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Title: An Englishman Looks at the World
Author: Wells, H. G. (Herbert George), 1866-1946
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Englishman Looks at the World" ***


Being a Series of Unrestrained Remarks upon Contemporary Matters




Blériot arrives and sets him thinking. (1)

He flies, (2)

And deduces certain consequences of cheap travel. (3)

He considers the King, and speculates on the New Epoch; (4)

He thinks Imperially, (5)

And then, coming to details, about Labour, (6)

Socialism, (7)

And Modern Warfare, (8)

He discourses on the Modern Novel, (9)

And the Public Library; (10)

Criticises Chesterton, Belloc, (11)

And Sir Thomas More, (12)

And deals with the London Traffic Problem as a Socialist should. (13)

He doubts the existence of Sociology, (14)

Discusses Divorce, (15)

Schoolmasters, (16)

Motherhood, (17)

Doctors, (18)

And Specialisation; (19)

Questions if there is a People, (20)

And diagnoses the Political Disease of our Times. (21)

He then speculates upon the future of the American Population, (22)

Considers a possible set-back to civilisation, (23)

The Ideal Citizen, (24)

The still undeveloped possibilities of Science, (25),
and--in the broadest spirit--

The Human Adventure. (26)


1. The Coming of Blériot

2. My First Flight

3. Off the Chain

4. Of the New Reign

5. Will the Empire Live?

6. The Labour Unrest

7. The Great State

8. The Common Sense of Warfare

9. The Contemporary Novel

10. The Philosopher's Public Library

11. About Chesterton and Belloc

12. About Sir Thomas More

13. Traffic and Rebuilding

14. The So-called Science of Sociology

15. Divorce

16. The Schoolmaster and the Empire

17. The Endowment of Motherhood

18. Doctors

19. An Age of Specialisation

20. Is there a People?

21. The Disease of Parliaments

22. The American Population

23. The Possible Collapse of Civilisation

24. The Ideal Citizen

25. Some Possible Discoveries

26. The Human Adventure



(_July, 1909_.)

The telephone bell rings with the petulant persistence that marks a
trunk call, and I go in from some ineffectual gymnastics on the lawn to
deal with the irruption. There is the usual trouble in connecting up,
minute voices in Folkestone and Dover and London call to one another and
are submerged by buzzings and throbbings. Then in elfin tones the real
message comes through: "Blériot has crossed the Channel.... An article
... about what it means."

I make a hasty promise and go out and tell my friends.

From my garden I look straight upon the Channel, and there are white
caps upon the water, and the iris and tamarisk are all asway with the
south-west wind that was also blowing yesterday. M. Blériot has done
very well, and Mr. Latham, his rival, had jolly bad luck. That is what
it means to us first of all. It also, I reflect privately, means that I
have under-estimated the possible stability of aeroplanes. I did not
expect anything of the sort so soon. This is a good five years before my
reckoning of the year before last.

We all, I think, regret that being so near we were not among the
fortunate ones who saw that little flat shape skim landward out of the
blue; surely they have an enviable memory; and then we fell talking and
disputing about what that swift arrival may signify. It starts a swarm
of questions.

First one remarks that here is a thing done, and done with an
astonishing effect of ease, that was incredible not simply to ignorant
people but to men well informed in these matters. It cannot be fifteen
years ago since Sir Hiram Maxim made the first machine that could lift
its weight from the ground, and I well remember how the clumsy quality
of that success confirmed the universal doubt that men could ever in any
effectual manner fly.

Since then a conspiracy of accidents has changed the whole problem; the
bicycle and its vibrations developed the pneumatic tyre, the pneumatic
tyre rendered a comfortable mechanically driven road vehicle possible,
the motor-car set an enormous premium on the development of very light,
very efficient engines, and at last the engineer was able to offer the
experimentalists in gliding one strong enough and light enough for the
new purpose. And here we are! Or, rather, M. Blériot is!

What does it mean for us?

One meaning, I think, stands out plainly enough, unpalatable enough to
our national pride. This thing from first to last was made abroad. Of
all that made it possible we can only claim so much as is due to the
improvement of the bicycle. Gliding began abroad while our young men of
muscle and courage were braving the dangers of the cricket field. The
motor-car and its engine was being worked out "over there," while in
this country the mechanically propelled road vehicle, lest it should
frighten the carriage horses of the gentry, was going meticulously at
four miles an hour behind a man with a red flag. Over there, where the
prosperous classes have some regard for education and some freedom of
imaginative play, where people discuss all sorts of things fearlessly,
and have a respect for science, this has been achieved.

And now our insularity is breached by the foreigner who has got ahead
with flying.

It means, I take it, first and foremost for us, that the world cannot
wait for the English.

It is not the first warning we have had. It has been raining warnings
upon us; never was a slacking, dull people so liberally served with
warnings of what was in store for them. But this event--this
foreigner-invented, foreigner-built, foreigner-steered thing, taking our
silver streak as a bird soars across a rivulet--puts the case
dramatically. We have fallen behind in the quality of our manhood. In
the men of means and leisure in this island there was neither enterprise
enough, imagination enough, knowledge nor skill enough to lead in this
matter. I do not see how one can go into the history of this development
and arrive at any other conclusion. The French and Americans can laugh
at our aeroplanes, the Germans are ten years ahead of our poor
navigables. We are displayed a soft, rather backward people. Either we
are a people essentially and incurably inferior, or there is something
wrong in our training, something benumbing in our atmosphere and
circumstances. That is the first and gravest intimation in M. Blériot's

The second is that, in spite of our fleet, this is no longer, from the
military point of view, an inaccessible island.

So long as one had to consider the navigable balloon the aerial side of
warfare remained unimportant. A Zeppelin is little good for any purpose
but scouting and espionage. It can carry very little weight in
proportion to its vast size, and, what is more important, it cannot drop
things without sending itself up like a bubble in soda water. An armada
of navigables sent against this island would end in a dispersed,
deflated state, chiefly in the seas between Orkney and Norway--though I
say it who should not. But these aeroplanes can fly all round the
fastest navigable that ever drove before the wind; they can drop
weights, take up weights, and do all sorts of able, inconvenient things.
They are birds. As for the birds, so for aeroplanes; there is an upward
limit of size. They are not going to be very big, but they are going to
be very able and active. Within a year we shall have--or rather _they_
will have--aeroplanes capable of starting from Calais, let us say,
circling over London, dropping a hundredweight or so of explosive upon
the printing machines of _The Times_, and returning securely to Calais
for another similar parcel. They are things neither difficult nor costly
to make. For the price of a Dreadnought one might have hundreds. They
will be extremely hard to hit with any sort of missile. I do not think a
large army of under-educated, under-trained, extremely unwilling
conscripts is going to be any good against this sort of thing.

I do not think that the arrival of M. Blériot means a panic resort to
conscription. It is extremely desirable that people should realise that
these foreign machines are not a temporary and incidental advantage that
we can make good by fussing and demanding eight, and saying we won't
wait, and so on, and then subsiding into indolence again. They are just
the first-fruits of a steady, enduring lead that the foreigner has won.
The foreigner is ahead of us in education, and this is especially true
of the middle and upper classes, from which invention and enterprise
come--or, in our own case, do not come. He makes a better class of man
than we do. His science is better than ours. His training is better than
ours. His imagination is livelier. His mind is more active. His
requirements in a novel, for example, are not kindly, sedative pap; his
uncensored plays deal with reality. His schools are places for vigorous
education instead of genteel athleticism, and his home has books in it,
and thought and conversation. Our homes and schools are relatively dull
and uninspiring; there is no intellectual guide or stir in them; and to
that we owe this new generation of nicely behaved, unenterprising sons,
who play golf and dominate the tailoring of the world, while Brazilians,
Frenchmen, Americans and Germans fly.

That we are hopelessly behindhand in aeronautics is not a fact by
itself. It is merely an indication that we are behindhand in our
mechanical knowledge and invention M. Blériot's aeroplane points also to
the fleet.

The struggle for naval supremacy is not merely a struggle in
shipbuilding and expenditure. Much more is it a struggle in knowledge
and invention. It is not the Power that has the most ships or the
biggest ships that is going to win in a naval conflict. It is the Power
that thinks quickest of what to do, is most resourceful and inventive.
Eighty Dreadnoughts manned by dull men are only eighty targets for a
quicker adversary. Well, is there any reason to suppose that our Navy
is going to keep above the general national level in these things? Is
the Navy _bright_?

The arrival of M. Blériot suggests most horribly to me how far behind we
must be in all matters of ingenuity, device, and mechanical contrivance.
I am reminded again of the days during the Boer war, when one realised
that it had never occurred to our happy-go-lucky Army that it was
possible to make a military use of barbed wire or construct a trench to
defy shrapnel. Suppose in the North Sea we got a surprise like that, and
fished out a parboiled, half-drowned admiral explaining what a
confoundedly slim, unexpected, almost ungentlemanly thing the enemy had
done to him.

Very probably the Navy is the exception to the British system; its
officers are rescued from the dull homes and dull schools of their class
while still of tender years, and shaped after a fashion of their own.
But M. Blériot reminds us that we may no longer shelter and degenerate
behind these blue backs. And the keenest men at sea are none the worse
for having keen men on land behind them.

Are we an awakening people?

It is the vital riddle of our time. I look out upon the windy Channel
and think of all those millions just over there, who seem to get busier
and keener every hour. I could imagine the day of reckoning coming like
a swarm of birds.

Here the air is full of the clamour of rich and prosperous people
invited to pay taxes, and beyond measure bitter. They are going to live
abroad, cut their charities, dismiss old servants, and do all sorts of
silly, vindictive things. We seem to be doing feeble next-to-nothings
in the endowment of research. Not one in twenty of the boys of the
middle and upper classes learns German or gets more than a misleading
smattering of physical science. Most of them never learn to speak
French. Heaven alone knows what they do with their brains! The British
reading and thinking public probably does not number fifty thousand
people all told. It is difficult to see whence the necessary impetus for
a national renascence is to come.... The universities are poor and
spiritless, with no ambition to lead the country. I met a Boy Scout
recently. He was hopeful in his way, but a little inadequate, I thought,
as a basis for confidence in the future of the Empire.

We have still our Derby Day, of course....

Apart from these patriotic solicitudes, M. Blériot has set quite another
train of thought going in my mind. The age of natural democracy is
surely at an end through these machines. There comes a time when men
will be sorted out into those who will have the knowledge, nerve, and
courage to do these splendid, dangerous things, and those who will
prefer the humbler level. I do not think numbers are going to matter so
much in the warfare of the future, and that when organised intelligence
differs from the majority, the majority will have no adequate power of
retort. The common man with a pike, being only sufficiently indignant
and abundant, could chase the eighteenth century gentleman as he chose,
but I fail to see what he can do in the way of mischief to an elusive
chevalier with wings. But that opens too wide a discussion for me to
enter upon now.


(EASTBOURNE, _August 5, 1912--three years later_.)

Hitherto my only flights have been flights of imagination but this
morning I flew. I spent about ten or fifteen minutes in the air; we went
out to sea, soared up, came back over the land, circled higher, planed
steeply down to the water, and I landed with the conviction that I had
had only the foretaste of a great store of hitherto unsuspected
pleasures. At the first chance I will go up again, and I will go higher
and further.

This experience has restored all the keenness of my ancient interest in
flying, which had become a little fagged and flat by too much hearing
and reading about the thing and not enough participation. Sixteen years
ago, in the days of Langley and Lilienthal, I was one of the few
journalists who believed and wrote that flying was possible; it affected
my reputation unfavourably, and produced in the few discouraged pioneers
of those days a quite touching gratitude. Over my mantel as I write
hangs a very blurred and bad but interesting photograph that Professor
Langley sent me sixteen years ago. It shows the flight of the first
piece of human machinery heavier than air that ever kept itself up for
any length of time. It was a model, a little affair that would not have
lifted a cat; it went up in a spiral and came down unsmashed, bringing
back, like Noah's dove, the promise of tremendous things.

That was only sixteen years ago, and it is amusing to recall how
cautiously even we out-and-out believers did our prophesying. I was
quite a desperate fellow; I said outright that in my lifetime we should
see men flying. But I qualified that by repeating that for many years to
come it would be an enterprise only for quite fantastic daring and
skill. We conjured up stupendous difficulties and risks. I was deeply
impressed and greatly discouraged by a paper a distinguished Cambridge
mathematician produced to show that a flying machine was bound to pitch
fearfully, that as it flew on its pitching _must_ increase until up went
its nose, down went its tail, and it fell like a knife. We exaggerated
every possibility of instability. We imagined that when the aeroplane
wasn't "kicking up ahind and afore" it would be heeling over to the
lightest side wind. A sneeze might upset it. We contrasted our poor
human equipment with the instinctive balance of a bird, which has had
ten million years of evolution by way of a start....

The waterplane in which I soared over Eastbourne this morning with Mr.
Grahame-White was as steady as a motor-car running on asphalt.

Then we went on from those anticipations of swaying insecurity to
speculations about the psychological and physiological effects of
flying. Most people who look down from the top of a cliff or high tower
feel some slight qualms of dread, many feel a quite sickening dread.
Even if men struggled high into the air, we asked, wouldn't they be
smitten up there by such a lonely and reeling dismay as to lose all
self-control? And, above all, wouldn't the pitching and tossing make
them quite horribly sea-sick?

I have always been a little haunted by that last dread. It gave a little
undertow of funk to the mood of lively curiosity with which I got
aboard the waterplane this morning--that sort of faint, thin funk that
so readily invades one on the verge of any new experience; when one
tries one's first dive, for example, or pushes off for the first time
down an ice run. I thought I should very probably be sea-sick--or, to be
more precise, air-sick; I thought also that I might be very giddy, and
that I might get thoroughly cold and uncomfortable None of those things

I am still in a state of amazement at the smooth steadfastness of the
motion. There is nothing on earth to compare with that, unless--and that
I can't judge--it is an ice yacht travelling on perfect ice. The finest
motor-car in the world on the best road would be a joggling, quivering
thing beside it.

To begin with, we went out to sea before the wind, and the plane would
not readily rise. We went with an undulating movement, leaping with a
light splashing pat upon the water, from wave to wave. Then we came
about into the wind and rose, and looking over I saw that there were no
longer those periodic flashes of white foam. I was flying. And it was as
still and steady as dreaming. I watched the widening distance between
our floats and the waves. It wasn't by any means a windless day; there
was a brisk, fluctuating breeze blowing out of the north over the downs.
It seemed hardly to affect our flight at all.

And as for the giddiness of looking down, one does not feel it at all.
It is difficult to explain why this should be so, but it is so. I
suppose in such matters I am neither exceptionally steady-headed nor is
my head exceptionally given to swimming. I can stand on the edge of
cliffs of a thousand feet or so and look down, but I can never bring
myself right up to the edge nor crane over to look to the very bottom. I
should want to lie down to do that. And the other day I was on that
Belvedere place at the top of the Rotterdam sky-scraper, a rather high
wind was blowing, and one looks down through the chinks between the
boards one stands on upon the heads of the people in the streets below;
I didn't like it. But this morning I looked directly down on a little
fleet of fishing boats over which we passed, and on the crowds
assembling on the beach, and on the bathers who stared up at us from the
breaking surf, with an entirely agreeable exaltation. And Eastbourne, in
the early morning sunshine, had all the brightly detailed littleness of
a town viewed from high up on the side of a great mountain.

When Mr. Grahame-White told me we were going to plane down I will
confess I tightened my hold on the sides of the car and prepared for
something like the down-going sensation of a switchback railway on a
larger scale. Just for a moment there was that familiar feeling of
something pressing one's heart up towards one's shoulders, and one's
lower jaw up into its socket and of grinding one's lower teeth against
the upper, and then it passed. The nose of the car and all the machine
was slanting downwards, we were gliding quickly down, and yet there was
no feeling that one rushed, not even as one rushes in coasting a hill on
a bicycle. It wasn't a tithe of the thrill of those three descents one
gets on the great mountain railway in the White City. There one gets a
disagreeable quiver up one's backbone from the wheels, and a real sense
of falling.

It is quite peculiar to flying that one is incredulous of any
collision. Some time ago I was in a motor-car that ran over and killed a
small dog, and this wretched little incident has left an open wound upon
my nerves. I am never quite happy in a car now; I can't help keeping an
apprehensive eye ahead. But you fly with an exhilarating assurance that
you cannot possibly run over anything or run into anything--except the
land or the sea, and even those large essentials seem a beautifully safe
distance away.

I had heard a great deal of talk about the deafening uproar of the
engine. I counted a headache among my chances. There again reason
reinforced conjecture. When in the early morning Mr. Travers came from
Brighton in this Farman in which I flew I could hear the hum of the
great insect when it still seemed abreast of Beachy Head, and a good two
miles away. If one can hear a thing at two miles, how much the more will
one not hear it at a distance of two yards? But at the risk of seeming
too contented for anything I will assert I heard that noise no more than
one hears the drone of an electric ventilator upon one's table. It was
only when I came to speak to Mr. Grahame-White, or he to me, that I
discovered that our voices had become almost infinitesimally small.

And so it was I went up into the air at Eastbourne with the impression
that flying was still an uncomfortable experimental, and slightly heroic
thing to do, and came down to the cheerful gathering crowd upon the
sands again with the knowledge that it is a thing achieved for everyone.
It will get much cheaper, no doubt, and much swifter, and be improved in
a dozen ways--we _must_ get self-starting engines, for example, for both
our aeroplanes and motor-cars--but it is available to-day for anyone
who can reach it. An invalid lady of seventy could have enjoyed all that
I did if only one could have got her into the passenger's seat. Getting
there was a little difficult, it is true; the waterplane was out in the
surf, and I was carried to it on a boatman's back, and then had to
clamber carefully through the wires, but that is a matter of detail.
This flying is indeed so certain to become a general experience that I
am sure that this description will in a few years seem almost as quaint
as if I had set myself to record the fears and sensations of my First
Ride in a Wheeled Vehicle. And I suspect that learning to control a
Farman waterplane now is probably not much more difficult than, let us
say, twice the difficulty in learning the control and management of a
motor-bicycle. I cannot understand the sort of young man who won't learn
how to do it if he gets half a chance.

The development of these waterplanes is an important step towards the
huge and swarming popularisation of flying which is now certainly
imminent. We ancient survivors of those who believed in and wrote about
flying before there was any flying used to make a great fuss about the
dangers and difficulties of landing and getting up. We wrote with vast
gravity about "starting rails" and "landing stages," and it is still
true that landing an aeroplane, except upon a well-known and quite level
expanse, is a risky and uncomfortable business. But getting up and
landing upon fairly smooth water is easier than getting into bed. This
alone is likely to determine the aeroplane routes along the line of the
world's coastlines and lake groups and waterways. The airmen will go to
and fro over water as the midges do. Wherever there is a square mile of
water the waterplanes will come and go like hornets at the mouth of
their nest. But there are much stronger reasons than this convenience
for keeping over water. Over water the air, it seems, lies in great
level expanses; even when there are gales it moves in uniform masses
like the swift, still rush of a deep river. The airman, in Mr.
Grahame-White's phrase, can go to sleep on it. But over the land, and
for thousands of feet up into the sky, the air is more irregular than a
torrent among rocks; it is--if only we could see it--a waving, whirling,
eddying, flamboyant confusion. A slight hill, a ploughed field, the
streets of a town, create riotous, rolling, invisible streams and
cataracts of air that catch the airman unawares, make him drop
disconcertingly, try his nerves. With a powerful enough engine he climbs
at once again, but these sudden downfalls are the least pleasant and
most dangerous experience in aviation. They exact a tiring vigilance.

Over lake or sea, in sunshine, within sight of land, this is the perfect
way of the flying tourist. Gladly would I have set out for France this
morning instead of returning to Eastbourne. And then coasted round to
Spain and into the Mediterranean. And so by leisurely stages to India.
And the East Indies....

I find my study unattractive to-day.


(_December, 1910_)

I was ill in bed, reading Samuel Warren's "Ten Thousand a Year," and
noting how much the world can change in seventy years.

I had just got to the journey of Titmouse from London to Yorkshire in
that ex-sheriff's coach he bought in Long Acre--where now the motor-cars
are sold--when there came a telegram to bid me note how a certain Mr.
Holt was upon the ocean, coming back to England from a little excursion.
He had left London last Saturday week at midday; he hoped to be back by
Thursday; and he had talked to the President in Washington, visited
Philadelphia, and had a comparatively loitering afternoon in New York.
What had I to say about it?

Firstly, that I wish this article could be written by Samuel Warren. And
failing that, I wish that Charles Dickens, who wrote in his "American
Notes" with such passionate disgust and hostility about the first
Cunarder, retailing all the discomfort and misery of crossing the
Atlantic by steamship, could have shared Mr. Holt's experience.

Because I am chiefly impressed by the fact not that Mr. Holt has taken
days where weeks were needed fifty years ago, but that he has done it
very comfortably, without undue physical exertion, and at no greater
expense, I suppose, than it cost Dickens, whom the journey nearly

If Mr. Holt's expenses were higher, it was for the special trains and
the sake of the record. Anyone taking ordinary trains and ordinary
passages may do what he has done in eighteen or twenty days.

When I was a boy, "Around the World in Eighty Days" was still a
brilliant piece of imaginative fiction. Now that is almost an invalid's
pace. It will not be very long before a man will be able to go round the
world if he wishes to do so ten times in a year. And it is perhaps
forgivable if those who, like Jules Verne, saw all these increments in
speed, motor-cars, and airships aeroplanes, and submarines, wireless
telegraphy and what not, as plain and necessary deductions from the
promises of physical science, should turn upon a world that read and
doubted and jeered with "I told you so. _Now_ will you respect a

It was not that the prophets professed any mystical and inexplicable
illumination at which a sceptic might reasonably mock; they were
prepared with ample reasons for the things they foretold. Now, quite as
confidently, they point on to a new series of consequences, high
probabilities that follow on all this tremendous development of swift,
secure, and cheapened locomotion, just as they followed almost
necessarily upon the mechanical developments of the last century.

Briefly, the ties that bind men to place are being severed; we are in
the beginning of a new phase in human experience.

For endless ages man led the hunting life, migrating after his food,
camping, homeless, as to this day are many of the Indians and Esquimaux
in the Hudson Bay Territory. Then began agriculture, and for the sake of
securer food man tethered himself to a place. The history of man's
progress from savagery to civilisation is essentially a story of
settling down. It begins in caves and shelters; it culminates in a wide
spectacle of farms and peasant villages, and little towns among the
farms. There were wars, crusades, barbarous invasions, set-backs, but to
that state all Asia, Europe, North Africa worked its way with an
indomitable pertinacity. The enormous majority of human beings stayed at
home at last; from the cradle to the grave they lived, married, died in
the same district, usually in the same village; and to that condition,
law, custom, habits, morals, have adapted themselves. The whole plan and
conception of human society is based on the rustic home and the needs
and characteristics of the agricultural family. There have been gipsies,
wanderers, knaves, knights-errant and adventurers, no doubt, but the
settled permanent rustic home and the tenure of land about it, and the
hens and the cow, have constituted the fundamental reality of the whole
scene. Now, the really wonderful thing in this astonishing development
of cheap, abundant, swift locomotion we have seen in the last seventy
years--in the development of which Mauretanias, aeroplanes,
mile-a-minute expresses, tubes, motor-buses and motor cars are just the
bright, remarkable points--is this: that it dissolves almost all the
reason and necessity why men should go on living permanently in any one
place or rigidly disciplined to one set of conditions. The former
attachment to the soil ceases to be an advantage. The human spirit has
never quite subdued itself to the laborious and established life; it
achieves its best with variety and occasional vigorous exertion under
the stimulus of novelty rather than by constant toil, and this
revolution in human locomotion that brings nearly all the globe within
a few days of any man is the most striking aspect of the unfettering
again of the old restless, wandering, adventurous tendencies in man's

Already one can note remarkable developments of migration. There is, for
example, that flow to and fro across the Atlantic of labourers from the
Mediterranean. Italian workmen by the hundred thousand go to the United
States in the spring and return in the autumn. Again, there is a stream
of thousands of prosperous Americans to summer in Europe. Compared with
any European country, the whole population of the United States is
fluid. Equally notable is the enormous proportion of the British
prosperous which winters either in the high Alps or along the Riviera.
England is rapidly developing the former Irish grievance of an absentee
propertied class. It is only now by the most strenuous artificial
banking back that migrations on a far huger scale from India into
Africa, and from China and Japan into Australia and America are

All the indications point to a time when it will be an altogether
exceptional thing for a man to follow one occupation in one place all
his life, and still rarer for a son to follow in his father's footsteps
or die in his father's house.

The thing is as simple as the rule of three. We are off the chain of
locality for good and all. It was necessary heretofore for a man to live
in immediate contact with his occupation, because the only way for him
to reach it was to have it at his door, and the cost and delay of
transport were relatively too enormous for him to shift once he was
settled. _Now_ he may live twenty or thirty miles away from his
occupation; and it often pays him to spend the small amount of time and
money needed to move--it may be half-way round the world--to healthier
conditions or more profitable employment.

And with every diminution in the cost and duration of transport it
becomes more and more possible, and more and more likely, to be
profitable to move great multitudes of workers seasonally between
regions where work is needed in this season and regions where work is
needed in that. They can go out to the agricultural lands at one time
and come back into towns for artistic work and organised work in
factories at another. They can move from rain and darkness into
sunshine, and from heat into the coolness of mountain forests. Children
can be sent for education to sea beaches and healthy mountains.

Men will harvest in Saskatchewan and come down in great liners to spend
the winter working in the forests of Yucatan.

People have hardly begun to speculate about the consequences of the
return of humanity from a closely tethered to a migratory existence. It
is here that the prophet finds his chief opportunity. Obviously, these
great forces of transport are already straining against the limits of
existing political areas. Every country contains now an increasing
ingredient of unenfranchised Uitlanders. Every country finds a growing
section of its home-born people either living largely abroad, drawing
the bulk of their income from the exterior, and having their essential
interests wholly or partially across the frontier.

In every locality of a Western European country countless people are
found delocalised, uninterested in the affairs of that particular
locality, and capable of moving themselves with a minimum of loss and a
maximum of facility into any other region that proves more attractive.
In America political life, especially State life as distinguished from
national political life, is degraded because of the natural and
inevitable apathy of a large portion of the population whose interests
go beyond the State.

Politicians and statesmen, being the last people in the world to notice
what is going on in it, are making no attempt whatever to re-adapt this
hugely growing floating population of delocalised people to the public
service. As Mr. Marriott puts it in his novel, "_Now,"_ they "drop out"
from politics as we understand politics at present. Local administration
falls almost entirely--and the decision of Imperial affairs tends more
and more to fall--into the hands of that dwindling and adventurous
moiety which sits tight in one place from the cradle to the grave. No
one has yet invented any method for the political expression and
collective direction of a migratory population, and nobody is attempting
to do so. It is a new problem....

Here, then, is a curious prospect, the prospect of a new kind of people,
a floating population going about the world, uprooted, delocalised, and
even, it may be, denationalised, with wide interests and wide views,
developing no doubt, customs and habits of its own, a morality of its
own, a philosophy of its own, and yet from the point of view of current
politics and legislation unorganised and ineffective.

Most of the forces of international finance and international business
enterprise will be with it. It will develop its own characteristic
standards of art and literature and conduct in accordance with its new
necessities. It is, I believe, the mankind of the future. And the last
thing it will be able to do will be to legislate. The history of the
immediate future will, I am convinced, be very largely the history of
the conflict of the needs of this new population with the institutions,
the boundaries the laws, prejudices, and deep-rooted traditions
established during the home-keeping, localised era of mankind's career.

This conflict follows as inevitably upon these new gigantic facilities
of locomotion as the _Mauretania_ followed from the discoveries of steam
and steel.


(_June, 1911_.)

The bunting and the crimson vanish from the streets. Already the vast
army of improvised carpenters that the Coronation has created set
themselves to the work of demolition, and soon every road that converges
upon Central London will be choked again with great loads of timber--but
this time going outward--as our capital emerges from this unprecedented
inundation of loyalty. The most elaborately conceived, the most stately
of all recorded British Coronations is past.

What new phase in the life of our nation and our Empire does this
tremendous ceremony inaugurate? The question is inevitable. There is
nothing in all the social existence of men so full of challenge as the
crowning of a king. It is the end of the overture; the curtain rises.
This is a new beginning-place for histories.

To us, the great mass of common Englishmen, who have no place in the
hierarchy of our land, who do not attend Courts nor encounter uniforms,
whose function is at most spectacular, who stand in the street and watch
the dignitaries and the liveries pass by, this sense of critical
expectation is perhaps greater than it is for those more immediately
concerned in the spectacle. They have had their parts to play, their
symbolic acts to perform, they have sat in their privileged places, and
we have waited at the barriers until their comfort and dignity was
assured. I can conceive many of them, a little fatigued, preparing now
for social dispersal, relaxing comfortably into gossip, discussing the
detail of these events with an air of things accomplished. They will
decide whether the Coronation has been a success and whether everything
has or has not passed off very well. For us in the great crowd nothing
has as yet succeeded or passed off well or ill. We are intent upon a
King newly anointed and crowned, a King of whom we know as yet very
little, but who has, nevertheless, roused such expectation as no King
before him has done since Tudor times, in the presence of gigantic

There is a conviction widespread among us--his own words, perhaps, have
done most to create it--that King George is inspired, as no recent
predecessor has been inspired, by the conception of kingship, that his
is to be no rôle of almost indifferent abstinence from the broad
processes of our national and imperial development. That greater public
life which is above party and above creed and sect has, we are told,
taken hold of his imagination; he is to be no crowned image of unity and
correlation, a layer of foundation-stones and a signature to documents,
but an actor in our drama, a living Prince.

Time will test these hopes, but certainly we, the innumerable democracy
of individually unimportant men, have felt the need for such a Prince.
Our consciousness of defects, of fields of effort untilled, of vast
possibilities neglected and slipping away from us for ever, has never
really slumbered again since the chastening experiences of the Boer War.
Since then the national spirit, hampered though it is by the traditions
of party government and a legacy of intellectual and social heaviness,
has been in uneasy and ineffectual revolt against deadness, against
stupidity and slackness, against waste and hypocrisy in every department
of life. We have come to see more and more clearly how little we can
hope for from politicians, societies and organised movements in these
essential things. It is this that has invested the energy and manhood,
the untried possibilities of the new King with so radiant a light of
hope for us.

Think what it may mean for us all--I write as one of that great
ill-informed multitude, sincerely and gravely patriotic, outside the
echoes of Court gossip and the easy knowledge of exalted society--if our
King does indeed care for these wider and profounder things! Suppose we
have a King at last who cares for the advancement of science, who is
willing to do the hundred things that are so easy in his position to
increase research, to honour and to share in scientific thought. Suppose
we have a King whose head rises above the level of the Court artist, and
who not only can but will appeal to the latent and discouraged power of
artistic creation in our race. Suppose we have a King who understands
the need for incessant, acute criticism to keep our collective
activities intelligent and efficient, and for a flow of bold, unhampered
thought through every department of the national life, a King liberal
without laxity and patriotic without pettiness or vulgarity. Such, it
seems to us who wait at present almost inexpressively outside the
immediate clamours of a mere artificial loyalty, are the splendid
possibilities of the time.

For England is no exhausted or decaying country. It is rich with an
unmeasured capacity for generous responses. It is a country burthened
indeed, but not overwhelmed, by the gigantic responsibilities of
Empire, a little relaxed by wealth, and hampered rather than enslaved by
a certain shyness of temperament, a certain habitual timidity,
slovenliness and insincerity of mind. It is a little distrustful of
intellectual power and enterprise, a little awkward and ungracious to
brave and beautiful things, a little too tolerant of dull, well-meaning
and industrious men and arrogant old women. It suffers hypocrites
gladly, because its criticism is poor, and it is wastefully harsh to
frank unorthodoxy. But its heart is sound if its judgments fall short of
acuteness and if its standards of achievement are low. It needs but a
quickening spirit upon the throne, always the traditional centre of its
respect, to rise from even the appearance of decadence. There is a new
quality seeking expression in England like the rising of sap in the
spring, a new generation asking only for such leadership and such
emancipation from restricted scope and ungenerous hostility as a King
alone can give it....

When in its turn this latest reign comes at last to its reckoning, what
will the sum of its achievement be? What will it leave of things
visible? Will it leave a London preserved and beautified, or will it but
add abundantly to the lumps of dishonest statuary, the scars and masses
of ill-conceived rebuilding which testify to the aesthetic degradation
of the Victorian period? Will a great constellation of artists redeem
the ambitious sentimentalities and genteel skilfulness that find their
fitting mausoleum in the Tate Gallery? Will our literature escape at
last from pretentiousness and timidity, our philosophy from the foolish
cerebrations of university "characters" and eminent politicians at
leisure, and our starved science find scope and resources adequate to
its gigantic needs? Will our universities, our teaching, our national
training, our public services, gain a new health from the reviving
vigour of the national brain? Or is all this a mere wild hope, and shall
we, after perhaps some small flutterings of effort, the foundation of
some ridiculous little academy of literary busybodies and hangers-on,
the public recognition of this or that sociological pretender or
financial "scientist," and a little polite jobbery with picture-buying,
relapse into lassitude and a contented acquiescence in the rivalry of
Germany and the United States for the moral, intellectual and material
leadership of the world?

The deaths and accessions of Kings, the changing of names and coins and
symbols and persons, a little force our minds in the marking off of
epochs. We are brought to weigh one generation against another, to
reckon up our position and note the characteristics of a new phase. What
lies before us in the next decades? Is England going on to fresh
achievements, to a renewed and increased predominance, or is she falling
into a secondary position among the peoples of the world?

The answer to that depends upon ourselves. Have we pride enough to
attempt still to lead mankind, and if we have, have we the wisdom and
the quality? Or are we just the children of Good Luck, who are being
found out?

Some years ago our present King exhorted this island to "wake up" in one
of the most remarkable of British royal utterances, and Mr. Owen Seaman
assures him in verse of an altogether laureate quality that we are now

  "Free of the snare of slumber's silken bands,"

though I have not myself observed it. It is interesting to ask, Is
England really waking up? and if she is, what sort of awakening is she
likely to have?

It is possible, of course, to wake up in various different ways. There
is the clear and beautiful dawn of new and balanced effort, easy,
unresting, planned, assured, and there is also the blundering-up of a
still half-somnolent man, irascible, clumsy, quarrelsome, who stubs his
toe in his first walk across the room, smashes his too persistent alarum
clock in a fit of nerves, and cuts his throat while shaving. All
patriotic vehemence does not serve one's country. Exertion is a more
critical and dangerous thing than inaction, and the essence of success
is in the ability to develop those qualities which make action
effective, and without which strenuousness is merely a clumsy and noisy
protest against inevitable defeat. These necessary qualities, without
which no community may hope for pre-eminence to-day, are a passion for
fine and brilliant achievement, relentless veracity of thought and
method, and richly imaginative fearlessness of enterprise. Have we
English those qualities, and are we doing our utmost to select and
develop them?

I doubt very much if we are. Let me give some of the impressions that
qualify my assurance in the future of our race.

I have watched a great deal of patriotic effort during the last decade,
I have seen enormous expenditures of will, emotion and material for the
sake of our future, and I am deeply impressed, not indeed by any effect
of lethargy, but by the second-rate quality and the shortness and
weakness of aim in very much that has been done. I miss continually that
sharply critical imaginativeness which distinguishes all excellent
work, which shines out supremely in Cromwell's creation of the New
Model, or Nelson's plan of action at Trafalgar, as brightly as it does
in Newton's investigation of gravitation, Turner's rendering of
landscape, or Shakespeare's choice of words, but which cannot be absent
altogether if any achievement is to endure. We seem to have busy,
energetic people, no doubt, in abundance, patient and industrious
administrators and legislators; but have we any adequate supply of
really creative ability?

Let me apply this question to one matter upon which England has
certainly been profoundly in earnest during the last decade. We have
been almost frantically resolved to keep the empire of the sea. But have
we really done all that could have been done? I ask it with all
diffidence, but has our naval preparation been free from a sort of noisy
violence, a certain massive dullness of conception? Have we really made
anything like a sane use of our resources? I do not mean of our
resources in money or stuff. It is manifest that the next naval war will
be beyond all precedent a war of mechanisms, giving such scope for
invention and scientifically equipped wit and courage as the world has
never had before. Now, have we really developed any considerable
proportion of the potential human quality available to meet the demand
for wits? What are we doing to discover, encourage and develop those
supreme qualities of personal genius that become more and more decisive
with every new weapon and every new complication and unsuspected
possibility it introduces? Suppose, for example, there was among us
to-day a one-eyed, one-armed adulterer, rather fragile, prone to
sea-sickness, and with just that one supreme quality of imaginative
courage which made Nelson our starry admiral. Would he be given the
ghost of a chance now of putting that gift at his country's disposal? I
do not think he would, and I do not think he would because we underrate
gifts and exceptional qualities, because there is no quickening
appreciation for the exceptional best in a man, and because we overvalue
the good behaviour, the sound physique, the commonplace virtues of

I have but the knowledge of the man in the street in these things,
though once or twice I have chanced on prophecy, and I am uneasily
apprehensive of the quality of all our naval preparations. We go on
launching these lumping great Dreadnoughts, and I cannot bring myself to
believe in them. They seem vulnerable from the air above and the deep
below, vulnerable in a shallow channel and in a fog (and the North Sea
is both foggy and shallow), and immensely costly. If I were Lord High
Admiral of England at war I would not fight the things. I would as soon
put to sea in St. Paul's Cathedral. If I were fighting Germany, I would
stow half of them away in the Clyde and half in the Bristol Channel, and
take the good men out of them and fight with mines and torpedoes and
destroyers and airships and submarines.

And when I come to military matters my persuasion that things are not
all right, that our current hostility to imaginative activity and our
dull acceptance of established methods and traditions is leading us
towards grave dangers, intensifies. In South Africa the Boers taught us
in blood and bitterness the obvious fact that barbed wire had its
military uses, and over the high passes on the way to Lhassa (though,
luckily, it led to no disaster) there was not a rifle in condition to
use because we had not thought to take glycerine. The perpetual novelty
of modern conditions demands an imaginative alertness we eliminate. I do
not believe that the Army Council or anyone in authority has worked out
a tithe of the essential problems of contemporary war. If they have,
then it does not show. Our military imagination is half-way back to bows
and arrows. The other day I saw a detachment of the Legion of
Frontiersmen disporting itself at Totteridge. I presume these young
heroes consider they are preparing for a possible conflict in England or
Western Europe, and I presume the authorities are satisfied with them.
It is at any rate the only serious war of which there is any manifest
probability. Western Europe is now a network of railways, tramways, high
roads, wires of all sorts; its chief beasts of burthen are the railway
train and the motor car and the bicycle; towns and hypertrophied
villages are often practically continuous over large areas; there is
abundant water and food, and the commonest form of cover is the house.
But the Legion of Frontiersmen is equipped for war, oh!--in Arizona in
1890, and so far as I am able to judge the most modern sections of the
army extant are organised for a colonial war in (say) 1899 or 1900.
There is, of course, a considerable amount of vague energy demanding
conscription and urging our youth towards a familiarity with arms and
the backwoodsman's life, but of any thought-out purpose in our arming
widely understood, of any realisation of what would have to be done and
where it would have to be done, and of any attempts to create an
instrument for that novel unprecedented undertaking, I discover no

In my capacity of devil's advocate pleading against national
over-confidence, I might go on to the quality of our social and
political movements. One hears nowadays a vast amount of chatter about
efficiency--that magic word--and social organisation, and there is no
doubt a huge expenditure of energy upon these things and a widespread
desire to rush about and make showy and startling changes. But it does
not follow that this involves progress if the enterprise itself is dully
conceived and most of it does seem to me to be dully conceived. In the
absence of penetrating criticism, any impudent industrious person may
set up as an "expert," organise and direct the confused good intentions
at large, and muddle disastrously with the problem in hand. The "expert"
quack and the bureaucratic intriguer increase and multiply in a
dull-minded, uncritical, strenuous period as disease germs multiply in
darkness and heat.

I find the same doubts of our quality assail me when I turn to the
supreme business of education. It is true we all seem alive nowadays to
the need of education, are all prepared for more expenditure upon it and
more, but it does not follow necessarily in a period of stagnating
imagination that we shall get what we pay for. The other day I
discovered my little boy doing a subtraction sum, and I found he was
doing it in a slower, clumsier, less businesslike way than the one I was
taught in an old-fashioned "Commercial Academy" thirty odd years ago.
The educational "expert," it seems, has been at work substituting a bad
method for a good one in our schools because it is easier of exposition.
The educational "expert," in the lack of a lively public intelligence,
develops all the vices of the second-rate energetic, and he is, I am
only too disposed to believe, making a terrible mess of a great deal of
our science teaching and of the teaching of mathematics and English....

I have written enough to make clear the quality of my doubts. I think
the English mind cuts at life with a dulled edge, and that its energy
may be worse than its somnolence. I think it undervalues gifts and fine
achievement, and overvalues the commonplace virtues of mediocre men. One
of the greatest Liberal statesmen in the time of Queen Victoria never
held office because he was associated with a divorce case a quarter of a
century ago. For him to have taken office would have been regarded as a
scandal. But it is not regarded as a scandal that our Government
includes men of no more ability than any average assistant behind a
grocer's counter. These are your gods, O England!--and with every desire
to be optimistic I find it hard under the circumstances to anticipate
that the New Epoch is likely to be a blindingly brilliant time for our
Empire and our race.


What will hold such an Empire as the British together, this great, laxly
scattered, sea-linked association of ancient states and new-formed
countries, Oriental nations, and continental colonies? What will enable
it to resist the endless internal strains, the inevitable external
pressures and attacks to which it must be subjected This is the primary
question for British Imperialism; everything else is secondary or
subordinated to that.

There is a multitude of answers. But I suppose most of them will prove
under examination either to be, or to lead to, or to imply very
distinctly this generalisation that if most of the intelligent and
active people in the Empire want it to continue it will, and that if a
large proportion of such active and intelligent people are discontented
and estranged, nothing can save it from disintegration. I do not suppose
that a navy ten times larger than ours, or conscription of the most
irksome thoroughness, could oblige Canada to remain in the Empire if the
general will and feeling of Canada were against it, or coerce India into
a sustained submission if India presented a united and resistant front.
Our Empire, for all its roll of battles, was not created by force;
colonisation and diplomacy have played a far larger share in its growth
than conquest; and there is no such strength in its sovereignty as the
rule of pride and pressure demand. It is to the free consent and
participation of its constituent peoples that we must look for its

A large and influential body of politicians considers that in
preferential trading between the parts of the Empire, and in the
erection of a tariff wall against exterior peoples, lies the secret of
that deepened emotional understanding we all desire. I have never
belonged to that school. I am no impassioned Free Trader--the sacred
principle of Free Trade has always impressed me as a piece of party
claptrap; but I have never been able to understand how an attempt to
draw together dominions so scattered and various as ours by a network of
fiscal manipulation could end in anything but mutual inconvenience
mutual irritation, and disruption.

In an open drawer in my bureau there lies before me now a crumpled card
on which are the notes I made of a former discussion of this very issue,
a discussion between a number of prominent politicians in the days
before Mr. Chamberlain's return from South Africa and the adoption of
Tariff Reform by the Unionist Party; and I decipher again the same
considerations, unanswered and unanswerable, that leave me sceptical

Take a map of the world and consider the extreme differences in position
and condition between our scattered states. Here is Canada, lying along
the United States, looking eastward to Japan and China, westward to all
Europe. See the great slashes of lake, bay, and mountain chain that cut
it meridianally. Obviously its main routes and trades and relations lie
naturally north and south; obviously its full development can only be
attained with those ways free, open, and active. Conceivably, you may
build a fiscal wall across the continent; conceivably, you may shut off
the east and half the west by impossible tariffs, and narrow its trade
to one artificial duct to England, but only at the price of a hampered
development It will be like nourishing the growing body of a man with
the heart and arteries of a mouse.

Then here, again, are New Zealand and Australia, facing South America
and the teeming countries of Eastern Asia; surely it is in relation to
these vast proximities that their economic future lies. Is it possible
to believe that shipping mutton to London is anything but the mere
beginning of their commercial development Look at India, again, and
South Africa. Is it not manifest that from the economic and business
points of view each of these is an entirely separate entity, a system
apart, under distinct necessities, needing entire freedom to make its
own bargains and control its trade in its own way in order to achieve
its fullest material possibilities?

Nor can I believe that financial entanglements greatly strengthen the
bonds of an empire in any case. We lost the American colonies because we
interfered with their fiscal arrangements, and it was Napoleon's attempt
to strangle the Continental trade with Great Britain that began his

I do not find in the ordinary relations of life that business relations
necessarily sustain intercourse. The relations of buyer and seller are
ticklish relations, very liable to strains and conflicts. I do not find
people grow fond of their butchers and plumbers, and I doubt whether if
one were obliged by some special taxation to deal only with one butcher
or one plumber, it would greatly endear the relationship. Forced buying
is irritated buying, and it is the forbidden shop that contains the
coveted goods. Nor do I find, to take another instance, among the hotel
staffs of Switzerland and the Riviera--who live almost entirely upon
British gold--those impassioned British imperialist views the economic
link theory would lead me to expect.

And another link, too, upon which much stress is laid but about which I
have very grave doubts, is the possibility of a unified organisation of
the Empire for military defence. We are to have, it is suggested, an
imperial Army and an imperial Navy, and so far, no doubt, as the
guaranteeing of a general peace goes, we may develop a sense of
participation in that way. But it is well in these islands to remember
that our extraordinary Empire has no common enemy to weld it together
from without.

It is too usual to regard Germany as the common enemy. We in Great
Britain are now intensely jealous of Germany. We are intensely jealous
of Germany not only because the Germans outnumber us, and have a much
larger and more diversified country than ours, and lie in the very heart
and body of Europe, but because in the last hundred years, while we have
fed on platitudes and vanity, they have had the energy and humility to
develop a splendid system of national education, to toil at science and
art and literature, to develop social organisation, to master and better
our methods of business and industry, and to clamber above us in the
scale of civilisation. This has humiliated and irritated rather than
chastened us, and our irritation has been greatly exacerbated by the
swaggering bad manners, the talk of "Blood and Iron" and Mailed Fists,
the Welt-Politik rubbish that inaugurated the new German phase.

The British middle-class, therefore, is full of an angry, vague
disposition to thwart that expansion which Germans regard very
reasonably as their natural destiny; there are all the possibilities of
a huge conflict in that disposition, and it is perhaps well to remember
how insular--or, at least, how European--the essentials of this quarrel
are. We have lost our tempers, but Canada has not. There is nothing in
Germany to make Canada envious and ashamed of wasted years. Canada has
no natural quarrel with Germany, nor has India, nor South Africa, nor
Australasia. They have no reason to share our insular exasperation. On
the other hand, all these states have other special preoccupations. New
Zealand, for example, having spent half a century and more in
sheep-farming, land legislation, suppressing its drink traffic, lowering
its birth-rate, and, in short, the achievement of an ideal preventive
materialism, is chiefly consumed by hate and fear of Japan, which in the
same interval has made a stride from the thirteenth to the twentieth
century, and which teems with art and life and enterprise and offspring.
Now Japan in Welt-Politik is our ally.

You see, the British Empire has no common economic interests and no
natural common enemy. It is not adapted to any form of Zollverein or any
form of united aggression. Visibly, on the map of the world it has a
likeness to open hands, while the German Empire--except for a few
ill-advised and imitative colonies--is clenched into a central European

Physically, our Empire is incurably scattered, various, and divided, and
it is to quite other links and forces, it seems to me, than fiscal or
military unification that we who desire its continuance must look to
hold it together. There never was anything like it before. Essentially
it is an adventure of the British spirit, sanguine, discursive, and
beyond comparison insubordinate, adaptable, and originating. It has been
made by odd and irregular means by trading companies, pioneers,
explorers, unauthorised seamen, adventurers like Clive, eccentrics like
Gordon, invalids like Rhodes. It has been made, in spite of authority
and officialdom, as no other empire was ever made. The nominal rulers of
Britain never planned it. It happened almost in spite of them. Their
chief contribution to its history has been the loss of the United
States. It is a living thing that has arisen, not a dead thing put
together. Beneath the thin legal and administrative ties that hold it
together lies the far more vital bond of a traditional free spontaneous
activity. It has a common medium of expression in the English tongue, a
unity of liberal and tolerant purpose amidst its enormous variety of
localised life and colour. And it is in the development and
strengthening, the enrichment the rendering more conscious and more
purposeful, of that broad creative spirit of the British that the true
cement and continuance of our Empire is to be found.

The Empire must live by the forces that begot it. It cannot hope to give
any such exclusive prosperity as a Zollverein might afford; it can hold
out no hopes of collective conquests and triumphs--its utmost military
rôle must be the guaranteeing of a common inaggressive security; but it
can, if it is to survive, it must, give all its constituent parts such a
civilisation as none of them could achieve alone, a civilisation, a
wealth and fullness of life increasing and developing with the years.
Through that, and that alone, can it be made worth having and worth

And in the first place the whole Empire must use the English language.
I do not mean that any language must be stamped out, that a thousand
languages may not flourish by board and cradle and in folk-songs and
village gossip--Erse, the Taal, a hundred Indian and other Eastern
tongues, Canadian French--but I mean that also English must be
available, that everywhere there must be English teaching. And everyone
who wants to read science or history or philosophy, to come out of the
village life into wider thoughts and broader horizons, to gain
appreciation in art, must find ready to hand, easily attainable in
English, all there is to know and all that has been said thereon. It is
worth a hundred Dreadnoughts and a million soldiers to the Empire, that
wherever the imperial posts reach, wherever there is a curious or
receptive mind, there in English and by the imperial connection the full
thought of the race should come. To the lonely youth upon the New
Zealand sheep farm, to the young Hindu, to the trapper under a Labrador
tilt, to the half-breed assistant at a Burmese oil-well, to the
self-educating Scottish miner or the Egyptian clerk, the Empire and the
English language should exist, visibly and certainly, as the media by
which his spirit escapes from his immediate surroundings and all the
urgencies of every day, into a limitless fellowship of thought and

Now I am not writing this in any vague rhetorical way; I mean
specifically that our Empire has to become the medium of knowledge and
thought to every intelligent person in it, or that it is bound to go to
pieces. It has no economic, no military, no racial, no religious unity.
Its only conceivable unity is a unity of language and purpose and
outlook. If it is not held together by thought and spirit, it cannot be
held together. No other cement exists that can hold it together

Not only English literature, but all other literatures well translated
into English, and all science and all philosophy, have to be brought
within the reach of everyone capable of availing himself of such
reading. And this must be done, not by private enterprise or for gain,
but as an Imperial function. Wherever the Empire extends there its
presence must signify all that breadth of thought and outlook no
localised life can supply.

Only so is it possible to establish and maintain the wide
understandings, the common sympathy necessary to our continued
association. The Empire, mediately or immediately, must become the
universal educator, news-agent, book-distributor, civiliser-general, and
vehicle of imaginative inspiration for its peoples, or else it must
submit to the gravitation of its various parts to new and more
invigorating associations.

No empire, it may be urged, has ever attempted anything of this sort,
but no empire like the British has ever yet existed. Its conditions and
needs are unprecedented, its consolidation is a new problem, to be
solved, if it is solved at all, by untried means. And in the English
language as a vehicle of thought and civilisation alone is that means to
be found.

Now it is idle to pretend that at the present time the British Empire is
giving its constituent peoples any such high and rewarding civilisation
as I am here suggesting. It gives them a certain immunity from warfare,
a penny post, an occasional spectacular coronation, a few knighthoods
and peerages, and the services of an honest, unsympathetic,
narrow-minded, and unattractive officialism. No adequate effort is
being made to render the English language universal throughout its
limits, none at all to use it as a medium of thought and enlightenment.
Half the good things of the human mind are outside English altogether,
and there is not sufficient intelligence among us to desire to bring
them in. If one would read honest and able criticism, one must learn
French; if one would be abreast of scientific knowledge and
philosophical thought, or see many good plays or understand the
contemporary European mind, German.

And yet it would cost amazingly little to get every good foreign thing
done into English as it appeared. It needs only a little understanding
and a little organisation to ensure the immediate translation of every
significant article, every scientific paper of the slightest value. The
effort and arrangement needed to make books, facilities for research,
and all forms of art accessible throughout the Empire, would be
altogether trivial in proportion to the consolidation it would effect.

But English people do not understand these things. Their Empire is an
accident. It was made for them by their exceptional and outcast men, and
in the end it will be lost, I fear, by the intellectual inertness of
their commonplace and dull-minded leaders. Empire has happened to them
and civilisation has happened to them as fresh lettuces come to tame
rabbits. They do not understand how they got, and they will not
understand how to keep. Art, thought, literature, all indeed that raises
men above locality and habit, all that can justify and consolidate the
Empire, is nothing to them. They are provincials mocked by a world-wide
opportunity, the stupid legatees of a great generation of exiles. They
go out of town for the "shootin'," and come back for the fooleries of
Parliament, and to see what the Censor has left of our playwrights and
Sir Jesse Boot of our writers, and to dine in restaurants and wear

Mostly they call themselves Imperialists, which is just their harmless
way of expressing their satisfaction with things as they are. In
practice their Imperialism resolves itself into a vigorous resistance to
taxation and an ill-concealed hostility to education. It matters nothing
to them that the whole next generation of Canadians has drawn its ideas
mainly from American publications, that India and Egypt, in despite of
sounder mental nourishment, have developed their own vernacular Press,
that Australia and New Zealand even now gravitate to America for books
and thought. It matters nothing to them that the poverty and insularity
of our intellectual life has turned American art to France and Italy,
and the American universities towards Germany. The slow starvation and
decline of our philosophy and science, the decadence of British
invention and enterprise, troubles them not at all, because they fail to
connect these things with the tangible facts of empire. "The world
cannot wait for the English." ... And the sands of our Imperial
opportunity twirl through the neck of the hour-glass.


(_May, 1912_.)

Sec. 1

Our country is, I think, in a dangerous state of social disturbance. The
discontent of the labouring mass of the community is deep and
increasing. It may be that we are in the opening phase of a real and
irreparable class war.

Since the Coronation we have moved very rapidly indeed from an assurance
of extreme social stability towards the recognition of a spreading
disorganisation. It is idle to pretend any longer that these Labour
troubles are the mere give and take of economic adjustment. No
adjustment is in progress. New and strange urgencies are at work in our
midst, forces for which the word "revolutionary" is only too faithfully
appropriate. Nothing is being done to allay these forces; everything
conspires to exasperate them.

Whither are these forces taking us? What can still be done and what has
to be done to avoid the phase of social destruction to which we seem to
be drifting?

Hitherto, in Great Britain at any rate, the working man has shown
himself a being of the most limited and practical outlook. His
narrowness of imagination, his lack of general ideas, has been the
despair of the Socialist and of every sort of revolutionary theorist. He
may have struck before, but only for definite increments of wages or
definite limitations of toil; his acceptance of the industrial system
and its methods has been as complete and unquestioning as his acceptance
of earth and sky. Now, with an effect of suddenness, this ceases to be
the case. A new generation of workers is seen replacing the old, workers
of a quality unfamiliar to the middle-aged and elderly men who still
manage our great businesses and political affairs. The worker is
beginning now to strike for unprecedented ends--against the system,
against the fundamental conditions of labour, to strike for no defined
ends at all, perplexingly and disconcertingly. The old-fashioned strike
was a method of bargaining, clumsy and violent perhaps, but bargaining
still; the new-fashioned strike is far less of a haggle, far more of a
display of temper. The first thing that has to be realised if the Labour
question is to be understood at all is this, that the temper of Labour
has changed altogether in the last twenty or thirty years. Essentially
that is a change due to intelligence not merely increased but greatly
stimulated, to the work, that is, of the board schools and of the cheap
Press. The outlook of the workman has passed beyond the works and his
beer and his dog. He has become--or, rather, he has been replaced by--a
being of eyes, however imperfect, and of criticism, however hasty and
unjust. The working man of to-day reads, talks, has general ideas and a
sense of the round world; he is far nearer to the ruler of to-day in
knowledge and intellectual range than he is to the working man of fifty
years ago. The politician or business magnate of to-day is no better
educated and very little better informed than his equals were fifty
years ago. The chief difference is golf. The working man questions a
thousand things his father accepted as in the very nature of the world,
and among others he begins to ask with the utmost alertness and
persistence why it is that he in particular is expected to toil. The
answer, the only justifiable answer, should be that that is the work for
which he is fitted by his inferior capacity and culture, that these
others are a special and select sort, very specially trained and
prepared for their responsibilities, and that at once brings this new
fact of a working-class criticism of social values into play. The old
workman might and did quarrel very vigorously with his specific
employer, but he never set out to arraign all employers; he took the law
and the Church and Statecraft and politics for the higher and noble
things they claimed to be. He wanted an extra shilling or he wanted an
hour of leisure, and that was as much as he wanted. The young workman,
on the other hand, has put the whole social system upon its trial, and
seems quite disposed to give an adverse verdict. He looks far beyond the
older conflict of interests between employer and employed. He criticises
the good intentions of the whole system of governing and influential
people, and not only their good intentions, but their ability. These are
the new conditions, and the middle-aged and elderly gentlemen who are
dealing with the crisis on the supposition that their vast experience of
Labour questions in the 'seventies and 'eighties furnishes valuable
guidance in this present issue are merely bringing the gunpowder of
misapprehension to the revolutionary fort.

