping, and attributed it to the fact that the king had authorised frequent seizures for purposes of war. They asserted that one seaport had contained "more vessels than were then to be found in the whole kingdom." [11] [266] Notwithstanding this very distinct lesson, as to the effect of such arbitrary conduct, the same complaint had to be repeated in Edward's reign, and again in that of Richard. In the 27th year of Edward, parliament took upon itself to fix upon particular towns of England as the markets for wool, leather, lead, and certain other commodities. Next it was removed to Calais. The object of this interference with the commerce of the country was to enable foreigners to be invited to a definite market. This scheme likewise was carried out to such extremes by parliament that English merchants were actually prohibited from exporting any English goods from the statutory market, and the result was "the total abandoning of all foreign navigation, except that to Calais." [12] In this reign also "shopkeepers had the prices of provisions dictated to them." [13]

In the reign of Henry IV. we find another crop of the same short-sighted legislation. "Commerce," says Hume, "was very little understood in this reign, as in all the preceding. There appears to have been a great jealousy against what were termed merchant strangers." Restraints of various kinds were imposed upon them by act of parliament. For instance, they were obliged to lay out, in English manufactures or commodities, all the money acquired by the sale of their goods; they were prohibited from buying or selling with one another; and it was rendered imperative that all their goods should be disposed of three months after importation. [14] Hume says of this last enactment, that "it was found so inconvenient that it was, soon after, repealed by parliament." It would also appear that, during the previous reigns, the prohibition on the exportation of corn was maintained; for it is said, by Hume, that "permission was given by parliament to export corn when it was at low prices."


Coming down to the reign of Henry VII., we find that "the king's love of money naturally led him to encourage commerce; but," adds Hume, "if we may judge by most of the laws enacted during his reign, trade and industry were rather hurt than promoted by the care and attention given to them." Severe laws were enacted against taking interest for the loan of money, [15] "which," adds Hume, "the superstition of the age zealously proscribed;" and all attempts at evading such a law, so as to make money by the loan of money, were carefully guarded against. [16] "It is needless," says the same writer, "to observe how unreasonable and iniquitous were these laws; how impossible to be executed, and how hurtful to trade, if they could take place." [17]

In this same reign, laws were made against the exportation of money, plate, or bullion; [18] "a precaution," adds Hume, "which serves to no other purpose than to make more be exported." The exportation of horses was likewise prohibited, [19] "as if," says the historian, "that exportation did not encourage the breed, and render them more plentiful in the kingdom." In order to promote archery, no bows were to be sold at a higher price than six shillings and fourpence of modern money. "The only effect of this regulation," says the same writer, "must be either that the people would be supplied with bad bows or none at all." [20] In this reign, also, prices were fixed for woollen cloth, caps, and hats; [21] and the wages of labourers were further regulated by statute. [22] "It is evident," says Hume, in comment, "that these matters ought to be left free, and be entrusted to the common course of business and commerce." "One great cause," says the historian, "of the low state of industry during this period was the restraints put upon it." It appears that parliament itself at last recognised this, and subsequently enlarged the [268] limitations, though not sufficiently. Among the many abortive attempts (in the reign of Henry VIII.) at manufacturing happiness by act of parliament, was one which forbade the use of machinery in the making of broad-cloth. The attempt had this effect,—to drive a large part of the woollen trade into Holland, where the "divers devilish contrivances," as the machines were called, were under no such legislative restraint. [23]

Speaking of the reign of Mary, Hume says: "The arbitrary proceedings of the queen (Elizabeth) joined to many monopolies granted by this princess, as well as by her father, checked the growth of commerce." The reign supplies us with one excellent example of this abortive legislation. A law had been made, in the previous reign, by which everyone was prohibited from making cloth, unless they had served an apprenticeship of seven years. It was fully expected that, by thus preventing private and inexperienced persons from producing that commodity for themselves, the authorised channels of the industry would be greatly stimulated. Yet we find that in Mary's reign the law in question was repealed; and the reasons given for so doing were that the former statute had occasioned the decay of the woollen manufacture, and had ruined several towns. [24]

In contrast with the instances of this class of legislation which I have now enumerated, we have Hume's testimony regarding some features of Elizabeth's reign. "By allowing a free exportation of corn," he says, trade and navigation were promoted, and so much increased was the shipping of her kingdom,…that she was justly styled the Restorer of Naval Glory, and the Queen of the Northern Seas. [25] It was in her reign, however, that the system of monopolies was carried to such a high and injurious pitch of development. In order to reward many persons who had [269] distinguished themselves in civil and military matters during that period, she, not being able to give them suitable money rewards, resorted to the expedient of granting them patents for monopolies in various articles of commerce. Beyond those which she thus gave away, there were others which she sold. The recipients of these patents, having the monopoly of certain articles secured to them, were enabled to charge just what they chose for them. "It is astonishing," says one writer, "to consider the number and importance of those commodities which were thus assigned over to patentees: currants, salt, iron, powder, cards, calf-skin, fells, ox-shin bones, oil, cloth, potashes, aniseeds, vinegar, coal, steel, brushes, pots, bottles, saltpetre, lead, oil, glass, paper, starch, sulphur, fish, beer, leather, and a number of others." Over all these, and a score more articles of daily use, the most absolute monopolies were granted. Hume relates that, when this list was read out in parliament, a member cried out: "Is not bread among the number?" "Bread!" said everyone with astonishment. "Yes," said the member, "if affairs go on at this rate we shall have bread reduced to a monopoly before next parliament." The effect of these monopolies, it is scarcely necessary to say, was most oppressive to the people. The fortunate patentees were most exorbitant in their demands; and it is recorded that salt rose in price from sixpence to fourteen or fifteen shillings a bushel. Of course such prices attracted others to attempt the sale; and, in order to prevent such opposition, the patentees had to be invested with very arbitrary powers, by which they could exact heavy penalties from all who interfered with their patent. The patentee of saltpetre could, for instance, enter into any house and commit whatever havoc he chose, wherever he suspected saltpetre might be concealed.

This arbitrary power enabled its possessors to extort large sums of money, as a payment for more considerate treatment.


"While all domestic intercourse was thus restrained," says Hume, "lest any scope should remain for industry, almost every species of foreign commerce was confined to exclusive companies, who bought and sold, at any price that they thought proper to offer or exact."

These grievances, "the most intolerable for the present, and the most pernicious in their consequences, that ever were known, in any age, or under any government," excited great complaint, but the queen persisted in defending them. A bill was introduced for their abolition; and after much discussion, and much complaint, the queen consented to their partial abolition. These monopolies, meanwhile, had "tended to extinguish all domestic industry."

James I., Elizabeth's successor, called in and annulled those which remained, because they had "extremely fettered every species of domestic industry." [26] Another singular illustration is afforded by Elizabeth's reign. An act (8 Elizabeth, cap. 7) "touching the drapers, cottoners, and frizers of Shewsbury," was passed, to prohibit any one entering into what was termed the "mystery" of those industries, unless they had been "brought up in the use of the said trade." It appears that before six years had elapsed, the drapers and cottoners of Shewsbury discovered their mistake, and communicated it to the government of the day. By a subsequent act (14 Elizabeth, cap. 12) the previous one was repealed, "at the humble suit of the inhabitants of the said town, and also of the said artificers, for whose benefit the said act was supposed to be provided." In the second section, the following significant moral is unconsciously pointed for posterity. "Experience hath plainly taught in the said town that the said act hath, not only not brought the good effect that then was hoped and surmised, but also hath been, and now is likely to be, the very greatest cause of the impoverishing and undoing of the poor artificers and others, [271] at whose suit the said act was procured, for that there be, now, sithence the making of the said statute, much fewer persons to set them a-work than before." [27]

Even after the annulling of the monopolies by James I., certain exclusive companies were allowed to continue, by which almost all foreign trade, except "that of France, was brought into the hands of a few rapacious engrossers, and all prospect of future improvement in commerce was for ever sacrificed, to a little temporary advantage of the sovereign." As a further consequence, almost all the commerce of England was centred in London. The whole trade of London was confined to about two hundred citizens, who, by combination, were enabled to fix their own prices to both the exports and imports of the kingdom. This great grievance led to a special committee, which gave as its opinion that "shipping and seamen had sensibly decayed, during all the preceding reign."

Coming, now, to the reign of George II., we find that bounties were being paid on the exportation of corn, even at a time when the Exchequer was so low that the payment had to be made in three per cent. debentures. This artificial encouragement, as I have already shown, induced so large exportations of that commodity that the home prices became exorbitant, and frequent riots occurred in consequence of the popular outcry against the subsidy. From this extreme, in one part of the reign, parliament went to the other, at a subsequent period. In consequence of the dearth of corn, which "so much distressed the poorer class of people," the exportation was prohibited, by statute, and an embargo laid upon all ships laden, or to be laden from British ports. In order, still further, to reduce the price, the exportation was prohibited from any of the British plantations, except to Great Britain or Ireland, or from one colony to another. [28] Many other commodities were [272] simultaneously prohibited from being exported, among them being malt. At the same time, parliament prohibited spirits being made from wheat, in order that that article might be rendered still more cheap.

This had the effect of so raising the market price of malt that a huge petition was presented to parliament by the brewers of London, complaining that they could not carry on their business, and that the distillers would be under the necessity of substituting the best barley in lieu of wheat, of which there would not then be enough for all purposes. They pointed out, also, that, in consequence of the necessary stoppage of their business, the revenue would be materially affected. This latter contention appears to have had the desired effect, for, in order to prevent such a contingency as that to which it pointed, a bill was immediately passed to restrain the distilling of all grain whatsoever. It was next pointed out that the last restriction would ruin many farmers and others, engaged in the trade of malting; but, as it was found impossible to please everybody, parliament left matters where they were. It would, indeed, be difficult to conceive a series of more harrassing interferences with the natural current of commerce; and little business knowledge is requisite to enable one to imagine what ruinous results such a disturbing and disorganizing policy must have produced in the mercantile world. At one period of the reign, a bounty is offered for the exportation of corn. This would, in the ordinary course of events, artificially bolster up the agricultural industry. The maximum amount of land would be put under cultivation, and a large part of the population would be drawn off from less profitable occupations, in order to further the cultivation of cornland. Then, when the industry had become flourishing, and every one of the multitudinous incidental interests had settled down to their respective functions, the act of parliament, abolishing the bounty, and prohibiting the exportation, [273] would suddenly paralyse all concerned. The shipping interest would as suddenly find its trade at an end, and be forced to seek some new channel of employment. The large number of merchants and their assistants, who had been employed in the disposal and exportation of the commodity, would be abruptly deprived of their occupation. The effect upon the agricultural interest is hardly possible to conceive, for, at one blow, a vast portion of the population, and that of the most needy and helpless section of society—the agricultural labourers—would be thrown out of employment and rendered helpless, until the lapse of time had enabled capital, hitherto engaged in agriculture, to find its way into other industries. One cannot, in fact, conceive the extent of the injurious effects of such a meddling and changing policy on the part of a parliament. Such, then, are some of the instances of legislative interference with the commerce of England, almost all of which resulted in injury to the public interest, though benefiting, for a time, certain class-interests, in whose behalf they appear to have been short-sightedly conceived.

It would be easy, had I space, to multiply such instances, drawn from actual history, showing the same unintended and unexpected results. For instance, Act 35 Edward III. was framed for the purpose of keeping down the price of herrings. In that measure, that is to say, in the preamble to it, it was complained that people, "coming to the fair…do bargain for herring, and every of them, by malice and envy, increase upon another, and if one proffer forty shillings, another will proffer ten shillings more, and the third sixty shillings, and so everyone surmounteth the other in the bargain." [29] The fact is, this was an act aimed at the prevention of auction sales. Mr. Herbert Spencer, who quotes the act, adds that it was "soon repealed, because it raised the price of the herrings." [30] Again, in the time of [274] Edward III., there was a law by which innkeepers at seaports were sworn to search their guests, to prevent the exportation of money and plate; while, as late as 1824, there was an act of parliament in force which "forbade the manufacturers (for the benefit of the artizans) to fix their factories more than ten miles from the Royal Exchange."

It would be out of my province to enumerate, at any great length, instances of this kind of legislation which have been enacted in other European countries. There were, however, regulations in the last century, by which the French manufacturers were considerably hampered, whereby the state decided on the person to be employed, the articles to be made, the materials to be used, and the qualities of the products—whereby inspectors were authorised to, and actually did break the looms and burn the goods which were not made exactly according to law—whereby, also, improvements in machinery were illegal, and inventors were fined. These, says Mr. Herbert Spencer, "had no small share in producing the Revolution."

Let us turn now from these to similar interferences in matters of more private concern. The history of the laws affecting workmen is nothing more nor less than a series of the most glaring infringements with individual liberty; and when one reflects upon their persistence and rigour, one can scarcely be surprised that a number of that class, now that they have the balance of political power in their hands, should display a spirit of retaliation towards the so-called better classes, whose predecessors, in social position, led to the passing of such laws.

I have already referred to the fixing of wages by the legislature, in the reign of Edward III.; a step which was taken, on the ground that they had become "excessive." That, in itself, was an unmistakable breach of true Liberal principles, inasmuch as the workman had a right to receive whatever consideration he could honestly obtain for his [275] services. The act compelled workmen to accept the same wages which were current prior to the plague, which itself had so thinned their ranks.

In 1362, when, in consequence of a violent storm, a great deal of damage was done to the roofs of the houses, a royal order was issued to the effect that roofing material, as also tilers' wages, should not be increased.

As early as 1383, workmen were prohibited from combining for the purpose of raising their wages. Such combinations were characterised as "conspiracies," and the punishment for a violation was very severe.

In the sixteenth century (Edward VI.), a man was compelled to work at statute prices, and, if he refused, he was branded "V" for vagabond, and reduced to slavery for two years. In order to show that the authors of that measure had, or professed to have the general good in view, when enacting it, the preamble needs to be considered. It complains, by way of recital, that "artificers, handicraftsmen, and labourers have made confederacies,…and have sworn mutual oaths…that they should not meddle with one another, and perform and finish what another had begun, etc.…to the great impoverishment of his Majesty's subjects." [31]

It was not, in fact, till 1795, that a workman could travel in search of work, out of his own parish; [32] and, even as late as 1768, an act of parliament was framed, compelling tailors to work from six a.m. to seven p.m., with an interval of one hour only. [33]

Even as late as 1795, magistrates possessed the power of fixing the rates of wages, according to the rise and fall of bread. [34] It is said that even Pitt, Fox, and Whitbread "distinctly asserted the unjust and pernicious doctrine, that a labourer's remuneration should be proportioned, not to his [276] services, but to his wants." [35] An act of parliament was passed, so late as the close of the last century, declaring illegal all contracts, except between masters and men, for obtaining advances of wages, altering the hours of working, or decreasing the quantity of work. [36]

Down to 1779, the Scotch miners were compelled to remain in the pits at their master's pleasure; and they were actually sold as part of the capital invested in the work. [37]

The wages of workmen of all kinds were fixed, with the most minute detail, in the third and sixth year of Henry VIII. [38]

These attempts on the part of the governing power "began with the Statute of Labourers, under Edward III., and ceased only sixty years ago." [39]

The same meddlesome spirit, which actuated the foregoing legislation in the provinces of commercial transactions, and in the wages and conditions of workmen, is traceable in other departments of social concern. One would certainly think that freedom in the choice of food would be left untouched by the governing body in any age; but, not so! In 1363, an act was passed enjoining carters, ploughmen, and farm servants generally, not to drink "excessively;" while domestic servants were restricted to one meal a day, of flesh or fish, and were to rest satisfied, at other meals, with "milk, butter, cheese, and other such victuals." [40] By another act of the same reign, no one was allowed, either for dinner or supper, "above three dishes in each course, and not above two courses." In addition to this, it was specially declared that "soused" meat was to count as one of these dishes. [41] Hume, who mentions this act, adds characteristically, "It was easy to foresee that such ridiculous laws must prove ineffectual, and could never be executed." [42] The reasons given [277] for this enactment, in its preamble, are certainly amusing—viz., that the great men have been sore grieved, by the excesses of "over many sorts of costly meats," and "the lesser people, who only endeavour to imitate the great ones in such sorts of meats, are much impoverished," and not able to "aid themselves or their liege-lord." [43] In 1313, a few years before this act, a similar measure prescribed the prices of food, but was, says Mr. Herbert Spencer, "hastily repealed after it had caused entire disappearance of various foods from the markets." [44]

On the subject of wearing apparel we find the same spirit of interference showing itself. By an act of Edward III., farm servants were prohibited from wearing any cloth except blanket and russet wool of twelvepence." [45] And no man, under a hundred-a-year was allowed to wear gold, silver, or silk, in his clothes. [46] An act of Edward IV. fined people for wearing "any gown or mantle," not according to what was prescribed. The same monarch limited the length of his subject's boot-toes, that being then recognised as a test of worldly position; while Charles II. decreed the material in which people should be buried. [47]

At another period of history, an act was passed providing that no "buttons or button holes made of cloth, serge, drugget, frieze, camlet, or any other stuffs, should be made, set, or bound on clothes, or worn."

The curfew bell regulation, by which all citizens had to put out fires and lights of all kinds at eight o'clock, though more remote, was on a par with this class of legislation; and so also were the edicts of Henry VIII., which prevented the "lower class" from playing dice, cards, bowls, etc. There have been English laws also, setting forth with what amount of energy and thoroughness the ploughman should plough the furrow.


The subject of usury I have already referred to.

After a perusal of all these instances of meddling legislation, it is not at all difficult to realise the truth of what Buckle has said regarding the subject. Speaking generally of the statesmen of the past, he observes:—"They went blundering on in the old track, believing that no commerce could flourish without their interference, troubling that commerce by repeated and harrassing regulations, and taking for granted that it was the duty of every government to benefit the trade of their own people, by injuring the trade of others." [48] And, again, the same writer says:—"Every European government which has legislated respecting trade has acted as if its main objects were to suppress the trade, and ruin the traders. Instead of leaving the national industry to take its own course, it has been troubled by an interminable series of regulations, all intended for its good, and all inflicting serious harm. To such a height has this been carried that the commercial reforms which have distinguished England, during the last twenty years, have solely consisted in undoing this mischievous and intrusive legislation…. It is no exaggeration to say that the history of the commercial legislation of Europe presents every possible contrivance for hampering the energies of commerce…. Duties on importation, and duties on exportation; bounties to raise up a losing trade, and taxes to pull down a remunerative one; this branch of industry forbidden, and that branch of industry encouraged; one article of commerce must not be grown, because it was grown in the colonies; another article might be grown and bought, but, not sold again; while a third article might be bought and sold, but not leave the country. Then, too, we find laws to regulate wages; laws to regulate prices; laws to regulate profits; laws to regulate the interest of money; custom-house arrangements of the most vexatious kind. [49]… [279] It would be easy (he continues), to push the enquiry still further, and to show how legislators, in every attempt they have made to protect some particular interests, and uphold some particular principles, have not only failed, but have brought about results diametrically opposite to those which they proposed." [50] Such, then, are some of the instances of the misconceived legislation of historic times. I shall, in a subsequent chapter, show that, notwithstanding the immense advance which has been since made in economic knowledge, much of the legislation of the present day is very little, if at all wiser, or more scientifically conceived.






"In order to win the masses, it is necessary to understand what the masses want, and to offer it to them as the prize of victory."—Truth (Radical Journal).

"The English masses are nearly impervious to political ideas…. They know vaguely what they want."—The Radical Programme.

"If ever the free institutions of America are destroyed, that event may be attributed to the unlimited authority of the majority, which may, at some future time, urge the minorities to desperation, and oblige them to have recourse to physical force…. Anarchy will then be the result, but it will have been brought about by despotism."—DE TOCQUEVILLE.

"The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come."—JEFFERSON.

"The right of the people is almost always sophistically confounded with their power."—BURKE.

BEFORE proceeding to deal with the numerous illustrations of modern and "impending" legislation, of the spuriously "Liberal" order, which I have to lay before my readers, I deem it necessary to treat of some infirmities of the existing form of government in English-speaking communities, from which form that order of legislation is resulting, and is still more likely to result in the near future. As I have already shown, the instances of the same class, which are handed down to us from historic times, are traceable to the fact that economic principles had not, in [281] that age, been either widely or thoroughly investigated; as a consequence of which, those who were then entrusted with the government of the English people—whether at the time monarchical or parliamentary power was paramount—inflicted upon their contemporaries, and in some cases on their remote posterity, endless injury, loss, inconvenience, and misery, as the penalty of their incompetence. History, which, as Bolingbroke says, is "philosophy teaching by example," has supplied us, of the nineteenth century, with a large amount of data from which to generalise; and, for those who are inclined to devote themselves to a careful study of such records, it is possible to obtain a code of principles of a tolerably scientific character, which will enable them to test the wisdom or unwisdom of such legislation, with almost as much accuracy as can be obtained in connection with sciences of an apparently much more exact nature. [1]

The political experience, which is thus obtainable, has been acquired, as I have said, at the expense and inconvenience, principally, of our ancestors, but, in some cases, of ourselves; inasmuch as the various interferences with social evolution have retarded the whole progress of human institutions. A study of history will show, indeed, that the great bulk of the earlier legislation (excepting of course the few great movements with which I have dealt in previous chapters) has altogether failed to produce good results, for either the generations which enacted them, or, for us, their posterity. [2] Since those early times, the wisdom of any particular legislation has been found (that is, by those who have some knowledge of the science,) to depend upon its greater or less conformity to certain clearly recognised economic laws. A knowledge of the more fundamental of those laws has been imparted to [282] most men of fair education; but it is to be feared that, in the majority of cases, they have been learnt without being retained; and, as a consequence, it is no uncommon experience to meet men in the higher walks of life who, for want of interest in and application to the subject, are placed at the mercy of every "wind of (political) doctrine" which is blown upon the public ear by a class of politicians whom Macaulay has aptly stigmatised as "shallow empirics." There is, of course, in every community, a large portion of the franchised classes who are completely ignorant [3] of the existence of such a science as that of "political economy," or "politics" in the broader sense; and, strange to say, many of the less responsible of politicians, in their reckless ardour for such theories as "human equality," are eager to confer political power upon this latter class in the very face of their knowledge of that ignorance. The author of "The Radical Programme," for instance, has said, and with a somewhat triumphant air, that whereas the parliament of 1880 was elected by "three millions of electors," of whom "one-third were of the working classes," the present House is elected by "five millions of men, of whom three-fifths belong to the labouring population." Yet, in the same publication, he admits, with the most unsophistical candour, that "the English masses are nearly impervious to political ideas," and only "know vaguely what they want." [4]

Unfortunately only an infinitesimal proportion of "the people" can be said to really understand the political science; and that proportion is by no means powerful enough to turn the scale in the matter of adopting or [283] rejecting much of the wild and dangerous political doctrine which is thrown, like so much "sop," to what the Radical author would call the "impervious" masses. It therefore behoves every thoughtful man to consider, carefully, the position of affairs under the circumstances; to reflect upon the extent of the difficulties to be dealt with under a democratic form of government; and, if possible, to analyse the source of those difficulties, with a view of determining how best to meet them as they confront society in the immediate future.

I have already spoken of the misconceived interpretations which have been frequently placed upon the term "Liberalism," by the masses of the people; and I have endeavoured to trace those misconceptions to the fact that the Liberalism of the past has so invariably had the effect of conferring its good results, almost exclusively, upon the working-classes, that that section of society (now forming a large majority of the governing body) has been brought to the belief that the bestowal of such advantages upon its own members is not merely a result, but the absolute aim and purpose of "Liberalism." It is anything but a pleasant conclusion to arrive at, yet it is one from which there is no escape, that, under the existing form of government, as administered in Great Britain and her colonies, there is very little hope, for some generations to come, of wiser counsel prevailing in the broad field of legislation. In historic times, as I have said, economic laws were unknown, and the most uncompromising of them were, consequently, ignored, with such results as we have seen; this, too, notwithstanding that the government was, to a great extent, in the hands of the wealthy and better-educated classes. In the present day, the more fundamental of the economic laws are not only known, but have, as I have said, become familiar to many educated persons. In the meantime, however, the preponderance of the legislative power [284] has passed from the hands of the better-educated classes, into those of the masses, a number of whom are doubtless highly intelligent and fairly capable of taking part in legislative matters, but the remainder of whom (comprehending the great majority) are completely ignorant of the subject in its higher bearings. The result of this cannot be otherwise than injurious to any community, for the following reasons:—We have seen that society is capable of suffering much harm by means of the passing of short-sighted and misconceived laws, that is to say by means of what is popularly known as "over-legislation." Such a balance of power as that indicated above must, then, work incalculable injury to the whole social organism. Society, in fact, can, by unwise legislation, just as surely inflict serious injury upon itself as an organism, as a child can upon its body by an ignorant handling of a surgical instrument. In both cases the instrument by which the injury is inflicted is capable of producing much good, if used at the proper time, and by those who understand how to wield it. In both cases, also, a want of knowledge converts the instrument into an engine of destruction, according to the confidence with which, and the extent to which it is wielded. To obviate these injurious results it would be necessary to confine the legislature to its proper limits, and to insure its non-interference with the evolution of society, beyond the lines at which that interference is essential to the evolution itself. In order to attain these results, in an ideal degree, it would be necessary that those entrusted, directly or indirectly, with the government of a country should possess and utilise a practical and scientific knowledge of their subject—that is to say, should be capable of forming a correct judgment as to the immediate and ultimate effects of every measure, and be content to exercise that judgment, irrespective of personal interest or sympathetic leaning towards any class. So perfect a government is scarcly obtainable, as humanity is [285] constituted; and, even if, by chance, such an ideal condition of things could be secured, it would be inadvisable to constitute any such government a permanent one, inasmuch as it would, in time, be certain to drift, like all permanent governments, into an abuse of its exclusive power. There is no reason, however, why society should not set up an ideal in this, as in other matters, in order that it may be in possession of the highest possible standard to which it may be ever approximating. Under the most favourable circumstances, legislative errors will be frequently committed; for who could be invariably wise in predicting results in connection with a science which Edmund Burke has said "requires more experience than any person can gain in his whole life," and which another profound student has admitted to be "so complex that only those who give themselves wholly to the study can be acquainted with any considerable part of it." Even a modicum of these high qualifications is possessed by only a very small proportion of men, and it follows that the opinion of the majority of those who are entrusted with the selection of our legislators is, except on the most simple of political questions, next to useless; indeed, in many cases, affirmatively injurious to themselves. We are, in fact, brought to this extraordinary conclusion that, inasmuch as the governments of the day in Great Britain and her colonies are regulated by the opinion of the majority, subject only to certain modifying and counter-acting influences, which I shall hereafter mention, the chances are greatly in favour of the direction, which any legislation may take, being the wrong or unwise one. This conclusion, moreover, is not wanting in confirmation in the facts which now surround us; for at the present moment there is already being forced upon society, and there is also every symptom of a continuance of a class of legislation which is excessive; which is directed towards some immediate object, without regard to ultimate results; and which is already [286] working incalculable injury to commercial, industrial and social interests, by checking individual enterprise and energy; shaking confidence in the security of property; and grievously demoralising the people in their self-helping and independent citizenship.

These charges, I am aware, constitute an extremely weighty indictment against democratic government; but I am prepared, I think, to offer the dicta of unexceptionable authorities in support of every step of my argument. If that be done, it must be admitted that democracy has yet to justify itself by results, as a wise and equitable form of government. It is not, of course, my intention to examine every feature of democratic government, or to suggest, what many, who differ from me, may claim that I am bound to do—a better permanent form. I merely desire to lay my finger upon some of the most prominent infirmities of the existing one, in order to support my charge of legislative incompetence. "It would seem," says the Times, in referring to the proceedings of an English Trades' Union Congress, "from a good many of the speeches and resolutions, that the time is at hand, at which the working-classes are to exercise an undisputed sway, and that nothing will remain for other people to do, except to make a note of the workmen's wishes, and to carry them out with all speed. This idea runs through almost every line of the election address, and gives a somewhat needless solemnity to it. It is the language of men on whom the entire cares of empire are henceforward to rest." [5] This tendency is by no means confined, for evidences of its strength and distinctness, to the utterances of the working-classes. The legislation of our own day is already deeply dyed with the colour of the new school; and, unfortunately, the working-classes themselves do not appear to anticipate that such a state of things involves any danger to the social fabric. If the majority arrive at a certain [287] conclusion, it should, in their opinion, be at once registered by the legislature as embodying the latest results of political wisdom. "In our own day," says Sir Henry Maine, "a movement appears to have very distinctly set in towards unmodified democracy, the government of a great multitude of men, striving to take the bulk of their own public affairs into their own hands…. The ruling multitude will only form an opinion by following the opinion of somebody; it may be of a great party leader—it may be of a small local politician—it may be of an organised association—it may be of an impersonal newspaper." [6] I have already mentioned what I conceive to be the chief cause which has led to the masses taking so hasty and erroneous a view of the term "Liberalism," or rather, so incorrect an estimate of the essential principles of that school of politics. Besides that particular cause (viz., the belief that it should always be accompanied by some advantages for their own class) which, in my opinion, has been the primary one, there are others which are tending to preserve and render more permanent the misconception. I shall, therefore, enumerate them, and offer some observations upon each as it arises.

It must be apparent to every one who has come into practical contact with the working-classes, over political matters, that they, as a body, judged from their utterances, absolutely decline to acknowledge the scientific aspect of that subject. They regard it, indeed, with all the confidence of experts; and, not recognising any fixed general principles upon which to base their investigations, they naturally, and without seeming aware of its unfairness, make a constant use of the criterion of "self," in determining upon any question which is submitted to them for answer or solution.

It is, of course, only natural that men should feel disinclined to confess their inability to exercise, with judgment or accuracy, a power for which they have so long struggled. [288] When the franchise was so substantially extended in 1832; [7] and again, when manhood suffrage was demanded as one of the "points" in the Chartist movement of 1848, there were not wanting sanguine spirits who predicted that nothing but good could come out of such a reform; and, no doubt, much good has come out of it (for the working classes) where it exists, though it will not be difficult to show hereafter that many foolish and retrogressive steps have been taken, and more are now impending, as the results of an unwise use or direction of the power which such an extension of the franchise conferred. I have already mentioned that when Macaulay was addressing the House of Commons in 1842, on the subject of the "people's charter," which counted, among its six "points," manhood suffrage, he used extremely strong language in denunciation of that proposal, and even went so far as to predict that its establishment, as an institution of the country, would be found inconsistent and incompatible, not only with property, but with civilisation itself; "for," he said, "on the security of property civilisation depends;" and he added, "If it be admitted that on the institution of property the wellbeing of society depends, it follows, surely, that it would be madness to give supreme power in the state to a class which would not be likely to respect that institution." This may seem now-a-days—upwards of forty years later—somewhat extreme language to use regarding an institution which has worked with no revolutionary results, so far, in the United States, and in many of England's colonies; but it must be remembered that Macaulay had in his mind, at the time, the extravagant expressions of opinion contained in the Charter itself, in which paper money, machinery, land, the public press, and religion were characterised as "existing monopolies," arising, "with a host of others, too numerous to mention," from class legislation. Macaulay may, therefore, be taken to have [289] been expressing his opinion regarding "manhood suffrage," as applicable to the particular times which produced such wild doctrines as those included in the Charter. But, although manhood suffrage has not as yet actually led to revolution, it is, as I shall show, producing, in our own day, much retrogressive and injurious legislation; because, unfortunately, the people who have acquired the power of governing, either greatly underestimate the complexities of the science, or else, while recognising them, neglect to require a knowledge of it in those whom they choose to represent them; and, themselves, neglect to give the subject that amount of study which is indispensable to its being even partially understood. "The people," said Macaulay, in reviewing Mitford's "History of Greece," "are to be governed for their own good; and that they may be governed for their own good, they must not be governed by their own ignorance. There are countries in which it would be as absurd to establish popular government as to abolish all the restraints in a school, or to untie all the strait-waistcoats in a madhouse." The essay in which this is contained was published in 1824; but, observe the correctness of the following prediction, which also is contained in it:—"Freetrade," he says, "one of the greatest blessings which a government can confer on a people, is, in almost every country, unpopular. It may be well doubted whether a Liberal policy with regard to our commercial relations would find any support from a parliament elected by universal suffrage." Since that was written, the people of the United States, in which manhood suffrage has become firmly established, have treated freetrade as an exploded theory; and, out of the half-dozen or so of English colonies in which the franchise is equally extensive, four at least have already adopted protective doctrines, and the other two are now undergoing periodical agitations in favour of a reversion to the older theory. I am dwelling thus at length on this branch of my [290] subject—the abuse of majority-government—because I conceive it to be the very tap-root, from which springs that class of legislation which I term "spurious" Liberalism.

As I have mentioned, in an earlier portion of this volume, the political science, above all others, has this peculiarity; that, in practice, its results are almost invariably contrary to those which a superficial judgment would look for. This, indeed, is one of the most subtle difficulties which the legislator has to deal with. Moreover, legislation needs to be carefully watched for its ultimate effects, much more so than for those which are immediate. The immediate effects are at once observable, and it is by those that the "masses" are apt to be influenced and prompted. The ultimate results, however, need infinitely more careful search and investigation; and, when found, they cannot be correctly guaged and valued, except after considerable knowledge of sociological laws. This knowledge the masses do not possess; and, as a consequence, they are liable to be swayed from one extreme to another, according as immediate benefits can be foreshadowed, or conjured into prominence, by the omnipresent self-seeking political juggler.

A well-known writer, of great ability, has lately published some weighty comments upon the most modern results of universal, or, more correctly speaking, manhood suffrage. "There is," he says, "just enough evidence to show that even now there is a marked antagonism between democratic opinion and scientific truth, as applied to human societies…. On the complex questions of politics, which are calculated in themselves to task to the utmost all the powers of the strongest minds, but are in fact vaguely conceived, vaguely stated, dealt with for the most part in the most haphazard manner, by the most experienced statesmen, the common determination of a multitude is a chimerical assumption; and, indeed, if it were really possible to extract an opinion upon them from a great mass of men, [291] and to shape the administrative and legislative acts of a state upon this opinion as a sovereign command, it is probable that the most ruinous blunders would be committed, and all social progress would be arrested." [8] The same author has, like Macaulay, expressed his opinion concerning the effect of universal suffrage upon national progress, but with this difference, that he speaks after, whereas Macaulay spoke before the event. "Universal suffrage (he says), which to-day excludes freetrade from the United States, would certainly have prohibited the spinning-jenny and the power-loom. It would certainly have forbidden the threshing machine." And, again, he says:—"It seems to me quite certain that, if for four centuries there had been a very widely-extended franchise, and a very large electoral body in this country, there would have been no reformation of religion; no change of dynasty; no toleration of dissent; not even an accurate calendar. The threshing machine, the power-loom, the spinning-jenny, and, possibly, the steam engine, would have been prohibited. Even in our own day, vaccination is in the utmost danger; and we may say, generally, that the gradual establishment of the masses in power is of the blackest omen for all legislation founded on scientific opinion, which requires tension of mind to understand it and self-denial to submit to it." [9]

I by no means wish to be understood as going the whole way with Sir Henry Maine; for I have seen the rights of manhood suffrage exercised in certain British colonies by a body of men who, though, for the most part, falling under Macaulay's prediction in ignoring the principle of Freetrade as an exploded theory, nevertheless in other respects wielded their political power with tolerable judgment—in matters, sometimes requiring more than the minimum of discernment.


It will be necessary for me in a subsequent chapter ("Application of Liberal Principles") to discuss the question of the right of the people to manhood suffrage, as distinguished from the expediency of granting it, while the bulk of those for whom it is intended are still in a condition of ignorance regarding the science which a wise use of that franchise involves. That question I therefore reserve. I have now dwelt upon two of the causes by which I conceive the true principles of Liberalism are being, and are liable to be still further abused. They are (1) the habit of considering "Liberalism" synonymous with legislation for the benefit of the working classes; (2) the non-recognition of the scientific side of politics, and the consequent unwise use of the power which an extended franchise has placed in the hands of the masses. There are, yet, two other causes to which I desire to refer—the inevitable reference to "self" as the only known criterion of what is desirable in legislation; and, lastly, the passive acknowledgment of, or, in some cases, the blind belief in the wisdom of the voice of the majority. I shall now deal with these two latter causes.

I find in the preface to the official report of the Inter-colonial Trades' Union Congress, published in the colony of Victoria in 1884, the following ill-considered passage, which will at once show how prominent a factor is "self" in the deliberations of such bodies, and, at the same time, give some idea of the readiness to attribute the same motive to others, however high-minded and "above suspicion":—"It may be said of freetrade and protection that whatever suits the individual or country is the right fiscal policy for him or for it. As, for instance, when Messrs. Cobden and Bright, those great apostles of freetrade, started their agitation in respect to the repeal of the Corn-laws, they were really only working to secure protection for their own interests, as opposed to those of the landowners, and for this reason; the forty per cent. duty on corn kept the labour of England [293] engaged in producing cereals, and so enhanced the value of landed property; but, so soon as the duty was abolished, the labour hitherto employed in growing corn was available to the manufacturing class, of which the freetrade champions were members. Thus, therefore, Messrs. Bright and Cobden wisely protected themselves while clamouring for freetrade." The logic and the principle of this piece of composition is certainly unique.

In the same publication, I find a reported debate upon the subject of "The amalgamation of trades unions," in which one of the speakers, who had evidently forgotten the benefits which he himself had derived from settling in the colonies, said: "One of the dangers always menacing us is the importation of labour from other parts of the world; but this would be nullified if the trades were united." It would be interesting to know how this gentleman would have regarded a combination of trades unions which should have precluded, or, at least discouraged himself and his family from settling in the colonies in his own early days, and thus bettering his position in life.

In the debate upon the subject of "Legalisation of the eight hours system," one speaker said, regarding the future of his particular colony: "The laws by which it shall be governed are in our own hands; and surely it should be the desire of every true Australian to have all our regulations framed so as to make it in reality what America was some time ago in name, viz., a working man's paradise." "What," said the same speaker, "do we send our representatives into parliament for? Surely we expect them to legislate for our interest." Another speaker on the same subject said: "It was quite useless to leave these matters to members of parliament, who did not understand them from the working-class point of view." During a debate upon "Payment of members of parliament," one delegate said: "It should be the object of the delegates to break down [294] the monopoly of representation, so as to have direct representation in the interests of the working-classes."

Under the heading of "Direct representation" I find one delegate moving "That this congress desires to urge upon labour organisations, in the various colonies, to at once elect a parliamentary committee…. whose duty it shall be to assist in passing through parliament measures for the benefit of labour." As a result of this regard for self being so entertained by electors, it naturally transmits itself to candidates for their representation.

I have before me three electioneering addresses which have appeared in a Victorian newspaper whilst I am writing on this feature of my subject. In each case the candidate claims to be qualified for the seat on the ground of his interests being identical with those of the constituency. One says:—"My interests and yours are identical." A second says: "Being a practical farmer, and now carrying on farming operations, my interests are in every way in accordance with your own." The third says: "I have grown up in the district, and hold a considerable interest and stake therein." It can be more easily imagined than stated how much legislators of this kind would be influenced by purely national considerations where the interests of their district were involved. What a fall, too, is observable here from the high-minded and lofty principle which prompted Edmund Burke to say to his Bristol constituents: "You choose a member, indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member for Bristol, but he is a member of parliament. If the local constituents should have an interest, or should form a hasty opinion, evidently opposite to the real good of the rest of the community, the member for that place ought to be as far as any other from any endeavour to give it effect."

I might quote many other instances in connection with the colonies, to show how completely the working-classes regard [295] parliament as a sort of scramble for benefits, and how continuous are their efforts to secure legislation in their own interests. Let me now enumerate a few of the instances which have occurred in Great Britain and the United States. I have before me a report of the proceedings of a Trades' Congress, held at Hull (England), in September, 1886. Mr. Joseph Arch, in supporting a resolution in favour of labour representation, considered it indispensable that such representatives should "support its interests thoroughly," and that they should find fault with those who failed to do their duty. Mr. Arch himself is a labour representative, and one is only strictly logical in inferring from this utterance that the ultimate test, with him, of all legislation concerning which he is called upon to express an opinion in parliament, is that it must be "in its (the working-class) interest." In adopting such a guage, as distinguished from that of "the greatest happiness of the greatest number," he is, in his own opinion, only doing "his duty"! A second delegate present at the same congress—a "conservative working-man"—justified his party loyalty on the ground that the Conservatives had "done as much for the working classes as the Liberal party."

A third delegate, speaking on the subject of co-operation, predicted that "if they—co-operators and trades-unionists—joined hands, there was no power to prevent them, in the next sixty years, becoming entire possessors of the soil of the country." Mr. Broadhurst, who can be accepted as an authorised exponent of the undercurrent of feeling among the English masses, from which he himself has honourably sprung, uses the following significant, if not threatening language:—"Dare democracy to the utmost; then all experience teaches us that the terms dictated will certainly not be such as they otherwise might be." It is to be hoped that this serious infirmity is capable of gradual cure, as I believe it is in certain countries, where other local circumstances tend [296] to enable the working classes to become, themselves, even in a small way, property-holders. Yet, so great a Liberal as Lord John Russell has spoken of universal suffrage as "the grave of all temperate liberty, and the parent of tyranny and license." [10] And it is a remarkable fact that Plato and Aristotle went to so impracticable an extreme as to advocate the exclusion of the whole of the labouring classes from taking part in public questions, on the ground that they had no leisure to form opinions concerning them. [11] The tendency among the masses to regard such a course of class legislation as harmless in its results, even if not successful in the direction anticipated, is rather encouraged than otherwise by even prominent statesmen. Mr. Gladstone himself, in the heat of party strife, only lately made a bold effort to win a general election, by inciting the masses against what he termed "the classes," and Mr. Chamberlain, a short time since, told the masses that "there is no longer anything to fear in state interference, because they themselves had become the state." [12] An American writer records that in Chicago this feeling is so deeply rooted that a journal was established, a few years ago, by some working men, for the advocacy of their rights, and, in a preliminary manifesto, the following principle was (among others) laid down:—"There are no rights but the rights of labour." It requires no stretch of imagination to picture the class of legislation which such a journal, or those who established it, would consider satisfactory. The same author adds:—"We find American writers dwelling upon the dangers of democracy, with an earnestness which ought to convince theorists, elsewhere, that there is, [297] after all, some danger in intrusting the larger share of political power to the least educated classes." And he concludes by saying that "in America, the truth has long been admitted, that democracy is insatiable. Its demands increase in volume and in vehemence with every attempt to set them at rest."

Now, it cannot be doubted that the effect of so powerful a body as the working-classes constantly urging on matters which will confer some benefit upon themselves, is seriously calculated to lead to a constantly recurring onesidedness in legislation, which is bound, in its turn, to be resented by the capitalist class, so soon as an opportunity is afforded; and, thus, there might very soon be produced a sort of traditional policy of retaliation between the two interests.

But, there is yet another reason for this neglect of the true principles of legislation to which I have referred. There is, as I have said, a widely-acknowledged belief in the wisdom of the majority. I do not refer merely to the conclusion at which many people have arrived, as to the vote of a majority being the only practical way of arriving at a decision where heads are numbered instead of being valued. The conclusions arrived at by that method have frequently to be accepted, though obviously contrary to all true and equitable principles. But there is a large mass of one's fellow-men, who actually believe that whatever a majority determines is correct and just, and should, in fact, be carried into practice without question of any kind.

De Tocqueville, indeed, commences one of his most valuable chapters by the statement that "the greatest dangers of the American Republics proceed from the unlimited power of the majority;" [13] and he follows up that statement by another, to the effect that "if ever the free institutions of America are destroyed, that event may be attributed to the unlimited [298] authority of the majority, which may, at some future time, urge the minorities to desperation, and oblige them to have recourse to physical force…. Anarchy," he adds, "will then be the result, but it will have been brought about by despotism," that is to say, the despotism of the majority. Here, we have the abuse of Liberalism shown, as arising out of what is supposed to be one of the most important developments of Liberalism itself, viz., government by the people. Liberalism of the true type would avert this extreme; for, as the Marquis of Lorne has wisely said, in his definition of the leading principle of that school: "Freedom from tyranny of mob or monarch will be the safeguard of its future triumphs."

It will be, I know, rather surprising to many so-called "Liberals" to be informed that much of the "Liberalism" which they are daily approving and advocating, is really a spurious article, and calculated, if passed into law, to curtail rather than extend, the civil liberty concerning which we now pride ourselves. The United States, to most democrats of the less reflective class, suggests Liberalism of the most completely developed order; yet, if the truth be known, and the institutions of that extensive community analysed with any degree of scientific accuracy, it will be found that this blind belief in the actual wisdom and justice of majorities has given birth to a despotism of the most dangerous and unbearable character. Says De Tocqueville: "I know no country in which there is so little true independence of mind and freedom of discussion. In any constitutional state in Europe, every sort of religious and political theory may be advocated and propagated abroad; for there is no country in Europe, so subdued by any single authority, as not to contain citizens who are ready to protect the man who raises his voice in the cause of truth, from the consequences of his hardihood. If he is unfortunate enough to live under an absolute government, the people are upon his [299] side; if he inhabits a free country, he may find a shelter behind the authority of the throne if he require one. The aristocratic part of society supports him in some countries, and the democracy in others. But, in a nation where democratic institutions exist, organised like those of the United States, there is but one sole authority, one single element of strength and of success, with nothing beyond it." And then comes the melancholy confession:—"In America, the majority raises very formidable barriers to the liberty of opinions." [14]

I have already quoted, elsewhere, Mr. Frederick Harrison on this subject, in which he told an audience of working men what he thought of the wisdom of the opinion of the masses on political matters. He put the question as to the wisdom of majorities in a very conclusive way, by asking his hearers what sort of military success would be likely to attend an army, every move of which had to be determined by a vote of the majority of the rank and file; and he has added that the political science is not one whit less difficult than that of military tactics. This uncompromising belief in the voice of the majority has the most injurious effects upon other features of society, besides that of its freedom. It would seem to exercise a considerable influence upon the tone and character of public life, by reason of the ever-present necessity for any one who desires political eminence, to cultivate the tastes, whims, and fickle tendencies of the masses, who alone have the power to lift him into that position to which he aspires. "I am inclined," says De Tocqueville, speaking of America, "to attribute the singular paucity of distinguished political characters to the ever-increasing activity of the despotism of the majority," and he says, elsewhere: "Democratic republics extend the practice of currying favour with the many." Again: "In that immense crowd which throngs the avenues of power in [300] the United States, I found very few men who displayed any of that manly candour, and that masculine independence of opinion which frequently distinguished the Americans in former times, and which constitutes the leading feature in distinguished characters, wheresoever they may be found."

No one, probably, in modern times, gave more attention to, and brought more ability to bear upon democratic institutions than this great authority. His conclusions are therefore of the very greatest value. Here is one of a very general character: "I hold it to be an impious and an execrable maxim that, politically speaking, a people has a right to do whatsoever it pleases…. When I see that the right and the means of absolute command are conferred on a people, or upon a king, upon an aristocracy, or a democracy, a monarchy, or a republic, I recognise the germ of tyranny." [15]

I might quote from innumerable authors, and many even of great repute, to show how strong is the tendency of a democracy to exercise, by means of a majority, as despotic and tyrannical a power as any Eastern monarch. Nor is this danger any new development of popular government; for we find Aristotle, even, condemning the belief in the wisdom of the many. "Who should possess supreme power in the state?" he asks. "If the poor," he adds, "because they are a majority, they may divide among themselves what belongs to the rich; is not this unjust?" "If," he says further, "the many seize into their own hands everything which belongs to the few, it is evident that the state will be at an end. Therefore," he concludes, "such a law can never be right."

It is scarcely likely that there are many intelligent persons who really believe that the mere fact of a majority favouring a particular proposal will, in itself, give it the character of a just measure; for if it were so, it would be possible to provide [301] a justification for the most atrocious acts of democratic government which it is possible for the mind to conceive; and it would immediately be stamped with the seal of virtue on account of its having been favoured by the necessary preponderance in numbers. No reasonable person, therefore, could believe that an act, which is acknowledged to be unjust in itself, can be rendered just, by reason of its being approved by a majority, but, "although everybody is," as Sir George Cornewall Lewis says, "aware that numbers are not the test of truth, yet many persons, while they recognise this maxim in theory, violate it in practice, and accept opinions, simply because they are entertained by the people at large." [16] Many people, however, go further than the mere acceptance of such opinions—they really believe that the conclusions arrived at by a large number of persons are more likely to be correct than those of an individual or small group of individuals, no matter how wise they (the latter) may be. There are, indeed, several threadbare maxims which pass among the people as conclusive, when the question is raised. "Two heads are better than one," is by many people accepted as beyond controversy; and again, "In the multiplicity of counsel there is wisdom," is frequently sufficient with some minds to settle all doubts. Now, as a fact, the joint opinion of a large number of persons is almost invariably erroneous. A correct opinion on any subject, and particularly on one so complex as are those connected with the political science, necessitates a special knowledge which it takes years to acquire. This special knowledge is possessed by but a small proportion even of educated persons; and among the classes which go to make up the masses of our fellow-men, the percentage of those who possess it is almost infinitesimal.

If the ability to form a correct opinion on any subject necessitates this special knowledge, it follows that those who [302] do not possess it must (except on such questions as are most easy of solution) entertain erroneous opinions, and it would, therefore, happen that on most occasions upon which a large number of persons, taken at random from the people, are called upon to express their approval or disapproval of any but the most simple of proposals, or to say whether or not such a proposal is based on sound principles, the few who are competent to determine it would be overwhelmed by the many who are not competent, and the conclusion arrived at would be erroneous. This is, in fact, what happens in the majority of cases in which the people are called upon for a correct judgment on any complex question of legislation. Speaking of the opinion of the majority of the people on general subjects, Sir George Cornewall Lewis says, "So numerous are the cases in which the opinion of the multitude conflicts with that of a few competent judges, that a majority of voices has, in questions not involving a legal decision, been considered as a mark of error." [17] And he quotes a saying to the effect that "a person ought to be ashamed of finding his opinions approved by the multitude, because the concurrence of the many raises a presumption of being in the wrong. [18] In sciences and arts," he says further, "the persons versed in the particular departments of knowledge—in history, historians; in general literature, literary men and poets; in practical questions of law, medicine, architecture, navigation, etc., the men of the respective professions, who form respectively the standard and canon of authority, are but few in number, if set against the body of their fellow-countrymen. Moreover, even with respect to each of these classes, it is principally the ablest, the most learned, the most experienced, the most skilful, whose opinion constitutes authority." [19] "In each subject, therefore, the [303] opinion of the great bulk of the people is, taken as a standard of truth and rectitude, unworthy of consideration, and destitute of weight and authority. It is the opinion of uninformed and inexperienced persons whose incapacity to judge is not cured by the multiplication of their numbers. The mere aggregation of incompetent judges will not produce a right judgment, any more than the aggregation of persons who have no knowledge of a matter of fact will supply credible testimony to its existence." [20]

These remarks, though not made with any special application to political questions, will, nevertheless, apply with equal force, inasmuch as the political science is acknowledged to be one of the most complex. It may be thought that what I have said, though very true as far as the deeper problems of political science are concerned, can have no application to the apparently simple questions of every-day occurrence, upon which the bulk of our fellow-citizens are being constantly called upon to express their opinion; but this is not so, for a careful examination of some of the apparently most simple questions which are presented to us will show, to those who understand the difficulties of the political science, that there are extremely few of such questions which do not involve a knowledge of the more complex principles.

If there be any truth in the foregoing statements, it would at first sight appear that there is little chance of arriving at any correct conclusions, or indeed of producing any rational legislation whatever under a democratic government; but this is not altogether so, for it will be remembered that the masses of the people are not frequently called upon to express their opinion, directly, on any particular question, but only to say yea or nay to the suitability of the various candidates who present themselves for the honour of their representation. In that, they are limited by [304] the usual provisions requiring nomination by a certain number of electors, and calling for some slight proof of seriousness in the conditional lodging of a deposit; but, notwithstanding these slight aids to the exclusion of mere adventurers, it is notorious how frequently the one who is full of empty promises is returned, while the substantial man, possessing all the guarantees of rectitude, and displaying, by his proneness to promise little, some of the high principle and good judgment which should recommend him for the position, is suspected of all kinds of so called "Conservative" schemes, and thrust aside as if absolutely unqualified to fill the coveted seat.

Again, out of those, who are, as it were, filtered through the public judgment into the institution of parliament, a limited number, and, as a general rule, the ablest only, are entrusted with the initiation of the more important measures. This constitutes a moderate safeguard to popular rashness and unwisdom; but, nevertheless, the few, more frequently than not, prove unequal to the temptations to win the popular ear; frequently by a sacrifice of the highest principle. Nevertheless, as comparatively little legislation passes criticism without having met with the approval of this further tested few, who form a government, some, at least, of the injurious results of popular ignorance on political matters are obviated, though many, nevertheless, are realised and work their ill effects upon society, as I shall show hereafter. The truth is that "for political and other purposes, in which capacity of a high order is requisite, there must be single persons, possessing that degree of power, in order to arrive at sound practical conclusions. This want cannot be supplied by numbers." [21] Unfortunately the tendency in public life is to encourage rather than discourage the popular delusion as to a majority's wisdom. The character of the machinery by which a decision is now arrived at in political or other public [305] matters, compels the resort to the system of abiding by the majority; and since, in addition to that method being the almost invariable one, the people experience every day proof of their power to realise, through it, their wishes, so long as they can command a majority to support those wishes, the constant repetition of the method has led to its being regarded as the most just one.

It is quite possible that, notwithstanding all these combined circumstances, which tend to so undesirable an end, those who constitute the majority might in time come to see the danger of acting on the proverbial "little knowledge" in political matters; but the fact that they constitute the stepping-stone to high political place and power brings about the unfortunate result that those who are moved by such aspirations do not hesitate to pander to and flatter the masses, wherever and whenever they meet them, and thus engender a confidence and self-satisfaction, quite proof against the occasional misgivings which might otherwise lead to reflection and modesty of opinion.

The Rev. F. W. Robertson, than whom no man of his day was in closer touch with the working-classes, said, in one of his addresses, delivered on the occasion of the opening of a Working Men's Institute:—"The people of this country stand in danger from two classes—from those who fear them, and from those who flatter them…. From the platform and the press we now hear language of fulsome adulation, that ought to disgust the working men of this country. The man who can see no other source of law than the will of a majority; who can feel no everlasting law of right and wrong, which gives to all human laws their sanction and their meaning, and by which all laws, whether they express the will of the many or of the few, must be tried; who does not feel that he, single and unsupported, is called upon by a mighty voice within him to resist everything which comes to him claiming his allegiance as the expression [306] of mere will, is exactly the man who, if he had lived seven centuries ago, would have stood on the sea-sands, beside the royal Dane, and tried to make him believe that his will gave law to the everlasting flood." [22]

But flattery even, and the raising of false hopes, are by no means the only base influences brought to bear upon the majority, in whose hands the government is practically placed. Political bribes are becoming somewhat common in our day. Who, for instance, can fail to see in the "three-acre" scheme, so lately propounded by Mr. Chamberlain, one of the most impudent and unprincipled bids for popular favour known in modern history. Suddenly, no less than two millions of electors are admitted to the franchise, and, before even the fresh contingent of collective political wisdom (consisting principally of agricultural labourers) has had time to realise its new possession, one of the most prominent of English statesmen deliberately offers to this class, conditional upon his accession to power and their support of his party, the one thing above all others calculated to seduce that class from the path of political rectitude. It is remarkable, too, with what open impudence this politically dishonest practice is utilised. Within the last few months, a London weekly, which prides itself in its extreme Radicalism, and at the time strongly advocated the adoption of the "three-acre" scheme, published the following unprincipled paragraph: "We must organise. We must have a Radical platform, of which Home-Rule will be but one plank. The democracies of [307] the two islands must give each other the hand. We have our grievances, the Irish have theirs. To remedy both must be our cry…. In order to win the masses it is necessary to understand what the masses want and to offer it to them as the prize of victory." [23]

The Bishop of Peterborough lately expressed himself on this subject of majority rule. "I hold," he said, "that there may be as much unwisdom and, what is more, as much injustice and tyranny where the many govern the few as where the few govern the many; and further, that if there be such tyranny, it is the more hopeless and the more universally-present tyranny of the two." [24] The same authority quotes the late Lord Shaftesbury as having said, "I cannot say that I repose unlimited confidence in the wisdom of the working classes of this country; and I am not altogether without anxiety when I see them suddenly called on to decide great and difficult social and political problems, which, we are told, have baffled for ages the wisdom of philosophers and statesmen." The popular delusion (for it can be characterised in no other way) has been tersely put by Mr. Herbert Spencer. "The fundamental assumption, (he says) which is made by legislators and people alike, is that a majority has powers to which no limits can be put. This is the current theory which all accept, without proof, as a self-evident truth. Nevertheless," he adds, "criticism will, I think, show that this current theory requires a radical modification." [25] Whether we suppose that everybody really believes in the opinion of the majority, or, as Sir George C. Lewis says, while not believing in it still accept it because others do, is a matter of not much concern. The practical conclusion is the same—the opinion of the majority is adopted and acted upon, and perhaps it will be said that it is useless to attempt to alter or prevent such a state of things. [308] But practical statesmen have thought otherwise. The late Lord Beaconsfield was of opinion that such important matters as "the principles of liberty, of order, of law, and of religion ought not to be entrusted to individual opinion, or to the caprice and passion of multitudes, but should be embodied in a form of permanence and power." [26] And Mill was an equally strong advocate for some restraint. "It is necessary (said that writer) that the institutions of society should make provision for keeping up, in some form or other, as a corrective to partial views and a shelter for freedom of thought and individuality of character, a perpetual and standing opposition to the will of the majority…. Almost all the greatest men who ever lived have formed part of such an opposition…. A centre of resistance is as necessary when the opinion of the majority is sovereign as when the ruling power is a hierarchy or an aristocracy…. Where no such point d'appui exists, there the human race will inevitably degenerate; and the question whether the United States, for instance, will in time sink into another China resolves itself, to us, into the question whether such a centre of resistance will gradually evolve itself or not." [27]

I come round now to the proposition with which I opened this chapter—viz., that the class of legislation, which I have called "spurious" Liberalism, is resulting, in the present day, from the want of political knowledge among the masses, and the consequent unwise use to which their power in the legislature is being turned in the making of laws. I shall now show that society has suffered, is still suffering, and is likely, for a long time, to suffer injury and retrogression as a further consequence; and, what is more important, that the greatest share of that injury is likely to fall on its authors—the working-classes themselves. One [309] may safely say of the average elector, what Macaulay said of Southey, in his scathing essay on that author's "Colloquies of Society." "He conceives that the business of the magistrate is not merely to see that people are secure from attack, but that he ought to be a jack of all trades, architect, engineer, schoolmaster, merchant, theologian, a Lady Bountiful in every parish, a Paul Pry in every house, spying, eavesdropping, relieving, admonishing, spending our money for us, and choosing our opinions for us. His principle is, if we understand it rightly, that no man can do anything so well for himself as his rulers, be they who they may, can do it for him, and that a government approaches nearer and nearer to perfection in proportion as it interferes more and more with the habits and notions of individuals." [28] There are many among the masses who recognise no limit whatever to the interference of government in the regulation of society. They would probably acquiesce in the adoption of a state of things such as obtains in China. "There the government publishes a list of works which may be read, and, considering obedience the supreme virtue, authorises such only as are friendly to despotism. Fearing the unsettling effect of innovation, it allows nothing to be taught but what proceeds from itself. To the end of producing pattern citizens, it exerts a stringent discipline over all conduct, providing rules for sitting, standing, walking, talking, and bowing. Scholars are prohibited from chess, football, flying kites, shuttlecock, playing on wind instruments, training beasts, birds, fishes, or insects, all which amusements, it is said, dissipate the mind and debase the heart." [29] What sort of legislation, for instance, might be expected from a man who expresses an opinion that "the first cause of the undue inequalities which at present exist between capital and labour is that fearful and increasing evilcompetition?" [30] "It is," adds the same authority, "degrading to [310] employers themselves, it is highly injurious to a country, and cruelly oppressive to the working classes."

Or, again, what kind of legislation would (if he possessed the power) emanate from a man who, when speaking of the "disadvantages" which the employés in clothing factories had to contend with, affirmed that they had many, "such as sweaters and the introduction of the most modern machinery;" or from another trades' unionist who urged a reduction in the quantity of their labour, in order "to maintain the balance, and defeat the march of machinery"? This senseless tirade against machinery is certainly in striking contrast to that paragraph of the "Knights of labour" programme, in which it is claimed that they should be "enabled to reap the advantages conferred by the labour-saving machinery which their brains have created." It is refreshing, however, to find that one member of the Trades' Union Congress in question had the courage to express a sounder opinion, in the face of his fellow-delegates. "It appeared to him," he said, "that some of the speakers wished to go back to the dark ages, when at the ringing of the Curfew Bell every one had to put up his shutters and go to bed."

Again, at a meeting of "unemployed," which was held in the colony of Victoria, a short time ago, a resolution was passed to the effect "that as the government could easily find work at remunerative rates for several hundreds of men in the construction of railways and other public works, it should be done as speedily as possible; and that, if they were not willing to help the men to obtain work, they should resign and make way for others who would dispense justice to their fellow-men." It would be easy to multiply instances of this tendency to look to government, as if it were a sort of giant benefactor which could and should do everything for those who failed to do anything for themselves.

This erroneous view of the institution which we call government is, as I have shown, unfortunately encouraged [311] by the constant flattery which is accorded to the masses by candidates for parliamentary honours. Instead of honestly refusing to further the hundred-and-one ill-digested schemes which are made in the interests of different classes at election times, candidates readily promise to do all in their power to have them carried into practice, and, as a consequence, the proposers of such schemes are led to believe they have made really feasible and equitable suggestions.

"Every candidate for parliament," says Mr. Herbert Spencer, "is prompted to propose or support some new piece of ad captandum legislation. Nay, even the chiefs of parties—those anxious to retain office, and those to wrest it from them—severally aim to get adherents by outbidding one another. Each seeks popularity by promising more than his opponent has promised." [31]

One cannot be surprised either at the working classes becoming more and more confident of their equal ability to legislate, when they set up so low a standard for their parliamentary representatives. In point of comparison they are, as a fact, quite as well qualified as the average run of men whom they do send to parliament. Take, for instance, the following estimate of one of the people's representatives by a prominent trades-unionist: "When we choose men to represent us, we should pay them to remain honest, and, if they did not, they should be removed. A man in parliament, who had nothing to live on, must either grab or starve, as, if he was not paid for his services, he must pay himself. In order to have true representation in parliament, it behoves us to agree that members of parliament be paid for their services." [32]

What a contrast is here offered to the picture presented by Mr. Frederick Harrison, wherein he says to the London workmen: "Choose the best men you can find for your representatives, and then trust them heartily, and strengthen their [312] hands…. Let no petty criticism on details, let no local divergence of opinion draw you off the main point. Choose men who know their own minds, and then give them their head. In politics you cannot have a truly superior leader whom you are to check and criticise and tutor at every step. Nor can you have one who is simply the mouthpiece of every noisy clique." [33]

That all, or even many workmen should follow Mr. Harrison's advice is too much to expect for many a long year. Before such a state of things is realised, a much higher standard of political knowledge will have to be reached—a standard sufficiently high to lead to a recognition of the difficulties of the political science, and thus produce a much less confident attitude than is now assumed in such matters.

Promises will always go a long way towards winning popular favour. To make them, costs nothing; and the failure to fulfil can be afterwards accounted for on many plausible grounds; even if they fail, the coveted prize of membership has meantime been acquired. The practice of offering such bribes to the public is being carried on under our very noses every day, and we unfortunately become used to it, and many intelligent persons even wink at it.

Perhaps one of the most glaring cases in modern times was that which I have mentioned, in which two millions of newly enfranchised agricultural labourers were, in 1885, offered allotments of three acres of ground, in the event of the Radical party being returned to power.

One of the most important and, at the same time, most unfortunate results of the public confidence in its own political knowledge and judgment, is the widespread belief that every evil which afflicts or may afflict society is capable of cure, and that every good which the mind can conceive is capable of production, by means of an act of [313] parliament. I have already mentioned that a minister of the crown in the colony of Victoria, on a recent occasion, boasted to his constituents that the government, of which he had been a member, had succeeded in passing measures which would add three inches to the statute-book. What can be said of such an utterance! It would almost seem as if such a speaker lacked a knowledge of the very fundamental principles of his business; yet he did not, for he was a man who had read and thought widely. He stooped however to the popular delusion, by which it is really believed that the good, or the happiness of a people depends upon the number of its laws—in short, the thickness of its statute-book! Could absurdity go further? The minister in question evidently knew his audience, and touched their most vital part. The truth is, there is a wide-spread belief that an act of parliament is something more than a resolution of the people to do something for themselves combinedly. There is, in fact, a vague and undefined sort of belief that parliament is a kind of power in itself, quite apart from the people; that it is a power capable of almost anything, and that, as far as ways and means are concerned, it has no known limit to its resources.

"The public collectively," says Mill, "is abundantly ready to impose, not only its generally narrow views of its interests, but its abstract opinions and even its tastes as laws binding upon individuals." [34] And that this readiness would quickly take the shape of acts of parliament, if an opportunity offered, has been sufficiently shown by the numerous efforts of "total abstainers"—"local optionists"—"Sunday observers"—"early closing" enthusiasts—"eight hour" advocates—and others of equally narrow vision. Such people forget, or have never realised that, "in proportion as each individual relies upon the helpful vigilance of the State, he [314] learns to abandon to its reponsibility the fate and well-being of his fellow citizens." [35]

In the debate upon "The legalisation of the eight hours system," which is recorded in the report of the Intercolonial trades union congress, previously referred to, one speaker said, "The eight hour system might be acquired by Trades unions; but there were people whose circumstances rendered it impossible for them to become members of trades unions. They might be few in number, or they might be many; but they were frequently the people who required to be protected against themselves, and an act of parliament was the only way in which they could be protected." Another speaker expressed the hope "that before long it would be the recognised law of the land that no man or woman should work more than eight hours a day," and to show how limited a view he took of the probable effects of what he so desired, he added that the legislation in question "would greatly benefit such a trade as cabinet-making"!

It is quite probable that if each person, who now entertains these fallacious opinions, were to be induced to analyse the source of parliamentary power, he would, on reflection, recognise that it was capable of nothing which the people could not do for themselves; that it, in fact, was the people, speaking and acting in concert; that every pound which it expended would have, sooner or later, to come out of the pockets of themselves, and that, in order to expend money through it, a very large and astonishing percentage would be lost in the complex machinery of government, through which it is, as it were, filtered. Yet, when all this had been admitted, and apparently believed, the old delusion would show itself in practice, and, from mere association, the bulk of the people would continue to look to parliament for benefits which a moment's reflection would show that the people [315] themselves would not be considered capable of bestowing on one another, apart from that institution.