The workman of the new generation is full of distrust the most
demoralising of social influences. He is like a sailor who believes no
longer either in the good faith or seamanship of his captain, and,
between desperation and contempt, contemplates vaguely but persistently
the assumption of control by a collective forecastle. He is like a
private soldier obsessed with the idea that nothing can save the
situation but the death of an incompetent officer. His distrust is so
profound that he ceases not only to believe in the employer, but he
ceases to believe in the law, ceases to believe in Parliament, as a
means to that tolerable life he desires; and he falls back steadily upon
his last resource of a strike, and--if by repressive tactics we make it
so--a criminal strike. The central fact of all this present trouble is
that distrust. There is only one way in which our present drift towards
revolution or revolutionary disorder can be arrested, and that is by
restoring the confidence of these alienated millions, who visibly now
are changing from loyalty to the Crown, from a simple patriotism, from
habitual industry, to the more and more effective expression of a
deepening resentment.

This is a psychological question, a matter of mental states. Feats of
legal subtlety are inopportune, arithmetical exploits still more so. To
emerge with the sum of 4s. 6-1/2d. as a minimum, by calculating on the
basis of the mine's present earnings, from a conference which the miners
and everybody else imagined was to give a minimum of 5s., may be clever,
but it is certainly not politic in the present stage of Labour feeling.
To stamp violently upon obscure newspapers nobody had heard of before
and send a printer to prison, and to give thereby a flaming
advertisement to the possible use of soldiers in civil conflicts and set
every barrack-room talking, may be permissible, but it is certainly very
ill-advised. The distrust deepens.

The real task before a governing class that means to go on governing is
not just at present to get the better of an argument or the best of a
bargain, but to lay hold of the imaginations of this drifting, sullen
and suspicious multitude, which is the working body of the country. What
we prosperous people, who have nearly all the good things of life and
most of the opportunity, have to do now is to justify ourselves. We have
to show that we are indeed responsible and serviceable, willing to give
ourselves, and to give ourselves generously for what we have and what we
have had. We have to meet the challenge of this distrust.

The slack days for rulers and owners are over. If there are still to be
rulers and owners and managing and governing people, then in the face of
the new masses, sensitive, intelligent, critical, irritable, as no
common people have ever been before, these rulers and owners must be
prepared to make themselves and display themselves wise, capable and
heroic--beyond any aristocratic precedent. The alternative, if it is an
alternative, is resignation--to the Social Democracy.

And it is just because we are all beginning to realise the immense need
for this heroic quality in those who rule and are rich and powerful, as
the response and corrective to these distrusts and jealousies that are
threatening to disintegrate our social order, that we have all followed
the details of this great catastrophe in the Atlantic with such intense
solicitude. It was one of those accidents that happen with a precision
of time and circumstance that outdoes art; not an incident in it all
that was not supremely typical. It was the penetrating comment of chance
upon our entire social situation. Beneath a surface of magnificent
efficiency was--slap-dash. The third-class passengers had placed
themselves on board with an infinite confidence in the care that was to
be taken of them, and they went down, and most of their women and
children went down with the cry of those who find themselves cheated out
of life.

In the unfolding record of behaviour it is the stewardesses and bandsmen
and engineers--persons of the trade-union class--who shine as brightly
as any. And by the supreme artistry of Chance it fell to the lot of that
tragic and unhappy gentleman, Mr. Bruce Ismay, to be aboard and to be
caught by the urgent vacancy in the boat and the snare of the moment. No
untried man dare say that he would have behaved better in his place. He
escaped. He thought it natural to escape. His class thinks it was right
and proper that he did escape. It is not the man I would criticise, but
the manifest absence of any such sense of the supreme dignity of his
position as would have sustained him in that crisis. He was a rich man
and a ruling man, but in the test he was not a proud man. In the common
man's realisation that such is indeed the case with most of those who
dominate our world, lies the true cause and danger of our social
indiscipline. And the remedy in the first place lies not in social
legislation and so forth, but in the consciences of the wealthy. Heroism
and a generous devotion to the common good are the only effective answer
to distrust. If such dominating people cannot produce these qualities
there will have to be an end to them, and the world must turn to some
entirely different method of direction.

Sec. 2

The essential trouble in our growing Labour disorder is the profound
distrust which has grown up in the minds of the new generation of
workers of either the ability or the good faith of the property owning,
ruling and directing class. I do not attempt to judge the justice or not
of this distrust; I merely point to its existence as one of the striking
and essential factors in the contemporary Labour situation.

This distrust is not, perhaps, the proximate cause of the strikes that
now follow each other so disconcertingly, but it embitters their spirit,
it prevents their settlement, and leads to their renewal. I have tried
to suggest that, whatever immediate devices for pacification might be
employed, the only way to a better understanding and co-operation, the
only escape from a social slide towards the unknown possibilities of
Social Democracy, lies in an exaltation of the standard of achievement
and of the sense of responsibility in the possessing and governing
classes. It is not so much "Wake up, England!" that I would say as "Wake
up, gentlemen!"--for the new generation of the workers is beyond all
question quite alarmingly awake and critical and angry. And they have
not merely to wake up, they have to wake up visibly and ostentatiously
if those old class reliances on which our system is based are to be
preserved and restored.

We need before anything else a restoration of class confidence. It is a
time when class should speak with class very frankly.

There is too much facile misrepresentation, too ready a disposition on
either side to accept caricatures as portraits and charges as facts.
However tacit our understandings were in the past, with this new kind of
Labour, this young, restive Labour of the twentieth century, which can
read, discuss and combine, we need something in the nature of a social
contract. And it is when one comes to consider by what possible means
these suspicious third-class passengers in our leaking and imperilled
social liner can be brought into generous co-operation with the second
and the first that one discovers just how lamentably out of date and out
of order our political institutions, which should supply the means for
just this inter-class discussion, have become. Between the busy and
preoccupied owning and employing class on the one hand, and the
distressed, uneasy masses on the other, intervenes the professional
politician, not as a mediator, but as an obstacle, who must be
propitiated before any dealings are possible. Our national politics no
longer express the realities of the national life; they are a mere
impediment in the speech of the community. With our whole social order
in danger, our Legislature is busy over the trivial little affairs of
the Welsh Established Church, whose endowment probably is not equal to
the fortune of any one of half a dozen _Titanic_ passengers or a tithe
of the probable loss of another strike among the miners. We have a
Legislature almost antiquarian, compiling a museum of Gladstonian
legacies rather than governing our world to-day.

Law is the basis of civilisation, but the lawyer is the law's
consequence, and, with us at least, the legal profession is the
political profession. It delights in false issues and merely technical
politics. Steadily with the ascendancy of the House of Commons the
barristers have ousted other types of men from political power. The
decline of the House of Lords has been the last triumph of the House of
Lawyers, and we are governed now to a large extent not so much by the
people for the people as by the barristers for the barristers. They set
the tone of political life. And since they are the most specialised, the
most specifically trained of all the professions, since their training
is absolutely antagonistic to the creative impulses of the constructive
artist and the controlled experiments of the scientific man, since the
business is with evidence and advantages and the skilful use of evidence
and advantages, and not with understanding, they are the least
statesmanlike of all educated men, and they give our public life a tone
as hopelessly discordant with our very great and urgent social needs as
one could well imagine. They do not want to deal at all with great and
urgent social needs. They play a game, a long and interesting game, with
parties as sides, a game that rewards the industrious player with
prominence, place, power and great rewards, and the less that game
involves the passionate interests of other men, the less it draws them
into participation and angry interference, the better for the steady
development of the politician's career. A distinguished and active
fruitlessness, leaving the world at last as he found it, is the
political barrister's ideal career. To achieve that, he must maintain
legal and political monopolies, and prevent the invasion of political
life by living interests. And so far as he has any views about Labour
beyond the margin of his brief, the barrister politician seems to regard
getting men back to work on any terms and as soon as possible as the
highest good.

And it is with such men that our insurgent modern Labour, with its
vaguely apprehended wants, its large occasions and its rapid emotional
reactions, comes into contact directly it attempts to adjust itself in
the social body. It is one of the main factors in the progressive
embitterment of the Labour situation that whatever business is
afoot--arbitration, conciliation, inquiry--our contemporary system
presents itself to Labour almost invariably in a legal guise. The
natural infirmities of humanity rebel against an unimaginative legality
of attitude, and the common workaday man has no more love for this great
and necessary profession to-day than he had in the time of Jack Cade.
Little reasonable things from the lawyers' point of view--the rejection,
for example, of certain evidence in the _Titanic_ inquiry because it
might amount to a charge of manslaughter, the constant interruption and
checking of a Labour representative at the same tribunal upon trivial
points--irritate quite disproportionately.

Lawyer and working man are antipathetic types, and it is a very grave
national misfortune that at this time, when our situation calls aloud
for statecraft and a certain greatness of treatment, our public life
should be dominated as it has never been dominated before by this most
able and illiberal profession.

Now for that great multitude of prosperous people who find themselves at
once deeply concerned in our present social and economic crisis, and
either helplessly entangled in party organisation or helplessly outside
politics, the elimination and cure of this disease of statecraft, the
professional politician, has become a very urgent matter. To destroy
him, to get him back to his law courts and keep him there, it is
necessary to destroy the machinery of the party system that sustains
him, and to adopt some electoral method that will no longer put the
independent representative man at a hopeless disadvantage against the
party nominee. Such a method is to be found in proportional
representation with large constituencies, and to that we must look for
our ultimate liberation from our present masters, these politician
barristers. But the Labour situation cannot wait for this millennial
release, and for the current issue it seems to me patent that every
reasonable prosperous man will, even at the cost to himself of some
trouble and hard thinking, do his best to keep as much of this great and
acute controversy as he possibly can out of the lawyer's and mere
politician's hands and in his own. Leave Labour to the lawyers, and we
shall go very deeply into trouble indeed before this business is over.
They will score their points, they will achieve remarkable agreements
full of the possibility of subsequent surprises, they will make
reputations, and do everything Heaven and their professional training
have made them to do, and they will exasperate and exasperate!

Lawyers made the first French Revolution, and now, on a different side,
they may yet bring about an English one. These men below there are
still, as a class, wonderfully patient and reasonable, quite prepared to
take orders and recognise superior knowledge, wisdom and nobility. They
make the most reasonable claims for a tolerable life, for certain
assurances and certain latitudes. Implicit rather than expressed is
their demand for wisdom and right direction from those to whom the great
surplus and freedom of civilisation are given. It is an entirely
reasonable demand if man is indeed a social animal. But we have got to
treat them fairly and openly. This patience and reasonableness and
willingness for leadership is not limitless. It is no good scoring our
mean little points, for example, and accusing them of breach of contract
and all sorts of theoretical wrongs because they won't abide by
agreements to accept a certain scale of wages when the purchasing power
of money has declined. When they made that agreement they did not think
of that possibility. When they said a pound they thought of what was
then a poundsworth of living. The Mint has since been increasing its
annual output of gold coins to two or three times the former amount, and
we have, as it were, debased the coinage with extraordinary quantities
of gold. But we who know and own did nothing to adjust that; we did not
tell the working man of that; we have let him find it out slowly and
indirectly at the grocer's shop. That may be permissible from the
lawyer's point of view, but it certainly isn't from the gentleman's, and
it is only by the plea that its inequalities give society a gentleman
that our present social system can claim to endure.

I would like to accentuate that, because if we are to emerge again from
these acute social dissensions a reunited and powerful people, there has
to be a change of tone, a new generosity on the part of those who deal
with Labour speeches, Labour literature, Labour representatives, and
Labour claims. Labour is necessarily at an enormous disadvantage in
discussion; in spite of a tremendous inferiority in training and
education it is trying to tell the community its conception of its needs
and purposes. It is not only young as a participator in the discussion
of affairs; it is actually young. The average working man is not half
the age of the ripe politicians and judges and lawyers and wealthy
organisers who trip him up legally, accuse him of bad faith, mark his
every inconsistency. It isn't becoming so to use our forensic
advantages. It isn't--if that has no appeal to you--wise.

The thing our society has most to fear from Labour is not organised
resistance, not victorious strikes and raised conditions, but the black
resentment that follows defeat. Meet Labour half-way, and you will find
a new co-operation in government; stick to your legal rights, draw the
net of repressive legislation tighter, then you will presently have to
deal with Labour enraged. If the anger burns free, that means
revolution; if you crush out the hope of that, then sabotage and a
sullen general sympathy for anarchistic crime.

Sec. 3

In the preceding pages I have discussed certain aspects of the present
Labour situation. I have tried to show the profound significance in this
discussion of the distrust which has grown up in the minds of the
workers, and how this distrust is being exacerbated by our entirely too
forensic method of treating their claims. I want now to point out a
still more powerful set of influences which is steadily turning our
Labour struggles from mere attempts to adjust hours and wages into
movements that are gravely and deliberately revolutionary.

This is the obvious devotion of a large and growing proportion of the
time and energy of the owning and ruling classes to pleasure and
excitement, and the way in which this spectacle of amusement and
adventure is now being brought before the eyes and into the imagination
of the working man.

The intimate psychology of work is a thing altogether too little
considered and discussed. One asks: "What keeps a workman working
properly at his work?" and it seems a sufficient answer to say that it
is the need of getting a living. But that is not the complete answer.
Work must to some extent interest; if it bores, no power on earth will
keep a man doing it properly. And the tendency of modern industrialism
has been to subdivide processes and make work more boring and irksome.
Also the workman must be satisfied with the living he is getting, and
the tendency of newspaper, theatre, cinematograph show and so forth is
to fill his mind with ideas of ways of living infinitely more agreeable
and interesting than his own. Habit also counts very largely in the
regular return of the man to his job, and the fluctuations of
employment, the failure of the employing class to provide any
alternative to idleness during slack time, break that habit of industry.
And then, last but not least, there is self-respect. Men and women are
capable of wonders of self-discipline and effort if they feel that
theirs is a meritorious service, if they imagine the thing they are
doing is the thing they ought to do. A miner will cut coal in a
different spirit and with a fading zest if he knows his day's output is
to be burnt to waste secretly by a lunatic. Man is a social animal; few
men are naturally social rebels, and most will toil very cheerfully in
subordination if they feel that the collective end is a fine thing and a
great thing.

Now, this force of self-respect is much more acutely present in the mind
of the modern worker than it was in the thought of his fathers. He is
intellectually more active than his predecessors, his imagination is
relatively stimulated, he asks wide questions. The worker of a former
generation took himself for granted; it is a new phase when the toilers
begin to ask, not one man here or there, but in masses, in battalions,
in trades: "Why, then, are _we_ toilers, and for what is it that we

What answer do we give them?

I ask the reader to put himself in the place of a good workman, a young,
capable miner, let us say, in search of an answer to that question. He
is, we will suppose, temporarily unemployed through the production of a
glut of coal, and he goes about the world trying to see the fine and
noble collective achievements that justify the devotion of his whole
life to humble toil. I ask the reader: What have we got to show that
man? What are we doing up in the light and air that justifies our demand
that he should go on hewing in narrow seams and cramped corners until he
can hew no more? Where is he to be taken to see these crowning fruits of
our release from toil? Shall we take him to the House of Commons to note
which of the barristers is making most headway over Welsh
Disestablishment, or shall we take him to the _Titanic_ inquiry to hear
the latest about those fifty-five third-class children (out of
eighty-three) who were drowned? Shall we give him an hour or so among
the portraits at the Royal Academy, or shall we make an enthusiastic
tour of London sculpture and architecture and saturate his soul with the
beauty he makes possible? The new Automobile Club, for example. "Without
you and your subordination we could not have had that." Or suppose we
took him the round of the West-End clubs and restaurants and made him
estimate how many dinners London can produce at a pinch at the price of
his local daily minimum, say, and upward; or borrow an aeroplane at
Hendon and soar about counting all the golfers in the Home Counties on
any week-day afternoon. "You suffer at the roots of things, far below
there, but see all this nobility and splendour, these sweet, bright
flowers to which your rootlet life contributes." Or we might spend a
pleasant morning trying to get a passable woman's hat for the price of
his average weekly wages in some West-End shop....

But indeed this thing is actually happening. The older type of miner was
illiterate, incurious; he read nothing, lived his own life, and if he
had any intellectual and spiritual urgencies in him beyond eating and
drinking and dog-fighting, the local little Bethel shunted them away
from any effective social criticism. The new generation of miners is on
an altogether different basis. It is at once less brutal and less
spiritual; it is alert, informed, sceptical, and the Press, with
photographic illustrations, the cinema, and a score of collateral
forces, are giving it precisely that spectacular view of luxury,
amusement, aimlessness and excitement, taunting it with just that
suggestion that it is for that, and that alone, that the worker's back
aches and his muscles strain. Whatever gravity and spaciousness of aim
there may be in our prosperous social life does not appear to him. He
sees, and he sees all the more brightly because he is looking at it out
of toil and darkness, the glitter, the delight for delight's sake, the
show and the pride and the folly. Cannot you understand how it is that
these young men down there in the hot and dangerous and toilsome and
inglorious places of life are beginning to cry out, "We are being made
fools of," and to fling down their tools, and cannot you see how futile
it is to dream that Mr. Asquith or some other politician by some trick
of a Conciliation Act or some claptrap of Compulsory Arbitration, or
that any belated suppression of discussion and strike organisations by
the law, will avert this gathering storm? The Spectacle of Pleasure, the
parade of clothes, estates, motor-cars, luxury and vanity in the sight
of the workers is the culminating irritant of Labour. So long as that
goes on, this sombre resolve to which we are all awakening, this sombre
resolve rather to wreck the whole fabric than to continue patiently at
work, will gather strength. It does not matter that such a resolve is
hopeless and unseasonable; we are dealing here with the profounder
impulses that underlie reason. Crush this resentment; it will recur with
accumulated strength.

It does not matter that there is no plan in existence for any kind of
social order that could be set up in the place of our present system; no
plan, that is, that will endure half an hour's practical criticism. The
cardinal fact before us is that the workers do not intend to stand
things as they are, and that no clever arguments, no expert handling of
legal points, no ingenious appearances of concession, will stay that
progressive embitterment.

But I think I have said enough to express and perhaps convey my
conviction that our present Labour troubles are unprecedented, and that
they mean the end of an epoch. The supply of good-tempered, cheap
labour--upon which the fabric of our contemporary ease and comfort is
erected--is giving out. The spread of information and the means of
presentation in every class and the increase of luxury and
self-indulgence in the prosperous classes are the chief cause of that.
In the place of that old convenient labour comes a new sort of labour,
reluctant, resentful, critical, and suspicious. The replacement has
already gone so far that I am certain that attempts to baffle and coerce
the workers back to their old conditions must inevitably lead to a
series of increasingly destructive outbreaks, to stresses and disorder
culminating in revolution. It is useless to dream of going on now for
much longer upon the old lines; our civilisation, if it is not to enter
upon a phase of conflict and decay, must begin to adapt itself to the
new conditions of which the first and foremost is that the wages-earning
labouring class as a distinctive class, consenting to a distinctive
treatment and accepting life at a disadvantage is going to disappear.
Whether we do it soon as the result of our reflections upon the present
situation, or whether we do it presently through the impoverishment that
must necessarily result from a lengthening period of industrial unrest,
there can be little doubt that we are going to curtail very considerably
the current extravagance of the spending and directing classes upon
food, clothing, display, and all the luxuries of life. The phase of
affluence is over. And unless we are to be the mere passive spectators
of an unprecedented reduction of our lives, all of us who have leisure
and opportunity have to set ourselves very strenuously to the problem
not of reconciling ourselves to the wage-earners, for that possibility
is over, but of establishing a new method of co-operation with those who
seem to be definitely decided not to remain wage-earners for very much
longer. We have, as sensible people, to realise that the old arrangement
which has given us of the fortunate minority so much leisure, luxury,
and abundance, advantages we have as a class put to so vulgar and
unprofitable a use, is breaking down, and that we have to discover a
new, more equable way of getting the world's work done.

Certain things stand out pretty obviously. It is clear that in the times
ahead of us there must be more economy in giving trouble and causing
work, a greater willingness to do work for ourselves, a great economy of
labour through machinery and skilful management. So much is unavoidable
if we are to meet these enlarged requirements upon which the insurgent
worker insists. If we, who have at least some experience of affairs, who
own property, manage businesses, and discuss and influence public
organisation, if we are not prepared to undertake this work of
discipline and adaptation for ourselves, then a time is not far distant
when insurrectionary leaders, calling themselves Socialists or
Syndicalists, or what not, men with none of our experience, little of
our knowledge, and far less hope of success, will take that task out of
our hands.[1]

[Footnote 1: Larkinism comes to endorse me since this was written.]

We have, in fact, to "pull ourselves together," as the phrase goes, and
make an end to all this slack, extravagant living, this spectacle of
pleasure, that has been spreading and intensifying in every civilised
community for the last three or four decades. What is happening to
Labour is indeed, from one point of view, little else than the
correlative of what has been happening to the more prosperous classes in
the community. They have lost their self-discipline, their gravity,
their sense of high aims, they have become the victims of their
advantages and Labour, grown observant and intelligent, has discovered
itself and declares itself no longer subordinate. Just what powers of
recovery and reconstruction our system may have under these
circumstances the decades immediately before us will show.

Sec. 4

Let us try to anticipate some of the social developments that are likely
to spring out of the present Labour situation.

It is quite conceivable, of course, that what lies before us is not
development but disorder. Given sufficient suspicion on one side and
sufficient obstinacy and trickery on the other, it may be impossible to
restore social peace in any form, and industrialism may degenerate into
a wasteful and incurable conflict. But that distressful possibility is
the worst and perhaps the least probable of many. It is much more
acceptable to suppose that our social order will be able to adjust
itself to the new outlook and temper and quality of the labour stratum
that elementary education, a Press very cheap and free, and a period of
great general affluence have brought about.

One almost inevitable feature of any such adaptation will be a changed
spirit in the general body of society. We have come to a serious
condition of our affairs, and we shall not get them into order again
without a thorough bracing-up of ourselves in the process. There can be
no doubt that for a large portion of our comfortable classes existence
has been altogether too easy for the last lifetime or so. The great bulk
of the world's work has been done out of their sight and knowledge; it
has seemed unnecessary to trouble much about the general conduct of
things, unnecessary, as they say, to "take life too seriously." This has
not made them so much vicious as slack, lazy, and over-confident; there
has been an elaboration of trivial things and a neglect of troublesome
and important things. The one grave shock of the Boer War has long been
explained and sentimentalised away. But it will not be so easy to
explain away a dislocated train service and an empty coal cellar as it
was to get a favourable interpretation upon some demonstration of
national incompetence half the world away.

It is indeed no disaster, but a matter for sincere congratulation that
the British prosperous and the British successful, to whom warning after
warning has rained in vain from the days of Ruskin, Carlyle, Matthew
Arnold, should be called to account at last in their own household. They
will grumble, they will be very angry, but in the end, I believe, they
will rise to the opportunities of their inconvenience. They will shake
off their intellectual lassitude, take over again the public and private
affairs they have come to leave so largely in the hands of the political
barrister and the family solicitor, become keen and critical and
constructive, bring themselves up to date again.

That is not, of course, inevitable, but I am taking now the more hopeful

And then? What sort of working arrangements are our renascent owning and
directing classes likely to make with the new labouring class? How is
the work going to be done in the harder, cleaner, more equalised, and
better managed State that, in one's hopeful mood, one sees ahead of us?

Now after the experiences of the past twelve months it is obvious that
the days when most of the directed and inferior work of the community
will be done by intermittently employed and impecunious wage-earners is
drawing to an end. A large part of the task of reconstruction ahead of
us will consist in the working out of schemes for a more permanent type
of employment and for a direct participation of the worker in the pride,
profits, and direction of the work. Such schemes admit of wide
variations between a mere bonus system, a periodic tipping of the
employees to prevent their striking and a real and honest co-partnery.

In the latter case a great enterprise, forced to consider its "hands" as
being also in their degree "heads," would include a department of
technical and business instruction for its own people. From such ideas
one passes very readily to the conception of guild-managed businesses in
which the factor of capital would no longer stand out as an element
distinct from and contrasted with the proprietorship of the workers. One
sees the worker as an active and intelligent helper during the great
portion of his participation, and as an annuitant and perhaps, if he has
devised economies and improvements, a receiver of royalties during his
declining years.

And concurrently with the systematic reconstruction of a large portion
of our industries upon these lines there will have to be a vigorous
development of the attempts that are already being made, in garden
cities, garden suburbs, and the like, to re-house the mass of our
population in a more civilised and more agreeable manner. Probably that
is not going to pay from the point of view of the money-making business
man, but we prosperous people have to understand that there are things
more important and more profitable than money-making, and we have to tax
ourselves not merely in money, but in time, care, and effort in the
matter. Half the money that goes out of England to Switzerland and the
Riviera ought to go to the extremely amusing business of clearing up
ugly corners and building jolly and convenient workmen's cottages--even
if we do it at a loss. It is part of our discharge for the leisure and
advantages the system has given us, part of that just give and take,
over and above the solicitor's and bargain-hunter's and money-lender's
conception of justice, upon which social order ultimately rests. We have
to do it not in a mood of patronage, but in a mood of attentive
solicitude. If not on high grounds, then on low grounds our class has to
set to work and make those other classes more interested and comfortable
and contented. It is what we are for. It is quite impossible for workmen
and poor people generally to plan estates and arrange their own homes;
they are entirely at the mercy of the wealthy in this matter. There is
not a slum, not a hovel, not an eyesore upon the English landscape for
which some well-off owner is not ultimately to be blamed or excused, and
the less we leave of such things about the better for us in that day of
reckoning between class and class which now draws so near.

It is as plain now as the way from Calais to Paris that if the owning
class does not attend to these amenities the mass of the people, doing
its best to manage the thing through the politicians, presently will.
They may make a frightful mess of it, but that will never bring back
things again into the hands that hold them and neglect them. Their time
will have passed for ever.

But these are the mere opening requirements of this hope of mine of a
quickened social consciousness among the more fortunate and leisurely
section of the community I believe that much profounder changes in the
conditions of labour are possible than those I have suggested I am
beginning to suspect that scarcely any of our preconceptions about the
way work must be done, about the hours of work and the habits of work,
will stand an exhaustive scientific analysis. It is at least conceivable
that we could get much of the work that has to be done to keep our
community going in far more toil-saving and life-saving ways than we
follow at the present time. So far scientific men have done scarcely
anything to estimate under what conditions a man works best, does most
work, works more happily. Suppose it turns out to be the case that a man
always following one occupation throughout his lifetime, working
regularly day after day for so many hours, as most wage-earners do at
the present time, does not do nearly so much or nearly so well as he
would do if he followed first one occupation and then another, or if he
worked as hard as he possibly could for a definite period and then took
holiday? I suspect very strongly, indeed I am convinced, that in certain
occupations, teaching, for example, or surgery, a man begins by working
clumsily and awkwardly, that his interest and skill rise rapidly, that
if he is really well suited in his profession he may presently become
intensely interested and capable of enormous quantities of his very best
work, and that then his interest and vigour rapidly decline I am
disposed to believe that this is true of most occupations, of
coal-mining or engineering, or brick-laying or cotton-spinning. The
thing has never been properly thought about. Our civilisation has grown
up in a haphazard kind of way, and it has been convenient to specialise
workers and employ them piecemeal. But if it is true that in respect of
any occupation a man has his period of maximum efficiency, then we open
up a whole world of new social possibilities. What we really want from a
man for our social welfare in that case is not regular continuing work,
but a few strenuous years of high-pressure service. We can as a
community afford to keep him longer at education and training before he
begins, and we can release him with a pension while he is still full of
life and the capacity for enjoying freedom. But obviously this is
impossible upon any basis of weekly wages and intermittent employment;
we must be handling affairs in some much more comprehensive way than
that before we can take and deal with the working life of a man as one
complete whole.

That is one possibility that is frequently in my thoughts about the
present labour crisis. There is another, and that is the great
desirability of every class in the community having a practical
knowledge of what labour means. There is a vast amount of work which
either is now or is likely to be in the future within the domain of the
public administration--road-making, mining, railway work, post-office
and telephone work, medical work, nursing, a considerable amount of
building for example. Why should we employ people to do the bulk of
these things at all? Why should we not as a community do them ourselves?
Why, in other words, should we not have a labour conscription and take a
year or so of service from everyone in the community, high or low? I
believe this would be of enormous moral benefit to our strained and
relaxed community. I believe that in making labour a part of everyone's
life and the whole of nobody's life lies the ultimate solution of these
industrial difficulties.

Sec. 5

It is almost a national boast that we "muddle through" our troubles, and
I suppose it is true and to our credit that by virtue of a certain
kindliness of temper, a humorous willingness to make the best of things,
and an entirely amiable forgetfulness, we do come out of pressures and
extremities that would smash a harder, more brittle people only a little
chipped and damaged. And it is quite conceivable that our country will,
in a measure, survive the enormous stresses of labour adjustment that
are now upon us, even if it never rises to any heroic struggle against
these difficulties. But it may survive as a lesser country, as an
impoverished and second-rate country. It will certainly do no more than
that, if in any part of the world there is to be found a people capable
of taking up this gigantic question in a greater spirit. Perhaps there
is no such people, and the conflicts and muddles before us will be
world-wide. Or suppose that it falls to our country in some strange way
to develop a new courage and enterprise, and to be the first to go
forward into this new phase of civilisation I foresee, from which a
distinctive labouring class, a class that is of expropriated
wage-earners, will have almost completely disappeared.

Now hitherto the utmost that any State, overtaken by social and economic
stresses, has ever achieved in the way of adapting itself to them has
been no more than patching.

Individuals and groups and trades have found themselves in imperfectly
apprehended and difficult times, and have reluctantly altered their ways
and ideas piecemeal under pressure. Sometimes they have succeeded in
rubbing along upon the new lines, and sometimes the struggle has
submerged them, but no community has ever yet had the will and the
imagination to recast and radically alter its social methods as a whole.
The idea of such a reconstruction has never been absent from human
thought since the days of Plato, and it has been enormously reinforced
by the spreading material successes of modern science, successes due
always to the substitution of analysis and reasoned planning for trial
and the rule of thumb. But it has never yet been so believed in and
understood as to render any real endeavour to reconstruct possible. The
experiment has always been altogether too gigantic for the available
faith behind it, and there have been against it the fear of presumption,
the interests of all advantaged people, and the natural sloth of
humanity. We do but emerge now from a period of deliberate
happy-go-lucky and the influence of Herbert Spencer, who came near
raising public shiftlessness to the dignity of a national philosophy.
Everything would adjust itself--if only it was left alone.

Yet some things there are that cannot be done by small adjustments, such
as leaping chasms or killing an ox or escaping from the roof of a
burning house. You have to decide upon a certain course on such
occasions and maintain a continuous movement. If you wait on the burning
house until you scorch and then turn round a bit or move away a yard or
so, or if on the verge of a chasm you move a little in the way in which
you wish to go, disaster will punish your moderation. And it seems to
me that the establishment of the world's work upon a new basis--and that
and no less is what this Labour Unrest demands for its pacification--is
just one of those large alterations which will never be made by the
collectively unconscious activities of men, by competitions and survival
and the higgling of the market. Humanity is rebelling against the
continuing existence of a labour class as such, and I can see no way by
which our present method of weekly wages employment can change by
imperceptible increments into a method of salary and pension--for it is
quite evident that only by reaching that shall we reach the end of these
present discontents. The change has to be made on a comprehensive scale
or not at all. We need nothing less than a national plan of social
development if the thing is to be achieved.

Now that, I admit, is, as the Americans say, a large proposition. But we
are living in a time of more and more comprehensive plans, and the mere
fact that no scheme so extensive has ever been tried before is no reason
at all why we should not consider one. We think nowadays quite serenely
of schemes for the treatment of the nation's health as one whole, where
our fathers considered illness as a blend of accident with special
providences; we have systematised the community's water supply,
education, and all sorts of once chaotic services, and Germany and our
own infinite higgledy-piggledy discomfort and ugliness have brought home
to us at last even the possibility of planning the extension of our
towns and cities. It is only another step upward in scale to plan out
new, more tolerable conditions of employment for every sort of worker
and to organise the transition from our present disorder.

The essential difficulty between the employer and the statesman in the
consideration of this problem is the difference in the scope of their
view. The employer's concern with the man who does his work is day-long
or week-long; the statesman's is life-long. The conditions of private
enterprise and modern competition oblige the employer to think only of
the worker as a hand, who appears and does his work and draws his wages
and vanishes again. Only such strikes as we have had during the past
year will rouse him from that attitude of mind. The statesman at the
other extremity has to consider the worker as a being with a beginning,
a middle, an end--and offspring. He can consider all these possibilities
of deferring employment and making the toil of one period of life
provide for the leisure and freedom of another, which are necessarily
entirely out of the purview of an employer pure and simple. And I find
it hard to see how we can reconcile the intermittency of competitive
employment with the unremitting demands of a civilised life except by
the intervention of the State or of some public organisation capable of
taking very wide views between the business organiser on the one hand
and the subordinate worker on the other. On the one hand we need some
broader handling of business than is possible in the private adventure
of the solitary proprietor or the single company, and on the other some
more completely organised development of the collective bargain. We have
to bring the directive intelligence of a concern into an organic
relation with the conception of the national output as a whole, and
either through a trade union or a guild, or some expansion of a trade
union, we have to arrange a secure, continuous income for the worker, to
be received not directly as wages from an employer but intermediately
through the organisation. We need a census of our national production, a
more exhaustive estimate of our resources, and an entirely more
scientific knowledge of the conditions of maximum labour efficiency. One
turns to the State.... And it is at this point that the heart of the
patriotic Englishman sinks, because it is our national misfortune that
all the accidents of public life have conspired to retard the
development of just that body of knowledge, just that scientific breadth
of imagination which is becoming a vital necessity for the welfare of a
modern civilised community.

We are caught short of scientific men just as in the event of a war with
Germany we shall almost certainly be caught short of scientific sailors
and soldiers. You cannot make that sort of thing to order in a crisis.
Scientific education--and more particularly the scientific education of
our owning and responsible classes--has been crippled by the bitter
jealousy of the classical teachers who dominate our universities, by the
fear and hatred of the Established Church, which still so largely
controls our upper-class schools, and by the entire lack of
understanding and support on the part of those able barristers and
financiers who rule our political life. Science has been left more and
more to men of modest origin and narrow outlook, and now we are
beginning to pay in internal dissensions, and presently we may have to
pay in national humiliation for this almost organised rejection of
stimulus and power.

But however thwarted and crippled our public imagination may be, we have
still got to do the best we can with this situation; we have to take as
comprehensive views as we can, and to attempt as comprehensive a method
of handling as our party-ridden State permits. In theory I am a
Socialist, and were I theorising about some nation in the air I would
say that all the great productive activities and all the means of
communication should be national concerns and be run as national
services. But our State is peculiarly incapable of such functions; at
the present time it cannot even produce a postage stamp that will stick;
and the type of official it would probably evolve for industrial
organisation, slowly but unsurely, would be a maddening combination of
the district visitor and the boy clerk. It is to the independent people
of some leisure and resource in the community that one has at last to
appeal for such large efforts and understandings as our present
situation demands. In the default of our public services, there opens an
immense opportunity for voluntary effort. Deference to our official
leaders is absurd; it is a time when men must, as the phrase goes, "come

We want a National Plan for our social and economic development which
everyone may understand and which will serve as a unifying basis for all
our social and political activities. Such a plan is not to be flung out
hastily by an irresponsible writer. It can only come into existence as
the outcome of a wide movement of inquiry and discussion. My business in
these pages has been not prescription but diagnosis. I hold it to be the
clear duty of every intelligent person in the country to do his utmost
to learn about these questions of economic and social organisation and
to work them out to conclusions and a purpose. We have come to a phase
in our affairs when the only alternative to a great, deliberate
renascence of will and understanding is national disorder and decay.

Sec. 6

I have attempted a diagnosis of this aspect of our national situation. I
have pointed out that nearly all the social forces of our time seem to
be in conspiracy to bring about the disappearance of a labour class as
such and the rearrangement of our work and industry upon a new basis.
That rearrangement demands an unprecedented national effort and the
production of an adequate National Plan. Failing that, we seem doomed to
a period of chronic social conflict and possibly even of frankly
revolutionary outbreaks that may destroy us altogether or leave us only
a dwarfed and enfeebled nation....

And before we can develop that National Plan and the effective
realisation of such a plan that is needed to save us from that fate, two
things stand immediately before us to be done, unavoidable preliminaries
to that more comprehensive work. The first of these is the restoration
of representative government, and the second a renascence of our public
thought about political and social things.

As I have already suggested, a main factor in our present national
inability to deal with this profound and increasing social disturbance
is the entirely unrepresentative and unbusinesslike nature of our
parliamentary government.

It is to a quite extraordinary extent a thing apart from our national
life. It becomes more and more so. To go into the House of Commons is to
go aside out of the general stream of the community's vitality into a
corner where little is learnt and much is concocted, into a specialised
Assembly which is at once inattentive to and monstrously influential in
our affairs. There was a period when the debates in the House of Commons
were an integral, almost a dominant, part of our national thought, when
its speeches were read over in tens of thousands of homes, and a large
and sympathetic public followed the details of every contested issue.
Now a newspaper that dared to fill its columns mainly with parliamentary
debates, with a full report of the trivialities the academic points, the
little familiar jokes, and entirely insincere pleadings which occupy
that gathering would court bankruptcy.

This diminishing actuality of our political life is a matter of almost
universal comment to-day. But it is extraordinary how much of that
comment is made in a tone of hopeless dissatisfaction, how rarely it is
associated with any will to change a state of affairs that so largely
stultifies our national purpose. And yet the causes of our present
political ineptitude are fairly manifest, and a radical and effective
reconstruction is well within the wit of man.

All causes and all effects in our complex modern State are complex, but
in this particular matter there can be little doubt that the key to the
difficulty lies in the crudity and simplicity of our method of election,
a method which reduces our apparent free choice of rulers to a
ridiculous selection between undesirable alternatives, and hands our
whole public life over to the specialised manipulator. Our House of
Commons could scarcely misrepresent us more if it was appointed
haphazard by the Lord Chamberlain or selected by lot from among the
inhabitants of Netting Hill. Election of representatives in one-member
local constituencies by a single vote gives a citizen practically no
choice beyond the candidates appointed by the two great party
organisations in the State. It is an electoral system that forbids
absolutely any vote splitting or any indication of shades of opinion.
The presence of more than two candidates introduces an altogether
unmanageable complication, and the voter is at once reduced to voting
not to secure the return of the perhaps less hopeful candidate he likes,
but to ensure the rejection of the candidate he most dislikes. So the
nimble wire-puller slips in. In Great Britain we do not have Elections
any more; we have Rejections. What really happens at a general election
is that the party organisations--obscure and secretive conclaves with
entirely mysterious funds--appoint about 1,200 men to be our rulers, and
all that we, we so-called self-governing people, are permitted to do is,
in a muddled, angry way, to strike off the names of about half of these
selected gentlemen.

Take almost any member of the present Government and consider his case.
You may credit him with a lifelong industrious intention to get there,
but ask yourself what is this man's distinction, and for what great
thing in our national life does he stand? By the complaisance of our
party machinery he was able to present himself to a perplexed
constituency as the only possible alternative to Conservatism and Tariff
Reform, and so we have him. And so we have most of his colleagues.

Now such a system of representation is surely a system to be destroyed
at any cost, because it stifles our national discussion and thwarts our
national will. And we can leave no possible method of alteration
untried. It is not rational that a great people should be baffled by the
mere mechanical degeneration of an electoral method too crudely
conceived. There exist alternatives, and to these alternatives we must
resort. Since John Stuart Mill first called attention to the importance
of the matter there has been a systematic study of the possible working
of electoral methods, and it is now fairly proved that in proportional
representation, with large constituencies returning each many members,
there is to be found a way of escape from this disastrous embarrassment
of our public business by the party wire-puller and the party nominee.

I will not dwell upon the particulars of the proportional representation
system here. There exists an active society which has organised the
education of the public in the details of the proposal. Suffice it that
it does give a method by which a voter may vote with confidence for the
particular man he prefers, with no fear whatever that his vote will be
wasted in the event of that man's chance being hopeless. There is a
method by which the order of the voter's subsequent preference is
effectively indicated. That is all, but see how completely it modifies
the nature of an election. Instead of a hampered choice between two, you
have a free choice between many. Such a change means a complete
alteration in the quality of public life.

The present immense advantage of the party nominee--which is the root
cause, which is almost the sole cause of all our present political
ineptitude--would disappear. He would be quite unable to oust any
well-known and representative independent candidate who chose to stand
against him. There would be an immediate alteration in type in the House
of Commons. In the place of these specialists in political getting-on
there would be few men who had not already gained some intellectual and
moral hold upon the community; they would already be outstanding and
distinguished men before they came to the work of government. Great
sections of our national life, science, art, literature, education,
engineering, manufacture would cease to be under-represented, or
misrepresented by the energetic barrister and political specialist, and
our Legislature would begin to serve, as we have now such urgent need of
its serving, as the means and instrument of that national conference
upon the social outlook of which we stand in need.

And it is to the need and nature of that Conference that I would devote
myself. I do not mean by the word Conference any gathering of dull and
formal and inattentive people in this dusty hall or that, with a jaded
audience and intermittently active reporters, such as this word may
conjure up to some imaginations. I mean an earnest direction of
attention in all parts of the country to this necessity for a studied
and elaborated project of conciliation and social co-operation We cannot
afford to leave such things to specialised politicians and
self-appointed, self-seeking "experts" any longer. A modern community
has to think out its problems as a whole and co-operate as a whole in
their solution. We have to bring all our national life into this
discussion of the National Plan before us, and not simply newspapers and
periodicals and books, but pulpit and college and school have to bear
their part in it. And in that particular I would appeal to the schools,
because there more than anywhere else is the permanent quickening of our
national imagination to be achieved.

We want to have our young people filled with a new realisation that
History is not over, that nothing is settled, and that the supreme
dramatic phase in the story of England has still to come. It was not in
the Norman Conquest, not in the flight of King James II, nor the
overthrow of Napoleon; it is here and now. It falls to them to be actors
not in a reminiscent pageant but a living conflict, and the sooner they
are prepared to take their part in that the better our Empire will
acquit itself. How absurd is the preoccupation of our schools and
colleges with the little provincialisms of our past history before A.D.
1800! "No current politics," whispers the schoolmaster, "no
religion--except the coldest formalities _Some parent might object_."
And he pours into our country every year a fresh supply of gentlemanly
cricketing youths, gapingly unprepared--unless they have picked up a
broad generalisation or so from some surreptitious Socialist
pamphlet--for the immense issues they must control, and that are
altogether uncontrollable if they fail to control them. The universities
do scarcely more for our young men. All this has to be altered, and
altered vigorously and soon, if our country is to accomplish its
destinies. Our schools and colleges exist for no other purpose than to
give our youths a vision of the world and of their duties and
possibilities in the world. We can no longer afford to have them the
last preserves of an elderly orthodoxy and the last repository of a
decaying gift of superseded tongues. They are needed too urgently to
make our leaders leader-like and to sustain the active understandings of
the race.

And from the labour class itself we are also justified in demanding a
far more effectual contribution to the National Conference than it is
making at the present time. Mere eloquent apologies for distrust, mere
denunciations of Capitalism and appeals for a Socialism as featureless
as smoke, are unsatisfactory when one regards them as the entire
contribution of the ascendant worker to the discussion of the national
future. The labour thinker has to become definite in his demands and
clearer upon the give and take that will be necessary before they can be
satisfied. He has to realise rather more generously than he has done so
far the enormous moral difficulty there is in bringing people who have
been prosperous and at an advantage all their lives to the pitch of even
contemplating a social reorganisation that may minimise or destroy their
precedence. We have all to think, to think hard and think generously,
and there is not a man in England to-day, even though his hands are busy
at work, whose brain may not be helping in this great task of social
rearrangement which lies before us all.


(_June, 1912_.)

To have followed the frequent discussions of the Labour Unrest in the
Press is to have learnt quite a lot about the methods of popular
thought. And among other things I see now much better than I did why
patent medicines are so popular. It is clear that as a community we are
far too impatient of detail and complexity, we want overmuch to
simplify, we clamour for panaceas, we are a collective invitation to

Our situation is an intricate one, it does not admit of a solution
neatly done up in a word or a phrase. Yet so powerful is this wish to
simplify that it is difficult to make it clear that one is not oneself a
panacea-monger. One writes and people read a little inattentively and
more than a little impatiently, until one makes a positive proposal
Then they jump. "So _that's_ your Remedy!" they say. "How absurdly
inadequate!" I was privileged to take part in one such discussion in
1912, and among other things in my diagnosis of the situation I pointed
out the extreme mischief done to our public life by the futility of our
electoral methods. They make our whole public life forensic and
ineffectual, and I pointed out that this evil effect, which vitiates our
whole national life, could be largely remedied by an infinitely better
voting system known as Proportional Representation. Thereupon the
_Westminster Gazette_ declared in tones of pity and contempt that it was
no Remedy--and dismissed me. It would be as intelligent to charge a
doctor who pushed back the crowd about a broken-legged man in the street
with wanting to heal the limb by giving the sufferer air.

The task before our community, the task of reorganising labour on a
basis broader than that of employment for daily or weekly wages, is one
of huge complexity, and it is as entirely reasonable as it is entirely
preliminary to clean and modernise to the utmost our representative and
legislative machinery.

It is remarkable how dominant is this disposition to get a phrase, a
word, a simple recipe, for an undertaking so vast in reality that for
all the rest of our lives a large part of the activities of us, forty
million people, will be devoted to its partial accomplishment. In the
presence of very great issues people become impatient and irritated, as
they would not allow themselves to be irritated by far more limited
problems. Nobody in his senses expects a panacea for the comparatively
simple and trivial business of playing chess. Nobody wants to be told
to "rely wholly upon your pawns," or "never, never move your rook";
nobody clamours "give me a third knight and all will be well"; but that
is exactly what everybody seems to be doing in our present discussion
And as another aspect of the same impatience, I note the disposition to
clamour against all sorts of necessary processes in the development of a
civilisation. For example, I read over and over again of the failure of
representative government, and in nine cases out of ten I find that this
amounts to a cry against any sort of representative government. It is
perfectly true that our representative institutions do not work well and
need a vigorous overhauling, but while I find scarcely any support for
such a revision, the air is full of vague dangerous demands for
aristocracy, for oligarchy, for autocracy. It is like a man who jumps
out of his automobile because he has burst a tyre, refuses a proffered
Stepney, and bawls passionately for anything--for a four-wheeler, or a
donkey, as long as he can be free from that exploded mechanism. There
are evidently quite a considerable number of people in this country who
would welcome a tyrant at the present time, a strong, silent, cruel,
imprisoning, executing, melodramatic sort of person, who would somehow
manage everything while they went on--being silly. I find that form of
impatience cropping up everywhere. I hear echoes of Mr. Blatchford's
"Wanted, a Man," and we may yet see a General Boulanger prancing in our
streets. There never was a more foolish cry. It is not a man we want,
but just exactly as many million men as there are in Great Britain at
the present time, and it is you, the reader, and I, and the rest of us
who must together go on with the perennial task of saving the country by
_firstly_, doing our own jobs just as well as ever we can, and
_secondly_--and this is really just as important as firstly--doing our
utmost to grasp our national purpose, doing our utmost, that is, to
develop and carry out our National Plan. It is Everyman who must be the
saviour of the State in a modern community; we cannot shift our share in
the burthen; and here again, I think, is something that may well be
underlined and emphasised. At present our "secondly" is unduly
subordinated to our "firstly"; our game is better individually than
collectively; we are like a football team that passes badly, and our
need is not nearly so much to change the players as to broaden their
style. And this brings me, in a spirit entirely antagonistic, up against
Mr. Galsworthy's suggestion of an autocratic revolution in the methods
of our public schools.

But before I go on to that, let me first notice a still more
comprehensive cry that has been heard again and again in this
discussion, and that is the alleged failure of education generally.
There is never any remedial suggestion made with this particular outcry;
it is merely a gust of abuse and insult for schools, and more
particularly board schools, carrying with it a half-hearted implication
that they should be closed, and then the contribution concludes. Now
there is no outcry at the present time more unjust or--except for the
"Wanted, a Man" clamour--more foolish. No doubt our educational
resources, like most other things, fall far short of perfection, but of
all this imperfection the elementary schools are least imperfect; and I
would almost go so far as to say that, considering the badness of their
material, the huge, clumsy classes they have to deal with, the poorness
of their directive administration, their bad pay and uncertain outlook,
the elementary teachers of this country are amazingly efficient. And it
is not simply that they are good under their existing conditions, but
that this service has been made out of nothing whatever in the course of
scarcely forty years. An educational system to cover an Empire is not a
thing that can be got for the asking, it is not even to be got for the
paying; it has to be grown; and in the beginning it is bound to be thin,
ragged, forced, crammy, text-bookish, superficial, and all the rest of
it. As reasonable to complain that the children born last year were
immature. A little army of teachers does not flash into being at the
passing of an Education Act. Not even an organisation for training those
teachers comes to anything like satisfactory working order for many
years, without considering the delays and obstructions that have been
caused by the bickerings and bitterness of the various Christian
Churches. So that it is not the failure of elementary education we have
really to consider, but the continuance and extension of its already
almost miraculous results.

And when it comes to the education of the ruling and directing classes,
there is kindred, if lesser reason, for tempering zeal with patience.
This upper portion of our educational organisation needs urgently to be
bettered, but it is not to be bettered by trying to find an archangel
who will better it dictatorially. For the good of our souls there are no
such beings to relieve us of our collective responsibility. It is clear
that appointments in this field need not only far more care and far more
insistence upon creative power than has been shown in the past, but for
the rest we have to do with the men we have and the schools we have. We
cannot have an educational purge, if only because we have not the new
men waiting. Here again the need is not impatience, not revolution, but
a sustained and penetrating criticism, a steadfast, continuous urgency
towards effort and well-planned reconstruction and efficiency.

And as a last example of the present hysterical disposition to scrap
things before they have been fairly tried is the outcry against
examinations, which has done so much to take the keenness off the edge
of school work in the last few years. Because a great number of
examiners chosen haphazard turned out to be negligent and incompetent as
examiners, because their incapacity created a cynical trade in cramming,
a great number of people have come to the conclusion, just as
examinations are being improved into efficiency, that all examinations
are bad. In particular that excellent method of bringing new blood and
new energy into the public services and breaking up official gangs and
cliques, the competitive examination system, has been discredited, and
the wire-puller and the influential person are back again tampering with
a steadily increasing proportion of appointments....

But I have written enough of this impatience, which is, as it were,
merely the passion for reconstruction losing its head and defeating its
own ends. There is no hope for us outside ourselves. No violent changes,
no Napoleonic saviours can carry on the task of building the Great
State, the civilised State that rises out of our disorders That is for
us to do, all of us and each one of us. We have to think clearly, and
study and consider and reconsider our ideas about public things to the
very utmost of our possibilities. We have to clarify our views and
express them and do all we can to stir up thinking and effort in those
about us.

I know it would be more agreeable for all of us if we could have some
small pill-like remedy for all the troubles of the State, and take it
and go on just as we are going now. But, indeed, to say a word for that
idea would be a treason. We are the State, and there is no other way to
make it better than to give it the service of our lives. Just in the
measure of the aggregate of our devotions and the elaborated and
criticised sanity of our public proceedings will the world mend.

I gather from a valuable publication called "Secret Remedies," which
analyses many popular cures, that this hasty passion for simplicity, for
just one thing that will settle the whole trouble, can carry people to a
level beyond an undivided trust in something warranted in a bottle. They
are ready to put their faith in what amounts to practically nothing in a
bottle. And just at present, while a number of excellent people of the
middle class think that only a "man" is wanted and all will be well with
us, there is a considerable wave of hopefulness among the working class
in favour of a weak solution of nothing, which is offered under the
attractive label of Syndicalism. So far I have been able to discuss the
present labour situation without any use of this empty word, but when
one finds it cropping up in every other article on the subject, it
becomes advisable to point out what Syndicalism is not. And incidentally
it may enable me to make clear what Socialism in the broader sense,
constructive Socialism, that is to say, is.


"Is a railway porter a railway porter first and a man afterwards, or is
he a man first and incidentally a railway porter?"

That is the issue between this tawdrification of trade unionism which is
called Syndicalism, and the ideals of that Great State, that great
commonweal, towards which the constructive forces in our civilisation
tend. Are we to drift on to a disastrous intensification of our present
specialisation of labour as labour, or are we to set to work steadfastly
upon a vast social reconstruction which will close this widening breach
and rescue our community from its present dependence upon the reluctant
and presently insurgent toil of a wages-earning proletariat? Regarded as
a project of social development, Syndicalism is ridiculous; regarded as
an illuminating and unintentionally ironical complement to the implicit
theories of our present social order, it is worthy of close attention.
The dream of the Syndicalist is an impossible social fragmentation. The
transport service is to be a democratic republic, the mines are to be a
democratic republic, every great industry is to be a democratic republic
within the State; our community is to become a conflict of inter-woven
governments of workers, incapable of progressive changes of method or of
extension or transmutation of function, the whole being of a man is to
lie within his industrial specialisation, and, upon lines of causation
not made clear, wages are to go on rising and hours of work are to go on
falling.... There the mind halts, blinded by the too dazzling vistas of
an unimaginative millennium And the way to this, one gathers, is by
striking--persistent, destructive striking--until it comes about.

Such is Syndicalism, the cheap Labour Panacea, to which the more
passionate and less intelligent portion of the younger workers,
impatient of the large constructive developments of modern Socialism,
drifts steadily. It is the direct and logical reaction to our present
economic system, which has counted our workers neither as souls nor as
heads, but as hands. They are beginning to accept the suggestions of
that method. It is the culmination in aggression of that, at first,
entirely protective trade unionism which the individual selfishness and
collective short-sightedness and State blindness of our owning and
directing and ruling classes forced upon the working man. At first trade
unionism was essentially defensive; it was the only possible defence of
the workers, who were being steadily pressed over the margin of
subsistence. It was a nearly involuntary resistance to class debasement.
Mr. Vernon Hartshorn has expressed it as that in a recent article. But
his paper, if one read it from beginning to end, displayed, compactly
and completely, the unavoidable psychological development of the
specialised labour case. He began in the mildest tones with those now
respectable words, a "guaranteed minimum" of wages, housing, and so
forth, and ended with a very clear intimation of an all-labour

If anything is certain in this world, it is that the mass of the
community will not rest satisfied with these guaranteed minima. All
those possible legislative increments in the general standard of living
are not going to diminish the labour unrest; they are going to increase
it. A starving man may think he wants nothing in the world but bread,
but when he has eaten you will find he wants all sorts of things beyond.
Mr. Hartshorn assures us that the worker is "not out for a theory." So
much the worse for the worker and all of us when, like the mere hand we
have made him, he shows himself unable to define or even forecast his
ultimate intentions. He will in that case merely clutch. And the obvious
immediate next objective of that clutch directly its imagination passes
beyond the "guaranteed minima" phase is the industry as a whole.