Another important, even cardinal error, closely connected with the one I have just mentioned, is the neglect to study or even consider, the ultimate effects of an act of parliament as distinguished from its immediate results. My meaning has been well expressed by Mr. Herbert Spencer in the following passage, regarding what is known as the "practical" politician, "into whose mind there enters no thought of such a thing as political momentum, still less of a political momentum which, instead of diminishing or remaining constant, increases. The theory," he adds, "on which he (the 'practical' politician) daily proceeds is that the change caused by his measure will stop where he intends it to stop. He contemplates, intently, the things his acts will achieve, but thinks little of the remoter issues of the movement his act sets up, and still less its collateral issues." [36] Only within the last few months an act of parliament was introduced into the legislature of the colony of Victoria, with the object of providing the country with a national system of irrigation. The scheme will involve some millions of money, yet it was legislated for on the smallest amount of data, of a very flimsy and uncertain character. The following passage, from one of the daily papers of that colony, will give some notion of the hasty and careless manner in which so important a subject is treated; and an idea can readily be formed of the amount of reflection bestowed upon the probable "remoter issues" or "political momenta" (as Mr. Herbert Spencer calls them), which such an act may and probably will produce in the future. "Eighty-five clauses of one of the most momentous measures ever submitted to the legislature are passed in four and a half hours, or at the rate of about a clause every three minutes—barely time for the assistant clerk to read over the [316] provision for the information of members. With such modes of procedure," adds the organ in question, "in vogue in the parliament of Victoria, is there room for wonder that some of its enactments prove unworkable, incomprehensible, and the laughing-stock of lawyers?" It is highly probable that some of its enactments will prove equally astonishing to its enactors in its "remoter issues."

The English election of 1885, which was characterised by the now famous "three-acre" proposals, led to some admirable and instructive expressions of opinion on this subject, by such sound Liberals as the Marquis of Hartington and Mr. Bright.

Mr. Chamberlain had raised, in the mind of the agricultural labourer, hopes of being provided with a home and a means of livelihood, as a return for an electioneering vote; and it remained for such genuine Liberals, as those above mentioned, to dispel the fond illusion which had been pictured for them by less scrupulous statesmen.

Lord Hartington's treatment of the subject was in every way satisfactory. "I have no doubt," he said, "that a parliament largely elected by the labouring classes will find a good deal to revise in legislation which has been passed by former parliaments, in which the labouring classes were hardly represented at all. But I am not prepared to tell the working men of this country that I believe that any legislation, which any parliament can effect, will suddenly and immediately improve their condition, except by enabling them by their own efforts to improve it themselves. What is it after all that the working-classes of this country stand in need of? They stand in need of good wages, cheap food, continuous employment, and cheap necessaries and comforts of life. Well I believe that bad laws and bad legislation can do much to prevent them having those things, but I do not believe any legislation can certainly secure them, and they can only be secured by the state of general prosperity [317] and general activity in trade. I believe also that legislation in favour of any particular class is likely to prevent the general prosperity, and I believe that legislation, which is directly applied to the improvement of the condition of the labouring-classes, can only be detrimental to other classes, and will be as likely to injure that prosperity as class legislation of any other kind. I desire therefore not to attract so much the attention of the labouring-classes by promises of legislation intended for their own exclusive benefit, as to ask them to join with us, and with all the other classes of the country, in bringing about that general state of prosperity which, alone, in my opinion, can improve their condition." [37] This quotation is useful in another way, in affording evidence, from one of the greatest among English Liberal statesmen, of the proneness of ill-digested legislation to produce effects directly opposite to those which have been looked for by its authors. The reason of that peculiarity is, as I have already stated, that there is a tendency, and, in fact, a very prevalent practice of looking for and resting satisfied with the immediate effect of a measure, without considering carefully the many ultimate and indirect consequences which do not so readily reveal themselves. The same idea which has been thus expressed by Lord Hartington was touched upon in 1876 by Mr. Gladstone, in a speech delivered upon the centenary of Adam Smith. "With reference to the state of the working-classes," he said, "I think that we have no right to complain of those who have been so long under the power of others, who were commonly called their betters, in respect to the regulation of wages; but I think it is a primary duty to make this allowance, because they, above all others, suffer from their want of knowledge. I have," he adds, "observed this distinction between the working-classes and other classes—that, whereas the sins of the other classes were almost entirely in the interests of their class, and against the [318] rest of the entire community, the sins of the working-classes, many and great as they were, were almost entirely against themselves." And, again, Mr. John Bright, speaking at Taunton as late as last year, said, with evident reference to Mr. Chamberlain's allotments proposal:—"There is a danger I should like to point out to you—of people coming to the idea that they can pull or drive the government along, that a government can do anything that is wanted, that, in fact, it is only necessary to pass an act of parliament with a certain number of clauses to make any one well off." And then he adds: "Every man of us, and every woman, may abstain from those things which we generally believe to be hurtful to other people, and I recommend therefore the influencing of the opinions and the actions of private persons, rather than dwelling upon the idea that everything can be done by an act of parliament. [38] In a like spirit, Macaulay said: "I know that it is possible by legislation to make the rich poor, but that it is utterly impossible to make the poor rich." [39]

With the exception of the last of these quotations, they are all directed against the growing tendency in modern legislation, by which parliament is expected to do for society much of that which it has hitherto endeavoured to do for itself—a tendency, too, not confined to the working-classes, but widely shared by those who might be expected to display more judgment and discrimination. As Sir Henry Maine has said, "There is no doubt that some of the most inventive, most polite and best instructed portions of the human race are, at present, going through a stage of thought, which, if it stood by itself, would suggest that there is nothing of which human nature is so tolerant, or so deeply enamoured, as the transformation of laws and institutions. A series of political and social changes, which, a century ago, no man would have thought capable of being effected, save by the sharp convulsion of revolution, are now contemplated [319] by the bulk of many civilised communities as sure to be carried out: a certain number of persons regarding the prospect with exuberant hope, a somewhat larger number with equanimity, many more with indifference or resignation." [40]

I have before me an admirable instance of this tendency. A politician of some importance in his own community—the colony of Victoria—has published his proposals for future legislation, in which he "avails" himself "of the earliest opportunity for placing before the electors" what he terms "the Liberal programme," upon which he appeals. The proposals are arranged under three heads—"Industrial," "Social," and "Political," and they include, among a large number of others:—The maintenance and perfecting of our protective policy; revision of the tariff in the interests of agriculture; intercolonial freetrade on the basis of uniform protection against other countries; the conservation of water for irrigating purposes; the search for and development of coal fields; the search for and development of gold deposits; the encouragment of the growth of natural products; the opening up of new markets for surplus products; the cheapening of internal traffic; the establishment of a system of state insurance; the prevention of over-crowding in centres of population; the military training of all citizens up to a given age; the ensuring of eight hours as the legal day's work for all engaged in manual labour. Much of this is Liberalism of the most spurious character, and it gives one some idea of the elastic nature of the term in many people's minds. It is not necessary for me to dwell, at length, upon the probable effects of such a tendency to over-legislate. The Statute-book has already become over-burdened with enactments which sap individual effort; check individual enterprise; remove from certain parts of the industrial organism; wholesome and health-giving competition, which hamper commerce, and, in the end, do more injury than [320] good to the very interests which they were intended to benefit.

Moreover, were the state to attempt to carry out one-half the business which such a politician seems to desire, it would degenerate quickly into an unwieldy, extravagant, illmanaged organisation, by which much of the work, which is now carried out under the keen influences of competition, would be executed slugglishly, imperfectly, and by no means to the satisfaction of the public.

The popular assumption that what we term "politics" is a matter with which almost everyone is competent to deal, coupled with the blind belief in the powers of an act of parliament as a sort of social panacea, has thus led to an immense amount of commercial and industrial injury. The earlier centuries of English history were, as I have shown, somewhat prolific in falsely-conceived statutes, which were passed under the belief that the natural evolution of society could be permanently checked or improved upon by parliamentary regulation. Time has clearly proved that that belief was a vain one; and, to readers of history, the series of disappointments which so proved it should serve as political beacons for future guidance in similar matters. The abortive legislation of that period was partly the result of a deliberate attempt to conserve the privileges of the aristocracy and moneyed classes of the time, and partly the result of a desire to benefit "the people," by influencing the values and prices of food. As I shall show, they were in both cases ineffectual in the direction anticipated.

The over-legislation of the present day is equally the outcome of misconception as to results—miscalculations, as it were, in political arithmetic, arising from the before-mentioned habit of regarding the immediate effects of astatute, while ignoring, or else neglecting to give due consideration to those which are less easily discerned. Legislation, of the kind which is being passed in our own day, is claimed to be [321] "Liberal" in its tendencies; but, as a fact, it fails to comply with the first principles of that school of politics, on account of the ultimate consequences which it produces, and which unfortunately are left unconsidered at the time of enactment.

Observe now what no less an authority than Buckle—referring to the past—has said regarding this class of legislation. I have referred to this before; but as a broad and comprehensive generalisation it cannot be too distinctly impressed upon the mind. "Every great reform," he says, "which has been effected, has consisted, not in doing something new, but in undoing so mething old. The most valuable additions made to legislation have been enactments destructive of preceding legislation; and the best laws which have been passed have been those by which some former laws were repealed." [41] And again, "The whole scope and tendency of modern legislation is to restore things to that natural channel from which the ignorance of preceding legislation has driven them." [42] Elsewhere, the same writer says: "Indeed, the extent to which the governing classes have interfered, and the mischiefs which that interference has produced, are so remarkable as to make thoughtful men wonder how civilisation could advance in the face of such repeated obstacles…. To sum up these evils would be to write a history of English legislation; for it may be broadly stated that, with the exception of certain necessary enactments, respecting the preservation of order, and the punishment of crime, nearly everything which has been done, has been done amiss." [43] Towards the conclusion of the same chapter, Buckle comes to closer quarters with this injurious class of legislation. "It would," he says, "be easy to push the enquiry still further, and to show how legislators, in every attempt they have made to protect some particular interests, and uphold some particular principles, have not only failed but have brought about [322] results diametrically opposite to those which they proposed. We have seen," he adds, "that their laws in favour of industry have injured industry; that their laws in favour of religion have increased hypocrisy, and that their laws to secure truth have encouraged perjury. Exactly in the same way, nearly every country has taken steps to prevent usury, and keep down the interest of money; and the invariable effect has been to increase usury and raise the interest of money." [44]

If more accurate and exact testimony than that of Buckle should be desired, it is supplied in the preceding chapter. An examination of many of those earlier instances of meddling legislation will show that they involved some of the veriest details of personal conduct—matters, in fact, which were subjects rather for parental regulation than for the interference of the legislature. All such legislation had the effect of doing more harm than good. In fact, "the strongest of all arguments against the interference of the public, with purely personal conduct is that, when it does interfere, the odds are that it interferes wrongly, and in the wrong place." [45]

Reflect, now, upon the results of all this meddling with enterprise, with the natural development of commerce, of individualism, of personal character, of intellectual growth; and picture, too, the thousand and one obstacles and hindrances which it has thrown in the very path of progress. Think of the partly realised plans which have been frustrated; of the almost completed commercial schemes which have been destroyed; the hopes and aspirations which, at different periods, have been disappointed and defeated. "We talk glibly of such changes; we think of cancelled legislation with indifference. We forget that before laws are abolished they have generally been inflicting evils more or less serious; some for a few years, some for tens of years, [323] some for centuries. Change your vague idea of a bad law into a definite idea of it, as an agency operating on people's lives, and you see that it means so much of pain; so much of illness; so much of mortality." [46]

These results are all more or less remote—certainly many of them indirect, though none the less real and injurious. But they strike, and will ever strike at the very root of our national progress—viz., the incentive to accumulation, and to the development of individual character, enterprise, and greatness. "The result," says Joseph Cowen, "of every attempt made to promote the well-being of mankind, by taking the management of their affairs out of their own control, has been to deteriorate, and not to improve their condition. It is through the perpetual gymnastics of political life that national character is purified, elevated, and strengthened. The state is a growth, and not a machine. It should have a free, organic life. It is invested with authority to punish crime, and it cannot, with reason, be denied the power of preventing it. But this ought not to be a justification for meddlesome, inquisitorial, and enervating legislation, which aggravates the evil it is designed to cure. Under its operation society becomes stationary, torpid, and inactive. Uniformity produces monotony and stagnation. The state has no right to attempt to regulate the private actions of individuals, or to entrench upon their primary relations with one another." [47] And, again, Mr. Cowen says: "The stereotyping men into systems—encasing them in legal armour; dangling before them material Utopias; making the flesh-pots the pivot on which all their efforts turn, is a prostitution of national aspirations; a violation of human liberty; an encroachment on individual life; and a barrier to progress." [48] I need not, I presume, here emphasise the [324] fact that the author of these words is acknowledged to be one of the most able and consistent Liberal politicians of the present day. It may be, and indeed is, I know, thought by some persons that no great harm would be done to society, as a whole, if men were somewhat discouraged by a lessening of the incentives to accumulation. I venture to think that those persons are committing a cardinal error in such an opinion, as some of the best authorities would show. Sir Henry Maine, who has investigated with the eye of a specialist the records of early history, and the foundations of legal institutions, says: "An experience, happily now rare in the world, shows that wealth may come very near to perishing through diminished energy in the motives of the men who reproduce it. You may, so to speak, take the heart and spirit out of the labourers to such an extent that they do not care to work. Jeremy Bentham observed, about a century ago, that the Turkish government had, in his day, impoverished some of the richest countries in the world, far more by its action on motives, than by its positive exactions; and it has always appeared to me that the destruction of the vast wealth accumulated under the Roman Empire, one of the most orderly and efficient of governments, and the decline of Western Europe into the squalor and poverty of the Middle Ages, can only be accounted for on the same principle…. Here, then, is the great question about democratic legislation when carried to more than a moderate length. How will it affect human motives? What motives will it substitute for those now acting on men? The motives which at present impel mankind to the labour and pain which produce the resuscitation of wealth in ever-increasing quantities, are such as infallibly to entail inequality in the distribution of wealth. They are the springs of action, called into activity by the strenuous and never-ending struggle for existence; the beneficent private war which makes one man strive to climb on the shoulders of another, and remain [325] there through the law of the survival of the fittest." [49] It must be evident, then, to every one who cares to give the matter even a moderate amount of reflection, that all attempts to legislate for the general happiness, which involve an interference with these primary motive-forces in human nature, must gravely jeopardise the soundness and prosperity of the community in which the experiment is tried, as well as the manly vigour and spirit of independence of the people who constitute it. It is quite possible that much of such legislation may be enacted without producing any sudden and easily-discerned effect; but the effect will be there nevertheless. It is in the very nature of such results that they should be gradually produced, and be so remote that, except by careful analysis, the cause and the effect would be scarcely suspected of having any connection with one another. As Mr. Herbert Spencer humorously puts it, in illustration of the frequent remoteness of the results of far removed social disturbances: "You break your tooth with a small pebble among the currants, because the industrial organisation in Zante is so imperfect. A derangement of your digestion goes back for its cause to the bungling management in a vineyard on the Rhine several years ago." [50] In many cases, the results of legislative or other interferences with trade or individual action are so far removed from the original cause that, even on the closest study, it would be impossible to trace them. Indeed, it is not only probable but certain that, at the present time, we suffer results from some of the shortsighted legislation of generations back. In the present day, for instance, there are many otherwise rationally-minded and fairly-motived workmen who are disposed to carry their trades-union principles to unreasonable extremes, from no other cause than the unconscious irritation which has been engendered by a knowledge, derived from history, of the repressive [326] legislation of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries directed against workmen. This, and numerous other instances of legislative cause and effect, with which all students of history are familiar, must sufficiently convince one that it is impossible to say, with any degree of certainty, how long afterwards a negligently-conceived legislative measure may continue to operate injuriously on society, or to what extent those operations may affect its welfare.

What the future will bring forth it would be difficult to say. That the errors I have enumerated will be checked in any way, by wiser counsel, it would, as I have already said, be rather sanguine to expect. It is more than likely that the current of over-legislation will run its course, and that the hastily-conceived and carelessly-digested schemes which are now being, and will, in the near future, be further added to the statute-books of English-speaking communities, will, by virtue of the unalterable and unaccommodating economic laws, throw back on their authors practical and sorrowful proofs of their unwisdom, and thus instil some wholesome lessons for subsequent guidance.

But, meanwhile, there will be needed much care and watchfulness on the part of those to whose lot falls the guidance of public affairs; for, before any such re-action sets in, society will have suffered many shocks of a severe nature.

"If I am in any degree right," says Sir Henry Maine, "popular government, especially as it approaches the democratic form, will tax to the utmost all the political sagacity and statesmanship of the world to keep it from misfortune." [51]

I am bound to say that I do not consider the hopeless view of the future of democracy, involved in some of the quotations which I have given, applicable in the same degree to all communities in which it is established. In [327] Great Britain, there are circumstances which do not augur well for the outcome of the experiment in the event of its being tried; but, in certain of the Australian colonies, as I shall also show, there are strong counter-influences at work, which are likely to lead the working-classes, by and by, into a much less exaggerated view of legislative possibilities. The fortunately better, because more equal, distribution of wealth, brought about by other than legislative means, together with the almost phenomenal development of the building society system, by which almost every workman can, and does in time, become possessed of his own freehold, has produced, in the Australian colonies, a regard for the rights of property, at least, which, so far, has been apparently little felt or experienced in Great Britain.






"There is no surer way of drying up this great stream of self-help and self-reliance, than to teach the working classes that they should look, not so much to their own efforts, but to the state or the municipality."—PROFESSOR FAWCETT.

"The popular cry now is for the state to override the man; for legislation to supply the place of open competition and free personal action."—JOSEPH COWEN.

"Democracies should leave as little as possible for the state to do. Every citizen should prevent, as much as possible, any control over individual energy."—BRADLAUGH.

"It is proposed to mitigate or extirpate poverty by governmental regulation of industry and accumulation. The substitution of government direction for the play of individual action, and the attempt to secure by restriction what can better be secured by freedom…. Whatever savours of regulation and restriction is in itself bad."—HENRY GEORGE.

I HAVE already ventured to submit to my readers what I may term a theory of the growth of Liberalism in Great Britain, as generalised from what I conceive to be a broad and comprehensive study of that nation's political history. At the risk of seeming to repeat myself, I venture to shortly re-state that theory. Whatever may have been the condition of the English people, prior to the conquest of 1066, that important event at once plunged the whole of the conquered population into a condition of absolute subjection to the Norman invaders. Whatever liberty the [329] people had acquired and enjoyed, prior to that event, was, in fact, taken from them by the sudden accession of the new monarch, who, at once, assumed all the rights and powers incidental to the despotic position which he had secured by his military victory. The people of England can therefore be said to have commenced afresh, from this event, in the growth and development of their freedom. The history of that growth has already been traced in previous chapters; but it is necessary to observe that in the gradual acquirement of that freedom from the monarch, (which acquirement was of necessity accompanied by a corresponding curtailment of that monarch's power), the people had the advantage of the assistance of the nobles, in the numerous agitations by means of which that freedom was obtained. The despotism of unchecked monarchical rule may be said to have spent its last effort with the Revolution of 1688, when that particular and formidable obstacle to true Liberalism was disposed of for all time. [1]

From the year 1688, however, the people had a new mission to fulfil; viz., to commence their attack upon what may be called the "privileges," which were then exclusively enjoyed by the nobility and the wealthy classes. What those privileges were has been explained in the various epochs of Liberalism which have been already enumerated as having occurred since that great event. From the year 1688 the co-operation of the classes mentioned ceases; and the titles of "Toryism" and "Whiggism" thenceforth represent the conflicting causes of the aristocracy and wealthy classes, and of "the people" respectively. [2] During the whole struggle of about two centuries which have elapsed since the Revolution of 1688, the people have been contending for "equal [330] freedom," "equal opportunities." That goal has, I submit, now been practically reached—that is to say, all Englishmen are, at the present day, in the enjoyment of "equal freedom," "equal opportunities;" and what may be described as a turning-point has presented itself in the political history of the English people. In confirmation of this, Mr. Frederick Harrison, in a paper upon "The Progress of Labour," contained in the October (1883) number of the Contemporary Review, says: "It is matter for congratulation how completely the old parliamentary programme has been cleared off, and how small are the measures, still to be won, which directly affect the working-class alone;" and M. de Lavelye even admits that "caste and its privileges are abolished; the principle of equality of all in the eye of the law is everywhere proclaimed; the suffrage is bestowed on all." [3]

It is not difficult to understand that "the people" (by which term I mean to include, among others, the whole of the manual working-classes), after six centuries of struggle against monarchical despotism, and two centuries of struggle against aristocratic privileges, during the whole of which time they have been gradually becoming more free, and more confident of their power and importance, should have acquired the habit of looking constantly to the legislature, when engaged on matters of "reform," for some benefits, if not of freedom of speech, of action, of combination, of acquiring property, of taking their part in public matters, either as voters or as candidates, or of determining matters of national taxation, all of which they already enjoy—then of some other advantages similarly beneficial. And, further, it is not unnatural that those classes should have been brought, as a consequence of this hitherto uniform result of "Liberal" legislation, to the belief that that which has, as a fact, been only the effect of [331] "Liberalism,' viz., benefit to themselves, was the actual basis or indispensable condition of that particular political policy. [4]

Such however is the fact; and I venture to affirm that the vast majority of the working-classes of to-day, would, if asked the question, express their belief that the one characteristic which should, above all others, distinguish "Liberal" legislation, is this—that it should be "liberal" towards the poorer classes, that is to say, should confer some benefits or advantages on those classes, as distinguished from what are called the "propertied" classes. This belief receives, every day, all the confirmation, such as it is, which certain eminent politicians can give it. In their subservience to the masses, they allow themselves to be drawn into observations which, instead of discouraging, only render more confident this belief. When masses of workmen are told, at a political meeting, after a hard day's work, that the mission of the "Liberal or Radical party is to increase their comforts, secure their health, and multiply their luxuries, which they may enjoy in common"—that it is "the duty of the state" to "protect the weak, to provide for the poor, to redress the inequalities of our social system"—who can be surprised that they should place such an interpretation on the term, and be willing to lift into prominence all who come to them with such comprehensive promises? Doctrine of this kind is well calculated to drive from their minds the true principles of the political school to which they have attached themselves. They would be surprised, indeed, to be told that the whole tendency of the legislation which is thus being promised to them, is in the very opposite direction to that which Liberalism indicated fifty years ago. Yet they have been told so by a Liberal of much sounder [332] principles than those of Mr. Chamberlain. Mr. Joseph Cowen has said, "We have, during the last sixty years, conquered liberty of conscience, political securities, freedom of the press, and unfettered commerce. During all that time we have been busy unfolding mediæval swathes and entanglements; and there are some amongst us, who now seem bent on encircling us with others equally as anomalous, if not as oppressive." Mr. Henry George, too, with all his wildness on the subject of land nationalisation, sees this ebb in popular political belief. "It is proposed," he says, "to mitigate or extirpate poverty by governmental regulation of industry and accumulation." He subsequently speaks of the change as "the substitution of government direction for the play of individual action, and the attempt to secure by restriction what can better be secured by freedom. Whatever," he adds, "savours of regulation and restriction is, in itself, bad." [5] A third author, who has devoted much attention to this subject, says: "The party known successively by the names Whig, Liberal, and Radical, after having been for years the champions of freedom, the apostles of liberty, have begun to retrace their steps, and to substitute for the tyranny of an individual or a class, the tyranny of the majority." [6]

If there is any truth in these reflections, then the masses, having deprived kings of their despotic power, and the aristocracy and wealthy classes of any privileges they may have enjoyed, seem to be inclining now towards the creation of privileges for themselves, as against the propertied classes. To demand such advantages, or, if obtained, to persist in holding them, is simply to turn round on their own principles; for the author of "The Radical Programme" says that the "preservation of class privileges" is "the fundamental doctrine and uniform aim of Conservatism."


In the last chapter I explained my reasons for believing that English-speaking communities will have yet to pass through a long period of well-meant but misconceived and abortive legislation—the inevitable "measles," as it were, of democratic or popular government. I see no escape from the conclusion that, quite apart from the popular ignorance of the political science, so long as the masses pin their faith to the belief I have just mentioned, or to the bald principle of "majority" voting as a test of wisdom, the chances of legislation, beneficial to society as a whole, are well-nigh hopeless. That conclusion I think unavoidable, even as an abstract deduction; but we are not dependent upon conclusions so obtained, for already the air is full (and the statute-books are fast becoming so) of legislative schemes from which their authors vainly anticipate results of the most truly Utopian character.

These alone are sufficient to show the direction which legislation will take in the future. On the one hand we have schemes for artificially creating a peasant proprietary, by which "smiling homesteads" are to be scattered over a land, in which the condition of the agricultural industry is at present too depressed to render such holdings even self-supporting. Yet all of this is to be done by the magic influence of an act of parliament, compelling landowners to sell their property at such a valuation as will constitute what Mr. Joseph Chamberlain has lately spoken of as a "ransom" from the propertied classes. Another visionary would—again by act of parliament—put an end to private ownership in land by "nationalising" the proprietary. The advocates of this scheme would convert the country into an immense public estate, and burden the people with an enormous "Lands Department," which would cost an endless amount of money to manage or mismanage, as the case might be; and, by this means, it is vainly hoped that the poor would be made better off. A third dreamer would found a [334] national system of insurance, by which every citizen would be compelled to make provision for those about him; unmindful of the contingency that he might be lacking the means to provide for himself. Others, equally unpractical, would compel society, by act of parliament, to confine itself to eight hours' work per day, from which it might soon follow (if applied to domestic servants) that fires and lights would have to be extinguished at about the old Curfew Bell hour. Another class of enthusiasts would pass an act of parliament to prohibit the use of all spirits and fermented liquors; while a further section of extremists would return to the old law which enforced strict Sunday observance.

It is truly appalling to contemplate what life would become if each of these, and the hundred and one other wild and immature theories which are now in the air, were allowed to be carried into practice. Life would indeed be unbearable. Yet reflection will show that we are fast tending in that direction; for if we turn our eyes towards impending legislation, whether regarding commercial or social matters, we find that our individual liberty is being slowly but surely curtailed in a manner which will not for a moment stand the test of criticism, by the light of true principles. To whatever department, indeed, of the social organism we turn our attention, we shall find that some scheme for producing impossible results either has been already attempted by the legislature, or is impending, with every prospect of being sooner or later tried as a sort of harmless experiment. The manifesto of the Liberty and Property Defence League of Great Britain, the special mission of which powerful society is to resist such overlegislation, contains the following too-well founded statement: "During the last fifteen years all interests in the country have successively suffered, at the hands of the state, an increasing loss of their self-government. These apparently disconnected invasions of individual freedom of action, by [335] the central authority, are, in reality, so many instances of a general movement towards state-socialism, the deadening effect of which, on all branches of industry, the working classes will be the first to feel." Mr. Gladstone even has, as lately as January of this year, sounded a note of warning. Speaking of the legislative work of the last fifty years, he says it has been "a process of setting free the individual man, that he may work out his vocation, without wanton hindrance. If," he adds, "instead of this, government is to work out his vocation for him, I, for one, am not sanguine as to the result." [7] He significantly observes, in the same paper, "The law cannot give prosperity, but it can remove grievance."

I shall now enumerate some of the instances of that class of modern legislation, or proposed legislation, of which I have spoken, as involving grave disadvantages to society. First of Commercial legislation. It was thought, after the publication of Smith's "Wealth of Nations," upwards of a century ago, that free trade, as an economic principle, was established for all time; and that the then worn-out theory of Protection had for ever been buried as one of the great errors of the dark ages. Those who thought so, however, miscalculated the bent of the human mind. The theory of Protection had held the field for centuries; and scarcely anyone had ventured to dispute its wisdom, till Adam Smith threw down the controversial gauntlet, by the publication of the work in question. "If," says Buckle, "the 'Wealth of Nations' had appeared in any preceding century, it would have shared the fate of the great works of Stafford and Serra." When that great economist did secure a hearing, the progress which his theories made was almost hopelessly tardy. "The principles of free trade" (continues Buckle), "and all the consequences which flow from them, were vainly struggled against by the most overwhelming majorities of [336] both Houses of Parliament. Year by year, the great truth made its way, always advancing, never receding. The majority was at first deserted by a few men of ability, then by ordinary men, then it became a minority, then even the minority began to dwindle; and at the present day (1856), eighty years after the publication, there is not to be found anyone of tolerable education, who is not ashamed of holding opinions, which, before the time of Adam Smith, were universally received." [8]

It would be distinctly beyond my province to enter, here, into a dissertation upon the purely economic merits and demerits of the two rival policies. I have, in a former chapter, contended that freedom for the individual, subject to certain necessary limits, is indispensable to human progress. It is so, as much in commerce as in any other department of social activity; for it is through the medium of commerce that the acquirement and accumulation of wealth is effected, and by which, therefore, most of the comforts of life are obtained. "The feelings of rival tradesmen," says Mill, "prevailing among nations, overruled for centuries all sense of the general community of advantage which commercial countries derive from the prosperity of one another; and that commercial spirit which is now one of the strongest obstacles to war, was, during a certain period of European history, their principal cause." [9] Quite apart, however, from the economic aspects of the question, which, as I have said I cannot consistently dwell upon here, Protection, as a legislative policy, involves a very distinct breach of a very distinct principle of Liberalism. The liberty to barter is one of the primary rights, or at least the primary necessities of society; for it goes to the very root of the principle of the division of labour, which cannot operate as a factor in social evolution except with a certain [337] amount of freedom of exchange. Protection says: "You shall not barter with a foreigner without paying a penalty to your community for the privilege." This penalty involves the taking away, for no justifiable purpose, of a portion of a citizen's legally acquired property, which it is the first duty of the state to secure to him. The state is thus, itself, committing, towards one or more citizens, the very wrong which it is its first duty to prevent others from committing. Thus, the community as a body (represented by government) violates a principle which it prohibits any individual from violating. "Every such encroachment," says Adam Smith, "every violation of that natural distribution which the most perfect liberty would establish, must, according to this system, necessarily degrade, more or less, from one year to another, the value and sum total of the annual produce, and must necessarily occasion a gradual declension in the real wealth and revenue of the society; a declension, of which the progress must be quicker or slower, according to the degree of this encroachment, according as that natural distribution, which the most perfect liberty would establish, is more or less violated." [10]

Elsewhere the same high authority lays down the broad principles of Liberalism, of which the system of Protection is so clear and distinct a breach. "Every system," he says, "which endeavours, either, by extraordinary encouragements, to draw towards a particular species of industry a greater share of the capital of the society than what would naturally go to it, or, by extraordinary restraints, to force from a particular species of industry some share of the capital which would otherwise be employed in it, is, in reality, subversive of the great purpose which it means to promote. It retards, instead of accelerating, the progress of the society towards real wealth and greatness; and diminishes, instead of increasing, the real value of the annual produce of its [338] land and labour." [11] And, again: "All systems, either of preference or of restraint, being thus completely taken away, the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord. Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest, in his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man or order of men." [12] Very much the same thing has been said by Mr. Herbert Spencer, though in some-what different words. "In putting a veto," he says, "upon the commercial intercourse of two nations; or, in putting obstacles in the way of that intercourse, a government trenches upon men's liberties of action, and by so doing directly reverses its function. To secure for each man the fullest freedom to exercise his faculties, compatible with the like freedom of all others, we find to be the state's duty. Now, trade prohibitions and trade restrictions not only do not secure this freedom, but take it away. So that, in enforcing them, the state is transformed from a maintainer of rights into a violator of rights." [13] The system of Protection, therefore, in so far as it trespasses upon the domain of civil liberty for the individual, is subversive of the true principles of Liberalism. In Great Britain, though from time to time there arise local and spasmodic agitations in favour of a return to the old and exploded doctrine, there yet seems little chance of the movement finding favour with the majority: at least for some time. The traditional advantages of Freetrade, as a policy, overwhelm at present the superficial and attractive qualities of the exploded creed; otherwise there is good reason for fearing that by well-organised and cleverly-contrived agitation, the masses could be seduced into a reversal of the true Liberal policy.


Mr. John Bright appears to treat the subject as one which has passed, for all time, out of the domain of debatable questions. Speaking in October, 1885, at Taunton, concerning the Corn Laws of 1845, he said: "I should begin by stating that at that time there was an extraordinary law in this country; a law which you would suppose could not be possible—I will not say among Christian men, but among thinking men—that is, a law which prevented the importation of grain, and especially of wheat, from foreign countries into this country. At that time there were a great many men who thought that law very wicked—a great many more men have come to that conclusion since." [14]

The Times itself treats the subject in much the same manner. In an article upon "Protection in the House of Commons," dealing with certain speeches which had been delivered in that assembly in connection with the subject, the following passage occurs: "The truth is that Protection is dead; and it was only its gibbering ghost that made its appearance for a few brief and uneasy moments in the House of Commons yesterday. It is no longer formidable, even as a ghost." [15] And, again, in the same article: "The Fair Traders have almost disappeared." There can be no doubt that the disciples of this latter and comparatively new school are merely advocates of the exploded policy under another name: a protectionist being an advocate of an import tariff for the purpose of securing an imaginary national benefit in itself; a fair trader being an advocate of an import tariff for the purpose of retaliating upon other nations which refuse to open their ports.

Mr. Chamberlain himself, who has, one would think, given sufficient proof of his sympathy with the masses of the people, has spoken plainly upon this question. Commenting upon the proposal to tax American goods imported [340] into England, he said: "It means that every workman throughout the country should pay more for his loaf, and more for his clothes, and more for every other necessary of his life, in order that great manufacturers might keep up their profits, and in order, above all, that great landlords might maintain and raise their rents." "It would," he says elsewhere, "lessen the total production of the country, diminish the rate of wages, and it would raise the price of every necessary of life." Without, however, going into the economic side of the much disputed question of Freetrade versus Protection, as it has been debated in the United States and in many of the Australian colonies, I must be content here to submit that the policy of Freetrade is the only commercial policy consistent with truly Liberal principles; and at the same time to condemn the policy of Protection as coming most distinctly within the category of "Spurious Liberalism." And it is a sufficient proof of this that, neither in the past, nor in the present, can a single Liberal statesman be named, who for one moment entertains Protection as a correct theory. But, before passing away from the subject, which is a wide one, affording great scope for comment and criticism, I shall deal with some instructive illustrations of the anomalies which a system of protection has developed in Europe and in the Australian colonies. Those illustrations go to show how impossible it is to bring the complicated machinery of government to bear upon any single industry, with a view to conferring benefit upon a class, without, at the same time, giving rise to counter disadvantages, and even great commercial losses, which were probably never anticipated or even thought of at the time the machinery of government was set in motion.

Some months ago, for instance, an influential deputation of farmers of the colony of Victoria waited upon the Commissioner of Customs, introduced and fortified, as usual, by the [341] member for the district, with a view to urge the imposition of an import duty upon oats. The deputation explained that oats were being imported from New Zealand at a lower price than that for which they could be produced in Victoria—hence the necessity for the import duty asked for. It was, in fact, practically admitted that New Zealand was better adapted than Victoria to the cultivation of that grain. Yet, it was asked that the consumers of oats in Victoria should be compelled, by act of parliament, to give a higher price for oats than they could buy them at elsewhere. Why? Simply, in order that certain farmers might be enabled to cultivate and dispose of oats which had cost more to produce than they could be purchased for in New Zealand. The aims of the deputation in question seem to have become known; for immediately, or, at most, shortly after its withdrawal, a second deputation waited upon the same minister. It consisted of cabmen, carriers, and others interested in the keep of horses, who were desirous of pointing out to the government that if this duty were imposed, and oats raised proportionately in price, it would unreasonably handicap them in their respective businesses. In this case the liberty of the cabdriver and others was being sought to be curtailed, in order to benefit a particular industry. That class had, undoubtedly, the right to purchase their oats where they chose, that is to say at the cheapest market (New Zealand), without being compelled to pay a penalty in the shape of duty for the privilege of doing so. The deputation from the farmers was a direct challenge to that principle.

Another somewhat similar illustration can be quoted, in which the same anomaly is presented, and the same breach of principle involved. A deputation of tanners (also of Victoria) waited upon the Minister of Customs, with a view of obtaining an increase of duty upon some finer qualities of leather which were being imported from abroad, and which they could not, they said, under present circumstances, compete with, [342] unless a greater "protection" was afforded them. They told their story, which was identical in principle with that of the farmers—how, do what they would, they found it impossible to produce in the colony the particular classes of leather, the too-easy importation of which was complained of. The effect of granting them what they desired would have been to impose upon every member of the community, who used the particular article, an increased charge, in order to enable the tanners of the leather in question to carry on, with remunerative results, an industry which was obviously unsuitable to the colony; at least at that time. The additional cost to the public would certainly have been so indirect and difficult to observe that probably it would have gone unnoticed and unopposed, but for the fact of another interest which it touched. The boot manufacturers followed the tanners with a deputation. They pointed out that they represented a large and important industry, employing some hundreds of persons; that if the additional duty asked for were conceded, the leathers in question would be so raised in cost that a large part of their industry, consisting of the manufacture of certain qualities of boots and shoes from the class of leather in question, would be destroyed, and a large number of skilled hands thrown out of employment. Thus it will be seen that the first departure from the true principle, asked for by the tanners, would have led to the injury and destruction of a large and important industry; and that, in its turn, would have probably produced further disorganisation in directions not dreamt of. If this instance be analysed by the light of Mr. Stanley Jevons' explanation of the "greatest happiness" principle, it will be seen that the tanners conceived that an additional duty would add to their happiness; but they altogether neglected to consider whether there would not be a corresponding subtraction, at some other time, or from some other class.


Yet a third of these instructive illustrations can be mentioned. For upwards of twenty years various attempts have been made in the colony of Victoria to establish, on a remunerative basis, the woollen industry. The raw material is on the spot; and sanguine protectionists predicted that only a little "fostering" was needed to nurse it into industrial independence. It has had twenty years "nursing"; and, at the end of that time, is not only unable to stand alone (unaided by the artificial support of a tariff), but has actually asked for "more." As in the case of a good many of the other industries which have been reared in the colony referred to, what was asked for, for the purpose of "fostering", settled down to an absolutely permanent system of industrial "wet-nursing." For twenty years the woollens imported from abroad had been subjected to a duty of twenty per cent., yet the local venture did not pay. The proprietary, as also the work-people, waited on the government, and, in so many words, demanded an increase of five per cent. It was admitted that, notwithstanding the advantage of having the raw material on the spot, as also that of a twenty per cent. import duty, they could not compete with the "foreign" article, which they accordingly abused, and alleged to be made of all the refuse of gaols, workhouses, hospitals, and other establishments said to be infected with fever and other diseases. The case was, judged in popular fashion, a strong one; and, as there was added to it the influence of a somewhat threatening tone on the part of the work-people, there seemed for a time a chance of the request being granted, if only to win popular favour for the government. The "fostering" theory was made much of, and the usual ad captandum reasoning was resorted to. Strange to say, notwithstanding its twenty years' existence, there were not wanting advocates who spoke of it as a "new" industry, and on that ground urged a "little more" nursing. The so called "Liberal" press of the colony—which, as I have [344] before mentioned, affords the strange anomaly of championing, at the same time, the "protectionist" cause—advocated the claim of the industry upon the ground that "its being fostered gives remunerative employment to a large amount of labour, which might otherwise languish in idleness;" and it further claimed that "the government may justly interfere to relieve us of the disqualifications which a new industry is always handicapped with," adding that it is "willing that the millowners should receive a little adventitious benefit at the start."

Without spending much time over this very transparent piece of sophistry, it may be observed that "the large amount of labour" alluded to would not be likely to "languish in idleness" for long; or otherwise the work-people would have offered, as an alternative, to suffer a reduction of wages equal to the five per cent. additional duty, required by the proprietors of the industry. This they did not do; possibly on the strength of the following doctrine, as expounded by the protectionist journal before alluded to. Speaking of a well-known freetrader, who had characterised the principle of his school as the "doctrine of common sense," the journal in question observed, "Fortunately the working-classes are not in his power. They will consult their own interests first, before they trouble themselves about his principles." This is, in fact, the bottom principle of most protectionists; though unfortunately the masses fail to discern the fact through the superficial glamour of advantage which the theory presents to the cursory observer. Note, now, the effect of this deputation, which is the most instructive feature of the illustration. The advocates of the desired increase in duty were followed by an equally influential deputation: composed of manufacturers of ready-made clothing. These gentlemen, very pertinently, pointed out that the woollen industry had enjoyed a great many years of state assistance, during which to establish itself; that it had, [345] by its own showing, signally failed; and that in their opinion the additional duty asked for would not have the effect which seemed to be anticipated from it. But, beyond all this, they showed that the industry they represented, viz., that of manufacturing ready-made clothing from imported tweeds, was a successful one, in which some hundreds of men, women, and girls were employed; that the public would not purchase to any extent, neither could they do an export trade in articles of colonial tweed, and that the effect, therefore, of granting the increase in duty asked for would be to destroy an established and flourishing industry, in order to afford additional assistance (which would still be insufficient, under the circumstances), to another industry which was admittedly in a sick and declining condition. The moral of all this is identical with that which is deducible from the previous illustrations. Every citizen is entitled to liberty of choice in the purchase of his clothes, or of the material from which they are made. He should, therefore, be allowed to go where he pleases for them, and to purchase them at the highest or the lowest price for which they are obtainable—as he thinks best. Already parliament has, in the community in question, placed a penalty on the exercise of this freedom, by fixing a duty on every article composed of British, or, as it has been called, for agitative purposes, "foreign" tweed. The first deputation therefore, practically asked the government to impose a further restriction upon the liberty of all citizens, by inflicting an increased penalty upon the purchase of the British article. In attempting this, a government would obviously be acting contrary to true principles, and in the interests of a class. Moreover, in the case in question, it must be seen that, while with one hand parliament would have been subsidising the one industry at the expense of the general public, it would, with the other, have been simultaneously sapping the very foundation of the second and more [346] flourishing industry, and, at the same time, throwing out of employment a large number of persons who had spent their time in learning a particular business. Let me mention another equally instructive instance of popular misconception regarding this first principle of government: this first law of the science of economics. A person, signing himself, rather significantly, "One of the unemployed harness makers," writing to one of the daily papers of the colony of Victoria on the subject of "Duty on Saddlery," complains most bitterly that "a firm—one of the largest in the trade—taking advantage of the bad times in England, has imported harness largely from there, during the past few months, and the consequence is that since it has come to hand they have been able to dispense with the services of about half their workmen." He adds, "The price they paid for it, landed in Melbourne, including 25 per cent. duty, is considerably less than what the leather and mountings would cost here, to say nothing about the cost of making it up." Then the same writer makes the important admission that "anyone, knowing anything about the home trade, can see that it is impossible for the manufacturers here to compete with those in England," and he gives, as reasons for the fact, that "in the first place they (the English manufacturers) pay such small wages to their hands….and not only the small wages, but they keep their hands continually on one class of work until they get very proficient at it. They also work into each other's hands, each making a particular part, which saves considerable time." Yet, after all these unsophistical admissions concerning the "division of labour," and the other advantages which England can offer in the manufacture of saddlery, this would-be economist concludes by thinking "it is high time that a heavier duty than at present exists should be put upon" that class of work. He finally expresses a hope that the matter will be "brought under the notice of the government"! I need point no moral here, nor [347] insult the intelligence of my readers by commenting on the really humorous short-sightedness of such contentions. Yet a letter, occupying about six inches of a newspaper column of such matter, seems to have readily found a place in a recognised protectionist organ. This misconception regarding the policy of buying in the cheapest market—a policy which, it should be observed, every economist of note has advocated—reached its climax, when an ex-minister of the crown, of the colony of New South Wales, lately said: "The introduction of goods, manufactured by cheap labour, should be checked as if it were small-pox."

To turn now from these matters (which, though in themselves small, show the direction of the popular superstition), to those of higher and more serious import—let it be considered what extent of injury the whole civilised world has suffered and is now suffering, in consequence of the misconceived legislation of Germany and France in their short-sighted attempts to monopolise, or at least control an abnormal proportion of the sugar industry.

The principle of the "division of labour" has been rightly classified as one of the first aids to the creation of wealth; for, as has been well said, "a hive of men, harmoniously co-operating, can, without overstrain, produce indefinitely more than their joint requirements; whereas, all the efforts of a solitary individual can scarcely supply his most pressing wants." [16] Now, it is obvious that the fullest application of the principle of "division of labour" can only be reached when there is no isolation: when there is a free and unrestricted intercourse and interchange between all men and all nations, all the world over; for "then does this great wealth-creating agent put forth its full power and efficacy." [17]

It has been conclusively ascertained that the two countries above mentioned, under such a system of "free and unrestricted intercourse and interchange," cannot compete with [348] other parts of the world in the production of one particular article—sugar; that is to say, no person in either of those countries, can, unassisted, render remunerative, the production of that particular article of merchandise. Assuming that those two countries were wisely governed, and that one feature of their good government consisted in the careful recognition of economic principles, such persons would either produce sugar at a loss or abstain from any attempts at its cultivation. Unfortunately these countries (together with a great many more) are not wisely governed; for with some misconceived theory of national progress, their rulers have thought fit to disregard this primary economic law, and offer rewards or bonuses, that is to say, "bounties," out of the national revenue, to such persons as will undertake to produce sugar. The national revenue, of course, belongs to the whole people; so that the principle of bounties amounts to this—that every member of the community is compelled, by act of parliament, to contribute, annually, a sum of money towards compensating certain persons for the loss they sustain in the production of sugar. This touches one of the very first conditions of civilised society, viz., the protection of property. That is one of the fundamental objects of government; yet, in the case of bounties, we find the state actually confiscating portions of its citizens' property in order to subsidise a section of the community which chooses to occupy itself over an industry which could be more successfully prosecuted in other parts of the world. Almost every country is, from various causes—climatic, geological, or otherwise—better adapted than others to the production of some article of human necessity; and, as one of the purposes of the division of labour is that "men in all countries should devote themselves to that particular work for which they have special opportunities or aptitudes," it follows that directly this artificial aid, no matter out of whose pocket it may [349] come, is offered to an otherwise unsuitable industry, a goverment "compels producers to take their labour and capital away from the work which they are doing better than foreigners can, and apply the labour and capital so diverted to work which foreigners can do better than they can…. The wealth-creating power of the world is proportionately impaired." [18] Thus, we find that the system of bounties, as adopted by Germany and France, involves, in those countries themselves, a most distinct breach of the very first duty of government, by confiscating a portion of each citizen's property, which it should be the constant object of the state to protect.

The majority of such citizens may be said to have acquiesced in such a policy through their duly-elected representatives; but what of the minority? They have no remedy under "government by majority." The principle of "might is right" has asserted itself, and the wrong must be endured, or recourse had to physical force. But observe the injurious effect of this economic misconception outside the country itself. In consequence of the system being resorted to in Europe, the same industry which hitherto has been carried on, unaided, in one of the Australian colonies—Queensland—is ruined. Millions of capital have been lost, and thousands of persons of different nationalities, have been deprived of their livelihood by reason of their inability to compete with the artificially-bolstered industries of Europe.

The same principle was adopted for the first time some years ago with regard to the refining of sugar in France; and, in addition to the great wrong which was thereby done to the French citizens themselves, thousands of pounds were lost, and many hundreds of people were thrown out of employment in Bristol and other parts of England, where, previous to such artificial assistance, there had existed a [350] payable and thriving industry, depending on no adventitious aid.

Let me mention one more interesting example of this class of legislative interference. Turning again to colonial instances of this injurious misconception, I find a prominent member of the Council of the Victorian Trades Unionists tabling a resolution to the effect that that body approved any action "to secure a full measure of protection." The mover admitted the "highest regard for German colonists," but "protested against injury which would be done to the trades generally, if they were permitted to enter into unwholesome competition with colonial artisans."

The representative of the brush-makers, sitting as a delegate in the above council, said that "the brush-makers intended shortly waiting upon the ministry, with a view to securing increased protection;" and he gave as a reason that "some of the large firms were importing brush-ware at a large percentage less than it could be turned out in the colony at first cost." All this passes muster as sound and patriotic reasoning. The system of see-saw between wages and duty would, if carried out indefinitely, show its own absurdity; but that extreme would, of course, never be reached. An industry may be established, and a certain rate of duty fixed; then the workmen may demand a higher wage. That being obtained, the manufacturer finds his profits too small. He informs his men, and they may go to the ministry and get what the person, mentioned above, terms "increased protection." In these days, when, unfortunately, colonial governments are frequently governed from outside, the obtaining such an increase is by no means an unlikely event. Indeed, in the case of the woollen industry before mentioned, there was every appearance of the government giving way to the demand, until counter interests of some importance showed themselves. Supposing, therefore, that such an increase is obtained, an opening is at once made for [351] another rise in wages—and so the process might go on until, if it were applied all round, the value of the sovereign might be reduced about one-half, and the cost of living in the colony would be sufficiently high to drive all, who could go, out of it. Little consideration is of course given to the fact that every "increase" of the kind means a further penalty upon the liberty of all citizens consuming the particular goods upon which that increase is sought.

But this system of "self-help"—at other people's expense, is not confined to the working-classes. In November, 1886, a large meeting of saw-millers took place in the colony of Victoria, for the purpose of considering the depression in their trade. The result was a deputation to the government to ask for "an increase of duty on imported timber." The chairman pointed out to the minister that "they had no desire to prohibit the importation of timber, but simply wanted such a duty put on it as would prevent it entering into competition with hardwood. It was admitted that in Tasmania, whence the obnoxious competition came, "the men worked ten hours a day, and the wages were less;" and, further that "the facilities for saw-milling in Tasmania were much greater than in Victoria." The same speaker admitted also that "the Tasmanian timber was better than Victorian." The minister very properly refused to entertain the request, and a resolution was carried unanimously that "an appeal be made to parliament direct." Comment on such a state of things is unnecessary; for it may be added that all the persons who took part in the movement were sufficiently intelligent men—that is to say, in their own interest. That which is more significant, as indicating the bent of public opinion, is the fact that the proceedings elicited no surprise or condemnation from any section of the press, or of the community.

I venture to allude to one more interesting attempt at legislative interference, which fortunately was not realised by its authors.


A resolution was, in May of 1886, moved in the House of Commons, to the effect that it was expedient that the Indian Government should take measures to terminate gradually its direct connection with the culture of the poppy, and the manufacture of, and trade in opium; and that it should use the powers it possesses, to prohibit, in British India, the cultivation of the poppy, except to supply the legitimate demand for opium for medical purposes. In support of the resolution, the mover quoted, from missionaries and others, statements concerning the evils arising from the abuse of opium. It was admitted that such a prohibition as that aimed at in the resolution would entail an annual loss of £3,300,000 upon the Indian Exchequer, while others calculated it at upwards of five millions.

This movement was somewhat on a par with that of the total abstainers, who desire, because of the abuse by a limited number of persons, of the use of intoxicating liquors, to compel the whole world to abstain from the most limited use of them; disregarding the beneficial effect upon many persons which a judicious consumption of such articles may produce. Assuming that the passing of such a resolution would have led to the required action by the Indian Government, and that the prohibition would have put an end to the use of opium; the result would have been that millions of persons who now use opium to a limited extent, with no injurious results, would have been hampered in their liberty of personal action, and ten millions of persons would have been thrown out of employment, merely to satisfy a certain section of the people who were, to please themselves, clamouring to interfere with the private affairs of others with whom they had no concern, either in the matter of race or nationality. As The Times rightly said on that occasion: "If it is fair to suppress an Indian industry upon which ten million of people depend for their daily bread, merely because their product is ultimately misused by [353] a percentage of its consumers, our own exports of small arms and munitions of war for use, in all kinds of unjustifiable enterprises, might surely attract the attention of conscientious philanthropists."

The assumption, however, that if the Indian Government prohibited the growth of opium, its consumption would cease, was truly visionary; for, as The Times said, in the same article on the subject, "The result of prohibiting the growth of the poppy in Bengal would be to increase its growth in the native states, and thus to enable the Indian government to recoup itself indirectly, while leaving our Indian subjects without a remedy for the loss of a lucrative industry." The writer of the same article observes that "opium is merely the stimulant appropriate to certain climates and races, used in moderation by millions, with no worse effects than millions at home experience from the moderate use of beer and tobacco;" and he concludes by observing: "Nothing is more certain than that it is entirely beyond the power of the House of Commons to put down either the use or the abuse of opium in China or San Francisco," and that "in making the attempt it may cover itself with confusion, and deeply injure interests which it is bound to protect;" but that "the average of Chinese vice will continue to be governed by conditions which are far older than the House of Commons, and may even survive, without appreciable alteration, the final extinction of its far-reaching but not always wisely directed activity." [19]

I venture to think that of all the causes which are contributing in democratic communities, in the present day, towards the growth and dissemination of protectionist doctrines, none is more potent than that which results from the fact of workmen looking to the temporary interest of their own industry, and even seeking for it, in ignorance of the ultimate effect of an unwholesome artificial monopoly from the [354] rest of the world. We see the saddler endeavouring to shut out from competition the manufactures of a community with which he admits that, "on level ground," he could not for a moment contend; we see the woollen manufacturer clamouring for an increased state "fostering," after having enjoyed twenty years of artificial bolstering, without yet being any nearer maturity than when the industry was started; we find the tanners equally eager for the exclusion of an article which admittedly they are unable to produce in competition with other countries, thousands of miles away; we see the timber dealer desiring to prevent competition with his own inferior production by an article which he admits to be better and cheaper. Yet, none of these classes, and there are scores of others following the same policy, seem to be aware of the simple fact that, if each industry in the community succeeds ultimately in gaining its point, the only effect will be an enormous waste of national wealth and energy, and in the end nothing gained but the bringing about of an artificial reduction in the value of the sovereign; for though each member of the community may succeed in getting higher wages for his labour, every article of daily use will have been so artificially raised in value that the whole of the increase in the wages will be absorbed in the increased cost of living; besides which, the community as a whole will be paying, in the aggregate, an immensely augmented price for all it consumes.

With these arguments, however, I am not here so much concerned; but rather with those which show that every feature of a protective policy involves a distinct interference, in the form of curtailment, with the liberty of the individual to do as he pleases with his own legally acquired property—that is to say, to expend his money where he chooses so long as, in doing so, he refrains from interfering with the like liberty of his fellow-citizens. It will be easily seen, however, that if each of the innumerable classes comprehended [355] in a mixed community, which conceives itself to be suffering under some public disadvantage, whether of a monetary or other nature, is allowed to call in the assistance of the state to remove that disadvantage, or confer some corresponding benefit at the public expense, instead of being tutored to the principle of self-help; then, by the time each of those classes has established the required restriction, or the necessary imposition—as the case may be—upon the rest of the community, society will find itself hampered by a series of such restrictions and impositions which will render life well-nigh intolerable.

But let me now draw attention to another form which this infringing tendency has taken in the present day; still confining my illustrations to matters of commerce.

In July (1886) the English Foreign Office issued two important parliamentary papers, respecting "the question of diplomatic and consular assistance to British trade abroad." The London Chamber of Commerce had made a series of suggestions to the official head of the Foreign Office, with a view to obtaining "more assistance" to British traders in foreign countries, by British diplomatic and consular officials. It appeared that the Germans and Americans had been securing the bulk of the Chinese trade; and the London Chamber of Commerce had come to the conclusion that the reason was to be found in the fact that "these merchants are assisted in their undertakings by the moral, and frequently by the active personal support of their ministers." The matter had already been alluded to in the House of Commons; and attention was there called to the "successful efforts of the German and other foreign governments, in pushing the trade of their respective countries in foreign markets, in competition with English manufacturers."

The result of the movement was that the English merchants, through the London Chamber of Commerce, requested that the agents of the English government [356] (diplomatic and consular officials), should be instructed to do the same kind of "pushing" for English trade.

Shortly summarised, the English merchants asked that the government should undertake, of course at the expense of the national revenue:—

1. The publication of an official commercial newspaper, giving varied information to the commercial community.

2. The establishment of a commercial news office in London.

3. The establishment of "sample and specimen rooms" in connection with the principal consulates abroad.

4. The establishment of "commercial museums" in various parts of the United Kingdom.

Besides these there were other proposals, with which I need not here deal.

It will be apparent to everybody, who peruses these proposals, that if any government were to accede to them it would be guilty of a most distinct breach of the true principles of government, certainly of true "Liberalism," as I have endeavoured to define it. The public revenue, as I have already observed more than once, is the property of the whole people, and no one person, no government even, would be justified on sound principle, in using any part of that revenue for any purpose but such as comes properly within the functions of government. These proposals clearly aimed at affording facilities to the mercantile class, who carry on their business with no philanthropic motives, but for their own personal gain. To accede to such proposals, therefore, at the expense of the public revenue, would practically mean the compelling every citizen in the kingdom to contribute towards the furtherance of institutions, conceived in the interests, and established for the material benefit of the mercantile classes. This, if understood, would be objected to by every citizen, except those interested; and such an act on the part of any government would, therefore, amount to an infringement [357] of individual freedom in the matter of security to property.

Fortunately this view, which I submit is the correct and scientific one, was adopted by Lord Rosebery, then Foreign Minister, who, in commenting upon the suggestions in their order, observed with regard to No. 2, that "it will be necessary to consider whether effect should be given to it by the government, or whether the commercial community should not themselves take the initiative in creating such an institution."

Regarding proposal No. 3, it was thought by the same authority that, if acceded to, it would "tend to put consuls in the position of commercial agents", and that "the maintenance and management of such rooms…would rather seem to devolve primarily on the commercial community."

Lord Rosebery's comment upon the suggestion that the government should establish commercial museums is even more to the point. "The cost of such museums (he says) ought…to be borne by those for whose benefit they are created."

This, I contend, is the only just and scientific comment which could be passed on any such proposals; and I cannot refrain from adding here a short quotation from an admirable article which appeared in the columns of The Times upon the subject.

"It is not," says that journal, "to the government and its agents that our traders must look for their real support in the struggle against foreign competition. The gigantic fabric of English trade was not built up by governments. It was built up by the enterprise, the energy, the watchfulness, the self-denial, the laborious efforts of individuals. Moreover, if it was built by these, by these it must be sustained."

It is certainly significant of the times in which we live that a body, so influential, and generally so sound in its grasp of broad mercantile principles as the London Chamber [358] of Commerce, should have openly advocated so distinctly "paternal" a policy for the government of the country, of which it is the very central commercial organisation.

One can, from the following incident, obtain some idea how quickly a government which acceded to such proposals would find itself inundated with others of a like character, from different sources. Within two months of the date at which the answers to the previous proposals had been published, attention was called in the House of Commons to "the inadequacy of commercial training" in England, and the minister was actually asked whether he would "enquire into the possibility of establishing some recognised centre of commercial education with proper tests of efficiency." The minister very properly "hesitated to offer any opinion on the matter." The member who asked the question was evidently under the impression that the government would be quite justified in teaching its citizens the principles of commerce, presumably also those of law and medicine.

I turn now to the subject of legislation for the regulation of factories, of which a startling example already exists in the colony of Victoria; having been placed upon the statute-book within the last two years. The provisions of that Act have been conveniently summarised by one of the leading local manufacturing firms, for the ready comprehension of their employés. The following is that summary:—"No one under thirteen can be employed in a factory. No female can work more than forty-eight hours in a week. No male under sixteen can work more than forty-eight hours in a week. No one under sixteen can be employed without an education certificate. No one under sixteen can be employed without a medical certificate. No girl under sixteen can be employed between the hours of six in the evening and six in the morning. No boy under fourteen can be employed between the hours of six in the [359] evening and six in the morning. No boy under sixteen can work as a compositor between the hours of six in the evening and six in the morning. No one under eighteen shall be allowed to clean such parts of the machinery, in a factory, as is mill-gearing, while the same is in motion for the purpose of propelling any part of the manufacturing machinery. No woman shall be allowed to clean such parts of the machinery in a factory as is mill-gearing, while the same is in motion for the purpose of propelling any part of the manufacturing machinery. No one under eighteen shall be allowed to work between the fixed and traversing parts of any self-acting machine, while the machine is in motion by the action of steam, water, or other power. No person, employed in a factory, shall be permitted to take his or her meals in any room therein, in which any manufacturing process or handicraft is then being carried on, or in which persons employed in such factory or workroom are then engaged in their employment." A volume might be written upon the ignorance of the political science, the ignorance of human nature, the misconception of legislative effects, and the indifference to commercial interests, displayed in the measure of which this is but a short summary.

The first observation which its provisions, as a whole, provoke, is as to the enormous curtailment of personal liberty which they involve. Shortly re-stated, and further summarised, they are as follow:—"No parent, however poor or dependent, shall be allowed, even under the most favourable circumstances, to derive any monetary assistance from factory work performed by his or her children, unless they are over thirteen years of age."

"Every male or female under sixteen, and in some cases, under eighteen; also every woman who works in a factory of any kind, is assumed incapable of taking care of his or her own body."


The state thus assumes a quasi-parental care of all females, and all males under eighteen; and in so doing, implants, in the minds of these two large classes, the injurious impression that they have a right to look to the state for guidance and assistance in certain matters of personal concern. Moreover, the state, at one blow, handicaps the manufacturers of Victoria against the whole world, by depriving them of the advantages of cheap labour, and of a full use of their property, such as is enjoyed by the manufacturers of many other competing countries.

Every citizen of the colony of Victoria is saddled with a proportion of an enormous expenditure for maintaining a large staff of inspectors to secure a close observance of the provisions of the act.

Lastly, but paramount in importance, every woman, and every male and female under sixteen, is deprived of the liberty of determining for himself or herself the times and extent of work which he or she shall adopt in the pursuit of a livelihood.

The state, it will be seen, determines where every person engaged in a factory shall, or at least shall not, eat his or her meals. This is obviously on the score of health, lest the atmosphere of the factory workroom should become vitiated. Why should the state stop here? Why should it not determine what such persons should eat? This is equally important on the score of health. And if the state is about to prevent injury to health, on the ground that it is to the interest of the community that the bodily condition of its citizens should be supervised by the state, why not provide also for the cure of ill-health in factory people? This would lead to the establishment of national dispensaries and a national medical staff, the members of which would require to periodically visit and report upon the health of factory hands. Why, again, limit this state attention to factory people? What greater right have they to [361] become recipients of state attention than other citizens? Thus a state of absolute socialism would be reached. Who, then, shall draw the line, when once this class of legislation is resorted to? Who shall say where this state-aid shall end? The fact is the true line was overstepped, the moment the state said what males or females should not do in the matter of working hours. Therein consists the fundamental breach of principle. If a parent abuses the helplessness of a child, by forcing it to work at a tender age, the parent might, and should be consistently punished for having denied to the child that liberty which it had every right to enjoy. In the case of women, for whom the state has thus displayed so tender a regard, they can speak for themselves; and they can and do combine for themselves, which they have a perfect right to do. In the case of children of tender age, the state would be justified in assuming that they would object to certain conditions of employment if they could make that objection heard. But, for a state to treat as infants, young persons of sixteen and eighteen years of age, when, at the same moment, they are considered by the same authority to be amenable to the complex provisions of the criminal law, and, three or four years later, subjected to all the duties and responsibilities of citizenship, is indeed inconsistent to a degree. If a youth of seventeen commits a crime, the state says he must be punished. He is considered capable of judging for himself. At the age of twenty-one he is considered an authority on government, and invested with an equal voice with other citizens. But the same wise authority prohibits him from doing certain other and simpler work, because, forsooth, it assumes that he is not capable of judging for himself. Strange to say, the working-classes are apparently pleased with this implied expression of doubt as to their ability to take care of their own bodies.


In England, in 1883, a Factories and Workshops' Amendment Bill was passed, notwithstanding considerable opposition. To such an extent has the state gone in that instance, in looking after the health and comfort of work-people, that it subjects to a fine of £2 any adult male, in a white-lead factory, who refuses or neglects to use any gloves, boots, clothing, respirator, or other appliances, or omits to drink the salts or acidulated or other liquid to be provided by the employers, in accordance with the provisions of the bill. All these precautions are, of course, in the workman's behalf; yet the state, not content even to compel the employer to provide the necessary articles, must resort to the machinery of an act of parliament to compel the workman to "take care of himself." Would it be possible for legislation to be turned to a more absolutely ludicrous purpose?

Intimately connected with this subject of factory legislation is that which deals with the compulsory closing of shops. In the colony of Victoria, where this piece of legislation has first ripened, no other reason was given by the advocates of the measure, beyond what was deemed to be the necessity for "preventing shop assistants from being needlessly overworked." That, indeed, was stated by the "Liberal" press to be the reason for its introduction. The act compels all shops (with a few admittedly necessary exceptions) to close at seven o'clock in the evening—Saturday evening being extended to ten. The practical effect of such a measure is this—that though one citizen may wish to purchase, and another may wish to sell certain articles of trade, the state steps in and says: "No; your business shall be suspended at seven o'clock in the evening, because, by allowing you to carry it on after that time, you may overwork your assistants." The obvious answer to this, if it were colloquialised, would be: "My assistants are free agents, living in a free country; they have freely entered into a contract of service which they may terminate at any time if they so wish, and [363] I shall use only such assistants as are willing to work in the evening." This answer is perfectly and strictly true; yet, for some strange reason, the state, in the colony mentioned, has taken shop assistants "under its wing," though there are scores of other classes in an exactly similar position. Is it right, for instance, that a medical man should be called out of his bed in the early hours? Should the scores of printers, compositors, readers, reporters, editors, and sub-editors, who are engaged upon the preparation of our daily papers, be allowed to undermine their health, when an act of parliament could so easily remedy the matter by prohibiting such work from being continued after, or begun before certain hours? We should certainly not get our newspaper till late in the day, instead of in the early morning; but parliament would have the satisfaction of securing a more comfortable and wholesome night's rest to a large body of citizens! Should the government itself be allowed to run trains late at night, and, in some cases, all through the night, necessitating the work of drivers, stokers, pointsmen, porters, guards, and others? Surely it is thereby committing the same offence which it is legislating against in the shopkeepers! Even more reprehensible is it for the parliament itself to sit into the "small" hours, in many cases doing more harm than good; keeping up numerous reporters, officials, and, in many cases, the anxious wives of honorable members themselves! What, too, of cabmen, omnibus drivers, actors, and others who now work at night; and why should not sailors, and others occupied in seafaring life, be prevented from engaging in night work? An act of parliament would soon remedy the matter, by compelling vessels to anchor or "lay to" at certain hours! But why dwell upon so gross an absurdity? Such legislation is a disgrace to our century. What more hard-worked class, for instance, than the domestic servant, who is (or ought to be) out of her bed in the morning, long before the average shop-assistant has wakened, and who is [364] expected to attend to household matters up to a late hour at night? Yet no regard is had for this class. If parliament should deem it advisable to deal with them, it would be necessary to stop all fires at whatever hour was determined on, and in such case, society would have at once arrived at a condition of things not altogether far removed from that which resulted from the "Curfew Bell" edict. The fact is, such legislation is absolutely indefensible. The public convenience requires many classes of people to be worked at night. There is the most absolute freedom in the matter. If some shopkeepers are willing to keep open for the purpose of selling their goods, and their customers are willing to buy; then, to prevent these parties from dealing together is to subject them to an inconvenience and a distinct curtailment of personal liberty. If shop assistants are willing to work at night, surely, to prevent them, by act of parliament, is to curtail their liberty, though it may increase their leisure at the expense of their pockets. If the public do not desire to shop after seven o'clock, they will not do so; and, so soon as that is the case, the shops would cease to have reason for remaining open.

The more one allows one's mind to dwell upon so short-sighted a measure, the more incomprehensible it appears that a body of even moderately intelligent men should have consented to place such a humiliating and unmeaning piece of legislation upon the statute-book of any free and civilised country. It stands as a permanent disgrace to an otherwise enlightened people.