I do not see how anyone who desires the continuing development of
civilisation can regard a trade union as anything but a necessary evil,
a pressure-relieving contrivance an arresting and delaying organisation
begotten by just that class separation of labour which in the commonweal
of the Great State will be altogether destroyed. It leads nowhither; it
is a shelter hut on the road. The wider movement of modern civilisation
is against class organisation and caste feeling. These are forces
antagonistic to progress, continually springing up and endeavouring to
stereotype the transitory organisation, and continually being defeated.

Of all the solemn imbecilities one hears, surely the most foolish is
this, that we are in "an age of specialisation." The comparative
fruitfulness and hopefulness of our social order, in comparison with any
other social system, lies in its flat contradiction of that absurdity.
Our medical and surgical advances, for example, are almost entirely due
to the invasion of medical research by the chemist; our naval
development to the supersession of the sailor by the engineer; we sweep
away the coachman with the railway, beat the suburban line with the
electric tramway, and attack that again with the petrol omnibus, oust
brick and stonework in substantial fabrics by steel frames, replace the
skilled maker of woodcuts by a photographer, and so on through the
whole range of our activities. Change of function, arrest of
specialisation by innovations in method and appliance, progress by the
infringement of professional boundaries and the defiance of rule: these
are the commonplaces of our time. The trained man, the specialised man,
is the most unfortunate of men; the world leaves him behind, and he has
lost his power of overtaking it. Versatility, alert adaptability, these
are our urgent needs. In peace and war alike the unimaginative,
uninventive man is a burthen and a retardation, as he never was before
in the world's history. The modern community, therefore, that succeeds
most rapidly and most completely in converting both its labourers and
its leisure class into a population of active, able, unhurried,
educated, and physically well-developed people will be inevitably the
dominant community in the world. That lies on the face of things about
us; a man who cannot see that must be blind to the traffic in our

Syndicalism is not a plan of social development. It is a spirit of
conflict. That conflict lies ahead of us, the open war of strikes,
or--if the forces of law and order crush that down--then sabotage and
that black revolt of the human spirit into crime which we speak of
nowadays as anarchism, unless we can discover a broad and promising way
from the present condition of things to nothing less than the complete
abolition of the labour class.

That, I know, sounds a vast proposal, but this is a gigantic business
altogether, and we can do nothing with it unless we are prepared to deal
with large ideas. If St. Paul's begins to totter it is no good propping
it up with half a dozen walking-sticks, and small palliatives have no
legitimate place at all in this discussion. Our generation has to take
up this tremendous necessity of a social reconstruction in a great way;
its broad lines have to be thought out by thousands of minds, and it is
for that reason that I have put the stress upon our need of discussion,
of a wide intellectual and moral stimulation of a stirring up in our
schools and pulpits, and upon the modernisation and clarification of
what should be the deliberative assembly of the nation.

It would be presumptuous to anticipate the National Plan that must
emerge from so vast a debate, but certain conclusions I feel in my bones
will stand the test of an exhaustive criticism. The first is that a
distinction will be drawn between what I would call "interesting work"
and what I would call "mere labour." The two things, I admit, pass by
insensible gradations into one another, but while on the one hand such
work as being a master gardener and growing roses, or a master cabinet
maker and making fine pieces, or an artist of almost any sort, or a
story writer, or a consulting physician, or a scientific investigator,
or a keeper of wild animals, or a forester, or a librarian, or a good
printer, or many sorts of engineer, is work that will always find men of
a certain temperament enthusiastically glad to do it, if they can only
do it for comfortable pay--for such work is in itself _living_--there
is, on the other hand, work so irksome and toilsome, such as coal
mining, or being a private soldier during a peace, or attending upon
lunatics, or stoking, or doing over and over again, almost mechanically,
little bits of a modern industrial process, or being a cash desk clerk
in a busy shop, that few people would undertake if they could avoid it.

And the whole strength of our collective intelligence will be directed
first to reducing the amount of such irksome work by labour-saving
machinery, by ingenuity of management, and by the systematic avoidance
of giving trouble as a duty, and then to so distributing the residuum of
it that it will become the whole life of no class whatever in our
population. I have already quoted the idea of Professor William James of
a universal conscription for such irksome labour, and while he would
have instituted that mainly for its immense moral effect upon the
community, I would point out that, combined with a nationalisation of
transport, mining, and so forth, it is also a way to a partial solution
of this difficulty of "mere toil."

And the mention of a compulsory period of labour service for everyone--a
year or so with the pickaxe as well as with the rifle--leads me to
another idea that I believe will stand the test of unlimited criticism,
and that is a total condemnation of all these eight-hour-a-day,
early-closing, guaranteed-weekly-half-holiday notions that are now so
prevalent in Liberal circles. Under existing conditions, in our system
of private enterprise and competition, these restrictions are no doubt
necessary to save a large portion of our population from lives of
continuous toil, but, like trade unionism, they are a necessity of our
present conditions, and not a way to a better social state. If we rescue
ourselves as a community from poverty and discomfort, we must take care
not to fling ourselves into something far more infuriating to a normal
human being--and that is boredom. The prospect of a carefully inspected
sanitary life, tethered to some light, little, uninteresting daily job,
six or eight hours of it, seems to me--and I am sure I write here for
most normal, healthy, active people--more awful than hunger and death.
It is far more in the quality of the human spirit, and still more what
we all in our hearts want the human spirit to be, to fling itself with
its utmost power at a job and do it with passion.

For my own part, if I was sentenced to hew a thousand tons of coal, I
should want to get at it at once and work furiously at it, with the
shortest intervals for rest and refreshment and an occasional night
holiday, until I hewed my way out, and if some interfering person with a
benevolent air wanted to restrict me to hewing five hundredweight, and
no more and no less, each day and every day, I should be strongly
disposed to go for that benevolent person with my pick. That is surely
what every natural man would want to do, and it is only the clumsy
imperfection of our social organisation that will not enable a man to do
his stint of labour in a few vigorous years and then come up into the
sunlight for good and all.

It is along that line that I feel a large part of our labour
reorganisation, over and beyond that conscription, must ultimately go.
The community as a whole would, I believe, get far more out of a man if
he had such a comparatively brief passion of toil than if he worked,
with occasional lapses into unemployment, drearily all his life. But at
present, with our existing system of employment, one cannot arrange so
comprehensive a treatment of a man's life. There is needed some State or
quasi-public organisation which shall stand between the man and the
employer, act as his banker and guarantor, and exact his proper price.
Then, with his toil over, he would have an adequate pension and be free
to do nothing or anything else as he chose. In a Socialistic order of
society, where the State would also be largely the employer, such a
method would be, of course, far more easily contrived.

The more modern statements of Socialism do not contemplate making the
State the sole employer; it is chiefly in transport, mining, fisheries,
forestry, the cultivation of the food staples, and the manufacture of a
few such articles as bricks and steel, and possibly in housing in what
one might call the standardisable industries, that the State is imagined
as the direct owner and employer and it is just in these departments
that the bulk of the irksome toil is to be found. There remain large
regions of more specialised and individualised production that many
Socialists nowadays are quite prepared to leave to the freer initiatives
of private enterprise. Most of these are occupations involving a greater
element of interest, less direction and more co-operation, and it is
just here that the success of co-partnery and a sustained life
participation becomes possible....

This complete civilised system without a specialised, property-less
labour class is not simply a possibility, it is necessary; the whole
social movement of the time, the stars in their courses, war against the
permanence of the present state of affairs. The alternative to this
gigantic effort to rearrange our world is not a continuation of muddling
along, but social war. The Syndicalist and his folly will be the avenger
of lost opportunities. Not a Labour State do we want, nor a Servile
State, but a powerful Leisure State of free men.


Sec. 1

For many years now I have taken a part in the discussion of Socialism.
During that time Socialism has become a more and more ambiguous term. It
has seemed to me desirable to clear up my own ideas of social progress
and the public side of my life by restating them, and this I have
attempted in this essay.

In order to do so it has been convenient to coin two expressions, and to
employ them with a certain defined intention. They are firstly: The
Normal Social Life, and secondly: The Great State. Throughout this essay
these expressions will be used in accordance with the definitions
presently to be given, and the fact that they are so used will be
emphasised by the employment of capitals. It will be possible for anyone
to argue that what is here defined as the Normal Social Life is not the
normal social life, and that the Great State is indeed no state at all.
That will be an argument outside the range delimited by these

Now what is intended by the Normal Social Life here is a type of human
association and employment, of extreme prevalence and antiquity, which
appears to have been the lot of the enormous majority of human beings as
far back as history or tradition or the vestiges of material that supply
our conceptions of the neolithic period can carry us. It has never been
the lot of all humanity at any time, to-day it is perhaps less
predominant than it has ever been, yet even to-day it is probably the
lot of the greater moiety of mankind.

Essentially this type of association presents a localised community, a
community of which the greater proportion of the individuals are engaged
more or less directly in the cultivation of the land. With this there is
also associated the grazing or herding over wider or more restricted
areas, belonging either collectively or discretely to the community, of
sheep, cattle, goats, or swine, and almost always the domestic fowl is
commensal with man in this life. The cultivated land at least is usually
assigned, temporarily or inalienably, as property to specific
individuals, and the individuals are grouped in generally monogamic
families of which the father is the head. Essentially the social unit is
the Family, and even where, as in Mohammedan countries, there is no
legal or customary restriction upon polygamy, monogamy still prevails as
the ordinary way of living. Unmarried women are not esteemed, and
children are desired. According to the dangers or securities of the
region, the nature of the cultivation and the temperament of the people,
this community is scattered either widely in separate steadings or drawn
together into villages. At one extreme, over large areas of thin pasture
this agricultural community may verge on the nomadic; at another, in
proximity to consuming markets, it may present the concentration of
intensive culture. There may be an adjacent Wild supplying wood, and
perhaps controlled by a simple forestry. The law that holds this
community together is largely traditional and customary and almost
always as its primordial bond there is some sort of temple and some sort
of priest. Typically, the temple is devoted to a local god or a
localised saint, and its position indicates the central point of the
locality, its assembly place and its market. Associated with the
agriculture there are usually a few imperfectly specialised tradesmen, a
smith, a garment-maker perhaps, a basket-maker or potter, who group
about the church or temple. The community may maintain itself in a state
of complete isolation, but more usually there are tracks or roads to the
centres of adjacent communities, and a certain drift of travel, a
certain trade in non-essential things. In the fundamentals of life this
normal community is independent and self-subsisting, and where it is not
beginning to be modified by the novel forces of the new times it
produces its own food and drink, its own clothing, and largely
intermarries within its limits.

This in general terms is what is here intended by the phrase the Normal
Social Life. It is still the substantial part of the rural life of all
Europe and most Asia and Africa, and it has been the life of the great
majority of human beings for immemorial years. It is the root life. It
rests upon the soil, and from that soil below and its reaction to the
seasons and the moods of the sky overhead have grown most of the
traditions, institutions, sentiments, beliefs, superstitions, and
fundamental songs and stories of mankind.

But since the very dawn of history at least this Normal Social Life has
never been the whole complete life of mankind. Quite apart from the
marginal life of the savage hunter, there have been a number of forces
and influences within men and women and without, that have produced
abnormal and surplus ways of living, supplemental, additional, and even
antagonistic to this normal scheme.

And first as to the forces within men and women. Long as it has lasted,
almost universal as it has been, the human being has never yet achieved
a perfect adaptation to the needs of the Normal Social Life. He has
attained nothing of that frictionless fitting to the needs of
association one finds in the bee or the ant. Curiosity, deep stirrings
to wander, the still more ancient inheritance of the hunter, a recurrent
distaste for labour, and resentment against the necessary subjugations
of family life have always been a straining force within the
agricultural community. The increase of population during periods of
prosperity has led at the touch of bad seasons and adversity to the
desperate reliefs of war and the invasion of alien localities. And the
nomadic and adventurous spirit of man found reliefs and opportunities
more particularly along the shores of great rivers and inland seas.
Trade and travel began, at first only a trade in adventitious things, in
metals and rare objects and luxuries and slaves. With trade came writing
and money; the inventions of debt and rent, usury and tribute. History
finds already in its beginnings a thin network of trading and slaving
flung over the world of the Normal Social Life, a network whose strands
are the early roads, whose knots are the first towns and the first

Indeed, all recorded history is in a sense the history of these surplus
and supplemental activities of mankind. The Normal Social Life flowed on
in its immemorial fashion, using no letters, needing no records, leaving
no history. Then, a little minority, bulking disproportionately in the
record, come the trader, the sailor, the slave, the landlord and the
tax-compeller, the townsman and the king.

All written history is the story of a minority and their peculiar and
abnormal affairs. Save in so far as it notes great natural catastrophes
and tells of the spreading or retrocession of human life through changes
of climate and physical conditions it resolves itself into an account of
a series of attacks and modifications and supplements made by excessive
and superfluous forces engendered within the community upon the Normal
Social Life. The very invention of writing is a part of those modifying
developments. The Normal Social Life is essentially illiterate and
traditional. The Normal Social Life is as mute as the standing crops; it
is as seasonal and cyclic as nature herself, and reaches towards the
future only an intimation of continual repetitions.

Now this human over-life may take either beneficent or maleficent or
neutral aspects towards the general life of humanity. It may present
itself as law and pacification, as a positive addition and
superstructure to the Normal Social Life, as roads and markets and
cities, as courts and unifying monarchies, as helpful and directing
religious organisations, as literature and art and science and
philosophy, reflecting back upon the individual in the Normal Social
Life from which it arose, a gilding and refreshment of new and wider
interests and added pleasures and resources. One may define certain
phases in the history of various countries when this was the state of
affairs, when a countryside of prosperous communities with a healthy
family life and a wide distribution of property, animated by roads and
towns and unified by a generally intelligible religious belief, lived in
a transitory but satisfactory harmony under a sympathetic government. I
take it that this is the condition to which the minds of such original
and vigorous reactionary thinkers as Mr. G.K. Chesterton and Mr. Hilaire
Belloc for example turn, as being the most desirable state of mankind.

But the general effect of history is to present these phases as phases
of exceptional good luck, and to show the surplus forces of humanity as
on the whole antagonistic to any such equilibrium with the Normal Social
Life. To open the book of history haphazard is, most commonly, to open
it at a page where the surplus forces appear to be in more or less
destructive conflict with the Normal Social Life. One opens at the
depopulation of Italy by the aggressive great estates of the Roman
Empire, at the impoverishment of the French peasantry by a too
centralised monarchy before the revolution, or at the huge degenerative
growth of the great industrial towns of western Europe in the nineteenth
century. Or again one opens at destructive wars. One sees these surplus
forces over and above the Normal Social Life working towards unstable
concentrations of population, to centralisation of government, to
migrations and conflicts upon a large scale; one discovers the process
developing into a phase of social fragmentation and destruction and
then, unless the whole country has been wasted down to its very soil,
the Normal Social Life returns as the heath and furze and grass return
after the burning of a common. But it never returns in precisely its old
form. The surplus forces have always produced some traceable change; the
rhythm is a little altered. As between the Gallic peasant before the
Roman conquest, the peasant of the Gallic province, the Carlovingian
peasant, the French peasant of the thirteenth, the seventeenth, and the
twentieth centuries, there is, in spite of a general uniformity of life,
of a common atmosphere of cows, hens, dung, toil, ploughing, economy,
and domestic intimacy, an effect of accumulating generalising
influences and of wider relevancies. And the oscillations of empires and
kingdoms, religious movements, wars, invasions, settlements leave upon
the mind an impression that the surplus life of mankind, the
less-localised life of mankind, that life of mankind which is not
directly connected with the soil but which has become more or less
detached from and independent of it, is becoming proportionately more
important in relation to the Normal Social Life. It is as if a different
way of living was emerging from the Normal Social Life and freeing
itself from its traditions and limitations.

And this is more particularly the effect upon the mind of a review of
the history of the past two hundred years. The little speculative
activities of the alchemist and natural philosopher, the little economic
experiments of the acquisitive and enterprising landed proprietor,
favoured by unprecedented periods of security and freedom, have passed
into a new phase of extraordinary productivity. They had added
preposterously and continue to add on a gigantic scale and without any
evident limits to the continuation of their additions, to the resources
of humanity. To the strength of horses and men and slaves has been added
the power of machines and the possibility of economies that were once
incredible The Normal Social Life has been overshadowed as it has never
been overshadowed before by the concentrations and achievements of the
surplus life. Vast new possibilities open to the race; the traditional
life of mankind, its traditional systems of association, are challenged
and threatened; and all the social thought, all the political activity
of our time turns in reality upon the conflict of this ancient system
whose essentials we have here defined and termed the Normal Social Life
with the still vague and formless impulses that seem destined either to
involve it and the race in a final destruction or to replace it by some
new and probably more elaborate method of human association.

Because there is the following difference between the action of the
surplus forces as we see them to-day and as they appeared before the
outbreak of physical science and mechanism. Then it seemed clearly
necessary that whatever social and political organisation developed, it
must needs; rest ultimately on the tiller of the soil, the agricultural
holding, and the Normal Social Life. But now even in agriculture huge
wholesale methods have appeared. They are declared to be destructive;
but it is quite conceivable that they may be made ultimately as
recuperative as that small agriculture which has hitherto been the
inevitable social basis. If that is so, then the new ways of living may
not simply impose themselves in a growing proportion upon the Normal
Social Life, but they may even oust it and replace it altogether. Or
they may oust it and fail to replace it. In the newer countries the
Normal Social Life does not appear to establish itself at all rapidly.
No real peasantry appears in either America or Australia; and in the
older countries, unless there is the most elaborate legislative and
fiscal protection, the peasant population wanes before the large farm,
the estate, and overseas production.

Now most of the political and social discussion of the last hundred
years may be regarded and rephrased as an attempt to apprehend this
defensive struggle of the Normal Social Life against waxing novelty and
innovation and to give a direction and guidance to all of us who
participate. And it is very largely a matter of temperament and free
choice still, just where we shall decide to place ourselves. Let us
consider some of the key words of contemporary thought, such as
Liberalism, Individualism, Socialism, in the light of this broad
generalisation we have made; and then we shall find it easier to explain
our intention in employing as a second technicality the phrase of The
Great State as an opposite to the Normal Social Life, which we have
already defined.

Sec. 2

The Normal Social Life has been defined as one based on agriculture,
traditional and essentially unchanging. It has needed no toleration and
displayed no toleration for novelty and strangeness. Its beliefs have
been on such a nature as to justify and sustain itself, and it has had
an intrinsic hostility to any other beliefs. The God of its community
has been a jealous god even when he was only a tribal and local god.
Only very occasionally in history until the coming of the modern period
do we find any human community relaxing from this ancient and more
normal state of entire intolerance towards ideas or practices other than
its own. When toleration and a receptive attitude towards alien ideas
was manifested in the Old World, it was at some trading centre or
political centre; new ideas and new religions came by water along the
trade routes. And such toleration as there was rarely extended to active
teaching and propaganda. Even in liberal Athens the hemlock was in the
last resort at the service of the ancient gods and the ancient morals
against the sceptical critic.

But with the steady development of innovating forces in human affairs
there has actually grown up a cult of receptivity, a readiness for new
ideas, a faith in the probable truth of novelties. Liberalism--I do not,
of course, refer in any way to the political party which makes this
profession--is essentially anti-traditionalism; its tendency is to
commit for trial any institution or belief that is brought before it. It
is the accuser and antagonist of all the fixed and ancient values and
imperatives and prohibitions of the Normal Social Life. And growing up
in relation to Liberalism and sustained by it is the great body of
scientific knowledge, which professes at least to be absolutely
undogmatic and perpetually on its trial and under assay and

Now a very large part of the advanced thought of the past century is no
more than the confused negation of the broad beliefs and institutions
which have been the heritage and social basis of humanity for immemorial
years. This is as true of the extremest Individualism as of the
extremest Socialism. The former denies that element of legal and
customary control which has always subdued the individual to the needs
of the Normal Social Life, and the latter that qualified independence of
distributed property which is the basis of family autonomy. Both are
movements against the ancient life, and nothing is more absurd than the
misrepresentation which presents either as a conservative force. They
are two divergent schools with a common disposition to reject the old
and turn towards the new. The Individualist professes a faith for which
he has no rational evidence, that the mere abandonment of traditions and
controls must ultimately produce a new and beautiful social order; while
the Socialist, with an equal liberalism, regards the outlook with a
kind of hopeful dread, and insists upon an elaborate readjustment, a new
and untried scheme of social organisation to replace the shattered and
weakening Normal Social Life.

Both these movements, and, indeed, all movements that are not movements
for the subjugation of innovation and the restoration of tradition, are
vague in the prospect they contemplate. They produce no definite
forecasts of the quality of the future towards which they so confidently
indicate the way. But this is less true of modern socialism than of its
antithesis, and it becomes less and less true as socialism, under an
enormous torrent of criticism, slowly washes itself clean from the mass
of partial statement, hasty misstatement, sheer error and presumption
that obscured its first emergence.

But it is well to be very clear upon one point at this stage, and that
is, that this present time is not a battle-ground between individualism
and socialism; it is a battle-ground between the Normal Social Life on
the one hand and a complex of forces on the other which seek a form of
replacement and seem partially to find it in these and other doctrines.

Nearly all contemporary thinkers who are not too muddled to be
assignable fall into one of three classes, of which the third we shall
distinguish is the largest and most various and divergent. It will be
convenient to say a little of each of these classes before proceeding to
a more particular account of the third. Our analysis will cut across
many accepted classifications, but there will be ample justification for
this rearrangement. All of them may be dealt with quite justly as
accepting the general account of the historical process which is here

Then first we must distinguish a series of writers and thinkers which
one may call--the word conservative being already politically
assigned--the Conservators.

These are people who really do consider the Normal Social Life as the
only proper and desirable life for the great mass of humanity, and they
are fully prepared to subordinate all exceptional and surplus lives to
the moral standards and limitations that arise naturally out of the
Normal Social Life. They desire a state in which property is widely
distributed, a community of independent families protected by law and an
intelligent democratic statecraft from the economic aggressions of large
accumulations and linked by a common religion. Their attitude to the
forces of change is necessarily a hostile attitude. They are disposed to
regard innovations in transit and machinery as undesirable, and even
mischievous disturbances of a wholesome equilibrium. They are at least
unfriendly to any organisation of scientific research, and scornful of
the pretensions of science. Criticisms of the methods of logic,
scepticism of the more widely diffused human beliefs, they would
classify as insanity. Two able English writers, Mr. G.K. Chesterton and
Mr. Belloc, have given the clearest expression to this system of ideals,
and stated an admirable case for it. They present a conception of
vinous, loudly singing, earthy, toiling, custom-ruled, wholesome, and
insanitary men; they are pagan in the sense that their hearts are with
the villagers and not with the townsmen, Christian in the spirit of the
parish priest. There are no other Conservators so clear-headed and
consistent. But their teaching is merely the logical expression of an
enormous amount of conservative feeling. Vast multitudes of less lucid
minds share their hostility to novelty and research; hate, dread, and
are eager to despise science, and glow responsive to the warm, familiar
expressions of primordial feelings and immemorial prejudices The rural
conservative, the liberal of the allotments and small-holdings type, Mr.
Roosevelt--in his Western-farmer, philoprogenitive phase as
distinguished from the phase of his more imperialist moments--all
present themselves as essentially Conservators as seekers after and
preservers of the Normal Social Life.

So, too, do Socialists of the William Morris type. The mind of William
Morris was profoundly reactionary He hated the whole trend of later
nineteenth-century modernism with the hatred natural to a man of
considerable scholarship and intense aesthetic sensibilities. His mind
turned, exactly as Mr. Belloc's turns, to the finished and enriched
Normal Social Life of western Europe in the middle ages, but, unlike Mr.
Belloc, he believed that, given private ownership of land and the
ordinary materials of life, there must necessarily be an aggregatory
process, usury, expropriation, the development of an exploiting wealthy
class. He believed profit was the devil. His "News from Nowhere"
pictures a communism that amounted in fact to little more than a system
of private ownership of farms and trades without money or any buying and
selling, in an atmosphere of geniality, generosity, and mutual
helpfulness. Mr. Belloc, with a harder grip upon the realities of life,
would have the widest distribution of proprietorship, with an alert
democratic government continually legislating against the protean
reappearances of usury and accumulation and attacking, breaking up, and
redistributing any large unanticipated bodies of wealth that appeared.
But both men are equally set towards the Normal Social Life, and
equally enemies of the New. The so-called "socialist" land legislation
of New Zealand again is a tentative towards the realisation of the same
school of ideas: great estates are to be automatically broken up,
property is to be kept disseminated; a vast amount of political speaking
and writing in America and throughout the world enforces one's
impression of the widespread influence of Conservator ideals.

Of course, it is inevitable that phases of prosperity for the Normal
Social Life will lead to phases of over-population and scarcity, there
will be occasional famines and occasional pestilences and plethoras of
vitality leading to the blood-letting of war. I suppose Mr. Chesterton
and Mr. Belloc at least have the courage of their opinions, and are
prepared to say that such things always have been and always must be;
they are part of the jolly rhythms of the human lot under the sun, and
are to be taken with the harvest home and love-making and the peaceful
ending of honoured lives as an integral part of the unending drama of

Sec. 3

Now opposed to the Conservators are all those who do not regard
contemporary humanity as a final thing nor the Normal Social Life as the
inevitable basis of human continuity. They believe in secular change, in
Progress, in a future for our species differing continually more from
its past. On the whole, they are prepared for the gradual
disentanglement of men from the Normal Social Life altogether, and they
look for new ways of living and new methods of human association with a
certain adventurous hopefulness.

Now, this second large class does not so much admit of subdivision into
two as present a great variety of intermediaries between two extremes. I
propose to give distinctive names to these extremes, with the very clear
proviso that they are not antagonised, and that the great multitude of
this second, anti-conservator class, this liberal, more novel class
modern conditions have produced falls between them, and is neither the
one nor the other, but partaking in various degrees of both. On the one
hand, then, we have that type of mind which is irritated by and
distrustful of all collective proceedings which is profoundly
distrustful of churches and states, which is expressed essentially by
Individualism. The Individualist appears to regard the extensive
disintegrations of the Normal Social Life that are going on to-day with
an extreme hopefulness. Whatever is ugly or harsh in modern
industrialism or in the novel social development of our time he seems to
consider as a necessary aspect of a process of selection and survival,
whose tendencies are on the whole inevitably satisfactory. The future
welfare of man he believes in effect may be trusted to the spontaneous
and planless activities of people of goodwill, and nothing but state
intervention can effectively impede its attainment. And curiously close
to this extreme optimistic school in its moral quality and logical
consequences, though contrasting widely in the sinister gloom of its
spirit, is the socialism of Karl Marx. He declared the contemporary
world to be a great process of financial aggrandisement and general
expropriation, of increasing power for the few and of increasing
hardship and misery for the many, a process that would go on until at
last a crisis of unendurable tension would be reached and the social
revolution ensue. The world had, in fact, to be worse before it could
hope to be better. He contemplated a continually exacerbated Class War,
with a millennium of extraordinary vagueness beyond as the reward of
the victorious workers. His common quality with the Individualist lies
in his repudiation of and antagonism to plans and arrangements, in his
belief in the overriding power of Law. Their common influence is the
discouragement of collective understandings upon the basis of the
existing state. Both converge in practice upon _laissez faire_. I would
therefore lump them together under the term of Planless Progressives,
and I would contrast with them those types which believe supremely in
systematised purpose.

The purposeful and systematic types, in common with the Individualist
and Marxist, regard the Normal Social Life, for all the many thousands
of years behind it, as a phase, and as a phase which is now passing, in
human experience; and they are prepared for a future society that may be
ultimately different right down to its essential relationships from the
human past. But they also believe that the forces that have been
assailing and disintegrating the Normal Social Life, which have been, on
the one hand, producing great accumulations of wealth, private freedom,
and ill-defined, irresponsible and socially dangerous power, and, on the
other, labour hordes, for the most part urban, without any property or
outlook except continuous toil and anxiety, which in England have
substituted a dischargeable agricultural labourer for the independent
peasant almost completely, and in America seem to be arresting any
general development of the Normal Social Life at all, are forces of wide
and indefinite possibility that need to be controlled by a collective
effort implying a collective design, deflected from merely injurious
consequences and organised for a new human welfare upon new lines. They
agree with that class of thinking I have distinguished as the
Conservators in their recognition of vast contemporary disorders and
their denial of the essential beneficence of change. But while the
former seem to regard all novelty and innovation as a mere inundation to
be met, banked back, defeated and survived, these more hopeful and
adventurous minds would rather regard contemporary change as amounting
on the whole to the tumultuous and almost catastrophic opening-up of
possible new channels, the violent opportunity of vast, deep, new ways
to great unprecedented human ends, ends that are neither feared nor

Now while the Conservators are continually talking of the "eternal
facts" of human life and human nature and falling back upon a conception
of permanence that is continually less true as our perspectives extend,
these others are full of the conception of adaptation, of deliberate
change in relationship and institution to meet changing needs. I would
suggest for them, therefore, as opposed to the Conservators and
contrasted with the Planless Progressives, the name of Constructors.
They are the extreme right, as it were, while the Planless Progressives
are the extreme left of Anti-Conservator thought.

I believe that these distinctions I have made cover practically every
clear form of contemporary thinking, and are a better and more helpful
classification than any now current. But, of course, nearly every
individual nowadays is at least a little confused, and will be found to
wobble in the course even of a brief discussion between one attitude and
the other. This is a separation of opinions rather than of persons. And
particularly that word Socialism has become so vague and incoherent that
for a man to call himself a socialist nowadays is to give no indication
whatever whether he is a Conservator like William Morris, a
non-Constructor like Karl Marx, or a Constructor of any of half a dozen
different schools. On the whole, however, modern socialism tends to fall
towards the Constructor wing. So, too, do those various movements in
England and Germany and France called variously nationalist and
imperialist, and so do the American civic and social reformers. Under
the same heading must come such attempts to give the vague impulses of
Syndicalism a concrete definition as the "Guild Socialism" of Mr. Orage.
All these movements are agreed that the world is progressive towards a
novel and unprecedented social order, not necessarily and fatally
better, and that it needs organised and even institutional guidance
thither, however much they differ as to the form that order should

For the greater portion of a century socialism has been before the
world, and it is not perhaps premature to attempt a word or so of
analysis of that great movement in the new terms we are here employing.
The origins of the socialist idea were complex and multifarious never at
any time has it succeeded in separating out a statement of itself that
was at once simple, complete and acceptable to any large proportion of
those who call themselves socialists. But always it has pointed to two
or three definite things. The first of these is that unlimited freedoms
of private property, with increasing facilities of exchange,
combination, and aggrandisement, become more and more dangerous to
human liberty by the expropriation and reduction to private wages
slavery of larger and larger proportions of the population. Every school
of socialism states this in some more or less complete form, however
divergent the remedial methods suggested by the different schools. And,
next, every school of socialism accepts the concentration of management
and property as necessary, and declines to contemplate what is the
typical Conservator remedy, its re-fragmentation. Accordingly it sets up
not only against the large private owner, but against owners generally,
the idea of a public proprietor, the State, which shall hold in the
collective interest. But where the earlier socialisms stopped short, and
where to this day socialism is vague, divided, and unprepared, is upon
the psychological problems involved in that new and largely
unprecedented form of proprietorship, and upon the still more subtle
problems of its attainment. These are vast, and profoundly, widely, and
multitudinously difficult problems, and it was natural and inevitable
that the earlier socialists in the first enthusiasm of their idea should
minimise these difficulties, pretend in the fullness of their faith that
partial answers to objections were complete answers, and display the
common weaknesses of honest propaganda the whole world over. Socialism
is now old enough to know better. Few modern socialists present their
faith as a complete panacea, and most are now setting to work in earnest
upon these long-shirked preliminary problems of human interaction
through which the vital problem of a collective head and brain can alone
be approached.

A considerable proportion of the socialist movement remains, as it has
been from the first, vaguely democratic. It points to collective
ownership with no indication of the administrative scheme it
contemplates to realise that intention. Necessarily it remains a
formless claim without hands to take hold of the thing it desires.
Indeed in a large number of cases it is scarcely more than a resentful
consciousness in the expropriated masses of social disintegration. It
spends its force very largely in mere revenges upon property as such,
attacks simply destructive by reason of the absence of any definite
ulterior scheme. It is an ill-equipped and planless belligerent who must
destroy whatever he captures because he can neither use nor take away. A
council of democratic socialists in possession of London would be as
capable of an orderly and sustained administration as the Anabaptists in
Munster. But the discomforts and disorders of our present planless
system do tend steadily to the development of this crude socialistic
spirit in the mass of the proletariat; merely vindictive attacks upon
property, sabotage, and the general strike are the logical and
inevitable consequences of an uncontrolled concentration of property in
a few hands, and such things must and will go on, the deep undertow in
the deliquescence of the Normal Social Life, until a new justice, a new
scheme of compensations and satisfactions is attained, or the Normal
Social Life re-emerges.

Fabian socialism was the first systematic attempt to meet the fatal
absence of administrative schemes in the earlier socialisms. It can
scarcely be regarded now as anything but an interesting failure, but a
failure that has all the educational value of a first reconnaissance
into unexplored territory. Starting from that attack on aggregating
property, which is the common starting-point of all socialist projects,
the Fabians, appalled at the obvious difficulties of honest
confiscation and an open transfer from private to public hands,
conceived the extraordinary idea of _filching_ property for the state. A
small body of people of extreme astuteness were to bring about the
municipalisation and nationalisation first of this great system of
property and then of that, in a manner so artful that the millionaires
were to wake up one morning at last, and behold, they would find
themselves poor men! For a decade or more Mr. Pease, Mr. Bernard Shaw,
Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb, Mrs. Besant, Dr. Lawson Dodd, and their
associates of the London Fabian Society, did pit their wits and ability,
or at any rate the wits and ability of their leisure moments, against
the embattled capitalists of England and the world, in this complicated
and delicate enterprise, without any apparent diminution of the larger
accumulations of wealth. But in addition they developed another side of
Fabianism, still more subtle, which professed to be a kind of
restoration in kind of property to the proletariat and in this direction
they were more successful. A dexterous use, they decided, was to be made
of the Poor Law, the public health authority, the education authority,
and building regulations and so forth, to create, so to speak, a
communism of the lower levels. The mass of people whom the forces of
change had expropriated were to be given a certain minimum of food,
shelter, education, and sanitation, and this, the socialists were
assured, could be used as the thin end of the wedge towards a complete
communism. The minimum, once established, could obviously be raised
continually until either everybody had what they needed, or the
resources of society gave out and set a limit to the process.

This second method of attack brought the Fabian movement into
co-operation with a large amount of benevolent and constructive
influence outside the socialist ranks altogether. Few wealthy people
really grudge the poor a share of the necessities of life, and most are
quite willing to assist in projects for such a distribution. But while
these schemes naturally involved a very great amount of regulation and
regimentation of the affairs of the poor, the Fabian Society fell away
more and more from its associated proposals for the socialisation of the
rich. The Fabian project changed steadily in character until at last it
ceased to be in any sense antagonistic to wealth as such. If the lion
did not exactly lie down with the lamb, at any rate the man with the gun
and the alleged social mad dog returned very peaceably together. The
Fabian hunt was up.

Great financiers contributed generously to a School of Economics that
had been founded with moneys left to the Fabian Society by earlier
enthusiasts for socialist propaganda and education. It remained for Mr.
Belloc to point the moral of the whole development with a phrase, to
note that Fabianism no longer aimed at the socialisation of the whole
community, but only at the socialisation of the poor. The first really
complete project for a new social order to replace the Normal Social
Life was before the world, and this project was the compulsory
regimentation of the workers and the complete state control of labour
under a new plutocracy. Our present chaos was to be organised into a
Servile State.

Sec. 4

Now to many of us who found the general spirit of the socialist movement
at least hopeful and attractive and sympathetic, this would be an almost
tragic conclusion, did we believe that Fabianism was anything more than
the first experiment in planning--and one almost inevitably shallow and
presumptuous--of the long series that may be necessary before a clear
light breaks upon the road humanity must follow. But we decline to be
forced by this one intellectual fiasco towards the _laissez faire_ of
the Individualist and the Marxist, or to accept the Normal Social Life
with its atmosphere of hens and cows and dung, its incessant toil, its
servitude of women, and its endless repetitions as the only tolerable
life conceivable for the bulk of mankind--as the ultimate life, that is,
of mankind. With less arrogance and confidence, but it may be with a
firmer faith, we declare that we believe a more spacious social order
than any that exists or ever has existed, a Peace of the World in which
there is an almost universal freedom, health, happiness, and well-being
and which contains the seeds of a still greater future, is possible to
mankind. We propose to begin again with the recognition of those same
difficulties the Fabians first realised. But we do not propose to
organise a society, form a group for the control of the two chief
political parties, bring about "socialism" in twenty-five years, or do
anything beyond contributing in our place and measure to that
constructive discussion whose real magnitude we now begin to realise.

We have faith in a possible future, but it is a faith that makes the
quality of that future entirely dependent upon the strength and
clearness of purpose that this present time can produce. We do not
believe the greater social state is inevitable.

Yet there is, we hold, a certain qualified inevitability about this
greater social state because we believe any social state not affording a
general contentment, a general freedom, and a general and increasing
fullness of life, must sooner or later collapse and disintegrate again,
and revert more or less completely to the Normal Social Life, and
because we believe the Normal Social Life is itself thick-sown with the
seeds of fresh beginnings. The Normal Social Life has never at any time
been absolutely permanent, always it has carried within itself the germs
of enterprise and adventure and exchanges that finally attack its
stability. The superimposed social order of to-day, such as it is, with
its huge development of expropriated labour, and the schemes of the
later Fabians to fix this state of affairs in an organised form and
render it plausibly tolerable, seem also doomed to accumulate
catastrophic tensions. Bureaucratic schemes for establishing the regular
lifelong subordination of a labouring class, enlivened though they may
be by frequent inspection, disciplinary treatment during seasons of
unemployment, compulsory temperance, free medical attendance, and a
cheap and shallow elementary education fail to satisfy the restless
cravings in the heart of man. They are cravings that even the baffling
methods of the most ingeniously worked Conciliation Boards cannot
permanently restrain. The drift of any Servile State must be towards a
class revolt, paralysing sabotage and a general strike. The more rigid
and complete the Servile State becomes, the more thorough will be its
ultimate failure. Its fate is decay or explosion. From its débris we
shall either revert to the Normal Social Life and begin again the long
struggle towards that ampler, happier, juster arrangement of human
affairs which we of this book, at any rate, believe to be possible, or
we shall pass into the twilight of mankind.

This greater social life we put, then, as the only real alternative to
the Normal Social Life from which man is continually escaping. For it we
do not propose to use the expressions the "socialist state" or
"socialism," because we believe those terms have now by constant
confused use become so battered and bent and discoloured by irrelevant
associations as to be rather misleading than expressive. We propose to
use the term The Great State to express this ideal of a social system no
longer localised, no longer immediately tied to and conditioned by the
cultivation of the land, world-wide in its interests and outlook and
catholic in its tolerance and sympathy, a system of great individual
freedom with a universal understanding among its citizens of a
collective thought and purpose.

Now, the difficulties that lie in the way of humanity in its complex and
toilsome journey through the coming centuries towards this Great State
are fundamentally difficulties of adaptation and adjustment. To no
conceivable social state is man inherently fitted: he is a creature of
jealousy and suspicion, unstable, restless, acquisitive, aggressive,
intractable, and of a most subtle and nimble dishonesty. Moreover, he is
imaginative, adventurous, and inventive. His nature and instincts are as
much in conflict with the necessary restrictions and subjugation of the
Normal Social Life as they are likely to be with any other social net
that necessity may weave about him. But the Normal Social Life has this
advantage that it has a vast accumulated moral tradition and a minutely
worked-out material method. All the fundamental institutions have arisen
in relation to it and are adapted to its conditions. To revert to it
after any phase of social chaos and distress is and will continue for
many years to be the path of least resistance for perplexed humanity.

This conception of the Great State, on the other hand, is still
altogether unsubstantial. It is a project as dream-like to-day as
electric lighting, electric traction, or aviation would have been in the
year 1850. In 1850 a man reasonably conversant with the physical science
of his time could have declared with a very considerable confidence
that, given a certain measure of persistence and social security, these
things were more likely to be attained than not in the course of the
next century. But such a prophecy was conditional on the preliminary
accumulation of a considerable amount of knowledge, on many experiments
and failures. Had the world of 1850, by some wave of impulse, placed all
its resources in the hands of the ablest scientific man alive, and asked
him to produce a practicable paying electric vehicle before 1852, at
best he would have produced some clumsy, curious toy, more probably he
would have failed altogether; and, similarly, if the whole population of
the world came to the present writer and promised meekly to do whatever
it was told, we should find ourselves still very largely at a loss in
our project for a millennium. Yet just as nearly every man at work upon
Voltaic electricity in 1850 knew that he was preparing for electric
traction, so do I know quite certainly, in spite of a whole row of
unsolved problems before me, that I am working towards the Great State.

Let me briefly recapitulate the main problems which have to be attacked
in the attempt to realise the outline of the Great State. At the base of
the whole order there must be some method of agricultural production,
and if the agricultural labourer and cottager and the ancient life of
the small householder on the holding, a life laborious, prolific,
illiterate, limited, and in immediate contact with the land used, is to
recede and disappear it must recede and disappear before methods upon a
much larger scale, employing wholesale machinery and involving great
economies. It is alleged by modern writers that the permanent residence
of the cultivator in close relation to his ground is a legacy from the
days of cumbrous and expensive transit, that the great proportion of
farm work is seasonal, and that a migration to and fro between rural and
urban conditions would be entirely practicable in a largely planned
community. The agricultural population could move out of town into an
open-air life as the spring approached, and return for spending,
pleasure, and education as the days shortened. Already something of this
sort occurs under extremely unfavourable conditions in the movement of
the fruit and hop pickers from the east end of London into Kent, but
that is a mere hint of the extended picnic which a broadly planned
cultivation might afford. A fully developed civilisation, employing
machines in the hands of highly skilled men, will minimise toil to the
very utmost, no man will shove where a machine can shove, or carry where
a machine can carry; but there will remain, more particularly in the
summer, a vast amount of hand operations, invigorating and even
attractive to the urban population Given short hours, good pay, and all
the jolly amusement in the evening camp that a free, happy, and
intelligent people will develop for themselves, and there will be
little difficulty about this particular class of work to differentiate
it from any other sort of necessary labour.

One passes, therefore, with no definite transition from the root problem
of agricultural production in the Great State to the wider problem of
labour in general.

A glance at the countryside conjures up a picture of extensive tracts
being cultivated on a wholesale scale, of skilled men directing great
ploughing, sowing, and reaping plants, steering cattle and sheep about
carefully designed enclosures, constructing channels and guiding sewage
towards its proper destination on the fields, and then of added crowds
of genial people coming out to spray trees and plants, pick and sort and
pack fruits. But who are these people? Why are they in particular doing
this for the community? Is our Great State still to have a majority of
people glad to do commonplace work for mediocre wages, and will there be
other individuals who will ride by on the roads, sympathetically, no
doubt, but with a secret sense of superiority? So one opens the general
problem of the organisation for labour.

I am careful here to write "for labour" and not "of Labour," because it
is entirely against the spirit of the Great State that any section of
the people should be set aside as a class to do most of the monotonous,
laborious, and uneventful things for the community. That is practically
the present arrangement, and that, with a quickened sense of the need of
breaking people in to such a life, is the ideal of the bureaucratic
Servile State to which, in common with the Conservators, we are bitterly
opposed. And here I know I am at my most difficult, most speculative,
and most revolutionary point. We who look to the Great State as the
present aim of human progress believe a state may solve its economic
problem without any section whatever of the community being condemned to
lifelong labour. And contemporary events, the phenomena of recent
strikes, the phenomena of sabotage, carry out the suggestion that in a
community where nearly everyone reads extensively travels about, sees
the charm and variety in the lives of prosperous and leisurely people,
no class is going to submit permanently to modern labour conditions
without extreme resistance, even after the most elaborate Labour
Conciliation schemes and social minima are established Things are
altogether too stimulating to the imagination nowadays. Of all
impossible social dreams that belief in tranquillised and submissive and
virtuous Labour is the wildest of all. No sort of modern men will stand
it. They will as a class do any vivid and disastrous thing rather than
stand it. Even the illiterate peasant will only endure lifelong toil
under the stimulus of private ownership and with the consolations of
religion; and the typical modern worker has neither the one nor the
other. For a time, indeed, for a generation or so even, a labour mass
may be fooled or coerced, but in the end it will break out against its
subjection, even if it breaks out to a general social catastrophe.

We have, in fact, to invent for the Great State, if we are to suppose
any Great State at all, an economic method without any specific labour
class. If we cannot do so, we had better throw ourselves in with the
Conservators forthwith, for they are right and we are absurd. Adhesion
to the conception of the Great State involves adhesion to the belief
that the amount of regular labour, skilled and unskilled, required to
produce everything necessary for everyone living in its highly elaborate
civilisation may, under modern conditions, with the help of scientific
economy and power-producing machinery, be reduced to so small a number
of working hours per head in proportion to the average life of the
citizen, as to be met as regards the greater moiety of it by the payment
of wages over and above the gratuitous share of each individual in the
general output; and as regards the residue, a residue of rough,
disagreeable, and monotonous operations, by some form of conscription,
which will demand a year or so, let us say, of each person's life for
the public service. If we reflect that in the contemporary state there
is already food, shelter, and clothing of a sort for everyone, in spite
of the fact that enormous numbers of people do no productive work at all
because they are too well off, that great numbers are out of work, great
numbers by bad nutrition and training incapable of work, and that an
enormous amount of the work actually done is the overlapping production
of competitive trade and work upon such politically necessary but
socially useless things as Dreadnoughts, it becomes clear that the
absolutely unavoidable labour in a modern community and its ratio to the
available vitality must be of very small account indeed. But all this
has still to be worked out even in the most general terms. An
intelligent science of economics should afford standards and
technicalities and systematised facts upon which to base an estimate.
The point was raised a quarter of a century ago by Morris in his "News
from Nowhere," and indeed it was already discussed by More in his
"Utopia." Our contemporary economics is, however, still a foolish,
pretentious pseudo-science, a festering mass of assumptions about buying
and selling and wages-paying, and one would as soon consult Bradshaw or
the works of Dumas as our orthodox professors of economics for any
light upon this fundamental matter.

Moreover, we believe that there is a real disposition to work in human
beings, and that in a well-equipped community, in which no one was under
an unavoidable urgency to work, the greater proportion of productive
operations could be made sufficiently attractive to make them desirable
occupations. As for the irreducible residue of undesirable toil, I owe
to my friend the late Professor William James this suggestion of a
general conscription and a period of public service for everyone, a
suggestion which greatly occupied his thoughts during the last years of
his life. He was profoundly convinced of the high educational and
disciplinary value of universal compulsory military service, and of the
need of something more than a sentimental ideal of duty in public life.
He would have had the whole population taught in the schools and
prepared for this year (or whatever period it had to be) of patient and
heroic labour, the men for the mines, the fisheries, the sanitary
services, railway routine, the women for hospital, and perhaps
educational work, and so forth. He believed such a service would
permeate the whole state with a sense of civic obligation....

But behind all these conceivable triumphs of scientific adjustment and
direction lies the infinitely greater difficulty on our way to the Great
State, the difficulty of direction. What sort of people are going to
distribute the work of the community, decide what is or is not to be
done, determine wages, initiate enterprises; and under what sort of
criticism, checks, and controls are they going to do this delicate and
extensive work? With this we open the whole problem of government,
administration and officialdom.

The Marxist and the democratic socialist generally shirk this riddle
altogether; the Fabian conception of a bureaucracy, official to the
extent of being a distinct class and cult, exists only as a
starting-point for healthy repudiations. Whatever else may be worked out
in the subtler answers our later time prepares, nothing can be clearer
than that the necessary machinery of government must be elaborately
organised to prevent the development of a managing caste in permanent
conspiracy, tacit or expressed, against the normal man. Quite apart from
the danger of unsympathetic and fatally irritating government there can
be little or no doubt that the method of making men officials for life
is quite the worst way of getting official duties done. Officialdom is a
species of incompetence. This rather priggish, teachable, and
well-behaved sort of boy, who is attracted by the prospect of assured
income and a pension to win his way into the Civil Service, and who then
by varied assiduities rises to a sort of timidly vindictive importance,
is the last person to whom we would willingly entrust the vital
interests of a nation. We want people who know about life at large, who
will come to the public service seasoned by experience, not people who
have specialised and acquired that sort of knowledge which is called, in
much the same spirit of qualification as one speaks of German Silver,
Expert Knowledge. It is clear our public servants and officials must be
so only for their periods of service. They must be taught by life, and
not "trained" by pedagogues. In every continuing job there is a time
when one is crude and blundering, a time, the best time, when one is
full of the freshness and happiness of doing well, and a time when
routine has largely replaced the stimulus of novelty. The Great State
will, I feel convinced, regard changes in occupation as a proper
circumstance in the life of every citizen; it will value a certain
amateurishness in its service, and prefer it to the trite omniscience of
the stale official. On that score of the necessity or versatility, if on
no other score, I am flatly antagonistic to the conceptions of "Guild
Socialism" which have arisen recently out of the impact of Mr. Penty and
Syndicalism upon the uneasy intelligence of Mr. Orage.

And since the Fabian socialists have created a widespread belief that in
their projected state every man will be necessarily a public servant or
a public pupil because the state will be the only employer and the only
educator, it is necessary to point out that the Great State presupposes
neither the one nor the other. It is a form of liberty and not a form of
enslavement. We agree with the older forms of socialism in supposing an
initial proprietary independence in every citizen. The citizen is a
shareholder in the state. Above that and after that, he works if he
chooses. But if he likes to live on his minimum and do nothing--though
such a type of character is scarcely conceivable--he can. His earning is
his own surplus. Above the basal economics of the Great State we assume
with confidence there will be a huge surplus of free spending upon
extra-collective ends. Public organisations, for example, may distribute
impartially and possibly even print and make ink and paper for the
newspapers in the Great State, but they will certainly not own them.
Only doctrine-driven men have ever ventured to think they would. Nor
will the state control writers and artists, for example, nor the
stage--though it may build and own theatres--the tailor, the dressmaker,
the restaurant cook, an enormous multitude of other busy
workers-for-preferences. In the Great State of the future, as in the
life of the more prosperous classes of to-day, the greater proportion of
occupations and activities will be private and free.

I would like to underline in the most emphatic way that it is possible
to have this Great State, essentially socialistic, owning and running
the land and all the great public services, sustaining everybody in
absolute freedom at a certain minimum of comfort and well-being, and
still leaving most of the interests, amusements, and adornments of the
individual life, and all sorts of collective concerns, social and
political discussion, religious worship, philosophy, and the like to the
free personal initiatives of entirely unofficial people.

This still leaves the problem of systematic knowledge and research, and
all the associated problems of aesthetic, moral, and intellectual
initiative to be worked out in detail; but at least it dispels the
nightmare of a collective mind organised as a branch of the civil
service, with authors, critics, artists, scientific investigators
appointed in a phrensy of wire-pulling--as nowadays the British state
appoints its bishops for the care of its collective soul.

Let me now indicate how these general views affect the problem of family
organisation and the problem of women's freedom. In the Normal Social
Life the position of women is easily defined. They are subordinated but
important. The citizenship rests with the man, and the woman's relation
to the community as a whole is through a man. But within that limitation
her functions as mother, wife, and home-maker are cardinal. It is one of
the entirely unforeseen consequences that have arisen from the decay of
the Normal Social Life and its autonomous home that great numbers of
women while still subordinate have become profoundly unimportant They
have ceased to a very large extent to bear children, they have dropped
most of their home-making arts, they no longer nurse nor educate such
children as they have, and they have taken on no new functions that
compensate for these dwindling activities of the domestic interior. That
subjugation which is a vital condition to the Normal Social Life does
not seem to be necessary to the Great State. It may or it may not be
necessary. And here we enter upon the most difficult of all our
problems. The whole spirit of the Great State is against any avoidable
subjugation; but the whole spirit of that science which will animate the
Great State forbids us to ignore woman's functional and temperamental
differences. A new status has still to be invented for women, a Feminine
Citizenship differing in certain respects from the normal masculine
citizenship. Its conditions remain to be worked out. We have indeed to
work out an entire new system of relations between men and women, that
will be free from servitude, aggression, provocation, or parasitism. The
public Endowment of Motherhood as such may perhaps be the first broad
suggestion of the quality of this new status. A new type of family, a
mutual alliance in the place of a subjugation, is perhaps the most
startling of all the conceptions which confront us directly we turn
ourselves definitely towards the Great State.

And as our conception of the Great State grows, so we shall begin to
realise the nature of the problem of transition, the problem of what we
may best do in the confusion of the present time to elucidate and render
practicable this new phase of human organisation. Of one thing there
can be no doubt, that whatever increases thought and knowledge moves
towards our goal; and equally certain is it that nothing leads thither
that tampers with the freedom of spirit, the independence of soul in
common men and women. In many directions, therefore, the believer in the
Great State will display a jealous watchfulness of contemporary
developments rather than a premature constructiveness. We must watch
wealth; but quite as necessary it is to watch the legislator, who
mistakes propaganda for progress and class exasperation to satisfy class
vindictiveness for construction. Supremely important is it to keep
discussion open, to tolerate no limitation on the freedom of speech,
writing, art and book distribution, and to sustain the utmost liberty of
criticism upon all contemporary institutions and processes.

This briefly is the programme of problems and effort to which my idea of
the Great State, as the goal of contemporary progress, leads me.

The diagram on p. 131 shows compactly the gist of the preceding
discussion; it gives the view of social development upon which I base
all my political conceptions.


produces an increasing surplus of energy and opportunity, more
particularly under modern conditions of scientific organisation and
power production; and this through the operation of rent and of usury
tends to
               (a) release         and       (b) expropriate
                     |                              |
      an increasing proportion of the population to become:
                     |                              |
  (_a_) A LEISURE CLASS       and      (_b_) A LABOUR CLASS
       under no urgent compulsion           divorced from the land and
                 to work                   living upon uncertain wages
   |3       |2       |1                             |1       2      3|
   |        |   which may degenerate     degenerate          |       |
   |        |   into a waster class      into a sweated,     |       |
   |        |                \           overworked,         |       |
   |        |                 \          violently           |       |
   |        |                  \         resentful           |       |
   |        |                   \        and destructive     |       |
   |        |                    \       rebel class         |       |
   |        |                     \       /                  |       |
   |        |                  and produce a                 |       |
   |        |                  SOCIAL DEBACLE                |       |
   |        |                                                |       |
   |   which may become                           which may become   |
   |   a Governing                                the controlled     |
   |   Class (with waster                         regimented         |
   |   elements) in                               and disciplined    |
   |   an unprogressive                           Labour Class of    |
   |   Bureaucratic        <----------------->    an unprogressive   |
   |   SERVILE STATE                              Bureaucratic       |
   |                                              SERVILE STATE      |
   |                                                                 |
  which may become                                    which may be
  the whole community                                 rendered needless
  of the GREAT STATE                                  by a universal
  working under various                               compulsory year
  motives and inducements                             or so of labour
  but not constantly,                                 service together
  nor permanently                                     with a scientific
  nor unwillingly                                     organisation
                                                      of production,
                                                      and so reabsorbed
                                                      by re-endowment
                                                      into the Leisure
                                                      Class of the
                                                      GREAT STATE


Sec. 1


I want to say as compactly as possible why I do not believe that
conscription would increase the military efficiency of this country, and
why I think it might be a disastrous step for this country to take.

By conscription I mean the compulsory enlistment for a term of service
in the Army of the whole manhood of the country. And I am writing now
from the point of view merely of military effectiveness. The educational
value of a universal national service, the idea which as a Socialist I
support very heartily, of making every citizen give a year or so of his
life to our public needs, are matters quite outside my present
discussion. What I am writing about now is this idea that the country
can be strengthened for war by making every man in it a bit of a

And I want the reader to be perfectly clear about the position I assume
with regard to war preparations generally. I am not pleading for peace
when there is no peace; this country has been constantly threatened
during the past decade, and is threatened now by gigantic hostile
preparations; it is our common interest to be and to keep at the maximum
of military efficiency possible to us. My case is not merely that
conscription will not contribute to that, but that it would be a
monstrous diversion of our energy and emotion and material resources
from the things that need urgently to be done. It would be like a boxer
filling his arms with empty boxing-gloves and then rushing--his face
protruding over the armful--into the fray.

Let me make my attack on this prevalent and increasing superstition of
the British need for conscription in two lines, one following the other.
For, firstly, it is true that Britain at the present time is no more
capable of creating such a conscript army as France or Germany possesses
in the next ten years than she is of covering her soil with a tropical
forest, and, secondly, it is equally true that if she had such an army
it would not be of the slightest use to her. For the conscript armies in
which Europe still so largely believes are only of use against conscript
armies and adversaries who will consent to play the rules of the German
war game; they are, if we chose to determine they shall be, if we chose
to deal with them as they should be dealt with, as out of date as a
Roman legion or a Zulu impi.

Now, first, as to the impossibility of getting our great army into
existence. All those people who write and talk so glibly in favour of
conscription seem to forget that to take a common man, and more
particularly a townsman, clap him into a uniform and put a rifle in his
hand does not make a soldier. He has to be taught not only the use of
his weapons, but the methods of a strange and unfamiliar life out of
doors; he has to be not simply drilled, but accustomed to the difficult
modern necessities of open order fighting, of taking cover, of
entrenchment, and he has to have created within him, so that it will
stand the shock of seeing men killed round about him, confidence in
himself, in his officers, and the methods and weapons of his side.
Body, mind, and imagination have all to be trained--and they need
trainers. The conversion of a thousand citizens into anything better
than a sheep-like militia demands the enthusiastic services of scores of
able and experienced instructors who know what war is; the creation of a
universal army demands the services of many scores of thousands of not
simply "old soldiers," but keen, expert, modern-minded _officers_.

Without these officers our citizen army would be a hydra without heads.
And we haven't these officers. We haven't a tithe of them.

We haven't these officers, and we can't make them in a hurry. It takes
at least five years to make an officer who knows his trade. It needs a
special gift, in addition to that knowledge, to make a man able to
impart it. And our Empire is at a peculiar disadvantage in the matter,
because India and our other vast areas of service and opportunity
overseas drain away a large proportion of just those able and educated
men who would in other countries gravitate towards the army. Such small
wealth of officers as we have--and I am quite prepared to believe that
the officers we have are among the very best in the world--are scarcely
enough to go round our present supply of private soldiers. And the best
and most brilliant among this scanty supply are being drawn upon more
and more for aerial work, and for all that increasing quantity of highly
specialised services which are manifestly destined to be the real
fighting forces of the future. We cannot spare the best of our officers
for training conscripts; we shall get the dismallest results from the
worst of them; and so even if it were a vital necessity for our country
to have an army of all its manhood now, we could not have it, and it
would be a mere last convulsion to attempt to make it with the means at
our disposal.

But that brings me to my second contention, which is that we do not want
such an army. I believe that the vast masses of men in uniform
maintained by the Continental Powers at the present time are enormously
overrated as fighting machines. I see Germany in the likeness of a boxer
with a mailed fist as big as and rather heavier than its body, and I am
convinced that when the moment comes for that mailed fist to be lifted,
the whole disproportionate system will topple over. The military
ascendancy of the future lies with the country that dares to experiment
most, that experiments best, and meanwhile keeps its actual fighting
force fit and admirable and small and flexible. The experience of war
during the last fifteen years has been to show repeatedly the enormous
defensive power of small, scientifically handled bodies of men. These
huge conscript armies are made up not of masses of military muscle, but
of a huge proportion of military fat. Their one way of fighting will be
to fall upon an antagonist with all their available weight, and if he is
mobile and dexterous enough to decline that issue of adiposity they will
become a mere embarrassment to their own people. Modern weapons and
modern contrivance are continually decreasing the number of men who can
be employed efficiently upon a length of front. I doubt if there is any
use for more than 400,000 men upon the whole Franco-Belgian frontier at
the present time. Such an army, properly supplied, could--so far as
terrestrial forces are concerned--hold that frontier against any number
of assailants. The bigger the forces brought against it the sooner the
exhaustion of the attacking power. Now, it is for employment upon that
frontier, and for no other conceivable purpose in the world, that Great
Britain is asked to create a gigantic conscript army.

And if too big an army is likely to be a mere encumbrance in war, it is
perhaps even a still graver blunder to maintain one during that conflict
of preparation which is at present the European substitute for actual
hostilities. It consumes. It produces nothing. It not only eats and
drinks and wears out its clothes and withdraws men from industry, but
under the stress of invention it needs constantly to be re-armed and
freshly equipped at an expenditure proportionate to its size. So long as
the conflict of preparation goes on, then the bigger the army your
adversary maintains under arms the bigger is his expenditure and the
less his earning power. The less the force you employ to keep your
adversary over-armed, and the longer you remain at peace with him while
he is over-armed, the greater is your advantage. There is only one
profitable use for any army, and that is victorious conflict. Every army
that is not engaged in victorious conflict is an organ of national
expenditure, an exhausting growth in the national body. And for Great
Britain an attempt to create a conscript army would involve the very
maximum of moral and material exhaustion with the minimum of military
efficiency. It would be a disastrous waste of resources that we need
most urgently for other things.

Sec. 2

In the popular imagination the Dreadnought is still the one instrument
of naval war. We count our strength in Dreadnoughts and
Super-Dreadnoughts, and so long as we are spending our national
resources upon them faster than any other country, if we sink at least
£160 for every £100 sunk in these obsolescent monsters by Germany, we
have a reassuring sense of keeping ahead and being thoroughly safe. This
confidence in big, very expensive battleships is, I believe and hope,
shared by the German Government and by Europe generally, but it is,
nevertheless, a very unreasonable confidence, and it may easily lead us
into the most tragic of national disillusionments.

We of the general public are led to suppose that the next naval war--if
ever we engage in another naval war--will begin with a decisive fleet
action. The plan of action is presented with an alluring simplicity. Our
adversary will come out to us, in a ratio of 10 to 16, or in some ratio
still more advantageous to us, according as our adversary happens to be
this Power or that Power, there will be some tremendous business with
guns and torpedoes, and our admirals will return victorious to discuss
the discipline and details of the battle and each other's little
weaknesses in the monthly magazines. This is a desirable but improbable
anticipation. No hostile Power is in the least likely to send out any
battleships at all against our invincible Dreadnoughts. They will
promenade the seas, always in the ratio of 16 or more to 10, looking for
fleets securely tucked away out of reach. They will not, of course, go
too near the enemy's coast, on account of mines, and, meanwhile, our
cruisers will hunt the enemy's commerce into port.

Then other things will happen.

The enemy we shall discover using unsportsmanlike devices against our
capital ships. Unless he is a lunatic, he will prove to be much stronger
in reality than he is on paper in the matter of submarines,
torpedo-boats, waterplanes and aeroplanes. These are things cheap to
make and easy to conceal. He will be richly stocked with ingenious
devices for getting explosives up to these two million pound triumphs of
our naval engineering. On the cloudy and foggy nights so frequent about
these islands he will have extraordinary chances, and sooner or later,
unless we beat him thoroughly in the air above and in the waters
beneath, for neither of which proceedings we are prepared, some of these
chances will come off, and we shall lose a Dreadnought.

It will be a poor consolation if an ill-advised and stranded Zeppelin or
so enlivens the quiet of the English countryside by coming down and
capitulating. It will be a trifling countershock to wing an aeroplane or
so, or blow a torpedo-boat out of the water. Our Dreadnoughts will cease
to be a source of unmitigated confidence A second battleship disaster
will excite the Press extremely. A third will probably lead to a
retirement of the battle fleet to some east coast harbour, a refuge
liable to aeroplanes, or to the west coast of Ireland--and the real
naval war, which, as I have argued in an earlier chapter, will be a war
of destroyers, submarines and hydroplanes, will begin. Incidentally a
commerce destroyer may take advantage of the retirement of our fleet to
raid our trade routes.

We shall then realise that the actual naval weapons are these smaller
weapons, and especially the destroyer, the submarine, and the
waterplane--the waterplane most of all, because of its possibilities of
a comparative bigness--in the hands of competent and daring men. And I
find myself, as a patriotic Englishman, more and more troubled by doubts
whether we are as certainly superior to any possible adversary in these
essential things as we are in the matter of Dreadnoughts. I find myself
awake at nights, after a day much agitated by a belligerent Press,
wondering whether the real Empire of the Sea may not even now have
slipped out of our hands while our attention has been fixed on our
stately procession of giant warships, while our country has been in a
dream, hypnotised by the Dreadnought idea.

For some years there seems to have been a complete arrest of the British
imagination in naval and military matters. That declining faculty, never
a very active or well-exercised one, staggered up to the conception of a
Dreadnought, and seems now to have sat down for good. Its reply to every
demand upon it has been "more Dreadnoughts." The future, as we British
seem to see it, is an avenue of Dreadnoughts and Super-Dreadnoughts and
Super-Super-Dreadnoughts, getting bigger and bigger in a kind of
inverted perspective. But the ascendancy of fleets of great battleships
in naval warfare, like the phase of huge conscript armies upon land,
draws to its close. The progress of invention makes both the big ship
and the army crowd more and more vulnerable and less and less effective.
A new phase of warfare opens beyond the vista of our current programmes.
Smaller, more numerous and various and mobile weapons and craft and
contrivances, manned by daring and highly skilled men, must ultimately
take the place of those massivenesses. We are entering upon a period in
which the invention of methods and material for war is likely to be more
rapid and diversified than it has ever been before, and the question of
what we have been doing behind the splendid line of our Dreadnoughts to
meet the demands of this new phase is one of supreme importance.
Knowing, as I do, the imaginative indolence of my countrymen, it is a
question I face with something very near to dismay.

But it is one that has to be faced. The question that should occupy our
directing minds now is no longer "How can we get more Dreadnoughts?" but
"What have we to follow the Dreadnought?"

To the Power that has most nearly guessed the answer to that riddle
belongs the future Empire of the Seas. It is interesting to guess for
oneself and to speculate upon the possibility of a kind of armoured
mother-ship for waterplanes and submarines and torpedo craft, but
necessarily that would be a mere journalistic and amateurish guessing. I
am not guessing, but asking urgent questions. What force, what council,
how many imaginative and inventive men has the country got at the
present time employed not casually but professionally in anticipating
the new strategy, the new tactics, the new material, the new training
that invention is so rapidly rendering necessary? I have the gravest
doubts whether we are doing anything systematic at all in this way.

Now, it is the tremendous seriousness of this deficiency to which I want
to call attention. Great Britain has in her armour a gap more dangerous
and vital than any mere numerical insufficiency of men or ships. She is
short of minds. Behind its strength of current armaments to-day, a
strength that begins to evaporate and grow obsolete from the very moment
it comes into being, a country needs more and more this profounder
strength of intellectual and creative activity.

This country most of all, which was left so far behind in the production
of submarines, airships and aeroplanes, must be made to realise the
folly of its trust in established things. Each new thing we take up more
belatedly and reluctantly than its predecessor. The time is not far
distant when we shall be "caught" lagging unless we change all this.

We need a new arm to our service; we need it urgently, and we shall need
it more and more, and that arm is Research. We need to place inquiry and
experiment upon a new footing altogether, to enlist for them and
organise them, to secure the pick of our young chemists and physicists
and engineers, and to get them to work systematically upon the
anticipation and preparation of our future war equipment. We need a
service of invention to recover our lost lead in these matters.

And it is because I feel so keenly the want of such a service, and the
want of great sums of money for it, that I deplore the disposition to
waste millions upon the hasty creation of a universal service army and
upon excessive Dreadnoughting. I am convinced that we are spending upon
the things of yesterday the money that is sorely needed for the things
of to-morrow.

With our eyes averted obstinately from the future we are backing towards

Sec. 3

In the present armament competition there are certain considerations
that appear to be almost universally overlooked, and which tend to
modify our views profoundly of what should be done. Ultimately they will
affect our entire expenditure upon war preparation.

Expenditure upon preparation for war falls, roughly, into two classes:
there is expenditure upon things that have a diminishing value, things
that grow old-fashioned and wear out, such as fortifications, ships,
guns, and ammunition, and expenditure upon things that have a permanent
and even growing value, such as organised technical research, military
and naval experiment, and the education and increase of a highly trained
class of war experts.

I want to suggest that we are spending too much money in the former and
not enough in the latter direction We are buying enormous quantities of
stuff that will be old iron in twenty years' time, and we are starving
ourselves of that which cannot be bought or made in a hurry, and upon
which the strength of nations ultimately rests altogether; we are
failing to get and maintain a sufficiency of highly educated and
developed men inspired by a tradition of service and efficiency.

No doubt we must be armed to-day, but every penny we divert from
men-making and knowledge-making to armament beyond the margin of bare
safety is a sacrifice of the future to the present. Every penny we
divert from national wealth-making to national weapons means so much
less in resources, so much more strain in the years ahead. But a great
system of laboratories and experimental stations, a systematic,
industrious increase of men of the officer-aviator type, of the
research student type, of the engineer type, of the naval-officer type,
of the skilled sergeant-instructor type, a methodical development of a
common sentiment and a common zeal among such a body of men, is an added
strength that grows greater from the moment you call it into being. In
our schools and military and naval colleges lies the proper field for
expenditure upon preparation for our ultimate triumph in war. All other
war preparation is temporary but that.

This would be obvious in any case, but what makes insistence upon it
peculiarly urgent is the manifestly temporary nature of the present
European situation and the fact that within quite a small number of
years our war front will be turned in a direction quite other than that
to which it faces now.

For a decade and more all Western Europe has been threatened by German
truculence; the German, inflamed by the victories of 1870 and 1871, has
poured out his energy in preparation for war by sea and land, and it has
been the difficult task of France and England to keep the peace with
him. The German has been the provocator and leader of all modern
armaments. But that is not going on. It is already more than half over.
If we can avert war with Germany for twenty years, we shall never have
to fight Germany. In twenty years' time we shall be talking no more of
sending troops to fight side by side on the frontier of France; we shall
be talking of sending troops to fight side by side with French and
Germans on the frontiers of Poland.

And the justification of that prophecy is a perfectly plain one. The
German has filled up his country, his birth-rate falls, and the very
vigour of his military and naval preparations, by raising the cost of
living, hurries it down. His birth-rate falls as ours and the
Frenchman's falls, because he is nearing his maximum of population It is
an inevitable consequence of his geographical conditions. But eastward
of him, from his eastern boundaries to the Pacific, is a country already
too populous to conquer, but with possibilities of further expansion
that are gigantic. The Slav will be free to increase and multiply for
another hundred years. Eastward and southward bristle the Slavs, and
behind the Slavs are the colossal possibilities of Asia.

Even German vanity, even the preposterous ambitions that spring from
that brief triumph of Sedan, must awaken at last to these manifest
facts, and on the day when Germany is fully awake we may count the
Western European Armageddon as "off" and turn our eyes to the greater
needs that will arise beyond Germany. The old game will be over and a
quite different new game will begin in international relations.

During these last few years of worry and bluster across the North Sea we
have a little forgotten India in our calculations. As Germany faces
round eastward again, as she must do before very long, we shall find
India resuming its former central position in our ideas of international
politics. With India we may pursue one of two policies: we may keep her
divided and inefficient for war, as she is at present, and hold her and
own her and defend her as a prize, or we may arm her and assist her
development into a group of quasi-independent English-speaking
States--in which case she will become our partner and possibly at last
even our senior partner. But that is by the way. What I am pointing out
now is that whether we fight Germany or not, a time is drawing near
when Germany will cease to be our war objective and we shall cease to be
Germany's war objective, and when there will have to be a complete
revision of our military and naval equipment in relation to those
remoter, vaster Asiatic possibilities.

Now that possible campaign away there, whatever its particular nature
may be, which will be shaping our military and naval policy in the year
1933 or thereabouts, will certainly be quite different in its conditions
from the possible campaign in Europe and the narrow seas which
determines all our preparations now. We cannot contemplate throwing an
army of a million British conscripts on to the North-West Frontier of
India, and a fleet of Super-Dreadnoughts will be ineffective either in
Thibet or the Baltic shallows. All our present stuff, indeed, will be on
the scrap-heap then. What will not be on the scrap-heap will be such
enterprise and special science and inventive power as we have got
together. That is versatile. That is good to have now and that will be
good to have then.

Everyone nowadays seems demanding increased expenditure upon war
preparation. I will follow the fashion. I will suggest that we have the
courage to restrain and even to curtail our monstrous outlay upon war
material and that we begin to spend lavishly upon military and naval
education and training, upon laboratories and experimental stations,
upon chemical and physical research and all that makes knowledge and
leading, and that we increase our expenditure upon these things as fast
as we can up to ten or twelve millions a year. At present we spend about
eighteen and a half millions a year upon education out of our national
funds, but fourteen and a half of this, supplemented by about as much
again from local sources, is consumed in merely elementary teaching. So
that we spend only about four millions a year of public money on every
sort of research and education above the simple democratic level. Nearly
thirty millions for the foundations and only a seventh for the edifice
of will and science! Is it any marvel that we are a badly organised
nation, a nation of very widely diffused intelligence and very
second-rate guidance and achievement? Is it any marvel that directly we
are tested by such a new development as that of aeroplanes or airships
we show ourselves in comparison with the more braced-up nations of the
Continent backward, unorganised unimaginative, unenterprising?

Our supreme want to-day, if we are to continue a belligerent people, is
a greater supply of able educated men, versatile men capable of engines,
of aviation, of invention, of leading and initiative. We need more
laboratories, more scholarships out of the general mass of elementary
scholars, a quasi-military discipline in our colleges and a great array
of new colleges, a much readier access to instruction in aviation and
military and naval practice. And if we are to have national service let
us begin with it where it is needed most and where it is least likely to
disorganise our social and economic life; let us begin at the top. Let
us begin with the educated and propertied classes and exact a couple of
years' service in a destroyer or a waterplane, or an airship, or a,
research laboratory, or a training camp, from the sons of everybody who,
let us say, pays income tax without deductions. Let us mix with these a
big proportion--a proportion we may increase steadily--of keen
scholarship men from the elementary schools. Such a braced-up class as
we should create in this way would give us the realities of military
power, which are enterprise, knowledge, and invention; and at the same
time it would add to and not subtract from the economic wealth of the
community Make men; that is the only sane, permanent preparation for
war. So we should develop a strength and create a tradition that would
not rust nor grow old-fashioned in all the years to come.


Circumstances have made me think a good deal at different times about
the business of writing novels, and what it means, and is, and may be;
and I was a professional critic of novels long before I wrote them. I
have been writing novels, or writing about novels, for the last twenty
years. It seems only yesterday that I wrote a review--the first long and
appreciative review he had--of Mr. Joseph Conrad's "Almayer's Folly" in
the _Saturday Review_. When a man has focussed so much of his life upon
the novel, it is not reasonable to expect him to take too modest or
apologetic a view of it. I consider the novel an important and necessary
thing indeed in that complicated system of uneasy adjustments and
readjustments which is modern civilisation I make very high and wide
claims for it. In many directions I do not think we can get along
without it.

Now this, I know, is not the usually received opinion. There is, I am
aware, the theory that the novel is wholly and solely a means of
relaxation. In spite of manifest facts, that was the dominant view of
the great period that we now in our retrospective way speak of as the
Victorian, and it still survives to this day. It is the man's theory of
the novel rather than the woman's. One may call it the Weary Giant
theory. The reader is represented as a man, burthened, toiling, worn. He
has been in his office from ten to four, with perhaps only two hours'
interval at his club for lunch; or he has been playing golf; or he has
been waiting about and voting in the House; or he has been fishing; or
he has been disputing a point of law; or writing a sermon; or doing one
of a thousand other of the grave important things which constitute the
substance of a prosperous man's life. Now at last comes the little
precious interval of leisure, and the Weary Giant takes up a book.
Perhaps he is vexed: he may have been bunkered, his line may have been
entangled in the trees, his favourite investment may have slumped, or
the judge have had indigestion and been extremely rude to him. He wants
to forget the troublesome realities of life. He wants to be taken out of
himself, to be cheered, consoled, amused--above all, amused. He doesn't
want ideas, he doesn't want facts; above all, he doesn't
want--_Problems_. He wants to dream of the bright, thin, gay excitements
of a phantom world--in which he can be hero--of horses ridden and lace
worn and princesses rescued and won. He wants pictures of funny slums,
and entertaining paupers, and laughable longshoremen, and kindly
impulses making life sweet. He wants romance without its defiance, and
humour without its sting; and the business of the novelist, he holds, is
to supply this cooling refreshment. That is the Weary Giant theory of
the novel. It ruled British criticism up to the period of the Boer
war--and then something happened to quite a lot of us, and it has never
completely recovered its old predominance. Perhaps it will; perhaps
something else may happen to prevent its ever doing so.

Both fiction and criticism to-day are in revolt against that tired
giant, the prosperous Englishman. I cannot think of a single writer of
any distinction to-day, unless it is Mr. W.W. Jacobs, who is content
merely to serve the purpose of those slippered hours. So far from the
weary reader being a decently tired giant, we realise that he is only an
inexpressibly lax, slovenly and under-trained giant, and we are all out
with one accord resolved to exercise his higher ganglia in every
possible way. And so I will say no more of the idea that the novel is
merely a harmless opiate for the vacant hours of prosperous men. As a
matter of fact, it never has been, and by its nature I doubt if it ever
can be.

I do not think that women have ever quite succumbed to the tired giant
attitude in their reading. Women are more serious, not only about life,
but about books. No type or kind of woman is capable of that lounging,
defensive stupidity which is the basis of the tired giant attitude, and
all through the early 'nineties, during which the respectable frivolity
of Great Britain left its most enduring marks upon our literature, there
was a rebel undertow of earnest and aggressive writing and reading,
supported chiefly by women and supplied very largely by women, which
gave the lie to the prevailing trivial estimate of fiction. Among
readers, women and girls and young men at least will insist upon having
their novels significant and real, and it is to these perpetually
renewed elements in the public that the novelist must look for his
continuing emancipation from the wearier and more massive influences at
work in contemporary British life.

And if the novel is to be recognised as something more than a
relaxation, it has also, I think, to be kept free from the restrictions
imposed upon it by the fierce pedantries of those who would define a
general form for it. Every art nowadays must steer its way between the
rocks of trivial and degrading standards and the whirlpool of arbitrary
and irrational criticism. Whenever criticism of any art becomes
specialised and professional whenever a class of adjudicators is brought
into existence, those adjudicators are apt to become as a class
distrustful of their immediate impressions, and anxious for methods of
comparison between work and work, they begin to emulate the
classifications and exact measurements of a science, and to set up
ideals and rules as data for such classification and measurements. They
develop an alleged sense of technique, which is too often no more than
the attempt to exact a laboriousness of method, or to insist upon
peculiarities of method which impress the professional critic not so
much as being merits as being meritorious. This sort of thing has gone
very far with the critical discussion both of the novel and the play.
You have all heard that impressive dictum that some particular
theatrical display, although moving, interesting, and continually
entertaining from start to finish, was for occult technical reasons "not
a play," and in the same way you are continually having your
appreciation of fiction dashed by the mysterious parallel condemnation,
that the story you like "isn't a novel." The novel has been treated as
though its form was as well-defined as the sonnet. Some year or so ago,
for example, there was a quite serious discussion, which began, I
believe, in a weekly paper devoted to the interests of various
nonconformist religious organisations, about the proper length for a
novel. The critic was to begin his painful duties with a yard measure.
The matter was taken up with profound gravity by the _Westminster
Gazette_, and a considerable number of literary men and women were
circularised and asked to state, in the face of "Tom Jones," "The Vicar
of Wakefield," "The Shabby-Genteel Story," and "Bleak House," just
exactly how long the novel ought to be. Our replies varied according to
the civility of our natures, but the mere attempt to raise the question
shows, I think, how widespread among the editorial, paragraph-writing,
opinion-making sort of people is this notion of prescribing a definite
length and a definite form for the novel. In the newspaper
correspondence that followed, our friend the weary giant made a
transitory appearance again. We were told the novel ought to be long
enough for him to take up after dinner and finish before his whisky at

That was obviously a half-forgotten echo of Edgar Allan Poe's discussion
of the short story. Edgar Allan Poe was very definite upon the point
that the short story should be finished at a sitting. But the novel and
short story are two entirely different things, and the train of
reasoning that made the American master limit the short story to about
an hour of reading as a maximum, does not apply to the longer work. A
short story is, or should be, a simple thing; it aims at producing one
single, vivid effect; it has to seize the attention at the outset, and
never relaxing, gather it together more and more until the climax is
reached. The limits of the human capacity to attend closely therefore
set a limit to it; it must explode and finish before interruption occurs
or fatigue sets in. But the novel I hold to be a discursive thing; it is
not a single interest, but a woven tapestry of interests; one is drawn
on first by this affection and curiosity, and then by that; it is
something to return to, and I do not see that we can possibly set any
limit to its extent. The distinctive value of the novel among written
works of art is in characterisation, and the charm of a well-conceived
character lies, not in knowing its destiny, but in watching its
proceedings. For my own part, I will confess that I find all the novels
of Dickens, long as they are, too short for me. I am sorry they do not
flow into one another more than they do. I wish Micawber and Dick
Swiveller and Sairey Gamp turned up again in other novels than their
own, just as Shakespeare ran the glorious glow of Falstaff through a
group of plays. But Dickens tried this once when he carried on the
Pickwick Club into "Master Humphrey's Clock." That experiment was
unsatisfactory, and he did not attempt anything of the sort again.
Following on the days of Dickens, the novel began to contract, to
subordinate characterisation to story and description to drama;
considerations of a sordid nature, I am told, had to do with that;
something about a guinea and a half and six shillings with which we will
not concern ourselves--but I rejoice to see many signs to-day that that
phase of narrowing and restriction is over, and that there is every
encouragement for a return towards a laxer, more spacious form of
novel-writing. The movement is partly of English origin, a revolt
against those more exacting and cramping conceptions of artistic
perfection to which I will recur in a moment, and a return to the lax
freedom of form, the rambling discursiveness, the right to roam, of the
earlier English novel, of "Tristram Shandy" and of "Tom Jones"; and
partly it comes from abroad, and derives a stimulus from such bold and
original enterprises as that of Monsieur Rolland in his "Jean
Christophe." Its double origin involves a double nature; for while the
English spirit is towards discursiveness and variety, the new French
movement is rather towards exhaustiveness. Mr. Arnold Bennett has
experimented in both forms of amplitude. His superb "Old Wives' Tale,"
wandering from person to person and from scene to scene, is by far the
finest "long novel" that has been written in English in the English
fashion in this generation, and now in "Clayhanger" and its promised
collaterals, he undertakes that complete, minute, abundant presentation
of the growth and modification of one or two individual minds, which is
the essential characteristic of the Continental movement towards the
novel of amplitude. While the "Old Wives' Tale" is discursive,
"Clayhanger" is exhaustive; he gives us both types of the new movement
in perfection.

I name "Jean Christophe" as a sort of archetype in this connection,
because it is just at present very much in our thoughts by reason of the
admirable translation Mr. Cannan is giving us; but there is a greater
predecessor to this comprehensive and spectacular treatment of a single
mind and its impressions and ideas, or of one or two associated minds,
that comes to us now _via_ Mr. Bennett and Mr. Cannan from France. The
great original of all this work is that colossal last unfinished book of
Flaubert, "Bouvard et Pécuchet." Flaubert, the bulk of whose life was
spent upon the most austere and restrained fiction--Turgenev was not
more austere and restrained--broke out at last into this gay, sad
miracle of intellectual abundance. It is not extensively read in this
country; it is not yet, I believe, translated into English; but there it
is--and if it is new to the reader I make him this present of the secret
of a book that is a precious wilderness of wonderful reading. But if
Flaubert is really the Continental emancipator of the novel from the
restrictions of form, the master to whom we of the English persuasion,
we of the discursive school, must for ever recur is he, whom I will
maintain against all comers to be the subtlest and greatest _artist_--I
lay stress upon that word artist--that Great Britain has ever produced
in all that is essentially the novel, Laurence Sterne....

The confusion between the standards of a short story and the standards
of the novel which leads at last to these--what shall I call
them?--_Westminster Gazettisms?_--about the correct length to which the
novelist should aspire, leads also to all kinds of absurd condemnations
and exactions upon matters of method and style. The underlying fallacy
is always this: the assumption that the novel, like the story, aims at a
single, concentrated impression. From that comes a fertile growth of
error. Constantly one finds in the reviews of works of fiction the
complaint that this, that or the other thing in a novel is irrelevant.
Now it is the easiest thing, and most fatal thing, to become irrelevant
in a short story. A short story should go to its point as a man flies
from a pursuing tiger: he pauses not for the daisies in his path, or to
note the pretty moss on the tree he climbs for safety. But the novel by
comparison is like breakfasting in the open air on a summer morning;
nothing is irrelevant if the waiter's mood is happy, and the tapping of
the thrush upon the garden path, or the petal of apple-blossom that
floats down into my coffee, is as relevant as the egg I open or the
bread and butter I bite. And all sorts of things that inevitably mar the
tense illusion which is the aim of the short story--the introduction,
for example, of the author's personality--any comment that seems to
admit that, after all, fiction is fiction, a change in manner between
part and part, burlesque, parody, invective, all such thing's are not
necessarily wrong in the novel. Of course, all these things may fail in
their effect; they may jar, hinder, irritate, and all are difficult to
do well; but it is no artistic merit to evade a difficulty any more than
it is a merit in a hunter to refuse even the highest of fences. Nearly
all the novels that have, by the lapse of time, reached an assured
position of recognised greatness, are not only saturated in the
personality of the author, but have in addition quite unaffected
personal outbreaks. The least successful instance the one that is made
the text against all such first-personal interventions, is, of course,
Thackeray. But I think the trouble with Thackeray is not that he makes
first-personal interventions, but that he does so with a curious touch
of dishonesty. I agree with the late Mrs. Craigie that there was
something profoundly vulgar about Thackeray. It was a sham thoughtful,
sham man-of-the-world pose he assumed; it is an aggressive, conscious,
challenging person astride before a fire, and a little distended by
dinner and a sense of social and literary precedences, who uses the
first person in Thackeray's novels. It isn't the real Thackeray; it
isn't a frank man who looks you in the eyes and bares his soul and
demands your sympathy. That is a criticism of Thackeray, but it isn't a
condemnation of intervention.

I admit that for a novelist to come in person in this way before his
readers involves grave risks; but when it is done without affectations,
starkly as a man comes in out of the darkness to tell of perplexing
things without--as, for instance, Mr. Joseph Conrad does for all
practical purposes in his "Lord Jim"--then it gives a sort of depth, a
sort of subjective reality, that no such cold, almost affectedly
ironical detachment as that which distinguishes the work of Mr. John
Galsworthy, for example, can ever attain. And in some cases the whole
art and delight of a novel may lie in the author's personal
interventions; let such novels as "Elizabeth and her German Garden," and
the same writer's "Elizabeth in Rügen," bear witness.

Now, all this time I have been hacking away at certain hampering and
limiting beliefs about the novel, letting it loose, as it were, in form
and purpose; I have still to say just what I think the novel is, and
where, if anywhere, its boundary-line ought to be drawn. It is by no
means an easy task to define the novel. It is not a thing premeditated.
It is a thing that has grown up into modern life, and taken upon itself
uses and produced results that could not have been foreseen by its
originators. Few of the important things in the collective life of man
started out to be what they are. Consider, for example, all the
unexpected aesthetic values, the inspiration and variety of emotional
result which arises out of the cross-shaped plan of the Gothic
cathedral, and the undesigned delight and wonder of white marble that
has ensued, as I have been told, through the ageing and whitening of the
realistically coloured statuary of the Greeks and Romans. Much of the
charm of the old furniture and needlework, again, upon which the present
time sets so much store, lies in acquired and unpremeditated qualities.
And no doubt the novel grew up out of simple story-telling, and the
universal desire of children, old and young alike, for a story. It is
only slowly that we have developed the distinction of the novel from the
romance, as being a story of human beings, absolutely credible and
conceivable as distinguished from human beings frankly endowed with the
glamour, the wonder, the brightness, of a less exacting and more vividly
eventful world. The novel is a story that demands, or professes to
demand, no make-believe. The novelist undertakes to present you people
and things as real as any that you can meet in an omnibus. And I suppose
it is conceivable that a novel might exist which was just purely a story
of that kind and nothing more. It might amuse you as one is amused by
looking out of a window into a street, or listening to a piece of
agreeable music, and that might be the limit of its effect. But almost
always the novel is something more than that, and produces more effect
than that. The novel has inseparable moral consequences. It leaves
impressions, not simply of things seen, but of acts judged and made
attractive or unattractive. They may prove very slight moral
consequences, and very shallow moral impressions in the long run, but
there they are, none the less, its inevitable accompaniments. It is
unavoidable that this should be so. Even if the novelist attempts or
affects to be impartial, he still cannot prevent his characters setting
examples; he still cannot avoid, as people say, putting ideas into his
readers' heads. The greater his skill, the more convincing his treatment
the more vivid his power of suggestion. And it is equally impossible for
him not to betray his sense that the proceedings of this person are
rather jolly and admirable, and of that, rather ugly and detestable. I
suppose Mr. Bennett, for example, would say that he should not do so;
but it is as manifest to any disinterested observer that he greatly
loves and admires his Card, as that Richardson admired his Sir Charles
Grandison, or that Mrs. Humphry Ward considers her Marcella a very fine
and estimable young woman. And I think it is just in this, that the
novel is not simply a fictitious record of conduct, but also a study and
judgment of conduct, and through that of the ideas that lead to conduct,
that the real and increasing value--or perhaps to avoid controversy I
had better say the real and increasing importance--of the novel and of
the novelist in modern life comes in.

It is no new discovery that the novel, like the drama, is a powerful
instrument of moral suggestion. This has been understood in England ever
since there has been such a thing as a novel in England. This has been
recognised equally by novelists, novel-readers, and the people who
wouldn't read novels under any condition whatever. Richardson wrote
deliberately for edification, and "Tom Jones" is a powerful and
effective appeal for a charitable, and even indulgent, attitude towards
loose-living men. But excepting Fielding and one or two other of those
partial exceptions that always occur in the case of critical
generalisations, there is a definable difference between the novel of
the past and what I may call the modern novel. It is a difference that
is reflected upon the novel from a difference in the general way of
thinking. It lies in the fact that formerly there was a feeling of
certitude about moral values and standards of conduct that is altogether
absent to-day. It wasn't so much that men were agreed upon these
things--about these things there have always been enormous divergences
of opinion--as that men were emphatic, cocksure, and unteachable about
whatever they did happen to believe to a degree that no longer obtains.
This is the Balfourian age, and even religion seeks to establish itself
on doubt. There were, perhaps, just as many differences in the past as
there are now, but the outlines were harder--they were, indeed, so hard
as to be almost, to our sense, savage. You might be a Roman Catholic,
and in that case you did not want to hear about Protestants, Turks,
Infidels, except in tones of horror and hatred. You knew exactly what
was good and what was evil. Your priest informed you upon these points,
and all you needed in any novel you read was a confirmation, implicit or
explicit, of these vivid, rather than charming, prejudices. If you were
a Protestant you were equally clear and unshakable. Your sect, whichever
sect you belonged to, knew the whole of truth and included all the nice
people. It had nothing to learn in the world, and it wanted to learn
nothing outside its sectarian convictions. The unbelievers you know,
were just as bad, and said their creeds with an equal fury--merely
interpolating _nots_. People of every sort--Catholic, Protestant,
Infidel, or what not--were equally clear that good was good and bad was
bad, that the world was made up of good characters whom you had to love,
help and admire, and of bad characters to whom one might, in the
interests of goodness, even lie, and whom one had to foil, defeat and
triumph over shamelessly at every opportunity. That was the quality of
the times. The novel reflected this quality of assurance, and its utmost
charity was to unmask an apparent villain and show that he or she was
really profoundly and correctly good, or to unmask an apparent saint
and show the hypocrite. There was no such penetrating and pervading
element of doubt and curiosity--and charity, about the rightfulness and
beauty of conduct, such as one meets on every hand to-day.

The novel-reader of the past, therefore, like the novel-reader of the
more provincial parts of England to-day, judged a novel by the
convictions that had been built up in him by his training and his priest
or his pastor. If it agreed with these convictions he approved; if it
did not agree he disapproved--often with great energy. The novel, where
it was not unconditionally banned altogether as a thing disturbing and
unnecessary, was regarded as a thing subordinated to the teaching of the
priest or pastor, or whatever director and dogma was followed. Its
modest moral confirmations began when authority had completed its
direction. The novel was good--if it seemed to harmonise with the graver
exercises conducted by Mr. Chadband--and it was bad and outcast if Mr.
Chadband said so. And it is over the bodies of discredited and
disgruntled Chadbands that the novel escapes from its servitude and

Now the conflict of authority against criticism is one of the eternal
conflicts of humanity. It is the conflict of organisation against
initiative, of discipline against freedom. It was the conflict of the
priest against the prophet in ancient Judaea, of the Pharisee against
the Nazarene, of the Realist against the Nominalist, of the Church
against the Franciscan and the Lollard, of the Respectable Person
against the Artist, of the hedge-clippers of mankind against the
shooting buds. And to-day, while we live in a period of tightening and
extending social organisation, we live also in a period of adventurous
and insurgent thought, in an intellectual spring unprecedented in the
world's history. There is an enormous criticism going on of the faiths
upon which men's lives and associations are based, and of every standard
and rule of conduct. And it is inevitable that the novel, just in the
measure of its sincerity and ability, should reflect and co-operate in
the atmosphere and uncertainties and changing variety of this seething
and creative time.

And I do not mean merely that the novel is unavoidably charged with the
representation of this wide and wonderful conflict. It is a necessary
part of the conflict. The essential characteristic of this great
intellectual revolution amidst which we are living to-day, that
revolution of which the revival and restatement of nominalism under the
name of pragmatism is the philosophical aspect, consists in the
reassertion of the importance of the individual instance as against the
generalisation. All our social, political, moral problems are being
approached in a new spirit, in an inquiring and experimental spirit,
which has small respect for abstract principles and deductive rules. We
perceive more and more clearly, for example, that the study of social
organisation is an empty and unprofitable study until we approach it as
a study of the association and inter-reaction of individualised human
beings inspired by diversified motives, ruled by traditions, and swayed
by the suggestions of a complex intellectual atmosphere. And all our
conceptions of the relationships between man and man, and of justice and
rightfulness and social desirableness, remain something misfitting and
inappropriate, something uncomfortable and potentially injurious, as if
we were trying to wear sharp-edged clothes made for a giant out of tin,
until we bring them to the test and measure of realised individualities.

And this is where the value and opportunity of the modern novel comes
in. So far as I can see, it is the only medium through which we can
discuss the great majority of the problems which are being raised in
such bristling multitude by our contemporary social development Nearly
every one of those problems has at its core a psychological problem, and
not merely a psychological problem, but one in which the idea of
individuality is an essential factor. Dealing with most of these
questions by a rule or a generalisation is like putting a cordon round a
jungle full of the most diversified sort of game. The hunting only
begins when you leave the cordon behind you and push into the thickets.

Take, for example, the immense cluster of difficulties that arises out
of the increasing complexity of our state. On every hand we are creating
officials, and compared with only a few years ago the private life in a
dozen fresh directions comes into contact with officialdom. But we still
do practically nothing to work out the interesting changes that occur in
this sort of man and that, when you withdraw him as it were from the
common crowd of humanity, put his mind if not his body into uniform and
endow him with powers and functions and rules. It is manifestly a study
of the profoundest public and personal importance. It is manifestly a
study of increasing importance. The process of social and political
organisation that has been going on for the last quarter of a century is
pretty clearly going on now if anything with increasing vigour--and for
the most part the entire dependence of the consequences of the whole
problem upon the reaction between the office on the one hand and the
weak, uncertain, various human beings who take office on the other,
doesn't seem even to be suspected by the energetic, virtuous and more or
less amiable people whose activities in politics and upon the backstairs
of politics bring about these developments. They assume that the sort of
official they need, a combination of god-like virtue and intelligence
with unfailing mechanical obedience, can be made out of just any young
nephew. And I know of no means of persuading people that this is a
rather unjustifiable assumption, and of creating an intelligent
controlling criticism of officials and of assisting conscientious
officials to an effective self-examination, and generally of keeping the
atmosphere of official life sweet and healthy, except the novel. Yet so
far the novel has scarcely begun its attack upon this particular field
of human life, and all the attractive varied play of motive it contains.

Of course we have one supreme and devastating study of the illiterate
minor official in Bumble. That one figure lit up and still lights the
whole problem of Poor Law administration for the English reading
community. It was a translation of well-meant regulations and
pseudo-scientific conceptions of social order into blundering, arrogant,
ill-bred flesh and blood. It was worth a hundred Royal Commissions. You
may make your regulations as you please, said Dickens in effect; this is
one sample of the stuff that will carry them out. But Bumble stands
almost alone. Instead of realising that he is only one aspect of
officialdom, we are all too apt to make him the type of all officials,
and not an urban district council can get into a dispute about its
electric light without being denounced as a Bumbledom by some whirling
enemy or other. The burthen upon Bumble's shoulders is too heavy to be
borne, and we want the contemporary novel to give us a score of other
figures to put beside him, other aspects and reflections upon this great
problem of officialism made flesh. Bumble is a magnificent figure of the
follies and cruelties of ignorance in office--I would have every
candidate for the post of workhouse master pass a severe examination
upon "Oliver Twist"--but it is not only caricature and satire I demand.
We must have not only the fullest treatment of the temptations,
vanities, abuses, and absurdities of office, but all its dreams, its
sense of constructive order, its consolations, its sense of service, and
its nobler satisfactions. You may say that is demanding more insight and
power in our novels and novelists than we can possibly hope to find in
them. So much the worse for us. I stick to my thesis that the
complicated social organisation of to-day cannot get along without the
amount of mutual understanding and mutual explanation such a range of
characterisation in our novels implies. The success of civilisation
amounts ultimately to a success of sympathy and understanding. If people
cannot be brought to an interest in one another greater than they feel
to-day, to curiosities and criticisms far keener, and co-operations far
subtler, than we have now; if class cannot be brought to measure itself
against, and interchange experience and sympathy with class, and
temperament with temperament then we shall never struggle very far
beyond the confused discomforts and uneasiness of to-day, and the
changes and complications of human life will remain as they are now,
very like the crumplings and separations and complications of an immense
avalanche that is sliding down a hill. And in this tremendous work of
human reconciliation and elucidation, it seems to me it is the novel
that must attempt most and achieve most.

You may feel disposed to say to all this: We grant the major premises,
but why look to the work of prose fiction as the main instrument in this
necessary process of, so to speak, sympathising humanity together?
Cannot this be done far more effectively through biography and
autobiography, for example? Isn't there the lyric; and, above all, isn't
there the play? Well, so far as the stage goes, I think it is a very
charming and exciting form of human activity, a display of actions and
surprises of the most moving and impressive sort; but beyond the
opportunity it affords for saying startling and thought-provoking
things--opportunities Mr. Shaw, for example, has worked to the utmost
limit--I do not see that the drama does much to enlarge our sympathies
and add to our stock of motive ideas. And regarded as a medium for
startling and thought-provoking things, the stage seems to me an
extremely clumsy and costly affair. One might just as well go about with
a pencil writing up the thought-provoking phrase, whatever it is, on
walls. The drama excites our sympathies intensely, but it seems to me it
is far too objective a medium to widen them appreciably, and it is that
widening, that increase in the range of understanding, at which I think
civilisation is aiming. The case for biography, and more particularly
autobiography, as against the novel, is, I admit, at the first blush
stronger. You may say: Why give us these creatures of a novelist's
imagination, these phantom and fantastic thinkings and doings, when we
may have the stories of real lives, really lived--the intimate record of
actual men and women? To which one answers: "Ah, if one could!" But it
is just because biography does deal with actual lives, actual facts,
because it radiates out to touch continuing interests and sensitive
survivors, that it is so unsatisfactory, so untruthful. Its inseparable
falsehood is the worst of all kinds of falsehood--the falsehood of
omission. Think what an abounding, astonishing, perplexing person
Gladstone must have been in life, and consider Lord Morley's "Life of
Gladstone," cold, dignified--not a life at all, indeed, so much as
embalmed remains; the fire gone, the passions gone, the bowels carefully
removed. All biography has something of that post-mortem coldness and
respect, and as for autobiography--a man may show his soul in a thousand
half-conscious ways, but to turn upon oneself and explain oneself is
given to no one. It is the natural liars and braggarts, your Cellinis
and Casanovas, men with a habit of regarding themselves with a kind of
objective admiration, who do best in autobiography. And, on the other
hand, the novel has neither the intense self-consciousness of
autobiography nor the paralysing responsibilities of the biographer. It
is by comparison irresponsible and free. Because its characters are
figments and phantoms, they can be made entirely transparent. Because
they are fictions, and you know they are fictions, so that they cannot
hold you for an instant so soon as they cease to be true, they have a
power of veracity quite beyond that of actual records. Every novel
carries its own justification and its own condemnation in its success or
failure to convince you that _the thing was so_. Now history, biography,
blue-book and so forth, can hardly ever get beyond the statement that
the superficial fact was so.

You see now the scope of the claim I am making for the novel; it is to
be the social mediator, the vehicle of understanding, the instrument of
self-examination, the parade of morals and the exchange of manners, the
factory of customs, the criticism of laws and institutions and of social
dogmas and ideas. It is to be the home confessional, the initiator of
knowledge, the seed of fruitful self-questioning. Let me be very clear
here. I do not mean for a moment that the novelist is going to set up as
a teacher, as a sort of priest with a pen, who will make men and women
believe and do this and that. The novel is not a new sort of pulpit;
humanity is passing out of the phase when men _sit under_ preachers and
dogmatic influences. But the novelist is going to be the most potent of
artists, because he is going to present conduct, devise beautiful
conduct, discuss conduct analyse conduct, suggest conduct, illuminate it
through and through. He will not teach, but discuss, point out, plead,
and display. And this being my view you will be prepared for the demand
I am now about to make for an absolutely free hand for the novelist in
his choice of topic and incident and in his method of treatment; or
rather, if I may presume to speak for other novelists, I would say it is
not so much a demand we make as an intention we proclaim. We are going
to write, subject only to our limitations, about the whole of human
life. We are going to deal with political questions and religious
questions and social questions. We cannot present people unless we have
this free hand, this unrestricted field. What is the good of telling
stories about people's lives if one may not deal freely with the
religious beliefs and organisations that have controlled or failed to
control them? What is the good of pretending to write about love, and
the loyalties and treacheries and quarrels of men and women, if one must
not glance at those varieties of physical temperament and organic
quality, those deeply passionate needs and distresses from which half
the storms of human life are brewed? We mean to deal with all these
things, and it will need very much more than the disapproval of
provincial librarians, the hostility of a few influential people in
London, the scurrility of one paper, and the deep and obstinate silences
of another, to stop the incoming tide of aggressive novel-writing. We
are going to write about it all. We are going to write about business
and finance and politics and precedence and pretentiousness and decorum
and indecorum, until a thousand pretences and ten thousand impostures
shrivel in the cold, clear air of our elucidations. We are going to
write of wasted opportunities and latent beauties until a thousand new
ways of living open to men and women. We are going to appeal to the
young and the hopeful and the curious, against the established, the
dignified, and defensive. Before we have done, we will have all life
within the scope of the novel.


Suppose a philosopher had a great deal of money to spend--though this is
not in accordance with experience, it is not inherently impossible--and
suppose he thought, as any philosopher does think, that the British
public ought to read much more and better books than they do, and that
founding public libraries was the way to induce them to do so, what sort
of public libraries would he found? That, I submit, is a suitable topic
for a disinterested speculator.

He would, I suppose, being a philosopher, begin by asking himself what a
library essentially was, and he would probably come to the eccentric
conclusion that it was essentially a collection of books. He would, in
his unworldliness, entirely overlook the fact that it might be a job for
a municipally influential builder, a costly but conspicuous monument to
opulent generosity, a news-room, an employment bureau, or a
meeting-place for the glowing young; he would never think for a moment
of a library as a thing one might build, it would present itself to him
with astonishing simplicity as a thing one would collect. Bricks ceased
to be literature after Babylon.

His first proceeding would be, I suppose, to make a list of that
collection. What books, he would say, have all my libraries to possess
anyhow? And he would begin to jot down--with the assistance of a few
friends, perhaps--this essential list.

He would, being a philosopher, insist on good editions, and he would
also take great pains with the selection. It would not be a limited or
an exclusive list--when in doubt he would include. He would disregard
modern fiction very largely, because any book that has any success can
always be bought for sixpence, and modern poetry, because, with an
exception or so, it does not signify at all. He would set almost all the
Greek and Roman literature in well-printed translations and with
luminous introductions--and if there were no good translations he would
give some good man £500 or so to make one--translations of all that is
good in modern European literatures, and, last but largest portion of
his list, editions of all that is worthy of our own. He would make a
very careful list of thoroughly modern encyclopaedias, atlases, and
volumes of information, and a particularly complete catalogue of all
literature that is still copyright; and then--with perhaps a secretary
or so--he would revise all his lists and mark against every book whether
he would have two, five or ten or twenty copies, or whatever number of
copies of it he thought proper in each library.

Then next, being a philosopher, he would decide that if he was going to
buy a great number of libraries in this way, he was going to make an
absolutely new sort of demand for these books, and that he was entitled
to a special sort of supply.

He would not expect the machinery of retail book-selling to meet the
needs of wholesale buying. So he would go either to wholesale
booksellers, or directly to the various publishers of the books and
editions he had chosen, and ask for reasonable special prices for the
two thousand or seven thousand or fifty thousand of each book he
required. And the publishers would, of course, give him very special
prices, more especially in the case of the out-of-copyright books. He
would probably find it best to buy whole editions in sheets and bind
them himself in strong bindings. And he would emerge from these
negotiations in possession of a number of complete libraries each
of--how many books? Less than twenty thousand ought to do it, I think,
though that is a matter for separate discussion, and that should cost
him, buying in this wholesale way, under rather than over £2,000 a

And next he would bethink himself of the readers of these books. "These
people," he would say, "do not know very much about books, which,
indeed, is why I am giving them this library."

Accordingly, he would get a number of able and learned people to write
him guides to his twenty thousand books, and, in fact, to the whole
world of reading, a guide, for example, to the books on history in
general, a special guide to books on English history, or French or
German history, a guide to the books on geology, a guide to poetry and
poetical criticisms, and so forth.

Some such books our philosopher would find already done--the
"Bibliography of American History," of the American Libraries'
Association, for example, and Mr. Nield's "Guide to Historical
Fiction"--and what are not done he would commission good men to do for
him. Suppose he had to commission forty such guides altogether and that
they cost him on the average £500 each, for he would take care not to
sweat their makers, then that would add another £20,000 to his
expenditure. But if he was going to found 400 libraries, let us say,
that would only be £50 a library--a very trivial addition to his

The rarer books mentioned in these various guides would remind him,
however, of the many even his ample limit of twenty thousand forced him
to exclude, and he would, perhaps, consider the need of having two or
three libraries each for the storage of a hundred thousand books or so
not kept at the local libraries, but which could be sent to them at a
day's notice at the request of any reader. And then, and only then,
would he give his attention to the housing and staffing that this
reality of books would demand.

Being a philosopher and no fool, he would draw a very clear, hard
distinction between the reckless endowment of the building trade and the
dissemination of books. He would distinguish, too, between a library and
a news-room, and would find no great attraction in the prospect of
supplying the national youth with free but thumby copies of the sixpenny
magazines. He would consider that all that was needed for his library
was, first, easily accessible fireproof shelving for his collection,
with ample space for his additions, an efficient distributing office, a
cloak-room, and so forth, and eight or nine not too large, well lit,
well carpeted, well warmed and well ventilated rooms radiating from that
office, in which the guides and so forth could be consulted, and where
those who had no convenient, quiet room at home could read.

He would find that, by avoiding architectural vulgarities, a simple,
well proportioned building satisfying all these requirements and
containing housing for the librarian, assistant, custodian and staff
could be built for between £4,000 and £5,000, excluding the cost of
site, and his sites, which he would not choose for their
conspicuousness, might average something under another £1,000.

He would try to make a bargain with the local people for their
co-operation in his enterprise, though he would, as a philosopher,
understand that where a public library is least wanted it is generally
most needed. But in most cases he would succeed in stipulating for a
certain standard of maintenance by the local authority. Since moderately
prosperous illiterate men undervalue education and most town councillors
are moderately illiterate men, he would do his best to keep the salary
and appointment of the librarian out of such hands. He would stipulate
for a salary of at least £400, in addition to housing, light and heat,
and he would probably find it advisable to appoint a little committee of
visitors who would have the power to examine qualifications, endorse the
appointment, and recommend the dismissal of all his four hundred
librarians. He would probably try to make the assistantship at £100 a
year or thereabout a sort of local scholarship to be won by competition,
and only the cleaner and caretaker's place would be left to the local
politician. And, of course, our philosopher would stipulate that, apart
from all other expenditure, a sum of at least £200 a year should be set
aside for buying new books.

So our rich philosopher would secure at the minimum cost a number of
efficiently equipped libraries throughout the country. Eight thousand
pounds down and £900 a year is about as cheap as a public library can
be. Below that level, it would be cheaper to have no public library.
Above that level, a public library that is not efficient is either
dishonestly or incapably organised or managed, or it is serving too
large a district and needs duplication, or it is trying to do too much.


It has been one of the less possible dreams of my life to be a painted
Pagan God and live upon a ceiling. I crown myself becomingly in stars or
tendrils or with electric coruscations (as the mood takes me), and wear
an easy costume free from complications and appropriate to the climate
of those agreeable spaces. The company about me on the clouds varies
greatly with the mood of the vision, but always it is in some way, if
not always a very obvious way, beautiful. One frequent presence is G.K.
Chesterton, a joyous whirl of brush work, appropriately garmented and
crowned. When he is there, I remark, the whole ceiling is by a sort of
radiation convivial. We drink limitless old October from handsome
flagons, and we argue mightily about Pride (his weak point) and the
nature of Deity. A hygienic, attentive, and essentially anaesthetic
Eagle checks, in the absence of exercise, any undue enlargement of our
Promethean livers.... Chesterton often--but never by any chance Belloc.
Belloc I admire beyond measure, but there is a sort of partisan
viciousness about Belloc that bars him from my celestial dreams. He
never figures, no, not even in the remotest corner, on my ceiling. And
yet the divine artist, by some strange skill that my ignorance of his
technique saves me from the presumption of explaining, does indicate
exactly where Belloc is. A little quiver of the paint, a faint aura,
about the spectacular masses of Chesterton? I am not certain. But no
intelligent beholder can look up and miss the remarkable fact that
Belloc exists--and that he is away, safely away, away in his heaven,
which is, of course, the Park Lane Imperialist's hell. There he

But in this life I do not meet Chesterton exalted upon clouds, and there
is but the mockery of that endless leisure for abstract discussion
afforded by my painted entertainments. I live in an urgent and incessant
world, which is at its best a wildly beautiful confusion of impressions
and at its worst a dingy uproar. It crowds upon us and jostles us, we
get our little interludes for thinking and talking between much rough
scuffling and laying about us with our fists. And I cannot afford to be
continually bickering with Chesterton and Belloc about forms of
expression. There are others for whom I want to save my knuckles. One
may be wasteful in peace and leisure, but economies are the soul of

In many ways we three are closely akin; we diverge not by necessity but
accident, because we speak in different dialects and have divergent
metaphysics. All that I can I shall persuade to my way of thinking about
thought and to the use of words in my loose, expressive manner, but
Belloc and Chesterton and I are too grown and set to change our
languages now and learn new ones; we are on different roads, and so we
must needs shout to one another across intervening abysses. These two
say Socialism is a thing they do not want for men, and I say Socialism
is above all what I want for men. We shall go on saying that now to the
end of our days. But what we do all three want is something very alike.
Our different roads are parallel. I aim at a growing collective life, a
perpetually enhanced inheritance for our race, through the fullest,
freest development of the individual life. What they aim at ultimately I
do not understand, but it is manifest that its immediate form is the
fullest and freest development of the individual life. We all three hate
equally and sympathetically the spectacle of human beings blown up with
windy wealth and irresponsible power as cruelly and absurdly as boys
blow up frogs; we all three detest the complex causes that dwarf and
cripple lives from the moment of birth and starve and debase great
masses of mankind. We want as universally as possible the jolly life,
men and women warm-blooded and well-aired, acting freely and joyously,
gathering life as children gather corn-cockles in corn. We all three
want people to have property of a real and personal sort, to have the
son, as Chesterton put it, bringing up the port his father laid down,
and pride in the pears one has grown in one's own garden. And I agree
with Chesterton that giving--giving oneself out of love and
fellowship--is the salt of life.