Is such legislation, I ask, conducive to "more liberty"? Is it calculated to promote "self-reliance"? No doubt the draper's assistant gains his leisure for the evening, but he had already the liberty to take that, inasmuch as he could terminate his engagement and turn to other employment, or be idle, whenever he chose. The public, however, who buy, and the shop-keepers who are ready and anxious to [365] sell, are deprived of their liberty; and they have no such chance of helping themselves, inasmuch as they are placed under a state prohibition. Such legislation is, therefore, nothing more nor less than what Mr. Herbert Spencer has called "legislative tyranny."

Mark now the result of this measure, as indicated by the expressions of public opinion which it has elicited.

A deputation representing the Shopkeepers' Union waited upon the minister to whose department the administration of the measure had been allotted, and presented a carefully conceived, and carefully worded petition, in which the repeal of the objectionable measure was prayed for on the following, among other grounds:—

1. That it is a humiliating, and an unbearable deprivation of English freedom.

2. That it fails to achieve any object, beneficial either to assistant or employer; and is obnoxious to both.

3. That it oppresses, and causes serious (in some cases ruinous) loss to an inoffensive and struggling class, viz., the suburban and young shopkeepers.

4. That it diverts and partly destroys trade, benefits nobody, and sets class against class.

5. That it is the cause of great inconvenience to the public, especially to the working man.

The petition was signed by 3000 shopkeepers, concerning every signature of which the strictest scrutiny was challenged.

One of the petitioners stated that "absolute ruin had been inflicted in many instances through the enforcement of the law. Many businesses, which had formerly been carried on, principally at night, had been abandoned in consequence, and premises which had formerly let at good rentals had become empty, or the rentals had been reduced—in either case, much to the loss of property-owners and municipal councils."


The minister who received this deputation found it necessary to make the humiliating confession that the petition would be presented to parliament, "because the process of education in the matter, from the shopkeepers' point of view, had to be brought to bear upon honourable members as well as on the government."

There is, indeed, evidence to show that some members of parliament did not require that education, for one of them stated that "The Shops and Factories Act was unworkable. It set the citizens at variance, so that they flew at each other's throats. It was an act which only a despot would attempt." Since that, the leading organ, among those which advocated the measure, has found it necessary to confess that "none of the three great classes of people whom the early closing clause was intended to benefit is satisfied with what has been done to insure early closing as prescribed by law."

Since the greater part of the above was written, this subject has undergone much discussion, and been viewed in the light of much later experience. The following is a short summary of an address delivered within a few weeks of the time at which I am writing, by the President of the Shopkeepers' Union. "We have learned," he says, "at a terrible cost, what it is to endure the plague of over-legislation; and we also know, more than ever, the necessity of uniting with one common object, viz., the repeal of the most atrocious and disastrous law against trade that ever disgraced the statute-book of Victoria. Is there," he said, "any sense in a law which allows drink and tobacco to be sold, but prohibits a man from buying bread and meat? And yet, so it is decreed by the legislators to whom we pay £300 a year to look after our interests, and that of the country in general. I venture to say that if our legislators were unpaid, and not so anxious to retain their seats, even by sacrificing an important interest, the shopkeers of Victoria would never have had to suffer the gross indignity of being harassed and [367] spied upon by the police, whom they support and maintain. One short year has brought painful evidence of the blighting influence of this precious piece of legislation. Shops—previously all occupied, are now empty by scores. Assistants are walking about in scores, if not in hundreds, without occupation. In proof of this, a shopkeeper recently advertised for two, at 30s. a week, of a class to which before this law he was able to pay 50s., and received 300 applications. The more the act is enforced, the more repulsive it becomes. To ensure the repeal of a bad law there is nothing like its strict enforcement." The above is a valuable piece of testimony, the tenor of which has not been contradicted. It is evidence of the annoyance, irritation, and monetary loss which such a piece of legislation is capable of producing on a class; and it is evidence also of the fact that the very class it was intended to benefit, has, instead, been seriously injured. Indeed, as I have shown, the so-called "Liberal" press admitted that "none of the three classes whom it was intended to benefit was satisfied."

The conclusion to which one is forced concerning this matter is that which was arrived at by the late Rev. F. W. Robertson, of Brighton. He said as far back as 1849, when delivering an address on the subject of "Early closing," "This law, like other laws, will be of advantage if it be in accordance with the feeling produced already in society; but if it be super-imposed on society, it must fail. Everything of legislation, coercive, and not expressive of the mind and desire of society, must fail." [20]

Closely connected with this feature of over-legislation, is the demand for a legal recognition of eight hours as a day's work. In the colony of Victoria that recognition has actually been obtained, and, in so many words, placed upon the statute-book of the country. When the matter was being discussed at the Intercolonial Trades' Union [368] Congress of 1884, one delegate, from New South Wales, intelligently and courageously condemned the narrow views of his co-delegates, by observing that it "seemed to him some of the speakers wished to go back to the dark ages, when, at the ringing of the Curfew bell, everybody had to put up his shutters and go to bed." A good deal was said, while the "eight hours" principle had not yet received legal recognition, about the sufficiency of that period of work "for any man or woman," as also regarding the wisdom of dividing the day into "eight hours' work, eight hours' labour, and eight hours' recreation;" yet, now that the legalisation has taken place, it is a matter of notoriety that workmen are willing to go on, much as before, with this slight difference—that after the expiration of the eight hours they expect to be paid overtime! Nor is this the only evidence of disregard for the principle upon which the legal recognition was based; for one of the most prominent of Australian trades' unionists said, at an eight hours demonstration banquet given in Sydney about two years ago, that, now the eight hours system was so widely recognised and acknowledged, it was about time they began agitating for a division of the day into four periods of six hours, one of which should be devoted to work.

The same spirit of legislative interference, which has inspired this confessedly unsuccessful measure in Victoria, has shown itself in the department of commercial shipping in older communities. Mr. Plimsoll, whose name is now known in every English-speaking country, chose for the subject on which he should found his reputation, that of shipowning abuses; and there can be little doubt that his efforts, though, like those of all enthusiasts, extreme and injuriously reactionary, did much good by drawing attention to the condition of some of the inferior and least seaworthy portion of English shipping property, by which the lives of many sailors and others were jeopardised, and in some cases needlessly lost.


Yet this same gentleman has done considerable harm by leading to the belief that matters were much worse than was really the case, and, by so doing, exciting a demand for legislative measures which have effected a good deal of injury to the shipping industry, as a branch of the national commerce of England.

In the somewhat heated desire for ensuring the safety and comfort of those who travel by sea, regulations have been made regarding the number of passengers which a ship shall carry; the number of cubic feet which each so carried should occupy; the number and measurement of boats provided for their safety in case of mishap; the number and quality of lifebelts, life-buoys, fire-buckets, fire-hose, and life-rafts, with which each ship should be provided; the position of load-line, down to which and no further than which, a vessel should be submerged, and many other provisions of a similar kind, too numerous to mention; all of which, though in some cases necessary to enforce, have nevertheless, on the whole, imposed upon shipowners an amount of expense in maintenance, in some cases wholly out of proportion to the risks provided against. No one, it is said, who has not had practical experience of the number and detailed expenditure on the almost illimitable requirements of vessels engaged in trade, can form any conception of the hampering effect which such legislation has had upon the commercial side of the shipping industry. A leading London weekly journal lately put the matter very forcibly, in the following somewhat ironical paragraph. "With regard to passenger ships and the boats they carry, what strikes us is this—that if we are to make it a matter of legal obligation that the ship shall carry boats enough to hold all the passengers and crew (and I suppose, something to eat and drink, for even in boats those things are necessary), it would be simpler, and on the whole safer, and infinitely more comfortable to have two ships. Then, if anything happened to the full ship, the [370] passengers could betake themselves to the empty one, if it did not happen to be wrecked first, or simultaneously—a possibility which should not be taken to militate against my suggestion, for even as things are at present, a ship's boats are often lost or rendered useless before she herself comes to grief."

Within the last few months, previous to the date of my writing, an influential deputation of shipowners waited upon the President of the Board of Trade with reference to certain regulations of that body upon the subject of the freeing ports of what are known as well-decked vessels.

The first speaker said "they had been harassed from time to time with Board of Trade regulations, but the last straw that had broken their backs was an order issued in the spring of the year, "compelling certain additional qualifications in well-decked vessels. The north-eastern ports of England," he added, "were largely engaged in the Baltic trade; and they had to compete with the Germans and the Danes, whose vessels, not being under these restrictions, were enabled to carry perhaps 1OO tons more cargo; and this, coupled with the lower wages of foreign sailors, handicapped the English ship-owner to such an extent that it was only a question of time for the trade to pass into the foreigner's hands altogether."

This is an admirably clear illustration of the class of legislation which I have before instanced, in which the immediate effect only is considered by the legislator, and the remote ones ignored or entirely lost sight of. The ignorance of the average legislator on shipping matters is usually accompanied with an amount of confidence correspondingly great. Regulations may be piled up, one upon the other, for all time, each one seeming to benefit the public, who gradually cease to look after themselves or their own safety; but those who are thus contributing to the creation and enforcement of such regulations seldom think of the [371] difficulties and expenses they are at the same time providing for the ship owner; and only the most far-seeing will reflect that, in time, that section of the industry upon which those regulations have legal force may be borne down altogether, and the trade driven into the hands of other persons, whose vessels, by sailing under another flag, are exempted from the paralysing and handicapping restrictions of their less fortunate neighbours.

I have before me some astounding instances of legislative ignorance in matters of the kind.

A few months ago, a fast and tolerably valuable steam vessel was lost upon the Australian coast during her passage from one colony to another. Unfortunately a good many lives were lost, under very painful and distressing circumstances. Public attention was called to the matter, and, for several days the columns of the newspapers were filled with the usual demands for the "most searching enquiry." The mishap was accounted for in various ways, by the more omniscient section of the public; and even parliament took the matter up, though in a somewhat desultory fashion, and said what should be done to prevent a recurrence. Those expressions of opinion are interesting as showing the almost incredible ignorance which ordinary legislators may display; and, moreover, they give one a fair idea of the sort of legislation which might be expected if the desire for some reform had only been sufficiently long-lived.

One member, who has filled the position of a minister of the crown, attributed the breaking-up of the vessel, after she had struck on the rocks, to the fact of her being "old;" and he is reported as having said: "There ought to be a law to prevent old ships from being used for such important work." The author of this safe generalisation might have learned, with a little enquiry, that the vessel in question had, as all other such vessels are compelled to do, been duly submitted, periodically, to a searching survey, provided for by [372] the legislature itself, and that she possessed a certificate of "sea-worthiness," such as parliament itself required. A second law-maker, having satisfied himself that the vessel had chosen a course too near the coast, proposed that "a line might be drawn on the chart, within which no vessel should be allowed to go nearer to the land." He gave as a parallel case the fact that "the steamships of the Cunard line followed regular tracks to and from America," and, in the same easy-going way, advocated that "more stringent regulations were required to ensure greater safety."

The idea of a "line on the chart," or a "line round the coast," was indulged in by other equally original advocates. A third member of the legislature was of opinion that "it would be an easy matter to fix a simple contrivance on all lighthouses, by which a route, at a given distance from the shore, should be defined. The legislature could then provide that any captains or any owners who permitted their vessels to be taken within such a limit should be liable to severe punishment." "They could," added a fourth, "be reported by the lighthouse-keepers."

The member who advocated the "old ship" theory expressed the novel opinion that the vessels were driven at the present dangerously fast rate in order to save coal; and he advocated parliament laying down a minimum time in which the passage should be done, so that if any vessel travelled faster than allowed by act of parliament, she should be compelled to postpone her entrance to the harbour of destination.

The first thought which must occur to anyone, on reading these expressions of opinion, is that a community, in the government of which such men take part, must indeed be in danger of being legislated out of existence. I have already mentioned a minister of the crown who boasted to his constituents of having added so many inches to the statutes of the country. These gentlemen would measure statutes [373] by the yard, and in a short time fill a library. It would certainly be necessary in a community, for which so much was done, that the old maxim that "ignorance of the law is no excuse" should undergo some relaxation; otherwise it would be impossible for the citizens to do aught else but study the latest additions to the statute law.

It would be almost useless to suggest to these gentlemen that, probably, when they had spent some years in attempting to prevent shipwrecks, they would make the melancholy discovery that the rules and regulations, the surveys, and the lines round the coast—as also the "simple apparatus" on the lighthouses—had increased instead of diminished the number of losses.

Mark, in support of this suggestion, the result of all the attempts at preventing shipwrecks in Great Britain—attempts, too, by men possessing a somewhat larger amount of brain-power than those to whom I have just referred. In a minute of the Board of Trade of November, 1883, it is said that since "the Shipwreck Committee of 1836, scarcely a session has passed without some Act being passed, or some step being taken by the legislature or the government, with this object" (prevention of shipwreck); and that "the multiplicity of statutes, which were all consolidated into one Act in 1854, has again become a scandal and a reproach:" each measure being passed because previous ones had failed. Here follows the melancholy but instructive admission that "the loss of life and of ships has been greater since 1876 than it ever was before." The cost of administration, meanwhile, had risen from £17,000 to £73,000 a year. [21] If the colonial legislators, whom I have quoted, could have their way, and get their pet schemes enacted in a short and easy manner, it would probably be open to apply to them, a few years hence, the words which Edmund Burke used in speaking of the Board of Trade of his day:—"Even where [374] they had no ill intentions, trade and manufacture suffered infinitely from their injudicious tamperings." Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who seems to be deeply impressed with the belief that the state has "maternal" duties towards its citizens, thus explains the functions of the Board of Trade. "They are," he says, "charged to watch over the comfort and security of our seamen and the safety of our ships." This, indeed, is only an illustration of the false theory which runs through the whole of the spurious Liberal legislation of which I have been speaking. However unsophistical and simple-minded the typical sailor may have been in the days of Dibdin, he is now quite capable of taking care of himself: at least as well as thousands of other citizens for whom state sympathy has not yet been excited. "Yet," as Mr. Stanley Jevons has said, "he is treated by the law, as if he were a mere child." Mr. Chamberlain would have his comforts attended to by the Board of Trade, by which means that already cumbersome body would be able to pay less attention to its more legitimate and more necessary functions. It is this craving for distributing comforts, through the state, which is threatening to handicap and paralyse English commerce in every branch. The report of the Royal Commission, which was lately appointed to enquire into the existing depression of trade and industry in Great Britain, contains the following confirmation of my contention. "Our shipowners have an additional ground of complaint in the fact that foreign vessels, loading in our ports, are not subjected to the load-line, and other regulations of the Board of Trade, which, being enforced on British ships, impose additional expense and trouble upon their owners. Owners of foreign ships thus….enjoy in our ports, a latitude in regard to loading, and an exemption from other troublesome regulations which give them an unfair advantage in competition." This is a point of view which the average legislator would probably consider [375] and characterise as "far-fetched" or "theoretical." Within the last few months, numerous other instances have occurred (in connection with this industry) of the same injurious practice of endeavouring to secure, by legislation, that which should be left to the ordinary economic laws of supply and demand. It would be impossible to enumerate them all here; but I venture to set forth a confession which was, not long since, uttered by Mr. Chamberlain himself, in connection with this particular subject of shipping legislation. "I am sorry," he said to a deputation which waited upon him, "that I must tell you that interference has not produced the result it was intended to produce, in the security of the lives for which we are in some degree responsible." He then admits that the loss of life at sea, notwithstanding the net-work of regulations which parliament has woven round the shipping industry, "is an increasing quantity."

Sir Frederick Bramwell, too, learned at Quebec, to which port English ships had been accustomed to be sent for timber, that the trade was being done between that port and England by Swedish ships, the reason being (he says) that "the restrictions upon the working of English ships were such that they could no longer compete with the Swedes."

The subject of licensing houses for the sale of intoxicating liquor is one upon which there has been the most profound misconception regarding the principles of true Liberalism. Legislators seem to have known no limit to the functions of a state, or to the right to interfere with individual liberty, when dealing with this apparently absorbing theme. When an attempt was lately made in the House of Lords by the Bishop of Durham, to secure the passage of an act entitled "The Durham Sunday Closing Bill," Lord Salisbury characterised the measure as an enactment which provided "that on Sunday in every week, a certain portion of the population in the country shall abstain from one of their [376] accustomed articles of diet, because a fraction of the population say that the temptation to consume too much of that article of diet is too strong for them." As the Times said, in criticism of the measure, "His [Lord Salisbury's] opposition was not directed against the advocates of temperance, for whom and for whose work he expressed unbounded admiration. On the contrary, it was directed against those who came to parliament to ask for the secular arm to effect that which they had not done."

In the colony of Victoria, within the last two years, an attempt was made, under this head of "licensing," to still further curtail the already limited chances which women possess of obtaining employment, by the introduction of a clause into a bill, then before parliament, intended to absolutely prevent them from working behind a bar. If ever there was an unjustifiable and cowardly attempt at undue state interference with the liberty of citizens, this was one. To make women as amenable to the law of the land as men, while denying them all right to take part in the making of such laws, is surely inequitable enough; but to say that women, who are obliged to earn their living, shall not get it by following a possibly honest and honourable occupation, is surely a piece of the most glaring despotism. Where could parliament find a justification for such a measure, either among the principles of legislation, or on grounds of the barest justice to our fellow-beings? What sort of reception, let me ask, would have been accorded to such a provision, if, instead of proposing to deal with one of the occupations of women, it had aimed at the prevention of certain work being performed by any particular class of men? Could such a proposal ever be reconciled with the liberal principle of "equal opportunities"? Women are even now debarred from entering many channels of employment, in which they could take part with quite as much, if not more success than is achieved by men. To have passed such a measure [377] would have simply rendered their already "unequal opportunities" still more unequal.

Mr. Joseph Cowen has said, "a clear and equal course, and victory to the wisest and the best." Will anyone venture to say that a proposal to disqualify women from performing work behind a bar was not a most flagrant step towards rendering the "course," over which a woman's as well as a man's life must be run, more unequal than ever. If, as Mr. Broadhurst says, "Liberalism seeks to remove obstacles of human origin which prevent all having equal opportunities," then this proposal was not only lacking in a negative sense, but conceived in the very contrary direction. Such a measure would be a most distinct "obstacle" to prevent women enjoying "equal opportunities" with men; and, instead of being removed it would be erected in the very face of Liberal principles. It has been well said, regarding legislation of the licensing class, that it "rests on the assumption, again and again disproved, that moral effects can be eradicated, or even partially amended by an act of parliament; and upon the want of recognition, or ignorance of the fact, that, wherever the state attempts this task, it either directly increases the evil, or forces it to reappear in another spot in a new form." The following are some significant facts in connection with the Sunday-closing movement. In March, 1884, four Irish judges made the following statements to grand juries at the Irish assizes, in districts where the Sunday-closing movement had been tried:—

"At Ennis, Lord Justice Fitzgibbon said the cases of intemperance in county Clare had risen from 960 to 1511. At Nenagh, Baron Dowse said drunkenness had increased in the north riding of Tipperary from 512 to 1037 cases, a little over 100 per cent. At Limerick, Judge O'Brien said that intemperance had doubled in that county. At Cavan, Judge Harrison informed the grand jury that drunkenness [378] had trebled in that county. In all these counties the Sunday Closing Act is in force." [22] It has been shown, by the same authority, that in the town of Cardiff, since the Welsh Sunday Closing Act has been in operation, drunkenness has increased fifty per cent.; and that in Scotland, where the Forbes-Mackenzie Sunday Closing Act has long been in force, the convictions for drunkenness on Sunday have been steadily increasing from 1886 in 1879, to 2530 in 1882. It is also affirmed, on the authority of the police in Glasgow, and other large centres of Scotland, that, "notwithstanding all their exertions, the law has, throughout, been persistently defied by a yearly increasing number of unlicensed drinking-rooms, called 'shebeens'—secret, and therefore badly conducted places, with no character, nor stock-in-trade, but a few barrels of liquor to lose."

The principle of "local option," as it is called, which enables a certain majority, in any district, to prevent the minority from having established, or indeed continuing in existence, in their midst, a place where wines or spirits can be purchased, is an undoubted instance of spurious Liberalism. The majority, it may be assumed, do not want such an establishment, and no one would be justified in attempting to compel them to frequent it; but an attempt to so compel them against their wish would be quite as justifiable as the counter attempt to prevent the minority from so doing. If the establishment of any such place in any district becomes a nuisance to the neighbours, there is, in existence, already, the proper legal machinery for abating it; and no one could, in such a case, raise an objection to the necessary steps being taken to punish the offender; but for a majority to claim the right to curtail the liberties of the minority for an act which, in no way, involves an interference with that majority's liberty, is nothing more than the despotism of the majority, and contrary to all the traditions [379] of the Liberal party under whose banner it is so frequently but improperly classified.

This question of Sunday closing is very nearly allied to that of Sunday observance. The spirit of despotism, which would lead to a revival of the old laws under this head, is by no means so absent from our own time as many people think. There is an old act in the Statute-book, by which citizens could be prosecuted, and fined 5s., for not attending church on Sunday. If only there were some hope of securing a majority, there is every reason to believe an attempt would be made by the more "pious" portion of English-speaking communities to resuscitate and refurbish its rusty provisions. Only as lately as September, 1885, a delegate at a Trades' Union Congress, held at Southport, England, moved: "That, in the opinion of this Congress, all kinds of labour shall be suspended on Sunday; no train shall be permitted to run; no cabs, trams, or breaks shall ply or run for hire; no horses or private carriages shall be permitted to be used; no blast furnace shall be permitted to work; no mechanics do any repairs; nor shall any telegrams or letters be delivered, or any work be done in any printing office; nor any public or refreshment house be permitted to be opened; nor shall any park, museum, art gallery, or reading-room be opened, or any policeman be called upon to do duty on the Sunday." This may seem, to some, too extreme to be seriously regarded, and so it was fortunately viewed by the Congress at which it was moved; but it has been proved before in modern history, that a very short time needs to elapse before what has previously been laughed at may be subsequently adopted in all seriousness. Given a majority, and its virtue being admitted, then we may have any absurdity forced upon us at any moment.

The subject of poor-law legislation would require a treatise in itself, to enable one to comprehensively deal with it and its dangerous surroundings. I shall find occasion, in [380] the next chapter, to discuss fully the principles which are involved in its enactment. I shall show that, in the first place, even supposing it had succeeded in its objects—viz., to alleviate suffering arising from poverty, without at the same time encouraging idleness and offering a premium for improvidence—it involves the transgression of one of the first functions of government, in taking the property of citizens for other purposes than that of maintaining the security of their person and property; and I shall show, also, that according to the conclusions arrived at by the Poor Law Commissioners themselves, they have aggravated rather than prevented, the evils at which they were aimed. I shall then indicate to what extent, and under what circumstances only, it can be wisely continued.

One of the most startling instances of what I have termed "spurious Liberalism" is that which was lately promulgated by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain and his disciple, Mr. Jesse Collings, and now known as the "three acres" or "agricultural allotments" bill. I purpose dealing with this proposal at some length, as well as the various criticisms which have been passed upon it, inasmuch as it marks a distinct epoch in English legislation, and has, in consequence, attracted more attention, and given rise to more careful analysis of political principles, than any other movement of this generation.

The proposal was made by Mr. Chamberlain, during the November (1885) general election in England, and was evidently intended as a sort of political "bunch of carrots" for the two million "agricultural" labourers who had recently been admitted to the franchise.

The proposal really took the form of a promise that, if the Liberal party should again come into power, an act of parliament would be passed, by which municipal councils, or other local bodies, should be empowered to take the land belonging to other people, nolens volens, and at a price not [381] acquiesced in by the seller (as is usual in ordinary sales), but to be determined by such local body. A further feature of the scheme was that such land, when acquired by the local body, should be sold or leased in small allotments, on the "time payment" system, to agricultural labourers. When this political bribe was made for the first time, and, by a man who had already occupied an influential position in an English Cabinet, it naturally caused some uneasiness among thoughtful people. Every student of sociology is familiar with the growing symptoms of Socialism which, within the last few years, have been distinctly observable in several continental countries; and a proposal of the kind I mention, coming from so influential a quarter, was naturally calculated to shake the feelings of security among all who happened to be possessed of property of the class at which such a proposal was aimed. Mr. Chamberlain being at the time recognised as the leader of the Radical party in Great Britain, numbers of his followers were ready to take up any cry which he might start; but there were others among the Liberal party—Liberals of the genuine type—who at once repudiated the proposals, and gave clear reasons for so doing, with which I shall presently deal.

Mr. Gladstone himself, in drawing up the programme of the Liberal party previous to the election, completely ignored the proposal, and confined himself to four other points with which we are not here concerned. Lord Hartington, Mr. Bright, Mr. Goschen, Mr. Wm. E. Forster, and other sound Liberals followed in Mr. Gladstone's course, so far as this scheme was concerned; but, notwithstanding, there can be little doubt that Mr. Chamberlain's allotments proposal seriously injured the Liberal cause, by shaking the confidence of the propertied classes belonging to that party, and causing a large section of them to turn to the Conservative side of politics as a sort of political brake upon the impending excesses of the Radical section.


Some time has now elapsed since the proposal was first made; and, as a result of the very keen criticism which was passed upon it by a certain section of the press, and by many leading Liberal and Conservative statesmen, the authors of the scheme have, as I shall show, considerably modified their original proposals. There is, however, one principle involved in the scheme, which has never been altered or modified; and, as that is the particular one upon which my present objections turn, I need not spend time over other details. The scheme itself is set out at length in the small volume entitled the "Radical Programme," to which I have before referred, and to which a preface has been written by Mr. Chamberlain himself. I shall quote from that volume just so far as to guarantee having fairly represented the principle with which I desire to deal, as illustrating what I have termed "spurious Liberalism."

After setting forth the scheme at length, in its modified form, the writer of the work in question says: "Land should be acquired where necessary, by the authorities, by compulsory purchase, at a fair market value." And again: "Any scheme of this sort should be compulsory." One contention with regard to this feature—the cardinal feature in fact—of the proposal, is that it involves a return to those principles of class legislation which it has been the aim and the province of true Liberalism in the past, to prevent, and, where existing, to put an end to. To compel one citizen to sell to another citizen property which he has legally acquired, is, in the first place, to commit a national breach of faith; since the state of the law practically constituted a guarantee that every form of wealth obtained in conformity with its provisions should be protected and secured to the rightful possessor, and at all times peacefully enjoyed by him. The point upon which this proposal must be excluded from the category of true Liberalism, and classed, instead, with "Toryism" of the democratic order, is this—that it is an [383] infringement of liberty for the benefit of a class. The practice of resuming land nolens volens, for public purposes, is, we are aware, now generally recognised, and acted upon in almost all English-speaking communities, and especially in certain British colonies, where parliament takes upon itself a much greater amount and variety of work than the legitimate functions of government justify—more particularly the construction and management of the system of railways throughout the country, which involve the frequent acquisition of so much land.

The difference between it and the allotments proposal is quite clear, and most important to be observed. In the one case—that of resuming land for government railways or other public purposes, the act of compulsory purchase is directly in the interests of the general public, since the reason for the departure from the ordinary security guaranteed to property, is put upon the ground of its being for "public purposes," that is to say, for purposes which are calculated to directly benefit the whole community. In the other case, however, the benefit sought to be conferred is of a "class" character, and can in no way be justified on grounds of public policy.

It is practically conceived in the interests of the agricultural labourer, at the expense of entrenching upon one of the most valued traditions of the English people, viz., the respect, and security for all kinds of legally acquired property. It is remarkable, too, that if this is said to be conceived indirectly in the public interest, the necessity for such a proposal should, after being overlooked for so many years, be observed and provided for, just at the very moment when the particular class, in whose interests it is conceived, should have acquired political power to the extent of two million votes. This would surely be an unique coincidence! The truth is that, if Mr. Broadhurst's definition of Liberalism be a correct one, Mr. Chamberlain's proposal [384] must be distinctly contrary to the principles of that policy; for the acquirement of property, whether of a real or personal character, is as open to one man as to another—to the peasant as well as to the nobleman; and to clamour for the property itself, in addition to the freedom to acquire it by legal means, is to ask, not merely for "equal opportunities," but for "equal possessions," or for an approximation to that condition of things—in short, it is to cry for a system of Communism in a modified form.

As Mr. Cowen has well said, "Equality of social condition is a speculative chimera that never can be realised."

Men are not and cannot be equal; and, as Mr. Cowen again says, "if they were so to-day, they would not be so to-morrow." Nor, as Mr. Broadhurst's definition says, is Liberalism concerned to attempt to make them so. This proposal, however, does seek to take a step in that direction, by taking from one that which he would not otherwise part with, to give to another that which he would not otherwise be able to obtain.

All the talk in the world about a "fair price" will not improve the aspect of the matter. If the price is less than the owner values his property at, or is willing to part with it for, it is not a fair price but an unfair price. If one man has property which he does not wish to part with; to take it from him at a less price than he is willing to sell it for is practically to rob him of the difference between the so-called "fair" price, and that which he places upon it. It is, as I have said, "class" legislation of the worst kind—a return to Toryism of the most pronounced character, but in the interest of the agricultural labourer, instead of as in days gone by, in the interests of the landowner. If the one is wrong and inequitable, so is the other.

Let me now set forth the most valuable and most influential of the criticisms which were passed upon this scheme in England, and further illustrate Mr. Chamberlain's [385] erroneous notions of Liberalism, as displayed in his answers to those criticisms.

In September (1885) The Times, speaking of the new Radical programme as expounded by Mr. Chamberlain, said: "A leading feature in it is the now familiar scheme for enabling local authorities to buy land, in order to create peasant proprietors, and give allotments to labourers. This he thinks at once so moderate, so just, so experimental, and so conformable to precedent, that he cannot conceive how any Liberal can object to it; and at the same time it is so vast in its scope, and so effectual in giving prosperity to the poor, that he relies upon it to give the needed impetus to the Liberal movement. We are further told that the great aim of the new electorate must be to abolish poverty, to level up, to destroy, by direct legislation, all the differences created among men by centuries of free play for individual qualities. In Mr. Chamberlain's view, the laws of political economy are not the expression of observed fact, and unvarying causation, but arbitrary arrangements for the distribution of wealth, invented by rich men and their selfish satellites for the oppression of the poor. He is going to abolish them. He is going to destroy the checks upon laziness and incompetency, without discouraging industry. He is going to destroy the security of property, without affecting its accumulation and investment. He is going to enrich the poor without impoverishing the rich, to throw a whole set of new and expensive expenditures upon the national purse without affecting the national well-being, and, in fact, to obtain, in defiance of Liberals, Tories, and the laws of the universe, that the three-hooped pot should have ten hoops, and there shall be no more small beer. It is perhaps idle to expect Mr. Chamberlain to understand that men, not less benevolent than himself, have brooded over the painful riddle of the earth for ages, before he saw in it a means of exciting enthusiasm for his return to power. [386] Probably it is equally hopeless to get him to understand that if they have not rushed at his empirical remedies, it is because they know their absolute worthlessness. We can only hope that the sobriety, which has brought Englishmen through so much, will be found to be the heritage of the new electors as well as the old; and that we may be spared experiments which will hurt us all, but none so much as the poor, who are unfortunate enough to be the counters of his game."

The same journal, again referring to other equally impracticable promises made by Mr. Chamberlain in his numerous election addresses, speaks of him and others, as "theorists," who appear utterly "unconscious that such things as invariable sequences of cause and effect exist in the sphere of economics, and are prepared to undertake the summary suppression, by act of parliament, of climate, history, the market, and human nature." Again, on October 16 (1885), the same journal says in one of its leaders: "If every political question were as simple as Mr. Chamberlain makes it out to be; if for every social evil there were a remedy, cut and dried, which needed only to be proposed and adopted in order to bring about a blessed change, his impatient dogmatism, supposing him to be always in the right, would be a potent instrument of reform. But politics and society are full of complications, and the statesman who does not recognise this; who is eager to try experiments in every direction, and who refuses to submit to the obligations of patience, caution, and reserve, will find that a large part of the nation, the soundest, and still perhaps the most influential part, will be slow to give him their implicit confidence."

Mr. John Bright (one of England's greatest Liberals), speaking at Taunton on October 12 (1885), and referring to the same subject of land legislation, said: "There is a danger I should like to point out to you. There is a danger [387] of people coming to the idea that they can pull or drive the government along; that a government can do anything that is wanted; that in fact it is only necessary to pass an act of parliament, with a certain number of clauses, to make anyone well off. There is no more serious mistake than that."

Lord Hartington (another great Liberal statesman), speaking at Rawtenstall, on the 10th October of the same year, and evidently referring, though not directly, to Mr. Chamberlain's proposal, gave utterance to the following sound Liberal opinions: "I have," he said, "no doubt that a parliament largely elected by the labouring classes will find a good deal to revise in legislation, which had been passed by former parliaments, in which the labouring classes were hardly represented at all. But I am not prepared to tell the working-men of this country that I believe that any legislation, which any parliament can effect, will suddenly and immediately improve their condition, except by enabling them, by their own efforts, to improve it themselves. What is it, after all, that the working classes of this country" (England) "stand most in need of? They stand in need of good wages, cheap food, continuous employment, and cheap necessaries and comforts of life. Well, I believe that bad laws, bad legislation can do much to prevent them having these things; but I do not believe any legislation can certainly secure them; and they can only be secured by the state of general prosperity and general activity in trade. I believe, also, that legislation in favour of any particular class is likely to prevent the general prosperity; and I believe that legislation, which is directly applied to the improvement of the condition of the labouring classes, can only be detrimental to other classes, and will be as likely to injure that prosperity as class legislation of any other kind. I desire, therefore, not to attract so much the attention of the labouring classes, by promises of legislation intended for their exclusive benefit, as to ask them to join with us, and with all the other classes of [388] the country, in bringing about that general state of prosperity, which alone, in my opinion, can improve their own condition."

Views very similar to these were expressed some years ago by Mr. Gladstone, at a dinner in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations;" and although these views do not in any way criticise the particular proposal under consideration, they nevertheless lay down general principles which throw light upon it, and upon theories of a similar character.