But there I diverge from him, less in spirit, I think, than in the
manner of his expression. There is a base because impersonal way of
giving. "Standing drink," which he praises as noble, is just the thing I
cannot stand, the ultimate mockery and vulgarisation of that fine act of
bringing out the cherished thing saved for the heaven-sent guest. It is
a mere commercial transaction, essentially of the evil of our time.
Think of it! Two temporarily homeless beings agree to drink together,
and they turn in and face the public supply of drink (a little vitiated
by private commercial necessities) in the public-house. (It is horrible
that life should be so wholesale and heartless.) And Jones, with a
sudden effusion of manner, thrusts twopence or ninepence (got God knows
how) into the economic mysteries and personal delicacy of Brown. I'd as
soon a man slipped sixpence down my neck. If Jones has used love and
sympathy to detect a certain real thirst and need in Brown and knowledge
and power in its assuaging by some specially appropriate fluid, then we
have an altogether different matter; but the common business of
"standing treat" and giving presents and entertainments is as proud and
unspiritual as cock-crowing, as foolish and inhuman as that sorry
compendium of mercantile vices, the game of poker, and I am amazed to
find Chesterton commend it.

But that is a criticism by the way. Chesterton and Belloc agree with the
Socialist that the present world does not give at all what they want.
They agree that it fails to do so through a wild derangement of our
property relations. They are in agreement with the common contemporary
man (whose creed is stated, I think, not unfairly, but with the omission
of certain important articles by Chesterton), that the derangements of
our property relations are to be remedied by concerted action and in
part by altered laws. The land and all sorts of great common interests
must be, if not owned, then at least controlled, managed, checked,
redistributed by the State. Our real difference is only about a little
more or a little less owning. I do not see how Belloc and Chesterton can
stand for anything but a strong State as against those wild monsters of
property, the strong, big private owners. The State must be complex and
powerful enough to prevent them. State or plutocrat there is really no
other practical alternative before the world at the present time. Either
we have to let the big financial adventurers, the aggregating capitalist
and his Press, in a loose, informal combination, rule the earth, either
we have got to stand aside from preventive legislation and leave things
to work out on their present lines, or we have to construct a collective
organisation sufficiently strong for the protection of the liberties of
the some-day-to-be-jolly common man. So far we go in common. If Belloc
and Chesterton are not Socialists, they are at any rate not
anti-Socialists. If they say they want an organised Christian State
(which involves practically seven-tenths of the Socialist desire), then,
in the face of our big common enemies, of adventurous capital, of alien
Imperialism, base ambition, base intelligence, and common prejudice and
ignorance, I do not mean to quarrel with them politically, so long as
they force no quarrel on me. Their organised Christian State is nearer
the organised State I want than our present plutocracy. Our ideals will
fight some day, and it will be, I know, a first-rate fight, but to fight
now is to let the enemy in. When we have got all we want in common, then
and only then can we afford to differ. I have never believed that a
Socialist Party could hope to form a Government in this country in my
lifetime; I believe it less now than ever I did. I don't know if any of
my Fabian colleagues entertain so remarkable a hope. But if they do not,
then unless their political aim is pure cantankerousness, they must
contemplate a working political combination between the Socialist
members in Parliament and just that non-capitalist section of the
Liberal Party for which Chesterton and Belloc speak. Perpetual
opposition is a dishonourable aim in politics; and a man who mingles in
political development with no intention of taking on responsible tasks
unless he gets all his particular formulae accepted is a pervert, a
victim of Irish bad example, and unfit far decent democratic
institutions ...

I digress again, I see, but my drift I hope is clear. Differ as we may,
Belloc and Chesterton are with all Socialists in being on the same side
of the great political and social cleavage that opens at the present
time. We and they are with the interests of the mass of common men as
against that growing organisation of great owners who have common
interests directly antagonistic to those of the community and State. We
Socialists are only secondarily politicians. Our primary business is not
to impose upon, but to ram right into the substance of that object of
Chesterton's solicitude, the circle of ideas of the common man, the idea
of the State as his own, as a thing he serves and is served by. We want
to add to his sense of property rather than offend it. If I had my way I
would do that at the street corners and on the trams, I would take down
that alien-looking and detestable inscription "L.C.C.," and put up,
"This Tram, this Street, belongs to the People of London." Would
Chesterton or Belloc quarrel with that? Suppose that Chesterton is
right, and that there are incurable things in the mind of the common man
flatly hostile to our ideals; so much of our ideals will fail. But we
are doing our best by our lights, and all we can. What are Chesterton
and Belloc doing? If our ideal is partly right and partly wrong, are
they trying to build up a better ideal? Will they state a Utopia and how
they propose it shall be managed? If they lend their weight only to such
fine old propositions as that a man wants freedom, that he has a right
to do as he likes with his own, and so on, they won't help the common
man much. All that fine talk, without some further exposition, goes to
sustain Mr. Rockefeller's simple human love of property, and the woman
and child sweating manufacturer in his fight for the inspector-free
home industry. I bought on a bookstall the other day a pamphlet full of
misrepresentation and bad argument against Socialism by an Australian
Jew, published by the Single-Tax people apparently in a disinterested
attempt to free the land from the landowner by the simple expedient of
abusing anyone else who wanted to do as much but did not hold Henry
George to be God and Lord; and I know Socialists who will protest with
tears in their eyes against association with any human being who sings
any song but the "Red Flag" and doubts whether Marx had much experience
of affairs. Well, there is no reason why Chesterton and Belloc should at
their level do the same sort of thing. When we talk on a ceiling or at a
dinner-party with any touch of the celestial in its composition,
Chesterton and I, Belloc and I, are antagonists with an undying feud,
but in the fight against human selfishness and narrowness and for a
finer, juster law, we are brothers--at the remotest, half-brothers.

Chesterton isn't a Socialist--agreed! But now, as between us and the
Master of Elibank or Sir Hugh Bell or any other Free Trade Liberal
capitalist or landlord, which side is he on? You cannot have more than
one fight going on in the political arena at the same time, because only
one party or group of parties can win.

And going back for a moment to that point about a Utopia, I want one
from Chesterton. Purely unhelpful criticism isn't enough from a man of
his size. It isn't justifiable for him to go about sitting on other
people's Utopias. I appeal to his sense of fair play. I have done my
best to reconcile the conception of a free and generous style of
personal living with a social organisation that will save the world from
the harsh predominance of dull, persistent, energetic, unscrupulous
grabbers tempered only by the vulgar extravagance of their wives and
sons. It isn't an adequate reply to say that nobody stood treat there,
and that the simple, generous people like to beat their own wives and
children on occasion in a loving and intimate manner, and that they
won't endure the spirit of Mr. Sidney Webb.


There are some writers who are chiefly interesting in themselves, and
some whom chance and the agreement of men have picked out as symbols and
convenient indications of some particular group or temperament of
opinions. To the latter it is that Sir Thomas More belongs. An age and a
type of mind have found in him and his Utopia a figurehead and a token;
and pleasant and honourable as his personality and household present
themselves to the modern reader, it is doubtful if they would by this
time have retained any peculiar distinction among the many other
contemporaries of whom we have chance glimpses in letters and suchlike
documents, were it not that he happened to be the first man of affairs
in England to imitate the "Republic" of Plato. By that chance it fell to
him to give the world a noun and an adjective of abuse, "Utopian," and
to record how under the stimulus of Plato's releasing influence the
opening problems of our modern world presented themselves to the English
mind of his time. For the most part the problems that exercised him are
the problems that exercise us to-day, some of them, it may be, have
grown up and intermarried, new ones have joined their company, but few,
if any, have disappeared, and it is alike in his resemblances to and
differences from the modern speculative mind that his essential interest

The portrait presented by contemporary mention and his own intentional
and unintentional admissions, is of an active-minded and
agreeable-mannered man, a hard worker, very markedly prone to quips and
whimsical sayings and plays upon words, and aware of a double reputation
as a man of erudition and a wit. This latter quality it was that won him
advancement at court, and it may have been his too clearly confessed
reluctance to play the part of an informal table jester to his king that
laid the grounds of that deepening royal resentment that ended only with
his execution. But he was also valued by the king for more solid merits,
he was needed by the king, and it was more than a table scorned or a
clash of opinion upon the validity of divorce; it was a more general
estrangement and avoidance of service that caused that fit of regal
petulance by which he died.

It would seem that he began and ended his career in the orthodox
religion and a general acquiescence in the ideas and customs of his
time, and he played an honourable and acceptable part in that time; but
his permanent interest lies not in his general conformity but in his
incidental scepticism, in the fact that underlying the observances and
recognised rules and limitations that give the texture of his life were
the profoundest doubts, and that, stirred and disturbed by Plato, he saw
fit to write them down. One may question if such scepticism is in itself
unusual, whether any large proportion of great statesmen, great
ecclesiastics and administrators have escaped phases of destructive
self-criticism of destructive criticism of the principles upon which
their general careers were framed. But few have made so public an
admission as Sir Thomas More. A good Catholic undoubtedly he was, and
yet we find him capable of conceiving a non-Christian community
excelling all Christendom in wisdom and virtue; in practice his sense
of conformity and orthodoxy was manifest enough, but in his "Utopia" he
ventures to contemplate, and that not merely wistfully, but with some
confidence, the possibility of an absolute religious toleration.

The "Utopia" is none the less interesting because it is one of the most
inconsistent of books. Never were the forms of Socialism and Communism
animated by so entirely an Individualist soul. The hands are the hands
of Plato, the wide-thinking Greek, but the voice is the voice of a
humane, public-spirited, but limited and very practical English
gentleman who takes the inferiority of his inferiors for granted,
dislikes friars and tramps and loafers and all undisciplined and
unproductive people, and is ruler in his own household. He abounds in
sound practical ideas, for the migration of harvesters, for the
universality of gardens and the artificial incubation of eggs, and he
sweeps aside all Plato's suggestion of the citizen woman as though it
had never entered his mind. He had indeed the Whig temperament, and it
manifested itself down even to the practice of reading aloud in company,
which still prevails among the more representative survivors of the Whig
tradition. He argues ably against private property, but no thought of
any such radicalism as the admission of those poor peons of his, with
head half-shaved and glaring uniform against escape, to participation in
ownership appears in his proposals. His communism is all for the
convenience of his Syphogrants and Tranibores, those gentlemen of
gravity and experience, lest one should swell up above the others. So
too is the essential Whiggery of the limitation of the Prince's
revenues. It is the very spirit of eighteenth century Constitutionalism.
And his Whiggery bears Utilitarianism instead of the vanity of a
flower. Among his cities, all of a size, so that "he that knoweth one
knoweth all," the Benthamite would have revised his sceptical theology
and admitted the possibility of heaven.

Like any Whig, More exalted reason above the imagination at every point,
and so he fails to understand the magic prestige of gold, making that
beautiful metal into vessels of dishonour to urge his case against it,
nor had he any perception of the charm of extravagance, for example, or
the desirability of various clothing. The Utopians went all in coarse
linen and undyed wool--why should the world be coloured?--and all the
economy of labour and shortening of the working day was to no other end
than to prolong the years of study and the joys of reading aloud, the
simple satisfactions of the good boy at his lessons, to the very end of
life. "In the institution of that weal publique this end is only and
chiefly pretended and minded, that what time may possibly be spared from
the necessary occupations and affairs of the commonwealth, all that the
citizens should withdraw from the bodily service to the free liberty of
the mind and garnishing of the same. For herein they suppose the
felicity of this life to consist."

Indeed, it is no paradox to say that "Utopia," which has by a conspiracy
of accidents become a proverb for undisciplined fancifulness in social
and political matters, is in reality a very unimaginative work. In that,
next to the accident of its priority, lies the secret of its continuing
interest. In some respects it is like one of those precious and
delightful scrapbooks people disinter in old country houses; its very
poverty of synthetic power leaves its ingredients, the cuttings from and
imitations of Plato, the recipe for the hatching of eggs, the stern
resolutions against scoundrels and rough fellows, all the sharper and
brighter. There will always be found people to read in it, over and
above the countless multitudes who will continue ignorantly to use its
name for everything most alien to More's essential quality.


The London traffic problem is just one of those questions that appeal
very strongly to the more prevalent and less charitable types of English
mind. It has a practical and constructive air, it deals with
impressively enormous amounts of tangible property, it rests with a
comforting effect of solidity upon assumptions that are at once doubtful
and desirable. It seems free from metaphysical considerations, and it
has none of those disconcerting personal applications, those
penetrations towards intimate qualities, that makes eugenics, for
example, faintly but persistently uncomfortable. It is indeed an ideal
problem for a healthy, hopeful, and progressive middle-aged public man.
And, as I say, it deals with enormous amounts of tangible property.

Like all really serious and respectable British problems it has to be
handled gently to prevent its coming to pieces in the gift. It is safest
in charge of the expert, that wonderful last gift of time. He will talk
rapidly about congestion, long-felt wants, low efficiency, economy, and
get you into his building and rebuilding schemes with the minimum of
doubt and head-swimming. He is like a good Hendon pilot. Unspecialised
writers have the destructive analytical touch. They pull the wrong
levers. So far as one can gather from the specialists on the question,
there is very considerable congestion in many of the London
thoroughfares, delays that seem to be avoidable occur in the delivery of
goods, multitudes of empty vans cumber the streets, we have hundreds of
acres of idle trucks--there are more acres of railway sidings than of
public parks in Greater London--and our Overseas cousins find it
ticklish work crossing Regent Street and Piccadilly. Regarding life
simply as an affair of getting people and things from where they are to
where they appear to be wanted, this seems all very muddled and wanton.
So far it is quite easy to agree with the expert. And some of the
various and entirely incompatible schemes experts are giving us by way
of a remedy, appeal very strongly to the imagination. For example, there
is the railway clearing house, which, it is suggested, should cover I do
not know how many acres of what is now slumland in Shoreditch. The
position is particularly convenient for an underground connection with
every main line into London. Upon the underground level of this great
building every goods train into London will run. Its trucks and vans
will be unloaded, the goods passed into lifts, which will take every
parcel, large and small, at once to a huge, ingeniously contrived
sorting-floor above. There in a manner at once simple, ingenious and
effective, they will be sorted and returned, either into delivery vans
at the street level or to the trains emptied and now reloading on the
train level. Above and below these three floors will be extensive
warehouse accommodation. Such a scheme would not only release almost all
the vast area of London now under railway yards for parks and housing,
but it would give nearly every delivery van an effective load, and
probably reduce the number of standing and empty vans or half-empty vans
on the streets of London to a quarter or an eighth of the present
number. Mostly these are heavy horse vans, and their disappearance would
greatly facilitate the conversion of the road surfaces to the hard and
even texture needed for horseless traffic.

But that is a scheme too comprehensive and rational for the ordinary
student of the London traffic problem, whose mind runs for the most part
on costly and devastating rearrangements of the existing roadways.
Moreover, it would probably secure a maximum of effect with a minimum of
property manipulation; always an undesirable consideration in practical
politics. And it would commit London and England to goods transit by
railway for another century. Far more attractive to the expert advisers
of our various municipal authorities are such projects as a new Thames
bridge scheme, which will (with incalculable results) inject a new
stream of traffic into Saint Paul's Churchyard; and the removal of
Charing Cross Station to the south side of the river. Then, again, we
have the systematic widening of various thoroughfares, the shunting of
tramways into traffic streams, and many amusing, expensive, and
interesting tunnellings and clearances. Taken together, these huge
reconstructions of London are incoherent and conflicting; each is based
on its own assumptions and separate "expert" advice, and the resulting
new opening plays its part in the general circulation as duct or
aspirator, often with the most surprising results. The discussion of the
London traffic problem as we practise it in our clubs is essentially the
sage turning over and over again of such fragmentary schemes,
headshakings over the vacant sites about Aldwych and the Strand,
brilliant petty suggestions and--dispersal. Meanwhile the experts
intrigue; one partial plan after another gets itself accepted, this and
that ancient landmark perish, builders grow rich, and architects
infamous, and some Tower Bridge horror, some vulgarity of the
Automobile Club type, some Buckingham Palace atrocity, some Regent
Street stupidity, some such cramped and thwarted thing as that new arch
which gives upon Charing Cross is added to the confusion. I do not see
any reason to suppose that this continuous muddle of partial destruction
and partial rebuilding is not to constitute the future history of

Let us, however, drop the expert methods and handle this question rather
more rudely. Do we want London rebuilt? If we do, is there, after all,
any reason why we should rebuild it on its present site? London is where
it is for reasons that have long ceased to be valid; it grew there, it
has accumulated associations, an immense tradition, that this constant
mucking about of builders and architects is destroying almost as
effectually as removal to a new site. The old sort of rebuilding was a
natural and picturesque process, house by house, and street by street, a
thing as pleasing and almost as natural in effect as the spreading and
interlacing of trees; as this new building, this clearance of areas, the
piercing of avenues, becomes more comprehensive, it becomes less
reasonable. If we can do such big things we may surely attempt bigger
things, so that whether we want to plan a new capital or preserve the
old, it comes at last to the same thing, that it is unreasonable to be
constantly pulling down the London we have and putting it up again. Let
us drain away our heavy traffic into tunnels, set up that clearing-house
plan, and control the growth at the periphery, which is still so witless
and ugly, and, save for the manifest tidying and preserving that is
needed, begin to leave the central parts of London, which are extremely
interesting even where they are not quite beautiful, in peace.


It has long been generally recognised that there are two quite divergent
ways of attacking sociological and economic questions, one that is
called scientific and one that is not, and I claim no particular virtue
in the recognition of that; but I do claim a certain freshness in my
analysis of this difference, and it is to that analysis that your
attention is now called. When I claim freshness I do not make, you
understand, any claim to original discovery. What I have to say, and
have been saying for some time, is also more or less, and with certain
differences to be found in the thought of Professor Bosanquet, for
example, in Alfred Sidgwick's "Use of Words in Reasoning," in Sigwart's
"Logic," in contemporary American metaphysical speculation. I am only
one incidental voice speaking in a general movement of thought. My trend
of thought leads me to deny that sociology is a science, or only a
science in the same loose sense that modern history is a science, and to
throw doubt upon the value of sociology that follows too closely what is
called the scientific method.

The drift of my argument is to dispute not only that sociology is a
science, but also to deny that Herbert Spencer and Comte are to be
exalted as the founders of a new and fruitful system of human inquiry. I
find myself forced to depreciate these modern idols, and to reinstate
the Greek social philosophers in their vacant niches, to ask you rather
to go to Plato for the proper method, the proper way of thinking

We certainly owe the word Sociology to Comte, a man of exceptionally
methodical quality. I hold he developed the word logically from an
arbitrary assumption that the whole universe of being was reducible to
measurable and commeasurable and exact and consistent expressions.

In a very obvious way, sociology seemed to Comte to crown the edifice of
the sciences; it was to be to the statesman what pathology and
physiology were to the doctor; and one gathers that, for the most part,
he regarded it as an intellectual procedure in no way differing from
physics. His classification of the sciences shows pretty clearly that he
thought of them all as exact logical systematisations of fact arising
out of each other in a synthetic order, each lower one containing the
elements of a lucid explanation of those above it--physics explaining
chemistry; chemistry, physiology; physiology, sociology; and so forth.
His actual method was altogether unscientific; but through all his work
runs the assumption that in contrast with his predecessors he is really
being as exact and universally valid as mathematics. To Herbert
Spencer--very appropriately since his mental characteristics make him
the English parallel to Comte--we owe the naturalisation of the word in
English. His mind being of greater calibre than Comte's, the subject
acquired in his hands a far more progressive character. Herbert Spencer
was less unfamiliar with natural history than with any other branch of
practical scientific work; and it was natural he should turn to it for
precedents in sociological research. His mind was invaded by the idea
of classification, by memories of specimens and museums; and he
initiated that accumulation of desiccated anthropological anecdotes that
still figures importantly in current sociological work. On the lines he
initiated sociological investigation, what there is of it, still tends
to go.

From these two sources mainly the work of contemporary sociologists
derives. But there persists about it a curious discursiveness that
reflects upon the power and value of the initial impetus. Mr. V.V.
Branford, the able secretary of the Sociological Society, recently
attempted a useful work in a classification of the methods of what he
calls "approach," a word that seems to me eminently judicious and
expressive. A review of the first volume the Sociological Society has
produced brings home the aptness of this image of exploratory
operations, of experiments in "taking a line." The names of Dr. Beattie
Crozier and Mr. Benjamin Kidd recall works that impress one as
large-scale sketches of a proposed science rather than concrete
beginnings and achievements. The search for an arrangement, a "method,"
continues as though they were not. The desperate resort to the
analogical method of Commenius is confessed by Dr. Steinmetz, who talks
of social morphology, physiology, pathology, and so forth. There is also
a less initiative disposition in the Vicomte Combes de Lestrade and in
the work of Professor Giddings. In other directions sociological work is
apt to lose its general reference altogether, to lapse towards some
department of activity not primarily sociological at all. Examples of
this are the works of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb, M. Ostrogorski and M.
Gustave le Bon. From a contemplation of all this diversity Professor
Durkheim emerges, demanding a "synthetic science," "certain synthetic
conceptions"--and Professor Karl Pearson endorses the demand--to fuse
all these various activities into something that will live and grow.
What is it that tangles this question so curiously that there is not
only a failure to arrive at a conclusion, but a failure to join issue?

Well, there is a certain not too clearly recognised order in the
sciences to which I wish to call your attention, and which forms the
gist of my case against this scientific pretension. There is a gradation
in the importance of the instance as one passes from mechanics and
physics and chemistry through the biological sciences to economics and
sociology, a gradation whose correlatives and implications have not yet
received adequate recognition, and which do profoundly affect the method
of study and research in each science.

Let me begin by pointing out that, in the more modern conceptions of
logic, it is recognised that there are no identically similar objective
experiences; the disposition is to conceive all real objective being as
individual and unique. This is not a singular eccentric idea of mine; it
is one for which ample support is to be found in the writings of
absolutely respectable contemporaries, who are quite untainted by
association with fiction. It is now understood that conceivably only in
the subjective world, and in theory and the imagination, do we deal with
identically similar units, and with absolutely commensurable quantities.
In the real world it is reasonable to suppose we deal at most with
_practically_ similar units and _practically_ commensurable quantities.
But there is a strong bias, a sort of labour-saving bias in the normal
human mind to ignore this, and not only to speak but to think of a
thousand bricks or a thousand sheep or a thousand sociologists as though
they were all absolutely true to sample. If it is brought before a
thinker for a moment that in any special case this is not so, he slips
back to the old attitude as soon as his attention is withdrawn. This
source of error has, for instance, caught nearly the whole race of
chemists, with one or two distinguished exceptions, and _atoms_ and
_ions_ and so forth of the same species are tacitly assumed to be
similar one to another. Be it noted that, so far as the practical
results of chemistry and physics go, it scarcely matters which
assumption we adopt. For purposes of inquiry and discussion the
incorrect one is infinitely more convenient.

But this ceases to be true directly we emerge from the region of
chemistry and physics. In the biological sciences of the eighteenth
century, commonsense struggled hard to ignore individuality in shells
and plants and animals. There was an attempt to eliminate the more
conspicuous departures as abnormalities, as sports, nature's weak
moments, and it was only with the establishment of Darwin's great
generalisation that the hard and fast classificatory system broke down,
and individuality came to its own. Yet there had always been a clearly
felt difference between the conclusions of the biological sciences and
those dealing with lifeless substance, in the relative vagueness, the
insubordinate looseness and inaccuracy of the former. The naturalist
accumulated facts and multiplied names, but he did not go triumphantly
from generalisation to generalisation after the fashion of the chemist
or physicist. It is easy to see, therefore, how it came about that the
inorganic sciences were regarded as the true scientific bed-rock. It
was scarcely suspected that the biological sciences might perhaps, after
all, be _truer_ than the experimental, in spite of the difference in
practical value in favour of the latter. It was, and is by the great
majority of people to this day, supposed to be the latter that are
invincibly true; and the former are regarded as a more complex set of
problems merely, with obliquities and refractions that presently will be
explained away. Comte and Herbert Spencer certainly seem to me to have
taken that much for granted. Herbert Spencer no doubt talked of the
unknown and the unknowable, but not in this sense, as an element of
inexactness running through all things. He thought of the unknown as the
indefinable beyond to an immediate world that might be quite clearly and
exactly known.

Well, there is a growing body of people who are beginning to hold the
converse view--that counting, classification, measurement, the whole
fabric of mathematics, is subjective and deceitful, and that the
uniqueness of individuals is the objective truth. As the number of units
taken diminishes, the amount of variety and inexactness of
generalisation increases, because individuality tells more and more.
Could you take men by the thousand billion, you could generalise about
them as you do about atoms; could you take atoms singly, it may be you
would find them as individual as your aunts and cousins. That concisely
is the minority belief, and it is the belief on which this present paper
is based.

Now, what is called the scientific method is the method of ignoring
individualities; and, like many mathematical conventions, its great
practical convenience is no proof whatever of its final truth. Let me
admit the enormous value, the wonder of its results in mechanics, in all
the physical sciences, in chemistry, even in physiology--but what is its
value beyond that? Is the scientific method of value in biology? The
great advances made by Darwin and his school in biology were not made,
it must be remembered, by the scientific method, as it is generally
conceived, at all. He conducted a research into pre-documentary history.
He collected information along the lines indicated by certain
interrogations; and the bulk of his work was the digesting and critical
analysis of that. For documents and monuments he had fossils and
anatomical structures and germinating eggs too innocent to lie, and so
far he was nearer simplicity. But, on the other hand, he had to
correspond with breeders and travellers of various sorts, classes
entirely analogous, from the point of view of evidence, to the writers
of history and memoirs. I question profoundly whether the word
"science," in current usage anyhow, ever means such patient
disentanglement as Darwin pursued. It means the attainment of something
positive and emphatic in the way of a conclusion, based on amply
repeated experiments capable of infinite repetition, "proved," as they
say, "up to the hilt."

It would be, of course, possible to dispute whether the word "science"
should convey this quality of certitude; but to most people it certainly
does at the present time. So far as the movements of comets and electric
trams go, there is, no doubt, practically cocksure science; and
indisputably Comte and Herbert Spencer believed that cocksure could be
extended to every conceivable finite thing. The fact that Herbert
Spencer called a certain doctrine Individualism reflects nothing on the
non-individualising quality of his primary assumptions and of his mental
texture. He believed that individuality (heterogeneity) was and is an
evolutionary product from an original homogeneity. It seems to me that
the general usage is entirely for the limitation of the use of the word
"science" to knowledge and the search after knowledge of a high degree
of precision. And not simply the general usage: "Science is
measurement," Science is "organised common sense," proud, in fact, of
its essential error, scornful of any metaphysical analysis of its terms.

If we quite boldly face the fact that hard positive methods are less and
less successful just in proportion as our "ologies" deal with larger and
less numerous individuals; if we admit that we become less "scientific"
as we ascend the scale of the sciences, and that we do and must change
our method, then, it is humbly submitted we shall be in a much better
position to consider the question of "approaching" sociology. We shall
realise that all this talk of the organisation of sociology, as though
presently the sociologist would be going about the world with the
authority of a sanitary engineer, is and will remain nonsense.

In one respect we shall still be in accordance with the Positivist map
of the field of human knowledge; with us as with that, sociology stands
at the extreme end of the scale from the molecular sciences. In these
latter there is an infinitude of units; in sociology, as Comte
perceived, there is only one unit. It is true that Herbert Spencer, in
order to get classification somehow, did, as Professor Durkheim has
pointed out, separate human society into societies, and made believe
they competed one with another and died and reproduced just like
animals, and that economists, following List, have for the purposes of
fiscal controversy discovered economic types; but this is a transparent
device, and one is surprised to find thoughtful and reputable writers
off their guard against such bad analogy. But, indeed, it is impossible
to isolate complete communities of men, or to trace any but rude general
resemblances between group and group. These alleged units have as much
individuality as pieces of cloud; they come, they go, they fuse and
separate. And we are forced to conclude that not only is the method of
observation, experiment, and verification left far away down the scale,
but that the method of classification under types, which has served so
useful a purpose in the middle group of subjects, the subjects involving
numerous but a finite number of units, has also to be abandoned here. We
cannot put Humanity into a museum, or dry it for examination; our one
single still living specimen is all history, all anthropology, and the
fluctuating world of men. There is no satisfactory means of dividing it,
and nothing else in the real world with which to compare it. We have
only the remotest ideas of its "life-cycle" and a few relics of its
origin and dreams of its destiny ...

Sociology, it is evident, is, upon any hypothesis, no less than the
attempt to bring that vast, complex, unique Being, its subject, into
clear, true relations with the individual intelligence. Now, since
individual intelligences are individual, and each is a little
differently placed in regard to the subject under consideration, since
the personal angle of vision is much wider towards humanity than towards
the circumambient horizon of matter, it should be manifest that no
sociology of universal compulsion, of anything approaching the general
validity of the physical sciences, is ever to be hoped for--at least
upon the metaphysical assumptions of this paper. With that conceded, we
may go on to consider the more hopeful ways in which that great Being
may be presented in a comprehensible manner. Essentially this
presentation must involve an element of self-expression must partake
quite as much of the nature of art as of science. One finds in the first
conference of the Sociological Society, Professor Stein, speaking,
indeed a very different philosophical dialect from mine, but coming to
the same practical conclusion in the matter, and Mr. Osman Newland
counting "evolving ideals for the future" as part of the sociologist's
work. Mr. Alfred Fouillée also moves very interestingly in the region of
this same idea; he concedes an essential difference between sociology
and all other sciences in the fact of a "certain kind of liberty
belonging to society in the exercise of its higher functions." He says
further: "If this view be correct, it will not do for us to follow in
the steps of Comte and Spencer, and transfer, bodily and ready-made, the
conceptions and the methods of the natural sciences into the science of
society. For here the fact of _consciousness_ entails a reaction of the
whole assemblage of social phenomena upon themselves, such as the
natural sciences have no example of." And he concludes: "Sociology
ought, therefore, to guard carefully against the tendency to crystallise
that which is essentially fluid and moving, the tendency to consider as
given fact or dead data that which creates itself and gives itself into
the world of phenomena continually by force of its own ideal
conception." These opinions do, in their various keys, sound a similar
_motif_ to mine. If, indeed, the tendency of these remarks is
justifiable, then unavoidably the subjective element, which is beauty,
must coalesce with the objective, which is truth; and sociology mast be
neither art simply, nor science in the narrow meaning of the word at
all, but knowledge rendered imaginatively, and with an element of
personality that is to say, in the highest sense of the term,

If this contention is sound, if therefore we boldly set aside Comte and
Spencer altogether, as pseudo-scientific interlopers rather than the
authoritative parents of sociology, we shall have to substitute for the
classifications of the social sciences an inquiry into the chief
literary forms that subserve sociological purposes. Of these there are
two, one invariably recognised as valuable and one which, I think, under
the matter-of-fact scientific obsession, is altogether underrated and
neglected The first, which is the social side of history, makes up the
bulk of valid sociological work at the present time. Of history there is
the purely descriptive part, the detailed account of past or
contemporary social conditions, or of the sequence of such conditions;
and, in addition, there is the sort of historical literature that seeks
to elucidate and impose general interpretations upon the complex of
occurrences and institutions, to establish broad historical
generalisations, to eliminate the mass of irrelevant incident, to
present some great period of history, or all history, in the light of
one dramatic sequence, or as one process. This Dr. Beattie Crozier, for
example, attempts in his "History of Intellectual Development." Equally
comprehensive is Buckle's "History of Civilisation." Lecky's "History of
European Morals," during the onset of Christianity again, is essentially
sociology. Numerous works--Atkinson's "Primal Law," and Andrew Lang's
"Social Origins," for example--may be considered, as it were, to be
fragments to the same purport. In the great design of Gibbon's "Decline
and Fall of the Roman Empire," or Carlyle's "French Revolution," you
have a greater insistence upon the dramatic and picturesque elements in
history, but in other respects an altogether kindred endeavour to impose
upon the vast confusions of the past a scheme of interpretation,
valuable just to the extent of its literary value, of the success with
which the discrepant masses have been fused and cast into the shape the
insight of the writer has determined. The writing of great history is
entirely analogous to fine portraiture, in which fact is indeed
material, but material entirely subordinate to vision.

One main branch of the work of a Sociological Society therefore should
surely be to accept and render acceptable, to provide understanding,
criticism, and stimulus for such literary activities as restore the dead
bones of the past to a living participation in our lives.

But it is in the second and at present neglected direction that I
believe the predominant attack upon the problem implied by the word
"sociology" must lie; the attack that must be finally driven home. There
is no such thing in sociology as dispassionately considering what _is_,
without considering what is _intended to be_. In sociology, beyond any
possibility of evasion, ideas are facts. The history of civilisation is
really the history of the appearance and reappearance, the tentatives
and hesitations and alterations, the manifestations and reflections in
this mind and that, of a very complex, imperfect elusive idea, the
Social Idea. It is that idea struggling to exist and realise itself in
a world of egotisms, animalisms, and brute matter. Now, I submit it is
not only a legitimate form of approach, but altogether the most
promising and hopeful form of approach, to endeavour to disentangle and
express one's personal version of that idea, and to measure realities
from the stand-point of that idealisation. I think, in fact, that the
creation of Utopias--and their exhaustive criticism--is the proper and
distinctive method of sociology.

Suppose now the Sociological Society, or some considerable proportion of
it, were to adopt this view, that sociology is the description of the
Ideal Society and its relation to existing societies, would not this
give the synthetic framework Professor Durkheim, for example, has said
to be needed?

Almost all the sociological literature beyond the province of history
that has stood the test of time and established itself in the esteem of
men is frankly Utopian. Plato, when his mind turned to schemes of social
reconstruction thrust his habitual form of dialogue into a corner; both
the "Republic" and the "Laws" are practically Utopias in monologue; and
Aristotle found the criticism of the Utopian suggestions of his
predecessors richly profitable. Directly the mind of the world emerged
again at the Renascence from intellectual barbarism in the brief
breathing time before Sturm and the schoolmasters caught it and birched
it into scholarship and a new period of sterility, it went on from Plato
to the making of fresh Utopias. Not without profit did More discuss
pauperism in this form and Bacon the organisation of research; and the
yeast of the French Revolution was Utopias. Even Comte, all the while
that he is professing science, fact, precision, is adding detail after
detail to the intensely personal Utopia of a Western Republic that
constitutes his one meritorious gift to the world. Sociologists cannot
help making Utopias; though they avoid the word, though they deny the
idea with passion, their very silences shape a Utopia. Why should they
not follow the precedent of Aristotle, and accept Utopias as material?

There used to be in my student days, and probably still flourishes, a
most valuable summary of fact and theory in comparative anatomy, called
Rolleston's "Forms of Animal Life." I figure to myself a similar book, a
sort of dream book of huge dimensions, in reality perhaps dispersed in
many volumes by many hands, upon the Ideal Society. This book, this
picture of the perfect state, would be the backbone of sociology. It
would have great sections devoted to such questions as the extent of the
Ideal Society, its relation to racial differences, the relations of the
sexes in it, its economic organisations, its organisation for thought
and education, its "Bible"--as Dr. Beattie Crozier would say--its
housing and social atmosphere, and so forth. Almost all the divaricating
work at present roughly classed together as sociological could be
brought into relation in the simplest manner, either as new suggestions,
as new discussion or criticism, as newly ascertained facts bearing upon
such discussions and sustaining or eliminating suggestions. The
institutions of existing states would come into comparison with the
institutions of the Ideal State, their failures and defects would be
criticised most effectually in that relation, and the whole science of
collective psychology, the psychology of human association, would be
brought to bear upon the question of the practicability of this proposed

This method would give not only a boundary shape to all sociological
activities, but a scheme of arrangement for text books and lectures, and
points of direction and reference for the graduation and post graduate
work of sociological students.

Only one group of inquiries commonly classed as sociological would have
to be left out of direct relationship with this Ideal State; and that is
inquiries concerning the rough expedients to meet the failure of
imperfect institutions. Social emergency work of all sorts comes under
this head. What to do with the pariah dogs of Constantinople, what to do
with the tramps who sleep in the London parks, how to organise a soup
kitchen or a Bible coffee van, how to prevent ignorant people, who have
nothing else to do, getting drunk in beer-houses, are no doubt serious
questions for the practical administrator, questions of primary
importance to the politician; but they have no more to do with sociology
than the erection of a temporary hospital after the collision of two
trains has to do with railway engineering.

So much for my second and most central and essential portion of
sociological work. It should be evident that the former part, the
historical part, which conceivably will be much the bulkier and more
abundant of the two, will in effect amount to a history of the
suggestions in circumstance and experience of that Idea of Society of
which the second will consist, and of the instructive failures in
attempting its incomplete realisation.


The time is fast approaching when it will be necessary for the general
citizen to form definite opinions upon proposals for probably quite
extensive alterations of our present divorce laws, arising out of the
recommendations of the recent Royal Commission on the subject. It may
not be out of place, therefore, to run through some of the chief points
that are likely to be raised, and to set out the main considerations
affecting these issues.

Divorce is not one of those things that stand alone, and neither divorce
law nor the general principles of divorce are to be discussed without a
reference to antecedent arrangements. Divorce is a sequel to marriage,
and a change in the divorce law is essentially a change in the marriage
law. There was a time in this country when our marriage was a
practically divorceless bond, soluble only under extraordinary
circumstances by people in situations of exceptional advantage for doing
so. Now it is a bond under conditions, and in the event of the adultery
of the wife, or of the adultery plus cruelty or plus desertion of the
husband, and of one or two other rarer and more dreadful offences, it
can be broken at the instance of the aggrieved party. A change in the
divorce law is a change in the dissolution clauses, so to speak, of the
contract for the marriage partnership. It is a change in the marriage

A great number of people object to divorce under any circumstances
whatever. This is the case with the orthodox Catholic and with the
orthodox Positivist. And many religious and orthodox people carry their
assertion of the indissolubility of marriage to the grave; they demand
that the widow or widower shall remain unmarried, faithful to the vows
made at the altar until death comes to the release of the lonely
survivor also. Re-marriage is regarded by such people as a posthumous
bigamy. There is certainly a very strong and logical case to be made out
for a marriage bond that is indissoluble even by death. It banishes
step-parents from the world. It confers a dignity of tragic
inevitability upon the association of husband and wife, and makes a love
approach the gravest, most momentous thing in life. It banishes for ever
any dream of escape from the presence and service of either party, or of
any separation from the children of the union. It affords no alternative
to "making the best of it" for either husband or wife; they have taken a
step as irrevocable as suicide. And some logical minds would even go
further, and have no law as between the members of a family, no rights,
no private property within that limit. The family would be the social
unit and the father its public representative, and though the law might
intervene if he murdered or ill-used wife or children, or they him, it
would do so in just the same spirit that it might prevent him from
self-mutilation or attempted suicide, for the good of the State simply,
and not to defend any supposed independence of the injured member. There
is much, I assert, to be said for such a complete shutting up of the
family from the interference of the law, and not the least among these
reasons is the entire harmony of such a view with the passionate
instincts of the natural man and woman in these matters. All
unsophisticated human beings appear disposed to a fierce proprietorship
in their children and their sexual partners, and in no respect is the
ordinary mortal so easily induced to vehemence and violence.

For my own part, I do not think the maintenance of a marriage that is
indissoluble, that precludes the survivor from re-marriage, that gives
neither party an external refuge from the misbehaviour of the other, and
makes the children the absolute property of their parents until they
grow up, would cause any very general unhappiness Most people are
reasonable enough, good-tempered enough, and adaptable enough to shake
down even in a grip so rigid, and I would even go further and say that
its very rigidity, the entire absence of any way out at all, would
oblige innumerable people to accommodate themselves to its conditions
and make a working success of unions that, under laxer conditions, would
be almost certainly dissolved. We should have more people of what I may
call the "broken-in" type than an easier release would create, but to
many thinkers the spectacle of a human being thoroughly "broken-in" is
in itself extremely satisfactory. A few more crimes of desperation
perhaps might occur, to balance against an almost universal effort to
achieve contentment and reconciliation. We should hear more of the
"natural law" permitting murder by the jealous husband or by the jealous
wife, and the traffic in poisons would need a sedulous attention--but
even there the impossibility of re-marriage would operate to restrain
the impatient. On the whole, I can imagine the world rubbing along very
well with marriage as unaccommodating as a perfected steel trap.
Exceptional people might suffer or sin wildly--to the general amusement
or indignation.

But when once we part from the idea of such a rigid and eternal
marriage bond--and the law of every civilised country and the general
thought and sentiment everywhere have long since done so--then the whole
question changes. If marriage is not so absolutely sacred a bond, if it
is not an eternal bond, but a bond we may break on this account or that,
then at once we put the question on a different footing. If we may
terminate it for adultery or cruelty, or any cause whatever, if we may
suspend the intimacy of husband and wife by separation orders and the
like, if we recognise their separate property and interfere between them
and their children to ensure the health and education of the latter,
then we open at once the whole question of a terminating agreement.
Marriage ceases to be an unlimited union and becomes a definite
contract. We raise the whole question of "What are the limits in
marriage, and how and when may a marriage terminate?"

Now, many answers are being given to that question at the present time.
We may take as the extremest opposite to the eternal marriage idea the
proposal of Mr. Bernard Shaw, that marriage should be terminable at the
instance of either party. You would give due and public notice that your
marriage was at an end, and it would be at an end. This is marriage at
its minimum, as the eternal indissoluble marriage is marriage at its
maximum, and the only conceivable next step would be to have a marriage
makeable by the oral declaration of both parties and terminable by the
oral declaration of either, which would be, indeed, no marriage at all,
but an encounter. You might marry a dozen times in that way in a day....
Somewhere between these extremes lies the marriage law of a civilised
state. Let us, rather than working down from the eternal marriage of
the religious idealists, work up from Mr. Shaw. The former course is,
perhaps, inevitable for the legislator, but the latter is much more
convenient for our discussion.

Now, the idea of a divorce so easy and wilful as Mr. Shaw proposes
arises naturally out of an exclusive consideration of what I may call
the amorous sentimentalities of marriage. If you regard marriage as
merely the union of two people in love, then, clearly, it is
intolerable, an outrage upon human dignity, that they should remain
intimately united when either ceases to love. And in that world of Mr.
Shaw's dreams, in which everybody is to have an equal income and nobody
is to have children, in that culminating conversazione of humanity, his
marriage law will, no doubt, work with the most admirable results. But
if we make a step towards reality and consider a world in which incomes
are unequal, and economic difficulties abound--for the present we will
ignore the complication of offspring--we at once find it necessary to
modify the first fine simplicity of divorce at either partner's request.
Marriage is almost always a serious economic disturbance for both man
and woman: work has to be given up and rearranged, resources have to be
pooled; only in the rarest cases does it escape becoming an indefinite
business partnership. Accordingly, the withdrawal of one partner raises
at once all sorts of questions of financial adjustment, compensation for
physical, mental, and moral damage, division of furniture and effects
and so forth. No doubt a very large part of this could be met if there
existed some sort of marriage settlement providing for the dissolution
of the partnership. Otherwise the petitioner for a Shaw-esque divorce
must be prepared for the most exhaustive and penetrating examination
before, say, a court of three assessors--representing severally the
husband, the wife, and justice--to determine the distribution of the
separation. This point, however, leads me to note in passing the need
that does exist even to-day for a more precise business supplement to
marriage as we know it in England and America. I think there ought to be
a very definite and elaborate treaty of partnership drawn up by an
impartial private tribunal for every couple that marries, providing for
most of the eventualities of life, taking cognizance of the earning
power, the property and prospects of either party, insisting upon due
insurances, ensuring private incomes for each partner, securing the
welfare of the children, and laying down equitable conditions in the
event of a divorce or separation. Such a treaty ought to be a necessary
prelude to the issue of a licence to marry. And given such a basis to go
upon, then I see no reason why, in the case of couples who remain
childless for five or six years, let us say, and seem likely to remain
childless, the Shaw-esque divorce at the instance of either party,
without reason assigned, should not be a very excellent thing indeed.

And I take up this position because I believe in the family as the
justification of marriage. Marriage to me is no mystical and eternal
union, but a practical affair, to be judged as all practical things are
judged--by its returns in happiness and human welfare. And directly we
pass from the mists and glamours of amorous passion to the warm
realities of the nursery, we pass into a new system of considerations
altogether. We are no longer considering A. in relation to Mrs. A., but
A. and Mrs. A. in relation to an indefinite number of little A.'s, who
are the very life of the State in which they live. Into the case of Mr.
A. _v_. Mrs. A. come Master A. and Miss A. intervening. They have the
strongest claim against both their parents for love, shelter and
upbringing, and the legislator and statesman, concerned as he is chiefly
with the future of the community, has the strongest reasons for seeing
that they get these things, even at the price of considerable vexation,
boredom or indignity to Mr. and Mrs. A. And here it is that there arises
the rational case against free and frequent divorce and the general
unsettlement and fluctuation of homes that would ensue.

At this point we come to the verge of a jungle of questions that would
demand a whole book for anything like a complete answer. Let us try as
swiftly and simply as possible to form a general idea at least of the
way through. Remember that we are working upward from Mr. Shaw's
question of "Why not separate at the choice of either party?" We have
got thus far, that no two people who do not love each other should be
compelled to live together, except where the welfare of their children
comes in to override their desire to separate, and now we have to
consider what may or may not be for the welfare of the children. Mr.
Shaw, following the late Samuel Butler, meets this difficulty by the
most extravagant abuse of parents. He would have us believe that the
worst enemies a child can have are its mother and father, and that the
only civilised path to citizenship is by the incubator, the crêche, and
the mixed school and college. In these matters he is not only ignorant,
but unfeeling and unsympathetic, extraordinarily so in view of his great
capacity for pity and sweetness in other directions and of his indignant
hatred of cruelty and unfairness, and it is not necessary to waste time
in discussing what the common experience confutes Neither is it
necessary to fly to the other extreme, and indulge in preposterous
sentimentalities about the magic of fatherhood and a mother's love.
These are not magic and unlimited things, but touchingly qualified and
human things. The temperate truth of the matter is that in most parents
there are great stores of pride, interest, natural sympathy, passionate
love and devotion which can be tapped in the interests of the children
and the social future, and that it is the mere commonsense of statecraft
to use their resources to the utmost. It does not follow that every
parent contains these reservoirs, and that a continual close association
with the parents is always beneficial to children. If it did, we should
have to prosecute everyone who employed a governess or sent away a
little boy to a preparatory school. And our real task is to establish a
test that will gauge the desirability and benefit of a parent's
continued parentage. There are certainly parents and homes from which
the children might be taken with infinite benefit to themselves and to
society, and whose union it is ridiculous to save from the divorce court

Suppose, now, we made the willingness of a parent to give up his or her
children the measure of his beneficialness to them. There is no reason
why we should restrict divorce only to the relation of husband and wife.
Let us broaden the word and make it conceivable for a husband or wife to
divorce not only the partner, but the children. Then it might be
possible to meet the demands of the Shaw-esque extremist up to the point
of permitting a married parent, who desired freedom, to petition for a
divorce, not from his or her partner simply, but from his or her
family, and even for a widow or widower to divorce a family. Then would
come the task of the assessors. They would make arrangements for the
dissolution of the relationship, erring from justice rather in the
direction of liberality towards the divorced group, they would determine
contributions, exact securities appoint trustees and guardians.... On
the whole, I do not see why such a system should not work very well. It
would break up many loveless homes, quarrelling and bickering homes, and
give a safety-valve for that hate which is the sinister shadow of love.
I do not think it would separate one child from one parent who was
really worthy of its possession.

So far I have discussed only the possibility of divorce without
offences, the sort of divorce that arises out of estrangement and
incompatibilities. But divorce, as it is known in most Christian
countries, has a punitive element, and is obtained through the failure
of one of the parties to observe the conditions of the bond and the
determination of the other to exact suffering. Divorce as it exists at
present is not a readjustment but a revenge. It is the nasty exposure of
a private wrong. In England a husband may divorce his wife for a single
act of infidelity, and there can be little doubt that we are on the eve
of an equalisation of the law in this respect. I will confess I consider
this an extreme concession to the passion of jealousy, and one likely to
tear off the roof from many a family of innocent children. Only
infidelity leading to supposititious children in the case of the wife,
or infidelity obstinately and offensively persisted in or endangering
health in the case of the husband, really injure the home sufficiently
to justify a divorce on the assumptions of our present argument. If we
are going to make the welfare of the children our criterion in these
matters, then our divorce law does in this direction already go too far.
A husband or wife may do far more injury to the home by constantly
neglecting it for the companionship of some outside person with whom no
"matrimonial offence" is ever committed. Of course, if our divorce law
exists mainly for the gratification of the fiercer sexual resentments,
well and good, but if that is so, let us abandon our pretence that
marriage is an institution for the establishment and protection of
homes. And while on the one hand existing divorce laws appear to be
obsessed by sexual offences, other things of far more evil effect upon
the home go without a remedy. There are, for example, desertion,
domestic neglect, cruelty to the children drunkenness or harmful
drug-taking, indecency of living and uncontrollable extravagance. I
cannot conceive how any logical mind, having once admitted the principle
of divorce, can hesitate at making these entirely home-wrecking things
the basis of effective pleas. But in another direction, some strain of
sentimentality in my nature makes me hesitate to go with the great
majority of divorce law reformers. I cannot bring myself to agree that
either a long term of imprisonment or the misfortune of insanity should
in itself justify a divorce. I admit the social convenience, but I wince
at the thought of those tragic returns of the dispossessed. So far as
insanity goes, I perceive that the cruelty of the law would but endorse
the cruelty of nature. But I do not like men to endorse the cruelty of

And, of course, there is no decent-minded person nowadays but wants to
put an end to that ugly blot upon our civilisation, the publication of
whatever is most spicy and painful in divorce court proceedings. It is
an outrage which falls even more heavily on the innocent than on the
guilty, and which has deterred hundreds of shy and delicate-minded
people from seeking legal remedies for nearly intolerable wrongs. The
sort of person who goes willingly to the divorce court to-day is the
sort of person who would love a screaming quarrel in a crowded street.
The emotional breach of the marriage bond is as private an affair as its
consummation, and it would be nearly as righteous to subject young
couples about to marry to a blustering cross-examination by some
underbred bully of a barrister upon their motives, and then to publish
whatever chance phrases in their answers appeared to be amusing in the
press, as it is to publish contemporary divorce proceedings. The thing
is a nastiness, a stream of social contagion and an extreme cruelty, and
there can be no doubt that whatever other result this British Royal
Commission may have, there at least will be many sweeping alterations.


Sec. 1

"If Youth but Knew" is the title of a book published some years ago, but
still with a quite living interest, by "Kappa"; it is the bitter
complaint of a distressed senior against our educational system. He is
hugely disappointed in the public-school boy, and more particularly in
one typical specimen. He is--if one might hazard a guess--an uncle
bereft of great expectations. He finds an echo in thousands of other
distressed uncles and parents. They use the most divergent and
inadequate forms of expression for this vague sense that the result has
not come out good enough; they put it contradictorily and often wrongly,
but the sense is widespread and real and justifiable and we owe a great
debt to "Kappa" for an accurate diagnosis of what in the aggregate
amounts to a grave national and social evil.

The trouble with "Kappa's" particular public-school boy is his unlit
imagination, the apathetic commonness of his attitude to life at large.
He is almost stupidly not interested in the mysteries of material fact,
nor in the riddles and great dramatic movements of history, indifferent
to any form of beauty, and pedantically devoted to the pettiness of
games and clothing and social conduct. It is, in fact, chiefly by his
style in these latter things, his extensive unilluminated knowledge of
Greek and Latin, and his greater costliness, that he differs from a
young carpenter or clerk. A young carpenter or clerk of the same
temperament would have no narrower prejudices nor outlook, no less
capacity for the discussion of broad questions and for imaginative
thinking. And it has come to the mind of "Kappa" as a discovery, as an
exceedingly remarkable and moving thing, a thing to cry aloud about,
that this should be so, that this is all that the best possible modern
education has achieved. He makes it more than a personal issue. He has
come to the conclusion that this is not an exceptional case at all, but
a fair sample of what our upper-class education does for the imagination
of those who must presently take the lead among us. He declares plainly
that we are raising a generation of rulers and of those with whom the
duty of initiative should chiefly reside, who have minds atrophied by
dull studies and deadening suggestions, and he thinks that this is a
matter of the gravest concern for the future of this land and Empire. It
is difficult to avoid agreeing with him either in his observation or in
his conclusion. Anyone who has seen much of undergraduates, or medical
students, or Army candidates, and also of their social subordinates,
must be disposed to agree that the difference between the two classes is
mainly in unimportant things--in polish, in manner, in superficialities
of accent and vocabulary and social habit--and that their minds, in
range and power, are very much on a level. With an invincibly
aristocratic tradition we are failing altogether to produce a leader
class adequate to modern needs. The State is light-headed.

But while one agrees with "Kappa" and shares his alarm, one must confess
the remedies he considers indicated do not seem quite so satisfactory as
his diagnosis of the disease. He attacks the curriculum and tells us we
must reduce or revolutionise instruction and exercise in the dead
languages, introduce a broader handling of history, a more inspiring
arrangement of scientific courses, and so forth. I wish, indeed, it were
possible to believe that substituting biology for Greek prose
composition or history with models and photographs and diagrams for
Latin versification, would make any considerable difference in this
matter. For so one might discuss this question and still give no offence
to a most amiable and influential class of men. But the roots of the
evil, the ultimate cause of that typical young man's deadness, lie not
at all in that direction. To indicate the direction in which it does lie
is quite unavoidably to give offence to an indiscriminatingly sensitive
class. Yet there is need to speak plainly. This deadening of soul comes
not from the omission or inclusion of this specific subject or that; it
is the effect of the general scholastic atmosphere. It is an atmosphere
that admits of no inspiration at all. It is an atmosphere from which
living stimulating influences have been excluded from which stimulating
and vigorous personalities are now being carefully eliminated, and in
which dull, prosaic men prevail invincibly. The explanation of the inert
commonness of "Kappa's" schoolboy lies not in his having learnt this or
not learnt that, but in the fact that from seven to twenty he has been
in the intellectual shadow of a number of good-hearted, sedulously
respectable conscientiously manly, conforming, well-behaved men, who
never, to the knowledge of their pupils and the public, at any rate,
think strange thoughts do imaginative or romantic things, pay tribute to
beauty, laugh carelessly, or countenance any irregularity in the world.
All erratic and enterprising tendencies in him have been checked by
them and brought at last to nothing; and so he emerges a mere residuum
of decent minor dispositions. The dullness of the scholastic atmosphere
the grey, intolerant mediocrity that is the natural or assumed quality
of every upper-class schoolmaster, is the true cause of the spiritual
etiolation of "Kappa's" young friend.

Now, it is a very grave thing, I know, to bring this charge against a
great profession--to say, as I do say, that it is collectively and
individually dull. But someone has to do this sooner or later; we have
restrained ourselves and argued away from the question too long. There
is, I allege, a great lack of vigorous and inspiring minds in our
schools. Our upper-class schools are out of touch with the thought of
the time, in a backwater of intellectual apathy. We have no original or
heroic school-teachers. Let me ask the reader frankly what part our
leading headmasters play in his intellectual world; if when some
prominent one among them speaks or writes or talks, he expects anything
more than platitudes and little things? Has he ever turned aside to
learn what this headmaster or that thought of any question that
interested him? Has he ever found freshness or power in a schoolmaster's
discourse; or found a schoolmaster caring keenly for fine and beautiful
things? Who does not know the schoolmaster's trite, safe admirations,
his thin, evasive discussion, his sham enthusiasms for cricket, for
fly-fishing, for perpendicular architecture, for boyish traits; his
timid refuge in "good form," his deadly silences?

And if we do not find him a refreshing and inspiring person, and his
mind a fountain of thought in which we bathe and are restored, is it
likely our sons will? If the schoolmaster at large is grey and dull,
shirking interesting topics and emphatic speech, what must he be like in
the monotonous class-room? These may seem wanton charges to some, but I
am not speaking without my book. Monthly I am brought into close contact
with the pedagogic intelligence through the medium of three educational
magazines. A certain morbid habit against which I struggle in vain makes
me read everything I catch a schoolmaster writing. I am, indeed, one of
the faithful band who read the Educational Supplement of the _Times_. In
these papers schoolmasters write about their business, lectures upon the
questions of their calling are reported at length, and a sort of invalid
discussion moves with painful decorum through the correspondence column.
The scholastic mind so displayed in action fascinates me. It is like
watching a game of billiards with wooden cushes and beechwood balls.

Sec. 2

But let me take one special instance. In a periodical, now no longer
living, called the _Independent Review_, there appeared some years ago a
very curious and typical contribution by the Headmaster of Dulwich,
which I may perhaps use as an illustration of the mental habits which
seem inseparably associated with modern scholastic work. It is called
"English Ideas on Education," and it begins--trite, imitative,

"The most important question in a country is that of education, and the
most important people in a country are those who educate its
inhabitants. Others have most of the present in their hands: those who
educate have all the future. With the present is bound up all the
happiness only of the utterly selfish and the thoughtless among mankind;
on the future rest all the thoughts of every parent and every wise man
and patriot."

It is the opening of a boy's essay. And from first to last this
remarkable composition is at or below that level. It is an entirely
inconclusive paper, it is impossible to understand why it was written;
it quotes nothing it says nothing about and was probably written in
ignorance of "Kappa" or any other modern contributor to English ideas,
and it occupied about six and a quarter of the large-type pages of this
now vanished _Independent Review_. "English Ideas on Education"!--this
very brevity is eloquent, the more so since the style is by no means
succinct. It must be read to be believed. It is quite extraordinarily
non-prehensile in quality and substance nothing is gripped and
maintained and developed; it is like the passing of a lax hand over the
surfaces of disarranged things. It is difficult to read, because one's
mind slips over it and emerges too soon at the end, mildly puzzled
though incurious still as to what it is all about. One perceives Mr.
Gilkes through a fog dimly thinking that Greek has something vital to do
with "a knowledge of language and man," that the classical master is in
some mysterious way superior to the science man and more imaginative,
and that science men ought not to be worried with the Greek that is too
high for them; and he seems, too, to be under the odd illusion that "on
all this" Englishmen "seem now to be nearly in agreement," and also on
the opinion that games are a little overdone and that civic duties and
the use of the rifle ought to be taught. Statements are made--the sort
of statements that are suffered in an atmosphere where there is no
swift, fierce opposition to be feared; they frill out into vague
qualifications and butt gently against other partially contradictory
statements. There is a classification of minds--the sort of
classification dear to the Y.M.C.A. essayists, made for the purposes of
the essay and unknown to psychology. There are, we are told, accurate
unimaginative, ingenious minds capable of science and kindred vulgar
things (such was Archimedes), and vague, imaginative minds, with the
gift for language and for the treatment of passion and the higher
indefinable things (such as Homer and Mr. Gilkes), and, somehow, this
justifies those who are destined for "science" in dropping Greek.
Certain "considerations," however, loom inconclusively upon this
issue--rather like interested spectators of a street fight in a fog. For
example, to learn a language is valuable "in proportion as the nation
speaking it is great"--a most empty assertion; and "no languages are so
good," for the purpose of improving style, "as the exact and beautiful
languages of Rome and Greece."

Is it not time at least that this last, this favourite but threadbare
article of the schoolmaster's creed was put away for good? Everyone who
has given any attention to this question must be aware that the
intellectual gesture is entirely different in highly inflected languages
such as Greek and Latin and in so uninflected a language as English,
that learning Greek to improve one's English style is like learning to
swim in order to fence better, and that familiarity with Greek seems
only too often to render a man incapable of clear, strong expression in
English at all. Yet Mr. Gilkes can permit this old assertion, so dear
to country rectors and the classical scholar, to appear within a
column's distance of such style as this:

"It is now understood that every subject is valuable, if it is properly
taught; it will perform that which, as follows from the accounts given
above of the aim of education, is the work most important in the case of
boys--that is, it will draw out their faculties and make them useful in
the world, alert, trained in industry, and able to understand, so far as
their school lessons educated them, and make themselves master of any
subject set before them."

This quotation is conclusive.

Sec. 3

I am haunted by a fear that the careless reader will think I am writing
against upper-class schoolmasters. I am, it is undeniable, writing
against their dullness, but it is, I hold, a dullness that is imposed
upon them by the conditions under which they live. Indeed, I believe,
could I put the thing directly to the profession--"Do you not yourselves
feel needlessly limited and dull?"--should receive a majority of
affirmative responses. We have, as a nation, a certain ideal of what a
schoolmaster must be; to that he must by art or nature approximate, and
there is no help for it but to alter our ideal. Nothing else of any wide
value can be done until that is done.

In the first place, the received ideal omits a most necessary condition.
We do not insist upon a headmaster or indeed any of our academic leaders
and dignitaries, being a man of marked intellectual character, a man of
intellectual distinction. It is assumed, rather lightly in many cases,
that he has done "good work," as they say--the sort of good work that is
usually no good at all, that increases nothing, changes nothing,
stimulates no one, leads no whither. That, surely, must be altered. We
must see to it that our leading schoolmasters at any rate must be men of
insight and creative intelligence, men who could at a pinch write a good
novel or produce illuminating criticism or take an original part in
theological or philosophical discussion, or do any of these minor
things. They must be authentic men, taking a line of their own and
capable of intellectual passion. They should be able to make their mark
outside the school, if only to show they carry a living soul into it. As
things are, nothing is so fatal to a schoolmaster's career as to do

And closely related to this omission is our extreme insistence upon what
we call high moral character, meaning, really, something very like an
entire absence of moral character. We insist upon tact, conformity, and
an unblemished record. Now, in these days, of warring opinion, these
days of gigantic, strange issues that cannot possibly be expressed in
the formulae of the smaller times that have gone before, tact is
evasion, conformity formality, and silence an unblemished record, mere
evidence of the damning burial of a talent of life. The sort of man into
whose hands we give our sons' minds must never have experimented morally
or thought at all freely or vigorously about, for example, God,
Socialism, the Mosaic account of the Creation, social procedure,
Republicanism, beauty, love, or, indeed, about anything likely to
interest an intelligent adolescent. At the approach of all such things
he must have acquired the habit of the modest cough, the infectious
trick of the nice evasion. How can "Kappa" expect inspiration from the
decorous resultants who satisfy these conditions? What brand can ever be
lit at altars that have borne no fire? And you find the secondary
schoolmaster who complies with these restrictions becoming the zealous
and grateful agent of the tendencies that have made him what he is,
converting into a practice those vague dreads of idiosyncrasy, of
positive acts and new ideas, that dictated the choice of him and his
rule of life. His moral teaching amounts to this: to inculcate
truth-telling about small matters and evasion about large, and to
cultivate a morbid obsession in the necessary dawn of sexual
consciousness. So far from wanting to stimulate the imagination, he
hates and dreads it. I find him perpetually haunted by a ridiculous fear
that boys will "do something," and in his terror seeking whatever is
dull and unstimulating and tiring in intellectual work, clipping their
reading, censoring their periodicals, expurgating their classics,
substituting the stupid grind of organised "games" for natural,
imaginative play, persecuting loafers--and so achieving his end and
turning out at last, clean-looking, passively well-behaved, apathetic,
obliterated young men, with the nicest manners and no spark of
initiative at all, quite safe not to "do anything" for ever.

I submit this may be a very good training for polite servants, but it is
not the way to make masters in the world. If we English believe we are
indeed a masterful people, we must be prepared to expose our children to
more and more various stimulations than we do; they must grow up free,
bold, adventurous, initiated, even if they have to take more risks in
the doing of that. An able and stimulating teacher is as rare as a fine
artist, and is a thing worth having for your son, even at the price of
shocking your wife by his lack of respect for that magnificent
compromise, the Establishment, or you by his Socialism or by his
Catholicism or Darwinism, or even by his erroneous choice of ties and
collars. Boys who are to be free, masterly men must hear free men
talking freely of religion, of philosophy, of conduct. They must have
heard men of this opinion and that, putting what they believe before
them with all the courage of conviction. They must have an idea of will
prevailing over form. It is far more important that boys should learn
from original, intellectually keen men than they should learn from
perfectly respectable men, or perfectly orthodox men, or perfectly nice
men. The vital thing to consider about your son's schoolmaster is
whether he talked lifeless twaddle yesterday by way of a lesson, and not
whether he loved unwisely or was born of poor parents, or was seen
wearing a frock-coat in combination with a bowler, or confessed he
doubted the Apostles' Creed, or called himself a Socialist, or any
disgraceful thing like that, so many years ago. It is that sort of thing
"Kappa" must invert if he wants a change in our public schools. You may
arrange and rearrange curricula, abolish Greek, substitute "science"--it
will not matter a rap. Even those model canoes of yours, "Kappa," will
be wasted if you still insist upon model schoolmasters. So long as we
require our schoolmasters to be politic, conforming, undisturbing men,
setting up Polonius as an ideal for them, so long will their influence
deaden the souls of our sons.


Some few years ago the Fabian Society, which has been so efficient in
keeping English Socialism to the lines of "artfulness and the
'eighties," refused to have anything to do with the Endowment of
Motherhood. Subsequently it repented and produced a characteristic
pamphlet in which the idea was presented with a sort of minimising
furtiveness as a mean little extension of outdoor relief. These Fabian
Socialists, instead of being the daring advanced people they are
supposed to be, are really in many things twenty years behind the times.
There need be nothing shamefaced about the presentation of the Endowment
of Motherhood. There is nothing shameful about it. It is a plain and
simple idea for which the mind of the man in the street has now been
very completely prepared. It has already crept into social legislation
to the extent of thirty shillings.

I suppose if one fact has been hammered into us in the past two decades
more than any other it is this: that the supply of children is falling
off in the modern State; that births, and particularly good-quality
births, are not abundant enough; that the birth-rate, and particularly
the good-class birth-rate, falls steadily below the needs of our future.

If no one else has said a word about this important matter, ex-President
Roosevelt would have sufficed to shout it to the ends of the earth.
Every civilised community is drifting towards "race-suicide" as Rome
drifted into "race-suicide" at the climax of her empire.

Well, it is absurd to go on building up a civilisation with a dwindling
supply of babies in the cradles--and these not of the best possible
sort--and so I suppose there is hardly an intelligent person in the
English-speaking communities who has not thought of some possible
remedy--from the naive scoldings of Mr. Roosevelt and the more stolid of
the periodicals to sane and intelligible legislative projects.

The reasons for the fall in the birth-rate are obvious enough. It is a
necessary consequence of the individualistic competition of modern life.
People talk of modern women "shirking" motherhood, but it would be a
silly sort of universe in which a large proportion of women had any
natural and instinctive desire to shirk motherhood, and, I believe, a
huge proportion of modern women are as passionately predisposed towards
motherhood as ever women were. But modern conditions conspire to put a
heavy handicap upon parentage and an enormous premium upon the partial
or complete evasion of offspring, and that is where the clue to the
trouble lies. Our social arrangements discourage parentage very heavily,
and the rational thing for a statesman to do in the matter is not to
grow eloquent, but to do intelligent things to minimise that

Consider the case of an energetic young man and an energetic young woman
in our modern world. So long as they remain "unencumbered" they can
subsist on a comparatively small income and find freedom and leisure to
watch for and follow opportunities of self-advancement; they can travel,
get knowledge and experience, make experiments, succeed. One might
almost say the conditions of success and self-development in the modern
world are to defer marriage as long as possible, and after that to defer
parentage as long as possible. And even when there is a family there is
the strongest temptation to limit it to three or four children at the
outside. Parents who can give three children any opportunity in life
prefer to do that than turn out, let us say, eight ill-trained children
at a disadvantage, to become the servants and unsuccessful competitors
of the offspring of the restrained. That fact bites us all; it does not
require a search. It is all very well to rant about "race-suicide," but
there are the clear, hard conditions of contemporary circumstances for
all but the really rich, and so patent are they that I doubt if all the
eloquence of Mr. Roosevelt and its myriad echoes has added a thousand
babies to the eugenic wealth of the English-speaking world.

Modern married people, and particularly those in just that capable
middle class from which children are most urgently desirable from the
statesman's point of view, are going to have one or two children to
please themselves but they are not going to have larger families under
existing conditions, though all the ex-Presidents and all the pulpits in
the world clamour together for them to do so.

If having and rearing children is a private affair, then no one has any
right to revile small families; if it is a public service, then the
parent is justified in looking to the State to recognise that service
and offer some compensation for the worldly disadvantages it entails. He
is justified in saying that while his unencumbered rival wins past him
he is doing the State the most precious service in the world by rearing
and educating a family, and that the State has become his debtor.

In other words, the modern State has got to pay for its children if it
really wants them--and more particularly it has to pay for the children
of good homes.

The alternative to that is racial replacement and social decay. That is
the essential idea conveyed by this phrase, the Endowment of Motherhood.

Now, how is the paying to be done? That needs a more elaborate answer,
of which I will give here only the roughest, crudest suggestion.

Probably it would be found best that the payment should be made to the
mother, as the administrator of the family budget, that its amount
should be made dependent upon the quality of the home in which the
children are being reared, upon their health and physical development,
and upon their educational success. Be it remembered, we do not want any
children; we want good-quality children. The amount to be paid, I would
particularly point out, should vary with the standing of the home.
People of that excellent class which spends over a hundred a year on
each child ought to get about that much from the State, and people of
the class which spends five shillings a week per head on them would get
about that, and so on. And if these payments were met by a special
income tax there would be no social injustice whatever in such an
unequality of payment. Each social stratum would pay according to its
prosperity, and the only redistribution that would in effect occur would
be that the childless people of each class would pay for the children of
that class. The childless family and the small family would pay equally
with the large family, incomes being equal, but they would receive in
proportions varying with the health and general quality of their
children. That, I think, gives the broad principles upon which the
payments would be made.

Of course, if these subsidies resulted in too rapid a rise in the
birth-rate, it would be practicable to diminish the inducement; and if,
on the other hand, the birth-rate still fell, it would be easy to
increase the inducement until it sufficed.

That concisely is the idea of the Endowment of Motherhood. I believe
firmly that some such arrangement is absolutely necessary to the
continuous development of the modern State. These proposals arise so
obviously out of the needs of our time that I cannot understand any
really intelligent opposition to them. I can, however, understand a
partial and silly application of them. It is most important that our
good-class families should be endowed, but the whole tendency of the
timid and disingenuous progressivism of our time, which is all mixed up
with ideas of charity and aggressive benevolence to the poor, would be
to apply this--as that Fabian tract I mention does--only to the poor
mother. To endow poor and bad-class motherhood and leave other people
severely alone would be a proceeding so supremely idiotic, so harmful to
our national quality, as to be highly probable in the present state of
our public intelligence. It comes quite on a level with the policy of
starving middle-class education that has left us with nearly the worst
educated middle class in Western Europe.

The Endowment of Motherhood does not attract the bureaucratic type of
reformer because it offers a minimum chance of meddlesome interference
with people's lives. There would be no chance of "seeking out" anybody
and applying benevolent but grim compulsions on the strength of it. In
spite of its wide scope it would be much less of a public nuisance than
that Wet Children's Charter, which exasperates me every time I pass a
public-house on a rainy night. But, on the other hand, there would be an
enormous stimulus to people to raise the quality of their homes, study
infantile hygiene, seek out good schools for them--and do their duty as
all good parents naturally want to do now--if only economic forces were
not so pitilessly against them--thoroughly and well.


In that extravagant world of which I dream, in which people will live in
delightful cottages and ground rents will serve instead of rates, and
everyone will have a chance of being happy--in that impossible world all
doctors will be members of one great organisation for the public health,
with all or most of their income guaranteed to them: I doubt if there
will be any private doctors at all.

Heaven forbid I should seem to write a word against doctors as they are.
Daily I marvel at the wonders the general practitioner achieves, having
regard to the difficulties of his position.

But I cannot hide from myself, and I do not intend to hide from anyone
else, my firm persuasion that the services the general practitioner is
able to render us are not one-tenth so effectual as they might be if,
instead of his being a private adventurer, he were a member of a sanely
organised public machine. Consider what his training and equipment are,
consider the peculiar difficulties of his work, and then consider for a
moment what better conditions might be invented, and perhaps you will
not think my estimate of one-tenth an excessive understatement in this

Nearly the whole of our medical profession and most of our apparatus for
teaching and training doctors subsist on strictly commercial lines by
earning fees. This chief source of revenue is eked out by the wanton
charity of old women, and conspicuous subscriptions by popularity
hunters, and a small but growing contribution (in the salaries of
medical officers of health and so forth) from the public funds. But the
fact remains that for the great mass of the medical profession there is
no living to be got except at a salary for hospital practice or by
earning fees in receiving or attending upon private cases.

So long as a doctor is learning or adding to knowledge, he earns
nothing, and the common, unintelligent man does not see why he should
earn anything. So that a doctor who has no religious passion for poverty
and self-devotion gets through the minimum of training and learning as
quickly and as cheaply as possible, and does all he can to fill up the
rest of his time in passing rapidly from case to case. The busier he
keeps, the less his leisure for thought and learning, the richer he
grows, and the more he is esteemed. His four or five years of hasty,
crowded study are supposed to give him a complete and final knowledge of
the treatment of every sort of disease, and he goes on year after year,
often without co-operation, working mechanically in the common incidents
of practice, births, cases of measles and whooping cough, and so forth,
and blundering more or less in whatever else turns up.

There are no public specialists to whom he can conveniently refer the
difficulties he constantly encounters; only in the case of rich patients
is the specialist available; there are no properly organised information
bureaus for him, and no means whatever of keeping him informed upon
progress and discovery in medical science. He is not even required to
set apart a month or so in every two or three years in order to return
to lectures and hospitals and refresh his knowledge. Indeed, the income
of the average general practitioner would not permit of such a thing,
and almost the only means of contact between him and current thought
lies in the one or other of our two great medical weeklies to which he
happens to subscribe.

Now just as I have nothing but praise for the average general
practitioner, so I have nothing but praise and admiration for those
stalwart-looking publications. Without them I can imagine nothing but
the most terrible intellectual atrophy among our medical men. But since
they are private properties run for profit they have to pay, and half
their bulk consists of the brilliantly written advertisements of new
drugs and apparatus. They give much knowledge, they do much to ventilate
perplexing questions, but a broadly conceived and properly endowed
weekly circular could, I believe, do much more. At any rate, in my
Utopia this duty of feeding up the general practitioners will not be
left to private enterprise.

Behind the first line of my medical army will be a second line of able
men constantly digesting new research for its practical
needs--correcting, explaining, announcing; and, in addition, a force of
public specialists to whom every difficulty in diagnosis will be at once
referred. And there will be a properly organised system of reliefs that
will allow the general practitioner and his right hand, the nurse, to
come back to the refreshment of study before his knowledge and mind have
got rusty. But then my Utopia is a Socialistic system. Under our present
system of competitive scramble, under any system that reduces medical
practice to mere fee-hunting nothing of this sort is possible.

Then in my Utopia, for every medical man who was mainly occupied in
practice, I would have another who was mainly occupied in or about
research. People hear so much about modern research that they do not
realise how entirely inadequate it is in amount and equipment. Our
general public is still too stupid to understand the need and value of
sustained investigations in any branch of knowledge at all. In spite of
all the lessons of the last century, it still fails to realise how
discovery and invention enrich the community and how paying an
investment is the public employment of clever people to think and
experiment for the benefit of all. It still expects to get a Newton or a
Joule for £800 a year, and requires him to conduct his researches in the
margin of time left over when he has got through his annual eighty or
ninety lectures. It imagines discoveries are a sort of inspiration that
comes when professors are running to catch trains. It seems incapable of
imagining how enormous are the untried possibilities of research. Of
course, if you will only pay a handful of men salaries at which the cook
of any large London hotel would turn up his nose, you cannot expect to
have the master minds of the world at your service; and save for a few
independent or devoted men, therefore, it is not reasonable to suppose
that such a poor little dribble of medical research as is now going on
is in the hands of persons of much more than average mental equipment.
How can it be?

One hears a lot of the rigorous research into the problem of cancer that
is now going on. Does the reader realise that all the men in the whole
world who are giving any considerable proportion of their time to this
cancer research would pack into a very small room, that they are
working in little groups without any properly organised system of
intercommunication, and that half of them are earning less than a
quarter of the salary of a Bond Street shopwalker by those vastly
important inquiries? Not one cancer case in twenty thousand is being
properly described and reported. And yet, in comparison with other
diseases, cancer is being particularly well attended to.

The general complacency with the progress in knowledge we have made and
are making is ridiculously unjustifiable. Enormous things were no doubt
done in the nineteenth century in many fields of knowledge, but all that
was done was out of all proportion petty in comparison with what might
have been done. I suppose the whole of the unprecedented progress in
material knowledge of the nineteenth century was the work of two or
three thousand men, who toiled against opposition, spite and endless
disadvantages, without proper means of intercommunication and with
wretched facilities for experiment. Such discoveries as were
distinctively medical were the work of only a few hundred men. Now,
suppose instead of that scattered band of un-co-ordinated workers a
great army of hundreds of thousands of well-paid men; suppose, for
instance, the community had kept as many scientific and medical
investigators as it has bookmakers and racing touts and men about
town--should we not know a thousand times as much as we do about disease
and health and strength and power?

But these are Utopian questionings. The sane, practical man shakes his
head, smiles pityingly at my dreamy impracticability, and passes them


There is something of the phonograph in all of us, but in the sort of
eminent person who makes public speeches about education and reading,
and who gives away prizes and opens educational institutions, there
seems to be little else but gramophone.

These people always say the same things, and say them in the same note.
And why should they do that if they are really individuals?

There is, I cannot but suspect, in the mysterious activities that
underlie life, some trade in records for these distinguished
gramophones, and it is a trade conducted upon cheap and wholesale lines.
There must be in these demiurgic profundities a rapid manufacture of
innumerable thousands of that particular speech about "scrappy reading,"
and that contrast of "modern" with "serious" literature, that babbles
about in the provinces so incessantly. Gramophones thinly disguised as
bishops, gramophones still more thinly disguised as eminent statesmen,
gramophones K.C.B. and gramophones F.R.S. have brazened it at us time
after time, and will continue to brazen it to our grandchildren when we
are dead and all our poor protests forgotten. And almost equally popular
in their shameless mouths is the speech that declares this present age
to be an age of specialisation. We all know the profound droop of the
eminent person's eyelids as he produces that discovery, the edifying
deductions or the solemn warnings he unfolds from this proposition, and
all the dignified, inconclusive rigmarole of that cylinder. And it is
nonsense from beginning to end.

This is most distinctly _not_ an age of specialisation. There has hardly
been an age in the whole course of history less so than the present. A
few moments of reflection will suffice to demonstrate that. This is
beyond any precedent an age of change, change in the appliances of life,
in the average length of life, in the general temper of life; and the
two things are incompatible. It is only under fixed conditions that you
can have men specialising.

They specialise extremely, for example, under such conditions as one had
in Hindustan up to the coming of the present generation. There the metal
worker or the cloth worker, the wheelwright or the druggist of yesterday
did his work under almost exactly the same conditions as his predecessor
did it five hundred years before. He had the same resources, the same
tools, the same materials; he made the same objects for the same ends.
Within the narrow limits thus set him he carried work to a fine
perfection; his hand, his mental character were subdued to his medium.
His dress and bearing even were distinctive; he was, in fact, a highly
specialised man. He transmitted his difference to his sons. Caste was
the logical expression in the social organisation of this state of high
specialisation, and, indeed, what else is caste or any definite class
distinctions but that? But the most obvious fact of the present time is
the disappearance of caste and the fluctuating uncertainty of all class

If one looks into the conditions of industrial employment specialisation
will be found to linger just in proportion as a trade has remained
unaffected by inventions and innovation. The building trade, for
example, is a fairly conservative one. A brick wall is made to-day much
as it was made two hundred years ago, and the bricklayer is in
consequence a highly skilled and inadaptable specialist. No one who has
not passed through a long and tedious training can lay bricks properly.
And it needs a specialist to plough a field with horses or to drive a
cab through the streets of London. Thatchers, old-fashioned cobblers,
and hand workers are all specialised to a degree no new modern calling
requires. With machinery skill disappears and unspecialised intelligence
comes in. Any generally intelligent man can learn in a day or two to
drive an electric tram, fix up an electric lighting installation, or
guide a building machine or a steam plough. He must be, of course, much
more generally intelligent than the average bricklayer, but he needs far
less specialised skill. To repair machinery requires, of course, a
special sort of knowledge, but not a special sort of training.

In no way is this disappearance of specialisation more marked than in
military and naval affairs. In the great days of Greece and Rome war was
a special calling, requiring a special type of man. In the Middle Ages
war had an elaborate technique, in which the footman played the part of
an unskilled labourer, and even within a period of a hundred years it
took a long period of training and discipline before the common
discursive man could be converted into the steady soldier. Even to-day
traditions work powerfully, through extravagance of uniform, and through
survivals of that mechanical discipline that was so important in the
days of hand-to-hand fighting, to keep the soldier something other than
a man. For all the lessons of the Boer war we are still inclined to
believe that the soldier has to be something severely parallel, carrying
a rifle he fires under orders, obedient to the pitch of absolute
abnegation of his private intelligence. We still think that our officers
have, like some very elaborate and noble sort of performing animal, to
be "trained." They learn to fight with certain specified "arms" and
weapons, instead of developing intelligence enough to use anything that
comes to hand.

But, indeed, when a really great European war does come and lets loose
motor-cars, bicycles, wireless telegraphy, aeroplanes, new projectiles
of every size and shape, and a multitude of ingenious persons upon the
preposterously vast hosts of conscription, the military caste will be
missing within three months of the beginning, and the inventive,
versatile, intelligent man will have come to his own.

And what is true of a military caste is equally true of a special
governing class such as our public schools maintain.

The misunderstanding that has given rise to this proposition that this
is an age of specialisation, and through that no end of mischief in
misdirected technical education and the like, is essentially a confusion
between specialisation and the division of labour. No doubt this is an
age when everything makes for wider and wider co-operations. Work that
was once done by one highly specialised man--the making of a watch, for
example--is now turned out wholesale by elaborate machinery, or effected
in great quantities by the contributed efforts of a number of people.
Each of these people may bring a highly developed intelligence to bear
for a time upon the special problem in hand, but that is quite a
different thing from specialising to do that thing.

This is typically shown in scientific research. The problem or the parts
of problems upon which the inquiry of an individual man is concentrated
are often much narrower than the problems that occupied Faraday or
Dalton, and yet the hard and fast lines that once divided physicist from
chemist, or botanist from pathologist have long since gone. Professor
Farmer, the botanist, investigates cancer, and the ordinary educated
man, familiar though he is with their general results, would find it
hard to say which were the chemists and which the physicists among
Professors Dewar and Ramsey Lord Rayleigh and Curie. The classification
of sciences that was such a solemn business to our grandfathers is now
merely a mental obstruction.

It is interesting to glance for a moment at the possible source of this
mischievous confusion between specialisation and the division of labour.
I have already glanced at the possibility of a diabolical world
manufacturing gramophone records for our bishops and statesmen and
suchlike leaders of thought, but if we dismiss that as a merely elegant
trope, I must confess I think it is the influence of Herbert Spencer.
His philosophy is pervaded by an insistence which is, I think, entirely
without justification, that the universe, and every sort of thing in it,
moves from the simple and homogeneous to the complex and heterogeneous.
An unwary man obsessed with that idea would be very likely to assume
without consideration that men were less specialised in a barbaric state
of society than they are to-day. I think I have given reasons for
believing that the reverse of this is nearer the truth.


Of all the great personifications that have dominated the mind of man,
the greatest, the most marvellous, the most impossible and the most
incredible, is surely the People, that impalpable monster to which the
world has consecrated its political institutions for the last hundred

It is doubtful now whether this stupendous superstition has reached its
grand climacteric, and there can be little or no dispute that it is
destined to play a prominent part in the history of mankind for many
years to come. There is a practical as well as a philosophical interest,
therefore, in a note or so upon the attributes of this legendary being.
I write "legendary," but thereby I display myself a sceptic. To a very
large number of people the People is one of the profoundest realities in
life. They believe--what exactly do they believe about the people?

When they speak of the People they certainly mean something more than
the whole mass of individuals in a country lumped together. That is the
people, a mere varied aggregation of persons, moved by no common motive,
a complex interplay. The People, as the believer understands the word,
is something more mysterious than that. The People is something that
overrides and is added to the individualities that make up the people.
It is, as it were, itself an individuality of a higher order--as indeed,
its capital "P" displays. It has a will of its own which is not the
will of any particular person in it, it has a power of purpose and
judgment of a superior sort. It is supposed to be the underlying reality
of all national life and the real seat of all public religious emotion.
Unfortunately, it lacks powers of expression, and so there is need of
rulers and interpreters. If they express it well in law and fact, in
book and song, they prosper under its mysterious approval; if they do
not, it revolts or forgets or does something else of an equally
annihilatory sort. That, briefly, is the idea of the People. My modest
thesis is that there exists nothing of the sort, that the world of men
is entirely made up of the individuals that compose it, and that the
collective action is just the algebraic sum of all individual actions.

How far the opposite opinion may go, one must talk to intelligent
Americans or read the contemporary literature of the first French
Revolution to understand. I find, for example, so typical a young
American as the late Frank Norris roundly asserting that it is the
People to whom we are to ascribe the triumphant emergence of the name of
Shakespeare from the ruck of his contemporaries and the passage in which
this assertion is made is fairly representative of the general
expression of this sort of mysticism. "One must keep one's faith in the
People--the Plain People, the Burgesses, the Grocers--else of all men
the artists are most miserable and their teachings vain. Let us admit
and concede that this belief is ever so sorely tried at times.... But in
the end, and at last, they will listen to the true note and discriminate
between it and the false." And then he resorts to italics to emphasise:
"_In the last analysis the People are always right_."

And it was that still more typical American, Abraham Lincoln, who
declared his equal confidence in the political wisdom of this collective
being. "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the
people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
The thing is in the very opening words of the American Constitution, and
Theodore Parker calls it "the American idea" and pitches a still higher
note: "A government of all the people, by all the people, for all the
people; a government of all the principles of eternal justice, _the
unchanging law of God."_

It is unavoidable that a collective wisdom distinct from any individual
and personal one is intended in these passages. Mr. Norris, for example,
never figured to himself a great wave of critical discrimination
sweeping through the ranks of the various provision trades and a
multitude of simple, plain burgesses preferring Shakespeare and setting
Marlowe aside. Such a particularisation of his statement would have at
once reduced it to absurdity. Nor does any American see the people
particularised in that way. They believe in the People one and
indivisible, a simple, mystical being, which pervades and dominates the
community and determines its final collective consequences.

Now upon the belief that there is a People rests a large part of the
political organisation of the modern world. The idea was one of the
chief fruits of the speculations of the eighteenth century, and the
American Constitution is its most perfect expression. One turns,
therefore, inevitably to the American instance, not because it is the
only one, but because there is the thing in its least complicated form.
We have there an almost exactly logical realisation of this belief. The
whole political machine is designed and expressed to register the
People's will, literature is entirely rewarded and controlled by the
effectual suffrages of the bookseller's counter, science (until private
endowment intervened) was in the hands of the State Legislatures, and
religion the concern of the voluntary congregations.

On the assumption that there is a People there could be no better state
of affairs. You and I and everyone, except for a vote or a book, or a
service now and then, can go about our business, you to your grocery and
I to mine, and the direction of the general interests rests safe in the
People's hands. Now that is by no means a caricature of the attitude of
mind of many educated Americans. You find they have little or nothing to
do with actual politics, and are inclined to regard the professional
politician with a certain contempt; they trouble their heads hardly at
all about literature, and they contemplate the general religious
condition of the population with absolute unconcern. It is not that they
are unpatriotic or morally trivial that they stand thus disengaged; it
is that they have a fatalistic belief in this higher power. Whatever
troubles and abuses may arise they have an absolute faith that "in the
last analysis" the People will get it right.

And now suppose that I am right and that there is no People! Suppose
that the crowd is really no more than a crowd, a vast miscellaneous
confusion of persons which grows more miscellaneous every year. Suppose
this conception of the People arose out of a sentimental idealisation,
Rousseau fashion, of the ancient homogeneous peasant class--a class that
is rapidly being swept out of existence by modern industrial
developments--and that whatever slender basis of fact it had in the
past is now altogether gone. What consequences may be expected?

It does not follow that because the object of your reverence is a dead
word you will get no oracles from the shrine. If the sacred People
remains impassive, inarticulate, non-existent, there are always the
keepers of the shrine who will oblige. Professional politicians, venal
and violent men, will take over the derelict political control, people
who live by the book trade will alone have a care for letters, research
and learning will be subordinated to political expediency, and a great
development of noisily competitive religious enterprises will take the
place of any common religious formula. There will commence a secular
decline in the quality of public thought, emotion and activity. There
will be no arrest or remedy for this state of affairs so long as that
superstitious faith in the People as inevitably right "in the last
analysis" remains. And if my supposition is correct, it should be
possible to find in the United States, where faith in the people is
indisputably dominant, some such evidence of the error of this faith. Is

I write as one that listens from afar. But there come reports of
legislative and administrative corruption, of organised public
blackmail, that do seem to carry out my thesis. One thinks of Edgar
Allan Poe, who dreamt of founding a distinctive American literature,
drugged and killed almost as it were symbolically, amid electioneering
and nearly lied out of all posthumous respect by that scoundrel
Griswold; one thinks of State Universities that are no more than mints
for bogus degrees; one thinks of "Science" Christianity and Zion City.
These things are quite insufficient for a Q.E.D., but I submit they
favour my proposition.

Suppose there is no People at all, but only enormous, differentiating
millions of men. All sorts of widely accepted generalisations will
collapse if that foundation is withdrawn. I submit it as worth


Sec. 1

There is a growing discord between governments and governed in the

There has always been discord between governments and governed since
States began; government has always been to some extent imposed, and
obedience to some extent reluctant. We have come to regard it as a
matter of course that under all absolutions and narrow oligarchies the
community, so soon as it became educated and as its social elaboration
developed a free class with private initiatives, so soon, indeed, as it
attained to any power of thought and expression at all, would express
discontent. But we English and Americans and Western Europeans generally
had supposed that, so far as our own communities were concerned, this
discontent was already anticipated and met by representative
institutions. We had supposed that, with various safeguards and
elaborations, our communities did, as a matter of fact, govern
themselves. Our panacea for all discontents was the franchise. Social
and national dissatisfaction could be given at the same time a voice and
a remedy in the ballot box. Our liberal intelligences could and do still
understand Russians wanting votes, Indians wanting votes, women wanting
votes. The history of nineteenth-century Liberalism in the world might
almost be summed up in the phrase "progressive enfranchisement." But
these are the desires of a closing phase in political history. The new
discords go deeper than that. The new situation which confronts our
Liberal intelligence is the discontent of the enfranchised, the contempt
and hostility of the voters for their elected delegates and governments.

This discontent, this resentment, this contempt even, and hostility to
duly elected representatives is no mere accident of this democratic
country or that; it is an almost world-wide movement. It is an almost
universal disappointment with so-called popular government, and in many
communities--in Great Britain particularly--it is manifesting itself by
an unprecedented lawlessness in political matters, and in a strange and
ominous contempt for the law. One sees it, for example, in the refusal
of large sections of the medical profession to carry out insurance
legislation, in the repudiation of Irish Home Rule by Ulster, and in the
steady drift of great masses of industrial workers towards the
conception of a universal strike. The case of the discontented workers
in Great Britain and France is particularly remarkable. These people
form effective voting majorities in many constituencies; they send
alleged Socialist and Labour representatives into the legislative
assembly; and, in addition, they have their trade unions with staffs of
elected officials, elected ostensibly to state their case and promote
their interests. Yet nothing is now more evident than that these
officials, working-men representatives and the like, do not speak for
their supporters, and are less and less able to control them. The
Syndicalist movement, sabotage in France, and Larkinism in Great
Britain, are, from the point of view of social stability, the most
sinister demonstrations of the gathering anger of the labouring classes
with representative institutions. These movements are not revolutionary
movements, not movements for reconstruction such as were the democratic
Socialist movements that closed the nineteenth century. They are angry
and vindictive movements. They have behind them the most dangerous and
terrible of purely human forces, the wrath, the blind destructive wrath,
of a cheated crowd.

Now, so far as the insurrection of labour goes, American conditions
differ from European, and the process of disillusionment will probably
follow a different course. American labour is very largely immigrant
labour still separated by barriers of language and tradition from the
established thought of the nation. It will be long before labour in
America speaks with the massed effectiveness of labour in France and
England, where master and man are racially identical, and where there is
no variety of "Dagoes" to break up the revolt. But in other directions
the American disbelief in and impatience with "elected persons" is and
has been far profounder than it is in Europe. The abstinence of men of
property and position from overt politics, and the contempt that
banishes political discussion from polite society, are among the first
surprises of the visiting European to America, and now that, under an
organised pressure of conscience, college-trained men and men of wealth
are abandoning this strike of the educated and returning to political
life, it is, one notes, with a prevailing disposition to correct
democracy by personality, and to place affairs in the hands of
autocratic mayors and presidents rather than to carry out democratic
methods to the logical end. At times America seems hot for a Caesar. If
no Caesar is established, then it will be the good fortune of the
Republic rather than its democratic virtue which will have saved it.

And directly one comes to look into the quality and composition of the
elected governing body of any modern democratic State, one begins to see
the reason and nature of its widening estrangement from the community it
represents. In no sense are these bodies really representative of the
thought and purpose of the nation; the conception of its science, the
fresh initiatives of its philosophy and literature, the forces that make
the future through invention and experiment, exploration and trial and
industrial development have no voice, or only an accidental and feeble
voice, there. The typical elected person is a smart rather than
substantial lawyer, full of cheap catchwords and elaborate tricks of
procedure and electioneering, professing to serve the interests of the
locality which is his constituency, but actually bound hand and foot to
the specialised political association, his party, which imposed him upon
that constituency. Arrived at the legislature, his next ambition is
office, and to secure and retain office he engages in elaborate
manoeuvres against the opposite party, upon issues which his limited and
specialised intelligence indicates as electorally effective. But being
limited and specialised, he is apt to drift completely out of touch with
the interests and feelings of large masses of people in the community.
In Great Britain, the United States and France alike there is a constant
tendency on the part of the legislative body to drift into unreality,
and to bore the country with the disputes that are designed to thrill
it. In Great Britain, for example, at the present time the two political
parties are both profoundly unpopular with the general intelligence,
which is sincerely anxious, if only it could find a way, to get rid of
both of them. Irish Home Rule--an issue as dead as mutton, is opposed to
Tariff Reform, which has never been alive. Much as the majority of
people detest the preposterously clumsy attempts to amputate Ireland
from the rule of the British Parliament which have been going on since
the breakdown of Mr. Gladstone's political intelligence, their dread of
foolish and scoundrelly fiscal adventurers is sufficiently strong to
retain the Liberals in office. The recent exposures of the profound
financial rottenness of the Liberal party have deepened the public
resolve to permit no such enlarged possibilities of corruption as Tariff
Reform would afford their at least equally dubitable opponents. And
meanwhile, beneath those ridiculous alternatives, those sham issues, the
real and very urgent affairs of the nation, the vast gathering
discontent of the workers throughout the Empire, the racial conflicts in
India and South Africa which will, if they are not arrested, end in our
severance from India, the insane waste of national resources, the
control of disease, the frightful need of some cessation of armament,
drift neglected....

Now do these things indicate the ultimate failure and downfall of
representative government? Was this idea which inspired so much of the
finest and most generous thought of the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries a wrong idea, and must we go back to Caesarism or oligarchy or
plutocracy or a theocracy, to Rome or Venice or Carthage, to the strong
man or the ruler by divine right, for the political organisation of the

My answer to that question would be an emphatic No. My answer would be
that the idea of representative government is the only possible idea for
the government of a civilised community. But I would add that so far
representative government has not had even the beginnings of a fair
trial. So far we have not had representative government, but only a
devastating caricature.

It is quite plain now that those who first organised the parliamentary
institutions which now are the ruling institutions of the greater part
of mankind fell a prey to certain now very obvious errors. They did not
realise that there are hundreds of different ways in which voting may be
done, and that every way will give a different result. They thought, and
it is still thought by a great number of mentally indolent people, that
if a country is divided up into approximately equivalent areas, each
returning one or two representatives, if every citizen is given one
vote, and if there is no legal limit to the presentation of candidates,
that presently a cluster of the wisest, most trusted and best citizens
will come together in the legislative assembly.

In reality the business is far more complicated than this. In reality a
country will elect all sorts of different people according to the
electoral method employed. It is a fact that anyone who chooses to
experiment with a willing school or club may verify. Suppose, for
example, that you take your country, give every voter one single vote,
put up six and twenty candidates for a dozen vacancies, and give them no
adequate time for organisation. The voters, you will find, will return
certain favourites, A and B and C and D let us call them, by enormous
majorities, and behind these at a considerable distance will come E, F,
G, H, I, J, K, and L. Now give your candidates time to develop
organisation. A lot of people who swelled A's huge vote will dislike J
and K and L so much, and prefer M and N so much, that if they are
assured that by proper organisation A's return can be made certain
without their voting for him, they will vote for M and N. But they will
do so only on that understanding. Similarly certain B-ites will want O
and P if they can be got without sacrificing B. So that adequate party
organisation in the community may return not the dozen a naive vote
would give, but A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, M, N, O, P. Now suppose that,
instead of this arrangement, your community is divided into twelve
constituencies and no candidate may contest more than one of them. And
suppose each constituency has strong local preferences. A, B and C are
widely popular; in every constituency they have supporters but in no
constituency does any one of the three command a majority. They are
great men, not local men. Q, who is an unknown man in most of the
country, has, on the contrary, a strong sect of followers in the
constituency for which A stands, and beats him by one vote; another
local celebrity, E, disposes of B in the same way; C is attacked not
only by S but T, whose peculiar views upon vaccination, let us say,
appeal to just enough of C's supporters to let in S. Similar accidents
happen in the other constituencies, and the country that would have
unreservedly returned A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K and L on the first
system, return instead O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z. Numerous
voters who would have voted for A if they had a chance vote instead for
R, S, T, etc., numbers who would have voted for B, vote for Q, V, W, X,
etc. But now suppose that A and B are opposed to one another, and that
there is a strong A party and a strong B party highly organised in the
country. B is really the second favourite over the country as a whole,
but A is the first favourite. D, F, H, J, L, N, P, R, U, W, Y constitute
the A candidates and in his name they conquer. B, C, E, G, I, K, M, O,
Q, S, V are all thrown out in spite of the wide popularity of B and C. B
and C, we have supposed, are the second and third favourites, and yet
they go out in favour of Y, of whom nobody has heard before, some mere
hangers-on of A's. Such a situation actually occurs in both Ulster and
Home-Rule Ireland.

But now let us suppose another arrangement, and that is that the whole
country is one constituency, and every voter has, if he chooses to
exercise them, twelve votes, which, however, he must give, if he gives
them all, to twelve separate people. Then quite certainly A, B, C, D
will come in, but the tail will be different. M, N, O, P may come up
next to them, and even Z, that eminent non-party man, may get in. But
now organisation may produce new effects. The ordinary man, when he has
twelve votes to give, likes to give them all, so that there will be a
good deal of wild voting at the tails of the voting papers. Now if a
small resolute band decide to plump for T or to vote only for A and T or
B and T, T will probably jump up out of the rejected. This is the system
which gives the specialist, the anti-vaccinator or what not, the maximum
advantage. V, W, X and Y, being rather hopeless anyhow, will probably
detach themselves from party and make some special appeal, say to the
teetotal vote or the Mormon vote or the single tax vote, and so squeeze
past O, P, Q, R, who have taken a more generalised line.

I trust the reader will bear with me through these alphabetical
fluctuations. Many people, I know from colloquial experiences, do at
about this stage fly into a passion. But if you will exercise
self-control, then I think you will see my point that, according to the
method of voting, almost any sort of result may be got out of an
election except the production of a genuinely representative assembly.

And that is the a priori case for supposing, what our experience of
contemporary life abundantly verifies, that the so-called representative
assemblies of the world are not really representative at all. I will go
farther and say that were it not for the entire inefficiency of our
method of voting, not one-tenth of the present American and French
Senators, the French Deputies, the American Congressmen, and the English
Members of Parliament would hold their positions to-day. They would
never have been heard of. They are not really the elected
representatives of the people; they are the products of a ridiculous
method of election; they are the illegitimate children of the party
system and the ballot-box, who have ousted the legitimate heirs from
their sovereignty. They are no more the expression of the general will
than the Tsar or some President by _pronunciamento_. They are an
accidental oligarchy of adventurers. Representative government has never
yet existed in the world; there was an attempt to bring it into
existence in the eighteenth century, and it succumbed to an infantile
disorder at the very moment of its birth. What we have in the place of
the leaders and representatives are politicians and "elected persons."

The world is passing rapidly from localised to generalised interests,
but the method of election into which our fathers fell is the method of
electing one or two representatives from strictly localised
constituencies. Its immediate corruption was inevitable. If discussing
and calculating the future had been, as it ought to be, a common,
systematic occupation, the muddles of to-day might have been foretold a
hundred years ago. From such a rough method of election the party system
followed as a matter of course. In theory, of course, there may be any
number of candidates for a constituency and a voter votes for the one he
likes best; in practice there are only two or three candidates, and the
voter votes for the one most likely to beat the candidate he likes
least. It cannot be too strongly insisted that in contemporary elections
we vote against; we do not vote for. If A, B and C are candidates, and
you hate C and all his works and prefer A, but doubt if he will get as
many votes as B, who is indifferent to you, the chances are you will
vote for B. If C and B have the support of organised parties, you are
still less likely to risk "wasting" your vote upon A. If your real
confidence is in G, who is not a candidate for your constituency, and if
B pledges himself to support G, while A retains the right of separate
action, you may vote for B even if you distrust him personally.
Additional candidates would turn any election of this type into a wild
scramble. The system lies, in fact, wholly open to the control of
political organisations, calls out, indeed, for the control of political
organisations, and has in every country produced what is so evidently
demanded. The political organisations to-day rule us unchallenged. Save
as they speak for us, the people are dumb.

Elections of the prevalent pattern, which were intended and are still
supposed by simple-minded people to give every voter participation in
government, do as a matter of fact effect nothing of the sort. They give
him an exasperating fragment of choice between the agents of two party
organisations, over neither of which he has any intelligible control.
For twenty-five years I have been a voter, and in all that time I have
only twice had an opportunity of voting for a man of distinction in whom
I had the slightest confidence. Commonly my choice of a "representative"
has been between a couple of barristers entirely unknown to me or the
world at large. Rather more than half the men presented for my selection
have not been English at all, but of alien descent. This, then, is the
sum of the political liberty of the ordinary American or Englishman,
that is the political emancipation which Englishwomen have shown
themselves so pathetically eager to share. He may reject one of two
undesirables, and the other becomes his "representative." Now this is
not popular government at all; it is government by the profession of
politicians, whose control becomes more and more irresponsible in just
the measure that they are able to avoid real factions within their own
body. Whatever the two party organisations have a mind to do together,
whatever issue they chance to reserve from "party politics," is as much
beyond the control of the free and independent voter as if he were a
slave subject in ancient Peru.

Our governments in the more civilised parts of the world to-day are only
in theory and sentiment democratic. In reality they are democracies so
eviscerated by the disease of bad electoral methods that they are mere
cloaks for the parasitic oligarchies that have grown up within their
form and substance. The old spirit of freedom and the collective purpose
which overthrew and subdued priestcrafts and kingcrafts, has done so, it
seems, only to make way for these obscure political conspiracies.
Instead of liberal institutions, mankind has invented a new sort of
usurpation. And it is not unnatural that many of us should be in a phase
of political despair.

These oligarchies of the party organisations have now been evolving for
two centuries, and their inherent evils and dangers become more and more
manifest. The first of these is the exclusion from government of the
more active and intelligent sections of the community. It is not treated
as remarkable, it is treated as a matter of course, that neither in
Congress nor in the House of Commons is there any adequate
representation of the real thought of the time, of its science,
invention and enterprise, of its art and feeling, of its religion and
purpose. When one speaks of Congressmen or Members of Parliament one
thinks, to be plain about it, of intellectual riff-raff. When one hears
of a pre-eminent man in the English-speaking community, even though that
pre-eminence may be in political or social science, one is struck by a
sense of incongruity if he happens to be also in the Legislature. When
Lord Haldane disengages the Gifford lectures or Lord Morley writes a
"Life of Gladstone" or ex-President Roosevelt is delivered of a magazine
article, there is the same sort of excessive admiration as when a Royal
Princess does a water-colour sketch or a dog walks on its hind legs.

Now this intellectual inferiority of the legislator is not only directly
bad for the community by producing dull and stupid legislation, but it
has a discouraging and dwarfing effect upon our intellectual life.
Nothing so stimulates art, thought and science as realisation; nothing
so cripples it as unreality. But to set oneself to know thoroughly and
to think clearly about any human question is to unfit oneself for the
forensic claptrap which is contemporary politics, is to put oneself out
of the effective current of the nation's life. The intelligence of any
community which does not make a collective use of that intelligence,
starves and becomes hectic, tends inevitably to preciousness and
futility on the one hand, and to insurgency, mischief and anarchism on
the other.

From the point of view of social stability this estrangement of the
national government and the national intelligence is far less serious
than the estrangement between the governing body and the real feeling of
the mass of the people. To many observers this latter estrangement seems
to be drifting very rapidly towards a social explosion in the British
Isles. The organised masses of labour find themselves baffled both by
their parliamentary representatives and by their trade union officials.
They are losing faith in their votes and falling back in anger upon
insurrectionary ideals, upon the idea of a general strike, and upon the
expedients of sabotage. They are doing this without any constructive
proposals at all, for it is ridiculous to consider Syndicalism as a
constructive proposal. They mean mischief because they are hopeless and
bitterly disappointed. It is the same thing in France, and before many
years are over it will be the same thing in America. That way lies
chaos. In the next few years there may be social revolt and bloodshed in
most of the great cities of Western Europe. That is the trend of current
probability. Yet the politicians go on in an almost complete disregard
of this gathering storm. Their jerrymandered electoral methods are like
wool in their ears, and the rejection of Tweedledum for Tweedledee is
taken as a "mandate" for Tweedledee's distinctive brand of political

Is this an incurable state of things? Is this method of managing our
affairs the only possible electoral method, and is there no remedy for
its monstrous clumsiness and inefficiency but to "show a sense of
humour," or, in other words, to grin and bear it? Or is it conceivable
that there may be a better way to government than any we have yet tried,
a method of government that would draw every class into conscious and
willing co-operation with the State, and enable every activity of the
community to play its proper part in the national life? That was the
dream of those who gave the world representative government in the past.
Was it an impossible dream?

Sec. 2

Is this disease of Parliaments an incurable disease, and have we,
therefore, to get along as well as we can with it, just as a tainted and
incurable invalid diets and is careful and gets along through life? Or
is it possible that some entirely more representative and effective
collective control of our common affairs can be devised?

The answer to that must determine our attitude to a great number of
fundamental questions. If no better governing body is possible than the
stupid, dilatory and forensic assemblies that rule in France, Britain
and America to-day, then the civilised human community has reached its
climax. That more comprehensive collective handling of the common
interests to which science and intelligent Socialism point, that
collective handling which is already urgently needed if the present
uncontrolled waste of natural resources and the ultimate bankruptcy of
mankind is to be avoided, is quite beyond the capacity of such
assemblies; already there is too much in their clumsy and untrustworthy
hands, and the only course open to us is an attempt at enlightened
Individualism, an attempt to limit and restrict State activities in
every possible way, and to make little private temporary islands of
light and refinement amidst the general disorder and decay. All
collectivist schemes, all rational Socialism, if only Socialists would
realise it, all hope for humanity, indeed, are dependent ultimately upon
the hypothetical possibility of a better system of government than any
at present in existence.

Let us see first, then, if we can lay down any conditions which such a
better governing body would satisfy. Afterwards it will be open to us to
believe or disbelieve in its attainment. Imagination is the essence of
creation. If we can imagine a better government we are half-way to
making it.

Now, whatever other conditions such a body will satisfy, we may be sure
that it will not be made up of members elected by single-member
constituencies. A single-member constituency must necessarily contain a
minority, and may even contain a majority of dissatisfied persons whose
representation is, as it were, blotted out by the successful candidate.
Three single-member constituencies which might all return members of the
same colour, if they were lumped together to return three members would
probably return two of one colour and one of another. There would still,
however, be a suppressed minority averse to both these colours, or
desiring different shades of those colours from those afforded them in
the constituency. Other things being equal, it may be laid down that the
larger the constituency and the more numerous its representatives, the
greater the chance of all varieties of thought and opinion being

But that is only a preliminary statement; it still leaves untouched all
the considerations advanced in the former part of this discussion to
show how easily the complications and difficulties of voting lead to a
falsification of the popular will and understanding. But here we enter a
region where a really scientific investigation has been made, and where
established results are available. A method of election was worked out
by Hare in the middle of the last century that really does seem to avoid
or mitigate nearly every falsifying or debilitating possibility in
elections; it was enthusiastically supported by J.S. Mill; it is now
advocated by a special society--the Proportional Representation
Society--to which belong men of the most diverse type of distinction,
united only by the common desire to see representative government a
reality and not a disastrous sham. It is a method which does render
impossible nearly every way of forcing candidates upon constituencies,
and nearly every trick for rigging results that now distorts and
cripples the political life of the modern world. It exacts only one
condition, a difficult but not an impossible condition, and that is the
honest scrutiny and counting of the votes.

The peculiar invention of the system is what is called the single
transferable vote--that is to say, a vote which may be given in the
first instance to one candidate, but which, in the event of his already
having a sufficient quota of votes to return him, may be transferred to
another. The voter marks clearly in the list of the candidates the order
of his preference by placing 1, 2, 3, and so forth against the names. In
the subsequent counting the voting papers are first classified according
to the first votes. Let us suppose that popular person A is found to
have received first votes enormously in excess of what is needed to
return him. The second votes are then counted on his papers, and after
the number of votes necessary to return him has been deducted, the
surplus votes are divided in due proportion among the second choice
names, and count for them. That is the essential idea of the whole
thing. At a stroke all that anxiety about wasting votes and splitting
votes, _which is the secret of all party political manipulation_
vanishes. You may vote for A well knowing that if he is safe your vote
will be good for C. You can make sure of A, and at the same time vote
for C. You are in no need of a "ticket" to guide you, and you need have
no fear that in supporting an independent candidate you will destroy the
prospects of some tolerably sympathetic party man without any
compensating advantage. The independent candidate does, in fact, become
possible for the first time. The Hobson's choice of the party machine is

Let me be a little more precise about the particulars of this method,
the only sound method, of voting in order to ensure an adequate
representation of the community. Let us resort again to the constituency
I imagined in my last paper, a constituency in which candidates
represented by all the letters of the alphabet struggle for twelve
places. And let us suppose that A, B, C and D are the leading
favourites. Suppose that there are twelve thousand voters in the
constituency, and that three thousand votes are cast for A--I am keeping
the figures as simple as possible--then A has two thousand more than is
needed to return him. _All_ the second votes on his papers are counted,
and it is found that 600, or a fifth of them, go to C; 500, or a sixth,
go to E; 300, or a tenth, to G; 300 to J; 200, or a fifteenth, each to K
and L, and a hundred each, or a thirtieth, to M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, W
and Z. Then the surplus of 2,000 is divided in these proportions--that
is a fifth of 2,000 goes to C, a sixth to E, and the rest to G, J, etc.,
in proportion. C, who already has 900 votes, gets another 400, and is
now returned and has, moreover, 300 to spare; and the same division of
the next votes upon C's paper occurs as has already been made with A's.
But previously to this there has been a distribution of B's surplus
votes, B having got 1,200 of first votes. And so on. After the
distribution of the surplus votes of the elect at the top of the list,
there is a distribution of the second votes upon the papers of those who
have voted for the hopeless candidates at the bottom of the list. At
last a point is reached when twelve candidates have a quota.