Mr. Gladstone then said, speaking of this popular fallacy as to benefits derivable from acts of parliament: "With reference to the state of the working classes, I think we have no right to complain of those, who have been so long under the power of those who were commonly called their betters, in respect to the regulation of wages; but I think it is a primary duty to make this allowance, because they, above all others, suffer from their own want of knowledge. I have observed this distinction between the working classes and other classes—that whereas the sins of the other classes were almost entirely in the interests of their class, and against the rest of the entire community, the sins of the working classes, many and great as they are, are almost entirely against themselves."

These words, though uttered many years ago, and, therefore, as I have said, not directly applicable as a criticism on Mr. Chamberlain's proposal, nevertheless express the principle by which it may be criticised. Mr. Goschen, however, who is one of the most able and thoughtful of modern Liberal statesmen, has ventured, in a speech delivered at Edinburgh, to express himself most openly regarding this proposal. "I should like to know," he says, "why it is a sign of strength to rely upon a corporate body to do certain duties, rather than to rely upon the individual himself? I should like to know," he continues, "what there is in this system which so entitles it to the credit of being "advanced." [389] I do not know how far it is a recommendation in its favour, but these new views have the advantage that they lend themselves very considerably to the approbation of Prince Bismarck. The municipal socialism, which has, now, both advocates in this room, and a great body of adherents in many parts of the country, has the approbation of Prince Bismarck. The Iron Chancellor likes these ways well. He likes regulation. He likes that regulation of labour, and of so many interests in individual life, which are involved in all these schemes of socialism—whether municipal socialism, whether state socialism, or socialism of any kind. But the National Liberals of Germany, the Great Liberal party in Germany, were opposed to this socialism, as striking at the freedom of the working classes of the country."

"It is supposed," he goes on, "that it is an advanced view, if you are not sound about the rights of property, but it is very unsound if you are. But that view is not common to the whole of what one may call democratic communities. There are many democratic countries, where it is considered that the sanctity of proprietary rights lies at the bottom of the foundation of society; and it would be a strange thing indeed if, in this country, at this day, we should have to go to the United States for precedents as regards the protection of property. But the fact is, that the constitution of the United States places extraordinary guarantees against any transfer of property by an executive power, from one individual to another."

The same authority, speaking on a subsequent occasion, said: "It has been suggested that, by this system of allotments, you might so raise the whole status of the working classes as effectually to deal with the subject of pauperism. I wish it were so…. I know," he continued, "of no system of the division of land, or different distribution of land, to check a state of things like that, except by doing all you can to raise the self-esteem of the population, and [390] that feeling of charity, and feeling of independence: that family feeling, which would make men and women turn rather to their kith and kin, than to any municipal incorporation."

Thus it will be seen that, quite apart from the thoughtful Conservative utterances by which this Utopian scheme has been condemned, the greatest of English newspapers, and three of the greatest among English Liberal statesmen have characterised it as impracticable and injurious to the very class in whose behalf it has been conceived.

Mr. Gladstone, as I have already stated, absolutely ignored it in his Liberal programme, and has, in the extract quoted above, clearly condemned the principle of legislation upon which it hinges.

Such quotations are rendered more valuable by the fact that they emanate from the very party to which the author of the proposal belongs; and they are of further value, as showing, out of the months of Liberals themselves, that legislation which aims at equalising the conditions of men, almost invariably leads to the injury of the very class whom it has been intended to benefit.

The quotation from Lord Hartington, which was mentioned a few pages back, while admitting that there may be scope for Liberal measures in repealing previous legislation conceived in a partial spirit, when the working classes were not sufficiently represented, nevertheless, lays down the general principle that the only hope for a better condition of the working classes depends upon the general prosperity of the whole community, and the cultivation of feelings of independence, self-reliance, self-respect, and, above all, self-help.

Mr. Chamberlain has, more than once, expressed his adherence to Bentham's somewhat vague phrase—"the greatest happiness of the greatest number;" and has even gone so far as to offer that somewhat inconclusive guage of the political [391] propriety of a measure in support of his allotments scheme: affirming it to be "the foundation of the Liberal party." I presume that he and his followers would be prepared to accept, with an equal degree of respect, Bentham's opinions upon the subject of the security of property. No man, certainly no writer on political matters, regarded the rights of property in a more sacred light. In that writer's treatise "The Theory of Legislation," under the head of "Security," he says "law alone is able to create a fixed and durable possession which merits the name of property…. Nothing but law can encourage men to labours superfluous for the present, and which can be enjoyed only in the future." Sometimes Mr. Chamberlain would appear to be quite in accord with Bentham up to this point, for he has himself said: "nothing would be more undesirable than that we should remove the stimulus to industry, and thrift, and exertion, which is afforded by the security, given to every man, in the enjoyment of the fruits of his own individual exertions." "Law," says Bentham, "does not say to man, labour and I will reward you; but it says: labour, and I will assure to you the enjoyment of the fruits of your labour—that natural and sufficient recompense which, without me, you cannot preserve. I will insure it, by arresting the hand which may seek to ravish it from you." Let us see now what Bentham means when he uses the word "security." In his chapter, entitled "Of Property," he says: "As regards property, security consists in receiving no check, no shock, no derangement to the expectation, founded on the laws, of enjoying such and such a portion of good," and he adds: "the legislator owes the greatest respect to this expectation, which he has himself produced. When he does not contradict it, he does what is essential to the happiness of society; when he disturbs it, he always produces a proportionate amount of evil." [23] To all of this, Mr. Chamberlain and his followers would, doubtless, reply, as in fact the former has [392] done: "It is the duty of the state…to redress the inequalities of our social condition." Bentham, however, has anticipated such a contention, and has thus answered it. "When security and equality are in conflict (he says) it will not do to hesitate a moment. Equality must yield. The first is the foundation of life; subsistence, abundance, happiness, everything depends upon it. Equality produces only a certain portion of good. Besides, whatever we may do, it will never be perfect; it may exist a day; but the revolutions of the morrow will overturn it. The establishment of perfect equality is a chimera. All we can do is to diminish inequality…. If equality ought to prevail to day, it ought to prevail always. Yet it cannot be preserved, except by renewing the violence by which it was established." [24]

In concluding that chapter of his work which is entitled "Means of Uniting Security and Equality," the same writer says: "Security, while preserving its place as the supreme principle, leads indirectly to equality; while equality, if taken as the basis of the social arrangement, will destroy both itself and security at the same time." "The word equality," he says, elsewhere, becomes a mere pretext—a cover to the robbery which idleness perpetrates upon industry."

So much then for the probable effect of this novel piece of legislation on the security of property. There is another feature of the scheme which is equally objectionable, on grounds of principle. It is proposed that the "local authorities," having power to compulsorily purchase this land, shall also have the right to grant these allotments to the agricultural labourers, on a sort of "time-payment" system. The terms of such a system will either be such as could be obtained without its assistance, in the ordinary way of business, or, they will be terms of an easier, and to the purchaser, less expensive nature. If such terms are no better than could be obtained in the ordinary way of business; [393] then, there is no object gained in the authorities burdening themselves with such troublesome duties. It would, in such a case, be far better to leave the purchaser to borrow elsewhere, and thus develop in him the selfrespect which would be generated by the consciousness of having helped himself. But if, on the other hand, the terms are better, that is to say, easier than could be obtained in the ordinary business way; then every taxpayer who may be rendered liable for any loss which may be sustained, is being wronged by the state, to the extent of his liability. "If," said the late Professor Fawcett, "the state makes loans in cases where they cannot be obtained from ordinary commercial sources, it is clear that, in the judgment of those best qualified to form an opinion, the state is running a risk of loss." That risk of a loss is shifted from the shoulders of those, for whose benefit the state aid is being exerted, and is made to fall, instead, upon those of every honest independent, self-helping citizen who is liable to national taxation.

I pass away now from this proposal, which is sufficiently revolutionary, to another which is more so. The volume entitled "The Radical Programme," to which I have before referred, lays down the following proposal, taken, I believe, verbatim, from one of Mr. Chamberlain's speeches. "When your property has grown to a magnitude that exceeds what, in the opinion of the state, is compatible with the public interest should be possessed by an individual, it will peremptorily discourage you from going farther. There is one way in which the state can execute such a revolution. It can provide for a graduated probate duty upon landed proprietors above a certain size."

This may be taken as a fair sample of the spurious Liberalism with which we should be socially regulated, so soon as men of Mr. Chamberlain's school acquire sufficient power to turn the scale of political institutions. Under such a principle as that which the quotation contains, no member [394] of the community would be allowed to transmit any advantages of his hard-earned and hardly-saved accumulations, unless they amounted to a sum less than what, in the opinion of the state, was comapatible with the public interest; and since "the state" would consist of the majority, that amount would obviously not be fixed very high. Everything beyond the amount limited would, of course, go into the coffers of the state, for the general good; and we should in a very short time find we had brought upon ourselves most of the demoralising effects of "communism," viz., loss of incentive to energy and enterprise, and apathy regarding future provisions; for since the state could claim the surplus, a consequent tendency to idleness or extravagant expenditure would soon display itself, and, as a result, a general degeneration would be produced in the national character.

When Mr. Chamberlain was asked, among the other "reputed Liberals," why he was of that party, he gave as an answer that which I have already mentioned, and which The Times characterised as a "not very new truism." He said, "True Liberalism seeks constantly the greatest happiness of the greatest number."

Mr. Chamberlain has probably read Bentham's "Theory of Legislation," from which I have been quoting, but evidently not with great care; for he has given, as a definition of Liberalism in politics, that which its author only intended as the principle which should uderlie all legislation. They are very different things, and require careful distinction. Bentham has said that the principle which Mr. Chamberlain has given must underlie all legislation; but it by no means follows that all social movements which "seek constantly the greatest happiness of the greatest number" should be brought about by, or would constitute legitimate subjects for legislation.

In fact, Bentham has expressed himself very distinctly upon this point in the opposite direction. "Morality, in [395] general," he says, "is the art of directing the actions of men in such a way as to produce the greatest possible sum of good. Legislation ought to have precisely the same object. But although these two arts, or rather sciences, have the same end, they differ greatly in extent."

"All actions, whether public or private, fall under the jurisdiction of morals. It is a guide which leads the individual, as it were, by the hand, through all the details of his life, all his relations with his fellows. Legislation cannot do this, and if it could, it ought not to exercise a continual interference and dictation over the conduct of men. In a word, legislation has the same centre with morals, but it has not the same circumference."

Can it be doubted that Mr. Chamberlain has seriously misread, and, unconsciously, misrepresented Bentham?

To claim the support of so great an authority, in the advocacy of such proposals, is to do that great writer an injustice, and to give to the proposals, among those who have not read for themselves, a force and influence which they do not merit.

If it were intended, as part of this proposal, to give the owners less than the value of the land, an obvious injustice would be done to them; if, on the other hand, it were intended to give the owners the full value, then legislation were unnecessary, for "men will devote themselves to pursuits in which they can realise the greatest profits for their labour and capital;" and if the agricultural labourers, as a class, really want small holdings, and are willing to pay a full value for them, there would be found no difficulty in effecting the purchase in many parts of Great Britain. [25]


Turning now from this very significant instance of the modern tendency in legislation, let us glance at another phase of the same subject. We have seen that the whole scope of present-day legislation is in direct contravention of the true principles of Liberalism, as scientifically understood. A further examination of what is passing around us will show that legislators themselves have, in one form or another, given up their own freedom of action, and even freedom of expression, in the exercise of their legislative functions. Who can have failed to observe the pitch to which party tactics have been carried in almost all English-speaking communities?

Mr. Joseph Cowen, one of the most scientific and high-principled of Liberals, and one, too, of the most ardent disciples of individual freedom, has been literally driven from public life by the bigotry of party despotism in his constituency. One of that eminent man's ablest addresses to his constituents commences with the following words: "I am indifferent about party; but I try to be true to principles…. I cannot think for anyone…. There is no sacrifice of independence in accepting information or instruction, by whomsoever given; but there is in accepting tutelage." "Principles (he says elsewhere), should govern party, and party should not govern principles." Again, "I would (he says), subordinate the interests of party to that of the nation, the interest of classes to that of justice, the interest of sections to that of liberty, and the interest of all to the elevation of man…. We are witnessing too many of the newly-enfranchised, amidst hurrahing and placarding, hurrying to equip themselves in the prison uniform of party—to speak to their leaders' briefs, rather than by undying [397] principles, and to trust perishable names and interests, rather than realities."

Mr. Joseph Cowen sacrificed himself on the altar of his principles; for, at the subsequent election to that at which these lofty sentiments were uttered, he positively declined to submit himself as a candidate for parliament, on account of the reprehensible extremes to which he had seen party tactics carried in the party organisations of his constituency.

In a touching letter, which he addressed to certain of his constituents, in answer to a request that he should allow himself to be again nominated for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which he had represented for twelve years, he said: "I claimed and exercised the liberty of thinking for myself, and voting as my convictions prompted me, on all matters of principle. I regarded myself as a representative of all the electors, and not a delegate of a faction…. But my procedure has secured for me the unappeasable animosity of our organised Liberals. They required me to blindly follow their leaders, whether I thought them right or wrong. They desired me also to act only as their spokesman; to take my orders from them and communicate with the people of Newcastle through them. I refused. I preferred principle to party, and the constituency to the caucus. And for so doing, they have done their level best to make my position intolerable. The caucus demands unqualified party obsequiousness, and given that, it is indifferent to other services…. What the caucus wants is a machine. I am a man—not a machine."

These extracts, and the freedom and freshness of intellect which they indicate in him who uttered them, are one picture, on which it were pleasurable to dwell. But look now on the reality, as compared with the ideal.

"Some men," says Sir Henry Maine, "are Tories and Whigs by conviction, but thousands upon thousands of electors vote simply for yellow, blue, or purple, caught at [398] most by the appeals of some popular orator." [26] And, again, "Now-a-days, party has become a force, acting with vast energy on multitudinous democracies, and a number of artificial contrivances have been invented for facilitating and stimulating its action." [27]

"The fictitious authority and importance which opinions derive from being the formulas and cries of party, or the dicta of party leaders, is a besetting evil of modern times." [28] But party government, party discipline, party despotism, call it what we will, has not yet run the lengths or reached the extremes which is the case in the United States. Almost everyone who has, in writing, dealt with political matters, as existing in that great democratic community, testifies to the slavish results which have followed upon the party organisation in its intense form as there developed. "It is," says an able writer upon American institutions, "almost impossible for a man of independent opinions to obtain a seat in Congress. He must be 'endorsed' by a party, or it is useless for him to contest an election. Should any accepted member exhibit an opinion of his own in opposition to the general party, he is practically driven out of its ranks; he is assailed on all sides with a virulence and unscrupulousness, unknown elsewhere; he inevitably fails to receive a future nomination, and then he loses the next election. Within the walls of the legislature every voice is raised against him, and, outside, he has to confront the unprincipled assaults of the combined agents of a faction. Few public men in America can long contend in so unequal a struggle. Thus the power of Congress is securely concentrated in the hands of the leaders of the dominant party of the hour, who may be so actuated by personal ambition, or other unworthy motives, as to render them altogether unsafe guides for the nation. The discussions [399] of this conclave are carried on in secret, and the mockery of a deliberative assembly is made complete by the systematic refusal to allow of full debate upon measures of the most momentous description." [29] The same author quotes at length from a report of (what is termed) "the Personal Representation Society of New York" to the Constitutional Convention of 1867. In that report the following passage occurs, with reference to party despotism:—"Under our present system of majority representation, the necessity of unification and consolidation of party, for the purpose of becoming the dominant power, is so urgent, as non-success means non-representation, that party discipline becomes almost as rigorous as that of an army; and all men of independence of thought, who agree with a strong minority of a majority upon some of the party measures, while disagreeing as to others, are either compelled to accept the party yoke, however uncomfortably it may fit, and sink their individual opinions, or abstain from taking part in politics." [30] "Never," says another eminent writer on American democracy, "Never, since our government was formed, has the tyranny of majorities been exercised to the same extent as at present…. The majority in the House are now more enslaved than southern negroes ever were, whose mouths never felt the gag. There will never be real freedom and independence in this country (America) until this tyranny—never attempted against us by the mother country—shall be effectually ended." [31]

The former of these observations, being written by one who has filled several high positions in American politics, should have some authority. English communities have certainly not yet become so degraded; but there are not wanting signs that they are fast tending in that direction. [400] I need scarcely ask here whether it is possible to get freedom of opinion among legislators themselves, under such a state of things; and it would seem to be even more hopeless to expect legislators to get the true principle of individual freedom recognised in legislation, when they openly sacrifice it at the very threshold of the institution where the laws, intended to secure it, are made. The immediate cause of this unfortunate result is to be found in the fact that, instead of "sacrificing party to principle"—as advocated by Mr. Joseph Cowen—principle is hurriedly and thoughtlessly sacrificed to party. "In all parties," says Sir George Cornewall Lewis, "whether political or otherwise, there is a tendency to forget the end for which the combination exists, and to prefer to it the means; to think only of the confederation and the body, and not of the purpose for which the body exists." [32]

The caucus is but the engine of despotism by which the party power is screwed up to its highest pitch of force and efficacy. "The caucus," says the same American writer whom I have quoted, "was originally little more important than the preliminary meeting of Conservatives or Liberals, which is held at the opening of the English session, at the houses of their respective leaders. It is now a distinct and important part of the governing power of the country. The whole business of the land, at the opening of a session, is practically at the disposal of a caucus. The deliberations of the body are conducted with closed doors, and the conclusions, which have been arrived at, are alone made known to the public papers, and often even that dole of information is witheld. The caucus cannot indeed make laws; but when it has decided upon a particular course, it has the power to carry it out, and the people do not learn the motives which led to its adoption." [33]

I have before me an excellent illustration of the injurious results which may, and do arise from caucus voting. [401] Government by majority is questionable enough as a means of obtaining wise legislative conclusions; but by adopting the caucus in democratic communities, a very small minority may possibly secure a result which, in open parliament, where men's opinions are not, as it were, "gagged," only an absolute majority could be effectual. About two years ago it became necessary to choose a leader for the so-called Liberal party in the parliament of the colony of Victoria. The "caucus" was utilised with an instructive effect. I shall describe the process in the words of a member of the Victorian parliament, who, personally, took part in it. "After the last parliament was prorogued," he said, "I received two letters inviting me to caucuses of the Liberal party. I could not conveniently attend the first caucus, but was present at the second, which was held for the election of a leader of the party. There were twenty-two members present. When the meeting was constituted, I asked the chairman if it was a meeting of the Liberal party, or only a section of it. The question was objected to, but I insisted upon it. It was never answered. I soon learned that the programme was cut and dried. A leader had already been chosen, before the meeting began. But parliament having been prorogued, with a view to dissolution, the meeting ought to have comprised prominent members of the Liberal party, not only in parliament, but out of it. My advice was contemptuously rejected; and, under the circumstances, I declined to have anything further to do with the meeting. When I left the room twenty-one remained. Out of the twenty-one, eight were expectant ministers, and there were only four vacancies for them in the government. The eight expectant ministers had no business to vote, being interested in the decision. That reduced the number really to thirteen. Out of those thirteen, three violently opposed the then proposed coalition. That reduced the number to ten. Three out of the ten were rejected, so that the position of [402] the leadership of the 'Liberal' party had been decided by seven votes. Such a pyramid, standing on such a base!" adds the speaker, "even in this age of shams, I know," he says, "of no greater sham." [34]

It is certainly significant that a leader of a "Liberal" party should be chosen by a method so absolutely contrary to all principles of Liberalism. "The caucus," says Mr. Cowen, "is anti-democratic. It substitutes fugitiveness for patriotism. It reduces politics to personalities, and agitation to a business. It plants, between the representatives and the people, an intermediary power, whose endeavours either galvanise them into frenzy, or produce an unreal tranquillity—the tranquillity of galley slaves, who row in cadence and in silence." [35] The present English Home Secretary (the Right Hon. Henry Matthews), in addressing the electors of Birmingham, in August of last year, in regard to the party and caucus organisation of that city, told them that they should "rely less upon those political organisations for which their town was so famous. It struck him (he said) that these political organisations were things destructive of all honest, energetic, English opinion. He trusted an honest Englishman to come to the right conclusion, especially upon a great national question, before all the associations and unions in the world…. If they pulled aside the veil, what did they find? Persons whom, in private life, they would not think much of. But when they hid themselves behind the title of an association or a federation, it looked so imposing that they really deluded simple men." [36]

The result of this extreme use of party government, and the constant resort to that terrible engine of despotism—the caucus, is to reduce parliamentary representatives to mere puppets or automata, who are moved, in many instances, at the will of a mere handful of cunning and ambitious organisers. [403] Freedom of opinion and liberty of open expression are stifled out of existence, and political conclusions, affecting a whole nation, are arrived at with as great an insensibility to reason and justice as was ever displayed in the judgments of the historical Star Chamber. The effect of all this has already begun to show itself in the servility and subserviency of many parliamentary representatives, when brought into close contact with those whose interests they have been elected to watch. A candidate may be elected by a body of constituents professing certain party tenets, and, though that party may be led, for reasons of political exigency, to advocate some measure quite contrary to its traditional principles, the representative who ventures to be true to his convictions will, in all probability, suffer the loss of his seat for his consistency. The knowledge of this possibility has led a large number of the members of every representative assembly to completely subordinate their judgment to the popular whim which is expressed by the masses. Thus, such representatives as are willing to sacrifice anything in order to retain their seat become mere delegates for the purpose of registering the wishes of the noisiest of their constituents. Mr. Chamberlain is a strong advocate for the caucus, and for the maximum of what he terms "organisation." "The force of democracy, (he says) to be strong must be concentrated…. It must not be frittered away into numberless units, each of them so preciously independent that no one of them can unite with another, even for a single day." In the same speech in which this truly anti-Liberal sentiment is expressed, he urges this concentration on the ground of his hearers' "eagerness for liberty." Could paradox go further? Elsewhere he urges as "a necessity for future union and future success, that in each district there should be created a numerous, a powerful, a representative district council of the Liberal Association, and that to this district council should be left [404] the duty of selecting the candidates for each of the localities…. Then these district councils might unite to form the United Liberal Association of Birmingham, which would be no longer an Eight Hundred, it would be more likely a Two Thousand, and would alone have the power of collecting and expressing the opinion of the whole town." All this from an apostle of freedom! Did Eastern despotism ever talk more imperiously? Were such words as "freedom" and "liberty" ever more disgracefully prostituted? Did hypocrisy and falsehood ever take a more impudent and audacious form than is involved in the assumption by this man of the title "Liberal?" One is reminded of the high ideal set up before his constituents by Edmund Burke, which offers so striking a contrast to most modern electioneering utterances. "Your representative," he said, "owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion." "You choose a member, indeed," he added, "but when you have chosen him, he is not member for Bristol (that being Burke's constituency), but he is a member of parliament." These words were spoken in 1774, more than a century ago, and things have much changed since then; for now-a-days "the omnipotence of the majority creates a habit of adulation towards the people, which lowers the morality of public men, by rendering them servile and insincere, and, in short, by giving them the character of the mob courtier." [37]

The truth is, at the present day, "Every candidate for parliament is prompted to propose or support some new piece of ad captandum legislation. Nay, even the chiefs of parties—those anxious to retain office, and those to wrest it from them—generally aim to get adherents, by outbidding one another. Each seeks popularity by promising more than his opponent has promised…. Representatives [405] are unconscientious enough to vote for bills which they believe to be wrong in principle, because party needs and regard for the next election, demand it." [38] Note the following instance of this propensity to promise indirect rewards for party support. A minister of the crown of one of the Australian colonies, a short time since, in an address to his constituents, made the following bid for public favour: "The irrigation question," he said, "is one of the most important that could engage public attention. My colleagues agree with me in the matter, and they have placed before the public a proposal, which for liberality and justice could neither be equalled nor surpassed…. Under the existing law the Government could advance moneys to trusts, and postpone the payment of interest until the works were completed." This offer may have been very liberal to the farming community, in the sense of foregoing interest to state debtors at the expense of the general public; but, whether it is, at the same time, capable of being "equalled or surpassed," in "justice" to the rest of the community, is, I venture to think, quite a different question. I am inclined to view it as a very unjust method of purchasing political popularity and support, by offering money concessions to one class at the expense of the whole community.

Almost while I write, another instance is afforded in the same colony. A deputation waited upon a minister of the crown, with a view to acquaint him with the numerous proposals for celebrating Her Majesty's Jubilee. In the course of a somewhat desultory conversation which took place upon the subject, the minister in question himself proposed and pledged the support of his government to a vote of £20,000, to provide an endowment for a workingmen's college. The minister is of opinion that "it would not be an unwise movement;" it would be "a very good thing to do;" it would "commemorate the Queen's Jubilee in a practical [406] manner." I venture to characterise this as one of the most bare-faced breaches of the principles of good government which could well be conceived. The working classes are a large and powerful body in the colony alluded to. They are as well off, comparatively speaking, as any section of society, and certainly as prosperous as, if not more so than, their own class in any other part of the world. That being the case, we find a minister of the crown, whose first duty it is to look to the interests of every class of citizens, proposing, and deliberately pledging his government to support a movement in parliament, which would have no other effect than that of taking £20,000 out of the public revenue, which belongs to all citizens alike, and using it for the purpose of endowing an advanced educational establishment for a particular class in the community. This is indeed a most loyal act on the part of a minister! To perform it involves no personal sacrifice. It would doubtless add greatly to the popularity of his ministry; but it means taking out of the pocket of every citizen a certain sum of money, in order to bestow the aggregate amount so taken upon a particular class in the community. And this breach of political principle is—to make the farce more complete—proposed to be done to commemorate the Queen's Jubilee. It would, I venture to think, be a greater compliment to Her Majesty to celebrate her jubilee by a sounder observance, rather than by so glaring a breach, of the true principles of good and equitable government. If the minister in question had read Mr. Gladstone's Nineteenth Century article on "Locksley Hall and the Jubilee," he would have found that statesman speaking of the legislation of the last fifty years as "a process of setting free the individual man, that he may work out his own vocation without wanton hindrance;" and he would have found, as part of the context of those words, the following significant observation:—"If, instead of this, government is to work out his vocation for him, I, for one, am [407] not sanguine as to the result." Under such circumstances, is there much hope of sounder principles prevailing in democratic communities?

Another instance of the onward march of this spurious school of political thought is the attempt lately made in England to prevent freedom of contract between employers and employed on the subject of compensation for injuries. The law already provides that if an employé is injured in his master's service, through the negligence of his fellow-servant, the master shall, under certain circumstances, be as liable to that injured servant as if he were a perfect stranger. To avoid this liability, and the great and indefinite obligations under which it places employers, that class has sought in many cases to avoid it, though by perfectly legitimate means. They have given a preference to those employés who were willing to exempt them from that liability in the drafting of their contract of service. In the competition for employment it has not always been difficult to make this arrangement, nor has it been unjust; for, with the wonderful growth of the institution of insurance, it is an easy matter for an employé to secure his family against any such contingency. Where this element has been introduced into a contract of service it has been a purely voluntary matter. Moreover, if the employé refused, he would either suffer a reduction of wages sufficient to enable the employer to secure himself against loss, or he would have to give place to those who would consent. Bearing this in view, an attempt has been made to introduce a measure to prohibit an employé from contracting himself out of the act; that is to say, an attempt has been made, by act of parliament, to prevent an employé from entering into such a contract of service as he may be anxious and willing to do. This I need scarcely say is a distinct breach of civil liberty. In 1884, when Mr. Thomas Burt endeavoured to pass the Bill through the Commons, a petition was presented [408] from 1219 adult working miners, all being voters in that member's constituency. "They objected to their freedom of contract being taken from them." The bill was defeated, and the defeat attributed to the petition mentioned. In 1886 the measure was again brought forward, but so much opposition was offered by various organisations that it was again dropped.

Here is another form which this socialistic movement is taking. Mr. Hyndman, Grand Master of the Social Democratic Federation, writes in The Times, "I hope that steps will at once be taken to meet the demands of the most important portion of our population, for the organisation of labour upon the land, for the erection of artisans' dwellings, baths, washhouses, etc., in our great industrial centres; for the reduction of the hours of labour in all government departments and in all monopolies; and, in the meantime, for the extension of out-door relief and temporary employment, until arrangements have been made for this re-organisation." Turn from this to another feature, in which Liberalism is drifting from its old moorings and forgetting its old traditions. No political party has ever shown greater intolerance for independence of political thought than the Liberal party of the present day, in Great Britain. Simply because a section of that party has differed in opinion, on the Irish question, with the bulk of the party following Mr. Gladstone, it has been subjected to an amount of bitter and offensive ridicule which would have been more in keeping with the treatment of opponents in a theological controversy of the middle ages. Sir Henry James, who has shown a constant and consistent regard for the true principles of the Liberal school, has commented severely on that intolerance. Speaking of the threat which had been made that the Unionist section was to be "drummed out" of the Liberal party, he said: "it meant that for the first time in this country, an arbitrary power [409] was to be applied to men's judgments, and applied in a manner and method, contrary to all the instincts and the very faith of the Liberal party. And," (he added) "this must and will bring upon this country great and serious political disaster." In the reported proceedings of a Trades' Union Congress, held at Hull, in September of 1886, an attempt was made to affirm the principle of having a minimum rate of wages established by the state, "which" (added the mover) "will enable workmen to live decently and rear their families." It is but fair to add that, though the resolution was much discussed, its wisdom was on the whole doubted, and the matter allowed to stand over; but, at the same Congress, it was resolved and carried "that a bureau of labour should be established in connection with the government."

Not many months ago a deputation of trades-unionists waited upon the Premier of the colony of South Australia, asking that his government would "grant a block of land, on which to erect a Trades Hall," or that, instead, they would "place a sum of money on the estimates for the purpose." These alternative proposals meant, practically, that a site for a Trades Hall, that is to say, a site for a building in which trades-unionists might more easily and more comfortably perfect their organisation, should be paid for out of the public revenue, or taken out of the public estate, in which every man, woman, and child in that colony has an interest. The effect would be to take from everybody in the community to give to a class. It is somewhat refreshing to find that the Premier of that colony knew something of political principles, and what is more rare, now-a-days, had the moral courage to say what he thought and felt upon the subject. "This is (he said) a new idea—coming to government for every requirement." The leader of the deputation interjected that "though it was a new idea, it was a growing one," to which the Premier replied, "Yes, and I [410] deeply regret the tendency to make the government a milch cow," adding that it was "a curse which was sapping the manhood of every country which practised it." It may be worth remarking that in the colony of Victoria, where politicians seem less capable of courageous public conduct of this kind, a large and valuable piece of ground has been already granted to the working-classes for a similar purpose. Events point to the conclusion that there is very little which they could, as a class, ask for in the latter colony, that the average run of that colony's legislators would have the courage to refuse. The working-classes number many thousands, at election time, and no government has appeared, during the last few years, possessing sufficient manly independence to treat them with the same courage and candour which is adopted towards other and less numerous classes of the community.

In the same colony (Victoria), only a short time ago, a prominent member of the Legislative Assembly asked the Postmaster-General to "engage the services of a sporting agent, for the purpose of ascertaining the names of the first, second and third horses" in a certain race, "in order that telegrams announcing the result might be delivered as soon as possible after the race was run, at any telegraph office in the colony." The request was at once acceded to. The effect of this extraordinary action on the part of a government was that that portion of the population who take an interest in horse-racing was supplied with the latest "sporting news"; but, at the expense of the whole community, including those who take no such interest in that subject. The injustice of this is obvious, and would become even more so, if every section of the community claimed the right to use state-property (such as the telegraphic system) for its own class purposes. I might, indeed, mention a score of such departures into fields of enterprise, wholly foreign to the true functions of government.


One of the most serious aspects of this already sufficiently serious subject is the popular belief that municipalities can undertake many functions which it would be improper for parliament to undertake, and that, too, without any of the injurious results which might follow when the matter is undertaken by the legislature. This is a grievous error; for inasmuch as all municipal regulations, duly made in pursuance of an act of parliament, acquire the force of law; and inasmuch as some are actually so passed, those innumerable small bodies called municipal councils may be rendered capable of inflicting inestimable injury by means of a system of silent and unobserved overlegislation. The extent to which municipalities in Great Britain and elsewhere are widening their functions, in the present day, is becoming a matter for grave attention. I have before me particulars of a bill called the "Hastings Improvement Bill." The object of the measure is "to confer additional powers" on the corporation named. It consists of 262 pages, containing 484 sections; and, in the words of a competent critic, "it deals with every conceivable department of human activity." This bill is only one of a type which is being sought for by all the principal municipalities of Great Britain; and I shall therefore venture to go somewhat into detail over it, in order that I may give the reader even a vague idea of the rage which it indicates for "regulating" society into "good and proper behaviour."

I need scarcely explain that the class of men who fill the positions of town councillors in many of the less important English provincial towns, are usually small tradesmen of the busy-body type, who have lived for the greater part of their lives in a narrow groove, and whose knowledge of men and of the world is, as a consequence, almost invariably in an inverse ratio to their confidence in their own capacity. Their knowledge of the political science itself is an "unknown quantity." Observe now the duties which these [412] persons would place upon their own shoulders. Take, as an instance, the town of Hastings, which I have mentioned. "As traders, or regulators of trade, they will provide public weighing machines and measuring apparatus, with weights and measures, and appoint official weighers; they will erect, at a cost of £10,000, and maintain, public slaughter-houses. The costermonger or fish-wife will not be allowed to sell any commodities, from door to door, without their licenses. A license will have to be procured by the payment of an annual fee, before the marine-store dealer, the itinerant rag and bone merchant, the bottle-collector, shoe-black, flower-girl, bill-sticker, bathing-machine proprietor, porter, messenger, commissionaire, or cats'-meat man, can enter upon their respective callings…. The conduct of the porter, the messenger, the commissionaire, and the shoeblack will be regulated, and appropriate badges will be assigned to them…. They (the councillors) will prescribe the times for the collection and removal of 'hogwash,' and will erect an engine…'for the treatment by fire or otherwise,' of such of this commodity as goes begging, and of waste refuse of all kinds. They will fix the fares and prescribe the routes of omnibuses, and will supervise the conduct of the drivers, and the quantity and quality of their horses. They will see that the cranes, ropes, and tackle of merchants and tradesmen are 'proper and sufficient.' They will regulate the size, construction, and use of advertising vans, and the loading and unloading of goods in the street, as well as prohibit 'the practice of touting' for hotels, lodging-houses, carriages, or pleasure-boats. They will exercise special supervision over architects, builders, and contractors. The height of houses, and the manner of their foundations; the construction of cellars and chimney-flues, the size of timbers, the thickness of the inner and outer walls, the height of rooms and chimneys, be dimensions of hearth-stones, the ingredients of the [413] mortar, and the quality of materials and workmanship generally, must all conform to the standard fixed by the municipal authorities; and they will superintend the erection of gipsies' tents and vans. A license will be required by any one who opens a bowling-green or skittle-alley, or who provides facilities for the games of bagatelle, dominoes, quoits, or brasses; and the hours of play will be fixed by the authorities. Similar conditions will be imposed upon any person who shall play for 'reward on any musical instrument'—the latter term including any barrel-organ, punch-and-judy show, marionettes, or performing animals. The corporation will appoint and regulate the number of oars and sails in pleasure-boats, and the places and times for the hiring of mules, donkeys, and bathing-machines; and, as regards the latter, will see that they are safe, and duly fitted with hand-lines and clothes-hooks." [39] It would be impossible for me to go through the thousand-and-one trivial details into which it is provided that this omniscient and omnipresent corporation shall enter. But I should fail to give an adequate idea of the extent to which human folly may go, when no limit is known or recognised to parliamentary or municipal interference with personal liberty, unless I were to add a few more of them. The municipality in question has, besides those duties above enumerated, these others following: The regulation of infectious diseases, local hospitals and dispensaries; processions; the speed of carts and carriages; and the hours for driving sheep through the streets. On Sunday "processions and parades," excepting funerals and religious processions, are absolutely forbidden, and, in the cases allowed, there must not be "any music, fireworks, discharge of cannon or firearms, or other disturbing noise." Penalties are inflicted for throwing orange-peel on the pavement, or allowing one's servant to stand on the sill of a window for the purpose of cleaning it; for blowing any [414] horn, ringing any bell, or using any other noisy instrument, or shouting or singing for the purpose of announcing or attracting persons to any sale, show, or entertainment; or "for the purpose of hawking, selling, or collecting any article whatever." The town council will inflict punishment for drowning cats and dogs; will buy and lay out recreation grounds, with refreshment sheds, and "apparatus for games" and gymnastics. They will erect suitable statues and keep them "in good order." They will provide conservatories, cabmen's shelters, public libraries, and reading-rooms, baths, and wash-houses, illuminated clocks, museums, and picture galleries, stands for meteorological instruments, public bands of music, flag-staffs and weather charts, etc., etc. They will prohibit "dangerous whirligigs and swings," and will control the speed of such as are permitted. They will prescribe the opening and closing hours for entertainments, and punish anyone who "discharges" a snowball, stone, or other missle, or who makes a bonfire or "sets fire to fireworks." Anyone who collects a crowd by flying pigeons, foot-racing, or singing, or "who flies a kite, or uses a slide on ice or snow, or plays at pitch-and-toss, or other description of gaming, or trundles a wheel, hoop, or girth, or plays at football, quoits, pig, or other game or pastime, whether in the street or elsewhere, will only do so on sufferance. To complete this veritable reductio ad absurdum the corporation in question has taken powers in its act "to maintain, at railway stations and other public places in the United Kingdom and France, advertisements, stating the attractions and amusements of the town"! As I have already said, this is no isolated instance of the extremes which are above enumerated. The measure is only a typical one, and it really contains a large number of other equally ridiculous provisions, which I cannot find space for here. [40]


Turning again from municipal socialism to that of the state, let me enumerate some of the most modern instances which have attracted attention in Great Britain. During the 1886 session of the House of Commons, a bill was introduced to enable the tenant, under certain conditions, to force the owner to sell the freehold. After considerable opposition had been excited through the powerful influence of the English Liberty and Property Defence League, the bill was dropped. Two game bills and two land bills were likewise proposed. They have been aptly described as "bills for legalising trespass, and for transferring to tenants the rights of the owners, without compensation, any agreement to the contrary notwithstanding." These also were ultimately dropped.

A bill was introduced (Places of Worship Sites Bill), which, if passed, would have had the effect of enabling any twenty householders to compel an owner to sell a site for a religious place of worship. Another bill (Crofters No. 2), which actually passed in a modified form, had the effect of enabling tenants, in league with the Land Commission, to extort from the owner fixity of tenure, and additional land at "regulation" rents. Seven other bills, all relating to land, were prepared for enactment, all tending in a greater or less degree to the suppression of freedom of contract, and to the substitution of state regulation in the management and transfer of land—steps in the direction of absolute "land nationalisation," in the place of qualified individual ownership. A Coal Mines Regulation Bill was also introduced, the effect of which was to subject the coal mining industry to increased state regulation. Four other mining bills were prepared, but ultimately abandoned: all of them being measures in various degrees and particulars exhibiting the same general tendency to the nationalisation of the mining industry. A Railway and Canal Traffic Bill was introduced, but ultimately withdrawn, the effect of which [416] was to enable that already over-weighted body—the Board of Trade—by means of a Court of Railway Commissioners, to obtain official control over the financial arrangements of the various public railway companies. And a second bill, called the Railway Regulation Bill, was prepared, though ultimately abandoned, the effect of which would have been to enable the Board of Trade to acquire additional control over the practical working of railways. In the direction of shipping, a bill was introduced, though ultimately withdrawn, having for its object to enable the Board of Trade to enforce more stringent regulations on the sea-fishing service; and a further attempt was made at merchant shipping legislation, for the purpose of empowering the Board of Trade to prescribe for the merchant service a code of regulations, for the internal arrangement of the vessels, and for the management of the crews. Under the head of Manufactures and Trades, a Steam Engines and Boilers Bill was introduced, but ultimately dropped, which would, if passed, have empowered the Board of Trade to forbid the management of steam boilers on land by any person not holding a certificate. A Lunacy Acts Amendment Bill was introduced and also abandoned, by which it was proposed to close pauper private asylums without compensation. No less than six bills were introduced and ultimately withdrawn—all dealing with the subject of intoxicating liquors, and all of them being attempts on the part of the State to control the dealings and habits of buyers and sellers of alcoholic drink. [41]

These are only a portion of the attempts at socialistic legislation which were made during the sessions of 1886. They should sufficiently point to the overwhelming flood of socialism which is gradually gathering around us, and by which sooner or later our individual rights and liberties as [417] citizens seem likely to be swept out of existence. There is, as Mr. Herbert Spencer says, a widespread assumption "that it is the duty of the state, not simply to insure each citizen fair play in the battle of life, but to help him in fighting that battle, having previously taken money from his or some one else's pocket to pay the cost of doing it." It is, in fact, expected that the state should not only "guarantee men in the unmolested pursuit of happiness, but should provide the happiness for them and deliver it at the doors."

Now, it is very necessary to remark that, in proportion as the state is more and more burdened with duties and functions, which do not properly belong to it, it will cease to carry out with the necessary degree of thoroughness, those which properly fall within its province. To be constantly watching the development of new classes of rights, in the increasingly rapid changes of modern times, and amid the increasingly complex ramifications of our highly artificial society—to provide sufficient and scientifically conceived checks to prevent those rights being ignored and abused, might, as an individual function, well occupy the time and attention of the most competent parliament. If, in addition to this, such a body is obliged to keep a watchful eye upon the outside world, and to be ever ready to meet the possible aggression of other nations, a parliament would find the fullest occupation for its deliberations. But when, in addition to these all-important duties, the parliament is called upon to supervise the management of an immense public estate, an equally immense system of public railways, a gigantic organisation for the collection of duties on imported goods, and for the payment of drawbacks on those which are exported, a national postal and telegraphic system, a national savings bank, public picture galleries and museums, the inspection of factories, of boilers, of vessels, of stock, of vineyards, of distilleries; the licensing of public-houses, and the regulation of their accommodation, an immense [418] educational system comprehending hundreds of schools and their respective staffs, a gigantic water supply, all the necessary administration of a comprehensive irrigation scheme, and the maintenance of a large group of public charitable institutions, all of which parliament, as a body, is expected to be watching and scrutinising from time to time on the score of administration and expenditure, how is it to be expected the two first-named and only true functions can be properly or satisfactorily fulfilled? Nor are these all of the duties which modern colonial parliaments are being called upon to fulfil. Every day sees some new duty attempted to be cast upon the state—some duty, too, which could be much more perfectly and economically performed, and the expenditure of which would be more equitably distributed by means of private enterprise.

I have now spoken at length regarding the difficulties of the political science, of the social miscarriages which must and do inevitably result from its being so imperfectly understood; also of the injuries and injustices which are inflicted upon society as consequences of such want of knowledge. Most thoughful men fully recognise all this, but answer that it is useless to attempt to stem the current of popular self-confidence. On the other hand, many intelligent—even some eminent men—follow the masses in their confident treatment of political matters, and rather encourage than otherwise, this state tampering, on the ground that it can "do no harm," and can be repealed if found unsuccessful.

They would seem to be under the impression that an act of parliament is a harmless sort of institution, that can be brought into existence as a mere experiment, and if discovered to be useless or injurious immediately repealed. This, as I have already pointed out, is not the case; for while it may take years to repeal, its influence, meanwhile, will be found to have worked incalculable injury, in directions which it is impossible to trace.


It is only about two years ago that Mr. Chamberlain advocated in the plainest terms this "experimental" doctrine. "Now," he said, "that we have at last the government of the people by the people, we will go on, and we will make it government for the people, in which all shall co-operate to secure to every man his natural rights, his right of existence, and the fair enjoyment of life…. For such a purpose I do not pretend any one specific will be found. We must try experiments; we are bound to do it. Let us keep fast hold of the object in view and let us try and try again till we succeed." [42] That this view of political matters is erroneous, and most injurious to society, I find a host of authorities to testify. Lord Hartington, for instance, touched the core of the matter when he said, "I believe that legislation in favour of any particular class is likely to prevent the general prosperity, and I believe that legislation which is directly applied to the improvement of the condition of the labouring classes can only be detrimental to other classes, and will be as likely to injure that prosperity as class legislation of any kind." [43] It must be remembered that experiments with legislation involve frequent repeals of acts of parliament which have failed to effect their intended purposes; and the future results are incalculable. Mr. Justice Kent, one of America's most eminent jurists, has commented strongly upon this propensity to deal lightly with legislation, as if it were a matter which could be changed from time to time without effecting any injurious results. "A mutable legislation," he says, "is attended with a formidable train of mischiefs to the community. It weakens the government and increases the intricacy of the laws, hurts credit, lessens the value of property. It is an infirmity very incident to republican establishments, and has been a constant source of anxiety and concern to their most [420] enlightened admirers. A disposition to multiply and change laws upon the spur of the occasion, and to be making constant and restless experiments with the statute code, seems to be a natural disease of popular assemblies." [44] The evil results of this disposition have been well elaborated by Mr. Herbert Spencer. "We talk glibly," he says, "of such changes: we think of cancelled legislation with indifference. We forget that before laws are abolished they have generally been inflicting evils more or less serious: some for a few years, some for tens of years, some for centuries…. Even to say that a law has been simply a hindrance is to say that it has caused needless waste of time, extra trouble, and additional worry; and among over-burdened people extra trouble and worry imply, here and there, breaks-down in health, with their entailed direct and indirect sufferings. Seeing, then, that bad legislation means injury to men's lives; judge what must be the total amount of mental distress, physical pain, and raised mortality which…repealed acts of parliament represent." [45]

Thus it will be seen that the more one knows of legislation, the less it will be believed capable of actually producing happiness for the people, that is to say, happiness of a positive nature. It can prevent aggression and abuse by one citizen over another. It can guarantee to every citizen the freedom to do his very best for himself. But parliament possesses no mysterious power. It is nothing more than the whole people, concentrated, for purposes of practical debate. It can no more make wealth, or the comforts of life, than any other body of mere debaters. It cannot bestow comforts or luxuries on any one class, without taking them from some other class. Directly it commences such a process, it strikes a blow at the very tap-root of our social system; at the peace and good-will which is even now maintained in the face of all the inevitable pains and anxieties of life; at that [421] confidence in the security of property which constitutes the main incentive to work and accumulation. And, if it goes further, and inaugurates a permanent system of state interference with individual rights and liberties, upon which our civilisation has been reared, that too will inevitably fall, and with it will disappear all the motives of self-interest and self-help, the temperately restricted exercise of which has made the English the first and the greatest people in the world.






"If individuality has no play, society does not advance. If individuality breaks out of all bounds, society perishes."—PROFESSOR HUXLEY.

"The rule of our policy is that nothing should be done by the state which can be better or as well done by voluntary effort."—W. E. GLADSTONE.—(Liberal Manifesto, 1885.)

"If political science be properly understood; if it be confined within the limits of its legitimate province; if its vocabulary be well fixed by sound definitions and a consistent usage; there is no reason why it should not possess the same degree of certainty which belongs to other sciences founded on observation."—SIR GEORGE CORNEWALL LEWIS.

I COME, now, to a branch of my subject which I have approached with not a few misgivings. It is that of the practical application of the principles which I have been endeavouring to champion.

It, unfortunately, too often happens that theoretical politicians, who have certain convictions which they wish to make known, are content to commit their doctrines to paper, without sufficiently considering themselves, or at least demonstrating to their readers, in what way those doctrines are capable of practical application to the particular questions of their day. This is an objection which can fairly be urged against a very large portion of the political literature of our time; and, having had personal experience of its drawbacks, I am the more anxious to avoid the possibility of being charged with the same shortcoming. It is often [423] believed, and not seldom publicly stated that, though a particular doctrine, whether political or otherwise, may be "very good in theory, it is useless in practice." I need not here comment upon the paradoxical nature of this statement. Every moderately accomplished student of logic will know that the two things are contradictory; that, if a doctrine is not practically sound, it cannot be so theoretically, and vice versa; and as there is no subject in which theory and practice are popularly supposed to be more frequently antagonistic, than in that of politics, there is all the more reason for my showing that the doctrines which I am advocating are capable of the most ready and successful practical application to those very questions, over which the necessity for examining principles has arisen.

If I did not thus demonstrate the practicability of my proposals, I should fairly lay myself open to a very short and summary criticism. Advocates of socialist doctrines would be able, and only too ready, to dismiss my protest, by an off-hand use of the expression "laissez faire." That would, of itself, be considered a sufficient explanation of my doctrines; and, as a result, many of those, whose enquiries into such a subject are hasty and superficial, would be content to regard my views as purely doctrinaire, and, on that ground, excuse themselves from the trouble of their perusal. I desire, however, that my theories should be guaged by their application to questions, the most practical, so long as the process of guaging is carried out in a broad and comprehensive spirit; that is to say, by taking other than a circumscribed and narrow view of the question under consideration, and by regarding the remote, as well as the immediate results of the contemplated legislative action, to which they are applied. The remote results of legislation are, in the present day, a completely neglected factor, in political discussion and deliberation; and I should certainly claim a much larger than the average amount of attention [424] for them, in the application of my principles. The hasty and off-hand use of the term laissez faire, as usually applied, is nothing more nor less than the process of reductio ad absurdum, utilised for the purpose of throwing ridicule upon the doctrine of a limitation to state functions. If such a limit is advocated, there is an extreme readiness, on the part of those who take the socialist view, to say: "Oh! of course; let everything alone! let things take their course! survival of the fittest and all that sort of thing! the weak must go to the wall, and the strong are to be allowed to crush the remainder out of existence." I need not say that I distinctly repudiate such a view of society. To the April (1885) number of the Contemporary Review, M. Emile de Laveleye contributed an article, entitled: "The State versus the Man," in which he endeavoured to combat Mr. Herbert Spencer's views, as expressed in his (then) recently published work, entitled: "The Man versus The State." M. de Laveleye's paper was an attempt to show that the state was justified in "appropriating state or communal revenues to the purpose of establishing a greater equality among men," and he applied the reductio ad absurdum method of throwing discredit upon Mr. Spencer's theory of limited functions, by contending that, if the laissez faire doctrine were applied to all sociological matters, might would become right, and the physically weak man would become the victim of the strong—that, as a consequence, society would be revolutionised. This is, of course, a very effective method of addressing careless thinkers and indifferently-read persons; but its use, as an argument, speaks badly for the merits of the cause of him who uses it. The truth is, the expression laissez faire, inasmuch as it does not properly express the theory to which it is frequently applied, is capable of being reduced to an absurdity of the most glaring character. The term is usually employed to describe that school of politics [425] which recognises a limit to the functions of government, and which contends that, when that limit has been reached, the state should not further interfere with the free play of either mind or body among the individual citizens constituting the state. The politicians of that school contend that, beyond a certain limit of interference, the state should leave the people alone. The term laissez faire, however, says nothing about the limit up to which interference is allowed. It is simply a short term for ready application; and all who use it familiarly are supposed to know what it means. M. de Laveleye's object is, perhaps, better served by ignoring the range of interference, which even advocates of laissez faire approve, and, by taking the word in its literal and unrestricted sense, reducing the theory, which it represents, to an utter absurdity, by interpreting it as synonymous with Anarchy. Could not the same method be applied to any term which is used to shortly designate some particular school of thought? Would it, for instance, be fair or honest to attempt to render a man ridiculous who called himself an Utilitarian, by representing that he disapproved of art, literature, and all the refining influences of life because they could not be rendered useful in the popular sense of the term? Would it not be better for such a critic to study Bentham, Austin, and Mill, and, first, understand that the word utility, from which the larger term is derived, was intended to comprehend every quality which was calculated to contribute to the happiness of mankind, present or remote? Yet, this is a parallel case to that of M. de Laveleye, and many others, who are simply bent upon upholding their own theories before the general or magazine-reading public. The truth is, as the Earl of Pembroke says, in his article on "Liberty and Socialism," to which I have before referred:—"There is hardly one, of what are commonly called political principles, that will not lead to ruin and absurdity, if carried to its logical end, and which must not, therefore, be met at some [426] point, and limited by its opposite." To leave society alone; that is to say, for the legislature to do nothing, would simply mean anarchy. What we have to determine is whether state functions have a limit, and, if so, where that limit should be placed. All men agree that the state must do something to preserve order and thus secure progress. The point, as yet unsettled, is—Where should its interference stop? Mill said: "When those, who have been called the laissez faire school, have attempted any definite limitation of the province of government, they have usually restricted it to the protection of person and property against fraud." [1] Even this limitation would be far from leading to the brutal state of things, predicted by M. de Laveleye; but, as a fact, there is no stereotyped limit recognised among advocates of laissez faire. They differ, considerably, as to where that limit should be; and all they do agree upon is that there should be a limit.

As Mill says: [2]"Whatever theory we adopt respecting the foundation of the social union; and under whatever political institutions we live, there is a circle around every individual human being, which no government, be it that of one, of a few, or of the many, ought to be permitted to overstep. There is a part of the life of every person who has come to years of discretion, within which the individuality of that person ought to reign uncontrolled, either by any other individual, or by the public collectively. That there is, or ought to be, some space in human existence, thus entrenched around and held sacred from authoritative intrusion, no one, who professes the smallest regard to human freedom or dignity, will call in question: The point to be determined is, where the limit should be placed; how large a province of human life this reserved territory should include."

The recognition of a limit of some kind is, too, just now, rendered more than ever essential, since every movement, in [427] the political world of the present day, points to a complete disregard for its existence, and threatens to invade the most inner circle of our individual and private activities. The whole tendency in modern politics in Great Britain, as also in many of her colonies, where responsible government exists, is to use the state as a means of interfering with the most personal of our civil liberties, as also of intruding upon the regulation and management of our private and legally acquired property, and, in some cases even conniving at its partial confiscation. The effect of such a policy, if persistently pursued, must inevitably prove disastrous to the progress of any community in which it is thus attempted. Capital, which really constitutes the "tools of commerce," is timid to a degree, and will invariably be found removing itself from such a community to others in which its security is regarded in a more sacred light. The withdrawal of capital, no matter how unpopularly that commodity may be viewed by those who do not possess it, is a calamity which no country and no government can regard with indifference. If capital can be properly regarded as I have ventured to suggest, viz., as constituting "the tools of commerce," then its partial removal from a community represents the deprivation of a corresponding proportion of the tools by which the labour of that community is enabled to find occupation. In the present age of the division of labour, the cultivation of the soil represents a very small proportion of the work which society requires to be carried on. Land itself cannot certainly be removed, but the capital by means of which those who cultivate it are supported during production can be too easily diverted to a freer political atmosphere. And as to other industries in which machinery, fuel, plant, buildings, raw material, means of locomotion and other primary necessities of production are requisite—all of which come under the much condemned category of "capital," interference by the state in the shape of "regulation" will [428] very soon prevent those who own it from continuing to employ it in any particular community in which, as a result of such interference its "return" is rendered less abundant than elsewhere. Upon the presence of capital in a community really depends the progress of that community. Hence, as M. Léon Say, the eminent French economist and statesman, has said, "If governments are allowed to over-leap the bounds of their normal functions, the first principles of civilisation will be in danger." [3] But any such abuse of functions has another undesirable result—it weakens the organism of government itself, and renders it less competent to fulfil such of its activities as are really legitimate. "Political theorisers and statesmen, who, from an ignorance of the true limits to the practical powers of a government, extend its action beyond its proper province, not only waste its resources in vain efforts, but withdraw its effective powers from the subjects to which they are properly applicable, and thus diminish its activity in its own field." [4] It was said by a prominent English politician at the centenary of the publication of "The Wealth of Nations," that "there never was an age or a country in which the tendency to undue extension of the functions of government required so much to be enforced upon the minds and hearts of the people."

It has been shown by Sir George Cornewall Lewis that in the earliest governments which have existed, everything was organised upon the principle of individual action,* and the indispensibility, to human progress, of the free play of individual effort, has been testified to by the very highest authorities in philosophy and practical politics. Mill, himself, who took anything but a closely restricted view of state functions, nevertheless recognised, very vividly, the necessity for offering the greatest possible encouragement to [429] individual effort. "There never was," he says, "more necessity for surrounding individual independence of thought, speech, and conduct, with the most powerful defences, in order to maintain that originality of mind and individuality of character, which are the only source of any real progress, and of most of the qualities which make the human race much superior to any herd of animals." [5] "There is," says Mr. Bright, "a danger of people coming to the idea that they can pull or drive the government along; that a government can do anything that is wanted—that, in fact, it is only necessary to pass an act of parliament, to make any one well off. There is no more serious mistake than that …. I recommend the influencing of the opinions, and the actions of private persons, rather than dwelling upon the idea that everything can be done by an act of parliament." [6] Even Professor Sidgwick, who displays little sympathy with the advocates of laissez faire, is bound to admit that "no adequate substitute has, as yet, been found, by any socialistic reformer," for the motive of self-interest. [7]

The truth is, the struggle for existence, considered sociologically, is, as Mr Spencer has, in various parts of his writings shown, on the whole a health-giving process. It contributes, in the long run, to the well-being of society, even though in the struggle many unfortunate individuals are forced under. They are, what Mr. Goschen once called the "breakages" of society; and individual effort, in the exercise of its humanitarian impulses, can well be left to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate ones, without adopting a means of amelioration, which at best will prove abortive, and which will, in all probability, stop the struggle altogether, by stamping out or suppressing the motive to enterprise, for which, as yet, no substitute has been found.


Endless thinkers have sounded the note of freedom, as the very starting-point of all our boasted progress. "The true end of man," says Humboldt, "or that which is prescribed by the eternal and immutable dictates of reason, and not suggested by vague and transient desires, is the highest and most harmonious development of his powers, to a complete and consistent whole. Freedom," he adds, "is the grand and indispensable condition, which the possibility of such a development presupposes," [8] and it is, therefore, the one principle, above all others, to preserve which the legislature should constantly aim. "The end of law," says Locke, "is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom; and that freedom consists," according to the same writer, in the "liberty to dispose and order, freely, as he (every man) lists, his person, actions, possessions, and his whole property, within the allowance of those laws, under which he is; and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary will of another, but freely follow his own." [9] The "special function of government," then, is "to see that the liberty of each man to pursue the objects of his desires, is unrestricted, save by the like liberty of all." On the other hand, "to diminish this liberty, by means of taxes or civil restraints, more than is absolutely needful for performing such function, is," according to Mr. Spencer, "wrong, because adverse to the function itself." [10] By means of this fuller freedom, the freest play will be given to the motive of self-interest, which, say what we will, and view it how we may, is the primary and fundamental force from which all human activity, all human progress, and all human aspirations are derived. Few men of reading and reflection now recognise any distinction between what have been termed the egoistic and the altruistic impulses of human nature, when those impulses are traced to their source. Even the suckling of a child has [431] been claimed, by one of our nineteenth century philosophers, to spring from a motive, primarily egoistic. Be that as it may, it is not difficult to see that human actions of every kind, even the (apparently) most unselfish, are traceable ultimately to the motive of self-interest. That, in truth, is the taproot of all human activity and advancement; nor should the reflection, as to its source, tend, in any way, to lower its value or importance, in our estimation. There is a higher, and a lower selfishness; the difference being that, in the former, the results are beneficial to those around us, though prompted by a selfish motive; while in the latter, though in the same way producing pleasure for self, the results involve injury to others. The effect of the former on society is good, while that of the latter is injurious. But the effect of the impulse has no connection with the source from which it springs. "For all the desires and aspirations of self (as the Duke of Argyle has said) are not selfish. The interests of self, justly appreciated, and rightly understood, may be, nay, indeed, must be the interests also of other men—of Society—of Country—of the Church—and of the World." [11] If, then, self-interest—for which it is admitted no substitute has, as yet, been found—is at the very root of human progress, and liberty is so indispensable to the successful exercise of that motive, then the security of that liberty (limited, of course, by a regard for others) not only becomes the first duty of the state; but the state neglects its duty so soon as it acts in such a way as to check that motive, except it be for the purpose of securing an equal freedom to all. No man of really sound mind has ever advocated absolute unchecked freedom; for it would mean absolute anarchy. Anarchy and freedom cannot be co-existent. As Locke says: "Where there is no law, there is no freedom; for who could be free, when every other man's humour might domineer over him." [12] And Blackstone says, in much the same strain: "No man, [432] that considers a moment, would wish to retain the absolute and uncontrolled power of doing whatever he pleases; for, as every other man would also have the same power, there would be no security to individuals in any of the enjoyments of life." [13] It has been well said by one of the leading economists that "let alone should be the rule in politics, and interference the exception;" and the same idea is expressed in the contention of an equally high authority, that government should secure to its citizens the "maximum of liberty" and should indulge in the "minimum of interference." In all cases the burden of proof, that interference is necessary, should be thrown upon those who are urging it. "Even in those portions of conduct which do affect the interests of others, the onus of making out a case," says Mill, "always lies on the defenders of legal prohibitions." [14]

There is no greater source of error, in the criticism of legislative proposals, than that of limiting one's investigations to the more immediate results of a measure. It frequently happens that a legislative proposal is unanimously approved, on the ground that it will benefit some, without immediately, injuring the rest of society; but, quite as often as not, such a measure, if sufficiently investigated, in its ultimate results, will be found to lead to a loss of character to those benefited—a demoralisation, in fact, of the spirit of self-help and independence, which, in the one case (non-interference) would have been exercised; in the other (interference) will be discouraged and weakened in its vigour. The average politician, and certainly a large proportion of the public themselves, give no heed to such considerations. Such people "never look beyond proximate causes and immediate effects;…they, habitually, regard each phenomenon as involving but one antecedent, and one consequent. They [433] do not bear in mind that each phenomenon is a link in an infinite series." [15]

There is now a tolerably clear proposition before us. Admitting that liberty is essential to the well-being of society, upon which there is probably no difference of opinion, the question is—Whether any limit should be placed to the interference by the state with that liberty, and, if so, what that limit should be.

The modern tendency to disregard all such limits, and, even, to act as if there could be no possibility of any being required, has at last led to a reaction. There is fast springing up in Great Britain, a party of politicians deeply imbued with the belief that individual freedom will require to be more carefully guarded than it has been during the last quarter of a century. Such persons are beginning to adopt a new party-title—that of "Individualists," in order to distinguish themselves from the followers of the more popular Socialistic school. As Radicalism becomes more and more Socialistic in its tendencies, there will, naturally, be a disposition on the part of the more moderate Radicals to seek refuge among the Liberal party; and the more moderate Liberals, as also the Conservatives, many of whom are now favourable to the true principles of Liberalism, will be drawn into membership with the Individualist party, in their desire to recognise some sort of limit to democratic interference with individual freedom, with private enterprise, and with the rights of property. The principles which I have classed under the title of "True Liberalism" are almost identical with those which an advocate of laissez faire (according to the proper meaning of the term) would approve. The only difference, of any consequence, among the advocates of that principle is as to where that limit should be placed, beyond which state interference should not go. Socialism is, in effect, a struggling for equal or, at [434] least, approximately equal wealth and social conditions. It is none the less so because of the impossibility of attaining to the extreme point desired, viz., absolute equality. That that attainment is impossible has been admitted by Mr. Chamberlain himself, but he nevertheless advocates, as I have shown in my opening chapter, the attempt at an approximation. The fundamental distinction which appears to be unobserved by the advocates of Socialistic legislation is that which exists between equal wealth or social conditions on the one hand, and equal opportunities on the other. No one now-a-days would seriously contend that one citizen should possess better opportunities than another. It is admitted, on all hands, that all should be equal in that respect, that is to say, that every citizen should be free to attempt anything which his fellow-citizens are allowed to do. But Socialists claim that every citizen should have or possess anything which his fellow-citizens possess. There is a great difference between giving a man the liberty to do anything, and supplying him with the means with which to do it. This distinction has been clearly stated by Hobbes in his own quaint way. He says, in the chapter of his "Leviathan," entitled "The Liberty of Subjects:" "When the impediment of motion is in the constitution of the thing itself, we use not to say, it wants the liberty, but the power to move, as when a stone lieth still, or a man is fastened to his bed by sickness." True Liberalism would give to every man the liberty to do anything which his fellow-citizens are allowed to do; but Socialism is not content with liberty only: it wants the state to confer the power also, that is to say the means. If a man is incapable now-a-days of living as he would wish, it is not by reason of the existence of any aristocratic privileges. There is now no law of any kind, which restricts the liberty of the poor man, without also equally affecting the rich. There is, now, no legislative or enforcible social restriction which will dictate to the poorest citizen [435] the quality of clothes he may wear, the amount of wages he may receive, the number and nature of the courses of which his meals may be constituted, the distances he may travel for work, or the nature of the arrangements for combination which he may enter into with his fellow-workmen. He may wear apparel as elaborate and as gaudy as that of Oliver Goldsmith in his most prosperous moments—if he possess it; he is at liberty to receive wages as large as the income of a Vanderbilt—if only he can earn them; he can live in true epicurean style—if only he be possessed of the viands; and he can, by combination with his fellow-workmen, lift his wages to unprecedented levels—if only the laws of supply and demand will admit of it. The state, far from interfering with him in the enjoyment of these liberties, has secured that enjoyment to him—provided he obtain for himself, and that lawfully, the material which is essential to such enjoyment. But while the state thus secures him that liberty of enjoyment of his own possessions, it stops short, or should stop short at that stage at which he asks for the material itself. This is where Individualism and Socialism diverge; and it requires, I think, only a moment's reflection to see which is the only possible policy of the two. Socialism practically says, "We have the liberty to dress and eat as we like, to be educated and to lift our wages as high as economic laws will allow—but we want you to supply us with the clothes, the food, the education, and the work itself even, out of that apparently inexhaustible fund known as the general revenue."

I have said there is now no law restricting the poor and not the rich. That is so; but the converse is not the case. The incoming tide of Socialism has already begun to affect the propertied classes on behalf of the masses; to restrict the use of their private property, as well as to tax them on behalf of the less successful. It may be contended that wealth is an obstacle "of human origin," within the [436] meaning of the definition laid down by Mr. Broadhurst. Now, in the first place, the possession of wealth by one man is not an obstacle to another, and really does not prevent anybody else from reaching the same goal, provided that the latter possesses the necessary qualifications for so doing. The possession of wealth by one citizen really removes him from the struggle for existence, and so lessens the competition which that struggle involves. In that respect the working classes are really benefited. But the possession of wealth by one citizen means, also, the enlisting, as it were, of a further stock of tools for the employment of labour, and a further competition among capitalists in the demand for labour. In this way again the labouring classes are benefited. The possession of wealth by one citizen certainly enables him to avoid some of the pains and inconveniences of the struggle for existence, which his poorer fellow-citizens have to encounter and bear; but the greater enjoyment by the one, does not, in any way, curtail the liberties of the other. All, then, that a citizen can ask for from the state, is that he may have secured to him as free a course as others have had in the struggle for existence.

After devoting an unusual amount of attention to the study of this and kindred subjects, I have come to the conclusion that the cardinal error lying at the very foundation of all the existing discontent with past and present social arrangements is the wide-spread belief that to be (what is popularly termed) "well-off" is really man's normal condition; and that to be compelled to work, to be poor, and lacking many of the comforts enjoyed by those who have been more fortunate in the struggle for existence, is his abnormal condition.