In this way the "wasting" of a vote, or the rejection of a candidate for
any reason except that hardly anybody wants him, become practically
impossible. This method of the single transferable vote with very large
constituencies and many members does, in fact, give an entirely valid
electoral result; each vote tells for all it is worth, and the freedom
of the voter is only limited by the number of candidates who put up or
are put up for election. This method, and this method alone, gives
representative government; all others of the hundred and one possible
methods admit of trickery, confusion and falsification. Proportional
Representation is not a faddist proposal, not a perplexing ingenious
complication of a simple business; it is the carefully worked out right
way to do something that hitherto we have been doing in the wrong way.
It is no more an eccentricity than is proper baking in the place of
baking amidst dirt and with unlimited adulteration, or the running of
trains to their destinations instead of running them without notice into
casually selected sidings and branch lines. It is not the substitution
of something for something else of the same nature; it is the
substitution of right for wrong. It is the plain common sense of the
greatest difficulty in contemporary affairs.

I know that a number of people do not, will not, admit this of
Proportional Representation. Perhaps it is because of that hideous
mouthful of words for a thing that would be far more properly named Sane
Voting. This, which is the only correct way, these antagonists regard as
a peculiar way. It has unfamiliar features, and that condemns it in
their eyes. It takes at least ten minutes to understand, and that is too
much for their plain, straightforward souls. "Complicated"--that word of
fear! They are like the man who approved of an electric tram, but said
that he thought it would go better without all that jiggery-pokery of
wires up above. They are like the Western judge in the murder trial who
said that if only they got a man hanged for this abominable crime, he
wouldn't make a pedantic fuss about the question of _which_ man. They
are like the plain, straightforward promoter who became impatient with
maps and planned a railway across Switzerland by drawing a straight line
with a ruler across Jungfrau and Matterhorn and glacier and gorge. Or
else they are like Mr. J. Ramsay Macdonald, M.P., who knows too well
what would happen to him.

Now let us consider what would be the necessary consequences of the
establishment of Proportional Representation in such a community as
Great Britain--that is to say, the redistribution of the country into
great constituencies such as London or Ulster or Wessex or South Wales,
each returning a score or more of members, and the establishment of
voting by the single transferable vote. The first, immediate, most
desirable result would be the disappearance of the undistinguished party
candidate; he would vanish altogether. He would be no more seen.
Proportional Representation would not give him the ghost of a chance.
The very young man of good family, the subsidised barrister, the
respectable nobody, the rich supporter of the party would be ousted by
known men. No candidate who had not already distinguished himself, and
who did not stand for something in the public eye, would have a chance
of election. There alone we have a sufficient reason for anticipating a
very thorough change in the quality and character of the average

And next, no party organisation, no intimation from headquarters, no
dirty tricks behind the scenes, no conspiracy of spite and scandal would
have much chance of keeping out any man of real force and distinction
who had impressed the public imagination. To be famous in science, to
have led thought, to have explored or administered or dissented
courageously from the schemes of official wire-pullers would no longer
be a bar to a man's attainment of Parliament. It would be a help. Not
only the level of parliamentary intelligence, but the level of personal
independence would be raised far above its present position. And
Parliament would become a gathering of prominent men instead of a means
to prominence.

The two-party system which holds all the English-speaking countries
to-day in its grip would certainly be broken up by Proportional
Representation. Sane Voting in the end would kill the Liberal and Tory
and Democratic and Republican party-machines. That secret rottenness of
our public life, that hidden conclave which sells honours, fouls
finance, muddles public affairs, fools the passionate desires of the
people, and ruins honest men by obscure campaigns would become
impossible. The advantage of party support would be a doubtful
advantage, and in Parliament itself the party men would find themselves
outclassed and possibly even outnumbered by the independent. It would be
only a matter of a few years between the adoption of Sane Voting and the
disappearance of the Cabinet from British public life. It would become
possible for Parliament to get rid of a minister without getting rid of
a ministry, and to express its disapproval of--let us say--some foolish
project for rearranging the local government of Ireland without opening
the door upon a vista of fantastical fiscal adventures. The
party-supported Cabinet, which is now the real government of the
so-called democratic countries, would cease to be so, and government
would revert more and more to the legislative assembly. And not only
would the latter body resume government, but it would also necessarily
take into itself all those large and growing exponents of
extra-parliamentary discontent that now darken the social future. The
case of the armed "Unionist" rebel in Ulster, the case of the workman
who engages in sabotage, the case for sympathetic strikes and the
general strike, all these cases are identical in this, that they declare
Parliament a fraud, that justice lies outside it and hopelessly outside
it, and that to seek redress through Parliament is a waste of time and
energy. Sane Voting would deprive all these destructive movements of the
excuse and necessity for violence.

There is, I know, a disposition in some quarters to minimise the
importance of Proportional Representation, as though it were a mere
readjustment of voting methods. It is nothing of the sort; it is a
prospective revolution. It will revolutionise government far more than a
mere change from kingdom to republic or vice versa could possibly do; it
will give a new and unprecedented sort of government to the world. The
real leaders of the country will govern the country. For Great Britain,
for example, instead of the secret, dubious and dubitable Cabinet, which
is the real British government of to-day, poised on an unwieldy and
crowded House of Commons, we should have open government by the
representatives of, let us say, twenty great provinces, Ulster, Wales,
London, for example, each returning from twelve to thirty members. It
would be a steadier, stabler, more confident, and more trusted
government than the world has ever seen before. Ministers, indeed, and
even ministries might come and go, but that would not matter, as it does
now, because there would be endless alternatives through which the
assembly could express itself instead of the choice between two parties.

The arguments against Proportional Representation that have been
advanced hitherto are trivial in comparison with its enormous
advantages. Implicit in them all is the supposition that public opinion
is at bottom a foolish thing, and that electoral methods are to pacify
rather than express a people. It is possibly true that notorious
windbags, conspicuously advertised adventurers, and the heroes of
temporary sensations may run a considerable chance upon the lists. My
own estimate of the popular wisdom is against the idea that any vividly
prominent figure must needs get in; I think the public is capable of
appreciating, let us say, the charm and interest of Mr. Sandow or Mr.
Jack Johnson or Mr. Harry Lauder or Mr. Evan Roberts without wanting to
send these gentlemen into Parliament. And I think that the increased
power that the Press would have through its facilities in making
reputations may also be exaggerated. Reputations are mysterious things
and not so easily forced, and even if it were possible for a section of
the Press to limelight a dozen or so figures up to the legislature, they
would still have, I think, to be interesting, sympathetic and
individualised figures; and at the end they would be only half a dozen
among four hundred men of a repute more naturally achieved. A third
objection is that this reform would give us group politics and unstable
government. It might very possibly give us unstable ministries, but
unstable ministries may mean stable government, and such stable
ministries as that which governs England at the present time may, by
clinging obstinately to office, mean the wildest fluctuations of policy.
Mr. Ramsay Macdonald has drawn a picture of the too-representative
Parliament of Proportional Representation, split up into groups each
pledged to specific measures and making the most extraordinary treaties
and sacrifices of the public interest in order to secure the passing of
these definite bills. But Mr. Ramsay Macdonald is exclusively a
parliamentary man; he knows contemporary parliamentary "shop" as a clerk
knows his "guv'nor," and he thinks in the terms of his habitual life; he
sees representatives only as politicians financed from party
headquarters; it is natural that he should fail to see that the quality
and condition of the sanely elected Member of Parliament will be quite
different from these scheming climbers into positions of trust with whom
he deals to-day. It is the party system based on insane voting that
makes governments indivisible wholes and gives the group and the cave
their terrors and their effectiveness. Mr. Ramsay Macdonald is as
typical a product of existing electoral methods as one could well have,
and his peculiarly keen sense of the power of intrigue in legislation is
as good evidence as one could wish for of the need for drastic change.

Of course, Sane Voting is not a short cut to the millennium, it is no
way of changing human nature, and in the new type of assembly, as in the
old, spite, vanity, indolence, self-interest, and downright dishonesty
will play their part. But to object to a reform on that account is not a
particularly effective objection. These things will play their part, but
it will be a much smaller part in the new than in the old. It is like
objecting to some projected and long-needed railway because it does not
propose to carry its passengers by immediate express to heaven.


Sec. 1

The social conditions and social future of America constitute a system
of problems quite distinct and separate from the social problems of any
other part of the world. The nearest approach to parallel conditions,
and that on a far smaller and narrower scale, is found in the British
colonies and in the newly settled parts of Siberia. For while in nearly
every other part of the world the population of to-day is more or less
completely descended from the prehistoric population of the same region,
and has developed its social order in a slow growth extending over many
centuries, the American population is essentially a transplanted
population, a still fluid and imperfect fusion of great fragments torn
at this point or that from the gradually evolved societies of Europe.
The European social systems grow and flower upon their roots, in soil
which has made them and to which they are adapted. The American social
accumulation is a various collection of cuttings thrust into a new soil
and respiring a new air, so different that the question is still open to
doubt, and indeed there are those who do doubt, how far these cuttings
are actually striking root and living and growing, whether indeed they
are destined to more than a temporary life in the new hemisphere. I
propose to discuss and weigh certain arguments for and against the
belief that these ninety million people who constitute the United
States of America are destined to develop into a great distinctive
nation with a character and culture of its own.

Humanly speaking, the United States of America (and the same is true of
Canada and all the more prosperous, populous and progressive regions of
South America) is a vast sea of newly arrived and unstably rooted
people. Of the seventy-six million inhabitants recorded by the 1900
census, ten and a half million were born and brought up in one or other
of the European social systems, and the parents of another twenty-six
millions were foreigners. Another nine million are of African negro
descent. Fourteen million of the sixty-five million native-born are
living not in the state of their birth, but in other states to which
they have migrated. Of the thirty and a half million whites whose
parents on both sides were native Americans, a high proportion probably
had one if not more grand-parents foreign-born. Nearly five and a half
million out of thirty-three and a half million whites in 1870 were
foreign-born, and another five and a quarter million the children of
foreign-born parents. The children of the latter five and a quarter
million count, of course, in the 1900 census as native-born of native
parents. Immigration varies enormously with the activity of business,
but in 1906 it rose for the first time above a million.

These figures may be difficult to grasp. The facts may be seen in a more
concrete form by the visitor to Ellis Island, the receiving station for
the immigrants into New York Harbour. One goes to this place by tugs
from the United States barge office in Battery Park, and in order to see
the thing properly one needs a letter of introduction to the
commissioner in charge. Then one is taken through vast barracks littered
with people of every European race, every type of low-class European
costume, and every degree of dirtiness, to a central hall in which the
gist of the examining goes on. The floor of this hall is divided up into
a sort of maze of winding passages between lattice work, and along these
passages, day after day, incessantly, the immigrants go, wild-eyed
Gipsies, Armenians, Greeks, Italians, Ruthenians, Cossacks, German
peasants, Scandinavians, a few Irish still, impoverished English,
occasional Dutch; they halt for a moment at little desks to exhibit
papers, at other little desks to show their money and prove they are not
paupers, to have their eyes scanned by this doctor and their general
bearing by that. Their thumb-marks are taken, their names and heights
and weights and so forth are recorded for the card index; and so,
slowly, they pass along towards America, and at last reach a little
wicket, the gate of the New World. Through this metal wicket drips the
immigration stream--all day long, every two or three seconds, an
immigrant with a valise or a bundle, passes the little desk and goes on
past the well-managed money-changing place, past the carefully organised
separating ways that go to this railway or that, past the guiding,
protecting officials--into a new world. The great majority are young men
and young women between seventeen and thirty, good, youthful, hopeful
peasant stock. They stand in a long string, waiting to go through that
wicket, with bundles, with little tin boxes, with cheap portmanteaus
with odd packages, in pairs, in families, alone, women with children,
men with strings of dependents, young couples. All day that string of
human beads waits there, jerks forward, waits again; all day and every
day, constantly replenished, constantly dropping the end beads through
the wicket, till the units mount to hundreds and the hundreds to
thousands.... In such a prosperous year as 1906 more immigrants passed
through that wicket into America than children were born in the whole of

This figure of a perpetual stream of new stranger citizens will serve to
mark the primary distinction between the American social problem and
that of any European or Asiatic community.

The vast bulk of the population of the United States has, in fact, only
got there from Europe in the course of the last hundred years, and
mainly since the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne of Great
Britain. That is the first fact that the student of the American social
future must realise. Only an extremely small proportion of its blood
goes back now to those who fought for freedom in the days of George
Washington. The American community is not an expanded colonial society
that has become autonomous. It is a great and deepening pool of
population accumulating upon the area these predecessors freed, and
since fed copiously by affluents from every European community. Fresh
ingredients are still being added in enormous quantity, in quantity so
great as to materially change the racial quality in a score of years. It
is particularly noteworthy that each accession of new blood seems to
sterilise its predecessors. Had there been no immigration at all into
the United States, but had the rate of increase that prevailed in
1810-20 prevailed to 1900, the population, which would then have been a
purely native American one, would have amounted to a hundred
million--that is to say, to approximately nine million in excess of the
present total population. The new waves are for a time amazingly fecund,
and then comes a rapid fall in the birth-rate. The proportion of
colonial and early republican blood in the population is, therefore,
probably far smaller even than the figures I have quoted would suggest.

These accesses of new population have come in a series of waves, very
much as if successive reservoirs of surplus population in the Old World
had been tapped, drained and exhausted. First came the Irish and
Germans, then Central Europeans of various types, then Poland and
Western Russia began to pour out their teeming peoples, and more
particularly their Jews, Bohemia, the Slavonic states, Italy and Hungary
followed and the latest arrivals include great numbers of Levantines,
Armenians and other peoples from Asia Minor and the Balkan Peninsula.
The Hungarian immigrants have still a birth-rate of forty-six per
thousand, the highest birth-rate in the world.

A considerable proportion of the Mediterranean arrivals, it has to be
noted, and more especially the Italians, do not come to settle. They
work for a season or a few years, and then return to Italy. The rest
come to stay.

A vast proportion of these accessions to the American population since
1840 has, with the exception of the East European Jews, consisted of
peasantry, mainly or totally illiterate, accustomed to a low standard of
life and heavy bodily toil. For most of them the transfer to a new
country meant severance from the religious communion in which they had
been bred and from the servilities or subordinations to which they were
accustomed They brought little or no positive social tradition to the
synthesis to which they brought their blood and muscle.

The earlier German, English and Scandinavian incomers were drawn from a
somewhat higher social level, and were much more closely akin in habits
and faith to the earlier founders of the Republic.

Our inquiry is this: What social structure is this pool of mixed
humanity developing or likely to develop?

Sec. 2

If we compare any European nation with the American, we perceive at once
certain broad differences. The former, in comparison with the latter, is
evolved and organised; the latter, in comparison with the former, is
aggregated and chaotic. In nearly every European country there is a
social system often quite elaborately classed and defined; each class
with a sense of function, with an idea of what is due to it and what is
expected of it. Nearly everywhere you find a governing class,
aristocratic in spirit, sometimes no doubt highly modified by recent
economic and industrial changes, with more or less of the tradition of a
feudal nobility, then a definite great mercantile class, then a large
self-respecting middle class of professional men, minor merchants, and
so forth, then a new industrial class of employees in the manufacturing
and urban districts, and a peasant population rooted to the land. There
are, of course, many local modifications of this form: in France the
nobility is mostly expropriated; in England, since the days of John
Bull, the peasant has lost his common rights and his holding, and become
an "agricultural labourer" to a newer class of more extensive farmer.
But these are differences in detail; the fact of the organisation, and
the still more important fact of the traditional feeling of
organisation, remain true of all these older communities.

And in nearly every European country, though it may be somewhat
despoiled here and shorn of exclusive predominance there, or represented
by a dislocated "reformed" member, is the Church, custodian of a great
moral tradition, closely associated with the national universities and
the organisation of national thought. The typical European town has its
castle or great house, its cathedral or church, its middle-class and
lower-class quarters. Five miles off one can see that the American town
is on an entirely different plan. In his remarkable "American Scene,"
Mr. Henry James calls attention to the fact that the Church as one sees
it and feels it universally in Europe is altogether absent, and he adds
a comment as suggestive as it is vague. Speaking of the appearance of
the Churches, so far as they do appear amidst American urban scenery, he

  "Looking for the most part no more established or
  seated than a stopped omnibus, they are reduced to the
  inveterate bourgeois level (that of private, accommodated
  pretensions merely), and fatally despoiled of the fine old
  ecclesiastical arrogance, ... The field of American life is
  as bare of the Church as a billiard-table of a centre-piece; a
  truth that the myriad little structures 'attended' on Sundays
  and on the 'off' evenings of their 'sociables' proclaim as
  with the audible sound of the roaring of a million mice....

  "And however one indicates one's impression of the
  clearance, the clearance itself, in its completeness, with the
  innumerable odd connected circumstances that bring it
  home, represents, in the history of manners and morals, a
  deviation in the mere measurement of which hereafter may
  well reside a certain critical thrill. I say hereafter because
  it is a question of one of those many measurements that
  would as yet, in the United States, be premature. Of all
  the solemn conclusions one feels as 'barred,' the list is quite
  headed in the States, I think, by this particular abeyance
  of judgment. When an ancient treasure of precious vessels,
  overscored with glowing gems and wrought artistically into
  wondrous shapes, has, by a prodigious process, been converted
  through a vast community into the small change,
  the simple circulating medium of dollars and 'nickels,' we
  can only say that the consequent permeation will be of
  values of a new order. Of _what_ order we must wait to

America has no Church. Neither has it a peasantry nor an aristocracy,
and until well on in the Victorian epoch it had no disproportionately
rich people.

In America, except in the regions where the negro abounds, there is no
lower stratum. There is no "soil people" to this community at all; your
bottom-most man is a mobile freeman who can read, and who has ideas
above digging and pigs and poultry-keeping, except incidentally for his
own ends. No one owns to subordination As a consequence, any position
which involves the acknowledgment of an innate inferiority is difficult
to fill; there is, from the European point of view, an extraordinary
dearth of servants, and this endures in spite of a great peasant
immigration. The servile tradition will not root here now; it dies
forthwith. An enormous importation of European serfs and peasants goes
on, but as they touch this soil their backs begin to stiffen with a new

And at the other end of the scale, also, one misses an element. There
is no territorial aristocracy, no aristocracy at all, no throne, no
legitimate and acknowledged representative of that upper social
structure of leisure, power and State responsibility which in the old
European theory of Society was supposed to give significance to the
whole. The American community, one cannot too clearly insist, does not
correspond to an entire European community at all, but only to the
middle masses of it, to the trading and manufacturing class between the
dimensions of the magnate and the clerk and skilled artisan. It is the
central part of the European organism without either the dreaming head
or the subjugated feet. Even the highly feudal slave-holding "county
family" traditions of Virginia and the South pass now out of memory. So
that in a very real sense the past of the American nation is in Europe,
and the settled order of the past is left behind there. This community
was, as it were, taken off its roots, clipped of its branches, and
brought hither. It began neither serf nor lord, but burgher and farmer;
it followed the normal development of the middle class under Progress
everywhere and became capitalistic. The huge later immigration has
converged upon the great industrial centres and added merely a vast
non-servile element of employees to the scheme.

America has been and still very largely is a one-class country. It is a
great sea of human beings detached from their traditions of origin. The
social difference from Europe appears everywhere, and nowhere more
strikingly than in the railway carriages. In England the compartments in
these are either "first class," originally designed for the aristocracy,
or "second class," for the middle class, or "third class," for the
populace. In America there is only one class, one universal simple
democratic car. In the Southern States, however, a proportion of these
simple democratic cars are inscribed with the word "White," whereby nine
million people are excluded. But to this original even-handed treatment
there was speedily added a more sumptuous type of car, the parlour car,
accessible to extra dollars; and then came special types of train, all
made up of parlour cars and observation cars and the like. In England
nearly every train remains still first, second and third, or first and
third. And now, quite outdistancing the differentiation of England,
America produces private cars and private trains, such as Europe
reserves only for crowned heads.

The evidence of the American railways, then, suggests very strongly what
a hundred other signs confirm, that the huge classless sea of American
population is not destined to remain classless, is already developing
separations and distinctions and structures of its own. And monstrous
architectural portents in Boston and Salt Lake City encourage one to
suppose that even that churchless aspect, which so stirred the
speculative element in Mr. Henry James, is only the opening formless
phase of a community destined to produce not only classes but
intellectual and moral forms of the most remarkable kind.

Sec. 3

It is well to note how these ninety millions of people whose social
future we are discussing are distributed. This huge development of human
appliances and resources is here going on in a community that is still,
for all the dense crowds of New York, the teeming congestion of East
Side, extraordinarily scattered. America, one recalls, is still an
unoccupied country across which the latest developments of civilisation
are rushing. We are dealing here with a continuous area of land which
is, leaving Alaska out of account altogether, equal to Great Britain,
France, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Italy, Belgium,
Japan, Holland, Spain and Portugal, Sweden and Norway, Turkey in Europe,
Egypt and the whole Empire of India, and the population spread out over
this vast space is still less than the joint population of the first two
countries named and not a quarter that of India.

Moreover, it is not spread at all evenly. Much of it is in undistributed
clots. It is not upon the soil; barely half of it is in holdings and
homes and authentic communities. It is a population of an extremely
modern type. Urban concentration has already gone far with it; fifteen
millions of it are crowded into and about twenty great cities, another
eighteen millions make up five hundred towns. Between these centres of
population run railways indeed, telegraph wires, telephone connections,
tracks of various sorts, but to the European eye these are mere
scratchings on a virgin surface. An empty wilderness manifests itself
through this thin network of human conveniences, appears in the meshes
even at the railroad side.

Essentially, America is still an unsettled land, with only a few
incidental good roads in favoured places, with no universal police, with
no wayside inns where a civilised man may rest, with still only the
crudest of rural postal deliveries, with long stretches of swamp and
forest and desert by the track side, still unassailed by industry. This
much one sees clearly enough eastward of Chicago. Westward it becomes
more and more the fact. In Idaho, at last, comes the untouched and
perhaps invincible desert, plain and continuous through the long hours
of travel. Huge areas do not contain one human being to the square mile,
still vaster portions fall short of two....

It is upon Pennsylvania and New York State and the belt of great towns
that stretches out past Chicago to Milwaukee and Madison that the nation
centres and seems destined to centre. One needs but examine a tinted
population map to realise that. The other concentrations are provincial
and subordinate; they have the same relation to the main axis that
Glasgow or Cardiff have to London in the British scheme.

Sec. 4

When I speak of this vast multitude, these ninety millions of the United
States of America as being for the most part peasants de-peasant-ised
and common people cut off from their own social traditions, I do not
intend to convey that the American community is as a whole
traditionless. There is in America a very distinctive tradition indeed,
which animates the entire nation, gives a unique idiom to its press and
all its public utterances, and is manifestly the starting point from
which the adjustments of the future must be made.

The mere sight of the stars and stripes serves to recall it; "Yankee" in
the mouth of a European gives something of its quality. One thinks at
once of a careless abandonment of any pretension, of tireless energy
and daring enterprise, of immense self-reliance, of a disrespect for the
past so complete that a mummy is in itself a comical object, and the
blowing out of an ill-guarded sacred flame, a delightful jest. One
thinks of the enterprise of the sky-scraper and the humour of "A Yankee
at the Court of King Arthur," and of "Innocents Abroad." Its dominant
notes are democracy, freedom, and confidence. It is religious-spirited
without superstition consciously Christian in the vein of a nearly
Unitarian Christianity, fervent but broadened, broadened as a halfpenny
is broadened by being run over by an express train, substantially the
same, that is to say, but with a marked loss of outline and detail. It
is a tradition of romantic concession to good and inoffensive women and
a high development of that personal morality which puts sexual
continence and alcoholic temperance before any public virtue. It is
equally a tradition of sporadic emotional public-spiritedness, entirely
of the quality of gallantry, of handsome and surprising gifts to the
people, disinterested occupation of office and the like. It is
emotionally patriotic, hypotheticating fighting and dying for one's
country as a supreme good while inculcating also that working and living
for oneself is quite within the sphere of virtuous action. It adores the
flag but suspects the State. One sees more national flags and fewer
national servants in America than in any country in the world. Its
conception of manners is one of free plain-spoken men revering women and
shielding them from most of the realities of life, scornful of
aristocracies and monarchies, while asserting simply, directly, boldly
and frequently an equal claim to consideration with all other men. If
there is any traditional national costume, it is shirt-sleeves. And it
cherishes the rights of property above any other right whatsoever.

Such are the details that come clustering into one's mind in response to
the phrase, the American tradition.

From the War of Independence onward until our own times that tradition,
that very definite ideal, has kept pretty steadily the same. It is the
image of a man and not the image of a State. Its living spirit has been
the spirit of freedom at any cost, unconditional and irresponsible. It
is the spirit of men who have thrown off a yoke, who are jealously
resolved to be unhampered masters of their "own," to whom nothing else
is of anything but secondary importance. That was the spirit of the
English small gentry and mercantile class, the comfortable property
owners, the Parliamentarians, in Stuart times. Indeed even earlier, it
is very largely the spirit of More's "Utopia." It was that spirit sent
Oliver Cromwell himself packing for America, though a heedless and
ill-advised and unforeseeing King would not let him go. It was the
spirit that made taxation for public purposes the supreme wrong and
provoked each country, first the mother country and then in its turn the
daughter country, to armed rebellion. It has been the spirit of the
British Whig and the British Nonconformist almost up to the present day.
In the Reform Club of London, framed and glazed over against Magna
Charta, is the American Declaration of Independence, kindred trophies
they are of the same essentially English spirit of stubborn
insubordination. But the American side of it has gone on unchecked by
the complementary aspect of the English character which British Toryism

The War of Independence raised that Whig suspicion of and hostility to
government and the freedom of private property and the repudiation of
any but voluntary emotional and supererogatory co-operation in the
national purpose to the level of a religion, and the American
Constitution with but one element of elasticity in the Supreme Court
decisions, established these principles impregnably in the political
structure. It organised disorganisation. Personal freedom, defiance of
authority, and the stars and stripes have always gone together in men's
minds; and subsequent waves of immigration, the Irish fleeing famine,
for which they held the English responsible, and the Eastern European
Jews escaping relentless persecutions, brought a persuasion of immense
public wrongs, as a necessary concomitant of systematic government, to
refresh without changing this defiant thirst for freedom at any cost.

In my book, "The Future in America," I have tried to make an estimate of
the working quality of this American tradition of unconditional freedom
for the adult male citizen. I have shown that from the point of view of
anyone who regards civilisation as an organisation of human
interdependence and believes that the stability of society can be
secured only by a conscious and disciplined co-ordination of effort, it
is a tradition extraordinarily and dangerously deficient in what I have
called a "_sense of the State_." And by a "sense of the State" I mean
not merely a vague and sentimental and showy public-spiritedness--of
that the States have enough and to spare--but a real sustaining
conception of the collective interest embodied in the State as an object
of simple duty and as a determining factor in the life of each
individual. It involves a sense of function and a sense of "place," a
sense of a general responsibility and of a general well-being
overriding the individual's well-being, which are exactly the senses the
American tradition attacks and destroys.

For the better part of a century the American tradition, quite as much
by reason of what it disregards as of what it suggests, has meant a
great release of human energy, a vigorous if rough and untidy
exploitation of the vast resources that the European invention of
railways and telegraphic communication put within reach of the American
people. It has stimulated men to a greater individual activity, perhaps,
than the world has ever seen before. Men have been wasted by
misdirection no doubt, but there has been less waste by inaction and
lassitude than was the case in any previous society. Great bulks of
things and great quantities of things have been produced, huge areas
brought under cultivation, vast cities reared in the wilderness.

But this tradition has failed to produce the beginnings or promise of
any new phase of civilised organisation, the growths have remained
largely invertebrate and chaotic, and, concurrently with its gift of
splendid and monstrous growth, it has also developed portentous
political and economic evils. No doubt the increment of human energy has
been considerable, but it has been much less than appears at first
sight. Much of the human energy that America has displayed in the last
century is not a development of new energy but a diversion. It has been
accompanied by a fall in the birth-rate that even the immigration
torrent has not altogether replaced. Its insistence on the individual,
its disregard of the collective organisation, its treatment of women and
children as each man's private concern, has had its natural outcome.
Men's imaginations have been turned entirely upon individual and
immediate successes and upon concrete triumphs; they have had no regard
or only an ineffectual sentimental regard for the race. Every man was
looking after himself, and there was no one to look after the future.
Had the promise of 1815 been fulfilled, there would now be in the United
States of America one hundred million descendants of the homogeneous and
free-spirited native population of that time. There is not, as a matter
of fact, more than thirty-five million. There is probably, as I have
pointed out, much less. Against the assets of cities, railways, mines
and industrial wealth won, the American tradition has to set the price
of five-and-seventy million native citizens who have never found time to
get born, and whose place is now more or less filled by alien
substitutes. Biologically speaking, this is not a triumph for the
American tradition. It is, however, very clearly an outcome of the
intense individualism of that tradition. Under the sway of that it has
burnt its future in the furnace to keep up steam.

The next and necessary evil consequent upon this exaltation of the
individual and private property over the State, over the race that is
and over public property, has been a contempt for public service. It has
identified public spirit with spasmodic acts of public beneficence. The
American political ideal became a Cincinnatus whom nobody sent for and
who therefore never left his plough. There has ensued a corrupt and
undignified political life, speaking claptrap, dark with violence,
illiterate and void of statesmanship or science, forbidding any healthy
social development through public organisation at home, and every year
that the increasing facilities of communication draw the alien nations
closer, deepening the risks of needless and disastrous wars abroad.

And in the third place it is to be remarked that the American tradition
has defeated its dearest aims of a universal freedom and a practical
equality. The economic process of the last half-century, so far as
America is concerned has completely justified the generalisations of
Marx. There has been a steady concentration of wealth and of the reality
as distinguished from the forms of power in the hands of a small
energetic minority, and a steady approximation of the condition of the
mass of the citizens to that of the so-called proletariat of the
European communities. The tradition of individual freedom and equality
is, in fact, in process of destroying the realities of freedom and
equality out of which it rose. Instead of the six hundred thousand
families of the year 1790, all at about the same level of property and,
excepting the peculiar condition of seven hundred thousand blacks, with
scarcely anyone in the position of a hireling, we have now as the most
striking, though by no means the most important, fact in American social
life a frothy confusion of millionaires' families, just as wasteful,
foolish and vicious as irresponsible human beings with unlimited
resources have always shown themselves to be. And, concurrently with the
appearance of these concentrations of great wealth, we have appearing
also poverty, poverty of a degree that was quite unknown in the United
States for the first century of their career as an independent nation.
In the last few decades slums as frightful as any in Europe have
appeared with terrible rapidity, and there has been a development of the
viler side of industrialism, of sweating and base employment of the most
ominous kind.

In Mr. Robert Hunter's "Poverty" one reads of "not less than eighty
thousand children, most of whom are little girls, at present employed in
the textile mills of this country. In the South there are now six times
as many children at work as there were twenty years ago. Child labour is
increasing yearly in that section of the country. Each year more little
ones are brought in from the fields and hills to live in the degrading
and demoralising atmosphere of the mill towns...."

Children are deliberately imported by the Italians. I gathered from
Commissioner Watchorn at Ellis Island that the proportion of little
nephews and nieces, friends' sons and so forth brought in by them is
peculiarly high, and I heard him try and condemn a doubtful case. It was
a particularly unattractive Italian in charge of a dull-eyed little boy
of no ascertainable relationship....

In the worst days of cotton-milling in England the conditions were
hardly worse than those now existing in the South. Children, the tiniest
and frailest, of five and six years of age, rise in the morning and,
like old men and women, go to the mills to do their day's labour; and,
when they return home, "wearily fling themselves on their beds, too
tired to take off their clothes." Many children work all night--"in the
maddening racket of the machinery, in an atmosphere insanitary and
clouded with humidity and lint."

"It will be long," adds Mr. Hunter in his description, "before I forget
the face of a little boy of six years, with his hands stretched forward
to rearrange a bit of machinery, his pallid face and spare form already
showing the physical effects of labour. This child, six years of age,
was working twelve hours a day."

From Mr. Spargo's "Bitter Cry of the Children" I learn this much of the
joys of certain among the youth of Pennsylvania:

"For ten or eleven hours a day children of ten and eleven stoop over the
chute and pick out the slate and other impurities from the coal as it
moves past them. The air is black with coal dust, and the roar of the
crushers, screens and rushing mill-race of coal is deafening. Sometimes
one of the children falls into the machinery and is terribly mangled, or
slips into the chute and is smothered to death. Many children are killed
in this way. Many others, after a time, contract coal-miners asthma and
consumption, which gradually undermine their health. Breathing
continually day after day the clouds of coal dust, their lungs become
black and choked with small particles of anthracite...."

In Massachusetts, at Fall River, the Hon. J.F. Carey tells how little
naked boys, free Americans, work for Mr. Borden, the New York
millionaire, packing cloth into bleaching vats, in a bath of chemicals
that bleaches their little bodies like the bodies of lepers....

Altogether it would seem that at least one million and a half children
are growing up in the United States of America stunted and practically
uneducated because of unregulated industrialism. These children,
ill-fed, ill-trained mentally benighted, since they are alive and
active, since they are an active and positive and not a negative evil,
are even more ominous in the American outlook than those five and sixty
million of good race and sound upbringing who will now never be born.

Sec. 5

It must be repeated that the American tradition is really the tradition
of one particular ingredient in this great admixture and stirring up of
peoples. This ingredient is the Colonial British, whose seventeenth
century Puritanism and eighteenth century mercantile radicalism and
rationalism manifestly furnished all the stuff out of which the American
tradition is made. It is this stuff planted in virgin soil and inflated
to an immense and buoyant optimism by colossal and unanticipated
material prosperity and success. From that British middle-class
tradition comes the individualist protestant spirit, the keen
self-reliance and personal responsibility, the irresponsible
expenditure, the indiscipline and mystical faith in things being managed
properly if they are only let alone. "State-blindness" is the natural
and almost inevitable quality of a middle-class tradition, a class that
has been forced neither to rule nor obey, which has been concentrated
and successfully concentrated on private gain.

This middle-class British section of the American population was, and is
to this day, the only really articulate ingredient in its mental
composition. And so it has had a monopoly in providing the American
forms of thought. The other sections of peoples that have been annexed
by or have come into this national synthesis are _silent_ so far as any
contribution to the national stock of ideas and ideals is concerned.
There are, for example, those great elements, the Spanish Catholics, the
French Catholic population of Louisiana, the Irish Catholics, the
French-Canadians who are now ousting the sterile New Englander from New
England, the Germans, the Italians the Hungarians. Comparatively they
say nothing. From all the ten million of coloured people come just two
or three platform voices, Booker Washington, Dubois, Mrs. Church
Terrell, mere protests at specific wrongs. The clever, restless Eastern
European Jews, too, have still to find a voice. Professor Münsterberg
has written with a certain bitterness of the inaudibility of the German
element in the American population. They allow themselves, he
remonstrates, to count for nothing. They did not seem to exist, he
points out, even in politics until prohibitionist fury threatened their
beer. Then, indeed, the American German emerged from silence and
obscurity, but only to rescue his mug and retire again with it into
enigmatical silence.

If there is any exception to this predominance of the tradition of the
English-speaking, originally middle-class, English-thinking northerner
in the American mind, it is to be found in the spread of social
democracy outward from the festering tenement houses of Chicago into the
mining and agrarian regions of the middle west. It is a fierce form of
socialist teaching that speaks throughout these regions, far more
closely akin to the revolutionary Socialism of the continent of Europe
than to the constructive and evolutionary Socialism of Great Britain.
Its typical organ is _The Appeal to Reason_, which circulates more than
a quarter of a million copies weekly from Kansas City. It is a Socialism
reeking with class feeling and class hatred and altogether anarchistic
in spirit; a new and highly indigestible contribution to the American
moral and intellectual synthesis. It is remarkable chiefly as the one
shrill exception in a world of plastic acceptance.

Now it is impossible to believe that this vast silence of these
imported and ingested factors that the American nation has taken to
itself is as acquiescent as it seems. No doubt they are largely taking
over the traditional forms of American thought and expression quietly
and without protest, and wearing them; but they will wear them as a man
wears a misfit, shaping and adapting it every day more and more to his
natural form, here straining a seam and there taking in a looseness. A
force of modification must be at work. It must be at work in spite of
the fact that, with the exception of social democracy, it does not
anywhere show as a protest or a fresh beginning or a challenge to the
prevailing forms.

How far it has actually been at work is, perhaps, to be judged best by
an observant stroller, surveying the crowds of a Sunday evening in New
York, or read in the sheets of such a mirror of popular taste as the
Sunday edition of the _New York American_ or the _New York Herald_. In
the former just what I mean by the silent modification of the old
tradition is quite typically shown. Its leading articles are written by
Mr. Arthur Brisbane, the son of one of the Brook Farm Utopians, that
gathering in which Hawthorne and Henry James senior, and Margaret Fuller
participated, and in which the whole brilliant world of Boston's past,
the world of Emerson, Longfellow, Thoreau, was interested. Mr. Brisbane
is a very distinguished man, quite over and above the fact that he is
paid the greatest salary of any journalist in the world. He writes with
a wit and directness that no other living man can rival, and he holds up
constantly what is substantially the American ideal of the past century
to readers who evidently need strengthening in it. It is, of course, the
figure of a man and not of a State; it is a man, clean, clean shaved
and almost obtrusively strong-jawed, honest, muscular, alert, pushful,
chivalrous, self-reliant, non-political except when he breaks into
shrewd and penetrating voting--"you can fool all the people some of the
time," etc.--and independent--independent--in a world which is therefore
certain to give way to him.

His doubts, his questionings, his aspirations, are dealt with by Mr.
Brisbane with a simple direct fatherliness with all the beneficent
persuasiveness of a revivalist preacher. Millions read these leaders and
feel a momentary benefit, en route for the more actual portions of the
paper. He asks: "Why are all men gamblers?" He discusses our Longing for
Immortal Imperfection, and "Did we once live on the moon?" He recommends
the substitution of whisky and soda for neat whisky, drawing an
illustration from the comparative effect of the diluted and of the
undiluted liquid as an eye-wash ("Try whisky on your friend's eyeball!"
is the heading), sleep ("The man who loses sleep will make a failure of
his life, or at least diminish greatly his chances of success"), and the
education of the feminine intelligence ("The cow that kicks her weaned
calf is all heart"). He makes identically the same confident appeal to
the moral motive which was for so long the salvation of the Puritan
individualism from which the American tradition derives. "That hand," he
writes, "which supports the head of the new-born baby, the mother's
hand, supports the civilisation of the world."

But that sort of thing is not saving the old native strain in the
population. It moves people, no doubt, but inadequately. And here is a
passage that is quite the quintessence of Americanism, of all its deep
moral feeling and sentimental untruthfulness. I wonder if any man but
an American or a British nonconformist in a state of rhetorical
excitement ever believed that Shakespeare wrote his plays or Michael
Angelo painted in a mood of humanitarian exaltation, "_for the good of
all men_."

  "What _shall_ we strive for? _Money_?

  "Get a thousand millions. Your day will come, and
  in due course the graveyard rat will gnaw as calmly at
  your bump of acquisitiveness as at the mean coat of the

  "Then shall we strive for _power_?

  "The names of the first great kings of the world are
  forgotten, and the names of all those whose power we envy
  will drift to forgetfulness soon. What does the most powerful
  man in the world amount to standing at the brink of
  Niagara, with his solar plexus trembling? What is his
  power compared with the force of the wind or the energy
  of one small wave sweeping along the shore?

  "The power which man can build up within himself,
  for himself, is nothing. Only the dull reasoning of gratified
  egotism can make it seem worth while.

  "Then what is worth while? Let us look at some of
  the men who have come and gone, and whose lives inspire
  us. Take a few at random:

  "Columbus, Michael Angelo, Wilberforce, Shakespeare,
  Galileo, Fulton, Watt, Hargreaves--these will do.

  "Let us ask ourselves this question: 'Was there any
  _one thing_ that distinguished _all_ their lives,
  that united all these men, active in fields so different?'

  "Yes. Every man among them, and every man whose
  life history is worth the telling, did something for _the good
  of other men_....

  "Get money if you can. Get power if you can; Then, if
  you want to be more than the ten thousand million unknown
  mingled in the dust beneath you, see what good you can
  do with your money and your power.

  "If you are one of the many millions who have not
  and can't get money or power, see what good you can do
  without either:

  "You can help carry a load for an old man. You can
  encourage and help a poor devil trying to reform. You
  can set a good example to children. You can stick to the
  men with whom you work, fighting honestly for their

  "Time was when the ablest man would rather kill ten
  men than feed a thousand children. That time has gone.
  We do not care much about feeding the children, but we
  care less about killing the men. To that extent we have
  improved already.

  "The day will come when we shall prefer helping our
  neighbour to robbing him--legally--of a million dollars.

  "Do what good you can _now_, while it is unusual,
  and have the satisfaction of being a pioneer and an

It is the voice of the American tradition strained to the utmost to make
itself audible to the new world, and cracking into italics and breaking
into capitals with the strain. The rest of that enormous bale of paper
is eloquent of a public void of moral ambitions, lost to any sense of
comprehensive things, deaf to ideas, impervious to generalisations, a
public which has carried the conception of freedom to its logical
extreme of entire individual detachment. These tell-tale columns deal
all with personality and the drama of personal life. They witness to no
interest but the interest in intense individual experiences. The
engagements, the love affairs, the scandals of conspicuous people are
given in pitiless detail in articles adorned with vigorous portraits and
sensational pictorial comments. Even the eavesdroppers who write this
stuff strike the personal note, and their heavily muscular portraits
frown beside the initial letter. Murders and crimes are worked up to the
keenest pitch of realisation, and any new indelicacy in fashionable
costume, any new medical device or cure, any new dance or athleticism,
any new breach in the moral code, any novelty in sea bathing or the
woman's seat on horseback, or the like, is given copious and moving
illustration, stirring headlines, and eloquent reprobation. There is a
coloured supplement of knock-about fun, written chiefly in the quaint
dialect of the New York slums. It is a language from which "th" has
vanished, and it presents a world in which the kicking by a mule of an
endless succession of victims is an inexhaustible joy to young and old.
"Dat ole Maud!" There is a smaller bale dealing with sport. In the
advertisement columns one finds nothing of books, nothing of art; but
great choice of bust developers, hair restorers, nervous tonics,
clothing sales, self-contained flats, and business opportunities....

Individuality has, in fact, got home to itself, and, as people say,
taken off its frills. All but one; Mr. Arthur Brisbane's eloquence one
may consider as the last stitch of the old costume--mere decoration.
Excitement remains the residual object in life. The _New York American_
represents a clientele to be counted by the hundred thousand, manifestly
with no other solicitudes, just burning to live and living to burn.

Sec. 6

The modifications of the American tradition that will occur through its
adoption by these silent foreign ingredients in the racial synthesis are
not likely to add to it or elaborate it in any way. They tend merely to
simplify it to bare irresponsible non-moral individualism. It is with
the detail and qualification of a tradition as with the inflexions of a
language; when another people takes it over the refinements disappear.
But there are other forces of modification at work upon the American
tradition of an altogether more hopeful kind. It has entered upon a
constructive phase. Were it not so, then the American social outlook
would, indeed, be hopeless.

The effectual modifying force at work is not the strangeness nor the
temperamental maladjustment of the new elements of population, but the
conscious realisation of the inadequacy of the tradition on the part of
the more intelligent sections of the American population. That blind
national conceit that would hear no criticism and admit no deficiency
has disappeared. In the last decade such a change has come over the
American mind as sometimes comes over a vigorous and wilful child.
Suddenly it seems to have grown up, to have begun to weigh its powers
and consider its possible deficiencies. There was a time when American
confidence and self-satisfaction seemed impregnable; at the slightest
qualm of doubt America took to violent rhetoric as a drunkard resorts to
drink. Now the indictment I have drawn up harshly, bluntly and
unflatteringly in Sec. 4 would receive the endorsement of American after
American. The falling birth-rate of all the best elements in the State,
the cankering effect of political corruption, the crumbling of
independence and equality before the progressive aggregation of
wealth--he has to face them, he cannot deny them. There has arisen a new
literature, the literature of national self-examination, that seems
destined to modify the American tradition profoundly. To me it seems to
involve the hope and possibility of a conscious collective organisation
of social life.

If ever there was an epoch-marking book it was surely Henry Demarest
Lloyd's "Wealth against Commonwealth." It marks an epoch not so much by
what it says as by what it silently abandons. It was published in 1894,
and it stated in the very clearest terms the incompatibility of the
almost limitless freedom of property set up by the constitution, with
the practical freedom and general happiness of the mass of men. It must
be admitted that Lloyd never followed up the implications of this
repudiation. He made his statements in the language of the tradition he
assailed, and foreshadowed the replacement of chaos by order in quite
chaotic and mystical appeals. Here, for instance, is a typical passage
from "Man, the Social Creator".

  "Property is now a stumbling-block to the people, just
  as government has been. Property will not be abolished,
  but, like government, it will be democratised.

  "The philosophy of self-interest as the social solution
  was a good living and working synthesis in the days when
  civilisation was advancing its frontiers twenty miles a day
  across the American continent, and every man for himself
  was the best social mobilisation possible.

  "But to-day it is a belated ghost that has overstayed
  the cock-crow. These were frontier morals. But this same,
  everyone for himself, becomes most immoral when the
  frontier is abolished and the pioneer becomes the fellow-citizen
  and these frontier morals are most uneconomic when
  labour can be divided and the product multiplied. Most
  uneconomic, for they make closure the rule of industry,
  leading not to wealth, but to that awful waste of wealth
  which is made visible to every eye in our unemployed--not
  hands alone, but land, machinery, and, most of all, hearts.
  Those who still practise these frontier morals are like
  criminals, who, according to the new science of penology,
  are simply reappearances of old types. Their acquisitiveness
  once divine like Mercury's, is now out of place except
  in jail. Because out of place, they are a danger. A sorry
  day it is likely to be for those who are found in the way
  when the new people rise to rush into each other's arms,
  to get together, to stay together and to live together. The
  labour movement halts because so many of its rank and
  file--and all its leaders--do not see clearly the golden thread
  of love on which have been strung together all the past
  glories of human association, and which is to serve for
  the link of the new Association of Friends who Labour,
  whose motto is 'All for All.'"

The establishment of the intricate co-operative commonwealth by a rush
of eighty million flushed and shiny-eyed enthusiasts, in fact, is
Lloyd's proposal. He will not face, and few Americans to this day will
face, the cold need of a great science of social adjustment and a
disciplined and rightly ordered machinery to turn such enthusiasms to
effect. They seem incurably wedded to gush. However, he did express
clearly enough the opening phase of American disillusionment with the
wild go-as-you-please that had been the conception of life in America
through a vehement, wasteful, expanding century. And he was the
precursor of what is now a bulky and extremely influential literature of
national criticism. A number of writers, literary investigators one may
call them, or sociological men of letters, or magazine publicists--they
are a little difficult to place--has taken up the inquiry into the
condition of civic administration, into economic organisation into
national politics and racial interaction, with a frank fearlessness and
an absence of windy eloquence that has been to many Europeans a
surprising revelation of the reserve forces of the American mind.
President Roosevelt, that magnificent reverberator of ideas, that gleam
of wilful humanity, that fantastic first interruption to the succession
of machine-made politicians at the White House, has echoed clearly to
this movement and made it an integral part of the general intellectual
movement of America.

It is to these first intimations of the need of a "sense of the State"
in America that I would particularly direct the reader's attention in
this discussion. They are the beginnings of what is quite conceivably a
great and complex reconstructive effort. I admit they are but
beginnings. They may quite possibly wither and perish presently; they
may much more probably be seized upon by adventurers and converted into
a new cant almost as empty and fruitless as the old. The fact remains
that, through this busy and immensely noisy confusion of nearly a
hundred millions of people, these little voices go intimating more and
more clearly the intention to undertake public affairs in a new spirit
and upon new principles, to strengthen the State and the law against
individual enterprise, to have done with those national superstitions
under which hypocrisy and disloyalty and private plunder have sheltered
and prospered for so long.

Just as far as these reform efforts succeed and develop is the
organisation of the United States of America into a great,
self-conscious, civilised nation, unparalleled in the world's history,
possible; just as far as they fail is failure written over the American
future. The real interest of America for the next century to the student
of civilisation will be the development of these attempts, now in their
infancy, to create and realise out of this racial hotchpotch, this human
chaos, an idea, of the collective commonwealth as the datum of reference
for every individual life.

Sec. 7

I have hinted in the last section that there is a possibility that the
new wave of constructive ideas in American thought may speedily develop
a cant of its own. But even then, a constructive cant is better than a
destructive one. Even the conscious hypocrite has to do something to
justify his pretences, and the mere disappearance from current thought
of the persuasion that organisation is a mistake and discipline
needless, clears the ground of one huge obstacle even if it guarantees
nothing about the consequent building.

But, apart from this, are there more solid and effectual forces behind
this new movement of ideas that makes for organisation in American
medley at the present time?

The speculative writer casting about for such elements lights upon four
sets of possibilities which call for discussion. First, one has to ask:
How far is the American plutocracy likely to be merely a wasteful and
chaotic class, and how far is it likely to become consciously
aristocratic and constructive? Secondly, and in relation to this, what
possibilities of pride and leading are there in the great university
foundations of America? Will they presently begin to tell as a
restraining and directing force upon public thought? Thirdly, will the
growing American Socialist movement, which at present is just as
anarchistic and undisciplined in spirit as everything else in America,
presently perceive the constructive implications of its general
propositions and become statesmanlike and constructive? And, fourthly,
what are the latent possibilities of the American women? Will women as
they become more and more aware of themselves as a class and of the
problem of their sex become a force upon the anarchistic side, a force
favouring race-suicide, or upon the constructive side which plans and
builds and bears the future?

The only possible answer to each one of these questions at present is
guessing and an estimate. But the only way in which a conception of the
American social future may be reached lies through their discussion.

Let us begin by considering what constructive forces may exist in this
new plutocracy which already so largely sways American economic and
political development. The first impression is one of extravagant and
aimless expenditure, of a class irresponsible and wasteful beyond all
precedent. One gets a Zolaesque picture of that aspect in Mr. Upton
Sinclair's "Metropolis," or the fashionable intelligence of the popular
New York Sunday editions, and one finds a good deal of confirmatory
evidence in many incidental aspects of the smart American life of Paris
and the Riviera. The evidence in the notorious Thaw trial, after one has
discounted its theatrical elements, was still a very convincing
demonstration of a rotten and extravagant, because aimless and
functionless, class of rich people. But one has to be careful in this
matter if one is to do justice to the facts. If a thing is made up of
two elements, and one is noisy and glaringly coloured, and the other is
quiet and colourless, the first impression created will be that the
thing is identical with the element that is noisy and glaringly
coloured. One is much less likely to hear of the broad plans and the
quality of the wise, strong and constructive individuals in a class than
of their foolish wives, their spendthrift sons, their mistresses, and
their moments of irritation and folly.

In the making of very rich men there is always a factor of good fortune
and a factor of design and will. One meets rich men at times who seem to
be merely lucky gamblers, who strike one as just the thousandth man in a
myriad of wild plungers, who are, in fact, chance nobodies washed up by
an eddy. Others, again, strike one as exceptionally lucky half-knaves.
But there are others of a growth more deliberate and of an altogether
higher personal quality. One takes such men as Mr. J.D. Rockefeller or
Mr. Pierpont Morgan--the scale of their fortunes makes them public
property--and it is clear that we are dealing with persons on quite a
different level of intellectual power from the British Colonel Norths,
for example, or the South African Joels. In my "Future in America" I
have taken the former largely at Miss Tarbell's estimate, and treated
him as a case of acquisitiveness raised in Baptist surroundings. But I
doubt very much if that exhausts the man as he is to-day. Given a man
brought up to saving and "getting on" as if to a religion, a man very
acquisitive and very patient and restrained, and indubitably with great
organising power, and he grows rich beyond the dreams of avarice. And
having done so, there he is. What is he going to do? Every step he takes
up the ascent to riches gives him new perspectives and new points of

It may have appealed to the young Rockefeller, clerk in a Chicago house,
that to be rich was itself a supreme end; in the first flush of the
discovery that he was immensely rich, he may have thanked Heaven as if
for a supreme good, and spoken to a Sunday school gathering as if he
knew himself for the most favoured of men. But all that happened twenty
years ago or more. One does not keep on in that sort of satisfaction;
one settles down to the new facts. And such men as Mr. Rockefeller and
Mr. Pierpont Morgan do not live in a made and protected world with their
minds trained, tamed and fed and shielded from outside impressions as
royalties do. The thought of the world has washed about them; they have
read and listened to the discussion of themselves for some decades; they
have had sleepless nights of self-examination. To succeed in acquiring
enormous wealth does not solve the problem of life; indeed, it reopens
it in a new form. "What shall I do with myself?" simply recurs again.
You may have decided to devote yourself to getting on, getting wealthy.
Well, you have got it. Now, again, comes the question: "What shall I

Mr. Pierpont Morgan, I am told, collected works of art. I can
understand that satisfying a rich gentleman of leisure, but not a man
who has felt the sensation of holding great big things in his great big
hands. Saul, going out to seek his father's asses, found a kingdom--and
became very spiritedly a king, and it seems to me that these big
industrial and financial organisers, whatever in their youth they
proposed to do or be, must many of them come to realise that their
organising power is up against no less a thing than a nation's future.
Napoleon, it is curious to remember once wanted to run a lodging-house,
and a man may start to corner oil and end the father of a civilisation.

Now, I am disposed to suspect at times that an inkling of such a
realisation may have come to some of these very rich men. I am inclined
to put it among the possibilities of our time that it may presently
become clearly and definitely the inspiring idea of many of those who
find themselves predominantly rich. I do not see why these active rich
should not develop statesmanship, and I can quite imagine them
developing very considerable statesmanship. Because these men were able
to realise their organising power in the absence of economic
organisation, it does not follow that they will be fanatical for a
continuing looseness and freedom of property. The phase of economic
liberty ends itself, as Marx long ago pointed out. The American business
world becomes more and more a managed world with fewer and fewer wild
possibilities of succeeding. Of all people the big millionaires should
realise this most acutely, and, in fact, there are many signs that they
do. It seems to me that the educational zeal of Mr. Andrew Carnegie and
the university and scientific endowments of Mr. Rockefeller are not
merely showy benefactions; they express a definite feeling of the
present need of constructive organisation in the social scheme. The time
has come to build. There is, I think, good reason for expecting that
statesmanship of the millionaires to become more organised and
scientific and comprehensive in the coming years. It is plausible at
least to maintain that the personal quality of the American plutocracy
has risen in the last three decades, has risen from the quality of a
mere irresponsible wealthy person towards that of a real aristocrat with
a "sense of the State." That one may reckon the first hopeful
possibility in the American outlook.

And intimately connected with this development of an attitude of public
responsibility in the very rich is the decay on the one hand of the
preposterous idea once prevalent in America that politics is an
unsuitable interest for a "gentleman," and on the other of the
democratic jealousy of any but poor politicians. In New York they talk
very much of "gentlemen," and by "gentlemen" they seem to mean rich men
"in society" with a college education. Nowadays, "gentlemen" seem more
and more disposed towards politics, and less and less towards a life of
business or detached refinement. President Roosevelt, for example, was
one of the pioneers in this new development, this restoration of
virility to the gentlemanly ideal. His career marks the appearance of a
new and better type of man in American politics, the close of the rule
of the idealised nobody.