The truth is that the primitively normal condition of man, even in a sparcely populated country, is one of a precarious and hand-to-mouth character; that by the knowledge and utilisation of that fundamental economic principle known as the "division of labour," and by the accumulation of property [437] thus rendered possible, many of the dangers—such as famine and disease—to which man, in a primitive condition, is subjected, are averted; but that, nevertheless, it is equally necessary for man to labour, by hand and by head, in order that he may live. This, then, is the normal condition of man, even after the "division of labour" has secured us so many advantages. But it must be remembered also that the struggle for existence is more and more intensified with the increase of population, and the consequent lessening of the area of the earth's surface which each citizen may enjoy. That nearly forty millions of human beings should be able to exist, from year to year, within so small an area as that of Great Britain, is overwhelming evidence of the immense advantages which the division of labour, throughout the world, has secured to society. One can easily imagine what the normal condition would be, under such circumstances, if that principle were not observed, and if every one of that forty millions sought to supply themselves with all the necessaries of life. When that picture has been fully realised, it will become an easy matter to see that the condition of the most discontented even, among the poor of Great Britain, is immeasurably superior to that which would result from a return to a primitive method of living, such as I shall show is invariably resorted to in all would-be-ideal communities. The normal condition of man then, especially in closely populated countries, is necessarily one of struggle and dependence; and by the non-adoption of the principle of the "division of labour" it would obviously be much worse. Now it so happens that in order that this beneficial principle of the division of labour may be fully utilised, society, in its myriad ramifications, has developed a large and necessarily intelligent class of men, called in general terms, "middle-men." The members of this class, whose ranks any citizen is at liberty to join—if he possess the ability to succeed—are enabled, by dint of superior capacity, to acquire possession [438] of a surplus—over and above their daily wants—of what is commonly called "wealth." They immediately turn that to account, by using it as a means of further production, in which the further employment of labour is involved. Their wealth, or, in other words, their savings, thus converted into property of some kind conducive to production, multiply, and those of the class, who are successful in their enterprises, become possessed of a more than equal share of the world's accumulations. They are then called "capitalists." The cardinal error, of which I have spoken, consists in the poorer classes erroneously assuming that the condition of the capitalist is the normal one, and that they themselves, in being compelled to work on from day to day in order to live, are being deprived of some benefits to which they have a sort of right. In fact, the demands which are frequently made by Socialists, for a better condition of things, are almost invariably made upon the ground of their being the "rights of labour." There is a vague sort of belief among them that it is in some way possible, through the medium of parliament, to level up, as it were, and thus bring about a more satisfactory average condition of society. The schemes, by which this ideal state of things is hoped to be realised, are as various as they are numerous. All attempts at realisation have, so far, failed, as I shall show in the following chapter. The truth is that the social condition of the more fortunate class alluded to—and which social condition is, unfortunately, made the standard to which Socialists demand to be lifted—is an abnormal one. As a class they are an indispensable accompaniment of the division of labour; for, in order to obtain an abundant and economical production of the numerous necessaries of life, capital itself, in many forms, is indispensable.

The different forms of property which come under the term, must be owned and maintained by somebody—otherwise [439] that abundant and economical production could not be carried on. Without capital, the advantages of the division of labour could not in fact be reaped. The class known as "capitalists" is what may be termed a naturally selected one, and it is open to all comers. As a class they cannot be done without; and if the rewards, which their administrative ability now secures to them, were to be appropriated by the state, the incentive being gone, that ability would very soon cease to display itself, and society would lose the benefits of any such accumulations being worked by the most competent hands. Their social condition is certainly far above the normal level, and it is impossible for all to enjoy similar advantages. It is, moreover, the class among which all healthily constituted people are endeavouring to enrol themselves—not excepting even Socialists.

It is sometimes contended that the possession of wealth by one man is an "obstacle" to the progress of another towards some legitimate goal; and it may possibly be contended that it is an obstacle of "human origin" within the meaning of Mr. Broadhurst's definition of Liberalism. But I deny that it is an obstacle. The possession of wealth by one man really cannot prevent a second from pursuing his own course. It certainly may give the possessor a better chance than his neighbour, who has none; but cannot really interfere with the neighbour's liberty. All that a citizen can therefore ask for, from the state, is that he may have as free a course as others, to pursue his own chosen walk in life. If, however, one man is allowed to call in a majority of his neighbours (which he practically does, by utilising a mojority in parliament,) to help him to take, from another neighbour, part even of what that neighbour has legally accumulated, the latter will very soon cease to accumulate; and, inasmuch as accumulation necessitates the exercise of mind and body, which none of us really like apart from what it leads to, men would, if such a course were systematically and persistently [440] pursued, very soon cease to exert themselves beyond what was absolutely essential for their own immediate wants. By continuing the process, society would, undoubtedly, very soon find itself in a condition of primitive life. As Mr. Henry George has said, "Socialism, …. society cannot attempt. We have passed out of the socialism of the tribal state, and cannot re-enter it again, except by a retrogression that would involve anarchy, and perhaps barbarism."

Socialism practically aims at the approximate equalisation of the conditions of living among citizens. The Radicalism of the present day does the same, and it is admitted to be synonymous with Socialism. [16] The Radical party acknowledges no limit to state functions. Its advocates boast, in fact, that the "death knell" of laissez faire "has been sounded." [17] Liberalism can, therefore, have nothing in common with either Radical or Socialist doctrines. The struggle is between "Individualism" and "Socialism." Lord Hartington speaks true Individualism, and also true Liberalism, when he says: "What all Liberals, most strongly, most ardently desire, is that as large an amount of personal freedom and liberty as is possible should be secured for every individual, and for every class in the country." [18]

Let us enquire now, how the true limit, beyond which the state should not go, is to be found. Is it capable of being found at all? Some writers say not—that no definite rule can be laid down, but that each case must depend on circumstances. The best way to settle the question, I venture to think, is to find out, first of all, what any such principles, if found, or attempted to be found, must depend upon. If the state is not to interfere beyond a certain point, why is it so? Is it a matter of right? That, in itself, is an important question, and one which has led to a large amount of controversy. If individual citizens possess [441] rights against the rest of the community, it should be easy to ascertain what they are. When that is done, the limit of the rights of the state in the contrary direction—that is, against the citizen—will have been determined. There are two theories concerning the position of the citizen towards his fellow-citizens. One theory is that every man has what are termed "natural rights"—rights irrespective of society, such as his earliest ancestors may be assumed to have enjoyed in their natural state. By a philosophic fiction, men are supposed to have agreed to live in communities, and, in pursuance of that agreement, to have given up a portion of their "natural liberty," in order to enable the community to be carried on harmoniously—the immediate objects of such a compact being the protection of the person, and the protection of private property. The other theory is that, inasmuch as man, in a state of nature, has no rights, except such as he is strong enough to enforce; by the formation of what is termed society, a new order of things is established; then each and every constituent member of that society is called upon to give obedience to the governing power, whatever form it may take, and henceforth possesses no rights, except such as are conferred upon him, and thereby undertaken to be guarded by that governing power.

The first of these views is founded upon the theory of an implied "social contract," and is adopted by many influential writers. Blackstone, for instance, whilst repudiating, as "too wild," the notion of men having actually met together, and entered into such a social contract, nevertheless contends that such a contract, "though perhaps, in no instance, has it ever been formally expressed at the first institution of a state," must "in nature and reason, be understood and implied in the very act of associating together." In his chapter on "Royal prerogative," he speaks thus unmistakably on the point: "Man possesses a right, which may be [442] denominated his natural liberty. But of this, every man gives up a part, in consideration of the advantages he gains, by becoming a member of society." [19] And, again, he says: "Political or civil liberty is no other than natural liberty, so far restrained by human laws (and no further), as is necessary and expedient for the general advantage of the public." [20] Mr. Herbert Spencer takes the same view—that is, as to rights existing irrespective of law; and he contends vigorously for its recognition, in his comparatively late, and most instructive work, "The Man versus The State." In his "Social Statics," first published when his name was little known, and which he has since declined to re-publish on account of its admitted crudeness in some details, he uses the term "right" with unbounded freedom. He goes so far even as to speak of the right of an individual "to ignore the state," by "relinquishing its protection, and refusing to pay towards its support." The most summary way perhaps by which such a right could be tested would be by trying it, that is to say, by refusing to pay taxes, on the ground of not desiring the protection which it was required to maintain. It is probable, I venture to think, that the supposed right would be found to be a wrong. It was thought by some disciples of Mr. Spencer that this was probably one of the subjects upon which he had modified his views since the early publication referred to; but by his later work, which I have mentioned, he appears to still hold the theory unassailable.

The second view also has influential advocates. Professor Stanley Jevons, for instance, says: "In practical legislation the first step is to throw aside all supposed absolute rights." [21] If there are any natural rights, one would think that of property, rightfully acquired, one of the surest; yet Bentham says: "We shall see that there is no such thing as natural [443] property, and that it is entirely the work of law…. Property and law are born together, and die together. Before laws were made, there was no property; take away laws and property ceases." [22] Again, he says: "The principal function of government is to guard against pains. It fulfils this object, by creating rights, which it confers upon individuals: rights of personal security; rights of protection for honour; rights of property; rights of receiving aid in case of need…. The law cannot create these rights, except by creating corresponding obligations…without creating offences." [23]

Austin—no mean authority on such a subject—very summarily disposes of the question. "Strictly speaking," he says, "there are no rights, but those which are the creatures of law." [24] Burke says: "Men cannot enjoy the rights of an uncivil and of a civil state together. That he may obtain justice, he gives up his right of determining what it is, in points, the most essential to him. That he may secure some liberty, he makes a surrender in trust of the whole of it." [25] "Where there is no law, there is no freedom; for liberty is to be free from restraint, and violence from others, which cannot be where there is no law." [26]

Without presuming to rigorously criticise these various and conflicting views, I content myself with the adoption of the latter. There can be no right (I venture to think) which is not backed up, as it were, with some authority—some power of enforcing it. Austin says, of "natural and moral rights," that they are imperfect, because they are "not armed with the legal sanction, or cannot be enforced judicially."

I have mentioned these two theories of rights, not because the discussion or the distinction seems to me to be of any great importance in itself, but because the adoption of the latter view cleared away for me, and I think might clear [444] away for others, many of the most troublesome doubts regarding state functions.

If a man has rights against the state, irrespective of law, the rule which determines where the state should, and where it should not interfere with individual liberty, would, of necessity, be definite, and, once for all, ascertainable. The adoption of any such rule, if carried out in the strict letter, would lead to great practical inconvenience in many matters of every-day life. For instance, if every individual had, as Mr. Herbert Spencer claims the right "to ignore the state" and repudiate his share of taxation, on the ground of his not desiring protection from the army, the navy, or the law, there would quickly grow up, in such a community, numerous sections of persons, each demanding differential treatment in matters of government, on the ground of their possession of such "natural rights." The latter method of viewing man's position, which I have myself preferred, besides appearing sound, gets rid of all such difficulties. By its adoption, man is taken to have given up his natural liberty by becoming a citizen of any state. Henceforth he has no rights, except such as the state affords him, in common with all his fellow-citizens. Those rights are conferred, or, as Bentham says, created, by imposing restrictions on his fellows, who would be apt, otherwise, to interfere with him. Every right thus involves a restrictive law, and what is not so restricted is taken to be allowed, as far as the state is concerned. Here, now, is the important point to be determined, and one which clears away a host of difficulties which are involved in the adoption of Mr. Spencer's theory. The state can do anything, that is to say, can make any law, unrestricted by "natural rights," "natural liberties," or anything of the kind. The test of all legislation, instead of being a matter of right, regarding which no two people are agreed, becomes one of simple expediency. Legislation is, by this theory, at once elevated into an art, founded upon the science of man [445] and the science of society. It then becomes the duty of the legislator to consider the welfare of the whole community, and not merely those who now form it, but, also, those who are to come—that is to say, posterity. A community is continuous, and should be so viewed by legislators.

The test of legislation is not what the present generation would like, or even what might be beneficial to it alone; for we might all add indefinitely to our national debt, and, meanwhile, enjoy ourselves on the proceeds, throwing the burden on to those who come after us.

We must, therefore, view society very broadly; we must regard, with the greatest care and attention, the remote, the ulterior effects likely to arise from present action. We must, as Bastiat puts it, take into account "what is not seen, as well as what is seen." It is, for instance, ridiculously short-sighted for legislators of this generation to offer assistance to, or encourage idleness and indifference in a large section of the living generation (however much they may like it and praise them for it) if the probable, or even the possible effect will be to diminish the incentive to self-help and independence of spirit in the generations which are to succeed it. We must look carefully to the national character; to see that in nothing we do, is there any danger of removing the motives and inducements to thrift and providence among citizens. Mr. Stanley Jevons has well said: "I conceive that the state is justified in passing any law, or even in doing any single act which, without ulterior consequences, adds to the sum total of happiness. Good done is sufficient justification of any act, in the absence of evidence that equal or greater evil will subsequently follow." Even upon this basis of expediency, as the standard of legislation, it becomes essential, always, to consider what measures, or what abstention from measures is essential to the progress and development—the improvement and elevation of the people. Individual action, and individual liberty, upon which it depends, we have seen [446] to be indispensable to human progress and improvement. The question to be considered is how far should that liberty be restrained? The natural tendencies of man to demoralisation are so numerous, that the study of him alone, as an individual, quite apart from the study of society as an organism, is complex almost beyond conception. The dangers which have to be guarded against are almost incalculable. When we consider how prone man is to idleness if not spurred on by constant necessity; how easily and quickly he inclines to disregard the rights of others, if not constantly and sometimes forcibly reminded; how widespread is the belief that the state is a huge organisation from which benefits can be drawn ad infinitum, and without the necessity for being replenished; the extreme jealousy of many men at seeing others better off than themselves, and the consequent readiness to approve any scheme which promises to immediately lessen or remove the disparity; the liability of most men to believe, with the smallest amount of persuasion, that they are suffering some disadvantage or injury at the hands of their more fortunate fellow-citizens; [27] the temptation of men of quick aptitudes and low morals to trade on this tendency; the proneness to laxity in enterprise, if not accompanied with a spur to action, such as the necessity for dividends, which serve as a mirror to the economical working of the organism; the tendency to criticise all things hastily, to consider immediate results only, and neglect those which are more remote; the temptation to hastily utilise state help, without considering, sufficiently, the effect upon national character in the future. These and numerous other considerations are completely overlooked or cunningly utilised, as the case may be, by the average legislator, whose [447] chief aim is served if he has pleased those who elected him to his position. The question, now, is whether, admitting expediency to be the test of legislation, it is possible to lay down any broad general principles which may serve as guides in its enactment. Some writers say that no definite lines can be laid down; but almost all, of any authority, admit that there is some limit. Almost all differ as to where that limit should be placed. I venture the opinion that the unsettled condition of this question, and the consequent non-existence of any universally recognised principle as to that limit, is mainly attributable to the want of unanimity regarding the more primary question concerning the existence of what are termed "natural rights." It seems inevitable that so long as one school of political thought continues to recognise a domain of "natural rights," the hard and fast boundaries of which the state has no justification for entrenching upon, while another school claims that the state can do anything which contributes to the general good, the subordinate question of a definite limit to state functions should remain a sort of undefined territory. But I accept the opinion, which has been expressed by Sir George Cornewall Lewis, that "if political science be properly understood—if it be confined within the limits of its legitimate province, and if its vocabulary be well fixed by sound definitions and a consistent usage, there is no reason why it should not possess the same degree of certainty which belongs to other sciences founded on observation."

Among those authorities who consider it impracticable to lay down any definite rules, as guides to legislators, are Professor Sidgwick, Professor Stanley Jevons, and the Earl of Pembroke (address on "Liberty and Socialism"). M. Léon Say, too, confesses that "the proper limit of state action cannot be laid down in the same way as a boundary line on a map," because "it is a boundary which alters in accordance with the times, and the political, economical, [448] and moral condition of the people." But, the same authority adds: "Though its position is subject to modifications, it is not, on that account, the less definite." [28] This much can certainly be admitted; that, on account of the variety and complexity of human wants, it is impossible to provide any single principle, or even code of principles, which could be applied to legislative proposals, so as at once to guage their value. But it is equally clear that there are some principles, to which men consciously or unconsciously refer, when called upon to determine whether any proposal is, or is not a legitimate and proper one to which to give legislative sanction. If this be so, it is surely possible to say what those principles are, and to lay them down, with some degree of definiteness, as a partial guide in legislative deliberations. All writers of any importance practically agree in saying that freedom should be the rule, and that interference should be the exception; that is to say, that when any one advocates a further interference by the state, he should have thrown upon him the obligation of proving the necessity for the proposed innovation.

We have seen, in a previous chapter, that the first necessity of human progress and development is freedom for the individual; that absolute freedom results in anarchy; and that, therefore, there must be a sufficient limitation to prevent that abuse. We have seen also that this result—this medium as it were, by which the benefits of liberty can be enjoyed, and the dangers of anarchy avoided—is most surely attained by affording to every citizen: (1.) Security for the person. (2.) Security for property; that is to say: (1.) Liberty to do as one chooses (consistently with other persons' liberties) with one's own person, and one's own individuality. (2.) Liberty to do as one wishes with one's own legally acquired property, subject to the same reservation.


Now, society has already framed laws, and at different periods of history elaborated them, in order to meet the fresh developments which have arisen over these identical wants; and it affords a strong confirmation of the soundness of the above conclusions, arrived at by a process of analysis, that the history of our law should show those two social wants to have been the first to be provided for. I take Blackstone as perhaps the most concise expositor of English law. In his Commentaries it will be found that Book I. is devoted to "Personal Rights," and Book II. to the "Rights of Property." Under "Personal Rights" he includes "Personal Security" and "Personal Liberty." Regarding the former he says: "The right of personal security consists in a person's legal and uninterrupted enjoyment of his life, his limbs, his body, his health and his reputation." Regarding the latter he says: "Personal liberty consists in the power of locomotion, of changing situation, or moving one's person to whatsoever place one's own inclination may direct, without imprisonment or restraint, unless by due course of law. The rights of property," he says, "consist in a man's free use, enjoyment and disposal according to the laws of the community, of all his acquisitions in the external things around him."

The fact that these two important branches of rights—those of the person and those of property—have been so carefully created and preserved in the past; that they are dealt with as the two most important of all; and that they were thus regarded, so early in the history of our race, are sufficiently strong evidence of their having been found essential to the progress of our ancestors, and of their being equally essential to our maintenance of the same standard of enterprise and excellence among men. From these rights, then; that is to say, from the most ancient laws of our nation's constitution, it seems possible to deduce, and lay down certain broad principles, which should serve as guides in future [450] legislation. I do not contend that they should be inflexible or incapable of modification; but I do claim that whoever is venturesome enough to propose any radical departure from them, or any measure which involves an inroad upon their completeness, should be forced to give very convincing evidence of the necessity for such a step. Already we hear of proposed legislation, which, if adopted, threatens to subvert one of the first principles of our constitution. If, from time immemorial almost, an Englishman has possessed the right, as Blackstone puts it, of "the free use, enjoyment, and disposal, according to the laws of his country, of all his acquisitions," it is surely a grave proposal that one class in the community (as is proposed in England) should be enabled, through the medium of the legislature, to force others of their countrymen to sell portion of their landed property for the benefit of those others, and moreover against their will. Yet, such is the Allotments scheme, now somewhat popular in Great Britain. The broad principles, then, which I should venture to lay down as guides for any one assuming the reponsible position of a legislator are three in number.

1. The state should not impose taxes, or use the public revenue for any purpose other than that of securing equal freedom to all citizens. [29]

2. The state should not interfere with the legally acquired property of any section of its citizens for any other purpose than that of securing equal freedom to all citizens; and in the event of any such justifiable interference amounting to appropriation; then, only conditional upon the lawful owner being fully compensated.

3. The state should not in any way restrict the personal liberty of citizens for any other purpose than that of securing equal freedom to all citizens.


I repeat that I do not offer these as conclusive tests of the wisdom of any proposed legislation. I claim for them this use, however, that they should, in every case, be applied to any such proposal; and if, on such application, the new rights sought to be conferred, and the restrictions on liberty which they must necessarily involve, do not conflict with either of the three principles, there can be little objection to its legislative sanction. If, however, any such proposal is found to come into conflict with either of those principles; then, I contend, a great responsibility is cast upon him or them who demand the interference of the legislature; and he or they should be forced to prove, conclusively, that the necessity for the proposal is so urgent that it overrides the consideration of its transgressing one of the fundamental principles upon which our social system has been built up. He should be compelled, too, to show a strong probability that the proposed means will effect the desired end, without producing an equally or more injurious result to society, in some other direction, or at some other time. The effect of the regular application of these principles to proposed measures would be, in the first place, to determine on which side the burden of proof lay; and then it would rest with those who have cast upon them the responsibility of giving the legislative sanction, to determine (1) whether the necessity has been proved; (2) whether, under all the circumstances of the case, that necessity is sufficiently urgent to justify the subversion of a principle which is immemorial, and which has for centuries served as one of the pillars of our social fabric; (3) whether it has been shown that the proposed measure will effect the purpose aimed at, without, at the same time, producing injurious results to society in some other, perhaps unsuspected, direction, or at some other time. [30]


I propose now, having arrived at this stage of my argument, and having placed myself in possession of a basis upon which to work, to apply these principles to certain of the more important practical questions—subjects of discussion in the present day. I do this, not so much with a view to determining the merits of those particular proposals, as for the purpose of fully explaining and illustrating the process by which, I submit, all practical legislation should be tested. I shall first ask, regarding each of them, whether it conflicts with either of the principles laid down; and, in the event of its so doing, I shall proceed to carefully examine its merits and alleged necessities, in strict accordance with the method which I have explained.

As the various subjects with which it is my purpose to deal are capable of classification under three heads, according to the respective principles to which I conceive them to apply, I have chosen to deal with them in that order. I shall, in the first place, take those which come under the first of the three principles, viz.,

The state should not impose taxes, or use the public revenue for any purpose, other than that of securing equal freedom to all citizens.

Poor Laws.—In order to carry out the process of criticism which I have already explained, it is, in the first place, necessary to consider whether the system known as the Poor laws transgresses the above principle. There can be little doubt that it does, for it involves the imposition of taxes; and the purpose is clearly not that of securing "equal freedom" for all citizens. Every citizen has now secured to him the liberty to live as he chooses, but there is no such obligation on the state to supply the means by which that living can be enjoyed. The effect of the poor laws is to approximate, in a slight degree, to an equalisation of the conditions of life, by taking from one citizen to give to another. This is a process which, if carried to an extreme, would produce [453] community of possessions, that is Communism; and although the approximation which it involves is small, in fact almost infinitesimal in degree, it is the "thin end of the wedge," and, in time, would be regarded by some as a precedent to justify a still further approximation. [31]

The system, then, which is known by the name of the Poor Laws is clearly a transgression of this fundamental principle, and, in accordance with the method of criticism which I have advocated, it is now necessary to consider whether there is sufficient ground, in its surrounding circumstances, to justify so serious a departure from the broad principle which it so transgresses. In such an investigation, it is, above all things, necessary to remember that the burden of proof lies wholly upon the advocates of the system—that is to say, of Poor laws generally; and the amount of evidence in its favour should preponderate greatly, and its nature be unmistakable and unimpeachable, before the departure should be entertained. It is equally necessary to demand from its advocates satisfactory proof of the probable efficacy of such legislation, as also that the removal of the evils aimed at—poverty and distress—will not be followed by the creation of other evils in some different direction, (not perhaps dreamed of,) or at some different time. "The object of a poor law (says Sir G. Cornewall Lewis) is to relieve the various forms of destitution and want, out of a fund created by compulsory taxation. Its principle is to take the property of the wealthier classes, and to divide it among the poorer, upon the petition of the latter, and without obtaining from them and equivalent." [32] [454] The same writer subsequently admits that "severe distress is a legitimate object of public policy, up to a certain limit, but requires counteracting forces to deter applicants." Otherwise, he thinks, it would "become a system of legal spoliation, which would impoverish one part of the community, in order to corrupt the remainder." No principle is here mentioned, by which the deduction as to the legitimacy of the object is arrived at. Mr. Herbert Spencer objects to poor laws, because "in demanding from a citizen contributions for the mitigation of distress—contributions not needed for the due administration of men's rights—the state is reversing its function, and diminishing that liberty to exercise the faculties which it was instituted to maintain." [33] The same writer says: "Those who made, and modified, and administered the old Poor Law, were responsible for producing an appalling amount of demoralisation, which it will take more than one generation to remove." He speaks, too, of the responsibility of "recent and present law-makers, for regulations which have brought into being a permanent body of tramps who ramble from union to union." [34] Mill, too, sees many objections to the system. "In all cases of helping (he says) there are two sets of consequences to be considered: the consequences of the assistance itself, and the consequences of relying on the assistance. The former are generally beneficial, but the latter, for the most part, injurious; so much so, in many cases, as greatly to outweigh the value of the benefit…. There are few things, for which it is more mischievous that people should rely on the habitual aid of others, than for the means of subsistence, and, unhappily, there is no lesson which they more easily learn. The problem to be solved is, therefore, one of peculiar nicety, as well as importance; how to give the greatest amount of needful help, with the smallest encouragement to undue [455] reliance on it." The same writer has, however, something to say in its favour, but ultimately lays down the following test: "If assistance is given in such a manner that the condition of the person helped is as desirable as that of the person who succeeds in doing the same thing without help, the assistance, if capable of being previously calculated upon, is mischievous; but if, while available to everybody, it leaves to every one a strong motive to do without it, if he can, it is then, for the most part, beneficial." [35] The effect on motive has been dealt with, at some length, by Sir Henry Maine, in his able work on "Popular Government." "You have," he says, "only to tempt a portion of the population into temporary idleness, by promising them a share in a fictitious hoard, lying in an imaginary strong box which is supposed to contain all human wealth. You have only to take the heart out of those who would willingly labour and save, by taxing them ad misericordiam for the most laudable, philanthropic purposes." [36] On reference to the most recent statistics I find that, in the county of Lancashire alone, the poor rate for the year 1885 amounted to £1,566,974, and that the county in that year contained 82,590 paupers. The poor rate alone for the year 1886, for the whole of Great Britain, amounted to no less than £10,247,443, or about one-seventh part of the whole public revenue. The number of paupers receiving assistance in Great Britain during the year 1885 is stated to be 1,346,394, that is to say about three per cent. of the whole population. From these figures some idea can be obtained of the gigantic proportions to which this eleemosynary system has developed. It is worthy of notice that, so far, the poor-law system has not been even attempted, upon the English lines, in any of the Australian colonies; and it is therefore not altogether labour in vain to discuss its merits and demerits as a system, and its claims, as a piece of state policy, to receive [456] legislative sanction. If such a system had been commenced in the Australian colonies, and the same proportion of pauperism existed among them as is the case in Great Britain, there would be receiving support about 120,000 persons out of an aggregate population of three millions. The cost to the tax-payers of those colonies, estimated on the basis supplied by Great Britain, would be annually about £1,000,000. As a fact, the number accommodated at various benevolent asylums and other similar institutions—which are, to a great extent, supported by voluntary subscription—is almost infinitesimal; not amounting, indeed, to half per cent. of the population, and costing the state only about one and a half per cent. of its revenue. Few persons are aware of the magnitude of the operations of the poor-law system in Great Britain. Yet, according to Mr. Goschen, who was at one time President of the Poor-Law Board, a small proportion only of the paupers so supported are from the working-classes, or indeed capable of work. "It is frequently put," he says, "as if there were so many men or women out of work, as if they were men and women who ought to be employed…. I can tell you there are workhouses in this country containing 1000 to 2000 inmates, in which there are not forty able-bodied men or women, in which there are not 100 who come from what may be called the working-classes…. I admit," he adds, "that there is business here for legislators, but there is business, too, for every citizen—for the clergyman, for the reformer, for the minister, for every man who cares for the country." [37] No doubt, in all countries there are deserving poor, that is, poor who are so from neither vice nor laziness; and it is this class which one must have in mind in considering this question. There are two ways in which the subject must be viewed; first, with reference to those communities in which the system is already in operation; secondly, with [457] reference to those communities in which the system has not yet been attempted. Regarding Great Britain, the question to be determined is not whether the system should have ever been commenced, but, whether so gigantic an organisation, as it has become, should, after having been established for centuries, be swept away in the interests of a more scientific and equitable method of government. To adopt the latter course would involve the throwing of an enormous mass of absolutely helpless persons upon their own wretched resources. The occasion would be seized upon by innumerable impostors, and the system of mendicity would become intolerable. This is, of course, out of the question—the most conclusive of theories and doctrines notwithstanding. Regarding Great Britain, therefore, the broad question concerning the wisdom of the system itself is not open for consideration. But there are two subordinate questions which are, under the circumstances, almost equally important. They are: (1.) Whether those, who must now be assisted, should receive what they require from the state; that is to say, by compulsory contribution, or should depend upon private and spontaneous benevolence to support the institutions in which they are accommodated; (2.) whether, in the event of its being considered expedient for the state to continue to enforce contributions in the shape of a poor rate, it is not desirable to hedge the system round with a set of conditions which are calculated to discourage, as much as possible, its being depended upon and resorted to by future generations.

Mill uses one apparently very strong argument in favour of the state continuing its present support of this system. "Since the state (he says) must necessarily provide subsistence for the criminal poor, while undergoing punishment, not to do the same for the poor, who have not offended, is to give a premium on crime." Charles Dickens, also, once wrote:—"We have come to this absurd, this dangerous, this [458] monstrous pass, that the dishonest felon is, in respect of cleanliness, order, diet and accommodation, better provided for and taken care of than the honest pauper." The strength of this argument, however, depends upon the adoption, as a standard of treatment, of that which is accorded to the felon in the present day. If he undergoes treatment so mild, and his condition is made so comfortable that the "honest pauper" would be satisfied with something similar; then the management of our criminal class must be of a very short-sighted character. If we hesitate about supplying every idle vagabond, who chooses to ask for them, with the necessaries of life, but recognise it as a duty of the state to clothe, feed and board one of the same class, so soon as he chooses to commit some serious offence against society, then we are indeed offering a premium on crime. It would be more consistent to render the conditions of the criminal class so objectionable and so unbearable that no "honest pauper" would consent to be included among that class, in order to obtain the necessaries of life. This argument, then, instead of telling in favour of indiscriminate charity by the state, points to the necessity for considerably increasing the severity of prison life. Let us now see what are the prospects that the poor-law system, as it at present exists, will diminish the amount of poverty among the people; for that has been the aim of most, if not all poor-law legislation. I have already quoted, from a report of the Poor-Law Commissioners, the following admission:—"We find (they say) on the one hand that there is scarcely one statute connected with the administration of public relief which has produced the effect designed by the legislature, and that the majority of them have created new evils and aggravated those which they were intended to prevent." [38]

Legislation, then, so far, has practically failed in the attempt to mitigate the existing condition of things. The [459] arguments, therefore, against its continuance appear to be the following:—

That, inasmuch as it involves the imposition of taxes for a purpose other than that of securing equal freedom for all citizens, it is subversive of one of the fundamental principles upon which our constitution and our society have been based.

That it has, from small beginnings, grown to enormous proportions, from which it may fairly be inferred that, under a continuance of similar administration, the tendency will be still further to increase.

That, from its being permanently established as a system, it is capable (to use Mill's words) of being "calculated upon," and is therefore "mischievous," by tending to discourage providence.

That the fact of its being maintained by compulsory contributions (in the shape of poor rates) is calculated to sap the springs of the charitable and sympathetic motives among the people, which motives play a necessary and important part in the social organism, and which, therefore, it is highly undesirable for the state, in any way, to diminish or discourage.

The arguments in favour of the continuance of the present system appear to be the following:—

That, as a system, it is already in existence, and that, already, upwards of 1,200,000 persons are now wholly dependent upon its continuance—that, therefore, its sudden abolition would render about three per cent. of the population of Great Britain helpless and destitute, and thus supply dangerous material for social and political agitators, whose success is inimical to the order and progress of society itself.

That, inasmuch as all persons convicted of crimes are, under the present system of prison discipline, supplied with the necessaries of life; to refuse the same aid to those who [460] are not so convicted would be, substantially, to offer a premium on crime.

That, by the maintenance of such a system, a sufficient ground is supplied for disallowing mendicity, which is inconvenient and objectionable to the giver, and demoralising to the recipient, and at the same time affords an unchecked and uncheckable encouragement to vagrants and impostors.

After carefully balancing the whole of these reasons, for and against the continuance of the system, I venture to think that the only conclusion which can be drawn from them is that those in favour of the continuance are sufficiently weighty to justify the prolonged departure from the fundamental principle which the system trangresses; but that the following safeguards should be rigidly regarded. [39]

1. That, inasmuch as all attempts to mitigate the extent and intensity of destitution, by means of legislation, have failed, further attempts of the kind should not hastily be resorted to.

2. That poor-law rates should, in all cases, be local, so as to concentrate attention to abuses in those who pay for the maintenance of the system, and are thus immediately interested in its gradual abolition.

3. That poor rates should be levied separately from any other rate (police or otherwise), so that the amount of such rate may serve as a permanent guage to taxpayers in each locality, as to the diminishing or increasing proportions of the system, and thus serve as a perpetual spur to its gradual reduction and abolition.

4. That all institutions, supported by poor rates, should be made, as far as possible, self-supporting, by the compulsory performance of easy but payable labour, by some at least of the inmates, according to their ascertained capabilities.

5. That the assistance afforded by such institutions should consist of the bare necessaries of life, and that such supplies as afford more than a subsistence, as also what are termed luxuries, should be rigorously prohibited.


6. That any voluntary offers of such luxuries to inmates of such institutions, from outside sources, should be rigorously prohibited, inasmuch as the knowledge of their possibility tends to make such institutions attractive.

7. That mendicity of all kinds should be disallowed.

8. That immates of all such institutions, recipients of poor-law rates, should be compelled to confine themselves to the precincts of the institution.

9. That every indulgence calculated to render such institutions attractive, and to cause them to be regarded as a sufficient last resource by possible inmates, should be rigorously discouraged.

Under such circumstances as these, it is more than probable that the system would be considerably reduced, without, at the same time, doing anythin