The prophecy has been made at times that the United States might develop
a Caesarism, and certainly the position of president might easily
become that of an imperator. No doubt in the event of an acute failure
of the national system such a catastrophe might occur, but the more
hopeful and probable line of development is one in which a conscious and
powerful, if informal, aristocracy will play a large part. It may,
indeed, never have any of the outward forms of an aristocracy or any
definite public recognition. The Americans are as chary of the coronet
and the known aristocratic titles as the Romans were of the word King.
Octavius, for that reason, never called himself king nor Italy a
kingdom. He was just the Caesar of the Republic, and the Empire had been
established for many years before the Romans fully realised that they
had returned to monarchy.

Sec. 8

The American universities are closely connected in their development
with the appearance and growing class-consciousness of this aristocracy
of wealth. The fathers of the country certainly did postulate a need of
universities, and in every state Congress set aside public lands to
furnish a university with material resources. Every State possesses a
university, though in many instances these institutions are in the last
degree of feebleness. In the days of sincere democracy the starvation of
government and the dislike of all manifest inequalities involved the
starvation of higher education. Moreover, the entirely artificial nature
of the State boundaries, representing no necessary cleavages and
traversed haphazard by the lines of communication, made some of these
State foundations unnecessary and others inadequate to a convergent
demand. From the very beginning, side by side with the State
universities, were the universities founded by benefactors; and with the
evolution of new centres of population, new and extremely generous
plutocratic endowments appeared. The dominant universities of America
to-day, the treasure houses of intellectual prestige, are almost all of
them of plutocratic origin, and even in the State universities, if new
resources are wanted to found new chairs, to supply funds for research
or publication or what not, it is to the more State-conscious wealthy
and not to the State legislature that the appeal is made almost as a
matter of course. The common voter, the small individualist has less
constructive imagination--is more individualistic, that is, than the big

This great network of universities that is now spread over the States,
interchanging teachers, literature and ideas, and educating not only the
professions but a growing proportion of business leaders and wealthy
people, must necessarily take an important part in the reconstruction of
the American tradition that is now in progress. It is giving a large and
increasing amount of attention to the subjects that bear most directly
upon the peculiar practical problems of statecraft in America, to
psychology, sociology and political science. It is influencing the press
more and more directly by supplying a rising proportion of journalists
and creating an atmosphere of criticism and suggestion. It is keeping
itself on the one hand in touch with the popular literature of public
criticism in those new and curious organs of public thought, the
ten-cent magazines; and on the other it is making a constantly more
solid basis of common understanding upon which the newer generation of
plutocrats may meet. That older sentimental patriotism must be giving
place under its influence to a more definite and effectual conception of
a collective purpose. It is to the moral and intellectual influence of
sustained scientific study in the universities, and a growing increase
of the college-trained element in the population that we must look if we
are to look anywhere for the new progressive methods, for the
substitution of persistent, planned and calculated social development
for the former conditions of systematic neglect and corruption in public
affairs varied by epileptic seizures of "Reform."

Sec. 9

A third influence that may also contribute very materially to the
reconstruction of the American tradition is the Socialist movement. It
is true that so far American Socialism has very largely taken an
Anarchistic form, has been, in fact, little more than a revolutionary
movement of the wages-earning class against the property owner. It has
already been pointed out that it derives not from contemporary English
Socialism but from the Marxist social democracy of the continent of
Europe, and has not even so much of the constructive spirit as has been
developed by the English Socialists of the Fabian and Labour Party group
or by the newer German evolutionary Socialists. Nevertheless, whenever
Socialism is intelligently met by discussion or whenever it draws near
to practicable realisation, it becomes, by virtue of its inherent
implications, a constructive force, and there is no reason to suppose
that it will not be intelligently met on the whole and in the long run
in America. The alternative to a developing Socialism among the
labouring masses in America is that revolutionary Anarchism from which
it is slowly but definitely marking itself off. In America we have to
remember that we are dealing with a huge population of people who are
for the most part, and more and more evidently destined under the
present system of free industrial competition, to be either very small
traders, small farmers on the verge of debt, or wages-earners for all
their lives. They are going to lead limited lives and worried lives--and
they know it. Nearly everyone can read and discuss now, the process of
concentrating property and the steady fixation of conditions that were
once fluid and adventurous goes on in the daylight visibly to everyone.
And it has to be borne in mind also that these people are so far under
the sway of the American tradition that each thinks himself as good as
any man and as much entitled to the fullness of life. Whatever social
tradition their fathers had, whatever ideas of a place to be filled
humbly and seriously and duties to be done, have been left behind in
Europe. No Church dominates the scenery of this new land, and offers in
authoritative and convincing tones consolations hereafter for lives
obscurely but faithfully lived. Whatever else happens in this national
future, upon one point the patriotic American may feel assured, and that
is of an immense general discontent in the working class and of a
powerful movement in search of a general betterment. The practical forms
and effects of that movement will depend almost entirely upon the
average standard of life among the workers and their general education.
Sweated and ill-organised foreigners, such as one finds in New Jersey
living under conditions of great misery, will be fierce, impatient and
altogether dangerous. They will be acutely exasperated by every picture
of plutocratic luxury in their newspaper, they will readily resort to
destructive violence. The western miner, the western agriculturist,
worried beyond endurance between the money-lender and railway
combinations will be almost equally prone to savage methods of
expression. _The Appeal to Reason_, for example, to which I have made
earlier reference in this chapter, is furious to wreck the present
capitalistic system, but it is far too angry and impatient for that
satisfaction to produce any clear suggestion of what shall replace it.

To call this discontent of the seething underside of the American system
Socialism is a misnomer. Were there no Socialism there would be just as
much of this discontent, just the same insurgent force and desire for
violence, taking some other title and far more destructive methods. This
discontent is a part of the same planless confusion that gives on the
other side the wanton irresponsible extravagances of the smart people of
New York. But Socialism alone, of all the forms of expression adopted by
the losers in the economic struggle, contains constructive possibilities
and leads its adherents towards that ideal of an organised State,
planned and developed, from which these terrible social stresses may be
eliminated, which is also the ideal to which sociology and the thoughts
of every constructive-minded and foreseeing man in any position of life
tend to-day. In the Socialist hypothesis of collective ownership and
administration as the social basis, there is the germ of a "sense of the
State" that may ultimately develop into comprehensive conceptions of
social order, conceptions upon which enlightened millionaires and
unenlightened workers may meet at last in generous and patriotic

The chances of the American future, then, seem to range between two
possibilities just as a more or less constructive Socialism does or does
not get hold of and inspire the working mass of the population. In the
worst event--given an emotional and empty hostility to property as such,
masquerading as Socialism--one has the prospect of a bitter and aimless
class war between the expropriated many and the property-holding few, a
war not of general insurrection but of localised outbreaks, strikes and
brutal suppressions, a war rising to bloody conflicts and sinking to
coarsely corrupt political contests, in which one side may prevail in
one locality and one in another, and which may even develop into a
chronic civil war in the less-settled parts of the country or an
irresistible movement for secession between west and east. That is
assuming the greatest imaginable vehemence and short-sighted selfishness
and the least imaginable intelligence on the part of both workers and
the plutocrat-swayed government. But if the more powerful and educated
sections of the American community realise in time the immense moral
possibilities of the Socialist movement, if they will trouble to
understand its good side instead of emphasising its bad, if they will
keep in touch with it and help in the development of a constructive
content to its propositions, then it seems to me that popular Socialism
may count as a third great factor in the making of the civilised
American State.

In any case, it does not seem to me probable that there can be any
national revolutionary movement or any complete arrest in the
development of an aristocratic phase in American history. The area of
the country is too great and the means of communication between the
workers in different parts inadequate for a concerted rising or even for
effective political action in mass. In the worst event--and it is only
in the worst event that a great insurrectionary movement becomes
probable--the newspapers, magazines, telephones and telegraphs, all the
apparatus of discussion and popular appeal, the railways, arsenals,
guns, flying machines, and all the material of warfare, will be in the
hands of the property owners, and the average of betrayal among the
leaders of a class, not racially homogeneous, embittered, suspicious
united only by their discomforts and not by any constructive intentions,
will necessarily be high. So that, though the intensifying trouble
between labour and capital may mean immense social disorganisation and
lawlessness, though it may even supply the popular support in new
attempts at secession, I do not see in it the possibility and force for
that new start which the revolutionary Socialists anticipate; I see it
merely as one of several forces making, on the whole and particularly in
view of the possible mediatory action of the universities, for
construction and reconciliation.

Sec. 10

What changes are likely to occur in the more intimate social life of the
people of the United States? Two influences are at work that may modify
this profoundly. One is that spread of knowledge and that accompanying
change in moral attitude which is more and more sterilising the once
prolific American home, and the second is the rising standard of
feminine education. There has arisen in this age a new consciousness in
women. They are entering into the collective thought to a degree
unprecedented in the world's history, and with portents at once
disquieting and confused.

In Sec. 5 I enumerated what I called the silent factors in the American
synthesis, the immigrant European aliens, the Catholics, the coloured
blood, and so forth. I would now observe that, in the making of the
American tradition, the women also have been to a large extent, and
quite remarkably, a silent factor. That tradition is not only
fundamentally middle-class and English, but it is also fundamentally
masculine. The citizen is the man. The woman belongs to him. He votes
for her, works for her, does all the severer thinking for her. She is in
the home behind the shop or in the dairy at the farmhouse with her
daughters. She gets the meal while the men talk. The American
imagination and American feeling centre largely upon the family and upon
"mother." American ideals are homely. The social unit is the home, and
it is another and a different set of influences and considerations that
are never thought of at all when the home sentiment is under discussion,
that, indeed, it would be indelicate to mention at such a time, which
are making that social unit the home of one child or of no children at

That ideal of a man-owned, mother-revering home has been the prevalent
American ideal from the landing of the _Mayflower_ right down to the
leader writing of Mr. Arthur Brisbane. And it is clear that a very
considerable section among one's educated women contemporaries do not
mean to stand this ideal any longer. They do not want to be owned and
cherished, and they do not want to be revered. How far they represent
their sex in this matter it is very hard to say. In England in the
professional and most intellectually active classes it is scarcely an
exaggeration to say that _all_ the most able women below five-and-thirty
are workers for the suffrage and the ideal of equal and independent
citizenship, and active critics of the conventions under which women
live to-day. It is at least plausible to suppose that a day is
approaching when the alternatives between celibacy or a life of economic
dependence and physical subordination to a man who has chosen her, and
upon whose kindness her happiness depends, or prostitution, will no
longer be a satisfactory outlook for the great majority of women, and
when, with a newly aroused political consciousness, they will be
prepared to exert themselves as a class to modify this situation. It may
be that this is incorrect, and that in devotion to an accepted male and
his children most women do still and will continue to find their
greatest satisfaction in life. But it is the writer's impression that so
simple and single-hearted a devotion is rare, and that, released from
tradition--and education, reading and discussion do mean release from
tradition--women are as eager for initiative, freedom and experience as
men. In that case they will persist in the present agitation for
political rights, and these secured, go on to demand a very considerable
reconstruction of our present social order.

It is interesting to point the direction in which this desire for
independence will probably take them. They will discover that the
dependence of women at the present time is not so much a law-made as an
economic dependence due to the economic disadvantages their sex imposes
upon them. Maternity and the concomitants of maternity are the
circumstances in their lives, exhausting energy and earning nothing,
that place them at a discount. From the stage when property ceased to be
chiefly the creation of feminine agricultural toil (the so-called
primitive matriarchate) to our present stage, women have had to depend
upon a man's willingness to keep them, in order to realise the organic
purpose of their being. Whether conventionally equal or not, whether
voters or not, that necessity for dependence will still remain under our
system of private property and free independent competition. There is
only one evident way by which women as a class can escape from that
dependence each upon an individual man and from all the practical
inferiority this dependence entails, and that is by so altering their
status as to make maternity and the upbringing of children a charge not
upon the husband of the mother but upon the community. The public
Endowment of Maternity is the only route by which the mass of women can
reach that personal freedom and independent citizenship so many of them

Now, this idea of the Endowment of Maternity--or as it is frequently
phrased, the Endowment of the Home--is at present put forward by the
modern Socialists as an integral part of their proposals, and it is
interesting to note that there is this convergent possibility which may
bring the feminist movement at last altogether into line with
constructive Socialism. Obviously, before anything in the direction of
family endowment becomes practicable, public bodies and the State
organisation will need to display far more integrity and efficiency
than they do in America at the present time. Still, that is the trend of
things in all contemporary civilised communities, and it is a trend that
will find a powerful reinforcement in men's solicitudes as the
increasing failure of the unsupported private family to produce
offspring adequate to the needs of social development becomes more and
more conspicuous. The impassioned appeals of President Roosevelt have
already brought home the race-suicide of the native-born to every
American intelligence, but mere rhetoric will not in itself suffice to
make people, insecurely employed and struggling to maintain a
comfortable standard of life against great economic pressure, prolific.
Presented as a call to a particularly onerous and quite unpaid social
duty the appeal for unrestricted parentage fails. Husband and wife alike
dread an excessive burthen. Travel, leisure, freedom, comfort, property
and increased ability for business competition are the rewards of
abstinence from parentage, and even the disapproval of President
Roosevelt and the pride of offspring are insufficient counterweights to
these inducements. Large families disappear from the States, and more
and more couples are childless. Those who have children restrict their
number in order to afford those they have some reasonable advantage in
life. This, in the presence of the necessary knowledge, is as
practically inevitable a consequence of individualist competition and
the old American tradition as the appearance of slums and a class of

These facts go to the very root of the American problem. I have already
pointed out that, in spite of a colossal immigration, the population of
the United States was at the end of the nineteenth century over twenty
millions short of what it should have been through its own native
increase had the birth-rate of the opening of the century been
maintained. For a hundred years America has been "fed" by Europe. That
feeding process will not go on indefinitely. The immigration came in
waves as if reservoir after reservoir was tapped and exhausted. Nowadays
England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Scandinavia send hardly any more;
they have no more to send. Germany and Switzerland send only a few. The
South European and Austrian supply is not as abundant as it was. There
may come a time when Europe and Western Asia will have no more surplus
population to send, when even Eastern Asia will have passed into a less
fecund phase, and when America will have to look to its own natural
increase for the continued development of its resources.

If the present isolated family of private competition is still the
social unit, it seems improbable that there will be any greater natural
increase than there is in France.

Will the growing idea of a closer social organisation have developed by
that time to the possibility of some collective effort in this matter?
Or will that only come about after the population of the world has
passed through a phase of absolute recession? The peculiar constitution
of the United States gives a remarkable freedom of experiment in these
matters to each individual state, and local developments do not need to
wait upon a national change of opinion; but, on the other hand, the
superficial impression of an English visitor is that any such profound
interference with domestic autonomy runs counter to all that Americans
seem to hold dear at the present time. These are, however, new ideas and
new considerations that have still to be brought adequately before the
national consciousness, and it is quite impossible to calculate how a
population living under changing conditions and with a rising standard
of education and a developing feminine consciousness may not think and
feel and behave in a generation's time. At present for all political and
collective action America is a democracy of untutored individualist men
who will neither tolerate such interference between themselves and the
women they choose to marry as the Endowment of Motherhood implies, nor
view the "kids" who will at times occur even in the best-regulated
families as anything but rather embarrassing, rather amusing by-products
of the individual affections.

I find in the London _New Age_ for August 15th, 1908, a description by
Mr. Jerome K. Jerome of "John Smith," the average British voter. John
Smith might serve in some respects for the common man of all the modern
civilisations. Among other things that John Smith thinks and wants, he

  "a little house and garden in the country all to himself.
  His idea is somewhere near half an acre of ground. He
  would like a piano in the best room; it has always been his
  dream to have a piano. The youngest girl, he is convinced,
  is musical. As a man who has knocked about the world
  and has thought, he quite appreciates the argument that
  by co-operation the material side of life can be greatly
  improved. He quite sees that by combining a dozen families
  together in one large house better practical results can be
  obtained. It is as easy to direct the cooking for a hundred
  as for half a dozen. There would be less waste of food, of
  coals, of lighting. To put aside one piano for one girl is
  absurd. He sees all this, but it does not alter one little
  bit his passionate craving for that small house and garden
  all to himself. He is built that way. He is typical of a
  good many other men and women built on the same pattern.
  What are you going to do with them? Change them--their
  instincts, their very nature, rooted in the centuries?
  Or, as an alternative, vary Socialism to fit John Smith?
  Which is likely to prove the shorter operation?"

That, however, is by the way. Here is the point at issue:

  "He has heard that Socialism proposes to acknowledge
  woman's service to the State by paying her a weekly wage
  according to the number of children that she bears and
  rears. I don't propose to repeat his objections to the idea;
  they could hardly be called objections. There is an ugly
  look comes into his eyes; something quite undefinable,
  prehistoric, almost dangerous, looks out of them.... In
  talking to him on this subject you do not seem to be
  talking to a man. It is as if you had come face to face
  with something behind civilisation, behind humanity, something
  deeper down still among the dim beginnings of

Now, no doubt Mr. Jerome is writing with emphasis here. But there is
sufficient truth in the passage for it to stand here as a rough symbol
of another factor in this question. John Smithism, that manly and
individualist element in the citizen, stands over against and resists
all the forces of organisation that would subjugate it to a collective
purpose. It is careless of coming national cessation and depopulation,
careless of the insurgent spirit beneath the acquiescences of Mrs.
Smith, careless of its own inevitable defeat in the economic struggle,
careless because it can understand none of these things; it is
obstinately muddle-headed, asserting what it conceives to be itself
against the universe and all other John Smiths whatsoever. It is a
factor with all other factors. The creative, acquisitive, aggressive
spirit of those bigger John Smiths who succeed as against the myriads of
John Smiths who fail, the wider horizons and more efficient methods of
the educated man, the awakening class-consciousness of women, the
inevitable futility of John Smithism, the sturdy independence that makes
John Smith resent even disciplined co-operation with Tom Brown to
achieve a common end, his essential incapacity, indeed, for collective
action; all these things are against the ultimate triumph, and make for
the ultimate civilisation even of John Smith.

Sec. 11

It may be doubted if the increasing collective organisation of society
to which the United States of America, in common with all the rest of
the world, seem to be tending will be to any very large extent a
national organisation. The constitution is an immense and complicated
barrier to effectual centralisation. There are many reasons for
supposing the national government will always remain a little
ineffectual and detached from the full flow of American life, and this
notwithstanding the very great powers with which the President is

One of these reasons is certainly the peculiar accident that has placed
the seat of government upon the Potomac. To the thoughtful visitor to
the United States this hiding away of the central government in a minute
district remote from all the great centres of thought, population and
business activity becomes more remarkable more perplexing, more
suggestive of an incurable weakness in the national government as he
grasps more firmly the peculiarities of the American situation.

I do not see how the central government of that great American nation of
which I dream can possibly be at Washington, and I do not see how the
present central government can possibly be transferred to any other
centre. But to go to Washington, to see and talk to Washington, is to
receive an extraordinary impression of the utter isolation and
hopelessness of Washington. The National Government has an air of being
marooned there. Or as though it had crept into a corner to do something
in the dark. One goes from the abounding movement and vitality of the
northern cities to this sunny and enervating place through the
negligently cultivated country of Virginia, and one discovers the
slovenly, unfinished promise of a city, broad avenues lined by negro
shanties and patches of cultivation, great public buildings and an
immense post office, a lifeless museum, an inert university, a splendid
desert library, a street of souvenir shops, a certain industry of
"seeing Washington," an idiotic colossal obelisk. It seems an ideal nest
for the tariff manipulator, a festering corner of delegates and agents
and secondary people. In the White House, in the time of President
Roosevelt, the present writer found a transitory glow of intellectual
activity, the spittoons and glass screens that once made it like a
London gin palace had been removed, and the former orgies of handshaking
reduced to a minimum. It was, one felt, an accidental phase. The
assassination of McKinley was an interruption of the normal Washington
process. To this place, out of the way of everywhere, come the senators
and congressmen, mostly leaving their families behind them in their
states of origin, and hither, too, are drawn a multitude of journalists
and political agents and clerks, a crowd of underbred, mediocre men. For
most of them there is neither social nor intellectual life. The thought
of America is far away, centred now in New York; the business and
economic development centres upon New York; apart from the President, it
is in New York that one meets the people who matter, and the New York
atmosphere that grows and develops ideas and purposes. New York is the
natural capital of the United States, and would need to be the capital
of any highly organised national system. Government from the district of
Columbia is in itself the repudiation of any highly organised national

But government from this ineffectual, inert place is only the most
striking outcome of that inflexible constitution the wrangling delegates
of 1787-8 did at last produce out of a conflict of State jealousies.
They did their best to render centralisation or any coalescence of
States impossible and private property impregnable, and so far their
work has proved extraordinarily effective. Only a great access of
intellectual and moral vigour in the nation can ever set it aside. And
while the more and more sterile millions of the United States grapple
with the legal and traditional difficulties that promise at last to
arrest their development altogether, the rest of the world will be
moving on to new phases. An awakened Asia will be reorganising its
social and political conceptions in the light of modern knowledge and
modern ideas, and South America will be working out its destinies,
perhaps in the form of a powerful confederation of states. All Europe
will be schooling its John Smiths to finer discipline and broader ideas.
It is quite possible that the American John Smiths may have little to
brag about in the way of national predominance by A.D. 2000. It is quite
possible that the United States may be sitting meekly at the feet of at
present unanticipated teachers.


(_New Year, 1909_.)

The Editor of the _New York World_ has asked me to guess the general
trend of events in the next thirty years or so with especial reference
to the outlook for the State and City of New York. I like and rarely
refuse such cheerful invitations to prophesy. I have already made a sort
of forecast (in my "Anticipations") of what may happen if the social and
economic process goes on fairly smoothly for all that time, and shown a
New York relieved from its present congestion by the development of the
means of communication, and growing and spreading in wide and splendid
suburbs towards Boston and Philadelphia. I made that forecast before
ever I passed Sandy Hook, but my recent visit only enhanced my sense of
growth and "go" in things American. Still, we are nowadays all too apt
to think that growth is inevitable and progress in the nature of things;
the Wonderful Century, as Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace called the
nineteenth, has made us perhaps over-confident and forgetful of the
ruins of great cities and confident prides of the past that litter the
world, and here I will write about the other alternative, of the
progressive process "hitting something," and smashing.

There are two chief things in modern life that impress me as dangerous
and incalculable. The first of these is the modern currency and
financial system, and the second is the chance we take of destructive
war. Let me dwell first of all on the mysterious possibilities of the
former, and then point out one or two uneasy developments of the latter.

Now, there is nothing scientific about our currency and finance at all.
It is a thing that has grown up and elaborated itself out of very simple
beginnings in the course of a century or so. Three hundred years ago the
edifice had hardly begun to rise from the ground, most property was
real, most people lived directly on the land, most business was on a
cash basis, oversea trade was a proportionately small affair, labour was
locally fixed. Most of the world was at the level at which much of China
remains to-day--able to get along without even coinage. It was a
rudimentary world from the point of view of the modern financier and
industrial organiser. Well, on that rude, secure basis there has now
been piled the most chancy and insecurely experimental system of
conventions and assumptions about money and credit it is possible to
imagine. There has grown up a vast system of lending and borrowing, a
world-wide extension of joint-stock enterprises that involve at last the
most fantastic relationships. I find myself, for example, owning
(partially, at least) a bank in New Zealand, a railway in Cuba, another
in Canada, several in Brazil, an electric power plant in the City of
Westminster, and so on, and I use these stocks and shares as a sort of
interest-bearing money. If I want money to spend, I sell a railway share
much as one might change a hundred-pound banknote; if I have more cash
than I need immediately I buy a few shares. I perceive that the value of
these shares oscillates, sometimes rather gravely, and that the value of
the alleged money on the cheques I get also oscillates as compared with
the things I want to buy; that, indeed, the whole system (which has only
existed for a couple of centuries or so, and which keeps on getting
higher and giddier) is perpetually swaying and quivering and bending and
sagging; but it is only when such a great crisis occurs as that of 1907
that it enters my mind that possibly there is no limit to these
oscillations, that possibly the whole vast accidental edifice will
presently come smashing down.

Why shouldn't it?

I defy any economist or financial expert to prove that it cannot. That
it hasn't done so in the little time for which it has existed is no
reply at all. It is like arguing that a man cannot die because he has
never been known to do so. Previous men have died, previous
civilisations have collapsed, if not of acute, then of chronic financial

The experience of 1907 indicated very clearly how a collapse might
occur. A panic, like an avalanche, is a thing much easier to start than
stop. Previous panics have been arrested by good luck; this last one in
America, for example, found Europe strong and prosperous and helpful. In
every panic period there is a huge dislocation of business enterprises,
vast multitudes of men are thrown out of employment, there is grave
social and political disorder; but in the end, so far, things have an
air of having recovered. But now, suppose the panic wave a little more
universal--and panic waves tend to be more extensive than they used to
be. Suppose that when securities fall all round, and gold appreciates in
New York, and frightened people begin to sell investments and hoard
gold, the same thing happens in other parts of the world. Increase the
scale of the trouble only two or three times, and would our system
recover? Imagine great masses of men coming out of employment, and angry
and savage, in all our great towns; imagine the railways working with
reduced staffs on reduced salaries or blocked by strikers; imagine
provision dealers stopping consignments to retailers, and retailers
hesitating to give credit. A phase would arrive when the police and
militia keeping order in the streets would find themselves on short
rations and without their weekly pay.

What we moderns, with our little three hundred years or so of security,
do not recognise is that things that go up and down may, given a certain
combination of chances, go down steadily, down and down.

What would you do, dear reader--what should I do--if a slump went on

And that brings me to the second great danger to our modern
civilisation, and that is War. We have over-developed war. While we have
left our peace organisation to the niggling, slow, self-seeking methods
of private enterprise; while we have left the breeding of our peoples to
chance, their minds to the halfpenny press and their wealth to the drug
manufacturer, we have pushed forward the art of war on severely
scientific and Socialist lines; we have put all the collective resources
of the community and an enormous proportion of its intelligence and
invention ungrudgingly into the improvement and manufacture of the
apparatus of destruction. Great Britain, for example, is content with
the railways and fireplaces and types of housing she had fifty years
ago; she still uses telephones and the electric light in the most
tentative spirit; but every ironclad she had five-and-twenty years ago
is old iron now and abandoned. Everything crawls forward but the science
of war; that rushes on. Of what will happen if presently the guns begin
to go off I have no shadow of doubt. Every year has seen the
disproportionate increase until now. Every modern European state is more
or less like a cranky, ill-built steamboat in which some idiot has
mounted and loaded a monstrous gun with no apparatus to damp its recoil.
Whether that gun hits or misses when it is fired, of one thing we may be
absolutely certain--it will send the steamboat to the bottom of the sea.

Modern warfare is an insanity, not a sane business proposition. Its
preparation eats more and more into the resources which should be
furnishing a developing civilisation; its possibilities of destruction
are incalculable. A new epoch has opened with the coming of the
navigable balloon and the flying machine. To begin with, these things
open new gulfs for expenditure; in the end they mean possibilities of
destruction beyond all precedent. Such things as the _Zeppelin_ and the
_Ville de Paris_ are only the first pigmy essays of the aeronaut. It is
clear that to be effective, capable of carrying guns and comparatively
insensitive to perforation by shot and shell, these things will have to
be very much larger and as costly, perhaps, as a first-class cruiser.
Imagine such monsters of the air, and wild financial panic below!

Here, then, are two associated possibilities with which to modify our
expectation of an America advancing steadily on the road to an organised
civilisation, of New York rebuilding herself in marble, spreading like a
garden city over New Jersey and Long Island and New York State, becoming
a new and greater Venice, queen of the earth.

Perhaps, after all, the twentieth century isn't going to be so
prosperous as the nineteenth. Perhaps, instead of going resistlessly
onward, we are going to have a set-back. Perhaps we are going to be put
back to learn over again under simpler conditions some of those
necessary fundamental lessons our race has learnt as yet insufficiently
well--honesty and brotherhood, social collectivism, and the need of some
common peace-preserving council for the whole world.


Our conceptions of what a good citizen should be are all at sixes and
sevens. No two people will be found to agree in every particular of such
an ideal, and the extreme divergences upon what is necessary, what is
permissible, what is unforgivable in him, will span nearly the whole
range of human possibility and conduct. As a consequence, we bring up
our children in a mist of vague intimations, in a confusion of warring
voices, perplexed as to what they must do, uncertain as to what they may
do, doomed to lives of compromise and fluctuating and inoperative
opinion. Ideals and suggestions come and go before their eyes like
figures in a fog. The commonest pattern, perhaps--the commonest pattern
certainly in Sunday schools and edifying books, and on all those places
and occasions when morality is sought as an end--is a clean and
able-bodied person, truthful to the extent that he does not tell lies,
temperate so far as abstinence is concerned, honest without pedantry,
and active in his own affairs, steadfastly law-abiding and respectful to
custom and usage, though aloof from the tumult of politics, brave but
not adventurous, punctual in some form of religious exercise, devoted to
his wife and children, and kind without extravagance to all men.
Everyone feels that this is not enough, everyone feels that something
more is wanted and something different; most people are a little
interested in what that difference can be, and it is a business that
much of what is more than trivial in our art, our literature and our
drama must do to fill in bit by bit and shade by shade the subtle, the
permanent detail of the answer.

It does very greatly help in this question to bear in mind the conflict
of our origins. Every age is an age of transition, of minglings, of the
breaking up of old, narrow cultures, and the breaking down of barriers,
of spiritual and often of actual interbreeding. Not only is the physical
but the moral and intellectual ancestry of everyone more mixed than ever
it was before. We blend in our blood, everyone of us, and we blend in
our ideas and purposes, craftsmen, warriors, savages, peasants, and a
score of races, and an endless multitude of social expedients and rules.
Go back but a hundred generations in the lineage of the most delicate
girl you know, and you will find a dozen murderers. You will find liars
and cheats, lascivious sinners, women who have sold themselves, slaves,
imbeciles, devotees, saints, men of fantastic courage, discreet and
watchful persons, usurers, savages, criminals and kings, and every one
of this miscellany, not simply fathering or mothering on the way to her,
but teaching urgently and with every grade of intensity, views and
habits for which they stand. Something of it all has come to her, albeit
much may seem forgotten. In every human birth, with a new little
variation, a fresh slight novelty of arrangement the old issues rise
again. Our ideas, even more than our blood, flow from multitudinous

Certain groups of ideas come to us distinctively associated with certain
marked ways of life. Many, and for a majority of us, it may be, most of
our ancestors were serfs or slaves. And men and women who have had,
generation after generation, to adapt themselves to slavery and the rule
of a master, develop an idea of goodness very different from that of
princes. From our slave ancestry, says Lester Ward, we learnt to work,
and certainly it is from slavery we derive the conception that industry,
even though it be purposeless industry, is a virtue in itself. The good
slave, too, has a morality of restraints; he abstains from the food he
handles and hungers for, and he denies himself pride and initiative of
every sort. He is honest in not taking, but he is unscrupulous about
adequate service. He makes no virtue of frankness, but much of kindly
helpfulness and charity to the weak. He has no sense of duty in planning
or economising. He is polite and soft-spoken, and disposed to irony
rather than denunciation, ready to admire cuteness and condone
deception. Not so the rebel. That tradition is working in us also. It
has been the lot of vast masses of population in every age to be living
in successful or unsuccessful resistance to mastery, to be dreading
oppression or to be just escaped from it. Resentment becomes a virtue
then, and any peace with the oppressor a crime. It is from rebel origins
so many of us get the idea that disrespectfulness is something of a duty
and obstinacy a fine thing. And under the force of this tradition we
idealise the rugged and unmanageable, we find something heroic in rough
clothes and hands, in bad manners, insensitive behaviour, and
unsociableness. And a community of settlers, again, in a rough country,
fighting for a bare existence, makes a virtue of vehemence, of a hasty
rapidity of execution. Hurried and driven men glorify "push" and
impatience, and despise finish and fine discriminations as weak and
demoralising things. These three, the Serf, the Rebel, and the
Squatter, are three out of a thousand types and aspects that have gone
to our making. In the American composition they are dominant. But all
those thousand different standards and traditions are our material, each
with something fine, and each with something evil. They have all
provided the atmosphere of upbringing for men in the past. Out of them
and out of unprecedented occasions, we in this newer age, in which there
are no slaves, in which every man is a citizen, in which the
conveniences of a great and growing civilisation makes the frantic
avidity of the squatter a nuisance, have to set ourselves to frame the
standard of our children's children, to abandon what the slave or the
squatter or the rebel found necessary and that we find unnecessary, to
fit fresh requirements to our new needs. So we have to develop our
figure of the fine man, our desirable citizen in that great and noble
civilised state we who have a "sense of the state" would build out of
the confusions of our world.

To describe that ideal modern citizen now is at best to make a guess and
a suggestion of what must be built in reality by the efforts of a
thousand minds. But he will be a very different creature from that
indifferent, well-behaved business man who passes for a good citizen
to-day. He will be neither under the slave tradition nor a rebel nor a
vehement elemental man. Essentially he will be aristocratic,
aristocratic not in the sense that he has slaves or class inferiors,
because probably he will have nothing of the sort, but aristocratic in
the sense that he will feel the State belongs to him and he to the
State. He will probably be a public servant; at any rate, he will be a
man doing some work in the complicated machinery of the modern community
for a salary and not for speculative gain. Typically, he will be a
professional man. I do not think the ideal modern citizen can be a
person living chiefly by buying for as little as he can give and selling
for as much as he can get; indeed, most of what we idolise to-day as
business enterprise I think he will regard with considerable contempt.
But, then, I am a Socialist, and look forward to the time when the
economic machinery of the community will be a field not for private
enrichment but for public service.

He will be good to his wife and children as he will be good to his
friend, but he will be no partisan for wife and family against the
common welfare. His solicitude will be for the welfare of all the
children of the community; he will have got beyond blind instinct; he
will have the intelligence to understand that almost any child in the
world may have as large a share as his own offspring in the parentage of
his great-great-grandchildren His wife he will treat as his equal; he
will not be "kind" to her, but fair and frank and loving, as one equal
should be with another; he will no more have the impertinence to pet and
pamper her, to keep painful and laborious things out of her knowledge to
"shield" her from the responsibility of political and social work, than
he will to make a Chinese toy of her and bind her feet. He and she will
love that they may enlarge and not limit one another.

Consciously and deliberately the ideal citizen will seek beauty in
himself and in his way of living. He will be temperate rather than
harshly abstinent, and he will keep himself fit and in training as an
elementary duty. He will not be a fat or emaciated person. Fat, panting
men, and thin, enfeebled ones cannot possibly be considered good
citizens any more than dirty or verminous people. He will be just as
fine and seemly in his person as he can be, not from vanity and
self-assertion but to be pleasing and agreeable to his fellows. The ugly
dress and ugly bearing of the "good man" of to-day will be as
incomprehensible to him as the filth of a palaeolithic savage is to us.
He will not speak of his "frame," and hang clothes like sacks over it;
he will know and feel that he and the people about him have wonderful,
delightful and beautiful bodies.

And--I speak of the ideal common citizen--he will be a student and a
philosopher. To understand will be one of his necessary duties. His
mind, like his body, will be fit and well clothed. He will not be too
busy to read and think, though he may be too busy to rush about to get
ignorantly and blatantly rich. It follows that, since he will have a
mind exercised finely and flexible and alert, he will not be a secretive
man. Secretiveness and secret planning are vulgarity; men and women need
to be educated, and he will be educated out of these vices. He will be
intensely truthful, not simply in the vulgar sense of not misstating
facts when pressed, but truthful in the manner of the scientific man or
the artist, and as scornful of concealment as they; truthful, that is to
say, as the expression of a ruling desire to have things made plain and
clear, because that so they are most beautiful and life is at its

And all that I have written of him is equally true and applies word for
word, with only such changes of gender as are needed, to the woman
citizen also.


The present time is harvest home for the prophets. The happy speculator
in future sits on the piled-up wain, singing "I told you so," with the
submarine and the flying machine and the Marconigram and the North Pole
successfully achieved. In the tumult of realisations it perhaps escapes
attention that the prophetic output of new hopes is by no means keeping
pace with the crop of consummations. The present trend of scientific
development is not nearly so obvious as it was a score of years ago; its
promises lack the elementary breadth of that simpler time. Once you have
flown, you have flown. Once you have steamed about under water, you have
steamed about under water. There seem no more big things of that kind
available--so that I almost regret the precipitance of Commander Peary
and Captain Amundsen. No one expects to go beyond that atmosphere for
some centuries at least; all the elements are now invaded. Conceivably
man may presently contrive some sort of earthworm apparatus, so that he
could go through the rocks prospecting very much as an earthworm goes
through the soil, excavating in front and dumping behind, but, to put it
moderately, there are considerable difficulties. And I doubt the
imaginative effect. On the whole, I think material science has got
samples now of all its crops at this level, and that what lies before it
in the coming years is chiefly to work them out in detail and realise
them on the larger scale. No doubt science will still yield all sorts
of big surprising effects, but nothing, I think, to equal the dramatic
novelty, the demonstration of man having got to something altogether new
and strange, of Montgolfier, or the Wright Brothers, of Columbus, or the
Polar conquest. There remains, of course, the tapping of atomic energy,
but I give two hundred years yet before that....

So far, then, as mechanical science goes I am inclined to think the
coming period will be, from the point of view of the common man, almost
without sensational interest. There will be an immense amount of
enrichment and filling-in, but of the sort that does not get prominently
into the daily papers. At every point there will be economies and
simplifications of method, discoveries of new artificial substances with
new capabilities, and of new methods of utilising power. There will be a
progressive change in the apparatus and quality of human life--the sort
of alteration of the percentages that causes no intellectual shock.
Electric heating, for example, will become practicable in our houses,
and then cheaper, and at last so cheap and good that nobody will burn
coal any more. Little electric contrivances will dispense with menial
service in more and more directions. The builder will introduce new,
more convenient, healthier and prettier substances, and the young
architect will become increasingly the intelligent student of novelty.
The steam engine, the coal yard, and the tail chimney, and indeed all
chimneys, will vanish quietly from our urban landscape. The speeding up
and cheapening of travel, and the increase in its swiftness and comfort
will go on steadily--widening experience. A more systematic and
understanding social science will be estimating the probable growth and
movement of population, and planning town and country on lines that
would seem to-day almost inconceivably wise and generous. All this means
a quiet broadening and aeration and beautifying of life. Utopian
requirements, so far as the material side of things goes, will be
executed and delivered with at last the utmost promptness....

It is in quite other directions that the scientific achievements to
astonish our children will probably be achieved. Progress never appears
to be uniform in human affairs. There are intricate correlations between
department and department. One field must mark time until another can
come up to it with results sufficiently arranged and conclusions
sufficiently simplified for application Medicine waits on organic
chemistry, geology on mineralogy, and both on the chemistry of high
pressures and temperature. And subtle variations in method and the
prevailing mental temperament of the type of writer engaged, produce
remarkable differences in the quality and quantity of the stated result.
Moreover, there are in the history of every scientific province periods
of seed-time, when there is great activity without immediate apparent
fruition, and periods, as, for example, the last two decades of
electrical application, of prolific realisation. It is highly probable
that the physiologist and the organic chemist are working towards
co-operations that may make the physician's sphere the new scientific

At present dietary and regimen are the happy hunting ground of the quack
and that sort of volunteer specialist, half-expert, half-impostor, who
flourishes in the absence of worked out and definite knowledge. The
general mass of the medical profession, equipped with a little
experience and a muddled training, and preposterously impeded by the
private adventure conditions under which it lives, goes about pretending
to the possession of precise knowledge which simply does not exist in
the world. Medical research is under-endowed and stupidly endowed, not
for systematic scientific inquiry so much as for the unscientific
seeking of remedies for specific evils--for cancer, consumption, and the
like. Yet masked, misrepresented limited and hampered, the work of
establishing a sound science of vital processes in health and disease is
probably going on now, similar to the clarification of physics and
chemistry that went on in the later part of the eighteenth and the early
years of the nineteenth centuries. It is not unreasonable to suppose
that medicine may presently arrive at far-reaching generalised
convictions, and proceed to take over this great hinterland of human
interests which legitimately belongs to it.

But medicine is not the only field to which we may reasonably look for a
sudden development of wonders. Compared with the sciences of matter,
psychology and social science have as yet given the world remarkably
little cause for amazement. Not only is our medicine feeble and
fragmentary, but our educational science is the poorest miscellany of
aphorisms and dodges. Indeed, directly one goes beyond the range of
measurement and weighing and classification, one finds a sort of
unprogressive floundering going on, which throws the strongest doubts
upon the practical applicability of the current logical and metaphysical
conceptions in those fields. We have emerged only partially from the age
of the schoolmen In these directions we have not emerged at all. It is
quite possible that in university lecture rooms and forbidding volumes
of metaphysical discussion a new emancipation of the human intellect and
will is even now going on. Presently men may be attacking the problems
of the self-control of human life and of human destiny in new phrases
and an altogether novel spirit.

Guesses at the undiscovered must necessarily be vague, but my
anticipations fall into two groups, and first I am disposed to expect a
great systematic increment in individual human power. We probably have
no suspicion as yet of what may be done with the human body and mind by
way of enhancing its effectiveness I remember talking to the late Sir
Michael Foster upon the possibilities of modern surgery, and how he
confessed that he did not dare for his reputation's sake tell ordinary
people the things he believed would some day become matter-of-fact
operations. In that respect I think he spoke for very many of his
colleagues. It is already possible to remove almost any portion of the
human body, including, if needful, large sections of the brain; it is
possible to graft living flesh on living flesh, make new connections,
mould, displace, and rearrange. It is also not impossible to provoke
local hypertrophy, and not only by knife and physical treatment but by
the subtler methods of hypnotism, profound changes can be wrought in the
essential structure of a human being. If only our knowledge of function
and value were at all adequate, we could correct and develop ourselves
in the most extraordinary way. Our knowledge is not adequate, but it may
not always remain inadequate.

We have already had some very astonishing suggestions in this direction
from Doctor Metchnikoff. He regards the human stomach and large
intestine as not only vestigial and superfluous in the human economy,
but as positively dangerous on account of the harbour they afford for
those bacteria that accelerate the decay of age. He proposes that these
viscera should be removed. To a layman like myself this is an altogether
astounding and horrifying idea, but Doctor Metchnikoff is a man of the
very greatest scientific reputation, and it does not give him any qualm
of horror or absurdity to advance it. I am quite sure that if a
gentleman called upon me "done up" in the way I am dimly suggesting,
with most of the contents of his abdomen excavated, his lungs and heart
probably enlarged and improved, parts of his brain removed to eliminate
harmful tendencies and make room for the expansion of the remainder, his
mind and sensibilities increased, and his liability to fatigue and the
need of sleep abolished, I should conceal with the utmost difficulty my
inexpressible disgust and terror. But, then, if M. Blériot, with his
flying machine, ear-flaps and goggles, had soared down in the year 54
B.C., let us say, upon my woad-adorned ancestors--every family man in
Britain was my ancestor in those days--at Dover, they would have had
entirely similar emotions. And at present I am not discussing what is
beautiful in humanity, but what is possible--and what, being possible,
is likely to be attempted.

It does not follow that because men will some day have this enormous
power over themselves, physically and mentally, that they will
necessarily make themselves horrible--even by our present standards
quite a lot of us would be all the slenderer and more active and
graceful for "Metchnikoffing"--nor does surgery exhaust the available
methods. We are still in the barbaric age, so far as our use of food and
drugs is concerned. We stuff all sorts of substances into our
unfortunate interiors and blunder upon the most various consequences.
Few people of three score and ten but have spent in the aggregate the
best part of a year in a state of indigestion, stupid, angry or painful
indigestion as the case may be. No one would be so careless and ignorant
about the fuel he burnt in his motor-car as most of us are about the
fuel we burn in our bodies. And there are all sort of stimulating and
exhilarating things, digesting things, fatigue-suppressing things,
exercise economising things, we dare not use because we are afraid of
our ignorance of their precise working. There seems no reason to suppose
that human life, properly understood and controlled, could not be a
constant succession of delightful and for the most part active bodily
and mental phases. It is sheer ignorance and bad management that keep
the majority of people in that disagreeable system of states which we
indicate by saying we are "a bit off colour" or a little "out of
training." It may seem madly Utopian now to suggest that practically
everyone in the community might be clean, beautiful, incessantly active,
"fit," and long-lived, with the marks of all the surgery they have
undergone quite healed and hidden, but not more madly Utopian than it
would have seemed to King Alfred the Great if one had said that
practically everyone in this country, down to the very swineherds,
should be able to read and write.

Metchnikoff has speculated upon the possibility of delaying old age, and
I do not see why his method should not be applied to the diurnal need of
sleep. No vital process seems to be absolutely fated in itself; it is a
thing conditioned and capable of modification. If Metchnikoff is
right--and to a certain extent he must be right--the decay of age is due
to changing organic processes that may be checked and delayed and
modified by suitable food and regimen. He holds out hope of a new phase
in the human cycle, after the phase of struggle and passion, a phase of
serene intellectual activity, old age with all its experience and none
of its infirmities. Still more are fatigue and the need for repose
dependent upon chemical changes in the body. It would seem we are unable
to maintain exertion, partly through the exhaustion of our tissues, but
far more by the loading of our blood with fatigue products--a
recuperative interlude must ensue. But there is no reason to suppose
that the usual food of to-day is the most rapidly assimilable nurture
possible, that a rapidly digestible or injectable substance is not
conceivable that would vastly accelerate repair, nor that the
elimination and neutralisation of fatigue products might not also be
enormously hastened. There is no inherent impossibility in the idea not
only of various glands being induced to function in a modified manner,
but even in the insertion upon the circulation of interceptors and
artificial glandular structures. No doubt that may strike even an
adventurous surgeon as chimerical, but consider what people, even
authoritative people, were saying of flying and electric traction twenty
years ago. At present a man probably does not get more than three or
four hours of maximum mental and physical efficiency in the day. Few men
can keep at their best in either physical or intellectual work for so
long as that. The rest of the time goes in feeding, digesting, sleeping,
sitting about, relaxation of various kinds. It is quite possible that
science may set itself presently to extend systematically that
proportion of efficient time. The area of maximum efficiency may invade
the periods now demanded by digestion, sleep, exercise, so that at last
nearly the whole of a man's twenty-four hours will be concentrated on
his primary interests instead of dispersed among these secondary
necessary matters.

Please understand I do not consider this concentration of activity and
these vast "artificialisations" of the human body as attractive or
desirable things. At the first proposal much of this tampering with the
natural stuff of life will strike anyone, I think, as ugly and horrible,
just as seeing a little child, green-white and still under an
anaesthetic, gripped my heart much more dreadfully than the sight of the
same child actively bawling with pain. But the business of this paper is
to discuss things that may happen, and not to evolve dreams of
loveliness. Perhaps things of this kind will be manageable without
dreadfulness. Perhaps man will come to such wisdom that neither the
knife nor the drugs nor any of the powers which science thrusts into his
hand will slay the beauty of life for him. Suppose we assume that he is
not such a fool as to let that happen, and that ultimately he will
emerge triumphant with all these powers utilised and controlled.

It is not only that an amplifying science may give mankind happier
bodies and far more active and eventful lives, but that psychology and
educational and social science, reinforcing literature and working
through literature and art, may dare to establish serenities in his
soul. For surely no one who has lived, no one who has watched sin and
crime and punishment, but must have come to realise the enormous amount
of misbehaviour that is mere ignorance and want of mental scope. For my
own part I have never believed in the devil. And it may be a greater
undertaking but no more impossible to make ways to goodwill and a good
heart in men than it is to tunnel mountains and dyke back the sea. The
way that led from the darkness of the cave to the electric light is the
way that will lead to light in the souls of men, that is to say, the way
of free and fearless thinking, free and fearless experiment, organised
exchange of thoughts and results, and patience and persistence and a
sort of intellectual civility.

And with the development of philosophical and scientific method that
will go on with this great increase in man's control over himself,
another issue that is now a mere pious aspiration above abysses of
ignorance and difficulty, will come to be a manageable matter. It has
been the perpetual wonder of philosophers from Plato onward that men
have bred their dogs and horses and left any man or woman, however vile,
free to bear offspring in the next generation of men. Still that goes
on. Beautiful and wonderful people die childless and bury their treasure
in the grave, and we rest content with a system of matrimony that seems
designed to perpetuate mediocrity. A day will come when men will be in
possession of knowledge and opportunity that will enable them to master
this position, and then certainly will it be assured that every
generation shall be born better than was the one before it. And with
that the history of humanity will enter upon a new phase, a phase which
will be to our lives as daylight is to the dreaming of a child as yet


Alone among all the living things this globe has borne, man reckons with
destiny. All other living things obey the forces that created them; and
when the mood of the power changes, submit themselves passively to
extinction Man only looks upon those forces in the face, anticipates the
exhaustion of Nature's kindliness, seeks weapons to defend himself. Last
of the children of Saturn, he escapes their general doom. He
dispossesses his begetter of all possibility of replacement, and grasps
the sceptre of the world. Before man the great and prevalent creatures
followed one another processionally to extinction; the early monsters of
the ancient seas, the clumsy amphibians struggling breathless to the
land, the reptiles, the theriomorpha and the dinosaurs, the bat-winged
reptiles of the Mesozoic forests, the colossal grotesque first mammals,
the giant sloths, the mastodons and mammoths; it is as if some idle
dreamer moulded them and broke them and cast them aside, until at last
comes man and seizes the creative wrist that would wipe him out of being

There is nothing else in all the world that so turns against the powers
that have made it, unless it be man's follower fire. But fire is
witless; a little stream, a changing breeze can stop it. Man
circumvents. If fire were human it would build boats across the rivers
and outmanoeuvre the wind. It would lie in wait in sheltered places,
smouldering, husbanding its fuel until the grass was yellow and the
forests sere. But fire is a mere creature of man's; our world before his
coming knew nothing of it in any of its habitable places, never saw it
except in the lightning flash or remotely on some volcanic coronet. Man
brought it into the commerce of life, a shining, resentful slave, to
hound off the startled beasts from his sleeping-place and serve him like
a dog.

Suppose that some enduring intelligence watched through the ages the
successions of life upon this planet, marked the spreading first of this
species and then that, the conflicts, the adaptations, the
predominances, the dyings away, and conceive how it would have witnessed
this strange dramatic emergence of a rare great ape to manhood. To such
a mind the creature would have seemed at first no more than one of
several varieties of clambering frugivorous mammals, a little
distinguished by a disposition to help his clumsy walking with a stake
and reinforce his fist with a stone. The foreground of the picture would
have been filled by the rhinoceros and mammoth, the great herds of
ruminants, the sabre-toothed lion and the big bears. Then presently the
observer would have noted a peculiar increasing handiness about the
obscurer type, an unwonted intelligence growing behind its eyes. He
would have perceived a disposition in this creature no beast had shown
before, a disposition to make itself independent of the conditions of
climate and the chances of the seasons. Did shelter fail among the trees
and rocks, this curious new thing-began to make itself harbours of its
own; was food irregular, it multiplied food. It began to spread out from
its original circumstances, fitting itself to novel needs, leaving the
forests, invading the plains, following the watercourses upward and
downward, presently carrying the smoke of its fires like a banner of
conquest into wintry desolations and the high places of the earth.

The first onset of man must have been comparatively slow, the first
advances needed long ages. By small degrees it gathered pace. The stride
from the scattered savagery of the earlier stone period to the first
cities, historically a vast interval, would have seemed to that still
watcher, measuring by the standards of astronomy and the rise and
decline of races and genera and orders, a, step almost abrupt. It took,
perhaps, a thousand generations or so to make it. In that interval man
passed from an animal-like obedience to the climate and the weather and
his own instincts, from living in small family parties of a score or so
over restricted areas of indulgent country, to permanent settlements, to
the life of tribal and national communities and the beginnings of
cities. He had spread in that fragment of time over great areas of the
earth's surface, and now he was adapting himself to the Arctic circle on
the one hand and to the life of the tropics on the other; he had
invented the plough and the ship, and subjugated most of the domestic
animals; he was beginning to think of the origin of the world and the
mysteries of being. Writing had added its enduring records to oral
tradition, and he was already making roads. Another five or six hundred
generations at most bring him to ourselves. We sweep into the field of
that looker-on, the momentary incarnations of this sempiternal being,
Man. And after us there comes--

A curtain falls.

The time in which we, whose minds meet here in this writing, were born
and live and die, would be to that imagined observer a mere instant's
phase in the swarming liberation of our kind from ancient imperatives.
It would seem to him a phase of unprecedented swift change and expansion
and achievement. In this last handful of years, electricity has ceased
to be a curious toy, and now carries half mankind upon their daily
journeys, it lights our cities till they outshine the moon and stars,
and reduces to our service a score of hitherto unsuspected metals; we
clamber to the pole of our globe, scale every mountain, soar into the
air, learn how to overcome the malaria that barred our white races from
the tropics, and how to draw the sting from a hundred such agents of
death. Our old cities are being rebuilt in towering marble; great new
cities rise to vie with them. Never, it would seem, has man been so
various and busy and persistent, and there is no intimation of any check
to the expansion of his energies.

And all this continually accelerated advance has come through the
quickening and increase of man's intelligence and its reinforcement
through speech and writing. All this has come in spite of fierce
instincts that make him the most combatant and destructive of animals,
and in spite of the revenge Nature has attempted time after time for his
rebellion against her routines, in the form of strange diseases and
nearly universal pestilences. All this has come as a necessary
consequence of the first obscure gleaming of deliberate thought and
reason through the veil of his animal being. To begin with, he did not
know what he was doing. He sought his more immediate satisfaction and
safety and security. He still apprehends imperfectly the change that
comes upon him. The illusion of separation that makes animal life, that
is to say, passionate competing and breeding and dying, possible, the
blinkers Nature has put upon us that we may clash against and sharpen
one another, still darken our eyes. We live not life as yet, but in
millions of separated lives, still unaware except in rare moods of
illumination that we are more than those fellow beasts of ours who drop
off from the tree of life and perish alone. It is only in the last three
or four thousand years, and through weak and tentative methods of
expression, through clumsy cosmogonies and theologies, and with
incalculable confusion and discoloration, that the human mind has felt
its way towards its undying being in the race. Man still goes to war
against himself, prepares fleets and armies and fortresses, like a
sleep-walker who wounds himself, like some infatuated barbarian who
hacks his own limbs with a knife.

But he awakens. The nightmares of empire and racial conflict and war,
the grotesques of trade jealousy and tariffs, the primordial dream-stuff
of lewdness and jealousy and cruelty, pale before the daylight which
filters between his eyelids. In a little while we individuals will know
ourselves surely for corpuscles in his being, for thoughts that come
together out of strange wanderings into the coherence of a waking mind.
A few score generations ago all living things were in our ancestry. A
few score generations ahead, and all mankind will be in sober fact
descendants from our blood. In physical as in mental fact we separate
persons, with all our difference and individuality, are but fragments,
set apart for a little while in order that we may return to the general
life again with fresh experiences and fresh acquirements, as bees
return with pollen and nourishment to the fellowship of the hive.

And this Man, this wonderful child of old earth, who is ourselves in the
measure of our hearts and minds, does but begin his adventure now.
Through all time henceforth he does but begin his adventure. This planet
and its subjugation is but the dawn of his existence. In a little while
he will reach out to the other planets, and take that greater fire, the
sun, into his service. He will bring his solvent intelligence to bear
upon the riddles of his individual interaction, transmute jealousy and
every passion, control his own increase, select and breed for his
embodiment a continually finer and stronger and wiser race. What none of
us can think or will, save in a disconnected partiality, he will think
and will collectively. Already some of us feel our merger with that
greater life. There come moments when the thing shines out upon our
thoughts. Sometimes in the dark sleepless solitudes of night, one ceases
to be so-and-so, one ceases to bear a proper name, forgets one's
quarrels and vanities, forgives and understands one's enemies and
oneself, as one forgives and understands the quarrels of little
children, knowing oneself indeed to be a being greater than one's
personal accidents, knowing oneself for Man on his planet, flying
swiftly to unmeasured destinies through the starry stillnesses of space.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Englishman Looks at the World" ***

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